Bourbon and Chocolate

…Just because it’s New Year’s Eve. 

We are attending a masquerade party this evening and a few of us are contributing snacks and desserts. I considered bourbon balls, but they have pecans in them. I try to avoid making things with tree nuts (my eldest son’s allergy – his exceptions are peanuts and almonds if you have read my other posts). 

I started skimming through Epicurious’ chocolate dessert ideas and came across this recipe for Chocolate Fudge with Bourbon Sugar. I was hooked; there is an obvious flaw in their post, but it was easily corrected and I have done so below. 

Chocolate Fudge with Bourbon Sugar

Source Bon Appétit | December 2014


  • 1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise
  • 1 cup demerara sugar (or raw turbindo)
  • 2 tablespoons bourbon
  • Nonstick vegetable oil spray
  • 10 ounce bittersweet chocolate (preferably 72%), coarsely chopped
  • 4 ounces unsweetened chocolate, coarsely chopped
  • 14 ounces sweetened condensed milk
  • 10 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into pieces
  • 2 tablespoons bourbon
  • 1 tablespoon light corn syrup
  • ¼ teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise
  • Flaky sea salt (such as Maldon)


Bourbon sugar:

Preheat oven to 150° or as low as yours will go. Scrape vanilla beans seeds into sugar, the stir in the bourbon. Spread on a parchment-lined baking sheet and let dry out in oven overnight, leaving door slightly ajar. Mixture should feel like demerara sugar again in the morning.

Line an 8×8″ baking dish with parchment paper, leaving a generous overhang on 2 sides; lightly coat with nonstick spray. Heat chocolates in a heatproof bowl set over a saucepan of simmering water (do not let bowl touch water), stirring occasionally, until almost completely melted. Set aside.

Combine condensed milk, butter, bourbon, corn syrup, and kosher salt in a small saucepan; scrape in vanilla seeds and add pod. Heat over medium until barely hot (same as the chocolate).  

Gently stir one quarter of milk mixture into chocolate with a rubber spatula. Add another quarter of milk mixture, stirring to incorporate (it might look broken and greasy; don’t worry, it will come back together). Continue with remaining milk mixture in 2 additions, stirring vigorously until fudge is very shiny and almost elastic, about 5 minutes. Scrape into prepared pan and smooth top. Sprinkle with bourbon sugar and sea salt. Let cool, then cover and chill at least 4 hours.


Turn out fudge onto a cutting board and slice into desired rectangles, squares, or triangles.

Do ahead:

Store bourbon sugar airtight at room temperature up to 2 months. Fudge can be made 1 week ahead. Wrap tightly and chill. Save the extra for your coffee; yum!!

Philly Cheese Steak Dinner

My husband suggested this dinner, although I’ve ordered it in restaurants before, I hadn’t ever made it. I decided to look around online and came across Bobby Flay’s version. He was thinking of this as an easy meal for the pre-Christmas rush, but I did end up using 5 different pans so it isn’t easy on the dishes. Also, although it said it serves 4, I served it with a Caesar salad and had enough for us (includes 2 teenage boys) and plenty of leftovers.

I modified the recipe to be easier to follow along as it works best to start the onions right after you put the steak in the freezer and then start on the mushrooms and peppers.


While they sautéed, I made the cheese sauce, sliced the meat, and then quickly seared the steak so that everything was ready at once. In the meantime my husband made the salad.IMG_3053IMG_3054

It was delicious…IMG_3055

Then, I did have plenty of leftovers to make a grilled pizza on the 26th. I really enjoy grilled pizza, the crust is thin and crispy and it’s easy to manage. With the cold weather here, I did slide it under the broiler for about a minute to brown the cheese.


Philly Cheese Steak Sandwiches
Prep Time: 30 minutes | Cook Time: 45 minutes | Servings: 6-8 servings


  • ~2 lbs. strip loin, trimmed
  • Olive oil
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • Soft hoagie rolls, split ¾ open

Caramelized Onions:

  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 tablespoons canola oil
  • 2 large Spanish onions, peeled, halved and thinly sliced
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • ¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Sauteed Mushrooms:

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 1½ pounds mushrooms (cremini and shiitake), coarsely chopped
  • 3 tablespoons finely chopped fresh parsley leaves
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Sauteed Peppers:

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 poblano peppers, thinly sliced
  • 2 Cubano peppers, thinly sliced
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Provolone Sauce:

  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups whole milk, heated
  • 8-12 ounces grated aged provolone cheese
  • ¼-⅓ cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • ¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper


Place steak in freezer for 30 to 45 minutes; this makes it easier to slice the meat.

Heat butter and oil in a large sauté pan over medium heat. Add the onions, season with salt and pepper, and cook slowly until golden brown and caramelized, stirring occasionally, approximately 30 to 40 minutes.

Heat oil and butter in a second large sauté pan over high heat. Add the mushrooms and cook until the mushrooms are golden brown. Stir in the parsley and season with salt and pepper.

Heat the oil in medium sauté pan over high heat. Add the peppers and cook until soft. Season with salt and pepper.

Melt butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Whisk in the flour and cook for 1 minute. Slowly whisk in the warm milk, and cook, whisking constantly until thickened, about 4 to 5 minutes. Remove the mixture from the heat and whisk in the provolone and Parmesan until combined; season with the salt and pepper.

Remove the meat from the freezer and slice very thinly. Heat griddle or grill pan over high heat. Brush steak slices with oil and season with salt and pepper. Cook for 45 to 60 seconds per side.

Place several slices of the meat on the bottom half of the roll, spoon some of the cheese sauce over the meat, and top with the mushrooms, onions, and peppers.

Philly Cheese Steak Pizza
Prep Time: 30 minutes | Cook Time: 45 minutes | Servings: 4 servings (2 pizzas)


  • 1 lb. pizza dough, split
  • Olive oil
  • Provolone Sauce
  • ~½-1 lb. seared steak
  • sautéed mushrooms
  • sautéed peppers
  • caramelized onions
  • 8 ounces mozzarella, shredded

Roll or press each half of the dough into an approximate circle, ~12″ wide and about ¼” thick (don’t worry if it’s not exact; irregular shapes are fine). Oil two 12-inch squares of wax paper and place one dough round on each.

Prepare the grill for direct cooking over medium heat (350° to 450°F).

Brush the cooking grates clean. Place the dough on the cooking grate with the paper side facing up. Grill over direct medium heat, with the lid closed as much as possible, until the dough is well marked and firm on the underside, 2 to 4 minutes, rotating as needed for even cooking (don’t worry if the dough bubbles). Remove and discard the paper.

Turn the dough over and spread provolone sauce evenly over the dough, to within 1/2 inch of the edge. Top with meat, mushrooms, peppers, and onions. Finally top with mozzarella.

*NOTE: All ingredients should be room temperature or slighted warmed before making the pizza. When reheating the provolone sauce for pizza, you may need to add milk to make it spreadable.

Friday Dinner Party

We discussed with friends on Friday that we had become our parents; we all made sure our kids were busy and met for a dinner at our house. We divided the duties with a menu planned out over texts:

  • Appetizer (maybe cheese and crackers)
  • Salad
  • Bread
  • Phyllo-wrapped salmon with leeks and red peppers
  • Cumin-scented beef
  • Asparagus
  • Polenta
  • Dessert (maybe crème brûlée or a trifle)

I volunteered to take care of the entrées and as you can see I had an idea in my head for what the meal would become. After the discussion, the final menu was perfect:

  • Appetizer – Apricot Jam/Cream Cheese Dip with cracker
  • Salad
  • Bread
  • Phyllo-wrapped salmon with leeks and red peppers
  • Cumin-scented beef
  • Asparagus
  • Polenta
  • Dessert – (trifle) Crème Brûlée 

Meals where everyone contributes are wonderful and everyone is happy. 

One of our attendees was planning on bringing a trifle and a savory polenta, sadly she threw out her back and was unable to attend; my contribution expanded to include the polenta and Crème Brûlée. 


I found the two entrées several years ago and neither has ever let me down. Both are mostly prepared in advance which makes for an easier dinner party. 

Phyllo-Wrapped Salmon With Leeks And Red Bell Pepper

Cook 15-20 minutes ∙ Makes Serves 6 ∙ Difficulty Medium ∙ Source Bon Appétit | October 1997

  • 10 Tbsp butter
  • 3 cups red bell peppers, cut in matchstick size strips (about 1½ large)
  • 3 cups leeks, cut in matchstick size strips (white and pale green parts only; about 3)
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 1 tsp dried crushed red pepper, (this makes for a pretty zippy dish – could be reduced)
  • 1 cup thinly sliced fresh basil
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 12 sheets fresh phyllo pastry or frozen, thawed
  • 2½ pounds salmon fillet (skin removed), cut in 6 pieces


Melt 2 tablespoons butter in heavy large skillet over medium-high heat. Add bell peppers and leek and sauté until leek is tender, about 6 minutes. Add wine and crushed red pepper to skillet. Simmer until liquid evaporates, about 4 minutes. Remove skillet from heat. Cool vegetable mixture. Stir in basil and salt.

Preheat oven to 400°F.

Melt remaining 8 tablespoons butter in small saucepan. Place 1 pastry sheet on work surface (keep remaining phyllo sheets covered). Brush with some of melted butter. Top with second pastry sheet; brush with melted butter. Place 1 salmon fillet crosswise on pastry sheet, 5 inches in from 1 short end. Top salmon fillet with 1/4 cup of vegetable mixture. Fold 5-inch section of pastry over salmon. Fold in sides. Roll up, forming rectangular packet. Transfer to heavy large baking sheet, vegetable side up. Brush packet all over with melted butter. Repeat with remaining pastry sheets, melted butter, salmon fillets and vegetables. (Can be prepared ~6 hours ahead. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate. Remove from fridge about 1 hour before baking.)

Bake salmon until pastry is pale golden and salmon is cooked through, 15-18 minutes.


For smaller portions cut each piece of salmon in half and wrap in a single sheet of phyllo dough.
Cumin-Scented Beef Kebabs

Prep 3 to 24 hours ∙ Cook 10 minutes ∙ Makes Makes 6 Servings ∙ Difficulty Easy ∙ Source Gourmet | August 2009

  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • 2 Tbsp oregano, fresh, finely chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 tsp cumin, ground
  • 1 tsp coriander, ground
  • ¼ tsp cayenne
  • 2 pounds sirloin flap steak or flatiron steak, cut into 1½” pieces
  • 12 skewers, soaked in water 30 minutes if wooden
  • Roasted red pepper spread


Stir together oil, oregano, garlic, spices, and 1 teaspoon salt in a bowl, then toss with beef. Marinate, chilled, at least 2 hours and up to overnight. 

Prepare grill for direct-heat cooking over medium-hot charcoal (high heat for gas). Thread about 4 pieces of beef onto each skewer, leaving small spaces between pieces, then transfer to a tray.

Oil grill rack, then grill beef, covered only if using a gas grill, turning, until browned but still pink inside, 4 to 5 minutes.
Roasted Red Pepper Spread

Cook 10 to 15 minutes ∙ Makes Makes About 3 Cups ∙ Difficulty Easy ∙ Source Gourmet | August 2009

  • 14-16 ounces roasted red peppers, rinsed and drained
  • 1 cup coarse fresh bread crumbs
  • 1 Tbsp red wine vinegar
  • ½ tsp cumin
  • ⅛ tsp cayenne
  • ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil


  • 1 cup walnuts (4 ounces), toasted OR
  • 15 ounces garbanzo beans, drained


Purée roasted red peppers, bread crumbs, walnuts or beans, vinegar, cumin, cayenne, and ¼ teaspoon salt in a food processor until almost smooth.

With motor running, add oil in a slow stream, blending until incorporated.


  • Spread is also delicious with crudités, crackers, or toasts.
  • Spread can be made 3 days ahead and chilled. Bring to room temperature before serving.

 I have shared this polenta before and continues to impress me. I have wasted hours stirring polenta on the stove top; this is equal in taste and texture and the results are perfect. My mother made it for a dinner party this weekend and was equally thrilled (she made the original dish I prepared with this polenta).

Baked Polenta

Makes 8 ∙ Difficulty Medium ∙ Source Bon Appétit | October 2012

  • 1½ cups polenta (coarse cornmeal)
  • 7½ cups water
  • 2 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 2 tsp. kosher salt
  • 1½ cups finely grated Parmesan
  • 2 Tbsp. butter
  • black pepper, freshly ground


Preheat oven to 350°. Stir polenta, oil, salt, and water in a 13x9x2” baking dish to blend. Bake, uncovered, for 1 hour 15 minutes. Stir in cheese and butter and season with pepper. Smooth top and continue baking until polenta is set and jiggles like custard, 25–30 minutes.

Preheat broiler. Broil polenta, watching very closely to prevent burning, until surface is light golden, 5–7 minutes. Serve immediately for a softer polenta; for a firmer texture, let rest for up to 30 minutes.
For dessert I referenced a trusted cookbook and selected the crème brûlée:

Le Cirque’s Crème Brûlée

Makes 8 servings ∙ Source Essential New York Times Cookbook | Amanda Hesser | 2010 – page 844

  • 4 cups heavy cream
  • 1 vanilla bean
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 8 egg yolks
  • ¾ cup plus 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 1 cup light brown or raw sugar, approximately


1. Heat the oven to 300 degrees. Place eight 6-ounce ramekins or ceramic custard cups in roasting pan. Combine the cream, vanilla bean and seeds, and salt in a saucepan set over low heat and and warm for 5 minutes.

2. Gently whisk the egg yolks and granulated sugar in a large bowl. Gradually pour in the hot cream and stir gently to combine. Strain the custard into a pitcher; discard the vanilla bean and use a spoon to skim off any bubbles on the surface of the custard.

3. Pour the custard into the ramekins, filling them almost to the rim. Place the roasting pan in the oven and carefully pour warm water into pan until it reaches halfway up sides of ramekins. Loosely cover the pan with aluminum foil. Bake until set, 1 to 1¼ hours. Remove ramekins from the water bath and allow to cool.

4. Cover the ramekins individually and refrigerate for at least 3 hours, or for up to 2 days.

5. When ready to serve, preheat the broiler. (see Cooking Note). Uncover the ramekins and place them on baking sheet. Top each with 1 tablespoon of brown sugar, and using a metal spatula or your finger, spread the sugar evenly over the custards. Broil the custards about 4 inches from the heating element until the sugar browns and caramelizes, 30 seconds to 1 minute.


Use a blowtorch, if you have one, to carmelize the sugar on top of the custard in Step 5.

Simple Food is Best

Yesterday was another two dinner preparation day. In addition to our “normal” Monday activities, my eldest was inducted into the National Honor Society today so I had to have something that we could do easily and early. 

I’ll start with Sunday dinner, I just happened to scroll across this recipe for Roasted Garlic Clove Chicken in my email. Two items that I love: roasted garlic and chicken thighs. (Bone-in chicken is worth getting your fingers messy every single time. I also have a roasted chicken that’s stuffed with about 3 heads of garlic, but that’s a post for another day.

I planned other simple food to go with it: green beans with mushrooms and rice. I set the rest of my week before heading out shopping. For Monday, I decided on Crock Pot Cranberry Pulled Pork Sandwiches.

Sunday was fairly relaxing in spite of making two meals. Monday’s dinner took priority with 6 hours needed in the crock pot. I mixed the sauce and the trimmed a pork loin, cut it in half, and added it to the pot and coated it completely. I originally came across this recipe on another blog ( as a crock pot roast recipe. It didn’t fit my idea of a roast but the flavors intrigued me; I’m always looking for good sandwiches that can be prepped in advance, so I modifed accordingly. (I think this is the only use I have ever had for a can of cranberry sauce, but it does work.)

Closer to dinner I started on the chicken, I got it out on the cutting board and salted and peppered it thoroughly (meats simply cook more evenly from room temperature) and then I set to peeling garlic and snipping beans.   

Before starting anything else, I par-boiled the beans (3 minutes) and began the rice to allow it enough time. An early Christmas gift from my boss that I was excited to try.

He was clear that the best rule was to simply follow the instructions: water, rice, and salt, and do not lift the lid until the 45 minutes of simmering was complete! He assured me that the aroma would be amazing. 

The first smell in the kitchen was the garlic in the cast iron skillet, while it sautéed I started the mushrooms, and then when the garlic was golden, I set them aside, the heat went up and the chicken went in, skin down. 

The rest was easy, return the garlic to the pan and put it in the oven. Add the green beans to the mushrooms. Make a quick sauce at the end. 


Another wonderful salad from my MIL
Sorry I don’t have scratch & sniff
The rice was completely as promised, from the smell you knew it was going to be delicious and it did not disappoint. 

After dinner, my crock pot bowl went into the fridge and today, I finished up the sandwiches by pouring off the liquid into a saucepan, bringing it to a boil, and reducing slightly until I stirred in the corn starch. The only remaining task was to shred the pork and build the sandwiches, and that would be the only missing picture. To completely do this as a make ahead, the sauce can be done the same day and stirred into the shredded pork. 

Roasted Garlic Clove Chicken

Prep 20 min ∙ Cook 45 min ∙ Makes 6 servings ∙ Source

  • 6-12 chicken thighs (1-2 per person)
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1-2 heads garlic, separated into whole cloves, papery skin removed
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 2 teaspoons herbes de Provence
  • 1 teaspoon flour
  • ½ cup white wine
  • 1 lemon, juiced
  • Bread, for serving


Preheat the oven to 350° F.

Rinse and pat dry the chicken. Salt and pepper liberally and allow to temper on a cutting board while you prepare the garlic.

In a large ovenproof saute pan over medium heat, cook the whole garlic cloves in olive oil and butter, stirring occasionally, until lightly golden, about 10 minutes. Remove the garlic from the pan and set aside.

Increase the heat to medium high and brown the chicken skin-side down until the skin is golden and crispy, about 5 minutes. Turn the chicken over, sprinkle on herbes de Provence. Add the garlic back to the pan and place hot pan in oven. Bake the chicken until cooked through, about 25 minutes.

Once the chicken is done, remove chicken thighs and garlic to a platter. Place the pan over medium-high heat and sprinkle the drippings with flour and stir to incorporate. Deglaze the pan with the wine and lemon juice. Pour the sauce over the chicken on the platter and serve with bread for sauce-mopping and garlic-spreading.

Crock Pot Cranberry Pork Loin Sandwiches

Prep 15 minutes ∙ Cook 8 hours ∙ Makes 8 Servings


  • 14 ounce can jelled cranberry sauce
  • ½ cup cranberry juice
  • ½ cup sugar
  • 1 tsp dijon mustard
  • ½ tsp. ground cloves
  • 3 lb pork loin, trimmed and cut to fit in slow cooker
  • 2 Tbsp cornstarch
  • 2 Tbsp cold water
  • 8 ounces Brie, cut round in half then slice thinly
  • 1 loaf Italian bread


1. In slow cooker mash cranberry sauce; stir in cranberry juice, sugar, mustard, and cloves until mixed. Place roast in slow cooker, turning to coat completely. Cover and cook on low for 6-8 hours (5½ if it will rest on warm after cooking).

2. Turn off heat on slow cooker and transfer 2 c. of liquid from the slow cooker into a saucepan and bring to a boil over medium heat.

3. In a small bowl combine cornstarch and cold water to make paste. Stir paste mixture into saucepan. Cook and stir until thickened (like barbeque sauce.

4. Shred the pork in the remaining liquid and stir well. Butter outside of bread and top bottom slice with pork then Brie. Top with other half and grill on panini press (medium heat) until golden. Serve with sauce.

Thanksgiving Leftovers – Round 4

Last night I made dinner for both yesterday and today. These two I make every year after Thankgiving, they are two of my favorites and both easy.

When I got home, I started with the chopping, celery and leeks for sandwiches and green onions for the soup. Once the chopping was done I started the sauté for the sandwiches. 

While these were becoming yummy in the butter, I also started the soup. 

Rather than the chicken called for in the recipe I used my leftover turkey that I shredded when I took it off the bone. 

After this point the soup comes together quickly and I let it simmer until we sat down for dinner. I only used 6 cups of broth. This is a full batch in my 8 quart stock pot; I have plenty to freeze. 

The soup was great for today, a karate night where we all eat at differnt times. 

Continuing with the sandwich, it also comes together quickly once the celery and leeks are sautéed. 

I served the sandwiches with the leftover green bean casserole and now my fridge is almost back to normal. 

Grilled Sage, Cheddar, And Turkey Sandwiches

Cook 15 minutes ∙ Makes Serves 4 ∙ Difficulty Easy ∙ Source Detroit Free Press | November 26, 2011

  • 3 ribs celery, trimmed and sliced ⅛” thick
  • 1 leek, large, white and pale green parts only
  • 8 Tbsp unsalted butter, softened, divided
  • salt
  • pepper, freshly ground
  • 8 ounces white cheddar cheese, shredded
  • 2 Tbsp sage, fresh, finely chopped
  • 1 loaf French bread, (or Italian) cut 1/2-inch thick
  • 8-10 ounces turkey, roasted, coarsely shredded


Cut the leek in half lengthwise, retaining the light green and white parts. Cut into 2-inch-long pieces, then into matchstick-size strips. Wash the leek strips thoroughly. (see notes for instructions on how to wash)

In a small pan over medium-low heat, melt 3 tablespoons of the butter. Add the celery and season with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Cover the pan and cook about 3 minutes until the celery is slightly tender. Add the leeks to the celery, stir well and cover. Continue to cook until both are tender and without bright coloring.

Place the white cheddar cheese in a bowl and mix in the sage.

To assemble the sandwich: butter one side of each slice of bread. Place half of the bread slices buttered side down and evenly spread 1 ounce (or more as desired) of the cheese, then layer some shredded turkey on top of the cheese and add some of the celery mixture. Top with about 1 ounce more cheddar on top of the turkey. Top with another slice of the bread with the butter side up.

Grill the sandwiches in a moderately hot skillet or panini grill for 4-5 minutes until the bread is golden brown and the cheese has melted. If working in a skillet, turn sandwiches over halfway through grilling. Cut the sandwiches in half on the diagonal and serve hot.


How to wash leeks:

Leeks are a wonderful vegetable, but they required a fair amount of preparation before they can be used. Here are some tips on washing and preparing leeks.

  • Cut off the fibrous root
  • If the dark-green outer leaves are very tough and/or spotty, remove them.
  • Trim the ends of the remaining leaves
  • Cut the leek according to recipe instructions
  • Place in a bowl of luke warm water and swirl around to help the dirt fall to the bottom
  • Take the leeks out, place in a colander, and rinse again. Don’t just pour them into the colander as the dirt at the bottom of the bowl might get trapped in the leaves again.

Chicken And Hominy Soup

Cook 20 to 30 minutes ∙ Makes 10-12 ∙ Difficulty Easy ∙ Source Bon Appétit | February 2007

  • 3 Tbsp olive oil
  • 3 bunches green onions, sliced
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 4 tsp ground cumin
  • 2½ tsp smoked paprika
  • 2 pounds roasted chicken or turkey, meat shredded, skin and bones discarded
  • 6-8 cups low salt chicken broth
  • 2 cans petite-diced tomatoes, with juice (14½ ounce cans)
  • 2 cans black beans, drained and rinsed (15 ounce cans)
  • 4 tsp hot pepper sauce, Chipotle Tobasco is good
  • 4 cans golden or white hominy, drain and rinse ½, puree the other half (with liquid) in food process or blender (15 ounce cans)
  • ½-1 cups chopped fresh cilantro


Heat oil in heavy large pot over medium-high heat. Add green onions, garlic, cumin, and paprika; sauté 5 minutes. Add chicken and hot pepper sauce, stir to combine. Add beans, whole hominy, tomatoes with juice, broth, and pureed hominy; mix into soup. Bring to boil. Reduce heat; simmer 15 minutes. 

Stir in cilantro. Ladle soup into bowls and serve with favorite toppings.


Great use for leftovers from a roasted chicken or turkey.

The tomatoes, beans, and hominy can easily be adjusted for taste and quantity. This soup as listed makes a LOT.

Thanksgiving Leftovers – Round 3

Today was indeed leftovers… but they were hard to find in the final dish.

We eat dinner at around 6 on Thanksgiving, so we do have appetizers near the game. Each year I invite both family and friends; one of those friends brought a red pepper and fennel appetizer.

Not only beautiful they were also delicious (and she gave me the recipe!). She made two dozen, and although we had 20 people this was more than enough with the other appetizers and dinner on the way. She mentioned that she had used the leftovers in the past to make a pasta sauce and a soup. The pasta sauce idea stuck with me and we split the leftovers.

When I made my weekly menu, I knew I needed a protein (the men of my house insist); I decided on Caprese Chicken.

Today, I pulled the peppers out of the fridge with my chicken and set to prepping my dinner. I started by making a quick pesto (2 small packages of basil (3.4 ounces each) and 1 minced clove of garlic chopped in a food processor and then process in salt, pepper, and shredded parmesan, finishing with just enough olive oil to spread it). I spread this on my 4 chicken breasts and then baked it at 400 for 25 minutes. While it was baking, I boiled water for pappardelle pasta and set to work on peppers. I used 6 of peppers; my first task was peeling the peppers and then I chopped them before tossing them in a large skillet.

I heated them through while the pasta cooked to al dente. Just before the pasta was done I topped each of the chicken breasts with 2 large basil leaves, sliced plum tomatoes, and sliced fresh mozzarella and returned them to the oven for 5 minutes longer.

I then tossed the pasta directly in the sauce and served.

Roasted Red Peppers Stuffed with Fennel

Makes 8 as a first course

  • 4 large red peppers
  • 2 small bulbs fennel
  • 1 x 14 oz (400 g) tin Italian plum tomatoes
  • 8 dessert spoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 rounded teaspoon mixed pepper berries
  • ¾ level teaspoon whole coriander seeds
  • ½ level teaspoon fennel seeds
  • juice ½ lemon
  • finely chopped spring onion for garnish (optional)
  • sea salt


Slice each pepper in half lengthways, cutting right through the green stalk end and leaving it intact; though it won’t be eaten, it adds much to the look of the thing. Remove all the seeds.

Place the pepper halves on the baking sheet, then drain the tomatoes (you don’t need the juice), and divide them into eight equal portions, placing each portion inside a pepper half.

Now pare off any brownish bits of fennel with your sharpest knife and cut the bulbs first into quarters and then again into eighths, carefully keeping the layers attached to the root ends.

Now put them in a saucepan with a little salt, pour boiling water on them and blanch them for 5 minutes. Then drain them in a colander and, as soon as they’re cool enough to handle, arrange two slices in each pepper half.

Sprinkle 1 dessert spoon of olive oil over each one, using a brush to brush the oil round the edges and sides of the peppers.

Next, lightly crush the pepper berries, coriander and fennel seeds with a pestle and mortar or rolling pin and bowl, sprinkle these evenly all over the fennel and peppers, and finish off with a grinding of sea salt.

Then bake the peppers for about 1 hour on a high shelf in the oven until they are soft and the skin wrinkled and nicely tinged with brown.

After removing them from the oven, sprinkle the lemon juice all over, cool and serve garnished with a little finely chopped spring onion or as they are.


Cook 10 minutes ∙ Makes 4 ∙ Difficulty Easy


  • 2 cups basil leaves, fresh, packed
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • ½ cup olive oil
  • ½ cup Parmesan, freshly shredded
  • salt and black pepper, to taste


In a food processor, pulse the basil and garlic until roughly chopped. With the machine on, slowly pour in the oil until just blended. Stir in cheese, salt, and pepper and mix until just blended.

Caprese Chicken

Prep 5 ∙ Cook 30 ∙ Makes 4

  • 4 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves
  • ½ cup pesto
  • 8 basil leaves, large
  • 2 plum tomatoes, sliced (optional)
  • 8 oz. fresh mozzarella, sliced


Preheat oven to 400° F.

Place chicken in a medium sized baking dish and coat with pesto.

Bake for 20 to 25 minutes or until chicken is no longer pink in center. Remove from oven; top with basil, tomatoes, and cheese. Bake for an additional 3 to 5 minutes or until cheese is melted.