Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Thanksgiving, Family, and Fellowship

Thanksgiving has been one of my favorite holidays because it is centered around food, family, and fellowship. For my family, it has been a tradition for the past several years for my dad's side of the family to all come together. I love the almost 40 people family gathering. You know we have to have a lot of food to feed this many people. It is like a Sunday pot luck in which everyone brings their favorite side dish or dessert. We always have one of my aunts bring the turkey and one of my grandmas bring the ham.
I have been contemplating this week on what I will prepare. I have decided to make a dish I created with brussel sprouts, one of my favorite vegetables. It is my Sauteed brussel sprouts, leeks, and green apple dish with candied pecans.

Sautéed Brussel Sprouts, Leek, and Green Apple with Candied Pecans
2 Tbsp. unsalted butter
2 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
2 garlic cloves, minced
About 10 large fresh brussel sprouts, sliced thin
1 leek, sliced thin
1/4 granny smith apple, halved and sliced thin
½ tsp. hickory smoked salt
Candied Pecans (recipe below)

Melt butter in a large cast-iron skillet over medium heat. Add olive oil and garlic and cook for 2 minutes. Add sprouts, leek, and apple slices to skillet. Season with salt and cook for 8-10 minutes. Gently toss vegetables during cooking time to coat in butter and oil and prevent from cooking on only one side.

To finish, top with candied pecans and serve immediately.

Candied Pecans
2 Tbsp. water
2 Tbsp. cane sugar
¼ cup pecan halves, cut in half lengthwise

Over medium-low heat, bring water, sugar, and pecans to a simmer, stirring until sugar dissolves. Continue simmering for 7 minutes, stirring occasionally. Sugar and water should turn into syrup. Using a fork, remove pecans onto wax paper to cool.

I am also going to be creative with my other new favorite vegetables- turnips and rutabagas. I am going to make my roasted rutabagas and turnips with walnuts and fried sage.

Roasted Rutabagas and Turnips with walnuts and fried sage

1 small rutabaga, peeled and cubed into ½” cubes
5 medium turnips, peeled and cubed into ½” cubes
¼ cup thinly sliced yellow onion
4 Tbsp. walnut oil
½ tsp. sea salt
14 fresh sage leaves
1 Tbsp. chopped walnuts, toasted
1 Tbsp. olive oil

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
Combine the rutabagas, turnips, and onion on a baking sheet. Drizzle walnut oil over the vegetables. Sprinkle sea salt over vegetables.

Julienne 8 sage leaves and sprinkle over vegetables. Toss vegetables together to coat.

Bake for 45-50 minutes, stirring a couple times during baking.

Spoon the vegetables on a serving dish.
Top the roasted vegetables with walnuts.

For the fried sage, add olive oil to a sauté pan. Heat over medium-high heat. When oil is hot, place the sage leaves in the oil. Fry for about 30 seconds then remove to a paper towel-lined plate.
Place the fried sage leaves on top of the vegetables and walnuts. Serve warm.

This year I am very thankful and blessed to have such a wonderful family. I know this Thanksgiving will bring a lot more smiles and laughs.

                                        Some of my family at last year's Thanksgiving Day meal

I know what I am preparing for Thanksgiving, do you? I want to answer all of your Thanksgiving day food preparation questions. I am going to be on my blog tonight at 9:00 p.m. Central time. You ask the questions and I will do my best to answer them. Can't wait to speak to you tonight!


  1. Ohhh the candy pecans look niceeeee! And it look simple shall try it soon! Even though my country doesn't really celebrate thanks giving, hope you had a great time! What other activities do you guys usually do during this day?

  2. I can see that beauty runs in the family!

  3. @dark3stmemori3s
    The candied pecans add a unique element to the dish with its sweetness and I love the added crunch. The day before and the day of is spent in the kitchen with family preparing some of the dishes together. My family doesn't really have any activities. We just fellowship together

  4. @Angela Renee Thank you! I hope you have a great Thanksgiving!

  5. Wow! Replace the butter and I've got myself some delicious vegan-ness!

  6. So, where do we chat? Here? I have a lot of frozen veggies and want to make a soup but have never done it from scratch. Any tips or great recipes? Or maybe something else I can do with veggies?

  7. Hello whitney!
    I really want to make an Indian thanks giving turkey. so i guess a spicy bird...do you have any suggestions on getting a nice spicy flavor but not overwhelming the turkey flavor?

  8. What do you recommend for post thanksgiving turkey leftovers?

  9. @Angela yes I am here. If you want to do something different, roasting vegetables brings out great flavor. I toss the vegetables like brussel sprouts, broccoli, cauliflower, carrots, or potatoes in olive oil, salt, and pepper. You can add sliced onions, minced garlic, and herbs.
    For a broth based soup, I start off by sautéing onions, garlic,etc in olive oil then add the broth

  10. What is your favorite pie crust recipe?

  11. What's the secret to a great gravy?

  12. Hey can you please help me with making a consistent gazpacho?

  13. Do you plan to put out a gluten free cookbook?

  14. @perfecto I would use tandoori spices. Turkey can be bland on it's own so it takes on flavor well. Add veggies to the bottom of the pan with the turkey to make a flavor gravy/ sauce from the pan drippings

  15. Whats the best way to reheat a whole turkey?

  16. @Andrew I have taken leftover turkey and made turkey enchiladas. They were really good. You can also make a soup with any leftover veggies and turkey

  17. I Love Sweet Potatoes, but what is a Delish Dish I can make for Thanksgiving?

  18. @flotsam I recommend using butter and if you want to use shortening, use a butter flavored shortening like Crisco and put it in the refrigerator. Having everything cold from ingredients to utensils is very important to a flaky crust. Also try baking the pie halfway through on a heated pizza stone. This will help prevent a soggy bottom.

  19. @Andrew flavor is everything so if you can use pan drippings you will get the most flavor. Even if you don't have any juices from the turkey then heat the pan that the turkey cooked in and add store bought stock and scrape the bottom of the pan to extract the most flavor

  20. I'm stuck on dessert...just my family of three this year plus my father-in-law. My husband doesn't like any of the traditional Thanksgiving desserts, so no apple pies, pumpkin, pecan, sweet potato. Any suggestions? Thanks!

  21. @Sam I actually do not have any experience making gazpacho so I can't be helpful on its preparation. Sorry! If I hear any great suggestions, I will let you know

  22. @John I would reheat the turkey on a low temp in the oven. I would also baste it in its own juices if there are any or with chicken broth to prevent from drying out. Cover with aluminum foil.

  23. @d1c1f I have tried to create many gluten-free recipes but I haven't thought of incooporating them into a cookbook. I may have to work on that. Do you cook gluten-free?

  24. Thanks - great tips. Hope you have a great thanksgiving

  25. @Faye you can take my recipe in this blog post for the roasted turnips and rutabagas and use sweet potatoes instead of the rutabagas. The sage and walnuts pair well with vegetables that have a slight sweetness.
    Something fun that I have done too is roast 2 inch cubes of sweet potatoes with cinnamon and some brown sugar and then skewered them with marshmallows. Place the sweet potato skewer on a baking sheet and broil in the oven for a few seconds to toast the marshmallow. Kids would love this!

  26. @Amanda you can make individual desserts like mini cheesecakes or my molten lava cake. I prepare the molten lava cakes in a muffin pan to make them for a crowd or for just a few people. Make the amount you want and save the rest of the batter for later. You can refrigerate the batter or freeze it.
    Molten Lava Cakes for a Crowd
    Whipped cream
    1 cup heavy cream, cold
    2 ½ Tbsp. confectioner’s sugar

    1 cup dark chocolate chips
    1 stick plus 2 Tbsp. (5 ounces) unsalted butter
    2 Tbsp. brewed coffee
    ½ cup all-purpose flour
    1 ½ cup confectioner’s sugar
    3 large eggs, lightly beaten
    3 egg yolks, lightly beaten
    1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
    2 Tbsp. unsweetened cocoa powder

    Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Lightly coat a 12-cup muffin tin with cooking spray.

    To make the whipped cream: Beat the cream using an electric mixer in a large cold bowl until soft peaks form. Gradually beat in 2 Tbsp. of the confectioner’s sugar. Cover and refrigerate while you make the cakes.

    To make the cakes: Melt the chocolate chips and butter in a medium saucepan over low heat, stirring frequently. Once the chocolate and butter are melted, stir in the coffee until smooth.

    In a medium bowl, sift together the flour and confectioner’s sugar. Stir in the chocolate mixture. Add the whole eggs and egg yolks one at a time, beating well after each addition. Stir in the vanilla.

    Divide the batter evenly among the muffin cups. Bake until the cakes are slightly jiggly in the center, about 7 minutes. Run a butter knife around the edges of each cake and transfer the hot cakes to dessert plates. Top with a dollop of whipped cream and dust with cocoa powder.

    Serves: 12

  27. I'm bored with the traditional green bean casserole. Do you have a suggestion for another simple casserole dish?

  28. @Amanda you are the lucky number 10! For being the 10th person to ask a question, you will receive a bag of Mississippi pecans. They will be great to use for your Christmas cooking. My sauteed brussel sprouts, leek, and green apple with candied pecans is a great dish to use them too! Send me your email address so that I can contact you about shipping them.

  29. Perfect!!! Those sound amazing and I have all of those ingredients so I won't have to go back to the grocery store! Thanks so much!

  30. Awesome! My email address is amandaabenson@gmail.com

  31. @Nicoley I am putting together a recipe for you now

  32. All right Whitney, this is the big question: for sweet potato casserole, marshmallows should absolutely be avoided in favor of a candied pecan topping. Agree or disagree? :)

  33. Do you have a good recipe for fruit salad?

  34. @Nicoley My zucchini cup recipe that is in my cookbook is a different kind of casserole. You can also tweak it and instead of it baked in the scooped out zucchini, bake the mixture in a small casserole dish.
    Zucchini Cups

    Hospitality in the South is not only exhibited through entertaining but also through generous giving. It is not unusual in the summertime to find a bag of freshly picked vegetables on your doorstep. Zucchini is usually one of these vegetables. Because of its abundance, I am constantly experimenting with new recipes for using it. My zucchini cups are an innovative use of this common vegetable. The zucchini cup’s soufflé like texture and crunchy topping makes for a unique zucchini dish.

    1 ¼ cups chicken broth
    3/4 tsp. salt
    1 Tbsp. olive oil
    1/8 tsp. black pepper
    4 medium zucchini
    1/4 cup yellow onion, diced
    2 ½ Tbsp. butter
    ½ tsp. crushed garlic
    1/8 tsp. white pepper
    1 large egg, beaten
    3 Tbsp. Italian bread crumbs
    1 Tbsp. shredded parmesan cheese

    Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
    To make the 3 inch tall zucchini cups, slice off the rounded end of each zucchini so that it will stand up on the baking sheet. Estimate about 3 inches from the trimmed ends and cut to make the cups. Reserve the tops of the zucchini.
    Using a melon baller or ½ teaspoon measuring spoon, scoop pulp from the cups leaving a thin layer of zucchini at bottom of each cup. Reserve pulp in a small bowl for another baking use.

    Place zucchini cups on a baking sheet. Coat outside of cups with olive oil. Sprinkle ¼ tsp. salt and 1/8 tsp. black pepper. Bake for 17 minutes.

    Meanwhile, in a medium saucepan bring to a boil chicken broth and a pinch of salt over medium-high heat.
    While liquid is coming to a boil, prepare zucchini filling. Peel reserved zucchini tops. Cut into 1 inch cubes, measuring about 2 ½ cups cubed zucchini.
    Add zucchini and onion to boiling chicken broth. Cook for 8 minutes or until zucchini is soft.
    Drain zucchini mixture. Add back into pan. Using a potato masher, mash the zucchini. Add 1 Tbsp. butter. Add crushed garlic, salt, and white pepper. Stir until combined. Stir in beaten egg.
    Fill zucchini cups with zucchini mixture. The remaining mixture can be cooked in a greased ramekin.
    Bake for 15 minutes on 350 degrees.

    To prepare the breadcrumb topping, melt 1 ½ Tbsp. butter in a small sautepan over medium heat. Stir in breadcrumbs and cook for 1 minute. Add parmesan cheese and stir until combined.
    Spoon a heaping teaspoon on top of each zucchini cup. Spoon the rest of the breadcrumbs over the zucchini mixture in the ramekin.
    Bake for an additional 15 minutes.
    Serves: 4 ppl

  35. @Vickie I agree! If it is up to me though, I skip the sweet potato casserole and I make a carrot souffle which has a lighter texture.

  36. Whitney - I'm actually making both this year! We were planning to only make the carrot souffle, but my sister asked for the sweet potatoes too.

    This will be a common repeat performance of my grandmother's sweet potato casserole recipe, but it'll actually be my first go at a souffle. Should I let the mix cool most of the way to room temp before adding the eggs, or just enough to keep the eggs from cooking before they're integrated into the mix?

  37. @Nicoley yes I do and this recipe is in my cookbook as well.
    Lemon-Lime Fruit Salad

    3 Tbsp. lemon-lime soda (natural cane soda)
    1 golden delicious apple, peeled and cut into ¼ inch cubes
    1 large ripe banana, peeled and cut into ¼ inch cubes
    2 large seedless navel oranges, peel and cut into ¼ inch cubes
    3 Tbsp. sweetened coconut
    ¼ cup blueberries and blackberries, washed
    ¼ cup strawberries, sliced
    1 Tbsp. almond slices
    1/2 tsp. honey (if desired for sweetness)

    Lemon-Lime Whipped Cream

    2/3 cup whipping cream
    2 Tbsp. confectioner’s sugar
    ¼ tsp. lemon and lime zest

    Pour lemon-lime soda into a mixing bowl. Place cubed apple into the mixing bowl and stir until coated with the soda. Add in the cubed banana and oranges gently stir to coat. Add the coconut, blueberries, blackberries, and strawberry slices. Gently stir in the almond slices.
    If more sweetness is desired, stir in 1 tsp. honey. Refrigerate fruit salad for about 45 minutes to an hour. Spoon into dessert dishes; top with lemon-lime whipped cream.

    Using a hand-mixer, beat the whipping cream until soft peaks form. Sprinkle in the confectioner’s sugar and zest. Beat for about 30 seconds.

    Serves: 8 ppl (1/3 cup)

  38. @Vickie you have to please everyone :) I would let it get to where it is slightly warm. You may want to temper the eggs a little as well.

  39. Hi Whitney, I would like to be creative with my bake chicken and thinking about a glaze maybe orange marmalade. Please help

  40. How can you tell when bananas are ripe enough for banana pudding?

  41. @brandilove16 when the peel is completely yellow and it is slightly soft but not mushy. I make my banana pudding in the oven so they will get soft in the baking process.

  42. I want to make truffle mashed potatoes this Thanksgiving, Whitney. I have black truffle oil as well as black truffle salt. How or WOULD I need to incorporate this or anything else besides the usual butter/milk/pepper combo to make it delish! Please help if you can! :)

  43. Oh, also, do you have any plans on coming for a book signing in Chicago? I'd love to meet you!

  44. Thanks for the banana comment. I actually make my banana pudding with jello, I know, slap my hand, but it's really yummy! =)I'll have to give the old fashion kind a try real soon.

    I have another question for ya (if you have time).....Do you have a good southern dressing recipe? My favorite is made with Peppridge Farm seasoning crumbs in a bag. Do you make yours that way?

  45. Just wanna ask, for desserts if I make creme Brule, the last part of melting or crystallizing the sugar, any any other methods except using a flame torch? Have been looking very hard for the flame torch butr couldn't find.

  46. Hey Whitney....so just wanting to do a more traditional Roast Turkey this week....any secret ingredients or seasonings that you could pass along? (I thought about frying but don't think I'll be able to get everything organized in time). Thanks!

  47. @brandilove16 My mom makes my dad's grandmother's recipe for cornbread dressing. I put a twist on it with using fresh herbs.
    This recipe is in my cookbook.
    Grandmother Adele's Dressing with a Twist
    2 ½ cups cornbread, crumbled (can use leftover cornbread)
    1 cup white bread, torn into small pieces
    ½ medium sized onion, quartered
    ½ cup celery, chopped into large pieces
    1 egg, beaten well
    1 egg, hard boiled and diced into small pieces
    1 tsp. fresh thyme
    1 1/2 tsp. fresh sage
    ½ tsp. fresh rosemary
    ½ tsp. salt
    ¼ tsp. ground black pepper
    2 cups chicken broth
    ¼ cup butter, melted

    Preheat oven to 350. In a medium size mixing bowl, combine cornbread crumbles and small white bread pieces.
    Place onion and celery in food processor and pulse until fine.
    Add to bread mixture and stir to combine. Then, add eggs and mix together well. Next, finely dice herbs and stir into dressing mixture. Season with salt and pepper. Last of all, add broth and melted butter. Stir.
    Spray cooking oil on 6 small quiche or tart pans (about 4 1/2 inches wide and 1 inch tall or holding about ½ cup dressing mixture each) and pour dressing mixture to fill.
    Cook in oven on 350 for 25 – 30 minutes or until lightly brown around edges and middle is set. After a few minutes, take individual dressings out of pans and place bottom side down on plates.

    Serves: 6 ppl

  48. Don't know why it gave that crazy name...lol....my name is Joel :o)

  49. @Akane I had a boyfriend once who was obsessed with truffle oil and put it on almost EVERYTHING. I haven't been able to eat truffles since, and I've had a whole black truffle in the freezer for a few years now. Just remember that it's REALLY strong, and that it can be overwhelming, so don't use more than a few drops until you're sure that you and your guests will appreciate the flavor!

  50. @mookie This is my recipe for chicken. You can opt to not make the gravy and serve it with the orange marmalade.

    Butter and Herb Roasted Chicken
    3 celery stalks, ends removed
    3 carrot, peeled & halved lengthwise
    1 medium yellow onion, sliced
    3 garlic cloves, smashed
    Whole chicken (cut up)
    ¼ tsp. salt
    ¼ tsp. black pepper

    Butter & Herb compote:
    2 Tbsp. butter, softened at room temp
    1/8 tsp. fresh thyme
    ¼ tsp. chopped fresh rosemary
    ½ tsp. chopped sage
    1 garlic clove, crushed
    1/8 tsp. black pepper
    ½ tsp. kosher salt

    1 cup chicken broth
    4 Tbsp. all-purpose flour
    Salt and pepper to taste

    Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
    Place celery, carrots, onion slices, and garlic cloves in the bottom of a roasting pan or large glass baking dish. Lay chicken pieces on top of the vegetables.

    In a small bowl, mix all of the butter & herb compote ingredients together.
    Rub the compote under the skin and on top of each piece of chicken.

    Pour chicken broth into the bottom of the pan. Bake for 1 hour. Place roasted chicken onto a serving platter. Strain broth from pan into a bowl. Discard vegetables.

    For pan gravy, pour 1 cup of reserved broth into a medium saucepan. Bring broth to a simmer over medium heat. Whisk in flour. Cook for 3-4 minutes or until gravy has thickened. Season gravy with salt and pepper to taste.

    Serve gravy with roasted chicken.
    Serves: 4-6 ppl

  51. @Akane you could slightly season the mashed potatoes with the truffle salt and finish the mashed potatoes with a drizzle of truffle oil. Less is more with truffle oil. You can also add a little truffle oil with the butter, milk, etc. Taste taste taste along the way so that you don't have an overwhelming truffle flavor. You don't want to mask the potato flavor

  52. @Akane I have had a book signing at a Women's Health event this summer. I am not sure the next time I will be there. If and when I do, I will post it.

  53. @Joel you can also use the broiler in your oven but be quick with this method because you don't want to loosen the creme part too much.

  54. @Joel I think Wal-Mart may sell a creme brulee kit that includes a torch

  55. @Joel I just posted my Butter and Herb Roasted Chicken recipe under this comment section. You can substitute turkey for the chicken for a flavorful turkey

  56. Thanks for all the comments! If you have anymore I will try to answer them tomorrow

  57. Thanks alot for answering my questions! :) oh and im not Joel btw haha. I've another question that I've been wanting to ask, hope you don't mind. During the time in masterchef, you guys have to come up with dishes on the spot, I would like to know like for desserts, are there any tricks or tips for it? Cos I always had to refer to recipes when baking any cookies or scones or desserts :(

  58. Erm what I meant was like how do you know the proportion of flour, sugar or stuff that you need to add in? Any tricks or was it based on experiences?

  59. @dark3stmemori3s sorry about the name confusion. For the competitions, we had to have recipes memorized. I always had certain recipes like a basic cake, cookies, pate choux, etc memorized so that I would be prepared for anything. The more you cook, the more it because second nature and natural for you. It's easy to know how to do something on the fly if I have done it before.

  60. I cooked the pie on a pizza stone, and no more soggy crust! Thanks for the hint.

  61. @flotsam and jetsam I am glad to hear it worked for you!

  62. hi. I would like to know your chocolate soufflé recipe for an especial dinner with my husband. I´ve tried some from internet but was a desaster. thank´s. Talita