December 1, 2010

Autumn Foodie Creations

As promised I am double posting today, only because I have so many amazing recipes to share. Many of these recipes come from Cooking Light Magazine and when possible I have attached the links.

My autumn food adventures began with a small feast a friend and I made in early November. The feast consisted of Rosemary Sweet Mashed Potatoes that were supposed to be topped with caramelized shallots but I ended up mixing them into the sweet potatoes so that every bite had that bit of sweetness to it. I also altered the recipe slightly by adding a few tablespoons of brown sugar to the potatoes and I believe a dash of cinnamon. Truly scrumptous. Also I would suggest caramelizing the shallots last, after boiling the potatoes instead of first as it suggests in the recipe. We did it first and the shallots hardened before the potatoes were ready.

Also on the menu that night was Brussel Sprouts Gratin. The name of the dish is a little deceiving. When I think of a 'gratin' dish I immediately think of thinly sliced potatoes baked with lots of cheesy creamy goodness, but there is no cheese to be found in this dish. The recipe is pretty simple, and I've already made it again since. I used turkey bacon which doesn't give off the same amount of fat or flavor, so if you can spare the calories I suggest using full-fat, pig bacon. Also be sure to really toast your bread crumbs. I got lazy and didn't the second time around and it made what should have been a crispy crust quite soggy. 

As Thanksgiving approached it was time for me to tackle what has become one of my favorite days of the year. A Thanksgiving feast for my closest girlfriends which allows me to make and experiment with a giant turkey for the past 3 years straight. This year my project was brining the turkey. I was inspired by the Food Network's Sunny Anderson and used her Daddy's Game Changing Turkey recipe as a guideline for my brine and gravy. The brine, or as my roommate and I joked, my turkey's over night spa consisted of water, a whole lotta salt, thyme, sage, rosemary, lemon and some peppercorns. After letting it soak in a styrofoam cooler in my kitchen overnight I let it come to room temperature and got to work on the rub. I used lots of thyme, rosemary, parsley, salt and pepper of course, olive oil, and my secret ingredient, honey! Inside the bird I followed Sunny's lead and put some sage, thyme, lemon, onion and garlic, along with onion garlic and broth in the pan to get those gravy drippings going. Here's what it looked like precooking:

And here is what it looked like after a mere 4 hours in the oven. I credit the gorgeous golden brown color to the honey in the rub, the dark pieces are the fresh herbs that couldn't quite take the heat. I think next year I'll use dried herbs in the rub. 

The gravy, although not pictured was Sunny's recipe from the link above and it came out DELICIOUS. It was the first year I made a successful gravy and I think it was because I finally curbed my anti-recipe, I can figure it out on my own, voice and followed tried and true directions. Like i said, I was very proud. 

The stuffing was sort of a no brainer, I cheated a bit here merely because i was too lazy to either buy bread ahead of time and let it get hard or roast a bunch of cut up bread the day of. I use Trader Joe's Cornbread Stuffing as the base but add a few things of my own. I saute LOTS or aromatics, aka about 2 onions and a whole bunch of chopped celery. Add a hefty amount of parsley and let that cook down for about 20 minutes. Just before it's all softened I add salt, pepper and thyme. I toss this mixture with the bread pieces and then proceed to make the seasoning package that comes with the stuffing. I never use all of the seasoning liquid because it makes for mushy stuffing and although mine came out a little drier than I'd like this year, I'd much rather is dry that mushy. Here's the stuffing pre-baking.

Although I could not go home for an actual Thanksgiving holiday I was able to spend it with a dear friend and her family. But since I was barging in last minute to her family's meal I couldn't show up empty handed, also it felt wrong not to be doing something in the kitchen on this festive Thursday in November. So...I made a double batch of Pumpkin Mini Muffins whose recipe also came from Cooking Light to take to Thanksgiving dinner and work the next day. This recipe was insanely easy. I read a few of the comments and altered the recipe just slightly. I substituted 1.5 cups of the all purpose flour for whole wheat flour which added a little more nutrition, I also doubled the amount of cinnamon and added about a teaspoon of pumpkin pie spice to the dry ingredients. Like I said these were super yummy, and if I were looking to make them more decadent I think they would taste heavenly with a dollop of cream cheese frosting. 

AND to round out this very long, food filled entry --I imagine you are becoming quite hungry by now, I made a huge pot of chicken soup day before last because I am flirting with a cold that I really wish would go away. The recipe is really simple, and essentially reminds me of my mom like no other. After the soup had been simmering on my stove for about an hour I stuck my nose into the pot, took a big whiff and was immediately transported to my house in El Cerrito eating soup with what we called 'dot noodles' on a rainy day with my mom and dad. But isn't that what food and cooking is all about? Bringing us together, making fond memories, and full tummies?

Nothing like a bowl of mom's chicken soup. Ask me nicely and maybe I'll give you the recipe. Unlike all the above foods this one has no link except that it comes from my home with love. 

Stay tuned to the next foodie entry, for tomorrow, in the spirit of Chanukah I will attempt to make potato latkes from scratch with my good friend Steve! 

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