Category Archives: Thanksgiving & Christmas

Thanksgiving Files: Spatchcock Turkey

Spatchcock Turkey finishSometimes the scariest part of the Thanksgiving Dinner is the worry that the turkey will not turn out properly – undercooked, overcooked, dry, flavorless – and ruin the whole meal. I’ve cooked in bags, roasted, braised, fried, deboned – about everything but brine. I’m not a fan of brining. And still every year I worry.

I tryout various new methods a few days before the big day, just to spice things up and make sure there are leftovers in my frig. This year I decided to try removing the backbone and flattening the bird, cooking it at a high temperature for a shorter cooking time. It seemed like it was pretty foolproof and stress free. My brother is going to prep one of his two turkeys similarly, but smoke it instead.

I put it together today so I could get the recipe up in time for your holiday.

BTW, my recommendation is to always get two smaller birds instead of one massive bird – you’ll have a much better outcome with shorter cooking times. Not to mention not having to worry about fitting a huge bird in the oven. We usually do an oven bird, then grill, smoke or fry another.

For this recipe, a good set of poultry shears makes quick work of removing the backbone. I prepped the bird yesterday, wrapped it up and refrigerated it. This gave me time to make a nice broth from the backbone, giblets and neck last night (see notes below) and make the cranberry sauce, because it’s always better the next day.

Spatchcock Turkey Prep

Roasted Spatchcock Turkey

  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons ground black pepper
  • 3 tablespoons Kosher salt
  • 4 tablespoons dried sage
  • 1 tablespoon dried rosemary
  • 1 whole turkey (10-12 pounds)
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil

Rimmed baking sheet, rack

In a spice grinder or with a mortar and pestle, crush together pepper, salt, sage and rosemary and add to brown sugar. Set aside.

With a sharp knife or scissors, remove the back bone of the turkey, flip over and press down on the breast bone to break and flatten. I wasn’t quite strong enough, so I turned the bird over, scored the bone, flipped it back and tried again, this time it broke easily. I then trimmed off the wing tips. See my notes below on what to do with the back and wing tips.

Place the bird flat, breast side up, on the rack in the baking sheet. Rub with spice mix and let rest at room temperature for 30 minutes. Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Before cooking drizzle olive oil over turkey and roast for 1 hour or until the temperature of the thickest part of the breast reaches 160 degrees. Remove from the oven, tent with foil and let rest for 30 minutes (during this time the bird temperature will reach 165 degrees and thighs should be 175 degrees).

Carve and serve.

NOTES: I took the back, wing tips, neck and giblets, covered them with water and simmered them for about an hour. I then used the broth for both the stuffing and gravy. I also cooked the stuffing in the oven, in a baking dish, uncovered, with the turkey. They finished up about the same time.

The next time I make this, I would forego the metal rack and instead use a roasting pan and place the bird on a bed of carrots, celery and onion. With the shorter cooking time, the flavor could use the boost. I do feel this is a great technique for wood grilling or smoking.

More Recipes: We have a bunch, a peck, a bushel, of Thanksgiving recipes, including my favorite Upside-Down Cranberry Cake (here), No Boil Mashed Potatoes (here), and Non-Traditional Sides (here), click on this link for all the other recipes or search by name or ingredient in the search box at the bottom of the blog.

Have a safe and Happy Thanksgiving!  – TaMara



Christmas Music: Avalon, Good News

Christmas Music: Silent Night, Jennifer Hudson



Christmas Eve Recipes: Smashed Potatoes

DSC_6813 [1600x1060]

JeffreyW luckily made some Smashed Potatoes and took a great photo. 

Everything is ready to go, all I have to do is pop the Cornish Game Hens into the oven. Once they are done, I’ll up the temperature to 450 degrees and finish up the potatoes while the chickens rest.

I boiled the potatoes this morning and let drain completely and then refrigerated them until it’s time to crisp them up.

Smashed Potatoes

  • 2 lbs of small red or gold potatoes, no more than 2″ in diameter
  • olive oil
  • salt and pepper

saucepan, baking sheet

Boil potatoes in salted water until tender.  Drain completely.

Drizzle olive oil on baking sheet – use plenty so the potatoes don’t stick – and arrange potatoes on the pan, leaving room between each so they can crisp up. Using a a potato masher or heavy glass, smash each potato flat. With a basting brush, generously brush oil over each potato. Salt and pepper to taste and garish with fresh rosemary or pieces of minced garlic.

Bake in a 450 degree oven until potatoes are crisped. 15-20 minutes.

See the full Christmas Eve menu here.



Christmas Music: The Waitresses, Christmas Wrapping (Bonus Light Show)

It’s really not Christmas until I hear a couple of songs, this is one of them:



Eartha Kitt: Nuttin for Christmas

Love this as only Eartha can sing it.

Christmas Music: 12 Pains of Christmas, Bob Rivers

It’s just not Christmas until I hear this song. I’m in the kitchen putting together what I can for dinner tomorrow night. House is clean (-ish) and I’ll have to get some actual office work done tonight, but it’s all falling together.


Christmas Eve Recipes: Roasted Cornish Game Hens

I’ve roasted my share of Cornish Game Hens, but I went looking for something a little different and found it here.

You MUST click the link to see the fun video.

From Patrick and Gina Neeley:

Photo from

Photo from

Roasted Cornish Game Hens

1 tablespoon salt
2 tablespoons lemon-pepper
1 tablespoon dried basil
1 tablespoon poultry seasoning
2 tablespoons olive oil
6 Cornish game hens, about 1 1/2 pounds each, rinsed and dried thoroughly
1 green bell pepper, large dice
2 stalks celery, large dice
1 onion, large dice

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

For the full recipe and great video, follow the link.

See the full Christmas Eve menu here.


Christmas Eve Dinner: The Menu

Reindeer Games

I got to meet some of Santa’s reindeer last year

I finished all my shopping today and unless I missed something, I shouldn’t have to cross the threshold of a grocery store between now and Christmas. I’ll put up photos and recipes as I go. My kitchen is painfully small and I like to spend time with my guests, so the menu is pretty simple and I can do a lot ahead of time. This makes sure we have a great meal, I can spend time with my guests and keeps my stress level lower.

On the board:

  1. Roasted Cornish Game Hens UPDATED with recipe here
  2. Smashed PotatoesUPDATED with recipe here.
  3. Cranberry Chutney UPDATED with recipe here.
  4. Spinach Salad
  5. Sundae Bar
  6. Christmas Cookies

The spinach salad works well to provide a nice, fresh vegetable without having to worry about cooking something at the last minute (so it’s fresh and not overcooked). And everyone likes spinach, so it was an easy choice.

I’ll make the Cranberry Chutney tomorrow, since it’s the type of dish that tastes better the next day. It’s a new, untried recipe and this will give me time to make regular cranberry relish if it turns out badly.

I’ll prep the hens the night before and refrigerate, then toss in the oven late afternoon on Wednesday.

The smashed potatoes have to be boiled first, so I think I will do that in the morning, refrigerate them and then do the final stage in the oven while the chickens are resting. And that’s it, dinner is served.

Look what Bixby has to look forward to, these are my three loves (3 of my 4 rescued Danes):

Christmas Dogs 2004 Shelby Einstein Duncan

I tried to get Bixby in a Santa Hat or Reindeer Antlers, but he is still too much of a puppy. I can barely get a photo of him on a normal day, he’ll have none of this “dress me up” nonsense. 90 lbs of WILL right now.

Updates as I do the prep and can get some photos. – TaMara

Christmas balls


Friday Recipe Exchange: Holiday Sweet Treats


Assorted Cookies1

Lots of cooking going on. And look what Santa dropped off early:

Mystery Machine

Just in time to hold the assortment of cookies I made this week. Most of them are going into gift boxes, but I’ll hold enough back for my annual Christmas Eve dinner.

Let’s get right to it. Pictured above:

Dark Chocolate Chip Cookies, recipe here

Spritz Cookies, recipes and instructions for using a cookie press here.

Not pictured because I still have to make them, Chocolate-Walnut Flourless Cookies, recipe here. I love these because you’d never know they were flourless and they taste like brownie bites.

Looking for side dishes for your holiday dinner? You can click here for a lot of different types. And for the pet lovers, Bixby posted an update here and here is photo evidence of how the cats torment him, try not to laugh, it hurts his feelings.

How about you, what’s on your menu for the holidays? Share your holiday traditions, both edible and otherwise.

Mexican Russian Pecan Cookies

Tonight’s featured recipe had a bit of a serendipitous beginning. I was having lunch with friend LFern and told her I was still working on what type of cookies I was going to make for my gift boxes. LFern mentioned she really liked Russian Tea Cakes. I’d never heard of them, so I googled, figuring I’d surprise her with them in her gift box. Turns out they are also called Mexican Wedding Cookies. Next day I was visiting friends Larilyn and Alton (not that one) and what do they bring out to go with the coffee? Mexican Wedding Cookies. Turns out Al calls them Mom’s Pecan Cookies and he shared his mom’s recipe with me. So no matter what you call them, they are tasty.

  • 1 cup butter, softened
  • ½ cup powdered sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 2 ¼ cups flour
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • 1 cup chopped nuts pecans
  • Powdered sugar for rolling

Preaheat oven to 350°. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.

Mix butter, ½ cup powdered sugar, and vanilla with an electric mixer until fluffy. Add flour, salt and mix until the dough comes together. Stir in the nuts. At this point, I mixed by hand until the dough stuck together and was smooth.

Scoop about a tablespoon of dough, roll into shape and place on baking sheet

Bake cookies for 18-20 minutes until bottoms are just slightly brown. Remove from oven and cool for just a minute. Fill a small bowl with powdered sugar and roll each cookie in the sugar until coated. Place on a rack covered with wax paper (keeps the sugar mess to a minimum) to cool.

You have to roll them in powdered sugar while they are still hot, which hurts like hell for the first two, but after that, your fingers are coated in powdered sugar and it acts like a heat shield and you’ll be fine. Look, holiday gift baking isn’t for wussies. It’s an extreme sport.

After they cooled, I coated them with more powdered sugar for a festive look.

That’s it for…this year. We won’t have another recipe exchange until January. But I will be posting the recipes for Christmas Eve dinner between now and Christmas. The menu is: Roasted Cornish Game Hens, Smashed Potatoes, Cranberry Chutney, Spinach Salad, and an Ice Cream Sundae Bar.

Have a wonderful holiday, whatever you celebrate. Thanks for coming along for the ride – TaMara

Christmas balls



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