Saturday, November 24, 2012

Simple Grilled Turkey & Stuffing Muffins (Yes, Virginia, you can still have your gravy, too.)

How's are your turkey leftovers doing?  Did you over-indulge? I hope that everyone had a wonderful Thanksgiving holiday.  Ours was low-key, with just my two brothers and niece.  My son works in the restaurant business, so he was MIA at our table.  Sigh. 

I believe I've roasted at least 25 Thanksgiving Turkeys in my lifetime.  I've made Butterballs, and graduated to buying free-range turkeys.  I've brined them and I've not brined them.  However, I've firmly resisted the idea of deep-frying a turkey-- not that I haven't heard rave reviews. I just don't want to be a State Farm Insurance television commercial statistic, as one of those unfortunate folks who caught their house on fire. (Plus, it doesn't sound cheap to buy the fryer and all that peanut oil!)  Overall,  I've been pretty lucky, in that I've never made a choke-dry kind of turkey. Amen.

My biggest challenge (other than wishing my bachelor brothers would invite their non-existent girlfriends to help me with the food prep), is that I only have one oven.  It's always been a challenge to get the stuffing and yams baked, and then the rolls.  So, when the Digital October/November 2012 issue of Cook's Illustrated was downloaded into my iPad, I was intrigued at the thought of grilling our turkey.

So I begged asked  my husband to watch the video with me and he agreed to set up the Weber. I assured him that this would not be as time-consuming as his famous grilled brisket or pulled pork. According to the recipe, I had to season the bird with salt & pepper, and then rub in a mixture of salt, pepper and baking powder (apparently this is key in making the skin turn out golden and crispy. Yum.


I didn't photograph the process of preparing the bird, because I didn't want to contaminate my camera with poultry bacteria.  Plus, I didn't really think that Blogosphere needs another turkey recipe (my excuse translating that I wasn't sure I'd need to blog this recipe).  Well, I was wrong-- and I will tell you that this was one delicious bird!  You should can prepare the turkey 24- 48 hours ahead. Somehow, I missed that and it was four hours until the turkey needed to go on the grill, that I discovered this. D'oh! Fortunately, as the photo shows, the turkey turned out fine-- big relief.

There is a printable recipe card at the end of this post, with some notes that I will follow the next time we makes this-- and make this again, and again, we will.  Yes, you can make this on a gas grill, and I will include those instructions as well.  So, you need 4 quarts of briquettes and a disposable pan with water.  The briquettes are placed on the side of each pan, so that the turkey is not set directly over the coals (unless you're making turkey jerky, I suppose.)

This is a 12 pound turkey, so if you are feeding an army of pilgrims, this recipe isn't for you.  I wouldn't recommend doing this with a 20 pound bird, but if you do-- and it works- please let me know!

Vegetable oil has been rubbed on the turkey, before being placed on the grill. Craig has been careful that the turkey isn't placed over the coals.  Good job!  Grilling time is said to be 2 1/2 hours to 3 hours.   I got busy making the Sweet Potato Casserole and making the Mashed Potatoes (updated version to be posted this week).

GRAVY WARNING: You don't get drippings for making gravy, with this method. Instead of resorting to package or canned gravy, I made "Make Ahead Gravy" the night before. I simply put the gravy into a small crockpot on WARM and that was ready to go.

For years, I belonged to the "stuff-the-turkey-with-stuffing-inside-the-turkey" Club.  Then, it was announced that this only invited bacteria and cooks were advised to always bake the stuffing separately.  If you've been reading my blog for a while, I admit that I do not care for stuffing.  (It's a texture thing, and I'm sorry.)  However, I oblige others who love stuffing and I've developed a few of my own recipes that my family loves.

Not this year.  I didn't have the strength desire to bake cornbread and make my famous stuffing. So, I resorted to -- gasp-- buying stuffing mix!  Yes, I took a shortcut and I will share a basic stuffing recipe at the end of this post.  However, this year, I did something I wish I had thought of a long time ago...

 Stuffing Muffins!

Why had I never thought of these before?  I wish I could say these are my idea, because they are all over Blogosphere.  I used an ice cream scoop to measure the stuffing into a muffin tin and set them aside as I made the rest of the meal. By the way, the One-Hour Dinner Rolls saved my day, as I was running out of steam in the kitchen.

Because my oven wasn't occupied by a roasting turkey, I even had time to make my first Pumpkin Roll-- and I'll share that recipe soon.

I made an oath that I was going to keep things simple, since I'm the Chief Cook and Bottle Washer. Still, it took almost five hours for me to make all the side dishes, bake bread and clean up the kitchen.  At least I didn't have to worry about basting the turkey.

The turkey had been grilling for 2-1/2 hours and I suggested that we check on it.

Craig: No, the recipe says 3 hours.
Me:      Well, that's the suggested time.
Craig:  No, I don't want to lose heat!
Me:      What if it's already cooked, then it'll be dry?!
Craig:   (Dubious look on his face.)
Me:       Trust me, I always shorten the recommended time. We can always add more (smug look on my face)

I grabbed the camera and Craig lifted off the lid, and stuck in the instant-read thermometer.

Within seconds, the thermometer said 170F.  "Get it off the grill, now!" I shrieked.
Moral of the story:  Check the bird at 2 hours.  160F would be the ideal temperature.

That skin looks dry and crisp, because of the baking powder.  But, would the meat be as dry?
Truth:  No!  Had we waited a moment longer, it would have been "yes".

Y'all know the commotion that goes on, once it's time to get the Thanksgiving feast on the table, right? I had lost natural lighting, and was busy orchestrating the plating and serving of our meal. (That is my excuse for not having many finished shots.)

TASTING NOTES:  The turkey was still moist-- but, honestly, had we reduced the grilling time to 2 hours, it would have been even moister.  The flavor was different in a very good way. Yes, it had the flavor of grilled meat, and my carnivores loved it.  The skin was very crispy-- I'm not one to eat skin, but for those who do, it's excellent.  The stuffing muffins were a big hit, and easy to just serve one on each place.   Bonus:  At the end of the evening, I put the turkey carcass into a pasta pot and added celery, onion, carrots, Bay leaves and peppercorns and 10 cups of water. The turkey stock had so much flavor!  It's frozen for future recipes.

FOOTNOTE:  I was thankful to have my brothers and lovely niece at our Thanksgiving table.  However, I have made an oath for next year-- and I'm going to keep this one.  I'm going to either be a dinner guest (I will bring a dish) or I am making reservations.  For those of you who think I'll miss not having leftovers-- nah, ah, ah... we'll be grilling this very recipe for us to have as our private reserve.


Now, it's time to think of Christmas.   Once again, I'm the Chief Cook and Bottle Washer. Well, I'll be cooking, but I'm going to hand every family member a dish towel and scrubbing pad. I'm finally catching on!

I always post a printable recipe card at the end of each recipe post. If you cannot view it, you might be using an older version of InternetExplorer. You should be able to view my recipe cards with Safari, Mozilla, Google Chrome and Internet Explorer.
If you still can't view the recipe card, all of my recipes are stored on Key Ingredient, by clicking here.

If you still can't figure out how to view the printable recipe card, please email me at and I am happy to help.

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Sunday, November 18, 2012

Sweet Potato Cinnamon Rolls With Maple Cream Cheese Icing - Oh, yes, I did!

What's not to love about freshly baked Cinnamon Rolls? When my son was little, we used to cruise the shopping mall. He'd excitedly beg ask me to buy him a Cinnabon.   How could I resist those baby blues?

 How can you resist that frosting?!

Thanksgiving has to be one of the busiest times to be poking around on Pinterest.   A Classic Thanksgiving Dinner Menu is something my family looks forward to me cooking eating.  Its no secret that I love pumpkin, and could eat it year-round. My husband? Not so much.  Except for pumpkin pie. For that, he's all game.  The problem is, I've bookmarked several bloggers who have made Pumpkin Cinnamon Rolls-- and I held back, due to said husband's lackluster feelings about pumpkin. 

A few days ago, an idea hit me--

We all love sweet potatoes-- yams, to be specific.  Yams have a beautiful color to them, similar to pumpkin.  Potato bread is really moist-- so why not make Sweet Potato Cinnamon Rolls? Of course, once I searched for recipes, I realized this wasn't just my idea.  I borrowed a recipe from "Eat, Live, Run" (I recently won Jenna Weber's book "White Jacket Required".)   I made a few tweaks, and these turned out to be better than I expected.

So, you are yeast dough challenged?  The last time you tried to bake bread, it turned out like a brick? Worse, it turned out like a flat pancake?  I've been there, and it's disappointing. Fear not.  I'll share a few times from an unprofessional baker (that would be moi).  I promise you, these will turn out. Trust me.

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Thursday, November 15, 2012

Bee Sting Cake - "Bienenstich" Kuchen

 Bee Sting Cake. Bienenstich Kuchen. 

 A brioche pastry dough cake, topped with Buttery Honey-Glazed Almonds...

...and filled with pastry cream.

What a sweet childhood memory, of living in Germany.

Coffee's ready.  I have a slice waiting for you--and the recipe.  I'm guest posting on "A Culinary Journey, With Chef Dennis", today.  Please click here to see how I made it. A printable recipe card is at the end of this post.

I always post a printable recipe card at the end of each recipe post. If you cannot view it, you might be using an older version of InternetExplorer. You should be able to view my recipe cards with Safari, Mozilla, Google Chrome and Internet Explorer.
If you still can't view the recipe card, all of my recipes are stored on Key Ingredient, by clicking here.

See you there!

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Monday, November 12, 2012

Thanksgiving Countdown...

 All of our Halloween candy is gone, thank goodness. Already, Christmas commercials are in full swing. And now, Thanksgiving is less than two weeks away!

Thanksgiving, at our home, has become very simple and traditional.  I'm, pretty much, the only cook and baker, so I've honed down the menu so that I can stretch out the prep work over three days.

These Sausage Stuffed Mushrooms turned out to be an appetizer that our guest kept raving about.  Of course, it's an Ina Garten recipe, so it has to be good!  I make the sausage stuffing a day ahead, so it saves time. Bring these to a holiday potluck, and people will be asking for the recipe.

This Make Ahead Turkey Gravy, turned out to be a life saver.  If you think that you can't make gravy, I'll show you how to do it. It's not that hard!

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Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Skillet Lasagna -- in a flash!

Well, look at that!  This is my second "Skillet" Recipe in one week.   With darkness coming so early, that precludes any grilled dinners on work night.  I'm grateful that my brain and sleepy head is enjoying that extra hour of sleep in the morning, because I'm just not an early riser.

My stomach hasn't quite figured out that feeding time has been pushed back an hour, though.  Monday night, I came home famished. I wanted to eat-- now. That's when Skillet Dinners can be a lifesaver.

I'm revisiting the recipes in this cookbook, that includes all of America's Test Kitchen recipes over the last ten years.  In my last post, I shared the Skillet Tamale Pie.  This time, I had a hankering for lasagna, without all the fuss.

I've made many versions of Skillet Lasagna, over the years. Usually, it involves browning ground beef, adding bottled spaghetti sauce, water and broken lasagna noodles. Then, you add some ricotta cheese and dinner is ready. Of course, there's the slow cooker version, that uses "no boil" lasagna noodles and bottled spaghetti sauce. Good, but ho-hum.

Could America's Test Kitchen develop a Skillet recipe, that doesn't use bottled spaghetti sauce? I watched the video and read the recipe.  The recipe seemed simple enough.  The ingredient list isn't too complicated, either: A blend of ground beef and pork (or an unseasoned meatloaf mix), ten regular lasagna noodles, a large can of diced tomatoes, a small can of tomato sauce, onion, garlic and ricotta cheese.

I had Italian sausage and ground beef, so I improvised a bit and used a combination of the two. Once I browned the meat, I added one chopped onion and cooked until just starting to brown, then combined the onon and meat, added the garlic.   For the liquid, you need a total of four cups of undrained diced tomatoes and water.

I added some red pepper flakes into the meat mixture and then evenly spread out the broken lasagna pieces (about 2" or  3" long)
Then the tomatoes are added, and one small can of tomato sauce. This is where ATK's ingredients ends.

Somehow, I felt that there needed to be a little more seasoning, so I added a generous tablespoon of Italian Seasoning (that I mix up, myself).   I gently pushed around the noodles to make sure they were covered in liquid-- I had to add just a little bit more water to accomplish that.

I brought the noodles and mixture and gave it a simmer for the recommended 20 minutes-- until the noodles were tender.
CHALLENGE: I'm not gonna lie-- I had a bit of a soupy lasagna and I was not going to stand for that!  With the lid off, I gave this ten more minutes of cooking time-- hoping the liquid would reduce. At last, the noodles seemed perfectly al dente, but I still had too much liquid.  I placed the lid back on the skillet, and then carefully drained most of the liquid down the sink.

I love Ricotta cheese, so I added some generous mounds of it.  It kind of looks like ice cream, doesn't it?

Per the recipe, I then sprinkled 1/2 cup of Parmesan Cheese.  You know what? I love cheese on my lasagna.  I usually keep a bag of Quattro Formagio Cheese (from Trader Joe's) on hand.  It has Asiago, Fontina, Parmesan and Provolone.

So, spread an even layer of the whole skillet recipe-- and guess what?  The cheese didn't melt.
3 minutes under the broiler did the trick.  Sadly, our garden basil is finished, or I would have added plenty of it.

From start to finish, the whole meal took 45 minutes to prepare-- plus I cleaned up the mess, while the lasagna was cooking.  Let's eat!
TASTING NOTES:  I have to pat myself on the back, for adding more seasoning to the recipe.  The Italian seasoning kicked up the flavor, and I really liked that I increased the red pepper flakes from 1/8 teaspoon to 1/2 teaspoon.  The sausage gave the meat filling a great texture, too.   The ricotta and Four-Cheese blend made this skillet lasagna a satisfying pasta dinner.   The next day, the lasagna tasted even better, when reheated.  My son raved about it, and I admit that I enjoyed noshing on some leftovers during my lunch break.  I applaud America's Test Kitchen for creating a recipe that doesn't need bottled spaghetti sauce-- and I always have diced tomatoes and tomato sauce on hand. However, ATK,  you need to bump up the seasoning a whole lot more-- or this could be on the bland side.
You're welcome.

Oh, and I think "I'm good" for skillet recipes for a while.  I'm hankering for a good pot roast or braised brisket-- just as soon as we get our first good rainfall of the season.  It's been in the 80's for the last few days. I do appreciate the sunshine, but I'm ready to hear the crackling of a roaring fire and making some hot chocolate.

A printable recipe card is at the end of this post.

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Saturday, November 3, 2012

Skillet Tamale Pie - Easy Comfort Food

This classic Mexican flavored dish brings me back to a time when I was in Middle School (must have been in the late 60's). My mother used to buy a boxed Tamale Pie Dinner (I can't remember the brand, though). I remember browning the beef, adding the spice mix and then adding water and egg to the cornmeal batter.  

Now that I think about it, I don't think I've made a tamale pie since then!  So, how could I remake this from scratch?On work week nights, I want to get dinner on the table as fast as I can.  If there are leftovers that reheat well in the microwave at my office, it's  win-win.  This recipe fits the bill. Fast. Easy. Good. Man-Pleasing.

I re-read this cookbook, last weekend, and was surprised at how many recipes I've made. I've made their Skillet Chicken Broccoli & Pasta Dinner multiple times. In my book, America's Test Kitchen is up there with Ina Garten when it comes to recipes that are pretty much guaranteed to be good.  I saw the Skillet Tamale Pie recipe, and realized that I had one pound of ground beef that I needed to either cook or freeze. Dinner was on!

(I added a couple of tweaks to the recipe, and I will note those in the printable recipe card, at the bottom of this post.)

We begin with chopped onion and chili powder.  I added cumin, because I think it's what belongs in Mexican recipes. 

The recipe lists chopped tomatoes, drained. I happened to have a can of Ro-Tel tomatoes, because I love to add mild green chilis.  You need black beans, drained and minced garlic.

Of course, you need ground beef.  I'm thinking that turkey could work, too, but I haven't tried that yet.  Brown the meat, then add the drained tomatoes and beans.  I'm a believer in adding tomato paste to most of my braised or skillet recipes that includes tomatoes.  I think it adds more depth of flavor.  Whenever I open a can of tomato paste, I freeze portions for later use.  

I also decided to add some frozen corn, because black beans + corn = delicious combination.  Last, grated cheddar cheese is added and cilantro.  Hate cilantro? Really? Then use parsley.

The cornmeal topping is easy to make. You need flour, yellow cornmeal, buttermilk, egg and baking powder and baking soda and melted butter.  Once the wet ingredients are whisked and added to the dry ingredients, just spread it evenly over the cooked filling. Bake at 450 degrees for 10-15 minutes, and serve.

The downside to daylight savings time is that shooting photos in natural light becomes a very slim margin.  The photo is a bit darker than I'd like, but at least you can see that the filling held well.

TASTING NOTES:  The prep work for this recipe is very minimal, except for chopping an onion and mincing some garlic.  Skillet dinners are perfect for a busy night, because I can clean up my mess while it's cooking/baking.  Taste:  My favorite part is the cornmeal crust. It's tender, and I think that buttermilk is the key ingredient.  I have made some notes for the next time I make this-- I will use my own Mexican Seasoning Blend (recipe card below), and a tablespoon of chopped chipotle peppers to kick it up the heat a lot more.  If this is being made for kids, then maybe not.  I would add another small can of diced green chilis, too and even more cheddar cheese-- like double. This would be great with a dollop of sour cream. Overall, it's a comforting dish that did reheat, very well, for my lunch at work.

I always post a printable recipe card at the end of each recipe post. If you cannot view it, you might be using an older version of Internet Explorer. You should be able to view my recipe cards with Safari, Mozilla, Google Chrome and Internet Explorer. If you still can't view the recipe card, all of my recipes are stored on Key Ingredient, by clicking here. If you still can't figure out how to view the printable recipe card, please email me at and I am happy to help.

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