Coocoo for Couscous!

couscous w pomegranite How, exactly, do you spell “Coocoo” anyway?

Never mind.  Today’s post is in honor of the fabulosa Meal Planning 101 workshop I taught two nights ago in my cozy living room.  Together with Ana, Jackie, Denise and Rebecca (hi mamas!) a productive evening of learning, laughing and–of course–eating was had!

I found this recipe online (and then modified it, what a shock) when I realized I had a half of a pomegranate that I needed to use up.  This fruit is beautiful and grows literally in many So-Cal folks’ backyards, although mine was purchased from the farmers market.  Takes a little work to get these glorious seeds freed from their fruit-home, but if you ask my girls, it’s tooootally worth it.

Michelle’s Citrus Couscous Salad

Ingredients: 1 cup couscous, veg or chicken stock, several fresh mint leaves, 2 fresh oranges, fresh pomegranate seeds (about a 1/2 cup if you can swing it), 1-2 tbsp. white wine vinegar, 1-2 tbsp. olive oil, salt and pepper to taste.

Directions: Prepare couscous according to package directions.  You don’t have to use stock, but I like it better than water.  When done, add diced mint (start with a little), pomegranate seeds, vinegar and olive oil.  Squeeze your oranges and get some ‘a that juice in there (can use regular OJ too.)  The original recipe called for one orange, and maybe mine were a little bland but I needed two to get that sweet zing that I was wantin’.  Also add the vinegar and oil carefully.  You’d be surprised how much vinegars can vary so it’s better to hit with just one tbsp. and then add more if you need it.  There’s no going back if you add too much.  Serve chilled/room temp.

What I like about this salad: It’s so pretty!  Also it was easy-tasty-healthy, which, if you know me at all, are my three favorite food adjectives.   The I didn’t use as much mint as the original recipe suggested.  I like fresh mint, but it can be overpowering if one is not careful.  Oh.  The original recipe also called for green onion, which I didn’t have.  I had planned to add a bit of chopped white or red onion, but decided it wasn’t needed.  I promised my workshop girlfriends that I’d post this for them as they were my officially samplers two nights ago.  Thanks ladies!

Check me out on Hometown Pasadena till next Tuesday if you’re in the mood for more online recipe-a-la-MIchelle fun.  And I mean really, who couldn’t use a little more of that?

En honor de Dia de los Muertos: que tengan muy buenas memorias de todos que ya han pasado.

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Let’s Talk Turkey

cooked turkey

P.S. (that’s ‘pre’ script!) I left my turkey in the pan even though the bottom of it blackened.  Yup.  It happens and even though I love my blog I am just not the kind of girl who is going to place her turkey on a pretty platter just for a photo.  Who has time!?

Yes it is late September and I am in the mood for turkey.  I love me a nice roasted turkey.  The aroma of that heavenly non-chicken savory-ness permeated my house while it cooked away.  Mmmmmm…

We Americans have become so Thanksgiving-ingrained about turkeys that they can be down right hard to find outside of November, but I knew Whole Foods wouldn’t let me down (and at their prices, let’s face it: they’d better not!)

So I got myself an organic turkey yesterday for $3.99/lb.  For a nine pound bird that’s, ahem, close to FORTY DOLLARS.  How the heck does the full time homemaker–married to a public school teacher–swing a 40 buck-bird for dinner?  Well I am just so glad you asked.

I don’t.  That is; I don’t swing it for one dinner.  My friends, to make this purchase worth it I go Native American on my bird.  Oh yeah.  NOTHING IS WASTED.  The only way I can justify spending this kind of loot on a turkey is to stretch that meat into a bunch of meals.  Don’t you want to know what I do? (yes.)  Would you like me to walk you through all the stages? (yes.)

OK.  Here we go.

1. Prep your turkey.  Super easy plan here.  Fall has actually descended in So-Cal (thankyouthankyouthankyou) and the weather is a tad cooler, but it’s not cold enough outside for me to have a hankering for some stuffing and that sort of thing.  So I kept my plan pretty light:

turkey stuff

After removing the neck and the bag of whatever-the-heck-that-was from the cavity of Mr. Turkey, I put in a quarter of an onion, two garlic cloves and a lemon (ends chopped off with holes forked around the sides.)

2. Then, you may have noticed that my turkey doesn’t look like June Cleaver’s (and never will, thank you very much.)  Just like when I roast a chicken I always place the breast side down to insure the largest pieces of meat will stay tender and juicy.  My sister calls this “downward dog style.”

raw turkey

Then, on top I used the following ingredients: 1/2 cup white wine, 1/2 cup orange juice, drizzle olive oil.  Sprinkle top with whatever yummy stuff you’ve got in your spice drawer.  I used several dashes of thyme, garlic powder, garlic salt, black pepper and I think some oregano.

3. Also just like when I cook a chicken I set the oven at 425 degrees and cook for 25 or so minutes.  Then reduce temp to 325 and cook approximately 25 minutes per pound.  This was a 9 pounder so I left it for about 2 1/2 more hours.  I checked it at about 2 1/4 hours and it was done.  How did I know this?  My handy meat thermometer (inserted into thigh after taking out of oven to check) read just above 155 degrees.

Back to the justification piece…  After the turkey cooled I de-boned it and had two sets of leftovers.  All the meat:

turkey meat

And then the bones or carcass:

turkey carcass

This is, in fact, my favorite part as I will boil these bones in water (with the lemon, onion and garlic) for about 90 minutes to get the most delicious broth you’ve ever tasted.  If my house smelled good with the turkey in the oven, just imagine what it will smell like with these bones simmering away.  Yu-uhm.

So, last night we had turkey with rice and broccoli.  I will use the leftover meat and soon-to-be broth to make, likely 3 more meals (including soup which I am so excited about I can hardly stand it!)

If you do the math now, I spent about 40 bucks on the turkey, but if I use it for four meals for five people that’s around $2.00 per person per meal.  For organic turkey that’s pretty good, right?  And if I can squeak another meal out of the meat I could drop that cost even more.

How many recipes can a girl make with turkey?  Again, so glad you asked.  Turkey soup is coming pronto.  I’m also thinking about turkey enchiladas, toasted turkey sandwiches and maybe turkey fajitas… or maybe turkey stir fry… or wait… so hard to decide!

Do you want to see my recipes for turkey leftovers?  (yes.) Coming soon!

Turkey ingredients recap:

Ingredients: 9 pound turkey, two garlic cloves, 1/4 onion, fresh lemon, 1/2 cup OJ, 1/2 cup white wine, drizzle olive oil, generous dashes of garlic salt, garlic powder, black pepper, thyme and oregano.

Direction recap: Cook at 425 for 25 minutes and then lower temp to 325 and cook for 25 minutes per pound.  Internal meat temp should read 155 when done.

Tips: I place a piece of aluminum foil in the bottom of my roasting pan to help with cleanup.  Also, I added water this time about 1/2 way through roasting as the sizzling pan started to create a bit of smoke.

My Friend, Bruschetta

bruschetta

OK, so I’m just gonna come out and say it: Bruschetta is the best salad in the world.  Yup.  WORLD.

Don’t get me wrong, I need variety in my diet and absolutely adore other salads (cole slaw, for example) but, honestly, if I had to eat one salad for the rest of my life, (a strange  scenario, but just go with it) I would–hands down–choose bruschetta.

I love the simplicity of this dish.  6 little ingredients that come together in the easiest way to create a sensory experience that appeals to the eyes, nose and mouth.  I can seriously smell the basil and garlic in that photo above.  And the ripeness of the tomatoes coupled with the malty vibrancy of the balsamic vinegar… oh my…

On a hot summer’s night when the thought of turning on the oven or standing over the grill makes me wilt, sometimes I make just this for dinner.  With fresh fruit for dessert and (who are we kidding?) a nice glass of wine… well, that’s kind of a complete meal, right?  At our house: yes.

Michelle’s Bruschetta (pronounced “Broo-skeh-tah”)

Ingredients (quantities are approximate–I eyeball it every time): 5-6 good sized ripe tomatoes, handful of fresh basil, 1 large clove garlic, 1 rounded tsp. salt, 3 tbsp. decent balsamic vinegar (I like Costco’s Kirkland brand, actually), 3 tbsp. olive oil.

Directions: dice tomatoes, chop basil (stems can go in too as long as they’re not too “stalky,”) press garlic and throw everything together in a bowl.  Mix and let sit for a few hours if possible.  That’s it, baby!

Serve on sliced pieces of french baguette.  If you’re feeling super fancy, you can broil the pieces of bread with a drizzle of olive oil for a couple of minutes each side so they get toasty and won’t get soggy with the bruschetta on top.  If you’re not fancy today (and it’s OK, I won’t judge you); slice the bread and there you go.

Tips: Tomatoes need to be ripe and pretty much any kind will do.  Basil can be droopy or even at that “just before it goes off” stage and still work just fine.  Even if you’re a garlic lover like me, use only one clove per 6 tomatoes as I suggest above.  The vinegar and tomato juice will amplify the garlic as it sits.

I make this salad a lot, take it to various summer potluck gatherings and it has never-ever-ever failed to impress.  Hope you enjoy it!

 

SLAW

slaw

I’ve a confession to make.  Lately I’ve been a little OCD about cole slaw.  I know, right?  Of all things…

Since my “mouthy no worky” due to illness early this month, I’ve been slowly regaining my sense of taste.  For a few weeks now, even though my tongue is regaining a purpose in life, I’ve been desperate for foods that tasted like the good ‘ol days.

Enter: vinegar.  So I got a hankerin’ for some slaw one day and this idea turned in a two week long mission to find the perfect cole slaw recipe.  I decided that when I developed the recipe I liked, I’d post about it.

My friends, that day has come.

Michelle’s (and Mike, my girlfriend Lisa and daughter Josie’s) Fave Cole Slaw

Ingredients: 1/2 head cabbage, chopped; 2 carrots, shredded; few slender pieces red onion (don’t need to much); 1/4 cup cider vinegar; 1/4 cup olive oil; 2 tsp sugar; few dashes salt; dash pepper

Directions: While you are prepping the veggies, bring the vinegar, olive oil and seasonings to a boil on the stove top.  With the sugar in there this will happen in about 2 mins, maybe less.  Mix your now kinda-syrupy and warm vinaigrette and pour it over the top of your naked veggies.  Toss all this yummy stuff together and let it sit for a few hours before serving.  That’s it!

Tips: I like unfiltered cider vinegar (but then I’ve been working on jump starting  my taste buds so it could just be me.)  I played around with several cole slaw recipes before I deduced this one.  I don’t mind the mayonnaise type slaws, but they are so darn unhealthy that I figured I’d put my energy into the vinegar based kind.

The real secret with this recipe lies in the heating of the dressing before putting it on the veggies.  It doesn’t blanch the cabbage, per se, but the heat does do a little voo-doo which is nice.  Plus, heating dissolves the sugar and makes for a nice light syrup.

This recipe is pretty mild, actually, but makes for a great side dish for BBQ chicken, tacos, ribs, sandwiches.   I like this slaw because it’s easy-tasty-healthy (my three fave food adjectives!)

There are fancier concoctions that yield some nicely complex slaw situations, but for the effort, cost and taste, this  simple slaw recipe gets my vote.

Finally (seriously, how much can a person say about cabbage!?) I never knew how darn healthy cabbage is for ya!  It’s loaded with fiber, vitamin C, E, calcium, serves as a blood detoxifier… plus it’s cheap as heck and literally lasts for weeks in the fridge.  No wonder it’s such a big staple for so many cultures world wide.

OK.  I’m done.