28 November 2007

Excellent Apple Crisp

This was another one of my many lovingly prepared Thanksgiving dishes. After all my apple-pie adventures, I was ready for a quick apple dessert that required no pie crust, especially since I was preparing a huge meal and 2 pumpkin pies at the same time. I came up with this apple crisp which is so delicious, and so easy, I might never make an apple pie again!
Serve warm with freshly whipped cream or vanilla ice cream.

1/4 cup firmly packed golden brown sugar
1/4 cup sugar
1 1/2 Tbsp flour
1 Tbsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp cloves
1/4 tsp salt
about 7 Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored, and sliced 1/2 inch thick
1 Tbsp lemon juice
1 cup all purpose flour
1 cup sugar
1 cup (2 sticks) chilled unsalted butter, cut into pieces
1/2 tsp cinnamon

Preheat oven to 400°F. Butter 13x9x2-inch glass baking dish. Combine first 7 ingredients in large bowl. Add apples and toss to coat. Squeeze in lemon, mix well. Transfer apple mixture to prepared dish and pop in the oven for about 15 min.
In the meantime, combine flour, cinnamon, 1 cup sugar and butter in medium bowl. Using pastry blender or fingertips, blend ingredients until coarse meal forms (you can also pulse it all together in a food processor). Take apples out of the oven, sprinkle them with the flour mixture and put back in oven.
Bake crisp until topping is golden brown, about 25 min. Cool for 10 minutes before eating.

26 November 2007

Lamar's Pecan Dressing

This is another famous Lamar recipe. Thanksgiving and Christmas just wouldn't be holidays without his perfect pecan dressing. Here is the recipe he sent me:

Ingredients for large group (adjust portions of ingredients to taste)
• Large pan, lasagna style or larger
• Cookie sheet or shallow pan
• Large mixing bowl (large salad size)
• Herb Seasoned Stuffing Mix, 2-3 pounds (Pepperidge Farm is Best, but this can be made from scratch by using a combination of crumbled dried white and dark breads, adding small amounts dried thyme and rosemary)
• Pecans, halves are best, 1-2 pounds
• Chicken stock, 2-3 quarts (Poultry drippings are good, but you usually don’t have these available ahead of time, and you have more control of the concentration of the broth with chicken stock, which is important) Low salt versions are good because of concentration. Note from Laurel: I used vegetable stock and it worked just fine.
• Butter, 2 pounds (or more) (Low salt versions are best)
• Large onions, 2-3
• Celery head (3-4 stalks)
• Salt

1. Chicken stock (unless already concentrated) needs to be reduced to 40-50% of original volume. Start early.
(Drink a glass, or two of appropriate wine)
2. Lightly salt and lightly roast pecans on low heat (250) for about 20-30 minutes. (This is important to prevent soggy pecans. Don’t let them burn.
3. Chop onion and cook in butter until they start to become clear. Remove from heat.
4. Chop celery, but not too small… bite sized.
5. Add breading, pecans and celery in large bowl, and thoroughly mix.
6. Slowly add stock, mixing while you pour. Breading should be wet, but not soggy.
7. Add butter and onion combination, mixing thoroughly
8. Add and mix in additional melted butter as appropriate. Breading should not get soggy, able to separate with a fork.
9. Pour mixture into baking pan. Arrange evenly in pan but do not pack down. (Try to make sure that most pecans and celery are below the surface)
10. Bake for an hour or so at 375 while drinking an appropriate glass or two of wine.

25 November 2007

Turkey Day

A photo essay on Thansgiving at the Mason House, 2007 (Conclusion to follow when my computer isn't acting up..):

The bird.

The tools. Art by Mark.

The burning of the Moonshine Valley Ranch Cherrywood, pre-smoker.

The masterpiece(s).

Front Door. Decor by Nisa.

Entry Door. Decor by Nisa.

Dining Table. Cloth by Emilio, decor by Nisa, gourds by God.

Full Table.

Lamar and Dolmas.

Table #2.


Dressing, by Lamar.

Pumpkin pie, by Jill.

Pumkin ice cream with salted pumpkin brittle swirl, by Tonio.

Sweet Potato Pie with Marshmellow Meringue, by Jill and Swirled Halvah.

What a spread!

Well, our first Italian Thanksgiving party was a huge success! It looked like a real Thanksgiving (except for the name tags I added to the food for the sake of the Italians). Anyway, it was a blast, hugely tiring, but a lot of fun. It was dinner for 18, but we cooked for 40, I'm not joking. My two American partners-in-crime are both fabulous cooks and enthusiastic party-girls. It was definitely a group effort that never could have been pulled off alone. Recipes are on the way!
the girls

the turkey (before)

...and after

the pie

the leftovers

21 November 2007

Pumpkin Marscarpone Pie

The crust is the Apple Pie crust previously posted on the blog.

The Filling
1 cup canned pure pumpkin
1 cup (packed) golden brown sugar
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 8-ounce container mascarpone cheese

Using an electric mixer, beat the pumpkin and sugar in large bowl until its well blended. Add the eggs and next 7 ingredients and beat until blended. Add the mascarpone cheese and beat just until mixture is smooth. Transfer the filling to the prepared crust.

Bake the pie at 350 until custard is set, about 45-60 minutes.
After its finished, transfer the pie to a rack to cool.


Peach Daiquiri

This is a delightful treat to enjoy while doing some Thanksgiving preparation cooking. It definitely makes the chopping and peeling much more enjoyable.

Canned Peaches ( fresh is better, but canned will do the trick)
Peach Nectar

Blend all ingredients in the blender until desired texture, sweetness and stoutness. Top with a squeeze of lime for a lovely garnish.

13 November 2007

Sugar & Spice & All Things Nice!

I just browsed through the dessert category and realized that everything revolves around chocolate. While many believe that the world revolves around chocolate, I am one of those anomalies who has yet to fall under the chocolate spell. So, here's a non-chocolate dessert that is really yummy and very Fall appropriate. (I'll make some for Thanksgiving.)

Spice Cookies
  • 1.5 cups softened butter
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 0.5 cups molasses
  • 4 cups flour
  • 4 t baking soda
  • 2 t cinnamon
  • 1 t ginger
  • 1 t cloves
  • 1 t salt
Cream butter and sugar; add eggs one at a time; then add molasses.
Combine dry ingredients; then add to wet.
Mix and chill for 4 hours (less time is OK).
Shape into 1/2 " balls; roll in sugar.
Bake @ 375º for 7 minutes.

Pumpkin Dip (this makes a ton of dip)
  • 1 8-oz package softened cream cheese
  • 1 18-oz can of pumpkin pie filling
  • 2 cups confectioners sugar
  • 1 t cinnamon
  • 1/2 t ginger
Mix in food processor. Chill and serve with cookies.


Thank you for all you are, thank you for choosing me like you'd choose a good ingredient for your recipees!!!!! (I just find it difficult to be serious sometimes, but I do ADORE you!)


12 November 2007

Garlic Roasted Pecans

As long as I can remember, Lamar Sawyer (long-time partner-in-crime and friend of my parents) has contributed 3 fundamental dishes to both Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners: Garlic Roasted Pecans, Pecan Dressing, and Caesar Salad. These recipes have become so characteristic of his persona, and so integral to our celebration of the holidays, that the festivities just wouldn't be the same without them, or without him for that matter!
This year, he has passed on his famous recipes to the younger generation of festivity-frequenters. I made his famous Garlic Pecans this weekend and they were absolutely delicious, a big hit with the Italians. Maybe it was my imagination, but delectable as they were, it seemed like something was missing. I couldn't help but recall Lamar's ominous words when he sent me the recipe: "I did leave out enough of the details so that the success will be dependent upon the cook’s skills. People always said there was Lamar spit included, but I’m not talking."

Lamar and Chanda’s Garlic Pecans
• Shallow oven pans or cookie sheets
• Cast iron skillet
• Shelled medium pecan halves, one pound
• Tabasco sauce
• Garlic head
• Butter, 1 stick
• Salt (fine ground)

1. Peel garlic (10-12 cloves), slice thinly alternating between long dimension and short dimension successive cloves.
2. Melt 3 tablespoon of butter in skillet, add garlic to cover bottom
3. Sauté garlic for two minutes, turn off heat.
4. Sprinkle 1 teaspoon of salt over pecans
5. Add 20-25 dashes of Tabasco.
6. Add pecans, mixing thoroughly to coat all pecans with butter, garlic, salt and Tabasco mixture.
7. Pour skillet contents onto cookie sheets, arranging one pecan deep. Keep the pecans away from the edge of the pan to prevent burning from reflected heat.
8. Bake slowly (275-300 degrees) for 25-40 minutes, depending on oven. The key indicator that they are ready is when the garlic starts to turn brown.
9. When the pecans are ready, allow them to cool to be able to touch the pecans without pain.
10. Place the warm pecans in a jar or other airtight container. (They should keep for a year unless opened.)

photo by Emi

08 November 2007

Mahi Mahi

This is a delicious quick dinner that I amazingly created on my very own. There are a few advantages living this close to the ocean!

Ingredients:( I did not really measure anything so adjust to your personal taste, these are just my suggestions)

• purple onion (half of a large one) chopped
• parsley- (half a bunch) chopped
• brown sugar (3 tablespoons)
• Lemon juice (one whole juicy lemon)
• plain yogurt( 3/4 of a cup)
• Mahi Mahi

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Combine the parsley, purple onion, brown sugar and lemon juice in small sauce pan. Heat until sugar melts and onions are almost all the way cooked . In a well greased baking dish place the delicious Mahi Mahi. Spread the yogurt evenly over the fish. Pour the goodies from the sauce pan on to the fish and place in the oven for 20 to 30 minutes depending upon your oven and the size of the fillet. Remove and enjoy!
Herbed potatoes and sauted spinach make excellent side dishes to accompany the fish.

07 November 2007

An Eggcellent Quiche!

The Crust
(for one 9" pie)

  • In food processor: cut together 1 cup flour (I use some whole wheat flour- maybe 1/4 c); and 1/3 cup butter. When blended, add ~3 T cold buttermilk.
  • Chill dough for one hour if you have the time, then roll out...
The Filling (anything is possible, use your creativity and whatever is in the fridge)
  • Bottom layer: shredded cheese of some sort- sharp cheddar, gruyere, gouda or other smoked cheeses, feta, parmesan...
  • Veggie layer: some options include- mushroom/spinach/onion; zucchini/onion; leek/onion; etc.
  • Eggy custard layer: Basic= 4 eggs, 1.5 cups (soy)milk, 3 Tbs flour, salt & pepper, 1/4 tsp dry mustard. Fancy= 16+ oz ricotta, 3 eggs, 3 Tbs flour, dash of nutmeg, salt.
  • Top layer: more shredded cheese.
  • Special extras you can mix in: toasted pine nuts, capers, olives, pesto, sliced tomatoes to adorn the top.
Bake for ~45 min to an hour @ 375º

04 November 2007

Fall in a Bowl

I shared this soup recipe with some of you last year when I first came across it. The recipe is from Eating Well magazine and it's now one of my cool weather favorites. Like most soups, it's pretty easy to make and improves with time (great leftover).
The only tricky part, in my opinion, is preparing the butternut squash, which is a pain to peel. I have found it easiest to chop off the 'bulb' end of the squash so that each part of it has a flat "foot" end to stand on while I slice off the skin downward toward the cutting board with a chef's knife. Plus I always get this weird residue on my hands when I'm peeling this squash that I can't get off-- anyone else have that problem??
Anyway, here's the recipe. Laurel make it last night all the way over there in Italia, and said it was still good with red onions instead of leeks. (photo by Emilio)

Roasted Pear-Butternut Squash Soup with Crumbled Stilton

  • 2 ripe pears, peeled, quartered and cored
  • 2 lbs. butternut squash (don't worry to much about lbs.), peeled, seeded and cut into chunks
  • 2 medium tomatoes, cored and quartered
  • 1 large leek, white and pale green part only, halved lengthwise, sliced and thoroughly washed
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 2 T olive oil
  • 1/2 t. salt, divided
  • ground pepper to taste
  • 4 cups veggie or chicken broth
  • 2/3 cup crumbled Stilton or blue cheese (optional)
  • sliced chives for garnish (optional)
1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F
2. Combine pears, squash, tomatoes, leek, garlic, oil, and 1/4 t. salt and pepper in a large bowl and toss to coat. Spread evenly on a rimmed baking sheet. Roast, stirring occasionally, until the veggies are tender (40-55 minutes). Let cool slightly.
3. Place half the veggies and half the broth back in the bowl and puree until smooth with a handheld blender (or blend in a traditional blender). Add to soup pot, followed by the puree of the other half of the ingredients. Add rest of salt.
4. Cook soup over medium-low heat, stirring, until hot, about 10 minutes. Divide among bowls and garnish with cheese and chives if desired.

serves 6, 1 1/3 cups each