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Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Kinky Turkey Three Way

For actual Thanksgiving day we made turkey 3 ways, injected with marinade and deep fried, brined and smoked and finally, roasted in the oven with 2 sticks of butter on it. Yes, TWO STICKS OF BUTTER, my mother-in-law could give Paula Deen a run for her money.

The fried turkey was probably the most fun to cook, honestly. My father-in-law had purchased a turkey fryer specifically to try it out for Thanksgiving and this was its maiden voyage. After getting the turkey completely defrosted and completely dry we got to play with syringes and marinade! We chose some cajun butter flavor and got to shooting that turkey up. It was completely ridiculously hilarious to jam the needle in and watch the saggy, cold turkey skin plump up as we pressed the plunger. There were copious jokes made about various Real Housewives of various places. Then we lowered the turkey into the preheated peanut oil and let it go.

The roasted turkeys were actually two boneless turkey breasts that my MIL cooked. She seasons her turkey parts the same way she seasons a whole bird, just salt and pepper and two very cold sticks of butter on top. She also cooks fat side up on the breast, just to add our voice to the debate of breast side up or down. As the turkey roasts the butter slowly melts on top and keeps things moist while adding delicious butter flavor to your pan drippings that will become turkey gravy.

The smoked turkey breast was our most labor intensive turkey variation. We brined the breast for 24 hours in a large, 2 gallon ziploc bag with a mixture of water, apple juice, salt and brown sugar and stored it all in the fridge. Thanksgiving morning we brought the turkey out to dry on the counter for an hour or so; covered it in poultry seasoning and then added it to the smoker. We smoked it over hickory pellets for about 3 1/2 hours or until the meat reached an internal temperature of 165.

I think the smoked turkey was everyone's favorite actually. I enjoyed my piece of fried turkey, because it was apparently immediately adjacent to the injection site. It was all juicy and flavorful and YUM! But the smoked turkey was deliciously seasoned and flavored all the way through. The roast turkey was fine, of course, tasted lovely especially with a bit of cranberry sauce.

Next post: SIDE DISHES: or My God, you really make Green Bean Casserole?!

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Pork Shoulder Roast, Steamed Mixed Veggies, Sauteed Brussels Sprouts

I got a seasoned pork shoulder roast on sale some time ago and put it in the freezer for an easy dinner. I had a crazy day/night ahead of me so I thawed the roast and put it in a small pan in the fridge. Then when I finally got us all home from school/work it was basically time to go right back out to gymnastics class. That worked out well because the roast needed to cook for an hour.

When I got back I turned the oven off but let the roast stay in to stay warm. I wasn't afraid that it would dry out because it had been packed in a marinade and was very moist to begin with, so I knew it could take the heat. I steamed a veggie mix in the microwave and the chopped the larger sprouts in half and steamed them on the stove top. I got some olive oil hot in a saute pan and then added the semi-steamed sprouts. When they were getting good color on them (golden brown and even darker in spots) I added about half a cup of chicken broth and slammed a lid on them and kept them on the heat for a few minutes to continue cooking. All done!

We had the kids in the bath by 7:30 on a night when they are usually up till 9! *Does happy dance* Maybe working has been good for me, I have been getting much more done lately!

Quick Sauteed Chicken Breasts and Green Beans

You know how to cut your cooking time in half when making chicken breasts? Flatten those suckers! When it comes to chicken breasts, bigger is certainly not better. My preferred method for fast flattening is to cover the thawed breasts with plastic wrap and pound them with my hand held lemon juicer, the nice heft and round shape keep the meat from tearing (which is surprisingly easy to do with a traditional meat tenderizer.) Pound the thickest part of the breast till it is the same thickness as the thinnest part of the breast and you have a piece of meat that will cook quickly and evenly. I seasoned with meat with salt, pepper and just a sprinkle of BBQ rub and then heated some olive oil in a heavy bottomed skillet on medium high heat. I added the meat and let it sit undisturbed till it was nicely browned on one side. If the meat is sticking to the pan don't freak out! Go against your instincts and let it sit there till it comes away easily. Flip your chicken after 5 minutes or so and brown the other side. Meanwhile have some frozen green beans steaming in the microwave with a tablespoon or two of chicken broth and some salt and olive oil. When the other side of the meat is browned remove it from the pan and add about a tablespoon of butter, some minced onion, a teaspoon of dried Italian herbs and a bit of salt. When the onion is translucent add about a cup of chicken broth plus any juices that come from the resting breasts and cook all until reduced by half. Add the breasts back to the pan, turn down the heat and spoon the juices over the breasts repeatedly. I made a simple green salad to go with dinner and we were ready to eat in about 20 minutes all together.

The fish so nice they named it twice

Mahi mahi is sometimes known as "dolphin" has nothing to do with the underwater mammal. It is a nice light, white fleshed fish and it does deliciously well fried, grilled or baked as we have here in this recipe.

Baked Mahi Mahi

3-4 mahi mahi fillets
Salt, pepper
Soy sauce
1/4 C key lime juice
Spritz of olive oil

Salt and pepper fillets on both sides, mix together key lime juice and several shakes of soy sauce, stir to blend. Take an olive oil mister and spray oil all over the fillets on both sides, pour marinade over fish and allow to sit for an hour. Preheat oven to 350 degrees and add fish when heated. Bake fish for about 25 minutes or until fish is opaque and flakes easily with a fork.

While the fish was baking I made a pot of risotto and steamed some broccoli, pretty tasty stuff I must say. I am sort of having a love affair with risotto right now. I want to make my friend Kayla's recipe where she uses about 3 cups of mushrooms, cut into various thicknesses to make 1 cup (dry) of risotto. She minces the first cup and saut├ęs it with butter and minced onion, then she adds some chopped sauteed mushrooms with the first cup of broth and then adds some quartered mushrooms with the second cup of broth and then adds one cup of white wine as the last cup of liquid. Then she cooks it all till creamy. She finishes it up with a bit of parmesan.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Pantry Tomato Soup and Sandwiches

This is one of my favorite quick dinners, to make the tomato soup simply open two cans of soup and dilute with 2 cans of water, add one package of french onion soup mix and one can of diced tomatoes with the juice. Heat the soup over medium high heat and when it is hot finish the soup with half a can of cream or half and half. YUMMY and so fast and easy.

Meanwhile I set out sandwich fixings, people had their choice of sliced ham or chicken with cheese.

Tonight was busy because the kids had gymnastics so we didn't get home until after 6. Also I am preparing for the Veterans Day celebration at my school tomorrow so I had extra shopping to do. Great easy, busy night dinner.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Tonight's Dinner: Invented by Me Edition

So, I was having a less than inspired day today. My new afternoon class is full of kids who have a lot of very strong personalities and they require more finessing than your average bunch of preschoolers. So getting home and cleaning house and supervising homework and trying to do some research for an upcoming Veteran's Day celebration made dinner sort of a last minute affair here.

Cue the pressure cooker!

Actually cue the exact opposite of what I would normally do on a stressful night by making something new and sort of fussy. I decided to finally try and make risotto. I needed the zen calming of the constant stirring and besides the chicken was defrosting anyway, so what the heck, right? I had bought a jar of arborio rice a few months ago from a company called RiceSelect and I've been told by my BFF Kayla that risotto is pretty easy and I should just suck it up and try it. That's the kind of advice a best friend can give you, quit your whining and do your thing, girl.

So the instructions of the Arborio rice did not inspire confidence, I have to admit. Here they are in their entirety.

1 C uncooked Rice
2 Tb Olive Oil
2 TB butter
1/2 C chopped onion
3 C chicken stock or vegetable broth, salt and pepper optional

1. Saute onion in oil and butter for 3 minutes. (Out of butter, I used bacon grease and olive oil)
2. Add rice, stirring for about 2 minutes.
3. Stir in one cup of broth. Continue cooking and stirring until liquid is absorbed.
4. Gradually stir in remaining broth one cup at a time, cooking and stirring until liquid is absorbed before adding the next cup.

Yields approximately 3 cups of cooked rice.

Here's my problem. How long does the rice need to cook? To what temperature should I turn the dial of my stove-top?

I sauteed my onion and gave it a whirl, continually stirring except for momentary breaks to turn the microwave back on during the defrost cycle or to quickly chop a tomato for the chicken, and once to throw the chicken pieces (drumsticks) into the pressure cooker. Once the rice appeared done I grated in some fresh parmesan cheese and then put a lid on the pot, placed it off the heat on a back burner and concentrated on my chicken.

I took my defrosted chicken pieces and salted, peppered and rosemaried them. I sprinkled them with Italian seasoning blend and then browned them in the pressure cooker. When they had some good color on them I added a whole chopped tomato and half of a chopped green pepper plus 2 teaspoons (or so) of tomato paste. I then added a half cup of water and a teaspoon of chicken bullion as well. I popped the lid on and cooked under high pressure for 6 minutes and then allowing it to come to natural pressure release.

I served the chicken over the rice, reduced the sauce in the pressure cooker by turning it up to simmer, and served it with a side of (the last of) the turnip greens. The kids also had some applesauce with their meal.

In the future when I make this again (and I will make this again) I will add some baby carrots to the pot and place the chicken on top, straining out the carrots to serve as a side dish.

Yeah, I owe you.

I owe you a whole bunch of recipes, but here's the thing. I started a new job Halloween week and I have been too busy and too darn exhausted to write. I have been making food though and I am proud of myself for at least keeping that up, plus making lunches and after school snacks as usual. I have also been making themed snacks for my new preschool class, goldfish and graham crackers and grapes for Letter G-Week for instance. :)

So instead of torturing myself trying to remember all of the meals I've made since I last posted I am starting fresh tonight.

Last night's dinner was sort of fun actually, something different. I made some a gorgeous city ham from Burger's Smokehouse (a gift from my in-laws) collard greens, black beans and cornbread over the weekend so I used the leftover greens to make one of my favorite vegetarian meals, grits and greens. I made some slow cooking old-fashioned grits, cooked them according to package directions with salt, pepper and minced onion. I cooked them in the microwave for about 10 minutes on maximum power. Then I mixed them with the chopped turnip greens and grated parmesan and shredded cheddar cheese and placed it in a lightly greased 8 x 8 baking pan. I poured a half cup of half and half over all and stirred it in along with 2 tablespoons of butter. I baked it at all at 350 degrees for another 15 minutes. Just dig in and serve with a side of black eyed peas, a glass of sweet tea and your dinner is done and divine!

I have no idea what I am making for dinner tonight. Any ideas?