Real Food for Real Life

Thursday, December 31, 2009

Salmon, my mother-in-law's way

For Christmas dinner my mother-in-law served both a beef tenderloin roast and a baked salmon. I went with the beef this evening, but Ben had the salmon and told me about how good it was. Having watched her prepare it, I knew it was super easy, making it the best kind of dish. Tuesday was a busy da,y requiring a simple meal, and having a bag of salmon fillets in the freezer, I decided to give her method a try. That morning I put together a cucumber dill sauce and a quick white bean salad, leaving only the salmon to prepare at dinner time (and some rice, thanks to Uncle Ben). I served the fish, rice, and beans on a bed of baby spinach, with the sauce on the side. It was so simple and delicious that it is one to remember for a busy weeknight (and no fish smell in the house as an added bonus!).

Lemon Baked Salmon

salmon fillets, individual portion size
2 lemons
fresh (or dried) minced dill
coarse salt & fresh ground black pepper

Preheat oven to 400. Spray a baking dish with nonstick cooking spray. Rinse and pat dry the salmon fillets and place in the dish. You can use fillets with the skin or not; if they still have the skin the flesh lifts off easily once cooked. Squeeze the juice of one large lemon over the fillets and season with salt, pepper, and dill. Lay a thin slice from the second lemon on each fillet and bake for 20 minutes. If using fillets with skin, use a metal spatula to separate and lift the fish, leaving the skins in the dish.

Cucumber Dill Sauce

1 cucumber
1/3 packed cup fresh dill
3/4 cup light mayonnaise
3/4 cup light sour cream
1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper
coarse salt & fresh ground black pepper

If the cucumber has a thick waxy skin, peel it, otherwise, leave the peel on. Remove the seeds and cut into a small dice. Mince the dill. Combine all the ingredients and chill until serving time.

Mediterranean White Bean Salad

2 cans (15oz.) canellini beans, rinsed & drained
1/4 cup roasted red pepper, sliced (jarred is fine)
1/3 cup pitted Kalamata olives, halved lengthwise
3 tbs. lemon juice
2 tbs. olive oil
1 tbs. coarse grain mustard
coarse salt & fresh ground black pepper

Combine ingredients and chill until needed. Bring to room temperature before serving.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Inspiration from Rachel Ray?!

Ben and I were watching an old holiday episode of Iron Chef a few weeks ago where Mario Batali was paired with Rachael Ray against Bobby Flay paired with Giada DeLauerentis. I'm no fan of Rachel Ray, and Ben makes fun of the size of Giada's head and thinks she has too many teeth, but I love Mario Batali and Bobby Flay is okay too. Mario won Battle Cranberry despite the burden of Rachael's flustering. One dish in particular they made stood out for Ben and I- pasta cooked in red wine with an Italian sausage ragu. I told Ben I wanted to try that and he remarked that I better be planning on using winky owl, referring to Winking Owl wine, an ultra cheap brand from Aldi (the Shiraz doesn't taste too bad for a cheap quaff).

I was at Kroger yesterday and found a package of perciatelli, a hollow spaghetti- like pasta very similar to that used by Mario and Rachael, so I knew what we were having for dinner the next day. I had both the hot and mild Italian sausage links at home in the freezer, but I did pick up a $3.99 bottle of Merlot.
The next afternoon I made the ragu and let it simmer until dinnertime. Just before it was time to eat I poured the bottle of wine into a pot to cook the pasta and found that one bottle was not going to be enough (Ben was saying "I told you so" in the background), but I fortunately had a bottle of the winky owl in the pantry, so into the pot it went as well. The pasta smelled fabulous while it was cooking, and before draining it, I ladled some of the wine into the ragu to thin it, so between what the pasta absorbed during cooking, and what I added to the sauce, very little of the wine was wasted (good thing, because even at $4 a bottle, this is a pricey pasta to make).
With much anticipation we sat to eat. The ragu was good, but not spectacular- the real star was the pasta. It took on a beautiful purple color from the wine and the taste WAS spectacular. We decided that the leftover pasta would be finished later in the week just dressed in butter. The ragu is destined to have peppers and onions added to become calzone filling. You have to try this sometime as a special treat, if you love pasta, and you love wine, you will love this dish!

Before I got this published, I was telling my mother-in-law about this pasta and she wondered about doing it with white wine as well. It wouldn't have the beautiful color, but is one I am definitely going to try in the future as well.

Pasta Cooked in Wine

1 1lb. pkg. perciatelli, or other long pasta
2 bottles of inexpensive red (or white) wine

Cook the pasta in the wine without salting. Before draining, ladle some of the wine into whatever sauce you are making (if applicable). Drain, but do not rinse. Serve and enjoy :)

Monday, December 28, 2009

One Hot Update


I hope everyone had a wonderful Christmas spent with loved ones (and lots of good things to eat :). We had a fabulous time at my in-laws, and the only thing I cooked the entire time was a wine reduction sauce to accompany the beef tenderloin for Christmas dinner. I got a new camera I wanted for taking my food and flower pics- no more using Ben's clunky camera. Looking at the other gifts I received one would think I liked to cook or something (lol)- three cookbooks, a beautiful set of forged steel knives to replace my old stamped ones, a set of pretty serving bowls, and an antique silver tea service. A nice haul for a foodie :)
For breakfast the morning after we arrived home, we had scrambled eggs and sausage with Ben's last kolacky. When my mother-in-law read my blog at Christmas, she informed me that I had used the Americanized (and thus, incorrect, spelling), so I have used the correct spelling here :) I am including a picture of Ben's so you can see how pretty it was- not too shabby for someone who claims he can't (won't) cook.

Wanting a cocktail one night before leaving for the holiday, I turned to the habanero scotch I had steeping in the basement. I had found some mango syrup at Kroger, and figuring that a month was adequate time for the infusion process, I set out to make myself the long awaited cocktail (see the November 17 posting). I poured some of the scotch into my shaker with a splash of the syrup, gave it a good shake, and poured it over some ice. It looked good, it smelled good, so I took a little taste- and promptly found my mouth on set ablaze! Either one month was too long, or six habaneros were too many (or both), but this was liquid fire. I added some water to the glass which made the heat palatable, but left me with a watery tasting drink. Into the sink it went.
Home after Christmas, I picked up a bottle of inexpensive scotch to see if this cocktail dream could be revived (I sure wasn't going to try with the Glenfiddich in the liquor cabinet!). Trying again with one shot of the newly purchased scotch, 1/2 shot of the liquid fire, and a splash of the mango syrup. This time all was good, I had the spicy and slightly sweet cocktail that I have craved for a year. Pouring the infused scotch into a pretty bottle, Ben joked that I should put a label saying "Danger" on it- I'll have to see about that one.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

It's almost Christmas...

Three more days until Christmas and I actually have all the gifts wrapped- it will be a nice change not wrapping any on Christmas eve. The kids will do some more cookie decorating tonight, but really, all the Christmas sweets are done as well, Ben even got his kolachi done early. (Kolachi is a Slovak poppy seed roll that I'm supposedly not allowed to make because I'm not Slovak; actually, I think my dear husband fears that these hillbilly hands will make a better roll!) We are headed for my in-laws tomorrow to spend Christmas, and while I will be helping Pat in the kitchen, it's not my show this year and there will be many hands to help.
I was watching Emeril again this morn while getting ready, and he was making all kinds of seafood dishes that he had grown up eating at the holidays. Although I did not grow up eating seafood (alas, I was an adult before I had the pleasure of trying it), I certainly love eating it now. I wanted to make a nice meal for Ben, the kids and I to have together tonight any way, so seafood it would be. I had a nice salad last evening with spinach and dried cranberries, and since I had some spinach that needed to be used before we left, I decided that we would have that as well, dressed with some of the Sweet and Sour Salad Dressing leftover from Thanksgiving. A crisp baguette and a bottle of Fiano (an Italian off-dry white) finished off the meal beautifully (no wine for the kiddies, of course).

Spinach and Cranberry Salad

baby spinach, washed and stemmed
red onion slivers
dried cranberries
walnut pieces
feta or cotija crumbles*
Sweet and Sour Dressing or a Balsamic Vinaigrette
fresh ground black pepper

Quantities are up to you, depending on how many you are serving, and how much you like a particular ingredient. Just before serving, toss the spinach with dressing and put into a serving dish or dishes. Sprinkle on the cheese, cranberries, onion, and walnut pieces. Give the salad a grinding of fresh black pepper and serve.
*Cotija is a Mexican cheese that is similar to feta, but drier and not quite as salty. I actually prefer it to feta and am much more likely to have it around.

Sweet and Sour Salad Dressing

2 tbs. soy sauce
scant 3/4 cup canola oil
scant 3/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup + 2 tbs. cider vinegar

Blend all the ingredients in a blender until sugar is completely dissolved. Shake well before serving. Store in the refrigerator, but bring to room temperature before using.

Seafood Scampi

12 to 16 oz, salmon fillet, skinned & cubed
12 to 16 oz. bay scallops, drained
12 to 16 oz. med. shrimp, peeled & deveined
1 lb. box of some variety of long pasta
olive oil
minced garlic
kosher salt & fresh ground black pepper
unsalted butter
dry white wine
lemon juice
lemon wedges, shredded Parmesan, & minced parsley, to serve

In separate bowls, toss the salmon, shrimp, and scallops with a little olive oil, minced garlic, kosher salt, and freshly ground black pepper and set aside. Cook your pasta of choice al dente in liberally salted water (I had fettucine). Heat a large saute pan over medium high heat; saute the seafood individually until just cooked and put together in a bowl at the back of the stove to keep warm. (Now this becomes very un-recipelike because I can't tell you how much to use, or even how much I used.) Into the pan put some butter, dry white wine, and a small amount of lemon juice, quantity depending on how "saucy" you want the end product. Bring to s simmer and taste- add whatever you feel is lacking- I added some more garlic, dried parsley, and lemon juice. Toss the pasta with the sauce and seafood. Serve with shredded Parmesan (no can please) and lemon wedges; minced fresh parsley is great if you have it (I did not).

These are the leftovers, I forgot to take a picture as I was serving dinner.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Christmas Gingerbread

Some of Christopher's cookies from today.

Since Nicole was little (and she is now 21!), we have baked and decorated gingerbread cookies at Christmas time. They taste good, the kids have fun decorating them, and all the family likes receiving gift packages of these cookies. I said to Christopher today that I guessed I would stop baking then when he was too old to decorate, and he told me that he would never be too old (cute what they will say when they are ten). This whole process will take several days to complete- 2 days to make and bake, plus however many days the kids take (they seem to work in spurts), but this is one tradition well worth the effort :) These cookies are not too sweet and have a nice spiciness.

Gingerbread Cookies

2 eggs
3/4 cup light brown sugar
1 stick unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/4 cup canola oil
1/2 cup molasses
3 & 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. baking soda
2 tsp. ground ginger
2 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. nutmeg
1/4 tsp. ground cloves

In a larges mixing bowl (or stand mixer), beat the eggs slightly. Add the sugar, butter, oil, and molasses, and beat until creamy. Slowly add the dry ingredients to the wet and beat until well combines. Flatten the dough into a disk, place on a dinner plate, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate overnight. At this point I repeat the recipe for a second batch- it would be too difficult to work the dough to double the recipe.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Only work with 1/4 of the dough at a time, leaving the rest in the refrigerator. On a lightly floured surface roll the dough to 1/4 inch thickness and cut into desired shapes, placing on a nonstick cookie sheet. Rework the dough as needed. Bake one sheet at a time for 7 minutes, or until golden brown. Let cool and decorate with royal icing if desired. Quantity will depend on size of cookies, but you should get about 30 4"x6" gingerbread people (our favorite shape).

Royal Icing

3 large egg whites
4 cups powdered sugar
2 tbs. lemon juice

In a large mixing bowl (or stand mixer), beat the ingredients at a low speed until combined. Turn the speed to high and beat until glossy peaks form. Color with food coloring if desired. The icing will keep for a few days in the refrigerator tightly covered. Once dry on the cookies there is no need to refrigerate. Royal icing also makes a great glue for building "gingerbread:" houses from graham crackers.

These recipes are adapted from Julie Russo's Great Good Food

Saturday, December 19, 2009

A Reader's Request

Well, I have my first reader's request. Kristy wants the recipe for the zucchini bread I used to make the Pumpkin Butter Cream Trifle at Thanksgiving, and considering that it was her bowl that I used to make the darn thing, I better give it to her :) I am also including a recipe for pumpkin bread- both recipes are adapted from ones found in Pfaltzgraff Collector's Cookbook. This is one of my very first cookbooks and it is frightening to think how many years I have had it. Both of these breads freeze very well, so I will usually make two batches.

Zucchini Bread

3 large eggs, beaten
1 3/4 cups sugar
1 cup canola oil (can sub 1/2 applesauce for lower fat, still very good)
1 tbs. vanilla extract
3 cups all-purpose lour
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt
2 tsp. cinnamon
2 cups finely grated zucchini, packed and heaping

Optional ingredients: the more of these you add the more desert like this becomes
1 cup crushed pineapple, drained
1 cup chopped walnuts
1 cup raisins

Combine eggs, sugar, oil and vanilla; blend well. Mix in dry ingredients, Stir in zucchini and any optional ingredients. Pour batter into 2 greased and floured loaf pans and bake at 350 for 1 hour, or until a knife comes out clean. Alternately, pour into 6 mini loaf pans and bake for approximately 40 minutes. Cool in pan a few minutes, then turn out onto cooling rack until completely cool to the touch.

Pumpkin Bread

2 cups sugar
1 cup canola oil (again, you can sub 1/2 applesauce)
4 eggs
2 cups fresh pumpkin puree
3 & 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp. Baking soda
1 tsp. salt
2 tsp. cinnamon
Optional ingredients:
1 cup chopped dates
1 cup chopped walnuts

Combine sugar, oil, applesauce if using, and pumpkin, mix until smooth. Add dry ingredients and mix completely. Stir in dates and nuts if using. Pour into 2 greased and floured loaf pans (or mini loaf pans). Bake at 350 degrees for 60 to 80 minutes. Turn out of the pans and cool completely.

Friday, December 18, 2009

A Pumpkin Failure?

I still had two small pumpkins left, and with Thanksgiving long past, I needed to find something to do with them. I had visions of glistening pumpkin cubes, roasted to a crisp brownness, sweet on the inside, savory on the outside.
With this vision in mind I set out peeling the pumpkins (with a vegetable peeler no less, so as to not waste any of that pumpkin deliciousness), saving the seeds to roast and salt for later snacking. This done, I diced the pumpkin into about 3/4" cubes and tossed then with olive oil. I spread the cubes onto a baking sheet and seasoned liberally with kosher salt, fresh ground black pepper, and garlic powder, still imagining the sweet and savory play of flavors (was I salivating?). I put the seasoned cubes into a 450 degree oven and waited. The smell was grand, and after about 10 minutes I pulled then out to toss around on the pan - so far, so good. Another 10 minutes in the oven and I pulled the cubes out to toss again and was greeted with pumpkin mush!! The cubes, while browning as desired, are not crisp, instead, soft and mushy. I sample a cube, and while indeed quite tasty, the texture and lack of crispness lose it for me and I just set the pan aside.
Darling husband enters the room and asks what is on the pan. When I tell him of my vision he says I needed to deep fry the cubes. As we don't deep fry in this house, I figure that I am stuck with ordering sweet potato fries (as the closest facsimile) when I can. But, not being one to waste perfectly good food (the cubes did taste good after all), I scooped them into a container and put them in the refrigerator.

The next day I am playing around in the kitchen when it occurs to me to make soup from the mushy pumpkin cubes, soup being a wonderful use for all sorts of kitchen leftovers. I diced up a large onion and sauteed it until it started to caramelize before dumping in some minced garlic and the cubes. I give it all a quick toss and a liberal seasoning with some more black pepper. Some chicken stock, milk, and a whiz with the immersion blender and I had a very nice soup and my kitchen failure was redeemed :)

Roasted Pumpkin Soup

about 4 cups fairly small pumpkin cubes
olive oil
kosher salt, fresh ground black pepper, & garlic powder
1 large onion, diced
minced garlic, quantity up to you
2 or 3 cups chicken stock
milk, I used 1%
additional salt & black pepper

Peel and cube the pumpkin, toss with olive oil and season with salt, pepper, and garlic powder. Spread on a baking sheet and roast at 450 degrees until browned and softened, tossing a few times during roasting. Dice a large onion and saute with a little olive oil in a soup pan until starting to turn brown. Toss in the minced garlic and pumpkin cubes, stirring together until the garlic becomes fragrant. Pour in the chicken stock and simmer a few minutes to meld the flavors. Remove from the heat and with an immersion blender, puree until smooth. Return to the heat and stir in enough milk to reach whatever consistency you like your cream soups. Adjust the seasoning with some additional salt and pepper and warm gently- do not boil.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Pre-Christmas Happenings

This has been a very busy few weeks with Cub Scouts. We wrapped up our Thanksgiving and Christmas giving efforts (the Pack "adopted" 2 families for Bird day, and 3 for Christmas), and the boys and their families did a fantastic job collecting food and gifts for their families :) We ended 2009 with a Pack Meeting at the Miami University Art Museum, which was a fantastic facility for us, and all the boys toured the exhibits after the meeting. Now it is time for a well deserved break and a chance to cook, write, and hopefully get a few Christmas gifts wrapped.

Christopher had his 10th birthday party on Saturday, December 5th, and what a Lego extravaganza that was! He had a fantastic time, and his friends did as well, judging by the noise and activity level. :) Pretty cool was the Lego cake that my friend Kristy made for him. Chris described to her exactly what he wanted and she gave him the perfect birthday cake!! It tasted good too- I had a piece with a glass of milk, and I don't normally eat birthday cake OR drink milk. Check out Kristy's page on Facebook when you get a chance, she has pictures of lots of cakes she has done.

http://www.facebook.com/#/group.php?gid=67897963868&ref=ts

That same evening I had an ornament stealing and cookie exchange to go to at Kristy's mom's house. Not being a big one for making cookies (except for the yearly Christmas gingerbread, of course), I made Fruit and Nut Fudge, making 10 dozen pieces for the exchange (and another 9 dozen yesterday for Christmas giving). Because this was the same day as Christopher's party, I needed a super quick and easy dish to take and share so I made Liptauer Cheese- I didn't bring much home, so I'm guessing that it went over well. I did learn a lesson from this evening - be careful what you wish for. I unwrapped a pretty blue ornament, and while it was very pretty, it would not look good on my tree, so I was hoping for someone to steal it, thus giving me the chance to choose another one. Well, it did get stolen, and I did get to pick again, but the second ornament was FUCHSIA, with bright blue and yellow swirls!! Needless to say, no one stole that ornament and it is now hanging on the BACK of my tree.

Fruit & Nut Fudge

1 cup chocolate chips
2 tbs. brandy
1 cup walnut pieces
2 heaping tbs. slivered almonds
2 heaping tbs. raisins
2 heaping tbs, dried cranberries
powdered sugar, for dredging

In a food processor, pulse the fruit and nuts until fairly small, but still retaining some texture. Put the chocolate chips and brandy into a medium microwave safe bowl, and nuke at 50% power for 2 minutes. Stir the chocolate until the chips are completely melted and the brandy is incorporated. Dump in the fruit and nuts, stir to combine. Using your fingers and hands, take small pieces and after squeezing it to bring it together, roll into small balls. How large you make them is up to you, but I usually get between 20 and 24 pieces. Work quickly while the chocolate is pliable, and place the pieces on a wax paper lined cookie sheet. If you are going to make more than one batch, start all over again, no need to wash the bowl, just make sure that you have scrapped most of it out on the last piece or two. A bag of chocolate chips will make two batches, and I made six that first night, one after another. After the pieces have cooled and hardened for an hour or two, roll in powdered sugar and package as desired. There is no need to refrigerate the finished product, but it will not harm it if you do so.

Liptauer Cheese

1 stick butter, at room temperature
1 8oz. pkg. cream cheese, at room temperature
1 small onion, peeled and quartered
1 heaping tsp. capers
1 heaping tsp. anchovy paste (or 2-3 fillets)
1 heaping tsp. Dijon mustard
salt & freshly ground black pepper

Place the onion quarters in a food processor and pulse to mince it. Add the remaining ingredients and pulse until smooth and well combined, scraping down the sides of the processor as needed. Pile into a pretty bowl and serve with assorted crackers. This is an assertively flavored cheese spread and is at its best if made at least a few hours before serving and the flavors allowed to meld in the fridge.

Last weekend was our 7th annual neighborhood Christmas party, this the same evening as our Cub Scout event at the Art Museum, leaving me again in the need for a quick, easy dish to take. At the cookie exchange someone had brought meatballs cooked in a mixture of grape jelly and chili sauce, and this seemed also to be a pretty popular dish. I decided to make my own twist on this, putting everything in the crookpot on low before we left for the afternoon. Just before leaving for the party that evening, I piled the meatballs in a pretty Christmas bowl with frilly toothpicks for serving. I made 2 and 1/2 pounds and when we went to leave that evening there were about five pieces left in the bowl, so I call those a hit as well.

No Recipe Meatballs

2 to 2 and 1/2 bag frozen, prepared meatballs
1 can whole berry cranberry sauce (I used leftover homemade cranberry sauce that I had put in the freezer after Thanksgiving)
1 bottle of spicy cocktail sauce

Turn your crockpot on high, and stir the cranberry and cocktail sauces until melted together. Pour in the meatballs, stirring to cover all with the sauce. Turn the heat to low and cook for 4 hours or so.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Thanksgiving continued (finally)...

My, my, my, it seems that it never ends. Today was supposed to be my day to write, but cub scout business has kept me busy for the day (again), and here it is, almost three in the afternoon. I really can't complain though, I am making a contribution to a very worthwhile organization and there is certainly nothing wrong with that. Before I get back to the Thanksgiving coverage, I want to take a moment and share with you something my friend Sandy and I did Sunday afternoon. These are pilgrim hat cookies that we put together, 95 of them, using fudge stripe cookies, marshmallows, and melted chocolate. We gave these out at our November cub scout pack meeting on Monday night. I think they turned out pretty cute and were a definite hit with the boys and their sibs. I am still, however, trying to figure out how I ended up with chocolate from my wrists to elbows!

Ben and I never did have a piece of that pumpkin pie on Thanksgiving (we were too stuffed from all the other yummy food), but when we finally did try it, we agreed with the other reports that it was the best pie yet. I did manage a taste of the trifle on the day and it was really good as well. This was the firs time I had made a trifle and it could not have been any easier- and the presentation in the glass bowl was pretty wow as well (thanks Kristy for the loan of the bowl :).

"White" Pumpkin Pie
adapted from Williams Sonoma

1 unbaked deep dish pie crust, homemade or not
1 & 1/4 cups sugar
1 heaping tbs. of cornstarch
1/2 tsp. salt
1 & 1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp. ground ginger
1/4 tsp. ground nutmeg (fresh if you have it)
1/8 tsp. ground cloves
2 cups of fresh pumpkin puree, not canned
3 large eggs
1 cup heavy cream

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Whisk together the dry ingredients. Add the pumpkin, eggs and cream, stir to combine well. Pour into the unbaked pie crust and bake until the center is set, about 60 to 65 minutes. Cover the edges of the crust with foil if they start to get too brown during baking. Remove from oven and let cool at least two hours before serving. Serve with fresh whipped cream. (The walnut in the middle of the pie was used to hide my knife mark from testing the pie- a trick to remember)

Fresh Whipped Cream

2 cups heavy cream
1/2 cup sugar
1 tsp. vanilla extract

Pour the ingredients into your stand mixer, turn on to high and walk away to do something else (gotta love being able to do that :), or beat with a hand mixer until the cream is stiff, a couple of minutes. I don't understand Cool Whip when this is so easy, and so much tastier.

Pumpkin Butter Cream Trifle

1 loaf of prepared quick bread, such as pumpkin or zucchini
1/2 cup brandy
1/2 cup pure maple syrup
2 cups heavy cream
1/3 cup sugar
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 pint jar of pumpkin butter
1 cup of walnut pieces, more for garnish

Whip the cream, sugar and vanilla until stiff; with a spatula, very gently fold in a little more than 1/2 of the jar of pumpkin butter. refrigerate until needed. Cut the quick bread into 1 inch cubes- I used a loaf of zucchini bread that I had baked this summer and stowed in the freezer (featured in a Facebook posting). In a small saucepan, heat the brandy and maple syrup to a simmer, stirring to combine well. Drizzle the brandy syrup mixture over the cubed quick bread, tossing to allow equal absorption. I prepared the cream and bread the night before and assembled on Thanksgiving morning- do it however beat fits your schedule. Layer 1/2 of the cubes in the bottom of a trifle or other clear glass bowl, spreading for an even layer. Sprinkle over 1/2 of the walnuts, then spread evenly wit 1/2 of the pumpkin butter cream. Repeat. Spoon the remains of the jar of pumpkin butter into a ziplock baggie; cut a small corner off the bag and dot the surface of the cream with the butter, or pipe it on in a pretty fashion if your hand is steadier than mine. Dot with additional walnut pieces and refrigerate until serving time.

Well, my little guy will be stepping off the bus any moment, so I think I am going to bring this to a close. Considering that Thanksgiving was almost a week ago now, I think I will put it to bed now. BUT, if there are any items on the menu that you want a recipe for, just let me know and I'll get those up. I'm going to end this with a picture of Christopher's pickled crabapples- they were certainly tart, I think a touch more sugar next time, but I am looking forward to trying a vinaigrette with the spicy vinegar from the jars.
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