Making a Leftover Thanksgiving Turkey Mac and Cheese 

We’ve all done it.  Opened the door, peered in, shut it again.  Left to wonder what exactly is in that freezer.  Despite best laid plans it’s easy to lose the plot.  Our freezer is nearly 6 feet tall so it’s really not a good idea to lose the plot!  It got to the point where we couldn’t fit anything in and I was wondering how much money we were wasting by not using what we had.  

Off I went to get clear containers to organise the meats, leaving the baskets for all our fruits and veg we had harvested.  I did have to get rid of some things but overall getting it organised and knowing what the heck was in there was a success.  

One of my finds was a vacuumed bag of leftover Thanksgiving turkey.  So this post is either well overdue or too early for Thanksgiving.  😄.  Even though we seem to be stuck back in with the sticky heat of summer we did enjoy autumn weather for a few weeks.  It was wonderful and perfect for some comfort food.  Mac and cheese would do the trick.


Would you believe this onion was supposed to be a scallion?  We planted half a raised bed of bunching onions so you imagine our surprise to find proper onions growing.

While making the cheese sauce for this dish, cook up the pasta.  Preheat the oven to 375F/200C. In a separate saucepan heat up a couple of tablespoons of butter.   Coarsely chop half of a large onion and add it to the butter.


Sauté on low until the onions soften.  Then add a couple of cloves of garlic, finely chopped.  Cook for a couple of minutes then add about a cup and a half of chopped turkey.  Season with a couple of teaspoons of fresh thyme and sage.  If you don’t have fresh sage use about a teaspoon of ground sage.  Continue to season with sea salt and pepper.  Then add a half cup/4oz of dry white wine.


To make it a roux add 2 tablespoons of flour.


Stir continuously until the flour is incorporated and cooked, about three minutes.


Next add 1 1/4 cup of milk and heat through.  Don’t boil!  Once the cheese is warm enough to melt cheese add a cup of grated cheddar and half a cup of freshly grated Parmesan cheese.  Stir until the cheese has melted,


Put the cooked pasta into a baking dish and add the cheese sauce.  Mix well. Top with more grated cheese.


Cover and bake for 20 minutes.  Uncover and brown the top of the dish.


Serve while hot.  Now we try to eat small portions in our house but with this dish we all had seconds and there weren’t any leftovers!  Guess we needed a break from salads.  😊

Lemon Leek Pork and Not So Sweet 16

Milestones are supposed to be fun and celebrated.  Our daughter turned 16 this past weekend and there were a few fun things planned.  Unfortunately the plague is still upon this household!  Poor thing woke up on her birthday with the stomach bug.  Day canceled!  Of all days.  We’ll have to do a proper celebration when we have them back again.

That is if it doesn’t keep going round this house.  I had it last week and now my poor husband is knocked down with it.  The puppies are keeping him company, too bad their licking isn’t the cure!

With all the germs, not a lot of cooking is going on so creating new dishes has been put on the back burner.

I did make this dish a few weeks ago on one of my few days off when I had some boneless pork ribs and leeks on hand.

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For this dish, I sliced the pork ribs lengthwise and browned them in butter in a large skillet.

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Once both sides have been browned remove the pork and cook off in the oven at 350F/175C to cook off.  Just make sure you don’t overcook the pork.  Chop about a cup and a half of oyster mushrooms (12oz) and saute them in the butter.  Cook until they start to brown.  As they brown add a few cloves of garlic that are finely chopped.

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Slice about half a cup/4oz of leeks and add to the skillet.  As that cooks add about two tablespoons of lemon juice.

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Next add 8-12 oz of cream and about 1/2 a cup/4oz of freshly grated parmesan cheese.  Season with sea salt and pepper.  Toss in cooked spaghetti and serve with the pork.

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It goes without saying this would be great with a nice white wine and some garlic bread.

Fingers crossed we can all get germ free and take our daughter out to celebrate.  🙂

Mushroom Tarragon Pork Pasta

I’ve lost count on how many days I’ve been saying I need to do a blog post!  It’s been the typical craziness with the holidays and all the prep that goes along with it.  We had a lovely Christmas with the kids.  It was our turn to have them for Christmas Eve and Christmas morning which I love.  We have Chinese food at night and sticky buns in the morning.  Other than that it was a very quiet day with my husband.

For one of the dinners before the holidays I wanted to make a nice comfort type of dinner to go along with the very cold nights we were having.  I am so ready for spring.  My MIL has been emailing me telling me how the grass is growing and how she is trying to keep up with weeding.  Harrumph!

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I had some boneless pork ribs and I decided to do a slow cooked dish with mushrooms and tarragon.  Heat up a couple of tablespoons of olive oil in a skillet.  Season the pork with sea salt and pepper.  Brown all sides.

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While this is browning chop half a red onion and a few cloves of garlic.  Remove the pork and cover.  In the skillet saute the onion and garlic.

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Quarter several mushrooms until you have about a cup or 8 oz.  Add them to the skillet.  Chop a handful of fresh tarragon and add that as well.

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Saute for a few minutes then add half a cup/4oz of sherry or dry white wine.  Simmer for a couple of minutes then add the pork back in.  Next add 3 cups/24oz of vegetable stock and bring to a simmer.  It was at this point I got a text from my boss wondering when I was coming in.  Erm, not working this week?  Turns out, yes I was.  Nuts.  Turned off the dish and dashed off to work the evening shift.  It also turns out to be a happy accident.  It allowed the flavours to really deepen.  The next day I slow cooked it for several hours which reduced the broth.

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Cook the pasta and add to the skillet just before you are ready to eat.  My husband made a delicious quick bread to go along with this dish.

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Top with a dollop of sour cream and serve.  If you want this to be more like a soup don’t reduce the broth so much.

Happy New Year’s everyone, I hope it is a safe and enjoyable evening.

 

Slow Cooked Pork Pasta

The kids are very happy today.  There is nearly 6 inches of snow on the ground so they got a snow day.  Granted back in my day we wouldn’t have had the day off!  I literally walked up hill both ways.  Not sure if we’re getting soft or just more safety conscious.

I did take a short video of our lovely snow storm but it turns out in the past few months WordPress decided to not let the lowly plebs upload videos anymore.  But you can see it on Instagram if you wish.  I guess this means I really need to get off my duff and upgrade the site!

We’re making progress on the room we are reworking.  Got the primer on the walls and picked up the flooring this weekend.  So I needed an easy dinner to put together with the kids coming back for the week.

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Doing a slow cooked pork dish fit the bill.  Because of what we had going on I had time to toss everything into the baking dish and that’s about it.  If you have more time, brown the pork before you put it in the dish.  However, if you don’t have time it will still be delicious.

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Add a half a large red onion, finely chopped, with a few cloves of garlic, coarsely chopped to the baking dish.  Then add a 14oz can of diced tomatoes and 1/2 cup of red wine.  Season with sea salt, pepper, some red pepper flakes, and a couple of teaspoons of oregano.  Bake at 300F/150C for several hours until the pork is tender and falling apart.  Taste halfway through to adjust the seasoning.

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Toss in the pasta and serve.  Grate with a hard Italian cheese and enjoy.  This is a very easy flavourful dish to make when life is crazy busy.  And of course a nice glass of red wine goes nicely with this.  🙂

 

Pasta with Mushroom Sauce and Saying Goodbye to 2015, Finally!

It’s been a long time since I was so looking forward to seeing the backside of a year.  I don’t like rushing time, especially as we get older.  It goes fast enough as it is.  But this year been a long stressful slog.  2016 has to be better!

I am so grateful that I have my husband and kids.  They have been an amazing support system for me.  Since the summer I’ve been struggling with my issues, whether it was physical injuries or the black dog, as Conor from One Man’s Meat so aptly called it, and I feel like I got in a rut.  It was an effort at times to get the day to day stuff done, nevermind finding creativity for blogging and other projects.  My husband never wavers and never complains.  He takes care of me and has the ability to make me laugh every day.  And kids being kids, they keep you on your toes.  They are a joy to have.  Not sure what I did to get so lucky to have them in my life but boy am I glad I did it.

But I am looking forward to 2016 and a fresh start in terms of putting this year behind me and not letting it be a millstone round my neck.  I have ideas I want to try and plan on keeping on improving with all the issues.  Onwards and upwards!

My sister got me a fabulous book on food photography for Christmas.  My family is so good about supporting my endeavors.  Last year my husband found me a photobox and a photography book which helped me dust off the cobwebs of my photography knowledge.  This book is the next step up from the previous book.  After a year of practicing I am excited to learn new techniques and continuing to improve.  I’m only into the fourth chapter and already I have a list in my head of things I need to set up.

Last night my sister and family were planning on coming so I planned Italian for dinner.  Unfortunately, the New England weather decided it was time for the first winter storm.  But I had found a recipe from the cookery book Giada at Home by Giada De Laurentiis.  So I stuck with the planned theme.

Mushroom pasta 1 2015

It is the Rigatoni with Creamy Mushroom Sauce.  This is my adaptation of it.  I didn’t stray too much from the original but I did make it my own.

In a skillet heat up a few tablespoons of olive oil.  Finely chop up half a red onion and begin saute the onion.  Finely chop up 3-4 cloves of garlic and add it to the skillet.

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While this is cooking slice up a mixture of mushrooms.  I used baby bellas (cremini), shiitake, and oyster mushrooms.  You want about 2 cups sliced.  Add these to the skillet to start to brown.

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Add 1/2-3/4 cup of vegetable bouillon and 1/2 a cup of dry white wine.  Bring to a simmer to reduce the liquid by at least a third.

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During this time make sure you cook the pasta.  I chose brown rice spaghetti.  When the pasta is nearly done add a half cup (4 oz) of mascarpone.

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When the mascarpone has blended in add 1/2 cup of freshly grated parmesan and a handful of chopped chives.  Season with sea salt and pepper.  Add the pasta to the skillet and toss to coat.

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Garnish with chopped chives and grated parmesan cheese.  My husband made fabulous ciabatta bread.  He used it to make garlic bread.  A serious weakness of mine!

This dish was a hit even with my son who doesn’t like mushrooms.  Fingers crossed his tastes are changing.  The rest of us love mushrooms.

Happy New Year’s everyone!

Rustic Red Wine Lamb Stew

It was no surprise last week that I got to the point of being really tired of turkey.  Given that it is a large bird, you have to be very creative with leftovers to use it up.  I needed something different!  It was a raw and rainy day so it also had to be comfort food.

Red wine lamb stew 1 2015

I had some stewing lamb to use so I thought a red wine stew would do the trick.  Very often the stewing meat comes in large pieces so I cut them down to smaller pieces.  Makes it easier to eat.  Dredge the meat in flour and season with sea salt and pepper.

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In a large saucepan heat up some olive oil and start browning the lamb.  While that is browning, cut up a scallion and a few cloves of garlic.  Finely chop up a small handful of rosemary.  Add it all to the saucepan.

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Cook for a few minutes more then add about a cup of good red wine.  Bring to a simmer and add a couple chopped mushrooms.

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Add 3 cups of chicken stock.  Bring to a boil then lower to a simmer.  Keep it on a low simmer for a few hours to allow the flavours to develop and the meat to get nice and tender.  Closer to dinner time add either potatoes or pasta.  I chose pasta for this stew.  I also added some sliced carrots.  I didn’t add them at the beginning because I don’t like mushy carrots, just like I don’t like mushy peas!

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Add buttered rustic toast and it was a great bowl to enjoy in comfy pjs and a bit of tele.  I’m not complaining about the raw rainy day though.  This winter has been mild so far, may it continue!  Saves on the heating bills.  🙂

Pan Fried Chicken with Gorgonzola Pasta

We’re not a sports family.  We’ll watch tennis once in awhile and the Olympics.  Which is a 180 from growing up.  I didn’t do sports but I watched a lot of sports with my dad.  It was our way of hanging out.  But now we are so busy with the kids or the house sports take a way, way back seat.  Wouldn’t trade it for the world but it’s funny how things change.

But that doesn’t mean we don’t root for our kids if they want to try their hands at sports.  We definitely aren’t the parents who yell at the kids to get the ball, overrule the coach, or expect them to become pros.  As long as they try their best, have fun, and run off energy we’re good.  In the past few years at the rec games for football (soccer) some parents would be screaming into the field.  I was just making sure my son’s shoes were tied.  Fortunately this time round I haven’t seen that yet.  And our son is blossoming which is all we can ask for.

Our daughter is part of a fantastic program in the high school.  Several high schools have set up a sports program for those that have disabilities, whether it’s physical or emotional, and they have a few students without disabilities on the field with them to guide them and support them.  I was so proud of my daughter watching her support and encourage her teammates as they try to get goals.  The kids have a blast.

I still had some gorgonzola and mascarpone cheese left over from the Filet with Gorgonzola Risotto and I didn’t want it to go to waste.  We also had some chicken to use and I was in the mood for Italian.  Let’s face it, I’m usually in the mood for Italian!

Gorgonzola chicken 1 2015

Prep the chicken before hand by coating it in a beaten egg and breading it with panko bread crumbs.  I take one chicken breast and slice it lengthwise to have two portions.  Chop up a few cloves of garlic, a bit of red onion, and a cayenne pepper.  Heat up some olive oil in a skillet.  Start with the garlic and onions.  After a couple of minutes add the pepper.

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In a separate skillet heat up at least a half a cup of olive oil or avocado oil.  Once it’s hot start pan frying the chicken.  In the first skillet add sliced mushroom.

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Make sure the chicken is browned evenly on both sides.  Once it is cooked set aside and keep it warm while you finish the rest of the dish.  After you remove the chicken add about a third of a cup of gorgonzola crumbles and the same amount for the mascarpone.  Toss in a handful of fresh basil.

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Cook until the cheese has melted and add cooked pasta of your choice.  Serve with the chicken topping the pasta.

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Grate fresh parmesan cheese over the dish.  It doesn’t have a ton of colour but it really has a lot of flavour.  And this is a quick and easy meal to throw together when you have a busy schedule.

Sundried Tomato Cream Sauce

Summer, at least in relation to school, is coming to an end.  Tomorrow my daughter has her orientation for high school tomorrow and my son has his meet and greet at the middle school.  So we’ve had fun the past couple of days playing games and letting them be lazy.  Because after today we are off and running with a new year. And back to doing the school lunches.  Though with the days starting earlier as they move up schools I’ll have to do them in the evenings but that’s ok.  I’ll survive.  🙂

I’m just thrilled they are still into board games and such.  I hope they don’t outgrow that.  We have so much fun with family time.

Given that all that went on last week, quick meals were the thing.  This dish couldn’t be simpler.  But it has a lot of flavours and falls into the comfort food category.

Sundried Tomato Cream Sauce 1 2015

It’s hard to go wrong when you have sundried tomatoes and garlic.  We also had on hand some apple smoked chicken sausages.  These are fully cooked so this was added at the end.  If you start with raw sausages, brown them first and set aside to cook off near the end.  In a skillet melt 2 tablespoons of butter and add a few cloves of garlic that have been chopped.  Also, add several chopped sundried tomatoes.

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Chop up a few mushrooms and slice the sausages and add that to the skillet.  One of the towns we went on our honeymoon was San Gimignano which is famous for the towers.  It also has very good white wine.  I wanted to use this for the sauce.

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Add about 1/2 a cup of a good white wine to the skillet. Bring to a simmer.

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While this is cooking prepare the spaghetti.  Near the end of cooking add 1/2 a cup of cream and 1/2 a cup of freshly grated parmesan cheese.  Mix well.

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Add the spaghetti and a handful of fresh basil.  Toss well and serve.

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Quick and easy comfort food.  When it’s a tough week, it’s perfect.  In fact I did a similar dish at the end with tomatoes from our garden.  Seems to be my go to flavour profile!

Rabbit and the Need to Strangle a Cock….

4am.  Still dead of night as far as I am concerned.  Cock-a-doodle-doo!  My husband then rolls out of bed to close the ceiling window because I’m too short to reach it.  Every morning the bloody thing would go off.  And it would go all day.  There is another one down the road that answers but that is more muted.  Ours was about 10 feet from our window. I say was as this morning it’s been quiet.  I’m wondering if coq a vin is on the menu next door.  If I never hear another cock-a-doodle-doo I’ll be a happy camper.

On my list of ingredients to cook while here in France was rabbit.  So off to the market we went in search of one.  

 
We were successful.  Good thing I asked the head be removed.  An unfortunate thing about the kitchen we’re using, aside from a very anemic oven, is the knives are very dull.  We’ve tried sharpening them without a whole lot of success.  Which made butchering this rabbit quite the chore!  My MIL helped as I had to wrestle it to submission.  I ended up removing the legs and then took what I could of the remaining meat to add to the sauce.  I didn’t want to waste the rest of the rabbit so when my MIL suggested making a quick stock I went in that direction.  In a saucepan I covered the rabbit in water, added a shallot, salt and pepper, and thyme.


Bring it to a boil then let it simmer for 30-45 minutes.  Once that is done heat up a few tablespoons of olive oil in a skillet and brown the legs of the rabbit.

  

While that is happening, prep a small onion, a few cloves of garlic, and some fresh rosemary.

  
Remove the rabbit legs and set aside.  Sauté the onions and garlic until they soften.  Add some of the rabbit stock to simmer with the onion and garlic.

 
Add the rabbit bits and rosemary and sauté for a few more minutes.  I bought some local mushrooms at the market which were really nice.  I sliced a few and added them the the skillet.  Again add some stock.  About half a cup or 4 ounces each time.

  

Chop up a few tomatoes.  I also had a can of diced tomatoes that needed to be used.  Toss these in and add 4-8 ounces of red wine.  Bring to a simmer and add the rabbit legs to finish off cooking.

  
The tricky bit is not to over cook and toughen the meat.  In fact after simmering awhile there was still a bit of rabbit on the larger leg that wasn’t cooked through.  We still had plenty of meat to go round.  

 
The sauce with the stock was really nice.  Not sure if I’d cook a lot of rabbit going forward.  It was nice but not something I would crave.  But I can cross this off the bucket list so to speak.  

Today is packing day as we have a long journey home.  I’ll miss this place.  I’ve loved the food, the sightseeing, working on the language, and the leisurely meals.  No one rushes you and it’s perfectly fine to have a glass of wine or two with lunch.  And I could eat bread here with minimal side effects.  It’s been fabulous!  But back to reality I’m afraid. 

Spicy Sausage and Bursting with Pride

It’s been quite the week with the kids and the end of year celebrations.  Even though I’m not a fan of so called graduations at a level below the end of high school I still enjoy cheering them on.  Our son had his 5th grade recognition and received the President’s Award for Academic Improvement.  Each child had to do a mini speech about their favourite memory from school.  They did really well.  It’s not easy speaking in front of a crowd.  And the poor kid was struggling through a cold from hell.

Our daughter had her 8th grade recognition yesterday.  Somehow she managed to go four years straight without missing a day of school.  I have no idea what that is like.  I was always sick growing up.  She also achieved high honours 11 out of the 12 quarters.  We are so proud of our kids and what they have achieved so far.

It’s quite something to see how they are doing on their journey.

We had a chilly day a week ago and my son requested pasta so comfort food was on deck.  A local farm had some lovely jalapeno sausages.  Good ones too, not like the mealy ones we kept getting at the co-op.  So I’ll have to buy them as she has them!

Because of the jalapeno I wanted to go with Mexican flavours to highlight the heat.

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Begin by browning the sausages in the skillet with a bit of olive oil.  Brown all the sides but don’t worry about cooking all the way through.  They’ll be finished off in the dish.

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Set aside and add a few cloves of garlic, chopped, and a few mushrooms, sliced.  Saute until the garlic is softened.  Then add chopped peppers and scallions.  Cook for a minute or so then add a chopped tomato.

Jalapeno sausage and pasta 3 2015

Add a cup of homemade stock and bring to a simmer.  Slice the sausages and add to the mixture.  Next add a tablespoon of lime juice, a tablespoon of chili powder, a couple of teaspoons of cumin, and salt and pepper to season.  Chop up some fresh cilantro and stir in at the end. Once the sausage is cooked through add the pasta and toss well.

Jalapeno sausage and pasta 4 2015

Top with a bit of sour cream and shredded cheese.  I really liked this as comfort food.  Loads of flavour and colour.  And it chased away the chill.  🙂