Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Something Different: Roast Turducken for Review

I trust everyone had the happiest of holidays, getting in lots of good eats and fun times with family and friends.  Last week I zipped away for a few days to visit my  mom and sister.  Oh, it was lovely.  Saskatchewan was cast in this spectacular hoar frost, and if you've been following me on Instagram, you saw how I got carried away with capturing the beauty of it all.  The woods behind my mom's house were especially pretty, and made for excellent post-food coma hiking. 

I mean, just look at all of that frost.  Birds were chirping down on me, welcoming me. It was pretty glorious.  

Speaking of food coma, let me tell you about this turducken.  I was contacted by Echelon Foods, saying hey, wanna give a turducken a try for your holiday feast?  Always up for something new, and after quick consultation with my mom, I agreed to give the chicken stuffed inside a duck stuffed inside turkey a try.  I thawed the Original Turducken for a couple of days in the refrigerator, and when I opened the bag I saw that it had already been seasoned.  With just a few drizzles of olive oil, I popped it in the preheated 220*F oven.  Package directions said to roast at this temp for 5-6 hours or so, given the weight was 4.6 Kg.  Low and slow, that was the plan.  After 2 hours, we took a look at it, and well the bird(s) still looked quite pallid, and I think this freaked my mom out, as we had a set time of 5:00 pm for dinner.  We jacked the heat up to 300*F, and let it cook for another 3 hours, basting every so often with the pan juices (we threw in chunks of onion, celery, carrot to roast along with the turducken, and to help build the flavour of the gravy).  For the last half hour of cooking time, I had the bird covered with the lid from the roaster, as it was golden and gorgeous, but didn't want it to get too dark.  I let it stand for about 20 minutes before slicing.  Smelled wonderful, let me tell you, and boy, did it look delicious presented on the platter.  Once everyone was dished up, with sufficient gravy smothering the whole lot of mashed potatoes, stuffing, green bean casserole (my mom tried something new this year), we tucked in to the turducken.  Right off the bat, we noticed how tender and juicy the turkey was, and how flavourful it was.  Same with the duck, and chicken.  There was quite a lot of Italian sausage stuffed between the layers of poultry, and not everyone at the table enjoyed this component of the turducken.  Some felt its flavour over-powered the rest of the meat, and some just thought it too spicy in general, with a bit of a spongy texture.  Myself, I probably could have done without any of the sausage, and my fork naturally gravitated towards the turkey, duck and chicken.  That being said, it was a new culinary experience for us.  At a bit of a hefty price tag $102.08 for 4.636 Kg, I realize this is not in every one's budget.  But if you want to try something different for your holiday feast, the turducken may be perfect for you. 

Disclaimer:  Echelon Foods compensated me for the Turducken.  All opinions about the bird(s) are my own.  

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Happy Christmas: How To Make A Gingerbread House

Whenever I think of gingerbread houses, I think back to 1985 and my good friend's birthday party, just one week before Christmas.  Her mom had planned for us to make gingerbread houses and their gigantic dining table was arranged with slabs of gingerbread pieces and candy as far as the eye could see.  It was every 12 year old girl’s dream come true.  Well, if Corey Hart would have made a special appearance, then it really would have been this girl’s dream come true, but I digress.  It was an afternoon of creating our little houses, as we saw fit.  Creativity was stirred, royal icing got stuck in the hair, and news of who liked who dominated the conversation.  I remember riding in the back of her parents’ minivan after the party, holding my little gingerbread house tight, amazed that I built something so pretty (and it didn't fall apart). That’s what is so magical about Christmas; these memories that linger, long after the royal icing has dried.  

Fast forward  almost 30 years.  Me and the birthday girl are still good friends, but my crush on Corey Hart has passed.  And I hadn't built a gingerbread house ever again, until just last month  when my trusty editor told me to.   Making a gingerbread house from scratch has some steps and can take some time, but the effort you put into it is well worth the end result.  It’s a great way to keep the kids busy while school is out, and with any luck the gingerbread houses will become the stuff of family lore and the start of a new Christmas tradition. Currently, mine sits in my living room and one of my cats has taken to chewing the trees off.  What a guy.  For how to make the gingerbread house from beginning to end, take a peek at my latest article for Culinaire Magazine.  

I'm off for a few days to see family, where no doubt I'll play in the snow with my nieces, watch "Love Actually" with my mom, and drink coffee with Baileys every morning as I watch the sun rise over the winter prairie.  It's going to be grand.  I wish you joy, peace and much merriment over the holiday season. xo Renee

Friday, December 19, 2014

Mushroom and Kale Bread Pudding with Bacon

When most people think bread pudding, they think sweet and dessert-y.  And it's delicious.  I'm a fan.  But I'm also a huge fan of the savoury bread pudding, you know, with vegetables and cheese and meat.  Same premise, but instead of dessert, it can be a side dish or even prepared for brunch.  Heck, this mushroom and kale bread pudding I created for the Mushrooms Canada blog was so good I ate a giant portion for supper.  Because bacon and mushrooms were always meant to be together.  And those crispy edges - oh man.  Don't get me started.  With the holidays just around the corner, and I mean just, this is a good little recipe to have in your back pocket, if you want to switch up the sides or wow your fam at brunch, after all of the presents have been opened and the coffee and Baileys are flowing freely. 

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Real Life: Chocolate Chipotle Icebox Cookies

"For each new morning with its light, for rest and shelter of the night, 
for health and food, for love and friends, 
for everything this goodness sends."  ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

One week ago I was certain the Universe hated me.  It's true.  Just ask my sister about the text I sent her.  In the course of 72 hours 1) My house was almost broken into in broad daylight.  I'm fine.  My ever-aware neighbours across the street alerted the police before I even had to, which was wonderful.  Still, it was unnerving to say the least.  2) The next day I had an unexpected visit from an ex boyfriend that was just sad and awkward, awkward and sad.  3) The day after that I had a root canal to try and soothe some dental issues, only to find out that there is a wayward wisdom tooth, that if erupted, will require intensive oral surgery to remove. Oh!  And this surgery could leave my face permanently numb.  That's right.  Numb. It was all a little bit much.  I wanted to crawl under the duvet with a book and these cookies and not come out all week.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Mocha Medjool Date Cake with Dark Chocolate Ganache

It’s that time of year when visions of sugar plums start dancing in heads.  Lists are being made on a daily basis and If you’re at all like me you’ve started thinking about desserts to serve for the upcoming holiday season.  Well, to be honest, I think about dessert all of the time, but especially at Christmas.  You want a showstopper.  And today, I have that for you, with a little help from the friendly (and delicious) Natural Delights Medjool date.  And, believe it or not, but this cake is completely vegan, and can easily be gluten free, too.  This is a great recipe to have on hand when guests with special dietary restrictions will be seated at your table.  Rather than having various desserts to accommodate this or that food issue, everyone can partake in this cake. They may even lick their plates.  

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Turkey Egg Rolls with Cranberry Chili Dipping Sauce

Most of you have recipes that only come out at the holidays.  Maybe because they are more involved and time consuming, or maybe because you just want to keep them special.  If you made The Most Amazing Crab Dip every month of the year, it just wouldn't have the same significance as it does at Christmas.  Same in my family.  Around the turn of the century (how fun to say that - I sound like I should be wearing petticoats or something) my mom started making egg rolls.  Like, really really good egg rolls.  She probably clipped the recipe out of the newspaper and thought she'd give them a whirl.  Remember clipping recipes out of newspapers?  Does anyone still do that?  The first year she made them for us at Christmas, we were freaking out they were so good.  Better than many Chinese restaurants in fact.  I would tease my mom and say she must have been a Chinese grandma in a former life.  She just smiled at me.  "Oh, Renee" she would say.  

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