Thursday, November 25, 2010

Thanksgiving 101: The Cranberry Sauce

It's that time of year again, when my family locks themselves in the kitchen to prepare for Thanksgiving dinner. People always ask me, how much food could you possibly need to make. Well... A LOT

When we have Thanksgiving with my mom's family, there are her 7 siblings, plus significant others, plus cousins and of course my grandma. We need to have enough food for around 25 people total. That means one really big turkey.

Because there are so many people, my mom prepare our own turkey just so we can have leftovers!

This morning I woke up at 7:30 A.M. to help her make....
2 pumpkin pies
1 apple pie
1 apple cake
1 turkey + stuffing
and apparently brussels sprouts....(we'll see how those turn out!)

But, we started cooking yesterday! I made two batches of my special cranberry sauce- one for my family and one for Ryan's.

This isn't your average cranberry sauce. It has a little twist. You add fresh orange juice and orange zest. It may seem odd, but the orange balances out the tartness of the cranberries.

I've been making this sauce for the past three Thanksgiving dinner- we always have to make extra because there would be no leftovers!

Tip: Cranberry sauce is always EVEN better the day after

Cranberry Sauce
36 ounces fresh cranberries (3 bags)
2 1/2 cups granulated sugar
1 cup cranberry juice
1 cup freshly squeezed orange juice
2 tablespoons grated orange zest

1. Combine ingredients in a saucepan.
2. Cook over medium heat until the berries pop open (about 10 minutes)
3. Skim the foam off the surface with a metal spoon and discard.
4. Cool to room temperature.
5. Refrigerate, covered, for up to a week.
(Great on turkey sandwiches)

I'm very thankful for my friends and family and boyfriend, and their continual support and faith in me. Thanks for always being my rock.

Bon Appetite and gobble gobble!
Chef Maggie

Monday, November 22, 2010

A Treat from Paradise

My friend, Jen is absolutely in love with Hawaii. I'm pretty sure if it could some how be a person she would marry it. Jen spent some of the summer in Hawaii this year with her family and misses it a ton. If she didn't talk about it so often, you would still know how much she is in love with the ocean as her walls are plastered with posters and pictures of Hawaiian beaches.

I decided to incorporate Jen's passion for Hawaii into my first cake for the apartment family. Thus coconut, her favorite flavor was an absolute must.
(Mike and me pumped for coconut cake)

Barefoot Contessa is one of my favorite Food Network chefs. Her recipes are easy and call for simple and very available ingredients, but they also create a profound flavor. I realize most people usually don't have a taste for coconut, however if you do, you will absolutely love this.

Bloomington is starting to get a little chilly and all the leaves have fallen. So before it snows and we start getting into the hustle and bustle of Christmas (I have to personally wait until after Thanksgiving to get into full swing), I decided to give one last hurrah for summer, even though Gwen said that my cake actually looked as if it was covered in the first blizzard of winter. Maybe it was more a celebration of both endings and new beginnings.

The recipe creates enough batter for a 9-in cake pan. However, I think it's more resourceful to use my 8-in pan and then use the extra batter to create cupcakes.

There were a couple reviews saying that the cake itself was dry, I think it was because they might have overcooked the cake. I just did the toothpick test (stick a toothpick into the center of the cake, when it hits the bottom pull up, if you come out with a clean toothpick, your cake is ready!) every 5 minutes after it was in the oven for 30. I think my cake ended up being done about 5 minutes early.

Jen and I, avid coconut lovers that we are really enjoyed this cake.....let's just say there was only a few coconut flakes left on the plate.
Coconut Cake


  • 3/4 pound (3 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature, plus more for greasing the pans
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 5 extra-large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons pure almond extract
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting the pans
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 cup milk
  • 4 ounces sweetened shredded coconut

For the frosting:

  • 1 pound cream cheese, at room temperature
  • 1/2 pound (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 3/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon pure almond extract
  • 1 pound confectioners' sugar, sifted
  • 6 ounces sweetened shredded coconut


  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease 2 (9-inch) round cake pans, line them parchment paper. Grease them again and dust lightly with flour.
  2. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, cream the butter and sugar on medium-high speed for 3 to 5 minutes, until light yellow and fluffy. Crack the eggs into a small bowl. With the mixer on medium speed, add the eggs 1 at a time, scraping down the bowl once during mixing. Add the vanilla and almond extracts and mix well. The mixture might look curdled; don't be concerned.
  3. In a separate bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. With the mixer on low speed, alternately add the dry ingredients and the milk to the batter in 3 parts, beginning and ending with dry ingredients. Mix until just combined. Fold in the 4 ounces of coconut with a rubber spatula.
  4. Pour the batter evenly into the 2 pans and smooth the top with a knife. Bake in the center of the oven for 45 to 55 minutes, until the tops are browned and a cake tester comes out clean. Cool on a baking rack for 30 minutes, then turn the cakes out onto a baking rack to finish cooling.
  5. For the frosting, in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, combine the cream cheese, butter, vanilla and almond extract on low speed. Add the confectioners' sugar and mix until just smooth (don't whip!).
  6. To assemble, place 1 layer on a flat serving plate, top side down, and spread with frosting. Place the second layer on top, top side up, and frost the top and sides. To decorate the cake, sprinkle the top with coconut and lightly press more coconut onto the sides. Serve at room temperature.

Bon Appetite!
Chef Maggie

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

A Simple Evening in Roma

My mother, sister and I absolutely love rummage sales. Sometimes you hit a bust, but usually you can find quality for an inexpensive price, which is especially important in the kitchen. Rummage sales are a great place to find an inexpensive cookbooks. I recently found a Williams-Sonoma cookbook called Pasta for $1. While some of the recipes are a little out there, most are very painless and fast to make.

Last week for a study session with my friend Will, I whipped up a quick pasta dish called Radiatori with Avocado. This recipe is an easy and effortless upgrade from your standard buttered noodles.

However, warning- you most likely will not find Radiatori at a Kroger (I'm pretty sure I picked up every single box in the pasta aisle). This is not an issue though- you can substitute almost any kind of basic pasta you have in your pantry. For instance, I had some extra Mezzi Rigatoni.

It is simple and takes only about 15 minutes to make (ie. to boil water and cook the pasta). The dressing is acidic- but then the chili gives it a little kick.

If you want to impress your friends in a short time, this is the meal for you.

Pasta with Avocado
  • 2 cups- pasta of choice
  • 1 avocado
  • juice of 1/2 lemon
  • pinch of ground dried chili
  • 6 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 ripe tomatoes, peeled and diced
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh flat-leaf (Italian) parsley

  1. Boil water and cook the pasta until soft
  2. While boiling- cut the avocado in half. Remove the pit, peel the halves and cut them lengthwise into thin slices.
  3. Place slices in a bowl and sprinkle them with lemon juice, chili and salt to taste. Add the olive oil and GENTLY stir.
  4. Drain the pasta and transfer it to a platter.
  5. Pour the avocado mixture over the pasta, then toss together gently.
  6. Sprinkle the tomatoes and parsley over the top.

Bon Appetite!
Chef Maggie

Friday, November 5, 2010

Facing the Broiler: Balsamic Zucchini

As well as taking on the challenge of fluting, I have been dreading to use my broiler setting on the oven fearing that my nightmares would come true in that the minute I turned on the setting, it would immediately ignite my apartment in flames.

However, I had some nice zucchini from the farmers market and figured that Balsamic Zucchini was about as introductory to getting to know my broiler as I could get.

This meal takes about 5 minutes prep, 5 minutes of taking deep breaths and wondering when you open the oven if you're going to burn the apartment to the ground, and literally 5 minutes to cook a masterpiece meal.

When using your broiler, watch the timing! I sat on the floor in front of my oven and watched constantly over the state of the zucchini as it cooked in minutes! Be sure to have your ingredients prepped, because you want to have it at hand and ready to go when you pull the pan out and put it back in several times.

If you're looking for a sweet and tangy quick dinner, this is a simple way to go!

Side note: I left out the pine nuts, and it obviously didn't effect the meal

Balsamic Zucchini
  • 4 lb medium zucchini, cut diagonally into 3/4-inch-thick slices
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper
  • 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 1 1/2 oz finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano (1/2 cup)
  • 1/3 cup pine nuts (1 oz), toasted and finely chopped


  1. Preheat broiler.
  2. Toss zucchini with oil, salt, and pepper in a large bowl.
  3. Arrange zucchini in 1 layer in 2 shallow baking pans (1 inch deep).
  4. Broil 1 pan of zucchini 3 to 5 inches from heat, without turning, until browned in spots and beginning to soften, 4 to 6 minutes.
  5. Drizzle 2 tablespoons vinegar over broiled zucchini and shake pan a few times, then continue to broil until most of vinegar is evaporated, about 2 minutes.
  6. Sprinkle 1/4 cup cheese over broiled zucchini and broil until cheese is melted, about 1 minute more.
  7. Cook remaining pan of zucchini in same manner.
  8. Cool to room temperature and serve sprinkled with pine nuts

Read More

Bon Appetit!
Chef Maggie

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Home is Where the Pie Is

As usual, I have been running around like crazy. Thanksgiving break is coming up and I'm starting to feel a bit homesick, so I decided it was time to face my fears and do a challenging dessert. Mom's homemade apple pie.

Although we buy pre-made crust, fluting (when you pinch the top layer of the pie crust to the bottom half sitting in the bowl) was my biggest challenge yet. Mine wasn't necessarily as pretty as mom's, since hers usually looks like it comes out of the Bon Appetit magazine, with leaf shapes cut out of dough and placed perfectly around the edge.

However, I got the taste and the consistency down perflect. It was just a little taste of home that I needed :)

Mom's Apple Pie

1 pie crust, double crust
2 1/2 pounds apples, pared, cored and thinly sliced (8 cups)
1/3 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
1/3 cup granulated sugar
2 tablespoons tapioca
3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/8 (pinch) teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon butter, cut into pieces

1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Place apples in large bowl. Mix sugars, tapioca, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt in a small bowl. Sprinkle mixture over apples and and toss gently to mix. Let stand until juice forms, about 15 minutes.
2. Place bottom crust into pyrex pie plate. Pile apple mixture into pastry, dot with butter pieces. Place top crust over apples and turn edges under and press together to seal. Flute crust edge with fingers. Cut 4-5 slits in top crust with a sharp knife.
3. For a crispy sugary top, brush pastry top with a little water or milk and sprinkle lightly with sugar.
4. Place pie on cookie sheet. Bake pie for 40-50 minutes or until the crust is golden brown and juices bubble through slits. If edge is browning too fast cover with foil or pie shield. Transfer the pie to wire rack to cool for at least 1 1/2 hours before serving.

Bon Appetit!
Chef Maggie