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November 2011

Easy Whole Cranberry Sauce Muffins

Easy Whole Cranberry Sauce Muffins2

I generally like to make my own cranberry sauce for holiday dinners, but if you happen to have some extra cans of Ocean Spray cranberry sauce in your cupboards, this is a great way to use it up. They muffins are great for winter morning brunch and are incredibly moist. Feel free to substitute whole wheat flour, or a combination of both.

Download Easy-whole-cranberry-sauce-muffins-recipe


¼ cup sugar

½ teaspoon cinnamon

½ teaspoon nutmeg


2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour or whole wheat flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

½ teaspoon salt

½ cup unsalted butter, at room temperature

1 cup sugar

2 tablespoons cream cheese, at room temperature

2 eggs, at room temperature

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 teaspoon grated orange zest

½ cup milk

1 cup (8 ounces) whole cranberry sauce

½ cup walnuts, toasted and chopped


For topping:

1. Mix sugar and spices together in a small bowl and set aside.


1.  Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 375 degrees. Line standard muffin tin with papers and spray with nonstick vegetable cooking spray.

2. Whisk flour, baking powder, and salt in medium bowl until combined; set aside

3. Beat butter and sugar on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, 2-3 minutes. Beat in cream cheese and mix for 30 seconds. Add eggs, vanilla, and zest and beat to combine. Remove bowl from mixer stand and add flour mixture and milk and, using wooden spoon or rubber spatula, mix together until just combined. Fold in cranberry sauce and nuts; don't overmix. 

4. Use ice cream scoop or large spoon to drop batter into greased muffin tin. Sprinkle each muffin with 1 teaspoon of sugar/spice mixture.

5. Bake until light golden brown and toothpick or skewer inserted into center of muffin comes out clean, 25 to 30 minutes, rotating pan from front to back halfway through baking time. Invert muffins onto wire rack, stand muffins upright, and cool 5 minutes.

Easy Whole Cranberry Sauce Muffins batter

Easy Whole Cranberry Sauce Muffins prebake

Easy Whole Cranberry Sauce Muffins tin

Hearty Rotisserie Chicken Soup with Pasta Shells, Tomatoes, and Zucchini

Hearty Rotisserie Chicken Soup with Pasta Shells, Tomatoes, and Zucchini1

There’s nothing better than hearty soups during the winter months. When I don’t have time for long simmering stews, I like to turn to this recipe for a super fast soup with lots of flavor. It’s worth using homemade chicken stock, but if you don’t have it on hand, store bought low-sodium broth will do.

Download Hearty Rotisserie Chicken Soup Pasta Shells Tomatoes Zucchini

2 tablespoon vegetable oil or chicken fat

1 store-bought rotisserie chicken (about 4lbs), skin discarded, meat shredded into bite-sized pieces (about 3 cups)

2 medium onions, cut into medium dice

2 quarts chicken stock (preferably homemade)

2 large carrots, peeled and sliced 1/4-inch thick

2 medium ribs celery, sliced 1/4-inch thick

1 medium zucchini, cut into medium dice

1/2 teaspoon dried thyme

1 14-ounce can diced tomatoes, drained (I use Muir Glen)

1 cup pasta shells (small or medium)

1/4 cup minced fresh basil leaves

Salt and ground black pepper

Grated Parmesan cheese, for garnish

1. Heat oil (or chicken fat) over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add onions, carrots, celery, and zucchini; sauté until softened, about 5 minutes. Add thyme and tomatoes and sauté for 1 minute. Add chicken stock and shredded chicken; simmer until vegetables are tender and flavors meld, 10 to 15 minutes. Add shells and cook until just tender, about 10 minutes. Adjust seasonings, stir in basil, and serve with parmesan cheese on the side.

Hearty Rotisserie Chicken Soup vegetables chopped 

Hearty Rotisserie Chicken Soup vegetables 

Hearty Rotisserie Chicken Soup cooking

Perfect Thanksgiving Roast Turkey

Thanksgiving 1 

I usually prefer to share recipes with my own photos, but decided to add my favorite Thanksgiving recipes and hope they’re helpful (I’ll add photos after the holiday!

Roast Juicy Turkey

Brining seems to be the most popular method to keep the bird juicy and moist. It’s a simple water/salt solution, but a few other additions can add a lot of great flavor. Brining bags are usually available at grocery stores, or use a large lobster pot with lid.

1 (14 to 16 pound) frozen or fresh young turkey

For the brine:

1 gallon water

1 ½ cups kosher salt

½ cup light brown sugar

½ cup maple syrup or honey

1 tablespoon black peppercorns

1/2 tablespoon allspice berries

1 tablespoon candied ginger

2 oranges, quartered

2 lemons, quartered

1 gallon iced water

For the turkey cavity:

1 red apple, quartered

1 onion, quartered

4 sprigs rosemary

6 leaves sage

For the roasting pan:

1 cup chopped carrots

1 cup chopped celery

1 cup chopped onions

Combine all brine ingredients, except ice water, in a stockpot, and bring to a boil. Stir to dissolve sugar, then remove from heat, cool to room temperature, and refrigerate until thoroughly chilled.

Early on the day of cooking, (or late the night before) combine the brine and ice water in a clean 5-gallon bucket. Place thawed turkey breast side down in brine, cover, and refrigerate for 6- 8 hours.

A few minutes before roasting, heat oven to 500 degrees.

Scatter the carrots, celery, and onions a roasting pan with v-rack.

Remove turkey from brine and  rinse inside and out with cold water. Discard brine.

Place bird on roasting rack over the vegetables, breast-side up, in the roasting pan and pat dry with paper towels. Add aromatics to cavity along with rosemary and sage. Tuck back wings and using kitchen twine, tie the legs together. This will make a compact shape and will create a great presentation. Coat the whole bird liberally with canola (or other neutral) oil.

Roast on lowest level of the oven at 500 degrees  for 30 minutes. Remove from oven and cover breast with double layer of aluminum foil that has been sprayed with Pam, insert probe thermometer into thickest part of the breast and return to oven, reducing temperature to 350 degrees. Set thermometer alarm (if available) to 165 degrees. A 14 to 16 pound bird should require a total of 2 to 2 1/2 hours of roasting. Let turkey rest, loosely covered for 20 minutes before carving.

Download Roast Juicy Turkey

World's Best Pumpkin Pie

Pumpkin Pie SLice

Pumpkin Pie

There are tons of pumpkin pie recipes, and in November all of the food shows and magazines are filled with both classic and innovative recipes. I think I’ve tried all of them – most started with canned pumpkin, and then the ingredients vary  - some use heavy cream, others swear by evaporated milk, some are heavily spiced with cinnamon and cloves.  I love pumpkin pie, but have never found what I would call the BEST pumpkin pie until recently. I was watching an episode of America’s Test Kitchen (the leader in test perfected recipes) called “An Old-Fashioned Thanksgiving”. The ingredients and the method were quite original and I couldn’t wait to try it. There are a few extra steps, but well worth it. If you don’t want to make your own crust, you can use a Pillsbury Ready Made crust. Feel free to alter the amount of cinnamon (I used Penzey's Extra Fancy Vietnamese Cassia Cinnamon Click here for Penzey's), but the fresh ginger is key to the pie’s flavor.

Fool Proof Pie Crust  

1 1/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour (6 1/4 ounces)

1/2 teaspoon table salt

1 tablespoon sugar

6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/4-inch slices

1/4 cup vegetable shortening, cold, cut into two pieces

2 tablespoons vodka, cold 

2 tablespoons cold water

Pumpkin Pie Filling

1 cup heavy cream

1 cup whole milk

3 large eggs plus 2 large yolks

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 (15-ounce) can pumpkin puree

1 cup drained candied yams from 15-ounce can

3/4 cup sugar

1/4 cup maple syrup

2 teaspoons grated fresh ginger

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon (Extra Fancy Vietnamese Cassia Cinnamon is best)

1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg

1/4 teaspoon ground cloves

1 teaspoon table salt

 For the Crust:

1. Process 3/4 cup flour, salt, and sugar in food processor until combined, about two 1-second pulses. Add butter and shortening and process until homogenous dough just starts to collect in uneven clumps, about 10 seconds; dough will resemble cottage cheese curds with some very small pieces of butter remaining, but there should be no uncoated flour. Scrape bowl with rubber spatula and redistribute dough evenly around processor blade. Add remaining 1/2 cup flour and pulse until mixture is evenly distributed around bowl and mass of dough has been broken up, 4 to 6 quick pulses. Empty the mixture into a medium bowl.

2. Sprinkle vodka and water over mixture. With rubber spatula, use folding motion to mix, pressing down on dough until dough is slightly tacky and sticks together. Flatten dough into 4-inch disk. Wrap in plastic and refrigerate at least 45 minutes or up to 2 days.

3. Adjust oven rack to lowest position, place rimmed baking sheet on rack, and heat oven to 400 degrees. Remove dough from refrigerator and roll out on generously floured (up to 1/4 cup) work surface to 12-inch circle about 1/8 inch thick. Roll dough loosely around rolling pin and unroll into pie plate, leaving at least 1-inch overhang on each side. Working around circumference, ease dough into plate by gently lifting edge of dough with one hand while pressing into plate bottom with other hand. Refrigerate 15 minutes.

4. Trim overhang to 1/2 inch beyond lip of pie plate. Fold overhang under itself; folded edge should be flush with edge of pie plate. Using thumb and forefinger, flute edge of dough. Refrigerate dough-lined plate until firm, about 15 minutes.

5. Remove pie pan from refrigerator, line crust with foil, and fill with pie weights or pennies. Bake on rimmed baking sheet 15 minutes. Remove foil and weights, rotate plate, and bake 5 to 10 additional minutes until crust is golden brown and crisp. Remove pie plate and baking sheet from oven.

6. For the Filling: While pie shell is baking, whisk cream, milk, eggs, yolks, and vanilla together in medium bowl. Combine pumpkin puree, yams, sugar, maple syrup, ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt in large heavy-bottomed saucepan; bring to sputtering simmer over medium heat, 5 to 7 minutes. Continue to simmer pumpkin mixture, stirring constantly and mashing yams against sides of pot, until thick and shiny, 10 to 15 minutes.

7. Remove pan from heat and whisk in cream mixture until fully incorporated. Strain mixture through fine-mesh strainer set over medium bowl, using back of ladle or spatula to press solids through strainer. Re-whisk mixture and transfer to warm prebaked pie shell. Return pie plate with baking sheet to oven and bake pie for 10 minutes. Reduce heat to 300 degrees and continue baking until edges of pie are set (instant-read thermometer inserted in center registers 175 degrees), 20 to 35 minutes longer. Transfer pie to wire rack and cool to room temperature, 2 to 3 hours. Cut into wedges and serve.

Pis crust shell
Pie crust crimped  

Pumpkin pie filling cooked

Pumpkin pie filled


Sour Cream Maple Walnut Muffins

Sour Cream Maple Walnut Muffins

My aunt recently told me about a note she found that I sent her nearly 20 years ago. In it, I apparently raved about a maple syrup muffin that I wanted her to try. I had no memory of it but luckily she saved the note which included the recipe and I decided to make them this morning. They’re still worth raving about. The combination of maple syrup and walnut makes for a great fall/winter muffin, and the sour cream keep them moist and tender. They’re perfect for the Thanksgiving weekend. 

Download Sour Cream Maple Walnut Muffins recipe

1 3/4 c unbleached all-purpose flour (or white whole wheat flour)

2 teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup unsalted butter, room temperature

3/4 cup maple syrup

1 cup sour cream

1 egg

1/2 cup chopped pecans


1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Grease a standard muffin pan or line with papers.

2. In a bowl, stir together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Set aside.

3. In another bowl, with a hand mixer, beat the butter until smooth, then gradually add the maple syrup, beating constantly.

4. Beat in the sour cream and egg.

5. Stir in the nuts with a wooden spoon. Add the combined dry ingredients and stir just until blended.

6. Spoon the batter into the prepared muffin pan, filling each cup about two-thirds full. Bake until a toothpick comes clean, about 15 minutes. Let cool in the pan for 5 minutes, then remove. Serve warm with sour cream and drizzle of syrup, if desired.


Perfect Pumpkin Spice Muffins

Pumpkin Muffins

Perfect Pumpkin Spice Muffins

 I use pumpkin all year long, but it’s especially nice during the autumn months. These muffins are lightly sweetened with brown sugar, and stay very moist.  Pumpkin works particularly well with whole wheat and creates a very tender muffin. This recipe also works as a bread, just pour the batter into a greased 9x5 loaf pan and bake at 350 degrees for about an hour.

  Download Perfect Pumpkin Spice Muffins recipe

2 cups whole wheat flour

1 tsp. baking soda

½ tsp. baking powder

½ tsp salt

2 tsp. cinnamon

1 tsp. ginger

½ tsp. nutmeg

¼ tsp. cloves

1 stick butter, room temperature or 1/2 canola oil

1 cup packed light or dark brown sugar

¼ cup sugar

3 eggs, room temperature

1 tsp. vanilla

1 can (15-ounce) pumpkin

¾ cup finely chopped pecans

¾ cup golden raisins or dried cranberries, optional

Pumpkin seeds, for sprinkling muffin tops, optional

1. Adjust rack to middle position and preheat oven to 375 degrees. Line a 12 cup muffin tin with papers and lightly spray papers with nonstick spray.

2. Whisk flour, soda, baking powder, salt, and spices in a small bowl and set aside.

3. Cream butter and sugars in large mixing bowl until light and fluffy by hand, or with a handheld or standing mixer. Beat in eggs, one at a time, stopping to scrape the sides and bottom of mixing bowl. Beat in vanilla and pumpkin. Using large mixing spoon, add the dry ingredients, mixing gently by hand until evenly moistened. Stir in nuts and raisins.

4. Use large ice cream scoop to divide batter evenly among cups. Sprinkle with pumpkin seeds, if desired. Bake 20-24 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool in pan for 5 minutes and then finishing cooling on rack.