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Thursday, November 29, 2007

Brined Turkey

This year is the first year I've cooked a turkey for Thanksgiving, and I decided to brine the turkey. Boy, am I glad I did! The turkey was so flavorful and juicy. My husband said it was probably the best turkey he'd ever had! Even my mother-in-law, who only likes dark meat, thought the white meat was really juicy. So, even if you never use this brining recipe, it's here so I have a record of what I did so I can repeat it next year. :)

2 gallons cold water
1 cup kosher salt
1 cup brown sugar
3 dried bay leaves
4 sprigs fresh thyme
2 sprigs fresh sage
1 Tbsp. dried lemon peel
1 Tbsp. dried orange peel

Heat ~1 quart of the water, salt, sugar, and bay leaves to and stir until the sugar and salt are dissolved. Use the remaining water to cool the mixture down. Place a washed turkey in the brine, making sure the cavity fills with the liquid. Put in the sprigs of thyme and sage. Put the dried citrus peel in a cotton bag or a pouch made of cheesecloth. Cover the turkey/brine and place in the refrigerator. Let sit for 8 hours, or overnight, up to 24 hours before cooking.

To cook: Remove the turkey from the brine, making sure the herbs stay with the brine instead of the turkey. Pat the turkey dry with paper towels. Put an onion, peeled & quartered, carrots and celery (use larger chunks) in the cavity along with some fresh sprigs of thyme and sage. Truss. Roast at 400F for an hour, covered with foil. Turn the heat down to 350 and cook for another 1.5 hours. Check the internal temp with a meat thermometer; it should read around 165. Take the turkey out and let it carry-over cook while covered in foil until it's done (about another hour). The outside won't be too pretty, but the meat is oh-so-tasty. *drool* :) I think next time, I'll roast it uncovered at first, then tent it with foil so the skin won't burn.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Butternut Squash Apple Cranberry Bake

For a yummy fall side dish, this certainly fits the bill. In fact, I served it for Thanksgiving dinner this year. I found this recipe on Elise's Simply Recipes, but I've made a couple of minor changes to make it more delectable for my palate.

Butternut Squash Apple Cranberry Bake

1 large butternut squash, peeled and cut into 1-inch cubes
2 large tart cooking apples cut into 1/2-inch thick slices (no need to peel)
1/2 cup dried sweetened cranberries (i.e., Craisins), soaked in water or apple juice
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup (half a stick) butter
1 Tbsp flour
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg

Preheat oven to 350F.

Slice and peel squash and apples. Put squash cubes in ungreased 9x13-inch baking dish. Place apples on top and then cranberries. Mix the flour, salt, sugar, and nutmeg and sprinkle on top. Dot with butter. Bake 50-60 minutes.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Corn Bread

I don't think there's anything I like better in the summer than homemade Corn Bread with butter and home-grown tomatoes. (My mouth is watering as I type!) However, for the Thanksgiving holiday, Corn Bread also makes a great stuffing/dressing to accompany the turkey. No matter when you eat it or how you make it, it's always yummy. This particular recipe is from my mother-in-law, with slight adaptations. I like a sweeter Corn Bread, but feel free to decrease the sugar to your own taste.

Corn Bread

1 cup flour
1 cup cornmeal (not self-rising!)
2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt
8 heaping tsp. sugar
2 eggs
1/4 cup oil
1 cup milk

Preheat oven to 425F. Mix dry ingredients in one bowl. In another bowl, mix the wet ingredients. Add the wet to the dry and mix just until combined. Let mixture sit for ~5 minutes while you preheat a cast iron skillet. Once the skillet is hot, add ~1 Tbsp. oil (enough to cover the bottom of the skillet with a thin layer). Pour the mixture into the skillet and bake for 15-20 minutes or until golden, brown, and delicious.

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Lone Oak Cookies (aka Cake Mix Cookies)

The organization with which we volunteer, Remote Area Medical (RAM), completed an expedition at Lone Oak Community Center this weekend. During most RAM expeditions, locals provide food for the volunteers, and the food at Lone Oak is always excellent. Several ladies from the community made homemade desserts for the weekend, and they were gracious enough to share two recipes with me. The first is Lone Oak Cookies (aka Cake Mix Cookies). I ate more than my share of these cookies over the last two days, and thanks to Joel (& Martha), I can make my own. :) The recipe, as given to me by Joel, is below. They're super easy and very tasty. Try orange cake mix...it's delicious!

Lone Oak Cookies

1 box cake mix
1/3 cup oil (she used corn oil)
2 eggs (she used large)
Canned/prepared icing - (she used vanilla)

Mix - this makes a very stiff dough. Make balls (smaller than a walnut). Bake 12 minutes at 350 degrees. Cool. Ice with canned icing between 2 cookies.