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Baked Stuffed Pumpkin or Winter Squash

26 Nov



It’s been a long time since I stuffed a pumpkin, but Halloween and late fall combined to make me want to do it again. This is so easy and you can stuff any old winter squash with any old stew (or stuffing) and make a dramatic dish!

stuffed squashBaked Pumpkin with Beef and Sweet Potato Stew

One or two whole pumpkins (We used two 6” tall pumpkins), hollowed out, seeds reserved for pepitas, cap reserved

2 Tbs olive oil

1.5 Cups chopped onion

1/4 Cup garlic, minced

¾ Cup carrots, diced

¾ Cup celery, diced

2 lbs ground beef

Adobo powder

1 Cup sweet potato, peeled and cubed

3 Tbs Worcestershire sauce

1 tsp soy sauce

2 Tbs tomato paste

1 Tbs oregano

Salt and pepper to taste

In a large soup pot, heat olive oil until fragrant at medium high. Add onion, stir to coat, then lower heat and cook for about five minutes, until well-softened. Add garlic and cook for another minute. Add carrots and celery and cook another five minutes, until softening. Add ground beef and brown. Sprinkle with abundant Adobo powder, then add sweet potato, Worcestershire sauce, soy sauce and tomato paste. Preheat oven to 350°F while allowing meat mixture to simmer for at least 20 minutes on low, adding, adding oregano about five minutes before you take it off the heat.

Sprinkle the inside of the pumpkin very generously with salt and pepper. Put each pumpkin on a stable rimmed baking sheet with a bit of olive oil to prevent sticking. You’ll want something that you can carry the pumpkin to the table on, as the shell will soften and fall apart if you try to move it.

Stuff the pumpkin with the meat. You can freeze leftover meat, or, as we did, quickly open up a couple of butternut squash, season and stuff also.

Bake the pumpkins for an hour and check for tenderness. We cooked our two small ones for two and the squashes for about 1.5 hours.

Allow to cool for a bit and bring to the table with the lids on for extra drama. As you scoop out the meat (it’s nice with rice), also scrape out some pumpkin, which should be seasoned and tender.




Rich, Hearty and Creamy Turkey and Mushroom Soup (dairy-free leftover solution!)

3 Dec

A 13-lb turkey is really too much for four people, but that’s what we got from the farm and of course we are going to use and enjoy every last bit! Over the weekend I posted on how to make delicious stock from the carcass of your roast. Now, here’s how to incorporate that stock with the leftover meat and loads of mushrooms to make a creamy soup that you won’t believe has no cream or butter!

The moms pronounced this turkey and mushroom soup "heavenly:

The moms pronounced this turkey and mushroom soup “heavenly:

The instructions are kind of longer than my usual, as normally for soup I would just sauté the basic veggies a bit, bung the rest in and leave it to simmer away. But the added steps of sauteing the vegetables separately and then making a roux (a cooked up paste of fat and flour) adds a creamy silkiness that makes this a bit more special. Don’t be afraid to try it…I have separated everything into easy steps that I believe will be easy to follow!

I found some of my inspiration from Kalyn’s Kitchen Turkey Mushroom and Wild Rice recipe, so thanks Kalyn for the idea of a roux.

Luscious and velvety leftover turkey soup

Luscious and velvety leftover turkey soup

Dairy-free Creamy Turkey and Mushroom Soup

2 Cups leftover roast turkey meat

1 quart turkey stock (or whatever you have on hand), plus more water to cover

2 tsp fresh thyme leaves or one teaspoon dry (not powdered)

Handful garlic scapes or two cloves chopped garlic

1 Tbs olive oil

½ Cup chopped carrot

½ Cup chopped onion

½ Cup chopped celery

½ Tbs olive oil

20 oz chopped fresh mushrooms (white button, baby bella – no dried)

1.5 Tbs olive oil

3 Tbs flour

Salt and pepper

Step One: Place turkey, stock, thyme and garlic scapes in a big pot and bring to a boil. Then reduce heat and simmer.

Step Two: In a separate skillet, heat the olive oil until loose and fragrant, then sauté carrot, onion and celery at medium low until translucent and browning. Add vegetables to stock mixture and return the skillet to the heat, adding additional ½ Tbs olive oil.

Step Three: Add mushrooms to the skillet and sauté until they begin to soften, brown and release their juices. Add the mushrooms to the soup pot along with an additional two cups of water and return the skillet to the heat source, raising heat to medium high.

Step Four: Add the remaining oil to the skillet and add the 3 Tbs of flour, whisking to combine. Lower heat to medium and cook the roux a bit until relatively smooth and colored (you want to cook the floury taste out of it). Then add two cups of the turkey soup liquid to the skillet and whisk briskly until smooth and beginning to thicken.  Pour the thickening liquid back into the pot of soup and stir well.

Salt and pepper to taste and serve over rice or barley (you can throw cooked rice or barley directly into the soup and heat through, if desired) or on its own. Makes about 1.5 quarts.

Cranberry Sauce…Finally!

1 Dec

I have never posted a cranberry sauce recipe before because frankly every time I tried I ended up with a lip-puckering nasty gloopy mess and we’ve just used lingonberry jam from IKEA instead.

A happy surprise for the table

A happy surprise for the table

So this year, I did not even tell my family I’d bought cranberries! I told no one that I was going to attempt it again. I just put it together surreptitiously on the day, figuring that if I failed yet again, no one would be the wiser. And wouldn’t you know, it came out deliciously — just the right tartness and sweetness, beautiful color and rich texture. It was great on the turkey and the ham, and even on bread! I have visions of using it on duck or venison one day…(Mad Dog? Are you there?)

I used a recipe from Simply Recipes (one of my go-to spots for solid fundamentals clearly presented) and then played with proportions and seasonings. And it’s a good thing I went for it. Unbeknownst to me, there was no lingonberry jam in the house, so we would have had to do without. Some things are just meant to be, and this was one of those things!

I will absolutely do this again next year for Thanksgiving, and will very likely not wait that long to try it again.

The blueberries were left over from the summer. Had them in my freezer: serendipity!!!

The blueberries were left over from the summer. Had them in my freezer: serendipity!!!

Cranberry Sauce

¾  Cup sugar

¾ Cup water

7 oz package fresh cranberries

1 Cup fresh or frozen blueberries

Orange/Clementine zest (barely 1/4 tsp)

¼ tsp cinnamon

1/8 tsp nutmeg

Bring sugar and water to a boil in a saucepan, stirring to dissolve sugar. In the meantime, wash and pick over cranberries. Add cranberries, bring to a boil again and then lower heat and simmer until the cranberries are mostly popped (about 10 minutes).

Stir in blueberries, spices and just a tiny bit of zest (use only the colored part of the peel. The pith –white part – will make things bitter). Cook for a bare minute, then remove from heat and cool enough to pour into your serving container. Then cool to room temperature and refrigerate. The sauce will set as it cools.


Turkey Carcass Stock: getting more value from your bird

29 Nov

We usually take the meat off the bones of our roast turkey during the dinner clean-up or before we go to bed. And then, we quick! pop the carcass, along with a carrot sliced in half, a peeled onion studded with two cloves, leftover herbs, 5-10 whole black peppercorns, a smashed clove of garlic (or two or three) into a big old pot. We add enough water to cover, bring to a boil and then simmer during dessert, doing the puzzle on the dinner table, watching football…basically until we’ve recovered a bit from the gorging (and the effort it took to get all that gorgeous food on the table).

This is one of three containers I got, between the leftovers of the stock from the gravy, then the stock from the carcass! YES!

This is one of three containers I got, between the leftovers of the stock from the gravy, then the stock from the carcass! YES!

We pour it off through a strainer into a container (preferably glass if it’s hot), let cool and then freeze for another day when we need poultry stock.

Random shot of the final pick-up party at Restoration takes more than freezing rain to stop farmers from partying al fresco!

Random shot of the final pick-up party at Restoration Farm…it takes more than freezing rain to stop farmers from partying al fresco!

You must do it! It is excellent stock, makes the most of your bird (and for what we pay for a free-range, local bird, we need to get as much as we can out of it), and takes almost no effort.

If you missed the opportunity this year, remember, you can do this with any roast bird and always have home-made stock on hand. Happy Holidays!

I have two whole quarts in my parents' freezer, but I am too lazy to go downstairs and photograph them....

I have two whole quarts in my parents’ freezer, but I am too lazy to go downstairs and photograph them….

Sparkling Cosmo: A Festive Cocktail

26 Nov

Adriana and I had not seen each other for months. You may remember her from delicious recipes like her perfect lamb chops  and roasted Brussels sprouts, or the Cioppino Latino we invented or the decadent recovery from a big night blinis topped with egg and salmon roe.

So it was high time we played again.

An inventive garnish...tasty too!

An inventive garnish…tasty too!

Our evenings, which combine kids’ playdate and Mommy time, tend to be full of amazing food and lots of wine, which is my drink of choice and from which I rarely veer. But this time, we started off the way Adriana prefers: with a proper cocktail. And I am very glad we did!

This variation on the ubiquitous Cosmo worked perfectly to ring in the holiday season…a pale jewel-like pink, topped with the liquid bling of prosecco for some festive sparkle, and cool and crisp on the tongue….and we got a bit playful with the garnish…a segment of clementine (which you can find everywhere at this time of year) pierced through with a knife and then threaded with a boomerang cut of lime peel became our accessory to crime. It looked a bit like a baby turtle crawling to the sea right after being born, or a fish peeking over the rim of the glass to have a look.

Well hello there little fella!

Well hello there little fella!

The kids kept each other very happy and busy doing whatever it is they do when they are not bothering us, except for the occasional appearance to show us a different costume or some dance moves…and we got to the business of catching up. Fun! Fun! Fun!

Now this is the right way to have a playdate!

Now this is the right way to have a playdate!

Sparkling Cosmo

6 oz. vodka

6 oz. cranberry pomegranate juice (or your preferred berry-red juice)

1.5 oz triple sec

A splash of prosecco

A curl of lime peel (or my very sweet Clementine creature garnish – one segment per drink)

Pour the vodka, juice, and triple sec into a shaker filled with ice. Shake vigorously and pour off into two generous-sized martini glasses. Top with a splash of prosecco or other sparkling white. Garnish and serve.

As You Shop and Prep: Get Easy Thanksgiving Recipes Here!

23 Nov

Here is a link to some of our tried and true favorites…some of you may have seen this round-up already, but I wanted make sure you had them in hand as you get geared up for Turkey Day! Click here for recipes!

And...a beautiful pavochón!

And…a beautiful pavochón!

2014 Thanksgiving Easy Recipe Round-Up

19 Nov

I will probably post a few more Thanksgiving recipes in the next few days, but here is a start – some of our time-honored favorites that are not hard to do, but really celebrate the season. If you want to keep it simple and bountiful, take a look at these suggestions as you make your shopping list and measure how much time and energy you will really have to devote to pyrotechnics.

We are all about being thankful this year, since we’ve beat back cancer and are making it through the economic slowdown and all…so quietly and leisurely is how we are taking it!

Butternut Squash Bisque and bonus pumpkin seed pepitas

Butternut Squash Bisque

Butternut Squash Bisque

Sauteed Brussels Sprouts

Green Beans– bring the sweetness to the fore

Brine that Bird! (especially if you are getting a farm-fresh, free-range turkey)

bathed in the glow of a Home Depot bucket

bathed in the glow of a Home Depot bucket

Puerto Rican-Style Roast Turkey (pavochón)

And...a beautiful pavochón!

And…a beautiful pavochón!

Turkey Gravy (and a story of salvation)



Leftovers — Festive Turkey Salad with Cranberries and Walnuts

Bright and fun and full of textures

Bright and fun and full of textures

Long Island Organic Poultry and Egg Source – Updated for 2013

12 Nov

This one is for my homies: my readers here on Long Island. I welcome anyone else who has certified organic birds on Long Island to contact me so I can post it! Everyone else, be sure to click on links for additional information on what makes poultry organic and best practices for making the most of your real farm-raised bird.

Local, Fresh and Organic: We’ve been getting our eggs and Thanksgiving (and sometimes Christmas) birds from Makinajian Poultry Farm in Huntington for a number of years now (They’ve been around and family-owned since 1948). We didn’t discover them by ourselves; once we joined C.S.A. – first at Sophia Garden and now at Restoration Farm – eggs and Thanksgiving turkeys were optional shares. It’s a good thing, as a drive to their farm in Huntington is kind of a hike for us to do on a regular basis – 30-40 minutes from our house. It’s a nice place to go though – farm animals in the front yard, coops out the back and a sweet country-style store…Worth a visit!

The eggs and poultry are organically raised. Importantly, it’s all fresh – the organic eggs you buy in the supermarket can be weeks old (the USDA says eggs are fresh 45 days after being laid), while these are farm to table.

If you want a turkey for Thanksgiving, you should order it now! Click the link or here’s the number: 631-368-9320. And don’t forget to bring your order number when you pick up; it’s troublesome for them to find your order when the line to pick up is out the door…

From the Makinajian Facebook Page

“We will start taking orders for Thanksgiving on Nov.1. We have turkey, turkey breast, duck, goose, capon& cornish hens all available to order. Please call for all prices.”

A Bird in the Bucket is Worth Two in the Freezer Compartment

A Bird in the Bucket is Worth Two in the Freezer Compartment– brining the bird

I usually order extra turkey necks for the gravy and often pick up one of their homemade pies (still warm!) while I’m there. They also have organic produce…pretty much anything you might have forgotten to pick up for the Big Eat. Note: I do brine the bird overnight for extra tenderness and flavor and will probably do it again this year. I’ll let you know all about it!

Perníl al horno (Puerto Rican oven-roasted pork)

6 Jan

There is no better time to be at the top of the food chain than during Christmas in Puerto Rico.

Perníl made with pork loin (I think; the dad threw away the label before I could get the info!) proves that the recipe can enhance any pork roast

I know many of my readers (and friends) are vegetarian, vegan even, and I respect your choices — except of course my dad’s crazy ass diet because it is so crazy. I prefer a mostly plant-based diet myself, and will go as far as to make accommodations at my table for you, but at Navidades, this girl embraces her carnivorous side and all protests to the contrary will be regarded with impatience and disdain, if regarded at all.

The imposter was actually pretty good!

The imposter was actually pretty good!

Perníl is in my D.N.A., and that, mi amor, is that. Continue reading

Whip It Good (Make Your Own Whipped Cream in Minutes)

27 Nov

Making your own whipped cream and is easy and fun for kids.

The texture is much more velvety than store-bought and it doesn’t bring extra additives.


Leandro and I made an apple crisp for Thanksgiving, but we didn’t actually start eating it until a couple of days later because we were so full! Instead of ice cream, we made our very own whipped cream.

It is so simple – takes five minutes! – and the results are so satisfying.

With warm apple crisp

Whipped Cream

Before you start: put the bowl and whisk or beaters in the freezer so they are ice cold when you are ready to use. Another note – whisking can take awhile, especially when you have eager little helpers. We use a hand beater instead of a whisk, which Leandro could manage quite well (as long as he kept the beaters in the cream) and then got to lick after!


1 Cup heavy cream (whipping cream is actually not the best choice!)

1 tsp vanilla extract

1 Tbs confectioner’s sugar


In a large bowl, whip cream until you begin to get thick waves that threaten to peak. Beat in vanilla and sugar until peaks form. Stop there! Don’t overbeat it into buttery lumps.

You can store by lining a sieve with culinary cloth, putting the whipped cream in and then setting the sieve over a bowl, but it never lasts that long around here. You can also freeze it apparently, but I have yet to try! This makes about 16 generous tablespoons worth.

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