Asian-Inspired Spaghetti and Meatballs

Hello!  Are you up for taking a food field trip today?

Today I am guest blogging over at The Ranting Chef, a blog that is all about food and exploring recipe possibilities.  If you are in a food rut and need some new ideas for dinner, I’m sure his Potato Pancake Reuben Sandwich or Buffalo Chicken Salad Wrap will lift you right out of it!

The recipe I am sharing today is Asian-Inspired Spaghetti and Meatballs.

I know.  That sounds a little funky.  But it also sounds a little lo-mein-ish, too, dontcha think?  And we all know that lo mein is one of the greatest wonders of the world.  (I can’t get enough of it!)

So when I was faced with yet another boring pound of ground beef and some veggies, my wheels got to turning.


The results?  Flavor-packed meatballs surrounded by noodled and lots of stir-fried veggies.  Food rut, you are BUSTED!

Wanna be a rut-buster, too?

Then head over to The Ranting Chef because it’s never too late to start planning for dinner.

Have a tasty day!


Tamales: A Christmas Tradition

In the small Texas town of Canutillo, ten miles from the Mexican border, sits Tamales Lupita, the busiest little restaurant you’ll ever find.  No matter what time of year it is, the place is packed with hungry customers, but around Christmas time, there is a consistent line out the door.

My family has purchased tamales from Lupita’s for years and years, and each time someone announces that they’ve picked up a dozen or two, a small celebration ensues.  As much as we all love Luipta’s, however, my family likes to prepare their own tamales at Christmas time.  I was fifteen when I first started helping my Grandma prepare this dish, and each year I try to carry on the tradition.


In the simplest of terms, a tamale is a sort of cornmeal dumpling filled with meat (traditionally pork) and steamed in a cornhusk.  However, sweet tamales are also common around the holiday season and are usually stuffed with raisins and anise.  (Where I come from, it is not unusual to find pink-colored masa in the grocery stores specifically designated for these “dessert” tamales.)

Since tamale-making is a laborious task, I prefer to prepare the pork and red chile sauce the day before and then assemble and cook the tamales the next day.

So gather up some friends and let’s make some tamales!



Season a 6-7 pound pork shoulder or butt roast with salt and pepper.  In a dutch oven over medium-high heat, add a couple tablespoons of canola oil and brown roast on all sides (about 6 minutes each side).


Cover the roast with water and add one large, sliced yellow onion, four garlic cloves, and a teaspoon of salt.


Put a lid on the pot, and reduce the heat to low.  Gently simmer roast for a couple hours until meat is fork tender and falls off the bone.  Remove roast and place on cutting board to cool.  Place the pot of broth in the fridge.  You will need it when preparing the masa.

Chop or shred meat into small pieces and set aside.



In a large pot, add one-half pound of dried, red chilies and cover with water.  Cook chilies over medium heat for an hour or until soft.  Allow chilies to cool before pureeing.  (Reserve cooking liquid!)


Meanwhile, roast a head of garlic.  You could add fresh garlic to the sauce, but I find that roasted garlic lends a smoother flavor.  (To roast garlic, cut off the top of a garlic bulb, pour olive oil over the top of the bulb and cover tightly in foil.  Roast for 45 minutes at 400 degrees.)


Puree chilies in batches.  To puree chilies, remove stems, place in blender along with a ladle of the cooking liquid and blend until smooth.


Add 4-5 cloves of roasted garlic and strain the mixture through a sieve using the chile water to loosen up stubborn clumps.  In the end, your sauce should have the consistency of tomato puree.  If it is more like peanut butter, add more chile water.


In a large pot, combine the meat and the sauce along with a tablespoon of oregano and a tablespoon of salt (or to taste).  Place in the fridge and reheat the next day over low heat.




Reheat the pot of pork broth over medium heat.


Place half a package  (to start) of dried corn husks in a large bowl filled with hot water.  If you can, purchase a package of large husks.  It is much easier to spread masa onto a large husk than a small husk.  If you prefer skinnier tamales, however, the small husks are fine.


Soak husks at least 30 minutes.  Meanwhile, prepare the masa.

The Masa


For a 7 pound roast, I usually need about three batches of this masa mixture.  It is best to prepare the masa in small batches to ensure the best texture.

In a large bowl, add 1 1/3 cup of lard and whip until light and fluffy.


Blend in 4 cups of dried masa mix, 1 teaspoon of salt, 2 teaspoons of baking powder and one teaspoon of chile powder until well combined.


Add 3-4 cups of hot pork broth and mix until well combined.  The masa should be the consistency of oatmeal or peanut butter.  If it is too thick or difficult to spread, add a little more broth.


Evenly spread a large spoonful or two of masa about 1/4” thick in the top left upper quadrant of a cornhusk.  Make sure to leave about 1-inch border along the top of the husk because the masa will expand as it cooks and you don’t want it to bubble over and out of the husk.  (This part is tricky but you will get the hang of it, I promise.)


Place a few tablespoons of meat down the center of the masa.


Fold the left side of the husk over to the center of the meat.


Fold over again until the husk is all wrapped up around the masa.


Finally, fold up the bottom.


One down….many to go!


Line up tamales a baking sheet.


Once you have assembled roughly 3-4 dozen, prepare the pot for steaming.


The right tools make all the difference in cooking and a tamale pot is no exception!  A tamale pot is a large pot that comes with a grate that rests a few inches above the bottom of the pot.  (The only way tamales can be properly steamed is if they are suspended above water—never should they be resting in water.) 

Pour enough water into the pot until the water level comes right up to the grate but not over it.


Set pot over high heat and bring water to a boil.  Remove pot from heat and carefully place tamales upright into the pot (make sure to keep their “tails” folded up) in concentric circles until the pot is mostly full.  Do not pack the tamales in tight, however, or they will not steam properly.  Leave adequate wiggle room,


Over medium-high heat, steam the tamales for at least 1½ hours over medium-high heat without lifting the lid.  

I know, it’s tempting to check up on them, but lifting the lid will only release all the steam and your cooking time will be prolonged.  If you are worried that the water at the bottom of the pot will dry up, don’t.  The space between the grate and the bottom of the pot is at least five inches and it takes a while to boil up five inches of water.  If anything, keep an ear out.  A sharp hissing sound might mean that your pot is low on water.  To check water level, remove a few tamales from the center and carefully peer down the holes of the grate.  If the water looks low, add more (HOT) water using a baster.

After an hour and a half, check the tamales.  Carefully remove one tamale from the center of the pot with tongs.   If the masa pulls away from the side of the husk, they are done.


If the masa is still mushy, place back in the pot and cook tamales for another thirty minutes.

Carefully remove the tamales and cool slightly before serving.



You just made a batch of tamales!  Now reward yourself with lunch and a long nap.


Yield: Makes about 6 dozen medium-sized tamales

Prep Time: About 8 hours

Ingredients for Meat

*6-7 lb. pork butt or shoulder roast, trimmed of excess fat

*1 large yellow onion, sliced

*3 large garlic cloves

*salt and pepper

*2-3 Tablespoons canola oil

Season roast with salt and pepper.  Heat oil in a Dutch oven over medium-high heat.  Add roast and brown on all sides (about 6 minutes per side).  Add onion, garlic and salt and cover roast with water.  Bring to a simmer, cover pot and cook roast for 2 hours or until meat is fork-tender.

Remove roast from broth and allow to cool on a cutting board.  Reserve broth.  Chop meat into small pieces.  Set aside.

Ingredients for Chile Sauce

*1 ½ pound dried Poblano or Anaheim chilies, stems removed

*4 large cloves roasted garlic

*1 Tablespoon dried oregano

*1 Tablespoon salt

In a large pot, add chilies and cover with water.  Simmer over medium heat until soft, about an hour.  Reserve water.

Puree in batches with garlic in a blender.  Strain the mixture through a sieve using the reserved chile water to loosen the mixture.  Sauce should be the consistency of tomato puree.  Add oregano and salt.

Combine meat and chile in a large pot and set aside.

Ingredients for Masa**

*1 1/3 cups lard

*4 cups packaged masa mix

*2 teaspoons baking powder

*1 teaspoon salt

*1 teaspoon chile powder

*3-4 cups reserved pork broth, hot

Whip lard until fluffy.  Beat in masa, baking powder, salt and chile powder until well combined.  Stir in hot broth until the masa is the consistency of oatmeal or peanut butter.  You may need to add extra small amounts of broth to the masa as you are preparing the tamales.

**You will need at least three batches of this recipe for a 6-7 pound roast.


Soak a half package of large husks in a container of hot water for at least 30 minutes.  Spread masa 1/4” thick over the top left quadrant of the husk, making sure to leave about a 1” border along the top of the husk.

Add a couple tablespoons of meat down the center of the masa.  Fold the left side of the husk to the center of the meat.  Fold over again until the husk is completely wrapped around.  Fold up the bottom of the husk and set the tamale on a sheet.  Repeat until you are out of masa.  You will need at least 4 dozen tamales to fill al large tamale pot.

Steaming the Tamales

Fill the bottom of a large tamale pot with water until the water level reaches the grate insert.  Bring water to a boil over high heat.  Carefully place tamales into pot in concentric circles until pot is filled but there is enough wiggle room between tamales.  Steam for 1 ½ hours heat over medium-high heat without peeking!  After this time, check a tamale from the middle of the pot to see if the masa pulls away from the side of the husk.  If the masa is still sticky, steam, without peeking, for another ½ hour.

Remove cooked tamales with tongs and serve.

Celebrate Hatch Chile with Green Chile Sauce!

Once upon a time, I did not like green chile…or any other color of chile, for that matter.

(Because I was a very naughty and ignorant child.)

Back in my chile-hating days, my family would drive an hour up the road to Hatch, New Mexico on Labor Day Weekend for the Hatch Chile Festival.  The minute we entered town, we could smell the aroma of chiles being roasted.  And to think I found the smell unappealing!

(Again, I had a few screws loose when I was ten years old.)

Now I would give anything to revisit that festival and taste everything in sight, not to mention bring home a truckload of roasted green goodness!  Unfortunately, since a September trip to New Mexico was not in the plans, I decided this past spring to plant an assortment of Serrano and Anaheim peppers instead.

I am sad to say that I picked the last of our bounty this past week, but I have been carefully stock-piling them over the summer for this purpose and this purpose alone:

Green Chile Sauce

Green chile sauce is pure magic!  Spoon it over skirt steak, use it as a base for stew, pour it over enchiladas, mix it in with your baby’s formula–use it whenever you feel like turning an ordinary dish into a vibrant and memorable dish.  For the past few years, I have faithfully followed Fine Cooking’s recipe for Green Chile Sauce because it has the best depth and balance of flavors.  I’ve made a few tweaks to it such as replacing the cornstarch with flour, but other than that, there’s no point in messing with greatness.

Right now, many grocery stores are offering fresh Hatch chilies, and better yet, are setting up their outdoor roasters with which to roast your chilies for you.  Furthermore, some stores even sell pre-roasted, pre-peeled green chilies!   So there’s really no excuse NOT to buy at least a pound of these pungent peppers!

There is also no excuse NOT to try your hand at making your own green chile sauce.  (I dare you to go back to the canned stuff!)

Green Chile Sauce (adapted from Fine Cooking Magazine)

Roast or (in my case) boil 1 1/2 pounds of chilies.  Sadly, in the interest of time, I boiled mine in a large pot filled halfway with water for about 15 minutes or until the skins got loose.

For maximum flavor, however, use roasted chilies.

Peel, seed and chop chilies.  (Use gloves or your hands will be on fire like mine were.)

Now for the tomatillos!

Such strange looking things.  These tomato-looking creatures are actually members of the gooseberry family, NOT the tomato family.

Remove the papery skins from 5-6 medium-sized tomatillos.  Don’t be alarmed by the sticky, waxy surface, though.  That’s just a tomatillo being a tomatillo.

Boil tomatillos for about 15 minutes until soft  (don’t over-cook them or they will be utter mush!) and dump them into a food processor or blender.

Process until smooth and pour into a large pot.

Add chilies along with 2 teaspoons minced onion, 1 clove of garlic, minced, 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper.  (It’s best that you use white pepper instead of black since it has a mellower flavor.)

Stir in 1 teaspoon dried oregano…

…and 1 quart of chicken broth.  Bring mixture to a boil over medium-high heat, and then reduce the heat and simmer for 10 minutes.

Cook’s Tip: Thanks to a clever tip from my clever friend, Pam, I’ve started making broth in the Crock-Pot.  That way, it can simmer for hours without me having to babysit it or add more water to it.  To give my broth an extra boost, I added a few whole Serranos to the pot.

Mix a few tablespoons of flour or cornstarch with a couple tablespoons of chicken broth and whisk into the sauce until completely incorporated–you don’t want chunks of slurry in your creation.  Simmer, stirring occasionally, until the sauce is thickened slightly and reduced to 4 to 4-1/2 cups, about 5 to 15 minutes.  Season to taste with salt and a couple squirts of Tabasco sauce.  (My chilies were pretty HOT so I did not need the latter.)

Sniff, sniff!

I don’t know about you, but I can SMELL this photo, and it smells deeeeelicioso!

As for the taste, the tomatillos offer just enough tang to brighten the earthy flavor of the chilies and saltiness of the broth.  Someone get me a tortilla and grilled pork chop, STAT!

The Recipe

(Adapted from Fine Cooking)

*7 to 8 oz. tomatillos (about 5 medium)

*1 qt. homemade or low-salt chicken broth

*1-1/4 to 1-1/2 lb. fresh Anaheim chiles (6- to 8-inch-long chiles), roasted or boiled, peeled, and seeded, coarsely chopped

*2 tsp. minced yellow onion

*1 tsp. dried oregano (or 2 tsp. chopped fresh oregano)

*1 clove garlic, minced

*1/2 tsp. kosher salt; more to taste

*1/4 tsp. ground white pepper

*3 Tbs.flour, dissolved in 2 Tbs. broth

*Tabasco sauce, optional

Remove the papery outer skin from the tomatillos and place in boiling water until soft, 5 to 10 min. Drain and purée in a blender or food processor. Return the tomatillos to the saucepan along with the chicken broth, chopped green chiles, minced onion, oregano, garlic, salt, and pepper. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat and then reduce the heat and simmer for 10 min. Add the flour slurry; stir well. Simmer, stirring occasionally, until the sauce is thickened slightly and reduced to 4 to 4-1/2 cups, another 5 to 15 min. Adjust the seasonings if needed, including hot sauce if the sauce isn’t spicy enough to suit your taste.


There’s still time to vote for me as the next Taste of Home’s Mrs. Holiday!  Click on this link, hit “Vote Now.”  Search for “Leilani Smith Halloween” and click “Vote for Entry.”  Voting ends September 7th.

Chana Masala

I love cooking with lots of different spices.

It makes me feel exotic.

Don’t these spices look SO exotic?

(You better say yes.)

Since I feel sumptuously sensual whenever I cook with coriander, curry and turmeric, I’ve resolved to cook more Indian food this year.  However, since I am still getting acquainted with Indian cuisine, I’m only choosing dishes that I have tried at least once.

One of these particular dishes is Chana Masala.  A friend from Bahran made this chickpea curry for me and I knew it was a dish I would like to eat again since I’m always looking for new ways to prepare chickpeas.

Chana Masala is great as a side dish or a vegetarian main course for those days when I don’t feel like cooking meat for dinner but still want something hearty.  And…it calls for lots of different spices!

Cooks Note: One thing to remember when cooking with lots of spices is that they can quickly go from vibrant to muddy without the right balance of flavors.  Onions, garlic and lemon to the rescue!

(I like to think of these three ingredients as “spice brighteners.”)

Now that we have our spices and our spice brighteners, lets have some fun with chickpeas!

Chana Masala

This recipe is an adaptation of the one found at Smitten Kitchen.  Great cooking blog, by the way.  Check it out here!

Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat.  Toss in two cups of chopped onions and a clove of minced garlic and saute for about 5 minutes until glossy. (not shown)

Sprinkle the onions with some ground coriander:

…ground cumin and turmeric:

…and as much cayenne as you dare (half a teaspoon is enough for me):

Stir onions and spices together for a minute; then dump in a can of whole tomatoes and break up.  (not shown)

Slowly pour in some chicken broth:

Drain and rinse two cans of chickpeas…

…and add them to the skillet:

Add some salt.  I used a pretty, pink Bolivian Rose sea salt.

(Bolivian Rose sea salt makes me feel extra exotic):

Add some paprika and garam masala (oops!  I should have added these with the other spices!  Forgive me.):

Cooks Note: Garam masala is a mixture of spices including cardamom, cinnamon and cumin and is very common in Indian cuisine.  Getcha some!

Since I did not have fresh ginger, I added 1/4 teaspoon of powdered ginger here:

On a whim, I also decided to round out the dish with a pat of butter:

Cover dish and simmer over low heat for 10 minutes.  Turn off heat and squeeze in the juice of half a lemon.

Serve over a bed of Jasmine rice along with another hit of lemon juice and chopped cilantro.

Mmmm, chana masala.  Pure exotic goodness!

Here is the recipe:

Chana Masala

Serves 6-8

*1 tablespoon olive oil

*2 medium onions, minced

*1 large clove garlic, minced

*1 tablespoon ground coriander

*1/2 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper

*2 teaspoons ground cumin

*1 teaspoon ground turmeric

*2 teaspoons paprika

*1 teaspoon garam masala

*1/4 teaspoon ground ginger

*1 15-ounce can of whole tomatoes with their juices, chopped small

*2/3 cup chicken broth

*2 (15-ounce) cans chickpeas, drained and rinsed

*1/2 teaspoon salt

*1/2 lemon (juiced)

Heat oil in a large skillet. Add onion and garlic and sauté over medium heat until browned, about 5 minutes. Turn heat down to medium-low and add the spices.  Cook onion mixture for a minute or two, then add the tomatoes and any accumulated juices, scraping up any bits that have stuck to the pan. Add the broth, chickpeas, salt, paprika and garam masala.  Simmer uncovered for 10 minutes, then stir in lemon juice.  Serve over rice.  (This dish gets even better as it sits!)


My ideal meal would most definitely include potstickers:

(For those of you who have never tried a potsticker, it’s a mix between an eggroll and a wonton.)

Sheesh, I love potstickers!!  Their flavor, their texture, their cute little shape–everything about them is deeeelightful.

One thing I do NOT love about potstickers, however,  is that they can be pricey when purchased ready-made.

Fortunately, they are inexpensive to make, and better yet, the recipe makes a lot!

So if you, too, love cute and flavorful food, whip up a (large!) batch of potstickers tonight!

Chicken (or Pork) Potstickers

In a food processor, toss in a couple of uncooked chicken breasts, 3 scallions, 1-2 cloves of garlic, a tablespoon of fish sauce, a teaspoon of brown sugar, 1/2″ freshly grated ginger, a teaspoon of rice wine vinegar and a teaspoon of soy sauce.

(Chinese cooking requires a lot of ingredients, okay?)

Pulse on high until the chicken is finely ground and the mixture is uniform.

Do not fear the assembly of potstickers–it is not as hard as it looks!

First, make sure you have a clean and DRY work surface.  (I prefer a large cutting board.)

Line up a large square of wonton wrappers.  (Trust me, it is much quicker to do a whole bunch at once.)

Using a teaspoon measure, place a scoop of the chicken mixture onto the center of each wonton wrapper:

Pour yourself a cup of tepid water.  This is your sealing weapon!

Dip a couple fingers into the water and moisten two edges of the wrapper:

Carefully fold one corner of the wrapper over the filling and seal the edges.  Make sure to press out all air bubbles or they will cause your dumplings to burst during cooking.

Form a small pouch by moistening the edges of the triangle and pressing them inwards:

See how cute?

Don’t worry if your first attempts are less than perfect.  You will get the hang of it!

Heat a couple tablespoons of sesame oil in a non-stick pan over high heat:

Add a layer of potstickers.  Do not crowd the pan or they will not brown as well:

Brown the dumplings on each side until golden brown (5-7 minutes).

Carefully pour about 1/4 cup chicken broth into pan:

Reduce heat to medium and cover.  (My saute pan doesn’t have a lid so I use a cookie sheet.)

Steam for 3-5 minutes until all of the liquid has evaporated:


But wait…there’s more.

Create the perfect dipping sauce with just these two ingredients:


Betcha can’t eat just 20!

(1 large batch of potstickers feeds approximately 1 Leilani.)

The Recipe

Makes 24 potstickers

*6 oz. uncooked chicken breast or pork cutlets, cut into chunks

*3 scallions, cut in half

*1-2 cloves garlic

*1 Tablespoon fish sauce

*1 teaspoon brown sugar

*1 teaspoon rice wine vinegar

*1 teaspoon soy sauce

*24 wonton wrappers

*4 Tablespoons sesame oil

*1/2 cup chicken broth

*4 Tablespoons soy sauce

*1-2 Tablespoons chile-garlic sauce

In a food processor, grind the first 7 ingredients until uniformly ground.  Place on teaspoon of the mixture in the center of a wonton wrapper.  Moisten two edges of the wrapper with water (use your finger-tips).  Fold one edge of the wrapper over the filling and seal, pressing out any bubbles.  Moisten edges and fold in to make a little pouch

In a large non-stick skillet, heat a couple tablespoons of sesame oil over high heat.  Add a layer of potstickers to pan, but do not crowd.  Brown on all sides (5-7 minutes).

Carefully pour in 1/4 cup chicken stock into pan and cover.  Reduce heat to medium.

Steam potstickers until all liquid has evaporated (3-5 minutes).

In a small bowl, combine soy sauce and chile-garlic sauce.  Serve with potstickers.

Chicken and Dumplings

I have a culinary confession to make:

Until yesterday, I had never made chicken and dumplings.

As a kid, I disliked chicken and dumplings because they were just so…disgusting.  Ruddy, vaseline-colored clumps of dough floating around in a puddle of oily broth–the stuff was hard enough to look at let alone eat!   Therefore, from the age of 9 on up, I just assumed that I would never, ever need to cook chicken and dumplings.

And then I married a man of southern roots.

Who just so happens to l-o-v-e chicken and dumplings.

So after six and half years of marriage, I finally resolved to prepare this dish.  Thankfully, yesterday was perfect chicken and dumpling cooking weather.

If it had been a sunny day, I would have chosen to work in my garden instead.  But that’s another post for another time.

Not wanting to use just any chicken and dumpling recipe, I searched for every recipe with a 5-star rating and an appealing photo of the finished product.  In the end, I decided on Tyler Florence’s recipe.

The verdict: Delicious!

The dumplings were light and fluffy, not tough and heavy.  The creamy broth had wonderful depth of flavor.

Me likey.

Davey happy.

Tyler Florence’s Chicken and Dumplings

(This dish has several steps, but be ye not be discouraged!  Tis the nature of chicken and dumplings.)

Roast Chicken:

*1 (3-pound) whole chicken

*Salt and freshly ground black pepper

*4 ounces unsalted butter, softened

*1 lemon, halved and juiced; halves reserved

*1/4-cup fresh chopped herbs (I used parsley because that’s all I had)

*1 onion, halved

*4 garlic cloves, smashed

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Remove the neck and gibletsfrom the cavity of the chicken and discard. Rinse the chicken under cold water, inside and out. Pat dry thoroughly with paper towels. Season the body and cavity of the chicken generously with salt and pepper.

In a small bowl, mash together the butter, lemon juice, and chopped herbs. Rub the herbed butter all over the chicken, as well as under the skin. Put the lemon halves, onion, garlic, and whole herbs inside the chicken cavity, for added flavor.  Place the chicken, breast side up, in a roasting pan fitted with a rack.  Roast for 1 hour until the meat is no longer pink.

When cool enough to handle, shred the meat, discarding the skin and set aside.

Reserve the bones for chicken stock.

Cook’s Tip: For even more depth of flavor, first pour off the excess fat left in the bottom of the roasting pan before adding 1 cup of warm water.  Allow water to sit for a few minutes before whisking up all the yummy bits baked onto the pan.  Save this water to add to the stock later on.

Chicken Stock

*2 tablespoons olive oil

*2 carrots, cut in large chunks

*2 celery stalks, cut in large chunks

*1 onion, halved

*1 garlic bulb, halved

*Reserved chicken bones

*2 quarts cold water

*4 sprigs fresh parsley

*4 sprigs fresh thyme

*2 bay leaves

In a large stockpot over medium-high heat, add the oil.  Once the oil is warm, add the carrots, celery, onion and garlic.

Cook the veggies for 3 minutes, stirring occasionally .

Add reserved chicken bones.

Carefully pour in the cup of flavorful liquid previously extracted from the roasting pan.

Pour in 6 cups of cold water.

Add parsley.

Add bay leaves.

Bring to a simmer and simmer uncovered for one hour.  Strain the stock and set aside.


*2 cups flour

*1 tablespoon baking powder

*1 teaspoon salt

*2 eggs

*3/4 to 1 cup buttermilk

In a separate bowl, add the flour and salt.

Add the baking powder and sift ingredients well.

In another bowl, whisk eggs and 3/4 cup of buttermilk to start.

Make a “well” in the flour mixture and pour the egg mixture into the well.

Mix dough until just combined.  If dough seems too tough, add a little more milk.

Be careful not to overmix or your dumplings will come out tough and heavy!

Aim for a thick-oatmeal consistency.  Set dough aside.

“Sensational Sauce”

*2 tablespoons butter

*1 tablespoon oil

*1 tablespoon flour

*1/2 cup diced carrot

*1/2 cup diced celery

*3 cloves garlic, minced

*2 bay leaves

*1/4 cup flour

*6 cups chicken stock

*1/4 cup heavy cream

*Freshly ground black pepper, for garnish

*Chopped parsley, for garnish

In a large stock pot, melt butter over medium-high heat.

Add carrots, celery and garlic and saute for about 5 minutes until veggies are soft.

Stir in the flour to make a roux.

Continue to stir and cook for 2 minutes to coat the flour and remove the starchy taste.

Slowly pour in the chicken stock, 1 cup at a time, stirring well after each addition.  (Start stirring right away if you don’t want lumps!  The roux starts thickening up immediately.)

Continue this process…

…until all the stock has been added.

Let sauce simmer for about 15 minutes until thick enough to coat the back of a spoon.

Add the cream.

Add the shredded chicken.

Bring pot back to a simmer before adding small spoonfuls of dough to the pot.

Technically, the dumplings should cover the top of the broth but not be crowded.

(I let things crowd a little.  No harm, no fowl.  I mean, foul.)

Poach dumpling for 10-15 minutes until firm and puffy.

Serve hot with a sprinkling of fresh parsley and cracked black pepper.

Now that chicken and dumplings are back on the menu, it’s time to tackle another dish that *gulp* I’ve yet to prepare for my southerner: Fried Chicken!!

To be continued…

The Two-Hour Turkey

Sometimes, I just don’t think!

Last night, I prepared a lovely turkey in just 2 hours and…








(I was thinking about getting my turkey done, that’s what!)

On bended knee I beg your forgiveness!

And I will remain on bended knee while I write out the recipe (using OTHER PEOPLE’S photos, ugh!)….

Leilani’s 2-hour Butterflied Turkey

* 1 12-lb. turkey, butterflied (instructions below) and thawed if frozen (plan ahead, thawing takes a couple days!!)

*1 gallon turkey brine (recipe follows)

*1 cup Prickly Pear Glaze (recipe follows) or your own glaze

*Olive oil



Butterflying A Turkey

One of the best time-saving tips for cooking fowl is to butterfly it or cut out the backbone!

Make sure the bird is dried off–you don’t want to slip and loose a finger!!

Step 1: Remove neck and organs from the turkey and set aside.  Pat dry.

Step 2: Using sharp kitchen scissors and a sharp boning knife, cut down along one side of the backbone.  Cutting will get tricky once you reach the tail.  Use caution!

Step 3: Cut down along the other side of the backbone.  Save backbone, tail and neck-they are perfect for making stock which will come in handy when making the gravy!!! 

How do you make stock from the yucky parts?

Boil neck, tail and back in a 2 quarts of water with an onion, 2 carrots, a bay leaf, a teaspoon of peppercorns and a tablespoon of salt.  After mixture comes to a boil, simmer on low heat for an hour.

Et voila!  Turkey stock!

Now that your turkey is prepped, check for any loose bone shards along the back before placing into the brine.

Turkey Brine

*1 gallon water

*2 bay leaves

*1 Tablespoon peppercorns

*1/4 cup kosher salt

*1/4 cup sugar

*Fresh lemon or orange peel

*Spring of fresh thyme

Place all ingredients in a large pot and bring to a boil, stirring to dissolve the salt and sugar.  Turn off heat and allow brine to come to room temperature.

Place turkey in a turkey roasting bag or a large bowl and cover with the brine.  Allow to brine overnight.

Cook’s Comment: When people ask me if brining really makes a difference, I tell them “Heck YES!”  I learned about brining in college and tried it first on chicken drumsticks.  I was amazed at how much juicier and flavorful the meat turned out.  So try brining at least one bird in your life.  It is worth it!

Baking the Bird

Step 1:  When you are ready to cook the turkey, drain off all the brine and pat the bird dry.  Allow bird to come to room temperature (2 hours).

Step 2:  Preheat oven to 480 degrees.

Step 3:  Place turkey on a rack inside a large roasting pan.

Step 4:  Rub entire bird with olive oil and lightly season with paprika and pepper.  (If you salt the bird, only add a teensy bit.  After all, your bird has sat in salt water all night.)

Step 5:   Place bird in oven and cook for one hour.  DO NOT OPEN THE OVEN DURING THIS TIME!!!

Step 6:  Turn oven down to 400.  Baste bird with juices from pan.  If juices in pan are scare, baste with the broth you made earlier!  Cook another 30 minutes.

Step 7: Baste bird one last time.

Step 8: When turkey is on its last 15 minutes, brush every inch of the bird with the glaze.

Step 9:  Remove turkey from oven and allow to sit for 30 minutes before carving.

The crispy, brown skin and juicy meat will be a hit.  Don’t plan on any leftovers!!

Step 10: Carve the turkey!!  Don’t know how to carve?  Check out Alton Brown’s method!

Prickly Pear Glaze

I created this glaze off the top of my head.  I dare you to create you own, it’s fun!  Just follow these basic steps:

Step 1:  Heat 2 tablespoons olive in a saute pan over medium-high heat.

Step 2: Add 1 Tablespoon minced shallot (or onion) and saute until glossy (5-7 minutes).

Step 3: Add 1 teaspoon minced garlic to onion.  Stir so garlic does not burn and cook 1 minute.

Step 4: Add 1/4 cup dry sherry wine (white wine, brandy or bourbon also nicely) and reduce for 5 minutes.

Step 5: Remove pan from heat and stir in 3-4 tablespoons of coarse-grained mustard (or dijon).

Step 6: Stir in 3-4 tablespoons of prickly pear jelly (or peach or plum or apple…).

Step 7: Give the mixture a taste.  If it is too mustardy add more jelly and vice-versa.  Sprinkle in some freshly-cracked pepper and thyme.

Step 8: Brush over bird during last 15 minutes of cooking!


My bird was done in just the nick of time.

If all you have is a nick of time, give this method a try!