These pockets turn leftover turkey or chicken, mashed potatoes and perhaps even leftover vegetables into a meal you would enjoy even if you had to start from scratch. The curried potato mixture is similar to what you might find in an Indian samosa, but these are baked in a pastry pocket instead of being fried. You can make your own pastry or use the packaged ones you find in the refrigerator case in the supermarket. You can store the unbaked pockets in the freezer for up to 2 months by placing them on a baking sheet and freezing them until they are firm enough to transfer to a freezer-weight plastic bag. Bake the frozen pies at 375°F for 30 to 45 minutes.
2 Tbsp butter
1 cup onion, diced or chopped finely
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
2 teaspoons curry powder
2 cups mashed potatoes
1 cup frozen peas
1 1/2 cups diced roasted turkey or chicken
3 refrigerated rolled pie crusts
1 egg, beaten
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees °F. Line a baking sheet with a non-stick silicone sheet such as Silpat or parchment paper. Heat the butter in a large non-stick skillet over medium heat. Add the onion, curry powder, salt and pepper and cook, stirring occasionally until the onion is golden brown and softened. Take off the heat. Add the mashed potatoes, peas and turkey.
Unroll the pie crusts and cut each into 4 quarters. Divide the potato/pea/turkey mixture into 12 portions and place them on the dough, covering one half of each piece of dough. Fold the dough over the filling. Use a fork to press the edges to seal them and leave a decorative edge. Put the pies on the baking sheet. Brush with the beaten egg and bake until golden brown, 15 to 20 minutes.
Just about everybody loves sugar cookies and these buttery cookies with the melt-in-your-mouth addition of cream cheese are especially lovable. They are flavored with the warm spices of the holiday season. If you don’t have pumpkin pie spice, you can use cinnamon and a little nutmeg, grated with a microplane instead. They are not like the heavier shortbread cookies, nor as “tough” as a rolled or pressed cookie. The flavor is more complex than a Snickerdoodle and I don’t find these cookies to be as doughy. They are fairly delicate and crispy and it is very hard to eat just one…or two…or three. While I call them Thanksgiving Sugar Cookies, I am thankful that they are delicious any time of year. I was trying to count how many I made in this last batch so I could write the number down for you with some authority, but I started eating them as I put them on the cooling rack. I’m pretty sure it made around 5 dozen cookies.
1 cup butter – 2 sticks or 1/2 pound (leave at room temperature for about an hour)
8 ounces cream cheese (leave at room temperature for about an hour)
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar + more for dipping a glass to press the cookies
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice
1/4 teaspoon salt (only if using unsalted butter)
Cream the butter and cream cheese together in a large bowl. Beat in the sugar (and salt, if using) until smooth. Beat in the egg and vanilla extract. Mix the flour, baking powder and pumpkin pie spice together until the color is uniform. (Be sure to get any lumps out of the baking powder before pouring it in the flour.) Stir the dry ingredients and wet ingredients together just until combined. Chill an hour or more to firm up the dough to make it more manageable.
Heat the oven to 375 degrees F. Roll tablespoons of the dough into balls quickly with the palms of your hands. Place them on ungreased cookie sheets about 2 inches apart. A one-tablespoon spring-loaded scoop makes this very easy. Fill a shallow bowl with granulated sugar. Rub a very small amount of cookie dough (to make the sugar adhere) on the flat bottom of a glass or a small metal measuring cup that fits in the shallow bowl. Dip the glass in the sugar and flatten each ball of dough into a thin circle, dipping the glass back into the sugar for each cookie.
Bake 10 to 15 minutes, until the edges are lightly browned. Remove from the cookie sheets and cool on wire racks.
Strata is a fancy name for a casserole of bread, milk, eggs, cheese, and ingredients that flavor the custardy result, allowing you to make it in a different version every time. This is an excellent breakfast buffet item during the holidays because it can be assembled the night before, refrigerated and put in the oven about an hour before you intend to serve it. It is reminiscent of quiche, but without the high-calorie, time-intensive crust. It can easily be made in a quantity suitable for a large group. In this case, the well-known Quiche Lorraine was the inspiration for the dish. Reduced-fat Jarlsberg Swiss cheese, sautéed onions, and bacon are the basis for preparing this flavorful casserole. Some recipes call for layering the ingredients, which is why it got the name “strata”, but layering is not necessary. Once again, this is a base recipe that you can alter to your taste and the occasion. You can switch out the type of cheese you use, the type of bread you use, the meat you choose (or no meat), the vegetables you add, the seasoning, etc. You can make the dish richer by using full-fat cheese or half and half to replace the milk. I especially enjoy a vegetarian version made with sautéed mushrooms and blanched broccoli. A Mexican-inspired version that reminds me of chiles rellenos can be made with green chiles and a mixture of Jack and Cheddar cheeses, served topped with a spicy tomato sauce.
1 large onion
2 tablespoons butter
1 pound loaf of bread (Butter-top wheat works well)
1 pound Jarlesberg reduced-fat cheese
1 cup bacon bits
3 cups milk
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter a 3 quart casserole dish, such as a Pyrex 9x13 pan. Cut the onion into 1/4 inch dice. Sauté in the butter over medium-low heat for about 15 minutes until the onion caramelizes and becomes golden and sweet. While the onion is cooking, dice the cheese into small pieces (or grate it if it is a single piece) and place in a large bowl. Cut the bread into 1/2 inch dice and add to the bowl. Add the bacon bits and black pepper. Add the sautéed onions. Mix to distribute the ingredients. Pour into the baking dish.
Whisk the eggs in a medium bowl. Mix in the salt and the milk. Pour the liquid gently over the bread mixture and press the bread lightly into the dish to distribute the moisture evenly. At this point, you can cover the dish with plastic wrap and store in the refrigerator until the next day. Remove from the refrigerator and bake in a 350 degree F. oven until puffed and golden, about 50 minutes to 1 hour 10 minutes.
This is a very easy and common recipe, but it wouldn’t be Thanksgiving at our house without it. While this cranberry citrus relish is a tradition, it is a little different each year depending on the whims of our “relish chef” and which citrus fruit is available in the market or on our trees. My son has been responsible for making the relish each Thanksgiving since his early teens, so clearly anybody can do a great job of preparing this recipe. The texture of the minced cranberries and citrus and the interplay of sour and sweet is the perfect contrast to the other components on the Thanksgiving plates…not that Thanksgiving is the only time we eat this. We often double the recipe to ensure that we have leftovers for turkey-cranberry relish sandwiches, and if you do that, make it in two batches so the food processor can handle it well. There is usually somebody who depends on our also opening a can of jellied cranberry sauce to satisfy a childhood view of Thanksgiving tradition, but it is easy enough to accommodate. The sugar in this recipe can be replaced with an equivalent amount of your favorite non-caloric sweetener, but the result will not have the pleasant, syrupy quality that using real sugar gives it. It will still be very tasty.
2 cups fresh cranberries
1 medium orange or 2 tangerines or 2/3 cup kumquats
2/3 cup sugar (or more to taste)
Wash the cranberries in a bowl of water and discard any berries that sink. Drain the berries and put in your food processor with the steel knife in place. Cut the citrus into chunks and discard any seeds. Do not discard any of the citrus peel. Add the citrus to the food processor along with 2/3 cup sugar. Pulse until the mixture is fairly uniform. Taste and add more sugar if needed. Transfer to a serving bowl.
This recipe is adapted from Heidi Swanson and 101 Cookbooks. While Heidi considered this a summer salad, we have enjoyed it other times of year by using good quality, thawed frozen sweet corn as a substitute when fresh corn is not available. If you use frozen corn now, try this again with fresh corn when summer crops are super sweet. Regardless of which corn you use, the end product will be a sweet, crunchy, chewy salad with a light lemony vinaigrette, that you can serve cold or at room temperature. If you don’t have a shallot, you can use a small amount of another type of onion, but mellow it in the lemon juice before you proceed with the rest of the preparation. You can make the vinaigrette in a bowl or jar, but for picnic transport or do ahead, the jar works better.
6 medium ears of corn or 3 cups of frozen sweet corn, thawed
1/2 cup diced red bell pepper
1 large shallot, minced
1/3 cup fresh lemon juice
3/8 teaspoon fine grain sea salt
2 tablespoons brown sugar
3 tablespoons light oil (olive, canola, etc.)
1/2 cup toasted pepitas (shelled Mexican pumpkin seeds)
1/2 cup toasted sunflower seeds
1 teaspoon Mexican oregano or substitute another herb
If you have toasted the pepitas or sunflower seeds yourself, put them aside to cool. If you are using fresh corn, remove the husks and silk and with the corn lying on your cutting board, use a sharp knife to cut the kernels from the cobs a row or two at a time as close to their base as you can. Doing only a couple of rows at a time maximizes getting as many full kernels as possible. Place the kernels in a medium bowl with the red bell pepper and shallot while you make the dressing.
Combine the lemon juice, salt, sugar and oregano in a small bowl or jar and mix until the salt and sugar are dissolved. Gradually add the oil, whisking vigorously until the dressing comes together or shake in the jar. Taste, and adjust with more lemon juice, salt or sugar, if needed. This dressing should be on the sweet side, and not overly tangy and acidic.
Just before serving, add the seeds to the bowl of corn along with the dressing. Toss well, getting everything well coated. You can garnish the salad with a little more oregano that you rub between your hands to sprinkle over the top.
1/4 cup chilled butter (1/2 stick), cut into small pieces
1/2 cup chopped pecans
Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Place the sweet potatoes in a large pot and cover with water. Bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer until tender, about 20 to 30 minutes. Drain and cool until you can touch them. Gently pull off the potato skins and cut the potatoes into large chunks. Beat at medium speed in the bowl of a stand mixer or with a hand mixer until the potatoes are smooth. If you are appliance free, use a potato masher. Combine the half and half, maple syrup, cinnamon, vanilla, salt, and egg. Add the mixture to the potatoes and mix until evenly combined. Spoon the potato mixture into the baking dish.
To make the streusel, pulse the pecans a few times in a food processor leaving some large chunks and set aside in a small bowl. Pulse the flour and sugar to combine them. Add the chilled butter and pulse until the mixture resembles coarse meal. Add the pecans and pulse 2 or 3 times until the nuts are distributed. If you don’t have a food processor, chop the nuts with a knife. Mix the flour and sugar. Cut in the butter with a pastry blender, two knives, or a fork. Mix in the chopped nuts. Sprinkle the streusel evenly over the potato mixture. Cover and bake at 375 degrees F for 15 minutes. Uncover and bake an additional 25 minutes or until the topping is browned and the potatoes are thoroughly heated.
All you need to know about defrosting and roasting the perfect turkey for Thanksgiving.
Salt and Pepper
The star participant in most American Thanksgiving dinners is the turkey. For me, there were two key discoveries that I made over the years that made Thanksgiving preparations much easier.
The first discovery was what to do with the huge (18-25 pound) frozen turkeys I usually choose when refrigerator space is at a premium. For many, many years I have been purchasing a large frozen turkey four days before I need to cook it. I double-wrap it in store plastic bags. I double-wrap that in store paper bags. This is my first line of defense to keep the turkey insulated. I put it in a large well-insulated plastic cooler and leave it until marathon cooking day. I usually turn it over by the third day, ensure it is still cold enough in the cooler and if it seems like the thawing is getting close to done, I add gel ice packs to keep it under 40 degrees when the top of the cooler is closed. When I am ready to cook the turkey, it is defrosted enough to handle and there is still ice in the bird’s cavity. We have never had a problem with over-temperature birds and all my guests have survived without issues. Before putting the cooler back in storage, we wash it out well with chlorine bleach and water or antiseptic wipes.
The second discovery was the process of spatchcocking a turkey. What was that you say? Spatchcocking, sometimes called butterflying. It is simply the process of cutting out the backbone of the turkey with a pair of poultry shears and the help of a heavy, sharp knife. The turkey is then put on a sheet pan skin side up, and pressure is applied to the breastbones to crack them and flatten the turkey. One Thanksgiving, I was having trouble getting enough leverage to crack the breastbones of a very large turkey. I placed the turkey pan on the floor and got down on my knees to lean on the breast with more of my weight. At that point my sister came into the kitchen, looked at me poised over the turkey with my hands pressing on the breastbone and deadpanned with a doleful look, “I think it’s too late.” Your turkey will not need CPR! If you like, you can remove the wing tips at this point. Season with salt and pepper, brush with oil and bake at 450 degrees F until the turkey thigh reaches an internal temperature of 165 degrees F on an instant read thermometer. A 12 pound turkey will be done in a little over an hour. An 18 pound turkey will probably be done in an hour and forty five minutes. Check for doneness earlier than you think possible! The turkey will be golden brown and both the dark meat and the breast meat will be perfectly cooked in record time. It is magic that you can get moist breast meat and cooked dark meat all at once while freeing up extra oven space for sides because the turkey is not as tall as it would be with a traditional roasting method. Do not attempt to carve the turkey until it has set for at least 15 minutes to allow the juices to distribute through the meat. Carving before the turkey has had a chance to set will cause the juices to end up on your carving board, not in the turkey.
The turkey pictured here was moved from the roasting sheet pan to this aluminum foil lined pan for photos and so I could work on gravy using the lovely pan juices and browned bits while it set. The position you see it in is the position your unroasted turkey will sit in as you put it in the oven.
When the turkey had set, I carved it by taking the breast portions off the bones with my fingers and a small knife and cutting them crosswise into slices. The drumsticks and wing portions were left whole. The thigh meat was sliced.
This lasagna comes together quickly using commercial pasta sauce. You could take the time to make your own sauce, but the results are very good using a bottled sauce that you like. We find that Prego sauce with mushrooms works for us. I like to use freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano because a small amount adds big taste. A microplane grater gives very even results easily. Once you have cooked the pasta and the sausage and grated the Parmesan cheese, it is just a matter of assembly, heating the casserole and browning the top. Serve this with a green vegetable and you can have dinner on the table in a little over an hour including baking and setting time.
15 lasagna noodles (from a 1 pound box…there will be some leftover)
1 20 ounce package of turkey sweet Italian sausages
2 cups or 1 15 ounce container of part-skim ricotta cheese
Approximately 6 1/2 cups of your favorite pasta sauce (We like Prego mushroom sauce)
1/2 cup of lightly packed, freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese
Boil the lasagna noodles in salted water for about 2 minutes less than the package directs to achieve a firm al dente texture. Rinse with cold water and drain.
While the water is heating and the pasta is cooking, remove the sausage meat from the casings and break it into small pieces. Sauté the sausage in a skillet on medium heat for a few minutes until it is cooked through. Do not discard any liquid that may accumulate.
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Put a thin layer of pasta sauce in a 9x13 non-reactive baking dish. Make a layer of pasta using 4 noodles the long way in the dish and one in the other direction to fill the surface of the pan. Distribute half of the cooked turkey sausage over the pasta. Evenly dot the surface with rounded teaspoonfuls of one cup of the ricotta cheese. Distribute 1 cup of the mozzarella cheese evenly over the layer. Sprinkle the cheeses with 1 teaspoon of the Italian seasoning. If there is liquid left in the sauté pan from the sausage, pour it over the first layer of ingredients. Pour about 2 1/2 cups of the sauce over the meat and cheeses and spread it evenly to cover. Repeat the layers as described above. Top with a third layer of pasta noodles. Use the last cup to cup and a half of sauce to cover the surface of the pasta. Bake until the casserole is heated through and bubbly, about 25 minutes. Sprinkle the top with the Parmigiano Reggiano cheese and return to the over to brown the cheese. You can use the broiler to speed up the browning, but watch it carefully to avoid burning it. When the top is golden, remove from the oven and allow the dish to sit for 15 minutes before cutting to help the layers retain their shape.
This recipe makes a crunchy, nutty, chocolate-covered toffee that is perfect for holiday gifts and parties. You will probably have to make more than one batch as it is pretty irresistible. Candy gets very hot when it is cooking, so this is not a good recipe to make with children. Store the candy in an airtight container or it will tend to get sticky. If you use salted butter, omit the salt in the recipe. This is the kind of recipe where having the right tools can make a big difference in how easily the job is accomplished, but you can make this uncomplicated candy even if you have none of these tools. A candy thermometer, offset spatula, non-stick silicone spatula and non-stick silicone pan liner make this so simple any cook can be successful with little effort. I prefer to prepare the candy with small nut pieces/nut dust on top of the chocolate layer, as it is neater to break and eat. You can put chocolate on both sides of the candy by leaving about 1/3 of the chocolate aside and melting it for application once the first side has set, but I find that unnecessary.
1 1/2 cups whole almonds
8 ounces unsalted butter (2 sticks)
1 cup granulated sugar
2 tablespoons water
1/2 tsp salt
1 teaspoon vanilla
8 ounces bittersweet or semi-sweet chocolate (bar broken into small pieces or 1 1/3 cups chocolate chips)
Toast the almonds on a baking sheet at 325 degrees for about 10 minutes or until they are slightly darker throughout. Do not over-toast or the nuts will taste bitter. Using a silicone pan liner such as Silpat reduces the chances of burning the bottoms of the nuts and allows you to toast the nuts without any stirring. Let the nuts cool. Using a rocking motion, chop them into small pieces with a chef’s knife, holding the point of the knife against the cutting board and lifting the handle slightly and rotating the knife to a new position for the next cut. Set aside about 1/4 cup of the smaller pieces and 'dust' to use for topping the candy.
Line the baking sheet with aluminum foil or use a silicone pan liner such as Silpat.
Place the butter, sugar, salt and water in a heavy pan on medium heat. The mixture will foam up as it cooks, so the pan should be at least twice as deep as the ingredients. Place a candy thermometer in the mixture. Cook, swirling the mixture occasionally until the foaming subsides. At this point, the candy will cook rapidly. Continue to cook, stirring constantly with a heat-resistant spatula or wooden spoon until the candy reaches the hard-crack stage at 300 degrees (see Note). The candy will be a golden brown caramel color. Remove the pan from the heat immediately. The temperature will continue to rise. Working quickly, stir in the vanilla and the larger quantity of nuts. Pour onto the prepared baking sheet and spread and smooth the surface with your spatula or spoon to about 1/4 inch. Distribute the chocolate pieces over the candy and allow them to melt for two minutes. Spread the chocolate over the surface. An offset spatula will help spread it evenly. Sprinkle the almond dust/nuts that you put aside onto the chocolate, pressing them in lightly to help them adhere. Cool the candy until the chocolate is set, break it into pieces and store in an airtight container with waxed or parchment paper between the layers. You can also put the candy in the refrigerator for 30 minutes to set the chocolate.
Note: If you are not using a candy thermometer, you can test for the hard crack stage by dropping a little of the molten syrup into very cold water that you have standing by next to the stove. At hard crack it will form brittle threads that break when bent. Be careful not to touch thick pieces of candy in the water as they are likely to be hot. You cannot leave the candy on the heat while you are testing or it will burn the sugar and cause the caramel to be bitter.
In early Fall, there is an abundance of beautiful, shiny, purple eggplants in the markets. I like to make one of my favorite eggplant dishes that I adapted from Martha Stewart. It is classic comfort food and reminds me of lasagna, but without all the pasta carbs. It is great made the same day, but it might be even better reheated the next day…At least that is what I found when eating the leftovers! This casserole serves 4, but you can double the ingredients and use a 9x13 dish instead of the 8x8 dish. Using Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese (freshly grated with a microplane and pressed lightly into the cup) will give you especially rich flavor. You can use your favorite pasta sauce. I made mine with Prego mushroom sauce.
2 large eggplants (1 1/4 pounds each)
3 tablespoons olive oil, plus more for the baking dish
Coarse salt and fresh ground black pepper to season the eggplant
16 ounces store-bought or home-made pasta sauce (2 cups)
2 tablespoons of chopped fresh basil leaves
Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Slice the eggplants lengthwise into 3/4 inch thick slices. Arrange the eggplant slices in a single layer on two rimmed baking sheets lined with aluminum foil or non-stick silicone liners such as Silpat. Brush lightly with oil and season with salt and pepper. Turn the slices over and oil and season the second side. A silicone pastry brush makes for easy application and clean-up. Roast for 25 to 30 minutes until the eggplant is tender and golden, turning halfway through to brown both sides.
While the eggplant is baking, whisk together the ricotta, eggs, 1/2 cup of the Parmesan cheese, oregano, salt, and pepper. Brush an 8-inch square baking dish with oil.
Divide the eggplant slices into 4 similar quantities for layering. It is fine if you need to cut some of the pieces. Place one layer of the eggplant slices into the bottom of the oiled dish. Spread with 1 cup of pasta sauce. An offset spatula can help make the layers even. Place another eggplant layer. Spread with half of the ricotta mixture. Repeat the layers, ending with a ricotta layer. Distribute the remaining 1/2 cup of Parmesan cheese over the top. Reduce the oven temperature to 400 degrees. Bake until bubbling and golden, 20 to 25 minutes. Cool 10 minutes before serving with the chopped basil leaves garnishing each portion.
Whether you think of caramel corn as a Halloween treat, an inexpensive holiday gift or a delicious snack, this recipe is easier to prepare than recipes that have you cook the syrup to a higher temperature before covering the popped corn. The oven heat finishes cooking the candy, while stirring the warm corn helps distribute the syrup evenly. Fill decorated holiday cellophane bags with cooled caramel corn and tie with ribbons or raffia to make great trick or treat favors or stocking stuffers for family, friends and coworkers. Fill a large tin with caramel popcorn to make a substantial holiday present that is fresher and more personal than mail order popcorn.
2 cups brown sugar, packed firmly
1/2 pound (1 cup) butter
1/2 cup light corn syrup (Karo)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon vanilla (optional)
7 to 8 quarts popcorn (see Note)
1 cup of salted peanuts (optional)
One (1) ounce or 1/8 cup or 2 tablespoons of unpopped popcorn will make approximately a quart of popped corn; therefore you will need to pop about 1 cup popcorn kernels. I prefer the electric poppers that have a stirrer in the bottom which make up to 6 quarts at a time because I find that air-popped corn sometimes has a scorched taste. Depending on your popper, you might need to pop the corn in two batches. Of course if you don’t have a special appliance, you can pop corn in a large pot. Use 1 to 2 tablespoons of oil per half cup of kernels and shake the pot as you hear the kernels popping to avoid burning the corn. When the popping slows down, remove the pot from the heat and transfer the popped corn to your baking pan.
Pre-heat the oven to 200 degrees. Use a large, non-stick roasting pan or lightly oil a large baking pan or roasting pan. If you have a silicone liner such as Silpat, you can also line your pan with that. Check the capacity of your pan before you find yourself with a lot of popcorn and a pot of hot syrup. If one pan is not large enough, plan to split the ingredients between two pans. Pop enough corn kernels to get 7 to 8 quarts of popped corn (about one cup). Place the popped corn (and the peanuts if you are using them) into your baking pan. You can leave the popped corn in the oven in your baking pan while you make the second batch and prepare the syrup. Boil sugar, butter, corn syrup and salt to the soft ball stage, 234° to 238° on a candy thermometer. If you don’t have a candy thermometer, just boil without stirring for 5 minutes. Add the baking soda (and vanilla if you are using it) and stir well. Be careful, as the hot sugar syrup will foam up when you add the soda. Pour the syrup over the popcorn and stir. Bake for 1 hour, stirring every 10 to 15 minutes. If your oven doesn’t go that low, check the popcorn and stir more frequently. The caramel corn should be golden in color and feel less sticky when it is done. Slightly underdone is better than overdone. Remove from the oven and cool. When it is cool, break into pieces if necessary and store in airtight containers.