Happy Thanksgiving!

Thanksgiving is my second favorite holiday (right behind Christmas).  It’s a holiday to celebrate all of the things I like: New England (where I’m from!), cooking, eating, spending time with my family, and not spending lots of money (well, except for on flights home).  To make things even better, it’s also evolved into a day for 5k runs and football, two more things I like.

This year, we are spending Thanksgiving in Pennsylvania, with the Husband’s family.  The Husband comes from a much larger family than I do, and Thanksgiving is a huge, family-oriented affair – 20 plus people.  His aunt S puts almost the entire thing together.  It’s seriously incredible – I have absolutely NO idea how she does it.

I am bringing our go-to pumpkin pie, and the Husband, a large case of Yuengling (Obvi.  His family is from Pennsylvania, after all.)  But in honor of Aunt S and her incredible Thanksgiving prowess, I’m posting one of my absolute favorite dishes from her table.  Next week, back to our regularly scheduled (planning and) programming!

Aunt S’s Corn Casserole

  • 1 can corn, drained
  • 1 can creamed corn
  • 2 slightly beaten eggs
  • 1/2 cup butter, melted
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 1 package Jiffy corn muffin mix
  • 1 cup cheddar cheese, shredded
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
  2. In a large bowl, mix together all of the ingredients, except for the cheddar.
  3. Pour into an ungreased 9×13 pan.
  4. Bake for 15 minutes.  After that, pull the casserole out, spread the cheese on top and bake for an additional 20 minutes.
  5. Serve hot, warm, cold…it doesn’t matter.  It’s delicious.
corn casserole: creamy & cheesy
corn casserole: creamy & cheesy

The Verdict:

I think about this corn casserole all year.  It’s that good.  And while absolutely nothing about this dish is healthy, that’s what January resolutions are for, no?

PS: Would love to hear from others about favorite dishes you spend all year thinking about…

PPS: Any thoughts or comments on the new design welcome.  I am a bit late to the blogging world, and slowly figuring it all out.  This attempt to clean up the blog and make it feel a bit more personable is a first step!

thanksgiving

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Recreating Germany (on a Plate)

Last night, I returned from a work-related trip to the Motherland.  While my family and I have spent a fair amount of time in Germany, especially growing up and to visit with my grandparents, this was my first trip to Berlin.  So, after two and a half days of full-day meetings, I was ready to eat my touristy way through the city.

German fare is not for the faint (or cholesterol-sensitive) heart.  Germans love pretzels and croissants for breakfast and huge plates of (fried) pork schnitzel and french fries for dinner.  For lunch, they might dig into a huge plate of spaetzle (for the non-acquainted, a soft, egg-based noodle), and wash it down with a massive mug of beer. They have a well established “coffee break” around 4pm, consisting of a strong cup of coffee or a steaming mug of hot chocolate, accompanied by cakes and cookies.  (Side note: during one meeting, our German hosts apologized for the “cake and cookie situation.”  I thought maybe they were apologizing for adding to our expanding waistlines.  Turns out, they thought the variety of cookies and cakes that had been served was sub-par.  I guess eight different types wasn’t enough?!) In between spaetzle and schnitzel, a Berliner might dig into a “currywurst” – a deep fried sausage topped with a mixture of ketchup and curry powder.  If you feel the need for some veggies, your plate may come with a side of cabbage.  Or maybe a couple of cucumbers with some mayonnaise.**

Obviously, after I got home from the airport last night, I just had to re-create some of this for the Husband.

Slow Cooked Pork with Spaetzle and Braised Red Cabbage

  • Our go-to slow cooker pork recipe and ingredients, minus the mozzarella and arugula
  • Spaetzle (or any egg noodle)
  • For the Cabbage:
    • 1 small head red cabbage, quartered and thinly sliced
    • 2 tablespoons butter
    • 1/2 onion, chopped
    • 1 green apple, peeled and cut into thin slices
    • 3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
    • 1-2 tablespoons honey
    • 1 teaspoons salt
    • optional: a dash of caraway seeds
  1. In the morning, get the pork cooking.  Refer back to our go-to recipe, and only go through step two (putting all the ingredients in the crock pot and setting it on low for 8-9 hours).
  2. About an hour and a half before dinner time, get your cabbage going.  Immerse the cabbage (cored and sliced) in a bowl of cold water.
  3. Heat the butter in a large dutch oven over low heat.  Add onions and cook until golden.
  4. Drain the cabbage slices and then add to the pot, along with the sliced apple, the red wine vinegar, honey, salt and (if  you like) caraway seeds.
  5. Cover the pot and cook over medium-low heat for about 60-90 minutes, or until the cabbage is soft.  Do not cook for too long – it will either turn to mush or turn bitter.
  6. About 15 minutes or so before serving, get water boiling for your spaetzle or egg noodles.
  7. Serve the spaetzle topped with pork and a side of cabbage.  Guten Appetit!
das schmeckt gut!
das schmeckt gut!

The Verdict:

Our pork (really, the Husband’s) is a go-to and there’s a reason why: it’s delicious.  Having spaetzle (especially fresh, which I carried on the plane back with me!) was a special treat, and took me right into my mom’s and grandmother’s kitchen.  This was true comfort cooking.  I’ve never made cabbage before, and to be honest, this recipe was maybe a touch sweet.  That being said, it provided the perfect tang and balance to the rest of our German meal!  The big bonus here: plenty of leftovers, which will serve us well this (short) Thanksgiving week.

** My description of standard German fare isn’t entirely fair, to be honest.  Germany – and especially Berlin – seems to be embracing the local and organic food scene a la Brooklyn 2009, with “healthy” cafes popping up everywhere.  I also saw a slew of vegetarian and even vegan restaurants, as well as restaurants from every culinary tradition one could imagine.  After all, Berlin is, at heart, an incredibly dynamic city with a very young and hip feel, even as it continues to sit at the heart of an incredible amount of history.**

Side Dishing: Ina’s Cauliflower Au Gratin

Who doesn’t love cauliflower?  More importantly, who doesn’t love cauliflower drenched in cheese, bechamel, and bread crumbs…Ina Garten style!?  No one? That’s what I thought.

I bought a head of cauliflower on a whim this past weekend because it was on sale.  I had some healthful thoughts of roasting it with a bit of olive oil and garlic and serving with our butternut squash soup.  Then we ran into our friend in the bookstore, and I knew I needed a new plan.  If the soup had been a bust, we needed something to tide over hungry stomachs.  Enter Ina Garten and her blueprints for making all vegetables even tastier fare.

This recipe is more of a weekend affair, as it takes a while, mostly because of the bechamel (lots of stirring needed for this one).  It’s a good one for company, though, as you can assemble the dish in advance and then just pop it in the oven.  If you have leftovers, reheat them in the oven (or a toaster oven!)…microwaves tend to take out the delicious crunch.

Cauliflower Au Gratin

  • 1 head cauliflower, cut into large florets
  • salt
  • 1/2 stick butter
  • 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups hot milk (you can warm in the microwave)
  • black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1 cup shredded or grated Gruyere cheese
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese, plus a handful for topping
  • 1/2 cup breadcrumbs
  1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
  2. Bring a large pot of salted water to boil; cook the cauliflower about 8 minutes – until tender, but still firm.  Drain.
  3. Meanwhile, melt 1/2 the butter in a saucepan over low heat.  Add the flour, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon.  Pour the hot milk into the pan and stir until it comes to a boil (it will take a while!).  As soon as it boils, whisk constantly for about a minute, until the sauce starts to thicken.
  4. Off heat, add about a teaspoon of salt, pepper to taste, the nutmeg, half of the Gruyere and all of the Parmesan, minus a handful, to the bechamel.  Mix through.
  5. Pour one third of the sauce on the bottom of a baking dish (I used a 9×9 square).  Place the cauliflower on top and spread the rest of the sauce evenly.  Combine the breadcrumbs, the rest of the Gruyere, and a handful of Parmesan and then sprinkle on top.
  6. (This is when it gets really decadent).  Melt the rest of the butter and then drizzle over the gratin.  Sprinkle with salt and pepper and bake for about 30 minutes, until the top starts to brown.  Serve immediately.
eat your vegetables.
eat your vegetables

The Verdict:

Do you see the amount of cheesy goodness in here?  Enough said!

Barefoot with Ina: Prosciutto Roasted Bass with Autumn Vegetables

This weekend has been a busy one in the kitchen.  Part of that it is due to our effort to save “mo’ money” in November, and part of that is the pure joy of having a kitchen and the ability to cook again.  Sometimes, there comes a point  – usually when you’re traveling – when you just cannot order one more meal out.  (Did I really just write that?)

While, as I’m sure you’ve noticed, weeknight meals tend to be quick or one-pot affairs, the weekend allows me a bit more time.  Enter our girl Ina.  As my sister talked about a couple weeks ago, there is a serious love for Ina in our households, that began with my mom and trickled down to both of us.  With a little more time on my hands to cook, I chose this particular recipe as part of my ongoing bid to get the Husband to enjoy fish (um, it has prosciutto!).  Because if Ina can’t get the husband to tolerate it, who can?

Prosciutto Roasted Bass with Autumn Vegetables, adapted for 2

  • 2-3 cups peeled & diced butternut squash (tip: the pre-diced at Trader Joe’s will save you loads of time)
  • 3 parsnips, peeled and diced
  • 3 carrots, peeled and diced
  • optional: 1 potato, peeled and diced (unless they’re fried or mashed, I am generally not interested in potatoes, so I skipped this part)
  • olive oil
  • salt and pepper
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 8 oz. fish skinless white fish fillet (recipe calls for bass, I used snapper, which was on sale…and forgot to ask for skinless)
  • 2-4 slices prosciutto
  • 1/2 stick butter
  • 2 sprigs fresh rosemary
  • juice of 1 lemon, plus wedges for serving
  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.  On a jelly roll pan, toss the diced vegetables (except for the garlic) together and drizzle with olive oil, salt and pepper.  Ensure everything is nice and coated; spread out in a single layer and roast for 30 minutes.
  2. While vegetables roast, line another sheet put with aluminum foil and place a baking rack on top of the foil (I don’t have one of these, so I skipped this step.)  Brush the fish fillets with olive oil and season with salt and pepper.  Wrap the fish in prosciutto, all the way around.  Roast in the oven for 10-15 minutes.
  3. Back to our roasting vegetables.  After the 30 minutes or so, toss the garlic in with the rest of the vegetables, stir them around a bit, and roast for about 10 minutes more.
  4. While the vegetables and fish finish up, melt the butter over medium heat  in a saute pan and add the rosemary sprigs.  Cook over low heat until the rosemary is crisp and the butter browns a bit.  Stir in some lemon juice and set aside.
  5. Depending on your oven, and whether you used skinless fillets or not, your fish will be done at about the 12 minute mark.  Plate it with roasted vegetables and spoon the rosemary butter over the fish.  Garnish with lemon wedges and serve immediately.
crispy prosciutto, melted butter, delicious veggies...yum.
crispy prosciutto, melted butter, delicious veggies…yum.

The Verdict:

The recipe clearly calls for skinless fillets, which I neglected to buy.  I also have a strong suspicion the baking rack roasting method is designed to keep an even flow of heat around the fish, so that it cooks quickly without being overdone.  That being said, the fish still turned out beautifully, if potentially slightly overdone. The prosciutto was crispy and added both a texture and a saltiness to the sweet, roasted vegetables.  The best compliment was the Husband’s empty plate, and his pronouncement that he’d “definitely” eat this again.

Also – I’m going on record now: parsnips are to 2015 the way kale was to 2014.  I’m going to start a parsnip watch.  Join me?

Side Dishing (and Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Thai Garlic Sauce)

This may just be the newlywed talking in me, but getting married was pretty much the best thing ever.  Every time I think I’ve decided on the BEST part (like getting to spend my life with the Husband, for example), I remember another reason for which to be grateful.  Like the incredible outpouring of love from the amazing circle of women in my life – my mom, sister, mom-in-law, sister-in-law, longtime family friends that feel more like family, and the new group of family friends into which I already feel adopted.

At my bridal shower, I was presented with a book of (handwritten) recipes from all of these incredible women – from one of my mom’s best friend’s homemade chicken soup to my dad’s secret salad dressing to Mimi’s (that’s the Husband’s grandmother, and now mine, too) recipe for her own husband’s heart (as she also carefully notes – “date night? you have to be kidding!”)  The following recipe is from my sister (more details on her coming soon…).  We served them alongside a (store-bought) chicken pot pie (cleaning out that fridge in anticipation of another BEST part, our honeymoon!).

Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Thai Garlic Sauce

  • 1 lb brussels sprouts, outer leaves peeled, chopped in half
  • 8-10 cloves garlic (whole, though I actually minced them up – can’t resist the garlic press!)
  • olive oil
  • For the sauce:
    • 1/4 cup fish sauce
    • 1/4 cup water
    • 1/4 cup sugar
    • 3 tbsp finely chopped fresh mint
    • 3 tbsp finely chopped fresh cilantro
    • 1 garlic clove, minced
    • 1 red Thai chili, thinly sliced, with seeds (didn’t have on hand, and used 1 big spoonful Sambal Oelek (Thai chili paste) instead!)
  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees
  2. Toss the halved brussels sprouts in a bowl with the garlic and enough olive oil to lightly coat all the pieces.  Mix it through and then spread out on a jelly roll pan.
  3. Bake until the outer leaves are crispy, about 25-35 minutes.  If the sprouts are small or you minced the garlic, like I did, make sure to check in on these bad boys on the early side – roasted garlic is delish, burnt garlic, not so much.
  4. While the sprouts are roasting, make the dressing by combining all of the ingredients and whisking through until the sugar dissolves.  Taste before serving – I added some fresh ground black pepper to balance out some of the saltiness.
  5. Toss the brussels sprouts with as much dressing as you like and serve immediately.
salty, garlic-y vegetables - my favorite!
salty, garlic-y vegetables – my favorite!

The Verdict:

These are delicious, though I’ll admit to tossing them with too much dressing, which made them a little “pungent” in the Husband’s words (to be fair, he’s also not a huge fan of fish sauce).  Once tossed with the dressing, these don’t reheat all that well (heated up the next day, these were a little mushy), so drizzle accordingly.  The combination of a little heat, salt, garlic and cilantro, though? Right up my alley.