Monday, November 25, 2013

Turkey Magnet

Want to make a cute little paper turkey to put on your fridge. Or without a magnet, you could attach it to a small gift. They're just so cute. Everyone loves them.

I just use the simple flat magnets. I've even saved the flat advertisement magnets that come in the mail and then will tear the paper off of them, cut them up and glue them on the back of paper crafts I've made so they can stick to the fridge.

Here's a larger Turkey. It uses the scallop circle punch that is 2 3/8 inches to make all the feathers of the turkey. Punch out a variety of scallop circles from a variety of orange, yellow, red, brown, tan, etc paper/cardstock. Paper will be more flimsy and the cardstock will make a more sturdy turkey. But either way they are adorable. The body of the turkey is a 1 3/4 circle punch. The head of the turkey is the 1 3/8 inch circle punch. The buttons on the body of the turkey are made using a 1/4 inch circle punch. The hat is from a black piece of scrap cardstock.  The beak is just a simple triangle cut from orange. You can punch a small square and cut it in half, if you wanted to make sure they are all consistent. Finally the feet, you can punch out the large flower from the Boho Blossoms flower punch. Then cut out a piece that only utilizes the 3 little toes. Eyes are googly eyes.

Here's a slightly smaller Turkey. It uses the scallop circle punch that is 1 3/4 inches to make all the feathers of the turkey. Punch out a variety of scallop circles from a variety of orange, yellow, red, brown, tan, etc paper/cardstock. Paper will be more flimsy and the cardstock will make a more sturdy turkey. But either way they are adorable. The body of the turkey is a 1 3/8 circle punch. The head of the turkey is the 1 inch circle punch. The buttons on the body of the turkey are made using a 1/4 inch circle punch. Use the 1/8 inch circle punch in black to make the little eyes. The hat is from a black piece of scrap cardstock.  The beak is just a simple triangle cut from orange. You can punch a small square and cut it in half, if you wanted to make sure they are all consistent. Finally the feet, you can punch out the large flower from the Boho Blossoms flower punch. Then cut out a piece that only utilizes the 3 little toes.  

  1.  Gather your supplies for the turkey and punch out the pieces. Begin to assemble.
  2. Using the scallop circle put 5 together and over lap them slightly. This is the back layer of feathers.
  3. The second layer of feather is 3 scallops. 
  4. Put them on top of the previous 5. 
  5. The third layer of feathers is optional depending on how many layers you want. Take one scallop circle and cut it into 4 pieces. 
  6. Put them on top of the 3 previous scallop circles
  7. Attach the body, head, eyes, beak, hat, buttons, and feet.
  8. Add a magnet to the back and you are Done!

Because you are using punches. They really are super simple to make. You can make a bunch in a small amount of time. Gather your supplies and start punching & gluing away. With Thanksgiving only a few days away, these are a great last minute paper craft to add a cute little touch to any Thanksgiving day get together. 

Thursday, November 21, 2013

How to Brine (& Roast) a Turkey -- with things you already have in your home!

Can you believe it's going to be Thanksgiving next week. I was realizing how close we are to Thanksgiving and that we should talk about the amazing results are of a turkey that has been soaked in a brine. I typically use a very simple salt and sugar brine. I've seen some pretty interesting combinations of stuff put into the brine solution.

Let's start at the very beginning. A very good place to start. The turkey. I've read that it is best to only brine a fresh turkey (one that has never been frozen) because the kind that have been frozen tend to have a salt solution injected into them to help preserve juiciness. I've brined a frozen turkey using this method and never had an issue with the meat being too salty. I always make sure to rinse it well and it has always turned out well.

The first time I ever attempted to brine a turkey, which was about 7 or 8 years ago, I didn't have the brining bags. I have used a variety of methods to soak the turkey in a brine and find that two clean trash bags work wonderfully if you don't have a brining bag on hand (like this one pictured from Williams Sonoma). They sell a set of 4 bags for $17.95. 2 small ones for a 5 lb chicken and 2 large ones that will hold up to a 23 pound turkey. And let me just say, once you start brining, you probably won't go back. It makes the breast of the turkey soooooo moist. Even the leftovers on the next day are still moist. It is A-MAAAAZING! But if you don't want to buy bags right away for your first time, then you can use a couple of regular tall kitchen trash bags.
 Brining Bags, Set of 4

Here's my cute little Tom turkey, in a bag and waiting for the brine to be added. It has been thawed (which was done in the refrigerator for at least 2-3 days prior to the day before Thanksgiving at no higher than 38 degrees Fahrenheit.), the innards were all removed, it has been rinsed, and then set into two large clean trash bags. For the brine I used a large 5 gallon jug or bucket and mixed all the stuff together. You can use a large pot or other container that will hold all the ingredients. 
 {{The first time I made a brine I didn't have a super large container for the brine so I just used a one gallon pitcher, added the sugar & salt, mixed it as well as I could, then put it into the trash bag, without the turkey, then added the rest of the water needed to cover the turkey. Then added the turkey. It worked wonderfully.}}

Some brines you have to cook and then wait for them to cool, but this one is simple. You take 2 cups of kosher salt (table salt will work too), 2 cups of white granulated sugar, and 2 1/2 gallons of cool water (not hot because you don't want to warm up your turkey and not cold because then the salt & sugar won't dissolve as easily). These are the ratios for a turkey that weighs about 12 -14 pounds and if your turkey is bigger then you will need a bit more water, salt and sugar. Keep it proportional... for every 1/2 gallon more of water add a 1/3 cup more salt and sugar. Stir the ingredients together.

It is important to keep your turkey cool while it brines. You don't want to just store it on the counter because it will get too warm. It needs to be kept cool. I can never store my turkey in the fridge during the holidays while it is brining because there is never enough room. I always have a bunch of pumpkin pies and other yummy holiday food crammed in there. You want to brine your turkey for about 4-6 hours minimum, but I usually start it at night before bed (10, 11 or midnight- depending on how much other stuff I still have to do before going to bed) and let it brine over night... for about 8-10 hours. 

You'll want to calculate backwards from when you want your turkey ready to serve. Here's an idea:
  1. Serve the Turkey at 1 PM.
  2. Remove Turkey at 12:30 to let it sit and rest for about 15-20 minutes before carving.
  3. A 12-16 pound turkey, that is unstuffed, will take about 2 1/2 - 3 hours to cook. 
  4. Between 9-10 AM you will want to have the bird in the oven. 
  5. 8:30 AM start dressing up the bird with whatever spices, butter, etc that you've chosen. 
  6. 8 AM pull the bird out of the brine, rinse, let it soak in water for 15 minutes, rinse again. 
  7. 11 PM the night before, start brining your bird, and it will be soaking for about 9 hours.

I've found a fantastic way to keep it cool and not take up space in the fridge. Use a cooler. First I layer some ice cubes in the bottom of the cooler, then I put my trash bags in the cooler, add the turkey, and add the brining liquid.

You'll want to remove the excess air so that the liquid is covering up the turkey and then seal up the bags. I used a small zip tie. It was effective and strong at keeping it closed, but you can use whatever you can find.

I noticed that my turkey would float to the top of the brining water and I wanted to keep it submerged. So after it was sealed up, we added a small bowl to the top so that when we close the lid on the cooler, it would push the turkey down fully into the liquid.

Finally we wanted to keep the turkey cool so we added ice cubes all around the turkey in his little salt bath. Closed the lid and came back 8 hours later and it was ready to start the roasting process.

This is a very important step. Rinse the turkey well. You want to get rid of any excess salt. Rinse the outside of the bird and use your hand to rub off salt. Make sure you rinse out the inside of the bird well as well. Then fill up the sink full of cold water and let your bird soak in the cold water bath for about 15 minutes. Then drain the water and rinse him again.

Pull the bird out of his bath and pat him dry with some paper towels. Let him rest on a clean dry towel to allow any excess water to drain out while you prepare your other ingredients for roasting.

Then he is ready for you to start roast. Everyone has a preferred method of roasting. Breast side up or down. High heat then low heat, only low heat, in a bag, or in a roaster. There are lots of ways. I've used multiple methods.

There's a simple Roasting method included here.

Start preheating your oven to 425 degrees. All you need is butter, some pepper and low sodium chicken broth. After the turkey has been rinsed let it sit and drain any excess water. Pat dry with paper towels. Mix 5 tablespoons of softened butter with 1/2 teaspoon of pepper. Rub this butter under the skin of the turkey, next to the turkey breast. Then take the 3 tablespoons of melted butter and brush that on the skin. The turkey is cold so it will solidify the butter. I sprinkled a little more pepper on top of the skin as well. (Then I stuffed some celery stalks, onion quarters and some carrots into the cavity of the bird. It wasn't stuffed full, just some vegetables to add some extra flavor.) Then in the bottom of your roasting pan, pour in the low sodium chicken broth to use for basting and to keep things from burning in the bottom of the pan.

Put the prepared turkey into the 425 degree Fahrenheit oven for 25 minutes. Baste and then rotate the roasting pan in the oven. Bake for an additional 25 minutes and then baste it again. Reduce the oven temperature to 325 degrees Fahrenheit. Continue to roast, baste and rotate the pan every 30-40 minutes. It will only need about an hour to an hour and half more (if it is about a 12 pound turkey). Keep cooking the turkey until the breast reaches an internal temperature of about 170 degrees and the thigh meat is 180 degrees. Pull out the turkey and let it sit for about 15-20 minutes before carving. 

{{Brining & Roasting A Turkey}}

Click here for printer friendly version

2 cups Coarse Kosher Salt
2 cups sugar
2 1/2 gallons cool water
1 (12 -14 pound) fresh, whole, bone-in skin-on turkey, rinsed and patted dry
5 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 cup low sodium chicken broth, wine or water
To Brine: Combine Kosher Salt and sugar in cool water in a large, clean stockpot or 5 gallon jug until completely dissolved. Place the whole turkey in the brine until completely submerged. Cover and refrigerate for 4 to 5 hours minimum (or cover with ice in a cooler) and up to 8-12 hours. Remove the turkey from the brine, rinse inside and out under cool running water for several minutes to remove all traces of salt. Fill up a sink of cold water and let the turkey sit in the water for about 15 minutes. Drain water, rinse inside and out again then pat dry with paper towels.

To Roast: Mix the softened butter with the pepper. Place turkey on rack in roasting pan. Rub the seasoned butter under the skin. Brush the skin with the melted butter. Pour the 1 cup liquid (wine, broth or water) over the pan bottom to prevent drippings from burning. Roast turkey at 450 degrees F for 25 minutes, baste and then rotate the roasting pan. Continue roasting until the skin turns golden brown, an additional 25 minutes; baste again. Reduce oven temperature to 325 degrees F; continue to roast, basting and rotating the pan once about halfway through cooking, until the *internal temperature reaches 170 degrees F for turkey breast meat and 180 degrees F for turkey thigh meat. Remove the turkey from the oven. Let stand 20 minutes before carving.

Happy Brining! Have a Happy Holiday!

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Sunshine Cupcakes

So the sun's not shining much these days....Blech. **big sigh**

It's killing me to see the days getting soooo short. Sunrise is about 7:30 AM and the sun is going to bed way too early, around 5 PM. Oh that is not okay with me. I LOOOVE me some sunshine, so these cupcakes were perfect to add a little brightness to a otherwise un-sunny day. You don't need the sun shining to make you smile... these cupcakes will just make you feel happy inside and out.

These require the candy corn candies which are only available to buy during the autumn months, so I think they are the best way to bring some summer sun into the mi.

For Young Women’s I have been making a yummy treat every month to celebrate the girl’s and leader’s birthdays that month. They have to come up front, we sing to them and then everyone gets a treat. This month I made these A-DOR-ABLE sunshine cupcakes. I’d found an image of them on Pinterest, but no tutorial. Not that a tutorial is really needed. I created my own then. I made them suuuuper simple.

1-Boxed yellow cake mix, made as directed on the box. Made about 22 cupcakes.
2- Then I used a container of pre-made white vanilla frosting, colored it yellow with some food coloring and spread on a nice layer using a knife.
3- Next I had a bag of candy corn and using about 9 candies, I put them around the outside edge of the cupcake to represent the rays of the sun.
4- 2 mini chocolate chips are the eyes. I pushed the pointy end into the frosting of the cupcake.
5- I had leftover yellow frosting that I added more red food coloring to, and it became a pinkish orangey color. Instead of putting it into a cake decorating bag with a tip that would have to be washed, I put it into a plastic ziploc sandwich bag and snipped a teeny tiny hole in the bottom corner and used that to pipe a cute little smile on the cupcake.
6- Then they were done! See Super Simple! and SUUUPER Cute!

Monday, November 18, 2013

Apple Cider Cupcakes with Salted Caramel Buttercream Frosting

Oh my goodness! These are A-MAAAAZE-ing! A friend of mine made these and brought them over to me and the kids and I had to fight over the extra cupcake. The flavor of the apple cider cupcake was fantastic. The caramel buttercream on top was a nice sweet that didn't over power and then the extra caramel drizzled on top, just added some chewy-ness that I loved. Sometimes my cakes stick with vanilla or chocolate... sometimes it's nice to "spice" things up a bit!

I immediately asked her for the recipe. She emailed it to me and said she got it from Pinterest. Yay! Well I went on to find out where it came from and there are about a bazillion different recipes out there for this cupcake. I'm not sure who made this specific one, but it is a success!

I made the cupcakes and had to share them with my neighbors.

They are so yummy! A great fall flavored cupcake. It is a nice spice cake that isn't too strong. Perfect for these cool fall days.

Here's the recipe:

{{Apple Cider Cupcakes with Salted Caramel Buttercream}}

(Printer Friendly Version... click here)

2 eggs, room temperature
1 2/3 cup flour
1 cup apple cider
2/3 cup sugar
1/2 cup butter, softened
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp vanilla

Beat the eggs and then whisk together all ingredients. Doesn’t even require a mixer. Can be made in one bowl. Fill cupcake liners 2/3 full and bake at 350ยบ for 19 minutes. Remove and allow to cool completely before frosting.

Salted Caramel Buttercream
1/2 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup shortening
5-6 tbsp melted caramel -1/2 bag of Kraft caramels*
1 tsp sea salt
4 cups powdered sugar

In a stand mixer, cream together the butter and shortening. Add the powdered sugar and the caramel alternately (add the salt in with the caramel), mixing after each addition. Place the frosting into a pastry bag with a large circle tip (like 2A) and put the frosting on in a Round Swirl Pattern.

*The caramel is a little tricky just in that it needs to be the right temperature-- warm enough that it's still liquid and can blend into the buttercream, but not so hot that it melts the butter making everything too thin. Evaluate the buttercream at about 4 tbsp of caramel-- if it's getting way too thin, stop adding caramel or add more powdered sugar. I found that 6 Tbsp. was perfect for my batch.

Drizzle Topping

With the remaining caramels, unwrap the caramels and place into a bowl. Add about a tablespoon of heavy cream (or milk). Microwave on high for a minute and stir. Microwave at 30 second intervals and stir in between until caramel is melted and has an even consistency. Allow the caramel to cool slightly (so it doesn’t melt the frosting), and then drizzle it over the frosted cupcakes. 

And then if you still have some melted caramel left over... you can cut up some apples and dip them in there... while you eat this Awesome Autumn Cupcake!

Friday, November 15, 2013

Roasted Potatoes

These are a great option for a side dish. Roasted Potatoes. They are easy to make and they are ridiculously addicting. Once you take the first bite... you just can't stop. They are like vegetable candy! What's better than that!

This is the kind of recipe that is great for a few people and it is super easy to bulk it up to make it for a crowd. You just have to chop more potatoes. I think the most important tip... make sure you cut the potatoes up to be as close to the same size as possible. You could even use a French Fry Cutter to get a smaller more uniform shape. 

Once you have the potatoes cut up... put them in a colander and rinse them off. 

Take a large baking pan and line it with aluminum foil (just for easy clean up later!). Then spread out the potatoes on the baking sheet.  In a mixing bowl or glass measuring cup add the oil and all the seasonings. Drizzle all over the potatoes and then toss them. You can use a spoon, but better yet.... get your fingers in there and start tossing them up to make sure they are all covered. The olive oil is great for your skin anyways... specially with the dry Fall air.

Put them in a 475 degree oven. You'll want to toss them twice (but don't use your fingers here... best to use a spoon) while they are roasting for the 20-30 minutes that it takes to get the potatoes fork tender. Brown and roast them til they are crispy and yummy! They are fantastic just like this... but if you want to add a little more... sprinkle some Parmesan cheese on top before you serve em up!

{{Roasted Potatoes}}

1/8 cup olive oil
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1/2 teaspoon dried basil
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon dried parsley
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
2 Tablespoons dry minced onion
4 large potatoes, peeled and cubed, rinsed and dried

Preheat oven to 475 degrees F.
In a large bowl, combine oil, garlic, basil, oregano, parsley, black pepper, sea salt and dry minced onion. Stir in potatoes until evenly coated. Place potatoes in a single layer on a roasting pan or baking sheet lined with aluminum foil. Roast for 20 to 30 minutes in the preheated oven, turning occasionally to brown on all sides.

VARIATION: After the potatoes are done, pull them out of the oven and sprinkle them with grated Parmesan cheese. Toss and serve.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Homemade Vanilla Sugar

What happens when you take two yummy things and put them together? You get something even better. Today we mixed together white granulated sugar and vanilla beans and made Vanilla Sugar! It takes ordinary sugar to extraordinary! Vanilla sugar, when used alone, adds a subtle flavor. It can also be used to replace vanilla extract in a recipe (1 tbsp. vanilla sugar=1/4 tsp. vanilla extract), or can be used in addition to the extract to add more flavor & dimension to your baked goods.

There are TONS of different types of vanilla beans out there. I've seen counts of over 200 vanilla bean varieties... say what!? That's crazy! Some popular bean varieties include Madagascar, Tongan, Tahitian, Mexican, Indian, Indonesian, Bourbon, etc and they all have varying flavor. I've used the Madagascar Bourbon vanilla beans- because during my research I learned they were the best for making vanilla extracts and sugars. (I do want to try the Tahitian and Mexican next though.) The flavor of this Madagascar bean is great for cooking with (whether you make an extract--post to come soon, or if you make the vanilla sugar).  Once you start looking online you might be overwhelmed at all the varieties of vanilla beans. One word of caution.... DON'T buy them at the grocery store. They come in a small bottle and it costs like $12 for only 1, maybe 2 beans. Ridiculous! The best way to buy your beans is to get them online. I've bought them here at Olive Nation. They have free shipping on all vanilla bean orders. The more you buy, the better the deal is. I've ordered from here several times, and they were great quality beans when I received them I was able to make a bunch of different things. Plus they can be stored for future use.

The beans aren't very attractive, but as soon as you open the package, the sweet aroma of creamy vanilla will fill the room. Here is one thing that you can do with the vanilla beans... make vanilla sugar. It's simple and will only take 5 minutes.

In order to make the vanilla sugar, you need 2 ingredients. Sugar & vanilla beans.

That's it! And 1 to 2 weeks later, you can start using the sugar that has been infused with the flavor of the vanilla beans.

There is so much flavor in a single vanilla bean that you can continue to add fresh sugar to the container with the bean and it will continue to make more and more vanilla sugar. You can do this for about 6 months. Awesome!

How to Cut A Vanilla Bean: Lay the bean flat on wax paper (so you don't lose any precious seeds) on a cutting surface. Carefully cut at the center, then cut toward each end. Once the bean is split open, scrape the tiny seeds out with the blade of the knife or the tip of a spoon. (By cutting the bean open before placing it in the sugar, more surfaces of the bean is exposed, intensifying the flavoring properties.) 

{{Vanilla Sugar}}

(printer friendly version click here)

1 vanilla bean, whole or scraped
2 cups granulated sugar (can also use confectioners' sugar)

First rinse off the vanilla bean with water and pat it dry. Then take the whole vanilla bean and slice down the side of bean with the back of a knife (or a spoon) and scrape out the black gooey seeds. Stir the seeds into the sugar that is in an airtight container. Bury the bean in the sugar as well and seal tightly with lid. Let sit for 1 to 2 weeks. Use in place of any recipe that calls for regular, granulated sugar. More sugar can be added to the same beans for up to 6 months and the bean will continue to flavor the sugar.

Suggested ways to use the Vanilla Sugar: (possibilities are endless)
  • Sprinkle it directly on cookies, muffins, cereal, oatmeal, tea, coffee, hot chocolate, and other beverages.
  • Kettle Corn Popcorn
  • Put the sugar in a cute air tight container, add a ribbon & give as a gift! Add it to a gift basket of other goodies that the sugar can be used with. 
  • Baking--
    • Snickerdoodles & SuperDoodles
    • Sugar Cookies
    • Cakes (especially white cakes)
    • Fruit Desserts
    • Puddings 

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Thanksgiving Chalkboard

Here's my Thanksgiving Chalkboard Art for the month. It's a simple one... but sometimes the best ones are!

I started by writing the "Thanks!" then I drew on the pumpkin. Next I added the word "Give". Finally, I added some little swirly lines. I was thinking of adding some leaves instead, but there wasn't much room so I went with swirly's instead. 

I've been having fun changing up the art in this little frame. It's nice to have something that's easy to change up for the holidays or just on a whim!

Click here to see how I made it and what I'm using.

Click here to buy the chalk marker. 

Friday, November 8, 2013

Thanksgiving Table Centerpiece

Here's an idea for your Thanksgiving Table... or a Food Table or just a decoration during the holidays.

First take a fresh pumpkin. One from the garden. One from the store. Any size pumpkin will do. You know those pumpkins that are lazy and grow laying down and end up having a flat side? Those sweet little pumpkins are perfect for this.

It can be a big pumpkin or a smaller pumpkin. You'll want to start by laying the pumpkin on its flat side. I think it is cuter to have the stem of the pumpkin still attached and showing, but if you want, you can use a pumpkin standing up straight and cut the top off like you would when starting a Jack-O-Lantern.

Then using a knife (or carving tool from Halloween) you'll cut a hole in the side of the pumpkin. Scoop out the seeds and set aside. (Maybe use this recipe to make some roasted pumpkin seeds??? They are yummy!)

I like to use a handful of fake Fall flower stems and grass stems, such as mums, sunflowers, etc. Then fill up the hole with the flowers. Voila! You're centerpiece is ready to go! It takes maybe 5-10 minutes from beginning to end.

If you want to use a fresh bouquet of fall flowers, you can! Simply put a bowl of water into the bottom of the pumpkin and then arrange the flowers in the water to help keep them fresh and strong all through the celebrations. This will make the pumpkin heavier and so you'll probably want to assemble it close to where it will be used. Cause when you move it around with the water inside, it gets all sloshy and spilly. And that's no fun.

Another idea.... buy one of those pretend pumpkins... you know the artificial carvable pumpkins that last forever.  Use that, put a hole in it and add the flowers. This could be reused year after year.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Cheesy Bacon Ranch Dip

Holidays are here. That means it's time to party. There's always tons of party's to attend and when you have to bring something for a potluck or to share, this is a fantastic dip to bring. With busy schedules it's nice that it is so easy to make, but really packs a punch. It's crazy addicting.

{{Cheesy Bacon Ranch Dip}}

(printer friendly version click here)

16 oz sour cream
1 packet Ranch dressing mix
3 oz real bacon bits (the kind in the bag)
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
2 green onions, chopped

Mix together sour cream, packet of Ranch Dressing mix, bacon bits, and shredded cheese. Then refrigerate the dip for at least 24 hours. Garnish with green onions. Serve with crackers.

**Can also serve with chips or veggies.

 Okay... go make some. Mmmmm.....


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