Saturday, November 26, 2011

Let's Talk Turkey...Leftovers

The Thanksgiving celebration has come and gone. If yours was anything like mine you ate way too much incredibly delicious food, lounged around the house in sweatpants for several hours and then got your game face on for black Friday shopping. If yours was nothing like mine, it probably still involved copious amounts of turkey, gravy, dressing, potatoes, vegetable casseroles, roles, pies and the like. With a Thanksgiving feast comes the inevitable refrigerator full of leftovers.

Don't get me wrong, I love Thanksgiving leftovers. For about 36 hours. After that, I'm really, really tired of turkey that's now losing its moisture, gravy that looks like Jell-o, and casseroles that are more chewy than crisp. It's one of the many reasons I'm thankful I don't host actually Thanksgiving; it's not my refrigerator that gets packed full of tupperware!

What to do with all that turkey...
Here are three different ways you can use the leftovers to give you a break from mundane reheating:

The Traditional: Open-Faced Turkey Manhattan
This is a great way to use up lots of Thanksgiving day leftovers at once. Start with a slice of bread and layer mashed potatoes, turkey and gravy on top. The turkey and gravy should reheat in the microwave with no problem. You may need to add a bit of milk to the potatoes to get them back to their fluffy consistency. Warm the potatoes first, then stir in additional milk one teaspoon at a time until you've got the right consistency. 

Healthy Comfort Food: Moroccan Lentils with Turkey
This lentil recipe is one of my go-tos for warm, comforting food that doesn't pack too many calories or fat (an especially nice post-Thanksgiving break).  I usually serve it over spaghetti squash, but have swapped out the squash for turkey in this variety.

Dice a medium onion and mince 2 cloves of garlic. Saute in 1-2 tbsp. olve oil over medium heat for five minutes. Add one can of diced tomatoes, 2 tsp. turmeric, 1 tsp. coriander, 1 tsp. cumin, 2/3 cup dried lentils and 1 cup diced turkey. Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer and cook for 25 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add water 1/2 cup at a time if the lentils absorb all the liquid before they're done cooking.

Fusion-Inspired: Turkey Dumplings
This will take your turkey out of the Thanksgiving realm entirely. For each serving of dumplings you want to make, take 1/2 cup of shredded cabbage, 1/4 cup shredded carrots and 1/2 tsp. minced ginger and saute in 2 tsp. of vegetable oil over medium heat. Allow the mixture to cool briefly, then spoon equal amounts into 4-6 wonton wrappers, brush water along the edge and press to seal the edges together. Lightly coat a non-stick skillet with vegetable oil and cook the dumplings over medium-high heat for 1-2 minutes on each side. Add 1/2 cup of water, cover skillet with a lid and steam dumplings for 3 minutes. Serve with soy sauce mixed with minced ginger to taste.

If you have any recipes you like that call for diced or shredded chicken, substitute your leftover turkey for the chicken. Try turkey in these chipotle tostadas for a decidedly different leftover flavor.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Weddings, weddings everywhere! And edible tuxedos!

Edible tuxedos got your attention for all the wrong reasons, didn't it...

Does wedding bonanza seem to be upon anyone else these days? I have quite a few close friends getting ready to tie the knot and know several more people who either just took a trip down the aisle or are in the process of planning their big day.

With weddings come bridal showers and with bridal showers come opportunities to cutes-ify every detail of the décor and food (bridal showers and baby showers are very similar in this way). There also seems to be no shortage of shower-related inspiration on the internet (seriously, just google wedding shower food/décor/games. It’s nutty, I tell you). And I find myself a little too excited whenever I have the opportunity to dream up theme food for a group.

This past weekend I was delighted to have the chance to make these tuxedo cheese and cracker platters, but I was more excited to celebrate the upcoming nuptials of my friends Lisa and Avery. This was before the tiny little cold I'd been fighting for a couple weeks mutated while I was sleeping on Friday night and turned into a double ear infection. Super fun. Thankfully, I'd prepped these ahead so the time I had to be within arms reach of the platter was minimal. 

These little guys were surprisingly simple to put together and decorate. The base is simply a large round cracker with a slice of wedge cheese on top (I used sesame crackers and Laughing Cow cheese wedges). The cheese wedges sliced beautifully, but did take a bit of coaxing to get off the knife unscathed. For the decoration I used raisins, either cut into small triangles or stamped out with a cake decorating tip. To cut the raisins, I sliced one in half hamburger-style (come on, you all know it's clearer than me saying widthwise), then cut the raisin again 45 degrees from the first cut. Same with the other side, put them together and boom! Instant edible bow tie. For the buttons, I just pressed a writing tip into the raisin until it went through, then poked it out with a toothpick over the spot I wanted it on the cracker.

Initially I thought to use olives (and still think it would be easier to do it with them instead of raisins) but avoided that option to better suit the bride’s taste preferences. If you want to give these a try, raisins are absolutely doable, but olives would remove the stickiness that occasionally made the former grapes a little tricky to work with.

Have you seen any particularly clever foodstuffs at recent showers? Stuff that was so over-the-top cutesy that you kinda threw up a little bit in your mouth? I mean it, cute has its limit... 
Share away in the comments! There are lots more bridal/baby showers in this little blogger's future, so stay tuned for more cute (but not too cute) wedding- and baby-themed goodies!

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Sloppy Joes and Childhood References...

When I think of sloppy joes I think of two things. One, the camp cafeteria scene in It Takes Two (yes, the Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen movie) where the sheltered wealthy girl tries sloppy joes for the first time and is so overwhelmed by the deliciousness that she ends up scarfing the food and wearing sauce all over her face. The other thing I remember? That every time I ate a sloppy joe as a kid, I could never get quite that into the sandwich. I liked sloppy joes, but was not crazy about them. At least, not crazy about them like Alyssa Callaway was. For those of you who are completely lost by this reference, get yourself up to speed at 1:25:

See, I try and give you insight into what motivated me to make a recipe or what I wanted to accomplish with it and instead, I just let you in on the (not-so-secret) secret that I’m totally a child of Full House era and grew up digging Mary-Kate and Ashley like it was my job. Hey, it could have been worse. I could have totally adored Lindsay Lohan.

Back to the sandwiches.

My point is, I found a sloppy joe totally worthy of face stuffing. In fact, I found it hard to not have a face (and hands!) covered in gooey red sauce  and chunks of meat and veggies when I was plowing my way through not one, but two of these puppies last week for dinner. This is not your elementary school sloppy joe. The things I love most about how it turned out was how creamy the sauce was, thanks to the condensed soup and how much texture and flavor was added just by putting in additional veggies. I nearly pureed the onion and pepper by accident the first time I made these which made me realize you could purposely blend up the vegetables to make them undetectable to any picky eaters that may dine under your roof.

Now that the weather is really starting to feel like fall, whip up a batch of these for dinner on a chilly night. Much faster than letting a soup simmer for hours, but still a completely warm and comforting meal.

Sloppy Joes
35 minutes
Serves 4
Adapted from Foodie Crush

  • 1 onion
  • 2 bell peppers
  • 1 lb. ground beef           
  • 4 ribs celery, diced
  • 1 can condensed tomato soup
  • ½ tsp. garlic powder
  • ½  tsp. salt
  • ¼ tsp. chili powder 

  1. Quarter the onion and bell peppers and place into a food processor, pulse until the onion and pepper are in small pieces, but not liquefied.
  2. In a large skillet over medium heat, begin cooking the ground beef. Cook, for five minutes, then stir in the diced bell peppers, onion and celery.
  3. Continue to cook for an additional five minutes, or until the onions have just become translucent.
  4. Stir in the tomato soup, garlic powder, salt and chili powder. Reduce the heat to medium low and simmer for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Recipe: Pesto Bread

I came across this recipe for Pesto Bread back in the summer during one of those weeks that could have been alternately titled: 101 ways to use basil. I love this recipe for many reasons, including its ability to use up extra basil and serve as a vehicle for other great veggies or cheeses.

I've served the bread a few different ways. I've had it topped simply with butter or parmesan. I've used it as a bread for grilled cheese and caprese sandwiches. I've also had it served cinnamon-roll style and topped with marinara sauce. One of my favorite ways to enjoy this has been to allow others to use their own toppings. My coworkers did this the last time I brought a loaf to the office - everyone brought in their own spread, topping or dipping sauce they wanted to have the pesto bread with. It was so much fun and gave us all so many great ideas on what to do with the bread.

A tip if you're looking to use it for sandwiches: The bread is difficult to slice thinly because of the rigid crust on top. However, even thick pieces will be super-absorbent because of the bread's make-up. This is no problem if you're just slicing toppings and serving on top, but if you plan to melt a moist cheese (like mozzarella) make sure to toast the bread slices first, otherwise you end up with soggy bread!

Pesto Bread
2 hours, 30 minutes
Makes 1 loaf
Adapted from Mmm is for Mommy


  • 1/4 cup warm water
  • 1 package active dry yeast
  • 3 cups flour
  • 2 Tbsp. sugar
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1/4 tsp. baking soda
  • 3/4 cup buttermilk
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1/2 cup prepared pesto

  1. In a large bowl, whisk the warm water and yeast until fully combined. Allow to sit for 3-5 minutes, or until bubbles form at the surface.
  2. Mix the flour, sugar, salt and baking soda in a separate bowl and set aside.
  3. Stir in the olive oil and buttermilk in with the yeast mixture. Fold in the dry ingredients, 1/2 cup at a time until dough has come together.
  4. Once the dough is formed, remove from the bowl and roll into a ball. Coat the mixing bowl with a layer of non-stick spray and return the dough ball to the bowl. Cover with a towel and let rest for one hour, or until doubled in size.
  5. Lightly flour a work surface. Place the dough on to the floured surface and roll to a rectangle with a length about twice as long as your loaf pan and between one quarter to one half inch thick.
  6. Brush the prepared pesto over the surface of the bread. Beginning from a side twice the length of your loaf pan, roll the dough jelly-roll style until all of the pesto has been rolled up. 
  7. Cut the roll in half, then cut each of those halves down the middle, exposing the rolled up pesto. Weave the four pieces of dough together, keeping the pesto side up. Place into a greased loaf pan. Allow to rise for another hour.
  8. Heat oven to 375 and bake for 25-30 minutes.
Tips and Tricks:
  1. If you have a Kitchen Aid with a dough hook attachment, feel free to use it at step three instead of folding the ingredients to created the dough.
  2. See photos below to illustrate steps 5, 6 and 7.
Rolled out dough with pesto spread on top.

Dough rolled up and cut in half. Each section is approx. the length of the loaf pan

Rolls sliced down the middle, exposing the pesto.

Four strands of dough, woven together and ready for the loaf pan!

Bread, post-baking.