Friday, November 25, 2011

Life After Turkey Sandwiches

So, it just wouldn't be Thanksgiving without some type of cooking dilemma. This year, my generous mother-in-law was unable to purchase a bird that she felt was big enough to feed our crew (8 adults and 4 children). So she bought two, one 14.6 lb turkey and one 9.6 lb turkey breast. Of course, two rather large birds don't exactly fit in her single oven at the same time. I'm not going to go into any of the panic or research or soliciting of opinions that went into figuring out how to deal with the second bird, because in the end all you need to know is that I cooked it, it was ready in time and it was gorgeous. was also completely unnecessary. The first turkey and its 14.6 lbs of poultry goodness was more than enough to feed us all and yield a heap of leftovers. Which means that we have currently over 9 pounds of leftover turkey. I like turkey sandwiches plenty but there's just no way I can dispatch that much turkey through lunch alone. Luckily my overage of turkey can be your good luck because this mishap sent me hunting through my archives in search of something, anything else we can do with turkey.

Before the guests even leave the house...
Whip up a brunch or luncheon broccoli and cheese quiche. The turkey will taste very different plus you'll make some room in the fridge before the weekend's even over.

Run with the Thanksgiving=Pie theme...
Turkey Pot Pie Turnovers will rescue even a dry bird.
Mushroom and Leek Pot Pie is an easy variant just substitute turkey for chicken.
This is the most traditional pot pie recipe I use, but sometimes classic is the way to go.
Go French Canadian and make a pork turkey pie. Drawback: You'll need a meat grinder. Bonus: You'll also use up a lot of leftover mashed potatoes.

Spice it up...
Add some cooked turkey to Portobello Quesadillas
White Turkey Chili - in the best news yet, this freezes like a dream. Stash some for when holiday shopping has you dreading dinner plans.
Enchiladas will mask the turkey nicely when you're feeling like you can't face it even one more time.

There's nothing more classic than chicken soup, try my Nana Grenon's turkey ragout for a Thanksgiving twist (this will also freeze well, BEFORE the dumplings are added). Check back next week, I'm going to try a gluten-free version for my father.
I can already feel my throat getting raw and sore. I will also be really relieved to get away from traditional Thanksgiving flavors. This Asian Noodle Soup is definitely going on the menu.

Even more...
Use dark meat turkey and cream to whip up an easy pasta.
Try a different turkey sandwich by tucking some in to this Monte Cristo
Who doesn't like a nice baked pasta dish with tomato sauce? This is also a great make and freeze option, just use turkey in place of the chicken.

Saturday, November 19, 2011


In all honesty, Thanksgiving fills me with a sense of dread. It's all well and good to fancy myself a good cook from behind the safety of my keyboard. No one ever actually tastes my cooking. Other than Ryan and sometimes my parents and sometimes Stellacarolyn. But Thanksgiving is the time when I feel this incredible pressure to shine. Which is ridiculous, because I'm not even making some fancy gourmet Thanksgiving menu with a special theme (Southwestern! Original Pilgrim!). I'm just trying to get a turkey on the table with a minimum of cardboard flavor and a maximum of pleasantly starchy sides. This should be completely within my skill set. But it isn't. I estimate I've made a grand total of 3 turkeys in my life. I'm no expert. So I have to do something that I have very little practice at and somehow not be awful at it. It's like all my cooking cred is on the line on that day. And then there's the compounding factor that I make Thanksgiving at someone else's house. Which means I don't know where anything is. I'm trying to list everything I'll need in advance so that I'll be as well prepared as possible, but nothing really prepares you for hunting down a cup measurer or a rolling pin from the depths of someone else's cabinets. Then there's the fact that I feel like a total ass when I get stressed out in front of people. So I need to freak out very quietly and inside my head. Ryan knows this and so always offers to make the dinner so I don' t have to freak out, but he just doesn't get how much it makes me feel like a failure to not make the dinner. Right? I'm the one with the stupid blog. I should be able to make Thanksgiving dinner, shouldn't I?

Just in case you're making Thanksgiving dinner, you have my deepest sympathies, and here, some recipes that might be of use to're on your own for the bird.

Sweet Potato Soup
Winter Panzanella

Dinner Rolls
Gingered Cranberry Sauce
Mashed Sweet Potatoes

Vegetarian Main:
Stufffed Squash - fine, my recipe calls for sausage, but I make it without about as often as I make it with.

Apple Cake

Apple Turnovers
Sweet Potato Pie

Monday, November 14, 2011

Why I Love My Husband

Growing up, I never was allowed to eat processed food. I wasn't even really aware of the whole "not allowed" part. We just didn't. It has often lead to cravings for things that I'm not actually even sure I like. Once in high school I wanted nothing but Spaghettios. For weeks, I was dying for Spaghettios. And then I had them, and they were SO gross. But tater tots? Tater tots are not gross. Tater tots are crispy balls of joy. And when we were first dating and I had a fabulous, talented repertoire of say, maybe, two whole dishes that I knew how to cook, we ate a lot of chicken nuggets and tater tots. They weren't regular chicken nuggets though, they were some special organic, all white meat, magically healthy chicken nuggets that I got from a health food store near where I lived. It's been years. (Fine, a freakin' decade!) But the other day, I decided that I really, really, really wanted to eat chicken nuggets and tater tots. And then I searched. And I could not find a single store bought nugget that I felt okay about. So I didn't buy any and I whined about it loudly and frequently. And this is why I love my husband. Because he made me, especially from scratch, without a single word, comment or expectation, homemade chicken nuggets. They are delicious. They might not fool a kid raised on the packaged (or fast food restaurant) ones, but they certainly were enough for me.


2 boneless skinless breasts
1 t paprika
1/2 t red pepper flakes
salt and pepper
bread crumbs

Preheat the oven to 400 F.
Salt and pepper the chicken breasts generously. Cut the breasts in chicken nugget sized pieces. In a small bowl, whisk an egg. Add a bit of pepper to the egg. On a plate, put the bread crumbs, between a half cup and a cup, mix in a teaspoon of paprika and the red pepper flakes, a bit more salt and pepper. Then take the raw nugget hunks and dip in egg, shake, then dip in the breadcrumbs, shake again and place on a cooking sheet lined with tinfoil. Bake at 400 F for 10-12 minutes. You can flip them at 5 minutes.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Pretty Is as Pretty Does

When I picked out this recipe to make, I was fondly recalling one of my favorite Philadelphia restaurants, Melograno. They're a relatively big deal in a fairly big space right now, but when we used to go, they had a tiny corner spot just a few blocks from our apartment. Despite a pretty tasty looking menu, I always ordered the same thing, beet ravioli. Here, read the menu description for yourself - homemade pasta filled with roasted beets & mascarpone cheese finished in a brown butter sage sauce and poppy seeds. It's like candy (unless of course, you're someone for whom beets taste like dirt. J, look away honey, it's going to get worse before it gets better). Dessert for dinner, in a delicate pasta shell. So in my head, this was going to be roughly the same thing. After all, it had pasta, beets, poppy seeds and brown butter. This version was much earthier, probably from the farro pasta and the goat cheese rather than ravioli with sweet mascarpone, but definitely still tasty. It wasn't all that filling though, so you may prefer it as an appetizer or with substantial sides. Also, it was seriously, mind bogglingly, pink. So, you know, if you ever need something pink to eat...

adapted from epicurious

1 lb red beets, peeled and destemmed, this was about 4 bigger than a golf ball, smaller than a tennis ball sized beets
1/8 C water
1/8 C olive oil
1/2 lb farro pasta (I'm sure you could use regular or whole-wheat)
4 T butter
1 T poppyseeds
1 t salt
1/4 C pasta water
a young, mild, goat cheese

So, I tried to do what the recipe said in terms of roasting beets, and it didn't really work. I used a 400 F oven and cut the beets into quarters. I placed them in foil lined roasting pan and added the olive oil and water. I roasted them for an hour, but they weren't done. I upped the temperature to 450 for the last 15 minutes and it was fine. Let them cool.

Make the pasta according the the box directions.

Place the butter in a pan large enough to accommodate the pasta. Turn the heat on high and let the butter sit for 2 minutes. It should get to be a nice golden brown color. Add the poppyseeds and toast for 2 more minutes. Then add the beets, and mix well. Add your pasta water and again stir to combine. Add the drained pasta and toss well to coat. Serve with a dollop of goat cheese on top.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

This Space Unintentionally Left Blank

One of the things I find truly fascinating is that busy is relative. Right now, I am busy. So busy, that I have been neglecting both my blogs, totally phoning in the dinners (hello, frozen tortellini you tasty beast) and generally shirking anything I think I can, things like exercise and vacuuming. I feel this incredible sense of stress and busy because it is evaluation time in my work life, and because I have a massive work presentation tomorrow. But honestly, I'm not all that busy. Last year, I worked 3 tutoring jobs, ran an after school club and pretty much got home 2-3 hours later than I do now. Two years ago I had physical therapy for an hour and a half to two hours 3 night a week and would still make the dinner. Clearly I am not so busy as all that. Clearly I am not so busy as many of you, who are reading this. But it is really amazing how many of us have this base level of functioning that we can sustain, and then if something else is added, that's when you feel busy. It's completely relative. And I want to be clear that it is entirely my own fault that my brain is leaking out my ears and I am unable to compose a coherent post let alone come up with an interesting title.

Okay then. About that dinner. Bone in skin on chicken breasts, with a spicy crisp coating. All you need to do is "massage the bird" (thank you Julia) and stick it in the oven. It's soothing comfort food, just what you'd want someone to make for you if you were stressed and didn't have the same illicit relationship with frozen pasta or tater tots that I do.

inspired by a recipe from Cook's Illustrated book about Chicken

2 bone in skin on chicken breasts
2 T butter, softened
1 T dijon mustard
1 T white or red wine vinegar
1 t hot sauce (more if you like spice!)
1/4 t cayenne pepper (again, more if you like spice)
1/3 C bread crumbs
salt and pepper

Preheat your oven to 425. Prepare a cooking sheet with a rack over it, I've used flat racks and roasting racks, it doesn't really matter, so long as there's a way for the heat to circulate around the bird and the breading won't get mushy. Soften the butter and mash in a healthy pinch of salt and a few grinds of pepper. Divide the butter equally between the breasts. Then lift the skin and rub the butter under the skin of each bird.

Mix the mustard, vinegar, hot sauce and cayenne in a small bowl. Massage the mixture over the breasts, front and back. Then coat each breast in bread crumbs.

Place on the rack and into the oven. Cook 40-45 minutes. You may want to start checking the temperature at about 30 minutes to see how it's going. You'll want 165 F for cooked poultry.


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