Thursday, November 29, 2012

Thanksgiving Leftovers!

Ah, it is here...the occasion we wait all year long for. No, it is not Christmas or is the week following Thanksgiving. Sure we love all the delicious fixings that go along with the main course (Turkey, duh). We love visiting friends and family, watching the game and drinking too much. But what we really REALLY love is all the amazing things that get done with turkey leftovers AFTER Thanksgiving.

Here is a short list of ideas on how to use up those turkey scraps. This year I was fortunate enough to be able to take home the make turkey stock. It was SO easy I couldn't believe I didn't try this before. From now on I will make a point of sneaking the carcass out and into my car before anyone realizes what I've done. It was that good. What sorts of things would you do with turkey stock you ask? Soups, gravies, sauces...what can't you do? Well...don't bath with it. Don't wash your car with it, or use it to lube your slip and slide. Don't. I'll slap you.

Turkey Left Over Ideas

Turkey and Sweet Pea "Risotto":

1 cup of left over cook white rice, frozen sweet peas, shredded white and dark turkey meat, 1/2 cup cream and 1/4 cup turkey broth all warmed up in a small sauce pan. That's right, just dump it all into a pan, it is so simple. Once the rice and turkey mixture is warm and at the end mix in some shredded Parmesan cheese, season with salt and pepper.

Turkey and Sweet Potato Hash:

1/2 cup chopped turkey, 1/2 cup cubed (cooked) sweet potatoes, 2 green onions, 1 yellow bell pepper all get sauteed in a greased heavy bottomed pan. Add the potatoes first, then the other vegetables and the turkey last. Season liberally with salt, pepper and garlic powder. The hash is best when all the ingredients take a little browning and get nice and crusty! Eat with some over easy eggs and toast!

Curried Turkey Salad:

In a medium sized bowl mix: 1 cup chopped/shredded turkey, 1/4 cup mayo, 1 tbsp low fat sour cream or plain nonfat yogurt, 1 celery rib chopped finely, 2 green onions, 1tbsp curry powder and 1 tsp garlic powder. Let this sit in the refrigerator for at least an hour (or dig in with a fork while standing over the kitchen counter...). Scoop onto a plate of leafy greens and some diced green apples and craisins. Obviously this makes one damn good sandwich as well!!

Turkey Mole:

You'll want to pour this over some steamed white rice so make sure you get that out of the way before you start. There are many authentic mole recipes available online, but a quick short cut is to pick up jarred mole paste from the grocery store and mix with chicken broth. Add 2 cups of the prepared mole sauce, 1 can of chopped tomatoes, and 3 cups of shredded turkey and warm through on the stove or in a crockpot (I'd go for the crock pot because it wont likely overcook the turkey). Serve over white rice, garnish with cilantro leaves and salsa.

That's what I got so far for you. My advice is get creative, but don't ignore the obvious choices either. Leftovers make GREAT turkey soup (replace egg noodles with orzo or stuffed pasta like tortellini). Have a great casserole you'd normally use chicken for? Use turkey! The possibilities are endless.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Bruschetta Madness!

Lately I have been doing a lot of entertaining. Somehow, our my house became our default spot for Thursday girls nights. Not that I mind of course, entertaining is one of my all time favorite things to do. And if I don't have to go out after a long week at work to enjoy the company of my girlfriends than that is alright by me!

A thing we gals like to do is set a theme for our girls night dinners. So far we have done "Kids Night" where indulged in chicken nuggets, tator tots and of course mac and cheese (homemade, obviously!).

"Sushi Night" where we all brought one item needed to make California and veggie rolls, it was so much fun teaching ourselves (and by teaching ourselves I mean my girlfriend Maile teaching US) how to roll the sushi. Recently we did a pizza bar where we all got to assemble our own individual pizzas and baked them to order. It is a lot more fun and interactive than one person cooking in the kitchen away from the group and you should just hear the great gossip we come up with while we cook! 

So this Thursday I was thinking of doing small bites for a change. And I remembered a few years back when my dear friend Jessica was turning twenty....uh...twenty ONE, yeah....and her mother asked me to cater the party at their vineyard in Paso Robles. I made my very favorite small bite... Bruschetta.

Now, I happen to love Bruschetta for many reasons. I love bread. I love finger food. I love topping things with other delicious things and I love the idea of a totally blank canvas. Tiny one bites can be anything you want them to be. Case in point, I saw Giada De Laurentis make this amazing looking cheese tart with blue cheese, pears and prosciutto and I thought...that NEEDS to become an appetizer. I tried them out for Jessica's birthday party and they were a huge hit. They are amazingly simple to put together and full of so much flavor. Sweet, savory and surprisingly bright flavors.

So my favorite one bite has inspired next weeks girls night. Try it out and see if you're inspired. Turn your favorite sandwich into an hors d'ourve, play with flavor profiles and textures too. I've included this "bruschetta" like recipe to get your creative juices flowing!

Tell me what you're putting on toast these days!

Pear Gorgonzola and Prosciutto Bruschetta


1 large baguette
1 8 oz container of cream cheese, room temp
1/4 c gorgonzola crumbles
1 tsp fresh thyme
1tsp freshly ground black pepper
2 medium sized pears, your favorite variety, quartered and sliced thinly
6 thin slices of prosciutto
local honey ( I used a raspberry honey from our farmers market)

In a small bowl, mix cream cheese, Gorgonzola  thyme and black pepper. Taste. I omit salt because I like the natural saltiness from the cheese, but please correct the seasonings accordingly.  Set this mixture aside at room temp. Meanwhile, in a large pan, saute the sliced pears over high heat until slightly browned around the edges. For a crisp, fresher taste and texture you may skip this step. I happen to love the deep sweetness that comes from a cooked pear.  Cut the baguette into thin slices and toast in the oven, set aside.


Have your cream cheese mixture out and ready along with your cooled pears and the prosciutto (I like to loosely separate the prosciutto ahead of time so I'm not fumbling with it later). Spread a thick layer of your cream cheese onto the toasted baguette, top with the prosciutto and then with the pear slices. Move to your serving platter and drizzle honey over each brushcetta generously.


Sunday, February 5, 2012

Game Day Dip Recipes!

Today is Super Bowl Sunday! Mike and I are getting ready to pack up some snacks and take them to a friends house to enjoy the game.

Last night I threw together this delicious Salsa Con Queso dip for girls night, today I am turning the leftovers into a Cheesy Black Bean Dip.

Lucky you! You stopped by just in time for an easy 2 for 1 recipe that will wow your guests and make becoming a football widow ONE more time this season, hurt a little less. The Salso Con Queso Dip is something you have seen and perhaps purchased at the grocery store dozens of times. It is used over nachos, to make mac and cheese or put out as dip. You can do all of the above and SO much more with this recipe. The greatest part is the freshness you get from making it from scratch. You get to control the quality of cheese, the heat levels and the salt content. Speaking of salt, I don't add any. If you're tasting along the way and you fee it needs a pinch or two, go for it. But I love the subtle natural saltiness that you get from the melted cheese.

Now onto the Cheesy Black Bean Dip, this is a play on that canned pinto bean spread they have for sale near the chips. It tastes every bit as naughty as the canned stuff, but we're using black beans which are high in fiber and antioxidants. The black beans also give a little gourmet flair to the party! We reserve a little bit of the Salsa Con Queso to add into our black beans, making this a very convenient recipe to throw together at the last minute.

Salsa Con Queso

3 Tbsp butter, salted or unsalted
1 Tbsp olive or vegetable oil
4 Tbsp of flour
1 can of fat free, reduced salt chicken (or vegetarian) broth
1/2 cup fat free milk
1 cup shredded "Mexican" cheese mix (I used a little more than 1 cup for a really thick dip)
2 heaping Tbsp (more or less) chopped pickled jalapeno
2 heaping Tbsp (more or less) salsa (your favorite brand)
1/4 cup chopped tomato
1 tbsp cumin powder

In a medium size pot melt your butter, add oil and flour. Cook the flour on low heat until it has taken on a little color. This will cook out that "raw" flour flavor. Add the can of chicken broth stirring constantly to incorporate, when that has thickened, add milk stirring constantly. Start to add the cheese a little at a time, remembering to stir constantly and wait until the cheese is completely incorporated before adding more. After the cheese is fully melted into your sauce, add the remaining ingredients. You might want to add half the jalapenos and salsa, then taste for heat. My end product turned out a little too spicy for ladies night, but just right for the guys during game night, so keep your intended audience in mind. Test the queso with a corn chip, it should be nice and smooth, not lumpy. It should coat the chip just like nacho cheese sauce and the cheese flavor should be the dominant flavor. Use this dip for nachos, enchiladas, Quesadillas, burritos, mac and cheese and my personal favorite, hamburger skillet meals!
(withhold about a 1/4 cup of this if you're also making the Cheesy Black Bean Dip)

Cheesy Black Bean Dip

1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
1/4 prepared Salsa Con Queso
1/4 Shredded "Mexican" cheese mix
1 Tbsp, chopped cilantro

Add all ingredients into your food processor and roughly pulse on low for 40-60 seconds. Add to a small pot or skillet and warm through. Serve in a dip bowl, garnish with a dollop of sour cream and scallions. I prefer to serve this hot, but it is just as delicious at room temperature. If we end up with left overs (which is rare) we spoon a little into corn or flour tortillas with cheese and sour cream for a delicious burrito. Makes a great vegetarian enchilada filling too!

One of the things that got me into cooking at such a young age, was reading the labels on the back of prepared foods and wondering how hard it would be to make them myself. The truth is: Not that hard at all. Nothing beats serving my friends and family a fresh, healthier version of their favorite snacks. And nothing beats the satisfaction you will get when your guests exclaim, "You made THIS from scratch?!"

Friday, January 13, 2012

Culinary School Adventures

Well I managed to make it through the first semester at the Paso  Robles Culinary Academy!
It has been a very fun, crazy, stressful, challenging experience. And it has definitely validated my desires to work in the Culinary field. I am not 100% positive that a restaurant kitchen is the place for me, all that running around and screaming in a hot kitchen just doesn't sound like fun at all. I may stick to catering and just try to expand that a bit when the program is over.

The gang and I from Culinary, taking a break from class for a Christmas exchange and lunch @ Pappy McGregors in Paso Robles
Baking Finals, 2 tiered nut cake, cheese danishes,  and petit fours.  I chose a pink theme!

Baking Finals. Lemon tartlets, checkerboard cookies, meringue hearts and eclairs.

The beautiful and talented Amber, with her Baking Finals display

"Putting up Plates" Salmon and potatoes Anna with asparagus and a lemon burre blanc, salad and soup to complete the meal. 

Advanced Pastry Finals display. Tiramisu, grown up "pop tarts", carrot cake, apple tartatine, creme brulee and black berry pana cotta.

This semester I've decided I will compete in something called SkillsUsa in the Culinary Arts section. I don't plan on advancing to far my first year, but I think it sounds fun and it will help me with my timing and handling the stress of cooking on the line. 

Wish me luck!