Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving!

I'm posting this a day early because this afternoon we really are going over the river and through the woods to no internet, and no cell phone coverage; no tv and no double oven; no Thermador cooktop, and no huge Samsung frig with ice and water dispenser.
But we will have two wood stoves, and a whole house full of people who are very thankful for each other (and that includes those we're carrying in our hearts!).
My Daddy's best saying: it's not what's on the table, but who's around it (again, including 'in heart'). So Happy Thanksgiving to All, and know that if I'm not looking at you, you're still with



Chocolate Pecan Tart

Your favorite double pie crust

3 eggs, beaten

1 cup light corn syrup

1 teaspoon vanilla

three-fourths cup brown sugar, packed

1 cup chopped pecans

One-third cup butter

1 cup semi-sweet chocolate pieces

1 egg, beaten, to brush top crust and sugar to sprinkle over crust

Place pie crust on floured surface and roll to 12 inch circle. Place pie crust in buttered 10 inch spring form pan (should have about 1 inch edge on sides). Spread chocolate pieces evenly over crust.

Add pecans to small nonstick skillet over medium heat. Stir for 3-4 minutes, then add butter and continue stirring until melted and bubbling. Remove from heat and cool.

Combine remaining ingredients and beat until well mixed. Add cooled pecans and butter and stir to combine. Pour into crust. Roll out second crust and cut decorative leaves and lattice. Place on top of pie. Brush with a beaten egg and sprinkle with sugar.

Bake at 350ยบ for 45-50 minutes.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Turkey--More than the main event!

The Main Ingredient that Keeps on Giving!

With the Thanksgiving Feast fast approaching, I cook with left-overs in mind, especially when there's lots of company and many more meals to come. Extra turkey for later is almost more important to me than the warm slices that will nestle against the dressing and cranberry sauce.

I cook an extra turkey breast to assure that everyone gets a turkey sandwich or two. That's one time I highly recommend white bread (specifically Pepperidge Farm House White): turkey, mayo (Dukes of course), lettuce and plenty of salt and pepper on really fresh white bread. I'm already there!

I'm a big turkey fan. I learned to do the carving long before I was actually doing the cooking. I can admit now that it was a selfish gesture. No one seemed very interested. We didn't do the dramatic carving at the table, so while Mama whipped the potatoes and kept the rolls from getting too brown on top, I sliced my way through the bird, which meant that I could also steal the very best bites of crispy skin that dislodged from the meat and would never make it to the table anyway! My very favorite part of the turkey!

I learned a lesson from those carving days. Now I want everyone to enjoy their favorite bite, so while the turkey rests, waiting to make its way to the table via carving board, I encourage those who are so inclined to snitch a little bite. It's our Thanksgiving 'amuse-bouche'!

I also take care of the entire bird while carving, right down to cleaning the bones. The tiny little pieces that fall apart or cling to a bone get stored in a ziplock bag and refrigerated. When the feast is over, I store the sandwich pieces in a separate ziplock, and all the extra little pieces left on the platter join their friends in the scrap bag. These little scraps are going to turn into two of my favorite post-feast turkey meals: Curried Holiday Turkey Salad and Turkey and Corn Chowder. Both of these recipes have such nice flavors, and are distinctly different from their origin. You don't really notice that you're eating leftovers.

There's no better place to count our blessings than around the Thanksgiving table. May yours be especially thankful and delicious this year.

Turkey and Corn Chowder

2 tsp. extra virgin olive oil

4 slices of lean bacon, diced

1 sweet onion, diced

3 garlic cloves, diced

1 T butter

2-3 cups cooked turkey, diced (or chicken)

1 small can green chilies

1 teaspoon cumin (or more, to taste)

1 T hot sauce

One-half tsp. Salt

2 (~15oz.) cans white and yellow corn, drained (or fresh or frozen corn)

32 oz. chicken broth

2 cups half and half

2 cups shredded Monterey Jack cheese (or your choice of a flavorful melting cheese)

Chopped fresh cilantro to garnish

Lime slices to garnish

Extra shredded cheese to garnish

Extra hot sauce to garnish

Pour olive oil into soup pot over medium heat. Add diced bacon and cook for a couple of minutes, then add diced onion and cook for another couple of minutes, stirring. Add garlic and cook for one more minute. Now add butter, and when melted add diced turkey and stir to combine. Next add green chilies, cumin, hot sauce and salt, along with corn and chicken broth. Bring to a simmer and add half and half. Next, add cheese, and stir until melted and combined. Taste and adjust for salt and hotness.

Serve with chopped cilantro, lime slices, extra cheese and hot sauce as garnish.

The garnishes add great 'kicks' of flavor!

Curried Holiday Turkey Salad

Tip: for a really pretty presentation, cut the ends from croissants and fill with turkey salad. They look like little cornucopias.

1 cup dried cranberries

One-third cup orange juice (or wine, or apple juice)

7-8 cups chopped cooked turkey (light and dark meat)

1 cup quartered seedless grapes

1 cup toasted pecan halves, roughly chopped (want big pieces)--

2 stalks of celery, chopped

2 T cider vinegar

2 T sugar

1 tsp. Salt

2 tsp. Curry powder

1 cup mayonnaise

Add dried cranberries and orange juice to small sauce pan over medium heat. Bring to a boil, stir, remove from heat and let the cranberries plump while making the rest of the salad.

Add chopped turkey, grapes, pecans and celery to large mixing bowl. Gently toss to combine.

Whisk together vinegar, sugar, salt and curry powder. Then add to mayonnaise and thoroughly combine. Add more salt or curry to taste.

Pour dressing over turkey mixture.

Drain cranberries and add to mixture. Gently fold together until everything is well combined.

Store in refrigerator.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Fantastic Weeknight Lasagna: Back to Italy!

Lasagna--So Easy You HAVE to Try It!

This sounded so good, and looked so easy, I had to try it. I found the recipe in a recent Rachel Ray magazine, but instead of being an original 30 Minute Rachel Ray special, it was emailed by a reader in New York. Here are the original recipe ingredients, followed by my changes. They are both delicious, fast and easy! I'm definitely going to make this during the holidays for a non-turkey company dinner.

Original Ingredients:

1 lb. Spicy Italian Sausage

1 head of escarole, chopped

1 (24 oz.) jar tomato sauce

1 (9oz.) package fresh cheese ravioli

16oz. Shredded mozzarella

My Changed-Up Recipe

1 T extra virgin olive oil

1 large sweet onion, chopped

1 lb. Hot Italian Sausage

4 slices thick, meaty bacon, chopped

3 garlic cloves, chopped

1 (12 oz.) package large mushroom slices

1 (9 oz.) bag fresh spinach

Salt to taste

1 (24 oz.) jar pasta sauce (I used Emeril's Tomato Basil)

1 (24 oz.) package fresh three cheese Ravioli

5 cups shredded mozzarella

Preheat oven to 350°.

Saute onion in olive oil over medium heat. Add Sausage and cook until browned. Drain excess oil from sausage and onion and set aside.

Add chopped bacon to pan, and saute until browning. Add garlic, stir around for about 30 seconds and then add mushrooms. Cook just until mushrooms begin giving off liquid. Don't cook all the way. Add spinach and toss with tongs until spinach is wilted. Remove from heat.

In greased 9 x 13 inch casserole, begin layering. Add half the tomato sauce, cover with half the raviolis in a single layer, then half sausage, spinach and cheese. Repeat layers.

Bake for about 45 minutes, or until bubbling all the way through. Let rest for 10 minutes before serving.