So, the house is all settled in. Still waiting on my handyman guy to put the new closet door into my guest room and a few other piddly things but overall I am so happy with my new house in Austin. I especially like the backyard and the covered patio with all my hammocks. Work is keeping me insane these days so I haven't been training much but once a week keeps me feeling like I am still connected and next year it will get easier for sure.
I am dating someone special, too. I don't need to share all the details, but, he's amazing, and as close to perfect as I could imagine. He even trains! So I won't jinx it, hopefully, by telling you that much!
I'm making Thanksgiving as usual... for about eighteen, maybe twenty. This year since the new house only has one oven, I'm buying two deep fried turkeys, and my dear friends Sandy and Gabrielle will bring a few dishes, but I'm doing the gravy, a traditional bread stuffing, mashpots, green bean casserole, brussels sprouts, acorn squash (from the bf's dad's garden!), buttermilk biscuits, and my traditional chocolate-caramel-walnut tart.
I wish you and your loved ones the happiest of holiday seasons. And now, for the cookings....
From the Kitchn.com folks:
Orzo with Butternut Squash, Spinach & Blue Cheese
Serves 4 to 62 1/2 cups cubed butternut squash (1/4-inch cubes)
3 tablespoons olive oil
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1 cup regular or whole-wheat orzo
2 cups shredded spinach
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 clove garlic, minced
1/3 cup blue cheese crumbles
Preheat oven to 425˚F. Toss butternut squash with 1 tablespoon of the olive oil. Spread into a single layer on a sheet tray. Bake until squash is tender and starting to brown, 35 to 40 minutes. (Squash can be roasted up to 5 days ahead and kept refrigerated. Rewarm before serving.)
Place the spinach in a large bowl and set aside. In a small skillet, heat the remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil until just warm. Stir in garlic, remove from heat, and allow to sit until ready to use.
Place the orzo in a pot and cover with at least 2 inches of water. Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer, and cook until tender but not mushy, 8 to 9 minutes. Drain and immediately pour the hot orzo on top of the spinach. Let sit for a few minutes to slightly wilt spinach.
Add butternut squash to the pasta, along with the blue cheese and garlic olive oil. Toss until well-combined and serve warm.
- Make-ahead moment: Roast the squash whenever you have a spare moment and keep it in the fridge for up to 5 days. Warm it in the microwave, a low oven, or in the skillet with the garlic before tossing with the pasta.
Buttermilk Drop Biscuits -- from Cook's Illustrated (the best source!)
2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour (10 ounces)
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon sugar
3/4 teaspoon table salt
1 cup buttermilk (cold)
8 tablespoons unsalted butter (1 stick), melted and cooled slightly (about 5 minutes), plus 2-3 tablespoons melted butter for brushing biscuits
1. Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 475 degrees. Whisk flour, baking powder, baking soda, sugar, and salt in large bowl. Combine buttermilk and 8 tablespoons melted butter in medium bowl, stirring until butter forms small clumps.
2. Add buttermilk mixture to dry ingredients and stir with rubber spatula until just incorporated and batter pulls away from sides of bowl. Using greased 1/4-cup dry measure, scoop level amount of batter and drop onto parchment-lined rimmed baking sheet (biscuits should measure about 2 1/4 inches in diameter and 1 1/4 inches high). Repeat with remaining batter, spacing biscuits about 1 1/2 inches apart. Bake until tops are golden brown and crisp, 12 to 14 minutes.
3. Brush biscuit tops with remaining 2-3 tablespoons melted butter. Transfer to wire rack and let cool 5 minutes before serving.
Chocolate Caramel Walnut Tart-- again Cook's Illustrated, my tried and true favorite!
Makes one 9-inch tart, serving 12 to 16
1 large egg, separated
¼teaspoon vanilla extract
½cup toasted walnuts (2 ½ ounces), see note
½cup confectioners' sugar (2 ounces)
1cup unbleached all-purpose flour (5 ounces)
⅛teaspoon table salt
5tablespoons unsalted butter (cold), cut into ½-inch cubes
CARAMEL-WALNUT FILLING AND GARNISH
1cup granulated sugar (7 ounces)
⅔cup heavy cream
3tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into 3 pieces
½teaspoon vanilla extract
½teaspoon lemon juice from 1 lemon
⅛teaspoon table salt
16-18 walnut halves, plus 1 cup (5 ounces) toasted walnuts, coarsely chopped (see note)
2 large egg yolks
1 tablespoon heavy cream
⅓cup heavy cream
⅓cup whole milk
5ounces semisweet chocolate, chopped fine
2tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into 4 pieces
The nuts used in the crust, in the caramel filling, and as a garnish must all be toasted; the entire amount can be toasted together on a baking sheet in a 375-degree oven until fragrant and golden brown, 8 to 10 minutes. For cutting clean slices, dip the blade of the knife in warm water and wipe with a kitchen towel before making each cut.
1. FOR THE CRUST: Beat egg white in bowl with fork until frothy; remove 1 tablespoon egg white to second bowl and whisk in yolk and vanilla. Process nuts and sugar in food processor until finely ground, 8 to 10 seconds. Add flour and salt and pulse to combine. Scatter butter pieces over flour mixture; pulse to cut butter into flour until mixture resembles coarse meal, about fifteen 1-second pulses. With machine running, add egg yolk mixture and process until dough forms ball, about 20 seconds. Transfer dough to large sheet plastic wrap and press into 6-inch disk; wrap dough in plastic and refrigerate until firm but malleable, about 30 minutes.
2. Roll out dough between 2 large sheets lightly floured plastic wrap to 13-inch round, about 1/8-inch thick (if at any point dough becomes too soft and sticky to work with, slip dough onto baking sheet and freeze or refrigerate until workable). Place dough round on baking sheet and freeze until stiff and cold, about 15 minutes (or refrigerate about 30 minutes). Meanwhile, evenly spray 9-inch tart pan with removable bottom with nonstick cooking spray.
3. Remove dough from freezer; discard top sheet plastic wrap but keep dough on baking sheet. Following illustrations 1 through 6 below, line tart pan with dough. Freeze dough-lined tart pan until firm, about 30 minutes. (Can be wrapped tightly in plastic wrap and frozen up to 1 month.)
4. Meanwhile, adjust oven rack to middle position; heat oven to 375 degrees. Set dough-lined tart pan on baking sheet. Spray 12-inch square foil with nonstick cooking spray and press foil inside chilled tart shell; fill with pie weights. Bake until light golden brown, about 30 minutes, rotating halfway through baking time. Carefully remove foil and weights and continue to bake until golden brown, about 5 minutes longer. Cool on baking sheet on wire rack about 5 minutes, then brush hot crust with reserved egg white. Reduce oven temperature to 300 degrees.
5. FOR CARAMEL-WALNUT FILLING AND GARNISH: While crust is cooling; pour water into medium heavy-bottomed saucepan; add sugar to center of pot to keep granules from adhering to sides of pot. Bring to boil over medium-high heat; covered; swirling pan once or twice to dissolve sugar. Uncover pot and continue to boil, without stirring, until sugar is deep amber and begins to smoke and registers about 375 degrees on instant-read or candy thermometer, 5 to 10 minutes. Remove pan from heat. Carefully add about half of cream; mixture will sputter and steam. Add remaining cream and let bubbling subside. Return pan to low heat and stir with heatproof rubber spatula until caramel is smooth. Add butter and stir until melted. Remove pan from heat; stir in vanilla; lemon juice; and salt.
6. Add walnut halves to caramel and stir to coat; let stand until caramel is slightly thickened, about 8 minutes. Using slotted spoon and allowing excess caramel to drain back into saucepan, transfer walnuts to wire rack set over baking sheet; set aside. Stir chopped walnuts into caramel, then pour mixture evenly into tart shell. Refrigerate, uncovered, on baking sheet until caramel is firm and does not slip when pan is tilted, about 20 minutes.
7. FOR CHOCOLATE FILLING: Whisk yolks and 1 tablespoon cream in small bowl. Bring milk and remaining 1/3 cup cream to simmer in small saucepan; off heat, add chocolate and butter. Cover pan and let stand until chocolate is mostly melted, about 2 minutes. Using spatula, stir mixture until smooth; stir in yolk mixture. (Chocolate should be thin and pourable; if too thick to pour evenly, set saucepan over low heat to warm mixture.) Pour filling into caramel-filled tart shell, tilting tart pan as necessary to evenly distribute chocolate to edges of tart. Bake on baking sheet in 300-degree oven until tiny bubbles are visible on surface and chocolate layer is just set (if pan is gently shaken, filling will appear very wobbly because caramel layer is warm), about 25 minutes. Set baking sheet with tart on wire rack; arrange caramel-coated walnut halves on surface of tart, around perimeter. Cool tart until just warm, about 30 minutes, then refrigerate, uncovered, until chocolate is firm, at least 3 hours or up to 24 hours.