Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Ranch Turkey Pizza

Okay, another quick and easy dinner made up from some of the leftover turkey from the big feast.

This one takes a shortcut and uses one of those pre-baked pizza crusts that we can buy at the grocery store. I picked up a package of whole wheat crusts this time and got the bonus of two crusts for the price of one. Since the crust is already baked this dinner can be on the table in about 30 minutes which is fantastic with all the extra activities that seem to hit from now until Christmas.

Ranch Turkey Pizza

1 pre-baked pizza crust (12” size)
3 Tablespoons of your favorite Ranch Salad dressing
1 ½ cups diced cooked turkey
1 cup fresh spinach leaves
1 cup chopped fresh tomato
2 chopped green onions
½ teaspoon Italian herb seasoning
1 ½ cups shredded Mozzarella cheese

Pre-heat oven to 450 degrees Fahrenheit

On a greased pizza pan (or flat cookie sheet) place the pizza crust.

Spread the Ranch dressing evenly over the top of the crust. Top with remaining ingredients.

Cook in pre-heated oven for 10 to 15 minutes or until hot and cheese is melted. 


Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Turkey Nacho

Okay so this is really more an idea than a recipe. Make a nacho and toss some leftover cooked turkey in it. Easy and quick and you add some low fat protein to a favorite snack.

Here's a quick run down on how I built the nacho in the photo.

On a microwave safe plate scatter a layer of your favorite tortilla chips.
Top with about ½ cup of cubed cooked turkey and a handful of shredded cheese.

Microwave this on high for about 30 seconds just to get the cheese starting to melt.

Add another layer of chips, another ½ cup of turkey, a sliced green onion and a handful or two of cheese.

Microwave on high for about 1 minute or until most of the cheese is melted.

Top with you favorite toppings, we used: salsa, sliced olives, guacamole and sour cream.


Monday, November 19, 2012

Turkey Pot Pie

This is comfort food at its best, a wonderful warm dish that tastes like it came from grandma's kitchen. Okay, so it isn't low fat but once in while we need to treat ourselves. My feeling is if we eat healthy most of the time and we indulge once in a while we will be happier and less apt to go wild and eat badly all the time.

Since we are talking about leftovers from Thanksgiving this week I had to include this one. I used a pre-made pie crust from the grocery store. I usually have a couple of these in the fridge to use when I am short on time. Also if you just spent the last several days making a big dinner for the holiday you deserve to take a few shortcuts now. If you want to make a pie crust go for it! Use your favorite recipe, or plan ahead if you make pumpkin pie for the holiday and make an extra crust then.

I used thawed frozen mixed veggies in my pot pie but if you have some veggies leftover use those up first. I love this with leftover broccoli in it but it is good with whatever veggie you have on hand.

I made my pot pie with half and half but feel free to use any milk you have on hand, I like the richness of the half and half with the broth. My gravy mixture came out a little thin so I added a bit more flour to the recipe here so yours will should be thicker and richer than mine in the picture.

Turkey Pot Pie

¼ cup butter
1 medium onion
1 cup sliced mushrooms
2 cloves of garlic (minced or grated)
½ teaspoon dry sage
Salt and pepper to taste
1/3 cup all purpose flour
2 cups broth (turkey or chicken)
1 cup half and half (or any fat level milk)
2 cups mixed vegetables (thawed if frozen) or leftover veggies
2 cups cubed cooked turkey

1 pie crust, unbaked

Preheat oven to 450 degrees Fahrenheit

Melt the butter in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the onions and mushrooms and saute until softened. Add the garlic, dry sage and salt and pepper, continue to cook a few minutes more, just until the garlic starts to cook and release its aroma.

Stir the flour into the butter and onion mixture and allow to cook a minute or so. Slowly stir in the broth and bring to a boil stirring constantly. Allow to boil for a minute or so then stir in the half and half. Bring back to a simmer, stirring constantly.

Add the veggies and turkey to the mixture in the saucepan and allow to come back to a simmer stirring occasionally

Pour the mixture into a large (10") glass pie dish. Top with the pie crust.

Be sure you have the pie dish on a rimmed baking sheet.

Bake in preheated oven for about 25 minutes.
Allow to cool 5 minutes before serving. 


Thursday, November 15, 2012

Pumpkin Pies in a Jar

I am sure you have seen the cute little pies in jars around. I think they are just adorable and I decided way back over the summer I wanted to adapt one of my pumpkin pie recipes to use in jars for Turkey Day. Over the last month or so we have tried a couple of variations and this was our favorite (and will be on the table on the holiday)

I have made the original recipe a few times with whipped cream instead of Cool Whip but found we like the flavor and the texture better with the Cool whip.

One of my favorite things about the pies in jars is they seem to take up so little room in the fridge. Face it on Thanksgiving the average fridge is way too full and a big pie takes up a lot of valuable real estate in there. The jars can be stacked up and spread to small free spaces to they are much easier to work into the already full fridge.

I like to make these the day before I am going to serve them so they are nice and cold and set up. If you don't have time the day before you will need to get them done early in the day so they have some time before you want to eat them.

I used the 4 oz quilted jelly jars made by Ball for my pies. It is much easier in the straight sided jelly jars than if you got ones that are curved. I like the small size too, just right after the huge holiday meal.

Pumpkin Pies in a Jar


1 cup Graham Cracker crumbs
2 Tablespoons sugar
¼ cup melted butter


2 cups cold milk
1 (3.5 oz) package instant vanilla pudding
1 teaspoon pumkin pie spice
1 small can pumpkin

1 (8 oz) tub cool Whip

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit and place 12 (4 oz) jelly jars on a rimmed baking sheet.

Combine the cracker crumbs and sugar then add the melted butter. Divide this mixture evenly between the jelly jars and press down firmly to make a nice flat crust. I used the bottom of a narrow juice glass.
Bake the crusts for about 5 to 8 minutes until lightly browned. Set these aside to cool completely.

When the crusts are cool you can begin making the filling.

Combine the milk, pudding mix and pumpkin pie spice in a mixing bowl. Stir until thickened and smooth (about 2 minutes) Stir in the can of pumpkin.
Measure out 1 ½ cups of this filling reserve the remaining fillign for the next step. Divide the 1 ½ cups of filling among the jelly jars.

Add 1 ½ cups of Cool Whip to the reserved pudding mixture and add this as your next layer in the jelly jars trying to divide it as evenly as possible.

Put the lid/rings on the jars and place them in fridge for at least 2 hours.

At serving time remove lids/rings and top each serving with a dollop of the remaining Cool Whip. 


Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Mashed Sweet Potatoes with Bacon

I have to admit this recipe is a last minute change in my menu this year. I do always serve sweet potatoes but mine normal recipes feature orange juice and maple syrup. I was looking for a recipe for something totally off topic for the holiday in my cookbook collection and ran into this recipe. The flavor profile intrigued me so I decided to give it a last minute “audition” as a replacement player for Thanksgiving dinner. These are incredible! We loved them, in fact my 14 year old son ate almost half the recipe by himself, he kept going back for more. I know these are going to be a regular on our table long after the holiday is gone. I think they will pair wonderfully with almost any roasted meat especially poultry or pork.

Just a hint, for the big dinner next week I will be making these the day before and heating them back up. I tend to do most of my cooking for big dinners the day before, I don't want to be stuck in the kitchen while my guests are all in the living room having a good time. I'll try to get my game plan typed up and post it here on Friday so you can see what I mean. Hopefully you will get some hints you can use to make your day easier too.

Mashed Sweet Potatoes with Bacon

3 pounds dark sweet potatoes (about 4 large ones)
8 slices of bacon, cut up
1 large (or 2 medium) onions, chopped
1 tsp ground cumin
¼ cup half & half
1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves
salt and pepper to taste

Thyme sprig to garnish if desired

Begin poking some holes in the sweet potatoes and baking them on a rimmed baking sheet at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for about 1 hour and 15 minutes (or until tender)

Allow to cool enough to handle.

Meanwhile cook the bacon in a large skillet until crispy. Remove the bacon from skillet to a paper towel lined plate. Reserve enough of the bacon fat in the pan to cook the onions (about a 1 Tablespoon)

Cook onions in the bacon fat in skillet along with the ground cumin. Cook until the onions are tender.

Peel the sweet potatoes and mash them until smooth. Add the bacon, cooked onions (with cumin) and thyme leaves. Stir to combine and season with salt and pepper to taste.

Serve now or place in a casserole dish and refrigerate up to 24 hours. To heat place in a 350 degree oven for about 30 minutes or until heated through.

Garnish with some sprigs of fresh thyme if desired. 


Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Basic Bread Machine Dinner Rolls

This is my all time favorite recipe for dinner rolls year round. It's the recipe I pull out almost everytime I need to make some basic rolls. Not only are they a very tasty dinner roll but the bread machine does most of the work for you.

You can make these ahead; shape the dough as directed, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for anywhere from 4 to 48 hours. Take them out of the fridge, remove the plastic wrap and allow to rise in a warm place for 2 hours then bake as directed.

If you want rolls that a are crispy all around put them on a rimmed baking sheet to rise and bake as directed.

If you want rolls that are soft on the sides use a 13”x9” baking dish.

I've also used a muffin tin to make rolls that were more muffin shaped.

You can brush the tops before you bake with beaten egg for a chewier, brown crust (also this will allow you to sprinkle them with sesame seeds) or with milk if desired. Or do like I do and brush them with melted butter after they bake for a wonderful buttery crust. (wrap them in a damp towel briefly too for a softer crust)

You can make these the day before and simply re-heat them in the oven wrapped in foil too. Like I said they are really versatile.

showing 3 variations on shape

Basic Bread Machine Dinner Rolls

1 cup warm water
2 Tablespoons room temperature butter
1 egg
3 ¼ cup all purpose flour
¼ cup sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 Tablespoon yeast

Measure all the ingredients into your bread machine in the order specified in your owner's manual. If you don't have the manual anymore the order I listed them in is the order my machine calls for.

Use the dough cycle on your machine to form the dough.

At the end of the dough setting remove the dough from the machine to a floured surface. Cover and allow to rest for 10 minutes.

Grease your pan (see above)
divide the dough into 15 equal sized pieces, shape each piece into a ball. Place in prepared pan. Cover and rise in a warm (draft free) place for 30 to 40 minutes or until double in size.

Bake at 375 degrees Fahrenheit for 12 to 15 minutes or until golden brown.

Brush the tops with melted butter if desired.

Serve warm or cool on a wire rack.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Apple Juice Brined Turkey

Well, Turkey Day is almost here do you have your menu all figured out yet? Do you go with a very traditional menu or do you modernize those traditional flavors a bit?

At our house we start “auditioning” recipes for the big day sometime in mid October. I actually start looking for recipes and collecting ideas in about January but things start to come together about a month or so before the holiday. This auditioning of the recipes is a long standing tradition and we take it very seriously. If you happen to be at our house for dinner on one of the nights we are doing this you will be expected to join in the conversation. We discuss at length the merits and downfalls of each dish over dinner. We compare it to other recipes in the same category that we may have tried recently and with those recipes we have served other years. We discuss if the recipe will “play well” with the rest of the meal. It really is a fun tradition, you should try it at your house.

This year I had run into this different brine recipe for the turkey, I always brine my turkey (actually any poultry I am going to roast/ grill whole) and I have shared my traditional recipe on this blog in the past (check it out here  just double the ingredients for a turkey) This year I wanted to try something a bit different, a bit more special. I was looking through my cookbook collection and found this recipe well, I found the starting point for this recipe since I can never leave any recipe alone. I did make some changes from the original. Last week we gave it a try with a turkey breast and it was amazing! The only really problem I found was that the skin got very dark very quickly. I think because of the higher sugar content of the brine from the one I use normally. It still tasted fantastic not burnt at all it was just dark in color. The flavor the brine gave the meat was so fantastic definitely worthy of a place on the holiday menu this year.

I also now have my gravy for Thanksgiving Day in the freezer waiting for me. This is important since we almost always cook our turkey on Thanksgiving on the grill. We love the flavor that the charcoal grill gives the meat but it doesn't work very well for gravy because the drippings always get ashes in them. For this reason I always make my gravy up a week or two before the holiday and freeze it. I then defrost it the day before and put it in my small (1 quart) slow cooker to re-heat for dinner. So easy and one less thing to have to think about when company arrives.

You will need a large container to hold your turkey and the brine, I use my cooler. I add plenty of ice and let it sit in my kitchen which tends to be a pretty cold room. If you have a garage that would also be a good place to let your turkey do its time in the brine.

Remember to allow plenty of time for the turkey to defrost if you are buying a frozen one. I find that since I keep my fridge a bit colder than most people do I need to allow an extra day or two from what most of the websites say. Also you will need to have your turkey thawed out the day before you are going to cook it since it will need to sit in the brine for a good 18 hours.

For the apple juice in this recipe you don't need anything fancy just make sure it is actually apple juice and not a “juice cocktail” with a lot of added sugar. You do need a 100% juice for this. I am going to probably use the correct amount of frozen concentrate with water for mine depending on what is the better value. I am assuming you are oven roasting your turkey so I am including the recipe for the fantastic gravy.

Apple Juice Brined Turkey

Brine and turkey

1 gallon of apple juice (no sugar added)
2 cups brown sugar
1 cup kosher salt
½ cup chopped fresh (or 2 Tablespoons dry) sage
½ cup fresh thyme leaves (or 2 tablespoons dry)
2 Tablespoons whole peppercorns

1 Turkey, thawed if purchased frozen (rinsed, neck and giblet package removed)
water and ice as necessary to cover turkey

1 onion (cut in quarters)
1 lemon (cut in quarters)
a few springs of fresh thyme
a few sprigs of sage
melted butter or oil to coat turkey

Gravy and basting sauce

½ cup butter
1 Tablespoon fresh sage
5 cloves garlic (minced or grated)
¼ cup all purpose flour
2 cups chicken or turkey broth
salt and pepper to taste

Reserve 1 cup of the apple juice to use in the basting mixture (be sure to refrigerate)
In a large container combine the rest of the apple juice, the brown sugar, kosher salt, ½ cup fresh sage (or 2 Tablespoon dry) ½ cup fresh thyme (or 2 Tablespoon dry) and the whole peppercorns. Stir until the sugar and salt are dissolved. Add the turkey to the brine mixture and add enough water to completely cover the turkey. If you are brining in a cooler add ice with the water.

Allow to brine for about 18 hours.

Remove turkey from brine 1 hour before time to begin cooking. Rinse turkey to remove excess brine and allow the skin to dry. Place quartered onion, lemon and sprigs of fresh herbs in cavity of turkey.

Tuck wing tips under back of turkey and tie legs together. Coat skin well with melted butter or oil.

Roast at 325 degrees Fahrenheit for time needed for the size of your turkey. (there are many charts online and in cookbooks to find the correct time)

Combine the reserved apple juice with the remaining ½ cup butter and garlic in a small saucepan. About an hour before the turkey is expected to be done begin basting the skin with this mixture about every 15 minutes, using all the mixture.

Check the temperature of the turkey in the thigh to be sure it is cooked. Don't rely on the pop up timer, I have rarely had them give me an accurate indication of doneness.

When your turkey is done remove from oven allow to rest for at least 15 minutes.

Meanwhile pour the drippings into a measuring cup. Skim off and reserve the fat.

In a medium saucepan combine ¼ cup of the fat from the drippings with the flour to form a roux. Add the liquid from the drippings along with the 2 cups of broth stirring to make a gravy. After the gravy comes to a boil taste and season with salt and pepper as needed.