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Let’s Talk Turkey

I found some valuable information in the Milwaukee/Journal Sentinel’s Food section this morning. I personally “brine” my turkey the day before I roast. You can find this recipe under “Fall/Harvest” in my blog.

Frozen or fresh? My first decision was whether to buy a frozen or fresh turkey. Frozen turkeys are less expensive than fresh, and can be purchased weeks in advance if you have the freezer space; however, you have to be sure to allow plenty of time to thaw.

Fresh turkeys are more often free-range or organic and can be purchased at the last minute, but they will last only a few days in the refrigerator. According to Butterball Turkey Talk-Line director Mary Clingman, you can make a fresh turkey last longer by placing it in the freezer for a few hours to drop its temperature, then returning it to the bottom of the fridge, which is usually the coldest area.

Size: One pound per person is the general rule for selecting a bird properly sized for your gathering. This will allow for a reasonable amount of leftovers. I went with the smallest turkey I could find, an 11.5-pounder, figuring my husband and I might have a few guests over – at most – for this preholiday, practice turkey roast (you’ll see how well those plans held up).

Thawing : If you’re going with a frozen bird, the next crucial step comes days before Thanksgiving. Butterball has declared the Thursday before Thanksgiving to be National Thaw Day as a reminder to move your turkey from the freezer to the fridge, or at least to start thinking about it.

The general rule of thawing is 24 hours for every 4 pounds of turkey in a fridge set at about 40 degrees. To be safe, I gave mine four days, but it wouldn’t have been a bad idea to start thawing even earlier than that. You can wait up to four days to cook it once it’s fully thawed, which ensures the bird’s temperature will be between 35 and 40 degrees.

You’ll want to place the turkey on a pan or in a plastic bag to prevent leaks in the fridge. If you find yourself without enough time to thaw it in the refrigerator, you can place the turkey in a sink or cooler (or even a bathtub, as my cousin once had to do) filled with cold water, breast side down.

This method will take 30 minutes per pound of turkey if you’re changing the water every half-hour. If that seems like too much work, you can forget about changing the water, but it will take several hours longer (the frozen turkey cools the water).

And if you completely forget to thaw your turkey, or it’s still a bit frozen on Thanksgiving morning, Clingman says not to worry. You can cook a turkey from the frozen state. It may take a couple of hours longer, and you won’t be able to remove the neck, giblets and gravy packets or insert the meat thermometer before placing it in the oven, but in the end it should taste perfectly delicious.

Preparing the bird: Once thawed, the turkey requires a little preparation. Free it from its plastic wrapping, rinse it well, inside and out, and dry it with paper towels. My turkey still had some ice in the cavity, despite my conservative thawing time, but this didn’t mean the meat was still frozen; it just had some frozen liquid hanging around. A good, strategic rinse took care of that.

You also need to remove the neck, gravy packet and giblets. This proved to be my first real challenge of the day. I easily found the neck and gravy packet tucked into the main cavity, but the giblets were elusive. After searching high and low, I concluded that our bird was missing its giblets and moved on.

Fast forward to the turkey being carved, and sure enough, out popped a little packet with the giblets. It didn’t hurt anything to be cooked right inside the bird, as the bag is oven-safe, but it’s probably best to find it before it goes in the oven – if only to save yourself the embarrassment.

While the neck and gravy packets are usually found in the main cavity, the giblets are stored in the neck cavity. Unfold the neck skin to get into the cavity and remove them. Then, after rinsing and drying the bird, use the neck skin to hold the wings akimbo – or lifted up as you would look holding your hands behind your head with your elbows out.


Reference: Milwaukee/Journal Sentinel Food Section, Wednesday November 16, 2011

Il Mito’s Crab and Spinach Stuffed Wonton’s

Thank you Chef Feker for the recipe and cooking experience. My daughter and I were finally able to take the left over stuffing from our cooking lesson back in January and make the wontons. There were delicious!

Please see my post for:

Il Mito’s Crab and Spinach Stuffed South African Panga for the filling recipe.

You the take the filling recipe and stuff into wonton’s. Fry in olive oil until golden brown.

May 2014 Tip of the Day

Today’s tip:So you are accessing your creative side and you want to test your creation for seasoning and taste before you make the entire batch. Problem solved: make “test “portion first.

I baked the smaller ramekin first to get the cooking time and taste. I adjusted the seasoning and baked the larger portion at the correct cooking time. This saves time and money.

Spring is here…lets have some beer!

Habitat Coupon Book

Mother nature has finally decided to give us a break from this horrible winter and blessed us with a beautiful spring day.  What better way to celebrate than enjoying some good ol’ Wisconsin beer while you watch the snow melt.

There are so many breweries AND wineries to choose from in Wisconsin and a great way to experience them is to buy the Habitat for Humanity of Wisconsin Brewery and Winery Coupon Book.  My daughter Rebecca works for Habitat for Humanity of Wisconsin and this is a great fundraiser her office created to raise money and awareness for Habitat.  Over 20 breweries and wineries have donated coupons ranging from deals on tours, tastings, and merchandise.

Donate $10 (plus $1 S+H) to enjoy these great deals!  You can do this by visiting



Chef Feker Part 2

An amazing thing happened to me on Saturday, January 25, 2014; I had the “life changing” moment that we all somehow reach for.

My husband Don purchased me a gift certificate to cook with Chef Michael Feker from IL MITO in Wauwatosa, WI. What a wonderful gift; a private cooking experience with Chef Feker. The envelope read, “To my chef who will only become a better chef”. It brought tears to my eyes aswell as joy and excitement!

It took me a while to make the arrangements. Chef Feker is very busy with two restaurantsand his television show. Finally the stage was set; Saturday, January 25 at 12:30pm. I was nervous and so excited.

I arrive at IL MITO promptly at 12:30pm. The restaurant had a few lunch patrons and a gentleman at the bar. The bar tender greeted me and poured me a glass of wine while I waited for Chef Feker. The gentleman next to me struck up a conversation about what music was playing. Of course it was Italian, Dean Martin I believed. My hands were sweaty with nervous anticipation.

I had previously met Chef Feker twice, both at home shows in Wauwatosa and Milwaukee. You can read about my first experience in my cookbook which can be purchased at:

Finally, it was time to cook. I was led to the cooking area where Chef Feker was. He greeted me and we began to talk. I told Chef that my husband bought me the gift card so I could cook with him.

I brought him a gift; a signed copy of my cookbook. He accepted it graciously. I told him of the story I wrote about meeting him. He immediately read my story and was very impressed. It seemed that he appreciated the cookbook and even flaunted it to our server/bar tender. We laughed! I made sure to mention to read my daughter’s story about creme brulle. She is such a talented writer and the story is hilarious.

The recipe we were going to make was, “Crab and spinach stuffed South African Panga (fish) atop a creamy artichoke puree”. We began to make a variation of this recipe. It seemed as if we were old friends just hanging out and cooking. We exchanged tips, tricks and new recipes. Chef Feker told me that I could freeze the stuffing mixture and when ready to buy some wonton wrappers and stuff them with the mixture. This is an easy variation of making ravioli. The funny thing about this was I have never purchased wonton wrappers in my life, but I stopped at the grocery store early in the morning on Saturday and guess what I bought for the first time, wonton wrappers. OMG!

Chef talked about collaborating with me on some charity cooking, which thrilled me to say the least. As we talked about what I want to do with cooking going forward in my life, he said, If it does not scare the hell out of you then you are not reaching far enough”.  Life changing moment for me!

I told Chef Feker how both of my children, Ryan and Becky, love to cook and how well they do cook. I mentioned to him that Ryan won a Pick n’ Save cooking contest with his Mac and Cheese recipe. Chef Feker was very interested in why Ryan is not involved in our “art”.

Chef Feker eats gluten free, so I shared with him my gluten free gravy recipe (this can also be found on my website at He said he was going to steal it…we laughed again.

At one point, I was using this amazing spatula which was heat resistant and so cool. I told Chef Feker, “I have to get one of these”. He proceeded to reach into a drawer, pull out a spatula and hand it to me. He said, “You gave me a gift so here is your gift”.  SWEET!

It was time then for me to eat and enjoy what we just prepared. We even made extra for my husband Don which Chef Feker calls the “bearded man”. The food was amazing. Chef Feker liked my added spice. You know I like it spicy, just like my men!

In a blink of an eye, my time was over. He talked about meeting and cooking again, promoting my cookbook and blog and Chef Feker was even interested in my son Ryan working with him on a new project he is putting together. WOW!

My life changed in that moment. I need to reach for what I want, but I am not sure what or where that is. I have been asking God for help. It is like the time I wanted my husband Don to take me to the ballet. He would not, so I thought and prayed. It came to me; be in the ballet and he will come. I joined the Milwaukee ballet and after two years, I was chosen (small non dancing part) to be in the Nut Cracker at the Performing Arts Center at the age of 36. Life changing and I did it!

I feel I am at a cross road. Where do I go from here? What is my path? I asked God to give me a sign and after the week I have had (awful) doing tax, accounting and investment work, I can hear God screaming at me!


 This is the quote I wrote and the end of the story about Chef Feker:

God Is Amazing…But You Need to Listen!

The last thing Chef Feker said to me was, I believe, “nothing beats cooking with the ones you love”.  He gave me the biggest hug and we said good bye. I hope we meet and cook together again soon.


Please visit Chef Feker’s website and blog!


6913 W North Avenue, Wauwatosa call us at (414) 443-1414

Great place to meet and eat.

Friendly, Knowledgeable Staff

Please read my review at:



  1. jenny says:

    thank you thank you for this recipe! can’t wait to make it!!!!

  2. Jenny says:

    I made your pumpkin seeds and everyone loved them! Even my husband who doesn’t like pumpkin seeds (till now ;) ) went crazy over them…will be making these again. Thank you!

  3. Lora Murray says:

    Thank you so much!

  4. Lora Murray says:

    Thank you and visit often.

  5. Jenny says:

    CONGRATS on the cookbook!!!! It will be a stable in MANY kitchens

  6. Connie Seibel says:

    I miss and LOVE the Brown Sugar Drops. No one makes them like Lora. Wish I were as talented and skilled as my favorite Krazy sister Lora :)

  7. Joanne Gray says:

    Just paged through your cookbook given to the kids. Impressive. Congrats on your accomplishment.

  8. Great post, I think people should learn a lot from this website its very user friendly. So much good information on here :D .

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Chef Feker

So we are a home show in Milwaukee one cold February day. We needed to get out of the house so the home show was our best bet.  It was crowded to say the least. We strolled down each aisle taking in all the home improvements we could. After battling the crowd for what it seemed forever we came upon the center of the home show. We were able to grab a beer and find a place to sit.  But then I noticed a huge bunch of chairs facing what it looked like a mock kitchen. I then thought, oh great another kitchen gadget sales pitch but then I saw that it was a guest chef. I was intrigued.  We decided to sit, relax and enjoy the show along with about 100 other people.

Chef Michael Feker (IL MITO Trattoria e Enoteca) took the stage and in front of him was the largest sauté pan I had ever seen.  I would love to own one of these pans, but where would I store it? At first I thought he was going to prepare a paella. He started to speak and I was immediately drawn to his every word. Was he really going to make risotto for all these people…oh yes…he was. And he was doing a shrimp asparagus risotto…was he insane. I appreciated his passion and wanted to be a part of it.

Could he pull this off? Risotto for all these people?  He did amazing things with the asparagus using every part of this wonderful veggie; blending even the part that I would have discarded.

He spoke and cooked and before you knew it he was ready to serve. We stood in line and I thought this was going to be either under or over cooked. The shrimp would be tough. How could he cook for all these people in such a short time span?

What was I thinking, he is a professional chef and yes…it was amazing! I even had a tear in my eye. I need to speak to this man.

We sat…we saw…we ate…I needed more. He was gracious enough to take questions but I needed something more intimate. After service he was still in his mock kitchens so I, with much anticipation was able to approach him. I was shaking nervously. He was very gracious and gave me the chance to speak.

I asked him how I could fulfill my passion for cooking without working in a restaurant. What he said still lives and breathes in me every day. He told me to do what I love but to reach out and share my passion and skills with others. He then gave me a huge hug and a smile. I will never forget this for he was so sincere; not just brushing me off.  I knew he felt my passion for cooking.

This is what brought me to where I am now. Creating and maintain my website and doing what I always wanted to do…a cook book. What a wonderful journey I have experienced.  God is amazing but, you need to listen!

Thank you Chef Feker!

Moscow Mule



Do you need a drink for the new year…follow the recipe below…and hopefully you have these cups.

Moscow Mule History and Recipe

Vodka fans, rejoice. You may have never had a Moscow Mule, but it’s a cocktail you should praise. Without it, you may have never been introduced to your favorite Martini.

Once upon a time, say, back in the 1940s, vodka was little known in the United States, and gin reigned supreme as the clear spirit of choice. A gentleman by the name of John G. Martin, president of G.F. Hueblein Brothers, Inc., had a wild notion. He bought a vodka distiller, and acquired a vodka recipe that had belonged to a Russian family named Smirnov. Martin was sure everyone would love it.

Unfortunately, Martin was a man ahead of his time. Vodka wasn’t a smash hit. In fact, he had a hard time giving the stuff away, and he hit the road on a sales trip. He made it to Hollywood, where he stopped at the Cock ‘n’ Bull for a bite to eat. He struck up a conversation with the owner, Jack Morgan, and learned that Morgan had a white elephant of his own, the ginger beer he made on the side.

The final ingredient in their marketing scheme involved a friend of Morgan’s. She had inherited a copper factory, and had an abundance of copper cups to offload. They decided to sell and serve a new cocktail in one of the copper cups, engraved with the picture of a kicking mule.

And the Moscow Mule was born.

Moscow Mule Recipe

  • 2 ounces vodka
  • 1 ounce lime juice
  • 4 ounces ginger beer