Totally Manageable Friendsgiving Menu

It's hard to believe that we're already into November and Thanksgiving is just a few short weeks away! I am hosting our first Thanksgiving in our new home this year and the pressure is on. Of course I want it to be perfect and there are a hundred and one things I want to make, but I am the only one putting any pressure on myself. Eventually I will calm down and just have fun with the whole thing.

If the idea of prepping and executing an involved Thanksgiving menu gets you stressed out, you need to check out the menu I developed for Evite's Friendsgiving this year. Totally manageable recipes and the whole thing can be prepped and cooked in a couple of hours if you're short on time.

Find the whole menu on Evite's site here and in their magazine here. They also prepared this helpful graphic so you can pace the afternoon just right and get dinner on the table in time!

Savory Leek and Coconut Milk Pudding

Know anyone who isn't the biggest fan of vegetables? Well, here's a sure-fire way to get them to eat their veggies - bury them under a fluffy, eggy soufflé mixture and call it a pudding. Not that I would ever try such manipulative tactics with anyone in my household, but my husband did love this dish. Just sayin'.

Coconut cream comes in a can and is a thicker, more concentrated version of coconut milk. If you can't find it or you're not a fan of coconut milk, try it with whole milk or heavy cream. I haven't tested the recipe using those substitutes, but you should get a relatively similar result. 

Savory Leek and Coconut Milk Pudding

Serves 4 - 6 as a side dish

Preheat oven to 375

1 16 oz bag of cleaned, sliced leeks (or 2-3 leeks, white and light green parts only, sliced and thoroughly rinsed) 

1 bunch spinach, thick stems removed

4 eggs

1 cup coconut cream

1 tbsp butter

3 sprigs tarragon

1 sprig thyme

Pinch of freshly grated nutmeg

1/2 tsp kosher salt

Heat a large pan over medium heat and melt the butter in the pan. Make sure the leeks are thawed if frozen and drained well, then add them to the pan. Sauté until soft and beginning to brown. Add the spinach to the pan and cook just until wilted. Remove from the heat and set aside. 

Beat the eggs with the coconut cream. Remove the tarragon and thyme leaves from their stems and roughly chop. Add the chopped herbs to the egg mixture along with the salt and nutmeg. Mix until just combined.

Butter or spray a medium-sized baking dish with cooking spray. Transfer the leek and spinach mixture to the dish and pour the egg mixture over. Bake for 25 minutes until slightly browned and just set in the center. 

Pumpkin Seed Pesto and Zucchini Pasta

Pesto is one of those dishes that heralds the start of warmer days and the short march into summer. It's a traditional pairing with tomatoes - the quintessential summer produce - and I used to make gallons of it when I grew basil in my old garden.

I've updated the traditional recipe by replacing the main ingredients with watercress and pumpkin seeds. Watercress is one of the most nutrient-dense greens available. It can, however end up tasting a little grassy. If you can, get the young leaves (pictured below) as opposed to the thick overgrown stems. Either way, I counter the grassiness by adding in some of the traditional basil.

I don't put garlic in my pesto (I know, the horror). Raw garlic gives my husband headaches and frankly, it does something horrible to my breath - way beyond the normal garlic breath one would expect. This is a new development for me and one that's very disappointing as I love garlic. Feel free to add it in if you must have it, but I don't think it's necessary here. 

I serve this pesto with zucchini noodles. If you don't have a spiralizer, you can also try this julienne peeler. It won't give you the same noodles, but it will give you zucchini threads and for a lot less money. 

Pumpkin Seed Pesto

1 bunch watercress, stems removed

1 cup loosely packed basil leaves

1/2 cup raw pumpkin seeds (shelled; also known as kernels)

1/4 cup walnut oil

1/2 tsp kosher salt

Squeeze of lemon juice

Place all the ingredients aside from the walnut oil in a cuisinart and pulse until combined, scraping down the bowl as necessary. With the machine running, slowly drizzle in the oil and process until combined.

Serve with zucchini pasta, as a dip for crudités or any other way you would use regular pesto. 


Griddled Cabbage

We're less than a week away from St. Patrick's Day. I must say, I'm not a big St. Patrick's Day celebrator. I don't make a habit of wearing green and I haven't found that much is missing from my life as a result.

That being said, I'm always game for a good culinary tradition and if cabbage and corned beef are on your radar for next week, try this updated take on green cabbage. Somewhere between a salad and a side dish, this griddled cabbage is served with a pungent mustard dressing - delicious and strong enough to stand up to the cabbage flavor.

Does grilling cabbage seem to strange? Chop up a raw head of cabbage and toss with the dressing - equally delicious and no extra work.

Griddled Cabbage

Serves 6

1/2 cup walnut oil

2 tbsp dijon mustard

2 tbsp champagne vinegar

1 tbsp fresh squeezed lemon juice

1/4 tsp salt

Cracked black pepper to taste

1 large green cabbage, sliced into six wedges

1/4 bunch of chives, sliced thin

Place the first six ingredients (through pepper) in a mason jar with a tight fitting lid, secure the lid and shake vigorously until combined. Set aside.

Set a large pan over high heat and preheat. Add just a touch of ghee or other cooking oil appropriate for high heat cooking and place the cabbage wedges in the pan. Sear until browned in a few spots, one to two minutes, flip and repeat on the other side. You don't want to cook the cabbage, just sear the outside to add some flavor.

Alternately, you can brown the cabbage directly on the burner as you would a bell pepper when removing the skin or, for even more flavor, use a grill.

Set the cabbage wedges on a serving platter, sprinkle with chopped chives and drizzle with dressing.

Thai Kale Chips

Kale Chips.jpg

The current motto around the Stanbrook kitchen seems to be, "add more fish sauce." We've doused our pizza with it, mixed it into homemade mayo to accompany steak and now we're even putting it on our kale. It may have something to do with our recent trip to Portland, Oregon and specifically our visit to Smallwares - by far our favorite restaurant in a weekend that was filled with some of the best eats the city has to offer. 

Chef Johanna Ware is known for "inauthentic" asian dishes and we could not be more grateful for her inauthenticity. It is what led to our current over-use of fish sauce and the creation of this new take on kale chips. 

While I'm not always proud of it, my ethos in the kitchen seems to center around two main principles - most dishes can be improved with either 1) more salt or 2) more chocolate. While chocolate covered kale chips may never come into being (although come to think of it...), I'm certainly glad I followed my hunch and rubbed a little fish sauce into our last batch. The added punch of salty, briny flavor took the chips from a good, healthy replacement for potato chips, to addictive, make me more, I can't live without a constant supply of these snacks status.

If you're not familiar with nutritional yeast, feel free to leave it out. It adds a cheesy flavor without dairy, but it's by no means necessary.

Thai Kale Chips

1 bunch kale (I used curly purple - works equally well with lacinato or other varieties)

1 tbsp olive oil

1 tbsp fish sauce 

2 tsp to 1 tbsp nutritional yeast

Preheat oven to 300

Wash and dry your kale thoroughly. I rinse mine off, remove the thick purple stalks and tear the leaves into smaller pieces before placing them in my salad spinner to remove excess water. Transfer the kale to a bowl, drizzle in the olive oil and massage the oil into the leaves to make sure everything is covered. Repeat with the fish sauce. Sprinkle the nutritional yeast over the leaves and toss gently.

Transfer the kale to two parchment paper-lined baking sheets. You want the kale to lay in a single layer so use as many trays as you need. Two half-sheet pans is usually sufficient. Place in the oven and bake for 20 to 25 minutes (23 seems to be the magic number for our oven). If your oven cooks unevenly, rotate the trays halfway through. Remove the trays from the oven and allow the chips to cool on the baking sheets. 

If you're not going to eat them right away, transfer the cooled kale chips to an airtight container and keep at room temperature. I imagine these would last four or five days at least, but we've never been able to test this theory as they always get eaten in the first two days.



Hasselback Sweet Potatoes

Still looking for a Thanksgiving side for tomorrow? Here's your easy and healthy answer. 

Hasselback potatoes are simple and delicious. They're an easy way to add interest and flavor to a simple potato and we're raising the stakes a notch by using sweet potatoes.

Two options are included for you to choose from - sweet with a walnut maple crumb or savory bay leaf and salt.

The difficult part of hasselback is slicing the potato without cutting entirely through. The trick is to lay a wooden kitchen spoon or a ruler with some height next to the potato to stop your knife cutting all the way down to the cutting board. Make a slice every centimeter or so and the hardest part is finished.

If you don't want to bother with the slicing process, the walnut maple crumb can also be spread over a dish of mashed sweet potato - equally good for you and equally delicious. Double the crumb recipe to ensure you have enough to cover an entire dish and bake for just 20 minutes to crisp up the topping.

Count on one large sweet potato for every two people. The recipe below assumes you will make two potatoes with bay leaves and two with the crumb.

Hasselback Sweet Potatoes

Serves 4, easily double or tripled

2 large sweet potatoes

20 - 30 bay leaves

Walnut Maple Crumb (recipe included below)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Wash and dry sweet potatoes, do not peel. Lay a wooden spoon or ruler next to the potato and, using a sharp knife, slice most of the way through the potato, leaving at least 1/4-inch uncut at the base. Take care not to cut all the way through the potato. Repeat slices at 1-cm intervals until entire potato is sliced. Repeat with remaining potatoes.

Take two potatoes and fill every second or third slice with bay leaves. Repeat with the remaining two potatoes using the walnut maple crumb. Place the sweet potatoes in a baking dish with about a 1/2-inch of water or stock and place in the oven.

After 40 minutes, check to see if the crumb is starting to brown. If so, cover loosely with tin foil and cook an additional 20 minutes.

Walnut Maple Crumb

1/2 cup walnuts

1/4 cup old fashioned rolled oats

2 tblsp maple syrup

1/4 tsp kosher salt

Place all ingredients in a food processor and pulse until combined.