Sunday, November 23, 2014

Thanksgiving Day Tips and Grandma's Stuffing




Over the past 10 years, I have cooked Thanksgiving dinner many times. It is one of my favorite days of the year. I love family and friends getting together and sharing a good meal. Here are some tips that will help you have a great Thanksgiving dinner:


  • Make a list and a schedule. Determine everything you want to make and when each item need to go into the oven or cook on the stove top.
  • Print out recipes for everything you're going to cook. This will help keep you organized and you can make sure that you have all the ingredients you need.
  • Make sure you move the turkey from the freezer and refrigerator a few days early so it can thaw. 
  • Thanksgiving dinner is not the time to experiment. Use recipes that you are familiar with and that you made in the past.This will help alleviate any Thanksgiving disasters.
  • If guests want to help, let them.There is no reason why you need to make the entire meal yourselves. Let guests bring appetizers, wine, side dishes, or dessert.
  • Don't feel like you need to make everything yourself. There's nothing wrong with buying a pre-made pie or salad in a bag.
  • If you don't have one, buy a meat thermometer. The little pop-up timers in turkeys are incredibly inaccurate.
  • Buy a carving board. A carving board is the one that has a channel around it to catch any juices.
  • Also purchase an electric knife. It comes in very handy when it is time to carve turkey.
  • Let the turkey rest for at least 30 min. before carving. Don't tent with foil or the skin will not remain as crisp.
Below is a recipe for my grandmother's stuffing.  All of the ingredients are pretty common, and they taste amazing together in this recipe. I am a firm believer in stuffing the turkey, but if you don't want to do that you can certainly bake this in a casserole – with some chicken or turkey stock added if needed to keep it moist.

2 onions, chopped
3 stalks of celery chopped
1 loaf of white bread
3 Italian pork sausage links, removed from skin
1 to 2 eggs
Italian seasoning
chicken broth
seasoned breadcrumbs
salt and pepper

  1. Preheat the oven to 250°F. Dice the bread into 1 inch cubes. Bake for 30 to 60 min. until the bread is dried, but not browned.
  2. Browned sausage in large skillet over medium-high heat. After fat renders, and onion. Cook for 5 to 8 min. until brown.
  3. And celery to skillet. Cook for 3 to 4 min. And bread cubes to pan and mix thoroughly. Cook for 3 to 5 min., then and 1 to 2 cups of chicken broth until bread i just moistened.
  4. Scraping pan to remove any browned bits. Cook 10 min. over low heat, stirring constantly.
  5. Play stuffing mixture in large bowl. Beat in one egg (two if a large turkey). Stir in Italian seasoning. Season to taste with salt and pepper. If stuffing is too moist, and bread crumbs

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Slow Cooker Pulled Sesame Chicken with Broccoli

Although this recipe is mostly done in the slow cooker, it starts on the stove. Since browning never happens in a slow cooker, this recipe starts out on the stove top. The chicken and aromatics are given a quick saute to develop flavor.


Ingredients

2 Tbsp. toasted sesame oil, divided
2 lbs. bone-in, skinless chicken thighs
1/3 c. low sodium soy sauce
1/4 c. honey
3 Tbsp rice wine vinegar
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 Tbsp. fresh ginger, grated
1 medium onion, chopped
1 tsp. sriracha sauce
1 heaping Tbsp. cornstarch
1/4 c. chicken broth
2 Tbsp. sesame seeds, toasted
2 scallions, sliced in 1/2 inch pieces
3 c. broccoli florets

Directions

1.  In a large skillet, over medium heat, add 1 Tbsp. sesame oil. After letting it heat for a few minutes, add the chicken thighs. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and saute for 5 minutes on each side, or until lightly browned. Remove chicken thighs from pan and place in slow cooker.  

2.  Add the garlic, ginger, and onion to the skillet.  Saute for 6-8 minutes, or until lightly browned. Add to the slow cooker along with any liquid in the pan.  

3.  In a small bowl, whisk the soy sauce, honey, rice wine vinegar and sriracha together.  Pour over the chicken. 

4.  Place cover on slow cooker and cook on low for four hours.  

5.  Remove chicken from slow cooker (it should be very tender).  Shred the chicken and discard the bones (or save them for stock).  

6.  In a small bowl, add the cornstarch to the chicken broth. Whisk to dissolve.  

7.  Add the cornstarch mixture to the slow cooker along with the broccoli florets. With the lid off, cook on high for 20 minutes or until the mixture thickens.

8.  Stir in the shredded chicken and the remaining 1 Tbsp. of sesame oil. Top with sesame seeds and scallions.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Artichoke, Arugula, and Prosciutto Pizza at Home - The Basics




I love making pizza at home. It's easy to do, doesn't require a lot of hands on time, and tastes much better than anything delivered from a restaurant chain.  It also allows me to experiment with new vegetables, cheeses and sauces. 

My local supermarket makes a great pizza dough, so that's my starting point. I have made the dough myself in the past, and it tastes just the same, so I'd rather use store bought dough and focus on really good toppings. 

Here are some tips for making a great pizza:
  • Take the dough out of the refrigerator at least 30 minutes before you plan on getting started cooking. I try to do an hour if I can. Letting it come up to room temperature will make it much easier to work with. 
  • Don't rush rolling and stretching the dough. If it starts to spring back after you roll it, leave it alone for five minutes (start prepping your other ingredients and try again. 
  • Sprinkle your work surface and the top of the dough with a little flour before rolling. This should prevent the dough from sticking to the work surface or your rolling pin. Picking up the dough and moving it will also prevent sticking. 
  • When rolling the dough, use gentle pressure. If you press down really hard, the dough will likely stick. 
  • If using vegetables, try to remove excess moisture. Squeeze frozen thawed vegetables in a clean kitchen towel or saute vegetables with a lot of moisture (zucchini, squash, onions.)
  • Break out a ruler.  If the recipe states to roll out the dough to a certain size, match that size. Otherwise your pizza may be too thin and tear, or too thick and bready. 
Here's the recipe for Artichoke, Arugula, and Prosciutto Pizza, adapted from cookinglight.com. I never had artichokes before this.  For the pesto, you can buy some already made, or see this post for a quick and easy pesto recipe. 

Ingredients:
Cooking spray
1 tablespoon cornmeal
1 lb. pizza dough
2 tablespoons pesto
1/2 cup (2 ounces) shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese
1 (9-ounce) package frozen artichoke hearts, thawed and drained
1 ounce thinly sliced prosciutto
2 tablespoons shredded Parmesan cheese
1 cup baby arugula leaves
1 1/2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice



Directions 
Position oven rack to lowest setting. Preheat oven to 500°

Coat a baking sheet with cooking spray; sprinkle with cornmeal. Roll out dough into a 14 x 10-inch rectangle and place on baking sheet. 


Spread the pesto evenly over dough, leaving a 1/2-inch border. Sprinkle mozzarella cheese over pesto. Place baking sheet on the bottom oven rack; bake at 500° for 5 minutes. Remove pizza from oven.

Pesto and mozzarella on the dough.
Coarsely chop artichokes. Arrange artichokes on pizza; top with sliced prosciutto. Sprinkle with Parmesan. Return pizza to the bottom oven rack; bake an additional 6 minutes or until crust is browned.

Place arugula in a bowl. Drizzle juice over arugula; toss gently. Top the pizza with arugula mixture. Cut the pizza into 4 (7 x 5-inch) rectangles; cut each rectangle diagonally into 2 wedges.
Adding the artichokes, prosciutto, and parmesan.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Indian Spiced Brussels Sprouts (or Cute Curried Cabbages)

I was trying out a tandoori chicken recipe and wanted to make a vegetable to go with it. I decided to mix some of the spices used in the chcken together with some Brussels sprouts...it was a hit!

Ingredients

 1 tsp. ground coriander
1/2 tsp. ground cumin
1/4 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. ground ginger
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. pepper
1 Tbsp. vegetable oil, divided
1 Tbsp. honey
1 lb. Brussels sprouts, halved, with outer leaves removed

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 425F.
  2. Mix together the coriander, cumin, cinnamon, ginger, salt and pepper. 
  3. Drizzle 2 tsp. vegetable oil and the spices from the previous step over the Brussels sprouts.
  4. Place on a baking sheet and roast for 20 minutes, stirring halfway through. 
  5. Mix the remaining teaspoon of vegetable oil with the honey. Drizzle over the Brussels sprouts and roast for another 4 minutes.

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Zucchini and Tomato Tortellini with Cheesy Bread Crumb Topping



I planned on making a lazy dinner tonight - just some pasta and sauce. As I was putting the groceries away, I realized I had a good combination of ingredients that I could use to crate a meal with several fresh vegetables that would take only a little bit longer than my original idea. Enjoy! If you make it, leave a comment letting me know what you thought of it.

Ingredients

2 slices pancetta, diced
4 tsp. olive oil, divided
1 clove garlic, minced
1 small onion, diced
1 medium zucchini, cubed
20 grape tomatoes, halved
1 package dried tortellini
1/3 c. shredded Italian blend cheese
1/4 c. panko bread crumbs
1/4 c. fresh basil

Directions



  1. Cook the tortellini according to package directions. Reserve 1/3 of the cooking water before draining. 
  2. Heat 2 tsp. olive oil in a broiler safe skillet over medium heat. Add the pancetta and sauté for 5 minutes, until crisp. Remove pancetta from pan and let drain on paper towels. 
  3. Add the onion and garlic to the pan. Cook for 2 minutes, stirring frequently. 
  4. Add the zucchini and tomatoes. Season with salt and pepper Cook for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  5. Preheat broiler.
  6. Deglaze the pan with the reserved cooking water, scraping up any browned bits from the bottom of the pan. 
  7. Add the cooked tortellini to the pan. Mix well to combine.
  8. In a small bowl, mix the cheese, bread crumbs, and remaining 2 teaspoons of olive oil sprinkle over the tortellini mixture. 
  9. Place pan under the broiler for 3 to 5 minutes, until topping is golden brown. 
  10. Remove from oven and top with pancetta and torn basil.