Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Brined and Roasted Turkey with Herb Butter

I know what you're thinking.

"'s AFTER Thanksgiving...and for that matter, Christmas was nearly a week ago...what in tarnation is she doing cooking a turkey???"

Well...I've had a 17 pound turkey in my deep freezer since last November.  As in November of 2008.   And I was starting to feel guilty because I hadn't cooked it yet.  Hadn't even thought about it.  Believe it or not, I was rather intimidated at the thought.  After all, we go out of town for Thanksgiving every year, and I had no reason to cook a 17 pound turkey. 

But my husband is in the middle of a major renovation in our house right now, and my FIL is here helping.    (I'll post about it later on my other blog).  David thought if I cooked the turkey, then we'd have lots of leftovers...along with the 6 pound ham I made Christmas Eve (and there's plenty of that still in the fridge too).  This seemed like a good idea. 

So I dug the big bird out, and starting thinking about how to roast it.  And I started praying too (is there a novena for nervous cooks?)  I knew I shouldn't be anxious...but I admit it...I was a wreck until I got the turkey in the oven.  I freaked out again while making the gravy.  But I remembered to breath...and everything turned out fine, better than fine actually.  This turkey was probably one of the best I've ever the top 3 for sure. 

I'm going to show you how to brine your turkey...and I really believe you should do this.  The brine (essentiallly a salt solution) is absorbed by the meat, thus rendering it juicer and more favorful than if you simply roasted the turkey.  I brined and roasted a chicken not too long ago, and I'll never not brine a whole bird was simply delicious. 

All right, enough talk.  Let's talk turkey...I mean...let's roast turkey!

Brined and Roasted Turkey with Herb Butter
adapted from The Best Recipe by Cooks Illustrated 


2 gallons water
2 cups table salt OR 4 cups kosher salt


1 completely thawed turkey (mine was 17 pounds)
1 stick softened butter
2 tablespoons fresh sage, finely chopped, plus 4 whole leaves
2 tablespoons fresh thyme, finely chopped, plus 6 whole stems
2 tablespoons fresh rosemary, finely chopped, plus 2 whole stems 
salt and black pepper
1 medium carrot, coarsly chopped (I just used some baby carrots)
2 stalks celery, coarsly chopped
3 medium onions, coarsly chopped
1 medium navel orange, quartered

Let's start with the brine.  You'll want to make it the day before you plan to roast the turkey.

In a large, clean bucket or cooler, stir the water and salt together until the salt is completely dissolved.  I realize you might liked to have seen a picture of the brine itself...but hey, it's just very salty water, okay?

Take the turkey out of it's packaging and remove the neck and giblets.  (Save 'em for gravy if you'd like). 

Rinse the turkey thoroughly inside and out with cold water. Immerse the turkey in the brine and set in a cold place (40 degrees or less) or in the fridge for 4-6 hours.  We put some ice in the cooler (not too much...we didn't want to water down the brine) to make sure it stayed cold enough. 

After 4-6 hours, remove the turkey from the brine and pat dry with paper towels, inside and out.  Set on a rack over a shallow pan large enough to hold the turkey...

and place uncovered in the fridge for 8 hours or overnight. 

This drying process will ensure a nice, golden brown bird with crisp skin...and there isn't anything wrong with crisp turkey my opinion anyway ;-). 

When you're ready to roast, sprinkle the inside of the turkey with salt and pepper, and toss in 1 tablespoon of the butter.  Ttake one third of the carrots, celery, and onions and stuff them into the main cavity of the turkey, along with 2 whole sage leaves, 3 whole thyme stems, 1 whole rosemary stem, and the orange quarters (not shown...they were camera shy...sorry ;-). 

Now take the finely chopped herbs (the sage, thyme, and rosemary), and mix it with the rest of the butter, along with plenty of salt and pepper (I'd say about 1 1/2 teaspoons of salt and 3/4 teaspoon of pepper) until well combined. 

Carefully loosen the skin of the turkey under the breast, as far into the thigh and drumstick as possible.  Use your hands to push the herb butter under the skin...again going as far as you can...being careful not to tear the skin.  I wish I could have taken a pic for you...but my hands were rather messy. 

At this point, we need to truss the turkey.  My turkey's drumsticks were already held together with a nifty little plastic contraption, but the wings needed to be tucked under the breast and held close to the sides of the turkey so they wouldn't overcook.  So all I did was use a piece of cotton twine.  I'm not sure I can adequently tell you how to here's a video tutorial courtesy of Alton's really easy, I promise. 

Preheat your oven to 325 degrees and move an oven rack to the lowest position. 

Have a large roasting pan ready to go.  Scatter the rest of the carrots, celery, and onions in the bottom of the pan, along with the rest of the whole herbs and 1 cup of water.  I had a roasting pan that belonged to David's grandmother, but it wasn't big enough.  I was able to borrow one from my friend Mary at the last minute...thanks girl!

Set your v-rack in the pan.  You really need this to elevate the turkey properly...a small flat rack works fine too), and place the turkey breast side up. 

Melt the rest of the herb butter in the microwave and brush half of it over the bird.  Flip the turkey over and brush with the last of the butter.  Leave the turkey breast side down and place in the oven. 

Roast the turkey breast side down for 2 hours, basting once per hour with the pan juices. Here's what our turkey looked like at this point.

Using a couple of wads of paper towels, carefully flip the turkey breast side up...

baste with the juices, and roast until the thigh registers 165 with an instant read meat thermometer (this is what the USDA recommends).  The turkey should be a deep golden brown...if it starts to get too dark, tent loosely with foil.

Here's the things folks. Your roasting temperature and time really depend on the size of your turkey. I felt after reviewing the directions in The Best Recipe that the recommended temperature of 250 degrees would not only take forever, but would result in a dry turkey. Right as I was contemplating...a good friend of mine called. Julie has cooked about 20 turkeys in her lifetime, and she and I settled on a temperature of 315 because my oven runs a tad hot (othewise, I would have roasted it at 325). Here's a turkey cooking guide from that I feel is pretty accurate:

My turkey weighed 17 pounds, and it was done in 3 hours, 45 minutes.  Let the turkey rest for at least 30 minutes before carving. 

WOW!!! Isn't she a beauty? 

My father-in-law is the designated carver in the family.  So we handed him the electric knife, and he did a lovely job.  I'm sorry (again!) becauseI have no pictures of cut up turkey...I was too busy whisking the life outta the gravy...which also turned out awesome.  The breast meat was perfectly cooked...juicy, flavorful, and tender; the dark meat was succulent to say the least.  Joshua ate one of the drumsticks...the entire thing...and the rest of the kids declared Mommy's turkey to be "yummy!"  My FIL said it turned out "just fine," which for me, was the highest of praise :-). 

I felt such a wave of relief after dinner...I really don't know why I was so nervous about cooking a turkey.  I suppose every cook worth their salt has one phobia...I guess mine was turkey.  So now I can say I know how to roast a turkey...successfully...and PHEW...I need a margarita!

So don't turn tail and run away from a turkey...if I can do can too! God bless your table tonight!

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Christmas Cookies

During the holidays...I bake...cookies, cakes, quick breads...but I usually focus on one type of dessert, instead of making something from each catagory.  This year is the cookie year.  I made 6 different kinds...and I've had to put severe restrictions on the hubby so he doesn't eat 'em all up before Christmas.

The best thing about cookies is the fact you can bake them in advance and freeze them.  My MIL is famous for making 12-14 different kinds of cookies every year when David was growing up.  She'd always store them in the freezer...which didn't deter David or his brothers one bit...they'd just go get some and eat them frozen. 

I will say I don't like eating frozen cookies...but I do like to ,make and freeze them in early December.  Then I just pull out some whenever I need them...for a potluck party...a last minute gift (packaged up in a pretty bag), or just a plate out when the neighbor's kids show up (and when word gets out...count on MORE kids coming around hoping for a cookie too).'s what I made this year.  If you want the recipe, just click on each one. 

 (I absentmindedly used it instead of the gingerbread recipe, but the kids still love 'em). 

(special request from David, but no picture...sorry)

Hope you get to try one of these tasty treats.  From our family to yours...Merry Christmas everyone!

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

PW's Red Velvet Cake (turned into cupcakes)

I went to The Pioneer Woman's book signing and the night before, I made her Red Velvet Cake.  But I took the cake batter and made cupcakes instead.  I love taking food to a party that is ready to serve...'cause I didn't want to stand in the kitchen and cut it up. 
Rebecca saw the cupcakes when she got home from school, and immediately begged for one.  I promised she could have one...after dinner.  I kept 6 at home for us and took the rest to a party.  Gracious goodness y'all...were they EVER good...everyone LOVED them. 
If you don't want to mess with cupcakes, just make a regular 2-layer cake.  Either are guaranteed a compliment!

Pioneer Woman's Red Velvet Cake/Cupcakes


1 cup shortening
1  3/4 cups sugar
2  1/2 cups cake flour
1  1/4 teaspoon salt
2 large eggs
1 cup buttermilk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon baking soda
1  1/4 teaspoon vinegar
1 ounce red food coloring (PW says use 2 ounces if you want a deeper red color)
1  1/2 teaspoons cocoa powder


12 ounces (1  1/2 packages) cream cheese at room temperature
1  1/2 sticks (3/4 cup) unsalted butter, softened
1  1/ pounds powdered sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
Red and white sparkling sugar sprinkles (optional)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.   Line a cupcake pan with paper liners of choice. 

In a stand mixer with the paddle attachment, cream together the shortening and sugar.

Normally, I don't bother to sift anything.  Seriously...I don't.  But this time, I did.  My cake flour hadn't seen the light of day for about 4 months (I only use it about 2x a year), and I wanted to be sure it was nice and lump-free.  So sift together the cake flour and salt....and if you skip this step, I am sure no one will know the wiser.  

In a seperate bowl, combine the eggs, buttermilk, vanilla, baking soda, and vinegar. 
If you don't have buttermilk on handy, simply mix 3/4 cup low-fat milk with 1 tablespoon lemon juice or vinegar.  Or use 1 cup plain, low-fat yogurt.

Here's where I oopsied when I should have daisied.  I was supposed to add the red food coloring last.   I added it to the creamed shortening and sugar instead.  But I don't think it made a difference in the end.  Nevertheless...PW's recipe has the red food coloring added after the buttermilk mixture and the flour go it.   But'll you'll see I did it backwards in the following pictures. 

Combine the red food coloring and cocoa powder in a small bowl.  I used 2 ounces of food coloring because I had plenty :-).   Add to the mixing bowl, and let it run on low until the red is evenly distributed. 

Once you've put the food coloring in, alternate the flour mixture with the buttermilk mixture and mix until just combined.  I did 3 additions of flour and 2 of the buttermilk. 

Here's the first round of flour (you can see the red shortening/sugar mixture in the bowl)...

And then comes the buttermilk mixture.

After all the flour and buttermilk mixtures have been mixed in, the batter will look like this.  Isn't it jest purdy? 

I like using a small ice cream scoop to evenly distribute the batter between all the cupcake liners.  It's much faster and sure beats using a couple of me!

Fill up all your cupcake liners about 2/3rds full. 

Bake at 350 degrees for 15-20 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.  Let cool while you make the frosting.

Beat the cream cheese and butter together in a stand mixer until smooth. 

Add the powdered sugar in 1 cup intervals (or you'll have a mess!), until all the sugar is incorporated. Lastly, add the salt and vanilla. 

My sister-in-law Stephanie got me hooked on piping frosting onto cupcakes.  She says it looks prettier, and it goes a lot faster...and she's right!

I used a large Wilton tip (1 M), which can be found at craft stores.  You'll need the extra-large adaptor and coupler too.

Use a large plastic food storage bag for the frosting.  Snip the tip off one corner along the bottom edge, and insert the adapter. 

Place your metal tip over the top, and screw on the coupler. 

Pretty painless, right?  Just be sure not to screw on the coupler too tightly...I couldn't get it off after I frosted the cupcakes and had to wait until the hubby came home to unscrew it for me. 

Stand the bag upright in a large, tall cup or vase with the edges folded over the top like this...and yes, it's a Texas A&M cup...Gig 'Em Aggies! 

Fill the bag up with the frosting...about 1/2 of it.  Any more and it'll be too much to hold in your hands comfortably.  Using the cup makes it really won't make a big 'ole mess...and get frosting in your hair ;-). 

Seal the bag shut...and you're all ready to pipe!  This might take a bit of practice, but just pipe the frosting on top of the cupcakes in a circle, going around and around towards the middle, making smaller circles until it's all filled in.  Finish by pulling the tip straight up. 

As you can see, I am not a professional.  Just setting the record straight!

Be generous with the frosting y'all...I laid that stuff on, and still had some leftover (which BTW is really good on chocolate devil's food cake, Christmas cookies, etc.  Heck, it was good on almost anything!). 

Before the frosting sets, sprinkle with some red and white sparkling sugar if you'd like.  I happen to love the little bit of crunch you get when combined with sweet, creamy frosting and moist cake :-). 

Set these out on a pretty platter or dessert stand and watch 'em disappear.  I took 18 of these to that Christmas party, and only came home with 4!

Whether you make one big cake or cupcakes with this recipe, it will be a hit!  And it's perfect to put out on the holiday buffet too.  Just be sure to refridgerate any cake/cupcakes after the party's over, since there's cream cheese in the frosting. 

Hope you enjoy this sweet treat.  God Bless your table tonight!

Friday, December 11, 2009


Okay ladies...I put all the names in Santa's hat...

and I pulled one out...

And the winner is...

(I'm not going to drag it out this time because I'm nice, and it's getting closer to Christmas ;-)


Here's part of her comment:

"...Oh, and I'd LOVE to win your giveaway! My favorite cookie recipe is from Bridget, of course! AND, not only does she have wonderful sugar cookies, she is so kind to give step-by-step decorating instructions too. She ranks right up there with The Pioneer Woman! :)"

Bev, please email me at so I can get your prize to you.

Thank you for all the comments, I had fun reading them...I'm off to make more cookies right now!

Monday, December 7, 2009

Turkey Sliders with Caramelized Onions

Some people don't like going to the grocery store.  I can understand that.   There's simply too many options, and if it's late in the afternoon, the store is full of crazed people hurrying to buy what they need for dinner (I've done that plenty of times myself).  If you go late at night (which I've also done), those darn checkers who are always high school age can't seem to ring up things on special correctly.

But...I have to say...I love grocery shopping.  I collect all the grocery flyers, and armed with paper and pencil, I plan out what I want to make for the next week or so.  This doesn't happen every Tuesday (when the flyers come in the mail), but I usually make up a good list of ideas every 2 weeks.

Last week, we needed the basics...milk, bread, eggs, orange juice.  We got to the store--Gabriel always holds the list for me, and headed for the bread aisle. 

Once there, I grabbed our usual, 100% whole wheat sandwich bread, and started towards the dairy case for milk.  And then I stopped. 

Now I know a package of little sandwich buns might not stop traffic.  But they got me thinking. 

My kids love it when I make smaller dishes for them, like mini meatloaves, cupcakes, pancakes, and mini muffins.  I decided to make turkey sliders, and cook down some onions because my hubby loves 'em.  He'll eat onions raw or cooked with just about anything.  Except brisket.  Don't ask him why...he just just doesn't. 

The trick to ground turkey is to add moisture and cook it quickly, otherwise it will be dry, since turkey doesn't have a high fat content either like ground beef.  That's why we add grated apple to the turkey :-). 

So here's a fun recipe your big kids (aka husbands) and little kids will love! And it's healthy too...just don't tell anyone. 

Turkey Sliders with Caramelized Onions

1 pound ground turkey (90/10)
1 medium apple, finely grated
2 cloves garlic, minced
1  1/2 teaspoons poulty seasoning
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 teaspoons cayenne pepper
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1/4 teaspoon allspice
2 tablespoons finely chopped parsley
1 small red onion, thinly sliced
2 teaspoons olive oil
1 package (12 count) slider buns/small rolls
tomatoes, lettuce, and other toppings/condiments of choice

Let's start with the onions.  In a small skillet over low heat, saute the red onions in olive oil for 30-45 minutes until they're very soft and caramelized.  About 10 minutes in, season with some salt and pepper to taste.  This is time-consuming, but it's worth the effort.  I get a big kiss from my hubby whenever I make these.  Plus you can make them ahead of time, and just reheat when needed. 

Turkey is next!  In a large bowl, combine the turkey, grated apple, garlic, poultry seasoning, salt, pepper, cayenne, thyme, allspice, and parsley.  Mix gently until combined, but don't overdo it.

As a side note...use the small holes on your grater to grate the apple.  The large holes will be too big...the small bits of apple will mix more easily into the turkey. 

You can shape the little burgers by hand, but I like using a mold.  For regular sized burgers, I use a peanut butter lid; this time I used a lid from a large spice jar.  Next time, I want to try something just a little bigger...I forgot the burgers would shrink a little after cooking. 

Just take a piece of plastic wrap and line the lid. 

Scoop the turkey mixture in and pack it in gently. 

Then unmold onto a plate.  Easy as pie!

Continue with the rest of the turkey mixture.  I ended up with 11 may or may not get the same number. 

The day I made these, it was cold and rainy outside, so I fired up my indoor grill pan.  You can pan-fry these or stick 'em under the broiler if you don't have a grill pan.  These will take about 3-4 minutes per sure not to overcook them or they'll be dry.  I made these in the afternoon and reheated them for dinner. 

For those fancy grill marks...just rotate the burgers 90 degrees after 2 minutes.  But I only did it for y'all...the kids could care less. 

David, Rebecca and I like everything on our burgers.  The rest of the kids just like cheese and ketchup.  I cut a slice of cheese small enough to cover the patty and used roma tomatoes (since they're smaller).  Feel free to make your burger the way you want ;-)

I made ours like this.  Lettuce and turkey...

Cheese, tomato, and pickles...

And some caramelized onions...yum!  The kids like to add ketchup/mustard themselves. 

Then the cap...and don't forget to open wide!

I made a plate for David "to go," only to realize he had a meeting at church that night, and dinner would be provided.  Oh well...guess I'll have to eat it ;-). 

In keeping with the heathly theme of this meal, I made Sweet Potato Fries and Roasted Broccoli on the side.  They're my go-to sides these days because sweet potatoes are good for you...and we have plenty of broccoli from the garden. 

These turned out really great...kid-friendly and easy to make in advance.  I wanted to post this last week, but figured it was too soon after Thanksgiving, and nobody wanted to be anywhere near any form of turkey. 

Hope you enjoy 'em, and God Bless your table!