Uncle Allan and Aunt Ginny’s Mushroom Pie

Aunt Ginny, Uncle Alan, Nana and Granddad

I love mushrooms and often, I wonder if this love is somehow genetic, as most of my family shares my love affair. In the Fall, I find mushrooms to be so seasonal–the rustic, forest-y flavors are a perfect compliment to hearty dishes like stews and roasts.

My Uncle Allan and Aunt Ginny make this mushroom pie every Thanksgiving and apparently, my Nana (mother to Uncle Allan) loved it and had seconds! I will be bringing this to the Thanksgiving feast at my Mom’s house this year.

Uncle Allan says he typically makes it the day before and then warms it up after the Turkey is finished and resting. It is a great dish to make for your own feast or to bring along to a potluck.

Mushroom Pie
Makes eight servings

8 cups coarsely chopped mushrooms
2 cups chopped onions
1 t. dried thyme leaves
1/4 t. salt
1/4 cup light cream cheese

2 1/4 cup all purpose flour (reserve 1 tablespoon to roll crust
1/4 t. salt
2 t. baking powder
1/2 cup margarine
1/2 cup nonfat sour cream
1 T. low fat milk

Preheat oven to 400ºF.  
To prepare filling: Spray large non stick skillet with cooking spray; place over medium heat.  Add onions; cook, stirring frequently, 4-5 mins until tender.  Stir in mushrooms; cook, stirring frequently, 2 mins. Sprinkle vegetable mixture with thyme and salt, cook, stirring frequently, 4-5 mins until mixture is tender.  Add cream cheese; stir until cream cheese is melted. Remove from heat and set aside.
To prepare crust: In a large bowl, combine flour, baking powder and salt; blend. With a pastry blender or 2 knives, cut in margarine until mixture resembles coarse crumbs.  Add sour cream, stir until mixture forms a soft dough.
Sprinkle clean work surface with reserved 1T of flour; roll 2/3 of dough into a 12” circle.  Fit dough into a 9” pie plate.  Transfer filling to crust-lined pie plate.
Roll remaining dough into a 10”x7” rectangle about ¼” thick.  Cut into 10”x1” strips.  Weave into lattice over filling; pinch edges of crust and lattice together; flute rim.  Brush lattice topping and crust rim evenly with milk; bake 30-40 mins until crust is golden brown.  
Let stand 10 minutes before cutting.

Roasted Carrots and Parsnips with Dill

Kristine, with Oscar, my nephew and  muse. 

This recipe is from my dear and crazy friend Kristine. We used to work together at CBRE in the marketing department. I think we ate lunch together every day for at least a year–enjoying all the fantastic food that Center City has to offer. 

I love this side–especially the beautiful Fall colors of the carrots and parsnips. Pop these in the oven about 15 minutes before your Turkey is finished. The dish will cook while your turkey rests and waits for carving!

The good:
2 pounds carrots, unpeeled
4 pounds parsnips, peeled
6 Tbsps. good olive oil
2 Tbsps. Melted butter
2 Tbsps. kosher salt
3 tsps. freshly ground black pepper
4 Tbsps. minced fresh dill (you can use more or less, depending upon your love of dill)
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.
If the parsnips and carrots are very thick, cut them in half lengthwise. Slice each diagonally in 1-inch-thick slices. The vegetables will shrink while cooking, so don’t make the pieces too small. Place the cut vegetables on a roasting pan. Add the olive oil, butter, salt, and pepper and toss well. Roast for 30 to 40 minutes, until the largest piece is fork-tender, tossing occasionally. Sprinkle with dill and serve hot. (yields 8 servings)

Nana’s Fabulous Stuffing

The original recipe

My Aunt Ginny reminded me that I come from a heritage of Thanksgiving stuffing.  While I still believe there is absolutely no shame in Stove Top (or canned cranberry sauce or pre-made gourmet side dishes); my heart yearns to make homemade, moist and carb-tastic stuffing. The best part of this recipe is that is so easy and with a little dramatic flair, you can make it spectacular!

Every year I make this recipe–straight from my Nana’s recipe box. There are four different variations that I have made:
1. The recipe, straight up
2. The recipe plus mushrooms to make: Wild Mushroom Stuffing
3. The recipe plus sausage to make: Sweet and Savory Sausage Stuffing
4. The recipe plus bacon and oysters to make: Oyster Stuffing

Pick your favorite or come up with another addition–it is so yummy, you might just make it year round!

Nana’s Fabulous Stuffing-the straight up version
1/2 lb of butter (Nana’s says or margarine, but I feel margarine is criminal)
1/2 cup minced onion

Me and my Nana, November 1977

12 cups cubes of bread (you have two options: grab a loaf of italian bread and cut it up the night before. or buy a bag of bread cubes in the stuffing aisle)
1 1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp poultry seasoning
1 cup celery diced
4-6 Tablespoons minced flat leaf parsley
1/2 tsp black pepper
1 cup of milk (my favorite) or stock-turkey/chicken
1 egg

Melt butter. Add onion & simmer until it is partly cooked. Add chopped celery and cook until nearly tender. Add salt, pepper, parsley and poultry seasoning. Blend well and add bread cubes.
Beat egg into milk or stock. Add egg/liquid mixture to stuffing. Stuff your turkey and/or spread into a buttered casserole dish and bake for 30 minutes (covered) and an additional 30 minutes uncovered, until heated through.

For Wild Mushroom Stuffing:Stir in 2 cups of sliced, mixed mushrooms (white, shitake, oyster, whatever you love) with onions. Follow the rest of the recipe

For Sweet and Savory Sausage Stuffing: Brown 12 oz of bulk sausage. Drain, but reserve 1 tablespoon of drippings in pan. Melt butter in drippings and follow recipe. Before adding the egg/liquid mixture, stir in browned sausage. Bake as directed. 

For Oyster Stuffing: Brown 1/2 pound of chopped bacon. Drain, reserving 1 tablespoon of drippings in pan. Melt butter in drippings and follow recipe. Before adding the egg/liquid mixture, stir in 1/2 cup chopped oysters.  Bake as directed. 

Jessie’s Fab Rum + Pecan Sweet Potatoes

So, this is so yummy! Try this great pecan-topped sweet potato casserole from my friend Jessie.  I’ve known Jessie for 25 years–since Kindergarten. She is a fabulous cook and comes from a cooking family. Enjoy this delicious rum and pecan sweet potato casserole–a very grown up version of the marshmallow topped sweet potato concoction. 

I think this would be great with either clear rum or a yummy spiced rum like Captain Morgan’s. 
Jessie’s Mamie cooking for Thanksgiving

Rum + Pecan Sweet Potatoes
4 large sweet potatoes (to equal 3 cups when mashed)
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup butter (room temperature/softened, if needed, so it will blend well)
1/2 tsp lemon juice
1/4 cup rum
1/4 cup raisins
1/2 tsp ginger
2 eggs, beaten
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/3 cup milk
1/4 tsp allspice

Cook potatoes until tender. Peel and mash potatoes. Combine with all other ingredients.
Put in buttered-casserole dish (or similar – we use a rectangular glass pan).

Melt the following ingredients for topping.
First melt 1/3 cup butter,
then add 3/4 cup brown sugar
1 tbsp flour
1 cup chopped pecans

Pour topping over casserole. Bake at 350 degrees for 25 minutes.

Serves 10 people.

Allergy notes: Can be made with non-dairy butter + any non-dairy milk (we’ve used soy, rice, and coconut) + any non-wheat flour. Tastes the same. Same cooking time.

Brine it, baste it, behold it: My Favorite Turkey-Part 2

Okay, so if you’ve brined your Turkey, you are so ready for Part 2.  If you choose not to brine, you can still follow this portion of the recipe.

The morning of Thanksgiving, remove your turkey from the brine, pat it dry with paper towels and let it stand at room temperature for 2 hours. My Mother, the public health nut, always panics when the turkey is sitting out and I have to restrict her access to the kitchen; but trust me, the 2 hours is okay. The turkey skin dries a little, the turkey warms up and it all plays into the fabulous end result.

With “drying”, cooking and post cooking standing time, you will need to allow 6 1/2 hours to get your bird ready to eat.

Brined Turkey
2 sticks of unsalted butter, melted
1/4 cup of butter, softened
1 cup of white wine, I typically use a pinot grigio
Stuffing–if you stuff your bird OR if you prefer stuffing separate, one onion, halved
Large piece or two of cheesecloth

1. After your bird warms for 2 hours, preheat your oven to 425F.
2. Stir together melted butter and wine in a large bowl. Fold cheesecloth so that it is big enough to cover most of your turkey. Immerse the cheese cloth in butter mixture and soak it for a few minutes.
3. Place the turkey, breast side up on rack set in a roasting pan. Season the cavity with salt and pepper. Stuff with your stuffing OR onion. Tie the legs together with twine. Fold neck flap under and then rub the turkey with softened butter. Season the outside with salt and pepper.
4. Remove cheesecloth from butter mixture and wring out. Lay cheesecloth over turkey. Reserve butter mixture.
5. Place turkey, legs first in oven. Roast 30 minutes and baste the cheesecloth with reserved wine and butter mixture. Reduce temperature to 350F
6. Roast and brushing every 30 minutes for another 2 1/2 hours.
7. Remove cheesecloth and baste with pan juices until a temperature reads 180F, about an hour.
8. Transfer to a plate or cutting board. Let turkey stand at least 30 minutes before carving.

Brine it, baste it, behold it: My Favorite Turkey-Part 1

Behold it!

This my favorite roast Turkey recipe. It has its roots in Martha Stewart (who I think should adopt me) and in my own brand of cooking alchemy.  This year will be my sixth year roasting this juicy, golden yummy piece of Thanksgiving heaven.

The brine has simple ingredients. The turkey is basted in butter and wine as it roasts–it is picture perfect and tastes beautifully as well.

Plan on ordering a fresh turkey from a local farm in early November. Or picking up your frozen turkey from the grocery store a few weeks before Thanksgiving. Pickings can be slim in the days right before the big day. A good rule of thumb is to provide 1 1/2 -2 pounds of turkey per person. If your turkey is frozen, start defrosting it early and allow 24 hours for every 5 pounds of turkey.

Some things you need before you dive in–a brining bag or a super large stock pot that your turkey plus brine can fit in; space in your fridge for stock pot; cheese cloth; a roasting pan with a raised rack;  a silicon oven safe brush and a meat thermometer.

Brine it

Brine it!

Brining results in moist, flavorful meat. It works, apparently, through reverse osmosis and diffusion. I could pretend to fully understand this (this is why Nana needed Granddad and my Uncle Allan–for these techie issues), but I just know it works and the meat is tender, juicy and yummy. Cooks Illustrated has a fabulous explanation; just don’t get caught up in the fears of non-crispy skin–we will get to that later.

You will make the brine on Wednesday morning, let it cool, and then put the turkey in the brine and refrigerate until Thanksgiving morning.

Here’s what you need:

  • Your turkey–I usually get a 15-18 pounder. This recipe will work for more or less weight.; remove the giblets, save if you are into that and keep the tag from the turkey that lists the weight
  • 3 cups coarse salt
  • 5 cups sugar
  • 2 medium onions, skins on, washed and coarsely chopped
  • 2 carrots, peeled and coarsely chopped
  • 2 celery stalks, leaves on, coarsely chopped
  • 3 bay leaves
  • Couple sprigs fresh thyme
  • Handful of fresh parsley
  • 1 tablespoon whole peppercorns
Grab your enormous stock pot and put all ingredients (EXCEPT FOR THE TURKEY) in with 10 cups of water. Bring to a boil, stirring constantly until the salt and sugar have dissolved. Remove from heat, let the brine cool completely. 
Grab your bird and place the turkey breast first into the stock pot (or toss the whole caboodle in a brining bag) with the brine and cover (use the lid or plastic wrap). Place everything in the fridge for up to 24 hours. 

Take a Time Out!: Thanksgiving Place Mat

So, I love this from the new Blog, Take a Time Out! A great craft if you have a bunch of little one’s to keep busy on Thanksgiving. Adorable!

Take a Time Out!: Thanksgiving Place Mat: “Looking for something to occupy an hour or so of your child’s time? Here is a great Thanksgiving craft idea that helps show your child all …”

Ain’t no shame in Stove Top: Eight simple steps to a fabulous Thanksgiving!

Chloe’s first Thanksgiving in 2009-my little sleeping Turkey. 

Anyone who knows me that I am both disorganized and highly creative–a toxic, yet super fun mix.  Cooking and feasting and celebrating, however, bring out my inner-organizational diva (even if she is wearing mismatched socks).  Whether at my house or my parent’s home, I cook the Thanksgiving feast every year with the help of anyone who isn’t scared of being bossed around and who won’t comment on my unique sock choice.

Try these eight simple steps to a fabulous and organized Thanksgiving and you have plenty of energy for Black Friday shopping!

1. Brainstorm your menu 
Gather a stack of cookbooks, magazines, recipe boxes, entries from your favorite websites and blogs and of course, all the yummy food on Nana’s Fabulous Life!  Ask yourself–who are your guests? What dietary restrictions am I up against? How many are coming? What foods are must-haves?  Make a list.  Be sure to include appetizers, beverages, main entrees,  sides, bread, dessert and even ideas for using leftovers.  Make your list big–later you can pare it down.

2. Turkey or Tofu?

Lily, Thanksgiving 2008, feet up.

A big roast turkey is the obvious choice for a main dish–but maybe something else suits your guests or you just don’t like or want to prepare an entire turkey or you want some variety or you are a vegetarian.  Other fabulous Thanksgiving options include: fried turkey, the scary and fascinating Turducken, ham, tofu turkey, baked ziti, macaroni  and cheese, turkey breast, turkey london broil or even something totally different. The options are endless–pick what appeals and serves you–not what is traditional.

3.  Ain’t no shame in Stove Top

Take a critical eye to your list and turn it from brainstorm to menu. Decide what items you will cook, what you will ask guests to bring and what items you will buy pre-cooked or nearly pre-cooked. There are so many great and simple options–like Stove Top. Who cares whether you chopped up the stale bread for stuffing or opened a box and added water–it is good. And don’t be afraid  to ask guests to bring something for the meal–your Great Aunt’s famous sweet potatoes will make the meal a family meal and save you valuable time. 

4.  Raid your pantry

Now you’ve made a list. raid your pantry–see what you already have on-hand and can incorporate into a menu. Check your freezer, refrigerator and spice cabinet, you will be surprised at what inspiration and ingredients you already have. As you go, feel free to edit your menu a little–maybe you have a boat load of string beans and can swap out the roasted carrots. 
Also check your china cabinet and kitchen for serving platters and the necessary cooking gear. If you are missing something critical–like say, a roasting pan, add it to your shopping list. If you plan to have a formal table setting, check on your cloth napkins, silverware and dishes–make sure you have enough for all your guests. 

Cooking in my PJS. No socks this year. 

5. Plan your time
Look at your menu and your shopping list and make a timeline of shopping and preparation. Don’t leave everything until Thanksgiving eve or morning or 1 hour before dinner. Work cleaning and catastrophe into your timeline–you need a clean kitchen to function and a cushion for when you accidently light something on fire or the dog steals the turkey, etc.

6. Prep for leftovers
I know this sounds overwhelming–but really it saves a load of hassle and Black Friday grocery shopping. When planning your Thanksgiving shopping list, make sure to add plastic food storage containers (great for you and great for guests to take away leftovers) and any special ingredients you may need to make your leftovers work for you. I always make Turkey Clubs for lunch the next day, so I make sure I have bacon, bread, lettuce and tomato. If you plan to make broth from the turkey bones, grab what you need to make the stock and the soup. Think through your leftovers and make it part of the plan.

7. Let go of your “Darlings”
My favorite college professor, Dr. Marra, always told me that I needed to let go of my “darlings.” He was talking about those fine little details and lovely little bits that I had trouble editing out of my writing. For Thanksgiving, let go of all your “darlings-” let go of the expectation that everything will be perfect, let go of last minute and maybe unnecessary items on your shopping list, let go of everything homemade and embrace the Stove Top. It will all be okay and much more fun.

8. Give Thanks
Cooking, organizing and cleaning are really time consuming and exhausting and can be stress inducing–but you have a meal to cook, a menu to organize and a house clean. So many others don’t. Give thanks, first, last and everywhere in between. And laugh. Really, if life was a sitcom, a towel on fire and a dog who consumed an entire 23 lb turkey would be really, really, really funny. And you will be thankful for the chance to laugh.

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