The Easiest, Fuss-Free Roast Turkey

Easy, Fuss-Free Roast Turkey-1-8Hosting Thanksgiving dinner is a BIG DEAL. Since it’s usually when the whole family gets together for the big feast, it can be nerve wracking to be in charge of something so important. I’ve been married for 8 years, and I’ve only hosted Thanksgiving in our home twice. Most years we have Thanksgiving dinner with Sergi’s family and his Mom makes the turkey and I just bring a cake or something. It’s kind of like a rite of passage when you finally set up a big table and everyone asks YOU what they should bring.

Even though I’ve only made the traditional Thanksgiving dinner twice for family, I’ve made plenty of turkeys. Why? I’m probably a little weird:). The obsessive homemaker in me wanted to find out what all the hype was about, so most years I would be in the kitchen during the holidays trying out different turkey recipes, just for the fun of it. I would pour over all my cookbooks, study online recipes, watch multiple videos about all the Thanksgiving food techniques and then try them out. I know, it’s complicated. Don’t try to understand me. I’m so glad that my husband is such a good sport. It looked kind of silly bringing out a gigantic bird for just my husband and myself, so I’ve discovered tons of turkey leftover  recipes too. There’s only so much turkey two people can eat. Who says you can eat turkey on Thanksgiving only? It’s just a big chicken, right?

Anyway, I’ve shared some of my favorite recipes for turkey with you in the past two years, my all time favorite – Brined Turkey and the Slow Roasted Turkey. I still love those recipes and still use them to this day. However, this year I want to share the easiest roast turkey recipe ever. I know brining a turkey, cutting up a whole turkey, flipping a turkey over and other such shenanigans can seem intimidating to some people and they are just looking for a method to have a perfect turkey without any fuss and bother. This is what this recipe is all about. Even the most inexperienced cook can easily master this recipe. If you can lift that heavy bird into the roasting pan, you too can have a perfectly crisp, golden bird with juicy meat. … 

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Pumpkin Cheesecake Bars

Pumpkin Cheesecake Bars-1-17Baking with pumpkin seems to be mandatory this time of year. Try googling pumpkin recipes and you will be blown away with all the different options. Seasonal cooking has a way of making us nostalgic and sentimental and who says there’s anything wrong with that? I certainly don’t. There’s something very right and proper about bubbly, comforting casseroles in the cold winter months, asparagus and snap peas in the early spring, fresh garden tomatoes during the summer and of course, pumpkin is all the rage in the autumn. It’s the iconic Thanksgiving dessert.

Every time I find myself in possession of this orange treasure, my mind quickly turns to cheesecakes. That’s probably because cheesecake is one of my favorite desserts ever, so naturally pumpkin cheesecake would also be high on my list. I’ve realized that dessert bars are really my thing too, so this year, I’ve converted my favorite Deluxe Pumpkin Cheesecake recipe into these amazing Pumpkin Cheesecake Bars. I am now officially converted and will make these bars as long as there’s pumpkin available.  The addition of sour cream to the cheesecake batter makes them even more tender, which is exactly how I like it. … 

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Sausage and Mushroom Sourdough Dressing

Sausage and Mushroom Sourdough Dressing-1-11Dressing aka stuffing, usually plays the role of the supportive cast at Thanksgiving dinners and is never given the chance to shine like the leading characters. Frankly, I know that many of us secretly crave such things as dressing, mashed potatoes and gravy (that would totally be me) more than the turkey or roast. Yes, many of us would not be able to survive on the Atkins diet, or whichever other diet excludes carbs. Carbs are gloriously delicious and irreplaceable, at least in my humble opinion. This dressing is so tasty that it can flourish all on its own and should be made year round, not just for the holiday dinner.

If you think about it, dressing is such a clever meal. Who would think that something as mundane as bread can be the main ingredient in a flavor ensemble? If you’re anything like me, you usually have a few slices of bread that end up going stale before you’re able to eat the entire loaf. How about stashing those slices in the freezer before they get a chance to get moldy, and when you have enough bread, make dressing for dinner. Not only is this a frugal housekeeping tip, since you are saving your groceries and making a very inexpensive meal, but you can also adjust this recipe in so many different ways to make use of whatever ingredients you have on hand. I used sausage, mushrooms, fennel, onion, celery, garlic and herbs, and this combination is so satisfying. Serve this with a salad or some Braised Carrots and Parsnips and your meal is complete. … 

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Cranberry Apple Chutney

Cranberry Apple Chutney-1-8The cold months are a time for cranberries to become available once again. I really appreciate the tart, bold flavor of this berry. Of course, it’s a traditional flavor for Thanksgiving and Christmas meals, especially famous for being served with the star of the show, turkey. However, cranberries have other hidden talents, which are so often overlooked.

I really wanted to make something with cranberries that would not only taste great served during Thanksgiving dinner, but could also be enjoyed in many other ways. Cranberries, apples, orange and cinnamon all blend together in this straightforward but somewhat refined chutney. This will not take up to much time to prepare, since I’m sure you have so many other things to worry about for the big meal. Really, chop up an apple, squeeze out the juice from the orange, bring it up to a boil and you’re just about done. You can make this in advance too. Make extra, because it’s delicious on a bagel and especially as a filling in baking. … 

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Roasted Duck With Apples

Roast Duck With Apples-1-14Recreating classic scenes from books or movies always brings out my fantasies of being a domestic goddess. I absolutely love hosting dinners at our home. When we were house hunting this spring, a large dining room was one of our top priorities, since we both love to have company. I have been daydreaming of carrying out  a golden brown bird perched on a platter since I first started reading those touching, poetic scenes in century old novels. Holiday dinners are a wonderful excuse to cook up elaborate meals and pamper family and friends with tasty bites. Coming up with a menu is both challenging and fun. Just like the “little black dress”, roasting poultry is usually a great choice, since it’s is always classy and elegant.

We have our usual suspects, chicken and turkey, but there’s also other birds to consider. Ladies and gentlemen, I bring you the duckIf you read any Russian literature, you will notice a theme of duck or goose making an appearance on special occasions. Even classic English novels feature these exceptional birds. They are just as momentous on a holiday table, but more exotic and extraordinary. Probably because they aren’t something you see very often. Back in the day, they were much more commonly grown in farmyards or brought back from successful hunting expeditions when that was the way of life. Now, we are much more familiar with chickens and turkeys. Actually, many people don’t even know where to look for a duck in the local grocery store. Even though roasting a whole bird is almost symbolic to being a successful homemaker, it’s also much easier than it seems and requires very little work and just a little know-how. 

Roasted duck stuffed with apples is a characteristic Russian dish and I can completely understand why both go hand in hand. The apples infuse the duck meat with their sweet, delicate flavor and tame the slightly gamey flavor that can be a little overpowering for some people. You can even bake some extra apples to serve on the side with the duck. Duck isn’t something to shy away from. With my step by step encouragement and detailed instructions, you too can have a Norman Rockwell moment with your next dinner guests. … 

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Cranberry Orange Muffins

Cranberry Orange Muffins-1-32I’m convinced that one of the most important factors that makes a home more cozy and inviting than the smells that waft through each room. That’s why “scents” are a big business – candles, diffusers, air fresheners, potpourri, and probably lots of others things that make your car and home smell good. You know what’s the most guaranteed way to make your home smell incredible? Bake some of these amazing Cranberry Orange Muffins. They won’t hold a candle to any of the scent products available:). Seriously though, it will only take you 15 minutes to whip up the muffins and you soon after you put them in the oven you will see what I mean. Citrus is one of my favorite scents in general and it works as a wonderful aromatic in cooking and baking too. Cranberries are plentiful this time of year and they go so well with the flavor of orange. The tart berries are a great addition to the tender muffins.

In Russian, this recipe would be called “palochka viruchalochka” (палочка выручалочка) or “magic wand”. It doesn’t really sound right in English, but basically it means that whenever you need something wonderful and fast, you wave your magic wand and “voila”, you have transformed your home into an inviting abode for all who enter. Don’t you just love those recipes? Whenever you want a special treat for your family or maybe you have expected guests arrive for a cup of tea, take out the muffin pan and start baking. The muffins are just heavenly when they are still warm. How about including this on your next brunch menu? You will be the hero of everyone who bites into this muffin.

Ingredients:

1 cup cranberries, fresh or frozen

3/4 cup (12 Tablespoons) butter, softened

1 1/4 cups sugar (plus 2 Tablespoons for the cranberries)

1/4 cup orange juice

1-2 teaspoons orange zest

3 large eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 1/2 cups all purpose flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

1/4 teaspoon salt

Instructions:

Cranberry Orange Muffins-1-19Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Coat muffin pans with non-stick spray, or use paper liners.

Cut the cranberries in half and toss with 1-2 Tablespoons of sugar and set them aside. If you place the cranberries whole into the muffins, they will be very, very tart.

Cranberry Orange Muffins-1-27In a standing mixer with a paddle attachment, or using a hand mixer, cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy.

Cranberry Orange Muffins-1-21Add the orange juice, orange zest, eggs and vanilla. Mix to combine, scraping down the sides of the bowl a few times with a rubber spatula.

Cranberry Orange Muffins-1-22

Cranberry Orange Muffins-1-23The mixture will look curdled at this point. Don’t panic. It will all work itself out as soon as you add the dry ingredients. Cranberry Orange Muffins-1-24In a medium bowl, whisk the flour, baking powder and salt together. Add the dry ingredients to the batter and mix to combine, just until the flour is mostly incorporated. Do not over mix.

Cranberry Orange Muffins-1-25

Cranberry Orange Muffins-1-26Add the cranberries to the batter and mix to combine with a spatula.

You can also use frozen cranberries instead of fresh. You don’t have to thaw the berries, but I would still halve them and toss with sugar. Instead of using fresh cranberries, you can also use dry cranberries. If cranberries aren’t available, you can also add some dark chocolate, chopped dry apricots or walnuts instead.

Cranberry Orange Muffins-1-28Divide the batter evenly among the prepared muffin tins. Cranberry Orange Muffins-1-29

Cranberry Orange Muffins-1-30Bake in the preheated oven for 20-25 min.Cranberry Orange Muffins-1-31

Cranberry Orange Muffins-1-33

Cranberry Orange Muffins-1-34

Cranberry Orange Muffins
 
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
 
Author:
Recipe type: Sweets
Serves: 12 muffins
Ingredients
  • 1 cup cranberries, fresh or frozen
  • ¾ cup (12 Tablespoons) butter, softened
  • 1¼ cups sugar (plus 2 Tablespoons for the cranberries)
  • ¼ cup orange juice
  • 1-2 teaspoons orange zest
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1½ cups all purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
Instructions
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Coat muffin pans with non-stick spray, or use paper liners.
  2. Cut the cranberries in half and toss with 1-2 Tablespoons of sugar and set them aside. If you place the cranberries whole into the muffins, they will be very, very tart.
  3. In a standing mixer with a paddle attachment, or using a hand mixer, cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy.
  4. Add the orange juice, orange zest, eggs and vanilla. Mix to combine, scraping down the sides of the bowl a few times with a rubber spatula.
  5. In a medium bowl, whisk the flour, baking powder and salt together. Add the dry ingredients to the batter and mix to combine, just until the flour is mostly incorporated. Do not over mix.
  6. Add the cranberries to the batter and mix to combine with a spatula.
  7. Divide the batter evenly among the prepared muffin tins. Bake in the preheated oven for 20-25 min.
Notes
You can also use frozen cranberries instead of fresh. You don't have to thaw the berries, but I would still halve them and toss with sugar. Instead of using fresh cranberries, you can also use dry cranberries. If cranberries aren't available, you can also add some dark chocolate, chopped dry apricots or walnuts instead.

 

Skillet Cheeseburger Pasta

Skillet Cheeseburger Pasta-1-12Skillet dinners are some of my favorite. Why? Less dishes to wash, very easy to prepare and most importantly, you’ll have a meal on the table in half an hour.What’s not to like? Even better, this particular recipe makes use of the ingredients that you probably already have in the house, so you can avoid an unnecessary trip to the grocery store. Bookmark this one, busy mamas! It really does remind me of a juicy cheeseburger, all beefy and cheesy. The smooth and silky sauce brings it all together and fresh herbs always add freshness to any dinner. 

Go shopping in your fridge and pantry and adjust this recipe to whatever you happen to have on hand. Use any ground meat or sausage that you like, add bell peppers, mushrooms, zucchini and any kind of cheese that melts well. To make it really taste like a cheeseburger, add some pickles and serve with some fresh chopped tomatoes. … 

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Hazelnut Cream Puffs

Hazelnut Cream Puffs-1-41Holiday baking is fast approaching, and cream puffs are some of my favorite pastries to both prepare and indulge in. They can be made in advance, which always comes in handy during this busy time of year. My favorite filling for cream puffs is pastry cream, and this time, I used a recipe for Hazelnut Pastry Cream that I found on Cook’s Illustrated. Of course, there are many other options, as simple as whipped cream or a cream cheese frosting. Hazelnuts are my favorite nuts hands down, and they bring a festive flair to anything they are included in. I absolutely love the flavor and texture of this pastry cream, and I’m sure I’ll be using it in many other desserts too. The hazelnut praline is worth every second that it takes to prepare. I would be as happy as a squirrel if someone just gave me a box of the praline to munch on.

In my experience, I can hardly ever find hazelnuts in grocery stores, since most of them only sell hazelnuts during this time of year. I like to enjoy them all year long, so I order them online and always have a nut stash in my freezer.  … 

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Baby Shower For Valentin III

Baby Shower Valentin III-1-13Two weeks ago we had a baby shower for my soon-to-be born nephew, Valentin III. It was hosted by my sister-in-law’s family, and they did a phenomenal job on the food, activities and decorations. It was a beautiful shower. Unfortunately, I wasn’t feeling quite up to par, so I don’t have all the juicy details that I normally pay attention to and take pictures of, like the food, beautiful decorations and all the games. In fact, I just sat like a bump on the log the whole time:(.

All of my Floridian siblings with their spouses were there and my parents were visiting from New York too, so it was wonderful to reconnect with everyone again…. 

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Roasted Potatoes, Sausage and Peppers Dinner

Roasted Potato, Sausage and Pepper Dinner-1-10One day as I was roasting potatoes, I had a sudden burst of inspiration. Why not include some other ingredients with the potatoes that would make it into a complete meal?  I already add roasted potatoes along to whole Roasted Chicken and also to Roasted Chicken Breasts and it’s one of our favorite dinners, so I knew it would work great.

I get lots of recipes ideas throughout the day, during random times, so I quickly jotted it down into my handy dandy notebook:). Yes, I am one of THOSE people. I have lists, notebooks, planners, etc. and I can’t function without them. I wrote down a list of ingredients that I thought would work great in this recipe. I wanted this to be a quick dinner option, so I chose ingredients that would all cook at the same time and complement one another well.

We have a local Polish store where they make their own sausages, smoke their meat themselves and have the most incredible multigrain bread. That’s where I stocked up on the sausage for this dinner. I also added a bell pepper, mushrooms, onions, garlic and herbs. After testing out this recipe a few times, I am finally posting it for all of you. It’s the perfect dinner with lots of hearty autumn flavors. … 

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