I am so happy that I am not cooking a huge meal today, (cook like a champion today, for those of you that are). My husband and I are headed to Thanksgiving dinner at his parents’ house.
My mother-in-law has her menu set. So, it makes it kind of hard to contribute something to the meal. I figured I would use this day to give some attention to the somewhat neglected courses: appetizers and dessert.
The first two ideas that popped in to my mind were from other food blogs.
For my appetizer, I am making Cranberry Salsa from the How Sweet It Is blog. I love this recipe because it allows you noshing and mingling time before the main event without filling you up.
For dessert, my Everest, a homemade cheesecake. This was my first attempt at cheesecake. As you all know, I am not a very confident baker, so having the fate of dessert in my hands is kind of scary. Luckily, it was a success. Joy the Baker’s Salted Caramel Cheesecake was so easy to make that I have no worries about this being a huge hit at dinner tonight.
I just want to take a moment and express my deepest thanks to all of you, friends, family, and fellow foodies who read this blog everyday. I am so happy and thankful to be able to share my passion and dumb stories with you all. From the bottom of my heart, thank you! I wish you all and your families nothing but happiness and gratitude on this Thanksgiving Day!
The holidays, to me, are about family. So this week during all the stress of trying to cook as much as you can ahead of time for Thanksgiving, I have decided to share with you three very important and delicious family recipes.
I’m starting with my grandma’s spinach pie recipe. My Grandma is a very interesting character. She is a four and a half foot tall, headstrong, German /Swedish spitfire. Half of a foot of her height is made up of her hairstyle, and has been that way ever since I can remember. My friends and I lovingly nicknamed her Midge, which is a lot more endearing than calling your Grandmother a midget, in my opinion.
My Grandmother always had this way of making you eat what she wanted you to eat, even if you seriously had no desire to do so. Every year for New Years Eve, when we were younger, we would go over to her house and be forced to take part in the Swedish tradition of eating pickled herring and red potatoes in order to have a good new year.
As a child, the last thing in the world you want to eat is smelly, unbreaded fish. My Grandmother somehow had this way, (call it “grandmother guilt”) of making my two brothers and me to eat a piece of that herring every year.
Another ingredient she happened to make enticing to us was spinach. My Grandmother was a single mother and worked a full-time job. She needed quick and healthy meals, so the spinach pie was born. This spinach pie has so much cheesy goodness going on in it that, as a child who was indifferent about vegetables, I never even thought twice about all the green stuff in this pie.
As an adult, I can look back and think about how gross the herring was or how my Grandma managed to introduce me to my first taste of spanakopita (minus the phyllo) before I even knew what Greek cuisine was. But both of those thoughts are overshadowed by the memories of everybody being together and I think that is why this simple dish holds so much importance to me.
1, 10oz Container of Frozen Chopped Spinach
1 Cup Cottage Cheese
2 Eggs, slightly beaten
1 teaspoon of Salt
¼ teaspoon of Pepper
3 tablespoons of Grated Parmesan Cheese
1 tablespoon of Unsalted Butter
Place the defrosted spinach into a dish towel or cheesecloth and drain all of the liquid out of it by squeezing the spinach into a ball. In a large bowl, combine the spinach, cottage cheese, eggs, and seasonings.
Spoon the mixture into a 9 inch glass pie pan. Sprinkle the grated parmesan cheese on top and dot with the tablespoon of unsalted butter.
Cook the pie in the oven at 350 degrees for 30 minutes until the top is lightly browned and a bit crunchy.
Enjoy a slice of this pie with your Thanksgiving or as an accompaniment to any meal during the week.
I never knew sourdough was such hard work. Ever since I won a sourdough starter giveaway, I have been playing mad scientist in my kitchen every night. Before I go to bed I have to feed my living sourdough culture to make sure it doesn’t die. The crazy thing is how fast and how much this “thing” eats and grows; my own little Frankenstein.
Most of you know how bad I am at baking. I somehow am guaranteed to mess something up in terms of measuring or just by not following the instructions in the right order. Any time I am faced with a baking task I get really nervous.
Having this “sourdough baby” has made me inspired to try baking more often. Plus, two other bloggers, Salty Seattle and Pinch My Salt, have started a sourdough movement called Doughvember, for those of us who cannot grow beards for Movember, and I really wanted to be a part of that. Plus who doesn’t love a good sourdough, right?
I am not going to lie; there have been major fails and spills along the way, but I finally got one to work and from then I have been a baking machine!
My nerves have been calmed through a lot of trial and error and also from this nerdy ritual my husband and I made up as a joke that kind of stuck.
You know how Notre Dame Football has a “Play Like a Champion Today” sign in their locker room? Well, if you didn’t, they do. The players hit the sign on their way out to the game to inspire them. My husband and I joked that when I get nervous about baking I should jump up and hit the little overhang in the hallway into the kitchen and imagine it says “Cook Like a Champion Today” right there. Yes, this is what we do in our spare time. We are both huge nerds, I know.
I feel like this is a good message for all of us before the big cooking holiday comes up next week. If you are scared about bringing a mess of a dish to your family Thanksgiving gathering, just remember two things:
1. Cook like a champion today! All you can do is give it your best shot.
2. Holidays are about being together and your family has to love you regardless of how your dish turns out… Unless the dish is headed to the in-laws, then just trash the mess and bring a bottle of wine instead!
At least you tried.
Ingredients (makes 7 pretzels)
1 Cup Sourdough Starter
1 Cup of Warm Water
3 Cups of Flour
1 Cup of Whole Wheat Flour
1 tablespoon of Olive Oil
1 teaspoon of salt
2 tablespoons of baking soda
4 quarts of boiling water
1 Egg White
Coarse Sea Salt
Mix the flours and salt together using a whisk in a large bowl. Create a well in the middle of the dry mixture. Then add in the starter, water, and oil. Knead for about 7 minutes until smooth. Shape the batter into a ball and place it in a warm area to rise for about two hours. When the dough ahs almost doubled in size, punch the batter down and knead it for another five minutes. Roll the dough out on a floured surface into a 7” x 12” rectangle. Cut off 7, 1” wide strips of dough. Roll them into snake-like shapes. Let the dough rise for another thirty minutes.
Bring the water and baking soda to a boil in a large pot. While the water comes up to temperature, form the pretzel shape with each piece of dough. When the water is at a rolling boil, add each pretzel one at a time the boiling water. When the pretzel rises to the top remove it from the water and place it on a wire rack to cool. Immediately after the pretzel is placed on the rack, brush it with egg white and dust it in coarse sea salt. Continue this process until all seven pretzels have been boiled.
Place pretzels on a baking sheet and place them in a 450 degree oven for 20 minutes to complete the cooking process.
I know it is complex, but if I can do it, so can you! In the end, as your reward, you get to enjoy my favorite happy hour food with a cold beer. What’s better than that?
By now, you all have come to know that I have a dog. His name is Weezer and he is a pug. Having a dog is great. This is coming from the person who, when she brought her crying, scared, and shivering puppy home, thought, “I made a big mistake,” when said puppy would not stop crying and shivering.
It was taxing training him, and in all honesty, he probably could still use a little more training. It made me very thankful that my parents only let us have small rodents and rabbits growing up. On cold snowy days, walking Weezer is the last thing I want to do. I can’t even imagine how 7 year old me would react to the thought of having to walk a dog at 5am in the freezing cold.
Most recently, Weezer has become a bad influence around our household. We like to refer to him as “the lazifier.” In his mind, he would love to be curled up on the couch with you and a blanket for eternity. Believe me; it is hard enough getting out of bed on a normal cold day. Add a sleeping puppy, with his head affectionately resting on your shoulder to the mix, and you are likely to sleep in just a little bit longer.
Weezer is not by any means a lap dog, even though most times that is where he would prefer to rest. He can run after a squirrel like no other, wrestle with the big dogs, and fart and snore with the best of them. In fact one time he even killed a squirrel.*
*This may or may not be true. I take my eyes off of him for one second and he is standing over a dying squirrel in my parents’ backyard. In all honesty, the squirrel probably fell out of a tree and had a heart attack, but I have to give the little guy some kind of kudos.
In Weezer’s mind there is only one amount of time he thinks in, and that is forever. He thinks you are going to cuddle with him forever, he thinks you are going to scratch his butt forever, he thinks that when you leave you will be gone forever and is pleasantly surprised every time you return. He is like that hopeful best friend you had in grade school that gave you half of a heart necklace that when you put the two halves together says friends forever, except he thinks like this every day!
This thinking is totally cute and endearing, except when you wake in a panic after resting your eyes for a moment on the couch with “the lazifier” and realize it’s now 90 minutes later, and all the stuff you were supposed to get done but didn’t because it was just so warm and comfortable snuggling on the couch.
“You got me again, Lazifier!” (Shaking my fist in rage.)
4 Cups Hot water
4oz Dried Porcini Mushrooms
2 Thick Slices of Pancetta, cut into small cubes
¾ Cup Onion, diced
1 Clove of Garlic, grated
1 pint Shitake Mushrooms, cleaned and stems removed
1 pint Baby Portobello Mushrooms, cleaned and sliced into thirds
1 Cup White Wine
1 teaspoon of salt
1 teaspoon of pepper
1 Cup Low Sodium Chicken Stock
1 teaspoon of Fresh Rosemary, chopped
½ Cup Pearl Barley
¾ Cup Whole Milk
1 teaspoon of Fresh Parsley, chopped
Combine the dry porcini mushrooms and hot water in a large bowl. Let the mushrooms sit in the hot water until the water becomes dark brown and the mushrooms have absorbed some of the moisture. Put the bowl to the side, you won’t need it until later.
Heat a large stock pot over medium heat for about three minutes then add the small cubes of pancetta. Cook pancetta until dark and crispy, about 6-7 minutes over medium/high heat. Then add the onion. Cook onion until translucent, about four minutes over medium heat. Than add your grated garlic and reduce the heat to medium low.
Add in the shitake and baby Portobello mushrooms. Cook mushrooms for seven minutes over medium/high heat until they have released all their moisture and start to brown. Then add the white wine and turn the heat to high. Simmer wine for ten minutes until all the alcohol cooks out. Then add the reconstituted porcini mushrooms and mushroom stock, along with the chicken stock, salt, pepper, and rosemary to the pot. Bring the mixture to a boil.
Then add the cup of barley to the pot and reduce the heat to low. Cook the soup for 40 minutes, until the barley is tender. Once the barley is cooked, add the whole milk and parsley. Simmer soup for five more minutes. Remove from heat and let cool for about ten minutes before serving.
This is a perfect cold weather snuggling recipe. It is easy and will make you feel like you accomplished a complex meal in no time and still allow you plenty of couch time with whomever or whatever you consider to be “the lazifier” in your house.