Saturday, November 27, 2010

Thanksgiving Recipes 2010

Thanksgiving 2010.

This is the first time I have tried to crate a full thanksgiving dinner by myself. I have watched my mother and grandmother for many years and glad to say I think it turned out well. This year’s menu included



Mashed potatoes

Stuffing / dressing

Green bean casserole

Sweet potato casserole

Cranberry sauce

Pumpkin pie

White Chocolate Macadamia Cranberry Tart

Some of these recipes are tried and true while others I tried for the first time.


Starting with the Turkey. I was a bit skeptical about this recipe because it does have a unique blend of flavors. But after following it I will be using it for many years to come. The turkey came out so juicy!

First off a big thank you to a friend for suggesting the following! And who doesn’t love Alton Brown!

Here is a link to the original


1 (14 to 16 pound) frozen young turkey (we decided to go smaller with a 10lb bird)

For the brine:

1 cup kosher salt

1/2 cup light brown sugar

1 gallon vegetable stock

1 tablespoon black peppercorns

1 1/2 teaspoons allspice berries (I was unable to find allspice berries so I opted for ground allspice)

1 1/2 teaspoons chopped candied ginger (I was super excited that this recipe called for candied ginger because a friend had given me some a few months before and I finally had a chance to use it… of course when you actually need something is when you cant find it so I substituted the rest of the ginger preserves I had from the carrot cake cupcakes)

1 gallon heavily iced water (because the bird was frozen we skipped the ice and stored it in the cold garage overnight)

For the aromatics:

1 red apple, sliced

1/2 onion, sliced

1 cinnamon stick

1 cup water

4 sprigs rosemary

6 leaves sage

Canola oil


2 to 3 days before roasting:

Begin thawing the turkey in the refrigerator or in a cooler kept at 38 degrees F. (this of course was not long enough so we ended up giving our bird a cold bath. Not to say I recommend this but desperate times call for desperate measures!)

Combine the vegetable stock, salt, brown sugar, peppercorns, allspice berries, and candied ginger in a large stockpot over medium-high heat. Stir occasionally to dissolve solids and bring to a boil. Then remove the brine from the heat, cool to room temperature, and refrigerate.

Early on the day or the night before you'd like to eat:

Combine the brine, water and ice in the 5-gallon bucket. (Or any suitable storage container) Place the thawed turkey (with innards removed) breast side down in brine. If necessary, weigh down the bird to ensure it is fully immersed, cover, and refrigerate or set in cool area for 8 to 16 hours, turning the bird once half way through brining. We ended up adding about another gallon of water for the bird to be completely covered.

Preheat the oven to 500 degrees F. Remove the bird from brine and rinse inside and out with cold water. Discard the brine.

Place the bird on roasting rack inside a half sheet pan and pat dry with paper towels.

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

Roast the turkey on lowest level of the oven at 500 degrees F for 30 minutes. Insert a probe thermometer into thickest part of the breast and reduce the oven temperature to 350 degrees F. Set the thermometer alarm (if available) to 161 degrees F. I also covered the breast with foil to avoid over browning and cooked to 65 because I was nervous to serve undercooked meat to the new mom. A 14 to 16 pound bird should require a total of 2 to 2 1/2 hours of roasting. Let the turkey rest, loosely covered with foil or a large mixing bowl for 15 minutes before carving.


First off, a link to the original recipe, but I will say that I did change it up a good bit


4 cups sweet potato, cubed

1/2 cup white sugar

2 eggs, beaten

1/2 teaspoon salt

4 tablespoons butter, softened

1/2 cup milk

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract or

3 tbls cinnamon

1/2 cup packed brown sugar

1/3 cup all-purpose flour

3 tablespoons butter, softened

1/2 cup chopped pecans- roasted, buttered, salted


-Preheat oven to 325 degrees F (165 degrees C). Put sweet potatoes in a medium saucepan with water to cover. Cook over medium high heat until tender; drain and mash.

-In a large bowl, mix together the sweet potatoes, sugar, eggs, salt, butter, cinnamon, milk and vanilla. Mix until smooth. Transfer to a 9x13 inch baking dish.

-In a large saucepan over med-high heat. Roast pecans until they become fragrant but be careful not to burn. After pecans are fully roasted add 2 tbls butter and mix until well coated. Salt well and set aside to cool completely.

-In medium bowl, mix the sugar and flour. Cut in the butter until the mixture is coarse. Stir in the pecans. Sprinkle the mixture over the sweet potato mixture.

-Bake in the preheated oven 30 minutes, or until the topping is lightly brown.


This was purely and experiment but I feel it came out pretty well.


2 boxes Stove Top Stuffing mix

2 Boxes Jiffy Corn muffin mix

4 cups chicken broth

½ onion chopped

½ c. chopped celery

½ c. chopped baby carrots

3 tbls your favorite poultry seasoning

-Bring broth to a boil.

-Add veggies and seasoning and simmer for about 5 min

-In a large bowl mix dry ingredients and add in broth

-Mix well and transfer to baking dish

-Bake at 350 for 30min or until top is golden

-Bring chicken broth to a boil.


This recipe is one that I have been making for years. It is the only pumpkin pie I will eat, and use almost any excuse to make it.

Although you can use can pumpkin fresh really does make a difference

Cut pumpkin into pieces bake at 350 for 1 hr or about 1 cup canned pumpkin (plus a little)

1-cup sugar (some brown)

1-cup evaporated milk (Minot)

1/8 tsp ginger

1/4 tsp salt

1/4 tsp allspice

1/2 tsp nutmeg

+ Some pumpkin spice if you want

1 tsp Cinnamon

2 eggs

-Mix all spices with sugar, add to pumpkin, add milk, beat in eggs, and pour in crust (I like to use the refrigerated roll out crust by Pillsbury. You will find it in a box near the cookie dough in the store)

450 for 10 min then 325 for 20-30 min, done when knife comes out clean

And last but not least, this came out very well and was super easy to make




Refrigerated pie crust


Cup sugar




Cup (1/2 stick) butter, melted


Teaspoons vanilla


Cup all-purpose flour


Squares (1 ounce each) white chocolate, chopped


Cup chopped macadamia nuts, lightly toasted*


Cup dried cranberries, coarsely chopped

*Toast chopped macadamia nuts in hot skillet over medium heat about 3 minutes or until fragrant.


-Preheat oven to 350°F. Place pie crust in 9-inch tart pan with removable bottom or pie pan. (Refrigerate or freeze other crust for another use.)

-Combine sugar, eggs, butter and vanilla in large bowl; mix well. Stir in flour until well blended. Add white chocolate, nuts and cranberries.

-Pour filling into unbaked crust. Bake 50 to 55 minutes or until top of tart is crusty and deep golden brown, and knife inserted into center comes out clean.

-Cool completely on wire rack.


A Thanksgiving to Remember

N arrived late Tuesday night. So I picked her up from the airport and we decided to go to Cogans for dinner. With N being a pizza connoisseur I was a bit nervous about taking her to my favorite pizza place. So after an hour wait we ordered the Mediterranean plus mushrooms and pepperoni. It is very rare that I get a pizza there that I don’t like but unfortunate this was one of those nights. So after we finally finished eating I was less than trilled to be driving her all the way to k’s house so she wouldn’t be alone while I was at work on Wed. So I borrowed N’s phone and proceeded to beg for the day off. After returning home and setting my alarm for 6am just in case I would need to go in the next day we headed to bed. Since I still had a cold I work up at 6 am anyway to check my email to find that I do truly have great project managers. They understood how overwhelmed I was and gave me the day off. We went back to sleep and a few hours later decided it was time to tackle my “to do” list of the day.

We headed out to the store and TJ maxx to look for the perfect tart pan. When we returned we finally began to bake. The Chocolate tart came out great (recipe to follow) and I had just peeled and started to boil the sweet potatoes when I got a call from K. Little J was on her way. So N and I packed up our entire kitchen and half-baked items, packed a quick overnight bag and headed to K’s house to watch little M so they could go to the hospital. We got to K’s at about 5:00 and by 9:15 little Jo was here. 7.8lb and healthy. The next morning Nancy and I got up got M ready and headed to the hospital to meet our new niece.

After letting M terrorize the hospital room for a while we headed back to K’s house to begin to cook thanksgiving dinner. N was officially on M duty so I started to plan the craziness. It was true I was actually going to have to cook the entire dinner by myself. I started with the Turkey. After a quick freak-out because of a slightly frozen turkey the night before, N and I successfully got it into the Brine. Now I just had to take it out fill with the aromatics and get it into the oven. So after the turkey was dressed and in I started on the pumpkin pie, started roasting the pecans for the sweet potatoes casserole and cooking down the cranberries. Needless to say about 5 hours later I was exhausted but the meal was finished. I am happy to say that I have successfully finished an entire thanksgiving dinner solo! (With a big thanks to N for watching the baby and cleaning the dishes)

We laid out all the food, took a picture of the gorgeous spread than proceeded to pack it up one Tupperware container at a time. We then packed up M and headed back to the hospital to deliver our thanksgiving feast. K was sore and J was tired but I think they were excited to be eating turkey on thanksgiving. So after a short visit we headed back home, put M to bed and began to feast. M2 even stopped by to hang out for a bit. We watched an episode of pumpkin chunkin, had a few beers and glasses of wine and headed to bed exhausted from a crazy thanksgiving.

(See "Thanksgiving Recipes 2010" post for this year's recipes)

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Cooking day 1

So in a state of freaking out I emailed my project managers last night from Nancy's phone to beg for the day off today. Siting mostly the time it will actually take for me to make this dinner and Nancy being in town. So after a night of little sleep I woke up at 6am coughing and checked my email to show that they support me, and truly are great people to work for, and adding a quick note stating that the typos were due to emailing on a phone (and not in fact from drunk emailing my superiors)

So after getting the ok from work I hoped in the shower then back to bed. Now it is 11am and I have to get Nancy up and going to start our long list of errands and baking duties. First off we are in search of a tart pan for a new White chocolate macadamia and cranberry chocolate tart recipe I want to try. Then back for pie and tart making. I also must get the necessary ingredients for brine for the turkey. This is a technique I have never tried before but I think could really make this bird taste pretty great. Wish us luck on our adventures. Recipes and actually thanksgiving happenings coming soon!

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Countdown to Turkey Day!... T-7 days and counting

During the holidays I can’t help but let my mind wonder a bit. I always have my sketchbook close at hand to sketch any last min ideas for homemade gifts and recipes. It wasn’t until last night when I was talking to k that I realized there is a pretty great chance that I will creating a full thanksgiving dinner solo. I have seen my mom and grandmother meticulously plan in the past. Starting days before and even putting little paper labels in each dish corresponding to what future contents it will house. This year however I’m on duty. N is coming in town and with K about to have this baby at any moment so I have to be ready for anything. If Little J decides that she isn’t ready to come early than, K will be there to assist, but if she does decide she wants to join us for thanksgiving than it will be up to N and I to prepare dinner and be on M duty. We are planning a grocery trip for this weekend to get the essentials. The menu is ever changing but the bones of it are pretty basic

Mashed potatoes
Green bean casserole
Pumpkin pie

Then I am in the works of possibly a stuffed pumpkin of some sort, a variation of a traditional sweet potato dish and another pie. I love a traditional dinner, but where is the fun without a few crazy additions. Any ideas would be appreciated.

I think the hardest part is the waiting game…and I’m not even the one having the baby. The best I can to do is get the best prepared I can, buy a couple bottles of wine and let the rest take care of itself. The entire holiday should be pretty laid back and a kind of makeshift family affair. Friends will come and go and we will enjoy it with those who are here with a few phone calls in between.

Now to figure out how to cook a turkey…
Yesterday was a fight day. I actually got myself to the gym on a weeknight and stayed for almost 2 to only do the same tonight. weight is +1 with -31 by my 27th birthday (next christmas).

Monday, November 15, 2010

Cupcake Happenings

So after the crazy week of CANstruction I decided that I should say thank you to everyone at work who donated over $600 in a little under an hour so we could get the cans we needed to finish the Turkey.

Long story short our Wal-mart order didn’t go through so we found a food lion that was willing to put in a last min order to arrive the day of the build. However as much as I hate wal-mart sometimes their prices were much cheaper so the same order was going to cost aver $600 dollars more. So within one hour L was able to convince everyone to donate at least $10 to make it happen. I took the cash and headed back to Virginia Beach to pick up the remainingcans and set out in search of 349 more cans of Van Camps baked beans (they got the order in but it was not correct). So after 4 Wal-Mart trips and another team member hitting two more we were ready to build.

The build went wonderfully but I felt I needed to do something to thank all the generous people willing to make up for our mistakes... And in my mind that meant 6 dozen cupcakes decorated to look like turkeys.I knew I wanted to use two of my favorite cake recipes. One carrot cake and one double chocolate chocolate mouse.

I had a few ideas for the tails. Mostly leaning towards chocolate, but I forgot to get squeeze bottles while I was at Michaels and all of my improvising techniques didn’t seam t be working. I settled on the idea of cookies and headed back to the store for some pre-made cookie dough. Some may call it cheating but I think the using boxed cake mix every now and then and a few remade ingredients can be just fine. This time however I was determined to make these cupcakes the best I had ever done before.

I started with the Carrot Cake cupcakes with Cream cheese icing and roasted Pecans

Best Carrot Cake Ever (my version)

6 cups grated carrots

1 cup brown sugar

4 eggs

1 1/2 cups white sugar

1 cup vegetable oil

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1 cup crushed pineapple, drained

3 cups all-purpose flour

1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda

1 teaspoon salt

4 teaspoons ground cinnamon

1/8 tsp ginger (or 1/4 c. ginger preservers for a spicier cake)

1/4 tsp allspice

1/2 tsp nutmeg


In a medium bowl, combine grated carrots and brown sugar. Set aside for 60 minutes. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F

-In a large bowl, beat eggs until light. Gradually beat in the white sugar, oil and vanilla. Stir in the pineapple and ginger preserves (optional). Combine the flour, baking soda, salt and spices, stir into the wet mixture until absorbed.

Finally stir in the carrot mixture. Pour evenly into the prepared pans.

Bake for 45 to 50 minutes (for cakes about 15-18 min for cupcakes) in the preheated oven, until cake tests done with a toothpick. Cool for 10 minutes before removing from pan. When completely cooled, frost with cream cheese frosting.

Link to original recipe:

Cream cheese icing

-2 packages cream cheese

-1 stick butter (can use less)

-About 2 c. powdered sugar (I just add until it is the sweetness I am looking for

-2 tsp vanilla extract (I like to use crushed vanilla beans because I like the way the flecks look in the icing)

Mix and ice

Top with chopped roasted pecans. I always seem to burn the pecans but roasting them makes a huge difference. Put them on a cookie sheet in preheated oven for a little over 5 min WATCH CAREFULLY!

Now I know it is a pain but grating fresh carrots is what makes these cupcakes great. It is worth the effort. It also can help to dry the carrots for just a bit before you mix in the brown sugar.

Now that the carrots are marinating I can start the Chocolate cake

This is one of my favorite chocolate cake recipes and I rarely deviate from it. The cake is moist with a rich chocolate flavor. It is also great to stir in a cup of mini chocolate chips right at the end,176,157191-244200,00.html

Deep Dark Chocolate Cake with Mouse

2 c. sugar

1 3/4 c. all purpose flour

3/4 c. Hershey's cocoa

1 1/2 tsp. baking soda

1 1/2 tsp. baking powder

1 tsp. salt

2 eggs

1 c. milk

1/2 c. vegetable oil

2 tsp. vanilla extract

1 c. boiling water

-In large mixer bowl, combine dry ingredients.

-Add eggs, milk, oil, and vanilla. Beat in medium speed 2 minutes.

-Remove from mixer; stir in boiling water (batter will be thin).

-Pour into 3 round 8-inch pans, greased and floured.

-Bake at 350 degrees for 30-35 minutes.

-Cool 10 minutes; remove from pans. Cool completely. Prepare DOUBLE RECIPE of chocolate mousse (below).

…And the best part

CHOCOLATE MOUSSE: (single recipe)

1 tsp. unflavored gelatin

1 tbsp. cold water

2 tbsp. boiling water

1/2 c.sugar

1/4 c. Hershey's cocoa

1 c. chilled whipping cream

1 tsp. vanilla extract

To double recipe, use 1 envelope unflavored gelatin and double remaining ingredients. Use large COLD mixer bowl.

-In small mixer bowl, sprinkle gelatin over cold water; let stand 1 minute to soften. Add boiling water; stir until gelatin is completely dissolved and mixture is clear. Cool slightly.

-In small COLD mixer bowl, stir together sugar and cocoa; add whipping cream and vanilla. Beat at medium speed, scraping bottom of bowl occasionally, until stiff peaks form.

-Pour in gelatin mixture and beat until well blended

So after getting the first batch of chocolate cup cakes in the oven I started on the “Turkey Parts” so to say.

I rolled out the sugar cookie dough to about ¼” thick and used one of my fondant flower cutters to cut it into flower shapes. I cut each of these in half and placed them on the baking sheet. This made the feather shape pretty nicely and even the edges browned a bit to give some color variance.

Next were the turkey heads. I simply molded these out of the dough. Watch the oven closely though these cook very quickly.

Next I was ready to start decorating, I melted some white chocolate with some orange food coloring and used this to attach one chocolate melt to each tail.

The carrot cake cupcakes were topped with the roasted pecans and the chocolate cupcakes were topped with mini chocolate chips. All in all I think they turned out well. So after about 7 hours and three trips to the store I had 6 dozen cupcakes to sere with my fellow employees who helped raise the money for a good cause. Needless to say I ma not be baking again until thanksgiving…witch is only a few weeks away!