The Main Event: Thanksgiving!!

Thanksgiving is something that I look forward to every year. It has become one of my favorite holidays because it is so simple. All you have to do is prepare a delicious meal for your friends and family and enjoy it! You don't have to find a costume or the perfect gift. Just cook, eat and enjoy the company of loved ones.

Yes it is easier said then done, but with a little prep the day before and the instructions that someone else bring dessert it can achieved fairly easily. This year I made as much ahead of time as possible. I spent the whole Saturday making stuffing, brining turkey, making cranberry sauce, chopping Brussels sprouts, chopping veggies and prepping appies. Lets start with my favourite thanksgiving side.

Cheesy Brussel Sprouts

The real secret to making these Brussels sprouts delicious and what has made my friend Jamie say 'I don't even like Brussels Sprouts, but I went back for seconds!' One of my best compliments. is simple onions, caramelized before roasting. For six cups of trimmed and halved Brussels sprouts I used one and 1/2 large soft ball sized yellow onion. I caramelized it in a pan with a little butter and then tossed with the Brussels spouts in a casserole dish. Top off with a few handfuls of shredded aged cheddar cheese and bake until the sprouts are golden brown. In a 350 degree oven this will take about 45 minutes. I like to make sure to give them plenty of time, even if I have to wrap them in foil and let them sit because I put them in early. If you do a bigger batch they can take up to an hour and a half and it is critical that they get to that golden brown stage or they will be bitter not melt in your mouth delicious!

I also prep the stuffing the day before, then when it comes to getting the turkey in the oven I can just stuff it and get it in!

My stuffing is basic and goes as follows:

8 cups of toasted bread chunks
8 links of maple breakfast sausages
3 heads of roasted garlic
2 stalks of celery
1 large onion
2 tbsp each parsley & sage
1 tbsp each rosemary & thyme
1 tsp salt & pepper
1 - 2 cups chicken stock

Normally I would used just a basic sausage but this year I brined my Turkey with an apple cider brine so I decided to go with the maple breakfast sausage, just to create some interest and to really showcase some autumn flavors. I begin by toasting bread. I used a basic whole wheat, mostly because I don't really eat white bread and I didn't want to complicate it with grains or seeds. This is stuffing for us humans, not chipmunks! I chop the celery and onion in a small dice, chop the herbs and add the seasonings and then add a splash of stock. I work the stuffing with my hands until the sausage is evenly distributed and add stock as is necessary until it all combines into one big for lack of a better word glop. I always make enough so that I can stuff the turkey and bake some in an extra dish for a friend of mine who doesn't like it in the bird. Also lets be honest: There just isn't enough room in the bird for as much stuffing as you need to feed hungry stuffing lovers.

This is how it looks before it is cooked aka glop stage:

Of course you must have mashed potatoes on any decent thanksgiving table and since I love garlic I always add roasted garlic. Lots of it. I like to add 1 head of garlic per 2 large potatoes. Feel free to use this ratio for making your current favourite mashed potato recipe. Its always hard to know how much butter and cream you will need to add to get the right consistency but the garlic will make them even dreamier - it will blow the regular garlic mashed potatoes that most people make right out of the water. I don't know how someone could add garlic powder to potatoes and still sleep at night!

And of course the turkey. I used a brine this year and it was amazing!! Since I haven't used one before I used a recipe for Apple Cider Brine that I found on Tasty Kitchen. It made the meat so juicy that it blew me away. The breast meat was by far the most flavorful, tender and succulent that I have ever tasted. And let me tell you when all 30 people had walked away there wasn't even enough turkey left to make soup! I seasoned the turkey inside and out with salt and pepper, stuffed it with the recipe above, rubbed it with butter above and underneath the skin, wrapped it in thick cut double smoked bacon and rested in on top of a 'rack' that I made with some carrots, celery, onions garlic, added a little chicken stock for moisture and then let them all get acquainted in a 350 degree oven until the skin is crispy and brown and the juices run clear. Oh yeah, put a lid on all of that! Since I was so busy enjoying the meal I didn't take a picture of it but I did make a smaller breast for blogging purposes and here it is:

Other recipes that I served were:

Honey and Lime Glazed Yams and Beets
Brussels Slaw
Orange Glazed Carrots
(Steam with some orange juice, then thicken like gravy with four, add salt, pepper and fresh thyme)
Homemade Cranberry Sauce
(I'll have to share another time)
Gravy - thicken the pan juices with flour and season as necessary.
And Bacon Wrapped Jalapenos as an appy.

Happy Cooking!!

Spinach and Feta Stuffed Mushrooms

Yesterday I was craving something cheesy but knew that with the holiday season coming up I should try to be good. I generally try to be good during the month of November (Here in Canada the holidays don't start until Dec) because I know that pretty much the whole month of December is going to be a write off. It always is, and I could fight it but I figure if I put in a little good behavior this month I can cut myself some slack later on.

These mushroom caps are perfect because they are luxurious yet very healthy. I was inspired by a spanikopita but was also enticed by the meaty-ness of a mushroom. Have you ever noticed how many food bloggers make up words. I am convinced that anything can be a word if hyphenated with a -ness at the end!

Here is the recipe:

A bunch of mushrooms, stems removed.
1 12 oz package of frozen spinach
1 small tub of feta cheese
2 cloves garlic
pinch of nutmeg
salt & pepper

Give the mushrooms a little rub down - they do grow in poo after all. Remove the stems with a pairing knife or by snapping them off whatever works best for you. My mushrooms weren't all that big so I used a knife. Arrange them alphabetically by name on a baking sheet. What you don't name your food? Well.. I guess you can arrange them any old way that you like.

In a food processor add the garlic and whiz, then add the spinach (make sure it is thawed and that you squeezed all of the water out. Whiz that up then add the rest of the ingredients, taste and season. Stuff the little mushroomies with the emerald green mixture and bake in the oven for about 20 minutes at 350 degrees or until the mushrooms have browned a bit and they look like you want to devour them all!

Roasted Tomato and Red Pepper Soup

There is something so comforting about anything that is left to slow roast in the oven. Even if it is tomatoes and red peppers. Just allowing them to hang out and soften in caramelized goodness; it seems so luxurious. Even decadent.

Who knew throwing some veggies in the oven and forgetting about them could seem like so much effort?

Speaking of effortless, this soup actually came from a tomato sauce that I had already prepared.
It began with 4 - 5 cups of Cherry Tomatoes. Basically I had enough to cover my entire baking sheet. I added a head of garlic and drizzled the works with Extra Virgin, salt and pepper. Pop this into a 300 degree oven for about an hour or until they pop open and look like the tasty little gems below:

Have a peek at them from time to time and once you notice that they are almost there toss 1 fairly finely diced onion into a pot with a nice splash of Extra Virgin. Once the onion is soft add the tomatoes and garlic and puree with a hand mixer or in a food processor. I did mine like a country job and left the skins and seeds in but if you prefer something a little more smooth feel free to put it all through a sieve. Have a final taste to see if you need to adjust the seasoning. It all depends on your tomatoes, your taste and how much you added when roasting. That was it for the sauce, simple and basic but really nice with a sweet, homey tomato flavor.

For the Soup I just roasted up about 3 red peppers. You can do this a few different ways, you can put the whole peppers onto the gas flame of a stove, you can toss them under a broiler, or roast them slowly. Should you choose one of the first two methods, which are the fastest you will want to leave the peppers until the skin is charred. I mean black people! Don't take them out to soon. In order to keep with the quick time frame you can them put the peppers into a bowl and cover with a lid or plastic wrap. This gives them a little steam and makes it really easy to remove the skins. Should you slow roast it you will still want them to be quite well done, although they don't need to be charred, you will see them begin to wrinkle and soften, you can remove them then and give them the same covered bowl treatment mentioned above.
Once they have chilled out in the bowl the skin will be easy to remove, I added the peppers and the tomato sauce into a food processor and blitzted until it was smooth. Feel free to use what you have here, a hand blender, regular blender or food pro.
Something tells me a potato masher just isn't going to cut it!!
Add to a pot, heat, taste, season and enjoy!