When planning my Thanksgiving menu, I like to balance out the insane over-the-top decadence (read, pounds of butter) with a little gut-friendly and refreshing light dish. I always make a big salad and find the raw crunchiness and acidic dressing really necessary for that round three of mashed potatoes. This time I’ve combined some of my favorite fall ingredients into a big hearty salad. Best of all, you can make all this ahead of time, including roasting the beets. I used feta here (my favorite go-to is French feta because it’s creamier and less pungent than Greek feta), but if you’re not scared of a little stink, you could also do a great crumbly blue cheese. The sweetness of the pear and beets really stand up well to a stronger cheese like feta or blue cheese. Top it off with my favorite flower this fall– some edible marigolds– and you have yourself a show-stopping salad for Thanksgiving!
Unless you have 3 ovens, an 8 burner stove and 2 sous chefs, Thanksgiving dinner is probably a real pain to plan and coordinate. Not only do you have to plan which recipes to make, but you also have to figure out timing and which kitchen resources you can dedicate to certain dishes. Almost always, I’m out of an oven due to the turkey, which takes priority. I usually bake any caserole dish right after as the turkey cools. Mashed potatoes are made on the stove along with gravy and pan roasted veggies. It’s a crazy balancing act of checking timing and temperatures and making sure nothing catches on fire. So, any time I can make something the day before and can cook day of without giving up precious stove or oven real estate, I’m all over it! That’s where the Vitamix Professional Series 750 comes in and this incredible kabocha squash soup. For those of you unfamiliar with kabocha squash, I’ll tell you there is no better squash, in my humble opinion. It has so much sweet squash flavor and has such an amazing creamy but firm texture. If you’ve only made butternut squash or acorn squash, I suggest you make the switch– you’ll never go back. The best part of this recipe is that you can roast all the vegetables the day before, pack them in a container and right before you’re ready to serve your big Thanksgiving meal the day of, transfer all the veggies and the rest of the ingredients into your container and blend away! Vitamix is specially engineered to create hot soup; no stove required– how amazing is that? No extra pots, no sweating over a hot stove and no mental breakdown because you burned the stuffing and are a big sweaty mess. Or at least we hope not!
Some of you know that Fiona has a habit of stealing my credit cards. Yep, Daddy’s wallet is already one of her favorite toys! First, she’ll empty the cash. Then the receipts. If I’m lucky, I’ll catch her in time before anything gets shredded to bits. Lastly, she grabs the credit cards. She’ll wander the whole house, a card in each hand, smiling ear to ear. I suppose it’s my fault. Back before we started daycare, she and I used to spend hours at the biergarten down the block. One of the only ways I kept her content (and from eating old food off the ground) was handing over my wallet. Have at it kid! Fast forward to a few days ago at the grocery store – I’m all set to check-out at the cashier with ingredients for this very punch, I open my wallet, and low and behold . . . no cards. Awkward!! I rush home and check her favorite hiding places: under the rug in the living room, down the heating vent, and finally found them inside a pair of Audrey’s shoes. She sure keeps me on my toes, that one. With all that extra running around this holiday season, I probably won’t have time to get too fancy with the cocktails. I wanted to share this quick holiday punch recipe that I’ve been enjoying recently.
It’s a Scott Beattie recipe. I’ve tinkered with a few things here and there – primarily decreasing proportions to suit my little family. As Scott mentions in his book, this is essentially a sangria variation. The addition of the winter spices make it just right for the holiday. There’s not much prep, other than a bit of simmering. Again, easy enough to whip up on Thanksgiving morning.
Potatoes au gratin has been a Thanksgiving tradition and a Chan family favorite for as long as I can remember. Sure, they were most always made out of the box thanks to good ol’ Ms. Betty Crocker but hey . . . potato, potahto. It’s been several years since Karen and I have ditched the dehydrated potatoes for real, hand cut potatoes and it seems like year after year, we’re constantly trying up the ante on this beloved side dish. More cream, less cheese, more herbs. More cheese, less cream, less herbs, more spices. This year, instead of traditionally layering the thinly sliced potatoes on top of each other, I’m stacking them vertically. Tatin style with a hasselback twist. They key here is a mandoline – if you don’t already have one, get one. It’s one of my favorite and most used kitchen gadgets. And with all the visually impressive things you can make by being able to quickly and thinly slice fruit and vegetables, it’ll become your best loved tool too. Dip the potato slices in a mixture of heavy cream, parmesan, and thyme and bake to crispy, yet creamy, perfection. The best of both worlds. I’m thankful.
Welcome back Bay Area weather!! This past weekend I was hanging out with a few neighbors who recently moved out from Colorado. They were convinced that the weather never really changes here in the Bay. Just warm and dry, dry and warm. Well what do you know, we finally got a little rain this week. It wasn’t much, but combined with some cooler temperatures and the recent time change, I was close to grabbing my snowboard out of the garage. Unfortunately, we’re a long way away from snowcapped mountains. However, cozying up on the couch with a warm cocktail is certainly appropriate. Hot buttered rum has always been one of my favorite cold weather drinks. I have so many fond memories of snow-camping with friends, huddled around the fire with mugs of steaming hot buttered rum. Sigh . . . Okay, so I’m going a liiittle overboard – we had less than an inch of rain this week!! As for the cocktail, this is my older, more health conscious take on the classic hot buttered rum. Admittedly, there’s no butter in the recipe at all. Coconut oil takes its place. Just like with the butter in the classic recipe, the coconut oil coats the mouth for a silky smooth texture. Freshly ground spices are a must, some quality aged rum, and you’re guaranteed to stay warm and happy!
As you may already know, my fiance and I have been undergoing a renovation at our new home and have recently settled back in to the house to enjoy the renovated kitchen! Weekends in a new kitchen are a little different now– I slow things down and enjoy a nice cup of coffee before I take on the day. My ritual now includes a sleek Nespresso VertuoLine Evoluo that has found a home at our new bar/coffee-station. I take my coffee addiction pretty seriously and luckily, the Evoluo makes a full line of different roasts and flavors (check out that beautiful layer of crema!) to satisfy my coffee cravings. This amazing machine brews both large cup coffee and espresso (so no more washing 50 coffee and espresso machine parts in the morning) and their Grand Crus varieties are sourced from the top 1-2% coffee from around the world. Nespresso kicked off their experience a cup above campaign last week and what better way to compliment their coffee than with a breakfast equally as elevated and decadent– an egg custard inspired by the Japanese chawanmushi, which is a steamed savory egg custard. This one has cream and Parmesan and is topped with the most amazing mushrooms that are sauteed in butter and thyme and a few shavings of truffle. Because why not right?