The Enchanted Cook's Chicken Tortilla Soup featured in HomeAway Holiday-Rentals' Travel Cookbook

Chicken Tortilla Soup

Remember this delicious soup? It's the one I make in the slow cooker. Just looking at this now, makes me wish I was home and could make it. Instead I'm in a hotel in another city and my crock pot wouldn't fit in my carry-on bag, so no soup for me.

If I were vacationing in one of HomeAway Holiday-Rentals' homes, you can bet I'd be making this, though. In fact, they put together a cookbook full of tasty recipes from all over the world for their vacationers to take advantage of, and they selected my Chicken Tortilla Soup to be included. I'm honored! Take a look HERE - very cool :-)

There are tons of other great recipes in their Travel Cookbook, too, so feel free to peruse at will. You don't have to be on holiday to enjoy these delicious dishes!


Maple Planked Brie

Maple Planked Brie (before the grill) using Outdoor Gourmet's Fromagier Line of planks

Mmmm, warm melty brie crusted with sliced almonds and chewy dried cranberries, drizzled with honey...what a delicious small plate! Just perfect for the holidays, or any time of the year.

Imagine a cold snowy day, a warm crackling fire blazing away in the fireplace and everyone gathered around chatting after a long day of skiing enjoying this melted Brie with a glass of  Chardonnay before dinner. Sounds like fun to me!

Imagining it's snowing!

Outdoor Gourmet, environmentally-conscious maker of gourmet grilling planks made from reclaimed wood, was kind enough to send me a sample pack of some of their items to try. Their Fromagier Line of planks really caught my eye.

Along with the instructions they included great serving  suggestions:

Just soak the plank submerged in water for at least an hour before using.

they tend to float, so weight it down with something heavy

After your plank has soaked for an hour, it's ready for use.

Maple Planked Brie

Outdoor Grill 400 degrees F

Serves 4-6 as an appetizer

1 7-inch x 7-inch Outdoor Gourmet Maple Plank, pre-soaked in water
1 wedge Brie cheese (I used Supreme French Brie)
2 Tablespoons honey
2 Tablespoons sliced almonds
2 Tablespoons dried cranberries

Place the wedge of Brie in the center of the plank. Drizzle with half of the honey, then arrange slices of almonds on top and press on the sides. Sprinkle with cranberries and drizzle with remaining honey.

ready to go on the grill

Place plank with Brie directly on grill and close the lid. Check brie after a few minutes to see if it is melted. I used a particularly soft and creamy Brie, so it only took about 5 minutes or so. Once melted, remove from grill and serve immediately with slices of French baguette and/or crackers.

ooey, gooey yumminess!

You can find Outdoor Gourmet at places like Whole Foods, Sur La Table, and Dean & DeLuca, or order online directly through them. I did not see their Fromagier Line of planks on the website yet, but I bet they're coming soon. I can't wait to try all of their other amazing planks, wraps and even cedar skewers!

I love companies like Outdoor Gourmet that are environmentally responsible. They source their raw material in a way that respects the environment. They don't cut down any trees; instead, they recycle seconds from local mills that own tree farms that are managed for a sustained yield.


A Big Thank You and a Black Friday Deal on O Olive Oil

A Big Thank You
It's Thanksgiving Day and what better time to say thank you than today. So with all my heart, I'd like to say - THANK YOU! Thank you for visiting, for reading, for commenting, and for sharing. It means the world to me!

I'm so thankful for the many, many blessings God has bestowed upon me and I'm especially thankful for my family, faith, and friends (oh, and food!). What things are you thankful for?


Black Friday Deal on O Olive Oil
With Black Friday upon us, I thought I'd share a link to be able to take advantage of discounts on my favorite artisan vinegar and citrus-crushed olive oils from O Olive Oil. O announced on their Facebook page that they will once again offer a promo through the Rue La La members only community on this Friday, November 26th. When they do this, the prices are heavily discounted (last time it was around 33%). You have to join the Rue La La community (it's free) to be able to take advantage, and it's a "limited-time offer", meaning the items sell out in a matter of hours. Unfortunately, I believe it's only open to US residents.

You have to be invited to join by a current member, and it just so happens that one of my readers - Annette - has kindly provided her link/invitation to join. She will receive a $10 Rue La La gift certificate if you end up ordering something but it will not cost you anything additional, you'll have access to the sale, and you are not obligated to order anything. In turn, you can invite others to join and receive a gift certificate if they purchase, and so on.

If you've been looking to pick up some of O Olive Oil's amazing vinegars and oils, this is a great opportunity.

Here's  Annette's invitation link: http://www.ruelala.com/invite/159753654

The sale will be this Friday (sorry, I don't know what time). Look under the Gifts for Chefs section to find O Olive Oil.

~Happy eating and shopping!


Holiday Menu Item: Turkey Two Ways Part II..'Turkey for Ten with a Twist'

Turkey for Ten with a Twist (a little over-browned but juicy nonetheless!)

We went to my mom's home in Texas for an early Thanksgiving. I got to make the turkey and I have to tell you it was fabulous. The secret was in the preparation method that my hair stylist - Lori Veltri - shared with me. Lori makes turkeys all year long (why don't we all??) and her method is "no fail". The result is a turkey with crispy browned skin on the outside and juicy tender meat on the inside.

Lori's Method:
  • Oven 450 degrees F
  • Place turkey on rack in pan with chicken broth in bottom
  • Roast turkey uncovered for 30 - 60 minutes or until browned
  • Reduce oven to 350 degrees F
  • Cover turkey and pan tightly with aluminum foil, allowing no steam to escape
  • Roast for 15 minutes per pound including the browning time, until a thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the muscle reads 170 degrees F
  • Do not check turkey until last hour of scheduled roasting time. No basting. In fact, avoid opening oven and foil.
  • When done remove from oven and allow to rest for 20 minutes before carving.

No matter how you decide to season your turkey - Lori just uses salt, pepper and olive oil, and I decided to put a Texas twist on mine and used chipotle pepper, smoked paprika, honey, butter and olive oil - the result is the same juicy perfection.

This guy was crispy and seasoned on the outside, and juicy on the inside!

This 18-pound fresh Butterball turkey will serve 10 to 12 with plenty of leftovers. Most will recommend to plan for 1 pound per person if you don't want leftovers - so theoretically you could feed 18 people with this guy. I would say you'd need to have a lot of sides, and for some of those 18 people to be children in order to be comfortable. I like to be sure there's plenty of good food to go around.

Also, I made this turkey the day before and refrigerated overnight, covered. I warmed the covered turkey in a 250 degree F oven for about 60 to 90 minutes. Even with all this, the turkey was as juicy as could be. Making the turkey the day before gave me plenty of margin for error, and a lot less stress on the day of. I don't know about you, but I've spent a Thanksgiving or two waiting around for the turkey to get done hours after it was supposed to be ready.

Turkey for Ten with a Twist

Oven 450 degrees F for 30 - 60 minutes, then 350 degrees F until internal temp reaches 170 degrees F

Serves 10 - 12 with plenty of leftovers (or 12 - 14 comfortably with no leftovers)

1 18-pound fresh Butterball turkey, giblets and neck removed, rinsed and patted dry with paper towels
1 Tablespoon honey
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon ground chipotle pepper spice (this will give a minimum amount of heat, reduce by 1/2 teaspoon if desired)
1 teaspoon ground smoked paprika spice, plus more for sprinkling
2 Tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
Juice of 1 lemon
2 Tablespoons butter, room temperature
1 32-ounce container chicken broth
5 large cloves garlic, peeled, whole
1 small red onion, halved
1 small white onion, halved
1 small yellow onion, halved

Place turkey on rack fitted inside large roasting pan. If using a disposable pan, place atop a heavy-duty baking pan/cookie sheet for stability.

In small bowl whisk together honey, salt, chipotle pepper, smoked paprika, olive oil, and lemon juice. Rub and pour this mixture all over the turkey and pour a little on the inside.

Sprinkle more smoked paprika on the outside.

Rub the softened butter all over. Pour the chicken broth in the bottom of the pan. Add the garlic and onions, placing a few inside the body cavity. These are going to add flavor to the turkey and the broth which will later be thickened for gravy. If desired, you may also add the giblets and neck to the pan, but this gravy is flavorful with or without them.

Place in 450 degree F oven for 30 - 60 minutes until skin is browned. Then reduce oven to 350 degrees F and cover turkey and pan tightly with aluminum foil. Continue roasting, avoiding opening oven and foil until thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the muscle reaches 170 degrees F. Check temperature during the last hour of scheduled roasting time. No need for basting. The browned skin will have sealed in all the juices.

When done, remove from oven and allow to rest for 20 minutes before carving. If making the day before, allow to cool then cover and place in refrigerator overnight.

Reserve the broth to make into gravy or just spoon broth over turkey and dressing as is. You will need to skim off any excess fat and strain out the onions, garlic, giblets and neck (if used).

fresh from the oven, look at that broth in the bottom...YUM!
Note: It took my turkey a heck of a lot longer than the recommended time on the package to get to the 170 degrees F. The package recommended about 4 hours and my turkey took 5 - 6 hours.

To make gravy:
Heat reserved and strained broth in saucepan until bubbling. Thicken using 1 heaping Tablespoon of corn starch mixed with a small amount of warm water until dissolved. Pour the corn starch/water mixture into the bubbling broth and stir or whisk well. Continue stirring and cooking until mixture thickens, about 2-3 minutes.

I really enjoyed my visit in the country. It's beautiful in this particular part of Texas this time of year.

the road to home
my mom's horses - sweet as apple pie :-)

Happy Thanksgiving!!


Holiday Menu Item: Turkey Two Ways Part I..'Turkey for Two: Herb-Roasted Turkey Breast'

Turkey for Two: Herb-Roasted Turkey Breast

This turkey was so tender and juicy it was falling apart. I used a fresh 5-pound Butterball bone-in turkey breast, which is perfect for 2 to 4 people. For 2 people, there will be leftovers and leftover turkey makes a great sandwich the next day or even a turkey pot pie.

This recipe was definitely inspired by Ina Garten's Herb-Roasted Turkey Breast with just a few modifications because I'm not in my normal kitchen and didn't have everything at my disposal.

Herb-Roasted Turkey Breast

I used an adjustable rack fitted inside a disposable pan to roast the turkey breast.

Turkey for Two: Herb-Roasted Turkey Breast
adapted from Ina Garten

Serves 2-4

Oven 325 degrees F

5-pound bone-in turkey breast (I used a fresh Butterball)
2 Tablespoons butter, room temperature
4 leaves fresh sage, minced
2 Tablespoons fresh rosemary, leaves only
1 Tablespoon fresh thyme, leaves only
2 large cloves fresh garlic, minced
1 Tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
kosher salt
fresh cracked pepper
1 cup white wine

Pat turkey breast dry with paper towels, then place skin side up on rack in shallow roasting pan.

In small bowl mix butter, sage, rosemary, thyme, and garlic. Using your hands place some of the butter mixture under the skin of the breast and spread the rest evenly on top. Pour the olive oil in the palm of your hand, rub together then pat the outside of the turkey to distribute. Then sprinkle with salt and pepper, including the cavity.

As I often do, I forgot to add the garlic to the butter mixture until just after I had placed in the oven. I quickly pulled it out, added it at that time, and it was fine.

place some of the butter mixture under the skin
spread the rest evenly on top
with the garlic, the way it should have been

Pour the wine in the bottom of the pan and place in oven. Roast for 2 to 2 1/2 hours until a meat thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the muscle reads 170 degrees F. If turkey is browning too much, cover loosely with aluminum foil. When turkey is done, remove from oven and allow to rest for about 10 minutes before serving.

just out of the oven
So juicy and tender, and the rosemary really comes through.

Stay tuned for Part II of Turkey Two Ways.. 'Turkey for 10 with a Twist'.


Holiday Menu Item: Pomegranate, Maple-Glazed Pecan and Feta Salad

This healthy salad is a beautiful complement to any holiday meal. Fresh pomegranate arils (seeds), Greek feta cheese, and maple-glazed pecans gently kissed with a splash of the most heavenly nectar-in-the-form-of-a-vinegar imaginable... O Olive Oil's Pomegranate Champagne Vinegar. It's got a slightly fruity note with a subtle sweetness. So good it doesn't need an oil accompaniment. This vinegar was in the sample pack O Olive Oil sent to me but I also purchased it at Whole Foods for  not one, but two of my friends. Yes, it's that good.

O Pomegranate Champagne Vinegar

Even by salad standards, this is an easy one to pull together. I used maple-glazed pecans I picked up at Whole Foods, my favorite Greek feta cheese from Bristol Farms, organic mixed greens that were pre-washed and ready to use, and a fresh pomegranate that I cut in half and extracted (picked out with  the tines of a fork) the seeds. I don't recommend this extraction method because I kind of splashed myself with ruby red pomegranate juice in the process, but some markets now sell fresh pomegranate arils/seeds, so you don't have to deal with the ruby mess if you don't want to.

Better yet, why not follow the Foodie Nutritionist's step-by-step photo instructions for extracting the seeds the correct and non-messy way - How to Open a Pomegranate.

In any case, for this salad you save the step of needing to make a dressing. Just splash a little of the Pomegranate Champagne Vinegar atop and you're in business. Btw, I'm putting this vinegar under the heading of "vinegars so good you can drink them from the bottle".

Pomegranate, Maple-Glazed Pecan and Feta Salad

Ingredients (quantities at your discretion):
mixed greens, washed and air dried
pomegranate arils/seeds (I used less than half of one pomegranate for a salad for 4)
maple-glazed pecans
Greek feta cheese, crumbled

In large bowl place greens, pomegranate arils, pecans and feta cheese. Gently toss. Splash vinegar on salad before serving.

A nice salad to offset this decadent side:  Sunny's Mashed Potatoes

PS - I've been experimenting with turkey preparations lately and I have a couple I'll be posting soon - one is "Turkey for Two" using a bone-in turkey breast, and the other is "Turkey for Ten", a traditional preparation with a twist.

And if you're looking for the freshest, free range, high quality turkeys available and you happen to be near The Meat House - I highly recommend giving them a call and placing an order. I am currently in Texas and not near one (they have one in Austin but I'm in Dallas), so I've opted for fresh Butterball's, but if I could have my choice, it would definitely be The Meat House.


Holiday Menu Item: Sunny's Mashed Potatoes

Sunny's Mashed Potatoes

I am in a potato coma and I don't care!

I dove into these creamy, tangy potatoes and just couldn't stop. We usually reserve these for special occasions, because they are so rich (...and by "rich", I mean fattening!). I made them tonight, though, mostly because I recently got braces and can only drink soup using a straw (frustrating!) and I was dying for something "solid" that I didn't need to chew.

Anyway, these are always on our table at Thanksgiving so I wanted to share this easy recipe with you. I'm reasonably certain, that once you have these, you will love them as much as we do. Don't be fooled by the few simple ingredients.. the combo is simply magical.

I first had mashed potatoes this way at my sister-in-law Sunny's home. She is quite the cook and these potatoes are but one example. 

Sunny's Mashed Potatoes

Serves 4-5 (recipe easily doubled)

2 extra large russet potatoes, peeled and cut into large even chunks
1 stick butter, room temperature
1 8-ounce package cream cheese, room temperature
1 cup sour cream, room temperature
kosher salt to taste
freshly cracked pepper to taste

Place potatoes in a large pot and cover with water. Be sure pot is large enough for water to cover potatoes and not be more than 3/4 full. Heavily salt the water. Bring to a boil and cook until potatoes are fork tender, approximately 15 minutes.

Drain potatoes and return to the pot. Add butter, cream cheese, and sour cream, then mash using a potato masher. Alternatively, you may blend using a hand mixer. Add salt and pepper to taste.

mashing the potatoes, butter, cream cheese, and sour cream
delicious, creamy, and rich
I would forego dessert for these potatoes!

PS, I know there's a lot of butter, cream cheese, and sour cream (calories, calories, calories!) in these, but there are only a handful of times a year that I'll splurge on these, and for me - it's well worth it!


Holiday Menu Item: Vanilla-Spiced Caramel and Pear Tart (adapted from Bon Appetit)

Vanilla-Spiced Caramel and Pear Tart (adapted from Bon Appetit)

This pear tart was so elegant yet so easy to make. The ready-made puff pastry saved several steps, leaving time to dote on the luscious pears in their spiced-caramelized sauce. Hints of cinnamon and vanilla along with cloves and star anise made me feel all cozy and ready for fall. Add this to your holiday meal for a nice change of pace from the standard pumpkin pie.

I found this recipe in this month's (November 2010) Bon Appetit magazine. It's completely fabulous, as is everything else I've made of theirs. You can get the crust ready the day before and work on caramelizing the pears and making the filling the day of. You can prepare both (pears and filling), then leave them sitting out for up to 6 hours while you make the rest of your holiday meal, then bake while you eat, and your tart will be ready to serve warm by the time your guests are ready for dessert.

Vanilla-Spiced Caramel and Pear Tart

Serves 10

Special equipment: 10 inch springform pan

Crust (can be prepared up to 1 day ahead, or at least 1 to 1 1/2 hours ahead):
1 sheet frozen puff pastry (half of 17.3-ounce package, thawed) (I used Pepperidge Farms available in the frozen foods section of the market)

Allow puff pastry to thaw for about 20 - 30 minutes, then roll out to about a 12 inch square and trim off the corners to make it round. Transfer puff pastry to 10 inch round springform pan pressing pastry firmly onto bottom and 1 to 1 1/2 inches up the sides of pan. Cover with plastic wrap and put in freezer until firm about 1 to 1 1/2 hours or up to one day.

Not pretty but it still came out great!

3 Tablespoons unsalted butter
1/2 cup sugar
1 cinnamon stick
1 whole star anise
3 whole cloves
generous pinch of coarse kosher salt
1/2 vanilla bean, split lengthwise
6 medium firm, but ripe Anjou pears, peeled, halved lengthwise, cored (I only needed 4 1/2 pears to fill my pan, it depends on the size of the pears)

using a vegetable peeler to peel the pears worked well
peeled, halved, and cored

Melt butter in heavy large skillet over low heat. Add sugar, cinnamon stick, star anise, cloves, and coarse kosher salt. Scrape inside of vanilla bean and add, also add pod. Increase heat to medium-high and cook, stirring until sugar melts and turns brown, about 3 minutes. Reduce heat to medium and add pears, rounded side down.

Cook until pears are tender, turning and moving skillet around occasionally to ensure even cooking, about 10-15 minutes. Carefully turn pears over and continue to cook until pears are very tender, about 10 minutes longer.

I forgot to throw in the pod after scraping the inside of the vanilla bean but it was still great.

Remove skillet from heat and cool pears in skillet with spices (pears will release juice while cooling).

pears cooling in their juices
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter
1/2 vanilla bean, split lengthwise in half
2 cinnamon sticks, broken in half
2 whole star anise
6 whole cloves
1/4 cup sugar
1 large egg
generous pinch of coarse kosher salt
1 1/2 Tablespoons all-purpose flour

When ready to bake:
Oven to 400 degrees F
1 egg white, beaten, to brush inside of crust

Melt butter in small saucepan over low heat. Scrape inside of vanilla bean into saucepan and add pod. Add cinnamon sticks, star anise, and cloves. Increase heat to medium and cook until butter is golden (watch to avoid burning), about 3-4 minutes. Remove vanilla bean and spices from butter and discard.

In medium bowl, whisk sugar, egg, and coarse kosher salt, then whisk in flour.

Gradually whisk browned butter into egg mixture. Do not add all at once or eggs will cook.

Position rack in center of oven and preheat to 400 degrees F. Brush frozen crust with beaten egg white, then spread filling into bottom of crust.

Using a slotted spoon, gently remove pears from skillet and arrange on top of filling in crust. Reserve syrup and set aside.

Bake tart until crust is deep golden and filling is set and brown at edges, about 1 hour. Remove from oven. Run a small knife around sides of pan to loosen tart. Release pan sides and transfer tart to platter. Let stand, uncovered, at room temperature to cool slightly until just warm.

Meanwhile, boil syrup in skillet until reduced by about half, about 1-2 minutes. Discard spices. Drizzle syrup over pears and serve immediately while still warm.

Elegant and delicious!