Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Left Overs are The Best Part! And, More Soup!

By now, I know that all of you cooks out there have long lists of things to do, ingredients to pick up, and cooking planned for the big feast on Thursday.  Thanksgiving is a favorite holiday for me. It's all about being grateful, eating good food, and enjoying each other - no gift buying required.   I love cooking for it - and I really love the left overs!  I always like to hear what other cooks are doing with their leftovers - if they have them.  We shop and cook deliberately to have left overs!  Over the years it has not mattered if it is the two of us or a big group around the table. Not having left overs from Thanksgiving dinner is unthinkable to me. Obviously, I cook the feast at home a great deal!

Some of our favorite things to do with all of that great left over food:

1.  Turkey sandwiches of course!  In our home, it's a matter of dinner on a sandwich.  Turkey, cole slaw, cranberry sauce, a bit of stuffing (yes I know it's on bread!), mayo and whatever else there's room to fit in between two slices of soft white bread.

2.  Turkey Tetrazinni.  An old favorite.  My recipe comes from the Betty Crocker Cookbook, circa 1968.  There are lots of recipes for this dish - just don't forget the mushrooms! I usually use linguine.

3.  Thanksgiving Strata.  A fabulous casserole.  Butter a casserole dish. Add layers of left over roasted vegetables, stuffing, and chopped turkey covered by a whipped egg and cream mixture and baked until the top is brown and crunchy.

4.  Turkey Stock.  All those roasted bones are going to make a delicious stock.  Toss in some halved onions, a few sticks of celery, some peppercorns, . . . whatever you like to add to your stock, and let it cook all day.  The aroma alone will get you back to the table for more turkey!

5.  Turkey Noodle Soup.  Use some of your roasted turkey bone stock and add some fresh vegetables - whatever you like such as carrots, onions, garlic, kale or other greens and add cooked noodles (I like Pennsylvania Dutch egg noodles).  If you cook the noodles almost to al dente' before you add them, they won't soak up all of your soup liquid.

6.  Turkey Salad.  Just like chicken salad.  Chop up some turkey meat, add chopped celery, a bit of chopped red onion, mayo and salt and pepper.  Mix and serve on toast, bread or endive or romaine spears.

7.  Stuffing (Dressing to some) Croquettes.  Make golf sized balls from left over stuffing.  Roll the balls in a couple of beaten eggs and some seasoned flour.  Fry.  Pop in your mouth deliciousness!

8.  Hot Turkey Sandwiches. A good use for the gravy!

These are some of my favorite Thanksgiving recipes.  What are yours?

Recipe:  Spicy Pumpkin Soup

I am still on a Soup Kick - and may be until oh, April or May.  Here's one we recently made that was so delicious, versatile and satisfying.  I highly recommend getting yourself a Sugar Pumpkin - as opposed to the canned stuff.  It makes a lot of difference.

                                             Pumpkin Halves Ready to Roast at 350 for 45 minutes
 Pumpkin Purée after a quick pulse in the food processor 


31/2 cups roasted pumpkin purée (after scooping roasted pumpkin out, pulse it a few times in a food processor) Note:  You can use canned pumpkin but do not use pumpkin pie mix!

7 cups of low salt or no salt chicken stock
1 Tblspoon unsalted butter
11/2 cups diced onion
1 Tblspoon finely minced garlic
11/2 teaspoons curry powder
3/4 teaspoon cumin powder
1/2 teaspoon hot smoked paprika
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander 
1 teaspoon kosher salt
3 - 4 Tblspoons heavy cream 
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper

Yogurt or Sour Cream to garnish
Toasted pumpkin seeds to garnish


In a Dutch oven or similar pot, melt the butter
Add the onions over medium heat and stir frequently until softened
Add the minced garlic and stir for one minute
Add the curry, cumin, paprika, and coriander and stir for one minute until spices give off a good aroma
Add the pumpkin purée and stir to incorporate (one minute or so)
Pour the stock into the mixture and stir
Bring the soup to a boil, lower and simmer for 20 minutes, stir often
Add the salt
Stir in the heavy cream and the ground pepper

Garnish with a dollop of thick yogurt or sour cream
If you toasted the seeds from the pumpkin sprinkle those over the top too.


     Creamy, Spicy & Delicious Pumpkin Soup

Cherish Real Food!

Saturday, November 14, 2015

An Easy Rich Soup; An Amazing Stock

Happy Fall at last!  How are your preparations for cold weather going?  For you growers out there, have you taken good care of your growing areas before the first frost arrives?  Along with all of the other chores related to winter prep,  as soon as I feel the slightest nip in the air, I start looking at everything I have on hand as potential Soup!

I love soup and I don't mind eating hot soup in warmer weather either.  There is just something about a hot bowl of delicious soup and a piece of warm bread - along with the wonderful aromas wafting up into your nose - that is so comforting.

We have been eating a lot of cauliflower lately because our Farmers are bringing them to market and they are beautiful and good for you and versatile and all of that.  However, I am not a fan of cauliflower "steaks" or cauliflower "pizza crust" (that really frightens me), and some of the other "creative" uses of the vegetable that I have seen lately.  Usually we just tend to do a saute' or a bake, sometimes with cheeses and lots of herbs; we even do a mash and whip now and then.  But I just decided that the next head of cauliflower that we brought home was destined for soup.  This soup is so rich it can rightfully be called a chowder.

Rich & Delicious Cauliflower Soup
Cream of Cauliflower Soup


1 stick of unsalted butter, halved
1 small onion, diced
1 carrot, diced
2 stalks of celery, diced (use the leaves too)
1 small clove of garlic, mashed
1 head of cauliflower, core removed and rough chopped
1 tablespoon of fresh parsley, chopped
1 quart unsalted or low salt chicken stock
3 tablespoons of regular flour
1 cup of whole milk
1/2 cup of half and half
salt to taste - about two teaspoons used at different levels of cooking
1/2 cup of good sour cream


Melt the 1/2 of the stick of butter in a large pot over medium heat,  (a Dutch Oven works well)
Add the onion, cook, stirring occasionally just until it starts to get a light brown color
Add the carrots and the celery and sauté, stirring occasionally for a couple of minutes - until they soften
Add the cauliflower, the garlic, and the parsley and stir to combine; this would be a good time to salt a bit
Cover the pot and cook on low heat for about 15 minutes
Note:  At this point if you are going after a smoother soup, you can do a bit of mashing of the cauliflower and other veg.

At the end of 15 minutes, stir in your chicken stock and bring the mixture to a boil
Reduce heat and simmer
While the mixture is simmering, melt the rest of the butter, mix the flour with the milk - give it a good whisk to incorporate - and then slowly add the milk mixture to the melted butter, whisking the entire time.
Remove the butter, milk and flour mixture from the heat and stir in the half and half
Add the mixture to the simmering soup.

Simmer for 15-20 minutes.  Add salt and pepper to taste

Note:  At this point I used my immersion blender to create an even smoother soup.  I left a few small chunks of cauliflower.  You don't have to do this.  If you don't have an immersion blender, add by batches into a blender.
Just before service, add the sour cream into the hot soup and stir well to combine.

Serve immediately and enjoy!
(recipe adapted from the Pioneer Woman, 2009)

Parmesan Rind Stock just getting started

This next recipe makes a rich and delicious stock that brings an incredible depth of flavor to soups, sauces and risotto.

Parmesan Rind Stock


4 - 5 saved rinds of good Parmesan Cheese (if you wrap the rinds well in wax paper and keep them in a storage bag, they will keep for a couple of months in your refrigerator; when you have accumulated enough rinds, it's time to make the broth!)

2-3 celery stalks, with leaves, coarse chopped
A large onion, halved
Two or three whole garlic cloves (smash them a bit if you want more garlic flavor)
1 Tablespoon of whole black peppercorns
2 Bay leaves
 Cold water


Cover everything in the pot with the cold water (to about 2 inches above)
Bring the mixture to a Boil; lower to a simmer, cover and let it simmer for up to 4 hours.  Stir occasionally. Add a bit of water if needed.

Strain the broth very well.  You want it very clear.  It will be a caramel like color.

Note:  If you make your own stocks feel free to add in whatever aromatics and veg you use in other stocks.  I had onion grass from the garden so I chopped up some of that as well.  I also do not salt stock.  It is up to you.  You can add a small pinch of salt at the end after you strain the stock, but the stock will be more versatile if you add salt and pepper when using it.

Cherish Real Food!

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Food in the News, Farmers Market Finds, and The Comfort of Cooking

Food in the News

Food issues are definitely popping up all over lately in the popular media and national news.  First, we get the news from the World Health Association (WHO) that too much processed meat is not good for you and, indeed, in some folks might be a causal factor in cancer.  Of course, some of us immediately said, "Who does not know this?", because at this point we feel that everyone has heard all of the warnings and studies.  Given the discussion on every news program and talk show, apparently everyone does not know this.  Time Magazine even put bacon on its cover last week. Many chefs, cooks, food writers and teachers spoke out pretty soon after the WHO report emerged to remind those that have "forgotten" that chemically laden (hormones, antibiotics, etc.), horribly treated animals -  those that end up blister wrapped in supermarkets displays - are bad for you. Yep.  Many of us have been saying the same for years.  And it's probably not a good idea to eat 1/2 pound of bacon daily - even the best kind.  Nor is it wise to live totally on smoked meats.  It is as always a question of moderation.  Using meat as an ingredient often is much better than eating big cuts of meat.  For example, instead of frying up a bunch of Italian Sausages to go with pasta, take one or two, remove them from their casings and make a meat sauce with them.  Delicious and just enough meat. And, of course, not eating anything at fast food and chain restaurants is a good practice.  Lastly, following Michael Pollan's edict is probably the best thing you can do:  "Eat Food.  Mostly Plants.  Not too Much".  And I would add, "Cook real food.  From scratch. With ingredients that you can identify".  Which brings me to the next piece of news.

This week we learned of the departure from the New York Times of one of my favorite food writers and cooks, Mark Bitman.  It seems that Mark is now a principle in another one of those "dinner in a box" concerns.  The ones that deliver all of the ingredients with cooking instructions to your front door. The company he's joining is all vegan. Now, I don't pretend to understand - since I am the one advocating that we all, "know where our food comes from", but I have to trust that he sees this as a good thing for people who can't or won't shop for their food.  I imagine eating totally vegan is very time consuming.  Despite that fact that I like Bitman a lot, and have learned a lot from him, there will be no boxes - with cooking instructions - delivered to this house.  I do hope to see him back at the Times some day real soon.

The last, and for me somewhat shocking, slice of Food News is the whole mess with the Chipotle Chain and an e coli outbreak.  I really am surprised.  This is the one of the only chains of any kind that we will use in a pinch - Panerra being the other.  I have always under the impression that Chipotle sources very well given their commitment to real farms and real food.  I guess that we will have to wait for more information on this one.  It does make me wonder.

Ingredients to be Using Right Now!

Pumpkin, butternut squash,  broccoli, rutabaga, wonderful onions and potatoes and little squashes are all appearing in the Farmers Markets right now.  As are great radishes, kale, pears & apples.  All of these offer such wonderful opportunities for soups, stews, and even composed salads.  And, if you can, either freeze or can what you an for those mid winter weeks.

The Comfort of Cooking

Recently I have been reading Ruth Reichl's new book, "My Kitchen Year"(published by Random House).  It is a wonderful read, with great stories and recipes and takes us through her life in the months after Gourmet magazine (of which she was editor) suddenly folded.

She writes about the shock factor; the magazine was planning the next issue and a new TV show one day and the staff was told the next day to pack up and go.  She shares first the incredible sorrow of leaving a great group of co-workers, who immediately scatter far and wide.  And she tells the story of her very real fears about the future and what she will do next with her own life.

It is a very thought provoking  read.  How do we react when the rug has literally been pulled out from under us?  When we are sad, grieving, frightened - what comforts us?

Reichl and I are are kindred spirits in that she and I both turn to the kitchen for solace. It's not so much the eating - that is part of it, of course -  but it is really rather the list  making, the shopping, the preparation, and the cooking. That glorious alone time moving between cutting boards and stove top; larder and oven.  Chopping, sautéing, tasting, stirring, a pinch of this, a pinch of that -  all are so calming and relaxing and soothing to me.  And before I go on, I know that is not true for many folks.  I know, and even count among friends, members of the "I hate to cook" crowd.  And of course when using cooking for comfort, I tend towards comfort foods!  Examples:  Big casseroles of cheesy macaroni; Vegetable packed stews; Short ribs simmering for hours; and a big roast chicken with lots of garlic stuffed inside. And, of course, as we call it here in South Philly:  "Red Gravy".  And Pasta.  Always Pasta.  A little over a year ago when one of our pups needed emergency/dangerous surgery that came out of the blue, I literally ran out of room for storing food and was asking the neighbors if I could borrow refrigerator space!

And so, I'd love to know.  Those of you who enjoy cooking, share with us:  do you cook for comfort when times are sad or upsetting?  What are your favorite things to make in these situations?

Late Summer Harvest from Our Garden  and a Pear
Treasure Real Food!