Candy Cane Cookies

The internet doesn’t need another post about the hustle and bustle of the holiday season, so this isn’t that post.

It’s a post on something that surprised me Friday night.

candy cane cookies.

You see, I had a busy day on Friday.  And I don’t tell you that to prove how important I am because I loathe people who tout their busyness, as if to imply their lives are any more important, or crowded, than any one of ours.  So I tell you that because that’s what it was.  A long day, with a full agenda.  A day with commitments from sunup to long past sundown.  December is this crazy month in which preparing for Christmas coincides with my husband and father-in-law’s birthdays.  About two weeks into December (read: now), I always find myself more stressed than I like to be.  And I find myself with a baking list about twelve miles long.  Sounds like a recipe for disaster.  But it isn’t, dear readers.

I trudged wearily into the kitchen on Friday evening, to be sure.  But after a cheesecake, a round of cookies, and a slew of these little guys (does anyone have an actual name for them?) I went up to bed relaxed and calm.  Baking is such a game-changer for me.  Spending multiple hours in the kitchen, making gifts for other people?  It’s my love language.  It’d been so long since my last round of cupcakes, I think I’d forgotten.

Elise posted these on Friday morning.  It was as if she knew my husband had come home the night before saying, “Never mind the two cakes you’re making this weekend, I was invited to a cookie exchange on Monday, can you make something I can bring?”  I imagine they’d be something Buddy the Elf would enjoy, as they involved crushed up candy canes, with buttercream frosting on top.

To make a couple dozen, you will need:

  • 1 cup butter, softened
  • 1.5 cups sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • tsp vanilla
  • tsp salt
  • 4 cups flour
  • tsp baking soda
  • 4 tablespoons oil
  • 12 candy canes, crushed
  • buttercream frosting (and optional red food coloring)

First, crush your candy canes. This is more tricky than it sounds. The best method I have found is to double ziplock bag the unwrapped canes and then hit them with a hammer or the bottom of a mug.

Pre-heat the oven to 350*F.

Blend together the butter and sugar. Add in and continue to blend eggs, vanilla and salt. Once that’s well mixed, add in the flour and baking soda. Your dough will be fairly crumbly. Add in the oil and about 3/4 of the crushed candy canes.

Roll your dough into small balls and press onto a well greased cookie sheet. These cookies expand pretty well so I like to keep them on the smaller side. Melted candy cane is a real mess, so you may want to line your cookie sheets with parchment paper or be sure to pull the cookies off the sheet quickly after baking.

Bake cookies at 350* for 10-12 minutes.

Let cool completely then frost with buttercream frosting and sprinkle with the remaining bit of crushed candy cane

Brussels Sprouts Season {brussels sprouts stuffing}

There is nothing that can’t be improved by being roasted in a 400 + degree oven.  Unless it’s roasted in a 400 + degree oven with some sort of cured meat.

brussels sprouts stuffing.

(See an under-appreciated example of such a dish here.)

brussels sprouts stuffing.

Last year, I decided to put everyone’s raving to the test, and try brussels sprouts.  Holy moly!  They’re actually amazing!  Let’s put them in stuffing this year, okay?

I took this recipe (aside–Food52 is killing it lately) and tweaked it so I wouldn’t have to separate the leaves off all the brussels sprouts.  I’m all about a mindless kitchen task, but that was asking a lot, even of me.  Instead, I saved all the leaves that fell off the halved sprouts, and incorporated them, and roasted the rest like I usually do.

To make brussels sprouts stuffing for a crowd, you will need:

  • 2 large loaves of bread (they always say to remove the crusts and I never do)
  • 4 ounces pancetta, diced
  • 8 tablespoons butter, divided
  • 2 cups small-diced onion
  • 2 cups small-diced celery
  • Kosher salt
  • olive oil
  • 1 small bunch sage
  • 1/2 pound brussels sprouts, halved (save the leaves that fall off and compile them elsewhere)
  • 1/2 cup Cognac, white wine, or sherry
  • 3 to 4 cups chicken or turkey stock
  • Freshly cracked pepper
  • 2 eggs
  1. Preheat the oven to 275º F. Tear or slice the bread into cubes or shards about 1-inch square. Spread bread onto two sheet pans. Place pans in the oven for about 30 minutes, rotating the pans halfway. Set pans aside to cool. Once bread is completely cool, transfer it to one very large mixing bowl or to two large mixing bowls.
  2. Preheat oven to 425º F. Add 4 tablespoons butter to the pan along with the diced onions and celery. Cook over medium heat with a pinch of salt until translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the minced sage and the brussels sprout leaves, toss to coat, then transfer contents of the pan to the bowl of dried bread.  Set aside, and turn oven down to 350º F.
  3. Add Cognac or wine to pan and cook until it has nearly reduced, scraping up any bits on the bottom of the pan. Add the remaining 4 tablespoons of butter, then scrape the contents into the bowl of bread.
  4. When oven has preheated, add brussels sprout halves, drizzled with olive oil, and sprinkled with salt and pepper in a roasting pan.  Roast 20 minutes, add pancetta to pan, give everything a stir, and roast 25 more.  When sprouts are done, transfer to bowl with dried bread and onion mixture.
  5. Add two cups of stock, a big pinch of salt, and freshly cracked pepper to taste to the bowl of bread. Toss to coat.Taste. Add more salt if necessary — this is your last chance to ensure the stuffing is sufficiently seasoned before the eggs are added. Whisk eggs with one cup of the remaining stock. Pour into the bowl of bread and toss to coat. Each cube of bread should feel saturated with liquid. There shouldn’t be any liquid sitting in the bottom of the bowl, however, but if there is, toss the bread again and let it sit for 5 minutes. If the bread seems dry, add more stock, 1/2 cup at a time.
  6. Choose your vessels–a 9 x 13 is standard, but a sheet pan with give you more crispy bits, and grease each lightly with butter. Transfer bread to vessels and cover each with foil. Bake for 30 minutes at 350º F covered with foil. Raise the temperature to 425º F and bake for 10 to 20 minutes longer depending on your oven. If the stuffing isn’t browning, you can turn the temperature up to 450º F, just be sure to keep an eye on it — it will burn quickly. Let rest five minutes before serving.

 

Mashed Potato Mash Up {garlic and chive mashed potatoes}

mashed potato mash up

If you want to know what I would make for Thanksgiving, if I were making Thanksgiving this year, it would likely be:

Grandma Glass of Milk’s mashed potatoes

Green Bean Casserole

and some homemade version of stuffing that would ultimately disappoint me because I really like Pepperidge Farm stuffing.

The awesome thing about hosting Fakesgiving approximately 10 days prior to real Thanksgiving, is that there is no tradition to cling to.  On real Thanksgiving, I’d be disappointed if I didn’t find myself eating the foods we always eat.  But there are no rules for Fakesgiving.  Fakesgiving is about whatever you want it to be about.  And this year, I wanted it to be about a Yukon gold/sweet potato mash.  These will never have a place on my real Thanksgiving table, as my Grandma’s recipe is not to be trifled with.

Yet, someday, perhaps in the not-so-distant future, I’ll be placing a hunk of meat in the oven, wondering what starch would serve as a nice accompaniment, and I’ll think back on these fondly.  The garlic-infused milk adds something special, and I firmly believe that mashed potatoes are not something to be saved only for the holidays.

To make mashed potatoes for 6, you will need:

  • 6 cloves garlic
  • ½ cup milk or buttermilk if you’re all about the tang.
  • 1½ pounds sweet potatoes
  • 1½ pounds Yukon gold potatoes
  • 2 tablespoons chopped chives
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  • Fresh ground black pepper
  1. In a small saucepan, place 6 cloves garlic and ½ cup milk; heat over low heat while the potatoes cook, stirring, occasionally (do not allow to boil).
  2. Wash and dice the potatoes (do not peel). Place the Yukon gold potatoes in a large pot and cover with 3 to 4 inches of water; add a generous amount of kosher salt. Bring to a boil, then add the sweet potatoes after 5 minutes. Boil 10 to 15 minutes more until both types of potatoes are tender. Drain and let steam dry.
  3. Chop 2 tablespoons chives.
  4. Remove the garlic cloves from the milk and discard the garlic. In the bowl of a stand mixer (or in a large bowl for a hand mixer), add the potatoes, garlic-infused milk, 1 tablespoon butter, ½ teaspoon kosher salt, chopped chives, and fresh ground black pepper. Mix on medium low with a stand mixer or hand mixer until the desired consistency; is reached (we prefer ours slightly chunky); do not over-whip. (Alternatively, mash the potatoes by hand). Serve immediately.

 

Celebrate, Day 30

Today I got the best compliment.

pumpkin pie crumble.

The (Not So) New Girl said I don’t seem like someone who is living half out of storage, and half out of her real stuff.

pumpkin pie crumble.

Or something to that effect.

Which is so kind.

Now, let’s take a minute and recognize that my needs are being met in someone else’s home right now, so it’s not like I have to microwave Cup O Soup for dinner every night, and twirl it with a plastic fork, all whilst zipping up a tent in a nearby clearing.  Quite the opposite, in fact.  But it’s true, I’m not in my own space, and I’m happy to give off every appearance that I’m holding it together anyway.

One of the ways I do that is by baking as much as possible.  With dinner taken care of for me most nights, it’s the only cooking I do these days.  It’s therapeutic.

And on this day, it was for a beloved coworker, who is moving onward and upward after six years of being one of my favorite people to see every day.

It’s October, so my sweet contribution to her farewell lunch involved pumpkin.  Pumpkin Pie Crumble, to be exact.  I took a slice of this, loaded it up on my plate and took a bite.  Then I took another bite.  Then I remembered I just don’t love pumpkin, and I was done.  But other people said it was a winner, so I’ll take their word for it.

To make pumpkin pie crumble for 10, you will need:

For the crust and crumble:

  • 3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons cake flour (or use a gluten-free blend)
  • 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 4 ounces butter, cold
  • 1 egg
  • 1/4 cup flour
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1/8 cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 ounce butter
  • 1/2 cup chopped pecans

For the filling:

  • 1 egg
  • 1/8 cup brown sugar
  • 15 ounces pumpkin, canned or homemade (cook homemade down so it is similarly thick)
  • 1/3 cup milk
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  1. Preheat oven to 350° F. To make crust, combine first 4 ingredients, then cut in 4 ounces of butter until you have split-pea sized chunks. Add the egg and combine until dough starts coming together. Dump into a greased, parchment-lined 9″ pan with removeable bottom, spread it out, and press it into the pan evenly. Bake for about 20 minutes, or until it puffs up, then settles down and browns a bit. Remove from the oven and let cool.
  2. While the crust is in the oven, make your crumble topping. Mix the remaining flour, sugar, brown sugar, and cinnamon in a mixing bowl. Cut in the butter until pea-sized. Add the pecans and combine until crumble mixture is starting to clump. Set aside.
  3. While crust is cooling, make pumpkin filling. In a medium bowl, combine pumpkin, sugar, salt, and spices together with a whisk or spatula. Add egg and incorporate. Add milk and stir to a smooth consistency. Pour over cooled crust, and gently sprinkle the crumble evenly over the custard.
  4. Bake until set, about 40 minutes. Cool completely before removing from pan. You can remove the dessert from the removeable pan bottom carefully, once fully cooled, and more successfully if you’ve lined the pan with parchment.

Why Christmas was Awesome

I know that for a lot of you, Christmas ends on the 26th, and you’d like nothing better than my not mentioning it again until December, 2014.

Christmas Tree

Indulge me for a second.

This Christmas was awesome and I fear that if I don’t take the time right now, fresh out of it, to record what made it so, it will be lost for the ages.

home for Christmas

It wasn’t the kind of awesome where everything was perfectly decorated or someone unwrapped a puppy.  It was the kind of awesome that you get from a nice, low-key day, where the gifts are thoughtful, and the dinner isn’t just good, it’s easy.

peppermint stacks

Two Christmases ago, my husband and I were in Chile, and last year, we went to Rome.  I loved our trips, but after two years away, I vowed that this was a year for Christmas in America.

chocolate peppermint log

We did our usual routine of Christmas Eve with my in-laws, and an early morning shoot up 95 to my hometown.

icebox buche de noel

We arrived, open presents, hung out for a little, and then, per tradition, Sous Chef Lauren arrived to start cooking dinner with me.

Christmas Dinner

But there really wasn’t much to do in that department.

penne with five cheeses

With the exception of our annual Christmas latkes (oh hey, early days of this blog), everything was either prepped in advance, or simple to throw together.

Star of David cupcakes

Well, it helped that I wasn’t responsible for the main dish.

So here is what we had.  And though we ate these foods on Christmas dinner, nothing here is Christmas specific.  This would all work brilliantly for a dinner party, or other situation where you find yourself in need of recipes for an indulgent meal.

candlelight

Thus, I bring you a simple Christmas dinner, 2013 style:

Appetizers:

Smitten Kitchen’s Latkes – These are the best, and Sous Chef Lauren’s and my traditional Christmas fare.
Advance Prep: Not really possible with these guys.  But this is the only part of the menu that requires hands on time right before serving.

Smitten Kitchen’s Garlic Butter Roasted Mushrooms – I emailed Sous Chef Lauren with the parts of the menu I had cobbled together so far, and asked her to fill in the holes.  She knew that mushrooms were an integral part of this meal.  We never got as far as slicing bread to soak up the juices.  We dug right into these as-is.
Advance Prep: Get everything ready in the morning and just pop in the oven 20 minutes before you need them.

Dinner:

Grilled Marinated Flank Steak – Because I never need an excuse to ask for it for dinner.  The honey gives the meat this hint of sweetness that drives me over the edge.  This steak is the best.
Advance Prep:  Marinade this baby the night before, and hand it off to a loved one to grill for you about 20 minutes before dinner.

The Barefoot Contessa’s Penne with Five Cheeses – We had some vegetarians round our Christmas table this year, and they needed something of sustenance.  I remembered that I made this for Christmas Eve many moons ago (the power of making notes in the margins of my cookbooks) and it was darn good.  Of course, I forgot the penne back in DC and so I scrambled to make this work with the pasta we had in the pantry.  Testudo pasta for the win.
Advance Prep: Make the dish, the night before or the morning of, and bake it off when you need it.  If you’re taking it straight out of the fridge, put it in the oven while it preheats, so it warms up gradually.  If you take it out of the fridge and let it come to room temperature first, then you can just stick it in once the oven is preheated.  If you think of neither of those options in time, no worries, it just might need longer to bake.

Green Beans with Almonds – There’s no link for this one, dear readers.  Saute up some Trader Joe’s frozen green beans in some onions.  At the end of cooking, add a couple splashes of red wine vinegar and some toasted almonds.
Advance Prep: Get everything ready in the morning, cover, leave it on the stove.  When it’s time for dinner, uncover, and reheat over a medium to high flame.  If you do prepare the green beans in advance, hold off on adding the almonds until right before serving.

The Barefoot Contessa’s Brussels Sprouts with Bacon – Per Wooden Nickels’ request, because she heard they were the best around.
Advance Prep:  Get everything ready that morning and throw in the oven when you’re ready.

Dessert:

Skinnytaste’s Cranberry Bliss Bars – Cutting a 9 x 13 pan’s worth of bars in little triangles leaves you with more bars than you know what to do with.  So despite gifting these to my morning Starbucks team, I had plenty left for our Christmas table.
Advance Prep:  Make these a couple days in advance, wrap well with foil or plastic wrap, refrigerate, and place on the table when the time is right.

Star of David Cupcakes with the leftover chocolate frosting from this cake – Santa brought me these in my stocking last year, and Christmas seemed as good a time as any to break them out.  The box did come with frosting mix, but I had whipped up my father-in law’s birthday cake/Christmas Eve dessert that same night, and my husband suggested I use the remnants of the bowl for these as well.
Advance Prep:  Make these a couple days in advance, wrap well with foil or plastic wrap, refrigerate, and place on the table when the time is right.

Joy the Baker’s Chocolate Peppermint Icebox Yule Log Cake – And then I found out that Grandma Glass of Milk made an icebox cake right before my parents’ wedding.  And all was well.  It’s worth noting that the peppermint whipped cream that goes into the making of this cake is absolutely heavenly, and you will still have a bit left after stacking everything together, so I’d suggest having hot chocolate at the ready.
Advance Prep:  Joy’s cake needs some time in the freezer before it’s served.  This one is a must-make in advance, at least 24 hours before serving.  Then it needs 20 minutes out of the freezer before you’re ready to slice into it.  The perfect pause between dinner and dessert.

On Over-Thinking [cranberry bliss bars]

Sous Chef Lauren and I used to think we’d make pretty good psychologists.  I don’t know where she stands on that old assertion to this day, but I still maintain I wouldn’t be a bad one.

For one thing, I’m a pretty good judge of character.

And for another, oh man, do I over-analyze everything.

craberry bliss bar

Take, for instance, these cranberry bliss bars.  I made these after a former colleague raved about them.  I’ve always eyed them at Starbucks, but I’m a coffee-only girl there.  I’ve had a cake pop once and that’s it.  If I let myself get food it would open the floodgates to hundreds of calories I never needed in my day.

But we all know I don’t hold back in my own kitchen.

Plus every year at Christmas I used to make these cranberry, white chocolate chip cookies that I never really loved, but everybody else raved about, and maybe I would like these more.

And ohmygosh maybe I should bring some to my morning Starbucks team because they’re some of my favorite people, and it’s kind of funny because Starbucks makes these bars, but I bet the homemade version is better.

cranberry

But then I started over-thinking.  Wait, Starbucks makes these bars.  I wonder if the people who work there even like them? Is everyone sick of them?  Do they really want more of something they can have at any time?

And then I realized.  It’s the holiday season.  The perfect time of year to thank people who do nice things for you on a regular basis.  Shut up and hand over the bars, Jennie.  People will appreciate the gesture, even if they find you mildly odd for baking them something that sits in front of them all day.  They will feel warm and fuzzy because you thought of them.

favorite teacher

And that’s exactly what happened.

To make cranberry bliss bars for a crowd, you will need:

For the bars:

  • 2 C flour
  • 1/2 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1/8 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 2/3 C sugar
  • 2/3 C brown sugar, unpacked (Whaaaat? I definitely didn’t pay attention to that when I made them)
  • 1/4 C unsalted butter, melted
  • 2 large egg whites
  • 1/4 C unsweetened applesauce
  • 2 tsp. vanilla
  • 2/3 C white chocolate chips
  • 1/3 C dried cranberries, chopped

For the topping

  • 8 oz. cream cheese, at room temperature
  • 1/2 C powdered sugar
  • 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 2 oz. white chocolate
  • 1/3 C dried cranberries, chopped

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Spray a 9 x 13 baking pan with cooking spray.

In large bowl, combine flour, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon.  In another bowl, whisk sugars, butter, egg whites, applesauce, and vanilla.  Add wet ingredients to the dry mixture, and stir till combined.  Fold in white chocolate chips and cranberries.  Press mixture into baking pan, packing it tightly with the back of a measuring cup.  Bake 10-14 minutes, until the edges are golden brown and a tester comes out clean.

When bars are cooled completely, prepare the topping.  Combine cream cheese, powdered sugar, and vanilla in the bowl of an electric mixer, fitted with the paddle attachment.  Spread frosting on top of bars.  Sprinkle with cranberries.  Melt white chocolate in a microwave safe bowl.  Drizzle over bars (I used a Ziploc bag with the corner snipped off).

Cut into squares first, then cut each square in half until you have triangles.

December Daily

scrapbooking

christmas trees

rice krispies

grading

sunset

selfie

auburn fan

december dailying

christmas sheets

wrapping

sunrise

card wall

I hope your December isn’t too hectic.

I hope you’re finding some joy in the annual baking of the cookies/mailing of the cards/buying of the gifts/wrapping of the gifts/whatever it is that seems to eat up all the time in December.  I’m working on a December Daily album, inspired by the amazingly talented Ali Edwards, and I have to say, it’s helping me slow down just a bit, and look for the best in each day.

sprouts

I’ve been struggling to come up with ideas for my Christmas menu, but through some emailing with Wooden Nickels, we decided that if nothing else, we’d have brussels sprouts.  My husband and I have been eating these at least once a week, so I was looking for a new twist to add variety to our lives.  I came across citrus and pomegranate brussels sprouts from the ladies behind A Beautiful Mess, and I knew that was our next recipe.  We are suckers for a good pomegranate anything, and the fresh crunch they provide would certainly be a far cry from the deep, smoky, bacon crunch we’re used to.

They hit the table, and the spot, last night.

To make citrus and pomegranate brussels sprouts that probably feed 4, unless I’m there and then it feeds 2 (I eat a lot of brussels sprouts), you will need:

  • 6 – 7 C halved brussels sprouts*
  • 1/2 C panko
  • 1/2 C pomegranate aerils
  • juice of half a lemon
  • olive oil
  • salt
  • pepper

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.  Place brussels sprouts on a baking sheet, drizzle with a tablespoon or two of olive oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and toss to coat.  Roast brussels sprouts for 12 minutes, shake the pan to redistribute all those flavores, and roast another 12 minutes.

While brussels sprouts are cooking, heat 1 T olive oil in small skillet.  Add panko, stirring constantly until crumbs are toasted, and a golden brown color.  Remove from heat immediately and set aside.

Transfer brussels sprouts to serving dish, and squeeze a tablespoon or two of lemon juice over top.  Toss with breadcrumbs and pomegranate aerils, and serve immediately.

*A tip I got from my girl Ina–Don’t discard those outer leaves that flake off as you cut your brussels sprouts in half.  Save ’em, roast ’em right alongside the bigger pieces.  They crisp up, kale-chip style, and you’ll be in heaven over the results.

Holiday Baking

One of the things I most love to do between Thanksgiving and Christmas is bake dozens of cookies for my friends.  We’ve talked about that before.  How feeding people is one of the only things I know how to do to show them my undying love and affection.

stars garland*source

There’s a delicate balance in creating a bag of cookies for others, though.  It takes just the right mix of classic cookies and fun cookies, of cookies with chocolate and cookies without, and flavors that go, but that aren’t too similar.  Unless you have hipster friends for days, it’s likely your friends’ palates are not as adventurous as yours, the cookie baker.  I find most people are up for a salted caramel anything, but you may have to save other, more adventurous flavors for another day.  No chipotle-laced anything here.  The Christmas cookie bundle is no place for experimentation.

baking shelf

It is, however, the ideal time to use up the various bags of chocolate chips stashed away in your baking drawer/shelf.

cookies

I have no idea what is going in my bags this year, nor do I care to worry about them far enough in advance that I would have them finished in time to share with you before the holidays, dear readers.  It’s not that I don’t love you (because oh, I do), it’s that I’m trying to pare down the holiday crazy around here.  With only three and a half weeks between Thanksgiving and Christmas, I’m feeling the pressure.  As a matter of fact, in my dream world, I invite all my friends over for cookies this December, eliminating the need for cookie bags entirely.

So here are the ghosts of cookie past, ready to fill any holiday treat bag you see fit.

Classics (include at least 2 of these):

Chocolate Chip Cookies

Snickerdoodles (and pumpkin snickerdoodles)

Lemon Sugar Cookies

Peanut Butter (Sandwich) Cookies

Fun and different cookies (2 here as well):

Palmiers

Oatmeal Scotchies

Rugelach

Cream Cheese Cookies

Macaroons

Hershey Kiss/Pretzel Bites

Foodie cookies (choose one if you’re feeling adventurous):

Momofuku Compost Cookies

Espresso and White Chocolate Chip Cookies

The best cookies (maybe just keep these for yourself):

World Peace Cookies

*I will tell you I am dying to recreate the gingerbread biscotti I made oh-so-long-ago, now that Wooden Nickels has gifted me some cinnamon chips (do you know how hard it is to find cinnamon chips?!?) and my photography skills, though nothing to write home about, are at least better than this.

The Politics of Leftovers

Our Thanksgiving looked a little different this year, as it was our first without Grandma Glass of Milk.

Don’t worry, dear readers, I got all my tears out the second Judy Garland broke into “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” when The Wizard of Oz was on TV earlier in the week.  So.  Many.  Tears.

I digress.

Turkey Day spread

As such, new traditions were in order, and those began with dinner at my aunt’s house.  My uncle has an enormous family, and so our little Thanksgiving went from a feast fit for 10, to one at least three times that size.  I was in charge of dessert.  You’re shocked, aren’t you?  I was also in charge of worrying that I wouldn’t have enough leftovers to make a Thanksgiving leftover sandwich.  When Thanksgiving was at Grandma Glass of Milk’s, we made enough food for 30, but needed only split the remains among we-10.  Thus, everyone went home with leftovers for days.  I wasn’t sure how our new setup was going to work.  And I knew that I was not going to be a happy camper if my Thanksgiving weekend did not include a leftover sandwich.  I was ready to awkwardly stalk around the kitchen until we started divvying up what was left of the great meal.

leftover sandwich

But, in the same vein as the miracle of the loaves and fishes, or the burning of the oil that lasted eight nights instead of one, we had more leftovers than we knew what to do with.  As in, we never cooked the second turkey someone brought as insurance.  As in, when opening an “extra” bakery box to find a home for the remains of the pie, we found cookies that never even made it to the table.  The next box beneath it was filled with petit fours.  As in, I went home with bags upon bags of stuffing, mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, and more pie than I thought possible.

Which is funny, because I also arrived with more pie than I thought possible.

And yet, here we are, several days post-feast, with a refrigerator chock-full of pie.  I’ve sent leftover pie home with family, brought leftover pie to my in-laws, and given what can only be described as a crap-ton away to a friend, and still there is more pie.  The pie will not go away.  It’s haunting us.

pecan tart

I think I made too much.

Whoa, I’ve never uttered those words.

pecan tart 2

But I get carried away when given free reign in the kitchen.  It’s decidedly more dangerous to task me with “dessert” as opposed to one or two concrete dishes.  And so I made a lot of food.  Including pecan tart, which I don’t eat.  I used a Williams Sonoma recipe, because that’s not a source that has ever led me astray.  And my mother in law and sister in law couldn’t stop raving about how it was the best they’d ever had.  Not too sweet, and that touch of bourbon and orange zest put it over the top.  You’ll have to take their words for it, dear readers, because you won’t get mine.

Thankful

In November, among other things, I have been thankful for:

  • Movies – My waning attention span is a real problem, but man, do I love a movie good enough to suck me in.  I saw a couple in theaters this month, and took in The Wizard of Oz one more time on TV the other night.
  • Books – And the brain power to sit down and read half of one.  Which is .5 books more than I’ve been able to read since early August.
  • Friends – Both of the actual and television variety.  And this quiz.
  • My job – Because although I don’t always love every single minute of it, I know it matters.
  • Starbucks – I mean, duh.
  • Maryland basketball – It’s a can’t live with it, can’t live without it situation.
  • My slow cooker – OMG it’s changed my Sundays.

pumpkin cheesecake

Also this pumpkin cheesecake, which I made last year, and have been waiting (and waiting, and waiting) to share with you every day since.  AGOMYR and CV(D) are on board with it as well.  This one, in fact, was made by none other than CV(D) herself, who brought it into our lives at Friendsgiving.  She has perfected the art of the cheesecake swirl.

leftovers

Which is great, because I have perfected the art of eating a leftover piece on the couch.*

To make pumpkin cheesecake with gingersnap crust (from the Smitten Kitchen Cookbook), you will need:

For the crust:
4 ounces gingersnap cookies (about 16 cookies), coarsely broken
3 ounces graham crackers (five and a half 2 1/2-by-4 7/8-inch graham-cracker sheets)
4 tablespoons salted butter, melted

For the cheesecake swirl:
4 ounces cream cheese, well softened
3 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 large egg yolk

Pumpkin pie:
1 large egg
1 large egg white
1 1/4 cups pumpkin puree
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon table salt
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
Few fresh gratings of nutmeg
1 cup heavy cream

Directions:
Make crust: Preheat your oven to 425 degrees. Finely grind the gingersnaps and graham crackers in a food processor (yielding 1 1/2 cups). Add the melted butter, and process until the cookie-crumb mixture is moistened. Press the mixture firmly into the bottom and up the sides of a 9-inch-diameter tart pan with removable bottom. Place pan on rimmed baking sheet.

Make cheesecake batter: Mix together the ingredients in a small bowl until smooth.

Make pumpkin batter: Beat the egg and the egg white lightly in a large bowl. Whisk in the pumpkin, sugars, salt, cinnamon, ginger, cloves, and nutmeg. Gradually whisk in the cream.

Assemble tart: Pour the pumpkin batter into gingersnap-graham crust. Dollop the cheesecake batter over pumpkin batter, then marble the two together decoratively with a knife. Try not to pierce the bottom crust as you do. Bake for 10 minutes, then reduce temperature to 350 degrees and bake for another 30 to 40 minutes, or until a knife or toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.

Cool the tart completely on a rack, or in the fridge if you like it cold. Serve immediately and refrigerate any leftovers.

*A note: it’s not really a leftover piece, so much as I cut out a piece, put it in a container, and hid it in the fridge during the party so I could enjoy it once everyone left.  It would have otherwise been gobbled up completely.