A Smoked Turkey Makes Quite the Savory Gift

     One of the most delicious gifts that we received this Christmas was a mesquite smoked turkey prepared by dear friends on Christmas Eve.  Turns out that a smoked turkey is the gift that keeps on giving.

Don’t let the blackened crust scare you.

     After being the centerpiece of our Christmas dinner, the carcass became 26 cups of smoked turkey stock the next day.  I placed two cups each into quart freezer bags, then placed them on a tray to put in the freezer.

Now I’ve have stock in convenient amounts that will serve as the basis for many a smoked soup in the coming winter months.

     I also had enough leftover meat to make three casseroles.  In addition to the family favorite, Tamale Casserole, which was particularly delicious with the smoky flavor, I experimented with a basic turkey and wild rice casserole recipe that I found on Cooks.com.  With some simple adjustments, I added a bit of green to this otherwise very white dish and got loads of compliments to go with it.

Turkey with Wild Rice and Spinach Casserole

1 medium onion, chopped
8 0z. sliced mushrooms
1/2 C butter
1/4  C flour
1 1/2 C chicken or turkey stock
1 1/2 C half and half
3 C cooked turkey, cut up
1 box Uncle Ben’s Original Wild Rice
8 oz. package chopped spinach, thawed and squeezed dried of as much water as possible
1/2 C slivered almonds

Preheat oven to 350° and lightly grease a 2 quart casserole dish.

Cook onions and mushrooms in butter over low heat, stirring frequently, until onions are transluscent but not browned.  Gradually stir in flour until thickened and well blended.  When it begins to bubble, stir in the stock and half and half.  When blended, bring to a boil while stirring constantly.  Once boiling, continue to stir for one minute.

Remove from heat and stir in spinach, wild rice and seasoning packet and turkey.  Pour into prepared casserole and cover with aluminum foil.  Bake for one hour.  Remove aluminum foil, sprinkle evenly with almonds and bake for an additional 15 minutes.  Remove from oven and cool slightly.

Serves 6-8.

     So many delicious dinners from one little ol’ bird.  What a wonderful gift!

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Welcome ‘Em Home with Meaty Cheesy Manicotti

     My boy has been gone for the last few days, down to the Rivah with a friend.  The house was so quiet without him.  To show him how happy I was to have him back, I knew immediately what the dinner menu would be.  Another Southern Living find from several years back, Meaty Cheesy Manicotti is his most requested meal (besides pizza).

     I did not grow up stuffing manicotti shells, so this dinner takes me a bit longer to concoct than I usually like to spend.  Does anyone have any stuffing tips?  Other than getting the pasta filled, the dish is straight-forward but flexible enough that you can sneak in some spinach or other chopped veggies to the meat mixture and maybe get away with it.  Unfortunately, my fifteen-year old is getting a little too sharp for that trick.  He called me on it the last time I tried slipping some spinach in under the pretext of basil.  The basic recipe calls for

  • 1 (8-ounce) package uncooked manicotti shells
  • 1/2 pound Italian sausage
  • 1/2 pound ground beef
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 2 cups whipping cream
  • 1 teaspoon dried Italian seasoning
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper
  • 1 (14 1/2-ounce) can diced tomatoes with basil, garlic, and oregano, drained
  • 2 cups (8 ounces) shredded mozzarella cheese
  • 3/4 cup shredded Parmesan cheese

Cook pasta according to package directions; rinse in cold water.  Drain.  Place in a single layer on a wire rack; set aside.

Remove casings from sausage, and discard.  Cook sausage, ground round, and onion in a large skillet, stirring until meat crumbles and is no longer pink.  Drain and set aside.

Add wine to skillet, stirring to loosen browned bits; bring to a boil.  Add whipping cream and next 3 ingredients; reduce heat, and simmer, stirring often, 15 minutes or until thickened.  Remove from heat; cover and set aside.

Combine meat mixture, tomatoes, and mozzarella cheese.  Spoon mixture evenly into 12 manicotti shells; arrange shells in a lightly greased 13- x 9-inch baking dish.  (I scatter any extra meat mixture in between the filled shells.)

Bake, covered, at 350° for 20 minutes.  Uncover and pour cream mixture evenly over shells; sprinkle with Parmesan cheese.  Bake, uncovered, at 350° for 10 more minutes.  Broil, 5 1/2 inches from heat, 2 to 3 minutes or until cheese is lightly browned.

Serves 6.  (from Traci Meador, Hermitage, Tennessee, Southern Living FEBRUARY 2005.)

     Meaty Cheesy Manicotti is a wonderfully delicious way to welcome home your wandering family.  Enjoy!

All photos by Avad Fan.