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Cooks’ Gift Guide: How to Pick a Perfect Present

Cooks’ Gift Guide: How to Pick a Perfect Present

Foodie's Best Gift Guide

I have officially seen one too many cooks’ gift guides where everybody’s an expert on what you simply must buy for your food-loving friend, spouse, sib, kid, in-law, and more. Spoiler alert: they pretend to have your best interests in mind, but more likely they are just pushing product. Enough already, I declare. Let’s talk about how to buy these gifts and what you should consider as you look for a special gift for the food lover in your life (or your own self). I prefer to say these gifts are for anyone who has ever eaten food. You don’t have to be a food LOVER to enjoy some of these items. Being a food EATER is sufficient. My gift to you is help in navigating the purchase decision, important especially on big ticket items, but also on stocking stuffers because nobody wants to give a dud. 

You may not know it, but I have a shop of my favorite items on my website. I have linked most items directly to the Amazon item, but there are a few links here to the shop where you can see all the must-have tools of the trade.  And yes, I have an Amazon affiliate relationship, too. It is a good way to help a blogger defray the costs of recipe testing, et al, and to bring quality content at no cost to you. But at least for me, nobody is going to Club Med on the proceeds. I truly am a big fan of all the products that are there and either a lifelong user, a new super fan, or in the rare case (looking at you Vitamix), I have it on my own shopping list. I have nearly 100 items in the shop at this point and am always getting requests from my followers to help make a purchase decision. So if you have something to buy and you are not sure, just ask. It will go into the shop so others can benefit from our joint research. The links from the shop will drop you right into your Amazon account, logged in and ready to Prime ship, if that is the way your browser keeps you logged in. One last note on Amazon: I try to pick the least expensive offering that is Prime-eligible, but these things change rapidly. So do keep in mind that my recommendation is for the product and brand, and shop around as you always do. And be sure to read all Amazon reviews with a grain of salt. Or a shot of tequila. Or both. Who you gonna believe – Bizzle6739 or me? 

And don’t miss the last section of this post for home-made gifts and gifts to charity. Give the gift that keeps on giving. Invest in the future of our world. ♥

Whimsical Gifts for Entertaining

Jesse Steele ApronsSo this section does not in fact need a drill-down on purchase decision criteria, but I wanted to kick off this cooks’ gift guide with some fun things. Jesse Steele makes the cutest aprons with all sorts of whimsical prints. How adorbs is this Eiffel Tower print? She sells them with dots, and checks, and cherries. Or how about a candy cane wreath print for this season? Many prints are 50s-reminiscent. And they come in Mommy & Me styles. What a lovely hostess gift. 

Bacon Tongs

 

Now let’s just get busy with Bacon Tongs. I don’t think they really need much more than a loud MUST HAVE. Bacon for the Takin? Bwahahaha!! Yes this is pretty specific, but it’s clever and oh so very unlikely to be a duplicate gift. 

Bloody Mary Pitcher

 

 

Tomato, Tomahto. I say Bloody Mary. This is another cute item from Mud Pie, one of my favorite gift lines in my shop. Don’t miss the spreader set or salad bowl and tongs. 

Nespresso Milk Frother

 

And one more idea for entertaining – in this case especially for the coffee lover on your list – the Nespresso Milk Frother. This game-changer can turn a basic cup of joe or your special blend pour-over into something sublime. Spoon some high quality froth onto whatever you are drinking. Hot chocolate? Warm winter cocktail? Sounds perfect.

Gifts to Stuff a Stocking

Microplane Peeler

Okay, I need a bunch of you to skip this paragraph or at least act surprised. This is my 2018 stocking stuffer. I have a lot of props and gadgets from years of foodstyling – a storage space-full, to be exact. Many are rarely used so they will stay in pristine condition and look good on television. I have started using them all recently. And this was the peeler (by Microplane) that I grabbed when getting ready for Thanksgiving. Life changed. It’s just as sharp and wonderful as the Microplane grater (also in my shop) is for zesting, but this time for peeling, with hands safely out of the way. Everyone needs one. Now.

OXO Good-Grips Potato Ricer

 

I have been touting the virtues of a potato ricer for as long as I have been blogging, but it seems that this needs to be used for people to fall in love with it. One follower took one to her Thanksgiving family visit and then went out and got one for everyone on her list. It is really magical because it avoids the need for beaters or masher or whatever you use now. You just boil potato chunks and push through this giant garlic-press-of-a- tool. Then just stir in milk and butter (and for me, goat cheese and thyme) and hit the table. So easy.

OXO Good-Grips Smooth Edge Can Opener

Oh, a can opener would be a wonderful stocking stuffer, said no one ever. Until now. This can opener is by OXO, the Good Grips people, and cuts the lid off while leaving a smooth edge. I feel good about using this because recycling is so much safer. No sharp edges to hurt your own family, and none as this empty (and rinsed) can goes off to meet its (recycling) maker. 

 

Govino Dishwasher Safe Wine Glasses

If you have ever used these Govino roadie wine glasses in the past, be pleasantly surprised that they are now dishwasher safe. And by roadie, I mean glasses you might carry to a picnic, or a concert or boating – someplace where you want something shatterproof. I originally found these at the Museum of Modern Art, and they definitely have a design flair about them. But now they are even more practical and easier to use and much less expensive. When you can’t drink from glass, these are a lovely option. 

Cooks’ Gift Guide for Classic Keepers

These cooks’ gifts are an investment, but they will last a lifetime if you take care of them. I have a blender, juicer, food processor, standmixer, knives, and more that I have had for 30+ years. Yes, they can be pricey, but buying from a reputable company that stands by its products goes a long way, especially in this disposable age we now occupy. When you look at my shop, you will see the same brands represented across items again and again. I have no sponsored relationship with these companies, but I really believe in their products. OXO for gadgets and tools; KitchenAid for countertop appliances; Staub, Lodge, Calphalon, Mauviel, and Le Creuset for pots and pans; Emile Henry for ceramics; and Henckels, Sabatier, and Wustof for cutlery. I’m sharing a select few of my favorites here, along with details on what makes them so outstanding.

Staub 4-quart CocotteI love all things Staub. This is a 4-quart cocotte, a covered oven-proof casserole. It comes in a rainbow of luscious colors. I’m partial to cherry red. The lid on the cast iron Staub cocotte is designed to retain more liquid, creating a self-basting system, and the knob is ovenproof to nearly 500°F. These pieces will last a lifetime and work on all cook-surfaces including induction. 

Emile Henry Large Baking DishEmile Henry is my go-to for all things ceramic. I have them in round, oval, scalloped edge, rectangular and many colors. This is an extra-large lasagna pan, measuring 17 x 11. I first discovered the brand during my time in France – the company was founded there in 1850 – but they have become ever more popular in the US since then. Emile Henry is prized for its high-fired Burgundy clay. As a result, it is well suited for heat retention, is resistant to temperature changes, and is scratch resistant.  

Mauviel-Roasting-Pan-and-Rack

This 18/10 stainless steel roasting pan is by Mauviel, a company dating back to 1830s France. I love this pan because it is “stick”. Non-stick roasting pans just don’t develop the fond, the drippings on the bottom, essential to gravy-making. It’s okay to have a non-stick rack in my opinion, but I want my pan to be able to let drippings develop color. This 5-layer construction has a stainless interior, 3 layers of aluminum for heat conductivity and a bottom layer of magnetic stainless for induction use. The heavily riveted handles are sturdy and safe, wide enough to use oven mitts, and best of all, it’s guaranteed for life. 

Henckels-Pro-7-Rocking-Santoku-Knife

Zwilling J. A. Henckels is one of several cutlery brands I adore, including Sabatier, Wüstof and VictorInox. I find that many people are afraid of their knives and chose lightweight flimsy knives, often dull. There is nothing more dangerous. Dull knives slip. If you want to really up your culinary game, invest in a good knife, keep it sharp, and take a knife skills class. I like this Italian-designed and German-made knife because of its rocking blade. This Pro 7-inch Rocking Santoku knife allows an easier attack for Western “chef-chopping,” keeping the knife tip down and rocking to cut with a forward motion. Chopping and slicing should both be done with a forward motion. Owning a good sharp rocking blade lets the knife do the work and minimizes fatigue. This knife is honed and hand-finished from a single piece of high carbon steel (it’s 57 on the Rockwell scale which means excellent edge retention) and has a special formula no-stain finish, so you get the best of carbon steel without its typical staining.

Gifts for the Wine Lover

Red Wine The Comprehensive Guide by Kevin Zraly, Mike DeSimone, Jeff Jenssen

This comprehensive guide to the fifty red wine essential varieties and styles is written by my friends and neighbors, Mike DeSimone and Jeff Jenssen (The World Wine Guys) and Kevin Zraly (founder of the Windows on the World Wine School). The book (winner of the Gormand International Award for Best Drink Book) is organized by type of grapes, not regions, with recommendations from bargain to special occasion, as well as food pairings, beautiful photography, and engaging stories from the vineyards. You’ll want one for yourself. 

Gabriel Glas all purpose wine glass

Also from a friend, Gabriel-Glas is the only wine glass  you will ever need. Who needs a different glass for every wine you pour? The Gabriel-Glas is new to the American market, thanks to my friend Tempe Reichardt. This Austrian-made lead-free crystal is both delicate and elegant while also being sturdy and dishwasher safe.  I didn’t know I needed new glasses until I started using this one. The broader base of the bottom of the glass is a “bouquet-driver,” while the slightly conical design concentrates the aromas. 

Gabriel-Glas-Champagne-Flutes-Set-of-6These make a lovely hostess gift or wedding present, but my money is on buying them for yourself. Sommeliers and wine-makers alike say this is the perfect glass to use for all wines.However if you want to use a flute for bubbles, Gabriel-Glas has got you covered. 

 

 

Gifts for the Big-Hearted

For those that don’t need a thing or would rather help others, what about something home-made or something charitable? Or both? A gift to charity, with a little sumthin’ sumthin’ on the side that shows you have added a little extra love. Here are two home-made culinary gifts I have shared in the past. Ingredients and containers (spice jars and candy tins) are both linked through my shop

Filling the Spice Jars: rows of flip lid jars being filled with a funnel, tags, twine

 

This is a tasty combo of citrus salt and zesty pepper. Giving something that is home-made is always appreciated and you will likely get bonus points for something that can be consumed. Win. Win. Win. Jars, salt and all you need are in the shop.

Toffee in a tin with christmas ribbons and evergreen

 

And this is Grandmother Keck’s recipe. It’s a pretty classic English Toffee but she called it butterscotch. And despite the fact that I first made it when I was 10 and never wrote it down, to this day I remember the proportions. One pound of brown sugar and two sticks of butter (minus one Tablespoon from each stick). The recipe in this post explains it better, but it was something I have remembered for decades. Such a treat!

 

CWS HungerI’m a big fan of giving to charities in lieu of gifts. As I am about to join the Executive Committee of the Board of Church World Service, I can’t think of a more worthy cause. CWS has a 70-year track record committed to making sure there is #Enough4All Their work provides hunger relief, among many other services, and is critically focused on ensuring proper nutrition for the first 1,000 days of a child’s life. This is key to their development and healthy growth and essential in realizing their full potential later in life. CWS works with communities to find ways to feed themselves sustainably and nutritiously. I currently am trying to meet a $2500 goal and am extremely grateful to all of you who have and are considering a donation to this cause

Myanmar chickensAnd for those that want to buy the best gift ever, CWS offers a best gift catalog. Two hens and a rooster? $18. How about a goat in Haiti for $65? Invest in women; in refugees; in water; in disaster relief. You will be surprised how far a small investment will go. Gifts come with recognition cards, letting your giftee know just how thoughtful you were. 

The-Bread-and-Salt-Between-Us

And lastly, this beautiful cookbook The Bread and Salt Between Us was just written as a labor of love by Syrian refugee Mayada Anjari. The good people of Rutgers Presbyterian Church, in partnership with CWS’s refugee resettlement program, brought Mayada and her family to the U.S. two-plus years ago, after they had spent several years as refugees in Jordan. Mrs. Anjari illustrates how that first church-prepared welcome meal, and a reciprocal meal of Syrian food that she later prepared at Rutgers, built a lasting bridge simply through breaking bread.  It’s a wonderful collection of recipes, stories and mouth-watering photos, but most of all fellowship. Proceeds support Mayada and her family, as well as the New Americans Committee at Rutgers to further their work of welcoming and resettling refugees. Food & Wine called this one of the best cookbooks coming out this fall, and the New York Times recently featured Mayada in its feature “The First Thanksgiving”. This is a can’t-miss gift for a truly worthy cause!

Well that’s a wrap for this shopping season. Santa has been very, very busy!! Please comment and let me know how your shopping is going. And of course let me know if you find something in the best gift catalog! I hope your shopping is stress-free and your holiday is joyous! Wishing you all the best for this season!! 

Cooks' Gift Guide
This post contains affiliate links. For more of my must-have faves, visit my shop.

© Copyright: KatyKeck.com 2018. All rights reserved.

 

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Culinary Memories – Tastes Like Home

Culinary Memories – Tastes Like Home

Eat, Darling, EatHere’s hoping you had a wonderful feast and joy-filled Thanksgiving last week. But in case you were simply too busy stuffing your faces to catch this little jewel on Eat, Darling, Eat, I am linking it here. Almost too good to miss, right? Those bangs?!?! Anybody else have the Scotch-tape-and-cut method of home barbery? That swing set with the chair for the baby? Oh my! The childhood memories? The culinary memories?

I heard from EDE creators Aimee Lee Ball and Steve Baum last spring about “possible synergy”. When I read what Eat, Darling, Eat was all about, I knew I wanted in. Eat, Darling, Eat is a “multicultural collection of original stories by and about mothers and daughters—each with a connection to food. It’s a rich pathway for exploring that essential relationship—the unique personalities and formative experiences—whether told from the mother’s or daughter’s perspective. Some stories are poignant tributes to beloved mothers, while others are about more complicated women” (don’t even look at me!) “who created chaos, even damage. Many stories reveal immigrant backgrounds—whether hilarious, heartwarming, or heartbreaking.” I was so happy to see my story become the Thanksgiving feature, with a share of my/Mom’s/some sorority cookbook’s Turkey Tetrazzini. It’s no coincidence how a major holiday can inextricably link all childhood memories with culinary memories, and ultimately Taste Like Home.

“So many memories of my youth are wrapped around the exquisite specialties lovingly created by my mom and both grandmothers. Individual chess pie tarts, the freshest squeezed lemonade, crab bisque with a splash of sherry, tart June apple applesauce. The cooking sessions were always filled with tips: oil the scissors before snipping gumdrops for gumdrop cookies; float Crisco in water for a mess-free but accurate measure; wait until the water droplet rolls like a ball in the hot pan before dropping your first pancake; test the candy for the hard-crack stage using cold water. These sessions gave me the chutzpah at age six to think”….click here for my “mother and me” story at Eat, Darling, Eat!

Thanks to Steve and Aimee for the chance to share. And any women out there who want to pay tribute to their mothers or daughters should join the conversation, enjoy the stories, and share theirs. We all have stories and culinary memories! Let’s share!!

© Copyright: KatyKeck.com 2018. All rights reserved.

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Apple Crisp…Bourbon-Spiked…a Thanksgiving Feast Grand Finale

Apple Crisp…Bourbon-Spiked…a Thanksgiving Feast Grand Finale

Apple Crisp with Ice Cream

Though I know you are all set with the full menu I linked to in the last post, I couldn’t in good conscience send you off for Thanksgiving without a new dessert to be the crowning glory to your feast. A simple apple crisp at its heart, the addition of Jim Beam Apple liqueur with Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey elevates this fruity finish to something truly special. Must be that American oak wafting over the apples that sets this apart. I had house guests while working on this dish and one or two of them may or may not have had three or four portions. Who’s counting? If you don’t use spirits, you can easily sub with non-alcoholic extracts – vanilla or almond – or a dash of cinnamon, clove, or nutmeg. As written below, this dish is largely unseasoned, letting the farm-fresh apples and healthy splash of apple liqueur with bourbon do the heavy lifting. If you want to swap out the JB Apple, try a straight bourbon, Hotel Tango Whiskey (from a new-ish Indiana distillery run by friends), Gentleman Jack, or even Calvados. I’ll do me, you do you. 

Apples at the farm

There are just so many apple varieties available these days, whether you shop at the farmers’ markets, the grocery or with instacart. But it’s really important to grab a cooking variety so, kids, don’t try this at home. We need an apple whisperer to the rescue. This fall I have really enjoyed Sweet Tango and so I asked my local farmer – Skinner’s Homestead Acres out of Fennville, MI – how they would fare. No bueno. He said they had tried to cook Sweet Tangos a few ways and they cooked to mush. Good to know, since they are super crispy and very flavorful. Try one raw if you can. I heart!!! I suspect it may have to do with the water content – too much and there is nothing but pulp left. So it’s a balance between crispy, juicy, and flavorful that makes the perfect cooking apple.

Cooking classics are Jonagold (“fluffily crisp,” juicy, and aromatic), Ida Reds (firm, tart, and juicy) and Northern Spy (juicy, crisp, and mildly sweet with a high acid balance). The farmer recommended Snow Sweet which was new to me and so perfect. It was fantastic raw too – very white flesh which is slow to oxidize. On a subsequent test, I used Northern Spy and they worked well too. I always ask which apples will store well and load up before the season ends. I go with the farmer’s rec on “good-keepin’ apples”. 

Farmstand Apples

A friend introduced me to the apple cutting technique below (note that the apples should first be peeled for this recipe). Just cut through the center on both sides of the stem, top to bottom. You can get a slice off that center slab on either side of the core. Take the two halves and lay them cut side down and slice thinly from bottom to top. It is so much easier than trying to cut a rolling side and makes it simple to get uniformly thin slices. It’s really upped my apple cutting game, and I use it for everything including cheese boards, snacks, salads, and more. It’s perfect for a Crisp when you want uniform slices for even cooking. 

Cutting the apple

So this raises that age old question – Cobbler? Crisp? Slump? Crumble? Grunt? Betty? Pandowdy? Buckle?  There is definitely both a geographical and time element to these names. While they are all fruit-based, I’m ruling out Cobblers off the bat. They have biscuits dropped on top and resemble cobblestones (old English). Grunts are right behind – New England and named for the sound the dough makes while cooking and – like Pandowdy and Slumps  – are typically cooked on the stove top. Legitimate Bettys are layered with crumbs or grahams and are more cakey, and a Buckle (which is very cakey) tends to buckle around the bubbling fruit. So finally we arrive at Cobbler or Crisp – and drum roll please…the Crisp has oatmeal. Voila! That’s what makes it more crispy than a Cobbler, which is generally pure sugar, flour, and butter streusel. Exhausted from that marathon around the dessert aisle? Hmmm…think we better dig into this delicious dessert RIGHT NOW.Bourbon-Spiked Apple Crisp

Bourbon-Spiked Apple Crisp

Now that we have the recipe name – CRISP! – and the perfect apple (your choice), and we have made the decision of adding hooch or not, there is little else to do but get peeling. This recipe comes together very quickly and then you can be on your way to worry about other details of the feast – namely is the Prosecco cold enough. I make the topping in the food processor because I like to chop the oats and the nuts just a bit. So I start by putting the other ingredients – cold butter, brown sugar, flour, and salt in the processor and pulse that until it resembles coarse meal. Then I add the oats and walnuts, in turn, giving each their half-dozen pulses. Oats will get a few more pulses than nuts, but both retain some texture. As with all things baking, set the timer 10 minutes early, so you can keep an eye on the browning factor. If it seems to crisp up before the apples are tender, lay a loose layer of foil over the top. You don’t want anything to steam, but you also don’t want it blackened. 

However you celebrate and with whomever, I send Thanksgiving blessings to you, your friends and family. It’s so wonderful to spend a day, or even a part of a day, during this season of running too fast in gratitude for our many blessings. Have a wonderful, food-filled day! Gobble! Gobble!

Apple crisp

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Apple crisp with vanilla ice cream in a scalloped edge bowl on a white square plate, twisted handle spoon underneath

Bourbon-Spiked Apple Crisp – a Thanksgiving Feast Grand Finale


  • Author: Katy Keck
  • Total Time: 1 hour 45 minutes
  • Yield: Serves 8

Description

Though a simple apple crisp at its heart, the addition of Jim Beam Apple liqueur with Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey, elevates this crisp to something truly special. Must be that American oak that wafts over the apples that sets its apart.


Ingredients

Scale

Topping:

  • 2 ounces cold butter, cut into bits
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 2 Tablespoons flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cup old-fashioned oats
  • 1/2 cup chopped walnuts

Filling:

  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 1/3 cup Jim Beam Apple Liqueur infused with Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 eggs
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 2 pounds apples, peeled, cored, and sliced thinly (see notes)

Instructions

Preheat oven to 350oF. Butter an 8×8 or 2 quart baking dish. 

Prep topping: Add butter, brown sugar, flour and salt to the workbowl of a food processor. Pulse until mixture resembles coarse meal.  Add the oats and pulse about 4-5 times, chopping coarsely. Add the walnuts and pulse 6 times more. The goal is that the butter/sugar/flour is fine, but that the oats and nuts retain some texture. Sprinkle ½ cup of the topping in the baking dish.  Refrigerate remaining topping until needed.

Prep the filling: In a large bowl, whisk together the sugar, sour cream, bourbon, flour, eggs, and salt. Add the apples. Pour the mixture into the baking dish.

Bake on a sheet pan to avoid spills, in the center of the oven for 50 minutes. Sprinkle remaining topping over fruit, baking an additional 30 minutes.

Remove from oven and cool on a wire rack.

Serve warm with ice cream.

Notes

Be sure to choose an apple that can stand up to cooking. Sometimes we tend to grab a favorite eating apple, but that is not always the best choice. On my first try, the farmer suggested Jonagold, Snow Sweet or Ida Reds. I chose Snow Sweet and they were perfect, though I suspect not that easy to come by. They are also delicious “eating apples”.

The next time I tested the recipe, I used Northern Spy – a classic cooking apple. This fall I have fallen in love with Sweet Tango, but my farmer told me don’t bother. They cook to mush. That was a real surprise because they are so very apple-y tasting and super crunchy. But, I trust the farmer.

For the non-drinkers in the crowd, feel free to omit the bourbon and consider some extracts like vanilla or almond. I used vanilla on one of my tests but found it in competition with the bourbon, so ended up eliminating it. If you are not using the alcohol, try adding in some alcohol-free extracts.

For those adding the alcohol, consider a straight bourbon, Hotel Tango Whiskey (from a new-ish Indiana distillery run by friends), or even Calvados, in lieu of the JB Apple.

Serve with ice cream. Vanilla is classic or salted caramel would be a serious upgrade.  

  • Prep Time: 25 minutes
  • Cook Time: 80 minutes
  • Category: Desserts
  • Method: Oven
  • Cuisine: American

Keywords: Apple Crisp

Apple crisp with vanilla ice cream

Thanksgiving Desserts

Tennessee Whiskey Pumpkin Ginger Cheesecake

Gentleman Jack Pumpkin Ginger Cheesecake

Be Inspired by these Cupcakes for a Cause

Cupcakes for a Cause Thanksgiving cupcakes: drumpstick, pumpkin pie; cherry pie and mashed potatoes and gravy

Day After…Going Cold Turkey?

I know you probably can’t come down from your L-tryptophan rush on Thursday cold turkey, so how about easing in with some breakfast pumpkin chia pudding (though it has been served for dessert by many) or the best turkey leftover recipe ever!!

Pumpkin Chia Pudding – Dessert or Breakfast Porridge – you decide!!

Pumpkin Chia Pudding in glasses topped with coconut milk, coconut strips, and almonds with a pumpkin behind

Turkey Tetrazzini – best use of leftovers EVER

Heaping Helping turkey tetrazzini on a square white plate with a salad

© Copyright: KatyKeck.com 2018. All rights reserved.

 

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Thanksgiving Harvest Salad & Menu Must Haves

Thanksgiving Harvest Salad & Menu Must Haves

Thanksgiving Harvest Salad

Before you hit delete thinking “Who needs a Thanksgiving Harvest Salad when I can have fat, fat, and more fat on Thanksgiving?” I am here to tell you – YOU DO!! I talked my friend Cozy into this a couple years ago and I know it was a hit because she called me brilliant. I don’t often forget those who think I am brilliant. 🙂  As she quickly found out, this is all about the herbs. If I didn’t have to measure them for a printed recipe, I might just call for a crap-ton. You’ll want just that much. 

The Thanksgiving Harvest Salad is everything you want in a salad, lots of green goodness with just enough rewards to make it not quite a salad and a bit more of an indulgence: fall fruit, tangy cheese, and sweet and spicy nuts. Think of it as your cheese board dumped on some greens. Genius, right? 

Just as I was last making this salad, I found a new produce vendor on its maiden voyage to Michigan’s organic Sweetwater Market. I was squealingly happy! I thrived all summer on Summer Blend Gardens’ lettuce mix which included colorful nasturtium flowers and more. Highlight of the summer. But ba-bye, Marty. It’s fall now. Meet my new besties Caleb and Cindy-Beth at A Garden in the Woods. They bring the most gorgeous array of produce to this indoor winter market after spending their summer outdoors in Pentwater. How lucky am I? Even if you don’t live in the area, treat yourself by checking out their Instagram. Gorgeous. Stunningly beautiful!

Picking the Greens

For this salad, pick any assortment of greens you want, but I like a mix of colors and textures. Some salad blends at the grocery, like baby romaine, are heavy on young greens that don’t have much texture. So if that is your base, be sure to throw in some arugula or watercress. These add both pepper and bounce.

More Salad Greens

Even though I had no intention of adding radishes to the harvest salad, once Caleb told me these were not baby beets, but purple radishes, I had to. I just had to. Check out the cut radish in the salad photos – a gentle sponging of lavender fading across the cut surface. 

Purple Radishes

Thanksgiving Harvest Salad

I see this wave of comprehension starting to wash over you, yet I still feel your skepticism – salad with lots and lots of herbs for Thanksgiving? I wasn’t kidding about the crap-ton of herbs. For 8 ounces of greens, I would add up to a cup of chopped, mixed herbs. I know I am still in sales mode on this herby addition, so I am ratcheting the herbiage down to a mere 1/2 cup in the recipe below. But be bold. Go for it. Add additional herbs if you are so called. Cozy reported that she ended up with arugula and spring mix with lots of fresh herbs. “You were right! The herbs made the complexity of the greens jump.” So trust us on this. 

Lots of Herbs

Now that you have a base in place, my go-to accoutrements are fall fruit, bits of cheese and sweet & spicy nuts. I used apples here, but if you have ripe juicy pears, they would be wonderful, as well as figs or persimmons. And while I used Barber’s Vintage Cheddar 1833 (it’s white) in small cubes (more interesting texture than grated), a perfect pearing (get it??) might include a blue like Roquefort or Stilton. Persimmons and fresh goat cheese anyone? I made that once at the request of Florence Fabricant of the New York Times, using Indiana’s Wabash Canonball, so if it’s good enough for her…………

Like most things in food and in life, winning combos are based either on similarities or contrast. Remember my celery root slaw? It was both! I made all the ingredients look the same (similarity), so you didn’t know til you tasted that there were three very different textures and tastes (contrast). Celery root, white cheddar and apple – all white, all grated. Surrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrprise! Similarity and contrast all rolled into one humble slaw.

For the vinaigrette, I chose a lemon olive oil and a maple Balsamic. Gobble! Gobble! I have also used a pear Balsamic when using fresh pears. When using flavored Balsamics, I tend toward a one to one ratio with the olive oil because they are so much sweeter than a traditional vinegar and don’t require a lighter hand. In this case, the maple Balsamic is quite dense, so I scaled it back. If you are choosing your own flavors, start testing with a two to one oil to vinegar ratio and add more vinegar, as you need. Because this dressing is special to this menu, I am only making a small batch, and I short-cut the prep by putting it all in a bottle and shaking before serving. A proper vinaigrette, as you know, has the oil added last in a drizzle so that it can incorporate and emulsify. We are streamlining today because we are busy!! Of course you can prep all your ingredients and the dressing a day or so ahead, except any fruit that would oxidize like the apple. Just keep the ingredients wrapped separately in paper towels and zip bags, and assemble toward serving time. 

Harvest Salad with Apples & Cheddar

Now that we have settled on this glorious, fresh and palate-cleansing salad, there are a few other things that you might need to get on that table. Perfect roast turkey and gimme-more gravy? Check. Goat cheese and thyme mashed potatoes. Done. Brussels sprouts and prosciutto. You bet. And some delish cranberry ginger kumquat chutney. Done,done, done. All that is left is a winning Tennessee whiskey pumpkin ginger cheesecake. I have got you covered. All these recipes, complete with tips and must have equipment – looking at you potato ricer – are linked below. 

I will be back in a few days with another dessert idea – a Bourbon-laced Apple Crisp – so check back in. Above all, remember we are giving thanks in an extra special way right now – so take a deep breath, be grateful that you have food to cook with and people to cook for, and leave that stress at the grocery check out lane. And if Dear Abby were around, she’d probably ask you to put a basket at the door for cell phones and ask your friends and family for the gift of presence. Enjoy this week with a heart full of gratitude. Be back soon. 

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Harvest Salad overhead shot On a white plate with candied pecans, mixed greens, apple chunks and cheddar chunks, with purple radish slices

Thanksgiving Harvest Salad & Menu Must Haves


  • Author: Katy Keck
  • Total Time: 15 minutes
  • Yield: Serves 8

Description

The Thanksgiving Harvest Salad is everything you want in a salad, lots of green goodness with just enough rewards to make it not quite a salad and a bit more of an indulgence: fall fruit, tangy cheese, and sweet and spicy nuts. Think of it as your cheese board dumped on some greens. Genius, right? 


Ingredients

Scale
  • 1/2 pound mixed greens, 8 cups
  • 1/2 cup chopped mixed herbs, including parsley, cilantro, dill and mint
  • 4 scallions, chopped
  • 1 apple, chopped, or other fall fruit such as pears, figs, persimmons, or dates
  • 1 avocado, peeled, pitted and chopped
  • 1/4 pound white cheddar, cut into small cubes (I use Barber’s cheddar)
  • 4 radishes, sliced
  • 1/3 cup lemon olive oil
  • 1/4 cup maple Balsamic vinegar
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 5-ounce package of sweet & spicy pecans

Instructions

Combine greens, herbs, scallions, apple, avocado, cheddar and radishes in a large salad bowl. Toss to combine. Refrigerate, covered, until ready to serve.

Make the vinaigrette, by combining the lemon olive oil, maple Balsamic, salt and pepper in a bottle and shaking to emulsify.

At serving time, drizzle the vinaigrette over the salad and toss to coat. Top with the sweet & spicy pecans.

Notes

The herbs really define this as a special green mix, so don’t skimp here.

I always like to use a fruit for sweetness, the cheese for richness and a tang, and the nuts for crunch. All other ingredients rotate in and out depending on what I have around. The purple radishes were calling out to me and that avocado wasn’t getting any younger. Both were fresh new twists at Thanksgiving.

Trader Joe’s is a good source of several sweet & spicy nut mixes.

  • Prep Time: 15 minutes
  • Category: Salad
  • Method: No Cook
  • Cuisine: American

Keywords: Thanksgiving Salad

Menu Must Haves

Thanksgiving Essentials: Roast Turkey Perfection and Gimme-More Gravy

Roast Turkey Perfection with herb garnish

Goat Cheese & Thyme Mashed Potatoes with a Thanksgiving Must-Have: The Potato Ricer!

Pot of Mashed potatoes with butter,goat cheese and fresh thyme

Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Shallots & Prosciutto

Brussels Sprouts with Prosciutto

Spiced Cranberry Ginger Kumquat Chutney

Spiced Cranberry Chutney in a cranberry glass pedestal dish with fall hydrangea

Tennessee Whiskey Pumpkin Ginger Cheesecake

Gentleman Jack Pumpkin Ginger Cheesecake

© Copyright: KatyKeck.com 2018. All rights reserved.

 

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Indian Spiced Potatoes Fit for a Diwali Feast

Indian Spiced Potatoes Fit for a Diwali Feast

Sour Potatoes on a Stick

Are your lights on? It’s Diwali, a Hindu festival of lights which started on the 7th this year. I recently had an opportunity to take these Indian spiced potatoes to a Diwali pot luck hosted by the New York Women’s Culinary Alliance in honor of this annual fête. I am not going to lie – although I feel quite confident in the tastiness of this dish – it is a bit daunting to take my spin on classic Indian cuisine to a culinary celebration that includes many Indian professional women chefs. Cultural appropriation is a big thing these days and the culinary world is not exempt. I tried to slide my dish in unnoticed, but it’s lack of “nametag”, sparking a few “what IS this???” comments, and those cute little bell-clad picks that I snagged in Mumbai’s Crawford Market ruined any chance of fading in the background. Oh, and I used habanero flakes instead of plain ole red pepper flakes!! These Indian spiced potatoes are no shrinking violet. Apologies to native Indian chefs for any pirating of their cuisine. And for Pot Lucky fans, rest easy. I already had an Indian feast on the docket for early next year. More taste treats in this flavor palate are on their way soon!

Fit for Diwali Indian Spiced Potatoes

Diwali is a highlight of the Hindu calendar, celebrated in the fall here in the northern hemisphere. It is a triumph of light over darkness and good over evil. Sounds like something we could all use these days. “Light” has roots in most all world religions. While Diwali is celebrated for five days, the third day – today, as I write this – is the pinnacle, as it marks the darkest night in the Hindu calendar. Friends and family gather throughout the five days, and food is king.

Spices in Mapusa Market

I spent about a month in India ten years ago with a group from Women Chefs & Restaurateurs. We covered all things food along the entire west coast of the subcontinent, from Thiruvananthapuram to Mumbai. While very enlightening and informative, with stops at so many wonderful spice markets, it is not where this recipe derives its inspiration. I came by this recipe, if not with cultural integrity, with honor. It was handed to me maybe 30 years ago by Louise Spicehandler. If you can’t get spiced potatoes, with cumin, coriander and cardamom from a spice handler, then from whom? While I NEVER LOSE ANYTHING, this tattered print copy is, shall we say, temporarily indisposed. I suspect the original might have been copied from the NY Times, but since I can’t currently locate it, I am not positive. Louise was a great source of recipes and encouragement in my pre-professional days, as I dipped a toe in the culinary stream. As usual, Louise meticulously noted her adjustments in the margins of this recipe, and I meticulously followed them, until I didn’t. I think the ginger and the fresh herbs are my own, but to be honest, I never make it the same way twice. What do I have on hand? That’s the way I like it!!

Herbs and Spices

Indian Spiced Potatoes (Khatte Aloo)

Khatte Aloo, or sour (khatte) potatoes (aloo), are often made with diced, possibly boiled, big potatoes. I can’t resist the cute little mouth-poppable rounds that are now found easily in your supermarket thanks to The Little Potato Company.  They are multi-colored, one-bite wonders, serving as a delivery system for a whole lotta spice. And, I like to roast the potatoes, coated in spices, to further release the spices’ aroma.

Hero Potatoes

I have always used lemon juice, but I asked one of the Indian chefs at the pot luck, and she uses lemon and lime. That sounds amazing. However you chose to make them, don’t overthink it. Large & diced or whole & small; spiced then roasted or boiled then spiced; whatever choices you make, Indian spiced potatoes are a great dish to serve with a pick as an hors d’oeuvre or even as a side dish at an Indian feast. I have also served them skewered with brats and peppers, both grilled first, then assembled for serving and topped with a tomato.

Indian Spiced Potato and Brat Skewers

This dish is so quick and easy you might have time to run out and get yourself a henna tattoo! Then don’t forget to light the candles. Enjoy!

Henna Hands by Ravi Sharma

Henna Photo by Ravi Sharma on Unsplash
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Fit for Diwali:  Indian Spiced Potatoes in a multi color bowl with a tile pattern, with lots of toothpicks with colorful bells

Celebrating Diwali with Indian Spiced Potatoes


  • Author: Katy Keck
  • Total Time: 30 minutes
  • Yield: 6 as side, or many as part of an hors d’oeuvre buffet 1x

Description

Khatte Aloo (sour potatoes) traditionally are diced, possibly boiled, potatoes. I like to roast tiny multi-colored, one-bite wonders and dose them with a whole lotta spice! Taste buds…you have been warned!!!


Ingredients

Scale
  • 1 Tablespoon cumin seeds
  • 1 Tablespoon coriander seeds
  • 1 teaspoon cardamom seeds
  • 1 1/2 pounds small (large marbles) potatoes
  • Zest of one and juice of 1/2 lemon, juice reserved
  • 1 Tablespoon grated fresh ginger
  • 2 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 2 Tablespoons chopped fresh mint
  • 2 Tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro

Instructions

Preheat oven to 425oF.

Pulse cumin, coriander, and cardamom about four pulses in a food processor or spice grinder until coarsely ground.

In a medium bowl, combine potatoes, lemon zest, and ginger.  Drizzle with olive oil and stir to coat the potatoes. Season with cumin, coriander, cardamom, salt, and pepper flakes, stirring until the potatoes are spice-crusted.

Transfer to a sheet pan and spread out in one layer. Roast for 15-18 minutes until cooked through.

Transfer to a serving dish, scraping up additional spices left behind. Drizzle warm potatoes with lemon juice.

Serve warm or at room temperature, as a vegetable side dish or as an hors d’oeuvre. Before serving, toss with chopped mint and cilantro.

  • Prep Time: 10 minutes
  • Cook Time: 20 minutes
  • Category: Appetizer, Side
  • Method: Oven
  • Cuisine: Indian

Keywords: Indian, Potatoes, Spicy

Indian Spiced Potatoes

© Copyright: KatyKeck.com 2018. All rights reserved.

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Top 25 Food Ornaments & a Very Merry Christmas!

Top 25 Food Ornaments & a Very Merry Christmas!

Food Ornaments for a christmas tree - bowl of ramen noodlesTa da!! Here it is …. the last of the food ornaments for 2017 – Day 25! Another season comes to a close. And for the occasion, may I present a big ole bowl of steamin’ ramen?!? It seems only fitting because it was the go-to meal of 2017. It might be my new favorite ornament! Have you been following my 25 days of ornaments posted on Facebook? This is the last one for this, the fifth, year. Every round someone says, “I remember that one!” But, au contraire. There are no repeats. Themes? Yes, absolutely. But repeats, NEVER!!

Picking the Tree

The Christmas tree, starting with the tribe’s outing to make a selection, was kind of a big deal in the Keck family. Despite numerous offers to be the DD and fetch the tree in my Pinto with Firestones, it was the ole man who maneuvered the troops to his dealership to get a truck for this annual pilgrimage. And, yes of course, we all piled in and rattled around in the back with the tree. You could hear us coming “We are going to pick up the pickup to pick up the Christmas tree.” It’s no wonder that Christmas trees and ornaments have become such a big part of my holiday traditions.

Back in the day, we always got our tree from the Boy Scout lot. Something super flimsy and likely cut in September, but short-needled to accommodate the over-sized ornaments. Yes, I descend from big ornament people. Fraser firs were not a thing – at least in the Midwest when I was younger. But today that is what I need to support the weighty and robust supply of lovelies I parade out this time of year. When I recently found this card in my stash, I had to wonder if it could possibly have been inspired by our yearly expedition.

Picking Up the Tree cartoonYou Always Remember Your First

katy angel christmas ornament from the 1950s - green wings, white fur body and wooden head

I got my first ornament when just six months old and it was always set aside for my arrival at the holidays, waiting for me to add it to the tree. HashtagTradition!!!! But, when my Dad remarried and the combined ornaments were “too much”, I was told that that angel was set aside with my personal stash to relocate to my place. As it turns out, “personal stash” equals one angel and one half of a broken soldier. Sad trombone. Really?? You couldn’t fit THAT on the tree??? Ultimately, I was thrilled she was all mine. And, bonus, I think she has a burrito under that wing, so technically she was my first food ornament.

Top 25 Favorite Food Ornaments

It wasn’t long ‘til I started collecting food ornaments in earnest. They date back to graduate school, years before my transition to a culinary career. And for five years now, I have been sharing them with you via social media. In keeping with the theme of 25 days, here are my 25 best-loved food ornaments, spanning my entire collection. Not that a mother can really chose.  I love them all. And I love each for very different reasons. I hope you find them as special as  I do. Let me know which are your favorites.

Honey-glazed ham with pineapple ornament

Sunnyside up fried egg tree ornament

Lasagna Slice on a plate ornamentGobble Gobble turkey tree ornament

Loaded Baked potato ornament

Mozz & Tomato slices on a tray - christmas ornament

Nacho christmas ornament

Chicken leg christmas tree ornament

Christmas tree ornaments: a pig looking at a pack of hot dogs

Avocado Toast Christmas tree ornament

Christmas ornaments: bucket of champagne and tin of caviar

open face bacon, lettuce tomato sandwich christmas ornament

almost lifesized hamburger ornament with sesame seed bun, pickles, cheese and more

Sushi tray ornament

tree ornament of a toaster with two pieces of toast popping out

Macaron Tree Christmas ornament

Can of Ham a la spam tree ornament

Eggs Bendict tree ornament

Cuts of meat marked on a pig: flank, spare ribs, ham - tree ornament

Prosciutto & Melon ornament

Steak Dinner ornament with beans, baked potato and a fork

TV dinner tree ornament

cosmo christmas tree ornament

Christmas ornament of a pizza slice

Burger Basked with a side of fries Christmas ornament

I’m grateful to you for your support and enthusiasm for this blog, its stories, and recipes. Thank you for being a fan and for always letting me know what you think. No, really!! Let me know what you think!!!! Comments make me so happy.

Wishing you and your friends and family the Merriest Christmas and Happy Holidays, and a year filled with peace and joy. See you in 2018!

Find your Joy: Christmas 2017 2 year old Katy Keck poses by the tree

My very proper Grandfather was once dragged to a party by my very social Grandmother. He acquiesced on attending, but refused to concede it all. “Fine, I’ll go. But I’m not wearing my good hat!” I say…Wear your Good Hat!! Wishing you a joyful holiday and a year filled with good hats! 

© Copyright: KatyKeck.com 2017. All rights reserved.

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