Monday, December 6, 2010

The Final Thanksgiving of 2010

Yes, prior to this weekend I'd already had four Thanksgivings. But what's one more? Pat's cousin Brian was in Italy for Thanksgiving (visiting his brother Michael who is there for the semester studying architecture) so we offered to host a Thanksgiving for Brian when he got home...and this time Pat and I cooked everything!

Pat has always enjoyed cooking, and his favorite meal of the year is Thanksgiving dinner, so he was happy to tackle this project. I've never done more than one dish for a Thanksgiving meal, so this was a test for me. Pat made the turkey, stuffing, gravy and carrots. I made the squash, mashed potatoes, brussels sprouts, cookies, and pumpkin pie bars. Pat's Aunt Lisa made the chocolate cream pie, and Ocean Spray made our cranberry sauce! 

Our guest of honor, Mr. Turkey, has become a family tradition. Lisa always brings him to Thanksgiving, and she brought him to my place because she knows how much I love him. Its the simple things, right?

On Friday I made the cookies (Chunky Peanut Chocolate Chip Cinnamon) and the pumpkin pie bars.  Pat and I brought a plate of the cookies to share with Steve and Krissy on Friday night when we went to their house for dinner then out to see Love and Other Drugs (which I loved).

Saturday was a whirlwind of cleaning, cooking, and setting up for our guests, which included my mom, Pat's mom, Pat's brother Jack, cousin Brian, Aunt Lisa, and Lisa's boyfriend George. I scrounged around for some Thanksgiving decorations, but didn't find any. I did find a turkey cookie cutter, though! Pat was a little worried when he saw me take a hammer to the pumpkin, but then saw what I had in mind.

Yes, I'm a dork.

I set the table in Thanksgiving colors and used mini pumpkins as place setters.

(Our dining room table only had room for five, so the boys sat at the table in the living room).

I made a vase out of a sweet dumpling squash I had...just cut it as if you were coring an apple, but don't go all the way through, so you can fill the hole with water and add flowers.

I set up a buffet table in the dining room so people could serve themselves. Once the turkey was done it was time to eat! Look at this beauty!

My (very full plate):

Dinner was great! Everything tasted very good and it was so nice to have a lot of family over to cook for and spend time with. 

I always save room for some dessert, especially Thanksgiving dessert!

Lisa's Chocolate Cream Pie

Pumpkin Pie Bars

Chunky Peanut Chocolate Chip Cinnamon Cookies

I went for a slice of pie and some pumpkin pie bar (I'd already tried a few cookies in the baking process):

Thanksgiving #5 was a success! Recipe of the dishes I made follow below.

Chunky Peanut Chocolate Chip Cinnamon Cookies (Martha Stewart)
Makes 50-60 cookies

Whisk flour, baking soda, salt and cinnamon in a medium bowl:

Put peanut butter and butter in a large bowl and mix until combined.

Add sugar and brown sugar, mix until combined. 

Mix in eggs.

Gradually add flour mixture; mix until just combined.

Fold in chocolate chips, peanuts and vanilla until well distributed.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Refrigerate dough until it is slightly firm (about 15-20 minutes). Roll dough into 1-inch balls. Space balls 2-3 inches apart on baking sheets lined with parchment paper. Flatten slightly and bake until just golden (about 11-12 minutes).


  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup smooth peanut butter
  • 1 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 1/2 cups semisweet chocolate chips
  • 2/3 cup roasted, salted peanuts, coarsely chopped
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Whisk together flour, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon in a medium bowl. Put butter and peanut butter in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment; mix on medium speed until combined, about 2 minutes (I did this all by hand instead of using an electric mixer). Add sugars; mix 2 minutes. Mix in eggs. Gradually add flour mixture; mix until just combined. Fold in chocolate chips, peanuts and vanilla with a mixing spoon until well distributed. Refrigerate dough until it is slightly firm, about 15 minutes.
  2. Roll dough into 1-inch balls. Space balls 2-3 inches apart on baking sheets lined with parchment paper. Flatten slightly. Bake until just golden, about 11-12 minutes. Transfer cookies to wire racks to cool.

I really liked these cookies, but think I would have liked them even better if there were equal amounts of peanuts and chocolate chips (I found myself looking for cookies that had a lot of peanuts in them). Next time I'll use 1 cup each of chocolate chips and peanuts.
Pumpkin Pie Bars (recipe give to me by Krissy, not sure of its origination)

Makes 24 squares

Mix together 1/2 cup brown sugar and 1/4 cup sugar.

Cut in 3/4 butter until it makes coarse crumbs, then stir in 1 cup old fashioned oats.

I softened the butter for these, since I'm so used to doing it for all the cookies I've made recently. This made the mixture less crumby and more buttery. I was supposed to reserve 1 cup of the crumbs for the topping, but ended up only being able to reserve 1/2 cup, since the buttery mixture took more to spread across the whole pan. Press this mixture into a 9x13 inch pan.

Doesn't this look like creme brulee?

After cooling for about an hour:

Beat together 8 ounces cream cheese (I used light - probably the only thing light about this dish!), 15 ounces canned pumpkin, 1 tbsp pumpkin pie spice, 1/2 cup sugar, and 3 eggs.

Pour over crust.

Top with reserved crumbs (I didn't have enough reserved crumbs, so I added about 1/2 cup oats and 1/4 cup each dark and light brown sugar to the reserved crumbs).

Bake for 25-30 minutes at 350 degrees. Cool completely.


Crust and Topping:

  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 3/4 cup butter
  • 1 cup old fashioned oats
  • 8 ounces cream cheese
  • 15 ounces canned pumpkin
  • 1 tbsp pumpkin pie spice
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 3 eggs

  1. Mix together brown sugar and sugar. Cut in butter until it makes coarse crumbs. Stir in oats. Reserve 1 cup. Press rest into a 9x13 inch pan. Make at 350 degrees for 15 minutes. Cool.
  2. Beat together cream cheese, canned pumpkin, pumpkin pie spice, sugar and eggs. Pour over crust. Top with reserved crumbs. Bake 25 minutes at 350 degrees. Cool completely.
  3. Cut into 24 squares. Store in an air tight container in fridge.
These were very good, Krissy made them a couple weeks ago when she came over for dinner and gave me her recipe. Its a nice twist on pumpkin pie and I love the addition of oats!

Roasted Mashed Butternut Squash

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Cut 2 butternut squash open lengthwise and remove seeds. Place in baking dishes with a little bit of water in each dish (just enough to cover entire surface). I added about 1 tbsp pumpkin pie spice to each half and drizzled maple syrup on top.

I roasted these in the oven for about 45 minutes.

When they came out I used a fork to shred/remove all squash from the outer peel.

Put in a large baking dish and mashed with fork. Added more pumpkin pie spice and maple syrup to the top. This sat for a couple hours before dinner.

When we were getting ready to eat, my mom helped me improve the texture by adding about 1/4 cup water and microwaving for about 10 minutes. Who knew it was supposed to be very smooth? Ha I guess it was a little bit underdone for my mom and Pat's tastes. So after the added water and microwave time, it was very smooth and delicious! You don't need butter or a lot of spices to make this taste good, just a little bit of maple syrup and pumpkin pie spice (or cinnamon, nutmeg and ginger) is delicious.
Mashed Potatoes (with a ricer!)

Have you ever seen a potato ricer? Until a few years ago, I hadn't. That was until I was asked to prepare 10 pounds of mashed potatoes for Thanksgiving (I believe in 2007) and my dad sent me a YouTube video with a recipe and the chef used a potato ricer. Well I didn't have the contraption to use for my potatoes then, but for Christmas that year my dad bought me my very own ricer (incidentally, I also bought him his very own ricer, too!). I have come to love this contraption. It makes the smoothest, tastiest mashed potatoes! This gives it such a nice consistency that you don't even need to add butter to the potatoes.

I think it looks like a giant garlic press.

I boiled 5 pounds of potatoes. My dad always boils potatoes with the skins on and then removes them, he says its easier than peeling each potato. Umm, not so much. I ended up playing a mighty long game of Hot Potato with myself to get all the skins off once these were cooked!

Fill the ricer with potatoes. 

Close the ricer and squeeze!

And voila! Look at all those riced potatoes!

I then mixed about 1 1/2 cups milk into the potatoes, using a spatula to smooth them (note - you should never add cold milk to hot potatoes! First warm the milk in the microwave or stove, then add it to the potatoes). Then I added a few tablespoons of light sour cream (I ended up adding a few more once this was all mixed in).

Mix it all together, and you have delicious mashed potatoes with hardly any fat. I love the taste of these!

Roasted Brussels Sprouts 
My mom and I originally made this recipe from the 2007 In Style Holiday Trends Issue. We've made it a few times since, and have adapted it to our preferences.

Have you ever seen brussels sprouts on the stalk? I haven't!

Remove brussels sprouts from the stalk. Wash sprouts and halve the larger ones.

Toss with bacon, garlic, and olive oil.

Saute in a large pan on medium heat for about 20 minutes, cover for the first several minutes to allow sprouts to cook through.

Stir in balsamic vinegar, chicken broth and panko.

Transfer to an oven dish. Stir in half of Parmesan cheese, and sprinkle rest on top. Bake for 5-10 minutes until melted (and rest of Thanksgiving food is ready!)


  • 2 pounds brussels sprouts, trimmed and halved
  • 1/4 pound bacon, diced (for vegetarians - this can be omitted and still have a delicious dish)
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • 2 tbsp chicken broth
  • 1/2 cup panko
  • 1/2 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
  • salt and pepper to taste

  1. In a large bowl, toss brussels sprouts with bacon, garlic and olive oil.
  2. Cook vegetables in a large pan on medium heat for about 20 minutes, keeping covered for about the first 10 minutes. Cook until sprouts are fork tender.
  3. Stir in balsamic vinegar, chicken broth and panko.
  4. Transfer to an oven dish. Stir in half of cheese and sprinkle the other half on top. Cook at 400 degrees for 5-10 minutes.

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