Smokey Lentil Soup with Turkey Sausage

After a super sized Holiday weekend, nothing is better than a week of healthy food to make you feel a little less plump. Given that I am going to a warm place for Christmas in 3 weeks, this girl needs to lay off the dessert and start eating her veggies. I made this soup last week and froze it and it was a great lunch today. It is hearty, full of vegetables, fiber filling lentils and satisfying turkey sausage. The chipotle in it gives it a nice spice and extra smoke. The broth is so flavorful, you will forget that this is even healthy. I like to serve this with a warm bread, preferably from your favorite bakery. Since I am trying to be good, I went with a nine grain, but a french baguette or sourdough would be perfect. Here's to healthy eating so we can indulge yet again guiltlessly this holiday season.

Smokey Lentil Soup with Turkey Sausage
forks & amusement 2010
serves 8-10

1 1/2 cups lentils
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 onions, chopped
3 leeks, rinsed well, chopped, whites only
2 cloves garlic, minced
4 large turkey sausage links, casings removed
4 carrots, small dice
4 celery stalks, small dice
salt and pepper
1 tablespoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon fresh thyme, chopped
2 canned chipotle peppers, deseeded, chopped
1 1/2 tablespoons adobo sauce (what chipotles are canned in)
8 cups chicken stock
grated Parmesan cheese

Place lentils in a large bowl, pour in enough boiling water  to cover them and wrap top with plastic wrap. Let sit for 15 minutes. Repeat. Then drain.

Meanwhile, in a large pot heat up 1 tablespoon of the olive oil over medium heat and add in the onion and leek. Saute until they are beginning to become translucent, then add the garlic. Cook for 30 seconds, then add in the sausage. Brown the sausage with the vegetables, breaking up the meat with the back of a wooden spoon. Continue to cook and break it up until cooked through. Remove pot from heat and pour meat mixture into a bowl.

Return pot to the stove over medium heat and add the other tablespoon of oil. Once it is hot, add the carrot and celery. Cook the vegetables until they are just beginning to soften, stirring often. Add in the salt and pepper (to taste), cumin, thyme, chipotle and adobo sauce. Stir well and add the meat mixture back in the pot. Add the lentils and combine well, cooking for just a couple of minutes. Add the stock and bring soup to a boil.

Lower heat to low and allow to simmer for 30 minutes or until lentils are softened and cooked through. Taste soup for seasoning and adjust as needed. Serve in bowls with grated Parmesan on top.



Thanksgiving Leftover Ideas

Leftovers are absolutely imminent come Friday this week and I wanted to throw out a few ideas to do with some of those leftovers you have. Sometimes the best meals come from leftovers and it can absolutely go beyond the sandwich.

  • Turkey Shepard's Pie: Shred leftover turkey. In a oven proof casserole dish, spread stuffing in bottom of dish, sprinkle turkey over it in another layer, add in any vegetables that are leftover (ie: peas, spinach, cut up asparagus), then spread with leftover mash potatoes. Sprinkle with any cheese you might have leftover from your meal and bake in a 375 degree oven until bubbling and heated through. Serve with gravy on the side. 
  • Turkey Tacos: Shred leftover turkey wrap leftovers in tortillas. It could be just a spread of cranberry sauce, turkey, a little stuffing and season with salt and pepper. Heat up and enjoy! 
  • Turkey Pizza: Click here for a great pizza dough recipe. Top pizzas with leftover turkey,  mozzarella and any leftover vegetables. 
  • Have leftover asparagus? Use this risotto recipe for a base, just skip the step that you cook the asparagus and add in at the end. 
  • Mexican Lasagna: This fan favorite could easily be done with your leftover turkey. For the meat filling, just follow the instructions except cooking the turkey. Add in shredded turkey at the end just to heat up and mix with the vegetables. 
  • Tortilla Soup: Just substitute shredded turkey for chicken in this yummy recipe. 
I hope this gives you a few ideas or at least a starting off point. Get creative and come up with something of your own. Use a favorite chili or soup recipe and just use what you have. Or think outside the box and make a stir fry, an omelet or anything that sounds good! 



Homemade Hummus

Hummus has really climbed the social ladder over the last ten years. Known to many as an exotic food before, hummus can now be found in the refrigerators of almost every woman you know and half the men. Opening a container of hummus and serving it with crackers and crudite is something every host has done and thus helping non-cooks everywhere include something delicious in their repertoire. The quality of store-bought hummus is actually quite good, but includes at least a couple unnatural ingredients. I took a crack at making this centuries old, healthy and delicious dip with a rather amazing outcome. The best thing about something like hummus is that you can add whatever flavors you would like to it. This variation below could very easily be switched by taking out the rosemary and adding anything from spicy red pepper flakes to artichokes to roasted red peppers. This takes about 5 minutes to make and will last about a week in the fridge. Since this version is 100% homemade, filled with protein and bursting with flavor, I think many of you out there will be forgoing the container and keeping these simple ingredients in your pantry and fridge for the next time you need a quick snack for guests or just for yourself! 

Lemon & Rosemary Hummus
Forks & Amusement 2010
makes 1 1/4 cup
50 calories for 2 tablespoons

1 15oz can garbanzo beans or chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon tahini paste (sesame seed paste, can be found in the ethnic food aisle or condiments)
1 large clove of garlic, minced
1/2 lemon zest
juice of 1 juicy lemon
1 sprig of fresh rosemary
1/2 teaspoon of cumin
salt & pepper to taste

For serving: Paprika & olive oil

Combine all top ingredients in a food processor or blender and process until smooth. If hummus is too thick, add a little bit of water to help it along until it is the desired consistency. Add more salt and pepper if needed. Serve in a bowl, sprinkled with paprika and drizzled with just a touch of olive oil. 



Thanksgiving for Novices

Thanksgiving is fast approaching and some of you out there might have decided to host this year and now are starting to feel the panic of putting this dinner on the table. The key to any party is to keep it as simple as you can, while not trying to do too much or anything above your skill level. I mean we all think we are Martha Stewart when we start planning a party, but the reality is a party is only fun if you are not stressing and can enjoy every minute. I took a dry run on the Thanksgiving meal and have some great ideas and a way for you to get around having to deal with a whole turkey, which, if you have not made one before, requires some icky steps. I found a great alternative that also cooks up much quicker. Quick tip: tools you might need for this or any Thanksgiving feast are a quick time meat thermometer, kitchen twine and lots of wine. 

I started the dinner with this great salad. A great way to make a salad in advance is to make the dressing in the bottom of your serving bowl and add the ingreidents first that will not wilt in the dressing. In this case the pears will turn brown if left cut up, so soaking them in the dressing allows them to stay white. Pile the lettuce on top of the other ingredients and refrigerate until ready to toss and serve. 

Pear & Walnut Salad
Forks & Amusement 2010
serves 4 

Dressing: heaping tablespoon of dijon, minced shallot, juice of one lemon, a couple good chugs of white wine vinegar, drizzle olive oil in while you whisk until it is double in size. Salt and pepper to taste. 

Ingredients: 2 chopped pears, handful of chopped walnuts, 1/4 cup shaved parmesan cheese, 2 heads torn butter lettuce

Combine ingredients in salad bowl and toss to coat in the dressing. Serve with a little extra parmesan on top. 

This was the main course, which was Roasted Turkey Roulade with Roasted Green Beans and Asparagus. 

Roasted Green Beans & Asparagus
Forks & Amusement 2010
make as much as you need! 

Cut and trim green beans and place in roasting pan or baking sheet. Trim asparagus and cut in thirds. Drizzle with olive oil, salt and pepper and toss to coat. Add 2 cloves of minced garlic. Roast in a 375 degree oven for 30 minutes or until crisp and just cooked. Serve immediately. 

Roasted Turkey Roulade
Barefoot Contessa, Back to Basics
serves 6 to 7

3/4 cups large diced dried figs, stems removed
3/4 cup dried cranberries
1/2 cup Calvados or Brandy
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter
1 1/2 cups diced onions (2 onions)
1 cup (1/2 inch dice) celery (3 stalks)
3/4 pound pork sausage, casings removed (sweet and hot mixed)
1 1/2 tablespoons chopped fresh rosemary leaves
3 tablespoons pine nuts, toasted (place in a pan over high heat, shake and toast until fragrant, cool)
3 cups Pepperidge Farm herb-seasoned stuffing mix
1 1/2 cups chicken stock
1 extra large egg, beaten
salt and pepper
1 whole (2 halves) turkey breast, boned and butterflied (ask your butcher to do this for you) and skin on (5 pounds)
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

Place the dried figs and cranberries in a small saucepan and pour in the Calvados or brandy and 1/2 cup of water. Bring the mixture to a boil over medium heat, then lower the heat and simmer for 2 minutes. Remove from heat and set aside. 

Meanwhile, melt the butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the onions and celery and saute until softened, about 5 minutes. Add the sausage, crumbling it into small bits with a fork, and saute, stirring frequently, for 10 minutes, until cooked and browned. Add the figs and cranberries with the liquid, the chopped rosemary, and pine nuts, and cook for 2 more minutes. Scrape up the brown bits with a wooden spoon. 

Place the stuffing mix in a large bowl. Add the sausage mixture, chicken stock, egg, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper and stir well. (The stuffing may be prepared ahead and stored in the refrigerator overnight)

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. place a baking rack on a sheet pan. 

Lay the butterflied turkey breast skin down on a cutting board. Sprinkle the meat with 2 teaspoons salt and 1 teaspoon pepper. Spread the stuffing in a 1/2 inch thick layer over the meat, leaving a 1/2 inch border on all sides. Don't mound the stuffing or the turkey will be difficult to roll. (Place leftover stuffing in a buttered gratin dish and bake for the last 45 minutes of roasting alongside the turkey) Starting at one end, roll the turkey like a jelly roll and tuck in any stuffing that tries to escape on the sides. Tie the roast firmly with kitchen twine every 2 inches to make a compact cylinder. 

place the stuffed turkey breast seam side down on the rack on the sheet pan. Brush with the melted butter, sprinkle generously with salt and pepper, and roast for 1 3/4 to 2 hours, until thermometer reads 150 degrees in the center. (I test in a few places) Cover the turkey with aluminum foil and allow to rest at room temperature for 15 minutes. Carve 1/2 inch thick slices and serve warm with the extra stuffing. 


I also made a quick sauce on the stock to act as a gravy. You can make any gravy you would like and this may be the great opportunity to use your grandmother's recipe. Here is what I did: 

In a small saucepan, cook minced onions in a little oil and butter until soft. Sprinkle the onions with a good amount of flour to coat and cook for 2 minutes, until flour is cooked. Whisk in some white wine and reduce by half. Whisk in a couple of cups of chicken stock and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low and allow to reduce until thickened. Season with salt and pepper. Strain and skim any fat off the top. Serve warm in a gravy boat with the meal. 


I kept it simple and served good quality vanilla ice cream with fresh berries. It was enjoyed by all and a snap! 

This gives you some examples of how you can make your Thanksgiving a time for family and fun, and not a time for stress and headaches. Some other time saving tips are to set your table and bar up the day before. Ask guests to bring appetizers, side dish or dessert, everyone always asks to bring something so let them! And write down your timeline for the day up until you sit down for dinner, it helps organize your time and your thoughts. 



Soupe A L'Oignon by Julia Child

Onion Soup is one of those comfort foods that I tend to start ordering when fall starts creeping up. I wanted to make this beautifully rich, yet light bowl of goodness at home and turned to the Queen of French Cooking, Julia Child. I can just see Julia screaming with delight as she cracked through that first layer of warm, bubbling cheese to reveal the dark rich broth that steamed underneath. When you visit Paris, this soup is on every menu and whether you are in a posh cafe or a run-down bistro it will always be delicious. Julia's recipe was amazing and took me right back to Paris, my favorite place on the planet, and got me thinking that this soup must have comforted her as well. Below is her exact recipe which is worth following to a T. It does take some time, but the results are fantastic. Don't forget to eat the cheese that crisps up on the side of your bowl. It's the best part! 

Soupe A L'Oignon
Mastering the Art of French Cooking by Julia Child, 1961
for 6 to 8 servings, cooking time about 3 hours

1 1/2 lbs. or about 5 cups of thinly sliced yellow onions
3 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon oil
a heavy bottomed, 4 quart covered saucepan
1 tsp salt
1/4 tsp sugar (helps the onions to brown)
3 tablespoons flour
2 quarts boiling brown stock, I used beef
1/2 cup dry white wine or dry white vermouth
salt and pepper to taste

Cook the onion slowly on low with the butter and oil in the covered saucepan for 15 minutes. Uncover, raise the heat to moderate, and stir in the salt and sugar. Cook for 30 to 40 minutes stirring frequently, until the onions have turned an even, deep, golden brown. 

Sprinkle in the flour and stir for 3 minutes. Off heat, blend in the boiling stock. Add the wine, and season to taste. Simmer partially covered for 30 to 40 minutes or more, skimming occasionally. Correct seasoning.  Set aside uncovered until read to serve, then reheat to a simmer. 

12 to 16 slices of French bread cut 3/4 to 1 inch thick
olive oil
A cut clove of garlic

Place bread in one layer in a roasting pan and bake in a preheated 325 degree oven for about half an hour, until it is thoroughly dried out and lightly browned. Halfway through the baking, each side may be basted with a teaspoon of olive oil; and after baking, each piece may be rubbed with cut garlic. 

A fireproof tureen or casserole or individual onion soup pots
2 oz Swiss Cheese cit into very thin slivers
1 tablespoon grated raw onion
1 1/2 cups grated Swiss cheese
1 tablespoon olive oil

Preheat oven 325 degrees. Bring soup to a boil and pour into the tureen or soup pots. Stir in the slivered cheese and grated onion. Float the rounds of toast on top of the soup, and spread the grated cheese over it. Sprinkle with the oil. Bake for 20 minutes in the oven, then set for a minute or two under a preheated broiler to brown the top lightly. Serve immediately. 




I am working on some new designs for the blog, so if it looks different that is why. Let me know what you think! I have added a search function on the left hand side, the archives have an easier view and I added a keywords area so you can scan through ingredients and dishes faster. I am going to be cleaning that up over the next few weeks to streamline. Here's to hoping I can figure it all out!
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