This morning I was looking for breakfast in Seattle's International District. Searching the usual restaurant sites turned up nothing, Google was useless, so I ended up walking around until I found Duk Li Dim Sum. While I won't rate Duk Li as best dim sum in Seattle, it does the trick for an early morning breakfast, opening at 7am to serve customers shumai, pork buns, congee, turnip cakes, Chinese dough and other dim sum standards. Total price for breakfast for two was $11.02 including tip. I'll continue to update this post as I find more place open for breakfast in the Seattle ID.


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VIA Starbucks Instant Coffee

I'm picky about where I get my coffee from and generally I avoid Starbucks if there's any other alternative nearby. Today I opted for convenience over taste and went to Starbucks. They had samples of the new VIA Ready Brew coffee available for sample, so I took one just to see how it tastes. Quite honestly, it's far better than I expected. That doesn't mean VIA is great or that I'll be switching from finding Stumptown or Zoka whenever possible, but I would drink it over coffee at the local diner.

The flavor is nothing like Folgers Crystals or any of the other jar instants you see on the store shelves. It's a bit like getting an Americano at Starbucks, which isn't a great Americano, but it's reliable. Instead of being giant coffee chunks like other instants, VIA Ready Brew if finely ground and smells like you just opened a free bag of beans when you tear open the little pouch. You stir the powder into hot water and you're ready to go. As the title says, while I wouldn't trade my brewed coffee for instant, as instant coffees go, Starbucks VIA Ready Brew is at the top of the heap.

I don't eat rolls very often, but I love this recipe from my grandma. She used to make butter horn rolls for holiday meals and I could never get enough of them. My mom has since carried on the tradition of making the rolls, although this year, I've taken over the baking duties.Because of my dairy allergy, I substitute soy milk for the milk in the recipe (but I leave the butter in because I haven't found anything that tastes good). I also added an egg wash to get a more even brown color on the rolls.

Butter horn dinner rolls

1 envelope of active dry yeast
1/4 cup warm water
3/4 cup of scalded milk
1/2 cup butter or margarine
1/2 cup sugar
1 tsp. salt
3 eggs, beaten
4 cups flour

Fries are one of those things that almost always taste better at a restaurant than they do at home. I'm sure the industrial fryer is part of the reason, but the real secret is that the restaurants who make great fries cook those potato slices twice. Yes it takes a little longer, but the results are outstanding. The procedure is similar to what we used making kettle chips at home. I've managed to make great fries this way twice, without any assistance from Robin, so I'm pretty sure anyone can do it.

Homemade Handcut French Fries

French Fry Ingredients
2 large Russet potatoes
24oz Canola, peanut, or California rice oil
Salt and Pepper


Equipment
Cast iron dutch oven
Thermometer

Procedure
1) Heat oil in cast iron pan, with thermometer in oil to make sure temperature reaches 305 degrees.

2) As oil heats, clean your potatoes and cut them into long strips of approximately the same size. Place sliced potatoes in a bowl of water to keep them from turning brown.

3) Remove potato slices from water and pat dry on paper towels, place enough slices in oil to have one layer covering the surface of the oil.

4) Allow slices to blanch, cooking until they turn from a shiny color to a more matte appearance. This is typically about the time the temperature starts rising in the oil again. Remove from oil with tongs and place in a pan lined with paper towels to absorb excess oil.

5) After blanching all potato slices, increase the temperature of the oil to between 350-375 degrees.

6) Repeat process of layering potato slices in the oil, this time cooking them until they turn a golden color. Cook longer for fries that are more crisp.

7) Remove from oil and place on paper towels to absorb excess oil, season with your favorite salt while still hot. Garnish your fries with herbs, garlic, or any other flavor that suits your palate.

Brining a turkey before cooking is an excellent way to increase the bird's ability to retain moisture throughout the roasting process. It results in an extremely moist turkey with excellent flavor. At the most basic level, you can brine your turkey simply by combining the salt, sugar, and peppercorns listed in the ingredients below. Using the additional seasons helps enhance the flavor of the bird. You may want to err on the side of a shorter brining time if you're concerned with having your turkey be too salty.

How to cook a Thankgiving Turkey

Brine Ingredients:
2 c kosher salt
1 c raw sugar
1 c honey
2-3 bay leaves
2 Tbl peppercorns
2 tsp mustard seeds
2 tsp celery seeds
3 cloves garlic
1 lemon
2-3 sprigs thyme
2-3 sprigs sage
10-14 lb turkey
1 brining bag

Roasting Pan Ingredients:

2 carrots, chopped
2 stalks celery, chopped
1 onion, chopped
1 lemon, sliced
4 cloves garlic
3-4 sprigs thyme
3-4 sprigs sage
Olive oil
Salt and pepper

Turkey Gravy Recipe

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Not having gravy for the mashed potatoes and stuffing at your Thanksgiving and Christmas feast is like having your uncle show up with his nudist girlfriend - incredibly awkward to explain to the kids. Gravy is one of those holiday treats meant to be enjoyed. I've had many variations I enjoy tremendously, this one is best prepared while drinking as much wine as you add to the pan (or maybe a little more).

Turkey Gravy Recipe

Roasting pan of turkey drippings
4 Tbl butter
3 Tbl flour
1 c white wine
1 qt chicken stock, homemade or low sodium store bought
2 Tbl chopped parsley, thyme, and sage
Salt and pepper

Mashed Sweet Potatoes

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Mashed potatoes are my personal holiday kryptonite. It could be because my grandma started me on mashing potatoes before I could see over the stove, or maybe it's just because they are nearly perfect. I could miss most of the rest of the meal and simply fill up on a heaping plate of smashed Yukon gold with turkey gravy pouring over the sides of a mashed potato wall. This is an excellent variation on that theme, taking true sweet potatoes, combining them with some Yukon gold spuds, and adding a little parsnip for flavor. I wouldn't trade plain old mashed potatoes for anything, but these are a worthy rival.

Sweet Potato Mashed potato recipe


3 medium sweet potatoes, yellow
2 medium Yukon gold potatoes
2 parsnips
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
2 Tbl parsley, chopped
1/4 c chicken stock
Olive oil
Salt and pepper

Stuffing is one of those things no holiday feast should be without. It's a perfect savory accompaniment for turkey and cranberry sauce. I call this Robin's foolproof stuffing because it's easy to make and I have yet to meet anyone who doesn't like it. And of course, it's Robin's because she's the brains of the food operation at our house. Drying the bread can be done ahead of time so that you're not trying to do everything at the last minute. If you don't eat pork, you can round out the turkey theme with a turkey breakfast sausage instead of pork.

Thanksgiving Stuffing Recipe

Ingredients

1 loaf sliced bread of choice, buttermilk white is good
1/2 lb turkey or pork breakfast sausage, bulk
Giblets reserved from turkey
4 Tbl butter
1 onion, small diced
3 cloves garlic, sliced
1 core of celery, with leaves, small slice
1/4 c white wine
3 c chicken stock, maybe more to moisten
3-4 sprigs sage, leaves chopped
2-3 sprigs thyme
1/2 tsp celery seed
Salt and pepper

Cranberry Compote

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It's hard to compete with the simplicity of canned cranberries during a busy holiday meal preparation, but you won't impress any of your guests with can shaped slices (they are certainly a guilty pleasure). This recipe provides a subtly Indian spin on the required cranberries at Thanksgiving and Christmas dinner. It keeps well so you could make it up several days ahead of any feast, which also allows the habenero flavor to sink in just enough to tingle the tongue.

Cranberry Compote

2 pints fresh or frozen cranberries
1 cup red wine
1 cup water
2 Tbl red wine vinegar
½ c sugar
1 habenero pepper, split
2 whole pods star anise
2 cinnamon stick
1 shallot, minced
1 Tbl allspice, whole
½ tsp black pepper

Growing up, green bean casserole consisted entirely of canned goods. Canned green beans, canned cream of mushroom soup, and canned Durkee French fried onions were the primary ingredients. I still have a fondness for that version of this holiday favorite, but rich flavors of making it yourself from fresh ingredients give a whole new dimension to this old favorite. Since I don't eat dairy, we left the heavy cream out of the version we made at our house, but it's admittedly better tasting if you leave it in.

Green Bean Casserole recipe

Green Bean Casserole Ingredients

1 lb fresh green beans, trimmed
1/3 lb porcini mushrooms, or favorite variety, sliced
4 shallots, 1 minced, 3 sliced thin
2 cloves garlic, sliced
2-3 sprigs thyme
2 Tbl butter
1 Tbl flour
2 c veal stock, or beef stock (low sodium if not homemade)
1/4 c port, ruby or tawny
1/4 c heavy cream
Salt and pepper
1 Tbl parsley, chopped

Crispy Shallots for Topping

1/2 c flour
1 tsp salt
1 tsp pepper
1/2 tsp cayenne
1 tsp onion powder
2 c canola or high heat oil

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