Thursday, November 22, 2012

Thanksgiving Goodies: Spice Cake

    Pies are a mainstay of Thanksgiving -- pumpkin, pecan and everything in between. But among your guests, there will always be a cake person: someone who loves a tender, moist slice of chocolate, carrot or Whatever.
    This cake echoes the traditional spices of autumn -- ginger, cinnamon, cloves and nutmeg -- yet keeps everything light. You can fancy-lace the frosting, like the version shown below, or just serve it with a light dusting of powdered sugar. Either way, it's delicious.
     (see the full page at All


(16 servings, cut thin -- or 8, cut thick)

    1. Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and lightly flour a metal or disposable foil 9-by-13-inch pan. Whisk dry ingredients and spices in a large bowl. Mix milk, eggs and vanilla extract in a 2-cup measuring cup.
    2. Beat softened butter into dry ingredients, first on low, then medium, until mixture forms pebble-sized pieces. Add about 1/3 of the milk mixture and beat on low until smooth. Add remaining milk mixture in two stages; beat on medium speed until batter is just smooth. Add the sugar; beat until just incorporated, about 30 seconds. Pour batter into cake pan.
    3. Bake until a cake tester or toothpick inserted into the cake's center comes out clean, about 40 minutes. Set pan on a wire rack; let cool for 5 minutes. Run a knife around the pan perimeter and turn cake onto rack. Let cool. Frost as desired -- a good basic frosting recipe is here -- or not. This cake goes especially well with coffee or hot tea.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Thanksgiving Goodies: Talking Turkey

Where would we be this Thanksgiving season (and Christmas, for that matter) without a juicy, tender bronzed turkey on the platter!

Well, the turkey part's not that hard -- but getting it juicy and tender is a whole different matter. Sawing through your share of white, dry sawdust meat just makes you thankful that gravy is also on the Thanksgiving menu.

The secret? Moisture. Lots of it. 

*Baste or rub your turkey inside and out with olive oil or butter. I'll sprinkle on a generous handful of herbs afterward, including crumbled sage from our garden, marjoram and some basil. 

*If you're not stuffing the bird, add an onion, apple or both inside. (Some people like bay leaves, too.)

*Add at least two cups of water in the bottom of the pan -- and cover your bird. The steam keeps the meat tender, adds more liquid for broth purposes, and won't interfere with browning.

I've also tried 'spatchcocking' the turkey -- cutting it down the breastbone so the bird lays flat. (Think 'butterflied.') This cooks it faster, so the meat doesn't dry out as quickly.
    Trisha Yearwood suggested overnight cooking:

*Rub your bird inside and out with butter. Add moist fruit or veggies inside. Put it in a covered roasting pan, along with two cups of water. Turn the oven up to 500 degrees, and bake for an hour. Turn the oven off, and go to bed. DON'T PEEK. In the morning (5-7 hours later), your turkey will be done!
    Trisha says it produces the juiciest bird she's ever made. We'll try this method, and find out.

Here's a good basic 'Two-Hour Turkey' recipe, courtesy of Safeway:
   (see the full page here)


Prep & Cook Time: About 2 hours
Makes: 8-10 servings
  1. Remove and discard truss that holds turkey legs together. Pull or trim off and discard any excess fat in neck or body cavity. Remove giblets and neck.
  2. Rinse turkey inside and out with warm water. Pat dry with paper towels.
  3. Place the adjustable V-shaped rack in a 13 x 16 x 3-inch roasting pan (set rack sides so the bird is a minimum of 2 inches from pan bottom).
  4. Rub turkey skin generously all over with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Set bird breast-side-up on rack. Pull wings away from body, then firmly twist them to push the wing tips under the bird.
  5. Using aluminum foil, form caps over the tips of the end of each drumstick. If any parts of the turkey extend beyond pan rim, fashion a foil collar underneath to make sure drippings flow back into pan. Do not tie legs together, add stuffing, or close body cavity.
  6. Insert an oven-safe meat thermometer near the center of the breast through thickest part until the tip touches bone, which is most accurate spot to check doneness.
  7. Verify oven temperature and set pan on the lowest rack in a 475° oven. Roast until thermometer reaches 160°. Halfway through roasting time, rotate pan in oven to assure even cooking and browning. If areas on turkey breast start to get browner than you like, lay a piece of foil over the dark areas.
  8. Remove pan from oven, set in a warm spot, and loosely cover pan with foil to keep it warm. Rearrange oven racks to accommodate potatoes and dressing. Decrease oven temperature to 400ยบ. Let turkey rest 30 to 60 minutes. The resting period will allow the internal temperature to reach 165°, the USDA safe cooking temperature for poultry.
  9. Drain juices from body cavity (often plentiful in unstuffed birds) into roasting pan. Transfer turkey to a platter or rimmed cutting board. Set aside juices for gravy.
  10. Cut off turkey legs at thigh joint. If joint is red or pink, return legs to the oven for 3 to 5 minutes (at 300° to 475°) or heat in a microwave oven for 3 to 4 minutes. Carve the rest of the turkey. Carving juices may be clear to pink or rosy; both are fine. Save juices to pour into gravy if desired.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Thanksgiving Goodies: Sweet Tater Pie...and Other Yammy Delights

Gee, it's nice to be back.

Thanksgiving is nearly on our doorstep -- so for the next week, we're going to feature some classic dishes that have been a favorite part of the holiday. First up, it's sweet potatoes (or yams, some would say -- or both), that not-quite-potato-not-quite-squash with the creamy, sweet flavor. Many people like their sweet potatoes mashed in a casserole, with lots of marshmallows on top. If you're more a fan of savoury vs. sweet, try this version. It comes from Megan Woodard...who said she'd eat it with marshmallows -- and without!

Sweet Potato Gratin

1½ cups whipping cream                           ½ tsp salt
¼ cup sugar                                                  1¼ lbs sweet potatoes
½ tbsp grated orange peel                          ½ cup pecan halves
¼ tsp fresh-grated nutmeg

Heat cream, sugar, orange peel, nutmeg and salt over medium-high heat just until steaming, about 4 minutes.  Peel and slice potatoes very thinly.  Spread in buttered 1.5-qt casserole (9X9).  Pour hot cream mixture evenly over potatoes.  Bake at 350° for 30 minutes.  Spoon liquid over potatoes, sprinkle evenly with pecans and bake another 30 minutes.

Or there's always Sweet Potato Pie...nothing's better, with a drift of whipped cream. This version comes from Georgia, a state intimately acquainted with sweet potatoes.

Recipe and photo from For more recipes, visit this page.
        1 - 9 inch pie


  1. Boil sweet potato whole in skin for 40 to 50 minutes, or until done. Run cold water over the sweet potato, and remove the skin.
  2. Break apart sweet potato in a bowl. Add butter, and mix well with mixer. Stir in sugar, milk, eggs, nutmeg, cinnamon and vanilla. Beat on medium speed until mixture is smooth. Pour filling into an unbaked pie crust.
  3. Bake at 350 degrees F (175 degrees C) for 55 to 60 minutes, or until knife inserted in center comes out clean. Pie will puff up like a souffle, and then will sink down as it cools.                                                                                                                                                                                All I can say is...yummm.