Happy November!

Happy November!

The leaves have been falling, that's for sure, and there have been some frosty mornings here in Chicago; all sure signs that summer has exited (including Indian summer!) and we are into full-blown autumn.  There has been not a flake of snow, which I am grateful for, as I can remember some snowy Halloweens here!  The snow will come, but hopefully not until Christmas Eve.  Ha!

My kind of holiday is just around the corner; Thanksgiving!  It is just the best time of year, with the focus on gratitude and food.  I have been pondering potential menu items for this feast, sharing many of them in the special Holiday Edition of the magazine.  There are also some great dishes for every day of the month in this month's edition.  I want to give you a little preview!

A question from a member prompted me to investigate grits, a humble ingredient that is used all over the world under various names.  Cheesy Baked Grits are simply delicious, and I am so grateful that Donna challenged me to pursue this tasty recipe!  That dish led me to create Slow-Cooker Beef Ragout with Onions, a heavenly, tender beef dish with caramelized onions that is the perfect partner for the grits.  Serve some Sauteed Swiss Chard with Lemon and Garlic alongside; the lemon really cuts the richness of the beef and grits, plus it's delicious!

My new favorite November bread is Pumpkin Yeast Bread (or Rolls)!  It has beautiful color, and the flavor is mild and not too sweet.  It's great toasted with some nut butter for breakfast, and is a key ingredient in my Turkey & Cranberry Panini, which also features Cranberry-Apricot Sauce with Sherry from the Holiday EditionRoasted Butternut Squash, Pear, Blue Cheese & Walnut Salad with Roasted Shallot Pear Vinaigrette fills the bill as a lunch entree or dinner side (especially with a Pumpkin Dinner Roll!).  So flavorful, and truly a beautiful salad.  And no autumn lunch is complete without a cup of soup; Farmers Root Vegetable is offered this month by request, as well as one of my personal favorites, Pumpkin Cranberry Soup in the Holiday Edition, too.  And of course of cookie for dessert!  My Toffee, Pecan & Chocolate Chip version hits all the right notes, conquering your candy cravings, as well.

Try a Easy Breakfast Pizza on a lazy weekend morning; a great way to get the day started.  And check out the Holiday Edition for more great dishes for this season!

The election is next week, remember to vote!

Praying you'll enjoy a wonderful Thanksgiving and enjoy many of the recipes this month at your own feast!  (And don't forget to tell them where you found all those tasty recipes.)


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Farm Journal's Cranberry Ketchup

Cranberry Ketchup

Cranberry Ketchup

This recipe from Farm Journal's Freezing & Canning Cookbook is perfect for November!  I love creating all kinds of sauces for sandwiches; it was one of favorite things when I owned the cafe.  This recipe from over 50 years ago is still on trend. You will notice that the directions are dated, but I wanted to leave it just as it was published.  Love this with a turkey, chicken, or pork sandwich, and it's great for dipping Sweet Potato Strings or Fries!  I changed the recipe when I made it a bit, adding some ground chipotle pepper for heat, but it is amazing just a written.  Also, you can cut the recipe in half or quarter it and just refrigerate it, rather than create a large batch to can.  It would be a great item to give as a gift, though!

4 pounds cranberries

1 pound onions, rough chopped

2 cups water

4 cups sugar

2 cups vinegar

1 Tablespoon ground cloves

1 Tablespoon ground cinnamon

1 Tablespoon ground allspice

1 Tablespoon salt

1 teaspoon ground black pepper

Cook cranberries and onions in water until tender.  Put through food mill.

Add remaining ingredients, boil and stir until thick, about 8 minutes.

Pour into hot jars.  Adjust lids at once.  Process in boiling water bath (212-degrees) 5 minutes.  Remove jars from canner and complete seals unless closures are self-sealing.  Makes 5 pints

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Pumpkin French Toast with Spiced Apple-Maple Syrup

Mmmmm, Pumpkin French Toast with Spiced Apple-Maple Syrup

Mmmmm, Pumpkin French Toast with Spiced Apple-Maple Syrup

The Pumpkin Yeast Bread in the November Edition is so delicious, but I did have some getting very stale (only 2 people in the house!).  What to do, I wondered.  I suddenly envisioned French toast made with the bread, topped with a spiced apple maple syrup topping.  Oh my, I must give this a try.  The results were better than I imagined!  So, here is the recipe for both the toast and topping.  A wonderful, fragrant breakfast for a brisk autumn weekend.  Serves 3-4 with some topping left-over (maybe). If you like, you can add 1/4 cup toasted pecans to the topping for additional crunch and protein!

For the Spiced Apple-Maple Syrup Topping:

1 large sweet-tart apple,cored and cut into 1/8" dice (brunoise)

2 Tablespoons butter

1/2 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice or pie spice ( I used Penzey's)

Large pinch of salt

Generous 1 cup of maple syrup

Melt the butter in a 10-inch skillet.  Add the apples and cook over medium-high heat until they are softened and starting to brown.  Add the pie spice and salt and cook for about 1 more minute.  Add the maple syrup, lower the heat, and simmer very slowly while preparing the French Toast.

For the French Toast:

8-3/4" slices Pumpkin Yeast Bread (or any other stale, sturdy bread, such as French or sourdough)

2 large eggs, beaten well

1/2 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice or pie spice

Pinch of salt

1 1/4 cup whole or 2% milk

In a 10-inch pie plate, combine the eggs, spice, salt, and milk and whisk until the mixture is completely combined, with no streaks of egg.

Preheat a large non-stick skillet sprayed generously with non-stick spray, over medium heat.

Place the slices of bread into the egg mixture two at a time, and soak for a few seconds on each side, until they are thoroughly wet, but not soggy.  Place on a sheet pan and repeat with the remaining slices of bread. (If some of the egg mixture remains and you have additional bread, you can prepare more to freeze for later use.)

Add the bread to the skillet, and cook until well browned on the bottom and the top looks like it is beginning to dry out a little.  Turn and cook until the bottom is well-browned.  (Do not undercook or the toast will be wet and gooey in the center!)

Serve on warm plates with butter and Spiced Apple-Maple Syrup.

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Roasted Butternut Squash, Pear, Blue Cheese & Walnut Salad with Roasted Shallot & Pear Dressing

Autumn Roasted Acorn Squash, Pear, Blue Cheese & Walnut Salad with Roasted Shallot & Pear Dressing.

Autumn Roasted Acorn Squash, Pear, Blue Cheese & Walnut Salad with Roasted Shallot & Pear Dressing.

This salad is a combination of all things wonderful in fall!  The squash is roasted to a nutty brown, red pears added color and sweetness, Blue Cheese (no description required), and toasted walnuts add crunch and texture.  The dressing requires some cooking, but is so worth it as it is the perfect complement to this salad. Serves 4

Prepare the salad:

1 small acorn squash, halved, peel removed, seeds and membranes removed, and cut into 1/2" slices

Olive oil spray

6 cups each baby spinach and Romaine, clean, dry, and cold

1 large red pear, quartered, cored, and sliced thinly

1 cup toasted walnut pieces

4 ounces Blue Cheese (a firm variety that can be crumbled)

Preheat oven to 425-degrees.  Spray a sheet pan with non-stick spray.  Spread the squash out on the sheet pan and spray lightly with olive oil.  Sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Bake for 20 minutes or until tender and brown.  If the squash gets tender but isn't brown, run it under the broiler for a few minutes to color.  Cool and cut slices into thirds.

Assemble the salad in either individual bowls or a large serving bowl.  Place the spinach and lettuce in the bowl, then layer on the squash, pear, walnut pieces, and Blue Cheese.  Serve with Pear Vinaigrette.

Pear Vinaigrette:

1/2 cup vegetable oil

1 Tablespoon very finely minced shallot

1 can pear nectar

1/2 cup cider vinegar

1 teaspoon Dijon mustard

2 Tablespoons Honey

1 cup olive oil

1 teaspoon very finely chopped fresh chives

1/2 teaspoon very finely chopped fresh thyme

1/2 teaspoon salt & 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Heat the vegetable oil over low heat.  Add the shallots and cook slowly until they are softened and just start to color a bit.  Set aside to cool.

Pour the pear nectar into a small saucepan and boil until reduced by half.  Set aside and cool completely.

Place all of the ingredients into the container of a blender and blend, covered, for about a minute, until the dressing begins to thicken.  Serve immediately.  Store in the refrigerator.

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Farmers Root Vegetable Soup

Farmers Root Vegetable Soup

Farmers Root Vegetable Soup

This soup recipe does not sound at all special, but that impression could not be more wrong!  A simple assortment of root vegetables, stock, a little salt, pepper and fresh dill, is all simmered together until the vegetables are tender.  So easy, and the result is amazing!  A little sweet from the fennel, carrots, and yams, which contrast the earthy onion, turnip, and celery root. Definitely a surprise favorite at the cafe!  Serves 12   (Divide by three for 4 servings only)

Equipment needed:  Stock Pot    Chefs Knife   Cutting Board

1 large yellow onion, diced

2 ribs of celery, sliced 1/2" thick

1 bulb of fennel (anise), top stalks removed, quartered and cored, then diced into 3/4" pieces

6 carrots, peeled and sliced 3/4"' thick, large end halved and sliced

3 parsnips, peeled and diced into 1" pieces

3 large Garnet yams, peeled and diced into 1"

3 turnips, peeled and diced into 1" pieces

1 bulb celery root, ends trimmed, peeled, quartered and cored, cut into 1" pieces

14 cups of chicken or vegetable stock

1 bunch of fresh dill, chopped

Kosher salt and freshly-ground black pepper, to taste

Combine vegetables and stock in a large pot with lid.  Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer gently for 45-50 minutes, or until the vegetables are tender.  Add the dill. 

Taste and add salt and pepper to taste.


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Slow Cooker Beef Ragout with Onions

Tender and delicious Crock Pot Beef Ragout with Onions served with Cheesy Baked Grits and Sauteed Spinach

Tender and delicious Crock Pot Beef Ragout with Onions served with Cheesy Baked Grits and Sauteed Spinach

The French name "ragout" (pronounced ra-goo) means a meat combined with vegetables and cooked to tender goodness.  Thus, unlike Italian ragu, which usually contains tomato, this "ragout" is composed of melt-in-your-mouth tender beef with caramelized onions, cooked together in beef broth and red wine.  It is thickened a bit with a classic French "beurre manie", a mixture of butter and flour.  Use chuck roast, this is not the place for a leaner cut of meat.  Perfect accompaniment to Cheesy Baked Grits, mashed potatoes or even toasted garlic bread.  Definitely try it with the grits, you won't be disappointed!!

2 pounds boneless beef chuck roast, cut into 6 pieces

3 Tablespoons vegetable oil

1 large yellow onion, thinly sliced

1/2 cup dry red wine

4 cups reduced-sodium beef broth

3 Tablespoons softened butter

3 Tablespoons all-purpose flour

Salt & Pepper, to taste

Baked Cheesy Grits (for serving)

1/2 cup minced mixed fresh savory herbs, such as parsley, chives, thyme, (use small amounts of herbs such as sage or rosemary because of their powerful flavors)

Heat the oil in a large cast-iron skillet and heat until just starting to smoke.  Generously salt and pepper the pieces of roast on both sides.  Add pieces to the skillet (do it in two batches if needed-don't crowd the skillet.)  Cook until all of the pieces are very brown on both sides, then remove and place in a 6 quart crock pot. (Alternately, place in a Dutch oven and complete the cooking in a 300-degree oven for 3 hours)  Add the onions to the skillet and cook over medium heat until soft and very-well browned.  Add the red wine to the onions in the skillet and cook until the wine has nearly evaporated.  Add the onion mixture to the meat in the crock pot.

Bring the broth to a boil and add to the crock pot.  Cook on high heat for three hours, turning the meat occasionally. When the meat is very tender and easy to shred with a fork, turn off the heat and remove the meat to a platter and cover to keep warm.

Place the remaining contents into a large saucepan and bring up to a boil.  Boil for 10-15 minutes until the broth has reduced a bit.  Combine the softened butter and flour and mix to form a paste.  Add the mixture a little at a time to the boiling broth, stirring well after each addition.  Cook for a few minutes after all of the "beurre manie" has been added.  Shred the beef with two forks and add to the hot sauce; mix well and simmer until the beef is heated through.

Serve atop Baked Cheese Grits sprinkled with minced herbs.

(Cool leftovers and refrigerate.  This dish is just as good the second (or third) time!)



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Toffee, Pecan & Chocolate Chip Cookies

Toffee, Pecan & Chocolate Chip Cookies

Toffee, Pecan & Chocolate Chip Cookies

Sometimes you just need some candy-in your cookie!  This unassuming looking treat hits all the right notes; toffee, chocolate, and pecans.  Delicious with a cup of your favorite hot beverage.  If there are any leftover, you can freeze them for later!  Yum. Makes about 2 dozen

Equipment needed:  Silicone baking sheets,   Sheet pans, #30 scoop, Stand Mixer

1 3/4 cup unbleached or all-purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 teaspoon salt

4 ounces toffee bits

6 ounces mini chocolate chips

3/4 cup chopped pecans

5 ounces or 1/2 cup + 2 Tablespoons slightly soft butter

2/3 cup packed brown sugar

1 large egg

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Preheat the oven to 350-degrees.  Line baking sheets with silicone mats, parchment paper, or spray with non-stick spray.

Combine all of the dry ingredients in a bowl and whisk together.  Stir in the toffee bits, chocolate chips and pecans.

In the bowl of a mixer, beat together the butter and brown sugar until light and fluffy.  Add the eggs and vanilla and beat until well incorporated.  Add the flour mixture and mix until well combined.

Using a scoop or tablespoon, drop the dough onto the baking sheets, leaving at least 1 1/2 inches between the cookies.  Bake in the upper third of the oven for 8-11 minutes until golden on top and slightly darker on the edges.  Be careful not to overbake.

Cool on a rack and store in an airtight container.

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Pumpkin Yeast Bread

This is the perfect bread to create a sandwich from that leftover turkey and a bit of Cranberry-Apricot Sauce (Turkey & Cranberry Panini).  Toast it for a quick breakfast with a little peanut or almond butter.  The pumpkin flavor is mild, and the color is beautiful.  It also makes great dinner rolls!  Mix it up in a stand mixer, or by hand; this recipe is easy to make. (If you have a bread machine, mix the dough up in it on the "dough cycle". I have given instructions for mixing with a stand mixer or by hand.) A great holiday or any day bread. As always, weighing ingredients is best for baked goods!  (Adapted from a King Arthur Flour recipe.)

Equipment needed:    Stand Mixer    9X5-inch Bread Pan(s)     Large Mixing Bowl

2 Tablespoons instant dry yeast

4 ounces lukewarm milk

2 large eggs

12 ounces pureed pumpkin, canned or fresh

2 Tablespoons vegetable oil

27 1/2 ounces unbleached all-purpose flour (about 6 3/4 cup)

3 3/4 ounces brown sugar (1/2 cup)

2 1/2 teaspoons salt

1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice

Place all of the ingredients into the bowl of a stand mixer, or a large mixing bowl and mix to make a smooth, soft dough.

Put the dough into a lightly greased bowl and cover and let rise in a warm spot until doubled, 1 to 1 1/4 hours.

Gently deflate the dough, and turn it out onto a lightly oiled work surface.  Weigh the dough, and divide into equal halves.

Shape each half into a loaf, or shape into one loaf and 12 rolls, or shape into 24 rolls (weigh the dough and divide into 24 equal pieces).  Place the dough, however it is shaped, into the appropriate lightly greased bread pan(s) or 9-inch cake pan(s).  

Cover the pans and let the loaves/rolls rise until almost doubled, about 45 minutes.  When the dough is almost doubled, preheat the oven to 350-degrees. 

Bake the bread for 30-35 minutes, or until the crust is a deep golden brown, and a digital thermometer inserted into the center registers about 190-degrees.  Bake the rolls for about 20 minutes, until golden brown.

Remove from the oven and turn it out onto a rack to cool.  After completely cooled, wrap tightly in plastic and store at room temperature for several days.  To store longer, freeze in air-tight packaging.

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Sauteed Swiss Chard with Garlic & Lemon

Sauteed Swiss Chard with Garlic, Lemon & Red Pepper Flakes

Sauteed Swiss Chard with Garlic, Lemon & Red Pepper Flakes

Winter greens are so healthy!  Their inherent bitterness makes them a perfect side dish for creamy, rich dishes, like Beef Ragout with Onions and Baked Cheesy Grits.  The lemon adds a tart kick to keep them from being boring, garlic adds a ton of aromatic flavor, and if you like a touch of heat, crushed red pepper flakes are the answer.  It's not a sexy dish, but it is delicious and a great side. Serves 4

2 large bunches of Swiss Chard, green, red or rainbow, washed and ribs removed

2 large cloves of garlic, sliced paper thin

2 Tablespoons olive oil

2 Tablespoons chicken or vegetable stock

1 1/2 Tablespoons freshly-squeezed lemon juice

1 grated lemon zest

1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes

1/4 teaspoon Kosher salt

1 Tablespoon unsalted butter

Slice the chard into large pieces.  Heat the olive oil in a large skillet (that has a lid) over medium-low heat.  Add the chard and saute until wilted.  Add the garlic and cook and stir for about one minute.  Add the stock and lemon juice, cover with the lid and cook over low heat for about 10 minutes, until the chard is very tender.  Remove the lid, add the zest and crushed red pepper and continue to cook until the liquid is evaporated. Add butter and stir until melted.  Taste and adjust salt, if needed.  Serve hot.

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Easy Breakfast Pizza

Easy Breakfast Pizza

Easy Breakfast Pizza

Need to mix up your breakfast a bit; how about pizza for breakfast? Purchase a par-baked pizza crust and top it with roasted veggies (do them a day ahead), soft scrambled eggs, cheese, and your choice of breakfast meat, but we eat ours vegetarian-style! (Pictured). Serve with a fresh fruit salad, delicious!

Equipment needed:  Half-sheet Pan   10" Non-Stick Skillet    12" Pizza Pan

1 12-inch par baked pizza crust (Such as Boboli), or parbake a homemade pizza dough

2 medium, ripe tomatoes, seeded, liquid squeezed out, and sliced very thin

1 red, green or yellow pepper, sliced very thin (See video for how to clean them)

1/2 large red onion, peeled and sliced very thin

2 Tablespoons olive oil

8 extra-large Eggs

Salt & Pepper, to taste

1/2 teaspoon dried Italian seasoning

1 Tablespoon butter

1 cup chopped, cooked ham, sausage, or bacon

3 cups shredded Mozzarella, or cheese of your choice

1/3 cup fresh basil, thinly sliced

Roast the vegetables:

Preheat the oven to 425-degrees.  Brush the half-sheet pan liberally with olive oil. Spread the onions, peppers, and tomatoes out on the sheet pan and brush with oil; sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Roast for 20-25 minutes, or until soft and browned slightly. Spread vegetables evenly over the pizza crust and set aside. (Alternately, cool and refrigerate to use later.)

Cook the eggs and assemble the pizza:

Beat the eggs very well in a bowl and season with salt and pepper.  Heat a 10" non-stick skillet over medium-low heat.  Add butter to pan and swirl to melt.  Add the eggs, lower the heat to low, and cook, stirring almost constantly, just until they start to set.  (They should still be very loose, just barely cooked.)  Spoon the eggs over the vegetables on the pizza.  Cover with half of the cheese, sprinkle the meat over the cheese, then add the remaining cheese.

Bake until the cheese is melted and is lightly browned, approximately 12-18 minutes, depending on oven.  (Use your eyes and nose tell you when it's done.)

Sprinkle with fresh basil.  Let the pizza stand for 5-10 minutes before cutting into slices.


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Cheesy Baked Grits

This recipe came about from an "Ask the Chef" question; and I am so glad it was asked!  These baked grits are tasty, and the perfect foil for a sauce or ragout.  The Crock Pot Beef Ragout with Onions was my answer to what to serve on top!  Eat these right away, and the leftover can be chilled, sliced and fried for another tasty version of the same dish.  Enjoy!

6 cups water

3/4 teaspoon salt

2 cups yellow grits (not instant, I used Bob's Red Mill)

4 ounces (1 stick) unsalted butter

1 1/2 teaspoon salt

2 Tablespoons chopped garlic

1/2 pound Cheddar cheese; coarsely grated, about 2 cups

3 large eggs

1 cup whole milk

1/2 teaspoon black pepper

Preheat the oven to 350-degrees, and put the rack in the center position.

Bring the water and 3/4 teaspoon salt to a boil in a 4-quart heavy pot.  Add the grits to the pot slowly, streaming them in while stirring constantly.  Reduce the heat to low and simmer, stirring frequently at first to prevent sticking, until they are very thick and dry, about 30 minutes.  (They will spit and pop, and you may feel that they are cooked, but let them cook the entire 30 minutes-it is amazing how thick they become!)

When the time is up, remove from the heat and add the butter, 1 1/2 teaspoons salt, garlic, and cheese, stirring until the butter and cheese have melted.  In a small bowl, beat the eggs, and the milk and mix well.  Stir into the grits and mix until very well combined.  Pour into an ungreased 8-inch square baking dish that is about 2 inches deep, sprinkle with the black pepper, and bake until set and lightly browned, about an hour.  Serve immediately!

Note:  I had leftovers, so in the spirit of my mother's breakfasts, I tried frying slices in a half butter-half oil mixture.  It worked great!  I cut the slices about an inch thick and cooked them on both sides over medium heat until they were golden (they pop and spit, so I covered them with a spatter screen!) and served them with some reheated left-over Beef Ragout.  Amazing!

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Turkey & Cranberry Panini

Turkey & Cranberry Panini

Turkey & Cranberry Panini

This panini is so delicious, and is the perfect way to make use of Thanksgiving's excess! A similar panini was served at the cafe; always a favorite! It starts with Pumpkin Yeast Bread that gets spread with Cranberry Sauce with Apricots & Sherry, some grainy mustard, roasted turkey, and your choice of cheese; I like to use Pepper Jack to give it a little zip and balance the sweetness of the sauce and bread. I suspect these may appear on the table all season long!

Equipment needed:  Panini Grill     or     12" Cast Iron Skillet and 10.25" Cast Iron Skillet

For each sandwich:

2 slices Pumpkin Yeast Bread

1 Tablespoon grainy brown or Dijon mustard

2 Tablespoons Cranberry Sauce with Apricot & Sherry

2-3 ounces roasted turkey, sliced thin and warmed in the microwave slightly

2 slices of cheese, Pepper-Jack, Co-Jack, Smoked Gouda, or your favorite

Softened Butter

Preheat the panini grill to high, or preheat the 12" skillet over medium heat.

Lay out the slices of bread on a cutting board or counter top.  Spread both sides very lightly with the mustard, then spread each slice with the cranberry sauce.  Add a slide of cheese to one slice, top with the turkey, then the second slice of cheese.  Top with the remaining slice of cheese.  Spread both side of the panini with butter and place on the panini grill (or add to the skillet.  Carefully close the lid, making sure the sandwich remains level, or place the smaller skillet on top of the sandwich in the skillet, keeping it level. (For the skillet panini: Once the bread has browned well on one side in the skillet, turn the sandwich, cook until the cheese melts and the panini is brown on the other side.)  When the panini is well browned and the cheese is melted, remove to a cutting board and allow to rest for about a minute before cutting on the diagonal.  Serve immediately.

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