Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Slow Cooker Turkey Breast and Gravy (that almost makes itself!)


There are only eight days until the aroma of roasting turkeys are wafting from our ovens.  My family could happily eat turkey year-round. Give me two pieces of whole wheat breads, a small schmear of mayo and some cranberry sauce... it's my favorite brown bag lunch to bring to work.

It always seems that leftover turkey breast (my favorite) is the first to disappear. I find myself longing for more turkey.  Then, there are some fine folks whose families are all grown, and maybe moved far away. Or, sometimes, people choose to go out for dinner, or are dinner guests? There are not leftovers!

Well, American's Test Kitchen has a recipe in a cookbook I've been using a lot, as of late. It's called "America's Test Kitchen Slow Cooker Revolution".   I love the idea of slow cooker turkey!

I picked up a fresh Turkey Half Breast at Trader Joe's, and decided to test their recipe for a slow cooker turkey breast, that makes it's own gravy.  ATK's recipe is written for a 6-7 pound turkey breast.

However, I decided that a 2 1/2 pound turkey breast would be a great way to test drive this recipe.  Season with salt & pepper.

The prep work didn't take long. I coarsely chopped one carrot, one medium onion and a stalk of celery, garlic cloves, and added it to a skillet with melted butter.  They were cooked until lightly browned, then flour is added and cooked until golden brown.

Next, add chicken broth, water and some white wine (which is totally optional, but I love the flavor white wine imparts to turkey gravy).  For aromatics, I added Bay leaves,  and a couple springs of thyme.  Add the liquid to the slow cooker, and nestle the turkey (skin side up) into the slow cooker.  For a 2-1/2 pound turkey breast, I cooked this on low for just under 3 hours...until an instant read thermometer registered 165F.  Remove the turkey breast and tent with foil.

I strained the braising liquid, and let it settle for five minutes-- that way, I could skim off any excess fat. Then, I let the liquid simmer for about 15 minutes. The gravy was a bit thin, and I tasted it for seasoning...since I used low-sodium chicken broth, I added a bit more salt and pepper.


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Friday, November 14, 2014

Peach & Whiskey Barbecue Chicken (adapted for a pressure cooker)


My five weeks of medical leave comes to an official end, as of today. (For those of you who didn't know, I had knee surgery on October 15th.) Thankfully, all went well, and I'm ready to get back to work. My ability to stand, for longer stretches of time, is starting to improve.


I don't know what I would do without my pressure cooker.  Since standing, initially, was an issue I used my pressure cooker just about every day to make quick dinner recipes-- like this delicious chicken recipe.  This recipe is adapted from The Pioneer Woman's Food Network show.  I thought the dish looked easy to make, and I had all the ingredients.  Sold!  "Ree" made this recipe in the oven, which took 1-1/2 hours.  The beauty of a pressure cooker, is that the cooking time was 10 minutes!

NOTE: If you don't own a pressure cooker, or are afraid of them (which is totally unnecessary), I'll explain how to make this the conventional way. 

The first thing I did, was to cut the recipe to be for two people, instead of six.  In my electric pressure cooker, I browned boneless, skinless, chicken thighs in a little butter and oil.  (Yes, electric pressure cookers have a browning cycle.)  Naturally, you can do this in a Dutch oven.

Flip 'em over. Them remove onto a plate and set aside.

Let's talk about cooking with hard liquor.  I don't drink whiskey. I've never liked the taste of it, no matter how hard I tried. However, cooking with whiskey (or bourbon) is a whole different topic.  I especially like whiskey in sauces, and I don't buy the higher end pricey brand names.  I also use whiskey when making my "Candied Sweet Potatoes-- kicked up".  Love.

 


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Monday, November 3, 2014

Meatballs and Marinara - Pressure Cooker Style (or slow cooker)

We are just a tad over three weeks away from Thanksgiving, canyoubelieveit?  The odds are, I won't be cooking this year.  That is, unless I can figure out how to make a turkey in my beloved pressure cooker, because my knee can't stand for that many hours at a time. In the meantime, I've been making a lot of meals in my slow cooker or pressure cooker, because I can handle about thirty minutes of standing...tops! 

My pressure cooker has been a blessing for me, while I'm slowing regaining the ability to stand and walk around in my kitchen.  I made this Spaghetti & Meatballs recipe before my most recent surgery. I wanted to wait until cooler weather, before posting it here, and because I want to make it again.

This recipe comes from America's Test Kitchen "Pressure Cooker Perfection".  I've posted several recipes from this book, and there are a few more to come.  I don't make meatballs very often, but if I do, I like the idea of using a panade.

A what, you ask?  Prounced, Pa-Nod. With this recipe, panko crumbs and milk are combined to make a paste.  This will not only bind the meat together, but will prevent dry meatballs. Win.


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Friday, October 24, 2014

Homemade Cracker Jack® Caramel Corn


Before I talk about this addictive Caramel Corn (which is easier to make than I thought it would be), I would like to extend my heartfelt thanks to all of you who have prayed for me, and wished me well in my surgery #5 on my knee. The great news is that this one was successful. My brilliant surgeon was able to remove enough scar tissue so that my knee is actually bending! I almost cried, the first time I could actually sit in chair, with both feet on the floor, to eat my hospital lunch.  I'm on medical leave for a few weeks, so that I can be a model patient, by doing my physical therapy several times a day. I can finally appreciate the benefit of having a total knee replacement, and there are no regrets. Amen.

As a kid, I loved Cracker Jack®.  I would load up my hand with a heaping mound of candy coated popcorn, peanuts and a prize... (remember that jingle?) Oh, and back then, the prizes could be as fun as a real plastic whistle.  Nowadays, the prizes are less choke hazards made of paper, and just not the same.  Still, I admit that I've been known to toss in a bag of Cracker Jack® into my grocery cart, during a weak moment, that I see them clipped onto a grocery store shelf.

Craig and I enjoy sharing a big bowl of popcorn, while we watch a movie at home-- Kettle Corn being our favorite.  For years, I've toyed with making caramel corn but I never got around to it. 



Recently, I decided to buy a Whirley Pop Stovetop Popcorn Popper.  The first time I used this, I was smitten.  The popcorn tastes like real theater popcorn!  Tastewise, I prefer using coconut oil, vs. vegetable oil.  But either one is fine. Not only was it easy to use, it was fun and a lot easier than shaking a pot back and forth. In 3 minutes, we enjoyed a big bowl of popcorn. All I have to do is wipe the pot with a paper towel (no soap and water) and I wash the lid with the popcorn stirrer with soap and water. Easy peasy!

I looked at a lot of recipes on the internet, for Homemade Cracker Jack®.  The common theme was, the ratio of molasses vs. corn syrup.  Using the Whirley Pop, 1/2 cup of popcorn kernels made just over 15 cups of popcorn in three minutes!  Craig was on the sidelines, happily eating the extra popcorn that was exceeded 15 cups.


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