Category Archive for: ‘Main Dishes’
Notes from Thanksgiving – a few successes

Notes to self:

Self- in the future try to have fewer than 55 items on the menu for the week, 40 of which were new recipes I’ve never tried before.

Self- Don’t renovate the kitchen two days before a major holiday when 6 guests are coming to Thanksgiving dinner.

Attempted and the Result

My eyes are always bigger than my stomach and I seem to always be thinking about what I can accomplish with energy and dexterity I had 15 years ago.  The following are the dishes I scheduled to cook for the holiday week.  Some were good, some bad, and some were memorable.  Click on the links for the recipes:

Spinach Balls –  These looked great and weren’t too hard to make.  I substituted Panko bread crumbs for the All Brand Buds – the buds looked too much like kibble.  I sauteed fresh spinach instead of using frozen and  I also made my own croutons instead of using stuffing mix.  I screwed up by cooking them too long and some were burned and some were ok.  The mustard dip was great if you make your own ranch dressing.  I’d do these again and not cook them to death.  They did hold together well.  I made the balls with a small scoop and they were easy.



 Mario Batali’s Stuffed Cabbage –  This is a killer, must do and remember type of recipe.  The instructions include a “how to” on how to make the leaves soft enough to fold easily and was perfect and easy.  The recipe is vegetarian, but you could leave out the cheese and make it vegan pretty easily, or add meat and have a great dish too.  I substituted grated white cheddar cheese for the ricotta and Pecorino and it was very nice.  I didn’t have to use tooth picks to hold the packets together.  I just rolled them up and turned them seam down on the cooking sheet.  I did drizzle a little olive oil on the outside before baking and sprinkled that with Panko bread crumbs for a little crunch.  I’m using some sesame seeds next time. Every one loved this dish with the freshly made tomato sauce.


 Upside Down Potato and Onion Tart –   This may have been the best dish of the week.  It was gone in 60 sec, just like the movie.  I made this one exactly like the recipe called for, cutting my onions and potatoes on a mandolin slicer, which made it faster but wasn’t necessary.  I used a 9 inch, deep-sided, cast-iron skillet and everything fit nicely.  This can be cooked this a little in advance, which I did and when it came time to flip it onto a serving plate I had to warm the bottom and run a knife around the side of the skillet to release it from the pan, but that worked perfectly.  The tart cut cleanly using a pizza wheel and everyone wondered why I didn’t make two.  My only recommendation is to make sure you have another pan under the skillet when you put it into the oven to catch spill over and avoid filling the kitchen with smoke.


 Turkey number 1 – the rotisserie turkey is always a winner.  We have a Ronco standard rotisserie oven that gets used 3, sometimes 4 or 5 times a week.  I use it for everything from meat to vegetables.  The turkey gets brined with a 1/2 cup of sugar and 1/2 cup of salt to every 2 gals of water, over night.  You don’t really have to do the brine with the rotisserie as it distributes the juices and always leaves a juicy result.  I dry the bird and rub it with olive oil, then sprinkle liberally with McCormick’s lemon-pepper.  That’s it.  This bird was a 13 pounder so I cooked it for 3 hours and 15 mins, then rotated without heat to redistribute the juices for 20 mins.  Easy. It pulls apart.



Turkey number 2, the de-boned stuffed turkey – My first de-boning of a turkey, went as well as could be expected.  No skin tears or bone fragments.  I cheated a little and left the wing and leg bones intact to better represent a whole turkey.  The stuffing was my own mix of rice, whole hard cooked eggs, spinach, arugula, mushrooms, dried fruit and nuts. The eggs were mostly for presentation when the bird was sliced, but I should have added 2 or 3 raw eggs to the mix to bind the stuffing more.  When it was cut the stuffing kind of fell out. The second picture shows the sliced bird.  I was able to eat the stuffing which was great.  Nice and moist.  Everyone loved the turkey and it would have been a star if it hadn’t been for the rotisserie turkey.


 This is the sliced bird with the egg reveal.





 The winner is!!  Pretzel rolls – this recipe got the most raves of all.  We had these with a nice potato soup that I made last week and Darlene doctored.  Chopped turkey was optional to add to the soup.  These rolls were easy to make.  They only have to rise about an hour and they you poach them in a salt/soda bath to make a pretzel like crust before baking them for 20 mins.  Crust on outside, doughy on the inside.  Great with butter or dipped in the soup.  I’ll be making these once a month at least.



 Thought I’d show you one of the desserts.  This is a double layer cheese cake with pistachio nuts on the outside and dried cherries and fresh blackberries on top.  Mine isn’t as pretty as the recipe, which was only one layer, but it was good.  I didn’t chop the nuts, so mine didn’t cover as well as the recipe’s and I changed the berries too.  My mother and I jointly made this cake using an old standard Philadelphia cheese cake recipe that is a never fail recipe.  It is so rich that only a small piece with satisfy even the sweetest of tooths.




More successes and failures on my next post – jughandle

How to Make Your own Pasta

There are few things more satisfying than to make your own pasta.  It is delicious, inexpensive, healthy (no additives) and looks like you went to a hell of a lot of trouble for your guests.  (but it is easy).  I’ve been making my own pasta and teaching others for close to 40 years.  The following video by Jamie Oliver is a good example of how easy and fast it is to make your own pasta.  You can even dry and freeze your fresh pasta for even quicker meals later.

Jamie Oliver




The recipe I’m about to give you is different than Jamie’s but I’ve had good results over the years with it.

1 cup of all-purpose or whole wheat or semolina flour

1 T olive oil

1 1/8 tsp salt

1 whole egg

1/2 c water (only use as much of it as necessary)

This is enough for 2 normal servings.  For a dinner of two couples I would make at least 3 of these.  If you have leftovers, freeze them or refrigerate and use them tomorrow.


Just as in Jamie’s video, I’d mix the dough in a food processor.  Put all of the ingredients in the processor except the water.

Turn on the processor and as it turns into a grainy texture, drizzle, very slowly, water in through the feed port.  Stop adding water just as the dough starts to ball up.  Continue to process for another 10 seconds until the dough sticks to the blade in a ball and spins around the processor.  Remove and rest the pasta ball under a clean towel for 5 minutes, or while you make the other servings you require.

By hand

To continue by hand, knead the dough  for 5 minutes or until it is elastic without cellulite like bumps in it.  Dust the rolling surface with flour and roll out your pasta into long thin sheets about a 1/16 of an inch thick.  Then dust the sheets again with flour and roll the sheets into loose rolls to slice with a knife to the thickness of pasta desired.

By Machine 

Using a pasta machine is by far the best way to make pasta.  You can find machines everywhere and for all prices.  My machine is a Pasta Queen and has 8 settings, allowing me to make very thin pasta.  Some machines are expense, electric machines that do almost everything for you.  You can get a decent machine for under $40.00

Knead the pasta on the thickess setting until it is smooth.  Then lower the setting one pass at a time until you reach the desired thickness.  Then turn the handle around to the cutting side and cut into noodles.

Cooking Fresh Pasta

Cooking fresh pasta couldn’t be easier or quicker.  Bring a large pot of water and 3 T of salt to a boil.  When you reach a rolling boil add your fresh pasta.  You’ll need to have your colander ready in the sink because the cooking should only take 45 to 90 seconds.  After the noodles are done transfer them into the colander and briefly run cold water on them to stop the cooking.  After draining the pasta, place the colander, pasta and all on top of or in the still warm (but not on) pot.  Stir in a little butter or olive oil.  Season and serve.


I hope you try this pasta making thing.  You can have fun with your guests or kids – jughandle


Quinoa-Stuffed Peppers

Quinoa (pronounced keen-wa)

If you aren’t familiar with Quinoa you are in for a treat.





Quinoa is a grain from South America that can be prepared like rice.  Unlike rice, Quinoa is a whole balanced protein and is high in fiber and is gluten-free.  In its raw state it can be spouted in as little as 2-4 hours activating its natural enzymes and multiplying its vitamin content.

To prepare Quinoa buy the pre-rinsed variety which has the hull or saponins removed. Rinse the grain briefly in cold water.  Cook as you would rice.  One cup of grain for 2 cups of water or other favored liquid, such as stock or even vegetable juice.  Bring to a boil and then reduce the heat to a simmer.  Cook 10 -15 minutes or until the germ separates from the seed.






With any satisfying meal it is important to not only have good flavors, but combine different textures and even different temperatures.  The crunch of the pepper with the mouth texture of the quinoa and the spice of the tomato mixture and topping provide depth of flavor, texture and spice that is hard to find in any dish.  For a whole meal serve with a cold tossed salad.  This recipe is an original Fat Farm creation.  Let me know what you think. – jug

Stuffed Pepper Directions – Recipe

1. Bring a large pot of water (1 to 2 qts) to a boil.  Put spinach into boiling water for 30 sec. then remove and quickly place in cold water to stop the cooking process.  Reserve.

2. Heat olive oil in saucepan over medium heat. Add onion and celery, and cook 5 minutes, or until soft. Add cumin and garlic, and sauté 1 additional minute. Stir in spinach and  Ro Tel brand tomatoes & green chilies (reserve juice). Cook 5-10 minutes, or until most of liquid has evaporated.

3. Stir in kidney beans, quinoa, carrots, and 2 cups water. Cover, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low, and simmer 20 minutes, or until quinoa is tender. Stir in 1 cup crumbled extra firm tofu. Season with salt and pepper.

3. Preheat oven to 350°F. Pour liquid from tomatoes in bottom of baking dish.

4. Cut the top off of each bell pepper and with a spoon remove the seeds and as much of the white membrane as possible, then rinse.  Fill each bell pepper with heaping amount of the quinoa mixture, and place in baking dish. Cover with foil, and bake 1 hour. Uncover, top with 1 T of tomato spread and bake 15 minutes more, or until tops of stuffed peppers are browned. Let stand 5 minutes. Transfer stuffed peppers to serving plates, and sauce each with seasoned pan juices before serving.

Note: any remaining stuffing can be frozen for later use.



4 large bell peppers (use multiple colors)

3/4 c of uncooked Quinoa

1 medium onion finely chopped (1 cup)

2 T olive oil

2 ribs of celery, finely chopped (1/2 c)

1 T ground cumin or 1/2 T cumin seeds

2 cloves of minced garlic (2 tsp)

1 cup of extra firm tofu (optional)

1 lb of fresh spinach, blanched and squeezed dry

1 – 10 oz can of RoTel brand Diced tomatoes & green chilies 





1 15 oz can of kidney beans.





4 T Tomato Spread or similar *


*This topping can be cheese which would be very tasty but would change the dish from vegan to vegetarian.  For my vegan friends, Tofutti brand foods have some acceptable dairy substitutes.  Try the health food section of Whole Foods or your local store.



These stuffed peppers can be made and frozen for several months.  Frozen peppers make a very fast meal, just put in a 350 deg oven for 30 mins or until completely heated through. – jughandle