It seems hardly anyone scours cookbooks to find new Thanksgiving recipes these days. Most people simply log on to the Internet for their recipe search. "Green bean" casserole" is one of the most popular search terms the week leading up to Thanksgiving.
You certainly can find a wealth of recipes within seconds just by Googling a search phrase or two. But there are also a number of online sites that are ready to coach you through the steps it takes to create a stress-free Thanksgiving meal, provide traditional recipes, and even offer up modern takes if sweet potato casserole covered in tiny marshmallows just isn't your thing.
Here are a few of our favorite online sources for planning Thanksgiving dinner:
If you are the type who likes to makes lists and check them twice, PBSFood.org has what you need with their "Thanksgiving Planning Checklist." Their printable lists start three weeks out, but even if you are late to the game you can see if you are still on track. Make your long list of chores and errands more manageable with their handy day-by-day countdown. By this weekend you should be shopping for non-perishables, prepping anything that can be frozen, and cleaning the house.
Whether you want to host a "Friendsgiving" before heading home, add some flavor with duck fat, or spice things up with a chile-rubbed turkey, Bon Appétit magazine is offering "25 Ways to Reinvent Your Thanksgiving."
If you are out to impress your in-laws, or put your new cooking skills on display for friends, Saveur magazine offers illustrated steps in creating elegant sounding dishes that require relatively little fuss in "An Effortlessly Elegant Thanksgiving." Think: elaborate-looking pommes duchesses and decadent sides like creamed onion gratin. Many of their suggested dishes can be prepared a day or two in advance.
From planning your shopping list, to a survival guide for when things go wrong, to video tips, Cook's Illustrated "Thanksgiving Guide 2013" has you covered. Browsing their site requires a paid membership, but they do have a free 14-day trial membership you can test out during the holiday.
The New York Times
The New York Times has compiled all their best tips and recipes in their "Essential Thanksgiving" interactive graphic. In each category, (sides, desserts, etc.) they provide their preferred recipe but also offer alternatives and invite you to use their recipes as building blocks as you mix and match to create your own unforgettable meal.
If you are hosting an international crowd, The Guardian asked 12 American food bloggers to come up with twists to the traditional Thanksgiving favorites from their own cultural backgrounds in a "Thanksgiving recipe swap". Think: Thai steamed pumpkin custard and sweet potato latkes with celeriac root and apple to bring a bit of Hanukkah to Thanksgiving.
The Chicago Tribune
If you don't mind spending $5, The Chicago Tribune has compiled their Thanksgiving recipes into an e-book called "Thanksgiving Recipes," which can be downloaded to Apple products, the Nook, and most non-Kindle readers. Kindle readers can access it via Amazon.com. You can also read it for free on your computer via Adobe Digital Editions.
The folks over at Martha Stewart have thought of everything – again – when it comes to prepping for a perfect day. Their "Everything Thanksgiving" includes how-tos (if you are still mastering grilling/roasting/brining/carving a bird), ideas for leftovers, and even meatless Thanksgiving meals.
This online repository of a vast array of recipes, has created a page with step-by-step instructions in a "Complete Guide to Brining at Turkey" (soaking a bird in salt water to create a moist and delicious meat). They provide tips for wet brining, dry brining, and how to pick the best salt.
The community blog site Food52.com has recently expanded to include a store. They have assembled "Small Batch: Turkey" that features an array of classy items from pewter serving platters to a turkey fryer to add to your Thanksgiving toolkit. Unfortunately, the free-range birds are already out of stock. Check out their recipes page for lots of great ideas to bring to the table.
Foodnetwork.com has a dizzying array of chef tips for your Thanksgiving planning purposes. On Saturday, Nov. 12 from 12-2 p.m. the network will host "Thanksgiving Live!", a call-in show to answer your most pressing concerns.
Surfing on Pinterest is a bit like sipping from a firehouse, but their steady stream of Thanksgiving ideas and recipes from bloggers around Web will fire up your imagination. We are talking about a lot of cute ideas here, like carving out mini gourds as tea light candle holders, Hershey kisses transformed into acorn cookies, and raw vegetable platters that look like turkeys.
Full disclosure friends: I frequently forget things. Like the time of my flight to Washington, D.C. last weekend. Like the chapter I was supposed to read for class this morning. Like the person I already told that story to. Like the necessity for lemons when I plan on making lemon bars....
I recently found myself in such a dilemma with three options: (1) Go to the store and get more lemons, (2) make something else, (3) use what I have on hand. Fortunately, my forgetfulness is somewhat offset by my baking creativity. I may not have had enough lemons, but I did have orange juice! Same thing, right? Turns out that in the case of these bars, it is. They are made with the zest and juice of just one lemon, plus orange juice. And if I didn't tell you, you wouldn't know it. I used the same shortbread crust recipe from my apple cheesecake bars because it is the best.
RECOMMENDED: Take our fruit and veggie quiz!
If you wanted to highlight the orange flavor, you could use a fresh orange and grate the zest into the mix as well. This of course necessitates having a fresh orange on hand – the likelihood of that happening is between you and your own kitchen.
Lemon orange bars
3/4 cups + 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/3 cup powdered sugar
1/8 cup cornstarch
1/2 teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons unsalted butter — (3/4 sticks) at very cool room temperature, cut into 1-inch pieces, plus extra for greasing pan
1-1/2 cups granulated sugar
Zest from 1 lemon
Juice of 1 lemon + orange juice = 1/2 cup of liquid (i.e. pour lemon juice into a 1/2 cup measure, then fill it the rest of the way with orange juice)
1/2 cup flour
Confectioner's sugar, for dusting
1. Crust: Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly butter a 9- by 9-inch baking dish.
2. If you have a food processor: Pulse flour, powdered sugar, cornstarch, and salt. Add butter and process to blend, 8 to 10 seconds, then pulse until mixture is pale yellow and resembles coarse meal, about three 1-second bursts.
3. If you're doing it by hand: Mix flour, powdered sugar, cornstarch, and salt in medium bowl. Freeze butter and grate it on large holes of box grater into flour mixture. Toss butter pieces to coat. Rub pieces between your fingers for a minute, until flour turns pale yellow and coarse.
4. Sprinkle mixture into pan and press firmly with fingers into even, 1/4-inch layer over entire pan bottom and about 1/4-inch up sides.
5. Bake for 20 minutes.
6. Filling: Whisk together the eggs, sugar, lemon zest, lemon and orange juice, and flour. Pour over the hot crust and bake for 30 to 35 minutes, until the filling is set.
7. Let cool to room temperature and slice into squares.
RECOMMENDED: Take our fruit and veggie quiz!
Related post on Eat. Run. Read: Lemon Layer Cake with Whipped Cream Frosting
Everywhere I turn on Pinterest, I'm seeing all sorts of pumpkin desserts sprout up. And, being sadly lagging on the blogosphere calendar, I'm finally making a pumpkin cake I pinned awhile back but never got to until now. The pictures on Heather Christo's blog are mouthwatering and seemed like the perfect autumn dessert with both pumpkin and toasted pecans, not to mention caramel. Caramel. Sigh.
Although unfortunately, when I was making this cake, I was short on time to make the caramel from scratch so I ended up cheating and topping it with the salted caramel from Trader Joe's. I know, total cheater, right? It also didn't work as well as I wanted either. I spread the caramel while the cake was still a little warm. It looked fine at first but ultimately it absorbed into the cake itself so I was left with a plain-looking cake with random pecans stuck on it and darker colored patches where the caramel once lay. Oops.
Fortunately, however, despite its appearance, this made a good cake. It had a nice fluffy texture and a good pumpkin flavor. I left the original caramel recipe below for anyone who wants to make it from scratch but I think to make the frosting stand out a little more, I'd try making a caramel buttercream for it instead. Or just use more caramel like the original recipe seemed like it did.
Pumpkin spice cake with caramel pecan glaze
From Heather Christo
3/4 cup butter, room temperature
1-1/2 cups white sugar
1-1/4 cups pumpkin puree
3 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cardamom (I omitted)
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ginger
1 cup buttermilk
Caramel pecan glaze
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup cream
2 tablespoons butter
1/2 cup toasted pecans, chopped
1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Place a bundt cake pan on a baking sheet and generously grease it with baking spray.
2. For the pumpkin spice cake: In the bowl of a standing mixer, beat the sugar and butter together until light and fluffy. Add the eggs and beat to combine. Add the pumpkin and combine well.
3. In a separate bowl add the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and spices and sift them all together. Add half of the flour mixture to the batter, and then half of the buttermilk. Combine completely and then add the rest of the flour and the rest of the buttermilk. Mix the batter until it is completely combined.
4. Pour the batter into the bundt cake pan. Bake the cake for about 45 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
5. Remove the cake from the oven and let it cool on a rack almost completely before turning out onto a cake platter.
6. When the cake has been turned out onto the platter, then make the caramel pecan topping.
7. In a medium-sized pan over medium heat add the sugar. When it starts to turn golden around the edges, reduce the heat to low and begin to stir until all the sugar has melted. Add the butter and the cream and stir constantly over low heat until you have a smooth caramel sauce-this may take up to 10 minutes.
8. Add the pecans and immediately stir and pour over the top of the pumpkin spice bundt cake.
Related post on Pastry Chef's Baking: Spiced Pumpkin Cookie Cakes
My lemon tree is exploding with lemons. In hindsight, I should've probably thinned out some of the blossoms earlier but it was just so thrilling to see real, actual lemons growing on a tree I've had for almost three years and had hitherto only produced two or three lemons than I just let them be. You can't have too many lemons, right? Uh, we'll see.
Some of the branches are so loaded now that they're almost touching the ground. And I can't pick most of them yet since they're still green. I have been giving one particular lemon the hairy eyeball though as it's been pretty yellow for the past few weeks. It still seemed rather hard though so I left it alone – not hard to do since I only go out to the backyard when I guiltily remember I haven't watered the lemon tree or the orange tree. A green thumb, I possess not.
But I did finally snip the first large yellow lemon off my tree this past weekend and put it to good use with this lemon chicken recipe I found on Pinterest. I used chicken breast tenderloins instead of chicken thighs since that's what I bought from Costco and also subbed out green onions in the original recipe for regular onions since that's what I had on hand. I also had some Parmesan Reggiano cheese so I grated a bit of that and threw that in as well.
I'm reminded why real cooks enjoy cooking. There's something satisfying about using up a bunch of random ingredients from the fridge and making something edible out of it.
This recipe made enough sauce that I actually paired it with some whole wheat noodles and baked it off as a casserole to make lemon chicken pasta. I liked how easy it was to make although if you want more lemon flavor, I'd increase the amount of lemon juice to at least 1/3 to 1/2 cup. This wasn't super lemony so it might also be good to place sliced lemons on top of the chicken before baking.
Lemon Chicken Pasta
From The Mother Huddle
8 boneless chicken thighs, skin removed or breast tenderloins
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
4 tablespoon butter
1 cup chicken broth (or use 1 bullion cube dissolved in 1 cup of water)
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup grated Parmesan Reggiano cheese, optional
1/3 cup green onions (green tops), chopped plus more for garnish if desired
Whole wheat noodles, boiled to al dente and drained
1. Cook noodles according to package instructions.
2. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
3. In a large Ziploc bag, combine, flour, salt, pepper, garlic powder and chicken a few pieces at a time. Shake to coat chicken with flour mixture.
4. In a large, deep frying pan, sauté chicken in butter until both sides are evenly browned.
5. Add chicken broth, lemon, cream, and onions or mushrooms, if desired
6. Cover and simmer for about 20 minutes or so, until meat is tender.
7. Place noodles in baking dish and pour lemon chicken over. Sprinkle with grated cheese and bake at 350 degrees F. for 15-20 minutes. Garnish with more green onions.
Related post on The Pastry Chef's Baking: Lemon Loaf Pound Cake
Deep-frying a turkey for Thanksgiving has become more popular in recent years. The process yields a tender and delicious meat and offers a novel twist on the classic Thanksgiving centerpiece. Depending on the turkey fryer you use, it can also mean your main dish will be ready to serve in an hour or less, vastly improving oven roasting times that can range anywhere from 3 hours (6-lb. bird) to 6 hours (24-lb. bird).
The Southern tradition of deep-frying a turkey in oil can be incredibly dangerous, so don't attempt it before reading up on the process. The National Fire Protection Association actually discourages the use of outdoor turkey fryers.
But if you are deep-set on deep-frying your Thanksgiving turkey, here are some useful tips for frying outdoors:
- Never leave your turkey fryer unattended.
- Make sure your turkey is completely thawed, removed any wrapping, and discard the neck and giblets.
- Before filling your fryer with oil, do a test run with water. Place the turkey in the fryer, and fill with water until the bird is just covered. Remove the bird, letting the water drain back into the fryer, then mark the water line. This is how much oil to add to the fryer.
- Pat the bird dry with a paper towel and rub with desired seasonings.
- Do not stuff a deep-fried turkey! Prepare the stuffing separately.
- Once you have cooked the turkey, following the fryer's instructions, remove the bird and let it stand for 20 minutes before serving.
Again, please use safety and precaution (and intelligence!) when deep frying a turkey.
If you are still inspired to tie a bandana around your forehead à la "Duck Dynasty" fashion, take a look at this video of the BBQ Pit Boys demonstrating how to deep fry a turkey.
Every autumn when I reignite my love affair with all things pumpkin, I swear that I am going to bring pumpkin past November and enjoy it through the winter. A few weeks ago, I bought some extra cans of pumpkin purée to tuck in my pantry to satisfy my intentions.
This year, we found pumpkin English muffins on the shelves and substituted our usual raisin variety with the seasonal selection. Mini Whipped and I are big fans and decided to further feed our obsession with the creation of a pumpkin spread. “Double pumpkin?!” Mini Whipped exclaimed with twinkling eyes.
We’ve already enjoyed our first slice of pumpkin pie, some delectable pumpkin bread and just recently, I treated the family to an inaugural batch of pumpkin Belgian waffles. I had a little misstep as I do each year when I ordered a pumpkin spice latte thinking that perhaps this year will be different. Nope. It was still a disappointment to me – too chemically tasting.
This Pumpkin Maple Cream Cheese Spread is fluffy and just right on any of your favorite toasted breads or bagels. Dip carrot sticks, apples or crackers for a snack. It lasts in the refrigerator for at least a week. If you don’t have all these spices, you can use Pumpkin Pie Spice or leave one out and it will still taste good!
If you are a fellow pumpkin lover, this is the one pumpkin recipe I would recommend not missing!
Pumpkin Maple Cream Cheese Spread
1 8-ounce package of cream cheese, at room temperature
1/3 cup pumpkin puree
1 tablespoon pure maple syrup
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/8 teaspoon ground allspice
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1. In a bowl, mix the softened cream cheese, pumpkin, and maple syrup until light and fluffy.
2. Add the spices and mix until combined. Refrigerate before using.
Related post on Whipped, The Blog: The Best Pumpkin Bread
Having less choice is a good thing.
When we have friends or family spend the night, I don't deliberate about what to make for breakfast. If we don't send someone on a doughnut run (if you lived near Lafeen's, you would too), I am predictable. Broiled eggs and some kind of scone, biscuit, or muffin. And more predictably than that, some version of these scones.
Isn't there so much pressure to be novel all the time? Pinterest, Rachel Ray's infinite hamburger combinations, piles and piles of new cookbooks being published every day. Do you want to know my little secret? I don't buy cookbooks! I love to browse at the bookstore and ones with beautiful photos certainly inspire me. And I will happily receive them as gifts. But I only own about 30 cookbooks. More than being frugal or trying to save space, the main reason I don't add to my collection is because all those possibilities overwhelm me. When it comes to making family dinners or something tried and true when we have company, those beautiful cookbooks don't seem to help me much.
I love to quote Christopher Kimball of America's Test Kitchen who says that most of us don't need more recipes. We just need to perfect a handful of things that we're good at. After that, it's easier to get inspired by novel things. For me, this repertoire is a few soups I can make in my sleep (minestrone, potato leek, lentil, mulligatawny), anything that can be baked all together on a big sheet pan (sausages with peppers, salmon with bok choy, chicken thighs with practically anything), a few pasta basics (puttanesca, tomato cream sauce with lots of sauteed veggies melting into the sauce), frittatas, and some sweets – galettes, pies, scones, biscuits. Sometimes (or most the time?), much as I love food, I don't really have the energy to THINK about being novel, let alone actually doing it.
I love these scones, based on a recipe from Nick Malgieri's "How to Bake," for many reasons. They can be made in the food processor. They're full of oats. The dough is soft but still easy to work with, and they emerge moist and sturdy at the same time. Three cheers for predictability!
Ginger cranberry scones
So many things can be subbed out for the ginger and dried cranberry. Add raisins. Or no dried fruit. Or take the sugar out and add shredded cheddar and dried dill instead. I often serve them that way with soup. Or make your own chai spice mixture and use dried apricots and figs.
1-1/2 cup flour
1-1/2 cup oats
1/3 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon dried ginger
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 cube unsalted butter, cut into 8 pieces [Editor's note: 8 tablespoons or 1/2 cup]
1 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup dried cranberries
1/4 cup candied ginger, finely chopped
1/4 cup buttermilk
Cinnamon sugar mixture
1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
2. In a food processor, combine first 8 dry ingredients and pulse a couple times to mix.
3. Add butter and pulse about 10 times until butter is in pea-sized lumps. Add buttermilk, cranberries, and ginger, and pulse just until dough holds together, about 5 or 6 times.
4. Turn dough onto a floured surface, knead a couple times, then divide the dough into two equal balls. Using your hands, flatten each round until it's about 1-inch thick and cut each round into 6 equal wedges for a total of 12 triangular scones. Transfer to a parchment lined baking sheet. Brush each scone with buttermilk and sprinkle a generous amount of cinnamon sugar over each. Bake for 12-15 minutes, watching carefully after 10 minutes so they don't get too crunchy on the outside. Let them cool for a few minutes before serving plain or with butter.
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First, let’s talk about the elephant in the room. Celery? Stealing the spotlight from lamb? Yes. As I sit here writing this post about this dish cooked and eaten last night, I am Pavlov’s dog, and he is going to town on that bell. And it is because of the celery.
Celery is woefully underrated, I think, largely because people mostly eat it raw. Cooked, it can become a valuable ensemble player. In soups, it adds a fresh note; in a pot of chili, it amplifies the taste of the cumin and provides nice, slightly crunchy bites. And, as in the case of lamb with cumin and celery, it can burst with big, bright flavor.
I often talk about what inspires the dishes we cook and share here. This one started with a smell. We were shopping in Chicago’s Wicker Park neighborhood. As we approached the appropriately named Cumin – a “modern Nepalese Indian” restaurant – the unmistakable, powerful fragrance of celery and cumin filled the air. Even though we’d just had lunch, I was prepared to eat again, asking them to just bring me whatever was causing that amazing smell.
Instead, we dutifully finished our shopping, and I tucked that flavor/scent combo away in the culinary lobe of my brain, knowing I would try to do something with it. Poking around online, I found a number of recipes using celery and cumin, but interestingly, only one Indian-inspired recipe, for a side dish. I used that recipe as a starting point, but wanted to turn it into a main course. One of our favorite cumin dishes is lamb with cumin we’ve had in a few Chinese restaurants. Lamb sounded like a perfect addition here.
And it was. It added an umami-rich protein base to the dish, making it a satisfying one-dish meal. But the celery stole the show, with big, lemony, crunchy bites made even livelier with the cumin and garlic. Wow.
Lamb with cumin and celery
Serves 2 to 3 (or more, see Kitchen Notes)
3 tablespoons canola oil, divided
2 teaspoons whole cumin seeds, divided
12 ounces ground lamb
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/3 cup water
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
1 large clove garlic, minced
7 ribs of celery, sliced into 1/3-inch pieces on a diagonal (3-1/2 cups)
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes (or more, see Kitchen Notes)
2 scallions, thinly sliced on a diagonal
Cooked basmati or white rice (or noodles, see Kitchen Notes)
1. Heat 1 tablespoon of oil in a large skillet or sauté pan over medium flame. Add 1/2 teaspoon of the cumin seeds and the ground lamb. Season with salt and pepper and brown the lamb, breaking it up with a wooden spoon, until just browned, 2 or 3 minutes. Remove from heat and transfer lamb to a bowl with a slotted spoon. Drain fat from pan and wipe with a paper towel, but don’t wash.
2. Combine water, lemon juice, garlic and 1/4 teaspoon salt in a small bowl and set aside. Heat remaining oil in the same pan over medium-high heat. Add remaining cumin seeds, crushed red pepper flakes and celery to pan and sauté for 3 to 4 minutes, stirring frequently.
3. Reduce heat to low and pour water/lemon juice/garlic mixture over celery. Cover pan and cook for about 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Return lamb to pan, cover and cook until lamb is heated through 2 to 3 minutes. Serve over rice and top with sliced scallions.
How many servings? As a main course, served with rice, it easily serves 2 (and possibly 3) diners. As part of a multicourse meal, it can serve 4 to 6.
Spicing things up. We like things hot here, but for this dish, we used just 1/4 teaspoon of crushed red pepper flakes. That gave it a nice little bit of heat that sneaks up on you, almost politely. Feel free to turn up the heat with more pepper flakes.
Rice? Noodles? Rice is an easy call for this dish, but you could also cook some spaghetti or other noodles and toss them with the finished dish at the end, perhaps adding a little pasta water if things get too dry.
Related post on Blue Kitchen: Braised Lamb Shoulder Chops with Tomatoes and Sage
Halloween blew my 2-year-old’s mind. Totally blew it. For weeks we’d been talking about how he would be Captain America on Halloween, while his brothers would be Hulk and Thor. Daddy would be Iron Man and Mommy would be Black Widow. We’d go door to door, collecting candy, which we would deposit in plastic pumpkins.
Though clearly flummoxed by this odd outline of what would happen on Halloween, he walked around telling anyone who would listen that he was going to “be Captain America.” (When he says it, it sounds a lot more like “Captain Murder.”)
As Halloween unfolded, every last bizarre detail came to fruition. He became Captain America. He was handed a plastic pumpkin. He said the magic words as he trotted from door to door. He got candy. Somehow, he managed to collect twice as much candy as either of his older brothers, having visited the same number of houses.
Be Captain America. Get Candy.
Meanwhile, Lucas, my 5-year-old Hulk, obsessed over the accuracy of every minute detail of his costume. My initial money-saving plan of picking up a fleece Hulk hat, t-shirt, and green face paint was met with a long list of concerns about muscles, green arms, purple ripped pants, and green legs.
I abandoned my frugal plan once the details overwhelmed me, in lieu of an official store-bought muscles-included hulk costume. Far from solving the problem, this purchase was quickly met by concerns over not having green feet or enough teeth in his partially toothless mouth. A hefty dose of gamma radiation may have saved us all a few headaches.
Learn from my experience, folks. If you stick three little boys in superhero costumes and call them The Avengers, you’d better expect some major chaos. Thor’s hammer was revoked almost instantly. Somehow, we made it through the day, by the skin of our superhero teeth. Next year, I may dress our whole clan as librarians, monks, and sloths.
Thankfully, the very next day, I had the pleasure of departing for a weekend of dairy education and wine and cheese tasting, hosted by the American Dairy Association and Dairy Council. Last year’s event was such an amazing experience. (You can read about it here.) I couldn’t wait to see what ADADC had in store for us this year.
This year, the event began at the beautiful Geneva on the Lake in Geneva, N.Y., which is located on the northwest side of Seneca Lake. Nestled in the New York Finger Lakes wine country, the manicured grounds of this elegant villa-inspired resort are absolutely stunning.
After a comfortable night’s sleep in a spacious jacuzzi suite, we awoke for a continental breakfast at the resort. From there, we departed for Cornell University, where we spent the day touring Cornell’s state-of-the-art dairy farm and dairy production plant. We met with experts in the fields of dairy farming, food science, and dairy production.
Going a step beyond the dairy farms, we learned about ice cream, cheese, and yogurtmaking and how Cornell University partners with local cheese artisans and other small businesses to help them develop and promote their dairy products.
Part of our "learning" required tasting a variety of ice creams, frozen yogurt, homemade yogurt, and cheese. I had no choice but to eat that delicious ice cream and a second helping of cheese. Twist my arm already!
I couldn’t possibly do the weekend justice in a single post, so I’m going split my thoughts into a few posts, each post paired with seasonal, dairy-inspired recipe. (Think: cheese, yogurt, ice cream, and creamy chowder….)
For today, let’s start at the beginning, with the cows. Any mom who has ever nursed a baby knows that milk production is at its best when the mom is well-nourished, well-rested, and comfortable. Same applies to dairy cows. Happy cows means more milk and these dairy farmers have mastered the art of keeping cows happy and healthy to maximize production.
Cornell’s dairy barn, which is designed for maximum ventilation, sanitation and cow-comfort, sets an example for the dairy industry and provides a hands-on learning opportunity for its dairy students.
Three times a day, Cornell’s cows are brought to the milking parlor, where their milk is collected for use within the school’s very own dairy production plant, where Cornell’s own Big Red cheddar is made, as well as yogurt and ice cream for the university’s dining halls.
Twice daily milking is standard for most dairy farms, but Cornell’s cows, much like its students, are overachievers. Each cow produces an average of 95 pounds of milk daily, putting them in the top 95th percentile for milk production. I’d expect nothing less from an Ivy-league cow!
In Part 2 of my dairy adventure, I’ll talk about two things which I love dearly: cheese and Wegmans.
For today, enjoy some pumpkin gingersnap bars.
These seasonally perfect pumpkin bars pair a spicy gingersnap cookie crust with a layer of luscious baked pumpkin custard. Creamy half-and-half (half cream/half milk) lends a satisfying richness to these tiny bites of gingery pumpkin bliss. Cream cheese, another of dairy’s mouth-watering contributions to the world of food, provides the perfect finishing touch.
Pumpkin gingersnap bars with gingered cream cheese topping
2 cups crushed gingersnap crumbs
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
2 cups pumpkin puree fresh or canned (1 15-ounce can will do the trick)
1/2 cup white sugar
1/3 cup brown sugar
1-1/2 cups half-and-half
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon ginger
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
Pinch of cloves
1 tablespoon cornstarch
6 ounces cream cheese, softened to room temperature
1/4 cup powdered sugar
Pinch of ground ginger
Extra gingersnap crumbs for garnish
1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
2. Combine the crushed gingersnap crumbs with the melted butter. Press in an even layer into the bottom of a 13- by 9-inch baking dish. Bake for 7-8 minutes. Remove from the oven.
3. Meanwhile, whisk together the pumpkin, half-and-half, eggs, vanilla, cinnamon, ginger, salt, nutmeg, and cloves, until well blended. In a small dish, combine the cornstarch with about 1/4 cup of the pumpkin mixture, until the cornstarch is completely dissolved. Whisk the cornstarch mixture into the pumpkin mixture. Pour the pumpkin mixture over the gingersnap crust.
4. Bake for about 40 minutes.
5. Remove from the oven. Cool at room temperature until no longer hot. Then, cool completely in the refrigerator. Cut into small 1 to 1-1/2-inch squares.
6. Combine the cream cheese, powdered sugar, and a pinch of ground ginger. Use a pastry bag to pipe a bit of the cream cheese topping onto each square. Sprinkle with extra gingersnap crumbs.
My mum loved to throw parties – big ones, small ones, medium ones – and there was always one constant: good food, and lots of it.
Cooking for company often meant days of prep and a kitchen bustling with activity morning till evening. Ma would grind spice pastes for dishes like beef rendang or pork satay. She’d braise turmeric-spiced chicken for hours on the stovetop ahead of the next step – deep-frying them the day of the party (yes, the chicken was cooked twice!). And I, as soon as I could fold neat corners, was roped in to roll lumpia (fried spring rolls) by the dozens. Ma never skimped when it came to entertaining family and friends.
We also had friends over on an ad hoc basis; neighbors, schoolmates, church friends, etc. came by our house weekly. On these occasions, Ma would make an all-in-one noodle meal. Prep was quick and easy and everyone could serve themselves. Her noodle repertoire ran along these lines: bakmi (egg noodles topped with pork and mushrooms), soto daging (noodles with beef and lemongrass soup), and Indonesian laksa (rice vermicelli noodles doused in a coconut-chicken-turmeric soup).
I recently discovered a Thai noodle dish similar to Ma’s laksa and immediately fell in love with it. With the help of store-bought red curry paste, khao soi is fairly easy to make for dinner guests and tongue-tingly delicious! Because each noodle bowl is customizable, even kids can enjoy it (just start with a mild curry paste). And no one would guess it only takes 30 minutes to prepare.
This is my kind of entertaining.
Thai Red Curry Noodles (Khao Soi)
Khao soi is a popular Northern Thai dish with cousins in Burma (ohn-no-kauk-swe) and Singapore (laksa). A tangle of fried noodles and a squeeze of lime liven up the party, creating a tasty mélange of sweet, sour, salty flavors and lovely contrasting textures. If you’re serving a larger crowd, this recipe is easily doubled or tripled. You can also choose to lay out all the ingredients on the table and let your guests serve themselves.
Time: 30 minutes
Makes: 4 to 6 servings, depending on appetites
Red Curry Sauce
2 tablespoons canola oil
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 shallots or 1/2 small red onion, chopped
4 tablespoons red curry paste (I recommend Mae Ploy or Thai Kitchen brands)
1/2 teaspoon turmeric powder
2 cups coconut milk, divided
2 cups chicken stock
3 tablespoons soy sauce
1 teaspoon sugar
12 ounces dried or 2 pounds fresh egg noodles (Chinese or Italian are fine)
1 cup shredded cooked chicken
2 cups store-bought fried noodles (like La Choy brand)
1/2 small red or white onion, sliced thinly
Chopped green onions
2 limes, cut into wedges
Crushed chili flakes
1. Heat the oil over medium-high heat in a heavy bottomed pot until it shimmers. Add the garlic and shallots and stir and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds.
2. Add the red curry paste and turmeric and stir and cook until the paste turns a few shades darker and fills your kitchen with a pungent aroma, 2 to 3 minutes. Watch it carefully so it doesn’t burn.
3. Slowly pour in 1 cup coconut milk, stirring to blend, and cook until the sauce bubbles. Let it bubble gently over medium-high heat, stirring often, until a layer of red oil separates from the sauce and rises to the surface, about 3 minutes. Stir in the second cup of coconut milk and repeat the process of waiting for the oil to separate.
4. Pour in the stock and bring the sauce to a gentle boil over medium-high heat before reducing the heat to a simmer. Add the soy sauce and sugar and taste. The curry should taste a bit too salty (it will balance out when ladled over the noodles) and a tad sweet, with some heat to it. Add more soy sauce if necessary (this will depend on how salty your stock is). Keep the curry warm over low heat.
5. Bring a large pot of water to a rolling boil. Cook the noodles according to package directions. Stir the noodles as they cook to loosen them and prevent sticking. Drain in a colander and rinse with cold water.
6. To serve, divide the noodles and chicken into 4 to 6 individual bowls. Ladle about 3/4 cup of curry over each bowl. Garnish with fried noodles, onions, cilantro, and green onions as desired. Serve with the lime wedges, and extra soy sauce and chili flakes in little dishes.
Related post on The Asian Grandmother's Kitchen: Pranee's Shrimp and Pineapple Red Curry