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Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Cider-Brined Roast Turkey and Gravy

The star of Thanksgiving dinner is the turkey.  There are many ways to make a turkey, you can bake it, fry it, grill it, smoke it, etc. but my favorite way to make it is to brine it overnight the night before you bake it.  Brining the turkey in a salty solution infuses the turkey with extra moisture, creating an extra juicy turkey.  While I don't take credit for the apple cider brine, I have no idea where the original recipe came from and its been adapted several times over the past few years to the current version. 

Even if you brine the turkey, the most important thing is not to overcook it.  If you overcook it, no matter what you did the turkey will be dry.  My advice - don't rely on that little pop-up button that comes in the turkey.  They are often wrong or just don't work at all.  Make sure you get a meat thermometer, you can find one at pretty much any store with a kitchen department.  While you can spend a lot of money, you definitely don't have to.  Personally, I prefer the kind that has a probe that you can leave in the turkey that connects to a display outside of your oven.  

The gravy recipe below is for "sweet gravy" a recipe that my grandma always made.  You can make the gravy without the sugar, but I really suggest trying it to see if you like it if you've never had sweet gravy before. 

Cider-brined Roast Turkey

1 quart apple cider
1 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup kosher salt
1 T allspice
2 cups apple cider vinegar
1 bay leaf
1 onion
4 cloves garlic
1 T peppercorns
8 whole cloves
At least 3 quarts water

Heat the apple cider, brown sugar, salt, and allspice in a large stockpot over medium high heat. Stir frequently until boiling to dissolve sugar. Set aside to cool. Quarter onion and smash and peel garlic cloves. In a container large enough to submerge the turkey, add the cider mixture, apple cider vinegar, onion, and garlic along with bay leaf, peppercorns, and cloves. Add two cups ice. Carefully add thawed turkey (make sure to remove the neck and giblets first if necessary). Pour in water until the turkey is submerged. Refrigerate turkey for approximately 12 hours.

1 14-18 pound turkey
1/4 cup butter, softened
2 T sage, chopped
2 T thyme, chopped
1 apple, quartered
1 lemon, quartered
1 onion, quartered
1 tsp salt
1 tsp fresh ground pepper
1/2 cup dry white wine
4 cups chicken or turkey stock

When ready to cook the turkey, preheat oven to 375 degrees, rinse turkey and pat dry with paper towels.  Place turkey on a roasting rack in a heavy roasting pan.  Pour wine in a shallow bowl and soak a square of cheesecloth big enough to cover the turkey breast in wine.  Mix butter with herbs and rub liberally over turkey, including inside cavity and under skin of breast.  Sprinkle turkey with salt and pepper.  Lay cheesecloth over turkey breast.  Add apple, lemon and onion slices to the cavity of the turkey, put anything that doesn't fit in the bottom of the pan.  Pour any remaining wine over the turkey, add about 2 cups of stock to the bottom of the pan. 

Bake turkey at 375 degrees for about 30 minutes, then reduce heat to 300 degrees and continue baking for about 15 minutes per pound.  Baste the turkey every 30 minutes.  Remove the cheesecloth for the last 45 minutes of baking time.  Cook turkey until the temperature in the breast reaches 160 degrees on both sides.  Remove turkey from the oven, transfer to a platter, tent with foil and let rest for about 30 minutes.  Save the turkey drippings in the pan for gravy.  Temperature should continue to rise until it hits 165 degrees.  Remove the aromatics from the turkey cavity and discard.  Carve turkey as desired.  If during the cooking process, the wing tips or legs start to get too dark, cover them loosely with foil and continue cooking.

Turkey drippings
1/3 cup water
2 T cornstarch
2-3 T sugar
Chicken or turkey stock if necessary

Carefully pour turkey drippings from roasting pan into a large measuring cup, mason jar, or gravy separator or similar container.  Put container in the refrigerator.  The fat from the drippings will rise to the top and then can be carefully spooned or poured off and discarded.  Meanwhile, mix together cornstarch and water to form a slurry in a separate cup.  Heat a large deep skillet over medium heat.  Add remaining drippings.  Whisking constantly, add cornstarch slurry to thicken.  Continue whisking until the mixture thickens to desired consistency.  If its too thick or you don't have enough gravy, you can add additional stock, if it's too thin, add more cornstarch slurry.  Do not add the cornstarch directly to the gravy or it will be difficult to get rid of lumps, mix it with water first.  When it's the right consistency, add 2-3 tablespoons of sugar, to taste.  Transfer to a gravy boat or serving bowl and serve hot.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Thanksgiving 2010 Menu

This year's Thanksgiving dinner was a great mix of old and new recipes.  Thanksgiving is one meal you don't want to experiment with too much.  People expect the classic holiday dishes, but that doesn't mean you have to make them the same way they were made twenty years ago either.  Putting a few new spins and ideas on the table can keep things from getting boring.

I'll be posting several of these recipes over the next couple weeks -- bookmark them for next year or keep them in mind for your Christmas dinner.  I'll also be posting some great recipes using some of the leftovers too.

Thanksgiving Menu

Cider-Brined Roast Turkey and Gravy
Apple Cranberry Stuffing
Wild Rice and Butternut Squash Dressing
Mashed Potatoes
Cinnamon Streusel Sweet Potato Casserole
Roasted Vegetables
Spinach and Apple Salad with Cranberry Lime Vinaigrette
Macaroni and Cheese
Parker House Rolls

Deep Dish Apple Pie
Pumpkin Pie
Pumpkin Roll
Caramelized Banana Pudding

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Apple Cinnamon Monkey Bread

I've posted a monkey bread recipe before and its my favorite "special" day breakfast treat.  But when I saw this recipe on the blog What's Cooking Chicago, I knew I had to try it.  She adapted the recipe from Paula Deen's Gorilla Bread Recipe - which I've actually tried before but wasn't really impressed with.  The cubes of cream cheese in the middle of the rolls didn't really work for me.  But this version with the cinnamon apple mixture in the middle of the rolls sounded great.  It only takes a few extra minutes during the assembly process (which you can do the night before if you want) and adds an unexpected twist to the classic monkey bread recipe.

This would be great for a big breakfast while so many people have family over during the holidays.  Add an egg casserole or strata for something savory and some fresh fruit and hot coffee and you have a great, easy breakfast that you can do all the prep work the night before and just bake in the morning. 

Apple Cinnamon Monkey Bread
Recipe adapted from Whats Cookin' Chicago, originally adapted from Paula Deen

1/4 cup sugar
2 tsp cinnamon
3 cans refrigerated biscuits (I use the Pillsbury Buttermilk biscuits that come in a 4 pack)
2 large apples, diced (I used Gala)
1/2 cup unsalted butter, plus more for buttering pan

1 cup packed light brown sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup chopped pecans

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Heavily butter a bundt pan.  Sprinkle chopped pecans evenly around the bottom of the pan.

Combine the cinnamon and sugar in a small bowl and set aside.  Open biscuits and flatten each individual biscuit into discs about 1/4" thick.  Dredge both sides in cinnamon and sugar mixture.  Continue until all biscuits are coated.

Combine apples with remaining cinnamon and sugar mixture.  Spoon about one teaspoon of apple mixture into the center of each biscuit and fold up biscuit into a pouch and seal.  Drop stuffed biscuits into the pan, trying to keep the layers even all the way around.  Don't worry about packing them in too tightly, they'll fill in the gaps as it bakes.

In a small saucepan, melt butter and brown sugar over medium high heat.  Heat just until the edges of the sauce start to rapidly bubble and boil.  Remove from heat, stir in vanilla and pour mixture over the top of the rolls. 

Bake about 30-35 minutes until top is golden brown.  Cool about five minutes in the pan, cover with a large plate and invert.  Uncover and serve warm.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Cinnamon Chip Oatmeal Raisin Cookies

Have you ever heard of cinnamon chips?  I had heard of them but had yet to ever see them in a grocery store until a few days ago.  My local Kroger had a big baking display for the holidays and they had all kinds of chips on sale, including cinnamon chips.  I wasn't sure what I was going to make with them but I figured I should pick up a bag and figure that out later.  By the time I got home, I had decided they would be perfect in oatmeal raisin cookies.  Evidently I wasn't the only one who thought it would be a good idea... Hershey's had a similar recipe on the back of the package.  I used my favorite oatmeal cookie recipe from Quaker and just adjusted a bit.

Unfortunately I also found out that my dog also enjoys these cookies.  We left the house on Sunday and I forgot that I had left the plate of cookies on the counter instead of putting them in a storage container and when we got home there were only a few cookies left on the plate.  Luckily she hadn't knocked the plate off the counter and broke it into a million pieces and at least she didn't get sick from all the cookies.  But I am going to have to make these again because we didn't get very many before the dog finished them off.  Make sure you store yours somewhere a little more secure.

Cinnamon Chip Oatmeal Raisin Cookies
Recipe adapted from Quaker Oats

1 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
1/2 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 T dark corn syrup
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp salt
2 1/2 cups old fashioned oats
2/3 cup golden raisins
2/3 cup cinnamon chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line cookie sheets with parchment paper. Combine butter and sugar in a mixing bowl and beat until creamy. Add in eggs, vanilla and corn syrup and beat well. Add flour, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt and mix until well incorporated. Add oats and mix in by hand until evenly mixed. Finally stir in raisins and cinnamon chips.  (A sturdy wooden spoon works well for this as the batter will be quite stiff.)

Use a cookie scoop or similar measure to drop onto prepared cookie sheets and bake for approximately 8 to 10 minutes until golden brown.  Cool on the pan about one minute and then transfer to wire racks to cool completely.  Recipe yields about four dozen cookies, depending on size.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Spicy Roasted Sweet Potatoes

Here's another alternative to that traditional sweet potato pie I was talking about yesterday, but this recipe has a savory spin on it.  These are as simple as it gets, all you have to do is peel and chop the sweet potatoes.  Then it's as easy as tossing them on a baking sheet with a little olive oil and some spices.  Roasting them at a high temperature, results in a crispy outside and soft inside.  These would be great as a healthier alternative to fries as a side for burgers.  Make them as a side dish for Thanksgiving, they would be great with a spice-rubbed turkey like this turkey breast.  A turkey breast is a great idea for a smaller Thanksgiving meal. 

Spicy Roasted Sweet Potatoes

2 medium sweet potatoes, peeled and cubed
1 T olive oil
1 tsp Ancho chili powder
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
1/2 tsp salt

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Chop sweet potatoes into approximately 1/2 inch cubes.  Toss sweet potatoes with olive oil.  Combine spices in a small bowl and sprinkle liberally over potatoes.  Toss well and bake about 20-25 minutes.  Use a spatula to turn the potatoes about halfway through the cooking time.  The potatoes should be crispy on the outside and easily pierced with a fork.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Sweet Potato Bake -- A Healthier Way

Maybe you are used to the marshmallow covered sweet potato "pie" served so often served at Thanksgiving, maybe you like your sweet potatoes baked and topped with sweet cinnamon butter.  These sweet potatoes are usually whipped with cream or butter and then topped with sugar or marshmallows and baked.  The result, a dish that could pass for dessert disguised as a side dish. 

This dish is still sweet, but due to the sweet potatoes natural sweetness and apple cider, rather than a lot of extra sugar.  I love them combined with apples and cranberries.  I also prefer them in chunks rather than whipped.  These are really easy and can be made for ten people just as easily as for one person.  You can bake up each person's serving in individual ramekins or bake it all in one big dish, whichever is easier.  The below recipe serves two.  I like to use an apple like Gala or Honeycrisp for this dish.

Come back tomorrow for a savory sweet potato dish!

Sweet Potato Bake

2 medium sweet potatoes, peeled and cubed
1 large apple, peeled, cored, and cubed
1/4 cup dried cranberries
1/2 cup apple cider
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Chop sweet potatoes and apples into approximately 1/2" cubes.  Divide potatoes and apples evenly among to two ramekins, divide cranberries among baking dishes.  Add half of the cider to each ramekin.  Combine spices in a small dish and sprinkle over potato mixture.  Toss to combine. 

Bake approximately one hour, stirring every twenty minutes until cider has cooked down to a glaze and potatoes are easily pierced with a fork. 

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Classic Yellow Birthday Cake

I made some birthday cakes for a one year old's birthday a couple of weeks ago.   The birthday girl's dad has nicknamed her "bug" so they were going with a cute girly bug theme for the party.  Such a cute idea!  The plan was to do a half sheet cake and two smash cakes -- one for the party and one for pictures.

I topped one smash cake with a pink and black ladybug, the other smash cake was covered in whimsical polka dots in two shades of pink. 

For the sheet cake, I did a few more lady bugs across the bottom of the cake, a cute little bumblebee and some white chocolate butterflies, inspired by Hello Cupcake!

For the cake, I did classic yellow cakes with buttercream frosting - a simple crowd-pleaser that's also kid-friendly.  This is my favorite yellow cake recipe from The Complete Magnolia Bakery Cookbook, it comes together so easily, bakes up really well and it is nice and moist.  I do think it works better for cakes than it does for cupcakes.  It doesn't require cake flour or separating egg whites and it's a really reliable recipe.  The cookbook calls for self-rising flour but I substitute all purpose flour with baking powder and salt.

One tip for you - make sure you use a good sturdy cake board for a large cake like a sheet cake.  I had one board under this one and it flexed a little in the middle, causing the buttercream to "crack" on the top of the cake.  Doubling up the cake boards, made it much sturdier, unfortunately the cake was already decorated and there was nothing I could do about it at that point.

Classic Yellow Birthday Cake
Recipe slightly adapted from Magnolia Bakery

1 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 cups sugar
4 eggs, at room temperature
2 3/4 cups all purpose flour
1 3/4 tsp baking powder
3/4 tsp salt
1 cup milk
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Butter and flour three 9 inch round baking pans.  For extra insurance when baking layer cakes, I like to line each baking pan with parchment paper cut to size and butter and flour parchment paper.  (You can also use baking spray like Baker's Joy.)

Cream butter in mixing bowl on medium speed until smooth, gradually add sugar with mixer running, beating about three minutes until light and fluffy.  Add the eggs, one at a time, mixing for about one minute after each addition. 

In a separate bowl, sift together flour, baking powder and salt.  Combine milk and vanilla in a large measuring cup.  Add 1/3 of the flour and mix on low speed until just incorporated, follow with 1/2 of the milk mixture and alternate, ending with flour, mixing each addition until just incorporated.  Scrape down sides of the bowl with a plastic spatula and make sure all the flour is incorporated.

Divide batter evenly between prepared pans and smooth out the tops.  Bake 20-25 minutes until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean and tops are light golden brown.  Cool about ten minutes in the pans and then turn out onto wire racks lined with parchment paper and cool completely.  Level each layer as necessary, fill with frosting or filling and frost as desired.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Kahlua Fudge Brownies

These brownies are very rich and dense, definitely more fudge-like than cake-like.  The addition of a half cup of Kahlua makes them an adult treat but you can replace the Kahlua with coffee if you prefer a non-alcoholic version.  While the majority of the alcohol evaporates during baking, it's hard to determine exactly how much will be left when they are done.  So while these won't make you tipsy, I'm not sure it's a good idea to give them to your kids. 

Like most brownies, these can be mixed up in only a matter of minutes, bake them in a jellyroll pan with at least 1" high sides or another baking dish.  I went with a Bailey's Irish Cream icing because I think the Baileys and Kahlua go so well together, but you could use more Kahlua or just make a simple powdered sugar glaze.  Brownies will keep for a couple of days in an airtight container at room temperature.

Kahlua Fudge Brownies
Recipe adapted from RecipeGirl

1 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 1/2 cups light brown sugar
2 eggs
1/2 cup Kahlua
2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Spray pan with baking spray.

Set a heatproof bowl over a small pan of simmering water to form a double boiler, add chocolate and butter to bowl and heat, stirring frequently until melted and smooth.  Watch the chocolate carefully, you should remove from the heat just before all the chocolate is melted and continue stirring to melt the final chocolate pieces to avoid scorching the chocolate.  Set aside to cool five to ten minutes.

In a large bowl, mix sugar, eggs and Kahlua on medium speed until well combined.  Add chocolate mixture and beat until well mixed.  Add flour, baking powder and salt and mix until just incorporated.  Pour batter into prepared pan and bake 35-45 minutes until top cracks slightly and toothpick inserted in the center comes out mostly clean.  The baking time will depend on how thick your brownies are due to pan selection.

1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
1 T whipping cream
2 T Baileys Irish Cream

Whisk cream and Bailey's into powdered sugar until smooth.  If icing is too thick add a little more liquid, if mixture is too thin, add a little more sugar.  Smooth onto cooled brownies with a spatula and allow icing to set before cutting and serving.  You can chill the brownies in the refrigerator to speed up this process if desired. 

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Chicken Enchilada Soup

It’s cold and gloomy here which is perfect soup weather. Especially when that soup has a little heat of its own from some spicy jalapeno peppers. I'm not really ready for winter weather yet -- I held out as long as I could before having to turn the heat on but with temperatures getting down in the 30s and 40s, this week was the end. The beautiful fall weather is over; it’s cold and dark before 6:00 at night, which means it’s almost winter. Have I mentioned that I really don't like winter? I look forward to the holidays, my birthday, etc but after that, I pretty much look forward to spring. I could do without the snow and gloomy dark days. But anyway, you're here for the soup recipe not to listen to me complain about the weather.

I'm calling this chicken enchilada soup because the flavors remind me of the enchilada soup at Chili's. This one has a few extras in it though with some corn and black beans. I used two kinds of cheese, a grated pepperjack cheese which adds some extra heat and melts beautifully and some crumbled cotija cheese which has a very mild flavor but adds a delicious creaminess to the soup. I poached the chicken in chicken stock with some spices and then shredded the chicken and returned it to the soup later in the cooking process. You can use boneless or bone-in chicken for this just remove the skin before cooking.

You could also make this soup in a crockpot, you'll just have to extend the cooking times - expect that it will take at least 3-4 hours on high and you'll probably want to use a 5 quart crockpot.  You can cook the chicken prior to adding to the crockpot or just put it all in together using chicken breasts cut into smaller chunks.  Add everything except the cheese and cilantro and cook.  Add the cheese and most of the cilantro just before serving to allow it time to melt, serve and top with cilantro.

Chicken Enchilada Soup

3 cups chicken stock
2 skinless, chicken breasts
2 tsp ground cumin
2 tsp ancho chili powder
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
1 28 oz can diced tomatoes
4-6 jalapeno peppers, minced
1 green bell pepper, diced
1 large onion, diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 15 oz can black beans, rinsed and drained
2 cups frozen corn
1/2 cup tomato paste
8 oz cotija cheese, crumbled
8 oz pepperjack cheese, divided
1 cup cilantro, chopped
Tortilla chips

In a large Dutch oven or stockpot, add chicken stock and heat over medium heat. Add chicken breasts, cumin, chili powder, and cayenne pepper. Simmer about 20-25 minutes until chicken is cooked through. Remove chicken and set aside. Add tomatoes, jalapenos, bell pepper, onion, and garlic to the pot. Simmer about 30 minutes, covered until tomatoes have begun to break down. Add black beans, corn, and tomato paste and stir to incorporate. Add cotija cheese and half of the pepperjack cheese and stir to melt. Return chicken to soup and cook about 20 more minutes until desired consistency.

If soup isn't as thick as desired, you can add strips of flour tortillas. They will dissolve into the soup to thicken the broth. Add cilantro, reserving some to top individual bowls if desired. Ladle into serving bowls and top with crushed tortilla chips, reserved pepperjack cheese and cilantro if desired.

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