Archive for November, 2009

Thanksgiving Worthy Squash

November 18, 2009


Have you heard?  Thanksgiving is right around the corner.  I don’t know about you but I am totally freaking out.  Last year at this time, I had three clients who I was cooking dinner for twice a week.  One of them also asked me to help with all of the side dishes for their Thanksgiving feast plus we hosted a dinner at our house for 19 adults and 10 children and I felt more relaxed last year than this year.

I subscribe to the theory of inertia.  When I am busy, I just stay busy.  It seems the more cooking I do, the more I can do.  Planning my clients’ dinners just made me better about planning my own.  I was more present and prepared than I am this year.  I am no longer cooking for my clients but it’s not as though I’m not cooking (I am doing plenty of that).  I’m just not in the zone like I was last year.

I have a hunch that people might visit this site looking for vegetarian Thanksgiving options.  I am sorry to tell you that this year, as well as last year and all the years ahead into the forseeable future, a turkey will be on our table.  We have turkey lovers among our family members and loved ones.  I cannot deny them.  Thanksgiving will just have to be as it has always been for me – lots of delicious side dishes plus a big saucepan of vegetarian gravy and a big bird for the carnivores.

I’m still in the menu planning stages (yes, I know there are only 8 days until the big day) but I’m thinking this might be one our sides.  I have been making this squash dish for years.  It is about the simplest thing around but holy moly is it good.  I use delicata squash, but you can use any kind where the skin is edible.  I’ve made it using butter, but I have to tell you that olive oil tastes just as good here and I like the idea of offering my vegan readers a tasty dish as well.  Both of my kids are really good eaters but neither of them love vegetables.  I’m here to tell you that they inhaled this squash.


One Year Ago:  Cranberry Walnut Braid (which I make every year for Thanksgiving)

Maple Roasted Delicata Squash
Dana Treat Original
Serves 6-8 as a side dish

1- 3-4lb. delicata squash (or another variety with an edible skin)
1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup maple syrup
1 tsp. kosher salt

Preheat oven to 425°F.

Cut the squash in half vertically.  Scrape out all of the seeds.  Cut each half into 3/4-inch thick slices.  Arrange slices on a large baking sheet and toss with olive oil, maple syrup, and salt.  Make sure to toss well so that each slice is coated.

Bake in the oven until tender and starting to brown, about 15-20 minutes.  Allow to cool slightly, then remove from the baking sheet.  Can be served warm or room temperature.

Betrayal, Part Two

November 16, 2009


This past summer, I betrayed my vegetarian sensibilities and made shrimp for a party.  I mentioned that I also made mini-crab cakes.  No, I did not get a picture of them, I never even got them out to the buffet table.  People kept roaming into the kitchen and stealing them off the platter so that literally, not a single one was left once I finished all my prep.  I think that is the sign of a good recipe.

When we threw that party, our babysitter Catherine came to help us out with the boys.  She had recently asked me to cater her 30th birthday party and she was scouting out the food table for ideas.  She was one of the crab cake thieves and told me that no matter what else I made, she wanted these crab cakes on the menu.

It feels a little strange to be writing about a food that I have not tasted.  It’s one of the reasons I never make meat, aside from a couple of seafood items a few times a year.  People always ask me if I cook meat for my husband or made it for my clients.  For me, it’s not really an option.  I want to be able to taste what I am making, to make sure it is seasoned properly, to make sure I like the food, to asses whether or not I would make it again.

But here is the thing.  People like crab.  People like crab cakes.  This is an easy recipe and it can be made in advance.  I know enough about cooking to know that these would taste good and judging from the disappearing-off-the-platter vanishing act, they do.  Yes crab is expensive, but this recipe only calls for 6 ounces and the yield is 24 appetizers.  The rest of the ingredients are relatively cheap and might possibly be in your house right now.  If you need a holiday appetizer winner, these are a good choice.  Or so I am told.


One Year Ago:  Bulghur and Green Lentil Salad with Chickpeas, Pumpkin Whoopie Pies

Mini Crab Cakes

Adapted from Bon Appétit
Makes 24

8 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
3/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese, divided
1 large egg
1/4 cup sour cream
1 1/2 tsp. grated lemon peel
4 tsp. plus 2 tbsp. chopped fresh chives, divided
1/4 tsp. kosher salt
Large pinch cayenne pepper
6 ounces fresh lump crabmeat, picked over, patted dry, coarsely shredded
1 cup panko (Japanese breadcrumbs)
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, melted, plus more for pans

Using electric mixer, beat cream cheese in medium bowl until smooth.  Add 1/4 cup Parmesan and egg; beat to blend.  Beat in sour cream, lemon peel, 4 tsp. chopped chives, salt and cayenne pepper.  Fold in crabmeat.  (Can be made one day ahead.  Cover and chill.)

Preheat oven to 350°F.  Generously butter 1 large or 2 small mini-muffin pans.  Toss panko, 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese, and 2 tbsp. chopped chives in small bowl.  Drizzle 1/4 cup melted butter over, tossing with fork until evenly moistened.  Press 1 rounded tablespoon panko mixture into bottom of each muffin cup, forming crust.  Spoon 1 generous tablespoon crab mixture into each cup.  Sprinkle rounded teaspoon of panko mixture over (some may be left over).

Bake crab cakes until golden on top and set, about 30 minutes.  Cool in pans 5 minutes.  Run knife around each cake and gently lift out of pan.  (Can be made 2 hours ahead.  Arrange on baking sheet; let stand at room temperature.  Rewarm in 350°F oven 6 to 8 minutes.)

Gianduja Mousse

November 13, 2009


I’m going to have to be brief with this one.  This week has been a little crazy and it’s about to get crazier.  I will be catering a party on Friday night for a wonderful babysitter who is turning 30.  I’m proud that she asked me to do the food and can’t wait to have lots of people celebrating in our house.  I’m hoping that I will be able to get some good photos because I have some great party food recipes to share.

We are also going to a supper club on Saturday night for which I need to make a Rick Bayless appetizer and cocktail.  Uncharacteristically for me with food, I am just starting to wrap my brain around this dish.  Usually I do lots of research and cross-referencing but I have just been so overwhelmed with the catering and Randy being out of town (he is just back from Portugal).  Oh, and Thanksgiving?  The dinner we are hosting?  The one with 19 adults and a turkey invited?  Have barely started planning that.  Clearly I have my work cut out for me.


So, sometimes you want chocolate mousse.  And maybe sometimes you just want something really sweet, satisfying and mousse-like and easy.  I don’t know how to pronounce Gianduja but I do know that it means a milk chocolate and hazelnut pairing and it originates in Italy.  Nutella is a sort of bastardized but no less delicious version and it is the main flavoring in this mousse.  In my experience, you can eat this mousse right after you make it and it has a lovely light and soft texture.  The longer it sits in the refrigerator, the more firm it becomes.  If you want to, say for example, slather it between two chocolate wafers to make a delightful mousse sandwich, I would let it sit for an hour or more.


One Year Ago:  Spinach and Jerusalem Artichoke Soup

Gianduja Mousse

Adapted from Food and Wine
Serves 4

½ cup chocolate-hazelnut spread, such as Nutella
¼ cup crème fraîche
1 ½ tsp. brandy or hazelnut liqueur
½ cup heavy cream

In a medium bowl, using an electric mixer, beat the Nutella with the crème fraiche and brandy at low speed until smooth.  In another bowl, beat the heavy cream until firm peaks form.  Using a rubber spatula, fold the whipped cream into the Nutella mixture until no streaks remain.  Spoon the mousse into small bowls and refrigerate for 20 minutes.

Holly B’s Gingersnap Cookies

November 11, 2009


So here is something I have not told you all yet.  I have stopped cooking for my clients.  I no longer describe myself as a personal chef.  It started this past summer when our schedules were not aligning well and I decided it made sense to take a break until the fall.  Truthfully, I was glad to have the break.  I started my business when Graham was 18 months old and I cooked for my clients through my second pregnancy, nursing, and sleepless nights.  I cooked reliably and without a break (except for vacation) through the three most exhausting and challenging years of my life.

I loved having my business.  I loved the creativity and loved feeding people.  I know there are many of you out there who dream of being able to do what I did and I have gotten emails telling me so.  I know I was very fortunate to be able to follow my passion in the way that I did.  I just got burnt out.  It wasn’t the cooking or the feeding people, it was the menu planning, shopping, and stressing about finding the time to cook to the standard that I held myself.  My boys have always napped reliably and I have spent almost every single nap of their lives rushing around my kitchen like a mad woman.

Not that much has changed.  There is always something I am cooking for.  My visions of sitting on the couch eating bon bons while reading War and Peace are just that – visions.  I figure I’ll spend another year attempting to relax and then will probably dive back into the world of personal cheffing when my big boy goes to kindergarten next fall.

Randy would tell you the downside to me not being a personal chef anymore is the lack of cookies in our house.  Once a week, when I brought my clients dinner, I would also bring them a treat (hence the name of this blog).  Often those treats were cookies and we always had the leftovers in our cookie jar.  I am still baking plenty but not as many cookies.  Randy complains regularly about this fact.  So, I chose to make one of his favorite kinds – this time from Holly B.

I find Gingersnaps and all the other cookies that fall into the spicy molasses world to be a bit elusive.  I want the perfect one and I have never found it.  Chewy but not gooey.  Crisp around the edges, soft in the middle.  Really spicy and not too sweet.  Rich molasses flavor but not bitter.  Does that cookie exist?

This cookie is pretty close.  Flavor-wise it’s exactly what I want.  Just the right amount of spice with a strong molasses tang coming through.  For me, the texture is a little off, maybe just a bit too cakey and with too much puff.  Still, it’s a good recipe until I find my dream one.  Do you have a perfect gingersnap?  Care to share?

You can buy Holly’s cookbook by visiting this site.


One Year Ago:  Miso Carrot Sauce

Gingersnap Cookies

With Love & Butter
Makes a lot of cookies

3/4 stick butter, at room temperature
1/2 stick margarine, at room temperature
1 1/4 cups granulated sugar, plus more for coating
1 1/4 cups brown sugar, firmly packed
3/4 cup plus 1 tbsp. molasses
2 eggs plus 1 egg yolk
5 cups flour
2 1/2 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt
2 tbsp. ground ginger
1 1/4 tsp. cinnamon
3/4 tsp. allspice

Preheat the oven to 375 F with the rack in the top position.  Line 2 cookie sheets with parchment paper or grease lightly.

In the bowl of an electric mixer cream together the  butter, margarine, sugars, and molasses.  Add the eggs and egg yolk, mixing well.  Now add the flour, baking soda, salt, and spices and combine thoroughly, scraping the sides of the bowl several times with a rubber spatula.

Plop mounded teaspoonfuls of dough into a shallow bowl filled with about 1 cup of granulated sugar.  (DT: I made my cookies bigger and used a medium sized ice cream scoop.)  Roll the dough in the sugar until totally coated and shaped into a ball.  Space the balls 1 1/2 inches apart on the baking sheets, flattening the top of each cookie slightly with your fingers.

One pan at a time, bake the cookies for 5 minutes, rotate the pan, and bake for 5 to 9 minutes.  The cookies will be done when they settle after puffing up.  If you like your gingersnaps extra crisp, bake a little longer.  Cool, then store in a container with a tight-fitting lid.

Of the Full Fat Variety

November 7, 2009


Thank you everyone.  No really, thank you.  That post took me a long time to write – a long time to work it through both in my head and on the screen.  I so appreciate every comment, re-tweet, and email.  We are lucky people here in the Dana Treat house.

Let’s move on to food, shall we?  If you ignore all of the baked goods, cakes, bars, cookies, chocolate, desserts, tarts, candy, and ice cream on the side bar to your right, you will notice that most of the food I write about here is very healthy.  I know that sentence sounds like a joke but if you take a look through the main courses, you will see a lot of good-for-you things.  The truth is that I like healthy food and that is mostly how I cook.  It’s not spa food but I cook with lots of whole grains and beans plus tons of produce, with a little cheese and eggs thrown in now and then for good measure.  Now and then I make a galette or a tart of some kind but these are usually special occasion meals.  I don’t feel right if I eat a big plate of Fettucine Alfredo so I certainly wouldn’t make it for you.

I don’t take drastic measures to make things low calorie or low fat, I just find that I am drawn to things that are healthy.  Does that sound annoying?  I also tend to be careful with the richer stuff.  I would never use low fat cheese, but I might just use a little less of the good stuff in a dish.  Or if I am going to make something rich, I will balance it with something light.  I have always wondered why sauté in a half cup of olive oil when just a couple of tablespoons works just as well?

And then there is this artichoke dip.  Everything I said in the above paragraphs goes out the window with this one.  There are ways to make a dish like this much less bad for you.  Lofat mayo, lofat sour cream – maybe even using plain yogurt instead.  Maybe someday I will try that but for now, I’m going to enjoy this just the way it is.  Luscious, full-fat, and delicious.


One Year Ago:  Fattoush (Pita Bread Salad)

Creamy Artichoke Dip

Adapted from Bon Appétit
Serves 8-12

The original recipe says to serve this with pita chips (it is excellent that way), but I have also served it with fresh baguette slices along with carrots and celery.

2 8-ounce packages cream cheese, room temperature
1/3 cup sour cream
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1 tbsp. fresh lemon juice
1 tbsp. Dijon mustard
1 garlic clove, minced
1 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
1/2 tsp. hot pepper sauce
3 6-ounce jars marinated artichoke hearts, drained, coarsely chopped
1 cup grated mozzarella cheese
3 green onions, finely chopped
2 tsp. minced seeded jalapeño pepper

Using electric mixer, beat first 8 ingredients in large bowl to blend.  Fold in artichokes, mozzarella cheese, green onions, and jalapeño.  Transfer to a 11 x 7 x 2-inch baking dish.  (Can be made 1 day ahead.  Cover and refrigerate.)

Preheat oven to 400°F.  Bake dip until bubbling and brown on top, about 20 minutes.  Dip is best served warm.

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