Day 362–Brussels Sprouts with Apple

Brussels Sprouts

 

I know Brussels sprouts are supposed to be gross-out territory for a lot of children, but Ellie has always been a big fan of those cute, little cabbages. We typically roast them or saute them with bacon pieces, both ways are far better than the boiled-to-death treatment of frozen sprouts from the 1970s. This Christmas Eve, we featured sprouts in a new way–roasted with apples, onions, and lemon juice. They were incredibly good provided a much-needed change of pace in our sprout menu! You can adjust the amounts here depending on your family size and whether these are a main dish or side dish (this would make a fabulous vegan main dish). We served 6 as a side dish and there were barely any sprouts left over.

 

If you can find fresh Brussels sprouts, definitely go that route. The flavor and texture is far superior to frozen. Brussels Sprouts are typically found in the late fall and early winter. If you can’t find local, fresh sprouts, then use flash frozen sprouts in a bag, not the kind that come in a square box with lots of added water. Water is not a sprouts best friend. And whatever you do, don’t skimp on the lemon zest and juice. It really makes this dish special!

 

Brussels Sprouts with Apple (serves 6 as a side)

 

  • 2 lbs. fresh Brussels sprouts, trimmed and cut in 1/2 lengthwise
  • 2 large apples (I used Granny Smith), peeled, cored and cut into bite size pieces
  • 1 large yellow onion, peeled and roughly chopped
  • 3 tbsp. olive oil
  • Kosher salt and pepper to taste
  • Zest and juice of 1 lemon

 

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees (see note below).
  2. Put the prepared sprouts, apple and onion into a large mixing bowl. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.
  3. Pour olive oil over vegetables in bowl and toss to coat all.
  4. Pour vegetable/apple mixture onto a rimmed baking sheet (line sheet with foil for easy clean up).
  5. Roast vegetables in the oven for about 50 minutes, stirring occasionally. Sprouts and onion should start to brown.
  6. Remove from oven and pour all into a serving bowl. Add zest and lemon juice and toss well.
  7. Serve immediately.

 

Note: You can roast this mix at a higher temperature (400 degrees) for a shorter period of time. Since I was roasting these while heating our seafood casserole, I roasted them longer at a lower temperature. Either works just fine.

 

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Day 358–Spiced Sweet Potato Biscuits

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This is another of my favorite holiday recipes. I’m not making these this year because we are having mashed sweet potatoes, but they are always a hit when I make them. They are sweet, spicy and moist, with enough flakiness that they are a true biscuit and not a roll. These go very well with ham or would also be great with roasted vegetables!

Spiced Sweet Potato Biscuits

5 c. unbleached flour
1 c. packed light brown sugar
2 tbsp. baking powder
2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1 tsp. salt
1 1/2 tsp. ground ginger
1 tsp. ground allspice
1 c. solid frozen vegetable shortening
2 c. roasted, mashed and cooled sweet potato
1 c. heavy cream
1/2 c. chopped pecans

1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees.
2. In a large mixing bowl, stir together flour, brown sugar, baking powder, cinnamon, salt, ginger and allspice. Combine well.
3. Cut in the shortening with two knives or with your fingers, until crumbly.
4. In a separate bowl, combine the sweet potato, cream and pecans.
5. Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients and add the potato mixture. Stir with a wooden spoon to combine.
6. Turn dough onto a lightly floured surface and roll or pat dough to about 2″ thick.
7. Cut biscuits with a 2″ cutter and place biscuits about 1″ apart on an ungreased baking sheet.
8. Bake for 10-15 minutes until golden brown.
9. Serve warm to happy guests!

Day 357–NC Seafood Casserole

I wanted to post this recipe yesterday, but I was pulled into the swirling vortex of holiday shopping known as “the mall”. It was exhausting, but I did finally finish up the last bits of Christmas shopping on my list. I did do a good amount of local shopping, but I couldn’t avoid the mall entirely. I need to plan better next year.

This seafood casserole is a passalong recipe from a volunteer at a previous job. I’ve made it every Christmas Eve for the past 12 years and it has become part of our Christmas tradition. It is very good, very rich and not what I would call healthy food. This year, we are using as many fresh, local ingredients as we can, including all of the seafood.

1 cup rice
1 egg, lightly beaten
1/3 cup chopped fresh parsley
1/3 cup unsalted butter
1 onion, peeled and diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 large carrot, peeled and finely chopped
1 1/2 cups chopped celery
1 Tbsp. chopped fresh dill
Salt and pepper to taste
1 pound scallops
1 pound raw shrimp
1 pint shucked oysters (you can omit if you really don’t like them)
1 pckg. frozen fake Krab
1/4 c. all purpose flour
1 1/2 c. milk
1 8 oz. pckg. cream cheese
1/4 tsp. dried thyme
1 1/2 cups fresh bread crumbs or crushed butter crackers
2 Tbsp. butter, melted
Chopped fresh parsley
Lemon for serving

1. Cook rice according to directions. Stir in egg and 2 Tbsp.of the parsley. Set aside.
2. In a large skillet, melt 1 Tbsp. of the butter over medium heat. Add the onion, carrot and celery, stirring occasionally. Cook for 3-4 minutes or until vegetables are soft.
3. Stir in 1/2 tsp. of dill and salt and pepper to taste. Transfer vegetables to a large bowl.
4. Wipe skillet clean. Pour 2 cups of water in the skillet and bring to a gentle simmer over medium heat. Add scallops and poach until just opaque, about 3 minutes. Remove scallops and add to the bowl.
5. Poach shrimp in the liquid for about 3 minutes or until pink. Remove shrimp to the bowl.
6. Poach the oysters in the liquid for about 2-3 minutes. Remove oysters and add to the bowl.
7. Reserve 1 cup of the poaching liquid and discard the rest. Wipe the skillet clean.
8. Chop the Krab into bite sized pieces and add to the bowl.
9. In the skillet, melt the remaining butter over medium heat. Whisk in flour and cook, whisking constantly for 2 minutes. Do not let flour brown.
10. Gradually whisk in reserved poaching liquid and milk. Cook and stir for about 5 minutes, until thickened. Whisk in cream cheese, remaining dill, salt, pepper and thyme and cook an additional 3-5 minutes until cheese has melted and sauce is smooth.
11. Stir sauce into the seafood mixture along with remaining parsley.
12. Line bottom of a greased 13 x 9 baking dish with the rice mixture.
13. Pour seafood mixture on top of rice. (At this point, you can cover and refrigerate up to 2 days)
14. Mix bread crumbs or crushed crackers and 2 Tbsp. butter. Sprinkle over the casserole.
15. Bake at 350 degrees for about 50 minutes or until heated through and topping is golden and crunchy. Garnish with parsley and lemon wedges.

Day 354–Reindeer Pancakes

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How cute is that?

We’ve been talking about the need to add a “breakfast for dinner” night to our menu and I found a way to make a pancake supper that also celebrated winter (although it’s still in the 60s here) and Christmas. Enter, the reindeer pancake. I saw this idea online somewhere and couldn’t wait to try it. The version I saw used candy for the eyes and nose, but I subbed out some of our frozen fruit instead. So easy, so cute and it put everyone in a cheery mood at the table–given the news this past week, that was really needed.

Reindeer Pancakes

  1. Preheat oven to 250 degrees.
  2. Line a rimmed baking sheet with paper towels or a tea towel. Sit a wire cooling rack on top of the towel and put in the oven.
  3. In a frying pan, cook bacon until crisp. As bacon is done, lay strips on the cooling rack in the oven to keep warm. This will keep your bacon crispy yet let it drain as well.
  4. Clean the pan, coat with a thin layer of butter or cooking spray and heat over medium/low heat.
  5. Make one 8-9″ pancake per person and one 3-4″ pancake per person, plus extra for eating later. As pancakes cook, add them to the cooling rack in the oven to keep warm.
  6. When ready to serve, arrange a big pancake on the plate, with a smaller pancake (to be the muzzle of the reindeer) on top and toward the bottom of the larger pancake.
  7. Arrange bacon antlers on either side of the large pancake.
  8. Add blueberry eyes and raspberry/strawberry nose.
  9. Serve immediately with warm maple syrup and plenty of good cheer!

Day 347–Butternut Squash and Kale Pizza

Winter squash is one of those fall vegetables that can make the transition from sweet to savory very easily. Butternut squash is one of my favorites because it has a great flavor, but it’s not overpowering, making it a nice partner with all sorts of other foods. We had stuffed squash earlier this week and it was hearty and very delicious. Since I still have one squash left from our last Produce Box delivery, I was hoping to find a good way to use it up along with some lovely fresh kale we bought at the farmer’s market.

Ta-da!! Heather at Sugar Dish Me came through again. I love her blog–it’s funny, insightful and chock full of great recipes. Which is good because this is my Christmas crunch week with something scheduled every night except Friday night and while I want to cook, I’m in need of some inspiration. I’m going to make this pizza with our homemade whole wheat pizza dough. The combination of bacon, caramelized onions, and cheese is enough to make me go for it. But it also has butternut squash and kale, two amazingly healthy foods that are in plentiful supply at our local markets!

Get the recipe HERE!

Day 344–Stuffed Butternut Squash

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It doesn’t look all that spectacular, but this dish is flexible, easy, inexpensive and full of fall goodness!

I love winter squash and for me, stuffed squash is a great way to turn one or two squash into a family meal. Stuffed squash is one of those crazy, flexible meals that can vary depending on what you happen to have handy. For me, that’s some awesome Mae Farm sausage, onions, leftover sage, breadcrumbs and cheese. You could add sun dried tomatoes, mushrooms, peppers, kale–the possibilities are endless! Here is the process: roast, saute, scoop, fill and bake.

Stuffed Butternut Squash

1butternut squash
1/2 lb. sausage
1 yellow onion
2 carrots
1/2 c. dried breadcrumbs
4 fresh sage leaves, chopped fine
Salt and pepper to taste
1/2 c. freshly grated parmesan cheese

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line a baking sheet with foil or parchment paper.
2. Cut squash in half lengthwise and remove seeds. Put squash cut side down on the baking sheet and bake for 45 to 60 minutes or until squash is soft, but not mushy.
3. Remove casing from sausage and cut into bite sized pieces. Brown in a saute pan over medium heat until all pink is gone.
4. Peel and dice the onion and carrots.
5. Remove sausage from pan and cook onion and carrots in pan drippings (add olive oil, if needed). Cook about 4 minutes or until onion is soft and translucent.
6. Add sage and bread crumbs. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Add sausage back to pan.
Keep warm until squash is done.
7. Remove squash from oven and, using a towel to protect your hand, hold each half and scoop flesh out of skin and into the saute pan. Take care to leave the skin intact!
8. Mix the squash into the stuffing and combine. Fill each squash half with stuffing, mounding over the top. Top with parmesan cheese.
9. Put squash back in the oven for 20 minutes or until stuffing is hot and cheese is melty. Serve immediately.

Day 339–Cinnamon and Snickerdoodles

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3 of our Snickerdoodles arranged in the shape of a Mickey Mouse head!

Did you know that cinnamon is a super food? Not only does cinnamon help decrease cholesterol levels, it also helps your body regulate its insulin production, which is weird since it pairs so well with sugar 🙂 We eat cinnamon on toast, over oatmeal, in curry sauce and on baked fruit. We are also in the throes of the holiday baking season, and even though cookies are not health food, we eat cinnamon on cookies. Here is my thinking:

If you’re going to eat a cookie, eat a homemade cookie. And eat it with cinnamon.

One of my favorite cookies is the snickerdoodle. I had never even heard of snickerdoodles until I was living in Nashville and working right across from a bakery. Oh. My. I had always been a purist chocolate chip girl, but something about the combination of butter and cinnamon spoke to me. I think if Santa had a favorite cookie, this would be it. Enough spice to be interesting, but close enough to a sugar cookie to be comforting. I think the reindeer would like them, too.

So, in the midst of what is turning out to be a very busy holiday season, Ellie and I took some mother/daughter time to bake cookies, and we made sure to have some snickerdoodles. In true holiday spirit, we shared them with our neighbors and friends to spread the joy. And the cinnamon.

Snickerdoodles

  • 1 cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 1/4 cup organic cane sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 1/2 cups unbleached organic flour
  • 2 tsp. cream of tartar
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp. freshly ground nutmeg
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 tbsp. ground cinnamon
  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
  2. In a small bowl, combine the 1/4 c. sugar and the ground cinnamon. Set aside.
  3. In a medium mixing bowl, combine the flour, cream of tartar, nutmeg, baking soda and salt. Set aside.
  4. Cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy.
  5. Add eggs and vanilla and mix until combined.
  6. Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients and mix on low or stir to combine. Your dough will be a bit stiff.
  7. Roll scoops of dough into balls the size of a walnut (I use a mini ice cream scoop for this–works great!).
  8. Place each dough ball into the cinnamon sugar and roll around until coated. Place dough on an ungreased cookie sheet about 2″ apart.
  9. Bake 8-10 minutes, just until lightly browned. Remove from the oven and let cool 2 minutes.
  10. Using a spatula, remove cookies from cookie sheet to a cooling rack. Cool completely, if you can stand to leave them that long!

Day 335–Turkey Noodle Soup

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I stand by the anecdotal findings of Jewish mothers everywhere that chicken soup has healing properties. Same goes for turkey soup, but that is a little more unusual to find unless it’s shortly after Thanksgiving. There is something so satisfying about a bowl of homemade chicken/turkey noodle soup that even if you’re still sick, there is a little warm spot in your soul that feels better. I don’t get the same feeling from canned soup and I have no idea why. Maybe it’s because homemade soup, especially if you’re using homemade stock, has a richness and complexity that canned soup just doesn’t have. Or maybe it’s because when I make soup I can add as much of the good stuff (in my case turkey and noodles) as I want, so my soup is just the way I like it.

Last turkey post. Promise. We used up every bit of our Thanksgiving turkey and finished up with making stock from the carcass using THIS basic recipe for chicken stock. I had to break out my canning pot to make the stock because our turkey was so large. Now we have a few gallons of stock for the freezer and enough left over to make this turkey noodle soup. We’re eating a good bit of the soup this weekend and will freeze some for a day when the weather is brutal or someone is sick and we need a quick comfort fix.

This recipe is entirely flexible. You can vary the ingredients to suit your taste and what happens to be fresh at your market. You can also cut this recipe in 1/2 or by 1/4 to suit your household size and what you feel up to cooking. In our case, we made a ton (well, 2 gallons) of soup and used up our leftover Thanksgiving vegetables plus some of the summer green beans and corn from our stash in the freezer. Totally worth it.

A note about amounts. I like my soup very thick with lots of noodles and enough stock to keep everything moist. If you like a very broth-y soup, you can just cut back on some of the vegetable and noodle amounts or add more stock at the end.

Turkey Noodle Soup (makes about 2 gallons)

  • 16 c. chicken or turkey stock
  • 1 yellow onion, peeled and diced
  • 4 large carrots, peeled and chopped
  • 4 stalks celery, trimmed and chopped
  • 4 c. green beans
  • 2 heads of baby bok choi, washed well, trimmed and chopped
  • 2 c. corn
  • 2-4 cups leftover, cooked turkey or chicken (I didn’t measure, I just used whatever we had left)
  • 8 oz. ribbon or egg noodles
  • Fresh sage leaves
  • 2 fresh bay leaves
  • Kosher salt and pepper
  • 3 tbsp. olive oil
  1. In a large Dutch oven, heat the stock.
  2. While stock is warming, heat olive oil in a large saute pan over medium heat. Add onions and cook about 2-3 minutes, until soft.
  3. Add the carrots and celery to the pan and continue cooking another 4-5 minutes until carrots begin to soften.
  4. Add the chopped bok choi, stir and continue to cook for another 2-3 minutes.
  5. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
  6. Add cooked vegetables to the stock along with any other vegetables, herbs and seasonings. Let simmer for about 10 minutes.
  7. Add turkey/chicken and continue simmering for another 15 minutes or so.
  8. Add noodles and simmer until noodles are done. They will swell up and absorb a good deal of the stock. If you need more stock, add water or (if you have it) more poultry stock to suit your taste.
  9. Remove the bay leaves and any other large pieces of herbs you may have in the pot.
  10. Serve immediately or cool and refrigerate to reheat the next day (this is always better).

Congratulations! You are now a healer 🙂

Day 332–Turkey Hash with Egg

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Turkey hash is one of our favorite leftover dinners following Thanksgiving. It really is pure comfort food–a mix of onion, celery, carrots, turkey, broth, and potatoes. You could even add rice or southern dumplings to this and it would be amazing. Actually, you could add pretty much whatever you want or whatever you happen to have handy. This dish is all kinds of flexible. I like that about it.

Usually I make this with thinly sliced red potatoes, but this year I have lots of sweet potatoes on hand, so I decided to change things up a bit. We also have some amazingly delicious, farm fresh eggs from pasture-raised chickens. I saw THIS recipe on Sugar Dish Me’s blog and thought–hmmmm, eggs on hash. Yes, that sounded like a great plan! Although Ellie wasn’t sure about the changes to one of her favorite seasonal meals, we all thought this was delicious and different enough that we didn’t feel like we were eating leftovers!

Turkey Hash (serves 4)

  • 3 tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 large yellow onion, peeled and diced
  • 2-3 ribs of celery, trimmed and chopped
  • 2 large carrots, peeled and chopped
  • 3 large sweet potatoes, peeled and diced
  • 6 fresh sage leaves, chopped fine or 1 tbsp. dried sage
  • 2 cups cooked turkey, cut into bite-sized pieces
  • 2-3 cups chicken or turkey stock, divided
  • 4 fresh eggs
  • Kosher/sea salt and pepper to taste
  1. Heat the olive oil in a large saute pan over medium or medium high heat. When oil is warm, add onions. Cook for about 4 minutes, until translucent and soft.
  2. Add the celery and carrots. Stir well and continue cooking for another 3-4 minutes until vegetables begin to soften. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
  3. Add diced sweet potatoes, 1 cup of stock and sage and continue to cook for about 15 minutes. Add more stock if pan begins to dry out.
  4. Add turkey and continue cooking for about 20 minutes. The mixture should be very thick, almost like a super thick stew. Check for seasoning and season again if needed. Keep warm.
  5. In a smaller saute pan, cook eggs to according to your preference (Ellie likes hers fried, I like mine over easy).
  6. Spoon hash into serving bowls, then top each with an egg.
  7. Serve immediately.

Day 324–Talking Heritage Breed Turkey

Turkeys, man. There is a lot of pressure on the turkey at Thanksgiving. Even if you make a million roasted chickens (which does help), you can’t help but be a bit on edge when you are responsible for everyone’s Thanksgiving turkey. Now, I have an awesome family, and they are always great about whatever turkeys I’ve cooked, even when they haven’t been all that great. But still, I like to make something that is worth the 5 hour drive to my house. So this year made me especially nervous. I was cooking a new (old) kind of bird.

This year, we ordered a Bourbon Red heritage breed turkey from Homestead Harvest Farm in Wake Forest. Jan raises a limited number of birds with lots of sunshine, grass and love. I’ve heard a lot about heritage breed turkeys and how different they are from the standard grocery store variety, but I’ve never had one, so when I had the opportunity to place an order this summer (yes, this summer!) at the Downtown Raleigh Farmer’s Market, I jumped at the chance.

Our bird, Mr. Gibbles as he was named by Ellie, was “processed” Monday, picked up Tuesday and served on Thursday. I’ve never in my life had a turkey so fresh. At 17 pounds, he was quite a good sized bird! Our first observation was that he looked pretty different from the grocery variety. He seemed longer than a grocery turkey and he was not in that strangely uniform, compact shape. Ellie remarked that he really looked like a “real” bird. We got him all ready for his last journey in the oven and served him up to a delighted family. So how was it? Pretty darn fabulous. Very juicy, lots of rich, turkey flavor and great texture to the meat. I don’t think we’ll ever go back again.

Cooking Mr. Gibbles was very different from cooking a frozen bird. First, it does not take nearly as long to cook a fresh, heritage breed turkey. Our 17 pound turkey took 2 hours and15 minutes. For reals. And I used a thermometer backup to make sure. Second, heritage breed turkeys have a wonderful layer of thick fat under the skin, so basting is completely unnecessary. He basted himself, which was terrific, although when serving, the fat freaked my dad out a bit.

We used the recipe below, which was suggested by Homestead Harvest Farm and it worked beautifully. Being a skeptic, I allowed more time than I really needed, which made for some quick hurrying around when the turkey was done so soon, but it all worked out in the end.

Roasted Heritage Breed Turkey

1 fresh heritage turkey at room temperature
Kosher salt and ground pepper
1/2 cup butter, softened
Fresh sage and rosemary, chopped
4 cups chicken broth or white wine

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.
Mix the butter and chopped herbs until well combined.
Rub the butter mixture over the turkey skin and under the skin if you can.
Sprinkle the bird with salt and pepper
Put the turkey in a large roasting pan. Add broth or wine to the bottom of the pan.
Butter a piece of parchment to fit over the turkey. Use the parchment to make a tent over the turkey.
Insert a meat thermometer into the breast.
Put the bird in the oven and roast until the breast meat is 145 degrees. Do NOT open the oven door during this time.
Remove the parchment tent over the turkey and continue cooking until the internal temperature is 155-160.
Remove turkey from the oven (the meat temperature will continue to rise after removing it from the oven).
Let the turkey rest for about 20 minutes before carving.
Carve and serve the turkey with trimmings.

Voila!