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Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Rye, Kale, Mushroom, and Pumpkin Seed Dressing and a Small Fire

This year we baked our dressing outside the turkey. I had spatchcocked the "bird" so there was no way to stuff it anyway, but during this process I discovered how much better I like “dressing”. Apparently the difference between stuffing and dressing is where and how you bake it. Stuffing is stuffed into the cavity of a bird and then baked, the end result is usually very moist and a little mushy. Dressing is baked in a separate dish inside the oven until it is crunchy on the outside and moist on the inside.

The day before; I bought a baguette, tore it into pieces and left it to dry out overnight on a large cookie sheet. The key is to use a hearty bread, any type as long as it will go stale. The recipe that I followed was from Bon Appetit magazine and rye bread was used. Everything was going according to plan until I left the kitchen to sit down and check a few emails. A couple of minutes later my husband burst into the room and yelled what’s burning! Right away I picked up the scent of burning wood. We both ran out to the kitchen and there sitting on the stove top was my large cutting board on fire with flames shooting up the side. Apparently I had left a burner on with the cutting board right next to it. My husband turned off the burner and then smothered the fire with a lid and a towel. Afterwards I started thinking that we were real lucky as there was no real damage.

The dressing was fairly easy to put together, mushrooms are sautéed, then celery and shallots. Kale was added, eggs are whisked and then everything is mixed together. The dressing is covered with foil and then baked 30 minutes, the foil is removed, the oven temperature is raised and then baked again until golden and crispy. Even with the little mishap the dressing turned out wonderful. Happy Holidays to all!


4 tablespoons divided plus 1/4 cup olive oil
10 cups coarsely torn seeded rye, dried overnight (I used sourdough)
1/4 cup roasted pumpkin seeds
1 pound mixed mushrooms, cut into large pieces (I used shiitake, crimini and button)
Salt and pepper
4 celery stalks (chopped)
6 medium shallots (chopped)
1 bunch kale, ribs and stems removed (chopped)
2 tablespoons fresh sage (coarsely chopped)
1 tablespoon fresh rosemary (chopped)
1/2 cup dry white wine
2 large eggs
3 cups chicken or veggie broth

To prepare:

Preheat oven to 350F. Grease a 9" x 13" baking dish and one side of a sheet of foil to cover baking dish with.

Heat 2 tablespoons oil in a large skillet over medium high heat. Add mushrooms and season with salt and pepper, then cook about 6 to 8 minutes. Set aside.

Heat 2 tablespoons of oil in skillet. Add celery and shallots, season with salt and pepper, and saute stirring often until shallots are golden brown and soft another 8 to 10 minutes. Add kale, sage and rosemary and cook until kale is wilted about 2 minutes. Transfer to bowl. Reduce heat to medium and cook wine in skillet, scraping up any browned bits, about 2 minutes. Drizzle over bread mixture.

Whisk eggs, 2 cups of stock and 1/4 cup oil in a medium bowl and pour over bread mixture. Season with salt and pepper. Add more broth 1/4 cup at a time until bread is just covered.

Cover with foil and bake at 350F about 30 to 35 minutes. Increase oven temperature to 450F. Uncover and bake 20 to 25 minutes until top is golden and crispy. Let set 10 minutes before serving.

Recipe has been slightly adapted from Bon Appetit, November issue.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Spatchcocked Turkey with Anise and Orange

This should be my husband’s post as he is the one that spatchcocked the turkey. But he wants to remain the chef advisor and taste taster and for that I am grateful. Anyway, I read about spatchcocking first in the November issue of Bon Appetit magazine. In short the turkey is butterflied and cooked skin side up. And by butterflied the backbone is removed so the bird can be flattened. This method will give you perfectly browned and crispy skin and keep the meat moist. It also cooks in half the amount of time.

The turkey was purchased from Trader Joe’s, 14 pounds, brined and all natural. You could really see the difference in the meat, both raw and after the turkey was cooked. The meat just looked better, the dark meat was a deeper color than the frozen birds we had purchased from supermarkets in the past and it certainly tasted better.

Prepare the spice rub. Toast the aniseed in a small, dry skillet for 3 minutes. Let it cool, then grind it in a spice grinder. Combine with salt, grated zest, sugar, chopped rosemary, thyme and pepper, then pulse in food processor, set aside.

Ingredients for rub:

4 teaspoons aniseed
1/2 cup Kosher salt
1/4 cup finely grated orange zest,
2 tablespoons dark brown sugar
1 tablespoon coarsely chopped rosemary, reserve 1 sprig
1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves, sprigs reserved
2 teaspoons black pepper ( I used one)

Now to spatchcock the turkey- Place turkey skin side down using poultry shears to cut along both sides of the backbone. (Here is an instance when having the right tool made all the difference, as this step only took a few minutes). Next open up the turkey; then using the tip of a knife, score along the dark oblong bone in the middle of the breast. Turn the turkey skin side up and press down strongly with the heel of your hand in the center of the breast. You should hear a crack and feel the keel bone give way. Rub the spice mixture all over the bird. Place skin side up on a wire rack, inside of a rimmed baking sheet, in the refrigerator uncovered for 6 to 18 hours. We did not read this until the day we prepared the bird, so ours was only left for 4 hours. (Note to self: Once again read entire instructions).

Preheat oven to 450F. Arrange onions, carrots, celery, garlic, thyme and rosemary sprigs in the roasting pan. Rinse turkey, pat dry, and place skin side up, on top of the vegetables, and let sit for 30 minutes. Meanwhile, heat oil, orange zest strips, and remaining aniseed in small saucepan until oil is sizzling, about 2 minutes. Remove from heat and let cool slightly.

Ingredients for basting:

1 teaspoon aniseed
1/2 cup oil
4 strips of orange peel (without the pith)

Ingredients for veggies roasting pan:

2 medium onions (quartered)
4 large carrots (peeled and halved)
4 celery stalks (halved)
3 heads garlic (cut in half and loose skins rubbed off)
1/2 cup water

Brush turkey with oil, add ½ cup water to roasting pan, and roast turkey for 30 minutes. Reduce oven temp to 350F, and continue to roast, brushing with oil every 20 minutes, for approximately another hour, or when an instant-read thermometer registers 165. Transfer to platter, tent with foil, and let rest at least 30 minutes.

After turkey was done I discarded all the veggies and deglazed pan with white wine and then made a slurry of flour and water. This was basically all I had to do, everyone thought that this was one of the best gravies that they have ever had. Happy Holidays!

This recipe has been adapted from Bon Appetit, magazine, November Issue.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Pignoli Cookies

These Italian pignoli cookies are my mother-in-law’s specialty. Actually I should not limit her to this one cookie as she is a fabulous baker. But out of all her cookie recipes, this is my husband’s favorite. Year after year she has sent us a holiday cookie package. The package usually has several varieties such as an anise, spice, Neapolitan, biscotti, pizzelle, and the pignoli cookies. So this year with her recipe in hand I decided to surprise her with my own holiday box.

This was the first time I baked with almond paste. I thought the paste was too sticky and was worried that the dough would be too wet. My mother-in-law's recipe adds a tablespoon or two of flour to the batter to help with the shape and makes the batter easier to work with. Still I was worried, the batter seemed very sticky. I looked on line and saw many recipes that were similar but no flour. After the first batch of cookies came out of the oven I knew the flour worked like a charm. The finished cookies were lightly golden in color and had a slight chew. The texture was wonderful. Happy Holidays!


2 7-ounce tubes almond paste
1 cup sugar
2 large egg whites
1 teaspoon almond extract
2 tablespoons flour
1 1/2 to 2 cups pignoli nuts for rolling

To prepare:

Preheat oven to 325F. Prepare baking sheet; cover with silpat, parchment paper or grease with butter.

Mix first 5 ingredients together. Form into small balls using a tablespoon to keep them all the same size. Roll into balls using the palms of your hands. Spread pine nuts unto a flat surface and then roll balls in nuts until coated.

Bake at 325F degrees for 20 to 25 minutes until golden brown. Let cool on baking sheets about 5 minutes before transferring to cooling racks. Enjoy!

Friday, November 14, 2014

Stuffed and Baked Pumpkin with Sausage and Sage Risotto

One of the first things that my husband always says when he first walks in the door is Hi Honey! what’s for dinner? Today he said basically the same thing but added what is that wonderful smell coming for the oven. It’s been a while since I baked anything for dinner, it’s still in the seventies here in Arizona and it is November. Anyway, talk about putting a smile on my face.

This stuffed pumpkin is a remake of a recipe that I made about the same time last year. It’s the kind of recipe that the ingredients can be substituted for another and it will taste different every time. For example last time I used pasta, this time I made risotto. The only thing that remains the same is the pumpkin, but that could also vary depending on the size. This time I prepared the risotto first, hollowed out the pumpkin, stuffed the pumpkin and then baked it a little over an hour.

This recipe has been inspired by "Melt: The Art of Macaroni and Cheese" by Stephanie Stiavetti and Garrett McCord.


1 3-pound pumpkin
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 small onion (minced)
2 cloves garlic (minced)
1/4 pound bulk sausage
1 teaspoon fresh sage (chopped)
12 ounces Arborio rice
4 to 4 1/2 cups chicken stock (heated)
4 ounces dry white wine
1/4 cup cream
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese
Salt and pepper to taste

To prepare:

Preheat oven to 350°. Cut the top off the pumpkin, at a 45-degree angle. What you want is a round lid that you will replace after stuffing to bake in the oven. Scoop out seeds and strings. Generously salt inside of pumpkin, place in a rimmed baking dish. Set aside.

In a medium-sized heavy pot, add olive oil and onion, saute until soft, then add garlic and cook stirring constantly 1 to 2 minutes. Add sausage and sage and then break up the meat into small pieces, cook until browned. Add rice and stir until well coated. Next add the wine and cook until evaporated. Stir in one cup of the heated stock and simmer gently, stirring constantly. When the stock has been absorbed add another cup of stock, keep this up for at about 20 minutes.

*To check and see if risotto is done remove a few grains from pot and set on a cutting board, push down with thumb to smash grains, rice is done when grain smashes completely*

Stir in the cream and cheese. Taste; add salt and pepper if needed.

Stuff pumpkin, make sure it's filled to the top. You should have extra risotto, set aside for later. Put the cap in place and bake for about an hour. Remove the cap of the pumpkin the last 15 minutes or so. This dish is done when the flesh of the pumpkin is tender enough to be pierced easily with the tip of a knife. Allow to rest for 10 minutes before serving.

Cut into sections, then scoop out risotto, scraping the sides. Delicious served along-side a nice green salad.

*To store: cut up remaining pumpkin after removing the skin and mix in with the extra risotto*


Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Wilted Pad Thai Salad with Shrimp

The drive out to the Brown’s Ranch trailhead was beautiful with the sun rise and a few clouds dotting the sky. It was early Sunday morning and a new trail had been opened up in the area. We decided to hike Granite Mountain Loop, one of the many trails in the Sonoran preserve's northern area. Although the elevation change is only a few hundred feet we saw a difference in the wildlife and plant communities. There was a jack rabbit, mule deer, squirrels and many quail. The trail circled and climbed around Granite Mountain, with views out to the Four Peak mountain range in the east. We had a great time.

I love the crunch of fresh veggies and sprouts in a salad especially after a good workout. Later that day I knew I wanted something fresh and tasty with a lot of flavor. I thought of the Pad Thai I had for takeout a few days before and this brought about the idea of a semi-wilted salad using the same type of ingredients. I used brown rice noodles which were cooked for only a minute or so and then rinsed in cold water. Garlic, ginger and shrimp were stir fried together in the wok, and then the salad ingredients were added with the dressing. Using tongs I turned the mixture in the wok a few times until everything was covered with dressing. The salad was quickly removed and garnished with chopped peanuts, cilantro and parsley. Crushed chilies could be added to the dressing if you like the heat.


For salad:

2 tablespoons peanut or vegetable oil
3 cloves garlic (minced)
1 tablespoon fresh ginger (minced)
1 pound medium sized shrimp (cleaned, shelled and de-veined)
1 small red bell pepper (thinly sliced)
3 green onions (thinly sliced)
1 1/2 cups bean sprouts
2 stalks celery (thinly sliced)
1/2 cup cilantro (coarsely chopped)
1/4 cup Thai basil (coarsely chopped)
8 ounces brown rice pad Thai noodles


4 tablespoons fresh lime juice
3 tablespoons fish sauce
3 tablespoons brown sugar
Crushed chilies for heat (I did not add)


1/4 cup roasted peanuts (coarsely chopped)
2 tablespoons cilantro (coarsely chopped)
3 green onions (thinly sliced)
1 lime (cut into wedges)

I like to start out a dish like this by having all my ingredients, chopped and prepped beforehand.

Add the ingredients of the dressing in a small bowl, whisk until blended, set aside.

In a large pot; bring 4 quarts of water to a boil, add the brown rice noodles, turn off heat. Stir noodles gently and remove from pot 1 to 2 minutes later from heat. Drain and then rinse under cold water, set aside.

Heat wok over high heat. Add 2 teaspoons peanut oil, garlic, ginger and shrimp. Cook until shrimp are opaque; about 2 to 3 minutes. Remove shrimp from wok.

Add bell pepper, green onion, sprouts, celery, cilantro, basil, noodles and dressing, stir with tongs until completely covered with sauce, add shrimp. Remove from heat. Enjoy!

Friday, November 7, 2014

Pumpkin Roulade with Ginger Buttercream

Here is a wonderful holiday dessert that your family and friends will be talking about long after your special meal is over. It’s a great alternative to traditional pumpkin pie and can even be made days in advance. A roulade is a dish that is served up as a roll; usually a slice of meat that has some type of cheese filling. This sweet version is made with a thin slice of pumpkin spice cake and filled with a mascarpone and ginger cream.

In order for this roulade to turn out you have to follow the instructions precisely. For example, after baking the cake, you want to roll it when the cake is still warm, if you don’t it will crack. I had problems with the cake sticking to the towel, next time I will let the cake cool for a least an hour before removing. I think it will take me another time or two to get this technique down and believe me I will be making this again. It looks impressive and tastes even better!

This recipe has been adapted from "Barefoot Contessa, Back To Basics" cookbook, by Ina Garten.



3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 extra-large eggs, at room temperature
1 cup sugar
3/4 cup canned pumpkin
1/4 cup confectioners' sugar (sifted), plus extra for topping


12 ounces Mascarpone cheese
1 1/4 cups sifted confectioners' sugar
2 tablespoons heavy cream
1/4 cup dried crystallized ginger (minced).

To prepare:

Preheat oven to 375F. Grease a 13" x 18" x 1" sheet pan. Line the pan with parchment paper and then grease and flour the paper.

Add and whisk all dry ingredients together in a small bowl, flour, baking powder, baking salt, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg and salt. Set aside.

In a stand or hand mixer, combine eggs and sugar, then blend on medium high speed for 3 minutes, (until thickened and pale yellow in color). Add pumpkin puree and dry ingredients, then blend until just incorporated. Remove bowl and finish mixing batter by hand. Pour into prepared pan. Bake 10 to 12 minutes. The top of the cake should spring back when touched.

**Do this while cake is baking**

Lay a clean, thin cotton dish towel on counter (flat surface) and sift the 1/4 cup of confectioners' sugar evenly on top of the towel. This helps prevent cake from sticking to the towel. Right after removing cake from oven; loosen the edges with a sharp knife and invert in onto the prepped towel.

Carefully peel the parchment paper away. Then roll the warm cake and towel lightly together, starting at the short ends of the cake. Allow to cool completely!

Next, the filling. In your stand or hand held mixer combine mascarpone, confectioners' sugar and cream together for about 1 minute. Add crystallized sugar. Set aside.

Carefully unroll the cake unto a board. Place spoonfuls of the butter cream mixture all over the cake. Smooth evenly with the flat side of a butter knife. Roll carefully, using the towel as a guide. Trim each end to make a straight edge. Dust with confectioners' sugar. Slice and enjoy!

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Vegetarian Pumpkin Three Bean Chili

Fall has finally arrived in the desert. The mornings are crisp and cool and the sunrise seems extra special. My husband and I start our morning walks out in the dark and by the time we get back the streets are busy with traffic and children going to school. There is a large cactus that we walk by as we enter the mountain preserve that seems to be home to various desert animals. This cute little guy is a Peach faced love bird (above). A loud and shrill chirper, these birds are social animals and often congregate in small groups.

I not sure if it’s just me but cooler weather always puts me in the mood for dishes like this pumpkin chili. It is a hearty meal made with 3 types of beans, warming spices, diced pumpkin and two of my favorite secret ingredients; chocolate and cinnamon. The chocolate adds a richness and the cinnamon adds a earthy base to the broth. I baked up a boxed cornbread mix from Trader Joes that I really like and topped each bowl of chili with grated sharp cheddar and crumbs from the corn bread. The crumbs added a nice texture and made this dish even more substantial. The spice is mild in flavor but you could always add heat by adding more chili powder or even some cayenne pepper.


2 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium onion (diced)
4 cloves garlic (minced)
1 red bell pepper (diced)
1 green bell pepper (diced)
1 small jalapeno (minced)
1 tablespoon dried Oregano
2 bay leaves
1 teaspoon chili powder
1 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
1 tablespoon unsweetened cocoa powder
1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon black pepper
1 15-ounce can black beans
1 15-ounce can white beans
1 15-ounce can pinto beans
1 15-ounce can diced tomatoes
2 cups diced pumpkin
4 to 5 cups water or vegetable stock
1 tablespoons grated semi-sweet chocolate

To prepare:

In a heavy soup pot over medium-high heat heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil and then add the onion, saute 5 minutes. Add garlic, red and green bell peppers and jalapeno; saute another 8 to 10 minutes. Now add the Oregano, bay leaves, chili powder, cumin, paprika, unsweetened cocoa powder, cinnamon, salt and pepper. Stir and cook 1 to 2 minutes to toast the spices.

Add beans, tomatoes, pumpkin and water or vegetable broth. Simmer for 30 to 40 minutes. Then add grated chocolate. Stir until melted. Taste and season with salt and pepper if needed.

Ladle into bowls and top with crumbled corn bread toppings and cheddar cheese. Enjoy!

There are so many different types of topping you can add to this chili, avocados, chives, sour cream, corn chips or cilantro. Take your pick!