Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Thanksgiving Tips

Just wanted to send out a few Thanksgiving meal tips that I have been learning in RS cooking class. I've used the turkey brine for several years now and get LOTS of positive comments on my turkey. :)

Buttermilk Brine for Your Turkey

Overnight brine (12 to 14 hours) uses 1/2 cup of table salt per gallon of cold water. For a quick brine (4 to 6 hours) use 1 cup of table salt per gallon of cold water. For most birds, you will need 2 gallons of cold water. For a buttermilk brine, add a quart of buttermilk to 2 gallons of brine. If your turkey does not fit in the fridge, you should keep it in a big cooler with ice packs to keep it cold. Don't let the turkey brine beyond the recommended time or it will be overly salty. When the turkey is ready to come out of the brine, be sure to rinse away the salty water and then pat the turkey dry with paper towels.

I like to roast my turkey with a simple herb butter under the skin. "Herbes de Provence" is a great (and easy) way to get all the herbs you'll want in one quick bottle. Just mix 1 tablespoon of the herbs with 1 stick of softened butter, then rub it under the skin before roasting. No need to marinate, as this does nothing to help keep your bird moist and slows down the proper cooking time.

For a lump-free gravy:
Equal parts flour and butter, mix together over medium heat (this is called a roux). After well combined (if you smell it, you may be able to smell a sugar cookie like smell - takes maybe a minute of constant stirring), add your broth (from whatever meat you may have cooked) until you have the consistency that you like. Add water or store-bought broth if you run out of homemade. About 1/2 cup of roux for 3 cups of liquid (my preference). Put in a little broth at a time and let it thicken before adding more, until you reach the desired consistency. Use a whisk to mix it in so that no lumps form. If your gravy doesn't have the brown color that you want, you can use a browning sauce (available at most local grocery stores) to add color. You don't need a lot, just poor in a little a time until you get the color you want. This should not effect your flavor.


Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Tuscan Bean Casserole

I am so excited about this new recipe--I made it up all by myself, and it turned out so good that two out of three picky eaters loved it! Okay, wait, I have to confess that my mother (fabulous cook) helped me get started with the idea on this one, based on some random ingredients I had on hand that I wanted to use up.

This casserole turned out to have similar flavor and characteristics of two of my favorite soups: Tuscan Bean Soup and Zuppa Toscana (from Olive Garden). If I were to double it, I think I would use two different kinds of beans (probably white and red), but one can was enough for the small size I did. If you try it, let me know what you think and if you come up with any improvements!

Tuscan Bean Casserole

1/2 pound ground sausage (more or less; reduced fat would be fine)
1/4 C chopped onion
1-2 cloves garlic
1 C chopped carrots
1 can white beans, rinsed and drained (I used great northern)
1 C chopped fresh spinach
1-2 C frozen hash brown potatoes (southern style--the little cubes)
2 Tbsp flour
1/2 tsp rosemary leaves
1/2 C milk
1/2 C water
1/2 tsp chicken bouillon

Crumble sausage and cook until done in frying pan on medium heat. Add onions and garlic during last few minutes of cooking time. While sausage cooks, combine carrots, beans, potatoes, and spinach in 8x8 casserole dish. When sausage is cooked, carefully remove it from drippings and add it to casserole dish. Pour drippings into a heat-proof cup and measure 2 Tbsp back into frying pan. Stir in flour, then crush rosemary leaves and add. Cook flour mixture over medium heat until smooth and bubbly. Slowly stir in milk, water, and bouillon. Stir constantly until mixture boils for about 1 minute. Remove from heat and pour into casserole dish. Stir all ingredients together until combined. Cover and bake at 350 for 30-45 minutes, or until hot and done-looking.

Serve with crusty bread and a green salad!

Friday, April 17, 2009

Brown-sugar glazed ham balls

So much for my goal of posting a new recipe every day or two! I've been too busy to cook anything yummy, let alone blog about it. But tonight I was so excited about this recipe that I had a blast making and eating it, even though my husband brought home an entire leftover pizza (which we'll just have to eat tomorrow). And even my super-picky baby loved these ham balls. Perhaps that's due to all the brown sugar they soak up?

I love ham and always buy the biggest one I can find at Christmas and Easter, when the prices are low. It freezes so well--I usually have several bags-ful in my freezer. But I get tired of my standard ham recipes, and this one was a nice change, and so easy. By the way, it makes quite a few large balls, so we have plenty of leftovers. Here's the recipe (no photo--broken camera). Thanks to my sister-in-law Kathryn for sharing this with me!

1 lb. ground pork
1 lb. ground fully cooked ham (I used my food processor to chop it)
2 eggs
3/4 cup milk
2/3 cup crushed Shredded Wheat cereal (not frosted)

1-1/2 cups packed brown sugar
2/3 cup water
1/3 cup vinegar
3/4 teaspoon ground mustard

In a bowl, combine the pork, ham, eggs, milk and cereal; mix well. Shape into 1 ½-inch to 2-inch balls; place in a greased 9x13 baking dish. In a saucepan, combine sauce ingredients; bring to a boil over medium heat. Reduce heat; simmer, uncovered, for 4 minutes. Pour over ham balls. Bake, uncovered, at 350ยบ for 60–70 minutes or until browned.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Ground Hog Dinner

This is one of my all-time favorite meals--too bad it's not really healthful. We have had it every year on Groundhog Day since I was a little girl (thanks Mom!). It's really the only reason I'm even aware of the holiday. Sorry I've posted this a bit too late for your Groundhog Day dinner, but cook it up tomorrow and call it "Groundhog Day Observed!"

By the way, the creamed peas are so amazing with this--don't skip them! My kids prefer to eat their peas separate from the sausage (or not at all), but the pigs are fabulous when they're smothered with creamy, sweet peas.

Ground Hog (Pigs in Blankets) and Creamed Peas

2 pkg crescent roll dough (8 rolls per pkg)
2 pkg small sausage links (12 per pkg--there will be 8 unused)

Cook sausage until done all the way through (fry in frying pan). Preheat oven to 375. Roll up in crescent roll dough so little sausage ends poke out. Bake for 11-12 minutes or according to roll package directions (until golden brown). Serve smothered with creamed peas.

While pigs are baking, make creamed peas:
1 Tbsp butter
1 Tbsp flour
Dash salt and pepper
1 Cup milk
1 Cup (more or less) cooked peas

Melt butter in small saucepan while peas are cooking in a separate pan. Stir flour, salt, and pepper into butter. Stir milk into butter mixture and keep stirring until mixture boils. Remove from heat. Drain peas thoroughly and add to white sauce.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Green Chile Stew

Mmm, winter always makes me want soup, and this is one of my all-time favorites! It is a staple in New Mexico, where I grew up. It's so easy to make, and you can control the amount of spiciness by the brand of green chile you use (or any add-ins you want, like Tabasco or jalapenos). Make sure to get good tortillas from a Latin market, or the ones you cook yourself that are sold at Costco.

By the way, my one-year-old loves this!

1 to 1 1/2 lb lean pork or beef, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
Oil for frying
1 medium onion, chopped
4 C water (plus a little bouillon, if desired)
3 to 4 medium potatoes, cubed
16 oz green chile, chopped (that's 4 of the small cans!)
2 medium tomatoes, chopped (canned is okay)
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 tsp salt
1/3 tsp pepper

In large saucepan, brown meat in oil 15 minutes over medium heat, stirring frequently, until meat is well-browned. Add chopped onion; brown 5 more minutes. Add water and potatoes; fast simmer for 15 minutes, or until potatoes are done. Add green chiles, tomatoes, garlic, salt, and pepper. Simmer 10 minutes, stirring frequently. Makes 2 quarts.

*You can use pre-cooked meat, but then you definitely need some bouillon
**Make sure not to add the tomatoes before the potatoes are cooked through. Otherwise they will prevent the potatoes from softening!

Monday, December 1, 2008

Chicken Paprika

My sister lives in Hungary part of the year and said this recipe is very authentic, except it is done in a crock pot and super easy.

1 medium chicken (actually easier if you use boneless chicken breasats)
3 c. water
3 chicken bouillon cubes
2 whole tomatoes
1 chopped onion
1/2 green bell pepper
2 T paprika
2 tsp salt
2 cloves garlic
1/2 tsp pepper
1/2 tsp oregano
1 c sour cream

Combine all ingredients in a crockpot except sour cream. Cook on High for about 6 hours. When chicken is done, remove bones, cut up chicken into bite sized portions and return to crockpot. Thicken the soup with 1/4 c. flour mixed with 1/3 c. water. When thickened turn croc kpot off and let cool slightly. Before serving stir in 1 cup sour cream.
Serve with rice or noodles.

Zuppa Toscana

My cousin gave me this recipe that is for a knock-off of an Olive Garden Soup. It is absolutely delicious. It has a great mixture of great tastes that are very different from my typical soups.

1 1/2 c. ground sausage
6 slices bacon
3/4 c oinons diced
1 1/2 tsp minced garlic
1 qt chicken broth
2 medium potatoes
2 c. kale (collard greens, chard)
1/3 c. cream
Parmesan cheese to garnish

Cook sausage, drain off grease. (it is tasty with big chuncks) Cook bacon and crumble then set aside. In a soup pot use some of the oil from the bacon and cook the onions and garlic until translucent. Add chicken broth and potatoes. Simmer about 15 mn. until potatoes are tender, then add bacon, sausage and kale and cream. Simmer 5 minutes. Garnish with parmesan cheese. Enjoy!