Monday, November 30, 2009

Thanksgiving Meal

Sick of Thanksgiving leftovers yet? Too bad!

Here was the meal at Helby & Joe's:

Our meal consisted of:
  • 21 lb Turkey
  • Tofurky
  • Corn on the cob
  • Stuffing (courtesy of Trader Joe's)
  • Glazed carrots (recipe coming soon!)
  • Mashed potatoes
  • Marsala gravy
  • Salad (courtesy of Steph)
  • Italian bread
  • Green beans with walnuts
  • Our desserts:
  • Pumpkin bread
  • Apple turnovers (courtesy of Steph)
  • Joe's chocolate mousse pie

    Our drinks:
  • Joe's T-Giving spritzer (White zinf & sprite)
  • Sparkling Apple cranberry juice
  • Pinot Grigio
  • Chianti
  • Sunday, November 29, 2009

    Wine of the Week - Poggio Basso 2008 Chianti

    Special thanks to my friend Rob for introducing me to his go-to red wine. As described here, this wine has a deep ruby red color, and is very fruity and flavorful.

    Tuesday, November 24, 2009

    Honey butter cookies

    I fear I may have finally made something too adorable to eat.

    Honey Butter Cookies
    1/3 C. butter, softened
    1/3 C. sugar
    1 t. baking soda
    1/4 t. salt
    1 egg
    2/3 C. honey
    1/2 t. lemon juice
    2 3/4 C. flour
    Honey Butter frosting
    sliced almonds (to make wings for the bees)

    In a large bowl beat butter on high speed for 30 seconds. Add sugar, baking soda and salt. Beat until combined, scraping sides of bowl occassionally. Beat in egg, honey and lemon juice until combined. Beat in as much of the flour as you can with mixer. Stir in any remaining flour. Cover and chill for an hour or until easy to handle.
    Preheat oven to 375F. Lightly grease cookie sheets, set aside. On a lightly floured surface, roll dough to 1/8-1/4 inch thickness. Cut out shapes with 2" cookie cutter. Place cutouts 1" apart on prepared sheet. Bake 7-8 minutes until tops are golden and edges are set. Cool completely on wire racks before frosting.

    Honey Butter Frosting
    In a medium saucepan, combine 3T. butter and 3T. honey. Bring to boil. Remove from heat and stir in 2C. powdered sugar and 2t. lemon juice. Cool to room temp. Stir in a little milk if necessary to make frosting of piping consistency. Tint as desired with gel coloring.

    P.S. I used royal icing to frost the base of my cookies, as I didn't think I'd have enough of the honey butter frosting. And I made the mistake of chilling the honey butter frosting while I waited for my cookies to cool down; which lead to something closer to marzipan or gum paste. But it was quite fun sculpting little bees out of it.

    Sunday, November 22, 2009

    Wine of the Week - Fife 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon

    Martha Stewart says a medium-bodied red wine suits the typical Thanksgiving meal best. One disregards Martha Stewart at one's own peril.

    This California cabernet tastes of blackberry, cassis, and bitter tannin.

    Friday, November 20, 2009

    Tomato Basil Pasta

    Taken from

    One of my fave takes on pasta. Though it seems like a lot of steps, it's super quick and easy to make. Basically just throw it all in a food processor and heat.

    This sauce is definitely creamy and sweet. I usually use a tbsp of spaghetti sauce instead of tomato paste.

    Add whatever other ingredients you like. Could go great on top of meatballs, sausage, you name it.

    Thursday, November 19, 2009

    Cassoulet - The perfect cold weather meal

    Yet another recipe from Veganomicon. It's basically a yummy thick stew of leeks, carrots, potatoes, peas and white beans. But what makes it absolutely killer is the freaking biscuits on top. Once the stew is done, you throw on the biscuit batter and pop it all in the oven. We also make a slow-cooker "pot pie" that's pretty similar (that recipe is in Fresh from the Vegetarian Slow Cooker), but I don't have any pics of that. Either way, it's winter in a bowl.

    Wednesday, November 18, 2009

    Very Simple Split Pea Soup

    I made split pea soup last night, with a bit of a made-up recipe I got by using two parts of two Split Pea Soup recipes out of the absolutely fabulous How To Make Everything Vegetarian cookbook.
    I started by chopping two carrots and a shallot, frying in a neutral oil until browned and soft. I added 2 cups of split peas (rinsed and drained), three vegetarian bullion cubes and 6 cups of water.

    After it had boiled, I turned down the heat and let it cook 20 - 30 minutes, during which I added salt and pepper, then got creative and threw in a pinch of ground mustard, some powdered garlic and some seaweed. When I walked away from the stove for a while, Matt grated some cheese into it.
    When the peas were soft, I spooned up a big mug o' soup. It had ended up tasting more like a stew, very savory and filling. This stuff is the perfect thing for a chilly night.

    Tuesday, November 17, 2009

    Pumpkin Pie Cake

    This recipe comes to us via guest contributor Paula.

    This Pumpkin Pie Cake recipe is one of my favorites handed down from my mom. I recently made it for a family gathering. My family likes it better than pumpkin pie.
    • 1 box yellow cake mix (reserve 1 cup)
    • 1 stick margarine or butter (melted)
    • 2 eggs beaten
    • Save the 1 cup cake mix for topping
    To the remainder of the cake mix, add eggs and butter (or margarine). Beat with a fork until all mix is absorbed. Put into greased 9 x 13 pan.

    • 1 large can pumpkin (1 lb 13 oz)
    • 3 eggs
    • 1/2 cup brown sugar
    • 1/4 cup white sugar
    • 2/3 cup milk
    • 1-1/2 tsp cinnamon
    Mix together well. Pour over crust.

    • 1 cup cake mix
    • 1/2 cup sugar
    • 1/2 cup nuts (optional)
    • 1 stick butter or margarine - cold
    Mix by hand and crumble on top of filling

    Bake at 350 degrees for 50 to 55 minutes.

    Top with your favorite whipped cream before serving (optional)

    Makes a great Thanksgiving dessert. Enjoy!

    Monday, November 16, 2009

    Black Bean Soup

    I'm all about soups lately. Nothing beats plopping down in front of the TV with a sandwich and a bowl of hot soup. Well, maybe pizza.

    Altered from The Veganomicon:

    • 1 can black beans
    • 4 cups water
    • 2 tbsp olive oil
    • 1 green pepper, diced
    • 3 cloves garlic, diced
    • 2 slices onion, diced
    • 1 carrot, diced
    • 3 cups veggie stock
    • Fave spices: cumin, oregano, etc

    1. Simmer black beans in 6 cups water for about 40 minutes
    2. Meanwhile, in a pan, heat oil. Add garlic. Heat until soft, about 1 min.
    3. Add pepper and onion to garlic. Heat for about 10 minutes, until soft.
    4. Add carrot to pan. Heat for about 10 minutes.
    5. Take out about 2 cups of the soup, mix in a food processor or blender, and return to pot. Add veggie mix and stock. Simmer for about 5 minutes. Add spices. And enjoy!

    I think next time I might add crushed tortilla chips on top to add some crunch.

    Sunday, November 15, 2009

    Wine of the Week - Gaetano D'Aquino 2008 Pinot Grigio

    A basic pinot grigio with a citrus nose, a lemon taste, and a tart finish.

    Friday, November 13, 2009

    The Anti-Ice Cream

    Never did I think ice cream would cease to delight me. Alas, I have lately just found myself grossed out by all the corn syrup and whatnot they put in there, so I've come up with alternate deliciousness.

    I used plain yogurt, frozen organic mango chunks, frozen organic blackberries and a big squirt of honey, mixed it all up and had the perfect chilly sweet treat.


    Thursday, November 12, 2009

    Israeli Cous Cous Heaven

    This is one of my favorite meals that we make at my house. My cousin's friend Dave made it for us once and it changed our lives. It's a bit time-consuming, but not difficult. The only pain-in-the-butt part is cutting the raw butternut squash, which I do first, because it makes the rest of the recipe a breeze. For the most part you can prep the veggies for each step as the ones from the previous step are cooking. It also makes enough food to feed an army. At least 8 really big servings. The dish doesn't have an official name, but my husband has dubbed it "Israeli Cous Cous Heaven."

    1/2 Cup and 1 Tbsp olive oil
    2 large leeks, white and pale green parts, minced
    8 garlic cloves, chopped
    2 and 1/4 Cups vegetable stock
    1 and 1/2 Cups butternut squash, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
    1 Cup raisins, soaked in warm water
    2 zucchini cut in 1/2-inch cubes
    1 Can chickpeas (garbanzo)
    1 tsp turmeric
    1 Tbsp fresh chopped ginger (or dry ginger)
    Large Pinch cayenne pepper
    1 Can chopped tomatoes (or fresh)
    3/4 Cup thawed frozen peas
    1 and 1/2 Cups couscous (use Israeli couscous, if you can get it)
    Lemon for garnish

    - Heat oil in a heavy, large pot over low heat.

    - Add leeks and garlic. Cover and cook until leeks are very tender but not brown (5-10 minutes).

    - Add stock and bring to a boil. Add turmeric, ginger, cayenne and butternut squash. Cover and simmer for 5 minutes.

    - Add raisins, zucchini and chickpeas. Simmer until all veggies are tender but crisp, not mushy (about another 5-10 minutes).

    - Mix in tomatoes and peas, then add couscous. Give a good stir and remove from heat.

    - Cover and let stand for ten minutes, or until couscous has absorbed liquid.

    - Fluff, garnish with lemon slices. If you use Israeli couscous, you may need to add a bit more broth and let it cook a bit longer.

    Note: You can use any veggies you like for this dish.

    Wednesday, November 11, 2009

    Chicken Marinade

    Found a soy sauce-based chicken marinade recipe on that I wanted to try out. Nothing complex. It was just a matter of mixing all the ingredients together and letting it soak for 24 hours.

    1/2 c. soy sauce
    1/4 c. vegetable oil
    1/4 c. red wine vinegar
    1 tsp. oregano
    1/2 tsp. sweet basil
    1/2 tsp. garlic powder
    1/4 tsp. pepper

    Combine all ingredients; pour over chicken pieces in non-metal dish. Cover and refrigerate overnight, turning occasionally. Use marinade to baste chicken while cooking. Great for grilling.
    I mixed the ingredients and began soaking in the evening. I turned the chicken the next morning, to get both sides thoroughly soaked, then began baking around the 24 hour mark.

    I baked the chicken at 350 for two hours, covered. This may have overdone it a little bit, so I'd recommend keeping a close eye on it after about an hour 15.

    With veggies and a baked potato, it makes a great, full meal. Use the extra marinade to flavor the potato.

    Tuesday, November 10, 2009

    Pumpkin Soup

    As seen on

    • 1 15-ounce can pumpkin puree
    • 1 large leek
    • 1 medium onion, chopped
    • 2 Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored, and chopped
    • 7 cups vegetable broth
    • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
    • 1/4 teaspoon ground turmeric
    • Dash of nutmeg
    • 1 cup apple cider
    • 1 cup grated sharp Cheddar
    1. Gently steam the leeks, onion, and apples in a large soup pot with 1/2 cup of the broth until soft, about 10 minutes.
    2. Add remaining stock and pumpkin. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to low, and simmer for about 10 minutes, or until the vegetables are tender. Add spices. Simmer for another 5 minutes.
    3. Process about half the soup in a blender or with a hand-held blender. Return the pureed soup to the pot and stir in the cider. Gently heat, but do not boil. Sprinkle each bowl of hot soup with a little Cheddar.

    Very sharp and tangy, so if you prefer bland soups, this is not the soup for you.

    Sunday, November 8, 2009

    Wine of the Week - Canvas 2007 Merlot


    Compliments of Hyatt hotels, this California wine is spicy and acidic (in a good way). Enjoyed better on its own than paired with food.

    Friday, November 6, 2009

    Sweet Potato/Pepper Pasta

    Taken from, here's a nice autumn twist to the usual pasta dinner...

    • Your preferred pasta noodle
    • Olive oil
    • 4 cloves garlic, minced
    • 3 cups shredded, peeled sweet potato
    • 1 large red bell pepper, thinly sliced
    • 1 cup diced tomatoes
    • 1/2 cup water
    • Parsley and tarragon
    • 1/2 cup crumbled cheese (Parmesan, goat cheese, etc)

    1. Boil pasta as directed.
    2. Cook 1 Tbsp oil and the garlic in a large skillet for ~3-5 minutes.
    3. Add sweet potato, bell pepper, tomatoes and water and cook, stirring occasionally, until the bell pepper is tender-crisp, 5 to 7 minutes.
    4. Add drained pasta to the skillet. Combine with 1/2 water, 1 Tbsp oil, cheese and seasonings.

    Thursday, November 5, 2009

    Apple Turnovers

    In the spirit of Joe's cider posts, I will post an apple-themed "recipe." Yeah, it's not really a recipe, but it's a way of making something that tastes crazy good and autumnal. I actually made these for Joe and Helen's post-Thanksgiving Thanksgiving meal last year and they were one of the best desserts served. Basically I made apple pie filling (check any cookbook you own, there should be a decent apple pie recipe, just don't make the crust) and put it in some puff pastry squares, which I then folded into triangles. Puff Pastry is available in the frozen section of the grocery store. It's not good for you, but it's crazy delicious and often vegan, just thaw and fill with tastiness. Once the triangles were formed, I popped them onto a greased or floured cookie tray (check the instructions on the pastry box) and baked as instructed, until golden brown. Topped off with a little powdered sugar, they were as good as anything I've ever gotten from a bakery. It was all very semi-homemade. Semi-homemade, Mega-delicious.

    Wednesday, November 4, 2009

    The Wide World of Cider, part two

    Since my teen years, I've been a cider enthusiast and a proponent of real cider over glorified apple juice that calls itself cider (see previous post). I'd been vaguely aware -- but only vaguely -- of cider's origins as some sort of alcohol-related drink. An encounter with some cheap-brand "hard apple cider" in college left me with a bad impression; it was nothing more than a crass apple-flavored wine cooler.

    About a month ago, I ran across this article on Fascinating and informative, it details cider's traditional prominence in colonial America. It clarifies what traditional cider really is - not a malt-based beer derivative, but more of an apple-based wine. It challenged my notion of what the words "real cider" actually mean. And most importantly, it instilled in me a healthy curiosity and an eagerness to explore.

    It's difficult to find cider in the U.S., as the craft has only recently been revived. Fortunately, we live in the age of the internet, and can have bottles shipped directly to us from producers (provided your state does not ban direct-to-consumer shipment; Free the Grapes!). I found Bellwether to have a nice variety of ciders, easy online ordering, and prompt shipping. The Slate article mentions other good online ordering options as well.

    I ordered three types of cider from Bellwether. Liberty Dry, which they describe on their site as a good starting point for newcomers; Original, because why wouldn't you try the original; and Spyglass, which seems to be a non-sparkling version of Original, and was said to pair well with many foods.

    What to expect: As the Slate article notes, "traditional cider tastes no more like apples than wine tastes like grapes." Don't expect a sugary apple juice taste, but rather a complex array of flavor tones for a more mature palate.

    It's worth pointing out that ciders are not weighed down by alcohol content. The heaviest of the three I sampled was 6.9% alcohol. This left a lot of room to savor the flavors, and prevented the burden of an alcohol buzz.

    The verdict: The ciders I sampled were very good. They're light and sweet (though note that I didn't sample any dry varieties). My overall impression is that the general taste of cider falls on a scale somewhere between white wine and champagne. Two of the ciders I sampled were sparkling; but the sparkle was gentler than any champagne I've ever had, very easygoing. I was impressed with these ciders, and look forward to seeking out more. They're crisp, fruity, and very tasty.

    As Thanksgiving approaches, I can strongly recommend making one of the still ciders your table wine during the meal, or choose one of the sparkling ciders as an aperitif. As an apple-based beverage, they fit a harvest season meal perfectly. Order soon so you have them in plenty of time for the holiday!

    Tuesday, November 3, 2009

    The Wide World of Cider, part one

    It's difficult to find a decent cider in southern California.

    I grew up in northern Pennsylvania, a region that's both rich in and respectful of its apples. The end of summer always meant endless bushels of fresh, locally grown apples. It also meant weekly trips to the historic cider mill, where the apple cider was fresh-pressed and free of preservatives. You'd never find a more crisp, flavorful glass of cider.

    The first couple of years after I moved to L.A., cider was impossible to find. The products labeled "cider" would have been laughable if they weren't so insulting. Clear, tan, sugar-infused liquid - in other words, apple juice. A completely different look, feel, and taste than real cider. I'm not sure why they're allowed to call apple juice "cider." You can't put orange juice in a bottle and sell it as pomegranate.

    If you can see through it, it's not cider. No sediment at the bottom.

    Real cider is taken directly from pressed apples. Sure, these days everything has to be pasteurized. But otherwise, it's left alone. You know you're looking at real cider if it's too thick to see through, and has sediment built up at the bottom of the container. (Shake before serving.)

    Eventually, I was able to find a couple different brands of real cider down here in SoCal. They are, of course, full of preservatives, and the flavor is greatly diminished. But they're functional, and they're a great seasonal replacement for the more widely-available juices I drink the rest of the year.


    TOMORROW: The real real cider. A recent article in alerted me to the fact that what we call cider is, in actuality, not the cider that our forefathers drank. Read the Slate article now, and come back tomorrow for a look at this variety of cider.

    Monday, November 2, 2009

    Pumpkin bars

    Taken from Better Homes and Gardens New Cookbook (mine is an older version), here's a recipe for Pumpkiny goodness:

    • 2 cups flour
    • 1 1/2 cups sugar
    • 2 tsp baking powder
    • 2 tsp ground cinnamon
    • 1 tsp baking soda
    • 1/4 tsp salt
    • 1/4 tsp ground cloves
    • 4 beaten eggs (or flax seed to make vegan)
    • 1 15-oz can pumpkin
    • 1 cup cooking oil
    1. Mix dry ingredients in a large bowl. Stir in wet ingredients until combined. Spread in an ungreased pan.
    2. Bake at 350 degrees for 25-30 minutes (until a toothpick comes out clean). Cool for 2 hours.
    3. Top with frosting. I used the creamy white frosting from this same cookbook (with orange coloring, of course.)

    Sunday, November 1, 2009

    Wine of the Week - Les Caves Joseph 2007 Bordeaux Blanc

    Trying something new. As I've noted before, I'm not much of a white wine drinker, and I was completely unfamiliar with Bordeaux Blanc at the time of purchase.

    This wine is very light and fruity. Not complex. I'd recommend it to anyone looking for something simple to enjoy, not looking for a challenge.