Thursday, November 25, 2010

Thankful Days...(Leftover) Turkey Soup

I hope that this day is full of blessing and thankfulness for you and your family.  One thing that has been on my mind recently is that a spirit of thankfulness kills a spirit of selfishness.  In selfishness, I seek what I can get from others and want the world to revolve around me.  In thankfulness, I realize the blessings that I have been given, and I want to bless others in return.  I pray that attitude of thankfulness will be predominant in my life, and in yours.  I also hope that you are enjoying sweet time with family today, large or small, in person or via Skype, immediate family or a "family" of friends.  I just hope it's sweet. 

Today, we're spending the day watching the Macy's day parade in similar fashion to last year, but are so happy to have family along for the ride this time.  Even though we did it all last year, I still get super excited about the parade and floats, and especially the grand entrance of Santa, bringing with him the official start of the Christmas hustle and bustle. 

After our busy day in the Big Apple, I don't think we'll be jumping up at the wee hours tomorrow to participate in that hustle and bustle with much of America.  But, like many, we will have a refrigerator full of leftover turkey to contend with.  If you find yourself in the same boat, and can't imagine eating that many turkey sandwiches, do I have a soup for you!  This recipe, from my grandmother, is a perfect foil for whatever ails on the day after Thanksgiving: too much rich food, too much of a blustery day, too much chaotic shopping, too much turkey in your refrigerator.  It's nice to sit down with a bowl of this soup, and remember to be thankful. 

Turkey Soup

Bones from 1 whole cooked turkey
3 quarts of water
Leftover turkey, pulled (as much or as little as you have left)
1 cup onion, diced
1 cup bell pepper, diced
1/2 cup celery, diced
1 pound sliced mushrooms
1 lemon, sliced and seeds removed
2 cans cream of mushroom soup
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
2 tablespoons sherry
1 bay leaf
2 teaspoon parsley flakes
1 cup of Basmati rice

In a large pot, simmer the turkey bones with 2 quarts of water for about 30 minutes.  Use a slotted spoon to remove the bones from the pot.  Pull any remaining meat off of the bones and return the meat to the pot; discard the bones. 

Add the remaining pulled turkey, plus the next ten ingredients (through parsley flakes).  Simmer for 30 minutes.  Add the rice and simmer for 15 minutes more, or until the rice is done. 

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Friday, November 19, 2010

Patiently Waiting...for Frozen Cranberry Grand Marnier Mini Tortes

The closer we get to this Thanksgiving, the more excited I get!  Although I made a full Thanksgiving meal last year for the two of us, and I've made Thanksgiving-like meals when hosting supper clubs and dinners, this is my first time to host a family Thanksgiving dinner. 

My husband is excited, too, and he keeps asking me what our menu will be.  His responses of jubilation when I run down the list, or when he comes into the kitchen to see and smell a freshly baked loaf of bread or muffins (which are shortly wrapped up and moved to the freezer), is praise enough, and that's before he's even feasted!  Poor thing, he's tasted all of these things at previous Thanksgiving meals and knows how good they are, but I am pretty strict on no pre-holiday sampling.  He'll just have to wait.

While the Cajun Cornbread Dressing is definitely the star of the meal, my husband's other favorite part of the meal is our very non-traditional dessert.  We find other occasions for pecan bars or sweet potato pies, but I don't think they elicit quite as much excitement from him as these frozen mini-tortes. 

Frozen Cranberry Grand Marnier Mini Tortes

Adapted from Bon Appetit

4.5 oz chocolate wafer cookies or 9 chocolate graham crackers
1/4 cup semisweet chocolate chips
1 1/2 tablespoons sugar
3 1/2 tablespoons butter, melted
4 large egg yolks
1/2 cup sugar
2 tablespoons water
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
dash of allspice
1 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup plain Greek yogurt
2 1/2 tablespoons Grand Marnier
1 1/2 tablespoons orange juice
1 1/2 teaspoons grated orange peel
1/4 cup port wine
1 1/2 teaspoons cornstarch
1/2 cup sugar
2 tablespoons honey
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon allspice
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
2 1/2 cups fresh or frozen cranberries, divided

In a food processor, process the cookies, chocolate chips and sugar until finely ground.  Add the melted butter and pulse 6-7 times.  Reserve 1/4 cup of the cookie mixture.  Divide the remaining mixture between 12 standard muffin cups. 

Whisk the eggs, sugar and water in a medium metal bowl. Cook over simmering water, whisking constantly until the mixture reaches 175 degrees. Remove from the heat. Add the spices, and beat with an electric mixer for 5 minutes.

In a large bowl, whisk the whipping cream, yogurt, Grand Marnier, orange juice and grated orange peel with an electric mixer until peaks form. Fold in the egg mixture. Spoon the mixture half-way up the sides of the muffin cups.  Sprinkle 1 teaspoon of the remaining chocolate crumb mixture into each cup, and top with the remaining whipping cream mixture.  Cover and freeze overnight.  (You may have some left over; it can either be enjoyed frozen or chilled).
Whisk the wine and cornstarch together in a saucepan. Add the sugar, honey and spices.  Set over medium-high heat until the mixture boils. Add 1 1/2 cups cranberries; return to a boil and cook for 5 minutes. Mix in the remaining 1 cup cranberries.  Refrigerate overnight.

To serve, run a butter knife around the mini tortes to release (some crumbs will remain in the pan).  Serve each torte topped with 4-6 tablespoons of the cranberry wine mixture. 

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Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Where's the turkey, Chuck?...Holiday Broccoli Salad

"What kind of Thanksgiving dinner is this? Where's the turkey, Chuck? Don't you know anything about Thanksgiving dinners? Where's the mashed potatoes? Where's the cranberry sauce? Where's the pumpkin pie?"

We have a lot on our dinner plates right now, and we're not talking Turkey and dressing.  Within two weeks we have all of this: A weekend in Virginia, a half marathon, writing two papers, reading three books, class, homework, dinner with friends at our apartment, crafting Christmas presents, cleaning the house.  But wait, "where's the turkey, Chuck?" 
I can hardly believe that Thanksgiving is next week!  I am so excited to have family coming in town to visit.  In addition to all we've been up to recently, I've been excitedly baking, cooking, mixing, blending, and dicing, all in preparation for their stay.  Needless to say, we are both really looking forward to putting aside the books and schoolwork in favor of fellowship and family.  And we're both looking to full plates of yummy Thanksgiving food! 

I have a couple more recipes that I would love to share with you for Thanksgiving day, including this delicious Broccoli Salad.  Whether you're looking for something to bring along with you, or if you're looking for something green and festive to add to your Thanksgiving table, this salad is for you. 

Holiday Broccoli Salad

5 cups fresh raw broccoli florets, chopped
1 cup dried cranberries
1 can water chestnuts, drained and finely chopped
1/2 medium red onion, finely diced
7 slices bacon, cooked until crisp and crumbled
1/2 cup salted sunflower seeds
1/3 cup mayonnaise
2/3 cup plain Greek yogurt
2 tablespoons cider vinegar
2 teaspoons sugar
pinch of salt

Combine the mayonnaise, yogurt, vinegar, sugar and salt in a large bowl.  Add the remaining ingredients and toss well. 

This salad can be made up to 24 hours in advance. 

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Friday, November 12, 2010

The Thanksgiving Star...Cajun Cornbread Dressing

A recent conversation...
  • Classmate: So, do you make some awesome dish for Thanksgiving?
  • Me: Well, my absolute favorite part of the meal is the dressing. My family has this special dressing with sausage. In fact, I brought back a special sausage from the south, because the sausage we've tried up here doesn't compare.
  • Him: So, is this some kind of gravy?
  • Me: No, it's dressing. You know, dressing. As in, Turkey and.
  • Him: Like a salad dressing?
  • Me: (Realizing now that the kind of dressing that I'm talking about is a foreign entity to him) Hmmm. How do I explain? I guess it's like stuffing. But it's not stuffing. We don't put it inside the bird.
  • Him: So it's stuffing, but you call it dressing?
  • Me: Yes, but it's not stuffing. It's different. We don't put it inside the bird. And it's made with cornbread. In a casserole dish...
I still don't think this poor soul quite has a firm understanding of what dressing is. And he cannot possibly understand how fabulous it is. Otherwise, he would be beating our apartment door down for me to make some right now!

What I told him is true, though. It is the best part of the Thanksgiving meal. And the sausage that we use? Well, there's just no comparison to Conecuh sausage. If you live anywhere in the Southeast, try to get your hands on some. If you can readily get your hands on some, I am jealous of you. We brought enough back with us at the end of the summer to last us until our trip home at Christmas, including enough to make this dressing.  If you aren't blessed to have access to this wonderful gift, use the best spicy smoked sausage that you can find.

I will be honest with you; this dressing does require a little bit of time to put together.  But it can be made in advance and frozen for several weeks, making the actual day of the feast much simpler.  And the praise you will receive is well worth the effort. 

Cajun Cornbread Dressing

From my Mom's kitchen, adapted from Paul Prudhomme's Louisiana Kitchen

For the cornbread:

2 cups buttermilk
8 tablespoons butter, melted
2 cups self-rising cornmeal
1 cup Aunt Jamima buttermilk pancake mix
4 eggs
2 tablespoons sugar

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.  Butter a large skillet or 9 x 13 baking dish.  Combine all ingredients and bake for 30 minutes.  Set aside to cool. 

For the dressing:

3 teaspoons salt
½ teaspoon white pepper
½ teaspoon ground cayenne pepper
½ teaspoon black pepper
2 teaspoons dried oregano
1 teaspoon thyme
6 tablespoons butter
1 ½ cups finely chopped onions
1 ½ cups finely chopped bell pepper
1 cup finely chopped celery
2 tablespoons minced fresh garlic
2 bay leaves
1 pound link smoked sausage
1 14 ½ oz. can chicken stock or homemade chicken or turkey stock
1 12 oz. can evaporated milk
6 eggs, beaten
Butter two casserole dishes, one large (9 x 13) and one small (8 x 8). 

Thoroughly combine first 6 ingredients in a small bowl and set aside. 

Boil sausage in a pan in 2 inches of water for 12 minutes.  Drain the water and grind the sausage in a food processor.  Set aside. 

In a large skillet, melt the butter. Add the onions, bell peppers, celery, garlic and bay leaves. Sauté about 2 minutes on high heat. Add seasoning mix and continue cooking until vegetables are barely wilted, about 5 minutes. Stir in the ground sausage and stock; cook for 5 minutes, stirring frequently. Turn off heat. Remove bay leaves.

In the large bowl, crumble the cornbread.  Add the milk and eggs, stirring well.  Add the vegetable and sausage mixture to this and mix well.  Divide the dressing between the two buttered casserole dishes. 

Bake at 350 until brown on top and bubbly in the middle, about 45 minutes.

Freezing instructions: If you decide to make this in advance and freeze it, wrap it well with aluminum foil and freeze.  To defrost, move the frozen casseroles to the refrigerator for 36 hours.  Put the defrosted casseroles in a cold oven.  Turn the oven to 350 and bake for 50 to 60 minutes, until bubbly.  Do not overbake. 

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Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Count Your Blessings...A season of Thanksgiving

As soon as October passes away, things seem to go into hyper-drive.  I know that I'm kidding myself if I think that things will change after I graduate, because things have been like this as long as I can remember.  Exams, papers, assignments, and the like will stop eventually, but fall events, obligations, time with friends and family, and the hustle and bustle of the Holiday season will not.  So, in light of that, I want to share some thoughts of thankfulness. 

  • I am thankful for Jesus Christ, whose sweet love and sacrifice is the greatest blessing in my life.  I am thankful for the nudges and reminders He gives me when I am living selfishly, and for the help that He gives me to love and serve others. 
  • I am thankful for my family and my husband's family, who are a constant source of support and encouragement.  I cannot even express how blessed both my husband and I have been. 
  • I am thankful for my husband.  I am blessed by the time that I get to spend with my husband: the dates, the special gifts, the sweet words, and the surprises.  I'm equally thankful for the struggles that we get to grow through together. 
  • I am thankful for my education.  I may sometimes gripe and complain about studying or writing papers, but when it all comes down to it, this time is such a blessing and it is an honor to be learning this material from my professors and with my classmates. 
  • I am thankful for oatmeal, one of the most comforting foods for a chilly morning. 
  • I am thankful for tea.  My favorites right now are Harney & Sons Hot Cinnamon Spice, Stash White Christmas, and Celestial Seasonings Candy Cane Lane. 
  • I am thankful for Christmas music.  Not that I've been listening to it, or anything. 
What about you?  What delights your heart with thanksgiving?

This year is the first year that I will be hosting Thanksgiving at our house with visiting family.  I will be keeping things simple for our day of thanks, but over the next two weeks I hope to share with you some of my favorite Thanksgiving dishes.  This pear gingerbread is wonderful to have on-hand for a quick breakfast of toast and coffee or tea.  It is fairly spicy and barely sweet, which works well for Thanksgiving breakfast because there will be plenty of sweets later in the day.  Wrapped well in a layer of saran wrap and another layer of aluminum foil, this bread can be baked in advance and stored in the freezer for several weeks.

Pear Gingerbread
3 large eggs
3/4 cup sugar
3/4 cup molasses
2/3 cup canola oil
2/3 cup applesauce
2 1/4 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
1 ½ teaspoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon ginger
½ teaspoon cloves
¼ teaspoon cardamom
¼ teaspoon nutmeg
2 cups all purpose flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 1/3 cup fine diced pear
½ cup fine diced crystallized (candied) ginger
Preheat the oven to 350. Grease and flour two 9 x 5 inch loaf pans.
In a small bowl, whisk together the eggs, sugar, molasses, oil, and applesauce.  In a medium mixing bowl, whisk together the baking soda and next eight ingredients (through whole wheat flour).  Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients, stirring just until there are no dry patches. Fold in the pear and ginger.

Divide the batter between the two loaf pans. Bake for 50 to 60 minutes, or until a tester comes out clean.

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