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Thursday, November 15, 2012

Practice Thanksgiving

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This year for the first time ever Bob and I will be hosting Thanksgiving at our house.  We're only having a small gathering but we decided it would be in everyone's best interest to do a trial run to make sure that a) I could properly cook a turkey, and b) that we approved of the menu.  Good news, Practice Thanksgiving was a HUGE success!  Now we can prepare for the real deal.  

I'm pretty sure that Practice Thanksgiving will now be an annual event because really, why not?  It was awesome and I feel like a Thanksgiving pro now.  To wet your whistle, and get you in the turkey-eating spirit I've collected our foods so you can decide if you too want to dine like we did.

We enjoyed: savory crock pot turkey, spicy crock pot turkey, sweet potato casserole, mashed potatoes with gravy, green bean casserole, cornmeal stuffing muffins and a nice heirloom tomato salad.  We ended up having a small party of 5 and I managed to not super over cook!  Amazing!  I cooked everything except dessert.  Our awesome friend Staci brought Paula Dean's pumpkin cake, it was really really good.

Okay so here's how I did it:

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Turkey! (Savory and Spicy)

What you'll need:

Savory Turkey

1 turkey breast

1 packet of onion soup mix

Chicken broth

Chopped onions



Spicy Turkey

1 turkey breast

habenaro sauce

lemon/herb/pepper spice mixture

Chicken broth

Chopped onions


We bought two turkey breasts (because that's the best part in our opinion) and decided to cook them in the crock pot so that I could still use the oven for other things.  Each turkey breast (bone in) was about 2.5 lbs.   Each turkey breast was prepared roughly the same way, slap some butter on the sides of our crock pot, put about a half an inch of chicken broth in the bottom of the pot.  Rub the onion soup mix, or habanero spice mix on the turkey great.  Rub it in real good, and under the skin for extra flavorful awesomeness.  Place the turkey breast in the crock pot and toss your chopped onions of the top.  Place the lid on your crock pot and cook for 1 hour on high, and then 7 more hours on low.  I ended up cooking our turkey breast for about 10 hours and the meat pretty much fell right off the bones.

Sweet potato casserole:

I used the Food Network's recipe for the sweet potato casserole.  I followed it loosely, using less brown sugar and more pecans.

Green bean casserole:

Again, not my recipe, I used the Campbell's Green Bean Casserole recipe.  It's a golden standard as far as I'm concerned and goes with just about everything.  I tried using the recipe on the back of French's Fried Onions once, and it wasn't the same, the soy sauce makes all the difference.

Cornmeal Stuffing Muffins:

I read about how you could make stuffing muffins in an issue of the Rachel Ray magazine and figured I could that, and I did.  Her original recipe has you making everything from scratch and I was not up for that.  I like cheating.  To make cornmeal stuffing muffins you'll need:

1 box of cornmeal stuffing (I bought Mrs. Cubbison's)

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4 stalks of celery diced

Half and onion chopped finely

3 cloves garlic finely chopped

2 cups -ish vegetable broth


In a gigantic skillet sauté the onions, garlic, and celery.  Add the cornmeal stuffing, and slowly poor in the vegetable broth to mush it together.  Let cool a little bit, roll in balls and put in a muffin tin.  Bake them for 20 minutes at 350 degrees and then stuff them in your face with or with out gravy.  It's up to you.

Heirloom Tomato Salad:

Spinach leaves (1 cup per person)

Heirloom tomato (about 1/4 per person-ish)

Avocado (1/4 per person)

Parmesan cheese

Balsamic vinegar

Toss everything in a bowl and serve!  Add some pepper for a little kick.


Serve your meal with your favorite wines and then enjoy the fruits of your labor.  I high recommend making the casseroles in advance, it makes things sooo much easier.  And whatever you do, don't forget to set your table, this is a classy affair!



Friday, November 2, 2012

Din Tai Fung Dumplings!

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On our recent trip to Taipei and Hong Kong, Bob and I rediscovered our love for this Taiwanese chain, Din Tai Fung.  We'd forgotten how amazingly delicious their xialongbao was, but don't worry, we ate there three times in our 8 day trip so we got plenty of dumplings.  

We tried the original pork xiaolongbao (tiny soup dumplings), chicken dumplings, and a crab and roe combo.  Our favorite is definitely the original pork dumplings, they're just perfect and mouth-wateringly delicious.  In later trips to the restaurant we'd only order these dumplings as they're our favorite and we wanted to stuff ourselves with as many as we possibly could.

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To go with our pork dumplings we also ordered some greens.  (One thing I really love about Asia in general is the huge assortment of vegetables that are available, as well as all the different ways these vegetables can be prepared.)  So we ordered the cucumbers in chili-vinegar sauce, yum!  And water spinach sautéed with garlic.

We thought about ordering more "healthy" options, but ended up just stuffing our faces with the dumplings.  Who were we kidding, porky- meaty delicious dumplings were what we really wanted.

We only had to wait for a table for a little amount of time, as this place is super efficient.  All the wait staff is really helpful and friendly, and a friend of ours told us that in order to work there you must speak at least two languages to assist customers.  I never lacked for my tea to be refilled, and they brought out a covering for my purse so it wouldn't get grease on it.  Great service and delicious food, really it's a dream come true.

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The other great thing about Din Tai Fung is that if you're not familiar with eating xiaolongbao they have these cute little instruction cards that they place on all the tables so you can figure it out.  Bob and I like to dip our dumplings in vinegar with a little bit of ginger with each bite.  Heavenly!  

And finally, because we're of course in Asia it's ridiculously cheap.  We spent $30USD for lunch and we each ate 10 pork dumplings, split cucumbers and water spinach and enjoyed 6 dessert bao, stuffed with taro and red bean.  We were completely satisfied customers.  

There are a few US locations of Din Tai Fung, and I plan on always eating dumplings if I'm ever in a city that this restaurant exists.  If you've never been before I suggest you add it to your list of great eats!