Monday, November 23, 2009

Thanksgiving mash AND a Sunday Supper - Two-for-one Special!

 Today I'm giving a two-for-one special - a double whammy so to speak. I wanted to share my favorite new mashed "potato" recipe since some sort of mashed is a must have on Thanksgiving, and also get back in the swing of doing the Sunday Supper posts. So, I created a menu around the mashers than is easy, relatively quick and perfect for the Sunday Table.

 Mashing on the Light Side: These mashed potatoes are great because they're smooth and creamy like any cream and butter-filled version would be, but they are mush less heavy and starchy due to the addition of cauliflower. Cauliflower is in season throughout the winter, so great for mashing under the hearty stews and heavy meals we crave in colder weather. I don't love doing the cauliflower on its own because the water content is a little high and so it's kind of baby-foody, but mixed in a 1 to 1 ratio with potatoes it's perfect.

Bacon pieces on top make for an elegant presentation

I also add some garlic, thyme, bacon and goat cheese. These four wonderous ingredients round out the dish to make an awesome mash that can stand alone or accompany a more subtle main dish.

To go with my mashers I made some Toad in the Hole which is a relic of my childhood and so much yummier than it sounds. My mother, being Scottish and this being a British staple, would make this often on Sundays, much to our delight. It's essentially sausages cooked in a Yorkshire Pudding (Americans call this popover dough) crust.

Toad in the Hole!

For the veggie accompaniment we had an arugula and roasted squash salad, recipe thanks to Lindsey - which perfectly incorporated seasonal arugula and butternut squash into a salad that could easily stand on its own.

Any of these recipes could have been the highlight of the meal, but together they make a great feast that makes you forget that tomorrow is Monday and you'll have to go back to work!

Sunday Supper #2


Alelia's Creamy Bacon Mashers
serves 4-6

4 large Russet potatoes, in one inch pieces
1 small or 1/2 of a large head of cauliflower, roughly cut into large pieces
2 cloves garlic, finely minced
3 strips bacon
1/2 - 3/4 cup goat cheese
1 Tbsp thyme
1 cup milk (any percent)
salt & pepper

- Combine the potatoes and cauliflower in a pot of water and boil until tender (about 10 - 15min)
- Meanwhile, cut the bacon into half inch pieces and fry in a pan until crispy, set aside.
- Drain potatoes and cauliflower, return to pot.
- Using a wand blender or beaters, blend the potatoes and cauliflower while adding the milk. When pretty much smooth, add the goat cheese and thyme and continue blending.
- Stir in the bacon bits, leaving some for garnishing on top if you desire.
- Salt & pepper to taste.

Toad in the Hole
serves 4 (with some leftovers for Monday!)

1 stick of butter

6 Good quality sausages (I like Italian, but any flavor will do)
1 cup of flour
1 1/4 cup of milk
3 large eggs
pinch of salt

springs of fresh rosemary, thyme or sage

- Heat oven to 475 degrees
- Mix together flour, milk, eggs and salt. Make sure to remove as many lumps as possible. Set aside.
- Place butter in a large, oven proof dish, let heat until fully melted and beginning to turn brown (don't let get too brown!!!)
- Add sausages carefully to the butter, they will sizzle and spit, so be careful. After a few seconds, turn the sausages to brown the other side. Return to the oven until light golden color - about 5-7 minutes.
- Carefully pour the batter atop the sausage and return to oven. DON'T open the oven for at least 20 minutes (Yorkshire Puddings can be finicky)!
- When the dough has risen around the sausages and is a deep golden color, it's ready.
-  Let rest 5 minutes before serving as it will be very hot.

Arugula, Squash and Goat Cheese Salad
serves 4-6

1 small butternut squash
l - 2 large bunches of arugula
2 oz of goat cheese
1 cup candied pecans
1 shallot
1 cup apple cider
1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
1 Tbsp sugar
Salt & Pepper to taste

- Set oven to 375 degrees. Cut the squash in half and deseed. Place on a baking tray and drizzle with oil. Roast for about 35 minutes, or until very tender.
- In a small saucepan, add 1 Tbsp olive oil and saute the shallots until translucent. Add the cider, vinegar and sugar and cook down to about half the original volume. Add salt & pepper to taste.
- In a large salad bowl, add the arugula, chunks of squash, crumbled goat cheese, and pecans.
- Pour the dressing over the salad and toss thoroughly.


Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Stuffing and Sauce - It Ain't Thanksgiving Without 'Em

The Thanksgiving joy continues this week as I keep going down my list of T-day staples. Tonight I made two of my favorite Thanksgiving dishes, in preparation for a potluck at work. I have made both of these items the same way for years and even though I always think about changing it up and trying something new, I keep coming back to the same old staples. I mean, why change something that works, right?

The stuffing is essentially a combination of all of my favorite fall flavors. Apples, sausage, sage, fresh baked bread, orange juice, walnut and of course, because I'm from Quebec, maple syrup. It's a very simple stuffing to make and a lot of the ingredients can be interchanged for other items you might have in your pantry, in case you're like me and you dread going to the store. For example, tonight I was out of walnuts, so I substitutes some hazelnuts I had on hand.

The fall harvest makes an awesome stuffing...

The cranberry sauce is another old standby. I love all things tart, so naturally cranberry sauce is up there on my list of favorites. I like to liven it up however with some raspberries and a little bit of orange flavor. The best part about adding the raspberries too is that I make a HUGE batch and can all of the excess sauce and it makes diving jam, especially on some good toasted bread with cream cheese. So, the recipe below can be doubled or tripled (really how ever many times you want to multiply it is fine) and just can the rest to keep all year long.

A large batch of this super-berry sauce makes great jam for later!

On that note, a quick word about canning. Canning is a super easy way to preserve things for long periods of time, especially if the item is acidic. All it takes is a few canning jars with new seals (replacement seals can be bought for jars you're reusing), a large pot and some patience.

Put the pot of water on to boil, place the empty jars in the water for 5 minutes at a high boil to sterilize. Remove the jars and fill them with whatever you're preserving, leaving half an inch of space at the top. Place the seal on the jar and loosely screw on the ring, until it just catches.

Put the jar back in the boiling water and boil for 10 minutes. Remove the jar and let cool - it's the cooling that will cause the lid to suck down and make a "plop!" sound, this is when you know you've successfully canned. At this point tighten the ring down tight and store.

This jam makes a great Christmas gift too

IMPORTANT! This method only works with acidic items, it won't work with things like non-acidic soups or stews because they require pressure canning.

Alright, on to the recipes...


Sausage, Apple and Sage Stuffing

2 Tbsp olive oil
1 large or 2 med. onions, chopped
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1 Tbsp sage, minced
1 tsp thyme
6 large Italian sausages, uncased
4 apples, any kind, diced
3/4 - 1 loaf crusty bread, cubed
1cup walnuts, chopped
1/2 cup orange juice                     
1/2 cup maple syrup                                                             
3 cups chicken broth
salt & pepper to taste

Set oven to 375 degrees, and place the oven rack in the middle.
Heat the olive oil in a large pan. Saute the onions until translucent. Add the garlic and herbs.
Break apart the uncased sausage and add to the pan, cook until browned.
In a large bowl, combine all of the ingredients together and stir thoroughly.
Butter a large (13x9in) baking dish and pour the stuffing contents in.
Bake for about 45 min - 1 hour.
Can be made ahead, but reheat to serve.

(See, I told you it was easy!)

A Very Berry Cranberry Sauce (it doesn't get much easier than this folks)

2x 12oz bags of fresh cranberries
1x 12 oz bag frozen raspberries
2 cup orange juice (can substitute water, but it's not as rich)
2 cups sugar
1 Tbsp orange zest

Put everything in a pot together and boil down at medium heat until most of the cranberries have popped and all of the sugar is diluted.
Let the sauce cook down slightly, but it will thicken as it cools.
Add more sugar to taste if you like your sauce very sweet.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Thanksgiving countdown - A Gobble Gobble Waldorf Salad

Thanksgiving is hands down my favorite meal of the year. Every year, around Halloween, I start to get really excited about that third Thursday in November when I will get to immerse myself completely into cooking for a whole day, if not two or three!

I start brainstorming far ahead about what I'm going to make this year, because though I have some favorites that I make absolutely every year, I always like to challenge myself a bit with something new and am forever in search of the perfect Thanksgiving meal.

This year's salad: Thanksgiving Waldorf

This year, since it's the first year of the blog, I am going to spend the next few weeks going over my favorite recipes and, if you're looking for something new to try on your Turkey (or Tofurky) table, hopefully you'll try some of these and tell me what you think.

This week I'm going to start with salad. Green salad is always easy to throw together, but I find them a bit bland and usually a last choice for the coveted slots on my plate. However, I do like having an uncooked veggie dish to introduce a little freshness to the meal. So, I opt for a Waldorf Salad, with a Thanksgiving twist.

Waldorf salads get their name from the famed Waldorf Astoria hotel in New York City and traditionally consist of apples, celery, raisins and walnuts.

I like to replace the raisins with dried cranberries (dried cherries work very nicely too) and add shredded lettuce to beef up the salad a bit. I also like to use rosemary-scented walnuts (see recipe below), but you can also add the rosemary, very finely chopped to the dressing instead, which makes it quite a bit quicker. However, the flavored walnuts are super easy to make and make a great snack for later.

The dressing is mayonnaise-based, which might freak out some mayo haters, but it really results in a creamy, tangy dressing that isn't too far off from a light ranch dressing.

The Waldorf's tangy, creamy dressing - So easy to make!

Not only is this salad extremely easy to make, but it tastes fantastic. This Waldorf salad will surely be one of the many dishes that will grace my Thanksgiving table this year.


Thanksgiving Waldorf Salad
4 cups Romaine Lettuce, finely shredded
4 Granny Smith apple, coarsely chopped (or you can shred if you prefer the slaw style)
6 Celery ribs, thinly sliced
1 cup rosemary-scented walnuts, coarsely chopped (can use plain walnuts, toasted)
1 cup dried cranberries
1/2 cup mayonnaise
3 Tbsp heavy cream (can use half & half)
2 Tbsp lemon juice (I like it tangy, so I use 3 Tbsp)
1 tsp sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
1 tsp rosemary (if not using the rosemary walnuts)

In a medium bowl, combine the first five ingredients.
In a small bowl, blend together the mayonnaise, cream, lemon juice, sugar and salt and pepper.
Pour the dressing on the salad and toss thoroughly.
Refrigerate until serving.

Rosemary-Scented Walnuts
4 cups walnuts
1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 fresh rosemary, finely chopped
4 tsp salt (kosher is good because it's larger grain)
1 Tbsp sugar
1 1/2 tsp ground pepper

Heat the oven to 350 degrees and place the rack to the middle setting.
Place all of the ingredients in a bowl and toss together until the nuts are well-coated.
Spread the nuts out on a baking sheet, trying to get just a single layer of nuts.
Bake until the nuts are brown and begin to be fragrant, about 20-25 minutes, stirring occaisonally.
Let cool and serve.

*These nuts are great in so many things including breads, on cheese boards, in salads or just to snack on.


Monday, November 2, 2009

Sweet Potato and Cumin: nothin' mashed around here...

This blog post has been two weeks in the making...for some reason I haven't been able to locate that little kernel of inspiration needed to get beyond the first few sentences.

I was trying to figure out why such reluctance...the subject was interesting, the results worth eating, but there was just a little lack of spark. There was little I could do, however to avoid posting this post because cumin and sweet potato were destined to meet in October's food challenge and all I could do about it was cook, taste and write.

Though not as exotic a combination as past food challenge contestants, they proved a worthy pairing in the simple variety of dishes produced. I am always impressed at the sheer adventurousness that results from these food challenges. I always expect at least a few people to take the path of least resistance, in this instance perhaps a dish of mashed sweet potatoes or something like that. I am always pleasantly surprised that people take enjoyment out of the challenge and go well beyond the proverbial low hanging fruit.

On the table that evening was Chicken Tikka Masala, with sweet potatos, cumin-scented popovers, sweet potato pie with a marshmallow meringue top, several hummus concoctions and a sherphard's pie with sweet potato for the crust.

Though sweet potato and cumin are not the greatest of strangers, I was determined to make something that accentuated them both. I started off with sweet potato corn muffins - a small twist on the traditional that added both color and a depth of flavor. I added a pinch of cumin to these too which gave them a slightly Indian hint.

Because Thanksgiving is my favorite meal of the year and it's just around the corner, I also decided to make a stuffing using sweet potatos and cumin as well as sausage. This was good, and definitely Thanksgiving-y, but it was even better when reincarnated in a sort of frittata/strata dish.

We brought the leftover stuffing home and mixed it with some egg and cheese the next morning and baked it into a nice, fluffy breakfast treat. I'm not sure what to call it because it's part frittata - an omelet that has potato in it, and part strata - a sort of savory bread pudding where bread is soaked in egg and then baked. So I'm going with Fristrata!


Alelia's Harvest Fristrata 

*this dish takes a bit of time to make, but the best this about it is that it can be made one or two days in advance and only gets better with time...

2 Tbsp olive oil
1 tsp dried sage (or 1 Tbsp fresh sage)
1 lb turkey sausage (uncased)
2 sweet potatoes, peeled and cubed
1 onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 Tbsp apple cider vinegar

3 cups italian bread, cubed
1 cup chicken broth

6 eggs
1/2 cup of milk
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
1/2 cup mozzarella, shredded (cheddar works too)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Boil water in a medium saucepan. Add the sweet potato and boil for about 5-7 minutes, until tender when poked with a knife, but not falling apart. Drain and set aside.

In a large stock pot or dutch oven heat the olive oil over med-high heat. Add the onions and saute until translucent (4 min). Add the sage and garlic and saute until fragrant (2 min).

Add the sausage and cook, breaking up large pieces with your spoon. Once the sausage is browned, add in the sweet potato, bread, and cider vinegar mix in well to coat the bread with the flavors. Pour in the chicken stock. Simmer for about 10 minutes until stock is thoroughly soaked up. Let cool about 20 minutes.

In a medium bowl, lightly beat the eggs and mix in the milk, salt and pepper. Pour over the stuffing mix and stir in well.

Pour the whole mixture into a greased baking dish. Cover with the cheese. Bake for about 30 minutes, or until the egg has puffed up around the stuffing.

Serve immediately with some salsa. Enjoy!