Wednesday, November 28, 2012

More Turkey Leftovers - Turkey Mac & Cheese

Are you sick of turkey leftovers yet? I'm not. I love turkey. But, maybe you want to save those turkey leftovers for a couple of months down the road, when you will make some hearty turkey soup in the middle of winter. You can freeze the meat if you wrap it well. I wouldn't recommend thawed frozen cooked turkey for a sandwich but it works great for soups and salads where the soup or mayo can moisten the turkey. It's a dry meat that only gets drier after freezing.

Here's another option: make a casserole with it and freeze the casserole. Or eat it this week, if you aren't sick of turkey. :-)

This is a great recipe for extending a fairly modest amount of turkey. You don't even need to use turkey. It's good with chunks of ham or tofu too. This isn't creamy, cheesy mac & cheese. It is extremely easy, however.

Turkey, Tomato & Cheese Casserole
(serves 6-8, costs $11.80)

1 pound elbow macaroni, cooked to al dente and drained (see Notes)
2 cups cooked turkey, cut into ½ to 1" cubes, about 12 ounces
1 large can (28 ounces) diced peeled tomatoes, drained
15 ounces part-skim ricotta cheese (that's a whole medium container)
1 cup milk or cream
1 cup grated sharp cheddar cheese (4 ounces)
4 - 6 medium scallions, chopped
1 teaspoon dried oregano or dried marjoram (see Notes)
¾ teaspoon salt
¾ teaspoon black pepper
1 slice of bread, grated to make crumbs, about ½ cup of fresh bread crumbs (optional)
2 Tablespoon butter, melted (optional)

Preheat oven to 350°F. Butter or spray with non-stick spray a 9 x 13 x 2" baking pan.

Combine the macaroni, turkey, tomatoes, ricotta cheese, milk, cheddar cheese, scallions, oregano, salt and pepper in a large bowl and pour into the prepared pan. You can even mix it directly in the baking dish but it is a bit challenging to mix it without making a mess.

If you want a little bit of a crunchy crust, combine the bread crumbs with the melted butter and sprinkle over the casserole. Bake for 40 minutes until hot and golden brown on top.

  • You don't want to overcook the macaroni because it's going to cook some more in the oven. You want it just done, which takes about 8 minutes of cooking.

  • You know those packets of herbs you get with take-out pizza? That's mostly oregano. They can be used here if you have them.

This recipe is loosely based on one in The Turkey Cookbook by Rick Rodgers.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Turkey and Corn Chowder

Turkey leftovers will abound next week. We are here to help you turn them into something delicious. Last year, we posted a turkey curry recipe. This year, it's soup. This is a rich, warming soup, perfect for a cold night. If it's too rich for you right after the eating bacchanal that is Thanksgiving, toss that leftover turkey meat in the freezer (tightly wrapped to prevent freezer burn) and save this recipe for a future chilly night.

If you can find turkey stock in the box, this will have better turkey flavor. It is often available right around Thanksgiving. Chicken stock is a perfectly acceptable substitute. If you are inspired,  you can turn a Thanksgiving turkey carcass into great stock for this soup.

Turkey and Corn Chowder
(serves 8)

3 strips Bacon
2 Tablespoons Butter
1 medium Carrot, chopped
1 rib Celery, chopped
1 medium Onion, chopped
3-4 cups Corn Kernels, fresh or frozen
1 large Baking Potato, cut into 1 ½" cubes
½ teaspoon Dried Marjoram, crushed
¼ teaspoon Dried Rosemary, crushed
1 teaspoon Salt
½ teaspoon Black Pepper
6 cups Turkey Or Chicken Stock, preferably low-sodium
3 cups Leftover Cooked Turkey, cut in bite-size pieces
1 cup Heavy Cream
4-5 dashes Hot Pepper Sauce
¼ cup Chopped Parsley, for garnish

Heat a soup pot over medium until hot. Add bacon and cook until done but not too crispy. Remove from pot and set aside. Add butter to pot. Then add carrot, celery, onion, ½ of the corn, and potato. Cover and cook for 5 minutes until onion is softened.

Add marjoram, rosemary, salt, pepper, and stock. Increase heat to high to bring to a boil, then reduce to low to maintain a simmer. Cook, covered, for 30 minutes until vegetables are very soft. While soup is cooking, dice bacon and set aside.

Using a slotted spoon, remove ½ the vegetables to a blender. Add about 1 cup of broth. Puree until smooth. Add back to soup along with turkey, bacon, and the rest of the corn. Cook over medium heat to reheat turkey and corn. Reduce heat to low. Add cream and hot sauce. Check seasonings. Depending on the stock, you may need to add more salt.

Add parsley and serve.

Note: if you happen to have leftover roasted potatoes from Thanksgiving, those work just fine. That's what I used. Soup is a great repository for all sorts of leftovers.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Microwave Chocolate Pudding

Microwave Chocolate Pudding, garnished with a few extra chocolate chips. No such thing as too much chocolate.
With this recipe for a quick microwave chocolate pudding you can banish that box of instant pudding forever. This pudding is great hot, warm, or cold. It is deeply chocolate-y if you use high quality chocolate chips. Not chocolate flavored chips. Not chocolate with vegetable oil. Real chocolate.

Though we haven't tried it yet, we believe that this recipe would work just as well with other chips such as white chocolate, butterscotch, or milk chocolate.

Microwave Chocolate Pudding
(serves 1, costs 60¢)

1 ½ teaspoon cornstarch
½ cup milk
Scant ¼ cup chocolate chips
Pinch of salt

Place cornstarch in a 12 ounce mug or 2 cup glass measure.  Gradually, but briskly stir in milk with a whisk so there are no lumps.  Add chocolate chips and salt.  Microwave on high 1 minute or until hot but not boiling; stir briskly with rubber spatula, scraping down sides.  Mixture will look grainy.  Cook 30-45 seconds more until mixture just begins to boil.  Watch closely to avoid boil-over.

Need enough pudding to share with your friends? Here's the recipe for 4 servings:

2 Tablespoons cornstarch
1 ⅔ cup milk
1 cup chocolate chips
⅛ teaspoon salt

Put  cornstarch in a 4-cup glass measure or deep 1-quart bowl.  Whisk in milk until smooth.  Add chocolate chips and salt.  Microwave on high 2 minutes and stir.  Then cook 2 minutes more until thickened around edges, but still liquid in center.  Stir with spatula, scraping down sides of bowl.  Cook 30 seconds-2 minutes until thickens to creamy, spoonable consistency.  Immediately place waxed paper or plastic wrap on surface of pudding to prevent skin.

When we made this recipe during the class in a small microwave, it took 2 minutes to thicken the pudding, for 6 minutes of total cooking. At home, in a high-powered microwave, it took a total of 5 minutes.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Moroccan Carrot Salad

For the last two classes, we made a simple green salad with a vinaigrette. This time, we switched it up a little. No greens. Carrots instead. Carrots are inexpensive, even in the winter, when lettuce often gets a lot pricier. Carrots are sturdy so this is a salad that can sit in the fridge for a few days. Don't try that with a dressed green salad!

This is a full-flavored dressing. You can leave out the red pepper flakes and it will still pack plenty of flavor. If you want it spicy, use the full ¼ teaspoon. It will be quite spicy! I like it with just a pinch of red pepper so that it doesn't overpower the other spices.

Moroccan Carrot Salad
(serves 4-6, cost is $2.00)

1 pound carrots, peeled and cut into ¼ slices
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon sweet paprika
¼ teaspoon black pepper
a pinch to ¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes (optional)
2 Tablespoons olive oil
1 clove garlic, minced
juice of 1 lemon
1-2 Tablespoons chopped parsley

Bring about 3 cups of water to a boil in a medium saucepan. Add the salt and carrots. Cook over medium heat until just tender, about 5 minutes. Do not overcook or they will fall apart when tossed with the dressing. Drain and cool.

Mix the remaining ingredients in a medium bowl. Add cooled carrots and toss.

This salad improves as the carrots sit in the dressing.

For a super quick variation, use a 1 pound bag of shredded carrots. Don't cook them. Just dress them raw. Different texture but the same bold flavor.

Chicken Pot PIe

Here's the second chicken dish from our last class. It's a very simple chicken stew, served up on a crispy pillow of puff pastry. Puff pastry is one of our favorite prepared foods. Check out these recipes for samosas and a spinach and cheese appetizer that we posted previously. They are two great ways to use up any extra puff pastry.

Chicken Pot Pie
(serves 4, cost is $9.50)

3 Tablespoons butter
3 Tablespoons flour
3 cups chicken stock
3 medium carrots, cut into 1" pieces
2 stalks celery, into 1" pieces
1 medium onion, cut into chunks
¼ teaspoon dried thyme
1 bay leaf
¼ teaspoon black pepper
1 pound chicken, cooked and shredded
½ cup frozen peas, thawed
¼  - ½ teaspoon salt
1 sheet frozen puff pastry, thawed (see Note)

Melt butter in a large covered saucepan. Stir in flour and cook for a few minutes over medium heat until mixture is a light golden. Whisk in chicken stock, and whisk for another minute to make sure there are no lumps. Add onion, carrots, celery, thyme, bay leaf, and pepper. Stir well. Bring to boil and reduce heat to medium-low to maintain a simmer and cover. Cook until carrots are tender, about 20 minutes. Add shredded chicken and peas and cook for another 5 minutes. Taste for salt. You may not need to add any depending on the saltiness of the stock and your own salt tolerance.

While stew is cooking, preheat oven to 400℉. Unfold puff pastry and cut into 4 squares. Place on a baking sheet making sure they aren't touching. Bake for 15-20 minutes, until golden brown and puffed up. This step can be done up to a few hours ahead. Store the baked puffed pastry squares at room temperature.

To serve, place the puff pastry in a large soup bowl, break a hole in the pastry and ladle on the chicken stew.

Note: A package of frozen puff pastry contains two sheets of puff pastry. They come apart easily while still frozen. Separate the two sheets. Wrap one sheet well in plastic wrap and place in the fridge overnight to thaw. For this recipe, you can even thaw it for 30 minutes at room temperature, but this method isn't recommended for most puff pastry recipes. The pastry gets too soft to work very quickly. Since we are just unfolding it and cutting it up, the quick thaw works just fine.

Wrap the other sheet well and return to the freezer. Or thaw that one too and make one of our other delicious recipes that use puff pastry.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Cinco de Mayo Chicken Casserole

Here's a comforting casserole for a cold winter's night. We made this for our class on easy chicken dishes. Though the recipe calls for cheddar cheese, there are lots of cheeses that work here: monterey jack, colby, Mexican cheese blends, or some combination of those. Great way to clean out the bits of cheese in the fridge.

Cinco de Mayo Chicken Casserole
(serves 6-8, cost is $13.25)

1 ½ pounds boneless skinless chicken breasts
16 ounces green chile salsa
1 cup sour cream
⅓ cup milk
12 6" corn tortillas
¾ pound shredded cheddar cheese

Cook chicken (either by roasting or in microwave). Cut chicken into cubes. Preheat oven to 350°F Place half the chicken in an oiled 9x13 inch pan. Spoon about half the salsa over chicken. Place sour cream in a bowl and thin it with some milk. Spoon half the sour cream mixture over the salsa and chicken. Cut the tortillas into ¼ inch strips. Top the sour cream mixture with half the tortilla strips and half the Cheddar cheese. Repeat layers, using the remaining chicken, salsa, sour cream mixture, tortilla strips, and Cheddar cheese.

Cover pan with foil and bake for 40 minutes. Remove foil and bake for about 5 minutes until cheese is golden and bubbly. Let stand for 10 minutes before serving.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Jalapeno-Glazed Chicken

Next week, we have another class at CU. The theme is chicken, requested by the students. Chicken is quick, easy, versatile, and reasonably priced. That makes it a popular choice with time-strapped students on a budget. We'll be posting the recipes we are cooking next week right after the class, but we'll get things started with a very easy but intensely flavored dish.

It's a Mexican-inspired recipe that takes advantage of the sweet and spicy flavors of jalapeno jelly. Jalapeno jelly is not terribly hot but it is very flavorful. You can use green or red jalapeno jelly. The red version is less grassy and herbal tasting than the green. If you don't like cilantro, substitute parsley.

Jalapeno-Glazed Chicken Breasts
(serves 4)

⅔ cup jalapeno jelly, about 7 ounces
½ cup chopped fresh cilantro
2 Tablespoons white wine vinegar
4 chicken breasts halves, preferably with skin (about 1 pound total)
salt and black pepper

Preheat oven to 400°F. Combine jalapeno jelly, cilantro, and vinegar in a small saucepan. Heat over low heat, stirring, until jelly is dissolved. Keep warm.

Place chicken in a 8x5" baking dish. Season with salt and pepper. Bake, skin side up, for 25 minutes. Spoon glaze over chicken and bake for another 5 minutes. Serve with remaining glaze.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Salt & Making Your Own Microwave Popcorn

We don't make a big deal about nutrition here. We think that if you take the time to cook for yourself, eating a variety of real food, you'll do OK. In this post, we're going to talk about salt, a rather demonized ingredient these days.

Salt makes food taste better. We use it judiciously to bring out the fantastic natural flavors of real food. Salt is a flavor enhancer. That's why there's a pinch of salt in our granola and a little bit in our clafouti. In savory recipes, it's not the primary flavor like in many processed foods. It's not added to balance the over-use of sugars (yes, there is often a lot of sugar in even savory processed foods). The combination of sweet-salty and fat in many processed foods makes you want to eat even more of that food, which is key if you are trying to sell more food. We aren't selling anything. We want you to eat better by cooking for yourself.

Even in recipes with a lot of salt (anything with chicken stock with salt added, for instance), you'll find that our version is lower than a commercial version. Because it's made from scratch, our version tastes really good without lots and lots of salt. Our fast chicken noodle soup recipe makes about 8 cups of soup, 4 generous servings. If you use low-sodium stock in a box, the soup will contain about 800 mg of sodium per serving. Most people consider a can of soup one serving, and the whole can contains nearly 2000 mg of sodium! That's very close to all the salt recommended in a day just from your lunch.

One of the hardest things to gauge is how salty other people want their food. We don't eat a lot of processed food and we add a fairly moderate amount of salt to savory recipes. So, our idea of enough salt may not be enough for you. In our recipes, there is enough salt to make it taste good to us. We encourage you to experiment with the amount of salt. Start with what we suggest, and add a sprinkle more if you think it needs more. Eventually, you'll figure out how much salt you like relative to what we like.

Here's a snack that is associated with lots of salt: popcorn. Commercial microwave popcorn has become hugely popular. Sure, it's convenient but is popcorn really that hard to make? No! If you make it yourself, you can flavor it the way you want. It costs next to nothing and contains only real ingredients. Like popcorn, oil, butter, and salt.

You will need a plain, clean, lunch-sized paper bag or a 2 quart microwaveable bowl with a cover. For a single serving, add 2 Tablespoons popcorn kernels and ½ Tablespoon vegetable oil. Fold over the top a few times to keep the popcorn from escaping. Place in the microwave and pop on high for up to 3 minutes, or until you hear the popping slow down. Be careful because it's easy to go too far and burn the popcorn. 3 minutes is usually long enough.  If you want to add butter, place ½ Tablespoon of butter in a bowl, then dump the hot popcorn on top. Toss to melt the butter and coat the popcorn. Sprinkle with salt, about ⅛ teaspoon, and other seasonings, if desired. Instead of salt, parmesan cheese is delicious. Some black pepper is also good. You can double this recipe and still use the same size paper bag.