Tag Archive: sauce

How Viola Stole Thanksgiving

Dear World,

After being freshly pressed, I stopped posting altogether. How was I going to outdo myself? How was I going to get thousands (yes, thousands) of views again? Then, I remembered that it didn’t matter. I’m just going to keep blogging the way I do. Just in time for Thanksgiving, I bring to you:


That’s right, folks. With the exception of the cranberry sauce, nothing on the table tomorrow will be of my invention. This year, I will trust the experts (Alton, Martha, Rachael, etc.)


They all were turkeys of my Thanksgivings past. After I name my turkey (because anything 10 lb or over needs a name), I will BRINE it overnight. This is what makes the turkey juicy and flavorful. *drools* Check out Alton Brown’s recipe here.

When it comes to glazing, however, I will opt for Gourmet’s Maple Glazed Turkey. I can’t believe this gem of a magazine stopped printing! The only magazine that tested every single recipe they ever published! And with the beautiful photographs!

Ok, I’m done now. Check out Gourmet’s recipe here.


I can’t eat turkey without gravy. It just won’t go down. This year, instead of my traditional white wine gravy, I will spice things up with a paprika gravy,  another stroke of Gourmet genius. The stuffing in this recipe also looks divine. Check out the recipe here.


All my life, I’ve been afraid of fresh cranberries. They are so uncommon in Europe, I didn’t even know what a cranberry looked like growing up! Plus, the stuff from the can looks really neat when you can get it out in its perfect cylindrical shape.

This year, I’m owning my fear: I’m making sauce from scratch! I’ll still buy a couple of cans, just in case things go horribly wrong (you never know). The recipe I found was from Simply Recipes (the photo sold me). Check it out here.


And now, my favorite part: the stuffing. I used to make three batches of stuffing, the same every year: one with celery and bread cooked inside the turkey, one with celery and bread cooked with turkey giblet broth, and one with just bread and celery, for the poor vegetarians who suffer throughout Thanksgiving.

This tradition of plain stuffing has gotten old, so I will go wild this year with Gourmet’s (again) Wild Rice, Apple and Dried Cranberry Stuffing, which you can find here.


Now the sweet potato casserole, I refuse to change. It’s my father’s father’s mother’s (so, my great-grandmother’s) recipe. I usually have a strong aversion to anything labeled “casserole” (tuna, noodle, green bean, you name it), but I’ll gladly make an exception for this one.

You’ll need:

  • yams/sweet potatoes
  • 1 orange
  • maple syrup and/or brown sugar
  • cinnamon
  • nutmeg
  • marshmallows

Peel yams, and cook in boiling water until soft. Mash yams, and mix with some zest and some juice of the orange (start with a little and taste as you go). Add a little maple syrup and/or brown sugar, cinnamon and nutmeg for flavor. Put in casserole dish, and bake at 350˚F for 10 minutes. Top with marshmallows, and resume baking until marshmallows are toasted.

I am no pie maker, but this recipe is easy and so delicious, no one believes I actually make it! The secret is tons of corn syrup (I know, I know, but it’s so tasty!). For a beautiful illustrated recipe, click here.
That’s it, folks. Happy Thanksgiving! Safe travel and much merriment to all!

With love,

– Viola –


This morning, I tried a second time to make protein powder pancakes. This time, they were neither oozy nor gooey, and not so hard that you could sit on one without squishing it. But they were still very tough and hard to swallow.

Irritated and upset, I needed to cook something that would taste good. There was a bag of bruised and overripe apples on the table, and with a cheerier disposition (apparently, rotten fruit makes my day), I started making applesauce.

You’ll need:

  • 6-7 big apples, all of the same or mix & matched (a little overripe/bruised is ok, maybe even better!)
  • 2 cups water
  • honey or brown sugar (let’s say 1/3 – 1 cup)
  • cinnamon (1 stick, or 1 tbsp ground)
  • nutmeg (1/4 tsp freshly ground, or 2 tsp ground)
  • cloves (6-10 whole, or 1 tsp ground)
  • optionally: rum or brandy
  • optionally: raisins

Peel and chop apples into little pieces. Cooking tip of the day #1: An easy way to remove the core is to quarter your apples, then cut the quarters in half. The little triangle of core is easy to cut out.



Place the apple bits in a medium-large

saucepan with about 2 cups of water, and

cook on high heat, stirring frequently.

When the mixture starts bubbling, bring

down to a simmer. The

water will thicken, and the apples will get mushy.

Eventually, your apples will look like this:

When they do, turn off the heat and let them cool for 5 minutes before transferring to a blender. Blend only for 10-15 seconds. If you like your applesauce on the chunky side, only blend half of the apples.


Return blended apples to the saucepan, add about 2 tbsp rum or brandy, the spices, and honey or sugar (start with just a little, and taste as you go). The rum/brandy is optional, but it improves the taste, and all the alcohol gets cooked away anyway. Any kind of mulling spice goes nicely in applesauce.

Simmer for 5-10 minutes, and eat hot or cold! It smelled so good, that Sebastian, Fabian and I decided to have a hot applesauce degustation. The boys were very engrossed in some stupid video game they were playing, but I did get a positive review from Fabian without having to fish for it (as opposed to certain boyfriends, who just keep shooting imaginary foes instead of joining the real world).


Tasty variant: add raisins to the applesauce after you cook it (raisins get bitter when boiled in the sauce). Though this sauce tastes great on its own, it also goes very well with yogurt, pork chops, latkes and ice-cream.

That’s it for now! Happy daylight savings day! Enjoy the extra hour.


– Viola –

Dear World,

As of yesterday, I’ve been very good. I made the bed, vacuumed, did dishes, walked to the supermarket and produce store (40 minutes one way), did not give in to sweets (not even double-stuffed oreos) walked back loaded with my healthy groceries, and went to the Y to swim laps. Then, it was time to make lasagna.

Making lasagna is easy. It doesn’t require any particular skill or special equipment. People hype it up and make it sound so impressive, but really, it’s not hard. However, there are many steps to making a lasagna, some of which you can do a day or two in advance, although it does taste so good when everything is nice and fresh. If you want to anticipate, you can make the met sauce the day before.

For the meat sauce, you’ll need:

  • 1 pound ground meat (I used beef, but chicken and turkey are as delicious – for veggie lasagna, substitute with spinach)
  • 1 can petite diced tomatoes
  • 1 can (15 oz) tomato sauce
  • basil (dried is ok, fresh is excellent)
  • 4 garlic cloves
  • chopped onion (about 1 cup)
  • paprika
  • cayenne (powdered)
  • salt & pepper

Grease a large skillet with 2 tbsp olive oil, and saute the onion for 30 seconds. Brown the beef, then transfer to a medium saucepan, along with the diced tomatoes and tomato sauce. Mash in the garlic, and add some salt, pepper, basil, paprika and cayenne to taste. Simmer for 5-10 minutes, and cover pot with lid. If you are preparing this in advance, refrigerate, and heat up when you’re ready to use it.






Another thing you can do a couple hours in advance is boiling the lasagna. Yesterday was my first time using oven-ready/no-boil pasta, and it turned out great! I’d recommend it. And I’ll let you on a secret: supermarket brand whole wheat pasta tends to be 100% whole wheat, as opposed to “whole grain” brand name pasta!

Next, the bechamel sauce. I insist that this part is not hard, but it requires your UNDIVIDED ATTENTION. Turn your back on it just for a hot second, and you’ll create a white volcano. Also, I would not recommend doing this in advance, because it tastes SO MUCH BETTER when it’s fresh!

For the Bechamel Sauce, you’ll need:

  • 5 tbsp butter
  • 4 tbsp all-purpose white flour
  • 4 cups milk (whole milk is usually better for cooking)
  • 2 bay leaves
  • two pinches of white pepper (if you don’t have any, it’s worth the investment)
  • salt (to taste)
  • 2 cloves of garlic

In a medium saucepan, melt the butter on medium heat. (by the way, if you’re baking the lasagna in the oven, this is a good time to preheat your oven to 375˚F). Add the flour, and cook until golden brown (4-7 minutes), whisking at least every 10 seconds. While you’re doing this, heat the milk in another pot until it’s not (NOT boiling). When the roux (that’s the butter-flour base) is golden brown, start adding the milk one cup at the time, whisking continuously (this will be your workout for the night). The sauce is ready when it’s thickened enough that an inserted spoon comes out completely coated.

And now, for the fun part: assembly time! I lightly greased my crock pot with vegetable oil. If you’re baking yours in the oven, line the bottom & sides of a baking dish (big enough for lasagna pasta to fit) with aluminum foil, and preheat your oven to 375˚ F. Layer of pasta, layer of meat sauce, layer of bechamel, layer of pasta, layer of meat…you get where this is going. I usually work it out so that the top layer is covered with pasta and lightly with bechamel. If you care for parmesan, you can dust the top layer with that as well (fresh grated is even better).

For baking in the oven: cover the pan tightly with aluminum foil and cook for 1 hour. For crock potting: cook for 3-4 hours, or until a fork goes straight through the pasta.



It’s really that easy! 

Dinner last night was a SUCCESS! In my excitement, I forgot to take pictures, I’m sorry to say. But man, it’s so good to be cooking again!

The zucchini soup was the easy part. 3 zucchinis, thinly sliced (washed, not peeled), and some minced onion (about 1/3 of a yellow onion). Cover with some of that broth you have handy in your fridge (refer to this post –> https://violainthekitchen.wordpress.com/2010/10/18/apologies-and-a-broth-that-can-bring-you-back-from-the-dead/), boil until the zucchini gets mushy (about 5-10 minutes). If you don’t have broth, use salted water (though broth is SO MUCH tastier!). Transfer to blender and puree (just 5-10 seconds), and then transfer back to pot and simmer for 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. I meant to add some curry powder, but forgot.

Next, the chicken. Also easy! Rubbed three boneless breasts with olive oil, pepper and salt, baked at 400˚F, 10 minutes on each side. Portabella mushrooms were brushed and sliced, and tossed into a pan with some olive oil. after browning them on medium-high heat for a couple minutes, put heat on low, and pour some balsamic vinegar (about 1/4 cup) over the mushrooms. I let them cook on low heat for 5-7 minutes, and arranged them on top of the chicken breasts when those were done.

And finally, la pièce de résistance: pumpkin gnocchi with butter sage sauce. Just typing that makes my mouth water. I used the flesh leftover from last weekend’s jack-o-lantern carving (2 sugar pumpkins’ worth of flesh), which I’d baked for an hour at 400˚F. I mixed in some flour (a cup or two) until it turned into a soft dough. I boiled some water in a large pot [Rule of Italian cuisine: always use biggest pot in the house for cooking pasta] and melted some butter with a few fresh sage leaves in a small saucepan. When the water came to a rolling boil, dropped in little bite-sized balls of dough. As soon as they floated to the surface, I removed them with a slotted spoon (had to scoop as I went), drizzled them with the butter sage sauce, and served them immediately to Sebastian and Fabian, who didn’t complain! The one fault was that I’d forgotten to sprinkle a little kosher salt on the gnocchi before serving, so they were a little bland.

Recap: fun cooking, good dinner, happy roommates. Now, I really must clean the house, because I may be entertaining guests for both lunch and dinner!

Laters, world! Love,

– Viola –

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