Category Archives: Turkey

ground turkey stuffed peppers

CT Style with Ryan Kristafer & Sarah Cody Getting Ready for Thanksgiving!

CT Style with Ryan Kristafer & Sarah Cody Getting Ready for Thanksgiving!

It was a special day on CT Style with Ryan Kristafer and Sarah Cody sharing one of my favorite childhood dishes in memory of my Grandma Reilly. I never did get her recipe for her Creamed Onions or pies but she was the inspiration behind my recipe that I have been making for over 20 years now. Cooking in The Bender KItchen, hanging out with Ryan and Sarah was the perfect way to start my Thanksgiving holiday this year!

Thanksgiving is one of those holidays that can truly drive you crazy if you don’t do any planning because there are just too many side dishes to make. Needless to say, a little planning goes a long way!

On CT Style I wanted to show you some of the dishes that are total time savers for this Thanksgiving. My Icebox-rolls dough can be made 4 days ahead, shape and rolling out the rolls, dredging in green onions the day before. These icebox dinner rolls are then ready to pop into the oven when your guests arrive giving your house a warm and fuzzy feeling with aromas of homemade baked bread!

The yummy Best Brussel Sprouts Ever are drizzled with olive oil, chopped garlic and roast for only 25 minutes on 350º without any flipping or fussing. These can be made the night before because the sprouts keep their bright green color and crispness when re-heated the next day!

My Perfect Pie Crust in 5 Minutes is to die for and can be made 1 month ahead, put into the freezer and thawed in the frig 2 days before you need it! Roll out the pie dough the night before Thanksgiving and then bake your delectable Chocolate Pecan Pie the night before and violà! Not to mention, the Chocolate Pecan Pie recipe is a melt in your mouth gourmet recipe …it may just be the hit of your holiday!

Finally, there was talk of a Creamed Onion competition recently at Page Hardware in Guilford with owner Andrew Page when we were discussing future cooking demos at Page in the new year! So there just may be a “Creamed Onions” competition coming as well! Page has quite the array of high tech steam ovens, stoves and so much more…it’s almost difficult to pay attention to conversation surrounded by all the beautiflul stainless steel! You really have to check them out. I will keep you all posted on The Traveling Epicurean Cooking Demos and the “competition” in their amazing kitchens at Page in January of 2018!

I want to wish everyone a Happy Thanksgiving! Let me know how your recipes turned out and about any new ones that you tried! xxoo




Lazy-Man’s Lasagna! – World’s Best!

Lazy-Man’s Lasagna! – World’s Best!

This world’s best lazy-man’s lasagna is the ultimate pasta dish because there is no fussing, layering or baking. It has all the ingredients and flavors of a traditional lasagna but without all the work! It’s done all-in-one pot and takes two minutes to put together after the ground meat is browned. It’s made with a tomato-basil sauce, homemade or store bought for convenience, rigatoni pasta, ricotta, mozzarella and a sautéed ground meat of your choice. The hardest part here is browning the meat, then it’s easy peasy from there on in.

When I first had this lazy-man’s lasagna it was made with ground beef. That’s the beauty of this pasta dinner you can customize it by browning up what ever your favorite meat is. I’ve actually made it with ground turkey, beef, Italian sausage and even a meatloaf mix of meats. What ever you decide I promise you it’s going to be delicious! In the show I used my favorite sweet Italian fennel sausage from Liuzzi Cheeses in North Haven, CT. I took the the sausage out of the casing and then browned it.

Usually, I serve up this lazy-man’s lasagna immediately after I combine all those yummy ingredients. Although, you can easily pour it out into a baking dish and top with one cup of shredded mozzarella to bake immediately or cover with foil and into the frig until you are ready. Granted, I do love to put together a tray of layered lasagna for the holidays but for those in between days when you want those gourmet flavors but don’t want to go through all the work this world’s best lazy-man’s lasagna is your dream come true.

You can check out my Live TV Cooking Segment on “CT STYLE”, WTNH – Channel 8 where I make Lazy-Man’s Lasagna in The Bender Kitchen with hosts Teresa Dufour and Ryan Kristafer!

If you are looking for something hardy and gourmet you should check out my Boeuf Bourguignon or Indian Spice Tomato-Cream with Snap Peas, Pulled Beef Taco’s with Mango Salsa, or for a lighter note you could check out my Swordfish with Black Bean Salsa or Asian Shrimp and Noodle Salad and for something sweet you just can’t beat Pavlova! Mangia Mangia…enjoy 🙂




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  • 1 lb. rigatoni pasta, zit rigati or your fav pasta!
  • My 20 minute tomato-basil pasta sauce recipe or a favorite store bought brand
  • 2 lbs ground meat OR 3 cups after browned of: ground beef, turkey, veal, pork, meatloaf mix, or sweet fennel sausage (Liuzzi makes my favorite sweet and spicy Italian fennel sausage)
  • 1 lb. whole milk ricotta (really easy to make your OWN HOMEMADE – check it out!)
  • 2 cups shredded mozzarella – 2 cups to mix into the lazy-man’s lasagna plus additional 1 cup to sprinkle on top if you are going to put the pasta into a baking dish to bake later
  • grated Parmesan
  • fresh basil


  1. Brown the ground meat in a sauce pan on medium high heat
  2. Drain the meat to remove excess oil in a small strainer over a bowl
  3. Put the meat back into the pan on medium high heat add 1/3 cup of red wine to de-glaze the sauce pan scrapping up the little brown bits stuck the bottom of the pan
  4. Keep the browned meat on warm
  5. Heat tomato-basil sauce through – you want it hot to melt the mozzarella
  6. Cook the pasta in salted water until al dente …(Having a pinch of firmness to it so it’s not overly cooked)
  7. Drain the pasta and put it back into the same pan
  8. Immediately add 2 cups of hot tomato-basil sauce, 1 lb. of ricotta, 2 cups of mozzarella, 3 cups of browned meat and begin to stir
  9. Add another 1-1 1/2 cups of tomato-basil sauce
  10. Mix ingredients until combined and pour out into a serving platter
  11. Sprinkle with Parmesan and julienne fresh basil…mangia mangia 🙂

Michigan Sauce at Kathleen’s

Michigan Sauce at Kathleen’s

We make this incredible Michigan sauce in the show with ground turkey, but many who make this savory sauce make it with ground beef! Michigan sauce is made from simmering ground turkey, warm water, French’s Yellow Mustard, Franks Hot Sauce, Hunts Tomato Sauce, chili powder, ground cumin all awhile mashing the ground meat with a potato masher to achieve a tender, fine sauce.

Now you may think that adding a whole 5 oz. bottle of Frank’s Hot Sauce to this homemade Michigan sauce would make it really spicy but it doesn’t at all. The amounts of all the flavorful ingredients are pretty perfect here giving you this nicely balanced combination. You get hints of citrus and floral from the ground cumin, a bit of a kick from the cayenne in the Frank’s Hot Sauce and a little tang from the French’s Yellow Mustard. Lets not forget the chili powder that gives it the right amount of earthiness to complete the circle. Now you know how important it is to me that you always season a dish as you go along but here there is no need for salt or pepper because all of the ingredients added into this recipe take care of that.

These Michigan Sauce recipes go back for generations and are very special to an Upstate New Yorker such as Kathleen and her family. I feel honored that they were willing to share their family recipe that they hold so dear to them so that I might be able to share it with all of you.

clarecarlsOver the years there have been legends and tales going around of how this delicious Michigan Sauce recipe began. One says that the Coney Island hot dog met a sauce made from a woman in Nashville who married a man from Detroit and they moved to Plattsburgh, NY. They started selling hot dogs with this sauce and called them “Michigans”. The other says it was a couple from Detroit that moved to Plattsburgh, NY.  But if you ask some of the locals they will insist that “Michigans” have nothing to do with Detroit! Back in the 1920’s is when the the first “Michigan” stand opened up but Clare and Carl’s is the one very well known to people which opened in the 1940’s along Lake Champlain. To this day, Clare & Carl’s keeps the car hop service that made it popular a half century ago.

A typical “Michigan” is garnished with chopped onion and a line of French’s Yellow Mustard on the top. If you to go into Clare and Carl’s they would ask you if you want your Michigans “with” or “without”, referring to the chopped onions of course. You might reply, I would like two Michigans “with-buried”. This would mean you want onions and they are to be under the sauce. Now you know how to properly order your Michigans when you are in Upstate New York.

Even though this special meat sauce is an Upstate New York summer tradition I think this is the perfect dish for football season! Not to mention it’s a total make ahead dish so you won’t miss any of the game tending to that darn stove. This Michigan sauce also freezes really well so make sure to take advantage of that and make an extra large batch like Kathleen’s mom, Shirley, does for future meals and get together’s. Thank you again Shirley and Kathleen for enlightening us with your lovely Michigan sauce recipe.


Hope you enjoy the show! You may want to try and make some refreshing Pavlova for dessert to go with this savory Michigan sauce!






















  • 1 lb. Ground turkey
  • 1 cup warm water – Add 1/2 cup in the beginning and add 1/2 cup after adding the Hunts Tomato Sauce
  • 1 heaping tbsp French’s yellow mustard
  • 1- 5 oz. bottle Franks Hot sauce (whole bottle)
  • 8 oz. can of hunts-plain tomato sauce plain or garlic
  • 3 tsp ground cumin
  • 3 tsp chili powder
  • 1 small chopped Vadalia sweet onion – chopped for garnish or a Michigan “with-buried” (if you don’t get this you need to watch the show) 🙂
  • 1 pkg Deutschmacher Frankfurters (mild and delicious) OR Red Hots
  • Hot dog rolls


  1. Add 1/2  cup water to 1 lb. ground turkey (beef) in a large sauté pan on medium/low
  2. Continue to mash these two for 10 minutes while simmering with a potato masher
  3. Change to a fork to further mash ground turkey to a finer mash for 5 minutes
  4. Stir in 1 heaping tbsp French’s Yellow Mustard until it disappears into turkey mixture
  5. Stir in 1 whole 5 oz. bottle of Frank’s Hot Sauce until it disappears into turkey mixture
  6. Stir in 1- 8 oz. can of Hunt’s tomato sauce
  7. Add in another 1/2 cup of warm water
  8. And then stir in 3 tsp chili powder and 3 tsp ground cumin
  9. Let this simmer on low for 1/2 hour
  10. Then mash a little more with the potato mash to make sure you have a fine texture.
  11. You can let simmer for another 1/2 – 1 hour til a thick consistency
  12. The more you let it simmer the more the flavors develop
  13. This sauce freezes really well for future meals
  14. Serve in a bowl with a drizzle of French’s Yellow Mustard and some chopped onions on top OR on top of a steamed hot dog in a bun with a drizzle of French’s Yellow Mustard and some chopped onions on top …YUM!

Homemade Turkey Meatballs Recipe/VIDEO

Homemade Turkey Meatballs Recipe/VIDEO

OK, I know you are probably saying “where’s the beef” but just give these light and flavorful turkey meatballs a chance. They are meaty, garlicky, cheesy, moist and melt in your mouth after simmering in my tomato-basil pasta sauce for 2 hrs. Wait until you try these gourmet turkey meatballs in tomato basil sauce on a crusty sub that’s baked with oozing mozzarella and a julienne of fresh basil …do I have your attention now? That’s what I’m talking about  🙂

Good ole meatball subs are just one of those all american comfort foods that I have always adored. Although, I think the word “sub” referring to a “sandwich” is represented differently through parts of the US. It threw me a little when I first moved to California because when I would asked for a “sub” they had no idea what I was talking about because they use the term “hoagie” there. Another little play on words which would totally crack me up when I living in California was asking for the location of their nearest package store and they would send me to a mailing facility!

Anyhow, I am excited for you to make these homemade turkey meatballs because even though they are made exactly like my 100% Angus meatballs these aren’t as heavy.  I have been substituting out a lot of ground beef for turkey and it’s has really given me a new lease on cooking, a new avenue so to speak on the whole meat situation. To enjoy a meaty meal with the same herbs and spices but making it a lighter meal in the end.

I actually started making my lasagna with ground turkey instead of ground beef and it’s amazing! Once again using the turkey makes the lasagna a lighter dish then if it were made with beef. I brown the ground turkey and de-glaze it twice with a nice Cab (Cabernet) and by the time I’m done the color even looks like beef lol. My very picky daughter Bella, who loves my lasagna didn’t even know I had switched some time ago to turkey until I recently told her. She loves the taste of the lasagna so much that she’s totally OK with this…I call that a home run!

desEnjoy watching my “how to ” video on making these homemade gourmet turkey meatballs in an Italian meatball sub. And if you need something sweet and refreshing, easy to make and out of this world check out my Pavlova recipe!





















INGREDIENTS for Homemade Turkey Meatballs In An Italian Meatball Sub – (Makes 21 Small Meatballs):

  • 1 lb. ground turkey
  • 1 extra-large egg (rule of thumb …1 egg per 1 lb. of meat)
  • 1/2-3/4 cup after soaked in milk – (1/2 loaf of 2 day old Italian bread soaked in 1 cup milk)
  • 1/4 cup seasoned bread crumbs
  • 1/2 cup grated Reggiano Parmesan cheese
  • 1 lg. garlic clove put thru garlic press
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped fresh parsley
  • 1 Tsp salt
  • 1/4 Tsp ground black pepper
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 recipe Tomato-Basil Pasta Sauce
  • 1 bunch fresh basil
  • 10 oz part skim mozzarella
  • fresh baguettes


  1. Pre-heat oven to 425º
  2. Break up a 1/2 loaf of 2 day old Italian bread and place into a large bowl as shown in photo
  3. Pour 1 cup milk over bread and let it absorb for 10 minutes
  4. Wash, spin, dry and finely chop parsley, set aside
  5. Discard outer crusts from soaking Italian bread
  6. Begin to break soaking bread pieces apart with your fingers…if you feel any gooey pieces throw those away (if it sat out for a couple of days it won’t get gooey)…the bread should just fall apart easily
  7. Take 1/2-3/4’s cup of this soaking bread and add to a large mixing bowl
  8. NOTE: with turkey being as moist as it is you should squeeze a little more of the milk out (you don’t do this with beef because it’s drier)
  9. To this bowl add in Parmesan, chopped parsley, garlic clove thru garlic press, salt and pepper and 1 egg
  10. Whisk til just combined
  11. Add in 1 lb. of ground turkey and begin to mix gently with your hands…DON’T over work the meatballs you don’t want it to look fully combined like a meatloaf
  12. Using a cookie scooper begin to shape and roll mixture with your hands – they will be small about 1 1/2″…have a small bowl of water to the side to keep hands damp not wet (this makes it easier to rolls meatballs)
  13. Spray cookie tray with Pam canola oil and give a drizzle of olive oil for flavor
  14. Place 21 shaped meatballs onto the cookie tray and spray the tops of the meatballs
  15. Place them into the oven for 17 minutes
  16. Take out the turkey meatballs and set aside in a bowl, meanwhile add 1/2 cup red wine the cookie sheet (as long as the cookie sheet has 1″ sides) and scrape browned left over turkey meatball bits and pour this along with meatballs into tomato basil sauce
  17. Add turkey meatballs and wine with bits to my Tomato Basil Pasta Sauce and simmer for 1 1/2 – 2 hrs.
  18. Spoon tomato sauce onto baguette(s), then add turkey meatballs and top with mozzarella
  19. Bake in a 400º oven for 10 minutes or until cheese is melted, then add a julienne of fresh basil and slice up for several servings or keep whole…good luck and make sure to have plenty of napkins!
  20. Mangia mangia 🙂


Turkey Stuffed Peppers

Turkey Stuffed Peppers

Usually I make these stuffed peppers with beef but a good friend has me converting to turkey and I am really loving it. I don’t even wish for the flavor of beef in the stuffing because the turkey hold its own!  These peppers are juicy, tender and sweet made with sautéed mushrooms, onions, fresh chopped parsley, rice, grated Reggiano Parmesan, pinot noir and a porcini red sauce.  My porcini sauce gives this recipe a really nice flavor but if you don’t have time for it you shouldn’t let that stop you from making these savory stuffed peppers.  You can buy a favorite store sauce for convenience or use one of your own.  I have you slice the mushrooms paper thin here and then cut those in 1/2 and that keeps the flavor delicate and the mushrooms very tender not chewy …. they almost melt into the stuffing when baking. The onions are finely chopped so I love to use my vegetablehand chopper because it saves a ton of time when you are doing all this prep work unless you have a sous chef that is. Now you of course can use any color pepper you like. I like using the green ones because I like the strong flavor they render, but here I went with the pretty colors and the peppers are a little sweeter when you go to the reds, oranges, and yellows.  I don’t believe in using “instant rice” ever because it doesn’t have a great texture. Making rice is a simple process …see “TIP” below.    These stuffed peppers are a few step process so it’s a good idea to get some of the work done the day before like making the porcini red sauce and the rice.  This dish  is so worth the effort …. It just may become your go to Sunday dinner and you can even end this delicious dinner with a bang making a quick and easy German pancake recipe or chocolate-avocado mousse!

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Ingredients: For Porcini Red Sauce:

  • 1 large can whole peeled tomatoes (I use Sclafani)
  • 4 large garlic cloves
  • 1/4 cup dried porcini mushrooms
  • 1/4 cup water for the porcini mushrooms
  • 1/3 cup pinot noir wine
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 Tsp salt
  • 1 Tsp pepper
  • 1 Tbsp sugar


  1. Put the dried porcini mushrooms in 1/4 cup water and let sit for 1/2 hour.
  2. Sauté 4 large garlic cloves in 1 tbsp olive oil in a medium sauce pan until golden.
  3. Add whole tomatoes and golden garlic cloves to food processor and purée for 1 minute.
  4. Add this back to the pan.
  5. Take the soaked, softened porcini’s out of the water and coarsely chop.
  6. Add the porcini’s and their juice to the sauce pan along with 1/4 cup pinot, salt, pepper and sugar.
  7. Bring to a simmer, lower heat and keep simmering for 1/2 hour.
  8. Remove from the stove and cool.

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Ingredients – For Stuffed Peppers – Serves 6 people:

  • 1 lb. ground turkey
  • 6 large bell peppers, 2 red, 2 orange, 2 yellow
  • 2 1/4 cups porcini red sauce (1 c. in the stuffing, 2 1/4 c. in the bottom of baking dish)
  • 1 cup cooked Basmati or Jasmine long grain rice
  • 1 cup grated Reggiano Parmesan
  • 1/3 cup coarsely chopped flat leaf parsley
  • 8oz. pkg of baby bella brown mushrooms (finely sliced)
  • 1 large spanish onion FINELY chopped
  • 1 1/4 cup pinot noir (1/4 c. for mushroom/onion mixture, 1 c. for baking dish)
  • 1/2 cup boiling water
  • 1/4 Tsp salt
  • 1/4 Tsp pepper
  • 2 Tbsp live oil (for sautéing)


  1. Pre-heat oven to 350º.
  2. Cut 1″ off of the top of the peppers, pull out the centers with your hands and clean out the inside white part of the pepper.
  3. Place into baking dish.
  4. Clean your mushrooms with either a damp paper towel or a mushroom brush … you should NEVER wash your mushrooms or submerse them in water because mushrooms are porous.
  5. Pop out the mushroom stem and finely slice them and then slice that pile in 1/2…don’t need to be neat about it.
  6. Finely chop a large spanish onion…I’m all for using one of those choppers for this!
  7. Add onion and mushrooms to 2 Tbsp olive oil and sauté on medium heat for 10 minutes…add 1/4 cup pinot, let evaporate.
  8. Remove from the stove and let cool.
  9. Add Turkey, grated cheese, 1 cup cooled sauce, 1/3 cup pasley, and all of cooled mushroom/onion mixture to a large bowl and gently mix.
  10. Fill the peppers gently with the stuffing, don’t pack it down.
  11. Add the rest of the porcini sauce (approx. 2 1/4 cups), 1 cup pinot, and 1/2 cup boiling water to the bottom of the baking dish.
  12. NOTE:  If the porcini sauce was refrigerated you should warm it a little to room temperature so it doesn’t prolong the cooking process of the stuffed peppers.
  13. Sprinkle with a little Parmesan, cover with foil and bake at 350º for 1 hr.
  14. Remove the foil after 1 hour and continue for another 15 minutes at 350º (check the tenderness of the pepper… You don’t want them mushy just tender).
  15. Then up the heat to 400º for another 20 minutes uncovered
  16. Keep an eye on it at this point so the tops don’t blacken too much (everyone’s oven is a little different)
  17. Total cooking time approx. 1 hour/ 35 minutes
  18. Take the peppers out of the oven, cover back up with foil and let them sit for 10 minutes.

TIP:  RICE- To make Basmati or Jasmine rice measure 1 cup rice and put into medium pan. Run cold water over rice and drain using your hand to hold back the rice.  Then add 2 cups water (1:2 ratio or water level is 1 knuckle over rice), cover and bring to a boil, turn down heat IMMEDIATELY to low and simmer for 20 minutes.  Remove from the heat and keep covered letting it sit for another 10 minutes and voilà.  Fluff with a fork