Friday, December 30, 2011

Looking forward to 2012! (And back at 2011)

I will be back to regular posts next year!  Hehe, I mean that I will have a regular post for you on Monday!

Now, let's reflect on 2011.  It was a wonderful year, but it definitely had its highs and lows.  I've continued to learn so much about cooking, to try new foods, and to grow as a blogger.  K&K Test Kitchen is a labour of love and something that I do for myself, but it has made me so happy to see that others are interested in what we do here as well.  Without you, I may have quit long ago, so thank you so much for your support.

In 2012, the blog will continue to change.  Hopefully the biggest change will be an improvement in my photography.  I finally started to focus on learning about my camera, which is about time since I got it in April!  I read "Plate to Pixel" on the plane to Seattle and I'm going to really try to put things into practice.  I will also share what I learn with my mom, K, so she is more confident with her food photography.

There will also be two new types of posts on the blog.  First, N and I have committed to doing a vegetarian meal at least once a week, so I will be participating in "Meatless Monday" (starting Jan. 3!).  Second, since I am learning my way around the kitchen and trying to teach myself, I thought we could learn some new things together.  We'll start with some of the basics, like making homemade stock for soups.  In order to share these lessons, there will be more photos and even some videos!!  I'm so excited to share these things with you!

For me personally, aside from the blog, I'm making a commitment to healthy living.  I was doing pretty well running and staying active in the fall, but I turned into a lazy bones in November and December.  Back in the day, I was a swimmer and it was really easy for me to get my workouts in because "I had to."  Practice everyday, plus scary coaches meant that I never had to think about working out.  Over the years, I haven't quite gotten into my groove in terms of learning how to workout on my own.  So I'm putting this out in the universe - in 2012, I will run a half marathon and do a "try" triathalon.  Do you have any goals for 2012??

Thank you so much for your continued support and have a wonderful new year! XO
Finally, let's look back at the recipes of 2011!

The Far and Away Most Popular Recipe:  Strawberry Lemonade Bar

strawberry lemonade bars recipe

Kelsey's Favorite Recipes
Herbed Turkey Burgers

herbed turkey burgers recipe

Sun-dried Tomato, Corn, and Bacon Pasta

sun-dried tomato, corn, and bacon pasta recipe

And for dessert, Haystacks

peanut butter chocolate cornflake haystacks recipe

(Kim and Nigel will hopefully get back to me with their favorites too!)

Monday, December 26, 2011

White Chocolate Peppermint Bark Cheesecake

white chocolate peppermint bark cheesecake

It has been a really lovely week at home in Seattle.  We spent a lot of time with family, got to see some old friends, and filled ourselves with delicious food.  One event that stood out was the Celebration of Life we held for my Grandpa David.  David was a wonderful, kind, loving, funny, family man.  He passed away December 5th, and he is truly missed.

Grandpa David loved sweets, of all kinds, so we made sure to have lots of sweets at the Celebration.  This White Chocolate Peppermint Bark Cheesecake was my contribution.  It was really good, one of the best cheesecakes that I've ever had.  It was very time consuming to make, but it was worth it.  Since the recipe is fairly involved, you can find it over at Baked By Rachel.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Happy Holidays from K&K

All the best for the holiday season from the K&K Test Kitchen family to yours!  We hope you have a wonderful day tomorrow filled with family, friends, and food!

Friday, December 23, 2011

Spinach Salad with Bosc Pears

Gaye also made us this fantastic salad and I'm so glad that she shared the recipe.  Unfortunately we didn't snap a picture of it, but that just means I will have to make it again soon so I can update the post!


Fantastic salad, that blends sweet and tart.  Great pairing for everything from fish to steaks!

Serves 6

Spinach – 1 plastic tubs worth (8 cups). Remove stems & rinse
Candied pecans
Stilton Cheese – 1 sm package
1 cup thinly sliced red onion
1/2 cup sweetened dried cranberries
8 cups lightly packed fresh baby spinach leaves, stemmed if needed
2 firm but ripe Bosc pears (do not peel), quartered lengthwise, cored, and cut into long, thin slices

1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
2 teaspoons whole-grain mustard
1 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon kosher or sea salt
Freshly ground pepper

To make the dressing, in a small jar with a tight-fitting lid, combine the olive oil, vinegar, mustard, sugar, salt, and pepper to taste. Cover tightly and shake vigorously to blend. Taste and adjust the seasoning. Set aside.

Place the onions in a medium bowl and cover with cold water. Let stand for 30 minutes. This crisps the onion and takes away the raw onion taste. Drain well and pat dry on paper towels.

In a small bowl, toss the cranberries with 2 tablespoons of the dressing to soften them. Set aside for at least 20 minutes or until ready to serve the salad.

To assemble the salad, toss everything with dressing, OR layer in this order:
Cheese on the side
Drizzle with dressing

Flank Steak

flank steak with blue cheese butter recipe

One of the lovely things about coming home for the holidays is that we get to see lots of family and friends from the West Coast.  Last night, our family friends came down to visit and brought all the fixings for a delicious dinner!  Gaye was gracious enough to share the recipe for the amazing flank steak that she made and the delicious salad we had too. - Kels


Fantastic time visiting with K&K (and T&T).   In appreciation, here is my treasured Flank Steak recipe:

Flank Steak:  Score in diamond pattern on both sides, place in lg. zip lock baggie
Italian Dressing:   Dump 1/2 bottle of Italian Dressing in bag with Steak.   Refrigerate overnight!

Mix 1 part blue cheese with 2 parts Butter into spreading consistency

Drain Flank Steak, grill on BBQ.   Immediately spread entire Flank Steak with generous layer of Blue Cheese Butter.   Let sit 3-4 minutes.  Slice thinly on angles.

Serve extra blue cheese butter on the side.  

Even folks that don't think they like Blue Cheese LOVE THIS

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Apricot Tarts

apricot tart recipe with pecans recipe

There is still time to squeeze in some holiday baking! I know, because that is what is on our agenda today.  My mom made these apricot tarts today.  And if you only bake one thing before Christmas, you should make these delicious tarts.  The recipe is from my Great Great Aunt Ted.  Everyone in my family always says these are their favourite treats for the holidays.  They are even delicious when crumbled into a smushed mess, something I learned when I took them while still warm on the train home with me last Christmas.

Apricot Tarts
From Great Great Aunt Ted

Pie Crust
1/2 cup butter and 1/2 Crisco
2-1/4 cup of flour
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 to 1/3 cup of ice cold water

Apricot Jam (we use a half jar of Smucker's Simply Fruit)

1 cup sugar
1 egg, beaten
1 cup pecans, finely chopped

Preheat oven to 375°F. 

Make pie crust by mixing flour and salt, than add butter and Crisco and mix with a pastry blender or two knives until the dough forms into large crumbles.  Add ice water by adding to the outside edge and use a fork to blend.  Do not over work the pastry. Refrigerate until chilled, so it rolls out better.  Roll very thin and cut to fit tart pans. Line the tart pans with dough.

Combine the sugar, beaten egg, and pecans.

Drop 1/2 tsp of apricot jam in the center of each tart. Then top with 1/2 tsp of topping.  Bake in preheated oven at 375°F for 15- 20 minutes or until golden brown.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Nuts and Bolts

nuts and bolts snack mix recipe

Sometimes things happen so that even when I follow a recipe exactly, it just doesn't turn out quite as good as I hope it will.  For this particular recipe, I happened to slosh a tiny bit of sauce out of the saucepan as I was moving it to pour it onto the cereal and cracker mix.  As it turned out, the sauce had separated slightly, so all of the flavour happened to be in that tiny bit that sloshed out.  After the nuts and bolts came out of the oven, and we were less than excited about eating them, Nigel took things into his own hands.   He added soy sauce, Sriracha, and honey to the mix and continued to bake the nuts and bolts for another half an hour.  Nigel claims that he "fixed" the nuts and bolts, and I definitely agree that his version of the nuts and bolts were delicious and addictive!  The recipe below represents the way that you should make nuts and bolts, not the way that I first made them.  I highly recommend making these to have on hand for  guests to snack on in the next week, or stash them somewhere only you know about for your own secret treat.

Nuts and Bolts 

1 box Chex cereal
1 box Cheerios cereal
1 bag pretzel sticks, broken in half
1 bag Goldfish crackers (or other cheese crackers)
1 cup butter
3 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 teaspoon honey
1 teaspoon Sriracha sauce
2 teaspoons celery salt
2 teaspoons garlic powder

Preheat oven to 200°F.  Stir cereal, pretzels, and crackers together in a large bowl.

Melt butter in a small saucepan over medium-low heat. When the butter has melted, stir in Worcestershire, soy sauce, honey, Sriracha, celery salt, and garlic salt. Cook for another minute.

Pour the sauce over the dry ingredients and stir well to coat. Spread the mix into two 9x13 inch pans (or one large roasting pan). Cook the mix for 2 hours at 200°F, stirring every 15-20 minutes.

Note: you can add just about anything you want to this mix, including actual nuts!

Friday, December 16, 2011

Cookies Galore!

My friend Annie hosted the cookie exchange this year.  She was a lovely hostess and made us a delicious lasagna for dinner.  The only bad thing about delicious lasagna is that it doesn't leave much room in your tummy for cookie tasting!  But, somehow we all managed to try the cookies anyways.  With nine different types of cookies to try, we were not only full by the end of the evening, but we were in sugar comas too! (PS love the super cute Rifle Paper Co. holiday postcards I picked up!)

I made my Great-Grandma Rose's Almond Crescents, a cookie that our family has loved for as long as I can remember!  These cookies are delicate and have a subtle nut flavour.

almond crescents cookie recipe

Almond Crescents
From Great-Grandma Rose

1 cup butter
1/2 cup powdered sugar
2 teaspoon vanilla
1-3/4 cup flour
1 cup finely chopped almonds (or pecans)
½ cup granulated sugar

Cream butter, powdered sugar, vanilla, and salt until fluffy.  Stir in flour and almonds. Chill for 30 minutes.

Break off small pieces and roll into finger size logs.  Cut into two inch pieces.  Shape into crescents and place on cookie sheet.  Bake for 18-20 minutes at 300°F until just golden.

When still warm, roll cookies in granulated sugar.

holiday cookies recipe

Chocolate Pretzel Cookies
From Sobeys

1 cup salted butter
¾ cup brown sugar
½ cup sugar
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla
1½ all purpose flour
1 cup medium desiccated unsweetened coconut
½ cup large flake oats (not instant or quick oats)
1 tsp baking soda
Pinch of salt
1 cup mini twist pretzels, broken into large pieces
½ cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
½ cup puffed rice cereal

Preheat oven to 375˚. Using a hand mixer on medium speed or a whisk, cream together butter and sugars until light and fluffy, then add the egg and vanilla.
In a large bowl, combine flour, coconut, oats, baking soda and salt. Add the flour mixture, stirring with a wooden spoon until combined. Blend in pretzels, chocolate and cereal until just combined.
Drop about 30 spoonfuls of cookie dough, roughly 2 in. apart, onto parchment paper-lined baking sheets. Bake in center of oven, 8 mins for chewy cookies or 10 mins for crispy ones. Cool on wire racks. Yields 30 cookies.

Mrs. Field's Applesauce Oaties
From Mrs. Field's

1 3/4 cup Quick oats (not instant)
1 1/2 cup Flour 1 teaspoon Baking powder
1/2 teaspoon Baking Soda
1/2 teaspoon Salt
1 teaspoon Cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon Nutmeg
1 cup Light brown sugar, packed
1/2 cup Sugar
1/2 cup Butter, softened
1 large Egg
3/4 cup Applesauce
1 cup Semisweet chocolate chips
1 cup Raisins (I used a half-cup of raisins, and a half-cup of dried cranberries)
1 cup Chopped walnuts (I omitted this)

Preheat oven to 375 F. In a medium bowl: combine oats, flour, baking powder, soda, salt, cinnamon and nutmeg. Mix well with a wire whisk and set aside.

In a large bowl: combine sugars with an electric mixer at medium speed. Add butter and beat to form a grainy paste. Add egg and applesauce, and blend until smooth. Add the flour mixture, chocolate chips, raisins and walnuts. Blend at low speed just until combined.

Drop dough by tablespoons onto lightly greased baking sheets, 2 inches apart. Bake 12 - 14 minutes or until light brown. Immediately transfer cookies with a spatula to a cool flat surface.

holiday cookies
Best Rolled Sugar Cookies

1 ½ cups butter, softened
2 cups white sugar (I put 3 cups after reading reviews)
4 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
5 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt

In a large bowl, cream together butter and sugar until smooth. Beat in eggs and vanilla. Stir in the flour, baking powder, and salt. Cover, and chill dough for at least one hour (or overnight).

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F (200 degrees C). Roll out dough on floured surface ¼ to ½ inch thick. Cut into shapes with any cookie cutter. Place cookies 1 inch apart on ungreased cookie sheets.

Bake 6 to 8 minutes in preheated oven. Cool completely.  Yields five dozen cookies.

Chewy Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Cookies

1 cup butter, softened
1 cup packed light brown sugar
1/2 cup white sugar
2 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
3 cups quick-cooking oats
1 cup chopped walnuts
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F (165 degrees C).

In a large bowl, cream together the butter, brown sugar, and white sugar until smooth. Beat in eggs one at a time, then stir in vanilla. Combine the flour, baking soda, and salt; stir into the creamed mixture until just blended. Mix in the quick oats, walnuts, and chocolate chips. Drop by heaping spoonfuls onto ungreased baking sheets.

Bake for 12 minutes in the preheated oven. Allow cookies to cool on baking sheet for 5 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.

Chocolate Chip Cookies

1/2 cup margarine
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup flour
1 cup chocolate chips

Heat butter until soft, not melted. Add sugar and brown sugar, and mix.  Add egg and vanilla, and mix. 

In a separate bowl, combine the flour, salt, and baking soda, then add to the rest.  Mix in the chocolate chips.  Then put spoonfuls onto the baking sheet and bake for 8-10 minutes at 350F. Makes 2 dozen.

Peanut Butter Blossoms

48 Milk Chocolates
1/2 cup shortening or butter (butter will require chill time approx 2hrs) (unsalted)
3/4 cup Creamy Peanut Butter
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1/3 cup packed light brown sugar (make sure there are no clumps of brown sugar)
1 egg
2 tablespoons milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt

Heat oven to 375°F. Remove wrappers from chocolates.

Beat shortening and peanut butter in large bowl until well blended. Add 1/3 cup granulated sugar and brown sugar; beat until fluffy. Add egg, milk and vanilla; beat well. Stir together flour, baking soda and salt; gradually beat into peanut butter mixture.

Roll dough into 1-inch balls. Roll in granulated sugar; place on ungreased cookie sheet. NOTE: if the mix is too soft it will be hard to roll the dough into 1-inch ball. Instead, place in the fridge for 1-2 hours to firm up and then roll.

Bake 8 to 10 minutes or until lightly browned. Immediately press a chocolate into center of each cookie; cookie will crack around edges. Remove from cookie sheet to wire rack. Cool completely.

About 4 dozen cookies.

Peanut Butter Mocha Checkerboards
From Better Homes and Gardens

1/2 cup butter, softened
2 tablespoons shortening
2 tablespoons creamy peanut butter
2/3 cup sugar
1 egg
2 tablespoons freshly brewed strong coffee, cooled
1 teaspoon instant espresso coffee powder
1 teaspoon vanilla
¼ teaspoon salt
2 ½ cups all-purpose flour
2 ounces semisweet chocolate, melted and cooled
1 egg white, lightly beaten

In a large bowl combine butter, shortening, and peanut butter. Beat with an electric mixer on medium speed until combined. Add sugar. Beat until mixture is combined, scraping bowl occasionally. Beat in the one egg, the coffee, espresso powder, vanilla, and salt until combined. Gradually beat in as much of the flour as you can with the mixer. Stir in any remaining flour. Divide dough in half. Stir 2 ounces melted chocolate into one dough portion. Cover and chill both dough portions for about 1 hour or until easy to handle.

Place each dough portion between two sheets of waxed paper. Roll each portion into a 5-inch square. Remove top layers of waxed paper. Brush the top of the chocolate dough square with beaten egg white. Carefully invert peanut butter dough square on top of the chocolate dough. Remove waxed paper. Trim edges to make a 4 ½-inch square. Wrap dough in waxed paper or plastic wrap. Cover and freeze for about 1 hour or until dough is easy to handle. Chill remaining egg white.

Cut dough square into six ¾-inch strips. Working carefully but quickly, lay one strip, cut side down, on a work surface and brush with egg white. Top with another strip, cut side down, so opposite colours/flavours meet; transfer the stack to a baking sheet or tray. Repeat with remaining strips to make three stacks total. Cover and freeze stacks on baking sheet for about 30 minutes or until dough is firm enough to slice.

Preheat oven to 350F. Cut each stack crosswise into ¼-inch slices. Place slices 1 inch apart on an ungreased cookie sheet.

Bake for 8 to 10 minutes or until edges are firm and cookies are set. Transfer to a wire rack; cool.

For decoration: In a small saucepan heat and stir 2 ounces of chopped white chocolate (or semisweet chocolate if you prefer) over low heat until melted and smooth. Place melted white chocolate in a resealable plastic bag. Snip a small hole in one corner of the bag. Squeeze the bag to pipe bows or desired designs on cookie tops. Let stand until white chocolate sets.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Green Bean and Feta Salad

green bean feta and bacon salad recipe

We interrupt this parade of cookies for something "green."  I can't quite claim that it is healthy, but at least it contains some vegetables.  There is a funny story, perhaps legend, that my mom once asked my aunt to make sure that I ate something "green" every day while I stayed with her.  When my parents came back, she asked if I had in fact eaten something green every day.  My aunt replied that "yes, she ate lime popsicles."  Now, I'm not sure how true that story is, but let's all try to eat something "green" every day this holiday season, and no, green candy canes don't count.

This green bean salad will definitely be on the menu for our family Christmas.  It is a family favourite that has been on holiday menus every year since my sister started making it about six years ago.  It is best to make it a few hours ahead to allow the flavours to mingle together.  Your guests will love this addition to the meal!

Also, K&K Test Kitchen was featured on Club Monaco's Culture Club Blog yesterday!! Thank you to my friend Becky for passing the blog along to them.

Green Bean and Feta Salad
(Maybe from The Junior Club of Seattle? or from Taryn)

1-1/2 pounds green beans
1/2 cup red onion, chopped*
1/2 cup crumbled feta
1/2 cup walnuts
4 strips of bacon, cooked and crumbled

1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1/2 teaspoon dried basil
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1/3 cup of extra-virgin olive oil

Put beans in boiling water for five minutes.  Drain and plunge beans into ice water to cool.  When cooled, combine with remaining salad ingredients.

Combine all the vinaigrette ingredients together and whisk in the olive oil.  Pour onto salad and mix well.  Place in refrigerator to allow flavours to blend.

*Note: I like to soak the chopped red onions in warm water for a few minutes before adding them to the salad.  The warm water makes the flavour a little bit more mild, so that it doesn't overwhelm the other flavours of the salad.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Great Food Blogger Cookie Swap: Haystack Cookies

peanut butter butterscotch chocolate cookies with cornflakes recipe

I'm so excited to finally share the cookies that I made for the Great Food Blogger Cookie Swap!

These cookies are based off of one of my favourite treats, Haystacks.  Unfortunately, haystacks aren't the most practical thing to send in the mail.  So I took all the elements of haystacks - peanut butter, butterscotch, chocolate, and cornflakes - and turned them into a cookie.  I did a lot of research, since I haven't done very much recipe development for baking.  Baking is a science, and I wanted to make sure I got things right.  I learned that butter is extremely important from the New York Times, and I learned that the butter is creamed for 10 minutes for the famous Milk Bar compost cookies.  I have also heard that peanut butter cookies are best when the peanut butter is melted first.  My goal was to have a crunchy, chocolate-y cookie with hints of peanut butter and butterscotch.  I was really happy with the result!  These cookies are delicious and I really hope that the recipients of my cookies liked them too (Hi Sweet Twist of Blogging, Cravings of a Lunatic, and the Bold Baker! Go visit them for awesome recipes.)

A huge thank you to Christina of Mis-Cakes Oven Adventures for the Malted Milk Chocolate Thumbprint Cookies, Jill of Miss Delish for the Red Velvet and Peppermint Whoopie Pies, and Shannon of Red Deer Foodie for the Ginger Molasses Cookies!  These ladies can bake!

Another huge thank you to Lindsay and Julie for organizing the Great Food Blogger Cookie Swap!  It was so fun receiving cookies in the mail and learning about awesome new blogs in the process. If you are a food blogger and you missed the swap or want more information, you can sign-up here to receive a notification about the swap next year.  Make sure you visit the main page to see what everyone else made for the Great Food Blogger Cookie Swap too!

Haystack Cookies

3/4 cup butter, divided into 1/4 cup and 1/2 cup
1/2 cup natural peanut butter
1/2 cup butterscotch chips
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 cup white sugar
2 eggs, at room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 cups crushed cornflakes (start with 4 cups whole flakes, when crushed they become 2 cups)
1-1/2 cup flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1-1/2 cups chocolate chips
1/2 cup butterscotch chips

Melt one-quarter cup butter, half cup of peanut butter, and half cup of butterscotch chips together in small saucepan over low heat.  Stir constantly until butter and chips are melted thoroughly.

Let the mixture cool.

Cream together half cup of butter and the sugars until just combined.  Then add the eggs and vanilla together for about five minutes with the mixer on medium.

The creamed mixture should double in size and become pale in color.

Blend the cooled peanut butter-butterscotch mixture into the creamed butter and sugar, just until it is all combined.

Crush the cornflakes and mix them with the flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt.

Gradually add the dry ingredients to the bowl of wet ingredients, blending in batches until all of the dry mix is combined.  Be careful not to over mix.  Stir in chocolate chips and remaining half cup of butterscotch chips.

Chill the batter for 24 hours.  After chilling, preheat the oven to 375°F.  Scoop the dough in rounded tablespoons and place two inches apart on a cookie sheet.  Bake the cookies for 10-12 minutes.  Remove from the oven and cool on a wire rack.

Makes three dozen cookies.

You can print this recipe by clicking the "Print Friendly" button below.  Just click on all the pictures to delete them and make the recipe easier to read.  Thanks!  Happy Baking!

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Jam Thumbprint Cookies

jam thumbprint cookies recipe

Holiday baking is dangerous.  I said it. D-a-n-g-e-r-o-u-s.  I think my sweet tooth is going into overload and I'm afraid that I will start having sugar withdrawals after Christmas.  And it's only just starting.  So far, I've made cookies and received two kinds of cookies for the Great Food Blogger Cookie Swap, but you'll have to wait until Monday for the recipe.  These Martha Stewart Jam Thumbprint cookies should hold you over until then.  The great thing about thumbprint cookies is that you can fill the thumbprint with whatever you want - jam, chocolate, caramel, crushed candy canes, anything!  I used the new President's Choice black label raspberry jam and it was delicious.  Luckily I took the cookies to work, otherwise I would have eaten them all myself!

The dough for these cookies was a little bit crumbly, but we were able to make it work.  It may have had something to do with my sad attempt to use a hand mixer with my broken finger (these days I'm really wishing for a stand mixer).  But, I think that it was probably that I added too much flour, which has made me start to think about getting a kitchen scale to measure baking ingredients more accurately.  A recent article on scales from the Globe & Mail has essentially sealed the deal for me.  Do you have a kitchen scale?  Has your baking improved?

Jam Thumbprint Cookies
From Martha Stewart

1-1/2 cups unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup finely granulated sugar
1 large egg
3-1/4 cups all-purpose flour (spooned and leveled)
3/4 cup raspberry jam (or any flavour)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a large bowl, using an electric mixer, beat butter and sugar until smooth. Add egg, and beat until completely combined. With mixer on low, add flour, and mix just until incorporated.

Shape dough into 1-inch balls (about 2 tablespoons each). Place on baking sheets, at least 3 inches apart.

Moisten thumb with water, and gently press the center of each ball, making an indentation about 1/2 inch wide and inch deep. In microwave or on stove, heat jam until liquefied; spoon about 1/2 teaspoon into each indentation. Bake until cookies are golden brown around edges, 18 to 20 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack, and let cool completely. If storing, place in an airtight container at room temperature, up to 2 days.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Vegetarian Chili and Jalapeno Cheddar Cornbread

After a weekend in Toronto, with stops for fast food on both the drive there and the drive home, we were feeling like we needed something a bit healthier to kick off the week.  Since we had such a busy weekend and upcoming week, we also wanted to ensure that we made a meal that did double duty for dinner and work lunches.  N suggested chili, so we settled on making a vegetarian version.  This chili is hearty, spicy, slightly sweet, and chock full of vegetables.  And all you need to do is tell the man in your life that this chili has beer in it and he won't worry at all that its vegetarian.  To round out the meal, I made some super easy cornbread.  Starting from a mix, I added in jalapenos and cheddar cheese, which took it to the next level in terms of flavour!

Vegetarian Chili

2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 onion
2 cloves of garlic, minced
3 carrots, diced
1 zucchini, diced
1 red bell pepper, diced
1 cup frozen or fresh corn kernels
2 tablespoons chili powder
1 teaspoon cumin
Salt and pepper
1 cup amber ale
2 cups vegetable broth
1-28 oz can diced, low-sodium tomatoes
1-14 oz can diced tomatoes
1-14 oz can kidney beans, drained
1-14 oz can black beans, drained
1 cup barley
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1/4 cup diced pickled jalapenos

Heat vegetable oil in a large stock pot.  Add the carrots to the pot and cook for two to three minutes.  Add the onions and stir until they start to soften.  Next, toss the zucchini, garlic, and peppers in to the pot.  Stir for three minutes, add the spices, and cook another minute.   Pour the beer into the pot and let it come to a simmer.  Add the tomatoes, beans, and broth.  Let it come to a boil (10 minutes) and then add the barley.  The barley should cook for 35 minutes.  Close to the end of cooking time, stir in the brown sugar and jalapenos.

Jalapeno Cheddar Cornbread (the easy way)

1 package Bob's Red Mill Gluten-Free Cornbread Mix
1-1/2 cup skim milk
2 eggs
1 tablespoon white vinegar
1/2 cup cheddar cheese
1/4 cup diced pickled jalapenos

Preheat the oven to 375°F.  Whisk together the milk, eggs, and vinegar.  Add to the cornbread mix and blend with a hand mixer until just combined.  Stir in cheddar cheese and jalapenos. Bake for 25 minutes at 375°F.

Test: Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookie Muffins

oatmeal chocolate chip muffin recipe

My finger is stilllll broken, so here is a quick photo and a link to a tasty recipe!  I always like to have snacks to take with me in the car or on the plane while travelling.  During the chaotic holiday season, it is a great idea to have something on hand when hunger hits.  These Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookie Muffins are a great option.  They are a little sweet and definitely satisfying (though they may not be the healthiest choice).  The recipe is from the lovely, talented How Sweet It Is, so head on over and check it out!

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Tart Cranberry Doughnut Glaze

As my mom mentioned, I broke my finger this week playing floor hockey.  Of course it is my index finger on my dominant hand, the finger that I apparently use for everything!  I've discovered that it is very difficult to chop vegetables, stir things, and even eat with this broken finger.  It also happens to be the finger I use to press the shutter button on my camera.  So cooking, taking pictures, and typing have become very difficult.  Please forgive me if the blog is sparse for the next few weeks!  Hopefully Kim will come up with some more treats for us!

In the meantime, here is a delicious donut glaze from Top Pot Doughnuts.  The recipe was in the December issue of Food & Wine magazine, and I was so happy to see it there.  Top Pot is a doughnut shop that my family in the Bellevue/Seattle area has been raving about for ages.  They are known for amazing donuts and unique flavour combinations.  I've never been there myself, but definitely plan to make a visit there when I go to Seattle for Christmas... especially after trying out their recipe for Cranberry Glaze.  Now, this is only a recipe for glaze because I used a baked doughnut recipe and the doughnut itself wasn't very good.  The cranberry glaze definitely saved the doughnut and meant that we still managed to eat them all! (It also might be delicious on some cookies for the holidays.)

Tart Cranberry Glaze
From Top Pot Doughnuts via Food & Wine , December 2011

1 cup fresh or frozen cranberries
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1/4 cup water
3-1/2 cups confectioners' sugar
1-1/2 teaspoons light corn syrup
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon salt

Simmer the cranberries, granulated sugar, and water in a small saucepan.  Crush the berries as they simmer, until they become jammy, about 8 minutes.  Let cool slightly.

Transfer the cranberries to a bowl and add the confectioners' sugar, corn syrup, vanilla, and salt. Blend together with a hand mixer until smooth.  Use the glaze immediately.  Dip doughnuts in the glaze when they are still warm.  Allow the glaze to set slightly, then dip the doughnuts a second time.  You can also cover the glaze with plastic and refrigerate for a week.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Healthy, Comforting Soups: Spinach, Pasta, and Pea Soup and Giada De Laurentiis' Winter Minestrone

I got an emergency call from Kelsey last night that I was needed to take over writing the blog entry for today. She had broken her finger playing ball hockey and was out of commission. The only new things I had tried lately were two hearty, healthy, and comforting soups for these cold winter nights. The first one I made was a Spinach, Pasta and Pea Soup from the October issue of Cooking Light. The bonus with this soup is that it takes only 20 minutes to cook and can be ready in a flash for this crazy holiday season. We enjoyed this soup, but it was could have used something to perk it up a bit. I felt good eating it as I know that it was a healthy choice for dinner. The second soup I made was to use up the great produce that I had gotten at the farmer's market. I decide to make it into a minestrone and used Giada De Laurentiis' recipe for Winter Minestrone as the base for it.  My favorite soup is minestrone and this recipe did not disappoint. If I was living in the city of Ottawa with Kelsey, I would make her a pot of one of these soups to bring her comfort as she nurses her broken finger!

Spinach, Pasta, and Pea Soup
From Cooking Light, October 2011
fserves 4

1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
3 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
4 cups fat-free, lower-sodium chicken broth
2 cups water
3/4 cup uncooked orzo
1 tablespoon grated lemon rind
1 (15-ounce) can chickpeas, drained
1 (15-ounce) white beans, drained (my addition to the recipe)
1 tablespoon fresh oregano
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 (6 ounce) package fresh baby spinach
1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Heat a large saucepan over high heat. Add olive oil to pan, swirl to coat. Add garlic and onions; sauté 30 seconds, stirring constantly. Add chicken broth and 2 cups water; bring to a boil. Add orzo, lemon rind, chickpeas and white beans. Cover and cook 10 minutes or until orzo is done. Stir in oregano, lemon juice, pepper, salt and spinach. ( I cooked it about 5 minutes to wilt spinach). Ladle into soup bowl and top with parmesan cheese.

Winter Minestrone
Recipe courtesy Giada De Laurentiis
Show: Giada at HomeEpisode: Giada's Family Christmas

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 onion, chopped
2 carrots, peeled and chopped
2 celery stalks, chopped
3 ounces thinly sliced pancetta, coarsely chopped
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 pound Swiss chard, stems trimmed, leaves coarsely chopped
1 cup cauliflower and broccoli, cut in small piesces
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 (14 1/2-ounce) can diced tomatoes in juice
2 fresh rosemary sprigs
1 (15-ounce) can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed, divided
2 (14-ounce) cans low-sodium beef broth, divided
1 (1-ounce) Parmesan rind
1/4 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
In a large, heavy stockpot or Dutch oven, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the onion, carrots, celery, pancetta, broccoli, cauliflower and garlic. Cook, stirring frequently, until the onion is translucent, about 10 minutes. Add the Swiss chard. Season with salt and pepper and cook for 2 minutes. Stir in the tomatoes and rosemary sprigs. Bring the mixture to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer until the chard is wilted and the tomatoes are very soft, about 10 minutes.

In a food processor or blender, combine 3/4 of the beans with 1/2 cup of broth. Blend until almost smooth. Add the pureed bean mixture, remaining broth, and Parmesan rind to the vegetable mixture. Simmer, stirring occasionally, until the vegetable pieces are tender, about 15 minutes. Stir in the remaining beans and the parsley. Simmer until the beans are heated through and the soup is thick, about 2 minutes. Discard the rosemary stems (the leaves will have fallen off) and season with salt and pepper, to taste. Ladle the soup into bowls and serve.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Herbed Turkey Burgers with Curried Sweet Potatoes

herbed turkey burgers recipe and curry sweet potatoes recipe

For the second year in a row, I did not celebrate American Thanksgiving.  While I did get to celebrate Canadian Thanksgiving this year, it just wasn't quite the same.  So to take my mind off of missing my family, I cooked and I baked a lot this week.  And, most of what I made reflected elements of Thanksgiving dinner.  For example, I made the most delicious turkey burgers in the world - piled high with goat cheese, arugula, grainy mustard, and of course, cranberry sauce.  The burgers were juicy and moist, with all the flavours you'd expect to find at the Thanksgiving table, like fresh sage and rosemary.  I added a tiny bit of spice with some jalapeno peppers and switched out the suggested spinach topping with arugula for a peppery kick.  I also took one of these burgers for lunch at work, and three people stopped by my cubicle to ask if that was my lunch that smelled so good.  Yes, it was!  I could imagine these burgers at a Thanksgiving BBQ in lieu of an actual turkey, they are just that delicious!

P.S. I can't say enough how much I love Pinterest!  It helps me find lots of pretty things and recipes from awesome blogs (like Hungry Girl Por Vida).

P.P.S. You also may have noticed a new badge on the sidebar of the blog.  K&K Test Kitchen is an official member of Food Bloggers of Canada, a new community dedicated to the amazing, talented food bloggers of the Great White North. 

Herbed Turkey Burgers
Slightly adapted from Hungry Girl Por Vida

1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 medium onion, diced
1-2 cloves garlic, minced
1 jalapeno, diced and de-seeded
1 tablespoon fresh sage, chopped
2 teaspoons fresh rosemary, minced
1 pound lean, ground turkey
1 egg
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce 
2 tablespoons greek yogurt
3 tablespoons panko breadcrumbs (add more if necessary)
salt and pepper to taste
goat cheese, grainy mustard, cranberry sauce, and arugula to serve
multi-grain buns

In a medium saucepan, over medium heat, sauté onions, garlic, and jalapeno in olive oil. Once onions become translucent, add sage and rosemary and saute another minute. Do not brown or the garlic may burn. Set aside to cool.

In a large mixing bowl combine ground turkey, egg, yogurt, Worcestershire sauce, breadcrumbs, and cooled onion/herb mixture. Mix gently to combine. Divide meat into 4 sections and shape into patties (about 1/4-1/2 inch thick), making a shallow well in the center. Refrigerate patties for 20 minutes to firm up.

Heat a heavy skillet or grill pan over medium-high heat. Sprinkle patties liberally with salt and pepper, cook, flipping only once, for about 4 minutes on each side. Top with goat cheese, add a splash of water to the pan and cover until liquid evaporates. This will soften the cheese, but not melt it since goat cheese doesn’t really melt. Place burgers on toasted buns with grainy mustard and arugula, top with cranberry sauce.

Curried Sweet Potato Rounds

2 medium-large sweet potatoes, cut into rounds
1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
1 tablespoon curry powder
1 teaspoon chili powder
2 tablespoons olive oil

Pre-heat the oven to 425°F.

Place the sweet potato rounds in a large bowl.  Pour white wine vinegar over the sweet potatoes, to wet them so that the spices stick.  Toss the sweet potatoes with curry powder and chili powder, until well coated.  Finally, add the olive oil and mix well (to seal in the spice). 

Bake at 425°F for 30-45 minutes, depending on the thickness of the rounds.  Potatoes will be done when browned and crispy.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Prosciutto-Wrapped Pork Loin with Roasted Apples

I recently got to spend a week in Ottawa and Montreal visiting my two daughters, Kelsey and Taryn. It was definitely a dream trip for a mother as the three of us had lots of girl time to visit and catch up. The last day of my visit I decided to make dinner for Kelsey, as she had to work. She had a recent copy of Bon Appetit magazine with a yummy looking pork loin on the cover, so I thought it would be the prefect recipe to test out for K&K. After meeting Kelsey for a quick lunch, I headed to Byward Market in Ottawa to pick up a the necessary ingredients, and I was rewarded with some great prices and organic, local products. The actual recipe is very easy to follow and easy to make.  Kelsey's tiny kitchen proved to be the only challenge, but the final result was great. I really enjoyed the stuffing of kale, mushrooms, and apples. It was a wonderful combinations of flavors. This stuffed pork loin was delicious and elegant enough for serving to guests during the holiday season.

Prosciutto-Wrapped Pork Tenderloin with Roasted Apples
From Bon Appetit, October 2011

1 ounce (1 cup) dried whole porcini mushrooms
1 cup diced apple
1 pound kale, bottom stems trimmed
2 teaspoons kosher salt plus more
2 tablespoons (1/4 stick) unsalted butter
1 cup minced onion
1 tablespoon finely minced garlic
1 1/2 teaspoons dried thyme
1 1/2 teaspoons dried rosemary
2 tablespoons brandy or Calvados
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1 (trimmed) 2 1/2–3-lb. pork loin
1 teaspoon kosher salt plus more for seasoning
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper plus more for seasoning
3 ounces thinly sliced prosciutto
5 sprigs rosemary
4 medium apples (such as Granny Smith or Fuji), quartered, or 8 small apples, halved
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 cup dry hard cider
1/2 cup low-salt chicken stock

Place dried mushrooms in a small bowl. Add 1 cup boiling water to the mushrooms. Let mushrooms soak until very soft, about 30 minutes. Strain mushrooms. Cover and chill soaking liquid (about 3/4 cup). Finely chop mushrooms and apples, combine in a small bowl, and set mushroom and apple mixture aside.

Meanwhile, blanch kale in boiling salted water just until wilted, about 1 minute. Using tongs, transfer kale to a rimmed baking sheet. Refrigerate until cool. Remove any large, tough ribs.

Melt butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add onion; cook, stirring often, until soft and lightly golden, about 8 minutes. Add mushrooms and apples; cook, stirring occasionally, until flavors meld, about 5 minutes. Stir in garlic, thyme, and rosemary; cook for 1 minute. Add brandy and cook until liquid is absorbed, about 1 minute. Stir in 2 tsp. salt and 1/2 tsp. pepper. Transfer mixture to a bowl and let cool completely.

To butterfly, put pork loin on a work surface with short end facing you. Holding a long, thin sharp knife parallel to work surface and beginning along one long side, cut 1/2" above underside of roast. Continue slicing inward, pulling back the meat with your free hand and unrolling the roast like a carpet, until the entire loin is flat. Cover with a sheet of plastic wrap. Using a meat mallet, pound to an even thickness.
Uncover pork. Season with 1 tsp. salt and 1/2 tsp. pepper. Place kale leaves on top of loin in an even layer, overlapping as needed and leaving a 1" border. Spread filling on top of kale. Roll pork into a tight cylinder. Wrap one layer of prosciutto around roast. Tie roast securely with kitchen twine in 1" intervals. Tuck rosemary sprigs under twine, spacing apart. DO AHEAD: Pork roast can be made 1 day ahead. Cover and chill. Let stand at room temperature for 1 hour before continuing.

Preheat oven to 400°. Place apples in a roasting pan. Melt 1 Tbsp. butter with oil in a large skillet. Brown pork on all sides, about 5 minutes total, then set on top of apples in pan. Add cider and 1/2 cup water to skillet and bring to a boil, scraping up browned bits. Pour mixture into roasting pan. Roast pork until an instant-read thermometer inserted into center of loin registers 140° (it will be cooked medium but still slightly pink), about 1 hour to 1 hour and 15 minutes. Let roast rest for at least 20 minutes and up to 2 hours.

Put roast on a platter. Reserve apples from roasting pan; spoon off fat from juices in pan. Place pan on top of stove over medium-high heat. Add chicken stock. Pour in reserved mushroom liquid, leaving any sediment behind, and cook, scraping bottom of pan to release any browned bits, until slightly thickened, about 5 minutes. Whisk in remaining 2 Tbsp. butter and season to taste with salt and pepper. Strain sauce; slice pork. Serve sauce and apples alongside sliced pork.

Boston: Sweet Cheeks 'Q

The email from Tasting Table came at the perfect time.  Just a few days before my trip to Boston, and Tasting Table was highlighting new, notable Boston restaurants.  A friend had mentioned it and I was glad she did, because I might have left the email unopened for a few days and missed out on eating some of the best BBQ of my life.  That BBQ was from Sweet Cheeks Q, which happens to be a 4-minute walk from my friend's apartment in Boston.  The mention of Sweet Cheeks in the Tasting Table article and a quick visit to the website sold me on going there to eat during my trip, and I am so glad that I got the chance to do so!  The pulled pork that I had was so tasty that I ate half of it without even putting any of the house BBQ, house hot sauce, or house Carolina vinegar on it.  Then of course, I proceeded to try each of the sauces.  All delicious!  My favourite part of the meal though was the black eyed peas.  Now, I normally associate black eyed peas with the torture of having to eat a few bites on New Year's Day as part of our family tradition.  I always gagged down a few bites to make sure I wasn't the only one missing out on "health, wealth, and happiness" in our family and I even tried to make my own last year.  But the black eyed peas at Sweet Cheeks were out of this world delicious!  (I am ready to call up Guy Fieri and request that Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives goes to Sweet Cheeks so that he can get the recipe out of Tiffani Faison and her team.)  Sweet Cheeks also has a fantastic American beer menu.  It all made for a memorable meal!

Pictures from top left: My pulled pork platter at Sweet Cheeks, the Back Bay Fens, Lagunitas Czech Style Pils and a Ball jar, and Fenway Park

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Brussels Sprouts Salad with Walnut Vinaigrette

brussels sprouts salad with walnut vinaigrette recipe

My mom, K, came to visit me this past weekend and we also got to visit my sister in Montreal!  It was a really lovely visit, but it definitely makes me wish my parents still lived close to me!  On the last night of her visit she made me and N a fabulous dinner.  She had picked up a copy of Bon Appetit that was laying around my apartment and decided to make one of the menus in the magazine.  It was a lot of work, and we definitely appreciated the amazing meal that she made.  She had planned to make the Brussels sprouts salad, but the pork loin and perfectly cute potato dish took over the kitchen.  So, I made the Brussels sprouts salad the next day.  My mom is definitely going to wish she was around still when we made it.  This salad is completely, deliciously addictive.  I was practically (okay, literally) shoveling it in my mouth both at dinner and when I took it to lunch for leftovers.  The apples that I added gave it the perfect amount of sweetness.  N said that this had to become a "go-to" in our kitchen, and I completely agree.

Brussels Sprouts Salad with Walnut Vinaigrette
Adapted from Bon Appetit

3 3/4 cups brussels sprouts
2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1/2 cup walnut halves, divided
2 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 clove garlic, minced
1/4 red onion, minced
3 tablespoons plus 2 tsp. white wine vinegar
1 1/4 teaspoons Dijon mustard
Pinch sugar
Freshly ground black pepper
1/2 medium head of radicchio (about 5 oz.), cored and thinly sliced
1 Honeycrisp apple, diced
Parmesan (for shaving)

Slice the Brussels sprouts into discs.  Heat a tablespoon of olive oil in a pan and add the Brussels sprouts when the pan is hot.  Season with salt and pepper, and sauté the Brussels sprouts for about 5 minutes.  Remove the Brussels sprouts and let them cool.

Crush 2 1/2 Tbsp. walnuts with a rolling pin or the side of a knife; set aside. Melt butter with 1 Tbsp. oil in a small saucepan over low heat. Add shallot and crushed walnuts; cook, stirring frequently, until shallot softens, about 2 minutes. Whisk in vinegar, mustard, and sugar.  Remove vinaigrette from heat; season to taste with salt and pepper.

Place brussels sprouts, radicchio, and apple in a large bowl.  Pour walnut vinaigrette over brussels sprouts mixture and toss to coat well.  Transfer to a serving dish. Using a vegetable peeler, shave cheese over. Sprinkle with remaining walnuts.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Test: Funfetti Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting

Birthdays, no matter what age, should be celebrated with sprinkles.  Am I right??  A friend recently celebrated her 30th birthday.  I wanted to bring something fun to the party, and despite the fact that funfetti cupcakes are usually associated with childrens' birthday parties, I thought they would be perfect.  These funfetti cupcakes from Simply Scratch are especially delicious and if the rest of the "adults" at the party enjoyed them as much as I did, then they were a success.  You only have to be a kid at heart to enjoy these colourful and tasty treats!

Funfetti Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting
From Simply Scratch

4 whole Egg Whites
1 cup Whole Milk
2 teaspoons Real Vanilla Extract
3 cups Cake Flour, sifted
1 1/2 cups Sugar, sifted
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon Baking Powder
1/4 teaspoon Kosher Salt
1 1/2 sticks of Unsalted Butter, softened
1/2 cup Sprinkles, plus more for garnish

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and line a cupcake pan with paper liners.

Combine the egg whites, vanilla whole milk. Whisk together and set aside.

Sift the dry ingredients into a large mixing bowl.  Blend the dry ingredients with the butter and half of the milk and egg mixture.  Scrape the sides and bottom of the mixing bowl, and then slowly add the remaining mixture and stop mixing once combined.  Fold in sprinkles.

Fill paper liners half way with batter. Bake in preheated oven for 17-20 minutes. Watch carefully so you don’t over bake.  Cupcakes will spring back when pressed with a fingertip if they are done.

Allow the cupcakes to cool completely, then frost with the prepared cream cheese frosting and sprinkle with remaining sprinkles.

Cream Cheese Frosting

1 package (8 oz.) cream cheese, softened
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter, softened
1 teaspoon of cvanilla extract
1 package (16 oz.) powdered sugar (about 4 cups), sifted

Beat the cream cheese, butter and vanilla in large bowl with electric mixer on medium speed until well blended.  Add the sifted sugar gradually, beating until well blended after each addition.

Sunday, November 13, 2011


Our weekend in Montreal in pictures:  Atwater Market, Montreal Bagels, and Lemon Roasted Chicken

Don't forget to check out the Thanksgiving recipes!  We are getting closer!

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Light Maple Pumpkin Pie

Light Maple Pumpkin Pie Recipe

I'm pretty loyal to apple pie and I believe that no Thanksgiving (or Christmas) is complete without an apple pie.  But, I realize that other people feel the same way about pumpkin pie.  You may think that I am a crazy lady, but pumpkin pie was another thing that I had never actually tried until this year.  Texture is my food weakness and I always thought the texture of pumpkin pie *looked* weird.  Of course I never even bothered trying it.  It really wasn't fair of me to discriminate against pumpkin pie just because of its looks.  That is wrong in all aspects of life.  Judging based on appearances made me miss out on a quite scrumptious experience.  Now, I advocate for giving every pie a chance.  Sneak a bite from someone else's plate if you have to.  So, now that I've had pumpkin pie, I like it and I will eat it again.  I will still prefer apple, but that is just me.

This particular pumpkin pie is a bit "lightened" up.  The filling is adapted from a Cooking Light recipe, with a substitution of maple syrup for some of the sugar to give it a bit deeper flavour.  (Besides, on my Canadian Thanksgiving, I couldn't resist adding maple to dishes whenever possible - see cranberry sauce). The filling uses fresh roasted pumpkin purée, but you could easily use canned pumpkin.  I roasted 2 small "pie" pumpkins and I ended up with about 5 cups of pumpkin purée.  Feel free to freeze the extra purée or keep it in the fridge for up to 2 days.

If you aren't into pumpkin pie or apple pie, here are a few other desserts to make your Thanksgiving very special:
Brown Eyed Baker: Cranberry Upside Down Cake
My Life as a Mrs: Pumpkin Cheesecake
The Baker Chick: Pumpkin Caramel Layer Cake
Eat Live Run: Maple Pecan Pie Bites

Basic Pie Crust

2-1/4 cups all purpose flour
1/2 cup cold butter
1/2 cup shortening
1/4-1/3 cup ice cold water

Put the flour, butter, and shortening into the bowl of a large food processor and pulse until it starts to form pea sized clumps. Slowly add the ice cold water until the dough starts to form a ball.  Do this slowly, so that you aren't processing the dough for too long.  Add more water if dough crumbles easily.

Remove the dough from the food processor and divide it into two balls.  Wrap the dough in parchment paper and chill the dough for at least an hour.  Dough can be frozen and used later.

Fresh Pumpkin Purée

2 small pie or sugar pumpkins
2 tablespoons vegetable oil

Preheat the oven to 400°F.

Cut the pumpkins in half and remove the seeds.  Brush the cut side with vegetable oil.  Place cut side down on a baking sheet.  Bake the pumpkins for 45 minutes.

Allow the pumpkins to cool, then scoop out the inside of the pumpkins.  Place in a food processor and blend until completely puréed.

Light Maple Pumpkin Pie Recipe

Light Maple Pumpkin Pie
Adapted from The Complete Cooking Light Cookbook

1/2 of a basic pie crust recipe
2 cups fresh pumpkin purée
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/3 cup maple syrup
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
2 large egg whites, lightly beaten
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1 (12-oz) can evaporated fat-free milk

Preheat oven to 325°F.

Press the crust into the pie pan.  Place some pie weights in the bottom.  Bake the crust for 5-10 minutes.  Remove from the oven and remove the pie weights.

For the filling, combine pumpkin and remaining ingredients in a bowl.  Pour into the prepared crust and bake for 1 hour at 325°F or until a knife comes out clean.  Cool on a wire rack.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Bourbon Sweet Potato Casserole

We are getting close to the end of Thanksgiving week.  I know that I tend to prefer a very traditional Thanksgiving and I think my family is the same way, so we have essentially had the same dishes for Thanksgiving for as long as I can remember.  That is generally because those dishes are all delicious.  I know that I won't be able to convince many of you to try these recipes for your Thanksgiving meal, but I also know that there are a lot of first timers out there and lot of people who break tradition on purpose.

This Bourbon Sweet Potato Casserole definitely breaks with tradition for me.  My favourite way to eat sweet potatoes is generally smothered with brown sugar, more brown sugar, and marshmallows.  More like dessert than anything else.  However, sometimes you need an excuse to swig back some bourbon as you prepare your Thanksgiving meal... you know, stress and crazy relatives and that sort of thing.  Here, we let you put that bourbon right into the meal and boy does it really kick these sweet potatoes up a notch.  N thought this qualified as a dessert, but for someone like me and my love of marshmallow smothered sweet potatoes, it definitely fell into side dish category.  Again, these can be made ahead of time, just wait to put the topping on until you are ready to bake them the second time.

Bourbon Sweet Potato Casserole

3 large sweet potatoes
1/2 cup 2% milk
3 tablespoons Kentucky Bourbon
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
4 tablespoon butter
1/4 cup chopped pecans

1/4 cup chopped pecans
1/4 cup flour
2 tablespoons brown sugar
2 tablespoons melted butter

Bake sweet potatoes at 350°F for one hour.  They should pierce easily with a fork after an hour.

Remove the sweet potatoes from the oven and let them cool slightly.  After they are cool enough to handle, cut them in half and peel them.  Place the sweet potatoes in a large mixing bowl.

Mash the sweet potatoes slightly, then add the remaining ingredients and blend together with a mixer.  Spread the mashed sweet potatoes into a buttered casserole dish.

Stir together the pecans, flour, and brown sugar for the topping.  Melt two tablespoons of butter and pour it over the topping mixture, stirring until well combined.  Spread the topping mixture over the sweet potatoes.

Bake the sweet potatoes for 40 minutes at 350°F.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Turkey Sausage, Apple, and Cranberry Stuffing

turkey sausage, apple, and cranberry stuffing recipe

Before this Thanksgiving, I had never actually eaten stuffing.  It kind of weirded me out and to me it just looked gross.  Not to mention that I knew it had tons of onions in it.  But, thanks to this blog, I've become a much more adventurous eater and I even eat things that have onions in them now.  So, this Thanksgiving, I finally tried stuffing.  N's mom was able to join us for Thanksgiving dinner, and she was kind enough to make stuffing.  Having guests bring side dishes or desserts is a great way to lessen the load, spare some oven space, and save you some stress.  But you probably already knew that.

In order to round out the Thanksgiving recipe round-up, I decided to make my own stuffing and a sweet potato casserole.  I liked the stuffing N's mom made enough that I was okay with having stuffing again, but the stuffing recipe here has definitely converted me into a stuffing eater, and I am never looking back.  It is slightly sweet and has great flavours.  It's also on the "lighter" side of stuffing recipes, using whole grain bread, turkey sausage and mostly vegetables.  It was easy to prepare and could definitely be made in advance.

Turkey Sausage, Apple, and Cranberry Stuffing

1 loaf Harvest Grain Bread
3 links turkey sausage
2 tablespoons olive oil
4 stalks celery (try to include one with leaves)
1 tablespoon poultry seasoning
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 onions
1 apple (I used Honeycrisp)
1/2 cup dried cranberries
1/2 cup low-sodium chicken broth

Cut the bread into cubes.  Try to remove most of the crust.  Toast the bread cubes for 15 minutes at 350°F, flipping them once.  Put the bread into a large bowl.

While you are toasting the bread, cook the sausage.  Heat a medium skillet over medium-high heat.  When the skillet is hot, add the sausage.  Cook it, breaking it into small pieces, until it is cooked through.  Add the sausage to the bread cubes.

Add two tablespoons of olive oil to the skillet, and then add the celery, onions, poultry seasoning, and salt. When the celery and onions begin to soften, add the apples and cranberries.  Cook for another 5 minutes.

Add the celery, onion, apple mixture to the sausage and bread.  Pour the chicken broth over everything and mix it well.  Transfer the stuffing to a buttered casserole dish, with a lid or covered in aluminum foil, and cook for 20 minutes at 400°F.  Uncover and cook for another 15 minutes.

Alternatively, you could stuff the stuffing into your turkey.  In that case, let the stuffing come to room temperature before you stuff the turkey (never put hot stuffing in the bird!).

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Cranberry Sauce and Gravy

cranberry sauce recipe with maple

My personal favourite part of Thanksgiving is cranberry sauce.  I gob it on my turkey until there is more cranberry sauce than turkey.  I also prefer a simple cranberry sauce, and the recipe below is my favourite.  Gravy is the other must-have Thanksgiving condiment.  I haven't really eaten gravy in a few years, so you'll have to trust my taste testers that this gravy was delicious.

Preparing for Thanksgiving is a big job, but with some planning, you can make things easy and stress free.  The day before Thanksgiving is the perfect time to prepare a few elements of the meal so that you can be ready to hit the ground running on Thursday morning.  Cranberry sauce needs plenty of time to set up, so making it the night before is actually perfect.  The gravy obviously needs to be made after you take the turkey out of the oven, but you could make the turkey stock the day before too to save a stove burner for other things the day of.  You can also use pre-made chicken stock for the gravy.

Maple Cranberry Sauce

1 bag of fresh cranberries
1 cup maple syrup
3/4 cup water
1/4 cup orange juice

Wash the cranberries and put them into a medium saucepan over medium-high heat.  Add the maple syrup, water, and orange juice.  Cook, stirring often until the sauce starts to bubble and the cranberries start to pop.  Turn down and cook for another 10 minutes or until the sauce thickens.  Skim off the bubbles.  Store the cranberry sauce in an airtight container in the refrigerator until ready to use, or chill for at least 2 hours before serving.

Turkey Stock for Gravy
Adapted from Martha Stewart

Turkey neck
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 large carrots
1 large leek
2 stalks celery
1 medium onion, halved
1 bay leaf
4 cups water
Salt and pepper

Melt butter in a large saucepan.  Add the vegetables and cook for about 10 minutes.  Pour 4 cups of water into the saucepan, and then add the turkey neck, bay leaf, and salt and pepper.  Bring the water to a boil and then turn down to simmer for 45 minutes.

Strain the broth and set aside or in the refrigerator until you are ready to make gravy.

turkey giblet stock recipe

Adapted from  Michael Smith: Chef at Home

2-1/2 to 3 cups turkey stock
1 cup red wine (we used Pinot Noir)
3 tablespoons corn starch
Salt and pepper

After you have removed the turkey from the roasting pan, set the pan over a burner on the stove.  Turn the burner to medium.

Pour 1 cup wine into the roasting pan, to deglaze the pan.  Scrape the browned bits off of the bottom of the pan.  Then add the turkey stock.

Dissolve the cornstarch in a little bit of water and then stir it into the liquid.  Taste and season with salt and pepper as necessary.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Thanksgiving Brined and Roasted Turkey

brined and roasted turkey recipe
Welcome to K&K Thanksgiving Week!

Living in Canada means that I actually celebrated Thanksgiving back in early October.  It was my very first time hosting Thanksgiving, and if I do say so myself, it was awesome!  I felt like I learned a lot during my research to prepare for Thanksgiving, especially when it came to preparing the turkey.  Over the next week, I will share the recipes that I used and tips to help make your Thanksgiving easy and stress-free.

Brined and Roasted Turkey
Maple Cranberry Sauce
Bourbon Sweet Potato Casserole
Turkey Sausage, Apple, and Cranberry Stuffing
Light Maple Pumpkin Pie
Apple Pie with Whole Grain Crust

First up, TURKEY!! The turkey is the star of the Thanksgiving show, which is why the thought of cooking a turkey scared the bejeezus out of me, until I did some research.  What you'll find below, is the result of that research.  It was one of the best turkeys that I have ever eaten!  It was so moist and flavourful, and definitely worth the effort.  This turkey takes some time.  It requires you to start the brine 25 hours ahead of when you plan to put the turkey in the oven (for me this meant pouring the brine onto the turkey by 10am the day before Thanksgiving).  I would also suggest getting a fresh, not frozen turkey.  Frozen turkeys are often already quite salty, so brining frozen turkeys is not recommended.  We also didn't stuff our turkey or truss it (ours had some extra skin, visible in the first photo, that allowed us to skip trussing).  Make sure you read through the whole recipe before starting!

Brined and Roasted Turkey

7 quarts (28 cups) water
1 1/2 cups coarse salt
6 bay leaves
2 tablespoons whole coriander seeds
1 tablespoon dried juniper berries
2 tablespoons whole black peppercorns
1 tablespoon fennel seeds
1 teaspoon black or brown mustard seeds
1 fresh whole turkey (18 to 20 pounds), patted dry, neck and giblets reserved for stock, liver reserved for stuffing
1 bottle dry Riesling
2 medium onions, thinly sliced
6 garlic cloves, crushed
1 bunch fresh thyme

Note: We made a 12 lb. turkey for 4 people and had plenty of leftovers.  The brine was also more than enough.  However, the cooking times listed below may vary depending on the size of your bird.

Bring 1 quart water, the salt, bay leaves, and spices to a simmer, stirring until salt has dissolved. Let cool for 5 minutes.

Prepare the turkey by removing giblets from the turkey cavity.  Rinse the turkey well, inside and outside.

Line a 5-gallon container with a large brining or oven-roasting bag. Place turkey in bag. Add salt mixture, remaining 6 quarts (24 cups) water, and the other ingredients. Tie bag; if turkey is not submerged, weight it with a plate. Refrigerate for 24 hours, flipping turkey once.

After 24 hours (at minimum 18 hours), remove turkey from the cooler or refrigerator and empty the brine.  Rinse the turkey under cold water for several minutes.  Then fill the sink with cold water and let the turkey set for 15 minutes.  The Pioneer Woman says this is the best way to reduce the saltiness of the turkey and that it is okay to do, because the brine has already done its job.  Drain the turkey, then let the turkey sit, covered with paper towels, for 1 hour.  This should bring the turkey to room temperature.

Pre-heat the oven to 400°F.  Place the turkey in a roasting pan.  If you don't have a roasting pan, you can set 2 carrots and an onion cut in half on the bottom of a pan and set the turkey on top.  Put the turkey in the oven and roast for one hour at 400°F.  After an hour, without opening the door of the oven, turn the heat down to 300°F.  Cook the turkey for another 2 hours.

After two hours, take the temperature with a meat thermometer at the leg (you can also take it at the breast too) every 15 minutes.  Continue roasting until the breast and thigh meat both reach 165°F.  Let the turkey rest covered with foil for 20 to 30 minutes before carving then serve immediately.

**This turkey would not have been possible without the help of my friends Martha, Michael, and Ree! The turkey brine is from Martha Stewart, the method of cooking is drawn from Michael Smith: Chef at Home and help with controlling saltiness comes from The Pioneer Woman.**

brined and roasted turkey recipe thanksgiving

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