Thanksgiving 2017

I love Thanksgiving. The food, getting together with family, cooking and baking, eating and talking, even the football watching. It's all so festive and lovely. My favorite part is probably the weeks leading up to the big Thursday, thinking of a menu, trying to come up with the right blend of tradition and innovation. My family and I don't see eye to eye on this so it can be challenging to come up with food to please everyone, but I do feel like this year was a pretty decent success. 
 

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Here's the menu: 

Balsamic Glazed and Lacquered Turkey
(adapted from Bon Appetit, year 3 for this baby and still a winner! This time
replaced the sherry vinegar with balsamic and [accidentally] doubled
the sugar, a happy mistake!)

Pan roasted brussel sprouts with cracked wheat berries and tahini dressing
(adapted from Plenty More by Yotam Ottolehghi - replaced the green
beans for something more seasonal)

Spicy greens salad with roasted golden cauliflower, fresh mozzarella and candied lemon peel
(also adapted from Plenty More, this time replaced the artichoke
hearts with the cauliflower)

Marbled pumpkin and chocolate bundt cake with chocolate glaze and hazelnuts
(From The Pastry Affair)

Fresh cranberry sauce with orange zest
 

There were a few additional dishes from other family members (Thanks everyone) to round out the meal. These included sourdough and brown sugar stuffed pumpkins, jello salad, and great grandma's fudge. All in all a fantastic meal!

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Leftovers! Such a wonderful thing! Fresh salads with Turkey and miso noodle soup garnished with fresh cilantro. 

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On the final day of the Thanksgiving weekend, Lara and I drove up north to Cedar Springs where I finally got to cut down my very own Christmas tree - something I've always wanted to do! Lara had met a new couple through church friends a few weeks earlier, and they started talking about her parent's Christmas Tree Farm so of course we had to go check it out. Red Flannel Tree Farm is the cutest, most picturesque place to cut down a Christmas tree that you can imagine. They have horse drawn wagons (or sleighs [!] if it's snowing, I was jealous!) to take you out to the trees. They had a wonderful variety of pines and firs of all sizes and shapes. They then have a barn full of old farm paraphernalia, some of which is for sale, and free hot chocolate to warm up with after cutting down your tree. They also have tree stands and some wreaths and other decor for sale. I had an absolute blast and want to go back and do it all over again! They're only open 3 weekends and said the trees were going extra fast this year so I'm glad I headed up to finally get the experience I've been wanting for a long time. 

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With a tiny apartment, you only need a tiny tree!!

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Start sawing...

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...keep going...

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The perfect tree for me, a concolor fir

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Success!!

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Lara got one too!

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New friends, Chevy and Ford

 
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MERRY CHRISTMAS!! 

 

Cranberry Apricot Bran Muffins

I know it's Wednesday and I have yet to post something this week. I try to post a new recipe every Sunday but a lot happened in the last week and over the weekend so I just didn't get around to it! Big news: I've moved! While I've been in med school, I've been living with my parents in the suburbs to help save a lot of money. It's been good, and it was a smart decision, but I reached a point where I felt like it was time for me to move out once and for all. To be honest, I wasn't even looking for an apartment but the perfect place kind of just fell into my lap. In 2 days I'd signed the lease and started moving in. I've been in my new place for only a couple of days now but I am loving it! While all of this has been going on I also started working nights for a couple of weeks so I am really all messed up, but it's okay, especially now that I have my own place to come home to. 

I hope to put up a post soon to show everyone my new place and give more details about how it all happened so fast. Until then however, these muffins will have to do. I love me a good bran muffin, especially one that is heavy and hearty and dense (in a good way). These muffins are just that. They are definitely branny, just how I like it. There is not a lot of sugar in them, so if you have a big sweet tooth you may want to add a bit more for your taste, either that or add in some sweeter fruit. I used cranberries and some frozen apricots that I had, both quite tart and not super sweet. Some nice ripe strawberries or blueberries would probably help up the sweetness if that is what you're looking for. But whatever you decide, these are a great, hearty way to start off any day on the right foot. 

A little butter, a little sugar, a lot of bran and a nice amount of fruit all come together perfectly in these little treats. The original recipe called for oil, but I decided to swap it out for some melted butter. Seemed to work out just fine. Butter just seemed more "right" in these so I just did it. But if you'd rather use oil go for it. This recipe also called for citrus zest, optional but I highly recommend it. I really like citrus zest in my baked goods, especially orange zest, it really adds a wonderful flavor and brightness. I didn't have an orange when I made these so I used some clementine zest instead which worked well. I don't think it has quite the punch as orange zest, but it worked well in a pinch. All in all these are a great way to start off your morning with a little treat that actually feels like breakfast and not dessert.

Cranberry Apricot Bran Muffins

Adapted from 

Smitten Kitchen's

 Blue Sky Bran Muffins

Ingredients

  • 1 1/3 cups (315 ml) buttermilk 
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/3 cup melted butter
  • 1/4 cup (50 grams) lightly packed dark brown sugar
  • Zest of 1 clementine (orange zest would be fine too), optional but highly recommended
  • 1 1/2 cups (90 grams) wheat bran
  • 1 cup (125 grams) whole wheat flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons (8 grams) baking powder 
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons (8 grams) baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon table salt
  • 2-4 teaspoons granulated sugar, divided
  • 3/4 to 1 cup chopped mixed fruit (I used frozen apricots and frozen cranberries)

Directions

Heat oven to 425 degrees F and coat a 12-cup muffin tin with nonstick spray.

Whisk buttermilk, egg, melted butter, brown sugar vanilla and clementine zest in a small bowl. Whisk bran, flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a large bowl. Mix your fruit with 1 teaspoon sugar. Stir wet mixture into dry until partially mixed, then add in the fruit and continue to mix until just combined and still a bit rough.

Spoon batter into each prepared muffin cup. Sprinkle tops of muffins with remaining sugar to taste. 

Bake muffins for a total of 14 to 16 minutes, rotating pan once midway through baking time for even browning, until a toothpick inserted into the center of muffins comes out with just a few crumbs attached. Do not overbake. Let muffins cool in pan on a wire rack for 10 minutes before removing from tin.

Yields: 10 muffins

Cranberry Dark Chocolate Gingerbread Muffins

It may be January, but I have one last Christmas-y recipe to share. I am a big gingerbread fan (as you could probably already tell from the  Gingerbread Bundt Cake I made for my big family Christmas party) but it seems to be something that is only eaten at Christmas, so I have to try and fit in as many different recipes during December as I can. Since I'm such a huge muffin fan I couldn't resist a gingerbread muffin of course. I decided to fill it with dark chocolate and fresh cranberries, one of my favorite combinations. Along with some molasses, spices and a little butter, this blend of flavors packs the perfect punch of flavor that can be enjoyed all winter long. 

Nothing fancy in this recipe, just a lot of nice add in's and spices that can be customized to your tastes. Don't have any fresh cranberries, how about dried cranberries? Or dried cherries for that matter. Try switching out the dark chocolate with some white chocolate, or skip the chocolate + fruit combination and throw in some cinnamon chips. Whatever you like and have on hand. That's what I love so much about muffins, they are so easy to adapt. So go ahead, have some fun!

Cranberry Dark Chocolate Gingerbread Muffins

Adapted from 

Sweet Phi

Ingredients

  • ½ stick (4 tablespoons) butter, melted (I've also replaced 2 tablespoons of butter with 2 tablespoons Greek yogurt and they still turn out great!)
  • ½ cup milk
  • 2 tablespoons molasses
  • 1 egg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1¾ cups flour
  • ¼ cup brown sugar
  • ¼ cup granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • ½ teaspoon ginger
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon all spice
  • 1 cup fresh cranberries, finely chopped
  • 1/4 cup dark chocolate, finely chopped

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a muffin pan with liners. 

In a microwave safe bowl microwave butter for 30 seconds, then remove from microwave and add milk, molasses, egg and vanilla. Whisk until combined, it's ok if there are a few lumps.

In another bowl add all dry ingredients except the cranberries and chocolate. Add wet ingredients to dry and stir a few times, then add the cranberries and chocolate, mixing until everything is just combined, don't over-mix. Spoon batter into muffin liners. Bake for 15-18 minutes, remove from oven and allow to cool.

Yields: I got 10 medium sized muffins

Thanksgiving 2014

I truly do love all holidays, but there is something special about Thanksgiving. Everyone gets together on the same day every year and stuffs themselves with turkey and all the trimmings. The camaraderie makes me smile, and the fact that the main focus of a lot of people (myself included) is the food makes me love the day even more. For one day I am not the only one doing all of the food talk. 

My sister Lara and I made the Thanksgiving meal for our family again this year. We have such a fun time doing it and have been thinking about it and preparing for weeks. Instead of going full out and roasting an entire turkey we decided to do something a little different this year. One of my biggest pet peeves about Thanksgiving is that the turkey hogs the oven for the entire morning and I can't use it for anything else. (I am jealous of everyone who has more than one oven in their house.) We decided to utilize the grill instead. And for a different spin on the traditional we skipped the whole turkey and decided to grill up a whole bunch of turkey kabobs. 

It turned out great! I loved not cooking an entire turkey, and it was fun to use the grill while standing in a bit of snow. An experience for sure. We tried to keep the sides simple and light as well because that's how we like to eat. Everything went off without a hitch, we were so happy with how it all turned out. I would definitely do it again next year!

As for the rest of the meal, it started off with some butternut squash soup with leeks and carrots, finished with a little yogurt for creaminess. Next, the salad was a spin on the Fuji apple chicken salad from Panera; we sliced up a few apples and dried them out for apple chips, toasted some pecans with a hint of cinnamon sugar, thinly sliced red onion, dried cranberries and some feta cheese rounded out the toppings. The mixed greens were dressed with a simple white balsamic, apple cider vinaigrette with honey and dijon. It was a fantastic salad, Panera sure knew what they were doing when they created it!

We also served some homemade bread and my favorite Clementine Brown Rice Salad. A few extras finished the meal off, a simple cranberry sauce as well as a yummy lemony sage yogurt sauce, both for dipping the turkey into if desired (which I did!). 

While we were finishing up the cooking we served our guests a simple platter of cheese and crackers with some grapes and carrots. Just a little something to whet the appetite. I made a simple sangria and had some apple cider for some festive drinks to go along with the meal. And finally, a pumpkin bundt cake added the finishing touch to a fantastic Thanksgiving. I was so glad to be able to share my love of cooking with my family on this festive day. I am so thankful for all my family members who were able to come and celebrate the holiday together, as well as for all the delicious food we were so privileged to eat. I am so blessed, and for that I am extremely grateful, all year long! God is good is an understatement.

 Simple, yet scrumptious appetizer

 A little cold weather grilling never hurt anyone

 Plenty of drink options

 Dried fruit, pecan and feta salad

 Squash soup

And don't forget the turkey!

Turkey kabobs, my take on the traditional 

 This is what I like to see on Thanksgiving

And never, ever forget about dessert

Cranberry Orange Biscotti

One of my absolute favorite times of the day is coffee time. I try my very best to make sure I get to enjoy a cup of something warm and comforting at least once during the day. This is especially important right now when the temperature is barely making it into the teens, and just looking outside makes me cold. While I have no problem just drinking a lone cup of coffee, sometimes it seems like I just need a little bite of something to go with it. Biscotti are one of the best ways to satisfy this sweet craving. I stumbled across this cranberry orange biscotti recipe earlier this winter and decided that it sounded perfect for the cold, snowy days ahead. I was right, the tartness of the cranberries pairs perfectly with the creamy sweetness of the white chocolate and the bright freshness of the orange. I wouldn't change a thing in this winter treat. 

If you've never made biscotti before, I highly recommend it. It really isn't difficult at all, and they are just so cute when you're finished. It seems like every recipe bakes up a little differently, some spread a lot during the first bake, while some don't spread at all. And after the first bake, before cutting up the individual cookies, it always looks so strange and I wonder how it will turn out. But it always does, and I'm never disappointed. 

Cranberry-Orange Biscotti
From Tutti Dolci
Ingredients
Cookie

  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted
  • Zest of 1 orange
  • 1 1/2 Tbsp orange juice
  • 1 1/2 Tbsp brandy
  • 3 large eggs
  • 2 3/4 cups flour
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 2/3 cup dried cranberries

Topping

  • 4 ounces white chocolate, chopped
  • 1/4 cup dried cranberries, chopped

Directions
Combine sugar, butter, orange zest, orange juice, and brandy in a large bowl, stirring until smooth. Whisk in eggs one at a time. Stir in flour, baking powder, and salt until incorporated; fold in cranberries. Cover dough and chill for 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 350°F and line a large baking sheet with parchment paper. Using moistened hands, shape dough into 2 (10-by-4-inch) loaves on prepared baking sheet. Bake for 22 minutes or until pale golden. Transfer loaves to a wire rack and cool for 15 minutes.

Using a serrated knife, cut loaves into 1/2-inch slices. Place slices cut side down on baking sheet; bake 9 minutes. Turn slices over and bake for 9 minutes more or until golden. Cool completely on wire racks.

Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper. Place chopped chocolate in a double boiler or in a heat-proof bowl over a saucepan of gently simmering water. Slowly melt the chocolate, stirring occasionally until glossy and smooth. Use a fork to drizzle chocolate over biscotti and top with cranberries; chill in the refrigerator for 15 minutes to set chocolate. Store at room temperature in an airtight container up to a week.