Sweet Potato "fries"

fullsizeoutput_8691.jpeg

I know that for many people, including my family, Hanukkah is a fried-food-fest. That once-a-year indulgence we look forward to with glee. Whether it's the fried latkes, the doughnuts, the chicken -- whatever -- it's the fried part that counts for us. That crunch! That crust! That crisp!

Oy.

So, sure, let's enjoy that first round of classic holiday favorites.

But Hanukkah is an 8-day holiday! So -- how about what I like to call "sort-of-fried" for the remaining days (and anytime after).

Mock fried.

That is, food cooked at high heat that gets crispy, liked fried food, but without the calories, the mess, the fuss and the smell. 

I realize it is NOT THE SAME AS FRIED FOOD.

I get it.

But it is still really tasty, and with the proper crispiness.

Like these sweet potato "fries."

Try these the next time you want something resembles fried without the frying.

Sweet Potato Fries

  • 3 pounds sweet potatoes
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • sea salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon grated nutmeg
  • 1/8 teaspoon Aleppo pepper or to taste (or use cayenne pepper)

Preheat the oven to 425F degrees. Peel the sweet potatoes and cut them into julienne strips about 1/4-inch wide. Place the strips in a single layer on a cookie sheet. Pour the olive oil over the strips and toss to coat them all. Sprinkle the sea salt, cinnamon, nutmeg and pepper on top. Bake, tossing once or twice, for about 15 minutes, or until the strips are browned and crispy.

Makes 4-6 servings.

 

Orange and Vanilla Scented Cheese Stuffed Dates

fullsizeoutput_86f1.jpeg

Sometimes I think life is a bunch of holidays with not much in between, except for the entire month of January.

I suppose that's a good thing, because holidays are happy and celebratory. Also, there's the food. Except for Yom Kippur, every holiday has food. And even when it comes to Yom Kippur, there's the break-the-fast when it's all over and the break-the-fast is all about food. 

As far as holidays go, at this point of the year, we've just finished Thanksgiving. Next up? Hanukkah!

Hanukkah is a really delicious holiday. Lots of fried stuff like latkes and doughnuts.

It's also a dairy holiday because of the story of Judith. You can read all about it here

So for me, in honor of Judith, in addition to the usual potato latkes and doughnuts, I have served cheese latkes and potato latkes with a yogurt based sauce laced with lemongrassPotato Galette with Caramelized Onions and Cheese has been on my Hanukkah menu and also Almond Crusted Winter Squash and Noodle Kugel

Desserts? I could go with Meyer Lemon Yogurt Pie (you can use regular lemons) or maybe Baked Goat Cheese with Honey Sauce and Cranberries. Maybe even cheesecake. Or some fabulous cheesecake cookies!

And also these stuffed dates! Easy to make, not too sweet (no added sugar), these little morsels are perfect for the holiday. If you don't want to use almonds for garnish, crushed, toasted coconut will do nicely.

 

ORANGE-VANILLA SCENTED CHEESE STUFFED DATES

  • 12 medjool dates
  • 1/2 cup cream cheese (4 ounces)
  • 2 tablespoons plain yogurt
  • 1 teaspoon grated orange peel
  • 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 3 tablespoons crushed toasted almonds (or pistachios or crushed, toasted coconut)

Cut the dates through the center, but not all the way through to the bottom. Remove the pit and spread the date slightly to form a hollow for filling. Mix the cram cheese, yogurt, orange peel and vanilla extract in a small bowl until the mixture is smooth and soft. Fill the dates with the cheese mixture. Sprinkle with the nuts.

Makes 12 

Swiss Chocolate Almond Cookies

fullsizeoutput_86ef.jpeg

I know it's latke season and doughnut season. But in the larger world out there it's also cookie season.

Well, actually, for me it is always cookie season. When I was a kid my Mom baked cookies all the time and when we got home from school we had milk and cookies every day. That was the snack -- before the days of chips (potato, kale or otherwise in little bags) and frozen pizza.

My brothers taught me how to dunk.

So when cookie season comes around I feel nostalgic. Sure, I make the old family favorites. Fannies. Peanut butter cookies. Chocolate Chunk Grand Finale cookies

But occasionally I try something new. I'm not always happy with the results and most often I discard the recipe.

But these were wonderful. And also perfect for dunking.

 

Swiss Chocolate Almond Cookies

  • 4 ounces bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
  • 3 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 2 cups finely ground almonds (8 ounces)
  • 2 large egg whites, lightly beaten
  • 3/4 cup sugar plus 2 tablespoons sugar for rolling
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract (or 1/2 teaspoon orange extract)

In a food processor, pulse the chocolate until almost ground. Add the cocoa powder, cinnamon, salt and cloves and process on pulse to incorporate the ingredients until finely ground and well mixed. Place the mixture into a bowl, add the ground almonds and mix to blend the ingredients thoroughly.

In the bowl of an electric beater, beat the egg whites until soft peaks form. Gradually add the 3/4 cup sugar and beat until stiff peaks form. Fold in the extract and the chocolate-almond mixture.

Sprinkle a sheet of parchment paper with the 2 tablespoons sugar. Place the dough on top of the sugar. Place another piece of parchment paper on top. Roll or press the dough to a thickness of about 1/4 to 3/8 inch. Remove the top piece of parchment paper. Let the unbaked cookies air dry for at least 1-1/2 hours. 

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper. Cut out circles or shapes with a cookie cutter. Place the cut out cookies on the parchment paper, leaving room between each cookie for them to spread. Bake for 12-15 minutes. Let cookies cool on the sheet for 2-3 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

Makes about 36 cookies

 

 

Stuffed Squash with Thanksgiving Leftovers

fullsizeoutput_85ba.jpeg

Turkey leftovers? 

Sure, there's sandwiches, salad and so on. 

How about a one-pot meal-in-one you can get ready way ahead and pop it into the oven a few days after Thanksgiving? Something tidy, compact, with a profusion of appealing color? That includes so many food groups?

Like this Stuffed Acorn Squash.

Note: you can make the squash and filling ahead separately. These are good hot or at room temperature.

STUFFED ACORN SQUASH

  • 4 small acorn or carnival squash
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 2 carrots, chopped
  • 1 cup chopped yellow squash 
  • 1-1/2 cups finely chopped cooked turkey
  • 1 cup chopped fresh spinach
  • 1/4 cup dried cranberries or raisins
  • 1/4 cup plain breadcrumbs
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
  • 2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper, optional
  • 2 large eggs
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Cut the squash about 1/4 to 1/3 of the way down and remove the cap (you can bake it and serve it for decoration). Scoop out the seeds (you can rinse them off and roast them separately to use as a snack). Wrap the squash in aluminum foil and bake for about 35-45 minutes or until tender. Set aside. Reduce the oven heat to 350 degrees. While the squash is roasting, heat the olive oil in a sauté pan over medium heat. Add the onion and carrots and cook for 3-4 minutes, to soften them slightly. Remove the pan from the heat. Add the squash, turkey, spinach, cranberries, breadcrumbs, parsley, thyme and cayenne pepper (if used) and toss the ingredients to distribute them evenly. Mix in the eggs and salt and pepper to taste. Spoon equal amounts of the mixture into the baked squash hollows. Bake for about 30 minutes or until golden brown.

Makes 4 servings

Lentils with Roasted Squash and Dried Cranberries

fullsizeoutput_86a0.jpeg

It’s all turkey talk when it comes to Thanksgiving.

But really – it’s the side dishes that everyone stresses about, right?

What to serve with the turkey.

Back in the day my Mom served the same menu every year: candied sweet potatoes (fabulous but with more sugar than I can even imagine using now!); baked cranberries (spiked with brandy); a green vegetable of some sort; her famous “filling” made with barley-shaped pasta, mushrooms, onions and celery.

I like to mix it up every year, although I stick to tradition too. So we always have some sort of sweet potato dish (sometimes – yes --- with marshmallow, sometimes not); the same baked cranberries my Mom made; lots of vegetables; and stuffing (the kids got tired of Nana’s “filling”).

We also have a vegetarian entrée, usually mujadarah or koshary. And I must be aware of allergies, so, no nuts in the stuffing, plus I try to make an additional vegetarian stuffing.

This year I am serving this lentil side dish also. It’s sort of like a salad but also like a casserole. And it can be made ahead. It’s a beautiful dish, filled with colorful, seasonal ingredients. It’s vegetarian. It’s a side-dish. It’s nut-free.

 

Lentils with Roasted Squash, Spinach and Cranberries

  • 2 cups diced winter squash (such as butternut)
  • 1 large shallot, chopped
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 cup green French lentils
  • 3 cups water, lightly salted
  • 1/3 cup dried cranberries
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
  • 2-3 tablespoons orange juice
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Place the squash and shallot on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Pour one tablespoon of the olive oil over the vegetables, toss and bake for about 20 minutes, tossing the vegetables occasionally. Remove the vegetables from the oven and set aside. While the vegetables are roasting, place the lentils and water in a large saucepan over medium heat. Bring the liquid to a boil, turn the heat to medium-low and cook uncovered for about 20 minutes or until the lentils are tender. Drain the lentils and place them in a bowl. Stir in the vegetables, cranberries and parsley. Pour in the remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil and toss the ingredients. Add orange juice, season to taste with salt and pepper and toss the ingredients. Add more orange juice if needed for moisture.

Makes 6 servings

Brussels Sprouts with Apples and Dried Cranberries

fullsizeoutput_8694.jpeg

Our Thanksgiving feast has all the usual stuff -- turkey, sweet potatoes, cranberry sauce and so on.

Also -- Brussels sprouts. We are a Brussels sprouts-loving family.

This is this year's version, with cranberries and apples. I like the seasonal aspect of the dish and the ingredients add some color and glamor to the plate alongside pale slices of turkey, rich sweet-potato-orange and crusty-brown stuffing.

 

Brussels Sprouts with Apples and Dried Cranberries

  • 1 pound Brussels Sprouts
  • 2 tart apples
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  • 1 large shallot, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon finely grated fresh lemon or orange peel
  • salt to taste
  • 1/4 cup dried cranberries

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Wash and trim the Brussels Sprouts and, if large, cut them in half. Place the vegetables on the baking sheet. Peel and core the apples, cut them into chunks and place on the baking sheet with the Brussels Sprouts. Pour the olive oil over the ingredients and toss to coat them. Sprinkle the brown sugar, shallot and lemon peel on top, toss the ingredients. Sprinkle with salt to taste. Bake for about 12-15 minutes, tossing the ingredients once. Add the cranberries, mix them in and bake for another 5 minutes or until the Brussels Sprouts are tender.

Makes 4 servings

Pumpkin Sour Cream Coffee Cake

fullsizeoutput_5d13.jpeg

I used to bake a fresh pumpkin when it was time to make the usual seasonal pumpkin pies and cakes. I'd buy one of those small, round, sweet "sugar" pumpkins, carve it up, sprinkle the pieces with salt and give it a roast until the flesh was tender.

It was all good. The house smelled like autumn, the pumpkin was nice and dry -- perfect for baked goods.

But.

I got busy. And sometimes I couldn't find the right variety of pumpkin.

So I switched to canned.

You know what? We didn't even notice the difference when it came to my favorite pumpkin coffee cake.

So, make it easy on yourself. Use canned pumpkin if you wish (but not pumpkin pie mix, which is pre-seasoned). Or fresh baked pumpkin of course, if you can find a good variety and have the time to roast it. 

Either way, this cake is rich and gently fragrant. It has a wonderful salty-sweet balance.

You can freeze it too.

PUMPKIN SOUR CREAM COFFEE CAKE

STREUSEL TOPPING:

  • 1/3 cup old fashioned oats
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 3 tablespoons cold butter

CAKE:

  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 1/2 cup mashed pumpkin (canned is fine; not pumpkin pie mix)
  • 1/3 cup sour cream
  • 1 large egg, beaten
  • 2 tablespoons freshly grated orange peel
  • 1-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/3 cup milk

 

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Lightly grease an 8" square cake pan. Make the streusel: place the oats, flour, brown sugar and salt in a bowl. Add the butter and work it into the dry ingredients with your fingers, a pastry blender or two knives until the mixture is crumbly. Set the streusel aside.

Make the cake batter: beat the sugar and butter together with a hand mixer or electric mixer set at medium speed for 1-2 minutes or until the mixture is smooth and creamy. Add the pumpkin, sour cream, egg and orange peel and beat the ingredients for 1-2 minutes or until they are smooth. Whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, nutmeg and salt in a bowl. Add 1/2 of the dry ingredients to the butter mixture and beat the ingredients until they are blended. Add 1/2 of the milk and beat this in until it is well blended. Repeat this process again until all the flour and milk have been used up. Pour the batter into the prepared pan.

Sprinkle the streusel over the batter. Bake for 35-40 minutes or until a cake tester inserted into the middle of the cake comes out clean. Let the cake cool in the pan for 10 minutes then carefully invert the cake onto a cake rack, carefully flip it right side up. Let cool completely.

Makes one cake serving 8-10 people

Pumpkin Sour Cream Coffee Cake

I used to bake a fresh pumpkin when it was time to make the usual seasonal pumpkin pies and cakes. I'd buy one of those small, round, sweet "sugar" pumpkins, carve it up, sprinkle the pieces with salt and give it a roast until the flesh was tender.

It was all good. The house smelled like autumn, the pumpkin was nice and dry -- perfect for baked goods.

But.

I got busy. And sometimes I couldn't find the right variety of pumpkin.

So I switched to canned.

You know what? We didn't even notice the difference when it came to my favorite pumpkin coffee cake.

So, make it easy on yourself. Use canned pumpkin if you wish (but not pumpkin pie mix, which is pre-seasoned). Or fresh baked pumpkin of course, if you can find a good variety and have the time to roast it. 

Either way, this cake is rich and gently fragrant. It has a wonderful salty-sweet balance.

You can freeze it too.

Pumpkin Sour Cream Coffee Cake

STREUSEL TOPPING:

  • 1/3 cup old fashioned oats
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 3 tablespoons cold butter

cake:

  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 1/2 cup mashed pumpkin (canned is fine; not pumpkin pie mix)
  • 1/3 cup sour cream
  • 1 large egg, beaten
  • 2 tablespoons freshly grated orange peel
  • 1-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/3 cup milk

 

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Lightly grease an 8" square cake pan. Make the streusel: place the oats, flour, brown sugar and salt in a bowl. Add the butter and work it into the dry ingredients with your fingers, a pastry blender or two knives until the mixture is crumbly. Set the streusel aside.

Make the cake batter: beat the sugar and butter together with a hand mixer or electric mixer set at medium speed for 1-2 minutes or until the mixture is smooth and creamy. Add the pumpkin, sour cream, egg and orange peel and beat the ingredients for 1-2 minutes or until they are smooth. Whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, nutmeg and salt in a bowl. Add 1/2 of the dry ingredients to the butter mixture and beat the ingredients until they are blended. Add 1/2 of the milk and beat this in until it is well blended. Repeat this process again until all the flour and milk have been used up. Pour the batter into the prepared pan.

Sprinkle the streusel over the batter. Bake for 35-40 minutes or until a cake tester inserted into the middle of the cake comes out clean. Let the cake cool in the pan for 10 minutes then carefully invert the cake onto a cake rack, carefully flip it right side up. Let cool completely.

Makes one cake serving 8-10 people

 

Bones and Blood

Last year my daughter Meredith (a board certified lactation consultant (IBCLC) who provides services for expectant and new parents), made these Hallowe'en snacks. Although I do not have young children at home, nor would I ever pass these out to trick-or-treaters, they were too cute to pass up. So I made my own. Just for us, for TV watching time.

Hers were baked with biscuit dough. I didn't feel like making dough, so I took the easy way out -- used packaged pizza dough. They looked the same as these, just a bit browner.

A cute snack for Hallowe'en and really easy to make:

Bones and Blood

  • one pound pizza dough
  • 6 tablespoons melted butter
  • 2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
  • 2 teaspoons dried oregano
  • sea salt to taste
  • 2 cups marina sauce

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Cut the dough into 10 equal pieces and roll each piece into a rope about 8 inches long. Cut a slit at each end of each rope, and curve the slit part out slightly to make the bone shape. Place the bones on the baking sheet. Brush with the melted butter, sprinkle with the cheese, oregano and salt. Bake for about 15 minutes or until vaguely tan. Serve with the marinara sauce. 

Makes 10

Pumpkin Raisin Muffins

_DSC9757.jpg

A few days ago someone on social media alerted the world to Oscar Mayer Pumpkin Spice Bologna.

No.

Just no. Just absolutely no.

Pumpkin spice doesn't belong in bologna. It doesn't even belong in the same sentence.

In fact, there is way too much "pumpkin spice" out there, in everything. 

However, pumpkin spice in muffins is a pretty good idea. It is pumpkin season, after all. And spices such as cinnamon, nutmeg and allspice do give the batter a welcome warmth and fragrance.

So, instead of even thinking about that terrible idea of pumpkin spice bologna, try these muffins, which are quite wonderful.

Btw, there really is no such thing as Oscar Mayer Pumpkin Spice Bologna. It's baloney! Watch out for the real #fakenews. (http://www.wusa9.com/news/local/verify/verify-pumpkin-spice-products-whats-real-and-whats-not/481457725)

 

Pumpkin Raisin Muffins

  • 1-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 1-1/4 cups mashed pumpkin
  • 1/2 cup golden raisins

 Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease 10 muffin tins. Mix the flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg and allspice together into a bowl. Beat the sugar, eggs, vegetable oil and mashed pumpkin together in an electric mixer set at medium for 2-3 minutes or until thoroughly blended and smooth. Add the flour mixture and beat at low speed for one minute to blend ingredients. Fold in the raisins. Pour the batter into the prepared tins. Bake for about 20 minutes or until a cake tester inserted into the center comes out clean.

Makes 10