Posts Tagged 'Thanksgiving'

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

Chocolate-Pumpkin Tart

Happy blog anniversary to me!  It’s been a terrific two years of discovery in the kitchen.  Many thanks to all of you for your support and for sharing the journey with me.  I’m going to post every day this week as part of the celebration, and look for some visual changes to the site in the next month to mark the start of a new year.  I’d also like to bring back the “request line,” so if there’s something you’d like me to make and post (including baking recipes that might need some high-altitude adjustments) leave the information in a comment on the site or e-mail me at  I can’t wait to hear from you!

Thinking about this time last year, my life was pretty chaotic.  We had just moved back to Denver from Dallas, we were in a new living space, we were adjusting to the demands of my husband’s new practice, we were reconnecting with old friends and making new ones.  It was all pretty overwhelming.  Consequently, there were quite a few recipes I wanted to try last October (especially from the then-current issue of Everyday Food) that I just didn’t get around to making.  Halloween Whoopie Pies was one of the recipes (so yummy!), and Chocolate-Pumpkin Tart (today’s recipe) was another.  The Chocolate-Pumpkin Tart was the inspiration for my last post (How to Make Pumpkin Puree), and I’m happy to report that the tart was well worth the effort on the puree.  Here’s how I made it.

In my Cuisinart Mini-Prep food processor, I pulsed 20 chocolate wafers with 2 tablespoons of sugar until the cookies were finely ground.  I added 3 tablespoons of melted unsalted butter and pulsed until the crumbs were moistened.  Using the bottom of a dry measuring cup, I pressed the crumbs into the bottom (but not the sides) of a 9-inch removable-bottom tart pan.  I placed the tart pan on a rimmed baking sheet and baked it at 350F until it was set (12 minutes).

Meanwhile, I melted 4 ounces of semisweet chocolate in a homemade double boiler.  When the crust came out of the oven, I poured the chocolate over it and carefully spread it to the edges with a spatula.  I transferred the baking sheet (with the tart pan) to the freezer for 5 minutes to set the crust and the chocolate.

While the crust was in the freezer, I whisked together 1 1/2 cups of homemade pumpkin puree (1 1/2 cups of canned is fine too), 1/2 cup of heavy cream, 1/4 cup of packed light-brown sugar, 1/4 cup of pure maple syrup, 1/2 teaspoon of pumpkin-pie spice, and 1/4 teaspoon of table salt to make the filling.  When the crust was ready, I used a pastry brush to brush the sides of the pan with melted butter (to prevent sticking) and then poured the filling into the crust.  I baked the tart on the rimmed baking sheet at 350F until it was set (45 minutes).  I cooled the tart at room temperature for 1 hour, refrigerated it for 1 hour, and then unmolded it to serve.  (Use a knife to loosen the tart if yours sticks a bit; mine did in one tiny spot only.)

Chocolate-Pumpkin Tart

Chocolate-Pumpkin Tart

I’ve seen the homemade pumpkin puree “light,” folks.  It’s amazing!  I mean, I’ve always enjoyed dishes made with canned pumpkin (including this fantastic pasta and countless Thanksgiving pumpkin pies), but the real stuff makes canned pumpkin seem downright gelatinous.  The homemade puree is incredibly smooth and creamy, and that really translates in this dessert.  I was actually worried that I hadn’t cooked my tart quite enough because I left a mark in the center of the tart when I touched it (why did I do that???), but the tart was just that creamy.  It cut perfectly and came out clean when it was time to serve it.

The flavor of the tart was just fantastic, too.  It definitely tastes like pumpkin pie (only better than what I’m used to), and the amount of chocolate in the dish is just right.  I really love the chocolate-on-chocolate layering of the crust.  (I’m guessing Dr. O loved it, too, since he had FOUR SERVINGS of the tart over the course of last night.)

The crust was a little bit on the crumbly side, but that improved overnight as the moisture from the filling sunk in.  I liked it both ways, but you might want to add another 1/2 tablespoon or tablespoon of butter when processing the crust if you want yours to be more dense.

The colors of the dessert are perfect for Halloween, but this would be a welcome contribution to any Thanksgiving table, I imagine.  I know I can’t wait to make it again.

TIPS:  I use Nabisco’s Famous Chocolate Wafers for recipes that require chocolate wafers.  I’ve always been able to find them in the cookie aisles of “normal” grocery stores (in Denver and Dallas, at least).  If you can’t find them or other plain chocolate wafers, I think Oreo cookies with the filling scraped off would work just fine.

Recipe link: Chocolate-Pumpkin Tart

Old-Fashioned Apple Pie

So, I’m wondering how I can disclose a particular bit of information and still maintain my kitchen credibility…

Are you ready?

Until this past Sunday, I had never baked a pie from scratch.


I mean, I’ve baked a million other things from scratch: cakes, tarts, cookies, bread, puff pastry, etc.  In fact, these days, I don’t bake anything that isn’t from scratch.  (Please know, though, that I’m not some uptight baking snob; like I told my friend Laura the other day: “Cake mix and canned frosting sell because they are delicious.”)  I think part of the reason I never got around to it is because I have been with my husband for the past ten years, a time frame that completely encompasses my journey as a cook.  And let me tell you, his grandmother makes amazing pies.  A-mazing.  She’d make a pie for every family gathering (except once, when Dr. O’s cousin’s then-girlfriend helpfully volunteered to make dessert; we were all crushed), and for as delicious as dinner always was, we couldn’t wait for dessert.

Since I’ve been on a roll with doughs these days, I figured it was time for me to at least attempt a pie.  My favorite kind of pie is cherry, but the harvest season and chilly weather made apple an appropriate pick.  Dr. O’s grandmother always said that the key to a flaky, delicious pie crust is to use both butter and shortening, so I decided to use Martha Stewart’s Perfect Pie Crust recipe.  Finally, I liked the sound of the filling in Martha’s Old-Fashioned Apple Pie, so I just subbed the other crust for the pate brisee called for in the recipe.

I used the food processor method to make the crust; if you have extra reserves of arm strength and want to use a pastry blender, the recipe includes instructions for that method as well.

In the smallest bowl of my food processor, I combined 2 cups of all-purpose flour and 1/2 teaspoon of salt.  I added 1 1/2 sticks of very cold unsalted butter and 3 tablespoons of chilled vegetable shortening (Crisco), cut into smallish pieces (about a tablespoon each).  Once all of the ingredients were in, I processed the mixture for a few seconds until it resembled coarse meal.  To bring the dough together, I added ice water bit by bit, processing very briefly after each addition (no more than 20 – 30 seconds total).  The recipe calls for 1/4 cup of the ice water, but says the key to light, flaky pastry is to add as little water as possible and to process the dough as little as possible.  I just added water and processed until the dough really started coming together on my food processor blades; I didn’t end up using the entire 1/4 cup.  Once the dough had formed, I wrapped it in plastic wrap and chilled it for an hour.

Peeling, coring, and slicing apples seems to be an eternal task for me, so I decided to use the dough chilling time to get the pie filling ready.  I don’t have one of those crank apple peelers (though I’ll take your reviews if you’ve used one), so I used a vegetable peeler to remove the skin from 4 pounds of Jonathan apples.  I cut each apple in half, cut the halves in half, cut out the core, and then sliced each quarter into 1/4- to 1/2-inch slices.  After throwing all the apple slices into a large bowl, I added 3 tablespoons of fresh lemon juice, 1/2 cup of sugar, 5 tablespoons of all-purpose flour, 1/4 teaspoon of ground cinnamon, 1/4 teaspoon of ground nutmeg, and 1/4 teaspoon of salt, tossing the mixture to combine.  I covered the filling with plastic wrap and put it in the refrigerator until I was ready to fill the pie.

Once the dough finished chilling, I lightly floured my clean kitchen counter, divided the dough into two halves, and patted each half into a flat round.  Using a lightly floured rolling pin, I rolled the first half into a 13-inch round (about 1/8-inch thick).  I fit the dough into a 9-inch pie plate (take care not to stretch it) and trimmed the edges of the dough to be flush with the rim.  I placed the crust in the freezer for 30 minutes.

For the second dough half, I placed a large piece of parchment paper on the counter, placed the dough on the parchment, and rolled another 13-inch round.  I placed the parchment (with the dough on it) on a baking sheet and transferred it to the refrigerator to chill for 30 minutes.

Once the 30 minutes had elapsed, I removed the crust from the freezer, filled it with the apple mixture (see below), and dotted it with 1/2 stick of unsalted butter (cut into 1/2-inch pieces).  I was able to fit almost all of the apple slices into the pie crust, leaving only a few slices behind in the bowl.  I lightly brushed the edges of the pie with a wet pastry brush.

Old-Fashioned Apple Pie Uncovered

Next, I placed the refrigerated dough round over the top of the apples, trimmed the edges, and pressed them to seal.  I have to tell you, I think this would have been easier if I had chosen to use a more traditional pie plate instead of one with extended sides and built-in handles; it was hard to get a good pinch in to crimp the dough.  Live and learn, right?

Anyway, I cut four 1/2-inch slits in the top of the pie for venting, whisked together an egg yolk and 1 tablespoon of heavy cream to make an egg wash, and used my pastry brush to brush the top of the pie with it.  (I didn’t use all of the egg wash.)  I sprinkled the pie with sanding sugar and put it back in the freezer to rest for 30 minutes before baking.

When the resting time was over, I put the pie on a baking sheet and baked it for 20 minutes at 400F.  (Transferring a pie in a glass pie plate directly from the freezer to the oven made me nervous, by the way, but I guess Pyrex is built for it.)  After those first 20 minutes, I dropped the temperature to 350F and baked it until it was golden brown and bubbling.  (The recipe had indicated an additional 35 minutes; mine didn’t seem done until the 45-minute mark, but everything seems to take longer at altitude.)  I removed the pie from the oven and set it on a wire rack to cool.

Whole Old-Fashioned Apple Pie

Ideally, one lets a pie cool to room temperature before cutting it to let things set up properly.  Dr. O and I just couldn’t stand smelling the pie without having a slice in front of us.  I only let it cool for about 45 minutes before cutting it, so it was pretty warm and oozy.  Based on how things set up as it sat, though, I think there’s enough flour in the filling to prevent this from being a runny pie.  Next time, I’ll have to factor in plenty of cooling time (preferably when Dr. O isn’t home) so I’ll know for sure.

Cut Old-Fashioned Apple Pie

It wasn’t quite grandma’s pie, but it was a valiant (and delicious) first attempt, I think.  Maybe things just taste better when grandmothers make them? 🙂  The crust was definitely light and flaky, and I’m a huge fan of the slight crunch the sanding sugar adds to that top layer.  The filling was adequately sweet with just a hint of tartness.  The only thing I’d change is that I’d slice the apples thinner.  They were all tender, but I like mine to be very soft (but not mushy, of course).  Sticking to 1/4-inch slices would probably do it.

From-scratch pie certainly isn’t quick or exceptionally easy, which is probably another reason it took me so long to make one.  Including resting time, the pie took almost 4 hours, and that’s just pulling it out of the oven.  Still, when you think about pre-made crust and canned apple filling as opposed to the real thing, it was absolutely worth it.

TIPS:  You can use any pie-appropriate apples you like with this recipe, of course.  I’ve heard good things about Jonathan, McIntosh, Golden Delicious (preferably from New York), and Cortland apples.  Granny Smiths work well if you like a pie on the tart side.  Feel free to share other favorites!

Recipe link: Perfect Pie Crust and Old-Fashioned Apple Pie

Last-Minute Thanksgiving Recipe Ideas

Here are a few recipes I’ve posted in the past that might work well for tomorrow’s menu.  Have a terrific holiday!

Apricot-Glazed Pork Tenderloin
Chocolate-Pumpkin Cheesecake Bars
Cranberry Grape Compote
Cranberry-Orange Scones
Creamy Corn
Maple Nut Tart
Molasses-Glazed Turkey Breast with Acorn Squash
Pumpkin Cheesecake
Spiced Carrot Muffins
Twice-Baked Potatoes

Garlic-Crusted Pork Loin with Mashed Acorn Squash

I’ve been on a bit of a side dish kick with Thanksgiving approaching, but it’s time to get back to meat *and* potatoes (almost literally!).  Today’s recipe – Garlic-Crusted Pork Loin with Mashed Acorn Squash from the November 2007 issue of Everyday Food – was originally a pre-dinner-party experiment.  The dish has terrific fall flavors, though, and it would actually make a great entree for an intimate Thankgiving gathering.  (The original recipe serves four, but a large roasting pan could probably accommodate a double recipe.)

First, I prepped 2 acorn squash.  I sliced them down the middle with a *sharp* knife, scooped out the seeds, and set them aside.  Next, I made a garlic paste to rub on the pork.  (This paste went better than my first attempt with the Rosemary Beef Skewers with Horseradish Dipping Sauce, I think.)  I finely chopped 4 garlic cloves and sprinkled them with kosher salt.  Holding a chef’s knife almost parallel to my cutting board, I repeatedly smeared the garlic with the knife blade until a paste formed.

I placed 1 center-cut pork loin roast (about 1 3/4 pounds) in the middle of a lightly oiled rimmed baking sheet.  I rubbed it all over with 1 tablespoon of olive oil and the garlic paste and then seasoned the pork with salt and pepper.  Finally, I arranged the acorn squash halves (cut side down) around the pork.

I roasted the pork and squash at 450F until my digital thermometer fork read 145F when inserted into the thickest part of the meat (about 40 minutes).  (Go with 150F or 155F if you like your pork a bit more done, though the temperature will continue to rise as the meat rests.)  I transferred the pork to a cutting board, covered it loosely with foil, and let it rest for 10 minutes.

While the pork rested, I scooped the acorn squash flesh into a medium bowl.  (Hold the squash with a clean kitchen towel to keep from burning your hands.)  I added 1/4 cup of reduced-fat sour cream, 1 tablespoon of light brown sugar, and salt and pepper to taste.  I mashed the mixture with a fork to combine, tasting and seasoning until I was happy with the flavor.  I thinly sliced the pork and served it over the mashed squash.

Garlic Crusted Pork Loin with Mashed Acorn Squash

If you like garlic, you’ll love this pork.  It was so fabulously flavorful.  The meat came out really tender and juicy, too.  I’m used to preparing pork tenderloin instead of center-cut pork loin roast…  Pork tenderloin is delicious and great for everyday meals (though it *can* be dressed up for company, for sure), but this really felt like special-occasion meat.

I wish I could say that Dr. O and I loved the acorn squash mash as well, but I think I just need to accept that acorn squash isn’t our favorite.  I loved that it cooked right alongside the pork, though, and it was so easy to put together, so definitely give it a try if acorn squash is on your “love” (or even “like”) list.  I would definitely make the pork again on its own, and I might even try the mash with butternut squash instead next time.

TIPS:  I have really great knives now, but I have struggled to cut acorn squash in the past with less-than-stellar knives.  A reader once suggested lightly tapping the knife with a mallet to help cut through the acorn squash, which certainly sounds like a better idea than see-sawing dangerously with a large (but dull) knife.

Recipe link: Garlic-Crusted Pork Loin with Mashed Acorn Squash

Wild Rice Salad

I’m going to put some more “Thanksgiving potential” out there for the diligent menu planners.  (I’m one of those, except “diligent” might not be the right word.  “Obsessive,” maybe?)

I’m certainly not obsessed with Martha Stewart the person, but I really do enjoy the special holiday issues of some of her magazines.  There are always plenty of fun, crafty ideas, and I’d hate to miss out on the holiday recipe collection.  Today’s recipe – Wild Rice Salad – is from the 2008 Season’s Eatings issue.  I was drawn to this one for two main reasons.  One, the magazine said this dish is actually better when it’s made a day ahead, which makes it perfect for company.  Two, it’s gluten-free, and I’ll be having a dinner guest in a few weeks who doesn’t eat wheat.

Yet again, I made a half recipe (4 servings) since I was just cooking for two.  Double the ingredients to follow the original recipe, which serves eight.

First, I cooked 1 cup of wild rice according to package directions.  I completely forgot that wild rice is like brown rice (it takes *forever* (50 – 60 minutes) to cook), so be sure to plan accordingly.  One positive aspect of the eternal rice cooking time is that I had plenty of time to prep the other salad ingredients.  I cut half of a small red onion, half of a celery stalk, and half of a small carrot into 1/4-inch dice.  Next, I toasted 1/4 cup of slivered almonds on a rimmed baking sheet in a 350F oven.  (Toasting took about 7 – 8 minutes; just watch them carefully.  When they’re fragrant, they’re pretty much done.)  I waited until the last minute to core half of a red apple and cut it into 1/4-inch dice since I didn’t want it to turn brown.  (Toss the diced apple with a bit of lemon juice to prevent discoloration if you really want to prep it early.)

When the rice was ready, I drained it and rinsed it under cold water and then placed it in a medium bowl.  In a medium skillet, I melted 1/2 tablespoon of unsalted butter over medium heat.  I sauteed the diced apple with a pinch of ground cloves, stirring, until the pieces were slightly golden (4 minutes).  I added the apple mixture to the cooked rice.

In the same skillet, I heated 1/2 tablespoon of olive oil over medium heat.  I added the diced red onion, celery, and carrot, along with 1 minced garlic clove.  I sauteed the mixture, stirring occasionally, until the onion was translucent and just beginning to brown (6 minutes).  I transferred the veggies to the bowl with the rice-apple mixture, added 2 tablespoons of dried currants, and seasoned with salt and pepper.

To make the dressing, I added 1 tablespoon of apple-cider vinegar, 1 1/2 tablespoons of balsamic vinegar, 1/2 tablespoon of fresh lemon juice, and 1 tablespoon of water to the hot skillet, still over medium heat.  (I pre-mixed the liquids in a small bowl and dumped everything in at once to make things easier.)  I cooked the mixture, whisking, until it was reduced by half (1 – 2 minutes).  I whisked in 1 tablespoon of olive oil, drizzled it over the salad, and tossed it to combine.  I let the salad sit for about 30 minutes to allow the flavors to meld, and then I served it garnished with the toasted almonds.

Wild Rice Salad

This salad is so, SO good.  I did taste it immediately after I finished it, and I was concerned that it was going to be a bit too vinegar-y.  Those 30 minutes of resting time were like magic, though.  I absolutely loved the texture – slightly chewy wild rice and currants, tender-crisp fruit and vegetables – and the toasted almonds really put things over the top.  Mmm, mmm, mmm.

Definitely make this one ahead, even if you only let it sit for 30 – 60 minutes.  If you’re going to serve it the next day, cover it, refrigerate it, bring it to room temperature and add the toasted almonds just before serving.  I enjoyed some of our leftovers the next day for lunch, and the flavor and texture were still amazing.

TIP: Grocery stores like Whole Foods (and even some of the nicer locations of standard chains) have foods like wild rice, slivered almonds, and dried currants available in the bulk foods section of the grocery store.  Save pantry space and money by just buying what you need.

Recipe link: Wild Rice Salad

Homemade Applesauce

Maybe it’s the Thanksgiving season (or maybe it’s because I’m entertaining more now than ever!), but I’m developing an obsession with make-ahead side dishes.  My perfect evening with guests (holiday or not) involves uncorking a few bottles of wine, throwing a pre-assembled entree into the oven, and either tossing together a salad or serving a few side dishes that are meant to be enjoyed at room temperature.

I was catching up on my Barefoot Contessa episodes the other day when I watched Ina Garten make homemade applesauce, which is a perfect make-ahead dish.  The recipe basically involves peeling a few apples, throwing them (along with a few other ingredients) into a Dutch oven, baking the apples for an hour, and then stirring everything together.  Easy peasy.

I made a half recipe (4 servings) since I was just cooking for two; double (or triple, or whatever) the ingredients if you’re cooking for more.

First, I zested and juiced 1 large navel orange and 1/2 of a lemon; I put the zest and juice into a large bowl.  Next, I peeled, quartered, and cored 1 1/2 pounds of Granny Smith apples (4 apples, in this case) and 1 1/2 pounds of Honeycrisp apples (3 apples, in this case), reserving the peel from one of the Honeycrisp apples.  I tossed the apples in the orange and lemon juice/zest, poured the mixture into my Dutch oven, and placed the reserved apple peel on top of the mixture.  I added 1/4 cup of packed light brown sugar, 2 tablespoons of unsalted butter, 1 teaspoon of ground cinnamon, and 1/4 teaspoon of ground allspice and covered the pot with its lid.

I baked the mixture at 400F until the apples were soft (1 hour), removed the apple peel, and whisked everything together until the applesauce was smooth.  I served the applesauce at room temperature.

Homemade Applesauce

The applesauce turned out really yummy, if a bit tart.  I loved the thick, creamy texture and the flavor of the spices…  It just feels like fall.  Next time, I think I’ll use a higher ratio of sweet apples to tart apples (maybe 2/3 sweet, 1/3 tart).  To Ina’s credit, the three sweet apples she recommended (Macoun, McIntosh, or Winesap) were not available when I went to the grocery store, so perhaps using the Honeycrisp apples is what set the balance off.

Peeling apples is always a bit of a pain, but I absolutely love that I can put this together, walk away for an hour, stir it together, and let it sit until the meal is ready.  I think this recipe is going to come in handy over and over again this fall and winter.

TIPS:  The red (Honeycrisp) apple peel goes into the mixture to add color while it bakes.  If you don’t care about the color, you can leave it out.

Recipe link: Homemade Applesauce

The Daring Kitchen

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