Posts Tagged 'Thanksgiving Recipes'

Cranberry Swirl Cheesecake

Does anyone else still have cranberries left over from Thanksgiving?  Since they keep in the refrigerator for up to two weeks and also freeze beautifully, I’ve been steadily working my way through the half-full jumbo bag my mom sent home with us last month.  Today’s recipe – Cranberry Swirl Cheesecake from the December 2010 issue of Cooking Light – was a special request from my darling husband.  The dessert looked so good on the cover of the magazine that we just had to try it.

Since the process was a bit long, I’ll spare you the play-by-play today.  I did have several issues and modifications, though.

  • When I bake cheesecakes in a water bath, I always use the 18-inch-wide heavy-duty Reynolds foil because it allows me to wrap the entire 9-inch springform pan with one piece.  When I would overlap two pieces of the 12-inch foil in the past, I would consistently get leakage and a soggy crust.  I bring the foil all the way up the sides and then roll any excess at the top into a “lip” so the foil doesn’t extend down into the pan.  Works like a charm!
  • The only chocolate graham crackers my grocery store had were chocolate Teddy Grahams, so that’s what I bought.  Once they’re ground up, they’re pretty much all the same, right?
  • There was no way I was going to put oil in my cheesecake crust, so I substituted 3 tablespoons of melted butter for the 3 tablespoons of canola oil.
  • I didn’t have any Chambord and I didn’t want to buy a whole bottle for the recipe, so I bought two mini bottles at the liquor store for $5.  (I have half of one bottle left.)
  • I don’t know if it was the saucepan I used (a hard anodized Calphalon) or the fact that water evaporates more quickly at high altitude, but my cranberry topping was initially more like candied cranberries than sauce (and that was even after I shaved a minute off of the cooking time).  I ended up adding 5 tablespoons of water to the sauce in the food processor step to thin it out.
  • I don’t ever use fat-free cream cheese (it’s like plastic!), so I used all reduced-fat cream cheese instead of using both types.
  • I used Fage 0% for the Greek yogurt.
  • My whole eggs were room temperature; my egg whites were pretty cold. (Eggs separate best when they’re fresh from the refrigerator.)
  • Many of the recipe reviewers complained that a 9-inch springform pan won’t fit inside a 9 x 13-inch metal pan for the water bath, and it’s true.  Luckily, I have a large lasagna pan (11 x 16) that worked well.
  • I boiled my water in a tea kettle before pouring it around the foil-wrapped cheesecake.
  • The recipe indicated that the cheesecake should barely move in the center after 50 minutes of baking time at 325°F.  Several reviewers said they had to add baking time, whether it was 5 minutes, 20 minutes, or more.  I ended up giving my cheesecake 65 minutes at 325°F before turning off the oven and giving it 30 minutes of in-oven cooling time.

Cranberry Swirl Cheesecake

This recipe isn’t going to knock my all-time favorite cheesecake (Margarita Cheesecake!) off its throne, but it was pretty fantastic (and far more seasonally appropriate).  This recipe produced a light, fluffy, creamy texture and I loved the play between the slightly tart cranberry topping and the sweetness of the cheesecake.  One of the recipe reviewers on the Cooking Light site said that she didn’t like the chocolate crust because it created “too many flavors” in the final result; I think chocolate and cranberry go together beautifully, though, so I loved it. It was a bit challenging to get the crust out when I cut the first piece (the first piece is always the hardest!), but subsequent pieces came out easily.

I’ve made quite a few cheesecakes and have a pretty sensitive palate, so I could tell this was a lower-fat cheesecake.  I don’t think your average dinner guest would have an inkling, though.  Since this cheesecake is gorgeous, delicious, and able to be made ahead, I’m definitely putting it in my holiday recipe arsenal.

Recipe link: Cranberry Swirl Cheesecake

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Pecan Bars

My mom and I have been working on our Thanksgiving menu for the past week or so.  Choosing our dishes for the main meal was a snap, but we got stuck on dessert.  I could think of at least five or six things I would love to serve, but we would have ridiculous amounts of leftovers.  (Leftover turkey?  Yes, please.  Two weeks’ worth of leftover pie?  Trouble.)  We finally agreed that we should have something pumpkin (Muirhead Pecan Pumpkin Butter Dessert Squares), something apple (the Caramel Apple Pie I made last year), and something pecan (my dad’s favorite!).  As much as I enjoyed it the first time I made it, I knew I didn’t want to make Martha’s Maple-Nut Tart again after the struggle I had getting it out of the tart pan.  I found a basic recipe for Pecan Bars on her site, though, and thought they could be a fun, easy-to-serve option.

To make the crust, I used the paddle attachment on my stand mixer to beat together 2 sticks of unsalted butter, 1/2 cup of confectioner’s (powdered) sugar, and 1 teaspoon of salt until light.  On low speed, I beat in 2 cups of all-purpose flour until the mixture formed a mass.  I transferred the dough to a 9 x 13-inch pan and used a sheet of plastic wrap to press it evenly into the bottom of the pan.  I discarded the plastic wrap and baked the crust at 375°F until golden (25 minutes).

While the crust baked, I made the filling.  In a small bowl, I whisked together 2 more tablespoons of all-purpose flour, another teaspoon of salt, and a scant 1/2 teaspoon of baking powder.  Using an electric mixer, I beat 2 large, room-temperature eggs with 1 1/2 cups of packed light brown sugar and 1 tablespoon of dark corn syrup until light.  I folded the flour mixture into the egg mixture, followed by 2 cups of pecans (coarsely chopped) and 1 cup of sweetened flaked coconut.

When the crust had finished baking, I gently spread the filling over it and baked until the filling was set (20 minutes).  Immediately after the pan came out of the oven, I ran a metal spatula around the edges and then set the pan on a wire rack to cool.  Once cool, I cut the bars into 24 servings.

Pecan Bars

First things first: If you’re into salty-sweet things (I am!), these bars are absolutely delicious.  You get a buttery, flaky, tender crust on the bottom, a chewy center, and oodles of coconut-pecan flavor.  If you don’t like sweet things, these may be too much for you; substituting unsweetened coconut for the sweetened coconut would dial things back a bit.

My only beef with this recipe is that it extolled the virtues of serving something that guests could hold in their hands.  Unless you’re into crumbs everywhere, there’s just no way.  I tried using several different kitchen tools (spatulas, bench scrapers, knives) to get a nice, clean edge when cutting the bars; as you can probably tell from my photo, things didn’t work out very well.  For better or for worse, crumbly deliciousness apparently equals mess.  If you served these on a plate, though, you’d be fine.  If you served them warm on a plate with ice cream, your guests might try to move in.  Choose your serving method wisely. 😉

Recipe link: Pecan Bars

Pumpkin Doughnut Muffins

I get so incredibly excited each time I find a recipe that is so fantastic I know I’ll make it, quite literally, for life.  Today’s recipe – Pumpkin Doughnut Muffins from the November 2010 issue of Everyday Food – is one of those recipes.

The recipe isn’t on the Everyday Food site yet, so here it is:

Pumpkin Doughnut Muffins
Makes 12
Active time: 20 min. | Total time: 1 hr.

Batter Ingredients:
10 tablespoons (1 1/4 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature, plus more for pan
3 cups all-purpose flour (spooned and leveled), plus more for pan
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon coarse salt
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
1/3 cup buttermilk
1 1/4 cups pure pumpkin puree (from a 15-ounce can)
3/4 cup light brown sugar
2 large eggs

Sugar Coating Ingredients:
3/4 cup granulated sugar
2 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, melted

Method:
Preheat oven to 350°F.  Butter and flour 12 standard muffin cups.  Make batter: In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, nutmeg, and allspice.  In a small bowl, whisk together buttermilk and pumpkin purée. In a large bowl using an electric mixer, beat butter and brown sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in eggs, one at a time, scraping down bowl as needed.  With mixer on low, add flour mixture in three additions, alternating with two additions pumpkin mixture, and beat to combine.

Spoon 1/3 cup batter into each muffin cup and bake until a toothpick inserted in center of a muffin comes out clean, 30 minutes.  Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, combine granulated sugar and cinnamon.  Let muffins cool 10 minutes in pan on a wire rack.  Working with one at a time, brush all over with butter, then toss to coat in sugar mixture.  Let muffins cool completely on wire rack.  (Store in an airtight container, up to 1 day.)

Note: Freeze muffins up to 3 months.  Reheat in a 350°F oven, then coat in butter and sugar.

High-altitude adjustments: I’m not sure I actually needed to make these changes since this was the first time I made this recipe, but I went with my high-altitude baker’s intuition.  I’m so pleased with the results that I will make these changes again next time.

  • I added 1 tablespoon of flour to the batter (3 cups plus 1 tablespoon total).
  • I cut the baking powder by 1/4 teaspoon (2 1/4 teaspoons total).
  • I used a scant 1/4 teaspoon of baking soda instead of a full 1/4 teaspoon.

Pumpkin Doughnut Muffins

Pumpkin Doughnut Muffins Interior

The interior of the muffin had a mild pumpkin flavor and wasn’t overly sweet.  The texture was light, airy, and moist with a beautiful crumb.  They were a bit more cake-like than a traditional muffin, I think.  The cinnamon-sugar coating was absolutely divine, and the amount of sugar and spice on the outside was a perfect complement to the inside of the muffin.  In short, they were amazing.  I have visions of feeding these to houseguests, lounging with them on Sunday mornings, and bringing them to brunches year after year.

I swear, these are the best muffins I’ve ever made.  In support of this theory, another doctor at my husband’s office lightheartedly suggested he might marry me after sampling them.  They’re THAT good.  Give them a try!

TIPS:  When I need to bring an amount of butter to room temperature quickly and I don’t want to risk overdoing it in the microwave, I thinly slice the butter and let it sit on a cutting board.  In five minutes or so, it’s ready to go.  Also, I always use room-temperature eggs when I bake.  To bring eggs to room temperature quickly, I put them in a container of lukewarm water for three to five minutes.

Ginger Pumpkin Tart

The requirement of last week’s gourmet club meeting was to cook with five ingredients or fewer.  Although I ultimately settled on another recipe for the dinner party, this Ginger Pumpkin Tart from Claire Robinson is super easy and very seasonally appropriate.

To make the crust, I ground two 5.25-ounce packages of Anna’s Ginger Thins in my food processor to yield 2 1/2 cups of crumbs.  (I think any gingersnap-type cookie will do.)  I combined the crumbs with 6 tablespoons of melted butter, transferred the mixture to my 9-inch removable-bottom tart pan, and pressed the crumbs into the bottom and up the sides of the pan with the bottom of a clean measuring cup.  I put the tart pan on a rimmed baking sheet and baked the crust at 350°F until it darkened a bit (11 minutes).  Next, I set it aside to cool.  (Make sure it gets reasonably close to room temperature before adding the filling; stick it in the refrigerator if you want to speed this up.)

For the filling, I whisked together one 15-ounce can of pumpkin purée (not pumpkin pie filling!), 3/4 cup of sweetened condensed milk, 2 large egg yolks, and a pinch of salt (salt, pepper, and water are considered “freebie” ingredients) in a medium bowl.  I poured the filling into the cooled crust, returned the pan to the oven (still on a rimmed baking sheet, still at 350°F), and baked the tart until it was set (30 minutes).  I removed the tart from the oven, cooled it to room temperature, and then chilled it for several hours in the refrigerator before serving.

Ginger Pumpkin Tart

For being so simple, this is pretty darn tasty.  It’s essentially like eating pumpkin pie, except with a ginger cookie crust.  Like any good pumpkin dessert, though, it really isn’t complete without a bit of sweetened whipped cream…  I know this takes the recipe over the five-ingredient limit, but it’s essential.

Want to try something a bit more gourmet with homemade pumpkin purée and chocolate?  Check out last year’s Chocolate-Pumpkin Tart post.

TIPS:  Apparently, the canned pumpkin supply is back to good after last year’s shortage.  Yay!  Also, the one “mistake” I made with this recipe was to push too much of the crust up the sides instead of leaving more on the bottom.  That thick crust looks absolutely gorgeous, but it was pretty difficult to cut once I got to the edge.  Sticking a fork through it?  Impossible.  We had to pick up the crust and eat it like a cookie.  (Still delicious!)  Next time, I’ll even things out a bit.

Recipe link: Ginger Pumpkin Tart

Broccoli and Gruyère Gratin

I most certainly love my green veggies, but doesn’t a healthy helping of cheese (almost) always sweeten the deal?

I made today’s recipe – Broccoli and Gruyère Gratin from the November 2009 issue of Real Simple – for the first time over Thanksgiving.  Since it serves a crowd, can be made up to a day ahead, and is absolutely delicious, though, it’s perfect for entertaining in any situation.

To make a full recipe, I started by roughly chopping 12 cups of broccoli.  (The recipe suggests this is two large bunches, but I ended up getting just over 2 cups from each smallish bunch I was able to buy at my grocery store.  I chose to use just the tops since I didn’t feel like peeling the stems, but feel free to use the stems if you like.)  I have a pasta pot with a steamer basket, so I put an inch of water in the pot, brought it to a simmer, put the steamer basket of broccoli in the pot, and then covered the pot with its lid.  (A regular steamer basket that sits inside a pot will do just fine, too; if you use this method, go with 1/2 inch of water instead of a full inch.)  I steamed the broccoli until it was just tender (4 minutes) and then transferred it to a large bowl.

Next, I made the cheese sauce.  In a medium saucepan, I melted 4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) of butter over medium heat.  I added 1/4 cup of all-purpose flour and cooked it, stirring constantly, for 2 minutes.  Switching from a spoon to a whisk, I whisked in 2 cups of whole milk and simmered the mixture until it was slightly thickened (4 minutes for a full recipe; about 2 minutes and 30 seconds for a half recipe).  Although the recipe didn’t specifically say to do this, I whisked my sauce constantly to prevent the bottom from burning and a skin from forming on the top.  Once the sauce had thickened, I removed it from the heat and stirred in 1 cup of grated Gruyère cheese, 1/2 teaspoon of coarse salt, and 1/4 teaspoon of ground pepper.

I tossed the cheese sauce with the broccoli and transferred the mixture to a shallow 3-quart baking dish.  I sprinkled the broccoli with another cup of grated Gruyère and baked it at 375F until it was bubbling and golden brown (40 minutes).  I let the dish stand 10 minutes before serving.

Broccoli and Gruyere Gratin

As a child who loved broccoli drizzled with Cheez Whiz (the things my parents would do to get us to eat vegetables!), I’m seriously digging this grown-up, sophisticated version of broccoli with cheese.  The broccoli becomes tender but not the least bit mushy, and I love the cheesy crust on top.  The dish is fairly saucy if you eat it after the 10 minutes of standing time; I think it sat for almost 30 minutes before we ate it on Thanksgiving and the sauce thickened considerably.  I liked it both ways.

This time, I served the gratin with panko-crusted chicken cutlets and Chardonnay (perfect winter meal!) for just the two of us, but I’ll definitely use this recipe for Christmas entertaining or fall/winter dinner parties.  Anything that can be made ahead with results this delicious gets filed as a “keeper.”

TIPS:  I would strongly suggest having all the cheese sauce ingredients measured and ready to go before you start cooking.  That way, you can just toss and pour them in without having to stop stirring or whisking.

Also, if you haven’t worked with Gruyère yet, you may be interested to know (1) it’s a bit pricey, and (2) it’s pungent.  In other words, you’ll pay a bit more than you’re used to in order to bring home a pretty stinky cheese.  It mellows considerably when baked, though, and it really is delicious.  If you don’t like Gruyère, try substituting Swiss or cheddar cheese.

Recipe link: Broccoli and Gruyère Gratin

Pumpkin Pie Oatmeal

Before I dive headfirst into the Christmas season, I wanted to include one last Thanksgiving/harvest-related post.  First, the post-Thanksgiving notes:

  • The Caramel Apple Pie recipe I used for Thanksgiving is IT, folks.  It was incredible.  My final apple mix was three large Honeycrisp and five medium Granny Smith apples to get the nine cups of apples required for the recipe; it hit the “mostly sweet with a barely-there hint of tart” flavor balance I had been trying to achieve.  I may eat my words after the Christmas pie clinic with Dr. O’s grandmother, but for now, this is the only apple pie recipe I’m going to use.
  • The Broccoli and Gruyere Gratin recipe produced perfect results.  The broccoli was tender but not one bit mushy, and the cheese sauce and cheesy top were absolutely delicious.  I especially like this recipe because you can assemble it up to one day ahead, bring it to room temperature, and bake it whenever you’re ready.  It’s going to become a staple in my house for entertaining for sure.

Second, I wanted to post the last Thanksgiving-related dish I’ll put on the site until next year: Pumpkin Pie Oatmeal.  I discovered this recipe a few weeks ago when a blog visitor checked out my instructions for making pumpkin puree and mentioned that she planned to use the puree to make this particular oatmeal.  I still have some leftover pumpkin puree from the Chocolate-Pumpkin Tart I made for Thanksgiving and could think of no better use for it than making a warm, comforting breakfast for Dr. O and myself.  (Note: I made a half recipe of the oatmeal since it was just the two of us; see the posted recipe for original ingredient quantities.)

First, I preheated the oven to 375F and greased two individual-sized ramekins.  (Since the recipe didn’t offer a specific recommendation for ramekin size, I used 8-ounce ramekins; I probably would have been better off with 4- or 6-ounce ramekins.)

In a small bowl, I stirred together 1/2 cup of old-fashioned oats, 1 1/4 tablespoons of packed brown sugar, 1/4 teaspoon of cinnamon, 1/8 teaspoon of allspice, 1/16 teaspoon of nutmeg, and 1/8 teaspoon of table salt.  In a separate small bowl, I whisked together 1/4 teaspoon of vanilla, 1/4 teaspoon of lemon zest, 1 teaspoon of softened unsalted butter, 3/8 cup of pumpkin puree, and 3/8 cup of milk.  I poured the pumpkin mixture into the oat mixture and stirred until everything was combined.

I divided the oatmeal mixture evenly between the two ramekins, placed the ramekins on a baking sheet, and baked them for 10 minutes at 375F.  Meanwhile, I made the topping.  I combined 1/8 cup of chopped pecans, 1 teaspoon of softened unsalted butter, and 1/2 tablespoon of packed brown sugar.  After the oatmeal had baked for 10 minutes, I divided the topping evenly between the two ramekins and returned them to the oven for an additional 7 minutes.  I let the oatmeal cool for 5 minutes before serving.

Pumpkin Pie Oatmeal

Texturally, the oatmeal was out of this world.  It was warm and creamy, and I loved the crunch from the pecan topping.  In terms of flavor, it was good, but I thought it was a bit too spiced.  I think this was intended to be a healthy recipe, so my “improvements” would take away from that a bit; I’d double the amount of brown sugar and butter in the oatmeal part of the recipe.  (The topping was just fine as is.)  I would also cut the amount of nutmeg and allspice to a quick sprinkle each to create a more balanced flavor.  With the changes indicated, I would definitely bring this one back next year.

TIPS:  Feel free to substitute canned pumpkin for the fresh pumpkin puree.

Recipe link: Pumpkin Pie Oatmeal

How to Make Pumpkin Puree (the Easy Way)

Sometimes I hate to admit it, but as many concluded in the much-discussed Martha Stewart vs. Rachael Ray dustup last week, nobody does it like Martha.

When I first made pumpkin puree a few weeks ago, I mentioned that I had originally intended to use Martha Stewart’s method but decided to go with the instructions on the pumpkin sticker instead.  I got great results, but I really struggled to cut open my pumpkins.  (At this point, I’m not sure if the sweat was from pure exertion or the completely rational fear of losing a finger.)

Since I’m making the Chocolate-Pumpkin Tart again for Thanksgiving, I needed to whip up some more puree.  For comparison’s sake, I decided to use Martha’s method today and (of course) it totally trumped the pie sticker method.  Martha says to peel and seed the pumpkin (I used a really sharp Y peeler), cut it into 2-inch pieces, and then steam it (covered) on the stove for 15 minutes.  As I had hoped, cutting through the pumpkin was easy peasy once the skin had been removed.  I actually skipped the step of cutting off the top and bottom of the pumpkin (I didn’t want to struggle!) and then sliced the flesh off in quarters after I finished peeling the pumpkin.  All I had left was this little pumpkin “sandwich.”

Pumpkin Remnants

The results were identical to the other method once I pureed the steamed pumpkin in the food processor – smooth, creamy pumpkin puree with no difference in flavor.  For me (and for the sake of safety and energy conservation), Martha’s way is now the right way to make pumpkin puree.

Recipe link: Sugar-Pumpkin Puree




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