Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Thanksgiving - Cranberry Apple Salad

This is another Thanksgiving dish I've been making for almost ten years. My sister-in-law Beth named it, and I think I found it in Good Housekeeping. It's really easy to make if you have a food processor.

Cranberry Apple Salad

1/2 cup chopped pecans (more to taste)
1 bag cranberries
1 cup sugar
1 naval orange, peeled and diced
1 Gala apple, peeled and diced
1 Granny Smith apple, peeled and diced

Put the cranberries in the food processor with the sugar. Pulse until chopped. You can also use a blender or chop by hand.

Pour the chopped cranberries in a bowl and add the remaining ingredients. Add more sugar if necessary.

Thanksgiving 2008

I'm going to do a long post or series of posts about this year's Thanksgiving menu. As usual, I'm trying a bunch of new recipes, so I'll post the new ones after the meal if I think they are worth recommeneding. For now, here's my menu!

Thanksgiving Menu

Pumpkin-shaped cheese ball with crackers
Pumpkin dip with gingersnaps and green apples
Chex mix

Main course
Turkey – 2 (one smoked, one traditional)
Stuffing (Mom)
Waldorf salad (Chris)
Jello salad (Chris)
Mashed potatoes
Whipped sweet potatoes with streusel
Cranberry Apple Salad
Cranberry sauce
Glazed pearl onions
Green Beans with hazelnuts
Parker House Rolls with cranberry butter

Mini pecan pies
Mini pumpkin pies
Pumpkin cheesecake
Apple Pie (Mom)
Southern Pecan cake (Chris)
Gingerbread pear trifle

Pumpkin Dip (from Cooking Light)

This dip is very good and looks great served in a bowl that is placed inside a hollowed-out sugar pumpkin. I usually make leaf-shaped gingersnaps to go with it, but that's a short-cut I'm taking this year! I'm doubling the recipe.

3/4 cup (6 ounces) 1/3-less-fat cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup canned pumpkin
2 teaspoons maple syrup (can sub with brown sugar or honey if you don't have any)
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
24 green apple slices
gingersnaps (thin kind)

Place first 3 ingredients in a medium bowl, and beat with a mixer at medium speed until well blended. Add syrup and cinnamon, and beat until smooth. Cover and chill 30 minutes. Serve with apple and gingersnaps.

Pumpkin-shaped Cheese Ball (from Southern Living)

Two 8-ounce blocks extra-sharp Cheddar cheese, shredded
One 8-ounce package cream cheese, softened
One 8-ounce container chive-and-onion cream cheese
2 tsp paprika
½ tsp ground red pepper
1 stalk broccoli
red and green apple wedges

1. Combine cheddar cheese, cream cheeses, paprika and red pepper in a bowl until well blended. Cover and chill 4 hours or until mixture is firm enough to be shaped.

2. Shape mixture into a ball to resemble a pumpkin. Smooth entire outer surface with a frosting spatula or table knife. Make vertical grooves in ball, if desired, using fingertips.

3.Cut florets from broccoli stalk and reserve for another use. Cut stalk to resemble a pumpkin stem, and press into top of cheese ball. Serve cheese ball with apple wedges and crackers.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Roast Turkey

Almost ten years ago I started brining turkeys for Thanksgiving after I read about the process in Cook's Illustrated magazine. Brining has revolutionized turkey for our extended family. No longer is turkey the dry, chalky vehicle for gravy! We actually like it: it's juicy, flavorful, and seasoned enough to be interesting. There are dozens of turkey brine recipes, and you can even buy a premade mix. However, I haven't deviated much from the orginal recipe, which is just salt and water. Sometimes I do add a bit of sugar to enhance the browning. Here's how we make our turkey.

Roast Turkey (note: you'll need to start the day before Thanksgiving)

4 c. kosher salt or 2 cups table salt (note: Morton is much saltier than Diamond, but I use it)
1 turkey (12-14 pounds), rinsed thoroughly: innards removed
3 medium onions, chopped
2 small carrots, chopped
2 celery ribs, chopped
6 sprigs fresh thyme
6 T. butter, melted

1. Dissolve salt in 2 gallons cold water in large stockpot or clean bucket. You can also use an XL storage-type ziploc bag. Add turkey and refrigerate or set in very cool spot (about 40 degrees) for 4 to 6 hours.

2. Remove turkey from salt water and rinse well under cool running water. Pat dry inside and out with paper towels. Place turkey breast-side up on flat wire rack set over rimmed baking sheet or roasting pan and refrigerate, uncovered, 8 to 24 hours. This will dry out the turkey and allow the skin to crisp.

3. Adjust oven rack to lowest position and heat oven to 400 degrees. Toss 1/3 of vegetables and thyme with one tablespoon melted butter in a medium bowl. Fill cavity with mixture. Tuck wings behind back.

4. Scatter remaining vegetables and thyme in shallow roasting pan, pour one cup water over vegetables. Spray V-rack (or any other rack) with cooking spray. Brush breast with butter, then set turkey breast-side down on foil-lined V-rack; brush back with butter. Roast 45 minutes.

5. Remove roasting pan with turkey from oven; using thick wads of paper towels or potholders, rotate turkey leg/wing side up and brush with butter. If liquid in bottom of pan has evaporated, add 1/2 cup. Roast 15 minutes.

6. Remove roasting pan with turkey from oven, brush exposed surfaces with butter, and, using thick wads of paper towels or potholders rotate other turkey leg/wing side up and brush with butter. Roast for 15 minutes longer.

7. Remove roasting pan with turkey from oven; using thick wads of paper towels or potholders, rotate turkey breast-side up and brush with remaining butter. Roast until breast registers 165 degrees and the thickest part of the thigh registers 170-175 degrees (30-45 minutes longer). Move turkey from rack to cutting board and let rest about 20-30 minutes.

8. Carve turkey.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Pumpkin Whoopie Pies

Update on 11/19/09: I just finished making these again for the boys' Thanksgiving feasts, and I wanted to add a few details. First, I can't triple the recipe in my Kitchen Aid mixer. Each batch makes about 20 good-sized whoopie pies.

Second, it's really hard to make these small. I used teaspoons (not measuring spoons) to make them about 1 1/2 inches in diameter. They were 3-4 inches in diameter after baking.

Also, I did make extra icing. They need a good amount because they are so thick. I'd double the recipe for the icing.

Bake the whoopie pies until they are just starting to brown on the edges. You don't want to underbake these because they'll be too sticky.

Finally, they do well wrapped or even layered in waxed paper.

Let me know if you make them and how they turned out!


Whoopie pies are very popular in New England and Pennsylvania. My mom used to make them for our class birthdays instead of cupcakes. The traditional ones are chocolate with a marshmallow frosting, but there are oatmeal ones, and my dad created a snickerdoodle one.

I really love this recipe for the pumpkin variation. The original recipe from King Arthur Flour cookies makes monstrously huge ones - great for a bake sale or for sharing among four people. I 've changed the directions to make them smaller, but they still end up about 2 -3 inches in diameter. I made them for Jack's and Ben's Thanksgiving feasts yesterday; the filling is a simplified version of the original. I tripled the recipe, and that worked fine.

I noticed in the paragraphs above that I keeps saying "ones" or "them" instead of "whoopie pies." That's probably because I've always felt silly saying their name! But it's true what they say - when you eat one, you say "Whoopie!".

By the way, an assortment of whoopie pies would be a great Christmas gift. Since they are so big, they are indulgent in a way that makes them a good gift. Also, unless you are from the Northeast they are slightly unusual. Finally, they are crazy expensive to buy (but not to make): Dean & Deluca sells a dozen for $55!

Pumpkin Whoopie Pies

1 1/2 cups (15-ounce can) pumpkin
2 large eggs
2 cups (16 ounces) brown sugar
1 cup (7 ounces) vegetable oil
2 tablespoons (1 1/2 ounces) molasses or dark corn syrup
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cloves
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
3 cups (12 3/4 ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour

1/2 cup (1 stick, 4 ounces) unsalted butter
1/2 cup (4 ounces) cream cheese (reduced fat [Neufch√Ętel] or full fat)
2 1/4 cups (9 ounces) confectioners’ sugar (add more to taste)

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Lightly grease (or line with parchment) two large baking sheets.

TO MAKE THE COOKIES: In a large bowl, beat together the pumpkin, eggs, brown sugar, oil, and molasses. Scrape down the bottom and sides of the bowl, then beat in the salt, spices, baking powder, and baking soda.

Add the flour to the wet ingredients and beat for 1 minute, until the mixture is well combined. Scrape the bottom and sides of the bowl, then beat for a short time just to make sure everything is thoroughly mixed. Use two tablespoons to drop the batter onto the prepared baking sheets, 2 inches apart to allow for spreading.

Bake the cookies for 10 to 12 minutes, until they feel firm to the touch; a slight indentation will remain when you press your finger in the center. Remove the cookies from the oven and transfer to a rack to cool while you prepare the filling.

TO MAKE THE FILLING: In a large mixing bowl, beat together the butter and cream cheese until fluffy. Add half the confectioners’ sugar to the butter/cream cheese mixture, beating well. Add the remaining confectioners’ sugar, mixing until blended.

TO ASSEMBLE: Spread the flat side of half the cookies with the filling, using 2 generous tablespoons of filling for each cookie. Top with the remaining cookies. For best storage, wrap each pie individually in plastic wrap.