Friday, November 21, 2014

Gobble Gobble, Y'all!


Thanksgiving is a national holiday celebrated on the fourth Thursday of November.  It is now a day when Americans give thanks for everything in their lives, eat a huge meal surrounded by family and friends, and watch some football.

These are some holiday foods that would make a perfect addition to your dinner table this Thanksgiving:

      
     Cranberry Sauce:

Ingredients: 12-ounce cranberries, 1 cup of sugar, 1 strip orange or lemon zest, 2 tablespoons of water

Empty a 12-ounce bag of fresh or frozen cranberries into a saucepan and transfer 1/2 cup to a small bowl. Add 1 cup sugar, 1 strip orange or lemon zest and 2 tablespoons water to the pan and cook over low heat, stirring occasionally, until the sugar dissolves and the cranberries are soft, about 10 minutes. Increase the heat to medium and cook until the cranberries burst, about 12 minutes. Reduce the heat to low and stir in the reserved cranberries. Add sugar, salt and pepper to taste and cool to room temperature before serving.
      
     Mashed Potatoes

Ingredients: 4 pounds golden, peeled and cut potatoes, 1 bay leaf, salt and pepper, 2 cups of heavy cream, 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, 2 tablespoons chopped chives

Put the potatoes into a large pot, add the bay leaf, 2 tablespoons salt, and cover with cold water. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat and cook until the potatoes are tender, about 20 minutes. Drain them well and remove the bay leaf. Meanwhile, heat the cream and butter in a small saucepan. Put the potatoes through a ricer or food mill into a bowl. Add the hot cream and season with salt and pepper. Mix together with a spoon and add the chives.
      
     Cornbread Stuffing

Ingredients: 2 hot Italian sausages, 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, 1 cup chopped carrot, 1 cup chopped celery, 1 cup chopped onion, salt, black pepper, ½ bunch fresh sage, leaves chopped, 4 large chorn muffins, 3 large eggs, ½ cup, chicken stock, plus more if needed, nonstick spray

Heat the oven to 350 degrees F.
Remove the casings from the sausages. Heat 1 tablespoon of the olive oil in a skillet over medium-high heat and add the sausage meat. Cook, breaking up the meat into small pieces, until browned and cooked through, about 5 minutes. Drain on a paper towel lined plate and set aside to cool while you cook the vegetables. Wipe out any excess fat from the pan with paper towels.
Heat 1 tablespoon of oil in the same skillet over medium-high heat. Add the carrots, celery, and onion. Season with salt and pepper and add the sage. Cook until the vegetables are soft, about 10 minutes. Set aside to cool a bit.
Crumble the corn muffins into a large bowl. Put in the cooled sausage and vegetables. Add the eggs and 1/4 cup chicken stock. Using your hands, mix well adding more stock if the stuffing is too dry. Spray a 2-quart oven-proof baking dish with cooking spray. Put the stuffing into the dish and bake for 45 minutes to 1 hour, or until the top is browned and crispy.
      
      Sweet Potato Casserole

Ingredients: 2 ½ pounds sweet potatoes, 1 orange, zested and juiced, 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon, 1 tablespoon honey, ½ cup milk, ½ cup diced dried apricots. Topping: ½ cup oatmeal, ¼ cup firmly packed brown sugar, 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, 2 tablespoons butter, cut into pea-sized pieces, ½ cup chopped walnuts

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.
Put the sweet potatoes on a sheet tray and roast for 35 to 40 minutes. The sweet potatoes might still be a little hard in the center- no problem!
While the sweet potatoes are baking make the topping. In a food processor, combine the oatmeal, brown sugar, olive oil, butter, and walnuts and pulse until mixture comes together.
When the potatoes are cool enough to handle, peel them and cut them into 1-inch chunks. Discard the skins. Put the potatoes into a large dish and add the remaining ingredients. Mash together with a potato masher until well combined.
Transfer the mixture to a 2-quart casserole dish. Crumble the topping mixture over the potatoes. Bake until the mixture hot all the way through and the topping is brown and crispy, about 30 minutes.
     
      Green Bean Casserole

Ingredients: topping, 2 medium onions, thinly sliced, ¼ cup all purpose flour, 2 tablespoons panko breadcrumbs, 1 teaspoon salt. Beans and salt: 2 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon salt, divided, 1 pound fresh green beans, 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, 12 oz mushrooms, ½ teaspoon black pepper, 2 cloves garlic minced, ¼ teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg, 2 tablespoons all purpose flour, 1 cup chicken broth, 1 cup half-and-half

Preheat the oven to 475 degrees F.
Combine the onions, flour, panko and salt in a large mixing bowl and toss to combine. Coat a sheet pan with nonstick cooking spray and evenly spread the onions on the pan. Place the pan on the middle rack of the oven and bake until golden brown, approximately 30 minutes. Toss the onions 2 to 3 times during cooking. Once done, remove from the oven and set aside until ready to use. Turn the oven down to 400 degrees F.
While the onions are cooking, prepare the beans. Bring a gallon of water and 2 tablespoons of salt to a boil in an 8-quart saucepan. Add the beans and blanch for 5 minutes. Drain in a colander and immediately plunge the beans into a large bowl of ice water to stop the cooking. Drain and set aside.
Melt the butter in a 12-inch cast iron skillet set over medium-high heat. Add the mushrooms, 1 teaspoon salt and pepper and cook, stirring occasionally, until the mushrooms begin to give up some of their liquid, approximately 4 to 5 minutes. Add the garlic and nutmeg and continue to cook for another 1 to 2 minutes. Sprinkle the flour over the mixture and stir to combine. Cook for 1 minute. Add the broth and simmer for 1 minute. Decrease the heat to medium-low and add the half-and-half. Cook until the mixture thickens, stirring occasionally, approximately 6 to 8 minutes.
Remove from the heat and stir in 1/4 of the onions and all of the green beans. Top with the remaining onions. Place into the oven and bake until bubbly, approximately 15 minutes. Remove and serve immediately.
     
      Turkey

1. Thawing a frozen turkey requires patience. The safest method is to thaw turkey in the refrigerator. Be sure to plan ahead — it takes approximately 4-5 days for a 20-pound turkey to fully defrost.
2. For crisper skin, unwrap the turkey the day before roasting and leave it uncovered in the refrigerator overnight.
3. Cooking times will differ depending on whether your bird was purchased fresh or frozen. Plan on 20 minutes per pound in a 350 degree F oven for a defrosted turkey and 10 to 15 minutes per pound for fresh.
4. A turkey will cook more evenly if it is not densely stuffed. Consider adding flavor by loosely filling the cavity with aromatic vegetables — carrots, celery, onion or garlic work nicely — or by carefully tucking fresh herbs underneath the breast skin. For the stuffing lovers, cook the dressing in a casserole dish on the side.
5. Before roasting, coat the outside of the turkey with vegetable or olive oil, season with salt and pepper and tightly cover the breast with aluminum foil to prevent over-browning (it will be removed in step 7).
6. Once you get the turkey in the oven, resist the temptation to open the oven door and admire your handiwork. When the oven temperature fluctuates, you're only increasing the likelihood of a dry bird. About 45 minutes before you think the turkey is done, remove the foil from the breast to allow it to brown.
7. Remove the turkey from the oven and use an instant-read thermometer to determine temperature; it should read 165 degrees F at the thigh when it's done. If you stuff your turkey, check the internal temperature of the stuffing as well; it should be at least 165 degrees.
8. Tent the bird with foil and let rest for about 25 minutes before carving. If you need more time to make gravy, heat up side dishes, etc., you can let the turkey set for up to an hour without losing too much heat.
9. Remember to carve your turkey with a very sharp or electric knife.

10. Before you get started with the cooking, browse our best turkey recipes to find the perfect bird for your Thanksgiving feast.


Enjoy!
-RA Hayley 

Monday, November 3, 2014

Here's Your Cue!


          

  If you’ve ever set foot into the University Village Centre or Town Hall on any given night—which I recommend you do; it’s a great hang out spot—you know that the pool tables are the main attraction. But maybe you’ve felt discouraged; you want to play, but you’re not very good, and you don’t want to embarrass yourself. Well, I’m here to tell you that you CAN play pool.
*Hint: See footnotes at the bottom for further explanations.

Starting off
            First off, you can’t expect to have never played pool—except for maybe at your grandparents’ house when you were like 5—and automatically be the best. Like anything else, pool takes practice. I’ll give you the basics: 1. Choose a pool cue* that you like; there are different weights, and each weight plays a little differently. 2. Make your bridge* comfortable—it doesn’t have to be pretty, it just has to work. Fool with different bridges and over time you’ll find one you like, and it will start to look better on its own; however use a bridge that supports the cue from below.
3. Stand to the side of your cue and pull it STRAIGHT back before you shoot. You may not realize it, but you may be pulling the cue back at an angle. Focus on the center of the cue ball*.

You don’t have to be HULK!
            I’m not sure why, but any time I’ve seen someone play pool for the first time, they believe that the harder they hit the cue ball, the better the shot will be. FALSE. You almost never have to hit the target ball* full strength. In fact, if you hit softly, you’ll usually end up with more options for your next shot, and—if you’re aim is on target—have a better chance of putting the ball in the pocket without scratching.*

Get low!
            This one is simple—get face level with the pool table so you can REALLY see where your shots are going to go. Looking from above will sometimes give you a sort of optical illusion, and you could easily miss an otherwise simple shot.

“Draw” your angles
            If you’re having a hard time seeing where you need to hit your target ball in order to make a shot, draw your angles using your cue. The way you do this is by taking the cue and laying it across the table starting at the pocket you want your target ball(s) to go in and finishing at the target ball. If you can continue imagining the line you’ve just made, you’ll know exactly where to hit your target ball.

Slow and Steady
            Even if you’ve done everything to prepare for a shot of any difficulty, you still need to take your time! Rushing a shot will end up in a miss nine times out of ten. Get low to your shot, really look at it, take a couple deep breaths, look at the shot again, then take it. If you still miss, shake it off—at least you took your time.

If you don’t have a shot, don’t try to make one up!
            Believe it or not, there is such a thing as defense in pool. If you don’t see any realistic shots that wouldn’t end up in a scratch, play defense. The way that you play defense is by striking a target ball that will send your cue ball to an undesirable position for your opponent. If you don’t know how to angle the cue ball off confidently, draw your angles from where you want the cue ball to land back to the cue ball.

HAVE FUN!
            This is priority number one. Why would you continue doing something that made you angry? Don’t worry about how you’re playing, just have fun playing. Don’t get discouraged when you miss a shot, and don’t get discouraged if someone is better than you—instead, learn from them, and remember, practice makes perfect.


FOOTNOTES***
Cue- Your pool stick.
Bridge- How you support the pool stick with the hand on the table.
Cue Ball- No, it’s not an insult aimed at a bald guy—well maybe—but it’s also the white ball that you use to hit your target ball.
Target Ball- The ball that your cue ball is aimed to strike first.

Scratch- Depending on the particular rules you are playing a scratch can include hitting another player’s ball first, hitting the 8 ball first, or dropping the cue ball into a pocket.

-RA Thomas

Friday, October 31, 2014

Tricks For Having A Halloween That Is A Treat

Halloween is here, and with this holiday comes dressing up in costumes, parties, and sweet treats! But beware that the night may be full of fun treats or not-so-fun tricks. Check out these tips to make festivities safe for everyone!


If you’re at a party:
Halloween is a night when students will be socializing with each other, whether it is at a friend’s place or an unfamiliar place your friend wants to go. Ask yourself these questions to make sure you’ll stay safe:
Who are you talking to?  With people wearing masks and costumes in a crowded, dim-lit party you might lose sight of your friends. Make sure you know who you are with, what they are wearing and how to find them. You don’t want to end up leaving with someone you don’t know!
What’s in your cup? To those of you who are legally able to drink: don’t accept drinks from strangers. Know what’s in your cup and keep an eye on it. Also, count your drinks and know how much alcohol your body can tolerate. In overcrowded Halloween parties, it’s essential to be coherent and aware of your surroundings.
Do you have a buddy? Go to the party with a friend and be conscious of where each other are the whole time. This might seem an inconvenience, but Halloween gatherings tend to become chaotic and if anything happens to you, it’s important to have someone who will notice and take action accordingly.
Does anyone know you’ve left? Ideally, you should always be with at least one friend. But since that’s not always possible, make sure there’s communication among friends. Let a friend know when you leave the party, and send a text when you get home so that they know you’re safe.
Are you driving?  Some Halloween parties in college may result in excessive drinking.  Be aware of people partaking in reckless activities, especially drunk driving. Try not to be on the roads whether you’re driving or walking, at night. If you are driving, be extra cautious of people on the sidewalk. Also, if you’ve been drinking and are unable to drive back home, make sure you get a sober friend to drive or call a cab.

If you’re trick or treating:
Who says you can’t walk around asking for free candy because you’re in college? Go get yourself some free sweets, but make sure you’re safe by following these directions:
Be seen. Make sure when you’re walking from door to door, the walking areas are well-lit. Keep close to the sidewalk and as far away as possible from the road because it could be dangerous if the drivers can’t see you. Also, take a flashlight with you so that you can see where you’re going.
Put a time limit. Once you start trick or treating, it’s hard to stop (especially once you start getting full-sized candy). However, set a time to stop trick or treating. It’s easy to get sidetracked and become lost in an unfamiliar neighborhood. Try to plan your route so that you know where you are. In case you stray from the route, have your charged phone with you.
Have a buddy. Go with a friend or a group of friends. Make sure that you’re not alone at any time of the night. You don’t know what could happen in the middle of the night. It’s more the merrier, anyway.
Inspect your treats.  Ever since you were a child you heard: “never take candy from a stranger”. Before you dig in, make sure the candy is unopened ad not tampered with.
Think about your health. I know it’s tempting to eat all those goodies you’ve gathered. Keep in mind that it’s all yours and no one will steal it. Before you grab a handful, know how to limit yourself. You can treat yourself a little every day, but try not to eat all of them in a day. Think about all the dreadful visits you would have to take to the dentist when you get unwanted cavities!


Halloween can be a fun time to dress up, socialize with friends, and get free candy. Go out and have fun, but be responsible. Make sure you’re safe in order to eliminate unwanted Halloween scares!