11.28.2013

Happy Thanksgiving!


Happy Thanksgiving!! This year I'm thankful for continued health, enjoying my current hometown, my family and friends, making progress on some personal issues, and of course my wonderful husband. I'm also thankful that an obsession with baking has reared its head just in time for Christmas cookie baking!! 

See you in December!

11.27.2013

Gobble Tov

I happen to hate that Hanukkah coincides with Thanksgiving this year. The compressing of the holidays is kind of stressful, and it muddles their individual meanings. I don't want latkes with my Thanksgiving dinner, I want stuffing and a separate day to celebrate Hanukkah.

So that's what we're doing. We'll be celebrating Hanukkah with my husband's family in mid-December, long after it's over.  Unfortunately that means I won't have recipes or party recaps to share until it's too late, so in the meantime I decided to share some of my Hanukkah table inspiration.

The blue and gold typically associated with Hanukkah can be a little garish, so I'll be opting for a palette of white and navy, accented by mixed metallics. 

Here's some of the images I'm working my way through:

Sources: 1 // 2 // 3 // 4

Wishing anyone who celebrates a happy "Thanksgivukkah!"

11.25.2013

Thanksgiving Timeline

Now that I've shared my menu and recipes for Thanksgiving, I'll share what really helps me host it successfully: my timeline. It's borderline obsessive, but it allows me to know exactly what needs to get done, at what time, and makes hosting a lot more relaxing.  

I list out each dish that I'm making, and then detail what where I'm cooking and preparing each item in, and what I'm serving them in. That way I don't get the cooking started and realize I've planned to use my one baking dish for two separate sides! Plus, since I only have one oven, making a detailed schedule helps to ensure I'm not overloading it.

My schedule also indicates what can be done the day ahead, morning of, etc, breaking down my party into a super manageable list of tasks.

A copy of my schedule is below, clearly it's written out for the recipes I used, but feel free to copy the formatting, etc, if you are Type A like me and think this may help!
 

How do you prep for big parties? Are you a detail nut like me or do you wing it?

11.22.2013

Thanksgiving Recipes: Cranberry Tart



I’m obsessed with this cranberry tart from Dolce Italiano. I think it’s the perfect Thanksgiving dessert- festive, yet kind of unexpected. It’s a nice change from all the pumpkin and apple and pecan pies. 
The tart has a sweet and chewy polenta crust, and a tangy cranberry filling. I like to bake it in a rectangular tart pan, as I think the presentation is a little nicer (especially given the rustic nature of the tart), but the recipe will make enough for a 10" round pan.

Cranberry Tart, from Dolce Italiano
1 ¼ cups all purpose flour plus 2 tbsp
½ cup instant or fine polenta
1 ¾ cups sugar, divided
1 ¼ tsp salt
Zest of 1 lemon
1 stick butter, diced
1 large egg, plus 3 egg yolks
2 tbsp olive oil
2 tsp vanilla extract
½ cup light corn syrup
12 oz fresh cranberries
½ cup heavy cream
Place 1 ¼ cups flour, 1 cup sugar, 1 tsp salt, and lemon zest in a food processor and process to blend. Add butter and pulse till mixture resembles sand.
In a small bowl, beat the whole egg, 1 tsp vanilla, and olive oil together.  Add to processor and pulse until a ball of dough forms. You may need to sprinkle in a smidge of water to help it come together. When it does, turn it out onto a piece of plastic wrap, form into a disk, wrap it up, and refrigerate for at least an hour. (Dough can also be frozen at this point).

In a saucepan, melt remaining sugar over low heat. Stir in corn syrup and bring to a boil. Add cranberries and cook until they soften and release juice, about 2 minutes. Pour into a bowl and cool for 20 minutes.

Preheat oven to 350. Lightly flour a work surface and roll out your dough to fit your pan (a 12 inch circle will cover a 10” tart pan). Patch any tears with excess dough. This dough can be re-rolled easily.

In a bowl, whisk cream and 2 tbsp flour. Whisk in egg yolks, remaining vanilla, and salt. Pour over cranberries and fold together. Pour into tart shell and place on a baking sheet. Bake 40 minutes or until filling bubbles but is not firm, and pastry browns.

Cool in pan and remove sides of tart pan. Will keep in fridge, well wrapped, for several days. This tart is fine made ahead.

11.21.2013

Thanksgiving Sides: Cauliflower and Green Beans

Last week I shared my favorite Thanksgiving side dish, Roasted Squash and Cauliflower. We wound up having a lot of butternut squash on our Friendsgiving menu this year, so I skipped my usual dish and opted for the roasted cauliflower by itself. I dressed with a lemon parsley sauce from Bon Appetit, and it was very simple and delicious.


Roasted Cauliflower with Lemon Parsley Vinaigrette, adapted from Bon Appetit
1 head cauliflower, cut into florets
4 tbsp olive oil, plus 2 tbsp olive oil
Salt
Pepper
1 cup flat leaf parsley leaves
½ tsp lemon zest
2 tbsp lemon juice

Preheat oven to 425. Combine cauliflower with 4 tbsp oil, salt, and pepper on a baking sheet. Roast for 25-30 minutes, until browned. 

This can be prepared at this point up to one day ahead.

For dressing, combine remaining ingredients in food processor and season with more salt and pepper. This doubles easily.

The dressing can be prepared up to 4 hours ahead.

Before serving, reheat cauliflower if necessary (20 mins at 350) and toss with dressing. Serve.  


We also served green beans with shallots, a simple recipe that always gets rave reviews.

Green Beans with Shallots, adapted from Ina Garten
1 lb haricots verts (skinny green beans)
4 shallots
2 tbsp butter
1 tbsp olive oil
Salt
Pepper
Lemon zest 

Blanch green beans in a pot of boiling water for 2 minutes. Immediately transfer to ice bath to cool. Drain and pat dry. (Can be prepared at this point up to 1 day ahead).
 
Heat butter and oil in a saute pan and sauté shallots on medium heat for 5-10 minutes, until lightly browned.  Add beans, salt, and pepper, and toss just till beans are heated through.  Serve.

I love this recipe for entertaining because I can blanch the green beans in advance, chop up the shallot and put it in a bowl with the butter, salt, and oil. During my party I quickly sneak over to the stove, dump the bowl of butter and shallots in a pan, let it cook, and add the beans just before dinner. So easy!

11.19.2013

Thanksgiving Recipes: Turkey and Stuffing

 
 
At Thanksgiving, I get the most compliments on my turkey and stuffing, so I figured I’d kick things off by sharing those recipes with you.
 
We’ll start with turkey, which I think is probably the easiest part of the meal.  I like to roast mine with a lemon and rosemary rub, and I stuff it with lemon and cook my stuffing separately. I like a crispy top on my stuffing, and that doesn’t happen when it’s all sitting inside a bird.
 
 
 
Lemon Rosemary Roast Turkey (serves 12-16)
12 to 14 lb turkey (Figure 1 pound per person)
¼ cup butter, softened
3 sprigs fresh rosemary, finely chopped
Zest and juice of one lemon
2 lemons, quartered, for stuffing cavity
Salt
Pepper
Garlic salt
Paprika
 
Take your turkey out about a half hour before cooking, and preheat oven to 450.
 
Carefully rinse turkey, inside and out in the sink (I hate this task and the huge amounts of Lysol the cleanup takes).  Pat turkey dry and place, breast side up, in roasting pan. Remove giblets and neck and discard.
 
Combine butter, rosemary, zest, and juice of lemon in a bowl. Using your hands, rub the mix under the skin of the turkey. 
 
Generously season the turkey with salt, pepper, garlic salt, and paprika.  I eyeball this, but I will tell you I season the crap out of it. Probably a good tablespoon of salt. Lots of salt = crispy skin!  Stuff the cavity with the quartered lemons.
 
Add water to your roasting pan to come about one inch up the sides.  Place lid on roasting pan (you can tent with foil if you don’t have a pan with a lid), and cook for 30 minutes.
 
After 30 minutes, turn the heat down to 350 and remove lid. Cook until a meat thermometer measures 165 in the thigh and thickest part of breast.  I calculate 15 minutes per pound, so a 14 pound bird will take you 3 and a half hours.
 
When done, remove from oven, cover pan, and let rest for 30-40 minutes. Carve and serve.
 
This recipe gives you a huge amount of pan juices for gravy, but I have to admit something sacrilegious: I hate gravy. I buy it premade each year, which goes against basically everything I stand for in cooking, but it’s just easier. So unfortunately I have no recipes to share for that, but I’m sure Martha Stewart or the Barefoot Contessa can fill in where I’m lacking.
 
Italian Sausage Stuffing (Serves up to 18)
This is an old family recipe!  I love this stuffing. I bake it in a separate dish, outside the turkey.
 
2 lbs Italian bread, cut into small cubes
2 lbs good Italian sausage (get it from a good Italian butcher shop! I like a mix of hot and sweet sausage)
1 stick butter
2 stalks celery, finely chopped
2 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp fresh sage, chopped
2 tbsp fresh parsley, chopped
3 shallots, chopped
¼ cup parmesan cheese
1 egg
Salt and pepper
3-5 cups chicken stock
 
Preheat oven to 350. Arrange bread cubes onto a baking sheet (you may need to use multiple sheets), and toast for about 20 minutes, until crisp. Alternately, you can buy your bread a few days early and just let it go stale. 
 
Heat butter in a large sauté pan over medium heat. Remove sausage from casing and break into chunks. Saute until fully cooked and browned, then remove with a slotted spoon to a large mixing bowl.
 
Continuing in the same pan, add oil, sage, parsley, and shallots. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Saute 10 minutes, or until softened. Add vegetable mixture and any pan juices to mixing bowl and combine with sausage.
 
Stuffing can be prepared to this point up to one day ahead. Keep your bread covered at room temperature, and the sausage/vegetable mixture in the fridge.
 
When ready to bake, add the bread to the sausage mixture.  Add egg and three cups of stock and mix well. Depending on the type of bread you used, you may need to add more stock. You want the mixture to be wet but not too soaked and mushy.  If pressed together, it should mostly hold.
 
Butter a 9x13 baking dish and add bread and sausage mix. Sprinkle the parmesan on top. Cover pan with foil and bake at 350 for 45 minutes. Then, remove foil and bake for an additional 15 minutes, until top is browned.
 
Serve.
 
(Leftovers are amazing with a drippy fried egg for breakfast the next day!)

11.18.2013

Friendsgiving



For the third year in a row, my husband and I have hosted "Friendsgiving," a pre-Thanksgiving meal where we cram too many of our friends in our small apartment and stuff our face with turkey and cranberry and alcoholic cider. It gets hot and crowded, but it's always a ton of fun.


I do the bulk of the cooking, with my girlfriends supplementing side dishes (those are marked by an asterisk) and the boys bringing booze and dessert. This week, I'll share my tried-and-true recipes and my intense timeline, both of which allow me to pull this off successfully without going crazy.

Our Menu (I'll be adding more links as I post this week):

Antipasto of Brie Cheese, Olives, Crackers, Prosciutto
Butternut Squash Galette*

Lemon Rosemary Roasted Turkey & Gravy
Italian Sausage Stuffing
Roasted Cauliflower with Lemon Parsley Dressing
Green Beans with Shallots
Mashed potatoes
Mashed sweet potatoes*
Cornbread*
Cranberry Sauce*
Cape Cod Chopped Salad
Baked Pasta with Kale and Butternut Squash*
Caramel Vodka Apple Cider

Dessert was buffet of apple pie, cookies, pumpkin bread, and fruit salad. The boys also randomly brought a giant bag of Airheads and Starburst, so we had a little Halloween throwback as well.

Stay tuned for the recipes, just in time for actual Thanksgiving!


I will not be sharing carving tips, I hacked that turkey up. Please share your tips with me!

11.11.2013

J. Crew Factory Haul

I am not really a fan of outlet stores. Everything in them always seems like a mass-produced, lower quality line under the normal brand name. 

But I found myself in a J.Crew outlet recently, and I was surprised by everything. I remember J.Crew Factory being just awful, with misshapen cardigans and ill-fitting skirts.  I was pleasantly surprised to fall in love with basically everything I tried on! 

I picked up this adorable winter work outfit:

11.07.2013

Cape Cod Chopped Salad



This salad is ridiculous. It’s so good, and my photos are not doing it justice.  I expected to hate it, since I hate sweet/savory combos and this salad has both maple syrup and dried fruit, but I was genuinely surprised at how great it was. The dressing flavors blend together and have a wonderful depth, and the combo of arugula, nuts, blue cheese, and bacon is absolutely delicious. 

How silly of me to doubt the Queen (Ina Garten).

Try this classy salad out, it’s perfect for Thanksgiving!



Cape Cod Chopped Salad, from Ina Garten  

For salad:
8 oz bacon, cooked (to make life easier, I use the pre-cooked kind)
8 oz baby arugula
1 large Granny Smith apple, thinly sliced
½ cup toasted walnut  halves (I used hazelnuts)
½ cup dried unsweetened cranberries
6 oz blue cheese, crumbled

For the dressing:
3 tbsp apple cider vinegar
1 tsp grated orange zest
2 tbsp freshly squeezed orange juice
2 ½ tsp Dijon mustard
2 tbsp maple syrup
Kosher salt
½ tsp freshly ground pepper
2/3 cup olive oil

Toss all salad ingredients together in serving bowl.  In a separate bowl, whisk together all dressing ingredients. You can prepare these a few hours ahead of time and keep them separate.

When ready to serve, toss the salad with enough dressing to moisten (you may not need to use all of it). Serve immediately.

11.06.2013

Best Thanksgiving Tip: Make Ahead Mashed Potatoes


I love to be able to make things ahead of time for a party, as long as it doesn’t compromise the taste or quality. Certain things just need to be done at the last minute, and for a long time, I thought mashed potatoes were one of them.
 
I really wanted to serve them at my first Thanksgiving, but couldn’t get comfortable with the idea of mashing five pounds of potatoes, carving a turkey, and plating all the side dishes at once, in front of 15 guests, in my less than 80 sq foot kitchen. So I skipped the potatoes.
 
But the following year, I was messing around on Chowhound and saw this discussion on using your slowcooker to keep mashed potatoes warm, so that you could make them in advance.  
 
The directions were simple:
 
1.      Butter the slowcooker
2.     Pour in a little bit of half and half, milk, or cream (about 1/4 cup worth)
3.      Add mashed potatoes and put slowcooker on warm.

These will stay perfect for several hours. I cooked mine at 2:30 and served them at a 5:00 pm dinner.
 
I consulted with the USDA on the safety of this, because I’m neurotic, and they assured me that as long as the mashed potatoes stay at 140 degrees (which they should, easily, in a slowcooker), they will be safe. You can check with a food thermometer if you are worried.  Actually, you probably should check with a food thermometer just in case your slowcooker runs hot- if it's too hot, it will keep cooking the potatoes, and that’s not good either.
 
This is seriously one of the best tips I’ve gotten- you will be so relieved when your mashed potatoes are done hours ahead and still taste perfect!

11.05.2013

The Easiest Impressive Appetizer: Fig and Goat Cheese Tarts

Recently, my best friend and her husband came over, and I raided my pantry to come up with a quick appetizer I could serve them before going off to dinner. I came up with a fig and goat cheese tart, made with store-bought phyllo dough shells and prepared fig butter. It was delicious, easy, and elegant, making it a perfect recipe to keep on hand for unexpected company, fancy parties, or just an addition to a holiday buffet.



Fig and Goat Cheese Tarts
1 box store bought phyllo dough tart shells (I use Wegman’s brand)
1 jar fig butter (Found this at Trader Joe’s, they currently have seasonal pumpkin and cranberry versions as well)
1 5oz log goat cheese

Defrost your phyllo shells as necessary according to the package directions. I simply let mine sit out for ten minutes as the oven preheated.

Using a quarter to a half teaspoon measure, drop a small amount of fig butter into each shell. This stuff has a very strong, sweet flavor, so I found that a little goes a long way. Of course, you can adjust this to your taste as necessary.  You will have plenty of fig butter and goat cheese left over.

Crumble off large pieces of goat cheese and place in shell. Again, no exact measurements here- the amount you use will depend on the size of your shell. I use enough to fill the shell, but not to come spilling out over it.

Bake in a 425 degree oven for 10 minutes, until the goat cheese is slightly melting and the phyllo shells have turned golden.  Garnish with fresh basil.

You could prepare these up until the baking step and leave in the fridge for a few hours to get them ready before a party. When needed, bake as directed for 10 minutes and serve.

Makes 12 tarts.

This appetizer lends itself to so many variations, beyond just fig and goat cheese. Some ideas:
 
·         Tomatoes and feta
·         Goat cheese and olives
·         Manchego and quince
·         Spinach and artichoke- Whir up some thawed frozen spinach and artichokes with cream cheese in a food processer. Thin with a little cream and bake until golden.
·         Smoked mozzarella and soppresata
·         Mixed sautéed mushrooms
·         Pastry cream and fresh berries, for a dessert variation

11.04.2013

Roasted Delicata Squash and Cauliflower

 
I’m obsessed with Wegman’s grocery stores. Great prices, great atmosphere, delicious catering, awesome cheese section, love the liquor store…I could go on and on.

But my favorite thing about them is their genius marketing. Every quarter, they put together their “Menu” magazine, full of quality seasonal recipes that use Wegman’s brand ingredients. For example, they’ll suggest a beef stirfry recipe, and you can go to the meat department and find “Beef for Stirfry” strips already cut and sized to the recipe, and then head on over to the vegetables and find all the items in the recipe precut, measured, and packaged. It’s not necessarily my favorite way to cook, but it’s brilliant marketing: make the cooking easy, approachable, and then sell everything needed for it. (Oh, and if you don’t want to cook, the recipes are obviously available ready-made in the Prepared Foods section).

Seriously, my dream job is to work for this magazine, if only their HQ wasn’t in a place I’d never live. 
 
Anyway, my number one Thanksgiving side dish recipe, Roasted Delicata Squash and Cauliflower, comes from an old issue of the Wegman’s magazine. It’s simple, healthy, and delicious, and it reheats beautifully, so you can make it the day before a party.
 
I wrote the recipe using Wegman’s ingredients, but if you don’t have a Wegmans nearby, I provided alternatives in parenthesis. I’ve done this recipe both ways, and it’s always delicious.
 
 
 
Roasted Delicata Squash and Cauliflower, from Wegman’s
1 head cauliflower, cored and cut into bite size pieces
1 20 oz pkg cleaned and cut delicata squash (alternately, a 1.5 lb delicata or butternut squash, cut into 1 inch pieces)
¼ cup Wegman’s Basting Oil (alternately, olive oil and your favorite dried herbs and a ½ tsp garlic salt)
Salt and pepper to taste
1 6 oz package baby spinach or arugula 
 
Preheat oven to 450.
 
Toss cauliflower, squash, and oil together. Arrange in a single layer on a baking sheet and roast 30 mins, until browned.  (Can be made at this point up to one day ahead. Cool, refrigerate, and reheat for 20 minutes at 350 before serving). 
 
Add spinach to a serving bowl, top with hot cauliflower and squash mix, and toss. Serve.
 
Serves 6-8.
 
This is also good at room temperature, which makes it great to take to a Thanksgiving potluck.


11.01.2013

Ready for November


 

Happy November! With Thanksgiving on the horizon and Christmas coming up, we’re officially getting into entertaining season. I’m dedicating most of November’s posts to hosting the holidays, so stay tuned for lots of recipes, parties, and entertaining ideas!

See you Monday!