November 30, 2011

Thanksgiving Roundup 2011

So... Thanksgiving.  Yeah.  I started out awesome and took pictures of my cute appetizers (I particularly like the turkey-shaped veggie platter!), but after that my poor camera sat neglected on a side-table while I got distracted with cooking, serving and eating!  On one hand I'm sad because the food was beautiful and delicious.  On the other hand though, we're TDY en-route here which is secret code for "All of my nice stuff is in South Carolina and we're eating off of paper plates," so the plating wouldn't have looked so good.  I mean, I roasted the turkey in one of those tin-foil pans from the commissary which also doubled as our cutting board (bad idea, by the way, never ever do that).

Anyway, here's the breakdown of our Thanksgiving dinner:

Like last year, I used Alton Brown's brine for my turkey.  I don't have my smoker here though, so oven roasted it was!  I rubbed it with Memphis BBQ's Magic Dust and it was the juiciest bird ever!  Next year it will be a hard choice between smoking and oven roasting - we might need two birds!

Making repeat appearances at our table this year were the Olive Bread, Rosemary Epi, Mashed Potatoes, and Magic Pumpkin Pie.

New guests to the menu were Apple-Sausage Stuffing, Corn Casserole, and Bobby Flay's Pumpkin Bread Pudding (add some dried cranberries to the pumpkin bread).  I also made my own pie crust thanks to Cooks Illustrated and my good friend Stacey!  Smitten Kitchen has already blogged about it, so I will leave you in their capable hands.

Onto the stuffing!

I have a confession to make.  I kinda like stovetop stuffing.  There, I said it.  But Thanksgiving is Thanksgiving and one simply cannot have stovetop stuffing, even if it is really really good.  So I ended up heavily modifying Double Musky's Sausage-Apple Dressing.  As always, the key to a good stuffing is a really good stock.  It MUST be homemade!  If you want to know why, Stacey has the answer.  It's worth it to buy some turkey necks and make up a large batch of stock prior to Thanksgiving - you need it for gravy too!  Also, for bread crumbs, just get (or make) some good bread and leave it out for a day before shredding it.  I used 1/2 sourdough bread and 1/2 wheat.


1 T oil
1 head garlic, minced
1/2 onion, diced
1/2 tube ground sausage
Poultry seasoning
3-4 stalks celery, diced
1/4 c mixed bell peppers, diced
1 ancho chili, diced (optional)
1 granny smith apple, diced
dash nutmeg
1/2-1 c turkey stock
3-4 c bread crumbs

In a skillet, saute the garlic and onion in the oil until onion is translucent.  Add the sausage and brown, using poultry seasoning to taste.  Transfer to a pot and stir in the celery, peppers, apple and nutmeg.  Cook for two minutes, then add the stock (start with 1/2 cup, use more if needed).  Simmer for another 2-3 minutes and stir in the bread crumbs.  Adjust bread and stock until you reach the desired consistency.  Remove from heat.  Transfer to oven-safe pan and cook until the top is toasted.

PS.  We're starting the second half of our PCS shortly, so updates will be unreliable until we've moved into our new place sometime after Christmas.  Have a happy and safe holiday!!

November 21, 2011

Spaghetti with Meat Sauce

November's a pretty crazy month to do a food challenge, I think!  I managed it though, even while prepping for Thanksgiving (yes I will have more posts about that)!  November's theme for HH6 is "Coming from your part of the world, create/share your favorite comfort food."

I thought for a while about what to do for this challenge.  I considered biscuits and gravy, as we're moving to the south.  Or maybe apple fritters or fastnachts from my Pennsylvania Dutch heritage.  Or maybe something Mexican since we're currently in the southwest!  When you move around so much, "your part of the world" could mean anything!  As a result, I decided to focus more on the comfort side of the challenge and a few memories were quick to pop to mind.  This summer, when I was at our family's cabin in Pennsylvania, a smell suddenly caught my attention.  It was just spaghetti sauce, but it smelled like the most amazing thing ever and I bugged my aunt and uncle to let me have some of their spaghetti.  Then, when we backpacked the Grand Canyon, day three was our hardest day - from the bottom to the North rim and back down all in one day, nearly 14 miles.  What did we choose to pack for dinner that night?  Spaghetti!  And boy did we eat tons of it!

Spaghetti it was, then.  But how to create the most comforting sauce?  I have several sauces I use, from the fancy roasted garlic to my uncle's decadent baby back rib sauce.  None of them were quite right though.  So I warned my husband that we'd be eating a lot of spaghetti over the next few weeks and set to work.

My first attempt used sausage and roasted garlic.  It was good, but didn't have the flavor profile I was looking for.  My second attempt used beef instead of sausage.  Much closer, but it needed to be simpler.  The best comfort foods are simple, and here the third time  was the charm - a nice, thick, beefy sauce!  Yum!


1 T oil
1/2 yellow onion, diced
1 head garlic, minced
1/2 lb ground beef
1 can tomato sauce
1 can diced tomatoes
crushed red pepper

Saute the onion and garlic in the oil until the onion is translucent.  Add the beef and cook until browned.  Pour in sauce and tomatoes.  Season liberally with oregano and cautiously with pepper and red pepper.  Simmer until thickened, 40 minutes or so.  Top with grated parmesan or aged gouda.

November 16, 2011

Trail Bread

Sorry for the slow posting lately!  Things are starting to get a bit hectic around here - I just spent a week backpacking in the Grand Canyon, and am rushing to finish this months HH6 challenge while also prepping for Thanksgiving and then the movers will be here in less than three weeks and we're off across the country once more!

I've been meaning to post this particular recipe for months now.  The picture isn't all that good, and I didn't think to get a shot of us actually eating this bread in the canyon!  Anyway, this is a variation on a recipe from Alaska Roadhouse Recipes.  It's definitely not an every-day bread - each piece packs about 400 calories (I haven't done the exact math)!  But when you're doing long hikes and backpacking, you really need the extra fuel.  In addition to being calorie dense, durable and lightweight, this trail bread is also delicious, sweetened with molasses and honey.  This is a bonus for me, because sometimes when I'm burning that many calories I start not wanting to eat, but I'd never turn down a piece of this bread!


4 c whole wheat flour
1 c water
3/4 c brown sugar
1/2 c honey
1/4 c olive oil
1/4 c molasses
3 T powdered milk
1 1/2 t baking soda
1/3 c chopped nuts
1/3 c dried fruit
1/8 c chocolate chips

Mix everything together.  Pour into greased pan.  Bake at 350 for 40-50 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.  Cut into 12-16 pieces.