Italian Chopped Salad

I love the style of “everything but the kitchen sink” cooking. The kind of recipes where you raid the refrigerator and cupboards, clearing out any extra veggies, herbs, or cheese you may have on hand. You may only need to pick up a few small extras at the grocery store, and then you’re off to the races. That’s exactly how this salad is. There are no strict rules. If you are short an ingredient or two, or want to sub in different ingredients…all the better! Maybe you love proscuitto more than salame…purple cabbage more than raddichio…white more than red wine vinegar. That is perfectly ok…it’s next to impossible to mess this chopped salad up.
 
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Italian Chopped Salad

You’ll need:

  • 2 heads of romaine lettuce hearts, chopped
  • 1/2 head of radicchio, chopped
  • 5 pepperoncinis, seeded and thinly sliced
  • 1/4 of a red onion, thinly sliced
  • 10 olives, seeded and chopped
  • 11 salami slices, cut into 1/4 inch strips
  • 5 ounces fontina cheese, cut into 1/4 inch cubes
  • 1/2 cup canned chickpeas (roasted or unroasted)
  • 1/3 cup roasted bell pepper, chopped
  • handful of fresh parsley leaves

For the dressing:

  • 1 tablespoon red wine vinaigrette
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon dijon mustard
  • 1 teaspoon minced, fresh oregano
  • salt & pepper

To prepare:

  1. In a small mason jar (or other container with a lid), combine the ingredients for the dressing, and shake vigorously. Then taste and adjust for seasoning. Set aside.
  2. In a huge bowl, combine all of the salad ingredients.
  3. Shake the salad dressing one last time, then pour over the salad.
  4. Toss thoroughly, and serve immediately.

Serves 2 entree size or 4 side salads.
 
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Cran-Orange Smoothie + a Giveaway

With the holidays approaching at a mad clip, chances are, seasonal indulgence is also coming at you with full force.  I know it is for me.  It seems like every time I turn around, there’s an excuse for holiday drinks, dinner, or sweets…and I know it’s only going to get worse (better?) as we zoom through the rest of this year.  It’s hard to do, but squeezing in some healthy eats when I can is crucial for getting me through the season. Not only does it help with much needed energy boosts, but it also helps get a head start on the necessary dieting that ensues come January.

 

Smoothies are always a great way to sneak in some healthy eats, especially this Orange and Cranberry Smoothie. Not only is it refreshing and tangy, but it’s packed full of vitamins that will help stave off those nasty winter ailments as well.

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For making this smoothie, I was excited to test drive two of Hamilton Beach’s blenders, the Smoothie Smart Blender and the Single Serve Blender. And guess what!  Those folks over at Hamilton Beach are too kind because they’re offering these blenders to you too! Two lucky readers will have the chance to win one blender each…check out the details below to enter.

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Both of the blenders were excellent for smoothie making. The Smoothie Smart version blended all of my chunky, frozen fruits in a matter of seconds, and had this nifty pour spout on top.

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The Single Serve Blender worked great as well, and made it super easy for grab and go. This was perfect for Kevin and I because we eat breakfast at separate times. I took my smoothie when I left early for work, and he was able to make his own later.

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Orange Cranberry Smoothie

 

You’ll need:

  • 8 ounces cranberry juice
  • 8 ounces milk
  • 2 oranges, peeled, sliced, and frozen
  • 1 banana, peeled and frozen
  • 1 tablespoon ground flaxseed (optional)

To prepare:

  1. Add all ingredients to a blender.
  2. Blend until smooth.

(Divide the ingredients in half when using the single serve blender).

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Giveaway Details

Now it’s your turn to test them out! Enter for a chance to win your very own blender. There will be two random drawings. The first winner will receive the Smoothie Smart Blender, and the second winner will receive the Single Serve Blender.

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There are a few ways to enter, such as leaving a comment or tweeting, but you must be logged into Rafflecopter for tracking purposes. You can log in below via Facebook or by entering your email address. The giveaway ends on Thursday, December 5th at 12:00am, and the winner will be contacted via email. U.S. entries only. Must be 18 years or older. Good luck!

 

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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How to Brine a Turkey

When it comes to preparing Thanksgiving turkey, there are two distinct camps…those that brine, and those that don’t. Me, I’m a briner.

 

I first tried brining maybe eight or so years ago, and I’ve been a fan of the flavor and juiciness it produces ever since. There is no doubt, however, that brining is a messy job. This is surely part of what keeps those non-briners from hopping on the brining bandwagon. It takes some planning and a little courage to wrangle that turkey into its briney bath, but it’s well worth it in the end. Here’s the process I follow for how to brine a turkey…

 

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The process all starts with procuring your bird. These days, there are tons of great options for organic, free range turkeys.  They are a little bit more expensive, but I highly recommend you go for a quality bird that lived a happy, healthy, and natural life.

 

You’re also going to need a really huge tub or pot…you’ll want something that’s large enough to hold the turkey fully submerged in the brining solution. I picked up an 18 quart tub with a lid at my local Cash & Carry store. (I even took my turkey into the store with me to make sure it would fit in the tub before I bought it).

 

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The process of brining starts the night before you cook your turkey. Before you even touch the bird, you’ll want to mix together the brining solution (recipe below). There’s no need to heat the brine, but you’ll want to stir thoroughly until  the sugar and salt have dissolved. Then set the tub on the ktichen counter right next to the sink.

 

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Now it’s time to prep the bird. Unfortunately, there’s no way around it…touching the raw turkey is a little funky. Just bear in mind, it’s a quick task, and all of your extremeties can be thoroughly washed when you’re done…so just get in there!

 

Place your turkey in the sink. Using kitchen shears, cut off the outside wrapper, and remove any plastic that might be binding the legs together. Take a quick poke around inside the cavity, and remove any parts that are tucked in there.  This usually includes the neck and potentially a small bag of organs. You’re welcome to discard these, or you can set them aside for later use. Then just give the turkey a good rinse with cool water, inside and out, and dunk it into the tub of brine. Your turkey will probably want to float so be sure to weight it down with a heavy plate or pot lid (a Le Creuset lid works very well).

 

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Now it’s time to say “night, night”. I put the lid on the tub, and let it soak in the refrigerator overnight. You’ll need to clear out quite a bit of space for it to fit in the fridge. I had to remove a shelf to make room for the height. (If you have absolutely no room to spare, you can consider brining overnight in an ice chest with enough ice to keep it chilled overnight).

 

 

Turkey Brine Recipe

 

You’ll need:

 

  •  1 turkey (13-15 pounds), thawed

 

For the brine:

 

  •  2 gallons of water
  • 1 cup salt
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 lemon, sliced
  • 4 bay leaves
  • 2 tablespoons peppercorns
  • 1 tablespoon cloves
  • 3 cinnamon sticks

 

 To prepare:

 

  1. Combine all of the ingredients (except for the turkey) in a pot or container large enough to hold the turkey, fully submerged. Stir the mixture until the salt and sugar are completely dissolved.
  2. Place your turkey in the sink; remove and discard the packaging. Pull out any parts from inside the cavity, and either discard or set them aside for later use.
  3. Rinse the turkey (inside and out) with cool water, and place in the brine. The turkey should be fully submerged. If necessary, use a heavy plate or cast iron lid to weight down the turkey.
  4. Allow the turkey to soak for at least 6 hours or overnight in the refrigerator.
  5. When done soaking, line a cooke sheet with paper towels and place next to the sink. Lift the turkey out of the brine, rinse inside and out, and place on the cookie sheet to drain. Using additional paper towels, pat the the inside out outside of the turkey dry.
  6. To discard, pour the solution down the sink through a strainer. Discard the strained bits.

 

Now your turkey is ready for roasting! I’ll be sharing my favorite recipe for that tomorrow…

 

Looking for more Thanksgiving inspiration? You can find it here:

Cranberry Sauce

Grandma Blacker’s Stuffing

Blanched Green Beans

Brussels Sprouts

Foolproof Mashed Potatoes

Herb Dinner Rolls

How to Roast a Turkey

How to Make Gravy

Mulled Cider

 

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Cranberry Sauce

What’s your policy on cranberry sauce for Thanksgiving dinner…do you go the canned route or homemade? Some people are die-hard can fans (mostly I think for the nostalgia factor), but I am a homemade girl all the way. Not that I necessarily have anything thing against canned goods as a whole, but if there were ever a contest for “easiest homemade dish of all time”, cranberry sauce would definitely win the prize…so why not go homemade?

 

It’s an especially great dish to bring if you’ve been asked to contribute something to a communal dinner. While others are competing for oven space or stressing over the fluffiness of their mashed potatoes, you simply throw down your pre-made sauce and focus on more important matters…like eating all the appetizers…and keeping your wine glass filled.

 

Some may argue that it’s note really a true “dish”, and I suppose they would be correct…technically, it is a condiment…but Thanksgiving just wouldn’t be complete without it.

 

 

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Cranberry Sauce

 

You’ll need:

 

  • 12 ounce bag of cranberries
  • 1 orange
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 cinnamon stick

 

To prepare:

 

  1. Place the cranberries in a medium size sauce pan.
  2. Using a microplane, zest the orange, and add to the pan. Then cut the orange in half, and squeeze the juice into the pan.
  3. Add the sugar and cinnamon stick, and place the pan on the stove over high heat, stirring periodically.
  4. Once it comes to a boil, reduce to a simmer and continue cooking for about 15 minutes, until the berries have broken down, but the consistency is still chunky.
  5. Remove cinnamon stick, and allow the sauce to cool before serving. May be made in advance and refrigerated.

 

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Looking for more Thanksgiving inspiration? You can find it here:

Grandma Blacker’s Stuffing

Blanched Green Beans

Brussels Sprouts

Foolproof Mashed Potatoes

Herb Dinner Rolls

How to Brine a Turkey

How to Roast a Turkey

How to Make Gravy

Mulled Cider

 

 

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