Sunday, November 22, 2015

Deliciously Juicy Thanksgiving Turkey

The first thanksgiving as a married couple that we spent without my family, my sister-in-law, Ana, and I set out to prepare our very first turkey. Now, my husband had not always been a fan of turkey and would have preferred a flavorful ham instead, but after he tried the results of our experiments, he has begged that I make this classic turkey every year. Let's just say the leftovers disappear much too quickly. So here I will share with you the tricks to preparing a deliciously juicy turkey. (The times and proportions are  for a 12-18 lb turkey). 

Trick #1: Brine your turkey!
The time and little effort that it takes to brine your turkey (soak it in a salt solution) will make a huge difference. If you are buying a frozen turkey, you'll need to plan for enough time to thaw it before brining. (A frozen turkey takes about 5 hours per pound to thaw in the refrigerator). After the turkey is thawed (or if you have purchased it fresh), remove the giblets and neck (found inside the chest cavity of the turkey). Prepare a solution of 1 cup salt to every gallon of water. (Yes, it's a concentrated solution, but you will rinse the excess salt off at the end). If your turkey has been infused with a solution, reduce the salt content and soak it.) Pour out the brining solution and rinse the turkey in the sink. (I've placed a rack in the sink and rinsed it on there). After the turkey has been rinsed, you must dry it. You can either place it on a rack in the refrigerator with a sheet pan beneath it (for 8 hours or overnight). Or, if you're pressed for time like I have been, I use a blowdryer on the cool setting (no heat) and blow it over the skin until it's dry. 

Trick #2: Prepare to roast
This next step helps add delicious herbed butter flavors into the meat. You will need approximately:
2 medium onions
2 ribs of celery
3-4 tablespoons of melted better
2 tablespoons thyme (or 2 sprigs fresh thyme)
1 or 2 limes
15-30 whole cloves

Preheat oven to 400°F. Chop onions and celery. Cover onions and celery in 1/2 of the melted butter. Mix in half of the thyme. Place mixture inside the cavity of the turkey making sure to rub the butter and herbs all over the inside cavity. With a steak knife, cut small openings into the skin of the lime. Place a clove in each opening (all over the lime). Place the clove-infused lime(s) into the middle of the chest cavity. 

Now, make sure to either tie up the loose ends and wings with twine tying a knot at the head of the turkey to hold everything in place or use the plastic piece that sometimes comes with the turkey (oven safe) to hold everything together. 

Place the turkey on a V-Rack breast side up and with the remaining butter and thyme, generously rub over the entire outside of the turkey, making sure not to miss any areas. The butter will help the thyme stick to the skin and will help give the skin a beautiful golden color in the end. Now turn the turkey breast side down and cover the back with butter/thyme as well. 

Trick #3: Begin the Roast Upside Down
Normally, turkeys are roasted breast side up to cook them at a slower rate, but by cooking it breast side down, you give the drumsticks and thighs the chance to be cooked at a higher temperature and remove any of the pink flesh. If you were to cook the turkey breast-side up from the beginning at the same high temperatures, it would become very dry. 

Roast the turkey breast side down for 1 hour and 15 minutes, pulling it out at the 45 minute mark to baste it with the juices that have fallen into the pan.  

 After 1 hour and 15 minutes, remove from oven and turn the turkey breast side up.

Trick #4: Inject juices
At this point, I like to take a marinade injector and inject the juices from the pan back into the turkey, especially in the breast area. This
Baste again and brush on the remaining butter.
Place the turkey back in the oven and roast again for another 30 minutes. After that, begin checking the turkey temperature every 10 minutes to check for doneness. The turkey is done when a thermometer thrust into the breast reads 165°F. The deepest part of the thigh should read between 170°F. to 175°F.

Remove the turkey and let it rest for 20-30 minutes.

To carve the turkey:
Place the turkey breast side up on a cutting board. Cut the skin between the thigh and the body of the turkey. Cut in while using a fork to peel the leg away from the body.  Cut through the joint to remove the thigh and the drumstick. Place the leg flat on a cutting board. Separate the thigh from the drumstick by cutting through the joint. Cut the meat off the sides of the thigh bone. Cut the meat off the drumstick. Repeat on the other leg. Remove the wings by pulling them away from the body and and thrusting a knife through the joint to sever. One all the limbs have been removed, cut through the skin along the keel bone. Angle the blade out a little and cut down along the bone to remove the breast. Do the same on the other side. Cut the breast meat against the grain into thin slices.

What to do with leftovers?
Of course there's always turkey sandwiches with the delicious cranberry sauce or a turkey noodle soup, but we like to make these turkey taquitos for a twist on the traditional.

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Mom's Taco Pizza

In the spring this year, I decided to do a 10-day green smoothie cleanse. I felt great . . . until my parents came to visit over the weekend and my mom made this pizza. I was on day 8 all I wanted to do was eat it! [Note to self: no cleanses when company comes to visit.] I've been wanting to make it ever since I watched everyone else eat mouth is watering just thinking about it. And this week, I finally did it. It's a great weeknight meal that comes together very quickly and is very filling and satisfying. 

The measurements below are estimations. You can't really go wrong with this. After the crust, add as much as you'd like of each ingredient and enjoy. 

1 pre-prepared Pizza Crust
1 15 oz can refried black beans (or refried beans of your preference)
**chunks of rotisserie chicken (I didn't add this to mine, but my mom put it on hers)
2 cups shredded cheese (Monterray Jack and Cheddar)
1 small package mixed spring greens
1 avocado, sliced
1/3 cup shredded queso seco
fresh spicy salsa (to your liking)

Preheat the oven to 450. Spread black beans to cover the crust leaving a thin edge along the outside of the crust. Sprinkle shredded cheese to cover beans. 

Reduce oven temperature to 425 and bake crust with beans and cheese for 8-10 minutes or until cheese is melted. 

Remove the crust from the oven. Let cool slightly and add greens, pico, queso seco (Mexican dry cheese), and sliced avocados.

Cut into pizza slices and serve with your choice of spicy salsa . . . we like this one.

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Grilled Corn Tacos with Zucchini Radish Pico

If I had to choose one type of food that I had to eat for the rest of my life, I'm pretty sure it would be Mexican food. You just can't go wrong with tortillas and the countless ways to fill or fry them. My girls and I spent a week with summer with my mom and my sister at her house in Oregon. While we were there, we tried some new delicious recipes . . . ones that wouldn't necessarily fly as "dinner" at my house since my husband doesn't prefer dinner dishes that don't have any beef, chicken, or fish in them. Now, I know this isn't necessarily an "authentic" Mexican dish, but I'd still classify it as Mexican-inspired dinner. And a quick and healthy one at that!

Pico Ingredients:
1 bunch red radishes
1 small zucchini
2 limes
salt and pepper

Filler Ingredients:
4 ears corn on the cob
2 Tbsp butter
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 medium yellow onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 bunch cilantro (or more if you like)
1/2 cup queso cotija (crumbled)
1/4 tsp chipotle powder

12 small corn tortillas

Begin by preparing the pico. Slice the zucchini and radishes into small pieces. Salt, pepper, and cumin to taste. Add juice from one lime and mix. Set aside and let flavors soak.

For the filling: Grill 4 ears corn on the cob. When ears cool enough to handle, slice corn from the cob and set aside. Salute onion in butter and olive oil until translucent. Add garlic and let onions caramelize. Add corn on the cob and heat through. Remove from heat and add the juice of one lime, chipotle powder and cilantro. 

Heat tortillas in frying pan until they bubble. Keep in aluminum foil or tortilla warmer wrapped in a towel until ready to serve tacos. 

Fill each tortilla with a couple of small spoonfuls of the filling and pico. Top with crumbled cheese and more cilantro, if desired. Garnish with anything you like (i.e. sour cream, avocado, spicy salsa). Eat and repeat until satisfied. 

Monday, August 10, 2015

Grilled Salmon with Guacamole

Before grilling season is over and everyone is making soups to stay warm, I thought I'd keep my promise to my dear friend, Lisa, and post this recipe that my family and I loved. It was the perfect summer evening meal and was super quick to throw together.

Ingredients for Salmon Spice Rub:
2 lbs salmon, pre-portioned or cut into 4 pieces
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 tsp salt
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp paprika powder
1/2 tsp chili powder
1 tsp black pepper

Ingredients for Guacamole:
2 avocados, mashed
1/2 small red onion, diced fine
2 limes, juiced
1/2 bunch finely chopped cilantro
salt, cumin, and pepper to taste (I usually add much more salt than cumin, and less pepper than cumin)

Mix the ingredients for the rub and rub the salmon fillets with olive oil and the seasoning mix.
Let the salmon rest for 30 minutes and take in the flavors from the rub.
In the meantime, combine the guacamole ingredients and mix well.
Heat the grill (I like to use my George Foreman for convenience and speed). Grill salmon to desired doneness (4-5 minutes).

Top with guacamole and serve with grilled corn and watermelon.