Category Archives: Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving Recipes: The Best of the Web

Thanksgiving is just over two short weeks away and what better time to try new recipes than a holiday that is almost entirely focused on food?

We spend with a casual feast and a huge crowd of family and friends. Everyone signs on to bring a dish or many dishes and just as quickly as they are put out they starts to disappear.

In years past I have always left the cooking to my mom, but this year I am excited to try some new recipes.
Here are some of my favorites:


Source (L-R): Caramel apples, Roasted Squash, Biscotti, Meatballs, Hand Pies, Brussel Sprouts, Cauliflower

I love the idea of mixing savory with sweet, and the fall produce that is featured during Thanksgiving is a perfect opportunity.

I love the saltiness of cheddar paired with a crisp apple, the tartness of cranberries with a perfectly seasoned turkey, fresh aromatic herbs with the depth of autumn squash.

What are your Thanksgiving favorite recipes?

Whether you’re ordering in take-out Chinese, have a Whole Foods Thanksgiving, or hostessing like Martha, I hope you have a delicious, simple and stress free Thanksgiving!

A New Twist on a Traditional Favorite

We cook at home just about every night, and we do so for a lot of reasons: it’s cheaper, it’s healthier, it’s easier and often it’s just as good.  The trick however, become making home cooked meals interesting and fun.

This weekend I took a seasonal favorite, sweet potato and upped the ante.  
Sweet Potato Coins with Arugula Pesto
2 Sweet Potatoes (I used 1 yam – that’s the lighter color)
1 tbsp olive oil
Salt, Pepper, Paprika to taste (just a light sprinkle)
We do homemade fries a lot, so this was a nice change.  Cut the potatoes into 1/4″ coins.  I put all of them in a colander and drizzle with olive oil so that all of the coins get an even coating.

Sprinkle the salt, pepper and paprika over the coins on a tin foil covered cookie sheet.
Bake for 30 minutes at 400 degrees.  You could go longer, but 30 minutes gives the coins enough time to be crispy and golden brown.
You could stop now, and eat.  You’ll be happy, I promise.  Or… you can take it up a notch.

Arugula Pesto
2 handfuls of arugula
1.5 tbsp of pine nuts
1 tbsp fresh grated parmesean cheese
1/2 tbsp of olive oil
2 cloves of garlic
Salt and Pepper to Taste

In a food processor blend all of ingredients, using a spatula to scrape down the sides.  This is a dish that you can’t really screw up, because you can continue to taste to check your flavors. I like it garlicky, maybe you want a bit less, so it is very easy to adjust.

A traditional pesto features basil, I went with arugula because we had a lot on hand and it no longer had the crisp bite that I would want for a salad.  No wasting in our house, and this new use for salad greens was a huge success, and a delicious dip for the sweet potato “chips”.

The Best Winter Salad – Seriously

In the winter I am pretty much a salad hater.  I just can’t get behind the arugula and mixed greens that I love in the spring and summer, they all just seem so blech…  Until this weekend.

In full disclosure I did not create this recipe, in fact besides finding the recipe and eating it, I have done nothing constructive.  Mark has made this salad two times in four days and I have enjoyed it everytime.  
Spiced Butternut Squash and Lentil Salad Ingredients
3/4 cup lentils
1 medium butternut squash, peeled and “cubed”
3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon paprika
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
4 cups baby arugula
1/2 cup soft goat cheese, crumbled
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar

When we first made this it was for an impromptu New Year’s Eve dinner, happily lentils are lucky on New Years Eve.  Also lucky is that all of these ingredients were available prepared.  I am no “Semi-homemade” but, if you want to save time you can find butternut squash already peeled and cut into chunks (Trader Joe’s, Wegman’s) and lentils that have already been cooked (Trader Joe’s, Whole Foods, Wegman’s).  Major, major time savers.

Otherwise, you can peel the squash and then cut it into 1″ thick rounds until you reach the base of the squash, and then cut the base in half and continue to cube.  I’d recommend keeping the pieces on the larger side, and forgo the urge for perfectly small squares.  The larger pieces stay firmer and provide a great texture.  I promise, it’s really very simple, and nearly impossible to screw up.

Toss the cubed squash with cumin, paprika and salt and bake in a 400 degree oven for 20 minutes, and then flip the pieces and cook for another 15 minutes.  
Look at those delicious pieces of squash — ahh, Heaven!
Let the squash cool and then layer it with the lentils, which I had at room temperature, but they could also be warm, and the crumbled goat cheese and argula… Or, you could skip the arugula, it’s still pretty healthy.

To dress the “best winter salad ever” combine the left over oil/juice from the pan the squash baked on, red wine vinegar and salt and pepper to taste.

I realize this doesn’t seem too salad-y, but it is a great way to play with new ingredients (lentils or goat cheese), and it is beautiful to see and eat and really affordable to prepare and it keeps well for leftovers.

Share with friends, I am sure this is lucky after New Years, too!

Bleu Cheese and Candied Pecan Savory Cookies

I love cheese, like looooove it.  I love going to a restaurant and getting to order a cheese plate: with beautiful wedges of fragrant cheese, breads, honeys and perhaps some nuts.  The idea of this arrangement of flavors always seems so sophisticated but perhaps a little intimidating to try at home.

I tested this out last night (in two different way), and success!  These Savory Cookies are perfect for when you entertain, as an a pre-meal snack, or as a gift to a hostess packaged in a cute bag.

1/2 Cup of Whole Wheat Flour
1/2 Stick of Butter (4 Tbsp), softened
1/3 Cup of Candied Pecans, grounded
1/4 Cup of Crumbled Bleu Cheese

Candied Pecans
1 1/4 cup of Pecans
1/2 tbsp of butter, unsalted
1 tbsp of brown sugar
1/2 tsp of cinnamon

In a non stick pan melt butter, add the pecans and sugar and cinnamon and stir with a silicon spatula over low-medium for 5-7 minutes until the pecans are covered with small flecks of caramel goodness.  Set aside to cool

In a food processor grind up the pecans to a small grind, but now a fine powder.  Set aside.
In a medium size bowl blend the softened butter and then add the bleu cheese, ground pecans and flour.  Side note, you could definitely use regular all-purpose flour, but I opted for whole wheat for its nuttier flavor and texture, and the potential for it to be a little more nutritious.
The dough will be crumbly, and look like a bunch of little tan colored peas.  Sprinkle a little extra flour on your work surface and begin to form the dough into a log.  This is completely visually unappealing.  I’m sorry – please, don’t let it dissuade you from making this recipe…
Cut the dough into 1/3″ slices and lay out on a non-stick cookie sheet or silpat and bake for 15 minutes at 350 degrees. (See those flecks of cheese?  They are going to bubble and melt into amazing deliciousness!)
Let these cool for about 10  minutes after baking and serve with your favorite wine and either a drizzle of honey on top or a small dollop of your favorite pear or apricot preserves (that helps add back the sweetness found on your favorite cheese plates).

 These are great, and they keep nicely, and well, if we’re being honest I ate two for breakfast so they’re all around perfect snack to bake and share.

Brussel Sprout Magic

Dear Dad,

I wish you weren’t so turned off by brussels sprouts, they’re really pretty good.  In fact, they are better than pretty good, they’re really good.  All those years of turning your nose up at them at Thanksgiving when Cousin Karen would bring them seems silly now.   In fact, I like them sauteed with bacon or even served up with Greek yogurt at DC favorite Zaytinya. 

But, dad, they are also good simply roasted.  Here, let me show you.
Love, Carly

True story friends, up until a few years ago I had never tried a brussels sprout.  If you were like me, or my sister up until this past weekend, it is time for a change.  I love this as an easy, low maintenance side dish that requires no effort after prep time.  We served it with out Hanukkah party, but its a mainstay throughout winter when they are in season.

Roasted (Parmigiana – or not) Brussels Sprouts
A bag of brussels sprouts (the quantity depends on how many you’re feeding
A drizzle of olive oil
A sprinkle of salt and pepper
A shaving of parmigiana, optional
 First things first, rinse off all of those little mini lettuce heads.  TO be fair, they just look like heads of lettuce, the flavor is far more rich and intense.  Now its time to prune the sprout, or head, or whatever, it’s time to peel leaves off of the green ball in your hand…

You might notice that there are some weird/yucky/unappetizing black blemishes or dots on the outside leaves.  Fear not!  You are just going to rub back the leaf and then rip it off.  Each sprout will shrink in size a bit, but it’s okay.  It will be pretty again soon.

Ta Da!

Then you’re going to cut the brussels sprouts into thirds.  Insider secret, if after peeling off ugly leaves there is a bit of a white “stem” you can cut that off too.

With all of your sprouts laid out on a piece of parchment paper on a cookie sheet, give them a gentle drizzle of olive oil and a sprinkle of salt and pepper.  Bake in oven at 350 degrees for 40 minutes.  Check after 30, I like mine a little browner, if you’re wanting gold then 30 minutes should be just right.

Here is some extra flavor magic: sprinkle on fresh grated parmigiana, or some truffle salt, or perhaps both.  Delicious!

Thanksgiving Blessings

This morning I made baklava and mini pecan pies. My sister made honey glazed corn bread with a recipe borrowed from a friend.  My mom made three pumpkin pies, pecan pie, cranberry scones, and a turkey (just for leftovers). 

In the other room my husband and father are discussing business and books and music, and life.

Pretty soon we’ll all make an apple pie that we could probably all make in our sleep.

In a few hours we will go to my great Aunt J’s house and I’ll see my cousins, aunts, grandparents and celebrate all of the things we are thankful for.  But, truly we are really most thankful for each other.

This year has been a year of triumph and successes, trying and tears, new discoveries, beginnings and the continuation of the journey we call life.  That life is made more tolerable, more sweet, more enjoyable and that much more valuable when surrounded by people you love, and the people who love you.

I wish you the most peaceful of Thanksgivings, and hope you’ll have a moment to consider and celebrate all of the ways you are thankful. 

Thank you for reading and allowing me to share my journey with you.

Pumpkin Chocolate Nut Squares

This is an adaptation of a recipe my mom has been making for as long as I can remember.  Here is how the adaptation occurred.  I was waiting on my mom for the recipe, and knowing I would need butter I left a stick (1/2 cup) out on the counter to soften.

On the phone with my mom she is reading off the recipe at which time I realize I do not have the necessary two sticks of softened butter, and I was short on brown sugar…  So, this is what happened…

Mom:  The recipe has 1 cup of butter
Carly: One cup… (sigh) I don’t have a cup of butter,  I’ll use pumpkin
Mom:  No, Carly, you can just follow the recipe
Carly: Mom, I think it will be fine.  I have some pumpkin lying around – it’ll be great.

Pumpkin Chocolate Nut Squares
2 Cups of all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp of cinnamon
1/4 tsp of nutmeg

1 stick of butter (unsalted)
1 cup of pumpkin
1/2 cup of brown sugar
1 egg
1 1/2 tsp of vanilla

12 oz. of semi-sweet chocolate chips
2 tbsp butter
3 tbsp light corn syrup

With my mom on the phone and my neck cradling the phone, in one bowl mix the butter, brown sugar and pumpkin.  If you want to follow the rules, “cream” the brown sugar and butter first so that it is fully incorporated and then add the pumpkin, then the egg and the vanilla.  For the purposes of full disclosure this is not what I did, but again, really, no stress it all works out.

To this mixture add the flour and the cinnamon and nutmeg.  The dough is going to be pretty sturdy and after working it with a large spoon, you’ll find it it most effective to get in there and mix it up with your hands.

Back to mom…
Carly: What is this supposed to look like?  
Mom: Like cookie dough.
Carly:  But, not really like cookie dough, right?  Not like chocolate chip cookie dough (remember we didn’t use all of that butter).
Mom:  Put the mixer down and do it with your hands – you’ll get it right.

She was right!  Okay, so with this dough, press it into a buttered 13 x 9 baking dish (brownie pan/lasagna pan).  This goes into the oven at 350 degrees for 20 minutes.

While this is baking head over to the stove top with a small saucepan and a bag of chocolate chips.  Remove 3-5 chocolate chips for taste testing.  Delicious.
On a low heat begin to stir the chocolate chips, and add the butter.  If you have a silicone spatula, use it.  It is easy to use and nothing sticks to it.  When the butter and the chocolate are incorporated, add the corn syrup a tablespoon at a time.  The corn syrup gives it a glossy finish.
After the cookie bottom is out of the oven, let it cool for 10 minutes and then with that silicone spatula scoop and spread the chocolate mixture.  Here’s the thing, because you spread the dough with your fingers it might have been uneven, and you might see finger indentations.  And then, because you spread the chocolate with a funny spatula it might also be a little wavy/weird.  Not to worry.
Open the can of nuts you have lying around, or maybe the can that you made a special trip to a grocery store for and spread them all across the chocolate. The bumps and weird waves are completely covered with salty deliciousness.  Because, sometime you feel like a nut, and chocolate, and pumpkin, and cookies!!!
My mom says to refrigerate them over night, so you probably should.  I didn’t – sorry mom.
Via text at 10:59 pm
Mom: How did they turn out?
Carly: Pretty good.  Not as good as yours, but I liked it.  
Mom: Good, I am sure they will be well received.  Leave them in the fridge.
Carly: Can they be covered on the counter overnight?
Mom: It says to refrigerate, but if its cold it should be ok
Carly: The pan was still warm so I was afraid to put it in the fridge.

Next day…
Carly: The bars are getting rave reviews, as the best ever
Refrigerate or not, cut them into cute little squares and share with friends.  I am loving this for Thanksgiving, it’s a great way to use pumpkin in something that is not a pie – but just as fun, and way easier to make.  

Thanks mom!  Oh, and enjoy!  And this Thanksgiving make sure you take a minute to thank someone that’s always helping you out!

Don’t Forget the Centerpiece

When entertaining for the holidays, or really any time of the year, your table is never fully dressed without a centerpiece.  The Fall and Winter seasons provide plenty of inspiration for table decor that is special but also simple. 

I first turn to the master of all “good things”, Ms. Martha Stewart, for inspiration:

For a simple everyday table setting how sweet is table with a collection of small sized baskets with seasonal fruits?  Let the fruit double as part of your dessert and you have a two for one special.
via Martha Stewart
 In a continuation of the fruit theme, I love the stately nature of the pillar candles and baskets filled with plump berries and grapes.  The colors sing fall while not being generic or too obviously themed.
via Martha Stewart
 For a crafty decor idea there is nothing easier than this for the mantle: take candle holders/vases that you already own and wrap with pretty paper and secure with a double stick tape.  An illuminated candle inside gives this idea an ever brighter glow.
via Martha Stewart
 I love, love, love this centerpiece.  It is a true centerpiece and worthy of a special dinner or even a fall wedding.  A bundle of wheat twisted and tied with a beautiful silk ribbon compliments the warmth and heart of the season.
via Martha Stewart
Here are some more great centerpiece ideas that I could not resist:
From pottery barn, this is a simple hurricane candle holder wrapped with dried maze and tied with twine.  It probably take no more than minutes to assemble but makes a very pretty visual impact.
Via Pottery Barn

Or you can always order a vibrant, beautiful bouquet of flowers for your table and for around your home:
via FTD
via 1800Flowers
Whatever you do keep it easy, make it reflect you and your home, and make it special with a little extra sparkle.

Happy Friday and have a beautiful weekend!

Instant Biscuits

Somehow this weekend I became the kind of person who makes biscuits, and my house became the kind of house that barely has a meal without one…  How did this happen?  I am not really sure, but I blame it on the suddenly seasonal weather (cold),   the abundance of soup I had on hand, and the need for something extra comforting as it became clear that the abnormally warm weather wouldn’t be lasting all fall.

Instant Biscuits, adapted from MomsRetro
1 Cup of all purpose flour
2 Tsps Baking Powder
1/2 Tsp Kosher Salt
3 TBSPs  Oil/Shortening
1/3 Cup of Water

Additional Flavors:
Fresh Basil, Oregano, Parsley, Garlic Powder, Fresh grated Parmigiana-Reggiano

Set oven to 350 degrees

Before we get started on the how, I have to get into the why.  Homemade biscuits has been on my to-do list for a while, but I never got around to it because it’s one of those things that when you want it, you want it and you don’t want to wait for proofing, and who keeps buttermilk on hand?  I certainly do not.  This recipe takes 15 minutes and is made entirely from pantry items.

In a small bowl mix all of the dry ingredients: flour, salt, baking powder. 

Add the seasoning.  I went for Italian seasoning because it paired well with the soup I had on hand, but you could just as easily use any other seasoning.  Also, this was a great opportunity to use the fresh basil that has grown really beautifully all summer, before the leaves freeze!

Pluck off 6-7 leaves of fresh basil and roll them up in your hand, with a scissor cut across the leaves to create skinny ribbons of basil, if we were fancy we might call this chiffonade, but we’re not, so we won’t.

Add the oil and the water and mix gently with a fork. 

The dough is supposed to look pretty sloppy, this isn’t a typical dough that would look nice and smooth.  The roughness of the dough leads to light and flaky biscuits.

With your fingers pull apart clumps of dough about the size of a full tablespoon and place on a cookie sheet with parchment paper.

Bake for 10 – 15 minutes.  If you can resist, let them cool enough so your can handle them.  They are very moist and won’t require butter, but that could might only make them better. 

Seriously, this is just about as easy as popping open a can of pre-made biscuits, but you won’t chip a nail, you won’t have weird flakes of paper/tin attached the dough, and they will be that much more delicious and rewarding.  Enjoy – and share with 6-8 people (because that is how many biscuits it will make, or enjoy them all by yourself!)

Roasted Potatoes, Poupourri You Can Eat

To be fair this is not so much of a “recipe” as it is a suggestion.  

I know that this weekend is dedicated to running around for last minute costumes, carving pumpkins, excessive makeup, buying candy, consuming lots more candy, and indulging on some other celebratory vices.  And that is all good.  But, the weekend is long, and eventually you’ll want something that is healthy, and easy.  This is so easy that while you’re setting your hair in curlers and finishing the details of your meat dress this can cook.

Roasted Potatoes is the most homey non-recipe recipe there is.  I like to mix a large variety of potatoes (white, red, purple, sweet, yellow) and chop them all up into chunks that are about 1/4 – 1/3 of an inch thick.

Set the oven to 400 degrees and prepare a cookie sheet with parchment paper.  And get chopping. 

Ta da!  All chopped.  When all the chopped potatoes are in a bowl drizzle on some olive oil, sprinkle on some Kosher salt, crack some black pepper.  
Okay, now here is where you have some creative license.  Are you feeling traditional?  How about some rosemary and thyme.  Want some heat?  Sprinkle on some cayenne.  Want Italian flavors?  Try oregano, parsley, and maybe some  finely grated Parmigiana-Reggiano, or do as we do and go a little crazy with the Old Bay.  There is no right or wrong amount, but you’ll want to see the flecks of flavor on each piece of potato.  This is truly an instance of “flavor to taste”.

Throw in the oven and bake for 30-40 minutes, the longer it’s in there the more browned the edges will become, again this is a personal preference.  Also, I am going to again recommend mixing up the variety of potatoes, they each have a different flavor and texture and so all together they are like a little (healthy) party in your mouth.
Enlarged to show flavor intensity detail!
Happy Halloween, this year instead of a pre-trick or treating peanut butter and jelly sandwich, or pizza (which are all more than fabulous), mix it up with this!