Friday, November 28, 2008

Ooooohhhhh, aaaaaaaaaahhhhhhhhhhhhhh

Some photos of a very successful Thanksgiving meal. (Minus the fire I started on the stovetop the previous night...a pot with vinegar spilled over then stunk up the whole place!) Desert recipes forthcoming.

Deviled eggs, risotto rice balls with marinara for dipping and jumbo shrimp cocktail in the background. There was also a cheese platter...but it didn't make it into the shot.

I am very proud of this turkey! I basted it every 1/2 hour and foiled where I had to to make sure that the skin tanned evenly all over.

Got out the good plates!

Caramel Pumpkin Pie. Yum-my. And, I'm not a fan of pumpkin pie.

A slow drizzle of chocolate ganache for the Chocolate Torte. (A little too chocolate'y for my taste - but everyone else raved about it.)

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Thanksgiving 2008

Where I ask, did this year disappear to? It doesn't seem right that it is already the end of November, especially since I just got used to writing/typing "2008" on all my business letters. My mother called me up a couple of weeks ago and tricked me into hosting Thanksgiving at my apartment. I'm pretty game for the adventure since I have been a very bad home cook lately. She tried to get me to agree that I would give her all of the leftover turkey - but funk that! I paid $44 dollars for that 20lb organic, corn-fed, farm raised piece of's going in my belly for days. Plus, I have never left her house with any kind of Thanksgiving rememberance of the meal!

Just for comparison, here is what I planned last year, and the year before.

And now...for this year's (not so) exciting offering. Or as I like to say - more of the same. There's a reason it's called "tradition."

To start:
Jumbo shrimp cocktail
Cheese and fruit platter
Risotto rice balls (because they were such a HUGE hit!)
Bacon wrapped pineapple

Butternut squash soup
Mashed potatoes
Fall fruit salad
Roasted brussel sprouts (not everyone is thrilled about this veg)
Tossed salad
Cranberry and pitted date conserve
Sweet potato biscuits

Chocolate torte with a chocolate ganache
Caramel pumpkin pie
Vanilla ice cream / homemade whipped cream

My sister also requested a cranberry jell-o salad, and since I want to make her smile, I just may make a small batch of, I have that Jell-O cookbook that I've been threatening to break out.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Spaghetti with Creamy Garlic Sauce

Everything's better with bacon, right? Does that question even have to be asked? Creamy pasta happens to be one of my major downfalls - and when combined with crisp bacon it means that I ate a whole lot of this meal, then passed out in a coma on the couch cursing at myself. The pasta itself is so rich and flavorful, not only from the glorious bacon that rests on top, but because it's also loaded to the gills with garlic. Hey, I'm not kissin' anyone right now...I can eat all the garlic I like. (And for those of you who are kissing someone, remember that two garlic breaths cancel each other out!)


12 oz. uncooked spaghetti, or pasta of your choice
1/2 lb sliced bacon, sliced into 1 inch pieces
1 medium onion, diced
3 garlic cloves, finely minced
1 1/2 cup milk
1 package (8 oz) cream cheese
2 tbsp butter
salt and pepper, to taste
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg (fresh, preferred)
1 cup frozen peas

Cook pasta according to packaged directions.

Meanwhile, crisp bacon and set aside on paper towels to drain excess fat.

In the same pan you used to crisp the bacon, add butter, onion and garlic and saute until onion is translucent. Add cream cheese, milk, nutmeg, salt and pepper and gently stir until cream cheese has melted into a beautifully creamy sauce. Add peas. Once sauce is thickened, add drained pasta and toss to combine. Top with bacon!

When I make this again, I will probably substitute the peas for a little fresh baby spinach, because I felt that the dish needed a little more green in it. Can I also say "yay" that I got to use my pasta bowls for the first time ev-ah! (I've only had them for 4 years, but they were stored away in the attic.)

Be warned - like most pasta dishes, the leftovers were not as satisfying as the actual meal. The cream sauce solidifies (a little extra milk did loosen the sauce, but it wasn't the same) and the bacon loses some of it's crispness. My advice - make only what you plan to eat that night. If you want more, spend the 20 minutes and make it again...after all, you have that 1/2 package of bacon left!

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Pumpkin Empanadas

Let me start off by saying that I am not a big fan of pumpkin pie at Thanksgiving - or anytime, actually. I prefer fruit pies or anything cheesecake or chocolate or better yet, any combination of the three. However, when I saw this recipe for Pumpkin Empanadas, I was intrigued and knew that I had to try them.

The result? A rich morsel of goodness wrapped in a light, flaky crust. The recipe promised that the empanada would taste like an individual slice of pumpkin pie. Not so, in my's more of a cross between a pumpkin pie and a super sweet pecan pie.


Filling ingredients:
1 cup canned pumpkin
1 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1 tbsp butter
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp pumpkin pie spice (I didn't have this, so I substituted 1/4 tsp ground cloves, 1/2 tsp ground nutmeg and 1/4 tsp ground ginger)
1/4 cup chopped pecans

Crust ingredients:
1 1/2 cups flour
2 tbsp sugar
1 tsp salt
1 cup cold butter, cut into small cubes
8-10 tbsp cold water

Glaze ingredients:
1 egg
1 tsp water

In a saucepan, combine pumpkin, brown sugar, 1 tbsp butter, filling spices. Stir to combine some and cook over medium heat until mixture is thickened. Remove from heat, and cool completely (approximately 1 hour). Stir in pecans and set aside.

(OK - so I realize this is not the most appetizing of photos...but the filling is really tasty!)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. In a food processor, combine flour, sugar, salt and butter. Pulse ingredients until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Pulse in enough water until dough is just moistened.

Divide dough in half. Roll out dough on a lightly floured surface, until about 1/8 inch thick. (Keep remaining dough in the refrigerator so it remains cold.) Cut circles with a 2 1/2 inch cookie cutter. Place 1/2 tsp of the filling in the center of each circle. Fold one side of the circle over to form a crescent-shaped empanada. Pinch dough lightly to form a seam, then use the tines of a fork to seal the empanada closed. Place on a non-greased cookie sheet. Repeat until all cookies are made.

Whisk together egg and 1 tsp water in a small bowl. Brush egg mixture lightly onto empanadas. Bake for 12-15 minutes, or until cookies are browned and glossy. Remove from oven and let cool. Eat warm!

Although I appreciate the absolute perfection that is homemade pie crust - the next time I make these, I will probably cheat and buy some pre-made crust to cut down on the mess and save time. The recipe also said that it would yield 4 dozen cookies...which is a total LIE! I got about a dozen and half out of my dough, with lots of filling left over. This did irritate me some, but I plan to make another batch tonight, so I threw the leftover filling in the fridge with a little plastic wrap to cover it.

I do think that a touch of "sugar in the raw" sprinkled over the top, pre-bake, would give these cookies a little somethin-somethin. All I'm thinking about today, is how good they would be with a side of vanilla ice cream!