Whole Wheat Penne with Chestnuts, Mushrooms and Shallots

Wednesday, November 28, 2012


All the Thanksgiving cooking left me with about a cup and a half of roasted chestnuts that I needed to use. And all the leftover turkey eating left me craving pasta big time. Turns out, Mark Bittman had a similar idea in 2007. So this is a modified version of his recipe published in the NY Times in December  2007.

  • Whole wheat pasta (penne or ziti) I like De Cecco Whole Wheat Penne
  • 1 to 1 1/2 cups of chestnuts (I used Roland brand in a glass gar that I had left over from thanksgiving)
  • Dried Mushrooms (I used porcinis)
  • 1 cup of shallots (about 4) peeled and sliced
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 tbs oil (I used grape)
  • 1 tbs butter
  • grated cheese to taste
  • Fresh sage leaves divided(optional)
Soak mushrooms in very hot water. 

For the pasta, bring water to boil in large pot. Salt generously.

Heat a skillet on medium high, add oil. Add shallots, salt and pepper. Cook for about 5 minutes. In the meantime, chop chestnuts into 1/4 inch chunks. Add them to the skillet. Cook for another 5 minutes. 

Remove mushrooms from water, strain and RESEVE liquid. Wash the mushrooms. Chop and add to skillet with a bit more salt and pepper. Add a few sage leaves as well if using. Reserve the rest of sage.

Strain liquid from mushrooms through a seeve or a paper towel, add liquid to your skillet. Cook another 5-7 minutes.

Your mixture will look like this:

Cook pasta till tender but not mushy. Drain pasta, reserve a little water. Combine pasta with the chestnuts/shallot/mushroom mix. Add butter, heat till melted. If needed, add a little reserved water.

Serve immediately topped with grated cheese.

If you are using sage, heat some oil in a small skilled till very hot and fry the sage leaves. I am currently obsessed with doing this. About 2 minutes per side and drain on paper towel. They immediately make a simple pasta look gourmet.

I served this with a side of roasted zucchini. Recipe here:

Enjoy! Hope to see you soon!

Roasted Turkey with Herb Butter and a few tips for Thanksgiving Day Success

Thursday, November 22, 2012

*Method adapted from Alton Brown and Sassy Radish

I like to keep things simple and organized. What I have discovered from hosting thanksgiving is that PLANNING is the key to success. If you are organized, even the turkey is not that scary.

I think this year I have really outdone myself and it's because I was way more organized then usual.
I also realized that making the turkey is way easier and FASTER then I thought.

This is my final product and star of the Thanksgiving Day Show.

I buy a kosher antibiotic free turkey every year as I do not like a dry turkey nor do I have space in my fridge to brine a turkey.


1 KOSHER Turkey (mine was about 13 pounds)
1 stick unsalted butter at room temperature

4 cloves garlic: 2 smashed, 2 finely chopped
1 tablespoon sea salt

4 shallots or one onion sliced


  • 2 tablespoons fresh chopped thyme
  • 2 tablespoons fresh chopped sage
  • 2 sprigs fresh thyme (unchopped)
  • 4 sprigs of sage (unchopped)

1) Let turkey come to room temperature, this will take a while so plan in advance. I woke up extra early, took the turkey out and got started on the sides. My bird was room temperature in about 3 hours.

2) Once turkey is at room temperature, wash and pat dry with paper towels.

3) Preheat oven to 500F. Place turkey on roasting rack in roasting pan. If you don't have one, you can make a foil "snake" like contraption and place on the bottom. This will keep your turkey from floating around in the oil/juices it will be spewing.

4) In a large bowl, combine your softened butter, and the CHOPPED herbs. Reserve the unchopped for later. Also, salt, pepper, and chopped garlic. Smoosh it all together because you are about to give your bird a very nice massage. Giggle.

5) MAKE SURE YOUR TURKEYS is at room temperature and is dry. Rub is all over with herbed butter. Make sure to get some under the skin as well. Really get in there like nobody's business.

6) Once your turkey massage is complete, add the shallots, smashed garlic and the UNCHOPPED herbs into the cavity.

7) Take your foil and fold it over to make a triangle. You will need this later to protect the breast from drying out. You will be placing it on the breast pointy side down with the other two points tucked under the wings.  Butter this on both sides. Reserve for later.

8) At this point, your oven should be preheated. Roast the turkey for 30 minutes at 500 degrees. If your smoke alarm is crazy like mine, during this time, it may go off. I actually had to remove the batteries from mine temporarily as it was alarming despite oven windows and door. Watch your turkey, if it's breast is getting too brown, cover with breast plate prior to 30 minutes end.

9) Once 30 minutes are up, reduce oven temperature to 350F and put on breast place if you have not already. Insert thermometer alarm set to 161 degrees. My 13 pound bird took about 2 hours from start to finish--1/2 hour at 500 and 1 1/2 hours at 350.

10) Remove from oven. If you need to, you can reheat at 350 for about 15 minutes

Here you have it. No basting, no brining! Easy Peasy.

I served this with:

Dressing of Cornbread, Sausage, Chestnuts and Leeks

Cranberry Orange Sauce

Candied Yams

Roasted Brussel Sprouts with Crunchy Bacon

Butternut Squash Apple Leek Soup with Fried Sage

Another side was pan seared hericot verts--forgot to take a picture.

Roasted Brussel Sprouts with Crunchy Bacon

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

I usually make these without bacon for an every day dinner but for Thanksgiving, I make these WITH BACON since everyone know that thanksgiving calories do not count.


6 cups on brussel sprouts top layer removed and halved
3 tbsp oil
salt to taste
Bacon (I used 1 pack of Applegate Sunday Bacon)
Paper towels for draining

Toss brussel sprouts in oil and salt. Mix well. Roast at 425 for about 30 minutes (toss a few times to avoid burning). For the convection oven, I modified temperature to 400, otherwise, no big difference. Add bacon at the very end of cooking. Mix well and cook another 5 minutes with bacon.

My convection oven is something that I got recently and have been totally obsessed with this think to a point where I barely use my regular oven. The link here in case you are interested. 

Cook bacon till very crunchy. Drain on paper towels. Cut up into small bits. Toss with brussel sprouts. 



Cinnamon and Brown Sugar Apple Chips

Does not get much easier or yummier then this.

All you need is 

Brown Sugar

Wash and dry an apple--I prefer a tart apple like granny smith.

Peel your apple. Using a mandoline, slice very thin. 

Preheat oven to 250F. 

Spray cookie sheet with cooking spray, spread thin, careful not to crowd.

Sprinkle with brown sugar and cinnamon. Bake about 30 minutes till crispy.

Enjoy. My kids can't get enough of these.

Apple chips with Cinnamon and Brown Sugar

Cranberry Orange Sauce

Monday, November 19, 2012

Another yummy and simple Thanksgiving classic.
If you like a lot of cranberry sauce, double the proportions of this recipe.

1 cup brown sugar (adjust to taste)
1 cup orange juice
1 12 ounce pack cranberries

In a medium saucepan over medium heat, dissolve sugar in the orange juice. Stir in cranberries and cook about 10 minutes till they start to pop. Remove from heat. Transfer to bowl. Cranberry sauce will thicken as it cools.

*adapted from allrecipes.com


Candied Yams (Otherwise Known as Sweet Potatoes with Marshmallows)

Friday, November 16, 2012

Candied Yams 


6-8 sweet potatoes
1 cup butter
3/4 cup brown sugar
3 cups mini marshmallows (divided)
Ground cinnamon and nutmeg to taste

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Grease a 9x13 inch baking pan.
  2. Bring a large pot of water to boil, Boil potatoes about 15 minutes till somewhat but not fully cooked.
  3. Drain, cool and peel.
  4. In a large saucepan over medium heat, combine butter, brown sugar, 2 cups marshmallows, cinnamon and nutmeg. Cook stirring occasionally, until marshmallow are melted. 
  5. Stir potatoes into marshmallow sauce. Stir and mash some of the potatoes and break the rest into bite sized  chunks. Transfer to the prepared dish. 
  6. Bake in the preheated oven for 15 minutes. Remove from oven and cover with the remaining 1 cup of marshmallows. Return to over and bake till marshmallows are golden brown.

Yams after baking for 15 minutes toped with marshmallows and ready to go back in oven for browning

Adapted from Allrecipes.com

Lamb Roast with Rosemary and Honey Dijon

Tuesday, November 13, 2012


1/4 cup honey
2 tbsp dijon mustard
2 tbsp fresh chopped rosemary
Pepper to taste
1 tbsp fresh lemon zest
3 tsp minced garlic
3 pound lamb roast
Salt to taste

In a small bowl, combine honey, pepper, lemon zest, garlic and rosemary. Mix well and rub all over  both sides of the lamb.

Cover and marinate in the refrigerator overnight.

Remove from fridge about 30 minutes prior to cooking.

Preheat oven to 450 degrees F.

Place lamb in oiled roasting pan and sprinkle with salt.

Bake at 450 for 15 minutes. Reduce heat to 400 and roast another 35-40 minutes. The internal temperature should be about 145 for medium rare. I don't like it that rare. 150 internal temperature resulted in a medium roast.

Wait 10 minutes before carving.

I served with sweet mashed potatoes and hericot verts.

Recipe for mashed sweet potatoes is here: Mashed Sweet Potatoes and for the hericot verts is here: hericot verts


Adapted from Allrecipes.com
Foodista Food Blog of the Day Badge

Corn Bread, Sausage and Chestnut Dressing

Monday, November 12, 2012

Corn Bread Dressing with Sweet Sausage, Chestnuts, Shallots and Leeks

Thanksgiving is my all time favorite holiday and I look forward to it all year. I am not such a huge turkey fan but dressing, yams and cranberry sauce is where it's at for me.

I have been making this for a few years now. It's a big hit in our house. Will be making it again this year.

This recipe is loosely based on a Williams Sonoma recipe that I have adapted to fit my needs and taste.


1 bags of corn bread stuffing mix (I like Pepperidge Farm)
3 cups of county style white bread cubed (about 1 loaf)
Oil (as needed, I use grape)
1 bulb of leeks (some people use celery but I hate it so it you prefer it, ok to substitute) finely chopped
1 onion or 2 shallots finely chopped
3-4 links of italian sausage casting removed
Salt and pepper to taste
1 cup roasted and peeled chestnuts. I take a shortcut here and use 2 bags of ready made ones. See a picture/description of them here: http://www.saladgirlnat.com/2012/11/chestnut-soup-w-leeks-and-shallots.html
1/4 cup of fresh herbs (your choice here, I like sage or rosemary or both)
3 cups  of low sodium chicken broth, more if you like your dressing more moist

Preheat oven to 375. Butter a shallow pan.

Cup up your country bread into cubes crusts removed (you can save them for another use such as croutons)

Spread the white bread on a baking sheet. Toast in the oven until lightly brown. This can also be done in a toaster over if you prefer.

In the meantime, in a saute pan over medium heat, brown the sausage breaking it up into crumbles with a fork until cooked, about 10 minutes. Remove sausage with a slotted spoon.

If not enough oil, add a bit. Add leek and shallots, saute till translucent, about 5 to 7 minutes, add salt/pepper to taste. Transfer to bowl with sausage. Mix in cornbread, white bread cubes, chestnuts, herbs and stock.

Transfer to pan, cover with foil and bake about 35 minutes. Remove foil and cook another 20 minutes or so, until brown and crispy.

Shrimp Mark Bittman's Way

First, let me just say that I am completely obsessed with Mark Bittman's cooking. I can really credit his book "How to Cook Everything" with teaching me how to cook. I have both editions thank you very much. How sad is that? And though I own many other cook books, his are the only ones that I use regularly. Somehow, every single recipe that I have ever made from his book has always come out.

This one is one of my favorites's. Without further adue,

Shrimp "My Way"  from Mark Bittman's How to Cook Everything

1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
3-4 garlic cloves garlic cut into slivers
1 1/2 to 2 pounds of shrimp peeled, deveined, rinsed and dried
Salt and pepper to taste
1 tsp ground cumin
1 1/2 tsp fresh paprika (recipe calls for spicy but I used smoked)
Mixed fresh parsley for garnish ( I omitted as did not have any on hand)

1) Preheat broiled and adjust rack so that it's as close to heat as possible.
2) In a large oven proof skillet ( I use le creuset cast iron, warm oil over low heat. There should be enough oil to cover the bottom of the pan. Add garlic to oil and cook till golden for a few minutes.
Raise heat to medium high and add the shrimp, salt, pepper, cumin and paprika. Stir to blend and immediately place under broiler . Cook shaking pan once or twice and stirring if necessary but generally leaving shrimp undisturbed, until they are pink all over and the mixture is bubbly. This will take about 5 to 10 minutes depending on heat of broiler and the size of your shrimp. Garnish with parsley and serve.

We like these with a side of brown rice and string beans. These are also awesome as a party appetizer.

Chestnut Soup w Leeks and Shallots

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Years ago, I tasted Chestnut soup during restaurant week. It was so amazing and I have been trying to recreate it ever since, hopefully a slightly healthier version too.

Initially, I was actually crazy enough to purchase chestnuts, roast them and peel them. Results were phenomenal but it was incredibly time consuming and therefore not going to happen ever again for this working momma.

In come my the amazing discovery of chestnuts that area sold already roasted and peeled! Yeay! That's more like it.  There are various brands that sell and make these, I really have no preference, it's all good. The ones I bought most recently are USDA organic by a Galit.

3 bags of chestnuts 
4 cups of chicken stock (homemade or canned).
   *I used Imagine Organic Low Sodium Chicken Broth
1-2 Leeks white parts only
2- 3 Shallots
2 tbs Grape Oil
Salt and Pepper to taste
1 tsp nutmeg
Thyme (a spigg of fresh if possible) or 1/2 tsp dry
Heavy Cream (1 tsp per serving)

1. Wash leeks really well as they can be sandy. Cut up shallots and leeks. Reserve a bit of leeks for garnish, you will want to pan fry these (see step 6)

2. In a large saucepan, saute chopped shallot and leeks in oil for about 6 minutes till soft. 

3. In the meantime, cut up most of the chestnuts in half. These will be used for soup. Reserve about 1/3 a cup and cut into small pieces. You will want to pan toast these for garnish (See step 5).

4. Add chestnuts halves and stock.  Bring to boil. Add thyme if fresh (else add later). Simmer about 10 minutes. Add salt and pepper to taste. Add nutmeg and thyme if using dry. Using emersion blender, carefully blend. If too thick, add more stock and bring to boil again.

5. While the soup is simmering,  preheat small pan and add cooking spray, add small pieces of chestnut to a pan and toast about 5 minutes. 

6. Remove chestnuts, add 1 teaspoon oil and pan fry the remaining leeks till crispy about 5 minutes. 

Add about 1 teaspoon of cream on top. I do this rather than blending with cream to keep is relatively healthy. Garnish with your pan fried leeks and toasted pieces of chestnut.


*Note that if you store this soup, it gets thicker, in that case, add a little more stock when reheating.

Update: Last night I  made this soup again but I avoided adding any dairy(I also pureed all the chestnuts). Instead, I topped it with crunchy bacon. In addition, I had some chanterelle mushrooms that I needed to use up. I sauteed those in the bacon drippings (after spilling out about half). Voila! Another tasty meal!

Curry Coconut Shrimp

Monday, November 5, 2012

1 tsp oil
1/2 cut shallots
1/2 cut diced red pepper
1 clove minced garlic
1 tsp cumin
1/4 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp curry powder
1 can light coconut milk
2 tsp sugar
1 pound shrimp, peeled and deveined
2 tbsp cilantro fresh is best, dry is ok

Heat oil in large saucepan over medium heat. Saute shallot, red pepper and garlic until begin to soften, about 3 minutes.

Season with cumin coriander and curry. Cook for 1 more minute. Stir in coconut milk and sugar. Bring to boil. Reduce heat and simmer uncovered for 2 minutes.

Stir in shrimp and increase hit to medium high. Cook and stir until shrimp is cooked through, about 5 minutes.

Stir in cilantro and cook another minute.

If the sauce is too thin, you can thicken in up by mixing a tablespoon of cornstarch with a tablespoon of water and adding it to the sauce. I did not do that.

Serve with rice (we prefer brown).