Mardi Gras 2013

I’m not from New Orleans nor do I observe Lent, but, ANY excuse for me to cook a themed meal & I am all over it! I cooked our Mardi Gras dinner last night so YOU could read the post today and get some ideas for your own Mardi Gras dinner tonight.

On my menu: Muffaletta Finger Sandwiches, Shrimp Creole and a Mardi Gras Salad with a Creole Vinaigrette
Muffaletta Finger Sandwiches
Recipe comes from a “Cuisine at Home” magazine, with modifications
Serves 8-12 as an appetizer, 4-6 as lunch
  • ¼ cup red wine vinegar
  • ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tsp. Dijon mustard
  • ½ tsp. dried oregano leaves
  • 1 cup drained Giardiniera vegetables
  • 1 cup chopped green olives with pimentos
  • ¼ lb. each of two to three meats: salami, honey turkey, mortadella, capicola, ham
  • 1 loaf ciabatta, halved lengthwise
  • ~½ lb. sliced provolone or mozzarella
Preheat oven to 400º. Line a baking sheet with foil. Place vinegar, oil, mustard, dried oregano, Giardiniera vegetables and olives in a food processor and pulse until vegetables are minced.
Giardiniera Olive MixtureChop meats and stir into Giardiniera mixture. Place ciabatta halves on baking sheet. Spoon Giardiniera-meat mixture evenly over bread and top with mozzarella slices.
Muffaletta Ready for the OvenBake until cheese melts and meat is hot, 20-25 minutes. Slice each ciabatta half into 6-8 slices. This is fabulous as an appetizer for a party or watching the big game.
Muffaletta Finger Sandwiches
Shrimp Creole
My own recipe
Serves 4
  • ¼ cup butter
  • ¼ cup all-purpose flour
  • ½ medium white onion, diced
  • 1 medium green bell pepper, diced
  • 3 stalks celery, diced
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 14.5-oz. can diced tomatoes
  • 1¾ cup crushed tomatoes
  • 2 bays leaves
  • 1¾ cup water (1 can’s worth)
  • ¼ tsp. salt
  • ⅛ tsp. cayenne pepper
  • Dash Worcestershire sauce
  • Dash hot sauce – optional
  • 1½-2 lb. peeled and deveined shrimp, tails removed
  • 1 Tbsp. creole seasoning
  • White rice, for serving
  • Flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped – for garnish
  • Scallions, thinly sliced – for garnish
Melt butter over medium heat. Add flour and cook, stirring constantly, to make a dark roux (the color of chocolate).
Chocolate Colored RouxAdd onion, celery and bell pepper (the “trinity”); cook until tender, about 10 minutes. Add garlic & cook 1 minute. Add both tomatoes, bay leaves, water, salt & cayenne. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer 15 minutes.
Meanwhile, toss shrimp with creole seasoning in a medium bowl. Add Worcestershire sauce, and hot sauce (if using) to tomatoes in pot. Mix to incorporate, then add shrimp. Cook 4-6 minutes (depending on the size of your shrimp), until fully cooked.
Serve over white rice, garnished with parsley and scallions. Pass additional hot sauce at the table.
For a nice presentation, mold rice into ramekins and invert onto large shallow bowls. Spoon shrimp & sauce around rice. Garnish.
Shrimp Creole
Mardi Gras Salad with Creole Vinaigrette
This salad is festive with the Mardi Gras colors of purple, yellow and green
Serves 6
  • 2 romaine hearts, sliced crosswise 1″ thick
  • ¼ small purple cabbage, thinly sliced
  • 1 pint yellow cherry, pear or grape tomatoes, halved (omit if you can’t find yellow)
  • 1 English cucumber, thinly sliced
  • 3 Tbsp. red wine vinegar
  • 6 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 Tbsp. creole mustard
  • 2  cloves garlic, crushed
  • 1 yellow pepper, cored and cut into 6 rings
Place romaine, cabbage, tomatoes & cucumbers in a large bowl. Whisk vinegar, oil, mustard & garlic together. Taste & season with salt if needed. Toss dressing with salad. Serve salad on chilled plates and top each with a pepper ring (I completely got distracted while cutting my yellow pepper and ended up with strips instead of rings).
Mardi Gras Salad
Laissez Les Bons Temps Rouler!

Two Great Party Dips

Good friends of ours had an Age of Aquarius party last night for their joint birthday. Of course I had to cook something to bring. I picked a caramelized onion dip and sun-dried tomato dip, both from Barefoot Contessa.

Pan Fried Onion DipPan-Fried Onion Dip
Makes 2 cups
  • 2 large yellow onions
  • 4 Tbsp. unsalted butter (I use 2 Tbsp.)
  • 4 Tbsp. vegetable oil (I use 2 Tbsp. olive oil)
  • ¼ tsp. ground cayenne pepper (use up to ½ tsp. if you want it spicy)
  • 1 tsp. kosher salt
  • 4 oz. cream cheese, room temperature (I use the ⅓ less fat Neufchâtel)
  • ½ cup sour cream
  • ½ cup good mayonnaise (I use the light Hellmann’s)
Cut the onions in half and then slice them into ⅛” thick half-rounds (I use the thin setting on my mandolin). (You will have about 3 cups of onion.)
Onions after 5-10 minutes

Onions after 5-10 minutes

Heat the butter and oil in a large sauté pan on medium heat. Add the onions, cayenne, salt and pepper and sauté for 10 minutes. Reduce the heat to medium-low and cook, stirring occasionally, for 20 more minutes, until the onions are browned and caramelized. Allow onions to cool.

Caramelized OnionPlace the cream cheese, sour cream and mayonnaise in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment and beat until smooth. (I use my food processor fitted with a metal blade.) Add onions and mix well. Taste for seasonings.
Serve at room temperature.
I serve this with Kettle Brand potato chips – either the Sea Salt variety or Salt and Fresh Ground Pepper. You could also serve with fresh vegetables and crackers for dipping.
Sun Dried Tomato DipSun-Dried Tomato Dip
Makes 2 cups
  • ¼ cup sun-dried tomatoes in oil, drained and chopped (~8 tomatoes)
  • 8 oz. cream cheese, room temperature (I use the 1/3 less fat Neufchâtel)
  • ½ cup sour cream
  • ½ cup good mayonnaise (I use the light Hellmann’s)
  • 10 dashes Tabasco sauce (I use the Green Jalapeño Tabasco)
  • 1 tsp. kosher salt (I use 3/4 tsp.)
  • 2 scallions, thinly sliced (white and green parts)
Purée the tomatoes, cream cheese, sour cream, mayonnaise, Tabasco, salt and pepper in a food processor fitted with a metal blade. Add the scallions and pulse twice. Serve at room temperature.
When I am serving this with the onion dip above, I use the same Kettle Brand potato chips for both. You could also serve with crackers and fresh vegetables.
Do not substitute the dry sun-dried tomatoes for the oil-packed ones; the flavor will not be as intense.

Dinner from Jerusalem: A Cookbook

Wednesday I cooked several recipes for dinner from the third cookbook that I received for Hanukkah (see here and here for posts about the first two cookbooks). This one was a gift from my in-laws and is titled Jerusalem: A Cookbook by Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi.

The recipes that I chose to cook and serve (yes, all in one night) were:

  • Kofta B’siniyah
  • Basmati Rice and Orzo
  • Fresh Vegetable Salad
  • Roasted Butternut Squash and Red Onion with Tahini and Za’atar
Jerusalem A Cookbook DinnerI was able to find all of the ingredients at my local Publix (which admittedly does have an extensive ethnic aisle). Two of the dishes had several sub-recipes included and I tried to get a lot of the prep work done in the morning between carpool runs. It was still an extensive undertaking on a weeknight. On top of that, Wednesday is robotics night for Andy so we had to be done with dinner and out the door by 5:30pm. Dinner turned out delicious in spite of the disaster I created in the kitchen. Mental note – don’t try to cook four brand new recipes for the same meal.
Below are the recipes with my notes in red. Also, steps of the recipe that I skipped are omitted for brevity’s sake.
Kofta B’siniyah
Serves 6
(Middle-eastern torpedo-shaped baked beef and lamb meatballs with tahini sauce)
Meatballs (the kofta)
  • 14 oz. ground lamb (I used 1 lb.)
  • 14 oz. ground veal or beef (I used 1 lb. beef)
  • 1 small onion, finely chopped
  • 2 large cloves garlic, crushed
  • 7 Tbsp. toasted pine nuts, coarsely chopped (next time I will finely chop them)
  • ½ cup finely chopped flat-leaf parsley
  • 1 large medium-hot red chile, seeded and finely chopped (I omitted)
  • 1½ tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 1½ tsp. ground allspice
  • ¾ tsp. grated nutmeg (I just used the bottled pre-grated nutmeg)
  • 1½ tsp. freshly ground black pepper
  • 1½ tsp. salt (I used Kosher salt)
Tahini Sauce
  • ⅔ cup light tahini paste (see here for recipe for hummus using tahini)
  • 3 Tbsp. freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • ½ cup water
  • 1 medium clove garlic, crushed
To cook and serve meatballs
  • 2 Tbsp. sunflower oil
  • Toasted pine nuts, to garnish
  • Finely chopped flat-leaf parsley, to garnish
  • Sweet paprika, to garnish (totally forgot this)
Put all the meatball ingredients in a bowl and use your hands to mix everything together well. Now shape into long, torpedo-shaped fingers, roughly 3¼” long. Press the mix to compress it and ensure each kofta is tight and keeps its shape. Arrange on a plate and chill until you are ready to cook them, for up to 1 day.
Make the tahini sauce: In a medium bow, whisk together the tahini paste, lemon juice, water, garlic and ¼ tsp. salt. The sauce should be a bit runnier than honey; add 1-2 Tbsp. water if needed. (The tahini sauce will thicken as it sits so add more water just before serving if you are making it ahead of time).
Preheat oven to 425º. Heat sunflower oil in a large frying pan over high heat and sear the kofta. Do this in batches so they are not cramped together. Sear them on all sides until golden brown, about 6 minutes per batch. Lift out of the pan and arrange on a baking sheet. Put the baking sheet in the oven for 2-4 minutes.
Spoon the tahini sauce around the kofta so it covers the base of the pan. If you like, also drizzle some over the kofta, but leave some of the meat exposed. Place in the oven for a minute or two, just to warm up the sauce a little. (I skipped this entire step as I was worried about my picky child eating the meatballs if they were touching the tahini sauce. So I just baked the kofta for 6 minutes total and warmed the tahini sauce in the microwave)
Once they come out of the oven, scatter the kofta with the pine nuts and parsley and then sprinkle with the paprika (which I forgot). Serve at once.
Verdict – really really yummy. Andy thought the spice combination was weird. Very good with the tahini sauce. Will definitely make again! This was a close second for my favorite of the four recipes.
Kofta bsiniyahBasmati Rice and Orzo
Serves 6
  • 1⅓ cups basmati rice
  • 1 Tbsp. melted butter
  • 1 Tbsp. sunflower oil
  • scant ½ cup orzo
  • 2½ cups chicken stock
  • 1 tsp. salt
Wash the basmati rice well, then place in a large bowl and cover with plenty of cold water. Allow it to soak for 30 minutes, then drain.
Heat the butter and oil over medium-high heat in a medium heavy-bottomed saucepan for which you have a lid. Add the orzo and sauté for 3 to 4 minutes, until the grains turn dark golden. Add the stock, bring to a boil, and cook for 3 minutes. Add the drained rice and salt, bring to gentle boil, stir once or twice, cover the pan, and simmer over very low heat for 15 minutes. Don’t be temped to uncover the pan; you’ll need to allow the rice to steam properly.
Turn off the heat, remove the lid, and quickly cover the pan with a clean tea towel. Place the lid back on top of the towel and leave for 10 minutes. Fluff the rice with a fork before serving.
Verdict – Yummy. Not worth the effort unless the other dishes are really easy.
Basmati Rice and OrzoFresh Vegetable Salad
Serves 4
In the cookbook, this salad is served with warm spiced chickpeas on the side. According to the authors, “The salad also works on its own without the chickpeas;” which is what I did.
  • 2 small cucumbers
  • 2 large tomatoes
  • 8½ oz. radishes
  • 1 red pepper, seeded and ribs removed
  • 1 small red onion, peeled
  • ⅔ oz. cilantro, coarsely chopped
  • ½ oz. flat-leaf parsley, coarsely chopped
  • 5 Tbsp. olive oil
  • Grated zest of one lemon plus 2 Tbsp. juice (from half of the lemon)
  • 1½ Tbsp. sherry vinegar
  • 1 clove garlic, crushed
Cut the cucumber, tomato, radish, and pepper into ⅔” dice; cut the onion into ¼” dice. Mix everything together in a bowl with the cilantro and parsley.
In a jar or sealable container, mix olive oil, the lemon juice and zest, vinegar, and garlic and mix well to form a dressing, then season to taste with salt and pepper. Pour the dressing over the salad and toss lightly.
Verdict – good. I prefer my version of a chopped fresh vegetable salad, which I call an Israeli salad. However, I will plan on making it again in the summer with garden fresh vegetables instead of what you can find in the dead of winter in the grocery. I think the cucumbers and radishes could have been crisper and sweeter.
Fresh Vegetable SaladRoasted Butternut Squash & Red Onion with Tahini and Za’atar
Serves 4
  • 1 large butternut squash (2¼ lb), cut into ¾ by 2½” wedges
  • 2 red onions, cut into 1¼” wedges
  • 3½ Tbsp. olive oil
  • 3½ Tbsp. light tahini sauce
  • 1½ Tbsp. lemon juice
  • 2 Tbsp. water
  • 1 small clove garlic, crushed
  • 3½ Tbsp. pine nuts
  • 1 Tbsp. za’atar (see below)
  • 1 Tbsp. coarsely chopped flat-leaf parsley
  • Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper.
I halved this recipe and, served with the other dishes, it was the perfect amount for three people (Andy wouldn’t touch it with a ten foot pole). Also, I peeled the squash even though it didn’t specify. The squash would probably have held their shape better, and not started to blacken, if I hadn’t but it was easier to eat.
Preheat the oven to 475º. Put the squash and onion in a large mixing bowl, add 3 Tbsp. of the oil, 1 tsp. salt and some black pepper and toss well.
Spread on a baking sheet with the skin facing down and roast in the oven for 30 to 40 minutes, until the vegetables have taken on some color and are cooked through. Keep an eye on the onions as they might cook faster than the squash and need to be removed earlier. Remove from the oven and leave to cool. (I cooked this for exactly 30 minutes and it was too long. Will start checking at 20 minutes next time).
To make the sauce, place the tahini in a small bowl along with the lemon juice, water, garlic and ¼ tsp. salt. Whisk until the sauce is the consistency of honey, adding more water or tahini if necessary. (The tahini sauce will thicken as it sits so add more water just before serving if you are making it ahead of time).

Pour the remaining 1½ tsp. oil into a small frying pan and place over medium-low heat. Add the pine nuts along with ½ tsp. salt and cook for 2 minutes, stirring often, until the nuts are golden brown. Remove from the heat and transfer the nuts and oil to a small bowl to stop the cooking.
To serve, spread the vegetables out on a large serving platter and drizzle over the tahini. Sprinkle the pine nuts and their oil on top, followed by the za’atar and parsley.
Verdict – delicious! Will definitely make this again. I’m generally not fond of winter squashes and sweet potatoes because I find them too sweet for my tastes. However, the savory seasonings on this butternut squash were fabulous. This was probably my favorite of the recipes I cooked.
Butternut Squash Red Onions Tahini ZaatarZa’atar is a middle-eastern spice blend. The version I found at my grocery contains roasted thyme, ground sumac (different from the poisonous American sumac), sesame seeds and salt.

Italian Vegetable Soup

Another soup to cure a cold (see my post on Mexican Chicken Soup). This one is scented with garlic and full of good-for-you vegetables.

Italian Vegetable Soup BowlItalian Vegetable Soup
Serves 6-8
  • ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 4-6 large garlic cloves, thinly sliced
  • ½ large white onion, diced (~¾ cup)
  • 1 generouscup diced carrots
  • 5-6 medium stalks celery, diced (~1 cup)
  • 4 cups low-sodium chicken broth (or vegetable broth)
  • ½ tsp. each dried basil & dried oregano
  • 2 medium zucchini, quartered lengthwise then sliced¼½” thick
  • 8 oz. mushrooms, thickly sliced
  • 1 14.5-oz. can diced tomatoes
  • 1 15.5-oz. can cannellini beans, rinsed & drained
  • 2 Tbsp. chopped fresh herbs – a mix of flat-leaf parsley, basil & oregano, depending on what you have
  • Fresh Parmigiano-Reggiano, for serving
  • Pesto, for serving
Heat oil over medium-low heat in a deep heavy pot such as a Dutch oven. Add garlic slices. Cook for 5 more minutes; try not to let them brown. Add onion, carrot & celery. Turn up heat to medium-high & cook 5 minutes. Add broth and dried herbs. Bring to a boil, cover and reduce heat. Simmer for 15 minutes.
Add mushrooms & zucchini. Bring back to a boil, cover & reduce heat. Simmer 10 minutes. Check vegetables for done-ness – simmer 5-10 more minutes if needed. Taste for salt & pepper and season accordingly. Add diced tomatoes, beans & fresh herbs. Bring to boil to incorporate the beans & tomatoes. Serve with freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano and pesto on the side.
If you really want to wow your diners, serve with homemade croutons for garnishing the soup.
Soup is, in general, a very forgiving dish to make. Using high-quality ingredients is important as is cooking each the appropriate length of time. Feel free to personalize according to your own tastes and what you have already in your kitchen.
You can substitute tortellini, rice, ditalini pasta or potatoes for the cannellini beans but you should cook them separately and then add to the soup. If you cook them directly in the soup they will absorb too much of the delicious garlic-flavored broth.
Enjoy! Let me know what your favorite soup is for cold rainy days.

Mexican Chicken Soup

Happy February everyone! Where in the world did January go to?

I was sick with a head cold all last week (thankfully I had several posts already written & ready to go) and didn’t feel up to cooking until Friday. By then I was ready for a big, piping hot bowl of sinus-clearing soup. Even better, this Mexican Chicken soup is still delicious when you aren’t sick.

Nate's Bowl of Mexican Chicken SoupThis recipe is not a tomato- and/or chile-based tortilla soup; it is a clear golden broth with chicken, seasoned with Mexican flavorings and then served with a plethora of different mix-ins for each diner to personalize their bowl with (all the better when you have picky eaters in your family).
Frequently I have homemade chicken broth in my freezer that I will use (whenever I buy a rotisserie chicken I either make chicken broth immediately or freeze the carcass to make broth with later) but, if you don’t, just use a boxed low-sodium chicken broth. I went spelunking in my freezer and found a container of turkey broth from Thanksgiving!
Broth & Chicken
Serves 6 generously as a main course
  • 4 chicken breasts (use bone-in skin-on if you are using a purchased broth)
  • 2½ quarts chicken broth
  • 4 garlic cloves – unpeeled & smashed with the side of a knife
  • ½ large yellow or white onion, cut into large chunks
  • 6 sprigs cilantro
  • ½ tsp cumin
Raw Ingredients for BrothAdd all ingredients to a large pot. Bring to a boil and reduce heat to a low simmer. Cook for 30 minutes, covered, skimming off the foam as needed. Remove chicken and set aside to cool. Simmer broth & vegetables for an additional 30 minutes. Remove vegetables. (Optional – strain soup through a cheesecloth-lined sieve into a clean pot). When cool enough to handle, pull chicken pieces off the bones, shred with your fingers and return to the soup pot. Discard chicken bones and skin, garlic, onion & cilantro. Bring soup back to a boil and taste; add salt if needed. Serve soup piping hot with tortilla strips and mix-ins. If you are serving more people add a salad or make a platter of quesadillas to go alongside.
Tortilla StripsBaked Tortilla Strips for Garnishing Soup
  • Flour tortillas
  • Spray oil
  • Coarse Kosher or sea salt
I used 5-6 of the smallest flour tortillas (“fajita” size) I can find at my local grocery. Basically I lay them put whole on my baking sheet to see approximately how many I can fit & that’s what I use.
Place one tortilla on a cutting board & lightly spritz with spray oil. Flip over & spritz the other side. Season with salt. Place second tortilla on top, spritz with spray oil & season with salt. Continue adding tortillas in this manner.
Cut the stack of tortillas crosswise in half and then lengthwise into strips. Scatter evenly across your baking sheet. Bake at 350º for 10-15 minutes. Watch closely, they go from under-cooked to perfect to burnt quickly.
Mix-InsMix-Ins (use amounts according to the taste preferences of your dinner guests)
  • Diced tomatoes (in the winter I like to use the ones labeled “ugly ripe” that I can find at my local Publix)
  • Yellow or white onion, diced
  • Coarsely chopped cilantro
  • Assorted hot sauces – we use the green Jalapeño Tabasco and the Chipotle Tabasco
  • Avocado, cubed
  • Cheese – Mexican melting or crumbling cheese (link) or Monterey Jack or Cheddar
  • Lime, cut into wedges
  • 3 cups cooked long grain rice (1 1/2 cups before cooking)
  • Crumbled dried ancho chile peppers

Pictures of a few specialty ingredients:

Ancho Chili Peppers

Ancho Chili Peppers

Mexican Specialty Cheeses

Mexican Specialty Cheeses

How I assemble my personal soup bowl:

My Bowl of Mexican Chicken Soup

My Bowl of Mexican Chicken Soup

Start with large spoonful of rice then ladle in broth & chicken. Squeeze a lime wedge over your bowl and then drop said lime wedge into your soup. Add tomatoes, onions, cilantro, cumbled ancho peppers, avocado & tortilla strips. If you are sick, have with a large glass of orange juice, otherwise a Mexican beer would be perfect. Cheers!!

Teriyaki Marinade

This teriyaki marinade is quite easy and so much better than a store bought one. You do need to plan ahead a little because it will need to cool before you marinate your raw protein. The recipe comes from an old Williams-Sonoma cookbook, Chicken for Dinner.

Teriyaki SalmonTeriyaki Marinade by Williams-Sonoma
  • ½ cup low sodium soy sauce
  • ¼ cup rice wine
  • ¼ cup dry sherry
  • 1 Tbsp.-sized chunk fresh ginger, minced
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 1 tsp brown sugar
In a small saucepan over high heat, combine all ingredients. Stir well and bring to a boil. Boil for one minute, then remove from heat. Pour into a shallow bowl and let cool completely. Once cool, use to marinate 4 servings of chicken or salmon or use as a basting sauce while cooking.
  • Garnish with scallions thinly sliced on the diagonal and black or white (toasted) sesame seeds
  • I like to put both the ginger chunk & garlic cloves in my mini food processor and pulse them together until minced.
Teriyaki Salmon with BroccoliWhen I made this last I served it with some simple steamed broccoli, sushi rice (known in our house as sticky rice) and an Asian-inspired salad with baby spinach, slivered red peppers & sliced raw mushrooms. I whipped up a simple vinaigrette with rice wine vinegar, soy sauce & canola oil.

Chicken Pot Pie

Sometimes you just want some delicious comfort food. For me, chicken pot pie is one of those dishes that I want to be eating when it is cold and raining (or worse) outside. My recipe doesn’t use a can of “cream of XYZ soup” – it’s all from scratch except the crust (which will be my next project).

Chicken Pot Pie on plateHomemade Chicken Pot Pie
1 red bell pepper, diced
½ cup frozen peas, defrosted
1 handful green beans, trimmed & cut into 1″ pieces
2 carrots (regular size not those baby carrots), cut into rounds
1½ cup red potatoes, diced
4 skinless, boneless chicken breasts
3 Tbsp. butter
8 oz. white mushrooms, sliced
½ small onion, diced
⅓ cup flour
Freshly ground pepper to taste
1 tsp. dried thyme
2 cups low-salt chicken broth
¾ cup whole milk
1 unbaked piecrust
1 egg yolk
Preheat oven to 435º. Place diced red pepper and peas in a large bowl.
Cook green beans until just barely crisp tender. Transfer to bowl with red pepper & peas. Cook carrots until just barely cooked & added to bowl with other vegetables. Cook potatoes until just barely cooked and add to vegetable bowl. (I cook all these vegetables separately in the microwave but you can also boil or steam them).
Poach chicken, cool and cut into large dice. Add chicken to vegetables.
Melt butter in a large saucepan over medium high heat. Add mushrooms and onions and cook until softened and liquid has evaporated. Add flour, pepper and thyme. Cook and stir until combined. Whisk in broth and milk. Increase heat and simmer, stirring constantly, until thickened slightly and smooth.
Add reserved vegetables and chicken to saucepan and mix to combine. Pour into a 2 qt. baking dish. Top with piecrust and crimp edges. Cut 5 slits in top of crust to vent steam. Whisk egg yolk with 1 tsp. cold water. Lightly brush egg wash on crust. Bake for 20-30 minutes until crust is lightly browned and filling is bubbling. Let sit for 5-10 minutes before serving.
Chicken Pot Pie

Brussels Spouts, Cranberry Relish and Chicken with Mustard Cream Sauce

Back in early November 2012, I was starting to test recipes for Thanksgiving and never got around to posting them. This dinner was a such a definite winner and perfect for the cold weather we’ve been having that I’ve decided to share it with you. The menu consisted of roasted Brussels sprouts, a raw cranberry relish and instead of turkey, sautéed chicken with a mustard cream sauce. I rounded out the meal with mashed potatoes from Costco.

Roasted Brussels Sprouts Raw Cran Orange Relish Chick Mustard Cream SauceSimple Roasted Brussels Sprouts
The family (except Andy of course) LOVED the roasted Brussels sprouts. I had never served Brussels sprouts to my family but had seen several recipes for roasted sprouts and decided to try them. They came out deliciously crispy & caramelized and Nate was eating them like candy! Since then we’ve cooked them several more times with variations. I used the method described in my FineCooking Roasting magazine:

Trim sprouts and cut in half lengthwise, through the stem end. Toss in a bowl with olive oil, salt & pepper. Preheat oven to 475º. Line baking sheet with parchment paper. Place sprouts cut side down on the parchment. Roast for 10-15 minutes (depending on the size of your Brussels sprouts).

Raw Cranberry-Orange Relish
I was looking for a low-sugar recipe for cranberries and came across this one from The fresh orange taste really complements the cranberries.

  • 1 12-oz. bag fresh cranberries
  • 1 navel orange
  • ½ cup sugar
  • ⅛ tsp cinnamon (which I omitted)

Raw Cranberry Orange Relish in Food ProcessorZest entire orange into food processor with a metal blade. Cut pith off orange & separate into sections. Place cranberries, orange sections, sugar & cinnamon in food processor and pulse until finely chopped. Scrap into a bowl, cover & refrigerate for at least 2 hours.

Raw Cranberry Orange RelishSautéed Chicken with Mustard Cream Sauce
This was a really good stand-in for turkey with gravy and the mustard-cream sauce was delicious drizzled over the Brussels sprouts and mashed potatoes in addition to the chicken. The recipe came from another favorite cookbook, EverydayFood Great Food Fast. I especially like this book because the recipes are divided into sections according to seasons, with soups, salad, main courses, sides & desserts for a particular season all grouped together.

4 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves
2 Tbsp. olive oil
¼ cup dry white wine or chicken broth
½ cup heavy cream
2 Tbsp. Dijon mustard
1 tsp. dried tarragon (I used thyme for a more Thanksgiving-y feel).

Season each chicken breast with salt & pepper to taste. Heat olive oil in a large skillet over high heat. Add the chicken and sauté until cooked through 10-15 minutes, turning once. Transfer to a warm serving plate & cover with foil.

Pour the wine into the hot skillet; cook, stirring, until reduced by half, about 1 minute. Whisk in the cream, mustard & herbs. Cook, whisking, until thickened, about 2 minutes. Serve chicken with sauce on the side (for my picky child) or drizzled over the chicken.

Baked Pasta with Sausage and Four Cheeses

I received three cookbooks for Hanukkah (I am easy to shop for). One of them, Barefoot Contessa Foolproof, I cooked from in a previous post. Today, I’m sharing a recipe that I made from the second one, The Tuscan Sun Cookbook, by Frances Mayes & Edward Mayes, which my older son gave me for Hanukkah.

Tuscan Sun Baked PastaBaked Pasta with Sausage & Four Cheeses
From The Tuscan Sun Cookbook by Frances Mayes & Edward Mayes
(with my own modifications in italics)
Serves 4-6
  • 1 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 lb. fresh sweet Italian turkey sausage, casings removed
  • ½ cup red wine
  • 2 tsp. fresh oregano leaves
  • 1 cup soffritto (recipe below)
  • ½ tsp. salt
  • ½ tsp. pepper
  • 1 28-oz. can whole tomatoes, juice included, chopped
  • 1 lb. rigatoni
  • 1 cup (8 oz.) whole milk ricotta
  • 8 oz. fontina, cubed
  • 8 oz. mozzarella, cubed
  • ½ cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
  • ½ cup fresh breadcrumbs, toasted in dry sauté pan
Preheat oven to 375º. Bring the pasta water to a boil and add salt. Make the soffritto (recipe below). In a large skillet, heat 1 Tbsp. of the olive oil over medium heat and cook the sausage, breaking it up as it browns, about 5 minutes. Add the red wine, turn the heat up to a boil, and cook until much of the liquid has reduced, about 10 minutes. Add the oregano, soffritto, seasonings, and tomatoes along with their juices. Simmer the sauce for at least 10 minutes, or until thick and savory.
Cook the rigatoni a minute less than the time required on the package (since it will continue cooking in the oven), then drain, reserving a bit of the pasta water.
In a large bowl, mix the ricotta with the fontina and a splash of the pasta water, then add the drained rigatoni and continue mixing. Add the sausage mixture and mozzarella, tossing to mix well.
Oil a 9×13″ baking dish, and then pour in the pasta. Sprinkle the Parmesan and breadcrumbs on top. Bake uncovered for 25 minutes or until golden flecked and hot.
This is my new favorite baked pasta, it is so yummy and comforting.
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
1 yellow onion, minced
1 carrot, minced
1 celery stalk, minced
1 handful of flat-leaf parsley, minced
½ tsp. salt
¼ tsp. pepper
Sauté the ingredients in a small saucepan over medium-low heat until they begin to color and turn tender, 5-7 minutes. Reserve until needed in the recipe above.

Asian-Inspired Turkey Lettuce Wraps

For quick weeknight dinners at home I like to create a meal with a buffet of choices – similar to a taco bar – so that each person can customize to their own tastes. I like mine with lots of extra vegetables; Andy likes just meat and carbs. Nate & Eric just like it all. So, this is an Asian-inspired spin on a taco bar. You cook up the meat mixture and then put out as many topping choices as you want.

Turkey Lettuce WrapsAsian Turkey Lettuce Wraps – meat filling
  • ¼ cup toasted sesame oil
  • 1½ lb. ground turkey (or chicken or pork)
  • 3 cups coarsely chopped raw mushrooms
  • 8 oz. can water chestnuts – finely chopped
  • ¼ cup brown sugar
  • ¼ cup low-sodium soy sauce
  • 1 tsp. rice vinegar
Heat sesame oil in a large pan over medium-high heat. Cook ground turkey and mushrooms until turkey is thoroughly cooked and mushrooms have lost their liquid. Meanwhile, mix together the brown sugar, soy sauce & rice vinegar. Add water chestnuts plus sauce mixture to turkey and cook for several minutes to completely coat the turkey. Serve with wrap and topping options.
Asian Turkey Lettuce Wraps – wrap & topping options
  • Small flour tortillas (to make it kinda like Mu Shu Turkey)
  • Lettuce leaves – iceberg or Bibb lettuce work best
  • Carrots – shredded or buy the bags of julienned carrots
  • Peanuts – chopped
  • Cashews – chopped
  • Almonds – slivered or sliced
  • Red bell pepper – cut into small pieces
  • Cilantro
  • Mint
  • Cucumbers – cut into small dice
  • Plum sauce
  • Hoisin sauce
  • Toasted sesame seeds
  • Scallions – thinly sliced
  • Spinach – thinly sliced
  • Angel hair cabbage
  • Noodles – spaghetti or Somen noodles cooked, rinsed and tossed with equal amounts sesame oil and soy sauce
  • Cooked sushi-style  or other short grain rice (aka sticky rice)
  • Radishes – shredded
  • Sweet chile sauce