Sunday, November 28, 2010

Turkey-day Sides

I love the traditional Thanksgiving foods. Though until adulthood I did NOT like two of the most traditional: Cranberry Sauce and Sweet Potatoes. Then I learned how to make these things in ways that were delicious. Here are two things hubby and I made this year - great ways to make both of these traditional sides. Seriously - even if you don't think you like cranberries or sweet potatoes, you will like these.

Maple-orange Cranberry Sauce
(more or less from The New Basics Cookbook)
12 oz (1 bag) fresh cranberries, rinsed and any bad ones picked out
1 cup pure maple syrup
1 cup raspberry-cranberry juice (or something like it. I used cran-rasp-apple.)
Grated zest of 1 orange
1 cinnamon stick

Combine all ingredients in a heavy saucepan. Bring to a boil, then lower heat to medium and cook until the cranberries are all popped open - about 10 minutes. Feel free to stir and squish these too. Remove from heat and let cool a while. Then put in the refrigerator for a few hours before serving.

Sweet Potato and Apple Gratin

(recipe cut from newspaper many years ago, made and perfected by hubby)
3 Tablespoons butter, divided
1 cup fresh breadcrumbs
1 tablespoons brown sugar
4 cups thinly sliced yellow onions
2 Tablespoons chopped fresh sage (or 2 tsps dried)
Salt and pepper
2 pounds sweet potatoes, peeled and thinly sliced (about 2 large)
(note: sweet potatoes are white inside and work better than yams in this recipe)
4 cups peeled and sliced tart apples (about 3)
3-quart baking dish with lid or foil

- Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.
- In a large skillet, melt 1 tablespoon butter over low heat. Pour into a bowl and add the breadcrumbs and brown sugar. Toss until well coated. Set aside.
- Return the skillet to the burner and melt the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter over high heat. Add the onions and saute until soft and turning golden brown - about 8 minutes. Stir in the sage and season with 1 1/2 tsp salt and 1/4 tsp pepper. Remove from heat.
- Arrange overlapping slices of sweet potatoes in the bottom of a 3-quart baking dish, using about a third of the slices. Season with salt and pepper. Top with half the apple slices and then half the onions.
- Arrange another third of the sweet potato slices and season. Then add remaining onions and another layer of the rest of the apples. Top with the remaining sweet potatoes and season.
- Feel free to add little pats of butter on top.
- Cover tightly with foil or lid. Bake for 45 minutes or until potatoes are nice and tender.
- Uncover the dish and top with the breadcrumb mixture. Bake for another 15 minutes, or until the crumbs are browned.

This serves 10-15 as part of a big Thanksgiving dinner.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Pumpkin Pie Post

For my birthday this past weekend, I wanted to make dessert for the awesome potluck my wonderful friends contributed to. And I wanted to use my squash (see last post). So I looked up a pumpkin pie recipe in my ancient Joy of Cooking.

First, a word on pie crust. Don't be afraid to make your own. It's easy and delicious. I also use the JoC's recipe. For a one-crust pie like this I cut it in half and use these amounts:
1 cup flour
1/4-1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking powder
3 Tblsp butter
a few Tbsp water

Mix the dry stuff together. Then use a pastry blender or fork to cut in the butter until you have a course crumbly mixture. Then add the water and stir it until it just holds together. Wrap up in saran wrap and put in the fridge for a half hour (while you make the filling). When you're ready, take it out, flour the counter top, and carefully roll the dough out nice and thin and even. You may need to add more flour and rotate the dough to be sure it doesn't stick. Then, transfer to a 9-inch pie pan.

For pumpkin pie, I like a deep pan and a high fluted crust (made by pinching the stuff around the edge). This way you get an evenly cooked pie, not overcooked on the thinner edges.

For the pie filling, I used some of my pureed hubbard squash. Pumpkin might taste a bit different, but this worked out nicely. Here's the recipe:

6 Tblsp brown sugar
2 Tblsp white sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp ginger
1/8 tsp cloves
1/2 cup dark corn sirup
3 slightly beaten eggs

Combine all (I used my Kitchenaid mixer). Then stir in the following.

1 1/2 cups cooked/pureed pumpkin
1 1/2 cups (1 can/12 oz) evaporated milk
1 tsp vanilla

Pour this into the pie crust and bake for one hour in a 400 degree oven. I cover the crust edge with a narrow strip of foil to prevent too much browning and take it off with 15 minutes to go.

A knife should come out clean from the center.

I found this pie to be delicious and with a wonderful consistency. You could probably go a bit heavier on the spices to your taste. But yum!

Friday, November 5, 2010

Pumpkin Post

I've been meaning to blog. Really. I finally am because the weekly horoscope I never read said I should.

Since it is officially fall, and I love fall, this is a blog about pumpkins. Pumpkins I grew in the garden and cooked up a few weeks ago for later eating.

I've never had a lot of luck growing winter squash in the garden, but this year I made sure they got plenty of water and fertilizer and I got 3 small pumpkins and 1 huge hubbard squash (these are much like a pumpkin on the inside, just a little sweeter).

To store all that flesh for later use, I cooked, processed, and froze. For small pumpkins, I just cut them in half, scoop out the seeds, and place the halves face down in a little water in a baking pan. Then I cook until they are soft. Then, I scoop the flesh away from the shell and puree it all in the food processor. Then I just put it in a freezer container for later use.

For the hubbard squash (this one was about 15 pounds!), I had to get more creative. I've never worked with one before, and it was tough. It was hard to get the seeds out because the interior was really solid. And it was so big I had to cut it into about 8 pieces for cooking. And the skin was so tough I decided to try and peel it before cooking - which was hard. But with that all done, I baked the pieces in the same way as the pumpkin. I cooked some pieces longer than others. I cut those that got less "done" into small cubes and froze those in bags to be used in pastas or stews. I pureed the pieces I cooked more and froze that like the pumpkin.

So now I have a lot of frozen squash. Tomorrow I will be making a pumpkin/hubbard pie for my birthday feast. I'll let you know how it turns out!