Monday, April 1, 2019

Springtime Color: Turkey Meatballs with Carrots and Yogurt Sauce

A colorful photo in an email caught my attention, and I decided the recipe looked so good, I just had to make it.

Turkey Meatballs with Carrots  and Yogurt Sauce as made by Debi Lander

I purchased the ingredients and began using the recipe from Epicurius by Anna Stockwell as the basis.  I modified it slightly deciding to make round meatballs instead of the suggested freeform look. The dish turned out to be what I considered an outstanding meal. The fresh flavors and spices came through, the taste was clean, bright and totally yummy!

You can make this recipe with ground beef, chicken or turkey.  I used ground turkey, but not ground turkey breast.  I think that would be too lean.

Fresh Carrots


1 1/2 pounds of small carrots, scrubbed and halved lengthwise
1/2 t. crushed red pepper flakes
4-5 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil, divided
2 t. kosher salt, divided
1 pound ground turkey
6 scallions, white and green parts finely chopped
1 large egg, beaten
2 Tbsp plain breadcrumbs
3 tsp finely grated lemon zest (1 lemon)
2 t. garam marsala spice
1 cup plain Greek-style yogurt, full or reduced fat, not fat-free
2 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
2 cups baby argula or watercress


Arrange racks in upper and lower thirds of oven; preheat to 425 degrees.  Toss carrots, red pepper flakes, 2 Tbsp oil, and 1/2 teaspoon salt on a rimmed baking sheet. Roast on the lower rack, tossing or turning half way through. Roast until carrots are nicely browned and tender - 20-25 minutes.

Meanwhile, mix ground turkey, scallions, egg, breadcrumbs, lemon zest, garam masala, 1-2 Tbsp oil and 1/2 t salt in bowl.  Form into meatballs.  Place on a second oiled rimmed baking sheet and roast on the upper rack.  I did not turn mine. I left them in for about 15-20 minutes. When done, I transferred to folded paper towels and dabbed off some of the fat.

Whisk yogurt and 2 Tbsp lemon juice and spoon over a platter or onto plates. I wanted to take a photo, so I then plated the carrots and meatballs on top of the yogurt sauce and sprinkled argula on top.

After the photo shoot, I served it onto plates with a handful of argula and sprinkled with a tiny dab finishing salt.

Inspiration taken from Epicurious

Tuesday, March 26, 2019

Discovering North Carolina's Sonker Trail

Ever heard of Sonker?  I hadn't until I visited the Yadkin Valley in Surry County, North Carolina.  I went there to explore Mount Airy,  Andy Griffith's hometown and the model used for his television series The Andy Griffith Show. Throughout his life and Hollywood career Andy Griffith, and his role as Sherrif Taylor, portrayed a down home friendly feel.

Statue of Andy Griffith in Mayberry, aka Mt. Airy, NC.

Sonker fits in perfectly because it is not a fancy, beautifully presented dessert.  Sonker is similar to a cobbler or a potpie because it's made with unshaped dough, often sweetened with sugar or sorghum cane molasses. Some recipes call for a pie-like crust; others incorporate a breadcrumb topping.  Why, you can even make sonker in a pot on the stove, with a crust akin to dumplings.  (I wonder how Aunt Bee made hers?)

Peach Sonker 

Eight places in Surry County serve the dessert, now termed a heritage food, on their regular menu and each is different. The folks in those parts say sonker is similar to snowflakes – – no two alike. I had the opporunity to taste three over my visit.  I wrote the story of the Sonker Trail for Real Food Traveler, an online publication and I hope you will click here to read it:

Even more so, I hope you will consider a trip to the Yadkin Valley. The destination makes an ideal weekend getaway featuring mountains, bluegrass music, Mayberry, sonker, and excellent wine from localvineyards.
Take the Squard Car ride in Mayberry starting at Wally's Service Station.  

Sunday, March 17, 2019

Best Ever Corned Beef Brisket, Carrots and Potatoes

St. Patrick's Day calls for corned beef and cabbage.  Since my son Steve's birthday is also St. Patrick's Day, I often cooked the meal for his party. However, Steve is now the head of his own household, so I haven't fixed the dinner in a few years.

It's time to return to tradition.  I found a new recipe that calls for oven-roasting for about four hours and then topping the brisket with a mustard and brown sugas glaze under the broiler.  The result- a truly succulent and extremely tender slice of meat.

Tradtional food for St. Patricks Day includes corned beef, cabbage, carrots and potatoes.

I share the recipe now:


1 package center cut corned beef brisket

1 lemon

1 medium onion, peeled

1 teaspoon black peppercorns

1/2 teaspoon allspice

6-8 whole cloves

1/4 cup Dijon mustard

1/4 cup brown sugar

Optional: Baby carrots and small round potatoes


1.  Trim and discard most of the fat from the top of the corned beef brisket. Rinse meat under cool running water, rubbing gently to release its corning salt.

2.  Lay meat, fattiest side up, in a large oblong roasting pan. Thinly slice a lemon, discard seeds, and onion and lay slices over the meat. Sprinkle with spices.

3.  Pour boiling water around the brisket (4 or more cups), seal the pan with foil. Place pan on the middle rack in a 325-degree oven and roast.  After about two to two and a half hours, I added baby carrots and small potatoes. Continue cooking for a total of about four hours.

4. Remove and uncover. Spoon out the potatoes and carrots with a slotted spoon. Pour off the liquid and lemon and onion slices.

5.  In a small bowl, mix together the mustard and brown sugar. Spread evenly over the meat. Place pan with meat under the broiler (about 8 inces away) until the mixture begins to brown or boil.

6.  Transfer the roast to a platter and serve warm or cold.  Cut meat on at about a 45-degree angle. 

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Lively Luna Fresada Cocktail at El Conquistador Resort

I recently flew into San Juan on the island of Puerto Rico. “Our country is shaped like a pig,” said my guide as she handed me a map. 

“I see a turtle, not a pig,” I responded. 

“No, no.  Definitely a piggy,” the guide insisted.  Pig or no pig, the airport bestowed a vibrant tropical feel, and that made me happy.

I hopped aboard a shuttle bus for a 45-minute ride to the El Conquistador Resort, a member of the Waldorf Astoria Hotels and Resorts, in Fajardo.  My purpose was to review the resort and its convention area for meeting planners.

Looking up at the El Conquistador Resort from the water

The sprawling hotel contains five villages and the grounds include an 18-hole golf course and water park. I’d have no problem adding steps to my fitness tracker walking around the property.  Most of the guest rooms overlook an endless stretch of shimmering turquoise water below a 300- foot cliff. The view is one of those "Pinch me, am I really here?" moments. 

An old-school funicular transports guests down to the Marina Village, the hub of a 35-slip private marina offering deep-sea fishing charters, sailboats, catamarans, and yachts. Here, I boarded the El Conquistador’s boat for private Palomino Island, a spot that I consider the best feature of the resort.  Palomino indulges guests with a full array of beach and watersport activities. Once ashore, I soon slipped into my bathing suit and did what a Caribbean vacation calls for: I lazed in a lounge chair under an umbrella sipping a frosty rum punch. The picture-perfect little island offered the ideal location for scenes in the movie Pirates of the Caribbean. In fact, Johnny Depp stayed in the El Conquistador's luxury hideaway, Las Casitas Village, during the filming. 

Private Palomino Island

Food, beverage, and dining have become essential elements of travel. Like any discerning foodie, I feel tasting local fare is a must. Thankfully, the talented chefs at the El Conquistador create enticing meals by mixing the island’s heritage with current food trends. Culinary treats I devoured ran from island-grown coffee to piƱa coladas or DonQ rum punch in a coconut, and tostones (twice-fried garlicky green plantains).

I also tasted a ruby red Luna Fresada cocktail inspired by the colorful surroundings. Heidi Orndoff, a bartender at Chops Steakhouse, the resort’s signature restaurant, created the drink. Her tropical mixture contained Pitorro, a distilled spirit from Puerto Rico, referred to as “moonshine rum.” Pitorro is traditionally cured and aged by adding fruits like coconut, pineapple, tamarind and strawberries.  Heidi uses strawberry flavored rum.

Luna Fresada Cocktail

I adored the drink’s delicious and refreshing flavor so much, that I asked for the recipe. I now share the island memory with you:

Luna Fresada Cocktail Recipe

6 mint leaves chopped
2 strawberries chopped
4oz of lemonade
2.5oz of Pitorro Frutas Rum (strawberry flavor)

Directions: In the bottom of a glass, muddle chopped strawberries and mint leaves together. Stir in the lemonade and rum. Fill the glass with ice. Garnish with mint sprigs or strawberry slices as desired.

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

The French Fry Museum in Belgium

I visited the Belgium Friet or French Fry Museum in Bruges and wrote the story for Real Food Traveler.  Please click on the link below.

Monday, June 27, 2016

Finding the World's Largest Baklava

While on a trip to Ljubljana, Slovenia I ran into a group of women trying to set the Guinness World Record for the largest baklava.

You can read my story about this delightful experience on

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Slovenia's Lake Bled and their famous Cream Cake

I loved scenic Lake Bled in Slovenia and wrote a story about their famous cream cake for

The tiny island on Lake Bled in Slovenia.
Photo @Debi Lander

Please use this link to read my story on Real Food Traveler: