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.

 

 

Sisters Pasta Night: Homemade Mushroom Ravioli with Brown Butter and Sage

In colleges, my sister studied abroad in Siena, Italy.  She could barely put two sentences of Italian together at the end of her experience…she mostly studied wine and Italian men.  But she came home with a killer hand-made pasta recipe.  And while she might call me on a weekly basis for meal suggestions, and help with recipe substitutions, she is still the authority in the family on home-made pasta dough.  It’s something we do together whenever she is in town. 

For this round I was ready to make a ton of pasta, and freeze it.  And I wanted to use the bountiful herb garden I was “passively cultivating.”  It’s a real jungle back there because I can’t seem to find the time to maintain it.

herb-garden

I sifted through the hip-high cilantro and lettuce plants, to snip bunches of fresh parsley, chives, sage, and basil.

garden-herbs

I knew we’d need marinara sauce for all this fresh pasta too, so I put a pot of that on as well.  Working loosely off a recipe I learned at a class at The Loretta Paganini School of Cooking, I used garlic and onion, grated celery and carrot, whole peeled tomatoes, a pinch of crushed red pepper, salt and pepper, and lots of the fresh parsley and basil.

marinara-sauce

While that simmered, we got to work on the first dough.  The ingredients are few…it’s the technique that’s still tough for me.

3 c. flour, unbleached

3 large eggs

1/4 c. dry white wine

1 tsp. salt

Water or extra flour, if needed

Lexi-making-pasta

You start by creating a “mound” with your flour, and make a deep well.  Meanwhile crack the eggs in a bowl and break the yolks up with a fork, then add the wine and salt to the eggs.  Carefully pour the egg mixture into the well.  Then, using a fork, slowly bring the flour in to the egg mixture.  When the flour is totally absorbed, begin kneading by hand for 20 min…no shortcuts!  Add water if it seems dry, or sprinkle more flour if it’s too wet.  Gather it in a ball and place it in a mixing bowl, covered with plastic wrap, to rest for 30 min…no shortcuts there either.

The first batch was dinner that night: a classic fettuccine with marinara.  We made a second batch of dough for me to make ravioli with.  I whipped up the filling while Lexi, and my eager daughters, kneaded.

Julia-making-pasta     Natalie-making-pasta

I wanted to use all that beautiful sage.  So I sautéed some mushrooms in olive oil, with garlic and shallots.  Then I added chopped sage, and a drizzle of truffle oil.  I mixed that with some ricotta, salt and pepper, and more truffle oil and let it cool while we rolled the dough.

Natalie-rolling-dough

First we cut the fettuccine, as we’ve done every time before.  You start on the widest setting, cranking that pasta machine to gradually reduce the width until the dough is the desired thickness, then cut it. (angel hair, linguine, fettuccine, etc.)  We sprinkled a tablecloth with flour and let it dry while we moved on to the delicate ravioli.

homemade-pasta

For those, we rolled the dough out, same as before.  Then we laid the sheets of pasta over my grandmother’s old ravioli plates.  I put a generous teaspoon of the filling in each pouch.

ravioli filling

Then we placed a second sheet on top, and used a rolling-pin (and the back of a spoon) to “stamp” or cut them.  We tore off the excess around the edges then carefully popped out each delicate little ravioli.

Ravioli-trays

To be honest, these usually don’t turn out so well for me…but these looked beautiful!!

Last round of dough was experimental.  I chopped up a ton of fresh chives and we incorporated that into the dough during the kneading process.  Toss this pasta with a little butter and you’ve got something pretty spectacular.

pasta-with-chives

There was salted water boiling on the stove…time to taste the fruits of our labor!  First course was the fettuccine and marinara.  It didn’t disappoint.  While we poured a second (or fourth?) glass of wine, I browned some butter and added more chopped sage, plus seasoning.  When the ravioli were cooked through in the water, I drained them and added them to the saute pan to brown them up.  Sprinkle some grated cheese on top. Perfection.

Julia-in-an-apron

I had a full heart and a full belly at the end of the evening.  It was so much fun for my girls to share in a special sisters pasta night!  I hope they carry on the tradition.

Old World bakery meets the modern kitchen

I’ll be the first to tell you I’m not a baker.  Yeast intimidates me.  And I don’t own a KitchenAid stand mixer.  I sincerely appreciate those who are good with dough, batters and the like.  So I value good family-run businesses, like Orlando Baking Company, which cranks out quality breads and dough for remedial bakers like myself to cook with (and sometimes pass off as my own).

For this Cheftovers installment, I’ve teamed up with Orlando Baking Company (http://www.orlandobaking.com/) to review two of their newest offerings.  This is not a paid endorsement, I’m simply taking them up on no-obligation invitation to try out a couple of things they’ve just introduced to the market.

You can find both of their latest products in the freezer section.  They now sell frozen ciabatta dough (a variety of bread they’re known for) and frozen pepperoni rolls.

orlando pepporini bread box

I was pleased to discover upon opening the box of pepperoni rolls, that they are packaged in four separate rolls.  (This Cheftovers queen just hates wasting half a loaf of garlic bread because I have to cook the whole thing for just a couple of us.)  This allowed me to pop one or two in the oven at a time to test them out.  I also saw that they were fully cooked, so if you want to take one of these on the go, they’ll thaw nicely and you can eat it cold. However, I wanted mine hot. So I popped a pair in the oven and baked them according to the directions on the box.

orlando pepperoni bread sliced

For me, that wasn’t nearly enough time.  If you’re looking for melty cheese on the inside, you’ll probably want to leave them in at least three more minutes than the box suggests.  But that’s a matter of preference.  Same goes for a little marinara sauce.  I would love to the see the box come with a container of marinara sauce to dip it in.  Adding pepperoncini might be a nice touch too, but those aren’t for everybody.

more pepperoni rolls

For the sake of variety, I tried one in the toaster oven. (especially since it wasn’t a whole loaf and I didn’t need to fire up the big oven)  It was nice and crispy on the outside, chewy on the inside, just as it should be.

Overall, I think this is a quality product.  They’re the perfect size and shape for my little Italian-at-heart daughters to nibble on when dinner isn’t quite done yet.  And I would proudly serve these to guests an appetizer or a party snack.

orlando frozen ciabatta dough

For the ciabatta dough, I took it out of the oven and brought it up to room temperature, per instructions on the packaging.  I certainly want to respect the artisan dough that it is!  Once it was room temp, I also brushed it with oil as recommended.  However, I don’t have a pizza pan to bake it in like the instructions suggested, only a pizza stone (which to be effective should be heated in the oven first…and I couldn’t work the dough and add the toppings that way) so I chose to work on a standard cookie sheet.

ciabatta pizzs

I worked the dough out into the size and shape I wanted, which wasn’t hard at all (don’t know why I’m so scared to work with dough sometimes–fear I’m going to screw it up I guess) Then I topped it with a layer of pizza sauce, pepperoni, mushrooms, and onion, along with some spices and plenty of mozzarella cheese.

I made sure the crust had a nice coating of olive oil on it along with a light sprinkle of garlic salt.  I baked it as suggested and it turned out beautifully.

orlando ciabatta pizza

Nice and golden brown around the crust.  The outside was lightly crispy and the inside was chewy, just like I like my pizza and my ciabatta bread.  If you’re not too familiar with ciabatta, know that it isn’t going to be as light as other pizza dough.  I find it a little more dense, but I like it that way!

The frozen dough will run you about $2…a steal for the time and grief it will save you making your own, and less than other varieties of prepared pizza dough or crusts.  I bought the pepperoni rolls for about $6, which is also an inexpensive way out of a “I forgot we were supposed to bring something to the party” jam.

Both products are available at Heinen’s.  And the pepperoni rolls are also sold at Dave’s, Discount Drug Mart, Marc’s, and Zagara’s.

“Shhhepherds Pie” As in “shhh, don’t tell anybody it’s made with leftovers,” Shepherd’s Pie

This is about the time of the holiday season when I’m just not in the mood to make much of anything for weekday meals.  My kitchen creativity is tapped out on Christmas cookies and multiple rounds holiday party appetizers I have to prepare.  During this spell, meatloaf is one of the go-to dinners I make and have ready for a work night meal.  With only two adults in our house who sit down to eat a proper portion, that means leftovers.  I took a long look at the hunk of meatloaf remaining, and the potatoes I found still lingering from a crock pot meal I’d made earlier in the week…and I decided to try something I’d never made before….Shepherd’s Pie.    

leftover meatloaf

I started by locating and chopping some veggies I’d use to supplement the meat: carrots, onions, and some baby bella mushrooms.

chopped veggies

I also grabbed some frozen peas, something I always have around (see my Pantry Must-Haves post)  I sauteed those, then added the meatloaf and broke it up in the pan, only adding a little seasoning to the veggies as the meat had already been seasoned.

sauteed veggies and meat

From there I went to work on the topping, a mashed potato of sorts.  Now, because I have never made shepherd’s pie before, I did consult a couple of recipes to make sure I was on the right track, and I was.  So I took the leftover cooked potatoes from my previous dish, and mixed those up with some sour cream and heavy cream (also leftover from a recipe.  It seems that recipes always call for half a cup of the stuff, when the smallest carton usually contains about a cup)  I suppose you could use milk here too.  I used a hand mixer to get it nice and smooth and seasoned it with salt and pepper.

shepherds pie potatoes

The last component I needed to figure out was the gravy.  So I went with what I know.  Start with some butter, whisk in some flour, then I added beef broth and, after consulting with some other shepherd’s pie recipes, I added a little bit of Worcestershire sauce and some pepper.  I let all those elements hang out until I like the consistency, took a taste….and I was satisfied.  I mixed the meat and veggies with the gravy and poured portions into some medium sized ramekins.  Since I was dealing with leftover portions of both the meat and the potatoes, there wasn’t enough for the traditional portion in a baking dish.  But I’ve found these ramekins I bought recently have been very useful in situations like this.

shepherds pie set up

I spread the whipped potatoes on top of the meat/veggies/gravy and sprinkled a little paprika on there for color.  Since everything was cooked already and the portions were not terribly big, I decided to broil them on high until the top looked golden brown.  But if you were making these ahead and were refrigerating them, I would bring them up to room temp, or throw them in the oven first before broiling so it’s warm throughout.

I got four portions of “Shhhheperd’s Pie” from only about a 3-4 inch slice of meatloaf and a handful of leftover potatoes.  This will surely become a new “go-to” meal with any sort of leftover ground meat.  

Please share some of your short-cuts and secrets to getting dinner on the table during the busiest time of year.  I could use them!

Make room for Thanksgiving

As soon as we turn the calendar page to November, we cooking and hosting enthusiasts already begin to think Thanksgiving.  I’m hosting a “Friendsgiving” this weekend, celebrating our bountiful blessings with some of our closest friends.  But when I took a look in my fridge, I realized there wasn’t much room for what I had planned.

Clean out the fridge

I took stock of my fridge, freezer and pantry and got to brainstorming.  (sidebar…also beginning to question why I have things like cocktail onions and candy leftover from Easter still in there)

I uncovered a lonely frozen filet mignon.  Easy to make that the jumping off point for my dish.  It’s clearly not enough for more than one person though….best to keep digging.  I also discovered half a bag of frozen peas, a handful of fresh green beans, and some crescent rolls I forgot I’d bought.  First thing I thought of was a beef pot pie.  Easy comfort food.

I seasoned the beef with some onion powder, garlic powder, salt and pepper and seared it in a pan.  While that was cooking I sliced up some onion and garlic (two staples of any cook’s produce drawer) and I found some sliced mushrooms in the pantry, and reached for something else I always keep handy, beef broth.  This dish was starting to come together.

clean out the fridge filet

After I let the meat rest for a bit, I sliced it up into cubes.  Then, in the same pan that I seared the beef, I added a little olive oil and cooked the onions and garlic together.  Once they were sweating in there, I tossed in the green beans to soften a bit, and then the mushrooms.  (carrots would be good in here too, even asparagus if you have some of that sittin’ around)  I mixed the meat with the veggies, and added some peas.  Now, it was time to get to work on a sauce.

clean out the fridge veggies

I melted a couple of tablespoons of butter and added an equal amount of flour, and quickly whisked it together to create a roux.  Then I poured in, still whisking quickly, a few cups of beef broth.  I left it on the stove at a medium heat until it thickened up.  Then I seasoned it.  Use what you like, or what you’ve got.

clean out the fridge sauce

After I added the sauce to the meat and veggies it was time to get creative with my construction, since I didn’t have enough filling for a traditional pot pie or a standard pie crust.  I placed some baking cups in a cupcake tin, and opened up the crescent rolls.  I filled each baking cup with the meat/veggie mixture.  Then I rolled the triangle-shaped crescent rolls into a ball and flattened them out…making mini-pot pie crusts.  I baked my adorable little pot pies at 400 degrees for about 17 minutes.

mini beef pot pie mini beef pot pie2

By dinner time I had a nice meal, and bonus: by using up a couple of canned goods, a few items out of the freezer and the remainder of some of the veggies in my produce drawer, I created some much-needed space in my kitchen before I begin prep for “Friendsgiving!”

(Confession: the baking cups don’t help keep it together, only made clean-up easier.  This won’t be pretty when you attempt to scoop it out of the cupcake tins, but it’s still tasty.)

What have you unearthed in your fridge/freezer/pantry that you’d like to use up before the most important meal of the year?