Tag Archives: rice

Craft a Thanksgiving Plan & Wild Rice Medley with Apples and Pecans

Over the years, I’ve learned not to stress on Thanksgiving because I get most of my work done in advance. Sure, I’m in the kitchen plenty, but I take time to have a mimosa, circle Black Friday ads, watch the parade on TV, and enjoy myself.

The mimosa tradition started with one of my best friends years ago. Where I live, we have an annual 5K on Thanksgiving called The Turkey Trot. Once year, we registered and were pumped to participate. The race is very early in the morning and this morning it was sleeting. It was bitter. We sat in the car and debated.

What should we do? I suggested we ditch the race and instead go shopping and then wind up at my house for a mimosa.  We did and it was one of the best Thanksgiving mornings ever.

So many people get insanely stressed on Turkey Day and it’s easy. There’s a lot of food on that table.

But with a good plan, you can avoid a lot of headache.

I have an easy side dish, lots of practical tips and step-by-step plans to help you pull off the biggest cooking day of the year with less stress. Plus, I have tips for a succulent turkey.

First, let’s talk recipes.  I have a marvelous Wild Rice Medley with Apples and Pecans that can be made the day before and reheated. It’s an amazing side dish. Fluffy rice comes together with crunchy pecans, sweet and tart cranberries and apples, and flavorful shallots.



Right now, it’s list time.

Write out your dinner menu and complete grocery list. Don’t forget to buy extras like paper towels, cooking oil, napkins, butter, extra toilet paper, candles, and drinks.

Add this to the grocery list-  buy paper plates and bowls for breakfast on Thanksgiving so no additional dishes pile up while you are cooking. This is a good time to decide what the family will eat for breakfast and potentially lunch (depending on when you serve the meal). I like to keep sandwich stuff on hand to keep it simple.

Once you have the menu, craft a plan of when everything goes in and comes out of the oven.  Write down what can be made ahead of time.

Figure out how many burners you will need. This is a great time to decide if you need a slow cooker to keep items warm. If you need extras, you still have time to borrow or buy one.

Also, write down a list of what needs to be done before Thanksgiving (any cleaning tasks).


This is a good time to do the bulk of your grocery shopping.

Buy your turkey and know when to defrost it. A frozen turkey placed in the refrigerator will take 24 hours for every 4-5 pounds of meat to defrost. Plan on 1 pound of turkey per person or 1 ½ pounds if you want plenty leftover.

Assign any tasks you will need that day- such as having one person fill the water glasses; another person carve the turkey; make someone responsible for getting all the cold salads out of the fridge, etc.


Finish your grocery shopping.

Refrigerator space will be limited, so get your coolers out and plan to keep drinks in there.

Make or buy ice if you will have a crowd (or just ask one of your guests to bring a bag of ice).

Chop, chop, chop. One or two days in advance, you can chop most of the ingredients for your recipes. Measure them out, place in baggies and label the baggies. I keep ingredients separate so they don’t flavor each other.  Try not to store your onions next to anything sweet. I place the onions baggies in a larger, sealable container.

If you have a cream pie that calls for a cooked crust, you can go ahead and bake your crust today. Once cool, keep it in a container.

Make your cranberry relish.


If necessary, wash the dishes you will use.

Iron any linens that need ironing (like the fancy tablecloth).

Bake your pies.

Make as many side dishes as possible, especially chilled salads.

Did you know you can make gravy in advance and just reheat it and add the turkey drippings after the turkey is done? It’s a trick I learned from a New York Times article. Here’s a link to the recipe:http://cooking.nytimes.com/recipes/1015197-make-ahead-gravy

I have a couple adaptations to this recipe. The recipe calls for stock and I always add dried mushrooms and a bay leaf which impart excellent depth of flavor. Remove those after 20 minutes and then add stock to the recipe.

Second, it’s worth investing in a fat separator because you don’t want too much fat from the drippings or it will be overly fatty because there’s already butter in this recipe.

Chill the white wine and other drinks.

If you’re using frozen pies or whipped topping, put those in the refrigerator today (read the back of the box to make sure pies can be thawed).

After dinner, go ahead and set the table for tomorrow.


You’re in the homestretch now.  The biggest thing you have to tackle is the bird.  Here are my tips for a moist bird: I stuff the turkey with butter- lots of butter.  I slice about 1 ½ sticks of butter into tablespoons. Then toss the butter in Cajun seasoning (or you can use a dash of salt and pepper instead). The main goal is to season the bird. I put the butter back in the fridge to chill. When it’s cold, I carefully insert the butter under the turkey skin. You want to be sure not to tear the skin because that is the turkey’s natural insulation that helps keep it moist. I place the butter mostly in the breasts, but tuck some under the leg fat, too.

I stuff the cavity with onion, a bay leaf, and make sure to add plenty of salt and pepper to the outside and inside of the bird.

Before placing it in the oven, rub more butter on the outside.

If you don’t have a turkey roaster, you can make a big doughnut out of aluminum foil which will help heat circulate under the poultry and ensure even cooking.

I do not baste because basting allows heat to escape from the oven and can result in uneven baking, which means you’re more likely to overcook the bird.

I cover the breasts with aluminum foil the last 30-45 minutes of baking. Always allow the turkey to rest for 20-30 minutes before carving.

With all that done, you probably only have last minute dishes like dinner rolls. So now, pour yourself a drink and enjoy the moment.


rice in dish

Wild Rice Medley with Apples and Pecans

serves 4-6

1 cup Rice Select Royal Blend (see note)

1 ½ cups of water

½ teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon butter or oil

2 tablespoons canola oil

3 shallots, chopped

1 ½ cups diced Granny Smith apples (do not peel)

½ cup dried cranberries

1 cup pecan halves, roughly chopped

Note: Rice Select Royal Blend is a blend of Texmati white, brown, wild and red rice. It’s available in a plastic container near the regular rice and is sold at Walmart and other stores. If you cannot find it, cook ¾ cup long grain rice according to package directions and ½ cup wild rice according to package directions and then mix the two.

In a medium pot, combine 1 cup uncooked rice, 1 ½ cups of water, ½ teaspoon salt and 1 teaspoon butter or oil. Bring to a boil and stir once. Then cover, reduce heat to a simmer and cook for 15 minutes. Turn off heat and allow rice to rest for 5 minutes. Then uncover and leave uncovered.

While the rice cooks, chop shallots and apples. Break pecan halves in half and set aside.

When rice is done and cooling, heat 2 tablespoons oil in a large skillet. First add the shallots and cook 3 minutes. Then add the apples and cook 3 minutes. Add rice, cranberries and pecans and stir. Add salt and pepper to taste.

This can be made a day in advance and warmed in the microwave.  Warming the pecans will make them soft, so if you prefer to keep that crunch, you can omit the pecans until the end (or add half now and half later).

To warm, add 1 tablespoon of water to the rice, cover with plastic wrap and heat 45 seconds. Stir and heat another 45-90 seconds (depend on the microwave). Serve immediately.

Acorn Squash Stuffed with Curried Chickpeas (Quick and Economical)

If you want a delicious dinner for less than $5 per person (with leftovers), make this.

This meal comes together in about 15 minutes and cost me  $5 total to make (but I had all the spices, butter and salsa on hand already so I didn’t buy those).

It serves 2 and there’s plenty of curried chickpeas leftover for lunch the next day, Simply make some rice and serve the chickpeas over that or stuff them into a baked potato.

You can also buy two acorn squashes and stuff those and this will serve 4.

The nutty chickpeas, spicy curry, and crunchy green pepper and were a beautiful contrast to the sweet, tender acorn squash flesh.

It was cheap, quick, filling, delicious and healthy. This dish is an excellent source of fiber, vitamins C, A, and B.

I hope you enjoy it

Acorn Squash Stuffed with Curried Chickpeas (Quick and Economical)

Serves 2

1 acorn squash

2 tablespoons butter, plus 2 teaspoons

1 medium red onion

1 green bell pepper

1 ¼ teaspoon curry powder

1/8 teaspoon ground cumin

¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon

1 (15-ounce) can of chickpeas, drained

½ cup salsa

Cut acorn squash in half and scrape out the seeds. Stab the flesh several times with a sharp knife. Season with salt and pepper and place 1 teaspoon of butter in the cavity of each half. Place in a microwave safe bowl with 1/2 cup of water on the bottom. Cover with plastic wrap and microwave for 12-15 minutes, or until tender.

While that microwaves, chop onion and bell pepper and set aside.

In a large skillet, heat 2 tablespoons oil. When hot, add onion and cook 3 minutes. Then add green bell pepper and chickpeas and cook 4 minutes. Add salsa and heat through.

When squash is done, remove it carefully and peel back the plastic wrap carefully being sure not to put your hand in front of the steam.

Stuff each squash with curried chickpea mixture and serve.

Hump Day Hack: Homemade croutons with leftover bread; cleaning the coffee grinder

It’s Wednesday, which is my Hump Day Hack day.

If you’re like me, you buy some lovely ciabatta or other artisan buns for a recipe and then end up with leftover bread. Well, transform it into EASY croutons. Ciabatta works best but French and Italian loaves are great, too.

photo 1 (21)

If you don’t have time this week, you can freeze the bread and then defrost it on the counter ad make croutons next week.

These croutons are great of gazpacho or even dipped in a Bloody Mary (Hey, if you can do it with milk and cookies as a kid, why not croutons and Bloody Marys when you grow up?)

You will need 1 ciabatta

1 tablespoon olive oil

¾ teaspoon Italian seasoning

Heavy dash of garlic salt


Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Slice up 1 ciabatta or other bread into bite-size pieces.

Drizzle with olive oil and use your hands to toss the bread to incorporate the oil. Then toss with Italian seasoning and a generous dash of garlic salt. Toss to coat.

Bake for 8-10 minutes, until crisp.

These will keep a few days (depends how soon your bread will expire and if it has preservatives) but are best enjoyed fresh. They are amazing hot!

photo 2 (21)

Here’s another wonderful way to use artisan bread before it goes bad. You can use it to make dill toast for smoked fish, like smoked salmon or trout. It’s FABULOUS.

To do this, take your ciabatta or French bread and brush it with olive oil. Then sprinkle dried dill weed on the bread and a dash of salt. Bake it at 400 degrees for 5-10 minute, depending on how toasted you want it. I prefer it at about 6 minutes.

Then spread cream cheese or horseradish on the bread and top with smoked fish and capers. It’s simply delightful!

Panzanella is another use for old artisan bread. I like this recipe from Ina Garten: http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/ina-garten/panzanella-recipe.html


And here is my second tip of the day: If you ever need to clean out your coffee grinder, fill it with rice and pulse until the rice becomes a powder. Then toss the rice and wipe the inside of the grinder with a damp paper towel.

Why would you need to clean it? Well, sometimes you might want to use it to make bread crumbs or grind spices. There are a variety of reasons.

photo 2 (23)

Thanks for reading these Hump Day Hacks and Tips. If you have any additional suggestions, or requests, I am always listening. Thank you

Creole Fried Rice

I love fried rice and this is my Southern version.

This rice is flavored with Cajun seasoning, oregano, Andouille, chicken, and the “Trinity” is still crunchy, adding depth to the texture.

If you’re not familiar with the “Trinity” or “Holy Trinity” term, it’s a combination of onion, bell pepper and celery. This is the foundation of Cajun and Creole cooking and a staple in our house. I am married to a Louisiana man.

There’s a lot of differences between Cajun and Creole cooking, but the biggest one is tomatoes. You will notice I called this dish “Creole Fried Rice” and that’s because I use tomatoes in it. If you’re down South and have a jambalaya or gumbo with tomatoes, you’re eating a Creole-style dish.

Cajun food is considered to be more from the country. Creole cuisine is considered more city food.

Here’s a very condensed history. The word Cajun comes from “les Acadians” which were French colonists who settled in Canada. After British conquest of that area, those French descendants settled in Louisiana in the region now called Acadiana. This was a swampy region and what evolved in terms of food was incredible fare using local resources. Rice is a staple and so are spices and seasonings. There’s a lot of one-pot dishes and just down home comfort. Plus, I am amazed at what humans can create when they don’t have much.

The “Creoles” lived in New Orleans and were upper class descendants of settlers. The influences in that cuisine were largely Spanish, French, and African slaves, so there’s more fusion in this cooking. Also, the Creoles had more money to buy ingredients and import ingredients so dishes can be a little more complicated.

In general, I prefer Cajun food, and I use more Cajun ingredients like Andouille, Boudin, and Tasso.

Of course, this is an over-simplification and both styles of food have evolved. My husband stays true to Cajun cuisine and if I try to put a modern or “Yankee” twist on that fare, he tells me I am “bastardizing” his food.

So I can say it’s a big compliment that he loved this dish – although it’s my Creole version, not Cajun.

Be careful when using Cajun seasoning in this recipe because a lot of grocery store brands are terribly salty. I use Joe’s Stuff, which I discovered at the New Orleans School of Cooking: http://www.neworleansschoolofcooking.com/

Just be sure you taste your Cajun seasoning before adding it to the dish.  If there’s another one you’d recommend, let me know. I am always interested in trying new foods. To date though, Joe’s Stuff is the best (you can order it online).

By the way, if you’re ever in New Orleans and enjoy cooking, take a cooking class at New Orleans School of Cooking. It’s fun and educational. I learned a lot there and will definitely take another class. Take a class with Kevin, if you can. He’s a riot and great teacher.

Now, back to my dish. This fried rice came together in about 15 minutes, which is perfect on a busy weeknight (and it was a busy weeknight when I created this).

It’s a great way to use up leftover white rice or if you plan ahead and are making rice on Monday, make a double batch and have leftover rice ready to go on Tuesday.

I hope you enjoy it.

Creole Fried Rice

1 teaspoon canola oil

1 medium red onion, chopped

1 cup chopped celery

2/3 cup chopped green bell pepper

2 Andouille sausages

2 cups day-old rice

1 cup chopped rotisserie chicken

¼ teaspoon Cajun seasoning

¾ teaspoon oregano

1 cup canned tomatoes with celery, onions and peppers

Chop all vegetables (or use a food processor). If you’re using a food processor, coarsely chop the vegetables.

Slice Andouille in half and then chop into bite-size pieces.

In a large skillet, heat oil over medium-high heat. When it’s hot, add onions and cook 2 minutes. Then add celery and Andouille and cook 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.

While that cooks, chop your chicken and set aside.

Add bell pepper and cook 1 minute (you want it to still be crisp). Now add rice, chicken, Cajun seasoning, oregano and tomatoes to the dish and cook another 3 minutes. You want to toss the rice so it’s coated in tomatoes, but don’t over-stir the rice or it will become gummy. Taste and add salt and pepper, if needed. Serve.cajun rice2