Sunday, November 28, 2010

Giving Thanks

Thanksgiving has come and gone, along with the feeding frenzy that always comes with it. We spend every Thanksgiving dinner at my parents' house and it is my father's task to prepare the bird and his much loved Italian sausage stuffing. There were 26 of us this year, all gathered around the long table that takes up their entire living room. Each family prepares a side dish and the selections tend to vary every year. Dad proclaimed that this year, the sides were the best ever and that everyone should make exactly the same thing next year! There was roasted butternut squash with craberries, sweet potato with apples, cauliflower casserole with prusciutto,and twice baked potatoes. And there is always fennel (or finOKE as my dad pronounces it) to munch on to cleanse the palate. Again, the Italians know how to make every occasion all about the food, and my family is no exception.

My contribution to the Thanksgiving meal has always been the pumpkin pies. I make two of the regular recipe and one of the healthy version (scroll back to old posts for recipes). The regular pies go very quickly but I always manage to sneak an extra small piece to my 21-year old nephew Jesse, who has been loving my pumpkin pie since he was a little boy.

Because I don't make a Thanksgiving meal for my own family, big holiday breakfasts have become a Straight family tradition. For the past few years, the aforementioned pumpkin clove pancakes have taken center stage and then the accompaniments vary from year to year. But since we just had the pancakes on Family Day last month, I thought that maybe everyone would want something different. So I texted the girls and mentioned the idea. My response from Gillian? "What were you thinking?" My response from Carly? "Stupid question..."

And so, pumpkin clove pancakes it was. But I had to step it up a bit. I was flipping through one of my favorite recipe books, Food Network Kitchens Cook Book, and I found a recipe for cornmeal pancakes with blueberry maple syrup. Tim and are both very fond of blueberries, so I decided to modify the syrup part of the recipe to serve with the pumpkin clove pancakes. The original recipe calls for maple syrup but I of course substituted agave nectar! Although the kids didn't use it (they like the pancakes with butter and pure maple syrup) Tim and I really loved it, and I would definitely make it again. Don't be alarmed when it is very thin after cooking on the stove. It thickens upon standing.

Along with the pancakes, I served a mixed fruit salad that I also found in the same cookbook. But my biggest accomplishment this year was a new recipe adaptation that I came up with for dark chocolate raspberry pistachio muffins. I am always excited when I can invent another dessert that is both delicious and healthy. It started out as an old Pillsbury recipe from one of their "Classics" softcover cookbooks. I used to collect these when I was in my twenties and they are still on a shelf in the back of my pantry. I really loved the idea of the flavor combination so I just substituted whole wheat pastry flour for the white flour, agave nectar for the sugar and dark chocolate chips for the milk chocolate. They came out super delicious and the pistachios crunch so nicely when you bite into them! I have to be honest- the picture above is not exactly accurate. In the original recipe, they have a little jelly surprise in the center. When I used a raspberry "all fruit" product, the fruit soaked into the muffin. It made for a moist delicious muffin, but the fruit cannot be seen. For photographic purposes, I cut one in half and inserted some of the raspberry in the center. I supposed you could put the fruit in with a pastry bag after baking, but then the muffin would probably not be as moist and delicious so I think I will make it the same way next time.

With another Thanksgiving come and gone, it's time to take a breather before getting out the Christmas recipes. More holiday blogging to come!

based on a recipe from Food Network Kitchens Cookbook
1 1/2 cups blueberries
1/4 cup agave nectar
1 cinnamon stick
1 Tablespoon unsalted butter
1 tsp fresh lemon juice
Toss the blueberries with the agave nectar in a small saucepan. Add the cinnamon stick and cook over high heat, stirring occasionally until the mixture boils the blueberries just start to pop, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat. Discard the cinnamon stick and stir in the butter and lemon juice. Let stand until thickened, serve warm.

based on a recipe by Sally Vog and published by Pillsbury
2 cups whole wheat pastry flour
2/3 cup agave nectar
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1 cup 60% dark chocolate chips plus extra for topping
1/2 cup whole pistachios plus extra for topping
1 cup whole milk
1/3 cup butter, melted
1 tsp grated lemon peel
1 tsp vanilla
1 egg, slightly beaten
1/3 cup seedless raspberry spreadable fruit such as Polaner
Heat oven to 375 degrees. Line 12 muffin cups with paper liners. Lightly spoon slour into measuring cup, level off. In large bowl, wisk together flour, baking powder, cinnamon, baking soda and salt. Stir in chocolate chips and pistachios.
In small bowl, combine milk, butter, lemon peel, vanilla and egg. Wisk in agave nectar and blend well. Add to dry ingredients all at once and combine just until dry ingredients are moistened.
Fill each paper-lined muffin cups half full. Spoon about a tsp or two of the fruit over the batter, then cover with more batter. Muffin cup should be filled about 3/4 full total. Top each with chocolate chips and pistachios.
Bake at 375 degrees for 20-25 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool 5 minutes, then remove from pan. Serve warm or cool.

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