Every year I have this dilemma.  I start rummaging through my hundreds of recipes, cookbooks and foodie magazines seeking inspiration for the big meal, the meal of all meals, THANKSGIVING DINNER!  Why I even spend time doing this is a mystery to me because there are absolutes that I MUST make every year or my family will revolt.  I guess I should feel flattered that they like what I’m putting out there that much but sometimes you just want to mix it up a little.  Except when you do and then it’s not as good as what you were doing before, you feel like a schmuck and wish you would have stuck with what works.

Well, after spending almost a whole day last weekend watching The Food Network with my 7-year old aspiring chef of a middle daughter, we have decided to mix it up a bit on the desserts but keep all the other old favorites.  Sounds like a winning compromise.  Except for the fact that I can’t decide which dessert to make, they all sound so good!  I posted my top three selections as my status on facebook one day and got so much feedback, I promised to blog all three recipes.  I think I’m going with the Pumpkin Cheesecake and the Pumpkin Rum Pie.  Let me know what you decide! 

  Pumpkin Rum Pie

(this is from Paula Deen and Johnnie Gabriel)

1 (9-inch) premade- pie shell

1 (15 ounce) can unsweetened pumpkin puree

3 large eggs, at room temperature

1 cup firmly packed light brown sugar

2 Tbsp. unsalted butter, melted and cooled

2 1/2 cups heavy cream, divided

1/3 cup sour cream

1 1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon

1 1/2 tsp. ground ginger

pinch ground cloves

pinch ground nutmeg

pinch salt

2 Tbsp. dark rum

2 tsp. vanilla extract

1/4 cup confectioners’ sugar

1/4 cup Praline Pecans, recipe follows

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.  Partially bake the pie shell, according to the package directions. 

In a large bowl of an electric mixer, whisk the pumpkin puree, eggs, brown sugar, melted butter, 1 1/2 cups of the cream, sour cream, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, cloves, salt, dark rum and vanilla.  Pour into the shell.  Bake for 10 minutes,  and then reduce the heat to 300 degrees.  Continue baking for 35-45 minutes.  Cool to room temperature and refrigerate until ready to serve.

With the whisk attachment of an electric mixer, whip the remaining cup of heavy cream on high-speed until the cream starts to froth.  Gradually add the confectioners’ sugar and whip on high until the cream stands in peaks. Either spoon or pipe the whipped cream around the edges of the pie and garnish with Praline Pecans.

Praline Pecans

2 Tbsp. butter

1/4 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar

1/2 cup chopped pecans

In a small skillet, melt the butter and sugar over medium heat.  Add the pecans, stirring until bubbly; about 5 minutes.  Remove from the heat and pour onto aluminum foil.  When the pecans are cool, crumble into small pieces and sprinkle the topping on top of the whipped cream.

Pumpkin Cheesecake with Gingersnap Crust

Crust

30 gingersnap cookies

6 Tbsp. (3/4 stick) unsalted butter, melted

Filling

4 (8-ounce) packages cream cheese, room temperature

2 cups sugar

1 (15-ounce) can pumpkin puree

2 Tbsp. flour

2 tsps. vanilla

3 eggs

1 1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon

1/2 tsp. ground ginger

1/4 tsp. freshly grated nutmeg

1/4 tsp. ground cloves

1/2 tsp. salt

1 cup sour cream

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Add the gingersnaps to the bowl of a food processor and pulse until crumbly.  Transfer to a large bowl and add the melted butter.  Stir until evenly mixed.  Press the mixture into the bottom of a 9-inch springform pan with 3-inch sides.  A cool trick I learned on the Food Network is to take your flat-bottomed measuring cup, wrap it in plastic wrap and use it to press the mixture into the pan.  Your hands don’t get dirty and it does a very even, nice job of it!  Bake the crust until golden brown, about 10 minutes.   Remove from oven and let cool completely while you prepare the filling.

Change oven temperature to 450 degrees.  In a large mixing bowl, beat the cream cheese until smooth.  Mix in the sugar, flour, salt, spices and vanilla to blend.  Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.  Stir in pumpkin and blend.  Add sour cream and blend thoroughly.  

*I have never baked this particular cheesecake recipe in a water bath but saw it on the Food Network and decided to update this recipe with this technique because you certainly don’t want cracks in your beautiful cheesecake!

Wrap the sides and bottom of the springform pan with heavy-duty aluminum foil.  Pour the filling into the prepared pan, smooth the top and put it in a small roasting pan.  Pour hot water into the roasting pan, filling halfway up the sides of the springform pan, about 1 1/2 inches.  Bake in 450 oven for 10 minutes.  Reduce heat to 250 and bake for 1 hour and 10 minutes longer.  Turn off oven; cool completely in oven with door ajar.  Chill for at least 4 hours before serving. 

The Neelys (Food Network again) served their version of Pumpkin Cheesecake with a Cinnamon Whipped Cream that sounded yummy.

Cinnamon Whipped Cream

1 cup heavy cream, chilled

1/4 cup confectioners’ sugar

1 tsp vanilla extract

1 tsp ground cinnamon

Pour the heavy cream into a large bowl and beat with an electric hand mixer until thick and frothy.  Add the confectioners’ sugar, vanilla and cinnamon and beat until medium peaks form. 

Apple Pear Cranberry Pie

Your favorite double pie crust recipe (try my Short Pastry under desserts/tarte tatin)

1/4 cup all-purpose flour

1/4 cup brown sugar

1 tsp. ground cardamom or cinnamon

3 medium apples, such as Macintosh

3 ripe but firm pears, such as Bartlett

1 cup fresh cranberries

3 tbsp. butter, cut into small pieces

Preheat the oven to 400.  In a large bowl, combine flour, sugar and cardamom or cinnamon.  Set aside.  Peel and core the apples and cut into 1/4-inch thick wedges.  Peel and core the pears, cutting the wedges slightly thicker.  Add the fruit, including the cranberries,  to the flour mixture.  Toss gently to coat.  Pour filling into prepared pie crust and dot with butter pieces.  Top with your 2nd rolled out piece of pie dough and crimp edges to seal.  Prick with a fork or cut out a decorative design in the center of the dough to vent while cooking.  Bake 15 minutes and then reduce heat to 375 degrees and continue baking until pastry is golden brown and fruit is bubbly about 35-40 minutes.  Serve with ice cream or fresh whipped cream.

 

 

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Ok, maybe distasteful but I think this is the most clever Halloween costume or part-time job (which ever way you want to look at it) ever.  And is he drinking a beer to boot?  You’ve got to love his creativity.

I don’t know about you but this new set of recommendations from the government advising women to now wait until age 50 to begin screening for breast cancer has me thoroughly confused and a bit frustrated.  It has taken years and years and millions and millions of dollars to pound into all of our heads that at age 40 you go and get your boobies painfully squashed between some device in order to possibly detect breast abnormalities which could be cancerous.  Also, self-examination.  How many times have you had that fun conversation with your ob/gyn where he/she asks you if you do monthly self-exams in the shower, demonstrated how to best do it and given you a shower hanger card?  Early combined with self-detection has been the catch phrase of the past 15 years at least.  

And now, after all this time and all of us dutifully following the government guidelines (imposed by congress mind you), they are retracting and telling us to wait another 10 years?  They may very well have a solid, science and fact- based argument as to why we should wait.  In fact, it seems as if they do.  I’ve heard that women from 40-49 have denser breasts which leads to more false positives, more unnecessary biopsies and more stress.  That the results are not as reliable or accurate in younger women.  That if you don’t have a family history of the disease, you’re better off waiting until age 50.  But why should we believe you this time Uncle Sam?!!  Breast cancer is still the 2nd leading cause of death in this country.   The American Cancer Society, a very well-respected organization, disagrees with this decree and is fearful of the damage it may cause leading women to just throw up their hands and give up screening all together. 

And, hey, what about the fact that now our government has even taken away the only legitimate reason women had to feel themselves up once a month!  Come on.  Where does it end?

I guess it comes down to your choice (to continue “self-examining if that’s what you want to call it” and/or get a mammogram), at least for now while the insurance companies are still covering it for women 40-49.  I just had my annual exam last week and my ob/gyn advised me to schedule my first mammogram since I will be 40 in June.  I don’t know what to do now.  Honestly, most of the people I know who have had cancer detected the lump themselves or had some sort of symptoms (if it was a different type of cancer).  I don’t know personally anyone whose cancer was found through a mammogram.  But that certainly doesn’t mean they don’t find cancer that way.

I’m curious if these new guidelines will change your mind about when you get a mammogram.  I’m curious whether these new guidelines are truly scientifically founded and in all of our best interests or motivated by money or a way to save money, ration health care expenses.  It’s kind of hard not to go there with all the controversy and debate swirling around health care.   What do you think?

Since we’re on cancer…my next post I’ll be talking the best foods to eat to prevent cancer or the “Anti-Cancer Diet” and some yummy recipes featuring those foods.  In honor of my funny friend Lou recently diagnosed, who is on the road to kicking some serious cancer booty!

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Ok, I admit.  I am a bit of soup junkie.  One of the many reasons I love when the weather turns colder is because I can start breaking out the cookbooks and making a different soup each week.  How can you not love it?  It’s filling and healthy, you usually only have to dirty one pot and it feeds you for days.  It’s comforting, like an old friend or a warm blanket.  There’s just something about soup. 

I also am currently obsessing over brussel sprouts (reference Eat Your Veggies) and find myself trying every recipe I find that features them.  I have had the Sprouts and Sausage Soup recipe tucked into my recipe binder for years and finally just tried it out on the family this weekend.  It was a raving success and so, so easy!  Few ingredients, quick prep and cooking time and very satisfying.  This would definitely make a good Monday night football soup served with some hearty bread and beers all around. 

Sausage & Sprouts Winter Soup  – Serves 8

1 lb. Brussels sprouts

1 lb. sausage link (turkey kielbasa, andouille, etc)

2 tsp. olive oil

6 large red potatoes

2 bay leaves

2 tsp caraway seeds

8 cups reduced-sodium chicken broth

Trim ends off Brussels sprouts and cut in half lengthwise.  Set aside.  Cut sausage into 1/4-inch thick slices.  Put olive oil and sausage into large dutch oven or pot over medium-high heat and cook, stirring occasionally, until sausage is well-browned, about 7 minutes.  Meanwhile, peel potatoes and cut into 1/2 –inch pieces. 

When sausage is browned, add bay leaves and caraway seeds.  Cook, stirring until fragrant, about 1 minute.  Add potatoes, broth and 1 cup water.  Bring to a boil.  Add Brussels sprouts.  Partially cover pot and reduce heat to low to maintain a steady simmer.  Cook soup until sprouts and potatoes are tender, about 15 minutes.  Remove bay leaves and serve soup hot with crusty bread and a green salad. 

My good friend from college, Denise (one of the D’s in the recipe title) and I are into emailing and texting each other what we’re making for dinner.  We also sometimes do the “ok, I have these five ingredients on  hand, what can I do with them?” challenge.  It’s been so fun to get to know each other as fellow  foodies and share our passion for cooking since our friendship in college was based much more on  knowing each other as fellow Coors Light drinkers  and sharing our passion for 2 am Jack-in-the-box runs.  We both love the magazine Everyday Food and we tend to lean towards Mediterranean influences like kalmata olives, capers, feta cheese — all the really good stuff.    We also like to take other people’s recipes and “doctor” them up a bit.  Put our own twist on them if you will.  So D & D’s (Daphne and Denise’s) Winter Vegetable Soup is just that, a doctored (and better if I do say so myself) version of an Everyday Food recipe Denise and I both decided to make.

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D&D’s Winter Vegetable Soup (adapted from Everyday Food)  – Serves 4-5

2 Tbsp. unsalted butter

1 medium onion, cut into fine dice

2 garlic cloves, minced

coarse salt and ground pepper

1 lb. acorn squash, peeled, seeded and cut into 1-inch chunks

1 bunch kale or escarole (for kale, ribs cut away and discarded), leaves torn

5 ½ cups low sodium chicken broth

1 can canellini beans, rinsed

1 small package cheese tortellini

½ package diced prosciutto

3 sprigs fresh thyme (if available)

grated fresh Parmesan, for serving

In a large Dutch oven or heavy pot, melt butter over medium.  Cook onion, garlic and prosciutto until fragrant, about three minutes; season with salt and pepper.  Add squash and kale or escarole and cook until greens are wilted, about three minutes.  Add broth, beans and thyme.  Bring to a simmer and cook until squash and greens are tender, about 12 minutes.  Add the tortellini in when you have about 5 minutes remaining of cooking.  Season soup with salt and pepper and serve with Parmesan, if desired.                                                                    

accent_smilingsoup_200x153Every one knows chicken soup is good for the body and soul.  Whenever I stayed home sick from school as a kid, my mom would give me some form of Campbell’s chicken soup, saltine crackers and 7-up and for the most part, the world would be right again.  What I love about this Greek Chicken Soup recipe is that it’s easy and so delicious, it makes my mouth kind of pucker to think of it’s savory, tart flavor.  It’s very forgiving so feel free to add more/less chicken.  You can also use a different pasta noodle but I love it with the orzo.  It’s a great soup to take to a sick or down in the dumps friend. 

Greek Chicken Lemon Soup (Avgolemono)

8 cups (64 oz) chicken stock/broth

¾ cup orzo

1 lb. cooked boneless, skinless diced chicken breast

3 eggs

1/3 cup fresh lemon juice (about 2 lemons)

1 tbsp. grated lemon zest (1 lemon)

salt and fresh pepper

2 tbsp. chopped fresh Italian parsley

Hungarian paprika, for garnish

In a large saucepan, bring the stock to a boil over medium heat.  Reduce the heat to medium-low, add the orzo and cook until tender, 15-20 minutes.  About 5 minutes before the pasta is done, add the diced chicken. 

Crack the eggs into a mixing bowl.  Whisk the eggs while pouring in the lemon juice.  Add the zest.  Whisking continuously, slowly pour a ladleful of the hot stock into the egg mixture.  Reduce the heat to low.  Then, while whisking the soup in the pan, slowly pour in the egg/lemon mixture.  This will thicken the soup slightly.

Season to taste with salt and pepper.  Remove from heat and serve garnished with the parsley and paprika, if desired.

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spaghetti-meat-sauce

I lived a whole 29 years of my life never having had a bolognese sauce.  Let me tell you, that was 29 years too long. 

So what is Bolognese sauce (ragu alla bolognese in Italian, also known by its French name sauce bolognaise)? It is a meat-based sauce used with pasta originating in Bologna, Italy.  Bolognese sauce is sometimes thought to be a tomato sauce, but truly authentic recipes have only a small amount of tomato.

The people of Bologna traditionally serve their famous ragù with freshly made tagliatelle (tagliatelle alla bolognese) and their traditionally green lasagne. Less traditionally, the sauce is served with macaroni or other durum wheat short pasta.

The traditional recipe, registered in 1982 by the Bolognese delegation of Accademia Italiana della Cucina, confines the ingredients to beef, pancetta, onions, carrots, celery, tomato paste, meat broth, red wine, and (optionally) milk or cream.  However, different recipes, even in the Bolognese tradition, make use of chopped pork or pork sausage, while chicken or goose liver may be added along with the beef or even veal for special occasions, and today many use both butter and olive oil for cooking the celery, carrot and onion. Prosciutto, mortadella, or porcini fresh mushrooms when in season may be added to the ragù to further enrich the sauce. Milk is frequently used in the early stages of cooking to render the meat flavors more “delicate” but cream is very rare in the everyday recipe and only a very little would be used. According to Marcella Hazan in “The Classic Italian Cookbook”, the longer Ragù alla Bolognese cooks the better; a 5- or 6-hour simmer is not unusual. 

In fact, I don’t even think I had ever heard of it or knew it existed even having worked in the food industry and presumably knowing a great deal about food.  I first tasted it at a gourmet supper club that I was invited to join back when we lived in Colorado.  It certainly doesn’t look gourmet at first appearance, but more like a humble, everyday meat sauce over pasta.  The fragrance was the first clue that this might be a very special and different sauce.  Rich, meaty and a little sweet.  The recipe I had that night wasfrom the hostesses’ Italian grandmother.  It was divine and I was hooked.  It instantly became my favorite pasta sauce bumping a really great vodka sauce down to second and pesto to third.  Alas, she wouldn’t divulge the recipe so I toiled and tinkered until I perfected it myself. 

I didn’t think I would ever need or want to try another Bolognese sauce until I saw the recipe in last month’s Everyday Food (September 2009) for Pork Bolognese.  I decided to give it try since (as you know if you’ve read previous posts) I love this magazine and its recipes.  I really was not expecting much.  I am a self-admitted Bolognese snob.  I will try it at restaurants that claim their version is good/authentic and unfortunately, it almost always disappoints. 

But guess what?  Their version was a knock-out.  Kids loved it.  Hubby loved it.  And I LOVED it.  So now I’m in a quandary.  I can’t decide which one I like better.  Hubby says mine and not just because it’s mine but I don’t know.  I’m truly torn.  Mine is a little more healthful because it doesn’t have milk in it and probably because of that also more true to the traditional definition of a Bolognese.  But the Everyday Food version is delicious as well.  If you’re so inclined, try them both out sometime and come back and let me know which you like or if you have a better one, please share it with me.

We’re having the Traditional Bolognese recipe over penne this week.  Mangia Mangia!

 

Traditional Bolognese Sauce

1 ½ lbs lean ground beef

½ cup sweet white wine

1 medium onion, chopped

3 slices bacon, chopped

1 cup beef stock/broth

16 oz. can stewed tomatoes

16 oz. can tomato sauce

1 large carrot, peeled and diced

3 cloves garlic, peeled and minced

salt and fresh ground pepper, to taste

Your choice of pasta:  egg noodles, penne, spaghetti – all work well

 Saute bacon over low flame in a large skillet and drain, leaving 2 Tbsp. of fat in pan.  Remove bacon from pan and set aside.  Add carrots, onions and garlic to pan and let cook over low heat for 10-15 minutes, stirring frequently.  Add ground beef and break up with a fork.  Cook until the meat is completely browned.  Return bacon to pan. Add wine and let simmer until it has evaporated, stirring often. Add broth and let simmer on low heat until evaporated.  Add tomatoes and tomato sauce.  Salt and pepper, to taste.  Continue to simmer, covered over low heat for 1 to 1 ½ hours.  You really can’t cook this too long but at least allow a minimum of 1 hour.   Serve over drained, cooked pasta and top with fresh grated Parmesan cheese.

 

Pork Bolognese (from Everyday Food, September 2009) Serves 8

3 slices bacon, finely chopped

1 small onion, finely chopped

1 medium carrot, finely chopped

1 celery stalk, finely chopped

2 lbs. ground pork

¼ cup tomato paste

1 cup dry white wine

1 ¼ cups whole milk

1 can (28 ounces) tomato sauce

2 cups low-sodium chicken broth

1 bay leaf

5 sprigs fresh thyme

coarse salt and ground pepper

cooked penne rigate, for serving

grated Parmesan, for serving

 In a large Dutch oven or heavy pot, cook bacon over medium until fat is released, 5 minutes.  Add onion, carrot and celery; cook until soft, 6 minutes.  Raise heat to medium-high; add pork and cook, breaking up meat with a wooden spoon until browned, 7 minutes.  Add tomato paste; cook until pork is coated, 4 minutes.

Add wine; cook until reduced by three-fourths.  Add 1 cup milk; cook until reduced by half.  Add tomato sauce, broth, bay leaf, thyme, 2 ½ tsps. Salt and ½ tsp pepper.  Simmer, stirring occasionally, 1 hour.  Stir in remaining ¼ cup milk.  Serve sauce over pasta, topped with cheese. 

 

 

 

 

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