Turkey Talk

December 1st, 2009

For all of my Thanksgiving Day Dinner recipes, I’ve created a little special topic called Turkey Talk. Any of my tried and true turkey day recipes can be found here. This year’s selections include:

Peach Horchata (Cinnamon Rice Milk)
Ginger Roasted Root Vegetables w/ Pecans
Garlic-Thyme Whipped Potatoes and Stuffing
Lemon-Thyme Turkey Breast

I also made some of my traditional Thanksgiving Day favorites:

Hot Apricot Cider
Gingersnap-Pear Cheesecake

Blueberry-Orange Muffins

December 1st, 2009

As part of Muffin Madness, I challenged myself to make Blueberry-Orange muffins. I wanted to include candied orange peel tossed with ground cloves, sprinkled on top of the muffins. After doing a little research, I found the website Food Pairings that indicated cardamom was a good match for blueberries and bitter orange peel, so I decided to stir the candied orange peel into the batter along with some ground cardamom.

The candied orange peel I purchased, however, was not high quality and contained a large amount of pith. The candied orange sunk to the bottom of each muffin, and the original recipe I used called for granulated white sugar instead of brown sugar, so the muffins themselves were quite dry and flavorless. It took three attempts to get this recipe right, which included swapping in brown sugar, using fresh orange juice and fresh orange zest to make the muffins moist, and tinkering with the amount of blueberries for maximum impact.

Here is the final result! Use frozen blueberries for best flavor and texture (thaw first).


Blueberry-Orange Muffins
adapted from Cooking Light

2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp ground cardamom
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 1/4 cup low-fat buttermilk
1 large egg
1 orange, zested and juiced
1 cup blueberries

Preheat oven to 350F and prepare a 12-cup muffin tin by coating it in cooking spray.

In a medium size bowl, whisk together flour, brown sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and ground cardamom.

In a large bowl, combine butter, buttermilk, egg, orange juice and orange zest. Beat with an electric mixer on medium speed until combined. Add half of the flour mixture and beat to combine. Add the second half of the flour mixture and beat to combine. Fold in blueberries.

Spoon mixture into prepared muffin tins, filling the cups about 3/4 of the way. Bake for 25 minutes, until golden brown or until muffins spring back when touched lightly in center.

Makes about 12 muffins.


Stuffed eggplant sounds pretty sophisticated, but it is actually quite easy to do and not as labor intensive as you might think. Here is a step-by-step guide on how to prepare stuffed eggplant (along with some ideas for the filling). Bits and pieces of the information below have already been posted on various other recipes, but I’ve condensed all the information so it is all in one place.











First, when selecting an eggplant, look for one with smooth skin that is a deep purple color. Avoid bruises or dents, and select an eggplant that feels heavy for it’s size (this indicates ripeness). Try not to buy an eggplant over 1 or 1.25 pounds, as heavier eggplants are usually bitter. Eggplant is mostly in season from about June to September, though some gourmet stores may still import good varieties this time of year. The best bet for eggplant slightly past its prime is to peel, cut into chunks, salt the flesh (more on that below), and saute with other seasonal vegetables or bake with tomato sauce.












First, start by cutting the eggplant in half lengthwise. The stem and cap are not edible, but you can leave on for presentation. The leaves can also be peeled back to reveal more edible flesh.













Next, use a small paring knife to score the flesh. Start with diagonal slashes all in the same direction, slicing as deep as possible without piercing the skin. Keep the cuts about 1/2 inch apart.














Then slice in the opposite direction, creating a cross-hatch pattern. Try to connect the corners as much as possible, leaving complete squares cut out. Then run the paring knife about the edge of the eggplant, leaving less than 1/4 inch of flesh next to the skin. Again, be careful not to pierce the skin, but cut deep enough to loosen the flesh.













Using a spoon, scoop out the flesh. The pieces should pop out rather easily, following the cross-hatch pattern. You may need to scoop out additional seeds at the bottom of the eggplant, if so discard. The seeds are edible but rather bitter.















Chop any connected flesh into 1/2 inch cubes. Place the eggplant flesh in a colander and sprinkle with salt. This will draw any bitterness to the surface of the eggplant. Let set for about 15-20 minutes, then rinse and gently pat dry.













Once the eggplant is ready, prepare the “stuffing.” Here is an easy recipe:

Stuffed Italian Eggplant

Olive oil
2 eggplants, about 1 lb each
1/2 lb bulk Italian sausage
1 pkg (8 oz) mushrooms, sliced
1 red bell pepper, cut into 1-inch pieces
1 onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
Sea salt
1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
1 tsp dried oregano
1 can (15 oz) low-sodium tomato sauce
2 tbsp red wine or apple cider vinegar
1/3 cup Parmesan cheese

Preheat oven to 400F. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil and brush with olive oil. Arrange the hollowed out eggplant halves in a single layer on the baking sheet.

Heat oil in a large skillet. Add sausage, breaking it apart with a wooden spoon, and cook 5 minutes. Add mushrooms and bell pepper to pan. Saute 3-5 minutes, until pepper begins to soften. Add onions and garlic, sprinkle with salt and saute until onions are softened, about 3-5 minutes. Add oregano and red pepper flakes and toss.

Add to pan (prepared as described in above instructions). Stir in tomato sauce and red vinegar. Bring liquid to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer  for 5-7 minutes, until sauce is thick. Remove from heat and let set for 5 minutes.

Fill the hollowed out eggplant halves with tomato mixture. Sprinkle Parmesan cheese over each stuffed eggplant. Bake 15-20 minutes, until top is lightly browned and bubbly. Drizzle the top of the eggplants with olive oil if it looks like it is beginning to dry out. Use a large spatula or serving spoon to transfer stuffed eggplants to plate.

Leftover “stuffing” can also be tossed with cooked pasta. To make for six, use prepare three eggplant and add 2 cups cooked pasta after tomato sauce is added and brought to a boil. To make vegetarian, omit the Italian sausage and add mushrooms (saute with the onions).


Curried Beef Stir-Fry

November 12th, 2009

This recipe uses curry powder to add a twist to traditional stir-fry. Of course, I found the original recipe to be a bit lacking. I added some more veggies and tweaked a couple ingredients, then served the stir-fry over couscous. Try it over rice or egg noodles as well. The vegetables can be swapped for whatever is available/in season (or to your preference).

You can look for beef pre-sliced for stir-fry to save time, but slicing it yourself will probably be cheaper. Look for tender cuts like top loin, top sirloin, tenderloin, or even flank. Placing the beef in the freezer for 10-15 minutes will help firm it up, making it easier to slice the beef into thin strips.


Curried Beef Stir-Fry
adapted from Southern Living

1 lb beef, cut into thin strips
Olive oil
Sea salt
Cracked black pepper
1/2 red onion, thinly sliced
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tsp freshly grated ginger
1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
1 bell pepper (red, yellow, orange), sliced into 1-inch pieces
2 small zucchini, quartered lengthwise and sliced into 1/4 inch thick pieces
1 large apple, such as fuji, cored and diced
1/2 cup apple juice
2 tbsp low-sodium soy sauce
1 1/2 tsp curry powder
hot cooked couscous or rice, for serving

Heat a small amount of olive oil in a large skillet. Season beef with sea salt and black pepper. Add the beef, working in batches if needed, and stir-fry over high heat until cooked through, 3 to 4 minutes. Transfer to a plate.

Reduce heat to medium-high, add additional oil, scraping the bottom of the pan to loosen any browned bits. Add red onion, garlic, ginger, and red pepper flakes. Saute 2-3 minutes, then add bell pepper. Saute 2-3 minutes, adding additional oil if needed, then add zucchini and saute 2-3 minutes. Add diced apple, apple juice, soy sauce, and curry powder. Bring liquid to a boil and return beef to pan along with any accumulated juices on the plate. Toss ingredients, reduce heat to low, and cover. Simmer for 3-5 minutes, adding additional apple juice if needed.

Remove from heat and let stand, covered, for 5 minutes. Serve over hot cooked couscous or rice.


Butternut-Orange Spice Muffins

November 10th, 2009

Muffin Madness continues with more Fall flavors! This recipe uses roasted butternut squash to keep the muffins moist. The combination of spices might seem overwhelming, but it balances well with the rich butternut and bright orange flavors. The orange here is subtle, though can be intensified by adding more zest if desired. The original recipe was for an 8×8 inch cake, though it adapted easily to muffins. I changed some of the amounts to ensure the muffins would “stick” together easily. These muffins will also rise quickly, so do not overfill the muffin tins.


Butternut Squash note: for 1 cup of butternut squash puree, buy the smallest butternut squash you can find (or, if available, but half of a squash). Halve the squash and scoop out the seeds. Place, peel side down, on a baking sheet and cover with aluminum foil. Bake at 350F for 25-30 minutes, until tender. Allow squash to cool, scoop out the flesh, and mash with a fork. Reserve the remaining squash for another recipe (or another batch of muffins!).

Butternut-Orange Spice Muffins
adapted from Cooking Light

2 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 tsp ground allspice
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground nutmeg
1 tsp salt
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp ground black pepper
1 1/2 cups packed light brown sugar
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
2 large eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup butternut squash puree
zest and juice from one small orange (about 1 tsp zest and 1/4 cup juice)

Preheat oven to 325F and coat a 12-muffin tin with cooking spray.

In a medium size bowl, combine flour, allspice, cinnamon, nutmeg, salt, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Whisk together and set aside.

In a large mixing bowl, combine brown sugar, butter, eggs, and vanilla extract. Beat with an electric mixer on medium speed until combined. Add half of the flour mixture, beating just until combined. Add butternut puree, orange zest, juice, and the rest of the flour mixture, beat until just combined, scraping down the sides of the bowl.

Spoon batter into prepared muffin pan, fill each tin about halfway. Bake for 25 minutes, until golden brown or until muffins spring back when touched lightly in center.

Makes about 20 muffins.