Category Archives: Holiday Cooking

What’s on Your Thanksgiving Menu?

Every year it seems we hash and re-hash what’ll be on the table for dinner. What about this dish or that or what variation on a past recipe can be used. The few times I hosted, I agonized over what to make. Yeah, there’s the turkey, but what kind of pies? I tried out a pumpkin cheesecake, a stir fry (in honor of my grandmother’s regular Thanksgiving contribution), thin-sliced and roasted sweet potatoes (a fairly simple dish that I highly recommend if you’ve got the oven space), and I diligently searched the web for perfect stuffing recipes only to long for my mom’s standard. And I know I’m not alone. I’ve heard horror stories of dishes family members asked never to eat again as well as success stories of dishes that soon became tradition.

With this in mind, I’d like to hear your stories and start a little pre-T-Day dinner discussion so we can swap ideas and recipes and still have time to make ’em come Thanksgiving.

What’s on your menu? What ideas do you need to fill out yours? And if you have a recipe or a link to one, please share it!

Favorite New Year’s Foods

Taken while shopping in Uwajimaya for New Year's Food.
Taken while shopping in Uwajimaya for New Year's Food.

Yesterday, I went with my grandma for our annual pre-New Year’s grocery shopping trip to Uwajimaya in Seattle to gather the foods that we’ll eat to celebrate the New Year. We buy (or our family in Japan sends us) some of the traditional foods for osechi ryori (traditional Japanese New Year’s foods), such as sweet black beans (kuromame), sardines cooked in soy sauce (tazukuri) and other goodies. We also have our own family tradition: we set up a hot plate and make yakiniku, thin-sliced beef and vegetables. And the night before, we’re supposed to eat long noodles and spread salt around the house, for long life and stop evil spirits from coming in.

Other Japanese families celebrate by making mochi rice cakes, as they do every year on Bainbridge Island (this year’s Mochi Tsuki is on Sunday.)

So it becomes inevitable that New Years and foods are linked together in my head. It seems every culture has some sort of New Year tradition surrounding food, from grapes carried on New Year’s Eve in parts of Europe to black-eyed peas eaten in the South. Travel guru Rick Steves even hosted a show about International New Year’s Eve, and nearly all the guests mentioned some sort of food.

So with that said, I’d love to hear and share some of your traditional New Year’s celebrations involving food. What do you eat and why?

Easy, Boozy, Homemade Balls O’ Goodness

Rum, bourbon and hazelnut liquer balls.
Rum, bourbon and hazelnut liquer balls.

This summer we had another in a long line of great interns. But one of the things that set Mandy Simpson apart was that she plied us with treats while she was here. (Note to all future interns: baking is a bonus skill.) She made us strawberry pie, and some going-away goodies called bourbon balls.

They were an instant hit, and I knew this summer that I’d be making them for Christmas. I mean, how can you go wrong combining holidays and chocolate-y, little, boozy balls?

The recipe came by way of Mandy’s mom in the form of a copied newspaper clipping from a Judy Cunningham of Roanoke, Virginia. So thank you all to Mandy, her mom and Mrs. Cunningham, wherever you are now.

I made them and some adaptations for a recent cookie exchange and will be giving some soon as Christmas gifts.

Here it is:

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Thanksgiving Cooking Emergency? Here’s Some Help

Got cooking questions this morning and mom finally left the phone off the hook? Here are a few places to look for help:

The Splendid Table radio program will have a two-hour on-air helpline, starting at 8 a.m. our time. Call 1-800-537-5252. They’ll also host a live online chat at , and will take questions there.

Not sure if that turkey is safe to eat? You can call the USDA Meat and Poultry hotline at 1-888-674-6854. Live people answer the phone. Hours, however, are limited to 8:00 a. m. to 2:00 p. m., Eastern Time.

Butterball has a hotline on which you can talk turkey with trained experts. Call 800-288-8372.

For your baking issues, Betty Crocker has tips on their website as well as a hotline 1-800-446-1898.

And then, there’s always 911 for when you accidentally put that frozen turkey in the deep fryer.

Did You Remember the T-Day Desserts?

Yeah, there’s the turkey or the ham, but the thing I look forward to every year is that belt-notch dropper, dinner topper dessert.

For me, it has to be some sort of pie, and as we head into tomorrow, I thought I’d share a few.

It also happens to be what I’m focusing on this year, since cooking dinner has been taken off my plate as we head out to family gatherings instead of hosting. I’ll make a few apple and a couple of from-scratch pumpkin pies. Dough and all. (Well, at least that’s what I’m assuming at 4 p.m. Wednesday. We’ll see if I’m frantically running out to Safeway at midnight tonight.)

I’ll tweak the recipe I used last year. I’ll likely try something out of the Pie and Pastry Bible, but heard a great Skillet Apple Pie recipe on NPR yestarday.

Food Life readers offered up some great recipes for the recipe contest, and I wanted to highlight a couple desserts that sounded like they’d be relatively quick (one is incredibly quick) and delicious.

The first one comes from Colleen Smidt and uses flour and whipping cream and sugar mix that adds an extra layer of richness to the apple pie.

Apple Cream Pie

1 Cup Heavy Whipping Cream (liquid)
4 tablespoon Flour (heaping)
3/4 Cup Sugar (organic tastes best)
Cinnamon to taste ( I like a lot but that is just me)
4 to 5 Golden Delicious Apples (do NOT substitute any other apple variety)
1 Deep Dish Pie Shell (I use pre-made frozen)

Mix everything, except apples, together in a big mixing bowl and set aside for 1 hour. Ingredients will have a slight reaction and some rising will occur. This is ok.

Peel and core apples. Cut length wise into quarters. Slice length wise into thin slices between approximately 1/8 to 1/4 inch thick. Fill pie shell with apple slices to determine correct amount to be used. I make sure it is full and has a nice mound. Once the apple slices are mixed with the liquid a significant amount of settling will occur.

Mix apples and liquid together in the bowl. Pour into the pie shell. Sprinkle additional cinnamon sparingly on top for taste and color.

Bake 350 degrees for 50 minutes. Let pie cool and serve room temp or chilled. This is a great pie to make up the day before and travels really well once it is chilled.

The next recipe came from Shellie Cohagan, and would be a pretty good bet for something to whip up on Thursday since it’s quick and oven-free.

No Bake Punkin’ Cheesecake Pie
20 min prep
Serves 6 -8
8 inches prepared graham cracker crusts
1 (8 ounce) package cream cheese , softened
2 1/2 cups whipped topping, divided
1 cup confectioners’ sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 (3 1/2 ounce) package vanilla instant pudding mix
1/4 cup milk
1 1/2 cups 100% pumpkin puree (not the pie mix)
2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice

  1. In a medium-mixing bowl combine cream cheese, 1 cups of the whipped topping, confectioners’ sugar, and vanilla extract. Beat until smooth.
  2. Spread evenly over crust.
  3. In a large mixing bowl combine: pudding, milk, pumpkin puree, pumpkin pie spice, and 1 more cups of whipped topping.
  4. Stir until thoroughly combined.
  5. Spoon mixture over cream cheese layer.
  6. Top with remaining 1/2 cup of whip topping. Shellie puts it in a pastry bag and decorates the top with the whip cream.
  7. Chill at least 1 hour before serving.

Thanksgiving Recipe Contest Winner for Sweet Potato Souffle

Congratulations to Julie McCormick of Port Townsend, who won The Food Life’s little recipe contest. for her sweet potato souffle. I’ll highlight a couple more of the dessert-related recipes you shared later today and on Friday.

Here’s what Julie had to say about her recipe:

“I have been serving this with roast turkey for about 40 years, although it was originally intended to accompany a stuffed baked ham dish in the Great Dinners From Life (magazine) cookbook.

“I first made it when my then-husband and I belonged to a progressive dinner group in Ellensburg. The group of faculty wives who planned the menus picked a lot of meals from that book, which is probably very hard to find these days. I use a lot of its recipes and made a lot of things I’d never heard of before because of it. That book and Julia Child, who went on TV about that time, turned me into a bit of a foodie.

“Everyone who eats this dish loves it. It is not really sweet, but spicy, and it’s good with turkey gravy.

“It is not expected to puff up like a true souffle, so don’t be worried when it doesn’t.”

3 one-pound, two-ounce cans sweet potatoes (or the closest size you can find) or four pounds sweet potatoes, cooked
1/2 cup butter, melted
6 eggs
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup milk
1 tablespoon freshly graded lemon rind (I’ve always used dried rind from the spice section)
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon salt

Preheat oven to 350.

Drain sweet potatoes (or peel fresh ones). Mash potatoes, then beat, using low speed of electric mixer to make them as lump-free as possible. Beat in melted butter. Separate eggs and add yolks to sweet potato mixture. Beat until well blended. The longer you beat, the smoother the final result. Add sugar, milk, lemon rind, ginger and salt.

Beat egg whites separately until stiff but not dry and fold into potato mixture. Turn into buttered two-quart souffle dish or casserole. Bake for one hour. Serve immediately.

Things You Shouldn’t Do With a Turkey, Part 1

This Thanksgiving, I’m rehashing a project photographer Carolyn Yaschur and I put together in a bout of silliness. It was intended for one of our old entertainment sites, but since it sort of involves food, I’m reprising it this year for The Food Life.

For those who haven’t seen it already, I was hoping it would provide a little Thanksgiving meal-planning stress relief.

I’ll publish part two with another video and a couple more photos of “Things You Shouldn’t Do With a Turkey” at about noon Wednesday.

You Shouldn’t Take a Turkey to the Beach

Carolyn J. Yaschur | Kitsap Sun
Carolyn J. Yaschur | Kitsap Sun

You Shouldn’t Play Poker With a Turkey


You Shouldn’t Take a Turkey To Prom


You Shouldn’t Play Football, Walk a Dog or Bungee Jump

In retrospect, we probably shouldn’t have wasted a turkey (or Turkey’s little cousin), and we probably should have waited until he defrosted before shooting video, but hopefully it gave you a little chuckle.

Share Your Thanksgiving Recipes and Win

With Thanksgiving just around the corner, I thought it would be a good time to ask all of you to share your favorite recipes. And here’s a little incentive: the best one will receive a cookbook and have your recipe shared in the paper.

Please send me your favorite original recipe or adaptation via e-mail at It can be anything from sides to desserts. Food columnist Ann Vogel and I will choose the winner. I’ll also share your recipes on the Food Life blog.

I look forward to seeing what great things people in Kitsap are eating for the holidays!