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    Bringing back the lost art of home cooking.
    Nov 18, 2011 5:45AM

    Simple Brown Gravy (w/o pan drippings)



    Please tell me you are not serving gravy made from a powdered mix this year at Thanksgiving.  There is no reason why you cannot whip up a batch of homemade gravy for Thanksgiving, or any other meal.  I used to be intimidated by homemade gravy.  It seemed so complicated and there were always lumps of flour that refused to be whisked into submission.  There were too many things that could go wrong.

    Fear no more!  This gravy recipe is foolproof.  The gravy gets thick from a slurry, rather than flour.  A slurry is cold liquid mixed with cornstarch until it is smooth and glossy.  This slurry can be used to thicken stews, soups and of course, gravy.  I find this step to be the key to a smooth gravy, because you remove the lumps before it ever goes into the gravy.  Cornstarch actually has twice the thickening power than flour.

    There are three things that constitute a delicious a gravy (IMHO):

    1 -  Smooth, silky texture, absolutely no lumps

    2 - No raw flour taste

    3 - You must use a delicious broth or the gravy will not taste good

    I especially love this recipe because it can be made with or without pan drippings.  Sometimes I just want some gravy to serve along side mashed potatoes and there are obviously no drippings that come from mashed potatoes.  Now you can make gravy at any time!

    Simple Brown Gravy (without drippings)

    5 tablespoons butter (to use drippings, replace butter with 5 T. drippings)

    1 tablespoon olive oil

    3 shallots, peeled and minced

    1 cup dry white wine

    3 tablespoons brandy

    1-1/2 cups chicken stock, homemade or Swanson's organic chicken broth (most like homemade)

    1/2 teaspoon dried thyme or 2 teaspoons minced fresh

    2 tablespoons cornstarch

    Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

    Place 2 T. butter and olive oil (or drippings) in a sauté pan over medium-high heat. When hot, add the shallots and sauté for 5 minutes.
    Add the wine, brandy, stock, and thyme and bring to a boil. Cook until liquid has been reduced by 50 percent.
    Add cornstarch to 2 T.of water and stir with a fork or whisk until dissolved and smooth. Whisk cornstarch mixture into boiling stock.

    Simmer until thickened. Stir in remaining 3 T. butter. Allow to melt in.
    Season with salt and pepper to taste.


    0 Comments ~ Posted By Gwenn Weiss
    Filed in: sauces ~ Tagged with: gravy, mashed potatoes, thanksgiving, turkey
    Nov 17, 2011 7:29PM

    Pre- Thanksgiving Fridge Fest


    Do you throw away food that has been in your refrigerator too long?  Maybe you forgot about it or you have leftovers that don't look appealing.  Maybe you decided to be really healthy last week, and you purchased lots and lots of vegetables.  Now they are rotting in the bottom of your vegetable bin.  On average, Americans waste 10% of their food budget on items that will never be eaten.   I am not being judgemental because for years that was me.  I wouldn't even know what was in my refrigerator at any given moment unless it was in the front of the shelf.  One day, I would come home with several bags of groceries only to find their is no room in my refrigerator to unload them.  How could my fridge be packed, but there is "nothing" to eat?  Inevitably, I would begin a massive clearing out of my fridge and freezer, and end up throwing away hundreds of dollars worth of freezer burned meat, spoiled perishables and two week old leftovers.

    I don't know what the straw that broke the camel's back was, but I decided that I could not continue to be so wasteful.  My plan was to organize my refrigerator and freezer so that I could see all the way to the back all times.  I knew it would require a complete change of mindset.  I was used to going grocery shopping everyday, and making whatever I was in the mood to eat for dinner that night.

    So I began with a complete inventory of everything in my refrigerators and freezers (we have an extra fridge in the garage).  I put everything that was perishable or that I used everyday, in my kitchen fridge.  Items like fresh vegetables, mustard, milk, parmesan cheese, cold cuts, eggs and bread were kept front and center.  I put the more obscure items that I use with less frequency in the garage refrigerator.  Some food that ended up in the garage include capers, jelly (why did we have 5 opened jars of jelly?), soy sauce, bricks of cream cheese, bacon and BBQ sauce.  That part was easy.

    Now I needed to begin my day by asking, "What food needs using up?"  I began in the vegetable and fruit bin.  Do I have the makings for a salad?  Should I freeze some bananas for banana bread?  Those were the food I would try to use first.

    Next, I would check out the cold cuts.  If anything was more than 3 days old, the dogs got it as a treat.  Then I checked around for any fresh meat that I forgot about.  Finally, I would pull out our leftovers.  There was usually some chicken or other protein, vegetables, and sauces.  Really good stuff!

    Once I had a list in my head of what needs to be used up, it was time to get creative.  Sometimes for inspiration, I would take out everything that needed to be used, and line it up on the counter.  That is actually a great trick.

    I would almost always see the makings of a soup.  Any scrap of meat and vegetable can be thrown in a pot with some stock to make an awesome soup.  I always have canned tomatoes in my pantry and that is usually adds something exciting to my soups.

    Pretty much anything can be thrown on top of a tortilla with some cheese and made into a quesadilla or open faced taco.

    I love sandwiches, and have come up with some great combinations using leftover salads, hummus and a can of tuna.

    Some other favorite include calzones, topping for a baked potato, fried rice, stir-fries, nachos, pizzas, omlettes, casseroles, salads, marinara sauce, frittatas and quiches.   I now make fewer trips to the grocery store and the total at the register is much lower.

    Thanksgiving is a week away, and I am guessing most of us will have some leftover turkey.  Actually we will probably have a few pounds of leftover turkey.

    I taught a class last night on how to roast a moist turkey breast and use the leftovers to make several other meals.  I spent most of October and November testing turkey recipes.   Turkey is an awesome leftover!  Phil and Joey have been my guinea pigs, trying dishes like Turkey Quesadillas, Pitas Stuffed with Turkey, Avocado Mayo and Vegetables, Turkey Soup, and Turkey Salad.  I still have several recipes to try next week with our Thanksgiving turkey leftovers.  I can't wait to try Turkey Pot Pie, Turkey Enchiladas,  Turkey Tetrazinni and my absolute favorite Thanksgiving Turkey Soup.

    0 Comments ~ Posted By Gwenn Weiss
    Filed in: leftovers ~ Tagged with: leftovers, thanksgiving, turkey
    May 4, 2011 10:08PM

    Happy Cinco de Mayo!!! Buffalo Style Turkey Chili Bowls


    Happy Cinco de Mayo!  This may not be a 100% traditional Mexican dish, but it is definitely inspired by one of my all time favorite Mexican dishes....nachos.

    I have one word to describe this dish..... AMAZING!!!  Chili and nachos in one bowl?!?!?!  How can you go wrong?  Now sit down.  Are you sitting?  You won't believe this!  Wait for it...... these chili bowls are healthy!!!!  We have a lean protein, sauteed with a small amount of healthy fat and lots of veggies.  We then top it with a small handful of tortilla chips and a couple of ounces of cheese.  This is one of those dishes that prove to naysayers that you don't need to pile on the fat to add flavor to food.

    This is a recipe inspired by one of Rachel Ray's recipes.  Say what you will about her, but you cannot say her recipes do not deliver.  Not only is this meal healthy, it is inexpensive, easy to prepare, makes several generous portions and it is fast enough to prepare that you can get it to the dinner table in under an hour.  You all know I am a huge fan of Ina, but her recipes are sometimes complex, expensive, time consuming and I usually end up with a sink full of dirty pots and pans.  Rachel Ray is a little more conscious of saving time and money. In addition, RR has great tips and shortcuts that make getting a meal to the table quicker than ordering take-out.   I swear it is true, it just takes a little planning ahead to make a quick, delicious and healthy dinner.  Her pasta recipes are out of this world (look for her Spaghetti with Clam Sauce, Chicken Meatball Parm. Subs and Pasta Puttanesca recipes on the Food Networks website). Her family is Italian and her Italian recipes are fantastic!

    Everyone in my family raved over this Buffalo Chili dish.  One warning....this recipe is spicy.  Personally, I like it spicy, but if you want to cut back on the heat, there are a few ways to do it.  Obviously, you can leave the jalapenos off of the top.  You could also substitute cheddar cheese for the pepper jack cheese.  You could also cut back on the amount of chipoltes in adobe sauce that you add to the chili.  This final suggestion would be my last choice as a way to cut back on the heat, because the chipolte chiles add a ton of smokey, tangy flavor to the chili, that you won't want to miss.

    I would have definitely gone back for a second or third bowl if "sundress season" wasn't rapidly approaching us here in Atlanta.  Stupid warm weather and the sleeveless shirts that come with it!!!! I certainly enjoyed my one, guilt-free bowl for dinner that night and for lunch the next day.  Next time I will double the recipe, because we were all looking for leftovers two, three days later, but there were none.   I would say you will get four generously sized bowls out of this recipe with leftovers for two lunches.

    PS... Make sure to "Like" my new Cooking in Pajamas Facebook page!

    Buffalo Style Turkey Chili Bowls

    adapted from Everyday With Rachel Ray




    2 tablespoons EVOO

    2 pounds ground turkey (or ground chicken)

    2 carrots, chopped

    3 to 4 stalks celery with leafy tops, finely chopped

    1 onion, chopped

    4 cloves garlic, chopped or grated

    Salt and Pepper

    1 small can chipotle chile's in adobe sauce

    One 15-ounce can tomato sauce

    2 cups chicken stock

    A couple handfuls of thin blue-corn tortilla chips, such as Xochilt brand, lightly crushed

    1 cup shredded pepper jack cheese or shredded sharp cheddar

    3/4 cup blue cheese crumbles

    About a palmful pickled jalapeno chili pepper rings

    light sour cream

    6 green onions, sliced thin

    optional: sliced black olives


    Heat the EVOO, 2 turns of the pan, in a soup pot over medium-high heat. Add the meat and cook to brown, stirring to crumble. Add the carrots, celery, onion and garlic; season with salt and pepper. Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until the vegetable are softened, 10 minutes or so.
    Place the chipotle and adobe sauce in a food processor or blender and puree. Spoon 2 rounded tablespoons into a small bowl and combine with the tomato sauce to make a chipotle-infused tomato sauce.
    When the vegetables are tender, stir in the chili-tomato sauce and chicken stock. Simmer for a few minutes to thicken and combine the flavors.  THIS CAN BE DONE SEVERAL HOURS IN ADVANCE AND REHEATED BEFORE SERVING.
    When ready to eat, switch on the broiler and position a rack in the center of the oven. Arrange bowls on baking sheet and fill with the buffalo chili. Top with an even layer of tortilla chips, cheese and jalapeno rings. Broil for a couple of minutes to brown the cheese and crisp the chips!
    Sprinkle with a dollop of sour cream and a sprinkle of green onions over the top.


    0 Comments ~ Posted By Gwenn Weiss
    Filed in: chili ~ Tagged with: jalapenos, nachos, turkey, cheese
    Dec 26, 2010 9:47AM

    Mediterranean Turkey Patties


    If you have ever tried to substitute ground turkey in place of ground beef in your hamburgers, it may have resulted in a beige, chewy, dry, flavorless burger.  Turkey burgers  became popular in the eighties when it was discovered that substituting turkey for ground beef saves 200 calories, 25 grams of fat, 10 grams of saturated fat and 45 mg. of cholesterol from each quarter pound burger.  Great for your waistline and heart, but they were unappetizing to look at and eat.  But, the turkey burger never went away, because it is loaded with protein, inexpensive and low in fat.

    Over the years we have figured out that to make a turkey burger moist and flavorful is to add in the moisture and fat that the turkey lacks.  One way is to add in some ground dark meat when you purchase your ground turkey.  You can now find packages that are labeled all white meat or a mix of white meat and dark meat.

    Another way to add flavor and moisture is with mix-ins.  Start with binders such as eggs, EVOO.  Add colorful and flavorful ingredients like fresh herbs, chopped bell peppers, scallions, shallots, breadcrumbs, garlic or Parmesan cheese.  Add in your favorite sauces like Worcestershire, soy sauce, ketchup, or chili sauce.  Don't forget about you favorite spice mixes... Emeril's Seasoning mix, Zataran's, Mrs. Dash, etc.  Any combination will work.  I have never tasted an over-seasoned turkey burger!  Don't forget the salt and pepper and to lightly oil you grill or pan.  Be creative with the bun...I like a lightly toasted whole what English muffin.  You could use pita, french bread, ciabatta, bagels, flagel, onion roll or sandwich bread.  Do I need to mention the endless option of toppings....roasted red peppers, any cheese, Russian dressing, raita, ketchup, pickles, chutneys, horseradish....

    To get you started, here is one of my favorites.  It is so easy and fast to prepare.  Serve it in a whole wheat pita with lettuce, tomato, onions, tzatziki sauce, chopped olives and baked oven fries on the side.

    Mediterranean Turkey Patties

    printable version



    1 # ground turkey

    1/2 c. crumbled feta cheese

    1 tsp. dried Italian seasoning

    1 tsp. dried oregano

    1 tsp. grill seasoning (Montreal Steak)

    1/2 tsp. garlic powder

    1/2 tsp. kosher salt

    1/2 tsp. fresh ground pepper

    3 T. EVOO



    Mix all ingredients together in a bowl.

    Form into 4 patties.

    Grill or cook in a skillet for 5-8 minutes per side until done.



    0 Comments ~ Posted By Gwenn Weiss
    Filed in: sandwiches ~ Tagged with: ground turkey, feta, turkey
    Nov 25, 2010 4:29AM

    Happy Turkey Day....and what the heck do I do with all this leftover turkey?

    Happy Thanksgiving word art graphic

    As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them. ~John Fitzgerald Kennedy


    Ideas for really delicious Turkey Leftovers from some of my favorite recipe websites:

    1. bonappetit.com

    2. Cookinglight.com

    3. Seriouseats.com

    4. food.com

    5.  food52.com

    .....and my personal favorite turkey leftover recipe:

    Turkey Chowder with Wild Rice, Crimini, and Pancetta

    Turkey Chowder with Wild Rice, Crimini and Pancetta (adapted from epicurious.com)

    2 1/2 cups water

    3/4 cup wild rice (about 5 ounces), rinsed, drained

    1/4 teaspoon salt

    1 tablespoon vegetable oil

    2 3-ounce packages sliced pancetta (Italian bacon), diced

    12 ounces crimini (baby bella) mushrooms, sliced (about 5 1/2 cups)

    1/4 cup ( 1/2 stick) butter

    2 carrots, diced

    2 celery stalks, chopped

    1/2 cup chopped shallots

    1/3 cup all purpose flour

    10 cups Turkey Stock* (you could use chicken broth, but this recipe is about turkey leftovers!)

    1 teaspoon dried crushed rosemary

    2 to 4 cups chopped cooked turkey meat (reserved from carcass)

    1 1/2 cups frozen corn kernels

    1/4 c. sherry

    1 cup heavy whipping cream,  half-and-half, or your favorite lower fat dairy product

    Chopped fresh Italian parsley

    Optional:  You can throw almost any leftovers from your Thanksgiving day feast in this soup. Leftover gravy and stuffing are exceptionally delicious in this soup!

    Note:  This soup is very forgiving. Add in, or take out whatever you want.


    Bring 2 1/2 cups water, rice, and 1/4 teaspoon salt to boil in medium saucepan. Reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer until rice is tender but still firm to bite, 45 to 60 minutes (time will vary depending on variety of rice). Drain; set aside.

    Heat oil in heavy large pot over medium heat. Add pancetta and cook until browned, stirring often, about 8 minutes. Using slotted spoon, transfer pancetta to paper towels to drain. Add mushrooms to pot and cook until beginning to brown, about 8 minutes. Transfer to medium bowl. Add butter to same pot. Add carrots and celery. Cover; cook until vegetables begin to soften, stirring often, about 5 minutes. Add shallots; stir until soft, about 2 minutes. Sprinkle flour over and stir 1 minute. Return mushrooms to pot. Mix in Turkey Stock and rosemary; bring to boil, stirring occasionally. Reduce heat to medium-low, partially cover, and simmer 15 minutes.

    Add rice, pancetta, turkey meat, and corn to soup. Simmer to blend flavors, about 10 minutes. Stir in cream or half-and-half. Season to taste with salt and pepper. DO AHEAD: Can be made 3 days ahead. Cool slightly. Chill uncovered until cool. Cover and keep chilled. Rewarm over medium heat before serving.

    Divide soup among bowls, sprinkle with parsley, and serve.



    * Turkey Stock

    1 turkey carcass

    2 medium stalks celery, coarsely chopped

    1 large carrot, coarsely chopped

    1 medium yellow onion, quartered

    1 medium bay leaf

    1 teaspoon whole black peppercorns

    6 sprigs fresh thyme


    Break up carcass with a meat mallet or cleaver so it fits in a stockpot (at least 15 quarts), then add remaining ingredients. Add enough cold water to cover the bones by 2 inches and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat to low and simmer, skimming occasionally, until turkey flavor comes through in the stock, about 2 to 3 hours.

    Strain through a fine mesh strainer into large heatproof containers. Let cool to room temperature, then refrigerate or freeze.



    0 Comments ~ Posted By Gwenn Weiss
    Filed in: Thanksgiving ~ Tagged with: leftovers, Soup, thanksgiving, turkey
    Jan 6, 2010 9:55AM

    The Best Turkey Chili....EVER!!!!

    If this doesn't warm you up on a cold winter night, I don't know what will!

    Souper Jenny is one my favorite lunch spots in Atlanta.  It is a cozy neighborhood cafe that serves homemade, fresh soups, sandwiches and salads at a very reasonable price.  The menu changes daily (you can have it emailed to you every morning), and each day there is something new and interesting on the menu.

    This is one of Souper Jenny's regular menu items...Her Dad's Turkey Chili.   It is a little spicy, a little sweet, a bit tangy and very hearty, delicious and filling.  As you can see from the recipe, it is loaded with lean protein, fiber, vegetables and each serving is virtually fat free.  It is a guiltless pleasure!  Also, it is so tasty, that the usually accompaniments that I serve with chili are not even needed (shredded cheese, sour cream, chopped onion).   I served Jenny's chili for dinner with a Greek salad and some crusty bread...YUM!


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    0 Comments ~ Posted By Gwenn Weiss
    Filed in: main dish ~ Tagged with: beans, chili, turkey, tomatoes
    Apr 29, 2009 10:18AM

    Turkey Chili and Veggie Quesadillas

    Our pants are all a little tight after a week of feasting on delicious Tyler Florence recipes last week. Tonight, I decided to go for a light, yet hearty dinner of turkey chili and quesadillas, with lots of veggies. This is an easy meal to make early in the day, and no one realizes they are eating "light". The recipe for the turkey chili makes a very large pot, so I froze the leftovers for another time.


    Turkey Chili

    1T EVOO

    1 medium onion, chopped

    1 large red bell pepper

    1 jalapeno, minced

    1 1/2 # ground turkey

    palm full chili powder (3T)

    palm full cumin

    (3T) Franks hot sauce to taste (or any cayenne pepper sauce)

    1 bag frozen corn

    1 28oz. can crushed tomatoes

    1 8oz. can Rotel tomatoes

    1c chicken broth

    kosher salt and fresh ground pepper

    accompaniments: chopped scallions, shredded cheddar, sour cream, chopped cilantro

    Heat a large pot over medium high heat. Add EVOO and onion. Cook onion until it begins to carmelize (10 minutes). Add peppers and turkey. Cook, and break up turkey meat until turkey is no longer pink. Season with chili powder, cumin, hot sauce, salt and pepper. Add corn, tomatoes and broth. Stir well. Taste and adjust seasoning to your liking. Reduce heat to simmer and let hang out until it is time to serve.


    Veggie Quesadillas

    * the veggies I added to my quesadilla are what I had on hand...you could use almost anything - squash, zuchinni, corn, tomatoes, wild mushrooms, etc.

    6 (8inch) fat free flour tortillas

    butter flavored Pam

    3 portobello mushroom caps

    1 red bell pepper

    2T light balsamic vinaigrette

    1 can black beans, rinsed and drained

    1 4oz can diced pimentos, drained

    2 c shredded Mexican cheese blend (I used reduce fat)

    3 green onions, sliced thin

    1 bunch cilantro, chopped

    Serve with: salsa and sour cream

    Preheat oven to 400. Spray a large saute pan with Pam. Add mushrooms and peppers (any veggie you are using), and saute until tender. Add vinaigrette, beans and pimentos to pan. Cook another 1 - 2 minutes. Mash beans slightly with a potato masher. Spray a large cookie sheet with Pam. *This is the stopping point for making ahead. You can put aside the filling until right before dinner. Assembling and cooking the quesadillas will take 20 minutes.

    Place 3 tortillas on the sheet and do not overlap. Spoon 1/3 of the bean mixture onto each tortilla. Sprinkle over each tortilla 1/3 of the cheese, onion and cilantro. Place the remaining 3 tortillas on top of the bean mixture. Press down firmly. Spray the top of each quesadilla with plenty of Pam. This is going to make the quesadilla crispy when cooked. Place in the oven and bake 15 - 20 minutes until top is golden brown. Remove from oven, let cool for 2 minutes, then cut into wedges. Serve with salsa and sour cream.

    0 Comments ~ Posted By Gwenn Weiss
    Filed in: main dish ~ Tagged with: quesadilla, chili, turkey