Thanksgiving Stuffing

stuffing

Last night was had Friendsgiving with our eight of our good friends. It was a great night to spend with some of our favorite people, pretend we’re grownups, and experiment with some Thanksgiving recipes. I don’t know about y’all, but my grandmothers, aunts, and mother have the handle on the main aspects of big family holiday meals. My generation can contribute a dessert or appetizer, but none of us have graduated to the important elements like turkey, potatoes, or gravy. Because of this, I’d never made stuffing before yesterday! And I’m not going to lie… I had no idea how to do it. But thanks to my subscription to Bon Appetit and the internet, I figured it out. For my first stuffing adventure, I wanted to stay pretty traditional. My only personalizing twist was the addition of the pretzel buns. It worked out well, I think because this stuffing had great texture and flavor. (And don’t tell anyone, but I think mine was better than ones I’ve had in the past.)

friendsgiving

Which brings me to my next controversial statement. I called this “stuffing.” I grew up in Virginia and always have known the herb-y, bread-y, Thanksgiving side dish that can either be found stuffed inside a turkey or baked in a casserole dish as “stuffing.” Selim, the Ohioan, agrees. I learned last night however, that all my native South Carolinian friends refer to this as “dressing.” But they also felt like my dish “wasn’t quite dressing” like their moms/aunts/grandmas made it. What was the difference? Unclear. None of us could figure out if there truly was a difference between dressing and stuffing, or if it was just regional semantics.

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Good thing Google exists… In my googling I learned several things that sort of answered the question and sort of confused me even more. Some facts you never knew you wanted to know about stuffing:

  1. There is definitely a regional variation. The South uses the term “dressing,” while the Mid-Atlantic up through New England and most of the rest of the country prefers “stuffing.” Turns out there’s also a segment of the country (Pennsylvania Dutch country) that calls it “filling.”
  2. Many believe that “stuffing” can only be cooked inside the turkey (or another bird). This is logical based on the definition of “to stuff,” and is very commonly cited as the main difference between the two, but is not universally accepted.
  3.  Many others believe that “dressing” has a cornbread base while “stuffing” has a white bread base. This is even less universally accepted than above and likely is just based on the fact that Southern cooks frequently make their dressing/stuffing with cornbread or biscuits.
  4. The first documentation of this concept dates back more than a thousand years. Recipes for stuffing animals appeared in the Roman cookbook Apicius, which scholars date to the late 4th or early 5th century.
  5. Victorians in the mid to late 1800s first started using the word “dressing,” as “stuffing” was apparently too crude of a word. Our genteel Southern ancestors evidently agreed.
  6. The National Turkey Federation says the terms can be used interchangeably. They’re probably the closest thing we have to an expert opinion, so we’ll go with that.

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Thanksgiving Stuffing

(Recipe based on several from Bon Appetit magazineone, two, three.)
Ingredients: 
  • 4 strips of bacon
  • 1 loaf of French bread, torn
  • 4 pretzel rolls, torn
  • 2 medium onions, diced
  • 2 sticks of unsalted butter, divided (1/2 cup + 1/4 cup + more)
  • 2 tbsp fresh sage, coarsely chopped
  • 1 tbsp fresh thyme, coarsely chopped
  • 2 tbsp fresh rosemary, coarsely chopped
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • Fresh black pepper
  • 3+ cups turkey stock, divided (2 cups + more)
  • 2 large eggs
Instructions: 
  1. Tear the bread & rolls into bite-sized pieces at least 24 hours prior to making the stuffing. Let sit out to dry.
  2. On the day you’re preparing the stuffing, place the bread into a large bowl.
  3. Slice bacon into medium lardons. Saute over medium heat until slightly crispy. Remove and add into the bowl with the bread.
  4. Leave the bacon grease in the pan, lower heat slightly, and add 1/2 cup of butter.
  5. Once butter has melted, return heat to medium and add onions. Cook for 5 minutes and then add herbs, salt, and 10 turns of pepper. Continue to cook, stirring occasionally for another 8 minutes.
  6. Pour butter and onions over the bread in the bowl and toss well.
  7. Melt 1/4 cup of butter. Whisk together with 2 eggs and 2 cups of turkey stock.
  8. Pour that mixture over bread. Stir until liquid is absorbed by the bread.
  9. Add additional turkey stock by the 1/4 cup until the bread is saturated. Wait a few minutes between adding stock to ensure it all gets absorbed. (You want the bread to be very wet, but without pools of liquid in the bowl. I used an additional cup total.)
  10. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  11. Butter a large baking dish. Place the bread mixture into the dish.
  12. Butter a large piece of foil and cover the dish. Bake for 30-35 minutes.
  13. Increase oven heat to 450 degrees. Uncover and bake for a few additional minutes for a crispy top.
Serves 8-12.

Two-Way Beet Salad

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Beets are one of those vegetables that you either love or hate. I’d had beets just once that I can remember prior to when Selim and I started dating, and I hated them that one time. So for years, I never tasted another beet. Selim likes them a lot and eventually convinced me to try them again. I was skeptically, but he converted me into a beet-eater.

A lot of times we just grate a beet in with whatever other salad ingredients we’re using that day. But I wanted to make a salad that showcased the beet itself. You may think it sounds ridiculous to roast some of the beets and not others – after all, once they’re all mixed together they barely look any different! But I’d give it a whirl. The roasted beets have a different texture and flavor than the raw ones. It gives this salad a greater depth of flavor, I think.

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Two-Way Beet Salad

Ingredients: 
  • 2 medium beets
  • Olive oil, divided (2 tsp + 1 tbsp)
  • Salt & pepper
  • 2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • 1/2 tsp dried thyme
  • 2oz feta, crumbled
Instructions: 
  1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
  2. Take one of the beets – scrub clean, peel, and chop into small rectangles/squares.
  3. Toss the beet cubes in 2 tsp of olive oil and a few dashes of salt & pepper. Spread on a foil-lined cookie sheet and place in the oven on a middle rack. Roast for 20 minutes.
  4. Meanwhile, take the other beet and similarly clean it. Grate this one via one of the larger holes on your grater. Place in a large bowl.
  5. Whisk together balsamic vinegar, 1 tbsp olive oil, thyme, and a few more turns of black pepper in a small bowl.
  6. Once the roasting beets are done, add them to the bowl with the raw, shredded beets. Toss with the vinaigrette.
  7. Top with feta and serve.

Cucumbers in Peanut Sauce

April 2017 Update: I think about this recipe from time to time, and in all honesty y’all, I’m not sure I can recommend it as posted. The sauce is delicious, but I think it’s just too overwhelming for cucumbers by themselves. One time I combined the cucumber and sauce with some rice noodles and that was much better. One of these days, I’ll whip up a more cohesive dish using this sauce and share that. Standby ’til then! Or if you want, give it a whirl and tell me what you think – how would you improve it??

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There’s a recipe in the family cookbook I’ve been eyeing for a few weeks now. I love cucumbers and eat them as a snack all the time. I mostly toss them in vinegar or something similarly light. But since I’m always looking for a new recipe or a way to change things up, I thought this recipe for cucumbers with peanut sauce would be a nice change of pace. The only problem? Occasionally in our family recipe book, my mom/ aunts/ grandmothers forgot that we can’t read their minds when they were writing out their recipes. This was one of those recipes. It called for things like “the worcestershire sauce” to top “the cucumbers,” instead of actual amounts.  So I guessed a little bit.

I think it turned out pretty well. I really like the peanut sauce. I will say though… I think it’s a little heavy for the cucumbers. Maybe it’s because, as I mentioned, I usually eat cucumbers without a whole lot on top. But maybe that’s just me. And the peanut sauce is worth repeating – I just may put it on top of something a little more substantial next time.

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Cucumbers in Peanut Sauce

Recipe adapted from my family recipe-book
Ingredients: 
  • 2 Persian cucumbers, sliced
  • 1/3 cup white wine vinegar
  • 1 tbsp brown sugar
  • 1/2 tsp crushed red pepper
  • 2 tbsp oil
  • 1 large clove garlic, minced
  • 1/3 cup peanut butter
  • 1/2 tsp sesame oil
  • 1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 tsp soy sauce
Instructions: 
  1. In a large bowl, whisk together white wine vinegar, brown sugar, and crushed red pepper. Add the sliced cucumbers to the bowl and refrigerate while preparing the peanut sauce.
  2. Heat oil over medium heat in a small pan.
  3. Once oil is hot, add garlic. Flash fry for just 1 minute, then turn the heat down to low.
  4. Once oil has cooled some, stir in the peanut butter. Stir continuously until oil and peanut butter are well combined.
  5. Now lower heat even further, so burner is barely on. Stir in remaining three ingredients.
  6. Leave on very low heat, stirring frequently, for 10 minutes.
  7. Remove cucumbers from their bowl, leaving the liquid behind. Whisk together the peanut sauce and vinegar mixture.
  8. Return the cucumbers to the bowl. Refrigerate until cool before serving.

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Easy Weeknight Mediterranean Pizzas

tjpizza

We’re a big Trader Joe’s household, as we’ve probably mentioned a few times. There are several Trader Joe’s staples that we always have around for quick dinners or late night snacks. Their Greco-Roman little pizzas come two to a box and are one of our favorites. So you can imagine our disappointment when two weeks in a row there were not any in the store! What were we supposed to stock our fridge with?? Assuming they were on back-order, we asked a staff member when they’d be back. We were informed that they might have been permanently discontinued!

I was disappointed for a little while, and then I realized that I could recreate our favorite little pizza. While we usually like to post from-scratch recipes on here, I wanted to keep with the quickness and ease of a freezer boxed pizza. And since I was already at Trader Joe’s when I had this brilliant idea – all of the ingredients are from there too!

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Easy Weeknight Mediterranean Pizza

Ingredients / What you need at Trader Joe’s 🙂 
  • 1 package of naan (4 pieces)
  • 1 bottle of truffle oil (1 tsp per pizza)
  • 1 container of pizza sauce (1-2 tbsp per pizza)
  • 1 bag of mozzarella cheese (~1 oz per pizza)
  • 1 red bell pepper (chopped, divided between pizzas)
  • 1 jar kalamata olives (chopped, ~5 per pizza)
  • 4oz log goat cheese
Instructions: 
  1. Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Pour truffle oil onto each piece of naan. Spread around, all the way to the edges, with your fingers or the back of a spoon.
  3. Spoon pizza sauce on next. Spread around, leaving the edges uncovered for a crust.
  4. Top the sauced area with the shredded cheese.
  5. Follow this with the red peppers and kalamata olives. Crumble some goat cheese and add a few dollops here and there on top.
  6. Place directly on the middle rack. Bake for 15-20 minutes, depending on how crispy you like your edges!

Baked Brie with Caramelized Onion Chutney

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I’m pretty satisfied with myself. Why? Because I made another family recipe, as I’ve been wanting to do, AND I got to inhale some delicious cheese. This recipe comes from my aunt Lori. I’ve made it several times and every time wonder why I don’t make it more often. This is a great appetizer to share with friends; I made it tonight for our girls movie night. It would also be perfect for your upcoming holiday events!

brie

Baked Brie with Caramelized Onion Chutney

Ingredients: 
  • 2 tbsp butter
  • 1 medium onion, sliced
  • 1/2 cup dried cranberries (ie: Craisins)
  • 1 tbsp brown sugar
  • 1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • 1 round of Brie
  • {crackers for serving}
Instructions: 
  1. Melt butter in pan over medium heat.
  2. Add onions to the pan and toss to coat with the butter.
  3. Sauté onions for 20-30 minutes, stirring frequently. Cook until the onions are beginning to brown and are very fragrant.
  4. Add the cranberries, brown sugar, and balsamic vinegar to the pan. Cook another 5 minutes, continuing to stir occasionally.
  5. Meanwhile, heat your oven to 350 degrees. Spray a cookie sheet with cooking spray.
  6. Place the round of Brie on the cookie sheet. Bake for ~10 minutes, until it is soft and starting to melt.
  7. Slice the top rind off the Brie and spoon chutney over top.
  8. Enjoy spread on crackers!

 

Goat Cheese Smothered Spaghetti Squash

gcspagsquash

Spaghetti squash is one of those things that if you look on Pinterest, it seems that everyone is making. I had never made spaghetti squash before tonight! I’ve been wanting to, because I wanted to be cool like the other Pinterest-ers basically. When I mentioned this to Selim, he said, “I mean don’t people just pour sauce on top like it’s regular spaghetti?” So, I knew what I wasn’t making with the spaghetti squash.

What I did make was a veggie-heavy dish, that is a bit rich from the goat cheese. The spinach, dill, and goat cheese shine together, and who doesn’t love the combination of garlic, onions, and bacon in anything??

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Goat Cheese Smothered Spaghetti Squash

Ingredients: 
  • 1 large spaghetti squash
  • 2 strips of bacon
  • 3 large garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 small onion, coarsely diced
  • 6oz log of goat cheese (divided)
  • 2 tbsp water
  • 1 tbsp dill
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 8oz of fresh spinach
  • Fresh ground black pepper
Instructions: 
  1. With a large, sharp knife, slice the spaghetti squash in half. Remove the seeds and other refuse.
  2. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Place squash halves face-down on a cookie sheet. Add a couple spoonfuls of water to the pan. Roast for 45 minutes.
  3. With 5-10 minutes left in the squash roasting time, cut your bacon into small lardons. Cook over medium heat in a large pan with tall sides for 5 minutes.
  4. Once bacon has released some of its fat, add the onions and garlic to the pan. Grind 3 turns of black pepper on top. Stir briefly to coat with bacon fat. Cover the pan and sweat for 8 minutes, stirring once.
  5. In a small bowl or ramekin, stir together the water and 1 oz of goat cheese. It does not have to be smooth or fully combined.
  6. Add the water/goat cheese, dill and salt to the pan. Stir a few times so all ingredients are combined.
  7. Lower heat just a bit (I went from 5 to 4 on my stove). Add the spinach and cover. Keep lid on for 3-4 minutes. The spinach will wilt and shrink in size greatly. (If you can’t fit all of your spinach in the pan, you can add it in two batches.)
  8. Using a fork, scrape spaghetti squash into the pan.
  9. Add the rest of the goat cheese to the pan, in divided chunks.
  10. Stir, stir, stir. Stir for several minutes, ensuring the cheese melts and the squash “noodles” separate and become thoroughly coated.
  11. Taste and add more salt and pepper as needed.
Serves 4.

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Cinnamon Buns

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Yesterday was Selim’s birthday! We celebrated by both having weekend shifts at the hospital. I was only there until 11pm, while he was there overnight, setting me up perfectly to make him post-birthday breakfast. Usually he’s the breakfast guy… It basically requires heavy machinery to drag me out of bed in the morning. But I always get excited for a good surprise, so out of bed I went!

I have two broad goals that I’ve been working on recently in terms of picking new recipes to try. 1) I’ve been wanting to bake more. Baking makes me nervous. You can’t taste it halfway through and adjust. Once it’s in the oven, you’re stuck with it. And 2) I’ve been wanting to make more family recipes from the family cookbook. These things, plus the fact that Selim has been eyeing the massive cinnamon buns at the farmer’s market the past few times we’ve been there, sent me to my Aunt Bobbie’s recipe for homemade cinnamon buns. All of my aunts are great chefs, but my Aunt Bobbie might win in terms of baking. She creates amazing desserts, not to mention really delicious breads and rolls. (Here’s to hoping no other aunts read this post 😉 !)

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Update 11/8/16: We decided to submit this recipe to Our Growing Edge, a monthly recipe link-up. The goal of this is to encourage the participants to conquer a food-related goal. As I mentioned above, I’ve been wanting to bake more – I think I’ve made good progression towards this goal with this recipe! This month’s link-up is hosted by Alicia at Alicia’s Bits ‘n Bobs

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Cinnamon Buns

Recipe courtesy of Ally’s Aunt Bobbie
Ingredients: 
  • Dough
    • 2 packages of yeast
    • 1/2 cup warm water
    • 1/2 tsp + 1/3 cup sugar
    • 3 cups + 1 1/2 cups flour
    • 1 tsp salt
    • 1 cup milk
    • 1 1/3 cup vegetable oil
    • 2 eggs
  • Filling
    • 1/2 cup butter, softened
    • 1 cup brown sugar
    • 1/2 cup sugar
    • 2 tbsp cinnamon
    • 1/2 tsp vanilla
  • Icing
    • 1/4 cup powdered sugar
    • 1 tsp vanilla
    • Several tsp warm milk
Instructions: 
  1. Stir yeast and 1/2 tsp sugar into the warm water. Let sit for 5+ minutes, until the liquid begins to froth.
  2. Scald the cup of milk. That is, bring it to just under a boil and then remove from heat and allow to cool.
  3. Meanwhile, sift together 3 cups of flour, 1/3 cup of sugar, and salt in the bowl of your stand mixer.
  4. At low speed, begin adding the wet ingredients to the bowl (yeast/water, milk, oil, and eggs). Beat until well-blended.
  5. Now slowly add the remaining flour while the mixer is set on low speed. You may or may not use exactly 1 1/2 additional cups – keep slowly adding until the dough pulls away from the sides of the bowl.
  6. Turn the dough out onto a floured countertop. Knead for 5-10 minutes until elastic and smooth.
  7. Place dough in a large greased bowl. Cover. Allow to rise for ~1 hour.
  8. Cream together all of the filling ingredients.
  9. Once the dough has risen, return it to your floured countertop. Use a rolling pin and roll out into a rectangular shape. [My aunt suggests roughly 10 x 18. I didn’t measure.]
  10. Spread the filling mixture generously across all of the dough except for the very edges (leave ~1/2 inch).
  11. Now roll the dough very tightly. The result will be a long log.
  12. Using a large sharp knife, slice the log on the horizontal. Aim for your slices to be approximately 1 inch thick. Remove each slice to a foil-lined cookie sheet.
    • The ends of the log might not look as pretty. You can discard or gobble down the misshapen ones while no one is looking.
  13. Again, let them rise – this time about 30 minutes.
  14. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.
  15. Bake for 20 minutes. Check on them towards the end – as the edges just start to turn golden, they’re done!
  16. While the buns are baking, whisk together your icing. Start with the sugar. Add the vanilla. Slowly add milk by the teaspoon until you achieve your desired consistency.
  17. Drizzle icing over the buns to serve. (I think they’re also delicious sans icing, but some might think that’s sacrilege.)
Makes 12-16 cinnamon buns.