Spelt Risotto with Roasted Butternut Squash

Spelt Risotto with Roasted Butternut Squash

My dinner options for Wednesday were very slim. I had already used the “egg” option on Tuesday night with Mini Goat Cheese, Bacon and Leek Quiches. I was contemplating the grilled cheese cop-out since I need to be out the door and on the ice for 7pm.

This box of Spelt grains in my cupboard was calling to me for sometime. I have never cooked Spelt or even made a Spelt Risotto. I did know that the grains could be cooked in the same method of risotto.

I had all the ingredients for a risotto and decided to tackle it in the short time frame.

I love cooking Risotto. And I think I have pretty much mastered the process. 😉 Risotto is a great change-up from rice or pasta.

I found that the Spelt grains were much more forgiving than Arborio rice. I could actually walk away from the stove which is something you shouldn’t do. And I used a little more stock than when I cook a regular risotto. I tasted the texture of the spelt  a lot through the last part of the cooking process.

If I had planned better I would have used sage instead of the herbs listed in the recipe below; it tasted fantastic with that combination. It was a hit with the family. And an awesome vegetarian option especially since it is high in protein.

I recently hosted a birthday dinner for my friend Emma. The Menu’s theme for the Dinner Party was Spring even though the weather was NOT. I made an awesome Risotto with Roasted Shrimp, Peas and Edamame.

Birthday Dinner Pictures below:

Appetizer: Marinated Salmon Rollup

Appetizer: Marinated Salmon Roll-up

Appetizer: Brie, Figs and Pear

Appetizer: Brie, Figs and Pear

Asparagus Salad

Asparagus Salad

Risotto with Shrimp, Peas, and Edamame

Risotto with Shrimp, Peas, and Edamame

Dessert: Homemade Lemon Sorbet with Maple Syrup Blueberries

Dessert: Homemade Lemon Sorbet with Maple Syrup Blueberries

Always check out my Instagram @the5oclockrush  to see my daily dinners photos.

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My Best Gravy for Thanksgiving Dinner

A Happy Thanksgiving to my American followers.

I hope that you are having an amazing day, watched the Macy’s Day parade and ready for football with family and friends while your feast is roasting and simmering away on the stove.

This is the last post for My Best Gravy for Thanksgiving Dinner will be the best compliment to all the past recipes I have posted for your Thanksgiving feast.

Check them all out here by clicking links below:

My Best Stuffing for Thanksgiving Dinner

My Best Roast Turkey for Thanksgiving Dinner

and the most popular My Best Mashed Potatoes for Thanksgiving Dinner

My Best Gravy for Thanksgiving Dinner

Serves 6-8
Thanksgiving Dinner 2014

Thanksgiving Dinner 2014

Mise En Place

Turkey Stock

Turkey Necks and Vegetables for Stock

Turkey Necks and Vegetables for Stock

  • Neck from your turkey
  • 1 carrot, peeled
  • 1 onion, peeled and quartered
  • 2-3 stalks celery
  • parsley stems
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2 garlic cloves, peeled
  • 4-6 cups cold water

Combine neck bone, onion, garlic cloves, carrots, parsley stems, bay leaves and celery stalks and 4-6 cups cold water in a medium pot. Bring to a boil over high heat; skim off impurities then reduce heat to low and simmer, uncovered, 1 hour. Pass mixture through a fine sieve. Reserve stock for making gravy.

Remove the turkey from the oven, and place on a cutting board with rimmed cookie sheet underneath to catch any juices. Cover with aluminum foil and allow resting for at least 30 minutes up to an hour.

Remove the roasted vegetables from the bottom of the pan.

* A trick that I use for a flavourful and thick gravy is to use roasted vegetables. I pass them through a fine meshed strainer or you could place in a blender with a little of your stock. This puree will be added to the gravy after the roux is formed.

Or if you choose not to use; discard the vegetables.

Making the Gravy

Mise En Place

  • Turkey drippings from your roasting pan
  • pureed vegetables from your roasting pan *
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups starchy potato water from making your mashed potatoes **
  • 1 cup white wine
  • salt and pepper
  • freshly chopped sage

Place roasting pan on stove across two burners.

Bring pan juices to a simmer over medium-high. Cook, scraping up browned bits with a wooden spoon until smooth and the liquid starts to thicken.

Using these drippings make roux in the roasting pan with equal amounts of flour to fats in the pan.

Cook, stirring, until blended, about 1 minute.

Add passed or pureed roasted vegetables now if using.

Time to switch to a whisk and gradually add in hot turkey stock, and the reserved starchy potato water ** Just like reserving 1-2 cups of salty pasta cooking water for pasta dishes, I think that there is a little flavour and starchiness in potato water, if you don’t have just leave out.

Add white wine if using, or beer, cider or bourbon are good alternatives.

Whisking continuously.

It is about 4 ounces of roux to a quart of liquid

Bring to a simmer and cook, stirring occasionally, until gravy thickens and no longer tastes floury, about 5 minutes.

I always pass gravy through a fine sieve to confirm that there are no huge lumps of flour or vegetables that were missed; season with salt and pepper. Add finely chopped sage and keep warm.

If adding rustic or woody stem herbs such as thyme or rosemary; add at the beginning. If adding delicate herbs such as parsley or sage at the end.

I think that if you follow that above steps of My Best Gravy for Thanksgiving Dinner you will be pleased with the results.

Tip: A coffee thermos makes a great vessel for keeping gravy warm.

Solutions for the typical problems when making gravy.

Lumpy Gravy

Strain it again through a fine-mesh strainer. Or use an electric appliance such as blender, or with a stick blender, until smooth.

Bland Gravy

A little more salt. If that doesn’t work, add Worcestershire sauce.

Gravy that is Too Thick

Whisk in boxed chicken broth until you’ve reached the right consistency, then taste and re-season the gravy again as needed.

Gravy that is Too Thin

Make a cornstarch slurry which equal parts cornstarch and COLD water. (1 tbsp. of cornstarch to 1 tbsp. of cold water to start) Whisk in a little the slurry and bring to a simmer. I have also used Robin Hood Easy Blend flour to thicken my gravy.

Thanksgiving Dinner 2014

Thanksgiving Dinner 2014

Best Thanksgiving Turkey 2014

My Best Roast Turkey for Thanksgiving Dinner

American Thanksgiving is in 4 days!

If you haven’t Thaw your turkey! Start thawing it in the refrigerator on a rimmed cookie sheet ASAP.

FYI A completely frozen turkey needs 24 hours for every 5 pounds of turkey (weight). A thawed turkey sitting around for an extra day or two in the refrigerator is much better than having to deal with a frozen turkey on Thanksgiving day.

Here is checklist of your Turkey roasting equipment inventory you will need before Thanksgiving:

  • A roasting pan and a V-shaped roasting rack

I purchase 2 disposable roasting aluminum pans; doubled up for strength (because who wants to wash more dishes or those huge roasting pans)

UPDATE: Review for Circulon® Roaster Pan Review and Giveaway 

I highly recommend purchasing this roaster!

If you don’t have a roasting rack, chopped extra mirepoix or you can make your own by simply scrunching up a long piece of aluminum foil into a figure 8.

  • A working meat thermometer I invested in The iGrill
  • A baster or brush, preferably silicone
  • Butcher’s string (cotton based food-grade approved) or Architec Stretch Hot Cooking Bands 2
  • Cheesecloth, double thickness and size of the turkey’s breast
  • Cooking Spray
  • A carving set or electric knife, my husband’s new friend
  • And a working oven 😉

This is the third post in My Best Thanksgiving Recipes, Tips and Tricks.

Check out My Best Stuffing for Thanksgiving Dinner and My Best Mashed Potatoes for Thanksgiving Dinner 

The Best Roast Turkey for Thanksgiving Dinner

Preheat Oven 450F Serves 6-8
Thanksgiving Dinner 2014

Thanksgiving Dinner 2014

Mise En Place

PC Young Turkey -frozen

PC Young Turkey-frozen

  • 1 16-18 lb. whole turkey, defrosted and at room temperature
  • My Best Stuffing for Thanksgiving Dinner prepared and at room temperature
  • 2 garlic cloves, peeled
  • 1 medium onion, peeled and quartered
  • 2 stalks celery, cleaned and chopped
  • 2-3 carrots, peeled and chopped
  • 1 cup butter, melted
  • 1 cup white wine
  • 1 box reduced sodium chicken or turkey stock

Calculating your turkey’s cooking time. With my method of roasting a turkey, cooking time averages 20 minutes per pound for a stuffed turkey.

How to calculate cooking time: i.e. 16 lb. turkey X 20 min. per lb. = 320 min. divide by 60 min. in an hour = approx. 5 hours

After you do the math, add some additional prep time 15 min. and that the turkey should rest at least 30 minutes before carving. The total turkey time has worked out for the above example 5 hours & 45 min.

So, if you want to have dinner at 6pm, aim to have the turkey out of the oven at 5pm and work backwards from there. This is the time the turkey needs to go in the oven.

Preparing the Turkey

Preheat your oven 450 F and take the turkey out of the fridge; let the turkey sit out at room temperature while the oven is heating up. Remember to remove extra oven racks and adjust the rack you are using so that turkey has plenty of space to roast.

Place your turkey on a large cookie surface and unwrap your turkey.

Reach into the cavity and take out the neck (it looks like a long curved piece of bone with some meat attached.) Place the neck in a medium size pot with the reserved vegetables from preparing the stuffing. (i.e. parsley stems, celery stalks and carrots) fill pot with cold water and simmer.

Remove any plastic “thingy” holding the legs together. Discard.

Check inside of the neck cavity look for a little bag with the giblets (the heart, liver, etc.) sometimes you find this inside the main cavity. I just throw it away. Others will use the contents for giblet gravy.

Wash your turkey inside out in the sink with cold water. And dry it completely, both inside and out with paper towels.

Using a liberal amount of kosher salt and some black pepper sprinkle your washed and dried turkey inside and out.

Bend under the wing tips and now it is time to stuff the turkey with My Best Stuffing for Thanksgiving Dinner.

Trussing, or tying up the turkey into a more compact package, makes sure that the breast and thighs cook to the right temperature. The white meat won’t overcook while the dark meat is still cooking. Truss using butcher’s twine or just tie the legs or use the silicone elastic bands.

Mise En Place for Turkey for Thanksgiving Dinner

Mise En Place for Turkey for Thanksgiving Dinner

Spray the disposable roasting pan and v-shaped roasting rack liberally with cooking spray. And place your stuffed turkey on the rack and into the prepared roasting pan with 2 peeled garlic cloves, 1 onion quartered, 2 stalks of celery chopped, 2-3 peeled and chopped carrots to flavour the drippings.

One of my tricks is that I think make for juicy breast meat, is to start the turkey breast up and roast for about 20 minutes in 450 F until slightly golden in colour. Then flip the turkey to breast side down for another 20 minutes.

Remove the turkey from the oven; flip the turkey back to breast side up. Prepare the 1 cup of melted butter, 1 cup white wine and ½ cup of stock in a glass-measuring cup. Dip the cheesecloth in the liquid, saturate and place on turkey’s breast.

The second trick is the cheesecloth protects the breast from getting too brown and dried out.

Add ½ cup of chicken or turkey stock to the roasting pan.

Turn the oven down to 325 F. Place the cheesecloth-covered turkey back in the oven.

Roast and baste.

Baste the turkey including the cheesecloth with the wine, stock and butter mixture. And with some of the delicious juices that are gathering at the bottom of the roasting pan. The cheesecloth will get brown, no worries.

Continue to baste.

Start checking the temperature 30-45 minutes before your calculated time just to be sure since every oven is different. Cook until a thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the thigh registers 165F.  The temperature of the breast should be around 155F.

Remove turkey from the oven and place on carving board and/or clean-rimmed cookie sheet. Baste the turkey with drippings to help moisten the cheesecloth before trying to remove it from the skin of the turkey. Cover loosely with aluminum foil and rest at least for 30 minutes even up to an hour. Resting any meat such as a turkey or even a roast beef that has been cooking for a long time redistribute the juices themselves back into the meat. Don’t worry; this large piece of meat will not get cold.

While the turkey is resting, is the perfect opportunity to prepare the gravy using the pan drippings, reserved starchy potato water and simmering stock.

My Best Turkey Gravy for Thanksgiving Dinner. Stay Tuned!

Carve the turkey by removing the legs and breasts off the bird. Once the breast meat is cut off the bones, cut into slices. Cut the thigh meat off of the bones.

Thanksgiving Turkey 2014

Thanksgiving Turkey 2014

Thanksgiving Dinner 2014

Thanksgiving Dinner 2014

Chicken Stew with Bacon, Cheddar and Dill Biscuits

Last night for dinner I made Chicken Stew with Dumplings  Bacon, Cheddar and Dill Biscuits.

I decided the last minute to switch from dumplings to biscuits because I felt a little ‘flaky’ instead gooey. LOL! 😉

It was a fake-it, make-it recipe. A well stocked pantry helped out, as I always have Bisquick for that ‘just in case’ moment of a recipe development.

The biscuits turned out awesome especially with a pat of butter! 😀

Over the weekend, we had the pleasure of hanging with our friends and their little bundle of sweetness. My friend Lana is a talented professional photographer. She took a few pictures of me and our dinner of flattened chicken. She said “smile even if I’m just snapping pics of your hands”. Obviously, some pics were taken above MY HANDS! Should have combed my hair and changed my top. Yikes!

I aspire to have great pictures like hers on my blog……ONE DAY.

Always check out my Instagram @the5oclockrush  to see my daily dinners photos. My food pictures are improving. There are ‘real time’ pictures of my dinner plates.

Please check out Lana’s Facebook page Viva Image Group – Photography and Videography Service

Chicken Stew with Bacon, Cheddar and Dill Biscuits

Serves 6
Preparation 30 minutes Cooking 60 minutes
Chicken Stew with Bacon, Cheddar and Dill Biscuits

Chicken Stew with Bacon, Cheddar and Dill Biscuits

Mise En Place

For Chicken Stew:
 Vegetables for Chicken Stew

Vegetables for Chicken Stew

  • 1 package of pancetta pieces *
  • 5 stalks celery, cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 1 medium onion, peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 5 medium carrots, peeled and cut crosswise into 1 1/2-inch pieces
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 9 boneless, skinless chicken thighs (about 2 pounds), trimmed, cut into 2-inch pieces
  • Kosher salt and black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons PC Roast Chicken Spice **
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups (480 ml) chicken broth
  • 3 cups water
  • 2 tablespoons whole grain Dijon mustard
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh dill
  • 2 stalks of green onions, chopped
  • Optional: 1 package (10 ounces) frozen peas
For Biscuits:
Mise En Place

Mise En Place

  • 3 cups Bisquick
  • 1 cup skim milk
  • 4 slices, pre-cooked bacon strips, cut into bite size pieces ***
  • ½ cup cheddar cheese, grated
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh dill, or 3/4 teaspoon dried dill weed

To make the Chicken Stew:

In a Dutch oven (or a 5- to 6-quart heavy pot with a tight-fitting lid), cook the pancetta until slightly crispy.

* I had Pancetta in my fridge to use up. You can substitute bacon or omit. If you do omit, add oil to pot to saute the vegetables.

Add the celery, carrots, onions, and garlic to the pot and cook, stirring, until the vegetables begin to soften, 5 to 7 minutes. Transfer to a plate; reserve the pot.

Season the chicken all over with the roasted chicken spice, salt and pepper. In a resealable plastic bag, place the seasoned chicken pieces with flour.

** PC Roast Chicken spice grinder has the typical flavours associated with roast chicken such as sage, marjoram, roasted garlic, thyme etc.

Seal bag and shake until the chicken pieces are evenly coated. Using the drippings and additional oil or butter, brown the chicken, 4 to 6 minutes per side. Add the whole grain Dijon mustard, water and chicken stock.

Add the vegetables and pancetta back to the pot; stir. Cover and place in 350F oven and bake for 60 minutes. (I place the pot on a cookie sheet in case there is spillage and I hate cleaning my oven)

Chicken Stew Ready for Oven

Chicken Stew Ready for Oven

Remove from oven; add the fresh green onions and fresh chopped parsley and dill. Seasoned to taste with additional salt and pepper if necessary.

To make the biscuits:

In a medium bowl, whisk together Bisquick, dill, bacon pieces and cheddar cheese.

*** I always cook the entire package of bacon and IF there is any leftover, I freeze it for future recipes. Or you can use the pre-cooked package bacon. Tip: Use scissors to cut the bacon into small pieces.

With a fork, gradually stir in 1 cup milk to form a moist and soft batter.

Using a spring-loaded ice cream scoop, place a scoop of batter into a greased muffins pan.

If desired, reserved a small amount of bacon and cheddar cheese to sprinkled on top of biscuits.

Bake at 450 for 12 to 15 minutes.

Chicken Stew with Bacon, Cheddar and Dill Biscuits

Chicken Stew with Bacon, Cheddar and Dill Biscuits

Confession: As you can see from the pictures above, I didn’t follow my own method of preparation. Originally I was planning on using my new smaller crock pot for dinner. I began preparing the chicken for the crock pot by browning it. I quickly determined that the crock pot was too small. Out came my Dutch oven and continue with cooking dinner in 2 pans.

I decided to write the recipe for my readers as if I began the cooking process in my Dutch oven. One pot, less dishes.

Friday Feature: Weekday Wrap Up

Time for the 5 o’clock rush Weekday Wrap Up

It is a cold and snowy in Canada today. For some great recipes to warm your bellies check out the Food Bloggers of Canada’s Soups & Stews Recipe Roundup Part 1.

My Low-Fat Homemade Cream of Tomato Soup with Crab and Goat Cheese is one of the soups in the Recipe Roundup.

And the American Thanksgiving is in 12 days the next blog post of Thanksgiving tips and tricks is up.

My Best Stuffing for Thanksgiving Dinner

Follow my Instagram feed for more daily dinner pictures at the5oclockrush.

Have a great weekend

Chef Kim

Bonus: A little trick How to easily peel a Mango 😉

Weekday Wrap Up