Tag Archives: cooking

Turkey Day Menu

22 Nov

I’m thankful for my health, my ability to participate in an early morning turkey trot…

And trotting alongside such excellent company at that.

I’m thankful for another year of our family brunch allstars…

Egg casserole and monkey bread.

I’m thankful for an incredible menu.

Not listed: our favorite libations, specifically very classy wine.

What’s your favorite Thanksgiving dish?

I’m thankful to have such nice folks reading my blog! Hope there is plenty of football and elastic-waisted pants in your future, wherever you might be celebrating today.


Perfectly Brined Turkey

19 Nov

Road voyage to Atlanta, complete!

Now that we’re here, it’s time to get to steppin’ with our storied Thanksgiving Menu.

I’ve already been crowned the victor of one turkey opponent so far this year …

A warrior goes to work. The amount of things I already had done by 8:34am is sheer insanity.

Each year we name our Friendsgiving bird, and this time around Turkey Thurman truly delivered.

The key to our rave reviews? We have become turkey brining professionals!

Why brine a turkey?

Brining involves soaking meat in a high salt solution for several hours before cooking. This allows the meat to take in lots of moisture, which it then retains during the cooking process, leading to extremely tender and flavorful turkey. And we all know turkey gets a bad wrap for turning out dry and bland.

As everyone out there carefully crafts their menu masterpieces, here are is a homerun brining recipe for your digestive pleasure!

{Barely adapted from this recipe – brine for a 12 to 14 lb bird}

1 C. salt (I just used sea salt)
1 gallon vegetable broth
1/2 C. brown sugar
1 TBSP black peppercorns
2 tsp ground allspice
2 tsp ground ginger
1 gallon ice water

And for the aromatics, roasted inside the bird for even more flavor:

1 red apple, quartered
1 onion, quartered
1 cinnamon stick
1 C. water
4 sprigs rosemary
6 leaves sage
butter, as you see fit

Sometime on Tuesday, you can begin the brining process.

In a large pot, combine all ingredients except ice water.  Heat over medium-high flame, stirring occasionally to dissolve solids and bringing to a boil.

Then remove brine from the heat, let cool to room temperature, and store in the refrigerator.

Sometime on Wednesday (I like to begin the evening beforehand), combine brine and ice water in a large cooler. Place your thawed turkey, innards removed, breast side down in the cooler. Cover and refrigerate if you like (ours was too large and it was fine left in a cooler with plenty of ice). We like to flip our turkey in the brine every so often.

Let turkey soak for 8-16 hours.

When you’re ready, remove turkey and rinse very well with cold water; pat dry with paper towels. Throw away the brine.

Now, prepare to stuff your turkey with the aromatics. Preheat oven to 500 degrees and place turkey breast side up in the pan you’ll roast it in. I like to use a large disposable aluminum tray for easy disposal.

Combine apple, cinnamon, onion and water in a microwave safe dish and microwave on high for 5 minutes. When finished, add contents of dish to turkey cavity along with rosemary and sage. Tuck wings under bird.

Here’s my Paula Deen moment: I like to get butter on my fingers and rub it all over the bird’s body, getting my hands up under its skin. I’ll make sure to cover all surfaces between meat and skin with butter. I know this is healthy living blog, but come on, this is Thanksgiving.

Roast the turkey on lowest level of oven for 30 minutes at 500 degrees. Insert a probe thermometer and roast until temperature reads 161 degrees F at its thickest part. Should be a total of 2-2.5 hours for a 12 to 14 lb bird. Cover with aluminum foil if the bird’s skin starts to burn.

Let turkey rest for 15 minutes before carving. Ask someone else how to carve because I seriously don’t know the first thing about that business.

It’s a lengthy process, but SO well worth it!

Have you ever tried brining a turkey?

Crockpot Taco Soup

14 Nov

I don’t usually participate in #WIAW because I’m not too big into photographing all of my meals in a day (I’m too forgetful, and let’s face it, how many pics of pumpkin-based foods can I show you nice people before you leave me forever?) But, I love the concept — so many bloggers link up to share their eats, resulting in such an interactive community.

So this Wednesday, I thought I’d join the party by sharing in the best way I know to share.

This is not your ordinary taco night.

I woke up about 15 minutes earlier than usual and prepped before work yesterday. Threw it all in the slow cooker and, when I strolled through the door last night, our home smelled like a bonafied fiesta.

Friends, I give you the gift of a rock star throw-together slow cooker dinner. And, it’s actually fun to eat – there are so many ingredients in this bowl, I can hardly call it a soup!

{Barely adapted from this recipe}

Serves 6

1 lb lean ground beef (We used 80/20)
1 TBSP coconut oil (or olive oil)
1 onion, chopped
1 jar roasted red peppers, roughly chopped
1 15 oz. can black beans, with their liquid
1 15 oz. can white cannelini beans, with their liquid
1 15 oz. can whole kernel corn, with liquid
2 14.5 oz. cans peeled & diced tomatoes (the Trader Joe’s fire roasted variety is great)
1 8 oz. can tomato sauce
1 4 oz. can diced green chiles
2 cups water
1 oz. taco seasoning (I like the all natural variety from Whole Foods

In a medium skillet, heat coconut oil over medium-high eat until liquified. Next, cook beef until browned over. Drain and set aside.

Chop up your onion.

Ready for this? Open cans. Throw them their contents in your crockpot. Add beef and onion. Stir, set, forget – cook for 8 hours on low.

Come home & feast. I recommend topping with light Mexican shredded cheese & a dollop of 2% Greek yogurt.

Pinata optional.

Your turn! Do you use a slow cooker when the weather outside is frightful? For me, it’s tough to beat a greeting as sweet as a  home cooked meal waiting for me on a Tuesday!

Thanksgiving Thursday: Must-haves

8 Nov

1 / 2 /3 / 4 / 5

Now that Election Day is behind us, I hope everyone is ready to talk a real American topic: getting your November fat on.

This past weekend marked the celebration of our annual Friendsgiving feast – a true success this time around. I awoke at 6am to a 24 pound bird ready for brining, and all but sprang out of bed. This much-anticipated event culminated in a food coma so painful, only a group viewing of Home Alone could console anyone.

“No clothes on anybody – sickening!”

Since our big event has come & gone, I’ll be sharing some of my favorite tips leading up to my second Thanksgiving feast with the fam (Easy, I can feel your judgment from here.)

My must-haves include: An adorable turkey/pumpkin apron from Crate & Barrel, a festive fall floral arrangement, a nifty probing meat thermometer that runs a wire through the door of the oven (GENIUS!!), a large cooler for brining (absolutely key to a juicy bird), and obviously red wine – I choose Green Fin, a deliciously affordable $3.99 from Trader Joe’s.

What are your holiday feasting must-haves? Anyone else enjoy spending inordinate amounts of time preparing and hanging out with poultry?

You can admit it.

Menu Monday: Turning into a Turkey

5 Nov

This weekend marked the arrival of a favorite holiday in our little family’s household.


We’ve stuffed large birds and our closest friends’ bellies for 3 years running now – not to toot my own horn here, but I think this year was crowned the most successful showing yet. More to show off (along with tips for your own feasts this year!) on Thursday!

Much manual labor and kitchen slaving was poured into the production of a 24 lb turkey feast, but to host this giving of thanks among friends does not come without its distinct benefits.

I’m talking leftovers. Lots. And lots. Of leftovers. Here’s how I’m re-purposing much of them this #MenuMonday!

  • Last night: leftover turkey (at this point my insides are beginning to take on the shape of a turkey) + brussels sprouts roasted with onion and some coconut oil (okok and some sweet potato casserole)
  • Today: Out to dinner for work, OR a backup salad I snagged at Trader Joe’s in case
  • Tuesday: Stir fry with leeks, chestnuts, baby broccoli and spicy sausage – wintery!
  • Wednesday: Italian Acorn Squash with – you guessed it – TURKEY
  • Thursday: Dinner with a girlfriend
  • Friday: Omelet/fridge clean out
  • Breakfasts: Paleo pumpkin bars (will share recipe if it turns out well!), eggs, vegetable juice
  • Snacks: Greek yogurt + plums, bananas and oranges

My pins come out of my maimed finger on Tuesday, and after Friendsgiving this weekend, I’m feeling inspired to pick up a knife again (and not kill someone, burn down the house or drown my iPhone due to broken finger clumsiness.)

So, to review, my goals for the week are as follows:

  • Don’t die from Tryptophan over-consumption
  • Don’t burn the house down or otherwise ruin everything with my gimp finger as I attempt to cook again
  • Eat well after a Friendsgiving feast (some tips, tricks and ideas coming later this week!)
  • Get at least 3 runs in – no more fitness excuses now that I’ll be living pin-free!

Dream big. What are you trying to accomplish this week? Anyone meal plan yet? Never too late!

Fall Salad Scramble

25 Oct

If I were tasked with plucking the perfect autumnal afternoon out of thin air …

I would probably choose today. 75 degrees, a little breezy, crisp leaves abound — all inspired an office jailbreak to enjoy a simple & solo lunchtime stroll. Sometimes just taking in the city sights and sounds, no music and no company to converse with, proves so relaxing. I end up more energized for an afternoon of work than I would have been if I had just munched through lunch at my desk (which is what I usually do.)

And because this October weather is the definition of sheer perfection, who wants to be stuck inside slaving in the kitchen right now? Hey, I enjoy cooking as much as the next food-obsessed chick, but 75 degrees in October? In Chicago?! Gotta take advantage of that Vitamin D before it’s all gone!

I thought I would share a simple & quick weeknight meal I’ve recently devised – I can hardly call this a recipe, since it actually involves a mere mixing of pre-arranged ingredients you can pick up just about anywhere. But it takes just minutes, leaving me more time to crunch leaves and take in the sun before I forget what it looks like.

It’s sad how little I was joking in that last sentence.

{Serves 1}

2 eggs
1 pre-made salad – I prefer Trader Joe’s Raspberry, Walnut & Gorgonzola
1 apple chicken sausage link
sprinkling of low fat shredded cheese (optional)

Ready for this complexity? Cut your chicken sausage into bite-size slices, and prepare your salad by … opening the lid.

Begin scrambling eggs in a skillet over medium high heat. When nearly cooked, add all salad components (except dressing) and saute until lettuce is wilted. Add sausage.

Transfer to a plate and sprinkle with cheese, if using. Top with 1/2 provided dressing.

That’s literally it. I LOVE the combination in this salad – hearty greens, gorgonzola, walnuts, dried cranberres and a raspberry vinaigrette topping made for such a satisfying meal with fall spice. Couldn’t be easier than picking up a $3.99 salad and transforming it into a hot dinner plate in a flash.

Think you can out-Fall me? It’s got to be impossible at this point. I have a problem.

Your turn! How do you guys take advantage of beautiful weeknight weather without sacrificing balance?

One Pot Turkey Pumpkin Chili

23 Oct

Full disclosure…

If you hate pumpkins, or are annoyed by the pumpkin thing, or if pumpkin offends you in any way, you should probably not read my blog for the next few weeks.

Pumpkin related products thrill me. Even the simplest of goods can make me squeal when pumpkin-ized. Candles? Cream Cheese? Butter? Yogurt? Oats? Ice cream?? Vodka??? (Ok, so I’ve made better decisions.) Mini trees for the home?!!

{source– I would show you my own, but technical difficulties over here.)

It’s all happening. I love it all – not just because I genuinely adore the flavor of pumpkin and its affiliated natural products (I stress natural here – because knockoff pumpkin tastes like bubblegum and cinnamon got in a slapping fight.) I also worship pumpkin like it’s going out of style because, to me, it encapsulates that warm, festive fall feeling that makes you want to reach for a blanket, watch some football and slow down a little.

I realize not everyone consumes this crop as though they are trying to turn their insides orange. In fact, I tested out a dish this weekend that will have your pumpkin enthusiasts and those who turn their nose up at the idea of pumpkin coming within 6 feet of their chili (read: JC) sitting down happily at the same pumpkin-adorned table.

Try it. The pumpkin flavor is subtle, and just makes for a creamier, more velvety chili base.

{Barely adapted from this recipe – makes 4 hearty servings}

1 medium yellow onion, diced
1 green pepper, chopped
2 jalapenos, finely chopped
1 LB ground turkey
1 15 oz. can Organic pumpkin puree
1 14.5 oz can no salt added diced tomatoes, in their liquid
1 C. water
1 TBSP cumin
1 TBSP natural taco seasoning
a few hearty shakes cayenne pepper
ground black pepper, to taste
1 15 oz can kidney beans
a few slices fresh goat cheese

Heat EVOO in a large pot over medium high heat. Add onion, peppers and jalapenos, cooking until fragrant, stirring often, 5 minutes. Add turkey to pot and cook until turkey is browned.

Add tomatoes, pumpkin, water and spices, bringing mix to a boil. Reduce heat to medium low and add beans. Cover & simmer for 30 minutes.

Top with goat cheese (other toppings: shredded mozzarella, greek yogurt, sour cream, or if you’re JC, crunched up tortilla chips!)

A delicious one, and a one pot dinner makes for a speedy clean up – leaving you more time to watch football!

Or whatever you are into.

How do you feel about pumpkin – love it or leave it?