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!