Thanksgiving turkey

Last year’s Thanksgiving turkey post … getting ready for tomorrow!

food with pictures

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…

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orange cranberry sauce

Once again, now that Thanksgiving is just days away, my favorite cranberry sauce recipe.

food with pictures

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…

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easy chicken soup

chicken soup

It’s been years since I’ve made regular old chicken soup. I usually make vegetable barley soup or ham and bean soup. But I used to make chicken soup all the time — weekly in the fall and winter. And this week I needed to make chicken soup because my husband was having a medical procedure done (nothing serious) and chicken soup was the requested and recommended food to have on hand for the afternoon of the procedure. When I had the same procedure done just last week, he didn’t make me soup, or pasta …  or anything. He got yelled at by the discharge nurse and then was sent out for takeout from a favorite restaurant of mind. Just to prove I’m a good wife, and a better spouse than he is, I made him homemade chicken soup. Bonus points for me.

Instead of using my standard chicken soup recipe, the one I haven’t touched in a while but made for the first time over 20 years ago, this time I tried some shortcuts. And they worked very well. There is nothing new or unique about this recipe. It’s just basic chicken soup. But you know what? That’s the best kind, in my opinion. Soup like my mother and grandmother used to make. Soup that tastes good alone or with warm from the oven rolls, or with a toasty gooey grilled cheese sandwich, or simply with a wedge of cheese and a crunchy apple. Perfect cold weather comfort food.

I will definitely be making this version of chicken soup more often. So easy and perfect for a cold day, which today is. Hello Winter. Goodbye Fall. Yummy soup.

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Easy Chicken Soup

Into a large soup pot pour 32 ounces of chicken broth. Turn the heat to medium.

Season generously with salt and black pepper (and garlic powder, if desired).

Place into the liquid 3 chicken breasts (skinless, boneless), cut into large-ish pieces. Cover.

chicken in stock

While that is cooking, clean and chop 5 stalks of celery. Then peel and thinly slice 6 carrots. Finally, chop one onion.

veggies

By the time all the chopping is done, the chicken will be cooked through.

Remove the chicken to a cutting board and cut into bite-sized pieces.

chicken

Add the veggies to the pot.

Add the chicken pieces back to the pot.

Also add 32 ounces of cold water to the pot.

Cover and cook for about 15 minutes until you get a gentle boil.

Add 1/2 – 1 cup barley.  *Note: You can also add 1 cup dried pasta or 1/2 cup uncooked rice. If you choose rice, this meal is gluten free.

barley

Reduce heat to medium/low.

Cover and cook until barley (or pasta or rice) is tender, about one hour, or longer if desired or busy or if you just want your house to smell like delicious homemade soup.

scalloped potatoes with ham

scalloped potatoes with ham (8)

From my previous post you know that I use the ham bone from my Easter ham to make bean soup.  Now this recipe will show you what I do with all the leftover ham.

This dish is pure comfort food for me. It’s one of my most favorite meals from childhood. Problem is that for years, each time I made it, I would do it differently (that’s because I’d call my mom the day after Easter each and every year and she would give me suggestions on how to make this dish, but I never wrote it down and would alter her recipe in the attempt to make it better or easier or quicker or whatever, and therefore it didn’t always turn out well nor exactly how I remembered it). So after years of making scalloped potatoes in various ways, I’ve finally found the way to make it that reminds me of my mom’s delicious after-Easter scalloped potatoes with ham, and I’ve written it down and now I only call my mom the day after Easter to ask how her Easter was, instead of bothering her for the recipe.

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Scalloped Potatoes With Ham

Heat oven to 350F.

Butter a deep casserole dish.

Clean and slice 6-8 potatoes. I use medium size white potatoes.

Cut leftover ham into small cubes.

In a saucepan over medium heat, melt 2 tablespoons butter and whisk in 2 tablespoons flour.

When a nice paste is formed (takes about 1-2 minutes) lower heat and whisk in 2 cups whole milk.

Season with salt and a generous amount of black pepper. Add a small shake of nutmeg.

Allow to heat through over low heat, stirring often.

scalloped potatoes with ham (1)

In the buttered casserole dish, layer half the potato slices, then cover with all the ham.

scalloped potatoes with ham (2)

Distribute about 1 cup shredded cheese over the potatoes and ham. (I use a combination of Monterey Jack and cheddar.)

scalloped potatoes with ham (3)

Layer the remaining potatoes on top.

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Pour heated white sauce over all.

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Add 1 more cup of the cheese.

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If the white sauce doesn’t cover all the potatoes, add extra milk to the casserole dish until the potatoes are completely covered. You may find you’ll need to add a cup or two of extra milk. (*Note: I could have added the extra milk before adding the cheese.)

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Crush Ritz crackers on top. (No picture for this step … oops.)

Place casserole dish on a large baking sheet (to catch any liquid that bubbles over the edge of the casserole dish) and bake uncovered for about an hour. Depending on how deep your casserole dish is, you may need to bake for a bit longer than 1 hour. When a fork can go through the potatoes without much resistance it’s ready for the next step.

Raise oven temperature to 375F and bake for an additional 15 – 30 minutes, until it is bubbly and the top is golden brown.

scalloped potatoes with ham (8)

This is the hardest part: Allow to sit for about 10 minutes before serving.

Leftovers are terrific (if you manage to have any leftovers).

*Note: There isn’t a picture of a serving of this, because I am very impatient and couldn’t bother with taking photos before diving in. Sorry!

 

*Edited on 4/23/13 to increase baking time and to note the use of the baking sheet under the casserole dish.

choco-hoto-pots

choco hoto pots (2)

This is Nigella Lawson’s recipe, featured on Oprah back in 2005. This recipe has become a family favorite in my immediate family and with all the extended relatives as well.

I sincerely thank both Nigella and Oprah for introducing me to this luscious, delicious, decadent dessert.

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I wasn’t one of those people that watched Oprah every day. No, that would be my mom. She was a devoted fan, and at least once a week she’d call me right at 4pm to ask if I was watching, because she thought I’d enjoy the topic of the day. Unfortunately, 4pm was not a time that I could sit of the sofa and tune in to any TV show. With children in elementary and middle school during those years, 4pm was the start of crazy time: bus stop pickups, after-school snacks, homework, preparing dinner, handling arguments, serving dinner, household and sibling crisis management. TV did not play a part in that time frame (and this was before we had the technology to record shows at the press of a button to watch later at our convenience, and I had not idea how to program my VCR to record, so those options were not available).

But every once in a while I did watch Oprah, either because school was not in session, or if the older kids had after-school activities and my normal routine was put on hold. It was one of those rare days that I turned on Oprah and was intrigued to see Nigella Lawson as her guest. I don’t remember what other recipes she demonstrated during the show, though I vividly remember the Choco-Hoto-Pots. Hot melty gooey chocolate — hard to forget. And easy to make! Definitely something I could pull off. And that I did, for almost every major holiday meal from that point forward. New Years Eve? Choco-Hoto-Pots! Christmas dinner? Choco-Hoto-Pots! Easter dessert? Choco-Hoto-Pots! Company for dinner? Choco-Hoto-Pots, of course!

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In the recipe below I’ve added an option of dark chocolate chips for the white chocolate, because the last time we made this I was out of white chocolate and my daughter put in dark chocolate chips instead. It was delicious … possibly even better than with the white chocolate. From now on I may always make it with the dark chocolate … extra decadent!

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Choco-Hoto-Pots

butter for ramekins

3/4 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

1 stick (4 ounces) unsalted butter

2 large eggs

3/4 cup sugar

3 tablespoons all-purpose flour

1/2 cup white chocolate chips, or shaved white chocolate (melts very nicely), or dark chocolate chips or shavings

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Heat oven to 400F.

Place a baking sheet in the oven to get hot.

Butter four 2/3-cup ramekins; set aside.

Using a microwave-safe bowl, melt together the semi-sweet chocolate and the butter. This takes about 1 minute. Set aside to cool.

In a medium bowl, combine eggs, sugar and flour.

Add cooled chocolate mixture, and mix until blended.

Fold in white (or dark) chocolate.

Divide mixture evenly among ramekins and place on the hot baking sheet.

Bake until tops are shiny and cracked and chocolate beneath is hot and gooey; about 20 minutes.

Place each ramekin on a small plate with a teaspoon and serve either plain, or dusted with powdered sugar, or with vanilla ice cream or whipped cream.

choco hoto pots (1)

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!

whoopie pies

There are a few baked goods that instantly remind me of my youth.

apple pie

picnic cake

chocolate chip cookies

whoopie pies

Ahhh, whoopie pies. I grew up thinking these were a southern favorite, since my mom made them and she was from the south (the northern part of the south, but still). It was just recently that I learned they originated in New England, where I’m from. No wonder the love I have for them is so deep!

Now this recipe was given to me from my mom when I begged for it years ago, but as I’ve mentioned, my mom has a gazillion trillion recipes and this may not be the one she made when we were younger. Also, I’ve typed it up and transferred it from one recipe card to another a few different times, and I’m pretty sure I typed it wrong at least once. Also, the original recipe listed solid shortening, but I never use that, therefore my version used butter instead. So over time I experimented with the recipe until I became satisfied that it was ready to pass on to my kids. Below is the version I use now, and it does bring back many wonderful childhood memories!

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Whoopie Pies

Cookies:

5 tablespoons butter, softened (not melted)

1 cup sugar

1 egg

5 tablespoons cocoa

1 teaspoon baking soda

2 cups flour

1 cup milk (I use whole milk, but 2% would be fine)

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Heat oven to 425F.

In mixer, beat butter with sugar. Add egg. Add dry ingredients. Mix slowly while adding the milk. Mix well to combine (scrape sides of bowl a few times).

Drop by tablespoonfuls onto greased cookie sheets, or cookie sheets lined with parchment paper (my favorite choice) or silicone baking sheets. Try to keep them uniform in size and shape. They will spread a bit, so keep some space between each one.

Bake at 425F for 9 minutes. Let sit on cookie sheet for 1 minute, then transfer (carefully!) to cooking rack. Allow to cool completely.

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Filling:

1 stick (1/2 cup) butter, softened (not melted!)

1 1/2 cups powdered sugar

1/8 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

about 8 ounces marshmallow cream (I purchase the 16 ounce container and spoon out what looks to be half. When I purchase the 7 ounce container, I use the whole thing.)

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In mixer, cream together the butter, powdered sugar, and salt. Add the vanilla extract and marshmallow cream. Mix well and scrape the sides a few times.

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When the cookies are completely cool, plop a heaping tablespoon of the filling on one cookie, then top with the second  cookie.

Eat. Enjoy. Create wonderful memories!

 

Updated June 2014: I tried a new recipe for these and was not thrilled. They turned out too fluffy and BIG. Had to cut them in half before filling them, rather than using one for the top and one for the bottom. Won’t use that recipe again! Sticking with mine. Below are some pictures from this new batch.

foodwithpictures whoopie pies (1) foodwithpictures whoopie pies (5)