Recipes

Gluten Free & Paleo Classic Holiday Turkey

Gluten Free and Paleo Classic Holiday Turkey | Home Again Creative

There's no doubt that cooking a Holiday Turkey can be a challenge, and I have definitely made several turkeys that were worthy of the trash! To cook a great turkey, there are many obstacles to overcome: the white meat needs to be cooked to 160° F, the dark meat needs to be cooked to 175° F, and all the while, you want to get the skin crisp without turning the breast meat to chalk.  

I have read a lot about roasting turkey and through trial-and-error, I've come up with a method that works for me, every time. 

 First, a few rules.

  1. Don't Stuff the bird. No doubt stuffing is awesome, but if you think about it, the thing that makes stuffing awesome is the bird's juices infusing it. However, those juices need to be cooked to 165° F and you can't achieve that without drying out the breast meat. Removing the stuffing to finish on the stove top isn't a good option, because when you remove it you will inevitably cross contaminate the meat. Also, stuffing isn't Paleo, and we're Paleo.
  2. Don't baste the bird. Basting the bird does nothing to moisten the meat and keeps the skin from crisping. Not to mention every time you open the oven to baste, you add to the overall cook time. Salt or brine instead. 
  3. Don't rely on the pop-up timer  — it will likely fail you. However, don't remove it — juices will flow from the gapping hole it leaves behind.
  4. Rest the turkey for 30 minutes. Resting the turkey will allow the fibers to reabsorb the juices. If you don't let it rest you'll wind up with a puddle to clean up on the counter.  
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Home Again Creative's Gluten Free & Paleo Classic Turkey

This recipe is for a 12-14 pound turkey. If you have a bigger turkey, add additional herbs and roots accordingly. Total time for this recipe is 17-23 hours, so be sure to plan plenty of time.

Ingredients

(1) 12-14 pound turkey with neck, giblets, and tail piece
(6) sprigs of thyme
(2) onions, chopped coarse
(2) carrots, chopped coarse
(2) celery ribs, chopped coarse
(3) tablespoons ghee

Instructions

Trim any excess fat from the turkey and set aside the neck, giblets, and tail piece.

Salt or brine the turkey, though I recommend brining. For instructions, see our blog post How to Salt & Brine Poultry.  After brining, you will need to air dry the bird. Pat the turkey dry in the cavity and outside and place it on a wire rack in a rimmed baking sheet; refrigerate for at least 8 hours.

Chop the thyme, onions, carrots, and celery; melt the ghee. Toss 1 tbsp of melted ghee with the herbs and vegetables, and place the mixture inside the turkey cavity, then trestle (tie the drumsticks together with string) the turkey.

 Adjust the oven racks to the lowest position and preheat to 400° F.  

Brush the turkey with the remaining ghee.

Place a cup of water into the roasting pan and start roasting the turkey breast side DOWN for 45 minutes. 

When the 45 minutes is completed pull the turkey from the oven and flip it, using paper towels. Then return it to the oven breast side UP for about an hour, or until the breast registers 160° F and the thighs read 175°F. 

Remove turkey from the oven & onto a carving board, tipping it cavity side down into your roasting pan, so any juices in the cavity run into the pan. Let the turkey rest for 30 minutes, and finish the gravy.   

After that, carve, serve, and enjoy!! 

The Home Cook's Guide to Buying a Turkey

Turkey Buying Guide | Home Again Creative

Most of us purchase a turkey once or twice a year, usually for friends and loved ones on a special occasion, so it’s important to get it right. I’ve spent a lot of time reading and experimenting with these birds and have gotten results that range from a bird with the texture of chalk, all the way to really darn good.

With all the failures along the way, I have figured a few things out and would like to share what I have learned and continue to learn (this post will be updated and reposted annually). In the spirit of ongoing education, I invite you to share your tips and tricks in the comments below.

WHAT KIND OF BIRD TO BUY?

I’ve tried several types of turkeys and have classified them below. Statements are true for whole turkeys and breast a like.

Before we begin, a sidebar: I know there is a movement regarding ethically raised food that I do tend to prescribe to. However, I’m not a scientific researcher, so I have deemed that this forum is not the place for that discussion. Also, hunting — which I partake in — is mentioned in the post. I know many have huge opinions about hunting pros and cons. We could talk for days on the ethics regarding to-hunt or not-to-hunt, but again, I’m not a professor of ethics, so...not the place. My blog, so I get to delete comments that are not respectful or on topic.

Here we go! First thing that needs to be said is, you should buy the best quality bird YOUR money can buy. Everybody has a budget and I don't think anyone should be putting a feast on credit. Also, it's been my experience that the most expensive birds aren't necessarily the best birds.

First up are what I call "Supermarket Turkeys” and are what is most commonly available. The pros of these Toms is the price per pound, and I have had good results with them. They are a great choice for many families. The cons are that these birds are usually very lean as they are bred to be broad-breasted, which means they are dryer than other turkeys and are sometimes “pre-basted.” Personally, I have found that pre-basting causes the meat to be soggy, and washed out, so I typically skip the pre-basted guys.

If you choose this type of turkey be sure to check out our salting & brining method, in How to Salt & Brine Poultry,  if it ISN'T pre-basted. If it's pre-basted, skip the salt or brine, but be sure to air dry the bird as outlined at the end of the blog post.

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Supermarket Turkeys come with a lot of labels.
Below are some of the most common explanations, curtesy of the USDA.


FREE RANGE
or
FREE ROAMING

Producers must demonstrate to the Agency that the poultry has been allowed access to the outside.

Key words here are "demonstrate" and "allowed access." Basically it means that the birds are allowed to roam around a warehouse and can go outside if wanted. It does not mean that they get to be natural birds foraging around for insects and such.


FRESH

"Fresh" means whole poultry and cuts have never been below 26 °F (the temperature at which poultry freezes). This is consistent with consumer expectations of "fresh" poultry, i.e., not hard to the touch or frozen solid.


NATURAL

A product containing no artificial ingredient or added color and is only minimally processed.

Minimal processing means that the product was processed in a manner that does not fundamentally alter the product. The label must include a statement explaining the meaning of the term natural (such as "no artificial ingredients; minimally processed").


NO HORMONES

Hormones are not allowed in raising hogs or poultry.


NO ANTIBIOTICS

The terms "no antibiotics added" may be used on labels for meat or poultry products if sufficient documentation is provided by the producer to the Agency demonstrating that the animals were raised without antibiotics.


YOUNG

Turkeys of either sex that are less than 8 months of age according to present regulations.


KOSHER

"Kosher" may be used only on the labels of meat and poultry products prepared under rabbinical supervision. I won't expand on Kosher, because I'm not Jewish, would get it wrong, and possibly offend some people with my ignorance. For my purposes, Kosher means it's pre salted. Kosher birds are a good compromise between natural and self-basting birds.


I couldn't find an explanation on this from the USDA, but my research tells me it basically means they weren't fed slaughter house byproducts, or in other words...other chickens. This sounds horrifying, but in truth, chickens are omnivores, readily eating bugs and small animals when available, so I'm not sure a forced vegetarian diet is a good thing or even possible.

However, what I was able to find was vegetarian feed is becoming popular in industrial chicken farming because it reduces the risk of animal diseases being spread through poultry feed. This is a particular concern to industrial chicken farmers because the conditions in which animals are raised makes them more susceptible to disease. Thus, it's definitely bad for birds to eat sick birds that were used in the feed.

VEGETARIAN FED


USDA CERTIFIED ORGANIC

To sell organic poultry meat, birds must be fed and managed organically from the second day after hatching. All agricultural components of the feed ration, including kelp and carriers in feed supplements, must be 100% organic. All poultry must have access to the outdoors. (There's that key word: ACCESS.)

Organic poultry producers must establish preventative livestock health management practices. Medical treatment cannot be withheld from sick animals or flocks to maintain the birds' organic status. The use of growth hormones, antibiotics, genetic engineering, and animal cloning is prohibited, as is the feeding of slaughter byproducts. All organic poultry production and processing operations must be done by USDA-accredited certification agencies. Detailed records of all feeds, medications, and transactions must be maintained. Organic integrity must be protected by preventing organic birds and poultry products from coming in contact with prohibited substances or being commingled with non-organic products.


WATER CHILLED

This means the turkey is dunked in a clorine bath during processing causing it to retian moisture, this washes out the flavor of the turkey. Most turkey's in the supermarket are water chilled, so try to find an "Air-Chilled" Turkey.


PRE- or
SELF-BASTED

This pretty much means the bird was injected with a solution of one or more of salt, oils, broths, spices, sugars, preservatives. I have always found these birds to be spongey and washed of true turkey flavor.


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Beyond the adjectives that they can throw on the label of any bird, regardless of the variety, there are also some distinct types of turkey:


BONE-IN TURKEY
BREAST

Most groceries offer two types:

  • Regular / True Cut Breast will include the breast with ribs, a portion of the wing, and a portion of the back, and neck skin.
  • Hotel / Country Style Breast is the same as the True Cut, but also include the wings, neck, & giblets, all of which is essential to making gravy or sauce for the turkey.

WILD

Wild Turkeys are exactly that: you go out and hunt and harvest them yourself. You never know what you’ll get with these guys. Some are the best you’ll ever have; some are stringy & awful. Wild Turkeys are are nomadic animals, so you just never know where and what they’ve been eating. Due to the unpredictable flavor of wild turkeys, I don’t recommend them for dinner parties.


HERITAGE

Heritage Turkeys are direct descendants from wild turkeys, and bred to be...not wild, meaning farmers got tired of chasing them all over the woods, so they bred the nomadic characteristics out of them. They are typically treated like royalty; pampered, fed a very high quality all vegetarian diet, and are free to roam. While, I have certainly found some very tasty heritage birds...them birds are expensive and I mean expensive, and I’m not convinced they are worth the price. 


LOCAL

Local Turkeys are probably the best turkey you can buy. This is the type of turkey where you meet the people that raised the bird and they give you personal guarantees. These people make it or break it on their honesty, so they have an incentive to be straight forward about what they are raising. Not to mention the positives of spending money in your local community, etc.

 

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FRESH OR FROZEN?

Unless you are buying a turkey from a local farmer, fresh isn't best. As mentioned above, a "fresh" turkey can be chilled all the way to 27 degrees fahrenheit & still be considered fresh. Turkey's freezing point is 26 degrees, but the moisture, from processing, can still crystalize and damaged the meat. Then during transport the bird may be introduced to a higher temperature thawing the crystals, then be reintroduced to extreme cold and form again, and further damage the meat, resulting in the proteins not being able to retain moisture during cooking. When serving, the result will be tough, chalky meat.

Frozen turkeys on the other hand, are blast chilled, which eliminates crystals from forming, and is not introduced to temperature fluctuations. The least amount of damage to the poultry is done by blast freezing.  

SIZE OF TURKEYS

I don't recommend buying a turkey over 14 pounds, as I have had better results with smaller birds. Rule of thumb is you'll need 1 pound per person. If you're feeding more than 14 people, I would recommend getting or borrowing a portable roaster oven and cooking 2 smaller birds rather than 1 giant one. If this doesn't work for you, just go as small as you can.

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Now that I have bored you to tears with all the nuances, here's the quick and dirty of my experiences:

• I don't purchase pre-based / seasoned birds.
 

• If a knew someone who raised local Turkeys I'd go that route, but like most folks, I don't.
 

• First Pick for my budget is Organic, Frozen, Young birds.
 

• If my budget is a bit tighter, and sometimes it is, I go with All Natural, VegEtarian Feed, No Hormone, No Antibiotic, Frozen, Young birds.
 

• Finally, AS a compromise, I'd pick a Kosher bird.


I hope this helps clear the muddy waters when it comes to selecting a Turkey! Please let us know if you have something we missed — best way to learn is from each other. Be on the lookout for our upcoming posts on how to cook up that perfectly selected bird! 

How to Salt and Brine Poultry

Salting or brining poultry in a saltwater solution is a great way to boost the flavor and juiciness of the meat. However, before you go anywhere near your chicken with salt, there's an important question that needs to be asked first: 

What type of kosher salt do you use?

Believe it or not, but there's a big difference between Diamond Crystal & Morton Salt brands – sorry Morton Salt girl – it affects how much salt you should use! 

How to salt and brine poultry

Morton Kosher Salt (as well as most other store brands) is made by flattening salt granules into large thin flakes while Diamond Crystal uses a 100-year old proprietary evaporation process in which upside-down pyramids are stacked one over the next to form a crystal. Diamond Crystal's method results in a hollow pyramid-shaped grain. This hollow structure accounts for the salt’s lightness, & crush-ability. Because of the hollow pyramid's shape, each teaspoon of Diamond Crystal Salt has less salt than Morton Salt, thus you are less likely to over salt (you can always add more salt).

If you're not already using it, I recommend making a switch to Diamond Crystals, if only because it's much more forgiving in the kitchen. Also, most recipe writers don't specify which salt they use in their recipes, but I have a hunch since most chefs (at least that I know) use Diamond & most cook books are at least co-written with a chef, Diamond Crystal are being used in the recipes.   

We use Diamond Crystal Kosher Salt in our kitchen, so if you're using Morton's simply reduce the measurement by 1/3. For example, 1 tsp Diamond Crystal = 2/3 tsp Morton Salt.

ADD SALT TO POULTRY BY EITHER BRINING OR SALTING

WHY IT WORKS

Salting Poultry is a great way to keep lean proteins juicy. When salt is added to the surface of poultry it draws the moisture out. The salt then dissolves in the juices forming a brine that is eventually reabsorbed. When the salt is reabsorbed it changes the structure of the cells making it more tender and allowing it to hold on to more of it's natural moisture by about 10%. Most unsalted meat will loose about 20% of it's moisture during cooking, so by adding the salt you basically cut the moisture loss by half. (Sorry I can't explain further than that — I wasn't that great of a chemistry student.) Salting does take more time, but it won't keep you from getting crispy skin when cooked, if desired. 

Brining poultry works in pretty much the same way by changing the structure of the cell wall, tenderizing, and giving the cell the ability to retain moisture. The differences are brining is faster, & will add moisture to the meat, not just retain it, resulting in super juicy poultry. The downside is, with all the extra moisture, achieving a crispy skin becomes more difficult. Another complication to brining is space, as you need a container big enough & the fridge space to store the bird. I use a huge soup pot and have our fridge shelves situated so that it the pot fits. In the past I have also placed the birds and salt solution in a cooler with ice – just make sure to add ice as needed.

So, in short, if you want a pretty juicy bird with crispy skin, salt the poultry; but, if you want a super juicy bird and don't care about the skin, brine the bird.

Regardless, only salt or brine poultry that HASN'T been pre-basted, koshered, treated, or seasoned. It has already been salted. 

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SALTING POULTRY

When salting, apply kosher salt evenly inside the cavity and under the skin of the breasts and legs. Let sit on an elevated surface, such as a wire rack placed in a cookie sheet, and place in the refrigerator. If salting for longer than 12 hours, you'll need to wrap the poultry tightly in plastic wrap to keep it from drying out. 

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BRINING POULTRY

When brining, I do use table salt instead of kosher salt as it dissolves more quickly. Make sure to fully submerge the chicken or turkey with water.

For chicken, the ratio is 1/4 cup salt for every 1 quart of water. 
For turkey, use 1/2 cup salt for every 1 gallon of water. 

Use the chart below as a guide.

Be sure to plan accordingly this method takes time to brine and air dry. 

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After brining to achieve the most crisp skin possible you'll need to air dry the bird. First, pat the bird dry inside and out with paper towels. Then set it on a wire rack placed on a baking sheet and refrigerate for at least 8 hours up to overnight.

 
How to Salt & Brine Poultry  |  Home Again Creative

Tomatillo Salsa Verde

It's mid-October. The leaves on the trees are falling, but the temperature is finding a way to hang out around 75 – 80 degrees here in Nashville. 

I shouldn't still be making salsa, but I am.

This summer I decided to plant 5 tomatillo plants. I love having tomatillos in my garden! The way they grow is the coolest thing ever with their lantern husks! The past couple of years I only planted 2, but as the flowers cannot be pollinated from flowers on the same plant, I've never had what you would call a bumper crop. 

So this year, I went crazy and planted 5. 

So far, I've made & frozen at least 40 cups of tomatillo salsa, plus the sauces that we've made and eaten right away. Of my 5 tomatillo plants, 3 of them are still going strong with flowers, bees and ripening fruit. There's no stopping them. 

Seriously. I just brought in another 10 - 15 tomatillos today. 

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The great thing about tomatillos salsa is it's easy to make, REALLY REALLY REALLY good, and very versatile. You can eat it with chips, on tacos, and the normal fare, but equally amazing on grilled chicken, pork, steak, or fish. Another way I love to use it is adding it to my salad, along with my homemade ranch dressing. Earlier this week, I even added it to a late night bowl of egg drop soup when I didn't have green onions or cilantro to mix in and it was wonderful!  

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INGREDIENTS

3 jalapeno or serrano chiles
6 medium tomatillos
2 bunches fresh cilantro
1 small white onion - quartered
6 garlic cloves
coarse salt and ground pepper
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice, plus more to taste
1/4 cup grapeseed oil

DIRECTIONS

Cut the chiles into quarters and remove seeds. For a spicier salsa, leave a few of the seeds in. Husk and quarter the tomatillos.

Cut off the bottom 2 - 3 inches of tough stems from each cilantro bunch. Set aside the leaves and tender stems. 

Nate and I have an ongoing debate regarding the correct way to prepare cilantro. He tends to take the pile of cilantro and remove each and every leaf, stem-by-stem. There's a very good chance that he's correct and this is the proper way to work with cilantro — he knows a lot more than me when it comes to cooking — but I just can't. Many of my favorite recipes to cook include cilantro and I have never once heard a complaint or regretted just chopping off the bottom of the stems. 

You do whatever you want, but I think I'll stick to my way. 

In a food processor, throw in the chiles, tomatillos, cilantro, onion, garlic, 1 tablespoon each of salt and pepper, and 2 tablespoons lime juice. Pulse several times until combines, but still fairly chunky. Taste and adjust the seasoning with salt, pepper, and lime juice as needed. The salsa should be a vibrant green color. 

Serve right away, or tightly cover and refrigerate for up to 2 days. If you've made a large batch, freezing it works well. 

Enjoy!

xoxo, Lori Danelle

Tomatillo Salsa Verde

Paleo/Gluten Free Waffles

Switching to a Paleo diet has been hard in some ways. But generally just when I'm being a whiner and don't want to stretch myself or think outside of what I've always known. 

Growing up, I had a favorite waffle recipe that until a couple of months ago, I even had taped to the inside of one of my cupboard doors. Waffles were my second favorite breakfast food ever, falling just shy of chicken fried chicken with biscuits and gravy. 

When we decided to adopt Paleo for the whole family, I thought I was saying goodbye to many of my favorite foods, waffles included. 

But as we go farther and farther on our Paleo journey, I'm discovering that I haven't left anything behind and have started viewing this as an adventure rather than a forced march! (This week we made pulled pork tamales. . . without corn and they were uh-mazing. I can't wait to share them with you.) I'm just having to retrain my brain to think about the food I eat differently and develop a new normal. 

So waffles. 

I somehow managed to hit the jackpot on the very first try. We even fed these to one of C's 10-year-old friends and she asked for seconds, never knowing that they were grain free. 

I've incorporated a couple of things from my childhood recipe into this one and am excited to share these with you. I hope you enjoy them as much as my girls and I do & maybe even give you hope that eating well doesn't have to mean eating cardboard!! 

Also, this only makes about 4 waffles. . . so you may want to double it. :) 

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INGREDIENTS

(I've added links within the ingredient list to what we use at our house for those just venturing into Paleo/gluten free/grain free cooking. I know it can be a bit daunting setting up your pantry & a little advice can be helpful!) 

1 cup blanched almond flour
1 cup tapioca flour
2 Tablespoons coconut flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
2 eggs
1/4 cup melted ghee
1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
1 cup almond milk
1/2 teaspoon vanilla

DIRECTIONS

Preheat waffle iron

Mix all liquid ingredients in a mixing bowl until fully blended.

In a separate bowl, mix together all dry ingredients.

While whisking liquid ingredients on low, slowly add dry mixture. Whisk for 2 minutes or until batter has thickened. Batter will be similar to a thin pancake batter. 

Fill waffle iron with batter and follow manufacturers instructions, baking until crisp and slightly browned. 

Serve immediately with ghee, maple syrup or any other toppings of your choice.
But most of all, ENJOY! 

Ghee: Paleo Butter

When our family first adopted a Paleo diet, there were several things I thought I could not possibly live without. 

Like butter. 

Turns out, I didn't have to. I just needed to look at things differently and learn a new way to do things. 

You can purchase Ghee at the store, but it so easy to make at home, I really don't know why you would. Plus, it can be a bit pricey and I haven't heard good reports regarding the taste. 

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INGREDIENTS

1 pound of unsalted butter

(yup. that's it.)

DIRECTIONS

Adjust the oven rack to the middle position and heat the oven to 250 degrees. Put the butter into a Dutch oven and bake uncovered until all the water evaporates and the milk solids turn golden brown —  about 2 1/2 to 3 1/2 hours. It is important to allow the solids to become well toasted as it gives the ghee its nutty flavor. 

We use this gravy/fat separator with strainer, but you could line a fine-mesh strainer with 3 layers of cheesecloth that overhang the edges and set over a large bowl instead. 

Let the ghee cool slightly, then pour into the strainer and let sit until all the ghee is extracted. You don't want any of the milk solids to slip through, as this would compromise both the flavor and the shelf life.  Throw out the solids — leaving it dairy free — and pour ghee into a storage container. 

All my research tells me that cooled ghee can be stored at room temperature for up to 3 months (always use a clean spoon/knife) or refrigerated for up to 1 year. 

*******

I usually buy butter in bulk at either Costco or Sam's Club and throw it all in the Dutch oven at one time, lengthening the time in the oven if needed. Then I store it in lidded glass jars and keep one on the counter to use and store the rest in the refrigerator for later. 

We use it just like butter on sweet potatoes, waffles (grain-free of course!), and in baking. 

Enjoy!!

Recipe: Peppernuts

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I've been posting pictures of them on Instagram & unless you know me personally or live in an area with Swiss/German Mennonite roots, you've probably been wondering: What in the world are peppernuts??? 

I hear that a lot. 

They're a tiny cookie made with Christmas-y spices like cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, and anise oil. 

Though a bit labor intensive, I beg you to give these a try, especially since it's an ideal activity to make with help. Now that my girls are old enough to actual offer up USEFUL assistance, we've made it our tradition to roll out the dough over a Christmas movie. I've also thought it would be fun to invite some friends over to chat, drink wine & roll peppernut dough. (Want to join me?)  

My Grandma has been making these as long as I can remember, making them in time for Thanksgiving and not letting the peppernut jar run dry until after New Year's. I didn't even realize what a novelty they were until I moved away, and have since enjoyed making the tradition my own. 

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Melt in Your Mouth Peppernuts

1 cup butter
1 and 1/2 C. sugar
1 beaten egg
2 T. dark syrup
3 and 3/4 C. flour
2 t. baking soda
1 t. cloves
1 t. ginger
2 t. cinnamon
1 t. nutmeg
1 t. anise oil (or 2 t. anise extract)

Cream butter, sugar, syrup and egg. Add dry ingredients and anise oil.

The dough is really stiff, so for the sake of your mixer, don't make a double batch. I personally just follow one batch immediately with another. The dough will also look a bit crumbly. If you're worried that it's not going to stick together at all, you can add a little water, one Tablespoon at a time – but would not add more than 3 Tablespoons.

Divide the dough into 3 or 4 balls & then chill the dough.  

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This is the part where it's fun to have friends or at least a movie. :)

Working with 1 dough ball at a time (the rest stay in the fridge), roll out into long snakes the size of your little finger. Again, sometimes the dough can be a bit crumbly. The trick is to develop a smoosh-roll technique. Roll it out gently, if it starts to crumble a bit, smoosh it back together and then keep rolling. It's taken many years to perfect. ;)

Keep chilled. I like to roll out all my dough at once, piling it high on a rimmed cookie sheet in the freezer. Putting them in the freezer makes them a bit easier to work with.

Slice into small pieces and bake at 350 degrees for 8 minutes or until lightly browned. Let cool on paper towels spread out on your counter. 

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One more weird fact for you: This is probably the only cookie that isn't better directly out of the oven. I know. Weird, right? 

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They're amazing by themselves, but try them with coffee. Trust me.

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So. Good. And addicting. You've been warned. :) 

Let me know how you like them!

xoxo—Lori

In case you'd like to know more about these little cookies, here's some more background information I've dug up: 

Like most baked goods, there are many variations of peppernuts. While most recipes call for cloves and cinnamon, some also use nutmeg or anise. A Danish recipe for pebernødder requires white pepper, while most recipes don’t use pepper at all. Some versions of the German pfeffernüsse contain pecans, ginger, or cardamom.

In the Netherlands, St Nicolas, patron of children, sailors and the city of Amsterdam, arrives by boat from Spain with his white horse and his helpers, chimney sweeps called Petes, to assist him. It is a busy time for St Nick, crossing the roofs with his horse while the Petes take the presents down the chimneys. Traditionally, the Petes also scatter “pepernoten” around for the kids.

German Mennonite women used to make the dough several weeks before Christmas and let it chill for up to a week in a cold cellar to let the flavors mellow.

Years ago, a reader on my blog, excited to see a photo of what she called “our peppernuts”, shared that her husband’s grandmother made them every year. Her mother-in-law didn’t share the recipe with her until she had been married for 25 years as it was a closely guarded family recipe that they knew had been in the family for at least 150 years. She was told that each village or family had their own shape and version of peppernuts, and the recipes were never shared outside the family.

Butternut Quiche

This time a year when the mornings are brisk it just doesn't see right to sit down to a cold breakfast. This recipe combines sweet butternut squash, smoked Gouda, a buttery crust, and farm fresh eggs to warm you up.

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Here's what you'll need for the crust

  1. A store bought one.
    It's the morning. Who wants to make a homemade crust?
    If anyone complains, take their quiche away. :)  
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For the Filling

  • 1 tbsp of butter
  • 1 small onion finely diced
  • course salt and ground pepper
  • 1/2 butternut squash peeled,seeded, & finely chopped
  • 1 tsp fresh minced sage
  • pinch of sugar
  • 1 cup freshly grated smoked Gouda (my grocer happens to have a great selection in the deli, check yours, often cheeses are less expensive at the deli counter than at the gourmet cheese bar, additionally fontina, and smoked provolone can be used in substitution)
  • 8 eggs
  • 3/4 cup whole milk
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Preheat oven to 375.

Melt the butter in a frying pan over medium heat. Add the onion with a generous pinch of salt and pepper until the onion begins to soften about 2-3 minutes.

Add squash and sage and cook until squash is softened about 5 minutes more, when you're done cooking add a pinch of sugar and remove from heat.

In a bowl whisk eggs and milk until throughly combined. Then add the squash mixture and cheese; stir to blend.

Pour the eggs into pre-baked pie crust, and bake for 45-50.

The center should be cooked but jiggly. 

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CHICKEN POT PIE WITH BISCUIT CRUMBLE TOPPING

The days are starting to get shorter and the weather is getting crisper. Putting us in the mood for hearty, savory foods. I ask, "Does it get any more savory than chicken pot pie?" 

My obstacle to making a great chicken pot pie has always been the pie crust. I just don't have any luck making homemade pie crust. However, being a Southerner I can make a variety of great biscuits.

Instructions

For the Filling

  • 1 1/2 lb. pieces, boneless, skinless chicken breast and thighs
  • 3 cups of chicken broth
  • 2 tbsp. vegetable oil
  • 1 onion (chopped fine)
  • 5 carrots (chopped into 1/4" pieces)
  • 3 celery ribs (minced)
  • 10 oz of cremini mushrooms (trimmed & minced)
  • 1 tsp of soy sauce
  • 1 tsp tomato sauce
  • 4 tbsp. butter
  • 1/2 cup all purpose flour
  • 1 cup of whole milk
  • 2 tsp of lemon juice
  • 3 tbsp of fresh parsley
  • 1 cup of frozen peas

For the Biscuit Topping

  • 2 cups of all-purpose flour
  • 2 tsp of baking powder
  • 3/4 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 tsp of pepper
  • 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 6 tbsp of chilled butter (cut into 1/4" pieces)
  • 1/2 cup parmesan cheese
  • 3/4 cup buttermilk + 2 tbsp more

First, heat your oven to 450F to cook the crumble biscuit topping. 

Combine the flour, baking powder, salt, pepper, cayenne pepper, and butter into a large bowl, stand mixer, or food processor. Mix the combination into a coarse meal then stir in the parmesan, and buttermilk until a dough forms.

Crumble the mixture in irregular shaped pieces and place them onto a baking sheet. Then cook the crumbles just until they start to smell like warm biscuits, shouldn't take more than 10 minutes.    

{Tip: Wet your hands with water when you handle to dough it will prevent the dough from sticking to them} 

While the crumbles are baking, in a dutch oven or heavy pot bring the chicken broth to a simmer and cook the chicken until done (170F), should take about 10 minutes.

Once the chicken is done transfer it to a large bowl, to cool, and strain the broth. Poaching the chicken in the broth will give you full bodied base for your gravy in the pie.

When the chicken has cooled to a point where you can handle it cut it into 1/4" cubes.

While the chicken cools, add 1 tbsp oil to the now empty dutch oven heating the oil until it is shimmering. Then add the onion, carrots, and celery cooking until soft, adding salt and pepper to taste.

When the onion, carrots, and celery are done cooking transfer them to a container.  Then add the other tablespoon of oil to the pot heating over medium until it is shimmering. Add the mushrooms, cooking covered until they release their liquids.

The mushrooms should release their liquids after a few minutes once they have add the soy sauce and tomato paste. Cook uncovered until the liquid evaporates. A dark fond should develop on the bottom of the pot once this has happened transfer the mushrooms to another container.

Melt the butter in the empty pot over medium heat. Once melted add the flour and stir constantly for about a minute. Then slowly whisk in the chicken broth and milk. Bring the liquid to a simmer, scrapping any fond from the bottom of the pot. Cook until a thick gravy forms.

Once you have your thick gravy remove pot from the heat add the lemon, parsley, chicken, and peas. Season the filling with salt and pepper to taste.

Place the filling into a 13" x 9" baking dish. Place the biscuit crumbles randomly on top of filling cooking until the crumbles are nicely browned, about 15 minutes.

{Tip: You may want to place the baking dish onto a foil lined baking sheet just incase the filling bubbles over.}  

Allow to cool for a bit and enjoy!

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Candied Orange Peel S'mores

It's camping season and that means S'MORES!

I'm the type of cook that likes to add some kick or zing to everything. While the s'more is close to perfect; I couldn't help eat one and ponder, "maybe some mint, anise, vanilla.....," then one day it hit me: "some zest!"

 You'll want to make these the morning of.

What You'll Need

  • 1 Peel of an Orange
  • 1 cup sugar 
  • 1 cup water 
  • Some more sugar
  • Graham Crackers
  • Premium, Ghirardelli, chocolate chips (that's what I like, read on to see why)
  • Marshmallow
  • Some roasting sticks

How You Do It

First thing you'll do is peel the orange, I have a little tool from Tupperware that works great. If you don't have one don't sweat it, use a paring knife or peeler to cut the orange peel into 1/4-1/2" slices, careful not to get the pith.

Next, throw the orange peel slices into a small pot, and cover with water. Then blanch em' for about 2-3 minutes. Remove them from the pot, and set them on a paper towel. Next, bring the cup of water to a boil, once boiling add the cup of sugar stirring until dissolved. Then add the the peel slices to the pot, reduce to a simmer and cook for 10-17 minutes. Remove slices from the pot, and discard the syrup. Place the orange peel on a cookie sheet, and sprinkle some sugar on; sprinkle a lot of sugar. Gently, but aggressively shake the tray back and forth to insure sugar covers the peel well. Then let em' sit until time to use.

When the time comes make your s'more, you don't need me to tell you how. I do want to make one suggestion though; instead of chocolate squares use chocolate chips, inserting them into the marshmallow after roasting. I have found the marshmallow will adhere to the graham cracker, and not slide all over the place when you bit into it. When you go to build your s'more simply place 1 or 2 of the peel slices on the bottom, and enjoy.

Let me know what you think.

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Additional Notes: Enjoy this s'more fireside with a shot or two of Frangelico.