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I love reading my November magazines and looking through all the Thanksgiving recipes, table settings, centerpieces and other fun holiday entertaining ideas. And I couldn’t wait to try out some of the Thanksgiving sides (even though I’m not cooking this year). So I had this big plan to cook turkey legs and make the sides and have a little Pre-Thanksgiving feast with my family while my cousin Elena was home for a visit. I had my grocery list made and set out to Whole Foods to get all my ingredients.

Well, Whole Foods doesn’t carry turkey legs yet. I found out they won’t have “turkey parts” until closer to Thanksgiving. Fine, I’ll make chicken. They’re not too different, right? At least it’s poultry. That won’t ruin the meal. Alright, next I needed fresh bread crumbs. Hmmm, Whole Foods doesn’t have that either. But they had some canistered Whole Foods-branded wheat bread crumbs. Fine, I’ll use those. Next on my list: peaches. Argh! Why are they included in a November recipe if they’re not in season? Oh, it was in the August issue? Oops. Fine, I’ll get frozen ones. This is basically how my shopping trip went.

Finally, I make it to my grandparents’ house with all my ingredients and start prepping. This was the menu:

Chicken legs and thighs, cooked in a marinade of lemon juice, olive oil, garlic, cracked pepper, rosemary and sage

Sautéed Asparagus with Parmesan Shavings

Yam and Apple Gratin

Onion Rolls

Peach and Vanilla Puff Pastry Pies

Prepping and cooking everything went fine until I got to the onion rolls. Because the onion rolls required yeast and yeast can be tricky. The first yeast/water mixture didn’t turn out. The water may have been too hot and I didn’t have a thermometer. I also didn’t have enough packets of yeast to make another batch. Thankfully, Elena ran to the store and bought more. The next batch looked iffy until I added sugar and that did the trick.

When it was time to make the puff pastry pies, I realized I didn’t have the muffin cups I needed. Argh! After looking high and low and in every cupboard and drawer I finally accepted the fact that I wasn’t going to be able to make these “pies.” So I made peach turnovers instead. I followed the recipe exactly until it was time to place the pastry dough into the cups. Instead, I cut the dough into four squares, and folded the dough over a big spoonful of peaches. I had never made turnovers before so they weren’t pretty but they were tasty! I’ll have to try that recipe another time because the peach filling was sooo good.

All the other recipes were pretty straightforward. I mixed the chicken marinade by sight (always favoring the garlic). I sautéed the asparagus spears in some butter until they were tender enough to bite and then immediately placed them on a dish and covered them in Parmesan shavings. The parmesan melted onto the spears and they were delicious enough to eat without any additional seasoning.

My favorite recipe of all (and Elena’s as well) was the gratin. The recipe listed sweet potatoes but I didn’t see any at Whole Foods (notice a pattern?) so I used yams instead. Oh my goodness, this dish was so delicious! The recipe calls for sliced apples and yams layered on top of each other in a dish and then covered in a heavy cream mixture. The last step is to cover the baked apples and yams with the bread crumbs and sprinkle with butter. When it came out of the oven the top was bubbly, buttery and brown – it smelled, looked and tasted wonderful. I definitely recommend trying it this Thanksgiving if you’re looking for a new side.

Wolfgang Puck’s Sweet Potato and Apple Gratin


  • 6 Tbsp. butter, divided, plus more for greasing
  • 3 large Granny Smith apples (about 1½ pounds), peeled, cored, and cut into ⅓-thick slices
  • 2 large sweet potatoes (about 2¼ pounds), peeled and cut crosswise into ⅓-thick rounds
  • 2 cups heavy cream (or half-and-half or milk)
  • 1½ tsp. nutmeg
  • 1½ tsp. kosher salt
  • ¾ tsp. cinnamon
  • ½ tsp. ground black pepper
  • ¾ cup fresh bread crumbs


Active time: 30 minutes
Total time: 1½ hours

Preheat oven to 375°. Grease a 9″ × 13″ baking dish with butter; set aside. In a large skillet over medium-high heat, melt 3 Tbsp. butter. Add apples and cook, stirring occasionally, until just caramelized, about 10 minutes. Meanwhile, in a large bowl, mix sweet potatoes with heavy cream, nutmeg, salt, cinnamon, and pepper.

Transfer half of sweet potatoes to prepared dish, arranging them in an overlapping pattern like shingles. Cover with apples, then remaining sweet potatoes, overlapping the potatoes as before. Pour any remaining cream over the top. Cover with foil and bake until tender, about 45 minutes.

Increase oven temperature to 500°. Uncover dish, scatter bread crumbs over the top, and dot with remaining 3 Tbsp. butter. Bake, keeping a close eye on the gratin in case bread crumbs start to burn, until golden brown on top, 8 to 10 minutes more. Serve immediately.

Source: Oprah Magazine

No-Knead Onion Rolls


  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3 medium onions, finely chopped
  • 1/4 cup plus 1 teaspoon granulated sugar
  • kosher salt
  • 2 0.25-ounce packages active dry yeast
  • 2 large eggs
  • 6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) unsalted butter, melted, plus more, at room temperature, for the pan
  • 6 cups all-purpose flour, spooned and leveled, plus more for shaping the dough


  1. Heat 2 tablespoons of the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the onions, 1 teaspoon of the sugar, and ½ teaspoon salt and cook, stirring occasionally, until golden brown, 15 to 18 minutes.
  2. Place 2 cups warm tap water (105° to 115° F) in a large bowl; sprinkle with the yeast and let stand until foamy, 4 to 5 minutes. Whisk in the eggs, 4 tablespoons of the butter, the remaining ¼ cup of sugar, and 1 teaspoon salt. Add the flour and three-quarters of the onions and mix until a sticky dough forms. Brush the top of the dough with the remaining tablespoon of oil. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place until doubled in bulk, about 1 hour.
  3. Butter a 9-by-13-inch baking pan. Punch the dough down. With well-floured hands, form the dough into 16 balls and place in the prepared pan, spacing evenly. Sprinkle with the remaining quarter of the onions. Cover the pan loosely with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place until doubled in bulk, 30 to 40 minutes.
  4. Heat oven to 400° F. Remove the plastic wrap and brush the dough with the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter. Bake until the rolls are golden, 18 to 22 minutes (tent with foil if the tops brown too quickly). Cool in the pan for 5 minutes before serving.

By Charlyne Mattox,  November 2011, Real Simple

This is how the yeast was supposed to look. "Frothy."

Peach and Vanilla Puff Pastry Pie Recipe


  • 1 vanilla bean pod, halved lengthwise
  • 3 large peaches (about 1 pound), peeled, pitted, and cut into 1/2″ chunks
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 Tbsp. cornstarch
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 2 (9″ x 16″) pieces frozen puff pastry, thawed but still very cold


Active time: 30 minutes
Total time: 1 hour

Preheat oven to 400°. Run a paring knife down the cut sides of the vanilla bean to remove the vanilla seeds, and transfer to a large bowl. (Discard vanilla bean pod, or save for another use.) Add peaches, sugar, cornstarch, and vanilla extract and toss until well combined; set aside.

Working on a sheet of parchment paper, cut 1 piece of puff pastry in half, and then roll each half into a 10 square. Using a bowl, glass, or cookie cutter, cut 4 (4 1/2″) circles out of each half. Use the circles to line the cups of 8 muffin tins, positioning them to form little pie shells or baskets. Save any remaining dough scraps to reroll and use for step 4, as needed.

Spoon peach mixture evenly into the muffin cups lined with the puff pastry shells; set aside.

Arrange remaining pastry on a sheet of parchment paper and cut out 8 circles, approximately 3 in diameter. Place 1 on top of each muffin cup, folding the edges of the bottom pastry over the top and pinching tightly to seal each pie.

Bake until pies are puffed and deep golden brown, 25 to 35 minutes. Carefully run a paring knife around the edges of each pie and immediately transfer to a platter. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Source: Oprah Magazine

Peach turnovers, not the "pies" as intended...



I am so sick of people talking about short ribs and how good they are. My friend Jen and I went to brunch, and she had short rib hash. Another friend got the short rib ravioli at my fave Italian spot. What’s so great about short ribs anyways? My husband and I don’t eat red meat (No pork on my fork or beef in my teeth, is what I say…). So I decided for our Tuesday night date night that I’d see if I could do this short rib thing with chicken.  And how perfect would mashed potatoes be with this? Perfect. Buuut…If you know my husband, he not only doesn’t eat red meat, pork, mushrooms, eggs, eggplant and everything else I love to cook, he also doesn’t eat any starches. So what could I do? Trick myself into thinking I am eating mashed potatoes by using mashed cauliflower. It sucks to be me. But dinner was good.

Red Wine Braised Short Ribs by Chef Anne Burrell

You will need:

  • 6 bone-in short ribs (about 5 3/4 pounds) — I used chicken thighs, as they are more fatty and are prone to fall apart.
  • Kosher salt
  • Extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 large Spanish onion, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 2 ribs celery, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 2 carrots, peeled, cut in 1/2 lengthwise, then cut into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 2 cloves garlic, smashed
  • 1 1/2 cups tomato paste
  • 2 to 3 cups hearty red wine
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 bunch fresh thyme, tied with kitchen string
  • 2 bay leaves



1. Season each short rib generously with salt. Coat a pot large enough to accommodate all the meat and vegetables with olive oil and bring to a high heat.

2. Add the short ribs to the pan and brown very well, about 2 to 3 minutes per side. Do not overcrowd pan. Cook in batches, if necessary.

3. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

4. While the short ribs are browning, puree all the vegetables and garlic in the food processor until it forms a coarse paste. When the short ribs are very brown on all sides, remove them from the pan. Drain the fat, coat the bottom of same pan with fresh oil and add the pureed vegetables.

5. Season the vegetables generously with salt and brown until they are very dark and a crud has formed on the bottom of the pan, approximately 5 to 7 minutes. Scrape the crud and let it reform.

6. Scrape the crud again and add the tomato paste. Brown the tomato paste for 4 to 5 minutes. Add the wine and scrape the bottom of the pan. Lower the heat if things start to burn. Reduce the mixture by half.

7. Return the short ribs to the pan and add 2 cups water or until the water has just about covered the meat. Add the thyme bundle and bay leaves. Cover the pan and place in the preheated oven for 3 hours. (For chicken, you only need to braise for 1 hour.)

8. Check periodically during the cooking process and add more water, if needed. Turn the ribs over halfway through the cooking time. Remove the lid during the last 20 minutes of cooking to let things get nice and brown and to let the sauce reduce. When done the meat should be very tender but not falling apart. Serve with the braising liquid.

My husband is all about the gym. So mashed potatoes don’t really fly. (I can’t wait to have kids so I can force them to eat pasta and starches with me). These are a good substitute for mashed potatoes.

Roasted Garlic Mashed Cauliflower

You will need:

  • 1 head cauliflower
  • 1 head garlic
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • butter to taste
  • heavy cream to taste

1. Cut cauliflower into pieces to fit into a large saucepan2. Boil with 1/4 cup water until tender, about 10 minutes.

3. Drain cauliflower.

4. Meanwhile, roast full head of garlic in 400 degree oven.

5. To do this: chop the top off of the garlic head, drizzle with olive oil and wrap in aluminum foil.

6. Roast until caramelized and outside is brown, about 30 minutes.

7. Squeeze the cloves of garlic out of the outer shell and into the cauliflower.

8. Puree garlic, cauliflower, salt, pepper and few tablespoons of butter in food processor.

9. Add a few tablespoons of heavy cream.

10. Add salt and pepper to taste.


~ Dana

So everyone raaaves about Ina Garten’s Barefoot Contessa Book, How Easy Is That? And I must admit, in her show, she makes everything seem easy. That’s partially what I love about her. The other part that I love about her is that her husband only comes home on the weekends. That, in my book, means she’s a smart, smart woman.

I decided that I would try a recipe from this infamous book. And I have to tell you, it was that easy.  I’ve been obsessed with this Salmon Niçoise salad from Nordstrom Cafe (hey, a girl needs a break from shopping every now and then), so I made herb-crusted salmon and a salad with dijon vinaigrette to go with it. Delicious. When my husband came home for dinner, he was so impressed that I turned over a new healthy leaf, literally. I could totally throw this in the oven and have a few friends over. Super simple.

Roasted Salmon with Green Herbs

From Barefoot Contessa, 2012, How Easy Is That?

You will need:

  • 1 (2 – 2 1/2 lb) skinless salmon fillet  Note: You can get the butcher to remove the skin for you. At my lovely local Harris Teeter, they weighed the fish with the skin on, and then removed it. Classy.
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 cup good olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1/2 cup minced scallions, white and green parts (4 scallions)
  • 1/2 cup minced fresh dill
  • 1/2 cup minced fresh parsley
  • 1/4 cup dry white wine
  • Lemon wedges, for serving



1. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.

2. Place the salmon fillet in a glass, ceramic, or stainless-steel roasting dish and season it generously with salt and pepper. Note: When she says generously, she means it. I undersalted my fish and had to add it at the end. Do it beforehand — it’s much  better. 

3. Whisk together the olive oil and lemon juice and drizzle the mixture evenly over the salmon. Let it stand at room temperature for 15 minutes. Note: You know I’m a garlic freak, so you’ll see I added some minced garlic here.

4. In a small bowl, stir together the scallions, dill, and parsley. Scatter the herb mixture over the salmon fillet, turning it so that both sides are generously coated with the green herbs. Pour the wine around the fish fillet.

5. Roast the salmon for 10 to 12 minutes, until almost cooked in the center at the thickest part. The center will be firm with just a line of uncooked salmon in the very center. (I peek by inserting the tip of a small knife.) Cover the dish tightly with aluminum foil and allow to rest for 10 minutes. Cut the salmon crosswise into serving pieces and serve hot with lemon wedges.


~ Dana

Sometimes you need to just meditate over a complicated recipe. For no real reason other than to say you did it. Because this was a long weekend, I decided that I was going to make chicken, collard greens and sweet corn with lime butter from scratch. My husband said I was “doing too much”, through mouthfuls of collards. But I explained to him that I love cooking. There’s something about the process that relaxes me. After I was done with the dinner, I decided to attempt something a little more difficult: ice cream sandwiches.

My friend Jen was telling me about this crack-like, addictive ice cream from Trader Joes: Lemon Ice cream with gingersnaps in it. She calls it the “literal creamy crack”. So I started looking online for recipes. I found this one from Bon Appetit. Now those of you who know me know that I have a million kitchen utensils and gadgets, and yes, I have an ice cream maker. This recipe is one of those that takes you all day, and you love the result, but you’re going to freeze those little suckers because doing this again anytime soon is not likely. Kind of like making ricotta cheese. Amazing process, but I can’t do that very often. The result of these ice cream sandwiches was amazingly yummy, and perfect for one of the last days of summer.

You will need:

Lemon Ice Cream (or buy your favorite lemon ice cream):
  • 1 1/2 cups whole milk
  • 3 cups heavy (whipping) cream
  • Zest stripped from 2 lemons
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 6 large egg yolks
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 2 teaspoons freshly squeezed lemon juice


  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground white pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 4 ounces (8 tablespoons) unsalted butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup firmly packed brown sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 3 tablespoons molasses


To make the ice cream:

1. Combine the milk, cream, lemon zest and 1/2 cup of the sugar in a heavy saucepan.

2. Cook, stirring frequently, over medium heat until almost simmering.

3. In a bowl, whisk together the egg yolks, the remaining 1/2 cup sugar, and the salt in a bowl.

4. Slowly pour some hot liquid into the egg mixture, whisking as you pour.

Note: This “tempers” the eggs — it gradually brings up the temperature of the eggs so they don’t scramble when you put them back in the pan.

5. Return the mixture to the saucepan. Cook, over medium-low heat, stirring constantly with a heat-resistant plastic or a wooden spatula, until the custard reaches 175°F and lightly coats the spatula.

Note: It is really important that you use a thermometer to make sure the eggs are the right temperature to ensure they are safe to eat. My husband, whom you know is a germaphobe, would freak out if he knew that I were in charge of making sure eggs are not raw. I left this step out when explaining the process of making ice cream to him…Trust me, it’s better that way.

6. Strain the custard into a clean bowl and cool over an ice bath until room temperature. Stir in the lemon juice.

Note: I used all of the juice from the 2 lemons I zested. No need to waste them. Or you could make them into strawberry lemonade. Up to you.

7. Refrigerate the custard for at least 4 hours or up to overnight. Churn in an ice cream machine according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Freeze until scoopable, about 4 hours, depending on your freezer.

Note: The ice cream maker did nothing for me. Honestly, it churned it up a little bit, but I had to freeze the ice cream in the freezer to really get it where I wanted it.

To make the cookies:

1. Sift together the flour, baking soda, cinnamon, ginger, white pepper, and allspice. Stir in the salt.

2. Beat the butter, 1/4 cup of the granulated sugar, and the brown sugar together until smooth. Stir in the egg. Mix in the molasses. Stir in the dry ingredients in 2 additions. Refrigerate the dough until very firm, at least 3 hours.

3. Divide the dough in half, wrap each half in plastic wrap, and refrigerate the dough for at least 2 hours or up to 4 days. When firm, roll the dough on a lightly sugared work surface into two 9-inch-long logs.

4. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line 3 baking pans with parchment paper.

5. Cut the dough into 1/2-inch-thick slices. There should be at least 24 cookies. Put the remaining 1/4 cup granulated sugar in a bowl. Coat the cookies with the sugar. Place the cookies 2 1/2 inches apart on the prepared pans.

6. Bake the cookies until set and no longer wet looking, 10 to 12 minutes. They will be puffy when you take them out of the oven and will sink as they cool.

To assemble the sandwiches:

Place 12 of the cookies, bottom side up, on the work surface. Place a large scoop of ice cream on each. Top with a second cookie, bottom side against the ice cream, and gently press to adhere the sandwiches together. Serve immediately, or freeze until ready to serve. Once frozen, wrap well in plastic wrap or store in an airtight container.

Left: Pic from Bon Appetit. Right: The real deal.

I want to bring your expectations down a little bit, and call out food styling fiction. The picture that goes along with this recipe is perfect. It seems the baker even had time to put a little ribbon around each cookie. Super cute. Um yeah, in real life, food is not perfect, and working with ice cream means stuff melting all over your fingers before you have time to stick that damn square thing over your cookie. My gingersnaps were a little lopsided, my ice cream wasn’t perfectly scoopable, and they weren’t the most beautiful things in the world. But they were damn good. If you can’t deal with imperfection, think about cutting up the gingersnaps and putting them into the lemon ice cream before you put it in the ice cream maker. Just as good and not as messy.


~ Dana

I hardly ever cook corn but I saw this recipe in bon appétit and it looked so delicious that I had to try it. Plus, it has cheese on it. That alone was enough to grab my attention. It’s very easy to make and it’s really tasty. If you add jalapeño, and I think you should, you’ll probably want to add it a little at a time. I combined the salad with the entire amount called for and it was just a tad too spicy.

My friend Johanna made this with me and we ate the corn with these pupusas she buys from Costco and fills with shredded pork as well as a homemade slaw. Man, that was a good meal.


  • 6 ears of sweet yellow corn, unhusked
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons (¼ stick) unsalted butter
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 jalapeño, seeded, finely diced
  • ½ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1 lime, cut into 4 wedges
  • 1 cup finely grated Manchego cheese
  • ¼ cup thinly sliced chives
  • 2 teaspoons finely grated lime zest


  • Preheat oven to 450°. Roast unhusked corn on a baking sheet, turning occasionally, until heated through and crisp-tender, about 15 minutes. Let cool. Shuck corn and cut kernels from cobs. Discard cobs.
  • Heat oil in a large skillet over high heat. Add corn kernels and sauté until heated through and light-golden in spots, 3-5 minutes. Add butter; stir until melted. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
  • Transfer corn to a large wide bowl or deep platter; sprinkle jalapeño and crushed red pepper flakes over. Squeeze lime wedges over; sprinkle with cheese, chives, and lime zest.


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