Hearty Stock—from turkey or any other meat

Now that your Thanksgiving dinner is history and you made it through Black Friday’s craziness it is time to look in the fridge and figure out what to do with the left over turkey bones. I make stock from the bones and use the stock either for soup or for risotto. There is a trick of the trade for making the stock rich and hearty….roast the bones.

Roasted turkey bones with deep brown color.

I remove all of the meat from the bones and save the meat for later use. Take the bones and put a single layer of them on a baking sheet with parchment or Silpat. Heat the oven to 350 degrees and roast the bones, turning to make sure the bones are evenly browned. It usually takes a minimum of 1/2 hour to get the bones to a nice golden to dark brown color, depending on the amount of bones. Once the bones develop the nice color put them in a stock pot and add onions, carrots, garlic, a bay leaf, and whatever herbs you like to use. Add enough water to cover the bones and simmer for at least an hour (sometimes I simmer for several hours) until the liquid develops a nice deep color…and flavor. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Remove the pot from the stove and strain the stock to remove the bones and vegetables. Once the stock is cooled you can freeze the stock in zip lock bags for future use, I always have some sort of stock in my freezer. If you want to make turkey soup use the stock and add back the turkey meat that you took off the bones and what ever vegetables, rice, pasta you want. The broth adds tremendous flavor to the soup. Never again will I just take the turkey carcass with some turkey on it and boil it…not enough flavor for me.

Rich stock from roasted turkey bones

Rich stock from roasted turkey bones

The best part of the recipe above is you can use it with any type of meat bones. I’ve roasted bones from pork, duck, beef, and goose and made great stock. If you don’t have enough bones to make stock just put the bones in a zip lock bag and freeze until you do have enough to roast and make stock.

Once you begin to make stock from roasted bones you’ll never go back to the old way of just boiling bones…take my word for it.


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Pumpkin Soup – Easy and Delicious

Yummy Pumpkin Soup

I’ve been making and enjoying this pumpkin soup for years.  It is such an easy and quick recipe to make that you can make it Thanksgiving Day to serve as a starter…or make it any day to enjoy a nice, warm winter soup.  While I’ve been making the soup for years there are only 2 people in the family who enjoy the soup.

My daughter, who is vegetarian, came home from college this week for Thanksgiving break.  When she’s home she doesn’t want to eat pasta, which her is mainstay at the school’s cafeteria, she wants something much more interesting to eat.  She is a good cook herself and can easily make nutritious vegetarian food but I enjoy cooking for her because it gives me a chance try interesting recipes and be creative.

Now on the other side of the family, my husband doesn’t like most food that is “orange” in color….except oranges, carrots, and cantaloupe.  I think what he really doesn’t like is all of the winter squash available this time of year.  Many years ago I learned not to make only a pumpkin pie for dessert on Thanksgiving Day…his pie of choice is chocolate pecan (although now we have Tiramisu for Thanksgiving dessert which everyone likes).  I never make sweet potatoes for him to eat.  Instead I sneak sweet potatoes into the house and secretly bake them when he isn’t around, eating them for lunch or if he isn’t home for dinner.

The other night my husband wasn’t going to be home for dinner and I excitedly bought a sweet potato at the store for my dinner.  Just as the sun was going down I put the large sweet potato in the oven to slowly roast.  As the potato was showing nice browning of the skin and a few drops of caramelized sweetness starting to peak out of the skin the phone rang.  My husband asked if I had eaten dinner yet, his business meeting was canceled and he was on his way home.  He asked what was planned for dinner and I sheepishly told him roasted sweet potatoes.  Not excited about the evening menu he asked if there were any “regular” white potatoes to roast, and there were.  He decided instead of stopping for fast food dinner at home could be saved with the addition of a regular Idaho baking potato and a stop at the store to buy some meat.  He was glad there would be no orange food for him for dinner…and I have to say I was very glad he bought great rib eye steaks that he grilled.

Now, back to the soup.  As you can probably tell my daughter and I are the pumpkin soup eaters.  To my surprise, my husband took a spoon and sampled the soup….and liked it.  But given his track record on orange food I didn’t offer him a bowl and he didn’t protest not being offered any.  My daughter and I  been enjoying the soup especially since the weather has turned cold.

So here is the easy recipe.  Let me know how you enjoy it.

Pumpkin Soup

  • 3 cups chicken stock or vegetable stock if making vegetarian
  • 1/2 cup half and half
  • 1  15 ounce can of pumpkin
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon smoked paprika (or can substitute chili powder or curry powder)
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • Plain Greek Style Yogurt or sour cream for garnish
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Bring the stock to a boil in a heavy pan.  Stir in the half and half, bring liquid back to a boil and reduce heat to a simmer.  Whisk in the pumpkin, honey, cumin, smoked paprika, coriander, and nutmeg.  Simmer the soup until it thickens slightly, about 15 minutes.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.  Ladle the soup into bowls and garnish with a dollop of yogurt or sour cream.  Serve and enjoy.

I hope you all have a wonderful Thanksgiving.  ENJOY!

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Bison Butchering…Yes, I do live in the Wild West!

A word of warning for those of you who don’t eat meat…or don’t want to see where your meat comes from….this post is may be a little too much for you. It’s okay, I understand.

Art Meets Beast

The “Beast Meets Art” events this week at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Denver were very interesting and challenged my thinking about what is considered art.  Is an animal a form of art? What about an animal running on the western plains?  How about the food that is made from the animal?

The bison that was butchered came from a bison ranch in Nebraska. While the whole animal was delivered, the seminar only used a hind quarter…which is pretty darn big. The remainder of the animal was butchered earlier in the day. The animal was 2 years old which is the best age to produce tender meat.

Hind Quarter of 2 Year Old Bison

Butchering is coming back into favor as a craft and Jimmy Cross from Marzczyk Fine Foods is well known for his butchering abilities.

Jimmy, the butcher, concentrating

Jimmy started with the hanging carcass, explaining and cutting into the architecture of the finished animal and breaking it down to usable pieces. Using his knives he quickly made the cuts and lined up the meat on a table.  When the knives weren’t big enough or strong enough he switched to hand saws, explaining that normally he uses a band saw in his shop.

It took 2 people to saw the carcass.

Moving to the table where the largest pieces were displayed, Jimmy sawed through the ribs with some help. The ribs were massive…a big barbecue grill would be in order if you were going to make barbecued ribs!

The ribs were massive and difficult to cut through

While a bison and beef are very similar in anatomy,  the hump, on the back just behind the head, is unique.  The large muscle allows the bison to hold up its very large head while charging across the plains.  The hump is a specialty at some of the local game restaurants where it is roasted and then the meat is separated from the bone.  The hump feeds about about 1/2 dozen people.

The hump is on the upper left side, the muscle is used to hold up the large head when running

Finally, Jimmy took the better known roasts and tied them so they would look just like they do in the meat case.  The chefs who were making the dinner the next night were in attendance and as Jimmy cut the meat they would wiggle their way to the table and pick up the pieces they wanted to cook for the Bison Roast dinner. They were standing behind me and the conversations about how they were going to cook the m eat was very interesting…and amusing.

A quick flick of the wrist and fingers and the roasts were tied.

The chefs worked late into the night preparing for the big Bison Roast dinner that was held the next evening.  Of course I’ll be posting the pictures and stories about the dinner.

Click here for more pictures from Westword.com, the free city weekly in Denver.

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Food Adventures in Kansas

I spent last weekend in Kansas visiting my daughter who is a senior at Kansas State University in Manhattan.  The joke in the family is she went to the wrong Manhattan…she is a theater major and is also very much a foodie who happens to be vegetarian.  This Manhattan is only a short stop over for her to the Big Apple because one day she will be in the Big Apple (versus the Little Apple).  Well as you can imagine, it is difficult to be a vegetarian in Kansas, there are many people in Kansas who just don’t understand a vegetarian… or what to cook for them.

As is typical for many parents whose first child has left for college my husband and I decided to head out to Manhattan (the Little Apple variety) for Parent’s Weekend in her freshman year.  She had been there only a couple of weeks and we just wanted to make sure everything was okay.  In those few short weeks she learned she was sentenced to eating lots of pasta, salad bars, and sometimes fresh fruit…no innovative vegetarian entrees at this heartland school. She also realized that the Little Apple is really a little town and she wanted to get out of Manhattan and visit a bigger city.

Hmmm, Topeka isn’t far away and is the capitol after all, it had to be more interesting than the Little Apple.  A short hour drive and we were in Topeka…driving around looking for interesting parts of the city to explore.  Unfortunately, except for the capit0l building I don’t remember the interesting parts of town (sorry to anyone who lives in Topeka).  But what I do remember is a phenomenal restaurant and a great meal.

We happened to pick up a restaurant guide.  You know the ones…nice glossy magazine style with loads of pictures and menus…the ones that restaurants pay to advertise in.  When we eat out we want to have something special, not something that we can easily cook at home.  Stopping by an Italian restaurant and a bar and grill proved fruitless because the menus were ordinary…and there weren’t any vegetarian options on the menu.

As our stomachs began to complain, my husband came across an ad for a new restaurant that had recently opened up in an old, yet to be gentrified, section of the city.  The name described the restaurant perfectly, RowHouse.  Indeed the restaurant was in a section of old row houses on a pretty much abandoned block about 5 blocks north of the capitol building.

My husband went in and talked with the wait staff and indeed they had vegetarian dishes and the menu was inspired with local, seasonal products.  My daughter and I scurried out of the car and walked up the 2 flights of steps to second floor of the row house.

The tiny kitchen at RowHouse with inspired chefs

At the time, we didn’t realize the inspired dishes we would enjoy that evening….and several other evenings since.  The restaurant has a fixed menu for the week.  It is a tasting menu so you can have small portions of each dish.  The price is a meager $36 for salad, soup, entree and dessert. Wednesday nights they test the menu for the week so the dinner is only $29, we’ve yet to be there for the testing night…but if we lived in Topeka we’d be regular Wednesday night diners!

I don’t remember what we had that evening but we were blown away by the quality of food, the presentation, the excellent service, the fairly priced wine list, and the care that was put into the vegetarian dishes.  I do remember what we ate during our visit this past week.

  • Apricot Vinaigrette, Pears, Baby Greens, Bleu Cheese, Dried Cranberries
  • Potato and Yam Chowder, with Candied Bacon
  • Vegetarian Entree:  Butternut Squash, Goat’s Cheese,  and Spinach Risotto
  • Delicious Butternut Squash with Goat Cheese Sauce and Roasted Beets

  • Entree 2:  Pistachio Crusted Halibut, Sage Cream, Mashed Carrots
  • Entree 3:  Molasses and Black Pepper Glazed Beef, Parsnip Puree, String Beans

Sumptuous entree halibut and beef

  • Dessert 1:  Pear and Cranberry Crisp
  • Dessert 2:  Butternut Squash Creme Brulee
  • Dessert 3:  Coffee and Cream Sorbet

    Trio of delicious desserts

It’s nice being able to publicly share wine with your children.  This evening we shared a bottle of nicely priced red wine, Kennedy Shah La Vie en Rouge from The Woodhouse Wine Estates.

It was a fun evening.  I hope you enjoyed this evening in Kansas as much as I did.

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Plums, Plums, Plums…fall inspired dessert

Fall is one of my favorite times of year as the trees are beautiful when their leaves change colors.  In Park City we are treated to two sets of colors, the first when the scrub brush and maples change to red and then a few weeks later when the aspens turn to yellow.

I also love the bounty of the fall harvest…winter squash, garlic, onions, apples and plums.  My friend, Nan, has several plum trees that were so plentiful this year that she ran out of ideas for using them …and time for preserving the harvest.  All she needed to do was give

Picking plums at Nan's house

me a call and I was over her house in no time picking the beautiful plums.

Many years ago when I was in a gourmet cooking group I made a great dessert with plums

Bowl of plums...ready to cook

that is to die for.  Italian plums with the pit removed and a piece of dark chocolate place in the center and wrapped in phyllo dough and baked.  Oh, what a delight with a nice port.  My cooking group devoured this delectable dessert in no time.

This year I am making a several plum recipes and want to share a very easy one with you, a plum crisp.  This recipe is so easy to make and is so versatile you can use peaches, plums or apples…whatever is available at your farmers market.

Plum Crisp

  • 2 cups flour (I use 1 cup white flour and 1 cup whole wheat flour)
  • ¾ cup pecans (can finely chop or just mix in mixer alone before other ingredients)
  • ¾ cup brown sugar
  • 1 ½ sticks butter (12 Tbs)
  • 1 egg
  • 2 pounds  plums

Mix flour, pecans, sugar.  Add butter and yolk.  Blend until crumbly.  Press 2 cups of mixture into an 8 inch tart pan.  Press to make edges straight.

Arrange fruit skin side down.  Top with remaining crumb mixture.  Bake at 350 till bubbly.

Cool and cut into wedges or rectangles.  Garnish with whipped cream.


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Caramel, Cashew, Chile Powder, Bacon Popcorn

Ready to eat...YUM

I grew up eating Cracker Jack…the candied peanuts, caramel popcorn and the “prize in every box” treat.  It wasn’t until I was an adult that I realized how darn easy it is to make caramel popcorn with peanuts…and very inexpensive too.

Most people don’t realize that Cracker Jack has been around for a very long time.  Introduced at the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition (Chicago’s First World’s Fair) the original recipe was made with molasses and not caramel.  The recipe was changed in 1896 to the caramel that millions of people have come to know…and the name was trademarked at that time when a salesman for the business said “That’s crackerjack”.  So the name stuck and recipe have stuck for well over a century.

I’ve made various recipes of caramel popcorn over the years but it wasn’t until I read the recipe that Colt and Gray in Denver makes that I was inspired to adapt their recipe to my way of cooking caramel popcorn.  Since bacon continues to be such a unique ingredient in everything from panna cotta to sweet pastries I decided to try adding it to popcorn.

The following recipe is flexible. If you want more cashews go ahead and add them.  If you  don’t like cashews use peanuts or pecans instead.  If you want spicier popcorn add more chile powder or a hotter variety of chile powder.  If you want less spice don’t use chile powder at all.  You can also try different types of bacon…bacon rubbed with black pepper, smoked bacon or try something totally unusual like I did and use lamb bacon.

Popcorn with Caramel, Cashews, Chile Powder and Bacon

  • 1 Cup popcorn kernels (divided)
  • 6 tablespoons vegetable oil (divided) (No oil necessary if using an air popper)
  • 8 ounces raw bacon, chopped
  • 1/2 cup cashews (use more if you want)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt or sea salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon chile powder (I’ve used Chipotle or Chimayo you can use Cayenne for lots of heat or a mixture such as chili powder you buy in the spice aisle)
  • 1/2 cup heavy whipping cream at room temperature
  • 3 cups of granulated sugar
  • 2 tablespoons of corn syrup either light or dark

Make the popcorn in 2 batches.  For each batch put 3 tablespoons of oil in the bottom of a heavy pot along with 1/2 cup of the popcorn kernels and cover the pot but leave the lid slightly ajar to let out the steam.  Place the pot onto medium to medium high heat and when the popcorn starts to pop swish popcorn around the pan.  As the popping slows down remove pan so the popcorn doesn’t burn.  When done popping put the popcorn in a large heat resistant bowl.  Repeat the process with the remaining 1/2 cup of popcorn kernels and 3 tablespoons of oil.

Cook the bacon in a large skillet until it is cooked, but not crisp.  Drain the bacon on a paper towel.  When the bacon is cool add it along with the cashews, salt and chile powder to the bowl of popcorn.  Toss to coat.  Preheat the oven to 325.

Line 2 rimmed 10×15 cookie sheets with foil and coat with non-stick spray.  Coat 2 wooden spoons or 2 heat resistant spatulas with non-stick spray.

Put the sugar in a heavy pot and place on medium high heat.  As the sugar starts to melt add in the corn syrup.  Stir the sugar until melted and a nice brown caramel color and the mixture is bubbling.  Remove from the heat and add in the room temperature cream.  Be careful because this will cause a lot of steam.  Continue to stir and place back on the heat for about 2 minutes.

While the caramel is still very hot drizzle it over the popcorn in the bowl, I do this in batches.  Toss the mixture with the spoons or spatulas.  Continue adding the caramel until you use it up.  Transfer the popcorn mixture to the 2 baking sheets and place in the oven

Ready to go into the oven

for 15 minutes.  Stir the mixture occasionally to get the popcorn completely coated and dried out.  Take out of the oven and place the baking sheets on a cooling rack.  When cool break up the pieces and serve.  You can put the popcorn in zip lock bags to store.


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Savory Rustic Greens Tart…or how I started to love greens

Savory Rustic Greens Tart

Savory Rustic Greens Tart with Red Wine and Tomatoes

I haven’t loved greens my whole life.  My Mom used to boil greens until they were limp and tasteless.  It didn’t get any better when I went to college in the south where greens were boiled for what seemed to be hours with ham hocks.  Again, a tasteless limp vegetable that I (and I think many) simply didn’t enjoy.

I think the first time I realized how good greens (turnip, collard, kale, beet) can be was when a friend who is a trained chef cooked some for a dinner party.  These greens were not the limp,  tasteless greens of my past but instead were sumptuous and tasty with nice texture.

The Rustic Tart with Greens inspiration came when my friend, Gwen, offered to share her

This cold frame grew greens over the winter at my friend's house in Salt Lake City

bounty of greens that she had been growing all winter in a cold frame.  She had quite the variety of greens with Tuscan, Russian and other heirloom varieties of kale plus several varieties of spinach.

Rustic Tart with Greens

This recipe makes enough for 2 tart shells. I freeze one to use later. It is always nice to have the crust already made and ready to go when I want to make a tart. Just pull the extra dough out of the freezer and put in the fridge over night or just leave on the counter for a few hours

Cornmeal Tart Shell:

  • 2 1/4 cups  all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup  whole wheat flour
  • 1 cup medium coarse corn meal
  • 1 teaspoon fine grain salt
  • 1 1/4 cups unsalted butter, cut in cubes
  • 1/3 cup grated cheese (I use whatever hard cheese I have around such as cheddar cheese or Parmesan)
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/4 cup – 3/4 cup cold water


  • 3 ounces of soft goat cheese (chevre)
  • 3 cups (packed) of coarsely chopped various greens, whatever you have. Such as kale, collard, spinach, beet, etc.
  • 2 green onions coarsely chopped.
  • Fresh herbs, whatever you have such as oregano, basil, thyme, chives, a little rosemary, chop about ½ – ¾ cups
  • ½ cup grated cheddar cheese, I use use Beehive Cheese’s Barely Buzzed with is a cheddar cheese rubbed with lavender and espresso but any good quality cheddar cheese will work
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
  • Freshly ground pepper
  • Freshly sliced tomatoes (optional)

Start by making the tart dough.  Combine flours, corn meal, and salt in a food processor.  Pulse in the butter and cheese until the mixture looks like small pebbles.  Mix the egg is a small bowl with 1/4 cup of water.  Pulse to combine and trickle in more water if needed, just enough until the dough comes together.

Turn out onto a floured counter top cutting board and gather into a ball.  Divide the dough into two equal pieces, shape each into a ball.  Wrap one ball in plastic wrap and put into a zip lock bag to freeze  for later us.  With the second ball of dough gently press into 1/2 inch thick disk, wrap in plastic and put into refrigerator for at least one hour.

Preheat oven to 375F.  Place a rack in the middle of the oven.

Take the tart dough out of the refrigerator and roll out the disk into a circle about 1/4 inch in thickness.  Place on parchment lined baking sheet.  Take the goat cheese and spread on the tart dough to about 1 1/2 inches from the sides.  Mix the copped greens, herbs, salt and pepper together in a bowl.  Place the greens mixture onto the tart dough leaving about 1 1/2 to 2 inches along the sides.  If using tomatoes place them on top of the greens.  Place the shredded cheddar cheese on top.  Fold about  2  inches of the sides over the tart to make a rustic looking tart.   Place baking sheet in the oven and bake for 35-45 minutes until the greens are soft and the cheddar cheese is melted.  Remove the pan and cool on a baking rack before cutting.

Use a serrated knife or bread knife to cut.  Serve warm or at room temperature.


Finished tart ready for cutting, serve warm or at room temperature.

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Welcome to No Plain Jane’s Kitchen

Most of my free time is spent talking about food, wine and beer and now I can talk with all my friends both old and new in one easy format….No Plain Jane’s Kitchen food blog.  I’ll be blogging about my food adventures.  So you can expect to see great recipes that I’ve developed or tried, what I found in old cookbooks, my trips which always include food, my friends who are foodies, winos, and hop heads, and other adventures yet to be discovered!!

So please come on this adventure.  Come back often, leave a message with your thoughts, and comments  and most importantly ENJOY!

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