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Category Archives: Thanksgiving & Christmas

Perfect Pencil Tree

I decided this year that, because Bixby and Bailey loved to rough-house, I needed a tree I could tuck away and easily block off. So I snagged a pencil tree in October when they were on sale. It was bittersweet when I put it up…

I must say though, I really like the look of it and glad I made the jump to an artificial tree.

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Christmas Cookie Exchange: A Few Holiday Favorites

Sunday is my annual cookie baking day with friends. Most of goodies are going into gift boxes, but I’ll hold enough back for my annual Christmas Eve dinner. This is the usual round-up.

Pictured above:

Dark Chocolate Chip Cookies, recipe here

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

Pecan Cookies, recipe below.  Much more below the fold.

But wait, there’s more! Click to read

Leftover Ideas

Turkey Posole

Been there, Done that..

We bought one of those pre-cooked turkeys, ordered a small Cajun fried turkey from Kroger just to see what it would look like.  Got a call the day before it was due for pickup and was told they were out of those, would I like an oven roasted one?  Yeah, OK.  It was a pallid looking thing that may have been thoroughly cooked but it definitely needed some time in a hot oven to brown.  We slowly brought it up to 150 degrees internally in a covered electric roaster with water under the rack and then transferred it to a 500 degree oven to finish – that took 20 minutes or so and improved the look.  We were thinking that buying a pre-cooked bird would be easier than from raw but it wasn’t.  And no giblets!  They did send a quart of gravy in a boiling bag.

We ordered the Deluxe Turkey Dinner, it came with the green bean casserole, dinner rolls, mashed potatoes, gravy,  plus some sort of cranberry relish and a tub of Classic Dressing – we didn’t bother to open either one.  We added the sweet potato dish, the corn, our own cranberry relish, and my famous Southern style cornbread dressing.  Their green beans were barely OK, they needed some more time, uncovered, in the oven.  The mashed potatoes were ..mashed potatoes.  Sort of meh, but that’s why gravy.

We had plenty to keep us occupied.  The sweet potato dish:  cubed, roasted in olive oil and honey with cinnamon.  The fresh cranberries were cooked with the zest of an orange and its juice, with added dried cranberries and dried blueberries.

I boned the carcass and made stock, it simmered on the stove all night.  Thanks to a tiny burner on the new stove I didn’t fear leaving it on.  It did make for some good looking stock.  I’ll let it come to room temperature, ladle it into plastic containers, freeze those, and then vacuum seal the lot.

 

Thanksgiving Feast

Kept it low key, but still have a ton  of leftovers.  From left to right – cheesey potatoes, cranberry sauce, gravy, GF stuffing, regular  stuffing, green bean casserole and of course the star of the day – turkey and roasted vegetables.

I hope everyone had a wonderful day.

Now back to work for me!



 

Thanksgiving Files: Spatchcock Turkey Is the Way To Go

Spatchcock Turkey finish

This is the only way I’ve been preparing turkey since my first attempt. The only thing I changed up from that first time I prepared it, I skip the metal rack and instead place the bird on a bed of carrots, celery and onion. With the shorter cooking time, the flavor needs the boost the roasting veggies add.

From 2015:

Sometimes 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.

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 and the bird turned out great.

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

cropped-cute-thanksgiving-wallpaper.jpg

Thanksgiving Files: Blueberry Pie A Must

This was my very first (!) pie attempt.

Blueberry pie is a must at my house for Thanksgiving. This recipe is my go-to. The key is to add fresh blueberries to the cooked blueberries for the most blueberry flavor.  From 2012:

Blueberry Pie

Filling:

  • 1/2 to 3/4 cup sugar (depending on your sweetness preference, I used 1/2 cup)
  • 2-1/2 tbsp cornstarch
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 4 cups fresh or frozen (and thawed) blueberries
  • 1 tbsp fresh lemon juice
  • 1/2 tsp lemon zest

In a saucepan, add sugar, cornstarch, water and 1 cup blueberries. Bring to a rapid boil, stirring constantly until thickened. Remove from heat and set aside to cool. Once cool, add 3 cups of blueberries, lemon juice and lemon zest, fold in completely. Cool in refrigerator until time to put the pie together. I also chilled the bowl I mixed everything in, as well.

Crust:

  • 1-1/2 cups flour
  • 1 tbsp sugar
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 cup butter, very cold
  • 1/2 cup ice water

Cut butter into small pieces (I actually cut frozen butter, it was easier) and place in the freezer to chill it completely. Whisk together flour, sugar and salt. Using a pastry cutter, cut in butter until it is crumbly. Drizzle in the water and mix together until it forms a loose ball (do not over mix, you want visible butter pieces). Turn out onto a floured surface, knead gently, divide into two equal pieces (I weighed them), form each into a ball and wrap tightly in plastic wrap. Refrigerate for at least an hour. While I was at it, I refrigerated my marble rolling pin and marble pastry board.

To assemble pie: roll out one of the balls until it’s about 12-13 inches (depending on your pie plate size) and about 3/16” thick. To move to your pie plate, flour your rolling pin again and fold the dough over it, transfer to the plate and it should fall into place. Gently form it to the plate and let excess dough overhang the edge – you can brush the edge with water before adding the top pastry. With all the butter, this step really isn’t necessary, it quickly seals itself. Add blueberry filling. Roll out second ball to the same size and thickness. Move to the plate and adjust over the pie plate. Now you can trim the excess dough, or you can tuck it under and then pinch to flute it. Next time I’m sure I’ll experience one of those, but this time, it was pretty skimpy for me to flute.

Bake at 425 degrees for 20 minutes, reduce heat to 375 and continue until golden brown (I had to bake another 40 minutes). You’ll probably have to tent the edges with foil to keep them from burning. I did that at the 25 minute mark. Let cool until just warm to touch for the blueberries to set if you want to serve warm.



 

Perfect Standing Rib Roast

Dinner menu (left to right) Cucumber Tomato Salad, Perfect Gravy, Standing Rib Roast, Garlic Mashed Potatoes, Spinach Raspberry Salad.

This recipe came from Chef Michael Symon and I don’t think I’ve changed much, except I don’t use as much rosemary and thyme (about half). I’ve been using it for several years and every time it is perfect.

From Michael Symon on The Chew:

GARLIC & HERB CRUSTED STANDING RIB ROAST

1 standing beef rib roast (7 to 8 pounds, rack of ribs separated from roast)

4 cloves garlic (smashed and made into a paste)

2 sprigs rosemary (leaves removed and finely chopped, plus more)

4 sprigs thyme (leaves removed and finely chopped, plus more)

2-3 tablespoons olive oil

1 1/2 cups red wine

1/2 cup beef stock

kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper (to taste)

Season the roast and rack of ribs with salt and freshly cracked pepper.

Remove the rib roast to room temperature 1 hour prior to roasting. Preheat the oven to 450ºF.

In a medium bowl, add garlic, herbs and 2-3 tablespoons olive oil, to form a loose paste. Coat the roast and ribs with the herb oil and season with more cracked black pepper. Using kitchen twine, tie the roast every 2-3 inches to secure shape.

In a roasting pan, place the rack of ribs with the ends pointing up. Place a few sprigs of rosemary and thyme on top of the rack. Place the roast, fat-side-up inside the rack of ribs so they act as a roasting rack. Pour the wine and beef stock in to the bottom of the pan underneath the roast.

Place in the bottom half of the oven and roast for 20 minutes. Reduce the oven temperature to 350ºF and continue to cook for another 1 ½- 2 hours, or until the internal temperature of the roast is 125ºF for medium-rare. During the cooking process, baste the meat with the pan juices every 30 minutes. If the pan starts to get dry, add a little more stock or water.

Remove the roast to a cutting board to rest for 15 to 20 minutes. Separate the ribs and thinly slice the roast. Serve with pan juices.

Tip: for ultimate flavor, season the roast and let sit overnight in the refrigerator.

If you’d like some personal instruction, click here for video of Michael preparing it.



 

Christmas Eve Dinner Menu: Dessert Tray, Pt 2

Here is part two of the dessert tray – these are all gluten-free sweets. Easy to make, never know they are anything different from the floured desserts. I’ll post a photo of the full dessert tray later.

Peanutbutter cookie 6

Picking up a friend from the airport tonight – lots of delays have made for a long day. I’ll be packing a few of these cookies and hot tea for the drive home.

First up, I made a batch of these. They are melt in your mouth and so chocolaty. I love the dark chocolate cocoa powder, makes them not-too sweet.

Cooookie!

Full recipe is here.

Then I made a batch of these (pictured at top). So easy  – I made a double batch, hoping they last until Christmas Eve. Just in case, there will be the traditional Ice Cream Sundae Bar to back up all the cookies.

Peanut Butter Cookies

(makes 18)

  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1 cup peanut butter
  • 1 egg

baking sheet

Cream ingredients together and drop by spoonful onto a baking sheet. Dip a fork in sugar and press down dough. Bake at 300 degree F for 10-13 minutes. Remove from the oven and let cool ON the baking sheet.

I added chocolate chips to a few after I flattened them on the baking sheet. They were good, but it did make the cookie more fragile and they broke apart as I transferred them to the plate. So second batch got peanuts instead.

For Dessert Tray pt. 1, click here.



 

Friday Recipe Exchange: Holiday Sweet Treats, Something For Everyone

While I’m busy baking away today, here are some previous goodies from 2014:

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.

Pecan Cookies

  • 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