Tag Archives: recipes

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!

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?

Menu Monday: Zombie Hunting

22 Oct

Here’s a confession.

When I posted last week’s Menu Monday, I had every intention to diligently stick to the plans. That’s half the reason Menu Monday is a thing — so I’m forced to get my act together on a Sunday and fight the urge to wing it.

Usually that works out for me, but last week I threw all caution to the wind. It was a social week – that means lots of friend face time, but also many beverages and too few opportunities to properly prep my lunches. I ate pumpkin oats for dinner a few too many times as well, while we’re being honest. Probably not a coincidence that I was hiding from the internets last week …

But if this morning’s new breakfast creation is any indication of how this week will go, I think I’m on the right track.

I mixed 2% Greek yogurt with 2 TBSP pumpkin puree & stevia (alright fine and pumpkin cream cheese – I DIE), topped that mixture with torn up dried apple slices, almond butter, pumpkin butter and a smattering of pumpkin pie spice.

+ Zombie tea on the side. It’s really just a very light tea with almond milk, but I’ve been feasting on too much television and frankly I’m checking every corner of my life for a Zombie apocalypse.

(T Dog is such an underrated Walking Dead dude. Anybody else keep forgetting he’s alive?)

Onto the good stuff. This week’s Menu Monday is a little funky because I typically plan each night’s menu and just make enough to bring to work next day. That backfired miserably last week (a lot of it has to do with my broken finger and the fact that knife wielding is less than safe. I literally set the kitchen on fire this weekend.) This week I’m rolling with simple concoctions to insure I’m not biting off more than I can chew.

All I can think about are zombies here…

  • Dinners most nights: huge green smoothies (spinach, frozen blueberries, banana, greek yogurt, almond butter)
  • One “project” dinner: spaghetti squash with roasted butternut squash, ground turkey, cheese
  • Lunches: packed full of veggies salads (spinach, chopped bell pepper, chopped onion, crumbled feta, black beans, apple chicken sausage )
  • Snacks: pumpkin amazeballs (get the recipe from the Fitnessista)

Weekly prep also lightened the gimpy load – last night I chopped all salad veggies, cut the sausages into rounds and sautéed and made amazeballs.

Since I also only attended maybe 2 out of my 5 planned workouts, I’m setting a more serious agenda for that as well.

  • Monday: 20 minute interval run
  • Tuesday: hip hop class
  • Wednesday: OFF
  • Thursday: 20 minute interval run
  • Friday: Pilates
  • Saturday: club remix class
  • Sunday: OFF

Here’s to a happy, well-planned, zombie-free week!

Menu Monday: 6-0!!

15 Oct

Have you ever enjoyed so many top notch, rip roaring good time weekends in a row, you finally find your body crying “Uncle!!” to the top of its little lungs?

That’s been my life for the past month or so. Not that I’d ever complain about too much fun, but I find myself drooling over an “off” weekend.

The feeling has much to do with parents in town and best friends visiting multiple weekends in a row, but it all seems to trace back to one thing.

6-0!! Considering this miracle hasn’t occurred since 2002, coupled with the fact that I’ve attended 3 out of 6 victories, makes for an exhausting first half of this year’s football season.

I’ve also been busy staying up on this fall’s current fashions. This just in: garbage bag ponchos.

After beer on top of beer and hot dogs/salty soft pretzels galore, I really center myself around my weekly menu planning. I’ve mentioned before that if calculating my every food-related move for the weekdays weren’t my ritual, I’d probably be living off of coffee, candy corn and take-out sushi. So for me, I write out my menu on Sundays, write up a grocery list and then hit the store — and I only purchase items on my list.

Okok, the occasional pumpkin-related goodie DOES sneak its way into the shopping cart here & there. Shh.

Here’s what I’m having this week!

  • Monday: Out to dinner
  • Tuesday: Mini Meatball Soup (a husband favorite in this household)
  • Wednesday: Grilled chicken with roasted eggplant, onions & peppers
  • Thursday: turkey pumpkin chili in the crockpot (new recipe – excited for this one!)
  • Friday: leftovers/fridge clean out
  • Saturday: Out to dinner
  • Breakfasts: pumpkin pie oats
  • Snacks: pumpkin amazeballs adapted from the fitnessista (Anyone noticing a disturbing trend?)

Who else planned for success this week? It’s not too late!

Spiced Salmon with Cool Cucumber Yogurt Sauce

27 Sep

You guys have been through the ringer; you bore with me during my finger surgery saga.

Now comes your sweet and savory reward.

Unless you count build-your-own-frozen yogurt or tossing various items of nutritional value into a blender and pressing “liquefy”, my kitchen hasn’t exactly been a factory pumping out delicious nutritious contents as of late. My left ring finger still resembles an overstuffed lumpy caterpillar wrapped in a gnarly cocoon so I imagine that, until a new butterfly of a finger emerges, my kitchen will remain a barren memory of meals past.

Thank God for frozen yogurt.

This recipe is an oldie but goodie. I stumbled upon it during my first few months out of college, when I had already decided I wanted to live a healthy lifestyle but hadn’t necessarily yet worked out the fact that the best version of healthy for me included as few fake foods as I could get my hands on. I remember the amazement I felt at how simple the recipe was — how could a dish so easy with so few ingredients taste so good?

The original recipe recommends serving over whole wheat orzo which I also endorse, but my version kicks it into salad-gear.

{Adapted from Self Magazine – Serves 4}

4 salmon filets (1 lb salmon cut into 4 pieces)
2 tsp EVOO
1/2 tsp sugar (I use stevia instead)
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp black pepper
1/2 tsp salt

For the sauce:
1/2 C. 2% Greek yogurt
1 large cucumber
1 scallion, finely chopped
3 TBSP fresh minced parsley
1 tsp fresh lemon juice

In a small bowl, combine sugar/stevia, cumin, pepper and salt. Rub the salmon filets with olive oil, then rub spice mixture on top. You can also use a brush if you’re less grizzly than I am. Refrigerate for 10-20 mins.

Preheat the broiler. Combine yogurt, finely chopped cucumber, scallion, parsley, lemon juice and a little pinch of salt in a bowl.

Broil salmon until it is barely opaque at the center, 7-10 minutes.

Serve over spinach dressed in olive oil & balsamic – top the salmon with the yogurt sauce.

How easy was that? This will forever stand as one of my go-to, simple yet scrumptious staples.

For the peanut gallery: 

Do you cook with fish very often? What’s your favorite way to prepare?