Archive for the ‘Main Dishes’ Category

Apple Cider-Brined Turkey 
This is hands down the best turkey recipe I have tried! I saw this recipe in Cooking Light about 6 years ago and I used it to roast my first turkey that same Thanksgiving. This is by far my favorite turkey recipe and it has now become my go to turkey recipe. It has also been rated very highly by Cooking Light readers and received the highest ratings from their test kitchens. The turkey is so moist and tender and it has an amazing flavor. It is brined overnight, so you will need to plan ahead, especially if you are using a frozen turkey. There are many ingredients, but the recipe is very easy to put together and the turkey cooks for a short amount of time compared to other recipes I have seen.  It is a simple recipe and the turkey didn’t need a lot of attention once it was in the oven, there was no need for basting at all. The herb gravy has so much flavor and is perfect on a big pile of mashed potatoes. If you try this recipe this Thanksgiving, I promise that you and your guests will not be disappointed. Hope everyone has a wonderful and blessed Thanksgiving this year!

Apple Cider-Brined Turkey with Savory Herb Gravy
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8  cups  apple cider
2/3  cup  kosher salt
2/3  cup  sugar
1  tablespoon  black peppercorns, coarsely crushed
1  tablespoon  whole allspice, coarsely crushed
8  (1/8-inch-thick) slices peeled fresh ginger
6  whole cloves
2  bay leaves
1  (12-pound) fresh or frozen turkey, thawed
2  oranges, quartered
6  cups  ice

Remaining ingredients:
4  garlic cloves
4  sage leaves
4  thyme sprigs
4  parsley sprigs
2  onions, quartered
1  (14-ounce) can fat-free, less-sodium chicken broth
2  tablespoons  unsalted butter, melted and divided
1  teaspoon  freshly ground black pepper, divided
1/2  teaspoon  salt, divided


To prepare brine, combine first 8 ingredients in a large saucepan; bring to a boil. Cook 5 minutes or until sugar and salt dissolve. Cool completely.
Remove giblets and neck from turkey; reserve for Savory Herb Gravy. Rinse turkey with cold water; pat dry. Trim excess fat. Stuff body cavity with orange quarters. Place a turkey-sized oven bag inside a second bag to form a double thickness. Place bags in a large stockpot. Place turkey inside inner bag. Add cider mixture and ice. Secure bags with several twist ties. Refrigerate for 12 to 24 hours, turning occasionally.
Preheat oven to 500º.
Remove turkey from bags, and discard brine, orange quarters, and bags. Rinse turkey with cold water; pat dry. Lift wing tips up and over back; tuck under turkey. Tie legs together with kitchen string. Place garlic, sage, thyme, parsley, one quartered onion, and broth in the bottom of a roasting pan. Place roasting rack in pan. Arrange turkey, breast side down, on roasting rack and stuff the body cavity with the remaining quartered onion. Brush turkey back with 1 tablespoon butter; sprinkle with 1/2 teaspoon pepper and 1/4 teaspoon salt. Bake at 500º for 30 minutes.
Reduce oven temperature to 350º.
Remove turkey from oven. Carefully turn turkey over (breast side up) using tongs. Brush turkey breast with 1 tablespoon butter; sprinkle with 1/2 teaspoon pepper and 1/4 teaspoon salt. Bake at 350º for 1 hour and 15 minutes or until a thermometer inserted into meaty part of thigh registers 170º (make sure not to touch bone). (Shield the turkey with foil if it browns too quickly.) Remove turkey from oven; let stand 20 minutes. Reserve pan drippings for Savory Herb Gravy. Discard skin before serving; serve with gravy.

Adapted From: Cooking Light


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I am so excited about this recipe! If there is one thing that our family loves, it is Mexican food. We eat it at least once a week and it usually consists of some sort of taco. Well, this week I decided to try to make one of my husbands favorite Mexican taco meats at home from scratch. He loves carnitas and orders it quite often if we are eating Mexican food out. I had never tried it at home and was very, very pleased with this recipe and the finished product. The pork was so flavorful and juicy and the house smelled so wonderful with it roasting in the oven all afternoon. It makes quite a bit of meat, so if you would like, you can set aside some of the meat after it comes out of the oven for left over and when you are ready to eat it you can reheat it under the broiler as mentioned in step 11 below. I also reheated it in the microwave and it was delicious. You can eat carnitas in many differet ways, but we made tacos and topped them with cheese, chopped green chili, tomatoes and guacamole. They were delicious! We will definitely be making this a regular dish in our home.

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3-4 pounds of boneless pork shoulder (or pork butt) or 4-5lbs of bone-in pork shoulder
Spice Rub:
1 tsp kosher salt
1 tsp chili powder
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp dried oregano
Braising Liquid:
3/4 cup orange juice
Water to cover (about 2 cups)
1 onion, quartered
1 jalapeno, halved and seeds removed (optional)


  1. Heat a dutch oven or other heavy bottomed oven-ready lidded pan over medium high heat with just enough vegetable oil to cover the bottom .
  2. Pre-heat oven to 300ºF
  3. Cut pork into 1-2″ cubes, trimming large sections of fat off (we need fat for the flavor, so just cut off any real large pieces). Toss pork pieces with spice rub.
  4. Brown the cubed pork well in the dutch oven, going in batches so there is only one layer of meat at a time.
  5. When all the meat is browned, deglaze the pan’s bottom with the orange juice, stirring to break up the brown bits. Introduce all of the meat back to the pan and cover with water until it’s nearly submerged. Add the onion ad jalapeno into the liquid with the meat.
  6. Bring to a simmer, cover, and place in the oven. Cook for about 3 hours.
  7. Stir the pot after one and two hours, the pork should be very tender towards the third hour. When you’re confortable with the tenderness, evacuate all the pork to a platter and begin to boil the braising liquid on the stove top.
  8. After letting the pork cool for a few minutes work through with your hands to separate and discard any fat or gristle pieces that hadn’t melted in the braise. Shred the meat into smaller pieces.
  9. Turn your broiler on to high and place a rack towards the top
  10. Toss the now shredded pork with some of the reduced braising liquid (that should have boiled down significantly by now) and spread in a single layer on a sheet pan.
  11. Broil the pork for approximately five minutes per side until the outside begins to carmelize.
  12. Enjoy!

Adapted From: It’s For Dinner

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Turkey Meatballs

I thought these were fitting since we are in November now and it is officially turkey month! Giada has come through for me yet again. I don’t know what it is about her recipes, but they always deliver just what I am looking for, and these meatballs are no exception. At first, I debated even putting these meatballs on here, because they are so super easy to make, but then I decided why not. I mean, who couldn’t use a new simple recipe for their hectic and busy lives. Besides, I love these meatballs so much. They are so easy to make and they taste amazing!  I love to pair them with the simple tomato sauce that I shared with you a couple weeks ago. That sauce has such a simple flavor, that it allows you to taste the wonderfully juicy and tender meatballs. Chris and I love them, but more importantly, the girls love them too! Katelyn isn’t a fan of many meat dishes, but she devours these meatballs in no time flat and wants more. One of the other great things about these meatballs, is that they reheat beautifully. They taste just as good reheated as they did the night they were made and that makes for some easy left over lunches and dinners, and who doesn’t love that?

Turkey Meatballs
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1 pound lean ground turkey
1/4 cup bread crumbs
3/4 cup grated parmesean cheese
2 eggs
2 tablespoons milk
Salt and Pepper to taste
1/4 cup olive oil
5 cups tomato sauce

In a large bowl add bread crumbs milk and mix until well combined. Mix in eggs and parmesean cheese and mix well. Add turkey and gently combine, being careful not to overwork the meat. Season with salt and pepper. Shape into golf-size balls.

In a large skillet heat the oil over medium high heat. When almost smoking, add meatballs and without moving or turning the meat, allow it to brown for about 3 minutes. Turn meatballs and brown other side. Continue to cook until all sides are golden brown, about 8 minutes total. Add tomato sauce and bring to a boil. Lower heat and allow meatballs to simmer for 5 minutes. Turn off heat and keep warm on stove. Be careful not to overhandle the meatballs since they are soft and fragile. Serve over spaghetti.

Adapted From: Giada De Laurentiis

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Tomato Sauce with Onion & Butter

Oh how much I love this sauce!

That is right, it is a pasta sauce with only 4 ingredients, and the onion only stews in the sauce and then is discarded before eating. When I first came across this sauce I was a little skeptical. I mean how can you make a pasta sauce without garlic or herbs??? Or even olive oil for that matter? Since so many boggers were talking about it, I thought I better give it a try, and I am so glad that I did! The sauce is velvety and smooth and it is all because of the butter. The butter makes it so creamy and gives it the perfect texture. The flavors are so simple and wonderful together. It is a very refreshing dish. I love to pair this up with a very simple turkey meatball recipe (which I will share with you soon) and serve it over whole wheat thin spagehtti. It is one of my absolute favorite meals these days! And the best part about it, is that it is super quick to make and the kids love it too!

I am still working on my photography skills, so the photo isn’t the best, but the sauce definitely is! I talk about this sauce every chance I get. Try it, you will not be disapointed.

Tomato Sauce with Onion and Butter
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Serves 4 as a main course; makes enough sauce to lightly coat most of a pound of spaghetti

28 ounces whole peeled tomatoes from a can (San Marzano, if you can find them)
5 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 medium-sized yellow onion, peeled and halved
Salt to taste

Put the tomatoes, onion and butter in a heavy saucepan over medium heat. Bring the sauce to a simmer then lower the heat to keep the sauce at a slow, steady simmer for about 45 minutes, or until droplets of fat float free of the tomatoes. Stir occasionally, crushing the tomatoes against the side of the pot with a wooden spoon. For a less chunky sauce I used my hand blender to smooth out the sauce some after I remove the onion. Remove from heat, discard the onion, add salt to taste (you might find, that your tomatoes came salted and that you didn’t need to add more) and keep warm while you prepare your pasta.
Serve with spaghetti, with or without grated parmesan cheese to pass.

Adapted From: SmittenKitchen

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ChiliFall is finally in the air and nothing says fall to me more than a bowl of chili with some corn bread. I have been making this recipe for chili for quite a few years. It was originally an Emeril Lagasse  recipe, but I have modified it so much over the years that now it is basically my own concoction. The only things that remain from the original Emeril recipe are the dry spices and their quantities. The recipe does call for his signature Essence recipe which is included below. This chili is hearty and slightly spicy. It is also a very healthy meal as it is full of lean ground turkey and lots of fiber packed beans. Both of our girls also really like it (Katelyn calls it chili soup!). The recipe is very flexible and it is easily adjustable for your tastes. Feel free to use whatever beans you like best. One of the grocery stores that we go to regularly carries an organic tri-bean blend of pinto, black and kidney and we find it is perfect for our chili, it allows us to get three kinds of beans and only use two cans. This is one of our favorite meals and we will eat it often during the fall and winter months. You can also top it with all kinds of yummy toppings, our favorite is lots of cheese!

Chili con Carne with Beans
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1 tablespoon olive oil
1  to 1.5 pounds lean ground turkey
1 medium yellow onion
1 green bell pepper
2-3 cloves minced garlic
2 tablespoons chili powder
1 tablespoon Essence, recipe below
½ teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon dried Mexican oregano
¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 (15 ounce) can diced tomatoes
2 (15 ounce) cans beans of your choice (i.e., pinto, black, kidney, etc.) drained
1.5 cups water
2 tablespoons flour (optional)


Heat the oil in a dutch oven or large pot over medium heat. Add the onions and sauté until soft. Then add the garlic and sauté until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add the ground turkey and using a wooden spoon break into small pieces. Cook, stirring, until the meat is brown and cooked through.

Once the meat is cooked, add the onion, bell pepper, chili powder, Essence, salt, cumin, oregano, and cayenne and cook, stirring, until soft.

Add the tomatoes and their juices, beans and water to the pot. Bring to a boil then lower the heat to medium-low and simmer uncovered for 45 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add flour to thicken if needed.

Emeril Lagasse’s Essence Recipe

2 ½ tablespoons paprika
2 tablespoons salt
2 tablespoons garlic powder
1 tablespoon black pepper
1 tablespoon onion powder
1 tablespoon cayenne pepper
1 tablespoon dried leaf oregano
1 tablespoon dried thyme

Combine all ingredients thoroughly and store in an airtight container.

*This makes quite a bit, so if you think you won’t use it or don’t want to keep that much stored, you could change the measurements above from Tablespoons to Teaspoons.

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