Working Retail During the Holidays is Draining!!!

Not that I have any real excuse for abandoning the blog this month, but I have been truly and deeply exhausted by running around helping customers find the perfect Christmas gift. So, to you, I do apologize. I shall do my best to catch up and to keep myself up to date with writing in the future.  Now, on to bigger and tastier things.

Up first, Spicy Turkey Thighs and Bacon Stir-Fry.

I thought just scallions would be boring, so I made some additions...

I thought just scallions would be boring, so I made some additions…

So, the sad truth is that I started the month out strong.  I made this delectable dish with leftover turkey from Thanksgiving.  (That’s right, it has taken me a full month to write this first post.)  Necessarily, I had to do a little fudging with the recipe since my turkey was already cooked.  Basically, I just added the turkey in after my vegetables had started to soften a touch.

I also made some additions.  The recipe just has bell pepper and scallions.  I cut one of the bell peppers and added snow peas to the mix (yay!) and then also added water chestnuts for some crunch.  I also struggled to find Sambal Olek so I ended up using a sweet chili sauce instead.  As a result, it was rather less spicy, but that isn’t a problem for me.

The overall outcome of this recipe was awesome.  It was delicious (what has bacon that isn’t delicious?).  I was so pleased to use up some of my turkey in something other than in a sandwich or on yet another Thanksgiving dinner plate.  So, if you still have some turkey left from Christmas, try this out!!

 

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Blah. Turkey Curry.

OK, yet another November recipe without an online friend!  Ugh!

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Double ugh, because I hate curry.  Always have.  Most likely always will.  I keep trying it in the hope that my palate has changed but no luck so far.  So the “blah” in the title is for two reasons (well maybe three).  Blah because I don’t like it to begin with, blah 2 because we forgot the celery, and blah three because the low fat yogurt wasn’t creamy enough (it was greek and that is as creamy as low fat yogurt gets.).  My mother, the taste tester in this case, thought the grapes were very enjoyable, that it definitely needed the celery, and that it probably should have had some mayonnaise.  My stepdad also tried it but ate it on a sandwich and found it quite tasty.  And that’s about all I have to say about that.

Here’s the recipe:

Curried Turkey Salad on Greens

Ingredients

1/2 leftover turkey, shredded (check!)

1 celery stalk (oops!)

1/2 cup seedless grapes, halved

1/3 cup plain low fat yogurt

2 – 3 tsps fresh lemon juice

1 to 2 tsps curry powder

salt and pepper

salad greens (or if you are like my step dad, yummy bread for sandwiches)

This is not rocket science.  Toss it all in a bowl and mix it up!  If you wanted to be fancy I suppose you could mix the lemon juice, yogurt, curry powder, salt and pepper together first and then toss in your grapes, celery and turkey.

*Adapted from November 2007, issue 47, pg. 54

G&D-giving

G and D’s Mini Thanksgiving

#nofilter

#nofilter

D and I have a tradition of having a mini Thanksgiving ahead of the actual holiday.  Because there are so many people at the actual celebration, it can be hard to get a chance to spend any time together.  We didn’t do one last year because J was less than a month old and took all of our energy.  So we brought back the tradition this year.  Plus, it gave me a chance to knock out some recipes for the blog.  Plus plus, stuffing > not stuffing.

One mistake: not breaking this meal up with something like a salad or cranberries or green beans.  Look at that picture!  It’s sepia-toned it’s so stinkin’ brown.  Brown onions, brown stuffing, brown gravy, brown turkey skin.  Yikes.

I’m going to start with the low-light and work my way up.  The turkey.  We always get the Jennie O perfect turkey breast in a bag.  You don’t thaw it, don’t season it, don’t baste it.  Just stick it in the oven and wait until the timer pops.  Except ours didn’t have a timer, and I didn’t notice that until it was already overcooked and crazy dry.  Oops.  At least I found the thing on sale.

Sugar-glazed pearl onions

I was maybe going to make these for the big Thanksgiving, but D talked me into trying it first.  That was a good call.  This took forever, and it wasn’t all that tasty.  The first step, where it says to cook on medium low until the liquid has evaporated?  Yeah, 30 minutes later and it was still super soupy.  That’s when G got impatient, cranked up the heat and pretty much boiled off the liquid.  The next step where you get them golden went pretty well.  The actual vinegar and thyme was tasty, but really it was just onions.  Nearly an hour for a bunch of onions?  You’d better be caramelizing onions for some french onion soup or something.  Mmmmm….french onion soup….

Simple stuffing (Sausage variation)

The sausage variation is only in the magazine.  You add 1/2 lb sweet Italian sausage, out of the casing, to the veggies in the pan after they are softened and cook until browned.  Then, move on to the add wine step and follow as always.  I used sourdough bread instead of Italian bread, and I’m quite happy that I did.  Sourdough gives you just a little more flavor and cuts against the richness ever so slightly.  Also, this recipe doesn’t give directions for you to cook this on its own.  The turkey breast had you cooking it at 375 so I cooked this in a 8 x 8 pan at 375 for 25 minutes then browned it uncovered for about 15 minutes.  That’s another thing.  I halved this recipe to just make one pan.  I regretted that.  Who has ever wanted less stuffing?  Rookie mistake.  It was delicious.  It’s tough to say if that’s just because stuffing is delicious as a general proposition.

Cranberry-pear cake bars

Where did that corner piece go?

Where did that corner piece go?

Yet again, MSLO is kiiiiilling me by not putting one of the recipes online.  The November 2007 issue seems to be especially bad for this.  Sigh.  My version of the recipe after the jump.

Anyway, the cranberry bars were amazing.  They were very moist and blondie-like in flavor although cake-like in texture.  The batter definitely seemed like a muffin batter.  I am fully planning to try making this as muffins someday.  Maybe with a struesel topping.

Oh, and I had a small piece with two different Ben and Jerry’s coffee ice creams as a semi-frozen Kaffee und Kuchen.  Coffee heath bar crunch was the best with the cake.  Coffee coffee buzz buzz buzz (coffee ice cream with espresso-flavored chocolate chunks) was the better of the two on its own.

coffee heath, cake, coffee and espresso fudge chunks.

coffee heath, cake, coffee and espresso fudge chunks.

It was an awesome Thanksgiving dessert, day after Thanksgiving breakfast, dessert to send to work with your husband, all around sweet treat.  Thank you, Beck family of New Canaan, Connecticut.  You’re all geniuses.

Continue reading

Food, Glorious Food!!

Well, I told you I would be back with an epic post concerning my Thanksgiving Dinner.  I think the best way to get started is to just show you the splendor.

Food, glorious food! What wouldn't we give for that extra bit more -- That's all that we live for. Why should we be fated to do nothing but brood on food, magical food, wonderful food, marvellous food, fabulous food, beautiful food, glorious food!

Food, glorious food! What wouldn’t we give for that extra bit more — That’s all that we live for. Why should we be fated to do nothing but brood on food, magical food, wonderful food, marvellous food, fabulous food, beautiful food, glorious food!

Now, here’s the menu:

Herb-Rubbed Turkey

Simple Stuffing with Mushrooms and Sage

White Wine Gravy

Cranberry-Ginger Relish

Roasted Harvest Vegetables

Green Bean, Watercress and Crispy Shallot Salad

Lovely Mashed Potatoes (contribution of my neighbor)

And to top it all off:

Apple Crumb Pie

Triple Chocolate Cheesecake

Yes, I made two desserts to feed a total of four people. I don't see anything wrong with that.

Yes, I made two desserts to feed a total of four people. I don’t see anything wrong with that.

My day started out pretty early, getting the stuffing ready to go.  To make the mushroom and sage variation you add 1 lb of mushrooms (I used cremini) and 1/4 teaspoon dried rubbed sage after you have softened the vegetables in step 1 of the Simple Stuffing recipe. After the mushrooms have released their liquid you continue with the recipe by adding in the white wine. I thought the stuffing turned out pretty well, although in the future I think I would try to cut up the bread into slightly smaller pieces.  It didn’t all congeal together exactly as I expected and I am fairly certain it was user error.

Once the stuffing was made, I did actually stuff the turkey.  Let me first say, I took the turkey out of the freezer on Saturday and the damn thing was still frozen solid on Wednesday morning.  I spent a good part of the day running cool water over it to let it thaw out safely.  Luckily, come Thursday morning it was in good shape to get stuffed!

The herb rub for the turkey is also very simple.  You just gently lift the skin from the breast and spread the mix of three herbs, salt and pepper under there and rub it into the meat a bit.  Now, by some small miracle, this turkey decided to keep all of its moisture inside itself.  The recipe indicates that you are supposed to start basting after an hour in the oven.  There were literally no drippings after one hour.  I waited for an hour and a half, still nearly no drippings.  I was getting scared for my gravy at this point so I added about half a box of chicken stock to the pan so I could do a little basting.  When the turkey came out, it was beautiful.

Just look at that crispy skin!

Just look at that crispy skin!

The intensely dark stuff under the skin is the herb rub.  And yes, the turkey had still refused to give up its juice when I finally took it out of the oven.  I technically even overcooked it because the breast was at nearly 190 degs when I pulled it out.  Like I said, total miracle.  That was one super juicy turkey.  I let it rest for around 45 minutes before we cut into it, but it was completely perfect. The herb rub under the crispy skin was so savory.

My step-dad doing the honors.

My step-dad doing the honors.

For the most part, the sides were all fairly healthy.  The roasted harvest vegetables were delicious but also light.  The garlic that was roasted with it really flavored everything thoroughly.

And they were a totally beautiful color.

And they were a totally beautiful color.

The green bean, watercress and crispy shallot salad might be my new favorite thing.  I’ve told you I love shallots.  I will just add to that love now by saying that crispy fried shallots cannot be beat.  They taste just like those french fried onions that you put on top of green bean salad but you have the extra satisfaction of making them that delicious yourself.  And the lemon-mustard vinaigrette is incredible.

I wish I had some show tune lyrics specific to shallots...

I wish I had some show tune lyrics specific to shallots…

The gravy was also awesome.  I love adding white wine to my gravy.  The one thing I refused to follow in the recipe was the instruction to add water.  I would never ever want to thin all that flavor.  Especially when I struggled so to get any drippings to make my gravy with in the first place.

And I normally am very strict about eating only cranberry orange relish made in a food processor.  It’s what I grew up with.  It’s delicious. I was brave.  I tried something new (even though I was contemplating making both relish options for most of the week…).  It was worth it.  I love ginger.  I love cranberry.  It all went really well together. It was super yummy and even more so when it was mixed in with all the gravy and potatoes and turkey.

This also had an awesome color.  Like a jam full of rubies. Delicious soft rubies.

This also had an awesome color. Like a jam full of rubies. Delicious soft rubies.

Yes, I will make it again.

And now, on to the dessert.  The pie was super tasty.  I had a slight mishap.  Either my pie crust was not big enough, my pie plate was too deep, or the recipe was way off when it called for 4 lbs of granny smith apples.  It definitely didn’t all fit.  I had to put probably half a pound in another dish to bake on its own and I also had to make a little more of the crumb topping to make sure I could cover the whole thing.  I also had to add a little nutmeg, because… I had to.  But after all that, it was awesome.  Super fruity and dense and just sweet enough that I didn’t feel guilty chasing it with a piece of cheesecake (it counted as a fruit serving right?).

So very very very chocolatey.

So very very very chocolatey.

This was the first cheesecake I ever made, so it was a bit of an experiment.  Despite following instructions, it cracked anyway, but I just turned it into a ganache canyon.  Yeah.  That’s right.  Ganache canyon.  The texture of this cheesecake is super creamy.  I’m amazed at how perfect the texture was considering it cracked (I assumed that meant it was overcooked).  And the crust managed to taste kind of like a brownie.  So decadent.

So that was my Thanksgiving everyone.  My very first time hosting.  I followed the make ahead instructions in the magazine for just about everything which made the day of pretty easy.  I was cooking for most of the day but at a steady and stress free pace.  I even had the time to post about the lovely Baked Brie with Pecans.

I hope everyone else’s Thanksgiving was as stress free and enjoyable as mine!  Happy Holidays!!!

In which G flashes back to her pregnancy

Chef’s Salad

Those blobs are dressing

Those blobs are dressing

I was terribly swollen toward the end of my pregnancy.  My face was pretty puffy.  I couldn’t wear my rings or watch.  But the real problem was my legs.  It got worse over time, but it ended where there wasn’t much of a taper between my lower thigh and my toes.  These weren’t even cankles.  They were thankles.  There was no ankle bone to speak of and a noticeable ridge just before my toes.  I wore D’s shoes to the hospital.  They were a man’s size 9.  My foot is normally a 7.

Where is she going with this?

The amount of salt that was in this lunch meat and cheese-based salad made my legs swell up in a way I haven’t experienced since my pregnancy.  I got that familiar tightness in the skin.  I had to keep my feet elevated.  I even went to the doctor because I thought there might be something seriously wrong with me.  There wasn’t.  Just way too much salt.  (shout out to D’s family: I managed to move the ongoing salt discussion to the internet!)  I think this recipe would be best with leftover home-cooked turkey and leftover home-cooked ham instead of buying chunks from the deli.  There’s nothing you can do about the salt in the swiss cheese or the bacon.  On that note, I didn’t even add the bacon!  I could have exploded from water retention if I added the bacon.

The dressing is, however, creamy and lovely without being too fatty.  It uses reduced fat sour cream and light mayonnaise.

However….I think this recipe (which I found while trying to find a link to the recipe from this issue) looks vastly better!  This one has such a better ingredients list, and, really, avocado is better than no avocado.  I mean, I added the tomato to this salad myself.  It was originally just bacon, lettuce, ham, turkey, cheese, and some green onion.  Lame.  Plus, this other recipe I found uses buttermilk and cider vinegar, which probably winds up tasting much more interesting than sour cream, mayo, and lemon juice.

So spare yourself a glimpse into the life of a pregnant woman in her third trimester and make your chef’s salad using home-cooked meat, where possible, and try this more-interesting recipe instead.

Turkey and Vegetable Hand Pies with Garlic-Roasted Tomatoes

www.marthastewart.com/313340/turkey-and-vegetable-hand-pies

www.marthastewart.com/312499/garlic-roasted-tomatoes

September 2007, pg. 117 & 150

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Let me just start off by saying that I find the idea of a Hot Pocket highly appealing.  When that pastry pouch happens to be filled with deliciously savory and relatively healthy homemade filling, I find them nearly irresistible.  For the most part, the Turkey and Vegetable Hand Pie recipe did not disappoint.  The pastry dough is light and flaky and the filling is good enough to eat on its own (I did, by the way).

I have made this recipe before and I remembered the first time the “sauce” was so runny it was pretty much impossible for it to stay in the necessary places while folding and sealing the pastry.  This time around I decided to add just a small amount of flour to the mix so it would be ever so slightly thicker.  A tablespoon did it for me and it worked like a charm.  I was able to keep the sauce from running all over long enough to seal the yummy goodness into its pastry blanket.

The only complaint I have about the final product is that it tends to be a little dry (even with the sauce adjustments made).  When I studied abroad in France, my host family, especially my sisters, would put creme fraiche on just about everything.  I believe that might be the perfect remedy to this dish.  Just a little drizzled on top right before you eat would be the perfect addition of moist creaminess.

I served these with the Garlic-Roasted Tomatoes, another recipe I have made before.  The beauty of this recipe is that it is so incredibly simply, yet incredibly flavorful and tasty.  I think recipe would perfect to fall back on as perfectly ripe tomatoes get harder to find.  While it is awesome with ripe tomatoes, I think this recipe could salvage the awful tomatoes that are the only tomatoes available in the middle of winter.  I will definitely be keeping this recipe on standby for the future.