Monday, November 19, 2012

Thoughts on Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving.  The most glorious holiday of the year.  The holiday where your sole purpose is to consume food.  No dressing up in goofy costumes.  No silly exchanging of presents and "small talk" with the dreaded in-laws (oh, still might have to do that).  Nope, it is a day that one dedicates entirely to the preparation and consumption of mass quantities of (largely unhealthy but) crazy delicious grub.

Best.  Day.  EVER.

Last year, my parents and I traveled down to Oregon to spend Turkey Day with my sister Holly and her family.  I wasn't flying in until the afternoon on Thanksgiving proper, so we decided to go avant-garde last year and go out for Thanksgiving.  As in, not cook anything.

It had never been done before.  By anyone in my family ever.

I mean, we're not crazy or anything.  We didn't want to take a gamble.  So we chose one of our favorite little restaurants located in McMinnville, Oregon called Bistro Maison.  This meal was crazy good.  We still think about it- the incredible chestnut stuffing, the luscious mashed potatoes, the vat of homemade gravy.  The most beautiful, delicious food on Thanksgiving you could ever consume, as only the French could do.  And I would know, because I went to France this summer and they do food right.

Sadly, no Freedom Fries this year.  Instead, Holly has installed austerity measures at her house, which means a homemade Thanksgiving for us. As Holly and I were working on the menu for our feast last night, I kept clicking and surfing to find some of my favorite holiday recipes from years past.  And I thought it might be helpful to share some of the all-star recipes I have come across over the years.  Here are some of my faves:

- Roasted Brussels Sprouts- the Barefoot Contessa rocked my world with this recipe years ago, and it's been a staple on my family's Thanksgiving table ever since.

- Apple and Sausage Stuffing- my go-to stuffing recipe.  Easy, and never fails.

- Creamy Mashed Potatoes- my friend Kate swears by these.  Best she's ever made.

- Roasted Beets- the most delicious beet recipe known to man.  I've made lovers out of the biggest beet haters with this recipe.  Stunningly easy and delicious.

- Cheesy Corn Casserole- easily my most popular recipe (and a constant reminder when I'm in the kitchen of the classic adage: "Keep it simple, stupid.")

- Roasted Asparagus- another huge veggie crowd pleaser.  Fast and dummy-proof.

- Chili-Spiced Roasted Acorn Squash- a new one to the repertoire, but worthy of a mention.

As for the turkey, Holly and I want to try our hands at brining this year, so we're testing out our pal Alton Brown's recipe for the perfect bird.  Keeping our fingers crossed! 

Gobble gobble!
xo H

Monday, November 5, 2012

Chili-Spiced Roasted Acorn Squash

I love fall.  The crisp autumn air, the crush of fallen leaves underfoot, and the abundance of pumpkins and apples in the local grocery store.  As much as I love the bounty that comes in spring and summer, I think I enjoy cooking in the chilly months the most of all.  Which is a good thing, considering the "chillier months" take up most of the calendar year here in Alaska.  Now is the season of comforting, soups, stews, roasts, and casseroles.

In the midst of enjoying the bounty of rich and hearty dishes at this time of year, I've noticed a peculiar thing happening in my wardrobe.  You see, it's shrinking.  I kid you not!  And at about the same time, I swear my scale broke.  8 pounds?!  I have not gain 8 pounds. Ridiculous.  I'm certain the recent splurges on cheeses, chocolates, wine, fresh-baked artisan breads, and...oh, you name it.  I'm sure they had absolutely nothing to do with it.  I'm just retaining water.

Ok, time to get real, Heidi.

For the most part, I eat a pretty healthy diet.  Lots of whole grains, lean meats, fruits and veggies.   But as a self-professed food-lover, I tend to indulge my passion a bit too much at times.  So its time to buckle down and try to fit back into my skinny jeans (that cost WAY too much for me not to fit into them- very cruel trend) before the chub-inducing holidays come knocking.  But just because I'm eating healthy doesn't mean I need to eat boring!  

Enter this dish: roasted acorn squash with the volume turned up.  I LOVE squash- hearty, filling, and full of healthy vitamins.  Also, very fall-y.  Is that a word?  Well, it is now.  It's perfectly paired with chili powder and cumin.  And no need to peel- the skin is edible!  The squash becames warm and buttery, with a little spicy pizzazz.  It's a great side dish pork or a spice-rubbed steak.  I paired it with simple seared salmon.  So start eating your veggies...I think you'll like 'em!

Chili-Spiced Roasted Acorn Squash

1 acorn squash
1 T. olive oil
1 t. salt
1 t. chili powder
1/2 t. cumin

Heat the oven to 450 degrees.

Slice the squash in half long-wise, scoop out the seeds, and slice off the root and tail ends. Cut the squash in 1/2 inch thick half-moons. Place the squash slices on a shallow baking sheet and toss with the olive oil, salt, chili powder, and cumin Arrange the slices in a single layer and bake for 25-35 minutes until golden brown, turning once.


xo H