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Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Thanksgiving Treats

The kitchen's getting steamy and overheated--the food marathon has begun. First up: Pumpkin-Toffee-Pecan Cookies. It's a variation of a recipe from one of my all-time favorite cookbooks, The Victory Garden Cookbook. I hadn't planned to make cookies as we're already having an over-abundance of desserts in the way of pies tomorrow, but I had an extra cup of pumpkin puree leftover so decided to put it to good use. I'm glad I did, yum!

These puffy cake-like cookies are very special with a strong hint of orange combined with toasted pecans and bits of crushed toffee. They're almost like mini cakes with a large dollop of cream cheese frosting on the top. I hope you enjoy them as much as we do. I just have to remember to put some aside for our Thanksgiving guests or we may just nibble them all away.
 Pumpkin-Toffee-Pecan 
Cookies
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 egg
1 cup canned pure pumpkin
1 tablespoon grated orange peel 
1 teaspoon vanilla extract  
1 cup English toffee bits
1/2 cup coarsely chopped toasted pecans, toasted

Cream Cheese Frosting:
2 oz. cream cheese, softened
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
2 tablespoons whipping cream or milk
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 3/4 to 2 cups powdered sugar

Heat oven to 375ºF. Whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, and salt. Beat the sugar and butter together on medium speed 3 minutes or until light and fluffy. Beat in the egg until blended. Beat in the pumpkin, orange peel and vanilla. Beat in the flour mixture on low speed until blended. Stir in the toffee and pecans. Drop by rounded teaspoonfuls onto parchment paper-lined baking sheets. Bake 10 to 12 minutes or until lightly browned. Cool completely. 

To make frosting, beat cream cheese, butter and cream together at medium-low speed until smooth. Reduce speed to low and beat in enough powdered sugar for spreadable consistency. Frost cooled cookies. 
Makes 3 dozen cookies.
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If you're like me. one of the main problems with preparing the Thanksgiving meal is that so much of it needs to be done at the last minute, from mashing the potatoes to making the gravy to carving the turkey.So I thought I'd share one of my favorite do-ahead recipes: Caramelized Onion Gravy. It's perfect for the time-stressed cook because it can be made the day before. It's rich dark color with a hint of sweetness comes from the browned onions and it's silky texture makes it the perfect topping for mashed potatoes and turkey. The recipe was featured in the Cooking Club magazine. I'll be making it this afternoon and I thought you might enjoy having the recipe also.

Caramelized Onion Gravy

1 (32 oz.) carton lower-sodium chicken broth
Giblets from turkey (without the liver)
1/4 cup butter
3 large onions, quartered, thinly sliced crosswise (3 cups)
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon dried sage
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper

Simmer the broth and giblets in medium saucepan over medium-low to low heat 30 minutes. Strain broth and reserve; discard giblets.

Meanwhile, melt butter in medium saucepan over medium heat. Add onions, stir to coat. Cover and cook 5 minutes or until wilted. Sprinkle with sugar. Increase heat to medium-high; cook, uncovered, 10 to 15 minutes or until onions are golden-brown, stirring frequently and adjusting heat as necessary. Stir in flour, cook 1 minute, stirring constantly. Whisk in broth; bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium; boil 8 to 10 minutes or until of desired consistency. Stir in sage, salt and pepper. Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve. Reheat until warm; stir in any drippings from the roasted bird or meat before serving, if desired.
Makes about 3 cups.
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Don't worry, the chicks haven't been forgotten in the flurry of holiday baking. In fact, I created some special treats just for the girls: Cranberry-Raisin-Peanut Butter Cakes. The name sounds enticing and yes, they actually look good, but I've had to remind everyone they are for the chickens only. While they're filled with goodies such as raisins, dried cranberries, peanuts and peanut butter, they also contain nutritious (for chickens) scratch feed, cracked dried corn, and mealworms. The girls are loving them and scarfing them up. I got the idea from my friend Andi at General Mills She created cupcakes for her wild birds and I thought my chicks deserved no less.

Cranberry-Raisin-Peanut Butter Cakes 
(for chickens)
1/2 cup chunky all-natural salt-free peanut butter
1/2 cup chicken scratch feed or regular chicken feed
6 tablespoons old-fashioned oats
1/4 cup dried mealworms
2 tablespoons raisins
2 tablespoons dried cranberries

Microwave peanut butter until soft. Stir in chicken feed, oats, mealworms, raisins and cranberries. Spoon about 1/4 cup into 6 cupcake liners. Top with additional cranberries and oats if desired for garnish. Freeze until firm. Remove from cupcake liners and give to chickens. Store covered in the freezer; thaw slightly at room temperature before giving to chicks.

Makes 6 chicken treats.
(You can substitute raw pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, dried coarse corn and chopped peanuts for the oats, mealworms, raisins and cranberries.)
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I tried to give a treat cake to the girls in a suet feeder thinking they could easily peck at it. Wrong. They had no idea what to do and basically ignored it. It wasn't until I placed it in their regular treat bowl that they went crazy.

Cold weather has come early this year but the chicks have a lot to be thankful for. My new Sweeter Heater infrared flat panel heater just arrived yesterday. It'll go next to the original Sweeter Heater that warms the coop all season. The new one will give extra warmth on those days when the temps get below zero. Last year I used a red heat lamp for extra warmth, but the red glow coming from the coop at night made it look like the coop was on fire. I kept waiting for the neighbors to call the fire department. Flat panel heaters emit no light so the chicks now will be toasty warm and dark. Lights are on in the coop, but only during the day and early evening hours to give the girls their required 14 hours of light necessary for egg production. It's working, I'm getting almost two eggs a day from the new girls.

I've also ordered a small portable Am/Fm radio for the girls. On the days when they are literally cooped up inside, public radio classical music soothes them and keeps them happy. The radio I used last year was large and fell after one of the girls tried to roost on it. It never worked quite right after that with its antenna bent and chicken droppings on it. The new one will hang on the wall hopefully away from inquisitive chicken claws and rear ends.


Wishing you and all your chicks a Happy and Delicious Thanksgiving Day.

4 comments:

  1. Missing you all and that wonderful turkey and gravy this year :( Please tell everyone around the table that we are thinking of them and love to you all!! Happy Thanksgiving
    The family in St. Louis

    ReplyDelete
  2. Happy Thanksgiving to you also!

    ReplyDelete
  3. I made both recipes gluten-free; the cookies are delicious and I love the onion gravy; Thank you!

    ReplyDelete
  4. Glad they worked out so well for you, especially using gluten-free flour! Thanks for letting me know.

    ReplyDelete

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