Friday, November 26, 2010

Thanksgiving Feast

This was the first Thanksgiving where I've actually made the entire meal from scratch without the instruction of my mother or mother-in-law and it turned out wonderfully.  Our family friends, the Shafer's, hosted the holiday for us at their home and Ashley and I teamed up to try lots of new recipes.  So for future reference next year or even to repeat a few for Christmas dinner here they are.  Unfortunately, I didn't take any pictures, but I've included the links to the source of the recipes so you can see them in all their photographic glory there. Mmmm, looking forward to eating all of our leftovers for dinner tonight!

I found some great Thanksgiving crafts at  We ended up making these cute pilgrim ships as name place cards.  They were actually kind of difficult, even for us adults, but they turned out really cute.

The Turkey

I started seeing this recipe quit a few times in the food blogging world.  Originally aired on an Alton brown Food Network show, I took the recipe from Annie's Eats.  It was perfect.  The turkey was the moistest I think I've had and there was the subtlest hint of apple and onion in each bite.  So good, we'll probably just use this method and recipe from here on out.  Unless, of course, Jon opts to fry a turkey again like we did last year.  That turned out yummy as well.  So here are both versions.

Roast Turkey
1 (14-16 lb.) fresh turkey*  (we used a frozen one and it wasn't overly salty at all)
For the brine:
1 cup kosher salt
½ cup light brown sugar
1 gallon vegetable stock
1 tbsp. black peppercorns
1½ tsp. allspice berries (we omitted and used a teaspoon ground allspice instead)
1½ tsp. choppe candied ginger (also omitted)
1 gallon heavily iced water

For the aromatics:
1 red apple, sliced
½ onion, sliced
1 cinnamon stick 9we just used ground cinnamon this time)
1 cup water
4 sprigs rosemary
6 leaves sage
Canola oil

To prepare the brine, combine the salt, brown sugar, vegetable stock, peppercorns, allspice and ginger in a large stockpot over medium-high heat.  Bring to a boil, stirring occasionally to dissolve the solids.  Remove from the heat, cool to room temperature, and then refrigerate until ready to use.

The night before you plan to serve the turkey, combine the brine and ice water in a 5 gallon bucket (or larger for a bigger bird).  Place the thawed turkey (innards removed) breast side down in the brine.  If necessary, weigh down the bird so it is fully immersed.  Cover and refrigerate or set in a cool area for 8-16 hours, turning once halfway through brining.

Preheat the oven to 500˚ F.  Remove the bird from the brine and rinse inside and out with cold water.  Discard the brine.  (Be sure to clean out your sink well after this step!)

Place the bird on the wire rack inside a roasting pan.  Pat dry with paper towels.

Combine the apple, onion, cinnamon stick and  1 cup water in a microwave safe bowl.  Microwave on high for 5 minutes.  Add the steeped aromatics to the cavity of the turkey along with the rosemary and sage.  Tuck the wings underneath the bird and brush the skin liberally with canola oil.

Roast the turkey on the lowest rack of the oven at 500˚ F for 30 minutes.  Insert a probe thermometer into the thickest part of the breast and lower the oven temperature to 350˚ F.  Set the thermometer alarm, if available, for 161˚ F.  (A 14-16 lb. bird will take about 2-2½ hours.)  Let the turkey rest, loosely covered with foil for 15 minutes before carving and serving.

*You can certainly make a larger turkey with this recipe.  It will obviously take longer to cook through, and an instant-read thermometer is absolutely essential for knowing when the bird is properly cooked.  You also could use a frozen turkey, but I wouldn’t recommend it.  For one thing, many frozen turkeys are injected with a salt-laden preservative that will cause your bird to be overly salted after brining.  And plus, it’s Thanksgiving!  Go for the best quality ingredients available – fresh tastes better.  If using frozen, thaw in the refrigerator 2-3 days before roasting.

Fried Turkey

How to deep fry a turkey instructions here.

Deep Fried Turkey Marinade


  • 1 (16 ounce) bottle Italian dressing
  • 1/2 cup cayenne pepper
  • 1/2 cup black pepper
  • 1 cup Creole seasoning (Tony Chachere's is popular)
  • 2 tablespoons garlic powder


  1. In a medium bowl, mix 3/4 Italian dressing, cayenne pepper, black pepper, Creole seasoning, and garlic powder. Rub and inject over turkey, using remaining Italian dressing to fill cavity. Allow turkey to marinate 8 hours, or overnight, before deep-frying as desired.

Cornbread Stuffing

I think this was my favorite dish this year. So. Good.  I will absolutely be making this version every year!

Cornbread Stuffing
Pioneer Woman
  • 1 whole Pan Of Cornbread (we used the Jiffy box mix)
  • 1 loaf French Bread, Somewhat Crusty
  • 1 stick Butter
  • 1 whole Medium Onion, Diced
  • 2 cups Celery, Chopped
  • 4 cups Low Sodium Chicken Broth
  • ½ teaspoons Dried Basil
  • ½ teaspoons Thyme
  • 2 teaspoons (to 3 Teaspoons) Fresh Rosemary, Chopped
  • ¼ cups Fresh Parsley, Chopped
  • Salt To Taste  (didn't think it needed any salt!)

Preparation Instructions

Chop the cornbread and loaf of French bread up into 1-inch cubes. Spread them out on two baking sheets and let them dry for approximately 24 hours.
Warm up a large skillet over medium heat and add one stick of butter. When it’s melted add the onion and celery and cook for a few minutes until onions are almost translucent. While it’s cooking chop up any fresh herbs you will be using.
Add 4 cups of chicken broth and bring to a boil. Add ½ a teaspoon of basil, ½ teaspoon of ground thyme, a few teaspoons of fresh chopped rosemary and ¼ cup of chopped fresh parsley. Stir until combined.
Place all of your dried bread cubes into a large bowl and mix them up a bit. Gradually ladle the broth mixture into the bread, tossing lightly as you go. Keep gradually adding the broth mixture, tasting as you go and adding more seasoning and herbs if needed. Add salt carefully. You don’t want to over salt your stuffing. If the mixture is not quite moist enough add a bit more chicken broth and stir.
Either stuff the bird and bake according to directions or place in a baking dish and bake at 350 degrees for 20 to 25 minutes or until golden brown on top.

Creamy Mashed Potatoes

Mmmm.  Is it really necessary to add the added fat of cream cheese to mashed potatoes? No.  You can make perfectly yummy ones without it, but for the holidays- why not I say, why not?

Creamy Mashed Potatoes
Pioneer Woman
  • 5 pounds Russet Or Yukon Gold Potatoes
  • ¾ cups Butter
  • 1 package (8 Oz.) Cream Cheese, Softened
  • ½ cups (to 3/4 Cups) Half-and-Half
  • ½ teaspoons (to 1 Teaspoon) Lawry's Seasoned Salt
  • ½ teaspoons (to 1 Teaspoon) Black Pepper

Preparation Instructions

Peel and cut the potatoes into pieces that are generally the same size. Bring a large pot of water to a simmer and add the potatoes. Bring to a boil and cook for 30 to 35 minutes. When they’re cooked through, the fork should easily slide into the potatoes with no resistance, and the potatoes should almost, but not totally, fall apart.
Drain the potatoes in a large colander. When the potatoes have finished draining, place them back into the dry pot and put the pot on the stove. Mash the potatoes over low heat, allowing all the steam to escape, before adding in all the other ingredients.
Turn off the stove and add 1 ½ sticks of butter, an 8-ounce package of cream cheese and about ½ cup of half-and-half. Mash, mash, mash! Next, add about ½ teaspoon of Lawry’s Seasoning Salt and ½ a teaspoon of black pepper.
Stir well and place in a medium-sized baking dish. Throw a few pats of butter over the top of the potatoes and place them in a 350-degree oven and heat until butter is melted and potatoes are warmed through.
Note: When making this dish a day or two in advance, take it out of the fridge about 2 to 3 hours before serving time. Bake in a 350-degree oven for about 20 to 30 minutes or until warmed through.

Orange-Cranberry Sauce

Delicious and so much better than the canned kind though I like that too.)  I personally thought the orange zest was too strong, making it slightly bitter, so next time I would only zest half the orange. Otherwise, perfect.

Orange-Cranberry Sauce

3/4 cup water
1 small orange, zested and juiced
2/3 cup sugar (plus more to taste)
12-16 oz cranberries
1/2 – 1 tsp fresh ginger, peeled and grated (we used 1/2tsp ground ginger spice)
Add water, OJ, and sugar to a saucepan over medium heat, stirring until sugar is dissolved. Add remaining ingredients and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer uncovered for 15 minutes. Let cool completely before serving.  Mash with a potato masher to desired consistency. Store leftovers in the fridge.
Yields: 10 servings

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Tuna Wiggle

For a family dinner, how can you go wrong with a fun name like Tuna Wiggle?  This is one of my mother-in-law, Sheri and sister-in-law, Lauren's recipes and it falls perfectly into my non motivated in the kitchen because I'm pregnant and would rather just order take-out for the next two months but can't afford to phase in life.  Did you get all that?  I have a really tasty, but requires more effort and ingredients, Tuna Casserole, but tonight this easy number hit the spot.

Tuna Wiggle
12 oz. egg noodles (I use whole-wheat)
2-3 c. shredded colby-jack or cheddar cheese
2 cans tuna, drained
seasoned salt
3 tb. butter
1 c. milk

Cook egg noodles according to package directions, drain. In greased 8 x 11 casserole, layer half the noodles, half the cheese and one can tuna. Sprinkle with seasoned salt. Repeat layers of noodles, cheese, tuna and salt. Cut butter into pieces and lay on top of casserole, pour milk evenly over all. Bake at 350 for 25 minutes, or microwave on high for 3-4 minutes, turn, and microwave for 3-4 minutes more 

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Chicken and Rice Soup

Well, I think we're officially living in the rainy season now, which means only one thing . . . Soup!  I love, love, love soups.  They make me happy.  They make me feel a little bit like a kid, a little bit like a wise grandma.  I don't have a ton of soups in my arsenal yet, mainly because I've had a go to favorite since childhood, but lately I've had a notion for some simple chicken and rice soup.  This recipe originally came from the Pioneer Woman's blog, but I saw it on Annie's Eats as well.  It was yummy and exactly what I was looking for.  I omitted the green pepper and added diced carrots instead (personal preferences.)  And, that's one of the nice things about this recipe, you can really make it your own, omit the rice altogether, add noodles and ta da a great chicken noodle soup!

Chicken and Rice Soup
1 cup white rice
2 chicken breasts ( I like to use bone in breasts for soups; more flavorful and moist meat)
2 quarts water (equals 8 cups)
8-10 chicken bouillon cubes
6 tbsp. butter, divided
4 tbsp. flour
¼ – ½ cup onion, diced
¼ cup green pepper, finely diced
¼ cup celery, finely diced
1 jar pimentos, drained (about ¼ cup)

Cook white rice according to package directions, omitting any salt, until the water is just absorbed.  Set aside.

Place chicken breasts in a large stockpot and cover with 2 quarts water.  Add in bouillon cubes.  Bring to a boil, then cook over medium heat until the chicken is cooked through, about 20-25 minutes.  Remove the chicken from the pot and allow to cool a bit.  Roughly chop chicken and set aside.

Melt 4 tablespoons butter in a skillet.  Stir in flour to make a roux.  Continue cooking for a minute or so, until heated.  Add the roux to the broth and stir until well combined.  Rinse out the skillet, and then melt the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter.  Add the onion, green pepper, celery and pimentos to the skillet.  Cook until slightly tender.  Add in the chopped chicken pieces and stir until well combined.  Stir in cooked rice to taste. Pour all back into the stockpot of broth.
Source: adapted from The Pioneer Woman