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!

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.


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.


Corn & Tomatoes AGAIN

If you know me, you know I am obsessed with tomatoes.  By September 2013 I had already posted 75 times about tomatoes. I have lost count now.

And nothing goes better with tomatoes than corn! (and steak) I’m always looking for a twist on the corn and tomatoes pairing but this one might be a bit of a stretch.

Corn meal dusted fried chicken and a fresh tomato & vegetable “Ragu.”

plated chicken dish

Just use the standard “FEBruary” technique ( Flour, Egg, Breading) but replace the flour with fine corn meal and the breading with regular corn meal. (Doesn’t everybody have 2 kinds of corn meal in their pantry? LOL!) Oh and add some fine grated Parmesan cheese to the breading part to give it some yummy! (don’t to forget to season with salt and pepper!)

Now for the veggies! Garden fresh tomatoes are key. I happen to have some yellow and red!

Just start with a pan of hot olive oil and throw everything in…Its a quick process ..maybe 8-10 minutes total! ( you don’t want to over cook the asparagus!)

Here’s a couple other of my “twists” on corn and tomatoes! Here, Here and Here!


It’s The Most Wonderful Time of The Year!

Nope not Christmas… tomato season!!

This year my “supersonics” just keep on giving and although not quite as big as promised… (I blame that on the gardener not the garden) they are prolific! And the little yellow “pear” tomatoes are happily producing a handful a day at this point!

from the garden

After a while there are only so many BLTs you can eat before you need a chance of pace…


What? Wait?!!! did I really just write that? I never get tired of a BLT!

But the ugly truth is that when the tomatoes are producing faster than you can make sandwiches, there is only one thing left to do….


(or “gravy” as we like to say around Boston.) Here is all you need for a simple sauce…

assembled ingredients

Brown up the meats in a heavy bottom cast enamel pan in some olive oil, turn the heat down a bit and add the finely chopped garlic, dried spices and tomato paste. Let them “bloom” for a couple of minutes and de-glaze the pan with the chopped fresh tomatoes. I like to smooth things out with a tablespoon of sugar and of course don’t forget the salt & pepper. Note that I do coat the pork roast with plenty of salt, pepper and a little bit of onion powder before I brown it to a nice crust on all sides. The sausage is fine as is.

sauce in the making

Sauce in the making!

I like to let the whole thing simmer for at least 4 hours on lowish-medium heat and only serve it when the pork roast is basically fork tender. If you like a smoother sauce, remove the meats for a minute and take an immersion blender to the whole thing until it’s your level of smooth. Also I leave the seeds and skin on my tomatoes but you could easily poach and peel the tomatoes and strain the seeds out if that is your desire.

The finished sauce freezes beautifully and when you take some out around Christmas time it truly will be “the most wonderful time of the year” again!


Back Yard Adventures

I recently went on an adventure with my back yard grill.

I made turkey burgers.

A turkey burger hardly seems like an adventure but in my red-meat eating household, a turkey burger is a big adventure!

I looked up a few recipes and decided on a bit of a “Jamaican” influence for the flavor profile. I added in apple sauce to keep it moist, shredded carrot for texture and some unusual spices like nutmeg and ginger.

I used about a 1.25 lbs of regular ground turkey (white meat) and added a small onion which I whizzed up in the food processor till it was basically juice and a 4 0z snack cup of apple sauce plus one med carrot shredded finely. I threw in a beaten egg to hold it together and add even more fat/moisture. The spice blend was a 1/4 tsp each of nutmeg & ginger. 1 tsp of granulated garlic, plenty of ground black pepper and 2 tsp of seasoned salt. I also threw in a few hefty dashes of my favorite smokey hot sauce! The mix was pretty wet/loose but I wanted to keep it gluten-free and not add the usual bread crumbs so instead I added about 3 tb of rice flour, stirring them in 1 tablespoon at a time to carefully judge consistency. I think some chopped fresh cilantro might have been nice but I didn’t have any.

I formed the patties and grilled them on the a well-oiled backyard grill adding some Munster cheese! Ketchup or extra hot sauce is optional!