Sunday, November 29, 2009

LBDelicious Thanksgiving

I fully intended to take a whole bunch of pictures of what I made for Thanksgiving this year, or at least one picture of the "spread" that filled our little IKEA dinner table, or the mess that the kitchen turned into after Dave carved the turkey. Instead, I'll just share the recipes and maybe put some random pictures in for fun. How's that for an LBDelicious Thanksgiving special?


Thank goodness for Lindsey, who brought snackins and wine for pre-meal noshing. She prepared a delicious cheese ball (8 oz block of cream cheese, shredded cheddar, worcesteire sauce, rolled into a ball and then rolled in chopped pecans, a personal favorite here at Casa Dawmilam) as well as Knorr's spinach dip, served with Triscuits and Wheat Thins. We ate this while watching the American Kennel Club Dog Show.

Recipe: 11 pound turkey, bought frozen, defrosted on Wednesday by placing in a small cooler, placed in a bathtub, under the faucet with a small trickle of cold water running for 12 hours, then placed in the fridge overnight to allow for any last-minute thawing.

Preheat oven to 425. Remove turkey from packaging and remove insides. Make sure you get them all, or else you'll end up roasting a bag containing the turkey neck along with everything else, and when your husband carves the turkey and everyone's hanging out in the kitchen drooling over the meal, you'll get laughed at. I learned this the hard way this year.

Rinse the turkey under cold water (inside and out); pat dry with a paper towel. Place in your roasting pan, on a rack. Stuff the cavity with a sprinkle of salt, whole peppercorns, sage and thyme, a lemon, carrot, celery, whole head of garlic, and some onion. Truss the bird. Make a little sage butter (stick of butter, softened, mixed with sage) and place it between the skin and the breast meat. Unlike what Ina Garten said, make sure the butter is just soft, not melted, or it'll turn into a big ol' greasy mess when you try to place the mixture on the cold turkey. Learned this one the hard way too, this year. On the outside of the skin, rub with oil, salt, pepper, sage and thyme. In the bottom of the roasting pan, pour some chicken stock, white wine, and the leftover veggies that didn't get stuffed in the cavity of the bird. This will ensure a delicious gravy.

Roast for 25 minutes at 425, then lower heat to 350 and roast until the meat thermometer reads 155-157, about 2 hours. I overcooked mine slightly because I didn't check the temperature early enough. Start checking the temp at about 1 hour 45 minutes, or get yourself a really nice thermometer that can stay in the bird the whole time and beep when the temperature reaches the point you want.

After the turkey has cooked, pour the pan drippings into a small saucepan. Bring to a boil. While it's coming to the boil, whisk together about 1/4 cup of flour with about 1/4 cup of milk. Whisk the milk/flour mixture into the sauce, a little at a time, until gravy reaches desired consistency. Try not to drink it all before the guests arrive.

(My recipe is adapted from one that Tyler Florence has.)

This is a day-before (or 2-days-before) dish, which makes it even more lovely. Take 1 bag of fresh cranberries. Rinse them, put them in a saucepan. Add about 1 cup sugar, 1 cinnamon stick, zest of 1 lemon, juice of a lemon, couple tablespoons of orange juice, about 1/3 cup water, and a splash of orange liquor. Simmer on medium heat for about 15-20 minutes, stirring frequently. Taste occasionally to correct seasoning/sweetness. Remove cinnamon stick before serving.

I am not the biggest fan of dressing, but everyone else loves it, and I hear it's just not Thanksgiving without it. I still don't think this recipe is the best (will probably have to consult with the grandmothers to find out what I'm doing wrong), but I followed Paula Deen's recipe here. It was alright.

There is division among my guests about how to cook green beans. Dean & Donna like them *really* cooked; Dave, Lindsey and I like them *barely* cooked. I solved this problem by purchasing about a pound of fresh green beans, and boiling them all together in salted water for 5 minutes. After 5 minutes, I removed half of them to stop the cooking process, and allowed the remaining beans to cook for another 10 minutes. We topped both sets with butter, salt and pepper. Everyone was happy!

This is my FAVORITE, favorite favorite menu item. I heart sweet potatoes, and I especially heart sweet potato casserole. I made it as buttery and sweet as I could, on purpose. Again, I took a cue from Paula Deen and made this recipe. It was hard not to eat it all before Thanksgiving. Really. Hard for me to sleep on Wednesday night knowing this casserole was in my fridge, all alone, waiting on me to go to town on it. I thought I'd miss the marshmallows on this particular recipe, but the brown sugar/pecan crumbly top made up for it. I added cinnamon at the last minute to make the house smell even warmer. Her recipe was:

*start with about 3 large sweet potatoes, roasted (at 450 for 1 hour), cooled, removed from peel, and mashed in a large bowl
*melt one stick of butter
*add about half that stick of butter to the sweet potatoes, along with about 1/4 cup half and half or cream, 1 teaspoon vanilla (wow, did that make a difference), 1 cup of sugar, and 2 eggs
*prepare the topping: 1/4 cup flour, 1 cup brown sugar, some cinnamon, and about 1/2 cup chopped pecans, tossed together with the remaining melted butter
*place sweet potatoes in a baking dish, top with topping, bake for about 35 minutes at 350.


Lindsey also contributed our dessert. MMMM, it was yummy! I think this is the recipe she used, found here on I'm so glad she accidentally left it at our house, because I want another piece right now.

All in all, it was a great Thanksgiving. We had much to be thankful for this year. I really enjoyed taking a whole day to cook for people I love, especially since they seemed to enjoy the food. My best advice for those of you who are going to attempt a full-on Thanksgiving dinner at some point in your life is pretty much the same as it was last year: don't stress about it. Don't over complicate your mission, which is to make a meal for your family. If something goes wrong, it'll provide a funny story to tell for future generations, like that time Megan and I were helping Grandmother make Thanksgiving, and she was making meringue for a pie but forgot to put sugar in the egg whites (we still laugh about that, and my aversion to eggs in general). You don't have to spend a lot of money on ingredients (I probably spent about $100, just because my pantry was empty and I had to re-stock a lot of basics), and if you put some thought into it, everything is pretty much done before the guests arrive.

The day ended with everyone in a food coma, which I took as a huge compliment.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Another Variation of Turkey Sausage Pasta

You know, I'm getting used to being married, and living in one place. There's something comforting about having all my clothes in one closet, knowing where I'll spend every weekend, and not having a 360 mile divide between me and my sweetie. Don't get me wrong: I am still on the go. I have a pretty substantial commute (at least on Tuesdays and Thursdays), and I have been a weekend warrior since moving back to Kennesaw. I've been on quite a few short road trips, most without Dave. Grandmother told me I had better watch out or Dave might leave me, since I'm gone so much. I won't write here what my response was, because it was definitely smart-ass in nature, so I just kept it to myself and laughed. I'm still not sure that all the women in my family are aware that they (unknowingly?) raised a feminist who is independent to a fault. My husband is the absolute sweetest person in the world to me, and we have settled into a great relationship - but we are still individuals who like our space. Case in point: I'm here on the couch blogging with a cute little napping Chloe beside me, and Dave's having his weekly World of Warcraft time in the office.

But, one thing we do enjoy is eating dinner together every night. Anna Kudak would probably call it a "ritual" that a "happy couple does" and she'd be correct. It's our time to catch up on what happened during the day. Dinner never lasts very long, maybe 15 minutes? Still, we both look forward to sitting at our simple IKEA table and talking, even if it is just for a few minutes, and even if we're just eating Kraft macaroni and cheese (which was deeee-lish by the way, the other night, but we ate on the couch, which is our preferred mac-and-cheese eating situation). We work together to get drinks poured, forks out, napkins set, and food on the table. We turn the television on the jazz channel and turn Casa Dawmilam into Bistro le Dawmilam. If there are any moving pictures on the television, conversation ceases - and that defeats the purpose of eating dinner together. Why jazz? Because techno is reserved for driving, working out and playing Scrabble. I'm not kidding.

Usually, conversation isn't earth shattering. I hear about Dave's work in an office with 11 other men, which is usually about as uneventful as one would expect a day working with 11 other software professionals would be. He hears about my students, their speeches, and updates from my friends I may have heard from through the day. Chloe usually jumps up in a chair and watches us. Okay, true confession, Chloe *usually* jumps on the table and walks around, then sits in a chair beside us. We are horrible "cat parents" for allowing her such free reign in the house, and we harbor some guilt over it. Oh well. She's cute, and right now she's our cat-child, so if we can spoil her by letting her stand on the table while we eat, who cares.

There are some nights we have dinner and it really, really makes me happy, like tonight. I've had a hellacious week, for some reason. I haven't been at nightmare status, but I have lost sleep this week. Determined to make my day better, I kept the Fraggle Rock theme song in my head all day today.

I can't embed it, but you can/really should click here and listen to it.

Determined to save my worries for another day, I stayed focused on the positive things that happened today - and there were quite a few. Before I knew it, I was home making dinner, in my pj's, and enjoying a much deserved glass of wine, waiting on my husband to get home before digging into my newest creation. It was so tasty, and a variation of another recipe I've made quite a bit in the past - but this time, I think I nailed it. Taken from Good Things Catered and adjusted to what I had on hand, here is:

Hearty Fall Turkey Sausage Penne

about 1/2 box penne pasta (can use whole wheat, if you're healthier than me)
1/2 lb turkey sausage
about 1/2 white or yellow onion, diced
about the same amount of diced red, yellow and/or green pepper
couple cloves of minced garlic
equal parts of dried thyme, Italian seasoning and red chili flakes (about 1/2 teaspoon each maybe)
some chicken stock
some red wine
splash of balsamic vinaigrette
1 can tomatoes, diced (or whole, and diced yourself, like I did)
couple cups of fresh spinach, washed and rough chopped
parmesan cheese

Bring a large pot of water to a boil, add salt, cook the penne according to package directions, about 8-9 minutes until al dente.

In the meantime, brown the sausage (make it crumbly) in a large pan over medium heat, with some olive oil so the turkey doesn't stick to the pan (takes about 7-8 minutes). Remove turkey from pan when cooked, set aside. Immediately add diced onion, peppers, garlic, and spices, along with a good pinch of salt, to the pan; may need to add more oil if the pan is really dry. Sautee until onions are cooked through, about 8-9 minutes. Add some red wine to the pan to deglaze (I probably used about 1/3 cup), scrape up the brown bits from the bottom. While you've got the wine out and open, may as well pour yourself a glass to sip on while dinner's cooking. It's the A-50 way. Anyway: simmer that for a minute, add a splash (probably 2 Tablespoons) of balsamic vinegar, and maybe a cup of chicken stock. Add back in the turkey sausage, then add tomatoes with juices, salt again, and stir in the cooked pasta. Stir to combine, then add the spinach; it'll look like a lot, but I promise it will wilt down to almost nothing. Simmer over medium low heat until sauce thickens a little, the spinach wilts, and the pasta has absorbed some of the saucy goodness, about 10 minutes. Serve in big bowls topped with parmesan cheese.

I ate two big bowls of this pasta tonight, sitting across from my husband, and really have enjoyed the evening. I credit Fraggle Rock, partly. With all the stress of the week, it's so nice knowing I can come home to a cat and man who love me. I get to see great friends next week. I have a job that (hopefully) is making a difference in the lives of some students. And I'm an all around lucky gal. Happy happy joy joy. Let's go eat a turtle brownie and call it a night.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Mac & Cheese Night

Team Dawmilam is probably going to have Kraft macaroni and cheese tonight for dinner, unless Dave has a better idea when he gets home (and I'd put money on the fact that he won't). It takes 8 minutes to prepare and about 5 to eat. I jazz it up by adding cracked black pepper and shredded cheddar. Trust me: it makes it amazing.

My journey with macaroni and cheese is long. It's one of my all time favorite foods. I used to be an exclusively Velveeta Shells & Cheese girl. My mom had to stockpile the stuff because it's all I would eat. (I plan on being a much meaner mother in the highly unlikely event that Team Dawmilam someday spawns a child.)

Momma Charlie makes a mean macaroni and cheese from scratch. I will get her recipe someday, and perhaps recreate it. Her mac and cheese is slightly different than any other I've eaten: the cheese sauce makes kind of like a thin coating over the starchy macaroni noodles, and it's very sticky. I'm 99% sure she also uses Velveeta in her recipe.

Karen and I discovered EasyMac while we lived in the dorms and our best option for food was anything that required adding water and heating in the microwave. The thought of that, and Bowl Appetit!, make me slightly nauseous today. But, for about 4 years, it was all we ate, along with Pop Tarts and an occasional sandwich from the student center.

After a short term hiatus from mac and cheese (instigated mostly due to the abnormal quantities of EasyMac I consumed in college), I discovered pure, simple, Kraft macaroni and cheese. Something about that orange, powdery "cheese" that forms a "sauce" when added with milk and butter makes me happy. It is the macaroni product of choice in my kitchen.

So, this blog is proof that not every night is LBDelicious, original food. Sometimes, we do resort to pre-packaged, over-processed, convenience foods, and we enjoy every bite.