Tag Archives: turkey

Chicken Pot Pie (Two Ways)

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No fancy recipes today: just some good old fashioned comfort food. And a great way to use leftover chicken (or turkey) and vegetables. This is a basic recipe for chicken pot pie with two different crusts: the traditional pie crust or refrigerator biscuits topped with thinly sliced onions.

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A pot pie is such a versatile meal because you can use whatever vegetables you have on hand. I almost always include some potatoes, carrots and onions, but the other green vegetables vary. Small amounts of leftover veges are perfect, but you can also use frozen vegetables. I do not thaw or cook frozen broccoli, beans or peas before adding them to the casserole dish. They will cook through while the whole thing is baking. Precooking will make them mushy. The potatoes, carrots and onions do need to be cooked first.

I almost never make this starting with raw chicken, but you certainly can. I prefer to wait until I have leftover chicken or turkey from a roast chicken (or Thanksgiving turkey) or extra shredded chicken from another meal: like these Enchiladas.

22211 061-1You can top your Pot Pie with a traditional Pie Crust (either homemade or refrigerated). I do not use a bottom crust, just a top one. Just be sure to place a sheet of foil or a baking sheet on the oven rack beneath the pot pie to catch any drips.

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If you are deciding what to put in your herb garden this spring (assuming the snow stops someday), I loved these two varieties of sage that I planted last year (a variegated silver and purple). Replacing the ground sage in the recipe with fresh chopped sage is really delicious. I  can’t wait until I can use my own fresh herbs again!

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For a twist on the traditional pot pie filling sauce, try adding 1/2 to 1 cup of prepared Pesto to your sauce. It makes a great change!
(Don’t use the sage and other herbs if you are using pesto)

My family really likes this biscuit topping on their pot pie. Starting with a can of refrigerator biscuits, divide biscuits in half cross-wise (into 2 thinner round biscuits). Flatten slightly with your hand. Press a slice of very thinly sliced raw onion into the top of each biscuit half.

22211 065-1 The filling needs to be cooked partially before putting the biscuits on top, or the underside of the biscuits will be doughy while the tops burn. But if you cook the filling until it just starts to bubble and then lay the onion-topped biscuits over the hot filling in the pan, everything will come out perfect! Most of our family loves the onions on top, but I do leave a couple of biscuits plain for those who object. Any extra biscuits that do not fit on top can be baked separately as directed on the package.

RECIPE:

Chicken Pot Pie

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1 single Pie Crust
—-(or 1 can refrigerator biscuits & thinly sliced onions**see note at bottom)
3-4 cups cooked, cubed chicken (or 3-4 raw chicken breasts)
2-3 medium potatoes, peeled & diced
1 large carrot, peeled & diced
½ zucchini, diced (optional)
1-2 cups frozen broccoli, green beans, and/or corn
½ cup frozen peas
¼ cup butter
1 onion, chopped
2 Tbs flour
2 cups chicken broth
¾ cup milk (or half milk, half cream)
½ tsp marjoram
½ tsp ground sage (or 1 Tbs chopped fresh sage)
½ tsp salt
¼ tsp fresh ground pepper

Preheat oven to 425°F.

If you are starting with raw chicken, boil chicken until tender, remove from broth (do not drain broth) and chop. Place in 3 qt casserole dish. Cook potatoes and carrot in remaining chicken broth (or water if not starting with raw chicken) until potatoes are just tender; drain. Add potatoes and carrots to casserole dish with chicken and chopped zucchini. Add frozen beans, corn, broccoli and/or peas (do not thaw).

Melt butter in the same skillet. Sauté onion until soft. Stir in flour; cook 3-4 minutes until roux is light brown. Using a whisk, stir in marjoram, sage, salt and pepper. Stir in chicken broth and milk. Whisk until smooth.  Cook until thickened and bubbly.

Pour over chicken and vegetables in casserole dish. Arrange pie crust over dish, sealing to edge of casserole dish. Flute edges. Cut several slits in top of crust.

Place a cookie sheet or layer of aluminum foil on bottom rack to catch drips. Place pot pie on center rack. Bake at 425°F for about 30 minutes, until filling is bubbly.

FOR CHICKEN-PESTO POT PIE:

Add ½-1 cup prepared Pesto to sauce (eliminate marjoram and sage)

ALTERNATE TOPPING:

Instead of a pie crust, use refrigerator biscuits. Divide biscuits in half cross-wise (into 2 thinner round biscuits). Flatten slightly. Press a thin slice of raw onion into top of each biscuit half.

Cook filling, uncovered, for 20-25 minutes at 425°F, until hot and bubbly. Lay onion-topped biscuits over hot filling in pan. Reduce oven temperature to 350°F and cook for 20 minutes, or until underside of biscuits are cooked through (they will still be soft and have a dumpling consistency on the bottom, but you don’t want raw dough). If top of biscuits brown too quickly, cover with foil.

If you have extra biscuits, bake separately as directed on package and serve with the pot pie.

 

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Southwest Turkey (or Chicken) Vegetable Chowder

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I love soup season. I think that soup is a great year-round food, but some in my family don’t like to see it when the weather gets too warm. So I take full advantage of these cold, snowy months to make and freeze as much soup as possible.

This turkey chowder is definitely one of my favorite soups, and is adaptable to whatever vegetables or meat (turkey vs chicken) you have on hand. It is creamy, filling and has a great southwestern flavor from added green chilies and salsa verde (and some pepper jack cheese).

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This soup is also a good example of my procrastination. Within a few days of Thanksgiving, the family was getting tired of turkey leftovers, so I put the turkey carcass in the freezer to make soup with soon. Is January still considered soon? The resulting turkey stock made a great base for this chowder, but you could also use canned chicken broth and shredded or diced chicken.

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I served the soup with these Cheddar & Herb Drop Biscuits, which were perfect for dipping into all of that creamy goodness.

RECIPE:

Southwest Turkey/Chicken Vegetable Chowder

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6-8 slices bacon, diced
1 large onion, chopped
2 stalks celery, chopped
1 red bell pepper, chopped**
1-2 cups shredded cabbage
6 cups turkey or chicken broth
1 ½ cups heavy cream
1 cup (8 oz) green salsa (salsa verde)
1 can (4 oz) diced green chilies, undrained
2-3 cups diced or shredded cooked turkey or chicken
1 can corn**
2 large carrots, diced
2 large potatoes, peeled and diced
1 cup chopped cauliflower (optional)
1 1/2 cups shredded pepper jack or cheddar cheese
Salt and pepper, to taste (about ½ tsp salt; ¼ tsp pepper)**

In a large stockpot, cook bacon until crisp. Remove bacon from pan. Drain bacon grease, leaving 2 Tbs drippings in pot. Add onion, celery and red pepper to bacon drippings in the pot. Cook until crisp-tender. Stir in cabbage and cook until cabbage is wilted, but not browned.

Stir in broth, cream and salsa. Bring to a gentle boil. Stir in green chilies, turkey or chicken, corn and carrots. Cover and cook for 10 minutes. Add potatoes and cauliflower (or any other desired vegetables). Cook for about 15 minutes, or until vegetables are tender. Gradually stir in cheese, stirring until melted. Taste and season with salt** and pepper. Stir in reserved bacon, or sprinkle on top of individual bowls of chowder.

**I used turkey stock made from a brined turkey, so I did not add any salt. How much you need will depend on taste and the saltiness of your broth. In place of the corn and red pepper, you can also substitute a bag of frozen corn with mixed peppers.

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Thanksgiving Meal Prep Planning

For me, an enjoyable, stress-free Thanksgiving is all in the advance planning. Best plan: pot-luck meal where you have limited cooking responsibility! But it is still possible to have a low-stress day and prepare the entire meal yourself. With one oven. Here is our menu this year, and the plan for getting it done with the least amount of Thanksgiving Day chaos.

Our Thanksgiving Menu:

Herb Brined Roast Turkey

Gravy

Rolls

Cranberry Sauce

Roasted Garlic Mashed Potatoes

Roasted Garlic Stuffing

Green Beans with Bacon and Almonds

Roasted Sweet Potatoes and Mushrooms

Pumpkin Pie

Cherry Pie

Lemon Meringue Pie

Thanksgiving Gameplan:

  • Monday (or earlier):
    • Make rolls; parbake and freeze
    • Cube bread for stuffing, set out on trays to dry; roast garlic for stuffing and potatoes, refrigerate (see Roasted Garlic Stuffing for full recipe)
    • Eat all of the leftovers in the fridge so you have room for all of your advance preparations and Thanksgiving leftovers! Keep eating leftovers Tuesday and Wednesday until your fridge is empty; no more leftovers? Order pizza.
  • Tuesday:
    • Prepare brine (see Turkey Timetable below)
    • Prepare Make-Ahead Roasted Garlic Mashed Potatoes; refrigerate
    • Make cranberry sauce; refrigerate
  • Wednesday:
    • Add turkey to brine (see Turkey Timetable)
    • Chop vegetables for stuffing; place in Ziploc bags; refrigerate
    • Prepare veges for Roasted Sweet Potatoes & Mushrooms (this is a new recipe I’m trying this year from Kalyn’s Kitchen. It sounds great, but does require a lot of oven space and time, so I am going to try to roast it for half the time on Wednesday, refrigerate, and then finish on Thursday)
    • Cook bacon and toast almonds for the Green Beans with Bacon
    • Make pies
  • Thursday:
    • Prepare stuffing. Cook for 30 minutes in oven. Transfer to crock pot. Keep warm on lowest heat. **Do this before putting the turkey in the oven
    • Prepare and roast turkey (see Turkey Timetable)
    • Remove mashed potatoes from fridge; place in covered casserole dish; let potatoes come to room temperature (I am going to reheat the potatoes in the oven; you could also reheat them in a crock pot on low for several hours)
    • Remove sweet potatoes from fridge and place on baking sheet;cover and let come to room temperature.
    • Remove rolls from freezer. Place on a baking sheet and cover with foil or plastic wrap.
    • Sit and enjoy family for the next hour or two while the turkey cooks!
    • When turkey is done: remove from oven and let rest for at least 30 minutes.
    • As soon as turkey comes out of oven: mashed potatoes and sweet potatoes go in the oven
    • Make gravy; keep warm on low heat
    • Steam green beans; stir in bacon and almonds (see Bacon Beans for full recipe)
    • While you are preparing beans, have someone else begin to carve the turkey, and kids begin to put food on the table
    • Remove potatoes and sweet potatoes from the oven. Bake rolls for 5-7 minutes, until hot and golden brown.
    • Relax and enjoy!

Thanksgiving Turkey Timetable:

  • Tuesday evening: Prepare brine. Cover and let it sit overnight.
  • Wednesday morning: Add turkey to brine; Let it sit in a cool place (below 40°F) for 12-24 hours (I usually go with close to 24 hours)
  • Thursday (Thanksgiving!):
    • 4 hours before you plan to serve the meal: Remove turkey from brine. Let sit at room temperature for at least 30 minutes
    • 3 1/2 hours before eating: Prep turkey and put in the oven. Roast until cooked through (about 2 1/2 to 3 hours total)
    • 30 minutes before eating: Remove turkey from oven and let rest for 30 minutes.
    • Serving time: Carve and serve turkey.

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Thanksgiving: Herb Brined Roast Turkey

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A brined turkey is one that sits in salted water (with the addition of some herbs and sweeteners in this case) for 12-24 hours before cooking. Brining will not make your turkey taste salty, but will help keep all of those wonderful juices inside the meat, where they belong. Brining does require some advance planning, however. Here is how I approach brining for Thanksgiving:

Thanksgiving Turkey Timetable:

  • Tuesday evening: Prepare brine. Cover and let it sit overnight.
  • Wednesday morning: Add turkey to brine; Let it sit in a cool place (below 40F) for 12-24 hours (I usually go with close to 24 hours)
  • Thursday (Thanksgiving!):
    • 4 hours before you plan to serve the meal: Remove turkey from brine. Let sit at room temperature for at least 30 minutes
    • 3 1/2 hours before eating: Prep turkey and put in the oven. Roast until cooked through (about 2 1/2 to 3 hours total)
    • 30 minutes before eating: Remove turkey from oven and let rest for 30 minutes.
    • Serving time: Carve and serve turkey.

To Make an Herb-Brined Roast Turkey:

First you need to decide on and prepare your equipment:

  • large stockpot
  • large Ziploc bag (Ziploc Big Bags-Large Size) or 5 gallon food-grade bucket
  • cooler or large bin/bucket
  • ice

**Before beginning the brining process, gather together the needed equipment: a large stockpot (2+ gallons. If you don’t have one this large, you can prepare the first step of the brine, then add the remaining liquid to your brining bag or bucket); large Ziploc bag (Ziploc Big Bags- Large Size) or 5 gallon food-grade bucket; a cooler or very large bin/bucket that will fit the large Ziploc bag or 5-gallon bucket (filled with turkey and brine) plus room to add ice around the outside; ice. You need to maintain a temperature below 40F.

For the Brine: In a large stock pot, combine salt, brown sugar, maple syrup, pepper corns, garlic, fresh herbs and ONE gallon of water. Bring to a boil. Remove from heat and let the mixture steep for 25 minutes. Add remaining 2 quarts water and 2 quarts apple cider (or additional water). Cool brine to room temperature (place pot in a sink full of ice water if you need the brine immediately, or let it sit at room temperature until cool-I leave it overnight).

Place the turkey in the Ziploc bag or bucket breast-side down. Put the bagged turkey in a clean cooler or the bucket in a larger bin/bucket. Pour the brine into the bag or bucket with the turkey. Zip the bag closed, or put the lid on the bucket. Add ice around the outside of the bag or bucket to keep the turkey cold (below 40F). Place the cooler in a cool place (garage or outside). Let the turkey soak in the cold brine for 12-24 hours. (NOTE: If it is cold enough outside, you may not need the ice. If it is too cold, use the garage as your turkey will freeze)

At least 30 minutes before cooking, remove the turkey from the brine. Pat dry (do not rinse).   DSC04259-1

Place a rack (v-shaped rack, preferably)  in a large roasting pan. For easier cleanup, I like to cover my rack with foil and poke holes in it. Place the turkey on the rack. Let turkey rest at room temperature for 30 minutes.DSC04483-1

Rub turkey generously all over (inside and out) with olive oil. Stuff cavity loosely with a peeled onion, whole garlic cloves, fresh herbs, tops of celery stalks (leftover from celery used for stuffing). Arrange turkey, breast side down, on the greased rack, folding back the wings and securing the legs.

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Cook for 60 minutes at 400°F, until the back of the turkey is well browned; turn the turkey breast side up and baste with juices from the bottom of the pan. Reduce oven temperature to 350°F and return turkey to the oven.

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Roast for about another 90 minutes (exact time will depend on size of turkey: take out when the breast registers 155°F or the thigh registers 165°F; temperature will continue to rise about another 5 degrees out of the oven).

Transfer the turkey to a platter or baking dish with a small rim (don’t place directly onto a flat cutting board as juices will continue to leach for a little while). Let turkey rest for 30 minutes, uncovered, before carving. This ensures maximum juiciness. And gives you a chance make gravy and to pop those rolls in the oven just before serving dinner.

DSC04550-1RECIPE:

Herb Brined Roast Turkey

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Brine Ingredients:

2 cups kosher salt
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup pure maple syrup
2 Tbs whole black peppercorns
10-12 whole garlic cloves, crushed
4 bay leaves
1 sprig fresh rosemary
3-4 sprigs fresh sage
4-6 sprigs fresh thyme
2 gallons water (or 1 1/2 gallons water + 2 qts apple cider)
1 large turkey (15-20 lb), thawed

Equipment **SEE NOTE:
large stockpot
large Ziploc bag (Ziploc Big Bags-Large Size) or 5 gallon food-grade bucket
cooler or large bin/bucket
ice

**EQUIPMENT NOTE: Before beginning the brining process, gather together the needed equipment: a large stockpot (2+ gallons. If you don’t have one this large, you can prepare the first step of the brine, then add the remaining liquid to your brining bag or bucket); large Ziploc bag (Ziploc Big Bags- Large Size) or 5 gallon food-grade bucket; a cooler or very large bin/bucket that will fit the large Ziploc bag or 5-gallon bucket (filled with turkey and brine) plus room to add ice around the outside; ice. You need to maintain a temperature below 40°F.

For the Brine: In a large stock pot, combine the salt, brown sugar, maple syrup, pepper corns, garlic, fresh herbs and ONE gallon of water. Bring to a boil. Remove from heat and let the mixture steep for 25 minutes. Add remaining 2 quarts water and 2 quarts apple cider (or additional water). Cool brine to room temperature (place pot in a sink full of ice water if you need the brine immediately, or let it sit at room temperature until cool-I leave it overnight).

Place the turkey in the Ziploc bag or bucket breast-side down. Put the bagged turkey in a clean cooler or the bucket in a larger bin/bucket. Pour the brine into the bag or bucket with the turkey. Zip the bag closed, or put the lid on the bucket. Add ice around the outside of the bag or bucket to keep the turkey cold (below 40°F). Place the cooler in a cool place (garage or outside). Let the turkey soak in the cold brine for 12-24 hours. (NOTE: If it is cold enough outside, you may not need the ice. If it is too cold, use the garage as your turkey will freeze)

At least 30 minutes before cooking, remove the turkey from the brine. Pat dry (do not rinse). Place on a rack in a large roasting pan. Let turkey rest at room temperature for 30 minutes. Roast as directed below.

Roasting Ingredients:

Brined Turkey from above
Olive oil
1 onion, quartered
1 stalk celery (or unused celery tops from celery used for stuffing), cut into 2-3 pieces
4-6 cloves garlic (whole)
Fresh herbs: any combination of thyme, sage, rosemary, oregano

Preheat oven to 400°F for at least 15-20 minutes. Adjust the oven rack to the lowest position. Place a V-shaped rack in the bottom of your roasting pan (I like to cover this with foil, and poke holes in the foil).

Place the turkey, breast side down, on the rack.

Rub the turkey all over (inside and out, top and bottom) with olive oil. Put the quartered onion, celery, whole garlic cloves and herbs (no need to chop herbs) inside the turkey cavity (I do not ever put stuffing inside my turkey). Pour 2 cups of water in the bottom of the roasting pan.

If the legs of your turkey are not secured with a plastic or metal clip, tie them together with kitchen twine. Fold the wing tips back under the turkey. Roast, breast side down for 60 minutes.

Remove the turkey from the oven and turn it breast side up (you can use clean pot holders that you then throw into the laundry, or a bunch of paper towels). Baste turkey with drippings from the bottom of the pan. If the water level has dropped significantly, add another cup of water.

Reduce oven temperature to 350°F and roast for about another 90 minutes (exact time will depend on size of turkey: take out when the breast registers 155°F or the thigh registers 165°F; temperature will continue to rise about another 5 degrees out of the oven). Remove turkey from oven.

Transfer the turkey to a platter or baking dish with a small rim (don’t place directly onto a flat cutting board as juices will continue to leach for a little while). Let turkey rest for 30 minutes, uncovered, before carving. Save drippings for turkey gravy.

Turkey Gravy:

1/4 cup butter
1/4 cup flour
4 cups turkey drippings or turkey broth***
salt and white pepper

Melt butter in pan (you can reuse your turkey roasting pan). Stir in flour. Cook, stirring with a whisk, until roux is golden brown. Slowly stir in turkey drippings, whisking constantly (***see note below). Taste; season gravy with salt and white pepper (if you are using the juices from a brined turkey or a canned turkey broth that contains salt, you may not need to add any additional salt).

***Note: Pour juices from the bottom of the turkey roasting pan into a Ziploc bag (you can strain the broth if it has a lot of solids in it). Seal bag and place upright. Let sit for about 10 minutes, until the fat separates and rises to the top of the bag. Over a large bowl or the pan you are using to make gravy, poke a hole in the bottom corner of the Ziploc bag and let the broth pour out. When most of the broth is gone and you are almost at the fat portion, tip bag upwards to stop the flow. Discard unwanted fat.

Thanksgiving Turkey Timetable:

  • Tuesday evening: Prepare brine. Cover and let it sit overnight.
  • Wednesday morning: Add turkey to brine; Let it sit in a cool place (below 40F) for 12-24 hours (I usually go with close to 24 hours)
  • Thursday (Thanksgiving!):
    • 4 hours before you plan to serve the meal: Remove turkey from brine. Let sit at room temperature for at least 30 minutes
    • 3 1/2 hours before eating: Prep turkey and put in the oven. Roast until cooked through (about 2 1/2 to 3 hours total)
    • 30 minutes before eating: Remove turkey from oven and let rest for 30 minutes.
    • Serving time: Carve and serve turkey.

 

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Thanksgiving: Roasted Garlic Stuffing

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When it comes to stuffing, I stand firmly on the “outside of the turkey” argument. I am not a fan of soggy stuffing straight from the bird. Or that you have to overcook your turkey in order to bring the stuffing to a safe temperature.

The problem with this can be: how do you fit everything in the oven that needs to be baked and have it all hot at serving time. Especially when you only have one oven. I am experiencing some serious Dual-Oven-Envy at my house. Especially at holiday times.

Solving the problem of competing oven-needing foods is doable with a little advance preparation. Pies can be cooked the day before. Rolls can be prepared and partially pre-baked (more on this later this week). But what about things that need to be cooked same day?

An appliance that can be used to your advantage here is your Crock Pot. With stuffing, however, I really like the crispy bread edges that you can only get in the oven. So I compromise: early in the day, before I put the turkey in the oven, I bake my stuffing at 400°F for 30 minutes, ensuring perfectly crispy edges. I then transfer the stuffing to my crock pot, set it on the lowest heat possible, and keep it warm in the crock pot while the turkey cooks. If you are not making a huge amount of stuffing, some oval casserole dishes will fit directly into the bottom of a large crock pot. If not, just scoop the stuffing into the crock pot, trying to keep the crisp top edges on the top in the crock pot as well.

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This is a pretty standard bread stuffing recipe, with the addition of roasted garlic and dried cranberries. I love the contrast between the smoky flavor of the roasted garlic and the sweet tang of the cranberries. Need help roasting garlic: click through to How To . . . Roast Garlic. It is pretty simple.

You can also add mushrooms, but I usually leave them out to appease my Mushroom-Hating-Children. Occasionally, however, I will chop them finely in the food processor, and then no one is the wiser.

You can use store-bought bread cubes, or make your own (highly recommended). Cube several different varieties of bread: white, wheat, rye, English muffins, bagels—all those ends that no one wants to eat. Spread in a single layer on large baking pans. If you have the time, and the humidity is not too high, just leave them sitting on the counter for 2-3 days to dry out. Stir them around occasionally. Be careful though: these sandwich ends that no one wanted to eat yesterday become just like candy to little fingers when they are turned into bread cubes. So start with more bread than you think you will need. Also: the bread will shrink as it dries, so start with more fresh bread than the dried cubes called for in the recipe.

If you are short on time, dry them in the oven at a very low heat (200°F max), stirring often. It will take about 1 hour to dry the bread in the oven.

RECIPE:

Roasted Garlic Stuffing

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½ cup butter
2 cups chopped onion
2 cups chopped celery
1 cup sliced or finely chopped mushrooms, optional
1 head of garlic, roasted (about 10 cloves)  <see How To. . . Roast Garlic>
12-13 cups dry bread cubes
1 tsp poultry seasoning
1 Tbs fresh sage, finely chopped or 1 tsp dried sage
1 ½ tsp salt
½ tsp pepper
2 tsp fresh thyme, chopped or 1 tsp dried thyme
½ tsp marjoram
2 cups turkey or chicken broth (additional if needed)
1 cup dried cranberries, optional

Sauté onion, celery and mushrooms in butter. Crush roasted garlic cloves and stir into skillet. Pour vegetables over bread cubes in a large bowl. Mix in seasonings. Stir in enough broth to moisten. Stir in cranberries, if desired. Place in a covered casserole dish and bake at 325°F for 1 hour (or 400°F for 30 minutes).

COOKING TIPS: Stuffing can be prepared the day before and refrigerated overnight. If oven room is a problem, cook stuffing early in the day (before you put the turkey in the oven) for 30 minutes at 400°F. Transfer stuffing to a crock-pot and heat on very low heat until serving time.

Yield: this makes a lot! About 15-20 good-sized servings

 

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Zucchini Boats with Turkey Sausage

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One of my resolutions for the year is probably the same as at least half of the rest of the women in this country: to lose weight. My goal is pretty specific however, and has nothing to do with pounds, involves no commercialized diet plan, or even involves such vague undefinable goals like “eating healthier” or “exercising more”. My goal has to do with inches: I want to lose 1/2-inch (and I may be satisfied with about 1/4-inch). Pretty ambitious, don’t you think?

The kicker comes in where I want this 1/4” – 1/2” to come from. I need it to come from the ring finger of my left hand. So that I can remove the wedding rings from my finger! Not that I want to keep them off, it would just be nice to BE ABLE to take them off – for cleaning and such. So if anyone has any sure-fire finger-fat-shrinking diet they would like to share, I am open for suggestions!

Until then, I will have to stick with those unmeasurable methods of eating healthier (I am taking the “whole food, very limited sugar/refined starch” approach) and exercising more. We have always eaten a mostly whole foods diet, but I am going to be much more diligent about the exceptions that I allow myself to eat (like the cookies and desserts that filled my life over the holidays). I’ll let you know when I reach my goal, or my rings completely cut off all circulation to my finger.

Zucchini Boats with Turkey Sausage

This recipe, from Simply Recipes, turned out to be both super healthy and a new family favorite (probably because no one could tell just how many vegetables were packed into that filling-Hurray for the food processor). Most of them even ate the zucchini boat! Which actually surprised me, as we have only one admitted-squash-liking child.

The zucchini I used were pretty long, so I cut them in half both length-wise and width-wise. This also made for better kid-sized portions. Just be sure to leave part of the shell on both ends when you are scooping. A small melon-baller worked great for scooping out the insides. I softened these “boats”  slightly before filling by brushing with olive oil, sprinkling with s&p and microwaving for 2 minutes.

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The turkey sausage filling is made using ground turkey, onion, garlic, mushrooms, tomatoes, zucchini-insides, seasonings and Parmesan cheese (I kept that a secret from Big A, as well). I chopped all of the vegetables, except the tomatoes, in the food processor so that they would not be recognized. This is not a dish that it would be easy to pick out more coarsely chopped mushrooms and squash bits. Once my home is occupied by fewer picky eaters, I will keep those veges more chunky. They would provide a nice texture.

But for now, the food processor is my friend.

The turkey filling is pre-cooked, then cooled and mixed with an egg and the cheese. Not being a patient dinner preparer, I flash-cooled the pan of turkey filling outside on my deck full of snow. I just set the pan, straight off of the burner into the 6 inches of snow that had collected. It quickly sank quite a ways into the snow, but it did cool off mighty quick!

Fill your zucchini shells and bake about 45 minutes, until browned. The crispy browned pieces of filling were especially delicious, so don’t take it out of the oven too soon!

In fact, the browned bits were so good that I broiled the extra filling until most of it was brown and crispy (thinking that the original amounts would not feed our whole family, I made much more filling than I ended up needing) and made a breakfast casserole with it the next morning.

RECIPE:

Zucchini Boats with Turkey Sausage

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2 zucchini
about 4 Tbs olive oil, divided
1 onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
½ cup chopped mushrooms
1 lb ground turkey
2 Tbs white wine
2 diced tomatoes (I used ½ of a well drained can of diced tomatoes)
3 Tbs chopped fresh basil
1 tsp chopped fresh rosemary
2 tsp salt
2 tsp black pepper
½ cup fresh grated Parmesan cheese

Cut zucchini in half lengthwise. Scoop out insides (a melon-baller works great here), leaving about ¼ inch of the shell on all sides. Chop zucchini insides; set aside. Place zucchini shells in a glass baking dish and brush insides of zucchini with a very small amount of olive oil. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Microwave for 2 minutes to soften zucchini slightly.

(For my vegetable-adverse children, I chopped the onion, garlic, mushrooms and zucchini-insides in a food processor)

Heat 1-2 Tbs oil in a large skillet. Sauté onion, garlic and mushrooms until tender. Add zucchini-insides and cook until tender. Remove from pan and set aside.

Heat an additional 1-2 Tbs oil in the same skillet. Add the turkey and cook until browned. Drain any fat. Add wine and stir to deglaze pan. Stir in onion/mushroom mixture, tomatoes, basil, rosemary, salt and pepper. Cook, uncovered, for 2-3 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in Parmesan cheese. Fill zucchini shells.

Bake, uncovered, at 375°F for 45 minutes, or until well browned. Serve hot.

Adapted from Simply Recipes

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Cream of Broccoli Soup with Shredded Chicken or Turkey

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What to do with leftover turkey on Friday? Try this warm, creamy, cheesy broccoli soup. Perfect for leftover roast chicken or turkey.

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Cream of Broccoli Soup with Shredded Chicken

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2 Tbs butter
1 large bunch broccoli, chopped
or 2 boxes frozen chopped broccoli
1 onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
4 cups chicken broth
3 cups cream
1 can broccoli cheese soup
1 tsp salt
1/8 tsp. white pepper
1-2 Tbs fresh chopped oregano or ½ tsp. dried oregano
2 C cooked, diced chicken or turkey (or 2 cans chicken)
½ cup cheddar cheese
½ cup Parmesan cheese (fresh grated)

Sauté broccoli, onion and garlic in butter (If using frozen broccoli, sauté onion and garlic first until tender; then add thawed broccoli). Add chicken broth and cook until broccoli is crisp/tender. Puree half of mixture in blender. Return to pot. Stir in remaining ingredients and cook until hot and thickened (about 15 minutes). Garnish with additional cheese, if desired.

 

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Shredded Chicken & Cheese Enchiladas

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I shredded a crock-pot full of chicken a while ago with the intention of making these enchiladas, but life got the better of me, and I didn’t get around to it until recently. Once you have chicken shredded, these enchiladas go together really quickly. My husband loves these because there are no filler ingredients (rice, beans, etc) just meat and wonderfully creamy cheese.

I cooked the chicken in the crock pot with about 1 cup of salsa. You could also use leftover roast chicken or turkey.

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When the crock pot chicken was tender, I shredded it, using some of the chicken for a chili, some for a soup (details soon), and most of the rest for these enchiladas.

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The filling for the enchiladas uses the chicken, shredded cheddar or Monterey Jack cheese, sauteed onions, garlic, some salsa, and cream cheese (this is what makes them so wonderfully creamy!). You can also add cilantro to the filling, but I didn’t this time. I just used it in the sauce.

To make the enchilada sauce, dump all of the sauce ingredients (see recipe below) into a blender, and blend until smooth.

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Place a small amount of sauce in the bottom of a 9×13″ pan.

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Roll about 1/3 – 1/2 cup of filling in a tortilla. I used flour tortillas, but you could also use softened corn tortillas.

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Roll tortillas around filling and place in baking dish. I got 8 filled enchiladas in my pan, plus another 2 that I put in a smaller pan (these 2 extra enchiladas were terribly unappealing, having NO CHEESE in them-how could I possibly end up with a daughter that doesn’t like cheese?)

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Cover and bake at 375°F for about 45 minutes, or until hot and bubbly. I love using non-stick foil for covering saucy or cheesy dishes. No sticking! Really.

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Uncover and top with additional cheese, chopped green onions and sliced olives. Bake for another 10 minutes.

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Serve with sour cream and additional salsa. We also like to have Mexican rice or refried beans on the side.

RECIPE:

Chicken & Cheese Enchiladas

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4 cups cooked, shredded chicken
1 onion, chopped and lightly sauteed
2 cloves garlic, minced or ½ tsp garlic powder
8 oz cream cheese, softened
½ cup salsa
1-2 cups shredded cheddar or Monterey Jack cheese
4 Tbs fresh cilantro, chopped (optional)

Sauce:
1 can cream of chicken soup
1 cup milk
½ cup salsa
3 Tbs ketchup
1 Tbs paprika (hot and/or sweet)
1 tsp chili powder
2-3 Tbs fresh cilantro, chopped

Tortillas
1 cup shredded cheese
Sliced black olives (optional)
Chopped green onions (optional)

Preheat oven to 375°F.

Combine filling ingredients. Blend sauce ingredients in blender until smooth. Place a small amount of sauce in the bottom of a 9×13” pan. Roll filling in tortillas. Place in pan, seam side down. Top with remaining sauce.

Bake, covered, at 375°F for 30-45 minutes, or until cooked through. Uncover.

Sprinkle with cheese, olives and green onions. Bake, uncovered, 10 minutes longer. Serve with salsa, sour cream or guacamole, if desired.

Makes 8-10 large enchiladas.

TO FREEZE: Prepare and fill enchiladas. Place on a waxed-paper lined cookie sheet and freeze. Place in freezer bag when enchiladas are completely frozen. Freeze sauce in a separate bag. Freeze cheese in small bag.

TO PREPARE AFTER FREEZING: Thaw sauce and cheese. Place small amount of sauce in a 9×13” pan. Place enchiladas in pan (it is not necessary to thaw enchiladas). Top with sauce. Bake, covered, at 375 F for about 1 hour, or until cooked through. Remove foil and top with cheese, olives and green onion. Bake, uncovered, 10 minutes longer.

 

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Prize-Winning Shredded Chicken & Black Bean Chili

Friday night  I came home with First Prize in a Chili Cook-Off!

DSC03130Okay, so it was only the annual church Halloween Trunk-or-Treat and Chili Cook-Off, and this was my big prize, but isn’t he cute!

I actually tried a new recipe, created on the fly that same day, so I am glad that it turned out edible!

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Earlier in the week I had cooked a bunch of chicken in my crock-pot for some enchiladas that I wanted to make. And if I’m going to go to the trouble to shred chicken, I’m going to shred A LOT of it. Freezer bags are my best friend! So I had lots of extra shredded chicken on hand. (This would also be a great meal for leftover chopped Thanksgiving turkey)

DSC02976Since I knew I was going to use the chicken in Mexican dishes,  I filled my crock pot with trimmed chicken breasts and poured on about one cup of salsa. Then turned it on low and forgot about it for the rest of the day.

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DSC02993Perfect shredded chicken by early afternoon!

I used several different kinds of hot peppers in this chili: jalapeno, hot banana peppers, and chipotle peppers in adobo sauce. The jalapeno and banana peppers I roasted first. I love the flavor of chipotle peppers, but I never use a full can.

DSC03067So thanks to my friends the freezer bags, I have more on hand for another day.

Other than that, it is a standard tomato based chili recipe using chicken and black beans (plus some extra flavor items like chocolate, lime juice and cilantro!).

Hope you like it as well as the hungry trunk-or-treaters!

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Little J and Little A

Aren’t my little trunk-or-treaters cute!

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RECIPE:

Shredded Chicken & Black Bean Chili

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2 (15oz) cans diced tomatoes
1 (15 oz) can tomato sauce
2 (15 oz) cans black beans, drained and rinsed
10 slices bacon, cooked and crumbled
2 large onions, chopped
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 yellow pepper, chopped
2-3 assorted hot peppers, roasted and chopped
1-2 chipotle peppers in adobo sauce, finely chopped
1 small can mild diced chilies (optional)
1 Tbs adobo sauce (from chipotle pepper can)
2 Tbs chili powder
1 Tbs sugar
1 Tbs dried oregano
2 tsp cocoa powder (or 1 oz dark chocolate)
2 tsp salt
1 tsp cumin
½ tsp black pepper
1/8 tsp crushed red pepper flakes (use more or less as desired)
Juice of 1 lime (about 2-3 Tbs)
3-4 cups shredded chicken (or leftover chicken/turkey, chopped)
½ cup chopped fresh cilantro (use more if desired)

Shredded cheddar cheese, green onions  and/or sour cream for garnish (optional)

Place diced tomatoes in the bottom of a large (5-6 quart) crock-pot. If desired, use a potato masher to slightly mash tomatoes. Add remaining ingredients (except **chicken, cilantro and garnishes). Cook on low for 6-8 hours. Taste and adjust spices to desired heat. Stir in chicken. Cook an additional 30 minutes. If the chili is too thick, add a little water or chicken broth. Stir in cilantro just before serving. Garnish with cheese, chopped green onions and/or sour cream.

**NOTE: Since the chicken is pre-cooked, don’t cook it with the rest of the chili all day. It will make the chicken disintegrate into tiny shreds. Add the chicken at the end of the cooking time, and heat through.

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Asian Turkey Lettuce Wraps

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Having lived as a family in Japan for 6 years, we have developed quite a taste for Asian food. When asked about their favorite foods, four out of five of our kids will choose an Asian dish (Big A will go with meatloaf first).  When we feel brave enough to venture out as a family for dinner, the top three choices are always Chinese, Japanese and Indian. Little J thinks I should serve more sushi at home (but she won’t touch a piece of cooked fish).

So I am again grateful for Costco, that sells soy sauce by the gallon and sticky rice in 25 lb bags.

My Asian-inspired cooking is by no means, however, authentic. Using standard flavors like soy sauce, ginger and garlic (and chili paste – this is my favorite ingredient!), I throw together a wide range of dishes- often giving the answer of “stir-fry” to the ever-present question of “What’s for dinner, Mom?”

This dish is a little different than the standard stir-fry, but has become very popular lately as it is served in several chain Chinese restaurants. Often made with finely diced chicken, I use ground turkey as a base. I don’t have the time to dice chicken that fine! And ground turkey can be a very economical meat to cook with.

These lettuce wraps are basically a well-seasoned filling of ground turkey, served in a piece of lettuce topped with ground peanuts and additional sauce. You can add hot steamed rice to your wraps, or eat it on the side.

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Start by browning and draining your ground turkey. Add finely chopped onions, either green onions that have been sliced, or red/yellow onions that have been finely chopped (I use a food processor).

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Add your seasonings and some finely chopped water chestnuts; simmer 10-15 minutes. Stir in some sesame oil and chopped cilantro and your filling is done.

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DSC01887We like these with some additional sauce to add at the table. The sauce is a slightly thickened soy sauce-based sauce with as much “spice” as your family likes.

This is one of the few recipes that I use Chinese mustard in, but I really like the taste that it adds to the sauce. Always looking for a way to save a few pennies and also save room in my fridge (how do those condiment shelves fill up so quickly?), I save the little hot mustard packs that come with take-out Chinese (we always end up with more than we use).

Also, a word on chili paste. There are several different kinds of chili paste on the market, and you can experiment to find which ones you like the most. The two that I use for cooking most are a concentrated chili paste called Sambal Oelek or a garlic-chili paste. The main provider of these (outside of an Asian market) is Huy Fong Foods, and they can be found in most grocery stores. We like our food on the spicy side, so adjust the chili paste to your family’s taste.

RECIPE:

Asian Turkey Lettuce Wraps

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3 lb lean ground turkey
1 bunch green onions (or 1 yellow/red onion), finely chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
1-2 Tbs grated fresh ginger
1 can water chestnuts, minced
½ cup soy sauce
1 tsp rice vinegar
1-2 Tbs chili paste (or chili-garlic sauce)
2 Tbs sesame oil
½ bunch cilantro, chopped

SAUCE:
¾ cup water
¼ cup soy sauce
2 tsp sugar (or 5 drops liquid stevia)
1-2 tsp cornstarch
1 tsp rice vinegar
1-2 tsp chili paste (or chili-garlic sauce)
¼ – ½ tsp hot Chinese mustard
½ tsp sesame oil

Iceberg, Bibb, or Butter Lettuce
1 cup chopped peanuts

Brown turkey in large skillet; drain. Add onions, garlic and ginger; cook 3-4 minutes. Stir in water chestnuts, soy sauce, vinegar and chili paste. Simmer 10-15 minutes. Stir in cilantro and sesame oil.

Combine sauce ingredients (except sesame oil) in small saucepan. Bring to a simmer. Cook until clear and just barely thickened. Stir in sesame oil. Sauce will thicken a little more as it cools, but it should not be thick.

Serve turkey mixture in lettuce leaves with sauce and chopped peanuts. Serve with rice, if desired.

**For a less-intense flavor, layer hot steamed rice in lettuce leaves with meat mixture. You can also adjust the amount of chili paste to make it more or less spicy.

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