What can I do with Thanksgiving leftovers?

If you and your family do not eat leftovers, send the rest home with someone else because there are people like me, who can eat Thanksgiving leftovers every day. Seriously. Every single day, every meal, I can eat turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, gravy, squash and cranberry sauce for the week following Thanksgiving. But for many (MOST) that gets boring. So, here are some ideas to hide it so your family doesn’t even know its leftovers! And as always, it’s good food that happens to be gluten free.

leftover-turkey-sandwich

Changing the flavor profile is the easiest way to disguise the leftovers. You can shred some of the turkey and mix it with your favorite barbecue sauce and serve on leftover rolls or with cornbread stuffing. Add the turkey to jarred Tikka Masala sauce and serve with rice. You can make Asian rice noodles, Italian pasta, Quesadillas or Chili. Using the leftover turkey, squash or vegetables from the veggie tray you can make any of the dishes in my recent Super Easy Pasta Night3 Easy 10 Minute Meal , Taco Tuesday – Step Outside the Taco Shell and Crowd Pleasing Chili posts.

There are so many options! With the ideas and recipe links above you can make your own takeout! Save the money for the holidays 🙂

Happy planning, cooking and try not to stress. Send me your questions for Thanksgiving or for what to do with leftovers! or tell us your leftover ideas! Comment here or send me an email to mammascooking@gmail.com.

 

 

Butter, Sage, Rosemary and Thyme: How to make a compound butter

Yes, I am spending an entire post writing about butter. Butter is an essential part of Thanksgiving. You rub it all over the turkey, spread it on warm rolls just out of the oven, put butter in the stuffing, melt it on top of roasted squash, cream together in the mashed potatoes and use it to finish off the gravy. I could keep going! I hope Julia Child would be proud.

butter

Because butter is such a big part of the meal, I like to make it more flavorful. It is very easy to do. Make a compound butter. That is a fancy name for a butter that you add flavor to. I usually make it a day or two before Thanksgiving. You can even make it today!

Rosemary, Sage, Thyme and Lemon Compound Butter

compound-butter-mixture

Ingredients

1 ½ cups of unsalted butter (3 sticks), softened/room temperature

1 Tablespoon finely chopped fresh rosemary

¼ teaspoon finely chopped fresh sage

1 tsp finely chopped fresh thyme

zest of one lemon

1 teaspoon of salt

A pinch of pepper

Directions

compound-butter

With a fork, mash together all of the ingredients in a small mixing bowl. Take 3-4 tablespoons of the butter and place on a small rectangle of parchment paper and make it into a roll. Place in fridge to cool, until Thanksgiving morning. Take it out, unroll it onto a plate and it will be ready for your table! This can be for your table for your guests to melt on warm rolls. The remainder of the butter should be covered and placed into the refrigerator until Wednesday night. Leave it on the counter so that it is spreadable on Thursday when you start to cook.

compound-butter-roll

If your stuffing mix or stuffing already has seasoning, use plain butter. Otherwise you can use this on any other part of the main meal.

Please feel free to contact me with any questions about your Thanksgiving meal!

Other helpful Thanksgiving posts:

Appetizer ideas for Thanksgiving

Cooking your Thanksgiving Turkey

Easy Thanksgiving Side Dish: My Favorite! Acorn Squash

I guess Thanksgiving is coming soon!  – Great make ahead mashed potato recipe!

Happy Cooking!

Cooking your Thanksgiving Turkey

I decided to post a bonus blog today, since Thanksgiving is next week and I have barely even mentioned the star of the show: the turkey! Everyone has their opinions on the best way to cook a turkey, so here is mine 🙂 First of all, if you are buying a frozen turkey, get it today or tomorrow, so that it has time to defrost safely or buy a fresh one on Monday. I started brining my turkey a few years ago and it makes such a huge difference in flavor. Don’t be scared, its easy!

Step One: Buy Turkey

Can turkeys have gluten? Yes they can. Many times poultry is injected with broth before you buy it. Make sure the brand you are buying or have ordered is gluten free. Butterball and Shady Brook Farms both say on their website that they are gluten free. Most of the time when you order a fresh one from a farm, they have not been injected with anything, just ask.

If frozen, let it thaw for 2 -3 days in a refrigerator or keep on ice in a cooler where the temperature doesn’t go above about 40 degrees.

Step Two: Butcher the Turkey (optional – you can still follow the other steps if you keep the turkey whole)

butchering-turkey

I have been doing this for years, after listening to some professional chefs talk about making the turkey this way. I separate the dark meat from the light meat but keep all the bones in. There are many YouTube videos on how to do this. If you do not want to do this, buy a fresh turkey and ask if the butcher will do it. Whole Foods has done it for me in the past, when I’ve asked ahead of time. My Dad did the honors last year as I was so sick I could barely stand! (I cooked the rest of the meal the next day with a surgical mask on).

Save the giblets, the stuff inside the bag! Keep reading and you see how it helps make the most delicious gravy.

Step Three: Brine the Turkey

brine-for-turkey

Get a large bucket. I use a bright orange one from Home Depot that serves as my brining bucket. I have found that using a oven bag designed for turkeys in the bucket, makes clean up easier.

Basic Brine Recipe (inspired by this one from Our Best Bites)

Ingredients

2 cups of salt

2 cups of brown sugar

1 cup of peppercorns

3 Tablespoons of coriander seeds

12 small sage leaves, roughly torn

8 sprigs of fresh thyme

4 stems of fresh rosemary

4 Tablespoons of onion powder

2 Tablespoons of cumin

8 cloves of garlic, smashed

20 cups of water (may need more water to cover turkey)

Directions

Mix all ingredients in a large stock pot. I use a lobster pot. Cook on medium high until it boils. Take off the heat and let it cool.

Once the brine is cool, you can pour it over the turkey inside the bag in the bucket. Add more water or even ice to the brine if the 12 cups do not completely immerse your turkey. If your garage is cool enough or you have a refrigerator that can fit the bucket great. If not keep ice and ice packs around it and change every few hours so that the temperature stays under 40 degrees.

Brining for a couple of days or even one day will help enhance the flavor and juiciness of your turkey. I am also building in an extra day for the turkey to “dry” in my refrigerator outside the brine, as I heard that it will allow the skin to crisp up more. I’ll let you know if that works.

Step Four: Cooking the Turkey

turkey-in-oven-bag

If you did not butcher your turkey, put the whole turkey into an oven bag on top of a bed of onions, garlic, chopped carrots, celery and fresh herbs. I even throw in a couple of sliced lemons for the bed of the turkey. Remember to shake gluten free flour or cornstarch around inside the bag first!

Stuff some of the bed into the cavity of the turkey or if you did butcher it, you’ll have just the turkey breasts still on the bone. Rub butter or olive oil all over the turkey. I often make a compound butter (fancy name for mixing some of the herbs, salt, pepper and lemon zest in with some softened butter) and spread that all over. Close up the bag and cook accordingly with how many pounds of turkey you have. The breasts alone will cook faster. I roast it at 375 until the breast registers about 170 degrees. The dark meat (wings, etc should register about 180 degrees).

braising-turkey

If you braved the butchering, the dark meat is braised on the stove. A large heavy bottomed pot is what you will need. First brown the meat and then add onions, garlic, chopped carrots and celery with fresh sage, thyme and rosemary. Pour chicken or turkey stock about 1/2 up the meat. Add the giblets and make sure they are covered with stock. Braise for about 1.5 to 2 hours until the meat registers 180 degrees. Save the braising liquid to make the gravy!

Let the turkey rest for 30 to 45 minutes before carving!

cooked-turkey-breast

Step Five: The Gravy

Pour the braising liquid through a strainer and then pour it into a sauce pot on medium heat. Let it reduce a little and then taste it. Add 1 Tablespoon of corn starch and whisk.  Repeat adding 1/2 teaspoon at a time until it is the consistency you would like. Add a splash of balsamic vinegar and adjust the seasonings to your taste. Just before serving, add a tablespoon of butter and whisk it in.

I serve gravy in insulated coffee mugs. That way it doesn’t get cold! Not fancy, but practical. I think everyone has come to expect the old Westlaw mug at the table 🙂

Ok. Breathe. That seems like a lot of work, but it is so worth it!  This is the star of the show. The actual cooking time is shorter when you cook the dark and light meat separate.

Please let me know if you have questions. There are buttons all over this page now that will put you in touch with me or make a comment and I’ll respond!

If you have missed any of my recent Thanksgiving posts, here are some easy gluten-free side dish ideas:

My Favorite! Acorn Squash

Holiday Mashed Potatoes

Easy Thanksgiving Side Dish: My favorite! Acorn Squash

A question I frequently get from readers is whether my house is completely gluten free. Yes, it is. Except for my husband’s beer 🙂 It is a personal decision to make the entire house gluten free, but it is what works for us. I mixed the kids’ lunches up once while we lived in a shared household and after that decided to go gluten free. Too much work for me to keep it separate! Holidays at our house are also completely gluten free. I love the challenge to make traditional holiday meal items so that no one misses the gluten!

Most of the meal is naturally gluten free, except for the stuffing and the rolls. This year I am making my own stuffing. I am going to base it on this recipe, but use all the ends of the gluten-free bread that I have been saving in the freezer for the cubes. I will also substitute vegetable stock so that it is vegetarian for one of our guests.

I tested some recipes for rolls and decided that I am going to use the corn-based rolls recipe from Roben Ryberg’s book, You Won’t Believe It’s Gluten-Free! I will cook them just before we eat, so they come fresh out of the oven onto the table.

Here is my super easy Thanksgiving side dish recipe for acorn squash. The hard part is timing it for your oven space! This can be cooked while your turkey is resting and you are making gravy. Then keep it warm and covered while your rolls cook. Just prep it in the pan earlier in the day so that whenever you have time and space it’s ready to go into the oven.

acorn-squash

Chili rubbed Acorn Squash (feeds 4 so double or triple as needed)

Ingredients

1 Acorn Squash, sliced into half moons

1 Tablespoon olive oil

1 teaspoon salt

1/8 teaspoon pepper

½ teaspoon chili powder

Directions

acorn-squash-cuts

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Toss squash with the rest of the ingredients in a baking sheet (you can probably fit 1 ½ acorn squashes on each baking sheet). Cover with aluminum foil and bake for 20 minutes. Take out, flip each piece of squash and return baking sheet to oven and bake for another 15 minutes.

acorn-squash-half-moons

Don’t try to over complicate your meal. I have done that many, many, many times and only you suffer for it. Thanksgiving is not the time to experiment with fancy recipes. Keep it simple with just a couple of seasonings and the fewer the steps for you to take the better! The more you can prep in advance, the better and the more help you can take from the store, the better.

If you missed it, check out my Holiday Mashed Potato recipe and ideas for easy sides, how to simplify your Thanksgiving meal and about the star of the show, the turkey.

Send me a message or comment below if you have any questions about making your Thanksgiving meal gluten free.

 

Crowd Pleasing Chili

If you are having a crowd over for a big game or just hanging out with friends and family around the holidays and need a big satisfying meal, chili is always a great option. It is a blank canvas and does not require a lot of hands on work. It is also very easy to make gluten free, vegetarian or allergy friendly, which is great when you have a large crowd and don’t know what everyone’s food allergies or preferences are. I don’t think I have ever really made chili the same way twice, but I made this one recently to fuel up some friends before we enjoyed a long walk.

Quinoa Pumpkin Chili for a Crowd

Ingredients

1 to 2 pounds of your favorite beans or mixture of beans

½ of a large onion, diced

4 cloves of garlic, minced

1-24 ounce can crushed tomatoes

About ½ a 15 ounce can of pumpkin

1 ½ teaspoons salt

¼ teaspoon pepper

2 Tablespoons of chili powder

¼ teaspoon dried oregano

3 Tablespoons of cider vinegar

¾ cup of chicken stock (or vegetable or beef stock)

1 ½ Tablespoons brown sugar

½ cup of quinoa

Optional, add 1 to 2 cups of leftover roasted vegetables and/or turkey, chicken or beef

Directions

Pour all the ingredients into your slow cooker and stir. Cook on high for 2-3 hours or low 6-8 hours. Taste and add more seasoning if needed. Serve with sour cream and sliced green onions.

This is yet another way to disguise Thanksgiving leftovers. To stretch the meal even further, you can serve it over mac-n-cheese, as I did for lunch the day after I made it.

quinoa-chili-for-a-crowd

When you are entertaining for the holidays, having easy meals that can stretch to feed a crowd are very useful. This is a healthy meal and a hearty meal that will give you the fuel to warm you up after hiking, skiing or keep you going during overtime of your favorite team’s game.

What are your favorite crowd pleasing meals? Stay tuned for an extra post this week with some gluten free holiday entertaining ideas and a recipe!

Here are some past crowd pleasing or tailgating recipes and ideas for using leftovers (Always the same disclaimer that they are from before our family started eating gluten free so make adaptations as needed or ask me how I do it! mammascooking@gmail.com

Fall Football and Tailgating

Lessons Learned from Thanksgiving and Cooking in the Aftermath

Pre and Post Thanksgiving Ideas with a Potluck Recipe thrown in

Happy Thanksgiving

Taco Tuesday – Step outside the Taco Shell (Gluten free!)

Getting Ready for the Holidays

Turkey time, a visit to a butcher shop and italian sausage mac-n-cheese (I think I’ll make this mac-n-cheese GF tonight!)

Thank you to Mamapedia for highlighting Mamma’s Cooking 3 Easy 10 Minute Meals on Mamapedia Voices on Friday!

3 Easy 10 Minute Meals

The election is now behind us and whoever you voted for, we can all agree its time to move forward! Now we can occupy our brains with the holidays instead! Which unfortunately for many can be just as stressful, especially when you cannot rely on take out. I, like many of you have a endless list of things to do: keep the children alive and fed, go to school meetings, do laundry, clean, pay bills, juggle all the activities, work and do more laundry, so I completely understand that dinner needs to be done in 10 minutes time most nights. Especially with the holidays coming, our time is even more limited. These are three of my go to super fast recipes for when dinner needs to be on the table ASAP and hopefully help keep your stress levels down!

Kielbasa and Peppers with Mashed Sweet Potatoes

kielbasa-and-sweet-potato-10-minute-meal

Ingredients

1 Tablespoon of olive oil

1 Turkey kielbasa (make sure it is GF if you need it to be), diced

1 red pepper, diced

1 green pepper, diced

1 package of already made mashed sweet potatoes (I like Wegman’s) or a couple of large sweet potatoes

Directions

Heat your cast iron skillet (or sauté pan) over medium heat with the olive oil in it. Once hot, add kielbasa and peppers, stirring occasionally. Cook for about 5-7 minutes. While that is cooking follow the instructions on your mashed sweet potatoes (or just microwave a couple of sweet potatoes-remember to poke holes with a fork!- and serve with a little butter, salt and pepper). You can either leave out the kielbasa for a vegetarian meal or substitute leftover turkey, chicken, steak or your favorite already cooked sausage.

Asian noodles are always a hit in my house and are a great option for an easy weeknight meal. Healthy, tasty and a great alternative to take-out.

Asian noodles with shrimp and broccoli

asian-noodles-10-minute-meal

Ingredients

1 package of Maifun Rice Sticks or your favorite noodles (GF if you need them to be)

1 pound of shrimp (frozen or fresh, even faster if already cooked!)

1 head of broccoli, roughly chopped

1/3 cup soy sauce

1/3 cup rice vinegar

¼ teaspoon fish sauce, optional

¼ teaspoon sesame oil

2 teaspoons of ginger (either this stir-in paste from Gourmet Garden or minced fresh)

1 clove of garlic, minced

1 teaspoon onion powder

3 Tablespoons lime juice

4 Tablespoons brown sugar

Directions

Cook noodles according to package. Add the broccoli to noodles with 3 minutes left in cook time. Drain all. Mix the soy sauce, vinegar and rest of the ingredients in a large bowl. Toss noodles and broccoli with sauce. Toss in cooked, peeled shrimp and its ready to serve. I serve it with fresh cilantro, chopped peanuts and a couple splashes of siracha. A squeeze of lime juice is also a great way to finish the dish.

If shrimp are fresh or thawed and not cooked, this can still be a quick meal, as long as they are cleaned and deveined! Here is a quick delicious way to cook them. Mix 1/8 cup vegetable oil, splash of sesame oil, 4 cloves of garlic – minced and juice of ½ a lime. Toss with the shrimp and cook for 3 to 4 minutes each side in a 400 degree oven. Cool, peel and toss with noodles.

This dish is extremely versatile. It would also be great with, zoodles (zucchini noodles), rice or cauliflower rice in place of the noodles. You can easily substitute tofu, scrambled egg, leftover chicken, steak or even turkey from Thanksgiving. It is good hot, room temperature and cold.

Having these jack-of-all trade meals in your back pocket will make dinner easier to make with what you have on hand.

Pasta with Pink Sauce

pasta-with-pink-sauce-10-minute-meal

Ingredients

1-16 once package of spaghetti or your favorite pasta (gluten free of course if you need it to be)

1 jar of pasta sauce (or one 15 ounce can of tomato sauce)

4 ounces (1/2 block) of cream cheese

Directions

Cook pasta according to package. While water is boiling, pour pasta sauce into sauce pan and heat on medium. Add cream cheese and stir until combined. It will be clumpy. While pasta is cooking pour pink sauce into a large serving bowl and then add drained pasta. Stir and serve.

This is a great base to add whatever cooked vegetables, leftover turkey, chicken or shrimp if you like. I recently made this and served steamed green beans on the side. Stop and Shop steam in the bag green beans. My husband liked them more than when I buy green beans, clean them and steam or roast. Lesson learned! I don’t need to exert the energy!

These three easy dinners will hopefully make your busy nights less stressful and your holiday leftovers easier to finish and disguise! What are your favorite ways to use leftover holiday food? Comment and let us know! I am working on creating Pins for Pinterest for these recipes, so for now just follow me on Pinterest or follow this page and you will be the first to know when you can save these recipes!

More leftover ideas and some comfort food for those cold snowy nights

I feel like I’m finally getting a hang of using up all my leftovers and not just as the same dish it was, but transformed so my family doesn’t get bored. There are a couple of dishes that are great for transforming meats, veggies, like quesadillas or chili or a baked pasta dish. Here are a couple of things I have made recently.

Eggplant Rolotini with Orzo
Olive oil
1 small onion diced
1 small/medium eggplant sliced thin to make rolls, and extra pieces chopped
1 28oz can of tomatoes (diced or crushed. Substitute 3-4 medium tomatoes in the summer)
Oregano
Thyme
Salt
Pepper
Garlic powder (can use fresh garlic, 1-2 cloves minced depending on how garlicky you like it)
1-1/2 cups Fresh ricotta
1 egg
12 ounces orzo
4 cups of stock (veggie or chicken) or water
Sauté onion and garlic in olive oil until translucent. Add chopped pieces of eggplant and more olive oil if needed. Sprinkle salt, pepper, oregano and thyme onto eggplant and onion mixture. Cook for a couple of minutes, then add in tomatoes. While that is cooking, take ricotta cheese and egg and mix together with a little pepper, garlic powder and salt. Take mixture and spread across top of long, thin piece of eggplant and roll up. Take the sauce off of the heat and place roll up in the sauce. Repeat.  Drizzle eggplant roll ups with a little olive oil, salt and pepper. Cover and place in 350 degree oven for about 40 minutes.
Make orzo according to package. Serve with eggplant and sauce.
I made this recently for a cooking club and we had to bring something that started with the same letter as your last name. Very fun!

Leftovers: Added the orzo and some of the diced cooked eggplant in with a white pork chili (see below)
Barley risotto, Roasted Butternut Squash and Balsamic Garlic Pork Tenderloin
(a recipe for when you have lots of time to cook. If you don’t, make some baked potatoes or even sweet potatoes instead of the risotto)

2-3 lb pork tenderloin (you could also use beef or boneless chicken or turkey breast)
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
1/4 cup apple juice
1/8 cup Worcestershire sauce
1/8 cup soy sauce
3-4 sprigs of thyme
1 medium sized onion, diced
3 garlic cloves, minced salt
lemon pepper
1 medium butternut squash, peeled and cubed
olive oil
2 cups pearl barley
8-10 cups broth (veggie, chicken or beef or even water or a mixture), heated
parmesan

Turn crockpot onto low. Pour in balsamic, apple juice, Worcestershire sauce, soy sauce, thyme, 1/2 of the onion and 2 of the garlic cloves. Mix the sauce and taste. If too acidic for your taste, add more apple juice. If you want it to have a little more of a savory bite add more Worcestershire sauce. Dry the pork and rub it with salt and lemon pepper and then place it in the sauce in the crockpot. It should cover it about 3/4 or so the way up the pork. Close and let cook 6-8 hours on low. When it reads 170-180 degrees on a meat thermometer, the pork is done. Take it out to rest. If you want gravy, add the cooking liquid to a large saucepan and bring to a boil to reduce by about 1/2. Then strain. I use a spoon that is a large strainer since its easier than pouring it out and then back in the pan. Taste. I usually add a little more apple juice, a Tbsp of brown sugar and some black pepper. Lastly add a cornstarch mixture (2 Tbsp cornstarch to 1/2 cup water) and whisk until thick.

Spread the squash out on a sheet pan and toss with olive oil, salt and lemon pepper. Roast in oven at 375 degrees for about 30-45 minutes.

In a medium sized sauce pan on medium high heat, put enough olive oil to cover the bottom. Add remainder of onion and garlic. Cook until onions are translucent. Add barley and cook while stirring for 2-3 minutes. Add about 1 cup of the broth and stir until absorbed. Keep adding a ladle or 2 of broth at a time until absorbed and the barley is the consistency that you like to eat it. This can take about 45 minutes. Finish with a handful of parmesan.

Leftovers: I used the pork and barley, along with the eggplant and some orzo from another meal to add to 1 can of cream of mushroom soup, 1 diced zucchini, 1/2 jalepeno (seeded and taken out before eating), cumin and chili powder to make chili. I put everything in the crockpot and cooked on low for 2-3 hours. I used the butternut squash in a quesadilla with cheddar. The kids loved it! Well, 2 out of 3 did at least 🙂

Another good idea for leftovers is to make an Asian noodle dish. For some reason, my 4 year old has decided she LOVES Asian food, so I’m trying to make it more. The other day for a quick week night meal, I took some shredded turkey out of the freezer (from the holidays) and made a turkey, broccoli and edamame noodle dish with whole wheat spaghetti noodles.

 

 Cook the noodles as directed on package. Put a little bit of vegetable oil in a large sauce pan or a wok if you have one, on medium high heat. Add 1/2 onion sliced thinly and 1 clove of garlic, minced. Cook until onions are translucent. Add turkey and cook until heated through. Throw in a handful of frozen broccoli and a handful of frozen edamame (shelled). Then add sauce. I made a sauce with leftover pineapple juice I had in the fridge, with terriyaki sauce, soy sauce, a little brown sugar and a drop of sesame oil. It was so good! Let cook for 5-10 minutes on medium. Add a little cornstarch if you want the sauce thicker. Add noddles to pan, mix and serve!



Not too late for new years resolutions

To make resolutions or not? 2011 was a year of transition for me and my family. Instead of making specific resolutions this year, I am just pledging to make 2012 a year of moving forward. This pledge will include resolution type things like work out more, go to the dentist when I’m supposed to, cook healthier food, cut our grocery costs and more, but as those smaller things may change, the overall pledge will stay the same. I believe this time next year I will feel better about keeping my pledge and not worry about all the smaller individual resolutions I did or did not do.

Now on to food…My first step toward moving forward in 2012 is to use leftovers more efficiently and effectively.

I started my last week of the year cooking large meals, so that I could spend this weekend not cooking but rather spending more time with my family 🙂


Balsamic Mustard Chicken thighs with roasted butternut squash and risotto-like-rice
1 medium butternut squash, peeled and cubed
olive oil
salt
pepper
Trader Joe’s Everyday spice blend (or coriander and a pinch of red pepper flake)3-5 lbs skinless chicken thighs (I often buy them with the skin on because its cheaper and then take it off myself)
Leftover mustard balsamic dipping sauce from my pigs in a blanket Christmas eve (Thanks Lauren for the idea!) (Made with spicy brown mustard, balsamic vinegar and honey mixed together)
1 Tbsp butter
1/2 of a medium onion diced
1/2 cup aborrio rice
3-4 cups chicken broth or veggie broth

Toss the squash with olive oil and spices and put on a baking sheet in the oven at 375 degrees. Coat the chicken with the balsamic mustard sauce and place in a baking dish in the oven at 375. Cook both about 45 minutes. Ovens vary so check to make sure its cooking evenly and not burning at about 30 minutes. Check the chicken with a meat thermometer to 165-175.

To make the risotto-like-rice, add butter and onion to your rice cooker and stir until onions are translucent. Add rice and cook while stirring for a couple of minutes. Add 3 cups of broth and start the machine. Once it is done, add more broth and mix it in if you want it creamier.You can also add in some Parmesan at the end if you like.

I used the leftover chicken and risotto to make white chicken chili. To a crock pot added a can of cream of chicken soup, half of a jalapeno (seeded), cumin, coriander, 1 small onion diced, 1 can of white beans, leftover chicken cubed and about 1 cup of the risotto. Cook on low for 2- 3 hours. Delicious! My 9 year old nephew couldn’t get enough of it!

Roasted turkey with sweet potato mashed potatoes and stuffing

I cooked the turkey whole, stuffing it with lime and tangelo wedges, onions and garlic. I melted butter with some thyme, lime juice, lime zest, tangelo juice, tangelo zest and rubbed that all over the turkey. While that was cooking I peeled and diced 3 sweet potatoes and boiled them in water with thyme and garlic until soft. Once they were fork tender, I drained them and mashed them with a little butter, milk and cream cheese. I added some garlic powder, salt and pepper. For stuffing I used Stove top savory herb 🙂 and I used the cranberry sauce in the can.

I used the leftovers to make turkey stock, pesto pasta with turkey and butternut squash, turkey sandwiches and more.

My next step is to cut our grocery costs, starting with more couponing. I bought the Sunday paper the other day to get the 4 coupon inserts. I was shocked at the register when they said it was $3.50! Last time I bought a Sunday paper it was $1.50. Next time I am going to buy the local Lowell paper, I think it also has the inserts and is still only $1.50. I went to a lecture at the local library by Jamie Chase, the Lazy Couponer. It was great! Using her tips, I saved almost 30% on my next grocery trip. I only bought what I needed, no stockpiling or hours upon hours of clipping coupons.

(Belated) Happy New Year to all of you!

My Thanksgiving Menu

Cooking creates some stress in people and that stress increases even more when it’s for a holiday and large numbers of people. Don’t let it stress you out! Take help from the store or take others up on their offer to bring a specific item, make what you can ahead of time and keep it simple of the day of!!
Here is my plan this year for Thanksgiving (recipes are below):
Roasted Turkey
Gravy
Cranberry Sauce
Steamed Lobster
Stuffing
Sweet potato gratin or sweet potato soup.
Mashed Potatoes
Spinach Salad with roasted butternut squash, goat cheese and raspberry vinaigrette
Dinner Rolls
Compound butter
Dessert
Beverages
I haven’t even thought about appetizers yet!!! Simple is best though because a big meal is coming.  I’ll probably just put out a simple veggie tray with hummus, a cheese plate and salami, prosciutto plate.
Recipes:
Roasted Turkey
 I cook my turkey in pieces. I know, I know, not traditional, but after listening to many chefs being interviewed on the Splendid Table (http://splendidtable.publicradio.org/) over the last few years, I have followed their lead and roast the white meat in the oven while the dark meat, bones, and giblets braise on the stove.  This is actually faster, only a couple of hours for a 12-15 pound bird. If you want to brine the turkey go for it. I did last year in water, salt, lemon, pepper and garlic over night. The morning of Thanksgiving, dry the breasts thoroughly. In a separate bowl mix butter, sage, rosemary, thyme , salt and lemon pepper. Take the butter and rub it all over the breasts, including under the skin. Roast the breasts in an oven safe bag on top of sliced lemons, chopped onions, carrots, garlic + whatever veggies you like.  Depending on the weight of your turkey, about an hour and a half (I think that is how long the breasts from my 12 pound bird took last year), until the right temperature. Check out the USDA sight on safe poultry handling for time and temperatures: http://www.fsis.usda.gov/factsheets/lets_talk_turkey/index.asp
The dark meat and the giblets I brown in 1 part butter, 1 part olive oil in a very large sauce pan after rubbing with salt and lemon pepper. Then I add a chopped onion, clove of garlic and the braising liquid. The braising liquid is one part chicken stock, one part beef stock, 1/8 part white balsamic vinegar, thyme, rosemary and sage. Cover and braise on medium for 2-3 hours (depending on the size of your bird).  Make sure liquid is about ¾ way up the bird.  
The Chew is talking turkey today and here is a link their turkey recipes.  Food network and many other cooking blogs have tons of recipes for turkey. If you get overwhelmed, stop searching! You will find a million different ways to make a turkey, so just read a couple of recipes and think about how you roast a chicken and keep it simple! Simple = delicious!
Gravy
When the dark meat is done, take it out and let it rest on the platter under foil.  Reduce the braising liquid by ½. Take out the veggies.  Taste the liquid and add water or stock if too strong or if you want more of a vinegar flavor add more vinegar. You can use wine instead of vinegar. It all depends on your own taste. To thicken the gravy put a tablespoon of cornstarch in a mug and ladle some of the liquid into the mug and mix. Then pour it into the pan and whisk. Repeat until desired thickness. Strain to get out any lumps.  Finish by whisking in a couple pats of butter. TIP: I usually serve gravy in travel coffee mugs. That way it stays warm all through dinner. 
Cranberry Sauce
Everyone has their own preference and I am one of those people who LOVE the cranberry sauce out of a can. So good! I usually have a can of cranberry sauce + a can of the whole berry one so that there is a variety for people. If someone asks what they can bring and homemade cranberry sauce is their thing, by all means, they can bring it.
Steamed Lobster
For the past few years while we lived in Seattle I have served salmon alongside the turkey to add a little Pacific Northwest flair to the meal. Now that we are back in New England we were talking with my brother about what would be a good Boston flair to the meal. His idea was to bring already steamed lobster. I’ll never say no to that! 
Stuffing
This is where I take some help from the store. Maybe it is nostalgia, but I love Stove Top stuffing. I buy the savory herb blend. To make it a little more my own, I brown up some mild Italian sausage and some chopped apples and add it to the stuffing after cooking it according to the directions on the box. Put it in a casserole dish covered to stay warm, putting it in the oven if you need to. If its drying out, add a little chicken/turkey or beef stock and cover to allow the steam to moisten the stuffing. 
Sweet potato dish
I haven’t decided yet which I am going to make. I think I am going to go with a soup. Like this one I made a couple of weeks ago. It will be lighter than a gratin. Although this gratin dish sounds amazing! – http://abcnews.go.com/GMA/recipe/michael-symons-sweet-potato-gratin-14954467It is from Michael Symon, who made it on The Chew.
Mashed potatoes
Peel and dice the potatoes (You don’t have to peel them if you don’t want to). Put them in a pot and pour enough milk over to cover the potatoes. Add a little garlic powder, onion powder, salt and pepper and stir. Turn on heat to medium/medium high and watch to make sure milk doesn’t boil over.  Simmer until potatoes are soft. Drain potatoes leaving a little milk in the pot. Add butter, couple of tablespoons of cream cheese, salt and pepper. Mash, taste and add more butter, milk, salt or pepper to your taste.
Spinach Salad with roasted butternut squash, goat cheese and raspberry vinaigrette

Thanks Lauren for this! This is so good! First, peel and cube a fall/winter squash of your choice. Toss with olive oil, salt and pepper. I also add some Trader Joe’s Everyday seasoning, a coriander mix on a sheet pan.  Roast for about 20-25 minutes at 375 degrees. While its roasting arrange fresh spinach leaves on a platter. When squash is browning around the edges, take out and place on top of spinach. Top with some crumbled goat cheese and drizzle with a raspberry vinaigrette of your choice. Sooo good! 
Here is another option for a squash salad from Sally, using items from your local farmer’s market.
Dinner rolls
I also take some help from the store or local bakery with this one. Here is a tip from Our Best Bites to make store bought rolls a little fancier with some fresh herbs:
Compound Butter
This may sound fancy but is really simple and delicious! I take a couple of sticks of butter and leave on counter to soften. Once soft, then mix it in a bowl with some lemon zest and fresh thyme (or whatever other fresh herbs you have on hand). Either put it in a small shallow bowl and refrigerate or make a log out of it and wrap in plastic wrap or wax paper and refrigerate or (what I’m going to do this year) put in a shallow flat pan and refrigerate. Once cooled and hardened then use cookie cutters to cut out little shapes. I found some cute leaves, acorns, pumpkin ones that will look very fancy, but without much work! I found the idea in an old Martha Stewart magazine.
Dessert
I’m not really much of a baker, so when people are coming to Thanksgiving at my place and ask what they can bring, I usually say dessert. I have made some things in the past from Our Best Bites. This pumpkin crumble is amazing!!
Beverages
Wine – good pinot noir or Riesling – whatever you like the best.
Beer – Have on hand what you know your guests will like.
Butterscotch martinis – My favorite fall drink! 1 part butterscotch schnapps, 1 part vodka, shake and serve.
Coffee/Tea
Milk
Apple cider
Cranberry Juice
Apple Juice
TIP for the kids:  Have a little project or puzzle handy for each kid (dollar store is a great resource) to give them after dinner so they have something to keep them occupied until dessert, especially if is raining. If not raining have one, two or more adults play with them outside until dessert.

Turkey time, a visit to a butcher shop and Italian Sausage Mac-n-cheese

Thanksgiving is a couple of weeks away and I love to cook for the holidays! I do not love spending more time in the kitchen than with my family (my kitchen right now is too small to have anyone but me and sometimes my 4 year old in it!), so I try to keep it simple. The one area that I do complicate the dinner a little bit is that after listening to many episodes of TheSplendid Table , I have heard chefs say over and over that they do not cook the turkey whole (except for one for show that is not eaten at the restaurant). So a couple of years ago I decided to breakdown and butcher a turkey myself. It was a satisfying experience that took me an hour and a half! Last year it took me only 45 minutes and a few cuts and scrapes on my hands J I put all the dark meat and giblets in a large pan and braise it for a couple of hours on the stove. The white meat is roasted in the oven. That way everything cooks evenly. I then use the braising liquid to make amazing gravy.  
I do not want to butcher the turkey this year. I just don’t have the time or energy, so I’m trying to find a place where I can have someone do it for me. I started calling around the grocery stores and most of them responded something like, “Um, you want to do what? Why? I guess we could figure out how to do that for you.” Not a satisfactory answer. You can buy separate turkey breasts and wings and thighs in most grocery stores, but it doesn’t give you the giblets, which I have no desire to eat, but really do help make the dark meat and gravy taste better. 
Yesterday I went into a butcher shop nearby and asked the woman behind the counter. She was very friendly (but did kind of seem confused as to why I would want that done) and went to the back to ask the butcher if that was something he could do. She came back and told me that the butcher’s father could probably do it. Their price per pound is also the same as the supermarket, so I will probably go through them, but I’m going to do a little more searching to see if I can find a butcher who sees eye to eye with me J I’m prepared that that may not happen this year, but then I have a whole other year to keep looking! 
While I was in the butcher shop yesterday, I figured I should try out some of their meat. I knew I was planning on making mac-n-cheese last night and I saw their homemade sausages, so decided to get a long link of their sweet Italian sausage. It was delicious! 
Mac-n-cheese with Sweet Italian sausage
Serves 6-8
1 box of pasta (I used whole wheat rotini)
1 stick of butter (sliced)
1 sweet Italian sausage
½ cup of flour
About 1 ½ to 2 cups of milk
1 tsp Dijon mustard
1 Tbsp ground coriander
½ Tbsp lemon pepper
1 tsp salt (add more if you like. I’m notorious for under salting things)
4 oz of cream cheese
1 jar of puréed carrot babyfood (can use any pureed veggie you like, butternut squash would be good too)
8 oz of shredded cheddar (use 10 oz of cheese, whatever combo or single cheese you like)
2 oz of shredded mozzarella
Panko bread crumbs
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Make pasta according to package instructions. In a large sauce pan, throw in a couple pats of butter. Take the sausage out of its casing and cook in the butter. Remove the sausage when done and try to keep as much of the drippings in the pan. Put the heat on medium high and add the remainder of the butter and let it melt. Add the flour and whisk for 3 minutes or so to get rid of the flour taste. Then slowly add the milk until the sauce coats the back of a spoon. Add mustard, coriander, pepper and salt and mix together. If sauce starts to get too thick, add a little more milk. Add cream cheese and puréed carrots. Whisk together. Taste sauce and adjust seasonings as you like. Take pan off the heat and add shredded cheese, mix together with a spoon and then add the cooked pasta and sausage (use a sauce pan that is large enough to accommodate all the pasta – one less dish to wash!).  Mix together, flatten top and sprinkle lightly with panko bread crumbs. Put in the oven for 25 minutes or until edges start to brown.
I completely forgot to take a picture! Oh well. It was a big hit with the kids and my father in law. Tim and I got to go out on a date, so I’ll have some leftovers for lunch today!
Since I can’t lift anything over 5-10lbs right now, I had my father in law help me put the water on the stove to boil, put the pan in the oven and take it out. So thank you to him for his help. Also, thank you to Adriane for giving me the idea to make a “fancy” homemade hamburger helper type meal.  Her version sounds really good and super easy too! “Macaroni, ground beef (browned while pasta cooked), a little milk, Tillamook cheddar, Beechers cheddar, and South African smoke added for the adult portions. Mmmmm.”
Send me any of your easy and go to fall meals! We all can take inspiration from each other to spice up our menus!