Sunday, November 26, 2017

Post Thanksgiving Re-purposing

Every Thanksgiving, there are the true "Turkeytarians" like my mom and my husband who start dreaming of turkey and all that it entails.  We've always joked that if my mom were on Death Row, turkey & dressing would be her last meal request.  My husband is the official turkey guy.  He brines it, he roasts it, he watches it, he even photographs it.  Yep, I'm not the only nerd taking pictures of food.

Personally, I'm very (extremely) lukewarm about turkey. But, I get it.  There are those like Mom and Neil who are all in. I know people like them think that a turkey, mayo and tomato sandwich later is like manna from Heaven.  Whatev.  Me, I'm the one thinking of all the ways I can turn that leftover turkey into something way more interesting.  Soup, enchiladas, pot pies, something.  This year, I decided on an old classic....Turkey Tetrazzini.

Start by cooking about 1/2 lb of noodles, whatever type you like.  I chose spaghetti but linguine or fettucine would work well too. 

Chop about 3 cups of leftover turkey.  I'm not a big fan of cubes of meat, so I chop mine roughly so the pieces are not uniform. Chop up a small onion and some mushrooms.  I used about 4 big mushrooms; you can decide how many is enough but not too much.

Go ahead and preheat your oven to 400.  Let's make the sauce now.  In a saucepan, melt about 3 Tbs butter.  Stir in 1/4 cup of flour and cook about 3 minutes or so.  Whisk in 2 3/4 cup chicken or turkey broth, 1/4 cup white wine, 1/4 tsp thyme and a pinch of nutmeg. Whisk until nice and smooth and continue to heat to boiling.  Reduce heat and simmer for about 5 minutes, whisking frequently.  Remove from heat and whisk in cream.  Set aside.

Melt about 1 more Tbs butter and saute onions and mushrooms.  Mix together turkey, noodles, onions and mushrooms.  

Then, add the sauce to the mixture...

Pour all into a casserole dish and sprinkle with Parmesan...

Then into that nice, hot oven to bake for about 30 minutes, until bubbly and beautiful.

 I served ours with some peas because I'm a freak about having something green on the plate.  Actually, the peas are good mixed into the tetrazzini too.  

I've also added pimento for color in past casseroles, which works well too.  I realize tetrazzini is probably the most 1950's type meal you can imagine, but it has stood the test of time for a reason.  It's creamy and gooey, there's pasta involved, it uses up that leftover turkey (or chicken), it freezes well and is a good dish to take to a sick friend.  Frankly, I find it more exciting than a leftover turkey sandwich.  But then again, I'm not a textbook Turkeytarian like Mom and Neil!

Monday, September 25, 2017

Spice Junction in my House

I think I've told you all before that my little one 

(well, not so little anymore!) loves Indian food.  I must admit, it makes me feel really good to make that statement.  My child loves Indian food! 

I decided to shake it up tonight with my own Chickpea Curry over basmati.  Basmati is easily my most favorite rice on this good Earth.  It's pretty, fragrant and it has its own distinct flavor. Regular ol' Southern rice really doesn't have a flavor. 

As many of you know, I am a freak-a-zoid-a-maniac fan of Aldi.  Did you know that Aldi carries naan? Yes, you heard me.  I managed to get the last package of it on my trip today.  I have been planning an Indian dinner and tonight we had Chickpea Curry on our menu.  

I think Indian food has a tough row to hoe here in America.  Most people hear the word "curry" and automatically think of curry powder.  Any food with curry powder in it is a 50/50. People either love it or HATE it.  My sister is in the HATE IT camp.  More accurately, she's in the seething loathing curry powder hating camp.  Hates the flavor, the smell, all of it.  But in Indian cuisine, "curry" really means any kind of stew or saucy dish, usually eaten over rice.  Think of our Southern field peas over rice.

The second obstacle that Indian food faces here in the U.S. is that most people are intimidated by the ingredient list.  Indians are the spice masters of the world.  But here's the deal, you probably have most of their spices in your cabinet and don't realize it.  And, if you take a few extra minutes, those spices will make a good dish great.  
 So, my chickpea curry was ridiculously easy to make but no one would guess that from the flavor and the appearance.  Here goes:  

1) Chopped 2 onions and sauteed in about 2 Tbs veg oil until they softened. 

2) Added 2 minced garlic cloves, 2 tsp minced fresh ginger, 6 whole cloves, a 2" stick of cinnamon snapped in half, 1 tsp cumin, 1 tsp ground coriander, 1/2 tsp cayenne, & 1 tsp turmeric. Cook all that together, stirring for about a minute.

3) Add 2 cans of garbanzos with their liquid and about 1/4 cup of fat-free half & half.  Stir/cook for about 3-4 minutes to heat through and soften garbanzos. Stir in about 1 cup chopped cilantro.

This dish took about 10 minutes to cook.  How easy can it be?  I warmed up the naan in the oven, cooked a pot of basmati, and <Boom> dinner.  And it rocked too.  And our house smells delightful.  And the only fat in the entire dish was 2 Tbs of veg oil to saute the onions and spices.  And, there is no reason for anyone to be intimidated by this recipe.  

Try it out.  Let me know what you think.

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Teaching Service While Having Fun in Wonkaville

If you're a parent, you know how much time, energy, concern and enthusiasm goes into broadening your child's horizons. Personally, my husband and I have tried our best to focus on fostering the activities in which our daughter expresses interest and to nurture her strengths.  We also want to help shape her into a thoughtful, considerate, responsible and kind human. This makes service very important to us: church, Girl Scouts, volunteer work, just being nice.

Saturday, I had the pleasure of taking my daughter and my niece to the "Wonkaville" event at Town Theatre.  ("Willy Wonka" opens next week!) The theatre hosted kids and parents for a preview of the show as well as fun stations such as making chocolatey treats with Augustus Gloop and his mom, photo shoot with Willy Wonka himself, an interview with a reporter and Mike Teevee and a bubble gum blowing contest with Violet Beauregard and her mama.  (Betsy Jackson has some hidden talents!)

While all these events were nothing short of awesome, I was so impressed and delighted that the other station was a service project. You see, this event wasn't just to promote the opening of the "Wonka" show, but to benefit an organization called Feeding Children Everywhere.  The kids went up to the green room of the theatre.  After donning their hair covers and plastic gloves, they formed an assembly line and put together bags of lentil casserole kits to be distributed to kids/families in need. 

 Our kids had a great time doing the work but also learned so much about the importance of helping our fellow man in a very meaningful way.  It's so vital to teach our children that even though they are still kids, they are capable of helping others.  I'm not sure how many meals were assembled yesterday by the Wonkaville participants but I am certain it was a significant number.  For me, it was just wonderful to step back and watch my sweet girls get in there and make a difference.

Many thanks to Shannon Scruggs and all of the folks at Town Theatre for hosting this event!  And thank you also for doing so very much to promote the cultural health of Columbia and our children with the Youth Theatre Program, Teen Troupe and Summer Day Camps.  Remember, "Willy Wonka" opens July 21st!  I can tell you up close and personal, Columbia's Willy looks remarkably like Gene Wilder...Gene and Gilda love child??

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

My New Toy

I love Pampered Chef for the same reason I love Mary Kay.  It's good quality, it lasts and it does what it says it does.  I recently had a P.C. party and had a great time with friends and neighbors and our consultant, Rebecca.  She made grilled chicken with lemon/garlic cream sauce and rice pilaf for us, using the RocCroc. This thing is a Dutch oven that can go in the microwave, oven, fridge, stovetop and it can also be a crockpot. 

The RocCroc just sits on top of this base to become a crockpot

I love the "warm" setting. My other crockpots don't have it.

Amazing.  When it came time for me to order, the RocCroc with the crockpot base was top of my list. Thus, the title of this post.

Today is July 4th, so I decided to make barbeque to christen the new RocCroc.  I'm not a purist who has to dig a pit, sweat over a smoker or spend an entire day and a half creating barbeque.  I make my sauce from scratch and the rest happens in my crockpot.  

Good ol' South Carolina mustard BBQ sauce

Mixing sauce into our pulled pork

See?  BBQ from a crockpot. It can be done.

I use a Boston butt and cook on low for about 8 hours.

I have a neat little timer that I use.  What makes it so neat is that it is actually easy to use and easy to program. We had some timers years ago for our Christmas lights that required a PhD to program.  I set my neat little timer to come on at 2:30 this morning.  Last night, I salt and peppered a 4 lb Boston butt and placed it and about 1/4 cup of water in the RocCroc.  Night night!

Around 11:00 this morning, we had a pot full of tender meat ready to be shredded.  I made our sauce and made a big batch of my favorite potato salad.  

New potatoes, sour cream, mayo, dill, bacon, garlic & scallion. Uhhh, YUM.

So, our July 4th dinner is fresh corn on the cob, potato salad and mustard based barbeque. 

We've decided to wait and have it later for supper, but I'm having a tough time waiting.  It smells so great in this house right now! 

If you're interested in hosting a Pampered Chef party, let me know and I'll put you in touch with Rebecca.  She really knows her stuff and does a great job demostrating the products. And to reiterate how the Pampered Chef stuff lasts, when I met Rebecca, I told her I couldn't leave without a new wonder-cup.  After 20+ years, the numbers were finally wearing off the measuring cup that I love.  Did you hear that...20+ years!

Happy Independence Day, everyone.  Be thankful and grateful. 

Sunday, July 2, 2017

Pioneer Meatballs

Well, yesterday was my birthday.  Never mind which one.  I am one of those people who DOES NOT obsess about her birthday. Many years, it's actually snuck up on me.  I'll be going through all my usual shenanigans and then, DOH!, tomorrow is my birthday.  Really? And, of course, as we get to a certain age, the birthday festivities become even less important.  When someone asks me what I want for my birthday, I have no idea.  No well-thought out list.  Just crickets and tumbleweeds.  

But, the two people who know me best hit the nail on the head yesterday.  They presented me with not one, but THREE, Pioneer Woman cookbooks.  

 I can't even remember the last time I bought a cookbook.  This tells you what incredible self-restraint I have achieved!  Consequently, my birthday turned out to be pretty darn awesome.  Neil took Viv to the movies so I went to the nail shop and got my nails done, pedicure and had 2 mimosas while they worked their magic on me.  Then, I returned home and read my new cookbooks all afternoon.  

One thing I love about Ree Drummond is her talent for creating "freezer meals."  This is particularly of interest to me these days because I like to make dishes for my parents that can just be taken out of the freezer and popped in the oven or crockpot, so they don't have to stress about what to have for dinner. I also serve on the "Gracious Goodness" committee (that's really not the right word) at church. We make meals and freeze them to distribute to church members and spouses when someone is hospitalized, just home from the hospital, not able to get out much, etc.  I really love cooking for other people, so this is right up my alley.

ANYWAY...I had 2 1/2 lbs of hamburger sitting my fridge waiting for me to come up with something brilliant to do with it and along came the Pioneer Woman.  I turned it into her "ready to go freezer meatballs."  

I cut her recipe in half because of the amount of meat I had on hand, yet, I ended up with 3 batches of approximately 25 meatballs each.  We used one tonight for dinner and the other 2 are in the freezer. The cookbook gives 3 ideas for preparation of the meatballs. I had all the ingredients for the BBQ recipe on hand, so that's what we had tonight.  

Very simple ingredients: bread crumbs, eggs, salt, pepper, mustard

You go ahead and cook 'em then freeze for later
 Ree's recipe takes store-bought barbeque sauce and jacks it up.  You put it on the stove just to a gentle boil, add some vinegar, brown sugar, Tabasco and Worchestershire.  Add your meatballs back in, cover and simmer on low heat for about 10 minutes and then, it's dinnertime.  

I can't even begin to tell you how insanely easy this was and how fast you can have it on the table. Thank you Pioneer Woman.  I want to come hang out on your ranch sometime.  Whaddya say?

Sunday, April 30, 2017

Broke My Own Rule

I know, I know. I've said it a million times before.  I don't think chicken has any place on a pizza. But, I'll admit that I've had chicken pizzas before and it wasn't terrible.  Probably because I still maintain that pizza is the world's perfect food.  All food groups can be (and should be) represented. 

The other day, I cleaned out my fridge.  How does one family of 3 come up with so many jars of stuff?  Horseradish, capers, 5 kinds of jelly, wasabi, 4 hot sauces, maraschino cherries, just to name a few.  And, two half full bottles of BBQ sauce. That sauce, and the leftover roasted chicken in my fridge, got me thinking.  You know where I'm going with this.

I pulled out the bread machine and whipped up some pizza dough.  I really love this machine and need to remember more often that I have it. And, the fridge ingredients got involved to create our version of a BBQ chicken pizza.

I started early in the afternoon with caramelizing onions. If you have the time to slowly caramelize onions the right way, you'll be so pleased with yourself.

This is 3 medium-large sized onions
Starting to get a little color

Browning up more

Slowly but surely, we're getting there

OMG, isn't this beautiful?
My chicken was already cooked, so I just shredded it and tossed it around in some of that BBQ sauce from the fridge clean-out.  I rolled our homemade dough out nice and thin and placed on my trusty pizza stone.  After brushing with some olive oil, I put it into a 500 degree oven to prebake and get crisp.

For the pizza, we used a layer of BBQ sauce instead of tomato pizza sauce.

Since we're going with red BBQ sauce, some cheddar made sense.

Then, I just continued on with the chicken, some chopped (cooked) bacon, my gorgeous caramelized onions, pineapple chunks and mozzarella. 

The finished product

Despite a pretty sophisticated palate, my sweet girl usually defaults to a cheese pizza (much to mama's chagrin).  However, she took one bite of this and declared it the "best pizza ever."  It's her new favorite.  Personally, I think I went overboard on the sauce.  It was tasty, but a little too sweet for me, but overall, I thought it turned out quite well.  The bacon and pineapple were great choices and really gave the pie a cool "flavor profile" as they love to spout off on The Food Network. Next time, I'll just use less sauce and I think it'll be pretty close to perfect. 

On a personal note: I dedicate this post to Paul Whitlark.  He was a nutty, looney, generous, kind, always hospitable friend to so many of us.  He will always be Rosewood's favorite "Pizza Man" and we will all miss him terribly.  Peace to all of his family. 

Saturday, April 15, 2017

Tikka Masala Makes Ya Holla!

I've always been intrigued by how we have to teach our kids to enjoy other cuisines, such as Mexican, Indian, Japanese, etc. But, in Mexico and India and Japan, little kids are eating that food all day long.  You can't say it's too spicy or too weird for kids, because clearly, there are kids eating it.  I guess I have to conclude that somewhere in New Delhi there is a mom trying to introduce her kids to fried chicken and biscuits.  Right?  

I love Indian food.  I admit that I am far from being an expert.  I wish I were. But, thanks to Indian friends and clients, I know a thing or two.  I own an Indian cookbook, I know where my local Indian market is, I've made Biryani and Tikka Masala from scratch.  And since I love to cook, it's fun but make no mistake, cooking Indian takes time and lots of ingredients.  Mainly spices.  Lots and lots of spices.

Recently, I was cruising the aisles at Aldi and came across a brand of Indian "simmer sauces."  I got so excited; what a great way to have some Indian on a quick weeknight schedule.  And, the little one (not so little anymore...just had a birthday!) has been expressing interest in Indian food.  I bought Korma, Jalfrezi and Tikka Masala.  

It couldn't be simpler: cube up some chicken, saute it to brown, saute onions, sweet bell peppers, peas, whatever.  I added some chopped spinach to the most recent batch to add well, spinach, and color.  

Simmering away with Tikka Masala sauce

The first couple times I made it, I worried that the sauce might be a little spicy for the Vivver.  I portioned out enough for her and added some half & half to tone it down.  However, on our most recent dinner, she tasted it ahead of time and deemed it not too spicy, so I left it alone.  And since Aldi is the bomb-diggity that it is, they also sell really awesome packaged Naan bread that just takes minutes to warm in the oven.  It's like restaurant food on a Tuesday night!  

Our chicken Tikka Masala over Basmati rice and served with garlic naan
 And, now I have an 11 year old who is a fan and can't wait to actually go out to a real Indian restaurant and sample lots of good stuff!  My work here is done.  Not really, but you get my drift.  Next up?  New Peruvian restaurant in our neighborhood.  Anyone know anything about Peruvian food?

Thursday, April 13, 2017

I'm Still Here!


I am alive and well. Despite what you may have heard, I have not suffered a terrible demise. I have not fallen off a cliff or gotten trapped under a large rock.  I am, however, ridiculously embarrassed to admit that I haven't written a thing since December. I offer proof of life:  

Excuses?  Probably not any good ones, but I can tell you this...Girl Scout cookie season took over my life.  I had to serve as the "Cookie Manager" for our troop this year.  It's not really a hard job, despite what people tell you.  But it is insanely time-consuming.  My husband actually asked me how much I was getting paid for it.  Uhhh, nuthin' honey.  

Consider this your warning: I'm back.  Today I find myself in that oh-so-familiar place.  "What can I do with this damn chicken today?"  Yes, I'm in a chicken rut. Again.  I'll figure out something to do with it and will come up with more interesting topics for future posts.  Promise. 


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