In an earlier post, I noted that when we got closer to Canadian Thanksgiving, we’d start talking turkey. Really, I had every intention of doing so. But then a couple of weeks went by and – Oops, Canadian Thanksgiving is next week.
I love talking food. In fact, it is my secret ambition to become a world renowned chef. Well, truth be told, I have a lot of secret ambitions to be a lot of really cool things – like a ninja. Unfortunately, becoming a ninja is much more difficult and time consuming than one would think, not to mention a little impractical, and not exactly something you can nonchalantly mention in a conversation. If anything, I would be a ninja just for random ass kicking. I could beat someone up and then shout, “I am Blue Midget! I am no one’s bitch!” But I digress. The most reasonable food ambition that I’ve had over the past few years is to find the best cookie recipes ever – and don’t give me that crap about the Neiman Marcus cookies. I wipe my butt with those things. They are certainly “nice”, or possibly even “pleasant”, but not the best. In fact, they’re not even on the top ten list of awesomely delicious cookies ever. Don’t fall for the hype.
It’s a difficult business, looking for decent recipes. Excuse the pun, but it really can be like a box of chocolates – you never know what you’re going to get, especially if you’re a novice. Watching a cooking show is the same way, if not worse. Sure, that dinner looks great on television, but the recipes can be difficult, time consuming, expensive, impractical, and inedible. There’s nothing more frustrating than spending a lot of time and money on something, only to find in the very end that it tastes like crap. My first endeavors into food were this way, and it was a long, difficult process to find a decent, down-to-earth recipe. Not that I’m knocking some of the fancy, swanky cooking magazines and television shows: It’s great if you want to spend hours making an exotic meal from Bon Appetit because you’ve got the palette, but if you’re looking for something quick and delicious and you’ve never heard of half the ingredients it calls for, my suggestion is that you try something else.
Searching around for good recipes and trying them at random can be a scary business, so I tend to stick with “safe” recipes. My Bon Appetit subscription ran out eons ago, even though after a few years of subscriptions I really did find a handful of great, albeit laborious and expensive recipes. However, I opted for the simpler Taste of Home magazine, as well as some of its brethren, like Light and Tasty magazine. I wish I could tell you that I make up recipes on my own, but unfortunately I’m just not that good. Instead, I have to find recipes that I think will be good, modify them just a tad, and then sucker other people into eating them.
When it comes to the holidays, two laws apply:
- Time is precious.
- We’re all going to get a little fatter.
Because of these two laws, I require recipes that will be somewhat healthy (so we can feel less guilty about dessert) and not keep me in the kitchen for a week. The following recipes have been tried and true at parties, potlucks, dinners, and other miscellaneous gatherings. They are not what you’d consider exotic foods; they are down-to-earth and delicious.
In the hors d’oeuvre department, I would suggest the following stuffed mushroom recipe. This is a recipe that I found on the Food Network website a couple of years ago, and I have to say that I have never seen anything disappear so fast at parties than these. The greatest attraction is that they are not made with fish or pork, as most stuffed mushrooms are. On the other hand, the biggest problem to them is, no matter how many you make, they disappear in about ten minutes. The recipe is “Grandma Nancy’s Large Mushrooms”. It usually only makes somewhere between 6 – 7 mushrooms, so I will triple (or quadruple!) the recipe. These can be assembled the evening prior and stored in an airtight container, then baked the next day.
Grandma Nancy’s Large Mushrooms
6 large button mushrooms
1 link hot Italian sausage (meat taken out of casing) – I use poultry sausage, as it’s a healthier option, and people, in general, will eat poultry over pork or fish.
3/4 cup seasoned Italian bread crumbs
3/4 cup grated Pecorino Romano
1/4 cup grated Parmigiano Reggiano (REAL parmesan, not the stuff in the green can)
1 tablespoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon dried parsley
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil plus more for drizzling
1/4 cup shredded mozzerella
Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
Wash and pat dry mushrooms. Take off stems and chop into small pieces. Place mushroom caps in baking dish. Place teaspoon of sausage meat in bottom of mushroom. Press meat down into mushroom. In a small bowl combine mushroom pieces, bread crumbs, Pecorino Romano, Parmigiano Reggiano, garlic powder, pepper, and parsley. Add olive oil until mixture is moist. If too dry add more oil. Fill each mushroom cap generously with stuffing mixture and place in baking pan. If any stuffing is leftover, divide evenly and top each mushroom. Drizzle olive oil over each one. Pour little water in bottom of pan. Cover with foil. Bake for 30 minutes. Remove foil, sprinkle shredded mozzarella on each mushroom and bake uncovered for another 10 minutes.
(This recipe is copyright 2003 by the Food Network)
No Thanksgiving day is complete without the greatest stuffing ever – and I don’t mean some “that was nice” stuffing. I’m talking about stuffing that makes you want to forget the turkey and mashed potatoes and just go for the stuffing. You know what I’m talking about – the rolling around naked in it kind of stuffing. Er, maybe I’ve said too much. Anyway, this recipe was given to me by a co-worker, and I couldn’t believe how delicious it was. I will now share it with you. This doesn’t have a name, so I have to make one up.
Halffull.org Ass-Kicking Ninja Stuffing
1 bag of bread cubes/stuffing (I use unseasoned, but you can use seasoned if you want)
1 lb. poultry sausage (casings removed)
¾c. – 1c. diced celery
¾c. – 1c. diced onion
Poultry Seasoning (I use “Bells Seasoning” – it’s an all-natural/salt free fine powder that comes in a little box, but I have no idea if it’s available in Canada or not)
Salt & Pepper
Cook up the sausage. In a seperate pan, sautee celery and onion in a little butter. Remove both from stove and add to your bread cubes. Add poultry seasoning (you do it to taste, but I probably use something between 1tsp. – 1&1/2tsp.) and a bit of salt and pepper (again, add to taste – probably no more than 1/2 tsp salt and ¼ tsp pepper, but don’t quote me). Add a little beef broth to moisten. For stuffing novices, you do not want to drench the stuffing. All you want to do is add just a bit of broth to moisten it so that the bread cubes are springy to the touch; it should not be soaked. You’ll probably need to get your hands in there to mix it all around – don’t be shy, just wash your hands. It really doesn’t take much to make this stuffing, so don’t make it too far in advance unless you’re going to put some of it into the turkey. No ninjas were harmed or experimented on in the making of this recipe.
(Copyright 2005 Halffull.org Secret Ninjas Association)
Now that I’ve talked all about finding the best cookie recipes of all time, I can’t leave you without one of my more awesome finds. This comes courtesy of a very old Chocolatier Magazine. I have considered getting a subscription to the magazine, but I have read very horrible things from people who have subscribed – like they paid but never got their magazine, and there’s no way to contact the company other than mail. I read that on the almighty internet so I don’t know if it’s true or not, but it was enough to keep me from subscribing. Anyway, they do have a damn tasty cookie recipe, and you’ll like it for the holidays because it involves Bailey’s liqueur. Buy a nice sized bottle, put the tablespoon in the recipe and drink the rest of it yourself.
Double Chocolate Chip Mocha Cookies
20 minutes prep
2 cups all-purpose flour
¼ cup unsweetened non-alkalized cocoa powder
¼ cup instant coffee granules
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup unsalted butter at room temperature
¾ cup granulated sugar
¾ cup light brown sugar
2 large eggs
1 Tbsp. coffee liqueur (I use Bailey’s)
3 cups (2 bags) Ghirardelli double chocolate chips
Preheat oven to 350F. Line baking sheets with parchment paper. In medium bowl, whisk together flour, cocoa, coffee granules, baking soda and salt. In large bowl, beat butters and sugars until smooth and creamy. Add eggs, beating 20 seconds after each addition. Scrape the sides of the bowl using a rubber spatula. Add the coffee liqueur and beat until combined. Using a wooden spoon, mix in the chocolate chips. Drop tablespoons of the dough onto the lined cookie sheets and bake in the pre-heated oven for 10 – 12 minutes until set. Cool slightly and remove with a metal spatula to a cooling rack and cool completely.
(Probably copyrighted by Chocolatier Magazine, so I’ll just add this disclaimer here for legal purposes.)
Happy Thanksgiving to our neighbors in the north.
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