Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Getting Fired Up for Thanksgiving.

The day before Thanksgiving is one of my favorite days of the year . . . a day for venturing out into the world to shop for some last-minute brainstorms, finalizing cooking plans, and starting things in motion well before the guests arrive and, as host, the social part of the program begins.

On this year's menu:

Grilled/Smoked Turkey. This year I'm going to test out the Weber Smokey Mountain (WSM) in lieu of the Big Green Egg (BGE). I'll let you know how it goes. I still love the BGE for turkey and those looking for tips should check our past posts and make their way to the Naked Whiz site and the BGE Form. Hopefully, the users in the WSM community are just as inspiring.

Oven Turkey. We're contemplating using Michael Ruhlman's Roast/Braise Method, which looks like it may help us crack the code on perfectly cooking the white and dark meat while maximizing moistness.

Mashed Potatoes, aka DezMo's Holiday Potatoes.

Gravy. Already got a jump on this by preparing our turkey stock earlier this week. Again, thanks for the tip from Ruhlman.

My Grandma's Cranberry Relish.

Cranberry Gelatin in turkey shaped tins.

Butternut Squash Soup in shot glasses, got the idea to serve in shot form last night celebrating Lauren's birthday at Va de Vi Bistro and Wine Bar.

Pear Cranberry Pie.

Pumpkin Blondies.

Cheese Assortment for early arriving guests.

And that's what we're making! Our unstoppable guests will be bringing the dressing, shrimp salad, antipasto, sweet potatoes, green beans, and cheesecakes (one pumpkin)!

Just writing this I feel almost full, but there's that shopping to do . . . Happy Thanksgiving!

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Baking at 6AM: Cinnamon Crumb Coffee Cake

We haven't had a post in a while and it's not because we aren't cooking, in fact since we've had our baby, we've been cooking at home more than ever. But baking, my favorite part of cooking, has been on the backburner. And blogging, well, it's been a busy month but we're hoping to use holiday cooking as a reason to get back on the blog!

With a full time job, a long commute, and a little one in the mix, my evenings are now full of family time and work catch-up. But I think I've come up with a way to get a little bit of baking back into the mix- ok, it's actually starting with a mix. I've never been one for mixes but at this point, a good quality baking mix is a great shortcut. And it's either a shortcut or no baking.

This shortcut is especially helpful at 6AM on a Saturday or Sunday morning, which is when I made this cinnamon crumb coffee cake- a mix from Trader Joe's. My little peanut doesn't have a snooze button and he's up at 6AM. I've figured out that I have a little window of time in the morning with him in the pack and play to whip out a simple recipe or baking mix.

What I really liked about this mix was the flexibility in the recipe to add butter or oil ( butter, of course), and to put the crumb in between the batter or only on top. I actually put it on top and drew a knife through it to add some swirl. I also went for whole milk- why not? The result was quite delicious and filled the house with the smell of coffee cake first thing in the morning. The cake was actually best when it had cooled and the sugar in the crumb had recrystallized for a crunchy texture in the swirl.

So, I'm going to keep exploring what a busy mom can bake at 6AM. My requirements:

1) a mix with quality ingredients similar to what I would bake from scratch. I love to add my own eggs, milk, butter etc. so I am not looking for a "just add water" kind of thing

2) simple recipes that use one bowl (or pretty close). Part of the key is not to have a bunch of bowls to clean up

3) recipes that can be baked in one step- I don't have time for recipes with multiple cookie sheets

4) things that taste great

5) I'm also considering making my own mixes the night before or in advance.

Do you have a favorite mix I should try? Or a simple one bowl - one pan recipe? I'd love to try it!