Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Thanksgiving Pizza

For Sean, it's a yearly tradition to make pizza out of the Thanksgiving leftovers, turkey and cranberry sauce to be specific.  It's a great way to transform the flavors into a completely new dish, and of course pizza is always delicious!  We added some leftover cooked bacon which really stood out against the sweetness of the cranberry sauce.  This is so good you may decide to make it one of your Thanksgiving traditions too!

1 pizza dough (ours was about 1.5 pounds so we could make a pretty large one)
1 1/2 cups homemade cranberry sauce, or enough to lightly cover the dough
1/4 onion, sliced
3 slices of bacon, cooked and crumbled
2 cups cooked shredded turkey
8 oz Monterrey Jack cheese shredded (about 2 cups)

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.  Stretch the pizza dough out onto a large rectangle baking sheet (or two small ones).  Then spread the cranberry sauce on top in place of tomato sauce.
Next, begin putting the toppings on the pizza, saving cheese for last.  Try to evenly spread them and don't overload it too much or you won't taste the cranberry.  Finally, sprinkle the cheese all over and it's ready to go in the oven!

Bake for 20-25 minutes or until golden brown on top.  Cut into squares and gobble it up.  (get it?)

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Sage Sausage Stuffing

This recipe was my favorite side dish on the Thanksgiving dinner table.  I'd never made stuffing (ok, dressing) with sausage in it before, and it really makes a big difference flavor-wise.  You could eliminate it to accommodate vegetarians, but I definitely recommend trying it if you can!  The fresh herbs smell delicious and it really pays off to make this savory dish from scratch.
1 loaf of good quality white bread (about 1.5 pounds)
12-16 oz sage sausage removed from casings (I used Jimmy Dean)
4 oz butter (half a stick)
1 1/2 cups diced onion
1 cup diced green pepper
3 stalks celery, diced
2 cloves finely chopped garlic
1/4 cup minced sage leaves
2 eggs
3 cups low sodium chicken broth
1/2 cup minced parsely

Start by preheating the oven to 275 degrees F.  Then, cut the bread into 3/4 inch cubes and spread them out on a large baking sheet.  Bake until completely dried out, about 45 minutes total.  Mix them up and change layers in the oven every 10 minutes to make sure they evenly cook.  Let them cool when they are done.  You can do this ahead of time and store the bread cubes in an air tight container.

Preheat the oven (or increase heat) to 375 degrees F. Heat butter in a pan over medium heat and add the sausage, breaking it up into little pieces as it browns.

When the sausage is browned, add the onion, green pepper, and celery until it begins to soften.  Don't forget to add salt and pepper as you go.  Then, add the garlic and sage and continue cooking for a few minutes longer. It should take about 10 minutes total for the vegetables.
Remove the pan from heat and add half of the chicken broth.
To the remaining half of the broth, add the parsley and eggs and mix well.  Take this mixture and add it to the sausage mixture.  In a large bowl, combine the bread cubes and the sauce mixture, and mix together well with tongs.
Pour the stuffing into a greased casserole dish (unless you are using it to stuff the bird!) and bake for 45 minutes covered in foil.  Then remove the cover and continue baking for 15 minutes until the top browns and crisps up.  Serve alongside with your turkey & gravy.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Spaghetti Squash with Tomato, Olives, & Feta

After successfully conquering my first squash recipe with the acorn squash we got in our random produce crate, my next (& more difficult) task was to make the spaghetti squash.  My mom used to make it when I was growing up, but I have to be honest - I never once tried it.  I knew I didn't like squash so there was no point. (Yes, I still do have that belief about certain foods!)  Sean isn't a squash fan either so this spaghetti squash needed to be flavorful and delicious for him to eat it too.  I came up with something and we both ate it and enjoyed it, much to our surprise! 
1 spaghetti squash
olive oil, for roasting
1/2 large onion, diced
2-3 fresh tomatoes, cored, seeded and diced
2 cloves garlic
2 T fresh basil 
1 small can of sliced black olives
2 oz feta cheese

Start by roasting the spaghetti squash. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.  Cut the squash in half, lengthwise.  Scoop out the seeds and pulp.  Drizzle it with olive oil, and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Place the squash face-side down on a baking sheet and roast it in the oven for about 45 minutes, or until the inside of the squash is completely fork tender.  (It could be more or less time depending on the size of the squash) Here's what ours looked like after being roasted.
Let it cool off slightly before scraping the "noodles" out from the squash.  Meanwhile, begin the sauce.
Heat 1 T oil in a medium skillet over medium heat.  When it is hot, add the onion and saute for several minutes until softened.  Sprinkle some salt and pepper in to bring out the flavor.  Then add garlic.  Cook for one more minute, and add tomatoes.  Continue cooking for 3-4 more minutes.
When the squash is cool enough to handle, you can scrape out the flesh with a fork, careful not to break the strands so they appear like noodles. 

Place the squash in a large bowl.  Add the tomato-onion mixture, olives (drained from the can), and fresh chopped basil.  Stir to combine.  Top with crumbled feta and enjoy.

*As a note, if you've never eaten this squash before, the texture is a bit crunchier than actual noodles.  But it has a relatively mild flavor so don't be intimidated like I was for so many years!  It's also a very healthy way to avoid carbs.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Pork and Shrimp Egg Rolls

Egg rolls and Thanksgiving are two things I associate thanks to my parents' Vietnamese friend who would make them for us every Thanksgiving and Christmas.  I've recently been trying to replicate these egg rolls because they were always the most delicious item on the dinner table and I can't help but crave them during the holiday season.  I can't say mine are truly Vietnamese because they don't have the correct type of wrapper (still looking for them...) but they are still very tasty, and surprisingly easy to make.  They are a bit time consuming, but as long as you plan ahead, you will be well rewarded.
1 pound ground pork
1/2-3/4 pounds raw shrimp 
1 cup shredded or julienned carrots
1 cup chopped mushroom
1 cup shredded or finely diced onion
2 cups bean thread noodles or thin rice noodles
1 T fish sauce
1 T soy sauce
1 egg
1 package Chinese egg roll wrappers
Canola oil, for frying

Dipping Sauce:
2 T rice vinegar
1 T lime juice
2 T fish sauce
Finely diced hot peppers to taste (we used 3 pickled Thai chili peppers)
1 clove garlic, minced
1 green onion, sliced
1 teaspoon sugar

Start by chopping and combining the carrots, mushroom and onion. 
Meanwhile, put your noodles into a bowl or pot of hot water, and let them sit for 5-10 minutes or until tender.  While you are waiting for the noodles to soften, peel your shrimp, and put them in the food processor to turn them into a paste.  An alternative would be to finely chop the shrimp.  Mix the shrimp paste and ground pork in with the vegetables.   
When the noodles are soft and flexible, drain them and coarsely chop them to add to the egg roll mixture.  Then add the fish and soy sauce, and egg and stir to combine well. For a taste test before you make the egg rolls, put a spoonful of the egg roll filling into the microwave for 30 seconds and taste it.  Then you can see if you need to add salt or pepper if the taste is bland.  You could also add hot sauce if you are interested in a spicier filling.  We choose to make the dipping sauce spicy instead of the filling.

You can begin heating your oil while you roll the egg rolls.  I always heat it over medium heat, giving time to come to temperature.  I find the best temperature is about 325 degrees F, which keeps it from getting too hot so the center and outside are able to cook evenly. You should have about 1 1/2-2 inches of oil in your pot or pan to be high enough for the egg rolls to cook.  When you flick a drop of water on the oil and it sizzles immediately, it is probably ready. To fill the egg rolls, lay out a wrapper and place about 2 tablespoons of filling toward one corner.
Fold the corner closest to the filling toward the opposite corner, leaving about 1 1/2 inches space in between.
Fold each side tightly toward the middle of the egg roll. 
Roll forward, and use water to brush the seal of the wrapper before you finish the roll.  This will make it stick together during the frying process.
When the oil is ready for frying, begin placing the egg rolls in, as many as you can fit without over crowding.  I only did two at a time because I was using a small pot to save oil. 
When the egg rolls are fully browned on the outside, they are probably done.  Strain and place on a plate lined with paper towels to soak up the oil.  You may need to rotate them during cooking.  The total fry time per batch should be about 4-5 minutes.  When the first batch cools for a couple minutes, you can cut the egg rolls open to see if the filling is fully cooked.  If not, you probably need to turn the heat down a bit so the egg rolls take longer to cook before browning.  You can put the raw roll(s) back in the oil in halves for about 1 minute to finish cooking.  
Enjoy with dipping sauce! (recipe below)
The dipping sauce is based on trying to replicate Vietnamese Nuoc Mam.  Combine the rice vinegar, lime juice, fish sauce, minced garlic & onion, hot chili pepper, and sugar.  Allow to sit and let the flavors combine.  Stir to make sure the sugar has dissolved before serving.  Best made a few hours (or a day) in advance.

Yum!  These are best eaten the day they are made, so you can save extra filling and wrappers in the refrigerator to make later in the week. You can also reuse the oil, after straining, assuming you didn't burn anything the first time.  As for reheating, the best method is in the oven although it is hard to retain the crispiness they have right after being fried.  I'm still looking for the Vietnamese egg roll wrappers, but in the meantime these Chinese egg rolls make for a pretty tasty alternative!

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Ginger Apple Cranberry Sauce

As I was searching for a cranberry sauce recipes, I came across one that included crystallized ginger.  I had to try it because my friend Katie had just left me with some leftover crystallized ginger after we made ginger rice pudding.  Along with lemon zest and juice, I also added apple for some extra texture and sweetness (and because we had some on hand).  The result was tart and sweet with a hint of gingery spice.  An easy way to change up your typical Thanksgiving cranberry sauce!
1 bag of fresh cranberries (12 oz)... about 4 cups
1 cup of water
1/2 cup sugar
zest and juice of one lemon
1/4 cup crystallized ginger, matchstick sliced
1 cup diced apple

Combine water and sugar in a small-medium sauce pan and bring to a boil over high heat
Once sugar has completely dissolved, add the cranberries.  Then, add the lemon juice, zest, and ginger.  Stir to combine.  The berries will start popping as they cook.  This releases the natural gelatin inside the berry which makes the sauce thicken.

Reduce the heat to a simmer, and continue cooking for about 10 minutes, stirring often.  Then, add the apples, and cook for 3-5 minutes longer.  You should be able to tell that the berries have all popped and the mixture should be pretty thick.  Set aside to cool and store in the fridge until you are ready to eat.  Easy to make ahead for the big meal!
Enjoy with your Thanksgiving Dinner!

Monday, November 21, 2011

Thai Coconut Lime Chicken Soup

With some leftover cooked chicken breast on a rainy November day, I knew I would be making chicken soup.  After having some really tasty lemongrass soup from a Thai restaurant a couple weeks ago, I was craving the same flavor combination.  Tangy, salty, spicy, and creamy from the addition of coconut milk, this soup will warm you up with a burst of flavor on a cold day.
2 cloves garlic, minced
A two inch piece of ginger, peeled and minced (about a tablespoon)
1 lemongrass stick (found in the fresh packaged herb section)
Sriracha (hot chili sauce)
1 large or two small carrots, thinly sliced
2 celery stalks, thinly sliced
2 T Thai fish sauce
32 oz chicken stock (my favorite store-bought brand featured below)
Juice of three limes
2 cups shredded chicken or turkey
1 cup coconut milk
handful of cilantro, washed and chopped

Heat 2 T vegetable oil in a pot over medium-low heat, and add the garlic and ginger.  Sautee for 2 minutes, careful not to let the garlic brown.  Meanwhile, mince about 1/3 of the lemongrass stick.  Add this, along with the remaining whole stick, with about 2 T Sriracha (no need to measure) to the pot. Continue to sautee for about 3 more minutes.
Then, add the celery and carrot, increase heat to medium.  Season with salt and pepper.  After a few minutes when the vegetables begin to soften, add the fish sauce and stir to combine.

Next, add the chicken broth, chicken, and lime juice. I would recommend only adding part of the lime juice at a time, tasting to see if you want more. 
You can also add more Sriracha at any time if you want the soup to be spicier.  Finally, add the coconut milk, cover the pot, and bring to a simmer for about 10 minutes.  Taste again to see if you need more lime juice, coconut milk, or hot sauce.  Toss in cilantro before serving.
Makes about 4 large servings, or 6-8 side servings.