Some of the Best Parts of Thanksgiving Are The Leftovers

There are a lot of fabulous things about Thanksgiving – food, friends, family, etc. And all of these, as well as being thankful for what we have, are the main reasons we celebrate. But there are also LEFTOVERS!!!!! Sometimes those are the best. 🙂 Often when we host Thanksgiving, I get so frustrated with Larry because at the end of the evening he has given away most, if not all of the leftovers, especially the turkey. I plan recipes based on the leftovers only to find there are none.

This year, fortunately for Larry’s sake, he did NOT give away all the turkey leftovers. We have already gone through all of the mashed potatoes, but we still have some vegetables (that I cut up but haven’t cooked yet), some stuffing, and thankfully quite a bit of TURKEY! I have already recreated some of the turkey and am looking forward to what I can do with the rest of it.

My first turkey recreation was to turn it into a pasta dish with a spinach almond pesto sauce. As with any other pesto sauce, it is very versatile and can be used for many recipes and dishes. It has just enough lemon to liven any meal up without being over powering of lemon.

Spinach Almond Pesto

2 cups baby spinach, stems removed

1/2 cup toasted slivered almonds

2 TBSP lemon juice

2 tsp lemon zest

1 TBSP garlic

red pepper flakes to taste

1/3 cup olive oil

2 TBSP lemon balsamic vinegar, optional

1/4 cup Parmigiano cheese

salt & pepper to taste

Place everything in the food processor and blend away until it is a thick paste. Then use however you would use a regular basil pesto sauce.

Pesto is one of my favorite pasta sauces. I love pasta of any kind, and I also love a wide variety of different sauces to go with my pasta, but there is something about a good pesto that will call out to me every time.

First I used about 3-4 cups of my leftover turkey that I shredded, and then I added mushrooms, bell peppers, red onions, crookneck squash, Peruvian peppers and garlic, along with salt & pepper and olive oil. I sauted those all together until the vegetables were tender.

The Peruvian peppers are rather delicate, so add those right at the end of the cooking process.

Once everything was cooked I served it all over some farfelle pasta, which I topped with a dab or two of the spinach pesto. I like to layer my pastas, so it was the pasta, pesto, turkey saute, and a bit more pesto sauce, with more Parmigiano cheese on top for Larry. The meal was completed with some warmed ciabiatta rolls and a glass or two of of a light Sauvignon Blanc. AHHHHH! I love it when a meal comes together like this.

Enjoy the Holidays and then enjoy them again. Stay safe and stay Everyone. ‘Til next time.

Bourbon Pecan Tartlets

Pumpkin pie and pecan pie are every bit as important and anticipated as the turkey is on Thanksgiving Day. Because pecans are harvested from late September through November, they are the perfect nut for the holidays. In fact, pumpkin pie and pecan pie are ranked #1 and 2 respectively as the most popular Thanksgiving desserts. I did not make or serve either this year though. I did variations of the them instead. I had some mini pumpkin bundt cakes (I bought these) and I made some pecan pie tartlets, along with my tiffin cakes A Chocolate Tiffin Cake and some of my famous caramels Video #18 – Making Caramels with Priscilla rather than big pies. I did this for a couple of reasons. We had a small gathering and a lot of food. So I chose to make smaller desserts instead of big desserts to allow everyone to sample little bits of different items. I also made extras of everything to add to my church coffee cart on the following Sunday as well.

Pecan pie has been around since the French inhabited Louisiana, in the 19th century. Pecans are native to North America and were originally grown in the areas watered by the Mississippi River, but after the Civil War farmers brought pecan trees down to Georgia and now pecans are a major staple to the agricultural business of Georgia. Pecans were very popular among the Native American Quinipissa and Tangipahoa tribes.

The word pecan is derived from the French word pacane, which means nut. Because the word pecan derived from the French pacane, many people think that it was the French who invented pecan pie, but there is no evidence to support this theory. It seems pecan pie is 100% an American creation.

People have been baking with pecans since the 1800’s. The earliest rendition of what is considered pecan pie was created by a Texan woman in 1898. Originally, the pie was a simple pie known as a sugar pie. But as with anything, this simple pie has evolved into many different variations. Some recipes are very simple and some are more complicated. Some popular versions today include bourbon, whiskey, shredded coconut, and chocolate. I think I have made all of these variations at some point. You can use Karo syrup, molasses or brown sugar as the base of this deliciously sweet pies too. People who live south of the Mason-Dixon line prefer their pecan pie a little sweeter than those who live north of the divide. I guess I am more a Northerner than a Southerner when it comes to pecan pies. I do not like them overly sweet. Pecan pie is the official state dessert of Texas.

The only difference between making these as individual tartlets vs a whole pie was the size of the pan I used. This time I used my mini muffin pans instead of my tart pans.

Bourbon Pecan Pie

The Dough

2 sticks of cold butter, cubed

2 cups flour

2 eggs

1/2 cup sugar

Pulse the butter, flour and sugar together in a food processor until it resembles a fine sand. Then add the eggs and mix together until it forms into a ball. Wrap the dough ball in plastic wrap and set in the refrigerator for at least 1/2 hour before using.

Preheat the oven to 350* F or 175* C.

Once my dough was ready, I formed it into small balls and placed them into the muffin pans and pressed them firmly to fit the pan.

The Filling

3 eggs

1 cup brown sugar

1 cup pure maple syrup

2 TBSP bourbon

3 TBSP melted butter

1/4 tsp salt

2 cups pecan halves

whipped cream for topping

Combine all the ingredients together and then carefully fill the dough cups with about 1 TBSP of filling.

Top each cup with a pecan half and bake for about 30 minutes or until the dough is golden brown and the center is cooked.

Allow the tartlets to cool completely before adding the whipped cream topping. if you like, you can add a little dash of bourbon to the whipped cream too.

When I took them into church on Sunday, I heard someone say, “You made these? They look so professional”. I certainly hope so, if not, I didn’t learn very much in all my many years of culinary school and restaurants and catering. 🙂

Life is short. Make sure you enjoy the sweet things in life. Stay safe and stay well Everyone. ‘Til Next time. Happy Holidays.

It’s Beginning To Look A Lot Like Christmas – 4

It is time to get the Christmas cards out. I know a lot of people do not send Christmas cards any more, which I find very sad. They are a big to-do at our house. We do cards, a Christmas letter and a picture. They are basically our annual correspondence to our loved ones around the world. I try to get them out around the first of December every year. I am pushing it this year, but I think they will be out tomorrow, which is Dec. 1. 🙂

Is It Stuffing Or Is It Dressing?

Some people call it stuffing. Some people call it dressing. It just depends on what part of the country you live in. Northerners call it stuffing. Southerners call it dressing. I just call it delicious.

Believe it or not, some version of “stuffing” has been around since about 200 BC, created by a chef knowns as Apicius. Back then it was a combination of herbs, vegetables, nuts, brains and liver (yuck to the last two) that were combined and stuffed into the cavity of an animal carcass that was all cooked together. Prior to the the times when stove tops were a household staple, turkey, as well as most other meats, were roasted on a spit over an open fire. There were not a lot of ways to cook other foods, so the “stuffing was inserted inside the carcass and was cooked at the same time. Today, most people cook the stuffing separately from the turkey, due to health reasons. The stuffing and the turkey cook at different temperatures and there is always a concern of cross contamination when cooking different foods together, especially if they do not cook completely. I always prepare my stuffing separately from my turkey, just to be on the safe side.

Today, there are many different versions of stuffing or dressing. Some use bread and some use rice. Some have meats added and others donot. Once again, there is no right or wrong way to make either a stuffing or a dressing. The only limitations are that of your own imagination. Southerners use cornbread in their “dressings”. This came from a dish brought over by the slaves from Africa, known as kush. A lot of Northerners use oysters. The Northern versions also use a lot of rice, and were based on Native American dishes. Stuffing/dressing has been an American tradition served on Thanksgiving tables since at least 1836.

As you may have noticed, when I get busy, especially if I am busy hosting a party, I forget to take a lot of pictures of what I am cooking. I am more focused on getting everything out and ready for my guests than I am on taking pictures. Such was the case this time too, and I forgot to take pictures of my stuffing. So, unfortunately, I will be using a stock photo, and you will will just have to use your imagination, and Julia’s testimony, ”  I would love your dressing recipe. You made some of the best dressing I’ve had” on what I actually made. Julia is an excellent cook, so I am greatly honored she has given it such high praise.

My stuffing was very similar to this version. I filled it with ground Andouille sausage and apples.

Easy Sausage & Herb Stuffing - Once Upon a Chef

Andouille Sausage and Apple Stuffing

1 lb day old bread, cubed – you want it kind of crusty and hard

2 apples, peeled and diced

1 1/2 lbs ground Andouille sausage

1 1/2 TBSP garlic

1 onion, diced fine

3 celery stalks, diced

salt & pepper to taste

2 TBSP chopped herbs – a combination of rosemary, thyme, oregano, parsley and sage

2 cups chicken or turkey broth

Preheat the oven to 375* F or 190* C

Spray cooking spray in a 9×13 baking sheet.

Cube the bread and add the seasonings, then set aside.

Cook the sausage, celery, onion and garlic together in olive oil until the sausage is completely cooked and the vegetables are tender. Then add them to the bread cubes and combine well. Add everything into the prepared baking pan. Pour the stock over the mixture and press it firmly into the mixture to make sure everything is completely saturated. This to make sure the stuffing stays moist and does not dry out. Cover with aluminum foil and bake for about 1 1/2 hours, or until the stuffing is completely cooked.

When it is ready, serve it with your turkey and the rest of your meal and enjoy.

Happy Holidays Everyone. Stay safe and stay well. ‘Til next time.

It’s Beginning To Look A Lot Like Christmas – 3

I saw this today on FB and I absolutely LOVE this! People laugh at me all the time when I say I most definitely believe in Santa Claus, and here is why. I have been saying this my whole life.

Son: “Dad, I think I’m old enough now. Is there a Santa Claus?.”
Dad: “Ok, I agree that your old enough. But before I tell you, I have a question for you. You see, the “truth” is a dangerous gift. Once you know something, you can’t unknow it. Once you know the truth about Santa Claus, you will never again understand and relate to him as you do now. So my question is: Are you sure you want to know?”
Brief pause…
Son: “Yes, I want to know”
Dad: “Ok, I’ll tell you: Yes there is a Santa Claus”
Son: “Really?”
Dad: Yes, really, but he’s not an old man with a beard in a red suit. That’s just what we tell kids. You see, kids are too young to understand the true nature of Santa Claus, so we explain it to them in a way that they can understand. The truth about Santa Claus is that he’s not a person at all; he’s an idea. Think of all those presents Santa gave you over the years. I actually bought those myself. I watched you open them. And did it bother me that you didn’t thank me? Of course not! In fact it gave me great pleasure. You see, Santa Claus is THE IDEA OF GIVING FOR THE SAKE OF GIVING, without thought of thanks or acknowledgement.
When I saw that woman collapse on the subway last week and called for help, I knew that she’d never know that it was me that summoned the ambulance. I was being Santa Claus when I did that.”
Son: “Oh.”
Dad: “So now that you know, you’re part of it. You have to be Santa Claus too now. That means you can never tell a young kid the secret, and you have to help us select Santa presents for them, and most important, you have to look for opportunities to help people. Got it?”
Help each other this Christmas🎄🎅 and…be kind ❤💕


Apple-Cranberry Salad with Champagne Vinaigrette

When gathering for Thanksgiving, of course the Turkey is going to take center stage, but we can not feast on turkey alone. There are plenty of other sides that go with the turkey too, just like there are very few one-man shows, but instead the star is surrounded by co-stars and various other cast members. One of my “cast members” that shared the table with our big bird was my apple-cranberry salad with a champagne vinaigrette. Everyone commented on how pretty and festive it was, but it was also very tasty too.

This salad is so colorful and so festive, but you don’t have to wait for Thanksgiving to enjoy it. It is one of those salads that can be enjoyed year-round. This would also be good with pears too, either as a substitute for the apples or combined with them.

Apple-Cranberry Salad with Champagne Vinaigrette

The Salad

4 cups mixed baby greens

1 apple, peeled and sliced thin

1 cup dried cranberries

1 cup toasted pecans, chopped

1/4 red onion, sliced very thin

3 oz crumbled feta or goat cheese

champange vinaigrette

Toss the ingredients together carefully, saving some of the apple slices and the goat cheese to arrange on top. Add the champagne vinaigrette right before serving. I used mixed baby greens but you can use, spinach, kale or romaine lettuce too is you prefer.

Champagne Vinaigrette

1 shallot, mined

1-2 TBSP fresh peppercorns, crushed – I used Brazilian pink this time

1 TBSP honey

2 TBSP champagne vinaigrette

1/3 cup olive oil

1 TBSP garlic olive oil

salt to taste

Whisk everything together and set aside. Only poor as much as you need over the salad then gently toss. If you can not find champagne vinegar, you can substitute either white balsamic vinegar, Proseco vinegar or white wine vinegar too. The tastes will only be subtly different and all are very good.

Bring a little holiday cheer into the world everyday. Keep things fun and festive all year round. Stay safe and stay well Everyone. Happy Holidays!

It’s Beginning To Look A Lot Like Christmas

The Holiday season has officially begun. Unofficially it started with Halloween, but the official start was Thanksgiving. The count-down has started. This is my first of a new series of posts leading up to Christmas Day – “It’s Beginning To Look A Lot Like Christmas”.

Here in the United States, we have the traditions of Black Friday, which is day after Thanksgiving. It is a HUGE event with most businesses and retailers offering huge sales that draw massive amounts of people to their businesses in hopes of getting all kinds of great deals on their holiday purchases. Normally I am NOT a fan of Black Friday and do NOT partake in these activities. I hate crowds and I detest all the mobs associated with Black Friday. However, when wine is involved, that is a different story. 🙂

You have seen my posts about InVINtions for years now. We have been members there for 10 years. And every Black Friday, they have their own fun traditions. Of course we participate and have fun with them. Video #17 – INVINtions, A Creative Winery This year was no different. Usually, they have everyone come in their pajamas for games and great deals. Last year, we played Monopoly or Wineopoly. This year, they went back to the pajama party, but I guess I missed that part of the memo, so we did not come in our pajamas. But we went with Janet and Bob, and we all had a great time and got some great deals as well, even though we were dressed in our street clothes. Janet and I always bring a feast and this time was no different. No one will EVER go hungry when Janet and I are in charge of the food. That is for sure. 🙂

Black Friday at InVINtions. Let the wining begin. Larry literally stands heads above the rest and is one of the first people in line. He is in the striped shirt.

There were so many other goodies besides wine too. I did not need anything, but I got another one of their big mugs with a steaming cup of mulled wine. I did this last year too.

Janet and Larry holding down the table, making sure no one helps themselves to our bounty.

As I have said many many times, there is nothing better than celebrating good times with good friends and good food, and of course, good wines too. Let’s all start ringing in the holiday season with lots of good cheer.

On a side note, we had some issues with our network and I was out of commission for a short bit. But things are seemingly back on track, and so am I.

Stay well and stay safe Everyone. May we all enjoy this beautiful and joyous time of year and let’s start ringing in the Holidays!

A Thanksgiving Feast – 2021

Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. It all about being thankful for what you have and getting together with loved ones. We had a small gathering of friends over, but we all had so much fun. Everyone brought something delicious, and we ate, and we ate, and we ate. After dinner we played some games and we laughed, and we laughed, and we laughed. It was a very fun and festive evening, just exactly how it is supposed to be too.

Yes, I was in the kitchen cooking most of the day, and I prepared all the traditional Thanksgiving dishes like stuffing, mashed potatoes and gravy, roasted vegetables, a colorful salad, and of course, the main attraction – the TURKEY. Julia brought her famous rolls and Lauren made a fantastic antipasto tray.

The star of the day.

And the co-stars.

Julia and her beautifully delicious rolls.

We had already started nibbling on Lauren’s antipasto tray before I thought of taking a picture of it, but trust me, it was beautiful, delicious and very creative.

Celebrating a bit before sitting down to eat.

When it was time to eat, Larry starting carving the turkey. We were all hungry, and were ready to get this party started.

For desserts rather than making big pies this year, I made small little nibblies instead, including some of my caramels. Video #18 – Making Caramels with Priscilla.

We had a very Happy Thanksgiving indeed. I hope all of you did too.

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