Category Archives: THANKSGIVING DINNER RECIPES

NEUFCHÂTEL – SPREAD THE WORD!

NEUFCHÂTEL CHEESE AND OLIVE SPREAD

Sometimes I go off on a wild tangent about something that will never bring about world peace, a higher literacy rate in the United States, or a magic formula for lowering stress when driving in Seattle traffic! But then, more often, my tangents are on a more attainable level and actually result in something over which I have some control. In this case I’m talking about reduced calories in an ingredient that is always, and I do mean always in my refrigerator. And that delicious ingredient ladies and gentlemen is cream cheese. Yep – cream cheese (or more accurately now Neufchâtel cheese).

Since deciding that my weight is way out of control, I have been paying greater attention to what I put in my mouth. Now for years I have been buying Neufchâtel cheese as frequently as I purchase cream cheese. I just assumed (my bad) that they were pretty much identical dairy products. And whichever happened to be on sale, or my fingers touched first, swiftly landed in my shopping cart. But in reading the packages, I soon found out that 1 tablespoon (1-oz.) of cream cheese has 100 calories, 84% fat, 8% carbs, and 8% protein. Whereas Neufchâtel cheese has only 70 calories, 1/3rd less fat (83%), 5% carbs, and 12% protein. So, why not cream cheese instead of Neufchâtel cheese? Well I think I just answered that question, but if you need me to break it down in another way – well it’s simple really!

Cream cheese by law must contain at least 33% milk fat and not more than 55% moisture. American Neufchâtel cheese contains only about 23% milk fat and has a slightly higher moisture content. This means that you need less other moisture rich ingredients to come up with a creamy, spreadable consistency. (Think less mayonnaise and sour cream, for example.)

Then I considered the taste of both. I found that for me, the flavor of Neufchâtel cheese is just as wonderful as cream cheese and just as perfect as the base for almost any type of spreadable. (I’m not sure I would use Neufchâtel cheese in a cheese cake, unless specifically listed in the recipe, but for dips and spreads it’s perfect.)

So, not requiring a baseball bat to hit me in the head before I pay attention to something – I have switched exclusively to Neufchâtel cheese for almost all of my cream cheese needs. And because I am so excited about my new found knowledge, I am going to share some of my favorite spread recipes with you in hopes that each and every one of you too will accept Neufchâtel cheese into your lives. (If that makes me a crusader, so be it!)

So I hope you enjoy the recipes and BTW – Happy Valentine’s Day. (It’s tomorrow, you know!)

And remember: Hunks or slices of cheese and dips or spreads that contain cheese (including cream cheese and Neufchâtel cheese), should always be served at room temperature. The wonderful creamy texture and complex taste of cheese cannot be fully appreciated if the cheese is still cold.

And you will note that all the recipes below call for “light” mayonnaise (I use Best Foods) and “lowfat” sour cream (I use Tillamook). Both are excellent products and all of the spread recipes on this post are just delightful (thank you very much) and happy as Puget Sound clams to find themselves lightened up!

NEUFCHÂTEL CHEESE AND OLIVE SPREAD

  • 1 (8-oz.) pkg. Neufchâtel cheese, room temperature
  • 1-2 T. low fat sour cream
  • ½ tsp. Worcestershire sauce
  • 1/8 tsp. granulated garlic
  • freshly ground black pepper (not too much)
  • 1 small can chopped black olives
  • 3 T. finely chopped green olives

Combine all ingredients. Refrigerate for several hours to combine flavors. Serve with fresh vegetables or crackers. Also wonderful served as a canapé.

NEUFCHÂTEL CHEESE AND VEGETABLE SPREAD

  • 1 (8-oz.) pkg. Neufchâtel cheese, room temperature
  • ¼ tsp. seasoned salt
  • freshly ground black pepper (not too much)
  • 1 T. finely minced carrot
  • 1 T. finely minced green pepper
  • 2 T. finely minced red pepper
  • 2 tsp. finely minced fresh parsley
  • 2 tsp. finely minced shallot
  • 1 small garlic clove, finely minced

Combine all ingredients. Refrigerate for several hours to combine flavors. Serve with fresh vegetables or crackers. Also wonderful served as a canapé.

VIENNESE LIPTAUER (NEUFCHÂTEL CHEESE, ANCHOVY, AND CAPER SPREAD)

  • 1 (8-oz.) pkg. Neufchâtel cheese, room temperature
  • ½ c. unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 3 T. low fat sour cream
  • 1 T. Dijon mustard
  • 2-3 tsp. anchovy paste
  • 1½ tsp. paprika
  • ¼ tsp. kosher salt
  • 1 tsp. caraway seeds
  • 1 tsp. capers, drained and finely minced
  • 1 T. grated or finely chopped onion

Whirl the Neufchâtel cheese, butter, sour cream, mustard, anchovy paste, paprika, and salt together in a food processor until very smooth. Taste and adjust the seasoning. Add the caraway seeds, capers, and onion. Pulse a couple of times just to incorporate the new additions. (You do not want them pulverized!) Scoop into serving dish. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least an hour before serving. Serve at room temperature with rye bread or Finn Crisp, a thin rye crisp bread with caraway. Finn Crisp comes in a small, mostly red package and can be found at most grocery stores.

SHARP CHEDDAR CHEESE AND CREAMY HORSERADISH SPREAD

  • 8 oz. grated sharp cheddar cheese
  • 6 oz. Neufchâtel cheese, room temperature
  • 1 tsp. distilled white vinegar
  • 6 T. heavy cream
  • 1 T. creamy horseradish (I use Beaver Brand Hot Creamy Horseradish)
  • pinch of kosher salt
  • freshly ground black pepper

Whirl all the ingredients together in a food processor until creamy and smooth. Refrigerate for at least 2 days before serving at room temperature with crackers. Cornichons (crisp, sour pickles made from really tiny cucumbers) are a wonderful accompaniment to this cheese spread.

BACON, DATE, AND NEUFCHÂTEL CHEESE SPREAD

  • 8-oz. Neufchâtel cheese, room temperature
  • 2 T. milk
  • ½ c. crumbled cooked bacon
  • ½ c. chopped dates
  • 2 green onions finely minced
  • pinch kosher salt
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • balsamic glaze, opt.

Whip the Neufchâtel cheese and milk together. Stir in the bacon, dates, green onions, salt, and pepper. Serve in a small bowl or on a small plate drizzled with balsamic glaze.

SMOKED SALMON SPREAD 

  • 8-oz. Neufchâtel cheese, room temperature
  • ½ c. low fat sour cream
  • 2 tsp. finely minced green onion
  • 2 tsp. minced fresh parsley
  • 2-3 tsp. fresh lemon juice, or more to taste
  • ¼ tsp. kosher salt
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • ½ lb. smoked salmon
  • milk

Beat Neufchâtel cheese and sour cream together. Add green onions, parsley, lemon, salt, pepper, and smoked salmon. Stir until salmon is broken down and mixture is creamy. Add milk until you reach desired consistency. Refrigerate at least 4 hours before serving.

Beat Neufchâtel cheese and sour cream together. Add green onions, parsley, lemon, salt, pepper, and smoked salmon. Stir until salmon is broken down and mixture is creamy. Add milk until you reach desired consistency. Refrigerate at least 4 hours before serving.

CREAMY ANCHOVY GARLIC SPREAD

  • 2 small cloves garlic, rough chopped
  • 7-8 anchovy fillets
  • 6 T. unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 (8-oz.) pkg. Neufchâtel cheese, room temperature
  • ¼ c. low fat sour cream
  • 2 dashes hot pepper sauce (I use Frank’s Red Hot Original)
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 T. finely chopped fresh chives

Combine the garlic, anchovies, butter, Neufchâtel cheese, sour cream, hot pepper sauce, and pepper in the container of a food processor. Process until smooth. Stir in the chives. Transfer to a serving bowl, and refrigerate for at least 6 hours or better yet, overnight. Serve at room temperature with plain crackers (not quite as plain as saltines) or toasted baguette slices.

JALAPEÑO POPPER DIP/SPREAD

  • 1 (8-oz.) pkg. Neufchâtel cheese, room temperature
  • ½ c. light mayonnaise
  • ¼ c. grated Monterey Jack cheese
  • ¼ c. grated sharp cheddar cheese
  • ¼ c. grated Parmesan cheese
  • ¼ c. sliced pickled jalapeños (I use Mrs. Renfro’s) + a couple slices for garnish
  • ½ fresh jalapeño, seeded, de-veined, and finely chopped, or more to taste

Whirl the Neufchâtel cheese, mayonnaise, Monterey Jack cheese, cheddar cheese, and Parmesan cheese together in a food processor until smooth. Add the pickled jalapeños and the finely chopped fresh jalapeño and whirl until only small bits of the fresh jalapeño remain visible. Do not over process. You want those little bits of green to remain. Spread the mixture into a lightly buttered casserole. Bake in a pre-heated 375 degree oven for about 20 minutes. You should be able to see the mixture gently bubbling around the edges and the top should be turning a light golden brown when the dip is hot. Allow to rest for about 5 minutes. Serve with tortilla chips.

ROASTED RED PEPPER CHEESE SPREAD

  • 8-oz. Neufchâtel cheese, room temperature
  • ½ c. light mayonnaise
  • scant 1/3 c. rough chopped roasted red pepper
  • 1 tsp. finely minced onion
  • 1/8 tsp. granulated garlic
  • pinch kosher salt
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 c. grated sharp cheddar cheese
  • 1 c. grated Monterey Jack cheese

Combine all ingredients in a food processor and whirl until smooth. Spoon into a serving bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate at least 24 hours before serving at room temperature. Great spread on multi-grain crackers.

CHEDDAR AND PORT WINE SPREAD

  • 8 oz. Neufchâtel cheese, room temperature
  • 2 c. (scant) shredded sharp cheddar cheese
  • 3 T. tawny port (I use Benjamin Australia Tawny Port)
  • ½ c. dried cranberries, roughly chopped
  • ½ c. toasted chopped pecans

Combine Neufchâtel cheese, cheddar cheese, and port in a food processor. Whirl until creamy and smooth. Stir in chopped dried cranberries. Scoop into a small serving bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until about an hour before ready to serve. Sprinkle with pecans just before serving. Great with crackers and thin apple slices.

LOX AND PARTY RYE BREAD WITH CAPER AND RED ONION SPREAD

  • 8 oz. Neufchâtel cheese, room temperature
  • 1/3 c. capers, roughly chopped
  • ¼ c. finely chopped red onion
  • 2 tsp. fresh lemon juice
  • pinch kosher salt
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • party rye bread
  • 6 oz. thinly sliced lox

Combine Neufchâtel cheese, capers, red onion, lemon juice, salt, and pepper. Spread on party rye; top with lox.

GARLIC AND HERB CHEESE SPREAD (MOCK BOURSIN CHEESE)

  • 8 oz. Neufchâtel cheese, room temperature
  • ½ c. (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • ¼ tsp. dried thyme leaves
  • ¼ tsp. dried marjoram leaves
  • ¼ tsp. dried dill weed
  • ¼ tsp. dried basil
  • ¼ tsp. freeze dried chives
  • ½ tsp. granulated garlic
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 T. finely minced fresh parsley
  • 2 T. finely grated Parmesan cheese

Cream all ingredients together or whirl in a food processor. Refrigerate at least 4 hours. Bring to room temperature before serving with a variety of crackers. Also wonderful spread on a grilled steak. It melts beautifully on the cooked steak and leaves a lovely puddle into which you can dip your pieces of steak.

SUN DRIED TOMATO AND FRESH BASIL SPREAD

  • 1 (8-oz.) pkg. Neufchâtel cheese, room temperature
  • 2 T. sun dried tomato bits (not oil packed is the best, but if all you have are sun dried tomatoes packed in oil, just drain slightly and chop finely)
  • 5-6 large basil leaves, finely chopped
  • 1 T. chopped fresh parsley**
  • 2 small cloves of garlic, finely minced**
  • ½ c. finely grated Parmesan cheese
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 heaping tablespoons light mayonnaise or low fat sour cream

Combine all ingredients; refrigerate at least 24 hours before serving at room temperature with crackers, toasted baguette slices, or even bagels.

**Hint: When you have both parsley and garlic to mince, and they are going into a recipe at the same time, mince them together. The parsley helps keep the garlic from “skipping” around your cutting board. In the case of this recipe, I add the basil to the garlic and parsley too. I’m lazy – what can I say?

 

 

 

 

 

CREAMY CORN PUDDING

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Once in a while you just have to mix things up a little. And that’s exactly what I did this Christmas. Since I was a small child, I have looked forward to my grandmother’s Dried Corn Casserole. I love it, and since leaving home and preparing my own holiday feasts, I have served it as regular as rain. But for whatever reason, this year I decided to change things up a bit. I knew I still wanted to incorporate dried corn into the mix, but what I was craving was a softer texture to the overall dish.

So I decided to take a fairly basic corn pudding recipe and give it a new spin. I decreased the amount of sugar, used whole milk, added sour cream and dried corn, and sprinkled the whole mess with paprika and fresh parsley. (The picture doesn’t show the parsley because I was taking the pudding to my nephew Eric’s home to be reheated just before dinner. At which time I then added the parsley. So the picture was taken after I removed the pudding from my oven just before leaving for Eric and Sandi’s home.)

Now I realize dried corn is not a product you normally find on a grocery store shelf. This I frankly don’t understand, but it is non-the-less a fact. But making your own is as easy as opening a bag of frozen corn, throwing the corn kernels on a rimmed baking sheet, turning on your oven, and placing said pan in the oven. In fact, that is the whole way you make dried corn! (If you don’t believe me, check my grandmother’s recipe at the bottom of this post!)

And the pudding? Well I think it turned out really delicious. It’s creamy with a great corn flavor, slightly chewy from the dried corn component, and rich, but not too rich. I received a lot of corn-gratulations from my extended family for this dish. And instead of saying thank you, I should have just said “aww shucks!” folks, but that would have been too corny! (Sorry – sometimes I just can’t help myself!)

  • 6 T. unsalted butter
  • 6 T. unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1 T. sugar
  • 1 tsp. kosher salt
  • freshly ground black pepper (not too much)
  • 1½ c. whole milk
  • ½ c. sour cream
  • 1 can cream-style corn
  • 1 can whole kernel corn, drained
  • ½ c. dried corn (this is what makes this pudding so yummy – see “recipe” for dried corn below)
  • 6 eggs
  • paprika
  • 1 T. chopped fresh parsley, opt.

Melt butter in heavy saucepan over low heat. Whisk in flour, sugar, salt, and pepper. Cook 1 minute, stirring constantly. Gradually add milk and cook over medium heat, whisking the whole time, until thickened and bubbly. Remove from heat, and stir in sour cream, cream corn, whole corn, and dried corn. Beat eggs well.

Gradually stir the eggs into the mixture. (The corn mixture should be cool enough from the addition of sour cream, cream corn, etc. to not cook the raw eggs. But if for some reason the mixture is still hot, wait until it cools down before stirring in the eggs.)

Pour into a buttered 3 quart casserole; sprinkle lightly with paprika. Bake at 350 degrees for 50-60 minutes or until soft set. Just before serving, sprinkle with parsley.

Hint: This pudding is best if allowed to sit in the refrigerator unbaked overnight. This resting period allows the dried corn to rehydrate a bit and allows the other ingredients to get to know each other and become a team.

DRIED CORN

Place 1 lb. frozen corn kernels on a large baking sheet (the kind with a rim) in a single layer. Dry the corn by baking it in the oven on the lowest temperature setting until there is no moisture left in the kernels. Turn occasionally. (It could take as many as 16 hours to dry out the corn completely.) When dry, the corn kernels should resemble grape nuts. (Different color, but you get the picture.) Store the dried corn in an airtight container. No need to refrigerate or freeze.

For a picture of dried corn, see my recipe for Dried Corn Casserole on this site. (Also very good, BTW.)

BOURBON PECAN PIE WITH BOURBON WHIPPED CREAM

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If there is anything more decadent than pecan pie, I wish you would enlighten me. Because as far as I’m concerned, pecan pie wins hands down. Now I know, chocolate decadence and a really yummy cheesecake come in a close second and third. But for richness, pecan pie sets the standard.

So what did I do, I upped the ante by adding a wee dram of bourbon. And I know, it’s been done before. But I remain firm in thinking that this is the quint essential recipe. And yes, I know that sounds very conceited, but if I didn’t think my recipes were special, I sure as heck wouldn’t have started a recipe blog. (One simply must believe in oneself if you are going to put yourself out there for all to criticize, critique and generally trust to provide above average ways to cuisine enlightenment.)

So try this recipe for yourself. I promise you won’t be disappointed.  

And BTW, sorry I haven’t posted any new recipes lately. But I was on vacation, hosted a JazzVox concert, prepared a complete Thanksgiving dinner, spent a week with my daughter in White Salmon, and completed a travel journal of our Belize vacation complete with pictures. So if you have missed me – sorry. If you are upset that I was missing in action – tough noogies! You’ll get over it! Never-the-less, I’m back and won’t be gone again for several months. So look forward to more new recipes in the near future.

  • ½ c. granulated sugar
  • ½ c. light brown sugar
  • 1½ c. clear corn syrup (or half clear and half dark)
  • ¼ c. butter (½ stick)
  • 4 eggs, room temperature
  • 3 T. bourbon, divided
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • ¼ tsp. salt
  • 3 c. pecans, coarsely chopped
  • 1 unbaked 9-inch pie shell
  • 1 pint heavy cream
  • 3 T. powdered sugar

In a heavy saucepan, boil sugars and corn syrup together for 2 to 3 minutes. Remove from heat and add the butter. Set aside to cool slightly.

In large bowl beat eggs and very slowly pour the syrup mixture into the eggs, stirring constantly. If it looks necessary, strain the mixture to make sure it’s smooth and lump free. Stir in 1 tablespoon of the bourbon, vanilla, salt, and pecans; pour into crust. Cover the edges of the pie crust with narrow pieces of aluminum foil to prevent over-browning. 

Bake in a pre-heated 350 degree oven for about 45 to 60 minutes or until set. (If you have an instant read thermometer, stick it into the middle of the filling. When it reaches 200 degrees, the filling is perfect.) Remove from oven and cool on a wire rack.

While the pie is cooling, whip the heavy cream to stiff peaks. Add the powdered sugar and remaining 2 tablespoon bourbon and whip for 1 minute. Place whipped cream in refrigerator until ready to serve. Serve pieces of pie dolloped with flavored whipped cream.   

   

 

OVEN ROASTED WHOLE CHICKEN WITH DRESSING AND PAN GRAVY

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I call baked chicken my “Sunday night special” because there is just nothing better than a lovely roast chicken to close out a weekend. And since this chicken is best when it has had some time in the refrigerator to become acquainted with the lovely herbs and spices that have been sprinkled in its cavity and on its skin, preparation takes place in the morning. That leaves me free to spend the rest of my Sunday, or any other day for that matter, working around the house, shopping, reading, or just sitting around contemplating the inside of my eyelids – aka, taking a nap. And just to make life even easier, I also prepare the dressing in the morning, so the only significant task left for me to do in the evening is clean a green veggie or make a simple salad to accompany the chicken.

And what better way for me to start my week than with leftover chicken in the refrigerator. I can use the chicken to make a simple soup, or a nice curry, or chicken salad, or…..well, you get the point. My Monday night meal is already half done, even if I don’t just warm up the leftovers and serve the meal just the way I did the night before. Of course, if truth be known, I don’t particularly enjoy left-overs. (I know – crazy!) I would rather take a simple ingredient liked baked chicken and repurpose it into a totally different dish. Now I realize something like chicken noodle soup is going to remain chicken noodle soup, and that’s fine. But baked chicken? Well that’s a different story. So tonight, my leftover chicken from Sunday evening is going to be featured in a lovely chicken curry.

So don’t hesitate to bake a chicken in the near future. And no you don’t have to make the dressing or even the gravy. But should you choose to do so, the recipes below are easy to prepare, full of flavor, and help turn a simple chicken dinner into a feast.

So welcome to autumn my friends. The season of homemade soup, pot roast, beef stew, chili, and all manner of dishes that evoke home, happiness, and comfort. 

  • 3½ to 4½ lb. whole chicken, washed, excess fat removed, then dried very well with paper towels
  • 2 tsp. kosher salt
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • zest of one lemon
  • 2 tsp. finely chopped fresh rosemary
  • 2 tsp. finely chopped fresh sage
  • 2 tsp. finely chopped fresh thyme
  • 1 tsp. granulated garlic
  • 1 tsp. onion powder
  • 2 T. butter
  • 2 c. chicken stock, plus more as needed
  • 1 bay leaf
  • cooking spray

Combine the salt, pepper, lemon zest, rosemary, sage, thyme, granulated garlic, and onion powder together. Sprinkle half of the mixture in the cavity of the bird. Add the butter. Truss the bird by tying the legs together. Place the bird, breast side up on a roasting rack, tucking the wings in as you go. Sprinkle the remaining spice mixture evenly over the skin. (And no it won’t really stick to the skin. That’s OK.) Place the chicken uncovered in the refrigerator for at least 1 hour, or up to 24 hours before roasting.

Remove from refrigerator and pour the chicken stock in the bottom of the roasting pan along with the bay leaf. Just before placing the bird in the oven, spray liberally with cooking spray.

Bake in a pre-heated 425 degree oven for 90 minutes or until the juices run clear and the internal temperature reads 180 on an instant-read thermometer. Add more chicken stock to the bottom of the pan half way through baking if the pan is dry. When done, remove from oven and set the bird on a platter loosely tented with aluminum foil. Let chicken rest for at least 20 minutes before slicing.

GRAVY

  • flour
  • chicken stock
  • 1 tsp. Kitchen Bouquet
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 chicken gravy mix (just in case)
  • 1 tsp. cognac, opt.

Place the roasting pan on the stove after the chicken has been removed. Turn the heat to very low and begin making your gravy immediately. (Good gravy flavor and consistency require time to develop.)    Do not remove any fat from the pan, do not strain the liquid, do not do any of the things most cook book writers tell you to do to make good gravy. (Oh OK, you can remove the bay leaf!)

Whisk in enough flour to absorb the fat. Let cook for a couple of minutes. (This process takes time, so be patient.) Slowly whisk in chicken stock until you reach the desired thickness you like. Add the Kitchen Bouquet (gives the gravy great color) and some freshly ground black pepper. No salt! Taste the gravy. If you think it needs more depth of flavor, begin by whisking in part of the gravy mix and a small amount of chicken stock. Let the gravy simmer for a couple of minutes and taste again. Repeat if needed.

Turn heat as low as possible and let the gravy simmer away while the chicken rests. Whisk periodically.  (You will probably need to add more stock during this time.) Also, after the chicken is sliced and plated, don’t forget to add the juices to the gravy that have accumulated on the platter while the chicken was resting. Just before serving, taste the gravy again and make any final adjustments to the seasoning. Stir in the cognac and serve piping hot.

Note: if the gravy seems a little salty, you might try adding a teaspoon or two of fresh lemon juice.

DRESSING

  • 2 T. unsalted butter
  • ½ c. chopped celery (stalks and leaves)
  • ½ c. chopped onion
  • 5 button mushrooms, chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, finely minced
  • 2 T. chopped fresh Italian parsley
  • 2 tsp. poultry seasoning
  • 2 tsp. minced fresh sage
  • 1 tsp. finely chopped fresh rosemary
  • 1 tsp. fresh thyme leaves
  • ½ tsp. savory, either powdered or dried leaves
  • ½ tsp. kosher salt
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • 4-5 c. dry bread cubes (I use inexpensive sliced sourdough bread cut into cubes and toasted)
  • 1 egg
  • 1 c. chicken stock, or more as needed

In a large sauté pan, melt butter and add celery, onion, and mushrooms. Cook for about 5 minutes. Add the garlic, parsley, poultry seasoning, sage, rosemary, thyme (sound familiar?), savory, salt, and pepper. Remove from heat. Place dried bread cubes in a large mixing bowl. Add the sautéed vegetables; mix thoroughly. Whisk together the egg and stock in a separate medium sized bowl. Pour the liquid over the bread cubes and gently stir. Add more stock if the dressing is dry. (Remember, this is dressing, not stuffing, and therefore is not going into the cavity of the chicken. So any moisture needs to be added while it is being prepared.) Taste the dressing and add additional poultry seasoning and/or salt if needed.

Place dressing in a buttered casserole dish, cover and refrigerate until ready to bake in a pre-heated 350 degree oven for about 30-45 minutes or until hot. 

 

REFRIGERATOR DILL PICKLES

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I love dill pickles with a passion. No wait – let me re-state that. I love truly good dill pickles with a passion. And for decades, come cucumber time I would make my mother’s dearest friend Charlotte’s dill pickles. They are simply beyond belief good. So for all you purists out there, I have included Charlotte’s recipe at the end of this post.

But for all of you who happen to be like me – too lazy or too busy to get your canning act together, I offer this recipe for quick and easy dill pickles that I found on the “Once upon a Chef” website. (Great site BTW)

And talk about instant (well almost instant) gratification! No more waiting for several months to finally be able to open a jar. These babies are ready in about 48 hours. (The original recipe states that they are ready in 24 hours, but I found that they needed another day to reach their full potential.)

And guess what? You can make these pickles year round. No waiting for that 2 or 3 week window when pickling cucumbers are at their peak and you have vacation plans. Now, whenever the mood hits you, you can make up a batch and within 48 hours be crunching on a slender spear of heavenliness. (I’m not sure that’s a word, but I’m going to use it anyway!)

Of course if you don’t like super crunchy dill pickles, with a nice vinegary, garlicky, and slightly hot (from the crushed red pepper flakes) bite, you are not going to like these pickles in the least. You might as well leave this post right now and not waste your time reading any further. (It’s only going to be more pickle information and effusive plaudits for my recipe find of the decade!) But for those of you who, like me, worship the ground that cucumbers are raised on, please continue reading.

The only problem you might find with this recipe is locating the right cucumbers for these pickles. You really can’t use regular American slicing or English cucumbers. They won’t stay crisp. You need to use Kirby, Persian, or small pickling cucumbers for this recipe. During late summer your best bet for finding pickling cucumbers is your local farmer’s market or fruit stand. During the rest of the year, Trader Joe’s, Whole Foods, and Central Market (here in the Seattle area) usually carry at least the Persian variety.

So have fun with this recipe. If you also enjoy Bread and Butter Pickles, check out my quick and easy recipe also on this site.

  • 1¼ c. white vinegar
  • 3 T. kosher salt
  • 2 T. granulated sugar
  • 2 c. cold water
  • 2 lbs. Kirby, Persian, or mini cucumbers, blossom/stem end cut off, then cut into spears
  • 2 T. coriander seeds
  • 6 large garlic cloves, peeled and halved
  • 1 tsp. mustard seeds
  • 1 tsp. dill seeds, opt.
  • ¼ tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
  • 16 dill sprigs (2-oz. pkg.)

Combine the vinegar, salt, and sugar in a small non-reactive saucepan over high heat. Whisk until the salt and sugar are dissolved. Transfer the liquid into a bowl and whisk in the cold water. Refrigerate brine until ready to use.

Stuff the cucumber spears into two clean 1-quart jars. Add the coriander seeds, garlic cloves, mustard seeds, dill seeds, red pepper flakes, dill sprigs, and chilled brine into jars, dividing evenly. If necessary, add a bit of cold water to the jars until the brine covers the cucumbers. Cover and refrigerate for at least 48 hours, then serve. Pickles will keep in the refrigerator for a month or more. (But good luck keeping them that long!)

DILL PICKLES (CHARLOTTE’S)

  • 12-14 sterilized wide mouth qt. jars and lids (I sterilize the jars in the dishwasher. I boil the lids on the stove.)
  • 12 lbs. pickling cucumbers, 3-4 inches long
  • 2 to 2½ tsp. alum
  • 12-14 garlic cloves
  • 12-14 small dried hot red pepper pods
  • 1 bunch fresh dill, cut in 4-inch lengths
  • 2 qt. white vinegar
  • 6 qt. water
  • 2 c. pickling or kosher salt

Thoroughly scrub the cucumbers. Lightly pack in jars. To each jar add 1/8 teaspoon alum, 1 clove garlic, 1 small dry red pepper, and a lot of dill, stems and all. Meanwhile bring vinegar, water, and salt to a boil. Pour hot brine over pickles. Gently tap the jars against the counter a few times to remove all the air bubbles. Top off with more pickling brine if necessary. Seal as quickly and as tightly as possible. Store for at least 3 months before eating.

Please Note: If any of the lids don’t seal properly, store the jars in your refrigerator.

 

 

CAMBOZOLA CHEESE APPETIZER WITH HONEY, ROSEMARY, AND BLACK PEPPER

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And I know what you’re thinking. How can you improve on Cambozola cheese right out of the package? And why would you even want to mess with an already perfect delicacy? Well the answers to your questions are as follows: a touch of sweetness from the honey, a bit of savory from the fresh rosemary, and a touch of heat from the black pepper work perfectly with the richness of the cheese. And why mess with Cambozola in the first place? Well, because it was in my refrigerator and that’s what I do!

So last weekend for our cooking club dinner, I served this recipe that I found on the Reluctant Entertainer web site. I added a sprinkle of black pepper to the original recipe because I thought it was needed to complete the whole slightly bitter (Cambozolo), sweet (honey), savory (rosemary), and heat (black pepper) flavor package. And I believe I was right, because everyone, except Ken who doesn’t care for the blues (cheese that is), thought it was wonderful.

So if you too like to mess with a good thing, give this recipe a try next time you need a quick and easy appetizer. It is just ever so delicious.   

  • 1 wedge Cambozola cheese, room temperature
  • 1 T. honey, or more to taste
  • 1 tsp. finely chopped fresh rosemary
  • freshly ground black pepper

Slice wedge in half lengthwise and place on a serving plate. Allow to come to room temperature. (You want it very soft.) Just before serving, drizzle with honey, sprinkle with rosemary, and dust lightly with black pepper. Serve with toasted baguette slices and crackers.

 

 

BOURBON PECAN BARS

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Some of us, at least my husband and I, love pecan pie. And pecan pie is always welcome on Thanksgiving and Christmas, at least with our extended family. But invariably, on these occasions, there are several other wonderful desserts from which to choose. (Not complaining here you understand!) So a few years ago I decided that bar cookies that basically contained the same ingredients as our favorite pies was the way to go. First of all, bar cookies are much easier to make. But the main reason I thought about preparing them was that then I could sample all the desserts if I could have just a small portion of each. (Remember, it’s really just all about me!) And if you have ever tried to cut a pie into 14 pieces, you know that it is darned near impossible. The likelihood of placing anything that even remotely resembles a slice of pie onto someone’s plate after you have basically cut the pie to ribbons is highly unlikely. But a cute little 1-inch square of a bar cookie is fairly easy to manage. Plus it’s just darling to look at. (Remember, points for presentation!)

Now I am not saying that you should give up baking pies. That after all would border on sacrilege! And I have to admit, some types of pie are easier to cut into tiny slices than others. Pumpkin pie, for example, is fairly easy to cut into thin wedges. Apple pie, not so much.

So this Thanksgiving, I decided to try a new pecan bar recipe instead of preparing my regular pecan pie bar recipe that is already on this site. (Chewy Pecan Cookie Bars) Both are delicious, and absolutely perfect for the holidays.

So while you are thinking about what desserts to serve on Christmas Eve, Christmas day, or for New Year’s, consider a pie bar instead of a regular pie. You will be very surprised how well they are received by your friends and family.

Other bar cookie recipes on this site include Pumpkin Pie Bars with Bourbon-Caramel Whipped Cream, Apple Pie Bars, Mincemeat Bars with Brandy Whipped Cream, and Chocolate and Pecan Toffee Bars. They too are delicious and can be cut into almost bite size pieces.

Other desserts on this site that are also perfect for the holidays – Nantucket Cranberry Cake, Flourless Orange Chocolate Cake, Baba Au Rhum, Dried Cranberry and Almond Braided Danish, and Eggnog Bundt Cake.

Whatever you prepare, have fun doing so. And remember – if the dessert comes from your kitchen, or from the kitchen of one of your family members or friends, it is sure to be better than anything you can buy. After all, it was made with love. And isn’t that really what the holidays are all about? Peace to all this holiday season and happy baking.

Crust:

  • 1 c. unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1/3 c. packed light brown sugar
  • ¼ c. toasted pecans, coarsely chopped
  • 1 tsp. kosher salt
  • ¼ tsp. baking powder
  • 6 T. unsalted butter, cut into ½‑inch pieces and chilled

Filling:

  • ½ c. packed dark or light brown sugar
  • 1/3 c. light corn syrup
  • 4 T. unsalted butter, melted and cooled
  • 1 T. bourbon
  • 2 tsp. vanilla extract
  • ½ tsp. kosher salt
  • 1 lg. egg, room temperature
  • 1¾ c. toasted pecans, coarsely chopped

Crust instructions:

Process flour, sugar, pecans, salt, and baking powder together in food processor until combined, about five pulses. Sprinkle butter over top and pulse until mixture is pale yellow and resembles coarse cornmeal, about eight pulses. Lightly butter an 8×8-inch pan (glass preferably). Pour mixture into prepared pan and press into even layer with your fingers. Bake crust in a pre-heated 325 degree oven (for glass), 350 degrees (for metal) until fragrant and beginning to brown, 20 to 25 minutes. Remove from oven and spread filling evenly over crust and sprinkle with pecans. Bake bars until top is  golden brown and cracks start to form across surface, 25 to 30 minutes, rotating pan halfway through baking.

Set pan on wire rack and let bars cool completely, about two hours. Cut into desired size pieces.

Filling Directions:

While the crust is baking, whisk sugar, corn syrup, melted butter, bourbon, vanilla, and salt together in large bowl until sugar dissolves. Whisk in egg until combined. Pour over baked crust.

Thank you Americas Test Kitchen for this wonderful recipe.

OVERNIGHT BRIOCHE ROLLS

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OK, I know what those of you who don’t bake bread are thinking – not another stinkin’ bread recipe from Patti! Has she nothing better to do than bake bread? Well, I guess realistically speaking – no, I don’t have anything better to do with my time. And furthermore, I actually love to bake bread. It is just so satisfying watching little yeasty beasties enjoying themselves and getting high, so to speak. And then of course, there is the joy of biting into a perfect piece of bread, knowing full well exactly what ingredients are in, and more importantly, not in each loaf I build. And of course there is always the pleasure I get from watching others enjoy the fruits of my labor.

So a couple of Sundays ago it was our turn to host our dinner club.

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(As you can see, we not only eat well, we have a great deal of fun together. Cheers to my dear friends!)

I knew I wanted to fix pork tenderloin, a soufflé, and some type of dinner roll as our contribution. But what I envisioned to go with the pork and soufflé, was a really light yet rich dinner roll. The first thing that came to mind was brioche. I had been making brioche for years, but always before in the form of a loaf. What I wanted was a perfect little piece of bread that came tidily in its own little package. So of course I went on-line to see what others had concocted before me. (Believe me, there is no new recipe under the sun. If I’ve thought of it, hundreds have already been there before me!) And isn’t that a blessing! I don’t think there could be a better age to live in if you are a serious cook. Anything you want to know about food, or cooking, or cooking tools, or a particular chef is right there on the internet. It’s fantastic! But I digress…

Anyway, this recipe is loosely based on a recipe featured in Cooking Light magazine. The rolls are light and airy and just perfect for a dinner party. And, the dough is made the day before, which you know always makes me happy.

So next time you want to serve light and delicious rolls to your dinner guests, bake up a batch of these small brioche babies. And if you are of the ilk who strongly believes that serving dinner rolls is déclassé, I don’t want to even think about that ever happening. And I definitely don’t want to hear about it, even if you feel duty bound to share with me your feelings on the subject! (covering my ears – la, la, la – can’t hear you……)

  • 1½ tsp. active dry yeast
  • 3 T. warm milk
  • 2 T. sugar
  • ½ tsp. kosher salt, plus more for sprinkling
  • 1 c. bread flour
  • ¾ c. unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 2 lg. eggs, room temperature
  • 4 T. plus 2 tsp. unsalted butter, room temperature, divided, plus more for buttering the muffin cups
  • vegetable oil
  • 1½ tsp. water
  • 1 small egg, white only

Dissolve yeast in warm milk in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Add sugar and let stand until yeast dissolves and mixture is slightly bubbly, about 10 minutes. Add salt, flours, and eggs to yeast mixture; beat on low speed until smooth, scraping down sides of bowl as needed. Cut the 4 tablespoons butter into small cubes. Add half the butter to dough, mixing at medium speed to incorporate. Add the remaining butter cubes and beat until well blended. Continue beating another 4 minutes or until the dough is shiny, soft, and smooth.

Pour a tiny bit of vegetable oil over the dough and using your hands, turn the dough until all sides are lightly greased and shaped into a ball. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let the dough rise in a warm place for about 1 hour, then give it the old “poke it with your finger” test. After you have withdrawn your finger, the dough should push back very slowly. In fact, it should barely push or spring back at all. Punch dough down; form back into a ball, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate at least 8 hours or better yet, overnight.

The next day, uncover the dough and let it stand for 2 hours or until the dough reaches room temperature. Divide the dough into 2 equal portions. Then cut each portion in half again and divide that half into three pieces. Roll each piece into a rough ball and place in a muffin cup lightly greased with butter. (You should have 12 rolls total.) Cover the pan and let rolls rise for 45 minutes or until almost doubled in size.

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(Rolls just put in the pan.)

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(“Weapons” to cut the dough)

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(Rolls ready to bake)

Combine the 1½ teaspoons water and egg white; whisk until light and fluffy. Gently brush rolls with egg mixture. Bake in a pre-heated 350 degree oven for 14 minutes or until golden brown. Place pans on wire racks to cool. Place the remaining 2 teaspoons of butter in a microwave-safe bowl; microwave gently until the butter melts. Gently brush butter onto hot rolls. After about 10 minutes, remove the rolls from the pan and serve slightly warm or at room temperature. This recipe doubles, triples, etc. beautifully.

ROSEMARY, LEMON, AND GARLIC ROASTED CORNISH GAME HENS

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In my humble opinion, the pairing* of lemon, rosemary, and garlic is one of the best smelling combinations when cooked together. If they don’t evoke the smell of the Mediterranean and send your olfactory organs to their happy place, I can’t imagine what would! (OK, maybe onions and bacon cooking together, or chocolate chip cookies baking; but you know what I mean. There are just some aromas that make you glad to be alive.)

And when you use this dynamic trio together with tasty, tender little game hens (or henlets as they are lovingly referred to at Chez Carr), you are bound to end up as happy and very contented diners.

So last evening I served these little darlings for the first time. I had been looking for a new way to bake “henlets” when I came across the gist of this recipe on the Allrecipes.com website. I of course changed a few things, but the main theme of the recipe remains the same.

So if you too need a new and delicious way to serve game hens, please give this recipe a try. Or if you happen to be a real estate agent, bake these in the oven at your next open house. There’s not a person alive that wouldn’t buy the house right there on the spot just for the wonderful smells alone!

*and yes I know that 3 items do not a pairing make. But the word “pairings” is just such the rage right now, I chose to use it anyway. So all you English teachers out there, save your key strokes. I really do know better. Honest!

  • 2 Cornish game hens, washed and thoroughly dried
  • kosher salt
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 lemons, each cut into 4 wedges
  • 4 (6-inch) sprigs fresh rosemary, divided
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • 12 garlic cloves, peeled
  • 2/3 c. white wine, divided
  • 2/3 c. chicken broth, divided
  • 1-2 T. flour, opt.

Preheat oven to 450 degrees.

Liberally sprinkle the inside of each hen with salt and pepper. Squeeze 2 lemon wedges into each cavity; then add the squeezed lemon pieces, 1 sprig of rosemary bent in half, and 1 garlic clove. Rub the outside of the hens with 1 tablespoon of the olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper.

Arrange the hens in a roasting pan, (I use an old 9×13 metal baking pan) and place the remaining garlic cloves, lemon wedges, and rosemary sprigs around the hens. Add 1/3 cup of the white wine, and 1/3 cup of the chicken broth.

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Roast in the preheated 450 degree oven for 35 minutes. (Check after about 20 minutes to make sure there is still liquid in the bottom of the pan. If not, add about half of the liquid mixture referenced in the next paragraph.)

Meanwhile whisk together the remaining 1/3 cup wine, 1/3 cup chicken broth, and 1 tablespoon of oil. After the 35 minute baking time at 450 degrees, reduce the oven temperature to 350 degrees, remove the hens from the oven and bathe them with the wine/broth mixture. Place back in the oven and continue roasting for about 30-40 minutes longer, or until the hens are golden brown and the juices run clear. Baste with pan juices every 15 minutes.

When the hens are finished baking transfer them to a platter. Pour any cavity juices into the roasting pan. Tent hens with aluminum foil to keep warm.

Meanwhile pour the pan juices into a sauté pan, remove the lemon wedges and rosemary twigs, mash the roasted garlic cloves, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer until the liquid is reduced to a sauce consistency. (If the sauce appears greasy, whisk in the flour and about a half cup water to bring the sauce to desired consistency.) Adjust seasonings. Serve as a delicious drizzle over mashed or oven roasted potatoes.

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OVERNIGHT SOFT HERB ROLLS

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I love homemade bread straight out of the oven. Who doesn’t, right? So when I can build bread dough and shape it one day and bake it off the next, I call that a jolly good thing! And when the bread tastes as good as my slightly modified version of Bradley Ogden’s recipe for herb rolls that I found in Sunset Magazine a few years back, I am just one happy camper. You see, I am a proponent of doing as much prep work ahead of time as possible. And this bread, which truly benefits from some down time in the refrigerator, fits my style perfectly. Because you see, I consider myself a fairly good practitioner of the ancient French art of mise en place. (In fact, if they gave out belts in mise en place the way they do in karate I’m sure I would be at least a red belt!)

Now I know at least some of you are wondering what the heck I am talking about. And even though you may not know the term mise en place, many of you are already experts in the field. All mise en place means is that you have all your ingredients prepared and ready to go before you start to cook. And because I entertain large groups of people on a regular basis, I take the concept one step further. I prepare as many dishes and do as much prep work as possible before the day of the dinner party. (And yes, some would say I’m just lazy and don’t want to get up at o-dark-thirty on the day of the gathering. Well of course, that is absolutely true! But I prefer to think of all my hard “pre-day of party work” as the logical and intelligent way to help prevent a fiasco!)

So if you too would like to exude a fascinating aura of mystique at your next dinner party, do as much kitchen work as possible ahead of time. And these delicious rolls should help you with that mission. Then when your guests arrive, greet them at the door as if they were entering a 5 star restaurant, with you being the executive chef. After all, that’s what you are! (Of course you’re probably also the prep chef and the soux chef, but you don’t have to go into that with your guests.)

  • ¼ c. slightly warm water
  • 1 T. or 1 pkg. active dry yeast
  • 2 T. sugar
  • 1 tsp. kosher salt
  • 1 T. minced Italian parsley
  • 1 T. minced fresh dill
  • 1 T. minced fresh chives
  • 1 T. minced fresh rosemary
  • 2 T. soft unsalted butter
  • 2 lg. eggs, divided
  • 1 c. half-and-half
  • 3½ c. un-bleached all-purpose flour or more as kneaded (sorry, couldn’t resist!)
  • coarse salt for sprinkling (I use course kosher salt)

In the bowl of your mixer combine the water, yeast, and sugar. Let stand for about 5 minutes or until the yeast starts to foam. Add the 1 teaspoon salt, herbs, butter, one of the eggs, half-and-half, and most of the flour. Knead dough on medium speed, adding more flour as necessary until the dough is smooth and soft, but no longer sticky to the touch. Shape into 24 small balls and place in a well greased 9×13-inch pan.

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Cover with plastic wrap (do not let rise) and refrigerate overnight. Remove from refrigerator about 2 hours before you want to bake the rolls. Replace the plastic wrap with a tea towel and let rise in a warm, draft free place.

Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees. Whisk the remaining egg and brush the rolls evenly just before sprinkling lightly with coarse salt. Bake for 25-30 minutes or until a lovely golden brown. Serve the rolls hot, warm, or at room temperature. Best served the day they are baked.