Tag Archives: Thanksgiving

{ Thanksgiving Pizza }

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I consider sage to be the dominant flavor of Thanksgiving. My mom and I use it in just about every dish, from our roasted butternut squash, to our stuffing, and our delicious turkey butter baste! So when a customer at my restaurant requested that I come up with a recipe for a Thanksgiving-inspired pizza special, I knew sage would be the foundational building block of the pie.

The savory, and slightly peppery, flavor of sage lends itself well with just about any ingredient but since I needed to construct a pie that tasted like Thanksgiving, I decided to pair it with butternut squash, caramelized onions, and cranberry sauce. Instead of using just mozzarella, I opted to add brie cheese which is a soft French cheese made from cow’s milk. The creamy cheese melts very easily when baked and the sweetness of the cheese lends itself well with the tartness of the cranberry sauce.

I have served this pizza to several taste-testers thus far, and each of them have said the same thing…”tastes like Thanksgiving!”

I consider that mission accomplished.

{ Ingredients }

  • One pizza crust — I use this recipe by Peter Reinhart
  • 1 can whole berry cranberry sauce
  • 1 butternut squash, roasted, peeled, and cubed
  • 1 wedge brie cheese
  • 1 cup shredded mozzarella
  • 1 spanish onion, sliced, and caramelized
  • 1 bunch fresh sage leave, chopped

{ To Make the Pizza }

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.

Using a spatula, spread the cranberry sauce over the prepared pie crust to the outer edges. Lightly sprinkle the shredded mozzarella cheese over the cranberry sauce. Thinly slice the brie cheese and place slices onto the pie a few inches apart from each other.

Top the cheese with the caramelized onion and the cubed butternut squash.

Bake for about 10 minutes, or until the edges turn a golden brown and the crust is crispy.

Sprinkle with the chopped sage and serve!

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{ Herbed Israeli Coucous with Apples, Cranberries, & Almonds }

A day characterized by complete gluttony, laziness, and endless vino, it is no wonder that Thanksgiving is one of my favorite American holidays! Unfortunately though, the dinner, which normally packs about 3,000 – 4,000 calories (not including the next-day turkey sandwiches), leaves most American’s feeling stuffed for days/weeks/months. So why not lighten the meal up a bit?!?

The easiest way to cut back the number of calories in your Thanksgiving feast, it to serve lighter and healthier side dishes. Get rid of that artery-clogging green bean casserole, which costs you about 276 calories, and end the tradition of sweet potato and marshmallow casseroles, which add an additional 476 calories to your plate! Instead, opt for for sautéed and steamed fresh veggies that are prepared without incorporating a stick of butter and heavy cream.

This recipe for herbed Isreali couscous, encompasses all the flavors of fall and would make a delicious (and healthy) addition to any Thanksgiving buffet table! The herbs serve as a refreshing palate cleanser and the light vinaigrette is an interesting contrast to the richer gravies and sauces on the table. Furthermore, the cubed green apples and slivered almonds work together to deliver just the right amount of crunch to the dish.

On the other 364 days of the year, this couscous makes a fabulous side dish for lamb and roasted chicken. It is also great to bring to picnics and parties!

{ Ingredients }

For the Couscous:

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 cups Israeli couscous (or barley or orzo)
  • 4 cups low-sodium chicken broth
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons chopped fresh rosemary leaves
  • 1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme leaves
  • 1 medium green apple, diced
  • 1 cup dried cranberries
  • 1/2 cup slivered almonds, toasted in oven*

*Note: To toast the almonds, preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Arrange the almonds in a single layer on a baking sheet. Bake for 8 to 10 minutes or until golden brown. Cool completely before using.

For the Vinaigrette:

  • 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 3 tablespoons maple syrup
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 cup olive oil

{ To Make the Couscous }

In a medium saucepan, heat the olive oil on medium-high heat. Add the couscous and cook, stirring occasionally until browned and aromatic, about 3 to 5 minutes. You really want to open up the nutty flavors of the couscous so it is important that you let it brown properly!. Add the chicken broth and bring to a boil. Simmer for 10 to 12 minutes, or until the liquid has evaporated. Transfer the cooked couscous to a large bowl and set aside to cool.

Add the parsley, rosemary, thyme, apple, dried cranberries, and almonds.

{ To Make the Vinaigrette }

In a small bowl, combine the vinegar, maple syrup, salt, and pepper. Whisk in the olive oil until smooth. Pour the vinaigrette over the couscous and toss to coat evenly.

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{ Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies }

I was really sad about missing Thanksgiving dinner this year. Sad to the point where I dreamt about rosemary-infused stuffing, cranberry condiments, and golden-glazed turkey long after the holiday had passed. These thanksgiving “accruciaments” (as Tony Soprano would say) are all obsolete in Argentina, a country that is recognized for both its prized bovine and lack of importation. The only cans of cranberry sauce and pumpkin puree to be found, were in the possession of foreign service agents that had “special postal privileges.” There was literally a black market among BA expats for gravy starter and Sarah Lee products. Unfortunately, my measly teaching salary did not afford me one of these luxury canned items (I will never look at a food-drive the same way again), and so I resorted to a chicken stir-fry on Thanksgiving evening.

For a foodie like myself, this is a crime because Thanksgiving is unequivocally the best day of the year–a day where we are finally accompanied by family and friends in our passion for food and the desire to consume exorbitant amounts of it. So to miss such a momentous event…well, it’s downright depressing. So my family decided to have Thanksgiving round #2. They say it was just for me, but how many people really keep a spare Butterball in their freezer?!? A 16 pound one no less…

We made all of our Thanksgiving family favorites; starting with a juicy Lemon-Herb Roasted Turkey, accompanied by Roasted Garlic Mashed Potatoes, Lemon-Scented Broccoli, Rosemary and Sage Infused Stuffing, Corn, and my mom’s delicious Homemade Gravy!

But it wouldn’t be a proper Thanksgiving feast without some sort of pumpkin-flavored dessert, so my sister and I decided to try out Paula Deen’s recipe for Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies (although we made some modifications, as one must with Paula Deen’s butter rich recipes!).

Overall, I thought the cookies had a really great flavor but they were more cake-like than cookie in composition. If you are a fan of soft cookies, then you will love these!! I would probably opt for my Pumpkin Spice Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting in the future though, because I like crunchy cookies instead.

{ Ingredients }

  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 1 cup brown sugar, packed
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup canned pumpkin puree
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 2 cups (1 12-ounce bag) semisweet chocolate chips
  • Nonstick cooking spray or parchment paper
{ To Make the CookiesPreheat the oven to 350 degrees and prepare a cookie sheet with parchment paper or nonstick spray.
Using a mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat the butter until smooth. Beat in the sugar, whisking until light and fluffy.
Add the eggs 1 at a time, then mix in the vanilla and pumpkin puree. Scrape down the sides of the bowl, until everything is well combined.
In a separate mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, and cloves.

Slowly add the flour mixture to the wet mixture in 3 parts, and continue to mix on a low speed until well combined. Stir in the chocolate chips and drop cookies onto prepared cookie sheet. NOTE: I like to use a small ice cream scoop so that the cookie batter is evenly distributed!

Place the cookie sheet into the oven and allow to bake for 20-25 minutes, or until the tops are golden brown. Allow to cool and serve!

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Roasted Garlic Mashed Potatoes *****

Roasted Garlic Mashed Potatoes

My go to side dish is always potatoes. If I’m making chicken its roasted potatoes, if I’m making beef its mashed potatoes, if I’m making breakfast its home-fried potatoes, but always, always, always potatoes!! And I have tried a million different recipes in search for the perfect mashed potatoes, but have never found one that really hits the spot. The few recipes that I did really like were difficult to enjoy eating because of the amount of butter and cream used (all recipes by Paula Deen—aka “the butter queen”), and the healthier ones were usually lacking in flavor. But tonight I finally found the right combination of shit to make a perfect (and not ridiculously fattening) batch of flavorful mashed potatoes. I made a staggering 10 pounds to feed my army of friends and they were delicious.

The key to success lies in using just the right potato and I only used Yukon Gold potatoes when making my mashed potatoes. I peel them up, cut them into quarters, and let them boil till fork tender. Then I drain out the water and return them to the stockpot. Then the secret is to put the roasted garlic, butter, cream, and milk onto the drained potatoes and allow to sit covered for about 5-10 minutes before mashing. This allows for the garlic flavors to develop and for the butter to melt down. I then sprinkle the potatoes with about a ½ teaspoon of kosher salt and some freshly ground pepper and use an electric hand mixer to beat them till smooth and fluffy. Of course, you can also mash the potatoes by hand, but I prefer to take the short cut and let the electric mixer do the work for me! These are honestly the best mashed potatoes that you will try….so make them!

Ingredients:

  • 5 pound bag of Yukon Gold potatoes
  • 1 bulb of garlic
  • Olive oil
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
  • ½ cup milk
  • ¼ cup heavy cream (or reduced fat sour cream, if you’re really watching calories)
  • 4 tablespoons butter (1/2 stick)

Directions:

Roasted Garlic: Preheat the oven to 350°.  Separate all gloves from the bulb of garlic, but do not peel them from their skin. Place all the cloves of garlic onto a piece of foil and drizzle with olive oil. Fold the foil into a packet and allow to cook in the oven for about 30-40 minutes. Then remove the garlic from the skins (should slide right out if you do it while its still hot, just be careful of your fingers!) and mash with the back of a fork. Drizzle a little extra olive oil into the mash until you have a roasted garlic paste. This can be made in advance and stored in the fridge!

Peel and quarter all of the potatoes and place into a large stockpot on the stove. Generously salt the water and allow the potatoes to boil in the water until fork tender. Then drain in colander and return to stockpot. Put the butter, roasted garlic paste, milk, cream, salt and pepper over the potatoes and allow to sit covered on counter for about 5-10 minutes.

Then mash the potatoes by hand or with electric mixer until smooth and fluffy. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve and enjoy.

Covering the Garlic Cloves in Olive Oil before Roasting

Making the Roasted Garlic Paste

Before Mashing

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Lemon-Herb Roasted Turkey *****

I can officially do anything.

This is the exact thought that ran through my mind as I pulled my perfectly roasted 16-pound turkey out of the oven today. Of course I’m exaggerating slightly—I don’t think that I can solve poverty in India, or bring peace between North and South Korea (or North Korea and the rest of the world for that matter) but in terms of the culinary world, I have conquered my biggest fear and feel ready to take on any challenge.

I decided to take on the daunting task of cooking “the bird” because I simply got too impatient to wait another week for thanksgiving food. Once Starbucks starts playing Christmas music and Sarah Lee pumpkin pies hit the shelves at the supermarkets, my internal clock starts counting down for turkey and stuffing. So I sent out a facebook message to 13 of my girlfriends inviting them over for a potluck style thanksgiving meal before we all went home for break. I had each of them sign up to bring a side dish and agreed to make the turkey, gravy, mashed potatoes, and stuffing myself. Obviously, everyone was down for this epic feast and so the night before the dinner I found myself face-to-face with an enormous 16 pound turkey. (For the first time ever, I actually asked for assistance to my vehicle at the supermarket). I put “the bird” in the sink, took off the plastic wrap, and then just stared at it in sheer panic…I didn’t even know where to begin. So naturally, I got on the phone and called my mom. She walked me through removing the giblets (reminiscent of my 7th grade frog dissection) and then told me to stuff it with whatever herbs and veggies I wanted. She recommended not to do stuffing as that greatly increases the cook time (especially for a turkey as big as mine) and also because it can cause a health issue if the stuffing absorbs any bacteria from the raw turkey meat. So I kept it simple and stuffed my turkey with sage, rosemary, Spanish onion, garlic, celery, and lemon. Then I made a nice lemon herb butter to drizzle on top so that the outside would get golden and crispy (recipe follows). I tied the legs together with some twine, brushed on the butter sauce, and covered it in foil before putting it in the fridge for the night.

Then today, I woke up and gave my roommate, Ariana, the cooking instructions for the turkey because I had to go to work. I told her to pre-heat the oven to 350° and put the turkey still covered in foil into the oven. I told her to do this at 1:00 so that it could cook for some time before I got home from work at 5 O’clock. When I turned on my phone at 5 O’clock, I received a text from Ariana saying:

“I couldn’t get the turkey in until 2:30, but its in the oven now and don’t worry….I took the foil off!”

Now I love Ariana to death, so I couldn’t get mad at her, but you can only imagine how fast I ran home from work. I just kept imagining my turkey black and smoking, completely inedible, and the chance of my apartment burning down. Well when I finally got home and saw my oven smoking, I thought the worst of my fears were a reality, but I managed to salvage the situation. I took the turkey out, scraped off the top burnt layer, recovered it in foil, and then put it back in on a lower heat. I let it keep cooking until 6:30, and then took off the foil and let it cook for another 30 minutes uncovered. When I pulled it out of the oven at 7 O’clock, it miraculously looked picture perfect. I couldn’t even believe it. I then let it sit for an hour and a half (covered) on the counter while I cooked the rest of my side dishes.

Now they say not to judge a book by its cover, so I didn’t have my hopes up yet (even though it looked pretty incredible). But when I popped a little piece of that warm turkey into my mouth, I was amazed that it tasted even better than it looked. I couldn’t have asked for a better first turkey experience!! And I couldn’t have asked for any greater people to share it with either. I am proud to say that we ate all of the turkey with the exception of maybe ½ pound of meat…which I happily ate the following day for lunch.

Turkey Stuffing Ingredients:

  • 1 large Spanish onion quartered
  • 1 cloves from an entire head of garlic, peeled
  • 1 lemon quartered
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 2 stalks of celery with leaves cut into thirds
  • Bundle of sage leaves tied with twine
  • Bundle of thyme leaves tied with twine
  • Couple sprigs of rosemary

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 350°.

Remove the giblets from the turkey and wash the turkey inside and out, patting dry when finished. Place the turkey in a large roasting pan and then liberally salt and pepper the inside of the turkey cavity. Stuff the cavity with the bunches of thyme, rosemary, and sage, the quartered lemon, celery, quartered onion, and the garlic cloves.  Brush the outside of the turkey with the butter mixture (recipe below) and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Tie the legs together with string and tuck the wing tips under the body of the turkey.

Roast the turkey about 21 minutes per pound of meat, or until the juices run clear when you cut between the leg and the thigh. I liked letting mine cook for the last 30 minutes uncovered so that the outside browned and crisped up.

Remove the turkey from the oven and cover with aluminum foil, let stand for at least 30 minutes, or up till serving time. (Hint: the longer the turkey sits, the more the flavors develop and the juicier it is….but don’t let it sit at room temperature too long or bacteria can develop).

Slice the turkey and serve.

Ingredients Lemon Herb Butter:

  • 1 stick of butter
  • Zest of 1 lemon
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • 1 teaspoon chopped thyme leaves

Directions:

In a medium sauce pan, melt the stick of butter. Then whisk in the zest and juice of one lemon and the chopped thyme leaves. Remove from heat and brush on turkey.

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