Pumpkin cake and the Brussels sprouts reprised

Happy Thanksgiving!!!

lovely cake on a lovely table

lovely cake on a lovely table

D, J, and I spent Thanksgiving with my family.  Because they host Thanksgiving, I often just cook whatever is needed to fill in the gaps in the menu.  This year, that meant two cranberry sauces: the one from the Ocean Spray bag and a cranberry chutney.  The chutney was good and made an obscene amount of food.  Seriously.  Watch out everyone I know, you’re getting a jar of chutney for Christmas.

I was also in charge of bringing a non-starchy vegetable.  I made the Brussels sprouts salad again.  It scaled up pretty well, and, wouldn’t you know it, there were make-ahead instructions on another page!  I wrongly maligned that recipe.  You blanch the brussels sprouts and toast the pine nuts the day before.  That leaves only the dressing and slicing the apples the day of.

Another beautiful dish in a beautiful dish

Another beautiful dish in a beautiful dish

Pumpkin layer cake (recipe after the jump)

The real star of the show was the pumpkin cake.  Now, we had desserts more than covered.  We had a maple walnut pie, pecan pie, pumpkin pie, red velvet cake, pumpkin truffles, and a cheesecake.  But…when else was I going to make a giant layer cake?  My sister already rejected the idea of having it for her birthday next Sunday, so I piled on yet another dessert.  Nobody was mad.  This was a popular cake.  It’s very easy to bake and keeps wonderfully overnight.  I think the pumpkin pie spice in the cream cheese frosting (yeah, you read that right) really did add something.  I wouldn’t call it optional.  The cake was very moist.  I guess it reminded me a lot of pumpkin pancakes!  Giant pumpkin pancakes with cream cheese frosting.  You’re gonna want that.  Oh, one tip: the recipe says to use an electric mixer to make the batter and the frosting.  Incorrect.  Bust out the Kitchen Aid and the paddle attachment.  You’ll want the firepower of a stand mixer to get through all that butter and cream cheese.  Also, it’s a lot of batter.  Your arms will be glad you used ol’ Kitchy.

It just looks moist, doesn't it?  Gotta love pumpkin

It just looks moist, doesn’t it? Gotta love pumpkin

Oh, and check out the cheese from my trip to see B!

Cabot aged cheddar, buffalo wing sauce cheddar, everything bagel cheddar.

Cabot aged cheddar, buffalo wing sauce cheddar, everything bagel cheddar.

Happy Thanksgiving, wherever and whoever you are.

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Slice potato, burn potato

Apricot-Stuffed Pork with Potatoes and Brussels Sprouts

all's well...

all’s well…

This is an interesting recipe.  I’ll start with the pork.  The stuffing itself was easy to make.  I used red onion instead of shallot.  I know B is a huge shallot fan, but I’m not sure I’ve bought more than maybe three shallots in my life.  They don’t carry them very regularly at my grocery store (the one besides Aldi…).  Plus, for a cooked recipe like this, the red onion does a really good shallot impression.  The directions say to cut a slit in the pork loin almost all the way through.  Well, if you cut all the way through the loin on accident like I did, you can adjust and make a shorter, shallower cut right next to the mistake cut and use that newly cut piece to cover the gap.  It seemed worthwhile because I thought the sticky apricot jam would ooze out and burn.

It doesn't hold together very well

It doesn’t hold together very well

Speaking of burning…  The potatoes definitely burned.  You cook them for a while on the sheet with the brussels sprouts before you nestle the pork loin on there.  Trouble is, when I opened the oven to add the pork loin, I’d say those potatoes and sprouts were done.  Gulp.  I soldiered forth and cooked them some more with the pork loin, but I stirred them around a little to try and avoid burning.  As luck would have it, the pork loin needed more time to cook fully than what the recipe said.  By the time it was done, the brussels sprouts were really, really roasted and just on the edge of burning and about 60% of the potatoes were burned to the pan.  Here’s my question: why not chunks instead of thin slices?  What a mess.  If I made this again, I would either skip the potatoes or cut them into chunks and do the preroasting for 1/2 the amount of time before adding the pork loin to the pan.

We lost a lot of good potatoes in this battle

We lost a lot of good potatoes in this battle

On a more positive note, I ground up the pork and stuffing in the food processor and gave it to J with a little applesauce to moisten it and it was his favorite meal of the week!  I tried a bite and yeah, I would eat that!

Fantastic salad with some fatal flaws

Shredded Brussels Sprout Salad

anything with pine nuts is good

anything with pine nuts is good

This is a very yummy recipe.  It has bright flavors from crisp apple, sprouts, and vinegar, but it also has an earthy, roasty flavor from the pine nuts.  We made this at the beginning of November and D said he was really looking forward to a month of rich Thanksgiving flavors.  I was too.  It’s been fun to delve deeply into Thanksgiving for a whole month.

There are several strikes against this dish as an actual Thanksgiving side: First, there are no instructions to make it ahead of time, and that’s tough for a lot of cooks.  Second, it takes one large bowl, one large pot, one collander, one medium bowl, one cutting board, one or two knifes, two cookie sheets, the oven, the range, and at least four or five paper towels.  So unless you made absolutely everything else ahead of time, you love doing dishes, and no one else is bugging you to do anything just before the meal, this isn’t a good choice for your average Thanksgiving.  It should be noted, however, that I don’t usually have the average Thanksgiving.  My parents have between 20 and 30 people over.  So maybe my perspective is a touch skewed.  Overall, I think this is a nice side dish for a Thanksgiving-inspired meal, but not the feast itself.

One note about the apple instructions:  They are confusing as written. They tell you to quarter the apple then quarter it again.  And make 8 chunks?  From looking at the picture in the magazine, I determined that they actually mean quarter then thinly slice crosswise, similar to how you cut the brussels sprouts.

Here’s one meal where I served leftover stuffed acorn squash with this salad as a side:

it's just ridiculously seasonal, really

it’s just ridiculously seasonal, really