Healthy Bites: Turkey on Whole Grain with Cranberry Walnut Salad

Turkey on Whole Grain with Cranberry Walnut Salad and Mustard Vinaigrette

Recently, an old colleague of mine sent me a note and mentioned how he loved the graphics and layout of my blog, but said he won't try any recipes because he "choses life." Which was his way of saying that he eats tree bark, sticks and unseasoned meat, instead of food that can be enjoyed. Not all my recipes are a death wish, but I admit that many contain a fair amount of weight watchers points and wouldn't be good to eat every day for every meal. That said, I don't eat like that all of the time. The production that goes into the recipe infographics I present here is pretty intense and takes time to complete, so when I do a recipe in that style I usually go for it with no constraints.

This got me thinking. Why not try and publish more of what I eat in a simpler format.

This is what I made for lunch today. A turkey on whole grain toasted bread with honey mustard and a salad with walnut and cranberry dressed with a mustard vinaigrette. Healthy and tasty and not as bad for you as Breakfast Meatlovers Pizza.

I don't know if this will become a regular thing here. But I'm going to attempt to make more posts like this, blog-worthy bites that are healthier and lighter, but presented in a simpler format, which basically means just a photo and a few words.

Eat well, cook often ...

Cranberry Walnut Salad with Mustard Vinaigrette

Serves 1, 15 minutes
1/4 lb Turkey, sliced
2 slices Whole grain bread
2 C lettuce (some for sandwich garnish)
1/4 C Walnuts
1/4 C Dried cranberries
1/4 C Extra virgin olive oil
2 Tbs White vinegar
1 Tbs Honey mustard + a little for sandwich

Toast bread, spread a little mustard over both pieces. On one slice layer with sliced turkey, garnish with lettuce, add top piece.

Salad and vinaigrette
Toss together lettuce, walnut and cranberries. In a container mix together olive oil, vinegar and honey mustard. Shake until emulsified. Drizzle over salad. (makes enough dressing for 2 or 3 salads of similar size.

Sausage, Sage and Green Pepper Dressing

Printable version

For the last few Thanksgivings I’ve made dressing separately, rather than stuffing which is cooked inside the bird. I usually brine my turkey and the last time I made stuffing inside, it was edible, but the overload of salt from the brine was obvious and it really ruined the flavor. Since that disaster I have always kept it separate.

This recipe was the best dressing I have ever made, the sausage, green pepper and fresh sage combine to take the flavors off the charts. I used a loaf of french bread that I cubed and put in the oven at 200° for about 2 hours. This dried the bread out and replicated the results of leaving the bread out in the open for a couple of days.

This was a great dish and sadly, it's the final post from my Thanksgiving feast of 2013. I’m already looking forward to next year.

Sausage, Sage and Green Pepper Dressing

I’m so glad this dish turned out. The biggest disappointment of last year's Thanksgiving feast was my dressing. I didn’t have dry enough bread and I didn’t use enough chicken broth to get everything to congeal together. It was more like soggy bread with mirepoix vegetables, so it was important to me this year to have a tasty dressing.

This is also my favorite infographic recipe of all the Thanksgiving 2013 dishes.

The red dish featuring the finished dressing at the bottom was a clearance item at Pier 1 Imports and it really helps this recipe stand out from the rest. When I mixed everything in the bowl I thought there was no way it would fit into the vessel, by like the sweet corn casserole, all of it fit and the rest is history.

Now it’s on to Christmas cooking!

Eat well, cook often ...

Sausage, Sage and Green Pepper Dressing

Serves 12 to 15; 50 minutes
1 lb Breakfast sausage
1 C Onion diced
1 C Celery diced
1 C Green pepper, diced
1 Tbs Garlic, minced
6 C Stale bread cubed
3 C Chicken broth
1 Tbs Italian seasoning

Brown sausage, sauté veggies
Preheat oven to 375°
In a sauté pan over medium heat cook sausage until no longer pink, 6 to 8 minutes. Remove from pan to a large bowl. Discard all but 1 tablespoon of drippings. Cook onion, celery and green pepper until soft, 4 to 6 minutes. Salt and pepper to taste. Add garlic cook two minutes more. Transfer to large bowl with sausage.

Make dressing

Add dried bread, chicken broth and Italian seasonings to bowl. Mix until well incorporated and bread has soaked up broth. Transfer to a prepared 9 x 13 baking dish. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes or until top becomes brown and with crispy bits. Let cool a few minutes before serving.

Creamy Cheddar and Chive Mashed Potatoes

Printable version
If I’m eating roasted turkey with gravy, I love to have mashed potatoes on the plate. Creamy spuds are my second favorite Thanksgiving side dish behind green bean casserole and when I say creamy, I mean creamy! No lumps, lots of butter and nice wispy peaks.

Earlier this fall I made basic creamy mashed potatoes and I prepared this batch the exact same way, but this time I added cheddar cheese and chives to punch up the flavor.

I could eat this stuff by the fist full! And that is what I basically did when I served them. I used my finger to scoop a bite out of the bowl every time I passed by and no one was looking. Mashed potatoes to me are like frosting on cake and it’s nearly impossible for me to walk passed without snatching up a sample. Adding further to the temptation was the flavorful cheddar cheese and fresh chives.

Cheddar and Chive Mashed Potatoes

As I mention in the introduction, I documented a prime rib dinner back in September and creamy mashed potatoes were part of the spread. I made them as basic as possible because I knew that I could use many of the elements again whenever I wanted to make mashed potatoes for a new post. Most of the photography in this recipe information graphic was originally shot for the basic creamy mashed potatoes. Only the last stage featuring the chives and cheddar and the final shot at the bottom of the recipe are new. I made this exactly like the basic version until I made the additions of cheddar and chives.

I have been re-using photographs of prepped ingredients for a long time, but this is a relatively knew technique I’ve started to develop involving basic recipes. This allows me more time to be creative and less time doing production work. Look for another mashed potato recipe soon, because Christmas dinner wouldn’t be as special without a batch of creamy spuds.

Eat well cook, often ...

Cheddar and Chive Mashed Potatoes
Serves 12 to 15; 40 minutes
5 lbs Potatoes, peeled, diced
3 Tbs salt
1 stick Unsalted butter
1/4 to 3/4 C Milk
1 C Sour cream
2 C Cheddar cheese, shredded
1/4 C Chives sliced

Cook potatoes
Put potatoes in a large pot. Fill with enough water to cover potatoes by at least 1 inch. Stir in salt. Place pot over high heat, bring to a boil and cook potatoes until tender. 12 to 15 minutes.

Drain, mash, serve
Drain potatoes in a colander. Return to pot and add butter and a splash of milk. Mash potatoes until creamy and smooth with a potato masher. Add more milk if necessary to achieve desired creaminess. Stir in sour cream, cheddar cheese and chives, place in a bowl and serve

Bacon Wrapped Turkey Breast

Printable version
Over the last few years I have tried several different ways to cook turkey with good results. Last Thanksgiving, I fried a turkey for the first time and it was delicious. Before that, I had used a brine a number of times with great success. I decided to try something completely new this time and hoped it wouldn’t turn out as a culinary disaster.

Instead of a whole bird, I went with just the breast portion. For seasoning, I slathered it with a compound butter after patting it completely dry. Next, I wrapped the entire front side of the breast with bacon, so that as it cooked the drippings would keep it moist as well as enhance the flavor. Finally, I roasted the breast on a bed of quartered lemons and oranges and tossed in a bundle of fresh thyme for flavor – the citrus base steamed the breast from below.

The end result was a tender, moist and flavorful bite that my youngest nephew declared “awesome” after stealing a chunk from the cutting board just after I had carved it from the bone.


As I mention in the introduction, I have made turkey several times. Two of which I documented. These recipes are really what is behind this bite. Check them out!

Brined Turkey
Fried Turkey

Bacon Wrapped Turkey

Serves 6 to 8; 3 hours
4 Tbs Unsalted butter,softened
1 Tbs Italian seasoning
1 tsp salt
1 tsp pepper
5 to 6 lb Turkey breast
1/2 lb bacon
2 Oranges,quartered
4 Lemons,quartered
1 bundle Thyme

Prepare turkey
Preheat oven to 350°
Mix together butter, Italian seasoning, salt and pepper. Pat turkey dry with a paper towel then slather butter all over breast and under skin. Wrap bacon around breast, one strip at a time, starting at the top and working down until covered.

Roast, rest and carve
Place oranges, lemons and thyme in the bottom of a large roasting vessel, rest turkey on top. Place in oven and cook until a thermometer inserted into thickest part of the breast reaches 165°, 2 to 2 1/2 hours. Remove from oven and place turkey on cutting board, let rest 20 minutes. Carve and serve.

Sweet Corn Casserole

Printable version
Of all my Thanksgiving sides this year, this was the most experimental. I had no idea how it would turn out, it was inspired by the classic green bean casserole, only I went with sweet corn and cream of chicken rather than green beans and cream of mushroom. The addition of bacon added a smoky and salty element to the creamy sweet corn mixture. I topped it with fresh grated Parmesan cheese and chives which added rich and oniony hints to the overall taste.

The dish was the most simple of all my Thanksgiving sides. Rendering the bacon takes longer than putting it together, and I baked it along side the dressing to kill two birds with one stone. I do think that another element could be added.

What element?

I’m not sure – but the addition of something like red or green pepper might punch up the flavor even more. I’ll have to try that next time. As it is, this is a quick and tasty addition to any Turkey day spread.

Sweet Corn Casserole

This dish is really the result of an over-stocked pantry. I closed my camper at our family campground at the end of October. Two of the things I brought home were three cans of sweet corn and two cans of cream of chicken soup. As I was trying to find room on the shelves, the idea hit me to combine the corn and soup and try it for Thanksgiving. I added the bacon for texture and flavor, much like the french fried onions add to green bean casserole.

On a side note, I was surprised that the mixture fit in the baking vessel I had chosen, which is pictured in the information graphic. I used the cast iron vessel strictly for aesthetics and to get a great photo. When I started pouring the mix in I thought there was no way it would all fit, but, to my amazement, it did. I had a similar experience with the dressing I made this year.

So, I have a tip: Some baking dishes may not look like they can hold a lot, but give it a try, you’ll be surprised at how much a two quart vessel or a 9 x 13 baking dish will hold.

Eat well, cook often ...

Sweet Corn Casserole

Side for 6 to 8; 40 minutes
1/2 lb Bacon, diced
3 Cans Sweet corn (15 oz)
1 Can Cream of chicken soup (15 oz )
1/2 C Milk
1/2 C Parmesan cheese, fresh grated
1 Tbs Chives sliced

Cook bacon, mix 
Preheat oven to 375°
In a pan over medium heat cook bacon until brown and crispy. 6 to 8 minutes. Remove from pan and mix bacon with sweet corn, cream of chicken soup and milk in a large bowl until well incorporated. Transfer to a 2 quart baking dish.

Cook in oven 15 to 20 minutes or until hot and bubbly. Remove and top with Parmesan cheese, return to oven and cook until cheese is melted, 5 to 10 minutes more. Remove, let cool for a few minutes, garnish with chives, then serve.

Deluxe Green Bean Casserole

Printable version
Since I was a little kid I have always loved green bean casserole and looked forward to it every year at Thanksgiving. My Aunt always made a batch for the occasion and it was one of just a few dishes that she ever made. Cooking wasn’t her passion so she kept it simple and green bean casserole was one of her staples. It’s made from a combination of processed ingredients and it comes together in a snap.

I have made green bean casserole several times as an adult and I have learned a few tricks to making it extra delicious.

The traditional casserole uses canned cream of mushroom soup, for this recipe I replace it with fresh sauteéd baby bella mushrooms and sausage gravy made from scratch. Bursts of flavor from the fresh mushrooms and seasoning from the sausage add an element of savoriness that the traditional dish doesn’t have. This is a simple way of taking a tasty classic and cranking up the flavor for a special treat fit for any Thanksgiving spread.

Deluxe Green Bean Casserole

As I mentioned in the intro, I have made green bean casserole many times. A few years back I watched an episode of Good Eats and host Alton Brown made it completely from scratch. This was a week or so before I would be hosting my own Thanksgiving party, so I decided to make it part of my spread. Of all the stuff I was planning to cook, I thought the scratch-made casserole would be the crown jewel. To make it from scratch requires some attention to detail, and when you’re making the Turkey and a number of other dishes at the same time, the ultimate green bean casserole might be a little too much to handle.*

I figured this out the hard way.

I had too much going on to do the recipe justice. The first task of making the crispy onions was a complete failure. With my attention elsewhere, I burnt the entire batch and had to throw them out. I didn't have the time or product to re-make them. Next, I did something wrong with the roux to make the creamy part of the recipe and it never thickened. The beans and mushrooms turned out just fine. The end result was nicely cooked green beans and sautéed mushrooms in a warm milk mixture.

People still ate it, but for me, my crown jewel became the thorn in my side.

Eat well, cook often ...

*The recipe presented in this post is really quite simple to pull off for a Thanksgiving spread, especially if you make the sides ahead. At the time, I didn't have the slightest clue on how to plan a big meal.

Deluxe Green Bean Casserole

Side for 8 to 10; 1 hour
1 lb Baby bella mushrooms, quartered
1 lb Breakfast sausage
1/4 C Flour
2 C Milk
6 C Green beans, cooked or canned
French fried onions, divided

Sauté mushrooms
Preheat oven to 350°
In a large oven-safe skillet or pot over medium heat sauté mushrooms until juices are rendered and cooked through, 8 to 10 minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste at the end of cooking. Remove from pot with slotted spoon, discard liquids.

Make gravy
Brown sausage until cooked through and fat is rendered, 6 to 8 minutes. Sift in flour, stir until it soaks up liquid and coats sausage, let cook 2 minutes more. Stir in milk, bring to a simmer stirring occasionally, cook until mixture thickens into a gravy. Remove from heat.

Make casserole
Let gravy cool off heat for a few minutes. Stir in reserved mushrooms, green beans and part of the french fried onions. Bake in oven until hot bubbly, 15 to 20 minutes. Top with remaining onions, return to oven for 5 to 10 minutes more, or until onions are brown and crispy. Remove and serve.

Sweet Potato Chips

Printable version
Little is known about the menu at the first Thanksgiving dinner with the pilgrims and Native Americans at Plymouth, but more than likely sweet potatoes weren’t on it. Their introduction as a Thanksgiving staple occurred during the 20th century and is the result of the spread of Southern cooking throughout the United States, where it had been a regional mainstay for generations.

I personally have never been crazy for sweet potatoes but that is because I don’t have much of a sweet tooth. I enjoy them most when they are prepared without lots of sugar.

For this recipe, I turn the sweet potato into a savory baked chip and serve it with a roasted garlic and chive dip. The potatoes need to be watched closely near the end of cooking because the window between under cooked and over-cooked is small, but well worth watching for. A tray of sweet potato chips and creamy dip is a nice little compliment to go with the mounds of savory Thanksgiving turkey and delicious sides.

Sweet Potato Chips with Roasted Garlic Dip

With this recipe, I launch the first salvo of Thanksgiving 2013.

This is the fourth time around for me as far as writing and documenting recipes for the holidays. I’m improving each time. (I hope to have it down pat by year 10!) This time I made a couple of dishes early on for the weekly print column (Sweet potato chips is one of them) then served a full-on Thanksgiving dinner to my niece, two nephews and my Mom and Dad on November 16. This will allow me to have all the recipes written with graphics and pretty photos published in time for people to use them or get ideas for creating there own Holiday spread. I still have one more recipe to complete though, which involves the leftovers, so I'm not totally finished.

I’m really happy with how all of my dishes turned out this year. I planned well, which resulted in a yummy turkey and five better than average sides. I didn’t make any dessert, because when it comes to Thanksgiving I’m way too full of the savory stuff to want any sweets. I’d rather just snack on turkey and green bean casserole as day goes along. I'll save the deserts for Christmas.

Eat well, cook often ...

Sweet Potato Chips and Garlic Chive Dip
Serves 4; 1 hour
2 Sweet potatoes (sliced 1/8 inch thick or less)
5 cloves Garlic
1/2 C Sour cream
3 Tbs Mayonnaise
2 Tbs Chives minced

Slice, bake chips

Preheat oven to 400°.
Brush both sides of sweet potato slices with oil and season with salt and pepper to taste. Arrange in a single layer on a baking sheet. In batches, bake slices for 20 to 25 minutes, or until crispy, flipping half way through and rotating pan if necessary. Monitor closely near end of cooking.

Make dip

Drizzle garlic with a little olive oil and season with salt and pepper, then wrap with aluminum foil. Place in oven with sweet potatoes and cook 20 minutes. Remove, let cool and mince. Mix sour cream, mayo, chives and garlic together in a bowl, let flavors meld at least 20 minutes, then serve with sweet potato chips. 

Chipotle Ranch Sauce

Printable version
Back in May I was eating at my favorite taco joint in Fort Wayne called Salsa Grille and the manager was walking around, visiting with customers. When he approached me, I asked him about some of the sauces they served. He told me where I could find the recipe for one in particular - Tomatillo Ranch Dressing.

The dressing features a packet of ranch seasoning and I have been using it to punch up sauces ever since. Two of those sauces I featured here. First, the aforementioned Tomatillo Ranch Dressing, then I went out on a limb and made Sweet Pickle Ranch Sauce.

Well, I now have another – Chipotle Ranch Sauce! You can find it on grocery store shelves and Subway has a version called Southwest Ranch, but this version has more flavor punch than anything you can buy at a store or chain restaurant. It’s best after it has sat in the fridge for at least an hour to let all the flavors mingle and it’s good on anything from chicken tenders, to burgers and even tacos. I think I’ll keep a batch of this in the fridge at all times.

Chipotle Ranch Sauce

I have been using ranch seasoning packets so much that I think it is time for me to make a homemade version or at least put together a homemade ranch in general. It adds so much flavor to a sauce and gives it that mouth-watering quality.

Recently, I posted a number of items that I made for a Taco party that served 125 people. I made a quart of Tomatillo Ranch dressing and told people to use it as a finishing sauce on tacos and plates of nachos. All of the sauces I made for the party got good reviews, but I heard more about the Tomatillo Ranch than any other. That was part of the reason I went back to the drawing board and made this sauce, I figured I could get at least one more unique and delicious sauce out of the seasoning. It has become a pantry staple for me and I think I need to see how it works in a dry rub or breading next.

Eat well, cook often ...

Chipotle Ranch Sauce

Makes 2 Cups; 5 minutes
1 C Buttermilk
1 C Mayonnaise
1 pkg Ranch seasoning mix (1 oz)
2 Tbs Chipolte pepper in adobo, seeded, minced
1 tsp Garlic minced

Make sauce
In a bowl whisk together buttermilk, mayonnaise, ranch seasoning, chipolte pepper and garlic until well incorporated. Place in refrigerator and let flavors meld for 1 hour before serving.

Southwest Grilled Cheese

Printable version
I made this sandwich to go with my spicy chipotle tomato soup. It needed balance and a grilled cheese is perfect for that. The soup included poblano pepper in the mirepoix and I thought it would be nice to tie the sandwich to the soup by including poblano in a relish to go on the sandwich.

Along with the pepper, the relish also features caramelized onions, corn, lime and cilantro, which combine to provide the southwestern element to the grilled cheese. The relish would be a nice accompaniment to a steak or make a nice side dish in general. I use shredded Monterrey jack cheese rather than slices so that the relish and cheese would melt together like pizza toppings inside the sandwich. I’m sure slices would been just fine, but I knew the shredded cheese would guarantee the gooey binder I was looking for.

This was the first time I had tried a relish mixture inside of a grilled cheese. Overall it worked really well, adding flavor and giving extra texture to the sandwich. I dipped this into the soup and gobbled down two by myself, which probably suggests that I liked the final product.

Southwest Grilled Cheese

I have been reluctant to do sandwiches for the blog out of pure laziness. The layer by layer breakdown is a lot of work to create, so initially I tend to grimace when I think of creating a sandwich here, but in this case I absolutely had to. The tomato soup needed a grilled cheese to complete its culinary destiny. I could find a simpler way to present it, but to stay true to the overall style and presentation of my recipes, the layer by layer stack is the most effective to present a grilled cheese.

This is the best layer by layer presentation so far. My best effort before this was a patty melt back in April. After putting this together I realized it wasn’t as much work as I had thought, so I hope to do unique sandwiches here at the blog a little more often.

Eat well, cook often ...

Southwest Grilled Cheese

Makes 8 sandwiches; 45 minutes
1 C Red onion diced
1 C Poblano pepper, seeded, diced
1 can Sweet corn, seeded, diced
Juice of 1 Lime
2 Tbs Fresh cilantro
1/2 C Mayo
16 slices Bread
4 C Monterrey jack cheese, shredded

Make relish

In a sauté pan over medium heat cook onions in a little olive oil until soft and caramelized, stirring occasionally, 15 to 20 minutes. Add corn and poblano pepper, cook until pepper is soft and corn is heated through, 4 to 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Remove from heat and let cool. Stir in lime juice and cilantro.

Make sandwiches
Spread a thin layer of mayo on sides of bread to be grilled. Layer shredded cheese, scoop of relish, more shredded cheese and top piece of bread. Repeat 8 times. Grill sandwiches until bread is golden brown and cheese is melted, flipping half way through. Then serve.

Spicy Chipotle Tomato Soup

Printable version
Tomato soup was always my favorite canned variety growing up. I loved to let it cool a little, then crumble a few saltine crackers into the bowl, stir it up, then gulp it down like a pledge at a fraternity party. Today, I can’t really say tomato is my favorite soup, because soup in general is one of my favorite things to make regardless of variety. I rarely eat the canned stuff anymore, because homemade soups are so much tastier. I use canned soup mainly as an ingredient in other recipes.

When I make tomato soup I like to start with bacon, the two seem to work well together and it’s a great flavor to build upon in general. I also like it spicy and blended into a smooth texture, which makes it the perfect compliment to a creamy grilled cheese.

For this tomato soup, I use chipotle pepper for a smoky and spicy boost to the bacon. It also features poblano pepper, cumin and Mexican oregano to give the final product a South of the border zing.

Spicy Chipotle Tomato Soup

As soon as I took the first taste of this I knew I had to throw together a grilled cheese to serve along side it. I originally planned to make the soup alone but the spiciness screamed for balance and when it comes to tomato soup there is no better compliment than a gooey grilled cheese!

This soup featured poblano peppers in the mirepoix to add a little zestiness. In my experience poblano is generally a mild pepper, but about 1 out of 10 seems to have the kick of a much hotter pepper. Well, as luck would have it, one of the poblanos in this batch was hellfire hot, therefore making this soup on the higher end of the spice scale.

The chipotle added a decent amount of heat by itself, the addition of a tongue blistering freak from the poblano family made me reluctant to share this without the grilled cheese – by itself it was hot enough to make my nose run.

A Southwest grilled cheese that I busted out to go along side this soup made for the perfect balance. Look for it in my next post.

Eat well, cook often ....

Spicy Chipotle Tomato Soup

Serves 6; 45 minutes
5 strips Bacon diced
1 C Red onion diced
1/2 C Poblano pepper, diced, seeded
1 Tbs Garlic minced
2 Tbs Flour
4 C Chicken broth
2 cans Diced tomatoes (28 oz each)
2 Tbs Chipolte in adobo, minced, seeded
1 Tbs Cumin
1 tsp Mexican oregano
Cilantro and reserved bacon for garnish

Render bacon, reserve
In a soup pot over medium heat cook bacon until crisp and fat has rendered, 6 to 8 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove from pan with a slotted spoon and reserve for garnish.

Create soup base

In the bacon drippings sauté onion and poblano pepper until soft, stirring occasionally, 3 to 4 minutes. Add a few grinds of fresh cracked black pepper. Stir in garlic and cook 1 minute more or until fragrant. Sift in flour and stir until well incorporated, let cook 2 minutes.

Make soup

Add chicken broth, tomatoes, chipotle pepper, cumin and oregano. Bring to a simmer and cook 20 minutes or until mixture thickens slightly. With a hand blender or in a counter top blender puree mixture until smooth, adjust seasoning if needed. Spoon into bowls and garnish with cilantro and reserved bacon.