Wednesday, November 25, 2009

30 and counting.....I Can't Believe It's Not Turkey!

Here are the last three recipes from our Food Network Challenge roster. They are all 3 vegetarian, and can easily be made vegan if you sub out the butter (and use vegan marshmallows).
Send us your Thanksgiving recipes and your thoughts on ours! We're always looking for a way to make it all better. To good eating and good health! Happy Thanksgiving!

(I have had so many requests for this recipe. I hope it lives up to all your meatless hopes and dreams. Improvements and suggestions welcome!)




5 blocks extra firm tofu

1 cup panko

1 tbsp nutritional yeast

1 tbsp fresh sage, chopped

1 tbsp fresh rosemary, chopped

1 tbsp fresh thyme, chopped

2 tbsp fresh chives, chopped

1 tsp kosher salt

1 tsp cayenne pepper

2 tsp dijon mustard

¼ cup red wine

¼ cup balsamic vinegar

2 vegetable boullion cubes, dissolved in
¼ cup boiling water

1 tbsp olive oil

Ground black pepper to taste


Press tofu blocks between clean dishtowels and press with weighted cookie sheet for at least 1 hr.(even overnight if you have the time and inclination) While tofu is draining, in a small bowl, whisk together herbs, Dijon, red wine, balsamic vinegar, olive oil, and boullion. Set aside. Once tofu has drained, place blocks into food processor (as many as will fit, this can be done in stages.). Whip until it reaches the consistency of ricotta cheese, smooth and blended. Transfer to a large mixing bowl. Pour the set aside marinade over the tofu and fold until thoroughly combined. Then fold in panko and nutritional yeast. Transfer tofu mixture into greased loaf pan. Refrigerate to set at least 1 hour (again, overnight would work, too). Bake at 400 degrees for 1 hour. (Tofu can be baked longer to achieve desired dryness)


For vegetarian gravy:

1 tbsp butter

2 tbsp flour

1 clove chopped garlic

1/2 tsp poultry seasoning

1 tsp chopped dried onions

3 cups Imagine brand ‘no chicken’ stock

Salt, pepper to taste


Melt butter in medium sauce pan. Add flour stir until completely combined with the butter. Cook 1 minute. Add stock and stir until butter-flour mixture is completely dissolved. Add garlic, poultry seasoning, and dried onions. Let simmer while stirring until it thickens to desired consistency. Salt and pepper to taste.


**I ‘invented’ this dish after a lot of online research on ways to make tofu taste like meat. It’s by no means perfect. I am revamping it for this year’s Thanksgiving meal, and I will post the recipe as soon as it’s ready. Already, I know I would substitute ground rolled oats for the panko. They bind better and keep the recipe gluten-free. I have to say, it was a very proud moment when the loaf came out of the pan on national TV and looked absolutely gorgeous. The show focused so much on Tofu vs. Turkey. Big deal! I think they can co-exist peacefully on any Thanksgiving table.




Spicy Candied Pecans for topping:

1 tbsp of unsalted butter

1 ½ cups pecans

2 tsp sugar

¼ tsp cayenne pepper


For casserole:

4 large sweet potatoes

½ cup sugar

1 egg, beaten

1 stick of butter

½ cup soymilk creamer

2 tsp vanilla extract

Pinch of salt

1 bag mini marshmallows


Spicy Pecans:

Sift together 2 tsp sugar and ¼ tsp cayenne pepper and a tiny pinch of salt. In a skillet, melt butter. Over med-low heat, add pecans and cook, stirring often until the nuts brown (5min). Sprinkle sugar-cayenne mixture
over the pecans and stir until the sugar dissolves. Empty pecans onto parchment paper. Let cool. Chop into med-small chunks. Set aside.


Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Peel potatoes and boil in salted water until tender. Drain and mash with fork or potato masher until all potatoes
are broken down. Add egg, sugar, butter, evaporated milk, vanilla and combine. Once combined, beat with an immersion hand blender until whipped and fluffy.Pour mixture into greased casserole dish and bake 25 minutes. Remove from oven and coat with mini marshmallows and chopped spicy pecans. Return to oven and bake 5-10 more minutes until topping is golden.


**This dish is always billed as ‘the one thing Becca can cook.’ She’s such a good sport. She’s actually quite
capable in the kitchen. John Besh said he wanted to eat a whole pan of her sweet potatoes. (I’ll save for another day the story of the time she managed to both burn Mom’s birthday dinner and shatter several pyrex dishes all in one evening.)



3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

3 cloves of garlic, minced

1 tsp thyme

1 tbsp fresh sage, chopped

1 medium onion, diced

1 lb shiitake mushrooms, sliced

1 cup unsweetened pumpkin

1 cup Arborio rice

4-6 cups of Imagine brand ‘no chicken’ stock

¼ tsp nutmeg

Salt & pepper to taste

Flour to sprinkle

¼ cup soymilk creamer (if desired to add creaminess to
finished dish)

1 bunch of fresh sage, sliced into ribbons, 1 tbsp butter for


Combine stock and pumpkin puree in a medium saucepan and keep hot, but not boiling, over a low flame. Heat 1 tbsp of olive oil in a large sauté pan, add onion and cook until translucent. Stir in garlic and thyme. Add
in rice and sauté for 3-5 min, not allowing it to brown, stirring frequently. Next, add 2 full cups of stock, stirring constantly until all liquid is absorbed. Continue to add stock a ½ cup at a time, until all stock is absorbed, always stirring. Remove from heat and add 1 tbsp of olive oil (and/or soy creamer if desired) stir until smooth.


For sage garnish: melt 1 tbsp of butter in small sauté pan, sauté sage until thoroughly browned and crispy.


**We made ‘risotto cakes’ on the show. They didn’t work! In the judging segment (the portion they didn’t air!) Michelle Bernstein (whom I adore) recommended that we form the cakes on a baking sheet, without the flour, and refrigerate them for 30min-1hr and then flour them just a tiny bit and pan fry. It changed the way I cook. It’s so simple. Now, I don’t make a burger/patty without allowing time for them to set in the fridge. Thank you, Chef Michy!

30 and counting.....Fall Apple Slaw and Pumpkin Pizza.

4 fuji apples
3 granny smith apples
2 11 oz cans of mandarin oranges, drained
½ cup pomegranate seeds
½ cup dried cranberries
¼ cup canola oil
3 tbsp pomegranate infused red wine vinegar
For dressing:
Whisk together oil and vinegar, set aside.  Whisk again just before dressing slaw.
For slaw:
Chop apples into matchsticks using knife or mandolin slicer.  Add pomegranate seeds and dried cranberries.  Pour dressing over fruit and gently toss until completely coated.  Once the slaw is dressed, gently toss in mandarin oranges.  (they’re very fragile and tend to fall apart with too much tossing)

**We came up with this dish as a way to add something raw and fresh to a predominately heavy, savory meal.  It’s absolutely beautiful.  You could just toss all the fruit together and leave it at that.  It almost doesn’t need a dressing.  I’m thinking of adding toasted walnuts.  We had to fly with our own pomegranate seeds.  We ‘imported’ them in a lunchbox and nearly didn’t make it through security.  

3 cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp. baking powder
¾ tsp baking soda
½ tsp ground nutmeg
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
2 eggs, beaten
1 cup sugar
¼ tsp salt
¼ cup milk
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 ½ tsp.  Ground Cinnamon
8oz chopped pecans

For cookie crust:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees
Combine dry ingredients and cut in shortening until mixture resembles coarse meal.  Combine eggs, sugar, milk and vanilla, stir well and add to crumb mixture.  Stir with a fork until moistened.  Shape into a ball and chill at least 1 hr.  Spread flat onto a lightly greased pizza pan.  Bake at 350 degrees for approximately 30 min, until golden brown.  Let cool before adding topping.

Pumpkin “Fluff” Topping:
1 15 oz can of  unsweetened pumpkin
½ cup granulated sugar
½ tsp ground cinnamon
½ tsp ground cloves
¼  tsp salt
1 8oz package of cream cheese, softened
1 8oz container of whipped topping
White chocolate for garnish

Combine spices and pumpkin and set aside.  Next cream 1 pkg (8 oz) softened cream cheese and whipped cream with mixer, beat until smooth.  Fold in pumpkin mixture.  Refrigerate for at least 30 min. to set. 

Spread fluff on cooled cookie, garnish with white chocolate shavings.  Cut like a pizza!

**The 'Fluff' stands alone as a great dessert.  It can be served with graham crackers to dip.  Or you could put it in those tiny tart pie crusts.  Just be sure to label it on a buffet.  We once had a guest at a Christmas party think it was hummus and try to dip a chicken skewer in it.  Sheesh.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

30 and counting.....Turkey and Oyster Stuffing (ok, not vegetarian, but still tasty)

For the Brine:
1 cup kosher salt
½ cup brown sugar
5 bay leaves
2 tablespoons black pepper corns
2 tablespoons garlic powder
1 tablespoon dried rosemary
1 tablespoon rubbed sage
1 tablespoon coriander seeds

Dissolve brine in 2 qts. Boiling water.  Once dissolved, add in 1-2 qts. more water (depending on size of bird.  Place turkey in a large Ziploc storage bag or baking bag, and when the brine is cool (you can add ice cubes to speed process) pour over the bird and make sure it is entirely covered.  Let bird sit in brine for 12-24 hours.  Remove, rinse and roast normally.
Roast in roasting pan or bag for 4hrs at 325 degrees.

For Gravy:
Melt 2 tablespoons of butter in skillet, add 2 tablespoons of flour, stir until blended and begin adding, liquid from turkey and follow with stock from giblets.  (Giblets cooked by covering with water and adding about 1 small chopped onion, salt and pepper) Stir gravy until thickened over med/high heat.  Reduce heat, add chopped meat from neck of turkey, salt and pepper to taste.

**Just so you know, the judges said that Mom’s was one of the top two turkeys of the day.  Take that, deep-fried-burnt-turkey-winning family.

2 bags of soft cubed stuffing mix
1 pt. of fresh oysters chopped
1cup of chopped celery
1 cup of chopped onion
2 tsps  ground sage
1 tsp. ground  thyme
1 cup of butter
1 cup stock (chicken, turkey, or vegetable will work)

Melt the butter in a large frying pan, sauté celery and onions until clear and softened.  Add  the cubes to the mixture and the sage and thyme, turning it over and over until coated, add the oysters and liquid, stir up well and add water if needed for moisture,  Mixture should be soft but not mushy cook for a couple of minutes and when the cubes begin to brown, transfer mixture into the turkey  to stuff,
Place the remaining stuffing in an 8 x 8 sq. pan and cook for 35 minutes in the oven at 375 degrees.

**John Besh LOVED this stuffing.  Go, Mom!  Funny story: We forgot to put the oysters on our ingredient list for the Food Network to shop for us.  (There was and INSANE amount of paperwork and very little time to complete it all.)  We realized at 11pm the night before the competition.  Chef Dan, head of catering for the day, came through - in spite of a debilitating, potentially fatal shellfish allergy - and somehow got us perfect oysters in lovely, landlocked Denver, CO.  

Monday, November 23, 2009

30 and counting.....Vegetarian Green Bean Casserole

A heartfelt thank you to everyone who has watched Food Network Challenge: Thanksgiving Family Feast.  The response has been overwhelming.  I can honestly say that for my mom, Becca, and me, it has been one of the most fun and rewarding things we have ever done.  Who knew that those 3 days in Denver would turn out to be so amazing.  Forget Christmas, forget my birthday, I am a Thanksgiving girl forever more. 

Our recipes will appear hear over the next few days.  Make them your own and eat them in good health!  Happy Thanksgiving! 

For the topping:
4 Leeks, thinly sliced
6 cups canola oil
For the casserole:
2 tbsp + 1tsp of kosher salt
1 lb fresh green beans, washed, ends snapped, halved
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
12 oz crimini mushrooms, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
¼ tsp nutmeg
1 cup vegan ‘no-chicken’ stock
1 cup soymilk creamer
Preheat oven to 475 degrees

Topping: Heat 6 cups of canola oil. Deep fry leeks until golden brown and crispy.  Drain on paper towel and set aside.

Casserole:  Bring 1 gallon of water and the 2 tbsp of salt to a boil in a large saucepan.  Blanch beans for 5 minutes.  Drain and place in ice water bath to stop cooking.  Drain again and set aside for later.

In a large skillet, heat 2 tbsp of olive oil over med-high heat.  Sautee mushrooms, 1 tsp of salt and pepper, stirring occasionally for 5 minutes.  Add minced garlic and nutmeg.  After a few minutes, sprinkle 2 tbsp of flour over the mushroom mixture.  Stir and cook for another minute, then add ‘no-chicken’ stock.  Let simmer 1-2 minutes.  Turn the heat down to med-low and add soy half and half.  Let thicken, stirring occasionally, 8 or 9 minutes.  Remove the pan from heat and add a portion of the leeks, leaving enough to sprinkle over the top after baking (about ¼, as you like it)  Bake until bubbling, 15 minutes.  Remove from oven. 

Just before serving, sprinkle with remaining leeks.  (The leeks will be extremely ‘fragile’, so there is no need to bake them on top.  Feel free to make extra to have on hand to sprinkle as desired.)

**This is based on Alton Brown’s Best Ever Green Bean Casserole.  I vegg-ed it up and swapped his onions for leeks.  It really is fantastic.  You may never go back to the canned stuff!

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving Family Feast, Food Network!

Back in June, I was laid off suddenly. I was told on Friday not to come back to work on Monday and in the frenzy of feared unemployment, I got online to look for anything I could possibly do (within reason) to make money. I stumbled on a posting for Food Network Challenge. They were looking for interesting Thanksgiving stories. I sent them the following email, and the rest is history:

Hello, Food Network Challenge! (I'm a big fan! The worst part, by far, is having to move those gigantic cakes to that darn judging table. Sheesh.) Here's my Thanksgiving story (pictures attached) :

When I was a kid, I remember getting into the car and trucking up to Culpeper or Flint Hill or Front Royal, Virginia to have Thanksgiving dinner with my great aunts and uncles on my Dad’s side, The Cooks. These dinners are all kind of a blur of Uncle Bob, who had a glass eye, several small dogs and cousins, and my Grandma & Granddaddy, whom I adored. There is a ‘famous’ picture of me as a tiny girl, sound asleep down my Granddaddy’s chest, while he’s reclined in a Lazyboy, watching the TV at one of these get-togethers.

As we grew older, we had Thanksgivings with my Mom’s side of the family and at our own home. We always ate at 2pm, sharp. I remember my brothers and sisters, disappearing every year to nap, leaving me to do the dishes. In the early 90’s, my parent’s divorced. From that point on, my siblings and I spent Thanksgivings mostly with Mom. One year we had a huge shrimp feast to break up the monotony.

I went off to college in Syracuse, New York, and made the trip home for Thanksgiving every year, driving 8 hours down Interstate 81 to eat with the fam. In 2001, I moved to New York City. I literally have not been home for Thanksgiving since. I have spent the holiday with friends, as we city-dwellers do, eating someone else’s version of turkey dinner. I have cooked for myself, my roommate at the time and her boyfriend, dinner for 3. (I think I cheated and made a chicken that year instead of attempting a turkey in our tiny 6 floor walk-up, where the kitchen, living room, and dining room were one in the same.) I spent a few with a long-time boyfriend’s family, eating Swedish variations on traditional T-day foods.

Two years ago, I moved to sunny Los Angeles with my younger sister, Becca. Thus began the Sisters Cook Thanksgiving Tradition. So far, Thanksgiving for us means green bean casserole (with the French’s Onions on top. Once, Becca ate half a can that I had reserved for the topping while I wasn’t looking.), mashed potatoes and gravy from scratch, and sweet potato soufflé. Our first year in LA, I made an herbed turkey breast. I have since become a vegetarian and my focus has shifted to the all important side dishes, attempting cornbread, homemade stuffing, salads, etc. And of course, we make pumpkin pie for dessert.

I make the green bean casserole, usually from canned green beans and canned mushroom soup. This year, I made Alton Brown’s AMAZING Best Ever Green Bean Caserole, and I will never go back! (It was a big hit.) I also make the mashed potatoes and gravy, using real butter, roasted garlic, and ‘no-chicken’ broth. Becca is in charge of sweet potatoes. She is the queen. It is her signature dish, one of the only things she can cook, and she always knocks it out of the park. The secret is in the whipping of the sweet potatoes (and in the enormous amount of marshmallows on top). We top it all off with canned cranberry sauce. I am fully capable of making the real deal, but Becca loves the shape and the amazing ‘Schlllllup’ sound it makes when it’s released from the can onto the plate. Who am I to deprive her of that?

Our first year in LA, it was just the two of us. Last year, we ate with our dear friends, the Caskeys. The point for us, food aside, is to be together. We are a little satellite branch of our big family, all the way out here in California. It can be very lonely to be so far from home, especially on holidays. But, we have each other, and that has proved to be our biggest blessing. One tradition we keep from our childhood Thanksgivings is to go around the table and say what we’re thankful for. I’ll tell you now, I am thankful for my sister and her willingness to jump in with me and create our own story, our own traditions. I’m also thankful that she’s around to eat the leftovers. Trust me, thanksgiving recipes don’t come small, we cook for two and eat for ten. Thank heavens, I don’t have to face it alone.

Thanks for your consideration!


Sarah Cook, Older sister - The Sisters Cook

***The recipes from our episode will be posted this week.  Check back!