Monday, November 30, 2009

Parmesan Turkey Meatball Soup

I love this soup, it is quick and simply delicious!  You can use your own homemade stock or Better than Bouillon. 


4 quarts turkey or chicken stock (16 cups)
5 large stalks of celery, cut into ½” pieces
5 large carrots, peeled & cut into ½” pieces
1 medium onion, coarsely chopped
1 12-16 oz. package whole wheat soup noodles cooked according to package directions  -or- 2 cups cooked brown rice
1 16 oz. package frozen vegetables, mixed, green beans, peas, anything you like!
Salt & pepper to taste, at very end


1 ½ lbs. ground turkey, I use the 93% lean
1 cup dried bread crumbs, or 2 cups fresh bread crumbs
2 large eggs
¼ cup grated parmesan cheese
1 small bunch fresh parsley, chopped (or 2 T. dried parsley)
1 teaspoon each granulated garlic & onion (or powder)
½ teaspoon kosher salt
¼ teaspoon pepper

In a large stock pot, add the stock through the onion.  Bring to a simmer over medium heat for 30 minutes.

For the meatballs:  In a large bowl thoroughly combine all ingredients.  Shape into 1” balls and drop into simmering stock & vegetables.  Simmer for 20 minutes.

Add cooked rice or noodles & frozen vegetables, simmer for another 10 minutes.  Add salt & pepper to taste.  Add additional chopped parsley if you like.

Festive Peppermint Brownies

I consider these "knee buckling", be sure to be seated when you try this brownie.  They stay together very nicely when you cut them.  I recommend using York Peppermint Patties, they seem to bake up the best in my experience.

1 1/3 cup flour
½ t. baking soda
½ t. salt
1 1/3 cup sugar
½ cup butter
3 T. water
1 ½ cup semisweet chocolate chips
15 York Peppermint Patties, quartered
1 ½ t. vanilla
3 large eggs

1)  Generously coat a 9 x 13 baking pan with cooking spray, set aside.
2)  Preheat oven to 325’.
3)  In small bowl, mix flour, soda, & salt.
4)  In a small sauce pan, combine sugar, butter, & water, bring to a boil, remove immediately from heat.
5)  Stir in chocolate chips & vanilla until mixture is smooth and chocolate is melted.  Transfer to a large mixing bowl, cool completely.
6)  Stir in eggs one at a time, beat well after each addition.  Gradually add flour mixture, mix until smooth.
7)  Add enough brownie batter to just cover bottom of prepared pan, evenly place peppermint patties over batter, top with remaining batter.
8)  Bake for 28-30 minutes.  Cool completely, cut into bars.  Store in a tightly sealed plastic container.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Tantalizing Tid Bits....

I will be posting one of my favorite soup recipes next week (you can use the stock from your turkey)   as well as yet another, knee buckling chocolate dessert....this is serious, will surely become one of your favorites!  Stay tuned....

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving!

I would like to wish you all a beautiful holiday with your friends and family.  In addition to being thankful for my family, friends, and the health of everyone I love, I am so thankful for your support.  I very much appreciate your suggestions, comments, & of course, all the positive energy you have sent my way!

I am thankful for my creative director, Scot McIntosh.  He has graciously shared his time & talent with me to create and maintain my blog, I am so grateful.

I am looking forward to sharing many more recipes,  tips, and cooking techniques.  We have so much to look forward to!

Happy Thanksgiving!


Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Turkey Stock & Soup.....

Making your own stock will make an amazing soup.  If the turkey carcass is frozen, allow it to thaw in the refrigerator for 24 hours. 

Stock Recipe:

One turkey carcass  
One bunch fresh parsley
One medium onion, quartered
2 large carrots, halved
2 large stalks of celery, halved

Place carcass into a large stock pot and cover with water & add vegetables.  Simmer over low heat for 2 1/2 -3 hours, you do not want the liquid to boil.  You will notice that you do not add salt or any other seasoning at this point, you want a simple, flavorful stock.  You do this so that whatever you will be making will not be over seasoned.

Remove the bones and vegetable pieces with a slotted spoon, discard.  I like to carefully strain the broth through a fine sieve over a very large bowl.  You then have a beautiful, pure stock.  If  If using the same pot for the soup, wash thoroughly and add the stock back to the pan.  (you want to remove any foam debris from the pot to keep your soup stock clear)  You can also allow it to cool, stirring often, and freeze.

Simple Turkey Vegetable Noodle Soup

Soup stock
Leftover turkey meat, torn into bite size pieces
2 16 oz. packages of mixed frozen vegetables
1 l6 oz. package of frozen chopped spinach (not the block)
1 12-16 oz. package of whole wheat soup noodles, cooked & drained
1 bunch of rinsed, chopped fresh parsley

This will take only a few minutes to make.  Over medium heat, bring the stock with the turkey meat to a simmer, add the vegetables and allow to cook for about 10 minutes.  Add the cooked pasta.

NOW season with salt, pepper, & fresh parsley.   If you're going to top your soup with fresh parmesan cheese,  keep that in mind when seasoning, the cheese has a high sodium content.


Food Safety Tips for Leftovers.....

So, you've spend hours and hours preparing all that delicous food, and it's over in 30 about anticlimactic!!  You then have the daunting task of dealing with all that leftover food!  Enlist your guests to help you to get everything into the refrigerator soon after eating.    I use plastic zip bags for all leftovers, they will fit beautifully in your refrigerator when space is at a minimum.  I recommend dismanteling the turkey first, reserve all the meat and SAVE THE CARCASS!!  We are going to make some beautiful stock with it very soon, remove the meat saving any pieces such as wing tips and any bones, wrap with cling wrap and put into a large zip bag and freeze.   If you haven't eaten a good amount of the turkey meat after a couple of days, why not freeze for later.  Always label the bag with the contents and the date it goes into the freezer, Sharpe pens work great on plastic bags.

It is important when you use leftovers that you heat them to a high enough temperature before eating, a minimum temperature of 165'.  It is important too, that you allow microwaved food sit for at least 2 minutes for even heat distribution.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Apple Crumb Pie

6-7 Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored & sliced
½ cup sugar
½ t. cinnamon
2 T. lemon juice
2 T. flour

 ¾ cup flour
½ cup brown sugar
1/3 cup chilled butter
½ t. cinnamon

One prepared pie crust.

Preheat oven to 400’.

In a large mixing bowl, combine the filling ingredients, mix well to evenly coat the apples.  Pour into prepared pie crust.

Using your pastry blender, combine the crumb topping until all ingredients are incorporated and you don’t have large butter clumps. Top apples with crumb topping.

Bake at 400’ for 15 minutes, lower temperature to 350’ for an additional 35-40 minutes. Serve with real vanilla ice cream.  Simply fabulous!   (single pie crust recipe below)

Butter Pie Crust (single)

The main thing to remember is that you want to handle the dough as little as possible.  You want to incorporate the butter into the flour/salt mixture very well, you do not want chunks of butter in your crust.  Also, don't be afraid to handle it when you are forming the ball of dough, you need to knead it a few times so that you have a nice smooth ball.  When rolling it out, start from the center of the dough and roll, try not to stretch the dough.  Make sure you make your circle for your pie pan large enough so that there is no need to stretch it to fit.  If you stretch the dough, it will shrink during baking and the crust will cave in.

1 ¼ cup flour
6 T. cold butter, cut into ½” pieces
½ t. salt
5-7 T. ice water

In a large bowl, mix flour, salt, & add cubed butter.  With a pastry blender, incorporate butter into flour.  This will take a few minutes, you want it to resemble cornmeal.  One tablespoon at a time, add the water.  Mix using a fork.  Once the flour seems to be moist, use your hands to bring together into a ball of dough, you may need to knead about 4-5 times.   You do not want to over handle the dough as this will create too much gluten and it will be tough.  Wrap with saran and refrigerate for up to 2 hours.

Traditional Pumpkin Pie

1- 14 oz. can pumpkin
1- 12 oz. can evaporated  milk
3/4 cup sugar
2 large eggs
2 T. flour
1 t. salt
1 t. cinnamon
½ t. ginger
½ t. nutmeg
¼ t. cloves

Preheat oven to 350’.

In a large bowl, whisk all ingredients well until completely incorporated.

Pour into prepared pie crust and bake for 50-55 minutes. Center should be set. Cool completely before covering loosely with foil and refrigerating.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Stress Free Thanksgiving Day......

Many of us have to really juggle what to make and when because that big bird takes up so much space in our ovens. Refrigerator space could be an issue as well, consider making some of these items ahead and putting into gallon size zipper plastic bags, they will fit much easier than a large bowl. If you are in charge of most of the cooking I would recommend making the following a day ahead:

1) Pie baking & baked goods- Pies actually taste better when they sit for a day. Consider serving pies that do not need refrigeration; apple, pecan, blueberry, etc. Refrigerate pumpkin.
2) Dressing, especially if you are going to stuff the bird, remember, cold stuffing into cold bird.
3) Cranberry sauce-if you want to make the sauce, which is very simple, you could even do this two days ahead.
4) Mashed potatoes- I'm not suggesting you actually whip them a day ahead, why not peel, slice, and put into cooking pot, cover completely with water, let sit on the range over night, then add salt & boil when you're ready. I like to have completed the potatoes 1/2 hour before guests arrive, leave in the cooking pot and cover tightly with a lid. Also drape a heavy kitchen towel over to retain heat. (of course towel away from any flame!)
5) Salad-you can make the entire salad ahead. I put all the yummies in the very bottom of the bag, top with the clean and dry greens. (instead of diced tomatoes, you could use grape tomatoes to cut down on moisture in your salad) Store in the refrigerator until you're ready.

Consider resting time as cooking time. For birds 16 lbs. or smaller, rest 20-30 minutes, 17 lbs. or larger rest 30-40 minutes. Remember to use a large piece of aluminum foil to "tent" or loosely cover your turkey. Your oven is free for enough time to warm the following:

6) Sweet potatoes
7) Green bean casserole
8) Dinner rolls

When you're organized and much of the work is done ahead, it makes for a more relaxing holiday!

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Homemade vs. Convenience/Processed Foods

I'm sure you've already gotten the idea that I'm not a fan of processed foods. With a little planning, we can create our own convenience foods by cooking ahead and freezing. Our country, as a whole, really needs to get back to basics; wholesome, good for the body foods. Our children need to learn this as well, get them in the kitchen, they learn so much from us, we're their best teachers. Going forward, with your well stocked pantry, I am going to give you many recipes for your own spice mixes(minus the salt, msg, & additives), recipes for homemade items such as quick cheddar biscuits, pie crust & pies (next week), endless baked goods, soup stocks, working with yeast, yes YEAST, and many entrees that will please even the pickiest eaters. Believe me, YOU can do all of these things, I am so sure of it!! All homemade, you are going to be so proud of yourselves! If you have any topic/recipe requests, please let me know! I'm working on recipes for next week as previously mentioned. Have a good day!

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Turkey Cooking Tips....

Be sure to have a good instant read thermometer for your Thanksgiving bird. You will want to take the temperature in two places, in the thickest part of the breast, and in the thickest part of the thigh. Internal temperature should read 170'-175, you then let it rest, tented with foil, for 15-20 minutes, if your bird is over 20 lbs, let it rest for 30-45 minutes. For a stuffed bird, cooking temperature should be 325', for a 16 lb. or less bird you cook for 15 minutes per pound, for birds 17 lbs or larger you cook for 12 minutes per pound. For an unstuffed bird, season the cavaty with salt, pepper, & about 1/2 teaspoon of poultry seasoning. Stuff with 4 stalks of celery, 5 springs of fresh parsley, and 2 large onions, quartered. Cooking time is the same as a stuffed turkey. You will want to prepare your stuffing ahead of time so that it is completely chilled when you stuff your bird. NEVER put warm stuffing into a cold bird, it takes too long for the stuffing to reach the proper cooking temperature. Be sure your turkey is completely thawed as this would greatly affect cooking time and you would end up with tough meat.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Tomato Basil Soup-may be a bit spicy.....

The tomato basil soup recipe may be a bit spicy, I would suggest adding only 1/4 t. red pepper flakes and add more to your taste. I changed the measure on the recipe below. Thanks!

Three Cheese Penne Pasta with Turkey Sausage....

This recipe is soooooo good, why not double the recipe and enjoy on another hectic night! When freezing, I take a sheet of saran cling wrap and put it right onto the food to prevent freezer burn. I then cover tightly with heavy duty aluminum foil. You can write on the foil with a sharpe pen the contents and the date. You'll want to use within about 2 months. You could also just double the sauce portion of the recipe and freeze it, just thaw, boil some pasta and you have dinner!

1 cup part-skim ricotta cheese
1 ½ cups shredded part-skim mozzarella, divided
3 T. fresh parsley
1 lb. whole-wheat penne
1 T. olive oil
1 ¼ lb. turkey sausage, casings removed
1 large onion, chopped, 4 cloves fresh garlic, chopped
1- 28 oz. can tomato sauce,
1- 28 oz. can crushed tomatoes
1 t. dried oregano, 1 t. salt
½ t. red pepper flakes
½ t. ground black pepper
¼ cup grated parmesan cheese

Pre heat oven to 375’. Coat a 9”x13” pan with cooking spray. In small bowl, combine ricotta, ¾ cup mozzarella, & parsley. Heat oil in large pot over medium heat. Add turkey sausage, cook through. Add onion and cook until translucent, you can add a little olive oil if turkey is too dry. Add garlic, cook about one minute. Add tomato sauce, crushed tomatoes, oregano, salt, pepper flakes, & black pepper. Bring to a simmer over medium-low heat, about 15 minutes. While sauce is simmering, cook pasta according to box instructions. Drain well. Remove sauce from heat, add cheese mixture and pasta; mix well. Pour into prepared pan and top with remaining mozzarella & parmesan cheese. Bake for 25 minutes or until cheese is melted. If frozen, thaw in refrigerator for 24 hours, bake at 350’ covered for 1 hour. Remove foil; bake additional 20 minutes or until cheese is melted and heated completely through. Enjoy!

Red Cabbage & Avocado Salad

This is one of my favorite salads, it's fresh, delicious and easy to prepare. Red cabbage has the same heart healthy benefits as green cabbage with the added photochemical that acts as an antioxidant that can improve memory & protect against cancer. It is very easy to get your daily vegetable requirements with a salad like this!

1 small head of red cabbage, cored and thinly sliced
1 cup frozen petite green peas, thawed
½ small red onion, finely chopped
1 avocado, pitted & cut into small chunks
2 T. olive oil
1 T. cider vinegar
½ t. granulated garlic
Salt & pepper to taste

Combine first four ingredients in a large mixing bowl. Drizzle olive oil over cabbage and gently toss. Add granulated garlic, a couple of pinches of salt and a pinch of black pepper, gently toss. Add vinegar and gently mix well. Taste before serving and adjust seasoning if needed.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Delicious Sauteed Cabbage.....

There are so many ways to prepare vegetables that are simply fantastic! Oven roasting, pan roasting, braising, just to name a few. For a delicious twist on cabbage, why not try sauteing? When you apply a slow, steady heat to cabbage (or onions), you bring out the natural sugar in the vegetable, causing it to caramelize. You simply thinly slice 1/2 head of cabbage, removing the core. In a large saute pan, heat over medium heat until very hot; add about 2 Tablespoons of olive oil, add cabbage and STIR OFTEN to prevent burning. Add salt and pepper to taste, I recommend tasting throughout cooking to get the seasoning right. The cabbage cooks down and becomes very sweet & tender, simply delicious! (cooking time is about 40 minutes) You could also add a little garlic at the end of cooking and toss with hot cooked linguine pasta and some fresh grated parmesan cheese, OH MY!!

Friday, November 13, 2009

Stress Free Gift Giving.....

It's that time of year again! I have been doing most of my gift shopping on line for the past few years, it's convenient, you can avoid crowds, save gas, and you can do it in your pajamas with a hot cup of coffee (and possibly a nice piece of Texas Sheet Cake!) If you have a foodie on your list, is the ticket. You can find absolutely ANYTHING you need for the kitchen, at many different price points. Anyone who loves to cook loves to receive something useful for their kitchen, myself included! Take a moment to peruse, you will be amazed!

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Texas Sheet Cake

This cake is so moist and delicious! The recipe is very easy and will become a family favorite for years to come. There is just a hint of cinnamon in the recipe that gives it a very interesting twist.

RECIPE: For the cake:
2 cups all purpose flour
2 cups granulated sugar
1 t. baking soda
½ t. ground cinnamon
½ t. salt
¾ cup water
½ cup butter
¼ cup unsweetened cocoa
1 t. cider or white vinegar
1 t. vanilla; 2 large eggs

6 T. butter
1/3 cup milk
¼ cup unsweetened cocoa
3 cups powdered sugar
2 t. vanilla.

1) Preheat oven to 375’.
2) Coat a 15”x 10” jelly roll pan with cooking spray, dust with 2 teaspoons flour.
3) In measure out 1 cup milk, add vinegar & stir. (we are making a buttermilk substitute)
4) In a large mixing bowl, combine flour, sugar, soda, cinnamon, & salt; stir well with a whisk.
5) Into a small saucepan, combine ¾ cup water, ½ cup butter, and ¼ cup cocoa, bring to a boil, stirring frequently. Pour into flour mixture and beat with a mixer at medium speed until well blended. Add milk, vinegar, 1 t. vanilla, and eggs; beat well. Pour into prepared pan; bake at 375’ for 17 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean. Cool on wire rack.
6) To prepare icing, combine 6 T. butter, milk & ¼ cup cocoa in medium saucepan; bring to a boil stirring constantly. Remove from heat, with your electric hand mixer, gradually in powdered sugar and 2 t. vanilla. Spread over hot cake. Cool completely. **if you do not have a 10” x 15” pan, you can use a 9” x 13” pan, bake at 375’ for 20-24 minutes.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Black Bean & Corn Salad

This is an amazing salad that keeps very well in the refrigerator, make it at the beginning of the week and enjoy for lunch throughout the week. I love to add a few slices of fresh avocado. Also great with grilled chicken, fish, tacos or fajitas.


1- 14 oz. can black beans, drained and rinsed
2 cups frozen white corn, thawed
½ red pepper, finely chopped
½ red onion, finely chopped
1 small jalapeño pepper, seeded & finely chopped
1 small bunch fresh cilantro, cleaned & chopped
2 limes, juiced
1 T. honey
1 T. olive oil
1 large crushed clove garlic, or 1 t. granulated garlic
½ t. salt
¼ t. pepper.

1) In medium sized bowl, mix black beans through cilantro.
2) In small mixing bowl, whisk remaining ingredients until blended. Pour over bean mixture and mix well. Refrigerate immediately after use. Best when used within 5 days. Makes about eight ½ cup servings.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Test your food safety knowledge.....

What is the best way to defrost a frozen turkey?............A. In a bowl of water on the counter, B. On the counter on top of paper towels, C. In the refrigerator, D. In the microwave..........................The answer is C, in the refrigerator. You must allow several days for a large bird to defrost. If after several days it is not defrosted, you can place the bird in a large bowl in the sink and allow cold water to run into the bowl, overflowing down the drain. I would recommend ordering a fresh turkey, you can pick it up the day before Thanksgiving and simply bake it on Thanksgiving day! Butch Novack, at The Villager in Oak Park sells fabulous fresh turkeys, I believe you must order ahead. The number is 708-386-1800. The address is 1135 Chicago Avenue.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Quick Tomato Basil Soup with Grilled Cheese

Grilled cheese & tomato soup are really the definition of comfort to me! This recipe is so quick and delicious, add this to your rotation of favorite dinners. Your kids will applaud you!


1 large onion, finely chopped
5-6 cloves garlic, minced
3 T. olive oil
1/4 t. red pepper flakes
1 t. dried thyme
1 t. dried oregano
1 T. Better Than Bouillon Chicken Base
2-28 oz. cans crushed tomatoes
1-28 oz. can tomato sauce
2 cups water
1 T. sugar
2 t. kosher salt
½ t. ground black pepper
1 large bunch fresh basil, rinsed

In large soup pot over medium heat add oil and onion, cook until translucent. Add garlic, red pepper flakes, thyme, & oregano. Sauté one minute. Add crushed tomatoes, tomato sauce, water, sugar, salt, & pepper. Simmer for about 15 minutes. Roll basil leaves and slice thinly. Add to soup just before serving. Serve with grilled cheese. I love to use brie with apple slices on sour dough or sharp cheddar & smoked ham on whole wheat as an alternative. Brush with olive oil and grill until golden brown. Deeeeelish!! **if you don’t have the bouillon base, you can simply substitute 2 cups of chicken stock** Yields about 12 cups of soup. Why not double this recipe and freeze for a another hectic night?