dinner rolls

My family likes bread. We do. A lot. And especially when the bread is warm, right out of the oven … oh my … it’s heavenly.

Here’s our favorite recipe that my daughter makes often. In the recipe below it lists both regular flour and whole wheat flour, and we’ve always made them this way, but last week, on Thanksgiving, she thought we were out of wheat flour because I had put it in the wrong cabinet, so the rolls were made all with unbleached white flour. Either way, they taste wonderful!

*Note: The original recipe came from the cookbook that accompanied our bread machine. It listed the brown sugar, though we use honey 99.9% of the time. In the original instructions they say to put the rolls onto a greased cookie sheet, which works well, but we prefer the uniform shape we get by using the muffin tins.

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Dinner Rolls

1 1/2 cups warm water (about 80 degrees F)

2 tablespoons oil

1/4 cup honey (or brown sugar)

2 teaspoons salt

2 tablespoons dry milk

2 1/2 cups flour

2 cups whole wheat flour

2 1/4 teaspoons active dry yeast

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In the bread machine, place all the ingredients in the order listed above.

Set the machine to the dough cycle and start.

When completed, remove the dough and place on a lightly floured surface.

Using a sharp knife, divide the dough into 18 pieces.

Shape the pieces into balls or twists or blobs or whatever.

Place each piece into greased muffin tins.

Cover with a towel and allow to rise in a warm place for 30 minutes (they should double in size).

Bake at 350F for about 25 minutes, or until golden.

chocolate mousse cheesecake pie

Say it with me:¬† Chocolate Mousse Cheesecake Pie. Makes you smile, doesn’t it?

When I saw those words in the subject line of an email about a blog post over at mel’s kitchen cafe, I knew it wouldn’t be long before it was recreated in my kitchen. I knew this even before clicking on the link. Once I did click, and saw all the great pictures and read the recipe, I knew it was going to happen very, very soon.

I showed the recipe to my daughter and she instantly agreed that we’d have to make it, so why not for Thanksgiving. Great idea! In addition to the apple pie and pumpkin pie that I had planned to make, a chocolate dessert would be a nice option. We were right. It was a perfect compliment to the fruit pies.

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I’m not going to type out the recipe here, instead I’m linking to the original (see above). We followed the directions exactly, other than using a graham cracker crust instead of an Oreo crust (because we had it handy). Oh, and we left the cheesecake part in the oven for just a few minutes too long by mistake, but that didn’t alter the taste at all.

So if you’re like us and the name alone makes you drool, go over to mel’s kitchen cafe and try this recipe. You won’t be disappointed!

stuffing

I shall start by saying that I am fully aware the name of this should be “dressing” rather than “stuffing” since stuffing is meant to stuff inside the turkey, and dressing is meant to be cooked on the side. I have always called it stuffing and will continue to do so. That is my prerogative. And now to continue with the post. ūüôā

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When I was in 7th grade I took Home Ec class. That would be Home Economics to you young people. Or what they now call Teen Living or FACS (Family And Consumer Sciences). In the fall of that 7th grade year we were in the kitchen section, and in the spring we went to the sewing room. I enjoyed both, but especially the times we cooked. No surprise there.

That fall, prior to Thanksgiving, the class was making all the components of a typical Thanksgiving feast, and the teacher allowed us to bring in family recipes if we wished to. I was so proud of my grandmother’s stuffing and was excited to show it to the teacher, in hopes that she’d pick it for the recipe the class used. Well, when I wrote it out to give to her, I called it stuffing when it was actually dressing. Or vice versa. I can’t remember the exact details. But what happened next was one of the worst moments of my 7th grade year: The teacher converted the recipe to be the opposite of what it actually was. For example, there is more liquid in dressing than in stuffing, since when stuffing is in the bird the natural juices of the turkey add that extra necessary liquid, but when cooking it on its own, you need to have more liquid to start with. So I can’t quite remember if she added liquid or reduced the liquid in my grandmother’s recipe, but she did one of the two. I was quite a shy child and especially nervous around adults, so the mistake was never corrected. Consequently, when the class made our Thanksgiving feast, the stuffing was not what it should have been. It was not even close to my grandmother’s amazing stuffing.

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The following recipe is not my grandmother’s recipe. I’m sad to say I don’t have a copy of her original. What I have done is created a stuffing that I enjoy. And by “enjoy” I mean “love so much I could eat it and only it for meal after meal, especially on Thanksgiving day and the next morning for breakfast … and for snack”.

I usually make this without sausage, but while doing my Thanksgiving shopping this year, my local store had pork sage sausage sitting right there at eye level, calling my name. I like their sausage, since it has no fillers or strange ingredients.

So I decided to make two batches — one with sausage and one without. Due to limited space in the oven, I did the sausage-free stuffing in the crockpot while cooking the one with stuffing in the oven. This is the second time I’ve used my crockpot for stuffing, and it turned out wonderful! It’s also fast and stays warm without drying out. And it frees up much needed oven space.

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Stuffing

In a skillet melt:

  • half a stick of butter

Over medium/low heat, slowly cook in the butter:

  • 1 onion, finely chopped onion
  • 4 stalks celery, finely chopped
  • a few cloves of garlic, finely chopped (optional)

Add:

  • a few teaspoons of Bell’s seasoning or a few teaspoons sage (I’m usually very generous with this seasoning and add about 4 teaspoons)

Note: The day before Thanksgiving I prepped these ingredients by having them all chopped and put into a baggie with the butter and seasoning.

 

Stirring often, cook until the onions and celery are very tender.

 

 

In a greased casserole dish (or greased crockpot … I use butter to grease these), put in:

  • half a bag of cornbread cubes
  • half a bag of herb seasoned bread cubes
  • the cooked onion and celery
  • cooked chopped pork sage sausage, if desired

 

Stir the ingredients.

 

Now pour into the casserole dish (or crockpot):

 

Using a spatula or the back of a large serving spoon, press the mixture, making sure all of the bread gets saturated with the chicken broth. If you can see some of the liquid on the edges when pressing down on the bread and vegetables, you’re good. If not, add more liquid (broth or water).

 

 

In a 325F or 350F oven, cook covered for about 30 minutes, then remove the cover and continue to cook for about 15 minutes more (exact cooking time will depend on the size of your pan, and your oven).

Or…

In the crockpot, cook on low a few hours, or on high for a shorter time. (Note: I started mine on high for one hour, then changed it to the warm setting and kept it there all afternoon … tasting it often.)

 

brownie ice cream cake

For years now my oldest son has requested an ice cream brownie cake (or brownie “pie”) as his birthday cake. The first year I made one it was a disaster in terms of appearance, but tasted oh so good. Over the years I’ve mastered the technique in making it look as good as it tastes. He turned 20 this month, so when he returned from college for the Thanksgiving holiday, I had this waiting for him. Food is love.

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Brownie Ice Cream Cake

Step #1:

Use your favorite brownie recipe, or prepare a boxed brownie mix, according to package directions. Instead of using the batter in a 9×13-inch pan, put 2/3 of the batter into a deep baking pan (I used a disposable foil pan), and the remaining 1/3 into a similar sized square pan. Bake for about 2/3 of the time listed on the package (since they are thinner they will take less time to bake).

Note: For the one baked in the square pan, I used a baking liner which makes transferring it to the top much easier. But we’ll get to that later on.

IMPORTANT: Make sure the pan for the base is deep enough to hold all the ice cream that will go in later on! This one is about 2 1/2 inches deep.

Step #2:

When they are done baking and have been removed from the oven, allow to cool for a little while.

Do not remove the brownie from the deep pan, but do remove the thinner one from the square pan (when it’s cool enough to handle, of course!).

Allow to cool completely before starting the next step.

Now is a good time to take your favorite flavor of ice cream out of the freezer, so that it can get soft (but not melted).

Step #3:

On top of the brownie base in the deep pan, drizzle a decent amount of chocolate syrup (optional), then scoop the softened ice cream onto that.

My youngest child can’t have mint chocolate chip ice cream, which is the flavor the birthday boy requested, so a portion of the cake was made to be solid chocolate (I used a permanent marker to mark on the outside of the foil pan which section had the chocolate ice cream … makes cutting into it much less of a guessing game!)

Step #4:

Drizzle more chocolate syrup on top of the ice cream. Again, this step is optional. If you have a young child helping you, as I did, they may not agree with you that it is optional. You have been warned.

Step #5:

Carefully flip over the thinner layer of brownie, placing it on top of the ice cream, and remove the baking liner. (See how easy that was!)

Gently push the top brownie to compress the ice cream just a bit. Not too much… just enough to get out any excess air.

Step #5:

Drizzle more chocolate syrup over the top layer of brownie. You think I’m going to tell you this is optional, right? Well, no! You must drizzle the chocolate on top. You must! Not optional.

Cover and freeze.

Step #6:

When ready to serve, remove from freezer about 5 or 10 minutes before you want to cut it.

Note: Once you cut it in the foil pan, you may end up cutting through the foil. Or maybe that’s just me. Anyhoo, after cutting pieces for everyone I transferred the remaining cake to a freezer safe container, and back in the freezer it went. Until the next morning. Yes, when you’re 20 and home from college for a few precious days, you may have brownie ice cream cake for breakfast.

Thanksgiving turkey

I am not posting pictures of my Thanksgiving turkey from this year, because I don’t find pictures of turkeys all that appetizing. Or maybe it’s only the photos I took don’t look that appetizing. Anyhoo, the turkey today tasted great. It was tender and delicious. But no photo, sorry.

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I am thankful to have been given my mother’s¬†oval roaster. Amazing results every time! This roasting pan is one of my favorite things.

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Remember that bag of onion, celery, garlic and carrots from the other day? That’s what goes into the bottom of the pan when I make my Thanksgiving turkey. Then I add a cup of chicken broth.

The washed and dried bird goes on top, then a generous dusting of Bell’s. That stuff is awesome! Now, sure, you could make your own poultry seasoning using a combination of rosemary, oregano, sage, ginger, and marjoram, but Bell’s does it in just the perfect amounts, making it easy for me. I sometimes add salt and pepper, and sometimes honey, but today I simply put on the Bell’s and that was enough.

I start the turkey with the breast side down, then I cover it for the first hour or hour and a half. After that I flip the bird (laugh if you must), and keep it covered for a little longer. When there is only about an hour left I remove the cover. I also baste it with the liquids in the pan at least twice.

As for cooking time, 20 minutes per pound is what I aim for. This roasting pan tends to cook it quicker, so 15 minutes per pound is more accurate in my case.¬† I know the turkey is ready to come out of the oven when the internal temperature is at least 165F. And I always allow it to rest at least 15 minutes before giving my husband the job of carving it. Now, I’m not one of those people that thinks carving a turkey is a man’s job, but it is my husband’s job. He does it better than I do, and I’m busy making the gravy and getting all the food on platters and in serving dishes, so it works out for us. Divide, conquer, slice and serve. It works well for us.

*Note: For my gravy process please see this link. Delicious non-lumpy gravy…. Yum!

Thanksgiving preparation

The day before Thanksgiving is a busy day in my kitchen. I’m not complaining, because I really enjoy all the prep work! I put on my fancy apron, select a fun CD to listen (and sing) to, and off I go.

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Growing up my family of eight would spend Thanksgiving (and all other holidays) at my dad’s parent’s house, which was about half an hour away … over the river and through the woods to Grandmother’s house we went. When we were old enough to realize that my grandmother woke at 2am in order to prepare everything and have it ready to serve at noon, precisely at noon, it was a shock. So much work. So early in the morning. And we ate it so fast. Almost as soon as the dishes were put on the table *poof* it was time to clean up and back into the kitchen she would go (with all us girls following her, of course). That lovely woman spent so many hours (and so many early morning hours) preparing feasts for her family. She loved feeding us, and was extremely thankful that she was able to.

I feel the same way about feeding my family — putting delicious meals on the table for them to eat pleases me and I think of it as a showing of love. But I am not a wake at 2am kind of gal. I’m usually going to bed at 1am, so that just doesn’t work for me! That’s why I came up with the plan to do all the prep the day before. Since I need onions for three dishes, I prepare them all at the same time — some finely chopped, some sliced, others in big chunks. Same for the celery and carrots and everything else that needs to be cleaned and cut before cooking. As I’m doing all this chopping, I have the cranberry sauce cooking away on the stove.

Here’s a photo of my veggies all prepped and ready for Turkey Day:

See that bag that says “stuffing”? That’s my favorite. In it I put finely chopped onion and celery and garlic, and the half stick of butter, as well as a few teaspoons of poultry seasoning. All I need tomorrow is the saute pan! When it’s time I just open the baggie, dump it all in the pan, and cook them. When they’re tender I’ll transfer them to the baking dish, add bread crumbs and chicken stock, then cover and bake. Not one cutting board or knife needed!

And that bag on the right will be used first thing in the morning. It goes into the roasting pan with the turkey. Lots of onion, celery, garlic and carrots. Just as when I make a roast chicken, these in the pan help to flavor not only the bird, but the gravy as well.

An hour before serving time I’ll make a vegetable mix using those two bags on the left. I separate the veggies because I start with the onion and carrots, which take a bit longer to get tender, then add the broccoli, asparagus and green beans. Normally at Thanksgiving I serve just a simple green veggie, usually green beans, but this year I had the urge to get as many veggies on the table as possible.

Oh, did I forget something? Yes, that little bag of plain carrot sticks. Have I mentioned my super picky children? One of them will not eat cooked veggies … ever … at all … EVER. She instead will eat these, either as is, or in a fruit & vegetable smoothie with her meal.

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Other items I get ready the day before Thanksgiving include the desserts. Always apple pie (my favorite) and pumpkin pie (my husband’s favorite). And my daughter makes a chocolate dessert of some sort (her favorite). And we can’t forget about breakfast for tomorrow …. I’ve prepared Baked French Toast. Yum! I’m so looking forward to a big pot of coffee and this delicious French toast! And I won’t have to worry about being up all night doing the busy work — it’s all done!

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Happy Thanksgiving everyone!¬† And happy Thursday to all of you non-USA readers!¬† I’m thankful for all of you!

orange cranberry sauce

cranberry sauce


I was not a fan of cranberry sauce when I was young. Growing up, on our holiday table we’d usually have the jellied cranberry sauce that came from a can — you know, that popular unappetizing red blob. No thank you. I was happy with all the other foods on the table except for that one. But as the years went on, the can was no more and my mom experimented with cranberry sauce recipes. Unfortunately, I had no intention of trying any of them after experiencing that red blob for so many years.

Then I got married and my husband is a huge cranberry sauce guy. He prefers the whole berry cranberry sauce, and is used to the canned variety. Okay, not as bad as the jellied version, but still not anything I’d eat. So the can of whole berry cranberry sauce was part of our Thanksgiving table for quite a few years, and he was the only one who ate it, until I realized I should try making my own. Somewhere, somehow, I came across the recipe below and made it for my husband. He loved it! Yahoo! Success!

The best part? While making it I tasted it, as you do, and all of a sudden I was a fan of cranberry sauce. Crazy! All those years of having turkey, gravy, dressing, mashed potatoes, green beans, and all those other typical Thanksgiving foods, yet never with cranberry sauce. The first time I added a nice big scoop of this orange cranberry sauce, well, there was no going back. It’s on my menu every Thanksgiving, and one of the foods I most look forward to.

My Thanksgiving meal isn’t complete now if I don’t have this sweet and tangy sauce on my plate. And the leftovers…. oh my, even better!

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Orange Cranberry Sauce

1/2 cup water

3/4 cup orange juice

2 cups sugar

4 cups cranberries (rinsed; bad ones discarded)

1 1/2 teaspoons grated orange rind

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In large saucepan over medium heat, combine ingredients. Cover. Bring to a boil.

Remove cover and lower heat.

Simmer on low, stirring often, until cranberries burst and it thickens. This may take an hour or more.*

Remove from heat.

Cool and chill before serving. Or, serve warm (I prefer it warm).

*Note: My mom says her cranberry sauce never cooks for an hour and thinks this is ridiculous. Okay, maybe she didn’t say ridiculous, but that’s what she meant. I say give it a try … cook it for an hour, slowly, over low heat, stirring often, and you will have a delicious cranberry sauce that is worth an hour of your time.

 

cranberries washed and ready

the zest from one orange was the perfect amount

liquids and zest, waiting for the cranberries

cranberries added to liquid

during the early stages of the cooking process

rather than keeping the lid completely off, I prefer to leave it like this

now I just need the turkey and sides!