Category Archives: Holiday

Cranberry Simple Syrup & Sparkling Cranberry Ginger Mocktails

I never know what to post the week of Thanksgiving, but I think going with something easy that you can make anytime between now and the New Year is a good place to start.

This Fresh Cranberry Simple Syrup certainly fits that bill, clocking in with almost no active work, but plenty of vibrant color and sweet-tart flavor. It starts the way all simple syrups do: with sugar and water. While the classic proportion is 1:1, I upped the water here to accommodate the cranberries’ natural thickening agent (pectin)—we’re after syrup here, not jelly!

The berries, water and sugar are simmered together for just ten minutes, until the fruit begins to burst. Once that happens, remove the pot from the heat and use a fork or potato masher to mash all the berries into the liquid. Resist the urge to strain your syrup right away, instead letting the mashed berries hang out in it while it’s cooling. This imbues the syrup with plenty of tart cranberry flavor and vivid color. Once the half hour is up, strain and cool your syrup, then use it however you like. I bet a little over ice cream would be a treat, but I am focusing on mocktails today.

Cranberry Simple Syrup & Sparkling Cranberry Ginger Mocktails​

Let’s talk about these Sparkling Cranberry Ginger Mocktails. With their ruby color and booze-free fizz, these are a perfect beverage for any end-of-year occasion. They’re not terribly sugary, and taste intentional and not like an afterthought or just a virgin version of some classic cocktail. They taste like they have some intention behind them, if you will—they’re complete on their own.

The list of ingredients for Sparkling Cranberry Ginger Mocktails is blessedly short, and besides the homemade Fresh Cranberry Simple Syrup, everything is readily available at the grocery store.

The recipe is simple: 1 part Fresh Cranberry Simple Syrup, 2 parts ginger beer, 2 parts seltzer, 1/2 part fresh lime juice. I’ve written the recipe in “parts” rather than specific volumes so that you can make enough for two or for a crowd without doing too much math. Simply stir the ingredients together and serve over ice with cranberries and lime wedges for garnish. So cute, right? Wait til you try one—so good.

Cranberry Simple Syrup & Sparkling Cranberry Ginger Mocktails​

My absolute favorite thing about these mocktails? They’re not too sweet. There is some sweetness, of course, from the syrup and zippy ginger beer, but it’s balanced by the lime juice and diluted with seltzer in the best possible way. They taste like they were made for grown-ups because they were. How refreshing.

Cranberry Simple Syrup & Sparkling Cranberry Ginger Mocktails​

I’m taking the rest of this week off to spend time with my family. I’ll be back next week with new Christmas recipes. Happy Thanksgiving, dear readers.

Fresh Cranberry Simple Syrup
makes about 2 cups

1 1/2 cups water
1 cup granulated sugar
1 10-ounce bag fresh cranberries, rinsed and picked through

Add all ingredients to a small pot. Bring to a boil, then immediately reduce to a simmer for 10 minutes or until berries have burst. Skim off and discard any foam that accumulates. Remove pot from heat, then mash burst berries with a potato masher or fork. Let berries sit in syrup for 30 minutes.

Place a sieve over a large mixing bowl. Use a silicone spatula or wooden spoon to press the syrup through the sieve. Discard the the leftover fruit solids or use for another purpose.

Transfer syrup to a container with a lid. Let cool completely before storing in the refrigerator.
Sparkling Cranberry Ginger Mocktails

1 part cranberry syrup
2 parts ginger beer
2 parts seltzer
1/2 part lime juice
ice
fresh cranberries, for garnish (optional)
lime wedges, for garnish (optional)

I measured in tablespoons for each glass, but feel free to use a larger units of measure to make a pitcher of mocktails.

In a liquid measuring cup or other vessel, stir together cranberry syrup, ginger beer, seltzer and lime juice.

Add ice to glasses. Pour mocktail mixture over the top and garnish with cranberries and lime, if desired. Serve immediately.

Vegan Chocolate Cream Pie

Hey there! I put all my Thanksgiving recipes on their own page for maximum convenience. Just click the menu at the top of the page and then go to “Thanksgiving Recipes.”

Vegan Chocolate Cream Pie​

It’s funny how recipes sometimes just hit me out of nowhere. Like this past September I was in Maine making Vegan Chocolate Pudding for dessert, and I accidentally made it just a little too stiff. While it worked for a no-frills vacation treat, I knew that I needed to make adjustments for a better pudding consistency, but I also knew I had just made a perfect Vegan Chocolate Cream Pie filling.

Vegan Chocolate Cream Pie​

And I do mean perfect. Sliceable, but not bouncy. Rich and chocolaty, but completely devoid of dairy and eggs. I had a vision of it sitting in a chocolate cookie crust with a whisper of vegan whipped cream on top, and two months later, here we are.

As with my traditional Chocolate Cream Pie, this vegan version is nearly no-bake and very simple to make. The crust is just crushed Oreos (I used gluten-free) and vegan butter that are mixed together and baked just to set. The filling is made by whisking things together in a certain order, as all pudding is. No need to sieve this one though—no eggs means no worrying about solids! To assemble, just pour the filling into the crust and refrigerate until very, very cold.

Oh yes, this cold, creamy crowd pleaser of a pie is an all-out winner. I mean, who doesn’t love delicious Chocolate Cream Pie and food everyone can eat and enjoy? Dessert and inclusivity are two of my favorite things!

Vegan Chocolate Cream Pie​

Before serving, top the pie with some vegan whipped cream! I went with an easy coconut cream-based recipe by Minimalist Baker, and it’s outrageously good. If you’re not up to making your own vegan whipped cream, Reddi Wip makes a good coconut whipped cream in a can that you can find in most grocery stores. Just put a little on each slice immediately before serving (and then spray the rest in your mouth because you’re a grown-up and you can).

Vegan Chocolate Cream Pie​

Speaking of slices, can we discuss how beautiful this is? Defined layers! Gorgeous chocolaty filling! And it’s gluten-free and vegan? I think it’s safe to say we have a Thanksgiving showstopper on our hands.

Vegan Chocolate Cream Pie​
Vegan Chocolate Cream Pie
makes 1 pie

Crust:
24 regular or gluten-free Oreos (original or Double Stuf)
5 tablespoons vegan butter, melted

Filling:
5 tablespoons cornstarch
2/3 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup natural unsweetened cocoa powder
pinch of Kosher or sea salt
3 cups unsweetened non-dairy milk (I used almond milk)
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
5 ounces dark chocolate, chopped
1 tablespoon vegan butter

Topping:
Vegan Whipped Cream (I made it with Thai Kitchen Coconut Cream)
finely chopped dark chocolate

Make the crust. Place Oreos in the bowl of a food processor and blitz until they are crumbs. Add melted butter and pulse until the mixture can be pinched together. Press it into the bottom and up the sides of the pie plate (I find that a 1/4 cup measuring cup works for this). Bake the crust for 10 minutes and then let it cool for 20 (or until you can handle the pie plate).

Make the filling. In a medium pot, whisk together cornstarch, sugar, cocoa powder and salt. Whisk in half the non-dairy milk, followed by the remainder.

Place pot over medium heat. Whisking continuously throughout cooking, cook pudding until it has boiled for 1 minute. This process should take 8-10 minutes from start to finish.

Pour filling into the crust. Tap the full pan on the counter a few times to release large bubbles. Press plastic wrap to the surface. Refrigerate for 6 hours or overnight, until cold.

When ready to serve pudding, peel off and discard plastic wrap. Top with vegan whipped cream of choice and finish with chopped dark chocolate. Refrigerate until ready to slice and serve.

Leftover pie will keep covered in the fridge for 3-4 days.

Pumpkin Ricotta Gnocchi with Spicy Sage Brown Butter

Whether you’re vegetarian or just not into the usual turkey, you’re going to want to add these Pumpkin Ricotta Gnocchi to your Thanksgiving line-up. These little dumplings may not be a traditional part of the holiday menu, but they are tender, seasonal, and an oh-so-fun way to jazz things up.

If you’re stressed out by the idea of making homemade gnocchi, please listen to me: you (yes, you!) can make gnocchi at home during the holidays and not lose your mind in the process. Really! For the longest time, I thought gnocchi were one of those things I needed to leave to the professionals. Turns out, they are much simpler to make than anticipated. Oh, and I guess working in food for six years makes me one of the professionals—oops.

Let’s get down to it. First of all, for a beginner gnocchi maker, ricotta is the way to go. I’ve futzed around with the traditional potato variety and while that’s fun for a weekend project, it’s not the type of recipe I’m looking to take on a week before the biggest food holiday of the year. Nope. Enter ricotta gnocchi, the potato version’s just-as-good, low-maintenance cousin. It can be made in under an hour start-to-finish with no fretting over leaden results. Today’s version is getting a little autumnal flair from pumpkin purée. Yesssss.

The process of making Pumpkin Ricotta Gnocchi is very simple, but here are some tips for success.

  • Make sure to drain your pumpkin purée and ricotta on paper towels before mixing. This comes straight from the brilliant J. Kenji Lopez-Alt, so you know it’s important. Getting rid of the extra moisture in your cheese and purée will make your dough much easier to work with and your final gnocchi much prettier.
  • Flour your surface, knife, and hands really well. Like with other doughs, this will make the whole process much less frustrating (and sticky).
  • You don’t have to shape the gnocchi. Nobody is going to care if your gnocchi have ridges or are simply shaped like little pillows. I took the liberty of rolling mine across the back of a fork, but this is completely cosmetic and in no way required for gnocchi success.
  • You can make these ahead and freeze them! Once they’re cut, you can flash freeze your Pumpkin Ricotta Gnocchi on a baking sheet and store them in a freezer bag until you’re ready to cook. You can boil them straight from the freezer; starting frozen will only add 30-60 seconds to the cook time.
  • Cooking gnocchi takes just a minute or two! Boil them just until they float, then drain immediately.
  • Serve Pumpkin Ricotta Gnocchi with any sauce you like! Despite their seasonal ingredients and color, their flavor is pretty mild and will go with a multitude of sauces. I went with Spicy Sage Brown Butter because it’s exactly what I want this time of year, but I think a seasonal pesto (kale! beet greens! pepitas! feta!) would be amazing. Get creative with it!

Y’all, these are so good. Pumpkin Ricotta Gnocchi are sophisticated seasonal comfort food at its finest—a perfect vegetarian dish or starter for Thanksgiving, or any fall day. They’re so quick and simple, you could even make them for a weeknight dinner like you’re Ina freaking Garten or something.

That said, if you’re dishing up homemade gnocchi on a Wednesday night, please invite me over.

Pumpkin Ricotta Gnocchi
makes 4-6 servings

1 cup pure pumpkin purée
1 cup whole milk ricotta cheese (2/3 of a 15-ounce tub)
3 large egg yolks
1/2 cup grated parmesan or pecorino cheese
1 teaspoon Kosher or sea salt
1 1/2 cups all-purpose or “00” flour

For cooking:
water
Kosher or sea salt

For serving:
Spicy Sage Brown Butter (recipe below)
parmesan or pecorino cheese, for serving

Line a plate with 2-3 layers of paper towels. Spread pumpkin and ricotta onto the paper towels and press 2-3 more layers of paper towels on top. Let sit 15-20 minutes. Peel off and discard top layers of paper towel and then remove pumpkin and ricotta to a medium mixing bowl. Discard remaining paper towels.

With a silicone spatula or wooden spoon, stir together pumpkin and ricotta. Stir in egg yolks, followed by Parmesan and salt. Add half the flour, followed by the remaining half. The dough should be a little sticky but not impossible to handle. If needed, add more flour by the tablespoon until it is coming away from the walls of the bowl in a single mass.

Flour your hands, a chef’s knife (or bench scraper), and a surface. Pat the dough into a circle, then slice it into 8 wedges.

Use your hands to roll each wedge into a rope about 3/4-inch thick. Slice the gnocchi into bite-size pieces (keep in mind that they will expand slightly during cooking). If you would like your gnocchi to have ridges, you can roll each one along the back of a fork (or a special gnocchi board if you’re fancy), but this is totally optional.

At this point you may freeze your gnocchi. Heavily flour a rimmed sheet pan and add your gnocchi, making sure they are in an even layer. Freeze for a couple of hours, until frozen, then transfer to a freezer bag for up to a couple of months.

To cook gnocchi, bring a large pot of water to a boil. Salt well. Add gnocchi and let cook just until they float (1-2 minutes). Drain immediately and toss with Spicy Sage Brown Butter (or other sauce). Garnish with cheese and enjoy immediately.

Spicy Sage Brown Butter
makes enough for 1 batch Pumpkin Ricotta Gnocchi

1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut into pieces
20 fresh sage leaves
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1/4-1/2 teaspoon Kosher or sea salt
1/8-1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
parmesan cheese, for garnish

Add butter, sage leaves, garlic, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and red pepper flakes to a small light-colored saucepan over medium heat. Butter will bubble and crackle as the water content evaporates. Swirl the pan frequently for 5-7 minutes, keeping an eye on the color. When the solids are turning brown and the butter is nutty and fragrant, remove the pot from the heat.

Use a fork or slotted spoon to fish out the sage leaves (they should be crispy) and place them on a a paper towel-lined plate.

Stir vinegar into the butter and taste and adjust for salt. Toss with gnocchi and use sage leaves as a garnish.

Black Bottom Caramel Oatmeal Pie

Black Bottom Caramel Oatmeal ​Pie

Just before I started my blog, Brooklyn’s favorite pie shop, Four & Twenty Blackbirds, released a recipe for their Black Bottom Oatmeal Pie and everyone in the food world lost their minds over it. And for good reason. That pie is an old fashioned favorite: essentially a pecan pie with toasted oats instead of nuts, all suspended over a puddle of dark chocolate ganache—a triumph, if you ask me.

Black Bottom Caramel Oatmeal ​Pie

But, as you have probably noticed, I cannot leave well enough alone. I can’t just leave a recipe the way it is. I can’t! I’ve been looking at this perfect pie for six Thanksgivings thinking “but what if you made it with caramel?”

Well, I finally got myself together and did just that. I made the pie with luxurious homemade caramel instead of the usual invert sugars, adjusting for time and texture, and it came out magnificently. Now I just wish I hadn’t waited six whole freaking years to experience this rich, buttery, oat-studded caramel & dark chocolate masterpiece. I mean, I know I’ve made lots of other delicious things, but my goodness, I need to make up for lost time with this one.

As with so many pies, this one isn’t complicated, but it has a bunch of steps and does take time. You’ve got to partially blind bake the crust, and then there’s the whole making a caramel oatmeal filling and layering it over chocolate bit, but I promise you these are all simple steps, and if you follow them one by one and give yourself some grace and time, you will be rewarded. Oh, will you ever.

The balance of chocolate and caramel and chewy oats and flaky crust? It’s a triumph, if you ask me.

Black Bottom Caramel Oatmeal Pie
adapted from Four & Twenty Blackbirds
makes 1 pie

Crust:
1/2 batch All-Butter Pie Dough (or other good single crust recipe)

Caramel Oatmeal Filling:
1 1/2 cups rolled oats (toast)
1 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon Kosher or sea salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut into pieces
1 cup heavy cream, divided
2 tablespoons light corn syrup (or maple syrup or mild honey)
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
2 large eggs, lightly beaten, room temperature

Dark Chocolate Ganache (Black Bottom):
5 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped
5 tablespoons heavy cream

For Garnish:
confectioner’s sugar, if desired

Place oven racks in the upper and lower positions. Preheat oven to 375F.

Partially blind bake the pie crust. On a floured surface, roll out pie dough to a 12" diameter. Fit into a deep 9-inch pie plate and trim the overhang to 1/2-inch. Crimp the edges and freeze for 30 minutes or refrigerate for an hour.

Remove pie crust from the freezer. Line frozen crust with a big piece of parchment. Fill the center with pie weights (or dried beans or rice).

Place the prepared pie crust on a rimmed baking sheet and bake for 20-25 minutes, or until pie crust has “set” and is starting to turn golden in places, but is far from done. Use parchment to lift out pie weights. Prick the bottom several times with the tines of a fork. Return crust to the oven for 10 minutes.

Make the caramel oatmeal filling. Place oats on a dry rimmed sheet pan. Toast in the oven for 5-7 minutes, until fragrant. Remove and let cool.

Make the caramel. Place a medium heavy-bottomed pot on the stove. Add sugar, salt, butter, 1/2 cup cream, and corn syrup to the pot. Do not stir or jostle in any way! Bring to a boil over medium heat and let cook for 10 minutes, until dark all over but not burnt. Remove from heat and *carefully* whisk in remaining 1/2 cup cream, followed by vanilla and vinegar. Let caramel cool 20 minutes.

Add oats to a mixing bowl and pour caramel over the top. Stir together. Whisk in eggs. Set aside.

Make the dark chocolate ganache (black bottom). Place bittersweet chocolate in a small bowl. Pour heavy cream into a small saucepan over medium heat. When it just barely starts to boil, remove it from the heat and pour the cream over the chocolate. Once the chocolate looks soft, stir it together with a fork until you have a smooth chocolate sauce.

Spread ganache into the bottom of the pie crust. Top with caramel oatmeal filling. Bake pie on the bottom rack for 25 minutes, then move to the top rack for another 20-25 minutes, until puffed and slightly jiggly in the center. If crust is darkening too quickly at any point, tent with foil.

Let pie cool completely before serving, with a dusting of confectioner’s sugar, if desired.

Leftover pie will keep covered at room temperature for up to two days or in the refrigerator for three.

Garlic Confit Mashed Potatoes

Garlic Confit Mashed Potatoes

The internet will try to tell you otherwise, but I feel you should know that the absolute best garlicky mashed potatoes are completely free of butter and cream.

Yeah, I’m here to sell you on vegan mashed potatoes. Please don’t leave!

Garlic Confit Mashed Potatoes

You’ll be missing out on luxurious homemade garlic confit that’s been slow-simmered to rich, fragrant perfection and then mashed into soft russet potatoes. Uh huh. Garlic Confit Mashed Potatoes are where it’s at, y’all. Only the best garlicky potato bliss for our Thanksgiving tables, am I right???

You can get a jump start on making your own holiday Garlic Confit Mashed Potatoes right now! The confit can be made up to two weeks ahead (yeah, Thanksgiving is only two weeks away). Just simmer it while you’re doing something else and then stick it in the fridge until you need it. Let it come to room temperature and then mash it into these rich, smooth, oh so good potatoes.

You’ll notice that the garlic confit recipe asks for you to peel three heads of garlic, which probably seems insane, but fear not! You can either purchase your garlic already peeled *or* take the DIY easy way out, following one of those hacks you sometimes come across on social media, which is what I did.

I simply separated all the garlic cloves, put them in a covered bowl (I used a thin cutting board as a lid) and shook the living daylights out of the whole contraption for about two minutes, until all the papery skins had at least begun to slip off. Boom, done. After that, it’s just a matter of slicing off the ends before confit-ing, which again, is just simmering at a very low heat. So easy!

One more tip for perfect confit and mashed potatoes: buy fresh olive oil. Besides garlic, olive oil is the primary flavoring agent here, so you want it fresh fresh fresh. If you want to use a less expensive oil here, I’d go with grapeseed, but again, make sure it’s fresh. You don’t want some slightly “off” oil to ruin your potatoes.

Garlic Confit Mashed Potatoes

I mean, how could you not want these?! They’re the smooth side dish you know, but absolutely bursting with garlic flavor (and not much else)! Beyond their flavor, I love that they are vegan —at such a meat- and dairy-forward meal, I always worry about the vegans at the table having things to eat. And while you can’t subsist on Garlic Confit Mashed Potatoes alone, I wouldn’t mind giving it a try, you know?

Garlic Confit Mashed Potatoes
Garlic Confit Mashed Potatoes
makes about 6-8 servings

Garlic Confit:
3 heads garlic
1 cup olive oil

Mashed Potatoes:
3 lbs russet potatoes
cold tap water
1/2-3/4 batch garlic confit
Kosher or sea salt
freshly cracked black pepper

Make the confit. Peel the garlic by separating each head into cloves and putting them in a small mixing bowl. Top it with a lid or another object that will create a seal and shaking it until the papery peels start to remove themselves, about 2 minutes. Remove and discard the peels, then trim off the ends and any imperfections on the garlic cloves.

In a small saucepan, combine peeled garlic and olive oil, ensuring all garlic is submerged. Bring the mixture to a simmer over the lowest heat setting on your stove. Let simmer 30 minutes, until cloves are soft, but not browned. Set aside to cool for at least 15 minutes. You may also make the confit up to two weeks ahead and keep it covered in the refrigerator. Just make sure that the oil is covering all the garlic. Bring confit back to room temperature before using in potatoes.

To make the mashed potatoes, start by scrubbing, drying and peeling the russet potatoes. Cut into 1-inch cubes and place in a large heavy-bottomed pot. Cover with cold water by about 1-inch and season well with salt. Bring to a boil and let cook for about 15 minutes, until fork-tender.

While the potatoes are cooking use a fork to mash about half (1/2 cup) of the garlic in the confit.

Reserve about 1 cup of the starchy potato cooking water. Drain potatoes and return them to the pot. Mash with a potato masher (or a ricer if you have one). Add mashed garlic, along with about 3/4 cup of the garlicky oil and 1/4 cup of the starchy cooking water. Mash well, adding more cooking water (and/or oil from the confit) as needed to achieve the desired texture. Season to taste with salt.

Serve potatoes with more garlic confit on top, along with a sprinkle of freshly-ground black pepper.

Leftovers will keep in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 4 days.