Thursday, September 30, 2010

Ella Dancing Barefoot in the Spring

When the hot, humid days of summer linger
and the crisp, cool days of autumn
hold nothing but empty promises,

I remember the first days of spring. 

I remember days when I longed
for the warmth 
of the summer sun.

I remember when daffodils 
forced their bright heads
through the cold and sleepy earth
and sweet-smelling air
rushed in like breaths of freedom

I remember when tender feet
once hibernating in winter shoes
 felt the first soft blades of grass

I remember Ella dancing Barefoot in the Spring.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Turkey Meatball Soup

This recipe comes from a cookbook called Deceptively Delicious by Jessica Seinfeld.  Yes, that would be comedian Jerry Seinfeld's wife!  The premise of the book is to puree a bunch of vegetables and then incorporate them into recipes, thus, increasing the meal's nutritional value.  I have tried several of the recipes in this book with good success (and yes, I have no scruples when it comes to veggie deception!).  This cooking method is made easier by spending an hour or two up front, pureeing a bunch of veggies and freezing them in 1/2 cup servings.

This particular recipe can be made by simply cooking the vegetables in the soup and then pureeing the soup in the blender.  In this case, rather than simply hiding the vegetable flavor in an ordinary recipe, I think the addition of sweet potato and carrot puree to the tomato-based soup actually enhances the flavor and helps balance the otherwise acidic tomatoes.

I paid full price for my cookbook, but spotted it recently at Kohl's for a mere $5.00 - a good investment if you have a family of picky eaters!

Turkey Meatball Soup
Adapted from Deceptively Delicious by Jessica Seinfeld

3 ounces whole-wheat pasta shapes, such as bowties or wagon wheels
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 small onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 (28-ounce) can whole peeled tomatoes, with their juice
1/4 cup carrot puree (or 1/2 cup finely chopped carrots)
1/2 cup sweet potato or squash puree (or 1 cup finely chopped)
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
3 cups beef or chicken broth

3 slices whole-wheat bread, cubed
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1/4 cup sweet potato puree (or 1/2 cup chopped sweet potatoes, microwaved for 5 minutes and mashed with fork)
1/4 cup nonfat milk
2 tablespoons grated Parmesan, plus more for serving
1/4 teaspoon paprika
1/2 pound lean ground turkey

  1. Cook the pasta in a large pot of boiling salted water according to package directions until al dente. Drain and set aside.
  2. Add one tablespoon olive oil to a large pot and saute onion and garlic.  Cook, stirring often until the onion is softened but not browned.  If you don't have veggie puree, add the carrots and sweet potatoes, too.
  3. When everything is softened, put in a blender or food processor and add tomatoes.  Puree until smooth.  Return to pot.  Add salt and broth.  Reduce heat to low and simmer for 10 - 15 minutes.  If your tomatoes are still too acidic, add up to 1 tablespoon of brown sugar.  (Just don't tell Jessica or health expert, Joy Bauer.)
  4. Meanwhile, begin the meatballs.  PUt the bread in a large bowl.  Add the egg, sweet potato puree, milk, Parmesan, 1 teaspoon salt and paprika, and let soak until the bread is very soft.  Stir to break up the bread, add the ground turkey and mix until smooth.  Form into mini-meatballs about 1/2-inch in diameter.  
  5. Add the meatballs to the pot.  Simmer, covered, until the meatballs are no longer pink in the center, 12 - 15 minutes.  Stir in the pasta.  Serve with Parmesan.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Turkey Spinach Lasagna

When it comes to cooking, I've never been very good at following directions, which is why my lasagne never tastes the same twice!  Always trying to make dinners just a little bit healthier, I've tweaked the basic recipe to include lean ground turkey, whole wheat noodles, chopped spinach and low-fat cheese!  The only one that complained about the spinach was Ella, but then again, she also fussed about the meat, the onions and the red sauce.......

Turkey Spinach Lasagna

1 Package whole wheat lasagna noodles
4 cups shredded mozzarella cheese


1 cup frozen or fresh diced onion
3 garlic cloves, minced
2 Tablespoons EVOO
1/2 pound ground turkey
1/2 pound turkey sausage
2 - 28 ounce jars of your favorite pasta sauce (Today I used Kroger 6-cheese)
1 12-ounce bag of frozen, chopped spinach

Saute onions and garlic in olive oil until translucent, but not brown.  Add meat and cook until brown.  Add pasta sauce and chopped spinach and cook until spinach is thawed and separated.

Spray a glass 9x13 baking dish with cooking spray.  Cover bottom of pan with sauce.  Place a single layer of uncooked noodles on top of sauce.  Place 1/3 of remaining sauce on top of noodles.  Layer with 1 1/3 cups cheese.  Repeat layers two more times.

Bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes covered and 15 minutes uncovered.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Turkey Chow Mein

Growing up, this meal was a weekly dinner staple.  My mom was always health conscience and this dish packed in the veggies!  I don't believe I ever saw a printed recipe for this growing up, but when my college roomie, Kim, called me out of the blue at 5PM from Missouri one day because she "had a pound of ground turkey and needed the recipe!", I decided it must be a keeper.  Following is my version of Turkey Chow Mein.

Turkey Chow Mein

1 - 1 1/2 pounds ground turkey
1 cup diced celery
1 cup diced onion
1/2 pound baby portabella mushrooms
2 cans bean sprouts, drained and rinsed
2 cans sliced water chestnuts, drained
1 small jar diced pimento
1 1/2 cups chicken stock
2 teaspoons chicken granules
2 teaspoons brown sugar
4 tablespoons corn starch

Saute onions and celery in a small amount of oil until softened.  Add the ground turkey and cook until browned.  Add the mushrooms and cook 2-3 minutes.  Add the bean sprouts, water chestnuts, pimento, chicken broth, chicken granules and brown sugar.  Cook until liquid comes to a boil.  Add 4 tablespoons corn starch to 1/2 cup cold water or chicken broth.  Stir until dissolved.  Add the cornstarch mixture to the pan and heat until boiling.  The sauce should thicken.

Serve with brown rice and crunchy noodles, or go low carb and eat it straight up!

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Family Friendly Turkey Chili

So if you're from some southern town that's famous is for its hot and spicy chili cook-offs, this recipe might not be for you.  But if you're looking for a way to get your kids to eat some vegetables and legumes, it might be worth a try.  My secret ingredient?  Baked beans.  They're so small, they just end up blending in with the turkey!  The little bit of brown sugar that's in the can doesn't hurt either.  Notice the recipe doesn't even include chili powder.  The addition of cumin gives it all the smoky flavor it needs without turning up the heat.

Family Friendly Turkey Chili

1 cup diced onions
1 cup diced celery
1 tsp garlic salt
1 pound ground turkey
2 28-ounce cans Muir Glen Fire Roasted Tomatoes
1 can kidney beans
1 large can original recipe Bush's baked beans
2 tablespoons cumin

Soften the onions and celery in a non-stick skillet with a little bit of oil.  Add the turkey and garlic salt and cook until browned.  Transfer the turkey mixture to a large slow cooker.  Add the remaining ingredients and cook on low until dinner (4 hour minimum, please!)

Serve with grilled cheese and crackers!

Monday, September 20, 2010

Ina's Turkey Meat Loaf

I arrived home from Costco, recently, with a 7 pound package of ground turkey - only to open the freezer and realize that I had purchased the same thing last week! Rather than store 14 pounds of ground turkey in my freezer ad infinitum, I decided to cook through my favorite ground turkey recipes and share them with you!

This meatloaf is deliciously moist and flavorful.  I've never had a bad batch.  With five POUNDS of turkey, it makes an enormous loaf, so feel free to cut the recipe in half.  With a family of six, however, I'm always looking for large recipes, so this one is a keeper!  I usually put half in the freezer for another meal and still have enough leftovers for sandwiches!

Ina's Turkey Meatloaf
The Barefoot Contessa Cookbook, by Ina Garten

3 CUPS chopped yellow onions (2 large onions)
2 TABLESPOONS olive oil
2 TEASPOONS kosher salt
1 TEASPOON freshly ground black pepper
1 TEASPOON fresh thyme leaves (1/2 teaspoon dried)
1/3 CUP Worcestershire sauce
3/4 CUP chicken stock
1 1/2 TEASPOONS tomato paste (or more)
5 POUNDS ground turkey breast
3 extra-large eggs, beaten
3/4 CUP ketchup

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.

In a medium saute' pan, on medium-low heat, cook the onions, olive oil, salt, pepper, and thyme until the onions are translucent but not browned, approximately 15 minutes.  Add the Worcestershire sauce, chicken stock, and tomato paste and mix well.  Allow to cool at room temperature.

Combine the ground turkey, bread crumbs, eggs, and onion mixture in a large bowl.  Mix well and shape into a rectangular loaf on an baking sheet lined with parchment paper.  Spread the ketchup evenly on top.  Bake for s1 1/2 hours, until the internal temperature is 160 degrees and the meat loaf is cooked through.  (A pan of hot water in the oven, under the meatloaf will keep the top fro cracking.)  Serve hot, room temperature or cold in a sandwich.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Fiesta Time!

Only one week after the Yellow Daisy Craft Fair, I had the opportunity to use one of my new cookie cutters (Hooray!) when we were invited to a Fiesta-Themed evening at PK and Bonnie's house!  My new one-armed bandit cactus cutter worked perfectly and a grove of green cacti made a fun addition to the dessert buffet.

As I looked at the cutter, I thought with some white icing and black eyes, I might be able to re-purpose the one-armed bandit into a two armed ghost!  Halloween is just around the corner! 

For my cut out cookie shortcuts and icing recipe, click here!

Guacamole Salad Photo Courtesy of

In addition to the cookies, I brought Ina Garten's Guacamole Salad.  If there is one Food Network star in whom I have complete culinary confidence, it's the Barefoot Contessa.  I took a risk by bringing a recipe which I had not previously tried, but, as usual, she did not disappoint!  The picture in the cookbook looked so colorful, I knew it would be a sure thing.  I would have taken my own picture, but since I had to add the avocado after our late arrival, I figured a food staging photo shoot would definitely be a faux pas!  

In the recipe, I omitted the jalapenos and reduced the cayenne by half, which, in my bland Norwegian taste-bud opinion, was a good thing.  I also added some fresh orange juice since somehow, in the doubling of the recipe at the grocery store, I forgot to double the limes!  For Ina's original recipe, click here.

Gracias para la fiesta PK and Bonnie!

Guacamole Salad
Adapted from Barefoot Contessa at Home by Ina Garten

Serves 12
2 pints grape tomatoes, halved
2 yellow bell peppers, seeded and 1/2-inch diced
2 (15-ounce) cans black beans, rinsed and drained
1 cup finely diced red onion
1 teaspoon lime zest
1/4 cup freshly squeezed lime juice (2 limes)
1/4 cup freshly squeezed orange juice (1 orange)
1/2 cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil
2 teaspoons kosher salt (or  more, to taste)
2 minced garlic cloves
1/4 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper
4 ripe Hass avocados, seeded, peeled, and 1/2 inch diced

Place the tomatoes, yellow pepper, black beans, red onion, and lime zest in a large bowl.  Whisk together the lime juice, olive oil, salt, garlic and cayenne pepper and pour over the vegetables.  Toss well.  

Just before serving, fold the avocados into the salad.  Check the seasoning and serve at room temperature.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Cookies and Cream Cupcakes {MSC}

One of the very fun things about having a blog, I have discovered, is being able to join an online baking club!  Apparently there are thousands of bloggers out there, honing their culinary skills, and blogging about nothing other than food!  My college BFF and source of inspiration, Rebecca, opened my horizon to these endeavors when she started her culinary blog, Beurrista.  Who knew that taking pictures of otherwise ordinary kitchen fare could be so much fun!

As I pondered the idea of joining a baking club, I considered several, but in the end, decided to start with Martha Stewart's Cupcake Club.  First of all, I am a huge Martha Stewart fan.  I became a charter subscriber to her magazine when I was (9 maybe? :-) and have received every issue since.  I even stood in line for two hours at the Georgia Aquarium to have Martha personally sign her COOKIES book!  (But that's a story for another time.)  Secondly, who doesn't love cupcakes?  I knew I would have plenty of occasions at which to serve them!

That being said, this club is not actually sponsored by Martha, but rather just a bunch of bakers who will attempt, at some point, to bake their way through the 175 recipes in her new CUPCAKES book!  Each month, one member picks a recipe.  Everyone tries their hand at baking it and posts their results on the 15th of that month.  My hope is to get myself beyond my faithful boxed brownies!  Because the club has already been baking for the past year, I may post an extra one each month to try to catch up!  Out of respect for the publishing industry, the recipes won't be posted.  You'll just have to buy the book!

My inaugural recipe is Cookies and Cream Cupcakes.  The recipe is not so much a cupcake as a cheesecake hiding in a cupcake liner!

Nonetheless, I knew I couldn't go wrong when the recipe started with an entire package of Oreos!

The rest of the ingredients were few and simple:  cream cheese, sour cream, eggs, vanilla, sugar and salt.

The wet ingredients were beaten and the roughly chopped cookies were folded in.

The remaining Oreos were placed in the bottom of standard sized cupcake liners and formed the crust.  The batter was spooned on top of the Oreos and baked in a low temperature oven.  The process reminded me of the miniature cheesecakes my mom used to make at Christmas with vanilla wafers.  They always had canned Wilderness cherries on top and were the first thing to disappear off the cookie tray!

In lieu of mom's Wilderness cherries, I added a half-moon Oreo garnish.

The cheesecakes were surprisingly light and not too sweet.
The Oreo cookie softened with baking, producing a delightful crust.

Thanks to Nina's Cupcakes for choosing today's selection!

Saturday, September 11, 2010

The Yellow Daisy Festival

September 9 - 12, 2010

When my friend, Carol, invited me to Stone Mountain's Yellow Daisy Festival, I wasn't sure what to expect.  What kind of people go to one of America's largest craft fairs?  What kinds of things do they sell?  I envisioned grey-haired ladies wearing appliqued sweatshirts selling quilts and counted cross-stitch pillows (there were a few of those) and long-haired hippies playing the harp and mandolin (OK, there a few of those, too), but for the most part, it was a fun display of relevant artisan objects.

The festival was named for the fall-blooming Confederate Yellow Daisy which was discovered in 1846 on the outcrops of granite at Stone Mountain.  But nobody is coming here to see the flowers.  With over 400 vendors representing most states in the union and a couple other countries, people swarm here for one reason and one reason only - to shop.  The veterans shoppers arrive promptly at 10AM with lace-up athletic shoes and wheeled carts in hand.  The picture above was taken on Friday morning, so you can imagine that on a weekend afternoon, it is nothing short of pedestrian gridlock.

The paved paths over which the craft fair is assembled loop a total of two miles, but seem like more.  Exhibits are lined up randomly on either side of the path which, thankfully, runs inside a shaded canopy of trees.  All vendors are judged based on submitted works which makes this a "juried show."

I tried to stay practical and came home with six unique cookie cutters, some Merlot Jelly, homemade soap, a stack of mixes and a big bag of hair bows.  My personal favorite picks were a couple of really cute Children's Clothing vendors like Smartie Britches and some very aesthetic Alphabet Photography taken in Historic Savannah by Chris Morris Photography.  (This may or may not be the correct link.  Who knew it was such a popular photographer's name?)

If you want to check out the Yellow Daisy Festival, you'd better hurry!  Everyone is packing up at the end of the day tomorrow!

Thanks for a fun day, Carol!

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Summer's End

Labor Day Fireworks

The calendar may disagree, but Labor Day Weekend always seems to mark the end of summer.  Although weeks before, the kids started school and weeks to follow will still see the temperatures soar, the long weekend brings closure to those carefree days of possibilities - days that are marked with play and exploration and dreams.  With fall encroaching, we nestle into our practice and studies and routines - routines that, without their playful contrast, would hold far less comfort and warmth and meaning.

Each year our neighborhood forgoes the traditional 4th of July Fireworks and instead, commemorates the summer's farewell.  We viewed them by boat with for the double effect of fire and water.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Stadium Bars

Today, September 2, 2010, is my husband's official favorite day of the year - the opening of the College Football season!  To celebrate, we invited to dinner the only other known Minnesota-Golden-Gopher-Football-Fan-Living-In-Georgia:  our friend, Lance Rackley.  Lance moved to Georgia when his son, (Minnesota Golden Gopher Tight End and Long-Snapper) Derek Rackley, was drafted in 2000 by the Atlanta Falcons.

To celebrate, we're having steaks on the grill and a delicious and appropriately festive dessert - Stadium Bars!  

What could be better than a sweet, decadent brownie topped with the classic salty stadium fare - 
popcorn and peanuts?

The recipe begins with prepared brownie batter.  Someday, I promise I will bake a batch of brownies from scratch, but today I use the tried and true Ghirardelli Triple Chocolate Brownie Mix.

Top the prepared batter with 3 cups popped Kettle Korn, 1 cup roasted and salted peanuts and 1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips - because triple chocolate just isn't enough!  Pat the toppings into the batter.

Bake as directed and voila!

Sweet and Salty Chocolatey Goodness!
A delicious dessert like this makes watching even the lowest ranked team in the Big Ten worth while!

(Found right on the back of the Brownie Mix Box!)

Prepare Brownie batter as directed.
Spoon the batter into a greased 13x9-inch pan.
Sprinkle with:
3 cups popped kettle corn
1 cup salted peanuts
1/2 cup Semi-Sweet Chocolate Chips.

Bake at 325 degrees for 50 minutes.

Makes 24 Sweet and Salty Squares of Heaven