Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Keep These on Hand for Easy Entertaining...

I'm getting ready for drop-in guests over the holidays by stocking my cupboards and fridge now. Here are a few of my favorite things to have on hand for effortless entertaining...
Clemetines, Satsumas, or any kind of Orange. They're at their juicy best in December. Fudge covered Ritz crackers will give you that sweet-salty crunch that we all crave.

Tillamook cheese. I love the stuff. I keep a couple of babyloaves on hand to slice up for a cheese platter. I love the Vintage White Cheddar, Pepperjack and Sharp Cheddar.
I just discovered these new crackers and I'm hooked. Along with the nutty pecan flavor, you get a subtle maple sweetness. Nut Crisps and Tillamook Cheddar are my new favorite lunch buddies.

Here's a tiny picture of Nestle Chocolate Mint Instant Cocoa Mix. I'm not normally a fan of instant cocoa mix, but this version is rich and flavorful. With some whipped cream and marshmallows, we're talking instant party.

I'll also keep olives, cashews, garlic bread, Christmas M and Ms, and frozen homemade tomato soup around for any suprise visitors. What am I missing? Leave me a comment and let me know what else I need in my holiday stockpile. Be back tomorrow with potato latkes....

Monday, November 29, 2010

The Stats...

4 (20 lb) turkeys
1 (15 lb.) ham
30 lbs of potatoes
4 lbs of sweet potatoes
5 lbs. or corn
5 lbs of green beans
1 lb. cranberry sauce
15 quarts of gravy
4 (9 by 13) dishes of stuffing
12 dozen rolls
3 pumpkin cheesecakes
1 pecan pie
1 apple pie
1 raspberry pie
1 pumpkin pie
2 ice cream cakes
60 guests for the weekend
And it's all gone. (Except for a few of the guests and they are packing up as I write.) There is a lot to do before the dinner and during the dinner and after the weekend. But there is even more to do on Monday morning after a holiday. Time to get cracking.
Here's a few pictures of my favorite parts of the weekend. Hope you all had a very Happy Thanksgiving.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Prudy's Online Thanksgiving Hotline 2010

Welcome to Prudy's Online Thanksgiving Hotline. I really want to put my phone number here and let each and every one of you call me all day. My husband thinks I am crazy, especially since we are having 43 people for Thanksgiving dinner. (Does anybody else want to come? I've still got two wicker chairs and a patio table that nobody has claimed.) I am here, ready and willing to answer your last minute cooking and baking questions. I'll update throughout the day as any questions come in.
I just made your gravy base and it is oddly sweet. Will it balance out with the drippings?
Yes, never fear. The turkey drippings are intensely savory and your finished gravy will be only slightly sweet.
Can I leave my brown bag apple pie overnight without baking it or will the crust get too soggy?
Because the press-in crust is so sturdy, your pie will be just fine if you wait till tomorrow. Just be sure to toss your apples with a little lemon juice to keep them looking fresh. Your pie's going to be fantastic warm out of the oven with a melting scoop of vanilla ice cream. Yum!
Hey Prudy , if I make the corn recipe as you have described and bake it ahead can I then pore it into a crock pot to transport and serve and if so ...when should I add the parmesan cheese ?
Skip the oven and the pot and make the whole darn thing in the crock pot. Add corn, cream, sugar, and salt to the crock pot and cook on low for two hours. Mix together butter and flour and stir into corn; cook on low for one more hour. Sprinkle with parmesan cheese about 10 minutes before serving. Nice and easy!
I have been stalking your blog for a while and thoroughly enjoy your posts. I am taking the opportunity of your hotline to ask about your roll recipe - how long can I let it stay in the "fridge" stage before I need to roll them out and let them rise and bake? Can I make it a few days ahead and let it sit in the fridge? (Krista asked the same question-so I'm killing two birds with one roll.) First of all, thanks for your kind words. I'm going to do a hotline more often, just to boost my self esteem.:) As for the rolls, they can happily spend two days in the fridge, just chillin' till you need them. If you haven't started them yet, run home and mix them up. Or wait till tonight. Or make them tomorrow morning. That's what I love best about them.

How many side dishes are you serving? Anything out of the ordinary?
This year, we're trying to keep it to the minimum since we have a big group for dinner. We'll be serving Summit House Corn, Green Beans Almondine, Cornbread Stuffing with Cranberries, Traditional Sage and Celery Stuffing, along with our Mashed Potatoes, Gravy and Turkey. Our most unusual side dish is my Aunt Charlotte's sweet potatoes with green apple, pecans, and orange. Why haven't I posted it yet??? Do you have a way to make canned whole-berry cranberry sauce more interesting? We can make it interesting, but can we make it delicious? Oh, yes. Since canned cranberry sauce is super sweet, think about adding some bold, bright flavors to balance it out. Stir in a tablespoon of orange zest, or a squeeze of lime juice. A few tablespoons of crushed pineapple would give it some tart zip. For textural contrast, another great option would be a few handfuls of chopped nuts and some dried cranberries. Suddenly I find myself craving canned whole-berry cranberry sauce. Now that’s interesting.
I love your blog and am so glad that you have open Thanksgiving hotline again this year. Here is my question:How do I get it all piping hot on the table at the same exact moment in time for grace? Muchas Gracias! This is always the trickiest part, isn’t it? First of all, unless you’re cooking for a very small group, you need to get some of the cooking done in the days before Thanksgiving. Try making your pies, stuffing, yams, roll dough, and gravy base before the big day. (Bring everything to room temperature before serving time and then give it a good zap in the microwave to get it piping hot.) The Turkey needs priority in the oven, so make sure everything besides the rolls are baked before you put that turkey in. Tom turkey will need to rest for 30 minutes between oven and carving time, so pop your rolls in at precisely that moment. With a little luck, everything should be just perfectly piping hot as you say Amen. And if it isn’t, anyone who complains can do the dishes. For eternity. My sister-in-law is a terrible cook....sorry, sister, but it is true.What can I have her bring besides ice?or how do I nicely supply a specific recipe?
Well, this is always an interesting issue, isn’t it? What does the hostess do to make everyone feel involved, even the chefs with two left thumbs? First of all, consider what kind of party you are hosting. This isn’t an engagement party for two English royals, this is a family Thanksgiving. It’s less important that the food be perfect than it is for everyone to feel included and loved. Ask your sister-in-law what she would like to bring for dinner. She might just surprise you and ask to bring the ice, and then your problem is solved. But if she wants to bring her Aunt Bertha’s famous sardine infused brussel sprouts, just smile and tell her you can’t wait to try them. A little human warmth can do wonders for the appetite. Post Edit: A wise reader suggested that you assign her a relish tray. Perfect! this may not really be a hotline question, but i've never found a good blackberry pie recipe. do you have a favorite? i don't want one with blueberries in it:)
Mwah, ha, ha. You better believe it. Have you been rummaging through my secret files, because this one is a fairly new discovery that I’m hoarding till next summer. Here’s a sneak peek. Let me know if you need it now, and I’ll email it to you post haste. If not, I’m saving it for some patriotic, sunny holiday many degrees Fahrenheit away.

Leave a comment with your question and I'll get back to you just as quick as you can say Prudence Pennywise...

Monday, November 22, 2010

Indispensible Holiday Corn-See For Yourself!

I'm going to show you how to make my favorite holiday corn, I really am. But first, let me tell you about our weekend. We had cousins come into town early for Thanksgiving. They had barely stepped foot out of the car when we whisked them away to a Riders in the Sky concert. These are four of the silliest goofball cowpokes you ever did see. (Um, I'm not sure if I'm talking about the singers or the kids. I'll let you decide.) I hope I get to see them in concert again. Kids and grown-ups alike were doubled over with laughter. We left tapping our toes and humming through smiles. This weekend was also our local hospital fundraiser, The Jubilee of Trees. Talented people in the community decorate and donate trees for auction. Generous people in the community buy these decorated trees. Last year my parents bought a Peter Pan tree that I inherited this year. I'll give you a peek later (and a peek of the one they bought this year), but here's a sample of one of the themed trees available for purchase. This one caught my eye for the Quiet Man's parents. It would be perfect in their Nantucket room. If I had a million dollars....
The charges were part of the entertainment at the Jubilee. Sailor has been playing the violin there for the last five years, and West for the last three. He's come a long, long way. (I used to have to crouch behind him for moral support. Now I sit in the audience making silly faces at him.)I never get sick of watching them play, not at home or abroad. I'm getting my money's worth for those violin lessons. I've got my own little string duo that always owe me a favor. And of course, we had to take part in all of the good times at the Jubilee, in the name of charity, tut tut! I almost almost almost stood in line for face painting myself. I want a pretty snowflake on my cheek.

This one was a crack-up. For a buck, the kids could be inside a giant bubble. Who thinks of these things?Boy in a plastic bubble.All right, enough with the weekend and let's get one to the week. It is THE week. Thanksgiving is a mere few days away. Are you making pie crusts and freezing rolls and brining turkeys? I ought to be, but I'm getting a slow start due to excessive play. (See above photos.) But today, doggone it, I'm making this corn and putting it into the fridge. This recipes hails from a beautiful restaurant in Fullerton, California known as the Summit House. Some people (me) go there and order bowl fulls of the fantastic stuff. This is corn at Daddy Warbuck's house on Christmas morning. It doesn't get any better than this. It's decadent all right, but that's why I save it for holiday meals and dinner parties. Start off with a handful of easy ingredients: frozen corn, flour, butter, sugar, cream, and salt and pepper. (Sugar, where are you? Did you not want your picture taken?)
Place the corn, salt, sugar, pepper, and cream in a saucepan and bring to a boil.

In a small bowl, combine softened butter and flour to make "kneaded butter."

Add to the corn mixture to thicken.

Pour it into a buttered casserole dish. Store it covered in the fridge and warm it up in the oven right before you're ready to eat it.

If you want it to be extra over-the-top delicious, sprinkle the top with parmesan and put it under the broiler to brown. Oh, yes. It's going to be good. And you might want to double it, since I have never, ever had any leftovers no matter how much I make. Try not to eat it all for dinner tonight.
PS Have you got any questions about Thanksgiving dinner? It's time for Prudy's Online Thanksgiving Hotline. Leave a comment and let me at 'em.
Money Saving Tips:
Swap out the cream for evaporated milk. Use canned corn in place of the frozen, if that's what you've got. Canned and frozen corn should be on sale for pennies this week.
Creamed Corn Au Grautin from the Summit House
Estimated Cost: $4.oo for 8 servings
1 lb. frozen corn
1 and 1/2 cups whipping cream
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons sugar
pinch of pepper
1 and 1/2 tablespoons softened butter
1 and 1/2 tablespoons flour
3 tablespoons finely shredded parmesan cheese
Combine corn, cream, salt, sugar and pepper in a pot and bring to a boil. Simmer for five minutes. In a small bowl, mix flour and butter until completely smooth. Add to corn mixture and stir until well combined. Return to a boil. Simmer for one minute. Remove from heat. Pour into a buttered oven-proof dish (an 8 or 9 inch square, pie or quiche dish will all work). Place tightly covered in fridge until ready to serve. Just before serving, heat oven to 425. Sprinkle corn with parmesan and bake until hot and bubbly. (For Thanksgiving dinner, I bake it completely in advance and heat it in the microwave just before dinner time. )

Up Next: Prudy's Online Thanksgiving Hotline-leave a comment and ask away!

Saturday, November 20, 2010

My Favorite Pumpkin Pie with Pecan Streusel

I was getting ready to post my pumpkin ginger cheesecake, one of my signature dishes around the holidays. I started to look through pictures, making sure that I hadn't posted it already. This is what I found from last year. They look like babes in arms compared to this year. I like them just like this, chubby cheeked and smiling. These were our guests.and this was our dinner last year. Here's Dad reading to the kids later in the evening.
If you peeked in on us this year, I suspect it would look just about the same, except for last year's wee ones are a bit taller and trimmer and there are new little babies taking their place. When it's all said and done, even though Thanksgiving is a truckload of work, I am so happy to be able to share it with my family. My whippersnappers aren't going to be little forever. I'm so glad they have such happy memories with their cousins, aunts, uncles and grandparents. They might not be little forever, but a happy memory is eternal.
After looking through all my old pictures and posts, I discovered that I hadn't shared my ultimate favorite Pumpkin Pie with Pecan Streusel. I will still post my cheesecake, but it's going to take a backseat. (Don't worry Heidi-I'll still make you one for your birthday.) The cheesecake can stick around through New Year's but this pie, this pie is all about Thanksgiving. I found the recipe in Bon Appetit in 1994, when I was a college student. I've since tinkered, but the credit should be theirs. (The original top-rated recipe is here. )The spiced pumpkin filling is silky and rich, just like you would expect. What makes the pie exceptional is the ginger scented pecan streusel topping. I have to guard this pie like a hawk, or my pesty little brother Roy will steal all the streusel off the top. It's a little game we play, he and I. We've been raging a pumpkin pie war for sixteen years now and I wouldn't have it any other way. Make my pie and drive your own little brothers crazy. It's all part of the happy memories.
Money Saving Tips: Stock up on canned pumpkin this week when you can get it for a buck. Substitute evaporated milk for the half and half, if you don't have it on hand. Walnuts would be everybit as nice as pecans, if you can find them for cheaper this week.
Pumpkin Pie with Pecan Streusel, adapted from Bon Appetit
1 pie crust, partially baked (click here for my recipe and tutorial)
1 16-ounce can solid pack pumpkin
1 1/2 cups half and half
3 large eggs
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup packed golden brown sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoons ground allspice
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup all purpose flour
1/2 cup packed golden brown sugar
1/2 cup coarsely chopped pecans (about 2 1/2 ounces)
1 tablespoon finely minced crystallized ginger, optional
1 1/2 teaspoons ground ginger
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut into small pieces, room temperature
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.For filling:Whisk all ingredients in large bowl until combined. Pour into partially baked, cooled pie crust. Bake until skin begins to form on filling and filling begins to set, about 50 minutes. Remove from oven. Let pie stand 10 minutes to set slightly. Maintain oven temperature.
Meanwhile, prepare topping:Mix first 5 ingredients in medium bowl. Rub in butter with fingertips until mixture begins to form small clumps. Sprinkle topping over pie. Bake until pie is set and streusel is golden brown, about 25 minutes. Transfer to rack and cool completely. Serve with whipped cream.

Next Up: Summit House Corn