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Game Day — Cheese Filled Pretzels

Game Day Pretzels

A pretzel is a heavenly delight that comes soft and chewy or crunchy and crispy, shaped in various forms and salted by the gods themselves.    

I had no idea that the simple pretzels had so much history.  It seems that there are numerous accounts on the origin of this looped treat.  Most of them agree that they have religious backgrounds and were first served by monks.  One story has an Italian monk using the strips of baked dough, twisted to resemble the arms crossing the chest, as a reward to children who studied their prayers.  He called them ‘pretiola’ meaning little rewards.  In Germany, it is thought that pretzels were the invention of desperate bakers.  It is suspected that the German pretzel was the result of a ban of heathen baking traditions in the form of sun wheels. The German term ‘brezel’ is said to have Latin origins and was a medieval term for bracelet.   

As to why some pretzels are hard and crunchy while other are soft, it is said that one night a baker fell asleep while baking a batch and all the moisture was cooked out of them – hence the hard pretzel.  Well, I did not fall asleep while baking mine and they turned out great … soft and chewy with little crunchy “cheese skirts”.  Because these are not boiled, they tend to be more bread like.  This recipe offers lots of opportunity to swap out certain ingredients for others of your choice.  If sharp cheddar is not to your liking but something spicy is, try a pepper jack with red chili powder.   My 13 year old nephew has placed a request for pepperoni to be added to my next batch!   These pretzels are best served warm or the day you baked them.  But like pizza heated up the day after, they may be a bit chewy but none the less good to eat! 

I may never beat Helen Hoff’s (a world champion pretzel twister) record of twisting 57 in a minute, but I did roll a respectable pretzel.  Now it’s your turn.    

Game Day Pretzels

Guy’s Knot for Nuthin, Everything Pretzel
Adapted from a recipe by Guy Fieri  
Makes 12  


  • 1 1/2 cups warm water, 110 degrees F
  • 2 packages active dry yeast
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour, plus 1/2 cup for work surface
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper  (I used chipotle pepper.)
  • 1/2 teaspoon granulated garlic  (I used garlic powder)
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan
  • 2 eggs  (one for dough and one for egg wash)
  • 3 cups grated sharp Cheddar  (use your favorite)
  • 2 tablespoons milk
  • 1/2  Tablespoon poppy seeds to sprinkle on top
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt to sprinkle on top

Preheat your oven to 425 degrees F.   

In a glass measuring cup, add the warm water and the yeast. If you have a digital read thermometer check to make sure the temperature is about 110 degrees.  Stir and let sit for 10 minutes.   

In a food processor fitted with a dough blade, add the dry ingredients and the Parmesan cheese.  Pulse together 3 times at 5 second intervals.   This gives it a good mix.  Add 1 egg and the warm water/yeast mixture.   Pulse for 10 second intervals until the dough comes together.  (This happens quickly.  If the dough “looks” too moist add a bit more flour and pulse again.)  

Turn the dough out onto a floured surface and knead.

  Turn your dough out onto a lightly floured work surface. Knead 10 to 12 times, adding a little flour, if sticky.  Shape into a ball and cut the dough in half.   (I found this dough to be a dream to work with!)

Divide into to even sections.

  Roll out 1 piece of dough to a 12 by 17-inch rectangle.  It will be about a 1/4-inch thick.   

Ready to add the cheese.

Sprinkle 3/4 cup of the Cheddar in the middle third of the dough (short way).  Fold 1/3 of the dough over, and sprinkle with 3/4 cup of the Cheddar.  Fold the last third over and pinch the edges closed.  (It is kind of like a 3-fold brochure.)  

Step 1: Cheese down the middle third of the dough.

Step 2: Fold one edge over and put a layer of cheese.

Step 3: Fold remaining dough over the cheese and pinch the edges.

 Roll with a rolling pin to form an 11 by 15-inch rectangle.  Cut into 1 1/2-inch lengthwise strips (6 strips per half of dough.)  Pinch the cut edges together and then roll into cigar shape.  Form into a pretzel shape and put on a baking sheet lined with a silicone baking mat. Repeat with the second ball of dough.  

Rolled out again and sliced into 1 1/2 inch strips.

Form the strips of dough into a cigar shape.

Twisting Technique Step 1: Cross ends

Twisting Techinque Step 2: Twist the ends once.

Twisting Technique Step 3: Bring end up and press them into the top pretzel edge. Shape the pretzel.

Beat the remaining egg and the milk in a small bowl.  Next, brush the formed pretzels with the egg/milk mixture and sprinkle with the salt and poppy seeds.   Be creative with your toppings … you can try granulated garlic salt, sesame seeds … the choices are endless!   

Twisted, washed with egg & milk mixture and toppings added.

Bake until nicely browned, about 16 to 18 minutes.  I found that 17 to 18 minutes worked for me.  Remove from the oven to a wire rack.  Serve warm or room temperature.

Just out of the oven ... look at the crunchy "cheese skirts".

This close up shows the melted cheese on the outside of the pretzel.

“Healthified” Chili

Turkey Chili


“Healthified” … it may not be a real word, but I believe it accurately describes this recipe and my year twenty ten goal to make healthier Food choices.  It does not mean that I promise to cook ONLY healthy foods (I still have to have chocolate and such things now and again), but rather I am going to make better choices … eat better food by creating “healthified” versions of my favorite recipes.  

I wanted to cook something substantial, something meaty and satisfying … Chili seemed to be the perfect dish to make over.  Ground turkey proved to be the best substitution for ground beef.  If you are a chili die-hard and find using turkey sacrilegious, a better choice for you might be 93/7 ground beef.  It will cost you a few more of your food budget dollars, but will be a better overall food choice.  I have to take a moment here and share with you a family chili story that has stuck with me.  Years ago, my mother was on Weight Watchers, she was preparing WW chili … now I know I was just a kid, but I was smart enough to know that green beans and tomato sauce was not my idea of chili!  My point is that food substitutions do not have to be that drastic! 

Read the labels on the canned goods before you toss them in your grocery cart.  Be aware of the fat content, salt content, know what you are buying.  Is there a better food choice sitting on the shelf that you missed?  It is small things like this that can aid you in your quest to drop a few pounds. I am not a weight loss expert by any means, but I have had some experience in losing weight.   When you create “healthified” versions of your favorite recipes load them up with ingredients that are good for you.  “Healthified” food can be fun and tasty.


1 and ½   pounds of ground turkey  (ground turkey breast is 99% fat free)
1 large onion, diced
1   14.5 ounce can of diced tomatoes  (I use fire roasted for greater flavor)
1 and ½  cups of tomato sauce
3  Tablespoons of diced green chilis from the can , optional  (I use the whole 4 oz can with juice)
2  Teaspoons of chili powder  (I use one Tablespoon as I like it a bit spicy)
1  Teaspoon cumin  (I use 2 Teaspoons)
1  15 ounce can of beans drained  (Use the kind you like … I used Great White Northern)
Salt and pepper to taste. 

Brown the turkey and the onion. 

Add the diced tomatoes, tomato sauce, green chilis, chili powder and cumin.  Let this mixture simmer for at least 15 minutes.  (I prefer to simmer 30- 45 minutes.)  Taste and then salt and pepper to taste.  If you would like more spice fell free to add the spices of your choice.  This is a basic recipe that you can enhance to fit your personal taste.  ( I do add a bit of onion powder and garlic powder.)  Add the beans in just before serving and let them warm through.

I like to garnish with fat free sour cream, chopped green onion and a bit of fat free cheddar cheese.

Turkey Chili



Hot Fudge Sauce … I’m in Hot Fudge Heaven!

Hot Fudge Sauce


This past week I made up some of the most sinfully magnificient Hot Fudge Sauce.  You’d be surprised just how many things you have in your kitchen right now that can be doused in hot fudge!   In the 25 minutes it took to whip up this sauce I had fashioned quite an extensive list.   Fresh fruit, a stray brownie, that last piece of pound cake from Christmas, pretzels and of course ice cream, the most obvious choice.   Be careful or you could find yourself lost in “Hot Fudge Land”. 

 To me, hot fudge sauce on ice cream seems so … from an era gone by.  It appears that the simple hot fudge sundaes of yesterday have been replaced with more modern creations, using the same ingredients but sporting new trendy names.  Maybe we have just gone overboard with the likes of “Madagascar Vanilla Bean Ice Cream served in a velvety pool of bittersweet chocolate, topped with 24-karat edible gold leaf” … when actually what we have is just an unnecessarily expensive version of a classic hot fudge sundae.  

This sauce is so easy to make and is so versatile.  You can probably make it with ingredients you already have in your pantry.  Don’t settle for the store bought stuff … make your own.

Makes 3 ¼ cups   (I filled 2 pint jars)

Melt 8 ounces of unsweetened chocolate baking squares and ½ cup of unsalted butter in a large, heavy saucepan.  (I “borrowed” my Mother’s copper bottom sauce pan.)  Melt over low heat stirring constantly.  (Use a low setting and be patient.)

 When completely melted add in 2 cups of sugar, stirring constantly over low heat.  (I stirred approximately 4-5 minutes until it was well blended.  The mixture will be thick and “sandy” looking.)

 Add 1 cup of milk (I like to use room temperature milk.) and continue to cook over low heat, stirring constantly until thoroughly heated and the sugar is dissolved. (Once the sugar dissolved, I changed from stirring with  a wooden spoon to a whisk.  At this point, I raised the temperature just a bit above low and continued to whisk the sauce.  I found that you must let the sauce heat through all the way.  The longer you whisk and cook it, the fudgier the finished product will be when cooled.  I probably whisked about 10 minutes to get the consistency I liked.)  DO NOT BOIL THE SAUCE.

Remove from heat and stir in 1 teaspoon of good vanilla extract (I used about 1 and ½ teaspoons) and 1/8 teaspoon of salt.  Cover and chill sauce.  It will hold in the fridge up to 2 weeks.  (One recipe filled 2 pint canning jars.) 

Note: To reheat, spoon some of the sauce into a microwave-safe bowl and microwave for about 15 seconds, or in 15 second intervals until warm.

Espresso-Hot Fudge Sauce:  Add 2 tablespoons instant espresso powder with the sugar.

Whiskey-Hot Fudge Sauce:  Stir in 2-3 tablespoons of Southern Comfort with the vanilla and salt.

Brown-Sugar-Cinnamon Hot Fudge Sauce:  Substitute 1 cup of firmly packed brown sugar for 1 cup of granulated sugar.  Stir in ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon with vanilla and salt.

Roast Prime Rib of Beef

Roast Prime Rib of Beef


Some years back my Father “out-lawed” turkey on the Christmas day dinner table.  He tolerated it at Thanksgiving, but that was about all he could take.  So, prime rib became our special treat at Christmas, compliments of Dad.  Christmas morning you would find him preparing to load the prime rib into his “set it and forget it” machine!  It was perfect every time.  Sadly, we lost my Father just before the holidays last year and I have eagerly taken on the job of roasting the prime rib. 

When purchasing your prime rib, have a conversation with your butcher!  Let them know your plans and the number of people you will be serving.  Our Gardner Price Chopper has one of the most friendly and knowledgeable meat departments I have ever dealt with.  I consider them “my butcher” and quite regularly take advantage of their expertise.  I requested a 10 pound, bone-in prime rib (bones are the key to great flavor).  “My butcher” indicated that they could cut the meat from the bone and tie it back onto the bone for roasting.  Wow … one less step for me and no extra charge.  

My butcher had this prime rib trimmed and tied ... saved me some time!

To satisfy government home economists, the Beef council tells us that rare beef means an internal temperature of 140 degrees F.  Well, that is if you like well done and very dry meat.  If you like moist, rosy meat (yes I do), rare begins at 120 degrees F and starts to become medium rare at 125 to 130 degrees F.  

This chart is only a guide  … you need to use an accurate meat thermometer and start taking the temperatures one half hour before the end of the estimated roasting time. 

  Approximate Weight Oven Temperature Total Estimated Time Only Meat Thermometer Reading (Rare)
2 ribs 4  to 5 pounds 450 deg/325 deg F 60 to 70 minutes 120 degrees F 
3 ribs 7 to 8.5 pounds 450 deg/325 deg F 1 1/2 to 1 3/4 hours 120 degrees F 
4 ribs 9 to 10.5 pounds 450 deg/325 deg F 1 3/4 to 2 1/4 hours 120 degrees F 
5 ribs 11 to 13.5 pounds 450 deg/325 deg F 2 1/4 to 2 3/4 hours 120 degrees F 
6 ribs 14 to 16 pounds 450 deg/325 deg F 3 to 3 1/4 hours 120 degrees F 
7 ribs 16 to 18.5 pounds 450 deg/325 deg F 3 1/4 to 4 hours 120 degrees F


Beef Roast Cooking Temperatures
Rare 120 to 125 degrees F center is bright red, pinkish toward the exterior portion
Medium Rare 130 to 135 degrees F center is very pink, slightly brown toward the exterior portion
Medium 140 to 145 degrees F center is light pink, outer portion is brown
Medium Well 150 to 155 degrees F not pink
Well Done 160 degrees F and above steak is uniformly brown throughout

I got a lot of great information and the charts from a wonderful site ….
What’s Cooking  America

Room Temperature:  To cook evenly, the roast must not be cold – let it stand at room temperature, loosely covered, for about 2 hours.  If you do not let the roast come to room temperature it will not cook evenly and you’ll end up with well-done slices on the ends and raw meat in the center.  

Seasoning:  In a zip lock bag mix together the following:  5 cloves of garlic chopped, ½ cup of prepared horseradish, ½ cup of course salt, ¼ cup of ground black pepper and ½ cup of extra-virgin olive oil. Massage this mixture generously over the entire roast.  (I do this when I first take it out of the fridge to come to room temperature.)

Ready to roast!

Roasting: Pre-heat the oven to 450 degrees F.  Place the roast, ribs down, in a roasting pan. The rib bones are a natural rack; you won’t need a metal one.

Sear the rib roast for 15 minutes at the higher oven temperature (450 degrees F.), then turn the oven to the lower temperature (325 degrees F.) for the rest of the cooking time.

About 1/2 hour before the estimated end of the roasting time, begin checking the internal temperature (use a good instant-read digital meat thermometer). Internal temperature, not time, is the best test for doneness.  Insert your meat thermometer so the tip is in thickest part of beef, not resting in fat or touching bone. Remember, the rib roast will continue to cook as it sets.  I wanted medium prime rib so I took the roast out of the oven when the temperature reached 135 degrees.  I let it set 30 minutes (while my popovers were baking) and the temperature rose to 142 degrees.  So, pay attention to how long you let the cooked prime rib roast sit in relation to your desired level of doneness.

Cooked perfectly to medium -- center light pink and outer portion is brown.

Bruleed Pumpkin Pie … a twist on a classic.

Bruleed Pumpkin Pie

Let me say right off the bat:  I am not fond of pumpkin pie.  If pumpkin pie was the only available option for dessert, I’d be pounds thinner … ‘cause I would be doing without.  For me, it has too much of a one-dimensional texture.  But because I love the drama and festiveness of this most celebrated seasonal recipe, I find myself baking a pumpkin pie during the holiday season. (My pumpkin pie is just one of the 50 million that are baked and consumed annually, according to Libby’s.)

Every once in a while, I stumble upon an article or book that offers a fresh spin on a traditional recipe.  It often renews my interest in certain ingredients and introduces me to new ones.  My most recent recipe find is so amazing that I made a last minute change to this column so I could share it with you … Bruleed Pumpkin Pie!   You begin with a very rich, heavenly spiced, baked pumpkin custard.  Just prior to serving, it is sprinkled with a layer of sugar which is caramelized with the aid of a propane torch or a broiler.  This layer solidifies, creating a delightful textural contrast between the soft pie custard and the brittle sugar topping.  The pie makes a wonderful crackling sound when you cut it!   

What I love about this version of pumpkin pie is that it must be made ahead – as you have to freeze the crust for a few hours and then chill the pie overnight. 

Oh, I forgot to mention that I am now the proud owner of a propane torch … imagine the surprised looks on the faces of my guests when I whipped it out just prior to serving the pie.  It made for wonderful “dessert conversation”.

Bruleed Pumpkin Pie

adapted from a recipe from the Los Angeles Times

Single pie crust  —  can be homemade or store bought  (shame on me, I used store bought)
1      (15-ounce) can pumpkin puree
½    cup heavy cream
½    cup milk
3      eggs plus one egg yolk
2      tablespoons Brandy
1/3  cup light brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1  1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon allspice
1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom  (please do not leave out this spice – it adds great flavor)
1/4 to 1/2 cup superfine sugar for bruleeing  (it comes in a “milk carton” type container and it called bakers sugar)

Press your pie crust into a standard pie pan (not deep dish).  Freeze for several hours. 

Pre-heat the oven to 450 degrees F. 

In a mixing bowl, whisk together the pumpkin puree, cream, milk, eggs, egg yolk, Brandy, light brown sugar, cloves, cinnamon, allspice and cardamom until well blended.   (I bought one of those “airline” size bottles of Brandy at the liquor store for 99 cents)

Pour this mixture into the frozen pie shell.  Bake for 15 minutes, turning once for even browning.  (You may want to cover your crust edges with foil to keep them from browning too fast.)   After 15 minutes, reduce heat to 350 degrees F  (remove foil from the crust edges) and bake an additional 25 to 30 minutes.   Remove and let cool completely to room temperature.    Cover and chill overnight.

Just before serving, carefully fold strips of aluminum foil over the edges of the pie.  Do not cover any of the custard with the foil.   Scatter the superfine sugar (baking sugar)  evenly over the top of the pie and brulee under a hot broiler until the sugar caramelizes.   (Or use a propane torch if you have one.)   Serve immediately, with a dollop of whipped cream.

Pie, torch and sugar ... all set to brulee!

Torch on ... melting the sugar.

Making some progress ... sugar melting in spots.

Almost there ...

Remove the foil and its ready to serve.

Bruleed Pumpkin Pie

“Bundt” is not a flavor — it’s a shape!

Marble Bundt Cake with Truffle Center

Marble Bundt Cake with Truffle Center


 I have been introduced to a whole new world … the “World of Bundt”.  Bundt is not a flavor  … it is a shape.  It is simply the name used to identify a dessert cake baked in a Bundt pan.  These cakes are typically made from dense, rich cake recipes using Paula Deen amounts of butter or shortening.  These cakes keep well and require little embellishment, maybe just a drizzle of glaze or a dusting of powdered sugar.

If a home has a kitchen, more often than not there is a Bundt pan lurking in the cabinet – in two out of three American households to be exact.  According to David Dalquist of Nordic Ware, there are nearly 60 million Bundt pans across the continent.  Now I am having a hard time believing this, as I am convinced that the only Bundt pan residing in Gardner, Kansas is in my home!  Sadly, I got no response to my request for your favorite Bundt cake recipes … but no worries … I will share with you my number one recipe.  For years Nordic Ware sold only a few of these pans.  That is until 1996 when a Texas woman won second place in the Pillsbury Bake-off  for her entry of Tunnel of Fudge Cake made in a Bundt pan.  (If you would like this recipe, contact me.) This started a nationwide scramble for the pan.

After reading everything I could on “all things Bundt”, I discovered that part of the trick to a beautiful Bundt cake is in preparing the pan.  Many bakers say that their biggest issue with these cakes, as great as they are, is to get them out of the pan in one piece.  Here is the miracle solution … mix equal parts of shortening, oil and flour (I used my food processor.).  Use a pastry brush to reach every nook and cranny. 

Eighty-five percent of Americans say that baking puts them in a holiday mood.  So Gardner, fire up your ovens, grease your Bundt pans and let’s create some Holiday Spirit!

Marble Bundt Cake with Truffle Center

Adapted from recipegoldmine.com
Serves 16

Truffle Center:
3/4 cup whipping cream
4 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped

Marble Bundt Cake:
1 cup unsalted butter at room temperature  (2 sticks)
2 cups sugar
4 large eggs at room temperature
2 cups sour cream  (1  16 oz. container)
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
4 cups all purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon fine salt
4 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped and melted
3/4 cup dark chocolate chips
3/4 cup white chocolate chips

For truffle center: Heat the cream to just below a simmer and pour over the chopped chocolate.  Stir to melt completely and then chill until firm, about 3 hours.  (You can use semi-sweet chocolate if you do not like bittersweet. I really like the bittersweet flavor against the sweetness of the cake batter.)

For the cake: Heat oven to 300 degrees F and grease a 12-cup Bundt pan.  (If you do not use the “grease” recipe listed above, you may grease and flour your pan.  I have friends who use the baking spray with flour with good results.  If you use baking spray, wait and treat the pan just before filling with batter.)

Beat butter and sugar together with an electric mixer until light and fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time, mixing well after adding each egg.   Beat in the sour cream and vanilla extract.

Sift together flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt.  Add to the butter/sugar/egg/sour cream mixture in three additions, mixing gently after each addition.

Remove 3/4 cup batter and set aside. This is extra batter for a cook’s treat.

Remove 2 cups of the white batter and stir in the 4 oz. melted chocolate.  Then stir in the white chocolate chips.  The batter is thick so the chocolate chips will not all settle on the bottom. 

Stir the dark chocolate chips into the remaining white cake batter.

To assemble, layer half of the dark and white cake batters into a prepared Bundt pan.  Run a knife through to swirl gently.

Roll and shape chilled chocolate into “truffles” and lay side-by-side in a circle around the Bundt pan.  Top with remaining batters and run knife through to swirl gently.  (When you swirl the batter be careful not to disturb the chocolate truffle balls in your batter.  You can see in my pictures that my truffle center is not rounded.  I must have been having way too much fun swirling.)

Bake cake for 50 to 60 minutes, until a tester inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean.   Allow your cake to cool for a full 20 minutes before turning it out on a cooling rack.   Allow the cake to cool completely before slicing.  (My cake turned out of the pan with no problem!)  You will unveil a beautiful truffle center in each slice!

For the remaining 3/4 cup batter, scoop into greased and floured muffin cups.   Bake 20 to 25 minutes at 300 degrees F or until a tester inserted in the center comes out clean.

Chocolate Bundt Cake with Truffle Center

Grab a fork!

To Brine or Not To Brine … Hop on the Turkey Brining Bandwagon!

Brined turkey ... just out of the oven!


Lets be honest … the average turkey, even when prepared by the most experienced home cook, can be very dry and even a tad bland.  Traditionally we salvage the dry turkey by disguising the problem with gravy!  

Over the years, I have followed numerous cooking suggestions in an attempt to create a flavorful, moist Thanksgiving main course.  I have deep-fried, wood-smoked, stuffed, buffed and dry-rubbed.  I have roasted the bird “sitting”, breast up, breast down, on the right side, on the left side and have used endless combinations of these positions.

This year I ask you to end this madness — consider it behind you and just brine!

Thanksgiving of 2008, I jumped on the turkey-brining bandwagon.  If a leisurely dip in a simple salt water solution could offer my supermarket turkey new life, I was game.  Even though this process required some thoughtful planning, very little hands-on time was necessary.  The payoff – white meat that was moist and tasty and my gravy was needed only on the mashed potatoes!

Brined ... Roasted ... and Carved.

STEP 1 – Make the Brine
Makes 2 gallons

3   cups kosher salt, coarse
1   cup brown sugar  (you can use white sugar)
2   teaspoons pepper  (I used black peppercorns and smahed them with my cast iron skillet)
4   bay leaves
4   stems of fresh sage
4   stems of fresh thyme
5   cloves of garlic, minced
1   small onion, thinly sliced
1   gallon boiling water  (1 gallon = 16 cups)
1   gallon ice cold water

Stir the salt, sugar, pepper, bay leaves, sage, thyme, garlic and onions together in a large stock pot.  Add 1 gallon (16 cups) of water and bring to a boil.  Remove from the heat and allow the mixture to steep for 30 minutes.   Add the remaining gallon of ice cold water.  If your pot does not hold 2 gallons it will be necessary to allow the brine to cool completely and add the additional ice cold water directly into the brining bag.  (I was able to add some of the ice cold water to my pot to help it cool faster, then poured the remaining cold water into the brining bag.)

Making the brine.

STEP 2 – Submerge the Bird

1   10 – 15 pound turkey
1   Brining Bag
1   Cooler

Place the thawed turkey in a brining bag.  I purchased a large 24 inch square brining bag.  Make sure you use a food-grade bag.  (DO NOT use garbage or other plastic bags that are not specifically intended for food use.)  Put the bagged turkey in a clean cooler.  Pour the brine over the turkey (in the bag) making sure the breasts are fully submerged.  Zip/seal the bag closed.  Surround the sealed bag with ice.  The cooler needs to be in a cool place such as your garage, deck etc.  Keep the brine below 40 degrees.  I find that brining for at least 12 hours produces great results.  After the brining process, discard the brine.

Note:  For a larger turkey you may wish to make additional brine.  Be careful to do so using the proportions in the recipe.  You want to maintain the integrity of the brining solution.

Bird and brine in the bag, in the cooler!

Bird and brine on ice.

Bird and brine on ice, gonna spend the night on the deck.

STEP 3 – Prepare to Roast

Remove the turkey from the brine about 1 hour before you are ready to roast it.  Place it on a sheet pan, let it drain and pat it dry inside and out.  Dry skin equals crispy skin!

Pull the bird out of the brine, let excess brine drain off.

Place the brined turkey on a sheet pan, let drain and pat dry.

12   tablespoons of unsalted butter, room temperature
1     rounded tablespoon thyme leaves, minced
1     rounded tablespoon sage leaves, minced
1     rounded tablespoon Italian flat leaf parsley, minced

Combine all the ingredients in a bowl.  Insert your hand under the skin on the breast of the turkey and lift the skin from the meat. Rub the herb butter on top of the meat and place the skin back down.  Rub the outside of the turkey with some of this herb butter.  (You can use olive oil.)  Truss the bird for roasting.

Herb Butter -- think of it as Turkey sun tan lotion!

Carefully, run your hand under the skin on the turkey to loosen it. Rub the herbed butter under the skin.


Place a long piece of cooking twine under the turkey and bring the ends up between the wing and the body of the bird.

In order to wrap the twine around the turkey, move your hands and the twine forward til even with the bird.

Position the twine so you can wrap around the bottom and come up the side of the turkey, catching the wings tips against the body. In this photo you can see the herb butter under the skin.

Once you have captured the wing tips with the twine, cross the twine and pull tight.

Keeping the twine tight, and the wing tips secure against the body of the bird, tie the legs together.

STEP 4 – Roasting the Turkey

I placed the turkey in a pre-heated 400 degree oven, breast side down for one hour.

 There are many theories on what is the best roasting technique.  Some take the even temperature approach, others crank the heat high at the beginning, then finish at a lower temperature.  For a good basic roast, I suggest starting at 400 degrees F for an hour, then reduce the temperature to 350 degrees F for the remainder of the cooking time. (Allow approximately 15 minutes per pound of turkey.)  Make sure that you add liquid to the roasting pan and occasionally check to make sure this liquid has not completely evaporated.  Roast the turkey until the breast registers 160 to 165 degrees F and the thickest part of the thigh reaches 175 degrees F.  To keep the skin from burning, tent the bird with foil.  Allow the turkey to rest 20 minutes before carving.  

After one hour the backside of the turkey is nicely browned.

Reduce oven temperature to 350 degrees. Flip the turkey breast side up. I rubbed olive oil on the skin.

Turkey under a tent to keep the skin from burning.

Brined, roasted and carved.

I’m All Souped-Up – Mm Mm Mm … Cream Cheese Potato Soup

Denise's Cream Cheese Potato Soup

Denise's Cream Cheese Potato Soup


Here I go … out on a limb … to declare this to be the best potato soup I have ever made.  And the crazy thing is, this recipe comes from my sister, Denise, whose culinary repertoire includes exactly three items:  lasagna, apple pie and this Cream Cheese Potato Soup.  A pot of her potato heaven made its debut with the family on Christmas Eve a few years back, when she served it alongside ham sandwiches. 

Because cream based soups are so luxurious, many people may believe them to be labor intensive and exhausting.  It has been my experience, that soup making is actually a most relaxing cooking task. Gather a bunch of quality ingredients, artfully place them in a pot in just the right order and simmer low and slow til the flavors marry. 

The foundation for this soup is the combination of baked potato, milk and mild green onions sautéed in butter.  The next layer of flavor is created with the addition of cream cheese and grated parmesan.  Most recipes could stop here with a perfectly tasty soup, but this one goes one step further with a final flourish … crispy pieces of  bacon. 

This soup recipe may be simple to prepare, but it “shouts” to your family and friends that you really know your way around the kitchen!

Creator unknown … she says she got it from someone at work!
Makes 6-8 servings

4-5 medium potatoes, baked (microwave ok), peeled and cube
6  strips bacon, crisp and crumbled
6  Tablespoons finely chopped green onion
4  Tablespoons butter
2  Tablespoons flour (rounded tablespoons)
1 ½ cups water
3  cups milk
1  8 oz. package of cream cheese, cubed and softened
1  cup grated parmesan cheese
Salt and pepper to taste
Additional green onion and crispy bacon for garnish

Bake potatoes. (Microwave works well too.  Saves valuable time.)  Cool, peel, cube and set aside.

While preparing potatoes, cook bacon til crispy.  Cool, crumble and set aside. (If you have made additional for garnish set aside separately.)

Over medium heat, sauté green onions in butter, stirring to avoid burning.   (Make sure you use both the white and green part of the green onion.  I like to slice across several green onions at once making my cuts close to each other to form small pieces of onion.  I  use a wooden spoon to stir the onions and butter.)  Add flour and whisk  (Yes, you will have to dirty another cooking utensil.) constantly for about 2 minutes to insure the flour has cooked.  (If you do not let the flour cook out a bit you can end up with a “floury” taste in your soup base that you do not want.)  Next, while whisking, add water gradually.  Whisk well then add the milk and cream cheese.  (The mixture may look a bit curdled at this point.  No worries … it is just the cream cheese breaking up and melting. )  Continue to mix with the whisk until smooth.  Mixture will thicken.

Reduce heat to medium low (the key is not to let the soup boil … just simmer)  and add parmesan cheese, potatoes and bacon.  (At this point, when you stir the soup be very gentle.  You do not want to squish the potatoes!  Again I use my trusty wooden spoon.)   Add salt and pepper to taste.  (White pepper is nice to use with this soup.)  Simmer – do not boil. Garnish with reserved green onion and crispy bacon.

Denise's Cream Cheese Potato Soup

Simmering Soup!

Denise's Cream Cheese Potato Soup

Let's Eat!

November 15 is National Bundt Cake Day
Email me (by 11-19 —  we will have a belated celebration)) your favorite bundt cake recipe and tell me the story of your bundt!  I will choose my 3 favorite recipes to bake and test. (Sorry Mom, you cannot enter.)  The winner and their recipe will be featured in one of my upcoming columns.  Heck, we could even bake together at your house and mess up your kitchen instead of mine! 


‘Tis the Season For Fried Dough … but I am baking my Apple Cider Doughnut Puffs!


I  love fried dough … especially the pieces of fried delight known as doughnuts.  So each Fall when someone suggests a trip to get apple cider doughnuts, I am all in!

Fall is more than just a range of dates on a calendar.  It is a season filled with inspiring colors, cool, crisp mornings, traditional flavors and my personal favorite taste sensation, apple cider.  Combine apple cider with the comforting qualities of a spice cake and you have a marriage made in heaven and Louisburg, Kansas.  I suggest you mapquest directions, fire up the GPS or just follow the scent of cinnamon, nutmeg and apples to Louisburg Cider Mill and enjoy their traditional fall apple cider doughnuts.

Louisburg Cider Mill ... home of the best Apple Cider Doughuts!

Louisburg Cider Mill ... home of the best Apple Cider Doughnuts!

Louisburg Cider Mill

Louisburg Cider Mill

Dough being poured into the Donut Robot.

Doughnut dough being poured into the Donut Robot.

Louisburg Cider Mill

The Donut Robot drops rings of dough into the hot oil.

Louisburg Cider Mill

The Robot can produce about 100 donuts every 20 minures.

Louisburg Cider Mill

Out of the oil and on the way to the cinnamon and sugar coating.

Louisburg Cider Mill

The final step ... cinnamon and sugar coating.

Louisburg Cider Mill

A rack full of fried dough!

Keep in mind that these doughnuts, just like the apples used to make them, are a seasonal taste treat you need to savor while you can – unless, of course, you can make them yourself, in your own kitchen, whenever you want!

Baked and not fried is the theme for my take on this fall classic.  You will not have to haul out the fryer, purchase multiple tubs of shortening or have a fire extinguisher at the ready.  The worst you will have to do is dig out your muffin pan.  For me, this can be quite an ordeal.  “Cabinet Diving” (a technical kitchen term used quite frequently in my household) refers to the act of locating that elusive pan or bowl that, without fail, ends up buried under everything else in the cabinet. Due to the extreme noise level associated with this task, I strongly advise that during high television viewing times it be performed only during a commercial break.

My Apple Cider Doughnut Puffs are airy and cake-y with a coating of sugar and cinnamon that clings to your fingers and sticks to your lips.  Do not expect an over-powering flavor of apples or cider, but instead enjoy the subtle sweetness and slight tang.

Apple Cider Doughnut Puffs

Apple Cider Doughnut Puffs

Apple Cider Doughnut Puffs

The cinnamon and sugar coating clings to your fingers and sticks to your lips!

Apple Cider Doughnut Puffs

Apple Cider Doughnut Puffs -- subtle sweetness and slight tang

makes 12 regular size “muffin puffs”

2       cups apple cider
3/4  cup sugar
1       egg plus 1 egg yolk
1  1/2 cups flour
2       teaspoons baking powder
1/2  teaspoon salt
2  1/2  teaspoons cinnamon
1       teaspoon nutmeg
1/2  cup buttermilk
1/4  cup vegetable oil
1/4   teaspoon vanilla extract

Coating: 4 tablespoons butter, melted
1 cup sugar
3 teaspoons cinnamon

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.   Lightly grease a 12 cup regular-sized muffin pan.  (Cooking  spray with flour added works great!)

In a saucepan, over medium to medium low heat ( I set my electric stove to a number 3 – 4), gently reduce the apple cider to 1/4 cup.  Be patient, this requires about one hour.  Stir occasionally during this process.  The concentrated apple cider will be the background flavor in your doughnut puffs.  Set aside and cool to room temperature.

In a large bowl, beat the sugar and egg plus the egg yolk until light and fluffy.  I used an electric hand mixer.

In small bowl, combine together flour, baking powder, salt, cinnamon and nutmeg.  (I like to use a whisk and give it a good mix.) Pour these dry ingredients into the sugar/egg mixture and stir by hand until well combined.  (At this stage the mixture will be stiff until you add the liquid ingredients. That’s why I use a wooden spoon to combine.) Add in vegetable oil, 1/4 cup of reduced apple cider, buttermilk and vanilla extract.  Mix well using an electric hand mixer.

Pour into muffin tins, filling each about 3/4 full.  (If you over fill the muffins you will lose the nice rounded top.) Bake for 14 to 18 minutes, until a tester inserted into the middle comes out clean.  Ovens vary … do not over bake.

Coating:  Melt the butter in a small bowl in the microwave.  Stir together sugar and cinnamon in another small bowl. When the muffins are done allow to cool just until you are able to handle them easily.  With a pastry brush, lightly coat each muffin with butter and gently roll in the cinnamon/sugar mixture.  (Be very gentle when rolling the warm puffs in the cinnamon and sugar mixture.  Once completely cooled, store in an air tight container.  They are wonderful at room temperature.  You can heat in the microwave for 5-7 seconds if you like them warm.)

Apple Cider Doughnut Puffs

Enjoy the Apple Cider Doughnut Puffs!

Apple Cider Doughnut Puffs

Apple Cider Doughnut Puffs

Debbie says: Even though these Apple Cider Doughnuts are very easy to make, why not package one or more batches of the dry ingredients (NOW) before the holidays and store them in sealed zip-lock bags.  Make sure you label and date each bag!