Saturday, November 26, 2011

Thanksgiving weekend

My Thanksgiving was officially a hit!  When I decided that I would be cooking Thanksgiving dinner this year, Jade warned me to not go overboard.  Anyone who knows me really well, knows that moderation is not routinely in my vocabulary.

I have cooked Thanksgiving dinner a few times before and have always used this recipe for my turkey.  I would like to take credit for this delicious creation, but I must give credit first to Jamie Oliver and then to my brother, Dan for introducing me to this talented chef. 

Here is Jamie Oliver's advice for cooking a delicious, moist turkey.  

One of the biggest challenges when cooking a turkey is the legs take longer than the breasts. The breasts dry out in the oven while you’re waiting for the legs to cook. I like to push stuffing between the turkey’s skin and breasts, increasing the thickness of the breasts so they take the same time to cook as the legs. The result? Juicy turkey all round!


• 4 tablespoons butter
• a sprig of fresh sage, leaves picked
• 12 strips of pancetta or thinly sliced bacon
• 1 bulb of garlic, broken into cloves
• 4 medium red onions, peeled
• 2 sticks of celery, trimmed and chopped
• a big handful of breadcrumbs
• a handful of dried apricots
• 10 1/2 oz ground pork
• zest of 1 lemon
• a pinch of grated nutmeg
• 1 large free-range or organic egg
• sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
• 12 small fresh rosemary sprigs, plus a few extra
• 9–10lb turkey, preferably free-range or organic, at room temperature
• 2 carrots, peeled
• 1 large orange
• olive oil
• 2 tablespoons plain flour
• 2 pints chicken or vegetable stock

Preheat the oven to maximum. Heat a saucepan until medium hot and drop in the butter, sage leaves and 6 of the pancetta or bacon strips. Peel and chop 2 garlic cloves and 1 onion. Add the garlic, celery and onion to the saucepan and fry everything gently until soft and golden brown. Take the pan off the heat, add the breadcrumbs and, while the mix is cooling down, chop the apricots roughly and stir them in. When the stuffing has cooled down, add the pork, lemon zest, nutmeg, egg and lots of salt and pepper, and mix everything together well.

Slice the remaining strips of pancetta or bacon in half and slice 1 peeled garlic clove into thin slivers. Place a rosemary sprig and a garlic sliver on one end of a halved strip of pancetta and roll it up tightly. Repeat with the other pieces of pancetta until you have 12 little rolls. Stab the thighs and drumsticks of the turkey in 6 places on each side. Push a little pancetta roll into each hole until it just peeps out. This’ll give your turkey thighs a fantastic flavor and will keep them moist while they cook.

Chop the remaining onions in half and slice the carrots thickly. Give your turkey a good wipe, inside and out, with paper towels, and place it on a board, with the neck end towards you. Find the edge of the skin that's covering the turkey's breasts and gently peel it back. Work your fingers and then your hand under the skin, freeing it from the meat. If you're careful you should be able to pull all the skin away from the meat, keeping it attached at the sides. Go slowly and try not to make any holes! Lift the loose skin at the neck end and spoon the stuffing between the skin and the breast, tucking the flap of skin underneath to stop anything leaking out. Pop the orange in the microwave for 30 seconds to warm it up and stuff it into the cavity. Weigh the stuffed turkey and calculate the cooking time (about 20 minutes per pound).

Place the bird on a large roasting pan, rub it all over with olive oil and season well. Surround with the chopped carrots, onions, remaining garlic, cover with aluminum foil and place in the preheated oven. Turn the heat down right away to 350°F, and roast for the calculated time, or until the juices run clear from the thigh if you pierce with it a knife or a skewer. Remove the aluminum foil for the last 45 minutes to brown the bird. Carefully lift the turkey out of the tray and rest on a board that’s covered loosely with foil for 20 minutes while you finish off the veg and gravy. Skim the surface fat from the roasting pan and add the flour and stock. Place the tray on the stovetop and bring to the boil on a high heat. When the gravy starts to thicken, strain it into a bowl. Carve your turkey, serve with the gravy and dig in!

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This is actually a picture of the turkey I made a couple years ago when we celebrated with our good friends Travis and Abby. 

I remembered to take before pictures of my turkey, 

Ain't Tommy the Turkey a beautiful bird.  He was a nice free-range, happy turkey.

but not another after!  Hey, I had my hands full with preparing the rest of Thanksgiving dinner. 

Like this yummy Chocolate Peanut Butter Banana Cream Pie...

 Ah... perfection!


  • 65 vanilla wafers cookies, finely crushed
  • 1 stick butter, melted, plus more for pan
  • 3 ripe bananas, peeled, thinly sliced on a diagonal
  • 2 tablespoons fresh orange juice
  • 1/2 cup peanut brittle, ground into crumbs
  • Chocolate Pudding, recipe follows
  • Peanut Butter Cream, recipe follows
  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 1 teaspoons almond extract
  • 1/4 cup confectioners' sugar
  • 1/2 cup peanut brittle, broken into bite-size pieces


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter a deep 9 by 2-inch pie plate.

Drizzle the crushed vanilla wafers with the melted butter and stir until blended. Press on the bottom and up the sides of the pie plate. Pop in the oven and bake until lightly browned, 20 to 25 minutes. Cool on a wire rack for about 30 minutes.

Toss the banana slices with the orange juice, making sure all the slices get coated. (This helps keep the bananas from browning.) Place the slices on a paper towel-lined plate and pat any excess juices dry.

Arrange half the banana slices in a single layer over the cooled crust. Cover completely with the Chocolate Pudding, spreading it with an offset spatula or butter knife. Top with the rest of the bananas. Sprinkle the peanut brittle crumbs over the bananas. Place dollops of the Peanut Butter Cream on top, spreading it out evenly. Chill the pie in the refrigerator for at least 3 hours.

Whip the cream until stiff peaks are just about to form. Whip in the almond extract and sugar until stiff peaks form.

Take the pie out of the refrigerator. Place dollops of the whipped cream on top and spread it out evenly. Scatter pieces of peanut brittle on top and serve.

Chocolate Pudding:

  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup cocoa powder
  • 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 eggs
  • 4 egg yolks
  • 2 cups milk, divided
Whisk the sugar, cocoa powder and flour in a bowl until there are no lumps. Crack the eggs into the bowl, add the yolks and whisk into a paste. Slowly whisk in 1 cup milk until it is fully incorporated, and then whisk in the remaining 1 cup milk. Put the milk mixture into a saucepan and put over medium heat. Cook, whisking constantly, until it starts to look like pudding, 10 to 15 minutes. It will begin to bubble and it will hold soft peaks when you lift the whisk out. 

Take off the heat and cool to room temperature.

Peanut Butter Cream:

  • 4 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup confectioners' sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup creamy peanut butter (do not use old-fashioned or freshly ground)
  • 2/3 cup chilled heavy whipping cream
Beat the cream cheese and confectioners'sugar with an electric mixer until completely smooth. Add the vanilla and peanut butter, beating until fully incorporated. 

In a separate bowl, beat the heavy cream until stiff peaks form. Working in batches, taking care not to deflate the whipped cream, fold a large spoonful of whipped cream into the peanut butter mixture. Fold in the remaining cream in 2 additions.

 And this for my mom and me...

My mom is vegetarian and I don't eat a lot of meat either.  Especially after pulling out Tommy the Turkey's insides and giving him a good wipe... Gross...

Spinach and Mushroom Lasagna...

Doesn't this fresh spinach look so beautiful?? 


  • 20 lasagna noodles
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 cup chopped fresh mushrooms
  • 1 cup chopped onion
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic
  • 2 cups fresh spinach
  • 3 cups ricotta cheese
  • 2/3 cup grated Romano cheese
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 teaspoon dried basil leaves
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1 egg
  • 3 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
  • 3 cups tomato pasta sauce
  • 1 cup grated Parmesan cheese

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C).
  2. Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil. Add lasagna noodles and cook for 8 to 10 minutes or until al dente; drain.
  3. In a skillet over medium-high heat, cook mushrooms, onions, and garlic in olive oil until onions are tender. Drain excess liquid and cool. Boil spinach for 5 minutes. Drain, then squeeze out excess liquid. Chop spinach. 
  4. Combine ricotta cheese, Romano cheese, spinach, salt, oregano, basil, pepper, and egg in a bowl. Add cooled mushroom mixture. Beat with an electric mixer on low speed for 1 minute. Lay 5 lasagna noodles in bottom of a 9x13 inch baking dish. Spread one third of the cheese/spinach mixture over noodles. Sprinkle 1 cup mozzarella cheese and 1/3 cup Parmesan cheese on top. Spread 1 cup spaghetti sauce over cheese. Repeat layering 2 times.
  5. Cover dish with aluminum foil and bake in a preheated oven for 1 hour. Cool 15 minutes before serving.


And these cranberries...


  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 (16-ounce) bag fresh cranberries
  • 1 cup chopped apple
  • 1 cup chopped walnuts
  • 1/2 cup raisins
  • 1/4 cup Grand Marnier
  • 1/2 orange, juiced
  • 1/2 lemon, juiced
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon nutmeg, freshly grated


Combine the sugar and water in a large saucepan and bring to a boil. Add the cranberries and return to a boil, then lower the heat so that the liquid simmers. 

Add the apples, walnuts, raisins, Grand Marnier, orange and lemon juices, cinnamon, and nutmeg, and cook for 10 to 15 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and let the sauce cool.

And Thanksgiving in my house is not really a holiday without a little pumpkin and some booze.  My sister made a delicious pumpkin pie and I made this...

Pumpkin Pie Martini


  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice, divided
  • 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 2 cups half-and-half
  • 2 tablespoons pumpkin puree
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • Ice cubes
  • 4 ounces vanilla vodka


In a small saucepan over medium heat, combine the brown sugar, 1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice, and 1/2 cup water. Stir until the sugar is dissolved and bring it to a boil. Remove from heat and cool for 30 minutes. Syrup can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks.
Mix together the granulated sugar and remaining 1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice and put it onto a shallow plate. Pour 2 tablespoons of the simple syrup onto a plate. Dip the rims of 4 martini glasses into the syrup, and then in the spiced sugar. Set aside.
In a large measuring cup, combine the half-and-half, pumpkin puree, vanilla, and half the simple syrup and whisk until well blended. Pour in to a pitcher filled with ice. If using the vodka, add it to the pitcher before serving and stir. Pour into the prepared glasses.

  ** I added a few crushed graham crackers to the rim of the glass too. 


These are a few of my favorite recipes from the day.  I also made 4 Cheese Macaroni and Cheese, Broccoli Salad, Deviled Eggs, Mashed Potatoes, Cream Corn, and Green Bean Casserole.  Did I go overboard??

 If anyone wants all my recipes or my Thanksgiving Day menu, just send me an email. 

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