Which Friendsgiving style are you?

I am now of the age and stage in my life where I’m participating more in the execution of Thanksgiving. Contributing more dishes, even hosting. It can be intimidating to try and live up to the Thanksgiving traditions of the past.  So don’t! Create your own. 

My dear friend and fellow creative type, Rachel, has helped me come up with three distinctive styles for Thanksgiving or Friendsgiving gatherings. Use any or all of our ideas to pull off a stylish event, with savory and sweet elements, plus cocktails! Just add turkey!

Moody Modernist Menu

These offerings use things I already have on hand in new and tasty ways, incorporating Rachel’s Mid Century Modern décor for presentation. We started with a bold-patterned runner, added metallic candleholders and layered in elements of gold to tie things together. Using a sleek martini glass dresses up the soup and gives guests the green light to go bottoms-up at the table.

Buttercup Squash Soup, inspired by Martha Stewart’s version of butternut squash soup.

Sweet Potato Skins, a nod to the classic candied yams dish, as adapted by me. It scratches the itch without tipping the scales. (recipe below)

Stuffing in a Bundt Pan, Kim’s Healthy Eats and A Spicy Perspective both posted such ideas on Pinterest. I used those instructions to give it a shot, using the recipe for stuffing from Fresh Fork Market. 

Cranberry Ginger Champagne Cocktail, 2 oz. ginger infused vodka (I shaved small slices of fresh ginger and placed them in a jar of vodka in the fridge for about a week), 4 oz. cranberry juice, a generous splash of champagne, and a dash of lime juice.

friendsgiving pecan pie bark

Pecan Pie Bark, like Rachel’s contribution to this blog, the recipe comes from a guest blogger on Wishes n Dishes incorporating all the flavors and a fraction of the effort it takes to get those distinct flavors of the traditional dessert.

Comfort Food Chic Menu

Every dish in this menu incorporates one or more element of leftovers! Great for an evening gathering during the long weekend. Keeping it casual, the packing paper serves dual purpose as a runner and a place for guests to scribble what they are thankful for. Wood, wicker, copper and linen add texture and warmth, while a tiered stand lets the food take center stage. (recipes below)

Sriracha Fried Mac n Cheese Bites take leftover macaroni and cheese and give it new life, and a kick! Served with Sriracha Ranch Dipping Sauce.

friendsgiving comfort food dishes

Stuffing Stuffed Portabella Mushrooms Didn’t polish off all the stuffing at the main event? No problem. Use my version as a starting point and make it your own.

friendsgiving brie and cranberry

Mini Baked Brie Bites, proof that cranberry is a perfect complement to creamy Brie cheese. Take what’s left of the Thanksgiving cranberry sauce and make this satisfying appetizer.

Apple Pie on the Rocks This seasonally spicy sipper will even satisfy the vegan in the crowd. Source: Vegan Yack Attack

friendsgiving pumpkin roll ice cream sandwich

Pumpkin Roll Ice Cream Sandwich A scoop of butter pecan ice cream smooshed between two thin slices of my favorite fall dessert, with some fall sprinkles for color.

Friendly Farmhouse Menu

friendsgiving friendly farmhouse table

To me, this collection makes for a great brunch menu, perfect for those hosting out of town guests during the holiday. No matter the time of day, always include fresh floral on your table. We threw sunflowers in a grey pitcher to complement the ticking stripe napkins. Stacked plates and a silverware caddy let guests grab what they need without interrupting a busy host.

Sausage Stuffing Quiche created in individual “minis” or bake a large one to slice up at brunch. The “stuffing as crust” idea courtesy of a post on Food.com but, like I did, you can use whats around to add to the egg.

friendsgiving sweet potato chips

Sweet potato chips with garlic aioli, the recipe for the dipping sauce came from a fellow blogger, Our Life Tastes Good. I deep fried the thinly sliced-sweet potatoes, but you could bake them instead.

friendsgiving green bean casserole cups

Green Bean Casserole Cups (this could also make use of leftovers). Take your family’s version of the thanksgiving staple and serve it in a new way. For step-by-step instructions courtesy of Pillsbury, click here.

Apple Cider Mimosas, make the bottomless brunch beverage more seasonal by swapping OJ for cider.

friendsgiving candy bar cookies

Loaded Halloween Candy Cookie Bars, a childhood friend and fellow food blogger, Michelle, of  The Secret Ingredient Is helped me out with this one.

In the spirit of Thanksgiving please share your creations with us @cheftovers @roaringacres #friendsgiving #thanksgiving.

RECIPES:

Sweet Potato Skins

Ingredients: 4 yams or sweet potatoes (baked ahead of time and cooled), 8 T. melted butter, pinch of salt, 2 T. Brown sugar, ½-1 tsp. each of ginger and cinnamon, ¼ t. nutmeg, marshmallows

Directions:  Slice potatoes in half lengthwise and scoop out about half of the inside. (Careful, as the skins of these are more delicate than russet potatoes). Melt the butter in a small sauce pan and add brown sugar, nutmeg, cinnamon and ginger. Stir until it forms a syrup, then remove from the heat. Brush the mixture over the potato skin and place in the oven to broil on HIGH for about 5 minutes, until the edges start to get crispy. Remove from the oven and sprinkle with mini marshmallows. (5-7 per potato) Place back under the broiler, on LOW, for 2-3 minutes, until marshmallows are toasted.

Sriracha Fried Mac n Cheese

Ingredients:  Leftover mac n cheese, flour (seasoned), 1 egg (beaten), Sriracha hot chili sauce, panko bread crumbs, salt and pepper, blended oil, ranch for dipping

Directions:  Place spoonfuls of mac n cheese onto a baking sheet, lined with parchment paper or foil. Put the tray in the freezer for at least 25-30 min. Heat a deep skillet (cast iron if you’ve got it) to medium high and pour in about 2 inches of oil. Remove tray from the freezer and dredge each mac n cheese pile in flour. Add 1 T. of Sriracha (more or less depending on how hot you like it) to the egg, and coat the floured bites in the mixture. Finally, cover each one in panko bread crumbs. Fry the bites in the oil until golden brown, turning once. Place on paper towel to drain. Serve with ranch for dipping. (Add a dollop of Sriracha to that too if you so desire.)

Mini Baked Brie and Cranberry Bites

Ingredients:  Frozen puffed pastry (sheets or squares), leftover cranberry sauce (preserves, like blackberry, can also be substituted), Brie cheese (wedge or round)

Directions:  Preheat oven to 400 (or the temperature listed on the baking instructions for the puff pastry, if different). Thaw frozen puff pastry dough for 20-25 min. Cut the pastry into 2-3 inch squares. Place a pastry square over each cup of the mini cupcake tin and gently push them down, so as not to tear the dough. Insert a cube of cheese into each one, about 1-2 inch squares. Gather the corners of the squares to the center.  Some of the cranberry will still be exposed. Bake for 18-20 minutes. Cool for 3-4 minutes, then gently pop each bite out with a butter knife.

Stuffing Stuffed Mini Portabellas

Ingredients:  Mini portabella mushrooms (washed, stems removed), leftover Thanksgiving stuffing (the kind with sausage is the best!), grated fontina cheese, truffle oil (optional), extra virgin olive oil

Directions:  Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place mushroom caps upside down on a baking tray and drizzle with olive oil. Season with salt and pepper. Stuff each mushroom with a spoonful of stuffing (about a tablespoon, depending on the size of the mushroom). Fill it up and pack it tightly. Drizzle a bit of truffle oil on top (optional). Sprinkle cheese on top to cover. Bake for 25 min.

 

 

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What’s for dinner? Mod Meals!

Chef-inspired, restaurant quality food can now be delivered to your doorstep.  Goodbye greasy take-out.  No more cardboard pizza.  Time for delicious, delivered.  Mod Meals is sourcing great food from familiar Cleveland chefs and bringing the meals right to you.

mod meals packaging

This week I attended the launch party for Mod Meals.  It’s a new service that gets you off the hook for dinner, offering a healthy alternative to drive-thru… soggy, lukewarm take out, or slaving over the stove after a long day.  It provides locally-sourced quality meals developed by four of the city’s favorite chefs.

mod meals launch party

The Chefs

Eric Williams of Momocho Mod Mex, El Carnicero, Jack Flaps & Happy Dog

Karen Williams from The Flying Fig 

Ben Bebenroth, the man behind Spice Kitchen and Bar, and Spice of Life Caterers 

Brian Okin of Cork & Cleaver and Graffiti Social Kitchens

Through a free app, customers will be able to browse the day’s menu.  Creators expect each chef will each offer three items daily (entrees, snacks and kid’s meals) They will change them up regularly.  Users can view the ingredients, for diet or allergy concerns, and price.  There will also be bios and backgrounds on the chefs for those who are interested.  Mod mealers will then choose the dish(es) they’d like to eat, along with a delivery time (cut off time will be about 3 or 4pm…they will work out those kinks as the first orders come in)

I have to admit, this sounds both easy and appealing…especially as those cold winter months descend upon us, when the thought of leaving your house to get food seems as appetizing as cold leftovers.

The chefs who attended the launch party were all excited about getting their cuisine out to people who may not have sampled them before, and furthering their brand.  And they were all genuinely interested and challenged by the process of developing food for “at-home finishing.”  Chef Okin said he actually had to buy a microwave for his restaurant’s kitchen so as to properly write the heating instructions.  Chef Small told me that during development, they had to work with the ingredients and the dishes to develop them to a certain stage, then chill them…factoring in re-heating that would be going on either in a conventional oven or a microwave.

mod meals-mac n cheese

Cost is also a factor, obviously.  To keep prices points for customers within a certain range ($10-15 for entrees, $5-10 for kids meals) the chefs have to sell the dishes to the company for about $5 each.  So the kinds of ingredients they’re using for their Mod Meals are not going to be exactly the same that you’ll see at their establishments.  But still, the dishes they offered as tastings at the event certainly echoed their established menus.

mod meals tamales

Eric Williams sampled corn tamales with roasted chicken and steamed corn tamales with eskabeche.

mod meals braised beef shoulder

Karen Small provided braised beef shoulder pot roast with celery root puree.

mod meals seared salmon

Ben Bebenroth cooked up some seared salmon with ginger broccoli and wild rice, and squash mac n cheese.

mod meals chicken confit

And Brian Oken offered chicken confit, creamy polenta and bacon braised collard greens.

mod meals instructions

Now…for an at-home taste test.  Launch party guests were sent off with packaged samples of what Mod Meals will deliver to its customers.  So I brought home a pair of braised pork chops and celery root puree dreamed up by Chef Small, and followed the instructions on the packaging.

mod meals test drive

The meat was tender.  The sauce was flavorful.  The sides were not an afterthought.  All the things you’d expect from a restaurant quality meal.  I ate it in my pajamas, and I didn’t have to do any dishes.  Not a bad Tuesday night.

Spinach and Artichoke Mac n Cheese

After a long work week, it’s tempting to just pick up the smart phone and order take out on a Friday night.  (especially during Lent when menu options are limited)  But I am trying to make smarter choices about where our food budget goes, and how far it goes.  And I’m always trying to develop new Cheftovers dishes.  So when I was trolling the fridge for dinner ideas, I decided to start with some excellent mac n cheese in a Bechamel sauce (a doggy bag from a previous dinner out).  

mac n cheese

And I knew just what direction I wanted to go with it.  Since I was craving “bar food,” I was going to turn this into Spinach and Artichoke Mac n Cheese.  

I gathered the elements I would need to “refresh” these leftovers and beef up the portion to make it enough for dinner for two.  I found a can of quartered artichoke hearts in my pantry, a bag of fresh spinach, and half a shallot and some garlic in the veggie drawer.  I also grabbed some heavy cream and Parmesan cheese (two staples I always keep around) and Monterrey Jack (leftover from a white chicken chili recipe I made-happy to have use for it.  Not something we eat much of regularly)

I started by chopping the shallots and garlic and tossing them in to a pan with some olive oil  Once they softened I added the artichokes and let them do the same for a few minutes.  Then I tossed in the spinach.  And while that wilted I grated the cheeses.

sauted artichokes and spinach

Once the veggies were cooked, and seasoned, I poured in some heavy cream and tossed in the cheese. I stirred it around and let it thicken up and get bubbly, but not burn, so I kept the heat on medium/low.  After tasting it, I remembered a spice that Italians like to put into some of their cream sauces…nutmeg.  It doesn’t seem like a natural addition, but trust me, it works.  I added a pinch of that and let the sauce thicken a tad.

spinach artichoke sauce

It was time to toss in the original mac n cheese.  I gave it a good stir with the supplemental sauce I made, to ensure it was totally coated.  Then I transferred the mixture to a greased baking dish.

baked spinach and artichoke mac n cheese

For a couple of final touches, I topped the mixture with buttered bread crumbs and drizzled some white truffle oil.  A little goes a long way, so use it sparingly if you have it.  I put the revamped mac n cheese in a 350* until the bread crumbs were golden brown, roughly 25 min.

The end result was a warm, satisfying main course made from what may’ve otherwise been thrown out, plus a few kitchen must-haves put to good use.  I will certainly add this to a my go-to Lenten dishes.  What are you making during Lent (besides a phone call to your local pizza shop?)