Sunday, November 29, 2009

Turkey Dinner

We were at the grocery store right before Thanksgiving and of course the turkeys were on sale so we decided to get one to make after Thanksgiving. I saw this dry brining method online so we decided to try it. I also found a recipe for this lemony thyme butter sauce in our Sam's Club ad so we combined the two to make our best turkey to date. The skin was crispy and the meat was really moist. Even the leftover turkey isn't dry. I am not sure which method made the turkey so good, but we will be making turkey like this in the future.


Dry-Brined Turkey

1 (12- to 16-pound) turkey
Kosher salt
Several celery ribs, carrots, a quartered onion, several garlic cloves and several sprigs of herbs

Wash the turkey inside and out, pat it dry and weigh it. Measure 1 tablespoon of salt into a bowl for every 5 pounds the turkey weighs (for a 15-pound turkey, you’d have 3 tablespoons).

Sprinkle the inside of the turkey lightly with salt. Place the turkey on its back and salt the breasts, concentrating the salt in the center, where the meat is thickest. You’ll probably use a little more than a tablespoon. It should look liberally seasoned, but not over-salted.

Turn the turkey on one side and sprinkle the entire side with salt, concentrating on the thigh. You should use a little less than a tablespoon. Flip the turkey over and do the same with the opposite side.

Place the turkey in a 2 1/2 -gallon sealable plastic bag, press out the air and seal tightly. Place the turkey breast-side up in the refrigerator. Chill for 3 days, turning it onto its breast for the last day.

Remove the turkey from the bag. There should be no salt visible on the surface and the skin should be moist but not wet. Place the turkey breast-side up on a plate and refrigerate uncovered for at least 8 hours (we didn't end up leaving the turkey uncovered in the refrigerator for 8 hours, so it is probably ok to skip this step).

Turkey Dinner

Lemony Thyme Butter

Zest of large lemon
4 garlic cloves
1 cup butter, room temp
2 tbsp. Dijon mustard
Juice of 1 large lemon
1 bunch scallions, finely chopped
2 tbsp. chopped fresh thyme leaves
2 tbsp. paprika
2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. freshly ground pepper

3 lemons cut into 1/8-inch-thick slices

Lemony Thyme Butter: Blend lemon zest and garlic in a mini-processor (or a regular food processor) until finely chopped. Add butter, mustard, lemon juice, scallions, thyme, paprika, salt and pepper, and process. The butter can be made two days ahead. Bring to room temperature before using.

On the day it is to be cooked, remove the turkey from the refrigerator and leave it at room temperature at least 1 hour. Preheat the oven or a gas grill to 425 degrees. If using a gas grill with three burners, light the side burners only. If using a gas grill with two burners, light only one burner.

Starting at the neck end of the turkey, carefully slide your hand between skin and meat of the breast, thighs, and upper drumsticks, to loosen the skin. Spread the Lemony Thyme Butter over the meat of the thighs and drumsticks, below the skin, on both sides. Arrange a few lemon slices under the skin. Spread the remaining butter over the breast meat, below the skin. Fill the main cavity with any remaining lemon slices. Tie legs together loosely to hold shape. Tuck the wing tips under.

Line the bottom of a roasting pan (Use a sturdy disposable pan, if using the grill) with the celery, carrot, quartered onion, garlic cloves and herb sprigs, which will serve as a make-shift roasting rack. Place the turkey breast-side down on the vegetables in the roasting pan; put it on the grill (over the unlit burner) or in the oven. After 30 minutes, remove the pan from the grill or oven and carefully turn the turkey over so the breast is facing up (it’s easiest to do this by hand, using kitchen towels or oven mitts).

Reduce the grill or oven temperature to 325 degrees, return the turkey to the grill (again, over the unlit burner) or oven and roast until a thermometer inserted in the deepest part of the thigh, but not touching the bone, reads 165 degrees, about 2 3/4 hours total roasting.

Remove the turkey from the grill or oven, transfer it to a warm platter or carving board; tent loosely with foil. Let stand at least 30 minutes to let the juices redistribute through the meat. Carve and serve.

Brining Source: The Kitchen Sink
Lemony Thyme Butter: The Neely's via Sam's Club ad

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Christmas Decorating

We spent a good majority of the day on Friday putting up the Christmas lights on our house. The actual putting of the lights on the roof went really fast, as Patrick had made a very detailed diagram last year documenting how the lights needed to be put up.

The problem with the lights was that half of them no longer lit up and we spent the better part of Saturday replacing bulbs and checking for loose bulbs. That is why the pine tree in our backyard has no blue lights lit up, we couldn't fix the top ones to light up, so we made the bottom blue ones not work. In the end it all worked out, but we may have to invest in new lights a lot sooner than we anticpated.

Christmas Decorating

Here is the end result.

Our House

While we were at Lowe's getting supplies, we found a tree that we liked. While Patrick was fixing the lights on the roof I went back to get the tree with my car. We went much smaller this year than last year. I was able to get the tree inside of my car, where as last year it had to be tied to the roof. This year we have the love seat upstairs and the room still feels much less crowded.

Christmas Lights & Tree

Friday, November 27, 2009

Brownie Bites

I wanted to make something simple that traveled well for Thanksgiving, so I decided these little brownie bites were a good solution. These were simple to make, the biggest pain was finding the muffin tins at the store. I went to Rainbow, Target and Michael's before I finally found them at Lund's. Also, I would suggest not using a brownie mix with chocolate chips in it as it makes it difficult to put the peanut butter cups in the brownie mix. Everyone at Thanksgiving loved them, so they may end up being a go to dessert in the future.

Brownie Bites

Brownie Bites

Note: Your Reese's Peanut Butter Cups don't have to be frozen, but they're less likely to turn into a melty, gooey mess if you freeze them ahead of time. Also, they're easier to unwrap!

1 box brownie mix
eggs, water, and vegetable oil (in the amounts listed on your brownie package)
25-30 mini Reeses cups, frozen, then unwrapped
1 Box Reynolds 2-inch aluminum foil mini cups for muffins

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place approximately 30 foil liners on baking sheet.

Combine brownie mix, eggs, water and oil. Stir with spoon until well blended. (about 50 strokes)

Fill each liner with 1-2 tablespoons of batter. You want them to be about 3/4 of the way full.

Push a peanut butter cup into the center of each "brownie cupcake."

Bake for 15 minutes and remove from oven.

Cool 5-10 minutes in pan and then move to cooling rack to cool completely.

Source: Heather Drive

Thursday, November 26, 2009


On Thursday, Patrick and I took the trip down to Mankato for Thanksgiving at my aunt Carolyn's house. We got there a little before lunch time so we got to help out with some last minute preparations. Patrick was in charge of carving the turkey, which really consisted of picking the meat out of a bowl since the turkey was cooked in a bag the meat was falling off the bone just from touching it. I was in charge of the stuffing, Stove Top, so nothing too tough.


We stayed there most of the day. We read Black Friday ads, played with Katie's little girl Ella, played games, watched football and ate some more. Patrick and I played Scrabble and as you can see he kicked my butt.

Thanksgiving at Carolyn's

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Spaghetti & Turkey Meatballs

Tonight we were in the mood for a little old fashioned spaghetti and meatballs. In order to make the meatballs a little healthier we started making them with ground turkey sometime last year. Last time we made meatballs we didn't cook the meatballs in the oven first and it basically ended up as a tomato meat sauce. This time we cooked the meatballs in the oven first and it seemed to work well without having to fry the meatballs in oil first.

Spaghetti Dinner

Spaghetti with Turkey Meatballs

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 small onion diced
2-3 cloves minced garlic
1 cup diced fresh mushrooms
1 tablespoon Italian seasoning
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 teaspoon sugar
1 28 ounce can regular diced tomatoes
1 12 ounce can Italian style diced tomatoes
1 small can Italian style tomato paste

1 lb ground turkey
1/4 cup Italian bread crumbs
1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
1/2 cup finely chopped onions
1-2 cloves minced garlic
2 teaspoons soy sauce
1 egg
salt & pepper
chopped parsley

1 lb angel hair pasta

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

In a large stock pot or dutch oven saute the garlic, onions and mushrooms in olive oil for 3-5 minutes. Add soy sauce and Italian seasoning until fragrant. Add in the diced tomatoes, tomato paste and sugar. Bring to a boil and then simmer for 30 minutes.

For the meatballs combine all the ingredients in a small bowl. Shape the meat into 1/2 inch sized balls and put them on a greased cookie sheet. Bake meatballs for 10-12 minutes or until no longer pink.

When the meatballs are cooked, add them to the pasta sauce and continue to let them simmer in the sauce while you cook the pasta.

Top with parmesan cheese and serve.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Chicken Tortilla Casserole

Last night we were busy looking at computers for Patrick so we ate dinner at Big Bowl in the mall. That made tonight was our first official meal post Chipotle Challenge. In order to wean Patrick off Chipotle we had a Mexican casserole. It was really good and it will definitely be making it into our regular meal schedule.

Chicken Tortilla Casserole

Chicken Tortilla Casserole

2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, butterflied into halves (4 halves total)
2 tbsp. vegetable oil, divided
1 shallot, minced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1-2 tbsp. minced chipotle peppers in adobo sauce
1¾ cups chicken broth
5 cups tortilla chips, broken into large pieces
2 tomatoes, seeded and diced
1 small can sliced black olives
1 cup sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
2 green onions, thinly sliced
2 tbsp. chopped fresh cilantro

Optional Additions:
black beans, corn or diced jalepenos

Pat the chicken breast halves dry and season with salt and pepper. Heat 1 tablespoon of the vegetable oil in a 10-12 inch oven-safe skillet over medium-high heat. Add the chicken to the pan and cook until golden brown on both sides (chicken does not need to be fully cooked at this point.) Transfer to a plate and set aside.

Add the remaining oil, shallot, garlic, chipotle, and ¼ teaspoon of salt. Cook just until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add the chicken broth, scrape the browned bits from the bottom of the pan, and bring to a simmer.

Stir in half of the tortilla chips. Nestle the chicken into the broth and cook over medium-low heat until cooked through (reading 160° F on an instant-read thermometer), about 10 minutes. Transfer the cooked chicken pieces to a cutting board and shred into bite-sized pieces when it is cool enough to handle.

Return the shredded chicken to the skillet with the tomatoes, olives, ½ cup of the shredded cheddar cheese, 1 tablespoon of the cilantro and the white portion of the green onions. Stir in the other half of the tortilla chips until they are incorporated and moistened.

Sprinkle the remaining cheese on top and place the pan under the broiler until the cheese is melted and browning, about 2-3 minutes. Top with remaining cilantro and green onion tops and serve, allowing the casserole to cool 5 minutes before serving.

Source: Annie's Eats

Is It Really The End of November?

On Friday, I took a walk around the Plymouth Creek Park and it looked and felt more like spring than the end of November. I am sure that winter is right around the corner, so I am not complaining.

fall flowers

fall berries

bird house

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Asian Chicken Noodle Soup

As Patrick was still on the Chipotle Challenge, I decided to try another soup with peas in it. I really liked this take on Chicken Noodle Soup. The crushed red peppers really add a kick to the soup that makes it a little more interesting than regular old chicken noodle. Hopefully, we can add this to our winter soup rotation.

Asian Chicken Noodle Soup

Asian Chicken Noodle Soup

1 tbsp. vegetable oil
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
1 tbsp. bottled grated ginger
3 tbsp. bottled lemongrass (or grated lemongrass in a tube)
2 cups water
2 (14-ounce) cans fat-free, less-sodium chicken broth
3/4 cup frozen peas
3/4 cup matchstick carrots
1 lb. chicken breast tenders, cut into bite-sized pieces
4-5 oz. uncooked angel hair/thin spaghetti pasta
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro (or 1 tbsp. dried)
1 tbsp. fresh lime juice
1/2 tsp. salt
4 green onions, thinly sliced
1 red chile pepper, finely chopped (or red pepper flakes, to taste--I used about 1-2 tsp.)

Heat oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add garlic, ginger, and lemongrass; sauté 3 minutes.

Add water and broth; add peas and carrots; bring everything to a boil. Add chicken and pasta; cook 5 minutes or until chicken is done.

Remove from heat; stir in remaining ingredients. Let stand 5 minutes.

Source: Heather Drive

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Cities 97 Sampler

This morning I got up a little early to stop by Target to pick up this year's Cities 97 Sampler CD. I have gotten it the last couple years, and the line goes really fast at the Southtown Target by my work, so I figured I may as well.

Cities Sampler

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

An Eventful Saturday

On Saturday morning we were up bright and early. First on the list was the Mall of America and The Bodies Exhibition. We met Jachin, Kate, Shanna & Kasie at the mall for the exhibit. Choosing a Saturday wasn't the best idea, finding parking was ridiculous. The exhibit was really interesting, way beyond the skeleton from 8th grade science class.

Since we were at the Mall of America we decided to hit up a roller coaster. More specifically the Sponge Bob Square Pants Rock Bottom Plunge.


After our roller coaster adventure, we had to get home because my mom's sisters were in town for a Sister's Weekend and they were going to a play in Plymouth later that night and wanted to stop in and see us and our house.

Here are my aunts: Pat, Karen, Mary Lou, Mom, Donna, Carolyn and I.

My mom's sisters' weekend

Later on Patrick and I went to the Target Center to see the Trans Siberan Orchestra. The show was pretty crazy. 3 hours, no breaks, huge light show, tons of pyrotechnics, stages that lifted off space ship style, some crazy energetic violinists/guitarists/bassists/etc., a narrator who could make reading an eye chart sound mesmerizing, and a ton of smooth vocalists all equipped with long rocker hair and a striking resemblance to Fabio or a professional cheerleader depending on gender.

TransSiberan Orchestra 2

TransSiberan Orchestra 1

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Jam Packed Weekend

This weekend we had a ton of things going planned. On Friday night we started out at Jachin's work party at Clockwork. His company is really small and super relaxed so they let the employees invite their friends to the party.

Us Girls at the Clockwork Party

Kasie, Shanna & Kate

Kasie, Heather, Sara & Kate

Mesas Pizza

Then we headed to Matt's birthday party in Uptown. The theme was to wear a costume that started with the letter F, hence the flowers and fairy wings. As you can see this is where our dance moves shined.

Matt's B-Day Party

Kate & Shanna

This was only the beginning, stay tuned for more weekend happenings.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Living Room - Before & After

Patrick and I have been talking about moving the love seat from downstairs to upstairs since we have limited seating upstairs. On Sunday we finally moved it. We have also been annoyed with Patrick's coffee table from the day he bought it; the wheels come off when you move it, it gets extremely dusty and is a finger print magnet just seconds after it is cleaned. The other problem is that since our tv stand is so low and the coffee table is a little taller sometimes the table gets in the way of the tv.

Here is our living room before moving the love seat upstairs.

View 2 Before

So, our mission was to find a lower, non glass coffee table for a reasonable price. There is a HOM Furniture store near our house, so we went to check that out on Sunday night. We found a good solution, an ottoman storage table. We also needed a small bookcase to for our photo albums that were previously on the lower portion of the coffee table.

Here is the living room with the love seat, the new ottoman/coffee table and the Ikea bookcase. We both like it much better, it just feels more cozy and now when people come over there are more places to sit.

View 2 After

Of course I can't come home from Ikea with just one thing. I also got a few fun decorations.

A Few New Things

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Shrimp Pad Thai

I was in the mood for something different tonight. We don't eat a big variety of meat in our house, mostly chicken. Patrick isn't a huge fan of shrimp, so I decided to try a shrimp recipe while he is on the Chipotle Challenge. I didn't think the shrimp was amazing, but I really liked the Pad Thai and it seemed simpler than another version I made in the past. We will be using this recipe in the future with chicken.

Shrimp Pad Thai

Shrimp Pad Thai
Serves 6

8 ounces rice stick noodles
1/4 cup tomato based chile sauce
1/4 cup fresh lime juice
2 tablespoons fish sauce or soy sauce
4 tablespoons vegetable oil
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 pound peeled and divined medium shrimp
2 cups bean sprouts
1 cup carrots, cut into match sticks
8 scallions, diced
1 large egg, lightly beaten

Assorted garnishes:
1/3 cup chopped dry roasted peanuts
1 cup bean sprouts
1/4 cup fresh cilantro
pinch of red pepper flakes
Lime Wedges

Bring a large pot of water to a boil; remove from heat. Stir in the noodles; let soak until softened (but still undercooked), 3 minutes. Drain, rinse under cold water until cool.

In a small bowl, whisk together the chile sauce, lime juice, fish sauce (or soy sauce), & brown sugar. In a large nonstick skillet, heat 2 tablespoons of the oil over medium high heat. Add the garlic, and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add the shrimp; cook, tossing often, until just opaque throughout, about 3 minutes. Transfer shrimp to a plate.

Return the skillet to medium high heat. Add the remaining 2 tablespoons oil along with the noodles and chile sauce mixture; cook, tossing, until combined, about 1 minute. Add the carrots, cook 1 minute. Then add the bean sprouts, scallions, and shrimp. Pour in the egg; toss the noodles are coated and cooked through, about 2 minutes. Serve topped with garnishes.

Source: Everyday Food

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Baked Chicken and Garlic Rice Pilaf

Patrick is still going strong on the Chipotle Challenge. He even started his own blog to document it, check it out at So, that means a lack of new recipes in our house since I end up eating the same thing for lunch for multiple days in a row. Making rice has never been my strong point, but this was super easy and it turned out great.

Garlic Rice Pilaf

Baked Chicken and Garlic Rice Pilaf

1 boneless skinless marinated chicken breast
2 tbsp. butter
3 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
1/4 cup diced green peppers
1/2 small diced onion
1 cup long-grain white rice
2½ cups chicken broth, divided
½ tsp. salt
½ tsp. pepper
Squeeze of lemon juice

Preheat the oven to 375° F. Have a covered casserole dish with chicken breast in it ready. In a saucepan or skillet, melt the butter over medium-high heat. Saute green peppper and onion for 1-2 minutes, add garlic and rice to the pan and cook until both are golden brown, about 3-4 minutes. Stir in 1 cup of the chicken broth and bring to a boil. Pour the mixture into the casserole dish, cover, and bake for 25 minutes. Stir in the remaining 1½ cups chicken broth and bake, covered, for another 45 minutes. About 15 minutes before it is finished baking, stir in a squeeze of fresh lemon juice.

Note: This recipe can be doubled without increasing the baking time.

Adapted from: Annie's Eats