Thanksgiving Recipe Roundup

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I’ve had a few people ask me for some thanksgiving day worthy recipe recommendations and thought it may be helpful to post links to the recipes that are in my repertoire all in one spot. With all the recipes floating around online, it’s nice to be able to pinpoint ones that have been tested (and tasted) and given the stamp of approval;)

Turkey Brine
I’m a big believer that brining a turkey makes all the difference. It pretty much ensures a juicy bird.
This recipe from Alton Brown is a good basic brine.

The Bird
You all know how much I love Ina Garten (aka The Barefoot Contessa) and I find that a lot of my go-to thanksgiving recipes are courtesy of her. The most important recipe of the day is this one. You can substitute the herbs to your preference, but I can honestly say that this makes the perfect turkey (especially if you brine it first!)

Gravy
A good gravy is another very important accompaniment to your perfectly brined and roasted turkey. Even though this recipe is super decedent..the cognac and cream (and butter) are worthy of a turkey day splurge (plus, you only use a little, right??)

Dressing
Of course I think this recipe for dressing/stuffing is pretty great.

Cranberry Sauce
The only cranberry sauce you will see on my thanksgiving table.

Rolls
This Martha Stewart recipe for dinner rolls has quickly become a Thanksgiving staple.

Vegetables
This year we will be adding a couple new veggie side dishes to our spread. Both were featured at our thanksgiving themed dinner club in October. These brussel sprouts were so good I licked my and my dining neighbor’s plate clean of these. And green beans are a classic thanksgiving side dish, but these with shiitake mushrooms, change up the dish enough to feel like you are adding something new.

Also part of of spread are always mashed potatoes and a sweet potato dish that involves apple and raisins and that my mother-in-law has been making forever. This potato recipe is very basic, which with all the other fancy dishes gracing the table is perfect. It is another rich side, so if you are looking to save some calories you can replace the heavy cream with half & half or whole milk or a combination of the two. I personally can’t bring myself to put cream in my potatoes when there are lots of desserts to be had later!

Desserts
I have made all these recipes before and can vouch for their deliciousness. We always have at least three dessert options and this year I’ll be making a chocolate tart, pumpkin pie and apple crisp

Some other tried and true sweets are:

Pumpkin Roll

Apple Pie

Lemon Meringue Pie

And actually think I will end up making this version of a crisp instead since I will have leftover cranberries from my sauce…

Hopefully this has given you some answers to the “what to make” question. If there are other recipes you are looking for or have any questions, post in the comments section, and I will be sure to respond.

Happy Thanksgiving!!

Alethia

Molded Cranberry Sauce

I wanted to make sure to share this recipe before the Thanksgiving rush was upon us. I have been making this recipe for as long as I can remember (which possibly isn’t that long since I have the worst memory). What I do know for sure if that most everyone who tries it, really likes it. Especially my 6 year old who I think enjoys this sauce the most out of everything on the thanksgiving day menu.

Cranberry sauce doesn’t have to come out of a can and is actually pretty darn easy to make. A one pot dish that doesn’t require any chopping, the only real heavy lifting on this is zesting and squeezing oranges. Otherwise, everything just gets dumped into a pot, boiled, simmered and then molded.

Molded?? I get fancy with my cranberry sauce and put it into a ceramic dish from Williams-Sonoma that I bought specifically for this purpose. They don’t sell the ones that I own anymore, but I do really like their new option, which is a silicone version. I actually think the silicone is better as I usually have a hard time getting my sauce out in one piece. But you don’t have to have a special mold to make this a stand-out on your thanksgiving table. You can easily just put this in a regular serving bowl and set it as a dome or simply serve it right out of the bowl.

Happy Thanksgiving!

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Molded Cranberry Sauce
recipe from Williams-Sonoma (adapted just barely)
serves 8-10

1 Lb fresh cranberries
1 Cup granulated sugar (I usually use a little less than a full cup)
Zest of 2 large oranges ( this tool makes easy work of this step)
2/3 Cup fresh orange juice (there should be more than enough in the two zested oranges…just make sure to zest before you cut and squeeze…MUCH easier;) )
1/2 Teaspoon salt
2/3 Cup water
1 envelope unflavored gelatin (looks like this ) plus 2 TBS water

Coat the inside of your mold or bowl with nonstick spray

In a large pot, add cranberries, zest, juice, salt and water. Bring to a boil over high heat, then reduce heat to medium and simmer for 15 minutes with lid off. The cranberries will burst and the sauce will thicken.

Meanwhile, in a small bowl, put the two tablespoons water and sprinkle with the gelatin. Let sit for 10-15 minutes until the gelatin sets (like solid jello…if that makes sense)

Once the cranberry sauce is cooked, add 1/2 cup of it to the gelatin bowl. Mix around until the gelatin is dissolved. Now add the jello/cranberry mixture back into the pot and stir to combine. Pour cranberry sauce into your mold/bowl and let cool. Refrigerate for 8 hours or overnight. You can make this up to 2 days in advance.

When ready to serve, remove from refrigerator and let sit on counter for an hour. This will make it easier to unmold. Place plate on top and invert. If all goes well, your lovely sauce will come out in one piece, ready to be part of your table centerpiece. If it gets stuck and breaks up….then throw it in a bowl and no one will know the difference because it will still taste fantastic!

Pumpkin Cornbread Dressing/Stuffing

I love any event that is all about the food. Thanksgiving is like the Super Bowl of cooking (not sure if that is a good analogy) in my book. The one holiday/day that you really need to bring your A game. The best of the best. I usually am pretty regimented with my choice of dishes for this holiday as I want to make sure whatever I make is received with acclaim. This isn’t the day to try out a brand new recipe. But when do you get a chance to experiment with thanksgiving side dishes?? Well, this year I get to cook for THREE turkey days. My mother’s side of the family gathered in SEPTEMBER(!!), my dinner club held a Thanksgiving themed evening this past weekend, and then we’ll have the main event next month at my in-laws. In my opinion, I had two opportunities to try out some fresh recipes to add to the (November) table.

So for dinner club this past weekend I was in charge of the stuffing. My go to uses bagged dried croutons, apples, chestnuts and cranberries. It always gets rave reviews and is based off the stuffing my mother has been making for as long as I can remember. So that was my plan…until I came across this delicious looking recipe for pumpkin cornbread on Pinterest . Cornbread stuffing? Perfect. I decided that I would keep the bulk of my recipe the same but substitute the apples with sweet Italian sausage to cut the sweetness of the cornbread (and pork just makes everything better in my opinion). I’m pretty pleased with the end result and am thinking this may become my new “go-to”!

*you can make the cornbread a day or two in advance. You may need to add additional stock to keep it from drying out too much while it bakes if it’s not made same day

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(This photo was taken before it was cooked..the after picture should have been taken during dinner club, but pumpkin martinis circumstances prohibited that from happening)

Pumpkin Cornbread Stuffing
serves 8-10

1 recipe for pumpkin cornbread– next time I make this I may reduce the sugar by half to make it slightly less sweet

3 sweet Italian sausage links (or hot if you prefer, or a mixture of both)- casings removed
2 TBS unsalted butter
2 cups diced celery
1 cup diced onion
1 cup dried cranberries
8oz jar whole cooked and shelled chestnuts (you can buy these at Whole Foods or Williams-Sonoma)- if you can’t locate chestnuts or want to pay the crazy price for a jar…I think pecans would be great in this too)- chopped
2-3 cups chicken stock (if you want to get fancy make your own stock)
Salt & Pepper to taste

Cook the cornbread according to the recipe linked. Once it’s cool (or the next day), use your hands to crumble it into a large mixing bowl.

In a large skillet cook the sausage over medium-high heat, using the back of your spoon to break it into pieces. Once it is browned (about 8-10 minutes) use a slotted spoon to add it to the cornbread bowl, leaving the pork grease (YUM!!) in the pan.
Lower heat to medium. If there isn’t a good amount of fat in the pan, add in the 2 tablespoons of butter. Add celery and onion and cook for 10 minutes or until the vegetables are softened. Add the mixture to the pork and cornbread. At this point, add the cranberries and chestnuts. Use a large spoon to gently combine all the ingredients. Add in 1-2 cups of the stock, reserving the rest to keep it moist during cooking, gently incorporating it with a spoon or spatula. Transfer mixture to a 9″x13″ baking dish.

Bake at 350 for 40 minutes (or so, you want it heated through and browned on top ), adding stock if you need to. If your thanksgiving oven(s) need to be set at a different temperature due to other side dishes/ turkey then you could probably cook this at a temperature of up to 425. Just adjust cooking time and maybe cover with aluminum foil to keep the top from getting too browned.

If you made this a day in advance, you’ll need to increase cooking time. Leave foil on until it’s no longer cold, then remove and continue to cook until top is browned and it’s heated through.

MTV Hummus Melt

As fast as I can disappear, I can reappear. It’s been on my mind a while to start blogging recipes again, and I’ve had more than one person ask what happened to my site. Life happened but I feel that I am somewhat in control of things these days. My 6 year old is in 1st grade and my 2 year old has finally arrived at a point where she is “easy” and still naps. My kids go to bed at a decent hour leaving me time in the evening to get things done. So where are the excuses now? I don’t have any, and since running into a dear friend at Whole Foods yesterday and her asking when I would start posting again, I decided that there is no better time like the present. Plus, in my opinion, Fall and Winter are the most fun times to cook. You can crank the oven, plug in the crockpot and create something to warm you up during a cool (or cold) night. Or in the case of this recipe, make something comforting for lunch.

I find it really easy to NOT eat a good lunch each day. My two year old’s scraps are usually on the menu. Enter in this open-faced melt. It takes less than 10 minutes to put together and gives you all your food groups as well as protein from the hummus and cheese. I’ve named this the MTV Hummus Melt in honor of my husband who is the one who actually recreated this masterpiece (for the better). This sandwich is based off a menu offering at a vegetarian/vegan restaurant called It’s Only Natural (ION) in Middletown, CT. The original is huge and in my opinion too bready and too hummusy (is that even a word???). In the homemade version, the veggies are the star as is a well toasted piece of rye. Obviously you can load it up with whatever type of hummus you like (or make your own with the recipe here), use any type of bread you like, etc. Totally adaptable to your taste buds. Which to me, is one of the most fun parts of cooking:)

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MTV Hummus Melt
serves 1 or 2 (depending on the size of the appetite)

2 slices NY Rye bread
Hummus of your choice (I’d say maybe 2 Tbs per slice of bread)
Sliced Vegetables of your choice (I used tomatoes, cucumber, avocado, red pepper on this one, but shredded carrots are a really good addition too)
Sliced cheese of your choice (I usually use cheddar or American because it’s what we always have in the house, but any favorite cheese would be good)

Preheat broiler and raise oven rack to about 6 inches below heating element (in my oven it’s the second the highest level)

Place bread on cookie sheet and toast both sides lightly under the broiler (make sure you pay attention. Can’t tell you how many times we’ve burnt the bread doing this!)
Remove sheet with bread and spread hummus on both pieces. Top with veggies then cheese. Throw back under the broiler until cheese melts (or gets brown if you like that sort of thing).
Plate and enjoy! I think this sandwich is best eaten with a knife and fork but feel free you use your hands!

PS. It feels good to be back;)

Mexican Chicken Tortilla Soup

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This soup is one of my favorites. It’s a meal unto itself so there is no worry about accompaniments. The recipe makes enough for 3 meals and can easily be doubled. In our house it is a meal I can make that everyone will eat and not complain about. If those statements don’t give you reason enough to try this recipe, then I don’t know how else I could sell it to you:))

Mexican Chicken Soup is a Barefoot Contessa recipe that I have adapted quite a bit to my taste. In my version, I have reduced the amount of chicken by half and doubled the amount of vegetables. I also reduce the amount of jalapeño since I am feeding two kids, one of whom thinks plain marinara sauce is too spicy(!!!).

The soup itself is great, especially next day, but it is stellar with the addition of some table side toppings. We do chunks of avocado, shredded cheese (Mexican blend or cheddar), sour cream and crumbled tortilla chips. Just a little bit of each takes this soup to the next level..or if you enjoy sour cream as much as my son does then your broth based soup will end up looking cream based due to all the sour cream and cheese that gets added (and added and added).

Mexican Chicken Tortilla Soup
Adapted from “Mexican Chicken Soup” from Ina Garten’s “Barefoot Contessa at Home”

2 or 3 split chicken breasts (I’ve used both skin on bone in and boneless and skinless)
Olive oil
Salt and Pepper
2 onions, chopped
8 carrots, peeled and chopped
4 celery stalks, chopped
4 cloves garlic, chopped
1 28oz can of diced tomatoes
2 1/2 quarts chicken stock
2 small jalapeños, minced
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp ground coriander
1/2 cup cilantro, chopped
6 (6 in) corn tortillas

To Serve
Diced avocado
Sour cream
Grated cheese
Tortilla chips

Preheat oven to 350. Place chicken on baking sheet. Rub with oil and season with salt and pepper. If using the bone in chicken, roast for 40 minutes. Boneless, cook for 25 or until no longer pink. After chicken is cooked and cooled, shred and set aside.

Heat 3 Tbs olive oil in a large pot. Add onion, carrots and celery. Cook for 10 minutes on medium until the onions start to brown. Add garlic and cook for 30 seconds. Add stock, tomatoes with their liquid, jalapeños, cumin, coriander, 1 Tbs salt (depending on how salty your stock is), 1 tea pepper and cilantro. Cut tortillas in half then crosswise into strips and add to soup. Bring to a boil then simmer for 25-30 minutes. Add chicken and season to taste. Serve with your choice of toppings.

Turkey Breakfast Sausage Patties

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This post goes out to my friends Nicole and Karen. Back in January the three of us made a little weekend trip to Vermont for a girls only getaway. Since I’ve written about how I travel before, you can understand why I wouldn’t just save the chore of cooking to someone else on my vacation. Thinking back on it now I’m pretty sure that half of our baggage was groceries.

I was in charge of breakfasts. One morning we had my super travel friendly refrigerator bran muffins, and the other morning was fresh eggs from my mom’s chickens (nothing better than fresh eggs!!!) and these homemade breakfast sausages. The ladies loved the sausages and I promised to share the recipe as soon as we arrived back to reality. I didn’t share it…and here we are 2 1/2 months later. Finally! I hope it’s worth the wait!

Homemade Turkey Sausage Patties
Adapted just barely from “My Father’s Daughter” by Gwyneth Paltrow

Makes about 2 dozen small patties

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2 tsp fennel seeds
2 pinches hot pepper flakes
2 pinches herbes de Provence, optional per GP’s recipe but I’ve made it both ways and think the herbes de Provence give it a certain je ne quoi! I found mine at Whole Foods in the jarred spice area
1 tsp kosher salt
1/2 tsp freshly ground pepper
2 tsp finely chopped fresh sage FRESH!
1 lb ground turkey I use dark meat as it has more fat, but you could try it with white or better yet, ground pork!
4 tsp maple syrup, this is not the place to use the good grade A stuff. Grade b is darker and thicker and the flavor holds up better in cooking.
oil for cooking

Using a mortar and pestle, spice grinder (aka coffee grinder), or mini food processor, bash the fennel seeds, red pepper flakes, herbes de Provence, salt and pepper together.

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Combine the spice mixture with the sage, turkey and maple syrup in a bowl until combined.

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Form mixture into small, thin patties. Heat a little oil (I like to use canola spray for these) in a large skillet over medium high heat.

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Cook for 1 1/2 minutes per side, pressing down to keep them thin. Serve nice and warm with your favorite breakfast accompaniments. Or, if you’re me, you’ll end up eating most of them off the plate as they come off the stove!

Chicken and Leek Pie

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Sometime you pick a meal simply because it is easy. Other times, because it tastes good. Then there are the nights you just want to get dinner on the table quickly. And then sometimes you are just tired of doing dishes and pick dinner based on the the lack of clean up required. Chicken and Leek pie falls into all four of those categories; easy, delicious, quick and little clean up.

This recipe actually comes from a Williams-Sonoma Food Made Fast cookbook, called One Pot. Truly a one pot meal. One pot to clean (plus one bowl, a knife, measuring cups and spoons… You didn’t really think one pot was ALL you had to clean?). I’ve pumped up the veggie content in my version, and reduced the amount of chicken, but you can play with the portions after you make my version. I’m betting that you’ll be making this more than once! My husband, Mike, couldn’t keep himself from seconds (and maybe thirds) and declared chicken and leek pie “the best thing you’ve ever made.” That may have just been an “in the moment” comment, but it is pretty tasty!

Chicken & Leek Pie
Adapted from Food Made Fast One Pot from Williams-Sonoma

Serves 4-6

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Filling

5 Tbs unsalted butter
2 large leeks, white and light green parts thinly sliced
2 carrots, peeled and diced
1 Yukon potato, peeled and diced
1 sweet potato, peeled and diced
1/3 cup flour
1/4 cup white wine, whatever you’re drinking or have open!
4 cups chicken stock
2 cups cooked chicken, I used the meat from two chicken breasts that I roasted the day before but use rotisserie if that is easier
1 cup peas, fresh or frozen
kosher salt and fresh ground pepper

Topping

5 Tbs unsalted butter
4 tsp baking powder
1 1/2 cups milk, whatever you have in the fridge
2 cups flour
kosher salt and fresh ground black pepper

Preheat oven to 375

filling

In a large ovenproof sauté or fry pan over medium- high heat, melt the butter. Add the leeks, carrots, and potatoes, season with salt and pepper and sauté about 5-6 minutes. Add in the flour (1/3 cup) and cook, stirring, for 2 minutes. Stir in the wine and broth and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer, stirring occasionally until thickened, about 5 minutes. Stir in chicken and peas and season with salt and pepper.

Make the topping

In a bowl, combine flour, baking powder and 1/2 tsp salt. Add in butter.

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Using a pastry blender, two knives, (or if you’re like me and don’t want to dirty any other utensils) your hands, combine the butter until the mixture forms course crumbs about the size of peas. Add in milk, and using a rubber spatula, stir until evenly moistened.

Place heaping spoonfuls of the batter evenly over the chicken mixture.

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Bake until the topping is golden and the filling is bubbling, about 25-28 minutes.

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