Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Make-Ahead Gravy

I've always wanted to make gravy from scratch for Thanksgiving, but because I deep fry our turkey, I don't have turkey pan drippings to make the gravy. So I always resort to the powder or bottled version from the supermarket. Then I got the idea of making gravy using stock after doing some searches online. And what perfect timing it was when this recipe came up on my reader from The Brown Eyed Baker. I happen to always have Turkey stock made from the turkey carcass of our Thanksgiving luncheon, so this recipe came in handy.

1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
1 1/2 cup finely chopped onions
1/4 cup all purpose flour
3/4 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. ground black pepper
2 cups turkey or chicken stock, heated
1 Tbsp. heavy cream

1) In a large saute pen, melt butter over medium heat. Add onions and cook for 12-15 minutes until lightly browned. (Do not rush this step!)

2) Sprinkle flour into pan and whisk. Add salt and pepper. Cook for 2-3 minutes. Whisk in stock and cook uncovered for 4-5 minutes until thickened. Add cream and serve.

(Note: This gravy can be frozen. When ready to use, thaw in refrigerator and reheat over the stove or microwave, adding a splash of stock to loosen the gravy).

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Sage, Sausage & Apple Dressing

I've been searching high and low for the perfect dressing to serve for Thanksgiving. I don't want to use the boxed stuff. But its been hard to find a tried and true dressing recipe. One thing was for sure. I really wanted to use sausage and apples in the recipe. So I found this recipe that was the best of both worlds. The use of boxed cubes and a recipe using sausage and apples. And it came out so good. To add a little twist to it, I used half of the recipe and added some dried cranberries and toasted walnut pieces for a little bit more depth of flavor. I think I may have found my dressing recipe.

16-ounce bag stuffing cubes
6 Tbsp. unsalted butter, plus more to grease the pan and topping
1 lb. sage sausage (I used Jimmy Dean's Sage breakfast sausage)
1 medium onion, chopped
2 Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored, and chopped
1-2 ribs celery with eaves, chopped
1 medium carrot, finely chopped
1/2 cup corn kernels
1/2 tsp. salt
3 3/4 cups chicken broth
1/4 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
1/2 cup toasted walnut pieces (optional)
1/2 cup dried cranberries
2 eggs, beaten

1) Preheat oven to 325 deg F. Butter a 3-quart casserole dish.

2) Melt 2 tablespoons of butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the sausage and break up with a wooden spoon. Cook until no longer pink, but not so much that its dry, about 5 minutes. Place stuffing cubes in a large mixing bowl and add cooked sausage and pan drippings into the bowl.

3) Melt the remaining butter in the pan. Add the onion, apple, celery, carrot, corn, and salt. Cook until the vegetables get soft, about 5 minutes. Add the broth and parsley and bring to a boil.

4) Pour mixture over the stuffing cubes and toss until evenly moistened. Mix in walnuts and cranberries (if using) and eggs. Loosely pack the dressing in the prepared pan and cook uncovered until the top forms a crust, about 40 minutes. Drizzle about 2 tablespoons of turkey pan drippings or melted butter over the top. Cook until the top is crisp and golden, about 20 minutes more.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Scalloped Potatoes revisited

I know its been over a week since my last blog post. Honestly, I had been working myself up for this recent Thanksgiving holiday. Keeping busy by planning my strategy on how to tackle the tasks at hand. My menu has been the same ever since I volunteered to host Thanksgiving dinner for my side of the family. We always have my famous Deep Fried Turkey, Creamed Corn, Mashed Potatoes, and Scalloped Potatoes. Scalloped Potatoes is the one dish my brother looks forward to. However, my Scalloped Potatoes are either a hit or miss. They either are somewhat undercooked, or not cheesy enough. Then a couple of weeks before Thanksgiving, this recipe came up on my reader from the Brown Eyed Baker. The key for perfect Scalloped Potatoes every time is to boil the entire mixture together prior to baking it. I can't believe I didn't think of that before. They came deliciously.

2 Tbsp. unsalted butter
1 small onion, minced
2 cloves garlic, minced
3 cups heavy cream
1 cup milk
4 sprigs of fresh thyme
2 bay leaves
2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. ground black pepper
4 lbs. russet potatoes, peeled and thinly sliced
1 cup shredded cheese

1) Preheat oven to 350 deg F.

2) In a medium sized stock pot, melt butter over medium-high heat until foaming subsides, about 1 minute. Add onion and saute until it softens and begin to brown, about 4 minutes. Add garlic and saute until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add cream, milk, thyme, bay leaves, salt, pepper, and potatoes. Bring mixture to simmer. Cover, adjusting heat as necessary to maintain a light simmer. Cook until potatoes are are almost tender (paring knife can be slipped into and out of center of potato slice with some resistance), about 15 minutes.

3) Remove and discard thyme and bay leaves. Transfer potato mixture into a 3-quart casserole or gratin dish. Sprinkle top with cheese. Bake until cream has thickened, is bubbling around the sides, and the top has turned golden brown, about 20 minutes. Cool for 10 minutes before serving.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Chicken Florentine Lasagna

I'm always on the lookout for a good make-ahead meal. One of the best make-ahead meal idea is pasta. However, most pasta dishes I've seen have red sauces. I wanted to make something with a white sauce. I remember eating a Chicken Florentine pasta at the Olive Garden a while ago and decided to re-create that dish with lasagna. This is what I came up.

10 lasagna noodles, cooked according to package directions
1 container ricotta cheese
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
1 egg
salt & pepper to taste
2 cups chopped, cooked chicken
3 cups prepared Alfredo sauce
1 (12 oz) bag frozen spinach, thawed and water squeezed out
1 cup Panko breadcrumbs
3 Tbsp. butter, melted

1) Preheat oven to 400 deg F.

2) In a medium bowl, combine ricotta cheese, Parmesan cheese, mozzarella cheese and egg. Mix until incorporated. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Stir in drained spinach.

3) To assemble the lasagna, spread 1/2 cup Alfredo sauce on the bottom of 9 x 13 inch pan. Place one layer of lasagna noodles on the bottom of the pan. Evenly spread spinach mixture over lasagna noodles and top with 1 cup of chopped chicken. Spread 1 cup of Alfredo sauce and repeat layering until you've reached 3 layers (The top layer should be the Alfredo sauce). Top with remaining 1 cup mozzarella cheese.

4) In a small bowl, stir together breadcrumbs and melted butter. Evenly top breadcrumbs mixture over lasagna. Bake for 40-45 minutes until it becomes bubbly.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Pumpkin & Sausage Manicotti

With the fall season in full swing, I thought I'd try to find recipes to use up some of the pumpkin puree I made a couple of weeks ago. Instead of the usual sweet recipe, I wanted to use the pumpkin puree in a savory dish. I've found a few recipes for pumpkin pasta or pumpkin lasagna. And so I settled with this recipe for Pumpkin & Sausage Manicotti from the Betty Crocker website, which came out pretty good. The recipe called for mozzarella cheese as its topping. However, I didn't have much. So I mixed my leftover mozzarella cheese with a Mexican blend cheese. The cheese flavor came out too strong, so I'll definitely stick with using all mozzarella cheese on my next attempt to make this recipe.

16 uncooked manicotti shells
1 lb. bulk Italian sausage
2 large cloves garlic, minced
2 Tbsp. finely chopped sage leaves
1 egg
1 (15 oz) container ricotta cheese
1 cup pumpkin puree
1/2 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
1/2 tsp. ground pepper
2 cups shredded Italian cheese blend or mozzarella cheese
3 cups Alfredo pasta sauce
fresh sage for garnish

1) Preheat oven to 350 deg F. Cook and drain pasta according to package directions, using minimum cook time.

2) In a medium skillet, cook sausage, garlic and 1 tablespoon sage over medium heat for 8-10 minutes, until sausage is no longer pink. Drain.

3) In a large mixing bowl, beat egg. Stir in ricotta cheese, pumpkin, Parmesan cheese, pepper, 1 cup cheese, the remaining 1 tablespoon of sage and cooked sausage.

4) Spread 1 cup Alfredo sauce on the bottom of a 13x9 baking dish. Fill pasta shells with sausage mixture. Arrange the stuffed shells over the sauce. Pour the remaining 2 cups Alfredo sauce evenly over the shells. Cover and bake for 30-35 minutes or until hot. Uncover and top with remaining 1 cup cheese. Bake for another 5-10 minutes, until cheese is melted. Garnish with sage leaves.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Biscoff Cookie Dough Balls

This is my new addiction.......Biscoff Spread.

Like everyone else familiar with Biscoff, I first had my taste of the Biscoff cookies on a plane ride going somewhere (I don't exactly remember where to). I was probably in my teens then, and I wasn't much of a novice in the kitchen as I am now. So I didn't appreciate those yummy cookies that tasted almost like a ginger snap cookie, but not as heavy on the spices. Until last holiday season when one of my sister-in-laws brought a packet for everyone. Oh, I remember these! was my first thought.

I've recently learned about Biscoff spread when recipes using it have been popping up all over the blogosphere lately. And then this recipe for Biscoff Cookie Dough Balls popped up on my reader from The Novice Chef. Everyone who knows me and those who've been following this blog know how much I looooooove anything that is cookie dough. From Cookie Dough Cupcakes, to Cookie Dough Truffles, if it has anything to do with cookie dough, I'm all over it.

These cookie dough balls were heaven in a small package. Jessica, from the Novice Chef, was so dead-on about these. They are best eaten straight out of the oven, when they are gooey and warm. But if you can't eat them all right away, store them in an air-tight container and pop them in the microwave for 8 seconds to bring them back to their ooey gooey-ness. Perfect with a glass of milk.

6 Tbsp. unsalted butter, softened
1/3 cup Biscoff spread
1/2 cup light brown sugar, packed
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 egg
1 tsp. vanilla extract
2 cups all purpose flour
1/2 tsp. baking powder
3/4 tsp. salt
3/4 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

1) Preheat oven to 350 deg F. Line a large cookie sheet with parchment paper and set aside.

2) In a bowl of stand mixer, cream together butter, Biscoff spread, and sugars until well combined. Add egg and vanilla extract and beat thoroughly until well combined, scraping down the sides of the bowl.

3) In another bowl, whisk together flour, salt and baking powder. Add half of the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients and beat on medium-low speed until it starts to come together. Add the remaining half of the dry ingredients and continue mixing until well combined. Do not over-mix. Just let it all come together but do not beat longer than that. The dough will be dry.

4) Fold in the chocolate chips. Scoop into balls using a 1 1/2" scoop (or guess using your hands). Place them evenly spaced apart on prepared cookie sheet. Bake for 10 minutes. Cool for 2-3 minutes before transferring on a cooling rack. Serve immediately. Store leftover cookies in an air-tight container and microwave for 8 seconds to warm up and re-serve.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Loco Moco

If you're a fan of Hawaiian food, you know all about the Loco Moco. Its a bed of rice, with a hamburger patty, drenched in gravy and then topped with a fried egg. Sounds yummy, huh? And it couldn't be more easy. If you're in Hawaii, however, there are different versions to this beloved plate lunch, where the difference is in the gravy. The gravy isn't merely "just gravy." Local restaurants make their own house-special gravy to make it distinctly "theirs." Take the Loco Moco from Rainbow Drive-In, for example. Their gravy tastes almost like chili. But if you're not Rainbow Drive-in, you settle for the next best thing. Store-bought gravy. Which is what I use. And it comes out perfectly okay. Serve this with a side of Hawaiian Plate Lunch-style Macaroni Salad and you have yourself an authentic Hawaiian plate lunch.

cooked steamed white rice
cooked hamburger patties
your favorite gravy
fried eggs, over-easy

1) To assemble the Loco Moco, scoop desired amount of steamed rice on a plate. Place 1 hamburger patty on top of rice. Ladle a generous amount of your favorite prepared gravy over the hamburger and top with a fried egg. Serve with a side of macaroni salad.