Browsing articles from "November, 2011"

Pumpkin Almond Cheesecake

Pumpkin Almond Cheesecake
Finally, a pumpkin recipe. I mean it is almost December and I have yet to post a recipe with pumpkin in it- what blasphemy! I squeezed this one in just in the nick of time. December’s only a few days away which for me means Christmas decorations, holiday parties, homemade gifts, and best of all – baking projects, lots of baking projects. Most years I have a pretty ambitious list of holiday treats that I want to make, and most years I don’t even come close to making them all. Except for that one year when I made five different kinds of cookies in one day…never again! This year my list falls somewhere between completely manageable and a bit over- the-top. I have yet to decide exactly what I will be making, but I thought I would share with you a few of my ideas.

A couple years ago I made chocolate bark and it quickly became one of my favorite holiday confections. This year I stumbled across a recipe for Mint Chocolate Chip Bark that has my name all over it- hard to imagine that I’ll make it though the season without making this one.

Gingersnap Raspberry Sandwiches are a perennial favorite that combine the snappy ginger flavor of the holidays with the sweet summeriness of raspberries.

Chocolate Covered Pretzel Rods are simple and fun to make. I have made these before, but this year I am totally inspired by Sabrina’s creative approach.

I am so intrigued by this recipe for Candied Grapefruit Zest. It’s just the kind of treat that I would love if someone gave it to me… but I can’t decide if my friends and relatives will feel the same or think that a jar of grapefruit peels covered in sugar is just plain weird. Hmmm..I’ll have to give this one some thought.Pumpkin Almond Cheesecake
Chances are that in the coming weeks I will add more to this list, and of course anything I make I will share here with you, but for now it’s still November and I need to tell you about this awesome pumpkin cheesecake. Cheesecake is not usually my first choice when it comes to dessert. Often times I find it a bit too dense and rich for my liking. This one fits neither of those descriptions though.The cake is comprised of a thin layer of almond cake with a light and fluffy cheesecake baked right on top. This combination not only cuts down on the overly rich flavor that cheesecake often has, but it also adds a subtle almond flavor that combines oh so perfectly with the pumpkin.

Pumpkin purèeSpeaking of pumpkin- I did use fresh pumpkin in this recipe. It called for canned pumpkin as most recipes usually do, but I had a beautiful sugar pumpkin that had been sitting of my kitchen counter since sometime in October so it seemed like a shame not to use it. There’s a definite advantage to using canned pumpkin. First of all, it takes far less time to open a can of pumpkin than it does to roast one yourself. Second, pumpkin can be a bit stringy and if you want that same smooth texture as the canned version you are probably going to have to go through a few different steps of mashing and purèeing . Or you could just do what I did and simply mash it a few times with a potato masher – not worrying about achieving that perfect smooth texture. After all, it is fresh pumpkin and it deserves to retain a bit of its character. The end result was probably a bit lumpier than it would have been with canned pumpkin, and the batter was studded with bright orange bits of pumpkin, but when I served it at Thanksgiving not a single person complained (or even noticed). So canned or fresh, take your pick. But watch out for the canned version that has “pumpkin pie spice” already mixed in. Chances are this will mess with the flavor of the cake and you’re better off adding you own spices to a can of straight pumpkin. If the almond cake and pumpkin cheesecake aren’t enough to convince you that this recipe is one you will make again and again, the almond brittle will surely put you over the top. I am pretty much a sucker for anything with almonds in it and when you combine them with sugar and butter, oh man keep me away! This brittle is deceptively easy to make and even easier to eat right off the pan. Luckily we ended up with some extra pieces that were quickly devoured. Next time I am making two trays just so we can have lots of extra. Uh oh…I think I just came up with another holiday baking idea. Almond brittle recipe search here I come!Almond Brittle

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Chicken or Turkey Pot Pie

Pot Pie
What’s the best part of the day after Thanksgiving? The memories of a day filled with good food and even better company? The black Friday deals that you slogged out at midnight to score? How about the LEFTOVERS? No matter how much you stuffed yourself yesterday, and even if you had to unbutton your pants at the table and swore you would never eat again, come Friday morning you will inevitably be dreaming of turkey sandwiches smothered in leftover mashed potatoes and dripping with gravy. Or pumpkin pie with a dollop of whipped cream, or Aunt Sally’s fluffy homemade biscuits smeared with cranberry sauce. Oh yum, I am getting hungry all over again! In my opinion though, the ultimate leftover meal has got to be pot pie. You can use leftover turkey, throw in whatever vegetables you have, and maybe even top it with leftover rolls. I know, I know, you spent all day yesterday cooking and the last thing you want to do is make an elaborate pot pie. But wait…making a pot pie doesn’t have to be a complicated affair. I’ve been making variations of this recipe for years and it’s rare that it takes much more than an hour to make, cooking time included. The beauty of the pot pie is just how versatile it is. The basic ingredients are chicken or turkey and vegetables. That’s it. While I am partial to potatoes, carrots, celery and peas, I have been known to add sweet potatoes, parsnip, turnip, various kinds of squash, broccoli, or green beans. Basically, use what you have or what you like, even if it’s just a bag of frozen mixed vegetables. I hate to brag, but I am a bit famous for my pot pie. It could be because I make a mean pot pie superior to all others, but I think the real reason is because I actually make pot pie. Well, I am here to tell you right now that you too can make a pot pie. Slice up some of that leftover turkey, mix in some veggies and whip up a biscuit topping. You will be pleasantly surprised by just how easy it is. Happy leftover day everyone.TAW71907


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Spinach, Pear & Goat Cheese Salad with Pomegranate Vinaigrette

Salad with Pomegranate Vinaigrette
This was supposed to be a post about stuffing. I had it all planned out. I would make a mouth watering Cornbread and Apple stuffing with Golden Raisins and the whole house would fill with the tantalizing smell of Thanksgiving. The preparations were made. A new sack of cornmeal was purchased and I found some lovely local Macintosh apples along with an extra-large bag of golden raisins at the health food store. I began to combine my scattered recipe notes into a single coherent recipe. I thought about the different photos that I could take for the recipe – yes, I really do plan this much for each post – I can’t help it… spontaneity is obviously not my thing.TAW02021
Sometimes though, all the planning in the world can fall apart in an instant. I was laying in bed browsing through the items in my Google Reader and I came across a post about Thanksgiving Salads from Instantly my interest was sparked. If there’s one downfall to the  traditional Thanksgiving meal it’s got to be the lack of green on the menu. Sure, we had dishes that we called salad on the Thanksgiving table when I was growing up. There was the molded Jell-O and canned fruit salad, the green bean salad with fried onions, and everyone’s favorite, the 24-hour salad with iceberg lettuce, bacon, and cheese – all smothered in a thick layer of mayo.TAW02085
This was a different idea though. An actual healthy green salad with a fall themed twist. A mix of greens, some seasonal fruit, a few nuts and creamy goat cheese. The final touch is a pomegranate infused vinaigrette that you will want to use on everything. Wow! I instantly knew that I had to make this salad. And just like that all my careful stuffing preparations were thrown out the window. Don’t get me wrong… I really like stuffing.  Believe me, I can’t wait until Thursday when I can fill myself with all that rich, bready goodness. But everyone makes stuffing for Thanksgiving, and many people have a special stuffing recipe that’s been in the family for years. You don’t need me to  bore you with yet another stuffing recipe. A Thanksgiving salad though. Now that’s a novel idea.TAW02048Of course, I ended up making a few adjustments to the original recipe. I used almonds instead of pistachios, sliced pears instead of cubed, and a mix of greens instead of just arugula and romaine. I also adjusted the vinaigrette recipe which called for pomegranate molasses. I couldn’t find this product anywhere locally (apparently it is sold at Middle Eastern stores) and when I looked up how to make it I discovered that you need 4 cups of pomegranate juice to make 1 cup of molasses (that’s one expensive molasses). Also, this is Thanksgiving and I bet you have better things to do then stand over the stove making an expensive molasses on the same day that you’re cooking a 15-pound bird, ten sides dishes and four desserts. So I substituted plain pomegranate juice and a bit of honey – perfect!TAW02036-1
Feel free to make changes of your own. Part of the beauty of this salad is how versatile it is. You could use walnuts instead of almonds, apples instead of pears, and any kind of greens your heart desires. You could toast the nuts, or sauté the pears with a little brown sugar and butter. The possibilities are endless.
Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

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