This is more a holiday tip than a recipe and it is for people who are willing to use readymade shortcuts for holiday entertaining. If you are like me, you love the taste of crescent rolls, but don’t have a lot of patience for opening the tubes, teasing the roll of dough flat, separating the triangles and rolling each one into a crescent…especially when you are busy serving a lot of people during a holiday meal or trying to put lots of appetizers together for a party. These can even make an appearance slightly dressed up with a quick glaze for breakfast or a brunch treat. These “crescent” roll snails are made very simply and quickly by unwrapping rolls of crescent roll dough and snipping the intact rolls into approximately 12 slices each with a pair of scissors or a sharp knife. Place the slices flat on a baking sheet and bake for 10-14 minutes (depends on your oven and how many rolls you choose to bake at once) at 375 degrees F. Remove from the baking sheet with a spatula that won’t melt and serve warm. For appetizers, you can cut the baked rolls in half horizontally and use the filling of your choice to make small sandwiches. For a breakfast treat, you can create a glaze from confections sugar, a little orange or lemon juice, and perhaps a bit of finely grated citrus that you can make in a jiffy with a microplane grater or use a vanilla glaze with some cinnamon sugar. These little snails can serve more people with fewer calories than the traditional crescent rolls because you are getting 12 smaller servings rather than the eight crescents a tube is said to make. The concentric rings of these snails make them especially attractive and you can serve these delicious rolls with a minimum of effort when you are busy.
Tubes of packaged crescent rolls
Optional glaze made from powdered sugar, milk, vanilla OR
Powdered sugar, lemon or orange juice
Unwrap rolls of crescent roll dough.
Snip the intact rolls into approximately 12 slices each with a pair of scissors or slice with a sharp knife.
Place the slices flat on a baking sheet and bake for 10-14 minutes (depends on your oven and how many rolls you choose to bake at once) at 375 degrees F.
Remove from the baking sheet with a spatula that won’t melt and serve warm.
This is a wonderful salad that surprises people who think they don’t like broccoli and excites people who already know they love it. It is a very simple, easy salad with just 5 ingredients and some seasoning to taste. The sweetness of the raisins makes this a salad that even children enjoy. Sometimes people add a little sugar to the mix, but I don’t find it necessary. If you like it especially sweet, increase the quantity of raisins you include. While this recipe may not make a convert of George H. Bush (who claimed to hate broccoli), you will find that this disappears quickly although it can be refrigerated for a day or two and remain crisp and delicious. Like any recipe, this one can be tweaked to your taste by using dried sweetened cranberries instead of raisins, sunflower seeds instead of cashew pieces, different onion types, or even some yogurt instead of mayonnaise. You can use some bacon bits to add a smoky, meaty flavor. This is my favorite version. I like to use the microwave oven to cook vegetables quickly without a lot of vitamin-robbing water; however, you can choose to steam the broccoli or even drop it into boiling water and remove it as soon as the color changes to bright green and then cool it. The broccoli should remain crisp after cooking, not soft as it might be if you were serving it as a hot vegetable side dish.
2 pounds of broccoli crowns
2 ounces of raisins
4 ounces of roasted salted cashew pieces
4 ounces of finely diced red onion
10 tablespoons of mayonnaise (This salad can be vegan if you use a vegan mayonnaise.)
Salt and pepper to taste
Cut the broccoli crowns (including the stem parts) into small bite size pieces. Rinse them and drain them, leaving a little water clinging to the florets. Cook on high in a microwave-safe casserole dish (such as Corningware) or bowl for about 4 minutes or until crisp-tender. If you are using Corningware, you can submerge the bottom of your container in cold water to cool it quickly. If you are using something like Pyrex, transfer to a cool bowl.
Add the raisins, cashew pieces, diced red onion, and mayonnaise to the broccoli. Mix gently until all of the ingredients are evenly dispersed. Taste and adjust seasoning with salt and pepper if you like.
I love Mexican-inspired dishes and this one is easy to make. When I bring it to potlucks, I am always asked for the recipe. It is also good for a home cooked meal, and can be mild or spicy to your taste depending on the canned sauce you purchase. All of the quantities are approximate as exact measurements are not critical. You can make this tasty dish out of roasted chicken or turkey leftovers (or planned-overs at our house) or a deli rotisserie chicken makes fast work of it too. I like to dice up the meat from a rotisserie chicken from Costco and that makes the dish especially easy because those chickens are well-seasoned. Since all of the ingredients have already been salted, you should not have to add any salt to the mixture. I haven’t tried it with canned chicken, but I don’t see a reason that wouldn’t work also. You can use shredded Cheddar cheese, a mixture of Cheddar and Jack cheeses or the packaged Mexican blend cheese available in supermarkets and Costco, which is what I used. I like Las Palmas Green Chile Enchilada Sauce, but other brands should work too. Recently, I discovered that this sauce is available in 28 ounce cans in mild, medium, and picante (or hot) levels of spiciness. My preference is the picante one, but I also recommend the medium one. We found the mild one to make a casserole that was a little bland. Instead of preparing the dish from fresh tortillas and having to fry them, I use packaged tortilla chips or strips to save time and effort and it makes a dish with good texture.
5 cups of cooked, diced or shredded chicken or turkey (One rotisserie chicken from Costco gives you about 5 cups of meat.)
2 cups Cheddar, Cheddar and Jack cheeses, or Mexican blend shredded cheese
4 cups coarsely crushed tortilla chips or strips (measure after crushing)
1 28 ounce can of Green Chile Enchilada Sauce (Las Palmas picante or medium sauce is good.)
Salsa, sour cream, guacamole and sprigs of cilantro for serving (optional)
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
In a 9x13 inch baking dish (Pyrex works well.) spread the diced meat. Cover evenly with 2 cups of the cheese. Cover with the 4 cups of coarsely crushed tortilla chips or strips. Stir the ingredients together carefully to make an even mix. Pour the can of enchilada sauce over and stir again to moisten all of the ingredients. Press lightly into an even layer in the pan. Cover with aluminum foil and bake for about 20 minutes. Remove the foil and bake for another 10-15 minutes or until the dish is heated through. You can sprinkle another 1/2 cup of shredded cheese on the top and melt it under the broiler if you like that look. Let cool for about 5 minutes and serve with salsa, sour cream, guacamole and cilantro if you like.
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 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.
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.
Pralined almonds, also known as candied almonds, are a sweet treat that can be eaten whole as a snack, crushed for decorating frosted cakes or adding to ice cream sundaes, or chopped coarsely to add to salads. They make a great hostess or holiday gift in a pretty jar with a ribbon or in a decorative can. The recipe itself is very easy, but I do not recommend trying to cook more than one batch at a time as stirring the sandy, sugar-coated nuts can take a bit of effort until the sugar re-liquefies.
1/3 cup water
3/4 cup granulated sugar
2 cups whole almonds (untoasted)
1 tablespoon salted butter
Line a baking sheet with a silicone liner such as Silpat or aluminum foil to use later for cooling the nuts. In a medium saucepan with a handle you will be able to hold onto securely, heat the water and the sugar over medium heat without stirring until the temperature reaches approximately 248F degrees on a candy thermometer. If the thermometer is not completely submerged in the syrup, tilt the pan a bit to get an accurate reading. Remove the pan from the heat and quickly stir in the almonds with a wooden spoon or other strong, heat-proof utensil. Continue to stir until the sugar crystallizes and appears sandy. Return the pan to the stove top and cook the almonds over medium heat, stirring constantly until the crystallized sugar liquefies and coats the nuts. This will take about 10 minutes. Be careful to not overcook at this point or you’ll risk burning the nuts and the caramel, which can taste bitter if it burns. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the butter. Spread the nuts on the lined baking sheet and working quickly with two forks, separate the nuts from each other. Allow to cool. If you find that you have too much butter coating the cool nuts, blot with paper towels. Store the almonds in an airtight container for up to two weeks.