Category: thanksgiving

A pie for the ages: bourbon sweet potato pumpkin pie!

I’m publishing this pie today, because I wanted to give you time to make it for Thanksgiving. I purposely didn’t post it too early, and I specifically waited until this date. I wanted to give you enough time to really absorb what you’re seeing. Then get up, go out to the store & get the ingredients you need to make this, then come home & plan to do so on/by Thursday. I felt it had to be done this way. So I’m giving you a few days, and I expect you all to make it. You must. Seriously.

It’s THAT good.

Don’t believe me?

Bourbon sweet potato pumpkin pie, anyone?

It’s the pie to end all pies.

It’s a pie for the ages!

Bourbon. Sweet potato. Pumpkin. With toasted meringue. Toasted bourbon meringue, that is.

Sweet potato pumpkin pie with bourbon! And more bourbon in the meringue.

Say word.

A motherflippin’ bourbon sweet potato pumpkin pie with toasted bourbon meringue! 

When I told Jay of my plans to make it, his jaw dropped open. And he doesn’t even really like pumpkin anything! I knew I was on to something. Although, in hindsight, it might have just been the mention of bourbon. Either way, I combined a few different recipes for a few different pies & came up with this: the holy grail of autumn piedom.

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A turkey-themed Friday Fifteen.

Whoa, you guys. All of a sudden both Halloween & Dia de Los Muertos are over and its time to get ready for… Thanksgiving? (Or Christmas, if you believe the stores. Put the stockings away, people. It’s NOT time for that yet! It’s time for TURKEY!)

WOW. Where did the time go? Tomatoes & peaches turned into gourds & pumpkins before I had time to even realize it. And now Halloween is over!

Doesn't everyone match their pumpkins to their walls?

It’s still time for pumpkins though; no matter what the retail establishments say. I don’t know, call me crazy, but I kinda like having Thanksgiving be Thanksgiving. No Christmas lights yet, no trees. Just a lot of food! And I also kinda like the coordinated pumpkin thing going on in that picture there. First time I’ve ever bought a pumpkin that matched my walls… but it works! I likey. Oh, and pardon my 20-year-old busted up Converse there. It is a hallway/foyer/entryway, after all. I already showed you the front door/chalkboard last month.

Okay so, suffice it to say this Friday Fifteen isn’t really all about turkey, per se. But it is about Turkey Day, or Thanksgiving. Close enough. Enjoy!

 

A turkey-themed Friday Fifteen!

  1. This story isn’t really funny… but yet it kinda is in a twisted way. More so it’s one of those “I can’t believe it” kind of stories, and since it involved a turkey I felt the need to share it. A few months back, a wild turkey crashed into a woman’s house in New Jersey, causing over $7,000 in damages. You can read about it on CNN. I bet that family needed a couple of bottles of Wild Turkey after hearing that their insurance wasn’t paying to fix anything.
  2. Cranberries are a must this time of year. And cranberry sauce is a staple for Thanksgiving. I’ve got three different varieties on the blog: amaretto cranberry sauce, Chinese apple-sauce (pomegranate sauce with whole cranberries) and New England cranberry compote with walnuts & orange peel. All of which are stellar accompaniments for ANY turkey day meal- be it vegetarian, vegan or otherwise.
  3. If you prefer your cranberries in baked goods, how about a lemon-cranberry shortbread crumble? Cranberry-orange scones? Or cranberry orange pound cake with orange butter rum sauce? Or… crustless cranberry pie?
  4. And if you prefer your cranberries in something sweeter to spread on toast… then what about these apple-cranberry preserves with a smidgen of ginger?
  5. Okay… so you aren’t a cranberry person. That’s cool. How about pumpkin bread? Do you like that? Ugh, you’re so difficult to please.
  6. Well if none of that does anything for you… maybe cornbread? How about this Boston Market cornbread rip-off recipe from A Pretty Cool Life?
  7. Move over Paul Simon. Here’s twenty-five ways to cook a turkey, via Saveur.
  8. And (maybe more importantly) 10 tips to avoid Thanksgiving stress.
  9. Being that I painted my living room a dark gray & my great-grandfathers nickname was “The Duke”, I am obsessed with this Duke armchair from Joss & Main.
  10. Speaking of paint: I’ve been painting A LOT lately. 3 large rooms, a ceiling and a hallway as of this minute. And the best paint I ever used in my entire life is Martha Stewart’s paint (from Glidden at Home Depot). Paint + primer, excellent colors, amazing coverage. If you’re thinking about painting, try it. You will not be sorry!
  11. It’s most definitely still pie season. And if you’re not a baker, or you’ve never made a pie before, you might be a bit unsure about tackling that pumpkin pie. So you might want to take a peek at this link… 15 best tips for making pies. Read it, keep it in mind, and come back in here in a week or so to check out the MIND-BLOWING pie I have planned for you!
  12. The holidays can be a rough time for a lot of people. Reach out to elderly neighbors or neighbors who live alone. Or, who just lost someone that was crucial to their happiness in this season of love & family. You never know who has no one, and who’ll appreciate a jar of preserves, a freshly baked pie, an invitation to Thanksgiving dinner or even just a simple “how are you?”
  13. If you want something new & different to serve at Thanksgiving dinner this year, how about pumpkin applesauce? The recipe is right here.
  14. Roast pumpkin with honey, feta, balsamic & sesame seeds from Not Quite Nigella. That should probably be on your Thanksgiving menu. Or if not Thanksgiving, then sometime soon.
  15. My name is Marilla, & I’m a mug-o-holic. It can be bad. I have a literal box full in the closet of older mugs that are “out of rotation” since I’ve acquired newer ones. I don’t discriminate- I love ALL mugs. Big, small, tall, short. Souvenir mugs, etc. Recently, I had a discussion on Facebook & came to a conclusion: I am not alone in my mug obsession. Inspired, and perhaps a bit prompted by Joel (& Dana!) of Well Preserved & this post, I decided to show off my favorite:

Anthropologie M mug.

This is probably my absolute favorite of all my mugs. It’s THE mug. MY mug. My main mug. Chances are, if I’m drinking hot cocoa or tea or coffee I’m doing it out of this mug. It’s MASSIVE- I can use the 12 ounce option on my Keurig & still have plenty of room for milk. Its from Anthropologie. I got it about 7 years ago; they still have the monogram mugs, but they’re a bit smaller & the letters are a tad different. I adore this mug so much that it’s even got a chip in the bottom from being used & carried everywhere- even outside to do gardening. Ginnifer Goodwin’s character Mary Margaret/Snow White on Once Upon a Time has the same mug. Same letter, too.

What’s YOUR favorite mug?

Gettin’ pumpkin apple sauce-y.

Happy October! My favorite month. It’s finally cool enough to bake more. It’s time for super fresh apples & tons of pumpkins. And all the best spices are fall-appropriate: cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, cardamom, etc. And let’s not forget that it’s the month of my favorite holiday- Halloween!

it's October!(Ironically, the dates are the same this year! Except Columbus Day)

 

So we’re going to celebrate my favorite month/upcoming holiday & get sauced! Or not. Or actually… yeah we are, but not in the way you think. A different kinda sauced.

Like I said, it’s both apple season & pumpkin season. Everyone is going apple picking, pumpkin picking, & shoving apple cider donuts & pumpkin lattes in their pie hole. You can’t go anywhere without tripping over pumpkins for sale & bushels of apples. So of course I had this big old batch of bright, shiny, fresh apples, right? Apples don’t last forever. So they had to be used up, right? And naturally I’ve already stocked up on organic canned pumpkin. Well…

*siiiiiiiiigh*

I made applesauce. I know what you’re thinking:

 “Three posts in a row about apples!? BO-RING!”

But wait.

Yes, I made applesauce. But… it’s not what you think. I had to add pumpkin.

I know. SAY WHAT?  APPLESAUCE WITH PUMPKIN?!

Uh huh. Yup.

I'm ready for applesauce. And you know what? Let's add a little pumpkin, shall we?

Gorgeous apples & organic canned pumpkin… together. With cinnamon streusel muffins to go with it.

Blame it on the Food Network magazine.

Blame it on the rain. I don’t know. Blame it on the fact that I can’t keep myself out of the kitchen once the fall comes!

Pumpkin applesauce! Because why make the same ol boring applesauce?

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Fulfilling our purpose.

Courtesy: I Am Photograph

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Anyone who knows me knows this: I love anything & everything vintage. As a matter of fact, that photograph above? I wish I had a hard copy of it!* That’s a fantastic photo.

*(I might have to print one out.)

I have a lot of vintage stuff, from postcards, decorations and china to knick-knacks and figurines. If I was to list all my vintage or antique items, you wouldn’t believe me. You’d think I was full of crap… that’s how much of it I have. I have vintage Lefton figures, vintage Japanese statues from the 1940′s stamped “Made in Occupied Japan,” I have vintage 1930′s dishes, 1960′s & 1970′s cookware, etc. I have a 1930′s metal cake carrier. I have a 1960′s Sunbeam mixmaster. I have a vintage crystal wine decanter that belonged to my great-grandmother. I have things that belonged to both of my great-grandmothers, actually, including my great-grandma Midge’s crocheted doilies & my great-grandma Mary’s Halloween decorations. I have my great-grandfather Duke’s German-made Christmas ornaments from the turn of the century. I have my grandparents’ Christmas decorations from the 1940′s/1950′s. To some, it might just be old junk. But not in my eyes. These things are all very important to me.

I also have something vintage that I’ve never photographed, or talked about, or even used before: My grandmother’s turkey platter. I had never seen it growing up, it was hidden away with her good silver in the buffet in her dining room. But two years before she passed away, I was helping her look for something & I found it. I gushed over how beautiful it was, genuinely, telling her I had just seen one in Williams-Sonoma that wasn’t as pretty… and she said, “Oh yes. You can use it if you like.” But I never did. I put it back.

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I thought about using it, but I just didn’t. I don’t know why. Maybe I was afraid I’ll drop it & break it, like I did with my grandmother’s big vintage jadeite mixing bowl (which goes for around $100 now, shoot me). But it deserves to be used, not packed away. It only has a short window of time in which it’s useful. It should be showed off.

So that’s why this year- I’m going to.

And it got me thinking… if this plate hasn’t fulfilled it’s purpose in so long, what else hasn’t? Are we all fulfilling our purpose here, every day, whatever it may be? What is your purpose? Is my purpose in life to make people happy with baked goods & my little blog? If so, that’s a pretty sweet deal. Look- I’m not religious. I don’t believe in a God (or Gods). I’m actually a total bitch when it comes to most people & most situations… and I admit it. But I believe that ultimately, we’re here to help one another. I really do believe that we have a duty to our fellow living creatures to be kind & to help them, in any way we can. Big or small. Because what’s the point otherwise? If you see a neighbor in trouble, help them out. If you’re in trouble, ask for help. If this hurricane last month proved anything to me, it’s that some people are totally useless… but most people are really amazing. And deep down inside we all CAN be. It doesn’t take much to help someone in need. To donate a few bucks, or an old blanket or old clothes. Or that coat your kid won’t wear because it’s out of style. And today should be a day where we really think about that. Not just about what we’re thankful for, but are we being the best we can be in life? Are we really living? Life is too short as it is. No matter how old you are when you die, you’re too young. There’s never enough time for what we want to do. So are we taking advantage of every day?

Use your good china to serve take-out Chinese. Use the good crystal on a Monday night. Do that thing you’ve always wanted to do, don’t put it off. Buy the new TV- you can’t take your money with you when you go, and you might as well enjoy it while you’re here. Better yet, if you don’t want to blow the money on a TV… why not donate a few bucks to a charity of your choice. If you’re able to read this, then there are people that are far worse off than you who could really use a little help. Maybe your five bucks could do more good for someone else than it would buying your latte. Be kind to people. Everyone is going through something, and you might give the only kind words they hear all day. We all have bad days, and we all get cranky. Sometimes it’s downright bitchy. And we all make snap judgments to varying degrees. But catch yourself when you’re doing it, and give someone the benefit of the doubt. Lend someone a dollar if they need it. The whole “you only live once” thing is getting old now, I know, but it’s so true.

Bake someone a cupcake. Or better yet, screw your diet: eat a cupcake. I mean, if you can’t enjoy yourself & indulge on holidays, then when can you?

 

Maple + pumpkin + bourbon = happiness!

Yeah, you read that right. Motherjumpin’ MAPLE PUMPKIN. And do you know what the maple & pumpkin have done with themselves in this particular instance? They’ve put themselves into little maple pumpkin pastries, or pasties. And yes- it looks as good as it sounds. And it’s all really easy!

See, it all started like this: I had a load of pumpkin in my freezer that I had to use up before Christmas kicks in & everything becomes peppermint-y and not so much pumpkin-y. But I was stumped. Cupcakes, been there done that. Bread? That, too. However, randomly, while looking for something else, I found something that gave me an idea: orange ramekins. I know, you’re thinking, “What do ramekins have to do with anything?” Well, see, I had forgotten all about them. I bought them last year and never used them. I shoved them in a cabinet and forgot all about ‘em. But when I saw them this year I immediately thought of pumpkins… and I was originally going to come up with a pumpkin spice pudding, or a pumpkin-y bread pudding. But then… to add to my excitement over having ideas again… I saw this.

How the hell was I supposed to ignore a recipe that has both pumpkin and maple in the title?

However, while custard tastes delicious, it doesn’t look all that delicious, especially pumpkin custard. Pumpkin custard resembles something wonky that babies do when sick. It tastes amazing, but does not photograph well; unless of course, you’re working for Bon Appétit & have professional lighting & backdrops & such at your disposal. I do not. I live in a house, not a photography studio. My life is not ruled by food photography. I do not have professional lights & reflectors set up just so my custard photographs well. So I made the custard, and it was eaten up super quickly, but the photos left a lot to be desired. And that’s when I decided to hell with it. I’m going back to an old standby- mini pies.

Or pasties.

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Are they an “old standby” at this point? I don’t know, but somewhere between my Nutella pop-tarts and my mini-apple pies, I came to love the portable pie. And it became a fall-back for me when regular pies hate me, or, apparently, when custard doesn’t look appetizing. I had all this pumpkin left & I didn’t want to do a pumpkin pie, ’cause that’s boring. So I made little pies. This time, though, they look more like pastries, or pasties, more so than miniature pies… so I’ll just dub them maple pumpkin pasties (Harry Potter, anyone?). You can call them mini pies, or pumpkin pop-tarts, or pumpkin littles, or whatever cutesy name you like. They’re pie crust, cut into circles, filled with a maple pumpkin filling, folded over, brushed with egg… and then baked. When done, they’re a hand-held heavenly little cluster of amazeballsness. Or a pasty.

And before you go off thinking I’m talking about those little items strippers use, get your minds out of the gutter:

A pasty (play /ˈpæsti/, Cornish: Hogen; Pasti), (sometimes known as a pastie or British pasty in the United States)[1] is a baked pastry associated in particular with Cornwall in Great Britain. It is made by placing uncooked filling on a flat pastry circle and folding it to wrap the filling, crimping the edge to form a seal. After baking, the result is a raised semicircular end-product.

The traditional Cornish pasty, which has Protected Geographical Indication (PGI) status in Europe,[2] is filled with beef, sliced or diced potato, swede (also known as a yellow turnip or rutabaga – referred to in Cornwall as turnip) and onion, seasoned with salt and pepper, and is baked. Today, the pasty is the food most associated with Cornwall, it is regarded as the national dish, and it accounts for 6% of the Cornish food economy. Pasties with many different fillings are made; some shops specialise in selling all sorts of pasties.

The origins of the pasty are unclear, though there are many references to them throughout historical documents and fiction. The pasty is now popular world-wide due to the spread of Cornish miners, and variations can be found in Australia, the United States, Mexico and elsewhere.

-Wikipedia

So a pasty is just like a hand-held pie. Cute, easy, convenient,  and so much better than a regular ol’ pumpkin pie, especially with the addition of maple. But you might be wondering where the bourbon comes in. That part is the perfect example of how I can’t leave well enough alone. I thought some bourbon whipped cream (thanks for the excellent idea, Tanglewood Baked Goods) would be amazing with this. And I was right. As usual (kidding). But seriously, the bourbon whipped cream really gives it something. It elevates it, makes it more grown-up.

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 MAPLE PUMPKIN PASTIES (adapted extremely generously from a recipe by Joy the Baker & from these)

Ingredients:

  • 1 double pie crust recipe of your choice; made, chilled, rolled out to 1/4″ thickness & ready to cut
  • 3/4 cup pureed pumpkin
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 3 tablespoons pure maple syrup
  • 1 tablespoon flour
  • cinnamon sugar (just mix together 2 parts sugar to 1 part cinnamon in a little bowl), optional (I didn’t do it)

Directions:

  1. Preheat your oven to 350° F.
  2. Prepare the filling: whisk together in a small saucepan the pumpkin puree, maple syrup and spices, then, on medium-low heat, heat the mixture just until it’s fragrant. Remove from the heat. Add the egg & flour, whisking quickly. Set aside in the fridge to cool.
  3. Cut your pie crust into whatever shapes you want. I used fairly large circles that I then folded over in half to create half moons/crescents. You can also do rectangles, or do squares and fold them over in half to make little triangles, or make smaller circles and use two to mimic a teeny pie (like thus). Do as thou wilt, just know the bigger the shape, the less pasties you’ll get.
  4. Make sure you poke holes or slice little cuts in the top half of the dough; meaning whether it’s folded over or it’s a separate piece of dough, it has to have airholes to release moisture, gases & heat. You don’t want these little ones bursting open in your oven after all your hard work. Assemble your pasties by spooning the filling in, sealing them, and creating a crust with a floured fork. DON’T OVER-FILL THEM! They most definitely will burst open if you do. I definitely got a little over-zealous & had a few messes to clean up.
  5.  Place them on the baking sheet, leaving some space in between. Let them breathe! If this takes you a while and you notice that the dough is getting super soft, chill the pasties you already have made until it’s time to bake them. It’ll help them keep their shape.
  6. Brush the pasties with either a whole egg beaten, or just egg white, to create a nice brown crust. sprinkle with some cinnamon sugar, if desired. Bake for 30 minutes, or until golden brown.
  7. Remove from the oven and let sit for 10 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely. Serve with bourbon whipped cream.

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 I know, they’re so messy. I don’t even know why none of my mini-pies ever come out even. I just can’t do anything 100% perfect, it always looks a little off and uneven. As a matter of fact, I gave up measuring my dough with rulers & shit, because it just never works out! But whatever they look like, I don’t care, they taste good. Isn’t that what’s important, anyway? It isn’t important how perfect they look, or how beautifully they’re shaped. What matters is if they’re edible, delicious, and if people love eating them.

And that, my friends, is exactly the case with these.

You can use any size cookie cutter you want, or you can make a larger calzone-sized pasty by using a cereal bowl as your shape. It all depends on what you plan on doing with them or how you want to serve ‘em.

BOURBON WHIPPED CREAM

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup heavy whipping cream, cold
  • 1 tablespoon powdered sugar
  • 1-2 teaspoons good quality bourbon

Directions:

  1. In the bowl of a stand mixer, whip the three ingredients together with the whisk attachment until they’re thickened. Check the taste, add more sugar or bourbon as needed, by the 1/4 teaspoon.
  2. Continue beating until the whipped cream is the proper thickness, but don’t whip too much… you’ll get bourbon butter!

You can also save the whipped cream overnight, but you’ll definitely have to re-whip it before you eat it again. It kind of re-softens and loses it’s whipped character the longer it sits. Remember- this is fresh whipped cream, not store-bought. There are no preservatives! It has to be re-whipped after it sits for any lengthy period of time. Also, just as an FYI- this would work with any liquor of the following: brandy, bourbon, whiskey, and vodka. Which wouldn’t really give it much of a flavor, unless you used flavored vodka. Which might be interesting.

Major thanks to both my orange ramekins & that maple pumpkin custard recipe (which really is delicious, and I highly recommend it) for inspiring me to create these. Maple & pumpkin, & bourbon. Nom nom. Although… I do think it might be time for me to make a full-size pie again. Soon.

And I hope you have a happy Thanksgiving! I can’t believe it’s only 3 days away. Time is flying…

Historical berries.

American Cranberry, Thomas Meehan, 1870′s

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The cranberry has been an American institution since the 1500′s, when it was first written that the Native Americans used them for dying clothes, making pemmican, and wound care. So we know they’ve been around a long time. But in case you think it’s a modern concept, “cranberry juice” was actually first mentioned in Englishwoman Hannah Woolley’s “The Compleat Cook’s Guide” in 1683. I assume the cranberry became popular in England after the 1660′s when settlers sent King Charles II barrels full of them.

Beyond that, if I can bore you with a little history to further prove the cranberry’s decidedly American roots: A Pilgrim cookbook dated 1663 has a recipe for cranberry sauce! Cranberries were also served at the 1703 Harvard Commencement dinner, and were famous among the likes of James Madison and Thomas Jefferson around 80 years later. A Scottish botanist named William Aiton included an entry for the cranberry in volume II of his 1789 work, Hortus Kewensis. He noted that the Vaccinium macrocarpon (American cranberry) was cultivated by James Gordon in 1760. In 1796, cranberries were served at the first celebration of the landing of the Pilgrims, and Amelia Simmons wrote in her book entitled “American Cookery” (which I have a copy of!) a recipe for cranberry tarts. In 1816, Henry Hall first commercially grew cranberries in East Dennis, Massachusetts on Cape Cod and in 1843, Eli Howes planted his own crop of cranberries on Cape Cod, using the “Howes” variety. In 1847, Cyrus Cahoon planted a crop of “Early Black” variety near Pleasant Lake, Harwich, Massachusetts. In 1860, Edward Watson, a friend of Henry David Thoreau wrote a poem called “The Cranberry Tart.” Cranberries are a major commercial crop in the U.S. states of Massachusetts, New Jersey, Oregon, Washington, and Wisconsin, which is the leading producer of cranberries, with over half of U.S. production. Massachusetts is the second largest U.S. producer. Naturally, it makes sense that cranberries are so closely aligned with America & American history. However, surprisingly, 95% of the cranberries harvested are used in juice, drinks, sauces and dried. Only the remaining 5% are sold fresh. That really makes you think, doesn’t it? Next time you buy fresh cranberries, I guarantee you’ll think of that statistic.

(Honestly- I do! Every freakin’ time I see fresh cranberries I think, “5% of ALL the cranberries harvested…”)

Anyway, like I said when I made the cranberry orange loaf, this time of year is cranberry season. While October is pumpkin time (for me anyway), November to December is cranberry time. Between now & Christmas, cranberries are all over the place. Every Thanksgiving & Christmas day meal include cranberry sauce of some kind. And since cranberries are one of the main things that just scream “America” & “Thanksgiving,” what would Thanksgiving be without cranberry sauce? Nothing, that’s what.

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It’s no surprise then, that the November issue of Better Homes & Gardens features a recipe for a very interesting cranberry orange compote by the creators of Stonewall Kitchen. The compote specifically intrigued me because it had orange rind, candied ginger, maple syrup & “your choice of nuts”; i.e. pecans, walnuts, etc. It sounded unique, so as soon as I got my power back & restocked my fridge & freezer, I thought I’d give it a go and see if it was worth making for turkey day.

Consensus: it is.

Labels & tags are from Sur la Table

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NEW ENGLAND CRANBERRY ORANGE COMPOTE (by Jonathan King & Jim Stott of Stonewall Kitchen, from Nov. 2012 issue of BHG)

Makes about 4 cups

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/4 cups sugar
  • 1/3 cup maple syrup
  • 1 cup fresh cranberries
  • 1/4 cup fresh orange juice
  • 1/4 cup orange rind, cut into thin strips
  • 1 tablespoon freshly grated orange zest
  • 2 tablespoons coarsely chopped candied ginger
  • 1 cup walnuts, pecans, or your favorite nut, coarsely chopped

Directions:

  1. Place sugar and 1 1/4 cups water in large saucepan; bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and cook about 15 minutes, or until it thickens and turns amber-colored.
  2. Add the maple syrup and cranberries to the sugar mixture. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the cranberries begin to pop. Add orange juice, rind and zest (keeping a few thin strips of rind to the side). Cook for another 5 to 10 minutes, or until the sauce thickens.
  3. Remove from heat. Add ginger and nuts, stirring well. Cool completely. Add to a clean glass jar and cover; refrigerate up to a week, or freeze 6 months.

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Cranberry sauce is one of those brainless things that anyone can make, even if you aren’t a good cook. It takes 5 minutes and basically makes itself. You can make this and bring it to wherever you go for Thanksgiving very easily. I made one large jar, and one 8-ounce jar to give to someone I knew would enjoy it. This recipe is NOT canning-safe. I only put some of it in a canning jar for transport; yes, it sealed (because the compote was hot when I put the lid on), but the recipe itself is not acidic enough for long-term shelf-stable canning. Of course transporting it in one of these hinged jars would’ve been fine too, but they’re much larger than the amount I had left to give, so it would have looked a little skimpy. Plus I didn’t want the possibility of any cranberry leakage in anyone’s vehicle.

But seriously. This is a crazy easy recipe. Definitely a new favorite around here, and maybe a new favorite at your house too?

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Also, please remember, this Thanksgiving in addition to the many poor and/or homeless families already in the area, the hurricane in October left thousands more homeless & without food & clothes. If you can find it in your heart to donate something, there are many places accepting donations. I can give you the address of a church on Staten Island that is accepting donations of everything from non-perishable food to blankets & coats to pet food. You can send it by mail or drop it off if you’re in the area. Alternately, you can just donate to the Red Cross, either text REDCROSS to 90999 to give $10.00 via your phone bill, or donate online at redcross.org. You can also send a monetary donation to the New York Police Disaster Relief Fund: 233 Broadway, Suite 1801, NY, 10279. There are also other places you can donate money, supplies and/or clothing/food: Island Harvest, City Harvest, Occupy Sandy, The Bowery Mission, & Faith Community Church. It’s very cold here in New York/New Jersey, & people are hungry. Show your thanks for everything you have by giving to those who don’t have.

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The Friday Fifteen: pre-Thanksgiving edition.

Well, folks, before I start I want to say thank you to everyone who reached out to me during the hurricane. I appreciate you all. If anyone is interested, I wrote a piece for textdrivebys.com about it. And yet, as horrible as Mother Nature can be, she can also be so beautiful.

 

I know it seems like Halloween is only over for five minutes. If you’re anything like me you’re still digging into the tons of leftover candy you have. But it’s been over a week now, and I’m sure you’re already thinking about turkey day. Don’t lie. Visions of turkey sandwiches, cranberry sauce & sweet potatoes are bouncing around in your heads. Most of you probably already have seating charts & place settings done… mentally, that is. And yes, I know… it’s a holiday based on a lie, and it romanticizes the exploitation of the American Indians. I’m aware of that. And I don’t in any way glorify the pilgrims or the settlers & what they did, nor do I believe the first Thanksgiving was really the way it’s portrayed in schools & movies.

But I like turkey. I love my family, and I’m thankful for them & all the things I have in life (especially after some of my fellow New Yorkers have NOTHING right now). And, also? I like eating. A lot. And this holiday involves all of that. And if you refuse to celebrate the holiday because of the horrific truthful nature of what happened? Well. Okay. That’s your prerogative, and I understand. If that’s the case you’re a far better (wo)man than I am. But either way, here’s the Friday Fifteen: (pre-)Thanksgiving edition.

 

  1. Well, as of Tuesday, November 6th, the American people (and Electoral College) re-elected Barack Obama as the President of the United States. For me, it’s a good thing because he was my candidate. I voted for him in 2008, and I voted for him without question again this year. I have confidence our country will continue on the upswing it’s been taking… and that we’ll recover 100% from all of the economic hardships we’ve been having. I have nothing but respect for our President & I think it was the right decision to make, especially since hearing that Mr. Romney wanted to get rid of FEMA. After Superstorm Sandy, was that really something anyone wanted? At any rate, the people have spoken. Save any nasty, negative or racist comments for someone who cares. I don’t tolerate that shit on my page.
  2. Continuing on that note, I recently I’ve noticed the true kindness & humanity of people, after Sandy, & I think it’s amazing. We all have so much to be grateful for, and in times like these we have to remember that, & give to those who do not. So my number one LOVES so far this week? The Red Cross & FEMA, and everyone who has donated to the Red Cross to help us out up here. Also, much love to  Island Harvest, the Bowery Mission, Faith Community Church of Staten Island, Occupy Sandy and anyone else who’s been putting in time & money to help.
  3. Homemade cranberry sauce molded in a can to mimic the canned stuff we all know (and sometimes, but not always, love). Super fun idea from Food in Jars. Make your Thanksgiving homemade & healthier, but keep traditions alive too. And cranberry sauce is stupid easy to make, I swear.
  4. Jeffrey Campbell studded loafers in black. I want them SO BAD. So, so bad.
  5. I’m already excited about the Macy*s Thanksgiving Day parade! When you’re a New Yorker, this stuff is more exciting, I think. Unless you’ve walked down 6th Avenue on an average day or tried to catch a bus on 77th Street during the morning rush & you’ve seen how things really are… you don’t fully comprehend how awesome it is to see a 25′ tall Snoopy balloon flying down the street. Plus, when Santa comes out at the end, it’s just the best. I might be 31 years old but it still gives me that Oh-my-god-Christmas-is-coming feeling in my stomach. Which is both scary & fun. Scary because OHMYGAWDITCOMESSOFAST. Only yesterday it seems I was taking pictures of my tomatoes! And it’s fun because, hello, who doesn’t like sparkly lights & presents?
  6. Holy balls. Chocolate caramel tartlettes? Thanks Sophistimom. Beautiful photography there, too.
  7. This adorable Le Creuset pumpkin casserole has my name written all over it. I really do need it. Seriously. Le Creuset, are you listening? I’m open to doing reviews & giveaways! *wink*
  8. Well Preserved is one of my favorite blogs. I’m a horrible blog reader, you know, because I NEVER comment. But Joel & Dana have a beautiful blog & this post especially makes me happy. Turkey turkey turkey TURKEY! It’s almost turkey time. Gobble, gobble. How do you cook your turkey?
  9. Speaking of turkeys, Godiva’s chocolate turkeys are a tradition in my family. I’ve gotten one for Thanksgiving every year ever since I can remember.
  10. I love that Yoyo is doing 30 Days of Creativity & giving away 30 handmade/homemade itemsfor free. She’s got such a big heart. I ❤ her.
  11. Lights. And power in general. After you lose it for a extended period of time, you begin to realize how much you depend on it, & love it even more.
  12. My Thanksgiving category here at the blog has a lot of ideas for your turkey day festivities, or pre-turkey day festivities.
  13. I’m loving that this time of year, all the baking supplies start to go on sale! Thank you, people who only bake once a year, for prompting excellent sales on sugar/baking powder/etc.
  14. Oh, Martha. You’ve done it to me again. Adorable Thanksgiving cupcakes. And these are adorable, too. Great ideas if you’re just totally stumped. Although I did just give you MY ideas up there at #12. *frowns*
  15. Homemade vanilla extract. So easy, so good. A great Christmas present for a baker, too. Check out the Cupcake Rehab Facebook page tomorrow (at around 10 a.m. EST) for instructions on how to make your own!

That concludes today’s Friday Fifteen. I’ll see you all on Monday with a brand new recipe! Until then, if you’re a blogger, please take a peek at the blog hop me & my friends started; it’s for the unique ones out here in the blogging world. Check it out- maybe you’ll want to join & Think Outside the Blog.

Thankful.

I’ve been hearing about sweet potato cupcakes for a few years now. Retro Bakery in Las Vegas features a Candied Yam cupcake every Thanksgiving season, and seeing how I follow them on Twitter, I kinda salivate each time they’re pictured or mentioned. I don’t actually like sweet potatoes, but I do like sweet potato fries and when there’s marshmallow on anything it’s probably gonna be delicious. So sweet potato cupcakes with toasted marshmallow-y frosting? Sign me up, baby. My friend Sami made a version of sweet potato cupcakes from Better Homes & Gardens with a chocolate syrup-type frosting & she wasn’t a fan, but I thought I’d try this version anyway. After all, I’d had it saved & waiting to be used for almost a year.

See here’s the deal: I don’t just bake or make edible stuff for Thanksgiving or Christmas. My mixer isn’t pulled out for the holidays then covered up again for another year; she’s in a place of honor where she belongs. I always have a variety of flours & sugars, not to mention honey, sprinkles, buttermilk and unsalted butter in the house at all times. I’ve got cookie cutters that are discolored & well-worn, not brand new & shiny. I have baking pans & cookie sheets out the ass, most of which have seen better days. I have plastic bins overflowing with muffin & cupcake liners for every day of the week let alone season. I have Mason jars & lids stashed everywhere & there’s liquid pectin in my fridge. I’m a full-on, from-scratch baker/cook/canner, 12 months out of the year. I make time to bake & make homemade food & confections every week, because it’s not only enjoyable but also because it’s important to me. It keeps me happy, well-fed and most importantly sane. So I have recipes bookmarked (both on Firefox & literally bookmarked in books), earmarked, cut-out of magazines & taped to notebooks, some even stored in the “notes” section on my iPhone. They’re everywhere. I get them in e-mails from family members, on Facebook, on Twitter (or I should say via Twitter, since fitting a recipe in 140 characters is kinda hard) and more. Both virtual copies & hard copies. They’re stashed all over my house from the bedroom to the kitchen to the living room. I have notes on the calendar about them, memos in my phone about them, and reminders on my laptop. I spend my spare moments before I fall asleep searching the internet for things like whiskey-pickle recipes or unique ways to use up dried cranberries. Insane? No. It’s entirely possible that people who don’t do that are far more insane than I am. Because of the fact that it keeps me sane.

Anyway while I bake a lot, and make a lot of cupcakes… I wanted to make an extra special batch of cupcakes for this Thanksgiving, and I do think these fit the bill. I toasted the frosting & I think that just adds to it. Of course, I can’t have one yet because they’re all for tomorrow- but I tasted some batter & OH MY GOD. I don’t even like sweet potatoes & that’s some good shit.

Jay will be home from Texas for turkey day, too, which is an added bonus. I’m picking him up from La Guardia in a couple of hours, after a long day of baking & packing up food. Mi familia will be together tomorrow & stuff our faces full of that food, & that’s just the way it should be. This Thanksgiving is the first one I’m, or we’re, celebrating without my grandma. It’s rough, and I know Christmas will be tougher still. But she wouldn’t want me to complain or be sad. She loved the holidays, & so I’m doing my best to celebrate her memory as well as each holiday. This Thanksgiving we’ll all raise our glasses of wine & toast to Aggie, and of course Uncle Pat, and at the same time be thankful for all we do have & that includes family, and of course for me it includes these two sweet little faces…

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SWEET POTATO CUPCAKES

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • pinch of freshly ground nutmeg
  • ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • ¼ teaspoon baking soda
  • pinch of salt
  • ½ cup butter, softened
  • ¾ cup sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup canned whole sweet potatoes (unsweetened), mashed
  • ¼ teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350° degrees F. Line twelve 2 ½-inch muffin cups with paper bake cups; set cups aside.
  2. In medium bowl stir together the flour, baking powder, cinnamon, baking soda, nutmeg and salt; set aside.
  3. In large mixing bowl beat butter with an electric mixer on medium to high speed for 30 seconds. Add sugar and beat on high speed until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Add eggs, one at a time, beating on low speed after each addition until combined. Add sweet potatoes and vanilla, beating until combined. Add flour mixture; beat until combined (batter will be thick).
  4. Divide batter evenly among prepared muffin cups. Bake about 20 minutes or until tops spring back when lightly touched. Cool in pan on wire rack for 1 minute. Remove from pan and cool completely.

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SEVEN-MINUTE FROSTING

Makes about 4 cups, plenty of frosting for 12-18, possibly even 24 cupcakes, depending on how high you frost!

Ingredients:

  • ¾ cups plus 1 tablespoon sugar
  • ⅓ cup water
  • 1 tablespoon light corn syrup
  • 3 large egg whites, room temperature

Directions:

  1. Combine ¾ cup sugar with the water and corn syrup in a small saucepan; clip a candy thermometer to side of pan. Bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until sugar dissolves. Continue boiling, without stirring, until syrup reaches 230° degrees.
  2. Meanwhile, in the bowl of a standing electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, whisk egg whites on medium-high speed until soft peaks form. With mixer running, add remaining tablespoon sugar, beating to combine.
  3. As soon as sugar syrup reaches 230° degrees, remove from heat. With mixer on medium-low speed, pour syrup down side of bowl in a slow, steady stream. Raise speed to medium-high; whisk until mixture is completely cool (test by touching the bottom of the bowl) and stiff (but not dry) peaks form, about 7 minutes. Use immediately.

Just remember: you really do need a stand mixer for this frosting. Unless you have Incredible Hulk muscles & don’t mind standing there beating egg whites until stiff for possibly 15-20 minutes or more and then beating the hot frosting itself for 7+ minutes by hand. However, you can make a marshmallow frosting using Fluff that’s awesome too, and tastes similar (a bit sweeter) & can be toasted as well.

And of course I boxed them up in Bake-A-Box boxes. The liners are greaseproof natural, unbleached liners from Layer Cake Shop. I bought the fall leaves from Sugar Robot on Etsy. They’re paper… but they’re edible! How awesome is that?! Supposedly they taste like vanilla. We’ll see. Oh, and those other cupcakes are cinnamon-vanilla (recipe here) with a vanilla frosting in plain white liners for the finicky among us who perhaps won’t eat the sweet potato cupcakes. These have little vintage-inspired turkey toppers on ‘em.

Anyway, I hope you all have a wonderful day tomorrow, even those of you who don’t celebrate it for whatever reason. Enjoy your friends & families, & pets. I hope that you’ll consider a donation to help feed someone who can’t feed themselves tomorrow, or if you’re able to you’ll volunteer at a shelter or food bank or soup kitchen. But at the very, very least, please make a $5 or $10 donation to the ONE campaign, Feeding America, Meals on Wheels, or Share Our Strength. Please think about those less fortunate than you, when you’re “counting your blessings” tomorrow.

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Cupcakes made with brown butter & spice & everything nice.

Before I start in, I want to congratulate Polly for winning my giveaway & getting a copy of The Cookiepedia! Enjoy it! It’s an awesome book, and I’m sure you’ll get a lot of use out of it this baking season. Speaking of baking…

So, I bought these really cute fall leaf sugar decorations & I wanted to use them desperately, and what else would I use them on but cupcakes!? Cute little fall cupcakes that are dark chocolate cupcakes, spiced with cinnamon & cayenne pepper topped with brown butter frosting. Simple, but let’s be honest, I just made them to use the little leaves. Yes, I made cupcakes just to use decorations I bought.

But in all fairness, it’s fall! I was so inspired by the fall colors in the table runner & the icing leaves, not to mention the gorgeous fall leaves outside my window.

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So I had to. I really did. Despite the fact that I’ve been baking so much lately (& cooking) that I think by December 1st, Jay will have to roll me down the stairs & into the car… or possibly just roll me down the street like a not-as-blue-but-just-as-round-Violet Beauregarde. Yeah. Despite that, I had to make them. And of course, I had to do the brown butter thing. Jay’s leaving tomorrow morning at 10 a.m. for San Antonio, Texas. He doesn’t get any cupcakes as punishment for leaving me & going off to do cool stuff without me. Alas, someone has to do the dirty work around here- baking, cooking, etc. We can’t all be rock stars; some of us have to rock out the kitchen instead of the stage. At least he’ll be home by Thursday!

What was I saying? Brown butter, that’s right. Brown butter is so amazing. If you’ve never had it, you need to make it immediately. I’m not kidding. It’s a game changer; a sweet, caramel-y, soft, kind of burnt taste that is sublime in frosting. You’ll want to frost every cupcake you make with it. Great with caramel, vanilla, chocolate, spice cake, malted milk cake, apple cake, just about anything/everything. It’s basically perfect. I’ve used it before on cream soda cupcakes & that was heavenly.

DARK CHOCOLATE SPICE CUPCAKES

Makes 12 cupcakes

Get these ingredients:

  • ¼ cup Hershey’s® Special Dark unsweetened cocoa powder (or another dark cocoa powder of your choice)
  • 1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
  • ⅔ cup granulated sugar
  • 2 eggs, room temperature
  • pinch of salt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • ½ cup whole milk
  • ½ cup vegetable oil
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • ¼ teaspoon ground cayenne pepper

Then you should:

  1. Preheat oven to 350º degrees F. Line a 12-count cupcake tin with cupcake liners.
  2. Sift together cocoa powder, cayenne pepper, cinnamon, flour, salt and baking powder. In another bowl whisk together sugar, eggs, vanilla, milk and vegetable oil. Gradually whisk flour mixture into sugar mixture. Mix until thoroughly incorporated.
  3. Fill cupcake liners ⅔ full. Bake in preheated oven for 12 – 15 minutes or until a toothpick inserted comes out clean.
  4. Allow to cool for several minutes in the cupcake pan, then transfer to a cooling rack to cool completely. Frost only when completely cool.

BROWN BUTTER FROSTING

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup butter
  • 4 cups powdered or confectioner’s sugar
  • 2-4 tablespoons half-and-half
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • dash of salt

Directions:

  1. For brown butter, in saucepan heat ½ cup butter over medium-low heat until lightly browned, about 8 minutes; cool thoroughly. Using a fine mesh sieve, strain the butter so that any large burned fat solids aren’t included in the frosting. Fine specks are expected & totally fine, though.
  2. In bowl, beat the other ½ cup softened butter with mixer on medium 30 seconds. Add cooled brown butter; beat until combined.
  3. Add powdered sugar, vanilla, and dash salt. Beat in 1 to 2 tablespoons half-and-half, use more if needed until spreadable. Use frosting immediately. If frosting begins to set up, stir in a small amount of boiling water.
Probably wasn’t a good idea to use black liners & take the pictures on a black runner, but I did like how they matched
….

The ‘use immediately’ thing is 100% true. The nature of this frosting is that it sets up fairly quick. That can be a pain in the ass at times, but it’s well worth it.

I absolutely love brown butter frosting, I can’t say enough about it & I’d love it on just about any cake or cupcake or cookie. But on these it’s especially delicious. The cupcakes are like a Mexican hot chocolate-type of flavor, which I love, not to mention incredibly moist. Combine all that with the brown butter flavor & it’s just amazing… it’s so warming & fall-like. A great Thanksgiving cupcake. And don’t be scared of the cayenne! I promise you, it adds a slight warmth (or heat) but it won’t make you run for the hills. So many people are afraid of using cayenne or chili powder in their baked goods, but I’m telling you, when mixed with chocolate & cinnamon- it’s mind blowing.

And in true holiday form, as per usual, here’s the Thanksgiving tree in all her glory!

For those of you who are unaware, my mom puts up a tree for every holiday. I post pictures of them with one of my holiday posts; it starts after Christmas with her white winter tree, then Valentine’s, St. Patrick’s Day, Easter, etc. Most recently I posted the Halloween tree. They’re usually the same though, year to year, with just a few changes- new ornaments, perhaps some new lights or ribbon, etc. It’s a fun tradition I always look forward to.

One thing that will be different is I won’t be hosting Thanksgiving this year, so for once I won’t be doing all the cooking! I will, however, be doing the baking. I do look forward to sharing those baked goods with you next week, but in the meantime, go make these cupcakes. Seriously.