Thanksgiving dinner: Mushroom stuffing and more

Just in case you needed a laugh, I baked 3 apple pies for our families. Then Scruffy jumped up on the table and ate half of one! So I baked a fourth pie. Chris ate the other half of Scruffy’s pie! Now that’s love.  :)

Our Thanksgiving dinner looked like this…


That cranberry sauce was homemade by Dan B. …. so delicious! I made the rest.

Turkey: see my upside down turkey recipe… I brine it with Fire and Flavor herb brine kit (used a 1/2 recipe since the turkey was 12.5 lbs) and then follow this cooking method.

Mashed potatoes:

Super simple – 3 lbs yukon golds, peeled (Chris peeled them the day before and I kept them in the cooking pot in water in the fridge until T’day morning. Then take it out, drain the water (removes starch), cut into 2″ chunks, refill pot with water, and put on stove so that it will come to room temp by the time you want to cook. Bring to boil, cook for about 15-20 min after that  until soft and easily pierced with knife. Drain and return to pot. Mash and add 10 tbsp unsalted butter, 1 to 1 1/2 cups whole milk (start with 1 cup and check for thickness), and stir. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Green Beans with Caramelized Scallions:

I also loved the string beans with caramelized scallions… so easy and flavorful. I used about 4 large scallions for 1.5 lbs of haricot vert. Just cook the scallions (thinly sliced) in olive oil and butter until lightly golden. Then I steamed the beans in the microwave with a little water. When I was ready to serve the turkey I cranked up the heat for the scallions, tossed in the beans, and cooked for about 5 minutes. The scallions will brown further and the beans warm through: then it’s ready.


Peel carrots and quarter  lengthwise or until about 1/2″ thick sticks. Sprinkle with olive oil and salt and pepper and toss in sheet pan. Roast at 425 F for 20-30 min flipping occasionally until softened and caramelized slightly.


The gravy was just made from the pan drippings (note: i put the turkey neck, 1 onion quartered, 2 carrots and 2 celery stalks in the roasting pan with 2 cups stock while roasting the turkey) and then skimmed the fat off, added 1 cup dry white wine, cooked and stirred until syrupy, then whisked in 1/2 cup flour, and a little more stock, salt and pepper. Cook until thickened.

Back to the stuffing:

This was delicious! Nice and moist and flavorful with some crunchy bits around the edges. It’s my adaptation of a recipe from Everyday Food magazine (Mushroom and Walnut Stuffing, Nov 2010). Here is my version:

Mushroom Stuffing


  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 tbsp butter
  • 1 loaf white bread (I used a country white), cut into 3/4″ pieces
  • 2 large yellow onions (or 4 small), diced small
  • 3 large celery stalks, diced medium
  • salt, pepper
  • 16 oz cremini (baby bella) mushrooms, diced small
  • 1/2 tsp dried sage
  • 1 tsp fresh thyme, stripped from stems
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 1 1/2 – 2 cups low sodium chicken stock (as needed to moisten)
  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten


Preheat oven to 400 F. Keep rack near top of oven. Spread bread cubes out onto 2 sheet pans and bake for 10-12 minutes until crisp.

Keep oven at 400 to preheat for stuffing, move rack to about 1/3 down oven.

In saute pan, heat 1 tbsp oil and 1 tbsp butter. Add onions and celery and season with salt and pepper. Saute until soft, 5-7 minutes. Transfer to large bowl.

Add another  1 tbsp oil and 1 tbsp butter to pan and saute mushrooms (with salt and pepper) until browned, about 5 minutes.

Add wine to mushrooms and stir to scrape brown bits from pan and cook until wine evaporates.

Transfer to bowl and add bread and toss. Add stock until bread is moist but not too soggy (I used 2 cups but my bread was well toasted).

Add eggs to bread mixture and toss to combine. Pour into 2 qt buttered baking dish.

Bake for 30-40 minutes until golden on top.

Potato and Ham Torte

I made this for a weekend lunch with Mom and Pop. I served it with a salad and it made for a perfect lunch. It has their seal of approval, as well as Tom’s, including a request for a repeat performance.   :)

This is rich but delicious, and it looks great on the plate because the top and bottom sliced potato layers help it hold its shape. I wish I had taken a photo but I forgot in my excitement to get it over to Pop’s house as soon as I took it out of the oven!

This is my modified version of an Everyday Food recipe called Ham and Potato Bake. The dish is basically a crustless quiche; serve it hot, cold, or at room temperature. I like it best slightly warm.

Serves 8-10. Prep Time 25 minutes, Cook Time 2 hours


  • Cooking spray, for casserole dish
  • 6 large eggs
  • 1 1/2 cups heavy cream
  • 1 teaspoon coarse salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground pepper
  • 2 baking potatoes (about 1 1/4 pounds), peeled
  • 1 small yellow onion, diced
  • 10 ounces ham, diced
  • 1 package (10 oz) frozen broccoli, diced, thawed and squeezed dry with paper towels
  • 1/2 – 1 cup grated gruyere cheese (2-4 oz)


  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  • Spray a 9” square casserole, at least 2-3” in height, but you could use any shape of the smaller size casseroles.
  • Line bottom of casserole with a parchment paper keeping the paper long on two sides to go up a couple inches beyond the side of the dish so it will slide out easily.
  • In a large bowl, whisk together eggs and cream; season with salt and pepper.
  • Thinly slice potatoes (less than 1/4 inch thick); drop into egg mixture.
  • Lifting potatoes out of egg mixture, arrange half the potatoes in pan.
  • Layer with ham, broccoli, onions, cheese, and top with remaining potatoes.
  • Pour egg mixture over top. Press down firmly so that potatoes are fully submerged in egg mixture.
  • Cover with foil; bake until potatoes are tender, about 1 hour. Uncover and continue baking until golden and set, for about 1 hour more.
  • Cool 15 to 20 minutes in pan. Run a knife around the edge, and using the parchment handles, slide it out of the casserole. Peel off parchment. Slice with a serrated knife.

Peanut Butter and Jelly Cookies


The last time I made PB&J thumbprint cookies they were too crunchy, I didn’t like them at all –  I had used a recipe from Martha Stewart’s cookie book. This new recipe is also a Martha Stewart recipe (from MS Living magazine, 2011) but the texture of this recipe is much better. I modified it only in the presentation – they are supposed to be heart-shaped but I think a simple circle is just fine (and easier).

Chris loved these straight from the oven. They were delicious the next day, soft and jammy and delicious. These were a hit at Dan & Kathy’s Easter dinner today.

Just be careful, don’t move them or stack them if they are still warm at all, they will collapse in the empty spaces! You can see that the jammy middle caved in on the top row – that one was warm when I moved it to the top of the pile.

Martha Stewart’s Peanut Butter and Jam Cookies 

makes about 24 cookies (my batch made 25)


  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 stick unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup packed light-brown sugar
  • 1 cup creamy peanut butter
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/3-1/2 cup raspberry jam, stirred to loosen


  1. Whisk together flour, baking powder, and 1/4 teaspoon salt. Beat butter and sugars with a mixer on medium speed until pale and fluffy. Beat in peanut butter, then egg. Reduce speed to low, and beat in flour mixture until dough forms. If dough is sticky, refrigerate for 5 to 10 minutes.
  2. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Roll dough into 1 1/2-inch balls (I used a  2 tablespoon scoop). Arrange on parchment-lined baking sheets, spacing 1 1/2 inches apart. Press down to flatten into 1 3/4-inch rounds. Make indentation in center with bottom of 1/2 teaspoon measure. Refrigerate for 20 minutes.
  3. Bake for 12 minutes. Remove from oven, and re-press the indentation using the 1/2 tsp measure. Fill indentation of each with a generous 1/2 teaspoon jam. Bake until cookies are firm, 6 to 7 minutes more.

I also dyed some eggs – we had some dye in the back of the pantry for a few years and I figured I should use it. I only did 6 eggs, but forgot that ours are brown, but the colors took pretty well anyway! I only did the bright colors – the 4 on the right are their natural color.


Confetti Vegetable Soup

Now that the new year is here, it’s time to get back to my nutritarian diet, and it’s time for everyone else to start eating better too.

Today was a snow day for everyone here – we spent the morning shoveling and clearing out. I broke that up by baking 2 small loaves of banana chocolate chip bread – one for Chris and one for our neighbor Chris –  and playing with the dogs, and  so the afternoon was just begging for soup, a comfort food all for me!

I was craving veggies but not the raw crudite leftover from the recent festivities, so I decided to put it into a soup. This is such a colorful soup that it looks like party confetti, and it’s just delicious. I don’t often have corn but it really adds sweetness to the soup and the diced bell peppers also add great flavor and freshness.
This is really an “empty the fridge and freezer” soup, so use whatever you have on hand, as long as you start with the holy trinity (onions, celery, carrots).

Happy, healthy new year!

Confetti Vegetable Soup (makes 5 quarts)

2 yellow onions, chopped
2 stalks celery, chopped
2 large carrots (or 10 baby carrots), halved and sliced into half-moons
3 large bell peppers (I had red, orange, and yellow), diced
1 bag (10 oz) frozen organic corn kernels
1 bag (16 oz) frozen organic peas
2 cans (14 oz each) cannellini beans
2 boxes (32 oz each) low-sodium organic vegetable broth (I used Pacific brand)
1 bag (10 oz) organic tuscan kale (washed and chopped)


Water saute (or saute in a little olive oil) onions, celery and carrots in dutch oven or soup put (mine was 7.25 qts and it just fit everything). Add salt if desired, I didn’t. Cook about 5-10 minutes.
Once onions are translucent and soft and other veggies are starting to cook, add peppers and saute for another 5-10 minutes. Add frozen corn and peas, cannellini beans, and broth, cover, and bring to a rapid boil. Lower heat and allow it to simmer for 20 minutes.
Add kale and cook for another 10-15 minutes.


Delicious! According to myfitnesspal, the recipe calorie count comes to 197 cal per pint (I consider 1 pint a serving; this recipe makes 10 pints). I have shared the recipe on myfitnesspal in case you want to use it for your calorie tracking, listed as “confetti vegetable soup (homemade)”.


Biscotti two ways

My holiday baking started a bit earlier than usual this year because our first family Christmas party is on the 22nd, so the cookies will have to last through 4 family Christmas parties over a 4 day stretch.

After work today I made 2 kinds of biscotti. Biscotti are great for extended holiday schedules because they stay fresh for so long. One is my Mom’s recipe which we all love, the other is an oldie but goodie from the Smitten Kitchen blog (in blog years, 2008 is an oldie!) which was actually taken from a 1993 N.Y. Times recipe. [1993 was an awesome year, my HS graduation and the height of grunge. As I write this I’m still wearing a flannel shirt – grunge is back!]

By the way, Chris loves to eat the biscotti ends after the first round of baking. He likes when they are still a little soft – but only the ends are really cooked through by that point. He asked if I could find a way to get them to cook through and still be soft. I think that using the dough to make drop cookies and cooking them for less time (8-10 minutes?) might work. I’ll have to test that out one day.


Chocolate hazelnut biscotti – I love the way the egg wash makes the top shine

Chocolate Hazelnut Biscotti
adapted from Smitten Kitchen  – her photos and tips are always excellent, especially the warning that this is the stickiest dough ever! My changes and notes are in bold. Note: this is a traditional crunchy biscotti recipe, good for dunking!

Total time: 1 hour    Makes about 60 40 biscotti

1 cup whole chopped hazelnuts, preferably blanched
2 1/2 cups flour, plus flour for work surface
1/2 cup Dutch-style cocoa powder
1 tablespoon espresso powder [I used instant espresso]
Pinch of salt [1/8 tsp]
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
4 large eggs
1 1/3 cups sugar

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spread hazelnuts [on baking sheet lined with parchment] and toast about 8-10 minutes, until lightly browned. Set toasted nuts aside.

2. In medium bowl add flour, cocoa, espresso powder, salt, baking soda, baking powder together and whisk to blend [simpler than sifting]. Set aside.

3. Beat eggs lightly, just until blended, in mixing bowl with whisk or in electric mixer. Remove two tablespoons of egg mixture to small dish and set aside. Beat sugar into remaining eggs until blended. Stir in flour mixture to form soft dough, then mix in hazelnuts [I used my mixer for all of this, including mixing in the hazelnuts; super easy!].

4. Divide the dough in half and place one portion on a well-floured work surface. (She is not kidding about this.) With floured hands, pat it into a six-inch square. Scatter half the hazelnuts on the dough and press them into the surface. Roll the dough into a cylinder about 2 inches in diameter and 12 to 15 inches long. Line the baking sheet with parchment paper and place the roll of dough on the baking sheet. Repeat with the remaining dough. Brush the tops of both rolls with the reserved egg.

5. Place in the oven [still at 350 F] and bake about 15 20-25 minutes, until firm to the touch. Allow the loaves to cool on a rack for 10 minutes but keep the oven on. Transfer to a cutting board and cut on an angle into slices one-half-inch thick [I can’t do that, I did about 3/4″].  Return the slices to the baking sheet, laying them on their cut sides, and return them to the oven. Bake another 20 minutes [flipping them over half-way through the baking] until they are crisp and dry. Allow to cool completely before storing or serving. Store for up to 1 week in an airtight container.


Cranberry walnut white chocolate biscotti – almond extract and pomegranate juice really add to the flavor… they smell so good!

Mom’s cranberry walnut biscotti are so delicious. They are just a tiny bit moister that traditional biscotti, but still crunchy. Almond extract and pomegranate juice also lend great flavor (and scent). I made just two changes to Mom’s recipe, I replaced cherry juice with pomegranate juice (because we always have that in the house), and I replaced the semi-sweet chocolate chips with white chocolate – I had to make something without semi-sweet chocolate – I must be the only baker that hates the smell of chocolate chips baking.

Cranberry Walnut White Chocolate Biscotti
Total time: 1 hour     Makes 2 dozen (when cut in 3/4″ish slices from a 6″ wide loaf – next time I will make the loaves only about 3″ wide so that I can get more biscotti)

3 cups all purpose flour
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup dried cranberries
1/2 cup chopped walnuts [next time I think I’ll use pistachios to add some more color]
1/2 cup white chocolate chips [Mom uses semi-sweet]
2 tsp baking soda
1/8 tsp salt (a pinch)
1 Tbsp canola oil
2 tsp almond extract
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 cup cherry pomegranate juice
3 eggs

1. Preheat oven to 350 F. Mix flour, sugar, cranberries, walnuts, chocolate chips, baking powder, and salt in a large bowl.

2. In a smaller bowl, mix oil, extracts, juice, and eggs. Whisk until blended. Add wet to dry mixture and stir well until blended (no mixer needed, a spatula will work very well).

4. Turn dough out on to floured surface and knead just until smooth. Divide dough in half and shape each half into a 6″ wide rectangle. Place on parchment and flatten to 1″ thickness.

5. Bake for 30 minutes, then cool for 10 minutes on wire rack.

6. Slice in 1/2 to 3/4″ slices (on the diagonal) and place slices cut side down on parchment to bake for another 20 minutes, flipping the biscotti over half-way through the baking time. Cookies will be a bit softer than traditional biscotti when finished baking but will harden when cool. Allow them to cool completely before serving.


Turkey Roulade


A sample packed up for my expert recipe taste-tester (Mom) :)


I loved this recipe. I made a number of changes to an Emeril Lagasse roulade recipe. It came out great! I found that if the stuffing is a little dry before preparing the roulade that’s just fine since the moisture from the spinach and mushrooms makes it perfectly moist after cooking. Chris thought that the outside could do with some kind of rub or breadcrumb coating to keep it soft. I’m not sure what I’ll try on the outside next time, probably a chopped fresh herb and butter coating. I’m going to double this if I make it for our Christmas Eve dinner.


  • 1 boneless turkey breast half, about 2-3 pounds
  • salt, pepper
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 tsp minced garlic
  • 8 ounces mushrooms, trimmed and thinly sliced
  • 3-4 oz fresh baby spinach
  • 1/2 batch of Pepperidge Farm herb stuffing (1/2 of 14 oz bag, prepared)


  1. Make stuffing according to package directions on stove top and allow to cool.
  2. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
  3. Place turkey breast on cutting board and make a butterfly cut. Pound to an even thickness of 1/2-inch.
  4. In a large nonstick skillet, heat 1 tablespoon butter and 1 tsp olive oil over medium-high heat and saute the mushrooms and 1/4 teaspoon of the salt and cook, stirring, until caramelized around the edges, 3 to 4 minutes. Add the spinach, and cook, stirring occasionally, until spinach is wilted and any juices have evaporated from the pan, 3 to 4 minutes. Remove from heat until it is cool enough to handle.
  5. Lay the turkey breast flat on a clean work surface. Season the skin side of the turkey with salt and pepper. Arrange stuffing over the turkey to reach within 1/2-inch from all edges, then top with spinach mushroom mixture. Carefully roll up the breast. Using twine, tie the roll at even intervals so that it remains tightly rolled. Rub the outside of the roulade with the remaining tablespoon of olive oil and transfer to a rack inside of a shallow baking sheet lined with parchment paper.
  6. Roast until golden brown and an instant-read thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the very center of the roulade registers 150 to 155 degrees F, about 1 1/4 hours. Set aside to rest for 15 minutes then slice into 1/2-inch slices and serve.

Turkey Day

I have developed a habit of not posting my recipes until a month after I have made them, but it’s been so busy lately that I just can’t get a chance to work on it. Good thing this blog is just my virtual notebook and not my profession!

We delivered thanksgiving dinner to my grandparents’ apartment so I brined it to make sure that they turkey would be nice and moist since I had to pack and deliver it after cooking, and was afraid it would dry out (or fall on the floor). I used the Fire & Flavor brand brining kit, herb flavor. It was easy to use, and then I rinsed it all off after 13 hours of brining time. I ordered a fresh 13 lb turkey from Fresh Direct, and it was excellent.

In order to really keep the white meat juicy I roasted the turkey upside-down, well, breast side down anyway. I found the tip on simply recipes (see Mom’s Roast Turkey Recipe), and it was excellent advice! You won’t get a brown and crispy top but the breast meat is perfect and the skin over the dark meat is golden and crispy, so there is enough skin for those that like it.

My recipe:

  • 13 lb turkey, cleaned and brined
  • 1 stick butter, melted and cooled
  • salt and pepper
  • chicken stock, 1-2 cups
  • 2 yellow onions, peeled and quartered
  • 3 stalks celery, including leaves
  • 2 carrots
  • 1 lemon, halved
  • fresh rosemary (4 sprigs)
  • fresh thyme (4 sprigs)


  1. Wash brine off of turkey and place turkey on roasting rack. Allow it come to room temperature for an hour. Keep neck aside and place in bottom of roasting pan.
  2. Preheat oven to 400 F.
  3. Place carrots, celery and 1 quartered onion and 1-2 cups of stock in bottom of pan (this will build a great base for gravy).
  4. Truss turkey , stuff with thyme, lemon and 1 quartered onion.
  5. Coat turkey in butter and season with salt and pepper.  Tuck rosemary sprigs between leg and breast and wing and breast. Place turkey breast side down on roasting rack.
  6. Put turkey in oven on lowest shelf, cook for 30 minutes.
  7. Lower oven to 325 F and roast for 2 hrs more.
  8. Take turkey out and flip it over so that the breast is facing up, and roast for 45 minutes more, or until breast reaches 160 F and thigh reaches 170.
  9. Remove from oven and cover loosely with foil. Allow it to rest for 15-30 minutes before carving. While resting, use drippings to make gravy.

If you haven’t seen it, this carving video (Ray Venezia from Fairway Market, also available on the website) was excellent. I was able to carve the turkey perfectly after watching the video the night before, it was so clear and easy to follow! There was enough to serve 10 people, and it was great! Wish I had taken a photo of the platter that I put on the table, it looked so good! We had a great time, too much fun to worry about documenting it! I did get one photo of the before shot (I forgot to mention that I sprinkled a little paprika on top too).


I also made mashed potatoes (5 lbs yukon gold potatoes, boiled, 1.5 sticks butter, 8 oz sour cream, salt, pepper) – not health food, but so good – with or without gravy.