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

Friday, November 4, 2011

Buttermilk Biscuits

buttermilk biscuits recipe

I love the New York Times Dining &Wine section.  Whether it is Sam Sifton's restaurant reviews or Mark Bittman from back when he was still the Minimalist, I always find good writing and good recipes there.  The recipe below was adapted from an article titled "You Are Making Your Biscuits Wrong."  Since I had never actually made biscuits, right or wrong, I knew that this would be a good place for a beginner to start.  Then, I took it a step further and made some changes of my own.  The article discusses flour types, debating the merits of all-purpose versus cake flour for those of us without access to the flour available in the Southern US.  I decided to do a half-and-half mixture, hoping to get part of the benefit of the lower-protein cake flour and part of the benefit of resting the all-purpose flour for 30 minutes.  I also used buttermilk instead of whole milk, solely because I needed to use up the carton in my refrigerator.  These biscuits were quite tasty, though I think I smashed them a bit when I cut them out. They'd be great for Thanksgiving dinner or to use as the base for breakfast sandwiches.  In fact, stay tuned next week for a full line-up of Thanksgiving recipes!

P.S. you may notice a few cosmetic changes here at K&K Test Kitchen.  This is still somewhat of a rough draft, since I have to work slowly by trial and error at night after work.  I'm hoping to have things ship shape in the next day or so though.  Hope you all like the new look and thank you for continuing to come visit K&K!!

Buttermilk Biscuits
Adapted from New York Times

1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup cake flour
2 tablespoons baking powder
1 "scant" tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon salt
5 tablespoons butter, cold, preferably European style
1 cup buttermilk

Preheat oven to 425°F. Sift flours, baking powder, sugar and salt into a large mixing bowl. Transfer to a food processor. Cut butter into pats and add to flour, then pulse 5 or 6 times until the mixture resembles rough crumbs. (Alternatively, cut butter into flour in the mixing bowl using a fork or a pastry cutter.) Return dough to bowl, add buttermilk and stir with a fork until it forms a rough ball.

Turn the dough out onto a well-floured surface and pat it down into a rough rectangle, about an inch thick. Fold it over and gently pat it down again. Repeat. Cover the dough loosely with a kitchen towel and allow it to rest for 30 minutes.

Gently pat out the dough some more, so that the rectangle is roughly 10 inches by 6 inches. Cut dough into biscuits using a floured glass or biscuit cutter. Do not twist cutter when cutting; this crimps the edges of the biscuit and impedes its rise.

Place biscuits on a cookie sheet and bake until golden brown, approximately 10 to 15 minutes. Serves 6 to 8.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Roasted Beet and Carrot Quinoa Salad

roasted beet and carrot quinoa salad recipe

Sometimes, after overdosing on baked goods and Halloween candy, you want something a little bit lighter, healthier, etc.  That's when you make a salad for dinner.  A salad that has a hint of sweetness to it, because let's be honest, after overdosing on candy, we have to back down easily lest we have withdrawal side-effects.  This salad combines sweet carrots and beets with tangy dressing and nutty quinoa.  It is divine.  So, if you're all hopped up on mini-Snickers bars, please eat some of this yummy salad and you'll feel better.

Roasted Beet and Carrot Quinoa Salad

5 baby beetroot
3 large carrots, sliced into coins
2 tablespoons olive oil
Salt and pepper
1-1/2 cups quinoa
1/2 fennel (anise) bulb, thinly sliced
1/4 cup goat cheese

1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon honey
3 tablespoons olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste

Preheat the oven to 425°F.  Wash the beetroot and cut the stems off.  Toss the beetroot in olive oil and season with salt and pepper.   Wrap the beets in aluminum foil.  Roast in the oven for 30 minutes.

While the beets roast, prepare the quinoa according to the directions (1-1/2 cups requires about 2 cups of water).  Let the quinoa cool slightly, while you finish cooking the beets and carrots.

Season the sliced carrots with a tablespoon of olive oil, salt, and pepper.  After the beets have cooked for 30 minutes, place the foil packet on a baking sheet and arrange the carrots around the package in a single layer.  Roast the carrots for about 15 minutes, flipping once.

While the carrots roast, whisk together the dressing ingredients.

Remove the beets from the oven.  Let them cool slightly and rub the skin off.  (Be careful, your fingers will turn purple!)  Cut the beets into bite sized pieces.

Mix the carrots, beets, and fennel with the quinoa.  Pour the dressing over the salad and mix well. Add the goat cheese
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