Thanksgiving prep and Hubby’s 50th birthday!

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Today Hubby turned 50.  Most years he doesn’t make a big deal out of his birthday, but this year was different.  He was excited about his birthday, so he took the day off work and went hunting.  It snowed 6 inches overnight, and that added to his birthday excitement.  Although he didn’t bring home any game, he had a wonderful morning walking around in the mountains and was happy, if not incredibly tired from getting up at 4:45 am.  I took the day off work, too, in part so I could prep for Thanksgiving and in part because I just didn’t feel like going into work…but mainly so I could spend the day at home cooking and hanging out with The Stinker.

Hubby doesn’t really like cake, he prefers apple pie for his birthday.  So an apple pie I made him today.  That’s the tradition now.  And his favorite is breakfast the next morning: apple pie and black coffee.  I vary the pie a little each year, mixing up the types of apples and how I finish the crust.  This year I brushed the crust with an egg wash and sprinkled raw sugar on top.  I have made prettier apple pies, but this one didn’t turn out too bad.  Hubby approved of it (both in looks and taste), so I guess that’s all that really matters.

While Hubby was hunting today I prepped several things for tomorrow’s big Thanksgiving dinner.  This year it is just Hubby, The Stinker and me.  The Three Amigos, as we call ourselves sometimes.  Last year we hosted an “orphan’s Thanksgiving” where several of my friends and co-workers (there were 11 of us total) came over and we ate a ton of food, then played Cards Against Humanity.  It was one of the best Thanksgivings I’ve ever had.  I have never laughed that hard in my life, I don’t think.  So this year will be much more chill.   Don’t have to clean the house, set out all those plates, find enough chairs for everyone to sit…essentially, this year’s Thanksgiving is at our own pace.  We do what we want, when we want.  I’m looking forward to it.

To continue with the cranberry theme I started earlier this week, I made a delicious dried cherry cranberry sauce today that I can’t wait to dig into tomorrow.  I’m glad the recipe made a lot–I’m going to be enjoying it for days.  I also made, for a mid-afternoon birthday snack (with the intent that there would be leftovers for tomorrow’s snacking), an apple cranberry chutney-cream cheese roulade served with blue cheese shortbread crackers.   I’m just gonna say, “Wow.  This is good.”  And leave it at that.

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Ok, I lied.  I will also say this:  although this looks involved, if not overwhelmingly complicated, it’s not.  Really.  Yes, there are several steps, but it really didn’t take up too much time.  And it’s not complicated at all.  If you can use a rolling pin, you are good.  You can buy pre-made chutney, but this homemade version is incredible.  And it would be great served with turkey, chicken, or pork.  So go for it!

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Cranberry Apple Chutney (adapted slightly from Taste of Home)

1 1/4 cups sugar

1/2 cup water

12 ounces fresh or frozen cranberries

2 large Granny Smith (or other tart) apples, peeled and finely chopped

1 medium onion, finely chopped

1/2 cup golden raisins

1/2 cup brown sugar

1/4 cup apple cider vinegar

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon ground allspice

1/4 teaspoon ground cloves

1/2 cup chopped walnuts, toasted

Combine all ingredients in a large pot and bring to boil over medium heat.  Reduce heat and simmer, uncovered, for about 25 minutes, or until chutney thickens.  Stir occasionally to prevent burning.  Cool and store in refrigerator.  Serve at room temperature or warm.

Blue Cheese Shortbread Crackers (from Bon Appetit November 2002)

1/2 cup crumbled blue cheese

3 tablespoons butter, at room temperature

1/2 cup flour

1/4 cup cornstarch

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper

1/3 cup walnuts

Put all ingredients in a food processor and pulse until the mixture turns into a coarse meal.  Gather the dough and form it into a ball.  Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for about 20 minutes.  (If you need to leave the dough in the refrigerator longer, that’s fine, just let it sit on the counter for about 20-30 minutes before you roll it out.)

Roll dough between 2 sheets of plastic wrap to about 1/4 inch thickness.  You can roll to 1/8 inch thickness to get more crackers (like I did) but they will be a bit fragile.  Remove top sheet of plastic wrap and use a cookie cutter to cut out cracker shapes.  Or just use a knife and cut them into whatever shape you want.  Gently transfer the crackers to a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.  Gather dough scraps and re-roll to cut out additional crackers.  Bake at 325 degrees F for about 20 minutes, or until golden brown.  Transfer to a wire rack and cool completely.

Roulade (adapted slightly from Bon Appetit November 2002)

1   8 ounce block of cream cheese

2/3 cup cranberry apple chutney, plus more for garnish

1/2 cup thinly sliced green onions (green parts only)

Place cream cheese between 2 sheets of plastic wrap and use a rolling pin to roll it into an 8 x 8 inch rectangle.  Remove top sheet of plastic wrap.  Spread 2/3 cup chutney on top of cream cheese.  Use plastic wrap as a guide to gently roll the cream cheese into a log, like a jelly roll.  If your sides are uneven, trim with a knife so the roulade shows (spread the trimmings on a piece of French bread and enjoy).  Press green onions into the side of the log.  Wrap roulade in plastic wrap and refrigerate until set, about an hour or so.  You can leave it in the fridge for a couple of days.

When ready to serve, place the roulade on a platter.  Top with a little extra chutney and surround with shortbread crackers.

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