Thursday, February 13, 2014


Yes, I know that Thanksgiving happened 3 months ago. But don't you still want to hear about the great food we made??

This year we stayed in Charlottesville, and since we weren't having any friends join us, we tried to keep the menu minimal. For us, 7 dishes is minimal. We did a lot of cooking, but also had a lot of couch time, and never felt stressed about getting the next dish in the oven. I think that's at least partly due to the schedule we came up with the night before. It just took about 10 minutes to figure out when we wanted to eat, and when each dish would have to be started and put in the oven by. It was nice realizing we were ahead of schedule for most of the day.

Every single dish we made was a new recipe, and they all turned out incredibly well. Joey handled the turkey (obviously, since he was the only one eating it), sweet potatoes and brussels sprouts. I made the cheesecake, rolls, stuffing and cranberry sauce.

Here is our table, overflowing with lots of good food!

And here's what we made!

Pumpkin Cheesecake with Gingersnap Crust
From: Baking and Books

2 cups gingersnap cookie crumbs (about 9 oz cookies)
1 cup pecans
1/4 cup packed brown sugar
2 tbsp chopped crystallized ginger
1/4 cup unsalted butter, melted

4 8-oz packages cream cheese, at room temperature (I used 1/3 less fat neufchatel)
2 cups sugar
1 15-oz can pumpkin puree
5 large eggs
3 tbsp all purpose flour
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/4 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
1/4 tsp ground allspice
1/4 tsp salt
2 tbsp vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350 F. Spray a 9-inch springform pan with nonstick cooking spray. Grind cookie crumbs, pecans, brown sugar and ginger in a food processor until finely ground. Add butter, and pulse a few times to blend. Transfer mixture to prepared pan, press onto bottom and 2 inches up sides of pan (really make sure to press it up as high as you can, since you have a ton of filling with this recipe!) Bake crust until set and lightly browned, about 10 minutes. Let cool completely.

Using a mixer, beat cream cheese and sugar in a large bowl until light and fluffy. Beat in pumpkin. Add eggs 1 at a time, beating on low speed to incorporate. Add flour, spices and salt - mix just to combine. Stir in vanilla. Transfer filling to cooled crust. Bake until filling is just set in the center and edges begin to crack (center will still jiggle slightly), about 1 hour 20 minutes. Cool 1 hour. Run knife around edges of pan to release crust. Refrigerate at least 4 hours, or overnight.

Like I said, this makes a TON of filling. I didn't get the crust quite high enough up the sides, and I was nervous to have the filling above the crust (my pan leaks a bit), so I had filling leftover. I also had leftover gingersnap cookies, so I put a cookie in the bottom of the muffin cups in a standard muffin tin, and then put a scoop of filling on top. It worked out really well! We had mini cheesecakes!

Crust ingredients, ready to be blended

See - my crust isn't pushed very high up the sides

My mini cheesecakes turned out pretty well! I overcooked them slightly, so they weren't as creamy as the big cheesecake

When the cheesecake first came out of the oven, it was slightly cracked, and the center had puffed up

By the time it cooled, the center had deflated, and most of the cracks had filled in

Out of the pan! 

The crust was a bit crumbly, so it made a little mess. It tasted delicious, so I didn't care!

Pumpkin Cranberry Twists
From: Girl Versus Dough

4 1/2 cups bread flour, divided
2 1/4 tsp (or 1 packet) active dry yeast
3/4 cup warm water (about 110 F)
3/4 cup pumpkin puree
1/4 cup maple syrup
3 tbsp vegetable oil
1 tsp salt
1/4 tsp allspice
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground ginger
1 egg
1/2 cup dried cranberries
1/2 cup chopped pecans
1 egg, beaten (for egg wash)

In a large bowl or bowl of a stand mixer, stir 1 cup flour, yeast and warm water until combined.
In a separate bowl, stir together pumpkin puree, maple syrup, oil, salt, spices, and egg until combined.
Add pumpkin mixture to flour mixture, stir to combine.
Using a wooden spoon or dough hook attachment, stir in remaining flour 1/2 cup at a time until a dough forms. Knead by hand on a lightly floured surface 7-10 minutes until smooth and elastic, adding more flour as needed OR knead on medium speed with dough hook attachment 5-6 minutes until smooth and elastic, adding more flour as needed.
Add in cranberries and pecans, and mix until they are all kneaded in.
Shape dough into a ball and place in a lightly greased bowl; turn to coat. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise 1 hour in a warm place until doubled.
When dough is doubled, punch down. Divide dough into 16 equal pieces. On a lightly floured surface, roll out each piece of dough into a 12-inch log. Fold each log in half, then twist the two ends around each other, and pinch the bottom ends closed to seal. Place twists on 2 parchment paper-lined baking sheets.
Cover baking sheets with tea towels or lightly greased plastic wrap. Let twists rise until puffy, about 45 minutes.
Heat oven to 425 F. Uncover twists; brush with beaten egg. Bake 15 minutes until golden brown and baked through. Cool slightly before serving.

Somehow I managed to misread the recipe, and made 12 twists instead of 16! It turned out perfect, and they were large enough to make sandwiches on later in the week.
I changed the recipe so that you add in the cranberries and nuts before the dough rises the first time - I had a hard time hand kneading in the fruit and nuts, and don't see why you have to wait to add them.
All in all, these are the best rolls I've ever made! The nuts added a great crunch, the cranberries added a nice sweetness, and the bread itself was just lightly sweetened, with a great flavor from the pumpkin and spices. It was perfect with butter or jam, but it wasn't too sweet to top with cheese and a fried egg.
Also, if you're baking two trays at once, definitely switch positions halfway through. The bottom tray wasn't browning (because duh, the top tray was blocking it), so I thought they weren't cooking as quickly. I left them in a few more minutes to brown on top, only to find that they were too brown on the bottom! They were still tasty, just not as fluffy and moist as the other pan. By the end of the week, we were so glad to have more rolls that we didn't care if they were a little overdone!

Post first rise, just added the nuts and cranberries

All of the twists have been formed (notice that there are only 12!), and are about to rise for the second time

Post-rise, you can see that the twists have puffed up

Baked, and absolutely gorgeous

Seriously, best rolls ever

Bacon Wrapped Turkey
I don't know where Joey got the recipe, or if he even followed one, but here is his beautiful turkey!

Maple Sweet Potatoes:
I'm also not sure which recipe Joey used for the sweet potatoes, but they had maple syrup in them, and a maple-greek yogurt topping

Mushroom and Leek Stuffing
Adapted from: Noble Pig

16 oz crusty bread (we used one that whole garlic cloves in it), cut into 1/2 inch cubes
2 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp butter
4 medium leeks, sliced (white and light green parts)
2 stalks celery, diced
1 cup fennel, sliced
1 1/2 lbs cremini mushrooms, sliced
1 tbsp fresh thyme
1/4 cup dry white wine
kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
1/3 cup minced fresh flat leaf parsley
2 large eggs
2 cups vegetable stock
8 oz grated Gruyere cheese, divided

Preheat oven to 350 F. Spread the bread cubes on a sheet pan and bake for 20 minutes, or until dried out and lightly browned. Set aside.

Meanwhile, heat the oil and butter in a large 12" skillet saute pan over medium heat. Stir in leeks, celery and fennel and cook over medium heat for 10 minutes, until they are tender. Stir in mushrooms, thyme, and white wine. Add 1 tbsp kosher salt and 1 1/2 tsp pepper and cook for ~10 more minutes, until most of the liquid evaporates, stirring occasionally. Off the heat, stir in the parsley. Combine with the bread cubes in a large bowl, and let cool slightly.

In a liquid measuring cup, whisk together eggs, vegetable stock, and half of the Gruyere cheese. Pour over the bread and vegetable mixture, stirring well to combine. Set aside at room temperature for 30 minutes to allow the bread to absorb the liquid. Stir well and pour into a 3quart dish (9x13 inch pan). Sprinkle with remaining cheese and bake for 45-50 minutes, until the top is browned and the custard is set.

We modified this so it was more of a stuffing than a bread pudding, by reducing the number of eggs, and replacing some of the cream with vegetable stock. We also added the fennel and celery for good flavor, and used thyme instead of sage. It was absolutely delicious, and I loved the Gruyere cheese in it.

Orange Cranberry Sauce with Ginger:
From Half Assed Kitchen

2 bags of fresh or frozen cranberries
1-2 tbsp grated ginger
1 orange, peeled and separated into wedges
1 1/4 cups sugar
1 cup water

In a blender or food processor with a metal blade, chop up the ginger, orange, and one of the bags of cranberries.
Place the cranberry mixture in a saucepan and add 1/2 cup of water. Add the other bag of cranberries, whole, and the sugar.
Boil over high heat for 3-4 minutes, while stirring. If it looks like it's scorching or getting too thick, add some water.
Cook for 5-10 minutes, until most of the berries are burst, and it becomes a deep red. Taste and add more sugar if desired.
Let cool (it will thicken as it cools) before serving.

I loved this method of making cranberry sauce - blending half of the cranberries really thickened up the sauce nicely, and gave it great texture. I also loved the ginger in it.

Dijon Braised Brussels Sprouts:
From Smitten Kitchen

1-1 1/2 lbs brussels sprouts (we used 24 oz)
1 tbsp unsalted butter
1 tbsp olive oil
salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup dry white wine
1 cup vegetable broth
2-3 shallots, peeled and thinly sliced
2 tbsp half and half or cream
1 tbsp smooth dijon mustard
3 tbsp chopped flat-leaf parsley (optional)

Trim sprouts and halve lengthwise. In a large, heavy 12-inch skillet (use cast-iron if you have it) heat butter and oil over medium heat. Arrange halved sprouts in skillet, cut sides down, in one layer. Sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste. Cook sprouts, without until undersides are golden brown, about 5 minutes.
Add the shallots, wine and stock and bring to a simmer. Once simmering, reduce the heat to medium-low (for a gentle simmer), cover the pot with a lid (or foil) and cook the sprouts until they are tender and can be pierced easily with the tip of a paring knife, about 15-20 minutes.
Remove the lid, and scoop out the brussels (leaving the sauce behind). Add half and half or cream and simmer for 2-3 minutes, until slightly thickened. Whisk in mustard. Taste for seasoning, and adjust as necessary with more salt, pepper or Dijon. Pour sauce over brussels, sprinkle with parsley if using, and serve immediately.

We decided to make brussels sprouts instead of green beans this year, and absolutely loved this dish.

This was my plate Thanksgiving night:

And the next night, for leftovers: