Best Christmas Cookies 2016

Best Christmas Cookies 2016

We are only a few days away from Christmas and that can only mean one thing.  Christmas Cookies!!!  I love all types of cookies but for some reason, all cookies taste better at Christmas!  This list includes everything from Cut out cookies to fudge crinkles.  Lots of sugar, lots of chocolate and a ton of Christmas Fun!  Check out our best Christmas Cookies for 2016!

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Oven Baked Salmon

Oven Baked Salmon

Dana and I are always on the lookout for easy and delicious weeknight meals.  One protein that we usually never touch is fish.  Mainly because I have had my fair share of bad salmon and other seafood.  Recently, Dana’s mother made an oven-baked salmon that was super tasty.  I had to have her recipe because it was absolutely delicious.  Luckily, she was kind enough to give it to me and now you will benefit from this tasty recipe also.  It is simple and quite scrumptious.  The lemon rich marinade helps remove any fishy taste from the salmon.  This is definitely a must try, especially if salmon is not your favorite dish but you are open to trying it!

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Big Game Appetizers

Big Game Appetizers

The Big Game is this Sunday, and I want to make sure that you are all prepared for your party.  The Big Game is a great time to get together and party.  In order to keep your party lively, appetizers and finger foods are the best way to go for game day food.  That way you can keep it light.  You don’t want your guests falling asleep during half time. Besides a nice selection of Ice Cold Beer, you should consider serving some of my favorite Appetizers. These recipes are tested and guaranteed to keep your guests happy and full.

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Our Best Christmas Cookies

Our Best Christmas Cookies

We are only a week away from Christmas and that can only mean one thing.  Christmas Cookies!!!  I love all types of cookies but for some reason, all cookies taste better at Christmas!  This list includes everything from Cut out cookies to fudge crinkles.  Lots of sugar, lots of chocolate and a ton of Christmas Fun!

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The perfect 4th of July recipes

The perfect 4th of July recipes

I love the 4th of July!  Nothing says lets go outside and have a party, like celebrating our Nation!   Happy July 4th to everyone!  Get out there and make some hamburgers and hot dogs.  If you are feeling adventurous try a few of the following.  I have prepared a list of some of my favorite summer dishes.  These dishes are delicious and will make your guests super happy!  Don’t take my word for it, ask my guests!  Haha.

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Hatch Green Chile Burgers

Hatch Green Chile Burgers

Dana and I are huge fans of Green Chiles.  We eat them whenever we can, but Hatch chiles are hard to come by in Virginia.  A couple of weeks ago the fine people over at http://www.hatch-green-chile.com/ provided us with 5lbs of medium Hatch green chiles.  These are top notch chiles, fire roasted, seeded and then flash frozen.  They then deliver them right to your door in a cooler filled with dry ice.  Pretty much the only way to get Hatch chiles on the east coast.  We used a bunch to make some Green Chile Enchiladas and Queso.  Since we had a bunch left over, we figured it would be great to use them in some burgers.

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Turkey Tuesday Roundup 2013

Turkey Tuesday Roundup 2013

Smoked Turkey

Well it is the Tuesday before Thanksgiving and I want to give my annual quick tips. Thanksgiving can be a stressful time for any cook. Accepting or asking for help is not a sign of weakness. It can the one thing that keeps you sane during this sometimes stressful holiday. Below I have listed a few tips and shortcuts that can help ease your stress and make your thanksgiving a tad bit more joyous.  There are plenty of tips from what turkey to choose all the way to how to cook a frozen turkey.  Its all in there.

Choose your turkey wisely…

Choose a turkey based on the number of guests. Average is about 1lb per person. Sounds like a lot, but remember a turkey contains bones and fat. It will roughly give you about 6-8oz serving per person. When the number of guests reaches over 12, I would rather cook two smaller birds than a giant 20lb bird. The smaller birds cook quicker, more evenly and some would say (AKA me) taste better.

Check your local supermarket and sign up for a rewards card. They always offer a bird for less than $0.75 a pound. I paid $0.39 a pound at food lion. This can sometimes mean that you can get a 10 lb bird for less than a 4 lb turkey breast. Thanksgiving leftovers are awesome so this might be something to think about.

Make sure your bird will fit into your oven and/or roasting pan. Sometimes large birds look good in the store, but when you get home it won’t fit into the fridge, oven and/or roasting pan. Go to the store with a plan.

Thaw the Bird

Allow the turkey to thaw for 3-4 hours per pound. So if you have a 16lb turkey give yourself about 48 – 64 hours to let it thaw. That means that it should be in the fridge as you read this.

If you are reading this on the Wednesday before or even on Thanksgiving, I have a solution for you.

How to Cook a Frozen Turkey

You can easily cook your turkey from frozen.  The step by step instructions are here.  This is a super easy method and the bird comes out great.  You can’t infuse it with crazy flavors, but if you like roasted turkey this is the way to go.

How to Cook a Frozen Turkey

Brine the Turkey

If you do have time, you might want to think about brining your turkey. Even though Thanksgiving is only two days away you have plenty of time to brine the bird. Check out my post on how to brine a turkey for instructions. If you find yourself with a frozen bird. Add it to a brine and thaw it in the fridge to do double duty and increase the speed of thaw.

Double Check the Temperature

Use a probe thermometer. Sounds fancy but it takes the guess work out of cooking. Want to know how people get perfectly juicy birds, it is based on temperature not time. Place the probe into the breast meat, making sure not to touch the bone. Cook until the internal temperature reaches 160 degrees. Remove the bird from the oven, tent in aluminum foil and let rest for 20-30 minutes.

If you do not have a probe thermometer, cook the bird for 14 minutes a pound and then check the temperature in the breast with a meat thermometer. They are available at almost all supermarkets.  If it is under 160, cook for another 10 minutes and check again.  Repeat until the internal temperature reaches 165 degrees.

Don’t use the pop-up thermometer.

Pop-up thermometers are set to spring at 175 degrees. At that temperature the breast is already too dry. Plus remember that once it pops you need to let the bird rest. Yep, that turkey is gonna be 180+ degrees by the time it is served. Definitely not good.

The approximate time till eating is roughly 19 minutes a pound. Includes resting time.

Stuffing is for the birds, maybe not

I don’t recommend that you stuff the bird with stuffing. The internal temperature of the bird will not reach a temperature that is hot enough to kill the bacteria that will be absorbed by the stuffing. The only cure for this is to make the stuffing separately (AKA dressing). If you wish, you can cook the bird and the stuffing separately and then assemble them together before serving. That way you get the nice Norman Rockwell presentation.

Keys for seasoning a turkey…

Rub a mixture of olive oil and herbs under the skin and over it. You have to season the bird under the skin for the best results. See the herb paste that I made for my boneless turkey breast.

Rub the turkey

Using an injector you can pierce the outer layer and season the turkey from within. Coolness factor – by using a herb oil you can add ribbons of green throughout the turkey. This makes for an eye catching bird when you carve it.

Layer on the pork. Adding a bacon layer over the breast allows for added flavor and further prevents the breast from drying out.

Stuff the inside with aromatics. Halve an onion, some lemons and fresh herbs. Unlike stuffing these won’t be eaten and will add a tremendous amount of flavor to the finished bird.

Cooking the Turkey…

Place the seasoned turkey breast side up on a rack in a roasting pan. If you don’t have a rack, make one out of carrots and celery. Make sure the turkey is not sitting on the bottom of the pan. Add a 1/2 cup of water or your favorite white wine to the bottom of the pan.

Start the turkey in a preheated 325 degree oven. Cook until the internal temperature is about 140-145 degrees.

Turn the oven up to 400 degrees and continue cooking until the internal temperature of the breast is 160 degrees.

Take the turkey out of the oven and wrap in foil. Let sit for 20-30 minutes. During this time the turkey will continue to cook and bring the temperature of the breast to 165 degrees.

Gravy tips…

Use the giblets. They package them with the turkeys for a reason. While you are cooking the turkey, simmer the giblets. Place them in a pot and cover them with chicken stock. Add an onion, a couple stalks of celery and a couple carrots. Season with a little salt, pepper, 1 tsp sage, 1/2 tsp thyme, and a bay leaf. Simmer for 2-3 hours. Strain out the solids and you have a perfect stock for making gravy.

Make a roux. Basically the start of gravy is to make a roux. Take 2 tbs butter and 2 tbs flour. Add them to a sauce pan and stir until brown in color. This will take the flour taste out of the flour and give you a rich nutty flavor as the base of your gravy. The key to a roux gravy is to use 2 tbs fat (butter) with 2 tbs flour along with 1 cup of stock.

You can use a slurry of water or chicken stock, and flour to thicken your gravy, but make sure to simmer it for at least 30 minutes to get rid of the raw flour taste. The slurry is a 1 to 1 mixture. 1 part liquid, 1 part flour.

Don’t for get to add a splash of that starchy potato water.

Deglaze the roasting pan with 1/4 cup of your favorite wine. Reduce and use that along with the giblet stock to make an amazing gravy.

After adding your roux, giblet stock, roasting pan drippings and a dash of starchy potato water, make sure to simmer for at least 15 minutes to allow the gravy to thicken.

Enjoy yourself…

Cooking is fun, don’t let a turkey stress you out.

The turkey and the gravy can use a bit of wine, so can you. When I cook it is a 3-1 ratio. Three glasses for me and one for cooking.  For the long cooks this can get a little dicey.  Make sure to have a backup cook on hand if you use this ratio.

A meat thermometer is the only way to cook a turkey. No checking charts or guessing based on a pop-up thermometer.

Make as many of the sides and desserts the day before. If you don’t have too much to do, you can relax with your guests and have a good time watching the Lions lose once again.

If you have any questions click the Ask Rex link in the top menu. I will be available all week, even on Thanksgiving.

Other Options for Cooking

How to Smoke a Turkey

How to Fry a Turkey

How to cook a Frozen Turkey

If you enjoyed this post, make sure you subscribe to my RSS feed!

Thanksgiving Leftovers

Thanksgiving Leftovers

I love thanksgiving so much that I often cook way more than I could ever eat.  So I usually end up make a  variety of leftovers that utilize the ingredients.  Here are my favorite ideas.

Thanksgiving Potato Skins

I love potatoes and I believe that they are the perfect vessel to deliver any food.  Thanksgiving leftovers is no exception.

Thanksgiving Hand Pie

Thanksgiving Hand Pies

There is nothing like placing your favorite ingredients into a pie crust and baking it till golden brown.  These were a hit.  Just douse them in the turkey gravy.

Thanksgiving Leftover Pizza

With a biscuit crust and all of your favorite ingredients on top, you can not beat this as the ultimate leftover recipe.  I make this whenever I can.

Hopefully these will give you some ideas for your leftovers. If you have any other suggestions let me know in the comments.  I would love to hear what you do with your leftovers.

Turkey Tuesday Roundup 2012

Turkey Tuesday Roundup 2012

Smoked Turkey

Well it is the Tuesday before Thanksgiving and I want to give my annual quick tips. Thanksgiving can be a stressful time for any cook. Accepting or asking for help is not a sign of weakness. It can the one thing that keeps you sane during this sometimes stressful holiday. Below I have listed a few tips and shortcuts that can help ease your stress and make your thanksgiving a tad bit more joyous.  There are plenty of tips from what turkey to choose all the way to how to cook a frozen turkey.  Its all in there.

Choose your turkey wisely…

Choose a turkey based on the number of guests. Average is about 1lb per person. Sounds like a lot, but remember a turkey contains bones and fat. It will roughly give you about 6-8oz serving per person. When the number of guests reaches over 12, I would rather cook two smaller birds than a giant 20lb bird. The smaller birds cook quicker, more evenly and some would say (AKA me) taste better.

Check your local supermarket and sign up for a rewards card. They always offer a bird for less than $0.75 a pound. I paid $0.39 a pound at food lion. This can sometimes mean that you can get a 10 lb bird for less than a 4 lb turkey breast. Thanksgiving leftovers are awesome so this might be something to think about.

Make sure your bird will fit into your oven and/or roasting pan. Sometimes large birds look good in the store, but when you get home it won’t fit into the fridge, oven and/or roasting pan. Go to the store with a plan.

Thaw the Bird

Allow the turkey to thaw for 3-4 hours per pound. So if you have a 16lb turkey give yourself about 48 – 64 hours to let it thaw. That means that it should be in the fridge as you read this.

If you are reading this on the Wednesday before or even on Thanksgiving, I have a solution for you.

How to Cook a Frozen Turkey

You can easily cook your turkey from frozen.  The step by step instructions are here.  This is a super easy method and the bird comes out great.  You can’t infuse it with crazy flavors, but if you like roasted turkey this is the way to go.

How to Cook a Frozen Turkey

Brine the Turkey

If you do have time, you might want to think about brining your turkey. Even though Thanksgiving is only two days away you have plenty of time to brine the bird. Check out my post on how to brine a turkey for instructions. If you find yourself with a frozen bird. Add it to a brine and thaw it in the fridge to do double duty and increase the speed of thaw.

Double Check the Temperature

Use a probe thermometer. Sounds fancy but it takes the guess work out of cooking. Want to know how people get perfectly juicy birds, it is based on temperature not time. Place the probe into the breast meat, making sure not to touch the bone. Cook until the internal temperature reaches 160 degrees. Remove the bird from the oven, tent in aluminum foil and let rest for 20-30 minutes.

If you do not have a probe thermometer, cook the bird for 14 minutes a pound and then check the temperature in the breast with a meat thermometer. They are available at almost all supermarkets.  If it is under 160, cook for another 10 minutes and check again.  Repeat until the internal temperature reaches 165 degrees.

Don’t use the pop-up thermometer.

Pop-up thermometers are set to spring at 175 degrees. At that temperature the breast is already too dry. Plus remember that once it pops you need to let the bird rest. Yep, that turkey is gonna be 180+ degrees by the time it is served. Definitely not good.

The approximate time till eating is roughly 19 minutes a pound. Includes resting time.

Stuffing is for the birds, maybe not

I don’t recommend that you stuff the bird with stuffing. The internal temperature of the bird will not reach a temperature that is hot enough to kill the bacteria that will be absorbed by the stuffing. The only cure for this is to make the stuffing separately (AKA dressing). If you wish, you can cook the bird and the stuffing separately and then assemble them together before serving. That way you get the nice Norman Rockwell presentation.

Keys for seasoning a turkey…

Rub a mixture of olive oil and herbs under the skin and over it. You have to season the bird under the skin for the best results. See the herb paste that I made for my boneless turkey breast.

Rub the turkey

Using an injector you can pierce the outer layer and season the turkey from within. Coolness factor – by using a herb oil you can add ribbons of green throughout the turkey. This makes for an eye catching bird when you carve it.

Layer on the pork. Adding a bacon layer over the breast allows for added flavor and further prevents the breast from drying out.

Stuff the inside with aromatics. Halve an onion, some lemons and fresh herbs. Unlike stuffing these won’t be eaten and will add a tremendous amount of flavor to the finished bird.

Cooking the Turkey…

Place the seasoned turkey breast side up on a rack in a roasting pan. If you don’t have a rack, make one out of carrots and celery. Make sure the turkey is not sitting on the bottom of the pan. Add a 1/2 cup of water or your favorite white wine to the bottom of the pan.

Start the turkey in a preheated 325 degree oven. Cook until the internal temperature is about 140-145 degrees.

Turn the oven up to 400 degrees and continue cooking until the internal temperature of the breast is 160 degrees.

Take the turkey out of the oven and wrap in foil. Let sit for 20-30 minutes. During this time the turkey will continue to cook and bring the temperature of the breast to 165 degrees.

Gravy tips…

Use the giblets. They package them with the turkeys for a reason. While you are cooking the turkey, simmer the giblets. Place them in a pot and cover them with chicken stock. Add an onion, a couple stalks of celery and a couple carrots. Season with a little salt, pepper, 1 tsp sage, 1/2 tsp thyme, and a bay leaf. Simmer for 2-3 hours. Strain out the solids and you have a perfect stock for making gravy.

Make a roux. Basically the start of gravy is to make a roux. Take 2 tbs butter and 2 tbs flour. Add them to a sauce pan and stir until brown in color. This will take the flour taste out of the flour and give you a rich nutty flavor as the base of your gravy. The key to a roux gravy is to use 2 tbs fat (butter) with 2 tbs flour along with 1 cup of stock.

You can use a slurry of water or chicken stock, and flour to thicken your gravy, but make sure to simmer it for at least 30 minutes to get rid of the raw flour taste. The slurry is a 1 to 1 mixture. 1 part liquid, 1 part flour.

Don’t for get to add a splash of that starchy potato water.

Deglaze the roasting pan with 1/4 cup of your favorite wine. Reduce and use that along with the giblet stock to make an amazing gravy.

After adding your roux, giblet stock, roasting pan drippings and a dash of starchy potato water, make sure to simmer for at least 15 minutes to allow the gravy to thicken.

Enjoy yourself…

Cooking is fun, don’t let a turkey stress you out.

The turkey and the gravy can use a bit of wine, so can you. When I cook it is a 3-1 ratio. Three glasses for me and one for cooking.  For the long cooks this can get a little dicey.  Make sure to have a backup cook on hand if you use this ratio.

A meat thermometer is the only way to cook a turkey. No checking charts or guessing based on a pop-up thermometer.

Make as many of the sides and desserts the day before. If you don’t have too much to do, you can relax with your guests and have a good time watching the Lions lose once again.

If you have any questions click the Ask Rex link in the top menu. I will be available all week, even on Thanksgiving.

Other Options for Cooking

How to Smoke a Turkey

How to Fry a Turkey

How to cook a Frozen Turkey

If you enjoyed this post, make sure you subscribe to my RSS feed!

Pumpkin Chocolate Swirl Muffins

Pumpkin Chocolate Swirl Muffins

Pumpkin and Chocolate Swirled Muffins

I hate to say it, but it is fall.  Time to start designing your Halloween Costume and start cooking with pumpkin.  A little bit about me, I enjoy a good pumpkin pie, pumpkin cookies and pumpkin carving.  Lately, I have seen a couple pumpkin swirl cookies out there and it got me thinking about pumpkin swirl muffins.  So I decided to make some.

Pumpkin Chocolate Swirl Muffins
Pumpkin Chocolate Swirl Muffins

Alternating the batter will give you nice swirls.

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Happy July 4th!

Happy July 4th!

Happy July 4th!  Today is one of the best grilling days of the  year.  Get out there and make some hamburgers and hot dogs.  If you are feeling adventurous try a few of the following.

Main Dishes

BBQ Ribs on the Gas Grill

Ribs are great, but not everyone has a smoker.  So I have written up the step by step instructions for smoking ribs on a gas grill. Click Here to learn how.

Grilled Lobster Tails Quick and easy to do. The perfect summertime meal.

Nothing says summer like, fresh seafood on the grill.  Nothing beats grilled lobster tails. Click here for more information.

Grilled Lobster Rolls
Grilled Lobster Rolls

Now that you have grilled lobster tails down, mix the meat up and make some amazing lobster rolls.  Simple and delicious.  Click here for the recipe.

Side Dishes

 

Macaroni Salad
Macaroni Salad

There isn’t a single side dish that can beat macaroni salad at a barbecue.  It is an American tradition.  I have a few to choose from.

KFC Coleslaw
The Colonel's Coleslaw

Another must have side is coleslaw.  I did my best and finally recreated the Colonel’s Coleslaw from the famous Chicken Restaurant.  So good you have to try it.

Condiments

Homemade Ketchup
Homemade Ketchup

If you want to spice up your barbecue, try some homemade ketchup.  You can add as much spice or herbs as you want. It will add a little twist to your favorite burger. Homemade Ketchup Recipe.

Homemade Mustard
Homemade Mustard

Homemade mustard will definitely perk up your guests.  Using dark seeds will make your mustard spicier and the addition of honey can add a little bit of sweetness.  Homemade Mustard Recipe.

Cocktails

 

Passion Fruit Pina Colada
Passion Fruit Pina Colada

Passion fruit pina coladas scream summer.  This is the perfect cocktail to start off the summer.  Passion Fruit Pina Colada.

Red, White and Blue Shooter AKA "Liquid America"
Red, White and Blue Shooter

In honor of this beautiful country of ours, have a shot.   A red, white and blue shot to be exact.

Happy 4th of July!  Enjoy the weather and have fun grilling.

-Rex