Hye Thyme Cafe: July 2013

Welcome to the Hy
e Thyme Cafe. Although not all of my recipes are Armenian, the name is a little nod to my Armenian grandmother who is no longer with us. The Hye refers to all things related to her homeland, and she represents all things food-related to me, so the two just seemed to go together. I can't even claim that my Armenian recipes are truly Armenian, since Greece, Turkey, Armenia, Lebanon, Syria, and even Egypt share so many foods that they've all sort of morphed into one over thousands of years.

Whether you like to cook, bake, have never done either, or just like to play with your food...come on in and join me! :)

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Baked Coconut Chicken

Baked Coconut Chicken with Raspberry Dipping Sauce : Hye Thyme Cafe

When I used to live on Cape Cod, there was a restaurant in Hyannis by the name of Starbucks. It was kind of a TGIF or Bennigans type of place. Most of the food was probably pre-packaged garbage, but there were a few things that I really loved, their Coconut Chicken with Raspberry Dipping Sauce being one of them. Then there was the rice it came with - one of only a handful or restaurants that I'll order rice in ... and their awesome salad with creamy Parmesan Peppercorn dressing. And don't even get me started on their frozen cocktails! It was also kind of fun because the chairs were those wicker wing-backed chairs like in the opening of the Addams Family, and they had Trivial Pursuit cards on the tables so you could play while you waited for your order.

When I moved to New Orleans and first heard someone talking about Starbucks, I got very excited. Yup, until I realized it was a coffee shop! Color me disappointed.  :(

Their Coconut Chicken was fried to a perfect golden brown, but I'm not big on frying if it can be avoided, so I choose to bake them. I did, however, like that theirs were in cutlet form rather than the chicken tenders you usually encounter.  

When it came to the eggs, I only had two left in the fridge, so I went with whole eggs, but you can use just egg whites if you like, or a mix of two whites for each yolk. If you want an extra boost of coconut flavor and have some extract on hand, you might want to add a drop or two to your eggs. I know that coconut water and coconut milk are all the rage, but you probably don't want to open any just for this. If you happen to have some leftover from something else, go ahead and add a touch.

Boneless, skinless chicken breasts
Sweetened flaked coconut
Coconut extract, coconut milk, etc. (optional)

Raspberry jam
Fresh or frozen raspberries
Cayenne pepper
Lemon juice

Between sheets of plastic wrap, pound your chicken to about 1/4" thickness. If they turn out enormous, just cut them in half.

Beat your eggs in one bowl, adding any extract or other flavor you might wish to include.

Load a separate bowl or plate with coconut.  

Dip the chicken first in the egg mixture, then into the coconut, pressing to adhere. Transfer to a rack-lined baking sheet.  Let the chicken sit for about 5" or so, then repeat the dipping process.

Let rest for 5", then re-dip in egg and coconut.Dredge in egg, then in coconut.

Bake at 350° for about 40" until cooked through and golden.

For the dipping sauce, I just scoop some raspberry jam into a small pan and cook it down with a bit of water, lemon juice, and fresh or frozen berries. I was planning to add some ginger this time, knowing I had a knot in the freezer, but I couldn't find it in all the mess, so I switched gears and sprinkled in a little cayenne instead. This was also the first time I included vanilla, but it was a nice touch. You can never go wrong with vanilla ... well, except that one time I tried a recipe I found for Vanilla Potatoes with Cipollini Onions. That didn't go over well with ANYONE!

No measuring required - just play around to find what you like.

Raspberry dipping sauce.

Baked Coconut Chicken with Raspberry Dipping Sauce

Baked Coconut Chicken with Raspberry Dipping Sauce

Baked Coconut Chicken with Raspberry Dipping Sauce

Baked Coconut Chicken with Raspberry Dipping Sauce

Friday, July 26, 2013

#FTSF - Finish the Sentence Friday AND Peanut (hold the butter), Bacon, and Chocolate Paklava

This week's prompt for Finish the Sentence Friday was "The best and worst parts of blogging are …"

As a food blogger, I find that the worst part about blogging is the self-imposed guilt.  It is very strange to create something that you and your family really enjoy, to then feel like you can't repeat it because if you do, that's a day where you don't have something new to post.  That's OK on occasion, but you start to feel bad if it happens repeatedly which, of course, it does, unless you make a habit of eating dessert every night and mixing drinks to go with dinner so you at least have something to post.  It's even worse if you live on your own and don't have a bunch of people to cook for – then you have to throw leftovers into the equation.  Not all leftovers are suitable for re-purposing.  I'm sure that most people really don't care how often we blog, but we can't help but feel like we're disappointing someone if we don't keep to a regular schedule.  Speaking of which, between two bridal showers, an uptick in work, and the crazy weather we've been having the past few weeks, I haven't been posting much.  Sorry!!  See what I mean?  I was specifically asked to make things for the showers that I have already made and posted (Cream-Filled Kadayif, Chocolate-Toffee-Almond Paklava, etc.), so what's a girl to do??  I did actually bake and decorate cookies for the showers, too - that was fun for a change.  Had some weather issues with the icing though.  I've only iced cookies one other time, so it wasn't too bad for an unexpected addition ...

The other thing I don't particularly like about blogging is being inundated with posts about the same things over and over again.  If I see another macaron, cake pop, or anything in a jar, I'm going to scream.  I have never eaten a macaron and would love to try them, but I'm so sick of seeing them, I can't bring myself to do it.

I'm also very annoyed by bloggers who host giveaways but never post the results.  Was it some sort of scam?  Did they forget?  Is the lack of an announced winner a ploy to drive traffic to their site – people who keep going back to see if they've (anyone has) won??

On the plus side, I have "met" a lot of wonderful people through blogging, some of whom I now consider friends – even though we have never actually met.  I love interacting with other bloggers and readers equally.  Other bloggers are a source of support and information, while non-blogging readers are a great source of inspiration.  As much as I love to receive comments on my posts, I have really been enjoying an influx of direct e-mails from readers lately and have been having a great time "chatting" with everyone.

I have also really enjoyed having the opportunity to participate in recipe challenges through blogging, and it certainly doesn't hurt that companies like Marx Foods provide product samples for inspiration along with their challenges, and Quirk Books provides me with cookbooks to review.  I have also come across giveaways that I would not have known about if not for blogging and have scored a few prizes as a result.

What I like best about food blogging is that it gives me a creative outlet to try crazy things.  Just the other day, a reader sent me an article and photograph of The Twilly.  In honor of National Hot Dog Day (7/23), Pittsburgh Willy's in Chandler, Arizona, served up (for one day only), a hot dog smeared with peanut butter, sprinkled with bacon, and served in a split Twinkie for a bun.  The name is a combination of the Twinkie and the restaurant's signature hot dog, the Billy Willy.  Although I think the cream from the Twinkie would be gross with that, I have to admit that it piqued my curiosity.  It also piqued my imagination, so having a package of phyllo in the fridge, peanuts in the cabinet, and bacon crying out to be used, I decided to play around and come up with something new …

Peanut (hold the butter), Bacon, and Chocolate Paklava

6 slices of bacon (see notes)
2 c unsalted (or lightly salted) dry roasted peanuts, divided
1 T sugar
3.3 oz bar of Dove milk chocolate (see notes)
2 sticks unsalted butter
1 lb phyllo
1 ½ c sugar
¾ c water
fresh lemon juice

Cook the bacon until crisp, either on the stove or in the oven.  Either way, remove the bacon to a paper-towel lined plate to drain, then allow the grease to cool for a few minutes.  Pour some of the grease through a strainer lined with either a paper towel or a coffee filter (I love keeping coffee filters on hand for things like this) into a measuring cup or other heat-proof vessel so that you can use about 1T of the filtered grease.

When making Paklava, I was always taught to add a bit of Crisco to the butter to aid in crisping the dough, so I decided to swap out the Crisco in this case with that 1T of bacon grease.  Go ahead and add that to your butter, bring it to a simmer and skim the foam from the top.

In your food processor, pulse 1c of peanuts with the 1T of sugar.  When the peanuts are broken down to a size you like, toss in the bacon (reserving one slice for garnish) and give it another pulse.  Pour into a bowl and set aside.

Add the second cup of peanuts to the food processor, along with the chocolate, and again pulse until you end up with a size you like.  Some people like their filling chunky, but I prefer it on the smaller side.  I find that it holds together better that way.  Pour into a bowl and set aside.

I was first going to use an 8x8 pan for this, but decided to switch to my "spinach pie" pan, which is about 11½" x 14".  Just don't go much bigger than that or you will either need a second pound of phyllo and more butter, or you will have a very short Paklava.

Brush the tray with melted butter, then start layering in the phyllo, one sheet at a time, buttering every second layer.  You can fold or tuck the dough as necessary to fit your pan, just keep in mind that you will want to alternate the sides where you are tucking so there are no low spots.  If it starts to become unbalanced, don't worry about it, just bunch up a sheet or two (or tear and layer) to fill that spot.

When you have about 10 layers in the pan, butter the top and sprinkle evenly with the peanut/chocolate mixture, then continue layering.  When you have another 6-8 layers, butter the top and sprinkle evenly with the peanut/bacon mixture and continue layering to the top, buttering the top well.

Using a sharp knife, slice from one corner diagonally across the middle to the other, then slice parallel rows in whatever size you would like you pieces to be.  I thought it best to go smaller with this version.  Now rotate the tray so you can slice a diagonal in the opposite direction and cut parallel rows out from that slice, creating a diamond pattern.

Bake at 350° for 30-40" until golden.  Remove from oven and cool completely.

Bring the water and sugar up to a boil, then squeeze in the juice from half a lemon and reduce to a simmer for 1-2".  You don't want to cook it much beyond that, or it will turn from a syrup to a candy once it cools.

Spoon the syrup over the cooled Paklava, then remove one corner piece form the tray and prop a dish towel or pot holder under the opposite corner so that the syrup drains into the corner you just removed the piece from.  Use a spoon to scoop up the syrup there and re-hit any spots you may have missed, going back over the edges, etc.  When you are certain you have covered the entire tray, you can spoon out any excess syrup and remove the prop from the other side.  You want enough syrup to nicely coat your pastry without it being too soggy or cloyingly sweet.

For garnish, I chopped a few extra peanuts and sprinkled that on the tops of some while the syrup was still wet.  I also removed the fatty parts from the nice meat on that reserved strip of cooked bacon and diced that to add a little piece to the tops of the rest.

NOTES:  So far so good.  I brought these to work, and they are meeting with very positive response ... once people work up their nerve to try them.  Apparently, the thought is off putting to some.  I thought everyone loved peanut butter and bacon?!?  ;)  What I'm thinking is that there could be more bacon, and there should definitely be less chocolate.  I was expecting the chocolate to be a bit player, but it is really more pronounced than I was expecting, so I would cut back to 2 oz at a maximum.  You really want the bacon to be the star here.

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Feel free to share in the comments below, on Facebook or Twitter using hashtag #FTSF, or if you're a blogger, link up with one of the host blogs:

Next week's sentence will be:  "My bucket list includes ..."

Monday, July 22, 2013

Noodle Pudding (Kugel)

Noodle Pudding (Kugel) : Hye Thyme Cafe

This is one of those things that I don't think to make often, but everyone devours when it's around. I was introduced to noodle pudding by a Jewish neighbor as a kid and was instantly hooked ... even though it sounded gross to me back then. Bread pudding made sense to me in a French Toast kind of way, but cold, sweet noodles just sounded wrong somehow.

One advantage to making this dessert, especially if you need to bring something to a pot-luck or other gathering, is that it's super easy. It would also make a great starter recipe for getting your kids interested in playing in the kitchen.

The only problem here was that it has been so long since I've made it, I forgot that I like to press the noodles down a bit once in the pan. Because there was so much exposed at the top (over the liquid), there was more of a "crust" than I would have liked. That's not to say it wasn't just as good - as someone who loves fried bow ties, ravioli, etc., I like that sort of chewy texture, just not that much of it in a noodle pudding.

1 pkg large egg noodles
3/4 stick of butter
1/2 c small curd cottage cheese
2 T sour cream
1/4 t salt
8 oz cream cheese 
2 eggs
1 c sugar
1 t vanilla
1 c raisins

  1. Boil the egg noodles to al dente, drain and return to the pot.  
  2. While the noodles are cooking, soak the raisins in a bit of hot water to plump up (this step is optional, but if you do it, be sure to drain and blot them dry before adding to the mix)
  3. Add the butter to the noodles and stir until melted.
  4. Beat together (with hand mixer, blender, food processor...) the cottage cheese, sour cream, salt, cream cheese, eggs, sugar and vanilla.
  5. Pour the cheese mixture over the noodles, add the raisins, and stir until evenly distributed.
  6. Pour into a buttered casserole or baking dish and sprinkle with cinnamon sugar (light on the sugar, heavy on the cinnamon).
  7. Bake at 350° for 30-40" until golden and bubbly.
  8. Delicious served at any temp - hot, room temp, or leftovers straight out of the fridge.
Obviously, you can serve this right out of the pan once it has cooled a bit. I just happened to be bringing it somewhere, so I used a 2" round cutter to portion it out and transfer to cupcake liners.

Pour mixture into buttered casserole dish.

Bake at 350 for 30-40" until golden and bubbly.
I realize it looks burnt here, but that's really the cinnamon.

Use round biscuit cutter to shape.

Friday, July 19, 2013

Finish the Sentence Friday ... "In Church (place of worship), I learned ..."

St. Stephen's Armenian Apostolic Church

Religion and politics are two very contentious topics, so I was surprised that this question came up, but it is what it is, so …

In church (place of worship), I learned to … "

 ... not believe in a "church."

I never was much of a church goer.  My parents would take us as kids, but it was usually my Dad, and I'm pretty sure that was more to get us out from underfoot of our Mom than anything else.  Mom's family was Armenian Apostolic (Armenia was the very first Christian nation - not the first Christian people, but the first nation as a whole to accept Christianity.), so we were christened in that church but didn't live close enough for them to bring us regularly.  Even had that been an option, they only speak Armenian in our particular church (pictured above), so I wouldn't have understood a word that was being said anyhow.  Dad's family was Catholic, so he would often take us to the local Catholic Church.  Being someone who liked to explore (indoors and out), he also took us to other churches in the area.  Growing up in Hingham, MA, also meant being aware that Hingham is home to the Old Ship Church, the oldest church in the U.S. under continual ecclesiastical use.  Hingham is also the home of Talbot's, but that's another story.  ;)

I was baptized in the Armenian Church, dragged to Catholic services on weekends, grew up in a largely Jewish neighborhood, had a best friend who was Episcopalian, so any weekends spent at her house meant attending services at the Episcopal Church, and we went to a Lutheran camp together in the summer.  I was exposed to a little of everything, but nothing really stuck.

Even as a child, I often left church feeling insulted after being told that only those who practice X religion are going to Heaven and everyone else is bad or to be pitied and going to Hell.  What's up with that?!?  To me, church was a place where those in attendance were told they were better than anyone else, where you were doused in incest, had your allowance taken away from you, were lectured by men for whom you were supposed to have the utmost respect (even though these same men often did terrible things themselves), where women were taught they were "less than" and not allowed to preach, and where even if you were one of those "good" people attending services, if you didn't receive communion, you were still looked down on.  Which I also thought was funny because I knew very well that a lot of those standing in line to receive communion were neither "in a state of grace" nor "free of mortal sin."  Who were they kidding?!?  Not this eight-year old at the back of the room!  All I saw was hypocrisy.

It's all very confusing.  How is it that some religions have one God, where others have different Gods for all kinds of things?  And how can anyone insist their way is the right way?  Unless you have actually met him/her/them, you really have no idea.

Everything I needed to know about the principles of religion I had already learned at home and seriously, most of it is pretty much common sense in the first place.  Personally, I don't believe in the concept of church.  At the same time, it seems to be a great social outlet – a place where people of like mind can gather, network, find help when they need it, etc.  I sometimes feel as though I missed out in that regard.  Aside from that, I see "church" as a place of oppression, greed, intolerance, etc., which of course is completely in contradiction to its teachings.

I'm not knocking anyone for their belief or non-belief in God – it's the concept of church I have a problem with.  If you believe in God, that's great.  You want to gather with others who share your beliefs to discuss them, etc., that's great too, but why do you need to go to a church to do that?  To me, the church itself is largely about men controlling those around them and often times lining their own pockets in the process, and I find that offensive.

I recently made the mistake of tuning into one of the latest reality shows to hit the airwaves.  Have you seen this one yet … TLC's "The Sisterhood."  All I got from that was that these women are primarily concerned with their wardrobes and status – not very "church lady" if you ask me!!  I was instantly brought back to when the father of one of my college roommates passed away.  I forget what religion they were, but I drove to Connecticut to attend the services and was dumbfounded when I walked into their church to find seven or eight ladies at the front raucously arguing over which of them (all decked out in their finest jewels and full-length fur coats) got to sit in the front row.  Seriously?!?  In Church?!?!  At a funeral no less?????????

Heck, maybe I'm just all riled up over Pope John Paul being canonized.  To me, someone who knowingly swept all those child molestation cases under the carpet and refused to allow the use of condoms to prevent the spread of AIDS at its height, among other things, does not deserve to be canonized, let alone that he only performed ONE supposed miracle, when the requirement is for TWO.

You want to post the 10 Commandments all over schools and courthouses, etc., knock yourself out.  Anyone who doesn't want to read them can walk right by (but I still say most of it is common sense anyhow).  You want US currency to sport the words "In God We Trust?"  OK by me – a little strange, but it won't stop me from using it.  You want to say Happy Holidays instead of Merry Christmas?  That's OK too, but since it IS Christmas, I'll keep on saying Merry Christmas in response.  You want religion taught in schools?  Just so long as it's an elective course, why not?!  You want to pray in school with your friends?  Do it during study period, lunch, before or after class – no problem!  Whichever side of the equation you're on, I'm OK with that, just so long as you don't insist on pushing your particular beliefs on me.

The other thing I found very strange about religion was when I moved to New Orleans.  I was shocked by the number of people I met there who seem to try on different religions like they're shopping for clothes – jumping from one to another until they find one that allows them to do whatever they like.  Is that really what it's about??  And don't get me started on gift shops in churches!!

I remember watching Perry Mason after school with my Mom when I was little, and even back then, it was religion causing me stress rather than giving me comfort.  What would happen if I ever had to go to court and wouldn't swear on a Bible?  They would assume I was lying!!  Yup, 6-year old me would stress over things like that and have to face the wrath of my parents for not sharing their beliefs.

I think it was high school when my mother finally gave up on me where religion is concerned. She suddenly decided that I would be sent to Notre Dame, the local all-girls Catholic School. The look of horror on my face suddenly changed to a smirk as I posed this question … "You have to take a test to get in, right?" That was the end of the discussion. Would have been the easiest test I ever failed.

If I'm in Massachusetts around Martyr's Day (April 24 - the commemoration of the Armenian genocide) or the anniversary of the death of either of my maternal grandparents, I do attend church still, but it's more a matter of respect and culture to me than to do with the church. And I do make the rounds at the cemeteries as well, to visit and plant flowers for them and stop by to "check in" with other friends/relatives who have passed.  That also seems pretty funny to me since I don't think their souls or energy or however you want to think of it is hanging out at the cemetery but hey, it's tradition.

Oh, and the other thing I learned in church is never to underestimate the acoustics in there!  When I was 3 or 4, I spent the weekend at a friend's and went to church with her family.  She said something shocking, and as I very quietly responded with a little whistle, the acoustics turned that small sound into something akin to a train whistle, and all eyes were on me.  Oops!!!!!!

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Feel free to share in the comments below, on Facebook or Twitter using hashtag #FTSF, or if you're a blogger, link up with one of the host blogs:

Next week's sentence will be:  "The best and worst parts of blogging are ..."

Sunday, July 14, 2013


Butterhorns : Hye Thyme Cafe

I'm not usually a big fan of walnuts in baked goods, but this is an exception. I don't care for them (or pecans) in brownies or cookies, but for some reason, pair them with pastry dough, especially if there is cinnamon-sugar involved, and I'm all over it!

2 c flour, sifted
2 sticks, softened
2 eggs
3/4 c sour cream
1/2 t vanilla
3/4 c sugar
3/4 c chopped walnuts
2 t cinnamon

Because I was making this in my food processor (using the dough blade), rather than sifting the flour, I put it in the bowl of the processor by itself first and pulsed it a few times to aerate. Whether doing it by hand, in a stand mixer, or a food processor, start with the flour, then cut in the butter.

Next add the yolk from one of the eggs (you can separate it to leave the white in a bowl for later to go with the egg wash, or just discard that white), the sour cream, and vanilla until the dough comes together and starts to pull away from the sides of the mixer/bowl. It will still be quite soft.

Form the dough into a ball or disk, dust with flour and wrap in waxed paper - chill for +/- 2 hours.

While waiting for your dough to chill, go ahead and chop your walnuts.  Some people like to pulse the sugar and cinnamon in their food processor right with the walnuts. For some reason, I always pulse them in the food processor, then stir them into the sugar and cinnamon until evenly distributed.

Now that I'm thinking about it, that would be for measuring purposes. I pulse a bunch of walnuts, then measure out 3/4 c, but it's just for a filling, so it doesn't really need to be exact.

When your dough has chilled and stiffened up, separate it into three sections. If you're quick at this sort of thing, you can leave the rest out, but if you tend to work slowly, you might want to throw the other two pieces back in the fridge so they don't soften up again.

On a lightly-floured work surface, roll out the dough to about a 9" circle, and slice into 8 wedges. I like to use a pizza wheel for things like this. I'll slice it into quarters, then repeat. I sprinkle a little flour on top of the dough as well for this one because it's so soft. Even if I'm putting waxed paper over it, it sometimes sticks to the paper or rolling pin if not floured. Depends on the weather, and it was EXTREMELY hot and humid while I was making these!

Butterhorns : Hye Thyme Cafe

It seems as though most people sprinkle the filling over the entire round and roll them in place, but I like to flour a small spatula and remove a wedge, sprinkle the filling, and then roll it. I think they come out cleaner looking that way. I keep the filling more in the center because as you roll them, it will spread out. For the same reason, I stop sprinkling the filling before I get to the tip.  

Butterhorns : Hye Thyme Cafe
Roll from the wide-end toward the tip and place tip-side down on parchment-lined baking sheet. They will puff up some but won't spread much, so you can keep them relatively close together. Repeat with the other two portions of dough.

Beat the second egg (and reserved white from the first egg if you kept it) with a drizzle of water to create an egg wash and brush lightly over all of the butterhorns.

Bake at between 325°-350° for 25-30" until lightly golden.

Butterhorns : Hye Thyme Cafe

Butterhorns : Hye Thyme Cafe

Friday, July 12, 2013

Finish the Sentence Friday ... If I could go back and do something over it would be..."

Ashken Janoian

This week's Finish the Sentence Friday prompt is "If I could go back and do something over it would be..."

There is probably at least a handful of things I would do differently if given the chance, but the one that I think about all the time is, in fact, time … time I could/should have spent with my maternal grandmother.

My grandfather passed away when I was 13, and my grandmother lived on her own for a while after that, but there came a time when she finally moved in with us, and I seriously regret not spending more time with her – for a LOT of reasons.

Back then, I pretty much did whatever I could to not be home, but that's really no excuse, since I could have taken her out with me if I thought of it.  It just never occurred to me.  There are so many things I would want to ask her about her childhood and her family, about her memories of living in Armenia, her early relationship with my grandfather (I've heard it was an arranged marriage, but I'm not quite sure.), and her love for the theatre that we shared but I never knew about until she was gone.

As meek and gentle a soul as she was, it still amazes me that she even managed to survive the genocide in Armenia and the passing of her father at such a young age (his death was through illness, not related - just bad timing), to then be separated from her family and placed in an orphanage until she could be reunited with family again and relocate to the U.S., only to then lose her mother as well.  Just a blink away were the Great Depression and WWII … Maybe that was all training her for the wicked witch of a mother-in-law she was about to be saddled with.  As much as I loved my grandfather, I was petrified of his mother!  His father must have been the joker in the family, because my grandfather was a big goofball with a touch of a nasty streak.  He definitely got that streak from her, so I'm guessing his infectious smile, boyish charm, and mischievous nature were inherited from his Dad.

I would give anything for one more day with my grandmother.  Just to spend time in her presence would be enough, but it would be even more special if we spent the day in the kitchen together since we really never did that.  By the time I developed much of an interest in cooking/baking, she was already gone.  It would be especially helpful to have that one day in the kitchen with her so I could get her to translate her recipes into English!!  I have two notebooks she wrote recipes in, but some are in English, others in Armenian, and some appear to have a little French thrown in for good measure.  I know a bunch of people who speak Armenian, but not read it, and it's especially difficult to read someone else's handwriting in another language.  Then there are all those recipes she had in her head that were never written down at all. 

If I couldn't go back for a do-over to spend the time with my grandmother that I should have when I had the opportunity, the other thing I would turn back to is a friend's wedding.  The reason that came up was that I was baking a tray of Almond-Chocolate-Toffee Paklava yesterday for a bridal shower tomorrow, and the Paklava reminded me of that wedding.  In addition to the desserts that were to be provided at the venue, the bride (Armenian) had asked that I bake Paklava for the occasion, so there could be a platter on every table.  Well, one thing lead to another, and we were so involved with pre-wedding errands (I was the maid of honor) that we were up until oh, I think it was 5 am on the morning of the wedding day baking tray after tray after tray.  Finally done, we sent someone to deliver it to the venue.  So what happened??  They refrigerated it!  All that work, and it basically turned to cement.  But for the fact that most of the people there were Armenian and know good Paklava when they eat it, we might have tried to thaw it out and pass it off, but there was no way.  I could definitely use a do-over for that one!

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Feel free to share in the comments below, on Facebook or Twitter using hashtag #FTSF, or if you're a blogger, link up with one of the host blogs:

Next week's sentence will be:  "In church (place of worship), I learned to ..."

Monday, July 8, 2013

Turkey and Stuffing Baked Macaroni and Cheese

Turkey and Stuffing Baked Macaroni and Cheese : Hye Thyme Cafe

I was standing in front of the pantry one day trying to decide what to make for dinner, and the container of stuffing sitting next to the pasta caught my eye. I started thinking about using the stuffing in place of breadcrumbs on top of a baked macaroni and cheese. Following that, I naturally had to add turkey to the mix.

I have a confession to make ... I also wanted to add some dried cranberries, but I was afraid it would turn into a pink mess, so you will not see them in my step-by-step photos. I filled my casserole dish, then stirred some cranberries into one side so I could try it, but if it didn't turn out well, you would never have to know. Yup, I'm sneaky that way. Turns out the cranberries didn't run like I was afraid they would, and I definitely think they added to the dish, so sprinkle away!!

Mise en place
1 lb elbow macaroni
Turkey broth (optional)
Grated Parmesan
4 T flour
4 T butter
2 1/2 c milk
2 T Philadelphia Herb and Garlic Cooking Creme
1 lb muenster cheese, chopped or shredded
4 slices American cheese
Mise en place
3-4 oz additional cheese (optional)
1/2 t black pepper
2 c cooked turkey, torn or cut into bite-sized pieces
1/2 c dried cranberries
1 c herbed stuffing mix
1 T minced shallot or onion

Boil the pasta to al dente in salted water, turkey broth, or a combination of the two. The turkey broth adds an extra boost of flavor. If you like the idea of that but can't find turkey broth, you could certainly use chicken broth instead.

Toss cooked noodles with butter and Parmesan.Drain the pasta, then toss with about a tablespoon of butter and a sprinkling of Parmesan, and set aside.

Over medium heat, whisk together the butter and flour to create a blonde roux. Once it starts to take on some color, whisk in a splash of the milk to loosen it up so you don't get lumps, then whisk in the rest of the milk.

Use 4T each butter and flour to create a roux.
Add the milk and bring up to a boil to thicken.

Whisking frequently to prevent burning, let that come up to a boil and start to thicken, then whisk in the cooking creme for additional flavor and creaminess. If you want to skip the cooking creme (the cheese mix will be plenty creamy without it), you could add a little garlic powder or minced garlic for additional flavor.  

Next you will want to break up and add the American cheese. I like to add that first because it has that nice creamy texture to help melt down the other cheeses. Just make sure you use real American cheese and not the plastic tasting oily singles. I have no idea what those might do to your dish.

A little at a time, start whisking in the Muenster and any other cheese you might be including. When I make my usual Baked Macaroni and Cheese, I like to throw in some pepperjack and maybe some extra jalapenos. You might want to add a chunk of cheddar or something else hanging out in your fridge. This time, I had a chunk of colby-jack, so I added that to the party. Just don't go much over 5-6 oz or you might throw off the texture. Don't panic if that does happen, just add a little more milk to get it creamy again.

Add the cheeses, a little at a time until melted.

Stir half of the cheese sauce into the noodles.

Give your pasta a stir to loosen it up again, then pour about half of the cheese sauce over it, stirring well to fill in all those elbows.

Stir in your add-ins, then additional sauce.
Next stir in the turkey, then enough additional cheese to make it nice and goopy - but not flooded over the top - you don't want to end up with a flat layer of cheese on the top of your casserole! Stir in the cranberries last, to limit any color bleeds.

Transfer the mix to a buttered casserole dish.

For the topping, toss the stuffing into a plastic bag and use a rolling pin, meat mallet, your first - whatever works for you - to crush it. You could give it a quick pulse in the food processor, but that would mean extra clean-up, and you don't want to process it too fine. This will be quick work for many of you, but personally, I prefer my stuffing in croutette form, so those cubes definitely required crushing.  

Toss the stuffing with the minced shallot or onion and sprinkle evenly over the top of your pasta. Add a few dots of butter here and there, then bake at 325 for about an hour until the top is golden and you can see the cheese bubbling on the sides.

Bake at 325 for one hour until golden and bubbly.

Let rest for a while if you want to be able to cut it rather than scooping.

It will be super hot when it comes out, so be sure to let it rest for at least a few minutes before digging in. If you're concerned with presentation, note that the longer it sits, the cleaner it will cut. If the cheese is still extremely hot, it will be oozy and more amenable to scooping with a big serving spoon than portioning out with a spatula.

If you have any extra sauce, refrigerate it to use in the next few days as a topping for vegges, or to serve over savory crepes, etc.

Turkey and Stuffing Baked Macaroni and Cheese

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