Archive for the ‘Main Dishes – Poultry’ Category

smoked whole chicken

Smoked, brined chicken. Isn’t it a lovely color?

The first time I brined a chicken, it was an act of desperation. I had purchased a couple whole chickens at a good price, and we have a great roasted chicken recipe. But with more than one, there was no way we needed to cook both, so one went into the deep freeze. (I’ve mentioned I love my deep freeze.)

One thing I have never – never – had luck with is thawing a whole chicken. (Here are the USDA’s guidelines for safe thawing.) Everything I’ve read says a 3.5 pound chicken should thaw in your refrigerator in a day. I tried that. It was most definitely still frozen, even after two days or three. I got frustrated with cool water methods. (What a waste of water!)

So I decided to brine the chicken in the frig for 48 hours. I figured unlike most cool water methods, where you keep the chicken in its plastic bag so the water doesn’t touch it, the brine is allowed to penetrate all the cavities in the chicken, allowing warmth to seep in everywhere.

What do you know, it worked! Not only did my chicken thaw completely in far less time than all my other attempts, it was the tastiest, juiciest, most tender bird I’d ever roasted. This is what I posted to Facebook:

“If you’ve never brined a chicken before roasting/grilling it, DO IT! I did it Saturday out of desperation since the chicken did not get taken out of the freezer. We roasted it today in the usual way, and it was wonderful!”

I’ve since tried brining for only 24 hours, and if I recall correctly, my bird was completely thawed then, too. Hooray! I get a thawed bird AND tastier chicken? That’s a win! I brined my Christmas turkey, and that, too, got raves.

A few years ago, my husband took up smoking meats as a hobby. What a tasty hobby! We’ve enjoyed several experiments over the years, and I’m sure I’ll share a few of them with you, but one of our daughter’s favorites is Dad’s smoked chicken. “It doesn’t even need ranch dressing!” That’s a high compliment in our house!

Brine for Chicken

  • 1 gallon cold water
  • 1 cup kosher salt
  • 1/2 cup sugar (or brown sugar)
  • Added flavorings (try rosemary and sage, or whatever suits you!)

Dissolve salt and sugar in water in a large ziptop or other food-safe plastic bag. Add flavorings as desired. Place your chicken in the bag, making sure all cavities are filled with water. Seal bag tightly and place in a deep bowl in the frig overnight.

Drain brine. Pat chicken dry and cook as usual. (Roast, grill, smoke, you name it!) Enjoy!

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Turkey Apple Cheddar Salad

Simple and tasty – Turkey Apple Cheddar Salad

You can’t get much simpler than this. A few years ago, I was scouring cookbooks for new recipes when I found Turkey Apple Cheddar Salad. It was a hot summer, and we were often going to picnics in the park to enjoy the Thursday Night music.

This salad is like a salad you’d get from your local deli. Chunks of fruit, meat and cheese are also kid-pleasers. My youngest loves it. She’s adorable when she eats it. She takes a bite of turkey. “Turkey.” She takes a bite of apple. “Apple.” She takes a bite of cheddar. “Cheddar.” Pause. “Salad!”  She chants this the whole time, eating it in pattern. I better have about the same amount of everything on her plate!

My oldest prefers it without the dressing, and sometimes we just cut up the ingredients into slices and eat them on crackers. 🙂

The original called for green onions and some cooked pasta, but I found the pasta didn’t add anything and the onions tended to fall to the bottom of the salad and not get eaten at all, so I started leaving them out.

I’ve learned to keep the apples out of it until the last minute so they stay crisp. I suggest not making ahead more than one day, or the apples will get soggy. It doesn’t keep particularly well, so plan to eat it within a day or two. I like to cut up the turkey and cheddar, and then cut apples into it as needed.

Turkey Apple Cheddar Salad

  • Oven roasted or smoked turkey breast (not sliced)
  • Block of cheddar cheese (we prefer sharp)
  • Medium, crisp apple(s) (like gala)
  • Poppyseed dressing

I don’t have a very scientific way of making this salad. I cut the turkey, cheddar, and apple into 1/2 inch cubes, and toss them into a bowl until the proportions look right. (A little more turkey than cheese, a little more cheese than apple.) Then I stir in enough dressing to coat it.

That’s the beauty of this meal; you can make only what you need! It’s great for just one person, or make a big batch to take to a potluck. Round it out by putting it on a bed of salad greens and adding a piece of crusty bread, if you like.

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orange teriyaki chicken salad

Colorful salad with chicken, oranges, and salad greens.

When I was first married, I didn’t have an arsenal of recipes at hand, so I used to cut zillions of them out of magazines. (I still do, but I no longer cut out dessert recipes unless they look exceptional.) One of the recipes I cut out was for Orange Teriyaki Chicken Salad.

It was long a favorite for my husband and me, but we haven’t made it in a while. The kids aren’t big salad eaters, but by keeping the chicken and oranges separate and just putting  a little ranch dressing on the greens, they ate most of their meal without complaining.

The original recipe called for peeling fresh oranges, juicing one to get juice to mix with teriyaki sauce for dressing, and carefully segmenting the others. I found this a tedious process; I hate peeling oranges, as I despise pith and membranes. Solution: canned mandarins, just using straight teriyaki sauce for dressing.

Orange Teriyaki Chicken Salad

This recipe can be made for just one or two people, or multiplied for several. I also don’t measure much anymore when I make it, so this is a bit of a guess.

  • 1 (4-ounce) boneless, skinless chicken breast half per person
  • 3 Tbsp. teriyaki sauce per person for marinating, plus more for dressing.
  • 1/2 of one (8-ounce) can of mandarin oranges per person, drained
  • 1/2 – 3/4 cup salad greens (we like fresh spinach or torn romaine) per person.
  • 1 Tbsp. slivered almonds per person.

Make ahead: One day before you want to make this recipe, put the chicken and teriyaki sauce in a resealable plastic bag or a small container. Marinate for at least 8 hours. (I highly recommend Soy Vay’s Veri-Veri Teriyaki. So yummy! And no, I didn’t get paid to say that!)

Day of: Grill or broil the chicken over high heat until a thermometer reaches 160 Degrees F. or juices run clear. Allow chicken to rest 5 minutes. Meanwhile, arrange salad greens, mandarin oranges, and almond slivers on a plate. Slice the chicken into bite size pieces. Top salad with chicken. Drizzle with teriyaki sauce.

For kids (my kids, at least): Serve chicken, with mandarin oranges as a side dish, salad with dressing as a side dish.

Fun twist: I have also served this salad as kabobs, arranging chicken and oranges on skewers. I would probably use fresh oranges rather than canned.

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Crunchy Chicken Salad

Crunchy chicken salad, baked in a casserole dish, is a tasty main course for lunch.

A friend of mine gave me this recipe after she used it for a lunch gathering. My husband and I enjoy it very much. The kids…well, the oldest pretty much just eats the chicken out of it, while the youngest turns up her nose. They can eat peanut butter sandwiches while hubby and I get a real meal.

(Mom confession time: I LOVE peanut butter. I love peanut butter sandwiches. I would eat peanut butter sandwiches every day if I could. That being said, I recognize the value of a diet rich in foods beyond peanut butter and bread. So I limit myself and my kids. But when I have to take a bag lunch? More often than not, it’s a peanut butter sandwich.)

This baked chicken salad is great on its own, or served in tortillas. I love the crunch of water chestnuts, and the contrast they provide with the chicken. I have reduced the mayonnaise from the original recipe, as I found that it was very runny. It also reheats and freezes well. I often double the recipe and freeze a pan without the topping. If you do that, thaw before baking.

Crunchy Chicken Salad

  • 2 cups cooked chicken breast, chopped
  • 1/2 cup slivered almonds
  • 1 cup sliced water chestnuts
  • 1 cup sliced pimentos
  • 1/2 tsp. celery salt
  • 1/8 tsp Accent Spice mix
  • 3/4 cup mayonnaise
  • 1 Tbsp. lemon juice
  • 1 small can French fried onions
  • 1/4 cup grated cheddar cheese

Mix together chicken, almonds, water chestnuts, pimentos, celery salt and Accent. Whip mayo and lemon juice; stir into chicken mixture.

Pour into a greased casserole dish (8×8). Top with onions and cheddar. Bake uncovered, at 350 degrees for 30 minutes.

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stuffing for pineapple chicken fajitas

Pineapple chicken fajitas

In my weekly search for recipes, I ran across this one, in which I had written a note in the margin, “Good. Use more seasoning.”

I encourage you to make notes in your cookbooks. How else are you to know if you’ve already tried a recipe and hated it, or found it good, but not quite to your taste?  I always appreciate finding a frowny face or a “Yum!” next to a recipe I’d forgotten I’d tried. So get over your fear of breaking your teachers’ rule of not writing in your books. It took me years, but I finally did. (Here’s the book that did it.)

Making notes in your cookbooks allows you to rediscover and refashion recipes to your own liking. This fajita recipe is a perfect example. My notes said to use more seasoning than the 2 tablespoons originally indicated, and to use pineapple tidbits instead of chunks.

I was afraid the kids would reject it, the oldest always saying, “I don’t like cooked fruit! I don’t like peppers.”

girl eating fajita

Pineapple chicken fajitas

I made it anyway, and said daughter proclaimed it, “The best dinner ever!” much to my absolute amazement.

So here you go:

The Best Dinner Ever! Pineapple Chicken Fajitas

  • 2 pounds boneless skinless chicken breasts, cut into strips
  • 1 Tbsp. olive oil
  • each medium green, red, and yellow bell peppers, julienned. (I used 1/2 of each because I only had 1.5 pounds chicken, and I chopped finely so my girls would be less likely to notice them.)
  • 1 medium onion, cut into thin wedges (Again, I cut very small.)
  • 5 Tbsps. fajita seasoning (Original recipe called for two tablespoons. My note said to use more seasoning, so I used a whole packet!)
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 2 Tbsps. honey
  • 1 Tbsp. dried parsley flakes
  • 1 tsp. garlic powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 (8-ounce) can pineapple tidbits, drained
  • flour tortillas
  • Optional toppings: shredded lettuce, sour cream, shredded cheddar cheese

In a large nonstick skillet, cook the chicken in oil for 4-5 minutes. Add peppers and onion; cook and stir 4-5 minutes longer. In a bowl, combine the seasoning mix and water; stir in the honey, parsley, garlic powder and salt. Stir into skillet.

Add pineapple. cook and stir for 1-2 minutes or until chicken juices run clear and vegetables are tender. Place chicken mixture in tortillas and fold or roll up, topping with desired toppings.

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Asian Turkey Wraps – Not the prettiest meal, but tasty!

I’m a big fan of all-in-one meals because I’m pretty terrible at planning side dishes. I love it when the veggies and meat are all wrapped up in a neat little package.


With this dish, I also love that it a is a quick, one-pan meal, though I end up getting my food processor dirty. I’ve made note of “advance preparation” that works best if you can do it ahead of time rather than in the midst of cooking.

Asian Turkey Lettuce Wraps

Makes 10 (1/3 cup) servings.

  • 1 1/4 lbs. ground turkey (I buy 1 lb. packages, and usually just reduce the other ingredients a little.)
  • 1 pkg (16 oz) frozen stir-fry vegetable blend, thawed (my pkg. is 14 oz.)
  • 1/3 cup teriyaki sauce (I highly recommend Soy Vay’s Veri, Veri Teriyaki. Mmm.)
  • 1/4 cup hoisin sauce
  • 3 Tbsp. creamy peanut butter
  • 2 Tbsp. minced fresh gingerroot (I use 1 tsp. ground ginger when I don’t have fresh)
  • 1 Tbsp. rice vinegar
  • 1 Tbsp. sesame oil
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 4 green onions, chopped
  • 10 Boston lettuce leaves (or other broad lettuce of your choice)
  1. Advance Preparation: Thaw turkey (if necessary) and stir-fry veggies. Mix together teriyaki sauce, hoisin sauce, peanut butter, ginger, vinegar, and oil. Mince the garlic. Chop green onions.
  2. Cook turkey in a large nonstick skillet coated with cooking spray over medium heat until no longer pink.
  3. Chop stir-fry vegetables coarsely. (This is where I pulse them in my food processor, usually because I’ve forgotten to thaw them. 🙂 ) Add veggies to pan. Stir in teriyaki sauce, hoisin sauce, peanut butter, ginger, vinegar, and oil – or if you’ve planned ahead, dump in your pre-measured mixture. Stir-fry over medium-high heat for 5 minutes. Add garlic; cook 1 minute longer.
  4. Remove from heat; stir in onions. Place scant 1/2 cup turkey mixture on each lettuce leaf; fold lettuce over filling. Serve with additional hoisin sauce, if desired.

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I pulled this recipe from a magazine a few years ago. I guessed we’d make it once and my family would reject it.

I was dead wrong.

My daughters LOVE this recipe. They request Turkey Burgers for breakfast when we have them leftover, and since I always double the batch, there are plenty of leftovers. I never worry it won’t all get eaten. (If they aren’t as popular in your family, I still recommend doubling, then freezing half for your family to have on hand.) The burgers are very mild tasting, and the pesto mayonnaise is really the star. My husband and I are not as enamored as the kids are, but we still enjoy them.

Cooking the recipe as burgers is a bit more involved than I prefer, so I altered how I prepare the recipe and make it more as a meatloaf. (Both sets of instructions below.) We just cut “burgers” out of the pan. We also rarely eat them with buns, so in my house the burgers exist in name only.

turkey burgers

Turkey Burger topped with Pesto Mayonnaise


Pesto Chicken or Turkey “Burgers”

*Note: Recipe is NOT doubled here.

  • 1 1/2 pounds ground chicken or turkey
  • 3/4 cup grated sharp Cheddar or 1/2 cup finely grated Parmesan
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground pepper
  • 1/3 cup mayonnaise
  • 2 tablespoons prepared pesto*

Pesto Mayonnaise (for serving)

  • 1/4 cup mayonnaise
  • 1 tablespoon pesto*

*For pesto, I buy pesto mix and make on the stove. It doesn’t take long, but does require boiling water and having olive oil on hand. You could also buy a jar of your favorite brand. TIP: Whichever way you do it, you WILL have leftover pesto. I measure one tablespoon measurements into ice cube trays and freeze. After they are frozen, pop them out into freezer containers for next time or another use.

  1. In a large mixing bowl, combine the ground meat, cheese, salt and pepper, gently tossing with a large fork until evenly blended.
  2. In a small bowl, mix the 1/3 cup mayonnaise and 2 tablespoons pesto, then add it to the meat mixture and combine until evenly blended.
  3. For meatloaf: Spread meat mixture into a 8×8 baking dish. (I double the recipe and use a 9×13 baking dish.) Bake at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for approximately 30 minutes, or until meat thermometer reads 165. Let rest 5 minutes. Cut sections to place on buns or eat with forks. Serve with Pesto Mayonnaise. (Note: Baking causes the meat to release a lot of juices that would normally drain into a grill or broiler pan, so loaf will be “swimming” when it is done. Simply drain off liquid before storing.)
  4. For burgers: Line a baking sheet with plastic wrap. Shape meat into six 1/2-inch-thick patties, placing on the baking sheet. Refrigerate at least 30 minutes to firm them. (Burgers are softer than traditional hamburgers and need this.) Prepare grill or broiler and pesto mayonnaise for serving. When 30 minutes are up, brush each burger with oil and place on grill, oiled side down. Lightly brush other side with oil. Cook approx. 5 minutes per side, until meat is no longer pink. Serve on buns (if desired) with Pesto Mayonnaise and other burger fixings.

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