Tag Archives: Thanksgiving

Curried Butternut Squash Soup

Yesterday I picked all the meat off our leftover Thanksgiving turkey and boiled the bones to make turkey stock.  I felt a little like Ma Ingalls making my own broth, but the whole process was just too easy for me to forgo. I followed Kalyn Denny’s instructions for making broth with turkey bones and it turned out great.  In the end, I netted 12 free cups of turkey stock for my troubles!  That much low-sodium, organic broth would cost at least $10 at the grocery store.

Besides saving money, it felt really good not to waste any parts of our Thanksgiving turkey. I had previously portioned out the leftover meat and froze it for use it for dinners in the next few weeks.  Of course, the bones went into the soup pot.  And the skin, tendons, and other leftover boiled meat bits?  I whizzed those in the food processor along with a few tablespoons of wheat flour and made 3 cups of meat Kong filling for Barclay. (We’re trying to help him gain some weight and free treats make this much easier!) The only downside to all this thrify fun is that I have 12 cups of turkey stock sitting in my refrigerator, needing my attention!

This butternut squash soup recipe is adapted from a vegan version published on Allrecipes.com, and it is one of Rami’s and my favorite winter comfort foods.  Its spicy-sweet flavors are very forgiving, and I’ve made it with mashed  sweet potatoes, canned pumpkin, and roasted butternut squash, depending on what’s handy.  To save time, I always roast the squash or potatoes ahead of time and add them to the broth cooked and mashed.  However, another option would be to peel and chop raw squash or potatoes and cook them in the boiling broth until tender. Since the soup goes through the blender at the end, either way would work just fine.

Finally, a note about the light coconut milk in this recipe: it’s a must-include.  In a pinch, you could substitute heavy cream, but the coconut milk’s sweetness enhances the buttery squash and spicy red pepper flakes.  I used half a can of coconut milk in a red lentil sweet potato soup recipe I made last week. I froze the leftover coconut milk right in the can and it kept just fine until I needed the remainder for today’s recipe.

Curried Butternut Squash Soup (serves 4)

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 small onion, chopped (3/4 cup)
2 cloves garlic, smashed
1/8 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
1 teaspoon curry
2 cups mashed roasted butternut squash, pumpkin, or sweet potato
3 cups turkey stock (recipe is vegan if you use veggie stock)
1 cup light coconut milk (1/2 of a 14 oz. can)
salt and pepper to taste
chopped cilantro for garnish

Saute onions and garlic in oil in a heavy bottomed soup pan over medium high heat.  Once onions are soft, add pepper flakes, turmeric, curry, squash, and stock.  Stir to combine.  Reduce heat to medium low and simmer soup, covered, for half an hour.  Add coconut milk in the last five minutes of cooking.  Blend the soup in the pot with an immersion blender, or allow it to cool some and blend carefully in small batches in a conventional blender.  Season finished soup with salt and pepper to taste, garnish with fresh chopped cilantro.  This soup doubles easily and freezes exceptionally well.

Click here for a printable version of this recipe.

Ricotta Brulee from Asti Trattoria

The owners of Asti and Fino, some of my favorite restaurants in Austin, have given all of us an early holiday present!  Last week they published three recipes from the menus of Asti and Fino:

We were so lucky to enjoy the ricotta brulee on our Thanksgiving table this year.  My friend Nathan Russell made it according to Asti’s recipe, adding his own spiced cherry compote on top.  It was delicious! We joked during dinner that if cheesecake and creme brulee had a baby, it would taste just like Asti’s ricotta brulee. That joke didn’t last too long since eating babies is frowned upon in most circles.

In all seriousness, I can’t brag on this recipe or Nathan’s fantastic preparation enough.  Go check it out on Asti’s website, and consider adding it to your holiday party menu!

Thanksgiving 2010 Recap

There is so much to be thankful for this year.  A new husband, a happy home, more blessings than I can count.  Rami’s and my first Thanksgiving as a family was magical.  We shared a wonderful meal here at home with our friends the Russells before heading over to the Pittel’s home for dinner number two.  Around both tables we shared hours of conversation and laughter with good friends. The joy and love I felt was utterly humbling.

Food, of course, played a huge part in making yesterday great.  Cooking with local, sustainably produced ingredients made the meal delicious and guilt-free.  At last count, the ingredients for our Thanksgiving dinner came from ten different local growers! I am so thankful that Austin has fresh, delicious food so readily available.  Of course, I hope eating local will become a tradition in our home, no matter where are eating.

And although my family was scattered far and wide across the country yesterday, I did think of them fondly when I made mashed potatoes with my dad’s recipe. (Dad, I added extra real butter, just like you taught me, and mashed them right in the pot like you always do.) I also exerted some culinary independence by including a cheese plate, squash kugel, creamed kale, and vodka flips on my menu. Those items had never appeared on childhood Thanksgiving tables, and they helped make this year’s holiday my own.

Speaking of independence, roasting the Thanksgiving turkey for the first time was simultaneously terrifying and exhilarating. Holiday turkey roasting is an activity that in my book means you are a Real Grown Up, kind of like buying a house, or getting married.  Now that it’s over, I realize I may have approached this task with more gravitas than was really necessary. For example, I cried and gnashed my teeth Wednesday night when I couldn’t find the giblets in the turkey. I tried and tried to find them to pull them out, but I couldn’t even fit my hand in the cavity! Not to mention my turkey felt like a big popsicle. After a quick YouTube tutorial I realized I had been digging around inside the neck cavity of the bird, and that my turkey was still frozen! Disaster averted, I let the turkey thaw overnight and the giblets were recovered just fine Thanksgiving morning.  I felt like Superwoman a few hours later when I pulled a big, golden roasted bird (sans giblets!) out of the oven.

Today I’m basking in the Thanksgiving afterglow, and feeling a little sad that the big dinners are over.  We’ve already polished off the leftover deviled eggs and the stuffing’s nearly gone.  The endless possibilities for my nine pounds of leftover turkey meat seem exciting now, but I’m sure by the end of next week I’ll be sick of cooking with it. Which is natural, I guess.

Hopefully the emotional glow of the holiday will fade less quickly than our leftovers. Gratitude and love, like turkey giblets, can be hard to find.

Thanksgiving Update!

Things are moving right along for Thanksgiving this year. I was pretty overwhelmed yesterday, so I revisited the Thanksgiving menu I made earlier this month and made some changes. The produce on the menu is still locally-sourced, and I’m making everything from scratch.  However, this simplified version of the menu cuts a few dishes I prepared last week and for earlier potluck meals– no repeats this way. I also added a few items to make a first course on Thursday: a cheese plate and deviled eggs.  Lynne Rossetto Kasper mentioned both of these things on “The Splendid Table” this weekend and now I can’t get them out of my head.

Thursday Meal
Cheese Plate with Homemade Wheat Crackers, Plum Black Pepper Jam &
Chili Lime Roasted Squash Seeds
Deviled Eggs
Roasted Turkey
Apple Sausage Stuffing
Butternut Squash Kugel with Sage Chiffonade
Buttery Mashed Turnips & Potatoes
Creamed Kale
Home-infused Pumpkin Vodka Flip
Ricotta Creme Brulee (Asti’s recipe, made by Nathan & Amy!!)

Thursday Night Potluck
Vegan Stuffed Mushrooms
Vegan Apple Crisp
Crudite with Daikon Radish Dip (if I have time. No promises.)

Thanksgiving: Butternut Squash Kugel

This kugel is my answer to that icky-sticky sweet potato casserole that is so popular in some Thanksgiving circles.  I prefer this dish mainly because it does not have marshmallow cream along the top. However, there are other advantages: this kugel has a firmer texture than sweet potato casserole, it is much easier to prepare, and it’s healthier.

I adapted this recipe from one published on Allrecipes.com, using fresh squash puree instead of frozen cubes, substituting wheat flour for all-purpose, and reducing the sugar.  On Thursday I plan to serve this as a side dish during the main meal, garnished with fresh sage chiffonade.  I’ll cut the cinnamon in that version of the recipe down to one teaspoon sprinkled on top.

Butternut Squash Kugel (serves 4-6)
1 cup butternut squash puree
3 tablespoons butter, melted
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
2 medium eggs
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup milk
1/2 tablespoon cinnamon, divided

Need help preparing the squash puree? Step-by-step instructions are here.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and grease a 6×9 inch pan with butter, vegetable oil, or cooking spray. In a medium mixing bowl, combine squash puree, eggs, milk, flour, sugar, melted butter and about half the cinnamon. Stir until well combined.  Pour mixture into prepared pan and sprinkle with remaining cinnamon. Bake for 30 minutes, until kugel is firm and golden brown.  Serve warm or at room temperature. I really like this cold for breakfast the next day, too.

Click here for a printable version of this recipe.

Thanksgiving: How to puree butternut squash

Butternut squash can be an intimidating vegetable to cook with because of its ungainly shape and thick skin.  However, this classic harvest gourd is a must-have for many Thanksgiving recipes, like my macaroni and cheese or squash pudding. These step-by-step instructions with pictures should help demystify the delicious butternut and make pureeing the vegetable a breeze.

The only must-have for working with butternut squash is a large, sharp knife.  If you don’t have a good cleaver or butcher knife, a clean hand saw from the tool box works nicely for cutting hard squash and is much safer than trying to go at it with a too-small kitchen knife.  And at about $5, a small hand saw is a cheap way to go if you don’t cook often enough to drop $$ on a good kitchen knife.  A food processor is optional for this recipe; a potato masher is also an effective, albeit time consuming, way to puree the roasted squash. Finally, I like to process butternut squash in advance of using the puree in a recipe, mostly since this process can be time consuming if you’re in a rush to get dinner on the table.  The whole cut-roast-puree process takes about 90 minutes; only 15 of those minutes are hands-on. Perfect for a lazy Sunday afternoon!

Here’s how to do it: first, preheat the oven to 400 degrees.  Cover a cookie sheet with foil and set aside.  Place the squash on a cutting board and using the largest, sharpest knife you have, cut off the stem end of the squash and the cut the squash in half lengthwise. If your squash is large, the lengthwise cut will probably take two knife strokes: one lengthwise through the butt of the squash, and another cut down through the neck.  Whatever you do, keep your hands and fingers above the blade of the knife and cut with steady, controlled motions. Also rest assured that this, and all squash purees, will turn out A-OK if the squash isn’t cut perfectly.

Once the squash is cut in half (whew!) scoop out the seeds with a spoon and rub a little olive oil on the orange flesh.  Place squash flesh-side down on the prepared cookie sheet and cook for 45 minutes in the preheated oven, until the skin is bubbly and brown, and the squash can be pierced easily with a fork. Take the squash out of the oven and carefully wrap the aluminum foil into a packet around the cooling squash; this will help make the skin very tender and easy to peel off once the squash cools.  Wait until the squash is lukewarm to the touch, then unwrap the foil and peel away the squash skin with your fingers.  The squash will probably break into pieces as your work with it; that’s good.  Put the peeled squash into the food processor and whiz away until it has the consistency of baby food.  Store the squash in an airtight container for up to a week in the fridge, or about a month in the freezer.

Thanksgiving: Mini Apple Persimmon Pies (Vegan)

This weekend was one of the few times my “real” job intersected with my food blog.  I had the distinct pleasure of making a few dishes for a Thanksgiving potluck hosted by one of my colleagues.  He hosted the party in honor of a visiting saxophone quartet from Helsinki, Finland.  This meal was the quartet’s first-ever American Thanksgiving, and I made a sweet potato pie and these adorable apple persimmon pies to share with our visiting friends.

I originally planned to make a large, double crust American apple pie. However, I just couldn’t resist the persimmons at the farmer’s market last weekend, so into the filling they went! Since this recipe was still in the testing process, I elected to make mini pies instead of one big one so that I could sample the finished product before the potluck. I’m happy to say the little pies were a big hit at the party.  The leaf-shaped top crust looked very sweet on the buffet, and the intense flavors of the pie filling worked better in small bites than they would have in a big pie slice.  After dinner, the quartet gave an impromptu performance in front of the potluck dessert spread. You can see that my mini pies were in good company: besides the musicians, there are seven pies, a noodle kugel, two kinds of vegan cupcakes, and two kinds of whipped cream around the dining room table!

Below are step by step instructions for making the mini pies.   I filled them with apple persimmon compote but any compote, jelly or jam, or prepared pie filling would work.  I do not recommend using raw fruit filling for mini pies; in the test batches I made, raw fruit cooked a little unevenly in the small pie crusts.  Also, keep in mind that the fruit pieces for this recipe need to be very small.  Any large chunks of fruit that extend above the pastry crust tend to dry out and burn.

Mini Apple Persimmon Pies (makes 36 mini pies)

2 cups all purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup very cold vegetable shortening
8 tablespoons ice water

4 Fuyu persimmons
3 apples
1/4 c. butter or vegan margarine
1 tablespoon fresh grated ginger (about a 1 inch section)
1/2 tablespoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon allspice
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/3 cup brown sugar
3 tablespoons orange juice, apple juice, or rum

First, prepare pie crust. I have the best luck making vegan pie crust in the food processor. In the food processor, pulse flour and very cold shortening until shortening pieces are about the size of walnuts.  Add ice water one tablespoon at a time, pulsing in the processor, until dough comes together in a ball.  Once dough holds its shape, remove from the processor bowl and store, wrapped in plastic wrap, in the fridge for up to a week or frozen for up to one month.  If you freeze dough, allow to thaw in the fridge for 24 hours before proceeding with recipe.

To prepare pie filling: peel, core, and dice apples and persimmons. Saute fruit in a large skillet in vegan margarine for about 5 minutes until fruit starts to soften. Add grated ginger, cinnamon, vanilla, allspice and black pepper, brown sugar, and orange juice to skillet. Cover and cook over medium heat for half an hour, stirring occasionally. Allow filling to come to room temperature before assembling pies, or better yet, store it in the fridge for up to a week. (This recipe is a good make-ahead choice for Thanksgiving.)

Finally, it’s time to assemble the mini pies. You’ll need a rolling pin, pastry brush, bench scraper, mini muffin tins, 2 1/4 inch biscuit cutter or a drinking glass with that diameter, and mini cookie cutters in the shape of your choice. (I used leaf shaped cutters.) All these supplies are available in Austin at All in One Bake Shop.

Prepare your workstation by gathering all these supplies, plus a small dish with all purpose flour for rolling and another with a few tablespoons of melted vegan margarine.  Next, divide the pie crust dough into two parts.  Rewrap one piece of dough in the plastic and put it back in the fridge. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Finally, were’ ready to do this thing!! There are five basic steps to assembling these mini pies:

  1. On a floured surface, roll the dough to 1/4 inch thickness.
  2. Cut 36 bottom crusts with a 2 1/4 inch biscuit cutter or glass and put the crusts in a mini muffin tin.  Use your fingers to push the crusts firmly into the bottom edges of the muffin cups. As necessary, gather up crust scraps, smoosh them together and reroll them.
  3. Fill the mini pies with 1/2 tablespoon filling each.
  4. Cut out the top crusts with a mini cookie cutter and smoosh them onto the top of the pies. Use the bench scraper as necessary to move the delicate dough shapes without stretching them.
  5. Brush each mini pie with melted vegan margarine.
  6. Bake in preheated oven at 350 degrees for 30 minutes, until crust is lightly brown. Cool in the mini muffin tins for 10 minutes before using a thin-bladed knife to gently lift each pie out of the tin to finish cooling. Do not store in an airtight container until completely cool; pies will get soggy otherwise.

These mini pies stayed fresh overnight on my kitchen counter and tasted great at room temperature at the potluck.  No need to garnish with whipped cream, etc.  Since each pie is so tiny, it’s best as a stand-alone dessert. For easy potluck transport, place cooled pies back into muffin tins and transfer to a serving platter at the event.

Click here for a printable version of this recipe.

*Thanks to Nathan Russell Photography for taking pictures of the finished mini pies and for loaning me the tripod and light kit I used to capture the step-by-step images.

Thanksgiving: Sweet Potato Pie

Making a Thanksgiving with all local produce is a noble goal, but I was pretty bummed when I discovered there are no organic pumpkin growers in Central Texas. Yes, there are occasional rumbo squash and ornamental pumpkins at the farmer’s market, but those are pretty pricy and there’s no guarantee to get one for the big turkey day.  Luckily, sweet potatoes are readily available from lots of local growers this time of year, and they make an excellent substitute for pumpkin in many recipes.

Sweet potato pie is a popular Southern dessert in its own right, and it has been a popular dish in America since colonial times. According to Lynne Olver’s fantastic Food Timeline, recipes for sweet potato pie have been published in American cookbooks since the 18th century! Interesting tidbit: pumpkin pie recipes appear in America about 50 years earlier than sweet potato dishes, since sweet potatoes as we know them likely came to the southern colonies on slave and other trade ships from West Africa.

Besides being an interesting conversation piece, this sweet potato pie is an easy and inexpensive addition to my Thanksgiving potluck menu.  It sets up a little firmer than pumpkin pie, so it travels well and retains its lovely, creamy texture at room temperature. This recipe also uses regular skim milk (or whatever kind your family likes), so there’s no need purchase special processed canned milk. Another plus, since sweet potatoes keep well (store in a cool, dark pantry), you can stockpile them from regular CSA deliveries in advance of the big day, cutting down a bit on special Thanksgiving food purchases. To save a little work on Thanksgiving day, I’m making the pie crust ahead of time and storing it in plastic wrap in the freezer.  Before making the pie, I’ll let the crust thaw in the fridge for a day or two and proceed as usual.*

Sweet Potato Pie

1 cup all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup very cold shortening or butter
3 tablespoons ice water
1 large sweet potato (about 2 cups, mashed)
1/2 cup butter, softened to room temperature
1/2 cup white sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup milk
2 eggs
juice of half a lemon (about 1 tablespoon)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ginger
1/4 teaspoon allspice

Prepare pie crust: mix flour and salt in a small bowl.  Cut butter into flour mixture using a pastry blender, two butter knives or your fingers, until mixture is crumbly and blended. (The largest pieces of butter should be about the size of green peas, completely coated in flour. In my crust, below, the butter pieces were too big and it was a little tricky to work with.)  Add ice water one tablespoon at a time, continuing to blend dough with a fork, until dough consistency is even. It’s okay if it’s a little crumbly at this point. Form dough into a ball, wrap with plastic wrap, and chill in the fridge for at least an hour. The dough keeps will keep in the fridge up to 48 hours, and in the freezer for about a month.

After dough is chilled, roll it out on a floured surface until it is large enough to cover your pie plate.  Transfer the rolled dough to the plate by rolling it up on the rolling pin and unrolling it over the plate.  Use your fingers to smooth the dough into the plate, the trim away excess dough with scissors or a sharp knife.  Press the tines of a fork along the edge of the crust to make a pretty pattern in the dough and secure the edge of the crust to the pan.

Prepare filling: Wash sweet potato and pull out any strings from the peel. Poke holes in sweet potato with a fork. Microwave on high for 5 minutes, until potato is tender.  Wait for potato to cool. (I popped the whole cooked potato in the fridge overnight before making the pie the next day. It turned out fine.) Set butter out in a mixing bowl to come to room temperature. Use your fingers to peel skin from cooled potato, and add peeled potato to the mixing bowl.  Use an electric mixer to cream the potato and butter. (My mixer is a little weeny, so I had to use a fork at first to get the potato mushed enough for the mixer to handle.) Add one at a time: white sugar, brown sugar, milk, eggs, lemon juice, vanilla and spices, making sure to mix the pie filling well between each addition.  Once the filling is smooth, pour it into the prepared crust. Set the pie plate on a cookie sheet, and bake in preheated oven for 55 minutes, until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean.  The pie filling will puff up like a souffle while the pie is cooking, but don’t worry– it comes down and firms up just fine! Serve hot, at room temperature, or cold, preferably with whipped cream and cinnamon.

Click here for a printable version of this recipe.

* A note about my pie crust.  You can see in the pictures above that when I made this pie crust, the dough was hideous. There were some large, uneven chunks of butter and a few patchy bits of flour.  I was convinced I’d ruined the whole thing. Well. I decided to use it anyway and the crust turned out fine. Flaky and delicious and better than those perfect-looking store bought crusts. If, like me, you are a little scared to tackle a homemade pie crust: Have faith! You can do it! Don’t give up! And when in doubt, go ahead and use that ugly homemade crust. There will be sweet potato filling to cover it up, anyways.