Posts Tagged ‘Thanksgiving’

Recently I started ordering local organic foods through Greenling.com  and my first box included a container of cubed butternut squash.  This is a rather hard squash and I appreciated the preparation so that I could dive right in and start playing.

I roasted the squash with an equal amount of organic Gala apples seasoned lightly with salt and pepper.  I steamed a cup of couscous (which is a pasta not a grain just so you know) and shook up an olive oil dressing in a recycled caper jar.  Here is the recipe I wrote down:

  • approx. 4 cups cubed butternut squash
  • 4 small Gala apples, cored and cubed
  • 1 cup couscous, steamed for 20-25 minutes
  • 1/3 cup dried currants
  • 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
  • 5-6 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon white pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon ginger
  • 1/4 teaspoon cardamom

Roast squash and apple with a light coating of olive oil, salt and pepper at 375ºF for 25-30 minutes.  Toss in a large bowl with steamed couscous and dried currants.  In a small jar combine the vinegar, oil, salt and spices.  Cover with the lid and shake to emulsify.  Adjust seasoning if needed (you want the dressing a little strong because the salad will muddle it slightly) and toss into the salad.  Serve warm.

Serves 4 to 6 people as a side.



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I saw this Pumpkin Roll on A Recipe A Day’s blog and saved it to bake when I had some pumpkin available.  Well after baking the inaugural autumn pumpkin pie, I had half a can of spiced pumpkin puree leftover.  What to do?  This was more than I needed to try Nancy’s recipe.

The original recipe calls for plain pumpkin and calls out the spices to add to the batter.  I’ve shortcut this by using pie pumpkin puree and added a little extra pumpkin pie spice.  For the filling, I used a ready made vanilla icing (for some reason I have four containers of this stuff in my pantry!) foregoing the cream cheese and hopefully a few calories from fat (see the note below!).  The result was a delicate rolled cake with a good amount of sweet filling to hold it all together.  If you prefer less sweetness, visit the original recipe post for the cream cheese filling.

Ready To Serve Creamy Vanilla Frosting  (Duncan Hines)Calories: 280   Total Fat: 10g

Per serving:  28 calories and 1 gram of fat

Cream Cheese (Philadelphia)  –  8oz:

Calories: 800   Total Fat: 72g

Confectioners’  Sugar  – 1 cup:

Calories: 389  Total Fat: 0.1g

Butter – 6tbsp:

Calories: 600 Total Fat: 66g


Total Calories of the filling: 1789

Total Fat of the filling: 138.1g

Per serving 179 calories and 13.8 grams of fat

I think the type of pumpkin used makes no difference in the end, there was a soft spicy note to the cake.  If you have an abundance of pumpkins in your garden, roast them up yourself and use that instead of canned pumpkin, I love fresh pumpkin in pies so this should be equally delicious.


Pumpkin Roll

Adapted from A Recipe a Day

pumpkin roll

* Note * I suggest baking and assembling the night before you intend to serve this roll, keep it wrapped in plastic wrap once assembled.  This will help it hold shape and sort of remoisturize.

  • 1/4 cup powdered sugar (to sprinkle on towel ~ use more if needed)
  • 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp pumpkin pie spice
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 2/3 cup pumpkin pie filling
  • 1/2 can of Duncan Hines Classic Vanilla Frosting or similar

Preheat oven to 375°.

Butter a 15 x 10″ jelly-roll pan then line with parchment paper. Butter and flour the paper. On a flat surface sprinkle a thin, cotton kitchen towel with powdered sugar and set aside.

Mix the dry ingredients in small bowl.  Beat eggs and sugar in large mixer bowl until thick. Beat in the pumpkin pie filling. Stir in the flour mixture. Spread evenly into prepared pan.

Bake for 13 to 15 minutes or until top of cake springs back when touched, do not over bake. (If using a dark-colored pan, begin checking at 11 minutes.) Immediately loosen and carefully turn cake on to the towel sprinkled with powdered sugar. Carefully peel off the paper. Roll up the cake and towel together, starting with narrow end. Cool on a wire rack.

Once cooled, unroll the cake and towel carefully.  Spread the cake with the vanilla frosting and roll it back up without the towel this time.  Wrap the cake in plastic wrap to help it keep its shape.

Calorie and fat information was taken from http://www.livestrong.com/thedailyplate/

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Armed with two little kids, a dog, and a cooler full of my “essentials” from the kitchen, we headed out to the ranch for Thanksgiving.  The plan was to arrive before stores closed the day before Thanksgiving and pick up the fresh ingredients for a home style family dinner.  The Grandparents had a turkey thawing.

Plans are great until they change.

Grandma decided to run to the store for me, so I handed her a short list of key ingredients.

green beans

french onions (big can)


wild rice

mushrooms (cremini)

Emphasis was made on the fried onions, they should be with the canned vegetables or near spices.

About half an hour later I get a frantic phone call, it’s Grandma.  “Are those onions flaky?  In the spice isle?”  I described it as a tin with a plastic lid, I could swear this was like telling someone who has never used these things before.  Shoot, even the employees at the store could not help to find french fried onions.  At Thanksgiving!

It sounded like she located this alien substance and said she would be home shortly.  I continued prepping what I could for the following day.  At the time it was an apple crisp (an adaptation to the pear crisp in Paula Deen’s cookbook) which I should have waited to bake until dinner time.

This is what I was presented with…

Not french fried onions.  Not what I expected.  So the plan changed.

I took the leek reserved for stuffing and sautéed it with a little onion and butter.  This topped the casserole of green beans and mushroom soup.  For crunch that is now missing from the equation I made fresh bread crumbs using 12 grain bread slices, lightly toasted then ground up in the blender.  The last thing to go on my green bean casserole was Romano cheese.  I like a slight sharpness to the topping and the cheese would have been added had we had the french fried onions.  Bake until bubbly and heated through.

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Little Sister helped make the gravy, it was strenuous work for a two year old…

The gravy making was enjoyable for both of us, unlike the day before when we were making lunch and she poured the dry pasta into the cup of milk standing by.  She must have misunderstood me when I said “next we add the pasta”, she litterally added the pasta to the milk and butter in the cup.  I meant to say “next we cook the pasta”.  Toddlers and young children take everything you say to heart, so chose words wisely!

325ºF for 3 hours (14.5 lb gobbler)

  • 4 Tbsp butter, at room temperature
  • 6 cloves of garlic, sliced thin
  • 2 Tbsp fresh rosemary, chopped
  • 1 tsp thyme
  • 2 tsp rubbed sage or fresh chopped
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp pepper
  • 1/2 tsp caraway seeds

Combine the butter and herbs and spices in a small bowl.  I like to work it with my fingers to get every bit of butter spiked with flavour.  Create pockets under the skin of the turkey, begin at the breasts near the cavity.  Try to make the skin loose around the drumsticks too.  Evenly shove the butter into the pockets, pressing on the outside of the skin to distribute.  Any leftover butter and be smeared over the skin.

Next, fill the cavity.  I don’t usually stuff the bird with dressing, instead I use large pieces of onion, whole herbs and spices, sometimes citrus fruit cut in half.  The filling will eventually scent the broth so choose a complimentary set of flavours.  Today I used fresh rosemary springs and half a white onion with salt and pepper.

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Peppered Lemon Rosemary Chicken

Peppered Lemon Rosemary Chicken with Autumn Vegetables

The nights are releasing their grip of their clenching fists of daytime warm air.  Visually, there’s not much evidence of fall in Texas.  The long dry summer sucked the moisture out of the limbs and leaves of even the heartiest of flora.  There was a lack of lush flowers and bushes since the middle of spring.  Bluebonnets suffered a short growing season and I have no fields of blue dotting my recent collection of digital photographs.  The land remains stagnant, waiting for water to return.

This subtle change in the night air is like a whisper from the far north, the snow-capped mountains sleeping through the summer.  Winter and hopefully rain will be here soon.

October must be the best month during fall.  Not only do we see and feel the changes of autumn, it’s also Little Sister’s birthday and Halloween.  Double the chances to have excuses to bake treats for the family!  October is also then month of Thanksgiving in my native land.  I often observe the holiday abroad with a whole roasted chicken, or if I’m feeling ambitious enough, a turkey.

Peppered Lemon Rosemary

This year I was inspired by what was waiting in the fridge: lemons and fresh rosemary, assorted vegetables, and a whole chicken.  With minor preparation, you can have a warm succulent chicken bursting with citrus and piney rosemary.

  • 1 whole chicken
  • 2 sprigs fresh rosemary
  • 3 Tbsp butter
  • 1 small lemons, zested and halved
  • 1 white or yellow onion, halved lengthwise
  • 1 red bell pepper, halved lengthwise and seeded
  • 3-4 small zucchini squash, halved lengthwise
  • 2 tomatoes, halved
  • 2 carrots, cut into manageable pieces
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • oregano or Italian herb blend, to taste

Pre-heat the oven to 375ºF.

Start by preparing the vegetables and arranging them on a baking sheet.  Give them a rub with olive oil then sprinkle salt, pepper and oregano.  Set this aside.

Autumn Vegetables

Autumn Vegetables

Combine the butter, lemon zest, about a tablespoon of rosemary, salt and pepper in a small bowl.

Prepare the chicken by removing the gibblets and washing the bird inside and out.  Pluck any pieces of feather that might remain.  Using paper towel, pat the skin dry.  The drier the skin the crispier it will be.  Tuck the lemon butter between the skin and the meat, all over the breasts and drumsticks.  You can save a bit of the butter to smear over the skin or use olive oil.  Sprinkle with salt and pepper generously.

The chicken I used was 4 and a half pounds, and it was ready in about 75 minutes.  Always have a thermometer handy while roasting, the thickest part of the thigh meat needs to be 180ºF and juices running clear (i.e. no pink hue).  Cover the chicken for the first 45 minutes, then remove the lid or foil for the last part of the roasting time to get a crispbrown skin.

The veggie tray will take about 30 minutes to soften and get a hint of brown caramel around the edges.

Arrange the chicken and vegetables on a platter and sprinkle with rosemary as a garnish.

Look for a dressing in an upcoming post to serve alongside the chicken or a turkey!

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Of the many things I am thankful for, it’s was the opportunity to move to Texas that still resonates with me.  Without that bold change, I never would have met the love of my life, husband and best friend.  Together we have two healthy children, and that was also very important for me this year at our quiet Thanksgiving feast.

Big brother munched on the orange segments from the Arugala salad from Angel Valley Farms, Little sister was entertained during the home stretch to finishing off the gravy and warming the sides.

In the haste of making a pumpkin pie I forgot to add sugar to the custard filling.  It turned out to be a savory pumpkin pie, but pie nonetheless.

With a scoop of vanilla ice cream, the pie was alright.  Next time I want to make the pie ahead of time, or *gulp* buy one.  I don’t like buying stuff because I don’t know what could be lurking within the sweet treat.  How careful are bakers when handling nuts, and equipment that once had nuts on them?  I can’t be sure so I bake my own.  The silver lining to this pie flop is that it contains no sugar whatsoever, so my sugar sensitive friends could enjoy it, if they were here for the holidays.

Then there’s big birdy!  I went with the apple and sage flavours from last weekend’s roasted chicken.  I stuffed the cavity with granny smith apple, celery, salt and pepper.  A compound butter (a whole stick) was made with plenty of salt, and lots of sage (a good palmful), pepper, some thyme.  The butter is tucked under the skin and the entire surface of big birdy.  Then I sprinkled more coarse sea salt and pepper on top of the butter slathered skin.  Make sure you first lay thick slices of onion in the roasting pan, then rest big birdy on the onion.  If you have white wine, pour a glass or two into the pan and this will add another dimension to the resulting liquids.  The oven started at a blazing 475°F until the skin started to brown, about 45 minutes.  Then the heat was reduced to 325°F until the thick part of the breast (pectoral) meat reached 180°F.  And voilà…

Once big birdy was out of the oven, it was time to warm the side dishes.  I made the green bean casserole and prepared the sweet potatoes earlier in the day.  Some fresh beets from the farmstand snuck into the oven with the bird for a while, I roasted them whole with the skins on then peeled the skin off and finished them in a foil bag drizzled with olive oil, sea salt and pepper.

The normal accoutréments joined the star of the meal: garlic mashed potatoes topped with chives, stuffing with raisins, cranberries, and gravy.  I was full just by looking at my plate, or maybe it was pure exhaution.

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Since we are a few hours away from Turkey Day, I decided to test out a new combination of flavours for roasted birds.  This was prepared with a whole chicken, but you could easily bump up the quantities for a larger turkey.

Mise en place: Roasting pan, cookie sheet, paper towel, foil, room temperature butter, apple, onion, celery, carrot, coriander seeds, cumin seeds, cinnamon stick, sage leaves and/or dried, salt, pepper, all-purpose flour, measuring cup (Pyrex glass 2 cup measure), whisk and wooden spoon.  Crank up the oven to 430ºF.

First, prepare the bird, same goes for a turkey.  Wash the bird under cool running water, remove any reminence of feathers.  I like to do a lipo job to remove those clusters of solid fat, do this carefully with a small sharp knife while the bird is on a flat surface (cookie sheet).  If you’re not up to this part, leave it alone, I want you to keep your fingers intact.  Discard the excess fat, and flaps of skin next to the thighs.  Pat dry with paper towel, inside and out.  One more step before you go wash your hands: loosen the skin away from the breast meat and legs.  Now wash up!

To the roasting pan, add the spices.  Use about a tablespoon of coriander and cumin seeds along with the cinnamon stick and a couple of sage leaves.  Using whole spices is important here because we want to strain them out to make a gravy later.  If you have a strainer that can separate tiny grains of ground spices, let me know where I can buy one.  Roughly chop the onion, celery (include the leafy tops!), apple, and carrots.  The bigger the pieces are, the longer it will take for them to cook, and they will act as the rack for the bird.  Add them in one layer and a cup or two of water (or white wine if you have it, take it up a notch!).  Sprinkle with salt and pepper, season each layer my friends!

Using half of an apple, I used green, dice it into about 1 inch pieces then sprinkle liberally with salt and pepper.  Stuff the apple and a couple more sage leaves into the cavity of the bird.

Next is the compound butter.  Simply mix about 2 tablespoons of room temperature butter with a palmful of dried sage, salt and pepper.  If your butter becomes too warm just pop it into the freezer for a few minutes so that you can work with it.  Remember those pockets of fat you removed from the bird?  We are replacing those with this flavoured butter.  Shove 1/4 of the butter into the space between the skin and the meat, repeat on the other side with another 1/4 of the butter.  The remaining half of the compound butter goes on the skin, all over the entire bird.

Move the bird to the roasting pan using the neck hole and breast plate as handles, otherwise you might lose the butter encased bird to the floor.  Tuck the wing tips under.  I did not truss this bird and sometimes you don’t really need to.  The bonus is all that skin between the legs and breast gets crispy because it’s not squished together and shielded from the heat of the oven.

Place the pan in the oven, legs pointing to the back of the oven.  Don’t open the door, this is important: keep the heat and steam inside the oven.  The more you open the door to check on the bird, the more vapour escapes, therefore causing dry-bird-syndrome.  Leave it alone for a while, set a timer for 30 minutes.

After 30 minutes, check for browning of the skin, look through the glass of the oven door.  Try not to open it.  If you see some nice golden brown, turn down the oven to 350ºF.  Let it roast another 20 minutes. 

Carefully open the door with your body away from the oven.  The steam will give you an unwanted facial if you’re not careful.  Take birdy’s temperature in a thick part of the breast without touching any bones, I use the area near the wings, equivalent to pectorals I guess.  Don’t puncture the top of the bird in the middle of the breast, all the juices will run out (DBS!).  The pectoral should read 160ºF, thighs 180ºF.  Shy by ten degrees? Roast for about 20 more minutes. 

If you have reached the correct temperature, remove the pan from the oven.  Place birdy on a cutting board and tent loosely with foil.  Let birdy rest before carving, let the juices redistribute! 

I have a wee one in the house and if you are a thrifty mama like me, you’ll want to save those carrots and apples from the pan to blend up for your sweet baby.  I even left some celery in the mix, although the strings did a number on my blender!  Fair warning for you.

Gravy!  Life would not be complete without gravy.  Strain the cooking liquid from the pan and separate the grease.  Take note of how many tablespoons of grease you have collected, measure an equal amount of flour.  Add the grease and flour to the pan (you can use another pot) and stir quickly to cook the flour.   Add the rest of the liquid and whisk.  Bring the gravy to a slow boil, cook until the flour is no longer tasted and the gravy coats the back of a spoon.  Now is the time to season with salt and pepper to taste.

Carve and enjoy with your favorite sides.  I made Unstuffing, acorn squash, crescent rolls, and peas to accompany birdy.  Now I’m ready for the big bird!

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Stuffing a turkey or chicken with stuffing has never been my favorite holiday tradition.  I absolutely love stuffing, don’t get me wrong here.  I would rather leave the stuffing unstuffed.  Bake it as a casserole and be creative with additions.  Last year I threw together an unstuffed stuffing to serve with turkey.  Like all my best dishes, it was literally thrown together with things I had in the fridge at the time.  Little Sister was barely a month old, I hadn’t slept (obviously), and the house was beyond a mess.  I should have one of those ‘Lord Bless this Mess‘ signs in the foyer for such occasions.

This is what I can recall from the awesome unstuffed stuffing.

  • 2 cups cremini mushrooms, cleaned and quartered
  • 1 cup grape or cherry tomatoes, halved if large in size
  • 1 each, red and yellow bell pepper, diced
  • 6 cups of cubed bread (baguette, rye, pumpernickel, sourdough or whatever)
  • fresh sage, rosemary, coriander, salt and pepper
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic
  • 1 caramelized onion
  • About 1-2 cups homemade vegetable/chicken stock, enough to moisten the bread

Pre-heat the oven to 350ºF.

Grease the pan well because last time I made this stuffing it stuck to the pan, even though it was glass!

My suggestion is to sauté the mushrooms in olive oil with the garlic.  Toss everything but the stock into the greased casserole dish.  Pour over the stock, preferably warmed first, cover and bake for 30 minutes. 

After 30 minutes, check on it.  If you like it a bit wet add more stock.  If it’s too wet, leave the cover off and return to the oven to dry out and crisp up.  Whatever you do – don’t stir.

Enjoy this unstuffing with gravy, cranberry sauce, or naked.

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This week Food52 is looking for vegetarian side dishes for the Thanksgiving table.  I’m usually quite the carnivore, except for holiday spreads.  This time of year calls for extra veggies, just because I love winter veggies!

I’m planning to submit a few side dishes to the contest, the first is my cabbage rolls (sans bacon).  Next will be my potato and cheddar perogies.  I also have a stuffing (which is not actually stuffed into anything but my mouth) and a twist on green bean casserole.

Check out Food52 for inspirational vegetarian dishes to round out your holiday table!

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Add the flavors of the season to your breakfast with these pumpkin waffles!


I found a secret to crispy and soft waffles, it’s cake flour!  Swap cake flour for all or part of the all-purpose flour used in your favorite waffle recipe and notice what a difference in texture it makes.

To pumpkinize your waffles add the following to your cake flour batter:

  • 1/2 cup pumpkin (canned or left over roasted and pureéd)
  • 1 tsp ginger powder
  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp ground cardamom
  • you can substitute  the spices with 1 1/2 tsp of pumpkin pie spice

Add the spices with the flour.  Save the pumpkin for last and gently fold it in to the prepared batter.  Mix just until the batter takes on the signature orange color of the pumpkin pureé.  Cook the waffles according to your iron’s instructions, use a medium setting (which is number 3 out of 5 for mine).  Dust with confectioner’s sugar or drizzle with honey.

Serve up your autumn flavored breakfast with fresh fruit and my honey-pepper bacon.  To make the bacon, lay two sheets of paper towel on a microwave safe plate.  Place the bacon on the paper towel and drizzle lightly with honey.  Sprinkle freshly ground pepper over the bacon.  Top with one more sheet of paper towel.  Microwave on high for 2 minutes, check on the bacon then cook for another 1 – 3 minutes until you reach your desired crispness.  Allow the bacon to drain on a fresh piece of paper towel.

I’ll bet your little pumpkins will devour these waffles!

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