Roasted Vegetables & Ginger Holiday Cookies: A Thanksgiving Post from Up Over
Ed: As we officially enter the holiday season, we all need a little boost in morale to get through potfuls of squash, stock and stuffing. My beloved Brenna, of Coconut Chocolate Chunk Cake fame, has graciously offered to bestow on us her wit and kitchen wisdom as we here at The Shortlists jet across the planet to enjoy loved ones, weddings and the Great American Holiday: Thanksgiving. Little known fact: Canada – Brenna’s homeland – celebrates its own Thanksgiving over a long weekend in October. In order to benefit from this convenient scheduling for your own holiday planning purposes, please excuse her use of Canadian spelling: she means well, and we can’t all be perfect, after all. If you can manage to get past the outrageous number of u’s found herein, I invite you to enter Brenna’s beautiful world to share some recipes, laughs and holiday inspiration. And at the end of the day, isn’t that what this is all about? So with no further ado, I present you….Brenna….
Hello dear Internet!
To the friends and followers of The Shortlists, I have commandeered our beloved blog for the day to write a guest post reflecting on what is truly one of my favourite weekends and holidays of the year: Canadian Thanksgiving. (NB – it is in a close race with Christmas, but Thanksgiving doesn’t have the same gifting pressure, huge expectations, and expansive time frame which practically ensures severe overindulgence. One’s arteries can only become so clogged in a long weekend. It’s a perfect microcosm of food-and-family delights!)
Before you say “who is this mysterious person, and has she knocked our favourite webmistress over the head with a leg of lamb, only to usurp the seat of power she holds at the helm of The Shortlists?” I ask you to pause. I humbly submit that I am a friend/fan/fellow foodie of this culinary whiz with whom I have shared many a moment in the kitchen, and I am bringing you a couple easy-peasy recipes from my own personal list of favourites.
Since our dear blogger is an American by birth, she can tell you all about her undying love for American Thanksgiving. Which I know nothing about except that it falls on a weekday (what?) and I think maybe involves football for some people. Not my people. But since we both love this autumnal feast, it’s a great idea to double up on the harvest joy. (A plug for the True North’s version: the weather’s nicer. And harvest fare is a little more legitimate in early October than in late November – just sayin’.)
So, I spent this Thanksgiving, as all, in a mid-size, quiet Ontario city pleasantly and evenly spaced between Toronto and Montreal – half a world away from Australia. For my family, Thanksgiving is a big deal. And is all about food. And gives me a chance to escape from the city, wear flannel and lycra for three days, and spend most of my time playing with my parents’ infinitely more exciting range of kitchen accoutrements and oodles of counter space. So, while I would love to recount an entire menu, space and time is limited, and to be perfectly honest, I’m not really a roast-turkey-and-mashed-potatoes kind of a gal. I mean yes, these things send me into a frenzy of delight (note the delectable pre-roasting turkey that always graces our table) but, I would much rather give you all a little taste of some things that are not Thanksgiving specific – but do scream “fall leaves! home! holidays! edible love!” At least to me.
So, first off, I bring you random roasted root vegetables.
This is something I LOVE to do as soon as there’s even a slight chill in the air…. Root veggies, herbs, garlic, roasty-toasty-ness…all this makes me feel like a hobbit, settling in for a harvest celebration with my little hobbit friends, clothed in a rumpled plaid vest, after a summer of labour in the fields of…wait – sorry – Okay, what I really mean is that these just feel wholesome and hearty and are incredibly versatile. Even my favourite beet hater loves them. Delightful and colourful as a Thanksgiving or autumn dinner party side dish, they’re also a filling and delicious weeknight dinner on a penny pinching budget (okay, okay, maybe missing some protein) and – best of all for my personal purposes – are a very welcome addition to the many potlucks with vegetarian and vegan restrictions that I seem to find myself at. And they make your house smell like heaven and hard work.
RANDOM ROASTED ROOT VEGETABLES
This can be made with any number of root vegetables. I’ve used beets, sweet potatoes, carrots, and parsnips, but feel free to throw in or substitute any other kind of potatoes, celery root, turnips, even nice chunks of cabbage (yummm!). They can also be seasoned any which way, but always with plenty of oil, salt and pepper. This is really the most versatile recipe ever, so you don’t need to stick to these quantities by any means, and definitely adjust to personal taste.
This made two full pans, and was enough as a side dish for 8 people, with some leftover. So make less if you want, but they are delicious leftovers! And if you’re going to the trouble of chopping root veggies, and putting in the time to roast, you might as well go whole hog.
2 sweet potatoes
3 large carrots
6 large beets
1/4 cup good quality olive oil
5 cloves of garlic, crushed
1 tbsp sea salt
lots of freshly ground pepper
a couple sprigs of fresh rosemary OR 1 tbsp dried rosemary (or more)*
1 tsp each oregano, thyme, fennel seeds (optional)*
Preheat oven to 425°F/210°C. Trim, peel and/or scrub the root vegetables (depending on your preference for skin on your veggies – I peeled mine, and you should at least peel the beets). Cut them into wedges and chunks, approximately 1/2 inch thick (or smaller, which means you cook them for less time). Place relatively spread out on 2 baking sheets – you can squish them onto one, but I find the texture is much better if they are more spread out – more exposed flesh to get crispy…mmmm!
Bake for 35-45 minutes, depending on your oven, size of chunks, and desired texture. Take them out and flip them around once about half way through.
* I also love to do these with different spice and flavour combinations – substitute 2 tsp sesame oil, 1 tbsp soy sauce, 1 tbsp vegetable oil, 2 tbsp toasted sesame seeds, 1 tsp chili powder for the herbs, garlic, and olive oil for a delicious East Asian flavour. Switch in cumin, paprika, and some cayenne (keeping the garlic!) for a spicier, more curried flavour. Because the proportions and vegetable amounts are totally up to you, you can play with spices, and add more or less if you like.
I cannot go a weekend at home without doing some sort of baking, and autumn/winter treats never feel complete without the deliciously chewy, spiced, cinnamon-y pleasure of a ginger cookie. These used to be just a Christmas-time thing, but lately, I’ve become addicted and every holiday seems the perfect excuse to whip these up. Plus they’re super easy.
HOLIDAY GINGER COOKIES
This is adapted only slightly from “Bob’s Cinnamon Snaps” which originally came from a family friend. But I think that this is a silly name for them, as they are most definitely not snappy when in ideal form, and are actually chewy and oh-so-pleasantly squishy. Plus, he calls for shortening, which is something that has never made an appearance in our household – butter it is! Warm, frozen (as seems to be in vogue chez Les Shortlists), what have you, these are perfection.
3/4 cup (170 grams / 1.5 sticks) butter, softened
1 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup molasses
2 1/4 cup flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
2 teaspoons cinnamon
2 teaspoons ground ginger
1/2 tsp salt
Extra white sugar for rolling
Preheat oven to 350°F/180°C. In a large bowl, cream the butter and sugar with electric beaters. Add the egg and molasses (grrr sticky sticky slowness. My mother helpfully reminded me that that’s where the expression ‘slower than molasses’ came from. Thanks Mum).
Combine the flour, baking soda, spices, and salt in a separate bowl, then gradually mix into the butter mixture. Roll them into 1” balls with your hands, then roll again in additional sugar. Place 2” apart on baking sheets. Bake for 10-12 minutes until set and tops are crackled. (I like to undercook them a bit so they stay chewy when cooled.)
This time around I didn’t have quite enough baking soda, so they are a little flatter than usual, but still divine! Like, SO divine. Obviously they are amazing on their own, with tea, with coffee, ice cream, etc. BUT they made an especially attractive and delicious partner to my sister’s pumpkin cheesecake with ginger graham crust. Needless to say, we all feel we increased slightly in size this weekend. But, as my roommate (and food psychologist) always reminds me on those health anxiety-ridden post-holiday evenings, that’s kinda the point. Soooo, Happy post-Canadian Thanksgiving! And THANKS! For food and family and far away friends and the beautiful technologies of the Internet and digital cameras. Now go bake some cookies.