everyday vita: thanksgiving

 This year, my family and I spent Thanksgiving in Newport, Rhode Island, my dad’s hometown. 

the feast.

The journey got off to a great start.  We were an hour early for our flight (unlike last time where we literally ran through the gate).  Even better, there was a brand new Pinkberry in the terminal. I’m not the biggest fan of Arby’s and Panda Express (airport staples), so this frosty, coconut-mango goodness put me in a great mood!

I was carrying two pumpkin chocolate chip loaves, a loaf of orange cranberry bread (recipe coming soon!), a huge Ziploc of cornbread cubes (for my apple cornbread stuffing), and a big panettone (also for my stuffing.  Just for the record, panettone works wonders in stuffing — those sweet, citrus-y notes of panettone along with apples, cranberries and heavy cream are to die for.

Thank you TSA for not taking my baked goods from me.

Soon after we landed in Newport and said our hellos, the cooking commenced.

I made Julia Child’s simple cranberry sauce. (even though my dad insisted on buying the canned stuff as well).  In my opinion, freshly popped cranberries with citrus zest will always win over the stuff that still has can rings on it… but to each his own ;).

Instead of mashed potatoes, I whipped up some rosemary roasted potatoes.  With crunchy, oven-fried edges and smooth insides, these were addictive.
I made white cheddar biscuits in my grandma’s cast iron skillet.  I felt like a strong independent pioneer woman making her own skillet biscuits on the old frontier.  Except not, because I was in my grandmother’s kitchen with a space heater wearing my fuzzy Christmas socks and listening to Macklemore. Oh well, we can pretend…
My dad made the turkey, isn’t it festive? Look at that shiny glaze! Looks like it jumped out of Martha Stewart to me– nice job daddy!

But these sweet potatoes stole the show.  I made Ruth Chris’ sweet potato casserole, and it was an all around hit.  Make this for your next holiday gathering… or dinner tonight. You’ll thank me. 
Then I whipped up some fresh whipped cream to go with the pies.  Pies don’t Instagram very well… so no pictures. I made my crunchy, custardy tart with apples, and the simplest pumpkin pie in the world.  I had the leftover whipped cream with coffee the next morning.  Not coffee with whipped cream, whipped cream with coffee. Oh yeah. 😉

I did take some breaks from the kitchen to walk around Newport.  The silhouette of St. Georges (my dad’s high school) looked so gorgeous and purple at sunset.

I walked past Rosecliff mansion. Funny because we are reading the Great Gatsby in school at the moment. Party at Gatsbys?

When I woke up on the next morning, this little guy was perched outside my window.  He literally sat there staring at me for an entire 20 minutes. (don’t judge me for staring back the entire time… no wonder I almost didn’t finish packing).

Hope you all had wonderful, cozy Thanksgivings!
Get psyched for Christmas cookie season!

With love,
Erica

recipe showdown: sweet potato casserole

I thought it would be a good idea to try four very different recipes for this showdown. However, each of these recipes were very good in its own way.  I’m not saying that to be diplomatic.  Just like their is a perfect outfit for every occasion, there is a perfect sweet potato casserole for every occasion. Here’s the lowdown.

Martha Stewart’s Sweet Potato Casserole:
Perfect for kids, with a beautiful presentation that adults will enjoy as well!
Martha’s sweet potato casserole has a very simple base (just sweet potatoes, milk, and a dash of salt and pepper). But it’s topped with a big, bubbly layer of toasted marshmallows.  It is by far the prettiest of the four casseroles — the toasted marshmallows look so enticing and beautiful on the table!

Ruth’s Chris Sweet Potato Casserole:
Oh. My. God. This sweet potato casserole is knock-your-socks-off tasty.  The buttery, brown sugar topping gets all crispy and delightful.  My mom said she is still thinking about this casserole to this day!  Sure there’s a lot of buttery and brown sugar-y goodness in there, but in the taste department this casserole was the clear winner.

Oh She Glow’s Not Your Grandmother’s Sweet Potato Casserole:
This casserole held its own extremely well against its buttery and sugary counterparts. Sweetened with maple syrup and topped with coconut oil and whole wheat flour, this casserole is not only healthy, but delicious too! Trust me!

Kraft’s Oat Topped Sweet Potato Crisp:
This one was the only one that wasn’t a huge hit, the oats were a bit mushy, and the cream cheese added a strange tang to the sweet potatoes. 🙁

Hope this quick showdown helps you choose which sweet potato casserole to make for your Thanksgiving feast!

With love,
Erica

thanksgiving menu

Sides:

The perfect side, with an irresistible balance of sweet and savory

This take cornbread to a whole new level!

 Desserts:

Instead of a traditional apple pie, I plan on making my crunchy custardy tart with apples instead of peaches.

Need I say more?
I am going to sprinkle this with Pumpkin seeds. We can have this for breakfast the following morning.
 

apple cornbread stuffing

 Thanksgiving is just around the corner, and I’ve been busy planning my menu for a while now.  I’ve already found the perfect cornbread, we’ve ordered a turkey, I have six pie crusts in my fridge… the only thing left is the stuffing! Stuffing has always been my favorite Thanksgiving dish, so this year, it better be good.  We usually make stuffing from a mix, but  I want to make homemade stuffing this year.  I was getting frustrated finding a recipe that measured up to Kraft’s Stove Top Stuffing Mix.  The recipes that I tried all have either too much chicken broth, are to mushy, or are too oily.

Luckily, this one is different.  It’s not a traditional stuffing (i.e. you can’t actually stuff a turkey with it), but boy is it good. It’s technically a bread pudding, but when served in a casserole dish, it can totally pass for stuffing. It is a wonderful medley of sweet and savory flavors.  Apples, fluffy bread, and whipping cream complement sage, cornbread and onions.

This recipe is from the restaurant Ris in Washington D.C.. The Washingtonian has a series called “recipe sleuth” where they track down awesome recipes from famous restaurants in Washington D.C.. I love knowing that I can save time and money making real, restaurant food at home.  It makes me feel like I’m beating the system.

When I tested the recipe, I used a loaf of brioche from Whole Foods. However, there was a sale on panettone at the grocery store this weekend, so I am planning on replacing the brioche with panettone for our Thanksgiving feast.  I use homemade cornbread in this recipe (bake up a double batch, use half in this recipe, and serve half as a side dish); however, store bought cornbread would work just fine as well.

With love,
Erica

NOTE: The panettone makes this recipe absolutely delicious! Brioche and challah are good, but panettone makes this casserole absolutely legendary. If you can get your hands on one, by all means use panettone.

Ingredients

2 tablespoons butter, plus more for greasing ramekins
1 cup peeled, ¾-inch diced Honeycrisp or Braeburn apples
1 cup finely julienned onions
2 cups ¾-inch diced cornbread, from a favorite recipe or storebought
2 cups ¾-inch diced brioche or challah (I use Panettone which is DELICIOUS)
4 tablespoons chopped fresh sage (blanch the leaves before chopping)
4 tablespoons fresh thyme
4 tablespoons chopped Italian parsley
1 teaspoon salt, or more to taste
½ teaspoon ground pepper
4 ounces apple butter (see recipe below)
4 large eggs
1 egg yolk
½ teaspoon Tabasco sauce
2 cups heavy cream

Butter
the bottom and sides of eight 8-ounce ramekins and set aside. Preheat
the oven to 300 degrees for a convection oven or 325 for a conventional
oven.

Melt 1 tablespoon butter in a pan over medium-high heat.
Add the cut apples, letting them sit briefly to gain color. Stir and
allow them to cook a few minutes more until they’re lightly brown but
still firm. Remove from pan and set aside.

Melt the other
tablespoon of butter over medium-high heat. Add the onions, stirring
occasionally until they’re soft and lightly colored, about 5 minutes.
Season with salt and pepper. Set aside and let cool.

In a large
bowl, combine the cornbread, brioche, herbs, salt, white pepper, apple
butter, and the caramelized apples and onions once they’ve cooled. In a
separate bowl, whisk together the eggs, egg yolk, Tabasco, and cream.
Add the egg mixture to the cornbread mixture and let soak for 10
minutes, stirring occasionally. Taste and adjust seasoning if necessary.

Divide the mixture into each of the buttered ramekins, filling
each to ¼ inch from the top. Place the ramekins in a water bath and bake
for about 30 minutes or until an inserted toothpick comes out clean.
(This recipe can be prepared in a larger casserole form, which bakes for
a longer time, roughly 45 minutes. Again, test the doneness with a
toothpick.)


Apple Butter

2 Honeycrisp or Braeburn apples, peeled and sliced (roughly ¼-inch thick)
1 tablespoon butter

Melt
the butter in a pan over medium heat. Add the sliced apples, letting
them rest a minute or two to get color. Stir and cook a few minutes
longer so the apples are lightly brown and soft. Purée in a blender, and
let cool before mixing with other ingredients.

From the Washingtonian