Thanksgiving 2009

A small gathering this year, just 4 people, Chris, my parents and I.

Not that I would let that stop me from making too much food. I had the usual suspects: turkey, mashed potatoes and stuffing. Then, a few things to try. In consideration of my vegetarian mom, I make the stuffing with vegetable broth. This year I am also adding a wild rice dish, also vegetarian. I did not plan a strictly vegetable dish. I have a in-law family recipe for green beans as a back-up but I’m hoping no one misses it. I was never a fan of the green bean casserole anyhow. I also wanted to make an apple based dessert after buying a bag of Michigan Empire apples at Whole Foods.

For pre-dinner noshing, we had onion dip (from 101 cookbooks, a personal favorite of mine and always a hit at parties) and chips with cheese, crackers and a fruit platter.

Dinner is:

Smashed Red Skin Potatoes:  Made these last year too, but subbed thyme for rosemary this year. Still think they are awesome on every level. Creamy, good on their own but also tasty with gravy. The cream cheese adds a tangy level of flavor you won’t get using milk.

I am still interested in making a whole mean of mashed potato varieties some time, just not for a holiday dinner.

Wild Rice-Corn Casserole: From Pioneer Woman, using of  course, frozen corn because you can’t find fresh sweet corn in Michigan in late-November. Comments on PW’s site indicate this is either a love it or hate it dish. It was a love it dish for us. I added a little shredded cheese and onion crisps for the last 10 minutes of cooking (reasons listed below). My dad, the usually quiet type, actually commented on my Facebook about this dish!

Stuffing/Dressing: No recipe really. I used some stuffing cubes with seasoning, adding celery and onions, chopped apples, and vegetable broth, generally following the guidelines on the bag of cubes. Baked in the oven, separate from the bird, again in consideration of my mom’s needs. Chris doesn’t really like it this way and has been correcting my use of the word “stuffing” as it was not actually stuffed in the bird. Whatever.

Garlic-Rosemary Roasted Turkey: I brined the turkey overnight, just using salt, sugar and a handful of thyme plus a bit of rosemary. The next day, the turkey is thoroughly rinsed and allowed to air dry slightly. Then, using the cell phone photo of a recipe in Cooking Light magazine (as seen at the dentist on Wednesday but later located on the internet),  I created a butter-garlic-rosemary rub to put under the skin on the breasts then over the skin everywhere.

Gravy:  No picture, no recipe. After taking the turkey out of the oven, I removed it to a serving dish and covered it in foil to rest. The drippings from the pan were poured off and I set the pan over two burners set to medium. Using a wooden spatula, I scraped up the bits and goodies, then added a few tablespoons of flour to make a paste. I then added 2 cups of chicken broth before mixing in the drippings which had been skimmed of most of the fat. Cook over medium-low until a little less thick than you want at the table. Because of that garlic paste on the bird, this gravy was uber-garlicky. And delicious.

**Dandelion Greens: Even though I didn’t plan any green vegetable dish, my mom mentioned having a bag of dandelion greens and suggested I could do something with them. I wasn’t sure if Chris would like them as they can be quite bitter but he does like arugula, a lot. I really did not want to do something like creamed spinach or otherwise add a lot of cheese/cream/dairy to the greens. I decided to just saute them in garlic and olive oil with some lemon juice added at the end. I also added a bit of sugar to counter the bitter. I should have added a lot of sugar. Even then, though, I don’t think this dish was going to work. The leaves were fully wilted but the stems were still very crunchy, even after trimming a fair amount of stalk off. Either this batch was just far too bitter for anyone in the family to eat or every recipe on the internet is only for people who really like bitter greens because all the sauteed versions I found recommend cooking for no more than 10 minutes; seemingly nothing was going to make it less bitter except perhaps more sugar. Which defeats the purpose, in my mind.

Apple-Cranberry Crumble: No picture, sorry. Actually, my parents didn’t stay to eat dessert so Chris and I tried this later on. It was decent, the crumble topping was especially tasty- of course I’d expect that of something made with brown sugar and butter! I should have peeled the apples. The recipe is Martha Stewart but I found it by way of the blog Lisa is Cooking. As Lisa did, I skipped peeling the apples but I think I would have been happier if I had although it could just be that the Empire apples were not the best choice even though they are recommended for baking.  Maybe a little more sugar? I did add a few splashes of our apple brandy from Uncle John’s Cider Mill & Fruit Winery in St. Johns. I had planned to serve this with ginger ice cream but didn’t. I guess I’ll just have to eat that some other way!

Now that you know how the meal came out, let’s talk about how it was made.

The night before, I made the carmelized onions for the onion dip and cooked up the wild rice too. And of course, brined the turkey.

When my parents arrived Thursday morning, following the Lansing Turkey Trot, I made up the dip and pulled the turkey out of the refrigerator. We had our snacks and generally, I goofed around. I planned to have dinner about 5:30-6pm so there was plenty of time.

Eventually, I prepped the turkey (it sits out for 1 hour with the rub on it) and started assembling my stuffing, corn/wild rice dish and scrubbing potatoes.

The turkey is roasted at 500° for 30 minutes then the temperature turned down to 250° and cooked until thermometer in the thigh reads 165°. My turkey, round about 11 lbs was the same size as the recipe version so this should have equaled 2 hours.

During the initial 30 minute high-heat roast, you can really hear the fat cracklin in the oven. And, upon opening the oven to insert the thermometer for the 2nd phase, I set off our smoke detectors briefly.  Oops.  Our oven, a gas version, doesn’t actually have a reading for 250° on the dial. It goes from “warm” to 260° to 300°. Knowing that it runs a little cold anyway, I set it just below the 300° mark.

After about 45 minutes, I put the stuffing/dressing and the wild rice dish in the oven too. Normally, these only need 30-45 minutes but with the lower temperature for the slow-roasted bird, I decided this would work. The temperature on the bird was still rising so I didn’t pay much attention when I put these dishes in alongside.

Another 30 minutes later (so 1 hr 15 min down, 45 to go), I realize that A) the temp isn’t going up anymore and B) I don’t hear anything “cooking” in the oven. I open it up and immediately notice that abscence of heat. I fiddled with the control and couldn’t make the flame come up, even cranking it to broil. I realize this means the pilot has gone out- randomly since we never shut the oven off, at all. According to the directions on the oven, the door, racks and bottom of the oven have to be removed to access and light the pilot. Fortunately, the oven door comes off easily but we still had to take all the pans out. As I did so, it became apparent that the oven had been off for awhile as I could remove everything, including the roasting pan which had been in for 30 minutes at 500° degrees, with my bare hands.

After removing everything, finding a lighter and getting it lit, we started reassembly, only to have it go out again. It took four or 5 tries for it to stay lit. After you light the gas, you have to hold the knob down for 60 seconds and they should say “60 seconds minimum.” Of course, you can’t turn the oven to on yet because otherwise you’ll scorch a finger or two during reassembly.

All told, this process took 30 minutes and overall delayed dinner by about two hours. I still made gravy though- must have my gravy for my turkey. And potatoes. And stuffing.

Two notes:

**Notice the little gizmo next to the dandelion greens? Its our Vinturi wine aerator and it rocks! One of many wedding gifts used during this meal including new wine glasses and the platter upon which the turkey is sitting.

**The turkey recipe from Cooking Light advises you to remove the skin after the formal presentation. HA HA HA. Do it if you want but we did not want.

Cooking Again, and it feels so good.

For the last month, maybe 6 weeks, I haven’t done much cooking. Seems like Chris and I are always going in two different directions and balancing work-school-wedding plans has kept me busy. Add in a 10 day work trip to the UP and a weekend in Puerto Rico to equal perhaps eight nights of real recipe-based cooking since May 1st, much of that just repeats of previous successes.

I expect school to busy-fy me again next week and of course, that is that great big party coming up in September. On the plus side, we have yet to go cake tasting so at least there is still plenty of fun stuff to do! Now that we are back from the tropics (with an extra $300 in our pockets thanks to my mad video poker skillz), its time to start cooking again. Last night, it was a simple chicken marinated in balsamic vinegar and garlic, sauteed with onions and served with a box of white/wild rice blend which I jazzed up through the use of vegetable broth and a cup of frozen vegetables.

Tonight, I’m being more adventurous and involved. Both dishes are based off ones created by someone else.


Buttermilk Brined Chicken
from Accidental Hedonist contributor Davekatz

The original recipe is meant to be grilled after an overnight brine and it used whole chicken pieces. Sadly, we don’t have a grill on our deck and anyway, its kind of rainy. So, instead I shortened the soaking time, used chicken breasts and pan-fried them.


1 1/4 cups buttermilk
less than 1/8 cup kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon rubbed sage
1/4 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper

1 cup panko bread crumbs
Couple shakes each of garlic powder, sage and cayenne pepper plus 1 pinch of salt

1 1/4 pounds boneless chicken breast, pounded thin (or bought thin-fillet style)


Combine the buttermilk, salt, , and spices. Mix well. Add the chicken and turn to coat. Marinate in the refrigerator 90 minutes to 2 hours or longer, turning the pieces occasionally.

Heat pan over medium heat with equal parts butter and olive oil (about 1 1/2 tablespoons of each).

Mix bread crumbs with spices (shakes) in a plastic bag. Remove each chicken piece, one at time, from the marinade and put in bag with bread crumbs. Shake to coat thoroughly.

Saute coated chicken breasts in pan, 5-6 minutes per side until cooked through and bread crumbs are golden brown.

If you wanted to take this to the next level, I’d suggest making a buttermilk gravy to go with this. Also, the original recipe used hot sauce in the marinade which would seem to call for a nice creamy dipping gravy anyhow. You would not be able to use the buttermilk from the marinade though- your gravy wouldn’t get hot enough to kill the bugs it picked up from the raw chicken.

One caveat: the breadcrumbs don’t stick as well as I’d like. I think next time I’ll do flour-breadcrumb for more staying power.

Scalloped Potatoes with mushrooms and white wine sauce
from Half-Assed Kitchen.

I made a few changes, mostly because I didn’t have all the required ingredient but instead had similar ingredients I wanted to use.


6 fingerling potatoes, approximately equal to 3 small baking potatoes (thinly sliced)
1/2 medium onion, chopped
3-4 green onions, white and light green parts only, chopped (reserve green tops, chopped)
3 Tablespoons olive oil
8 ounces crimini mushrooms, sliced
2 Tablespoons butter or margarine
1-1/2 cups milk, half-and-half or plain Silk Creamer
5 Tablespoons white wine
1/4 cup flour
1 teaspoon salt
Black pepper
Fresh rosemary (optional)

In a skillet, heat olive oil, onion ,scallion, mushrooms, salt and pepper until the mushrooms have given up most of their moisture and the onions have turned transparent.

Meanwhile, heat butter, milk and wine in a separate sauce pan. Once warmed, whisk in flour and continue to heat until the roux has thickened.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Layer potatoes into a greased, shallow baking dish. Stir mushroom mixture into sauce and then spoon over the potatoes. Sprinkle reserved scallion tops over top.

Bake for 45 minutes to an hour, until potatoes are soft and sauce is bubbly. Sprinkle with fresh rosemary if desired.

So, I used fingerlings instead of baking potatoes because we had them. I’m not sure if it was my “thinly sliced” not being thin enough, the oven not being properly calibrated (rentals, eh) or just the different texture of using fingerling potatoes but this dish took an hour and probably could have continued to bake for even softer potatoes. I used the rosemary and Chris thought it was too much. He may not be the rosemary fan I am but I would err on the side of lightly sprinkled in any event.

There was some chicken left over from the previous night. Chris had asked me to make him some more of the balsamic chicken so he could just add it to something for dinner when I’m gone. I waited and not surprisingly, he instead asked that I throw the chicken in with this buttermilk marinade (which I saved, just in case).

52809 scalloped potatoes with mushrooms posted 52809 dinner posted

Notice the steam coming off those taters? Fresh from the oven photography has its pitfalls!

Making it up as I go along, Part 1

Earlier tonight, I updated my Facebook status to the title of this post. I was actually refering to the dish I’m making for a holiday luncheon tomorrow. Turns out, I would also be referring to tonight’s dinner.

We have chicken and asparagus in the fridge and enough grain products to last till 2011 in our pantry. I was thinking of an almond-crusted chicken breast (baked) with some Asian-inspired treatment for the asparagus with rice for dinner tonight.

Then Chris took forever coming home from Kroger. He went to buy lunch meat. He finally got home after 7, with no lunch meat but with a rotisserie chicken. So, no almond-crusted chicken and I decided to use the rice cooker for the holiday luncheon dish.

This left me with asparagus and in need of a starch. I looked around and realized we have 2 bags of potatoes to use up. We will be leaving for the holidays on 12/19 (sunny, warm, lovely Florida!) and I’m trying to get rid of anything perishable. Okay: new game plan! And make it quick.

Lemon Scented Potatoes with Asparagus

Potatoes Asparagus


3-5 fingerling potatoes
1/2 bunch asparagus, medium thickness
Parmesan cheese, freshly grated
garlic-infused olive oil
lemon juice
salt & pepper
fresh parsley, for garnish


  • Cover potatoes with one inch of water in a pan. Bring to a boil then reduce to a high simmer, cook 10 minutes until fork-tender.
  • Wash & trim asparagus. Cut on the bias, in thirds.
  • In a small bowl, lightly wisk 1/4 cup oil with 2 tablespoons lemon juice and 1/8 cup finely grated Parmesan.
  • When potatoes are cooked, remove from water and let cool slightly.
  • Turn heat back up on water and return to a boil.
  • Add asparagus to boiling water. Cook 2 minutes then drain.
  • While asparagus are cooking, roughly slice potatoes.
  • Toss potatoes and asparagus in serving dish with dressing.
  • Garnish with chopped fresh parsley, salt & pepper and more Parmesan cheese.

Notes: This was quick, 15 minutes start to finish. Easy to multiply for more servings. As described, this would serve 4.

I used my brand new ribbon grater for the garnish cheese. Its awesome.

A second photo, mostly to put some focus on the awesome dish I put this in. This is part of a set of baking casserole dishes I bought “for” Chris last year for Christmas. He likes them but he usually likes whatever food I put in them more.

asparagus potato dish

Turkey Day Recipes: Green Bean (Casserole)

Chris asked me to make this.  Up until the day before Thanksgiving, I thought it was the traditional green bean casserole. Admittedly, I didn’t know what was in that except beans, some kind of mushroom soup and those fried onion things.

As it turns out, his requested dish, recipe provided by mom, is not green bean casserole but Christmas Green Beans. And here is the recipe:


3 cans green beans
8 oz sour cream
2 tbsp butter
1 1/2 tbsp finely chopped onion
1 tbsp flour
1 tbsp sugar
1/8 tsp pepper


  • Put beans in a greased 2 qt casserole dish (8x)
  • Saute onion in butter in saute pan
  • Add flour, sugar, pepper and sour cream to onions; stir til boils
  • Remove from heat and pour over beans
  • Cover beans with swiss cheese
  • Bake 20-25 minutes at 350°, until cheese is melted and turning golden brown

Delicioso Green Beans & Potatoes (and Baked Chicken)

A little late, but here’s the recipe for that Sneak Peek photo from a few days ago.

Baked Chicken with Potato-Green Bean Saute


Green Beans, about 2 handfuls fresh. Trimmed and cut in half
5-6 fingerling potatoes
1/2 red onion, frenched
Parmesan-Crusted Chicken Breasts (from Kroger)
balsamic vinegar
1-2 cloves mashed garlic
1/2 tablespoon rosemary
butter & olive oil
1/4 cup chicken broth


If you follow these directions in order and with the right timing, it all comes together exactly right. Not planned that way, I just got lucky.

  • Pre-heat oven to 350 and bring a pot of water to a boil on the stove.
  • When water boils, add potatoes and keep boiling, 7-10 minutes. The potatoes are done when you stick a knife in about 1/2 way.
  • Drain potatoes and return to pan to cool slightly.
  • Place onion wedges in a small baking pan, coated with non-stick spray or olive oil. Drizzle a little balsamic vinegar on the onions then lay chicken breasts over the top of the onions. Bake in oven, uncovered, about 15-20 minutes.
  • While chicken bakes, heat 1/2 tablespoon olive oil in a non-stick pan over medium heat. Add garlic, cook 30 seconds then add green beans and cook 3-5 minutes until beans are softened up. Remove beans to a bowl.
  • While beans and chicken are cooking, quarter potatoes and sprinkle with a little salt.
  • After 15 minutes in the oven, check chicken for doneness. Depending on the size of the breasts, 20 minutes may be all that is needed. Sometimes we get really big chicken pieces from Kroger. This time, they were normal sized, individual portions.
  • During last 5 minutes of baking for chicken, heat 1/2 tablespoon butter and 1/2 tablespoon olive oil in pan (same one from green beans). Add dried rosemary and potatoes; saute about 5 minutes.
  • Remove chicken from oven and set aside, covered to keep warm. Add onions and reserved green beans to pan with potatoes. Cook 2-3 more minutes then add chicken broth to deglaze pan and glaze vegetables.


As I mentioned, the timing on this worked out really well especially since I wasn’t really trying. The chicken came out of the oven right about the time I needed those onions for the potatoes.

We have come to like the Parmesan Chicken Breasts from Kroger’s meat department as they can easily be jazzed up. Garnish chicken breast with balsamic vinegar, if desired.

This dish is very similar to my Summertime Potato-Tomato Saute.

We really like balsamic vinegar, especially the pictured variety from Cherry Creek.  The bottle is almost gone.  Yikes!

1106 dinner