Turkey Brine

Turkey Brine | Pinky's Pantry
Thanksgiving is coming so I decided it was high time I posted my brining recipe. I’ve been brining our Thanksgiving turkey for years now because we think it’s the best thing to do for a turkey. Brining involves soaking your turkey for several hours in a salt water solution which guarantees a moist and juicy turkey every time. You add sugar to balance out the salt, plus a bunch of spices and aromatics which infuses your turkey with delicate flavor. If you have someone like my brother-in-law, Anthony, who can fry the turkey after brining, whoo-ee! You’ll think you’ve died and gone to turkey heaven.

I find that using a brining bag or turkey-sized oven bag is a huge help. Put the turkey and brining solution into the bag, then squeeze out as much air as you can before sealing it which ensures the turkey is fully immersed in the brining solution. Then the whole thing goes into the fridge or if you don’t have room in the fridge (I never do), you can put it into a cooler filled with ice or ice packs where it brines for the required number of hours. Just keep replacing the ice as you need to. If you can’t find a brining bag, you can brine your turkey directly in a large bucket or in a cooler that’s just large enough to fit the turkey. I’ve heard it said that it’s best to brine fresh turkeys because frozen turkeys are usually injected with a salt water solution, but I’ve brined frozen turkeys and Butterball turkeys and they’ve turned out just fine.

(For 14-16 lb. turkey or any poultry)

  • 1 gallon vegetable broth
  • 1 cup sea salt
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 2 tbsp. crushed dried rosemary
  • 2 tbsp. dried sage
  • 2 tbsp. dried thyme
  • 2 tbsp. dried savory
  • 1 gallon ice water
  1. In a large stock pot, combine broth, salt, sugar, rosemary, sage, thyme, and savory.
  2. Bring to a boil, stirring frequently, until salt and sugar are dissolved.
  3. Remove from heat and let cool to room temperature.
  4. When broth mixture is cool, pour into a brining bag or a large, clean bucket.
  5. Stir in the ice water.


  1. Wash and dry turkey. Make sure to remove the innards.
  2. Place turkey breast side down into brining bag, making sure cavity gets filled.
  3. Squeeze as much air as you can out of brining bag before sealing tightly.
  4. Place brining bag in refrigerator or in a cooler filled with ice or several ice packs.
  5. Brine for 1 hour per pound; turn bird halfway through brining.
  6. Remove turkey carefully, draining off excess brine. Discard brine.
  7. Rinse bird inside and out with cold water.
  8. Place on roasting rack and pat dry very well.
  9. Remember brined turkeys cook 20-30 minutes faster so watch the temperature when roasting.

NOTE:  Thaw turkey 3-4 days in refrigerator before brining.

Chicken and Wild Rice Casserole

Chicken and Wild Rice Casserole | Pinky's PantryI was watching Trisha Yearwood’s show on the Food Network. She made a chicken and rice casserole that looked really good so I thought I would give it a try. It was truly yummy! The family liked it a lot. I’ve made it a couple of times since then, but of course, with some minor changes to the original recipe. I added a little more parsley for one thing. I also don’t bother chopping the slivered almonds. The biggest change I made, though, was to add a topping. My kids wanted the dish to have a crunchy topping. What is it with kids and crunchy toppings? So I made a mixture of bread crumbs and parmesan cheese, sprinkled it over the top, and voila!
Chicken and Rice Casserole | Pinky's Pantry


  • 2 (6-oz.) boxes Uncle Ben’s long-grain and wild rice mix
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, plus more for greasing dish
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 16 ozs. fresh mushrooms, sliced (or 2 (4½ oz.) cans sliced mushrooms, drained (reserve the liquid)
  • ½ cup all-purpose flour
  • 3 cups chicken broth
  • 3 cups half-and-half
  • 4 cooked boneless, skinless chicken breast halves, diced
  • 1 cup toasted slivered almonds
  • ½ cup sliced pimientos
  • ⅓ cup chopped fresh parsley
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • ½ tsp. black pepper
  • 2 cups plain bread crumbs
  • ½ cup grated parmesan cheese
  1. Cook the long-grain and wild rice mixes according to the package directions. Set aside.
  2. Preheat oven to 350ºF. Grease a 9×13 casserole dish.
  3. In a large pot, melt the butter.
  4. Add the onions and mushrooms, and sauté until the onions are translucent.
  5. Stir in the flour, cooking for 2 to 3 minutes.
  6. Stir in the broth (and reserved canned mushroom liquid if using) into the onion mixture, then stir in the half-and-half.
  7. Cook until the mixture has thickened, 7 to 10 minutes.
  8. Add the chicken, rice, toasted almonds, pimientos, parsley, salt, and pepper.
  9. Pour everything into the prepared casserole dish.
  10. In a small bowl, mix bread crumbs and parmesan cheese until well combined.
  11. Sprinkle bread crumb mixture over top of casserole.
  12. Bake about 30 to 45 minutes or until topping is golden brown.

Thai Coconut Chicken Soup

Thai Coconut Chicken Soup | Pinky's Pantry
When Old Goat Honey and I were newly married, there was a little hotel on the main road of the town where we lived. On the first floor of this hotel was a tiny Thai restaurant. For the life of me, I can’t remember the name of it now. It has long since closed, but when it was open, we would go there for dinner at least once every other month. Their food was sooo good. One of our favorite things to order whenever we went there was their Thai Coconut Chicken Soup or “Soup No. 9” as we called it because it was the No. 9 item on their short, 2-page menu.

The soup was absolutely delicious! They served it in this round silver bowl that sat on a pedestal. The bowl had a hole in the center with a sort of “chimney” sticking up out of it. And inside the pedestal underneath the bowl was a little fire (I guess from a sterno can) that kept the soup hot. Since then, I’ve learned that that serving bowl is called a Thai Hot Pot. I don’t have one and just make my soup in a regular stock pot, but I suppose if you really wanted to go authentic, you could purchase a thai hot pot of your own.

Thai Hot Pot

Thai Hot Pot from Amazon.com

This soup calls for lemongrass. For those who are unfamiliar with it, lemongrass is a fragrant grass-like stalk that’s widely used in Southeast Asian cuisine. It’s long like a green onion, with a pale green color and with a tough, outer casing similar to a thick corn husk. It has a citrusy, herbal-like flavor. It’s readily available in Asian food stores and its increasing popularity is making it easier to find in your local neighborhood grocery. I know I can find it in mine.

TO PREPARE LEMON GRASS:  Cut off about a half-inch from the top and the root end. Wash it well, then peel off the tough outer layers. Before you chop or slice it, take a meat tenderizer or a mallet and smash it. This helps release the oils that impart that delicious lemony flavor. Then cut it into 2-inch pieces or mince it finely, depending on your recipe’s instructions. It’s quite tough and woody so it’s usually cut into pieces which are later discarded before serving, but you can eat the more tender center portion if it’s finely minced. If you’re going to mince the center portion, use the bottom 4 or 5 inches only since that’s the most tender part of the stalk.


  • 2 tbsp. canola oil
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 (3-inch) piece ginger, grated
  • 1 stalk lemongrass, crushed and cut into 2-inch pieces
  • 4 cups chicken broth
  • 1 (15-oz.) can coconut milk
  • 3 tbsp. patis (fish sauce)
  • 2 tbsp. sugar
  • ¼ cup fresh lime juice
  • 1 red bell pepper, chopped
  • 8 ozs. white mushrooms, sliced
  • 1-4 small Thai chilies, sliced thinly (depending on how spicy you want it)
  • 1 lb. boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into thin strips (or 3 cups shredded, cooked chicken breast)
  • ¼ cup cilantro leaves, roughly chopped
  • 1 stalk green onion, thinly sliced (for garnish)
  1. Heat canola oil in a soup pot and sauté garlic, ginger, and lemongrass.
  2. Add the chicken broth, coconut milk, patis, sugar, and lime juice.
  3. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to medium and stir in bell pepper, mushrooms, chilies, and chicken.
  4. Simmer for about 10 minutes or until chicken is just cooked through.
  5. Pick out and discard lemongrass.
  6. Stir in cilantro.
  7. Sprinkle with green onion and serve immediately with extra lime wedges on the side.

NOTE:  If you can’t find Thai chilies, you could substitute 1-2 tsp. sambal oelek (ground fresh chili paste) for the chilies. Actually, Old Goat Honey loves this soup served with a little bowl of sambal oelek on the side.

Also, if you can’t find fresh lemongrass, you could substitute the zest and juice of a fresh lemon, though it’s not quite the same thing. I’ve done it though, and it works fine in a pinch.

1 stalk lemongrass  =  zest of 1/2 lemon + 1 tsp. fresh lemon juice

Lemongrass freezes well so if you do find it, I recommend that you buy a bunch to freeze. Just wash it, peel off the outer leaves, stick it in a ziploc bag, squeeze out all the excess air, and put it in your freezer. It will keep for months and can be used directly from frozen.

Chicken Sopas (Filipino Chicken Macaroni Soup)

Chicken Sopas | Pinky's PantryI guess this soup would be the Filipino version of chicken noodle soup. It’s certainly one we ate often growing up so it’s definitely comfort food for me. It brings back a lot of fond memories. I remember eating this for lunch at my grandparents’ house and then going into the family room after the delicious meal to sit and watch TV while my lola (grandmother) worked on her latest crochet project. She crocheted beautifully and made everything from colorful glass coasters to warm, snuggly blankets. She tried to teach me but I was never very good at it and wasn’t all that interested in learning to crochet in those days.

Anyway, this tasty soup is a complete meal into itself. It has chicken, vegetables, pasta, everything you need for a hearty and nutritious feast. It looks like it has a lot of ingredients, but once you get everything chopped up and ready to go, it comes together fairly quickly. It’s a very filling soup that would be perfect to serve on a cool fall evening while you sit warming your toes in front of the fire……gritting your teeth as you struggle to crochet and wishing you’d paid better attention when your lola was still alive.


  • 3 tbsp. butter or margarine
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • ½ medium onion, chopped
  • 8 cups chicken broth
  • 3 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • 1 stalk celery, sliced
  • 1 cup diced carrots
  • 2 cups elbow macaroni
  • 1 tbsp. chicken bouillon granules
  • ½ head of cabbage, roughly chopped
  • ¾ cup evaporated milk (can substitute fresh milk)
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  1. Melt butter or margarine in a large stock pot.
  2. Sauté garlic and onions until onions become translucent.
  3. Pour in chicken broth.
  4. Add chicken breasts, celery and carrots and bring to a boil.
  5. When chicken is cooked, remove from pot and shred or dice.
  6. While you shred the chicken, stir in macaroni noodles and chicken bouillon and bring back to a boil.
  7. Lower heat to medium, return the shredded chicken to the pot, and continue to simmer till macaroni is almost cooked. (If the soup seems to be drying up too much, add more broth.)
  8. Stir in the cabbage and evaporated milk and simmer for 2-3 minutes more.
  9. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Santa Fe Chicken Stuffed Pasilla Peppers

Santa Fe Chicken Stuffed Pasilla Peppers | Pinky's Pantry
I was walking through the grocery store when I spotted a package of Foster Farms Southwestern Seasoned Chicken Breast Strips. I thought it would make a great filling for the pasilla peppers I had just passed by in the produce aisle so on the spur of the moment, I went back to get them, then ran around picking up ingredients to make stuffed pasilla peppers for dinner.
Santa Fe Chicken Stuffed Pasilla Peppers | Pinky's Pantry
It turned out to be a great idea! The chicken strips were well-seasoned and tasty. I cut the strips into cubes and mixed them up with the other ingredients to make a yummy filling. I thought it would be nice to top each stuffed pepper with a little Mexican queso fresco (fresh cheese). The queso fresco didn’t melt like I thought it would, but it was still delicious with a mild, slightly salty flavor that complemented the filling perfectly. Serve with sour cream and salsa on the side. Muy delicioso!
Santa Fe Chicken Stuffed Pasilla Peppers | Pinky's Pantry


  • 5 pasilla peppers
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • ½ large onion, diced
  • 1 large tomato, diced
  • 2 pkg. Foster Farms Santa Fe chicken, cubed
  • 1 can black beans, drained
  • 1 cup frozen corn or 1 can whole kernel corn, drained
  • 1 cup shredded cheese (I used a taco blend)
  • 1 tsp. cumin
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 tsp. cayenne pepper or hot sauce (optional)
  • Mexican queso fresco (for topping)
  1. Roast peppers over fire on stove until skin is charred and blistered.
  2. Place in a plastic bag for a few minutes to steam, then peel off skin.
  3. Split peppers in half. If you don’t want it to be spicy, scrape out the seeds.
  4. Arrange roasted pepper halves on a baking sheet.
  5. In a small skillet, saute the garlic, onions and tomatoes together until the onions become translucent. Set aside to cool.
  6. In a bowl, toss together the chicken, black beans, corn and cheese.
  7. Stir in the sauteed onion mixture.
  8. Add cumin, and salt and pepper to taste.
  9. If you want it spicy, stir in cayenne pepper or hot sauce to taste.
  10. Fill pepper halves with the filling mixture.
  11. Top with a slice of Mexican queso fresco.
  12. Bake at 400º F until queso fresco melts. If you want the cheese a little toasted, broil for a few minutes until cheese begins to turn golden brown.
  13. Serve with sour cream and salsa on the side.

NOTE:  Goes great with Arroz Verde (green rice).

Baked Creamy Chicken and Potatoes

Baked Creamy Chicken and Potatoes | Pinky's PantryMy oldest daughter, Yissi, is going away to college. For one of her last meals, she asked that I make Baked Creamy Chicken and Potatoes. This is one of those recipes that I stumbled upon by chance years ago on the internet. I had some chicken thighs but couldn’t decide what to do with them. A random search on the net turned up this recipe which I decided to try and boy am I glad I did. My family loved it! I’ve made it several times since then. It fast became one of Yissi’s favorite dishes.

I use boneless, skinless chicken thighs just because they’re easy. I’ve also made this recipe several times without the parsley and it works just fine. You could also probably substitute real cheddar cheese for the Velveeta if you wanted to. The recipe is pretty versatile. Casa Veneracion, the blog this recipe came from, has quite a lot of yummy-looking recipes. Go check it out when you have time. I’m sure glad I did. This recipe was a great find.

(adapted from Casa Veneracion)

  • 8 boneless, skinless chicken thighs
  • 4 medium-size potatoes
  • 1 small onion
  • 1 cup cream
  • 1 cup grated Velveeta cheese
  • 2 tbsp. chopped fresh parsley (optional)
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • butter or margarine for frying
  1. Season the chicken thighs with salt and pepper and set aside while you prepare the rest of the ingredients.
  2. Peel the potatoes and cut into wedges. I used red skinned potatoes so I wouldn’t have to bother peeling them.
  3. Peel the onion, cut into halves and slice into thin wedges.
  4. Melt the butter or margarine in a saute pan. When hot, brown the chicken thighs, turning them for even browning. Transfer the browned chicken to a baking pan.
    NOTE:  The chicken thighs don’t need to be cooked through at this point.
    Just brown the outside and transfer them to the baking pan.
  5. Brown the potato wedges in the same pan you fried the chicken in; then add the cooked potatoes on top of the cooked chicken in the baking pan.
  6. Saute the sliced onion and scatter on top of the chicken and potatoes.
  7. Pour the cream over the chicken, potatoes and onions. You may season with more salt and pepper at this point.
  8. Sprinkle with the chopped parsley, if using.
  9. Cover the baking dish tightly with foil, piercing it with a fork in a few places to create steam vents.
  10. Bake in a preheated 350o oven for 30 minutes or so, depending on the size of the chicken thighs.
  11. Take the baking pan out of the oven and remove the foil, being careful not to burn your fingers.
  12. Sprinkle the grated cheese over the cooked chicken and potatoes.
  13. Return to the oven and bake for 10 minutes longer or until the cheese melts.

Cheesy Mexican Chicken Lasagna

Mexican Chicken Lasagna | Pinky's PantryIt was bunco night at the home of my sister’s good friend, Kelly. My sister plays bunco once a month with a group of her friends and every now and then, when someone can’t make it, I stand in as a substitute. It’s a lot of fun and a good way to get out of the house for a while. This was an especially fun night because I won the pot!

Kelly served a Mexican Chicken Lasagna for dinner before the games began. The recipe was one she had taken from a Pampered Chef cookbook. It was so delicious, I got the recipe so I could make it at home for my family. I changed a few things, but otherwise, the recipe is easy and is perfect for feeding a crowd. Just in time for Cinco de Mayo!
Mexican Chicken Lasagna | Pinky's Pantry


  • ½ cup lightly packed fresh cilantro leaves, chopped
  • 2 boxes (8 oz. each) cream cheese
  • 3 cups shredded Monterey Jack cheese
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 large can (28 oz.) enchilada sauce
  • 12 (6-inch) corn tortillas
  • 2-3 lbs. shredded cooked chicken (I used boneless, skinless chicken thighs)
  1. Microwave cream cheese for 30-45 seconds or until very soft.
  2. Add cilantro and 2 cups of the Monterey Jack cheese; mix well.
  3. Spread 2/3 cup enchilada sauce on the bottom of a 9×13 baking pan.
  4. Pour remaining enchilada sauce into a shallow bowl or pie pan.
  5. Submerge 4 of the tortillas into the sauce in the pie pan one by one, and arrange them on the bottom of the baking pan, overlapping as needed.
  6. Spread 1/3 of the cream cheese mixture over the tortillas. This is hard to do. You may want to just dollop it on and press each dollop down with a spatula.
  7. Sprinkle with 1/3 of the chicken and 1/3 of the chopped onions.
  8. Repeat layers 2 more times.
  9. If you have any enchilada sauce left, drizzle it over the top of the casserole.
  10. Top with remaining 1 cup of Monterey Jack cheese.
  11. Bake at 350º F for 30 minutes or until cheese is melted and casserole is hot.
  12. If desired, you could garnish with additional chopped cilantro leaves before serving.

NOTE:  Shredded rotisserie chicken is great in this recipe.

Chicken Macaroni Casserole

Chicken Macaroni | Pinky's Pantry
Every year, we go to my sister’s house for Halloween. The children go trick-or-treating while the grown-ups stay at home to answer the doorbell and hand out candy to the neighborhood kids. We always have something hot to drink, as well as a few Halloween-themed appetizers and desserts for our returning trick-or-treaters who are invariably cold and hungry. In addition, there’s always at least one main dish (usually some kind of casserole) for the adults.

This year, I made the casserole for the adults. I chose to do a Spanish-style Chicken Macaroni. We ate this a lot at my grandmother’s house growing up. It takes a little time to prepare and simmer the sauce, but is well-worth the wait. It’s delicious, filling, and warms you up from the inside out. Happy Halloween everyone!


  • 1 lb. macaroni noodles
  • 2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • 3 boneless, skinless chicken thighs
  • 5 slices of bacon, chopped into small pieces
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/2 medium onion, diced
  • 2 pcs. chorizo de Bilbao, sliced
  • 1 8-oz. pkg. mushrooms, sliced
  • 1 green bell pepper, diced
  • 1 can diced tomatoes
  • 2 15-oz. cans tomato sauce
  • 1 bay leaf
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • 2 cups shredded cheddar cheese (or any cheese you like)
  • 1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
  1. Boil macaroni according to package directions until al dente. Drain and set aside.
  2. Boil chicken in just enough water to cover until chicken is cooked through, then shred chicken into small pieces. Leave shredded chicken sitting in its broth until you’re ready to use it.
  3. In a large saucepot, sauté the chopped bacon until it begins to get crispy.
  4. Drain all but 2 tablespoons of the bacon grease.
  5. Add the garlic and onions to the pot and sauté until the onions begin to turn translucent.
  6. Add the chorizo, mushrooms and bell pepper and cook a little longer.
  7. Pour in the can of diced tomatoes and the tomato sauce.
  8. Toss in one bay leaf and season the sauce with salt and pepper to taste.
  9. Pour the chicken with the broth into the saucepot, lower the heat to low, and leave it to simmer uncovered for 45 minutes or so, stirring occasionally.
  10. When the sauce is ready, toss the cooked pasta into it, stirring until the sauce and pasta are well incorporated.
  11. Pour the pasta into a 9×13 rectangular baking dish.
  12. Top the pasta with the shredded cheddar.
  13. Sprinkle the grated parmesan over the cheddar.
  14. Bake at 350°F until the cheese is melted.

NOTE:  As seen in the photo, I decided to top the casserole pictured with a Bechamel Sauce. After pouring the pasta into the baking dish, I topped it with a layer of bechamel, then the shredded cheddar and parmesan. Yum!

Pastel de Gallina (Spanish Chicken Pot Pie)

Pastel de Gallina | Pinky's PantryMy grandmother was quite the Lady of the Manor. Like most women of her time, she never worked outside the home. She was born into a wealthy family so didn’t have to work inside the home either! She had maids to clean the house, a cook to prepare the meals, and a washer woman to do the laundry. As privileged a life as she led, she kept a tight reign on the running of her household. She always told me, “Just because you don’t do the housework yourself doesn’t mean you don’t need to learn how. You can’t expect someone to do the work properly if you don’t know how to do it yourself.”

In keeping with that, she would make me sit in the kitchen with paper and pen to watch as the cook prepared certain dishes. I had to learn everything the cook did and write the recipe down in duplicate! One copy for myself and the other for my grandmother so she could see that I was legitimately jotting the recipe down and not just scribbling nonsense. No using carbon paper either! (We didn’t have copy machines back then.) At the age of fourteen, I thought it was a dreadful chore, but looking back I recognize the value of what my grandmother was trying to teach me.

Though she may not have done the actual everyday cooking herself, my grandmother knew exactly what went into every dish that was served in her home. She also had a little repertoire of recipes that she would occasionally go into the kitchen to prepare personally. This dish was one of them.


  • 1 recipe pastel crust (can substitute frozen puff pastry)
  • 2-3 lbs. chicken, cut in pieces
  • ½ cup butter or margarine for frying (add more as needed)
  • 4 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 1 green bell pepper, diced
  • 2 cups chicken broth
  • 3 potatoes, cubed
  • 1 carrot, cut in pieces
  • 2 pcs. chorizo de bilbao, sliced
  • 1 can vienna sausage, sliced
  • 2 small cans button mushrooms (with juice)
  • ¾ cup green peas
  • 1 cup olives
  • 1 cup evaporated milk
  • ¼ cup flour
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 egg, beaten
  1. Make pastel crust (recipe below) and chill in refrigerator. If desired, you could substitute frozen puff pastry.
  2. Pre-heat oven to 350°.
  3. In a pot, melt butter and brown the chicken. Set cooked chicken aside.
  4. Sauté garlic, onion and bell pepper in same pot; then put chicken back.
  5. Add chicken broth, potatoes and carrots, and simmer for 10 minutes.
  6. Add chorizo, vienna sausage, mushrooms, peas, olives, evaporated milk and flour, and continue cooking for 15 more minutes.
  7. Add salt and pepper to taste.
  8. Pour all into a pyrex baking dish.
  9. Roll out pastel crust or thaw puff pastry according to package directions.
  10. Cover the chicken mixture with the crust and seal the sides by pressing on the edges of the pyrex; remove excess pastry. If desired, you could cut decorative shapes out of any extra pastry to decorate your pastel.
  11. Slash holes in the pastry to let out steam during baking; then brush with beaten egg so it will be shiny.
  12. Bake until crust is golden brown.


  • 4 cups flour
  • 2 tsps. salt
  • 1 tbsp. sugar
  • 1¾ cup cold shortening (can use butter or margarine)
  • ½ – ¾ cup ice water
  1. In a bowl, combine flour, salt and sugar.
  2. Cut in shortening till you have pea-size lumps.
  3. Gradually add as much water by tablespoonfuls as needed to moisten the dough and then mix by hand until just blended. Do not overwork the dough or it will be tough!
  4. Gather dough into a ball, wrap in plastic wrap, and refrigerate for an hour.
  5. Roll out on floured surface.