Leftover Recipe: Holiday Turkey Casserole

I have to confess that I absolutely LOVE our Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners.  I love cooking them, I love serving them to my family, and I especially love the leftovers.  Creating a new meal from the leftovers is just so much fun!  Everything has already been cooked at some point, so all you’re really doing is re-assembling the foods in a new and different way… how hard can that be?  TurkeyCasserole

Last year, I used the stuffing to create “stuffing waffles”… if you haven’t tried this before, you HAVE to try it.  They were simply incredible!  You can check out my recipe here, which also talks about topping them with turkey gravy.  Serious “yum” factor here.  This year, I decided not to get the waffle iron down, so I came up with this new casserole.  Same sort of “yum” to the flavor… just a whole new twist.

I layered about 2 cups of our Mimi’s Peas Casserole (it’s the same “green bean casserole” that everyone else does… we just use frozen peas instead.  GENIUS!), sprinkled 1 cup of diced turkey on top, then spooned 3/4 cup of leftover gravy just to cover the turkey.  To finish this off, I took scoops of leftover stuffing and put stuffing balls over the entire casserole, then smooshed them down with my fingers to “connect” them as a topping.  Just for extra flavor, I crumbled about 3 slices of bacon over top, but these really weren’t necessary… this casserole was stellar all by itself.

NOTE:  Before you ask where the “wine” is in this recipe, remember that I used wine when I made the stuffing AND the gravy (and it’s in the peas as well), so I didn’t really feel the need to add more, but you’re welcome to add a little to the gravy if you think it’s too thick.  Just use your best judgement.  

Once everything was assembled, I baked the casserole for dinner at 375 degrees for 35-40 minutes or until the gravy was visibly bubbling.  This dish was honestly so good that we ate it for two nights in a row… all the flavors of a holiday dinner wrapped up in one meal.  YUM!

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Leftover Recipe: Stuffing Waffles with Turkey Gravy

I’m always looking for a new and unique way to use leftovers, especially from holiday meals.  We seem to have extras of everything in the fridge, so I find it very exciting when a new idea comes around.  This recipe idea was one that my husband found and it really looked fun.  A new way to use my waffle maker other than just making waffles?  I’m IN!

I started by making the turkey gravy that would go on top of our dinner.  Basically, I reheated the leftover gravy from Thanksgiving and, using James River Cellars Reserve Chardonnay, flour, and chicken stock, I thinned the gravy out to make more and then added chunks of leftover turkey.  Once this was done, I turned my attention to making the waffles.StuffingWaffles&TurkeyGravy

I preheated my waffle iron and then sprayed it with cooking spray before starting.  Using a large cookie/muffin scoop, I put one scoop of cooked stuffing into the center of each quarter of the waffle iron and let it all cook for 7-10 minutes.  Seriously, it was that simple.  I didn’t add anything to the stuffing… it was already moist enough that it toasted up nicely in a short amount of time.  When the waffle was crispy, I turned it onto a plate, topped it with turkey gravy and added a side of homemade cranberry sauce.  It was a really delicious way to enjoy our favorite parts of Thanksgiving in a new and tasty way.

I hope you’ll try this way of making your leftovers into something different instead of just reheating the same meal for a few days in a row.  As yummy as that is, having a new and unique meal that incorporates your leftovers can be really fun.  Honest!

Wishing you a wonderful holiday season with lots of leftovers…

Recipe: Stuffed Pork Chops with Gewurztraminer Gravy

This dinner really had a great “wow” factor… the flavors were big, the presentation looked good, and the taste was amazing.  I really thought it was stellar, especially since much of it was simple “Use The Force” type cooking…. my favorite kind, right?!

I had purchased two thick-cut pork chops when they were on sale at my local grocery store a few weeks ago and popped them in the freezer.  Since tonight was supposed to be  “just the two of us” dinner evening, I thought they’d be perfect.  They didn’t take a tremendous amount of time to thaw (especially since I wasn’t planning on letting them thaw completely) and I was able to put things together fairly easily.

While the chops defrosted a bit in the microwave, I made a tiny batch of stuffing.  For things like this, I really do like to use a packaged container of stuffing.  I keep a container of dry stuffing mix in my pantry and can use as little or as much as needed… very convenient!  I scooped out about half of what was left in the container (just under 1/3 cup) and added a little margarine (maybe a thumb’s worth?) and some wine (rocking the Gewurztraminer theme, this was my wine of choice for the night… James River Cellars Gewurztraminer… Mmmmm) and tossed it together in a measuring cup.  I warmed up the mixture in the microwave for about 15-20 seconds (until the margarine was melted) and then stirred to get all the crusty bread into the liquid to soften and re-hydrate.

My biggest challenge with this meal was to stuff the pork chops.  This (to me) seems much easier when the chops are still slightly frozen.  I use a thin paring knife and make a small slit in one side, then wiggle the knife back and forth to make an open pocket in the chop, being careful not to make the original slit too big.  I like to check the size of the pocket with my fingers before attempting to insert the stuffing.  **Make sure not to cut the entire way through the chop but try and get the pocket as close to the edges as possible.

StuffedChops&GewurzGravy

Once the pocket seems deep enough, divide the stuffing into both chops, doing your best to push it around to fill all the edges.  I then let the chops rest until I was ready to start making dinner.

Using a medium saute’ pan, I added a small pat of butter, and a drizzle of olive oil, heating them in the pan until bubbling.  I seasoned the chops on each side with salt, pepper, and a touch of cracker crumbs.  Panko bread crumbs would work well here, but I used crushed saltines since that’s what I had in the cupboard.  I let the chops cook on medium-high heat in the butter/oil mixture until all sides were slightly toasty.

At this point, I poured a generous amount of Gewurztraminer wine into the pan, sprinkled some Hungarian Paprika over the chops, and popped the entire pan into a pre-heated 375 degree oven while I finished mashing and seasoning some golden potatoes that had been simmering on the stove top.  You can serve these chops with any sort of side dish you want (or none at all, if you prefer) but I love mashed potatoes and gravy, so this was “it” for me.  Egg noodles, pasta, macaroni, or even rice would all be fine accompaniments with this dish… make what you and your family like.

I didn’t really time the chops while they were in the oven.  You can see how much wine I poured into the pan before I put the pan in the oven and it had cooked into the chops by the time I pulled them out, so my best guess would be that they roasted for about 20 minutes or so.  Seriously… I really make dinner this way… The Force is my friend… 🙂

Once the chops looked done, I removed them from the pan, put them on a pewter dish, and put them back in the oven for a few minutes while I made the gravy.  Here’s my favorite way to make gravy… I put the saute’ pan on medium heat and added a pat of butter and use that to help lift off the “bits” from the bottom of the pan.  Once melted, I added a spoonful of flour and let it bubble together and start to get toasty.  Before it starts to burn, add your wine (ok…. you can use stock at this point if you’d prefer… I just prefer to use wine) and slowly whisk and add more wine until the mixture thickens and “looks” like gravy.  I seasoned the mixture with a little salt and pepper, as well as a splash of cream.  I had some leftover heavy cream, so I used that, but normally I would have just used the skim milk that is a staple in my fridge.  Once everything is whisked together and the gravy tastes “just right”, I plated our dinner.

Mashed potatoes, a stuffed pork chop, and gravy drizzled around to look pretty… delicious, no?  The chops hadn’t overcooked… the potatoes were fluffy and lightly seasoned… the gravy had enough texture and taste to hold everything together… it was a wonderful thing.

A homemade dinner to share with my husband is balm to my soul… and I am always glad that he enjoys eating the meals I make.  Sometimes, it’s all about the simple pleasures in life.

May you find, and feed, the simple pleasures in your own life…

Recipe: Simple Shepherd’s Pie

Maybe I’m just strange, but I really love the challenge of making a totally new meal out of leftovers from a previous meal.  Such was the case with how this dinner came about.

I made shredded beef sandwiches for dinner on Sunday night and, since I used a large London Broil, had lots of cooked beef left over.  I was coming up with lots of different ways to use this meat but the decision was made for me when I got a huge response from my guys when I suggested making a Shepherd’s Pie.  Unfortunately, for me, my husband’s idea of a Shepherd’s pie was “meat, peas, gravy, potatoes”, so that became my recipe.

The first thing I did was start making the mashed potatoes by dicing a few potatoes and putting them into a pot of water to boil.  While they cooked, I layered the beef in a casserole dish and topped it with frozen peas.  Now all I needed to do was make a gravy so dinner wouldn’t just be dry beef and cooked peas.

Making a gravy is so much easier if you start with the cooking liquid of the meat you’re using – it adds flavor without having to rely on bouillon packets.  Sadly, I totally forgot to reserve the liquid after dinner on Sunday, so I had to start from scratch.  Not my favorite way to do things, but not a huge deal.  I have learned to love making gravy, so it’s always a fun creative way to add my own little touch to dinner.  I always start with a roux…. equal parts butter (fat) and flour, simmered long enough to cook off the raw flour taste.  Liquid is the next ingredient.  I typically stick with the idea of using red wine for beef dishes and white wine for chicken or fish dishes, but this is definitely something I don’t mind mixing up.  For this gravy, I used a packet of beef bouillon, water, and James River Meritage red wine (‘cuz that’s what was in my fridge… I could have just as easily found James River Merlot or a random Pinot Noir from a recent trip to the Hilton Head Wine and Food Festival).   I seasoned the gravy with salt and pepper, and let it simmer a bit until it was thick enough.  I then poured the gravy over the beef/peas already layered in the casserole dish and got to work on making mashed potatoes.ShepherdsPie

Please know… if you prefer using instant mashed potatoes, this meal will be just as tasty.  I’m not really a purist that has to make homemade mashed potatoes anytime I need them… I just don’t have any instant potato flakes in my pantry.  Who knows… I might have used them instead.  Honestly, I tend to make mashed potatoes often enough that I almost always have potatoes available in my pantry, so it’s just easier to make them rather than search for a packet of the instant stuff.

For my homemade mashed potatoes, I use an old potato masher that my mom gave me instead of using my electric mixer – I like the chunky feel of the finished product better than the more whipped consistency I get when I put everything into my KitchenAid mixer.  I use varying amounts of margarineLaughing Cow light original cheesea touch of horseradish, salt, pepper, and maybe some milk.  It really depends on my mood when I’m cooking, so using The Force really comes into play on this recipe.   Once the mashed potatoes are finished, I spooned them on top of the casserole, sprinkled a bit of paprika for color, and then popped the casserole into the oven.  After 30-45 minutes in a 350 degree oven, this dinner is ready for the troops to dig in.

Feel free to experiment with this recipe to make your own family happy – if they like cooked carrots, feel free to add them.  Want a whole mess of veggies?  Go ahead!  Want to swap out the beef for chicken or a vegetarian option you like?  Try it!  There’s no “dinner police” who will come by and take your food from you, so enjoy coming up with your own options on this recipe.  I just like the tastes of beef, peas, and mashed potatoes all baked into a sublime concoction that makes my family happy.

Ultimately, that’s the goal… make something that will feed your family and keep a smile on their faces.  My heart is full every time my guys declare a “winner”… may you have the same experience with your dinners!

Recipe: Weeknight Chicken and Potatoes

I really love meals that don’t take a huge amount of effort on my part.  The oven does most of the work and I just transfer things from one place to another until dinner just “comes together”.  Such was the case with this meal.

I started with a few potatoes.  Much depends on how many mouths I’m feeding at any given meal, but I usually try to stick with the “one-and-a-half potato per person” rule if I’m just roasting these bad boys.  I diced them into chunks and then diced a half an onion to add some flavor.  Once these were done, I tossed both in a bowl with some balsamic salad dressing and laid them out on a baking sheet to roast for an hour or so in a 375 degree oven.

Since the potatoes were going to take awhile, I started the chicken a little after I had the potatoes in the oven.  I had purchased “thin cut chicken breasts” from the store, with the intention of using them for my chicken prosciutto rolls, but totally forgot to pick up the Boursin cheese.  Instead, I had 6 lovely thin chicken breasts that I decided to simply saute on the stove top.  I seasoned them, using more of the same balsamic salad dressing that I’d put on the potatoes, and then added more salt and pepper for good measure.  Using a heavy skillet, I sauteed the breasts in a little olive oil and butter until they were nicely browned and cooked through.  Since there were six breasts in the package, I did them in two shifts so they didn’t crowd the pan and cooked more evenly.  Once the outsides were nicely caramelized and toasty, I removed them to a platter and popped some foil on top to keep them warm. Note: I also put the platter into the oven for about 5-7 minutes before dinner was ready to reheat just a touch.

With all the yummy bits that were left in the pan, I thought a nice gravy was in order to make dinner to come together.  I put a pat of butter and a spoonful of flour into the skillet and let the fat/flour combine and sizzle a bit to cook off the raw floWeeknight ChickenNpotatoesur taste.  I then added a healthy helping of James River Meritage Red Wine (I chose the Meritage simply because that’s what I had in the fridge… I could have just as easily switched out the red wine for James River Reserve Chardonnay.  Use what you have available or what you like best) and whisked the gravy together to incorporate the flavors and pick up all the bits that had been left in the pan from the sauteed chicken.  After tasting the gravy, I adjusted the seasonings with some salt, pepper, and dry Italian seasonings until I was satisfied.

Oh, and I had thrown some broccoli florets on top of the potatoes (after the potatoes were almost finished) so we’d have a green vegetable for dinner… this was purely for my benefit, since none of my guys have any interest in eating green vegetables unless they’re coerced.

For serving, I put a single layer of the roasted potatoes/onions on the plate and topped them with a chicken breast and some pan gravy.   Obviously, this picture is of the plate I made up for my son, since there are two breasts on the plate and not a speck of green to be seen.   It was a really tasty dinner, even if I was the only one to eat the green stuff.  Maybe you’ll have better luck with your family if you top their broccoli with a little gravy?