The Perfectly Roasted Turkey

Let’s talk turkey!

I meant to post this back on Thanksgiving, but I got a little busy. It’s ok, you can save it for next year. Or even if you want to do a turkey for Christmas.

Roasting a turkey seems really intimidating because turkey meat tends to dry out. It really isn’t that hard though and ever since I’ve done it this way, I’ve had a perfectly roasted turkey every year.

Start with a dry brine. You can buy one, like this great one from Williams-Sonoma, or you can make your own, which is what I did this year:

1-1/2 cups of kosher salt

2 tablespoons garlic powder

2 tablespoons onion powder

About 4 tablespoons poultry seasoning (it was ½ of the small McCormick container of the poultry seasoning)

Mix together. Clean out your turkey (remove the neck and giblets bag) and dry the outside. Cover the whole bird with your brine. It’s OK to put it on really thick.


Cover with plastic wrap and let it sit for 24 hours.

Meanwhile, make your herb compound butter:

Take 1 stick of room temperature butter (you’ll want it really soft), and mix in:

2 tablespoons fresh sage, minced

1 tablespoon fresh thyme, minced

1 tablespoon fresh rosemary, minced

Heavy pinch of salt

 

Put the butter in plastic wrap and store in the fridge until ready to use. The day you need it, take it out of the fridge and bring it back to room temperature. This butter could really be used on just about anything.

 

When you are ready to roast your turkey, unwrap it and rinse off all the brine. Dry it off and rub the whole thing with your compound butter. Make sure you get under the skin. This is pretty easy to do.

 

Put the bird in the roasting bag with some flour (see instructions on the roasting bags). I’ve also tried it where I put the bird in the bag and then put the butter on it. Either way works. I found them both to be about the same level of difficulty.

Put half an onion and all the herbs from one of those plastic packages at the grocery store of the Poultry blend in the cavity. Close the bag and cut a few slits in the top of the bag.

 

Roast at 350 degrees for about 2-3 hours or so depending on the size of your turkey. The roasting bag box will give you the correct instructions.

 

These roasting bags will help you immensely! You don’t have to worry about basting or anything. You just put the bird in the oven and set your timer.

Let the turkey sit for about 30 minutes before you start to carve it.

 

Now pour yourself a glass of wine and enjoy your Thanksgiving or Christmas or holiday or really any day. Where is the rule that you can’t just roast a turkey whenever you feel like it? 😊

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Boozy Pumpkin Pie

I’m sure for most people, when they think of Thanksgiving dessert, they think of pumpkin pie first. In fact, according to the many Pie polls I saw, pumpkin was the number one choice.

Since pumpkin pie is pretty traditional, I decided to shake things up a bit.

Allow me to introduce to you, dear reader, my Boozy Pumpkin Pie.

That’s right. This guy took a shot of whiskey before hitting the oven. And after a taste during the doneness test, I can assure it, that shot of Jack was the right decision!

It is really yummy! It has just a hint of Jack and the alcohol cooks off, so it’s a winner for all ages. 

Boozy Pumpkin Pie

3/4 cup sugar

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon each: ground cloves, ground ginger, ground nutmeg, ground allspice 

Pinch of salt

1 can pumpkin (15oz) 

1 can evaporated milk (12oz) 

2 eggs

1-1/2 oz Jack Daniels 

In a small bowl, combine sugar, cinnamon, salt, and other spices.

In a larger bowl, combine your eggs, pumpkin, and evaporated milk. Mix well. Add the sugar/spice mix. 

Add the Jack. I used the whole mini bottle.

Pour into an unbaked pie shell and bake at 425 for 15 minutes then 350 for 40-50 minutes.

Next: top with some whipped cream and watch this become a new favorite. 

Pecan Pie

I know I’ve mentioned this before, but my family was always a big pie family when I was growing up. I remember often having various pies at celebratory events and everyone has their own favorites. For example, I love chocolate cream (which is 100% a real pie, regardless of what my sister says) and my mom is a big fan of coconut cream—with no whipped cream, and lemon meringue—no meringue. My dad loves him some berry pie. I’m not sure what my brother’s favorite is, but I think he’s a berry fan also. Either way, we all love pie.

That means when it comes to Thanksgiving, we take dessert pretty seriously. There are always a few pies to choose from and we tend to stick with the traditional ones: Pumpkin, Pecan, and Apple. Sometimes we change them up a bit like making a pumpkin cheesecake or a chocolate pecan pie, but the traditional base is always there. 

This year will be no exception. I’ll be making a pumpkin pie, this pecan pie, and my sister-in-law is bringing a caramel apple pie that sounds devine (seriously, who doesn’t love that flavor combo?!).

I think sometimes people are intimidated by pies, but you don’t have to be. They are not that difficult and if you want to buy your crust to relieve some of the pressure, by all means go for it. I doubt anyone would notice. My favorite store-bought crusts are the ones you find in the freezer that are already in a dish.

I love all three of the Thanksgiving pies I mentioned, but I think pecan may be my favorite. Here’s my recipe for a delicious pecan pie: 

Pecan Pie

Pie crust (store-bought or homemade. If you use my recipe at that link, make sure you add about a tablespoon of sugar since this is a sweet pie.)

2 cups chopped pecans

½ cup unsalted butter (1 stick)

1 cup packed light brown sugar

Pinch of salt

1 cup light corn syrup

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

4 eggs, slightly beaten

1 cup whole pecans

Chop your pecans and set aside. You can buy them pre-chopped, which is fine, but you need the whole ones anyway, so it may be cheaper to just buy a bigger bag of the whole ones and chop some of them yourself. Also, I like chopping them myself because then I get different sizes some are teeny and some are just small, so it adds to the texture of the pie.

In a sauce pan over medium heat, melt your butter. Add the brown sugar and whisk until smooth. Remove from the heat.

Add the salt, corn syrup, and vanilla extract. Whisk. In a small bowl, beat your eggs. Slowly add them into the corn syrup mixture and whisk until combined and smooth. Remember this is all off the heat. You don’t want to make scrambled eggs. 

Add your pecans and stir.

 

Pour the filling into your prepared pie crust and top with the whole pecans in whatever design you’d like. The filling is thick, so the pecans should just lay right on top.

 


Bake in a 350 degree oven for 60-70 minutes, or until the filling is set. 


TIP: Check about half way through. If the crust is already nicely browned, wrap it with some foil to keep it from burning while the rest of the pie finished baking. You can do this with any pie.

 

Serve with some whipped cream and enjoy!

What’s your favorite Thanksgiving pie/dessert??

 

Super Easy Cranberry Sauce 

If you are in charge of the cranberry sauce for your holiday meal, you definitely drew the long straw. The perfect cranberry sauce takes minutes and only about 4 ingredients (5 if you include the 1/2 cup water). And you can make it a day or two in advance.

Cranberry sauce is definitely the easiest part of the Thanksgiving meal. 

Super Easy Cranberry Sauce 

1 12oz bag of whole, fresh cranberries

1 cup sugar 

The zest of one orange 

The juice of half an orange

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon 

1/2 cup water

2 Tablespoons cornstarch 

In a pot over medium heat, add your cranberries, sugar, zest, juice, cinnamon, and water. Stir together and let come to a boil.


While the mixture is boiling, the cranberries will begin to burst, releasing their juices. Let it stay at a low boil until they are soft and mostly burst open. 

Once they are all soft, stir in the cornstarch and reduce to a simmer. Let simmer until thickened. 


Turn off the heat and transfer to a bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and put in the fridge to cool before serving. It will thicken up even more as it sits.


You can make this dish one to two days in advance and transfer the cranberries to a plastic container and store in the fridge until Turkey Day. 

Slow Cooker Mashed Potatoes (Thanksgiving Tip)

I recently discovered a kitchen trick that I have immediately added to my arsenal: Slow Cooker mashed potatoes!! 

OK, I’m sure you’ve been doing this for a long time. I’m almost positive I’m late to the slow cooker mashed potato party, but I’m here now and I’m excited.

I recently started sharing some tips and tricks for Thanksgiving on my Instagram (hint: follow me on Instagram!) and I just shared this one. It is so easy, I can’t believe I’ve been wasting precious stove space all these years!

Usually when making mashed potatoes on Thanksgiving, I would just boil the potatoes like usual on the stovetop and then mash them and add my other ingredients (milk, butter, cheese, sour cream, cream cheese… whatever you like). It was always saved to the last minute so they would be warm, but the last minute is the most chaotic, amiright? Making the mashed potatoes this way will be a stress reliever, if nothing else. Here’s what you do: 

(Apologies ahead of time for the bad pictures. I was having issues…)

Cube about 3-4 pounds of potatoes (I used Yukon gold, but I’m sure you could use russet or red)

Add them to the slow cooker with about 1-1/2 cups of water and some garlic.


Cook on low for 3-4 hours, or until fork tender.

Drain the water and mash the potatoes with whatever ingredients you like right in the slow cooker. Don’t forget to salt them to taste too. 


That’s it. And if they are done earlier than the rest of the meal, you can just put the lid back on and set it to warm until you are ready to serve! I wouldn’t do this step too early, though, because you don’t want to risk drying them out.

Farro Stuffed Acorn Squash

Fall is here you guys!!! I know, it is sort of hard to tell if you live in Southern California right now. We are in the midst of a serious heat wave. I’m talking so hot, they had recess indoors at my son’s school. Ugh. This is not my jam. At all.

Anyway, last weekend I put up my fall decor in anticipation of this heat wave breaking and the season finally making an appearance.

Today, I braved my oven (with the AC on) and made my first “Fall” dish of the season: Stuffed Acorn Squash. It was so easy and delicious and healthy just very… FALL.

You should be able to find farro at any grocery store, but if you can’t, I’m sure you can substitute brown rice. Same with the garlic herb sausage. I got this at Trader Joe’s and I know I’ve seen similar varieties at regular grocery stores too. You could probably substitute just about any flavor you like.

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Serves 2 (1/2 squash each. About 360 calories per serving)

1 medium acorn squash
olive oil
salt and pepper
2 chicken sausage links (see note above), cut into small pieces
1/2 leek, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 cup COOKED farro
2 teaspoons fresh thyme (you can use dried as well, just cut the amount in half)
1 teaspoon dried sage

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Cut the squash in half lengthwise (or, if you are deathly afraid of cutting winter squash and are scared you are going to accidentally stab yourself, enlist someone else to do it). Scoop out the seeds in the middle and coat with a little olive oil and salt and pepper.  Roast for about 20-25 minutes, depending on the size of your squash. Just until slightly fork-tender.

While the squash is roasting, make your farro according to package directions.

Make the rest of the stuffing (you can actually make the stuffing ahead of time, a day or two, and just use it when you are ready).  In a skillet, saute in a little olive oil the leeks, garlic, sausage, thyme, and sage.

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I don’t know why this picture is upside down, but I’m pretty sure you get it…

 

Drain the farro and add it to the sausage mixture. Then put half in each half of the squash. Put back in the oven for another 20 minutes.

Funny story… When I was coming up with this recipe, I had planned on adding a diced apple to the stuffing (include it in the saute). I even bought the apple. I completely FORGOT!!  If you make it, try it with the apple and let me know how it goes. Next time I will include the apple! (I was going to use a Fuji, but any should work).

This was really yummy and quite easy. Perfect for a fall dinner. Now, someone send me pictures of changing leaves and sipping apple cider because I’m melting over here!

Roasted Butternut Squash and Brussels Sprouts with Cranberries in a Honey Dijon Vinaigrette

Ah, the poor, misunderstood Brussels Sprout. Growing up, my only knowledge of the little veggie was that it was gross. Why? Because that’s what TV shows and movies told me. Brussels Sprouts were always the example used when someone needed to make a point about a food that no one liked, especially kids. Because of this, I think it was given a really bad rap and may have grounds for some sort of libel suit.

You know, if it were not a vegetable.

I guess I sort of understand why people might not like Brussels sprouts. On their own, they aren’t the greatest. Even just boiled, they are pretty much blah. They are a bitter little cabbage that needs a lot of help to be palatable. Fortunately, that “help” comes in the form of very easy to prepare dishes that turn out delicious! A simple roast or pan fry and you’ve got yourself a yummy side dish. Add extras like bacon and cranberries and take them over the top.

Brussels sprouts are also highly nutritious, loaded with lots of vitamins like C, K, and B1; are high in folate, manganese, dietary fiber, and omega-3s.

Unfortunately, try as I might, I tend to be the lone Brussels sprouts fan in our house. The kids won’t give them a chance and my hubby doesn’t like the texture. That being said, he did like these sprouts. I roasted them a lot longer than I usually do, so the core was a lot softer than usual. He said that was much better, but he’s still not super gung-ho about them.

Oh, well. More for me, right?

This recipe was really easy and so tasty. I could eat this every day. Caramelized veggies are always good and the dressing was a tiny bit tangy and a tiny bit sweet for a really scrumptious combo. 

I know it’s July, but I think this would actually make a really good Thanksgiving or Christmas side dish (I’ve been watching a lot of the Hallmark Channel Christmas Movie Preview Week so I’m feeling rather festive lately! Anyone wanna come help me put up my tree??)

I initially found this on Pinterest and then made a few changes of my own. I didn’t add any nuts to this version, but I think throwing in a handful of walnuts or pecans towards the end of the roasting time would be a really yummy addition.

Please keep in mind that I only made enough for myself, so any measurements listed are really guesses. I did a lot of eyeballing. You can find the full recipe HERE. I swapped out the rice wine vinegar for apple cider vinegar and added a touch of honey for the dressing. It was yum, yum, yum! Like I said, I could have this as a side dish all the time.

Roasted Brussels Sprouts & Butternut Squash with Dried Cranberries and Honey Dijon dressing

Adapted from A Beautiful Plate

Brussels sprouts, halved

1 cup cubed butternut squash

1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil

Salt and pepper

¼ cup dried cranberries

For the dressing (approx. measurements):

1 tablespoon Dijon mustard

1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar

1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil

1 teaspoon honey

Place the veggies on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Toss to coat and make sure the veggies are in a single layer. A good tip is to put the sprouts cut-side down so they caramelize a little better.

Roast at 450 for about 20-30 minutes. During the last 5 or so minutes of roasting, add your cranberries.


Meanwhile, in the bowl you are going to serve the veggies in, whisk together your dressing ingredients. You can add more salt and pepper here, but since they are already on the veggies, I opted not to. People can always add more at the table if they want.

When the veggies are done, add them to the bowl with the dressing and toss to coat.


Serve and become a sprouts fan for life.