Bonnie’s Blog on Food and Grog

Cooking and life advice from a Nana.

OUR THANKSGIVING & ONE FAMILY SECRET!! December 5, 2008

Filed under: Uncategorized — bonhuse @ 6:01 pm

We had a wonderful day– mainly because all the people we love like mad were HERE!  Well, not ALL… there are some who live far away and some who are no longer WITH us… BUT all the kids, grandkids, and most of our dearest friends were in attendance. An added treat was that our son’s girlfriend’s parents (stick with me here) came from Phoenix to join us so we didn’t have to split up the family to keep everyone happy!  

My husband, Greg, took the day before off from work to help me.  (I know, I know, where did you find him, WOW, what a great guy, you are LYING to make us jealous…  )   Yes, I am extremely lucky to have snagged such a wonder.  I don’t ASK him to do this, he does it because he LIKES to.  Hold on, it gets better!!  He also voluntarily leaps enthusiastically from bed on Thursday morning to help me — well, not true — he actually prepares and stuffs and trusses and bastes the bird himself.  I do some minor supervision… we prepare the stuffing together, assuring the proper consistency, and that is about it.  Then he volunteers to do all the less glamorous tasks, like peeling the yams, peeling the russets, running to the market for the things that somehow I failed to purchase on any one of my 14 trips to the store…..   Yes indeed, he is a treasure.  At times, it is almost sickening he is so nice.  But nature always sides with the hidden flaw, correct?  You know there must be some glaring, unbearable, and immutable quality that this turkey-stuffing, errand-running male possesses.  There has to be a price I pay for this sort of undeserved and cheerful assistance!!  Well, you will have to read this entire blog before I reveal this heinous fault.  No fair scrolling down!! 

So back to Wednesday.  Not only was St. Francis of Assisi home for the day, but our oldest granddaughter, Sydney, spent the night before with us so she could help me with the Giant Pie Affair.  She loves to help me cook all the time, but this year she seemed particularly excited about it, as evidenced by the many text messages and e-mails I received from her!    She has been doing this since she was about five, and I am happy to say that at 11, perched on the brink of adolescence, she still enjoys it completely!  She made me promise not to start ONE thing without her in the morning and we started at 8 a.m. and did not finish until 9:30 at night!   Before you call Child Protective Services, let me assure you that we actually took many breaks and it was SHE who was driving ME to keep going. 

Sydney has become my piecrust expert.  The first few years the crust edges were not crimped to perfection…  the tiny fingers had not quite acheived all their coordination.  NOW, however, not only has she perfected the art of pie crust crimping, BUT I ordered some lovely little gadgets from Williams-Sonoma.  Little pie crust stampers, which make four different kinds of leaves out of the crust.  These pies were true works of art.  Leaves lined the edges of all the pies, sometimes multiple types and more than one layer, and in some cases she placed them upright from the edge like a collar!  They were awesome — ALL thirteen of them!    Here is the list:  Four pumpkin (one that we get to eat Wednesday night), 2 pecan, 2 cherry pies with that fancy lattice work stuff, one lemon meringue, one banana cream, one key lime, one chocolate for the little girls, and one French apple.

I cannot tell a lie.  Are you picturing me rolling out 26 or so pie crusts after making them from scratch?  STOP.  Instead, picture me unrolling Pillsbury piecrusts from the refrigerator section at the market.  I have a great recipe for piecrust, and I am capable of making it, but when I am making anything over four pies, it is the Pillsbury Doughboy for me!  Besides which, I’m not sure there is that much difference in quality! 

Now, we have to devise an adequate place to showcase these masterpieces.  Into my “Craft Room” (or as Greg calls it “Crap Room” ) we go.  It is at times like this that I am glad that I ignored the snide comments about the boxes and little crafty things that I have been storing for years!  Sydney and I devised a lovely multi-level pie display by putting boxes of different heights on the buffet at the end of our dining room… We then draped a burgundy colored tablecloth over the boxes, scattered orange and red fake autumn leaves all around, and placed the pies at different heights on the buffet.  A couple of tall red hurricane style candles at one end, and it was a VISION!  We were very proud of ourselves, as you have probably surmised. 

And while we are on the crafty subject,  I gave Syd the assignment to make placecards for the guests.  With a tad of help from that endless fount of talent, St. Gregory, she typed up placecards with cornucopis graphics, cut them to the size of a business card, then, using double sided tape, put them on a dark green piece of scrapping paper folded in half.  THEN, I found in my endless supply of “Crap”, tiny little fake vegetables that my mother had bought years ago when she was making various crafts.  Armed with the trusty hot-glue gun, Sydney placed little carrots, green beans, onion, eggplants, etc. on the corner of each placecard.  THEY were perfect!

NOTE:  I don’t usually tell people where they must sit, and therefore don’t typically make placecards.  However, we had two tables this year, and we wanted to make sure that the new guests were sitting with people they knew… for instance, let’s put the parents who drove 400 miles NEXT TO the daughter they came to see!

In addition to making all the pies and making all that crafty stuff, we ground the fresh cranberries, cut up the grapes, baked the yams, and accomplished EVERYTHING that is possible to do the day before. 

I absolutely TREASURE those days of cooking with Sydney.  Next year, Katie will be seven and she will definitely join in the preparation!  Gracie, at 4, is going to have to sit out a year or two more!  Not only does Sydney seem to really enjoy it, and want to learn about cooking, but we have so much fun doing it at the same time.  The little accidents and failures that are inevitable in this much cooking present me an opportunity to show her that these are not important things…. that we laugh, we clean it up, we go on.  She still talks about the time that while making buttercream frosting, I turned the mixer on at TOP speed in a bowl FULL of powdered  sugar!  Every appliance and both of us were coated in powdered sugar.   I am hoping that these things will help her keep perspective later in life when things don’t always go as planned and that she will learn to “not sweat the small stuff”.  Maybe I am reading too much into the value of this experience, but I do know that I clearly remember my days of cooking with my mom and my grandmother, and I am CERTAIN that is why I enjoy cooking so much today.

And yes, we set the tables, complete with napkins and all the serving dishes with notes in them to remind us WHAT goes in WHAT.  It was a long day, but a GREAT day, and on Thursday we could take it easy and enjoy the company.

OK.  You have waded through this entire blog and I promised to divulge the glaring deficiency in my otherwise saint-like husband.  Ready?  He  has no sense of direction whatsoever.  Inside a building, he is a genius.  In those big hotels in Las Vegas, I could get so lost that I would be given up for dead.  He can aboslutely walk from point A to point B without a pause.  GET him outside and he cannot find his way to the market that we have gone to for 20 years. We must have taken my mother home 1000 times in the years that she lived in her apartment.  On the 953rd time, he turned the wrong way on her street.  That was the ONE time I failed to say tactfully, “You know it’s a right turn up here, I’m sure”…   It is truly unbelievable.  I am thrilled every day that he finds his way home from work.  It is a true miracle.  THANK GARMIN for the GPS that now assures that he WILL be seen again when he goes off unattended.  

So I know you are disappointed that the “flaw” was so inoccuous.  You were hoping that he was some sort of sleazy womanizer, or that he tortured small animals.  You can’t believe that THAT is all I could come up with.  Well, I wracked my brain, and ALAS, this is it. 

 What can I say?  I kissed a lot of frogs!!

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TURKEY SOUP, THE BIRD’S FINAL INDIGNATION December 4, 2008

Filed under: Uncategorized — bonhuse @ 9:46 pm

So the big Thanksgiving feast is in the books and a huge carcass is in the fridge — (or better yet, the freezer).  Rather than just moving it around in the freezer to cram other things in, or keeping it in the fridge until it becomes toxic waste,  let’s make something easy and delicious and EVEN moderately healthy from our leftovers. 

Turkey soup, or turkey stew if you prefer, is simple to make and really a perfect sort of comfort food to give you a brief break from cooking between holidays.  If you have frozen your carcass (on which I am somewhat of an authority having lived in North Dakota for 18 years),  that is great.  If not,  I MUST, in good conscience, tell you to give  it a decent burial in your trash cans.   I am a bit of a risk-taker, but I don’t tempt fate with poultry.  You don’t want your soup to come back to haunt you!! (Would that be “Poultrygeist”??)

So drag the battered body from the freezer and place it in a large stock pot.  Cover with water and bring to a boil.  Let carcass simmer over a low heat for about 4 to 5 hours.  If you have leftover wings or drumsticks, throw those in the pot as well.  When the meat is falling off the bones, you pour the turkey and broth through a strainer placed over another large pot or bowl.  Then pick the bones clean and put the meat back into the stock.  Be careful to pick out any little splintered bones from the stock. 

While the turkey is simmering, prepare your vegetables to add to the soup.  Don’t add them until you have got the stock strained and the turkey added.  They don’t need to cook that long and will become mushy. 

I add chopped onion, celery and carrots.  The amount will depend on both your taste and the amount of stock you end up with.  I had a 25 pound turkey and added one whole onion, chopped, about 10 stalks of celery, and 6 to 8 carrots.  I usually add a couple of cans of mushrooms as well — up to you.  Add a couple of bay leaves, salt and pepper to taste, and even a small amount of sage if you like.  Obviously, if you have a favorite herb, throw it in… a little dill, a little tarragon…? 

If you have other favorites like mushrooms, or any vegetable for that matter, just be careful to add those that cook the fastest later in the process.  For instance, if you like zucchini in your soup, put it in at the last minute as it cooks VERY quickly and has a tendency to become very mushy. 

Now you have some choices.   Noodle soup?  Barley soup?   Rice?  Chopped potatoes to thicken it up?  They are all good.  If you want barley or rice, simply rinse it and add a cup or two to the mixture when you are adding the vegetables.  The amount depends on the amount of stock and also how thick you prefer it to be. 

You can chop a couple of russet potatoes and add them to the mixture and you will get a thicker, more creamy consistency from the starch.  If you prefer noodles, like egg noddles, I have a little tip for you.  DO NOT put the noodles into the pot with all the rest.  Cook them separately, and add them to the bowls as you serve the soup.   When you reheat your soup/stew with noodles, they tend to get too mushy to be good. 

Keep your noodles in a baggie, and when you serve your soup again, just drop them quickly into a pot of boiling water, remove, and add to your bowls of soup.  This way they become nice and hot without getting that most unappetizing slimy texture!

Serve with some nice fresh rolls, or crackers, or if you are already behaving yourself in preparation for the next fattening feast, forget the bread.  You can leave all the starch out of the soup as well, and just stick to a turkey vegetable soup.

Have turkey meat left over and you are just not a “Soup Person”?   Don’t think you can face another turkey sandwich?  Stay tuned for “TURKEY TETTRAZINI”!!