Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Talking turkey: Leftovers

Thanksgiving is my all time favorite holiday.  For me it's all about the gathering.  I love the coordinated cooking of way more dishes than you'd have at any other meal, the drinks and laughs shared in the kitchen throughout the day and then later into the evening.  I delight in the sampling of each dish throughout preparation, then the tipsy gluttony while huddled around the table.  Turkey day may have larger meanings, but to me it's the epitome of home.

While the holiday itself is delicious, so are the leftovers and all the beauty one can create wtih them.  My go-to is turkey pot pie.  I always make stock to use & freeze, some sort of muffin with leftover cranberry sauce, and some kind of turkey soup.  This year I decided to color outside the lines and transformed the first batch of leftovers into a post-thanksgiving pizza and turkey chili.

The key to this turkey chili is getting the cooked turkey into a superfine chop so that it can be added into the sauteed onions and peppers and seasoning.  Use the aforementioned stock in lieu of water or canned broth and eat with plenty of green onions and shredded cheese. Oh, and of course, fritos or your favorite corn chip.  My current favorites are the Trader Joe's version that's organic and shaped just for scooping up the yumminess!

Make sure you have:
1 large onion
1 large green bell pepper (I used half of a green and half of a yellow this time)
2-4 cloves garlic
cooking oil
chili powder
dried oregano
sugar (optional)
cayanne/red pepper
2-3 cups leftover turkey (mix of light and dark meat is best)
4 c. turkey stock (or canned broth if you don't have any)
2-3 15oz cans of beans (I used 1 can kidney and two cans black beans)
1 28oz can diced tomatoes or tomato pureee
green onions
sharp cheddar cheese
corn chips

And then:
Open your beer, pour into a frosty glass and get to work.  The decrease in stress that happens with that first hoppy sip is directly proportional to the deliciousness of the finished product.

  1. Chop the onion and bell pepper into a small dice (size dependant upon pickiness of little ones, I go pretty small)
  2. Heat oil in heavy dutch oven and sautee' the onion/peppers for 10mins or until soft and transluscent
  3. Add a dash of salt and the spices, then the finely diced garlic

One hour, once a week

That's how I handle the family menu for the week! I grew up watching my parents plan out the meals for the week and make the corresponding grocery list every Sunday.  Typically, Daddy would be making the potato salad to accompany our weekly BBQ Sunday chicken, and Mama would sit at the kitchen table as they talked their way through the calendar for the upcoming week. Not only did it make nightly dinner prep easier, it was an affordable way to get god food on the table fast. I've emulated their method throughout my adult life, but even more so since having a household of four.

Each week, as the cupboard begins to look bare, and the leftovers supply diminishes, I check the kitchen chalkboard and put out a call to my boys for meal requests and shopping needs.  There are the standard household needs that are inevitably on the list: milk, bread, stinky cheese, dried fruit and apples.  Anything else, depends on the season and meal thoughts.

I envision the calendar for at least the next five days (are we all in town?  are there any specific dinner plans with friends? is it a full school week? etc.).  Then I'll consider anything we already have in the fridge that needs to be used up (veggies on their last leg, anything in the freezer that's been there long enough).  I am conscious of centering meals around vegetables and this is a shift from my childhood.  While Mama and Daddy used the meat as the main character and a starch and vegetable were supporting roles, I find that when I think first of how to make the veggies delicious, the protein source is usually there, but generally plays second fiddle.  While I write out the plan for specific days, I don't usually stick to it in the order which I initially planned.  For example, while I'd planned to make prosciutto wrapped salmon for dinner on Friday, the boys had leftover and I went out with friends.  Salmon then became the large lunch on Saturday afternoon.

I've found a system that works for me for laying out the list based on things I've liked about grocery pad layouts I have used in the past.  I usually take a standard 8.5x11" piece of paper and fold it in half like I'm making a paper airplane.  The meal layout goes to the bottom and then I make the list in two columns, subdivided by sections of food groups - produce, dairy, fish/meat, dry goods, frozen goods, bulk items etc.  I can never keep up with a shopping cart and a pen (let alone two kids!), so I write the needed items right along the edges of the paper. This way, once I've put the item into the cart, I tear a notch on it's name in the list.  Then, I'll move on to the next section of the store. Putting the items in the same section of my list helps me visually as I can quickly glance back over the group to assure I've gotten everything.

Roughly, think of a few different cuisine types for variety:
Pasta night
Curry (Thai or Indian)
Pizza & Salad

Then I try to incorporate one new recipe or meal a week-- maybe something that caught my eye in a magazine, something I came across in a cookbook etc.

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Christmas salad

A quick and delicious lunch on a day where you'll eat your weight with dinner:

Make sure you have:
1 pt. grape tomatoes or 3 large tomatoes
3 small persian cucumbers
1/4 large red onion
feta cheese (big block in the brine is best)
fresh mint (totally worth it)
olives (kalmatta are yummiest)
red wine vinegar
olive oil
salt & pepper

And then:
  • Thinly slice the onion and place in a small bowl.  Add enough red wine vinegar to mostly cover, about 1/4 cup.  Set aside.
  • Chop tomatoes, cucumber, olives and feta into bite sized pieces.  Add to a large bowl and add salt & pepper.  Roughly chop or tear a good handful of mint and add to the bowl.  The salt will start bringing liquid out of the tomato and cucumber, so you are likely to use only part of the wine vinegar from the reserved onions.  
  • Add the onions to the rest of the salad, reserving most of the vinegar .  Squeeze half of a fresh lemon over the top
  • whisk olive oil into the reserved vinegar, then start by adding half of this dressing and tossing the salad.  Add remaining dressing as needed
  • Pour yourself a glass of white wine and sit down and gaze at the tree and reflect on how awesome your life is.  Or at least marvel at how damn yummy the salad is.  OH, and how good the pecan, bourbon and chocolate pie will be for dessert!

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Painlessly roasted vegetables

It's such a treat to discern the subtle differences in flavor of vegetables. Yet it is so simple to bring the flavors out by roasting.  Really, there's no wrong way to roast veggies, but it can be intimidating and often requires some advance planning.  I love to roast a big batch when I have plenty of time and then use throughout the week.

Make sure you have:
- nonstick baking sheet or roasting pan
- good olive oil
- salt & pepper
*optional seasoning of your choice (tony cachere's for spicy, garlic salt or spike for savory etc.
- veggies of your choosing

    • squash family - eggplant, yellow squash, zucchini, butternut squash etc
    • mushrooms
    • root veggies - carrot, onion, potato, sweet potato, shallots
    • kale!
    • cherry tomatoes
    • garlic (see note on this one)
And then:
- preheat the oven to 350ยบ F  (you have some flexibility on this)
- chop to a consistent size and place on baking sheet 
- season all with a fair amount of salt and pepper
- use your hands to gently toss the veggies with olive oil and place in the oven for 30-45 minutes or until you can easily insert a fork in the pieces.  it takes much longer for dense root veggies to roast than it does for delicate zucchini and depends a great deal on your oven.

roasting garlic - I love this flavor, but it can be a little trickier.  to  do this, chop across the top of the bulb to expose the individual cloves. Place in the center of a square of heavy duty aluminum foil and drizzle the exposed cloves with olive oil.  Bring the corners to wrap the clove in foil.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Monday, September 9, 2013

Five Seed Almond Bars

I start every day with a jumbo mug of coffee & cream and a five seed almond bar from Trader Joe's. They have just the right balance of salty and sweet, chewy with a slight crunch and only have 110 calories/bar (or 3 points for those doing WW).  Are you sold yet?  Anyhow, a bag of 8-10 bars is $3.99 and we easily go through 2/week. Each time I pick up a few bags, I feel wasteful, so today I did a first attempt at recreating them.  I modified this recipe from Cannella Vita, a la Seedsproutsavor but without a food processor, the raisins didn't become quite the paste I'd hoped.  I used a combination of chia, sunflower, pepitas, flax and poppy seeds.  Golden raisins and flax oil.  Next time I'll put a tad of molasses and a pinch of ginger!

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Prosciutto wrapped Salmon with quinoa

Cooking fish is intimidating for many, and I admit to not cooking it as often as I'd like.  Quinoa fits the same description for me.  Screw either of them up and no one is happy with the result.  Salmon seems to be a family favorite, and a quick teriyaki generally makes it's way into our dinner rotation.  Tonight I decided to try something different.  

Make sure you have:
Wild Alaskan Salmon Filet
olive oil
salt & pepper

And then:
Use a paper towel to pat salmon dry.  Season generously with salt & pepper.  Wrap prosciutto around the salmon fillet and brush with olive oil.  Place in a 375 oven for about 10 mins.

The key to making quinoa tasty is to first rinse and drain well.  Then toast the grain in a dry skillet until it begins to pop.  The taste is soooo much better!