Saturday, December 31, 2011

Turkey Trials

Last year my husband and I decided that we would host a Christmas Dinner for his Dad and cook a turkey. I’ve seen lots of turkeys cooked before it seemed simple enough so I wasn’t too worried about it. We even bought a roasting pan with the rack insert so it would be no problem to transfer the turkey onto a decorative plate for carving. I knew to baste it regularly so it wouldn’t dry out and that it had to cook to a proper temperature before eating.

I had my meat thermometer and turkey baster ready to go!
I set the oven to the required heat and popped that turkey in, looking forward to eating its delicious tender meat 6 hours later. Jake’s Dad arrived in the early afternoon and we visited while I prepped the other fixings we were having with dinner. My brother Ryan and sister-in-law Tash came over too and we were all enjoying the festivities of Christmas and dabbling in a few alcoholic beverages while the afternoon passed.

But then after checking the turkey several times Tash and I discovered that it was taking a very long time to cook. Having already been in for 3 hours it should have been at least halfway there but yet it had barely gone up in degrees on the meat thermometer.
Panic was starting to set in, but thankfully I had loads of snacks and lots of fun drinks to keep everyone amused. A few more hours went by and the turkey wasn’t doing much better. That’s when we started to go through the scenarios of what could be wrong. I was terrified that the turkey would be dry so I didn’t want to turn the oven up too high, but it was becoming increasingly clear that either my meat thermometer was off or my oven was.

Having little choice if I ever wanted this turkey to make it to the dinner table we boosted the temp on the oven and then finally 3 bottles of wine later we had a turkey that was partially cooked.
Yup, I said partially cooked. It was 8:30pm by the time we sat down and my oven only fully cooked half of the turkey. I was fairly confident that with the amount of booze ingested that we could squash any sort of salmonella this turkey could produce. (Okay that’s definitely a joke. I would never serve something I thought would make people sick, so we stuck to the cooked half and chucked the rest.) It was tender and juicy and delicious. Unfortunately it was a turkey failure and I didn’t even attempt to make another turkey until Christmas rolled around again and I decided to give it another shot knowing it was an important food choice I had to learn to cook.

Shortly after my turkey failure we went out and a got an oven thermometer and we found out that my oven was 90 degrees out!!! I had had previous baking failures before this such as a cheesecake that stayed raw in the middle and I always chalked it up to my skills, but apparently my oven also had something to do with it.

This Christmas, I wasn’t playing games. I borrowed my Mom’s huge roaster (Thanks Mom!) and I cooked my glorious turkey in there and it worked fabulously!  I bought a butterball turkey that was pre-stuffed and was meant to be cooked from frozen. I figured after the disaster last year I should try to help myself out as much as possible. The only snag with the turkey roaster was that the turkey doesn’t brown in it so we had to transfer it to the oven for a short period of time to brown it. You’ll notice that by the pictures that it didn’t complete brown, but it completely cooked so what more could I really ask for?
Turkey Trial #1. My husband Jake checking to see if the turkey is cooked.
Thankfully, one side was actually cooked thoroughly so we could eat it.

Turkey Trial #2. SUCCESS!
I also made salad, acorn squash and mashed potatoes to go with it. It was a success! Everyone clapped as the turkey was brought to the table. It was a great night with friends, family, and great food. Food that I can say I had a hand in making delicious, yay me!

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Adult Grilled Cheese

For one of our Date Nights my brother and his girlfriend invited us over for dinner to have adult grilled cheese. If you want to know what I mean by “Date Night” check out my sister-in-law’s blog
It was such a fantastic idea that I have made them at home for myself on occasion when I just want something quick but still relatively nutritious. If you’re having a group over you can set up a preparation bar with all the different options like my brother and his girlfriend did. At Date Night, I had one with swiss cheese, turkey, pesto and mustard on rye bread. My brother grilled them on the BBQ and it was so good!

After Date Night, I decided to look into other options to try out and this one caught my eye.

I only had regular white bread at home, but next time I would definitely take a trip out to the store for Rye because the flavour is way better.

Here’s a few pictures of my Mozzarella, Avocado and Pepperoni Grilled Cheese.

Get creative with your grilled cheese and let me know what combinations you try. I would love to expand my grilled cheese horizon!

The Phyllo Pastry Puzzle

I thought I would be daring for my first recipe and try to master phyllo pastry so I decided to try a vegetable streudel recipe. For the recipe go to

This was my first time ever looking or even touching phyllo pastry that hadn’t already been mastered into perfection so I read up on people’s blogs to see the best way to handle it and what to watch for.

The consensus was that it needed to be

1.)   Thawed in the fridge the night before and then left on the counter for an hour before using.
2.)    Best kept moist with a damp towel over it.
3.)    Wrapped up immediately after use because it dries out very quickly.
4.)    Most importantly- Super thin and tears easily.

So difficult in fact that they suggest using scissors if you need to make smaller pieces because it will fall apart in your hands if you try to use any sort of force to tear it.
As per instructions, I thawed it in the fridge according to its directions and then left it on the counter for 60 minutes before using it. Using very gentle hands, I opened the packaging and unrolled it as though I was unrolling the original Mona Lisa canvas. I laid it flat on the counter admiring its artistry. It really is an interesting cooking material.

So far so good, no tears.

Next, I picked up the first sheet from the corner and started to pull it away from the rest which quickly led me to the danger zone. Just as I had lifted it about half way the whole thing started to rip!

Disgruntled by my immediate failure, I quickly grabbed the rest of it that was quickly ripping at in every direction and I balled it up and threw it on the counter. I expected it to be tricky, but I was puzzled by the fact that it couldn’t even handle it’s on very light weight as it was lifted- ridiculous!

So I attempted it again. This time I took the individual sheet and I rolled it into a tube before moving it- SUCCESS! I placed it onto the cookie sheet and unrolled it- no rips.

With that simple trick it was smooth sailing. The recipe called for 6 sheets with an olive oil misting between each layer. I didn’t have that, so I used a silicone brush with melted butter (but I think I will be purchasing a mister because it would have went a lot faster.) Layer by layer I unrolled it impressed with the fact that it was actually looking like the recipe.

I had prepped the vegetables beforehand so I put them on the phyllo pastry once it was successfully layered and then it was the moment of truth- I had to roll it up.

Vegetables aren’t exactly the light so I thought this was where my success would quickly turn into the danger zone but surprisingly the phyllo pastry had a lot more strength once 5 of its brotheran had joined. With some minor tearing it still was in the shape of a log! YAY ME!

I baked it in the oven according to the directions and it smelled delicious! I couldn’t wait to cut into it and eat it.

Here’s a picture of what it looked like when it came out of the oven

I don’t think I let it cool enough the first time I cut it though because it was very difficult for me to get the thin strips like they show on the prouditaliancook. Once I let it cool a bit more, I tried to cut it again and it was much easier. I had to use a fork to eat mine mainly because I had so many vegetables in it. I think next time I would opt to put less vegetables because I may have overstuffed it causing it to be more difficult to cut and causing the phyllo to tear a bit.

This recipe was delicious and very easy to do once you learn the simple tricks about phyllo pastry. It definitely doesn't look as good as the picture from the prouditalianblog (picture below), but I'll work up to that!

I may even make bite-sized versions of this by cutting the phyllo into small squares. That way I could avoid having to cut into it all together and I would get to eat it much faster!

Monday, November 28, 2011

The Potato Massacre

If you asked a friend or family member that’s known me for a long time to describe my skill set, cooking would not have even made the list until recently (and even then, I can’t be sure.) I have had quite a few kitchen disasters, some of which my family and friends still talk about! For all of you that think all hope is lost when it comes to making a delicious meal to be proud of you’ll see there’s hope for you yet.

Years ago, I had my own place. It was the first time I didn’t have a mother, father, brother or roommate that would cook for me. I was what you would call spoiled! My Mom or Dad always cooked when I lived at home and if they went away for the weekend, my brother loved to cook so I was well fed even when the folks were away. My Mom even brought me dinners when I worked at the convenience store down the road. I am fortunate to have so many great people in my life.
My brother catered to me so much that I could call him from my room (we had two phone lines) if I had friends over and he would bring us snacks right to my bedroom door!!! I had it made in the shade (it’s amazing I ever decided to move out!)

But I had dreams of college and independence so I trekked out on my own- but with a roommate that loved to cook. (So maybe I wasn’t quite ready to spread my full independent wings.) During this period of my life, I did very little cooking. Most of it was quick from a can or the frozen pre-cooked kind where you only had to turn on the oven. That I knew how to do!

But then a job opportunity came up where I could move closer to home but by this time I had acquired too much of my own things and was too used to living on my own to live back with my parents so I decided to get my own place.
That’s when I decided to start experimenting with actual cooking. Wanting to show off my fab skills, I invited my glorious chef of a brother over for dinner. The meal was pretty simple, chicken and mashed potatoes. The chicken wasn’t an issue, I was used to making that and all I had to do was leave it in the pan until it was no longer pink. At that point I didn’t really own spices and even if I did I wouldn’t have known what went well together.

But then there was the mashed potatoes. I was lacking in the cooking tools department so I didn’t own a potato masher. I was a problem-solver though so I thought there was a way around this. I thought about it for a bit and then decided that the closest thing I had was my blender. If I just hit the button a couple of times it would be just like the elbow grease of using a potato masher. Feeling pretty confident this would work, I poured the potatoes into the blender, added the butter and milk and I started to hit the blender button. I removed the lid when I was satisfied all the lumps were out. (My brother makes the best mashed potatoes, never any lumps!)
To my dismay, my perfectly boiled potatoes that were steps away from perfect mashed potatoes had turned into the consistency of glue! A little defeated, but I looked at the upside that I may have invented a substitution for glue if I was ever really stuck. Okay so it was a stretch but with my brother arriving any minute I had to give myself some hope that I wasn’t a total potato maker failure and that something good came out of it.

Then my brother arrived I walked him over to my blender with my potato massacre in all its glory. It was thick, gooey and sticky- Glue Company’s everywhere eat your heart out!

Taking a breath in between laughs he asked me “Why didn’t you just use a fork?”

Since then, I have had very many successful mashed potato nights with the use of a proper potato masher and now I know if I don't have one that I can use a fork. There is truth behind the saying “You’re only as good as your tools,” but I also know that you don’t have to have the exact tool you need to make things work- but it definitely helps.

My blender has never since touched a potato.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Sometimes I get Han-gry!

My husband can attest to the following, there are two things in the world that keep me happy- a full belly and plenty of sleep. When either of those get taken away I turn into a beast! And when food is specifically not available fast enough I get downright han-gry! 

Han-gry is a fabulous word I came across that pretty much sums up my relationship and attachment to food.

When I come home from work hungry and there is nothing ready or can be ready quickly, I can feel a beast growing inside me demanding nutrition. My patience weakens, my humour drops and the tone in my voice gets very sarcastic. The happy side of my brain shuts down and anger erupts! My husband can see when the beast is lurking close to the surface and he will either run to the fridge hoping something in there will satisfy my hunger or run to the closest drive-thru so that I can eat quickly. It’s not something I’m proud of, but it’s true. My first goal is that I would like to officially put my beast to rest. Food planning is within my control even if sleep soon won’t be.

As for the sleep, well the beautiful baby I will have in my arms by the end of April will be a new love of mine that will replace my current love of zzzzz’s. And if old habits die hard, I’m lucky to have such supportive family that can come over so I squeeze in a nap! I’ll be sure to trade their supportive time for a nice home-cooked dinner that they are sure to enjoy!