Tender Juicy Turkey

How do you cook your turkey?

A fun tradition in some kindergarten and first grade classes is writing about Thanksgiving dinner.  The children write how they obtain and cook their turkey dinner.  The answers are varied and usually very humorous.

My daughter wrote that she would find a turkey in someone’s backyard.  (On a drive, we saw turkeys wandering around in a neighborhood yard). Another kid said they would get a turkey from a tree.  However, most kids wrote that their turkeys came from a store.

Even at a young age, kids disagree about the proper way to cook a turkey.  Some take it to a restaurant to be cooked, others cook it in the barbecue.  But the most popular method seems to be cooking the turkey in the oven. Most little kids seem to agree that 5-10 minutes is the proper cooking time for a turkey.  🙂  Although, one kid did say he would cook it in the microwave for 5 hours after it cooked in the oven.

If you search for the best way to cook a turkey, you will see that adults also have varied opinions.

Last year before Thanksgiving, I stood staring in front of a grocery store freezer full of frozen turkeys, wondering which turkey would turn out tasty.  My last turkey was dry and stringy, and so were the week of leftovers.   Consequently, I was beginning to consider just leaving all the turkeys at the store.

While I stood there staring at the turkeys, the butcher came up and asked if I needed help.  I explained my dilemma, and he told me the price of hamburger was five times as expensive as turkey, and I really ought to stock my freezer with turkey because it was an inexpensive protein source.  If my turkey didn’t taste good, I was cooking it wrong.  So, I listened to his cooking advice and ended up putting two, 20 pound turkeys in my shopping cart.

The result?  The best turkey I have ever eaten.  My husband even said the white breast meat was good.

So, what did I do?

  1. Brine the thawed turkey overnight (or 12-24 hours).  Use a turkey baking bag, inside a large stock pot, to brine the turkey, and it will still fit in the fridge.  (The bag holds the brine right around the turkey.  Since I use less liquid, I half the brine recipe).  When you are ready to put it in the oven, rinse the turkey with clean water.
  2. Rub the turkey with canola oil.  Don’t stuff the bird, cook the stuffing in a casserole dish when the turkey comes out of the oven.
  3. Cook the turkey breast-side-down.  It helps the white meat stay moist.  Don’t use  bags or foil otherwise you will steam the turkey.
  4. Roast in a preheated, 475°F oven for 45 minutes to 1 hour (depending on the size of your turkey).  This browns and crisps up the turkey skin. (Warning–it does make a mess in your oven, but it is worth it.)
  5. Decrease heat to 250°F and let the turkey cook for hours until the turkey reaches a temperature at least 170°F.  (I cooked mine for about 7 more hours. Mine actually reached 200°F because I wasn’t paying attention, so maybe that was the secret.  I plan on doing it again to be on the safer side.)  (Yes, I realize that the USDA recommends cooking turkeys at a temperature no lower than 325°F. I guess this is me on the wild side of life.)
  6. Take the turkey out of the oven and let it rest and cool for 20 minutes before carving.

Make sure you refrigerate your leftovers properly.

To read more about this, search slow-cooking a turkey on the internet.  You can also look up Alton Brown’s recipe for roast turkey–I got some ideas from him, and also the recipe for a turkey brine.

I hope you have a happy and delicious Thanksgiving this year!

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Red Pepper Flake Toast

red pepper toast

My oldest is completely obsessed with red pepper flakes.  He puts them on his eggs, his potatoes, his meat, his toast, and pretty much everything else in between.  He even tried it on plain oatmeal once, although I’m not sure if that was a keeper.

This toast is his creation, and he did the photography also.  The bread is buttered (with dairy-free margarine, Nucoa spread), and then sprinkled with red pepper flakes.  Propping up the bread on a rack allows the air to circulate and dry the bread on the bottom also.  A couple of minutes under the broiler, until it is toasted to your liking, and your red pepper flake toast is ready to enjoy.

 

Easy Dill Pickles

Refrigerator_pickles combined

Simple crisp dill pickles–no canning required.

 

Summer whizzed by, and fall has arrived.  I hope your summer was amazing.  Mine was fantastic–full of camping, family reunions, and lots of summer garden produce.  My cucumber plants were especially fruitful.  Making pickles helped keep up with the all the cucumbers.

I adapted my recipe from Old World Garden’s Refrigerator Dill Pickles.  The Refrigerator Dill Pickles are the easiest and tastiest pickles I have made.  I have never had any luck making crispy pickles when they are canned; they are tasty, but a little on the soggy side. These pickles, however, are very crisp.

When making pickles, make sure your cucumbers are fresh, small, and not overripe and turning yellow.   Wash them well.  Cut off the blossom-end of the pickles.  I like slicing the cucumbers lengthwise before putting in my clean jars–that way they are ready for sandwiches.

The recipe makes one pint of pickles.  When I make pickles, I will fill my jars with the cucumbers, and then double or triple the brine recipe based on how many pickle jars I have filled.


Simple Dill Pickles

Makes one pint

 

Pickling cucumbers, washed and blossom-end removed (sliced, quartered or left whole)

2/3 c vinegar

2/3 c water

1 Tbsp pickling salt

2 garlic cloves, crushed

1/4 tsp red peppers

1 tsp dill seed

1/2 tsp peppercorns

 

Pack the cucumber into a clean jar.  Boil vinegar, water, and salt. While the brine is coming to a boil, add the seasoning into the jars with the cucumbers.  Pour the boiling brine into the jars.  Put a canning lid on the jar and store in the refrigerator.

For the best flavor, let the pickles brine for a couple of weeks before eating.

Steak and Mango Pasta Salad

Thin slices of beef, sweet mangoes, and cool cucumber tossed with pasta and homemade Italian dressing . . . Summer is here.

steak and mango pasta salad

This salad was thrown together from some leftovers, but it was so delicious, I had to share it.  Really, my mouth is watering just writing about it.  The mango was an afterthought; it was looking sad and lonely in the fruit bowl, but it turned out to be the star of the show.  The sweetness of the mango pairs very nicely with the zesty dressing.

The Italian dressing is the most amazing recipe.  I copied down the recipe from an online recipe about 6 years ago, and sadly I have no idea who the creator is, but whoever it was, they know how to make Italian Dressing.  I do tweak it a little here and there when I make it.  For instance, I don’t own any celery salt, but I do have celery seed, so a little pinch of that and a bit of extra salt and voila…I don’t even know what I’m missing from the original recipe.  🙂

I cook my steak in a hot cast-iron skillet with a little oil, salt, pepper, and garlic.  I follow a similar technique with a roast, first sear it in a hot cast iron pan, then place the whole pan in an oven and roast (without a lid) on a low heat about 250 degrees Fahrenheit.


Steak and Mango Pasta Salad

Chilled, and thinly sliced grilled steak or tender roast beef

Fresh mango, peeled and cubed

Cucumber, peeled and sliced

Pasta, cooked and cooled

Italian Dressing, recipe follows

 

Mix ingredients (amounts to your liking) and gently mix.  Eat.

 

Italian Dressing

1 cup vinegar of your choice

3/4 cup olive or canola oil

4 Tbsp water

1/2 Tbsp garlic salt

1/2 Tbsp onion powder (or dehydrated, minced onion)

1 tsp sugar

1 Tbsp dried oregano

1/2 tsp ground black pepper

1/2 tsp dried basil

1/2 Tbsp dried parsley

1/4 tsp celery salt (or a pinch of celery seed and a pinch of salt)

1 Tbsp salt

Whisk ingredients together, or put ingredients in a mason jar and shake well (with the lid on)

Store in refrigerator.

 

Toasted Coconut Almond Bars

 

Dark chocolate spread over a crumb crust of toasted coconut, almond, and graham crackers.

Almond Coconut Bars1

At the end of the day, when your sweetheart asks about your day, how do you answer? For me, I could respond by telling him about the heaps of laundry I washed, the new recipe I tried, time spent volunteering in the kid’s classrooms, or cleaning.  All things considered, I like to tease and tell him that I spent the day reading a book and eating chocolate.

These toasted coconut almond bars are the chocolates you want to eat while you are reading the book.  On second thought, maybe you should eat them at the kitchen table and then wash your hands before reading the book. (Yes, I am a mom 🙂 ).

These Toasted Coconut Almond Bars are rich, but not very sweet.  Toasting the almonds and coconut warms up the almond oils and speeds along the grinding process. Besides toasted coconut is so tasty!


Toasted Coconut Almond Bars

2 rectangular graham crackers, (31 g)

1 cup almonds, (140 g)

1/2 cup unsweetened coconut flakes, (46 g)

1 Tbsp coconut oil

1/8 tsp sea salt

 

Preheat oven to 325°F.

In your food processor, crush the graham crackers.  Place crumbs in a bowl and set aside.

Place 1 cup almonds on a baking sheet and put in preheated oven for 12 minutes.  Add coconut and brown for 2 minutes or until coconut turns golden brown. Put almonds, coconut, coconut oil and salt in food processor and process until smooth and on its way to turning into almond butter.  When the almonds are moist enough that they can form a clump, mix in graham cracker crumbs.

coconut almond crumb.jpg
Coconut Almond Mixture

Line a 9×9 casserole dish with parchment paper or Saran wrap.  Place coconut almond mixture into casserole dish.  Press to compact as much as possible and place in freezer to harden for an hour (or overnight).

Melt chocolate chips and coconut oil in microwave-safe bowl for 30 seconds at a time, so not to burn the chocolate.  Stir well between each heating.  Add extra cocoa powder for super dark chocolate.

Holding onto the parchment paper or Saran wrap, lift frozen almond crust out of casserole and onto cutting board.  Spread chocolate on top of the frozen crust.  Allow chocolate to set.  (If needed place back into freezer for a few minutes.)

Using a sharp knife, slice into bars and serve.