28 November 2012

I've got another great-tasting, super easy Asian dish for you today.  Yesterday we visited Thailand with my Coconut Galangal Pork Fried Rice, and today we are visiting Malaysia.  As part of the World Foods Fusion Taste Team, I made a recipe using World Foods' Maylasian Rendang Curry Cooking Sauce.  

Pumpkin Beef Curry

6 cups fresh pumpkin, peeled and cut into 1” cubes (3-4 lb. pumpkin)
Olive oil
Kosher salt
1 tbsp olive oil
½ large onion, chopped
¾ lb. sirloin steak, cut into 1” cubes
1 jar Malaysian Rendang Curry Cooking Sauce
4 servings cooked rice
Fresh cilantro for garnish

Preheat the oven to 375°.  Line a baking sheet with foil.  Spread the pumpkin out in an even layer and drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with kosher salt.  Roast in the oven for 20-40 minutes, or until pumpkin is just fork-tender.  Remove from oven and set aside.

Heat 1 tbsp olive oil in a large skillet.  Add the onion and cook until it begins to soften.  Add the steak and cook until it is brown on all sides.  Add the curry cooking sauce and the pumpkin and cook until beef is cooked through and tender.

Serve over rice and garnish with fresh cilantro, if desired.

Serves 4.

I had been wanting to try a beef curry with pumpkin for a while.  I happened to have a pumpkin around the house:

My daughter got it at her preschool class's Halloween party.  It had been sitting around for a while, and I thought, "Why not use it?"  It was the kind of pumpkin suitable for eating (unlike the huge ones we carve), so why not turn it into dinner?  He was 2 lbs. 14 oz.

 Lena and her pumpkin.  At first she was kind of distressed to hear that we were going to cut up and eat her beloved pumpkin, but eventually she got used to the idea.

 This is the little guy all cut up.  I like using fresh pumpkin, but man, what a pain to cut up!  I didn't even attempt it by myself; I gave the thing to my husband.  But even he had a heck of a time with it.  He eventually managed to quarter it and I took over from there. I was aiming for 6 cups of pumpkin flesh, but turns out he was kind of skinny on the inside, so I only got 5 cups.  Close enough for me!

Roasted pumpkin is so good!  I tried a piece when it came out of the oven and had to use some willpower not to just eat it like that.

I'm glad I didn't though, because the finished dish was amazing.  Pumpkin and beef go so well together and that curry cooking sauce is so good! It's not spicy, but it does have a little kick to it.  If you like things spicy, you could add some kind of chiles to it.  But it's very flavorful on its own.  Check out the ingredients:

Water, Coconut Milk, Onion, Roasted Grated Coconut, Sugar, Dried Chilli, Galangal, Lemon Grass, Tamarind Puree, Garlic, Modified Tapioca Starch, Salt, Lemon Grass Leaf, Ginger, Coriander, Fennel, Turmeric, Cumin, Black Pepper, Star Anise, Cardamom, Cloves, Cinnamon.

It would totally double the cooking time of this dish if you had to put all those ingredients in separately.  Having jarred sauces like these are so handy on busy weeknights, heck, on relaxing weekends too!

It was the perfect compliment to the pumpkin and the beef.  And while my daughter ended up not being able to eat her little friend, my husband and I absolutely loved it.

This is kind of a competition to see which team (we are in state teams) can get the most comments, likes on Facebook, and repins on Pinterest.  So it would be great if you could take just a few seconds to pin this recipe and like it on Facebook!

Disclosure: I received a free sample of the curry cooking sauce from World Foods as part of the Fusion Taste Team. All opinions are 100% my own.

27 November 2012

I promised you some very un-Thanksgiving food this week, and here it is!  I was chosen for the World Foods Fusion Taste Team, which means that I received a lovely variety of Asian stir fry sauces from World Foods to try out and come up with some new recipes.  I made this amazing pork fried rice with their Thai Coconut Galangal Stir Fry Sauce.

Coconut Galangal Pork Fried Rice

3 tbsp canola oil
½ large onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 ½ cups shelled edamame, thawed if frozen
4 oz. cremini mushrooms, chopped
1 cup cabbage, shredded
1 cup carrots, thinly sliced on the bias
1 lb. boneless pork loin, cut into ½” cubes
3 cups cooked rice
Sprinkle of soy sauce
Green onions

Heat oil in a large skillet or wok over high heat.  Add the onion, garlic, edamame, mushrooms, cabbage, and carrots.  Cook until vegetables are just slightly softened.  Add the pork and stir until pork is browned and no longer pink inside, about 5 minutes.

Stir in the rice and half the jar of stir fry sauce.  Cook and stir for about 5 minutes.  Add the remaining stir fry sauce and cook until veggies are softened to your liking.  Sprinkle with soy sauce.  Garnish with fresh green onions and cilantro, if desired.

Makes 4 servings.

This is the second fried rice recipe I have made now, the first is a meatless one, my Thai Fried Rice.  I love packing as many veggies as I can into my fried rice.  I tried to choose different veggies for this dish.  The edamame is a great choice.  And I love the crunchiness from the cabbage and the meaty mushrooms.  

Doesn't it make a beautiful dish?  I love the flavor of this stir fry sauce.  It's not spicy or overpowering in any way.  It just perfectly melds all the dish's components together.  And it's so much easier than pulling five different bottles out of the fridge to create your own sauce.

This is kind of a competition to see which team (we are in state teams) can get the most comments, likes on Facebook, and repins on Pinterest.  So it would be great if you could take just a few seconds to pin this recipe and like it on Facebook!

Disclosure: I received a free sample of the stir fry sauce from World Foods as part of the Fusion Taste Team. All opinions are 100% my own.

21 November 2012

I have a lot to do today, so I'm going to make this short and sweet. Definitely sweet! These are the little treats I took to my daughter's preschool class Thanksgiving party on Monday.  I saw them on Pinterest, originally from Woman's Day, and thought they were so cute.  They are really easy to put together.

Pilgrim Hat Cookies

24 Oreo Fudge Cremes Cookies
1 tube white frosting with piping tips
24 Reese’s mini peanut butter cups

Place cookies on work surface; squeeze a dime-size dot of frosting in center of each.  Unwrap and invert peanut butter cups on frosting, pressing down gently.  Using a small round piping tip, pipe a "hat-band" with frosting around peanut butter cup and a square "buckle." Let frosting set before storing.

Makes 24 cookies.

Aren't they cute?  I love how they are just three ingredients.  They were really easy to do except that I got the wrong kind of frosting for the piping.  I used the Betty Crocker Decorator Icing.  It comes in a tube.  It did not work well.  The first one was great, but then it started getting really hard to work with.  Instead of coming out smoothly, it clumped up really badly.  I wonder if maybe the heat of my hand changed the consistency of it.  Really gave me problems.  So some of my hats looked pretty rough, but oh well!  So don't get that kind.  If you try this and you find a kind that does work well, please let me know what you used in the comments.

The only other problem I had was that some of the Reese's cups had bald spots where you could see the peanut butter through the chocolate.  So make sure you pick up more of those than you actually need so that you can pick out the "good" ones.  My husband happily "took care" of the bald spot ones for me. :)

I hope you all have a great Thanksgiving.  I'll be back next week with some very un-Thanksgiving recipes for you!

17 November 2012

I just can't stop with the Thanksgiving recipes.  Can you tell it's my favorite holiday? (My favorite secular holiday that is. Easter is my favorite Christian holiday.)  I know that lots of people have Thanksgiving and Thanksgiving leftovers on the brain because the number of followers on my "Turkey Recipes" board on Pinterest skyrocketed yesterday.  One recipe in particular got lots of repins yesterday: Spicy Turkey Quesadillas.  It's a Taste of Home recipe.  I actually  made and photographed this recipe (well, my version of it) over the summer, so I thought now would be a great time to share it with you.  Here's my version.

Spicy Cranberry Turkey Quesadillas

8 oz. cream cheese, softened
½ cup cranberry sauce
4 tsp chipotle in adobo, minced
2 cups cooked turkey breast, diced or shredded
8 (8”) flour tortillas

In a medium bowl, stir together the cream cheese, cranberry sauce, and chipotle in adobo.  Stir in the turkey breast.  Spread this over one side of each tortilla and top with remaining tortillas.

Cook in  a large nonstick skillet over medium heat for 2-3 minutes per side or until lightly browned.  Cut into wedges.

Makes 4 servings.

This is an awesome way to use your Thanksgiving leftovers.  It uses up a good amount of turkey and cranberry sauce.  And if you serve corn on Thanksgiving, you can use that to make some corn cakes to go along with the quesadillas.  The ones in my picture above were a "rough draft" of a recipe I later perfected: Golden Cheddar Corn Cakes.  They make the perfect side dish for these quesadillas.  

I used chipotle in adobo instead of green chiles in my quesadillas.  I just prefer the flavor.  You will have to adjust the amount based on your preferences.  Maybe start with 2 tsp if you don't like things too spicy, give it a taste, and add more if you like.

I like Thanksgiving leftover recipes that resemble nothing like the Thanksgiving dinner.  These quesadillas certainly fit the bill!

Okay, I am definitely taking a break from the Thanksgiving recipes tomorrow!  But I do have one more recipe to share with you that makes a fun little treat for the kids.  I'll post that on Monday or Tuesday. Have a great weekend!

16 November 2012

I must, once more, apologize for the pictures in this post.  This was the other recipe that I took to the Reformation Day feast at our church and I wasn't able to photograph it properly at home before I left.  But it was too good not to share with you.  So mentally block out that ugly Fed Ex box and picture this sitting on your beautiful Thanksgiving table instead!

I had been wanting to make a pumpkin trifle for a while and couldn't find the link to the recipe that first gave me the inspiration to use gingerbread in it.  So I just winged it.  This trifle has three layers, gingerbread, a pumpkin cheesecake-type filling, and whipped cream.

Pumpkin Gingerbread Trifle

1 (15 oz.) can pumpkin puree (2 cups)
2 (8 oz.) packages cream cheese, softened
1 cup sugar
1 tbsp pumpkin pie spice
1 box gingerbread cake mix, baked according to package directions
2 containers Cool Whip
Gingersnap cookies, crushed

In a large bowl, whip together the pumpkin, cream cheese, sugar, and pumpkin pie spice until completely smooth.

Cut gingerbread cake into 1” cubes.  Place half of the gingerbread cubes in the bottom of a trifle bowl.  Spread half of the pumpkin mixture over the top of the gingerbread.  Top with a thick layer of Cool Whip.  Repeat layers with remaining gingerbread cake, pumpkin mixture, and Cool Whip.

To make the leaf design on top, place a leaf-shaped cookie cutter on a piece of waxed paper.  Draw around the cookie cutter with a pen.  Poke a hole in the middle of the leaf and use scissors to cut the leaf shape out of the middle of the waxed paper.  Lay the waxed paper on top of your trifle bowl and carefully sprinkle the gingersnap crumbs inside the leaf shape.  Remove the waxed paper carefully so that the extra around the edges doesn't fall back onto your design. 

Refrigerate until ready to serve.

Makes a lot of servings.

Layers of yumminess.  The gingerbread goes so well with the pumpkin flavor.  

 I was just going to sprinkle the gingersnap crumbs on top, but my husband suggested the leaf design.  Honestly, I didn't think I would be able to pull it off, but it turned out well.

I wanted to use the vanilla flavor of Cool Whip, but the store I went to didn't have it.  So I got "Extra Creamy".  That was a mistake.  "Extra Creamy" must be code for "Extra Thick and Gloppy".  That kind isn't smooth and doesn't spread easily like the regular kind.  So be sure to get the regular kind.

I hope that you have enjoyed the great Thanksgiving recipes I have shared with you this week.  I have one more Thanksgiving-themed treat up my sleeve that I will share with you on either Monday or Tuesday.  Something fun for the kiddos!

15 November 2012

 It's reveal day for the Improv Challenge.  The premise of this challenge is easy: each month there are two assigned ingredients.  The participants must make a recipe using both ingredients and blog about it.

This month's assigned ingredients are very timely: sweet potatoes and honey.  My favorite sweet potato recipe of all time falls into this category, Honey Roasted Sweet Potatoes, but I couldn't use that for this challenge because it's already on my blog.  So I had to try a new recipe involving sweet potatoes and honey, darn! The timing is perfect because there are probably lots of cooks out there looking for a great sweet potato side dish for Thanksgiving.  

I've been a huge fan of using the slow cooker on Thanksgiving for years now.  Yes, before it was cool!  I have done mashed potatoes, two kinds of dressing (here and here), and even the green bean casserole, though I don't have that posted.  So the next logical step was to try out a sweet potato recipe for the slow cooker.  This will free up oven space on the big day.  I found a recipe at Betty Crocker that I amended a bit.  Here's my version.

Slow Cooker Honey Pecan Sweet Potatoes

2 lbs. sweet potatoes (2½ large), peeled and cut into ½” cubes
½ cup unsweetened applesauce
⅓ cup honey
2 tbsp butter, melted
½ tsp pumpkin pie spice
½ tsp instant tapioca
¼ tsp salt
½ cup pecans, chopped

Place sweet potatoes in a 3 qt. slow cooker.  Combine applesauce, honey, butter, pumpkin pie spice, tapioca, and salt in a small bowl and pour over the sweet potatoes.  Stir to combine.  Cover slow cooker and cook on low for 3 hours.  Stir in half the pecans.  Transfer to serving dish and top with remaining pecans.

Makes 4-6 servings.

Betty's recipe called for brown sugar, but I used honey instead.  It would be good either way, but personally I loved it with the honey.  Even though I reduced the applesauce from her recipe to 1 cup, it was still a little heavy on the apple taste for me, so next time I'll do ½ cup.  I used pumpkin pie spice instead of just cinnamon.  The other thing I changed was adding the instant tapioca.  The only problem I ever have with slow cooker recipes is that the sauce is always thin.  I often will remove the sauce to a saucepan and add cornstarch to thicken it up after cooking.  You can't use cornstarch in the slow cooker because the liquid has to boil in order for it to work.  But I read somewhere that you can put instant tapioca in with all the ingredients at the beginning, and it thickens as it cooks.  This was my first time trying it and I was very pleased with the results.  I had to guess on how much to use.  I did 1 tsp and I think it was maybe a little bit too much, so next time I will use ½ tsp.  I can't wait to try this will all of my other slow cooker recipes.   You can find instant tapioca in the baking aisle, usually up on the top shelf.

I only cooked my sweet potatoes long enough for them to just cook through.  I like them with some definition left on the cubes.  If you think your guests would prefer it, you could cook them a little longer, then mash them.  They would be good either way.

So if you are stressing about how to get everything cooked in the oven before the turkey gets cold sitting out, throw the sweet potatoes into the slow cooker.  It saves a lot of time and headaches!

Be sure to check out all the other great sweet potato and honey recipes below and come back tomorrow for another great non-pie Thanksgiving dessert.

14 November 2012

 Do you serve soup on Thanksgiving?  I never have, but I know a lot of people do.  I've been wanting to share this terrific soup with you for a while, so I thought now would be a good time.  If you are inclined to serve soup on Thanksgiving, this one would be perfect.  It has multiple fall flavors: apple, butternut squash, and sage.  It's rich and creamy and smooth and delicious.  My sister made it once when we were staying at her house and I thought it was the best soup I had ever eaten.  She got the recipe from Food Network Magazine. I've tweaked it just a tad.  Here's my adaptation.

Apple Cheddar Squash Soup

5 tbsp butter, divided
1 medium onion, chopped
2 medium Golden Delicious apples, peeled, cored, and chopped
1 large white potato, peeled and diced
1½ cups butternut squash, peeled and cubed 
½ tsp dried sage
2 tbsp flour
⅓ cup apple cider
2 cups low-sodium chicken broth
1 cup milk
2 cups sharp cheddar cheese, shredded

Melt 4 tbsp butter in a large pot over medium-low heat and add the onion, apples, potato and squash. Season with salt and cook until the onion is soft, about 8 minutes. Stir in the sage and flour. Add the cider and cook over high heat, stirring, until thickened. Add the broth and milk, cover and bring to a boil; reduce to a simmer and cook, stirring, until the potato is soft, 8 to 10 minutes.

Add the cheese to the soup and stir over medium-low heat until melted. Puree with an immersion blender or in a regular blender in batches until smooth; season with salt and pepper. 

Makes 4 servings.

This is just the most comforting soup on a cold fall day.  I have a testimonial as to just how good this soup is.  I made it for a family last month.  This wonderful lady at our church is caring for her sweet elderly father.  He had been in the hospital with pneumonia, and then after he was released, she and her husband were taking care of him at home.  I made this soup and one other for them because I knew they were really busy and worrying about dinner should be the last thing on their minds.  She told me later that her dad absolutely loved the soup.  She even wrote out a lovely thank you card in which she told me that she overheard her father telling her brother the "orange soup" was the best soup he's ever tasted in his life.  That's pretty good considering he's eaten 89 years' worth of soup!  I was very honored to know that he liked it so much.

This soup is really good in a bread bowl.  I'll share the recipe for that sometime soon.

The original recipe called for pancetta.  My sister used bacon and that was really good.  But I don't bother with the bacon when I make it.  The flavor is nice, but not really necessary and I don't mind meatless soups.

Such a pretty soup, don't you think?

So if you're looking for a great soup to include with your Thanksgiving feast, there ya go!  Tomorrow is my monthly Improv Challenge and I will be sharing a great Thanksgiving side dish involving sweet potatoes and honey.  And bonus, it won't take up any oven space on the big day.

13 November 2012

Continuing on with the Thanksgiving theme this week: today I have a yummy dessert that is a nice alternative to pumpkin pie.  It's kind of like pumpkin pie in a cake form.  I had made the regular Gooey Butter Cake before, and oh my goodness, is it good!  So when I wanted to make something special for my husband's birthday at the end of September, I knew this Pumpkin Gooey Butter Cake would hit the spot.  It's a Paula Deen recipe, so yes, there is plenty of butter and other un-healthy stuff.  But it's Thanksgiving; definitely a day to splurge, right?

Pumpkin Gooey Butter Cake

1 (18¼ oz.) package yellow cake mix
1 egg
1 stick butter, melted
8 oz. cream cheese, softened
1 (15 oz.) can pumpkin (or 2 cups)
3 eggs
1 tsp vanilla
1 stick butter, melted
4 cups powdered sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp nutmeg

Preheat oven to 350°.  Coat a 9x13” baking pan with baking spray.

Combine the cake mix, egg, and butter and mix well with an electric mixer. Pat the mixture into the bottom of prepared pan.

In a large bowl, beat the cream cheese and pumpkin until smooth. Add the eggs, vanilla, and butter, and beat together. Next, add the powdered sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, and mix well. 

Spread pumpkin mixture over cake batter and bake for 40 to 50 minutes. Make sure not to over bake as the center should be a little gooey.

Serve with fresh whipped cream.

Makes 12 servings.

This is a great fall dessert.  It's kind of like a dense, buttery cake on the bottom and pumpkin pie on the top. Yummy!  If you're tired of the same old pumpkin pie, try this recipe out.  It's different, but similar in taste enough that guests expecting pumpkin pie won't be disappointed.

Come back tomorrow for a beautiful fall soup that would be perfect for your Thanksgiving table.

12 November 2012

Happy Week-Before-Thanksgiving!  Do you have your menu planned out yet?  You don't?  Oh well, I can probably help you with that!  Last year I shared with you a whole week of Thanksgiving sides and a dessert, so if you need some inspiration, check out this post.  It has the links to all of them.  I have a few new recipes to share with you this week: a great pumpkin dessert that is a nice alternative to pie, a great sweet potato recipe that won't hog any space in your oven, and this gorgeous turkey.

I have posted a turkey recipe before.  Four years ago I shared with you my very first turkey.  I used Alton Brown's brining and roasting method and it turned out perfectly.  I made that turkey for three years with great results every time.  Last year I got a break from the turkey because my sister made her first.  I have actually made two turkeys this year, one in May and one last month.  They are so incredibly cheap right before Thanksgiving (58 cents a pound here), that I bought two extra.  I buy the biggest ones I can find, because it's the same amount of work no matter how big it is.  The one in May was huge; I want to say over 25 lbs.  We ate it for lunch that day, and had leftovers for dinner, then I ended up getting 13 cups of cubed meat off of the thing.  That stocked my freezer for quite a while!  I tried a new recipe/method and I love it.  It is so much easier than doing the brine, and the results are just as good, if not better.  Definitely better when it comes to crispy skin.  The breast meat is incredibly moist and super duper flavorful.  This recipe is courtesy of another Food Network chef, Michael Symon.  He made this turkey on The Chew, and I couldn't wait to try it.  I adapted it very slightly; here's how I do it.

Cheesecloth Turkey

One 20 lb. turkey, thawed, neck and gizzards removed
¼ cup kosher salt
2 heads garlic (halved through its equator)
8 sprigs fresh oregano
8 sprigs fresh thyme
2 onions (peeled and quartered)
2 sticks butter
½ cup chicken or turkey stock or water

The day before roasting, rinse the turkey inside and out with cold water, set on a clean kitchen towel, and pat dry. Season the turkey inside and out with the salt. Wrap the turkey in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 24 hours.

Remove the turkey from the refrigerator 1 to 2 hours prior to roasting to bring to room temperature.  Preheat the oven to 425° with the oven rack set on the lowest rung. 

In the turkey’s neck cavity, place a half of a head of garlic, a few sprigs of oregano, a few sprigs of thyme, and a half of an onion. Wrap the neck skin over and around the cavity to enclose the seasoning ingredients.

In the body cavity, place half of the remaining garlic, 2 onion halves, and half of the remaining oregano and thyme.

Place the turkey, breast side up, on a rack set into a large roasting pan. Fold the wings and tuck the tips underneath the bird. 

In a saucepan over medium heat, melt the butter. Add the remaining garlic, onion, oregano, and thyme to the pot with the stock or water. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat so that the liquid simmers, and continue to cook at a lower simmer for 10 minutes. Remove from the heat and allow to cool slightly.

When cool enough to handle, soak a double layer of cheesecloth big enough to cover the bird in the butter mixture and drape over the breast and legs of the turkey. Pour the remaining contents of the pan over the bird, pushing the pieces of vegetable and herbs into the bottom of the roasting pan.

Place the turkey in the oven and roast for 45 minutes (Warning: there might be smoke. Open the kitchen window). Turn the oven temperature down to 375° and continue to roast for another 15 to 20 minutes per pound, removing the cheesecloth for the final 10 minutes to brown, if needed; or until an instant-read thermometer inserted into the center of a thigh registers 160°, about 4 hours. Remove the turkey from the oven and allow to rest for 20 minutes before carving.

Makes 12-14 servings.

That's all there is to it.  Not complicated at all.  Basically, you are just stuffing the bird with aromatic onions, garlic, and herbs, and then draping it with cheesecloth soaked in butter and herbs.  Really very easy.  

Here is the turkey all covered in its "blankie", ready to go into the oven.

Look how gorgeous it is when you take the cheesecloth off!  I couldn't believe how brown it got with the cheesecloth on there.  It browns right through it.

This is a great recipe if your guests enjoy the crispy skin.  This is the turkey I made in May.

This is the turkey I made last month.  You may notice isn't not quite as evenly browned.  That's because I goofed up and skipped a step.  I totally forgot to salt it the day before.  Oops!  But I was curious to see how  it would turn out without that step.  And it turned out just fine.  I will definitely include that step in the future, but it's nice to know that you will still get a terrific bird if you forget.  

 This bird was about 15½ lbs.  I put it in the oven at 12:30 and it was completely done at 3:30.  Three hours for a bird that size is pretty good!  I forgot to note how long the 25+ pounder took, but it wasn't more than 4 hours, I don't think.

 The only thing I changed about Michael's recipe was doubling it (his called for a puny 10 pounder), and I don't use fennel like he calls for.  I just don't like it that much.  You can use any herbs you like.  You can see in this picture that I used some sage too.

 Look at that beautiful breast meat!  And it really is super flavorful.  You can really taste the thyme and oregano in it.  

 My husband uses an electric knife for the carving.

I can't wait to do this again next week!