Thursday, November 26, 2015

Happy Thanksgiving: Why you Should be at Home

Happy Thanksgiving! I hope you're having a great holiday with friends and family, or both!

But what I really hope is you're not reading this while you stand in line outside of some retailer on Thanksgiving impatiently waiting for them to open. If you've been a reader for years, you'll know that I am firmly against stores opening on Thanksgiving and one of these years I'll just share a list of posts with you that I previously shared telling you why I think you should stay home.

First, I don't really expect you to listen to me. You're likely an adult who can make their own decisions and do whatever you want. I just hope that if you were on the fence about shopping on Thanksgiving, you'll hear me out and hopefully change your mind.

In recent years it has become a competition between retailers for who can open their doors the earliest and offer the best sales for Black Friday. Somewhere along the way, "Friday" was lost because stores started opening on Thursday instead. There are two arguments regarding Black Thursday that I hate the most.

1. Stores have always been open for Thanksgiving. Don't work retail if you don't want to work on Thanksgiving. Actually, that's not true at all. The majority of stores never used to be open on Thanksgiving. Less than a decade ago I remember stopping ten different times on the way to my aunts house looking for somewhere that was open and had orange juice I needed for a recipe I was bringing. Stores used to open in the early hours of Friday morning; five or six am. That slowly got earlier and earlier. Retail workers used to say that they had to eat Thanksgiving dinner early in order to go to bed in time to make it to work for the deals. And of course anyone can say "don't work retail if you don't want to work holidays" but have you looked at our economy lately? It's not like we're in a society thriving with jobs where retail workers are nothing but high school kids.

2. But police, firefighters, nurses, doctors, etc. have to work so who cares if stores are open. Yes, well those are considering essential personnel for emergencies. Cashiers, stockers, warehouse and store managers are not. If my house was on fire, I'd much prefer a firefighter to come instead of a cashier, wouldn't you?

But here is the real reason you should stay home:

Retailers have admitted that by opening on Thanksgiving there is no increase in sales and because of this many of them are offering  THE SAME deals online on Thanksgiving day. 

Now, I don't know about you, but after stuffing my face with turkey and all the fixings, who the hell wants to put on pants and go outside in the cold to go shopping? Slip on those fuzzy penguin pajama pants and matching socks and do your holiday shopping from your computer chair. You seriously can't tell me that's not more appealing.

Also, don't forget, retail workers are people too. Most of which have families they would like to celebrate Thanksgiving with. Last year it was a conflict of interest for me to get detailed, but that's no longer the case. My cousin works for Walmart. She works overnight, getting off at 7 am. So Thursday morning she gets off at 7 am and guess what time she has to go back into work. 4 pm. Just enough time between shifts to make it legal. Not nearly enough time to get anything more than a shower and a catnap, much less see family for a holiday.

So, hugs and kisses  to these stores who are NOT opening on Thanksgiving:

P.C Richard & Son
Game Stop
HomeGoods/TJ Maxx
Pier 1
Crate & Barrel
and a few others! 

If you hate the idea of stores opening on Thanksgiving, check out the Boycott Black Thursday Facebook page! 

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Apple Cranberry Turkey Sliders

Sandwiches are a classic recipe made with leftovers from Thanksgiving. This one seems pretty basic from the list of ingredients but don't let it make you think this is just any old boring turkey sandwich.

It is so much more.

Apple Cranberry Turkey Sliders
Source: Cooking Light
Servings: 3
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3 slider rolls
3 tbsp. mayonnaise
3 thick slices Gruyere cheese
leftover turkey, shredded
1/2 small apple, thinly sliced
3 tbsp. cranberry sauce

1. Slice the rolls in half and spread the mayo on both sides of every roll. Fold each slice of cheese to fit onto each roll. Divide the turkey among the rolls.
2. Add a few apple slices on top of the turkey and a tablespoon of cranberry sauce.

Delicious! I may have ate all 3 of these so quickly I barely tasted them. They were that good! The only thing I can think of that would make them even better is if some arugula leaves were added in.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

#handcraftededibles: Slow Cooker Cinnamon Almonds

One of the easiest appetizers you can put out for the holidays are nuts. Cashews, pecans, almonds, walnuts, peanuts...any type of nut will do. And, according to Ina Garten, you don't even need to make them yourself. A tin of nuts from the store is more than acceptable to put out for your guests. Just dress them up a little by tossing them into a bowl.

But, if you wanted to make your own, here is a great recipe for you to try. You can never go wrong with the combination of cinnamon and sugar and adding almonds to it makes it almost seem healthy.

Slow Cooker Cinnamon Almonds
Source: The Recipe Critic
Servings: 3 cups
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    • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
    • 3/4 cup brown sugar
    • 3 tbsp. cinnamon
    • 1/4 tsp. salt 
    • 1 egg white
    • 2 tsp. vanilla 
    • 3 cups unsalted, raw almonds
    • 1/8 cup water 
1. In a medium bowl, combine the sugars, cinnamon and salt.
2. In a large r bowl, whisk together the egg white and vanilla until frothy. Add the almonds to the bowl and toss to coat, making sure to get them all coated. Then pour the cinnamon sugar mixture over the almonds and toss to coat until each almond is covered in the mixture (there will still be some cinnamon sugar left)
3. Spray a 4 quart slow cooker with non-stick cooking spray. Add the coated almonds and turn the slow cooker on low. Cook for 3 hours stirring every 20 minutes. In the last hour, add the water.
4. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and spread the hot almonds out onto the sheet in an even layer with a spatula. Allow to cool and then break up individually.

As an added bonus, your house will smell absolutely amazing while you have these almonds cooking. Crunchy, sweet and cinnamon-y! You can easily package these up into little treat bags and give them out as a gifts. If you can manage not to eat them all first. Good luck with that...

In an effort to make all of my holiday gifts this year, we are sharing recipes for hand-crafted edibles. Over the course of twelve weeks, we'll be sharing recipes that you can make at home to give to friends and loved ones, or things to serve at holiday parties. We hope you'll follow along for inspiration. You can find out more information, including the schedule: here.

This week, we are "going nuts" and sharing all sorts of recipes with nuts. Think spiced nuts or nutty fruit cake or whatever floats your
nutty boat!

Here's what we're posting this week...
Next week - week 10 - check back for our recipes to inspire you as we let our confectioner’s skills shine. Think truffles, barks, anything

and everything with chocolate. Don't forget to check out our #handcraftededibles pinterest board.

Monday, November 23, 2015

Roast Turkey Pho

In a few days Thanksgiving will have come and gone and you'll likely be left with a pile of leftover turkey meat. I don't know about you but I easily get bored of reheating leftovers to the same meals that I once had them.

Which is why I decided to share some recipes with you that can be make with leftovers in advance of Thanksgiving. Takes the planning out of it!                            

Roast Turkey Pho
Adapted from: Cooking Light
Servings: 6-8
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    for the broth:
    • carcass of a 12 lb. turkey 
    • 1 large yellow onion, quartered
    • 1 lemon, quartered
    • 1 garlic head, halved crosswise
    • 3 tbsp. canola oil
    • 6 cups water
    • 3 cups chicken (or turkey) broth
    • 1 tbsp. whole black peppercorns
    • 2 tsp. brown sugar
    • 3 star anise
    • 3-inch piece of ginger, peeled and sliced
    for the soup:
    • 10 oz. shredded turkey (breast, thigh, etc.)
    • 1 1/2 tbsp. fish sauce
    • 1/2 tsp. salt
    • 4 oz. uncooked wide rice noodles 
    • 1 tbsp. chili oil
    • 1 cup carrot, peeled and sliced
    • 1 cup basil leaves
    • 1/2 cup cilantro leaves
    • 1/2 cup thinly sliced red onion
    • 1 jalapeno pepper, thinly sliced
    • 1 lime, sliced into wedges 
1. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.
2. On a rimmed baking sheet, combine the turkey carcass, onion, lemon and garlic. Drizzle the canola oil over the ingredients. Roast for 40 minutes or until everything is a deep golden brown, turning over once halfway through.
3. Transfer the ingredients of the baking sheet to a large stock pot, discarding any fat. Pour the water into the stock pot followed by the remaining broth ingredients (through ginger).
4. Bring to a boil then reduce the heat and simmer for 1 hour. Strain through a fine mesh sieve, discarding the solids.
5. Return the broth to the stock pot and add the shredded turkey, fish sauce and salt. Cook for 5 minutes or until heated through.
6. Prepare the noodles according to package directions, omitting any salt and fat. Drain the noodles and divide between 6-8 bowls. Pour the hot broth over the noodles and then drizzle with chili oil. Stir in the carrots, basil and cilantro leaves, red onion and jalapeno pepper. Squeeze the lime wedge into the soup.

In order to make this more appealing to Tom I omitted the bean sprouts and added carrots. (Plus my local store doesn't carry them) I thought this was delicious. It's time consuming to make the stock, but you could easily just use prepared chicken or turkey broth if you don't have the initial hour and 40 minutes for roasting and simmering.

Friday, November 20, 2015

75+ Thanksgiving Recipes

Next year I plan to share a round up of Thanksgiving recipes with you well in advance of the holiday. I think I've finally amassed a large enough collection of Thanksgiving related recipes to do so. Of course, I'll still end up making and sharing a few recipes leading up to the big day of all things turkey, but I think as a food blogger, that's kind of inevitable.

So for all of you procrastinators out there, here are more than enough recipes to help you out if you're hosting this Thanksgiving holiday. And if you're a procrastinator with a big frozen turkey, you need to get him into the fridge very soon!

* Estimate 1 full day of thawing for every 5 pounds of turkey. (Ex. 15 pound turkey = 3 days)

Make sure to factor in thawing time if you're doing something like an overnight cure or brine on your turkey!

First, let's check out a previous round up of recipes!

And here are some new recipes for this year!



wild mushroom risotto {paleo & vegan}


Next week I have a couple recipes to share with you to help reduce all that leftover turkey and Friday will host a round up of those recipes as well.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Improv Challenge: Butternut Squash Soup with Parmesan-Sage Croutons

There is a whole world of squash out there that I'm just beginning to try. Growing up, a squash in any form never grazed the dinner table. I had only heard of zucchini and had no idea that you could even cook with the varieties of squash that showed up in the grocery stores in the fall.

I can't remember if it was zucchini or butternut squash that I tried first, but for the sake of the fall season, let's say that it was butternut. I quickly realized I had been missing out on a world of flavors. On it's own, there isn't a huge amount of flavor coming from the squash but it goes so well with so many different spices and seasonings creating entirely unique combinations.

Of course, like anything else that's a vegetable, Tom doesn't like it. He'll occasionally eat a bite or two if it's mixed in with something else, but something like a soup where the squash is the main ingredient? Nope. Which means I get to spend  the better part of the fall and winter season having all of these recipes for lunch.

It's funny, I made this soup last week and then realized I didn't have anything prepared for the Improv Challenge this month. Would you believe that the ingredients for November are squash and sage? How amazingly perfect was that? It was like my brain somehow knew this (granted, I did read the ingredients but that was months ago) and just so happened to remind me to make this soup right in time for the challenge.

Butternut Squash Soup with Parmesan-Sage Croutons
Source: Cooking Light, December 2004
Servings: 6-8
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for the soup:
    • 5-6 cups of butternut squash 
    • 3 tbsp. olive oil
    • 3 tsp. kosher salt 
    • pinch of black pepper 
    • 1 tbsp. butter
    • 1 large onion, diced
    • 3 celery stalks, diced
    • 1 tbsp. fresh sage, chopped
    • 6 cups chicken broth (or vegetable to keep it vegetarian)
    • 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese, grated
    for the croutons:
    • 3 thick slices rustic bread
    • 1 large garlic clove, minced
    • 1 tbsp. fresh sage, chopped
    • 3 tbsp. olive oil 
    • 2 tbsp. Parmesan cheese, grated
    • pinch of salt 
1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Spray a large baking sheet with non-stick cooking spray.
2. In a large bowl, toss the butternut squash together with the 2 tbsp. olive oil, 2 tsp. salt and the pepper. Arrange on the sheet and bake for 15 minutes. Flip the pieces over and bake another 15 minutes or until the pieces are caramelized and fork tender. (Leave the oven on and don't wash the bowl.)
3. In a Dutch oven, heat the butter with the remaining 1 tbsp. of olive oil over medium heat. Add the onion, celery and sage. Cook, stirring frequently for 10 minutes or until the vegetables have softened.
4. Add the squash and the broth and bring to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer for 30 minutes.
5. Meanwhile, prepare the croutons. Reduce the oven temperature to 375.
6. Cut the bread into 1 inch pieces and toss together in the large bowl with the sage, olive oil, Parmesan cheese and salt. Spread into an even layer onto a baking sheet (if using the one from the squash, just blot any excess oil with a paper towel first) and bake for 10-12 minutes or until golden brown and crisp, flipping pieces over once halfway through the cooking. Set aside.
7. Transfer the soup to a blender and blend until smooth. (Blend in batches and hold a towel over the blender to stop the hot liquid from splashing)
8. Divide the soup among bowls and top with the croutons. Divide the Parmesan cheese among the bowls and serve.

I took this for lunch last week and it was incredible. It reheated really nicely in the microwave and the croutons stayed crispy in a plastic bag all week. The soup is rich with flavor and hearty enough to keep you full for hours.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Thansgiving Menu

Every single year I say that we're not going to have a ton of food and every single year the exact opposite happens.

I've pretty much given up and decided that as long as we try to keep the appetizers light so people actually eat the turkey and side dishes, there isn't much more I can do than that. Here's what I came up with for this year.

Thanksgiving Menu

veggie tray
deviled eggs
apple/pear gouda bacon bites
charcuterie & cheese plate 

Main and Sides:
stuffing in a bundt pan
mashed potatoes
Parmesan sage mashed sweet potatoes
Italian green beans
cardamom carrots
pull-apart buttery dinner rolls 

pumpkin pie cheesecake
apple bundt cake

hot cranberry cinnamon rum
caramel apple sangria 

My mom is making the veggie tray and the pumpkin pie cheesecake. My aunt, who I mentioned before gets a free turkey every year, so she is taking my recipe and making the turkey as well as the gravy and the deviled eggs. I'll be handling the rest. 

Currently, I think our headcount is 11, but it's always subject to change. And like every year, I know I'll end up posting a picture of all of the food on Thanksgiving and asking if any stragglers want to join us. Maybe one day someone will take me up on that. I'm serious in my offer! 

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Herbed Bread Stuffing

Stuffing, or dressing since I don't cook it inside the turkey, has always been a weird side dish to me. I love the flavors but would prefer it to have more texture. Most stuffing/dressing recipes only have a tiny bit of crunch on the top layer that's baked in the oven and everything underneath is kinda mushy.

There are a lot of things I can eat, but mushy food just isn't one of them. I wanted to try this recipe and see if the larger pieces of bread would make a difference, giving this a firmer texture.

Herbed Bread Stuffing
Source: Blissfully Delicious
Servings: 10-12
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    • 1 lb. crusty country style bread, cubed
    • 3 celery stalks, thinly sliced
    • 3 medium onions, diced
    • 1 stick unsalted butter
    • 1 tbsp. fresh thyme
    • 1/2 tbsp. fresh sage
    • 1/2 tbsp. fresh rosemary, chopped
    • 1 1/2 cups chicken broth
    • 1/2 cup water
1. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.
2. Arrange bread cubes onto a jelly roll pan and bake for 25-30 minutes or until dry.
3. Melt the butter in a large skillet. Add the celery, onions and herbs. Cook, stirring occasionally for 10 minutes or until the celery is softened.
4. Transfer bread cubes to a large bowl. Pour the celery and onion mixture on top, followed by the chicken broth and water. Stir to combine.
5. Transfer to a 13x9 baking dish and bake for 20 minutes or until heated through.

*The photos are for half of this recipe.

This recipe pretty much did exactly what I wanted it to do! The larger pieces of bread and smaller quantities of chicken stock made this taste more like a flavorful softened crouton as opposed to a pile of mush. Ironically, Tom commented that the stuffing was too crunchy for his liking. Looks like we'll be a house divided on stuffing consistencies! 

Monday, November 16, 2015

Brown Sugar-Cured Turkey with Apple Bourbon Gravy

Brown sugar and apples are probably one of the most classic ingredient combinations. You can use it in tons of desserts, but the flavors also pair together really nicely with proteins such as pork, chicken and turkey. I knew I couldn't pass up making this delicious combo and putting it on a turkey.

Since it's just Tom and I for all of these mini Thanksgiving-like meals I'm hosting, I opted to make this recipe with just a turkey breast, albeit a large one since there weren't any small ones in the store. The original recipe calls for a 12 pound turkey, but cuts it up before cooking to ensure that all parts of the turkey are cooked the best way possible. If you're making a whole turkey, definitely check it out as my adaptions (in cooking only, not ingredients) are just for a turkey breast.

Brown Sugar-Cured Turkey with Apple Bourbon Gravy
Adapted From: Cooking Light
Servings: 12
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    • 1/4 cup brown sugar
    • 4 tsp. kosher salt
    • 2 tsp. ground fennel seeds
    • 2 tsp. ground cumin
    • 2 tsp. paprika
    • 1/2 tsp. crushed red pepper
    • 8 lb. turkey breast
    • olive oil
    • 2 tbsp. fresh thyme
    • 3 shallots
    • 3 celery stalks, cut into 3 inch pieces
    • 2 Granny Smith apples, peeled and quartered
    • 3/4 cup bourbon
    • 2 cups unsalted chicken stock
    • 1 tbsp. flour
    • 1 tbsp. butter
    • 2 tbsp. fresh parsley, chopped
    • 1 tbsp. cider vinegar
    • salt and pepper, to taste
1. Combine brown sugar, salt, fennel, cumin, paprika and crushed red pepper. Rub over the turkey breast. Refrigerate overnight.
2. Preheat the oven to 375.
3. Place the turkey breast in a roasting pan.
4. In a large bowl, toss together shallots, celery, and apples with olive oil. Arrange in the bottom of the roasting pan.
5. Roast the turkey breast for 30 minutes, then remove from the oven and brush with oil. Rotate the pan and roast an additional 30 minutes. Roast for another 45 to 90 minutes or until the turkey reaches an internal temperature of 155 degrees.
6. Remove from the oven and cover loosely with foil.
7. Pour drippings/fat from turkey into a small saucepan. Add bourbon, chicken stock and flour and cook over medium heat until the liquid reduces to 1 cup. Strain through a fine-mesh strainer.
8. Take half of the shallots, apples and celery mixture and combine with the bourbon-chicken stock mixture in a blender. Process until smooth then reduce to the saucepan.
9. Add butter, parsley, cider vinegar and salt and pepper. Stir until butter has melted. Adjust seasonings to taste.
10. Carve turkey breast, discarding skin and serve with the gravy.

I was kind of disappointed with the turkey by itself. I don't feel like the brown sugar and apple flavors were at all infused into the meat. The gravy, however, is entirely different. This is one flavorful gravy, which makes sense given the mild flavors of the turkey. You might even want to further thin this out with additional chicken stock (unsalted!) to take away from the intense roasted apple and shallot flavors.

Friday, November 13, 2015

Chinese Five Spice Carrots

I remember not long after I started blogging Chinese Five Spice seasoning became a frequent spice used in recipes. Of course, Maryland grocery stores (at least in my area) hadn't caught up to the times and I wasn't able to find it anywhere.

Eventually I caved and ordered a small jar of it online from Penzey's spices and I was finally able to make all of those recipes! This simple side dish of carrots is so easy to make that if you don't include salt and pepper, there are only three ingredients in this whole recipe. You'd never know it though, the Chinese Five Spice adds a depth of flavor.

In case you aren't familiar with it, Chinese Five Spice is a seasoning made up of star anise, cloves, Chinese cinnamon, Sichuan peppers and fennel seeds. The flavor is hearty and warm and the seasoning is most frequently used on pork and chicken.

Chinese Five Spice Carrots
Source: All Recipes
Servings: 6
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    • 7 large carrots, peeled and cut in half lengthwise
    • 1 tbsp. vegetable oil 
    • 1/2 tsp. Chinese Five Spice
    • salt and pepper to taste
1. Preheat the oven to 375.
2. Place the halved carrots in a baking dish and drizzle with oil. Sprinkle the Chinese Five Spice powder over them.
3. Bake for 30 minutes or until tender. Season to taste with salt and pepper.