Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Pumpkin Muffins

You'd think that after a day of cooking and hosting, I wouldn't want to be in the kitchen at all the next day. However, on Sunday I woke up craving a hot breakfast that did not involve eggs or hot cereal of any kind. I wanted a hot bread, and we happened to have a can of pumpkin in our cupboard! I found a recipe for pumpkin bread, but when I saw that we were one egg short and I didn't want to wait for the bread to cook for 80 minutes, I decided to search for a pumpkin muffing recipe instead. I found one quickly that was ideal for my conditions and got to work. In just over a half an hour, we were enjoying these pumpkin muffins and coffee on a cold and rainy Sunday morning. Perfection! These muffins are probably going to be my go-to muffin recipe whenever I need one. They are quick and easy to make; the pumpkin keeps them moist; the spices give them a kick, and the cinnamon streusel on top gives them the perfect amount of sweetness. And now I get to have one for breakfast every day this week!

Pumpkin Muffins
From Smitten Kitchen


1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 cup canned solid-pack pumpkin (from a 15 ounce can)
1/3 cup vegetable oil*
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon pumpkin-pie spice
1 1/4 cups plus 1 tablespoon sugar**
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon

Put oven in middle position and preheat oven to 350°F. Put liners in muffin cups.

Whisk together pumpkin, oil, eggs, pumpkin pie spice, 1 1/4 cups sugar, baking soda, and salt in a large bowl until smooth, then whisk in flour mixture until just combined.

Stir together cinnamon and remaining 1 tablespoon sugar in another bowl.

Divide batter among muffin cups (each should be about three-fourths full), then sprinkle tops with cinnamon-sugar mixture. Bake until puffed and golden brown and wooden pick or skewer inserted into the center of a muffin comes out clean, 25 to 30 minutes.

Cool in pan on a rack five minutes, then transfer muffins from pan to rack and cool to warm or room temperature.


This is a belated post for sure!! However, it’s about time for an update on the ol’ blog. Our lives have continued to be so crazy that I barely have time to sort out my daily activities let alone think about blogging!

With all the traveling we’d been doing in November, Bryan and I decided to stay in Chicago for Thanksgiving. We really needed the extra days to recuperate. Since we were away from family, we decided to host a Friendsgiving at our condo! Many of our friends have family in the area and were doing traditional Thanksgivings on Thursday, so we hosted them on Saturday! On Thursday we were productive and took care of school work, studying, cleaning and somehow managed to have time for a date night movie. Friday consisted of a little shopping and mostly prepping and cleaning for Saturday. We were planning the traditional Thanksgiving feast and we provided the turkey, stuffing, and two kinds of potatoes. We used recipes that I grew up with because they are so near and dear to my heart, but it was our first time making the turkey and stuffing and we were both a bit intimidated and didn’t want to mess up!  Our friends supplemented the feast by bringing sides and desserts!

Thanks to those of you who helped document the afternoon!! I was too busy to take pictures!

Bryan carving the turkey

You can barely see, but the famous stuffing is behind the turkey plate! Thanks to our friends who brought sides and desserts - we loved them all!

The table and centerpiece

This was the first time I actually received these recipes from my dad as well, so I will try to document them as best as I can. Keep in mind these recipes have been handed down through generations by word of mouth and by watching, so I’m taking the multi-paragraph email from my dad and trying to format it into a recipe. It's not in the typical ingredients and directions format, but more in the form of instructions as you go. If you plan on using these recipes, I suggest reading them through so that you don't miss an ingredient. I do like this way of explaining a recipe because once you do it one time, it's easy to remember.

Preparation Day


My dad’s famous turkey recipe follows. He makes his own brine that is injected into the turkey and marinated overnight. The next day, the turkey is grilled for a few hours to perfection.

Start thawing the turkey two days ahead of time in the fridge. You can alternate between placing it in the kitchen sink and the fridge to make sure it thaws completely.

One day before, unpackage the turkey and start cleaning it out. There will be a paper packet with the giblets (liver, heart and gizzard) in the cavity of the turkey. Remove the packet and set the giblets aside. Cut off the neck and tail and set aside with the giblets.

Clean the turkey. Remove any loose skin and excess fat and rinse with cold water. Place the turkey on to a large durable pan (preferably lined with a plastic bag already so that all of the extra brine doesn’t spill all over).

Prepare the brine. Ingredients: one quart of cold water, 3 heaping tablespoons of Morton Tender Quick (curing salt), and 2 table spoons Liquid Smoke. Hardware needed: brine injector. Inject the brine into the meat of the turkey until it is all used up. Some of it will leak out into the bottom of the pan.

Tie the turkey with 18 gauge wire (we actually used twine) around the legs, across the wings and breast and one more in the middle. Cover the turkey with the plastic bag (we used a new unscented trash liner for our plastic bag), tie it shut and place it in the fridge over night.


Place the giblets, tail, and neck that you set aside while cleaning the turkey in a large kettle with about a quart of water (or more if you like). Season with salt and pepper and bring to a boil. Simmer for about an hour.
                *My dad prefers to add a ¾ pound package of extra giblets to give more flavors, so I did as well.

Remove contents from the broth so that they can cool. Save the broth in the kettle and place it in the fridge. Once you are able to handle the giblets, dice them into small pieces. Peel off any meat from the neck and dice it too. Discard the tail. Place the diced meats into a container and store in the fridge overnight.

Dice about one and a half cups of celery and two cups of white onion. Place them in a container and store in the fridge overnight.

You will also need a bag or two (depending on how big they are) of unseasoned croutons for the stuffing the next day.

Day of feast


Take your turkey out of the fridge in the morning and remove it from the plastic bag. Wrap it in tin foil, leaving two inch holes on both ends so that heat can get through the cavity. Use one side of the grill for the direct heat and grill the turkey for about four hours, moving it back and forth between the direct and indirect heat until the thickest meat measures 170 degrees with a meat thermometer (our 19 pound turkey took about four hours). You can remove the tin foil for the last 20 minutes or so to let the skin brown up a little bit. Once the turkey is done on the grill, place it on a plate for about ten minutes and then start carving!


While the turkey is on the grill, make the stuffing.

Heat up the broth that was saved the day before. Add the diced celery and onion to it once it is warm. Season it to taste with salt, pepper, garlic powder, poultry seasoning (more than you think you need) and butter (optional). It should taste like strong chicken soup. Remember you will be adding it to a lot of dried bread, so you want to the flavor to be strong.
*At this point, I realized I didn’t have enough liquid for the amount of croutons I had, so I added four more cups of water and two vegetable bullions to the broth, which worked perfectly.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and spray one or two glass baking pans (depending on how much you’re going to make) with non-stick spray.

Place the croutons in a large bowl, with room to spare. Slowly add the broth and vegetable mixture to the croutons to let them soak up the broth (I just used a ladle). Add the diced giblets from the day before. Continue adding broth until the croutons turn into a thick paste. If it is too liquidy, add more croutons. If it is too dry, add more broth. If you run out of broth, add water.

Place the mixture into your baking pan(s) about 3-4 inches thick. Cover with tin foil and bake for about an hour and a half. You can take the tin foil off for the last 20 minutes to brown the top if you like.

Friday, November 11, 2011

11 things

Our lives are insanely busy these days, so here are eleven noteworthy things going on in our lives right now.

1. I’ve been given the time to blog because my flight is delayed right now.

2. Today’s date is pretty cool, 11/11/11, but not as cool as 01/02/2010, the full numeric palindrome and day that Bryan and I got married!

3. Boston trip was great!

4. Looking forward to a quick trek up to MN this weekend!

5. Looking forward to Philly next weekend!

6. Planning to prepare our very first Thanksgiving feast for friends in Chicago!

7. Looking forward to more interview trips.

8. I’ve been so frustrated and stressed about my applications that I’ve wanted to tear my hair out. I think I will survive though.

9. My foot is healing quickly with the awesome help of Dave, my physical therapist!

10. I get to see Dimitri today after a couple of days away! I miss the little fur ball!

11. I’m SO PROUD of my husband!

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Slow Cooker White Bean and Ham Soup and a Massive Update!

Wow! I can't believe how fast October flew by! We spent two weekends in Minnesota, one for the marathon weekend and the other at great friends' wedding. We also went to Kansas City for another wedding of one of my college friends! Let's see if I can give a more detailed recap of our lives!

Where has the time gone?

During the weeks, our time seemed just as busy! I've been putting a great deal of time into the nutrition class that I'm taking in addition to working full time. Another thing that has been taking up my time is physical therapy for my injured foot! I've been going to PT sessions twice a week for the past 3 weeks and I can really tell that there has been major improvement! When I took the boot off, I felt pretty uneasy with little balance. Since then I have made major strides in balance, strength and function! Today I got to hop on the elliptical for my warm up and I was pleasantly surprised that I had no pain! It's so crazy that when you are doing physical therapy, the most elementary activities/actions turn into enormous hurdles and can be very painful. It's nice when I can see actual improvement with my ability to do the excercises and a decrease in pain after the sessions!

Slow Cooker White Bean and Ham Soup
Find recipe here.

With all that is going on, there has been little time for anything else during the week! I honestly can't remember the last time I went to the grocery store or made anything from a new recipe. I guess that means we've been eating our favorite go-to recipes that we just know! Luckily, Bryan had a little bit of down time a couple of weeks ago, before his life got crazier than mine, and was able to really help out! I had a huge craving for ham and bean soup one day a couple of weeks ago, so I found this recipe online and he got it going in the crock pot just hours later! It totally hit the spot and we had awesome left overs for days!! We have extra ham in the freezer and I think I'm going to have to whip this up again this weekend!

Big Things are Happenin'!

There is so much going on this fall, it's hard to put it into few words. Bryan is traveling all around the country full time going on residency interviews for urology, and I am trying to join him on as many that I can! With my job and class, my time is more limited, but I am able to make it on the important ones. I thought my life was busy already but add on traveling a couple times a week and it's hard to keep everything straight! This hectic time will continue to consume our lives up until Christmas, when we will submit his residency rank list! In January, we will know where he is placed! It's very exciting, and I will try to update on this topic when I can!

One Last Note

Oh, one last thing. This little guy keeps me company when Bryan is gone, and we miss him like crazy when we are away! He's such a funny little kitty! He's my study buddy, cuddle bear, comic relief and provides love and entertainment like no other!