Friday, April 29, 2011

Glorified Leftovers--or Turkey Tetrazzini

I called this dish Turkey Tetrazzini because if I call it Mac & Cheese, my husband won't eat it.

He likes to eat healthy.

But--I must confess.

This dish is born from my desire to use up a bunch of odds and ends I had in the refrigerator.

I didn't take photos at first because I didn't think it would interest anyone, but then decided it might be a good example of how to use those odds and ends to make something and not have them go to waste.

They will surely go to my waist--I love mac & cheese!

Here are the things I had on hand:

a half-bag of elbow macaroni
1/2 an onion
1 bulb of fennel
heavy cream
turkey breast

parmesan, romano, and an assortment of other leftover cheeses in small blocks

I haven't cooked much with fennel.

But I will be.

It smells so good!

I sliced the fennel really thin because I read in a recipe once that fennel used in salad is shaved.

So I added the fennel to the garlic, onions & mushrooms I sauteed in a little bit of olive oil.

When the fennel was tender, after about 15 minutes or so, I added spinach.

I bought a big bag of spinach at Costco, so we're having it a lot.

Spinach doesn't last too long, so I put two big handfuls in the pan.

I need to use it up.

Besides, it's really good in here.

Stir until the spinach is just wilted, then remove from stove and set aside.

Start cooking the noodles.

Melt 2 tablespoons of butter in a pot and add 2 tablespoons of flour.

Stir constantly over medium heat forming a roux.

Don't let the roux brown.

Add about a half-cup of cream and about 3 cups water.

Any combination of milk/cream/chicken broth does fine.

The sauce doesn't have to be thick, it will thicken further after the noodles are added.

I added about a 1/4 cup of romano cheese I had in a container, and about a half-cup of the shredded parmesan.

It will take a few minutes to melt into the sauce, keep stirring, it will incorporate.

I also had some jack cheese, a little bit of smoked mozzarella and some quesadilla cheese, and added those.

Season to taste with salt and white pepper.

Mix the noodles and vegetables together with the cheese sauce.

If you have vegetarians, take some out before adding the chopped turkey.

I put it into a casserole dish with a little cheese on top, but I actually think it would be better to just serve it out of the pot.

Baking it makes the spinach lose it's bright green color, and it's much more appetizing without the baking.

Add some fresh basil to make it especially delicious!



I had another The Song Remembers When moment the other day.

If you've been following along, you'll know how the Trisha Yearwood song--The Song Remembers When--is about how a song can transport you to a particular place and time the instant you hear it.

The moment was at Katie Hertel and David Yarian's wedding a couple of years ago.

The Hertels are long time friends, and we were thrilled to go to the Denver, CO area for their daughter's wedding.

Luckily, I took some video and can share it with you.

I love how you can see the emotions on the father and daughter's faces throughout the dance. The emotions reach a crescendo almost in sync with the song, it never fails to bring a tear to my eye whenever I watch it.

Hopefully, the record company will allow the usage. Now you can be included in this touching moment too!

The video will play in a larger format here.

Now...If only I can get a video of Randy Hertel singing....

That would be a treat, too!

No printable recipe for Turkey Tetrazzini yet.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Baked Potato with Mushrooms & Barley

One of my favorite things to eat is a baked potato.

They don't even have to be filled with butter and sour cream, which makes them very tasty, but not so healthy.

A baked potato stuffed with vegetables makes them a lot healthier.

My latest favorite stuffing is made with onions, mushrooms and barley.

The chewiness of the barley, along with the smooth texture of the mushrooms, combine nicely with the hot fluffiness of the baked potato.

Bacon bits (for your omnivores), sour cream and shredded cheese can be served as condiments on the side.

A spinach salad rounds out your meal.

This recipe serves a generous portion for about 6 large baked potatoes.

Make the baked potatoes as in the recipe for Twice Baked Potatoes.

Ingredients for the mushroom & barley filling:

2 large onions
1 lb. mushrooms
2 cups cooked barley
4 cloves garlic

olive oil
1/4 cup sake or white wine

The sweet onions I like to use aren't readily available at this time of year, so I'm using Spanish onions.

Halve the onions and slice them.

Peel and mince 4 cloves of garlic.

Melt 1 1/2 tablespoons butter in a skillet with 1 tablespoon olive oil.

Add the minced garlic and saute for a minute or so, being careful not to brown the garlic.

Add the onions.

Cook the onions over medium heat until they begin to caramelize.

The more the onions caramelize, the better the flavor.

While the onions are cooking, clean and slice the mushrooms.

Add the mushrooms to the skillet with the onions.

Add about a 1/4 cup sake or white wine.

When the mushrooms are wilted, add the cooked barley.

Add salt and pepper to taste and cook until heated through.

This is one of my favorite meals--it's very hearty--a good one to try if you have Meatless Mondays.

You can substitute any vegetables you like to go with the barley.



Easter Bunny Update

For those of you that have been following along, I gave my mother a chocolate Easter bunny for Easter.

My grandfather, her father, gave us chocolate bunnies every year for Easter, so I thought it fitting to get one for her.

Actually, I gave her two.

The first one I got melted in the car.

It was still in the box, and I put it under her pillow.

She got a kick out of that!

She said she hasn't gotten a surprise in a long time, and it was sooooo nice!

She said she felt special--the bunny I thought was a good one--turned out to be "a special needs bunny, because someone ran over his ears," my mom said.

She said she felt special to be chosen to care for it.

She asked, "Guess which one we ate first?"

"You're right. The flat bunny. We put him out of his misery."

Love you, Mom and Dad!

No printable recipe for this one yet.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Cucumber Salad with Saifun--Bean Threads

My mom makes this salad for almost every family party.

It's Sunomono (cucumber salad) with saifun (bean threads).

It's a refreshing sesame flavored salad, and surprisingly easy to make.

When I asked her for the recipe some time ago, she said it's from a mix.

Can't get any easier than that!


2 lbs. cucumbers
1 package Chinese Seasoned Bean Thread (Saifun) with Vegetables

I like the small Persian cucumbers or Japanese cucumbers.

They're really crunchy.

You can also use English cucumbers.

Cut the ends off the cucumbers and slice them thinly with a knife or mandolin.

You can do two at a time, but be careful of your fingers!

Sprinkle 1/4 teaspoon of salt on the cucumbers.

Mix thoroughly and let them sit for 10 or 15 minutes.

This is the package my mom uses for her cucumber salad.

It's got a tiny bit of vegetables--carrots and seaweed--sesame seeds and dressing--along with the saifun (bean thread noodles).

When you open the package, there's a tube inside.

It's in the refrigerated section at Nijiya Market.

This is what is inside the package.

Mix with the cucumbers.

Mix thoroughly, so the noodles are evenly distributed.



When I was a little girl, my mother used to curl my hair in ringlets.

I'm about 3 years old in this picture.

I had a celebrity doppelganger back then.

I know this because--when I was grocery shopping with my mother, at about this age and sitting in the shopping cart, a little girl pointed to me and shouted,

"Mommy! Mommy! Look! Look! It's Little Lulu!"

You might be too young to remember Little Lulu.

These days I'm more like Little Lulu's friend.

(We won't mention his name.)

Does anyone remember the theme song to the cartoon?

No printable recipe for Cucumber Salad yet.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Pizza Pot Pie

Pizza Pot Pie.

Doesn't that sound good?

I'd never heard of it until Karen started talking about it.

Karen came into town yesterday for a business conference and what she wanted to eat was Pizza Pot Pie.

Karen was introduced to Pizza Pot Pie by her friend Lindsay.

Lindsay lived in Chicago, and has waited in the long lines at The Chicago Pizza and Oven Grinder Co. for their famous Pizza Pot Pie.

Karen made this for us once last year, it's the only time I've ever had it, and now I'm going to make it with a little advice from her!

It's best described as pizza stew in a bread bowl.


2 lbs. hot Italian sausage
1/4 lb. pepperoni slices
8 oz. package sliced mozzarella cheese
8 oz. package sliced provolone cheese
1 lb. mushrooms

1 28 oz. can crushed tomatoes
1 14 oz. can tomato sauce
1 14 oz. can diced tomatoes
1/2 large onion, chopped
1 bell pepper, chopped
2 large cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup red wine
1 teaspoon each of dried rosemary, thyme, oregano & sweet basil
1/2 teaspoon cayenne or chili flakes
1 tablespoon sugar
olive oil

2 loaves uncooked baguette dough from Von's

fresh basil as garnish

Start by sautéing the garlic, onions & green peppers in a couple tablespoons olive oil.

After the vegetables gain a little color, add the mushrooms.

The mushrooms in the Chicago company's pizza pot pie are left whole.

I thought they were too big and cut them bite-sized.

When the mushroom start to wilt a little, add about a half-cup of red wine.

Then add the seasonings, 1 teaspoon each of rosemary, thyme, oregano and sweet basil.

Add 1 tablespoon of sugar and salt and pepper to taste.

When it comes to a boil, lower heat and simmer for 20 minutes to combine flavors.

While that's simmering, cook the sausage.

I'm making one pot with meat and one without for the vegetarians in the family.

For the vegetarians, I sauteed one eggplant, 2 yellow squash and 2 zucchini--all sliced.

When the meat and vegetables were done, I separated the sauce into two.

I added the sausage to the sauce and simmered for about an hour, then I sliced the pepperoni into strips and added them to the meat sauce.

Then added the remaining sauce to the veggies.

I bought two loaves of uncooked baguette dough at Vons Market. 

The nice man in the bakery looked at me funny, but was very accommodating. 

He asked what I was going to use it for, and said that he had never heard of pizza pot pie. It was only $1.29 for the uncooked loaf.

Get the dough out of the refrigerator and let it sit for about 30 minutes before using.

These are the bowls Karen uses for pizza pot pie.

They hold almost 2 cups of the filling, so if you've got big eaters, that might satisfy them.

I got them from Crate & Barrel, they cost $3.50 each.

(Thank you, Susie, for driving me to Crate & Barrel to get these bowls. I owe you a pizza pot pie dinner!)

They're perfect because of the pedestal, it makes it easy to de-crust the pot pies and scoop out the cheese by holding on to the pedestal.

Because the bowl is hot!

You can make them in a regular bowl, it's a little trickier to take the crust off, but it's easy enough to pry it off.

Start by putting the cheese on the bottom.

I used a slice each of mozzarella and provolone.

Karen makes it with a good slice off a block of mozzarella.

Then you ladle in the filling.

Those pretty hands belong to my sister-in-law Nancy.

This is the vegetarian filling.

It would be good with some beans in the filling--the bagged bean soup mixture, with all the different kinds of beans in it.

Then you make a crust with the bread dough, by patting a piece of it flat.

One loaf makes about 6 crusts.

It would be best to cut the dough into 6 pieces first.

That way the crusts would be uniform. We just broke off pieces of dough, and some were big and some were small.

You can make the pot pies with a regular bowl, too.

Karen marked the vegetarian ones with a "V" made from dough.

I think the crust works better at least an inch over the sides of the bowls.

We're chasing the light in the kitchen here.

Put them on a baking sheet and bake at 400 degrees F for about 15 to 20 minutes until golden brown.

The baguette dough works well because it makes a crusty bowl.

I liked it a lot better than using pizza dough crust.

To de-crust the pizza pot pie from the bowl, invert the bowl over a plate.

Run the edge of a spoon around the crust, separating it from the bowl, holding the pedestal.

Scoop the cheese from the bottom of the bowl.

We sprayed some of them with a non-stick spray, but there really wasn't a difference.

The deeper crust, 1 inch over the rim of the bowl, makes a nice crust for the filling.

(Those are Karen's pretty young hands.)

Chiffonade a few leaves of fresh basil for a tasty garnish.

Bon appetit!


I'm so happy Karen wants to squeeze in a little time with her family whenever she comes to town on business.

Yesterday, Rick came over too, and brought two cousins.

Here they are with one of them.


Then my sister-in-law came over too.

She always works hard here in the kitchen, then had to dash off and take Hayley to soccer practice.

Lindsay and Karen worked together before Karen got married.

They're still close.

You can see the pretty ranunculus Lindsay brought--there to the left in the background.

I love ranunculus.

Thanks, Linds! They're beautiful!

I feel like I know Lindsay because Karen has talked about her a lot.

It was so much fun chatting--cooking together and over dinner--and really getting to know her.

In person.

Lindsay tried umeboshi for the first time--she liked it!

She said her dad doesn't like it, so they never had it at home.

Next time she comes over, I'm going to introduce her to manju.

There's a saying in Japanese, "Ii kimochi".

Or "kimochi ii" as my grandmother used to say.

It means 'what a good feeling'.

I always think of the word kimochi-ii when the kids are home.

It's such a good feeling to have them home.

No printable recipe for Pizza Pot Pie yet.