November 2009


I hope everyone had a nice and relaxing Thanksgiving! My family celebrated Thanksgiving a little differently this year, we went to a restaurant. My parents normally host everyone but we decided to simplify things this year by dining at Salem Cross in West Brookfield, MA. My parents invited everyone back to their house for dessert.

I have to say I was skeptical about dining out for Thanksgiving but our meal was delicious and if you’re going to eat out, Salem Cross is the place to be. The restaurant is very rustic and charming and was nicely decorated for the holiday. The meal was full of traditional Thanksgiving foods so it was as close to a home cooked meal as you can get.

My family always over does it when it comes to dessert and this year wasn’t any different. We had four kinds of pies (apple, pumpkin, berry and chocolate cream), pumpkin whoopie pies, cupcakes and pumpkin cake! 

My contribution was turkey cupcakes from Martha Stewart Cupcakes and a gluten-free maple frosted pumpkin cake from Karina’s Kitchen

The cupcakes turned out cute and were very tasty but they took a lot of time! The recipe calls for toasted coconut marshmallows and I couldn’t find them anywhere! I went to four grocery stores without any luck so I made my own by frosting the marshmallows and coating them in toasted coconut. If you have a little patience, try these cupcakes next year and your guests will sure be impressed.

The maple frosted pumpkin cake received rave reviews so I was thankful for that. It was moist and full of flavor – you’d never guess it was gluten-free. I was excited that my Dad enjoyed it because having celiac disease can sometimes put a damper on enjoying holiday goodies. He also enjoyed a few pies that were made with a gluten-free pie crust. The women in his life are pretty good to him! 😉

What was your favorite Thanksgiving dessert this year?

I think I’m still on a sugar high from the long weekend but I’ll be back tomorrow with a healthy recipe. Promise.

Have a great Monday!

As I mentioned on Friday, I brought Apple Crumble Pie to the Thanksgiving-themed pot luck dinner last week. It was actually my first time making homemade pie crust and it was a lot easier than I expected. The recipes below come from Better Homes and Gardens New Cookbook.

This was a pretty simple pie to prepare, the most time-consuming task was peeling and cutting the apples but it wasn’t bad. The results were great, especially for my first homemade apple pie. The filling was perfectly sweet thanks to a combination of apple, cinnamon and brown sugar. The pie crust had a nice consistency (not too flaky) and had a nice light buttery flavor.   

Here are the recipes, just in time for your Thanksgiving feast.   

Single-Layer Pie Crust  

(from Better Homes and Gardens New Cookbook)   

8 servings   

Ingredients   

1 ¼ c. all-purpose flour   

1/3 shortening   

4-5 Tbsp. cold water   

Preparation   

1. Stir together flour and ¼ tsp. salt. Using a pastry blender, cut shortening until pieces are pea-size.

2. Sprinkle one tablespoon of the water over part of the mixture; gently toss with a fork. Push moistened dough to the side of the bowl. Repeat moistening dough, using one tablespoon of the water at a time, until all the dough is moistened. Form dough into a ball.

3. On a lightly floured surface, use your hands to slightly flatten dough. Roll dough from center to edges into a circle about 12” in diameter.

4. Trim pastry to a ½ inch beyond pie plate. Crimp edges as desired.

Apple Crumble Pie  

(from Better Homes and Gardens New Cookbook

8 servings 

Ingredients 

6 c. thinly sliced cooking apples (Cortland is what I used) 

1 Tbsp. lemon juice (optional) 

¾ c. sugar 

2 Tbsp. all-purpose flour 

½ tsp. ground cinnamon 

½ tsp. ground nutmeg 

½ c. raisins or chopped walnuts (optional; I didn’t add these) 

Topping: 

½ c. all-purpose flour 

½ c. packed brown sugar 

3 Tbsp. butter 

Preparation  

1. If desired, sprinkle lemon juice on apples. In large mixing bowl, stir together sugar, flour, cinnamon and nutmeg. Add apple slices (and if desired, raisins or walnuts). Gently toss until coated. 

2. Transfer apple mixture to pastry lined pie plate. 

3. In a small bowl, mix together flour and brown sugar for topping. Using a pastry blender, cut in butter until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. 

4. Top apples with crumb topping. 

5. To prevent overbrowning, cover pie crust with tin foil or crust cover. 

6. Bake pie at 375* for 25 minutes. Remove foil/ crust cover and bake for another 25-30 minutes. Cool before serving. 

7. Serve with vanilla ice cream, whipped cream or caramel and enjoy! 

Looking to do a good deed this Thanksgiving? Donate just $12 to the Great Boston Food Bank’s Turkey Drive and they will give a family in need a 12-14 lb. turkey for their feast. Over 2,800 turkeys have already been donated but they have a long way to go! Donate today.

Off my soap box, and onto today’s post.

Some of my friends are part of a cooking club – they get together monthly and have a pot luck-type dinner with a theme. I joined them on Wednesday for November’s dinner, which had a fitting theme, Thanksgiving. Everyone did a great job contributing to our delicious and filling meal. I thought it would be fun to give a little recap to get everyone in the Thanksgiving spirit.

We started the meal with appetizers and wine.

Moist chicken meatballs and a brie and praline dip (wine not pictured)…

With the table set nicely, we were ready to eat. (I’d never be able to fit this table in my apartment, how sad!)

The feast included: creamy, smooth butternut squash soup…

Moist and flavorful turkey…

and a bunch of side dishes. Here’s my plate:

(descriptions clockwise: green beans, sweet potato tempura, baked stuffed shrimp, turkey and gravy, stuffing (with sausage, nuts, and cranberries), homemade cranberry sauce, and chipolte mac and cheese)

Of course, we can’t forget dessert. We ended the meal with a vanilla layer cake with peanut butter filling and chocolate ganache frosting (delicious!) and…

Apple crumble pie (made by me; recipe to be posted this weekend) and cookies too…

Phew! I’m full just thinking about the meal but it was really tasty and a nice weeknight treat.

Now, Friday Favs. With Thanksgiving coming up next week, I thought I would do a desserts theme this week, since that’s what I’ll be making. If you don’t have your menu complete or are in need of something to bring for Thanksgiving, these should do the trick. How about…

Happy weekend!

    As I mentioned yesterday, the recipes on Boston.com have been pretty appetizing lately. Today I bring you Stuffed Zucchini with Sausage or what I like to call Stuffed Zucchini Boats, because it’s more fun. I know, I know, another “stuffed” dish. Maybe I do have a problem. 😉 What can I say? I guess I love stuffed vegetable recipes and this one is no different.

    Preparing these stuffed zucchini “boats” was super easy and the result was extremely tasty! To make this dish healthier, I used fresh chicken sausage instead of regular and didn’t use the ground beef at all. I also used whole wheat bread crumbs. These simple changes shave a chunk of calories off this dish so you can enjoy it without any guilt. Whole Foods has a great selection of chicken sausage at the meat counter and it was very simple to get the sausage out of its casing (but, don’t worry, I didn’t take photos of that step since it’s not too pretty).

    This is another great weeknight meal that is sure to be bursting with flavor!

    Greater Boston Food Bank’s Turkey Drive

    Do you have $12 to spare before Thanksgiving? I know money is tight for most people these days but just a $12 donation to the Greater Boston Food Bank will ensure a family in need has a 12-14 lb. turkey for Thanksgiving. Nearly 2,500 turkeys have already been donated but they have a long way to go. Just think, for under $25, you can be sure two families aren’t struggling to put food on the table this year. I made a donation yesterday and it feels great to know that families facing tough times will have as good of a meal as my family next week. Participate in the Greater Boston Food Bank’s Turkey Drive today!

     

    I never remember eating Brussels sprouts growing up but discovered them once I was living on my own. I’m always looking for healthy and simple side dishes!

    I’ve made Brussels sprouts a bunch of times, always the same way. I first cut them in half and place them on a baking sheet. I then brush them with olive oil and minced garlic and sprinkle a little salt and pepper on top before roasting them at 350* for about 20 minutes. They turn out perfect, if you like Brussel sprouts that is!

    Last night, I expanded my use of Brussel sprouts by including them in a pasta dish. I actually saw a recipe for Penne with Brussels Spouts and Bacon on Boston.com. Boston.com actually has a pretty decent Food section online but this is the first recipe I’ve tried from the site. Based on the results, I already have another recipe from the site lined up for tonight.

    I love pasta dishes and bacon makes anything better so I figured this would be a tasty dish and it was. I recently discovered that Whole Foods sells center cut bacon by the strip at the meat counter. This was an exciting find for me because when I normally buy a package of bacon, some of it normally goes to waste. Not this time, I just ordered what I needed for this recipe. 

    This weeknight dish was easy to prepare and had a nice light flavor. Brussel sprouts have a distinct taste on their own but worked really well in this dish. And, as expected, the bacon was a welcome addition!

    What’s your favorite vegetable side dish?

    Is it just me or did the weekend fly by? I feel like I just blinked and it went from Friday night to Monday morning. I shouldn’t complain though, I did have a pretty busy and fun weekend for the most part. 

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    Over the past week or so, I’ve been organizing my cookbook and recipe collection (dorky, huh?). I’ve been throwing out old magazines that I don’t need and putting my cookbooks and binders into a nightstand-turned-end table I have in my living room. One of the cookbooks I found was “Better Homes and Gardens New Cookbook” that I’ve had for years. I normally gravitate towards specialty cookbooks but this one deserves a shout out. I started looking through it and it’s great! Similar to the “Joy of Cooking,” it contains traditional American recipes and should be a cookbook staple in anyone’s kitchen.

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    Last night, before I had a date with my couch to watch Desperate Housewives, I baked up some blondie brownies from the Better Homes and Gardens cookbook. I normally favor chocolate desserts whenever I have the chance to bake but blondies are one exception. While they do include chocolate, it isn’t the basis of these brownies. They were simple to throw together and turned out perfect – gooey, sweet and delicious. A real treat!

    To remove the brownies from my house share the love, I brought them to work today. Who doesn’t appreciate a homemade brownie to get the week going?

    Try these brownies, they are truly yummy.

    Blondies

    (From the Better Homes and Gardens New Cookbook)

    Ingredients:

    2 c. packed brown sugar

    2/3 c. butter

    2 eggs

    2 tsp. vanilla

    2 c. all-purpose flour

    1 tsp. baking powder

    1/4 tsp. baking soda

    1 c. chocolate chips

    1 c. chopped nuts

    Preparation:

    1. Grease a 13x9x2-inch baking pan, set aside.

    2. In a medium sauce pan, heat brown sugar and butter over medium heat until the sugar dissolves, stirring constantly. Cool slightly.

    3. Stir in eggs, one by one, and vanilla. Stir in flour, baking powder, and baking soda.

    4. Spread batter in prepared baking pan. Sprinkle with chocolate and nuts. Bake at 350* for 25-30 minutes.

    5. Cool slightly on a wire rack. Cut into 36 bars while warm.

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    This week has been so crazy for me. I had full day meetings everyday and dinners out three nights – all for work. While I’ve been eating some tasty meals, like my birthday week I am having trouble eating healthy when dining out. And, when work is paying I have even less control! 😉

    But, it’s Friday now…which means the weekend is here and I can get back to my normal eating patterns. Well, I am eating out tonight but it’s for fun this time so it doesn’t count. It’s my good friend/fellow Scorpio’s birthday. Happy Birthday Sara!

    Friday also means it’s Friday Fave time. In my little time looking at blogs this week, I did come across some great dinner ideas. Check them out:

    • Erin at $5 Dinners feeds her family for very little every week. She’s a really good bargain shopper! This week, she posted Slow Cooker Chicken Parmesan. I’m a huge fan of my slow cooker and chicken parm so I guess it’s just a match made in heaven! Erin even links to printable coupons for some of the ingredients she uses. Impressive!
    • If you’re getting in the mood for Thanksgiving, you’ll love the recipe for Arugula, Cranberry and Goat Cheese Stuffed Turkey Cutlets over at Kitchenbelle. What a great, mouth-watering combination!
    • Deb at Smitten Kitchen cooks up great-looking meals and I’m a fan of her and her husband’s photography skills. This week she made a Swiss Chard and Sweet Potato Gratin which came out amazing and cheesy. I love casserole-type dishes because they are simple and allow for leftovers. I bet this one would make a great entrée or side dish.

    What are your plans for the weekend? I have a busy one ahead filled with friends, shopping, a movie and of course some cookies cooking too!

    Happy Friday (the 13th) everyone!

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