Sunday, November 24, 2013

Thanksgiving, Handled. Funnies, Links, and Recipes

The countdown begins. If you're like me, you're feverishly trying to figure out how you'll get everything together by Thursday. I did score with my Bountiful Basket and a visit to the White Rock Farmer's market yesterday, and I'll post about those soon. But for now, we all need to get our s#@! together for Thursday. 
I told you I was anti-stuffing. Happy Thanksgiving!!
  •  Bread. We never seem to get this quite right at my house, as it's always an afterthought. This year, I'm determined to do better and was thinking I might try Happy Bread. I would love to try the actual recipe, but in light of all the cooking I'll already be doing, I thought I might try this with store-bought croissant rolls. I know, I know. But I'm trying to be realistic here. 
    Happy Bread via Foodiva's Kitchen.
  • Looking for something new to add to the family's repertoire? Try these Crispy Polenta Chips with parmesan and sage. 
  • My favorite Butternut Squash Soup. The juniper-infused cream MAKES this soup. You can make it all the day before and then just reheat it and have an elegant starter to your dinner. This would also work well with pumpkin puree.
  • Another variation on cranberry--Spiced Cranberrry Jam. This post from Food In Jars also links to pickled cranberries and some other cranberry-related excitement.
Image courtesy of
  • Green bean casserole. We all love it. However, with a bit of effort, homemade is so much better! Imagine fresh green beans instead of canned, your own white sauce with sauteed mushrooms, and freshly made crispy onion rings. Check out Alton Brown's recipe for Best Ever Green Bean Casserole. It's also quite good with just about a third of a red bell pepper slivered into the beans as well. If you really want to impress your mother-in-law (or just avoid canned cream of mushroom soup), here you go. 
  • Great desserts. For something special, and pretty easy, try one of my favorite recipes. My parents refer to it as "compote" and you can make it in any variation. The three parts are fruit, wine, and spice. Begin with 1 1/2 cup water, 1 1/2 cup wine, and 1/3 cup sugar. Put over a medium heat and let this simmer until it reduces down a bit, about 12 minutes. Taste it to check the sweetness. Add more sugar if needed. Add fruit (about 2 cups, washed and cut into uniform pieces) and spices. Adjust your heat to a low simmer until fruit is soft. Fish out any hard spices like whole cloves or cinnamon sticks, and puree in a blender or with an immersion blender. Strain through a fine sieve and return to pot. Add the extract of your choice. In a small bowl, mix 1 1/2 T corn starch with 1 1/2 T cold water. Mix completely, add to pot, bring to a boil for about 30 seconds, stirring all the time. Here are some combinations I love: 1) a spicy red wine sauce I used in the pavlova recipe. Add raspberries, blackberries, and/or strawberries to this one. Sub in dark brown sugar for a very rich taste. 2) Use white wine and frozen peaches or apricots or fresh mango. For spices, use a pinch of saffron and 1/2 t. orange extract. 3)White zinfandel or rose wine with raspberries, almond extract, and brown sugar. 

You'll wind up with a lovely sauce that is great over cheesecake, panna cotta (I've used this recipe from Ina Garten many times with great results--just omit the balsamic strawberry part and sub in the sauce you just made), or ice cream. Or, you could take those black bananas your kids didn't eat this week, make some Banana Yogurt Bread, toast the slices in a skillet with a bit of butter and serve it with this sauce and some whipped cream.

The recipe for "compote" is after the break...

  • 1 1/2 cups water
  • 1 1/2 cups wine 
  • 1/3 cup sugar 
  • 2 cups fruit, washed and cut into similar-sized chunks, plus extra for garnish. 
  • 1 tsp. extract  
  • 1 1/2 T. cornstarch + 1 1/2 T. cold water (mix in its own bowl just before you add it in.
  • Pinch salt (about 1/4 t.)
Put the water, wine, and sugar into a sauce pan, bring to a simmer, and let reduce for about twelve minutes. Taste to check the sweetness level. Add in the two cups fruit and spices, and bring to barely a simmer until the fruit softens. Pull out any whole spices, like cinnamon sticks or whole cloves, and puree in a blender or with an immersion blender. Strain through a fine sieve and return to pot.  Add the extract of your choice. Check again for taste. You might need to add more sweetener, depending on how sweet you like your food and how tart the fruit was you added. In a small bowl, mix 1 1/2 T corn starch with 1 1/2 T cold water. Mix completely, add to pot, bring to a boil for about 30 seconds, stirring all the time.

Possible combinations:
  1. Red wine, dark brown sugar, blackberries, one cinnamon stick, two whole cloves, a sprinkle of allspice, and vanilla extract. 
  2. Red wine, brown sugar, raspberries and/or strawberries, one whole star anise,1/4 t. nutmeg, vanilla extract, and the juice and zest of one orange. 
  3. Rose or white zinfandel, granulated sugar or agave nectar, strawberries, 1/2 t. saffron, and almond extract.
  4. White wine, peach or apricot (frozen is fine), honey, almond extract, and 1 t. fresh ginger. 
Play with this, and see what you like! I've used versions of this on many desserts, and your only limit is your imagination. I do think the darker, spicier versions are more holiday-ish.