Six Tips For an Easy Thanksgiving

by Anne Maxfield on November 21, 2016

Accidental Locavore Thanksgiving Wild TurkeyYou may find it surprising that Thanksgiving is not the Accidental Locavore’s favorite holiday.

It’s not.

If I can avoid cooking turkey, I do.

How about a slow roast duck instead?

Accidental Locavore Thanksgivng DuckHowever, someone usually counts on a traditional Thanksgiving dinner.

Here are my six tips for an easy Thanksgiving:

  1. Buy an instant read thermometer. You’ll never worry about cooking a big piece of meat, again. It’s a must-have. They’re inexpensive, under $10 and worth every penny. You don’t want to ruin the main course, do you? Accidental Locavore Thanksgiving Instant Read Thermometer
  2. Delegate. Everyone brings something. If you don’t trust their cooking skills, rolls, wine, soda, ice cream or salad are options that are hard to mess up. And there are very few people (although I’m probably related to all of them) who will turn up their noses at canned cranberry sauce. This is a great strategy if you’ve got vegetarians, or fussy eaters, ask them to bring their favorite dish. Just make a list of what you’ve assigned so you know where you have to fill in. I’ve actually given dinner parties where I haven’t cooked anything, but please don’t tell anyone!
  3. Forget the appetizers and serve soup as a first course. No one needs to fill up on finger food before the main event. I bet they won’t even notice it’s not there (and if they do, they’d better be too polite to mention it). The reason everyone tells you to drink a lot of water when you’re on a diet, is because it fills you up. Soup does the same thing. Here’s a recipe for winter squash soup that’s not too sweet. It’s easy, you can do it ahead of time and it’s inexpensive. While there’s a little cream in it, it’s only ¼ cup added in at the end to give it richness. If you want to make it vegan, use vegetable stock and olive oil and forget the croutons.Accidental Locavore Squash Soup
  4. My mother insists on creamed onions or it’s not Thanksgiving. However, she’s the only one who likes them. I have a great recipe for Brussels sprouts and pearl onions with a horseradish sauce that everyone loves and the veggies can be cooked ahead, then tossed in the sauce until warmed through. Think about other vegetables you can combine so you’re not cooking 400 side dishes.
  5. Stick to one, max two, desserts. No one has room for multiple pies. Add ice cream if you want but keep it simple. And without a lot of leftover desserts, you won’t be tempted to nibble every time you walk by them.
  6. Give everyone some leftovers to take home. If it’s not around, you won’t eat it. Use the turkey carcass to make soup. When you’re tired of sandwiches, how about a shepherd’s pie using the leftover turkey, gravy and mashed potatoes?

What are your best holiday tips?

Happy Thanksgiving! Since I’m going to be cooking something, no post on Thursday.

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Pearl Onions and Brussels Sprouts in Horseradish Cream Sauce

by Anne Maxfield on November 17, 2016

 Accidental Locavore Quartered Brussels SproutsThe Accidental Locavore’s mother always insisted on pearl onions for Thanksgiving.

No one really likes pearl onions “straight-up”.

When I found this recipe from Bon Appètit it seemed like a great combination.

Also perfect for Thanksgiving because you don’t need the oven.

Pearl Onions and Brussels Sprouts in Horseradish Cream

  • 1 bag frozen pearl onions thawed
  • 1 1/2 pounds Brussels sprouts, trimmed and cut in half the long way
  • 3 tablespoons horseradish (more to taste)
  • 2 teaspoons flour
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground allspice or nutmeg
  • 3/4 cup heavy cream
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme

Cook the Brussels sprouts until just tender either in a microwave for 5 minutes, or boil them in salted water for about 6 minutes. Drain well and set aside.

Combine the horseradish, flour and allspice in a small bowl, mix well and whisk in the cream. Set aside.

Melt the butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the thyme and stir 30 seconds. Add the onions and Brussels sprouts and saute until heated through, about 4 minutes.

Add the horseradish mixture, and cook, stirring occasionally, until the cream is reduced to a glaze, coating the vegetables, about 3 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper and more horseradish if you like. Serve and enjoy!

Accidental Locavore Peeling HorseradishMy verdict: This is a tried and true Thanksgiving hit! Even the non-pearl onion and/or Brussels sprouts haters often find themselves surprised by how good this is!

Besides not needing an oven, you can precook the Brussels sprouts and onions and set them aside. Ditto for the horseradish sauce. Then, just finish them before you’re ready to serve (about 5 minutes or until they’re warm).

True confession, much to my friend Zhu Zhu’s disgust, I always buy frozen pearl onions. They’re such a pain to peel and at Thanksgiving the last thing you need is to spend an hour peeling tiny onions. If you want to go the fresh route, blanch them and peel them (you might want to cook them first for a couple of minutes before adding the sprouts to the pan).

What’s a family Thanksgiving food tradition you’d like to change?

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Pantry Items: Is This Food Waste Too?

by Anne Maxfield on November 14, 2016

accidental-locavore-pantry-itemsThe other part of food waste that probably really goes ignored in your kitchen?

Pantry items.

They’re not as perishable as fresh food but they do go bad.

Or just take up space.

The Accidental Locavore noticed this when rummaging around for a can of coconut milk to use for my leftover Thai duck curry and found a jar of Cuban Mojito Simmer Sauce from Trader Joe’s.

True confession: it’s at least 3 years old (maybe more like 5).

True confession II: We packed and moved it when we moved from the city.

True confession III: They stopped making it around 2013, but there’s no expiration date that I can find.

accidental-locavore-pantry-mojito-sauceSo, here’s what I’m going to do.

Take one thing lurking in my pantry and make something with it. Maybe once a week.

Starting with the Mojito Simmer Sauce.

Maybe with the last of the pork we got from Four Legs Farm (which will also free up some freezer space). Browned and then popped into the slow cooker.

I’m sure there is a can of black beans and there’s always rice.
There’s dinner and I didn’t even have to go shopping.

It will be like cleaning out my freezer, or what Lior Lev Sercarz taught us at the spice blending class (also a good way to not waste spices) – just take something out and figure out ways to use it.

It’s a good challenge and makes you think out of your comfort zone.

Then, you can refill the pantry with what works.

You might find that a lot of that stuff in cans or jars, you can make yourself.

accidental-locavore-pantry-porkUpdate: I did use the Mojito Simmer Sauce with some of the pork, but as I reached for the slow-cooker, I spied my sous-vide machine and thought that might be a more interesting idea.

I marinated the pork and sauce in a sealed bag overnight and then cooked it sous-vide for a few hours.

Served it over rice (oddly enough, no black beans lurking in my pantry) and it was good.

Am I longing for more Mojito Sauce? No (and there are recipes online if you are).

But I am going back into my pantry for more inspiration.

What have you got lurking in yours that might see the light of day (or the inside of a pot) now?

 

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Ultimate Chocolate Cookies

by Anne Maxfield on November 10, 2016

Accidental Locavore a Plate of Ultimate Chocolate CookiesSometimes you need to cook to take your mind off current events.

These ultimate chocolate cookies might distract you from things like election results.

And they taste amazing!

Might even put a smile on your face.

Pull out a cookie sheet and give it a try.

This makes about 12 cookies.

Ultimate Chocolate Cookies

  • 2 ounces unsweetened (baking) chocolate
  • 6 ounces semi-sweet chocolate
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • ¼ cup sifted flour
  • ¼ teaspoon baking powder
  • Pinch of salt
  • 2 eggs
  • ¾ cup sugar
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 2 teaspoons instant coffee (optional)
  • 6 ounces chocolate chips
  • 8 ounces walnuts or pecans, chopped (optional)

Accidental Locavore Baking Ultimate Chocolate CookiesPreheat oven to 350°. Melt unsweetened, semi-sweet chocolate and butter together in a double boiler until melted (or see update below). Remove and let cool.

Sift flour, baking powder and salt together.

With an electric mixer, beat eggs, sugar, vanilla and coffee on high speed. Reduce to low speed and add chocolate/butter mixture. Add sifted ingredients and mix just until smooth. By hand, stir in chocolate chips and nuts.

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Drop tablespoon-sized cookies on sheet.

Bake for 10-12 minutes until top of cookies get a cracked look. Remove from oven and let cool. Serve and enjoy!

Accidental Locavore Ultimate Chocolate CookiesMy verdict: This recipe came from an old friend and I had forgotten how good these cookies were! Frank tried them and loved them! They’re like a cookie version of a really good brownie, or molten chocolate cake. . I left the nuts out as I’ve had allergies, but they would be a great addition. I also left the coffee out as I like my chocolate unadulterated, but if you feel differently…While cookies aren’t a part of my normal repertoire, these are classics.

Update: I’ve made these at least four times recently, and they continue to be great! Recently, a friend said that he had melted the chocolate and butter in the microwave, so I tried it. About 90 seconds, but do it in 30 second increments.

The Accidental Locavore’s friend’s recipe has this at the bottom: DISCLAIMER: Not responsible for anyone’s actions after cookies have been consumed!!!

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