Cranberry Sauce

With Thanksgiving less than a week away now, I thought it might be a good day for a double dose of sweetness. Don’t forget to check out today’s other post, pumpkin pie!

Sometimes instead of picking out the melon from my fruit salad, I’ll give it a try, just to see if I suddenly like it. I don’t (still tastes like watered down perfume to me) but I try because you just never know. Like for example butterscotch, cooked carrots, and small pieces of apple in foods like Stuffed Acorn Squash or Asian Lettuce Wraps. I never liked any of those things, but over the years my tastes have evolved. Which is really great for someone that loves food as much as I do.

That’s sort of what happened with cranberry sauce. Every Thanksgiving I would put a little on my plate, give it a try, and pretty much always decide that there were just more important foods on the plate.

That may still be a little true (the part about there being more important foods on the plate) but I’ve really come around in the cranberry sauce arena. It’s not my favorite food on the table at Thanksgiving, but it’s totally necessary, especially when you have a delicious recipe.

With hosting a Thanksgiving meal on my own for the first time this year, I searched for the perfect recipe. And I think I found it! A little sweet and a little tart. The only changes I made were to cut the recipe in half (and it’s listed that way below). And bonus, I re-purposed the leftovers into a killer muffin.

Cranberry Sauce

1 12-ounce bags fresh cranberries
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup brown sugar
pinch of salt
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup fresh squeezed orange juice
1 teaspoon orange zest
scrapings from half of a vanilla bean (optional, they can be expensive, but if you have one use it!)

In a medium saucepan over medium heat, dissolve the sugars and salt in the water and orange juice. Add the cranberries and cook until the cranberries begin to pop (this part is fun! sounds like popcorn!) Cook cranberries, stirring occasionally for about 10 to 12 minutes, until the sauce thickens. Once thick, remove from heat and add stir in the orange zest and vanilla bean. Cool to room temperature and store in fridge until ready to serve. For a nice touch, garnish with a little orange zest when serving.

Adapted from Joy the Baker

Soft Yeast Rolls


These yeast rolls were one of my non-negotiables for my 48-hour Thanksgiving. I love, love, love these rolls. They’re buttery rich with a soft, fluffy texture. Yes, a bag of store bought rolls would have been faster. But it wasn’t something I was willing to budge on, even if it meant a little extra work. Not that I really mind that kind of work. I mean, extra work doing dishes, not my cup of tea. Extra work watching dough rise, punching it down, and shaping it, my idea of a good time.

Let’s say you have more than 48-hours to plan your meal. Perfect! You can make this dough ahead of time! To do that, follow all the steps through the shaping. Once the dough is shaped, freeze them on a cookie sheet until hard, then you can transfer them to a Ziploc bag if you like. The day before you need them take them out of the freezer and let them thaw in the fridge. Bring them to room temperature and then let them rise another 30-45 minutes before baking.

All in one day or frozen for later, you’re going to love these rolls!

Soft Yeast Rolls

4-1/2 tsp (2 packets) active dry yeast
1/2 cup warm water (110° to 115°)
2 cups warm milk (110° to 115°)
6 Tbsp unsalted butter, softened
2 eggs
1/4 cup sugar
1-1/2 teaspoons salt
7 to 7-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
3 Tbsp butter
2 tsp honey

In the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, dissolve the yeast in the warm water. Let stand for 10 minutes, until it starts get foamy and the water looks milky. Add the milk, butter, eggs, sugar, and salt and turn the mixer on low to combine. Add 3 cups of flour and beat until smooth.

Remove the paddle and replace it with a dough hook. Add 4 more cups of flour and let the mixer knead the dough for 5 minutes. The dough should become smooth and elastic and just slightly tacky to the touch. Add up to 1/2 cup more of flour if the dough is too sticky. Move the dough to an oiled bowl. Cover and let rise in a warm place until doubled in size, about 1 hour.

Towards the end of rising, butter two 9×13 pans. After the dough has risen, punch it down in the center and turn out on a floured surface, knead it by hand for a minute or so. Cut the dough into 24 even pieces* and place in the prepared 9×13 pans. Melt 3 tablespoons of butter in a small bowl and stir in the honey. Brush the tops of the rolls. Cover and let rise for 30 minutes, or until doubled in size. In the meantime, preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Bake rolls for 20-25 minutes or until the tops are golden brown.

*Usually I do 12 rolls per pan (and 1/2 recipe for just one pan) but for Thanksgiving I made smaller rolls. For smaller rolls divide into 40 pieces (20, 4 rows of 5, per pan).

Adapted from Taste of Home

Zesty Carrots


At the end of yesterday’s post I told you that the one thing I would have changed about my early Thanksgiving dinner would be to calm down a little bit towards the end and get better pictures of each food item. This dish especially deserves a better picture, but we were all into our first bites when I realized that I hadn’t taken pictures of it. After hearing a round of compliments from everyone at the table, I knew I needed to get at least one picture so I could share it here before Thanksgiving. Hopefully somewhere down the line I’ll get a new (better) picture to really do this side dish justice, but for now this’ll do (and it’s a good thing I snapped it when I did because after everyone’s second helping there wasn’t much left!).

Zesty carrots are an absolute requirement at my Thanksgiving meals. The recipe goes back to my mom’s mom, but it’s appearance every Thanksgiving goes beyond nostalgia. It tastes unlike anything else at the Thanksgiving table. I will admit that it took me several years to finally put it on my plate and give it a try, but once I did there was no turning back. It’s possibly one of my favorite sides each year. This year I included it in my menu plan, not knowing how it would be received. Everyone loved them. Between mouthfuls I heard lots of “Mmm, these carrots are really good,” and two of my guests commented that they don’t usually like carrot dishes but loved this zesty take.

Don’t let the ingredients throw you off. I realize that seeing “miracle whip” among the ingredients for a carrot dish is weird, but there’s a balance of flavors here. A little spice from the horseradish, a little sweet from the carrots, a little zest from the miracle whip. There’s also a good balance of texture; creamy from the sauce and crunch from crumb topping. You may be tempted to skip right over this odd pairing of ingredients, but I dare you to just give it a try.

Grandma Shirley’s Zesty Carrots

6 large carrots, scraped and cut into very thin slices*
1/4 cup reserved cooking water
2 Tbsp prepared horseradish
2 Tbsp butter
1 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
1/2 cup Miracle Whip (not Mayo)
2 Tbsp onion, grated or finely chopped

Crumb topping ingredients
1 Tbsp unsalted butter, melted
1/3 cup Panko bread crumbs
1 Tbsp fresh parsley, chopped
Pinch of salt

*I use the mandolin blade for my food processor to cut the carrots.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

Place the sliced carrots in a cooking pot (with a lid) and cover with about 1 inch of water with a pinch of salt. Bring to a boil then cover and cook until tender, about 5 minutes. Drain but reserve 1/4 cup of the cooking liquid.

Move the carrots to a 2 quart baking dish. In a small bowl or measuring cup, combine the reserved cooking liquid with the rest of the sauce ingredients. Pour the sauce over the carrots and use a spoon to evenly coat the carrots (use just enough sauce to cover the carrots, there may be an extra tablespoon or 2 of sauce if your carrots are smaller).

In a small bowl, toss the melted butter with the Panko bread crumbs, parsley and salt. Sprinkle the crumb topping over the carrots.

Bake for 20 minutes or until the crumbs start to turn golden brown and the sauce is bubbly.

Adapted from my grandma Shirley

Grilled Brussels Sprouts

Why do brussels sprouts get such a bad rap? My guess is too many people have had a bad brussels sprout experience with mushy, overcooked, bland ones. I mean seriously, they are possibly one of my favorite vegetables. I compare the flavor to broccoli, just with a smoother texture. And being a member of the cabbage family means that they are going to absorb the flavors of your seasoning really well. Typically I roast my sprouts with garlic and olive oil until the tops are brown and caramelized. But with all of our recent grilling adventures I decided to track down a new preparation method.

Before I go any further, I’ve always said “Brussel” sprouts and just now realized (through some google searches) it’s supposed to be “Brussels“. It doesn’t feel right though…

This recipe hit the nail on the head right away. The blanch ensures that they are no longer tough to eat but it’s quick enough that they are not over cooked and mushy. Then the tossing in that fabulous seasoning? Are you kidding me, match made in heaven. I love the unexpected flavor from the celery seed. Then there’s the grilling, the outside starts to turn a fabulous golden brown that really concentrates the flavor. Really really fabulous. So please, STOP HATING ON THE BRUSSELS SPROUTS and try this recipe.

Before I end this post I need to take a little personal side track. Here we go again! Jesse is headed back to China in a few weeks. Luckily this stay is only for a month (and he’ll be back for Thanksgiving!!) but it’s still a month apart. 🙁 Because of his impending trip I plan on making a lot of comfort food in the coming weeks. The boy loves his mashed potatoes (who can blame him?) and other US friendly carbs. So you can expect to see lots of those sorts of recipes. And possibly some unexpected twists…. You’ll have to stick around and see 🙂

Grilled Brussels Sprouts
(Source: Food52)

12 small to medium Brussels Sprouts
1 1/2 Tbsp olive oil
3/4 tsp kosher salt
1/2 tsp cracked black pepper
1 tsp onion powder
1 tsp garlic powder
3/4 tsp celery salt

Fill a large saucepan with water and bring to a boil. While the water is coming to a boil, clean and trim the brussels sprouts. Add the brussels sprouts to the boiling water and blanch for 4-5 minutes. Remove the sprouts from the water and drain off any excess liquid.

In a medium bowl heatproof bowl, drizzle the sprouts with olive oil. Then add the seasonings and toss well, until evenly coated. Set the bowl aside. (don’t rinse it out!)

Place the coated sprouts on the grill (if you need to, you can lay out a piece of foil so they don’t fall through) and cook over medium-high heat for 12 minutes, turning the sprouts every 4 minutes.

Remove the sprouts from the grill and put back into the heatproof bowl. Toss with the seasonings one more time before serving.