Friday, November 14, 2008

Gifts From the Kitchen

The fires burn, and the kettles sing,
and the earth sinks to rest until next
spring. ~Clyde Watson

The following recipes are great for giving as gifts with a basket of muffins or scones. You can also take any of them to potlucks surrounded by breads and muffins on a pretty platter. Feel free to use regular, light or fat free cream cheese for these recipes.

Cranberry Cheese Spread

2 (8-ounce) packages cream cheese, softened
1/4 cup confectioners' sugar
6-ounce package sweetened dried cranberries
1/2 cup flaked coconut
15-ounce can crushed pineapple, well drained
1/2 cup chopped, toasted pecans, divided

In a mixing bowl, combine softened cream cheese and sugar. Add the dried cranberries, reserving 1/4 cup of the cranberries, coconut (if desired), drained pineapple and pecans into cream cheese mixture. Spoon into a serving bowl and sprinkle with reserved dried cranberries. Cover and refrigerate several hours. Serve the dip with gingersnaps, as a spread for bread, muffins or scones.

Pumpkin Butter Recipe

2 1/2 cups pumpkin; cooked and pureed (fresh or canned)
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup apple cider
1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp. ground cloves
1/4 tsp. ground ginger
1/4 tsp. ground nutmeg

Combine all of the ingredients in a heavy saucepan. Bring to a boil; reduce heat and simmer, uncovered, for 10 minutes or until the mixture thickens. Cover and chill. Serve with pancakes, waffles, scones, muffins or bread.

Pumpkin Cream Cheese Dip/Spread

8 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
10 ounces pureed pumpkin
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
2/3 cup confectioners' sugar

Blend the cream cheese and sugar until smooth with a mixer. Add pumpkin and remaining ingredients. Mix until smooth. Chill 2 hours or until ready to serve. Serve with gingersnaps, apples, pears, breads, muffins or scones.

Toffee Spread

8 ounces softened cream cheese
1/2 cup brown sugar-packed
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 pkg. toffee baking bits

Stir all ingredients together. Slice the apples and arrange on a plate or platter with the apple spread in center. You can also serve it as a spread with any type of apple bread or muffin.

Cinnamon Apple Spread

1 pkg. (8 oz.) cream cheese, softened
3 tbsp. apple cider
1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
3/4 cup finely chopped apple

BEAT cream cheese, apple juice and cinnamon in a medium bowl with an electric mixer at medium speed until light and fluffy. Stir in apple. Refrigerate at least 1 hour to blend flavors. SERVE as a spread on breads,muffins, fruit slices or wafer cookies. Makes 1 1/2 cups.

We have more savory gifts from the kitchen on OFL here:

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Fall and Winter Herb Care

Gratitude is the fairest blossom
which springs from the soul.
~Henry Ward Beecher

At this point it's best in cool weather climates to avoid any pruning or fertilizing of the perennial herbs. You can still snip what you need for cooking. Thyme, savory and tarragon should be harvested/pruned a month and 1/2 or so before the first frost. You can mulch in the winter but do it with something that won't get soggy or become heavy.

If you have heavy frost in your area you will want to dig up and bring in your rosemary, lemon verbena, lemongrass, scented geraniums, pineapple sage, bay laurel. Lemon verbena will lose its leaves soon even when brought inside. Place it in a sunny window, water occasionally and it will start coming around as it
ends it's dormancy. Rosemary needs a very sunny window and water when dry. It won't lose its leaves like verbena, and you can harvest lightly throughout the winter months. It does like a little humidity so misting is helpful. Cut back lemongrass about halfway and place in a sunny window for the winter.

You should be able to keep harvesting savory, thyme and sage until Thanksgiving and in many locations until after Christmas. I love fresh sage in dressings and I put it inside the turkey or chicken cavities also.

Chives can be brought inside, but you need to wait until after Christmas to get them past their period of dormancy. Dig up a smaller bunch now and pot it in fresh putting soil. Leave it outside and bring it inside later. It should start growing again in a few days.

All indoor herbs need at least 5-6 hours of sun a day. A sunny windowsill is great, but remember to turn the pots so they don't "lean" to the sunny side. Also be sure the herbs aren't actually touching the window glass. You can also try fluorescent lights if
you have room. Place the light 6-8 inches or so above the plants and leave them on for 12-14 hours each day.

We have more recipes and tips on using herbs with poultry:

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Thanksgiving Turkey Tips

Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos to order, confusion to clarity. It can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend. Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today, and creates a vision for tomorrow. ~Melody Beattie

Today we are talking turkey! The first tip I have is for those watching their salt intake. Check the sodium on the frozen turkey before buying it. Some can have up to 350 mg of salt for EACH serving because of the baste injected. Some of the brands are soaked in brine. So, if you are watching your sodium check the labels. Below are more turkey tips sent in to us.

*I make a Thanksgiving check list and keep it from year to year on my computer, so I don't have to re-invent the wheel.

*I go over my list with my Daughter, and we have a special "bonding" time on Wednesday before Thanksgiving, to make our dressing. She has learned the family recipe, "Mom's Giblet Dressing" but can never get it to taste like mine, despite the fact that we are side by side working. I say, "Debi, it is in Mother's Hands"

* Cook the Turkey neck for about 2-2 1/2 hours and the meat will just fall off the bone. No struggling with trying to cut it off the neck.

* Cut up my bread for dressing the day before and leave out to dry, or leave the whole slice of bread out on a tray.

* Peel the potatoes and place in cold water in the refrigerator the day before. Makes your potatoes much nicer. Pull out when ready to cook, and change the water.

* Warm the milk and butter for the mashed potatoes ~ no lumps!

* I buy "fresh" bulk Rubbed Sage and Poultry Seasonings from the Health Food Store. I can measure out just what I need, and I pitch or freeze the rest. No using seasonings that have been saved since the last Turkey day. Be careful not to overdo when making your dressing, as they are much stronger than the bottles from the store.

What we grew up with for a Thanksgiving meal is pretty much a family tradition, and it is hard to change all the families taste buds. Memories of what they "expect" on Thanksgiving Day is the key~ You could have wonderful side dishes that were different and they would still want the "same old thing".

Slow Cooker Dressing

1 cup butter
2 cups finely chopped onions
2 cups finely chopped celery
1/4 cup minced parsley ( I don't use this as it makes it dark)
6 cups slightly dry white bread ( I use one can of 10 count cheap biscuits)
6 cups slightly dry corn bread ( I make one pan of cornbread)
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon poultry seasoning
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoons sage
4 cups broth
2 eggs well beaten

Day before: Cook breads and chop celery and onions.

Morning of: Saute onions and bread in the butter in microwave till tender In large bowl: Mix breads, baking powder and seasonings. Pour over vegetable mixture. Pour broth over bread mixture. Add eggs and mix well. Pack lightly in a 4 quart slow cooker. (I use 3 1/2 quart and it works fine) Cover and cook on high for 30 minutes. Reduce heat to low and cook 5 to 6 hours. To bake in oven, bake 1 hr at 350 degrees. Very moist and delicious, plus it frees up your oven. I found this recipe many years ago and will never make dressing any other way. It is wonderful. ~Treva


Many of you may have used bacon to moisten and/or season foods like meatloaf or poultry. Watching a cooking show during the holidays, where the bacon was reserved for breakfast the next day, I got an idea for a "jerky" type crust for turkey. As with herb crusts I have written about before, the benefit of making a crust on your roast is the excellent moisture retention in the meat and the flavoring provided by the crust. Here is another way to go at it, and you wind up with an edible 'jerky' or sausage meat-- a two-fer!

NOTE: When cooking a whole turkey for each 5-6 pounds of turkey you will need 1 pound of sausage/herb combination - see recipe for making your own turkey sausage**)

1 5-6 pound turkey breast or whole roasting chicken
1 pound ground turkey* (or combination of ground turkey/sausage meat)
1/2 to 3/4 cup finely chopped herbs

(example: I used sage, thyme, oregano, basil, garlic chives, parsley,
rosemary, lavender and ginger--you can use whatever smells
and tastes good to you).

1 medium onion
1 carrot
1 stalk of celery
Sprinkle of Ms. Pinch (Catherine's salt substitute blend)
1 teaspoon salt

Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees. Cut onion, carrot and celery into 3/4 inch slices and arrange as a bed in the bottom of a roasting pan. Arrange turkey on top, sprinkle lightly with Ms. Pinch (or any flavorful salt-free seasoning of your choice). Meanwhile mix
herbs, salt and ground turkey together as if you were making meatballs. Pat this mixture all over the top of the turkey, making sure the layer is evenly thick all over, roughly 1/4 inch thick.

Roast at 400 for 30 minutes, then reduce temperature to 350, cooking until done and internal temperature registers 165. Remove from oven and let sit without cutting for 15 minutes. Remove 'jerky' and reserve for crumbling over salad, to use with breakfast the next morning or as a jerky-like nibble. The underside will be slightly moist and the exterior crusty, and your turkey incredibly moist and full of flavor.

Note: * They really do not sell ground meat in one pound packages any more - 1 1/4 pounds will work fine (the typical size of a '1 pound' package these days).


1 Pound Lean Ground Turkey
1/4 C. Shredded Apple***
1 Tablespoon Apple Sauce***
1/4 Teaspoon Cumin
1/4 Teaspoon Pepper
1/4 Teaspoon Cayenne Pepper
3/4 Teaspoon Fresh Marjoram
3/4 Teaspoon Fresh Oregano
1 1/2 Teaspoon Fresh Basil
1 1/2 Teaspoon Fresh Thyme
1 1/2 Teaspoon Fresh Sage
1/8 Teaspoon Garlic Powder
(or, half Teaspoon Fresh Garlic)
1/8 Teaspoon Nutmeg
1/8 Teaspoon Ginger
(or, half Teaspoon Fresh Grated Ginger)

Mix all together well. Let set in refrigerator for a couple of hours for flavors to meld. Freeze or use right away.

Note: The apple sauce and apple replace the fat in the lean meat.

Thanksgiving Traditions: Nine great ideas for families!

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

We Remember

Today is Veteran's Day in the United States and RemembranceDay in Canada and Australia. All three countries use this poignant poem written by Lieutenant-Colonel John McCrae in May of 1915 to honor their veterans and express their losses. Colonel McCrae was a member of the Royal Canadian Army Medical Corps and was working on the front lines, aiding fallen soldiers when he wrote this poem. I hope that each of us, regardless of our political opinions and our differences, can take a moment today and send our thoughts and prayers to the families of those who sacrificed for their country.

In Flanders Fields:

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe;
To you, from failing hands, we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Dumplings Like Grandma Used to Make

The wild gander leads his flock through the cool night,Ya-honk! he says, and sounds it down to me like an invitation: The pert may suppose it meaningless, but I listen closer,I find its purpose and place up there toward the November sky. ~Walt Whitman

One of my readers had sent in this question, and it turned out to be a wonderful topic that many were interested in. Dumplings are one of my favorite foods, especially with turkey. I don't make them often because I eat too many of them!

My Grandmother used to make rolled out dumplings to go with her chicken. They were paper thin and so yummy. Unfortunately it was one of those recipes where she just
made a well in the flour and added the ingredients until it "felt right". Does anyone have a recipe for rolled out dumplings to go with chicken 'n dumplins? ~Beth

I can relate because my husband's great grandmother makes the rolled, strip type of dumplings and when I asked how to make them she didn't have a recipe either. Interestingly my mother-in-law makes the drop dumplings and some holidays we've had both kinds of dumplings with each cook watching to see who took which one:) I have
come up with 2 recipes for the strip dumplings. I suggest you try both and keep the one that you like the best!


2 cups all purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 1/4 teaspoons of salt
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons milk

Combine the flour, baking powder, 1 1/4 teaspoons salt, and milk in a medium bowl. Stir until smooth and let the dough rest for 5-10 minutes. Roll the dough out onto a floured surface to about a 1/2 inch thickness. Cut the dough into 1/2 inch squares or strips and drop one at time into simmering stock. Simmer for 20-30 minutes
until thick. Stir often.

Rolled Dumplings

3 cups all-purpose flour
3 tablespoons vegetable shortening
1 cup milk or water
1 egg, slightly beaten
1/4 teaspoon salt

Cut shortening into flour with a pastry cutter or fork. Add the remaining ingredients and mix well. On a floured surface,roll out dough to 1/8-inch thickness and cut into 2 inch strips with a sharp knife or pizza cutter. Gently drop dumplings into boiling broth. Reduce heat, cover and simmer for about 10 minutes. Makes 6 to 8 servings.

Here in my part of Ontario we have Chicken 'n' Sliders,similar to the dropped dumplings. There is no real 'recipe' because it was always done by feel. The general recipe is something like this: Boil your chicken on the stove until done then put it in the oven to crisp the skin while making the sliders. Bring the broth on the stove to boil and check the seasonings in it. Then in a medium size bowl start with one beaten egg and about a cup of the chicken broth (more if there are a lot of people). Then season it with whatever seasonings you like (usually just salt and pepper,but some may want to add other flavours). Add enough flour to make a slightly sticky dough. Place some of this on a floured surface and roll with a floured rolling pin to 1/4" or 1/8" thickness, depending on how you like it. Using a sharp knife, cut into 1" thick strips. By now the broth should be boiling so we take one strip in hand and just tear off pieces as you slide them into the boiling broth.Make sure to stir the pot every now and again so that the 'sliders' don't stick to the pan. Let them cook for about 5 or 10 minutes (we usually take one out and check it) and then serve in a bowl. I know there are actual measurements on some recipe boards, but we have always done it by feel,just like Grandma. ~ Chelsea

Here is a recipe for dumplings from Paula Deen's food show. ~Happy Thanksgiving, Sue

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
Ice water

Mix the flour with the salt and mound together in a mixing bowl. Beginning at the center of the mound, drizzle a small amount of ice water over the flour. Using your fingers, and moving from the center to the sides of the bowl, gradually incorporate about 3/4 cup of ice water. Knead the dough and form it into ball. Dust a good amount of flour onto a clean work surface. Roll out the dough (it will be firm),working from center to 1/8-inch thick. Let the dough relax for several minutes.

Cut the dough into 1-inch pieces. Pull a piece in half and drop the halves into the simmering soup. Repeat. Do not stir the chicken once the dumplings have been added. Gently move the pot in a circular motion so the dumplings become submerged and cook evenly. Cook until the dumplings float and are no longer doughy, 3 to 4 minutes. To serve, ladle chicken, gravy, and dumplings into warm

I roll out my dumplings and use the "it just feels right method" as previously described. The only difference in the recipes that I do, is to add egg, a pinch or two of baking powder, and a pinch of baking soda to add a little rise. I then roll out the dough, cut it, cover with a clean towel and let the dumplings "rise" a bit. After twenty minutes or so, I drop them into the hot broth. The baking soda, baking powder, and salt are the ingredients that give a little bit of yeast-like rise. All the recipes described by other readers for dumplings would work with this style. ~Jennifer

My mother in law would make up the dough for her buttermilk biscuits and then just roll it out and cut into strips and then drop them into the hot bubbling chicken broth. So, I'm saying that any buttermilk biscuit recipe would work for dumplings. Also one can buy the canned biscuits, plain ole regular kind and flatten each one out and then cut into strips or pinch off little balls and drop them into the hot broth, works just as well! ~Carol

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