Thursday, December 31, 2009

Happy New Year!!

So, I feel like I need to write something since I've been a bit quiet for the past week.  Truth is, I've been on vacation from work, recharging my batteries and spending some serious quality time with friends and family.  It's been great.

To all of you who I read and comment regularly - you'll see my comments coming through again in the next few days.

I also promise I'll be updating posts in a few days as well ... until then, I will be cooking - so some recipes to come - a beef tenderloin roast, apple pie, and a specialty pizza among others.

Hope you all have a wonderful and safe new year, and are as lucky as I to spend it with people you care about!!

See you in 2010

Monday, December 21, 2009

Pear, Chicken and Blue Cheese Salad

So, I had some veggies left in my organics box before Thanksgiving and I wanted to make myself a light dinner.  I realize how counter-intuitive it is to follow that statement with a pat of butter melting in a pan, but whatever....moderation.


I had some red and green leaf lettuce, a bartlett pear, leftover cooked chicken breast, and blue cheese.   I wanted the pear to be warm, so I sliced the pear thin and sauteed it in the frying pan until it was just starting to carmelize. 

While the pear was cooking, I cut the leftover chicken into bite-sized pieces.  I washed my lettuce and arranged it on the plate with the chicken.  I sprinkled the salad with a bit of crumbled blue cheese.


As the pears began to brown at the edges, I grabbed my handy kitchen tongs and flipped each slice over so it would cook on the other side.  Then I started to work on my dressing.

I used 1 tablespoon of dijon mustard, a tablespoon of honey and whisked them together.  I added a tablespoon of olive oil and continued whisking.  A dash of salt, pepper, and garlic powder, and some vegetable stock thinned the mixture and created a delicious dressing.

I topped the salad with the pears, drizzled the dressing over the plate, and enjoyed my fast and healthy dinner.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Puff Pastry Pinwheels

My coworker is pregnant with her first child!   I have known her for a long time (we both worked at the same job previously...) and am very excited for her.  In celebration of her impending bundle, we threw her a surprise baby shower at the office.  Everyone pitched in and either chipped in for a gift - or brought a snack.  There were whoopie pies, brownies, chips and salsa and sparkling cider.  I made some chocolate dipped pretzels (since the mommy-to-be has been craving them for her whole pregnancy) and I also brought some puff pastry pinwheels.

These were an appetizer that I learned from my mother while I was home for Thanksgiving, and I think its a great technique that you can use with a lot of different ingredients.  We brought them when my parents dined at Rafe's mom's house for the first time.  Everyone raved about them, and Rafe kept eating the leftovers for the next few days.

They are very easy, and apparently very impressive!  Many of my coworkers asked for the recipe.  And, of course, you start with one of my favorite easy bought puff pastry.

2 sheets of puff pastry
1 - 12oz jar of roasted red peppers, drained and chopped
8 oz of gruyere cheese, shredded

Let the pastry thaw on the countertop.  Take one sheet of the dough and roll out pastry just slightly so the seams of the dough are smushed back together. 
Sprinkle the dough all over with 1/2 the cheese, avoiding 1/4 inch around the edges.
Sprinkle the cheese with 1/2 the roasted red peppers
Now, to roll the dough up into a pinwheel, you will have to roll each edge like a jelly roll just to the middle.  Use the edges perpendicular to the seams, so your pinwheels don't fall apart when you slice them

Repeat with the second sheet of pastry.

At this point you can wrap the roll in plastic wrap and store in the freezer until ready to bake.  Just thaw on the counter until you're able to slice, then bake at 400 degrees for 15-18 minutes or until golden.

These are really simple, and absolutely delicious.  I'm excited to try a different combination of, pesto and asiago cheese, or sundried tomatoes and fontina cheese....ooh, or ham and manchego!!  Olives would be tasty too....if you try this recipe with any different fillings, let me know how it goes!!

Do you have any go-to appetizers/recipes for potlucks or cocktail parties?

Monday, December 14, 2009

Birthday Pie

When my father read my blog for the first time he was fixated on the peach pie.  My dad absolutely loves pie.  The first words out of his mouth were "but you never make me pie!"  I explained that the peach pie had been my first and only attempt - but it was already done.  I had broken my father's heart.

His favorite pie is cherry.  So when his birthday came around, I decided that I should bake my father a birthday cake pie.

The last time I had baked I was at dear bf's male dwelling - so I had to make the pie crust by hand.  This time, at his mother's house...I had access to a HUGE cuisinart, and a real live rolling pin!  This pie was VERY easy by comparison. 

Rafe had gotten all the ingredients that I needed at the store on Friday - so as soon as I woke up Saturday morning I could get to work making pastry dough.  I got up early, made some coffee, put on some music and started working.  Dough in a cuisinart takes mere minutes!

We did run into one little snag...we could not find sour cherries anywhere!!  Rafe checked all of the grocery stores in his town and nothing.  I instructed him to just buy the only frozen cherries he could find and we'd figure something out....

Saturday morning after I made my pastry dough, I started my various internet searchs "can't find sour cherries", "substitutions for sour cherries", and so on.  Most of my searches had instructed to cut back on the sugar for sweet cherries, and add some lemon juice.  So that is exactly what I did.

Rolling out pastry dough was soooo much easier with a real rolling pin this time, too.

I was feeling confident at how easily my pie was coming together, so I decided to get fancy and create a lattice top crust.  I rolled out the dough, then used a pizza wheel to cut strips.
I wove the strips on top of the pie.

Here it is baking in the oven... The edges started to get dark kind of fast, so I covered it with foil.

And here is the finished product.  Truth be told, the filling was still fairly sweet, and tasted more like blueberry than cherry to me....But my dad's second favorite pie is blueberry, so I think I was in the clear.
He really liked his birthday desert, and my mother had told me that she was so impressed with my pie baking that she will forgo her usual caramel apple pie order from the farmstand in town for Christmas, and let me bake a pie in her kitchen!!

The recipe is adapted from Gourmet magazine's pie recipe.  Instead of the all butter pastry dough, I subbed half shortening - last time I made an all butter dough, and I think I prefer it...sub whatever pastry dough you like - no hard feelings!

here is a link to my favorite: all Butter pastry dough

3 tablespoons quick-cooking tapioca

1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
 2 tablespoons cornstarch
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cups sugar
3 tablespoons lemon juice
6 cups frozen (not thawed) pitted sweet cherries (2 pound)
Whole milk for brushing

1.  Preheat oven to 425°F with rack in middle and put a large baking sheet on rack.

2.  Finely grind tapioca in grinder.
3.  Whisk in ground tapioca, cornstarch, cinnamon, salt, and sugar, then add cherries, lemon juice and vanilla extract and toss well. Let stand 30 minutes.
3.  Roll out dough (keep remaining piece chilled). Fit into a 9-inch pie plate. Trim any excess dough to leave a 1/2-inch overhang. Chill shell while rolling out top crust.
Roll out remaining dough on a lightly floured surface with a lightly floured rolling pin into a 12-inch round. Toss cherries well again, then add to shell and cover with top crust
To Creat Lattice:
Cut remaining dough into 1 inch wide strips.  Lay five strips across the top of the pie.  Pick up strips 1, 3 and 5 and fold them over halfway.  Lay another strip underneath, then unfold the strips back to their original position.  Pick up strips 2 and 4, and lay a strip underneath.  Now repeat the same on the other side of the pie.  Crimp edges decoratively.

Brush top crust with milk and sprinkle with sugar.

Bake pie on preheated baking sheet 30 minutesutes, then cover edge with a pie shield or foil and reduce oven temperature to 375°F. Continue to bake until crust is deep golden and filling is bubbling in center, 50 minutes to 1 hour more.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Guest Post - Emily's Apple Butter

At an early morning meeting several weeks ago my coworkers and I went through the usual 'what did you do last weekend' discussion.  Imagine my delight to hear that my friend Emily had made a huge batch of apple butter, and canned it! 

I'm always thrilled to learn a new recipe or technique from a friend.  It's a great way to find new recipes that actually work and taste great. We started chatting and I immediately offered Emily a guest post on The Clean Plate Club.  (Actually, I'm not sure if I would describe as an 'offer' or if I straight up insisted...anyhow)....I'm very excited that she decided to take me up on it - and in addition to writing a guest post - she gave me a sample jar of her delicious apple butter!

See...she even packaged it up super-cute.  She's so creative!

I must admit - with all the Thanksgiving holiday goings-on I didn't taste her creation immediately...but once I did, oh boy I put apple butter on everything.  I started with some toast to accompany my evening cup of chamomile tea - and then put it in my morning oatmeal the next day.  I swear this stuff has the power to make my shoes taste good!

If you're still thinking about Christmas/Holiday gifts and have any foodies in your life this apple butter would make a delicious addition to someone's stocking.  I'm definitely going to have to try making it as well.  It's soooo good....
Without any further ado - I give you Emily!


Apple Butter Jeans, Boots with the Fur

The entire time I slaved over my 2009 batch of apple butter this was all my roommate and I could sing – and fittingly, nothing compliments winter quite as well as some apple butter and Uggs. I made my first batch of AB last year by taking a few different recipes and creating one that suited me in terms of ingredients and arduousness. Along with being a huge hit, it also lasted about 6+ months because of the longevity proper canning affords. So we enjoyed it’s sweetness atop toast or pork chops, stirred into sweet potatoes or cottage cheese, as an oil substitute in cakes and breads, etc. right through to Spring. Making and canning apple butter can easily become a fall tradition for anyone as in love with apple picking and cooking as I am – I am hoping Alicia will follow suit and share her experience next year!

Apple Butter Recipe


4 lbs of good cooking apples (I used a combination of Granny Smith, Golden Delicious and Red Delicious - this way you get a nice blend of sweet and tart)
1 cup apple cider vinegar
2 cups water
Sugar (about 3-4 cups, TBD while cooking)
Dash of Salt
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon fresh ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon fresh ground allspice
Grated rind and juice of 1 lemon

Equipment Needed

1 wide 8-quart pan (Stainless steel works best)
A large (8 cup) measuring cup pourer
6-8 8-ounce canning jars


1. Peel and core apples and cut into quarters, cut out damaged parts. You can forgo peeling and coring to retain more of the pectin – but that is based on personal preference. I prefer the flesh of the apples only.
2. Put apple chunks into a large pot, add the vinegar and water, cover, bring to a boil, reduce heat to simmer, cook until apples are soft, about 20-30 minutes. Remove from heat.
3. Mash a bit to get rid of any remaining large chunks to form more of a puree (it is o.k. if a few small chunks remain – they will soften in the final stage of cooking) and measure out puree by cup into a large bowl.
4. Add 1/2 cup of sugar for each cup of apple pulp. Stir to dissolve sugar. Add the salt, the cinnamon, ground cloves, ground allspice, lemon rind and juice. Taste and adjust seasonings if necessary.
5. Cook uncovered in a large, wide, thick-bottomed pot on medium low heat, stirring constantly to prevent burning. Scrape the bottom of the pot while you stir to make sure a crust is not forming at the bottom. Cook until thick and smooth when a bit is spooned onto a cold plate and allowed to cool (1 to 2 hours). You can also cook the purée on low heat, stirring only occasionally, but this will take much longer as stirring encourages evaporation. (Note the wider the pan the better, as there is more surface for evaporation.)


1. There are several ways to sterilize your jars for canning. You can run them through a short cycle on your dishwasher. You can place them in a large pot (12 quart) of water on top of a steaming rack (so they don't touch the bottom of the pan), and bring the water to a boil for 10 minutes. Or you can rinse out the jars, dry them, and place them, without lids, in a 200°F oven for 10 minutes. I used the oven method which was easy and worked well.
2. Pour into apple butter into hot, sterilized jars and seal. If you plan to store the apple butter un-refrigerated, make sure to follow proper canning procedures (I store in the fridge and the first batch I made lasted over 6 months). Before applying the lids, sterilize the lids by placing them in a bowl and pouring boiling water over them. Wipe the rims of the jars clean before applying the lids. I used a hot water bath for 10 minutes to ensure a good seal.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

The Requisite Thanksgiving Post

Like Many food bloggers - Thanksgiving is by far my favorite holiday.  What's better than an entire day centered around food.  I woke up bright and early on turkey day to prepare the bird.  My mom now lets me prep the turkey - this is a big deal in our family.

I had mixed the butter for the rub the day before.  For an 11 lb turkey it was 1 stick of butter, 2 cloves of garlic chopped, and chopped thyme and chopped sage - approximately a loosely packed tablespoon of each, along with some salt and pepper.  I also like to add some lemon zest - but we didn't have any lemons!

I loosened the skin from the turkey and rubbed the butter between the skin and the breast meat.  the I rubbed the softened butter all over the surface of the turkey - legs, wings, everything!  The entire surface was then sprinkled with paprika.  We're Portuguese so everything we roast gets paprika on the top ... it also helps the skin to brown and crisp!

After salting and peppering I put half an orange (usually a lemon but we made do) into the cavity of the turkey and a few sprigs each of thyme and sage.

Then the little fella went into the oven and my parents and I shared breakfast.  I basted the bird a couple times, then I went downstairs to workout and my mom took over the turkey duties.


Here is our table all set for dinner.  We have a small, intimate meal.  Just my parents and my grandmother...and all the fixins!


Turkey and my mom's famous stuffing!  There is a salad in the corner too.


Clockwise, mashed potatoes, my  butternut squash, my mom's turkey gravy - always amazing.  And the required canned cranberry sauce.  My mother has tried to make fancy stuff in the past, but my dad and I like the jelly stuff....old habits die hard!

Here is my plate....Notice the abundance of stuffing.  It truly is my favorite part of the meal.  When my grandmother made dinner she would make a massive amount of stuffing just for me - and I never ever got sick of it!

Dinner was paired with the 2009 Beaujolais.  I read and was reminded of it by A Couple in the Kitchen - and decided it would be a good (and inexpensive - only $9) addition to our dinner.  Even my mom, who prefers white wines - like Rieslings, really enjoyed this wine.  It was light and fruity - and paired well with the meal - like cranberry sauce with turkey.

Hope everyone had a fabulous Thanksgiving!

Monday, November 30, 2009

Next Food Network Star's African Meatballs

I figured this would be a great recipe to share after Thanksgiving - since it is the opposite of Turkey and poultry seasoning.....

Like most of you I suppose, I spend a good deal of my personal time thinking about food.  Frankly, if I am not currently eating a meal, I am likely thinking about my next meal.  This means that food factors in as a topic of entertainment for me.  I read books, magazines, and newspaper articles devoted to food.  And, I am an avid fan of such food programming as Top Chef, Hells Kitchen, Anything on Food Network, and of course, the Next Food Network Star.

Now, to be honest, this was the first year that I had watched an entire season of NFNS in full.  And I must admit that it was for research more than anything else.  That is because I actually tried out for the show.  There, I've admitted it to the entire blog-reading world. 

The contestants on Next Food Network Star tend to be a little more amateur than Top Chef.  Not all are even trained in professional cooking.  I immediately decided that I liked Melissa D'Arabian, mostly because she was a home cook like me (I love an underdog) and as shrill as she can be, was probably the least annoying of the other contestants.

I watched and cheered Melissa until the bitter end - and that was tough because I liked that Jeffrey guy too. I even watched the premiere of Melissa's own show!  Of course, then I lost interest and haven't watch her since...I know, I'm so fickle!

I loved the first episode.  Melissa made North African Meatballs, which I think was a great way to introduce some more exotic spices into a fairly familiar dish.  Instead of the usual tomato-basil sauce, these meatballs incorporated cinnamon, brown sugar, and olives into the mix.  Even a hater of olives like myself really appreciated the brininess that they lent to the sauce (just chop them really small - they really work into the dish).  If I were to do this again - I would make double the sauce, because I felt like there wasn't enough to go around for all the meatballs.

Although Melissa also included a couscous recipe, and some carrots, I decided to pair my meatballs with some ingredients I already had on-hand: brown rice and sauteed kale.

You can find the recipe on the Food Network page- and it is also copied below.
North African Meatballs recipe


For the North African Sauce:

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/2 small onion, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1 lemon, zested
  • 1/2 cup pitted and chopped briny olives
  • 1/2 cup white wine
  • 1/4 cup chicken stock or broth
  • 1 (14-ounce) can crushed or diced tomatoes
  • 1 teaspoon light brown sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried red pepper flakes
  • Pinch ground cinnamon
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper

For the Meatballs:

  • 1 egg
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 3 tablespoons finely chopped fresh cilantro leaves
  • 1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • Pinch ground cinnamon
  • 3/4 pound ground beef
  • 1/3 cup finely ground rolled oats or fine bread crumbs
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 3 to 4 tablespoons vegetable oil, for cooking
  • 4 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley leaves


To make the North African Sauce:
In a large saucepan heat the olive oil over medium heat and saute the onion and garlic until soft but not brown, about 3 minutes. Add the lemon zest and olives and cook for 1 more minute. Add the white wine, deglaze the pan, and let it reduce for a 1 to 2 minutes. Stir in the stock, canned tomatoes, sugar, red pepper flakes, and cinnamon, and simmer to blend flavors, about 7 minutes. Season with salt and pepper, to taste.
To make the Meatballs: In a medium bowl, add the egg and tomato paste and stir until smooth. Add the cilantro, ginger, cumin, and cinnamon and mix until well blended. Stir in the ground beef and oats, season with salt and pepper, to taste, and combine gently after each addition. Do not overmix. Rolling with your hands, make about 32 meatballs, about 1-inch in diameter.
In a large saute pan, heat 3 tablespoons vegetable oil over medium heat, and brown the meatballs in batches until golden on all sides. Add more oil, as needed. Transfer the meatballs to the pan with the sauce and let simmer for 20 minutes.
Yield: 4 servings

Have you ever made a recipe a with weird-sounding combination of ingredients?  How did it turn out?

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving

Sitting here in my parents' home, the house I grew up in, I'm suddenly very aware of all of the wonderful things in my life.  Today is a fantastic opportunity to reflect on your past year and all the people and things that make your life enjoyable. 

Today I am very grateful for my family, friends and Rafe, the roof over my head, the food on my plate, my health, and my jobs - both my day job and my blog 'hobby-job'....and that is just the short list.

I hope everyone has a safe and Happy Thanksgiving!


Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Vegetarian Bean Burgers

The day after our Preliminary Turkey Day I felt a bit gluttonous and remorseful about all the food and drink I had imbibed the day before....well, not that remorseful - I would do it again in a second...
But, as a result of all the rich food, I thought I should probably prepare a dinner on Sunday that was a little more plant-based.  I decided I wanted to try my hand at making my own veggie burgers!

These were incredibly simple and provided me with dinner on Sunday night, and lunch for the entire work-week.  I also had 2 extra that I was able to put in the freezer for a quick lunch or dinner in the future....I might be inclined to pull these out to eat next week...After all of the gluttony of the REAL Thanksgiving weekend starting tomorrow!
I adapted this recipe from Mark Bittman's 'How to Cook Everything'.  I want to continue to work with it  before I provide my adapted recipe.  I think that with the relatively mild flavor of the beans, that there is a lot of room to experiment with different flavors and additions.

Though I am not ready to post the exact recipe yet, I can give you the basic idea...Dump a can of beans, some aromatics, seasonings and a little veggie broth and a binder into the food processor.

Mix everything on pulse until just combined, but still a little chunky...Let it rest for a few minutes.

Form into patties, then rest again.  Here is the part I am still working on - I need to make them stick together just a little bit better - more oatmeal or breadcrumbs in the mixture.  It was just a LITTLE too wet.

I pan fried the patties in just a little bit of oil, in a nonstick pan.  They are very delicate, so flipping them is a little difficult, but I managed not to break any!

I added some sharp cheddar to one patty, and put it on an arnold sandwich thin to act as the bun.  I made it a meal with a salad and some roasted delicata squash.

I topped the burger with ketchup and red-hot.  It was moist and flavorful, but the outside of the burger had a slight crunch from the breading and pan frying.  The bean burgers kept pretty well in the fridge, and provided me with yummy lunches throughout the week.  For lunch I warmed the burger in the microwave, then put it on an Arnold sandwich thin with some mashed avocado and red hot.  YUM!  Can't wait to try this again with some different seasonings!

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

RedPlum - My Frugalicious Holiday

What a fabulous way to spend a Thursday night.  On Thursday 11/12 I attended the RedPlum event: My Frugalicious Holiday at the Liberty Hotel in Boston.  Along for the ride were Carissa from Starving Artist and Neha from Simply.

(photo by Carissa DiCenzo)

The event was held on the balcony that ran along the fourth floor, and looked down into the beautiful lobby. - The setting was extraordinary!

We checked in and received our name tags - which identified our blogs.  I was really excited to go to an event and represent my blog officially! 

There were official RedPlum cocktails offered as we entered - but I immediately spied the representatives from the Wine Connextion in North Andover MA, so we passed on the cocktails and headed over to the table.  They were sampling champagne (one of my absolute favorites - such a treat), as well as Chardonnay, Cotes D'Rhone, and a Cabernet Sauvignon.  The champagne and the Cabernet were both delicious and inexpensive.  I didn't try the Chardonnay, but Neha seemed happy with her glass.  Sam Messina, the wine director at the store was a delight to speak with.  He was exuding so much energy - and you could tell that he was very passionate about his work!  I love wine - I've been to Napa and Sonoma a couple times - but still know very little about wines, and pairing.  Sam was very easy to talk to and gave suggestions for wine pairing - and some information on the qualities to look for in a good wine.  If you live in the North Shore area I suggest you check out the wine connection - if the other employees are anything like Sam, you will be steered in the right direction if you need help with your choices!

(RedPlum photo)
After our wine tasting we made our way over to the table-scape set up by Ikea.  They used some really creative tricks to set a beautiful table - such as using curtains as table runners, and using Christmas tree balls as place markers - names were written on the balls in metallic marker!

(RedPlum photo)

My second favorite part (2nd to the wine tasting- yum!) was the table with all the gifts under $30.  They had lots of great gift ideas for every type of person. My coworker is pregnant with her first child to I was immediately drawn to the onesies and pacifiers!

(RedPlum photo)

(RedPlum photo)
As we left the event, we were given gift bags which included a bottle of wine and some of the gifts that we had seen.

I had a ton of fun - and all the other Boston area bloggers seemed to have a great time as well.  RedPlum is traveling to many major cities over the holiday season - If there is one in your area I suggest you attend!  It was a lot of fun - and a great showcase of holiday ideas - from food, to decorating, to gift-giving!

If you can't make one of the events - check out the RedPlum list of Great Gifts under $30!

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Kaitlins Chocolate Cookies

As I mentioned in my last post - I am following my preliminary turkey day post with some recipes!

Kaitlin has been kind enough to share her recipe for chocolate cookies....They sound super simple - and although I haven't tried to make them yet - I have eaten them.  They are delicious!

1 12 oz bag of chocolate chips
1 stick of butter
6 tablespoons of sugar (more or less depending on how sweet you want them, I usually do a little more)
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 can sweetened condensed milk
1 1/4 cup flour

  1. melt butter and chocolate chips, stir
  2. add sugar, vanilla and sweetened condensed milk, mix until fully blended
  3. add flour, if batter seems to thin add a little more
  4. bake at 350 8-10 minutes
I also promised my stuffing recipe.  The truth is, the stuffing is not belongs to the one and only TV chef who I love to hate....Giada De Laurentiis.  I have to be honest - that the only reasons I love to hate Giada is because her recipes are delicious and rich, and I've never had one fail - but they are so good that I don't understand how she stays so tiny, she has a succesful cooking/television career, and her husband is a designer for Anthropologie - so that is where her gorgeous clothes come from...sigh.  Some girls have all the luck.


My mother has made this recipe several times.  From our taste-tests we decided that the chestnuts are not we omit them.  They don't really bring anything special to the dish in our opinion.  Also, the bakery at Shaw's doesn't stock cornbread, and I really didn't have any spare time to bake my own, so I used the dried cornbread stuffing mix from the good people at pepperidge farm.

Thanks for sharing your recipe Kaitlin!!

Monday, November 9, 2009

Preliminary Turkey Day

Without question my favorite holiday is Thanksgiving.  It's all about the food.  No presents, decorations are not required; it's about sharing a special meal with your family, and if you're lucky, great friends.  I count myself doubly lucky because not only do I get to share Thanksgiving with my family - but my friends have a 3 year tradition of celebrating Thanksgiving a few weeks early.

Everyone brings a dish (or 2, or 3...) that is the presumably one of the best at their family gatherings....Beyond the traditional turkey and trimmings we have a full fleet of appetizers and some amazing desserts.

We start every year with a football game.  The male guests play football at the elementary school next door, while the women watch (we would play - and we're completely allowed to participate - In fact Sara played last year, and did very well) but I subscribe to the same ideas about this that Abby expressed a few years back....
"Sure its all fun and games until it starts getting competitive.  Then someone starts calling you by your last name and telling you to hustle"

This year's PTD took place on Saturday.  Once we got a little bored with the football game we headed back inside and start drinking wine, chatting, and munching on appetizers.  We made sure to get our fill before the boys came in and polished off the food. 

The appetizers were delicious and included:
Cheese platter from Marcia complete with baked brie and raspberry jam.  If you've never tried this combo, please do so right now!! I parked myself right in front of it...I'm pretty sure I ate 1/3 of the wheel

This isn't my best photography - but trust me - this was amazing.  Delicious crab dip from Sara.  This was served on top of cocktail bread - rye and pumpernickel.  

Abby made one of my favorite appetizers in her repertoire.  Kielbasa wrapped in crescent dough.  The photo on the left is her handiwork, stretching the dough across the sausage....on the right is the finish product.  Served with spicy brown mustard for dipping!

Featured, but not pictured were the buffalo chicken dip and crab cakes from Molly (girl was a rock-star with her many delicious contributions) and Rafe's famous guacamole.

After the appetizers were done - we started to finalize the main course. I was tasked with the turkey the past two years - but now that Rafe no longer lives at the party site it would be impossible to handle the bird.  I can't say that I'm not happy to give up the responsibility (I had a mini breakdown the first year when the turkey was done an hour early and I thought I ruined the holiday.)

This year, the two turkey breasts were roasted by Abby and Molly - and they were deliciously seasoned and moist.  Kudos girls - I know what a headache it can be to be responsible for the main event - and you two knocked it out of the park!

In addition to turkey and gravy we had some amazing side dishes, like the obligatory mashed potatoes by Marcia.
John's delicious macaroni and cheese made an appearance and was studded with grape tomatoes!  (Sorry for the blurry photo...I was shaking with starvation :)

 Molly made asparagus for a veggie side

Marcia made this salad that was Rafe's brainchild - mixed greens, dried cranberries, goat cheese and toasted pecans.

This is Sara's sweet potato gratin....I need to get this recipe.  I seriously look forward to this dish EVERY year.  YUM!  Can't get better than some cheezy sweet potatoes.

There was also corn and crescent rolls from Marcia...not pictured...but I'm sure you know what both those things look like.  Ty brought the cranberry sauce as usual.
Here is a picture of Rafe's plate.  Also featured on the bottom right quadrant is my sausage, apple, cranberry cornbread stuffing.  (Detailed instructions and link to recipe to follow.)

After dinner we hung out for a little while and digested before dessert.  We wanted to make room in our bellies for the delicious sweet treats!

Maggie made pumpkin cheesecake.  She promised this was a Paula Deen recipe so I braced myself for an onslaught of heavy, butter-filled cheesecake - but I was pleasantly surprised by how light and flavorful it was.  It was a nice change from the usual pumpkin custard pie. 

Kaitlin is a baking master and made these chocolate-chocolate chip cookies that absolutely blew my mind....Can you make these for my birthday and put some candles in them?  February 12th.  Thanks!  She also made Ghiradelli Brownies, not pictured.  Likely because we ate them all.  I'll be posting the recipe for this in a follow-up as well!


Molly also made an apple crisp.  Did I tell you she was a rock-star?  Sorry its blurry Molly - it was yummy though!

Preliminary Turkey Day was an amazing feast as usual...and lots of fun.  I feel very very lucky to get 2 Thanksgivings a year - and clearly - a lot of good friends and good food to be thankful for.  I'm off to hit the gym for the next week or so to work off all the treats.

Hat's off to everyone in attendance!