Archive for the 'Cooking' Category

Mutant Turkey

In my defense, I’ve never actually cooked a turkey. Sure I’ve seen them done, I’m no stranger to the kitchen during Thanksgiving preparation, but I’ve never had to do it on my own. That is, until last year.

I have no idea what possessed me to blurt out, “I’ll cook this year,” when the family gathered around the table to strategize the holiday. I should’ve clued in it wasn’t as easy as I thought when there was a large collective sigh of relief and everyone readily agreed it was a wonderful idea. Instead, I was too busy imagining the glory of everyone telling me what a fabulous cook I was and how it was the best turkey they’d ever eaten. I began researching turkey recipes immediately, until I found “the one”. This recipe guaranteed your family would rave and insist you make it every year.

I was confident as I selected a meat thermometer for dummies, no pop-up timers for this girl, and the perfect turkey, a beautifully wrapped twenty pound behemoth. I’d done the math and decided that for six people a twenty pound bird was a must. I’d even talked turkey with a woman in line at the checkout, giving her pointers on what she should do.

The night before Thanksgiving, still dreaming of greatness, I prepared a brine to soak my fully-thawed turkey in overnight. I felt like a gourmet chef as I’d never seen my mother brine her dried out old turkeys. Everything I’d read promised that the salt/sugar solution would ensure the bird stayed tender, moist, and melt off the bone. I even remembered to take out the neck and giblets, I’d done a lot of turkey prep reading, and submerged the bird overnight.
The morning of, I rinsed the turkey thoroughly and stuffed the cavity with apples and onions, something else I’d never seen Mom do but the recipe called for it and after all it’d come with a guarantee. I inserted the thermometer into the thigh as directed, put the turkey in a cooking bag, and placed it in the oven — setting the timer for three hours per the directions.

The timer buzzed and I checked the thermometer. It showed the right temperature so I took out the turkey and it was a delicious golden brown. I mentally patted myself on the back as I cut into the bird and I swear it gobbled. It wasn’t done. No big deal, it happens, right? I put the bird back in the bag, reinserted the thermometer, and put it back in the oven for another hour.

My family waited with anticipation for the timer to go off. An hour later, the thermometer indicated it was again 180 degrees so I pulled it out and cut into the thigh meat. It gobbled again in protest, still raw. Back in. Back out. Still raw.

We played this game a little more, and then I sliced off some of the more done parts and nuked them in the microwave as the side dishes were getting cold and Three-feet-of-fun was starving. I put the turkey back in the bag, didn’t bother with the thermometer this time, it was obviously defective, and flung it back in the oven.
It baked while we ate, while we did the dishes, and while we ate pie. I took it out of the oven again and cut into it. Still raw, still gobbling. Fed up, I put it back in the oven and turned the temperature down. I told my husband to make sure it didn’t catch on fire and I went out shopping. My husband forgot about it and when I got back four hours later, I pulled it out of the oven and cut into it again. I couldn’t believe it, it was still raw.

I ended up baking that mutant turkey the rest of the day and night and it never did get completely cooked. My dreams were shattered. Maybe I’ll start cooking it on Halloween next year. That is if the family lets me.

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Beyond the Sandwhich part3

In this third installment of Beyond the Sandwich, we’re looking at lamb.

This meal is ideal for the day after your holiday lamb leftovers and when you might want something lighter.

Mediterranean Lamb Salad

Romaine lettuce
Field greens
Greek olives
Spanish Olives (with or without pimientos)
Fresh garlic
Fresh basil (not the dried flakes)
Burpless cucumbers
Feta cheese
Greek vinaigrette (or other vinaigrette of choice)
Leftover lamb sliced thin
Cracked pepper (optional)

Wash the tomatoes and cucumbers
Slice tomatoes in eighths and the cucumbers into thin slices and then in half
Cover the tomatoes and cucumbers with the dressing, add 1/2 t of fresh garlic, cover and chill during remaining steps

Wash and drain all of the greens
Slice about 4 long leaves romaine in small bite-sized pieces
Add the field greens to the romaine and toss together gently
Add the olives–about 1/4 of each (or more to your desire)
Add the feta and chilled marinating cucumbers and tomatoes (include liquid)
Toss all of the above together to cover all leaves and olives lightly (add more dressing if necessary)

Lay the above into a bed on plates.
Wash and pat dry the basil.
Gently lay the fresh basil in the center of the plated mixture. (Have fun with it and make a design with the basil leaves.)
Lay the sliced lamb on top of the basil and serve.

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Beyond the Sandwich: Making Use of Holiday Left-overs (part two)

In this installment of Beyond the Sandwich, we’re looking at turkey. There always seem to be leftovers when you make a turkey, and after a while, turkey sandwiches can get a little boring. Here are two easy recipes to breathe new life into those turkey leftovers: turkey tortellini soup and warm turkey burritos/wraps.

First, set aside some turkey breast for the burritos/wraps.

Turkey Tortellini Soup


Turkey (still on the bone)
Stewed tomatoes
While the turkey is boiling, wash spinach and remove the spines from the leaves. Set aside.
Carefully remove bones from the liquid and discard them. You may need to use the slotted spoon to help gather the smaller bones. Use a pair of tongs to return any meat collected in the spoon back to the soup.

Add the tomato sauce and stewed tomatoes to the mixture.

Add a handful of basil (Note: other spices are not necessary as the soup will have the flavoring of whatever spices were used to season the turkey initially before cooking.)

Bring mixture to a low boil, stirring intermittently. If the mixture is too thick, gradually add cupfuls of water until it is at your desired consistency.

Simmer for 20 minutes

Bring mixture back up to a boil and add the tortellini. Cook according to manufacturer’s directions.

When tortellini is al dente (or near it) gently add the spinach to the soup by the handful and stir it into the soup. As each handful of spinach wilts down, add another of fresh spinach.
Reduce heat to a simmer and cook until all spinach is wilted.

Serve and enjoy.

Warm Savory Turkey Burritos/Wraps
(Note: these can be served cold as well, just omit the melting directions)

Large, round flat bread/tortillas (either wheat or corn)
Field greens/lettuce (optional)
1 T olive oil
1 medium Red onions (chopped)
Chopped tomatoes
Scallion /green onion (chopped)
Block of sharp cheddar cheese (shredded)

Optional Sauce:
Chipotle powder
Black pepper

Cutting board
Small whisk (or fork)
Small bowl (for the sauce)
Cheese grater

Prepare sauce and refrigerate
In a small bowl, add about ¼ tsp of chipotle powder to mayonnaise and whisk, blending well. (Add more or less of each to taste.) Dash with a sprinkle of ground black pepper to taste.

Prepare wrap
Preheat oven to 350° F.

Shred the cheddar cheese and set aside

Wash the lettuce/field greens and set aside (if using for the cold wrap)

Cut the turkey breast into long, thin strips (about ¼ to ½ inch wide)

Chop the scallions, red onion and tomatoes and mix together. Set aside.

Gently warm the tortillas/flatbread in the oven. (You can also steam them if you have a large steamer.)

When warmed, remove from oven and layer the turkey and cheese, lengthwise in the center.

Return to oven to melt cheese/heat turkey. Watch carefully as cheese melts. When cheese starts to melt, remove from oven and layer on the onion/tomato mixture.

Top with the sauce and roll up or fold into thirds. (This last part has to be done fairly quickly.)

For a cold wrap, still warm the bread but skip heating the turkey and cheese. Instead layer on the lettuce/greens, turkey, cheese, onion/tomato mixture and sauce. Roll up and enjoy.

Next up…Left-over Lamb

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Beyond the Sandwich: Making Use of Holiday Left-overs

We’re hosting Easter dinner this year for the extended family of 15, which means that despite the gazillion-pound ham that I bought at the market yesterday, there will be left overs. There always are. And of course, with left overs comes the lingering question of what to do with them to make them interesting for the next couple of days, and maybe even for a not-too-distant lunch, snack or dinner. Sure, I could send some home with the family as they each depart for their own homes, but that still leaves whatever is left for us to contend with. Whether you’re having ham, turkey or lamb for Easter (or any other holiday), these recipes may help make greater use of your leftovers too.

Disclaimer: Please forgive any missing quantities or measurements. I cook like my mom and grandma: part alchemy, part inspiration, part magic and a whole lot of love.

What to do with left-over ham: Savory Split-Pea Soup

You’re probably thinking “ick.” But this split pea soup will delight even the biggest naysayer. (I know, because my husband loves it.) If you have a ham with the bone in, save it, wrap it well in parchment paper or a freezer bag and refrigerate overnight or freeze if it will be longer than a day or two before using. (Don’t forget to put the date on it.) Do the same with some of the meat.

Ham bone (optional)
Left over ham—diced (about 1 cup)
1 16 oz package of split peas
vegetable or chicken stock/broth (about 6 cups)
Sea salt
1 T. Ground black pepper
1 T. Yellow curry powder
2 T. Cilantro or recaito
One onion peeled and diced
Several cloves of garlic diced or pressed
One to two whole carrots, peeled and sliced into disks
Olive oil
fresh parsley or cilantro
sour cream or half-and-half
optional: sherry or sauterne

Stock pot
Wooden spoon
Rubber spatula
Blender or food processor

1 Wash and drain peas. Set aside. (You can soak them in warm water while they are set aside.)
2 In the stock pot, place 2 T olive oil
3 On medium heat sautee the onion, garlic and 1 T cilantro until the onion is clear
4 Reduce heat slightly and add the ham, sautee for about five minutes
5 Reduce heat again and add 1 cup of stock/broth
6 Add in the ham bone and add more broth gradually until the bone is covered (if not using the ham bone skip to #10 )
7 Increase heat again to medium-high and bring to a low rolling boil
8 After mixture boils, reduce heat and simmer until the meat falls off of the bone
9 Carefully remove the bone from the liquid and discard
10 Add the remaining broth (you can substitute one of the cups of broth with water or dry white wine)
11 Add the peas, carrots, 1 T of recaito or cilantro, 1 t of curry and the salt and pepper
12 Increase heat again and bring to a rolling boil
13 Reduce heat, cover and let simmer until the peas are tender (use a the back of a spoon and see if you can smush the peas against the side of the pot)
14 Remove from heat and let cool about 10 minutes
15 Carefully ladle the mixture into the blender or food processor
16 Add remaining curry (or more to taste) and blend until a velvety smooth texture and a uniform color
17 Remove from blender/food processor with a rubber spatula and serve in bowls
18 Sprinkle a bit more curry over the top and add a dollop of sour cream or swirl half-and-half in gently to the soup in small measures.
19 Garnish with a sprig of parsley or fresh cilantro and serve.

This soup can be served warm or cold. It also can be served in bread bowls for a fun touch. And, as a vegetarian option, skip the meat steps use vegetable stock. For added texture, use diced potatoes instead of meat, and add when adding the carrots and peas. Use the potatoes as the gauge for when to remove the mixture from the heat and blend.

Next on beyond the sandwich, ideas for left over turkey.

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Once A Month Cooking and Oatmeal Bars


In the essence of keeping to our healthy resolutions, hubby and I have been moving our diet to a more plant based one. We have cut out all red meat and pork, leaving only seafood and fowl. We feel better and have found that our grocery bill is lower, giving us extra money to spend on the other items we enjoy to eat.

One of my favorite bloggers (and a great person to know), Marye Audet at Baking Delights posted a really comprehensive How-to on Once a Month Cooking. This is probably the best guide with a realistic approach I have found. I’m not saying that just because I like her, it’s really that good.

Since we can buy more, we can put away more. Freezing and dehydrating are two of the best ways to keeping food fresh longer, though I have not tried dehydrating a whole meal yet. That will come eventually! As a work at home professional, it is essential for me to be able to throw together a meal quickly. Healthy meals and fast healthy meals are exactly what we need! I need something quick for the mornings, one child off to school and the two others small enough to be starving to death before their sister is out the door.

Our children do like to eat some sweets and my mother in law would bring the kids doughnuts occasionally for a morning treat. Even once in a while is too much when the doughnuts in question are covered in chocolate glaze and stuffed with whatever can fit inside.

So, I experimented with a sweet but healthy breakfast treat. Pre-packaged oatmeal squares and other types of breakfast ‘bites’ are available. I tend to avoid these because of the preservatives and other unnatural ingredients. So, this morning we had home-made oatmeal breakfast bars with fruit. So tasty and very filling!

I can post what went in, but not the exact amounts, because when I experiment, I throw caution to the wind! You can experiment with the ingredients on your own, I will try to estimate the amounts to give you a better chance of duplicating my results. These bars took about half an hour to bake up, your time may vary. You can place these in the fridge and keep for up to a week without freezing. Make a double batch and freeze a whole pan!

Super Oatmeal-Fruit Breakfast Fuel

2 cups Oat meal, plain (the kind in the big cylinder)
¾ cup flour (all purpose)
1 ½ cup low fat granola (I just used some from a cereal box with almonds and raisins)
½ cup raisins
2 bananas, sliced thin
2 eggs
1 cup milk (more or less)
3/4 cup brown sugar, packed

Preheat oven to 400 F.
Mix everything in a large bowl. It will be slightly ‘goopy’. The milk will not completely absorb, but try to get all of the flour mixed into the liquid. If the mix is too dry, add a little more milk. Once it is all completely mixed, pour into a pan that has been lined or oiled well.

Bake for 25-30 minutes. Check at 20 minutes for browning. The top of the bars should be dry with spotty golden brown areas. Remove from oven, cool until you can cut and handle the bars without being burned. Serve warm!

Posted in Uncategorized, Cooking, Healthy Living | 2 Comments »


Leftovers, leftovers, leftovers! What in the world am I going to do with all of these leftovers?

I am not sure what it is about leftovers, but for a day or two after a holiday meal people love to munch on what is left behind. Then, it gets boring. In some cases there is enough to last for a very long time, in others the food is gone by day two after the holiday. So far we’ve had potato pancakes, ham and cheese omelets, and killed off the rest of the vegetable platter. But, what in the world to do with the rest of it?

If you still have enough of each food, you can make your own TV dinners. On a paper plate put a portion of each item, just as if you are going to serve it. Wrap with plastic wrap, then aluminum foil. Freeze one plate each for your family members. Next month, you can have a mini holiday flavored feast. If you have odds and ends, toss it all into a large Ziploc bag, freeze, then add vegetables leftover from other meals during the next few weeks. Soon you will have enough frozen vegetables and bits of meat to make a soup or stew. Do not mix meats, as this may cause a weird flavor in your resulting stew. Ham and other pork, beef with beef, turkey with chicken, and so on. Use your imagination when it comes to cooking up the soup.

Something I plan to try today is sweet potato balls. The sweet potatoes were flavored with cinnamon, cloves, cherry, and pineapple. To this I will add a touch of flour, an egg, then roll in graham cracker crumbs. I will drop these in the deep fryer for a few minutes until they are golden brown. Served with honey, I can only imagine how great they will taste!

What do you do with your leftovers? Do you have a special treat you only make after the holidays?

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Blackberry Merlot Cake

Do you love blackberries? Love Blackberry wines? This cake is for the adult wine lovers in your home or on your guest list. So sweet, and perfect with a garnish of real blackberries on top of the glazed cake.

For a really gorgeous presentation, save the glaze to pour over each slice before serving. Place a few blackberries (or a handful if you really love them!) on top of the slice, then drizzle the glave over. Serve warm on a cold day.

1 box White Cake Mix
2/3 cup Blackberry Merlot
3 Eggs
½ cup vegetable oil

Mix all ingredients. Pour batter into a buttered and floured cake pans. A bundt pan is great for presentation. Bake according to the cake mix instructions. While cake is still warm, drizzle Blackberry Glaze over it.

½ cup Blackberry Merlot
2 cups powdered sugar

Mix Merlot and sugar together in a small saucepan. Heat on low until the mixture is hot, but not boiling and all lumps are gone. Immediately drizzle over the Blackberry Merlot Cake.

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Cooking For The Holidays

Sorry for the delay in updates. We had a huge snowstorm that knocked out the internet for a while. I must say, that while it made things slow down, the snow is really beautiful. I am originally from the south eastern united states and while we had snow, never in the amounts I get to enjoy here in the northeastern US.

With all of the cold, we have really enjoyed cooking and baking. Not only does it provide sustenance, it warms the house up! Who doesn’t like to be cozy on a chilly winter day? We have a tradition in our little family to make cookies for Christmas. Lots of cookies. Right now we have a gallon container filled to overflowing with Mexican Wedding Cakes, a small round biscuit type cookie that has a crumbly texture and is rolled in powdered sugar. Another plate holds a mountain of Moravian Spice Cookies, brown, paper thin, and fragrant. I also have a very special butter cookie I invented that uses tea as a flavoring, but it is reserved for my relaxation time, along with either a cup of hot tea or glass of red wine.

Traditions in food provides comfort, not only for you, but for your entire family. Each holiday and it’s respective traditions can build a lifetime of comfort for your children and grandchildren. You do not have to even have a family to begin your own traditions. My husband and I have a friend who has no living family, but yet each year he makes fudge for his friends. It is his own tradition that he began because he had no family to spend time with, no mother to make him cookies, cake, or candy. Now he has his own comfort and can pass this tradition on to his children, because he did marry a few years after we met him and have two children.

Do you have family traditions? Have you started your own? Share!

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Traditional Side Dishes

Side dishes are a little easier than the main dish, because so many sides for Thanksgiving are vegetables. Green beans, corn, mashed potatoes, and cranberries are just examples. You can take each one of those veggies and give them a tasty twist to wow your guests.

Fresh green beans are so very yummy when deep fried. Just pop them into hot oil a handful at a time and fry for 3-4 minutes. Plate them all lying in the same direction and sprinkle a bit of your favorite seasoning on top.

Corn can be brightened with the addition of chopped green and red peppers. A touch of sweetness will compliment the hot. Add in a touch of vegan safe sugar. (check with the company, some sugars are refined with charcoal from bones)

For your mashed potatoes, use vegatable broth as the mixing medium. It will give a great taste, plus add in a softer texture.

Fresh cranberries are easy to cook with! All you need to make your own cranberry sauce is a bag of cranberries, a little water, and some sugar. Pour the cranberries into a saucepan with about a cup and a half of water. Cook until the cranberries are soft (low heat). Add in sugar to sweeten the sauce to your preference. Remove from heat and stir vigorously, crushing the berries. If the sauce is too thin, slowly add a little cornstarch roux to the mix and stir until thickened. Orange peel added to the water, then removed before mixing will add in a great taste.

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A Tasty Halloween.

Hey, Halloween is tomorrow! What are YOU doing?

I’m getting the kids ready, looking for candy, and trying to decide if we’re going to dress the dog up. I also found a ton of Halloween decorations for 50% off retail, so I went a little crazy. The ront of the house looks like some sort of graveyard/crypt.

The best way I’ve found for decorating is to start my decoration shopping when the sales hit, then to continue shopping until everything is gone. That way, next year there is a huge box of things to choose from, all still brand new and at a fraction of the original cost. We also found some grea fabric for a dollar a yard, gauzy white and some black net. We enclosed the porch with the black, with the entryway open and strips of the fabric hanging down. Lights can go around your door, roof, windows, or bushes. With the white fabric, my two girls want to be ghosts. Talk about a cheap way to get out of costume purchases!

For tomorrow, it’s going to be a total grossfest around the kitchen. Moldy Breakfast Pizza will start it all off, lunch will be Monster Eyes, and supper will be a tasty concoction of Maggoty Mess. What kid wouldn’t be happy as a ghoul could be?

All of these recipes are easy and tasty. If you have just a few items on hand, you can make all of them.

Moldy Breakfast Pizza
Some breakfast sausage, crumbled.
Cheese for melting
Tomato, chopped
Parmesan cheese
Green food coloring

Use one egg for each slice of toast. Scramble with crumbled bacon or sausage and tomato. Place on warm, buttered toast, top with your child’s favorite cheese. Allow the cheese to melt. Mix a drop of green food coloring with the parmesan, try to get a nice mold color. Sprinkle the ‘mold’ on top of the pizz, then serve.

Monster EyesMake deviled eggs according to your favorite recipe. Pop one half of a pimento stuffed olive into the middle of the deviled egg. Serve.

Maggoty MessMaggoty Mess can be made quite easily. You can follow your favorite recipe for beef stew, then right before serving, add in cooked Orzo pasta. The pasta looks just like maggots!

Posted in Cooking, Holidays | 1 Comment »

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