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Turkey Tetrazzini

30 Nov

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Wow. Sigh…. Phew. Did anyone else have a whirlwind of a Thanksgiving? This year, it felt like Thanksgiving plain right snuck up on me. Also, coming down with the stomach flu the week of the biggest food holiday of the year was less than ideal. But despite the craziness of the holidays at work, and the flu, the worst part of the whole shooting match is that I didn’t do any Turkey Day Trials!

For any long-time readers, you know the joy I’ve had with practicing and perfecting my Thanksgiving foods for the big day. This year, I did do a Sweet Potato Turkey Roulade that stole the show on a random Friday a few weeks back, but that was about it.  By the day of Thanksgiving, even though my mom and I were splitting the cooking for the day, I had not pre-prepped anything leaving me a stressed hot mess on the day. My standard Bourbon Butternut Squash Soup curdled, my Bacon Wrapped Dates didn’t get wrapped, and I was still cooking things when my guests arrived (my personal pet peeve).

The turkey, however… was delicious.

I tried something new this year with my farm fresh turkey. Instead of brining (what a mess), and stuffing (that never works), or even brown-bagging the bird (my mother in-law swears by it!), I simply tented the turkey with foil for the first hour of cooking, then let the thing hang out at 350, uncovered, for the last 2 hours. The only seasonings were salt, butter, and white pepper, and I used a bit of chicken stock on the bottom of the roasting pan for some basting. My standard for resting is 45-minutes to an hour to create the perfect temperature for, well, handling, but also for carving. And I have to say, even without Turkey Day Trials, this year’s bird took the gravy.

Now, it’s back to the grind. My students were so excited to tell me that they saw the “big Tom” and the “leg kicking ladies” on the televised Macy’s Day Parade, and North Florida is back to its supernatural-for-this-time-of-year 80-degree weather. With Thanksgiving, back to the grind also translates to leftovers.

Like many, I am a huge fan of the extra-mayo, turkey and cranberry sandwiches. There’s nothing wrong with those buggers, but there is something better: it’s a standard, it’s a classic, it’s perfect for lunch at work, it’s the infamous Turkey Tetrazzini.

I’m not a huge casserole lover (simply because I like having a diversity of food during the week, and when there are only two mouths to feed, those mouths get a little tired of the same thing 5 days in a row). But when it’s Turkey Tez, it’s no holds barred. This is an easy casserole, and one that nixes the 1985 canned mushroom soup rendition. Also, with the switch from regular to whole wheat spaghetti, the added structure and nutty taste compliment the turkey perfectly. A word to the wise, though: make sure the casserole has cooled a bit before serving. Once when my mom served up a healthy-right-out-of-the-oven scoop to my dad, it cracked the plate!

This one is simple and satisfying.   If there is any turkey left in your house, give this recipe a try and savor the start to the next holiday season (omg, it’s here already!).

Enjoy!

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Turkey Tetrazzini
(makes 1, 9-inch square casserole)

  • Leftover turkey meat, shredded, and however much you’ve got! (I used the meat from 2 legs, and the rest of the breast meat, about roughly 4 cups)
  • ½ package of whole wheat spaghetti
  • 1 small yellow onion, diced
  • 5 stalks celery, sliced into half-moons
  • 2 pints cremini mushrooms, stems removed, sliced
  • 5 springs fresh thyme, leaves removed
  • 8 oz sour cream
  • 2 c chicken broth
  • 2 c shredded mixed cheese (I like the shredded Mexican blend)
  • 4 tbsp butter, plus 1 tsp for greasing
  • s&p

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and grease a 9-in x 9-in baking dish with the tsp of butter.

In salted boiling water, boil the spaghetti noodles until they have just left the crunchy stage. They should still have some bite to them, and will continue to cook in the oven. Drain the pasta, and set aside in a large mixing bowl.

Meanwhile, in a large sauté pan, heat the butter. Sauté the onion, celery, and mushrooms, season with a pinch of s&p, until they start to soften. Off the heat, stir in the thyme leaves and sour cream. Transfer the veg to the bowl with the pasta, and mix to combine. Pour in the chicken stock, mix, and then pour into the greased baking dish. Even out the mixture in the dish, and then evenly top with the cheese. *Note, you may want to put the baking dish on a sheet tray, just in case the mixture bubbles over a bit.

Bake until golden and bubbly, and bits of sticking-out pasta have become browned and crunchy (oh those are so good), about 30 minutes. Let cool a bit before serving (don’t crack a plate!), pour a buttery chardonnay to pair, and savor the season.

Enjoy!

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School Supplies & 10 Minute Pasta

9 Aug

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I went to Target yesterday. Oh, let me preface that and say: school starts next week and I went to Target yesterday. It. Was. Nuts. At one point Rob looked like he was about to straight-arm a 7-year old just to get to the crayons. I stood at a safe distance while he ventured in and out of the school supply section with Bear Grylls-like prowess, emerging triumphantly with the 64-pack of colors with the sharpener in the back. Rob was unscathed, but as we walked away with the echoes of children crying, yelling, running, my eyes widened with what awaits me in the coming week.

It’s funny; the teacher supply section is not at all near the kids supply section. It is quiet in the teacher section and the glossy books happily stand, emitting joy and hope of future learning. Among one of them, standing out like a beacon of necessity, was Color Me Calm 100 Coloring Templates for Meditation and Relaxation. An adult, Zen coloring book which intends to “help bring you to a relaxed emotional state as a way to self-soothe.” Not so much a teacher resource, but definitely a teacher necessity.

People, do not pass “go,” do not pick up $200, summer is over and all signs point directly to Back To School.

Which, of course, makes me reminisce on the summer. It was a fun, busy, and traveling break, visiting my sister in New Orleans, my friends in SoCal, and hitting every state in New England. Rob and I went to a couple weddings, camped in Maine (praying the lightning storm wouldn’t kill us in the tent – well, I prayed, Rob thought it was cool), backpacked and camped in New Hampshire (cooked a quinoa and cod salad on a rock in the middle of the forest), made it to the top of Mt. Washington, and discovered the wonderfully quaint (and delicious) town of Stowe, Vermont. We spent time with both of our families, relaxing in Connecticut, wine tasting and dining on the North Fork, and currently we are finishing this shooting match back in Jacksonville by lying on the couch as much as possible before time runs out.

While we were very blessed to have such an eventful summer, we are also aware that the whirlwind days of school and deployments are right around the corner.

When Rob deployments coincide with the start of the school year, I kind of fall into a cooking rut. It’s just me (and Sig) in the house; so cooking a full-fledged meal, with leftovers, seems a bit superfluous. My nights can consist of popcorn, wasabi peas, peanuts, and if it was a bad day at work, frozen black truffle cheese pizza. If I’m at all feeling the effect of those really trying days, I’ll even resort to my famous microwaved nachos (organic blue corn chips and shredded jack/cheddar cheese nuked for 30 seconds, then topped with too many drips of Tapatio). But being determined to make this new school year a healthier start, I did a solo-dinner test run.

With Jacksonville’s heat historically lasting well into October, a culinary silver lining is that farm-fresh tomatoes are ripe, fruity, brightly acidic, and will be perfect for a good while now. Another thing about the heat is that spending anytime outside is next to dreadful, and sitting inside gaining cooking inspiration from my many cookbooks is ideal. So after reading Tina Nordstrom’s Scandinavian Cooking recipe for Gnudi with Sage-Roasted Tomatoes and Caramelized Butter, I was inspired.

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When inspiration strikes, I act quickly. My waiting-too-late-to-figure-out-dinner-when-Rob-is-on-a-night-flight hunger made me made me act even more quickly. Thus born was the 5-ingredient, 10-Minute Pasta dinner suitable for a solo meal, elegant enough for quick company, yet comforting and fresh enough to leave anyone feeling last-bite-satisfied.

Ms. Nordsrom has a thing for browned (caramelized) butter, and I don’t blame her. The stuff is awesome. Fabulous, even. And frankly, I don’t use it enough. So here’s my interpretation:

While waiting for 3 tbsp of unsalted butter to heat, melt, and brown in a large pan over med-high heat (browned = the kitchen starts to smell like popcorn and the happy, sputtering butter sound immediately ceases), slice a good pint of farm-fresh grape tomatoes in half. Tossing them into the pan with the butter, the acid from the tomatoes immediately starts to release and emulsify with the fat, creating a silky and fragrant sauce. Seasoning with s&p is key here. I also added about ¼ tsp red pepper flakes, because I’m spicy like that, but it’s not necessary to the dish. Add whole wheat spaghetti (not my favorite, but works oh-so-well here with its nuttiness becoming a star flavor) into a separate pot of salted boiling water. Once cooked through, add the pasta to the tomatoes, and thoroughly toss over low heat. If needed to thin the mixture, add ¼ c of the starchy pasta cooking water to the pan. Adding ¼ c freshly, and very roughly chopped Italian parsley, as well as 3 tbsp of toasted pine nuts into the pan finishes the dish.

This meal was so perfect – super easy, unbelievably tasty with brown butter/pine nut/ wheat pasta nuttiness and tomato-tanginess leaving a lasting buttery taste, cut only by the fresh grassiness of parsley.   I don’t make pasta meals all that often, but this one will absolutely be a back to school staple.

On a side note, that Zen adult coloring book, it is so much fun. Of course I bought it! A supposed calming resource in the teacher’s resource section provided right before school starts? Completely worth the try. Then again, so is the pasta. Back to school or not, this is an end-of-summer recipe homerun for just one, two, or a few to devour!

Enjoy!

Pumpkins, Hotdogs, and Ta-Tas

2 Nov

Happy Sugar Hangover Day!  Halloween is always such a fun holiday, and it has always been a fun tradition in my family to celebrate with food, fun, and friends.

I should probably explain the Ta-Tas.  Many of you probably know that October was Breast Cancer Awareness month – all you really had to do was watch a football game to see all of the bright pink shoelaces, chin guards, and lovely gloves.  Well, to kick off Halloween weekend, Coos Bay held a 5k called “Fight Like a Girl” for Breast Cancer.  It was everything Coos Bay had to offer – cold, slightly wet (although it didn’t rain while running, thank goodness!), and some of the best t-shirts I’ve ever seen – on MEN.  “Save the Ta-Tas,” “I’m a breast man,” “Save Second Base” were a few of the better ones showing their support.

The run was a lot of fun, and the Captain of the air station shaved his head in front of everyone for getting over 50 people from the Coast Guard to come out to the race.  I had to smirk a little when I heard one of the LT’s comment on how watching an enlisted take clippers to a Captain’s head was not something you see everyday.

But the best part of the run was the fact that I RAN the whole time, thus meaning I had an excuse to eat whatever I wanted for the rest of the day!  Oregon was playing USC in football, so a friend and I held some chairs down at a local sports bar, put little “O” tattoos on our cheeks, and thoroughly enjoyed fries dipped in ketchup and mayo with hoppy beer between cheers celebrating the Ducks spanking the Trojans.

So where is the cooking in all of this, you may ask?  Well, while I’m out running for healthy boobs, and indulging in pub gastronomy, poor Rob had to work.  Saturday duties at the air station are never a ton of fun, but it’s nice that we are still able to see each other because I can go visit him.  So, I brought over dinner – Sesame Noodle Salad.  A little sweet, a little spicy, creamy and fresh all at the same time.  Having lived in Southern California for such a long time (where there is a large Asian population), I loved learning about all the different Asian flavors as well as experimenting with them at home.  One of my favorite things is the pickling process – Japan and Korea, especially, pickle vegetables as a way to preserve, but they end up giving dishes so much of a unique tang and spiciness (I also like how Scandinavian countries are also into pickling, so it’s in my blood).  So, bringing a bit of a Scandi-Asian fusion to the dish, I included my Pickled Cauliflower.  Rob texted me with one word: “delicious.”

But the weekend wasn’t over – we still had one of the most fun holidays of the year to celebrate!  And more traditions to carry on.  My mom says, from as long as she can remember, she has had hot dogs on Halloween.  Therefore, for as long as I can remember, I have too.  Rob was all for carrying on the tradition, especially since it meant that he got to put his new fancy grill into action.  But, knowing me, I couldn’t stop at the hotdogs.  I had to include the sides – Herbed Potato Salad, and Homemade Baked Beans.  The coolest thing about homemade baked beans is that you can totally make them special and unique by adding a hot spice, or a smoky spice, green chilis, molasses, herbs, even a touch of beer.  We did our beans in a slow cooker – super easy to throw in all the ingredients together, let it cook, and smell the house up with yummy, bacony, sweet, spicy, smokey goodness.

Rob carved the pumpkin (and a small bit of his hand), I cut the potatoes, and our giant bowl of artificially flavored sugary treats were almost completely gone.  Our Trick-or-Treaters were refreshingly old-fashioned; there were bed-sheet ghosts, green-faced witches, a princess or two, and lots of “Thank yous!”  My favorite was a very, very small Luigi who emphatically said, “Thank you!  Bye!” waved and blew me a kiss.  So cute!

Our festive Pumpkintinis topped off the night, and we thoroughly enjoyed the fact that our Halloween was more Casper The Friendly Ghost-like rather than Nightmare on Elm Street-esque.

That being said, don’t wait for next Halloween, or the next Save the Ta-Tas 5k to try out these recipes.  Experiment, and enjoy!

Sesame Noodles with Raw Veg (serves 4-6)

  • 1-2 handfuls of Soba Noodles (or use spaghetti or angel hair if you can’t find the buckwheat Soba)
  • 3 giant tbsp peanut butter
  • 1 tbsp dark sesame oil (keep it in the fridge… it lasts longer)
  • 1 tbsp soy sauce
  • 3 tbsp rice wine vinegar
  • 1 large tsp fresh ginger
  • 1 large garlic clove
  • 1 squirt Sriracha hot sauce (or more if you want it more spicy)
  • 1/4 c water
  • 3 carrots, shredded (I just use a vegetable peeler)
  • 1 large red bell pepper, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 c pickled cauliflower
  • 3 radishes thinly sliced
  • 3 scallions, sliced
  • 1/2 c parsley, roughly chopped
  • s&p

In a large pot, boil Soba noodles according to package instructions (usually only 3-5 minutes).  Drain, and rinse with cold water (to stop cooking).

In a blender, combine the peanut butter, sesame oil, ginger, garlic, rice wine vinegar, Sriracha, soy sauce and water.  Blend until smooth (add more water if it is not a smooth consistency).

Mix chopped vegetables, soba noodles, and desired amount of sesame peanut dressing, and taste for seasoning.  Enjoy room temperature or cold!

Slow Cooker Baked Beans (serves 6-8)

  • 3 cans white beans, drained and rinsed
  • 2 c water
  • 6 tsp tomato paste
  • 3 oz slab bacon, diced and crisped
  • 1 med white onion, finely diced and sauteed in 1 tbsp of bacon drippings until translucent.
  • 1/2 c Dijon mustard
  • 1/2 tbsp Ancho chili powder
  • 4 tbsp dark brown sugar
  • 3 springs thyme
  • cracked pepper

Set the slow cooker on HI.  Combine all ingredients in slow cooker, and cook for about 3 hours, stirring occasionally (and it smells so good, I dare you not to taste it along the way!)

Serve with your favorite BBQ dish, southern meal, or make a delicious rendition of Beanie Weenie!

Enjoy!

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