Talking Turkey

This time of year office talk inevitably turns to what everybody is doing for Thanksgiving and more importantly what they will be eating.  One co-worker mentioned that she really doesn’t eat much turkey throughout the year, while another mentioned that he uses it in some form a couple of times a week. Still another co-worker talked about how juicy her turkey burgers were.

Naturally all this turkey talk had me craving turkey well before the big day. It also made me think about how often I eat turkey. (not that much actually) At this point I couldn’t wait till the holiday to have some turkey – I needed to satisfy my craving soon with a little “pre-game” turkey dinner.

turkey dinner

I found a turkey breast that was reasonably sized ( there is only 2 in my house after all) and some beautiful veggies at the local public market.

I roasted them at the same time but in different pans. The veggies were spread on a sheet pan with parchment, coated in olive oil, salt, pepper and ground cumin.

The turkey breast was massaged with butter and sprinkled with salt, pepper, dried rosemary and poultry seasoning. The turkey breast sat atop a bed of diced onion, celery and apple. The turkey juices, melted butter and soft veggies makes a wonderful chunky sauce to serve alongside.

The turkey breast, once cooled, can be sliced thin to make the most wonderful turkey sandwiches!

Soup Season

It is soup season here in New England and homemade soup is often overlooked in favor of opening a can. I have opened many a can and will in the future I am sure, but this particular day I opted for an easy homemade version.

I used only a couple fresh items (celery, onion, chicken) and the rest came from the pantry and freezer.  It started out as a thought of “chicken corn chowder” but when I discovered that I actually only had a 1/4 of a bag of frozen corn in the freezer, it quickly became “use up some of the other random frozen veggies in the freezer soup.”

creamy chicken veggie and rice soup

I started by sauteing the cut up chicken pieces in butter. (The flavor is in the “brown!”) Next I sautéed the celery and onion  in the pan. (classic technique) I used a can of cream of mushroom soup (everybody’s “favorite recipe-add-in!”) to give the soup a rich creaminess. The frozen veggie selection could really be anything you like that happens to be hanging around your freezer: peas, squash cubes, you name it!  Some left over cooked rice at the end gave this soup a hearty nature.

The Recipe

1 1/2 cups +/- (3-4 small stalks) of celery ( I like to peel the strings first before dicing – it really makes a difference!)

1 1/2 cups +/-  (1/2 medium) onion – diced

1 cup frozen corn (fresh or frozen)

1 cup chopped/sliced carrots (fresh or frozen)

1 cup lima beans (frozen or fresh if you can get your hands on them!)

1 can (10 oz) cream of mushroom soup (I happen to have a version with roasted garlic too – it made a nice difference)

2 cups low sodium chicken broth/stock (heated up)

1 lb chicken cut into bite size pieces – no bones or skin. (I used white meat but dark would be delicious)

2 tsp poultry seasoning

1 tsp dry sage

2-4 tablespoons butter to saute ( use oil if you like instead)

Salt and pepper to taste/season

Coat the chicken pieces in 1 tsp of the poultry seasoning and a pinch of salt and pepper. Brown the pieces with 2 tb of butter in a heavy bottom pot over med-high heat. Remove and set aside. Add more butter if pot is too dry and saute the onions and celery with another pinch of S/P until softened and golden. Add the chicken pieces back in. De-glaze the pan with the 2 cups of stock. Add in the can of soup*.  Add the 2nd tsp of poultry seasoning and the dry sage. ( leave out the extra sage if you’re not a fan of a heavy sage-flavor.) Bring up to a low simmer. Add the corn, lima beans and carrots.** Let the soup simmer, partially covered, for 20-25 mins until chicken is fully cooked and tender. Add the cooked rice and warm through before serving.  Taste for seasoning and adjust salt and pepper to taste. NOTE: I don’t add the rice till just before serving so the soup doesn’t get too gummy.

* use a gluten-free brand of soup if you want this dish to be completely GF.

** if using raw carrots add them in with the celery and onion in the saute to help get them started cooking and softening.

Makes approximately 4-6 bowls depending on how big your servings.








A Bowl of Spicy Love

I am not sure what inspired me but I decided to make jambalaya for the first time. And strangely I had everything on hand but the celery and sausage. I know it’s down right amazing I didn’t have any Andouille sausage lying around the house given my love of “encased meats.”  (Sorry mom)

So after a quick trip to the market for those 2 key ingredients, I set about making a serious bowl of spicy love.

For a recipe I went right to an authority figure…. Emeril! I followed the recipe pretty closely – I only left out the chicken. Just decided to keep it to sausage and shrimp. Another small modification was the use of tomato sauce instead of fresh chopped tomato – it was just what I happened have.

Which leads me to an interesting note. Apparently one of the main differences between “Cajun” jambalaya and “Creole” jambalaya is the use of tomatoes. Creole uses tomatoes, Cajun does not. So as a tomato lover it is obvious which kind I am going to favor. But I think this is only a guideline and not a rule.

If you haven’t attempted to make jambalaya because you thought it was complicated or took a long time – you would be wrong. This was easy and quick to make! my only regret is not making it sooner!


“Big Soup”

I bet you have the makings of minestrone soup in your cabinets right now.

I did. So that is what I made recently on a fall evening.

“Big Soup” is a loose Italian translation to describe a soup that has lots of goodies in it like minestrone. The origin of minestrone soup (aka “Big Soup”) comes from Italy and is based on the idea of stretching or using up leftovers.  A dish that is filling and inexpensive. I am sure that even a small survey of Italy would result in no two soups being exactly alike. And so just as in Italy where the soup is composed of lots of things, so was mine.


I started with bacon. Added onions and garlic. Diced potatoes, white navy beans and gluten-free pasta to make it hearty.  A flavorful broth of tomatoes and chicken stock with a dash of my secret “flavor weapon” A1 Steak Sauce!

I happen to have some fresh herbs in the house so in went fresh basil and even fresher, some parsley at the end.

The recipe (makes a lot!- like 6-8 hearty servings)

1/2 lb thick cut bacon, cut into small bits

1 1/2 medium white onion diced

2 large cloves of garlic minced

3 small white potatoes diced

1 can ( 15.5 oz) white navy beans or whatever bean you like (rinsed)

1 can ( 14.5 oz) diced tomatoes or chopped or stewed or whatever you have

32 oz box of chicken stock/broth ( low sodium is best)

1/8 cup each chopped fresh basil and parsley

2 tablespoons A1 sauce

1-2 lemon wedges or 1/2 of a small lemon

Elbow noodles cooked to package directions – about a 1/4 cup ( measured dry) per serving

Render the bacon in a large heavy-bottom pot. Until it’s just crisping.  Remove the bacon and set aside. Remove the bacon fat and set aside. Wipe out the tiny bits of bacon still floating around. (they will just burn later) The goal is not to scrub the pot bottom, but to just get the loose stuff floating with the last the fat. Add the onions and a bit of the reserved fat back in and cook for 3-5 mins on med until onions are getting color and softening. Add back in fat as needed to keep things going. Add the potatoes and a pinch each of salt and pepper, cook for another 3-5 mins. Add the minced garlic and cook a couple mins. Now deglaze pan with the tomatoes and stock, add beans and bacon. Turn heat down to low simmer and add the A1 sauce and fresh basil. Stir and cover. Let low simmer for about 30 mins until potatoes just tender. Taste for seasoning and adjust salt and pepper as needed. Add a squeeze of lemon wedge if you have one on hand and along with fresh parsley. The lemon just “perks” things up and the parsley adds a bit of freshness.

Ladle over hot, just boiled elbow noodles and serve.

Production Notes: I like to boil the noodles separate so they don’t over cook  sitting in soup. And since I never really bring the soup to a high enough boil to cook the noodles, it’s just better to cook them on the side. This way you can let the soup stay warm in the pot longer without mushy, swollen pasta.

This could easily be adapted to a slow-cooker recipe.


Hot “Stuffed”

Stuffed Cherry Peppers are a popular item around these parts.

These are the small, bright red peppers sometimes known as “pimiento” but usually referred to as “cherry peppers” based on their size and color. (Capsicum annuum for those who are really into it) They have a fairly low rating on the Scoville scale of heat but this doesn’t mean they don’t pack a bite of heat. For me they have an initial “prick” of heat but it subsides pretty quickly. But everyone is different so proceed with your level of caution.

Here in New England you will find these little guys pickled and served up along side platters of lamb kebobs or even more popular… as part of an Antipasto platter stuffed with a bit of salty cheese and prosciutto.

After spying fresh ones for sale at the city farm market, I recently decided that these little guys might serve as a nice vessel for a meat stuffing thereby elevating their status to “hot appetizer.” Just imagine these guys feeding the masses at your next football party or even as part of a fancy “passed hors d’oeuvres” affair.

I used a bit of ground pork (fatty butt to be specific) but a more lean cut of ground pork or beef would be good. (or lamb, yum…)  I added only seasoned salt, ground black pepper and fresh minced basil to the meat before stuffing the peppers and pushing a little hunk of Havarti cheese into the center. (Instead of stuffing the cheese in, you could add it as a topping in the last 10 mins of baking instead using Parmesan etc)

Here was my process….

remove the tops and all of the seeds to keep the heat down

Remove the tops and all of the seeds to keep the heat down.


perfect little vessels

Perfect little vessels – They can only hold barely a tablespoon.

Pack in the flavor with seasoned meat and a cube of cheese

Pack in the flavor with seasoned meat and a cube of cheese.

baked for 20 mins at 400 degrees with a drizzle of olive oil

Baked on an oiled sheet pan for 20 mins at 400 degrees with a drizzle of olive oil.                                  Maybe top with minced, fresh basil if you are feeling fancy.

Production notes

A pound of ground meat would fill approximately 24 peppers depending on the actual size of the peppers. You would probably use about 1/2 cup of fresh minced basil per pound of ground meat. About 2 tablespoons of seasoned salt per pound of meat and some good healthy pinches of ground black pepper.  The cheese cubes were tiny at about 1/4″ x 1/4″ in size. Any cheese would be good here, but one that melts willingly would work best.

Remember When…

Who remembers the fast food chain Wendy’s® when they had the salad bar in their restaurants? They had nicer seating and real plants too back in the day. There was a time when they straddled the space between “fast-food and fast casual.”

My father loved that place and when I was little (and it was his turn to get dinner) we would go there and get the salad bar and baked potatoes with chili on top. (chili-topped baked potatoes was a menu item then – now they still serve chili and the baked potatoes but you have to order each and combine them yourself.)

As a result every time I make chili I serve it over baked potatoes. It always reminds me of those times and it makes things just a bit more hearty and filling. The potatoes offer a little more nutritional punch then corn chips or rice. The chili and the potatoes can all be done a day ahead and reheated at the time of the event. Plus if you are having folks over for a big game or even if you just want to get the kids interested you can do a topping bar of favorites like shredded cheese, green onions, cilantro, chopped red onion, sour cream…. you get the idea!

The best chili is the simplest chili – 2lbs of browned ground meat (turkey in this case – shhhh don’t tell hubby!) and 1 small can (4oz) of tomato paste, 1 large can ( 12oz) of ground, peeled tomatoes, 1/2 of a green bell pepper and 1/2 of a white onion diced. 2 heaping tablespoons of your favorite chili spice blend. 1 whole lime juiced and some salt and pepper. Add a cup of hot water if it’s too thick. 1-2 hours simmering and you are ready to go!

Author’s note:

My dad passed away in March 2011 after a long and happy life, but this week is his birthday and I think he always considered the cool weather and the beautiful New England fall leaves a personal birthday gift to him. He loved everything about New England and I think of him a lot in October.


A Greek “Affair”

This time of year there are all kinds of “fairs” happening – craft sales, church penny sales, country fairs and my favorite… the Greek fair!

As fate would have it we were just too busy to even squeeze this fair in but I had to satisfy my hankering for some lamb somehow. So I carved out a few minutes to get some lamb on the grill.

I coated the meat in some olive oil, lemon juice and Greek seasoning from Penzeys. The blend is perfect not only on lamb but beef too! (And Penzeys – if your reading this feel free to send me a year’s supply for my free advertising! )

Grill until done to your liking – I like mine medium to medium well and served with a Greek pasta salad with feta cheese. Since the grill was on I tossed on  sliced zucchini and yellow squash too. You can use the spice blend to make up a light salad dressing, use your favorite bottle or simply use an olive oil, red wine vinegar mix with salt, pepper and dried oregano.

Served family style "ompah!"

Served family style “ompah!”


Note: use gluten-free pasta if desired!