Friday, November 29, 2013

Dad's Cajun Deep Fried Turkey

Spending the holidays with family is just the best. This year we stayed up late playing Mafia and Trivial Pursuit, completed a 1000 piece puzzle, and played Euchre while sipping on Wisconsin beer and ginger bombs. We enjoyed fresh perch fried up in my Grandma Shirley's famous beer batter, and the McLean family favorite Green Bay chili from Chili John's served over spaghetti noodles. This year will be remembered as the Thanksgiving we we didn't eat the turkey, as Thursday evening we were all so full after eating chili that we rescheduled the feast until Friday afternoon! 
Despite all the delicious food that was served up, my dad completely stole the show with his deep fried turkey. For many of us (including myself), it was the first time we tried deep fried turkey, and I really don't think we will ever go back. This is the South, people. 

Dad gave me permission to share his recipe. You start out my injecting the turkey with a jar of Cajun butter. After that, rub the turkey down with Emeril's Essence seasoning.   


Prepare the turkey pot by heating up 5 gallons of peanut oil. Cook the turkey for 3½
minutes per pound, until it reaches 170 to 180 degrees F. We cooked our 14 pound turkey for 50 minutes and it was perfect. 

Allow the turkey to rest for 15 minutes in a large brown paper bag, then carve and watch while the turkey is gobbled up by your family!

Dad's Cajun Deep Fried Turkey
1 jar Cajun injector (we used creole butter)
1 bottle Emeril's Essence
1 turkey 
5 gallons peanut oil
Large stock pot with propane heater

Fill the stock pot with peanut oil and heat the oil to between 350 and 360 degrees. Fill the syringe and inject turkey in the breast and thigh area, as well as the back, wings, and legs. You will have to fill the syringe several times. Generously rub Emeril's Essence seasoning all over the turkey (about 1/4 cup).

Place the turkey in the basket of the stockpot and lower it into the oil. Cook the turkey for 3½ minutes per pound, until internal temperature reached 170 to 180 degrees on an instant read thermometer. Carefully lift the basket out of the hot oil. Using long handled forks, transfer the turkey to a large brown paper bag and let it stand for 15 minutes before removing it to carve. 

Friday, November 22, 2013

Mom's Famous Chicken Enchiladas

We are starting a new tradition in our house, a weekly Mexican Night! Who can resist breaking up the week with margaritas, homemade salsa, and mexican food? I was excited for days before, and during my run could not get my mind off the chips and salsa. Don't worry, next week there will be sombreros to make the event official. 

This enchilada recipe has been included in the McLean family cookbook which we hope to publish by Christmas. You will love it. This was one of my brother's favorite recipes growing up, and we never had leftovers as he would finish off the pan. 

Mom's Famous Chicken Enchiladas
3 cups chopped cooked chicken
2 cups (8 ounces) shredded Monterey Jack cheese with peppers
1/2 cup sour cream
1 (4.5 ounce) can chopped green chiles, drained
1/3 cup chopped fresh cilantro
8 (8 inch) flour tortillas
Vegetable cooking spray
1 (8 ounce) container sour cream
1 (8 ounce) bottle taco sauce

 - diced tomato
 - chopped avocado
 - chopped green onions
 - sliced black olives
 - chopped cilantro

Stir together first 5 ingredients. Spoon chicken mixture evenly over each tortilla, and roll up. Arrange in a lightly greased 13 x 9 inch baking dish. Coat tortillas with vegetable cooking spray.

Bake at 350 degrees for 40 minutes or until golden brown.

Stir together sour cream and taco sauce. Spoon over hot enchiladas, and sprinkle with toppings. 

Yield: 4 servings

Restaurant Style Salsa

Homemade salsa is so simple, yet so much more flavorful and fresh than the store bought versions. This was the perfect appetizer to kick off Mexican night, with a side of margaritas!
Thanks to the beautiful Ree Drummond for sharing her simple recipe. The fresh cilantro makes all the difference. 

Restaurant Style Salsa
from The Pioneer Woman (Ree Drummond)

1 (28 ounce) can whole tomatoes with juice
2 (10 ounce) cans Rotel tomatoes 
1/4 cup chopped onion
1 whole jalapeno, quartered and sliced thin
1 clove garlic, minced
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon sugar
1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 cup cilantro (more to taste) 
juice of 1/2 a lime

Prep the ingredients (dice the onion, jalapeno, cilantro, and garlic)

Pour the can of whole tomatoes in a food processor and add the Rotel. Add the diced onion, garlic, and jalapeno. Add the spices, including salt, sugar, cumin, and the juice of half a lime. Add 1/2 to 1 cup of cilantro. 

Pulse seven or eight times. Continue to pulse until desired consistency is reached. Taste and adjust seasoning as needed. Serve with tortilla chips and Katie-Ritas!

Katie - Ritas
1 (12 oz can) frozen limeade concentrate
1 (12 oz) bottle corona light
12oz good tequila (I like cuervo silver)
12 oz sprite zero
lime wedges

Combine limeade, tequila, corona light, and sprite in a pitcher. Stir until well combined, and limeade has melted. Pour over a glasses with ice (and salt on the rim if desired) and garnish with lime wedge.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Rise & Shine Juice

I splurged on the Urban Remedy three day juice cleanse after we came back from the honeymoon, and just needed to hit the RESET button. We loved every baguette, piece of pizza, and Bailey's Banana Colada, but coming home I needed to clean up my act and bring back the veggies.  

The cleanse was hard initially, and I was convinced I would go in to serious caffeine/carb withdrawal and feel terrible. I actually had tons of energy and was bouncing off the walls, and then slept well at night. My thoughts and ideas seemed clearer. My skin was glowing and I just felt amazing. I'd recommend it to everyone. The drawback - it was expensive, but because I paid a pretty penny I was determined to stick with the program. I was  also (a little) grumpy at night because I wanted to snack, so I just went to bed with a hot tea. 

Since we don't have a local juice shop here, I recently treated myself to my own home juicer, and with a 20% bed bath and beyond coupon I paid 80 dollars for the Breville compact juicer. I'm in love!!! I made this juice for Josh and I for breakfast this morning, and even he said that it wasn't bad. I think he was expecting it to taste like raw celery and spinach. 

I thought I'd start sharing my other favorites as I learn the art of juicing. On my list for next week is mixing in beets, kale, and mint. Please share your recipes with me!

Rise & Shine Juice
3 carrots
1 apple
1 pear
3 celery
1 cucumber
1 inch ginger

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Shrimp and Chorizo Paella

I still remember the day I one-click ordered my Lodge brand cherry red dutch oven from Amazon. I had just moved into a house with Josh, and happily put the one bedroom apartment years in the past. I had a nice little kitchen with a small island and was just learning how to cook. 

I knew a couple of things, and one was that I needed a dutch oven. This was the first recipe I cooked in my shiny new pot, and I bought my first ever jar of saffron to make this paella. I remember shying away from the price of saffron, but thank goodness I splurged. I clipped the recipe out of Runner's World magazine. 

Shrimp and Chorizo Paella
from Runner's World magazine

Chorizo or andouille sausage (8 ounces), halved lengthwise and sliced into 1/4 inch half 
6 garlic cloves, chopped
1 teaspoon saffron threads
1 cup long-grain brown rice
1 3/4 cups chicken broth
1 (14.5 ounce) can diced tomatoes in juice, I use Muir Glen fire roasted
8 ounces medium peeled shrimp, thawed
1 cup frozen peas
Salt and pepper to taste

Heat a dutch oven over medium heat. Add sausage and cook until the fat begins to render, about 2 minutes. Add garlic and saute until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add saffron, rice, and broth. Cover pot and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and cook at a gentle simmer for 30 minutes.

Stir in diced tomatoes and juice. Cover pot, and continue to cook another 25 minutes. Season shrimp with salt and pepper. Stir shrimp and peas into mixture, adding more broth if the rice appears dry. Cover, and continue to cook until shrimp are cooked through and rice is tender, about 10 to 15 minutes. Allow paella to rest for 5 minutes, covered. Fluff rice with a fork and serve.

Makes 4 servings. 

Sunday, November 17, 2013

insight from Gretchen

My mom and I love to quote Gretchen Rubin. We both read The Happiness Project a few years ago, and she is our happiness guru. When we have one of "those" days where negative thoughts take over, Gretchen comes to the rescue! Let me give you a few examples:

 - Outer order contributes to inner calm.

 - The days are long, but the years are short. 

 - Worrying does not change a thing.

 - Most decisions don't require extensive research. (I wish someone could have hammered 
     this into my brain before planning a wedding!)

 - Succeed by failing. 

 - What I do every day matters more than what I do once in a while. 

 - Just because something is fun for someone else doesn't mean it's fun for you- and vice  

This week, I have again been inspired by Gretchen when I logged on to her blog and saw this quote. I actually have a stretch of days off (HOORAY!) and I want to spend my time well, though not in a rushed or hurried fashion. The transition is difficult as most days at work I am on-the-go and sprint around the hospital, but at home this week I want to focus on reading a great book, playing with my macro lens, running, and cooking my husband some tasty meals. Hopefully this quote will help keep me in the right mindset! 

Saturday, November 16, 2013


If you want to watch a seriously inspiring and eye opening movie about the importance of incorporating vegetables in the diet, get on Netflix and watch the documentary Fat, Sick, & Nearly Dead. You really won't believe the benefits of juicing, AND of avoiding processed fatty foods. Fast food is fat food. 

I work in a cardiothoracic surgery ICU and see patients after open heart bypass surgery. This topic is especially close to my heart, since our patient population is (mostly) a population of overweight, diabetic, sedentary patients, many of whom smoke cigarettes. The surgery is a big wake up call, and many of our patients commit to leading healthier, more active, tobacco free lives. I smile from ear to ear when I see a patient in the office who has started walking three times a week and made big diet changes because I know it's hard. 

I honestly wish that everyone got to spend a day working in a primary care office, and a day in a cardiac unit of the hospital. Once you see the long term effects of not making health a priority, it becomes clear why it's so important.  I LOVE food, love cooking food, love eating food, love baking special treats on holidays and birthdays. I also focus on the 80/20 rule, and on limiting my portion sizes. 

Mean Green Juice (from the film)
1 Bulk of kale
4 Stalks of celery
1 Cucumber
2 granny smith apples
½ lemon
Ginger root (thumb sized)

Stepping off my soap box - I am SO EXCITED to have a brand new juicer shipping to our house next week. I've been pinning juice recipes like crazy, and am seriously ready to whip up some carrot, beet, and ginger juice.  I treat myself to juice when we are traveling, but now I can whip up my very own juice right at home! If you like juice, or want to incorporate more vegetables into the diet, or just want to watch an eye opening movie about health, watch this film!  

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Cinnamon Sugar Almonds

Warning: these almonds are highly addictive. I was picking them up warm off the baking sheet and popping them right in my mouth! The warm almonds and cinnamon flavor took me right back to the Renaissance festivals I went to as a child, with the carts that sold almonds in the clear plastic cones. They are so delicious! 

I am testing recipes for my Christmas baskets, and this is an absolute winner! Josh was sweet enough to take the photos as I was busy working this week, so I cannot take the credit for this one. 

Slow Cooker Cinnamon Almonds
 from Six Sisters website

1 cup sugar
1 cup brown sugar
3 Tbsp cinnamon
1/8 tsp salt
1 egg white
2 tsp vanilla
3 cups almonds
1/8 cup water

In a bowl, whisk egg white and vanilla until frothy. Stir in almonds until all are coated with egg white mixture. In a separate bowl, mix together sugar, brown sugar, cinnamon, and salt. Add almonds to cinnamon mixture and toss until completely coated.

Spray your slow cooker with non stick cooking spray. Cook almonds on high for 2 hours, stirring every 20 minutes. After 2 hours pour water over the almonds and mix very well to make sure there are no clumps. Reduce heat to low and cook for one more hour, still stirring every 20 minutes. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper and evenly spread out the almonds to cool and dry on the paper. Store in air tight container until ready to serve.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Rolo Stuffed Ritz Crackers

In one weekend, I ran out of chicken stock, sugar, and milk in my house. I declared a house emergency, and vowed to never allow this to happen again. We are a house that will never again run out of the above said ingredients, or butter, or vodka. Thank goodness there is a convenient store a mile up the street, and our dinner tonight was saved by a can of their chicken broth. Phew. 

With that being said, on Friday night I needed a quick dessert and since we were out of sugar, I started shuffling in the pantry. I bought Rolo candies for our s'more station and didn't use them, and we had a couple sleeves of Ritz crackers. Bless Pinterest since I pinned this cookie recently, and realized I had everything on hand. Crisis aborted and new super easy cookie discovered! 

Rolo Stuffed Ritz Crackers
Rolo candies (as many as the number of cookies you want to make, by other reviews the mini size works as well, though I used the original)
Ritz Crackers

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Place Ritz crackers on a cookie sheet (salted side down) and top each with a Rolo candy. Bake for 3 to 5 minutes to soften the Rolo. Remove from the oven and immediately top the Rolos with a second Ritz cracker. Cool completely and store in sealed container. 

GaryTalk #7 - The Gary McLean Pep Talk

When I was out running this afternoon, the song "Sympathy for the Devil" by the Rolling Stones came on my Pandora station, and I immediately thought about my dad. He loves the Stones. After I heard that kick ass song, I starting thinking about how grateful I am to have such an inspiring and loving father. That is how my mind works when I run, somehow I have these beautiful clear thoughts.  
Growing up, I listened to lots of Rock and Roll. I wasn't that cool, I just didn't have a choice in the matter. I was getting my musical education. That's right, we kids had zero control over the radio station, the TV station, the dinner menu for the evening (except on our birthdays), or the ability to leave the table before finishing a tall glass of milk. House Rules and Dad Rules trumped. 

I realized that while lots of thoughts have been churning in my mind this month, I haven't written a GaryTalk in awhile, so this one, as always, is dedicated to my dad. 

Every now and then, we all need a little pep talk. I imagined on my run today, that if my dad was going to give me (or you) a serious pep talk, it would go something like this:

Live each day with passion and purpose.  Stop your bitching. Never complain or whine. Work hard, harder than everyone else. Don't bother about what others think, and don't try to impress them. Stay active and push yourself. Don't be lazy, physically or mentally. Resist mediocrity. Life is what you make of it. Own your life. Create your destiny. If you don't like something, change it. Rely on yourself, not others. Don't expect handouts. Save more than you spend. Give more than you take. Get busy living, or get busy dying. Live on the edge; great things happen outside your comfort zone. More than anything, be true to yourself. 

Spicy Sausage Pasta

 If you make one recipe from my blog, make this one. I'm not even kidding, it's simply divine. There is something magical about the combination of Monterey Jack cheese, Rotel tomatoes, and smoked sausage. It puts a bland alfredo sauce to shame, and it's super easy. After I made it for us tonight, I joked with Josh that if I had made this recipe when we met he would have proposed a year earlier. In response, a classic Josh retort, I got "good things come to those who wait". I think somehow we are both right. 

I found this recipe on one of my favorite blogs (Kevin & Amanda), the same blog that introduced me to game changing s'more with Ritz crackers, a Reese's cup, and a marshmallow. Once again, they lead me to the pot of gold at the end of a rainbow. 

Spicy Sausage Pasta
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 lb smoked sausage
1.5 cups diced onion
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 cups low sodium chicken broth
1 (10 oz) can Rotel tomatoes and green chiles
1/2 cup heavy cream
8 oz penne pasta (I love the Barilla Plus in a yellow box)
1/2 tsp salt and pepper
1 cup Monterey Jack cheese, shredded (confession: I used an entire 8oz bag of Pepper 
          Jack, the one with Philadelphia cream cheese, and I would do it again)
1/3 cup scallions, thinly sliced

Add olive oil to an oven-safe skillet or dutch oven over medium high heat until just smoking. Add sausage and onions and cook until lightly browned, about 4 minutes. Add garlic and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds.

Add broth, tomatoes, cream, pasta, salt and pepper, and stir. Bring to a boil, cover skillet, and reduce heat to medium-low. Simmer until pasta is tender, about 15 minutes.

Remove skillet from heat and stir in 1/2 cup cheese. Top with remaining cheese and sprinkle with scallions. Broil until cheese is melted, spotty brown, and bubbly. 

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Quick Sesame Soba Noodes

When I look back at my old posts and pictures, I laugh at just how BAD some of the food looks, so bad that you would never make the recipe. My morning laugh today came from my old Buffaloaf (meatloaf made with bison meat) post - we LOVE that recipe and make it all the time, but the photo looks like a brown pile of mush. Not exactly appetizing. This soba noodle recipe has also been posted before, but I am re-posting with a much better picture. That's allowed, right? 

This is one of my all time favorite side dishes, and I love bringing it to work or making it with pork tenderloin. I have even placed a scoop on top of a bed of spinach and called it a salad! 

Quick Sesame Soba Noodles

Ingredients for sauce - 
1/2 cup tahini
1/4 cup canola oil
3/4 cup hot water (depending how thick you like your sauce)
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup rice vinegar
1/2 cup soy sauce
1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
2 tsp freshly minced ginger
1 tsp minced garlic

Ingredients for noodles - 
sliced raw sugar snap peas
thinly sliced green onions
sesame seeds
8 oz soba noodles


Cook soba noodles according to package instructions. When done, drain and rinse noodles in cold water. Set aside.

To make sauce, combine all ingredients (tahini through garlic) in a food processor and process until very smooth. Add the hot water last, while the motor is running. You may need less, just add enough until desired consistency is reached.

To serve, pour sauce over noodles and top with snap peas, green onions, and sesame seeds. 

Friday, November 8, 2013

Slow Cooker Turkey Chili

My slow cooker is seriously rocking the house this fall. I've challenged myself make one new chili in the slow cooker every week, and I'm going to keep at it through the winter. The black bean and sweet potato chili I made last week was so good we fought over the leftovers. Here is another fantastic chili recipe, made with ground turkey. 

If you haven't jumped on the slow cooker wagon, I suggest you go over to Amazon immediately and purchase this slow cooker! I love that I can set it to cook on low for 8 hours, and then it automatically flips into a "keep warm" setting so we can have dinner at any time. 

Slow Cooker Turkey Chili
adapted from Laura's Turkey Chili on all recipes

1 Tbsp vegetable oil
1 pound ground turkey
1 can low sodium tomato soup
1 can chopped tomatoes with chiles (I use rotel)
1 can kidney beans, rinsed 
1 can white beans, rinsed
1 can black beans, rinsed
1 can corn, drained of juice
1 (4 oz) can diced green chiles
1 can water
1/2 medium onion, diced
2 Tbsp chili powder
1 tsp red pepper flakes
1/2 Tbsp garlic powder
1/2 Tbsp ground cumin
1 pinch ground allspice
salt/pepper to taste

Garnishes - avocado, shredded cheese, sour cream, cilantro

Heat the oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add the onion and turkey, cook until turkey evenly brown and drain off liquid.

Coat the inside of a slow cooker with cooking spray, and mix in the cans of soup, tomatoes, beans, corn, and chiles. Season with chili powder, red pepper flakes, cumin, garlic powder, all spice, salt and pepper. Add the turkey and onion mixture. 

Cook on low for 8 hours or high for 4 hours. 

Monday, November 4, 2013

Picnic on the Parkway

We declared last Sunday our fall day to drive up and down the Blue Ridge Parkway, stop at our favorite overlooks, and pack a picnic. Back in July, as a bridesmaid gift, my friend Taryn surprised us with picnic backpacks which include wine glasses, a wine bottle holder, a cheese board, and cutlery. I have been so excited to break out my picnic pack, and this Sunday was the perfect day to do just that. 

We declared a "St Lucia" day, meaning no iPhones or electronic devices except for my camera. It was fabulous and just what we needed. While I was initially (I'm being completely honest here) tempted to swing by the Fresh Market and purchase my favorite Rotisserie Chicken Salad, a container of olives, cheese, and a fresh baguette, I decided to make our picnic sides at home. I absolutely love tarragon and chicken together, and this chicken salad was superb. The tomato mozzerella salad is easy to assemble, and the potato salad takes a little more effort but is totally worth it. The potato salad was Josh's favorite of the three. At the end of the day, I was happy I put in the extra effort. I've included a few of my best photos from the day. 
This Cabot reserve cheese was a gift from my friend's parents brought down from Vermont, and the best cabot we've tasted! I loved putting a slice of cheese on an apple slice topped with chicken salad. 

Tarragon Chicken Salad 
from Real Simple magazine

3 6-ounce boneless, skinless chicken breasts 
1 tablespoon olive oil 
1/2 cup mayonnaise 
1/4 cup chopped tarragon 
1 teaspoon grated lemon zest 
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice 
2 sliced scallions 
2 sliced celery stalks 
1/2 cup pecans (optional) 
1/4 cup craisins (optional)
kosher salt 
black pepper 

Heat oven to 400° F. Rub the chicken breasts with oil. Place on a rimmed baking sheet and roast until cooked through, 14 to 16 minutes; let cool, then shred. In a medium bowl, mix together the mayonnaise, tarragon, and lemon zest and juice. Fold in the chicken, scallions, and celery; season with ¾ teaspoon salt and ½ teaspoon pepper. Serve on a croissant or with crackers 

 Picnic-Friendy Tomato Mozzarella Basil Salad 
1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved 
8 ounces fresh “mini” mozzerella pearls 
4 tablespoons olive oil 
18 basil leaves, chopped 
½ teaspoon Kosher salt 
½ teaspoon freshly ground pepper 

Add the cherry tomatoes and mozzerella cheese to a medium bowl. Drizzle the olive oil over the tomatoes and mozzerella. Add the basil, salt, and pepper, and gently toss all the ingredients. 

Provencal Potato Salad 
from one of my FAVORITE bloggers - simplyrecipes
2 lbs fingerling potatoes (ideally those tiny potatoes that are no more than an inch or so long) 
1 clove garlic, minced 
1/4 cup chopped parsley 
1 Tbsp capers 
1/4 cup green olives, sliced 

Dressing ingredients: 
2 Tbsp sherry vinegar or white wine vinegar 
1/2 teaspoon salt 
Freshly ground black pepper 
1 teaspoon herbes de provence 
1 teaspoon anchovy paste 
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard 
1/2 cup olive oil 

Place the potatoes in a large pot, cover with cold water. Add 2 teaspoons of salt to the water. Bring the water to a boil, reduce the heat to a simmer, and cook the potatoes until they are just tender when speared with a fork or sharp knife, about minutes. 

While the potatoes are cooking, prep the other ingredients and make the vinaigrette. In a small bowl, whisk together the vinegar, salt, pepper, herbes de provence, anchovy paste, and Dijon mustard. Slowly drizzle in the olive oil whisking the whole time to create an emulsion. 

When the potatoes are ready, strain them from the pot. Let them cool just enough so you can handle them without burning your hands. Cut them in half. In a large bowl toss the still warm potatoes with the vinaigrette, garlic, parsley, capers and green olives. Chill for a couple of hours. Let come to room temperature to serve.