Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Thanksgiving Prep: Dessert

I am making three desserts for tomorrow.  Well, technically, the apple pie is being made by my daughter.  I prepped an almond pie to go into the oven tomorrow and the dough and filling for pumpkin empanadas.

Almond Pie

I cheated a bit and used a pre-made crust for this one

2 cups sliced almonds
4 eggs, whisked
1/2 cup white sugar
1 cup brown sugar
1 tsp lemon juice
1 tsp almond extract
4 tbsp butter, melted

I mixed all ingredients together in a bowl, then added them to the pie crust.  I put a piece of aluminum foil over the pie and put it in the refrigerator to bake tomorrow.  It will bake at 325 degrees for 45 minutes to an hour.

Pumpkin Empanadas

14 tbsp butter
6 tbsp shortening
4 cups flour
2 tbsp ice water
2 eggs, whisked

I added the butter and shortening to the flour and cut it in with a fork.  I added the water and egg after, and mixed it with my hands.  The dough is currently chilling in the refrigerator for morning.

4 tbsp butter
2 cups brown sugar
1 30 oz can of pumpkin pie mix
1 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground cloves
1 tsp pumpkin pie spice
1 cup flour

I melted the butter in my freshly washed saucepan and added the brown sugar.  I then added the pumpkin and all of the spices (not the flour!).  I let it simmer for about 10 or 15 minutes until the mixture thickened nicely and I was pleased with the flavor.  I removed it from the heat and divided it in half.  I whisked the flour in with half of it, then mixed the remainder in with it.  I then refrigerated the filling for tomorrow.

In the morning, I will divide my dough in four parts.  Each part should then be divided in 8 balls.  Each ball will roll out into a circle.  I will add filling mixture to the center of each circle and fold them in half.  The edges will be pressed down with a fork, the top will be brushed with egg wash, and they will be baked for about 15 minutes at 425 degrees.  I will sprinkle a cinnamon/sugar mixture over the tops when they come out of the oven.

Thanksgiving Prep: Sides

Some of the side dishes are ones that take little time, like the macaroni and cheese, and some I cheat on, like the rolls, which I bought pre-made since I had enough other things to do today and tomorrow.  Others I was able to prep.

Garlic Cheddar Mashed Potatoes

3 pounds potatoes, cleaned and boiled tender (I used the white ones and left the skin on)
2 cups heavy cream
1 stick butter
8 cloves garlic, smashed (I love my garlic press!)
4 cups shredded sharp cheddar cheese
Black pepper
Garlic powder
1/4 cup chopped parsley

I boiled the potatoes until they were tender and drained the water off.  I used my potato masher to mash the potatoes down.  I put the cream, butter, and garlic in a saucepan and brought it to a simmer.  I then poured the mixture into the mashed potatoes and mashed it all together.  I added the salt, pepper, garlic powder and parsley and mashed it all.  I added the cheese and mashed everything together.  I put all of it into a container in the refrigerator.  Tomorrow I will put the mashed potatoes into the crock pot on low heat about three hours before dinner and let them heat up, stirring them occasionally.  This will keep the stove free for me to cook my other sides!

Thanksgiving Prep: Dinner

I must confess.  There is little I could do to prep the turkey other than thaw it, so I let it spend the day thawing in the sink with the extra legs I make.  The kids call it a spider-turkey, since it has eight legs.  I did spend some prep time on the stuffing.

Garlic Mushroom Stuffing

8 tbsp butter (I use salted)
16 oz fresh mushrooms washed and cut into small chunks
6 large garlic cloves, peeled and minced
1 1/2 tsp fresh thyme
1 tsp ground thyme
1 cup white cooking wine
5 cups chicken stock (bouillon cubes and water)
Salt and pepper to taste
2 cups heavy cream
1/4 cup chopped parsley
3 eggs, whisked
16 oz bread cut into cubes and toasted until dry

I prepared the liquid portion of this recipe today, and will complete the cooking tomorrow.

In a large skillet melt the stick of butter.  Add the chopped mushrooms and cook until lightly browned and the mushrooms give off liquid.  Add the minced garlic and fresh thyme.  Cook for three to four minutes.  Add the wine and five chicken bouillon cubes.  Simmer until wine reduces by half.  Add two cups of water to the mixture and simmer for about 10 minutes.  Add the salt and pepper and transfer the mixture to a large bowl.  Add the three cups of water, ground thyme, heavy cream and parsley, and taste it to make sure you like the flavor.  When you are satisfied, add the whisked eggs.

At this point, I put the mixture in the refrigerator.  I will add the toasted bread tomorrow, put the stuffing in a baking dish, cover it with foil and bake it at 350 degrees for 45 minutes, uncover it and bake it for another 30 minutes and let it rest for about 15 minutes before serving it.

Thanksgiving Prep: Appetizers

On the appetizers menu, the only thing I needed to prep was the stuffing for the mushrooms.

Stuffed Mushrooms

4 / 6 tbsp butter (divided)
8 slices cooked bacon
1 package frozen spinach (10 oz, I used about 8 oz in the actual mixture)
18 oz mushrooms (I used baby Portabello)
Onion powder
6 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
Salt and pepper to taste

Today's Prep:
I started by cooking up the bacon in one pan, and the spinach in another.  For the spinach, place the frozen spinach in a saucepan with 1/4 cup of water.  Bring the water to a boil, cover and reduce heat to medium.  Cook about 10 minutes, then drain.  Set the spinach aside.  Once I finished the bacon, I drained the grease, and kept the drippings.  I removed the stems from all of my mushrooms today and put the caps in a tupperware bowl in the refrigerator for the morning (I did not wash the caps because I did not want the extra moisture stored with them).  I washed all of the stems then chopped them with my chopper.

In my rinsed saucepan I melted the 6 tbsp of butter and sautéed the minced garlic with a dash of onion powder.  I cooked them until they were nice and brown, then added the mushroom stems.  Once they cooked for about two minutes, I added the bacon, spinach, and heavy cream.  Once the cream started to bubble, I removed the pan from the heat and added the cheese, salt, and pepper.  This final mixture was placed in a container in the refrigerator overnight.  Tomorrow at about 10:30 or 11:00 am, I will rinse all of the mushroom caps, stuff them abundantly with the pre-prepared stuffing, drizzle them with the remaining 4 tbsp of butter, and bake them at 400 degrees for about 30 minutes until they are gently browned.

Thanksgiving Prep Day

I did a lot of planning so that my Thanksgiving Day would be a little less hectic this year, and we could still enjoy a wonderful meal.  I spent the majority of today in preparation, but I feel relaxed and I am sure that this will reduce any stress I might have experienced tomorrow.

Here is the menu for tomorrow:

Stuffed mushrooms
Potato chowder

Upside Down Turkey
Herbed turkey gravy
Garlic mushroom stuffing

Garlic cheddar mashed potatoes
Green beans
Macaroni and cheese
Herb rice
Cranberry sauce

Apple pie
Almond pie
Pumpkin Empanadas

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Bacon Chicken & Dumplings

Things have been a little hectic since I started classes again, and I haven't really been experimenting the way I was able to over the summer.  I do plan on trying some new things for Thanksgiving, and last night I tried a variation on an old favorite.

I get daily recipe emails from  Sometimes I look at the title of the email and delete it without even reading it, and sometimes I actually save it to read later, or open it right then.  I received an email about a week ago titled "Bacon Chicken and Dumplings," and got around to reading it yesterday.  The approach they took to the recipe was very different from the way I make mine, and I thought it might be possible to incorporate some of the ideas into my recipe, but still do it my way.  The empty pot that almost got licked clean by my kids (and my husband) confirmed my suspicions, but I do have to give credit where credit is due, and the inspiration was the email I received from that website.  If you want to check out their recipe, you might enjoy it, but here is what I did:

Bacon Chicken & Dumplings
1.5 pounds bacon (I used hickory smoked)
2.5 pounds chicken, cubed
1 bag frozen southern hash brown potatoes
1 tsp onion powder (the recipe on the other website used actual onion)
12 cups chicken broth (water + bouillon cubes)
3 tsp poultry seasoning
Salt & pepper to taste
Spicy garlic seasoning to taste (I have a grinder, but you can use garlic powder instead)
2 splashes of lemon juice
1 1/2 cups half and half


4 cups flour
1  tsp baking soda
1  tsp salt
6 tbsp shortening
1 1/2 cups milk
2 tsp pepper

I normally boil my chicken for chicken and dumplings, so this was the first departure. 

Start with the bacon, and fry it up  to a nice brown color.  Set it to the side as it finishes (leave it for now), and drain almost all of the grease afterwards.  Make sure to keep the drippings!

While cooking the bacon, put the water, bouillon cubes, and the rest of the poultry seasoning into your big silver stock pot and start heating it up (once it boils, turn it down to a simmer).  If you have additional down time in between adding uncooked bacon to the pan and turning the bacon over, prepare your dumpling mixture. 

Dumplings: Mix your flour, soda, and salt and pepper together.  Once the dry ingredients are mixed, cut the shortening in (I use a fork and just make it crumble nicely).  Add your milk and mix.  If you have time before you start your chicken, potatoes and such, go ahead and roll out your dough and slice it into dumpling strips. If you don't have time, you can do it after you add the bacon and cream while your dinner simmers.

Note on the dumplings:  I had to use my hands to finish mixing the dough, and it was a little stickier than my other dumplings, mostly because for my other kind of chicken and dumplings I use a triple batch of dough, and I had to change the mixture since the additional bacon changed how it all went together.  It still worked just fine, and was plenty tasty enough. 

Cook the diced chicken in the bacon drippings and the teensy bit of grease that was left in the pan (hopefully less than a tsp worth of the grease after you drain).  Add the onion powder and about 1 1/2 tsp of the poultry seasoning to the chicken as it cooks.  Once the chicken is mostly cooked through, dump everything from the pan into your large silver stock pot.  Immediately put the potatoes in the already hot frying pan.  When they are lightly browned, added them to the stock pot as well.

Crumbled the bacon and add it to the pot.  Add the half and half.  Bring it back up to boil if the half and half cools the contents too much, then turn it back down, since it should be simmering at about medium low for as much of the process as possible (everything except your initial boil if you can manage it).  Make sure you are happy with the seasoning, and add whatever salt, pepper, garlic, etc. that you need if you aren't.  I used a couple of splashes of lemon juice after I tasted mine at this point in the cooking, just to take a little of the edge off.  I usually use more with my other recipe, but the bacon adds so much to the flavor of this, I didn't want to use too much.  You can even do without if you prefer.  Once you have your seasonings just right, start adding your dumplings. 

If you need to roll out your dumplings and slice them into strips, now is the time.  Once they are ready, feed them into the simmering pot, stirring occasionally so they don't stick together. 

Simmer for 10 minutes, uncovered, and make sure to stir frequently so it does not burn to the bottom of your pot.  Serve a yummy dinner!  If you have any questions, let me know. I'll be happy to answer any that you have.