Sunday, November 24, 2013

Turkey-With-All-The-Trimmings Thanksgiving Meatloaf

Here it is for all of you who don't want to deal with the fuss and drudgery of making a great big, slippery, intimidating turkey, but still want to make a somewhat traditional holiday dinner. Traditional turkey,  tart cranberries, rich sweet potatoes and our favorite stuffing go-togethers...apples, sage sausage (turkey sausage to keep with the theme), celery, onion and lots of poultry seasoning truly makes this meatloaf a Turkey Day - or ANY day - treat!

Kimber and I started talking about making a turkey Thanksgiving meatloaf just a few days we mixed and tested, mixed some more...and tested some more, finally coming up with what we both think is the perfect combination of salty, sweet, tart and savory. Really, I don't want to over-hype it, but this is one of the best meatloaves I have ever posted to Dinner Plan-it. 

If you're looking for the tastes of a time-honored Thanksgiving dinner without spending hours and hours roasting, basting and carving, this might be just the thing. Add a nice bowl of fluffy mashed potatoes, a good green veggie or two, buy a pumpkin pie and a can of whipping cream and you've got a simple, delicious and relatively easy Thanksgiving dinner!

Now, gather those you love most, friends and family who mean the world to you...sit, talk, eat, laugh, treasure every moment. Enjoy the day without the big fuss and focus on what is most important...each other. Happy Thanksgiving and many blessings from us to every single one of you!

Thanksgiving Meatloaf

  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 2 stalks celery, WITH lots of leaves, finely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 6 ounces turkey breakfast sausage, got mine at Whole Foods...LOVE this stuff!

  • 3 pounds ground turkey (white meat)
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 medium sweet potato, peeled and shredded (about 1 cup)
  • 1 apple, peeled, cored, small dice - I used a Granny Smith
  • 1 cup fresh cranberries, chopped coarsely
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, or more if you wish...I like MORE
  • 5 tablespoons poultry seasoning
  • 3 slices white bread, crumbled coarsely - a good firm white bread like Pepperidge Farm - to make this gluten free, I used Whole Foods Light White bread that has a similar texture and firmness to Pepperidge Farm - LOVE this GF bread!

In a skillet, melt the butter and add celery and onion. Saute until they start to soften. Add the sausage, crumbling well as it cooks. When it is cooked through, add salt, pepper and poultry seasoning, mixing well. Remove from heat and set aside to cool.

In a BIG bowl, mix the ground turkey, eggs, cranberries, sweet potatoes, apple, salt, pepper and crumbled bread. Add the cooled (not cold) onion/celery mixture and mix thoroughly with your hands until the meatloaf mixture is evenly mixed.

If you wish, mound mixture into individual large foil muffin cups. If you do this, bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes. I made 6 muffin cups and made 2 loaves out of the remaining mixture. I baked the meatloaves for 1 1/2 hours at 350 degrees.

Let sit for about 5 minutes after removing from oven before slicing the meatloaves.

Just like a complete Thanksgiving dinner in a meatloaf - turkey, stuffing, cranberries and sweet potatoes...YUM!

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Black Mission Fig and Ginger Pecan Baked Oatmeal

Nothing hugs the tummy on a cold morning quite like a bowl of oatmeal. I can hear you now, "What?! A recipe for oatmeal? You've got to be kidding me." (Accompanied by a dramatic eyeroll, I hope!) Who needs a recipe for oatmeal when all you have to do is tear open a packet, add water, give it a little spin in the microwave and breakfast is ON the table!

Not so fast. How about morning convenience AND oatmeal raised to a whole new level? One that's more delicious than any artificial ingredients-filled, sugar-laden paper packet of oatmeal dust you've ever had? don't like oatmeal? Perhaps your tastebuds have simply been waiting for a hot morning cereal worthy of their undivided attention. Your bored tastebuds have been waiting for Black Mission Fig and Ginger Pecan Baked Oatmeal! 

Kimber has been home for a few days and treated us to this simple, make-it-the-night-before breakfast.  Mmmmm...she enjoys it warm and topped with a little non-fat Greek yogurt. I like it cold with either a little skim milk or non-fat Greek yogurt, too. Sound too healthy for you? What if I told you the flavor and texture is more like a rich, creamy, decadent bread pudding than a good-for-you quick morning meal? It is.

It's not often you can splurge on flavor, yet skimp on fat and calories...and have the result be heart healthy, too. Live it up!

Black Mission Fig and Ginger Pecan Baked Oatmeal

  • 2 1/2 cups oatmeal, certified gf to make this gluten-free!
  • 1/3 cup brown sugar, packed
  • 1 cup dried figs, Black Mission figs are my fave, quartered lengthwise
  • 1/2 cup pecans, roughly chopped
  • 3 tablespoons crystallized ginger, diced small if it didn't come that way already
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3 1/3 cups skim milk
  • 4 egg whites, lightly beaten
  • 1 teaspoon canola oil
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350.  Spray 8" glass baking dish with Pam.  Mix all the dry ingredients in large bowl.  In medium bowl, combine the wet ingredients.  Add wet ingredients to dry and mix well.

Pour mixture into dish sprayed with Pam, bake for 55-60 minutes or until center is set and firm to touch. 

Serve as is or with some yogurt on top...maybe a few berries, too! Oh...and I love that it make a good amount so you have an instant breakfast for a few days...IF you and the fam don't scarf it up!

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Sweet Summer Crab Salad (To Help Us Make It Through)


Crazy November, huh? 20's one day, 70's the next - rain, snow, sun and some serious cirrus clouds thrown into the mix for good measure. I'd say Mother Nature is a wee bit confused. 

All too brief sun and warmth had me thinking about a warm weather crab salad and before I could make a fall equivalent, the temps plummeted again. Who cares?! Crab in all it's many forms is always perfect on the menu. In this house anyway. 

And in THIS house, there is always a pound of Maryland crab tucked away in the freezer for just such an emergency!

In the midst of all the cold, snow, freezing weather and wind out there, how about a little bit of summer to help us make it through? I know I sure could use all the help I can get. 

Sweet fresh Maryland crab? Vine ripened sun-kissed bright red tomatoes (or the best you can find in the produce aisle this time of year)? Yes, please!

Traditional Old Bay Maryland Crab Salad

  • 2 tablespoons mayonnaise, Hellman's or Kraft - NOTHING else!
  • 1 teaspoon Old Bay Seafood seasoning - NOTHING else!
  • 1/2 lemon, juiced
  • 2 tablespoons celery, very finely diced
  • 1 1/2 cups crab, NOT pasteurized in a can. Look for the plastic tub that says it's FROM (not just packaged in) Maryland, Virginia, Louisiana, Texas and that it's blue crab. When you see blue "swimmer" crab, that's imported inferior crab. Beware.

  • 4 tomatoes, quartered - If it isn't summer and local tomatoes aren't available, look for heirloom tomatoes, Ugly tomatoes or Campari tomatoes. For off-season, they have some pretty good summer-like flavor.
  • 8 slices bacon, cooked crisp - a good thick-sliced bacon is best in my opinion...peppered bacon is awesome!
  • Romaine lettuce, as many leaves as you need to make the plate pretty
  • fresh basil leaves, chiffonaded - just a few, just for a little bright, herb-y goodness against the tomato and to make it pretty!

Pick gently through the crab, removing any shell or cartilage you might fine. (In my opinion, if you find a little shell it's just proof that it's REAL crab! No big deal.) As you pick, put the crab into a big bowl.

In a small separate bowl, mix the mayo, Old Bay, lemon and celery well. Pour the mixture over the crab and GENTLY fold the dressing into the crab. Try to keep those expensive, beautiful lumps as whole as you can!

Lay lettuce leaves (say that 10 times fast) on a plate, cross 2 slices of bacon on top, arrange the tomato quarters on top of the bacon, mound the crab salad in the center and garnish with the basil.

Of course this is amazing on good bread, too!
Now put on your shades, the soundtrack of waves crashing onto your favorite beach, then sit back and pretend. Ahhhhhhh, that's better, isn't it?

Monday, November 11, 2013

A Simple Penne With Tomato Basil Cream (Gluten-Free Option, too.)

Sometimes, the simple recipes are the best. Quick pasta and sauce on a weeknight is just what works best for so many reasons. Time savings and convenience for a couple of them!

During a Saturday of shopping recently, Kimber and I stopped for a quick lunch at a local spot that's been around for a while - AND they feature a gluten-free menu. Right up my alley! Kimber ordered a salad. Since I can NEVER get pasta out and gluten-free pasta was a feature of this unnamed restaurant, I ordered penne with tomato basil cream and Italian sausage. Oops.

Restaurant pasta dish...why, oh why, couldn't it have been presented in a nice green dish?

Not that it wasn't "acceptable," it just wasn't prepared properly. To say the penne was oversauced was an understatement. The dish was more like a Velveeta-ish tomato soup with pasta and bits of sausage floating around in it. The good thing about it? It inspired me to go home and make it the right way! So I did. Here it is:

Penne with Tomato Basil Cream 
(Gluten-free option, too!)

  • 2 Italian sausage links, a nice sweet variety WITH fennel...mmmmmm

  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 cup red onion, finely diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, peeled, smashed and sliced
  • 5 basil leaves, fresh - julienned - plus additional for garnish
  • 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt
  • 1 quart chopped tomatoes, jarred or canned - get the good ones...San Marzano!
  • 3 tablespoons tomato paste, love the stuff in the waste like what's leftover in those itty bitty cans
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream, or use half & half
  • 1/4 cup parmesan cheese, plus additional for serving - you know I want you to use the good stuff...Parmigiano Reggiano - worth every penny

  • 1 pound penne pasta, cooked al dente, drained well - to make this gluten-free, use a GOOD GF pasta like Jillian's or BiAglut

While you're making the sauce, saute the sausages until beautifully browned and cooked through

Tomato Basil Cream: Melt butter and olive oil together in a skillet, then add the onion, garlic, basil, red pepper flakes & salt. Cook slowly until the veggies are soft. Add the tomatoes & tomato paste, stir well, bring to a boil, reduce heat & simmer until gorgeous.

Bring out your stick blender once the sauce has come together nicely and give the sauce a nice whirl until all the veggies are pureed and you have a nice smooth sauce. Add the cream and the parm...stir until the parm is melted into the sauce and smooth. Taste, adjust seasonings and you're ready to dress your cooked pasta.

After your penne is cooked and drained, return it to the pot you cooked it in. Ladle enough sauce over the pasta to coat the pasta without OVERsaucing it. It should be kissed by sauce, not swimming it it. 

Slice the sausages. Plate the pasta, arrange the sausage around the plate, garnish with additional slivered fresh basil and additional parm, if you wish. 

Easy dinner, great leftovers!

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Pumpkin, Sage, Sausage and Leek Stuffed Flank Steak

Pumpkins that look like giant orange full moons in a chilly nighttime sky, seemingly peeking through and over the trees while leaves rustle softly in the trees. Tiny grapefruit sized pumpkins piled high in local farm markets just waiting to become pie...or maybe fearing becoming the contents of said pie...hmmmmm. Autumn's orange-lobed edible gourd just screams fall, don't you think? (Or is that the sound of horror the pumpkin makes when it sees the plunging knife coming it's way to eviscerate it of it's slimy, seedy guts?)

Big pumpkins, small pumpkins and every type of orange, yellow, white, bumpy or smooth variety you might come across means autumn, cool weather and falling leaves are HERE! And all the delicious pumpkin dishes along with them. YUM!

Sunday's Pumpkin, Sage, Sausage and Leek Stuffed Flank Steak was a big hit. Normally, I use apples in my stuffing to give the mixture a little sweetness against the savory herbs and the richness of the sausage - besides that, my mom always used apples in her stuffing so that's good enough for me! But, let's think about that. What if I swapped out apples for roasted pumpkin? So I did. Sorry mom.

A little planning ahead was involved. Peeling, seeding and roasting a small pie pumpkin was done earlier in the day. No big deal and it gave me something to do while watching CBS Sunday Morning. Later, when it was time to stuff the flank steak, the pumpkin was cool and ready to go. other little step to do ahead of time. If you don't have a butcher (or a friend in the back of the meat department at Giant Eagle) to cut a pocket into your flank steak for the stuffing, you're going to have to break out a nice sharp knife and do it yourself. But really, if I can do it...YOU can do it! No biggie.

Once the roasted pumpkin is cooled and the pocket cut into the flank steak, all that's needed are a few veggies -  a nice leek from the CSA basket this week, a little celery and onion, a few sage leaves picked from my pond-side herb garden, a little browned crumbled sausage and a couple of slices of a good firm white bread. (Of course there was no wheat bread in our house - Whole Foods makes a mighty fine firm white bread - similar to Pepperidge Farm and perfect for stuffing.)

The resultant big, beefy, rich roasted stuffed flank steak was superb! I'd bet the pumpkin-y stuffing would be equally wonderful in pork chops, chicken or turkey, too. You know, I'm thinking even my mom would have liked this new twist on her classic apple stuffing!

 Pumpkin, Sage, Sausage and Leek 
Stuffed Flank Steak
  • 1 small pie pumpkin, peeled, seeded, diced and roasted - about 1 cup after roasting (see below)

  • 1 large flank steak, pick one that is thick so your butcher or YOU can cut a pocket into it...a thin one is harder to cut without breaking through

  • 1/4 pound sage sausage, crumbled and browned
  • 10 small sage , fresh leaves, chopped

  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1/2 cup leeks (1 small), finely chopped
  • 1 stalk celery, WITH leaves - lots of them, finely chopped
  • 1 small onion, finely chopped
  • 1 teaspoon poultry seasoning
  • 2 slices white bread, a good firm white bread like Pepperidge Farm  (to make this gluten-free, use a good firm white gluten-free bread like Whole Foods GF white bread)

To roast pumpkin: Peel the pumpkin with a vegetable peeler, cut in half and scoop out the seeds and guts. Cut the pumpkin flesh into small dice. Spray a rimmed baking sheet with olive oil, spread out the cubed pumpkin, sprinkle with salt and pepper, spray well with olive oil. Bake at 400 degrees for about half an hour. Remove from oven and cover with foil - return to oven for another 10-15 minutes. Remove and cool.

Flank steak: If you can, buy a flank steak with the pocket already cut. If you can't find one WITH the pocket, ask the butcher to cut one for a last resort, do it yourself. Starting at a narrow end, using a VERY sharp knife, slowly and CAREFULLY cut little by little down through the center of the steak being careful not to let the knife pierce through to the outside. Once you have a hollow steak, set it aside to make the stuffing.

Stuffing: In a skillet, crumble and brown the sausage well. When it's browned, add the fresh chopped sage and saute briefly. Remove and set aside. In the same skillet, melt the butter and saute the leeks, celery and onion until softened. Don't brown them, just soften them. Add poultry seasoning. Let cool and add the roasted pumpkin. Crumble the bread and mix everything well.

Assembly: Lightly pack the stuffing into the pocket of the flank steak. If necessary, secure the opening with toothpicks to keep the stuffing inside. Salt and pepper the top of the steak and put into a roasting pan sprayed with olive oil.

Roast the stuffed flank steak in a 375 degree oven for 45 minutes to an hour until well-browned and the stuffing is hot inside. Let rest and slice to serve.

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Corncake Chorizo Stuffed Acorn Squash

Two perfectly beautiful, deep shiny green acorn squashes were in my CSA basket last week. In my book, that's a SURE sign of autumn! Why does the appearance of winter squash seem to be timed along with falling leaves and the resultant cleaning those suckers out of the pond? And mucking debris from the bottom of said pond when the pond water is freezing!

Shouldn't there be some sort of a special reward for voluntarily turning oneself into a human pond popsicle complete with shriveled, ice cold, blue hands from digging in the depths of fish, frogs and slime? There is. And it involves those gorgeous acorn squashes.

I was looking for a side dish to snuggle up to some nice steaks on our dinner plates one evening and you KNOW those lovely forest green squashes came to mind immediately. I could have baked them and served them salted, peppered and with brown sugar, but I was thinking something less sweet and more substantial. 

Sausage stuffed acorn squash is always is good choice, but a meat-stuffed squash didn't seem like a proper side dish for a steak - oh I know, some of you guys out there think meat makes a perfect side dish for meat. Nuh uh.  
Then I thought corn...which lead to thoughts of Mexican corncake and once again we were back to the too sweet problem. Buuuuuut...wait a about....chorizo? Salty, spicy chorizo made the perfect foil to sweet corncake to balance out the sweet, salty, spicy and savory notes perfectly. Problem solved. If only closing down the pond for the season could be that easy!

 Corncake Chorizo Stuffed Acorn Squash

  • 2 acorn squashes, halved, seeds scraped out

  • 1 stick butter, softened
  • 1/3 cup masa harina, I prefer yellow
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1 1/2 cups creamed corn (that's a 14.75 ounce can)
  • 1/4 cup cornmeal, I prefer yellow
  • 3 tablespoons sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder

  • 1 chorizo link, removed from casing, crumbled and browned well

Squash: Spray the inside of the cut squashes with vegetable or olive oil. Bake cut side down at 400 degrees for 40 minutes or until a knife pierces easily, but not to a mushy mess, please! Remove from oven and let cool before filling and baking again.

Corncake: Beat the butter with the masa harina. Add the rest of the ingredients and mix well until completely incorporated.

Assembly: Fill the insides of the squash with the corncake mixture. (Leftover corncake mixture? Butter the insides of small ramekins, fill and bake alongside the squashes. You may need to remove the ramekins from the oven before the squash, so watch them carefully.) 

Sprinkle on the crumbled chorizo and bake at 375 degrees for approximately 45 minutes or until the corncake is baked through. Remove from oven and enjoy!

NOTE: This would really make a lovely, light dinner on its own with a side salad or fresh veggies!