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In the Advent Kitchen -- December 4

In the Advent Kitchen -- December 4

Carrots and Broccoli Pieces with Pesto Bean Dip

Turkey Herder’s Pie

Fresh Fruit

Chocolate-Hazelnut Stars

How about a comfort meal tonight? Start with something easy. Serve some fresh carrots and broccoli pieces with pesto bean dip to ward off the hungries. Then move on to Turkey Herder’s Pie, which uses ground turkey to speed the weeknight dinner process. The vegetables for the evening are incorporated into the pie for taste and simplicity. And for dessert? Fresh fruit is a nice follow on to the turkey pie. Perhaps some sliced bananas? They are inexpensive compared to other fruits in December and would pair wonderfully with some chocolate-hazelnut stars. The stars can bake in about 15 minutes while the turkey pie is cooking. And after dinner and dessert, perhaps the turkey herding won’t seem quite as daunting as before.

Pesto Bean Dip – Serves 12

Serve this hummus-like dip with fresh vegetables—carrots, broccoli pieces, etc.—or breads. It’s good, quick, and nutritious, as well as quite inexpensive.

1 15-ounce can of white beans, drained and rinsed

1 cup of fresh basil plus a few extra leaves to garnish

3 tablespoons of olive oil

3 tablespoons of lemon juice

¼ cup of walnuts (optional, but good)

½ teaspoon of garlic powder

¼ teaspoon of salt


Heat the beans in a microwave safe bowl until warm, then combine them with all the other ingredients in a food processor (or blender). Pulse everything together until you have a thick, creamy mixture, adding water, one tablespoon at a time, as needed. Serve the dip garnished with basil leaves.

Turkey Herder’s Pie – Serves 6+

Why should shepherds get all the attention? Ever try to herd turkeys? It’s not any easier than herding sheep. So, if you’ve had a hard day herding turkeys of one kind or another, this is a comforting and really good way to improve your evening. Don’t be put off by the long list of ingredients listed. This is a very easy recipe. The pie starts with lean ground turkey, adds some smoky bacon and nutritious, tasty vegetables, and is topped with creamy, cheesy mashed potatoes. A 30-minute stint for the pie in the oven gives you plenty of time to rest, relax, or shower away your turkey herding trials.

3 large potatoes, peeled and cut into chunks

1-2 teaspoons of canola oil

16 ounces of lean ground turkey (93 percent lean)

3 tablespoons of bacon crumbles, divided

1 small onion, chopped

1 stalk of celery, chopped

1 teaspoon of garlic powder

½ teaspoon of dried oregano

½ teaspoon of dried thyme

½ teaspoon of pepper, divided

1 teaspoon of salt, divided

½ teaspoon of ground sage

2 tablespoons of Worcestershire sauce

1 16-ounce package of frozen mixed vegetables or peas and carrots

1 8-ounce package of fat-free cream cheese, softened and cut into 1-inch


1¼ cups of low fat milk, divided

½ cup of low-fat sour cream

2 eggs, beaten

1 tablespoon of dried parsley flakes

1 tablespoon of minced dried chives

1 cup of cheddar cheese, divided

Add the potatoes to a medium saucepan and cover them with about 2 inches of water. Bring them to a boil, stir them, reduce the heat to a simmer, partially cover them, and let them cook for 15-20 minutes until they’re tender.

While the potatoes are cooking, heat a large non-stick skillet over medium high heat and add the oil. When the pan and oil are hot, add the turkey and cook it for 5-10 minutes or so, breaking it up to brown it a little. Add 2 tablespoons of bacon crumbles, the onion, celery, garlic powder, oregano, thyme, ¼ teaspoon of pepper, ½ teaspoon of salt, ground sage, and the Worcestershire sauce and cook for 5 minutes more. Add the package of mixed frozen vegetables and stir to incorporate them. Turn down the heat to a simmer, cover the skillet, and cook the mixture for five minutes. Add the cream cheese and ½ cup of the milk and stir to incorporate the milk and cream cheese. Set the mixture aside.

Coat a large casserole (3+ quarts or 9 x 13-inches) with non-stick cooking spray and preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Drain the potatoes. Mash them and add the remaining ¾ cup of milk, the light sour cream, eggs, dried parsley, dried chives, ¼ teaspoon of pepper, ½ teaspoon of salt, and 1 tablespoon of bacon crumbles. Stir in ½ cup of the cheese. Spread the turkey mixture on the bottom of the prepared casserole dish and top it with the potato mixture, smoothing out the potatoes to cover the turkey mixture. Bake the casserole for 30 minutes. Sprinkle the remaining cheese over the top of the potatoes and bake for an additional 5 minutes or until the cheese is bubbly. Let the turkey herder’s pie cool for 5-10 minutes before serving it.

Chocolate-Hazelnut Stars – Serves 6

These look really impressive given how quick and easy they are to make. You can use store-bought chocolate hazelnut spread if you like. I prefer to whip up my own chocolate-hazelnut mixture in the microwave to limit the transfat content and to get a better chocolate taste. The stars are best served warm, the day that you make them, all golden brown, puffy, flaky, and oozing chocolate. Nonetheless, if you have any leftover stars, you can reheat them the next day in a 350-degree oven for a few minutes to crisp them up again. The stars are easy enough to pick up and eat with your fingers, but you can also serve them on fancy plates drizzled with a little raspberry sauce for a nicer presentation (and to keep your fingers clean). If you really want to dress up the stars, after drizzling them with the raspberry sauce, also scatter a few raspberries and hazelnuts around them. And perhaps a puff of whipped cream on the side would be nice as well?

1 sheet of puff pastry, thawed

½ cup of chocolate hazelnut spread (such as Nutella)*

¼ cup of raw (or turbinado) sugar

1-2 teaspoons of flour

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees and coat a baking sheet with nonstick cooking spray. Place a large piece of parchment or waxed paper on the counter and sprinkle it with a little of the flour and about half of the sugar. Place the pastry on top of the flour and sprinkle the top of the pastry with a little more flour. Roll out the pastry until it is about 2 inches longer on each side (the sugar will be pressed into the dough). Using a star-shaped cutter, cut out 12 stars. Divide the chocolate hazelnut spread among 6 of the stars, placing little blobs of the spread in the center part of the stars. Moisten the edges of each “blobbed” star with a little water and press the “non-blobbed” stars on top, with the sugared side facing up. Press the edges of the stars together to seal them. Place the stars on the baking sheet, leaving an inch or two of space between them. Moisten the tops of the stars with a little water and sprinkle on the remaining raw sugar. Bake the stars for about 15 minutes or until puffed and golden. Let the stars cool at least 10 minutes before serving them, alone or drizzled with a little raspberry sauce.

Quick Raspberry Sauce

½ cup of raspberry preserves

½ teaspoon of grated orange zest

2 tablespoons of water

In a measuring cup mix the preserves, orange zest, and water. Microwave the mixture for 20-30 seconds and stir it until it’s smooth. If the preserves were very cold to start, you may need to microwave the mixture another 10 seconds or so and stir it again.

* Don’t have any chocolate-hazelnut spread? It’s okay. Instead, combine ½ cup of chocolate chips with 1 teaspoon of butter and 1 teaspoon of hazelnut flavoring (or vanilla extract extract, if you can’t find the hazelnut) in a glass measuring cup. Microwave the chips for 30 seconds, stir them, and microwave them again in 15-second increments, stirring them each time, until they are melted and smooth (you may not need to heat them more than one more time). Use the chocolate mixture instead of the chocolate-hazelnut spread in the recipe.

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