Category Archives: Cooking

My Food Network Thanksgiving

As a foodie, I am usually quite excited to plan out a menu for a major holiday. It is not uncommon to find me sitting, weeks prior, at the dining room table with twenty cookbooks surrounding me as I furiously scribble notes about what I might want to cook, what recipes can be thrown together the day before, what dishes can be baked at the same time in the oven…. On occasion I get lost in my pursuit of NOM and wind up planning Christmas dinner as well with all of the “extra” dishes that I’ve way-over planned for Thanksgiving.

This year was a little different. Because I have been traveling recently, I had not given much time to thinking about Thanksgiving dinner. My ‘Food & Wine’ Thanksgiving edition sits unread, my seasonal cookbooks still have dust build up from the past twelve months. And while I have been fixing Autumn dinners for my family this year, they have been the quiet, old standards – easy to remember, tasty without fuss.

This year I chose to rely soley on internet recipes. Quite a change for me. I even took things a step further (since I like a culinary challenge) and limited my dishes to recipes that had been featured on TV (for what reason, I don’t know; too much caffeine that day, I suppose). I eventually settled on choosing from the Food Network mostly because that’s where I thought to start. I found some fantastic recipes right off the bat from some of my favorite chefs with a simple search of key ingredients that I had already chosen for this meal.

Here is what I served my family this year….

1. Roasted Winter Vegetables
‘Barefoot Contessa’ Episode “Friend In Need”

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2. Cranberry Wild Rice Dressing
‘Semi-Homemade Cooking’ Episode: “Cabin Fever”

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3. Homemade Applesauce
‘Barefoot Contessa’ Episode: “Halloween for Grownups”



4. Cranberry Orange Sauce
‘Tyler’s Ultimate’ Episode: “Ultimate Thanksgiving”




5. Sweet Potatoes and Sweet Potato Balls
‘Food Network Specials’ Episode: “Paula’s Southern Thanksgiving”

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6. Date and Walnut Loaf

by M.S. Milliken and S. Feniger, 1996

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The table:



1. If you suddenly realize that you don’t have a zester, you can always get all handy and grab a keyhole saw (normally used for drywall). Works well. WASH IT FIRST.


2. Sometimes if helps if you have Batman as your sous chef.


And here are some changes that I made to the recipes.

1. Roasted Winter Vegetables: While the recipe called for drizzling good olive oil over the veggies prior to baking, I also added a tbsp. of butter and a couple squeezes of honey for good measure. What sounds better to you: “Roasted”, or “Honey Roasted”?

2. Cranberry Wild Rice Dressing: I made significant changes to this recipe. Outlined as a “Quick and Easy” dish online, I switched out the instant rice with a long-grain wild rice mix from Minnesota. This meant that the cooking time was about an hour longer than what the recipe suggests. I also added some ginger and some curry powder, and I sautéed some leeks prior to toasting the rice as well.

3. Homemade Applesauce: I’m not sure what the reason is for leaving 2 apple’s worth of red skins in the recipe, but the red apples I got from the store were a little bruised, so the peels didn’t really look all that great. I threw them in anyway, to what effect, I don’t know.

One thing to really think about with a recipe like this (or others that require zesting) is that you really want to scrub the skin of your fruit thoroughly with soap and water since who knows what kinds of pesticides and dirt may reside thereon. For this specific recipe, I bought organic red apples, just to add one more level of safety. I realize that buying organic can be expensive, but choosing your use of organics wisely makes a lot of sense to me.

4. Cranberry Orange Sauce: I didn’t change the recipe at all, though I would suggest adding a little more sugar. This dish came out a bit tart for my personal taste.

5. Sweet Potato Balls: I made these as suggested, only I set aside a portion of the mashed sweet potatoes because I have one anti-marshmellow family member. The recipe makes enough mashed potatoes for both dishes.

6. Date and Walnut Loaf: Made as intended. This is a wonderful bread! I plan on making a lot more of this over the winter. Everyone in the family liked the texture. I was tempted to throw in more walnuts initially, and this would have been fine, but I have to say that the finished product was great with the amount suggested by the recipe.

7. That’s right, no turkey.

Go. Do. BAKE.

Emily, Doer of Stuff


Recipe Testing

One of the things that I like to “Do” is to try new recipes whenever I get the chance. I had the opportunity some time ago to sign up for the McCormick company’s Home Use Test group (sign up here to get on their database of home testers). In the past I have baked dessert products at home, then filled in an online survey and received some sort of compensation.

This go-round I tested a dinner/meal recipe. The funny thing about writing this post is the fact that I can’t actually say anything about what I made, other than that I made it, it was good, and I’d make it again. I received a padded envelope with some ingredients + a recipe. I had to use mostly my own stuff, but the recipe didn’t call for anything that wasn’t already in my kitchen.

If you live in the Maryland area, you can volunteer to test McCormick products at their testing lab. You can learn more about this process here. I would love to do this, but, alas, I life halfway across the country.


I have fond memories of McCormick’s factory in Baltimore, MD, near where I grew up. The story goes that in 1896, Mr. McCormick bought some equipment from a company in Philadelphia and had it sent to Baltimore to set up shop. His company motto was (and I’m not joking) “Make the best – someone will buy it”. Everything was lost in the Great Baltimore fire of 1904, and a new  building was erected on the same site and the company forged ahead. Another building was later erected at Baltimore’s Inner Harbor in the 1920s.


This is the building that I remember from my childhood. That part of town always smelled absolutely wonderful. They added their Hunt Valley, MD facilities in the 60s. Some buildings have been built and sold in the meantime, but this is where the Testing Lab is located. Other buildings were added over the years. Eventually all of the operations moved to the Hunt Valley location and the famous McCormick spice smell could no longer be experienced in Baltimore. The building has been bought/sold/forclosed on, etc over the years. Who knows what will happen to it. As of right now, a company that is actually solvent owns the building.


Apparently they have opened up their first-ever retail space in Harborplace, in Baltimore’s Inner Harbor. It’s called McCormick World of Flavors. I’ve not been there but will add this to my list of things to see next time I am out that way. This is a perfect excuse to take my boys to the Baltimore Aquarium. And, being the foodie that I am, I imagine myself carrying home a ton of spices once I step food inside this store.


And did you know that there is a McCormick Science Institute? Here is the MSI Pilot Study on Red Pepper and Turmeric, the MSI Funded Study on Rosemary and Cognitive Function (September, 2011) , and the MSI Funded Paper: Potential Health Benefits of Turmeric (September, 2010).  I had no idea! As a lukewarm health nut, I think I can get into this stuff pretty easily.


First off, I would like to say that I am horrified that I can’t find my camera. Kitchenfoolery and baked goods always taste better when you can actually see them. Sorry about this. Issue fixed! Adding photos now!

That aside, I finally got around to preparing the last of our pumpkin stash. I had three left, two of which I roasted, one of which I pitched unceremoniously into the compost bin (much too soft). So far I have only used the meat from one pumpkin, and these are the four recipes I have tried thus far. I realized too late that I didn’t take any photos of the actual pumpkins before I hacked them up and cooked them. 😦

I also washed, dried, and saved all of the seeds so I can plant more this year…and roast the rest. Enjoy!


Roasted Ginger Pumpkin-Pear Soup
1-1/2 pounds fresh pumpkin, seeds and fibers removed, cut into big chunks
1 tbsp olive oil, plus extra for brushing on pumpkin
1 tbsp butter
1/2 cup chopped onion
2 tbsp minced shallots
2 tsp peeled and grated fresh ginger
1 tsp salt
1-2 red or green Anjou pears, peeled, cored, and cut in chunks
4 cups chicken broth, homemade if possible
1/2 cup half-and-half (optional)

Heat the oven to 400F.
Brush each pumpkin chunk with oil. Bake for 45 minutes, or until easily pierced with a fork. When cool enough to handle, peel, mash, and measure 3 cups. Store the rest in the refrigerator for up to a week, or in the freezer for up to 3 minutes.
Heat the oil and butter in a large saucepan over medium heat for 1 minute. Add the onion and shallots and cook for about 5 minutes, or until translucent, stiring occasionally. Add 1 tsp of the ginger, the salt, and the pumpkin. Cook for another minute until warm.
Add the pear and broth and cook for about 20 minutes, until the pear is easily pierced with a fork. Stir in the remaining tsp of ginger.
In small batches, puree the soup in a blender or with a hand-held blender in the saucepan, until the consistency is smooth and creamy.
Return the soup to the saucepan and add half-and-half, if desired. Gently heat, but do not boil. Serve hot.
[from Pumpkin: A Super Food for All 12 Months of the Year by DeeDee Stovel]

Notes: I didn’t have shallots, so I didn’t use them. I used vegetable broth instead of chicken broth. Turned out well. I will definately keep this recipe on my list.


Pumpkin Butter
2 cups canned unsweetened pumpkin
2/3 cup brown sugar
1 tbsp fresh lemon juice
1 tsp grated lemon zest
1/4 tsp ground allspice
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground ginger
1/8 tsp ground cloves

Combine all the ingredients in a medium saucepan and cook over medium-low heat for 20 to 30 minutes until thickened and darkened. Stir regularly while cooking.
Cool and store in a glass jar in the refrigerator for several weeks.
[from Pumpkin: A Super Food for all 12 Months of the Year by DeeDee Stovel]

Note: This stuff is fantastic, and we put it on our waffles this morning.


Healthy Pumpkin Smoothie
1/2 cup pumpkin puree
1/2 very ripe medium-sized banana
3/4 cup fat-free vanilla yogurt (I used Oikos 0% fat Greek vanilla yogurt)
1 tbsp honey
1/2 tsp pumpkin pie spice
1/4 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup crushed ice

Place all ingredients in a blender and puree until smooth, making sure the ice is completely crushed.
Makes two servings
Per 8-10 ounce serving: Calories 167, Calories from Fat 5, Total Fat 0.7g (aat 0.3g), Cholesterol 2mg, Sodium 74mg, Carbohydrate 34g, Fiber 3.1g, Protein 6.6g

Note: This smoothie came out really thick, so I added milk to thin it a little bit.


Pumpkin Dinner Rolls
1-2/3 cups pumpkin puree
4-1/3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 tsp active dry yeast
1 tbsp honey
3/4 cup whole wheat flour
5 tbsp raw wheat germ
2 tsp sea salt
1 tsp cumin
1-1/2 cups pumpkin seeds, lighlty toasted

In a medium bowl, combine 1/3 cup pumpkin and 1/3 cup of the flour, then stir in 2/3 cup boiling water. Allow to cool to lukewarm, then stir in the yeast. Cover with plastic wrap and set aside to rise until foamy and bubbling, about 1 hour.
Transfer the yeast starter to a large bowl. Stir in the remaining pumpkin, honey, 1/3 cup cold water, then the remaining all-purpose flour, whole wheat flour, wheat germ, salt, and cumin. Transfer the dough to a floured board and knead until smooth and elastic, about 12 to 15 minutes, adding more flour as neccessary. Try not to use any more flour than you need to keep the dough from sticking. Alternatively, use a heavy duty mixer outfitted with a dough hook. Work in the pumpkin seeds.
Place the dough in a lightly oiled large bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and set aside to rise at room temperature until doubled in bulk, about 2-1/2 hours.
Punch down the dough and form into 24 rolls. Set on two cookie sheets lined with parchment. Cover lightly with plastic wrap and set aside in a warm place to rise until doubled in bulk, about 1-1/2 hours.
Preheat oven to 450F.
Bake the rolls in the center of the oven until puffed and golden, 12 to 15 minutes. Rolls should sound hollow when tapped on the bottom.
[from The Great Little Pumpkin Cookbook by Michael Krondl]

Note: You can skip the entire yeast-rising-punching-down step if you are in a rush. Just substitute the 4-1/3 cups of unbleached all-purpose flour with self-rising flour and you are all set. Also, these are great with dark chocolate morsels, too.


I cooked waffles for the family this morning, so I am updating with a fifth recipe.

Spiced Pumpkin Waffles

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

3 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1 teaspoon nutmeg

1 teaspoon ground ginger

1 pinch salt

2 eggs

1/4 cup firmly packed brown sugar

1 cup canned pumpkin puree

1 2/3 cups milk

4 tablespoons butter, melted and cooled

Mix together flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, and salt in large bowl. In a second bowl, add eggs, sugar, pumpkin, milk, and butter; beat well. Gently fold in the flour mixture. Cook according to your waffle iron directions. I do these in my belgian waffle iron and it uses about 1 cup batter and takes 4-5 minutes to bake. They come out a nice deep, golden brown. These are great with a little bit of syrup, but would also be great with honey butter.


Note: Something isn’t quite right with this recipe. My first waffles came apart in the middle, leaving two layers of waffle – one on the top of the waffle iron and one on the bottom. I added more flour and butter to try to correct this, and I let the waffles cook a little longer. This only moderately fixed things, as I still had to peel each waffle off of the iron with a butter knife. The flavors were really good. I will try a different recipe next time.


And now tonight (March 31), for dinner we ate leftovers of all pumpkin dishes plus a new side that I whipped up.

Spinach and Pumpkin

1 tbsp peanut oil
1 medium onion, thinly sliced (about 1-1/2 cups)
1 package (10 oz) frozen spinach, cooked and drained, or 1 pound of fresh spinach, cooked and chopped (about 1-1/2 cups)
1-1/2 cups roasted pumpkin, mashed
1/2 tsp salt

Heat the oil over medium heat in a large skillet. Cook the onion in the oil for 5 to 7 minutes or until soft and lightly browned.

Stir in the spinach, pumpkin, and salt. Cook over low heat, without stirring, for 5 to 7 minutes, or until a brown crust forms on the bottom. Serve hot.

[from Pumpkin: A Super Food for All 12 Months of the Year by DeeDee Stovel]

Note: This was Waaaay better than I expected. The ingredients are so very simple, yet this was quite a tasty dish. Both my husband and I agreed that we enjoyed the taste even more after eating this dish for a while. Also, there is a note in my cookbook that says that this is a Kenyan recipe from a book called The African Cookbook: Tastes of a Continent Simon & Schuster, 1998.