Post-Thanksgiving food coma – Pumpkin curry soup

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Normally I make pumpkin curry soup, which is a serious fork in the road from the traditional Thanksgiving dinner road driven by my predecessors. We never had soup in my family, and if we did, it sure as hell would not have been pumpkin. My mom, the primary Thanksgiving cook, hates pumpkin, and I do not recall that my grandmother had any particular affinity for it either. When I decided to start a new tradition of making soup, I wanted something that incorporated pumpkin (one of the most important Thanksgiving ingredients in my opinion) but that was not dull or plain (as so many pumpkin soups can be). I used curry to give it its kick. Generally when I make this soup, I use coconut milk (making the soup vegan), but at Thanksgiving usually dose the soup with a generous few gulps of cream.

Pumpkin curry soup (You can use pureed butternut squash in place of pumpkin here if pumpkin is hard to find… might even be better that way. I did this year just for a change)
3 tablespoons butter or oil
1 cup finely chopped onion
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
1 teaspoon curry
¼ teaspoon ground coriander
1/8 teaspoon cayenne
3 cups water
3 bouillon cubes (I use vegetable)
15 ounce can pumpkin (or the “meat” of a baked butternut squash)
1 cup half-and-half or cream (can replace with coconut milk if you want a non-dairy option)
Sour cream garnish

Melt butter in large saucepan over medium high. Add onion and garlic. Cook 3 to 5 minutes til tender. Stir in curry powder, coriander, cayenne. Cook 1 minute. Add water and bouillon. Bring to boil. Reduce to low, cook, stirring constantly for 15 to 20 minutes to develop flavors. Stir in pumpkin. Blend until smooth. At this point, you could cover and refrigerate the soup for a day. This develops the flavors further and of course means you can plan ahead.

When ready to finish and serve, place soup on stovetop and mix in cream (or coconut milk or half and half). Cook 5 minutes or til heated through. Garnish with sour cream if desired.

Post-Thanksgiving food coma – Corn and crab pudding with poblano chiles

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Okay, now that I think about it, a lot of my recipes for Thanksgiving are not at all traditional and I am coloring outside the lines. I have partly adopted and totally adapted the recipes and dishes to suit my own tastes and what I feel like cooking. My family has always made a corn and oyster casserole that I find one-hundred-percent disgusting. Oysters! Bleh. I do see corn pudding as having a role in Thanksgiving, and I like things like crab much more than oyster. I think perhaps next year I will try lobster, which I prefer to crab. This dish is one of those that I stubbornly insist on making – but that most people don’t really eat once it is done. Yet I carry on…

Corn and crab pudding
2 tablespoons butter
½ cup shallots, minced
¼ cup fresh poblano chile pepper, seeded and chopped (I used far less than this)
12 ounces corn kernels
1 ¾ cup half and half (I used cream)
6 eggs
3 tablespoon flour
1 ½ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon sugar
¼ teaspoon nutmeg
¼ teaspoon white pepper
1 ½ cup cooked crab
4 tablespoons parmesan

Preheat oven to 350F/175C. Lightly butter 8 ramekins. In heavy skillet on medium melt butter. Add shallots and chiles. Sauté til pepper is tender (3 mins). In blender, puree corn, add half and half, eggs, flour, salt, sugar, nutmeg, and white pepper. Pulse til smooth. Transfer to large bowl. Stir in crab and poblano mix. Divide among ramekins, sprinkle ½ teaspoon cheese on each. Place cups in large roasting pan, pour hot water into pan. Bake 50 minutes until set.

Post-Thanksgiving food coma – Day-ahead mashed potatoes

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So, mashed potatoes are one of those things that are so easy one should not need a recipe to make them. But you’d be surprised. At many of my Thanksgivings I make the potatoes featured below as well as more basic ones that just include potatoes, milk, salt, pepper and a tiny bit of nutmeg. These should be made just before serving while the recipe below is one that I make a day in advance (to make Thanksgiving easier to deal with). Clearly the amounts shown below are just guidelines and you can experiment with what tastes best to you.

Day-ahead potatoes
9+ peeled/cubed potatoes
6 ounces cream cheese
1 cup sour cream
2 teaspoons onion powder
1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon pepper
2 tablespoons butter

In boiling pot of salted water, cook potatoes for about 15 minutes. Transfer potatoes to large bowl. Mash until smooth.

Mix in cream cheese, sour cream, onion powder, salt, pepper and butter. Put potatoes into a lightly buttered baking dish, cover, refrigerate 8 hours or overnight.

Take potatoes out of oven a couple of hours before serving. Preheat oven to 175C and bake about 30 minutes or until hot.

Post-Thanksgiving food coma – Sweet potato casserole with pecans

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Another way my Thanksgiving menu differs markedly from that of my mother’s is that I adopted this sweet potato casserole from somewhere that has proven to be exceptionally popular with all the guests who have been to my Thanksgiving table over the years, across the countries and nationalities who have stuffed their faces graciously. No one in my family really cares for sweet potatoes, so it was never part of the menu. I differ in that I am always making things and doing things for others that do not necessarily satisfy me – it is just part of my nature to please. And it is quite true that just because I don’t like something does not mean other people will not.

Sweet potato casserole
2 1/2 pounds sweet potatoes (about 3 large), scrubbed
2 large eggs, lightly beaten with a fork
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted plus more for the preparing the pan
2 tablespoons packed dark brown sugar
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
Pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
Freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup coarsely chopped pecans

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F (200C). Put the sweet potatoes on a baking sheet and pierce each one 2 or 3 times with a fork. Bake for 45 to 60 minutes or until tender. Set aside to cool.

Turn the oven down to 350 degrees F (160/170C). Scoop the sweet potato out of the skins and into a medium bowl. Discard the skins. Mash the potatoes until smooth. Add the eggs, butter, brown sugar, salt, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, and pepper to taste. Whisk the mixture until smooth.

Butter an 8-by-8-inch casserole. Pour the sweet potato mixture into the pan and sprinkle the top with the pecans. Bake for 30 to 40 minutes until a bit puffy. Serve immediately.

A too-rich baked bite: Snickers candy brownie bites

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I saw a recipe somewhere for brownie bites filled with mini Snickers bars. Mini Snickers (the perfect little squares), as sold in the US, are not available here, so I just cut the mini bars into pieces, without thinking that the melting would cause the final product to stick to the bottom of the mini cupcake pans. I got around this by sticking the pans in the freezer after I could not pry the brownie bites out of the pan intact.

I don’t think I will try this again.

Brownies

4 ounces (about 115 grams) unsweetened chocolate bars; coarsely chopped
3/4 cup unsalted butter, cut into cubes
1 1/4 cups sugar
3 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup flour
Square miniature Snickers; frozen for at least 1 hour

If desired, you can also use a caramel topping (I didn’t):
15 individually wrapped caramel candies
2 tablespoons heavy cream
1/2 cup salted peanuts

Preheat oven to 350F/175C degrees. Lightly spray mini muffin tin with nonstick cooking spray. You could also grease and flour the wells much as you would for a traditional cake.

Microwave chocolate and butter in a large, microwave-safe bowl at medium (50% power) for 3-4 minutes or until butter is melted. (You could also do this over a double boiler.) Stir until chocolate is melted.

Whisk in sugar, eggs, vanilla and salt. Gradually add in flour; stir until just combined.

Spoon about 2 teaspoons of brownie batter into each well in the muffin tin. Place a mini Snickers into the center of each and press gently into the batter. Bake brownies in preheated oven for 9-10 minutes, the edges will look set and the middle will not look completely baked. Do not over bake.

Remove to cooling rack to cool completely.

Remove the brownie bites from the pan (this was challenging without putting the whole pan into the freezer) and prepare the caramel sauce.

Caramel sauce: To make the caramel sauce, place the caramels and heavy cream in a microwave-safe bowl. Microwave on 50% power in 30-second increments until the caramels begin to melt; stir frequently. Continue warming and stirring the caramels until you have a smooth, creamy mixture. Place a few peanuts into the center of each brownie bite and drizzle the caramel sauce over the peanuts.

Raffaello-candy-stuffed cupcakes

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The candy of Ferrero (most recently, the coconutty Raffaello candies) makes me think fondly of one of my best friends back in Iceland, an Italian woman who has routinely brought Ferrero candies into our lives. In my case, being the coffee fiend that I am, she introduced the inimitable Pocket Coffee, which features a chocolate housing for a liquid espresso inside. Brilliant.

While Pocket Coffee is not available here in Sweden, Raffaello is everywhere. Taking inspiration from the blog Bake It in a Cake (check out the new book based on these concepts, Bake it in a Cupcake), I decided to pop some Raffaello candy into a basic vanilla cupcake and then frost with a vanilla bean Swiss buttercream icing topped with coconut.

How to do it?

First make the vanilla cupcakes:

Vanilla cupcakes
3/4 cups butter, softened
1 1/2 cups sugar
3 eggs
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt (if using unsalted butter)
2 teaspoons vanilla
2 3/4 cups flour
1 1/3 cups milk

For the cupcakes, preheat the oven to 350F/175C. Cream the butter and sugar together until fluffy. Beat in the eggs, one at a time. Then add the baking soda, baking powder, vanilla and salt. Add the flour and milk in alternating turns with the mixer on low. Beat mixture just until combined/smooth.

Fill cupcake liners in your cupcake pan with about one heaping tablespoon of batter. Drop an unwrapped Raffaello candy in and gently press it into the batter. Put another heaping tablespoon on top of the candy to cover it. It does not matter if the candy is completely covered because you will be frosting the cupcake.

Bake for about 18 to 20 minutes until the cupcakes have begun to turn a light golden brown and the cupcake top springs back when touched. Let the cupcakes cool (ten minutes) before removing them to a wire rack to cool completely.

Vanilla bean Swiss meringue buttercream
3 egg whites
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup unsalted butter
1/2 teaspoon vanilla (liquid)
Some vanilla bean powder or vanilla beans scraped from one vanilla pod

Mix the egg white and the sugar over a double boiler. The sugar should be completely dissolved when you remove it from heat. Pour the mixture into a large bowl (preferably the mixing bowl of a stand mixer — Swiss meringue is mixing intensive, so a stand mixer works best). Whisk on high speed until stiff but still wet peaks form. Continue to beat for about five or six minutes after these peaks form.

Switch to the paddle attachment and turn the speed to medium low. Add the butter in one or two tablespoons at a time. The mixture might start to look lumpy and curdled. Don’t worry. Keep mixing. When things start to come together, beat in the peppermint extract and keep beating for another two minutes. It might take some time to get to the right texture. You will know when it comes together in a solid, fluffy, frosting-like consistency.

I sprinkled on some coconut on the batch I took to work; I sprinkled on some toasted coconut on the batch I offered my friends for Thanksgiving. They are good on their own or with either type of coconut.

the price of pumpkin

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Never mind the questionable availability of canned pumpkin, let’s focus for a moment on the wild variations in pumpkin prices depending on where you get it.

A regular 15-ounce can of the stuff will probably cost about 2 USD. In Sweden, if I can find it (usually in the “American section” of the grocery store, the same can is priced at 35 SEK (about 5 USD). It is next to impossible to find in Norway, but I found some the other day priced at an unbelievable and outrageous 59.something NOK (almost 11 USD).

Two flavors that go together: Chocolate and peanut butter bundt cake

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Even people who claim not to like peanut butter can sometimes get behind a cake like this. The peanut butter’s intensity is softened by its being whipped with cream cheese and vanilla, and it takes on a soft cake-like texture once baked inside a very moist, dense and dark chocolate exterior.

Last week I made three of these cakes to take to the office and followed up with one more for one of my Thanksgiving guests. I finally managed to take some new pictures to supersede the ones I took years ago when I first attempted this cake – find the chocolate peanut butter bundt cake recipe by clicking the link.

More stuffing one thing into another… Peanut butter bundt cake

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I realized while looking through past chocolate-peanut butter blog posts that I made this peanut butter chocolate bundt cake for the first time some November ago … and discovered then that November is bundt cake month. Here we are again, in November, and I have made this cake about four times in the last three days.

I dropped three off at my office and have some here for my Thanksgiving guests (since they are here for more than just the actual Thanksgiving holiday, I have to feed them things, like cake and cookies, on other days as well as just Thanksgiving).

I think I took a picture of the latest attempts at this – but for now will just put a picture of the last time I made this cake (since you can see the inside. The new pics are just general pictures of the whole cake before being cut into. Recipe is available at the link above.

Baked goods for colleagues on a warmer than expected Tuesday morning

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Despite being officially on vacation (celebrating American Thanksgiving with my friends) I baked a few things for my colleagues and brought the goodies to work. On offer are white chocolate macadamia cookies, M&M cookies, Raffaello-candy-stuffed cupcakes with vanilla bean and coconut Swiss meringue frosting, peanut-butter stuffed chocolate cake, shortbread and brownie bites stuffed with Snickers candy bar pieces. Some of this was experimental (like the brownie bites). I almost threw the brownie bites away because they became so sticky in the pan I thought I would not get them out intact. I have no idea how they taste but I salvaged them by putting the pan in the freezer for 30 minutes and digging around the edges with a knife. (Recipes/pics to follow.)

I am a very bad girl – I still have not switched over to winter tires, which is not only dangerous this time of year but illegal in Norway. Granted, I don’t drive to Norway that much any more, but here I am today… so first order of business is to take the car to get the tires changed this morning. I came to the office first, though, because I enjoy driving in the middle of the night when there are no other cars. Unfortunately there were a lot of cars (a lot for 3:30 a.m. anyway), but I had a nice, relaxing drive in any case.

The cookies are out and ready to take in reception, second and third floors of my office – so now I am free to run away to the tire change place… and then off to the airport to pick up one of the Thanksgiving guests coming to my questionable Thanksgiving soirée (questionable in that I am a decent baker but would not place bets on my cooking, despite the fact that I cook Thanksgiving every year, and the players continue to live and come back for more…).