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A Homemade Thanksgiving

Life without thankfulness is devoid of love and passion. Hope without thankfulness is lacking in fine perception. Faith without thankfulness lacks strength and fortitude. Every virtue divorced from thankfulness is maimed and limps along the spiritual road.”

John Henry Jowett

 

It’s that time again isn’t it? Time to decide if the potatoes will be gratined or mashed. Mashed, definitely mashed. So then mashed with sour cream, heavy cream, butter or all of the above? Will the green beans be casseroled, roasted or simply blanched then tossed with browned butter? What sort of spice and herb mix will go into the stuffing? Perhaps you have had this all long figured out. Maybe there’s no change from year-to-year. I can appreciate that too.

I love scouring magazines, websites and cookbooks this time of year for the classics and new twists on the classics. But this year what I’m most struck with as I start to visualize the Thanksgiving table is not what recipes, flavors, and ingredients I’ll use but rather how incredibly thankful I am to have a spot at the table.

I’m finding myself less motivated by which method I’ll brine then roast the turkey and more inspired by the heart of the holiday; being thankful. The simple fact that I get to think about my potato preparation, which pies to include in the dessert line up, and who is joining me at the table, well, that’s enough.

Coming to this realization was first met with a bit of fretting over the fact that it’s already into November and I haven’t given the food as much thought as I normally do. Thoughts of letting people down, and lackluster side dishes began to swirl before that rational voice inside my head, however soft it may be, began to whisper, “just be thankful.”

There will be a feast, maybe it won’t be as inspired as the Latin Thanksgiving menu we enjoyed last year but I will be thankful, grateful and very full by the end of the day.

 

TURKEY ROULADE WITH SAUSAGE STUFFING

inspired by Ina Garten

Serves 8

This is a twist on the classic bird but the classic flavors are all there. Extra bonus – it doesn’t take nearly as long to roast.

The most difficult part about this recipe is tying the stuffed turkey just prior to roasting. It makes the job much easier if you have an extra set of hands help you get the turkey to submit. It’s going to be messy and you’ll feel a bit clumsy. Be brave and confident as it will come together and your reward for such bravery will be a flavorful and moist turkey that will sure evoke elation and cheers as it’s brought to the table for (easy) carving.

3/4 cup dried cherries (or cranberries)

1/2 cup brandy

4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter

1 ½ cups diced onions (2 onions)

1 cup (1/2-inch-diced) celery (3 stalks)

3/4 pound pork sausage, casings removed

1 ½ teaspoons paprika

1 ½ tablespoons chopped fresh rosemary leaves

3 tablespoons chopped hazelnuts, toasted

3 cups herb-seasoned stuffing mix (homemade recipe below)

1 cup chicken stock, preferably homemade

1 large egg, beaten

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

2 tablespoons good mustard

1 whole turkey boned (save bones, wings and giblets for gravy and stock)

3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

 

Place the dried cherries in a small saucepan and pour in the brandy and 1/4 cup water. Bring the mixture to a boil over medium heat, then lower the heat and simmer for 2 minutes. Remove from the heat and set aside.

Meanwhile, melt the butter in a large (12-inch) 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. Stir in 1 teaspoon paprika and a pinch of salt. Add the cherries with the liquid, the chopped rosemary, and hazelnuts 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 350 degrees F. Place a baking rack on a sheet pan.

Lay the butterflied turkey skin side down on a cutting board. Sprinkle the meat with 2 teaspoons salt and 1 teaspoon pepper and spread the mustard over the turkey.

Spread the stuffing in a 1/2-inch-thick layer over the meat, leaving a half-inch border on all sides. Don’t mound the stuffing or the turkey will be difficult to roll. (Place any leftover stuffing in a buttered gratin dish and bake for the last 45 minutes of roasting alongside the turkey.)

Starting at 1 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 seam side down on the rack on the sheet pan. Brush with the melted butter, sprinkle generously with salt and pepper and remaining ½ teaspoon paprika, and roast for 1 3/4 to 2 hours, until an instant-read thermometer registers 150 degrees F in the center.

Cover the turkey with aluminum foil and allow it to rest at room temperature for 15 minutes. Carve 1/2-inch-thick slices and serve warm with the extra stuffing.

 

Homemade Stuffing Mix

3 cups ½” diced rustic bread

½ cup chopped fresh herbs (parsley, chives, tarragon, sage, rosemary, thyme etc.)

½ teaspoon garlic powder

3 tablespoons olive oil or melted butter

1 ½ teaspoons kosher salt

pepper

 

Combine everything in a large bowl and place on a baking sheet. Bake at 350*F until bread is golden and dried out, about 20 minutes. Stir the mixture halfway through the baking process. Taste and add more salt if desired.

 

-Ashley Rodriguez

Chef, feeder of three hungry children, creator of Not Without Salt and author of Date Night In, Running Press 2015.

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Late Summer Soup

For weeks now people around me have been hinting at fall. “It’s coming!” they’ll say. Or, “Did you feel the chill in the air? It’s almost here.” And I would just simply look at them and shake my head, not yet. I wasn’t ready and fretted a bit not knowing if this would be the one year that I regret the coming of the next season. But I should know this by now; it happens in an instant and I think today is that instant.

We’ve just returned from three days of camping in the woods. A sort of last hurrah complete with a camp fire that never quit, a breezy hike to the beach, bacon cooked until crisp over the fire, stories told with sticky marshmallow covered fingers, and dirt, well, everywhere. As we were packing up our tents, the gray clouds started to sprinkle and the ice cream cone that I craved just the day before turned into a spiced cider craving. Suddenly, thoughts of apples hanging low in the trees made me giddy and raspberries seemed so last season. I’m craving butter baked into pies tucked around tart, crisp apples and sturdier vegetables roasted until sweet then whirred into a light, yet creamy soup that gently warms during the soft coolness of the evenings.

I have that sort of soup today (recipe below). It’s hearty and yet somehow light, which in my mind is the perfect setup for a transitional soup. You know, the sort that can still be enjoyed on a sunny day but satisfies when the days are getting shorter and you need more heft than the salads of summer can offer. This soup uses an assortment of vegetables with cauliflower making up the bulk, but really it could easily be adapted to what you have lying around. The idea is a tray filled with roasted vegetable blends with onions, stock and cooked potatoes, so that it’s creamy but not heavy cream creamy – that wouldn’t be right for a transitional soup.

There’s also the leek, which is a member of the allium family, but the flavor is lighter and somehow more refined. We could boast of all the vitamins found in leeks here too but we don’t want them getting a big head.

Their paper-thin layers tend to collect dirt so I like to cut the leeks in half then run them through cool water. From there I thinly slice them and use them as you would onions. But even raw in a salad they do just fine, as their flavor is less abrasive than their cousin’s. They are just the right match for this sort of late-summer soup.

I should have remembered that my moment would come eventually. The one where I’m suddenly ready for cool weather and cozy evenings at home, or maybe I’m just too tired and don’t want to think of unloading the car from our camping trip. Either way, tonight seems like the perfect one for this soup.

by Ashley Rodriguez                                                                           

Chef, food blogger, and full-time mom.

You can read more of her writings at www.notwithoutsalt.com

Creamy Roasted Vegetable Soup

Ingredients

1 medium head cauliflower,

1 large leek, white part cut in 1/2-inch slices

4 celery stalks, cut in 2-inch pieces

5 tablespoons olive oil, divided

1 onion, diced

3 garlic cloves, sliced

1 potato, diced

1 tsp thyme leaves

Pinch chili flake

4 cups chicken or vegetable stock

1 13.5 ounce can coconut milk (or whole milk)

1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt

Pepper

Directions

  • Preheat your oven to 400° F.
  • Toss cauliflower, leeks, and celery with 3 tablespoons olive oil 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt and a few grinds of black pepper. Roast on a baking sheet for an hour or until vegetables are tender and there is a good deep color on many bits of the vegetables.
  • In a large pot add the remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil over medium high heat. When the oil shimmers add the onions and cook until translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the roasted vegetables, potatoes, thyme, chile flakes, stock, coconut milk, and 1 teaspoon of kosher salt. Bring to a boil then reduce to the heat to medium low. Simmer for 10 minutes or until the potatoes are tender.
  • Carefully puree the soup in a blender. Taste and adjust seasoning.

Recipe adapted from the book Small Plates and Sweet Treats


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Ahh…Summer!

It’s here! I want to shout it from the rooftops, from the mountaintops, and from the sun-drenched beaches. Summer is definitely here. I see it in the overextended and heavy branches of my tomato plant, in the dirt covered toes of my kids, and in my neglected house, as we run out the door at the first sun sighting in an attempt to soak up as much vitamin D as we can.

We have plans to read books on the beach and wet our toes in the ocean. A new tent has been purchased and at least two camping trips are in the works. There are strawberries to pick and cherries are just coming on. Summer is here!

My days are planned around the food we can eat, in an attempt to sneak in as much of this season’s bounty as I can possibly muster. Berries are in our morning oatmeal and sit atop our freshly made frozen yogurt to cool us down in the afternoon. I pick vibrant green mint and chives and toss them into eggs and blend them into salad dressings. The cherries never even make it into the food, as the kids devour them by the bagful before I get to them. Corn sits next to our grilled chicken and is tossed into our salads, along with nectarines and fresh herbs. Summer is here!

If screaming from the mountaintops isn’t your thing, my featured salad recipe (below) will do it for you. It is loaded with all the best of summer: fruit so juicy it drips to the floor and turns everything sticky, sweet corn, and green-staining herbs – all making this salad the best sort of food for a picnic. Serve alongside barbecued chicken or vegetables for a complete meal. Put aside any leftovers for tomorrow, so you can linger in the sun all day without worrying about dinner. It’s the salad that heralds the arrival of summer for you, so you can just sit and enjoy it all.

Ashley Rodriguez

Food blogger www.notwithoutsalt.com

 

GREEN RICE SALAD WITH NECTARINES AND CORN

Recipe from Vibrant Food, by Kimberley Hasselbrink  (serves 3-4)

 

Green Rice:

3/4 cup brown basmati rice

1 1/4 cups, water plus 1 to 2 tablespoons more for the sauce

1/2 cup coarsely chopped fresh cilantro

1/4 cup loosely packed fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves

1 small jalapeño, seeded and chopped

Zest and juice of 1 small lime

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

Fine salt

 

Grilled Corn:

2 small ears fresh corn, husks and silk removed

Extra-virgin olive oil

Fine sea salt

1/2 lime

 

Other Ingredients:

2 tablespoons fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves, plus more for garnish

1/4 cup loosely packed fresh cilantro leaves, plus more for garnish

2 medium-ripe nectarines, pitted and thinly sliced lengthwise

1/2 cup crumbled queso fresco (I used Feta)

 

Directions:

1.            In a small saucepan, combine the rice and water, cover, and bring to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer, covered, until the liquid has been absorbed and the rice is tender, about 30 minutes. Let the rice stand for a few minutes, then fluff. Set aside to cool to room temperature.

2.            Preheat the broiler.

3.            To grill the corn, lightly oil both ears of corn and place in a small baking dish. Broil about 6 inches from the heat, turning every few minutes, until golden and blackened in spots, 10 -15 minutes. Transfer to a plate and set aside until cool enough to handle. Using a large, sharp knife, cut the kernels from the cob to yield about 1 cup. If you have more than this amount, save it for another use. Transfer the kernels to a bowl and toss with a pinch of salt and a squeeze of lime. Set aside.

4.            Transfer the rice to a large bowl. In a blender, combine the cilantro, parsley, jalapeño, lime zest and juice, olive oil, a pinch of salt, and 1 tablespoon water. Blend until smooth. Add up to 1 more tablespoon of water to thin the sauce if it’s too thick. Spoon the mixture over the rice, scraping any remaining sauce out of the blender with a spatula, and mix until the rice is evenly coated.

5.            To finish, add the corn and additional parsley and cilantro to the rice. Toss to combine. Transfer the rice to a serving platter. Sprinkle the nectarines and queso fresco over the rice in even layers. Garnish with additional parsley and cilantro. Best if served immediately. Can be made up to a day in advance; bring to room temperature before serving.

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A Salad of Nectarines and Asparagus

4 servings

Ingredients:

1 small bunch asparagus, sliced on the bias

1 teaspoon oil

Zest of one lemon, reserve 1/2 lemon for juice

1 clove garlic, minced

Pinch red pepper flakes

1 tablespoon Balsamic vinegar

1 tablespoon minced shallot

3 tablespoons olive oil

5-6 cups mixed greens, such as lettuces, spinach leaves, young kale, arugula

2 nectarines, thinly sliced lengthwise

2-3 ounces Feta or Chèvre, crumbled

1/4 cup chopped, toasted almonds

Sea salt and pepper to taste

Parsley for garnish, optional

 

Directions:

1.            In a large skillet over medium heat, sauté the asparagus in one teaspoon oil, stirring occasionally, for about four minutes, until bright green. Add garlic, lemon zest, and red pepper flakes and cook for one minute more. Turn off heat and finish with a squeeze of juice from half the lemon, and salt and pepper to taste. Set aside.

2.            Make the dressing by whisking together the Balsamic vinegar with the shallot. Slowly drizzle in the olive oil and whisk vigorously until emulsified. Add salt and pepper to taste.

3.            In a large salad bowl, toss the greens with the dressing. Top with the asparagus, Feta, chopped almonds and finish with slices of nectarine. Garnish with parsley if desired. Best when  served immediately.

Recipe adapted from theyearinfood.com

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The Avocado

It was almost embarrassing how giddy I was about the rows and rows of avocado trees that lined the slope at the house I stayed at in California. I became known as the girl who eats avocado for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.. What can I say? I love their wrinkled skin that hides a soft, citron flesh. The taste is like grassy butter that slathers beautifully on toast or is great eaten alone with a squeeze of lemon plucked from the tree nearby.

I justified my avocado binging by saying I was making up for lost time. You see I wasn’t always an avocado fanatic. My infatuation began with guacamole and now I’m perfectly happy with an avocado and a spoon. As an adult I can now appreciate all the health benefits that comes with eating avocados. They are packed with protein, help to regulate blood sugar levels and protect against many types of cancer. They are indeed high in fat but it’s the sort of fat your body needs. It’s the sort of fat that makes your skin glow, your hair healthy and can be a nutrient dense replacement for butter in many recipes.

An avocado is in its prime when a soft nudge against the dark skin yields slightly. It’s neither too firm nor too soft. The exterior is uniform in color and if you carefully take a peek under the little cap where the stem was once connected it should look bright and green. If it is brown than the avocado will be brown too. If you want to speed up the ripening, store the avocados in a closed brown paper bag. Throw a banana in the bag to really get things ripening quickly.

As I walked through those avocado trees and stood there starry eyed at those branches dripping from the weight of the fruit I couldn’t help but envy California and the sun that makes avocados so abundant. But perhaps I wouldn’t appreciate them as I do now because for me, they are a luxury and one that I don’t take for granted. So when an avocado is in the kitchen I do my best to make sure it remains the star of the dish.

Here are a few ideas to make an avocado shine in your kitchen:

 

Grapefruit Guacamole: Dice two ripe avocados and mix with diced segmented grapefruit. Add a squeeze of lime and 1/4 cup or so of finely diced red onion. Add salt then taste and adjust.

 

Avocado Salad with Orange, Olives and Mint: Serve sliced avocado along with peeled and sliced oranges. Top with pitted and chopped kalamata olives and garnish with fresh mint. Serve alongside grilled fish.

 

Avocado Ice Cream: Because of the fat content, avocados turn into a creamy ice cream. Blend avocado with coconut milk (and cream if you’d like), add a bit of sugar, a pinch of salt and a squeeze of lime. Freeze in your ice cream machine or turn it into popsicles. Avocados also make smoothies taste like a rich milkshake.

 

Chilled Avocado Soup

Serves 4

1 avocado

1 1/2 cups vegetable broth (or more)

2 tablespoons lime juice

salt and pepper

Blend the avocado with the broth, lime juice and a pinch of salt. Taste and add more salt and pepper to your liking.

Garnish with cilantro, diced mango, diced onion, sliced melon, chopped tomatoes or peppers.

Serve chilled as an appetizer or first course.

 

Ashley Rodriguez

Food Blogger

www.notwithoutsalt.com 

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Health Tips From Ashley

Here we are in March, where days of sun give hope for spring and colorful crocuses push through the stiff dirt in protest of those long dark winter days. It’s also the month where we’re focusing on health.

Children Playing

I was asked to talk to you all about my tips for how I stay healthy and to be perfectly honest, at first I laughed. Me, talk about health?! I ate ice cream last night and have a roll of cookie dough lounging in the the fridge because you never know when the urge might strike. And then I started thinking a little deeper, beyond my sugar cravings, and realized that I do have a lot to say on the subject.

First of all, I have no rules. There was a time when I put a lot of limits on the way I eat. You know what happened? All I could think about was food. All day long I would sit, hungry, dreaming about the food I told myself was off limits. I’m terrible with rules. Give me a rule and I’ll obsess over it. I thought about food day and night and yet never felt satisfied. I limited myself so much that it became my obsession. When I broke a rule I felt terribly guilty and shameful. These rules took the joy out of food and nearly made it my enemy.

With a diet of no rules, however, I can think more clearly about eating that cookie. Do I really want it? Today, maybe yes. But I don’t sit around dreaming of the cookies I can’t have, so I don’t crave them nearly as much. When I do enjoy them, I savor it—feeling good about its sweetness. I don’t fret over the calories. I enjoy the moment and move on.

I also listen to my body. I know that I feel much better when I eat meals laden with fresh produce. There’s no denying it. I feel strong, alert, energetic and healthy. I like that feeling. So when I’m not feeling those things, I take it as a sign that I need more vegetables and good food. Those are the times when I pack the blender with fresh spinach and toss in an apple, carrot and lemon juice.

When you listen to your body you are also aware when it says, “I’m done.” There’s no need to keep eating when I’m full. Again, when there are no rules it’s much easier to avoid overeating because you have no reason for an unhealthy binge. You’re free to stop and look forward to the next meal when you’ll feel hungry again.

I practice radical moderation. What’s so radical about it? Sometimes even my moderation needs moderation. I’m a firm believer in Julia Child’s great quote, “Everything in moderation, including moderation.” There are vacations, birthday parties and holidays which make healthy eating difficult. Enjoy the party then the next day recover with salad. I’m not talking about plainly dressed greens here. Even salads can be fun (see recipe above).

Just like everything else in life, it’s all about the little decisions. Do I really need to find the closest parking spot? Why don’t I take a few moments to walk around the block? Is that second latte the best idea? One cookie really is enough, mostly. These little decisions add up to big changes over the course of a few months, years and a lifetime. It’s not about big, radical changes that fall by the wayside before dinner is ready. It’s about a lifetime of little decisions that value yourself, your health and the health of your family.

One last thing before you go make the salad. People often ask how I teach my kids about health. I live a life following the advice I just gave you. My kids are watching. They see me choosing to walk to the store rather than drive, they see me happily enjoying a produce-packed smoothie and a colorful salad for dinner. They also see me enjoying a bowl of ice cream. I want my kids to see food for the gift it is. Not a burden or a set of rules that need to be governed. My desire is for them to respect food and to love their bodies well. I teach them by doing the same for myself.

Ashley Rodriguez

Food Blogger

www.notwithoutsalt.com

 

SALAD OF CARA CARA ORANGES, AVOCADO AND FETA

Adapted from The A.O.C. Cookbook             Serves 4

 

Ingredients for the Salad:
2 Cara Cara Oranges, peeled and segmented
1 head Romaine washed and cut into thin ribbons
2 heads of Endive (optional) cut into thin ribbons
1 ripe avocado
1 cup crumbled Feta
1 cup chopped cilantro
1 tablespoon toasted sesame seeds (optional)

 

Ingredients for the Dressing:
1 large, ripe Haas avocado
Zest and juice from 1 lime
1/4 cup water
1/3 cup olive oil
Pinch chile flake
Salt

 

Directions for the Dressing:
Combine the avocado, lime zest and juice and water in a blender or food processor. Process until completely smooth.

Pour in the olive oil and pulse just to combine as you don’t want to bruise the olive oil or it will taste bitter.

Add a pinch of salt and chile flake. Taste and adjust seasoning.

Combine the clean greens in a bowl and toss with enough dressing to coat. You will have leftover dressing. I like to give the greens a pinch of salt too. Seems strange, but I assure you even lettuce perks up with a bit of seasoning.

Add the orange segments, avocado, cilantro and feta. Finish with the sesame seeds, if using.

Serve immediately.

Well covered, extra dressing will keep in the fridge for a few days.

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Always Organic ~ Always GMO Free

2-19What’s the rub when it comes to GMO free and organic? Understanding where the organic and GMO free movements connect and do not connect can create some friction or rub some people the wrong way. I would like to tackle the organic, GMO free definitions. This opinion is my own, shaped by 20 years in the good food movement (my oh my, where did the time go?) and countless conversations, workshops and books I have read. I have been blessed to know and interact with some of the most incredible farmers, food activists, and conservationists during this time.

The organic movement was founded in direct response to the abuse of the soil and continual decline of the nutritional value of food. In the early days, the farmers or visionaries behind this movement recognized that there is a big difference farming with nature versus trying to conquer nature. These die-hards respected the soil and recognized that a functioning farm should resemble a healthy eco system. From this foundation, the organic food movement has developed a list of what can be called “best management practices.” These practices govern what can be applied to the soil and when it can be applied, and it is governed by third party certifying agencies and the USDA.

It is important to know that organic does not mean “no sprays,” no pesticides, or no herbicides because there are naturally derived pesticides (like bt) or herbicides (like vinegar) that can be used. Organic does mean that no synthetically derived sprays, pesticides, herbicides, or fertilizers can be used. Organic farming is a system of farming and it requires different management principles than non-organic farming, but organic farmers still have an arsenal of sprays, pesticides, herbicides and fertilizers at their disposal. The difference is from what source they are derived—natural or synthetic. They are also GMO free by definition, since GMOs are prohibited by National Organic Program (NOP) standards.

The GMO free community is an important movement that is gaining lots of traction. We are seeing labeling initiatives springing up all over the place. But is GMO free better for you? Yes and no. It is true that a GMO free label means that these food products have been processed with beans, corn, or canola that have not used genetically modified organisms in the seed stock. But if the label doesn’t also say USDA Organic, it means that that product is grown non-organically using synthetically derived pesticides, herbicides and fertilizers. So while the seed itself is not laced with pesticides or herbicides, the plants are more than likely sprayed with them. This is an important distinction, which means that GMO free products fall into the same category as non-organic fruits and vegetables.

Your best bet is to eat organically grown fruits, vegetables, grains and organic processed foods to avoid food that is farmed with synthetically derived pesticides, herbicides, and fertilizers. Organic is better for you and better for the soil.

Which is why Klesicks is always organic and always GMO free!