Monday, November 29, 2010

Gobble Gobble

The most daunting part of hosting Thanksgiving dinner was probably making the turkey. I've been told that "you can't mess up a turkey," you just stick it in the oven and "let it cook."

I disagree. It is very possible to:

a) overcook it and end up with gross, dry turkey meat
b) undercook it and poison all your guests

I did not intend to do either, so I did a fair amount of research online, and was helped greatly by Alton Brown and my dad, who served as my Butterball hotline for the day.



In short, I defrosted the turkey in a 4 gallon tub of water, in the fridge, for 24 hours. Wednesday night, I dumped the water and replaced it with brine: 2 gallons water, 1/2 gallon white wine, 9 oz Kosher salt, and about 1/2 cup of sugar. After 12 hours in the brine, it was ready to go into the oven on Thanksgiving morning.

Before cooking, I fashioned an aluminum foil breast plate (see above) that would be used later. First I cooked the (bare-breasted) turkey for 30 minutes at 500 degrees to brown the breast. Then I fastened its turkey bra on and cooked for another 2 1/2 hours at 350 degrees (this was a 15 1/2 pound bird).



After it cooled for about half an hour, the carving began. Turns out, none of us had any experience carving a turkey, and I have no decent knives for this purpose. A fair amount of turkey shredding ensued. It was still moist and delicious. And so far, no food poisoning related deaths.

The whole shebang:



Stay tuned for side dishes later this week.
{read more}

Friday, November 26, 2010

Thanksgiving Table

Yesterday I hosted Thanksgiving at my apartment. It was just three of us: my sister Sophie, my friend Carol, and myself. I figured there was no need to go crazy on decorations, but I wanted the dining room table to look festive, so I started with a centerpiece.



All of this being for one day, I decorated on a budget.



Autumn Potpourri: Marshall's ($5)
Vase: Recycled from an event (free to me!)
Fake Willow Branches: Pier 1 ($6)
Ribbon: Windsor Button ($.79/yard)



Voila! Centerpiece done. And smelling very autumnal. This would be very easy to replicate for Christmas too; winter potpourri, pine branches, and some Christmas ribbon.



Next up, flowers. I cut down a cheap bouquet and set them with fall-colored glass beads, complete with glass acorns.

Stemless wine glasses: Pier 1 ($2 each)
Fall Bouquet: Shaw's ($5.99)
Glass Vase Filler: Pier 1 ($5)

For a table runner over our red tablecloth, I went to a fabric store and bought a yard of burlap. Less than $5 and a perfect rustic touch!



The bar needed some love too. I had bought candles hoping they would fit in the stemless wineglasses (before I decided on flowers), but no go. I got use out of one though!

Cranberry Candle: T.J.Maxx ($3)
Leftover Vase Filler
Salad Plate: Bed Bath & Beyond (I think about $4 - this is part of my dishes set)

{read more}

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Grilled Cheese & Tomato Soup

After a half day at work and two hours downtown running last minute Thanksgiving errands, I was ready for some comfort food this afternoon. This is no novel idea, but sometimes I forget how good a grilled cheese and bowl of tomato soup is, especially on a blustery fall day like today.



There are obviously fancier options out there, but this is just straight up Campbell's condensed tomato soup. The sandwich is on potato bread (my favorite) with extra sharp New York white cheddar and a dab of pesto.

Yummy. Stay tuned for a series of Thanksgiving posts!
{read more}

Monday, November 22, 2010

Boston Cream Pie

I'm indulging this morning in some delicious Boston Cream Pie. Not just ANY Boston Cream Pie, but the ORIGINAL Boston Cream Pie.



That's right. Delivered to me by the lovely folks at the Omni Parker House, inventors of the Boston Cream Pie back in 1856. (One of the perks of working in events: venues with delicious treats and really nice staff who will bring you said treats at your home or office.)

Not actually a pie, this classic dessert is made of two layers of sponge cake sandwiching cream or custard and topped with a chocolate ganache or glaze. The Parker House's version is adorned with toasted almonds on the side of the cake. Their cake was fluffy and moist, and the ganache had an amazing semi-sweet flavor.

This was the perfect breakfast treat on a slow Monday morning, paired with a hot cup of Earl Grey. Find the Parker House's recipe here, via Bobby Flay.
{read more}

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Pretty Aprons

Like many of the near-useless things I covet, cute aprons are generally overpriced and not as functional as an old, plain alternative. Oh well. They can be so damn pretty, especially for the holidays. My friend Eleni recently shared this specialty apron store with me, featuring a hostess apron in Tri Delta colors. Her request: find a way to make said apron, because $100? Really?

Well, I don't own a sewing machine, nor do I have any sewing experience whatsoever, but I make up for that deficiency in my online shopping experience. I can't give you a pattern to make your own apron, but I can share these options, all under $40:



This tulle apron, by Etsy seller CateChestnut, is almost identical in pattern to the $100 option, but for only $26. Plus it comes with an adorable matching pin, if you find yourself needing to be more coordinated.



I own this frilly option from Target - kind of a silly phrase, but I love the lace detailing.


This apron actually comes from a website called FlirtyAprons.com, which I have shamefully ordered from before. I gave a blue and brown design to my sister last Christmas (I'm not sure if she flirts in it or not), but this cupcake pattern is more my style.


Oh Etsy, how do I love thee? Let me count the aprons... This Christmas-themed hostess apron from seller SunlightCreations features a removable top that buttons on. I love the geometric gift pattern on the bottom!

Well, there you go. Four great options for when you need to bake something and look damn good doing it.
{read more}

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Look to the Cookie

I went to NYC this weekend, and while you might think the most memorable part of my trip was something other than a cookie, you'd be wrong. Not that New York doesn't have a lot to offer; this cookie was just amazing.



Where: Levain Bakery, 167 W 74th St

What: Dark Chocolate Peanut Butter Chip Cookie

Details: $4 is steep for a cookie, but this thing is a) huge and b) more like a brownie. It took me two days to finish mine (although my boyfriend polished his off in about two blocks).

They also come in Chocolate Chip Walnut, Dark Chocolate Chocolate Chip, and Oatmeal Raisin. You can order online, but prices are even steeper there. Visit in person for a fresher, cheaper cookie!

Any other favorite bakery suggestions?
{read more}

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Mark 'n' Stormy

Mmmm ginger.

Dark and Stormys are the more popular cocktail, made of rum and ginger beer, but I'm not big on rum. I saw the Mark & Stormy first at Redbones, a BBQ restaurant in Somerville, MA and it's the perfect combo: refreshing ginger beer and Maker's Mark whiskey.



1 part whiskey
1.5 parts ginger beer (this one is non-alcoholic, but the alcoholic version will give it an extra kick)
Squeeze of lime

Full disclaimer: this particular shot is of a Jim 'n' Stormy, because maybe I'm too cheap to have Maker's Mark in the house at all times.
{read more}

Monday, November 8, 2010

Chicken Tortellini Soup

Due to some peer pressure, I've entered a soup competition* sponsored by New England Country Soup. The idea is to create a soup that is similar to one of their 8 flavors, and the recipe will go head to head against it. I chose their Nana's Chicken Soup to challenge, and created a chicken, tortellini and spinach soup. Made in a crock pot, this was pretty simple to whip up.



Ingredients:

2 large boneless chicken breasts, cut into cubes
6 cups chicken stock
2 cups water
1/2 large yellow onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, diced
1/2 cup cilantro, chopped
1 tsp of each: salt, black pepper, dried basil, paprika, oregano, ginger, rosemary
10 oz dried tortellini
10 oz spinach



1. Prep your ingredients: cut up chicken, onion, garlic, cilantro, and any fresh herbs.

2. In a crock pot, combine chicken, chicken stock, water, onion, garlic, cilantro, and all seasonings. Stir together and set on low heat.

3. Cook on low for 5-6 hours.

4. Stir in tortellini, cook for an additional 20 minutes, or until pasta is desired texture.

5. Turn off heat and stir in spinach leaves. Serve with a nice crusty baguette.



* Disclaimer: Although I talk the talk, I have never actually made soup before this, so I really don't walk the walk. Take any smack talk with a grain of salt.

New England Country Soup

Soup Challenge
{read more}

Friday, November 5, 2010

Brownies Gone Wild



Cake, ehh. Give me brownies.

I like as much chocolate crammed into as much fudginess as possible. But for a twist, here are a few brownie recipes that stray from the norm.

Like using beer (and cayenne pepper) for a lighter texture: Beer Brownies from Huffington Post blogger Claire Thomas (pictured above).



Or one of my sister's favorites, Black Bean Brownies. I'll admit, these have an interesting after taste, but they are a healthy, still-fudgy, alternative to traditional brownies.



And who doesn't love brownies cooked inside citrus? This is a traditional brownie batter spooned into a hollowed-out orange and baked. Don't worry, the orange doesn't burn due to its high water content. Check out Cooking for Geeks for other weird creations.

If these are making you squeamish, I recommend Alton Brown's recipe for a delicious, beer-free brownie.
{read more}

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Crochet Candy Corn

I saw some knit candy corn at a friend's office, and knew I had to try to whip some up too. I love crocheting little things, since they're so quick to complete and make great little decorations. And, since I'm a sucker for all fall-related decor, these were perfect.


Here's my completed corn - stuffed with a little bit of fiber fill.

I found this free pattern via a Google search, and it was pretty easy to tweak based on what size you want. I already had basic white and yellow yarn, but when I went out to buy an orange skein, the yarn store didn't have the same brand (or weight) as what I already had. Oh well.



Each one took me about 20 minutes to make, so it was an easy craft project to do during an episode of Jeopardy. I think they'd look great in a wooden bowl for display (which I don't have) or just scattered around my TV stand (which I do have). And even though candy corn is mainly associated with Halloween, I think these little things can stay out until the Christmas decorations come up.
{read more}