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“Healthified” Chili

Turkey Chili


“Healthified” … it may not be a real word, but I believe it accurately describes this recipe and my year twenty ten goal to make healthier Food choices.  It does not mean that I promise to cook ONLY healthy foods (I still have to have chocolate and such things now and again), but rather I am going to make better choices … eat better food by creating “healthified” versions of my favorite recipes.  

I wanted to cook something substantial, something meaty and satisfying … Chili seemed to be the perfect dish to make over.  Ground turkey proved to be the best substitution for ground beef.  If you are a chili die-hard and find using turkey sacrilegious, a better choice for you might be 93/7 ground beef.  It will cost you a few more of your food budget dollars, but will be a better overall food choice.  I have to take a moment here and share with you a family chili story that has stuck with me.  Years ago, my mother was on Weight Watchers, she was preparing WW chili … now I know I was just a kid, but I was smart enough to know that green beans and tomato sauce was not my idea of chili!  My point is that food substitutions do not have to be that drastic! 

Read the labels on the canned goods before you toss them in your grocery cart.  Be aware of the fat content, salt content, know what you are buying.  Is there a better food choice sitting on the shelf that you missed?  It is small things like this that can aid you in your quest to drop a few pounds. I am not a weight loss expert by any means, but I have had some experience in losing weight.   When you create “healthified” versions of your favorite recipes load them up with ingredients that are good for you.  “Healthified” food can be fun and tasty.


1 and ½   pounds of ground turkey  (ground turkey breast is 99% fat free)
1 large onion, diced
1   14.5 ounce can of diced tomatoes  (I use fire roasted for greater flavor)
1 and ½  cups of tomato sauce
3  Tablespoons of diced green chilis from the can , optional  (I use the whole 4 oz can with juice)
2  Teaspoons of chili powder  (I use one Tablespoon as I like it a bit spicy)
1  Teaspoon cumin  (I use 2 Teaspoons)
1  15 ounce can of beans drained  (Use the kind you like … I used Great White Northern)
Salt and pepper to taste. 

Brown the turkey and the onion. 

Add the diced tomatoes, tomato sauce, green chilis, chili powder and cumin.  Let this mixture simmer for at least 15 minutes.  (I prefer to simmer 30- 45 minutes.)  Taste and then salt and pepper to taste.  If you would like more spice fell free to add the spices of your choice.  This is a basic recipe that you can enhance to fit your personal taste.  ( I do add a bit of onion powder and garlic powder.)  Add the beans in just before serving and let them warm through.

I like to garnish with fat free sour cream, chopped green onion and a bit of fat free cheddar cheese.

Turkey Chili



To Brine or Not To Brine … Hop on the Turkey Brining Bandwagon!

Brined turkey ... just out of the oven!


Lets be honest … the average turkey, even when prepared by the most experienced home cook, can be very dry and even a tad bland.  Traditionally we salvage the dry turkey by disguising the problem with gravy!  

Over the years, I have followed numerous cooking suggestions in an attempt to create a flavorful, moist Thanksgiving main course.  I have deep-fried, wood-smoked, stuffed, buffed and dry-rubbed.  I have roasted the bird “sitting”, breast up, breast down, on the right side, on the left side and have used endless combinations of these positions.

This year I ask you to end this madness — consider it behind you and just brine!

Thanksgiving of 2008, I jumped on the turkey-brining bandwagon.  If a leisurely dip in a simple salt water solution could offer my supermarket turkey new life, I was game.  Even though this process required some thoughtful planning, very little hands-on time was necessary.  The payoff – white meat that was moist and tasty and my gravy was needed only on the mashed potatoes!

Brined ... Roasted ... and Carved.

STEP 1 – Make the Brine
Makes 2 gallons

3   cups kosher salt, coarse
1   cup brown sugar  (you can use white sugar)
2   teaspoons pepper  (I used black peppercorns and smahed them with my cast iron skillet)
4   bay leaves
4   stems of fresh sage
4   stems of fresh thyme
5   cloves of garlic, minced
1   small onion, thinly sliced
1   gallon boiling water  (1 gallon = 16 cups)
1   gallon ice cold water

Stir the salt, sugar, pepper, bay leaves, sage, thyme, garlic and onions together in a large stock pot.  Add 1 gallon (16 cups) of water and bring to a boil.  Remove from the heat and allow the mixture to steep for 30 minutes.   Add the remaining gallon of ice cold water.  If your pot does not hold 2 gallons it will be necessary to allow the brine to cool completely and add the additional ice cold water directly into the brining bag.  (I was able to add some of the ice cold water to my pot to help it cool faster, then poured the remaining cold water into the brining bag.)

Making the brine.

STEP 2 – Submerge the Bird

1   10 – 15 pound turkey
1   Brining Bag
1   Cooler

Place the thawed turkey in a brining bag.  I purchased a large 24 inch square brining bag.  Make sure you use a food-grade bag.  (DO NOT use garbage or other plastic bags that are not specifically intended for food use.)  Put the bagged turkey in a clean cooler.  Pour the brine over the turkey (in the bag) making sure the breasts are fully submerged.  Zip/seal the bag closed.  Surround the sealed bag with ice.  The cooler needs to be in a cool place such as your garage, deck etc.  Keep the brine below 40 degrees.  I find that brining for at least 12 hours produces great results.  After the brining process, discard the brine.

Note:  For a larger turkey you may wish to make additional brine.  Be careful to do so using the proportions in the recipe.  You want to maintain the integrity of the brining solution.

Bird and brine in the bag, in the cooler!

Bird and brine on ice.

Bird and brine on ice, gonna spend the night on the deck.

STEP 3 – Prepare to Roast

Remove the turkey from the brine about 1 hour before you are ready to roast it.  Place it on a sheet pan, let it drain and pat it dry inside and out.  Dry skin equals crispy skin!

Pull the bird out of the brine, let excess brine drain off.

Place the brined turkey on a sheet pan, let drain and pat dry.

12   tablespoons of unsalted butter, room temperature
1     rounded tablespoon thyme leaves, minced
1     rounded tablespoon sage leaves, minced
1     rounded tablespoon Italian flat leaf parsley, minced

Combine all the ingredients in a bowl.  Insert your hand under the skin on the breast of the turkey and lift the skin from the meat. Rub the herb butter on top of the meat and place the skin back down.  Rub the outside of the turkey with some of this herb butter.  (You can use olive oil.)  Truss the bird for roasting.

Herb Butter -- think of it as Turkey sun tan lotion!

Carefully, run your hand under the skin on the turkey to loosen it. Rub the herbed butter under the skin.


Place a long piece of cooking twine under the turkey and bring the ends up between the wing and the body of the bird.

In order to wrap the twine around the turkey, move your hands and the twine forward til even with the bird.

Position the twine so you can wrap around the bottom and come up the side of the turkey, catching the wings tips against the body. In this photo you can see the herb butter under the skin.

Once you have captured the wing tips with the twine, cross the twine and pull tight.

Keeping the twine tight, and the wing tips secure against the body of the bird, tie the legs together.

STEP 4 – Roasting the Turkey

I placed the turkey in a pre-heated 400 degree oven, breast side down for one hour.

 There are many theories on what is the best roasting technique.  Some take the even temperature approach, others crank the heat high at the beginning, then finish at a lower temperature.  For a good basic roast, I suggest starting at 400 degrees F for an hour, then reduce the temperature to 350 degrees F for the remainder of the cooking time. (Allow approximately 15 minutes per pound of turkey.)  Make sure that you add liquid to the roasting pan and occasionally check to make sure this liquid has not completely evaporated.  Roast the turkey until the breast registers 160 to 165 degrees F and the thickest part of the thigh reaches 175 degrees F.  To keep the skin from burning, tent the bird with foil.  Allow the turkey to rest 20 minutes before carving.  

After one hour the backside of the turkey is nicely browned.

Reduce oven temperature to 350 degrees. Flip the turkey breast side up. I rubbed olive oil on the skin.

Turkey under a tent to keep the skin from burning.

Brined, roasted and carved.

I Heart Cooking Clubs: Chicken, Mushroom and Bacon Pie

Nigella Lawson's Chicken, Mushroom & Bacon Pie

Nigella Lawson's Chicken, Mushroom & Bacon Pie

This week’s challenge is Family Favorites.

DEBBIE  SAYS:  My Family Favorites = Comfort food!   This is a “dressed up” version of the chicken pot pie I am used to.  The Marsala wine in the sauce really adds a subtle rich flavor.   I was a little afraid of it when I first read the recipe … but am so happy I did not choose to ignore it!   Nigella has no second thoughts about taking a little “store bought” assistance with the puff pastry, so I extended it to include the use of a rotisserie chicken purchased from my local Price Chopper.

NIGELLA  SAYS:  Even the word pie is comforting.  But then, it would be hard to deny the very real lure of pastry, especially when – as here – you know you’re going to dunk it in gravied juices till its gorgeous lightness is deliciously, soggily heavy.  I concede, however, that making and rolling out your own pastry is not necessarily the speediest option, so I use bought, all-butter-, ready-rolled puff pastry and feel fine about it.  I make the pie even easier, by browning the chicken and making the sauce all in one go.  And a gold-crusted, welcoming pie for 2 in half an hour is not bad going.



  • 3 rashers streaky bacon, cut or scissored into 1-inch strips  (OK … I admit I used MORE bacon!)
  • 1 teaspoon garlic infused oil  (I just added some minced garlic.)
  • 2 cups chestnut mushrooms, sliced into 1/4-inch pieces  (I used baby bellas.)
  • 8 ounces chicken thigh fillets cut into 1-inch pieces  (I used a store bought rotisserie chicken.)
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1 1/4 cups hot chicken stock
  • 1 tablespoon Marsala  (This is an important ingredient … please use.)
  • 1 (13-ounce) 9 by 16-inch sheet all-butter ready-rolled puff pastry


Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. Fry the bacon strips in the oil until beginning to crisp, then add the sliced mushrooms and soften them in the pan with the bacon.

Turn the chicken strips in the flour and thyme (you could toss them about in a freezer bag), and then melt the butter in the pan before adding the floury chicken and all the flour left in the bag.   Stir around with the bacon and mushrooms until the chicken begins to color.

Pour in the hot stock and Marsala, stirring to form a sauce and let this bubble away for about 5 minutes.

Make a pastry rim for each of your pots for the pies, by this I mean an approximately 1/2-inch strip curled around the top of the pots.  Dampen the edges to make them stick.  Cut a circle bigger than the top of each pie-pot for the lid, and then divide the chicken filling between the two.  Dampen the edges again and then pop on the top of each pie sealing the edges with your fingers or the underneath of the prongs of a fork.

(I cut out pastry rounds that are a bit bigger than the pot pie bowls and bake on a parchment lined, sheet pan.   When I try and adhere the pastry rounds to the bowls they never puff up enough.  When the rounds are puffed and browned you set them on top of your chicken pot pie bowls!) 

Cook the pies for about 20 minutes turning them around half way through cooking. Once cooked, they should puff up magnificently.

Outdoor Grilling: Tuscan Lemon Chicken

Outdoor Grilling:  Tuscan Lemon Chicken

Outdoor Grilling: Tuscan Lemon Chicken

Tuscan Lemon Chicken
adapted from a recipe by Barefoot Contessa, Back to Basics

1   3-4 pound chicken, flattened    (I had a 3  and 3/4 pound chicken.)
Kosher Salt
Springs of fresh rosemary
2 garlic cloves sliced thin

2 lemons, halved

1/2  cup olive oil
Zest of 2 lemons
4  Cloves of minced garlic   (I like to finely grate on a microplane.)
2  Tablespoons of fresh rosemary leaves  (From my herb garden!)
Freshly ground black pepper

1.)  Use a very sharp pair of kitchen shears or a sharp knife to cut out the backbone.   Make a cut or slice down each side of the backbone.  This is not hard, just be careful.

Carefully remove the backbone from the chicken.

Carefully remove the backbone from the chicken.

2.)  Use your kitchen shears to trim away any protruding rib bones once the backbone has been removed.
3.)  Flatten the chicken by “bending the chicken in half”.  Bend the breasts and the thighs back toward one another.  You can make this easier by removing the “keel bone” located inside the cavity between the breasts. 

Remove the "keel bone" from between the breasts.

Remove the "keel bone" from between the breasts.

"Keel bone" has been removed.

"Keel bone" has been removed.

1.)  Rinse the chicken well under cold water, remove any excess fat and pat the bird dry with a paper towel.
2.)  I like to place sprigs of fresh rosemary and slices of garlic under the skin of the chicken.

Plcing fresh rosemary sprigs and sliced garlic under the skin gives the chicken a greast flavor burst!

Placing fresh rosemary sprigs and sliced garlic under the skin gives the chicken a great flavor burst!

Close up of rosemary and garlic under the skin.

Close up of rosemary and garlic under the skin.

3.)  Sprinkle the chicken with 1 teaspoon of salt on each side.

1.)  Combine all ingredients for the marinade.

Rosemary from my "deck" herb garden.

Rosemary from my "deck" herb garden.

Ingredients for the marinade.

Ingredients for the marinade.

2.)  Place the flattened chicken in  a plastic bag and cover with the marinade.  Try to get as much air out of the bag as possible and close the seal.   Refrigerate for 4 to 6 hours, turning the bag over every hour or so.

Chicken covered with marinade.

Chicken covered with marinade.

1.)   Turn your gas grill to medium low.  You do not want to cook at a high heat.  The temperature gauge on my gas grill was reading about 300 degrees. 
2.)  Liberally wipe the grill grates with cooking oil to aid in the prevention of sticking.  (Next time I will use a bit more oil on the grill as the skin did stick and pull away in places when removing it from the grill.)
3.)  Place the chicken, bone side down, on the grill.  Weight the chicken down with a foil covered cast iron skillet large enough to cover the chicken.  You can use foil covered bricks as well.  (When grilling a whole chicken, the bones help the chicken hold its shape and retain flavor. They also help the chicken cook faster and more evenly.  That’s why it helps to start the chicken on the grill with the bones facing the heat source.)

Place the chicken "bone side down" on the grill.

Place the chicken "bone side down" on the grill.

Outdoor Grilling:  Lemon Tuscan Chicken

Outdoor Grilling: Lemon Tuscan Chicken

4.)  Cook for 12 to 15 minutes, until the underside is golden brown.  Turn the chicken skin side down, weight again with the cast iron pan, and cook for another 15 minutes, until the skin is brown and the chicken cooked thru.  (I cooked until the internal temperature reached about 165 degrees.  When I turned the chicken skin side down, it did create some flames that cooked the skin more than I wanted.  Although it did not affect the taste of the chicken, the appearance was not what I had hoped for.  Next time, I will do a better job of controlling the flames in the hopes of nicely golden brown skin on the finished chicken!)

After 15 minutes, flip the chicken and turn skin side down.

After 15 minutes, flip the chicken and turn skin side down. Replace the (cast iron skillet) weight on top of the chicken.

5.)  During the last 15 minutes of grilling, place the lemon halves cut side down on the grill.  I was surprised at how juicy the lemons were after grilling.   I squeezed the first one I picked up a bit too hard and lost all the juice!  
6.)  Remove the chicken from the grill when cooked thru and allow to rest for at least 5 minutes.  Squeeze the lemons over the chicken just before serving.

Barefoot Bloggers: Chicken Piccata

Ingredients for Chicken Piccata
Ingredients for Chicken Piccata

I’m sending a big thank you to Lindsey of Noodle Nights and Muffin Mornings for spot-lighting Chicken Piccata  as a Barefoot Bloggers March recipe.  Never in a million years would I have tried this recipe on my own … I like all the ingredients … but have passed it over time and time again.   Now maybe if it had been called something a bit more understandable like … lets say … “Lemon Chicken”,  I might have been more receptive early on.

piccata defination
pic·cata (pi kätə, pē-)

designating a dish consisting of a thin, breaded and sautéed slice of veal, chicken, etc. with a sauce of lemon, white wine, and butter veal piccata, chicken piccata

I believe the word “piccata” may have been holding me back!
But no more …

Chicken Piccata ... ready to serve

Chicken Piccata ... ready to serve.

 I am convinced this would be an ideal main course when entertaining a larger crowd.  The chicken could be prepared and held in the oven until it was time to make the sauce.  It would certainly allow me to spend more time with my guests just prior to dinner, rather than being so consumed with a much more complicated menu choice.  It plates up beautifully and just screams “I’ve been in the kitchen all day preparing this just for you”.

It looks like you spent all day in the kitchen.

It looks like you spent all day in the kitchen.

In the spirit of sharing with friends, like Ina often does, I chose to take a serving to a friend and get her opinion on my first Barefoot Bloggers cooking adventure.   OK … it was actually my Mother whose taste buds I enlisted … but she promised to be totally unbiased and completely honest.   Because she was not hungry at the time I delivered it, I was forced to wait 24 hours for her official comments!

Just one more look!

Just one more look!

Mom says, “It was delicious on the second day … even after having been reheated”.

… and as we all know … Mom’s never fib.