Our Favorite Christmas Cocoa

Today, as we do every year just after Thanksgiving, my little family and I will wander into the woods and bring home the Perkins’ Christmas tree.

Each year, as we decorate our new addition, we listen to old Christmas songs, nibble on goodies, and always, always have a mug or two of our homemade Christmas Cocoa.

Here’s the recipe, just three ingredients…may it bring as much joy and warmth to your family as it has ours!

Chef Perry

Christmas Cocoa
1 quart of half-and-half milk.
4 regular milk chocolate bars
1 large Peppermint Patty bar

Bring milk to a very low simmer; add milk chocolate & peppermint patty, stirring constantly until the chocolate has melted completely.

Serve hot and enjoy the company!


Thai Turkey Soup: A Post-Thanksgiving Favorite

Thai Turkey Soup

One of my favorite Post-Thanksgiving recipes…

Thai Turkey Soup

There are numerous Thai soup recipes. Soup is eaten almost daily, as an accompaniment to a Thai meal. Unlike in the West, it is not served as a first course, but is served with all the other dishes on the table.

In Thailand, at a family-style meal, everyone shares from the serving bowl, by spooning some of the soup into his own spoon.

Thai soups are not only easy to make, but also healthy. Bok choy, turmeric, fish sauce, and fresh chilies are common ingredients.

Cooking time is short, unlike soup recipes from other parts of the globe. With shorter cooking time, vitamins are retained and preparation time is reduced.

Active Time:15 min.

Total Time: 30 min.

1 cup coconut milk​
1 tbsp. curry powder
1/2 tsp. ground turmeric​
1 1/2 cups low-sodium chicken broth*
1 tbsp. Tiparos brand fish sauce​
1 cup macaroni pasta, cooked
10 oz. turkey breast (see 1a)​
1 Thai red chili,(opt.)
2 green onions​
1 baby bok choy

*We recommend “Better Than Bullion” Chicken Base

Mise en Place:

Dice turkey, slice green onions. Cook macaroni, chop bok choyand chili (optional)

Prepare the Dish:

In a large stockpot, combine coconut milk, curry powder, bokchoy, and turmeric.

Stir in fish sauce, and chicken broth, until well combined.

Stir in turkey and noodles. Warm gently.

Stir in green onions and red chilies right before serving.

Switchable! – If you’re not a fan of Asian flavors, replace the coconut milk, curry paste, and turmeric, for whole milk, “BetterThan Bullion” chicken base, and fresh chopped Italian herbs, respectively, in the same proportions. Maybe double the fresh herbs, to taste.

Chef PerrySimplySmartDinnerPlans
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Eating for Black Friday


Consumers spent $59.1 billion on Black Friday last year. With so much up for grabs, shoppers make detailed timelines, store maps, and priority item plans for the big morning…but most don’t think to strengthen the one part of the equation that can make or break a successful shopping spree…themselves!

Planning a light, nutritious, easy-to-make breakfast, that will assure hours of energy and mental focus can be what separates the uber-shoppers from the wanna-bees on Friday morning!

Here are 5 ideas for Black Friday Breakfast that can give you the mental clarity and physical energy to elbow your way to the best deals, stay focused on your plan, and win that final sprint to the toy aisle! (Personally, I’ll be home sleeping off a turkey coma, but…best of luck to you!)

Much like preparing for a marathon, the secret to staying in black Friday fighting form is to eat a breakfast rich in high–quality carbs with some protein.

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Consider these winning morning meals…

(Oh, and each of these can be pre-made and packed along for you seriously…um…committed shoppers who will be in line the night before…)

BR73721. A whole–wheat bagel topped with nut butter and banana slices. Pack in a sandwich baggie, and you’re ready to go! If you’re going to be waiting in line for several hours, cut your finished bagel into quarters and eat one quarter per hour, finishing just before the doors open, to ensure that your energy stays peaked.

2. Scrambled eggs, sliced tomato and whole–wheat toast sandwich.


oatmeal3. Oatmeal topped with berries and nuts/seeds. This will stay warm for hours, in the bottom of your shopping bag. Be sure to bring a zip bag for the dirty bowl and spoon.

4. Yogurt with granola and fruit.

Cup-o-coffee-not_small5. AVOID COFFEE! I know, you hate me, but it’s a diuretic, and do you really want to put all this energy into the one Black Friday of the year, just to miss the last PlayStation, ’cause you were waiting in a mile-long line to pee? Reward yourself with a trip to your favorite java shack when the battle is over.

Remember to drink plenty of water the day before (but not for the three hours proceeding the store opening) and be sure to finish your breakfast at least 20 minutes before the shopping spree starts!

Happy Black Friday!

-Chef Perry



Perfect Roast Turkey in 90 Minutes

Fast Roast Turkey

Just in time for Thanksgiving…perfect roasted whole turkey in just 90 minutes!

Every year we cook up a bunch of turkeys (11 this year, a new record!) and take them to a local homeless shelter for their annual Thanksgiving dinner.

This year I wanted to try a new technique I’d heard about, and it turned out great…all six times! :)

Here’s a video I put together during the roasting…

The highlights:

  • 12-14lb turkey, spatchcocked
  • Preheat oven to 450F
  • Roast 90 minutes, rest 20 minutes

Oh, and if you really want to amp up the flavor and juiciness of your bird, brine it! You can check our our post My Best Brined Turkey Recipe, over at our BBQ site, Burnin’ Love BBQ.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Chef Perry

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Tips for Thawing Your Thanksgiving Turkey

How to thaw a turkey

It’s the Monday before Thanksgiving…do you know where your turkeys are?

If you’re buying a fresh, local turkey (and kudos if you are) you can spend today planning the REST of your Thanksgiving meal. If, however, like most folks out there, you’ve got yourself a big frozen bird in the fridge, or freezer, it’s time to start thinking about thawing that bad-boy out!

Properly thawing a turkey is one of the most important, but often least understood steps in the holiday dinner process.

Let’s face it, the last thing any of us want to do is give one of our guests food poisoning, right? Proper handling of frozen/raw poultry is the key to a safe, and perfectly cooked holiday dinner.

First and foremost: Never, never, never thaw your turkey at room temperature. This is a fast-lane to the aforementioned food poisoning, and there are easier ways to get rid of annoying relatives (but that’s another post…)

The two most common methods for thawing a turkey are in the refrigerator, or in cold water.

How to thaw a turkey

Thawing in the Refrigerator

Leaving the bird in the wrapper (unopened) on a tray, let the it thaw 1 day for every 4 lbs, breast side up, on a large tray. Keep an eye on the liquid level, if there’s a leak in the bag, raw bird juice makes for a nasty cleaning job.

  • 4 to 12 pounds — 1 to 3 days
  • 12 to 16 pounds — 3 to 4 days
  • 16 to 20 pounds — 4 to 5 days
  • 20 to 24 pounds —5 to 6 days

Pros: It’s a pretty-hands off method, just “sit and forget”.

Cons: It takes up a lot of room in the Refrigerator, which means less prepping in advance of other dished. Plus, a 16lb bird is going to need 4 days (at least) to thaw, when means you had to start…yesterday.

How to thaw a turkey

Cold Water Thawing

This is my preferred method. Leaving the bird in the wrapper (unopened) thaw breast side down, in enough cold water to cover your turkey completely. If you’re doing this inside the house, change out the water every 30 minutes or so, to keep the turkey chilled.

Personally, I like to do this in a cooler out back. It frees up room in my kitchen, and keeps the water cold enough to not need the change-outs, while getting the job done much, much faster. (That same 16lb turkey is going to need about 8 hours to thaw, instead of 4 days!)

How to thaw a turkeyAlso, as you can see here, many folks don’t have a sink with enough capacity to submerge the whole bird…and you need to submerge the whole bird!

Figure on a minimum thawing time of 30 minutes per lb.

  • 4 to 12 pounds — 2 to 6 hours
  • 12 to 16 pounds — 6 to 8 hours
  • 16 to 20 pounds — 8 to 10 hours
  • 20 to 24 pounds — 10 to 12 hours

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Pros: MUCH faster (and so, some would argue, safer) method of thawing.

Cons: Less “margin of error”, if your bird is bigger than you thought, or the house is colder, or whatever…if this turkey is still frozen when it’s time to start roasting…you’re kinda hosed.

Keep an eye out…I’m going to post a video tonight on “Roasting the Perfect Turkey in 90 minutes!”

Don’t miss it!

Chef Perry


What are Giblets (and what do I do with them?)

MY KITCHEN student, Maddie, asks:

What is the little package of parts that are sometimes inside a whole chicken or turkey…and what am I supposed to do with them?

Great question, Maddie!

Those little goodies (sometimes in a little paper or plastic bag, sometimes not) and the “Giblets.”

What are they?

Giblets is a culinary term for the edible offal of a fowl, typically including the heart, gizzard, liver, and other visceral organs. The origin of the word comes from gibier, which is the Old French word for “game.”

What are giblets

What can I do with them?

A whole bird from a butcher is often packaged with the giblets, and are often used to make gravy, stuffing, soup, and other dishes, like Cajun jambalaya.

Two of my favorite dishes using the giblets, are my Vietnamese grilled chicken hearts (pictured below), and good o’l southern-style fried chicken gizzards (which, if cooked properly, should be “melt in your mouth” tender!)

Vietnamese grilled chicken hearts

Another popular giblet recipe is the traditional giblet gravy served on Thanksgiving and Christmas all around the country. This was one of my father’s specialties, and this is his recipe:

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Giblet Gravy recipe

Grandpa Frank’s Giblet Gravy
1-2 cups giblets/reserved meat from turkey, cooked
1-2 cups shredded dark meat turkey (from the bottom of the bird*)
4 cups turkey stock
2 teaspoons poultry seasoning
2 heaping tablespoons reserved uncooked stuffing mixture
3 tablespoons cornstarch
1/3 cup cold water
Freshly ground pepper

*If you want to make this gravy before the turkey is done cooking (like I do)  buy a half-dozen extra turkey thighs, and brine them with the turkey. Rinse and place in a stock pot with the giblets and neck from the turkeys. Cover with cold water (about 6 cups) and bring to a simmer, covered. Simmer 2-3 hours, adding water as necessary to maintain 8 cups of liquid.


Using a sauce-pot, bring the stock to a boil.  Add the shredded meat and giblets, poultry seasoning, and raw stuffing to the mixture.

In a separate bowl, mix the cornstarch and water, and add to the boiling stock, stirring constantly. Reduce the heat and continue to cook for 2 to 3 minutes.

Add salt and pepper, to taste.



This recipe is part of our traditional Christmas menu (but it works just as good for Thanksgiving) of:

Salt-brined Roast Turkey
Garlic Mushroom Stuffing
Garlic Mashed Potatoes
Giblet Gravy
Cranberry BBQ Sauce
Simple Grilled Asparagus
Feather Rolls
Pumpkin Praline Pie

All of these recipes are available in our Christmas menu post.

Have a great Thanksgiving (and use those giblets!)

Chef Perry



Perfect Wine Pairings for Your Thanksgiving Feast

This post, the final in our “Thanksgiving Thursday” Series, comes from my friend and fellow food (and wine) blogger, Alina Ferguson, of the smashing wine blog, One Girl, One Glass, One World!

Here are some great tips on the perfect pairings for your Thanksgiving Feast!

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Thankgiving Wine Pairing

A Thanksgiving Wine Primer
Alina Ferguson, Guest Blogger

Thanksgiving is, by a foodie standard, the uber holiday. Everyone stresses the perfect turkey, the perfect sides, the perfect desserts and the holy grail…the perfect wine pairings.

The typical Thanksgiving dinner has a myriad of flavors. Turkey. Mashed potatoes. Green bean casserole. Macaroni & cheese (that may just be my family…). Stuffing/dressing. Cranberry sauce. An assortment of sweets for dessert.

What is a perfectionist to do when it comes to wine pairings and Thanksgiving dinner?

Here’s what will be on my table:

Sparkling: Yes. That stuff that’s meant for celebrations. Sparkling wine isn’t just for celebrating a promotion or the new year any more. Sparkling wine adds a nice versatility to the table, as it can easily pair with everything from appetizers to dessert. My recommendations: Michelle Brut, Treveri Cellars Blanc de Blanc Brut or Rosé and Mumm Napa Brut Rosé, Brut Prestige or Cuvée M.

Rosé: A nice dry rosé is always welcome throughout the year, but there’s something special about the pairing of turkey and rosé.

My recommendations: speak with your local wine shop specialist to see what they have in stock. My personal preference lies within the Provençal and Rhône style rosé’s. A nice Rosé of Pinot Noir is also divine.

White: Riesling. Without a doubt, the balance of acidity and sweetness in Riesling makes it super friendly with the myriad of flavors on the table.

My recommendations: Personally, I’m on a big Washington Riesling kick, so anything from Washington of course tops the list, but an Alsatian or German Rieslings are divine as well.

Red: Pinot Noir and Gamay Noir (Beaujoulais) are the classic answer to this question. But why play it safe? Experiment with a Syrah or Merlot-based blend. You’d be surprised how a nice Merlot or Syrah can pair with roasted turkey.

My recommendations: Owen Roe Ex Umbris Syrah, Helix Syrah by Reininger Winery and Basel Cellars Merriment or Claret.

Now, if you have a special bottle that you’ve been dying to open…the best advice comes from my dear friend, Jeff Weissler of Pairings Portland Wine Shop‘s latest newsletter: Drink that yummy, special wine (the one you’ve picked out and have been waiting to open), before your guests arrive!

Why? Chances are it’ll get lost in the orchestra of so many flavors and a crowded full plate! Having said that, sometimes it’s all about the sharing. :)

About Alina

All it took was one head-clearing, stress relieving drive to show me what the wine world has to offer. That drive ignited a passion…that passion fueled a desire to learn more…that desire to learn more led to a feeling to share what I was learning, thus this blog was born.

Join me through my trials & tribulations in learning about the world of wine…and my attempt to bring something that has can be pretentious and overwhelming down to earth and break the air of pretentiousness. Oh, and every so often, there’s food, beer and cocktails involved…

You can check out Alina’s One Girl, One Glass, One World blog here, and be sure to follow her on Facebook and Twitter as well!


Saving an Over-Salted Dish

SimplySmartDinnerPlans subscriber Anna, asks:

I’m still learning how to cook and sometime have issues with over or under-spicing my dishes, especially with salt. How do I fix an over-salted dish, or can I? – Anna H.

Thanks for your question, Anna!

We have all, at one time or another, gotten too generous with the salt shaker. Sometimes it’s a slip of the hand, and sometimes we just forget to take into account how much a liquid will reduce (which intensifies the flavors – especially salt.)

First, and foremost…


Aside from the lid of the shaker coming off mid-sprinkle (and we’ll talk about that  a second) most dishes that have been over salted, CAN be saved.

However, the best advice I can give you is…don’t over-salt your food.

(Duh – right?)

Seriously, before we take on the task of un-salting, here are three keys to NOT over-salting/over spicing in the first place:

Saving an over-salted dish

1. Taste your dish every few minutes during the cooking. This is a cornerstone of good cooking. The taste, consistency, and intensity of salts, herbs, and spices, can and will change dramatically over the cooking time of a dish. The more ingredients, the more wildly the flavor combinations will vary.

Taste often, and adjust with a light hand. As my father used to tell the cooks in his kitchen: it’s a lot easier to add a little more salt, than it is to take it back out.

Saving an over-salted dish

2. Never add salt (or spices) directly from the container. It’s very hard to judge, especially with white salt, how much is actually going onto the food. Add steam, smoke, etc., and it’s nearly impossible.

If you watch food TV, you’ll notice that most chefs measure a little seasoning into the palm of their hands, and add it to the food from there. This is because they have learned over the years to know exactly what a 1/2 teaspoon, a teaspoon, a tablespoon, etc., looks like in their palm, and unlike a shaker or container, all that can end up in the pot is what they’ve pre-measured into their hand.

If you do the same, you’ll virtually eliminate over-seasoning issues in your kitchen.

3. Wait to salt. With most foods, it doesn’t really matter at what point during the cooking process that salt is added (pasta being an exception, as it must be boiled in salted water), so wait until the dish is almost done, before adding the majority of the salt.

That way, issues like natural saltiness, or reductions are less likely to surprise you in the finished dish.

Saving an Over-Salted Dish

Saving an Over-Salted Dish

Things like pasta and boiled veggies are fairly simple. If you catch it early (which is why, again, it’s important to taste, taste, and taste again, at all steps of the cooking process!) you can change out the simmering water, with fresh (unsalted) simmering water, and that will usually draw the excess saltiness out.

Note: never, never, never rinse pasta!

Saving an over-salted dish

For hunks of meat, ground meat, steaming veggies, etc., about all you can do is rinse (cold food-cold water, hot food-hot water), pat dry, return it to the pan, and re-season.

Saving an over-salted dish

Soups, stews, and sauces: peel and slices raw potato (russets seem to work best) and add them to a slowly simmering liquid. The potato will draw in the salty liquid. Remove the cooked potatoes and replace the liquid (with unsalted liquid).

Repeat as needed.

Want to take the hassle out of meal planning? For super-simple, healthy and delicious dinner recipes, check out our FREE weekly meal plans and shopping lists! Your free membership helps us teach valuable cooking skills to at-risk youth!

Sometimes, in dishes like a casserole, chili, or a pasta dish that’s already been combined, about the only thing you can do is add more of the main ingredients (meat, pasta, rice, veggies) that have been cooked without out seasoning, mix them with the original ingredients, and continue cooking to dilute the saltiness.

With this method, if possible, be sure to give the whole dish an occasional stir while it’s finishing.

Saving an over-salted dish

Make sure to add more of your non-salty favoring ingredients (herbs, spices, etc.,) so the dish doesn’t become bland.

Also, if your dish would be complimented with an acidic component (and most are) try adding a little lemon or lime juice, as this will often reduce the perceived saltiness.Saving an over-salted dish

If none of that works, serve with lots of beer. :)

(I’m kidding…sort of…)

Chef Perry

PS – How about you? Any tips you can add for saving an over-salted dish?


Tips for Making Thanksgiving Extra Special


Our friend Gina at Green Clean by G, shares some great tips in her free monthly e-newsletter.

Here’s one of my favorites for November:


Use That Fine China!
You know that fancy china, pretty table linens or fragrant candle you’ve been saving for a “special occasion”?

Why not treat Thanksgiving (and your guests) as extra special and pull them out? I recently hosted a farm-to-table dinner party where guests enjoyed cooking and eating with me.

Though it would be easy to have said the occasion wasn’t “fancy enough” to use my fine china from my grandmother, I chose to up the ante on the night and my guests all commented on how special they felt to enjoy using my fanciest dishes.

So pull out whatever items you’ve been saving and enjoy them!

Your guests will feel special and so will you!


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Green Clean by G offers housecleaning, organizing, meal preparation and lots more. See a list of their services, here.

All of Gina’s cleaning products are homemade, organic cleansers that are green for the environment, ecologically responsible and both people and pet-friendly, using dōTERRA essential oils from a local small business owner and other non-toxic, chemical-free ingredients.

You can sign up for Green Clean by Gina’s free monthly newsletter, here, and follow them on Facebook as well, for lots more great tips and ideas!