Maple Country Ribs

The night before Thanksgiving, I wanted to make something that was a little different from the turkey that we’d be eating the next day.  I’d seen this autumn-inspired dish in the St. Paul Farmer’s Market Cookbook, and while I prefer to eat ribs at home because they are messy, with my family seemed to be the perfect group.  I could have started these a little earlier, because they weren’t quite fall-off-the-bone done, but the flavoring did taste great.

Maple Country Ribs

Maple Country Ribs

3 lbs country style pork ribs
1 c maple syrup
1/2 c applesauce
1/4 c ketchup
2 Tbsp lemon juice
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp black pepper
1/4 tsp paprika
1/4 tsp garlic powder
1/4 tsp cinnamon

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.  Put ribs in pot and cover with water.  Bring to a boil, then turn down heat to simmer for 10 minutes.  Drain ribs and place in greased 13×9 inch pan.  In a bowl, mix remaining ingredients and pour over the ribs.  Cook, uncovered for 1 1/2 hours, basting occasionally with remaining half of marinade.


Cereal Bars

This super easy bar recipe requires no dishes, no mixing, very little measuring, and was easy to throw together while I was making some other items in the kitchen one evening.  I found the recipe in the American Association of University Women Cedar Rapids cookbook from 1978 and have zero complaints about it.  It is similar to a seven layer bar or other recipes, but nice and easy and a great way to use up a number of items you might have remaining after any holiday baking.

Cereal Bars

Cereal Bars

1/2 c butter
1 pkg yellow cake mix
2 c miniature marshmallows
3 c Cheerios
1 pkg chocolate or butterscotch chips
1 can sweetened condensed milk

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  In oven, melt butter in a cookie sheet with sides (11×15 inches) and spread over bottom.  Sprinkle cake mix (dry) over butter, sprinkle marshmallows, chips, and cereal over cake mix.  Pour milk evenly over the top and bake 25 minutes.  Slice while warm.

Brown Sugar Chicken

In November, one of my neighbors had surgery and I wanted to bring him and his wife some dinner that they could easily heat up.  This recipe for brown sugar chicken had been sitting in my pile of recipes to make and was easy enough to throw in the crockpot at lunch on the day of the surgery to bring over the next day.  I snagged a sandwich out of the shredded chicken as well and was pleased with how it turned out — not too sweet, but a nice subtle sweetness with a good hint of pepper.

Brown Sugar Chicken

Brown Sugar Chicken

3 lbs boneless, skinless chicken pieces
3/4 c brown sugar
3/4 c sugar
1 c vinegar
1/2 c lemon-lime soda
3 Tbsp minced garlic
3 Tbsp soy sauce
2 tsp black pepper

Place the chicken in a crockpot.  Combine remaining ingredients and pour over the top of the chicken.  Cover and cook on low for 6-8 hours.  Shred chicken, then serve with brown sugar and green veggies.

Gingered Applesauce Cake Glazed with Caramel

After having made the maple country ribs that used applesauce in the sauce, I had a partial jar of applesauce in the fridge, and some cream leftover from the cobblers I made over Thanksgiving.  This recipe from My Kitchen Year used up those ingredients and didn’t require a trip to the grocery store.  Since winter took its sweet time to arrive in Iowa this fall (no complaints here), I thought I should take my sweet time continuing to make some sweets this fall.  Some of this went with to my friend’s house to encourage her writing process.

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Gingered Applesauce Cake Glazed with Caramel

1 1/2 c unsweetened applesauce
2 eggs
1 c sugar
1/2 c brown sugar
1 knob fresh ginger
2/3 c neutral vegetable oil
1 tsp vanilla
2 c flour
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground cloves


1 c heavy cream
1 Tbsp corn syrup
1/ c brown sugar
1 tsp vanilla

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Butter and flour a 12-cup Bundt pan.

Break the eggs into a large bowl.  Whisk in sugar and brown sugar.  Add 1/2 Tbsp (or more) of freshly grated ginger and the applesauce.  Whisk in the oil and vanilla and mix until smooth.

Put the flour into a small bowl.  Whisk baking soda, salt, and a few grinds of pepper, cinnamon, and ground cloves into the flour and gently stir into the applesauce mixture.

Pour the batter into the prepared Bundt pan and bake for about 45 minutes, until the cake bounces back when you press your finger into it.

Cool the cake for 15 minutes on a rack before turning it out and allowing it to cool.  This cake is delicious by itself — but even better with this sweet, sticky glaze.

To make the glaze: Put the cream in a small heavy-bottomed pot.  Whisk in the brown sugar, the corn syrup, and a pinch of salt and bring to a boil.  Turn the heat down to medium and continue to boil for about 15 minutes, whisking every few minutes.

When the glaze has come together into a smooth, thick caramel, remove from heat and stir in the vanilla.  Put the cake, still on the rack, over a sheet of waxed paper.  Carefully pour the glaze over the cake.

Wild Rice with Roasted Winter Squash

One of my friends has been working away on her dissertation big book report.  One weekend in December I was hoping we could get together, but she needed to focus on her writing.  I totally get it.  It’s an important part of the process and sometimes being in-process means saying no to everyone else.  But, I also wanted to help bring her some food to keep the writing momentum going.  In Mark Bittman’s How to Cook Everything, which my nephews gave me for Christmas a couple years ago, I had flagged this recipe for wild rice with roasted winter squash.  After I made the wild rice, I wanted a little more flavor, so I added Penzey’s Fox Point seasoning to the dish.

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Wild Rice with Roasted Winter Squash

2 Tbsp butter
1 c wild rice
3 c chicken, beef, or vegetable stock
1 bay leaf
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Chopped fresh parsley
1 c butternut squash, chopped

Roast the butternut squash with butter or olive oil.  Put the butter or oil in a deep skillet or saucepan with a lid over medium heat.  When the butter is melted or the oil is hot, add the wild rice and cook, stirring frequently, until fragrant and glossy, just a couple minutes.  Stir in the stock, bay leaf, and some salt and pepper and bring to a boil.

Cover, turn the heat to low, and cook, undisturbed for 30 minutes.  Check the progress: The rice is done with the grains have puffed up and are quite tender, regardless of whether the liquid has been absorbed.  If the rice is not done, continue to cook, adding more fluid if necessary.  If it is done, drain if necessary (this is unlikely).  Taste and adjust the seasoning and fluff with a fork.  Stir the roasted squash into the rice.

Sweet Spiced Turkey Breast, Roasted on Onions and Raisins

My final Thanksgiving recipe is the most important — the turkey.  This year I decided to do a turkey breast instead of a full turkey.  It’s only the four of us and I decided to do the ultimate faux pas — no potatoes.  Not mashed potatoes. Not sweet potatoes.  No potatoes.  Instead, I had the turkey, dressing, cranberries, pie, buns from my dad, and salad.  This recipe, from Celebrating the Midwestern Table, was really good.  The only issue is that I didn’t debone the turkey, so it took a while longer to cook — and the onions and raisins burned onto the bottom of the pan.  When I took it out of the oven, the smoke detector went off!  Oops!  Oh well.  The turkey tasted good, it just didn’t have caramelized onions and raisins like I thought might be the case.

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Sweet-Spiced Turkey Breast, Roasted on Onions and Raisins

Spice Paste and Turkey
3 large cloves garlic, minced, about 1 1/2 Tbsp
2 large green onions, minced, about 1/2 c
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp allspice
1 tsp coarsely cracked pepper
1 1/4 tsp salt
1 Tbsp oil
1 large, boned, skinned turkey breast, about 2 1/4 lbs, flattened slightly between sheets of plastic wrap

Onion and raisins
1 large Spanish onion, thinly sliced, about 3 c
1/2 c golden raisins
2 Tbsp cider vinegar

Salt to taste
1 Tbsp minced fresh parsley

Put a rack in the center of the oven; preheat the oven to 500 degrees.  Set aside a sheet of heavy-duty foil, large enough to enclose the turkey breast, and a shallow roasting pan.

For the spice paste and turkey, combine the garlic, green onions, spices, and oil in a small dish.  Wash the turkey breast and dry it with paper towels.  Rub the paste evenly onto the entire surface of the turkey.  The turkey can be roasted immediately or refrigerated overnight, covered airtight.

For the onions and raisins, place them in the center of the foil.  Sprinkle the vinegar over them.  Place the turkey breast on top of the onions and raisins.  Tent the turkey in an airtight foil package, leaving a small amount of space between the foil and the breast.  Place the turkey foil-pack in the reserved pan.

Roast until an instant reading thermometer inserted halfway through the thickest portion registers 160 degrees, about 30-35 minutes.  Don’t open the foil to test the temperature; just insert the thermometer right through the foil.

Carefully open the foil to release the steam.  Let the turkey rest 10 to 20 minutes, loosely covered, before cutting it into thin diagonal slices.  Arrange the slices on a warm platter.  Spoon the juices, onions, and raisins over the top.  Sprinkle lightly with salt and minced parsley.  Serve it hot, at room temperature, or chilled.

Cranberry Sauce

I’m always looking for some ways to spice up my cranberry sauce and this recipe from the Sundays at Moosewood cookbook looked to meet some of those expectations.  Cardamom, while being a spice that the Norwegian in me should love, is a taste that I’m continuing to acquire.  But, it seemed to be a background note and cut the tartness of the cranberries, so I appreciated it in here.  While I probably won’t make this every week, the recipe turned out pretty good.  Plus, with only natural sugars from maple syrup, the recipe was pretty real-food friendly and could meet almost any food needs that someone had for a holiday gathering.

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Cranberry Sauce

12 oz fresh cranberries
1/2 to 2/3 c maple syrup
grated rind and juice of one orange (about 1/2 c)
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp ground cardamom
dash of cinnamon

Wash and drain the cranberries.  Remove any soft or discolored cranberries and any leaves or stems.  Combine all the ingredients in a medium saucepan and cook on medium heat for 10 to 15 minutes, stirring, until the cranberries have popped and the sauce is thick.  Serve hot or cold.