Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Tarragon Turkey Salad

Cheap Eat Challenge Count Down: 32 days

Success!!! Still got turkey? Is it ready for a last hurrah? What's that you say, you can't bear another turkey sandwich. Well, I won't force you, but the flavors in this turkey salad are different enough that I didn't feel like I was eating Thanksgiving dinner yet again. In fact, when I was done with my sandwich I had to stop myself from going at the bowl of remaining turkey salad with my spoon and finishing it off. 

Tarragon Turkey Salad
Serves 2

1 C cubed turkey (or chicken), cooked
1/4 C chopped broccoli (I chop mine super fine, so they are crumb-like)
1 stalk celery (chopped small)
1/4 C mayonnaise
1 tsp vinegar
2 tsp mustard
1 1/2 tsp dried tarragon (or 1 Tbsp fresh)
1-2 Tbsp walnuts (optional)
2 Tbspn dried cranberries (optional)

Combine turkey, broccoli, and celery in a bowl. Add walnuts and cranberries if using. Toss.

To make dressing, combine mayo, vinegar, mustard, and tarragon. Mix. Then mix into turkey/vegetable mixture. Chill if you've got the time. (By the way, don't feel like you have to add all the dressing if you have too much. I came up with a bit extra, which I plan to use on a regular salad some time this week.)

Serve with any bread you think is tasty. I didn't have dried cranberries, but ended up eating mine with a bit of leftover cranberry sauce over the top. That was really good too.

Monday, November 29, 2010

How Not to Hate Brussels Sprouts

Cheap Eat Challenge Count Down: 33 Days

I know I promised you a turkey soup recipe today. And I did make turkey soup. Actually a turkey chili. I adapted it from a chicken chili recipe, which is awesome. Unfortunately, the turkey version was not. Like, at all. It was, in fact, borderline gross. I'm not sure why. I like turkey. And the cold turkey tasted great to me. In fact, I was nibbling away on it as I chopped. But once cooked into the chili, the whole dish tasted...putrid--like I was eating the giblets or something instead of some yummy leftover dark meat. If any of you scientists out there would like to explain how/why that happened, I would be much obliged. At any rate, I scrapped any plans I might have had for using the rest of the turkey in a turkey fried rice and plan to go for turkey salad sandwiches tomorrow. If I end up with anything wonderful, I'll let you know.

In order to fill the blogging void, I was forced to gorge myself on pumpkin smoothies. There are worse fates. I still don't have the perfect one, but hopefully by tomorrow I will.

So, today you get to hear about the one thing I made today that was just right: brussel sprouts. You heard me. Until one week ago, I had had brussel sprouts twice in my life. And I'd lied about having them once to my mom (sorry mom) because she bought some frozen ones thinking they were peas (you know how those packages look--especially when you've got several screaming kids in a cart--grab, go, grab, go). My dad hated brussel sprouts so we were excused from eating them if we tried them and didn't like them. I sure didn't want to try the nasty looking things so I said I'd had them at school and didn't like them. Now my mom wasn't an idiot; I'm sure she was smart enough to know that school lunch served things like tater tots, not brussel sprouts, but she let me out of it anyway.

As an adult, I tried them twice at buffets, and that sure didn't endear them to me. But a few weeks ago, I found a link to these gorgeous-looking brussel sprouts from a less gorgeous-looking adaptation on cheaphealthygood. I chose to make the prettier, but not-quite-as-full-proof version. And this is what you get by judging a book by its cover.

They were so pretty. But I had to choke them down. I'm not one that usually has to choke vegetables down.

I would have given up except that I had another half-pound in my fridge and I hate wasting food--even that of the nasticular variety. So today for lunch, I took those brussel sprouts and I chopped them up, following the advice of the folks at cheaphealthygood. They were still pretty, though not quite as much. And they were good, really really good.

The thing about brussel sprouts is that if you steam or boil them, they get a bitter edge at best and a soggy bitter pure nasty taste at worst. And the other thing with brussel sprouts is that it's easy to steam them becase even when you're trying to saute them the insides can steam as the outsides saute if the pieces are too large. They may look pretty cut in half, but keep chopping and your mouth will thank you.

P.S. I tried them raw--something I would have found unthinkable at age 8 or, uh, 25. And they were...good. Quite good, actually. They would have been great shredded into salads. All these years and who know that one of the most loathed vegetables of all time (which incidentally have the initials BS) can be eaten raw to very good effect.

So when making brussel sprouts, think saute, salad, shred (or chop small, but I was going for the alliterative effect you see).

Sauteed Brussel Sprouts
loosely adapted (from something that is barely a recipe in the first place) from cheaphealthygood

1/2 lb brussel sprouts, chopped small
1 T olive oil
1 T butter
salt and pepper to taste

Cut ends and any wilty-looking leaves off the sprouts. Chop small.

Heat olive oil in a skillet. Add butter. Toss brussel sprouts in and add salt and pepper. Mix them about until the edges are a bit golden (shouldn't take too long). Add a bit more butter or olive oil if it soaks it all up and your brussel sprouts start sticking. Do not cover them with a lid ever. Eat warm.

P.P.S. I ate the whole half pound. And they were awesome.


Saturday, November 27, 2010

Turkey Stock

Cheap Eat Challenge Count Down: 35 days

Okay, are you ready for the before picture?

Yeah, bones and worn out veggies simmering in a big old pot, it's not what beauty contests are made of. Fortunately, it has a really nice personality. And it's one of those foods that look better (and taste better) the older it gets (what's not to love?) And it's one of those cheap people that probably wouldn't care one bit if you pulled out a coupon on your first date. I'd say it's hard not to love a personality like that. But maybe I'm biased.

After you've got your stock, you can freeze it in 2 C increments in freezer bags or some type of tupperware. Then when you want to make soup (or whatever), you can both save money and have a much tastier stock than you would with salt-in-a-can chicken stock from the store.

The recipe for turkey stock works any time you roast (or crock pot) a chicken as well.

Basic Poultry Stock

-1 turky or chicken carcass (Don't you just love recipes that start that way.) Seriously, though, just take the bones and whatever's hanging off of them--however icky it may look from a chicken or turkey. You can remove the skin if you'd like to not have so much fat.
-Include any vegetables, herbs, or drippings you used to cook with the bird. Or, if you're feeling energetic, add a few herbs and/or vegetables (such as onion, carrot, celery--but seriously, just chuck in whatever wilting stuff you've got--rinds from things like potatoes or squash work too)
-Enough water to cover bones/vegetables
-Salt and pepper (optional)

Cover the bones, herbs, and vegetables with water. Bring to boil. Then reduce heat and simmer until the broth is golden.

If you started with some meat still on the bones, you may want to pull it off to add it to a turkey soup. If not, or if that's too much work for you just move on down to the next step.

Pour broth through a strainer, squeezing the juices from the meat, herbs, and vegetables so that you get as much liquid out of them as possible. Come on, keep squeezing--those veggies and herbs are what is going to make your stock super delicious.

Refrigerate so that the fat hardens on top, then scrape it off. Pour or, since the broth might be gel-like at this point, scoop into freezer bags in portions that strike you as convenient for later (I usually do 2 C increments). Freeze the bags and use anytime a recipe calls for chicken broth.

Note: If your seasonings for the bird were unusual--say, particularly hot with chile powder or weird in some other way, you may want to note that on the bag. For standard stuff like sage, rosemary, etc. you probably don't need to do this, but if you're obsessive I will not stop you.

Tomorrow, we'll use this stock to make a very simple turkey soup. And after that, I promise we'll part with our turkey friend and get back to making sweet things. After all, Christmas is coming.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Thanksgiving Considered

I consider a lot of things at 5:30am. That's not to say I get up to do anything about them, but I definitely consider them. Around 6:30 or 7:00 I'm ready to go back to sleep. Unfortunately by then my kids are awake and starting to consider things themselves--like breakfast.

This morning I was thinking about Thanksgiving--what went right, what went wrong. Does it ever all go right? (If it does for you, don't tell me okay; it'll just make me feel bad.)

So here we have it, a brief run-down (I saw you snork that pie through your nose when I said 'brief') of what went right and wrong with our holiday and its food.

What I Did Right:

1. I was thankful.
2. I was happy (except for a short stressed period having to do with the turkey, whoops.)
3. The pumpkin pie was perfect. I'll be posting the recipe sometime in December.
4. The rolls were perfect. Possibly even better than usual. I actually made a small time miscalculation and had them just about risen just as the turkey was going into the oven. Consequently, I punched them down and put them in the fridge, where they promptly rose again. I let them go for a while and punched them down and made them into rolls and put those in the refrigerator to rise very slowly. Which they did. The slow rising several times seemed to make rolls pillowier (what? you think I made that word up) than usual--they were light while still having some bite and texture. So, if you've got the time, using the refrigerator can help your rolls even more. If you don't have the time, don't worry--they'll still be wicked good.
5. With my mother-in-law's help, I made a super simple cranberry sauce that was sweet with just a bit of brightness, of punch. I'll try to post that in December too.
6. I made stuffing. Hurray and thanks to my sister, Rebecca, for passing the recipe on to me. It was super simple. It was good. It could be adapted in a trillion ways. It can be actually stuffed into a turkey or made on the stove. It warmed well. I also figured out how to make a homemade "box" stuffing, which is so simple, you might be embarrassed, at least I was. I'll post that soon too--maybe before Christmas, or maybe I'll save it for when we're eating on $6/day for our Cheap Eat Challenge
7. The brine and seasoning for the turkey and stuffing were perfect. Perfect. They were so good. If nothing else good came from my herb garden this year (and I assure you, plenty of good things did), it still would have been worth it for my turky and dressing.
8. I had my family with me. Cheesy, but true.

What Went Wrong:

1. Oh dear. I must first start with a confession. My turkey, which was perfect last year and which I raved about and promised you perfection with--it gave me a little grief. It was a little bigger than last year's bird, which is all I can figure to blame. (Also, when it wasn't done when expected, I kept taking it out to check it every 20 mintues or so, which I'm sure messed with my already low oven temp.) It took longer to cook than I expected and when "finished" there was a sketchy spot near the bottom, which I swore wasn't quite cooked when we started to cut into it. We cut above it and when we went to finish carving and store the meat afterwards, it looked no longer pink? Did it cook as it sat and we ate? Was the light weird when we first looked at it? Was it close to the bone and therefore just a little pink-ish? I don't know. I do know that my mother-in-law (bless her immortal soul) swore to me that she was sure it was done and just perfect and that I didn't need to worry about it. I don't know if she was lying to me or not, but if she was, I sure appreciated it. Mother-in-laws get a bad rap in this world, which makes me even more grateful for mine. At any rate, even though the turkey tasted great, it stressed me out. Next year, I'm going to do it a little differently. In fact, as soon as I'm done with this post, I'm going to go adjust my turkey roasting post. Next year, I'll either plan to cook the turkey longer (like 15-20 minutes/lb after I lower the temperature of the oven) or to lower it to a higher temperature (like 325). The latter is what I'm leaning towards right now. The other option I might consider is starting the bird out on its breast and then flipping it partway through, but that is probably a last resort because it seems painful to me).
2. My chocolate pie tasted perfect. In fact, I think I might christen it Silky Fudge Pie or Truffle Pie, because that is what the chocolate portion tasted like. However. The chocolate-y top separated from the graham cracker crust in a big way. I'm not sure why. I think it might be because I cooked the chocolate part to a higher temp that usual (very close to boiling; I may have even popped a bubble or two above the surface--oops), which made it firmer, which might have made it impossible to adhere to the crust. As it is, you kind of try to take it out and the top peels off and you dump the chunky yummy graham cracker crust on it or nearby or whatever. It's good, but, uh, the presentation needs a little work. Also, my kids tend to leave big chunks of the crust on their plates, which I then feel compelled to eat. Yes, I do.
3. My boiled potatoes sat too long on the stove waiting for the darned turkey to finish. By the time they got mashed, they were a bit gummy. This might not have happened with a russet or something, but we were using waxy reds (because we love them) and they were more tempermental for us. They tasted good anyway.
4. I felt a bit sad at dinner because of my turkey. Come on, it's just a piece of food. I had my family, our warm house, my husband sitting next to me holding my hand, my in-laws, my kids actually complimenting the food (this is not, sigh, a normal dinner occurrence for us). I had all these great things and I sat there wishing my turkey was more centerfold worthy. I'll try to do better next year. Oh yes I will.

Happy Thanksgiving.

Tomorrow we'll get some turkey stock.

And then it's on to Christmas recipes.

Also, we'll be counting down (and, uh, hopefully preparing/bracing for) our Cheap Eat Challenge starting January 1st. Join us.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Whipped Cream

This is such an easy recipe. And it will transform your holidays forever. And also your life.

Warning: You will only have 2 beaters. If you have more than 2 children, this could be a problem. You may end up listening to bawling, screaming, and door slamming because a simple spoonful won't do--only the beaters. You may have to send your children to bed with nothing. Their lives may have to wait to be transformed until tomorrow. Not that my children would fight over beaters. They would calmly work out a compromise and stay up happily afterwards for stories. Ahem.

Whipped Cream

1 C whipping cream
6 Tbsn sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla

Put cream in a bowl (a cold bowl will help it whip faster) and whip cream with beaters or a Kitchenaid if you happen to have one. You can even use a good old fashioned whisk if you're wanting to feel quaint. When the cream starts to hold peaks, add the sugar and vanilla and beat until it's the desired stiffness.

If you're a creative cook, you can go bonkers with this recipe. You can add a dash of nutmeg, cinnamon, or any other spice; or you can use other extracts or flavoring (such as almond extract) in place of the vanilla.


Easy Chocolate Pie (there's no Jello Pudding involved, so don't even go there, okay?)

Time for a photo redo. So many of my early recipes come with ugly pictures. Which is a shame because this isn't an ugly pie. It's a beautiful, delicious, and dumb easy pie. And now you can see it for yourself instead of blindly trusting me. 

And just for old time's sake, here's the original picture. Hmm, let's make it smaller--the glare from the flash is blinding me. 

We like chocolate in our house. Has that fact been mentioned? Last year I made a great chocolate pie from my America's Test Kitchen Cookbook. It was good, don't get me wrong. It was very good. But it was fussy. And for some reason the butter separated slightly and so we had just a bit of an oily film on top of the pie. And so I decided to return to my old faithful, really easy, and (don't tell Christopher Kimball) just as good chocolate pie. It's maybe even a little bit better since no sweat, blood, or tears are dripped into the recipe. My recipe came off of the back of some Nestle dark chocolate chips. Maybe Nestle doesn't sell the chips anymore. Or maybe they're trying to promote their baking bars now. Whatever the case, I was going to link you to them and give them all the credit and all, but they don't have the recipe up anymore. All they've got is one with 4 ounces less chocolate, and I assure you we don't want that. Also, I always use Ghiradelli chips. (So take that, Nestle--promote whatever lame-o 8-ounce bars you want, but I'm not going to.)

Dark Chocolate Satin Pie
Serves 8

1 graham cracker crust (I'll post my favorite below)
1 can (12 oz) evaporated milk
2 egg yolks (save the whites and make macaroons)
11-12 oz (about 2 C) dark chocolate (I use Ghiradelli 60%)

Whisk milk and egg yolks in a sauce pan. Heat until thickens slightly. Do not boil. Take off heat. Add chocolate chips. Pour into crust and chill 3 hours. Garnish with whipped cream. (I'll be putting up a whipped cream recipe later tonight. Use it. It will transform your Thanksgiving and possibly your life forever.)


Graham Cracker Crust 

Adapted from allrecipes

10 graham cracker
1/3 C white sugar
5 Tbsp butter, melted
1/2 tsp cinnamon (optional, if you like a little cinnamon with your chocolate, you Mexican hot chocolate lovers, you)

Put graham crackers in a blender and blend till they're crumbs. (I know it dirties an extra dish, but it's so so much easier. It'll save you a good 10 minutes. 20 if you're me.) If you don't have a blender or are a sicko and love crushing graham crackers, put them in a gallon Ziploc bag and rolling pin them or let your kids stomp on them or whatever.

Put crumbs in your pie crust. Add sugar and butter and mix. Spread in pan and press into a pie crust with your fingertips.

If, by chance, you don't like graham cracker crusts, or you don't have graham crackers and wild horses can't drag you back to the store right now, here's a great traditional pie crust recipe as well.

Standard Pie Crust

Makes 2 crusts (so use the other for your pumpkin pie or freeze it for another time)

2 1/2 C flour
1 C butter, cold
1 Tbsp sugar
1/4-1/2 C cold water

Process flour, sugar, and butter in food processor or blender until the butter is in pea-sized chunks (my chunks are always a little smaller). (Or cut the butter in with a pastry cutter if you feel the same way about cutting in butter as I do about kneading bread.)

Add water by the tablespoon till the dough comes together. Knead the dough a few times if necessary, but try not to handle it too much with your hands because that warms the butter and that means less flakiness (if flakiness matters to you in your crusts).

Roll out the dough. The internet says that a nice, easy, neat way to do this is to roll it between 2 pieces of waxed paper or parchment paper. Then the transfer is easy. Take off one layer of waxed paper and put your crust in the pan. Then take off the other layer and crimp your edges or whatever edge fanciness suits you. I tried this with 2 pieces of wax paper and it just scooted around annoyingly and wouldn't really roll out. I took off one layer and it still scooted around, but I got it to roll and it really did make the transferring way easier, but do flour your wax paper.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Katie's Rolls

And their whole wheat cousins below...

(They're not the glamour girls that the all white lovelies are, but I sure like them anyway.)

Katie is my sister. She makes the best rolls. Mine are pretty good too, but never somehow quite as perfect as hers. They say it's good to have something to aspire to.

I've been hobnobbing with the parents-in-law tonight, so I might not be able to muster my usual 70 trillion words (profound as they are).

Katie's Rolls
Makes 16-24

1 C warm water
1 C milk, warmed (not hot)
2 Tbsp yeast
1/4 C butter
2 tsp salt
1/2 C sugar
2 eggs
7-8 C flour

Add yeast to water and milk. Let it sit there if you've got five minutes. If you'll get distracted by leaving a thing for five minutes, then just throw the butter, salt, sugar, and eggs in before you forget what on earth you were doing in the first place. Mix it all together. Mix in 4 C flour. Add 2 more cups. Begin kneading with hands when it gets too tough to stir. Of course, if you're a member of the 21st century and have a Kitchenaid, you can use that too with the dough hook. I myself haven't quite made it to the 21st century and that's okay with me because (weird mental disorder alert) I kind of like kneading. It relaxes me. I like how the dough smells. I like how it feels.

So if you, like me, will be doing things manually, here is #1 best tip for rolls. The dough should be pillowy--like a mother's bosom. We don't want any tight teenage breasts, nor do we want a stretched and sagging grandma shelf. If a three-year-old would just love to lay her head on your dough, it's perfect. (Warning: If you have a real life 3-year-old available, do not invite her to lay her head upon your dough to test it out. You'll get hair in your dough. And possibly boogers. Which is what mother's bosoms also get covered in when they have three-year-olds. Not that we mind because three-year-olds are cute.) I've digressed, haven't I? Anyway, so keep adding flour in 1/4 C increments or so and knead it for about 8 minutes until it is nice and pillowy and perhaps the teeniest little bit tacky, but not sticky. Then put it in a bowl and cover it and keep it in a warm place. (Everyone always says put it in an oiled bowl. I have never, not even once in my life done this. I always just throw it back in the bowl I mixed it in. It is always always fine. Who are these people with their oiled bowls and what is the purpose of oiling the bowl?)

Tip #2: If it's cold in your house, stick the bowl with the dough in the oven. Turn the oven on for 1 minute. Then turn the oven off and leave the dough in the warmed oven. (Do not leave the room to go do something in that one minute. You will never remember your dough. It will cook right there in your bowl with a dish towel over it and perhaps your house will burn down. This is not worth what you were going to do in that one minute.)

Let it rise for one hour or until doubled. Then punch it down and shape it into rolls. Put the rolls on a greased baking sheet. Cover them and let them rise again--this time for about 20 minutes.

(They should look kind of like this.)

Bake at 375 for about 10-13 minutes. I like my rolls just a bit on the dough-y end. I always break them open to determine if they're just right and not way too doughy still. It's not the perfect technique, but it works.

You can make the rolls ahead of time and freeze them. You can make the dough ahead and refrigerate it (covered in plastic wrap) for about 24 hours. You can even make them to the rolled roll point and then freeze them and then take them out, let them dethaw and rise, then bake them. The possibilities are limitless. As it seems is my ability to write many many words even when I am so so tired and have said I will not tonight write many many words.


Troy's Mashed Potatoes

Troy is my brother-in-law. And many moons ago we went to their house and had steak and potatoes. Or something and potatoes. The truth is I don't remember too much except the potatoes. Because they were awesome. I later tried to get a recipe out of him. It was one of those, "Oh a little of this and a little of that" sort of things. Or in this case "a lot of this and a lot of that." 'This' and 'that' being butter and sour cream. But we'll get to that in a minute.

The best mashed potatoes are made with a red or yukon gold potato--or any variety that is moist. Oh, sure, they'll still be great with russets or some other variety, but they'll be a little grainier and we like our mashed potatoes smooth. Like butter. We seem, in fact, to think that they are in the same food group. Hmmm.

Which brings me to the fact that I must confess that I consider these sort of special occasion potatoes. Why? Because they're one of those foods that utilizes large amounts of certain ingredients that make some Americans uncomfortable. And while I admit that fresh vegetables certainly do make some Americans uncomfortable, I wasn't talking about the potatoes.

Below is my re-creation of Troy's potatoes. I think I've done pretty well, although in mashed potatoes, Troy is still king.

Troy's Mashed Potatoes

These create a delicious, but basic mashed potato. Want to mix in green onions, garnish with chives, throw on some bacon, knock yourself out.

5 lb red or yukon gold potatoes
1 C (2 sticks) butter
1 C sour cream
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper

Peel, chop, and boil potatoes until tender. Drain and mash. Add butter and sour cream. Try to tell yourself you're not adding that much butter and sour cream. Add salt and pepper to taste.

I'm planning to post my sister Katie's roll recipe tonight. (What's that you say, I'm a free-loading recipe stealer? Right you are, my friend, right you are. So watch your back, okay?)


Monday, November 22, 2010

It's Turkey Lurkey Time: Roasting, Seasoning, Great Gravy, and an Argument for Free Range Turkey

I'll give you a buck if you can name that musical (It's turkey lurkey time, Tom Turkey ran away, but he just came home...) Just kidding, I won't give you a buck; I'm cheap. But I will be impressed.

First, a note on brining. I have only ever brined a fresh, not-shot-up-with-saline-solution bird. And although in my last post I said you could still brine a turkey to good effect if it'd been treated with a saline solution (that sounds like a medical sort of thing doesn't it), I've been reading conflicting information on this. Some say that if you brine an already sodium/water filled bird it will get way too salty. This makes sense. They recommend a shorter brining or one with less salt. This also makes sense. However you do it, though, if you're dethawing your bird in water (and who isn't--has anyone in the course of history ever managed to actually de-thaw a turkey in the refrigerator without starting on July 4th), throw in a bit of salt and some herbs. The herbs should heighten the deep-down flavor of your bird.


How to Cook Your Turkey:

Ha ha. See how much authority I gave that phrase. Let me put it in bold so there is no mistake. Now you're going to think I'm like some of those folks on the food network who talk like they've made a certain "failproof" recipe, oh, oodles of times and then you make it and it's a bust and you realize they may never have made it before, but they're paid to stand up there and look/sound confident while their recipe creators/testers sit backstage and snort milk through their noses. Ahem, but I digress. The point is, I have cooked a turkey several times in my young life, and I--for the record--have never died of food poisoning. Or even had to put the turkey in the microwave after it's "done." Now if that isn't a sterling food record I don't know what is. Seriously, though, my turkeys have always been pretty good (except for one unfortunately garlic-y Christmas turkey when I was pregnant and couldn't handle even just a bit of garlic). But last year my turkey well exceeded the levels of just pretty good. It was really really good, great even. It also cooked quickly, which can be really nice on a busy Thanksgiving day. I took the advice of Alton Brown, which I wasn't sure I should due to a certain hot chocolate recipe I'd once tried from him that is the perfect gift for all your friends who enjoy creamed corn starch (oh look, there are the recipe testers with hot chocolate dripping out of their noses). But I digress again. Brown suggests starting the bird at a high temperature and then reducing the heat. Last year I did this, freaked, turned it down even more, cried, made Kip go buy an instant read thermometer, called my sister sniffling, and then turned out a perfect turkey. Today I will try to help you avoid all those prior steps and just get to the perfect turkey part. So, here we go.

1. Rinse your bird if brined. Rinse it really well--inside and out. Pat it dry if you are not lazy and care about skin crispiness.
2. If your bird has been frozen, it should be completely dethawed. If it's not, spend some time running cold water on it until it to get it completely de-thawed instead of popping it in the oven partially frozen and crossing your fingers.
3. Also, along this note, remove the neck and giblets--not that I think you're an idiot--just that Thanksgiving morning can be stressful and things get forgotten.
4. Preheat oven to 475 or 500 degrees. You heard me. 
5. After you've seasoned and or stuffed the bird (more on that below), slather the skin with butter, and put it breast side up on the lowest rack of the hot oven for 20-30 minutes. [A note: many great chefs recommend starting the turkey breast side down and flipping it partway through in order not to get the breasts overdone. This would probably work. I don't do it. I do stuff the breasts--more on that below.]
6. Reduce the heat to 325 degrees. (Don't take the bird out, just reduce the heat.) Cook for about 10 minutes per pound of bird (so for a 14 pound turkey, I'm going to cook it for 140 more minutes or about 2 hours.) Alternatively, you can reduce the heat even more (275 or so), but plan to cook it longer--probably 15-20 minutes per pound of bird.)
7. Keep your eye on it. If it starts to get too brown, throw a bit of foil over it. Alternately, you might want to start with foil on it and then uncover near the end.
8. Don't baste. It's not necessary if you've brined (or the store has essentially brined) your bird, and basting will un-crispy the skin as well as mess with the oven temp because you keep opening the oven.
 9. Check the turkey BEFORE it's supposed to be done--like halfway through the cooking time. Last year, my turkey was done way before I thought it would be.
10. And now for my most important advice: INSTANT READ THERMOMETER!
Look, do you want to cry in front of your in-laws or not? Do you want burned or raw turkey or not? I'm cheap too, but this is possibly the best kitchen gadget you will ever buy. Certainly for 10 bucks. BUY A THERMOMETER. Stick it in your turkey when you think it's done or if it's getting too brown or if you think it's raw, or if you're about to cry. Just stick it in. Don't touch the bone. Stay in the flesh. The breast should be about 165 degrees and the thigh 170-175 degrees. (The thigh area closest to the main body of the bird is the thickest part--stick it there.) If it's at those temps, you're done. You don't have to guess. You don't have to take the bird out and cut it open and see it's pink and put it back. You don't have to listen to your uncle comment on how his wife/mom/girlfriend's turkey is so much moister than your overcooked one. Just stick the thermometer in. I might get some weird ads showing up on the site from saying that so much in this post, but that is the price I'm willing to pay if you will please just use a thermometer and get a perfect turkey and not have to cry beforehand. (Here's a video link on checking bird with a thermometer if you're interested.)
11. The thermometers that come in some birds are not meant to spring until the bird is at 180-190 degrees which is 20-30 degrees overdone. Buy your own thermometer, my cheap friends.
12. After it's cooked, rest the bird (covered with foil) for 15-20 minutes.

(Here he is, ready to go in.)


To season the bird I like to use just about the same stuff I used for the brine. I stuff some of it in the cavity, and sprinkle the rest on top and in the veggies on the baking sheet.
6 sprigs fresh thyme
1 flowery sprig of sage (about 15 leaves)
4-6 sprigs rosemary4-6 cloves garlic

Additionally, I stick a quartered orange in the cavity.
Then I coarsely chop:
3 medium onions
3 carrots
3 celery ribs
Some I add to the cavity and the rest I sprinkle around the bird.

I confess that I don't eat these vegetables, but use them to flavor the gravy and stock.


This is, admittedly, not my area of expertise. I've only made a really great stuffing once and I found it so fussy that I don't really want to do it again--it was like making a whole separate meal. Currently I'm looking for something simpler and still tasty. So you'll have to look elsewhere for a great stuffing recipe. However, I do always stuff the breasts of my turkey. I do this to keep the breasts from overcooking since I don't flip the bird. If you have a great stuffing recipe, that's just a bonus. To stuff the breasts, simply separate the skin from the flesh--you'll have 2 breast pockets (yeah, it's gross) and stuff the stuffing in. If you don't want to do this, take your chances with some drier breasts or start the turkey breast side down and then flip it halfway through cooking.


You'll find some fussy recipes out there for gravy--if it involves boiling and chopping giblets, it's just not for me. But then again, I do like a good gravy--a weak oily broth is not what I'm looking for on Thanksgiving Day.

The best (and least fussy) way to get perfect gravy is to brine your turkey, to cook with flavorful seasonings and vegetables, and then to put the vegetables and seasonings into a strainer and squeeze all the juices and goodness into the gravy pot along with all the drippings from the turkey. Then thicken the gravy as you normally would. (I use cornstarch mixed with water. When the gravy begins to boil add it gradually till the gravy is the desired consistency). If you do this, you'll have great gravy. (Also, I think people should use 'great gravy' as an exclamation more in their everyday speech. 'Great gravy, Jim, is that a gun.')


I'll have more on this after Thanksgiving, but once you've strained your vegetable juices for the gravy, keep those old used up veggies with the bones and stock stuff. It might all look pretty tired by this point, but it's still got enough left in it to give your stock a nice flavor.

For some printable instructions, go here.

And finally...

An argument for free range turkey:

Of course there are those arguments about how the care of free range animals is better for the environment because their wastes don't create pollution.

And of course there are those arguments about how much more humane it is to have a bird live a good life instead of a teeny tiny cubicle life.

And of course they taste better. And you can control the brine instead of your bird getting shot with a salt/water solution.

But I would like to make an argument on cost. It's more expensive, yes, there's no denying that. But they're not so very much more expensive as they may seem. My free range Indiana turkey will cost $1.99/lb. I understand you can get them from Whole Foods for about that same price if you live in an area with Whole Foods. This year sales don't seem as good as usual. I feel like stores are tightening up. But my free range bird costs just the same as it did last year. In Texas where my sister lives she couldn't find turkeys below $.99/lb (which is what they are here at Walmart/Aldi). At other stores here they are cheaper --$.39-.59/lb, but you have to buy at least $25 worth of food from to get it at that price. So, you go into the grocery store, you buy your lower quality, pollutant-contributing, inhumanely treated bird. And then you also must buy $15-20 worth of other food that is priced higher that that at Aldi or WalMart, which would be fine if the quality was superior (and sometimes it is). But sometimes it's the same lousy non-local food that likely comes from the same big farms and same big suppliers as the Walmart/Aldi stuff, only with a higher price tag. Furthermore, the salt/water solution they shoot it with adds a bit of weight. Furthermore, with frozen turkeys, you're occasionally paying for ice--ice that is in the cavity to keep the bird nice and frozen.

So, I got a 14 lb turkey for $1.99/lb, which comes up to: $27.86

Joe Doesntknow got his 14 lb bird from Buy Low where he paid $.39/lb, which comes up to: $5.46
Of course 2-3 lb of that was water/ice solution, so we're going to add an extra $1.00.
He also bought 5 lb yams that were twice as much as those from Walmart for an extra $1.oo
He bought ready made rolls which (besides being gross) cost at least $2 more than their delicious homemade counterparts.
He bought 2 ready made pie crusts for $1.50 more than homemade (and probably at least .50 more than Walmart's)
He bought red potatoes that were $1.00 more a bag than at Walmart.
He bought a couple loaves of bread, which came up to $3.00 more than at Walmart.
That probably brought him up to the extra $20 he needed to spend and in the process he wasted: $9.50, so his turkey really ended up costing him $14.96.
And if he springs for a couple super nasty, not-as-orange-as-they-should-be ready made pumpkin pies, well then, he's blown the rest of his savings anyway.

So, yes, more expensive, but not so extremely much, and none at all if you're going to fill your cart with a bunch of processed foods.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Turkey Brine

I suppose that at this point in time, I can no longer deny that Thanksgiving is a mere five days away. I'm sure everyone else has been making lists and checking them twice. I have been doing more productive things like "running" to Michaels for a few pieces of scrapbook paper (though I do not scrapbook) and leaving a jillion years later with three (count them--3) full bags of stuff. And I am not crafty. And I do not usually go to Michael's. I do not believe I have been there even once in the last year. Clearly, now I know why. It's like a sparkly-loving alien invaded my body. What have you done, oh wily extra-terrestrial with my normal craft-hating, somewhat will-powered does-not-shop-on-Saturday-afternoon-especially-the-weekend-before-Thanksgiving self. Becasue, seriously, body-leching aliens aside, it's a jungle out there. My original errand (the one that got me out of the safety of my house) was to stop off at the post office (the closest one to us is at the mall). There were no parking spots. You had to wait for one or get really really lucky. It was like Christmas Eve. Who are these lunatics and how did I become one of them? Oh yes, my body was taken over. Now I remember.

Anyway, why was I out and about on such a clearly dangerous day. Because I wanted my sisters to have some herbs so they could brine their turkeys. Why was this so very important? Because brining makes turkeys better. It is essential if you get a free-range bird because they haven't already shot the bird up with a salt solution. But it's not a bad idea no matter what kind of turkey you get because it flavors it nicely.

What the heck does it mean to brine? It means you soak the bird in a salt/water solution that you've probably flavored with other herbs? And why would you do this? You know, you're asking a lot of questions--especially those in the science catergory, which for the record, is not my strongest suit. I mean, really, who do you think you are? My kids? Next you will asking me where babies come from. Oh sorry--I mean, for a brief explanation (as well as the inspiration for my brining recipe), have a look at slash food. Basically, the brine alters the protiens in the turkey, trapping the flavors and juices inside instead of allowing them to evaporate in cooking.

Brining basics:

1. Brine for 1 hour per pound of bird. So if you've got a 14 pound turkey, brine for 14 hours. This means (just in case your math skills are faltering under the pressure) that you'll need to start this the day before.
2. The most important stuff is the salt, sugar, and water, but the herbs are nice too. They give it flavor in addition to juiciness.
3. If you don't have fresh herbs, dry work too and are much cheaper.
4. Submerge the bird in the water. Weight it with something if you must. I use a big stockpot, but a cooler would work too.
5. Put it in the refrigerator or a cooler that is the same temperature as a refrigerator (below 40 degrees). This is so you don't end up allowing "harmful bacteria" to grow in your bird. "Harmful bacteria" is what the internet generally refers to when speaking of turkey safety. Vague threats bother me, but not as much as the possibility of actually consuming too much harmful bacteria on a day of celebration, so I do what they say. I put my brine in a huge stockpot and then put it in the fridge overnight.
6. Before you cook your bird, rinse it off thoroughly. Not to be bossy or anything, but if you skip this, you will have a very very very salty bird and you will be sad. Even if you like salt. Even if you're the person who always reaches for the salt before tasting your food and then dumps it on. Still, you must rinse your bird. Or you will be sad. Am I making myself clear?
5. If you want a perfectly crispy skin, pat it dry after you rinse it and let it sit for a bit to dry off further. I do not care about skin because I think it's gross (sorry skin foodies), so I skip this. (It's still hardly soggy, for the record.)
7. Even though your bird has been brined in herbs, you'll probably still want to cook it with herbs as well. It's good for the turkey, but even better for the gravy. More on this tomorrow.

Turkey Brine

2 C salt
2 C sugar
2 gallons water
3 bay leaves
4 cloves garlic, cracked
1/2 Tbsn pepper or 1 Tbsp cracked peppercorns
3 springs rosemary
a  cluster of sage (10-15 leaves)
5 sprigs thyme

Combine the salt and sugar in the water and let the salt and sugar dissolve. Warm water makes this faster, but let the water cool again before adding the bird. Add your bird. Add the herbs and stir/slop them about a bit. Put the huge stockpot in the fridge overnight (1 hour per pound of bird). Alternately, you can use a cooler kept below 40 degrees. And don't forget to rinse the turkey in the morning before you cook it.

Other additions to consider if you think mine sound lame: Citrus fruit, cinnamon, cloves, Italian herbs such as basil and oregano. Add what you like. I hate to say this because who needs a food blogger if it's true, but it's hard to mess it up. It's a great time to be experimental because any old combination of classic herbs will make it good.


Tomorrow we'll have tips for cooking, tips for gravy, and my argument for free-range birds.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Classic Basil Pesto

I thought it was too late for pesto. I cut my basil down about 3 weeks ago and then never got to posting this in the rush of pumpkins, breakfast cookies, and apples. (Why, I will never know because look how beautiful the basil is.) But then this morning, I had a look at my herb garden. There under a layer of fall leaves were the little stubs of basil plants with a few little leaves of basil still going strong. Yes, it's by the house and as I said, there's a nice protective layer of fall leaves covering the little guys, but the point is, it's still possible. If you're in southern Indiana or south, go outside, cut down your basil, and make some pesto. You can freeze it. You can give it as gifts. You can eat it all for dinner tonight and wonder at the summery-ness of your fall kitchen. And if you don't happen to be down here close to the mason dixon line, well then, you could always cheat and go to your local Asian foods store. They tend to have cheap, fresh herbs year round, though I must warn you, they are certainly not local.

But before we talk about how to make pesto, let's talk about how we can use pesto. Maybe you're an old pro at this, but if you, like me, grew up in an herbs-are-dry-things-from-plastic-containers-at-the-store family, you may not have a clue. I'd never had or, (while I'm making food blogger confessions) heard of, pesto till about 4 years ago. I was an easy convert--it's pretty, it smells good, and I'd discovered I loved fresh basil early on in my marriage.

So, how to use pesto:

1. Most classically, you add it to pasta--usually something short and tubular, like penne, but I'm not into making rules about these things.

2. You can also put it on sandwiches. I especially love it paired with mayo and chicken.

3. You can drop a bit into your marinara sauces to give an extra basil kick. Or you can add it to plain tomato sauce (about a buck for a big can at WalMart) and make your own marinara sauce easily and cheaply.

4. You can use it to drizzle over anything tomato-based: tomato soup, tomato salad, tomato sandwiches, tomatoes period.

5. You can use it in place of traditional tomato-based pizza sauce on pizzas. Top your pesto pizza with some sauteed vegetables such as onion, zucchini, and olives, and add a little cheese. It's very good.

And if you plan to use your pesto, you know, not this week, we should also talk about how to preserve pesto. I suppose you could can and pressure cook it, but I haven't gotten to the owner-of-pressure-cooker point in my food life (and I'm not sure I want to), so I freeze it.

If I'm giving it away, I freeze it in small pretty-ish jars. (Or baby food jars. You know, whichever I have on hand.) And the stuff for me, I freeze it in ice cube trays. Then I take the cubes out and double bag them, and stick them back in the freezer. That way any time I want a bit for a marinara sauce or a sandwich or to drizzle over soup, I just grab a cube. (If you also make homemade baby food in this way, do not grab a cube for baby, thinking it's some of those pureed peas you made because you are a good mother. Baby will not appreciate pesto as much as you do, even if it is mixed in with rice cereal.)

Okay, now you know how to preserve it and use it. Let's say you don't want to. Maybe you like fresh basil, but don't want to make pesto, either because you don't like pesto or because you don't have the ingredients or because those darn pine nuts cost too much. Process only the basil and olive oil, then freeze it in cubes. Voila! You'll have fresh basil all winter long.

Classic Basil Pesto

A note on pine nuts: Pine nuts are not cheap, my friends. If you're going to use them, buy a larger bag and freeze what you don't use in your pesto. Then you can use it for next year's pesto too. Or for salads or chicken dishes or whatever. You can also substitute cheaper nuts like almonds or walnuts in place of the pine nuts. You can also (gasp) skip the pine nuts all together. If you do, I will keep it between the two of us.

2 C fresh basil leaves
1/4 C pine nuts, toasted or not
4 garlic cloves
1/2 tsp salt
1/4-1/3 C olive oil.

Wash your basil and take the leaves off the stems.

If you wish to roast the pine nuts, roast them in a pan at around 400 with a bit of the olive oil till fragrant (about 10 minutes--warning--I'm guessing here; though I've roasted nuts before, I did not roast my pine nuts. I like them un-roasted).

Throw everything in a food processor or blender and run it till it's saucy.

Add to ice cube trays or preserve it however you like. Or eat it for dinner, you lucky person, you.


Thursday, November 18, 2010

Apple Breakfast Pie

Alright, alright...I took this photo several weeks ago. Before I realized that someone of my photography skills (negetive 20) needs to take at least 7,000 pictures of something to come up with a good 1 or 2. This, this is the doctored (though my doctoring skills are also at the remedial level) photo and it's the best I had.

Bad photography aside (I'm insecure about it, okay), this breakfast pie is simple, nutritious, tasty, and (naturally) cheap. It can be made in a pie pan, in ramekins, or in muffin cups. And if you add a dollop of whipped cream just for fun, your secret is safe with me.

Apple Breakfast Pie
Serves 6

First a note on apples. The best kind to use for pie are crispy, firm, and slightly tart--like Granny Smith. However, you can use whatever old apples you've got lying around and this recipe will be just fine. Also, apples will settle in baking, so even if your pan looks very full, it'll be smaller when all is said and done.

Second a note on flour. If you'd like to add a teaspoon or so to your sugar/cinnamon mixture, knock yourself out. I didn't and my pie turned out just fine (my pie was, however, in ramekins and perhaps that reduced the flow of juices you'd get in a larger pie). If your apples are juicy or if you just want to, darn it, add some flour to thicken the syrup as the pie cooks.

Third a note on simplicity. This recipe is very basic. If you are feeling funky, don't hesitate to add a bit of nutmeg, cloves (probably 1/4-1/2 tsp), cardamom, pecans, Elmo sprinkles, or whatever floats your boat. Next time, I plan to try it with a decent dose of nutmeg as I personally believe nutmeg is the body scrub of the angels.

1 whole wheat pie crust (2 if you want to top your pie with another)
6-9 medium apples, peeled and chopped--(how many you use depends on how full you want your pie)
1/4-1/3 C sugar
1 T cinnamon
1 tsp flour (optional)

Prepare pie crust. Mix sugar, cinnamon, and flour if using. Add chopped apples and coat with sugar mixture. Pour it all in pie crust. Bake at 375 for 25-30 minutes or until apples are tender.

This recipe concludes our jaunt with apples (for now). It also (for now) concludes our jaunt with things you can eat for breakfast or dessert or both. Coming soon we'll have some recipes that (gasp) can be eaten at different times of the day. I know, you were beginning to wonder if our family ever ate meals besides breakfast. On occasion, my friends, on occasion.


Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Chocolate Peanut Butter Cake

Today is my anniversary.

And, no, this cake does not contain apples in any form (or pumpkins either). And you cannot eat it for breakfast; at least in America. In America we have standards for breakfast. And sometimes logos.

Also, I can't take credit for it. I got this recipe off of smittenkitchen and did not (cannot) in any way improve on it. The cake is light, moist, chocolate-y. If you are one of those who claim that homemade cake cannot be as light or whatever as boxed cake, then first of all, our friendship may be at risk, but fortunately, it is redeemable because this cake will prove that you are in every way incorrect (see what a good friend I am). This cake is moist and light in that cake-boxy way without being flimsy (sorry cake-boxers) and with all the chocolate-y, flavorful, real ingredient goodness the cake box people don't get (like, at all).

And the peanut butter frosting. It it is frosting nirvana, frosting heaven, frosting paradise, frosting whatever-higher-glory-your-religion-believes-in. It was even better than the cake. In fact, having it on one's anniversary may be a bad idea because I believe that it alone could fulfill any needs a woman may ever have (I exaggerate, Kip. Of course I will always need you, especially if you are covered with this peanut butter frosting). We love peanut butter in this house. That is no surprise. But I was worried this frosting would be that sort of heavy, stick to your mouth kind of thing--like peanut butter fudge in liquid form. Which just wasn't what I wanted on my cake. This frosting was not that. It was creamy, soft, and smooth with the exact right about of peanut butter. Would that there was an adjective for it, but I cannot find one. The balance, texture, and flavor were, for lack of a more interesting word, perfect.

And the ganache was, simply, ganache. Generally, you can't go wrong with ganache. Although, I will say this: I reduced the original recipe so that we only had one layer and missed having more of that peanut butter frosting between layers (have I mentioned I enjoyed this frosting). I felt with the one layer that the chocolate-y ganache out-balanced the glorious peanut butter. Kip did not feel that way, so pick your poison.

And speaking of poison, with this cake in the world, I'm not sure why anyone feels a need to use drugs. This cake was mood-altering; it was love-inspiring; I'm quite sure it gave me more energy. Furthermore it is not illegal (unless eaten for breakfast in America) and will not make your teeth fall out (at least not at age 20). You don't even have to go from store to store buying non-suspicious amounts of cough syrup to make it.

Before eating cake we went out for lunch at TGIFridays. It was so so. I have decided that all these restaurant chains must all have the same supplier. I feel fairly confident that all the breaded things, sauces, and mixes just come to them in tubes or boxes and they just mix it up and put in on a plate for you. For this we paid over $15 and that was with a coupon. It's not that it was terrible. It just wasn't great. And one of the dreadful things about being a cook and a cheapskate is that you sit there and figure up how much the ingredients would have cost had you made them at home. For about the cost of my meal (Parmesan crusted chicken with a exactly 5 tortellini and a very average tomato salad--$8.50 plus a tip), I could have bought a free range fryer chicken (about $5 here in Evansville), a bag of decent tortellini ($2 at Aldi), a couple cups of shredded Parmesan from Aldi ($1.99), a cup of cream ($1 or less) and sprinkle of mozzarella ($.50). Easy. And it would have been more than one meal. And I would have been full after eating it. Which I was not when we left TGIFridays. And I am a 130 pound woman. I proposed a new eating-out rule to Kip, which is that we either eat at Golden Corral (Kip's favorite) or at some sort of small independent place that does not get their sauces in big bags from a supplier.

Tomorrow we will return to not-illegal-to-eat-for-breakfast-in-America (though lacking a logo) apple-hood. For today, celebrate with us. Let's eat cake.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Apple Crisp

A few days ago, my 3-year-old asked for a peeled apple. When she was done, I had this.

She told me she would put it in a bag and save it for later. Alas, peeled apple kind of fits into the breakfast-cereal-with-milk-on-it category as far as saving for later. So we made something for which I only got lousy pictures. Sigh.

But it tastes really good anyway--definitely better than peeled-apple-in-a-bag.

The great thing about this apple crisp recipe is that you can use it all on a full apple crisp recipe, or you can store the oat/flour part in the fridge (or freezer) and sprinkle it on a few chopped apples whenever you, say, have a leftover half-eaten apple. Or when you're husband's working and you want a dessert you can tell yourself is healthy (what brown sugar???). Or you can put apples into little muffin cups, sprinkle them lightly with the crisp part and--you guessed it--eat it for breakfast.

Apple Crisp
Serves 6-ish

4 C chopped apples (feel free use less or more depending on how thick you like your apple layer. Remember they'll settle a bit in baking)
2/3 C brown sugar (You can totally get away with half if you want a healthier option; I usually don't)
1/2 C whole wheat flour
1/2 C oats
1/3 C butter, softened or melted (do just 1/4 C if you're trying to healthify them)
3/4 tsp cinnamon
3/4 tsp nutmeg
1/4 C chopped pecans (optional, but I love them)
1/4 C shredded coconut (optional, but I love this too)

Lay apples in bottom of greased 8x8 inch pan (or about 6 4-ounce ramekins or 12 muffin cups). Combine other ingredients (and, yes, I do this in a very cavelier manner--I just toss it all together and mix it up) and plop the flour/oat mixture on top of the apples.

Bake at 375 degrees for 20-25 minutes or until apples are tender.

If you're in the mood for just a small treat, save the remainder of the crisp part in an air tight container and store in the fridge or freezer.

PRINTABLE RECIPEhttps://sites.google.com/site/tastycheapskateprintablerecipe/apple-crisp

Monday, November 15, 2010

Apple Cake--The Wholesome Sister

There's something to be said about wholesome sisters. Oh sure, maybe they're not as voluptuous, as flirtatious, as sticky sweet. But if there's one thing I've learned from obsessively making apple cake, it's that the wholesome sister can have an unexpected depth, a flavor that is surprising, rich, texturous (that's not a word, is it?), and a certain firmness about it that some find attractive Also, you can eat her for breakfast. (Sorry, sausage lovers; I clearly have a baked goods problem.)

I didn't expect this cake to be this good, but there's something about the whole wheat. It's awesome. In fact, I think I might have to add it to the full-sugar variety next time I try it to see what happens. It gives the cake a sort of nutty-ness that is a really nice complement to the baked sugar and the apples. Also, it's just a bit more toothsome, and I like that in a baked good.

Apple Cake--The Wholesome Sister
Serves 16

One final note: You can probably substitute apple sauce for some of the oil (I'd recommend 1/4 C oil and 1/4 C apple sauce). However, it's going to change the texture of the cake. You're going to end up with something a little bit spongier, which isn't my thing in a cake. If it doesn't bother you and fat does, then go for it. If, however, you'd like less fat and to still have that almost crispy-edged cake that only oil and sugar can give you, I'd recommend you try reducing the oil to 1/3 C. And if you do, tell me what happens. (Pretty please.)

1/2 C oil
1 egg
6 T sugar (truly, I think you could get away with 4, but I haven't tried it)
1 1/4 C whole wheat flour
pinch salt
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 1/2 C apples (about 2 medium), peeled and chopped

Mix oil, eggs, and sugar. Sift dry ingredients. Add dry to wet. Add apples and mix well. Pour into greased 8x8 inch pan and bake at 350 degrees for 20-30 minutes.


Apple Cake

Apples apples up on top...

We got some really awful ones from Aldi this week. Actually we've gotten really awful ones from Aldi all fall. (Aldi, you know I love you, but seriously, have all your apples been in cold storage for, like, 3 years or what?) Anyway, these were particularly bad--all bruised on the outside and a bit mushy on the inside. But like my pappy always says: When life hands you bruised apples, make apple cake. Okay, so I don't acually have a pappy, but I'm quite confident that if I did, that's what he would have said.

So, out of respect for the pappy that wasn't, I made apple cake. And also because our dear friends were coming over and I love love love apple cake. (My son says this sentence needs an exclamation mark. Perhaps he is correct.) I love love love apple cake!

The batter comes out a bit stiff, almost cookie-dough-ish. Also, if you taste it you might not end up with apple cake because a mysterious goblin might come into your house and eat all the batter before anyone else even knew it existed. So try not to taste it, okay?

Our cake suffered an unfortunate puncture wound when I tested it for doneness. That's because it has this lovely cracky crust, which is the beauty that happens when oil and sugar get together at high heat (I only encourage such behavior in my baked goods). Oh, and about that cracky crust, the goblin loves it too. He'll (what do you mean you don't think it's a 'he;' of course it's a 'he') pick off little pieces bit by bit until the cake is nothing but exposed middle. It's embarrassing, really.

Fortunately, you can always cover it up with some whipped cream. But I didn't get a picture of that. Do you suppose we could blame the goblin for that as well?

Apple Cake
aka When Life Hands You Bruised Apples Cake
aka Goblin Cake
Serves 16

1/2 C oil
1 egg
1 C sugar
1 1/4 C flour
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 1/2 C chopped apples (about 2 medium apples)

Mix oil, eggs, and sugar. Sift dry ingredients. Add dry to wet and stir. Add apples and mix to incorporate. Pour into 8x8in (or 9x9in or a cake pan--we're not picky here). Bake at 350 for 20-30 minutes.

Oh--and the greatest thing... This cake has a sister. A more wholesome sister. You know, the kind you could eat for breakfast. Why? Because I am obsessive compulsive and clearly cannot stop. I'll post it later tonight. At present, our dinner is calling.


Saturday, November 13, 2010

Zucchini Banana Breakfast Cookies (Low Sugar)

Here's the Sunday Sneak Peak (the post I do before Sunday becaue a girl needs a day of rest, don't you think) and the final breakfast cookie (for now). Soon we'll be moving on to apple recipes, then Thanksgiving, then foods you can give as gifts, then Christmas cookies. Is it just me or does the time fly in an alarming way at this time of year?

Anyway, one of the many great things about this recipe is that if you don't have zucchini on hand because it's mid-November and all, just double up on the banana and you'll have a yummy banana cookie.

Zucchini Banana Breakfast Cookies
Adapted from Deceptively Delicious
Makes 18

1 C whole wheat flour
1 C oats
1 tsp baking soda (I'd recommend this be scaled back to 1/2-3/4 tsp. I could taste it and I don't like that.)
dash salt
1/4 tsp cinnamon
6 Tbsp brown sugar, packed
6 Tbsp butter, soft
1/2 C mashed bananas (mash 'em good)
1/2 C zucchini puree (or shredded if your family doesn't mind that sort of thing
1 egg
1/2 C raisins or 1/4 C chocolate chips
1/2 C walnuts (opt)

Cream sugar and butter. Add egg, then banana and zucchini.

Sift dry ingredients. Add wet to dry and stir just to blend (seriously, just mix it gently or you'll get a tough cookie).

Add raisins and/or chocolate chips.

Bake at 350 for 12-15 minutes till golden.


Zucchini Breakfast Cookies (Low Sugar)

It's not easy being green.

This recipe (and the next) feature our friend the zucchini. Now, zucchini can't really be tasted in a cookie, but it can, alas, be seen. In our family, I tend to puree instead of grate our zucchini in order to lessen the green fleck effect. However, little spots are still visible. These may be difficult for children (or perhaps spouses who act like children in regard to food) to get past. If your kids/spouse won't eat anything green except sour apple Jolly Ranchers you may need to peel your zucchini. A little fiber lost, a lot of love gained.

Also, I realize that zucchini is so 3 months ago, but we still have a bunch of it pureed/grated in our freezer. If you do too, or if you have an Asian store with cheap zucchini somewhere nearby, this cookie is warm cinnamon autumn-y in every other way.

Zucchini Breakfast Cookies
Adapted from Animal, Vegetable, Miracle
Makes 18

6 T butter, softened or melted
1/4 C brown sugar
1 T honey
1 egg
1 3/4 C whole wheat flour
1/4 C oat flour (if you haven't got any, use 1/4 C whole wheat or all-purpose flour)
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1 C shredded zucchini (or a scant cup pureed)
1/4-1/2 C chocolate chips
1 T vanilla

Cream butter and sugar. Mix in honey, egg, and vanilla. Add zucchini.

Sift dry ingredients and add dry to wet. Add chocolate chips.

Bake at 350 degrees for 12-15 minutes. (You may want to flatten the plops of batter with a spoon or you'll end up with overly rounded cookies like I did.)


Friday, November 12, 2010

No Bake Breakfast Cookies

(Ahh, an updated photo of these much loved breakfast cookies.)

No bake cookies have a special place in my heart. I once lived in Taiwan. Taiwanese people do not eat chocolate chip cookies. Or brownies. Or cakes. Or pretty much any of the stuff that makes Americans chubby and Asian people not chubby. Nor do they carry some of the ingredients for the things that make Americans chubby and Asian people not chubby. What was a group of American English teachers supposed to do when the withdrawl symptoms began to appear? Well, we could get oatmeal, cocoa, peanut butter, butter, and sugar. And then when our chubby American needs needed to be met, we met them with honor, with love, with too many cookies at once. Indeed we did. Or at least I did.

I developed this healthier recipe when my mom was visiting and I wanted chocolate. Not that my mom makes me crave chocolate. At least not any more than anything else makes me crave chocolate.

It has one quarter the sugar and less butter. It's still good. Very good. If, however, you are too wimpy for such a change (although you shouldn't be), or believe in suffering and therefore find  the idea of breakfast cookies repugnant, I will let you in on a little secret. (((The original recipe calls for 2 C sugar and 1/2 C butter. You can reduce the sugar to 1 C and... not. even. notice. a. difference. That is right. It will not be a breakfast cookie, but it will be a half-sugar, tastes-the-same cookie, and I think that that is worth knowing.)))

(As a reminder of my first picture of these--just for fun--here it is.)

No Bake Breakfast Cookies
Makes 18 cookies

1/3 C butter
3 T cocoa
½ C milk
½ C sugar

½ C peanut butter
1 t vanilla

3 C oats.

In a saucepan, bring the first 4 ingredients to a rolling boil [a boil in which even when you stir, you can see the bubbles boiling energetically], stirring constantly for about 1 1/2 minutes. (If you boil too long, the cookies will be chalky, not long enough, they won’t hold together well.)

Remove from heat and add peanut butter, then vanilla. Stir until peanut butter melted.

Add oats and stir.

Drop onto wax paper. Let set if you can. Otherwise, you can always grab a spoon.

(another new picture)

(another old picture)

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Oatmeal Peanut Butter Breakfast Cookies (Low Sugar)

These breakfast cookies have a special place in my heart as they were the first breakfast cookies I made. They are moist and peanut butter-y and perfect. Also, it's really a throw everything into the bowl and mix it around kind of a recipe (my 3-year-old did pretty much all the mixing work). Also, if you're feeling rebellious, you can add Reese's Pieces to them.

Oatmeal Peanut Butter Breakfast Cookies
Serves (maybe we should say 'makes' 12)


1 egg
2 T brown sugar
2 T white sugar
1/4 t vanilla
½ t baking soda
1 t butter
2 T sweet potato puree (Optional. For the last many years I've had a babies and toddlers hanging about and therefore plenty of vegetable purees.)
½ C peanut butter


1 ½ C oatmeal
½ C chocolate chips or Reese’s pieces (opt)

Bake at 350 for 10 minutes. Let set on pan for 10-15 minutes (unless you’re us, in which case you’ll scoop some into the freezer, for Pete’s bloomin’ sake).


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