Saturday, November 29, 2014

Thanksgiving Leftovers: Turkey and Swiss Panini

I hope everyone had a wonderful Thanksgiving filled with family and fun!

MGG and I hosted a nice dinner with some friends.  The food was perfect and the company even better!  It's so good to spend time laughing, telling stories, and just enjoying friends.

With that said I was exhausted the next day.  I mean I didn't want to even think about putting all the decorations away and getting the house back in order. After 2 days of cooking (the make ahead items were soooo helpful!)  Least of all was that I really didn't want to put much effort into a meal.  With all the leftovers around I always try and find ways to change them up and utilize them in different dishes.

For lunch I whipped up this wonderful Turkey and Swiss Panini.  A perfect way to use the leftover turkey!  You'll need some good bread, I used a country loaf, some leftover turkey slices, Swiss cheese, and veggies like lettuce and tomato. 
For the spread you can swap out several kinds to make it your own version such as leftover cranberry sauce, artichoke garlic spread, mayo, mustard, even tapenade would be great!

Once you put this together you just cook it in your panini grill, or a grill pan and weight it down with another pan....or break out the Foreman grill...!  All work fine.  Soon you will have a wonderful hearty sandwich.

Here's the recipe for this wonderful sandwich, served with a nice green salad.

For more thanksgiving Leftover ideas click on the link below.
Thanksgiving Leftover Ideas: Let's talk turkey!

Turkey and Swiss Panini

makes: 1 sandwich

2 slices of country bread
spread - mayo, mustard, artichoke spread, cranberry sauce etc.
3 slices of turkey
2 slices of Swiss cheese
tomato slices

Spread your choice of sandwich spread on each slice of bread.  Layer turkey, cheese, tomato, and lettuce on one slice of bread and top with the other slice.  Cook in a panini grill until golden brown on the outside and the cheese has melted.  About 6 minutes.  Cut in half and serve.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Classic Thanksgiving Side Dish: Mashed Potatoes - Make Ahead Tips!

Don't you just love a potato?

Potatoes today symbolize comfort, especially around the holidays.  They are earthy-tasting, easy to prepare, and are compatible with many other foods and adaptable to all sorts of cooking methods.

Let's talk a little about potatoes...
There are three basic types of potato varieties: starchy, waxy, and all-purpose.

  • Starchy or mealy potatoes, such as russets, are best for baking and mashing because they cook up dry and fluffy, but do not hold their shape well.
  • Waxy potatoes, such as red or white potatoes, are low in starch.  Use them for potato salads and other recipes where you want them to hold their shape and are not relying on their starch content to thicken a soup or sauce. (Great for roasting!)
  • All-purpose potatoes have a medium starch content and are good for both uses.  Yukon Golds are among the best known.
Select potatoes that are firm, not blemished, wrinkled, tinged with green, or cracked.  The eyes, of the potatoes should not have sprouted.

Store them in a cool dark place with good circulation for up to 2 weeks. Don't put them with onions!  These two veggies together produce gases that cause rapid spoilage.  Best when used 2 or 3 days from purchase for their fresh sweet flavor and texture.

Mashed Potato Techniques

Cooking the Potatoes:  Boiling whole potatoes with their skins on keeps the potatoes from becoming waterlogged, improving the texture of the final dish, and help to prevent nutrients from being lost in the water.  If you want to boil peeled potatoes, cut them into small cubs so that they cook quickly and are exposed to the water as briefly as possible.

Courtesy of Williams-Sonoma


  • Ricing, hand mashing, using a's up to you and what you prefer. 
  • One great tip is to melt your butter and heat some half and half or cream with it to a warm temperature.  When you add warm milk and butter as you are mashing the potatoes they will stay nice and hot. 

Make Ahead Mashed Potatoes

This has been my go to method for several years now and they always turn out wonderful!  

1.  Boil and mash your potatoes early in the day.  
2.  Then place the completed dish in a crock pot on low.  
3.  Add a little cream on top and let them sit there until dinner time. (I would say for 5 hours at most)  
4.  Stir and serve.  You will always have HOT potatoes!

My favorite Mashed Potato recipes

Mashed Potatoes and Celery Root
by Williams-Sonoma

Also known as celeriac, celery root is a knobby, round winter vegetable that contributes a subtle celery flavor to purees when cooked and a crisp crunch to salads when used raw. In this recipe, celery root is mashed with potatoes, giving the dish a lighter texture than if potatoes alone were used, and an interesting, fresh taste that matches well with full-flavored foods such as roast turkey. Both peeled celery root and potatoes discolor quickly when exposed to air and should be immersed in water if not cooked at once to prevent discoloring.

2 large celery roots, about 2 lb. total, peeled and cut into slices 1 inch thick 
2 1/2 lb. russet potatoes, peeled and cut into slices 1 inch thick
Kosher salt, to taste
3/4 cup half-and-half
3 Tbs. unsalted butter
Freshly ground white pepper, to taste

Put the celery roots and potatoes in separate large saucepans. Add water to cover and a large pinch of kosher salt to each pan. Bring both to a boil over high heat, reduce the heat to low, cover and simmer until the vegetables are tender, about 20 minutes. Just before they are done, place an ovenproof serving bowl in a 200°F oven. (There is no need to preheat the oven.)

In a small saucepan over low heat, combine the half-and-half and 2 Tbs. of the butter and heat until the butter melts. Turn off the heat and cover to keep warm. Drain the potatoes and celery root, then return them to one of the large saucepans and set over medium-low heat; shake the pan until the vegetables begin to stick to the bottom. Remove from the heat.

Pass the vegetables through a ricer into the warmed serving bowl. Alternatively, pass the vegetables through a food mill, or mash them in the pan with a potato masher. Stir in the warm half-and-half mixture. Season with kosher salt and white pepper. Using a rubber spatula, scrape down the sides of the bowl and swirl the top of the puree. Top with the remaining 1 Tbs. butter and serve immediately. If necessary, keep warm in a 200°F oven for 15 to 20 minutes, or cover the bowl and set it in a pan of hot water.

Classic Mashed Potatoes
by Williams-Sonoma

5 lb. russet potatoes, peeled and cut into 2-inch pieces
2 tsp. salt, plus more, to taste
8 Tbs. (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
1 1/4 cups half-and-half, heated
salt & pepper

Put the potatoes and the 2 tsp. salt in a large pot, add water to cover the potatoes by 3 inches and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce the heat to medium-low and gently cook the potatoes until they are tender when pierced with a fork, 15 to 20 minutes. Drain well in a colander.

Place hot potatoes in the large bowl of a mixer.  Mix on medium low speed until potatoes are smooth.  Add butter and a little half and half at a time until your desired consistency is reached.  Add salt and pepper to taste.   Serve immediately. Serves 8 to 10.
Picture courtesy of Southern

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Making Gravy 101 - It's almost Turkey time!

What's turkey without the gravy?

Super simple and very tasty.  Here's a how-to that explains it all.  And here's two great recipes that will give you perfect gravy for your holiday.

Making Gravy

The perfect complement to roast turkey and dressing, turkey gravy is especially delicious when made from the pan juices thickened with roux (a mixture of butter and flour) and enhanced with turkey or chicken stock. You can also flavor the gravy with sherry, Madeira or other wine.  (this is my favorite gravy recipe!) 

Turkey Gravy
3/4 cup water
3 Tbs. unsalted butter
3 Tbs. all-purpose flour
2 cups turkey or chicken stock
2 Tbs. dry sherry, Madeira or other wine (optional) (we used balsamic vinegar the other day!)
Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste

1. Skim and discard any fat from the juices in the roasting pan. Or use a gravy separator and pour the defatted juices back into the pan.

2. Add the water to the pan and place over medium heat. Boil for 2 to 3 minutes, stirring with a wooden spoon to scrape up any browned bits. Transfer the juices to a bowl.

3. In a saucepan over medium heat, melt the butter until bubbly. Add the flour and whisk rapidly for a few seconds to cook the flour.
4. Rapidly whisk in the reserved pan juices and the stock. Cook until smooth and thickened, 1 to 2 minutes. Whisk in the sherry and season with salt and pepper.

5. If desired, pour the gravy through a fine-mesh sieve into a warmed sauceboat or wide-mouthed pitcher. Makes 2 to 2 1/2 cups gravy.

article and pictures courtesy of Williams-Sonoma

Here's another great gravy recipe that you can make ahead...and save yourself some time!

Make Ahead Turkey Gravy

Makes 4 cups

2 1/4 pounds turkey drumsticks
3 carrots, cut into pieces
1 large onion, quartered
6 fresh parsley sprigs
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
6 cups low-sodium chicken broth
1/2 teaspoon pepper
Salt to taste

1. Brown Drumsticks and Veggies: Preheat oven to 400°. Pat drumsticks dry. Cook drumsticks and next 3 ingredients in hot oil in a large roasting pan over medium-high heat. Cook drumsticks 3 minutes on each side; cook vegetables, at the same time, stirring often.
2. Reserve Flavorful Pan Drippings: Bake drumsticks and vegetables in pan at 400° for 30 minutes or until a meat thermometer inserted into thickest portion of drumsticks registers 160°. Remove from oven. Remove and discard vegetables and parsley using a slotted spoon. Reserve drumsticks for another use.
3. Whisk in Chicken Broth and Stir Until Smooth: Whisk flour into hot drippings in pan, and cook over medium heat, whisking constantly, 1 minute. Gradually whisk in chicken broth until smooth. Whisk in pepper.

4. Cook Gravy to Thicken and Develop Flavor: Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, whisking occasionally. Reduce heat to medium, and gently boil, whisking occasionally, 45 minutes or until thick enough to coat the back of a spoon. Season with salt to taste

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

How to Roast a Turkey 101

Roasting the Turkey

The information that follows includes general guidelines for roasting a turkey.

What Size Turkey to Buy
To ensure ample servings for Thanksgiving dinner as well as generous leftovers, allow for 1 to 1 1/4 lb. of turkey per person.

What Size Pan to Use
For best results, roast your turkey on a wire rack in an open roasting pan. Because of the turkey's weight, a sturdy pan with good handles is recommended. If you use a foil roasting pan, double it for extra strength and take special care when transferring it into and out of the oven.

Turkey Weight               Minimum Pan Size

Up to 12 lb.                      14" x 10" x 2 3/4" high (small)

Up to 16 lb.                      15 3/4" x 12" x 3" high (medium)

Up to 20 lb.                      16" x 13" x 3" high (large)

Remove the turkey from the refrigerator 1 hour before roasting. Do not leave the turkey at room temperature longer than 1 hour.

Roasting an Unstuffed Turkey
The times listed below are calculated for an unstuffed turkey brought to room temperature and roasted at 400°F, breast side down, for the first 45 minutes, then turned breast side up and roasted at 325°F until done.

Turkey Weight                           Approximate Roasting Time

10 to 12 lb.                                   2 1/2 to 3 hours

12 to 14 lb.                                   2 3/4 to 3 1/4 hours

14 to 16 lb.                                   3 to 3 3/4 hours

16 to 18 lb.                                   3 1/4 to 4 hours

18 to 20 lb.                                   3 1/2 to 4 1/4 hours

20+ lb.                                           3 3/4 to 4 1/2 hours

Roasting a Stuffed Turkey

Stuff the turkey just before putting it in the oven (do not stuff it earlier). Spoon the dressing loosely into the body and neck cavities. Do not overfill, as the dressing will expand during roasting. Truss the turkey (see related tip at left).

To facilitate removing the stuffing, first line the inside of the cavity with a double layer of cheesecloth, allowing it to extend beyond the cavity by a few inches. Then spoon the stuffing inside. After roasting the bird, gently pull the overhanging cheesecloth and the stuffing will slip out easily, neatly tucked inside the cheesecloth.

To ensure that a stuffed turkey cooks evenly, roast the bird slowly, breast side up, at 325°F, covering the breast loosely with foil for the first two-thirds of the roasting time. Using the chart above, add about 30 minutes to the total cooking time for stuffed birds weighing 16 lb. or less, and about 1 hour for birds weighing more than 16 lb.

Additional Tips
1. After taking the turkey out of the oven, let it rest for 20 to 30 minutes. This allows time for some of the juices to be absorbed back into the meat, which makes it easier to carve and more moist.

2. If roasting a stuffed bird, remove all of the stuffing at serving time.

3. After dinner, remove any remaining meat from the bones and refrigerate the leftovers.

article and picture courtesy of Williams-Sonoma

My Favorite turkey recipe....the compound butter is the secret ingredient!

Oven Roasted Turkey with Sage Butter

By Tyler Florence

Prep Time: 10 min
Cook Time: 3 hr 0 min
Serves: 10 to 12 servings

1 (12 to 14) pound fresh turkey
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
Sage Butter, recipe follows

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F and remove the top rack of the oven.

Rinse the bird thoroughly inside and out with cold water, and pat dry with paper towels. Sprinkle the cavity and skin liberally with salt and pepper. Stuff the cavity with stuffing and, if required, truss the legs. Cover the turkey with olive oil and season well with salt and pepper. Push the sage butter under the skin of the turkey, being careful not to puncture the skin.

Put the turkey on a rack in a large roasting pan, and into the oven. Continue cooking until an instant-read thermometer inserted into the meaty part of the thigh registers 170 degrees F. The thigh juices will run clear when pricked with a knife, about 3 hours total (15 minutes per pound). If the legs or breast brown too quickly during roasting, cover them with foil.

Sage Butter:
2 sticks butter, softened
1/4 cup chopped sage
Salt and pepper

Combine all ingredients.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Thanksgiving Desserts: It's all about pumpkin!

What is Thanksgiving without dessert?
Not a true Thanksgiving in my book!

We look forward to something with pumpkin, usually a pie, every year.  Everyone just loves pumpkin in my family so it's a favorite tradition of ours.

I usually make the dessert the day before Thanksgiving.  It's a good make ahead item and helps you save on pressure on the big day.

I'm bringing you four of my favorite desserts.  I hope you enjoy them.

Pumpkin Pie with Orange Marmalade - This is my new favorite pie.  The orange marmalade gives this a bright, fresh flavor.  I'll be making this pie this year as well.

Pumpkin Crème Brûlée

Pumpkin Creme Brulee - An elegant dessert to serve instead of pie.   Kitchen Tip: You can also use leftover pie to make the brulee the day after Thanksgiving, crust and all!

LIBBY'S Famous Pumpkin Pie - a classic pie!  I grew up on this and it has been my go to pie for years.

Pumpkin Cobbler - a new favorite.  Warm comfort food at it's best!

Happy Thanksgiving!

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Pumpkin Cobbler

Pumpkin Cobbler: Hot, steamy, pumpkin custard topped with a crumbly cake like topping....H E A V E N.  - Slice of Southern

Oh boy, do I have a dessert for you!

I'm loving my time enjoying the Autumn and all it's seasonal flavors.  Pumpkin being one of my favorites has been a common ingredient for me the past few weeks.

The other day MGG and I stopped at a Soup Plantation for lunch and they offered a Pumpkin Cobbler for dessert.  Well there went all my good attempts to eat a nice healthy salad and some soup...when this little temptation was calling my name.

Pumpkin Cobbler: Hot, steamy, pumpkin custard topped with a crumbly cake like topping....H E A V E N.  - Slice of Southern

I've never tasted Pumpkin Cobbler before and was so curious that I got a small bowl of this hot, fragrant cobbler, and added a blob of vanilla ice cream  (I much for the healthy attempts) and tasted my first bite of pure bliss!  I can't even describe it.  Died and gone to heaven?  For sure! Hot, steamy, pumpkin custard topped with a crumbly cake like topping....H E A V E N.  I tell you that the addition of the vanilla ice cream is a must.  The melting vanilla just soothes this hot custard and rounds out the flavors perfectly.  

Pumpkin Cobbler: Hot, steamy, pumpkin custard topped with a crumbly cake like topping....H E A V E N.  - Slice of Southern

So back at home this dessert haunted me for days.  I knew I wanted to make one.  Like now.  So I sifted through all my mom's recipes and found one for Pumpkin Cobbler.  I knew I'd seen it somewhere!  The recipe was given to her by her cousin, Maxine Humble, but the original source is unknown. I'm sure this is a common recipe as it calls for the use of a cake mix for the topping.  

Out came the pans and I whipped this baby up in no time. It's really easy to make and would be a great substitute for pumpkin pie at Thanksgiving.    Plus this will feed a crowd with one dish.  Love that!  I'm so glad I found this recipe as it will certainly become a standard in our house.

Pumpkin Cobbler: Hot, steamy, pumpkin custard topped with a crumbly cake like topping....H E A V E N.  - Slice of Southern


Pumpkin Cobbler
source:  Cousin, Maxine Humble
serves 15-18

3 eggs
1 15oz can of pumpkin
1 12 oz can of evaporated milk
1 c sugar
1/8 t salt
1 1/2 t cinnamon
1 t ground ginger
1 T vanilla
1 pkg of yellow cake mix
1 c margarine, melted  ( used butter instead)
1 c chopped pecans

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Beat eggs and mix in the next 7 ingredients.  Pour into an un-greased 9x13 pan.  Sprinkle the cake mix over the top and drizzle with the margarine. Bake for 25 minutes.  Remove and sprinkle chopped nuts over the top.  Bake another 15 minutes or until golden brown and top is set.

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Honeycrisp Apple and Romaine Salad

I like to shop at grocery stores that I don't frequent often to see the different variety of items they sell.

The problem with that is that I'm usually there for hours on end checking out all the food. Mouth watering as I discover new items, and a cart so full of ingredients for new dishes, that I don't know what came over me!

On one such shopping expedition, I came a across some salad kits by Dole. I had seen these being used around the blogesphere and spotted one that I recall being praised as particularly good. Dole's Endless Summer Salad Kit. I don't care if it isn't summer any longer, I wanted to try this salad kit and that's what I did. So I grabbed some really nice Honeycrisp Apples and headed for home with a Harvest salad idea in mind.

Soooo glad I bought this kit. I must say that it's the bomb with the flavors and the freshness! Filled with Red Cabbage, Romaine, Carrots, a Summer Vinaigrette, Swiss and Gruyere Cheeses, Roasted Sunflower Kernels, Artisan-Style Croutons, Pepper and Herb Seasoning. You don't need much more than this. Just a small addition of some sliced apples, candied walnuts, and some red pepper for a little zip, and you have a wonderful summer turned harvest salad!

It was perfect to use what was included in the kit. I only left out the croutons and fresh herb seasoning, which I kept for another use. Their summer vinaigrette is also a winner! The perfect accompaniment for the apples in the salad.

Thanks to Dole for making such a great salad kit. I hope to try other versions soon. I hope you enjoy a nice harvest salad this fall.

Honeycrisp Apple and Romaine Salad

serves 4

1 pkg. Dole Endless Summer Salad Kit
Swiss and Gruyere Cheese, Shredded (from salad kit)
Roasted sunflower kernels (from salad kit)
1/4 cup roughly chopped candied walnuts
1 Honeycrisp apple
Summer Vinaigrette (from the kit)
About 1/4 tsp. kosher salt
About 1/4 tsp. pepper
red pepper, a pinch

Cut sides off apple into 4 pieces, leaving the core. Slice the apple pieces thinly with a mandoline or a knife. 

Place salad greens into a large bowl.  Add cheese, and sunflower seed from the kit to the bowl.  Add the candied walnuts as well.  Dress salad with Summer Vinaigrette tossing to coat.  

Add sliced apples to salad and toss to coat. Season with salt, pepper, and a pinch of red pepper.  Serve.

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Game Day Snacks: Sloppy Guiseppe Fries

It's the season for sitting around the TV and watching a great game.

A good football game or the World Series is a great excuse for me to whip up some game day snacks!  It's a must in my book. We were watching the World Series the other night and I felt the urge for something hearty and hot to snack on during the game.  Which led me to whip up something easy; Sloppy Guiseppe Fries!

Hot, meaty and kind of snack!

The best part of this dish is that it uses leftover Sloppy Guiseppe filling from the sandwiches I made the night before.  So all you really need to do it make oven fries, heat the meat filling and put it all together.  An easy 30 minute snack!

So if you are enjoying a great game and want a hearty snack try this dish.  The men and kids in your life will go wild over it!

Sloppy Guiseppe Fries

serves 2

2 medium russet potatoes
2 T. olive oil
1 T Italian seasoning
1 c. Sloppy Guiseppe filling
Garnishes:  shredded mozzarella cheese, diced tomatoes,
sour cream, chives

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.  Peel and cut the potatoes into this wedges.  Drizzle with olive oil and toss to coat.  Sprinkle Italian seasoning and spread out in to a single layer on a baking pan.  Cook until golden brown, about 30 minutes, turning the fries over half way through the cooking time.

Heat the meat filling in a microwave safe bowl on high for 2 minutes, or until hot. Remove fries from the oven and place on a platter.  Top with meat filling.  Add garnishes as desired.  Serve.


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