Monday, November 30, 2009

Say Cheese for Cheddar Biscuits

Dear Readers, our latest Iron Chef contest is completed, and we'll be using the special ingredient our winner Molly Ebert suggested in December, but we'll be having another Iron Chef contest in December, with the special ingredient to be announced in January, so continue to sign up and drop us suggestions! Someone will be a lucky winner close to the holidays! And the prize is a Junior's Cheesecake! Remember, one entry per person, per day, and you must be a follower of the blog.

This week, I've prepared one of my favorite things, Cheese Biscuits. But this week's recipe is for all my gluten-free pals. That's right, Gluten-Free Cheese Biscuits that melt in your mouth. My husband, who can eat anything he wants, loves these biscuits. The recipe uses two cheeses!And the biscuits don't need any butter on the side. YUM!



2 oz. butter, room temperature (1/4 cup)
1/2 cup shredded Cheddar and Gouda cheeses
1/2 cup sour cream
1/2 tsp. dried parsley
1/4 tsp. dried thyme
1/2 cup sweet rice flour
1/2 cup tapioca flour or potato starch
1/2 tsp. Xanthan gum
1 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. salt


Heat oven to 350 degrees.

In a mixing bowl, combine the butter, cheeses, sour cream and herbs. Add the Gluten-free flours, Xanthan gum, baking powder, soda, salt. Stir together until blended.

Spoon the dough equally into 8-10 muffin cups. [That's right. No forming, no nothing. Spoon it in!]

Bake for 20 minutes until lightly browned.

YUMMMMMM! Especially hot out of the oven.


This coming holiday season, and throughout the year, enjoy your family. Enjoy your friends. Take long walks in the crisp air. And say thanks for the freedoms that you have in your lives. May they be many.

If you want to check out more about me, check out my website: Avery Aames. And don't forget to signup for my SAY CHEESE! newsletter, filled with facts and, well, news!!

Better yet, become one of the first to buy The Long Quiche Goodbye. It's now available on Amazon, Borders and Books a Million for pre-order!! [Haven't seen it yet on Barnes and Noble. What are they waiting for??] The publishing date is July 6! No cover art yet, but that's coming soon!

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Welcome our Guest Blogger Barb Goffman!

I am very happy to introduce Mystery Lovers' Kitchen readers to Barb Goffman. When you read her pie story below, and then about the The Gift of Murder anthology in which she has a story -- and you'll understand why those of us here on the blog who know Barb are so delighted to have her join us today. She will be popping back in here after the first of the year to talk about the Malice Domestic conference (don't miss it!)



No matter what you’re cooking, you won’t end up with a good dish unless you use quality ingredients. This applies whether you’re baking a pie, making lasagna, or ... putting together a short-story anthology. Yep. A good book of short stories is only as good as the writers who wrote them, the ideas that inspired them, and the editor who helped shape those stories.

Now I’m no expert on pies. The only time I ever made one, my brother-in-law looked at it cooling and said, “Where’s the top?” I knew it hadn’t looked right when I took it out of the oven, but I had followed the recipe exactly, and the recipe hadn’t mentioned a crust. Sigh.

Thankfully, I’m a bit better at writing. As are the 18 other authors in the anthology The Gift of Murder. This book, which was published in October, has 19 crime stories all set during the winter holiday season. (Festive!) The reviews have been solid. (See some of them at the publisher’s website: The Gift of Murder. Others are on Amazon.) But the sales haven’t gone as well as we’d hoped. And that’s a shame, because the publisher is donating every dime of profits from this book to Toys for Tots.

So let me tell you about the ingredients making up this book. Hopefully, you’ll decide they’re the quality you’re looking for in a good read—both for you and for folks on your Christmas, Hanukkah, and/or Kwanzaa gift lists.
Do you like heartwarming stories, the kind that Hallmark scoops up and turns into feel-good movies? Then you’ll like Earl Staggs’s “Caught on Christmas Eve,” which involves bad choices and second chances. Do you want a solid puzzle in your mystery? Then you’ll be happy with J.F. Benedetto’s “The Seven Dollar Clue.” Are you a fan of amateur sleuths? Authors Marian Allen and Elizabeth Zelvin have you covered. Prefer cops and PIs? We have those, too, thanks to Austin Camacho, Kris Neri, and Sandra Seamans. If woo woo’s your game, Bill Crider wrote about werewolf love (much better than muskrat love) and Gail Farrelly has a Kindle with a mind of its own. Want to kill someone with a waffle iron? Stefanie Lazer’s story is for you. And to round things out, we have stories about folks in bad situations who find their way out of it ... and some who don’t.

I’m so pleased that folks who have read my story “The Worst Noel” have called it both funny and disturbing. (Too bad they’ve also said that about me.) The story starts at Thanksgiving and ends at Christmas Eve, and in between a woman with an overbearing mother and a witch of a sister decides to gift herself with a little less family. If you’ve ever wished you could get rid of that one annoying relative, I think you’ll like my story. Besides, it involves poisoned food, which just rounds out the whole holiday cooking experience, doesn’t it? Now, I don’t recommend putting poison into real-life recipes, but it’s an excellent ingredient in fictional ones.

The chefs behind The Gift of Murder are master storyteller and editor John Floyd and publisher Tony Burton of Wolfmont Press. This is the fourth year in which Tony has persuaded authors to donate their stories so he can raise money for needy children. It’s a great cause. Here’s how you can get the book: Visit the major online bookstores (Amazon also has it on Kindle) or your local brick and mortar shop. You also can get a copy in print form, e-book or audio through The Digital Bookshop. I highly recommend The Digital Bookshop, which has partnered with the publisher so that more money will end being donated to Toys for Tots.

And if you’re feeling lucky, maybe you can win a copy here. Everyone who comments below (before midnight tonight) with a funny story about their own cooking mishap—I can’t be the only one with a pie story, especially with this being the Sunday after Thanksgiving—will have their names thrown in a hat. I’ll mail one signed copy to the winner.

If you don’t win, please consider buying this book for yourself or as a gift to help us help the wonderful Toys for Tots Foundation, run by the U.S. Marine Corps. Not only will you get the joy of knowing you’re helping needy kids, but you’ll also be getting a great book that’s like a buffet. If you don’t love one of the stories, well, there are 18 more to read. Tony and John did an excellent job of mixing all the ingredients together to create a solid anthology with 19 stories that differ in content but blend well because of their authors’ creativity. You can’t get a better recipe than that. Well, except for the following recipe for chocolate pound cake. No poison included. Happy holidays!

Chocolate Pound Cake
Serves: 12-16 (No you don’t have to eat it all—if you’re not having that many relatives over, freeze the leftovers. They’ll keep.)
1 cup butter
½ cup Crisco
3 cups sugar
5 eggs
3 cups flour
½ tsp. baking powder
¼ tsp. salt
1 cup cocoa
1 cup milk
2 tsp. vanilla
Powdered sugar, for dusting


Grease a Bundt pan or an angel food cake pan. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Sift together the flour, cocoa, baking powder, and salt. Set aside. Add vanilla to the milk. Set aside. Cream together the butter, Crisco, and sugar. Add the eggs one at a time to the sugar mixture, beating well after each egg. Add one third of the flour mixture to the sugar mixture, beat until it’s incorporated, then add one third of the milk, and beat until it’s incorporated. Repeat these last two actions, alternately adding in the flour mixture and the milk mixture in thirds. Bake for 1 ½ hours or until a toothpick comes out clean. Let cool for 10 minutes, then remove from the pan. Dust with powdered sugar and enjoy.

* * * * *
Barb Goffman is an Agatha Award-nominated author who toils as a lawyer by day to pay the vet bills at night for her miracle dog, Scout. (He had cancer three times, but now he’s cured!) She grew up on Long Island but figures she must have been Southern in another life because half the voices she hears in her head—oops, sorry, half the characters she creates—are Southern. In addition to the short story mentioned above, Barb has had stories published in the second and third volumes of the Chesapeake Crimes anthology series, and she will have a new story coming out this spring in the fourth: Chesapeake Crimes: They Had It Comin’, a wonderful book with twenty tales of murder and revenge. Barb’s website is

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Holiday Sweet Potatoes from Heart in Hand

This Thanksgiving I made Jenn McKinley's Sweet Potato Balls crusted with coconut for Thanksgiving. They turned out great and everyone loved them. I made them a few hours ahead of time, refrigerated them, and slipped them into the oven at almost the last minute. Easy cooking. Even better -- nothing exploded!

But there's also another sweet potato recipe that I adore. Made with Grand Marnier and pineapple, it takes a simple sweet potato casserole to new and elegant heights.

Many years ago, a friend of mine used to go to Heart in Hand restaurant in Clifton, Virginia. He very kindly gave me a copy of their cookbook, Cooking with Heart in Hand, by Suzanne Winningham Worsham. Over the years, I've enjoyed many of the recipes, but one stands out -- their Holiday Sweet Potatoes.

The restaurant and catering services are still in operation today, in a building once known as Buckley Brother's General Store, the largest general store in Fairfax County. Over the years, the likes of Nancy Reagan and Rosemary Clooney have dined there. And the opening scene of Broadcast News was filmed there!

The Worshams have very kindly given me permission to reprint their excellent sweet potato recipe. I hope you love it as much as I do!

Holiday Sweet Potatoes

Serves 8 - 10

4 1/2 cups mashed sweet potatoes, cooked
1/2 cup butter, melted
1-20 ounce can crushed pineapple, including juice
3/4 cup light brown sugar
1-5.33 ounce can evaporated milk
1/2 cup raisins
2 eggs, beaten
1/4 cup Grand Marnier
1/4 cup orange liquor (good quality)
2 tablespoons grated orange rind
1 cup miniature marshmallows
1/2 cup chopped pecans

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Puree sweet potatoes and butter in food processor. Combine the pineapple and juice, sugar, milk, raisins, and eggs. Mix well. Add Grand Marnier, orange liquor, and orange rind. Pour into buttered casserole. Sprinkle marshmallows and pecans on top. Bake 20 minutes.



Friday, November 27, 2009

Cleo Coyle's Leftover Cranberry Sauce Cookies

With refrigerators across the country packed with leftovers, even the most die-hard cooking enthusiasts are singing, "I deserve a break today!" Yes, folks, it's Black Friday, and most of us will be busy visiting with friends and relatives, recreating, rushing to join the mobs of people at the annual Black Friday shopping fest, or (frankly) recovering from Thursday.
I thought long and hard about my post today. Waste is something that bothers most everyone. We like to use all of the food that we purchase and prepare. I'm sure this morning a lot of you had a leftover pumpkin pie breakfast and are ready for that "Thanksgiving Dinner Sandwich" for lunch--you know the one, turkey, cold stuffing, a little bit of cranberry sauce--essentially everything you had on your plate yesterday piled between two slices of Italian bread or on a big, crusty roll.

As far as your Thanksgiving bird leftovers, I've already posted a recipe I love (and make every year) for "Leftover Turkey Pot Pie with Cheddar Cheese Crust," and you can get that recipe by clicking here.

I considered the rest of our Thanksgiving dinner leftovers and decided to try a recipe with the leftover cranberry sauce. Every year I make it fresh from whole cranberries, sugar, and boiling water. We enjoy it on the turkey, but I usually end up dumping the remainders on Monday morning.

So I began to experiment with the "leftover cranberry sauce" and came up with these cookies. Most recipes for "cranberry cookies" simply add dried cranberries to the dough. Another incarnation treats the sauce like a spreadable layer of filling between a shortbread crust and a sweet crumb topping. But neither of those types of cookies is what I had in mind.
I wanted to create a cookie that used the kind of cranberry sauce we typically eat on Thanksgiving, the kind that turns into a fairly solid jelly or jam consistency overnight in the fridge. My post today is what I came up with. It's not bad...but I'm not completely happy with it yet. I'll continue to work on the recipe though and maybe by next year I'll have it perfected.

Cleo Coyle’s Leftover Cranberry Sauce Cookies (A Work in Progress!)
Servings: About 4 dozen 

1 cup standard, salted butter, softened (2 sticks)
1 cup powdered (confectioners’) sugar 

3/4 cup cranberry sauce (make fresh from whole cranberries or use canned)
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon ground ginger 
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
3/4 cup granulated white sugar (for rolling dough balls before baking)

Step 1 - Mix Dough: Cream together softened butter and powdered sugar. Add cranberry sauce, egg, vanilla, ground ginger, and beat until smooth. Measure in sifted flour, salt, and then mix only enough to create a smooth dough. Do not over mix or you’ll create gluten and your cookies will be tough instead of tender. (Here's a photo of the dough...isn't it pretty? I just love the color of these cookies, so festive!)

Step 2 – Chill, Roll, and Press: Chill dough in fridge for 30 minutes to blend flavors and allow sticky dough to harden enough to work with. Using clean hands, roll dough into 1-inch balls, roll in a bowl of granulated sugar, place on prepared baking sheet (greased, lined, or sprayed with cooking spray to prevent sticking). Flatten little dough balls with bottom of a clean glass that’s been dipped in the sugar bowl. Dip the glass after each pressing to prevent dough balls from sticking to your glass. If you’re having trouble with sticking, your dough is too warm. Chill it in the fridge for fifteen to twenty minutes and try again. (Below is a photo of the roll and press process using the bottom of a glass. This will give you a rustic cookie. For a more finished appearance, you can always roll the dough out on a floured surface with a rolling pin and cut neatly with cookie cutters. But this method is fast and fun, especially when baking with kids.)

Step 3 – Bake: Preheat oven 350 degrees and bake for 10 to 15 minutes. Remove from baking sheet and let cool on wire rack. (Here's photo of the finsished cookies. Their slightly pink color is very pretty and they taste okay, but I'm not completely happy with this recipe yet. I'll just have to keep working on it!)

I did and you can see the
results by clicking here!

Till next time,

~ Cleo Coyle

A Coffeehouse Mystery
Now a National Bestseller!

To find out more about the books in my
Coffeehouse Mystery series or
enter my weekly Free Coffee Drawing,
click this link to my virtual home at

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Thanksgiving Memories


Isn’t it funny what sticks in your head sometimes?

You’d think that holiday memories would be comprised of some really Martha Stewart moments of hearth and home. A beautiful centerpiece, an exquisite meal. Perfectly compatible relatives conversing in harmony at the table.

I don’t know about you, but my memories are more along the lines of Thanksgiving blog12 mayhem.

I remember ten years ago when my son was in preschool. He was supposed to be a Pilgrim in the Thanksgiving program. But he didn’t want to be a Pilgrim…he wanted to be a Native American. Who could blame him? The Pilgrims looked all pious and boring and the Pilgrim costume wasn’t nearly as cool as the feathered headdresses the Indians got to wear. He had a meltdown at zero hour and they ended up letting him be an Indian. But he was still so upset the whole time that he fumed and wouldn’t sing any of the songs.

I wrote an essay in second grade: My Thanksgiving Vacation. It was supposed to be a paper outlining what our plans were for the upcoming holiday…and some thankfulness wouldn’t have hurt.

My essay said that we were going to see my grandmother in Macon,blog11 Georgia. “And we’ll probably eat spaghetti. That’s the only thing my grandmother knows how to cook.”

Oh my. It wasn’t true, but you know how you can visit a relative once every three months and you get the same menu? It was usually spaghetti. My family was laughing over that one for years.

Then, of course, there was the Thanksgiving when my mother was sick with the flu. She feverishly directed the cooking of the Thanksgiving dinner from the den sofa. My sister, grandmother, and I laughed hysterically at one cooking disaster after another. Daddy claimed the turkey had two necks (I’m not sure what that was all about.) Too much eating was happening before the food ever got to the table. And my mother couldn’t find her cookware for weeks afterward.

Sometimes holidays get a little crazy. And sometimes they’re not all like a Currier and Ives print. But sometimes the craziness makes for the best memories to share later. And makes the best stories to hand down through the years.

Pretty is as Pretty Dies –Elizabeth Spann Craig
Delicious and Suspicious (May 2010)—Riley Adams

Happy Thanksgiving from the Mystery

Lovers’ Kitchen!

Mystery Lovers Kitchen

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Oh, yeah...dinner!

With all the prepping of "the bird" and its many
side dishes, it's easy to lose sight of the fact
that you still have to eat every other day of
the big turkey week as well.

So, here is a quick dish that my mom, another
excellent cook, taught me to make that is quick
and delicious and frees you up to work on
"the bird". Thanks, Mom!

Rigatoni with garbanzos and pepperoni


One box rigatoni
2 cans garbanzos, drained and rinsed
(Mom uses cannellini, but I'm a garbanzo girl)
2 cans diced tomatoes, drained
1 package of pepperoni, diced
(I use turkey pepperoni)
Olive oil
1 tablespoon diced garlic
Fresh grated romano/parmesan cheese


Heat the oil in a large skillet, simmer the garlic and
pepperoni until heated through. Add the garbanzos and
tomatoes, turn the heat up to medium and cook thoroughly.
Add to a large pot of already cooked rigatoni. Mix well.
Serve in soup bowls with fresh grated romano/parmesan cheese
on top. A small side salad and a hot slice of garlic bread
really completes this meal.

Have a Happy (non-hectic) Thanksgiving!

Jenn McKinlay


March 2010 (Available for pre-order now)

aka Lucy Lawrence

STUCK ON MURDER Sept 2009 (On sale now)

(Available for pre-order now)

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Fresh Polish Sausage and Sauerkraut

I live in the Chicago area, where it’s easy to find great Polish food, but without a doubt the very, very best Polish food always showed up on holiday tables at my house, my aunt’s and my Busia’s (grandmother’s). To this day I swoon at the sight of golabki, (ga-LOOM- key -- stuffed cabbage rolls in a tomato sauce), hoska bread (egg twist with golden raisins), and what we fondly refer to in this house as “dusty noodle soup.”

In my last post I mentioned that Thanksgiving was always our holiday growing up. My mom took it over when she and my dad got married. In addition to serving the traditional turkey, her family stuffing (ooh, yum!) and all the fabulous side dishes you might expect to enjoy on Thanksgiving, my mom—whose mother came from Luxembourg and whose father was French-Belgian—bravely attempted to prepare fresh Polish Sausage and sauerkraut.

Her process—simple, yet delicious—is the same one I follow these days when I make the Polish Sausage and sauerkraut for the Thanksgiving feast at my brother’s house. It’s pretty fabulous and even though she didn’t care for it herself, my mom truly made the best Polish Sausage, ever.

Polish sausage is known as kielbasa (keel-bassa) and that’s what we always called it. Most folks recognize kielbasa as the red, smoked variety. I prefer the fresh, also known as kielbasa biala.

This photo is from the Polana website. I usually pick up my sausage from a local Polish-owned deli, but after perusing the Polana site... I'm sorely tempted to give them a try.

Preparing the fresh version is easy, and it was only after I got married that I realized my non-Polish mom had added an extra step—one that makes all the difference.

As healthy recipes go, this one is NOT

For a big feast…

The day before: Place 5 - 7 lbs of fresh Polish Sausage in a large Dutch oven. Cover with water. Bring to a boil and then lower the heat so that the sausage simmers for a little while. Say, about 25 minutes. Remove from the water and cut into serving-size pieces. Don’t worry if the sausage is still pink, you’re not finished cooking yet. Place all the pieces in a very large bowl and refrigerate.

On the “feast” day – cut up bacon slices into small pieces and fry them up in another deep Dutch oven. When they’re crisp and sizzling in grease, add three jars/cans of prepared sauerkraut (kapusta). Trust me, the store-bought versions are pretty excellent. I prefer Frank’s Polish Style with Caraway. Mix the bacon, grease, and kraut well and keep it hot until ready to serve.

Here’s the extra step: About a half hour before serving, melt a little Crisco in a very, very big frying pan. (We have a specific Polish Sausage pan.) Add your serving-size pieces of sausage. Keep the heat on medium and keep stirring the sausages (watch out, they like to bounce out!) until the pink is all cooked away, and the casings start to brown.

Most folks serve the sausage with the kraut, but we prefer to keep them in separate bowls. There are quite a few of us who enjoy mixing our kraut with our mashed potatoes.

If you have any fresh horseradish on hand… bring it out!

My personal pics aren’t here because I won’t make this until Wednesday this week, but I can’t wait. Getting hungry already!
Have a wonderful Thanksgiving, everyone!!
Hugs to all,
My White House Chef Mystery series includes State of the Onion, Hail to the Chef, and Eggsecutive Orders (coming in January). All from Berkley Prime Crime.

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Monday, November 23, 2009

Herb Scalloped Potatoes

Dear Readers, our latest Iron Chef contest is completed, and we'll be using the special ingredient our winner Molly Ebert suggested in December, but we'll be having another Iron Chef contest in December, with the special ingredient to be announced in January, so continue to sign up and drop us suggestions! Someone will be a lucky winner close to the holidays! And the prize is a Junior's Cheesecake! Remember, one entry per person, per day, and you must be a follower of the blog.

And now for more "Thanksgiving Week Goodies."
Turkey isn't the only thing to eat at Thanksgiving. There are all sorts of side dishes. Stuffing, veggies, sweet potatoes.
But let's not forget the real POTATO. Add CHEESE. And WOW! Scalloped Potatoes, done right, can be the one item on the Thanksgiving buffet that trump all others. There's texture, taste, and satisfaction all in one casserole.
So what if you add a boursin cheese? That's a creamy concoction mixed with herbs and spices, delicious on a cracker, but absolutely fabulous in scalloped potatoes. Top with plenty of Grana cheese (which, if you remember, is parmessan cheese in the USA). And YUM!
So this Thanksgiving, don't just think mashed potatoes and gravy. Think layered potatoes and cheese! Here's my version of Herbed Scalloped Potatoes.



3 russet potatoes, peeled
1 pinch salt
1 pinch ground black pepper
4 oz. Boursin cheese with garlic and fine herbs
4 whole eggs
1/4 cup milk
1 pinch paprika
1 whole yellow onion, finely chopped
4 oz. Grana (hard parmessan) cheese


Thinly slice the potatoes and cook them for 2 minutes in boiling water. Drain and cool by rinsing.

Line 8” square pan with foil. Grease the foil.

Mix Boursin cheese, eggs, milk and spices to make a “sauce.” [I used a blender to whip the cheese into the mix.]

Layer the square pan, alternating with potato, Boursin sauce, onions, parmesan. 2-3 layers. Finish with grated cheese.

Cover the pan with foil and place in oven.

Bake a 350 degrees for one hour. REMOVE FOIL. Bake one half hour longer.

If you want to check out more about me, check out my website: Avery Aames. And don't forget to signup for my newsletter, filled with facts and, well, news!!
Better yet, become one of the first to buy The Long Quiche Goodbye. It's now available on Amazon, Borders and Books a Million for pre-order!! The publishing date is July 6! No cover art yet, but that's coming soon!

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Talking Turkey Part II

First, let me say that I have bought a turkey, plopped it into the oven to roast, ignored it entirely until it was done -- and it turned out great. I don't know if that was a fluke or not. These days, I put more effort into roasting the turkey, but there are a few popular steps that I skip.

The procedure and times below are for a turkey that is not stuffed. The official stance on stuffing birds is that the stuffing should be cooked separately. I find it easier to do it separately, because I can make the stuffing (officially called dressing if not inside the turkey, I suppose) the day before. One less thing to worry about. I pop it into the oven to bake an hour before we eat and it's always great.

For years and years I basted turkeys and chickens. Last year, I think it was Martha whom I watched insert butter under the skin of the bird, which I thought clever. My mother is a big believer in basting and we've spent many Thanksgivings treacherously tilting the pan to suck up the juices with the baster and squirt them on the bird. Not anymore. I side entirely with Alton Brown who experimented on one of his shows and declared basting unnecessary. In fact, he suggested that basting simply lowers the temperature of the oven because one opens it continually.

I know what you're thinking -- but the crispy skin is the best part! Quite by accident (and laziness) I discovered that leaving a duck uncovered in the refrigerator for 24 hours before roasting yields a fabulous skin. That's what Chinese restaurants do. They hang ducks to dry before transforming them into crispy-skinned Peking Duck. Turns out the same thing works great for turkey. It goes against our grain to leave the foil or plastic wrap off something in the refrigerator, but that's exactly what I do. The day before you plan to roast the turkey, set it on a rack in the roasting pan and slide the whole thing, uncovered, into the refrigerator until it's time to cook.

The other step that I love to skip is trussing the turkey. In The Diva Runs out of Thyme, Sophie trusses the killer, but I think tying the turkey is over-rated. On most turkeys, there is a flap of skin that crosses the bottom end. I do try to wedge the ends of the legs under that flap. It holds them tight and saves me from wrestling with the bird to tie it.

So, here are the basics that I'll be following:

1. SUNDAY Move the turkey from the freezer to the refrigerator. Most guides suggest giving a frozen turkey three to five days to thaw in the refrigerator. If you've ever tried to yank the giblets or neck out of a partially frozen turkey, you understand the need for plenty of thawing time.

2. TUESDAY NIGHT Brine the turkey. As discussed last week, if you bought an enhanced turkey (with a solution injected) or a Kosher turkey, you should not brine it. So what's the fuss about brining? At its most basic, the salt molecules penetrate the turkey meat and work magic on the turkey meat molecules, leaving the meat softer and moister. It also leaves some saltiness in the meat, so use a light hand if you salt the skin of a brined turkey.

Brine the turkey in any food-safe container (like a five gallon bucket) large enough to hold the entire turkey. It must remain refrigerated during the brining. I usually remove a shelf from my refrigerator to accommodate it. I've read that some people brine their turkeys in large coolers, but I've never tried that.

To brine:
Remove the giblets and neck, if possible.
Dissolve 3/4 cup Kosher salt in a gallon of water and pour over the bird. Repeat until the bird is covered. Add 1/4 cup sugar to the brine. Refrigerate 6-8 hours.

3. WEDNESDAY MORNING Remove the turkey from the brine and rinse inside and out with water. Place the turkey on a roasting rack, breast side up, and store UNCOVERED in the refrigerator until ready to roast, preferably 24 hours.

4. THURSDAY Dice carrots, onions, and celery and spread in the bottom of the roaster. Don't forget to add a cup of water so they'll cook instead of burning. They taste delicious plain, but I like to puree them and add them to the gravy -- yum!

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Tuck the ends of the legs under the flap of skin as described above. Rub the skin of the turkey with salt (very little or none if brined) or your favorite herbs (optional). Turn the turkey breast down on the roasting rack and roast for 45 minutes.

After 45 minutes, turn the bird breast side up. SKIP THE BIG DANGEROUS TURKEY FORKS. People keep giving them to me as gifts for some reason. While they look like terrific weapons for use in a mystery, I find them extremely cumbersome. I get a much better grip on the turkey if I grab it with a clean kitchen towel on each end. But watch out! There may be HOT turkey juices inside the cavity of the bird. Be sure you don't tilt it so that the juices penetrate the towel.

5. WHEN IS IT DONE? Brined meat cooks faster, so take that into consideration if you brine your turkey. Last year I made a note that my 13 pound turkey was done in 1 hour and 45 minutes. A larger turkey might take a little longer. Do NOT rely on those little pop-up timers! I've had many of them get stuck -- they wouldn't have popped up if the turkey charred.

The best method of checking for doneness is a thermometer. I'm partial to my Thermapen, but there are less expensive thermometers that work well, too -- never mind how many of them I've killed . . .

But how done is done?

The USDA says a turkey is done at 165 degrees.
Serious Eats -- The Food Lab says your turkey is overdone if it exceeds 150 degrees.
Most of the websites I checked go with the USDA recommendation of 165, but I wouldn't let it cook any longer than that!
(Note: I tried cooking a turkey breast to 150. Definitely undercooked! Shoot for 165!)

If you're only roasting a turkey breast, you might want to read my old blog post where I side with Rachel Ray about the temperature of the oven for roasting a breast. It goes against most of the turkey breast recipes I found on the net.

It sounds like a lot of work, but it really isn't -- and the rewards are scrumptious.

I wish you all a moist turkey, wonderful friends, loving families and the time to enjoy them.



That's right! You could win a Junior's Cheesecake for the holidays!

We're having our own Iron Chef weeks here at Mystery Lovers' Kitchen. We take a surprise ingredient and challenge all of our authors to come up with recipes using that ingredient. To add to the fun, we're looking to you to suggest the surprise ingredients! The person who suggests a winning ingredient for our January Iron Chef week will win a Junior's Cheesecake! But don't worry, we'll get it to you in time to enjoy over the holidays.

To enter, send an email suggesting an ingredient to It's that easy! And you could just win a delectable cheesecake to enjoy with your family or friends (or hog for yourself, shh, we won't know!).