Sunday, November 29, 2009

Bacon Cheddar Deviled Eggs

I needed a little twist on this standard appetizer, and this was it. This are quick and easy, and a nice compliment to the holiday appetizer table.

Bacon Cheddar Deviled Eggs
from allrecipes

12 eggs
1/2 cup mayonnaise
4 slices bacon
2 tablespoons finely shredded Cheddar cheese
1 tablespoon mustard

1. Place eggs in a saucepan, and cover with cold water. Bring water to a boil and immediately remove from heat. Cover, and let eggs stand in hot water for 10 to 12 minutes. Remove from hot water, and cool. To cool more quickly, rinse eggs under cold running water.

2. Meanwhile, place bacon in a large, deep skillet. Cook over medium-high heat until evenly brown. Alternatively, wrap bacon in paper towels and cook in the microwave for about 1 minute per slice. Crumble and set aside.

3. Peel the hard-cooked eggs, and cut in half lengthwise. Remove yolks to a small bowl. Mash egg yolks with mayonnaise, crumbled bacon and cheese. Stir in mustard. Fill egg white halves with the yolk mixture and refrigerate until serving. (To fill the eggs, you can pipe them out using a large star tip, or just even squeeze the filling though the corner of a Ziploc bag.)

Very simple, but very tasty, I got quite a few compliments on these.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Cranberry Relish-Jello

I don't really know what this recipe is called, but my mom has been making it for Thanksgiving for as long as I can remember. It is a delicious cranberry treat, and I much prefer it over the traditional canned cranberry log.

Cranberry Relish-Jello

1 box Lemon Jello (3 oz size if it contains sugar, the sugar-free ones are .3 oz)
1 box Strawberry Jello (same thing on the size)
2 c. hot water
1 peeled and cored apple
zest from 1 orange (~2 Tbsp.)
1 peeled orange
1 c. cranberries
1/2 c. sugar
1/2 c. nuts (walnuts work well)

1. Mix together the strawberry Jello powder, lemon Jello powder, and hot water. Let cool slightly and refrigerate to thicken. This will take about an hour (15-20 min on the counter top and ~40 min in the fridge, give or take). You want to get this to the consistency of egg whites - when you add the relish, you want it to stay suspended in the jello, not sink to the bottom.

2. In a food processor, add the apple, orange, orange zest, cranberries, and nuts (if not already finely chopped). Pulse a few times, until you have a finely chopped relish. It may be a little watery, that is ok. Stir in the sugar.

3. Once the Jello is at the right consistency, add the relish mixture and stir to evenly distribute it. Place in a jello mold or serving bowl and refrigerate overnight.

I can't review family-favorite recipes! They are family favorites for a reason!

Monday, November 23, 2009

Thanksgiving Dishes

With Thanksgiving only a few days away, I thought now would be a good time to review some recipes I have made in the past that could work in the Thanksgiving buffet. I also have a new recipe or four (?) to post as I prep some dishes this week.

Good Eats Roast Turkey
Roasted Acorn Squash
Vegetable Tian
Whiskey Glazed Carrots
Appetizer Idea: Phyllo-wrapped Asparagus with Red Pepper Aioli
Pumpkin Pie Bites
Pumpkin Cookies with Browned Butter Frosting
Apple Pie

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Good Eats Roast Turkey

(I realize this picture makes the turkey look a tad dry, but I assure you, it was anything but!)

Last year, before this blog was born, I decided that I wanted to host a Thanksgiving dinner for our families. I wanted to make a turkey, and a delicious one at that. After days of research, I knew I would be brining my turkey and settled on Alton Brown's recipe from his Food Network show, Good Eats. The turkey was delicious! Very moist and flavorful, and it did not take all day to roast. The recipe is actually quite simple, and easy to adjust if you have a slightly larger or smaller bird.

This year, Josh and I are not hosting Thanksgiving, and we are not responsible for making a turkey. That didn't stop us though! Walmart had frozen turkeys on sale for $0.40/lb (seriously!), so I picked up a small-ish 12 lb bird that we made this past weekend. We had a nice dinner and kept some leftovers in the fridge. We also froze half the turkey for a later time, and I made some stock from the carcass. I'll link to some helpful tips for that at the end of the post.

Before starting, I recommend you head over here and watch this quick video. Alton discusses the magic of the "turkey triangle," why he starts at 500 deg F, that "low and slow" is NOT the way to go, and answers your basic questions about roasting a turkey. There are some other clips that follow, including why he doesn't stuff his bird. If you want to watch the whole Good Eats episode on Thanksgiving, search Alton Brown "Romancing the Bird" on YouTube.
Good Eats Roast Turkey
recipe courtesy Alton Brown

1 (14 to 16 pound) frozen young turkey

For the brine:
1 cup kosher salt
1/2 cup light brown sugar
1 gallon vegetable stock (I used 4 cups homemade and the rest from bouillon cubes)
1 tablespoon black peppercorns
1 1/2 teaspoons allspice berries
1 1/2 teaspoons chopped candied ginger (I used about 1 inch ginger root instead)
1 gallon heavily iced water

For the aromatics:
1 red apple, sliced
1/2 onion, sliced
1 cinnamon stick
1 cup water
4 sprigs rosemary
6 leaves sage
Canola oil


2 to 3 days before roasting:

Begin thawing the turkey in the refrigerator or in a cooler kept at 38 degrees F.

Combine the vegetable stock, salt, brown sugar, peppercorns, allspice berries, and candied ginger in a large stockpot over medium-high heat. Stir occasionally to dissolve solids and bring to a boil. Then remove the brine from the heat, cool to room temperature, and refrigerate.

Early on the day or the night before you'd like to eat:

Combine the brine, water and ice in the 5-gallon bucket (I use a Ziploc Big Bag - actually 2, just in case). Place the thawed turkey (with innards removed) breast side down in brine. If necessary, weigh down the bird to ensure it is fully immersed, cover, and refrigerate or set in cool area for 8 to 16 hours, turning the bird once half way through brining.
Approximately 3 hours before dinner (for a ~16 lb bird):

Preheat the oven to 500 degrees F. Remove the bird from brine and rinse inside and out with cold water. Discard the brine.

Place the bird on roasting rack inside a half sheet pan and pat dry with paper towels.
Combine the apple, onion, cinnamon stick, and 1 cup of water in a microwave safe dish and microwave on high for 5 minutes. Add steeped aromatics to the turkey's cavity along with the rosemary and sage. Tuck the wings underneath the bird and coat the skin liberally with canola oil.
Roast the turkey on lowest level of the oven at 500 degrees F for 30 minutes. Insert a probe thermometer into thickest part of the breast and reduce the oven temperature to 350 degrees F. Set the thermometer alarm (if available) to 161 degrees F. (The dark meat should be closer to 180 deg F.) A 14 to 16 pound bird should require a total of 2 to 2 1/2 hours of roasting. Let the turkey rest, loosely covered with foil or a large mixing bowl for 15 minutes before carving.
1. You need some space to work here, and to avoid the spread of bacteria, clear your counters of other food while the raw turkey is around.

2. I use a Ziploc Big Bag to brine in. Last year, I plugged in our small fridge (from the collage days) to store the turkey in, but I have also heard of others sticking it on some ice in a cooler if your fridge is too full. You should never let it sit at room temperature!

3. To go along with point 2, make sure your brine is chilled before putting your turkey in it.

4. The 500-degree thing will make your kitchen a little smokey. We had to open the oven to cover the breast with aluminum foil after the first 1/2 hour, and it was a little smokey in here for a while after. If its a nice day, plan to open a window. At the very least turn on your vent fan for a while if you have one.

5. When freezing the leftover meat, Alton suggests wrapping the pieces in aluminum foil before placing in a freezer gauge bag. So thats what I did, and the leftovers were delicious.
6. If you want to reuse the carcass to make some stock, break it down a bit and stick it in the fridge overnight. You will be far too busy to do this Thanksgiving night! I basically followed this recipe for the stock, minus the butter, and only using whatever I had around the house (no mushrooms, carrots, or parsley). I freeze the stock in 2 cup portions for later use, turkey stock can easily be substituted in most recipes that call for chicken stock.

Josh's White Chicken Chili

A few years ago, one of Josh's co-workers made white chicken chili for a get-together at his house, and Josh fell in love. With the chili that is. He has altered the recipe a bit over the years, and now he makes it by just throwing a bunch of stuff together and not measuring anything. I took some notes, and this is my best estimate at what he does, but he always tastes and tweaks as he goes.

This is our go-to chili recipe, especially on football Saturdays. Its surely a crowd pleaser, and you can just toss it in a crock pot on low instead of on the stove top to keep it warm all day.

White Chicken Chili
serves ~8 (2-cup servings)

1.5 lbs chicken breast, cooked through and chopped into bite-size pieces (Josh will either boil on the stove top or bake it in the oven, you can use tenders or chicken breast halves)
2 c. chopped white onion
2 Tbsp. minced garlic (2-4 cloves)
2 tsp. olive oil
(1) 48 oz. jar white northern beans
(3) 14.5-16 oz. cans of low-sodium chicken broth
(1) 7 oz. can chopped green chilis
1 Tbsp. cumin
2 tsp. oregano
1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper (more if you like it hot)
1/2 tsp. Tabasco sauce
Red hot sauce, shredded mozzarella cheese, and sour cream for topping

1. Saute garlic and onion in olive oil until opaque. Stir in green chilis, and continue to saute 30 more seconds.
2. Mix everything into a large stockpot and bring to a boil. Simmer 10-15 minutes. The chicken gets more tender the longer you cook it, you could leave it on low all day if you wanted to (covered).
3. Serve topped with cheese and sour cream, add a little Frank's Red Hot Sauce if you want more heat.REVIEW:
No critiques here. This is our favorite! (Its actually pretty healthy too - if you go light on the toppings.)

Friday, November 20, 2009

Island Pork Tenderloin

My Dad's birthday was a few weeks ago, so Josh and I had my parents (and nieces) up for dinner last weekend. I had seen this recipe come across my reader, and immediately knew that I wanted to make it. This pork tenderloin was very flavorful, and I really enjoyed the spicy-sweet taste. I served it with red skin potatoes, butternut squash, green beans, and rolls. I decided to put the potatoes around the pork in a baking dish to cook, but I would not do that next time - they picked up too much of the sweet flavor from the brown sugar topping, and I think it caused my pork to cook slowly. Other than that, this meal was a success!

Island Pork Tenderloin
as seen on Pennies on a Platter

For Spice Rub:
2 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon fresh ground pepper
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon chili powder
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 pork tenderloins (2 1/4 – 2 1/2 pound total) trimmed
2 tablespoons olive oil

For Glaze:
1 cup packed dark brown sugar
2 tablespoons finely chopped garlic
1 tablespoon Tabasco

1. Stir together salt, pepper, cumin, chili powder, and cinnamon in a small bowl. Coat pork with spice rub.

2. Heat oil in an ovenproof 12-inch heavy skillet over moderately high heat until just beginning to smoke. Brown pork, turning occasionally, about 4 minutes total. Remove from heat; leave pork in skillet. (I removed mine to a glass baking dish, which worked out just fine.)

3. Stir together brown sugar, garlic and Tabasco in a small bowl. Pat the mixture on top of the tenderloins.

4. Place the skillet (or baking dish) in the oven at 350 degrees F. Roast until thermometer inserted diagonally into the center of each tenderloin registers 140 degrees, about 20 minutes (mine took about 40 minutes - but my baking dish was very full with the pork and potatoes). Let pork stand, loosely covered with foil for 10 minutes.

The pork was very good - moist and flavorful. Next time I would use a little less of the brown sugar topping (I had 2.5 lbs of pork) - I just thought it was a little too much. I did really enjoy how it crisped up while baking - it added a nice texture to the succulent pork. This would also be a nice dish to entertain with - pork tenderloin can be very reasonably priced when on sale, and it makes for some very fancy dinners (I've seen lots of recipes with cranberries & pork for the holidays as well).

Monday, November 16, 2009

Creamy Pumpkin Penne

One more fabulous pumpkin recipe from Cara. And its another winner!
Oh - and a big THANK YOU to my amazing husband for cooking this one up! I have been working out after work lately, and sometimes I get home kinda late. It was so nice to have dinner ready for me! Love ya babe! (That also goes to show just how easy this recipe is to put together, no offense honey.)

Amazingly Creamy Pumpkin Penne
from Cara's Cravings, serves 2 as written (we doubled it for leftovers)

4 oz penne pasta (we used Healthy Harvest whole wheat)
2 tsp olive oil
1 small onion, thinly sliced
2 cloves of garlic, minced
about 2T chopped fresh sage (we omitted)
2 links cooked chicken sausage, sliced (we used a spinach asiago chicken sausage from Sam's club, but any will do)
1/2 c. low fat cottage cheese
1/2 c. pumpkin puree
1/2 c. nonfat milk
pinch of nutmeg
5oz torn spinach, thick stems removed
grated parmesan or pecorino romano cheese, optional
(Josh also added some sliced Portobello mushrooms we had in the fridge, optional of course)

1. Heat olive oil in a skillet over medium-low heat. Add onions and cook gently for about 10-15 minutes, until softened and beginning to caramelize. Add garlic, sage, and chicken sausage; continue to saute.

2. Meanwhile, cook pasta according to package directions.

3. In a blender, combine combine pumpkin, cottage cheese, and milk. Blend until no lumps are present. Add to sausage mixture in skillet and continue to cook over low heat until heated through. Season to taste with salt and freshly ground pepper, and a pinch of nutmeg.

4. Drain pasta and return to pot over low heat. Add sausage mixture and baby spinach, and toss together. Cover for a few minutes to let the spinach wilt. Serve with parmesan cheese, if desired.
Lately, I haven't been serving a lot of pasta in the house. Josh will make himself some for lunch once in a while, and it is just something I have been cutting out of my diet. However, I knew I had to make an exception for pasta with a pumpkin sauce! Let me tell you - this sauce is delicious. It is wonderfully creamy, but there is NO cream! For those out there who don't like cottage cheese, trust me on this one - you can't taste it. It create a creamy, not lumpy, texture when blended. I might try using this trick with some other pasta-cream sauces I've been wanting to "lighten up."

Monday, November 9, 2009

Pumpkin Turkey Chili

Have I mentioned that I LOVE pumpkin? As it turns out, pumpkin is not just for sweet treats - it is also delicious in savory dishes. This time, I added it to chili! This might be one of my favorite chili dishes ever... next to Josh's White Chicken Chili, of course (which I can't believe I haven't posted yet). This is is straight from Cara, no changes as it is already wonderful!

Turkey Pumpkin Chili
from Cara's Carvings, serves 4-6

1 cup chopped onion
3 cloves of garlic, minced
2 medium sized bell peppers, diced (I used 1 red and 1 orange)
1 lb ground turkey (I used 93% lean)
1 tbsp chili powder
2 tsp cumin
1 tsp cinnamon (don't skip this, trust me!)
1 tsp Mexican oregano (I used regular oregano)
1 small can diced green chili peppers
15oz can black beans, drained and rinsed
1/2 cup frozen corn kernels
28 oz can crushed tomatoes
14 oz can diced tomatoes
15 oz can pumpkin puree, or 2 cups homemade


1. Spray a large pot with nonstick cooking spray and place over medium heat. Add the onions and cook for about 5 minutes, until just softened. Add the garlic and bell peppers, and cook about 5 minutes more until tender. Add the ground turkey and cook until browned, breaking it up with a wooden spoon. Season with salt, pepper, chili powder, cumin, cinnamon, and oregano.

2. Stir in remaining ingredients, bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for 20-30 minutes to blend flavors.

Or, just brown the turkey with the seasonings and combine with remaining ingredients in a crockpot and cook on low for 6-8 hours.

Serve with your favorite chili toppings - cilantro, green onion, cheese, sour cream, etc. Makes 4 very generous servings - perfect if you're not eating this with any cornbread or other sides.

Absolutely delicious! Josh and I got about 6 servings out of this - and I didn't serve any sides. It was very filling, and the leftovers were great. The pumpkin flavor is quite subtle in the dish and not at all overwhelming - I was a tad worried as I added 2 cups, but it was nice and complimented well by the cinnamon. Cara calculated the following nutritional info, assuming 4 servings: 436 cals / 9.8g fat / 58.4g carbs / 16.8g fiber / 36 g protein. That is great for a rough estimate, but you may want to refigure with the actual brands of ingredients you use.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Roasted Acorn Squash

I've been trying new things lately, and I picked up a large acorn squash from the last Farmer's Market of the season. Most types of squash can easily be roasted, so that is all I did with this. I rubbed it with a little butter and brown sugar, but I also saw a maple-chipotle recipe that sounded good, and the cooking method is the same.Roasted Acorn Squash

1 acorn squash
2 Tbsp butter or margarine
2 Tbsp brown sugar
1 Tbsp maple syrup (I used a sugar free syrup)

1. Preheat oven to 400 deg F.
2. Using a very sharp knife, cut the squash in half (through the stem). Scoop out the the seeds and centers. Make a few slices into the flesh of the squash to aid the roasting process.
3. Rub half the butter and brown sugar on each half on the squash and then drizzle with just a little maple syrup.
4. Place the squash in a pan filled with about 1/4 water to prevent burning the skin or drying out the squash. Bake at 400 deg F for 1 hour, or until fork tender. Do not under-bake.
5. I choose to scoop out the flesh and serve. Enjoy!REVIEW:
This was very simple to make, roasting it just takes a while. It is not very sweet, just enough to complement the flavor of the squash. We had one large squash, and the two of us only ate half of it. I'm looking forward to leftovers!

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Root Beer Pulled Pork

Pulled pork sandwiches are great for fall! You can't really taste the root beer in these, but the carbonated beverage keeps the meat very moist, and so tender that shredding is a breeze!

Root Beer Pulled Pork
from Karen of LovesToEat

Half Loin Boneless Pork roast, or Shoulder or Butt Roast (thick pork chops would work too); we used 2 lbs and had enough to serve 4
12 oz can root beer
1 bottle BBQ sauce (a sweet & spicy flavor recommended); we used ~ 2/3 bottle

1. Throw pork roast and root beer in slow cooker. Set on low, 8 hours. (The root beer didn't cover our roast, so we flipped it halfway through.)
2. About 1.5 hours before it is done, drain the meat and shred. Add the entire bottle of BBQ sauce (or enough to your liking). Cook the rest of the time.
3. Serve with thick buns and chips! Enjoy!

This is such an easy meal, and it is so tasty! It would be great for a tailgate or other party as well. Serve with mini-buns for an appetizer.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Cheddar-Garlic Oven Fried Chicken

Josh was in charge of dinner the other night, and this is what he came up with. We cut it in half for the two of us and went light on the cheese on mine, and it was really good! Extra garlic is not a bad thing in our house!

Moist Cheddar-Garlic Oven Fried Chicken
serves 4 as written

1/3 cup butter, melted (J skimped on this, and used I Can't Believe Its Not Butter)
2 Tbsp minced garlic (can use more or less)
1 tsp garlic powder (garlic lovers can use more), we used more
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 c. seasoned dry bread crumbs
1/2 c. finely grated cheddar cheese
1/4 c. grated parmesan cheese
1/4 tsp ground black pepper
4 boneless skinless chicken breasts
1/2 c. shredded mozzarella cheese (optional)

1. Set oven to 350°F.
2. Coat baking dish with cooking spray.
3. In a bowl, combine melted butter with fresh minced garlic, garlic powder and salt.
4. In another bowl, combine breadcrumbs with the cheddar cheese, Parmesan cheese and coarse ground black pepper.
5. Dip chicken in butter mixture; then in crumb mixture.
6. Place in prepared pan and bake uncovered for 30-35 minutes, or until chicken is done(placing the chicken on a rack in a pan will produce an extra crispy crust and for moist tender breasts cooking time should take no more than at the most 35 minutes unless they are very large then you might have to add on a couple extra minutes).
7. Top with mozzarella cheese the last 5 minutes of baking (optional). Enjoy!

These were very good, I even proposed they make it into our rotation for week night meals that aren't too complicated to make. It only took a few minutes to get the stuff together, and then the chicken was in the oven. Combine with some microwave veggies, and its a pretty easy meal.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Pomegranate Chicken (or Balsamic Chicken)

I have had this recipe for Balsamic Chicken bookmarked for so long, I entirely forgot about it. I finally went to make it tonight, and I was out of balsamic vinegar. I did have some Pomegranate Red Wine vinegar on hand, so I substituted that 1:1, and I think it turned out great. I do plan to try this again with balsamic vinegar, but I expect great results with that as well.

This recipe is actually pretty light, but to cut calories even more, skip flouring and frying the chicken and instead bake, broil, or grill it. The real flavor is in the sauce, so you won't be losing that component.

Pomegranate Chicken
adapted from Simple, but Delicious (original source)

1/2 cup fat-free, less-sodium chicken broth
1/2 cup pomegranate red wine vinegar (or use balsamic)
2 teaspoons honey
1/2 Tbsp butter
1/2 Tbsp olive oil
4 (5-ounce) skinless, boneless chicken breast halves (I used 2 large)
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
5 garlic cloves
pomegranate seeds (optional, for garnish)

1. Combine broth, vinegar, and honey in small bowl, whisk to combine.
2. Pound chicken to 1/4-1/2 inch thick and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Melt butter and oil in a large nonstick skillet over low heat. Place flour in a shallow dish. Dredge chicken in flour; shake off excess flour. Increase heat to medium-high; heat 2 minutes or until the butter turns golden brown. Add chicken to pan; cook 4-5 minutes on each side or until golden brown and cooked through. Remove chicken from pan; keep warm.
3. Add garlic, and sauté 30 seconds. Add the broth mixture, scraping to loosen browned bits. Bring to a boil, and cook until reduced to 1/2 cup (about 3 minutes). Serve sauce over chicken.
4. Garnish with pomegranate seeds, if desired. (I didn't have any.)

I served this over rice and with a green veggie, and thought both were a good accompaniment. This sauce was very good, I can't wait to try it with the original intended ingredient (balsamic vinegar). When making the sauce, be careful to not over-reduce; you will make very sticky sugar if you aren't careful! Also, this dinner took less than 20 minutes to pull together, which is a huge plus in my book!