Showing posts with label Thanksgiving dinner. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Thanksgiving dinner. Show all posts

Tuesday, November 20, 2018

Thanksgiving Favorites Meet at the Table

It seems like just yesterday we were celebrating the 4th of July.  Now the sun sets at 4:30, the leaves are falling from our trees and it's time to get ready for Thanksgiving.

Thursday we'll have friends and family around our table. We'll celebrate one another with a toast and give thanks for all our good fortune.

To be ready for the event takes planning. Even the most expansive meal begins with small tasks like peeling a carrot and making pie crust. We wanted to share our way of getting our meal from farm to table.


To prepare the turkey I'm consulting my own e-book: 10 Delicious Holiday Recipes.


As important as having good recipes, good planning and sharing the effort makes all the difference: Planning Well Makes for a Better Thanksgiving

Step 1 - invite the guests and see who will bring their favorite Thanksgiving dish
Step 2 - pull out the recipes we want to make
Step 3 - clean the house
Step 4 - borrow extra chairs
Step 5 - pull the extra table out of the garage
Step 6 - shop
Step 7 - cook
Step 8 - eat
Step 9 - clean up
Step 10 - lie down

Dietary restrictions are part of the calculations since some guests need to avoid gluten, some land based-animal proteins, others eschew sugar and for a few nuts are an issue. Avoiding those ingredients doesn't mean missing out on the fun.

Included in the mix of dishes there will be a pan charred salmon seasoned simply with olive oil, sea salt and black pepper. The galette, this year's "apple pie," will not have almonds.

For everyone who can enjoy the traditional favorites there will be a large turkey stuffed with Michelle's Corn Bread Stuffing with Italian sausages, pecans and dried apricots, which is a labor of love because she eats neither corn bread nor sausages (nor, for that matter, turkey).


The appetizers will include my personal favorite, deviled eggs with anchovies and capers, as well as delicious cheeses--supplied by our friend from Paris who stays with us during the holidays--a selection of olives, charred pistachios in the shell flavored with dried spices, sea salt and cayenne pepper and turkey liver-shiitake mushroom pate, another personal favorite.

For side dishes there will be freshly made cranberry sauce, roasted whole tomatoes, roasted sweet potatoes--the little ones which are sweeter and not starchy--, garlic-parsley mashed potatoes, oven roasted Brussels sprouts--quartered, seasoned with sea salt, black pepper, olive oil and reduced balsamic vinegar and roasted whole tomatoes.

Salads this year will be one with arugula with persimmons, a beet "carpaccio" salad, a toasted hazelnuts and cheddar cheese, black kale salad dressed with a vinaigrette and homemade rosemary croutons and--another personal favorite--frisee with blue cheese and chopped green olives.

And there will be pickles: kosher dill and Moroccan mixed vegetable pickles.


Friends are bringing desserts--a big bowl of mixed berries and selection of ice creams, a pumpkin pie and a pecan pie. I will contribute a apple galette and a banana chocolate chip walnut cake in the shape of a castle.


Have a great Thanksgiving.  Here are some of the recipes for our dinner.

Corn Bread Stuffing with Sausages, Dried Apricots, and Pecans

Over the years my wife has developed a crowd-pleasing stuffing with a contrast of textures: soft (corn bread), spicy (sausage), chewy (dried apricots), and crunchy (pecans).

Yield: 15-20 servings

Time: 30 minutes

Ingredients

2 boxes corn bread mix
3 celery stalks, washed, ends trimmed, leaves discarded
1 pound mushrooms, brown, shiitake, or portabella, washed, pat dried, finely chopped
2 medium yellow onions, peeled, ends removed, finely chopped
4 garlic cloves, peeled, finely chopped
1 stick sweet butter
1/2 - 1 cup turkey or chicken stock
4 Italian style sweet sausages
1 cup dried apricots, finely chopped
1/2 cup pecans, roughly chopped
Sea salt and pepper

Method

Make the corn bread the night before and leave the pan on the counter so the corn bread dries out. Use any cornbread mix you like. My wife uses Jiffy. It's inexpensive and tastes great. The instructions are on the box.

Saute the sausages whole in a frying pan with a little olive oil until browned, remove, cut into bite-sized pieces, and set aside. Pour off the excess fat. Add the celery, mushrooms, onion, and garlic into the pan with the stick of butter and saute. Season with sea salt and pepper. Cook until lightly browned, then add 1/2 cup of the stock, toss well and summer 15 minutes. Add more stock as needed. Taste and adjust the seasoning with sea salt and black pepper. 

Cut the cornbread into chunks and crumble into a large mixing bowl. Add the apricots, pecans, and the saute. Stir well and set aside until you're ready to stuff the turkey.


Roasted Brussels Sprouts

Yield: 4 servings

Time: 30-45 minutes

Ingredients

1 pound Brussels sprouts, washed, stems trimmed, quartered
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Method

Toss the Brussels sprouts with olive oil and seasoning, put in a roasting pan with enough room so they don't sit on top of each other. Roast in a preheated 350 F degree oven 30-45 minutes, turning every 5-10 minutes for even cooking.

They'll come out of the oven so warm and sweet, they'll get eaten before they arrive at the table.

Roasted Whole Tomatoes

A side dish, full of flavor and perfect to serve alongside turkey and stuffing.


Ripe and over ripe tomatoes work best. If you shop at farmers' markets, keep an eye out for discounted tomatoes. 

When they're roasting, tomatoes give off a clear liquid. The flavor is pure essence of tomato. The wonderful chef, cookbook writer, and founder of Fra'ManiPaul Bertolli was famous for hanging tomatoes in cheese cloth and capturing the clear tomato water that he called "the blood of the fruit."

Yield: 4 servings

Time: 90 minutes

Ingredients

3 pounds ripe tomatoes (washed, stems removed)
Olive oil
Sea salt and pepper

Method



Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Place the whole tomatoes on a Silpat sheet or a piece of aluminum foil on a baking tray. Drizzle with olive oil and season with sea salt and pepper. Roast for 90 minutes. When the tomatoes are removed from the pan, be certain to spatula off all the seasoned olive oil and tomato water. That liquid is full of flavor. Spoon the liquid over the tomatoes.

Arugula Salad with Hazelnuts, Carrots, Avocado, and Croutons

Yield: 4 servings

Time: 30 minutes

Ingredients

1 bunch arugula, washed, stems removed, leaves torn into bite sized pieces
1/4 cup raw hazelnuts
1 carrot, washed, peeled, cut into thin rounds
1 avocado, peeled, pit removed, roughly chopped
1/4 cup croutons
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
Sea salt and pepper

Method

On a low flame reduce the balsamic vinegar to 1 tablespoon. Set aside to cool. Roast the hazelnuts in a 350 F degree oven for 20 minutes, shaking the pan every 5 minutes to cook evenly. Remove, put into a dish cloth, rub roughly to remove the skins, let cool, and crush with the side of a chefs knife.

Put the arugula, hazelnuts, carrot rounds, croutons, and avocado into a salad bowl. Drizzle with olive oil and reduced balsamic vinegar. Season with sea salt and pepper. Toss and serve immediately.


Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Thanksgiving Favorites Meet at the Table

For Thanksgiving dinner tomorrow, we'll enjoy the holiday with 18 family members and friends. We know the dinner will be a lot of noisy fun, but until then, there's lots to do so the meal runs smoothly and everyone has what they want to eat.

We began preparing last Sunday when we shopped at the Pacific Palisades farmer market. This morning we picked up the turkey and a few last-minute ingredients at the Santa Monica farmers market. For "fuel" I ran into Starbucks to have a double espresso.
To prepare the turkey I'm consulting my own e-book: 10 Delicious Holiday Recipes.
As important as having good recipes, good planning and sharing the effort makes all the difference: Planning Well Makes for a Better Thanksgiving

Step 1 - invite the guests and see who will bring their favorite Thanksgiving dish
Step 2 - pull out the recipes we want to make
Step 3 - clean the house
Step 4 - borrow extra chairs
Step 5 - pull the extra table out of the garage
Step 6 - shop
Step 7 - cook
Step 8 - eat
Step 9 - clean up
Step 10 - lie down

Dietary restrictions are part of the calculations since some guests need to avoid gluten, some land based-animal proteins, others eschew sugar and for a few nuts are an issue. Avoiding those ingredients doesn't mean missing out on the fun.

Included in the mix of dishes there will be a pan charred salmon seasoned simply with olive oil, sea salt and black pepper. The galette, this year's "apple pie," will not have almonds.

For everyone who can enjoy the traditional favorites there will be a large turkey stuffed with my wife's Corn Bread Stuffing with Italian sausages, pecans and dried apricots, which is a labor of love because she eats neither corn bread nor sausages (nor, for that matter, turkey).

The appetizers will include my personal favorite, deviled eggs with anchovies and capers, as well as delicious cheeses--supplied by our friend from Paris who stayed with us last week--,a selection of olives, charred pistachios in the shell flavored with dried spices, sea salt and cayenne pepper and turkey liver-shiitake mushroom pate, another personal favorite.

For side dishes there will be freshly made cranberry sauce, roasted whole tomatoes, roasted sweet potatoes--the little ones which are sweeter and not starchy--, garlic-parsley mashed potatoes, oven roasted Brussels sprouts--quartered, seasoned with sea salt, black pepper, olive oil and reduced balsamic vinegar and roasted whole tomatoes.

Salads this year will be one with arugula with persimmons, a beet "carpaccio" salad, a toasted hazelnuts and cheddar cheese, black kale salad dressed with a vinaigrette and homemade rosemary croutons and--another personal favorite--frisee with blue cheese and chopped green olives.

And there will be pickles: kosher dill and Moroccan mixed vegetable pickles.

Friends are bringing desserts--a big bowl of mixed berries and selection of ice creams, a pumpkin pie and a pecan pie. I will contribute a plate of my almond-dark chocolate ganache chocolates, the apple galette and a slow cooked passion fruit custard.

Have a great Thanksgiving.  Here are some of the recipes for our dinner.

Corn Bread Stuffing with Sausages, Dried Apricots, and Pecans

Over the years my wife has developed a crowd-pleasing stuffing with a contrast of textures: soft (corn bread), spicy (sausage), chewy (dried apricots), and crunchy (pecans).

Yield: 15-20 servings

Time: 30 minutes

Ingredients

2 boxes corn bread mix
3 celery stalks, washed, ends trimmed, leaves discarded
1 pound mushrooms, brown, shiitake, or portabella, washed, pat dried, finely chopped
2 medium yellow onions, peeled, ends removed, finely chopped
4 garlic cloves, peeled, finely chopped
1 stick sweet butter
1/2 - 1 cup turkey or chicken stock
4 Italian style sweet sausages
1 cup dried apricots, finely chopped
1/2 cup pecans, roughly chopped
Sea salt and pepper

Method

Make the corn bread the night before and leave the pan on the counter so the corn bread dries out. Use any cornbread mix you like. My wife uses Jiffy. It's inexpensive and tastes great. The instructions are on the box.

Saute the sausages whole in a frying pan with a little olive oil until browned, remove, cut into bite-sized pieces, and set aside. Pour off the excess fat. Add the celery, mushrooms, onion, and garlic into the pan with the stick of butter and saute. Season with sea salt and pepper. Cook until lightly browned, then add 1/2 cup of the stock, toss well and summer 15 minutes. Add more stock as needed. Taste and adjust the seasoning with sea salt and black pepper. 

Cut the cornbread into chunks and crumble into a large mixing bowl. Add the apricots, pecans, and the saute. Stir well and set aside until you're ready to stuff the turkey.



Roasted Brussels Sprouts

Yield: 4 servings

Time: 30-45 minutes

Ingredients

1 pound Brussels sprouts, washed, stems trimmed, quartered
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Method

Toss the Brussels sprouts with olive oil and seasoning, put in a roasting pan with enough room so they don't sit on top of each other. Roast in a preheated 350 F degree oven 30-45 minutes, turning every 5-10 minutes for even cooking.

They'll come out of the oven so warm and sweet, they'll get eaten before they arrive at the table.

Roasted Whole Tomatoes

A side dish, full of flavor and perfect to serve alongside turkey and stuffing.


Ripe and over ripe tomatoes work best. If you shop at farmers' markets, keep an eye out for discounted tomatoes. 

When they're roasting, tomatoes give off a clear liquid. The flavor is pure essence of tomato. The wonderful chef, cookbook writer, and founder of Fra'ManiPaul Bertolli was famous for hanging tomatoes in cheese cloth and capturing the clear tomato water that he called "the blood of the fruit."

Yield: 4 servings

Time: 90 minutes

Ingredients

3 pounds ripe tomatoes (washed, stems removed)
Olive oil
Sea salt and pepper

Method



Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Place the whole tomatoes on a Silpat sheet or a piece of aluminum foil on a baking tray. Drizzle with olive oil and season with sea salt and pepper. Roast for 90 minutes. When the tomatoes are removed from the pan, be certain to spatula off all the seasoned olive oil and tomato water. That liquid is full of flavor. Spoon the liquid over the tomatoes.

Arugula Salad with Hazelnuts, Carrots, Avocado, and Croutons

Yield: 4 servings

Time: 30 minutes

Ingredients

1 bunch arugula, washed, stems removed, leaves torn into bite sized pieces
1/4 cup raw hazelnuts
1 carrot, washed, peeled, cut into thin rounds
1 avocado, peeled, pit removed, roughly chopped
1/4 cup croutons
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
Sea salt and pepper

Method

On a low flame reduce the balsamic vinegar to 1 tablespoon. Set aside to cool. Roast the hazelnuts in a 350 F degree oven for 20 minutes, shaking the pan every 5 minutes to cook evenly. Remove, put into a dish cloth, rub roughly to remove the skins, let cool, and crush with the side of a chefs knife.

Put the arugula, hazelnuts, carrot rounds, croutons, and avocado into a salad bowl. Drizzle with olive oil and reduced balsamic vinegar. Season with sea salt and pepper. Toss and serve immediately.



Saturday, November 22, 2014

New Dishes Added to Thanksgiving Day's Favorites

My mother loved Thanksgiving. For her the day was the best holiday of the year. A time, she felt, when family would gather around the table and enjoy a meal with so many favorite dishes.
To prepare the meal, she would include my sister and myself as helpers. My father was old school, so his responsibilities involved showing up at the table when the meal was ready. Which was fine with my sister and myself. We enjoyed the time in the kitchen chopping vegetables and stuffing the turkey, which meant my sister and I held the turkey butt-up as my mom spooned in the stuffing.
For dessert, my favorite was her apple pie. My mom tossed peeled and sliced apples with lemon juice and brown sugar mixed with raisins. The combination of sweet and tart was kind of ideal. For this Thanksgiving, I'm going to make an apple dessert but a galette instead of a pie because I like the folded crust on top and it is easier to make.
For a new dish I'm going to make truffle macaroni and cheese, a dish demonstrated by chef David Codney (the Peninsula Beverly Hills). The recipe and video are on Zester Daily. The dish is elegant and easy to make and it's perfect as an appetizer or a side dish as a companion for Thanksgiving's more rustic fare.

I've been experimenting with dry sautéed nuts. The one I like a lot, which I'll make for Thanksgiving, is raw pistachios in the shell tossed with sea salt, thyme and rosemary. It's easy and quick with a carbon steel pan that can take the heat.

Have a great Thanksgiving.


Saturday, November 20, 2010

Keep Them Simple, Keep Them Coming: Thanksgiving Appetizers, Side Dishes, and Salads

While turkey is the centerpiece on Thanksgiving, the appetizers, side dishes, salads and desserts reign supreme. Cranberry sauce, cornbread stuffing with sausages and dried apricots, mushroom and giblets gravy, green salads, beet salad, homemade pickles, mashed potatoes, Brussels sprouts, string beans, squash...and the desserts: cakes, pies, custards, fresh fruit, cheese... 

The easier the recipes, the more you'll make. If Thanksgiving is nothing else, it is a celebration of variety and plenty, so here are some easy-to-make recipes we'll be making on Thursday.

Blackened Peppers with Capers, Parsley, and Garlic

The peppers should be made a day or two ahead.  To start, simply grill the peppers on top of a gas range, remove the blackened skin, discard the seeds, and put them in a sealed jar where they'll keep a week in the refrigerator or for months in the freezer.

Overnight the peppers will miraculously create their own "oil."

Use a mix of peppers so the result is that much more colorful. Chef's note: I haven't had as much success grilling green or purple peppers, so I stick to the red, yellow, and orange ones.


Yield: 6-8 servings

Time: 15 minutes

Ingredients

3-4 red, yellow, or orange peppers, washed, pat dried
4 garlic cloves, skin on
1 tablespoon capers, drained, finely chopped
1 tablespoon parsley leaves, washed, dried, finely chopped
1/4 cup oil from the grilled peppers
4 anchovy fillets, finely chopped, optional

Method

The garlic can be used either raw or grilled. If cooked, they'll have a milder flavor, which I prefer. Leave the outer skin or paper on the garlic and skewer the cloves. Blacken them on an open flame on top of the stove until the skins have all but burnt away. Remove and finely chop.

Toss together the peppers, garlic, parsley, and capers. Return to the sealed jar and keep in the refrigerator until ready to serve.

Marinated Peppers as an Appetizer

Yield: 8 servings

Time: 15 minutes

Ingredients
2 cups marinated peppers (julienned or finely chopped)
1/2 pound soft cheese
Olive oil
Pepper flakes
Sea salt and pepper
Toast rounds or crackers

Method
Start with a thin slice of goat cheese, a triple cream, or mozzarella, lay on a strand of marinated pepper, 
and drizzle some of the pepper's own oil. There are variations to play with: add chopped avocado or scallions or cherry tomatoes or grilled corn...

Top with a little olive oil and season with sea salt and pepper.

Roasted Whole Tomatoes

A side dish, full of flavor and perfect to serve alongside turkey and stuffing.


Ripe and over ripe tomatoes work best. If you shop at farmers' markets, keep an eye out for discounted tomatoes. 

When they're roasting, tomatoes give off a clear liquid. The flavor is pure essence of tomato. The wonderful chef, cookbook writer, and founder of Fra'ManiPaul Bertolli was famous for hanging tomatoes in cheese cloth and capturing the clear tomato water that he called "the blood of the fruit."

Yield: 4 servings

Time: 90 minutes

Ingredients

3 pounds ripe tomatoes (washed, stems removed)
Olive oil
Sea salt and pepper

Method

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Place the whole tomatoes on a Silpat sheet or a piece of aluminum foil on a baking tray. Drizzle with olive oil and season with sea salt and pepper. Roast for 90 minutes. When the tomatoes are removed from the pan, be certain to spatula off all the seasoned olive oil and tomato water. That liquid is full of flavor. Spoon the liquid over the tomatoes.

Roasted Brussels Sprouts

Yield: 4 servings

Time: 30-45 minutes

Ingredients

1 pound Brussels sprouts, washed, stems trimmed, quartered
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Method

Toss the Brussels sprouts with olive oil and seasoning, put in a roasting pan with enough room so they don't sit on top of each other. Roast in a preheated 350 F degree oven 30-45 minutes, turning every 5-10 minutes for even cooking.

They'll come out of the oven so warm and sweet, they'll get eaten before they arrive at the table.


Baked Sweet Potatoes with Sautéed Shallots, Garlic, and Mushrooms

I prefer sweet potatoes that have a bright orange flesh. Find ones about the same size that are slender, appropriate as a single serving. 

Yield: 4 servings

Time: 2 1/2 hours

Ingredients

4 sweet potatoes, washed, skins on
2 teaspoons sweet butter
1 cup shallots, peeled, thinly sliced
1 cup brown or shiitake mushrooms, washed, dried, thinly sliced
6 garlic cloves, peeled, finely chopped
1/4 cup Italian parsley leaves only, washed, finely chopped
Olive oil
Sea salt and pepper
Cayenne (optional)

Method

Preheat oven to 350 F degrees. Wrap each sweet potato in tin foil, place in the oven, turn every 30 minutes. 

Depending on your oven and the size of the sweet potatoes, they can take anywhere from 1 1/2 hours to 2 hours. When the sweet potatoes are soft to the touch, they are done.

While the sweet potatoes are in the oven, drizzle olive oil in a frying pan, season with sea salt and freshly ground pepper, and sauté the shallots, garlic, parsley, and mushrooms until lightly browned.

Remove and discard the tin foil. Using a sharp paring knife slice each sweet potato the long way. With your fingers, push the sweet potato in from the ends so the cut section opens like a flower. 

Add 1/2 teaspoon of butter and a light dusting of cayenne (optional). Top with the shallot-mushroom sauté and serve.

Grilled Vegetables Couscous

Yield: 4-6 servings

Time: 30 minutes

Incredibly versatile, couscous can be as simple as you want with one or two ingredients or as complex and layered as you have time to prepare. 

Ingredients
1 1/2 cups couscous,  quick-cook style
1 1/4 cup water
2 tablespoons olives, cracked green or kalamata, pitted, finely chopped
1 basket cherry tomatoes, washed, quartered
1/4 cup capers, chopped
1 cup Italian parsley, leaves only, washed, finely chopped
1 ear of corn, husks and silks removed, washed
1 carrot, washed, peeled, trimmed, cut into slabs 4"x1/4"
2 garlic cloves, washed, trimmed
7 tablespoons olive oil
Sea salt and pepper to taste

Method

Drizzle 3 tablespoons olive oil onto a flat plate, season with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, roll the corn on the plate to coat with the seasoned oil. Do the same with the carrot slabs and garlic cloves. Reserve the seasoned oil.

Lightly brown on a hot grill or roast in a 350 F degree oven for 10-20 minutes, turning to avoid burning. Let cool , finely chop the carrots and garlic. Cut the kernels off the cob.

Boil the water. In a non-reactive, stainless steel or glass bowl mix together the couscous with the hot water, 2 tablespoons olive oil, 1/4 teaspoon sea salt and a dusting of black pepper, cover with plastic wrap and let sit for 10 minutes.

Remove the plastic wrap, toss with a fork to break up all the pieces.

To the couscous, add the carrots, corn, garlic, parsley, capers, olives, cherry tomatoes, the seasoned oil used to marinate the vegetables and another 4 tablespoons of olive oil. Toss well. Taste and adjust the seasoning with sea salt or black pepper. 

Can be served chilled or at room temperature.

Variations

Add grilled broccoli, marinated and cooked the same way as the carrots).

Serve with arugula.

Serve with a sliced avocado.

Arugula Salad with Hazelnuts, Carrots, Avocado, and Croutons

Yield: 4 servings

Time: 30 minutes

Ingredients

1 bunch arugula, washed, stems removed, leaves torn into bite sized pieces
1/4 cup raw hazelnuts
1 carrot, washed, peeled, cut into thin rounds
1 avocado, peeled, pit removed, roughly chopped
1/4 cup croutons
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
Sea salt and pepper

Method

On a low flame reduce the balsamic vinegar to 1 tablespoon. Set aside to cool. Roast the hazelnuts in a 350 F degree oven for 20 minutes, shaking the pan every 5 minutes to cook evenly. Remove, put into a dish cloth, rub roughly to remove the skins, let cool, and crush with the side of a chefs knife.

Put the arugula, hazelnuts, carrot rounds, croutons, and avocado into a salad bowl. Drizzle with olive oil and reduced balsamic vinegar. Season with sea salt and pepper. Toss and serve immediately.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Thanksgiving Desserts

Before the sun comes up on Thanksgiving day, my wife and I are hard at work in the kitchen. There's so much to do that we're busy all day long. When our family and friends arrive, there's a flurry of activity to greet everyone. Once everyone is settled at the dinner table, there are glasses raised to celebrate our being together and toasts to those who could not travel to our house that year or who have passed on. Then we eagerly eat.

The feast goes on for hours as we hungrily enjoy Thanksgiving favorites and talk about what's going on in our lives and the world. When we've eaten all we can, we take a break to clean the table. Then most of us go for a walk around the neighborhood.

We walk in the dark, enjoying the cool night air and the exercise of our limbs. Refreshed, we come back to the house, its bright lights and fireplace inviting us to come home. And when we do, we find that the table has been reset, new platters of food laid out. It's time for dessert.

For so many years, this is the moment when the true collaboration of the meal is in evidence. Cousin Ron has made homemade ice cream, topping sauces, and a cheese cake. Cousin Leslie brings a pumpkin pie. Our friend and neighbor, Lesli offers us a huge bowl of mixed berries. Sometimes there is simply more than we can eat, but we don't care.

Seeing all the chocolates, candies, pies, cookies, tarts, fresh fruit, cheeses, bread puddings, and cakes makes us feel good without eating a bite. Then we dig in, having small slices so we can taste what everyone has made. But even those samples add up, so within short order we need another bracing walk in the cold to revive us.

Here are two of our favorite recipes.

Karen's Favorite Pumpkin Bread

Yield: 6-8 servings
Time: 1 1/2 hours

Ingredients

3 cups flour
2 cups sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 teaspoons baking soda
2 cups canned pumpkin
3 teaspoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 1/2 cups vegetable oil (safflower or canola)
4 eggs
1 cup chocolate chips

Method

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Beat the eggs together with the sugar until light and fluffy. Mix together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and cinnamon. Combine with the eggs and sugar. Add the pumpkin, vanilla, vegetable oil, eggs, and chocolate chips and mix well.

Carefully butter the inside of a bundt pan or 4 loaf pans. Pour in the batter, leaving 1/2" from the top. Bake for 1 hour for the large pan or 30-45 minutes for the loaf pans. Test with a tooth pick and let rest on a wire rack.

Serve at room temperature.

Banana Cake with Chocolate Chips and Walnuts

Yield: 8-10 servings
Time: 90 minutes
Ingredients

4 ripe bananas
1 1/2 tablespoons baking soda
1/4 teaspoon vanilla
2 eggs
1 cup plus 1 tablespoon sweet butter, room temperature
1 cup white sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
2/3 cup half and half or 1 cup heavy cream
2 1/2 cups white flour
Pinch of sea salt
Pinch of cayenne
1/2 cup raw walnuts
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

Method

Melt 1 tablespoon of butter and paint the inside of a 9 x 3 round cake pan, then put the pan in the freezer for 30 minutes. (The frozen butter prevents the batter from sticking to the pan.) On a cookie sheet bake the walnuts in a 350 degree oven for 20 minutes, turning every 5 minutes or so; let cool, roughly chop, and set aside.

In a bowl mash the bananas with a fork, add the baking soda and vanilla. stir well and set aside. In a mixer use the whisk to cream together the softened butter and both sugars. Add the eggs, mashed bananas, half and half (or cream) and whisk until blended. Mix in the flour half a cup at a time, being careful not to over-beat. Remove the bowl from the mixer. Use a rubber spatula to blend in the walnuts and chocolate chips. Pour the batter into the buttered cake pan; it will only fill the pan half-way.

Bake the cake in a 350 oven for 60-70 minutes, turning the pan every 20 minutes so the cake cooks evenly. Test to see if the cake is done by inserting a wooden skewer. If the top is browning too quickly, lightly lay a sheet of aluminum foil over the top. When the skewer comes out clean, take the cake out of the oven and place on a wire rack for 30 minutes. Remove the cake from the pan, putting it back on the wire rack to finish cooling.

Just before serving, dust the top with powdered sugar and shaved chocolate. Serve warm or at room temperature with vanilla ice cream or freshly whipped cream.

Thanksgiving Favorites Meet at the Table

It seems like just yesterday we were celebrating the 4th of July.  Now the sun sets at 4:30, the leaves are falling from our trees and it...