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  • Matthew Mead / The Associated Press

    Variations of cranberry sauce are, from left to right, chipotle, ginger-miso, lemon tarragon, truffled, sweet and smoky.

  • Matthew Mead / The Associated Press

    Mocha pecan pie, anyone? It’s a nice change from pumpkin.

  • Matthew Mead / The Associated Press

    Why smother fresh green beans in a cream-of-mushroom casserole? They’re great topped with bacon and blue cheese.

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  • Cranberry sauce with variations Start to finish: 15 minutes Serves 8 Homemade cranberry sauce is wildly better than anything you can buy and it takes little time or effort to make. Plus, it’s easy to take a basic cranberry sauce and doctor it up in so many delicious ways. INGREDIENTS One 12-ounce bag fresh cranberries 3/4 cup packed brown sugar 3/4 cup orange juice Pinch of salt INSTRUCTIONS

    In a medium saucepan over medium-high, combine the cranberries, brown sugar, orange juice and salt. Cook, stirring occasionally, until most of the cranberries have popped and softened, 8 to 10 minutes.

    Remove the saucepan from the heat and select one of the flavor combinations below:

    Chipotle: Add 1 minced chipotle pepper and 1 tablespoon adobo sauce (from a can of chipotles in adobo). Allow to cool, then stir in 3 tablespoons of chopped fresh cilantro.

    Truffled: Allow to fully cool, then stir in 1/2 teaspoon truffle oil and 1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh chives.

    Sweet-and-smoky: Stir in 1/2 cup crumbled well-cooked bacon, 1 teaspoon smoked paprika and an extra 1/2 cup brown sugar.

    Lemon-tarragon: Stir in 3 tablespoons finely chopped fresh tarragon and the zest and juice of 1 lemon.

    Ginger-miso: Stir in 2 tablespoons grated fresh ginger and 2 tablespoons sweet white miso.

  • Green beans two ways Start to finish: 20 minutes Serves 8 Can we all just agree that by 2013 we should be able to do better by green beans than dumping canned soup and fried onions all over them? Surely, there is a better way. Actually, there are lots of better ways. Even if all you do is crisp some chopped bacon in a skillet, then pop fresh green beans in for a few minutes of stir-frying, the end result will still be better (and probably more welcome at the table). But that’s just the start. To help you get your green bean creativity flowing, we’ve given you a basic recipe for cooking them, plus two ways of finishing them. But if neither of those do it for you, use our base, then take those beans in any direction you like. INGREDIENTS 2 tablespoons olive oil 3 cloves garlic, minced 2 pounds fresh green beans, trimmed Salt and ground black pepper For the bacon and blue cheese topping: 1/2 cup crumbled cooked bacon 1/2 cup crumbled blue cheese 1/4 cup chopped scallions For the sweet-and-spicy coconut topping: 1/4 cup honey 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes 1/2 cup toasted coconut flakes INSTRUCTIONS

    In a large skillet over medium-high, heat the olive oil. Add the garlic and sauté for 2 minutes, or until softened. Add the green beans and sauté until just tender, 8 to 10 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.

    Choose one of the two variations and gently toss all ingredients for either one together with the green beans in the skillet.

    Per serving (bacon and blue cheese variation): 110 calories; 60 calories from fat (55 percent of total calories); 7 g fat (2.5 g saturated; 0 g trans fats); 10 mg cholesterol; 8 g carbohydrate; 4 g fiber; 3 g sugar; 4 g protein; 190 mg sodium. Per serving (sweet-and-spicy coconut topping): 120 calories; 50 calories from fat (42 percent of total calories); 6 g fat (0 g saturated; 0 g trans fats); 0 mg cholesterol; 17 g carbohydrate; 4 g fiber; 12 g sugar; 2 g protein; 60 mg sodium.
  • Honey pecan pie and its malted mocha cousin Start to finish: 1 hour Serves 8 INGREDIENTS 1 1/2 cups lightly chopped pecans 1 cup honey 1 cup packed brown sugar 1/4 teaspoon salt 2 teaspoons vanilla extract 4 eggs 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted 2 tablespoons Southern Comfort or bourbon OR the malted mocha variation (see below) 1 prepared deep-dish pie crust (store bought or homemade) For the malted mocha variation: 1/2 cup Ovaltine 2 tablespoons instant coffee 2 tablespoons coffee liqueur 3/4 cup (4 ounces) chopped bittersweet chocolate INSTRUCTIONS

    Heat the oven to 350 degrees. Spread the pecans on a rimmed baking sheet and bake for 10 minutes, or until fragrant and lightly toasted. Set aside to cool.

    In a medium bowl, whisk together the honey, brown sugar, salt, vanilla and eggs. Whisk in the melted butter, then either the liquor or the malted mocha variation (see below). Place the pie crust on a rimmed baking sheet. Spread the pecans in an even layer in the crust, then pour the honey mixture over them. Bake for 50 minutes, or until it no longer jiggles at the center.

    For the malted mocha variation, stir together the Ovaltine, instant coffee and the coffee liqueur. Use this mixture in place of the Southern Comfort. Add the bittersweet chocolate to the crust at the same time as the pecans before pouring in the honey mixture.

    Per serving (honey pecan pie variation): 610 calories; 280 calories from fat (46 percent of total calories); 31 g fat (9 g saturated; 0 g trans fats); 110 mg cholesterol; 79 g carbohydrate; 2 g fiber; 64 g sugar; 6 g protein; 210 mg sodium. Per serving (malted mocha variation): 740 calories; 330 calories from fat (45 percent of total calories); 37 g fat (12 g saturated; 0 g trans fats); 110 mg cholesterol; 99 g carbohydrate; 4 g fiber; 79 g sugar; 9 g protein; 240 mg sodium

Thanksgiving: Give tradition some modern twists

Published: Tuesday, Nov. 19, 2013 - 4:00 pm
Last Modified: Tuesday, Nov. 19, 2013 - 7:51 pm

Some cooks like to change up the Thanksgiving meal. But on a holiday dedicated to tradition, innovation can spark revolt.

“Know your audience,” says Jack Bishop, editorial director of America’s Test Kitchen. “The turkey is the turkey, and there’s not really a lot you can do there.”

Here’s a brief guide to knowing how far you can push things.

Mashed potatoes: Go classic, period. If you must play, go no further than casserole.

Stuffing: Go classic on the foundation, innovate on the add-ins.

“If you want to experiment, stuffing gives you the most leeway,” Bishop says. “You can add apples, fennel, sausage, bacon, nuts and dried fruit.”

Sweet potatoes: Go classic on the concept, modern in the execution.

Bishop suggests a sweet potato purée topped with a streusel of brown sugar, butter and spices.

If your guests can handle it, he says go nuts and take the dish Indian with cashews and chilies. Maybe even some coconut and cilantro.

Vegetables: Do a classic green bean casserole, or go completely off the rails.

“I can’t stand green bean casserole,” Bishop says. “There, I just said it.”

Instead, he suggests roasting green beans with red onions and walnuts or tossing them with a maple-mustard glaze.

Pie: Stick with the classic assortment, but jazz up the ingredients. Apple pie can make friends with cranberries, Bishop says, with crisp apples atop a base of cranberry jam. “It’s kicking-it-up-a-notch apple pie,” he said.

Read more articles by Michele Kayal

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