Easy Pumpkin Cream Cheese Pie

WIN_20151118_203406So, you agreed to bake pie for the big dinner this week. You had high hopes of learning to make crust from scratch, complete with fancy edges, a lattice top, and all of the frou-frou that you saw on that gourmet food magazine. Then life intervened and you got busy. Don’t worry. Here at Crowded Earth Kitchen, we’ve got you covered!

To save time and sanity this holiday week, we’re starting with a store bought, roll-out pie crust. If you’re feeling obligated to make a scratch crust, that’s cool – click on the link above and we’ll walk you through it. But seriously, nobody is going to shun this awesome Pumpkin Cream Cheese Pie because you skipped a few steps with the roll-out crust. I doubt they’ll even know the difference.

Let’s get started!

WIN_20151118_155802Ingredients

1 roll-out pie crust

1 (8 oz) package cream cheese, softened

1/2 cup powdered sugar

1 (15 oz) can pumpkin

1 cup (8 oz) evaporated milk

2 eggs

3/4 cup sugar

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon ground ginger

1/2 teaspoon ground mace

1/4 teaspoon ground cloves

1/4 teaspoon salt

WIN_20151118_174029Directions

Step 1) Roll pie crust into a glass pie pan. This is easiest when the pie crust has been allowed to rest on a counter top for about 10 minutes before unrolling. If you try to unroll the pie crust right from the fridge, it will crack. If you let it get too warm, it will stick. 10 minutes is just about right!

Step 2) Trim the pie crust even with the edge of the pie pan. Cut little shapes out of the scraps if you wish, to use as a garnish.

Step 3) Using an electric mixer, beat cream cheese and powdered sugar until smooth. Spread mixture on bottom of pie crust as shown.

Step 4) In a medium size mixing bowl, beat eggs and pumpkin. Add sugar, spices, and salt. Finally, add evaporated milk a little at a time until fully incorporated.

WIN_20151118_185524Step 5) Pour pumpkin mixture carefully into your pie crust. Bake at 425 degrees for 15 minutes. Reduce heat to 350 degrees, and continue baking for 40 minutes.

Step 6) If using small crust shapes as a garnish, set small crust shapes on a baking sheet and place in the oven for the final 10 minutes of pie baking time. Place baked crust shapes on top of the baked pie.

 

 

How to Make Homemade Gravy

WIN_20151118_181452Easy peasy! Today’s post is more “technique” than “recipe”. If you’re roasting a turkey, baking a ham, or cooking any other large portion of meat in the oven, you may as well make homemade gravy! Let’s get started.

WIN_20151118_180101Ingredients (Makes 2 cups)

Drippings from roasting pan

1 tablespoon cornstarch

water

Directions

WIN_20151118_180349Step 1) After you remove your turkey (or other meat) from your roasting pan, scrape all of those funky looking drippings into a sieve placed over a saucepan (see photo). Discard the solids in the sieve.

Step 2) Measure the liquid from the drippings. You need approximately 2 cups for gravy, but you may not have two cups of liquid from the roasting pan. No worries! If you have one cup of liquid from the pan, add 1 cup of broth (chicken broth works for turkey drippings) or water. Make sure you don’t add more water than liquid from the pan. For example, if you only have 1/2 cup of liquid from the drippings, then you can add 1/2 cup of water or broth to make 1 cup of gravy.

Step 3) Bring your liquid to a gentle boil.

Step 4) In a small container (a coffee mug works well), combine 1 tablespoon of cornstarch with 2 tablespoons of cold water. Whisk together until absolutely smooth… there should not be even one tiny little lump in the cornstarch mixture! Alternately, you could use a small plastic container with a tight fitting lid, and shake the cornstarch/water mixture until smooth.

WIN_20151118_181250Step 5) Slowly drizzle your smooth cornstarch mixture into the boiling liquid and stir! Keep stirring with gentle boiling until gravy mixture thickens. This should take about 5 minutes.

Step 6) If you want thicker gravy, use an additional tablespoon of cornstarch and repeat steps 4 and 5.

DO NOT ADD POWDERED CORNSTARCH DIRECTLY TO THE GRAVY WITHOUT FIRST BLENDING WITH COLD WATER. Seriously. You will end up with a weird, lumpy mess. I, ah, know someone who made this mistake once because she was, ah, in a hurry. Or so I’m told. It was gross. Or at least that’s what a little bird told me.  😉

You’ll notice that we didn’t add any seasoning to our gravy. This is because I’m assuming that the meat you roasted was seasoned, and those seasonings have already flavored your pan drippings. Taste your gravy. If it’s bland, add salt and pepper a PINCH at a time, tasting after each pinch. You can always add more salt and pepper, but once it’s in there, it’s in there. Don’t overdo it.

That’s all! Easy peasy!

Rosemary Lemon Roast Turkey

WIN_20151118_175731For many years, I was apprehensive about roasting a turkey. I’m not really sure why. The first year I hosted a Thanksgiving dinner in my own home, I ordered a turkey from a deli – precooked, with ready-made gravy on the side! At the time, it seemed like a brilliant idea. Now, I don’t understand what the fuss was all about.

Roasting a turkey is really, really easy. Before we get started, here are a few pointers. Other cooks may disagree – if so, please join the turkey conversation by posting a comment below!

  1. If there’s not a big price difference between fresh and frozen, buy a fresh turkey. They’re juicier, which is wonderful because roasting is a dry cooking process. I bought a fresh turkey at Aldi for 99 cents per pound.
  2. Unless you have 5 or 6 days to allow a frozen turkey to thaw in your refrigerator, you need to buy a fresh turkey. I have never… not once… seen a frozen turkey fully thawed after only 3 days in my refrigerator (which is what the directions on the turkey wrapping often promise).
  3.  Bigger is not better. If you’re feeding a lot of people, consider buying two small turkeys (10 – 12 pounds each) instead of one, massive bird. Smaller turkeys roast more evenly, and because they require less time in the oven, they are less likely to dry out.
  4. You don’t need a special roasting pan, a baster, a “turkey bag” (to cook a turkey in plastic??), or any other strange turkey paraphernalia. A 10 pound turkey will fit in a 9×13 cake pan. A larger turkey will fit on a jelly roll pan, or any baking sheet with sides at least 1 inch high.

Let’s get started!

WIN_20151118_131852Ingredients (Serves 8)

1 small, fresh turkey (10 – 12 pounds)

2 lemons

6 sprigs of fresh rosemary

1/2 teaspoon salt

WIN_20151118_1336221/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

2 tablespoons butter (not margarine), melted

Directions

Step 1) In the kitchen sink, remove your turkey from the wrapping. Find the bag of giblets and remove it from your turkey. Check both ends of your turkey for that bag of giblets!

Step 2) Rinse your turkey with cold water on the inside and the outside. Lift the turkey and turn it upside down to drain for a moment. Pat the turkey dry with a clean kitchen towel (and put that towel immediately in the hamper, so you don’t accidentally use it for anything else).

Step 3) Place your turkey in a pan or on a roasting sheet. Rub salt and pepper onto the skin.

Step 4) Poke a few holes with a paring knife in each lemon. Insert rosemary sprigs into several of the holes in each lemon, as shown.

WIN_20151118_133827Step 5) Insert one of the rosemary lemons completely inside of the turkey. Rest the other rosemary lemon near the opening of the turkey cavity.

Step 6) Coat the outside of your turkey with melted butter. Don’t use so much butter that it drips all over the pan (try to avoid that), but make sure at highest part of the turkey is covered. The butter will spread down the sides of the turkey as it roasts, sealing in flavor and giving the turkey skin a golden color.

Note: We are buttering our turkey skin instead of basting. It’s easier and prevents the meat from drying out. A buttered turkey will have a slightly darker color than a basted turkey (or a turkey in a bag), and the skin will be crispy. The end result is delicious!

Step 7) Showtime! Place your turkey in a preheated, 325 degree oven on the lowest rack possible. Your turkey needs to slowly roast until a meat thermometer poked into the thickest part of the turkey (but not against a bone) registers 165 degrees. Your turkey might have a little red timer attached (see photo) – this timer will pop out when your turkey is done. It’s STILL a good idea to check the temperature. Your turkey needs to reach 165 degrees in order to prevent food-borne illness!

How long will your turkey need to roast? That is the million dollar question! Every turkey and every oven is a little bit different. At 325 degrees, a 10 – 12 pound turkey will require approximately 3 hours of roasting time. Check your turkey after 2 1/2 hours, but don’t open the oven door before then!

Step 8) Let your roasted turkey rest on the countertop for 15 minutes before carving. A “tent” of aluminum foil (just a very loose covering of foil) can be used to prevent heat loss, but that’s not entirely necessary.

Enjoy your roasted turkey!

PS  – Don’t wash that pan! In our next Crowded Earth Kitchen post, we’ll show you how to make gravy with the drippings on that turkey pan!

Really Good Thanksgiving Stuffing

WIN_20151028_183433Of all of the traditional dishes often served with Thanksgiving dinner, stuffing is my very favorite. This particular recipe is a crowd pleaser, because it contains traditional flavors such as sage and apple, without any weird ingredients. Not only is stuffing easy to prepare, it’s very economical. Have a few slices of day old bread or dinner rolls? Simply cut them into cubes and allow them to dry for a few days. Then, follow the recipe below and bring a yummy bowl of stuffing to your Thanksgiving feast!

WIN_20151028_171158 - CopyIngredients (Makes 2 quarts)

10 cups dry bread cubes (I cut old dinner rolls into 1 inch cubes and left them to dry on baking sheets for about 3 days)

2 cups good quality chicken stock

2 tablespoons butter

1/4 cup diced celery

1/4 cup raisins

1/4 cup diced apple

1 teaspoon rubbed sage

1/2 teaspoon salt

WIN_20151028_171817 - CopyDirections

Step 1) Sauté celery, raisins, and diced apple in butter until celery is translucent. Add sage and salt.

Step 2) Heat chicken stock in a small saucepan. It doesn’t need to boil, but should be hot.

WIN_20151028_172523 - CopyStep 3) Place bread cubes in a large mixing bowl. Top with celery/raisin/apple mixture.

Step 4) Be patient with this step… we’re going to gently add chicken stock to the bread cubes. Please don’t dump two cups of chicken stock into the mixing bowl at once – you’ll drown those poor bread cubes and end up with mush instead of stuffing! Instead, use a ladle to spoon a little bit of chicken stock over the bread cubes, toss lightly, and repeat.

Pyrex 2-Quart Glass Bakeware Dish

WIN_20151028_172835Step 5) Transfer mixture to a large, greased casserole dish. If desired, place a few small pieces of butter on top of the stuffing mixture. Cover the mixture with a glass lid or aluminum foil. Don’t pack the stuffing into the casserole dish; just gently fill to the top without pressing down.

Step 6) Bake stuffing in a preheated 375 degree oven for 45 minutes. Serve while hot. Happy Thanksgiving!