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I know I’m a little behind on this one, but I had to share what we ate for Valentine’s Day. I hope you all had wonderful meals this V-day but if not, call a do-over with this dish. Or maybe come up with another reason to celebrate. President’s Day perhaps?

Do whatever you can to justify spending $20 on rack of lamb for two because yes, it was THAT good.

It was so delicious I dreamt about it all night after eating it. That probably makes me a weirdo…or maybe it was the red wine. Either way…moving on!

Image

First, let me say I was impressed that Turbo even thought of Valentine’s Day. Can’t remember the last time we officially recognized the Hallmark holiday with anything other than a card and maybe a peck on the cheek. But to his credit he asked me the week before what I wanted to do. We both decided that rather than get a babysitter and fight the crowds downtown we’d prefer a nice dinner at home (after Fuss went to bed of course).

I wanted to do something other than our go-to steak dinner, so after some Epicurious searching, I landed on this rack of lamb recipe. We both love lamb (especially at Canyon Grill or Boccaccia) but I always assumed cooking it was way over my head. Thank heavens for Epicurious reviewers who convinced me that not only was this dish doable, it was pretty hard to mess up. Score!

We fixed it with roasted red potatoes and lemon roasted broccolini. Both are VERY simple to make. Just chop about 5-6 red potatoes into bite-sized chunks and toss in olive oil, minced garlic, salt, pepper and rosemary. (I used some leftover fresh rosemary from the lamb recipe). Then coat broccolini in olive oil, salt and pepper. Roast both in 400 degree oven (potatoes for about 25 minutes and brocollini for about 8-10). Just before serving broccolini give it a quick coating of lemon juice.

For the lamb, all you do is mix up a simple herb mixture…

Resist the urge to dredge a piece of crusty French bread through the middle, brown the rack of lamb in oven-safe skillet then coat with Dijon mustard and the herb mixture…

Then return to skillet and roast in the oven. Simple to make and phenomonally good. (And a fraction of what it would cost in a fancy restaurant).

Here’s the printable lamb recipe:

Herb Roasted Rack of Lamb (2 servings)
adapted from Gourmet, July 2006 courtesy of epicurious.com 

For lamb

  • 1 (8-rib) frenched rack of lamb (1-1/2 lb)
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 3/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon vegetable oil

For herb coating

  • 3 large garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh thyme (or 1/2 tablespoon dried)
  • 2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh rosemary
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1-1/2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • Dijon mustard, for coating

Brown lamb:
Heat a dry 12-inch, oven-safe skillet over high heat until hot, at least 2 minutes. Meanwhile, pat lamb dry and rub meat all over with salt and pepper. Add oil to hot skillet, then brown rack on all sides (not ends), about 10 minutes.

(NOTE: I thought it looked like it was overcooking so I shortened it to about 6 minutes. Hindsight I think 10 would have given it a darker, crispier crust, but it was still delish).

Transfer meat to plate.

Coat and roast lamb:
Put oven rack in middle position and preheat oven to 350°F.

Stir together garlic, herbs, salt, pepper, and oil. Brush meat with Dijon mustard while still hot, and coat meaty parts of lamb with herb mixture, pressing to help adhere. Return to skillet and roast 15 minutes, meat side up, then cover lamb loosely with foil and roast until thermometer inserted diagonally into center of meat registers 120°F, 5 to 10 minutes more. Let stand, covered, 10 minutes. (Internal temperature will rise to 125 to 130°F for medium-rare while lamb stands.)

NOTE: I didn’t have a meat thermometer, so after about 5 minutes I cut into it to check. It was way underdone (probably because I shorted the browning time) but after about 8 more minutes it looked great and I skipped the tenting step. Again, this is really hard to mess up!!!

Happy eating everyone!

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Soooooo….I think I’m lactose intolerant. Apparently this is common after going dairy free for so long. It might improve, but ever since returning to the world of dairy I’ve had an all-too-familiar swelling in the belly. In the past month I’ve had not one but TWO people ask me if I’m pregnant.

I’m not.

The worst part? I can’t really blame them. I’m so bloated right now I look like I did in those early pregnancy pictures. You know the ones where you lift up your shirt and ask your husband to take a picture, giggling at how “huge” your belly has become, only to look back 8 months later and wince at how tiny you were?

I’m at about 16 weeks right now. But there’s no baby in there. Sigh.

I made these burgers while we were still livin’ it up in Cow-town so dairy-free readers – avert your eyes for the last step, which involves melted cheddar. (Don’t tell them but it’s really good). You can still enjoy these, just might want to top with avocado or lots of mayo and mustard and spicy arugula or something flavorful.

The best part is these are Fuss approved! I made a small burger for her and she ate the entire thing, bit by regulation-sized bit. You can also make a whole bunch and freeze the patties you don’t use.

Truthfully I’m struggling with giving up dairy again. Give it up for my baby? No problemo. Walk over broken glass or rush into a burning building for her? Okay. But give up cheese for a little tummy trouble and negative body image, well…..that’s harder. So expect more dairy free recipes in the future…but I might sneak in some butter and goat cheese for good measure.

While you peruse this delicious recipe, I think I’ll Google industrial-strength Spanx…

It begins with chopped bell pepper, which I have the cutest new way to cut. Learned it in a cooking class at Heirloom Catering.

Lop off the top and bottom.

Slice the side and roll it out.

Cut off the bitter white parts.

And chop.

Pop out the stem from the top and chop it too…or come up with some really clever use for it’s flower shape (and email me about it).

Then add bell pepper to a mix of cumin, shallot, garlic, garlic pepper and thyme.

Add – what else? – chopped cilantro.

…and turkey.

Mix it all up with your hands. Come on now, don’t be shy.

Make them into cute lil’ patties.

Heat some vegetable oil in a cast iron or nonstick skillet and add burgers. Cook covered for about 5 minutes then flip.

In the last two minutes or so of cooking, add slices of cheddar.

This is really where you’ll want to look away if you can’t eat cheese…

Yum.

Serve on toasted buns with all the fixin’s.

Take a bite, swoon, and crumble up for your baby to watch her devour with reckless abandon (if she’s anything like Fuss).

Here’s the handy-dandy printable (highlight, right-click and select print):

Southwestern Turkey Burgers (adapted from Rachael Ray)

  • 4 inch section of bell pepper, diced
  • 1/4 small onion or 1 shallot, diced
  • 2 teaspoons thyme
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 2 teaspoons garlic pepper
  • 1 teaspoon garlic, minced
  • 1 lb. package of ground turkey (I used 85/15)
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • Cheddar, sliced (optional)
  • Hamburger buns, toasted
  • spinach or arugula
  • ketchup, mustard, mayo or any other fixings you like
Combine first 7 ingredients (through turkey) in medium bowl with hands until well combined. Heat cast iron skillet then add oil. Add patties and cook covered 5 minutes on medium heat. Flip and cook about 3 minutes. Top with sliced cheddar. Cover and continue cooking until melted. Toast buns and serve with spinach and any other toppings you like.

rosemary chicken and grits

I’m a big talker.

See, I like to ponder aloud things that I should do or will do when I have time. Somehow, that magical window of opportunity vanishes before most of my plans come to fruition. Turbo has gotten wise to my wolf-crying ways and either ignores my grand plans or encourages me to put my money where my mouth is.

Yeah, yeah, yeah. 

Happily, I’ve found a group of friends who share this somewhat debilitating behavior trait. Apparently when people like this get together, the plans get bigger and even less attainable. We’ve intended to visit apple orchards, hold weekly happy hours, host Christmas cookie swaps and so on. To date, one of the few plans we’ve managed to execute is a trip to Ketner’s Mill Fair.

The event is nothing spectacular – a large “country arts fair” with a boat load of crafts, questionable fair food, exceptional people watching and stone ground grits – made on site by their large mill…hence the name. I’ve got a bag of them in the pantry.

And that, boys and girls, is how this recipe was born.

A little perusing on one of my favorite sites unearthed a delicious dairy-laden recipe, which I modified. Any God-fearing Southerner would be appaled to know I made grits without butter or cream, but it’s true. And neither Turbo nor I missed it. I may have to return my citizenship for that comment but I stand by it. The mushrooms and broth give plenty of richness, and a teensy bit of almond milk gives enough “cream” to the sauce.

So here you go my dairy-free friends…mangia!

(That’s Italian for “eat until your pants get tight.”)

First, I boiled both beef and chicken stock with wine in a heavy saucepan – aka my cast iron skillet – until reduced.

broth and wine

Then I sauteed strips of chicken with a little rosemary, thyme and oregano. I didn’t measure (sorry) but just sprinkle until the aroma makes you swoon in anticipation.

chicken

Add some prosciutto. I like saying prosciutto. Has a nice ring to it, no? But if you can’t find it, any pork product will do like bacon, serrano ham or pancetta (Italian bacon).

chicken and pancetta

Once browned, set aside and try to keep any shifty looking kitchen loiterers at bay. (Turbo is an incurable picker.)

chicken and pancetta done

Guess I can’t blame him. Next, it’s mushroom time…

mushrooms

Mmm. Golden brown. Then add your reduced broth and a little bit of almond milk. I recommend not confusing your regular almond milk for vanilla flavored. I did.

adding broth and milk

Blech.

We still ate it. It was pretty good.

Anyway, let this delicious concoction simmer until reduced to sauce consistancy. It’s not going to be super thick because of the lack of cream, but give it about 10 minutes or so. If you prefer a thicker sauce, you can whisk in about 1 tablespoon of flour.

last step flour

Word of caution, the flour turned into tiny little lumps in my sauce. I tried mashing them with a fork but it was tedious so I just crossed my fingers and hoped for the best. They must have disolved because it tasted delicious but just wanted to warn you. For that reason, flour is optional.

Meanwhile, start the grits by pouring them into boiling water and stirring.

grits

Stir OFTEN with a whisk until thick.

whisk

Add your chicken and prosciutto back to the mushroom sauce and season with salt and pepper.

adding chicken and prosciutto

Once grits are done, spoon onto plates and top with chicken/mushroom combination.

rosemary chicken and grits

Delizioso!

Recipe: Serves 2

Grits:

  • 1/2 cup grits
  • 1 cup water

Chicken:

  • 1 cup beef stock or canned beef broth
  • 1 cup chicken stock or low-salt canned chicken broth
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 3-4 slices prosciutto
  • 1 boneless chicken breasts, cut into strips
  • 8-10 shitake or button mushrooms, sliced
  • 1/2 cup almond milk (or rice or soy)
  • 1 Tbsp flour (optional)
  • Rosemary, thyme, oregano to taste
  • Olive oil

Boil beef and chicken broths with wine in heavy saucepan until reduced to 1 cup (about 15 minutes). Remove from heat and set aside.

Sautee chicken in olive oil (two turns of the pan) with rosemary, thyme and oregano. When browned on both sides (about 5 minutes) add proscuitto and cook until browned. Transfer to plate with slotted spoon. Add mushrooms to same skillet and sautee until golden (about 4 minutes). Add stock mixture and milk and simmer until reduced to sauce consistancy (about 10 minutes). If you prefer thicker mixture, whisk in flour. Season with salt and pepper.

To cook grits, whisk into boiling water and stir frequently with wire whisk until thick (about 30 minutes).

Spoon grits onto plate and top with chicken/mushroom mixture.

Enjoy!

panang curry final

A couple of months ago I hardly knew what curry was, now I’m blogging about how to make it. Ain’t life funny? A recent writing assignment took me to far-flung corners of my city that I hardly knew existed. I was introduced to the complex, spicy, creamy flavors of Thai food and I fell in love…head over heels.

Now I realize my recent obsession is way behind the rest of the world. I tried Thai cuisine nearly 10 years ago but wrote it off because of a disdain for coconut milk. Thankfully, tastes change. After almost a year without dairy, anything I can eat that’s described as “creamy” simply knocks my socks off.

The dish that really made my skirt fly up was a saucy little number called Panang Curry. I just couldn’t get it out of my head. So a little googling turned up a recipe, and, after a lot of experimenting I had something similar to what I ate in the restaurant. Now I must share it with you because even though it sounds terribly exotic and intimidating, it’s actually very simple to make.

And like any recipe in my kitchen, it’s flexible. You’ll see what I mean in a bit… Let’s just say after a virus hit our house like the bubonic plague I wasn’t feeling top-notch when I made this dish.

You start by sauteeing chicken in the pan. Shocking, right?

chicken

Then you add the savory stuff: shallots, garlic, and ginger.

shallot_garlic_ginger

Let it sizzle until shallots are tender.

chicken and shallots

 Then add peanut butter, turmeric, cumin and chili paste.

chicken and spices

Now I didn’t have cumin (it’s still a mystery as to where it is) and my peanut butter was running low so I only used about half of what it called for. It was still yummy. Also, it called for two teaspoons of turmeric, which I measured in meticulous fashion.

Turmeric

I love eyeballing measurements in my hand. Makes me feel gutsy and a little daring.

That probably means I need to get out of the house more, but let’s just get back to the dish.

Next you whisk in water, coconut milk, lime juice and brown sugar. You only use half a can of coconut milk, but freeze the rest for another time.

coconut milk

Now if you were holding true to authentic Thai cuisine, you’d use kaffir lime leaves. But if you’re fresh out of kaffir lime leaves, or if you’ve never heard of them and wouldn’t know them if they walked in and tapped you on the shoulder, you can substitute with lime juice and grated lime peel. Or, if you’re a real a stickler like me, you could use this…

lime juice

I know, I shudder every time I use this stuff but sometimes a girl’s gotta improvise, right?

Anyway, now that you have a lovely sauce, you add the chopped carrots and bell pepper. Or, if you’re fresh out of bell pepper like I was, just use carrots.

panang curry final

Once the veggies are tender you’re good to go. And, as if this dish weren’t easy enough, the sauce can be made up to three days ahead. So take a walk on the wild side and try this dish soon…your taste buds will thank you.

Here’s the handy-dandy printable version (highlight it and right click to print the selection):

Panang Curry

  • 1 1/2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, chopped
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped shallots
  • 2 Tbsp finely grated, peeled ginger
  • 4 tsp diced garlic
  • 1/4 cup crunchy peanut butter
  • 2 tsp turmeric
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 2 tsp hot chili paste (or less according to heat preference, I recommend sambal oelek)
  • 1 cup water
  • Half a can of coconut milk (I used 14 ounce can, shake well before opening)
  • 3 kaffir lime leaves or 3 Tbsp fresh lime juice and 1 1/2 tsp grated lime peel
  • 1 Tbsp brown sugar
  • 2-3 medium sized carrots, peeled and sliced
  • 1 large red bell pepper, chopped

Heat oil in large skillet over medium-high heat. Add chicken and cook until just browned, about 5 minutes. Add shallots, garlic and ginger and cook until shallots are tender, about 3 minutes. Add peanut butter, turmeric, cumin and chili paste. Stir until fragrant, 1 minute. Whisk in water, then coconut milk, lime and brown sugar. Bring to a simmer. Add carrots and bell pepper and simmer over medium heat until tender, about 20 minutes. Adjust heat to medium low if curry begins to boil and stir occasionally. Season to taste with salt. Serve warm over rice.

Can be made three days ahead. Cool slightly, cover and refrigerate. Rewarm over medium heat before serving.

So, what’s for dinner tonight?

Am I the only one who hates that question? It’s usually met with some sort of resistance from Turbo, although he’s getting better. If it’s something weird, I just say “it’s a surprise.” But when it’s quesadilla night, I breathe easy. I mean, who can argue with this?

dinner 2

The best part of this recipe is that it’s insanely easy. In fact, the hardest part is spelling it.

Q-U-E-S-O… no, wait, that’s not it… Q-U-E-S-A… hmm, still doesn’t look right.

Oh who cares? You’ll be eating it, not writing it. As for me, well, thank goodness for spell check.

This recipe was adapted from one of the best restaurants in Athens, GA – The Grit. It was tricky making it tasty without the cheese but after a few tries – and a lot of spice – I got it. You honestly don’t miss it. No, really! 

It begins like all great recipes in the history of mankind; with a generous handful of cilantro.

handful of cilantro

To which you add pine nuts, garlic, honey, chipotle peppers and sauce, half a lime and black pepper. Shew, that was quite a list. I’m exhausted.

pesto ingredients in food processor

Grind it all up.

pesto

Then mix with white beans (I use Great Northern). You can used canned, but if you have some leftovers from previous post those are good as well. My apologies for the lag time in postings. There was this little thing called Christmas. I know, totally caught me off guard too.

beans and pesto

Heat some olive oil in a large skillet, add two tortillas and spoon the bean mixture onto one side.

pesto in tortillas

Fold tortillas over and, once golden, flip to the other side. On medium heat this should only take a minute or two. OK, I’ve never actually timed it. I just do it when the tortilla gods speak to me.

quesadillas

If you don’t hear voices in the kitchen, then just use your best judgement.

Just be sure to go slowly so the beans don’t fly out of their cozy little tortilla nest. If a few fall out, scoop them out so they don’t burn and start stinking up your kitchen. (Speaking from experience here).

Now…it’s time for the piece de resistance. The secret sauce. The….the….the….chipotle mayo.

The creaminess of the mayo makes up for any cheeseless shortcomings. It’s essential to life and, thankfully, extremely easy to make. Using canned chipotle peppers in adobo sauce, I just spoon out a few peppers and sauce into the mayo and pulse until blended.

chipotle mayo

Yum. I got the mayo recipe from my friend Robyn. She is a kitchen goddess and can make deliciousness appear out of the most humble ingredients. I have no idea how she does it…

Once your golden quesadillas are on the plate, spoon some mayo and salsa on the side. This dish is also great with fiery turnip greens from last post. Again, my apologies for the hang time.

And that, my friends, is how you find happiness on a plate. Here’s the recipe.

Enjoy!

White Bean Cilantro Pesto Quesadillas

  • Handful of cilantro (about 20 stems)
  • 1/4 cup pine nuts
  • 1/4 tsp garlic
  • 2 tsp honey
  • 1/2 lime
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper
  • 1 can chipotle peppers in adobo sauce
  • 1 (15.5 oz) can of white beans or 1 1/2 cups homemade
  • 4 Tbsp mayo
  • salsa on the side

For the pesto, combine cilantro, honey, garlic, pine nuts, lime, black pepper and 1 chipotle pepper plus 2 tsp of adobo sauce. 

Combine pesto and beans in medium bowl. Add olive oil to large skillet. Add two tortillas and spoon bean mixture on one side. Fold tortillas over and press with spatula. Once golden, flip to other side.

To make mayo, place 3 chipotle peppers in food processor along with 3 tsp of the sauce and 4 Tbsp mayo. Pulse until combined and set aside. Reserve the rest of the peppers and sauce for another use. It will keep in the refrigerator in sealed container for a month or so.

Serve with side of mayo and salsa.

beans and greens top

A couple of years ago Turbo and I took a trip to Tuscany. It was a family affair: mother- and father-in-law, sister- and brother-in-law. Between the six of us, we ate about an acres worth of olive oil, and drank enough vino to stun a small horse. It was fantastic. If the secret to life can’t be found in Italy, then I don’t know where it’s hiding.

Not surprisingly, my favorite part of the trip was the food. But it did surprise me to discover that traditional Tuscan fare isn’t heavy on pasta. Instead, they’re known for their hearty dishes, namely these delicious white beans. The recipe for the beans came from my foodie mother- and father-in-law, who masterfully recreated the dishes when we returned. But full disclosure, this dish was also inspired by my favorite Mexican restaurant and the food stand at Ketner’s Mill Fair, which served “beans and greens.”

So if you’re trying to sound sophisticated, this dish is Tuscan white beans and fiery chipotle turnip greens. If not, it’s beans and greens. Either way, it’s a winner.

This dish needs several hours of simmer time, so to make it worth your while you’ll want to make about a pound of beans and a mess of greens for leftovers. Plus, the beans are perfect for the white bean and cilantro pesto quesadilla I’ll be posting later….stay tuned!

So you start with, um, beans. I used Great Northerns.

beans drained

You’ll want to pick through them and soak in a pot overnight. If you’re in a hurry, you can cover with 6-8 cups hot water, bring to a boil for 2 minutes then cover and let stand for one hour. This softens them up and cuts cooking time.

Either way, when you’re done prepping them you’ll need to drain water, throw back in the pot and top with about 3 cups broth.

beans in broth

Throw in 2 bay leaves and 1/2 teaspoon of thyme. You can also add rosemary. I didn’t but later thought it needed it. Just do how much ever feels right. Maybe tablespoon? You can be loose with this one. It’s an Italian recipe after all…

beans with bay

Now these bad boys will need to simmer until soft, which took about 2 hours for me. This would also be a great crock pot recipe but I’ve yet to try it, as I’m a slow cooker rookie.

Meanwhile, you gotta cook the greens, which you can cover with about an inch of water in large pot and simmer until softened – about 45 minutes.

greens

(I highly recommend buying your greens pre-cut and washed in a bag. Sooo much easier and about the same price.)

To add the fire, I used canned chipotle peppers in adobo sauce. These aren’t too hard to find. Even my grocery store has them in the Mexican food aisle. 

Grind peppers in food processor, then set aside about 3-5 tsp. of peppers and 2-4 teaspoons of the sauce. (You can keep the leftovers in fridge for some yummy sauces I’ll post later.)

chipotle sauce

Then saute half an onion, chilis and 1 teaspoon garlic until onions are translucent. Stand back, this can really singe your nose hairs.

onions and chipotle

Add a can of diced tomatoes and cook for about five minutes…

tomato chipotle onion

Then add your greens.

beans final

Yum.

Once both are done its time to make rosemary infused olive oil, just like with the soup. It’s just 1/4 cup olive oil heated over medium heat with a spring of rosemary.

oil and rosemary

After about 2 minutes, discard the sprig and add oil to the beans.

You’re ready to mangia (that’s Italian for “dig in”). Here’s the breakdown:

White Beans and Fiery Greens:

  • 1 lb. Great Northern white beans, dried
  • 3 cups chicken broth
  • 1/2 tsp. thyme
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 Tbsp. rosemary, dried
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 sprig fresh rosemary
  • 1 lb. bag of washed and chopped turnip greens
  • 1 can of chipotle peppers in adobo sauce
  • 1/2 medium sized onion, diced
  • 1-14.5 oz. can of diced tomatoes
  • 1 tsp garlic

Pick through beans and soak in cooking pot overnight with enough water to cover. Drain and return to pot with broth. Add next three ingredients and gently simmer until soft, about 2 hours.

Meanwhile, place greens in large stockpot with enough water to cover. Bring to a boil then simmer until tender, about 45 minutes.

Grind chipotle peppers in food processor until smooth. Set aside 3-5 tsp. of peppers and 2-4 tsp. sauce, depending on spice preference. Saute onion, chipotle peppers and sauce and garlic until onions are translucent. Add tomatoes, stir and simmer to let flavors combine, about 5 minutes. Drain greens, add to onion/tomatoes/peppers mixture and stir to combine. Let simmer for about 5 minutes.

Heat olive oil over medium heat and add sprig of rosemary. After about 2-3 minutes, add to beans. 

Enjoy!

Tomato Soup

Well, my flirtation with butter was brief. Friday night we were awakened to the siren scream of dear Fuss. She fussed off and on until about 3 a.m., slept until 6 a.m., then fussed some more. This went on for several nights. Now she’s pretty much sleeping through the night except for an 11 p.m. waking. Now why on earth her tummy only bothers her at 11 is beyond me. Is it teeth? Is she just knocked off her schedule? Or is it the dreaded tummy pains? Who knows! But for now I’m back to strictly dairy free.

But that’s ok because I have some recipes that will simply knock your socks off, including this tomato soup.

What’s that you say? Can’t have tomato soup without cream or cheese? Au contraire. And the best part; it’s as easy as it is delicious.

It all begins with 2 large cans of whole, peeled tomatoes that have been run through the food processor.

Tomatoes

To which you add 2 cups of cubed ciabatta, 2 teaspoons minced onion, garlic and dried oregano.

Tomatoes with bread and garlic

Give it a good stir and refrigerate overnight.

The next day, pour into a large pot and simmer covered for about 30 minutes or so, stirring occasionally to break up the bread.

Tomato soup, before

When it’s done, it’ll look like this.

Tomato soup, after

While the soup is simmering, heat 1/2 cup of olive oil in a skillet over medium low heat…

Olive Oil

Add a sprig of rosemary. If it starts popping like crazy, back off the heat.

oil and rosemary

Let it simmer for 3 or 4 minutes and BAM – you’ve just infused olive oil.

Doesn’t that make you feel official?

It doesn’t take much to make me happy.

Next you add the oil to the soup and give it a stir.

Oil in Soup

It’s ready to go…but if you’re really in the mood for a treat, take some leftover bread cubes – or any bread for that matter – drizzle with olive oil, salt and pepper…

Croutons

and toast them in the oven (or toaster oven) for some mighty impressive and simple croutons.

I got that trick from the Barefoot Contessa. Can’t you just see Jeffrey coming through the door right now to sample this lovely concoction?

Tomato Soup

OK, maybe not. But I swear, one bite and you’ll be hooked. (And this reheats well for lunches too!)

Enjoy!

Tomato Peasant Soup

  • 56 oz. canned, peeled tomatoes
  • 2 cups small cubes ciabatta bread
  • 2 tsp. minced onion
  • 1 Tbsp. dried oregano
  • 1 sprig fresh rosemary
  • salt and pepper to taste

Run the tomatoes through a food processor and pour into large bowl. Combine tomatoes, bread, garlic, onion and oregano and refrigerate, covered, overnight.

Pour into a large pot and simmer tomatoes, covered, for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally to break up the bread. Heat olive oil in the skillet over medium heat, add rosemary and simmer 3-4 minutes. Add oil to soup and stir.

Serve with toasted croutons.

turkey while you sleep

Excuse me, can someone please tell me what happened? How is it possible that Thanksgiving is less than one week away?

When I tested this recipe two weeks ago, I was so proud of myself for being ahead of the game. The holiday seemed like something in the very distant future. Funny how time flies… 

Anyhoo, if you haven’t already made your turkey plans, I urge you to check this one out. You could do it in your sleep…literally. When I invited my two friends over for a casual get-together, they were floored that I had made a turkey.

Once they read this post, the secret will be out. Let’s keep it between us, okay?

I stumbled across this recipe in the Jackson, Mississippi Junior League cookbook, “Come on In.” (It’s a good one if you’re in the market for a new book.) I don’t know who to thank for this marvelous recipe, but if I could track her down I’d squink on and on to her about how fabulous this turkey is.

The term squink was coined by a Yankee transplant in Mississippi and refers to a Southern woman’s uncanny ability to fuss over people. You have to hold your face really tight, flex one hand downward, and draw your words out like, “Oooohhhhh, I just loooooove this recipeeeeeee.”

I’m not nearly as skilled at this as my mother, but for this recipe, I’d try. I mean, the bird isn’t exactly a taste bud revolution, but the technique is so brilliantly simple it must be praised. One disclaimer – the author says this isn’t a carving turkey because it’s so moist it falls off the bone. I didn’t find that to be true, but if you’re making it for the big day, maybe plan to preslice and serve on platter.

So without further ado…here’s how you make a turkey while you sleep…

First, you have to clean the bird. This task isn’t for the faint of heart. (Don’t worry, no picture.) Remove the neck and giblets, wash it and pat dry with paper towels. Warning: be sure to remove items from BOTH sides of the bird. I almost missed one. Also, if you’re using a frozen turkey you’ll need to factor in a defrosting time of about 3-4 days in the frig. You can do it faster with cold water in the sink but it’s a pain because you have to change the water out.

All you need for this recipe is celery, fake butter and salt.

butter celery salt

Oh, and a turkey.

turkey before

Sprinkle the salt inside the turkey cavity and insert 2 celery stalks. Include the leaves if you’ve got them – mine were lacking foliage.

turkey w celery

Preheat oven to 450 degrees and, if you haven’t already done so, place your turkey on a rack in a roasting pan.

Do you love my vintage one? It was my grandmother’s.

Next give it a good rub down with melted MSPI-friendly margarine. (Side note…mine was a little dry, so maybe olive oil would be better???)

Pour boiling water into the pan, cover it tightly and cook for 2 hours.

After the cooking time is up, turn the oven off but DO NOT OPEN THE DOOR. If you do, catastrophic things will happen.

Ok, not really. But I bet that makes you really want to open the door. Oh, that’s just me? Okay…moving on.

All you do now is go to sleep! Leave your turkey tucked in the oven until the next morning (8 hours). When you get up, it’s ready to slice. Because there’s nothing better than slicing turkey with your morning coffee.

turkey done

That’s not true, but we do what we have to do, no?

HAPPY THANKSGIVING EVERYONE!

Turkey While You Sleep:

  • 1 uncooked turkey
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 stalks of celery with leaves
  • 1/2 cup unsalted MSPI-friendly margarine, melted
  • 2 cups boiling water

Remove neck and giblets, wash turkey and pat dry with paper towels. Sprinkle salt inside turkey cavity and insert celery stalks. Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Place turkey on rack in roasting pan and rub with melted butter. Pour boiling water around turkey, cover pan tightly, and cook 2 hours for 14 pounds or less, 2 1/2 hours for more than 14 pounds. (If you’re on the cusp, go with less time. As I mentioned mine was a tad dry.)

After cooking time, turn off heat, but DO NOT OPEN OVEN DOOR. Leave turkey in closed oven overnight (for 8 hours). Turkey is ready to slice the next morning with drippings for gravy if you like.

spaghetti final

Sometimes when I’m feeling overwhelmed, I’ll ask Turbo to do dinner.  I’ll lie in the tub with a glass of wine and deep condition my hair, leisurely flip through my magazines or paint my nails. 

Oh, I’m sorry, I think I dozed off there for a moment.  I had the loveliest dream…

So as I was saying, I’ve got a stack of magazines waist-high, I haven’t had a hair cut since the baby was born and I only get to file my nails when they’re a hazard to myself or others.  And while I don’t send my hubbie into the kitchen nearly enough, I am pretty fortunate that he enjoys making his world-famous spaghetti sauce.  In six years of marriage there have only been a handful of times when we didn’t have a stockpile of it in our freezer.  It’s my go-to dinner when Turbo asks what’s for dinner and my first response is, “Uhh…”  It’s become particularly important since MSPI put the kibosh on my former go-to option: DiGiorno pizza and a salad. This spaghetti freezes like a dream and it’s so good we’re still not sick of it. (I tend to say “Uhh” a lot).

This is a great weekend dish because it requires some simmer time, but overall it’s pretty easy.  You start by browning Italian sausage…

Italian Sausage

Meanwhile, dice up some onions, bell pepper and throw in a large stock pot with a boat load of garlic.  Let that get acquainted over medium high heat, stirring occasionally.

Bell Peppers, Onion, Garlic

Your sausage should be done, so drain and set aside and brown ground turkey in the same pan.  That’s not for some special flavoring technique, it just prevents dirtying another pan.

Turkey Meat

Now chop some celery.  This gives a nice peppery flavor.  Celery?  Pepper?  I swear it’s true.

Celery

Throw it in with the other veggies, along with the tomato sauce, diced tomatoes, onion powder and bay leaves. 

Tomato and Celery

Give a healthy stir and check on your turkey meat, which should be browning nicely by now.

Any vegetarians brave enough to make it to this point might want to avert their eyes for this next step. 

Adding meat to sauce

Give it a good stir…

Sauce
Much better.  Now let this simmer for about half an hour, stirring occasionally.  Then add a 12 ounce can of tomato paste and diced mushrooms and simmer for yet another half hour.  You can see why this is good for the weekends.

But the finished product is worth the wait. 

finished product

Tear off a piece of crusty bread, pour a generous glass of red wine and mangia!

Turbo’s World Famous Spaghetti Sauce

  • 4-5 links of Italian sausage
  • Ground turkey meat, approximately 1 1/2 pounds
  • 1 onion
  • 1 green bell pepper
  • 4 Tbsp. garlic
  • 3 (14.5) ounce cans of diced tomatoes
  • 1 (14.5) ounce can of tomato sauce
  • 2 ribs of celery
  • 1 tsp. onion powder
  • 6 bay leaves
  • 1 (12) ounce can tomato paste
  • Approximately 20 button mushrooms, sliced

Brown sausage over medium high heat.  Add onion, bell pepper and garlic to large stock pot with olive oil and cook over medium heat until onions are translucent.  Meanwhile, drain sausage and brown turkey meat in same pan. 

Add diced tomatoes, tomato sauce, celery, onion powder and bay leaves to stock pot.  Stir and cook on medium. When hamburger is browned, drain meat and add to stock pot along with Italian sausage.  Simmer for about half an hour, stirring occasionally.  Add tomato paste and mushrooms.  Simmer for another half hour, stirring occasionally.

tacos final

When I graduated college I moved to San Diego with two of my best friends.  The plan was hatched late one night in my friend Callie’s kitchen.  Actually, Brooke and Callie had already come up with the brilliant scheme, and I was invited along that fateful evening.  My clever compadres decided on San Diego because it was voted one of the top places to live in the U.S., eeking ahead of Austin, TX by just a hair. 

Our main motivation for the move was that we didn’t want to be sitting in the carpool line years from then, kicking ourselves for never doing anything adventurous while we still had the chance.  Now that I’m in that carpool line, I’m grateful for my 22-year-old wisdom – particularly because San Diego introduced me to one of my favorite culinary achievements: the fish taco. 

Before this South-of-the-border sensation swept the nation, it was one of the best kept secrets of San Diego.  All across town restaurants would host Taco Tuesdays, where you could down these golden-fried gifts from the sea for just $1.  That’s right, $1.  (Well, at least when I was there.)  If you happen to visit the city, do yourself a favor and visit World Famous for their lobster tacos.  “Heavenly” is the only description I can muster.

Anyway, in the short 9 months I lived in California I learned to make a pretty mean fish taco (if I do say so myself).  Now that I’m living in landlocked Tennessee, I’ve turned it into a turkey taco.  That’s because Turbo has a strict rule against eating seafood when he’s not within walking distance to the ocean. 

To construct a proper taco, you need to start with pico de gallo, which is just one diced tomato…

diced tomato

half a diced onion (purple is better but white will do)…

diced onion

and a bouquet of cilantro.  I never measure, just use your best judgement. You can never have too much cilantro.

cilantro

Chop all of these ingredients and mix them together with juice from one-half lime and a dash of salt. 

pico de gallo

Yum.  Now let that sit while you brown the turkey meat…

taco meat

and make the cilantro lime mayo dressing.  Yes, the very same from the chicken sandwiches.  

I might have an addiction to cilantro.  Thinking about forming a support group if you’d like to join…

Cilantro lime mayo

Everything you put inside your taco is completely up to you, except for one ingredient: shredded cabbage.  If you don’t have any cilantro, make the white sauce out of mayo, lime and jalapenos (pickled or fresh).  Don’t feel like making pico?  Fine, leave it out.  But whatever you do, don’t scrimp on the cabbage.  You can buy a head for 99 cents and it will last almost forever.  Just ask Turbo, our fridge is like a science experiment. 

cabbage

As for other fillings, I use avocado (when I have it) and black beans.  You can use canned or make your own.

Now just zap some tortillas in the microwave for, say, 15 seconds or so, pile the aforementioned toppings sky-high and eat till your little heart’s content.  Take a lot of napkins to the table and, as the sauces drip down your arms, think of sunny California and smile…

Happy Friday!

Turkey Tacos (serves 2-4)

Pico de gallo

  • 1 medium tomato, diced
  • 1/2 medium onion, diced
  • 8-10 sprigs of cilantro, chopped
  • Juice from 1/2 lime
  • Dash of salt

Fillings

  • 1 1/2 lbs. ground turkey
  • 1 packet MSPI-friendly taco seasoning
  • Water
  • Shredded cabbage
  • 1 avocado
  • 1 can black beans (or 1 cup homemade)
  • 2 Tbsp mayo
  • 1 lime
  • 8-10 sprigs of cilantro, chopped
  • Dash of chili powder (optional)
  • Flour tortillas

Mix all ingredients for pico and set aside to rest.  Heat black beans over medium-low heat.  Brown turkey meat on medium heat.  When ready, drain fat and return to pan.  Add one packet of taco seasoning, fill empty packet with water and add to pan.  Stir and simmer until warmed through.

Slice head of cabbage into thin strips, about 1-2 cups for two people.  Make white sauce by combining mayo, lime, cilantro and chili powder (optional).  Slice avocado.

Heat tortillas in microwave for about 15 seconds.  Layer meat, beans, cabbage, white sauce, pico and avocado on top.