Tag Archives: mama D’s kitchen

Thanksgiving Memories of Not So Long Ago

Thanksgiving week is here. The planning is complete and implementation is about to begin. In recent years we have had a blended family Thanksgiving. Along with family, recipes get blended as well. I have been in charge of stuffing/dressing and gravy. Since both of these are near and dear to my heart, it’s an assignment that I welcome every year. I shared the whole process several years ago and the time seemed right to revisit the experience before I relive it this Thanksgiving.

Stuffing or in this case dressing, as it will not see the inside of a turkey, is many folks’ favorite part of the dinner. It certainly is mine. I make a dressing that has evolved over the years to become an homage to my time in California and my Italian heritage. I gave it the rather silly name of Mama D’s Cali-Itali Stuffing. This is a seriously hearty stuffing filled with Italian sausage and artichoke hearts. The bread is sourdough, next to rice-a-roni, the San Francisco Starch of choice. Artichoke hearts add flavor and as the recipe has evolved, I now use frozen (Trader Joe’s are the best) instead of canned. It also now gets baked in a bundt pan, because who doesn’t want a nice slice of stuffing.

Mama D's Cali-Itali Stuffing
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Use this for your holiday dinner. Make it your own by adjusting the flavors to your family's taste.
Servings
12
Servings
12
Mama D's Cali-Itali Stuffing
Print Recipe
Use this for your holiday dinner. Make it your own by adjusting the flavors to your family's taste.
Servings
12
Servings
12
Ingredients
Servings:
Instructions
  1. Heat a large skillet over medium high heat. Crumble the sausage into the pan and cook until it is well browned. Turn and break apart as needed.
  2. Remove the sausage from the pan and drain on a paper towel. Pour off most of the drippings. Add 3 tablespoons of olive oil to the pan and add the onions and garlic. Saute stirring frequently until the onion is golden and the garlic is fragrant, 5-7 minutes.
  3. Add the artichokes and spinach to the pan and continue to cook for another 3 - 5 minutes. The artichokes should have a little color and the spinach should be wilted.
  4. In a large bowl, combine the toasted bread cubes, sausage, and the vegetables from the pan (include all the drippings, too). Toss to combine.
  5. Add the seasonings that you are using along with the cheese and toss again to combine.
  6. Pour in the eggs and blend well. Add the chicken stock. Use enough so that the stuffing is very moist, but not mushy. Taste and make any necessary adjustments to the seasonings. Add a little salt if you think it needs it.
  7. Grease a large rectangular baking dish. Add the stuffing and smooth out evenly. Do not pack it down. Cover with foil and bake in a pre-heated 350 degree oven for 35 - 40 minutes.
  8. Combine the remaining olive oil and the melted butter. Remove the stuffing from the oven. Take off the foil and drizzle the butter/olive oil mixture over the top. Return to the oven for another 15 - 20 minutes until the top of the stuffing is golden brown.
  9. Remove from the oven and allow to rest for 10 minutes before serving.
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Every Thanksgiving table needs a boat of gravy. Since in our blended Thanksgiving someone else is making the turkey, I had to come up with a recipe that would be rich and tasty without the benefit if turkey drippings. This Garlic and Wine Gravy fills the bill. It is flavorful but has a lightness about it that makes it feel slightly less a guilty pleasure.

Garlic and Wine Turkey Gravy
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Servings
12
Servings
12
Garlic and Wine Turkey Gravy
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Servings
12
Servings
12
Ingredients
Servings:
Instructions
  1. Heat the olive oil in a small fry pan. Add the garlic and shallots and cook until golden brown. Be careful not to burn them.
  2. Add the wine to the pan and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium and simmer until the wine is reduced by half, 5 - 7 minutes. Set aside.
  3. In a medium saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat. Whisk in the flour and cook stirring often for 2 minutes.
  4. Add about 1 cup of the stock and continue to whisk until it is smooth. Gradually stir in the rest of the stock. Bring the mixture to a boil, reduce the heat and add the reserved garlic and wine mixture and the Italian Herb Blend.
  5. Continue to simmer for 5 - 10 minutes until the gravy thickens. Give it a taste and add salt and pepper as needed.
  6. Serve with turkey, dressing, or anything else you want to put it on.
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This year I have so much to be thankful for. Our family is thriving and the younger grandboys are a true delight. I cherish the time I get to spend with them. Our first grandboy is “home” for the holiday and the time spent with him is precious. I hope that you too, have many things that make you thankful and happy. Enjoy the day and all the blessings that it brings.

 

The Season of Stuffed Poultry

It’s that time of year. The time when poultry becomes king (or queen) of the table. Soon Turkeys of all sizes will be transforming into golden centerpieces anchoring tables laden with foods rich and light, but mostly rich. I love Thanksgiving. After the prime reason of being thankful for all that we have, it is a holiday that centers around food. Food is what Mama D’s Kitchen is about. That and family and memories and love.

Sometimes that centerpiece is another kind of poultry. I remember one Thanksgiving when I was very young, there was a goose on the table. I do not remember eating it, but it was there. I’ve crowned my Thanksgiving table with Cornish Hens and Turkey Breasts and one year after 15 long hours, a smoked turkey. Note to self on that one; if you do this again plan more appetizers and less wine…

This really isn’t about turkey, but it is about the wonderment that stuffed poultry in any form creates. These days the turkey is often cooked separate from the stuffing, which I guess makes it dressing. When I do turkey I’m usually in the unstuffed crowd. This is because I love the stuffing, probably more than I love the turkey. I like my stuffing on the side with lots of crunchy crust and other good things (if time allows you will be hearing about that).

I do enjoy poultry when it enrobes an aromatic and semi-carb laden filling. Chicken breasts are the perfect canvas (once they are butterflied and pounded flat) for this kind of creation, especially if they are generously built. This dish checks off all of these boxes and it’s wrapped in bacon to boot. On the practical side, the stuffing was created from what was on hand. If you’ve been following along on my food adventures, you know this is how I roll most of the time. I like to use what is in the pantry or refrigerator and enjoy the challenge of combining these finds in a manner that is both creative and tasty. I’m also cheap and hate to throw food away.

So having the time, inclination and ingredients I created a stuffing that was based on quinoa. This high protein grain has been popular for some time. It is visually stunning, with its spiral germ that creates an intriguing pattern.

It has a bit of chew to it and a subtly nutty taste that enables it to welcome all manner of vegetables and herbs. Poking through the refrigerator, I found crimini mushrooms and a cubanelle pepper. At first they didn’t seem to be a match, but when they joined forces with  red onions, garlic, and rosemary they got along beautifully. I let them cook for a good long time in olive oil. I added some chicken stock occasionally to keep things moving. The flavor had a chance to concentrate and what seemed like an overly large pile of vegetables cooked down to just the right size.

Before the quinoa was tossed in, the veggies got an extra shot of flavor from a splash of Marsala, a slightly sweet Italian wine. All that was left to do was butterfly and flatten the chicken breasts. These were large weighing in at about 8 ounces each. All the better to hold a generous portion of the stuffing. They were big enough to hold themselves together without the benefit of twine of toothpicks but just in case, I wrapped a couple of slices of bacon around them for good measure.

They baked for about 25 minutes before they were plated alongside some sautéed Cherry Tomatoes. The chicken was moist and tender and the stuffing was savory with just the right amount of chew.Give this recipe a try. Experiment with different grains and flavor profiles. This is easy enough for a weeknight but would be just as comfortable on an intimate holiday table.

Quinoa Stuffed Chicken Breasts
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Servings
2
Servings
2
Quinoa Stuffed Chicken Breasts
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Servings
2
Servings
2
Ingredients
Servings:
Instructions
  1. Cook quinoa according to the package directions and set aside.
  2. In a medium skillet, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the onions, pepper, mushrooms, and garlic. Cook stirring occasionally until everything is very soft and browned, 10 minutes or so. Add chicken broth as needed to keep the vegetables moist.
  3. While the vegetables cook, butterfly the chicken breasts and flatten them to an even thickness. Season lightly with salt and pepper and set aside.
  4. Add the rosemary and the Marsala and simmer until the wine is evaporated. Stir in the reserved quinoa and toss well to combine.
  5. Put about 1/2 cup of the filling on each of the open chicken breasts. Roll up carefully.
  6. Wrap 2 bacon strips around each breast. If necessary, secure the rolls with toothpicks or kitchen twine.
  7. Spray a baking sheet with cooking spray. Spread any remaining quinoa mixture on center of sheet. Place the chicken rolls on top of the quinoa.
  8. Bake 25 in a preheated 375 degree oven until the chicken is cooked through and the bacon is brown.
  9. Remove any toothpicks or twine before serving.
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As we enter this holiday season, I wish you happy times with the ones you love. Thank you for following my food adventures.

 

Whole Lotta Chili Goin’ On

As we leave Halloween behind and prepare to make a quick stop at Thanksgiving before plunging headlong into Christmas, it is important to note that as the weather and decorations change, so does what the Kitchen of Love turns out. Friends, we are at the cusp of Chili Season. This is a season (and dish) that loves Fall, adds a bit of zest to Winter, and can make the coldest, dampest Spring day feel a little less bleak.

This dish for almost all seasons has many versions and a history that rivals many urban legends. I would guess that almost every cook has a version and that there are as many dos and don’ts as there are recipes. It’s not from Mexico, but the spice profile is. It is the subject of an ongoing, often heated debate; beans vs. no beans. Native of Texas, but with possible roots in the Canary Islands. Created in a nun’s vision or out of necessity. We may never know for certain and many articles have been written. What is certain, however is that any way you like your chili is all right.

I’ve shared several chili recipes over the years, but I do believe that there is always room for one more. This one features a wide variety of chilis in different forms, hence the name. It starts with my homemade red chili sauce made with ancho and guaillo chilis. There are roasted poblanos and canned green chilis to give some texture and mild heat.

Jalapenos join onions and garlic for the vegetable base.The spices include Ancho and Chipotle Powders, which brings the chili total to seven. That’s a “Whole Lotta Chili.”

There is also debate as to whether tomatoes should be added. I have done chili both ways and they each have their merits. This version uses some tomato paste partly for a little more richness but mostly because there were a couple of tablespoons left in the tube.

All of these flavors require a protein profile that is just as varied. Smoky Bacon, Chicken Thighs, and Turkey Italian Sausage rounded out the meats. There was about 1-1/2 pounds total. I used what I had on hand, but you could go with beef, ground or chopped, or all ground turkey. Even skip the meat and double up on the beans (if you are of the chili with beans army). Remember there are no rules for chili…as long as you aren’t serving it to Texans.

I am a staunch member of the chili with beans club, so I doubled down with Kidney and Black Beans. I love the pasty yet meaty texture of Kidney beans (How’s that for a description?) and the smoky flavor of Black Beans. Together they gave some added depth to the chili.

Chili seasonings are only limited by the chili maker’s taste and spice cabinet. You can choose screaming hot or sweetly spicy depending on your sensibilities. I tend to be a savory and mildly spicy kind of gal ( and Papa D wouldn’t want it any other way). I have even put Mexican Chocolate in my Turkey Mole Chili. For this recipe however, I stuck mostly to tradition and used plenty of Cumin, a touch of Coriander, and a healthy amount of Mexican Oregano. Yes, there is a difference, try it. I opted for Ancho and Chipotle Powder instead of Chili Powder; It was a personal choice, use what you really like.

I added some Corn Broth to the chili sauce mainly because I had it in the freezer. Chicken or vegetable stock works well, too. I like my chili on the thick side. That requires a thickening agent. I used Masa Harina. This is fine ground corn flour. Add some water or stock to the flour and shake it like crazy to create a slurry. It works quickly and cooks out to a subtle corn taste that I love.

This is just one suggestion for chili. I have several of them in my recipe archives, if you are inclined to, browse. A winter kitchen needs at least one chili recipe. Take this one as a starting point and make it your own.

Whole Lotta Chili
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Servings
6
Servings
6
Whole Lotta Chili
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Servings
6
Servings
6
Ingredients
Servings:
Instructions
  1. Heat a large soup pot over medium high heat. Add the bacon and cook until it renders some fat and is just beginning to brown. Remove the bacon from the pan and drain on paper towels.
  2. Add the chicken and turkey sausage to the pot and cook until they are cooked through. Remove from the pan and set aside. Leave the drippings in the pan.
  3. Add the onions, garlic, cumin, coriander, and jalapeno to the pot and cook until the onions soften and everything smells wonderful.
  4. Add the tomato paste and stir to blend it in. Cook for about 5 minutes stirring occasionally.
  5. Add the chili sauce and stock along with the chili powders and oregano. Stir in the green and poblano chilis. Bring to a simmer and cook for 20 minutes to blend the flavors.
  6. Add the rinsed and drained beans to the pot and let everything simmer another 15 minutes.
  7. Increase the heat to a low boil. Shake the masa harina with a half cup of water in a jar until it is well blended. Stir the mixture into the chili and continue to stir until it thickens.
  8. Give it a taste and adjust the ingredients as needed. Serve.
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Brussels Sprout Love

I do believe that Fall is here. Pumpkins are everywhere along with what I consider the essential Fall vegetables. In Mama D’s Kitchen the Love extends to squash, sweet potatoes, and those lovely little green cabbages,

Back in our California Days, we would drive by Brussels Sprout fields.Brussels Sprouts, the stalks standing proudly, perfuming the air with their mild cabbage scent. Driving along highway 1, we would keep a lookout for a beat up old station wagon on the side of the road. Every time we saw it, we would stop and greet a man older and more beat up than his car. His name was Dutch and he sold Brussels Sprouts and artichokes out of the back of that old station wagon. Every visit resulted in a bag of sprouts and a baby artichoke or Brussels sprout (Dutch’s gift) for both of my sons. They would each hold on to these treasured gifts all the way home.

These days, we get our Brussels sprouts from the store and at this time of year they seem to be the sweetest of all. I want to share some of the ways that I love these “little cabbages” in the hope that you will invite them into your kitchen. My very favorite way to prepare them is roasting. All they require is a drizzle of olive oil and whatever seasonings your heart desires. Salt and pepper go without saying, but earthy herbs, smoked paprika, and cumin are always welcome additions.

Brussels Sprouts play well with others. Onions have a strong affinity, as do sweet potatoes, Red and Yukon Gold potatoes. Even peppers and fruits like apples or cranberries can co-mingle . By themselves or with other vegetables they make a wonderful side dish, and in the case of this Panzanella Salad, a one dish side.

Roasted Brussels Sprout Panzanella
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Panzanella salad in the winter? Absolutely! Roast your favorite veggies and toss them with your favorite bread and dressing. Who needs summer?
Servings
4
Servings
4
Roasted Brussels Sprout Panzanella
Print Recipe
Panzanella salad in the winter? Absolutely! Roast your favorite veggies and toss them with your favorite bread and dressing. Who needs summer?
Servings
4
Servings
4
Ingredients
Dressing
Salad
Servings:
Instructions
  1. Whisk the dressing ingredients together in a small bowl or shake in a jar with a tight fitting lid. Set aside
  2. Place the bread cubes in a baking pan. Spray lightly with olive oil cooking spray and toss to coat evenly. Bake at 350 degrees for 10 - 15 minutes until the cubes are dry, crisp and just barely browned. Place in a large serving bowl.
  3. Combine the Brussels sprouts, red onion, and bell pepper in a large roasting pan. Add the tablespoon of olive oil and the salt and pepper. Toss to coat evenly.
  4. Roast at 350 degrees for 35 - 40 minutes. The veggies should be tender and lightly browned. Pour the vegetables and any liquid over the bread cubes and toss to combine.
  5. Pour the dressing over the mixture in the serving bowl and toss to coat.
  6. Add the tomato halves and toss once more. Allow to sit at room temperature for at least 30 minutes. Toss again and serve at room temperature.
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While roasting brings out the sweetness and imparts color beyond compare, Sprouts are very happy when they meet a hot skillet. I like the results, too. Did I mention that sprouts enjoy a bit of pork love? Here they join forces with bacon, but pancetta is also delightful.

Skillet Brussels Sprouts and Potatoes
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This is an easy side dish that combines a vegetable and starch in one pan. The bacon and onions make this a fabulous side dish for any protein.
Servings
4
Servings
4
Skillet Brussels Sprouts and Potatoes
Print Recipe
This is an easy side dish that combines a vegetable and starch in one pan. The bacon and onions make this a fabulous side dish for any protein.
Servings
4
Servings
4
Ingredients
Servings:
Instructions
  1. Heat a large fry pan over medium high heat. Add the bacon and cook stirring occasionally until crisp. Remove the bacon from the pan and drain on paper towels. Pour all but 1 tablespoon of the drippings out of the pan.
  2. Reduce the heat to medium. Add the potatoes, sprouts and onion to the pan. Cook, stirring occasionally until everything is tender and lightly browned. This should take about 15 -20 minutes, but let your eyes and taste be the judge.
  3. Add the freshly ground pepper and serve.
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As you can tell, I really enjoy cooked brussels sprouts in various forms, but lately I have come to discover their beauty raw. They make a wonderful salad and though the slicing is a bit tedious, the resulting crunchy sensation is worth the effort. Think of it as an earthier cole slaw. This salad is dressed with a warm Shallot Vinaigrette. The shallots ( and there was a good amount of them) are sautéed in olive oil. Sherry Vinegar and honey give it the perfect sweet and sour sensation that makes this salad a perfect counterpoint to rich meat. Why it could even top a burger and be happy.

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Brussels Sprout Salad
Servings: 2
Ingredients
  • 8 Ounces Brussels Sprouts Thinly sliced
  • 1/3 Cup Shallots Chopped
  • 2 Tbsp. Olive Oil
  • 1 Tbsp. Sherry Vinegar
  • 1 Tbsp. Honey More or less to taste
  • 2 Tsp. Fresh Thyme Or other herb of your choice
  • Salt & Pepper
Instructions
  1. Place a small skillet over medium heat. Add the olive oil and allow it to heat up for a minute or so. Add the shallots.

  2. Cook the shallots for 5 - 7 minutes. they should be soft, fragrant and slightly golden.  Add the thyme, vinegar, and honey to the skillet. Allow the dressing to cook for a couple of minutes to let everything heat through and blend together.

  3. Give it a taste and add salt, pepper, and more honey to your taste. Pour the dressing over the sliced sprouts and toss to coat evenly. Serve.

So there you have three of my favorite ways to enjoy Brussels Sprouts. There are many other variations on these themes that are waiting to enter your kitchen.

Sprouts have been showing up everywhere. Restaurants as well as social media are jumping on the Brussels Sprout bandwagon. I’ve had a wonderful Brussles Sprout Salad served as a bed for Lamb Pastrami and a frizzled egg for brunch at River Roast in Chicago. I’ve noticed variations on roasted and even fried Brussels Sprouts showing up on more appetizer menus and as a side dish as well.  I just saw a recipe for Bacon Wrapped Brussels Sprouts that would make an awesome Game Day appetizer.

Nobody is putting this “Baby Cabbage” in the corner any more. Let her grace your kitchen and take center stage.

A Monday Kind of Pasta Frittata

As Summer finally (maybe) comes to an end, leaving a checkerboard path of meatless meals in its wake, I am again moving into “Meatless Mondays.” I am also once again cleaning out the refrigerator, putting ingredients to use before they are useless. That being said this recipe would be wonderful even if it was planned in advance.

I have just returned from a wonderful visit with California friends. While I was living it up in a penthouse suite overlooking the Chicago River and Lake Michigan, Papa D was left to his own devices as far as meals were concerned. One evening he cooked a pound of pasta to go with the container of Sunday Gravy that I had left in the refrigerator. Wisely, he decided to save some of the pasta  to scramble with eggs (his idea).

Liking the idea when I got home, I ran with it. There were a few other leftovers that needed rescuing. Peppers, tomatoes and some cheese all were nearing the end of the road so they gathered together to become a pasta frittata.This dish, and the use of pasta, is popular in many areas of Italy. It can be labeled Neapolitan or Sicilian and is probably claimed by many other regions, but it always seems to use leftover pasta as its base. Techniques can vary, but I like cooking the vegetables first.and adding the pasta second. Olive oil is a driving force in this process as is initial high heat. Once the eggs are added along with some cheese, things need to get low and slow. This is a dense dish that takes time to set. This also allows time to enjoy the fragrance that the garlic and other vegetables create.When the frittata is almost set, it gets crowned with a little more cheese (a hard grating cheese is best. Asiago, Romano or Parmesan are good choices) and heads for the broiler. Lightly golden and ever so slightly crusty it is ready for its close up. A sprinkling of basil or any other available herb gives it a little more color.This makes a lovely weeknight supper, but it is just as at home for a weekend brunch. The format is easy and lends itself to whatever embellishment you want to add. This served two lavishly and could easily serve more with a salad and some crusty bread added.  

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Pasta Frittata
Servings: 2
Ingredients
  • 1 Tbsp. Olive Oil
  • 3/4 Cup Thinly sliced Onions
  • 3/4 Cup Thinly sliced Sweet Peppers
  • 2 cloves Garlic Chopped
  • 1 Cup Grape Tomatoes Halved
  • 2 Cups Cooked Pasta
  • 4 Eggs Beaten
  • 2 Tbsp. Milk
  • 1 Tsp. Italian Hebs
  • 1/2 Cup Grated Italian Cheese Divided
  • 1/4 Cup Thinly sliced Basil
Instructions
  1. Heat the olive oil over medium high heat in an oven proof skillet. Add the onions and peppers and cook stirring occasionally until softened and beginning to brown. 5-7 minutes.

  2. Add the garlic and tomatoes to the pan and cook another 3 - 4 minutes. The garlic should be fragrant and the tomatoes should begin to soften.

  3. Add the pasta and toss to combine the ingredients. Continue to cook, tossing occasionally until the pasta begins to take on some color, another  5 minutes or so.

  4. Heat the oven to broil. Beat the eggs, milk and half of the cheese together until well blended. Stir in the Italian herbs. Carefully pour the egg mixture into the pan so that it is even.

  5. Lower the heat to medium and cook lifting the edges of the egg to allow the mixture to cook through. Once the eggs are almost set, sprinkle with the remaining cheese and transfer to the oven.

  6. Broil until the top is golden and the cheese has melted. Remove from the oven and allow to rest for 5 minutes. Sprinkle with the basil and serve.

I don’t want to cut anyone’s weekend short, but Monday is just around the corner. If you make pasta over the weekend, make a little extra…a frittata might be just the way to begin the “Meatless Monday” tradition.