Indian-Inspired Ground Turkey Curry Samosas

Turkey Samosas plated

We cannot resist samosas when dining at an Indian restaurant and I wanted to try to make them at home.  I wanted to find some acceptable shortcuts to the traditional Indian recipe as I was going to make these for New Year’s Eve appetizers to bring to a party and didn’t want to deep-fry.

I adapted this Jean-Georges Vongerichten recipe for chicken samosas so that instead of deep-frying in spring roll wrappers I could use Trader Joe’s all-butter puff pastry and bake them.

Turkey Curry Samosas--baked

I simplified the spices to reflect what I had on hand and added potatoes sautéed in turmeric oil to give them some East Indian flair. I made them appetizer-size and I used ground turkey instead of chicken.  I didn’t have whole cumin seeds to toast and grind, and didn’t have tamarind paste or diced tomatoes so I improvised.  And I added garam masala to take them in a more Indian direction.

Isn’t that annoying?  I always want to reference a recipe that I start out with (out of respect, politeness, giving credit where credit is due), but I so often change, substitute, adapt, or improvise off the written script that the recipe is almost reinvented.

I share my reinvented recipe with you below (and link to the original inspiration above, so you can try both if you like!)


New Year's Eve Curry Turkey Samosas

Happy New Year!

Ground turkey in abundanceI used ground turkey that I had defrosted.  (The photo shows the 3-pounder behemoth I purchased on sale; I only used 1 pound of turkey for these appetizers.)

Because the holidays were so busy and I was making a lot of consecutive dishes, I did this in steps over a couple of days so I would not lose my mind.  But it is really easy enough to do all at once.

Step 1:  Make the turkey and spice filling.  (Keeps for 5 days.)

Step 2:  Make the cilantro yogurt dip.  (Keeps for 3 days.)

Step 3: Make the turmeric potatoes and add to turkey mixture.  (You can do this 1 day ahead before you assemble and bake the samosas.  You could opt out of the potatoes if you are pressed for time; the ground meat mixture is good.)

Step 4:  Assemble and bake the samosas.  (Serve that day.)

Since I was taking them to a party in the neighborhood, I baked them and took them right over.  They were good at room temperature.  Awesome right out of the oven. Perfectly fine for my husband’s snack after errand-running, reheated in the toaster oven at 350°.



  • 1 pound ground turkey
  • 3 T. canola or vegetable oil
  • 1 cup diced red onion
  • 1 large russet potato, peeled and chopped into bite-sized chunks (about 1/2 inch) (OPTIONAL)
  • 1 T. peeled and minced fresh ginger
  • 1 T. minced garlic
  • 1 T. ground coriander
  • 1 tsp. ground cumin
  • 1 tsp. garam masala
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons turmeric powder (divided, 1/2 tsp. for the ground meat, 1 tsp. for the optional potatoes)
  • ½ teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 T. Trader Joe’s dry chili paste
  • 1/4 C. chicken broth
  • 2 T. chopped fresh cilantro
  • 1 T. fresh lime juice
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper


  • Heat 2 T. oil in a large deep skillet over medium heat. Add the diced onion and cook, stirring, until translucent and softened, about 5 minutes.
  • Add the ginger and garlic and cook until fragrant, 1 minute.
  • Add the coriander, turmeric, cayenne, and ground cumin and cook, stirring, for 3 minutes.
  • Dissolve the dry Trader Joe’s Thai dry chili paste in 1/4 C. of chicken broth.  Add that mixture to the onions and aromatics in skillet.  [NOTE: This product is made with dried mushrooms and tamarind paste.  Since the Chef’s recipe called for 1 T. of tamarind paste and I didn’t have any, this was a good substitute.  I think you could leave it out but it would have a less authentic Indian restaurant flavor.]
  • Add the ground turkey and cook, stirring, until the meat is completely cooked through (no pink) and broth has evaporated, about 7-8 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper; stir in the fresh cilantro and the lime juice.
  • Remove from the heat, and cool to room temperature.
Thai "Dry" Chili Paste

This is a mixture of dried mushrooms, tamarind paste, coconut sugar, dried chili, lemongrass, garlic, shallot, and soy sauce. It is a handy condiment to add Asian flavor to your stir-fries and curries. 


  • OPTIONAL POTATOES: Place chopped potato in medium saucepan and cover with cold water, add a healthy pinch of salt to the water and bring the potatoes to a boil. Turn heat down and simmer potatoes until soft enough to fall off when pierced by a fork, about 7 minutes.
  • Drain potatoes in a colander and return to the saucepan.  Place over low heat and let potatoes dry out their moisture, shaking the pan, 2 minutes.
  • Heat the remaining T. vegetable oil in skillet over medium heat and add 1 tsp. turmeric to the oil, stirring to color the oil, 1 minute.
  • Turn potatoes into skillet and sauté, tossing to coat with turmeric oil, 4 minutes.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.
  • Take off heat, and let cool.  You can add the potato mixture to the turkey mixture and let flavors meld overnight.


  • Defrost the puff pastry according to the package directions. (You can do this overnight in the fridge or for several hours on the counter at room temperature, plan accordingly!)
  • Place a defrosted sheet on your lightly floured board or counter.
  • Cut the sheet into fourths and then cut each square on the diagonal to make a triangle.  [NOTE: This will give you luncheon-size samosas as in the photo.  I tested this recipe twice–the first time I made them for lunch; the second I cut the pastry smaller and baked them for the party.)  For appetizer-size, cut the triangles on the diagonal to get smaller triangles (about 3 inches).

Puff Pastry
Puff pastry triangles

Curry samosa filling

  • Place a tablespoon of filling in the center of each triangle and fold the point over to reach the other point.  Seal the edges by pressing down with your finger.Samosas folded
  • Preheat oven to 400 ° and bake samosas until golden, 18-20 minutes.

Cilantro-yogurt dip:

  • 1 cup fresh cilantro leaves
  • ¾ cup plain whole-milk yogurt
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon sugar, plus more to taste
  • Salt and pepper, to taste

To make the dip: Put the cilantro leaves in a food processor and process until coarsely chopped. Transfer to a mixing bowl and add the yogurt, lemon juice, and sugar. Stir well, season with salt, pepper.  You can also add heat with a chopped jalapeno or with a dash of cayenne.  We were serving children at the party so I left the dip mild.


Enjoy memsahib!


Deviled Ham Tea Sandwiches at Downton

The Dowager Countess has perfect posture, always. Photo credit:  Carnival Films & Television???? fanpop-check

The Dowager Countess always has perfect posture.
Photo credit: Carnival Films & Television for MASTERPIECE

I watched the Downtown Abbey premiere very carefully on Sunday night (Jan. 5) as I was taking notes on all the costumes, interiors, language and social conventions, and looking for all things food, entertaining, traditions, customs and kitchen-related to post about.

Zoinks, those Crawleys certainly do drink a lot of tea.  Tea in bed in the morning; tea in the breakfast room; tea in the drawing room; they go out for tea; stay in for tea; and indulge in that 1920’s form of entertainment:  thé dansant or tea dance. SPOILER: The tea dance was ruined for Lady Rose and Anna as they fled the dance hall to avoid being arrested in the fist fight over Rose.  She’s trouble, that one.

I don’t know why I find the social norms and conventions of proper entertaining of the past so fascinating, but I do.  I love the gorgeous interiors and table settings in Downton Abbey as much as the drama and intrigue.  I’m so excited to come up with posts for the 8-week Anglophile-Downton Abbey series on Corks & Cake.  It fits so well with what I’m interested in writing about: celebrations, traditions, all manner of serving food and offering hospitality, showing children how it’s done, and bringing little niceties back to our everyday, even those as simple as finding great pleasure in using a special spoon to stir your tea.

So let’s talk tea, shall we?

Photo credit: Rebecca Penovich

Photo credit: Rebecca Penovich

I found an interesting resource in Emily Post’s book, Etiquette, published in 1922 (the same year that the Downton Abbey season 4 story line begins) that outlines all of the proper conventions of the time for hosting various teas in America, including:


“The afternoon tea with dancing is usually given to “bring out” a daughter, or to present a new daughter-in-law.

Guests as they arrive are announced either by the hostess’ own butler or a caterer’s   “announcer.”

The hostess receives everyone as at a ball; if she and her daughter are for the moment standing alone, the new arrival stands talking with them until a newer arrival takes his or her place.

The younger people, as soon as they have shaken hands with the hostess, dance.   The older ones sit about, or talk to friends or take tea.”

Twenties Tea Dance Poster

I read the whole chapter of Mrs Emily Post’s book on “Teas and Other Afternoon Parties.”  Read it if you are so inclined. Even though Mrs. Post is writing about (and for) an American audience, the upper class in America would look to the British aristocrat for their guideline about how to behave in society.

A traditional tea menu for a party would include assorted tea sandwiches, scones, and a rich tart or cake of some kind.  Tea sandwiches could include cucumber, sliced radish, cream cheese, spreads of ground meat and cheese, herbed butter and the like. Scones could be plain or include raisins or fruit and would be served with soft butter, jam, and clotted cream.  The cakes and tarts would most likely be lemon, vanilla sponge, almond or jam-filled.

Inspired, I tested this recipe for Dreamy Cream Scones from Smitten Kitchen for our weekend morning breakfast.

Scone and strawberry jam

Photo credit: Rebecca Penovich

They were delicious!

When I was styling the photo and looking for just the right spoon to serve our jam, I found this sweet one from John’s mother, engraved with her first name.

I took a close-up.

Lovely engraved silver jam spoon.  I can see from it's extreme close-up it needs a bit of a polish!

Lovely engraved silver jam spoon. I can see from its extreme close-up it needs a bit of a polish!
Photo credit: Rebecca Penovich

For Christmas, we had a wonderful smoked ham delivered from Burgers’ Smokehouse in Missouri (a gift from my favorite auntie), and now was a perfect time to use the last of it for:

Deviled Ham Tea Sandwiches

The definition of 'forever':  2 people and a ham.

The definition of ‘forever:’ 2 people and a ham.

I adapted this recipe quite a bit from Homesick Texan:


  • 3 cups finely chopped ham (I put my leftover slices in the bowl and ended up with about 3 cups chopped–you will need to measure and adjust according to how much leftover ham you have.  Be sure to take off the rind if your ham has the skin on.)
  • 1/4 cup onion, scant, grated on a box grater
  • 6 T. mayonnaise (Hellman’s)
  • 2 T.  golden mustard with horseradish (I used Silver Spring brand Beer’n Brat Mustard)
  • 1 teaspoon chopped cornichons (the little French kind; you can substitute dill pickle and adjust the amount to your taste)
  • 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
  • Salt and black pepper to taste

(NOTE: Our smoked ham was pretty salty so I didn’t use any salt; taste and adjust your seasonings for your ham.)


  • Chop the ham in the food processor, until it is a roughly smooth texture.
  • Turn the ham into a bowl and add the other ingredients, folding them in with a spatula.
  • Taste and adjust any seasoning or add more mayonnaise and mustard if you’d like a wetter mixture.
  • Cut thin white or wheat bread into circles with a biscuit cutter (or cut them into triangles or fingers.) Do not forget to cut the crusts off, as Mrs. Post directs! Spread ham on one side of bread and place another bread round on top.  Serve on your prettiest plate or cake stand.

Spread keeps in the refrigerator for a few days.  You can cover the prepared sandwiches with a lightly damp paper towel to keep them until tea time but really they should be made and eaten right away for the best effect.  (The Dowager Countess would certainly raise an eyebrow if your cook served her a stale tea sandwich!)

Photo credit: Rebecca Penovich

Photo credit: Rebecca Penovich

I’m not sure that Lady Mary or Lady Edith would prefer as much onion in their tea sandwiches (as they ARE both in the market for a new man, hello onion breath), but we liked this deviled ham spread and ate it for days on crackers, on a roll, just plain, in the fancy tea sandwiches…another new definition of ‘forever.’

Cheers all, and tune in next week for my interpretation of what Mrs. Patmore would do with that leftover ham bone.

Ta ta for now!


Tea, Twitter & Scones: Downton Abbey Returns to Television Tonight

Photo credit: Rebecca Penovich

Photo credit: Rebecca Penovich

Dear Obsessed:

Here is information on the MASTERPIECE Twitter Event for Downton Abbey’s season 4 premiere tonight if you are interested.

Tag your posts with the hashtag #DowntonPBS and then visit using your own favorite aggregator.

Photo credit:  Carnival Films & Television

Photo credit: Carnival Films & Television for MASTERPIECE

WHAT: PBS and MASTERPIECE are hosting a live Twitter discussion (#DowntonPBS)

WHEN: Sunday, January 5, 2014, 9-11pm Eastern time

WHERE: Join us on Twitter, use hashtag #DowntonPBS

TOPICS: Downton Abbey, fashion, the 1920’s, MASTERPIECE

WHO:  PBS (@PBS); MASTERPIECE ( @masterpiecepbs); Jarrett Wieselman of Buzzfeed ( @JarettSays); Tom and Lorenzo (@tomandlorenzo)Vanity Fair  (@vanityfair); actress Lesley Nicol, Mrs. Patmore on Downton Abbey (@lesley_nicol)– and YOU!

RSVP: Please follow and be followed (on Twitter, of course!) by other #DowntonPBS tweeters

And my lovelies, settle in with some tea and tea sandwiches like these:

You wouldn't actually serve a cucumber sandwich open face but I thought it looked so pretty.

You wouldn’t actually serve a cucumber sandwich open face but I thought it looked so pretty.


Photo credit: Rebecca Penovich

Photo credit: Rebecca Penovich

Or a good slog of a fine American bourbon like Cora’s mother, Martha Levinson.

Shirley McLean with tea

Photo credit: Carnival Films & Television for MASTERPIECE

1/5/13 UPDATE:  Ha, ha.  I just realized that because of my terrible grammar in the sentence (above), I just called Shirley MacLaine a good slog of American bourbon.

Return to Downton Abbey with Crumpets & Scones

Photo credit: Rebecca Penovich

Photo credit: Rebecca Penovich

Yes, Lords and Ladies, Downton Abbey returns tonight on PBS at 9 pm (ET). But you knew that, right?

Mary and Branson with babies

Lady Mary and Branson with their respective aristocratic progeny, baby George and Sybbie.
Photo credit: Carnival Films & Television for MASTERPIECE


Photo credit: Rebecca Penovich

I’m a big fan of the show (and a bit of an Anglophile) so to get in the spirit of the thing, let’s have tea and crumpets, I mean, scones.

What is the difference between a crumpet and scone, you might ask? I did a little research (source: M. Skylar Ezell) and discovered that scones are a flaky pastry whose origin dates back to the 1500s in Scotland, while crumpets are likely to be Welsh in origin. The earliest known crumpet recipe was in British entrepreneur Elizabeth Raffald’s cookbook “The Experienced English Housekeeper” in 1769.

You may have butter, jam or other spreads with your scones or crumpets. And while scones can either have currants or other dried fruit in them, crumpets do not. For a delectable treat with your tea, serve scones warm straight from the oven, with jam, soft butter, and clotted cream.

Classic Cream Scones

Photo credit: Rebecca Penovich

I tested this recipe for Classic Cream Scones from Smitten Kitchen and they were fab.I didn’t add the optional currants or dried cranberries and they were delicious plain and with butter and jam.

Tune in tonight and come back to Corks & Cake for more Downton Abbey-esque food fun!

That new-fangled electric mixer should make her life easier.

That new-fangled electric mixer should make her life easier.  Photo credit:  Carnival Films & Television for MASTERPIECE

“Those dripping crumpets, I can see them now. Tiny crisp wedges of toast, and piping-hot, flaky scones. Sandwiches of unknown nature, mysteriously flavoured and quite delectable, and that very special gingerbread. Angel cake, that melted in the mouth, and his rather stodgier companion, bursting with peel and raisins. There was enough food there to keep a starving family for a week.”
Daphne du Maurier – Rebecca

A Traditional Christmas Panto


Pantomime is an eccentric British theater institution.  Usually performed at Christmastime, pantomine (slang, panto) emerged during the Restoration with roots in the commedia dell’arte of Italy.  By the beginning of the 19th century, this wonderfully strange, campy, corny, quirky mix of musical comedy and fairy tale had become a tradition.

Young Queen Elizabeth and her sister Princess Margaret performed in these musical comedy stage productions around Christmas and New Year’s, as pantos were a big part of their holiday celebrations at Windsor Castle, where they lived after evacuating from Buckingham Palace during wartime.

John, Joe and I attended our first Christmas panto in England at a village theater in the north.  Pantomimes rely heavily on audience participation (that’s a main part of the fun) and when the lead character called for a TALL volunteer, we pushed John into the fray. He played a door and a Christmas tree, much to his chagrin and our glee.  Later on in the village, we passed two children in the shops who pointed at John and said, “Look mummy!  It’s the door!”

JP endures the indignity of being a prop in the 2008 panto in England.

JP endures the indignity of being a prop in the 2008 panto in England.

Back at home in Maryland, we have the beginnings of a new Christmas tradition with our friends, Chris and Adrienne Harrington.  The British Players (formerly The British Embassy Players) mount a Christmas pantomime production at the Kensington Town Hall each year.  This year was Cinderella, a traditional British panto directed by Charles Hoag.  Chris purchased a passel of tickets for several friends and their children and away we went.  After the play we adjourned back to our house for dessert and hot chocolate.

I arranged an assortment of cookies and treats in various shapes, sizes, and flavors beforehand on the buffet, making sure to include everyone’s favorites. The spread featured delightful options like chocolate cookies on Christmas, adding a festive touch to the holiday dessert selection.

Christmas dessert display

I knew I wanted an abundance of offerings but couldn’t make it all, of course, so I baked some homemade cookies and bars and rounded it out with my favorite seasonal treats from Trader’s Joe’s.


Dried Cranberry and Chocolate Cookies

Dried Cranberry Chocolate Cookies

These are everyone’s absolute favorite cookie. I think I made at least 9 dozen throughout the Christmas holiday to eat and give as gifts.

Chinese Chews

I found the recipe at one of my new favorite blogs, She Wears Many Hats.  This is a vintage recipe, dating back to the 1900s, but no one seems to know why they are titled ‘Chinese.’  Some recipes call for dates and walnuts, but I followed She Wears Many Hats and made these with just pecans.  They were like a blondie without chocolate.  Chewy in a good way with lots and lots of brown sugar.

Chinese chews (pecan bars)

I made a batch of Sugar Cookies with Sprinkles for those who don’t like chocolate or nuts.  I can’t say I was blown away with them (why are sugar cookies so hard to get right?) so no recipe to recommend.

From the store:

We love Trader Joe's.

We love Trader Joe’s.

(Left: Pepperidge Farm Pirouettes with Chocolate and Hazelnut. (Top to bottom: Trader’s Joe’s English Toffee, Trader Joe’s Caramels with Fleur du Sel, Trader Joe’s Jo Jo Cookie Assortment (like chocolate-covered Oreos).

And Walker’s Shortbread (our favorite at Christmastime.)

Everyone at our house gets shortbread in their Christmas stocking.

Everyone at our house gets shortbread in their Christmas stocking.

Christmas cookies

Dessert buffet

We decorated the front porch with candy canes, garland and mini trees.

christmas lights and candy canes

And a lovely guest brought the cutest miniature mince pies–an English tradition!

Classic mini mince pies

Classic mini mince pies

Another lovely friend brought a big bowl of Chocolate Mousse and the children had hot cocoa with mini marshmallows and candy canes.

P1010068Santa made an appearance.


We had some savory treats also (because I like salty and crunchy better than sweet.)

Keeping it English, I put out a Stilton and a 5-year aged white cheddar (both from Trader Joe’s cheese section.)

We passed around a bowl of Spiced Pecans and a bowl of smoked almonds, both excellent with the various sparkling wines we served.

Schloss Beibrich Sekt is a wonderful sparkling wine from Germany.  A great buy.  Michelle Brut from Columbia Valley in Washington State another lovely find!

Schloss Beibrich Sekt is a wonderful sparkling wine from Germany. A great buy. Michelle Brut from Columbia Valley in Washington State another lovely find!

Spiced Pecans

And let’s not forget my favorite potato chip:  Kettle Brand Salt and Pepper Chips. Because it’s not a party without a potato chip, in my opinion, but are kettle chips healthier than the others?

We served an assortment of beverages, including lemonade, Pellegrino, Coke and Diet Coke, Capri Suns for the kids, white and red wines and IPAs for the adults.

I had planned to offer coffee and put out the china cups and saucers beforehand, but we totally forgot to brew it or offer it.  Since the play didn’t wrap up until 9:30 pm, this was a late party and no one asked for coffee as I’m sure they wanted to go to sleep at midnight with visions of sugar plums in their heads.

Tree at the Kensington Armory

The marvelous tree at Kensington Town Hall, large and festive.

Hope everyone had a happy Christmas!  Thank you, Chris and Adrienne for the panto tickets and the lovely new Christmas tradition.



Peanut Butter Cookies with Bourbon Vanilla Sugar (Great Food Blogger Cookie Swap 2013)

Lovely cookies on my favorite Herend platter.  Fancy!

Lovely cookies on my favorite Herend platter. Fancy!

I was pleased to take part in the 3rd Annual Great Food Blogger Cookie Swap this year.  This is like the old-fashioned cookie exchanges, except it’s all organized online (thank you Lindsay and Taylor of Love & Olive Oil and Julie from The Little Kitchen) and you are matched with bakers from all over the country who send you presents!  What could be more wonderful than that!

Cookie Exchange Present

More wonderful than that is that the Cookie Swap is also a fundraiser for Cookies for Kids’ Cancer and this year bloggers raised close to $15,000 just by baking and sharing cookies!

The way it works is you bake 3 dozen cookies (from a recipe in your repertoire that you haven’t published before) and mail a dozen each to your matches.  Then 3 other blogger-bakers send you their cookies.  It’s fun to wait for the mail and see what cookies you are going to get and where they are coming from. (NOTE: Each participating blogger contributes a small participation fee which goes to the nonprofit as a donation.)

My cookie matches were:

Laura Holko from A Healthy Jalapeno,  hailing from Connecticut

Willow Arlen from Will Cook For Friends, hailing from Michigan

Donna Elick from The Slow Roasted Italian,  hailing from Arizona.

I made my favorite peanut butter cookie for them which comes from The Best 150 American Recipes: Indispensable Dishes from Legendary Chefs and Undiscovered Cooks by Fran McCullough and Molly Stevens. (One of my favorite cookbooks; so oft-used its pages are splattered, smeared, sticking together, and falling out.  That is serious love, my culinary friends.)

Peanut Butter Cookies

Peanut butter cookie ingredients


I love this cookie for its full-on, authentic peanut butter taste and the fact that it only uses 4 ingredients (!) and no flour.  If you’ve got peanut butter, sugar, an egg, and some baking soda, you can make this cookie, even during one of the busiest holiday times of the year.

Peanut Butter Cookies

This cookie recipe is so simple, you only need 4 ingredients.  It’s a go-to in our house, especially during the holidays when I am crazy busy, want to bake for the kids, but don’t want to think too hard about it!  Rolling the cookies into balls before your smash them with the tines of a fork is a perfect task for little hands who want to help.

From The 150 Best American Recipes,  Indispensable Dishes from Legendary Chefs and Undiscovered Cooks, Fran McCollough & Molly Stevens, Houghton Mifflin, New York, 2006.

Source:  Gourmet

Cook:  Mom-Mom Fitch


1 cup creamy peanut butter (I use Jif or Skippy)

1 cup sugar

1 large egg

1 teaspoon baking soda

makes about 4 dozen cookies


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and set a rack in the middle level.  Grease two baking sheets or line them with parchment paper. (NOTE: I love my Silpat baking mats.)

In a large bowl, with an electric mixer, beat the peanut butter and sugar until well combined.  In a small bowl, lightly beat the egg, then beat it into the peanut butter mixture along with the baking soda until well combined.

Roll teaspoons of dough into walnut-size balls and arrange them about 1 inch apart on the baking sheets.  With the tines of a fork, flatten the balls to about 1 1/2 inches in diameter, making a crosshatch pattern.  Bake the cookies in batches until puffed and pale golden, about 9 minutes. (They might look underdone but they are not.  Any longer in the oven and they will dry out.)

Let cool on the baking sheets for 2 minutes, then transfer with a metal spatula to wire racks to cool completely. Store in an airtight container for up to 5 days.

I sprinkle mine with a little turbinado sugar or bourbon vanilla sugar when they are warm.

Bourbon Vanilla Sugar

I packaged those babies up and mailed them off.



Here’s my favorite trick for packing material.  Shred those interior design magazines (the colorful pages) you were going to recycle.  Be sure not to use your husband’s shredded credit card offers or he will have a fit. Ha.

In return for my participation, I received some wonderful cookies and recipes:

Fruitcake Cookies, Alice Seuffret from Dining with Alice, hailing from Minnesota

Cranberry-Almond Biscotti, Becky from Rose & Henry, hailing from Iowa

Nonna’s Russian Tea Cakes, Emily Voigtlander from The Answer is Always Pork, hailing from California


Cookie Swap 2013


This project was great fun and reminded me almost daily of my dearly departed Mom, who used to bake prodigiously at Christmas and always had a plate or tin of homemade delicious cookies at the ready for guests, friends, visitors, children, and really anyone who gave her a hand and who she thought deserved a cookie.

Thank you the organizers and brand partners of the Great Food Blogger Cookie Swap 2013 for such a wonderful experience and opportunity.

Shout outs to: OXO, Dixie Crystals Sugar, Gold Medal Flour, and Grandma’s Molasses.

And one last note.  In the midst of all this baking and receiving, we had our first snow in the mid-Atlantic (which is normally very mild.)  A look out of our second-story guest bedroom window before I went down to get to the nitty-gritty of baking cookies:

First snow mid-Atlantic 2013


Happy Holidays!

Don’t Throw Out That Turkey Carcass! Gumbo

Don't throw out that turkey carcass--make gumbo!

Don’t throw out that turkey carcass–make gumbo!


1/4 cup flour

1/4 cup bacon fat (or vegetable oil)

2 large yellow onions, chopped

1/2 cup chopped green onions, white and green parts (save the green for garnish)

1 large green pepper, chopped

3 stalks celery, chopped

4 cloves of garlic, chopped

14 ounces of smoked sausage, cut into rounds (I used polska kielbasa but andouille is more gumbo-authentic)

4 cups of shredded turkey meat from the carcass, white and dark meat

1 picked-over turkey breast carcass (14-16 lb.)

12 cups of chicken stock (enough to cover carcass in your large stock pot)

2 bay leaves

1 bunch flat Italian parsley, chopped

2 tablespoons thyme (dried or fresh)

3 tablespoons filé powder

Salt and pepper to taste (don’t underestimate the need for salt, start with a healthy pinch and taste and correct as your gumbo cooks down)

Hot sauce for the table

Steamed white rice to accompany


Heat the bacon fat til hot but not smoking in a large heavy-bottomed stock pot and add the flour, whisking constantly.  Cook the roux at medium-high heat for 10 minutes, whisking constantly so it doesn’t burn.  Roux should be a caramel color.

Add the chopped onions and sauté until softened.  Add celery and green pepper and sauté until softened.  Add the chopped garlic and sauté (do not let garlic scorch.)  Add the rounds of sausage and sauté til browned.

Add the turkey carcass.  (My carcass was just the breast because I braised the Thanksgiving turkey legs separately and those bones were gone.)  Smash it down somewhat in the pot and add the chicken stock.  (I used the braising liquid leftover from the turkey legs and added Swanson’s chicken broth to top it off. )

Add the leftover turkey meat. Add the bay leaves, thyme, salt and pepper. Simmer over low heat for at least 2 hours.

Remove the carcass.  Taste and adjust the seasonings (add more salt, pepper, thyme).  Add the chopped parsley. Add 3 tablespoons of filé powder and simmer slowly, stirring until slightly thickened.

Serve over white rice, with your family’s favorite hot sauce on the side.






Ghouls and Goblins: Halloween Party!


Back when I was single, I have to admit I thought Halloween was annoying.  You have to go buy candy that you don’t want.  You have to answer the doorbell that is interrupting your evening.  You would rather turn off the lights or go out.

Now that I’m a parent Halloween is unavoidable.  And I have to admit, I love the creative aspect of it.  I find myself completely immersed in pinning Halloween craft projects on Pinterest.  I can’t help but buy more Halloween decor every year at thrift shops.  We spend weeks talking about Joe’s costume ideas, and then days shopping for said costume and props.  I invite Joe’s friends to come over and do the outdoor decorating and we transform the front yard with spiderwebs, gravestones, dorky signage, a strobe light on the porch, a mechanical ghoul on a motion sensor, streamers, and lights.

It’s fun!

Go away!  Halloween is not fun.  Wait, yes it is!

Go away! Halloween is not fun. Wait, yes it is!


We have a great neighborhood with lots of kids and families and for the past few years we’ve had a group Halloween party to get the kids together before trick or treating.  Our neighbors across the street hosted a pizza party for a couple of years and when they moved, we picked up the baton (or wand or scepter or scythe, if you will.)

It is a great opportunity to see all the kids in their costumes and have some spooky fun.

Halloween 1 Collage.jpg


We host it outside and pitch our party tent (which is a plastic canopy with flaps I bought online from a golfing outlet.)

Here is our skeletal (ha ha) party plan in case you’d  like to do one in your neighborhood:

  • Prepare your guest list.  We like to be inclusive so all trick-or-treating age kids and babies on the 3 streets that comprise our neighborhood are invited.
  • Send out an invitation.  We like Evite and Paperless Post for their cute invitations and easy way to track RSVPs.  Some families have filters that block those emails and some families I don’t have email addresses for so we also do a paper flyer that a helpful mom puts in the appropriate mailboxes.
  • Lay in your supplies and groceries.  We have pizza delivered so there’s no cooking.  Make sure you have enough Halloween-y paper plates and napkins.  We also buy bottled water, sodas and ice.  And candy. Don’t forget the candy.
  • Decorate the weekend before.  Save some last minute touches (lanterns, gauze spider webs, garlands, table linens, candles and flowers for the day of.)
  • Start the party before sundown so the little ones can get an early start on trick-or-treating and you get to see everyone’s costume before dark.
  • Guests often want to know what they can bring so delegate dessert and appetizers.  It is BYOB for adults but do have a cooler filled with clean ice, a full ice bucket with tongs, bottle and wine openers, and cups for those adult beverages.
  • Make your Halloween playlist or set your ipod to Pandora’s Halloween Party Radio station. Michael Jackson is a must. Loud speakers are a must. Blast it!
  • Party down.  When it gets dark, the children set off for the candy hunt with adult chaperones. Other designated adults take their stations at their doors to give out the candy.  And other designated adults (usually those who have worked to help set up the party and do the hostess’s bidding hang around to polish off the pizza, have a beverage, and enjoy the spooky candle glow.)


Time to trick or treat!  Give us some candy or we will egg your house.

Time to trick or treat! Give us some candy or we will egg your house.

Happy Halloween!

Hazel Halloween


Many, many thanks to Allison Beuker of Allison Beuker Photography for the outstanding pictures that captured the children’s infectious Halloween excitement and creativity. Perfection.

Mushroom and Wild Rice Bisque

Mushroom and Wild Rice Bisque

Mushrooms and wild rice were a centerpiece of my Minnesota childhood holiday meals. Both ingredients were considered “spendy” (Minnesota slang for expensive), and thus we didn’t have them everyday.

On Thanksgiving, Christmas, and Easter my mom would break away from the budget and our guests would be treated to luxurious dishes that made these holidays special, such as Minnesota Wild Rice Casserole which combined sautéed onions, green pepper, celery, button mushrooms,  chopped pimento and lots and lots of butter.


Wild rice is actually a grass, sustainably harvested by hand by the Ojibwe Nation in northern Minnesota.

Mushroom and wild rice soup was a budget-friendly alternative.  You could have a small cup or bowl if you were out shopping, which my mom and I did at Byerly’s, an upscale grocery store in St. Paul.  My sister, who lived in the more cosmopolitan Minneapolis, took me to Cafe Brenda in the 1980s, and this is the soup I came to love.

Raw mushrooms

Mushroom and Wild Rice Bisque

adapted from The Cafe Brenda Cookbook: Redefining Seafood and Vegetarian Cuisine


  • 3/4 C. wild rice (order from White Earth Nation/Ojibwe site)
  • 7 C. vegetable or chicken stock
  • 1/3 C. long-grain brown rice
  • 2 sprigs fresh rosemary
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 green onion, chopped (optional) (save the green parts for garnish on top)
  • 2 large carrots, diced
  • 2 stalks celery, diced
  • 4 T. butter
  • 1 pound mushrooms, sliced (I used a combination of cremini and white button)
  • 2 C. half and half
  • 1/4 C. parsley, chopped
  • 1/4 tsp. Worcestershire
  • salt and pepper to taste

Sliced mushrooms


  • Rinse wild rice thoroughly in a strainer.
  • Bring stock to a boil, add wild rice, brown rice and rosemary sprigs.  
  • Simmer, covered, for 1 hour or until rice is tender.  
  • While rice is cooking, chop vegetables.
  • Sauté onions, carrot, and celery in 2 T. of butter until very soft (about 10 minutes.)
  • Warm the half and half in a saucepan and add the vegetable mixture.  Let steep for 5-10 minutes.
  • Melt remaining 2 T. of butter and sauté the mushrooms until nicely colored and soft.
  • Add half of the mushroom mixture to the vegetables and half and half.  Puree the vegetables in the pot with your immersion blender or pour into a blender and puree.
  • Add the pureed mixture to the rice and stock mixture and stir to combine.  Take out the rosemary sprigs.
  • Add the remaining sautéed mushrooms.
  • Season the soup with Worcestershire, salt, pepper and parsley.
  • Simmer the soup gently, until heated through but do not let it boil.  Flavors develop best overnight.

Mushroom and wild rice bisque



wild rice harvest

The Ojibwe people still harvest wild rice by hand in Northern Minnesota. Photo: White Earth Nation.

An Unapologetically Retro Dip

Braunschweiger pate


Braunschweiger Pâté

Anyone with any knowledge at all of French cuisine will scoff at calling this pâté, but I certainly can’t call it “meat dip” and get anyone to try it, now can I?

My mom broke out this retro appetizer at Christmastime and it is really tasty despite its homely looks.  For you skeptics out there, I made this for friends in college and a Corks & Cake college friend reached out to say she had a request from another college friend for the recipe!  That’s almost 28 years later, people!  (Gulp!  I just divulged my real age.)

It is very easy and makes a large quantity, so save this to try when you are having a cocktail or holiday party or when you have multiple pot lucks to contribute to.  (A little goes a long way to satisfy, and believe me, this dip is rich so you don’t want a large quantity lurking in your refrigerator for days and days after you’ve had your fill.) Share it, baby!

Braunschweiger pate ingredients



  • 1 16 oz. package of Braunschweiger (pork liver sausage); I use Kahn’s brand that I find in my grocer’s deli section
  • 8 oz. Philadelphia brand cream cheese, softened (NOTE:  do not use the whipped kind, it has too much air and contains more emulsifiers)
  • 2 T. grated yellow onion (NOTE:  it is important that the onion is grated, not minced.  That will give you a wonderful, juicy mush to intoxicate your pâté with. Break out the box grater.
  • 1 1/2 T. Dijon mustard
  • 1 tsp. garlic powder (NOTE:  I don’t recommend chopped fresh garlic here because you want a perfectly smooth paste without bits of garlic for your guests to bite into on their cracker.
  • 1/4 tsp.Worcestershire sauce


  • Mash the Braunschweiger and the cream cheese with a fork in a mixing bowl until incorporated.
  • Fold in all the other ingredients.
  • Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate.  You can serve right away but I find that the flavors develop better overnight.

Serve with your favorite retro crackers.  I’m partial to Triscuits Original.  Melba toasts if you are old school.  Ritz crackers if you are a junk food hedonist.  Carr’s Water Crackers if you are a snob (just kidding.)

Cheers!  And enjoy your 'meat dip' with a dirty martini or an IPA.  Photo credit: Chip Pye.

Cheers! And enjoy your ‘meat dip’ with a dirty martini or an IPA.
Photo credit: Chip Pye.