Hickory Smoked Turkey & Gravy

Hickory Smoked Turkey


The Grill Sergeant at our house is my husband and this is his simple, but delicious, recipe for smoking turkey. The gravy has a slightly smoky flavor and is really wonderful too.

Our oldest son had turkey assignment for he and his buddies’ annual BrosGiving dinner, so we officially handed these recipes down to the next generation. They are a a sure-fire way to transform any turkey novice into a turkey hero. Trust me, the folks you feed will be thankful!


  • Lots of gas for the grill
  • Hickory Wood to smoke
  • Fresh Turkey
  • Olive oil
  • Lemon and/or orange
  • Freshly ground salt & pepper
  • Sage
  • Thyme
  • 2-14.5 oz. cans chicken stock (or roasting pan or turkey stock if made ahead)
  • 2 onions (one for stock, one for roasting pan)
  • celery, 3-4 stalks cut into fourths
  • carrots, 2-3 cut into fourths

Turkey Prep:

  • Sit turkey out in normal room temperature for one hour
  • Clean turkey, keep neck for stock
  • Rub lemon or orange on turkey, put halved fruit in turkey
  • Rub outside of turkey with olive oil
  • Season with freshly ground salt, pepper, and a little sage
  • Fold wings under, lace or clip shut openings (with fruit inside)
  • Put on rack inside roasting pan
  • Pour 2 cans of stock (4 cups) and wedges of one onion into roasting pan

Turkey Stock:

  • Sauce pan of boiling water
  • Turkey neck
  • Celery
  • Carrots
  • Onions
  • Salt and pepper with a little sage & thyme
  • Bring to boil, then simmer
  • Use some stock for gravy and a little stock to mix with olive oil for basting

Smoking Turkey:

  • See grill manufacturer’s directions, or other trusted source, for wood use in smoking
  • Smoke on grill for 20 minutes per pound at 225˚-250˚, until breast temperature is 165˚
  • Baste with olive oil and turkey stock mixture every 45 minutes
  • Check to be sure flame didn’t get blown out by wind when basting and, if weather is excessively cold, assess whether grill temperature needs to be slightly increased
  • Add stock to roasting pan drippings as needed to use for gravy



  • ½ cup butter
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • ½ cup flour
  • 4 cups turkey drippings (add stock if not enough drippings)
  • salt, to taste


  1. Pour turkey drippings through strainer and let stand until fat rises to the top. With large, shallow spoon or suction baster, discard all but about ¼” of fat.
  2. In large skillet, melt butter on medium-low heat and blend in spices.
  3. Slowly add flour, mixing in with wire whisk in small circular motions.
  4. Add small amount of drippings, completely blending in with whisk before adding more, until all 4 cups have been added to gravy.
  5. Taste to see if salt is needed. If so, salt to taste.
  6. Cook gravy for several minutes, stirring constantly, to thicken and cook flour.

Food for Thought

“A thankful heart is not only the greatest virtue, but the parent of all the other virtues.” –Cicero

Menu Monday is a blog series dedicated to great food and menu planning.

Mama Sugar’s Southern Fried Chicken

In honor of you, Mary Alice... Southern Fried Chicken, Garlic Mashed Potatoes, Steamed Broccoli & Sweet Tea.

In honor of you, Mary Alice… crispy Southern Fried Chicken, buttery garlic mashed potatoes, steamed broccoli with lemon, and sweet tea.

Years ago my dear southern cook extraordinaire mother-in-law, Mary Alice, typed out all her favorite recipes and assembled cookbooks for her family and dearest friends. She was a southern lady in the truest sense and had hostess skills on par with her cooking acumen. Her grandchildren lovingly called her, “Mama Sugar,” because she called everyone she loved, “Sugar,” and said it as she said everything else, in her lovely, distinctive Chattanooga, Tennessee dialect which she never lost despite living most of her adult life elsewhere.

When my husband and sons request fried chicken there is only one place I go for the recipe. Mama Sugar’s cookbook. She recorded several versions, but this is her classic which she soaked in buttermilk all day.

Mama Sugar’s Southern Fried Chicken

  1. Cut spring fryer (about 3 pounds) into serving pieces
  2. Cover with buttermilk and refrigerate for several hours to tenderize
  3. Drain and dredge in mixture of flour, salt,  pepper, and a bit of garlic salt
  4. Fry in Crisco shortening until brown on both sides
  5. Move to covered baking dish OR, for crispy-style, place on a cookie sheet
  6. Bake at 350°F degrees until tender (45-60 min.)

My guys like the crispy style for the crunch, in which case I go a little heavier on the salt for a salty-crunchy combo. However, those who love their meat particularly moist and tender may want to try the covered version. The frying and the lid both lock in moisture -just don’t over bake. Rule of thumb for doneness is 160°F white meat/165°F dark meat. Mary Alice usually baked her fried chicken covered. I love it both ways and let my mood or my guys dictate which way we go.

Food for Thought

“In the childhood memories of every good cook, there’s a large kitchen, a warm stove, a simmering pot, and a mom.”

Barbara Costikyan, Food Critic, New York Magazine

Menu Monday is a blog series dedicated to great food and menu planning.

Autumn Chicken Chili Verde

Chicken Chili Verde


Chicken Chili Verde is a savory pot of goodness that doesn’t have to simmer or slow-cook all day to reach it’s flavorful perfection making it a good fit for just about any day on your calendar. That being said, you can do a long simmer or slow-cook if you’d like your kitchen to smell good all day and/or need dinner to be ready when you return from a busy day out. Be sure to have a little extra broth on hand if you go that route as the chili may thicken too much due to evaporation.

  • Makes 10-12 hearty-size bowls
  • Freezes well

 This is a personal recipe I recently threw together in our kitchen and you should be aware that I’m not really one to measure ingredients; however, I am quite certain I used more than the amounts noted for the spices. Families with preferences more towards a mild flavor are safe to go with the noted amounts as this is a large batch of chili and the flavors have to stretch pretty far.

Carrots are not traditionally found in chili, but I had some and thought they would add nutritional value. I was out of celery when I made this, but will throw some in for extra fiber in the future.

For an autumn twist, substitute the carrots for a couple cups of peeled and ‘finely’ chopped pumpkin, butternut or acorn squash, parsnips, or rutabaga. Skip the turnips though. As much as I love them, they’re too pungent for this chili.


  • Olive oil, cover bottom of pan
  • 5-6 Chicken breasts, boneless, skinless, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 2 Vidalia onions, finely chopped
  • 3-4 carrots, finely chopped
  • 4 tsp cumin, more to taste
  • 2 tsp chili pepper, more to taste
  • Salt, to taste
  • Fresh ground pepper, to taste
  • 6 TB flour
  • 2 cans (14.5 oz) chicken broth
  • 1 can (14.5 oz) diced tomatoes with juice
  • 2 cans 4 oz. chopped green chiles, drained
  • 2 cans (15.8 oz) Great White, Northern, or Canneloni beans, drained and rinsed


  • Shredded Cheddar or Monterey Jack cheese
  • Sour cream
  • Salsa
  • Fresh cilantro leaves

*Toppings are optional, but I highly recommend them as they enhance the flavor and texture of the chili.

On the Side:

Serve with warm flour tortillas, heating a couple per person.

At our home, we use the stovetop method and place them directly into a tortilla warmer. Tortilla warmers are wonderful to have, but if you do not own one another type of covered dish will be fine.


  1. In large pot, add enough olive oil to cover coat bottom of pan.
  2. Add diced chicken, garlic, onions, carrots, and spices. Cook over medium heat for several minutes until chicken is almost cooked through.
  3. If there is sufficient juice from chicken, add flour a couple tablespoons at a time mixing in with each addition. If there is not much juice from cooking chicken, add some broth.
  4. Keep stirring over medium heat until sauce begins to thicken.
  5. Once fairly thickened, add remaining broth, diced tomatoes with juice, and green chilies mixing with each addition. Once bubbly again, turn down to simmer for 15-20 minutes until flavors begin to develop.
  6. Taste to see if additional spices are needed. Add drained/rinsed canned beans and gently mix in and let simmer until heated through, approximately 5-10 minutes.
  7. Place a folded paper towel into your tortilla holder before you add the first one, so they do not stick to the bottom of the warmer.
  8. Warm tortillas one at a time placing them in tortilla warmer with lid as you go.
  9. Scoop into serving bowls and top as desired with shredded cheese, sour cream, salsa, and/or fresh cilantro leaves.
  10. Tortillas cool quickly, so place filled tortilla warmer on table and pass as people need more.

Food for Thought

“Al hambre de siete días, no hay pan duro.”

To a week’s hunger, there is no such thing as hard bread.

Menu Monday is a blog series dedicated to great food and menu planning.

Hungry Guy Tuna Noodle Casserole

Hungry Guy Tuna Noodle Casserole


A satisfying selection for busy days that don’t leave much time for meal prep. Whip up in 20 minutes plus cook time or assemble ahead and pop in the oven just before meal time.

  • Makes one 13”x9” casserole dish OR two 2-quart casserole dishes.
  • Feeds 8 hungry people. Young families with wee-small children will likely have leftovers for lunch the next day.

This is a personal recipe I make a couple times per year for my husband and our three sons. It’s hearty and rich enough to feed an average-size family on it’s own, but if you’re feeding a larger family or group add a side salad and bread or rolls and you’ll have plenty of food for everyone. It also travels well for potluck meals.

16oz. noodles, cooked and drained *20 c. dry noodles
5 cans (5.0 oz) tuna (drained)
1 bag (16 oz.) frozen peas
2 c. sour cream
1 can (10 3/4 oz.) Campbell’s Condensed Cream of Celery Soup
1-1/2 c. milk
2-1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. pepper
garlic powder, to taste

5 tbsp. melted butter
1-1/2 c. grated cheese
1-1/2 c. panko (or bread crumbs)


  • Remove peas from freezer and let thaw at room temperature while prepping casserole.
  • Cook and drain noodles.

While noodles are cooking…

  • Prep casserole dish with butter or non-stick spray.
  • Melt butter for topping. Measure out grated cheese and panko. Using a fork, blend butter, cheese, and panko. Set aside.
  • In a separate bowl, blend together sour cream, soup, milk, salt, pepper, and garlic powder.

After draining noodles…

  • Pour noodles back into their pot and mix in drained tuna and peas. Peas do not need to be completely thawed.
  • Pour sour cream mixture over noodle mixture in pot and mix well.
  • Place in prepared casserole dish and sprinkle with topping.
  • Bake uncovered at 350 degrees for 35 to 40 minutes until golden brown and bubbly.

If casserole was assembled ahead of time and refrigerated, either let stand at room temperature for 20 minutes prior to baking or add approximately 10 minutes to total cook time.

Menu Monday is a blog series dedicated to great food and menu planning.

Red Quinoa with Asparagus, Portobellos & Feta


Menu Monday is a Monday blog series dedicated to great food and menu planning. We’re getting a quick start to the series with a little help from our friends at Williams-Sonoma and their suggestion for a healthy Meatless Monday dish.

Looks fabulous. Thank you, Williams-Sonoma…
Red Quinoa with Asparagus, Portobellos & Feta


Hot Apple Cider


The ‘holidays’ are over and the January freeze has officially arrived making this month a wonderful time to enjoy hot beverages. They can relax the body and cozy up the soul in short order, so I thought I’d share a couple favorite recipes and some fun garnishing ideas.


This is a recipe from a dear friend who shared it with our family a couple winters ago and it’s now a cold weather family tradition. I make a batch just before Christmas, store it in some kind of cute container that’s handy and can be tagged with mixing instructions. It delicious and adds a homespun touch to any gift giving situation that falls during the fall and winter months.

Spice Mix

  • 2 cups sugar
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons allspice
  • 1/2 teaspoon mace
  • 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1 large, movie-size box Red Hots cinnamon candies, optional

Mixing Instructions

  1. Heat 8 ounces apple cider per serving.
  2. Mix in 1 tablespoon Spice Mix per serving.
  3. Stir until dissolved and serve.


I love winter like I love the other three seasons, but if by January you’re the type to start dreaming of the tropics a cup of this ambrosia may help get you through to the first warm day of spring.


  • 2+ cups milk of your choice {whole, skim, almond, soy, of course coconut milk, etc.}
  • 1-2 teaspoons coconut extract, to taste
  • 1-2 teaspoons vanilla extract, to taste
  • sweetener of your choice, to taste {sugar, honey, sweetened condensed milk, etc.}
  • 1/4 cup cocoa powder
  • 8 ounces chopped dark chocolate {substitute: additional cocoa powder}
  • pinch salt
  • whipped cream
  • shredded coconut, toasted


  1. Slightly chop shredded coconut and add to non-stick skillet. Use low heat to toast until slightly browned and set aside.
  2. In heavy saucepan on medium heat, thoroughly heat milk, extracts, and sweetener until steam begins to rise from pot, but do not boil.
  3. Whisk in chopped chocolate, cocoa powder, and salt.
  4. Stir until chopped chocolate is melted and well blended.
  5. Add additional milk if this is too chocolatey for you.
  6. Serve in mug and top with whipped cream and toasted coconut.
  7. Makes several servings depending on mug size.


I found these cute presentation ideas on Pinterest. Click images to visit pins.

  • Gingerbread Hot Tub
  • Snowman Hot Tub
  • Mug Garnish Cookies

Gingerbread Hot TubSnowman Hot TubMug Garnish

Simple Life Saturday is a Saturday blog series hodgepodge of posts relating to family, home, friends, community, lifelong learning, pleasurable endeavors, and laughs along the way.

I Can’t Get Sick Right Now Soup

Chicken Barley Soup

Our college-age son lives about 7 minutes away. He has a huge test this Friday and felt like he was coming down with the flu yesterday. What’s a mom to do? That’s right, make soup!

Here’s a little pot o’healthy something I was able to whip up with ingredients on hand…

I always keep a variety of stock and broth on hand, so I started with about 32 ounces of shelf-stable chicken broth, 4 cups of water, one diced Vidalia onion, three minced garlic cloves, a can of diced tomatoes with it’s juice, several dashes Hungarian paprika, dried parsley, a couple little shakes of red pepper flakes, sea salt, fresh ground pepper, and brought it all to a simmer while I prepared the rest of the ingredients.

The day before was busier than usual and precipitated a store-bought rotisserie chicken for dinner, so the leftover chicken was an obvious add-in. Beyond that I just looked for anything healthy that might nourish an ailing and pressured student.

I also keep a variety of quality canned beans on hand for meal prep when time for soaking beans isn’t available. I used Progresso’s Great Northern Beans for this soup, but any bean you have on hand is good. I usually have pearl barley on hand too. It goes with just about any soup, adds good nutritional value, and it thickens the broth a bit, providing a richer texture that holds all the wonderful flavors you’ve added to the pot. The barley takes about 45 minutes to cook, so I added it with the carrots and celery. Once they were tender, I rinsed and added one can of beans, some fresh chopped spinach, the 2-3 cups of leftover chicken, and continued simmering until they were heated through.

I packed up the soup with a sleeve of saltines and a freezer bag so he can freeze his leftovers for the next time he’s under the weather and my darling husband served as delivery person. We’re going to miss these opportunities when he leaves town for grad school, but the upside is that, amongst other things, he is a good cook in his own right. He’ll be just fine. My husband and I, on the other hand, might need a little TLC of our own when he heads out. I’m feeling a little verklempt already!

Chicken Barley Soup

  • 32 ounces chicken stock
  • 4 cups water
  • 1 Vidalia onion, diced
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 14 ounce can diced tomatoes with juice
  • Hungarian paprika
  • dried parsley
  • red pepper flakes
  • sea salt
  • fresh ground pepper
  • 3 medium carrots, peeled and sliced
  • 4 stalks celery, sliced
  • a couple handfuls of pearl barley
  • 16 ounce can beans, rinsed
  • several handfuls fresh spinach, slightly chopped
  • cooked chicken, chopped into bite-size pieces

I’m happy to report my son is feeling “much better” today… Mission accomplished!  What do you prepare when you have someone needing a little extra tender, loving care?