Friday, November 28, 2008

Recipes for Using Up Thanksgiving Leftovers

OK. The big meal is over. Everyone has gone home. The kitchen is cleaned and the house is back in order...except for the refrigerator. How are you going to use those leftovers? It would be a shame to waste all that food. Instead, check out the recipe links below to help put it all to tasty use.

Thanksgiving Turkey Leftover Recipes

Get Rid of Extra Mashed Potatoes
Use Up Cranberries and Cranberry Sauce

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving and Special Annoucements

Happy Thanksgiving Everyone!

This will be our last post before the Thanksgiving. Get ready for lots of holiday content coming up, including a series on great gifts you make in your kitchen. This is an excellent way to save some bucks this holiday season while still giving gifts of love that everyone is sure to love. So if you haven't subscribed to (or follow) this blog yet, you'll definitely want to do so.


New Fabulous Living Blog
If you like crafts, DIY and/or celebrating holidays in style, you'll want to check out the new Fabulous Living blog at The blog version of our sister site, will keep you up to date with fun projects and holiday tips all year round. Cooking Club
There's still time to enter this month's Cooking Club challenge and qualify for the prize giveaway (worth over $100.00!). The deadline to enter is December 10. All you have to do to enter is cook one of the recipes at made with apples, cranberries, walnuts, turkey, pumpkins, or winter squash. Or you can submit an original recipe using one of these ingredients. The deadline to enter is December 10, so start cooking! For details, click here to this month's Cooking Club challenge along with the fabulous prize package giveaway.

Monday, November 24, 2008

How To Stock a Bar for a Party or Event plus Holiday Cocktail Recipes

One of the hardest thing for most people to figure out when entertaining is how much to buy, especially when it comes to liquor. So, I quizzed my caterer friends as to how they plan on the amount of drinks and how much to buy for cocktail parties.

They use a formula that roughly estimates 10 people will consume 20 drinks at the average cocktail party. Make that 40 drinks if it's a full evening affair, usually including dinner. This is based on a typical 1.5 ounces shot of hard liquor.

So how many drinks can you get out of a bottle?

  • A 750 ml. Bottle will yield about 16 cocktails.
  • A liter bottle will yield 22.
  • a 1.5 liter bottle will yield 39.

For a party of wine drinkers, plan on stocking 5 bottles (750 ml) for 10 people. You should get roughly 5 servings per bottle.

For beer drinkers, stock 5 six-packs for ten people, based on a twelve-ounce serving. If you have the budget and inclination, you can stock a full bar. However, a more budget conscious idea is to offer a selection of cocktails that can be made from one or two primary types of liquor or to limit yourself to a wine and/or beer party.

If you do want to stock a full bar, you could go wild purchasing all kinds of exotic liqueurs and alcoholic concoctions, but most people's imbibing needs can be met by having the following on hand:

  • Vodka
  • Rum
  • Gin
  • Scotch
  • Bourbon
  • Blended Whiskey
  • Tequila

If you've still got budget and want to offer more cocktail choices, consider also stocking:

  • Kahlua® or other coffee flavored liqueur
  • Creme de Menthe
  • Creme de Cacao
  • Amaretto
  • Brandy and/or Cognac
  • Grand Marnier®
  • Drambuie®
  • B&B® (Brandy & Benedictine)

How About Mixers?
Forgetting the alcohol component, there are other important elements to the well stocked bar. Depending on the cocktails you plan on offering, you may need any or all of the following:

Juices -- orange juice, grapefruit juice, cranberry juice, tomato juice or V8, pineapple, lemon or lime juice (fresh squeezed when possible)

For fresh squeezed juices, you can estimate that the average lemon or lime will yield about an ounce of juice, an orange will yield between 1 1/2 - 3 ounces of juice depending on it's size.

Carbonated beverages - club soda, tonic water, cola, 7-Up or Sprite, ginger ale.

Flavoring ingredients - Angostura bitters for drinks like Old Fashioneds, salt, pepper or horseradish for drinks like Bloody Marys, confectioner's sugar for fizzes and flips, grenadine, simple syrup, cream of coconut, etc.

Trendy ingredients -- Keep your party hip by keeping up on the latest cocktail trends. As I right this the current hot mixer for vodka is the energy drink Red Bull®. Research what's current and have some on hand.

Dry vermouth -- If you plan on making Martinis.

Sweet vermouth -- If you plan on making Manhattans.

Salt or sugar for rimming cocktail glasses (as for Margaritas).

Milk, half and half, cream, whipped cream or possibly even ice cream.

Coffee -- For hot drinks and last call, no alcohol.

Garnishes like lemon or lime peel or wedges, cherries, olives, cocktail onions or celery stalks.

Ice, ice and more ice.

Don't forget enough glasses.

Favorite Holiday Cocktail Recipes:

  • Frostini (pictured at right) -- This vodka, chocolate liqueur, and Irish cream martini is sure to add to the festive nature of any holiday gathering.
  • Reindeer Martini -- The original martini, created by bartender Sherri Flynn of Harry's Velvet Room in Chicago, is sure to add to the festive nature of any holiday gathering.
  • Mistletoe Martini -- This original Martini recipe, created by the folks at Le Cirque 2000 in New York City, is sure to add to the festive nature of any holiday gathering.
  • Chocolate Espresso Martini -- Seattle cooking diva Kathy Casey came up with this decadent mocha martini recipe.
  • Classic Champagne Cocktail (pictured top of this post) -- The champagne shines through in this classic – with a hint of added flavor from spirits, bitters, and citrus peels.
  • Classic White Russian Cocktail -- This delicious classic cocktail is not so named because it originated in, or is particularly popular in Russia.
  • Classic Black Russian Cocktail -- Legend has it that the Black Russian first appeared in 1949, at the Metropolitan Hotel in Bruxelles.
  • Eggnog -- Explore the history of this classic holiday drink, dazzle your friends with eggnog trivia, and try out some of our fabulous eggnog recipes.
  • Larry Doll's Famous Cranberry Margaritas (pictured below) Here's as festive a holiday cocktail as you're likely to find anywhere. Serve these and make your holiday parties extra memorable.
  • The National Hotel's Ramos Gin Fizz (middle photo above) -- This old-fashioned cocktail is perfect for brunch or anytime. It is also known as a New Orleans Gin Fizz.
  • Hot Buttered Rum-- This classic toddy has been popular for generations, it's so delicious and easy to make that it will doubtless remain in demand for years to come.
  • Hot Spiced Brandy Wine -- his recipe comes to us from chef Dario Marquez of Fort Lauderdale, Florida's Mistral. Restaurant. With wine, brandy, fruit juices and spices, this is a perfect winter warm up.
  • Hot Brandy Milk Punch -- This old fashioned favorite is still delicious today. It's the prefect thing to warm cold snow bunnies at an after ski party. It's also much lower in fat than most other drinks of its kind.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Food Fun -- Foodie Trivia Quizzes!

Are you truly a foodie? Test your knowledge or learn some fascinating food and wine trivia while having some fun. Pick a topic and take a quiz. Each fun little quiz has 10 questions and takes just minutes. So see how much you really know about the foods you love. And who knows, you might learn something you can use if you’re ever on a TV quiz show!
  • Talking Turkey -- Thanksgiving is just around the corner, see how much you know about America's favorite bird.

  • The Wonderful World of Fruit -- Fruity trivia questions to make you King or Queen of the produce department.

  • Favorite Brand Name Foods -- Test how well you know your favorite brand name foods and know the story behind the products on your supermarket shelves.

  • This Spud's for You -- Test your potato knowledge.

  • Java Junkies -- How much do you really know about coffee? Find out here.

  • Eat Your Veggies -- Test your veggie knowledge and impress your friends with all you know.

  • Ethnic Foods -- Are you a global eater? Find out by answering these questions and testing your knowledge of ethnic foods.

  • Sweet Tooth -- Test your knowledge of sweets and desserts.

  • No Wine-ing About This Quiz -- Test your knowledge of wine and impress all your buddies at your next tasting.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Getting Creative with Cranberry Sauce

The cranberry is one of only a handful of fruits native to North America - the Concord grape and blueberry being the others. As documented by the Pilgrims, cranberries were found in abundance in Massachusetts in 1620 and rumor has it that they may have been served at the first Thanksgiving dinner, although we have no way of knowing for sure. Written recipes using cranberries date back to the 1700s and the first recorded cranberry crop in history dates back to 1816 in Dennis, Massachusetts on Cape Cod. Cranberries soon cemented their place in New England life by serving as a vital source of vitamin cup for whalers and a valuable natural resource to residents.

Today, the Pilgrim's favorite fruit still holds an irreplaceable role in most people's Thanksgiving traditions. While some people like the straight-out-of-the-can jellied variety, cranberry sauce presents so many opportunities for getting culinarily creative, it seems a shame to just open a can. Instead, expand your cranberry options and check out one of the recipes below. They'll add zest and interest to your holiday meal in a whole new way.

Creative Cranberry Sauce Recipes
  • Molded Cranberry Sauce (pictured at top of this post) -- This recipe combines the best of jelled and whole cranberry sauce made in an attractive decorative mold for a spectacular presentation.
  • Classic Whole Cranberry Sauce -- Here's a classic cranberry sauce recipe that would be at home at any Thanksgiving dinner.
  • Tangerine Apricot Cranberry Sauce (pictured at right) -- Tangerines combine with apricots and cranberries to make a fabulous flavor medley to go with your Thanksgiving dinner.
  • Kumquat, Pomegranate and Cranberry Relish -- Kumquats add the exotic, cranberries the familiar, and pomegranates the surprise ending!
  • Dried Cherry Cranberry Sauce -- Dried cherries and fresh cranberries pair beautifully and cloves add some spice for a complex cranberry sauce perfect for Thanksgiving.
  • Jalapeno Tequila Cranberry Sauce -- Tart cranberries and sweet orange pair beautifully with a little bit of jalapeno heat in this unique southwestern cranberry sauce recipe.
  • Cranberry Fruit Salad Mold --Molded salads always add a festive look to any table and this one is no exception.
  • Cranberry Chutney -- If your experience with cranberries has been sweet, jelled sauces, this spicy chutney will provide a welcome change of pace for a more adult palate.
(P.S. If you make any of these recipes, be sure to add a post to the Fabulous Foods Cooking Club blog to be eligible for this month's prize package giveaway. Click here for details.)

Cranberry Tips

  • Look for bright, plump cranberries, avoid soft, crushed, or shriveled berries.
  • Peak season is September through December.
  • Fresh cranberries will keep in the refrigerator for 4-8 weeks.
  • You can freeze fresh cranberries for longer storage.
  • You can substitute frozen cranberries in most recipes calling for fresh.
  • Do not wash cranberries until ready for use, as moisture will cause quicker spoilage.
  • When a recipe says "cook until the cranberries pop," don't expect popcorn. This simply mean the berry's outer skin will expand until it bursts.

Monday, November 17, 2008

How to Make Great Gravy

With Thanksgiving coming up, it's high time we discuss an important component of the meal that can make or break the dinner -- gravy.

The art of gravy making can be a challenge to those who only prepare the robust sauce on special holiday occasions, but in fact, making great turkey gravy isn't difficult.

To make the gravy, remove the cooked turkey and roasting rack from the roasting pan. Pour the poultry drippings through a sieve into a container or cup. Add 1 cup stock to the roasting pan and stir until crusty brown bits are loosened: pour the deglazed liquid/stock into the container with the pan drippings. Let the mixture stand a few minutes until the fat rises to the top.

Skim and discard any fat that remains on top of the poultry drippings, reserving 3-4 tablespoons.

Over medium heat, spoon the reserved fat into a 2 quart or larger saucepan. Whisk an equal amount of flour into heated fat and continue to cook and stir until the flour turns golden. To produce a full flavored gravy, it is critical to cook the flour in about an equal portion of fat until the flour has lost its raw taste. A rather common problem is the temptation to use too much flour, which decreases the flavor.

Gradually whisk in warm poultry drippings/stock mixture. Cook and stir until gravy boils and is slightly thick. Remember the gravy will continue to thicken after it has been removed from the heat. A good rule is to use between 1 and 2 tablespoons of flour for each cup of liquid and then give the mixture time to thicken.

If a shortage of turkey gravy is a common problem at your house, use a little melted butter and extra warmed poultry stock to increase the volume of the pan drippings.

The following chart lists several common gravy problems and ways to eliminate them so the grand feast will be complete.

Optional Ingredients:
You can dress up your gravy by adding optional ingredients. Try some fresh or dried herbs (use whatever you used to make your turkey). A little wine ( 3/4 cup or less) or brandy ( a few tablespoons) will add a complex flavor. For an extra rich gravy, try adding a little cream (1/4 - 1/2 cup). You can also add vegetables like cooked onion or mushrooms for variety. Use your imagination!

Gravy Making Troubleshooting Chart
Click the Troubleshooting Chart link for quick answers to gravy making problems like what to do if your gravy is too salty, too greasy, too thick, too thin, not the right color, or horror of horrors, lumpy.

Fabulous Gravy Recipes

  • Basic Turkey Gravy -- Here's a classic turkey gravy, sans giblets, for those prefer their gravy without.
  • Sherry Turkey Gravy -- This traditional turkey giblet gravy is given a burst of flavor and sophistication by the addition of sherry.
  • Turkey Giblet Gravy -- This recipe for classic turkey giblet gravy is perfect for an all American Thanksgiving dinner.
  • Mushroom Turkey Gravy -- Earthy mushrooms bring new depths of flavor to traditional turkey giblet gravy in this Thanksgiving worthy recipe.
  • Guiltless Low Fat Turkey Gravy -- Love gravy but hate the fat? Try this light alternative.
  • Vegetarian Gravy -- Here's a good all-purpose vegetarian gravy recipe. Serve it over mashed potatoes or Thanksgiving dressing, soy main courses, or whatever else your imagination conjures up.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Cooking Club Fall Favorites Challenge Update

Entries are starting to come in for the Cooking Club Fall Favorites Challenge. We have a brand new (and easy to make Fudge Cranberry Cookie recipe, plus folks who've made a Cranberry Streusel Cake, and Jorge Cruise's Turkey Cranberry and Walnut Salad.

Our latest entry is a fabulous new Brine for Turkey recipe that will be just the thing to keep your holiday bird moist.

Check out all the entries plus learn how to enter this month's challenge yourself and be eligible to win this month's prize package by clicking here to visit the Cooking Club blog.

Cooking with Annie and Alicia Marinated Pork Roast

As an entry into Annie and Alicia's Blog event, I made the Alicia's marinated pork roast recipe. I varied the recipe below a little bit in that I stuffed my pork loin with slivered cloves of garlic (you can't have too much garlic in my book.

Marinated Pork Loin

3-4 pounds boneless pork loin roast
1 teaspoon dry mustard
1/2 teaspoon onion powder
1/2 cup apple juice
1 teaspoon basil
1/2 cup soy sauce

Combine all ingredients except pork roast in small bowl. Place roast in large plastic bag; pour sauce over roast. Press air out; close top securely. Marinate 2 hours or more turning meat over occasionally. Remove roast from bag, reserve marinade. Place roast on rack in shallow roasting pan. Roast in 325 degree oven for about an hour.

You can also find this recipe at

You can enter Alicia and Annie's event yourself by clicking to

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Roast Turkey Tutorials, Tips, and Recipes

So we've covered fried, smoked and grilled turkey over the past few days. Today we'll focus on more traditional turkey preparations.

Fresh Vs. Frozen Turkey
The decision to buy a fresh or frozen turkey is based on personal preference in price and convenience. Frozen turkeys are flash frozen immediately after processing to 0 ° F or below and held at that temperature until packaged. The meat, once defrosted, is virtually at the same freshness as the day it was processed. Fresh turkeys are deep chilled after packaging. They have a shorter shelf life than frozen turkeys and are therefore more expensive. Hard chilled birds have been stored at temperatures between 0° and 26° F. In late 1997, new regulations created a special category for turkeys in this temperature range, which had previously been labeled fresh.

Tips For Buying Turkey
Purchase one pound of turkey per person to be served. This formula allows for the holiday meal plus a little left over for the prized turkey sandwich.

Ensure that the packaging is intact to avoid purchasing a bird with packaging rips or tears. This might not seem like a big deal, but it can make a mess in your refrigerator.

Turkey prices, surprisingly, go down during the holidays as many supermarkets use turkey as a "loss leader." This simply means that retailers run special, low prices on turkey to entice customers into their store to buy other holiday foods that go along with the traditional feast. To get the best deal on holiday turkey, check supermarket ads for specials and coupons for the best price. Turkeys in the supermarket are all inspected by USDA or state systems and offer high quality and value.

The Thanksgiving meal in general is one of the most economical ways to entertain a large group of people. Save on supermarket specials by buying more than one turkey. A whole frozen turkey can be stored in your freezer for up to twelve months. Don't limit yourself to the holidays. A turkey cooked on a barbecue grill is wonderful any time of year, especially in summer, when you don't want to turn on the oven!

Select the size of your turkey based on the number of servings needed. There is no appreciable difference between female (hen) and male (tom) turkeys in tenderness, white/dark meat ratio or other eating qualities. Hens typically weigh up to 14 to 16 pounds and toms 15 pounds on up, so choose the size which is best for your dinner group.

Select alternative turkey cuts if you are having a small gathering for the holiday. Other turkey products which are readily available include a turkey breast, tenderloins, cutlets, drumsticks or thighs. You might also ask your butcher to cut a fresh whole bird in half. Roast one half and freeze the other for a later occasion

Turkey FAQ

What are giblets and what should I do with them?

Giblets are the turkey's neck, gizzard, heart and liver. When cooked until tender, they make a great addition to gravy or stuffing. If you have dogs, you can also cook the giblets for your pet. Make sure all bones are removed, chop up the meat and let Fido enjoy the feast too.

What is a self basted turkey?
Self basted turkeys have been injected or marinated in a solution which usually contains edible fat, natural broth, stock or water and seasonings. Self-basted turkeys are labeled with the percentage of solutions and their ingredients.

My turkey is getting too brown and it's still has a long time to cook. HELP!
No problem, if you find the top of your turkey is getting to brown, simply cover it loosely with a sheet of aluminum foil and continue to roast the turkey according to schedule.

More Help with Turkey

Great Turkey Gadget -- Sili Sling Lifter for Turkey, Roasts or Fish
If you've ever struggled with getting your Thanksgiving turkey out of the roasting pan, or perhaps you've experienced the heartbreak of having a beautiful piece of fish fall apart as you attempt to lift it from the pan, the ingenious folks at William Bounds, Ltd. have come up with a nifty gadget that stays right in the oven while your meats cook, then lets you almost effortlessly lift them right out the pan -- no muss, no fuss.

The Sili Sling is a silicone lifter for turkey, roasts and fish. Its large surface is ideal for lifting large poultry and roasts -- it holds up to an 18 pound turkey. Heat resistant to 600°F, the Sili Sling stays in the oven while you cook, will always retain its shape and will not stain or absorb odors. As it is dishwasher safe, clean up is a snap too. Click here for more information or to order through

Roast Turkey Recipes

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Smoking Turkey

Smoked turkey is a delicacy that many people love, but they don't have it that often because, let's face it, buying a smoked turkey is expensive. If only these turkey deprived folks knew just how easy and economical it is to make your own smoked turkey at home.

We used a water smoker to make our turkey. These are available wherever barbecue grills are found, but here's an economical secret: start going to garage sales. For some reason, smokers seem to be a popular item, possibly because a lot of folks don't know how to use them. I purchased my smoker, almost new, for a measly seven dollars, and I see them often while on my regular Saturday garage sale runs.

Water smokers are available in electric, gas or charcoal model, and all work well. Charcoal smokers have two pans - one for charcoal and one for liquid which creates the moist, hot smoke needed for cooking.

If you don't own a water smoker, you could also smoke your turkey on the grill using the Indirect Smoking Method.

Important Points
Food safety is of primary concern when smoking turkey. Turkey breasts, drumsticks, wings and whole turkeys are all suited for smoking, although for safety's sake, stick with whole turkeys that weigh 12 pounds or less. A larger turkey remains in the "Danger Zone" - between 40° F and 140° F for too long.

Do not stuff a turkey destined for smoking. Because smoking takes place at a low temperature, it can take too long for the temperature of the stuffing to reach the required temperature of 165° F, not to mention that smoked stuffing has an undesirable flavor.

Smoked turkey doesn't need a recipe as seasonings, ingredients and spices are not necessary. You can add a little salt, pepper or poultry seasoning, but the smoke provides the principle flavor. Don't be afraid, however, to get creative with that smoke by experimenting with different types of wood -- hickory or mesquite being the most popular. Any chunks or chips of water-soaked hardwood or fruit wood will work, but do not use softwoods like pine, fir, cedar or spruce as they will give the food a turpentine flavor and coat it with an ugly and inedible black pitch.

Also, instead of smoking with water, try wine or juices. For the turkey in the photo above, we used Hickory Chips that had been soaked in a mixture of red wine and apple juice. This same liquid was then poured in the water pan and used for the smoking process.

Helpful Hints
Smoking time depends on the size of the turkey, the distance from the heat, temperature of the coals, as well as the outside air temperature. You can roughly estimate about 20 to 30 minutes per pound of turkey, but it's important to use a meat thermometer to be sure your turkey is thoroughly cooked. The turkey is done when the food thermometer, placed in the inner thigh, reaches 180° F (be sure the thermometer is not touching the bone).

Unless you have a sheltered outdoor spot, avoid smoking on windy days as this can effect the temperature, or even put out the fire. Luckily, our Los Angeles apartment balcony is completely sheltered from the wind, so I rarely have this problem, but it is probably the biggest obstacle facing would-be smokers.

Also, avoid opening the cover or door as much as possible. Smoking takes place at low temperatures and opening the lid or door causes quick heat loss. If you must open the door to add charcoal, chips or liquid, do it as quickly as possible and close it and avoid the urge to peek at the turkey during cooking!

For more details on smoking a turkey, click here for the step-by-step photo tutorial.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Grilling Turkey

A few days ago we talked about Deep Fried Turkey. Today I want to discuss grilling turkeys. But before I get to that, a quick update on this month's Cooking Club challenge. Eliot Brown was our first entry. Eliot made Jorge Cruise's Turkey Salad with Walnuts and Cranberries. Way to go Eliot! You incorporated three of the Favorite Fall ingredients into this one post. Check out Eliot's recipe notes, or learn how to enter this month's challenge yourself by clicking to the Cooking Club Blog.

Turkey on the Grill
Grilling a turkey makes good sense for busy cooks, especially if you're dealing with a small space kitchen. With the turkey cooking merrily away on the grill, the oven is free for other chores such as cooking large pans of dressing, side dishes or even home baked pies. And, as always, grilling cuts down on clean-up time so you'll have more time to relax and enjoy the day.

Whether you have a gas or a charcoal grill, you can use it to prepare a moist, delicious turkey, if you keep a few tips in mind.

  • After removing the plastic wrapping, prepare the turkey by freeing the legs from tucked position and removing the neck and giblets from neck and body cavities. Rinse the turkey and drain well. Turn wings back to hold neck skin in place. Return legs to tucked position. It's not necessary to truss a turkey for the grill.
  • You can marinate the turkey by using a fork to make random holes over the entire bird. Place the turkey in a large, plastic cooking bag or clean plastic trash bag and pour in the marinade. Close the bag securely and let it marinate overnight in the refrigerator. Before cooking, scrape off excess marinade and discard.
  • Do not re-use marinade to baste the turkey.
  • Do not stuff a turkey that's to be grilled as it can take too long for the temperature of the stuffing to reach the required temperature of 165° F.
  • Keep the lid on the grill closed as much as possible to prevent heat loss.
Full Turkey Grilling Tutorial
You will need to use the indirect heat to grill the turkey. Our full photo tutorial includes grilling times and temperatures, how to place the drip pan (important so your turkey doesn't burn and scorch, and more. Turkey Grilling Tutorial.

More Traditional Turkey
I found a great blog post at Culinate on how to make a traditional Brined and Roasted Turkey. Check it out at this link.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Cooking Class is in Session at the Roblar Winery

School Never Tasted So Good!

Looking for the ultimate foodie night out? When visiting Santa Barbara, consider an evening cooking class at Roblar Winery. You’ll learn valuable kitchen skills, drink some incredible wines, mingle with lots of interesting people also interested in food and wine, and have an incredible dinner that you’ll be able to recreate at home to impress all your friends.

Every Saturday night, the winery, housed on a gorgeous 38 acre vineyard, hosts a themed class in their state-of-the-art teaching kitchen, taught be some of the area’s finest chefs. The popular classes sell out quickly, so plan well in advance of your visit to the Santa Barbara area. Class size is strictly limited to no more than 24.

The night we attended, Chef Lenoardo Curti of Trattoria Grappolo in Santa Ynez was holding court, teaching eager foodies the secrets of making a perfect squid ink risotto, calamari and octopus salads, and English trifle (that's your humble editor Cheri helping out Chef Curti in the photo above). Of all Roblar’s instructors, the personable Curti is the most popular according to Roblar marketing director Beta Silva.

“His classes always sell out almost immediately,” she says.

It’ no wonder, as Curti’s charm and natural good humor immediately connects with every member of his audience. His classes feel like you’re just hanging out with friends, having a good time, and cooking up some incredible food.

Roblar’s great facilities ensure that everyone gets a view, and Curti passed out numerous tastes (perfectly paired with Roblar’s wines) along the way. In addition to his signature recipes, Curti imparted lots of practical cooking and prep tips to his students, making it especially easy for home cooks wanting to replicate a restaurant quality experience.

Afterwards, the group retired to the dining room where everyone enjoyed the fruits of chef Lenonardo’s efforts. Lively conversations with new found friends flowed as liberally as the wines.

All too soon dessert was served, business cards exchanged, and everyone went their separate ways. As diverse as the crowd of foodies attending the class were, we all had something in common at the end of the evening at Roblar – we all knew how to make a great calamari salad and squid ink risotto, and were were all fans of Chef Leonardo Curti and Roblar wines.

More in Santa Barbara for Foodies


Roblar Winery is located at 3010 Roblar Ave in Santa Ynez, CA, 93460. Phone 805-686-2603 or click to for a schedule of classes or to make reservations.

If you can’t make it to one of his classes, visit Chef Leonardo Curti’s restaurant Trattoria Grappolo at 3687 Sagunto St. in Santa Ynez, California, 93460. Call 805-688-6899 or click to

Santa Barbara County encompasses the cities of Carpinteria, Goleta, Montecito, Summerland, Ballard, Buellton, Lompoc, Los Alamos, Los Olivos, Santa Maria, Santa Ynez and Solvang as well as Channel Islands National Park.

For travel and accommodation information and to request a free copy of the official Santa Barbara County Visitors Guide, contact the Santa Barbara Conference & Visitors Bureau and Film Commission at 800-676-1266, 805-966-9222 or

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Announcing The Fabulous Foods Cooking Club!

Greetings Fabulous Foodies!

Part of our mission statement at has always been to get readers to put put down the mouse, go into the kitchen, and cook!

Our new online Cooking Club is designed to inspire you to do just that. At the same time you’ll discover delicious new recipes and ways of preparing favorite ingredients, share recipe ideas, notes, and variations with new online friends interested in cooking, impress offline friends and family with your culinary creations, and maybe even win some great prizes.

Join in and anytime you like, membership is free, and it’s easy to opt in or out anytime you like. And while we want you to start cooking, you can even keep up with the cooking club without actually participating if you like – we don’t mind lurkers and you’ll still discover some great recipes and cooking tips, especially during the event end round-up and recap.

Each month we will post a new cooking challenge. The Cooking Club challenges will always be broad enough to have something for everyone, regardless of your cooking ability level, dietary requirements, or personal tastes. You will have about a month to cook something pertaining to the challenge. Participate by cooking as many recipes as you like. Each time you participate you get another chance at that month’s special prize package.
Why Join the Cooking Club?
  • Discover terrific new recipes.
  • Expand your culinary repertoire by trying new things.
  • Get help and answers to your questions any time – just post your question to the Cooking Club’s blog post for the current cooking challenge.
  • Interact with and share recipe notes with other Fabulous Foodies.
  • Have a little fun while preparing fabulous foods for your family and friends.
  • Be eligible to win the monthly prize giveaway packages.
So let's start cooking. Our first challenge asks you to cook with any of the following fall ingredients: Apples, Cranberries, pears, Pumpkin, Turkey, Walnuts or Winter Squash. Click here to visit the Cooking Club blog and get started!

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Making Deep Fried Turkey

Throughout the next month, look for several posts that can help with Thanksgiving dinner. This is the first.

When I was a kid, Thanksgiving dinner was exactly the same every year. Good. But the same. Roast turkey, dressing, mashed and sweet potatoes, and a smorgasbord of pies. Oh, and some sort of veggie -- usually peas, hastily heated up out of a can -- Mom always insisted on having a vegetable.

In my grown up home, I have frequently played with the concept -- keeping the major ingredient players, but putting new twists on them. My favorite of these has got to be the Deep Fried Turkey.

Deep frying a turkey may sound like a strange concept, but trust me, it doesn't come out like you'd think. Deep fried turkey is moist and delicious and not at all greasy.

Of course, an idea like fried turkey originated in the south, the frying capital of the United States, but it is gaining popularity nationwide. In fact, a recent block party I attended in South Central Los Angeles had three fried turkeys going. Several groups of neighbors had gotten together and split the cost of the oil and special equipment needed to make this dish. Needless to say, their tables were some of the most popular.

You Will Need
In addition to a turkey, you'll need a 40 or 60 quart pot with basket or turkey frying hardware, plus a propane gas tank and burner, a candy/deep fry thermometer, a meat thermometer and lots of oil. Use oils that have a high smoke point, such as corn, peanut or canola oils.

You should also keep a fire extinguisher and plenty of heavy duty pot holders nearby. An injector to add marinades and seasonings to the meat is also good to have, although you can make a plain turkey without it.

As far as the turkey itself goes, smaller birds work better for frying. Try not to go over 15 pounds.

For the most flavorful birds, Before cooking you can inject the turkey with your favorite marinade (see below) and/or rub it with a dry spice rub. You will also need about 3 1/2 - 5 gallons of oil in which to fry the turkey (see "How To Fry" Below).

Where to Fry
Because so much oil is flammable, you should never fry a turkey indoors. Place the fryer, outdoors, on a level dirt or grassy area. Avoid frying on wood decks, which could catch fire. You will also want to avoid concrete surfaces, unless you don't mind oil stains. Always keep a fire extinguisher nearby.

Before You Fry
Before beginning, (and before you even season or marinate your turkey) determine the amount of oil you'll need by placing the turkey in the basket (or on the hanger, depending on the type of fryer you are using) and putting it in the pot. Add water until it reaches about two inches above the turkey. Remove the turkey and note the water level by using a ruler to measure the distance from the top of the pot to the surface of the water. Remove the water and thoroughly dry the pot. Now add enough oil to equal what the water level was without the turkey in the pot.

How to Fry a Turkey
Using the candy thermometer to determine temperature, heat the oil to about 325°F and no higher than 350°F. This usually takes between 20 to 30 minutes.

Once the oil is hot enough, place the turkey in the basket or on the turkey hanger (follow instructions that came with your turkey frying kit) and slowly lower it into the pot.
Not let her fry. With whole turkeys, you can estimate on about three minutes per pound to cook.
Remove turkey and check the temperature with a meat thermometer. The temperature should reach 170° F. in the breast and 180° F. in the thigh.

Using an Injector to Marinade Your Turkey
An injector, which resembles a large hypodermic needle, allows you to inject a marinade directly into the meat. While you can make a fried turkey without this step and get a moist bird, it won't be as flavorful as if you take the time to inject your bird with marinade about a half hour or so before frying.

While we tried many of the injector needles on the market, the plastic models are our favorite. We found that the metal needles break easily and the plastic ones tend to be more flexible. We found ours at a dollar store.

Fill your syringe with marinade and inject it into both sides of the breast, the legs and the thighs of the turkey. Don't be afraid to move the needle around to get the marinade into the whole bird. Sometimes it's easier to get the thighs from the inside of the cavity.

Injector Marinades
There are a plethora of commercial jarred injectable marinades available at the supermarket or gourmet shops, but why buy something that's so easy to make yourself?

I've come up with some terrific injectable marinade recipes (see related recipe links below), but it's easy to come up with your own too. Just remember, the injector needles are small so you must use ingredients that dissolve or that are pureed so finely they won't clog the needle. As such, garlic and onion powder work better than their fresh counterparts.

Also look for concentrated liquid spices in gourmet shops or like those sold by Watkins. Watkins also makes an incredible barbecue sauce concentrate that I use in one of the recipes below. These potent sauce concentrates make great flavor bases for barbecue flavored fried turkeys and they are always a huge hit with crowds.

Turkey Frying Tips & Troubleshooting

  • Do not stuff turkeys you plan on frying, it just doesn't work and food safety issues come into play..
  • Be sure to measure for the amount of oil you'll need BEFORE you marinate or bread the turkey.
  • Immediately wash hands, utensils, equipment and surfaces that have come in contact with raw turkey to avoid cross contamination.
  • Keep an eye on the time, fried turkeys cook quickly. It only takes about 3 minutes per pound. Overcooking is one of the biggest mistakes beginners make. We should know, we cooked our first turkey so much the outside was charred completely black. Surprisingly, the meat inside the burnt shell was still delicious, so know that if you make this mistake, all may not be lost.
  • Consume cooked turkey immediately and store leftovers in the refrigerator within two hours of cooking.
  • Never leave the hot oil unattended.
  • Don't allow children or pets near the cooking area.
  • Allow oil to cool completely before disposing or storing it.
Related Recipes and Links

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Fill Your Freezer -- Burritos

These burritos are awesome! You make a bunch in advance, keep them in your freezer, and anytime you want a quick meal or snack, cook for about 2-3 minutes in the microwave. Adults and kids love them.

If you have a freezer and microwave at office, you’re set for lunch, although you may have to keep your coworkers from stealing them, once they see what you’re eating.

The recipe below is written as a utility recipe, meaning you can use the specific ingredients you prefer and/or happen to have on hand. I often use this recipe to clean out the freezer and fridge of various meats and veggies, and I’ve been known to make as many as 60 burritos at a time!

Why not? Once you gather together all your ingredients and supplies, it’s just as easy to make lots as it is to make a few.

See the instructions below for further notes on ingredients, variations and substitutions. The amount of ingredients you will need will depend on how many burritos you want to make (this is a great way to use leftovers). Multiply the amount of ingredients below by the number of burritos you want to make.

Mix and Match Per 8-inch Tortilla Burrito:
generous 1/4 cup cooked rice or cooked Spanish rice
1/4 cup chopped cooked protein – cooked beef, chicken, pork, or tofu
generous 1/8 cup grilled veggies
generous 1/8 cup cooked beans (black and/or pinto beans work well)
generous 1/8 cup grated cheese
1 tablespoon cooked salsa (see Related Recipes section below for recipes), optional
18-inch flour tortilla

Mix and Match Per 10-inch Tortilla Burrito:
1/3 cup cooked rice or cooked Spanish rice
1/3 cup chopped cooked protein – cooked beef, chicken, pork, or tofu
1/3 cup grilled veggies
1/3 cup cooked beans (black and/or pinto beans work well)
1/3 cup grated cheese
1/8 cooked salsa (see Related Recipes section below for recipes), optional
1 10-inch flour tortilla

Gather your ingredients together. I sometimes take several days to prepare before actually making the burritos. Making beans (usually in my slow cooker) one day, salsas another day, grill meat, tofu, and veggies another. When I have all the pieces, I make a big burrito assembly line.

To make individual burritos for the freezer, center a tortilla on a piece of freezer paper, wax paper, or parchment paper.

Leaving about an inch margin at the bottom, layer ingredients in a single line down the center of the tortilla as in the photo below.

Fold up the bottom of the tortilla, fold one side over, and roll up as tightly as possible. Fold the paper over the burritos, tucking in both sides, the tightly rolling the burritos in the paper as in the photos below.

Pack paper wrapped burritos in a zipper top plastic freezer bag. When ready to eat, remove burritos from the paper and put on a microwave safe plate. Unwrap and microwave on high for about 2 minutes. Carefully turn the burritos over – careful, it will be hot! Microwave another minute. Remove from oven and enjoy. Add additional salsa and/or hot sauce as desired.

All microwaves are different, so you may need to adjust cooking times for your oven. Check often during cooking and make notes of just how long it takes your oven to perfectly cook the burritos.

Freezer Friendly Burrito Making Tips

  • Once you assemble together all the ingredients, it’s just as easy to make lots of these at once as it is to make just a few. I’ve been known to make as many as 60 at a time and pass out extras that I couldn’t fit in my freezer to appreciative friends and family members (everybody loves a quick meal or snack they can pull out of their freezer).
  • Feel free to mix and match the above ingredients in any combinations that suit you – if you eliminate one, add more of another. The only ingredient I don’t recommend cutting is the rice – unless you plan on eating the burritos right away instead of freezing. If you do plan on freezing, I find that rice will soak up any excess moisture, keeping the burritos from becoming too wet upon reheating. Otherwise, if you don’t like beans, leave them out. Don’t have any cooked meat on hand? Make a rice, bean, and cheese burrito, etc.
  • Grilled veggies like onions, peppers, mushrooms, zucchini, etc. are always a tasty and healthy addition. Just about anytime I have a fire in the grill going, I grill up a bunch of veggies for this (and other) purpose. Just brush with oil and grill.
  • The addition of grilled tofu is great for vegetarian burritos -- just brush with oil and lay firm tofu on the grill, just as you would meat.
  • Label and date the bags that hold the burritos in your freezer. Try to use within 3 months. Trust me, that won't be a problem.
  • Why cooked salsa? Because raw veggies that are frozen emit too much water which will make your burritos soggy.
Related Recipes

Monday, November 3, 2008

Featured Ingredient -- Walnuts

Walnuts are one of the healthiest (and tastiest) foods you can and your family can eat.

Nutritional expert after expert have declared walnuts one of the healthiest foods you can eat. In March 2004, based on 10 years of research supporting the heart health benefits of walnuts, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration jumped on the bandwagon and approved a qualified health claim for walnuts, the first ever for a whole food.

Walnuts high levels of omega-3 fatty acids make them unique among tree nuts and peanuts. Walnuts are the only nut that contain a significant amount of omega-3 fatty acids. No other nut even comes close. Eating a handful of walnuts every day is one small step you can take to protect your heart.

Buying and Storing Walnuts
Fresh walnuts taste and smell sweet and mildly nutty. When walnuts are harvested, handlers keep them in cool, dry storage until they are shipped to retail stores.

Walnut meats naturally come in different shades, from the extra light to darker amber colors. This is part of nature and doesn’t affect quality. You will find dark and light walnuts on the same tree or in the same orchard. In general, commercial bakeries prefer the lighter shades because their appearance is often more desirable. On the other hand, ice cream companies prefer the dark shades because they often have a more intense flavor.

Ninety-nine percent of walnuts grown in the United States are grown in California specifically throughout the Central Valley of California and in Coastal Valleys, from Redding in the north to Bakersfield in the south. California walnuts are also known as English or Persian walnuts.

The black walnut, on the other hand, is a Native American species. Currently the black walnut is used mainly as a rootstock for English walnuts. The meats are tasty, but a lot of work to crack and remove from the shell.

There are over 30 varieties of walnuts grown in California; however, two varieties—Chandler and Hartley—account for nearly 60 percent of total production.

In-shell Walnuts:

  • Available in bags or in bulk
  • Best Seasons – fall and winter
  • To preserve freshness, crack right before using

Shelled Walnuts:

  • Available in bags or in bulk
  • Sold as halves, halves and pieces, pieces, and chopped, among other forms

Walnut Storage Tips

  • Store shelled walnuts in a sealed container in a cool place, with low moisture and away from sunlight. Refrigerator storage is good, but if you have larger quantities, freezer storage is best. Walnuts from opened packages keep well for up to six months when they are cold (refrigerator) stored in sealed containers. Walnuts are good to eat when opened for up to a year when kept in the freezer.
  • Cold is the walnuts best storage friend. Walnuts go rancid when exposed to warm temperatures for long periods of time. Heat causes the fat in walnuts to change structure, which creates off odors and flavors. Fresh walnuts smell mildly nutty and taste sweet. If your walnuts smell like paint thinner, you know they’re rancid. And if they’re rancid, you should throw them away!
  • If you buy walnuts in sealed packages, you can store the walnuts in that original packaging. Once you open the bag, transfer the walnuts to an airtight container to maintain freshness.
  • If you buy bulk walnuts, either in-shell or shelled, place the walnuts in an airtight container for long-term cold storage.
  • When storing walnuts in your refrigerator, store them away from foods with strong odors (e.g. fish, cabbage, onions) as walnuts can absorb the flavors of other foods.
  • One final tip: Wait to shell or chop walnuts until you’re ready to use them. The same applies for ground walnut meal; don’t grind your walnuts until you’re ready to add the walnut meal to your recipe. This will help maintain great flavor.
More on Walnuts
Too Many Walnut Recipes!
Thanks to the California Walnut Board, we've just significantly beefed out our library of walnut recipes at, most with gorgeous full color photographs and full nutritional information, so even dieters can plan them into their calorie budget. There are recipes for breakfasts, breads, smoothies, appetizers, sandwiches, salads, soups, main courses, side dishes and desserts. We've just added over 80 new walnut recipes to the site (you're seeing some of the photos in this post)!
Click here to browse through the recipe choices and start cooking with walnuts!

Sunday, November 2, 2008

My Favorite Cookie Recipe

Years ago, in my former life as a circus performer (yes, I really was a circus performer), I was working with friends aerialist Wini McKay and Guinness World record holding foot juggler Chester Cable at a small county fair in Los Banos, California. It was there that I had what was, up to that point in my young life, the greatest cookie I had ever tasted. A ladies auxiliary of the Lion's Club, Knights of Columbus, Rotary Club or some other such worthy civic organization was selling these home baked slices of heaven at the fair. Wini, Chester, and I were hooked, eating at least three a day for the entire run of the fair.

I asked, make that pleaded, begged even, for the recipe. Each day the ladies promised they would ask the elusive "Marge -- aka keeper of the sacred formula"-- to bring it to the fair. Well, Sunday night came and no Marge, no recipe. Trying to hide my disappointment, I left my address with the ladies, and tried to prepare for the upcoming morning's unavoidable round of baked goods withdrawal.

Well, months went by and I came to accept that the treats were forever lost. But one day, when the sun was shining just a little bit brighter and the birds were singing just a little louder (OK the birds were actually irritating, but that's another story), salvation arrived --an unmarked envelope -- in it a single sheet of white paper, and on that paper, a recipe. No signature, no return address.

The ever mysterious Marge at work? Or had one of the other ladies fearlessly gone against the recipe keeper's wishes and sent it? Whoever it was, did she know, as we do, that such a recipe mustn't be kept a secret? It must be shared with the world! Whoever was responsible for this act of culinary good samaritanism, I was never able to thank them. But if you're out there, I, and everyone who tries these cookies, really do appreciate it.

In typical fashion, I had to fiddle with the recipe, but I think my addition of toffee chips makes it even more perfect.

The cookies are very simple to make. It is actually easier to mix them by hand, as opposed to using an electric mixer. Cheri likes to make them using all the optional ingredients, but feel free to mix and match as you see fit (keeping the total overall amount of options more or less equal). Don't like raisins? Use more chocolate chips. Don't like nuts? Omit them. You get the picture.

The cookies make wonderful gifts, either freshly baked or as frozen cookie dough. You might want to keep some well wrapped frozen dough in your own freezer as well. Just slice off a couple of cookies at a time and bake in the oven or toaster oven. What could be better?

Makes About 3 Dozen Cookies

1 cup butter, melted and cooled
1 cup sugar
1 cup brown sugar
2 eggs, beaten
1 cup oats (uncooked oatmeal)
1 cup crushed corn flakes cereal
2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons vanilla
Options (mix and match as you like):
3/4 cup sweetened shredded coconut
1 cup raisins
1 cup chocolate chips
3/4 cup toffee chips
3/4 cup chopped walnuts or other nuts

Preheat oven to 375° F.

In a large mixing bowl, combine oats, corn flakes, sugars, raisins and coconut. Add eggs, vanilla and melted butter. Mix till well blended. Mix in chocolate chips.

In a separate bowl, mix flour salt, baking powder and baking soda. Add flour mixture and stir until it is all incorporated into the dough.

Drop rounded tablespoons of dough onto a greased cookie sheet and bake for 12 -15 minutes or until nicely browned. Cool on a wire rack.