Thursday, November 27, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving!

This was our second Thanksgiving with no family near, but it was my first time making the much anticipated meal. (Notre Dame fed us last year.) I've got to say, I'm pretty happy with how it turned out. Of course, it was nothing like my best friend's undertaking, documented here. (She and her husband took on feeding 25 people for their first time making the Turkey-Day meal.) Instead of 25 people, we invited a couple from Ryan's work to come over with their three kids, making four kids and four adults altogether. I opted for a bone-in turkey breast instead of the whole bird—we'll save that adventure for another year. My part of the meal included the turkey, mashed potatoes and gravy, green beans, and a pumpkin cheesecake with homemade whipped cream. I'll share the recipes soon, but for now, here are a few pictures to make my mom proud. :)

Note the traditional Williams/Wood family napkin fold.

I thought the sunflowers added a nice autumny touch.

(I took this photo well after dinner had settled in our bellies,
so the texture of the whipped cream isn't quite the same. You get the idea, though!)

Double Layer Pumpkin Cheesecake
2 (8 ounce) packages cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup white sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 eggs
1/2 cup pumpkin puree
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 pinch ground cloves
1 pinch ground nutmeg
1 (9 inch) prepared graham cracker crust

1. Combine first three ingredients; then add eggs one at a time.
2. Spoon about half the mixture into your graham cracker crust.
3. Add the pumpkin puree and spices to the reserved mixture, and spoon over the white bottom layer.
4. Bake at 325 for about 35 minutes, or until the center has almost set. Cool completely, then refrigerate for 3 hours or overnight. Top with whipped cream. (Homemade is out of this world!)

You may notice in the picture that mine was one layer instead of two. Oops! Oh well, I've done it both ways and it tastes the same. It's just prettier if you remember to separate the layers!

Turkey Breast & Gravy
I rubbed the turkey breast with 2 Tablespoons each of canola oil, poultry seasoning, dried sage, dried thyme, and 4 cloves of minced garlic. I threw carrot, celery, and onion into a Reynolds oven bag, set the turkey on top, and poured in one can of chicken broth. Our 5.5-pound turkey breast cooked for just shy of 2 hours.

The juices in the bag after it had cooked made for some fantastic gravy. I made a roux by melting 4 Tablespoons of butter with 4 Tablespoons flour over medium heat, whisking constantly. Then I added the roux gradually to the juices, and whisked while it bubbled. I seasoned with salt and pepper. In the end, it was the perfect thickness and had a great flavor.

Ryan also added some butter, salt and pepper, and sage to the potatoes when he was mashing them, and they were heavenly!! (Thanks, babe!)

Hope everyone enjoyed their Thanksgiving. I have so much to be grateful for this year, in particular my healthy, happy baby and loving husband.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Cheesey Tomato Soup

Hello all! Here's our table for two...

If anything could make me actually look forward to winter, this is it. Tonight we came home and put dinner right on the table while the baby was still in his infant carrier snapped into the stroller, just to the left of the table in this photo. He decided to just hang out there, happy as could be, clear until we had finished dinner and cleanup. What a cooperative kid!

On to the recipe...

1 can tomatoes (diced or whole) in their juice
2 cups chicken broth
1/2 teaspoon basil
1/2 teaspoon oregano
1/2 teaspoon parsley
1 bay leaf
1 small can tomato paste
1 cup (or less) shredded cheddar cheese
salt and pepper

In a blender, puree the tomatoes with the basil, oregano, and parsley. Combine tomato mixture with chicken broth, either in a saute pan (for faster results) or a slow cooker. Whisk in the tomato paste. Stir in the cheese, and add the bay leaf. Salt and pepper to taste. Simmer until ready to eat. Garnish with extra shredded cheese

  • I've always done this in a saute pan, but today I just threw it in the crockpot on low at about 2pm; then we came home to a fantastic soup at about 6pm. Easy as pie.
  • I always use medium cheddar cheese because it packs a little more punch. I once read that stronger cheeses are a better choice because you don't have to eat as much of it to enjoy the taste. Who know, maybe it works!
  • As always, double this recipe if you're feeding more than two or three adults. I think it makes about 5-6 medium-sized bowls of soup.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

A Simple Side - Grilled Asparagus

I decided tonight that asparagus is my favorite vegetable. (Well, that and avocado.) And grilled asparagus makes it that much better. It's an oh-so-good, delightfully easy, must-try side dish. (If all those adjectives didn't convince you, I don't know what would!)

Toss asparagus with a generous drizzle of olive oil and lemon juice. Season with salt and pepper, and let marinate in fridge for about half an hour. Place asparagus on grill on medium heat until the spears are fork tender and slightly charred.

(The above picture is the pre-grilled asparagus. I meant to take a pic after we grilled it, but we devoured it too quickly! Maybe later this week... I'm always up for an excuse to make it again!)