In the Test Kitchen
Raise your hand if you like to be the star of your cookie-exchange party! Katie here, piping in on a topic near-and-dear to my heart: Christmas parties. This time every year I go to an all-girls super-bakers show-off-your-stuff evening (Translation: A cookie-exchange party). We always ooh and aah over the variety: Creamy ganache-dipped cookies, lip-smacking salty nut bars, minty peppermint-topped goodies…and we always secretly want the pat on the back fora job well done.
This year, I came prepared. I’ve been eyeing this Chocolaty Melting Snowman recipe since I first grabbed it from our Christmas Cookies 2012 magazine; and it’s proven to be one of the top recipes of all time on our site.
It’s also ridiculously easy! You can follow the recipe or start with your favorite cookie, as I did (I’m a sucker for peanut butter cookies and wanted to make a favorite). I went with this Peanut Butter Cookie recipe. Bake and let cool completely:
For the snow, I microwaved almond bark with a little vegetable oil per the package directions. Drizzling is so much fun! I tucked a towel under my cooling rack and spooned on the good stuff:
While still melty, I added the top hat:
And an orange-sprinkle nose:
Then I let the “snow” set before adding black dots with a small tube of frosting:
And voila! You’ve mastered the cookie-exchange with your oh-so-cute Frosty. This recipe is a keeper—I’d love to make it with my kids someday!
Seasons greetings, everyone! Jessica Christensen, senior editor with Better Homes and Gardens special interest titles here to welcome you to December—the busiest baking time of the year. I love baking during the holidays (and any time, really) but with my 9-month-old son demanding the majority of my time this year, my baking is going to be more structured and organized—as in make-ahead everything!
Which leads me to last weekend. When my son’s nap time rolled around, I set to work on a batch of rolls to freeze for Christmas dinner. My choice: Feather Rolls, a time-tested recipe from our BH&G archives. Like the name implies, these rolls are soft, tender, and light as a feather (thanks to the secret ingredient of mashed potato!).
However, since I don’t eat dairy products (long story), I had to find a substitute for the butter. My solution to that problem: Earth Balance margarine, the best non-dairy, high-fat margarine on the market for baking. It contains 100 calories per tablespoon, just like butter, so it behaves in much the same way. It’s also free of hydrogenated oils, which is not true of most margarines.The dough came together beautifully—made from flour, sugar, margarine, mashed potato, water, salt, and yeast. Once the ingredients were mixed together, it was a simple matter of kneading the dough until it formed a smooth ball.
Now here’s a big perk of the Feather Rolls recipe—the dough can rise in the refrigerator for 2 to 24 hours. So when I got completely distracted for the rest of the day playing an endless game of peekaboo, it was no big deal. The next day I turned the dough out, cut it into 16 pieces (the recipes says 15 pieces, but it’s much easier to get equal sizes from an even number of bread pieces), formed each piece into a rough ball, and placed the pieces in a 13×9 pan to rise for 40 minutes. The awkward 16th piece of dough had to squeeze in on one end of the pan, but I’m OK with that. Then it was just a hop, skip, and a jump to hot and yeasty baked rolls.
Once the rolls were cool, I wrapped them up in a layer each of plastic wrap and foil, and then placed them in a larger baking dish with a tight fitting lid. Then off to the freezer they went, where they will stay until the big holiday festivities later this month. I plan to pull them out of the freezer the morning of the feast to thaw and then bake them for about 10 minutes at 350°F to warm them up.
Then, because I was “on a roll” I decided to make up a double batch of Mini Focaccia. I used half of it to make a large focaccia round, and then split the other half of the dough up to make mini focaccia. I topped it with fresh rosemary (from a summer plant I brought inside that is now struggling to survive in my window). I learned long ago that this recipe needs to either be eaten immediately or frozen to keep it from getting tough and dried out. Fresh bread doesn’t last nearly as long as store-bought. So after it was baked off to the freezer it went.
Three cheers for planning ahead! What baked goodies are you going to prep and freeze for the holidays this year?
Delish Dish, In the Test Kitchen | Tags:
baked, bread, christmas, classic dinner rolls, dairy-free, December, dinner rolls, dough, Earth Balance margarine, Feather Rolls, flaky, flour, focaccia, freeze, freezer, garlic, herbs, Holiday, homemade, Italian, make-ahead, margarine, non-dairy, potato, potluck, rosemary, Side Dish, sugar, tender, vegan, vegetarian, yeast, yeast bread
Hi it’s Beth again. It seems that every year between Thanksgiving and Christmas, my schedule gets jam-packed and I barely have time eat dinner. And since the weather has finally reached bone-chilling temps, I find myself craving soup, stew, chili…anything I can throw into a slow cooker for a warm, satisfying meal. So I was delighted when I came across this recipe for Mediterranean Kale & Cannelini Stew with Farro. Not just because it’s a healthy option, but also because I’ve been meaning to try cooking with kale. And farro is supposed to be the hottest grain on the scene since quinoa.
While I didn’t have any farro on hand, my regular grocery store had it stocked in their health food section. They even had kamut, another ancient grain that you could use in the recipe, but I opted for farro. Kale was also readily available, and pretty cheap! Since I’m a kale newbie, I double checked how to prepare kale before using it in the recipe.
The most surprising part of this stew was how easy it was to throw together. The bag of farro said to let it soak for 8 hours. Since I’m normally not one to adhere strictly to directions, I let it soak for about an hour, drained it, and threw it in with my chopped veggies and totally delicious fire-roasted tomatoes (Did you guys know about fire-roasted tomatoes?! They are amazing and come canned and should be put in everything as far as I’m concerned.) But anyway, the farro still turned out great, despite the fact that I didn’t soak it for a day. And after de-stemming my kale, I ripped it into small pieces and threw it into my stew with the lemon juice, and let the stew simmer another hour.
As for the final dish? Seriously tasty and filling. I even forgot it was a vegetarian stew thanks to the hearty beans and kale. I would also recommend not skimping on the fresh basil and feta. I know basil can get spendy this time of year, but it’s definitely worth it because it was totally delicious and fresh as a topper and played off of the lemon juice and salty kale. So splurge on the basil, I say. It was so good, in fact, that’s I’m actually looking forward to freezing it so I can heat it up later whenever I need a quick and tasty dinner. Oh and don’t forget to serve it with crusty dippable bread! Because everything tastes better with a thick slice of crusty bread. Get the recipe here.
Hi All, I’m Jessie, senior nutrition editor at Diabetic Living magazine, a health brand developed by Better Homes and Gardens. Though the Thanksgiving feast is something to savor, I’m always a little more excited the days after Thanksgiving when I don’t have to worry about getting dinner on the table and I can bask in the glory of a leftover-side-dish-surplus. And, unless my hungry hubby gets a hold of them first, I can always count on one or two meals made from leftovers of that succulent roasted turkey.
The key to making the most out of your turkey leftovers is to take it easy. That’s what leftovers are all about! You can easily chop up some leftover turkey and add it to salads, sandwiches, soups, and casseroles. You’ll not only enjoy the flavor of the meal, but you can also appreciate how quickly it came together. Here are four delicious ideas to inspire your culinary creativity with turkey leftovers.
But, alas, if you’re sitting there a mere day after the big feast with no leftovers to speak of – not one morsel of stuffing or one speck of pumpkin pie, don’t fret. I have two crumbs of advice…
1) Roast another turkey! And here’s why: After the Thanksgiving rush you can usually find some great discounts on turkeys at your local grocery store. Buy one in the few days after the holiday and before the prices go up again mid-December.
2) This time, plan for leftovers! The basic rule of thumb is to buy a turkey that weighs in at 1 pound/guest. I’m suggesting that you up that number. Next year, if you’ll have 12 guests, buy a 24-pounder (that’s 2 pounds/guest). That way you can almost ensure a refrigerator full of turkey-filled Tupperware. Yay!
In the meantime, here are a few more ideas for how to appreciate a bounty of extra bird.
In the Test Kitchen | Tags:
cooking, ideas, leftover food, leftover ideas, leftovers, Thanksgiving, Thanksgiving leftovers, Turkey, turkey casserole, turkey hash, turkey pizza, turkey salad, turkey soup, turkey wrap
Hi it’s Beth again. This week I’m busy planning my Thanksgiving sides and appetizers, and of course thinking about Black Friday. My sister loves it, and on more than one occasion I’ve been dragged to the mall before 6 a.m. for some magical $10 appliance or sweater deal. In case she corners me this year, I’m going to be ready with make-ahead Cherry-Almond Danish and Cinnamon Coffee. I decided to try these recipes ahead of time, so if she asks me to go with her on Thursday I’ll be ready to whip them up that night. I mean if I have to wait in line with the masses, I might as well be well-fed and caffeinated.
I started by prepping my danish the night before. I had never tackled a danish before, but this one seemed pretty straightforward. I always get nervous when anything involves yeast, but I followed all of the timings and my dough turned out great. Even the cute braided bread effect was a lot easier than it looked!
I love any breakfast bread that makes a lot and turns out looking bakery-worthy. This recipe is great because you can make it ahead of time. The recipe tip suggests baking it and then freezing it for up to a month. I made the whole thing the night before, and then refrigerated it overnight and baked it for 30 minutes in the morning.
Since I know from experience that I don’t want to brave coffee shop lines during Black Friday, I figured I should practice whipping up a tasty last-minute latte, too. So I paired my awesome danish with Cinnamon Coffee. It starts with regular brewed coffee and then you just add in some half-and-half, cinnamon, and whipped cream. The cinnamon sticks made the whole thing seem fun and fancy. And sometimes breakfast needs a little fun and fancy.
So now regardless if my sister manages to convince me that we must wait in a long line to score 70% off at a department store, I will be content and happy to be dragged along with my Cherry-Almond Danish and Cinnamon Coffee to-go. If she takes this year off, then the rest of the family will benefit anyway with a delicious breakfast bread and drink that are perfect for a holiday breakfast. It’s a Black Friday win-win.
Hi everyone, Carlos here! I’m one of the senior food editors at Better Homes and Gardens. Years ago, one of my first work assignments after graduating from the Culinary Institute of America was to develop the ultimate Thanksgiving Day turkey recipe. Talk about a daunting task!
See, the problem with poultry is that white meat and dark meat taste best when cooked to different temperatures. The white breast meat is moist and succulent at about 165°F, while thighs and drumsticks are much better at 180°F. But the oven roasts everything at the same temperature so that’s impossible, right?
Well, turns out it is possible. It took me three weeks and 20 turkeys to crack this holiday nut, but I eventually hit upon several unique strategies that can help every part of the turkey cook to perfection. Start with this Classic Roast Turkey recipe, then try one or more strategies from my personal bag of turkey tricks.
- Help the drumsticks cook.When preparing the turkey, use a sharp knife to cut through the skin and tendons all the way around the bone just below where the drumsticks end. This allows the skin and meat to pull away during cooking, exposing bone. The bone conducts heat deep into the meat of the drumsticks, which makes them cook faster.
- Dive in, legs first.Position the turkey’s legs toward the back of the oven, if your roasting pan will fit that way. The back is hotter, which will help cook the legs a little faster.
- Flip the bird.My favorite technique is to start cooking the turkey breast-side down on the roasting rack. This slows the cooking of the white meat because it’s under the body, while elevating the hard-to-cook hindquarters so they can roast faster. Halfway through the cooking time, remove the turkey in the roasting pan to your stovetop or a secure spot on the counter. Then, use kitchen towels or oven mitts to grab hold of the turkey at the tail end and gently pivot the bird up and over until the breast is facing up. That way, it can get golden brown and crispy. (Note: I recommend limiting this maneuver to smaller, 12- to 14-pound turkeys. Larger birds can prove difficult to turn).
By implementing these tactics, the dark meat will have an internal temperature up to 15° hotter than the breast meat. All that’s left to do is finish cooking per your recipe’s directions and then carve and enjoy a perfectly cooked turkey! To round out your Thanksgiving Day meal, find more excellent holiday recipes at BHG.com.