Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Not Your Grandmother's Roast Turkey

Okay, okay, before you get all huffy, I am sure you grandmother makes incredible turkey. Most grandmothers do. I know, because mine do. I am NOT in any way taking that away from them!

But, I am willing to bet that they do not make their turkeys like this :) Since Thanksgiving is headed our way, I thought I would prompt you a bit. Do not be afraid of the turkeys. It is not all that difficult to cook a turkey, although it takes awhile. Since turkey is probably on sale at your local grocer for about a third of the price it normally is, this is a terrific time to try it. You will not be disappointed.

I love turkey. But I hate celery. For years (alright, twice), I stuffed my turkey with celery and carrots. Then somewhere along the line, I came across a secret ingredient. I tried it and all was good.

Then awhile later, I came across a chicken recipe that added a different secret ingredient. I put them together and I loved it.

THEN, I discovered a different way to cook the turkey. I did all three and ended up in heaven.

NOTE: You must begin with a THAWED the turkey!! If yours is frozen, put it into the refrigerator at least one day ahead. Some people brine their turkey, but I don't have a big enough container, so I just skip that step. No problem, this turkey will have plenty of flavor.

Inside your (thawed) turkey is a multitude of packages that should not be cooked. Look in the opening at the front. The neck is in there. Some people enjoy eating the necks of poultry. I do not. Either way, it is wrapped in plastic, so we want to at least take that off.
In the back of the turkey are the "giblets." Again, some people prepare these. To each his own.
In this turkey, I also found a gravy packet. Rinse this off an put it into the refrigerator. Probably to be forgotten when it is time to make the gravy.
Rinse off your turkey and place it into a heavy roasting pan. You can use the aluminum ones to save on clean up. The key here is to get the turkey off the bottom so it doesn't soak up all the grease.
Now we are going to stuff the turkey. Add in a stick of butter.
Secret ingredient #1: APPLES! This is going to give your turkey incredible flavor. Think about it. Do you want your turkey to have a hint of apple or a hint of celery? Pick the apple. Trust me. Quarter one. Along with an onion. I normally add in garlic, as well, but I seem to be out.
Stuff the onion quarters into the back of the bird.
Alternate with some apples. We are not going to eat the apples, so it doesn't matter if the seeds are still in there. If it bothers you, you can take them out.
A full turkey...

Ready for Secret Ingredient #2...Yes, Coca-cola. Pour a can into the back of the turkey over all the onions and apples. It's fine if it runs out. The Coke not only adds in a bit of flavor, but the liquid (acid) gets up into the meat and really makes the turkey come out tender and juicy.

Trust me. And pretend there is a picture here...

Some people like to coat their turkey with butter. I don't. I think it dries it out. So I coat mine with olive oil.
Use your hands and make sure it is coated.
Secret Cooking Method. This idea came from Kidd Kraddick in the Morning. He is a DJ out of Dallas that I used to listen to on my way to school. I encourage you to listen in if you can because the crew is really funny and they do some incredible things for kids with terminal illnesses. Anyway, he talked about this method one Thanksgiving and I was intrigued...

Put the turkey and pan into a brown paper bag. I have noticed that these are getting harder and harder to find, but they are out there.
I close mine with a couple of clothes pins. That way I can check on the turkey while it is cooking. Mist the top of the bag with water so the air can move in and out.
Cook at 350. The amount of time will depend on how big of a turkey you have. Check the wrapping. It will tell you how many pounds of turkey you have. It takes about 20 minutes for each pound of turkey. This one cooked for 3 hours (12 pounds). The little red thing will pop out when it is cooked through, but it is always a good idea to check it with a meat thermometer. It should read 170 when put into the thigh of the turkey.
Doesn't that look incredible?

Give it a try. You can do it. You will not be disappointed.

Click here for Printable Recipe

Roast Turkey
1 8-12 Pound Turkey, thawed
1 Apple, quartered
1 Onion, quartered
5 Cloves Garlic, chopped
1 Stick Butter
1 Can Coca-Cola
Olive Oil
Preheat oven to 375o. Remove giblets from the turkey. Place turkey in pan. Add apple, onion, garlic and butter to turkey cavity. Pour cola into cavity. Rub turkey all over with olive oil. Cover turkey and pan with large brown paper bag. Staple shut. Sprinkle bag with water. Place turkey in oven on middle rack. It is extremely important that the bag is not in contact with the heating element of the oven!!! Cook 13-15 minutes per pound until a meat thermometer reads 170.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Pumpkin Whoopie Pies

Okay, one more pumpkin recipe and I will move on. I found these in my Google Reader a week or so ago and knew I had to try them. I couldn't locate where I got the recipe, and a quick search did not turn up a blog that sounded familiar. As near as I can tell they seem to have originated with Martha Stewart. Figures. These look like something she would invent. Don't take that the wrong way. I love Martha.

I almost didn't make these, cute as they are, because the ingredients list is such that for anything but pumpkin and spice, I wouldn't even have considered it. Typically, the shorter the list, the more likely the recipe will make it into my box.

But I did try them.

And now we are all happy here.

Start with the spices and flour in a medium sized mixing bowl.
Let The Boy whisk this all together, even though you told him he had to get dressed first. Less laundry, you know.
While he is doing that, combine the brown sugar and oil in a large mixing bowl. The recipe calls for dark brown sugar. You could substitute light brown if that is all you have. I actually have dark in my cabinet because that is what is needed to make butterscotch pudding. I'll let you know how that turns out. I also substituted half of the oil with applesauce. Then add in the pumpkin puree.
Whisk that together and add in vanilla and an egg.
Mix well and add the flour mixture.
Use a small ice cream scoop to spoon the cookies onto a baking sheet. You can use a 1/8 measuring cup in place of the scoop if you don't have one. If you don't have one, put it on your Christmas list. Or just go buy one. These are great not only for projects like this, but you can actually use it to scoop out ice cream. My kids love having tiny little ice cream scoops in their bowl. It might even force you to moderate your ice cream intake. Not in my house, you understand, buy you might have more willpower than I do.
Bake these at 350 for about 15 minutes. I wasn't sure how far apart to space the scoops since I didn't know how much they would spread out. Now I know. They do not spread out. They turn out to be very thick cookies. Mmmm...
While these are cooling, start mixing up the frosting by creaming the butter and cream cheese.

Add in powdered sugar and vanilla and cinnamon.
I love the addition of cinnamon to this...
Use a regular table spoon to dollop the filling onto the flat side of an upside down cookie. Do this fast, because children will come out of nowhere to sneak tastes of this stuff.
Top with another cookie. Odd number of cookies? No problem. You can use the extra cookie to scoop out the scraps in the filling bowl.
You are supposed to refrigerate these for 30 minutes before serving. I tried. A good number of them did not make it that far.

These are good. Really good. I need to go make another batch right now.

Even though I loved this version, I have also located a filling made with whipping cream. I must try that.

Click here for Printable Recipe

Pumpkin Whoopie Pies
3 c all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 tablespoons ground cinnamon
1 tablespoon ground ginger
1 tablespoon ground cloves
2 c packed dark-brown sugar
1 c vegetable oil
3 c pumpkin puree
2 eggs
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Vanilla Bean Cinnamon Cream Cheese Filling
3 c powdered sugar
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
8 ounces cream cheese, softened
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 tsp cinnamon

Preheat oven to 350. In a large bowl, whisk together flour, salt, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, ginger, and cloves; set aside. In another large bowl, whisk together brown sugar, applesauce and oil until combined. Add the chilled pumpkin puree and whisk until combined. Add eggs and vanilla and whisk until combined. Add the flour mixture over pumpkin mixture and whisk until fully incorporated. Using a small ice cream scoop, drop heaping tablespoons of dough onto prepared baking sheets, about 1 inch apart. Transfer to oven and bake until cookies are set, about 15 minutes.

Sift the powdered sugar into a medium bowl; set aside. In a medium mixing bowl, beat butter until smooth. Add the cream cheese and beat until well combined. Add powdered sugar, vanilla and cinnamon; beat until smooth.

Line a baking sheet with waxed paper. When the cookies have cooled completely, spoon a large dollop of filling on the flat side of half of the cookies. Sandwich with remaining cookies, pressing down slightly so that the filling spreads to the edge of the cookies. Refrigerate cookies at least 30 minutes before serving and up to 3 days.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Hot Pumpkin Chocolate

I'm not sure where fall went. When I was forcing teenagers out the door to go run, it was 40 degrees. Now it is 70. I am pretty sure the calendar says November, but I am not buying it. Last night brought thunderstorms and lost power to my area, and it did cool off a little bit. But not enough for me.

In hopes of (or in spite of) a cooler evening, I tried a recipe that has been sitting on my list for quite some time. Actually, this is a heavily modified version of a Pumpkin Latte I found in a now missing check-out aisle cookbook. Have I mentioned my addiction to those??

Anyway, I don't drink coffee. Don't even remotely like coffee. Cannot choke it down. I have never understood how something that smells so incredibly good can taste so bad.

But somehow, the Pumpkin Latte kept calling to me. It looked (and even sounded) really, really good. But I knew the coffee would make me hate it. So, like any other sane person, I figured I would substitute hot cocoa for the coffee. Turns out, this was a great idea...

Take 2 tablespoons of pumpkin puree and add it to 2 cups of milk into your Cocomotion. I have mentioned how hot chocolate drinkers NEED one of these. Seriously. If need be, however, you can also put the ingredients into a heavy saucepan.
Add in 1 tablespoon cocoa, 2 tablespoons sugar, 1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice blend and 1 teaspoon vanilla.
Press the "on" button and wait patiently. If your ingredients are in a saucepan, cook on medium heat until hot and stir until mixed.
Add a dollop of whipped cream and enjoy.
This is huge. Two of my favorite ingredients come together at my favorite time of year. The Girl enthusiastically chugged her cup and I had to make some more.

I also went ahead and froze little 2 tablespoon servings of pumpkin puree. Fill up an ice cube tray and freeze overnight. In the morning, put them all into a freezer bag. Then you can just pop them out as you need them.

Click here for Printable Recipe

Hot Pumpkin Chocolate
2 Tablespoons Pumpkin Puree
2 Cups Milk
1 Tablespoon Cocoa Powder
2 Tablespoons Sugar
1 teaspoon Vanilla

Stir all ingredients together into a saucepan. Cook on medium heat until hot. Serve with a dollop of whipped cream if desired.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Making Your Own Pumpkin Puree

It is time.

It is fall. The weather started to turn chilly (actually darn tootin cold for a couple weeks) although it seems to have changed its mind this week. My porch is covered in sycamore leaves that don't seem to have come from my trees. And Halloween has come and gone.

So I can finally bake my pumpkins. I love baking with pumpkin. It might the orange color as much as the flavor.

My cousins have a pumpkin patch we go to every year. If you have never been to one, go. Especially if you have children. Picking out your own jack'o'lantern pumpkin is an experience that cannot be duplicated in the grocery store.

Last year was a bad year for the pumpkins. Apparently the crop was thin and that is why we are having trouble finding canned pumpkin in the grocery store. Or so I'm told. I haven't looked for canned pumpkin in years. So this would be the perfect year to try making your own pumpkin puree. It is super easy, and in my opinion, tastes better.

If you are looking for pumpkins to eat, then you are looking for different pumpkins than what you would use to carve. Look for the pumpkins that are the size of a basketball or smaller. These are much sweeter and have a better flavor than the larger pumpkins. That and they will fit into your oven.
Take the stem off.
Cut the pumpkin in half.
And scoop out the seeds and strings.
There are a couple things you can do with pumpkin detritus. Many people love pumpkin seeds as a snack. I'm not sure why, but I have never really cared for it. I like to bury the seeds. Do you know what happens if you bury this many pumpkin seeds? You end of with this many pumpkin plants. That take over your yard. And your deck. And your house. Seriously, bury them AWAY from the house.

Place the halves onto a large baking dish. Add a glassful of water to the bottom of the pan.
Sprinkle a couple teaspoons of cinnamon into the water. This will not give the pumpkin any flavor to speak of, but will make your house smell divine.Bake at 350 for about an hour. At about 30 minutes, check to see if a knife can easily be stuck through the skin. When that happens, turn off the oven and remove the pan. It is going to be really hot for quite awhile, so just let it sit on the counter. When it is cool enough to handle, scoop out the good stuff, leaving the skin behind.
Put this into a blender and puree. Where this picture is, I really don't know. Add two cups of the puree to a good quality freezer bag. Flatten it out and remove as much as the air as you can. Stack these bags on top of one another in the freezer. This is the best way I have found to freeze pumpkin. Space-wise, it can't be beat. Be sure to label your bag with the date. You know, in case it falls down into the depths of your freezer.
I have used pumpkin prepared and frozen this way up to a year later and not noticed it being any different than just-pureed. While the procedure is fairly time consuming, it really isn't difficult...it's a great Saturday afternoon project.

If you enjoy pumpkin, I highly recommend trying this at least once. I can just about guarantee you will never use canned pumpkin again.

Click here for Printable Recipe

Pumpkin Puree
1 Pie Pumpkin
1 Cup Water
2 teaspoons cinnamon
Cut the pumpkin in half and remove the insides. Place each half face down onto a large baking pan. Add water. Bake at 350 for about an hour. Scoop the flesh of the pumpkin out of the skin. Puree in a blender. Add two cups to a good quality freezer bag. Label and freeze for up to 1 year.