Sunday, December 30, 2007

Oven fries

Admission: fries are one of my weaknesses. Come on, who can't resist a big plate of fries? Of course this weakness lends its hand to "a moment on the lips, a lifetime on the hips." So I figured that there has to be a better way of enjoying french fries other than picking them up through a window or dumping a bunch of frozen potato sticks onto a baking sheet. So in the spirit of eating a bit healthier and not letting our organically-spent money get flushed down the drain, I decided that oven fries would be a nice way to blend the two concepts.

Admission: these fries need a little work. They were right in line with what fries should be (without the deep frying of course) but lacked a little in the flavor department and were slightly chewy, which I think had to do with the type of potato rather than my overcooking them. After cutting the potatoes (about 1lb Russet potatoes) into the traditional french fry shape (think Wendy's not McDonald's), I drizzled them with some olive oil and sprinkled with kosher salt, pepper, and garlic powder. I think next time I'll use Idaho potatoes, change up the seasonings a bit (and add more), and cut the potatoes into more of a steak fry shape. Truthfully, I did consider quickly deep frying them first before baking but I figured that would defeat the whole purpose of going for a healthier version. I did bake them on a greased cooling rack which I found helped the cook and crisp the fry more evenly - and I won't change that technique next time. So yeah, overall not too bad but they need a little work next time.

Prep time: 10 minutes

Cook time: 35 minutes @ 425 degrees F

Serves: 2

Thursday, December 20, 2007


Whenever we make calzones I always want to pronouce it like Giada does: cal-zone-ase...but I always feel so stupid doing so - it just sounds too weird to me, even though I was raised saying many Italian foods like Giada does as my dad is 100% Italian. Does saying it like and Italian mean that the food will taste better? It sure sounds like it would, doesn't it? But no matter how I end up pronoucing calzones, it really makes no difference because they always turn out wonderfully. Really, how could you go wrong with two types of cheese baked in a pizza dough pocket? You can't.

I've made the leap into dough making this year and as the year comes to a close, I can honestly say that I'm proud of myself for doing so. I had always been so afraid to make dough for whatever the reason, but as it turns out, it's really so much easier than I had first anticipated. My most recent dough endeavor was for calzones, hence the purpose of the first paragraph - and you thought that I was just babbling. :)

The dough itself came out beautifully. I used a well-passed-around recipe on my cooking board: Jay's Signature Pizza Crust and wasn't at all let down. The dough was easy to make, easy to work with, and tasted wonderful. I'll double the recipe next time and freeze a good portion of it.

After you've got a good dough, the calzones pretty much come together by themselves. These were basic: layer ricotta and mozzarella cheeses, some sprinkled oregano, garlic powder, salt, pepper, and of course, Parmesan cheese (although I think I used Pecorino-Romano this time) on half of a rolled out piece of dough, then fold over, pinch the edges and cut a few slits in the top to allow for steam escapage (is that even a word??). Bake on a hot pizza stone or baking sheet for 15 minutes at 475 degrees F. Seriously, these couldn't be easier.
Active prep time: 15 minutes
Inactive prep time: 1 hour
Cook time: 15 minutes
One calzone (half of dough recipe) serves: 2

Wednesday, December 19, 2007


We're always looking for new ways to finish up the leftovers in the house and inevitably there is always soft tortialla shells, red peppers, and numerous types of cheese. This time, we had nice piece of flank steak thawing and thus the steak and the leftovers turned into some kick-ass fajitas.

Let me say that Mexican food is not something I cook very frequently because in my attempts to use less processed foods, I've had to learn to make up my own spice mixes (or use recipes), and that has always been a bit unnerving for me. I mean, that's what a spice packet is for isn't it? And let's be honest, with a spice packet 99% of the time, the end-product tastes the way it should! Nevertheless, I did have some success recently which I think boosted my confidence and prompted me to take on other dishes, hence the fajitas.

Oh my goodness were these good!! The steak was cooked just perfectly - just shy of medium - and I have to give myself a big pat on the back for coming up with the right combo of spices for a dry rub. The peppers and onions really did need to be cooked "low and slow" in order to achieve the right consistency so as to not brown the onions so I didn't at all mind waiting nearly 30 minutes for them to cook down.

Beef Fajitas

source: Smells Like Home

  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tbsp butter
  • 1 large onion, sliced
  • 1 red bell pepper, seeded and sliced
  • 1 to 1 1/2 lbs flank steak
  • ground cumin
  • ground corinader
  • chili powder
  • garlic powder
  • Kosher salt
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • For serving: soft flour tortillas, shredded cheese, sour cream
  1. In a heavy cast iron frying pan over medium low heat, heat 1 tbsp olive oil and butter until melted. Add peppers and cook for 3 minutes. Sprinkle on some of each of the spices - 3-4 shakes of cumain, corinader, chili and garlic powders should to it along with a couple pinches of salt and a few grates of black pepper. Add onions and cook for 20-30 minutes, stirring only occasionally, until onions and peppers are soft and close to caramelizing.
  2. While peppers and onions are cooking, sprinkle each of the spices on both sides of the flank steak and allow steak to come to room temperature before cooking.
  3. Remove peppers and onions from pan and set aside, keeping warm. Turn up heat to medium, add about 1 tbsp olive oil to the pan and swirl to cover the bottom of the pan. Place the steak in the pan and sear both sides for about 5 minutes each. Remove the steak from the pan, slice into thin pieces against the grain. If steak isn't cooked to desired "redness", finish slicing and return the slices to the hot pan. Return the peppers and onions to the pan and cook everything together for another 2-3 minutes, taking care to not overcook the steak.
  4. Serve on soft tortillas with shredded cheese and sour cream.

Prep time: 5-8 minutes

Cook time: 35-40 minutes

Serves: 2 (with some leftovers)

Chocolate Dipped Orange Heaven

I'm not sure if others have had similar experiences during childhood, but I must share this experience with you...

My brother and I were not allowed, under ANY circumstances, to eat mom's Pepperidge Farm Milano Cookies. She only bought them for two reasons: 1.) we were taking a long car trip, or 2.) they were on sale and she had a coupon. No matter the reason though, these precious little commodities were not for kids. They were kept hidden, sometimes even in mom's purse, and if we ever came across them in our searches for a snack, we knew she had the cookies counted so if one was missing, she would know.

Flashforward to the present...
Since moving out of my parents' house years ago, I'm not sure if mom is still as compulsive about her Milanos as she once was but I do know that Pepperidge Farm has struck gold after releasing new flavors of their oh so simple and delicious original Milanos and they now boast 11 different flavors!! No, I certainly haven't tried them all but I definitely have tested out the orange Milanos and was not at all let down. In fact, they are so good that I was inspired to copycat them at home.

Thanks to the help of the butter cookie recipe I was given from Nestie Katie102006 during the WC Recipe Exchange (all recipes are desserts) that she organized, I was able to recreate the orange Milanos for Christmas this year. I realize making the connection between butter cookie and chocolate dipped orange heaven might be a stretch, but part of the fun of this exchange is that we can modify the recipe to our liking. Why a recipe exchange rather than a cookie swap, you ask? Well, Katie and I are part of an online community message board (called What's Cooking, hence WC) on where there is a whole slew of other young mostly married women who exchange recipes, stories, thoughts, jokes, and many many questions throughout the day, all day, 7 days a week. And since we're located all over the world, it's slightly impractical to mail a box of cookies to someone during the rush of the Christmas season with the expectation that they will arrive on time and not in a million pieces. So the idea of the WC Recipe Exchange was born. Now, I still don't know who's recipe this is because guessing who the owner of the recipe is is part of the exchange and we will find out after the cut-off date of December 22nd...but whoever you are, THANK YOU!!! This is a wonderful butter cookie recipe that not only stands beautifully on it's own, but also is the perfect base recipe to modify and is seriously one of the easiest cookie recipes I've come across in a while. Please see my modifications in italics below.

I'm also submitting this recipe to Susan (over at Food Blogga) for her Christmas Cookies from Around the World 2007 event as I think these little pieces of heaven will be a nice addition the huge array of cookies Susan is bringing in.

Butter Cookies

  • 1 cup butter
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tsp almond extract (I used 1 tsp pure vanilla extract and 1/2 tsp pure orange extract)
  • 2 1/3 cups flour
  • 3 tbsp course sugar
  • 2 oz bittersweet choclate
  • 2 oz semi-sweet choclate
  1. Cream butter. Gradually add sugar and beat until light and fluffy. Beat in eggs and vanilla extract. Gradually blend in flour.
  2. Separate the dough in half, leaving one half of the dough in the bowl. To this dough, add 1/2 tsp pure orange extract. Using a spatula work extract into dough so that it is evenly distributed.
  3. This recipe is meant for a cookie press, but I can never get my cookie press to work. So what I do is use a small cookie scoop and flatten the dough into discs. I think this dough could be rolled out and cut with cookie cutters as well. I rolled the dough into logs about 2 inches in diameter, wrapped them in clear plastic wrap and refrigerated for 4 hours. I sliced them with a sharp knife into 1/4" x 2" discs.
  4. Place cookies on ungreased baking sheet. Decorate with colored sugar, rainbow nonpareils, or press a thumbrint into the cookies and fill with jam. Also can be baked plain and iced with frosting when cooled. I used coarse sugar.
  5. Bake in 350 degree oven for 8-10 minutes. Remove immediately to wire rack to cool.
  6. While cookies cool, heat chocolate in a double boiler. After cooling, dip the orange cookies in the melted chocolate and place on parchment paper to cool.

Active prep time: 20 minutes

Inactive prep time: 4 hours

Cook time: 8-10 minutes

A warm meal on a cold day

Southern New England saw it's first major snowfall of season last week and with that I felt compelled to make something warm and cozy for dinner. So with 10 inches of snow came a big pot of beef stew.

After only having made beef stew once prior to this, I have to admit that I'm still honing my skills with this one. Overall, the stew came out great; the veggies and potatoes were nice and soft, but the meat was a wee bit tough, most likely because I mistakenly allowed the stew to boil in the pot rather than simmer. Ah well...I'll pay more attention next time.

Beef Stew
source: Smells Like Home
  • 1 1/2 lbs stew meat
  • flour
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 4 carrots, peeled and sliced 1/4" thick
  • 3 celery stalks, chopped
  • 2 medium onions, chopped
  • 1 lb white potatoes, peeled and cut into about 1" cubes
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • approx 1 tbsp thyme (I used fresh)
  • approx 2 tsp rosemary (I used dried)
  • 1 tsp Kosher salt
  • 1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 4 1/2 to 5 cups chicken stock
  • 1/2 cup uncooked barley (optional)
  • cornstarch (if necessary)
  1. Heat oil in a large deep stockpot or dutch oven (I used 7 1/4 qt dutch oven).
  2. In a large Ziploc bag, toss meat in flour until well-coated. When oil is heated, cook meat for about 5 minutes or until slightly browned. Remove from pot and set aside. Add vegetables and cook for 7-10 minutes or until vegetables begin to soften. Add garlic, thyme, rosemary, salt and pepper and cook for 5 more minutes.
  3. Return the beef to the pot and combine with vegetable mixture. Add chicken stock and barley. Simmer over low heat for 1 hour. If after 1 hour the stew hasn't thicken, raise the heat and stir in a mixture of 1 tbsp cornstarch and 2 tsp cold water to the pot. Allow stew to come to a steady low boil and allow stew to thicken - should take about 5 minutes. Repeat the cornstarch step until the stew thickens to desired consistency.

Prep time: 15 minutes

Cook time: 1 hr 15 minutes

Serves: 6-8

Saturday, December 8, 2007

Herb-Crusted Salmon

Kyle and I hit up Whole Foods Market for the first time last weekend as we transition our diet into eating solely organic foods and attempting to eat more locally grown foods. I must admit that he had a terrible time pulling me away from the butcher, the cheese monger, and the seafood monger and I'd estimate that nearly half of what we spent that day was divided between these three areas - and I'm not at all ashamed to admit it. I mean, Whole Foods is a 40 minute drive for us and I really didn't know the next time we'd be back (although little did I know then that we're going back tonight) so I loaded up the cart with great meats and cheeses that freeze well and was like a kid in a candy store at the seafood monger as I picked out wild shrimp and wild salmon - two things that we cannot find at the seafood counter in our local supermarket but that I feel are totally worth the extra money (although not that much extra because the wild jumbo shrimp were on sale for $10.99/lb - a bargain in my eyes!).

So back to the salmon. We don't eat a lot of fish. And while I have been fully aware of the health benefits fish provides, it's never been a big part of our diet because of two reasons: 1.) Kyle claims that he's never been a big fan, and 2.) I've been afraid to cook it for fear of it being horrible. I've recently decided that I've had enough of these two excuses and so fish will now be a more regular part of our weekly menus...starting with this salmon we picked up last weekend. I had no idea how to prepare it but bought it anyway, figuring that I can find a recipe when I got home. Well...uhh...I never really found an actual recipe that I wanted to follow but was inspired by Katie's herb-crusted salmon and decided to make a few changes. The salmon was paired with some herb-roasted potatoes (quartered small white potatoes, mixed with garlic powder, thyme, rosemary, Kosher salt, black pepper, and drizzled with olive oil then baked for 35-40 minutes at 400 degrees F) I got 2 big thumbs up from Kyle on this one, a real treat for me to see, and so as my fish confidence rises, you'll be seeing more and more fish dishes here. Enjoy!

Herb-Crusted Salmon

  • 2 6oz salmon filets (about 1 1/2" thick)
  • 2 tsp olive oil
  • 1/4 cup garlic and herb breadcrumbs
  • 1 tsp fresh thyme
  • 1/2 tsp dried rosemary
  • couple sprinkles of garlic powder
  • 1/4 tsp Kosher salt
  • 1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tbsp milk
  1. In a medium oven-safe saute pan, heat olive oil over medium-high heat. Pre-heat broiler in oven and move rack to middle of oven.
  2. In a small bowl, combine the remaining ingredients, adding the milk last and adding enough so that the mixture just starts to stick together when pressed.
  3. Cover flesh side of each salmon piece with breadcrumb mixture and carefully place salmon skin-side down in the pan. Cook for 4-5 minutes.
  4. Transfer saute pan to oven and continue to cook fish under the broiler for an additional 3-4 minutes or until fish is firm and begins to flake. Be sure that the breading does not burn under the broiler. Using an oven mitt or pot holder, remove the pan from the oven and serve fish. Provided the fish is thoroughly cooked, it will come right off the skin as you eat it.

Prep time: 5 minutes

Cook time: 10 minutes

Serves: 2

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Artichoke and Sausage Stuffed Shells

Finally, a recipe from my "must make" list! I've been dying to try Giada's Turkey and Artichoke Stuffed Shells for ages but have had some reservation about it because I wasn't sure how it would go over with Kyle, although I know I shouldn't have any reservations about making any of Giada's recipes because they all turn out so wonderful. Once again, we were not disappointed by Giada!

We ended up swapping out the ground turkey for ground pork because it's what we had on hand and it certainly was a good move; the combination of artichoke with sausage is just heavenly! We didn't make the sauce in Giada's recipe because we're still working through the large pot of sauce that Kyle made over the weekend and I really don't think the recipe was missing anything without Giada's sauce. I didn't include the sauce recipe below but you can find it by clicking on the link to the original recipe above. All in all, this recipe is just perfect for a cold New England [pre]winter night and I can guarantee that they will be back on our plates before the winter is through.
In fact, these shells are also just the perfect dish to bring to Peabody's Housewarming Party this weekend! It's a potluck-style party and I feel like a kid on Christmas Eve waiting to see what everyone "brings"! Not only are my stuffed shells incredibly tasty and will everyone at the party love them, the shells can be made in advance (and frozen if you wish) and they travel well (yes, even virutally). They can be baked after being frozen or refrigerated (baking time adjusted accordingly) and will turn out beautifully either way. And be honest, who doesn't love stuffed shells??
Artichoke and Sausage Stuffed Shells
adapted from Giada De Laurentiis
  • 1 (12-ounce) box jumbo pasta shells (recommended: Barilla)
  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 large yellow onion, chopped (about 1 cup)
  • 3 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1 pound ground pork (sweet Italian sausage)
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, plus 1/2 teaspoon
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, plus 1/4 teaspoon
  • 1 (15oz) can artichoke hearts, coarsely chopped
  • 1 (15oz) container ricotta cheese
  • 3/4 cup grated Parmesan
  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh basil leaves
  • 5 cups sauce, homemade or jarred
  • 1 1/2 cups grated mozzarella (about 5 ounces)
  1. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the pasta and partially cook until tender but still very firm to the bite, stirring occasionally, about 4 to 5 minutes. Drain pasta.
  2. Meanwhile, in a large heavy skillet, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the onions and the garlic and cook until the onions are soft and starting to brown, about 3 minutes. Add the ground turkey, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon black pepper and continue to cook, stirring occasionally, until the meat is slightly golden and cooked through. Add the artichoke hearts and stir to combine. Remove from heat and let cool.
  3. In a large bowl combine the cooled turkey mixture with the ricotta cheese, Parmesan cheese, eggs, basil, parsley, and the remaining salt and pepper. Stir to combine.
    To stuff the shells, cover the bottom of a 9 by 13 by 2-inch baking dish with 1 cup of sauce.
  4. Take a shell in the palm of your hand and stuff it with a large spoonful of turkey mixture, about 2 tablespoons. Place the stuffed shell in the baking dish. Continue filling the shells until the baking dish is full, about 24 shells. Drizzle the remaining sauce over the shells, top with the grated mozzarella. If freezing, cover tightly with plastic wrap and place in the freezer for 1 day and up to 1 month.
  5. To bake, preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Bake until the shells are warmed through and the cheese is beginning to brown, about 60 minutes (20 minutes if shells are unfrozen.)
Prep time: 20 minutes
Cook time: 20 minutes (fresh); 60 minutes (frozen)
Serves: 6-8

Sausage and Peppers

I have been made blatently aware that Kyle's favorite carnivorous choice is pork in [almost] any form: Italian sausage, breakfast sausage, ground pork, bacon, pork chops, roast pork, pork tenderloin. The only form of pork that he shys away from is ham (thankfully because I'm not a fan either). He recently confessed that if he was ever stranded on a deserted island and he could only choose one food to eat for the rest of his life, it would be pork. Such a man! I suppose this is the reason why I have so many pork posts in this blog and the reason why I have come to love chicken sausage as it's a great and less-fattening alternative to pork sausage.

So Kyle has been in a cooking mood recently. Last week it was the broccoli aioli, on Sunday he made a big pot of sauce, and on Monday night, he thawed the frozen hot Italian sausages from our favorite Italian deli on Long Island that he's been dying to have. He reserved these sausages strictly for sausage and peppers, a dish that he is totally in love with and only on a rare occasion will he let me make because of how much he enjoys making it. Sometimes I wonder if he loves sausage and peppers more than he loves me! (kidding)

Anyway, enough chatter about a dish I didn't even eat. Yes, that's right: he made sausage and peppers for what was supposed to be 3 lunches this week and only turned into 1 lunch because he couldn't restrain himself from eating the rest when he got home from work on Monday. For shame!

Kyle's Sausage and Peppers

  • 4 hot Italian pork sausages
  • 1/4 cup dry white wine
  • 2 tbsp plus 1/4 cup olive oil, divided
  • 2 green peppers, seeded and sliced
  • 2 medium onions, sliced in half-moons
  • 4-5 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/4 tsp oregano
  • 1/4 tsp garlic powder
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • grated Parmesan cheese
  1. In a deep heavy-bottom pot or dutch oven over medium heat, heat 2 tbsp olive oil. Add sausages and cook, turning occasionally, until fully cooked, about 10-15 minutes. Turn the heat to low or medium-low if the sausages are browning to quickly.
  2. Meanwhile, in a large saute pan, heat remaining oil over medium-high heat; add peppers and cook for 5 minutes then add onions, oregano, garlic powder, salt and pepper and cook for an additional 5-7 minutes or until peppers and onions begin to soften. Reduce heat to medium. Add in garlic and cook for 2 minutes. If mixture becomes too dry, add some additional oil.
  3. Add wine to the pot containing the sausages and deglaze the bottom of the pot. Be sure to scrape the bits of sausages from the bottom of the pot with a wooden spoon. When peppers and onions have softened, add to pot and turn heat to low. Stir to combine and cook for an additional 5-8 minutes, taking care to not let the garlic burn. Sprinkle with grated Parmesan cheese before serving.
Prep time: 10 minutes
Cook time: 15-20 minutes
Serves: 2-4

Broccoli Aioli

One of my favorite meals that my parents make is aioli and when I lived at home, it was always a treat when that was on the menu because it's God-awfully fattening...butter, olive oil, spaghetti, Parmesan cheese, a ton of salt, and it was usually served with either pork chops or sausages...delish but completely artery-clogging at the same time. Unfortunately, it isn't one of the dishes that I've been able to perfect since trying my own hand at it. My mom keeps telling me that it needs to be heavily salted but some part of me is truly frightened to heavily salt anything for fear of cankles (fat ankles that look like an extension of the calf) and sausage fingers the next morning. So I've never made it since I've been with Kyle, although he has made it on a couple of occasions. It's one of those meals where you have all of the ingredients in the house already and it has come in very handy on the nights where we've stared at each with blank faces, shrugging our shoulders figuring out what to make for dinner because nothing sounds "good."

This exact situation happened last week, during my 'I don't feel like cooking because I'm still worn out from cooking Thanksgiving last week' week. So Kyle opened up the fridge, pulled a few things out and whipped up a great meal. What can I say? I have a husband who loves food and enjoys cooking! I guess it helps that he worked in an Italian restaurant/pizza shop for a few years 'way back when.'

Anyway, this aioli turned out great, and again, it needed salt. The broccoli was a really nice addition and didn't make it feel as fattening as it actually is...and I suppose the whole wheat spaghetti we used helped with that feeling too. It's a quick and simple meal and you really won't be let down - give it a try!!

Broccoli Aioli
  • 8 oz whole wheat spaghetti
  • 2 cups broccoli florets
  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 4-5 cloves garlic, minced
  • lots of salt
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • grated Parmesan cheese
  1. Cook pasta according to package directions. During the last 3-4 minutes of cooking, toss in broccoli and cook until pasta is finished. Drain.
  2. Meanwhile, in a large frying pan, heat oil and butter over medium heat. Add salt, pepper, and garlic. Cook for 2-3 minutes and then turn heat to low to keep warm while broccoli and spaghetti finish cooking.
  3. After spaghetti and broccoli are well-drained, add to frying pan and toss to coat. Taste and add more salt if necessary. Top with grated Parmesan cheese and serve with crusty bread.

Prep time: 5 minutes

Cook time: 10 minutes

Serves: 2

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Shepherd's Pie

I'll be honest, I never liked shepherd's pie. So every time Kyle has asked me to make it in the 5 years that we've been together, I've always turned my nose up...but he never really got my point because every so often the shepherd's pie topic would come up:

Him: "I can't understand how you don't like it! It's just meat, mashed potatoes, and a bunch of vegetables all thrown together and baked. What's not to like?"

Me: "I don't like my food to touch. The fact that the meat, mashed potatoes, and vegetables are all mushed together does not appeal to me at all."

But as we were trying to use up all the leftovers from Thanksgiving, I gave in. I don't know what came over me that night when he asked for it...maybe it was that I was having doubts about my plan for dinner that night (turkey pot pie) or because I figured it was time to give shepherd's pie another shot...I don't know but I quickly found a recipe and got to cookin' before I changed my mind.

"Who needs a recipe for shepherd's pie?" you ask. Well, I do. If I was going to give a long-requested and long-disliked (respectively, in our house) dish a shot, I wanted to do it right. Now let me say that I don't make many of Emeril's recipes because they usually involve too many ingredients, many of which I'm often unable to find at the grocery store...but this recipe really was great. I used what I had on hand and overall, I must admit, it turned out very well. I got a thumbs up and a few "mmms" from Kyle and now have a new-found respect for shephard's pie. Who knew??

Shepherd's Pie
source: Emeril Lagasse

Traditionally, shepherd's pie is made with lamb and "cottage pie" is made with beef. This is my twist on these 2 favorite English casseroles, substituting leftover roast turkey for the meat.

  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 4 teaspoons olive oil
  • 1 cup chopped yellow onions
  • 2 carrots, peeled and chopped (about 1 cup)
  • 1/4 teaspoon Essence or Creole Seasoning
  • 1/4 teaspoon plus 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon minced garlic
  • 4 ounces mushrooms, stemmed, wiped clean, and sliced (I omitted)
  • 1/2 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme leaves
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons tomato paste
  • 2 to 2 1/2 cups chopped or shredded roast turkey (white and/or dark meat)
  • 1 1/4 cups chicken stock or canned chicken broth
  • 1/2 cup green peas
  • 4 cups leftover mashed potatoes or Basic Mashed Potatoes, recipe follows (I used my leftover mashed potatoes)
  • 3/4 cup grated sharp or medium Cheddar
  • Chopped parsley leaves, for garnish
  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Lightly grease a 9-inch square or 2.2 quart baking dish with the butter and set aside.
  2. In a large saute pan or skillet, heat the oil over medium-high heat. Add the onions, carrots, Essence, salt, and pepper and cook, stirring, until the onions are soft, about 3 minutes. Add the garlic and cook, stirring, for 20 seconds. Add the mushrooms, thyme, and bay leaf and cook, stirring, until the mushrooms are soft, 3 to 4 minutes. Add the flour and cook, stirring, until thick, about 1 minute. Stir in the tomato paste and cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Add the meat and stir well to combine. Gradually add the stock and then the peas, and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer until the mixture is thickened, 6 to 8 minutes. Remove from the heat and discard the bay leaf.
  3. Carefully transfer to the prepared dish and spoon the potatoes over the meat mixture, spreading to the edges. Sprinkle with the cheese and bake until the cheese is bubbly and the potatoes are crisp around the edges, 22 to 25 minutes. Let sit for 10 minutes before serving. Garnish with chopped parsley and serve.

Prep time: 15 minutes

Cook time: 22-25 minutes

Serves: 4-6

Basic Mashed Potatoes:

  • 2 pounds potatoes, peeled, quartered, cut into 1-inch wedges
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 3 tablespoons heavy cream
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
  1. Place the potatoes in a medium, heavy saucepan with enough salted water to cover by 1-inch. Bring to the boil, reduce the heat to medium-low, and simmer until the potatoes are fork tender, about 25 minutes.
  2. Drain in a colander and return to the saucepan. Over medium-low heat, cook the potatoes for 1 minute to dry. Add the milk, butter, cream, salt and pepper and mash until smooth, 3 to 4 minutes. Serve immediately.

Apple Crisp

What would fall be without our favorite apple crisp recipe? I discovered this recipe years ago in my mom's old (read: vintage) Women's Day alphabetized volumes of recipes - yes, you may have seen them either in your mom's or grandmother's kitchen or at yard/tag sales. As much bad press as some vintage cookbooks have gotten in the "foodie" community, this collection of recipes continually has provided me with tried and true recipes. One of which being this fantastic apple crisp recipe. It really is the only apple crisp recipe I've ever used and Kyle and I love it so much that I don't ever feel the need to find a new one to try. Our love for this recipe is so great, in fact, that our wedding reception centerpieces were classy buckets full of apples (DIY) and we gave out this recipe (my slightly modified version of it) for our guests to take home. (and if I remember when I get home later, maybe I'll post a pic of the centerpieces here)

Apple Crisp
source: adapted from the Women's Day collection of recipes

  • 2 lbs cooking apples, peeled and sliced (about 5 1/2 cups) I recommend Macoun or Granny Smith
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
  • 1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
  • 1 tsp cinnamon plus extra to sprinkle on top
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 3/4 cup flour
  • 3/4 cup cold butter, diced
  1. Put apples in a shallow 2qt casserole; add water.
  2. Combine sugars, nutmeg, cinnamon, salt, and flour in a separate bowl. Cut in butter with two knives or a pastry blender. Spoon mixture evenly over apples. Sprinkle additional cinnamon on top (to taste).
  3. Cover with aluminum foil and bake in a preheated 350 degree oven for 30 minutes. Uncover and back for an additional 30 minutes.
Prep time: 15-20 minutes
Cook time: 1 hour
Serves: 6-8

Saturday, December 1, 2007

Show me the gravy!

As a kid, my parents drove my brother and I all over the place: Niagara Falls, Disney World, Connecticut, Montana/Idaho, Hershey Park (PA). Driving truly sucked, especially with a bratty little brother in the back seat the whole ride...but that's another story for the couch so I won't go into it here. I suppose as a kid, I never really appreciated the opportunities to see the country that driving provided (which is why I self-medicated with Dramamine), but I did see the opportunities in tasting the local foods wherever we drove through or ended up. There's no question what my favorite local fare was and I looked for it on every menu at every truck stop, Denny's or IHOP we ever stopped at: Biscuits and Gravy. :: insert Homer Simpson drooling sound here :: It's not a dish that you can readily find here in the Northeast so it's always such a treat to order it, especially when I'm down South.

However, now I don't have to wait until I travel to find it!! My mom cut out a recipe for Biscuits and Gravy a few years ago from her local newspaper and it turns out that it's a wonderful and fairly authentic recipe that I've been making ever since. I'm sure the recipes in the South call for some form of lard to enhance the flavor (and of course further clog the arteries) but this recipe is pretty basic, and it's certainly not lacking in flavor. It happens to be Kyle's #1 breakfast request for special occasions, weekends hosting guests, and holidays - but I refuse to make it for any sort of random day because I feel that we should have a "special" breakfast made only a couple times of year so that the novelty of this great meal doesn't wear out.

Our most recent indulgence was for Thanksgiving morning breakfast and even with the hustle and bustle of preparing a turkey dinner for later in the day, there was still plenty of time to put this in our bellies because it's so easy to make. For this occasion, I didn't make biscuits from scratch (but have in the past), and used a can of refrigerated biscuits - no shame in that! I've never actually used the biscuit recipe below so I can't attest to how it turns out but it sounds like it would turn out OK. Please note that I've made some changes to the gravy recipe, which you can see in italics.
Biscuits and Gravy
source: Bev Bennett in Newsday, April 6, 2003

For the biscuits:
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 1/4 cup (1/2 stick) cold butter, cut into pieces
  • 4 to 5 tbsp milk
  • 1 tbsp minced chives (optional)
  1. Combine flour, salt, baking powder and sugar in a bowl. Cut in butter until mixture contains small chunks of butter. Add 4 tbsp milk and stir. If dough is stiff, add remaining tbsp of milk. Knead in chives. Dough should be soft, but not sticky.
  2. Pat dough to 3/4 inch thickness on lightly floured board. Cut into 4 circles with 2 1/2 inch cookie cutter. Place on greased cookie sheet. Bake in 425 degree oven for 15 minutes or until golden brown.
  3. Place on wire rack to cool for 5 minutes before splitting open. Makes 4 biscuits.

For the gravy:

  • 8 oz bulk (ground) pork sausage in sage or hot seasonings (I use 12oz of ground breakfast sausage - either Jones' or Jimmy Dean)
  • 1 tbsp* flour
  • 1 cup* milk or combination of milk and half-and-half (should be room temperature)
  • freshly ground black pepper (lots!!)
  1. While biscuits are baking, brown sausage in a medium, non-stick skillet (it doesn't have to be non-stick). Do not pour off fat.
  2. Add flour to sausage and fat and stir to make a paste. Stir (whisk) in milk or half-and-half and cook over low heat (medium works better), stirring frequently, until sausage is hot and gravy is smooth and thick. (The mixture will need to come to a simmer before you get the right consistency.) Season generously with pepper.
  3. To serve, split each biscuit in half and top with 1/4 of the gravy mixture. Serve immediately. Serves 2.


  1. You might need a little extra flour and milk if you use extra sausage.
  2. Usually my gravy is a bit more "runny" than what these pics show but I was running low on milk that morning and had to make sure I had enough to last through the remainder of the holiday.
  3. This recipe easily doubles but I don't recommend fully doubling the milk. Add as much milk as necessary to bring your gravy to your desired thickness.