Fun Finds

Happy weekend!  I have to work the whole weekend (boo) but hopefully you’ll be doing some fun stuff and I can live vicariously through you!  I found some goodies this week while I was out grocery shopping, maybe you’ve seen these at your local TJ’s?

PS: This is not a sponsored post or in anyway associated with Trader Joe’s. I thought it would be fun to talk about some items I came across recently.

Trader Joe's Turkey Bone Broth


TJ’s Turkey Bone Broth.  It comes in smaller boxes than their turkey stock.  I compared it to the TJ’s turkey stock and the bone broth has a more simple ingredient list focusing on creating a rich broth where the stock had more additives (Like veggie stock, and sugars).  While this is more expensive than the stock, I decided to use it for Thanksgiving next week.  I would love to see TJ’s start carrying more bone broth! It’s not organic in case that is something you are concerned about.   When checking out, the cashier told me is a seasonal item only and will be departing the shelves soon so stock up! I’m going back this week to finish up Thanksgiving shopping and I plan on picking up more.

Trader Joe's Turkey and Stuffing Kettle Chips

TJ’s Turkey and Stuffing Kettle Chips.  This was a total splurge impulsive buy moment.  I thought these sounded amazing and was so curious to try them out.  However, they were not amazing but they weren’t horrible either.  When I first tried them, I didn’t really get much of a turkey/stuffing flavor out of them at all. They sort of tasted like overcooked chips. I tried them again a few days later and they tasted a lot more savory and I could see how they might be a nod to Thanksgiving dinner. They were OK and a fun gimmick. If I were hosting a party I would get these to have on hand because they are budget friendly.  However since I didn’t love them, they had to go. I hate tossing food but I’m also not going to eat something just because, it has to be worth it and those were not.

Not pictured but worth a mention, TJ’s also now carries broccoli rice in their fresh produce section.  I’m so glad to see grocery stores (especially TJ’s because let’s be honest, they were the first to embrace having cauliflower rice in the store) start to carry more veggie alternatives.  I’m just OK on this rice though.  Since it’s made from broccoli stems it has a much tougher texture and takes a good bit of seasoning to keep it from being bland.  However if you aren’t a fan of cauliflower this rice would be worth checking out.

Have a great weekend and we’ll catch up on Monday!


Thanksgiving 2014

Thanksgiving 2014


This was hands down the best Thanksgiving we had since we moved to Fort Collins.  Our first year here, I was still getting my bearings around where to shop and find local ingredients.  Plus we had only been here a couple of months and I was still learning about our new city along with missing some things from our previous city.  It wasn’t much of a celebration to be honest.

Last year we were in a brand new house with two new dogs and we weren’t sure how they would handle all the new changes that come with the holidays.  This year we are settled, the dogs are settled, and I’ve got my routine figured out and that meant that Thanksgiving was awesome.

Our fridge is small and is pretty much barely functional.  I mean, as a storage unit, it works properly keeping things cold.  I didn’t think there would be room to brine but Scott worked his magic packing skills and was able to fit two huge bowls in the fridge.  For the turkey, I purchased two breasts and two legs from Whole Foods along with two wings.  The wings I used to make turkey stock and I did that using the slow cooker (more on that in another post!).

I bourbon brined the turkey and we had collards, mashed potatoes, and gravy, and cranberry sauce (new recipe!).  Scott also requested some stuffing this year so I made a small dish of that as well.  Everything turned out fantastic and the turkey was even better as leftovers.

The day was relaxing and warm.  So warm I had to open the windows to let some fresh air in to clear out the steam from cooking!  Most of the day was spent in PJs eating, drinking, and hanging out with the pups.

It was glorious and later we had pumpkin pie for dessert.

I could not have asked for a more perfect day.

The Christmas decorations are out and I can’t wait to unplug for a couple of weeks and just hang out.  Definitely my most favorite time of year!

Tell me about your holiday!


Brine, Glorious Brine

Bourbon Brined Turkey

A brined turkey is a glorious thing!  It seems daunting but it’s actually very simple to do.  Yeah you’ll need some special equipment and figure out spacing in the fridge but it’s totally worth it!

For a basic brine you will need:

  • Kosher Salt
  • Brown Sugar
  • Water
  • A large bucket

You can purchase a 5 gallon bucket at any home improvement store and they are not in any way expensive. I promise they are budget friendly!  Clean it with dish soap and hot water and then label it as a “food bucket” that way you won’t be tempted to use it for something else and contaminate it.

You’ll need to be able to fit the bucket in your fridge for 24 hours.  If you live in an area where it’s super cold outside (under 20 degrees F) you can keep it outside.  Just remember to keep it safe so no animals are tempted to eat your Thanksgiving bird!

If you don’t have room in your fridge to fit a 5 gallon bucket (I currently do not) and your heart isn’t set on roasting a whole turkey, you can break the turkey down and brine the breast and legs in separate containers.  That leaves the back and wings leftover and they are perfect for making stock!  Most likely that is what I’ll be doing this year.

I love brining so much that I have already written several articles sharing tips that I’ve learned over the years.  Here’s a couple to get you started!

Brining A Whole Turkey (a how to)

Tips on Brining (Including seasonings and liquids you can use in a brine)

Bourbon Brined Turkey because holidays should always include booze.

So don’t be scared, give that turkey a good brine bath this year!


Our Thanksgiving Menu

We are just a little over two weeks out from Thanksgiving and it’s time to start considering a menu plan!  When I first started making Thanksgiving dinner for Scott and I, it was this huge affair filled with all the typical dishes.  It was way too much food for two people to eat yet I felt like I needed to make sure we had all the classics or else it wouldn’t be a real Thanksgiving.

Over the years, I have learned that Thanksgiving dinner can be whatever you want it to be!  Now I keep things really simple with a turkey and a few side dishes that we really love.

Turkey in  a roasting pan

Turkey will always be on the table for us.  This year I’m not buying a whole turkey but instead will be buying a breast with some additional legs.  My refrigerator is small and can’t accommodate a whole turkey in a brine.  However, I do have a Bourbon Brined Turkey recipe that is fantastic! If you have the space, I highly recommend you brine that bird!



Collard greens are one of our favorite side dishes and I have been incorporating them in to our Thanksgiving feast the past few years.  They can be made in the slow cooker which makes things so much easier. This frees up space on the stove for other things like making gravy and mashed potatoes. Plus they can even be made the day before or cooked in the slow cooker over night so the only thing you have to do on the big day is reheat them (or keep them warm).

Collards provide plenty of leftovers and heck, you can even eat them for breakfast!

Spicy Cranberry Chutney from The Spicy Paleo Cookbook

Cranberry sauce will also make an appearance!  I prefer to have it as a breakfast item but Scott really enjoys having it has a side dish with the big dinner.  We usually have Cranberry Apple Sauce which is super simple and full of flavor.  This can also be made a day ahead and gently warmed right before serving.

If you’re looking for something totally different, Spicy Cranberry Chutney would be a great addition!

Gravy, and stuffing

Mashed potatoes and gravy is a must.  I like to prep the potatoes ahead of time so that all the starch is removed and they become fluffy and creamy.  I also prefer to use yukon gold potatoes because they create a nice buttery color when all mashed up.  I admit that I have been leaving out the stuffing so that I have room for more greens!

Gravy doesn’t need to be time consuming, I’ve recently started making blender gravy which eliminates the need for a roux!  Using homemade stock and pan drippings, this technique guarantees a smooth and flavorful gravy every time!

If you are going to stick with making a roux for the gravy, the roux can be made up to two days ahead!  Just make sure to store the roux in an airtight container.  It will be ready to go when it’s time to make the gravy.  Just gently reheat the roux in a pan and then add the liquid.

We might be skipping the stuffing this year but you don’t have to! Here is a recipe for a Savory Apple Stuffing that is perfect for Thanksgiving Day.

Sweet Potato Pie

Since sweet potatoes are such a staple at Thanksgiving, I tend to use them in a pie instead of making them as a side dish.  This year I’m working on a pumpkin cream cheese pie (recipe soon!) but this Bourbon Sweet Potato Pie is what we had last year.

Our Thanksgiving is super simple, full of flavor, and has plenty of leftovers.  If you are making Thanksgiving dinner for the first time or will be creating a meal for a small number of people, this menu is perfect for you!  Most things can be made a head of time leaving you with more time to relax and enjoy the moment of the big day.

Spring Clean Eats: Day 18, Salmon Experiment

Turkey and collard greensNot nearly as exciting as the previous day.  There was some experimenting but only one dish.  Spoiler alert, it worked!

As I was digging around in our freezer that’s attached to the fridge (it’s a drawer freezer and I hate the ever lovin’ crap out of it.  Whoever thought that was a good design clearly didn’t cook actual food) and found some leftover turkey from Thanksgiving.

Uh, yeah that needs to get used up.

I cubed some up added in collards (that I prepped the previous day!), sauteed it all in some ghee.  Sprinkled with a little salt, pepper, and garlic powder.  Some hot sauce too for some kick!

Oh man, I love greens but collards are my absolute favorite.

It was a pretty crappy over cast and windy day yesterday but we still managed to get the pups to the park and on the trail for a walk.

Another two meal day with a really late lunch that I counted as dinner.

Salmon mousse and veggiesI made a salmon mousse and paired that with some veggies.  The purple and yellow veggies are carrots.  I was in love with this dip!  Recipe will be posted once the challenge is over.  It’s challenge and Paleo friendly!

I’m very ready for my house to look like this again:

New HouseGreen grass surrounding it and trees that actually have leaves!  Some things are starting to bud which makes me extremely giddy and I know that spring and summer are fully on the way.  I’m itching for more sun, warmer days, and grilling!

Winter is going out kicking and screaming this year it seems.

Thanksgiving 2013

Thanksgiving Plate 2013Our Thanksgiving was very low key this year.  I didn’t have a lot of time to do prep work because of other commitments during the week.  Wednesday I did as much as I could and then on Thanksgiving Day I had to finish up the rest.

Thankfully that wasn’t too much!

I made the mistake of going to the grocery store on Tuesday for some last minute items.  Yikes! I won’t be doing that again.

We had a huge turkey this year.  It was a half turkey that weighted in at 15lbs.  It looked enormous in the fridge and the roaster!

When all was said and done though, we didn’t have nearly as much leftover meat as I had feared.

I tried a new little twist with sweet potato pie that I think turned out pretty well.  I added in some eggnog and bourbon to the mix.

Bourbon always goes over well in this house.

Thanksgiving Table 2013We had the basics for sides: stuffing, mashed potatoes and gravy, and then some green beans.  No green bean casserole, just plain beans.

We ate dinner in our jammies and had the kitchen cleaned up by 4pm.  A very relaxing day which I’m calling a success!

Even though we didn’t go all out this year, dinner tasted perfect and the company as always, was the best.

How was your Thanksgiving?

Thanksgiving 2012 Theme: Lard-licious

In my Thanksgiving recap post, I briefly hinted that there was a theme this year to our feast.

And no the theme wasn’t related to the decor or a color scheme or anything like that.

It was food related, as almost every dish we ate had it incorporated somehow.

This year the focus for our Thanksgiving feast was around lard.

Yes, you read that right.  LARD.

Or Pig Gold as I refer to it.

I purchased half a hog this year and with the fat that came with it, I rendered that down into lard.

I knew I wanted to use lard in the pie crust but also wanted to use it in different ways with the other parts of the meal.

I made biscuits using lard instead of butter and they turned out a lot better than I expected!  My expectations were low only because I’m still getting used to baking at elevation.  These rose beautifully and were very flaky.

I was also surprised by how full they kept me! We ate these for breakfast Thanksgiving morning and they kept me full and satisfied all the way until about 3pm. Which was just in time for the big meal.

Lard was also used in the pie crust and I’m sorry I have no picture of that.  We were too busy eating it for me to snap a picture.

Along with using lard instead of butter on the turkey, I also used it to make the roux for the gravy.  Scott declared that as the best gravy we’ve had yet and I’ve been making gravy for a while folks!

The only items that did not have lard in them in some way were the collard greens and the stuffing.

Everything came out tasty and I definitely plan on using it again next year for Thanksgiving!

Have you used lard in cooking before?


Thanksgiving Turkey 2012

This year I had to approach things a little differently with the Thanksgiving turkey, due to new living arrangements and the state of the turkey when it arrived.

Normally I would brine the whole turkey in a large bucket and store it away in the second fridge that we had.

However, moving and living in a rental home means things are much different.  There’s no second fridge anymore leaving me with no room to brine a whole bird. So I had to plan a different approach.

I decided to break down the bird and only roast half, saving the other half for another time.  However the bird came to me already frozen which meant once thawed, all of it had to be cooked.

Ok, no big deal.  Go with the flow and all that.

I still broke down the bird into quarters and used the back to make stock (which turned out lovely!).

I brined one breast and wing, and one leg quarter.  The other breast-wing and leg quarter got a dry rub slapped on. I did not have room in the fridge for four large brining bowls or else the entire turkey would have been brined.

I was actually excited to do this little experiment! We have been eating brined turkey for years so I was curious to be able to do a side-by-side comparison of brined verses not brined.

Maybe they would taste the same? Maybe not? We would soon find out!

Instead of using butter to rub on the skin and underneath, I used lard that I recently made. It went on a lot smoother than the butter!  I then sprinkled the turkey with:

  • Garlic Powder
  • Smoked Paprika
  • Chili Powder

In the roasting pan was:

  • Stock
  • Bourbon
  • Onion
  • Carrot
  • Celery
  • Jalapeno Peppers
  • Lemons

I also decided to go with the cheesecloth method while the turkey roasted.  This was something that another food blogger suggested during a weekly food blog Tweetchat, Foodies Nite In. (PS: This food chat happens on Twitter each Monday from 4-6pm EST)

The idea is that you soak a cheese cloth in melted butter and white wine, drap that over the turkey as it roasts.  This is supposed to help keep the turkey moist while it roasts.

If you’re curious about where you can buy cheesecloth, Target carries some for a really inexpensive price.

For my turkey I went with:

  • Melted Butter
  • Bourbon
  • Stock

I used bourbon since the turkey was brined in bourbon.

Do not make the mistake of thinking that you won’t have to bast the turkey as often since it is covered in cloth.  If anything, you have to bast it even more.

The cheesecloth will dry out and dry out quickly. I found myself having to bast probably every 15-20 minutes.  If I waited any longer, the cheesecloth would start to burn.

The oven was 375 degrees, so not a high temp at all.

I was roasting parts from a 13 lb bird and it took about 2.5 hours for it to roast.  20 minutes before it was done, I removed the cheese cloth and cranked the oven temp up to 425.

I let the turkey finish roasting while the skin browned and crisped up.

The results I found with this Thanksgiving Experiment:

  • Brined turkey was way more tastier than the non-brined. It was also juicier.
  • Cheesecloth method was nice but the increased basting was kind of a pain.
  • No need to use alcohol or butter to soak the cloth in. Regular stock or even water would be fine. Save the alcohol for sipping (or gulping, whatever).
  • Roasting in quarters is easier and the back makes for great stock.
  • Lard seems to make the skin a lot crisper and more golden in color than butter.

That was how our Thanksgiving bird turned out!  Not sure if I’ll do any of this again next year.  I’m not making plans just yet and will see what next year brings.

Did you have turkey for Thanksgiving?  How did you prep yours?

Thanksgiving 2012

We’re back after a few days off for the holiday!  As you can see, our Thanksgiving tends to be pretty laid back.

Sweats or jammies are the dress-code and a MUST.  If you show up in anything other than elastic waist pants, you’ll be turned away at the door until you are properly outfitted.

We did some new things this year for Thanksgiving as we adjusted to our new space.  My overall approach, simple and stress-free, stayed the same though.

Normally I run on Thanksgiving morning but this year I decided not to.  I did get up early and start things moving along.

I did not go all out with decorations because the thought of unpacking another box was very unappealing.  I managed to pull out a few things to make the table a little festive though.

I also bought some super cute owl clips from World Market (not an affiliate link) and clipped those to the garland on the table.

The turkey turned out beautifully! And no, your eyes are not playing tricks on you.  I broke the turkey into quarters and roasted it that way this year.  I did things a little differently with the turkey, which I’ll talk about in another post.

We always have wine with Thanksgiving dinner and keep things simple with a nice Pinot Grigio.

For dinner, we had stuffing, mashed potatoes, turkey (clearly), and collard greens.  Along with some amazing gravy to go with everything!

We hung out, ate some great food, and gamed our little hearts out.  Perfect holiday!

Our Thanksgiving definitely had a theme to it this year which can be summed up in one word: Lard.

Oh yes.  But we’ll chat about that later.

How was your Thanksgiving this year?

Thanksgiving Planning

We’ve made it! It’s the week of Thanksgiving when all of the prep and planning starts to take place!

This is my favorite week and I look forward to it all year long!  I love spending time in the kitchen and I get to be in the kitchen each day this week.

Thanksgiving will be just a touch different around here this year because we’re still getting adjusted to a new space (both house and location) but we’ll talk all about that next week.

Now it’s time to focus on food prep!  I picked up my turkey over the weekend from Jodar Farms and will be sticking that in the fridge today to thaw out.

The rest of the week will be spent prepping and baking.  You can get an idea of how my week will look from this post. I’m also trying out some new things this year so fingers crossed it all works out!

Here at the HQ we’re on holiday until next week and then I’ll be back with a recap of our first Thanksgiving in Colorado!

Are you already prepping and planning for the big day?

Have A Very Happy Thanksgiving!