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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Easy-Peasy-Smoothy

smoothy 2It’s a blustery-leaf-blowing brisk fall day in SoCal, and for whatever reason I’m in the mood for a good cold smoothy.  So sue me.

Recipes for smoothies kind of crack me up.  I mean really.  REALLY?  Throw some stuff you like in a blender and hit puree for heaven’s sake!  Sometimes my smoothies come out a bit too thick, so I add more water or juice.  Sometimes they are too runny, so I add another banana or just deal with it.  Sometimes they are not sweet enough, so I add a tablespoon of honey.  If it’s not cold enough I add some ice… I think you get the picture.

But for my friends who prefer to measure and, like, be organized about their smoothies, I recorded what I did today and now I will share it with you.  You’re welcome.

Michelle’s Go-To Smoothy

Ingredients: 1 can of fruit (pineapple, pears or peaches) including the juice, 2 bananas, 1 cup orange juice, 1 cup yogurt, 2/3 cup raw oats.

Directions: blend and drink.

Tips: Only buy canned fruit in juice.  Why in the world did people start putting “heavy syrup” on fruit.  Yuck.  I seriously think only bad people buy that stuff (OK, I may have overstated my case here but seriously–it’s sweet already!) I also avoid any canned fruit with artificial sweeteners.  Yipes man.

If I use plain yogurt I sometimes add I bit of honey to the mix as well.  I started adding raw oats to my smoothies years ago and I must say: YUM.  The oats are an easy way to bulk up the drink–especially for hungry kiddos and husbands, but you need to let them sit for a couple of minutes to soak up the juice so they break down nice and easy for ‘ya.

smoothy 1Like this, see?

Finally, (boy this is a lot of tips!) I do use fresh fruit for smoothies too, but only the ugly, too-soft pieces.  The good stuff gets eaten up w/out all this hassle!

 

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.

Sangria

sangria

Hot.  It is hot.  Cool, it is not.  How I wish it were chilly but it is hot, hot, hot, HOT.

Have I mentioned it’s hot?

People who hang out with me on a regular basis know some of my fave things in life.  Sangria is one of those things.

Sangria comes in a kajillion different ways but generally includes wine, fruit, juice and some other stuff.  While I appreciate a crisp white sangria, red is my go-to.

Lots of restaurants serve sangria and I must say that none of them make it better than I do.  (Oh no she di-‘unt just say that!)  Apparently practice does make perfect 😉 and I have finally given up ordering this when dining out as it’s just too disappointing.  Everyone tries to get all fancy-pants about it with 12-ingredient-long recipes and almost always waaaaay too much sugar.  Blech!

I even saw a restaurant in Mammoth Lakes this summer that boasted “World’s Best Sangria!”  Not even close.

Simple.  Lightly sweetened.  Refreshing and beautiful.  I have a few sangria recipes I like, including one that uses pineapple juice and spiced rum, but for now please say hello to…

Michelle’s Simple Summer Sangria

Ingredients: 1 bottle red wine, 2 cups OJ, 1 can club soda, chopped seasonal fruit (I used a nectarine and a plum here) 2 tbsp. sugar, 1-2 shots brandy or rum or triple sec.

Directions: Chop the fruit and set it in the liquor with sugar for an hour or so–longer is fine.  Chill all your ingredients and mix them all together, serve over ice (casually cute Martha Stewart glass jar optional) and smile.  You may want to add another 1-3 tbsp. sugar to taste.

Tips: Don’t break the bank on the wine.  A mediocre $5-7 bottle will do fine.  In the fall I make sangria with oranges and apples.  In the spring with strawberries and cherries.  It’s all good.  Really good.

Bonus tip: Sangria always tastes better when shared with good friends, like Dale and Lisa.  Cheers!

sangria cheers!

Gorgeous Carrot Slaw

carrot slaw

I simply cannot call this salad “carrot slaw.”  “Gorgeous” must be in the title because, duh: it is so divine to look at!  I placed that blue vase (pronounced “vahs” for effect) in the background as it makes such a stylish contrast.  I am so artsy-shmartsy.

My carrots slaw recipe is tweaked and a bit simplified from Once Upon a Chef.  I eased up on a few ingredients but it could be because the farmers market carrots I get don’t need as much stuff on’em; I don’t know.

The photo above is made with hand grated carrots as I couldn’t find the correct attachment for my food processor that I hardly ever use.  Lucky for me, child labor laws are a bit lax at my house…

Josie grating carrots

“Mommy, my arm is getting tired…”  “Hang in there, honey.  Only 10 more carrots to go!”

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup walnuts, coarsely chopped
  • 1 pound grated carrots, or 1-1/3 pounds carrots, peeled and grated (if you wash them well, don’t have to peel)
  • 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon lemon zest and 2 tablespoons lemon juice, from one lemon
  • 3 tablespoons freshly squeezed orange juice, from one orange (or a splash of orange juice)
  • 1-2 tablespoons honey
  • 1/2 cup dried cranberries
  • a little bundle of green onion, white and green parts, diced
  • 3 tablespoons chopped fresh Italian parsley
  • dash of salt
  • dash of pepper

Here’s what all the yummy stuff looked like before I mixed it up.  It’s already getting pretty!  I went ahead and and tossed my walnuts in as our mouths were beginning to water at this point and I was fairly certain the salad wouldn’t last long.  I was right.

carrot slaw ingredients

Directions:

Bake walnuts at 350 for about 5-7 minutes.  Set aside.  Throw remaining ingredients into a bowl and toss it up a bit.  This salad will keep well in the fridge for a few days, but don’t add the walnuts until you’re ready to eat.

I made my gorgeous carrot slaw for a potluck last night with a few bags of store-bought shredded carrots.  Much less work and a different texture than the hand grated method.  What made it still yummalicious was that I made the salad 24 hours in advance so the flavors had time to really get to know each other.  They got along great, btw.