Sunday, November 29, 2020


I am not sure I will ever make Pumpkin Pie again for Thanksgiving as this pie was richer, tastier and had a creamy, beautiful texture. I found the recipe online and changed it up a bit by making it with a Ginger Snap crust. I also thought serving the pie with ginger infused whipped cream would make it extra special. It did! And finally, my good friend and fellow foodie, Dorita Pina, told me she always roasts pecans using maple syrup instead of sugar and thought this would also be a nice touch on our Thanksgiving Day pie. Brilliant Dorita! The nuts were very crispy and flavorful making an attractive border on the pie.


Ingredients: FOR THE FILLING
 3 large eggs
1 tsp. ground cinnamon (I used roasted cinnamon for added flavor.)
1/4 tsp. nutmeg
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. vanilla
3/4 cup heavy cream
2 cups roasted butternut squash, pureed

Ingredients: FOR THE CRUST
1/2 cup Ginger Snaps, crushed
1/2 cup Graham Crackers, crushed
3/4 cup pecans, very finely chopped (I used my Mini-Max food processor.)
1/3 cup sugar
1 tsp. dried Ginger powder
5 Tbsp. butter

That sounds like a lot of butter, but it really keeps the crust together and as it pre-bakes becomes caramelized. Bake the crust in a 350 degree preheated oven for about 12 minutes. If doing ahead of time let the crust cool completely, then cover and place in fridge until ready to fill.

1 lb. pecan halves
1/3 cup maple syrup
1 large egg white, beaten until frothy
1 Tbsp. salt
2 Tbsp. cinnamon
In a large bowl, mix all the ingredients and spread nuts out on a foil-lined baking sheet sprayed with PAM. Bake in 300 degree preheated oven for about 45 minutes until nuts are nicely browned. Stir a couple times as they bake to make sure all the nuts crisp up evenly. Cool. This is also many more nuts than needed to ring the pie, but the nuts store well in a covered jar for up to a week.

I roasted twice as much squash as needed for the pie, but it's nice to have it all cooked in the fridge. I also roasted and pureed the squash the day before Thanksgiving and made the crust day before, too. On the morning of the holiday I made the filling, baked the pie, made the maple candied pecans and infused the whipped cream with ginger. 

1 1/2 cups heavy cream
3 inch knob of fresh ginger root, peeled and sliced 
2 Tbsp. of candied ginger, chopped.

In a medium saucepan, heat the cream with the gingers over medium heat until it comes to a gentle boil. Let simmer for about 20 minutes. Turn off heat, but let it cool in the pan. Strain through a fine mesh sieve pushing on the ginger to extract flavor. Chill thoroughly before whipping. I also like to chill the beaters in the freezer before whipping and place the chilled cream in freezer for about 5 minutes before whipping. This allows the cream to whip much faster. 

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Cut the squash in half and remove seeds. Drizzle lightly with olive oil and salt lightly. Place the squash on a foiled baking sheet and roast for about 40 - 45 minutes or until squash is very tender. Let cool and then scoop out the squash from the skin. Because it is so tender it is easy to mash with a large fork. Set aside. 

If doing all the same day, reduce oven temp to 365 degrees. 
In a large bowl beat eggs thoroughly. One by one, add sugar, spices, salt, vanilla, cream and squash puree. Pour the mixture into a 10 inch pie plate. I still had a little mixture left over so made a mini pie in a ramekin. 

Bake on a baking sheet until filling is set, about 45 - 50 minutes. The center of the pie will still be a bit wobbly. Cool to room temp on a wire rack. Once cooled, arrange the Maple Candied Pecans. 

Here's the pie out of the oven, cooled with its Maple Candied Pecan edging. This pie sounds like a lot of work, but because you can do so many things ahead of time, it really is not.
And here's my husband, Jerry with JoJo 
on his lap, enjoying the first piece of pie!
...well, Jerry is! JoJo not so interested.

Last time you saw our complete menu. The brined and smoked turkey was a huge hit. I brined the bird for 2 days prior to smoking. This is the brine I used:

2 gallons water
1 1/2 cups Kosher salt

3 Tbsp. minced garlic
1 Tbsp. black pepper corns
1/4 cup Worcestershire sauce
1/2 cup brown sugar
4 large sprigs of fresh sage

Combine all and stir until salt and sugar are completely dissolved. I used a turkey oven roasting bag to brine the turkey, which worked well. Place the turkey in any food-grade bucket or brining bag. Seal and place in a large roaster in case your bag starts to leak, which mine did. Turn the turkey morning and night to ensure that all sides benefit from the brine.

I had never smoked a turkey and was concerned it might dry out so also made an Apple Cider reduction to baste the bird as it smoked.

Reduce by half: 2 cups apple cider, 3 Tbsp. maple syrup, 1 stick cinnamon. This can also be made a few days in advance. 

I couldn't believe how burnished the skin became. This bird was moist, juicy and flavorful. And, VERY smoky!

Since I had the smoker going I decided to smoke some chicken livers to make BOURBON INFUSED LIVER PATE with smoky bread toast points!
You can find these recipes on my blog. The only difference is I smoked the chicken livers for about 20 minutes before continuing with the recipe. I served the pate with a Cranberry Ginger Sauce and Onion and Apricot Jam. These recipes are also on my blog, but if you need help finding them, please just let me know. Pomegranate seeds were the perfect contrast to the creaminess of the pate.

Here are a few more scenes from our holiday eating extravaganza...






Friday, November 20, 2020


 Here we are at another holiday during the time of Coronavirus. What a troubled and disturbing year it has been, but I remain hopeful that things on all fronts will improve and life will return to something that feels a bit more familiar, normal and safe. In the meantime, I am grateful for so much: My husband whose love and support is endless; the fact we live in a beautiful, rural area allowing me to walk and enjoy nature; and the love of friends and family who I continue to enjoy both near and far, and so much more! We just celebrated my husband Jerry's 76th birthday, which has come to be known as the "kick-off" to the holiday season. And now on to Thanksgiving. I'm going to start by sharing the soup we will have as a starter on Thanksgiving day.


1 large butternut squash, cut in half and seeded
1 onion, peeled and cut into thick slices
2 Granny Smith apples, cut in half and cored
Olive oil for drizzling.
Liberal Salt/Pepper
4 cups chicken stock
1/2 cup apple cider

Heat oven to 425 degrees. Prepare veg and apple. Drizzle with oil. Salt generously. Roast for about 30-40 minutes until veg is just starting to caramelize and squash is very tender.

Let the veg cool. Peel the skin off the butternut squash and put in a large soup pot. Smash up the squash with a large spoon. Scoop the apple out of the skin. It will be very soft. Add to the pot. Drop in the onion and add 4 cups chicken stock and 1/2 apple cider. Heat to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer about 30 minutes. Cool slightly and blend either with an emulsion blender or add all to your blender and blend until very smooth. Taste for seasoning. Salt/pepper as needed. I also add a dash of white pepper to help counter the sweetness of the soup. Serve this soup, hot or cold, with a scoop of Greek-style yogurt and thinly sliced green apple. I really like it best cold! This soup tastes like Thanksgiving in a bowl!


Smoked Chicken Liver Pate Garnished with Pomegranate seeds
    Served with Caramelized onion, Apricot/Shallot Jam and Smoky Bread toast points

Roasted Butternut Squash and Green Apple Soup

Applewood and Sage Smoked Turkey with Apple Cider Glaze
Traditional Herb Stuffing
Sweet Potato Puree with Pecan crust
Creamed Boursin Spinach
Cranberry Ginger Relish
Freshly Baked Rolls

Butternut Squash Pie with Ginger Pecan crust topped with Ginger-infused Whipped Cream

I think that meal should feed the two of us!

I will brine the turkey for 24 hours, then marinate, and finally smoke the bird brushing with an Apple Cider glaze. 

We celebrated Jerry's birthday, which was Friday, November 13, for the entire weekend. Birthday night we had a rack of lamb, gruyere scalloped potatoes and roasted asparagus. For dessert I made one of his favorites, a blueberry cheesecake! Here is Jerry on our birthday morning walk...Looking good Mr. Rabbitt!
Saturday night we made pizza's on the grill. Thank you to my old friend Trudy G. Silverman who suggested I put the pizza right on the grill! It will take me a couple times to perfect the grilling technique as I had a little trouble controlling the heat, but they were delicious!





Monday, November 9, 2020



A small group of us recently got together to 'safely' celebrate my good friend, Jan Burke's very special, big birthday. We won't say just how big, but as far as I am concerned every birthday is big and special. I love birthday's!  When I learned that chocolate was her 'favorite' I went on a search for the richest, most luscious chocolate cake recipe and I found this Chocolate Truffle Layer Cake recipe online. This one may just take the cake! 

Apparently the cake was a lucky accident created by a Los Angeles baker, Kimberly Sklar, who took her cake out of the oven a little too early. She had used creme fraiche in the batter and discovered that the cake was super moist and fudgy, so instead of cooking longer decided to go with the mistake. She layered it (all 6 layers!) with even more chocolate in the form of white and dark chocolate ganache. If you are a chocolate lover, this is your cake!

Jan is on the left, and our host,
Bonnie Ungerecht on the right.


Ingredients for...THE CAKE

10 oz. good quality bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped and divided 6 oz./4 oz.

1 stick unsalted butter (I like to use Kerry Gold.)

1 Tbsp. pure vanilla extract (Again, good quality; such as Nielsen-Massey.)

1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder

1 cup water

2/3 cup creme fraiche (6 oz.)

3 large eggs

3 large egg yolks

1 1/2 cups granulated white sugar

1/2 cup light brown sugar

1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour

1 Tbsp. baking soda

2 tsp. baking powder

1 tsp. salt

Preparation for the Cake:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. (This is the easiest thing you will do in making this cake!)

Butter two 15x12 inch jelly roll pans and line the bottoms with parchment paper. In a medium saucepan, melt 6 ounces of the chopped chocolate with the butter and vanilla over very low heat, stirring gently. Remove the chocolate mixture from the heat and let cool slightly.

In a small saucepan, combine the cocoa with the water and bring to a boil, whisking constantly. Let cool slightly, then whisk the mixture into the melted chocolate. Whisk in the creme fraiche.

In a large bowl, using an electric mixer, beat the whole eggs, egg yolks and both sugars at medium speed until pale and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Beat in the chocolate mixture. In a medium bowl, whisk the flour with the baking soda, baking powder and salt and transfer to a sifter or a sieve. Sift the dry ingredients and fold into the cake batter with a large spatula until fully incorporated.

Spread the batter evenly between the prepared pans and sprinkle with the remaining 4 ounces of chopped chocolate.

Bake the cakes in the lower/middle third of the oven for 25-30 minutes, until the centers spring back when lightly pressed; shift the pans halfway through baking. Let the cakes cool completely in the pans. Cake can be made and refrigerated for up to 3 days in advance or frozen up to 2 weeks.


1 pound white chocolate, chopped (I used Ghirardelli.)

3/4 cup, plus 2 Tbsp. heavy cream

2 Tbsp. unsalted butter

Preparation for the White Chocolate Ganache:

Set a medium bowl over a saucepan of simmering water. The water should just touch the bottom of the bowl. Add the white chocolate to the bowl and melt the chocolate. Remove from the heat. Pour off the water in the saucepan and wipe it out. Add the heavy cream and butter to the saucepan and heat until the butter is melted and small bubbles appear around the edges. Whisk the hot cream mixture into the white chocolate. Set the bowl in a cool place until the ganache is firm enough to hold its shape, at least 1 hour. 

I had no idea these steps would take so long and did not allow quite enough time for my ganaches to set so as I assembled the cake the layers got a little uneven. Next time I will allow more time!!


1 1/3 cups plus 2 Tbsp. heavy cream

10 oz. bittersweet chocolate, chopped

Preparation for the Dark Chocolate Ganache:

In a medium saucepan, heat the cream until small bubbles appear around the edges. Put the chopped chocolate in a heatproof bowl and pour the hot cream on top of the chocolate. Let stand 2 to 3 minutes, until the chocolate melts, then whisk until smooth and shiny. Set the bowl in a cool place until the ganache is firm enough to hold its shape, at least 1 hour.

Ingredients for...CHOCOLATE FROSTING:

4 oz. bittersweet chocolate

3 Tbsp. granulated sugar

1/4 cup corn syrup

6 Tbsp. unsweetened cocoa powder

1/4 cup plus 2 Tbsp. water

1 Tbsp. brandy

1 pound unsalted butter, softened

3/4 cup confectioners sugar, sifted

Bittersweet and white chocolate shavings for garnish. I skipped this step as I ran out of time.

Preparation for the Chocolate Frosting:

In a medium saucepan, melt the chocolate over very low heat, stirring frequently. In a small saucepan, whisk together the granulated sugar, corn syrup, cocoa and water and bring to a boil, whisking constantly. Remove from the heat and whisk in the brandy and melted chocolate. Let cool completely, about 30 minutes. 

In the bowl of a standing electric mixer fitted with a wire whisk, beat the butter at medium speed until light and fluffy. Add the cooled chocolate mixture. At low speed, beat in the confectioners sugar.


The original recipe went into elaborate instructions as how to create forms to cut the cake into even pieces and how exactly to fill this cake. I'm going to share what I did, which seemed much simpler. 

The sheet pans are 15x12 inches.  Gently flip the pans onto your counter or a cutting board using your hand to ensure the cakes pop out in one piece. The trick here is to not break the cake. Carefully remove the parchment paper. Now cut each sheet pan of cake into 3 equal pieces per pan, so 3 pieces of 5 inch x 12 inch cake making a total of 6 pieces between the 2 pans. Trim the edges with a sharp to remove any crusty edge, but make sure each of your pieces is the same size. 

Place the first layer on a serving plate or tray. I used my mesquite wooden cutting board as my cake platters were not large enough. Spoon a generous dollop of the chocolate frosting onto the first layer creating about 1/2 inch even layer of frosting over the first cake layer. Add a layer of cake on top. Spread 1/2 of the white chocolate ganache on this layer and top with another layer of cake. Top this layer with 1/2 of the dark chocolate ganache and repeat with 2 more layers, alternating the white and dark chocolate ganache. 

Keep the sides as even as you can as you build the cake. My cake had a little tilt to it! Top with the final layer of cake. Coat the sides and top of the cake with a smooth layer of chocolate frosting (I used all the frosting that was left); refrigerate briefly to set the frosting. Garnish with the chocolate shavings.

Refrigerate until firm. Using a hot knife, cut the cake into slices while cold and let it come to room temperature before serving. In the excitement of the celebration I ignored those last 2 steps, which also resulted in a less than perfectly even final presentation, but it sure did taste fantastic. And, the birthday girl and other guests seemed very happy with this rich, decadent, gooey chocolate cake!
Our gracious host, Bonnie, offered to cut the cake!

Don't let the many steps involved in making this cake discourage you. It is truly worth the effort for a special occasion or holiday.