Holiday Desserts: Cranberry Orange Trifle with Candied Walnuts

Here is a festive trifle that will carry you through the holidays – it’s a great do ahead party dessert with show-stopping results. Buttermilk poundcake is blanketed with layers of cranberry compote, orange infused mascarpone cream, and candied walnuts. Each bite is light and airy with the pop of sweet-tart cranberries and the crunch of cinnamon dusted nuts, so be sure to get a little bit of everything in each spoonful. The best part is this dessert can be assembled a day in advance, which leaves you plenty of time to take care of that turkey.

Cranberry Orange Trifle with Candied Walnuts

While there are several components to this trifle, each one may be prepared in advance, and each one is stand alone good, so feel free to use them on their own. Serve in a trifle bowl or individual goblets. Makes 8 to 10 servings.

For the buttermilk pound cake:
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
1/2 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
3 large eggs, room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 cup buttermilk

Preheat oven to 325 F. (170 C.) Butter a 9-by-5 inch loaf pan. Line the bottom with parchment and butter the parchment. Whisk the flour, baking soda, and salt in a bowl and set aside.
Beat the sugar and butter in the bowl of an electric mixer until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating after each addition. Stir in the vanilla. Add half of the flour, then the buttermilk, then the remaining flour, mixing well to combine after each addition. Pour into the loaf pan. Bake in the oven until a wooden skewer inserted in the center comes clean, about 55 minutes. Transfer to a rack and cool 10 minutes. Invert the cake onto a rack and cool completely. The pound cake may be prepared up to 2 days in advance. Wrap with plastic and refrigerate until use.

For the cranberry compote:
12 ounces cranberries, fresh or frozen
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup freshly squeezed orange juice
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Combine all of the ingredients in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the cranberries pop and release their juices. Remove from heat and cool completely. Refrigerate, covered, for up to 4 days.

For the candied walnuts:
1 1/2 cups walnut halves
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Arrange the walnuts on a baking tray and bake 10 minutes. Heat the sugar over medium heat in a small saucepan. As soon as it begins to dissolve, stir with a wooden spoon until the sugar is liquid and amber colored. Add the walnuts and stir to coat. Add the salt and cinnamon. Remove from the heat and pour the walnuts onto a baking tray lined with parchment or a silpac sheet. Cool completely then break into coarse pieces. Store at room temperature in an air-tight container for up to 1 week.

For the orange mascarpone cream:
2 cups heavy cream, chilled
8 ounces mascarpone cheese, chilled
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 tablespoon finely grated orange zest
1 tablespoon Gran Marnier or Cointreau
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Combine the cream and mascarpone in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a wire attachment. Beat until traces of the whisk are visible. Add the remaining ingredients and continue to beat until soft peaks form. Refrigerate until use. (May be made 4 hours in advance.)

Assemble the trifle:
Reserve a few whole cranberries from the compote for garnish. Pour a thin layer of cranberry compote into the bottom of the trifle dish or individual serving glasses. Cut the pound cake into 3/4-inch cubes. Arrange a layer of pound cake over the compote. Top with a layer of cream. Sprinkle a few of the nuts over the cream. Repeat the layering process, finishing with a layer of cream and nuts. Garnish with reserved cranberries and finely grated orange zest. Serve immediately or refrigerate, covered, up to 24 hours before serving.

Optional: Brush each layer of pound cake with Cointreau or Gran Marnier for an adult version of this dessert.

Root Vegetable Mash

mashMashed Sweet Potato, Celery Root and Rutabaga

Root vegetables are winter’s best kept secret. Packed with nutrients, natural sugars and starch, the lowly root is a healthy and flavorful substitute for the ubiquitous potato, and a superb way to get your vitamins and nutrients in the cold weather season. A good peel of skin reveals a rainbow of colors ranging from magenta to ochre to creamy white, sure to brighten any dreary winter day – and your holiday table. Feel free to mix and match roots, such as sweet potato, parsnip, rutabaga, carrot, celery root, and of course the dependable russet, to your taste and preference.

Root Vegetable Mash

Choose a balance of sweet and savory roots for even flavor (I used 1 pound each of sweet potato, celery root and rutabaga) and mash to your desired consistency. I like to leave my roots a little chunky for a more rustic presentation.

3 pounds mixed roots
Salt
3 garlic cloves, minced
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/2 cup sour cream
1/2 cup whole milk Greek yogurt
Freshly ground black pepper

Peel the root vegetables and cut into 1-inch chunks. Place in a large pot and cover with cold water. Add 2 teaspoons salt. Bring to a boil over high heat, then reduce heat to medium and cook until vegetables are tender and easily pierced with a fork. Drain and return to the pot. Let cool 5 minutes. Add the garlic, butter, sour cream, and yogurt. Mash with a potato masher or in a food mill to desired consistency. Add salt and pepper to taste. Spoon into a serving bowl and serve warm.

Prepare ahead: The mash may be prepared up to 1 day in advance of serving. Cool completely and transfer to a buttered, deep gratin dish. Cover and refrigerate for up to 24 hours. Remove from refrigerator 1 hour before serving. Preheat oven to 325°F. Dot the top of the mash with 1 tablespoon butter and cover with foil. Bake in oven until heated through, 35 to 45 minutes.

Holiday Sides: Root Vegetable Gratin

root vegetable gratin tastefood

~ Root Vegetable Gratin with Sweet Potato, Red Potato and Rutabaga ~

My cheese and potato loving family loves a good gratin. I use a simple method of layering thinly sliced potatoes with a rich garlic infused sour cream and shredded Gruyere cheese. Simple and, yes, decadent. I switched up my go-to recipe recently when I wanted something more flavorful and nutrient-rich than white spuds. Thinly sliced rutabaga (also known as Swede) and sweet potato were included in the mix, and I switched out the white potatoes for red, which tend to hold their shape more while cooking. The result was a colorfully striated gratin, flecked with sage and thyme, adding their earthy fragrance to the sweet and nutty root vegetables. This is a wonderful side dish, and makes a rustic and festive addition to any holiday table.

Root Vegetable Gratin

Feel free to mix up the root vegetables to your taste. In all there should be about 3 pounds of vegetables.

Serves 8

16 ounces full fat sour cream
1 large garlic clove, minced
2 teaspoons minced fresh sage leaves
2 teaspoons fresh thyme leaves
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
4 medium-large red potatoes, about 1 1/2 pounds
1 large sweet potato, peeled, about 3/4 pound
1 medium rutabaga, peeled, about 3/4 pound
6 ounces Gruyère cheese, finely grated
1/3 cup heavy cream, or to taste

Preheat oven to 375 F (190 C). Butter an 8 by 10-inch gratin dish.
Whisk the sour cream, garlic, sage, thyme, salt, pepper and nutmeg in a bowl and mix well.
Thinly slice the potatoes and rutabaga, preferably with a mandoline. Arrange half of the red potatoes, overlapping, in the bottom of the gratin dish (there will be about 2 layers). Spread 1/4 of the sour cream over the potatoes and sprinkle with 1/4 of the Gruyere. Cover with the sweet potatoes, overlapping in about 2 layers. Spread with 1/4 of the sour cream and 1/4 of the gruyere. Repeat with the rutabaga, more sour cream and gruyere. Finish with the remaining red potatoes, sour cream and gruyere. Drizzle some of the cream around the edges and in the corners of the gratin without overfilling.
Bake in oven until vegetables are tender and the top of the gratin is brown and bubbling, about 1 hour and 15 minutes. (Loosely cover gratin with buttered foil if browning too fast.) Serve hot.

Roasted Butternut Squash (or Pumpkin) Soup

Butternut Squash Soup tastefoodButternut Squash, Apples, Cider, Spice 

There is something magical about roasted butternut squash. Its orange flesh softens into a sweet and nutty squidginess, which is easily transformed into a puree. It’s hard to believe something so rich and sugary can be loaded with nutrients and betacarotene, but so it is. One cup of butternut squash provides a glutton’s worth of Vitamins A, B, and C, as well as potassium, fiber and manganese. When roasted, its natural sugars are coaxed out and gently caramelized, accentuating the squash’s inherent nutty flavor – simply delicious with a pinch of salt. In this recipe, roasted butternut mingles with its fall buddies – apples, cider and loads of warm spices – yielding an essential autumn soup.

Spicy Butternut Squash (or Pumpkin) Soup

Serve as a starter to any meal, including Thanksgiving dinner. If you are entertaining a crowd, consider small servings in little cups or demi-tasse as a light hors d’oeuvre. Pumpkin may be substituted for the squash. I prefer small hokkaido pumpkins.

Serves 4 to 6 in bowls or 8 to 12 in small cups.

1 medium butternut squash (or 1 large hokkaido pumpkin) about 2 pounds
Extra-virgin olive oil
1 large onion, finely chopped
1 large Granny Smith apple, peeled, cored, cut in 1/2-inch dice
2 teaspoons curry powder
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1/4 teaspoon cayenne, or to taste
3 cups chicken stock
1 cup apple cider
1 tablespoon light brown sugar
1 to 2 teaspoons salt, to taste
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Chopped fresh cilantro leaves for garnish

Heat the oven to 375°F. Cut the squash in half lengthwise and scoop out the seeds. Lightly brush the exposed flesh with olive oil. Place squash, cut-side-down, on a rimmed baking sheet. Bake until the flesh is fork tender, 50 to 60 minutes. Remove from oven and cool slightly. When cool enough to handle, scoop out the flesh and set aside.

Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add the onions and cook until softened without coloring, 3 to 4 minutes, stirring frequently. Add the apple, curry powder, cumin, coriander and cayenne.  Cook until fragrant, about 1 minute, stirring constantly. Add the squash and chicken stock. (There should be just enough stock to cover the squash and apples. If needed, add additional stock to cover). Bring to a boil, then reduce heat, cover and simmer until the apples are very soft, about 20 minutes.

Carefully puree the soup in batches in a food processor (or with an immersion blender). Return to the pot. The soup should be thick. Thin it to your desired consistency with the apple cider. Stir in the brown sugar, salt and pepper. Warm thoroughly over medium-low heat and taste for seasoning. Serve warm, garnished with fresh cilantro leaves.

Holiday Sides: Kale, Quinoa, Pomegranate Salad

kale quinoa salad tastefood

~ Kale, Red Cabbage, Quinoa, Carrots, Pomegranate, Raisins, Almonds ~

Just because there’s a chill in the air doesn’t mean we should skip fresh salads. In fact, at this time of year it’s more important than ever that we boost our immune system with healthy greens and grains – and not just for keeping the doctor away. Hardy cold weather salads are a welcome addition to any holiday table. Deeply flavorful and unabashedly colorful, wintery salads are hefty enough to absorb copious handfuls of nuts, fruit and grains while providing a beautiful addition to a special meal. Even the non-meaters will gobble them up, while the vegetarians will be very pleased with this substantial option.

This is one of my favorite cold weather salads. Brimming with curly kale, red cabbage, and quinoa, it could be a meal in a bowl. The addition of dried raisins, toasted almonds and glistening pomegranate seeds adds all the extra bling necessary to invite this salad to your Thanksgiving dinner. The key to this recipe is to massage the kale. Yes, that’s right. By gently rubbing the leaves in oil, lemon and salt before assembling, the leaves will be coaxed into a softer and milder version of themselves, making for a delicious raw salad.

Kale, Quinoa and Pomegranate Salad

Unlike most salads, this may be entirely prepared up to 1 hour in advance, which is ideal for entertaining. Serves 6 to 8.

Kale:
1 large bunch curly green kale, ribs removed, torn in bite-size pieces
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon salt

Dressing:
1 small garlic clove, minced
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil

Salad:
1 1/2 cups shredded red cabbage (or radicchio)
1 to 2 carrots, thinly sliced
1 small shallot, very thinly sliced
1/3 cup cooked quinoa (I used red)
1/4 cup raisins
1/4 cup sliced almonds
1/4 cup pomegranate seeds

For the kale: Place the kale in a large serving bowl. Drizzle with the olive oil, lemon juice and salt. Using your hands, gently rub the leaves to coat for about 1 minute. Let stand at room temperature for 30 minutes (or refrigerate for up to 2 hours).

For the dressing: Whisk the garlic, vinegar, mustard, salt and pepper in a small bowl. Add the oil in a steady stream, whisking constantly to emulsify.

Assemble the salad: Add the cabbage, carrots, shallot and quinoa to the kale. Add half of the dressing and toss to combine. Scatter the raisins, almonds and pomegranate seeds over. Gently toss with more dressing to taste. Serve immediately or refrigerate for up to 1 hour.

Pomegranate Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Red Grapes and Farro

brussels sprouts grapes tastefood

~ Brussels Sprouts, Grapes, Farro, Walnuts, Pomegranate, Balsamic ~

I know that if I told some you I would be posting 2 brussels sprouts recipes in a row, you might have unsubscribed to this blog. Hopefully you gave the last recipe a chance and were sufficiently pleased by the winning combination of bacon and pasta with the humble sprout. Maybe even a few of you were converted. If not, I have another recipe for you that might win you over. This one includes roasted grapes, farro and a shellacking of pomegranate balsamic vinegar. The sugars in the vinegar caramelize the sprouts, removing the assertive flavor that many find unpleasant, while binding the remaining ingredients in this rich and rustic side dish.

Pomegranate Roasted Brussels Sprouts and Grapes with Farro

If you can’t find pomegranate balsamic vinegar, make your own by whisking together 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar and 2 tablespoons pomegranate molasses. Serves 4 to 6 as a side dish.

1 pound brussels sprouts, halved (or quartered if large)
1 pound seedless red grapes
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon salt, plus more to taste
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup pomegranate balsamic vinegar
1 cup cooked farro
1/4 cup toasted walnuts (optional)

Preheat the oven to 425°F. Toss the brussels sprouts, grapes, oil, salt, and pepper in a large bowl. Spread on a rimmed baking sheet and roast 15 minutes. Remove from the oven and drizzle the pomegranate balsamic vinegar over, stirring to coat. Return to the oven and roast until the sprouts are tender and the grapes have begun to shrivel, about 15 minutes. Transfer to a serving bowl. Add the farro and walnuts and toss to combine. Add more salt and pepper to taste. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Cranberry Streusel Coffee Cake

cranberry cake view TasteFood

~ Cranberry Streusel Coffee Cake ~

For the past few days I’ve been reaching around a big container of cranberry sauce sitting in my refrigerator – a left over from our Thanksgiving dinner. I’ve pointedly ignored it until yesterday, when I realized I needed to take action, either by freezing it or repurposing it. I am done with turkey for the moment, so the thought of freezing sauce for another round of dolloping over a roasted bird was not terribly enticing. Baking, however, was something I could get excited about. It’s been raining cats and dogs lately, and the holiday season is before us, so something warm, spiced and sweet, wafting fragrant aromas from the oven into the kitchen would be perfect.

Cranberry Cake TasteFood

Cranberry Streusel Coffee Cake

Use a whole cranberry sauce (not gelee) for this recipe – preferably homemade. A recipe for a quick and easy sauce is included at the bottom of this post. Serves 12.

Streusel:
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup light brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, chilled, cubed

Cake:
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup butter, softened
2 large eggs
2 teaspoons orange zest
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup whole-milk Greek yogurt
1 1/2 cups whole cranberry sauce

For the streusel:
Combine all of the ingredients except the butter in the bowl of a food processor. Pulse to blend. Add butter. Pulse until the mixture resembles coarse meal. Set aside while you prepare the cake.

For the cake:
Heat oven to 350 F. Butter an 8-inch square baking dish. Beat sugar and butter in the bowl of an electric mixer until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Add eggs one at time, beating well after each addition. Stir in the zest, vanilla and cinnamon. Whisk the flour, baking powder and salt in a medium bowl. Add to the butter and sugar in 3 batches, alternating with the yogurt and finishing with the flour. Spread half of the batter in the prepared pan. Spoon the cranberry sauce evenly over the batter. Spread the remaining batter over the cranberry sauce (it will be sticky). Sprinkle the streusel evenly over the cake. Bake in oven until knife inserted in center of the cake comes out clean, about 1 hour. Cool on rack. Serve warm or at room temperature. The flavors will develop as the cake cools.

For the cranberry sauce:
Place 12 ounces fresh or frozen cranberries, 3/4 cup granulated sugar, 1 teaspoon orange zest and a pinch of salt in a heavy medium saucepan. Cook, stirring, over medium heat until sugar dissolves. Continue to cook, stirring occasionally, until the cranberries burst and the sauce thickens, about 15 minutes. Remove from heat and cool completely.