Got Stock?

Nothing says Thanksgiving like delicious homemade gravy – poured over almost everything!  Don’t be stressed by the ‘on the spot’ timing of gravy making, depending on having enough pan drippings to make a decent gravy, or the fear that the gravy may or may not turn out to your liking!  The answer is in making a big batch of homemade turkey stock well in advance of the big day.

Every year, I make my big batch of homemade turkey stock, freeze it in quart size containers, then no worry about having the pan drippings that are going to make or break the star of the show – turkey and gravy!

2 Bowls of Turkey Stock

Homemade Turkey Stock

HERE’S HOW:  This time of year, you’ll start to see turkey wings, backs, and thighs in the grocery store.  I used 4 turkey wings and a few backs that were already packaged at the store.  Place them in a large roasting pan with a couple of cut up carrots and celery stacks (great time to use the leafy greens of celery,) one large onion cut in quarters and a full head of garlic cut in half lengthwise across (skins and all,) several sprigs of thyme and rosemary, generous coating of good olive oil, generous sprinkles of kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper.  Into a 400F oven for about 45 minutes to one hour – everything should be golden brown and crispy.

Transfer turkey/veggies into a large stock pot, cover with water by a couple of inches, bring to a boil, then simmer for a couple of hours. Taste along the way to ensure a flavorful broth, adding more salt and pepper to taste as this is going to be the flavor for your gravy.  After a couple of hours, remove the turkey wings (and any other parts with meat) to a side bowl.  Strain out all the other parts and veggies, reserving the hearty, delicious, flavorful broth.  You’ll probably end up with 5-6 quarts of stock, so use a couple for the gravy and store the rest as the base for some delicious homemade turkey soup!  (It’s also nice to give a quart or two away to a friend to help ease their Thanksgiving day stress.)  The turkey meat from the stock bones makes a great turkey salad!

MAKING GRAVY:  This step couldn’t be easier – and stress free!  Heat one quart turkey stock in pan on stove top – heated through to simmer.  In another large sauce pan, you’re going to make a roux (roo) as the base of the gravy.  (Fancy, right?)  Add equal parts butter/flour [6TBSP each] over medium heat.  (You can substitute good olive oil for the butter.)  Using a whisk (or fork) blend together over medium heat until mixed well and bubbly.  Continue whisking for a minute or two to cook out the flour taste.  From there, start adding broth, ladle by ladle, continuing to whisk with each addition.  You’ll probably use the entire quart of stock, so make the gravy to a consistency that’s to your liking.  Taste and add additional salt/pepper to ensure full flavor for the big bird!  Keep warm on very low temp, or turn off and reheat as you’re ready to gather around the Thanksgiving table.

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Too many tomatoes?

UPDATE – Recommendation:  Here’s an added tip to the following directions for skinning fresh tomatoes and freezing before use to make a delicious pasta sauce.  If you prefer to ‘seed’ tomatoes (as much as you can’ before making sauce, then BEFORE FREEZING, cut out the stem area, cut each tomato in half across the middle, and the most of the seeds will squeeze right out.  (I found it harder to get the ‘seed’ the tomatoes once frozen whole, even after defrosting before use.  Hope that helps!

Now onto the original post:

Summer gardens are the best!  Fresh fruits and vegetables that pop with flavor and keep you coming back for more and more.  As much as we love them, we usually find that they are all ripe ready in large bunches – so what to do with all of them?  Here’s an idea for garden fresh tomatoes that can be put ‘on hold’ until you’re ready to make your next batch of homemade pasta sauce:  Fresh Frozen Peeled Tomatoes!

Picture of Fresh Frozen Peeled Tomatoes

Fresh Frozen Peeled Tomatoes

  • Bring a large pot of water to a boil
  • Have a large bowl of ice water on hand
  • Rinse tomatoes and cut a small ‘X’ opposite the stem end
  • Drop in batches of 4-5 into boiling water
  • 45-60 seconds later you’ll see the ‘X’ start to split up the sides
  • Remove tomatoes to ice bath with slotted spoon
  • Skin will easily peel away!

Line a sheet pan with parchment or wax paper and place peeled tomatoes on sheet pan.  Place sheet pan in freezer until tomatoes are frozen.  Transfer to freezer bag and store for up to 6 months – defrosting when you’re ready to make fresh homemade pasta sauce!

Ciao e Buon appetito!


Stuffed Peppers – Turkey-Quinoa… in a Crockpot – yikes!

Okay, I admit it.  Never had, nor never wanted a crockpot.  I love to cook, so I never saw the point.  Given that, we got one this year and I did make a delicious Chicken Chili Verde.  Although that worked well for that purpose, I still couldn’t think of any reason to use, or want to use, a crockpot.  As my dad and I talk about food and cooking most every time we talk, he told me he had just made stuffed peppers in a crockpot.  (That surprised me because I never knew the crockpot to be his go-to cooking method.) . I guess I was hungry when we talked because that sounded so good to me, and I knew I’d make enough for a few to go into my freezer pantry.   Today being Father’s Day, though my father is 3,000 miles away, was the day I put crockpot stuffed peppers to the test!  Results:  AWESOME!

3.5 hours on high in the crockpot, then 20 minutes in the oven at 400F (I couldn’t help myself because to me it’s all about the golden color and added texture/taste.) . Here you have it, healthy, delicious, nutritious Turkey, Quinoa, Spinach, Feta, Crimini Mushroom, and Diced Tomato stuffed peppers!

(I had enough extra stuffing left for about 4 more peppers, so I made those directly in the oven.  Same result, but with 2+ hours with lots of checking, covering/uncovering, removing liquid, etc.)

Still not a crockpot convert, but it will be my go to cooking method the next time I’m craving stuffed peppers!  (Stuffed peppers allow you the freedom to put whatever you want in them, so get creative and have fun.  If you want more information about these peppers, let me know.)

Buon appetito!


Ready for the week ahead – and beyond!

Another fun day in the kitchen getting ready for the week ahead, putting a twist on an old favorite and sharing a nutritious breakfast cookie that’s perfect for those days you’re running out the door!

You know I’m a big fan of the versatile breaded chicken tender, so today I thought about preparing eggplant in the same way to make Eggplant Parmesan.  The original recipe shared back in 2011 starts by lightly frying the eggplant slices on the stovetop before assembling.  Today I decided to start with breaded eggplant slices that I baked in the oven before putting the layers together.  I even made some more of my favorite chicken tenders while I was at it!

Picture of breaded eggplant slices

Breaded Eggplant Slices

Picture of breaded baked chicken tenders

Breaded Chicken Tenders

 

 

 

 

As I was in and out of the refrigerator, I remembered I had some fresh basil that I bought last week to make the Basil & Goat Cheese Chicken Breasts, so in staying true to form with ‘never throwing anything away,’ in the food processor went the basil leaves and PRESTO, out come a few small containers of PESTO!

Picture of 3 small containers of basil pesto

Basil Pesto

 

 

 

 

Finally, I made another double batch of these delicious and nutritious Peanut Butter Power Cookies.  I found this recipe last August when I was looking for an ‘on the go’ breakfast treat to share as we headed out on a small group trip, and these have been a staple in our house from then on.  A double batch makes about 30 cookies, so I store them in the freezer and they are ready anytime.  I grab a couple to eat in the early morning hours on my way to the gym – feeling good about it all the way there!

Picture of Peanut Butter Power Cookies

Peanut Butter Power Cookies

 

Ready for the week ahead – and I hope you are, too!  Buon Appetito!


8 Home-Cooked Meals for under $20?? No Problem – I’ve got you covered!

As I’ve shared many times before, I spend a few hours in the kitchen every weekend and we’ve got fresh and delicious home-cooked meals throughout the week ahead – and beyond!  Today’s adventure in the kitchen (and this blog post) isn’t about a new recipe I’ve been waiting to try, but all about my regular routine of ensuring I can always answer the question, “What’s for Dinner?” (and lunch, too, for that matter!)

So what does 8 meals for under $20 look like?

Chicken Salad Roasted Chicken goat-cheese-basil-chicken

 

 

 

 

I reserved 4 of the chicken breasts to prepare the Goat Cheese-Basil Chicken that will go in the freezer for easy weeknight meals (2 [2 serving] meals) that can be on the table in 45 minutes.  Then I roasted the remaining 2 chicken breasts with all the dark meat pieces.  The roasted breast meat (and a few of the thighs) were used to make the Chicken Salad (Quart size container – Easily 4-5 servings), and the rest of the dark meat pieces to be served alongside a salad, rice or potato, for another 2 [2 serving] meals.  (I saved the back bones to make chicken stock, too!)

Although I’ve shared each of these food prep ideas before, I thought it worth another post to remind everyone that fresh and delicious home-cooked are always within reach – at a fraction of the cost of going out or stopping at the drive-thru window on your way home from work.

I’m reminded about what I wrote in the “About Joe” section of this blog nearly 7 years ago, and it’s still true today.  Here’s an excerpt from that section:

I’ll write about shopping smart and turning leftovers into delightful new creations.  I’ll share ideas on dishes that can be made ahead and placed in the freezer to ensure a hot healthy meal after a long day at work.

I believe everyone can enjoy home-cooked meals at a fraction of the cost of going out – and feel good about what you’re doing for yourself and others in the process!  Food is a great way to share a part of yourself – and it doesn’t have to be fancy or expensive.

Thanks for joining me on my adventures in the kitchen, and I hope you’re inspired to try some of the recipes and prep-ahead ideas to reduce stress, eat fresh, and enjoy great food together!

Buon appetito!

 

 

 

 


Homemade Cavatelli!

Last day of winter break before going back to work tomorrow, so what better way to spend part of it than making homemade fresh pasta, Cavatelli to be exact!  My absolute favorite!   It’s very similar to a (potato) gnocchi, but made with ricotta cheese, and instead of little dumplings, the dough is rolled into little shells.  I posted this very easy (3 ingredients) recipe  a while back, and today’s updated post shows the same pasta made with my very vintage hand-crank Cavatelli machine.  The previous post, Sunday Cooking, shows a picture of hand-rolled pasta shells.  A little more free-form than these more uniform shells, but either way, they’re great!  (If you do get your hands on a machine, it’s even more important to have very dry and well-floured dough so it doesn’t get stuck in the machine!  Thanks, Dad, for that in-the-moment advice!)  It’s a good idea to lay them in a single layer on a sheet pan to freeze so they don’t stick together when put in a freezer bag for storage.  Take them right from the freezer into a pot of boiling salted water for 4-6 minutes.  They’ll float to the top when ready!  Buon Appetito!

Picture of fresh pastaCavatelli

Picture of vintage pasta makerCavatelli Machine


Everything Old is New Again!

Too many holiday leftovers?  Have you sworn you’ve eaten them for the last time?  Get creative and turn them into something new – with half the work already done for you!  Here are a couple of tasty treats I made after a 3-day food fest over Christmas weekend!

Chicken Pot Pie made with leftover chicken – 3 ways, a half bag of leftover fresh spinach leaves, a big bunch of carrots, some roasted potatoes, and a few other veggies (both cooked and uncooked) that rounded out the list of repurposed leftovers!

Picture of Chicken Pot Pie

Chicken Pot Pie

I also had an extra pound (ball) of dough from a couple of pizza rolls I made over the Christmas weekend, so I decided to make a pizza with whatever I could find in the refrigerator.  I make my own pizzas at home all the time, but this was a first with only leftover ingredients I could find in the refrigerator.  I knew I had a little leftover red sauce and some mozzarella and parmesan cheeses on hand, but I wasn’t sure what else.  I served some delicious hard salami earlier in the week, so whatever I had left of that went on the pizza.  After a little more searching, I came across a container of spinach artichoke dip that I prepared a few nights earlier – and that became the perfect (last) topping before popping it in the oven.

Picture of fresh baked pizza

‘Anything Goes’ Pizza

I hope you all enjoyed this holiday season in whatever way you celebrate – and I hope it was filled with good food and fun!  Here’s to a delicious 2017!

Buon Appetito!