Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Pumpkin Pie

The pumpkin pie.... either makes or breaks your meal... it cant be over or under done.. the spices have to be *just* right... if something it off, it throws the meal off.  So how do you cook the "perfect" pumpkin pie to make sure that your meal is just right? Timing and careful measuring.  While I cant tell you that your family will like a pie with more ginger or more nutmeg than mine... I can tell you that they will definitely appreciate a pumpkin pie that is not over cooked or worse.. served practically raw.  The preference of spices will come with you in time, use this as a guideline to what you and your family like.  I myself am a sucker on not following any recipe to the letter, there's almost always wiggle room to adjust it to mine and my families personal preferences.

Pumpkin Pie

Ingredients:
1 -15 oz can (or two cups puree'd) pumpkin
1 - 12 oz can evaporated milk
2 large eggs
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
1/2 tsp salt
1 - unbaked 9-inch pie shell

Directions:
  1. Preheat oven to 425*f. Line a cookie sheet with tinfoil and place unbaked pie shell on top to avoid any spilling in your oven.
  2. Combine sugar, salt, cinnamon, ginger and nutmeg in small bowl. 
  3. Beat eggs lightly in large bowl. Stir in pumpkin and sugar-spice mixture. Gradually stir in evaporated milk.
  4. Pour into pie shell.
  5. Bake at 425*f for 15 minutes then reduce heat to 350*f for 40-50 minutes or until knife inserted comes out clean. I cover my crust with tinfoil the last 20-30 minutes of baking so that my crust doesn't burn while the pie bakes. 

When you pull out your pie check to see if its "wriggly" if it is... its still raw, if it moves just a little its done.  Sometimes I'll remove a pie before the knife comes mostly clean because the pie will continue to cook for a few minutes after removing from the oven.  
If your pie cracks you either over cooked your pie or it cooled too quickly.  As long as your pie isnt grossly overcooked to where the top or the crust is a deep brown you'll be alright, and can *generally* cover it with some whipped cream and most people will be none the wiser... that is unless your pie decided to split almost in half... then you have two choices... grin and bear it or make another one.  I generally grin and bear it... a perfect tasting pie isn't always the prettiest one at the market... though it never hurts to try. ^.^ good luck

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Orange Cranberry Sauce

When I worked in a deli we had fresh cranberry sauce for only two months out of the year, Thanksgiving and Christmas, any other time that you wanted cranberry sauce you were getting it out of a can.  Not to knock canned cranberry sauce (much) but its never the same as fresh, so those two months out of the year I would buy a lot of cranberry sauce and put it on my sandwiches.. I LOVE turkey and cranberry sauce sandwiches. Unlike some when it comes to a turkey sandwich with cranberry I dont muck up the flavors with mayonnaise or tomatoes; I like my sandwich to have a french bread type crust with cranberry sauce smothered on both sides of the bread, some crunchy lettuce and two slices of havarti cheese that is so incredibly creamy and mild -- thats it.  Why you ask? Because cranberry sauce especially fresh cranberry sauce is on its own level of awesomeness and deserves to have the spotlight.
So.. you want to wow your guests and taste-buds this holiday season with some fresh cranberry sauce and gloat that you even made this yourself? Why come on in... I think I might have just the thing for you...

Orange Cranberry Sauce

Ingredients:
1 pkg. (12 oz) fresh cranberries
1 cup sugar
1 cup orange juice
zest of one orange (optional)
cinnamon stick (optional)

Directions:
  1. Wash berries and pick off any stems or over ripe berries that may be in the batch. 
  2. In a sauce pan bring sugar and orange juice to a simmer over medium heat.
  3. Reduce heat and add cranberries, orange zest and cinnamon stick. Bring mixture back to a simmer and simmer for around 10 minutes, until all the cranberries have "popped" or split open.  The slower you simmer this the less moisture you lose out of the berries. 
  4. Taste, if the sauce is not as sweet as you would like, you may add more sugar now.. though I wouldn't recommend adding more than 1/2 cup more.
  5. Transfer to a bowl and cool to room temperature before covering and placing in your refrigerator until used. Cranberry sauce keeps exceptionally well and will last you around a week... if your guests don't eat it first!

If you use a cinnamon stick, leave it in over night, or even for a few days.. the longer that it stays in the more flavor that the sauce picks up from the cranberry sauce, just remember to remove it before serving.

Also, if you do not want orange in your cranberry sauce substitute the orange juice with water and omit the orange zest.

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Friday, November 19, 2010

Turkey Gravy

The "perfect" turkey gravy is a debatable one.  Some like theirs with big chunks of turkey in their gravy, others like a smooth "lump free" gravy.  Personally I think its whatever type of gravy you grew up with.. I grew up with a gravy full of yummy turkey in the gravy, one that no one could debate that this was a turkey gravy.

Turkey Gravy

Ingredients
Turkey Pan Drippings
Turkey "bits" (pieces from around back bone and neck)
Flour
Water, hot - leftover potato water preferred
Butter (if needed)
pinch of Sage (optional)
Salt and Pepper to taste

Rule of thumb for 2 cups of gravy use - 3 tablespoons fat, 3 tablespoonfuls flour and 2 cups liquid

Directions:

  1. When turkey is done, remove from the roasting pan to rest, pour off excess fat from pan if desired.
  2. Pour drippings and fat into a skillet. Over medium heat slowly add flour to make a roux; when mixture is bubbly its ready. (under cooked flour gives off a "raw" taste)
  3. Deglaze roasting pan with hot water re-heating if needed, stirring and scraping with a wooden spoon to loosen browned bits. If pan and water are not hot enough to release on their own you may place pan over a medium heat until the cooked on goodies release from the pan.
  4. While stirring slowly to prevent lumps pour scrapings into your roux, continue stirring until gravy thickens.  Add turkey pieces; salt and pepper to taste; adding sage if desired.

My mother claims that my father used to add in some stuffing into the gravy for the flavor, but I digress I do not remember this but it might account for the sage I remember tasting and the lack of it when she told me the recipe.

Note: to make this gluten free substitute flour for either corn starch or gluten free flour

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Thursday, November 18, 2010

Dad's White Pepper Potatoes

My Dad used to make the most awesome mashed potatoes ever.  On many occasions (especially holidays) we'd run out before everyone got a share! We now make sure that we have more than enough mashed potatoes for everyone.  They're never the same now that Dad's not here anymore, mainly because only he knew the secret to making them perfect every time, but also because of the love and affection he added to all of his cooking.

Once again, this recipe is pretty vague,  mainly because its a recipe that grows with the person and the family that makes them, some want more white pepper, others want more sour cream or to add garlic, soon it becomes your potato recipe.  My mom taught me the best way to figure out how many potatoes to cook each time you make them is to "count how many people are coming to dinner and "add one for the pot'." this method has generally served me well when making potatoes, whether they are mashed or pan fried; of course if your potatoes are small you should add  two or three to the pot just in case.  My husband on the other hand is one that will eat a ton of potatoes at dinner so I count him as two ^.^

Dad's White Pepper Potatoes

Ingredients
Baking Potatoes (see above for how many to cook)
Salt (plus more to taste)
White Pepper (start with 1/8 tsp adjust as necessary)
Sour Cream (average family of 4 should be around 1/4 cup.. adjust as necessary) - my family uses IMO sour cream substitute instead of real sour cream


Directions:
  1. Under cold running water wash potatoes before peeling. 
  2. Once peeled cut potatoes into roughly 3/4" thick pieces that are about as round as a fifty cent piece, generally I quarter them length wise then cut that into thirds and it does the trick. 
  3. Cutting them into an almost uniform size this allows them to all cook at the same rate making it so that you dont over or under cook your potatoes.(over cooking can result in gummy, pasty or starchy potatoes; under cooking can lead to bland, lumpy, gloppy potatoes) 
  4. To save time and effort I cut my potatoes under cold running water to prevent them from oxidizing in the air and then immediately place them into the pot of salted cold water that I will be cooking them in.  
  5. Boil potatoes until they are tender and can be easily pierced with a knife. Drain immediately, reserving some of the water for the gravy (the starch helps thicken the gravy naturally). 
  6. Mash potatoes using your usual method, generally with a potato ricer (smooth, silky potatoes!), potato masher.. or like my dad did... with the mixer as you add in the additional ingredients. 
  7. Add white pepper (start with 1/8tsp and go from there), sour cream (start with 3 tbsp and adjust as necessary.. general guidelines are above) and salt to taste; you may add milk or butter if desired. 
  8. Whip on medium speed until smooth, adjusting sour cream or butter as desired.


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Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Rosemary and Bacon Stuffing Balls

Picture from Coconut and Lime

Ok, I'll admit it.  I have never made stuffing from scratch before in my life.  I decided since I'm super mommy this year and am cooking everything all by myself for the first time ever.  It was high time I try something new, different and ... rosemary?

I looked all over the internet and found plenty of different stuffing's to try, most including mushrooms.  One of the few things my husband will NOT eat.  Since he's the main eater of stuffing.. I haven't touched the stuff in years since becoming sick off of some that had been placed inside a bird while cooking; just haven't been able to get myself to eat the stuff since.
I deemed this year will be different! First off I'll be putting in a ton of effort to make it, not to mention the fact that these beauties will NOT I repeat will NOT be put into that bird.
There was not one recipe I liked completely... so I decided to mix a few... while searching "rosemary stuffing" I fell upon these beauties from Coconut & Lime, which gave me the idea of turning them into balls... but something was missing... first off it was to uhh.. mushroom-y and secondly it was too onion-y... so I found a bacon stuffing recipe which was loaded in cheese. No go on my front, I cant handle most melted cheese contraptions.  But I loved the bacon idea... so with those and a few more "traditional" recipes I came up with this... which is basically a mixture of all of them...

Rosemary and Bacon Stuffing Balls



Ingredients
4 Slices Bacon, chopped
1 tbs Butter or Margarine
3 Boiler Onions, chopped (you could use 1/3 onion instead, but I find these more mild)
2 celery stalks, diced
1/2 tsp dry sage
1/2 tsp rosemary
2 eggs
1/2 cup chicken stock
2 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp white pepper
12 cups cubed dry bread


Directions:
Fry bacon until crisp, set aside.
In a large pan, saute onions and celery in butter and olive oil until the onions become translucent but not brown.  Do not brown the onions.
In a large bowl combine the seasonings and the bread cubes. Mix in the cooked vegetables, bacon and eggs, slowly add in the chicken stock to the bread until moist throughout.
Make medium sized balls, balls should be about the size of one serving. Refrigerate until ready to use.
Place balls in the bottom of the roasting pan, on and under the rack around the turkey for the last 1/2 hour of roasting and cook until cooked through.

Makes 8-10 servings



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Mom's Candied Yams with Marshmallows

What can I say? I am a sucker for candied yams with sweet potatoes.  Its the number one side dish I have to have for both Christmas and Thanksgiving.  It brings back pleasant memories of my childhood.  Last year I made it on my own for the first time and asked my mom for her recipe, I love this lady to death but she has yet to give me a recipe with actual amounts for the ingredients aside from "one can of xx" and "some xx".  So here is a very vague recipe for candied yams with marshmallows.

Mom's Candied Yams with Marshmallows

Ingredients
1 can Cut Sweet Potatoes: Cut Yams in Light Syrup
1/2 cup Brown Sugar
Maple Syrup (til its easy to mash)
Mini Marshmallows to cover

Directions
  1. Pre-heat oven to 400*.  Drain can of yams and put them into a baking dish, add brown sugar. 
  2. Mash the yams adding the maple syrup until the mixture is easy to mash and has a desired consistency. I highly suggest tasting the mixture to make sure you don't "over sweeten it" you may add some of the liquid that came with the yams if you prefer to have a less sweet experience.
  3. Layer with mini marshmallows. 
  4. Cover and bake in pre-heated oven for 25 minutes and marshmallows have melted.


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Fall Fruit Salad with Carmelized Walnuts


Well fall is upon us and the more "summery" fruits are no longer in season so to appreciate the fruits of this season and the fall harvest. Why not make a fall salad?  I looked online and I couldn't find one good salad that I liked... some had cheeses in it or yogurts which to me don't speak of the crisp fall air so I decided to make my own recipe!

Fall Fruit Salad


Ingredients
1 large, Granny Smith Apple, peeled, cored, and cut into 1/2 inch cubes
1 large, ripe, Asian Pear, peeled, cored, and cut into 1/2 inch cubes (if Asian Pears are not available locally try Bosc Pears, which will not have the same flavor/texture combo, but will still lend well to the salad)
1 Cup Seedless Grapes, cut in half
1/4 Cup Walnuts, Caramelized (optional, recipe follows)
1/4 Cup Dried Cranberries
1/8 Cup Dried Apricots, cut into 1/8” strips
1 tsp Lemon Juice
zest of 1/2 lemon
2 Tbsp White Grape Juice

Directions:
  1. Core and slice the apples and pears, sprinkling them with lemon juice so they do not discolor. 
  2. Add the grapes and lemon zest, and sprinkle with the grape juice
  3. Place the walnuts on a cookie sheet and toast in a preheated oven at 350 degrees for 3 to 5 minutes. Remove, let cool, and roughly chop. (To caramelize walnuts use the recipe following this one)
  4. In a large bowl, toss together all the ingredients. Serve plain or on a bed of romaine lettuce or mixed greens.

Variations would include: red onions, celery, mandarin oranges... all of which are seasonal and would be delicious additions.

Caramelized Walnuts


Ingredients
1/4 cup walnuts
1 Tbsp sugar
1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp walnut oil or extra-virgin olive oil

Directions:
  1. Put oven rack in middle position and preheat oven to 350°F.
  2. Toast nuts in a small shallow baking pan until fragrant and a few shades darker, about 5 minutes.
  3. While nuts toast, in a small bowl, stir together sugar, salt and walnut/olive oil. Toss in toasted nuts.
  4. In a small skillet over moderate heat, add walnuts and sugar mixture and cook, stirring regularly, until sugar caramelizes (melts like caramel) and coats nuts, about 5 minutes.
  5. Transfer nuts to a piece of parchment paper and cool. Break walnuts apart.


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Monday, November 15, 2010

Brown Sugar Glazed Baby Carrots


Tonight I was lost on what kind of vegetable to make for dinner as I was going through my fridge I found some baby carrots. I buy these carrots, that are essentially big carrots whittled down to fit children's hands, so that my kids can have a quick easy after school snack with just the addition of peanut butter (try it, you'd be surprised how good it tastes) or a salad dressing of choice.  I had about half a bag of them left so I dumped them into a little sauce pan, added some water, dumped in some brown sugar and a few grinds of sea salt and black pepper and let it set while I got the rest of the things ready for dinner.  Once everything was about to be ready within the next 30 min I turned them on.  When dinner was ready so were they and the kids LOVED them, wish I had more of them to cook!

Brown Sugar Glazed Baby Carrots

Ingredients
1 bag Baby Carrots (16oz size)
1-2 Tbsp Butter
1 cup water
1/3 -1/2 cup brown sugar (or more to taste)
ground salt & pepper to taste (I prefer sea salt and to freshly grind my pepper for a more full flavor)

Directions
  1. Put all ingredients into a sauce pan, stir to combine.
  2. Cook on high heat until boiling then reduce to medium heat and continue cooking uncovered for 20-25 minutes or until carrots become tender.
I had left over liquids that could be easily used to sauce up some of your other foods... such as a ham.. mmm ham..

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