Thanksgiving » Wonderland Kitchen
Browsing Tag


Rye and Maple Thanksgiving Cocktail: Poor Sap

Rye and Maple Thanksgiving Cocktail: Poor Sap

My job takes me all over the country. I travel about 100 days a year and make a complete circuit of the lower 48 every two and a half years. As you might imagine, I go to some pretty neat places as well as some not so neat, but who really wants to hear about that? One of the perks, as you might also imagine, is that I sometimes stumble upon some unique spirits that I wouldn’t normally see on the shelves of my local shop. I’m learning, albeit gradually, that although some of these intriguing bottles don’t always deliver, the disappointment of letting one slip away far outweighs the disappointment of a less than thrilling taste. Case in point: I’m still kicking myself for not picking up a bottle of Montana Rye just last month. Live and learn.

One of the bottles I am glad I didn’t pass up was Sapling Vermont Maple Liqueur, which I happened upon a year ago while staying in Burlington, Vermont. Though it languished unopened on my shelf for nearly a year, I finally decided to try it out in an autumn-inspired cocktail. What I ended up with is a bit of a riff on the Manhattan, with the maple liqueur taking the place of the sweet vermouth. Contrary to what you might think, Sapling doesn’t have a completely overwhelming sweetness, especially when set against the rye, but I found that a touch of Fernet Branca balanced the drink out quite nicely. A bit of house made grenadine fills out the profile of this mildly boozy drink that’s perfect served as a crisp autumn evening warm-up or a post-Thanksgiving cocktail.

Poor Sap

2 oz. Pikesville Rye
1 oz. Sapling Vermont Maple Liqueur
1/4 oz. Fernet Branca
1/4 oz. House made grenadine
House made cocktail cherry for garnish

Combine the rye, maple liqueur, fernet, and grenadine in a mixing glass. Stir with ice and strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with a cocktail cherry.

DIY Jellied Cranberry Sauce (Ridges Optional)


I grew up in a household of “normal” American cuisine: our mac and cheese was boxed, our casserole was tuna, and our cranberry sauce? Our cranberry sauce had ridges running along the side–the mark of the can it came from. Since traveling out in the world, I have of course since been introduced to homemade, gourmet, and small-batch artisan versions of a lot of foods, but some attachments die hard. And sometimes, well, sometimes on balance boxed is just best.

This brings me around to how I decided that DIY canned cranberry sauce would be my “heart healthy” project for Cathy’s annual Thanksgiving round-up. Granted, cranberry sauce is always going to have a bit of sweetener in it to balance the tartness of the berries, but I figured if I could get the high fructose corn syrup and the plain old regular corn syrup out of the equation, we were still making strides toward a product that did the body a little better if not entirely good.

DIY Jellied Cranberry Sauce: Sliced

For my recipe, I decided to use fruit juice and honey as my sweeteners. Though research had told me that using white sugar would require no additional pectin to get a good set, by using honey, I also needed to add this step. This finished jelly does differ from the commercial version in that you can definitely detect that honey was used. I like this–the sauce isn’t muddled with extra spices or exotic flavorings, but it is just a little more complex. White sugar would likely get you closer to the commercial taste, however, if that’s what you’re going for.

Jellied Cranberry Sauce: Commercial Variety

Jellied Cranberry Sauce: Commercial variety-check that gel!

Since I had already purchased a can of jellied cranberry sauce for comparison’s sake–for a $1, mind you, so add that into your considerations–I also had the bright idea that I would use the can as my mold, thereby silencing any readers or relatives who just could not deal with a cranberry sauce unmarked by rings along the edge. I thought I was being incredibly clever until I found out a couple of minutes ago that Marisa over at Food in Jars totally did that last year. BPA-free to boot.

What I discovered about my DIY cranberry sauce, however, is that while it is firm enough to be sliced and handled, it doesn’t come close to the commercial jelly in the can. Truly, that product has an almost terrifyingly firm yet not chewy in the mouth consistency. I’m not sure how they manage it! I did get my jelly out of the can without incident, but as a frazzled holiday host, make sure to take a deep breath and steady your hands before you cut and plate your sauce in those perfect circular slices–otherwise it could quickly turn into a fool’s game laced with profanities.

DIY Jellied Cranberry Sauce: Process

DIY Jellied Cranberry Sauce (Ridges Optional)

12 ounces whole cranberries, washed and picked over, mushy berries removed
3/4 cup water or juice (I used a tart grape juice I had on hand to good effect. I suspect apple or orange would be nice compliments as well.)
3/4 cup honey
Pectin–I used Pomona’s (2 teaspoons calcium water and 2 teaspoons pectin powder)

Put the juice in a heavy-bottomed soup pot and bring to a boil. Add berries and cook, stirring occasionally, just until most of the berries have popped and begun to soften (about five minutes). Remove from heat.

Using a food mill (recommended) or a sieve and the back of a ladle, mash the softened fruit through the strainer leaving the peels behind. Discard the peels and return the strained fruit to a clean pot. Add the calcium water to the fruit.

Stir the pectin powder into the measured honey, mixing well to evenly combine, then add this mixure to the fruit in the pot. Bring to a boil and cook, stirring constantly, for one minute.

Pour the sauce into the mold of your choice and allow to cool undisturbed until set. Turn out onto the serving dish of your choice just before serving.

Epic Feast: Giving Thanks in Advance


I’d like to slip in an early “I’m thankful for…” acknowledgement to say that I’m thankful for cozy weekends at home with family and friends. It probably seems like a ridiculously simple thing, but a concentrated stretch of “closed laptop/turned off work life” and some steady human interaction provides powerful recalibration in life. My own priorities realigned, I was back at my desk this morning with fresh focus and a smile on my face.

That in our house the embrace of these warm and comforting times usually centered around the kitchen is probably not a shocker, and Brian and I decided to throw a little pre-Thanksgiving feast on Sunday evening to cap it all off. There was food and food and more food, plus three wines to pair it up with. We may just have to make a habit of this: Sunday Suppers in Wonderland, anyone? I think I smell a 2012 project coming on…

So anyway, a plan was hatched.

The Menu

The food:

Spinach Salad with Bosch Pears, Cranberries, Red Onion, and Toasted Pecans w/goat cheese rounds rolled in pepitas (a riff off of this)

Kaddo Bowrani (Baked Pumpkin) from The Helmand Restaurant (secret recipe revealed to the world thanks to this)

Roasted Parsnip and Pear Soup (a decadent, non-vegan variation on this)

Cheddar and Dill Biscuits (pretty much these, but sans bacon)

Roast Chicken Provençal (Brian made this as outlined, while I subscribed to the blog that provided the recipe, because it’s amazingly lovely.)

Simmered Root Vegetables with Swiss Chard (more or less this, though we only used kale, carrots, and potatoes. It was fairly plain, so next time I think I’ll do a version of the the pot pie gravy and filling instead)

The wines:

2011 Georges Deboeuf Beaujolais Nouveau
2009 Perrin & Fils Cotes de Rhone Villages
2008 Domaine de Ferrand Chateauneuf-du-Pape

Not a dud in the bunch. We enjoyed them all and they complimented the food (right down to the Lake Champlain truffles we ended the night on) perfectly.



And now, a sampling of the recipes. The rest were so close to the linked originals above that they don’t seem to bear repeating.

Roasted Parsnip and Pear Soup
adapted from Vegan Workshop

3 large parsnips, peeled and cubed
2 medium pears, cored and cubed
1 small onion or a few shallots, peeled and quartered
2 T hazelnut oil
1/2 cup whole milk
2 T maple syrup
salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 400°F.

Place parsnip, pear, and onion chunks on a large baking sheet (I line mine with foil first for easy clean up). Drizzle with oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Toss to evenly coat.

Roast the fruit and vegetables for about 40 minutes, stirring halfway through for even browning.

About 15 minutes before roasting is complete, bring 5 cups of vegetable broth and 1 bay leaf to a boil, then reduce the heat to a simmer. Add roasted fruit and vegetables and leave to simmer 10 minutes more. Remove bay leaf and puree the soup. Stir in milk and maple syrup. Add additional vegetable broth or milk to thin to desired consistency, and adjust seasoning to taste.

Kaddo Bowrani (Baked Pumpkin)
from The Helmand Restaurant in Baltimore (via the Baltimore Sun)

1 small pumpkin
3/4 cup sugar (Overwhelmed by this amount, I used a lot less sugar–a 1/4 cup, if that–but then found the dish lacking. Still, that’s a lot of sugar, so more experiments will be needed. I think I’ll give brown sugar a try next.)
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1 cup plain yogurt
1 teaspoon garlic, minced
Dash salt

Remove seeds and peel pumpkin. Slice remaining flesh top to bottom into 2-inch crescents. In a large, oven-safe sautée pan with a lid, heat oil and add pumpkin. Cook on medium covered for 10 minutes, flipping slices over with tongs halfway through. Remove from heat and sprinkle the pumpkin with the sugar and cinnamon. Replace lid and bake at 350°F for 20 minutes or until soft.

Stir yogurt, garlic, and salt together until smooth. Plate warm pumpkin, drizzle with yogurt sauce, and serve immediately.

Cheddar and Dill Biscuits
adapted from Bon Appétit

3 3/4 cups bread flour
1 1/2 tablespoons baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 1/4 teaspoons salt
1/2 cup chilled unsalted butter
2 1/2 cups coarsely grated sharp cheddar cheese (about 12 ounces)
1/4 cup chopped fresh dill
1 3/4 cups chilled buttermilk

Preheat oven to 425°F.

Add flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt to the bowl of a food processor and pulse several times to mix. Cube up the butter and add to the flour mixture, pulsing again until butter is reduced to small bits. Place this mixture in a large bowl, along with cheese and dill. Toss with fork to evenly incorporate. Pour in buttermilk while stirring and mix just enough to wet all ingredients and produce a sticky dough.

Pull off small handfuls (approx. 1/4 cup) of the shaggy dough with your fingers and drop onto parchment-lined baking sheets. Bake biscuits until golden, about 18 to 20 minutes.

A feast shared and well enjoyed.

A feast shared and well enjoyed.

A Vegetarian At Thanksgiving


Even though I’m a vegetarian, as a fan of all things cooking and presentation, holiday meals are high priority–even ones designed around a dressed up roasted bird (or perhaps bourbon brined and fried?). Over the years as an invited guest at the feasts of others, I’ve contributed my share of wild rice and dried fruit side dishes or defaulted to pie baking duty. Considering 2011 has been my year of bread, however, for this year’s round I went looking for an appropriate holiday loaf.

Which brings me to my second “even though,” because even though I am not Jewish, I have been addicted to braiding up dough ever since trying my hand at challah–and I haven’t even gotten to the double-decker celebration version yet!

All of this preamble gets us around to how I ended up landing on this King Arthur recipe for Holiday Pumpkin Bread and declaring it a perfect candidate. Featuring fall flavors, it’s not too sweet yet unusual enough to stand out, plus its round celebratory braid reinforces the sentiment of love and community gathered around the table for more than just an average Thursday night meal.

I found the construction of the bread to be straightforward, and even mixing the somewhat sticky dough was a snap since I just piled all the ingredients in a bowl and let my stand mixer go to work. Most of the required investment is simply in time while waiting out the two rises. A little oil on your hands and your counter space keeps the soft dough from adhering to anything while forming the circular braid, and the lovely smells of pumpkin and spice even before the baking begins are enough to keep the baker motivated. Once the rounds hit the oven, good luck keeping attracted family members from devouring them before your holiday meal. Luckily, the recipe makes two loaves.

On a personal note, a nifty thing I discovered as a result of my broken oven and the paging through the instruction manual I did in an attempt to troubleshoot: this appliance is way fancier than I realized when we moved in and it even has a proofing feature! This is going to make winter bread baking–which can be a little tricky in our sometimes drafty, radiator-heated home–a lot more efficient. I bet this might work for yogurt making as well…

Spiced Pumpkin Celebration Bread
adapted from King Arthur Flour

20 oz (4 3/4 cups) AP flour
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
2 1/2 ounces (1/3 cup) brown sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 tablespoon instant yeast
15-ounce can pumpkin
2 large eggs
1/4 cup melted butter

*additional egg, beaten with water as needed, for egg wash

Place all the ingredients (except for the egg wash) in a large bowl or the bowl of a stand mixer and mix and knead until smooth. The dough is somewhat sticky, but take care not to add too much additional flour so that the bread remains moist and light. Transfer to an oiled bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and allow to rise for about 90 minutes.

Once dough has puffed up (but not really doubled) lightly oil your workspace and hands and divide the dough into six even pieces. Working with three at a time, roll each into a log about 1.5 inches thick and braid, pulling the loaf into a round and joining the individual ends together. Lightly oil a 9-inch cake pan and place the braid in the center. Repeat the process with the remaining dough, then cover both with a sheet of greased plastic wrap. Allow to rise again, 60-90 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 350°F. When second rise is complete, gently remove plastic and brush each loaf with the egg wash. Bake for 30 minutes until golden (or until the center of the dough registers 190°F). Remove loaves from the pans and place on a wire rack. Cool completely before slicing.

***I’m not sure this recipe meets the requirements for Cathy Elton’s call for heart healthy T-day recipes, but at least it’s homemade so no weird additives! If you’ve come to Wonderland looking for such nutrition-conscious festive dishes, perhaps a batch of Celeriac and Lentils with Hazelnut and Mint will suit.

T-Day: What’s Cooking in Baltimore


A vegetarian feast! (for two). B and I have both been a little under the weather, so as far as menu planning went, the key ingredient was ultimately what required no outside resources to prepare. We had plenty in the fridge to work with, however, so it wasn’t exactly a master round of Iron Chef or anything.

To get specific:

In honor of family Thanksgivings of days past, we sat down to dine at 4 p.m. without really thinking about it and then wondered how that tradition got started exactly.

What’s everyone else cooking/eating today?

It Takes a Shopping Cart


This morning’s market outing marked the last week of our CSA share.

The aisles were packed extra tightly with shoppers despite the increased chill–perhaps the coming holiday summoned everyone out of bed with roasted root vegetables on their mind. I had to get unusually aggressive just to avoid having my eggs snatched out from under me while I paid for them. Celebration kitchen stress was already wearing down nerves before anyone even got going in the kitchen, it seems. I also overheard more than one consumer ask for advice on appropriate purchase amounts for feeding ten or so family members–a reminder of how rarely we actually gather everyone together around the table these days.

As for me and my house, we won’t make it through the winter with this week’s haul, but at least I should be able to manage to feed everyone through Thanksgiving. Who’s coming over?