Friday, November 27, 2009

Turkey Tetrazzini

I know that I am not the only one to admit that I enjoy the leftovers after Thanksgiving more than the Big Dinner itself.

After all of these years, Jack and I have a pretty definite list of what we absolutely must have in the days following Thanksgiving. This is #1 on Jack's list. Turkey tetrazzini, which is what we had for dinner tonight, is a casserole of spaghetti, turkey, and vegetables in a creamy cheese sauce. It is delicious, warming, and uses some of that cooked turkey which is taking up so much room in the refrigerator!

(sorry for the dark, slightly out-of-focus photo-- it was late and I was hungry!!!)

* Exported from MasterCook *

Turkey Tetrazzini

Recipe By: Vicci
Servings: 3

Amount Measure Ingredient -- Preparation Method
-------- ------------ --------------------------------

6 ounces whole wheat spaghetti
1 tablespoon olive oil
3 ounces chopped red bell pepper -- about 3/4 cup
3 ounces chopped sweet onion -- about 3/4 cup
4 ounces mushrooms -- sliced, about 1 1/2 cups
1 teaspoon minced garlic
3/4 cup frozen peas -- thawed
1 cup skim milk
3 tablespoons flour
1/2 cup chicken broth
1/2 teaspoon hot sauce -- optional
1/2 teaspoon dried Italian seasoning -- crumbled
1/2 cup lowfat cheddar cheese -- shredded
6 ounces chopped cooked turkey
1/4 cup shredded Parmesan cheese

Preheat oven to 350F. Spray a 2-quart baking dish with cooking spray and set aside.

Cook spaghetti until al dente, drain and toss with a little olive oil to prevent sticking. Set aside.

In a large nonstick skillet heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil and saute red peppers for 2 minutes, then add onions and saute for 2 minutes, then mushrooms and garlic and continue to saute, stirring soften, until vegetables are just softened. Add peas and stir. Remove from heat.

In a saucepan, whisk the flour into the milk until no lumps remain. Cook over medium heat, stirring almost constantly, until it comes to a boil Boil for 1 minute, stirring constantly. Add chicken stock and season with salt and pepper to taste. Stir in the (optional) hot sauce, seasoning, and cheddar cheese. Stir until it comes to a simmer. Add the turkey and vegetables. Remove from heat.

Transfer the spaghetti to the baking dish and pour the turkey and sauce over. Mix well. Sprinkle with Parmesan, spray the top with cooking spray to prevent drying out, and bake for about 15-20 minutes, or until bubbly.

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Per serving: 512 Calories (kcal); 12g Total Fat; (20% calories from fat); 40g Protein; 64g Carbohydrate; 53mg Cholesterol; 506mg Sodium
Food Exchanges: 3 1/2 Grain(Starch); 3 1/2 Lean Meat; 1 Vegetable; 0 Fruit; 1 1/2 Fat; 0 Other Carbohydrates

Monday, November 23, 2009

Emeril's Spiced Nuts

I spent the better part of today in the kitchen. I am tired, my back and my feet hurt, and I feel bit jumpy from the amount of sugar I have consumed (I must test my baking results, right?), but I am happy. Very happy.

I am compiling a basket to be given as a thank-you gift, and one of the recipes I made today was for spiced nuts. I was certain that I had a tried-and-true recipe, in fact I even remember who gave it to me and that it was printed on a piece of paper which had the recipe title in red. But I looked, in my binders and in both computers, to no avail. So, because it was late afternoon and I needed to be done with it all and start dinner, I logged onto the internet and printed out the first one which looked good. An Emeril Lagasse recipe. :) I usually don't head for the recipes of celebrity chefs, but this turned out to be a good choice on my part.

There were a few negative reviews on the Food Network site, but mostly positive ones, so I gave it a try. These turned out very well, and I will definitely make them again closer to the holidays. I used a mix of cashews, almonds, and pecans, and toasted them in the oven instead of in a skillet. The other changes are indicated in the recipe in bold.

This recipe was quick and easy and perfect for a gift basket (and for Jack, who insisted on several "taste-tests").

Emeril's Spiced Nuts


  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1/4 cup light brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons water (I used 1-1/2 tablespoons, based on the suggestions of a couple of reviewers)
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
  • scant 1/4 teaspoon cayenne
  • scant 1/4 teaspoon ground chipotle pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 cups mixed nuts, such as walnuts, pecans, hazelnuts and almonds


Mix spices and reserve.

Heat nuts in a dry skillet and cook, stirring frequently, until begin to toast, about 4 minutes. Transfer to a small bowl and set aside. Add the butter, sugar, water and spices to the hot skillet and cook, stirring, until a glaze forms, about 1 minute. Return the nuts to the skillet and toss to combine with the glaze. Cook for about 1 to 2 minutes, or until the nuts are glazed and golden brown.

Remove from the heat and transfer to a baking sheet lined with aluminum foil (parchment), separating with a fork. Let rest until cooled and the sugar has hardened, about 10 minutes. Store in an airtight container.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Peeling a Butternut Squash

When I was planting my garden this past spring, I found a packet of butternut squash seeds in the supply cupboard. They looked old but I planted the whole lot in 2 areas of the garden and was surprised when almost every one of them germinated! And they thrived. It was difficult to pull all but 2 of the largest plants to thin them out.

This is my dinner preparation still life from the other night. No, I didn't grow the sprouts (tried once a few years ago, the deer enjoyed them immensely).

Okay, tilt your head to the right to view this. I have downloaded it four times and it will not come up as a horizontal photo!

I harvested about a dozen very nice-sized butternut squash from the garden a few weeks ago(and a half dozen buttercup, the seeds of which I had also “discovered”).

Butternut squash are notoriously difficult to peel, and since they must be peeled if you are to chop them into pieces, I have worked out a rather easy way to get the job done.

Look at the shape of the squash. There is a long, straight neck and a bulbous bottom. What I did was to cut the squash into manageable pieces according to its shape. First, using a sharp knife, and being very careful because when it is laid on its side, obviously the squash wants to roll, cut it where the straight part begins to flare. Then cut off the top (stem) and the bottom (blossom end).

First the more difficult section. Using a Y-peeler, remove a strip around both the top and bottom off the piece, as much as you can (sometimes it will seem to curl on forever!). After that, peel the remaining in short, top-to-bottom strokes.

Next, the straight piece. As you did with the other, a strip around both the top and bottom should be removed.

Then, holding it in your hand and using nice long strokes, peel the easiest section of this squash.

Stand the bulbous peeled piece on its bottom (blossom end) and cut in half. Scrape out the seeds and chop or slice into smaller pieces.

Cut the straight piece into two shorter pieces, stand them on end on a flat, sturdy surface, and slice down in half. Then chop however you want.

Really, the most important parts of this technique are to use a sharp knife and a sharpY-peeler, use a flat work surface, keep the pieces as sturdy as possible, and for heavens’ sake don’t try to cut anything that is showing a tendency to roll. Trim if you must, to create a flat area. Keep the pieces manageable, ones that you can easily hold in your hand while you peel with the other hand.

Now, you can avoid all of this if you are going to scoop the butternut squash flesh from the shell to mash it. There are recipes online which instruct to slice the squash in half lengthwise (the best way, again, is to slice off enough of the stem and blossom ends to that it doesn’t roll), scoop out the seeds, lay cut-side-down on a baking sheet, and roast. I haven’t yet tried this method.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Butternut Squash Bisque; No-Knead Foccacia Tiles

During the past few weeks we’ve been very busy, and I haven’t had the opportunity to cook nearly as much as I would like. Plans to get together with friends this past weekend gave me a perfect, much needed, “excuse” to plan and cook a special fall menu at the lake house. Unfortunately they cancelled, but since I had already packed and lugged everything down from the farm, I went ahead and made it all just for Jack and me. Good thing, though, because we enjoyed the leftovers very much!

Both the soup and the bread recipe came from the October issue of Better Homes & Gardens. I’ve been enjoying their recipes in the past several months, and they seem to be publishing ones which are more to my taste than any other magazine does at this point.

On the menu was butternut squash bisque, no-knead foccacia tiles, mixed green salad, and apple crumb pie.

I prepared everything but the dessert. I gave up on the pie since I don’t want to make a whole one when it’s only the two of us to eat it! However, I didn’t want to carry all of the apples back home, so I made a quick apple crisp for dessert and some applesauce for the freezer. And now I have a pie crust in the freezer, all ready for Thanksgiving and a pumpkin filling.

First, the Butternut Squash Bisque. Since my garden produced such a bumper crop of butternut squash this past summer, I have become particularly adept at peeling the little buggers. The soup was, otherwise, very simple. Basically I sautéed chunks of squash and onion along with celery and carrot (I used only one half of the amount of butter and added some mild olive oil as well), added vegetable broth, chunks of apple, apple cider, and chopped chipotle pepper. These were cooked until the veggies were very tender, then I ran my hand-blender through it to make smooth. Light sour cream was whisked in and the result was a satin-y smooth, thick soup with an incredibly delicious flavor. The apple added an undertone to the taste of the butternut squash which was quite pleasant. Adding the chipotle was a stroke of genius on the part of the person who developed this recipe, because an underlying hint of smoky fire was nice as well. The only addition I would make next time is to add some thyme. Or maybe sprinkle some chopped fresh sage with the garnishes.

Of course, a soup is naked until the garnishes are added. I thinned a little sour cream with skim milk, drizzled that on top of the bisque then sprinkled smoked Gouda, minced parsley, and chopped turkey bacon. The smokiness of the Gouda and bacon complimented the butternut squash perfectly, and added a nice texture.

Next, the No-Knead Foccacia Tiles. I was intrigued by the name “foccacia tiles”, a no-knead dough that is stretched out to fit in a large baking pan, the dough scored into 6 sections, and each section topped with a variety of items. In the recipe, they suggested a pretty odd topping (thin slices of lime) but also sun-dried tomato, thinly sliced Roma tomato, and pumpkin seeds. I decided on chopped Kalamata olives, roasted red and yellow bell pepper, and thinly-sliced garlic and herbs for on the different sections of my foccacia. Sun-dried tomatoes would have been wonderful, but I couldn’t find the package which I was certain was in the pantry. That happens way too often.

Because it is a no-knead bread, you have to start it a day ahead (in order for the yeast to do its thing), but this is just such an easy method. And although I am a huge fan of carbs, especially in the form of thick, chewy bread, I think that next time I will reduce the dough recipe by 1/3. It seemed to both Jack and me that there was too much bread for the amount of toppings. Although I could certainly have increased the topping quantity, it would have still been a large ratio of bread-to-toppings. But, oh, what a flavor! We ate way too much of this, probably more than twice what we should have, but you just can’t beat fresh-from-the-oven bread. And we both love the no-knead breads since the flavor is so much more developed and complex that those that are done with a quick rise, or even a regular-length rise.

Next up, the salad. This is hands-down Jack’s favorite type of salad—greens, fruit, nuts. I could have added cheese and made him even happier, but there was smoked Gouda on the soup. :)

I have been buying Tanimura & Antle brand of artesian lettuces at Sam’s Club. 25 ounces for about $3.50, which beats the cost of plain bagged spinach in the grocery store. And these are so flavorful and pretty, a mixture of dark red and dark green baby Oak Leaf, Tango, and Gem. I added sliced carrots, dried cranberries, and toasted walnuts, and then a simple Italian vinaigrette. I know that it’s a good salad when Jack eats it without a single “ew, we’re having salad” remark!

As for the apple crisp, I’m not going to post the recipe since I made it on the fly and there are recipes galore for this type of dessert. I did reduce the butter in the topping by half, and added a little canola oil to make it crumbly, because we all know that liquid fats are so much healthier than solid fats, don’t we?!?!

The final gold star on our dinner was, the next day, Jack said (totally out of the blue, as he was supposed to be working on his bank statements): “There was not one part of that meal that was not super-excellent.”

Super-excellent! Even after of 26+ years of cooking for him, I still bask in that kind of praise. :)

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Chicken Blue Cheese Sandwich

It is mid-November and we are experiencing weather that I would like to have stick around until… next May. The sun is not as high in the sky as it has been for previous months and it isn’t nearly as warm, either, but just having the bright yellow orb in the sky is enough to make me happy.

There is still arugula growing in the cold frame and as I was picking some for a lunch salad, I thought of a sandwich that my friend Nancy had made when she visited the lake house a few months ago. I mentally clicked through the ingredients which I would need—blue cheese, chicken, fresh tomato…yes, I had them all. In fact, I only have a couple of tomatoes left from the garden and this would be a wonderful way to use one. Jack was out of town and I could make a sandwich with blue cheese and arugula without having to make him something else. I found an 8” piece of a baguette in the freezer and went to work.

I had a lot to do that day, and decided not to look up the Cooking Light recipe but to just “wing it”.

First I thawed a chicken breast, heated the grill, and cooked it. After it cooled a little, I sliced it diagonally.

In a small bowl, I mashed blue cheese, cream cheese, salt and pepper, and enough skim milk to make it


After splitting the baguette in half horizontally, I scooped some of the excess bread from the center of both halves (and yes, I ate it the "excess"—never waste good bread!). The blue cheese mixture was spread on both cut sides; on the bottom half I layered arugula, then the chicken slices, then the tomatoes.

Because it was such a gorgeous sunny day, and we hadn’t yet put away the tables on the patio, I ate outside. For 20 minutes or so I pretended that it was still summer.

The grilled chicken, blue cheese, bitter arugula, and sweet ripe tomato all combined to make an absolutely delicious sandwich.

A praying mantis sauntered across the table to see what I was doing. I offered him (her?) a bit of arugula but, perhaps like Jack, he doesn’t care for it.

(this happy little guy looks kind of cute when viewed as a small photo, but is slightly terrifying when placed on full-screen!)

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Penne with Roasted Butternut Squash, Spinach, and Turkey Bacon

The trouble with photographing a lot of "autumn dishes" is that they have a tendency to look very dull. And, in the case of this particular recipe, using whole grain penne didn't help much.

Please don't let the photo make your decision, read the description: hearty penne pasta mixed with sweet, roasted butternut squash, smoky turkey bacon, and steamed spinach; cloaked in a light, yet creamy, sauce spiked with smoked gouda and fresh sage.

It takes a while to put together, but well worth the effort (like, for example, with a lasagna!). And if you make it for only 4 or 6 people, there will be leftovers. :)

* Exported from MasterCook *

Penne with Roasted Butternut Squash, Spinach, and Turkey Bacon

Recipe By : Vicci
Servings : 10


1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 3/4 pounds butternut squash -- (approximately 36 ounces after peeling and removing seeds)

16 ounces whole wheat pasta

10 slices turkey bacon
1 tablespoon canola oil
1 3/4 cups sweet onion -- (thinly sliced)
1 tablespoon minced garlic
8 ounces spinach -- coarsely chopped

1/3 cup all-purpose flour
3 cups skim milk
14 ounces low-sodium chicken broth

5 ounces smoked Gouda cheese -- shredded
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
3 tablespoons fresh sage -- (minced)
1/2 teaspoon ground chipotle pepper -- or hot pepper sauce

2 ounces Parmesan cheese -- grated

Preheat oven to 425F. Coat a large baking dish (about 5 quart capacity) with cooking spray and set aside.

Peel and seed squash, chop into 3/4" pieces. Spray a large baking sheet with cooking spray and add squash; sprinkle with salt and pepper and bake for about 30 minutes or until tender. Remove from oven and set adise, but do not turn the oven off.

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and cook the penne until al dente. When done, drain, toss with a little olive oil to prevent sticking, and set aside.

While squash bakes and pasta cooks, fry turkey bacon in a large nonstick skillet until crisp. Drain on paper towels, chop, and set aside.

In the same skillet, drizzle about 1 teaspoon olive oil and saute onions over medium heat until golden and soft, about 8 minutes. Add garlic, stir, add spinach, and stir for a minute or two, until the spinach wilts. Remove from heat and set aside.

Place flour in a large saucepot. Slowly add the milk to the flour, whisking vigorously to prevent lumps. Place over medium-high heat and cook, whisking constantly, until the mixture comes to a boil. Boil for one minute, whisking constantly. Slowly add the chicken broth, still whisking constantly, and keep it up until your arm falls off or the mixture returns to a boil. Remove the saucepan from the heat and stir in the smoked gouda, salt, pepper, sage, and chipotle pepper (or hot sauce).

Depending on the size of the skillet or saucepot, or using a very large bowl if necessary, mix together the cooked penne, cheese sauce, and spinach mixture until combined. Gently fold in the roasted squash, and pour the mixture into the large baking pan. Spray the surface of the penne mixture with cooking spray and cover with foil.

Bake at 425F for about 15 minutes, remove foil, and continue to bake for another 10 minutes or until bubbly. Remove from oven and allow to rest for 5 minutes before serving.

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Per serving: 391 Calories (kcal); 11g Total Fat; (24% calories from fat); 21g Protein; 57g Carbohydrate; 33mg Cholesterol; 642mg Sodium
Food Exchanges: 3 Grain(Starch); 1 1/2 Lean Meat; 1/2 Vegetable; 0 Fruit; 1 1/2 Fat; 0 Other Carbohydrates