Orange Ginger Cranberry Sauce

As I've noted previously, cranberries are among my favorite holiday dishes. Earlier in the month, I experimented with cranberry relish; today, I am returning to an old favorite, orange ginger cranberry sauce. This recipe requires little prep work aside from opening the bag of cranberries and measuring out a few other ingredients and can be whipped up in about 15-20 minutes, so it is perfect if you are in a hurry and need to put together something fast.

Orange Ginger Cranberry Sauce
12 oz. bag fresh or frozen cranberries
1 cup orange juice (with pulp)
1/2 cup sugar
1 T. fresh chopped ginger (or ginger paste)

1. Combine all ingredients in a large saucepan and heat to boiling over medium heat, stirring often.

2. Reduce heat to medium-low and continue simmering (and stirring often) for about 10 minutes.

3. Remove sauce from heat and mash using a potato masher. Allow to cool and thicken, then place in an airtight container and refrigerate.

Banana - Chocolate Chip Muffins

I've posted a few times previously about ways to spruce up out-of-the-box quick bread mixes (here and here) - today I'm adding the recipe for a batch of banana-chocolate chip muffins that can be made using banana quick bread mix as the base. Eat these plain or serve with peanut butter (or another topping of your choice).

Banana - Chocolate Chip Muffins (approx. 18 muffins)
1 box Pillsbury Quick Bread mix, banana flavor
1 cup milk
2 eggs
1/2 cup applesauce
1/2 cup mashed ripe banana
1/2 cup chocolate chips

1. Preheat oven to 400F and grease (or line with baking cups) approximately 18 muffin cups.

2. Stir together quick bread mix, milk, eggs, applesauce, mashed banana, and chocolate chips.

3. Pour batter into muffin cups, about 1/4 cup batter per muffin cup. If any muffin cups are not filled with batter, fill about halfway with water (this will even out baking).

4. Bake 15-20 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out cleanly. Remove muffin tins from oven and cool for about 30 minutes, then remove muffins to wire rack to finish cooling.


Maple Pumpkin Butter

Whether you've made zucchini - apple bread or another quick bread, picked up some scones or muffins from the store, or need a topping for pancakes and waffles, this maple pumpkin butter is a perfect accompaniment to your Thanksgiving breakfast spread. During the baking you'll need to stir the pumpkin butter quite often, so you might want to make this while already in the kitchen for other reasons.

Maple Pumpkin Butter
1 29 oz. can solid pack pumpkin
3/4 cup apple cider
3/4 cup maple syrup
1/4 cup brown sugar
1.5 tsp. cinnamon
1 T. fresh chopped ginger (or ginger paste)
dash of nutmeg

1. Preheat oven to 350F.

2. Stir together all ingredients in a saucepan over medium heat. Continue stirring as mixture comes to a boil and simmer for 5 minutes.

3. Transfer mixture to an 8 x 8 baking dish and place in 350F oven. Cook for approximately 1.5 hours, stirring every 15 minutes, until pumpkin butter has thickened and any liquid has cooked away.

4. Remove from oven and cool. Transfer to glass jar or other container, cover, and refrigerate until ready to use.

Zucchini - Apple Bread (and tips for sprucing up some out-of-the-box quick breads)

With Thanksgiving houseguests soon making their appearances, the time is right for preparing a few quick breads to have on hand for snacks and breakfast treats. Preparing this zucchini - apple bread takes a little time (mostly because of the time needed to grate the zucchini), but isn't something that you'll find in the ready-made quick bread mixes available at the store. If you are a bit pressed for time and are looking for ideas on how to spruce up some of the prepared mixes, scroll down to the bottom of this post for some ideas using pumpkin and cranberry breads.

Zucchini - Apple Bread
1.5 cups flour
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. nutmeg
1 egg
1 cup sugar
1 cup finely grated zucchini (do not peel before grating)
1/4 cup applesauce

1. Preheat oven to 350F and spray an 8 x 4 inch loaf pan [or 3 3 x 5 inch mini loaf pans] with non-stick spray.

2. Combine flour, cinnamon, baking soda, salt, baking powder, and nutmeg in a medium bowl.

3. In another bowl, combine egg, sugar, zucchini, and applesauce. Pour zucchini mixture into flour mixture and stir until batter is just moistened, then pour into prepared loaf pan.

4. Bake at 350F for 50-55 minutes [for mini loaves, 35-45 min] or until a toothpick inserted near center comes out clean. Cool in pan on wire rack for 10 minutes, then remove from pan and continue cooling on wire rack until completely cooled. Wrap tightly in plastic or aluminum foil to store.

Easy spruce-ups for quick breads
When I called down to my uncle's house to ask what he'd like me to contribute for the big meal on Thursday, the first thing that he asked for was some of my "magic breads." While these quick bread might be magic, they aren't too difficult to make - in fact, they only require choosing your favorite mix-ins and adding them to a ready-made box mix (like Pillsbury) before baking!

Pumpkin Quick Bread
- 1/2 cup butterscotch or chocolate chips
- 1/2 cup raisins
- 1/2 cup chopped nuts
- 1 T. fresh chopped ginger (or ginger paste)
- use apple cider instead of water in the mix (1-for-1 substitution)
- use applesauce instead of oil in the mix (1-for-1 substitution)

Cranberry Quick Bread
- 1/2 cup white chocolate chips
- use orange juice instead of water in the mix (1-for-1 substitution)
- use applesauce instead of oil in the mix (1-for-1 substitution)


Cranberry - Apple - Raisin Relish

Next up in the preparation for Thanksgiving is a new (to me) variation on an old favorite - cranberry relish. Cranberry dishes are one of my favorites in the holiday meal (along with sweet potatoes) and making one is remarkably easy - not quite as simple as opening a can of jellied cranberry sauce, but much more rewarding (and tastier, too!). I found this recipe in Sunday's Parade magazine and made a few adjustments to reduce the sweetness and up the spice.

Cranberry - Apple - Raisin Relish (about 3.5 cups)
12 oz. bag fresh cranberries
1 large apple, peeled, cored, and chopped
1 cup golden raisins
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup orange juice (with pulp)
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
3/4 tsp. chopped fresh ginger or ginger paste
1 T. balsamic vinegar

1. Mix together cranberries, apples, raisins, sugar, orange juice, cinnamon, and ginger in a large saucepan or stockpot.

2. Heat to boiling over medium heat, stirring often. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer until cranberries begin to soften (about 5-7 minutes). Using back of spoon, lightly mash mixture to break cranberries open.

3. Remove from heat and stir in balsamic vinegar. Transfer to glass jar or other container, cover, and refrigerate.


Orange Velvet Soup (Butternut Squash, Sweet Potato, and Rutabaga)

One of the best things about living in Central New York during graduate school was being in Wegmans country - one of the best grocery stores that I have ever shopped. When I moved to the DC area, I was quite excited to find that Wegmans had followed me, opening stores in some of the outlying suburbs in Virginia and Maryland. The selection of produce is great - and in addition to the many whole fruits and vegetables available, there are also a number of packaged peeled and sliced options ready for cooking. Today I found both butternut squash and rutabaga, and with a few other ingredients, put together this "orange velvet" soup to combat the chilly November days. To give the soup an extra kick, I used a bottle of pumpkin ale as part of the stock.

Orange Velvet Soup (6-8 servings)
12 oz. rutabaga, peeled and cubed
20 oz. butternut squash, peeled and cubed
1 large sweet potato / yam, peeled and cubed
1 medium onion, diced
1 medium apple, peeled and chopped
3 cups stock (broth, cider, water, etc.)
1/4 cup maple syrup
1/4 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. nutmeg
1 12 oz. can fat-free evaporated milk

1. Combine rutabaga, squash, and sweet potato in a large stockpot, add water to cover the vegetables, and bring to a boil. Cover and continue boiling for 15-20 minutes, until vegetables are soft enough to mash. Drain (reserve some water for stock, if desired).

2. While vegetables are cooking, saute onions and apple in a small amount of olive oil.

3. Mix rutabaga/squash/sweet potato and onion/apple together and puree using a food processor or potato masher. Return vegetable mixture to stockpot.

4. Add stock, cinnamon, and nutmeg to vegetable mixture. Simmer on low-medium heat for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add evaporated milk and continue to simmer (do not boil) for 10 minutes.

Oven-Roasted Vegetables

With Thanksgiving coming up in less than two weeks, the race is on to choose and test dishes for the big feast. One of my favorite side dishes is vegetables roasted in walnut oil and balsamic vinegar. This dish can be prepared and baked ahead of time and warmed in the oven for a few minutes closer to the time when you are ready to eat.

Oven-Roasted Vegetables (6-8 servings)
1 large sweet potato / yam, peeled and cubed
1 large fennel bulb, leaves / stalks removed, sliced
2-3 medium red potatoes, cubed
8 oz. baby portabella mushrooms, sliced
4 large shallots or 1 medium onion, sliced
2 T. walnut oil
2 T. balsamic vinegar
1 tsp. salt

1. Preheat oven to 425F.

2. Toss all ingredients together in a large (13 x 9) baking dish until vegetables are well-coated with oil and vinegar.

3. Bake at 425F for 40 minutes or until vegetables are tender. Stir once or twice while baking.


Dining on Lake Tahoe: Evergreen

From Reno-Tahoe
This past Saturday I found myself in Reno, NV with a day to explore the area before having to catch a red-eye flight back to the east coast. Given that I'd already seen plenty of the casino where I'd been attending a conference and downtown Reno didn't have much to offer, I decided to drive out to Lake Tahoe and take a lap around the shoreline.

The lake has a circumference of 72 miles, so circumnavigating the lake in the space of several hours is quite do-able. Starting out at Incline Village, NV in the morning and driving clockwise around the lake (with lots of stops for photo ops, of course) brought me to Tahoe City, CA just in time for lunch. The weather was beautiful and I was hoping to find a restaurant where I could look out over the lake while dining.

I found a great lunch spot in Evergreen, which bills itself as "a casual restaurant...with a view of Lake Tahoe from every table." Given that much of the vegetation ringing the lake is indeed evergreen, the view of the lake certainly isn't unobstructed, but combined with people watching along the main street and a friendly waiter, there was plenty to keep me entertained while I ate my lunch. I had the special of the day - beef chili with onions, cheese, and an artistic piping of sour cream - and found it to be the perfect meal for a day on the lake. The chili was made with both red and black beans, plenty of beef, and was spicy without being overly hot. The menu also included many other delicious sounding appetizers and entrees (roasted young beets, grilled portobella mushroom sandwich with goat cheese and roasted peppers, sauteed duck breast with roasted plums and wild rice), for those looking for a larger meal. If you ever happen to be out in Tahoe and are looking for a place to eat, Evergreen is definitely worth a try.


Aeblekage (Danish Apple Cake)

When dessert time came at my grandparents' house, there were usually several desserts waiting in the refrigerator or on the sideboard. Of all of the delicious desserts that my grandma made, one of my very favorite was her apple cake. It is a fairly simple recipe, requiring just three ingredients - but it does require several hours for the cake to cool in the refrigerator, so you may wish to bake the cake the night before you plan to serve it and chill it overnight. Depending on how much time you'd like to put into this recipe, you can either make your own applesauce (see my recipe here) or use chunky applesauce from the store.

Aeblekage (Danish Apple Cake) (8-16 servings)
3 cups applesauce
2 cups graham cracker crumbs (or breadcrumbs)
8 oz. whipped topping

1. Preheat oven to 320F.

2. Butter or use cooking spray to coat all sides of an 8x8 baking dish (or other oven-proof dish). Layer graham cracker crumbs and applesauce in pan, 1/2 cup of crumbs, 1 cup applesauce, 1/2 cup crumbs, 1 cup applesauce, 1/2 cup crumbs, 1 cup applesauce, 1/2 cup crumbs.

3. Bake at 320F for 1 hour. Cover and refrigerate for several hours or overnight, until completely chilled throughout.

4. Slide a knife between cake and edge of pan, then turn out onto a large plate. Frost with whipped topping. Keep refrigerated until ready to serve.

Not-Quite-Vegetarfrikadeller (Root Vegetable Bake)

The Wikipedia article about frikadeller mentions that vegetarians can now enjoy a meatless version of frikadeller and links to a recipe for vegetarfrikadeller. The recipe is in Danish, although that wasn't too difficult to handle, given the wide variety of internet resources that can be called upon to aid in translating Danish to English and metric to units more familiar to folks in the US. However, when I started in on the recipe, I was quickly foiled by the amount of shredding necessary to create the fine-grained mixture needed to create vegetarfrikadeller. Perhaps if I had a full-sized food processor, grating beets, parsnips, and carrots would prove to be fairly easy, but in this case, I decided to use the ingredients I had to create a slightly simpler dish. So in this post, I present two recipes - first, the root vegetable bake I actually made, and second, a translation of the recipe for vegetarfrikadeller mentioned above, should anyone with better shredding or food processing abilities like to give it a whirl.

Root Vegetable Bake (10-12 servings)
3/4 lb. parsnips, cut into thin strips
3/4 lb. beet, cut into thin strips
3/4 lb. carrot, cut into thin strips
1 medium onion, diced
2 cloves garlic
2 eggs
2/3 cup milk
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. pepper

1. Preheat oven the 350F.

2. Mix all ingredients together in a large (9 x 13) baking dish and spread evenly in dish.

3. Bake at 350F for one hour, stirring twice. If vegetables are still too crisp, increase heat to 400F and bake until desired tenderness is reached.

Vegetarfrikadeller (translated from Danish recipe)
(note: some measurements have been slightly adjusted to account for differences in measurement systems and the desire to make units more simple)
1 lb. parsnips
1 lb. beets
1 lb. carrots
4 eggs
2/3 cup milk
1-2 bouillon cubes
1 large onion
2 cloves garlic
2-3 T. flour

1. Shred parsnip, beet, and carrot and mix with eggs.

2. Heat milk and dissolve bouillon cubes, add onion, garlic, salt, pepper, and flour.

3. Combine vegetable and milk mixtures, pour off excess liquid.

4. Shape into balls with a tablespoon and fry in butter or vegetable oil, 10 minutes per side.

Frikadeller (Danish Meatballs)

Growing up, my mom would occasionally have a few days (or even a week!) off of work, and if my dad and I were lucky, she would use some of her vacation time to prepare a "golden week of food" consisting of meat pies, sweet potatoes, and (if we were really lucky) frikadeller. Frikadeller, or Danish meatballs, are the national dish of Denmark and can be made with beef, veal, pork, lamb or a combination of these meats. These aren't the kind of meatballs that you serve with spaghetti, though - frikadeller stand pretty well on their own, swathed with a bit of gravy and complemented by rødkål and some potatoes or rice. If you have leftovers, frikadeller reheat well and you might even consider making frikadeller sandwiches.

Frikadeller (Danish Meatballs) (6-8 servings)
2 lbs. ground meat (beef, veal, pork, or lamb - or a mixture)
2 eggs
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. pepper
1/4 tsp. nutmeg (or allspice, cinnamon, or other spice)
1/2 cup milk
1 T. flour or bread crumbs
1 onion, diced

1. Combine meat, eggs, salt, pepper, nutmeg, milk, flour / bread crumbs, and 1/2 of onion in a large bowl. Mix well.

2. Caramelize other half of onion in a deep frying pan.

3. Shape meat mixture into balls about the size of an egg and place in pan with caramelized onion. Add enough water to cover meatballs, boil meatballs for 20 minutes. Cook in batches if necessary, add more water to maintain level. [Alternative: Flatten meatballs slightly and fry in butter or vegetable oil, 5 minutes per side or until cooked through.]

4. Remove meatballs from water and add flour to water in pan, stir to dissolve and continue heating until gravy is desired thickness.

Rødkål (Danish Red Cabbage)

When I think back to the many days spent at my grandparents' house, one of the strongest memories I have is of the various smells associated with my grandmother's cooking and baking. On entering their house on the day of a big meal, one of the scents sure to greet visitors was that of Danish red cabbage (rødkål), a sweet and sour cabbage preparation that serves as the perfect accompaniment to frikadeller (meatballs), medisterpølse (sausage), or other main dishes.

Rødkål takes a few hours to prepare and cook and can easily be reheated, so you may wish to prepare this a night in advance and then warming at low heat the next day while finishing up cooking whatever other dishes you are preparing.

Rødkål (Danish Red Cabbage) (enough for a crowd)
1 medium head of red cabbage (about 3 lbs.), shredded or cut finely
3 T. butter
1 T. sugar
1/4 cup vinegar
1/4 cup water
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. pepper
2 medium apples, peeled / cored / finely chopped
1/2 cup red currant jelly (I grabbed seedless raspberry from the store by mistake - it also works!)

1. Melt butter in a large pot / kettle over medium-low heat and add sugar, stir until it dissolves in butter. Add cabbage and cook for about 3 minutes, stirring constantly so that cabbage is coated in butter / sugar mixture.

2. Add vinegar, water, salt, and pepper and simmer (covered) for 2-3 hours, stirring occasionally, until cabbage is very tender.

3. Add apples and red currant jelly (and if necessary, additional vinegar, water, or sugar to balance flavor). Simmer for an additional 30 minutes.

Danish Food Festival, Part II

Last week, I posted a short piece about the Danish food party I was planning in honor of my grandfather, who was born 100 years ago yesterday (November 1). But since it was my grandmother who actually did the cooking in the family, the party was also in honor of her. So...

To Chris and Irene Rasmussen, Skaal!

The menu at the party included: