Roasting a Turkey

Whole roasted turkey

Are you nervous about cooking a whole turkey? It’s OK, I was too, but I’ll let you in on a little secret, it’s really very easy! Honestly, I don’t know what all the fuss is about cooking turkey for Thanksgiving. If you want an easy and quick way to cook a medium-sized turkey, this is a great method:


1 whole turkey, defrosted (13-15 pounds)

2 cups of chicken broth or 2 cups water plus 2 tsp Better Than Bouillon Chicken Base

1 lemon, cut in half

1 head of garlic, top cut off to expose all the cloves

3-4 sprigs of fresh rosemary

salt & pepper

olive oil


  1. Heat oven to 400°F
  2. Remove the turkey from the package. Remove bag containing neck and organ meats. If making gravy, place them in a small pot and cover with water, set to a low simmer. Directions for gravy at the end of this post.
  3. Rinse turkey and allow to drain a few minutes. Place turkey breast side up on a rack in a roasting pan with rack.
  4. Place cut lemon, garlic and rosemary inside the cavity of the turkey.
  5. Drizzle turkey with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. It is not necessary to truss (tie up) the legs.
  6. Add chicken broth or water to the bottom of the roasting pan.
  7. Place turkey in the oven on a rack that allows equal space above and below the bird.
  8. Cook for 2-2½ hours. After 1 hour pour some of the liquid from the pan over the breast and legs with a baster or a ladle. Check turkey at two hours, if the skin is brown enough but the meat is not up to temperature, cover the turkey with foil to prevent the skin from burning.
  9. Use a meat thermometer to check for proper temperature of 180° in the thickest part of the thigh meat and at least 165° in the thickest part of the breast – be sure you are not touching the bone at either point or you may get a false reading.
  10. Remove turkey from roasting pan and allow to rest for 20 minutes before carving. Reserve liquid from roasting pan for gravy if desired, see below.


Directions for Homemade Gravy

  1. Simmer the neck and organ meats in a small pot  with water and 1 tsp of chicken bullion paste or one cube of bouillon while the turkey roasts in the oven.
  2. While turkey is resting, place roasting pan drippings into a gravy separator, or a tall narrow vessel (measuring cup or pint drinking glass) and  skim off as much of the excess fat as possible. Some will be olive oil from rubbing the turkey, so don’t worry too much!
  3. After excess fat has been removed, pour pan drippings into a medium skillet over medium heat.
  4. Remove turkey neck that has been simmering and shred the meat, add to skillet. Discard organ meats.
  5. Mix 2 TBSP of cornstarch in 1/4 cup of water until well blended, add half to the drippings to start with and allow to simmer until it begins to thicken. Add additional cornstarch mix to thicken further if desired.
  6. Season to taste with salt, pepper and granulated garlic. I used about 1/2 tsp each.

Slow Cooker Beef Barbacoa

My husband had some great beef barbacoa while traveling for work and requested that I try to make it at home. I’m always up for a cooking challenge, but not having tasted this dish before I wasn’t sure what I was making or how it was supposed to taste.

I searched the internet and read MANY barbacoa recipes. What I found was that beef barbacoa looked a lot like pulled pork (something I’ve made for years), and all the recipes had a few things in common: slow cooked, shredded beef; chilies (usually chipoltle chilies in adobo); onions; and acids like vinegar or lime juice. I’m a big fan of slow cookers so I decided to use my 6 Quart Crock Pot for this dish.

Yield: 8-10 servings for adults


4-5 lbs of beef chuck roast (I used two 2.5 lb roasts)

1 cup beef stock

1/2 yellow or white onion, rough chopped

5 whole garlic cloves

1/2 cup apple cider vinegar

2 TBSP fresh lime juice (2-3 limes)

4-5 chipoltle chilies in adobo sauce, plus extra sauce from the can

4 tsp cumin

2 tsp oregano

1/2 tsp allspice

1/4 tsp ground cloves

1 tsp salt

1 tsp ground black pepper

1 small can tomato paste


  1. Place beef roast(s) and stock in the slow cooker.
  2. Add remaining ingredients (except tomato paste) to a blender and puree until ingredients are finely chopped.
  3. Pour sauce over roast and cook for 6 hours on high or 8-10 hours on low.
  4. Leave slow cooker on high, remove meat from liquid and shred, removing any excess fat. Return meat to crock pot, add tomato paste and mix well. Allow to heat through and thicken, about 15 minutes.
  5. Serve warm in tacos or burritos.


  • If using more than one roast you may need to cut them to fit the slow cooker better.
  • Slow cooker sizes and temperatures vary. Check the slow cooker towards the end of cooking time. The goal is for the meat to be shredded, but not mush. Nobody wants meat paste tacos!
  • Canned chipoltle chilies vary in heat. After making the sauce in the blender taste it before adding to the meat. If you like it hotter add more; if you like mild, start with only 3 chilies.
  • This is a very flavorful meat with a spicy, tangy sauce. Simple taco toppings which compliment the flavor include chopped onion, sour cream, fresh cilantro or chopped cabbage.
  • My Corn and Jalapeno Saute makes a great side dish for this meal.
beef barbacoa sauce

Taste the sauce before adding it to the beef. You can add more chipoltle chilies if you like it hotter!

slow cooker beef barbacoa

Beef is finished cooking. I like to remove the excess fat while shredding it, then return to the pot.

King’s Hawaiian Slider Burgers

Slider burgers are a fun twist on a family favorite. I used King’s Hawaiian dinner rolls for the buns and it was a hit with the kids and my husband. The soft sweet rolls are just the right size for sliders. I made one for each of the kids and two for us (adults).


Kings Hawaiian Slider Burgers

A fun and easy weeknight dinner for the family!

8-10 Slider Burgers


1 package (12 count) King’s Hawaiian dinner rolls

1 1/2 lbs ground beef

Salt, pepper

Lettuce, tomato, sliced onions, pickles

Sliced cheddar cheese

Mayo, mustard, ketchup or thousand island dressing


  1. Slice rolls in half and set aside. Try not to eat too many as you are making dinner!
  2. Form beef into patties 3″ in diameter, 1/2″ thick. Season lightly with salt and pepper.
  3. Fry hamburgers until beef is medium-well done.
  4. Server with oven baked French fries, potato chips, potato salad, green salad or beans.

Baked Penne Pasta with Summer Vegetables

This baked pasta is a nice change from the usual pasta and red sauce. It’s loaded with colorful veggies and gooey mozzarella cheese. Serve with a green salad and you could have dinner for 4-6 people for around $12.

This recipe comes from eMeals Simple Gourmet eating plan. I’ll do a full review of eMeals explaining exactly how it works and how it saves me money very soon. For now, all you need to know is that eMeals provides a weekly meal plan (7 dinners) that includes recipes for a main dish and sides and a convenient shopping list for all meals. I’ve been using the service for a few weeks and I’m really happy with it!

If you are interested in checking it out, click on the ad below.

eMeals - Easy Meals for Busy People!

Anyway, on to the recipe!

Baked Penne Pasta with Summer Vegetables


1 box (16 oz.) penne pasta

1 TBSP olive oil

2 cups chopped yellow onion

1 medium zucchini, chopped

2 medium tomatoes, chopped

1 yellow bell pepper, chopped

2 TBSP chopped fresh thyme

1 tsp salt

1 tsp pepper

8 oz package shredded mozzarella cheese

vegetarian cheesy baked penne pasta


  1. Preheat oven to 400° F. Cook pasta according to package directions.
  2. Heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add onion to pan; cook 3 minutes.
  3. Add bell pepper to pan; cook 3 minutes.
  4. Add zucchini to pan; cook 2 minutes or until beginning to soften.
  5. Add garlic, thyme, salt and pepper. Sauté 1 minute.
  6. Combine pasta, onion mixture, tomatoes and 1/2 the cheese in a medium bowl. Add pasta mixture to 7” x 11” baking dish.
  7. Sprinkle with remaining cheese. Bake 15 minutes or until bubbly and cheese is browned.

Rustic Beef Stew with Polenta and Green Beans

beef stew with polenta and green beans from Lesser Homes & Gardens

This is my new favorite cold weather stew. It has a great hearty texture and rich flavor. The recipe is adapted from the Rustic Italian Beef Stew recipe in the Pampered Chef Soups and Stews cookbook. I’ve made four recipes out of that cookbook and they have all been great so far! I’ve also included the accompaniments for the stew – polenta and pan cooked green beans.

Prep Time 30 minutes
Total Time 4 hours
Serves 6-8



1 1/2 large sweet onions

1 cup julienne sliced sun-dried tomatoes, drained of oil

3/4 cup dry red wine

3 TBSP tomato paste

1/4 cup all purpose flour

1 1/2 cups beef stock ( I use 1 1/2 cups water plus 2 tsp Better Than Bouillon beef base)

2 TBSP olive oil

1 1/2 tsp salt

1 tsp pepper

1 TBSP finely chopped fresh rosemary leaves

2 tsp chopped fresh garlic

3 1/2 pound beef pot roast, cut into 1 inch cubes


5 cups water

1 1/4 cups yellow cornmeal ( I like Golden Pheasant brand)

1 tsp salt

4 TBSP (1/2 stick) butter

1 cup fresh grated parmesan or Romano cheese


1 pound fresh green beans, cleaned and trimmed

1/2 large onion (leftover from stew ingredients) finely chopped

2-3 TBSP olive oil

2 tsp chopped fresh garlic

1/2 tsp kosher salt



  1.  Preheat oven to 350. Place chopped onions and drained sun-dried tomatoes into an enameled cast iron dutch oven or similar oven-proof lidded vessel.
  2. In a medium bowl combine wine, tomato paste and flour, whisking into well mixed. Add beef stock and whisk well, pour into  baking dish.
  3. Cut beef into 1 inch cubes and place in a large bowl.
  4. In a small dish combine olive oil, salt, pepper, garlic and rosemary. Pour over beef and toss to combine. Add beef mixture to baking dish.
  5. Cook covered for one hour. Remove from oven, stir stew and return to oven. Cook an additional 2 hours or until beef is tender.
  6. During the last 30 minutes of cooking begin the side dishes. Wash and trim green beans. Add olive oil to a large skillet over medium heat. Add chopped onion and saute 5 minutes, until onions become translucent. Add garlic and green beans. Cover and reduce heat to low. Cook for an additional 10 minutes or until green beans are tender and onions are slightly browned.
  7. While green beans are cooking start 5 cups of water to simmer for polenta. Add salt and whisk in cornmeal. Cook 4-5 minutes, whisking constantly until thick. Remove from heat. Add butter and cheese.
  8. Serve immediately. Place a spoonful of polenta on each plate, topped with stew and green beans along side. Enjoy!
beef stew with polenta and green beans from Lesser Homes & Gardens

The cookbook suggests baking in the Pampered Chef Deep Covered Baker. If you don’t have one, a cast iron Dutch oven will work fine.


Browned Butter Tortellini

This is one of my go-to meals after a long day. It’s super easy and is can be ready in less than 30 minutes. This recipe is adapted from a Pampered Chef recipe for tortellini and is a family size version of that recipe. Makes 6-8 large portions.

Browned Butter tortellini family size recipe


1 extra large package (24 oz) of tortellini (I like to use the 7 cheese tortellini from Costco)

1 ham steak or 1 pound fully cooked ham portion, such as Cure 81

1-2 red bell peppers, diced small

1 1/2 cubes butter

2 bags pre-washed baby spinach

grated parmesan or Romano cheese for garnish


  1. Boil tortellini in salted water according to package directions.
  2. Dice bell pepper and dice ham, set aside.
  3. Melt butter in a large (12″) skillet over medium heat. Cook and swirl butter in the skillet until melted and butter begins to turn slightly brown.
  4. Add bell pepper to butter and saute until it begins to become tender, 1-2 minutes.
  5. Add ham to skillet to heat through. Add spinach.
  6. Drain pasta well and add to skillet. Stir and allow spinach to wilt and flavors to combine, 2-3 minutes.
  7. Serve with sprinkling of grated parmesan or Romano cheese.


This is a very versatile method, just a pasta, a fully cooked meat and a vegetable cooked in a skillet.

  • Cheese ravioli, or small shaped pasta (rotini, bow-tie, etc.) can be used in place of tortellini
  • Ham can be replaced with other fully cooked meats, such as chicken sausage. Slice sausage into rounds.
  • Other vegetables such as broccoli or green beans can be used in place of the spinach.
  • Olive oil can be used in place of butter. Just heat up and continue with recipe.


Spiral Sliced Hot Dogs – Curly Dogs!

Spiral sliced hot dogsMy husband gets the credit for this one! He asked me to try to make spiral-sliced hot dogs for the grill. Apparently there was a viral video about spiral-sliced hot dogs circulating during the summer. As usual, I’m not up to date on the latest and greatest in internet trends! But lucky for all of you, my husband is.

I finally got around to trying it out this weekend. They are super fun to make, and do give you more of that yummy grilled flavor thanks to the increased surface area. They also hold a lot of toppings thanks to the corkscrew shape. These would be fun to do for a kids party or even for adults.

This is how you to it:

Step 1: Insert a kabob skewer down the length of the hot dog.

spiral sliced hot dogs

Step 2: Starting a one end, begin cutting at an angle down to the skewer.

spiral sliced hot dogs

Step 3: Turn the hot dog and continue cutting in one continuous cut until the end. Remove skewer.


spiral sliced hot dogs

On the right, done with the skewer. I also sliced a few carefully by hand (on the left).

Step 4: Grill as usual!


spiral sliced hot dogs

A few got a little too crispy. Oops!

Step 5: Serve them up in buns and top with mustard, relish etc. and enjoy!

spiral sliced hot dogs