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Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Slow-Cooker Cranberry Turkey Breast with Gravy

Slow-Cooker Cranberry Turkey Breast with Gravy
I'm sneaking in one more recipe for you to consider adding to your Thanksgiving table this year. I know it's T-minus 24 hours or so, but this dish is totally worth it. Now, I've mentioned before that I always make at least one extra turkey breast alongside our turkey—I hate not having Thanksgiving leftovers. This is probably the recipe I will use from now until the end of time for at least of those extra turkey breasts. It's that good.

Okay, so let's talk crispy skin. It's one of the best parts of the turkey, right? But it gets eaten right away. I mean, it has a short window. You rip it off gingerly to avoid burning your fingertips, and you savor the crispy, flavorful crackle. Crispy skin does not make it to the leftover containers for that reason, and because it would no longer be crispy when reheated. So, roast your turkey in the oven (might I suggest this Crispy Skin Roast Turkey with Citrus Herb Brine), and cook this one out of the way in your crockpot.

This extra breast won't yield you any extra crisp skin, it will however give you extra ridiculously juicy and flavor-packed meat AND about two and half cups of gravy. Extra gravy is never a bad thing. Like, ever.
Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Waldorf Salad inspired by Pieces of April | #FoodnFlix

Waldorf Salad #Thanksgiving #sidedish #apples
I find it hard to take a person seriously when they don't admit to some dysfunction somewhere in their family. Rainbows and lollipops do not always abound when the family comes together, not even on Thanksgiving. This month's Food 'n Flix pick Pieces of April, as chosen by our host Deb from Kahakai Kitchen, brings some of that dysfunction to the screen.

Far from a poster-child for exemplary behavior in the past, April is now a young adult coming into her own. She invites her mostly estranged suburban-dwelling family to her Lower East Side apartment for Thanksgiving dinner, with a nervous hope that their cold demeanor will start to warm up a bit.

It turns out that April's mother Joy is in the final stages of cancer, and this may be her final Thanksgiving. With mood swings that range from sweet and blissful to downright nasty, Joy is not a very lovable character. I found myself thinking "what a bitch" in my head so many times throughout the movie, which I found disconcerting, since she is dying...and it's sad and understandable. Sort of. I don't understand not being able to remember even one happy memory of your own daughter. As much as I enjoyed Katie Holmes as April in this film, it was Patricia Clarkson as her mom that stole the show. Of course, because Clarkson is flipping brilliant (for lack of a more eloquent term).
Monday, November 24, 2014

Butternut Squash and Apple Bisque

Butternut Squash and Apple Bisque #12WeeksofWinterSquash #soup
The Food Truck sensation is sweeping the nation, and photographers Phil Shen and Kim Pham have a backstage pass. They stumbled sort of accidentally into the place they were meant to be after moving to Portland, Oregon in 2009. Between sporadic photo jobs, they began exploring the food pods around town (my PDX friend Bea tells me about these all the time), and were smitten.

They'd spend their weekends exploring and tasting, and in the midst of it all, took notice of the chefs, owners, and people who ran these tiny little kitchens. They wanted to know their stories. Thus, the idea of their food blog was born; a combination of their love for food and photography. They teamed up with Terri Phillips, a writer, and began to delve deeper into the food pods, food carts, and food trucks vying for a spot on the busy streets. Behind the Food Carts is their (very successful) vehicle for sharing these people's stories through words and photographs. Their passion led to being named Saveur magazine's Best Culinary Travel Blog in 2013, and now this inspiring and delicious cookbook.

"Each chapter kicks off with an introduction by Phil and a full food truck story by Terri, and each recipe features a personal tidbit or anecdote from the contributor. These recipes are not "inspired by" or "based on" the menus of the food trucks featured; they're direct from the chefs themselves. You may not be able to travel to Love Balls Bus in Austin, Texas for Garlic Yaki Onigiri, but you can sear some up in your home kitchen and taste Chef Gabe Rothschild's drive and dedication for yourself."
Sunday, November 23, 2014

Herbed Turkey over Cornbread Waffles w/ Cranberry Sauce

Herbed Turkey over Cornbread Waffles with Cranberry Sauce #ThanksgivingLeftovers
I like Thanksgiving leftovers almost as much as I like the meal itself. It actually makes me a leeeetle bit frustrated if there's nothing left for later that night AND the next day. That is exactly why I make extra. Of everything. For example, even if I'm roasting a whole turkey, I put an extra breast in the crockpot. I always make a double batch of cranberry sauce. And one pie? Oh no, I make at least three pies or other dessert offerings—but mostly pie.

I know this sounds boring, but my absolute favorite way to eat leftover turkey is simply piled on white bread and sprinkled with salt for a sandwich that sticks both to the roof of my mouth and to the insides of my throat and chest as it goes down. I swear, but that's exactly the way I like it. Hanger ensues if I don't eat at least one of those sandwiches yearly.

But I also like more creatively re-purposed leftovers. For example, a Turkey Manhattan (an open-faced sandwich with turkey, mashed potatoes, and gravy) is probably second on the must-have Thanksgiving leftovers scale. I also always throw a couple of extra sweet potatoes in the oven alongside whatever is roasting for the sole purpose of eating these Cranberry-Barbecue Turkey Stuffed Sweet Potatoes later on. Turkey Tetrazzini and Cranberry Sauce Crumb Bars are a couple more of my family's favorite uses for leftovers.
Friday, November 21, 2014

Persimmon Pudding

Persimmon Pudding #Thanksgiving #dessert
Okay, so I'm about to put this out there—until recently, I thought persimmons were a tropical fruit. I think it's because I didn't eat a single persimmon until a few years ago. Whenever I saw them, they were at the market, in the produce section next to the coconuts, star fruit, pineapple, papaya, get the point. Of course, that seems to be where the section they display the pomegranates in, too. A person can get the wrong idea.

Don't get me wrong, I'm not blaming it on the supermarkets. My ignorance is my own fault (if fault is really a thing here). Recently I was paging through books and magazines to help me plan out my Thanksgiving menu when I stumbled across an article about and recipe for persimmon pudding. I was dumbfounded when I read the title "Indiana Persimmon Pudding". What? Indiana? I live in Indiana. Little did I know, persimmons grow wild across much of Southern Indiana and Illinois. Well, I live as north as you can get in Indiana without being in Michigan. So that explains it.

Apparently persimmon pudding is a tradition and a staple in the Midwest (where I've spent almost my entire life) and the South. And yet, to me it was a brand new discovery. Trying to remember how many times I've actually eaten persimmons in my life, I can remember approximately three times before now. THREE. I just never really knew what to do with them (and apparently didn't bother doing even minimal research). But this little tidbit of knowledge reeled me in.
Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Asian-inspired Braised Duck Legs

This is a sponsored post written by me on behalf of Fiji Water, for the Perfection Takes Time campaign. All opinions are my own.
Asian-inspired Braised Duck Legs #perfectiontakestime #duck
Recently I realized something, and it made me a bit wistful. I realized that I don't take my time in the kitchen anymore. I mean, YES—I'm always in the kitchen. Always testing recipes. Always making dinner. Always moving a stack of cookbooks from the table to the floor. Always fretting over lack of counter space...lack of daylight...lack of clean dishes. Hurry, hurry, hurry. Spending my time instead of taking it.

Sixteen years ago, when I moved into my first real apartment...not a dorm room, not a house or apartment shared with college roommates...just me, I took my time in the kitchen. I was just coming into my own. I was learning cooking processes and techniques. I used to make lists, explore ingredients, and prepare meals that took time. Golden-skinned chicken that was roasted in the new stoneware dish I was so proud of. Chuck roasts so tender and beckoning that burning my fingertips just to get an early taste didn't hurt a bit. Pink hams wrapped in a shiny glaze. Pork loins propped up by a bed of sturdy vegetables. You know, the type of food that envelops the entire house in a sense of calm.

And I did it just because I enjoyed it.
Monday, November 17, 2014

Duck and Lentil Ragù with Spaghetti Squash

Duck and Lentil Ragù with Spaghetti Squash #12WeeksofWinterSquash #duck #lentils
The word ragù instantly conjures up visions of warm kitchens, family meals, and comfort food. Slow cooking...long braises...tomato based (traditionally) meat sauces, usually containing some sort of wine...what's not comforting about that? But sometimes I cheat and go for something equally as hearty and flavorful, yet cooked in far less time. Let's call them rapid ragùs.

This one in particular still features tender, slow-cooked meat—it's just that I didn't simmer it in the sauce itself. I love slow roasted duck and duck confit (duck legs that have been cooked slowly in their own fat), and while I don't mind taking the time to cook either, Maple Leaf Farms offers some awesome pre-cooked options. That means that I can have slow roasted meat at my fingertips, whenever.

I made this ragù at the end of last week (you may remember me telling you that there was a thick blanket of snow outside my window). It all started with a couple of little ovalular spaghetti squash sitting on my counter. Spaghetti squash just so happen to be my favorite type of winter squash...well, any squash really. More often than not, I'll just roast and scrape one and eat it with some Italian sausage and kale; that's one of my favorite meals. But since I've shared that recipe before, I knew I had to come up with something else. I mean, that is the point of 12 Weeks of Winter Squash. Stepping outside and trying new things, new combinations...coming up with new favorite uses for these sturdy squash varieties.
Saturday, November 15, 2014

Cardamom-laced Pumpkin Steel-Cut Oatmeal

This is a sponsored post written by me on behalf of Silk. All opinions are 100% mine.
Cardamom-laced Pumpkin Steel-Cut Oatmeal + Silk® Cashewmilk #pumpkin #glutenfree #vegan
I've always been a milk-drinker. Growing up it was always dairy, and I don't think I even knew there was an alternative. I've even been a shareholder of a grass-fed organic dairy herd. I like dairy milk and I don't have any sensitivities to it. That being said, now that I'm "all grown up", I also keep alternative varieties on milk on hand at all times. One—because you never know when an intolerant person might drop by, and two—because I like using different types of milks for different applications.

I almost always have a can of coconut milk in my pantry. It's good for me to keep rice milk around because my mom can't have dairy, nuts, or soy. I use almond milk on a fairly regular basis, and soy milk from time to time. Often you hear about making nut milks at home, and while it's something I'll probably try making (because I like to try making everything myself—at least once), I know I wouldn't make it on a regular basis. I know a lot of vegans (and non-vegans) who use cashew cream, and it's always intrigued me, so when I saw that Silk® now makes cashew milk, I knew I wanted to try it.

I went for the unsweetened, because I like to control the end result (I knew I'd be using most of it as an ingredient). But of course, I had to drink some to give it the old college try before I went any further. The carton says "irresistibly creamy"...and it's right. The Silk Cashewmilk is creamy with an entirely natural and pleasant mouthfeel. Sorry, I know some people hate the word "mouthfeel", but it fits here. When you tilt your head back to take a gulp, the cashewmilk does not feel cloying or unnaturally thick. It has a mild, pleasant taste. And it BEGS to be used in oatmeal. Really, I heard it.
Friday, November 14, 2014

Tuscan White Bean Soup

I received samples from Swanson® for review purposes. The opinions stated in this post are my own.
Tuscan White Bean Soup + Swanson® Soup Prize Pack #Giveaway #soup #kale via @roadstokitchen w/ @swansonbroth
My attention is being steadily averted by the window to my left. It's mid-November, therefore the fact that fat, lazy snowflakes are falling steadily from a pale sky should not be surprising. Yet here I sit, shaking my head in disbelief at the six inches lining the shoveled path in front of the house. I wasn't ready for it. Honestly, it seems like last year's snow just finished melting.

My initial reaction aside, it's kind of comforting. I mean, as a child of the Midwest, a good snowfall does conjure up images of crackling fires, piles of cozy blankets, steaming mugs of hot chocolate, and big pots of soup to warm your bones after a day of sledding, fort building, and snowball fights.

So, when the folks at Swanson contacted me to see if I'd be interested in trying an assortment of their products, I was more than happy to put the broths and stocks to use warming up my kitchen. Swanson is a name that already appears on containers and cans in my pantry, so I was already a fan of their products. I use a lot of stock and broth, and while I do make my own, I don't make enough to keep up with what I go through. I especially like their seafood stock, since that's something I rarely make myself.
Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Roast Crispy-Skin Turkey (w/ Citrus Herb Brine)

Roast Crispy-Skin Turkey w/ Citrus Herb Brine #Thanksgiving #turkey
Fourteen years ago, I was in charge of the Thanksgiving turkey for the first time. I was 25 and finally ready to join the ranks of my grandmas, mom, and aunts; I was finally going to be hosting the meal that I look forward to for an entire year. I'd been training for that day my whole life by helping choose how we were going to flavor the bird when my mom researching the pros and cons of reading up on wild vs frozen. I was a master baster. Go ahead, snicker. I was ready.

So, I set about my normal routine of figuring out how I could make the best turkey my family had ever eaten. Visions of breast meat so juicy that it garnered involuntary whimpers from the hungry mouths of my guests. Skin so burnished and crispy that I'd have to fend off sneaky fingers with the tines of my carving fork. Turkey that elicited a satisfied smile when looked back on throughout the year.

You know, a turkey that was no less than amazing—an A++++++++.....
Monday, November 10, 2014

Forbidden Rice w/ Butternut Squash & Edamame

Forbidden Rice w/ Butternut Squash & Edamame #12WeeksofWinterSquash #sidedish
Welcome to week number two of the 12 Weeks of Winter Squash! With Thanksgiving this month, I've been toying with some new side dishes to add to the this year's table. Mind you, I can't take away any of the "normal" sides lest I want mutiny to break out, but nobody ever objects to more food.

Browsing my pantry shelves led me to a container of Forbidden rice ("it's forbiiiidden!" that movie). It's been there for months. I've been waiting for inspiration, as I didn't just want to have a bowl of plain rice—even if it was prettier than most. Forbidden rice is a beautiful deep shade of inky purple once cooked. Or is it black with deep purple highlights? Either way, it feels like it was meant to be combined with some vibrant orange winter squash and shared during an autumn meal.

The addition of edamame to this rice came about last minute. The squash was already done roasting. The rice was almost ready to be fluffed. I pulled some scallions from the crisper—they were my original plan for  green flecks amongst the black and orange—only to find them limp and faded. Hmmmm, that was not going to work. So I started rummaging through the crisper and freezer for another way to add some color.
Friday, November 7, 2014

Spice-Swirled Cranberry Sweet Potato Bread | #ThreeLoaves Movement

Spice-Swirled Cranberry Sweet Potato Bread #ThreeLoaves Project #bread #sweetpotatoes

That is the premise of the Three Loaves Movement, the brainchild of Jerry from Cooking Stoned. Inspired by his 2010 participation in the Yahoo!'s Ripple of Kindness project, Jerry kicked off this movement in which food is a form of activism. The challenge, for all who are willing to accept it, is to bake three loaves of bread a month (aka one for you, one for a friend, and one for someone in need) that feature sustainable and seasonal ingredients.  Since baking and sharing bread is something that I do on a monthly basis anyway, I loved the thought of taking part in this movement. I say it all the time—not much compares to a freshly baked loaf of bread—comfort, happiness, nourishment.

So, it's November. Obviously pumpkin and winter squash come to mind when I think seasonal produce here in the Midwest. My mind also goes directly to Thanksgiving. A table heavy with seasonal foods for which to share and give thanks. I toyed with the idea of going the savory route and combining brussels sprouts, garlic, onions, and potatoes. And though I didn't go that direction, I may still push them into some soft focaccia dough in the next couple of weeks.

Instead I decided that sweet potatoes were the way to go. I pictures my family's favorite rustic potato loaves, and thought that maybe swapping out sweet potatoes would yield the same great results, but with a beautiful orange hue to reflect the season. But then visions of cranberries and spice started swirling in my head, which transferred themselves to the inside of my sweet potato loaves. Instead of sharing savory loaves, I wound up sharing enriched loaves that were studded with cranberries and punctuated by a sweet and spicy swirl.
Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Giant Pumpkin Spice Cinnamon Rolls

Giant Pumpkin Spice Cinnamon Rolls #twelveloaves #pumpkin #pumpkinspice #cinnamonrolls
It was almost exactly 5 years ago to the day that I made my first from scratch, fully homemade batch of cinnamon rolls. I was so darn proud of myself, because I had just started to become friends with yeast. We're a family of cinnamon roll eaters through the generations, so that was a pretty significant moment in my life. Coincidentally, they also had a pumpkin base. But oh, how far I've come since then. Where once I avoided baking yeast breads like they were the plague, I now long for the comfort of their company in the kitchen. What a difference 5 years can make.

So, when our #TwelveLoaves host for the month, the lovely Renee from Kudos Kitchen by Renee, announced that our theme for November was pumpkin, I automatically knew that I was making cinnamon rolls. No, that's a lie—but wouldn't it have been poetic? I was actually leaning towards savory. Visions of a sage-laced pumpkin cornbread danced in my head. And then I entertained a rustic loaf that still included sage, but also bacon. I even had all of the ingredients ready to go for that one. But instead, the craving for cinnamon rolls full-on telenovela-slapped me across the face. Cinnamon rolls it was.

I've mentioned (many times) before that I'm a bit of a connoisseur. I love a good straightforward cinnamon bun without any bells and whistles, but I can't help but veer off the path, picking up random bells and whistles and sticking them in my bag for later. Today is a bells and whistles day. Did I just say bells and whistles far too many times in one paragraph? 
Monday, November 3, 2014

Sesame and Chile Roasted Butternut Squash

Sesame and Chile Roasted Butternut Squash #12WeeksOfWinterSquash |
Well, November just sort of snuck up on me. Today is already the 3rd, and the 3rd just so happens to be my birthday. I've reached that "forever age"—39. Okay, I'm not so sure if ladies still say that. You know, every year when their birthday rolls around, they're 39 again? I don't think I'll do that. I mean, even though 40 is just around the corner, these days, it doesn't seem so old anymore.

Anyhoo, besides celebrating the start of my final year in my 30's, today also kicks off another edition of the 12 Weeks of Winter Squash! If you're not familiar with it,'s exactly what it sounds like. For the next 12 weeks, I'll be featuring at least one winter squash recipe every week. This will be my third year joining my friend Joanne of Eats Well With Others in celebrating the versatile winter squash (though she's been doing it for even longer than that).

So, every Monday for the forseeable future, you can pretty much count on a recipe featuring some sort of winter squash. I'm starting today with what I like to call a gateway variety of winter squash—Butternut. I mean, a Butternut squash isn't too scary, right? I mean, you can even eat the peel (though I only recommend it if it's roasted). It's fairly simple to cut when compared to some other varieties—pumpkin, I'm talking to you!