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Thursday, December 30, 2010

Meridian Hills Special Salad

When I was in high school, my best friend Deni and I spent way too much time at Meridian Hills Country Club.  Her grandfather was happy to pay the bill so we indulged.  We'd eat lunch there most days.  Jimmy would bring us our favorite salad then fresh strawberries for dessert.  YUM! 

For oh so many years as an adult, I tried to figure out what the dressing was on the salad.  I'd ask around and nobody could find out.  Then, one day sbout 6 years ago I was meeting a friend there for lunch and I discovered the salad was no longer listed on the menu.  Horrors!  Oh, but we can still make it for you the waiter assured me.  They did and it tasted just like always.  Wonderful.  So I asked the waiter if he'd be so kind as to ask the chef what was in the dressing.  He came back out and said it was just a Caesar dressing.  Hmmm, it certainly didn't taste like that.  On the way out of the parking lot, the AH HA moment hit - pickle relish.  There were little specks of green in the dressing.  On the way back to the office I stopped at the grocery and bought the ingredients.  That night I made my own Meridian Hills Special Salad.  It tasted just like the real deal.  And, the pickle relish made all the difference.

The Caesar dressing I use is homemade but there are some really good ones sold commercially.  I just like the recipe I've always used and I like knowing what goes into it.  The recipe came from a friend MANY years ago.  I've not measured in eons so all the measurements are guesstimates.  Actually, talking about the dressing reminds me of a funny story.  The friend who gave me the recipe was going to teach me to jet ski.  I showed up at his house with my makeup still on.  He suggested I take the makeup off since I'd be honked off when I dumped the ski and my makeup ran.  I said I had no intention of dumping the ski.  Thanks to doing a lot of Jazzercise in those days I had great balance and was lucky enough to not dump the ski.  He said it was the first time he'd taught someone and they'd not dumped it :-)  Today, well, I'd have to take the makeup off!

Now, when I have leftover turkey, this is one of the recipes I typically make.  Don't you love to make those dishes that evoke wonderful memories?

Meridian Hills Special Salad


For the salad:

chopped lettuce
slivered swiss cheese
chopped turkey
chopped ham
Caesar dressing
pickle relish

For the dressing:

Eggbeaters - equal to two eggs
dijon mustard, about 1 T
lemon juice or lime juice or key lime juice - about 2 T
white wine vinegar, a couple of teaspoons
anchovies - 1 tin
Worcestershire Sauce - a couple of good dashes
Tabasco - a few drops
garlic - about 1 T chopped
olive oil - until the dressing thickens


To make the dressing, put the anchovies in the blender.  Add everything else but the olive oil.  Puree until it's well blended and smooth.  Slowly pour in olive oil until the dressing thickens.

To make the salad, layer the lettuce in a bowl and top it with the meats and cheese.  You can also add hard-cooked eggs and ripe olives.  Pour on some dressing and top it with a dollop of pickle relish. 

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Turkey Tetrazzini

Yes, we have the mushroom lovers and the mushroom haters in our family.  You probably do too.  For some reason mushrooms elicit some pretty strong reactions from both sides.  Seems like folks tend to love them or hate them.  Very little middle ground.  The haters can scope out one of those little, teeny, tiny flecks of mushroom in Campbell's cream of mushroom soup.  ZAP!  It's banished to the edge of the plate.  My brother, John, is married to a mushroom hater.  He, however is a mushroom lover.  So, whenever he can, he gets a mushroom fix.  I helped him on Christmas.  You see, the family meal after the stockings and brunch and presents and naps is turkey tetrazzini.  He always has to make it with a cream sauce, turkey and spaghetti.  Even though John could probably make poop taste good, turkey tetrazzini without mushrooms is kinda boring in my book.  So, I volunteered to bring a pan of tetrazzini - the real deal with lots of mushrooms and some other goodies.  John made a pan of his.  About half the crew ate his and half ate mine.  It was fun to see a couple of mushroom deprived folks - John included - who thoroughly enjoyed having the kicked up version.  LOL - so as I was typing that last sentence I missed the k on kicked and ended up with icked - exactly what the other half probably thought of my tetrazzini!

I pulled out about a dozen recipes for our leftover turkey.   Guess what?  Connie asked for more tetrazzini.  Last night while I was fixing our Eggnog Monte Cristos for dinner and our Meridian Hills Special Salad for today's lunch, I fixed the sauce for tonight's tetrazzini.  Good thing too since we'll be lucky to get home from the office by 8:00.  How true.  The tetrazzini's in the oven as I type this at 8:43 pm...  Here's how we make it:

Turkey Tetrazzini

1/2pound spaghetti, cooked until al dente and drained
2 c cooked and cubed turkey
1 4 oz jar pimento
1/2 c chopped black olives (ripe olives to some of you)
16 oz sliced baby bellas
1/4 c dry sherry
2 cans cream of mushroom soup
1/2 c grated parmesan or romano cheese

Saute the mushrooms in a small amount of olive oil. 

When they're nice and brown, pour in the sherry.  Then, add the mushroom soup, black olives and pimento. 

If we're doing this just for us, we use the lowfat mushroom soup. If it's for company, it's the full fat version.  Mix the sauce and turkey. 

Put the cooked spaghetti in an oven proof baking dish,

MIx in the turkey and sauce mixture, then top with the grated cheese

and bake at 400 for about 20-30 minutes or until it's bubbling.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Cheddar Cheese Soup

Many years ago, I found a cookbook called Bakery Lane Soup Bowl.  At this point, I have no idea where I found it.  Since it was used, my guess is the church rummage sale.  I'd not tried anything from the cookbook in spite of reading it cover to cover.  When Connie came home with a growler of stout for the 1/3 cup I needed for the cheddar ale spread, I realized either we were going to be drinking a LOT of stout over the course of 48 hours or I was going to have to find another use for a good part of it.  How about cheese beer soup?  One of my all-time favorite soups.  Bakery Lane was the second cookbook I looked in.

What did we think?  The soup was relatively complicated to put together.  Chop, shred, brown, mix...  Three pans and multiple steps.  I liked it better than Connie did.  In my opinion, it wasn't quite thick enough.  And, I'd have added some cauliflower and broccoli to the vegetables.  And, I'd have added more cheese.  Last, but not least, it says to top it with bacon.  I did and the bacon sank to the bottom...  But, I'll make it again with some tweaks.

Cheddar Cheese Soup


1/2 c diced bacon (2 oz)
1 olive oil
1 c chopped carrot
1 c chopped onions
1 c chopped celery
3 c chicken stock
1 1/2 c beer
3 1/2 c milk
1 lb extra sharp cheddar cheese
2/3 c flour
1/2 c heavy cream


Brown and drain bacon. 

Wipe out the skillet.  Pour in the olive oil.  Saute the vegetables until they're softened and onion is transparent. 

In a large saucepan, heat the stock and beer. 

Add the vegetables.  

Shred cheese on large holes of grater. 

Toss the shredded cheese with the flour.  Here's where you need to add more thickening if you want a thicker soup.  Scald the milk.  Add the cheese and flour mixture and stir until the cheese is melted. Once the vegetables are tender, add the cheese/milk mixture to the vegetable pot.  Add the cream at the same time.  Stir well.  Serve topped with the bacon crumbles and fresh parsley if desired.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Brined Turkey Breast

Since my sister-in-law's family and mine joined forces for the holidays, we've had turkey sandwiches for Christmas Eve.  This year, I changed it up and had turkey manhattans as an option.  The non-baker actually made a couple of loaves of buttermilk bread for the base of the manhattans.  You'll get to read about the bread later.  It was fantastic!!  The mashed potatoes were simply russets - cut up and cooked then smashed with low-fat Philly and a bit of 2% milk. Because the peels have so much good stuff in them, I didn't even peel the potatoes.  The gravy, well, I totally cheated and bought some of the jars at the grocery.  The turkey, though, was a production.  And, what a successful production.

Last time I made a whole turkey and combined two recipes for the brine.  This time, I used Alton Brown's brine recipe (one of the two I used on Thanksgiving) but I totally made up my rubs.  This is the most moist turkey I've ever had.  I'd planned on slicing it then putting it into some broth to warm it up for the turkey manhattans.  It didn't need broth at all.  We actually cooked the turkey breasts on Thursday the 23rd.  Sunday the 26th we were still eating leftovers and the meat was still moist as all get out.  We're looking forward to a couple more days of leftovers!

Brined Turkey Breast

For the brine:
1 cup kosher salt
1/2 c dark brown sugar
1 gallon vegetable stock
1 T black peppercorns
1 1/2 t allspice berries
1 1/2 t candied ginger

For the under skin paste:
1 large onion, sliced
2 t rosemary
1/2 c apple cider
1/2 c white wine

For the on the skin rub:
1/2 c olive oil
1 t crushed rosemary
2 T dark brown sugar
1 T finely chopped garlic

To make the brine:
Because I brined the turkey at the office, I did it a bit differently.  I put a couple of cups of water in a saucepan, then added the other ingredients - including a couple of large dollops of vegetable base.  Once the salt and vegetable base had dissolved, I poured everything into a thermos and took the brine base, turkey breasts and big stockpot into the office.  Once there, I unwrapped the thawed turkeys (they take 2-3 days to thaw in the fridge) and rinsed them then plopped them into the stockpot.  I poured the brine base over them then filled the stockpot with cold water to cover.  I left the turkeys in the brine for almost 12 hours.  Then, I took them home and finished up.  I did not rinse them after pouring the brine off.

To make the under the skin paste:
Slice the onion and saute it until very soft in a small amount of olive oil.  Once it's started to soften, pour in the cider and the white wine.  Add the rosemary. 

When the liquid has almost totally evaporated, add the garlic.  When all you have is a bit of syrup, remove the pan from the heat. 

Allow the mixture to cool a bit then puree it in the blender or food processor. 

Rub it under the skin. 

It'll be lumpy as all get out.  That's ok!

To make the on the skin rub:
Mix all the ingredients

and rub thoroughly into the turkey skin. 

Put the turkey back in the stockpot and refrigerate it overnight.

To roast the turkey:
Preheat the oven to 500.  Remember it's easier to rearrange the racks while they're cool...the voice of experience speaking here!  Put the turkey on a roasting rack and roast it for 30 minutes at 500.  Then, if you have one, put a remote thermometer in the thickest part of the breast, tent the turkey with foil and put it back in the oven at 350.  For a 14-16 lb bird it should require another 90-120 minutes.  Once the turkey reaches 161, remove it from the oven and tent it with foil.  Allow it to rest for 30 minutes.  Before carving, remove the skin and toss it.   

adapted from Alton Brown's turkey recipe on FoodTV.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Peanut Butter Bread

Let's get a couple of things straight here.  First, I am NOT a baker.  Second, sweets go stale around here because we don't get around to eating them.  So, why was I so thrilled when I won the Tate's Bake Shop gift box and cookbook?  The cookies are FABULOUS!  They are actually getting eaten.  They're crispy and flavorful.  Everything a cookie should be in my book.  Even those who like their cookies soft and chewy seem to like the Tate's cookies.  And, the cookbook has some recipes that I'll bake.  Like the peanut butter bread.  I volunteered to bring a couple of quiches and some muffins for Christmas morning at my brother's house.  Then, I saw the peanut butter bread recipe.  You see, my sister-in-law, Pam, and her mom and sister LOVE peanut butter.  They crave a cake called a tansy cake.  Me, I'll have peanut butter a couple of times a year in a sauce.  PB and J?  You've got to be kidding.  I'd have to be pretty darned hungry to eat one of those things.  So, because I love them and know they'll think this bread is the bomb, I'm baking them peanut butter bread. 

This cookbook is very well written.  The instructions are super clear.  Even a non-baker like me can follow everything easily.

Peanut Butter Bread

2 c all purpose flour
1 T baking powder
1/2 t salt
1/4 c salted butter, softened to room temp
1/2 c sugar
1/4 c firmly packed dark brown sugar
1 c creamy peanut butter
1 large egg
1 t vanilla
1 c milk

Preheat oven to 350.  In a small bowl, mix the flour, baking powder and salt.  Set aside.  In your mixing bowl, cream the butter and sugars.  Add the peanut butter and mix well.

Add the egg and vanilla and mix well.  Add the dry ingredients and mix well.  The dough will be very dry.  Scrape the sides of the bowl well as you slowly add the milk.  Bake in a greased 9x5 loaf pan for 50 minutes. 

White Bean Truffle Dip

Beans.  They're so good for you.  And, I do love them.  But, on occasion, I get tired of eating them the same way.  In soups and salads.  Sometimes I'm ready for a new way.  I've tried bean dips but for the most they don't do much for me.  So, when I saw this recipe on TravelEatLove's blog, I thought this might be a bean dip I could love. 

Indeed it is.  We discovered white truffle oil a couple of years ago when I needed it for a recipe.  Connie called from the grocery store and said this stuff is $15 for 8 oz.  Do you really want it?  I looked at the recipe and we didn't need much.  Means a little goes a long way and we'd not be using up the bottle really quickly.  So, let's splurge and get some.  That bottle lasted us almost two years.  And, we didn't use the truffle oil judiciously.  It went in LOTS of dishes.  We added it when it wasn't called for.  We got far more than $15 of enjoyment out of it!!!  We bought another bottle last spring so I had the backup ready to go.  Here's the deal with the white truffle oil.  When a savory dish needs a little something but you just can't put your finger on it - oftentimes this will work.  Just add a little.  The flavor is incredible.  It does kind of what soy sauce does.  Adds a depth of flavor that you just can't pin down.

You've probably already guessed, but we loved this dip.  It's super easy to make and the flavor is incredible.  It's actually good for you in a lot of ways.  Beans, lemon juice, garlic.  Your breath?  Not so much :-)

White Bean Truffle Dip


1 can white navy beans, drained and well rinsed
juice of one large lemon (about 2T of juice)
12 roasted garlic cloves
2 T white truffle oil


Toss the garlic with a little olive oil and put it into an oven proof baking dish.  Roast the garlic at about 450 for 20 min.  It'll be very soft and just a little brown.  How's this for a really fuzzy photo???

Juice the lemon.  Remember to roll it on the counter before you cut it.  That'll help release the juice.

Combine all the ingredients in the food processor and process away. 

This is best made the day before it's going to be used.  It can be served with baguette, crackers, crudite, fingers (just kidding but we did lick the spatula thoroughly.)

Many thanks to TravelEatLove for a great recipe and really helpful notes on what she'd do the next time she makes this.  We increased the garlic a bunch but left the lemon the same since our lemon was mongo.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Semi Homemade Chicken and Noodles

I'm on my second cold of the season and it's turned into bronchitis.  Connie caught the first one and gave it to me.  I felt good for a couple of days in between then came down with the 2nd one.  He now has that cold also.  Delightful.  I love sharing, just not colds!  So, I finally broke down and stayed home for a day.  Mostly sat in my chair and read - when I wasn't napping.  Well, yes, and I watched Food Network.  I've never made a lot of Sandra Lee's recipes because she uses too many prepared foods - the whole jist of the show, I know.  I'd rather have more control over the ingredients.  But, there is a time and a place for the whole semi-homemade deal.  Like when you're sick and you just don't have the energy to deal with dinner.  Choice one is semi-homemade, choice two is carry out.  For half the cost, I can prepare twice the number of meals.  Sign me up. 

This is actually my creation.  Born of desperation many years ago when I wanted something more substantial than chicken noodle soup but I didn't want to cook.  It was so good that it's become my go-to feeling puny recipe.  The best part is you're still getting that famous Jewish Penicillan - chicken stock.  Referred to around here as liquid gold.  I fill my freezer with containters of homemade stock.  But, for this recipe if you don't have homemade stock or don't feel like messing with thawing it etc, hey, just open a can!

Chicken and Noodles


1 46 oz can chicken broth
 package frozen noodles (I use Reames)
two large handfuls of baby carrots
1 rotisserie chicken (so, what did we do before they had these???)
1 carton mashed potatoes ( I use BobEvans from the refrigerator section, but you can use frozen, box mix, whatever trips your trigger)
1 jar turkey gravy, if desired
1 large handful frozen peas, if desired

Open the can of chicken broth and pour it into a large pot. 

Crank the heat up and bring the broth to boiling.  While that's happening, cut your carrots into chunks.  Then, bone the chicken.  Use the lid of the chicken for scraps. 

Saves washing a bowl!  Once the broth is boiling, add the noodles

and carrots

and give it a good stir.  Turn the heat back to medium.  Let the noodles and carrots cook for about 20 minutes.  Right at the end, toss the chicken meat

and peas in. 

Heat up the potatoes.  For each serving, spoon a big dollop of potatoes in the middle of a pasta bowl. 

Pour the noodle mixture over. 

Serve.  If you want more sauce/gravy, heat up the jar of turkey gravy and add it to the mix. 

Monday, December 20, 2010

Sweet Potato Gratins and Beet Gratins

I waxed euphoric over the individual potato gratins.  Please, allow me to add sweet potatoes and beets to that list.  This is a recipe that has so many possibilities.

Here's a link to the original post:  Individual Potato Gratins

Basically, you slice red potatoes VERY thinly and layer them in muffin tins with salt, pepper, garlic and a bit of finely grated cheese.  Then, you top them with a tablespoon of cream and bake them.  They're beyond wonderful.  We've now had them at least four times...  Connie asks for them and he's not a huge fan of potatoes. 

Once we tried the individual potato gratins, Connie and I brainstormed.  Basic ingredients, liquid, cheese, seasonings...  Two of our top choices were beets and sweet potatoes.  Now, the problem with both of them is that they aren't typically a size that can be easily mandolined and fit into a muffin tin.  So, when we tried these I had a choice between cutting rounds that would fit and wasting a good bit of potato or beet OR cutting pieces and filling the muffin tins.  My Scotch heritage won out.  Go figure.  They still tasted fantastic.  They just didn't stand beautifully on their own once they were taken out of the muffin tins. 

How did we make them?  In both cases, we used blue cheese with cream.  I added some chopped walnuts to the beet gratins:

My guess is these will be great with a lower calorie option like chicken stock or a mix of chicken stock and some white wine.  I'm also dreaming up different combinations.  Like greek lemon potatoes.  Or, mediterranean with some kalamata olives.  I just bought a new bag of red potatoes so a remix is on the menu!

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Mom's Vegetable Soup

If your mom is a wonderful cook like mine is, there's probably a laundry list of things she makes better than anyone else.  Things that you would LOVE to make just like she does but you can't get it quite right...  This, my friends, is one of those dishes.  Mom's vegetable soup is pretty different from most.  For starters, everything is diced very finely.  About the size of a pea up to a lima bean.  So, you don't have a huge HUNK of carrot and a little pea in your spoon.  You've got a whole orchestra of flavors playing all together in that spoon.  It's also cooked until the flavors just melt together.  That's the only way I can think of to describe it.  I remember when I made minnestrone a couple of years ago and Connie tasted it when it just wasn't done.  The vegetables had all cooked but the ingredients hadn't melted together if you will.  He wasn't too fond of it.  Then, when the soup had really cooked long enough, I gave him a bowl of it.  He immediately tasted the difference.  All I can say is if you cook the soup long enough, you'll know exactly what I'm talking about. 

This soup is actually pretty darned forgiving.  If you don't like corn, don't put it in.  If you want to add green bell peppers, go ahead.  The one ingredient I avoid is mushrooms.  They just add a flavor I don't care for.  And, I love mushrooms.  Just not in this vegetable soup.

This was my family's traditional Christmas Eve soup when I was growing up.  Now that I'm hosting my first family Christmas Eve, I've decided to make it again.  Since it takes the better part of a day to cook and this is probably my only day at home today's the day. 

We were supposed to sneak away to our favorite B and B for the weekend but I sound rather like a 1-900 call - as my friend Amy says.  Everything to make the soup was packed in a big cooler in the middle of the kitchen.  So, I was all ready to go this morning.  A test bowl of the soup and a couple of mugs of medicinal tea and I should be on the mend quickly!

Mom's Vegetable Soup


for the broth:
2 beef soup bones
salt and pepper
1 large onion
4 ribs celery
4 large carrots
2 cloves garlic, peeled and smashed
1/2 c red wine
1 T peppercorns
water to cover

for the soup:
2 lb pot roast or chuck roast or stew beef
2 russet potatoes
1 can corn
1 can green beans (fresh are great here too- whichever you use, be sure to dice them)
1 28 oz can petite diced tomatoes
1 10 oz package frozen lima beans
1 16 oz package frozen peas
8 oz frozen okra
20 baby carrots
5 ribs celery
1 large onion
1 bag cole slaw mix
1/4 c pearled barley
1 4 oz can tomato paste
8 oz red wine
3 cups tomato sauce
fines herbs
freshly ground pepper

To make the broth, I use my crockpot.  Now, you know you can open one of those big cans of beef broth.  I just don't like all that sodium in my soup.  First, you roast the soup bones.  Dust them with some salt and pepper and pop them in the oven in a baking dish.  Roast them for about 30 minutes at 400. 

Dump the soup bones etc in your crockpot. 

Set it on low and let 'er cook for 8 hours or so. 

Depending on the amount of fat on the bones, you may want to cool the stock and skim the fat.  Or, you can strain it and refrigerate it overnight to congeal the fat. 

Prepare to chop :-)  Once you've chopped everything, put all of your vegetables into a large stockpot. 

Pour in the beef stock and the red wine, then add water to cover the veggies. 

Now, you add the stew beef or chuck roast.  You can dice it finely before adding it OR you can toss it in and go fishing for beef pieces that need to be torn up when you finish the soup...  Finally, add the tomato sauce and tomato paste.  Now, be patient and let the soup cook.  And cook.  And cook. 

This soup freezes beautifully.  It makes about four to five quarts of soup once it's done cooking down.