Saturday, November 27, 2004

Thanksgiving Menu

Thanksgiving is a day well celebrated in our house. For us, it's a day to cook and eat and drink and eat some more, and to share this over indulgence with friends and family. But both immediate families are so far (and Canadian Thanksgiving is long over), and what usually happens is we open our doors to friends, colleagues and acquaintances who want a place to spend the non-religious, family oriented, food focused holiday.

This year we had 16 people for Thanksgiving dinner - some ex-colleagues of ours, some very close friends and some classmates of Nino's. It was a great crowd and lots of fun. Highlights of the meal included the turkey, the mashed sweet potatoes with chipotle peppers, Tonia's green beans, the pumpkin cheesecake, Aaron's chocolate cake and Jen's bundt cake. We consumed about 7 bottles of wine and a bottle of Umeshu (Japanese pum wine) for dessert. Of note was the 2000 Cambria Bench Break Vineyard Pinot Noir.

Here's the entire menu:

Appetizers: Crackers and pita with curried tofu dip and butternut squash dip
Arugula, persimmon and fennel salad with olive oil and vinegar
Best way brined turkey
Chipotle mashed sweet potatoes
Baked yams
Vegetarian meatloaf
Tuscan white beans
Green beans with orange and rosemary gremolata
Dessert: pumpkin cheesecake, chocolate cake with chambord, amaretto white bundt cake, persimmon apple crisp, homemade mango ice cream, fruit tart

Giving Thanks

Turkey 2004
Turkey 2004,
originally uploaded by kjkausha.
Thanksgiving has come and gone, though I'd like to take a moment to give thanks where thanks is due. I'd like to say thank you to my wonderful (oh, it's been 6 months and I still have a hard time even blogging that word!) for his love and support and for being the master of the turkey each year for Thanksgiving. With direction from the Best Way Brined Turkey recipe, Nino roasted an amazingly moist, incredibly tasty bird this year. This was a 13.75 lb Willie Bird Free Range turkey and had to be the best turkey in our 5 years doing Thanksgiving together. (Note to self: It took 2:50 to roast following brining recipe.)

Also, thank you to our wonderful family and friends, some who were with us to partake in the feast, and those that live far away who we couldn't tempt to make the cross-continent or cross-ocean flights to join us. Many of them participated in the feast without even knowing it - we wouldn't have such amazing cookware and bakeware if it weren't for great wedding gifts from everyone!

Happy Thanksgiving!

Pumpkin Cheesecake - The Winner

Pumpkin Cheesecake
Pumpkin Cheesecake,
originally uploaded by kjkausha.
This photo was taken during Thanksgiving dessert and is the winning recipe of the Great Pumpkin Cheesecake contest I wrote about a couple of days ago. It was a huge success! Thanks to John A. for the amazing pumpkin puree made from fresh pumpkins from his garden!

Tuesday, November 23, 2004

The Great Pumpkin Cheesecake, Charlie Brown

On our last visit to Slow Club we indulged in an amazing mascarpone cheesecake with strawberries in balsamic vinegar, recommended by Sante. With the holiday season upon us, and the tendency and expectation of over-indulgence, we set out to revamp the plain ol' pumpkin pie and decided on the pumpkin cheesecake.

We tested 2 recipes: one from Cooking Light, with a graham cracker crust from Gourmet Cookbook and a double layer pumpkin cheesecake from that I adapted. I learned my lesson with the Cooking Light recipe - the cream cheese was not at room temperature and I believe this resulted in a very dense, quite heavy cheesecake. Nonetheless, Nino brought it to school and both he and the cheesecake were very popular. I told him he should trade some cheesecake for homework favors or better grades.

The second recipe was the winner, and the one we'll be making for Thanksgiving, though I adapted it based on the reviews. I used the Gourmet Cookbook graham cracker crust in my springform pan, used fat free cream cheese (at room temperature), used 2 8-ounce blocks of cream cheese following the recipe for the bottom layer, and then 2 other 8-ounce blocks of cream cheese following the recipe and mixed with pumpkin pie filling (about 1 cup) for the top layer. The cheesecake was ready after about 1.5 hours.

Though I'm quite "cheesecaked out", we'll make the winning recipe one more time to adorn our dessert table come Thursday. Accompanied by persimmon/apple crisp and some kind of chocolate delight from a guest, you can bet I'll be saving room for dessert.

Sunday, November 21, 2004

IMBB#10 Walnut Cranberry Oatmeal Cookies

Originally uploaded by kjkausha.

This is my first time partipating in an IMBB event, a monthly online cooking event hosted by a foodblogger somewhere in the world. This month's theme is a Cookie Swap, and while I wasn't sure until just this afternoon if I would be able to participate, I've whipped up some easy, yet tasty cookies that are also quite seasonal.

With Thanksgiving around the corner, the main food activities this weekend have concentrated on putting together a menu (we're expecting 10-15 people), and doing as much of the grocery shopping as possible. I didn't shop for cookie ingredients specifically so I looked through some of the treasures found at the farmer's market yesterday to see what I could throw together. With organic walnuts from the farmer's market and cranberries with orange flavor from Trader Joe's I decided to adapt a Cooking Light Oatmeal Walnut Cookie recipe. Yep, Cooking Light. So these cookies have less fat, and a bit of a different texture than regular cookies. I also think that because I used cranberries instead of raisins, that the original recipe called for, the cookies could have done without all the sugar - they were just a little too sweet. And maybe more walnuts. For a quick, light, eye pleasing, colorful cookie, I recommend'em. Do they compare to full fat, melt in your mouth oatmeal cookies? Nah ...

Walnut Cranberry Oatmeal Cookies
1/2 cup granualted sugar (Suggestion to use less if using canberries)
1/3 cup packed dark brown sugar
1/4 cup butter, softened
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 large egg
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup regular oats
1/4 teaspoon salt
2/3 cup cranberries (I used Trader Joe's flavored with orange)
1/4 cup chopped toasted walnuts (I would use more)

1. Preheat oven to 350degrees.
2. Place first 5 ingredients in large bowl, beat with mixer until well blended. Add flour, salt, oats and beat well. Stir in cranberries and walnuts (don't forget to toast walnuts!)
3. Drop by tablespoon on greased baking sheet. Baked 12-15 minutes until lightly browned.

Tuesday, November 16, 2004

From Italy with love

I'd like to say that I haven't written in 3 weeks because I've been on a wonderful trip to Italy or somewhere else full of culinary excitement. However, my excuse is nothing short of lame. While I've been turning to delicious food to get me through these weeks, I haven't had the energy or time to keep up. The past few weeks have been tough but I thought I'd spend a few moments catching up on the floggables from the past few weeks.

Raphael and Saba's visit recently landed us a dinner date at Cafe Cozzolino in our neighborhood. Raphael's grandmother lived around the corner from there and all he could talk about was the calamari. This Italian restaurant could be summed up as a "protein at 6 o'clock" kind of restaurant. Each main dish, if looked at as a clock, had your protein at 6 o'clock, in my case salmon, mashed potatoes at 2 o'clock and a steamed, unexciting green vegetable at 10 o'clock. While the cookie cutter presentation was a little disheartening, the food was not bad though I'd let some time go by before returning.

Knowing that other neighborhood restaurants could deliver such better food, we were off to Liberty Cafe some days later for some comfort food. It was Thursday night, just the two of us, had some wine and got caught up on the week's events. We had a wonderful mache, fennel and persimmon salad and Nino had the chicken pot pie while I had hake (a white fish compared to monkfish) with fresh chanterelle mushrooms. Wine, comfort food and some quality time together will most always help when I've had a bad day.