Cranberry Turkey Monte Cristo (a yummy way to use Thanksgiving leftovers)

Cranberry Turkey Monte Cristo (a yummy way to use Thanksgiving leftovers)

By April Swiger, Contributing Writer

This sandwich is a perfect way to use up your Thanksgiving day leftovers. The sweet flavor of French toast and cranberry sauce is coupled with savory melted cheese and leftover turkey slices. You can easily make this dairy free by omitting the cheese, and switching out the milk for coconut milk, and butter for coconut oil. It will still be a savory sweet treat for the days after your holiday feast!

I think that’s one of my favorite parts about Thanksgiving…experimenting with the leftovers. There is so much you can do with leftover turkey meat! This is especially important for those of us on tight budgets, working hard to feed our families the most nourishing food possible. Nothing goes to waste in our home, and that includes every last piece of our Thanksgiving meal.

Any bread will work for this sandwich, and if you’re on a gluten free diet, you can easily adapt this with your favorite gluten free bread. I chose to use a slow rising sourdough bread as I love the flavor, and the health benefits from the reduction of phytates. It’s more digestible than other breads, and a very nourishing option for this recipe. Kimi has written a great post about the benefits of sourdough bread vs. yeasted bread.

What makes this sandwich so delicious are all the ingredients coming together in one bite. I find that pressing the sandwich in the pan helps make that possible. If you use cheese, this makes it even easier as it works as the “glue” to hold everything together. I don’t have a panini weight, but adapted my own unique way to press sandwiches in my cast iron skillet. Enter, the “tea pot press” below! Fill a kettle up a little less than half way, place a piece of parchment paper between it and the sandwich, and you’ll have a nicely pressed sandwich every time. Yum!

Cranberry Turkey Monte Cristo (a yummy way to use Thanksgiving leftovers)

This sandwich can easily be adapted for what you have on hand after your Thanksgiving festivities. Be creative and make it work for you and your own personal diet. Enjoy!

Cranberry Turkey Monte Cristo (a yummy way to use Thanksgiving leftovers)
 
Author:
Serves: 4 sandwiches
 
Cranberry sauce, turkey, and nourishing sourdough bread all come together for a delicious post-Thanksgiving meal.
Ingredients
  • 8 Slices of sourdough bread
  • ½ Cup cranberry sauce (divided 1 tablespoon per slice of bread)
  • 8 oz of leftover turkey
  • 4 Eggs
  • ¾ Cup milk (use coconut milk for dairy-free)
  • Butter, or coconut oil, for the pan
  • Slices of cheddar or brie cheese
Instructions
  1. Lay out your bread slices and spread about a tablespoon of cranberry sauce on each slice.
  2. Assemble your sandwiches with leftover turkey, and any cheese you desire. Cheddar or brie are wonderful choices.
  3. In a container wide enough to fit your sandwich, use a fork to scramble the eggs and milk together. One at a time place the entire sandwich in the egg and milk mixture for a few seconds allowing it to soak up the contents a bit. Flip the entire sandwich and allow the other piece of bread to soak.
  4. Immediately place it in a hot skillet with butter. Flip when one side is golden brown and the cheese begins to melt. I find that it helps to weigh the sandwich down with a panini press, a brick wrapped in parchment paper, or a teapot half filled with water ;)

 

Potato Apple Soup with Caramelized Onions and Gorgonzola (grain-free)

Potato Apple Soup with Caramelized Onions and Gorgonzola (grain-free)By April Swiger, Contributing Writer

This rustic potato soup is delicately sweet, with caramelized onions and local apples, topped with savory gorgonzola. Not only is it nourishing-to-the-max with chicken bone broth, but it’s quick to put together and very frugal for even the tightest budget! This soup is simple enough for a busy weeknight meal (it has been devoured by my three year old son multiple times this week), but also has a touch of elegance with the addition of gorgonzola cheese in place of a traditional cheddar.

We’re officially in “soup season” as I like to call it. My crockpot is bubbling every week with homemade nourishing bone broth, and my freezer is always stocked with a few quarts for when I need it. Traditional bone broth has an abundance of health benefits ranging from helping intestinal disorders to the common cold (Sally Fallon, Nourishing Traditions, page 116-117). My husband and I drink a warm mug of broth, lightly salted, when we feel a cold coming on – and it really seems to help!

Potato soup is a favorite of mine, and I’m always looking for unique ways to serve it. I currently have twenty pounds of local apples, freshly picked from a nearby orchard. Traditionally, apples are paired with butternut squash, or sweet potatoes, but I loved the idea of a savory sweet soup with the humble russet potato and caramelized onions for extra flavor. Adding some gorgonzola on top gave it just the “bite” I was looking for.

I love keeping recipes simple, frugal, and nourishing, especially in the winter months when illnesses abound. You can’t go wrong when you use bone broth as your foundation. It’s easy to adapt this recipe for your taste as well. Add more apples or onions if you prefer it on the sweeter side, or switch out the gorgonzola for cheddar or brie.

Here are some other soups you may enjoy:

And check out Kimi’s Cookbook, (affiliate link) Ladled: Nourishing Soups for All Seasons as well!

Potato Apple Soup with Caramelized Onions and Gorgonzola (grain-free)
 
Author:
Recipe type: Main
 
This rustic soup is savory sweet and very frugal. It could easily be enjoyed all winter long!
Ingredients
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 onion, sliced
  • 3 pounds potatoes, peeled and chopped (I used russet)
  • 3 medium sized apples of your choice (about 1-1.5 lbs)
  • 6 cups chicken broth
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1 bay leaf
  • Gorgonzola cheese to top
  • Salt and pepper
Instructions
  1. Melt the butter in a heavy bottomed pot. Add the sliced onions, a pinch of salt, and caramelize them for about 20-25 minutes until they are a deep golden brown. While the onions are carmelizing, peel and chop the potatoes and apples.
  2. When the onions are caramelized, add the potatoes, apples, broth, thyme and bay leaf to the pot. Salt and pepper to taste. Bring to a boil, turn down the heat, and simmer until the potatoes are soft, about 10-15 minutes.
  3. Use a hand blender to puree the soup. You could also do it in batches in a countertop blender as well. I like to leave some chunks in the soup and not puree it completely.
  4. Top with a hefty portion of gorgonzola cheese crumbles.

 

Grain-Free Pizza “Pockets”

Grain free pizza pockets - These freeze well and are so fun!With a crunchy crust and a flavorful filling, no one complained about eating a grain-free meal last night! These flavorful pockets were very satisfying and filling, and make a very fun lunch or dinner (I’d recommend serving it with a homemade salad with a yummy homemade salad dressing!). We aren’t a grain-free family, but since we are gluten-free, our meals often end up being grain-free. And with beautiful foods like these homemade pockets, everyone is happy (even those in the family who CAN eat gluten!).

Proving that advertisement to children really does work, I still remember when “Hot Pockets” were a new and very cool product. I’m quite certain that I begged and begged my mother to buy me some. I think she did finally once, and I was pretty happy. But I’m not sure I was actually that pleased with the actual product. Regardless, I don’t remember much about my experience eating them, though I still remember exactly where they were placed in the freezer that day.

I think I will remember these ones for the flavor, not where I put them in my freezer ten years from now. ;-)

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My Inspiration

As I talked about yesterday, I have been really inspired to freeze more foods lately. I talked about being inspired by two of the books in the Ultimate Healthy Living Bundle (only on sale for a couple more days, by the way). What I didn’t mention was that this project was already on the schedule for my first experiment! They were inspired by the Grain-free Grab and Go eBook by Hayley from Health Starts in the Kitchen. This book is also part of the bundle (hey, when you have 73 eBooks, you end up with a lot of good stuff in there!). She has some a-m-a-z-i-n-g recipes in there. She has pockets for breakfast, pockets for lunch, pockets for dinner. Some are very American, some are Ethnic. They all sound great. I knew I had to try them.

Here’s Hayley’s book, among the other books in one of the categories of the bundle.

Following my own advice, I wasn’t so much trying to make huge amounts to freeze, but try out a few recipes to see what we liked best. These were such a hit, I’m definitely adding them to my list of recipes that are “good to freeze.”

Here’s what I tried out

I made three crusts. I made a slight adaption of Hayley crust from her book (I didn’t have the same seasoning, so I substituted), which was a tapioca and almond flour based crust. Technically, almonds are a food I am not supposed to have a lot of, so I wanted to also try out a very interesting alternative – yuca root crust. The third crust was completely accidental! When attempting to make Hayley’s crust the first time, I accidently poured in potato starch instead of tapioca starch! Turns out, it works just as well! I figured that was a good substitution tip to share with you all.

The almond flour/starch based crust firms up nicely, and is quite crunchy and delicious when cooked. The taro root crust is quite soft, yet still manages to be “bread-like” when cooked. We also lightly pan-fried these pockets for a crunchy outside, and then they were perfect.

I don’t have permission to share’s Hayley’s beautiful crust recipe with you all, since it’s part of her lovely eBook. However, if you aren’t able to purchase her book or the bundle right now, you could try this similar recipe here (just be aware that the ratios are different and I haven’t actually tried this recipe yet). For the amount of filling below, I’d double it.  I DO want to share my own tips with on making them however, and my own filling recipe.

You can also buy the bundle by clicking on the button below.

Grain-free Pizza pockets - These freeze well and are so fun!

For an almond flour/starch batter:

  • Don’t expect your first few to look perfect. Like most things it takes a little practice. At first I wasn’t spreading out the batter in the pan thin enough, so my pockets were too small for the amount of filling I should have been using. My first few were not beautiful, but they were still delicious!
  • Don’t overcook the batter when pan cooking your pocket dough. If it gets too crunchy, it’s harder to press together (if that happens moisten your fork with a little water).
  • Instead of pressing the edges together in the hot pan, I removed it to a plate, poured in batter for the next pocket dough, and while the first side cooked, moved to the plate, and pressed the edges together.
  • Put some music on and relax while you are making them! It does take a little time, but once you get a rhythm going, it goes much faster.

Grain Free Pizza Pockets - made with a yuca dough!

For the yuca crust

I got my recipe from Predominately Paleo, who I believe first created the “yuca dough.” Kudos to her for developing them!

A few notes:

    • The yuca has to be peeled, boiled, blended, and then cooled before you can work with it. This takes some time, but each step is very simple, and most of the time is not hands-on time, but waiting time.
    • The dough is very soft, and a fairly easy to break, so you have to make much smaller pockets.
    • Pan-frying them after cooking is the way to go. We also found that they could be cold in the refrigerator (as leftovers), and panfrying them warms them up perfectly. Win-win!
    • You absolutely should watch this video to see what you are going to be doing. It should take away any fears about the recipe.

  • Don’t overheat your blender when blending.
  • I loved the dough, but definitely think salt should be added to it. I’d recommend 1 teaspoon during the blending process.

To get the recipe for the dough (and another delicious filling) go here.

I also wanted to note that this method of freezing breakfast burritos would probably work great for these pizza pockets too!

Grain-Free Pizza "Pockets"
 
 
Next time, I am thinking of adding a red pepper, cubed mushrooms, and olives to the mix! This is enough to fill one recipe of the almond/starch crust, or the yuca crust recipe. Our favorite was the pork. Follow the instruction for filling the crusts per recipe you’ve chosen to use.
Ingredients
  • ¾ pound ground beef or pork, grassfed preferred for the beef
  • 1 teaspoon dried basil
  • A generous pinch of thyme and oregano
  • 3 garlic cloves, peeled and finely minced or put through a garlic press
  • 4 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1-2 cups of shredded cheddar cheese (we used goat), optional
Instructions
  1. In a large saucepan, brown the meat with the dried herbs and garlic. When cooked through, if needed, remove any grease with a spoon (tip the pan slightly to allow the grease to run to one side).
  2. Stir in the tomato paste and then salt generously to taste.
  3. If using the cheese, place a couple tablespoons on top of the meat filling before closing.

 

7 Tips for Freezing Nourishing Foods

Freezer meals can be made with healthy and nourishing ingredients. Here are some quick tips to get you started. Home Page and Above Photo Credit: CelioSilva/Freeimages  (Disclaimer: Some links below are affiliate) 

I started out with a bang with freezer meals. I was making freezer meals for my family during my high school years and loved the convenience of it. When I got married, I was so committed to freezer meals that I actually made and froze most of our dinners for our honeymoon and brought them with me! Now that’s commitment. (For the record, yes, my husband and I were total penny-pinchers when we got married, thus the yummy freezer meals on the honeymoon. But we also really loved good food, and so instead of eating out every meal, we made a lot of our own food, and then spent some of the money we saved to go out to a really nice restaurant for a couple of dinners.)

But in the freezer meal department, things have gone really down hill lately. Okay, more like down hill for the last five years! I can directly correlate this downhill spiral to when I started trying not to use freezer bags anymore, and switched to using mason jars. Like many, I had way too many jars break or burst for no reason at all (even when following “best practices”). There is nothing like throwing away good food to cool your enthusiasm.

And the trouble is, plastic really is a problem! I have let it creep back into my kitchen and life lately, but re-reading some of the research on the troubling effects it can have made me remember yet again how important it is to avoid.

Thankfully, there are now better solutions to freezing without plastic that I am so eager to try! And the real reason I got back on this topic again, was because I was so inspired by two of the books in The Ultimate Healthy Living Bundle on the topic. I realized how much it would serve me, and my family, if I got back into the habit.

I’ll be honest. We really need freezer meals right now, and I am going to make this a priority.

So with that in mind, I am gathering my tips learned in the past and new ones just learned, and also sharing some of the research I’ve been doing on plastic-free freezing! I’m excited.

1. The short on time freezing method

The first thing that really intrigued and inspired me from the freezer meal eBooks in the bundle was using a different method from what I used to use (which was the achingly long, all-day cooking project that left your feet aching like crazy). Instead of that, there are other ways to build up a freezer full of meals!

One of the eBooks I read was Crystal’s (from Money Saving Mom) Guide to Freezer Cooking. In it she talks about how she also used to do full day freezer cooking, and how exhausting that was! Instead she recommends shorter times, more often. She gives a few other options, such as a 4-6 hour block (enough to get serious work done, but not be so tiring), and even doing (her current preference) one hour, and even 15-minute blocks of time! I may now find it hard to set aside a whole day for freezer meals, but I can definitely set aside an hour or two.

2. The Time Block Method

The other method that was totally new to me was the one outlined in Cara’s wonderful
Grain-Free Freezer Meal eBook. (You can get both of these books as part of the bundle for the next few days, which I highly recommend for the price and all that you get for it, but you can also buy Cara’s book anytime here).

She also doesn’t recommend the “whole day” freezer meal concept. Instead she recommends using “time blocks” working with certain categories. Her method probably makes even more sense for those on a whole food, nutrient dense diet. She says,

“The ‘cooking blocks’ are designed to be easier to fit into busy schedules. I have done freezer cooking in the past, but I would normally spend 8-10 hours straight cooking. Many of us have young families, special needs children, homeschool, work outside the home, or any combination of the above- and separating the cooking into 2-3 hour blocks is much more doable.
To stay the most efficient, these blocks should be planned to be together (i.e. you use meat cooked on meat days to put together Shepard’s pies after you cut/cook the veggies on veggie day), but they can span several days and still fill up your freezer with nourishing foods.”

Her blocks are set up with different categories, such as “meats” “vegetables” and “grain-free baking”. I feel this concept makes so much sense!

3. Start small

Regardless of what method you use, I think the idea of starting small, and taking on bite size jobs is a much more doable task that we can all do! It can be as simple as doubling up the muffin recipe you are making, and freezing half of it. If you are like me, sometimes having too high of standards for yourself and what you’d like to accomplish can actually derail your efforts and enthusiasm. This busy mommy needs doable goals!

4. Double up

With that in mind, use the double up method. Basically, any recipe that would freeze well and you already know you (and your family like), double-up on when you are making it next. It will most likely only take a few more minutes of your time, and you end up with double the food for your effort. I used to do this a lot, and I need to get back into it as it just makes sense to do.

5. Make a growing recipe list

The other thing that ended up derailing my freezer meal project was my changing dietary needs (we found out that one of my daughters and I have multiple food sensitivities). What this meant was that my list of freezer meals no longer worked well for us as I worked on learning new recipes. I now have plenty of meals worked out that would be easy to freeze, I just need to keep a running list of our favorite freezer friendly meals as a reference! Overtime, you can continue to add to your list, so that you have a wide range of meals that you can easily freeze.

6. Freeze components

But don’t feel that you need to freeze whole meals. Freeze components as well! Meats with marinades, homemade broths, sauces, unbaked doughs, chopped vegetables for starting soups, cooked beans, and more are some of the simple components you can freeze for an easier meal start-up in the future. Some methods aim for not having to cook a single dish in the near future. But it can be really simple to start a pot of rice, and reheat a frozen chicken curry. So don’t feel that you have to have every single component of the meal frozen. In fact, I’d encourage you to get out of that mindset as so many fresh vegetables don’t freeze well, and need a little prep work. This type of method can also help when working with small freezer spaces. Just freeze the things that take the most time to make (such as the chicken curry, instead of the rice).

7. Plastic-free freezing

I do have friends that use all sorts of jars to successfully freeze meals. They just make sure to leave plenty of headroom, and defrost slowly, and they have no trouble. I am not one of those lucky souls. However, I didn’t realize that there are specific mason jars that are made to especially withstand freezing. (I certainly was never using them when I attempted to freeze before). I first noticed this at a local store, when I noted that some of the mason jars were marked for freezing and some weren’t.

If you go to the Ball website, you find this chart of jars to select from. Notice that some of the jars are marked as freezer safe and some aren’t.

I am pretty excited to try freezing mason jars again. I have some Amazon credit to use from a gift card, so I was looking there for options. From what I’ve read, wide mouth is the way to go for freezing, so
these jars would be an example of what you could use.

Even with these, I’d make sure you left plenty of headroom, and defrosted in the refrigerator for less temperature shock. Just to make sure.

There are some other, much more expensive items too. If you wanted to still use baggies, you could use these silicone baggies, for example, and there are a wide range of stainless steel and glass containers that are also freezer safe.

Finally, certain items can be frozen with the wax paper and foil method. You can see how that works here with these homemade freezer burritos.

If you do decide to use plastic freezer bags for freezing food, just make sure that you thoroughly chill food before placing it in the plastic, as heat releases more of the chemicals from the plastic.

I’d love to hear your tips, and what recipes work for you. Plus, have you tried freezing in mason jars? I’d love to hear about your experience!

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