Cranberry Corn Muffins

Cranberry Corn Muffins
If I had to pick a holiday that I look forward to most every year, it absolutely would have to be Thanksgiving. I have no hesitation designating my favorite as the fourth Thursday in November when family and friends gather to dine on turkey and a smorgasbord of sides and of course to pause to give thanks. No meal can ever top a Thanksgiving spread.

A few weeks ago I picked up a bag of fresh cranberries in anticipation of the holiday. It seemed too early to turn them into sauce, so I decided to use them in a baked treat. I made a batch of cranberry corn muffins. Each morning eating a muffin for breakfast, I got even more excited about the upcoming holiday, and now the final countdown is on.

Cranberry Corn Muffins
Cranberry Corn Muffins
Adapted from Flour by Joanne Chang

Makes 12 muffins

Non-stick cooking spray
2-3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup medium-coarse cornmeal
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, melted
3/4 cup light brown sugar, packed
3 eggs
1 cup buttermilk at room temperature
1/2 cup canola oil
3/4 cup plain yogurt at room temperature
1 cup fresh or frozen cranberries

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a 12-cup muffin pan with non-stick cooking spray or line with paper liners.

In a large bowl, combine the flour, cornmeal, baking powder, baking soda and salt.

In a small bowl, whisk together the butter and brown sugar.

In a large bowl, whisk the eggs followed by the buttermilk, oil and yogurt, mixing completely after each addition. Add the butter-sugar mixture and stir the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients. Fold in the cranberries. Transfer the batter to the prepared muffin pan. Bake 25-28 minutes until the edges of the muffins are golden brown and they spring back when pressed in the center.

Cool the muffins for 20 minutes in the pan before removing and transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.

Store in an airtight container.

Brussels Sprout Salad

Brussels Sprout Salad
Growing up I think my mom was too nice to my brother and me at the dinner table. Unlike friends’ parents, I have no memories of being forced to eat my veggies. Brussels sprouts only entered my world as an adult, and that’s partly because they have become a trendy restaurant staple. Since my mother did not insist that we eat our greens, I am convinced that is that is why I do eat my veggies now. I have no lingering hostility toward any produce.

Roasting sprouts in the oven is how I used to prepare them at home until one time when dining out, I ate them raw. Since then, I’ve been making brussels sprout salad. I use my food processor fitted with the slicing disc to shred the sprouts before dressing them in a lemony vinaigrette and tossing with Pecorino, walnuts and red onion. Salad may be in the name, but this dish could be considered a side and would hold its own at the Thanksgiving table.

Brussels Sprout Salad
Brussels Sprout Salad

Serves 4

Juice of 1 lemon
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 garlic clove, minced
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup grated pecorino cheese
1/4 cup walnuts, roughly chopped
1 /2 small red onion thinly sliced
2 pounds brussels sprouts, shaved thinly with a mandolin or a food processor fitted with the slicing disc

For the dressing, combine the lemon juice, Dijon mustard, garlic, salt and pepper. Slowly whisk in the olive oil until fully combined.

In a large bowl, combine the pecorino, walnuts, red onion and brussels sprouts and toss with the dressing.

Whole Wheat Bread

Whole Wheat Bread
Each Sunday night I line up stacks of bread to make peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for the week’s lunches. PBJ has been my lunch of choice since kindergarten. I have a shelf in the freezer where I store the sandwiches. In the morning I throw one into my purse, and it is perfectly thawed by lunchtime without being smashed.

Despite all my efforts to make things from scratch, my PBJs end up on uninspired, squishy supermarket bread. Feeling a bit ambitious, I baked two loaves of whole wheat bread. I could hardly contain my excitement cutting off two slices for the ultimate PBJ. It was such a treat to have my absolute favorite sandwich on homemade bread.

Whole Wheat Bread
Whole Wheat Bread
Adapted from Martha Stewart Living November 2009

Makes 2 loaves

3-1/2 cups warm water
3 tablespoons honey
2 packets dry active yeast (about 4-1/2 teaspoons)
4 cups bread flour, plus more for dusting
3 cups whole-wheat flour
1 cup wheat germ
2 tablespoons kosher salt
Canola oil for, bowls, plastic wrap and pans

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook, combine the water, honey and yeast. Let stand for 10 minutes until the yeast is foamy.

In a large bowl, combine the bread flour, whole-wheat flour, wheat germ and salt. Stir the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients. Mix on medium speed kneading the dough until it is smooth and elastic, about 5-7 minutes. (Alternatively, you can knead the dough by hand, about 10-12 minutes.)

Shape the dough into a ball, transfer to an oiled boil and cover with plastic wrap. Let rise for 1-1/2 to 2 hours until it has doubled in size.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Grease two 9-inch by 5-inch loaf pans with canola oil.

On a lightly floured work surface, divide the dough into 2 equal pieces. Pat each into an oval and roll up lengthwise. Transfer the dough to the loaf pans placing them seam side down. Cover with oiled plastic wrap and let rise for 30-45 minutes until doubled in size.

Remove the plastic wrap and bake the loaves for 50-60 minutes until deep golden brown. Let the loaves cool for 5 minutes in the pan before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.

Spicy Red Lentil & Chickpea Soup

Spicy Red Lentil & Chickpea Soup
My slow cooker lives in an awkward cabinet above the refrigerator. I have to climb up on a dining chair to hoist it down. Our kitchen is in dire need of major reorganization. As a result, the slow cooker’s inconvenient location means it doesn’t get used as often as it should. I am always reminded of this whenever I pull it out to make a warm hearty meal that is big on flavor and takes little effort.

The growing number of colder days has had me craving big bowls of soup. Instead of my usual veggie purée plus stock method, I reached for the slow cooker. A batch of spicy red lentil & chickpea soup had a good dose of heat thanks to a generous amount of smoked paprika and red pepper flakes. Soup in the slow cooker was so simple that I need to find room for this gadget on a lower shelf.

Spicy Red Lentil & Chickpea Soup
Spicy Red Lentil & Chickpea Soup

Adapted from Slow Cooker by The Australian Women’s Weekly

2 teaspoons vegetable oil
1 white onion, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
1-inch piece fresh ginger, peeled and grated
2 teaspoons smoked paprika
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
10 ounces peeled butternut squash, cubed
3/4 cup red lentils
1-15 ounce can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1-14.5 ounce can diced tomatoes
3 cups water
3 cups vegetable stock
1/3 cup chopped fresh parsley

Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium high heat. Sauté the onions until they start to soften, about 4 minutes. Stir in the garlic, ginger, paprika, cumin, red pepper flakes, salt and pepper and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute.

Transfer the onion mixture to a slow cooker. Add the squash, lentils, chickpeas, tomatoes, water and stock. Cook on low for 6 hours. Sprinkle with parsley before serving.

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