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Going Green

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This past weekend, I went home to Chicago for a much needed visit with my friends and family. My friends Tessa and Kathryn and I got massages, ate some Thai food and had some girl talk on Saturday, and on Sunday we had an Oscars viewing & voting party with our college friends — I actually won the Oscars contest, which is definitely unheard of. Before I could do any of that though, I had to bake a cherry pie for my grandma before I left. She’s been asking me to bring her a cherry pie since January, and last week was her 79th birthday, so I finally obliged.

I used this crust and the filling was 3.5 cups of tart frozen cherries, 1/3 cup flour, and 1.5 cups of sugar all mixed together. Baked at 350 for about one hour. My grandmother lives alone, so I left half the pie at my parents’ house. My dad was very grateful, and my grandmother was very happy!

I’m still on spring break this week, so I’ve been cooking some soups and other meals for the freezer, in preparation for my next round of classes and clinicals. Tonight’s dinner was a salmon burger (frozen from Sam’s Club) on an Aunt Millie’s 100% whole wheat bun (I know I could have made my own, but I didn’t) and some Kale with Raisins and Pine Nuts. Brent said he’d like to eat more greens, because they’re such nutritional superstars, but I truthfully don’t love them. I’m trying to dress them up a bit, and this recipe was one I’d eat again.

Do you have a favorite recipe using greens?

In non food-related news, I took Larry (who has an ear infection) to the vet today, a task I dread doing. Larry’s very nervous and fearful in strange places, and pretty much every single time we take him to the vet, he pees. Today I was holding him on my lap, and while the doctor was checking his ears, he peed all over me. Awesome. It’s times like that when I have to try really hard to remember that I love my dogs.

Thanksgiving 2009

I had a wonderful (and much needed!) Thanksgiving break. We hosted my mom, dad, brother, and sister along with Brent’s parents for Thanksgiving dinner. I’ve hosted holidays before, and usually I make all the dinner, but buy the pies from a store. For shame, I know. This year I was determined to make a truly from-scratch dinner, complete with homemade pies.

I had Wednesday off from school so I spent all day baking and doing other prep work for the meal. I’ll share the final products with you at the end of this post. We had to have dinner before dessert. 🙂

My family drove in Thursday morning, so I needed to have something available for them to munch on soon after they arrived because we weren’t scheduled to eat until late afternoon. Along with some chips and crackers, I made a simple appetizer of Cranberry Brie. I scooped about 1/3 cup of homemade cranberry sauce (cranberries, orange juice and sugar boiled together) onto an 8oz wheel of brie and baked at 350 for 10 minutes.

I enjoyed it, although I’m a fan of anything cranberry related. My dad liked it as well. My mom refused to eat it and my younger sister claimed she hates cheese (who is this girl?).

Meanwhile the turkey was in the oven. We had a huge one this year and we had some serious problems getting it all cooked, but it turned out well in the end. Brent found a recipe that he wanted me to use this year: Twin Oaks Roast Turkey with Anchovies. Anchovies! You better believe I had to hide that little secret ingredient from my mother. She’s very suspicious when I do the cooking, and when my brother Matt called to say hello to everyone, I heard her complaining about “all that seasoning” that I put on the turkey. Little did she know, haha. She managed to eat it without any complaints though.

I didn’t get a picture of each dish, but here’s my plate: Clockwise from top – mashed potatoes with sour cream and chives, roast turkey with cranberry sauce, green beans and walnuts with lemon vinaigrette, Caesar salad with homemade dressing, Sausage and Herb Stuffing from the Barefoot Contessa (I added an additional 1/2 cup of fresh sage, rosemary and thyme).

I thought everything turned out wonderful. The stuffing and mashed potatoes seemed to be especially popular. My family didn’t love the green beans because they found them “too crunchy” and not cooked enough, but I enjoyed them.

For dessert I wanted to do the traditional apple and pumpkin pies, but with a slight twist, so I made Crunchy Caramel Apple Pie and Pumpkin Eggnog Pie. I used this all butter flaky pie dough recipe from Smitten Kitchen for the crusts. I don’t have a pastry cutter, so I used my Kitchen Aid mixer (even though Deb says not to) and mine still turned out flaky and perfect. My kitchen was a MESS by Wednesday evening!

I made the apple pie first. I followed the recipe exactly, except for the “caramel ice cream topping.” For that I just made a homemade caramel sauce on the stove top using heavy cream, butter, brown sugar and vanilla extract.

Brent’s comments on the pie: “This is really good, but I wish you made the whole pie out of topping.” There are actually apples under there, I promise. Up next was the pumpkin eggnog pie. This was super simple. Mix the filling and dump it in the pie shell. Bake.

I loved this pumpkin pie! (I also happen to be a huge eggnog fan). I would definitely say the pies were the hit of the meal. My mother (who may be a bit difficult to please) could not stop talking about how much she loved the apple pie and the pumpkin was equally popular. I would recommend either or both if you’re looking for a holiday pie.

I’m feeling a bit exhausted now (my family will do that to you), but come back tomorrow for an exciting giveaway involving my one of my favorite food groups: Cheese!