Thanksgiving: The Day After

Happy Thanksgiving! Or Black Friday, if you’re into that. I hope you all had a fabulous day full of awesome food and new memories with your families. At my house, we did it up like we usually do every year. We’re Dominican, so our Thanksgiving is nothing like the “traditional” American dinner. We don’t have green bean casserole, or mashed potatoes, or stuffing. Dominican Thanksgiving is actually interchangeable with Christmas dinner. The only thing that changes is the main protein; we have turkey (just like everyone else) at Thanksgiving, and pork for Christmas. Enough with the Christmas stuff, we’ll get to that next month. Let’s talk about yesterday’s dinner.

My mom and I are always the main cooks in the kitchen. My sister comes and goes, but it’s mainly us two. We plan a menu a week in advanced, but my mom always adds things last minute. My mom, or Mami as I like to call her, always says that she doesn’t know how to make small amounts of food. She’s right because even though we’re just a family of four, she always make enough food to easily feed at least 12. Thankfully, our neighbors join us for dinner, which helps take some of the food off the table and also gives us that ‘family’ feel that’s necessary during the holidays.

On this year’s menu, Mami and I made:

  • Moro de gandules: rice cooked together with pigeon peas (not pictured, unfortunately).
  • Eggplant casserole: a layer of tempura graffiti eggplant followed by tomato sauce, canned green beans, bell pepper slices, onion slices, mozzarella cheese, another layer of tempura eggplant which is finally topped of with more sauce and a final layer of cheese.
  • Pork pastelón aka starch casserole because it’s basically two thick layers of  shredded plantains, squash, taro root that have been mixed together with other seasonings, and a middle layer of cooked chunks of pork.
  • Potato salad aka my specialty: boiled then diced potatoes and carrots, chopped hardboiled eggs, diced onions and cubanelle peppers, mixed with mayo, salt, and vinegar.
  • Tri-colored macaroni salad: tri-colored macaroni, tossed with mayo, vinegar, salt, and diced onions and cubanelle peppers
  • Tossed green salad: shredded Napa cabbage, canned corn, chopped green and red tomatoes, and cucumbers
  • My whole wheat dinner rolls. I actually made them half white, half whole wheat.
  • Coconut macaroon and pumpkin pie from the Shiksa in the Kitchen, which is just me trying to introduce more “traditional” items into our holiday menus. It almost always fails, as my family doesn’t always like it. The pie was awesome, though. I just wish it were more coconut-y.
  • We also made piña colada; an amalgamation of canned pineapple rings in juice, canned pineapple juice, evaporated milk, sweetened condensed milk, canned coconut cream, and as much Bacardi as you can handle (also not pictured).

Everything was awesome and I can’t wait to eat leftovers! I am just thankful for all the blessings I have and haven’t received. These past six months were kind of tough on me mentally and personally but I know that maybe things were just supposed to be this way for me, and that good things do come to those who wait ( I just need more patience). I’m also thankful for my mom’s awesome cooking!

Again, I hope you all had a great Thanksgiving and that you creatively enjoy your leftovers!

Advertisements

Sweet Corn Muffins

Corn muffins are my dad’s absolute favorite kind of baked good. If he ever went to Muffin World, a fictional land where all kinds of muffins are laid before you to devour, he’d chose the corn muffin every single time. He even says that the corn muffin is the “true” muffin, whatever that means. Since realizing my dad’s infatuation with his beloved corn muffins, I knew I had to try to make them myself.

We go grocery shopping together once a month, and he used to buy a box of corn muffins from the supermarket’s bakery. These muffins were bigger than regular supermarket muffins. They were HUGE. Like, bigger than the palm of my hand huge. Every morning for breakfast, he’d eat half of one until they were all gone.

IMG_1168

Ever since I started baking, I began looking for and testing several different corn muffin recipes. The first few recipes were either too dry or not sweet enough. They weren’t the muffin he was used to, and would pretty much tell me to my face that they weren’t. Frustrated with the outcomes, I stopped looking altogether for something better until recently. My dad asked me a couple weeks ago to make him a batch of corn muffins. I happily obliged, and began the search; disregarding any recipes I had already tried.

I am so glad I stumbled upon this recipe. Stacey, over at Southern Bite, says that these muffins are similar to Jiffy corn muffins. You know, those little blue boxes of dry mix that are sold in supermarkets for crazy cheap, and come out about as dry as the mix itself? Those. My dad actually liked them, considering the little baking he used to do was from box mixes. Knowing he loved those muffins, and that these were similar, I went ahead with this recipe.

IMG_1200

I feel like saying that these muffins tasted like the ones produced by that box mix was unfair. They SO DO NOT. They are tender, and crumbly, and just generally really tasty. There is just the right amount of sugar, not too sweet that they’d be cupcakes but not savory enough to be considered cornbread. These corn muffins were so good, I made them twice; and doubled the recipe both times. My dad was the ultimate deciding factor and I definitely got his thumbs up. Sure, they aren’t the huge muffins he used to buy, but they are definitely an acceptable replacement.

The best part about these muffins? They come together in a matter of minutes. If you need something different for your Thanksgiving table, try these muffins instead of those canned rolls or biscuits. I’m positive these will go well with your turkey and cranberry sauce.

Happy Thanksgiving!

IMG_1164

Sweet Corn Muffins – adapted from Southern Bite

Makes 11 muffins

  • 1 1/3 cup of all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup of yellow corn meal
  • 1/2 cup of sugar
  • 2 tbsp of baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp of salt
  • 1/2 cup of vegetable oil
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 cup of milk

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 400F. Grease your muffin pans, or use liners if you’re into that.
  2. In a large bowl, combine the all of the dry ingredients. Mix to combine.
  3. In a separate bowl, lightly whisk the eggs. Add the oil and milk. Whisk to combine.
  4. Gently pour the wet mix into the dry. Mix until just combined.
  5. Using an ice cream scoop or a large spoon, pour the muffin mix into each well of the muffin pan.
  6. Bake for 15-20 minutes or until golden.

Lucy’s Tips:

  • I decided against liners for these muffins, and rightfully so. 
  • I also made these once with all butter and found they tasted better. My dad preferred these ones with oil, so these are the standby. 
  • I got 11 muffins both times. Throw yourself a party and invite me if you actually get 12. 

Pumpkin Cinnamon Streusel Muffins

I wasn’t going to make this post. I made these muffins over the weekend, on a whim, and had kind of less than stellar results. But because I am compelled to share everything, here is my latest kitchen failure.

I still have some homemade pumpkin puree and am still looking for awesome things to put it in. I already tried it in oatmeal and in scones, so the next logical move was muffins. I’m on a bit of a muffin kick, so I was excited for these. I looked around for the perfect muffin recipe, and upon seeing this gem on Two Peas & Their Pod, I knew I had to make them.

IMG_1244

I decided on these muffins for two reasons: oat streusel and brown sugar filling. I love oatmeal, so that was a no brainer. And then the filling. THE FILLING. Who doesn’t love a baked goodie with a surprise in the center? No one, and anyone who says they hate fillings is basically a liar. Anyway, I made these babies with tender love and care, and was excited for the results. I watched them bake in the oven (through the glass, of course), waiting for time to be up so I can promptly stuff my face with a hot muffin.

Here’s where my muffins went wrong. Realistically speaking, muffins are unfrosted cupcakes. Of course, cupcakes are usually found in paper liners. When I make muffins, I usually forgo the liners because most muffin recipes are moister than cupcakes and a large amount tends to stick to the liner. What’s the point of eating a muffin if half of it stays on the liner? NONE. There is no point. So, I opted against the liners. Big mistake. These muffins were so moist and fragile, I could barely get them out of the buttered pan unscathed. I stood in front of the muffin tins, hands sticky with muffin crumbs, feeling slightly defeated. I even popped them into the freezer for a couple of minutes to try to salvage at least one picture perfect one. That didn’t help me much, either. I let them cool completely, before I tried removing them.

Even after completely cooled, it was a careful operation. The tops wanted to break off the muffin, mostly because part of it stayed stuck on the top of the muffin tin (and because I may have over streuseled. Is that even a word? It should be).  When I did manage to unstick the muffin top off the pan, and my paring knife in the muffin well to coax the muffin out, it wanted to disintegrate in my hands because of the brown sugar filling. It was still soft and damp, and it wanted to tear the muffin apart. I fought the hard fight and managed to get all 14 out, even though I had some minor casualties.

IMG_1247

The muffins were ridiculously moist and sweet. You don’t really taste the pumpkin, which is fine if you have picky family members who think pumpkin anything is too mushy (ahem, dad), but the warmth and feel of anything pumpkin related is still there. The brown sugar filling was a nice and sweet surprise that guaranteed the muffin would remain moist. Finally, the oatmeal streusel. OMG it tasted like a cookie. It felt like three desserts in one, which is a-okay in my book.

Despite my novice fails, a muffin is the perfect vehicle for pumpkin. Just remember that some muffins do require a liner, despite their unfrosted appearance.

Pumpkin Cinnamon Streusel Muffins – adapted from Two Peas & Their Pod

Makes 14 muffins

Muffin Ingredients:

  • 1 3/4 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 tablespoon cinnamon
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons nutmeg
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 1/2 cup canola oil
  • 1/3 cup water
  • 1 cup canned pumpkin or homemade pumpkin puree
  • 1 extra large egg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Brown Sugar Cinnamon Filling:

  • 3/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

Streusel Topping:

  • 1 1/4 cup oats
  • 1 tablespoon flour
  • 1/3 cup brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/8-1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • 6 tablespoons cold butter, cut into chunks

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line two muffin tins with paper liners or spray with cooking spray. Set aside.
  2. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Set aside.
  3. In a large bowl, whisk together sugar, oil, water, pumpkin, egg, and vanilla extract. Whisk until smooth and combined.
  4. Slowly stir in the flour mixture. Mix until ingredients are combined.
  5. For the brown sugar cinnamon filling: in a small bowl, mix the brown sugar and cinnamon together. Set aside.
  6. For the streusel topping: in a small bowl mix together the oats, flour, brown sugar, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Mix in the butter with your hands until the mixture is crumbly.
  7. Fill muffin cups half way full with the pumpkin batter. Sprinkle the brown sugar cinnamon filling over each half filled muffin cup. Fill the muffins cups with the remaining batter. Top each muffin with streusel topping.
  8. Bake for 17-20 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. Remove pans from oven and cool on a wire rack. Remove muffins from tins and enjoy.

Lucy’s Tips:

  • Use the liners. For the love of all that’s tasty and delicious, USE THE LINERS. Don’t do as I did, do as I say. It’ll make for easy removal, even if you may have to lick the liner to get the rest of your muffin. 
  • I used about a 1/4 less of the brown sugar for the filling, may even go lower next time. You can use as much as a full cup of brown sugar. 
  • If using homemade pumpkin puree, I’d forgo the water in the recipe (which was something I should’ve done) because canned pumpkin puree is dryer than the fresh stuff. 
  • I used one extra large egg, as it’s what I have at home. The original recipe calls for two eggs. Large eggs are standard in most recipes, so assume that you’ll need large eggs unless stated otherwise. For more on the egg thing, read this post from Joy the Baker. 
  • Before baking, I would suggest sprinkling a little bit of kosher or sea salt on top of the streusel. The sprinkle of salt will probably enhance the overall flavor of the muffin, as well as the streusel. I will do this next time, as this sounds freakin’ delicious. 

Pumpkin Scones

Since making my own pumpkin puree a couple days ago, I have been brainstorming a bunch of different pumpkin recipes. I’m thinking about pumpkin everything; muffins, bread, cookies, cupcakes, etc. I want to make it all! I feel kind of late to the pumpkin party, though. Many people have already moved on to Christmas flavors like gingerbread and peppermint. I’m not ready for Christmas anything yet, and refuse to skip the rest of the fall. I mean, it is still fall, so technically it’s still pumpkin season and I’m definitely going to take advantage of that.

IMG_1125

After wracking my brain, recipe cards, and Evernote for anything pumpkin, I settled on making scones. In case anyone doesn’t remember, my first try at making scones was barely a success. My dough was way too wet, and they spread out into cookies instead of staying tall and flaky. Yes, they were delicious but they were hardly scones. I went to my favorite recipe fallback, King Arthur Flour, and decided to give their recipe a go.

There isn’t much liquid in this recipe anyway, so I wasn’t too worried about extra moisture. I was smart about the cutting in of the butter, and used two forks instead of doing it with my hands. I think the heat from my hands may have played a part in the production of my first flat, cookie like scones.

IMG_1134

Everything came together beautifully, even though I thought they were a tad on the small side before baking. The result was a tall and golden brown triangle of flakyness, with fluffy layers of buttery goodness. The pumpkin taste is subtle but present, especially with the warmth from the homemade pumpkin pie spice. The soft and fluffy interior, against the crunchy crackle of the cinnamon turbinado sprinkled top is what fall days are made of.

These scones solidified why I am not ready to move on to Christmas, and still won’t, as the fall still has many more flavorful things in store.

Pumpkin Scones – adapted from King Arthur Flour

Makes 12 scones

  • 2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/3 cup brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons homemade pumpkin pie spice
  • 1/2 cup cold butter
  • 2/3 cup canned or fresh pumpkin puree
  • 1 extra large egg
  • Splash of vanilla extract

Cinnamon Turbinado Topping

  • 1/4 cup of turbinado sugar
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Directions:

  1. In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, brown sugar, baking powder, salt, and pumpkin pie spice.
  2. Work in the butter with two forks or a pastry cutter,  just until the mixture is unevenly crumbly. Large chunks of butter are a-okay.
  3. In a separate mixing bowl, whisk together the pumpkin, splash of vanilla, and eggs till smooth.
  4. Add the pumpkin/egg mixture to the dry ingredients and stir until all is moistened and holds together.
  5. Line a baking sheet with parchment; if you don’t have parchment, just use it without greasing it. Sprinkle a bit of flour atop the parchment or pan.
  6.  Scrape the dough onto the floured parchment or pan, and divide it in half. Round each half into a 5″ circle that should be about 3/4″ thick.
  7. Brush each circle with milk. Combine the turbinado sugar and the cinnamon, and sprinkle onto the scones.
  8. Using a knife or bench knife that you’ve run under cold water, slice each circle into 6 wedges. Carefully pull the wedges away from the center to separate them just a bit; there should be about 1/2″ space between them, at their outer edges.
  9. For best texture and highest rise, place the pan of scones in the freezer for 30 minutes, uncovered. While the scones are chilling, preheat the oven to 425°F.
  10. Bake the scones for 22 to 25 minutes, or until they’re golden brown and a toothpick inserted into the center of one comes out clean, with no wet crumbs.
  11. Remove the scones from the oven, and serve warm. Wrap any leftovers airtight, and store at room temperature.

Lucy’s Tips:

  • I used brown sugar, the original recipe calls for regular, white sugar. Feel free to use either. 
  • Please DO NOT skip freezing the scones. It really does help them rise, and also keeps them flakier. 
  • I forgot to brush them with milk before sprinkling the sugar, don’t fret if you do too. 
  • The original recipe also included mix-ins like candied ginger, cinnamon chips, or chocolate chips. You can add 1-2 cups to this recipe, but you may need to add another egg or up the pumpkin to a full cup.
  • I also used pumpkin pie spice, in lieu of the individual spices.  

DIY Pumpkin Puree and Pumpkin Pie Spice

Now that Halloween is over, we can all concentrate on the next holiday in the lineup: Thanksgiving. The following day after Halloween, I saw an onslaught of Christmas stuff everywhere. Ads are already popping up on TV, big toy books from Target and Toys R Us have landed at my door, and the seasonal aisle in my local drugstore is decked out in red, white, and green. Honestly, I’m not ready for this Christmas explosion! People are getting too ahead of themselves in preparing for the biggest shopping season of the year, but let’s concentrate on turkey day.

I love the hype around Thanksgiving, even if it is a small amount. The hype I do hear, is all about the food and the preparations behind them. Planning a meal worthy of this holiday takes a lot of time; there’s invites, place settings, decorations, and of course, the menu. Most people start prepping and planning as early as possible, even as soon as the beginning of the month. One of the biggest items on the list what can be prepared in advanced and how far in advance can it be prepared. Instead of relying on a last minute purchase of canned pumpkin, why not make it yourself this year?

IMG_1070

Homemade pumpkin puree is a seriously easy process that can be done well in advanced, and can get you more bang for your buck. I used Ree’s (aka The Pioneer Woman) instructions as a guide. First, buy yourself a sugar pumpkin. I got my medium sized pumpkin at my local farmer’s market for $2. Make sure it is a sugar pumpkin and not a pumpkin used for carving or decoration!

IMG_1003

Now that the pumpkin has been acquired, it’s time to get to work. Preheat your oven at 350F. Line a baking sheet with parchment and set aside. Grab your cutting board and a large knife. If your pumpkin has a little dirt, you can wash it off but don’t worry too much about it because we’re going to peel it later anyway.

IMG_1005

Grab your knife and carefully slice the pumpkin into two halves. What I should’ve done here was cut the stem off, but I didn’t. You should cut the stem off first; it’ll make cutting it in two a lot easier. Now that your pumpkin is halved, use a large spoon to remove all the pumpkin guts and seeds. Save this stuff! We’re going to harvest the seeds to roast later.

At this point, your pumpkin should be rid of it’s innards. You can also cut the pumpkin into quarters for easier roasting (you may need another baking sheet, if you do). Put the pumpkin halves face down on the prepped sheet and bake in your preheated oven for 45 minutes to an hour. It’s done when a fork can easily slide into the pumpkin.

IMG_1011

While the pumpkin’s baking, sift through the guts for all the seeds! This is slightly tedious but pepitas are awesome, so get your hands dirty! After getting all the seeds, give them a rinse. Gently dry them with a paper towel before drizzling in a bit of olive oil, some salt and pepper. Spread your seeds out on a parchment lined baking sheet and pop them in the oven. I’d say give them about 10-12 minutes, but please watch them so they don’t burn! Once cooled, you should have a lovely, and delicious snack!

After checking your pumpkin for doneness (with the fork, remember?), remove from the oven and let cool.

IMG_1026

While that’s cooling, let’s talk pumpkin pie spice. A lot of people serve pumpkin pie for Thanksgiving, deliciously so, and one of the main ingredients besides the pumpkin is it’s signature spice. This is the stuff that drives people nuts during the fall, mostly in those pumpkin spice latte things from coffee chains. What most don’t realize is that this signature spice mix is simply a combination of things you probably already have in your pantry! Instead of shelling out close to $8 for a tiny bottle, a quick Google search, led me to this recipe from Joy the Baker.

Pumpkin pie spice is basically a mix of cinnamon, cloves, allspice, nutmeg, and ginger (and cardamom, if you got it). This is as easy as measuring out the spices, and mixing it in an empty spice jar. All you need is 1 tablespoon of ground cinnamon, 2 teaspoons ground ginger, 1/2 a teaspoon of each: ground cloves, ground allspice, and freshly grated nutmeg. Joy also adds a big pinch of cardamom (or mace), add it in if you have it. Pop all these in the empty spice jar and give it a healthy shake. Make sure all the spices are incorporated, and you’ve got pumpkin pie spice! So easy, and so affordable!

Now that we have pumpkin pie spice and pepitas, let’s get back to the pumpkin.  Grab your knife and cut your halves into quarters (if you haven’t already). Gently slide the knife under the pumpkin’s soft and tender skin. Cut your peeled pumpkin into chunks, and discard the skins.

And now, we puree. Place your chunks in the food processor and puree until the chunks resemble baby food. Periodically, scrape the sides down with a spatula. This may take several batches, depending on the size of your food processor. I have a mini prep, so mine took forever. When all of the chunks have been pureed, you’re done! Bask in the pumpkin-y glory you have now created! At this point, you can store it in jars, containers, tupperware, plastic bags, whatever you have that has a lid and can be frozen or refrigerated. This golden stuff should last a few weeks in the fridge, months if you freeze it. But we all know that if there’s pumpkin in the house, pumpkin things will be made! Just make sure to save some for your Thanksgiving pie!

Pumpkin Puree tutorial – slightly adapted from The Pioneer Woman

Pumpkin Pie Spice – adapted from Joy the Baker

Makes about 2 tablespoons

  • 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
  • 2 teaspoons ground ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

Directions:

  1. Blend all of the spices together, making sure to work through any lumps. Store in an old spice jar.