Well, it’s the first blog post of the month which means that I get to recap some exciting happenings from the previous month (or just things I’d forgotten to tell you about). I’ve got a couple tidbits to start with, but the majority of our recap involves what I made for Thanksgiving.
It’s actually been several months since I tried dried oranges, but somehow they haven’t made it on the blog yet. Several months ago, I got my first chance to visit a Trader Joe’s. (San Antonio got their first one late last year.) It wasn’t what I expected, but I really enjoyed my visit. They have fewer options of some things (not too many types of flours and sugars) but an abundance of others (like dried fruits!). I wasn’t planning to buy anything, but when I saw dried oranges I knew I needed to try them. They were chewy and full of flavor. At first, I thought they were too tart, but they were also strangely addictive. And after the first couple of slices, they didn’t really seem tart anymore. I am definitely going to try to recreate this at home.
I also recently got to try the straciatella flavor of Haagen-Dazs’s line of gelatos. Oh my goodness gracious!! I suggest you don’t buy a pint unless you want to spend the rest of the week trying not to eat it all at once. It is creamy and delicious with the perfect ratio of vanilla gelato to chocolate pieces. It is one of the most delicious ice creams I’ve ever tasted, and hopefully I’ll be tasting it again soon.
On to Thanksgiving! We actually had two Thanksgiving celebrations. On Thursday, we went to my husband’s maternal grandparent’s house for our usual potluck dinner. I brought double batches of corn casserole and green bean casserole. Then on Saturday, I cooked our own small dinner for the two of us. For our dinner, I made this Spicy Maple Turkey Breast with Quick Pan Sauce from Cooking Light. (It was moist and tasty, but not mind-blowing; therefore, I’m not sharing the recipe on the blog.) We also had leftovers of the two casseroles, sweet potato crisp, crescent rolls, cranberry sauce, mashed potatoes (for the hubby), and apple sharlotka with cinnamon ice cream for dessert. Here’s a look at each of our plates: mine on the left and hubby’s on the right.
Let’s start with the no-recipe dish: mashed potatoes. Since my husband is the only one eating it, I just use 1 large potato. I peel it, chop it in pieces, and boil it til it’s fork-tender. Then comes the most important step for creamy, fluffy mashed potatoes: I don’t mash! Instead, I use my handy, dandy potato ricer. I got mine from Ikea for just $10, and I love it. It turns my husband’s potatoes into a mound of fluffy strands in just seconds. Then all he has to do is dress it to taste with butter, milk, salt, and pepper.
The green bean casserole is also incredibly easy. I use French’s classic recipe, but I’ll still post it for convenience’s sake. Here it is.
Green Bean Casserole (from French’s)
1 10 3/4 oz. can cream of mushroom soup
3/4 c. milk
1/8 tsp. pepper
18 oz. thawed, frozen green beans
1 1/3 c. french fried onions
1. In a 1 1/2 qt. baking dish, mix together the soup, milk, and pepper. (If you whisk the milk into the soup a little at a time, it creates a really creamy sauce and doesn’t separate.) Stir in the beans and 2/3 c. of the onions.
2. Bake the casserole at 350 degrees for 30 minutes or til hot. Stir the casserole, top it with the remaining fried onions, and bake 5 more minutes or til the onions are golden.
The sweet potato crisp was a new recipe and a little hit or miss. The sweet potatoes themselves are amazing, but I thought that there was too much topping and it detracted from the super tasty sweet potatoes. The topping also didn’t keep its crisp when it was reheated, which was kind of a bummer. I’ll probably make this again, but I’ll definitely be tweaking it.
Sweet Potato Crisp (unknown origin – let me know if you recognize where it comes from)
8 oz. softened cream cheese
2 lb. peeled, cooked, coarsely mashed sweet potatoes (I cook these just like the regular potatoes – chop and boil them til fork-tender.)
1/4 c. brown sugar
1/4 tsp. cinnamon
1 c. chopped apples (Next time I’d use only 1/2 c. and dice them finer.)
1/2 c. craisins (I’d also halve this.)
3 tbsp. flour
2 tbsp. brown sugar
3 tbsp. butter
3 c. honey bunches of oats cereal (This is where I had the most problems. I would cut this down to either 1 c. or 1 1/2 c. at least, but I’d rather just replace it with 1 c. of granola. I think granola would keep its crunch better than the flakes of cereal did.)
1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Beat together the cream cheese, sweet potatoes, 1/4 c. brown sugar, and cinnamon on medium til well blended. Spoon into a 2 qt. shallow baking dish and top with the apples and craisins. (Contrary to the directions, I’d rather stir the fruit in. I didn’t appreciate how hard it was to get everything in one bite.)
2. In a large bowl, mix together the flour and 2 tbsp. brown sugar; cut in the butter til the mix resembles coarse crumbs. Stir in the cereal and sprinkle over the fruit mix. Bake for 30-40 minutes or til heated through.
Instead of a pie, this year we made a sort of custardy apple cake. The flesh of 6 apples is loosely held together by a lightly sweetened eggy batter. This was my husband’s pick, and he definitely enjoyed it.
Apple Sharlotka (from Smitten Kitchen)
6 Granny Smith apples
1 c. sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
1 c. all-purpose flour
1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line the bottom of a 9 inch springform pan with parchment. Butter the sides of the pan and the paper. Peel, core, and halve the apples then chop them into medium chunks. Pile the apples in the pan. In a large bowl, beat the eggs and sugar until they’re thick and ribbon form on the surface of the beaten eggs. Beat in the vanilla, then stir in the flour til just combined. (The batter will be very thick.)
2. Pour the batter over the apples and make sure that it covers all of them. (You might need to press the apples down to be sure.) Bake for 55-60 minutes or til a tester inserted in the middle removes cleanly. Cool for 10 minutes in the pan, then remove and dust with powdered sugar and cinnamon. (I omitted the cinnamon since I was pairing this with cinnamon ice cream.)
My favorite part of the dessert was the cinnamon ice cream. I was trying to recreate the taste of the cinnamon ice cream that I recently tried with my SIL, and I think I did a pretty good job. The first day, it tasted like ice cream made from the milk left after eating a bowl of cinnamon toast crunch. (In case you’re wondering, that’s a very good thing.) After a few days, the sweetness mellows and the cinnamon comes forward as the main flavor, though it’s not too strong. The best thing is that this ice cream is so easy to make. All I did was take my regular vanilla ice cream recipe, and swap in 2 tsp. of cinnamon for the vanilla. It may not be pretty, but it’s SOO delicious. This might be a new go-to flavor in my house! Update: You can also put a couple of cinnamon sticks in your cream/half & half for a couple of days before you make this. The ice cream stays white and the cinnamon flavor is more delicate.
All in all, we had a wonderful holiday weekend. Come back soon and let me know what some of your highlights were.