My most genius Christmas request ever was the time I asked Adam for sourdough starter for Christmas. He got the starter, read all the materials for getting it started, and stealthily started it in the fridge. He presented it to me on Christmas morning, as it was nearing time for use. I expressed my excitement and gratitude! But it needed to get used, and I showed no sign of getting up to make bread… so Adam made some sourdough bread. He kept feeding the sourdough and making delicious baked goods, periodically reminding me that hey! This was ready whenever I was! I kept nodding and saying I was thinking of doing something with it tomorrow. Or maybe the day after.
Basically, I got months of delicious sourdough baking with zero effort, before he figured me out. It was brilliant.
This year for Christmas, I asked for a beer brewing kit. The yeast arts are amazing ones to me. The similarities between bread and beer are striking. They’re the staffs upon which civilization was founded. And hey! Adam has a degree is biochemistry, so this is gonna work out great, right?
Over Christmas, I brewed the first kit. It was a teeny one gallon kit, perfect for a trial run. I read through the book. I watched a Youtube how to video. I cleaned the kitchen and read through all the various steps multiple times, lining up my tools like a surgeon.
Over and over again, all the materials stress the dire need for excellent dishes doing. Everything has to be super clean. Very sterile. Completely squeaky clean. I assiduously did the dishes and contemplated how fun a hobby must be in order to be worth doing this many dishes for. I wrestled with the auto-siphon and stared at my destroyed kitchen and thought “This beer better taste good.” Six bottles were all that labor produced. I doled them out to my friends.
“Not bad! I hardly any of that banana taste homebrew usually has. This is actually drinkable!”
Hours of labor. Massive dishes. Incredible expense. All to create something I could buy a better version of for a fraction of the cost. Worst yet, Adam was on to me and wasn’t using his clean room technique to do all the work for me. Curses! Foiled again!
Still, I had gotten a second kit – a five gallon one. A neighbor gave me their gear (missing one or two bobs and bits). It included this neato cooling kit that you hook up to your faucet, except we didn’t have that connector. Adam spent about 2 hours going to many hardware stores, coming home with about 7 connectors. None of them worked. D’oh!
As I brewed the gigantic pot of mash, I thought of my alewife ancestors. If brewing required this much cleanliness, how did they pull it off with pottery instead of stainless steel, creek water and dirty hands? Was ancient beer just really bad? Were there tricks I don’t know about? Did they have extra potent yeast? The mind boggled.
I managed to get the beer into the carboy without any major sanitation fails. It pretty much exploded in my closet. (I guess that yeast was really active?!) Then it was “add sugar and move to bottle” time. This apparently includes moving the beer from the carboy to a bucket with a hole in the bottom (at which step you add the sugar that creates carbonation) followed by putting it into the bottles from there.
I had elaborate schemes for moving everything, while keeping everything perfectly sanitary. But then the auto-siphon wasn’t long enough to reach all the way into the carboy and disasters occurred with the sterile environment. Worse yet, at one point the bung came out of the bottom of the bucket and the entire floor was awash in uncarbonated beer. There were many bad words spoken.
Finally, we got the beer into the bottles. It’s about a case an a half. If you take into account what my time is worth, each bottle has to cost about $20. I have no idea if it will even be drinkable.
I was in the basement the other day, folding Mt. Laundry as usual, when my eye fell on the ironing board in the corner. I wondered when the last time was used it. I gazed at the rather crinkly blouse in my hand, and wondered how long it would be until I used it again. (Certainly not at 11 pm on a Sunday night!) Then it occurred to me that my sons had never seen me use it. Not once. It was unlikely they even knew what it was for.
What other things are there that I know how to do – that I was carefully trained for by patient parents – that my sons have never witnessed in their memory? As I gradually eroded Mt. Laundry, I compiled a list.
I remember my mother in the living room on a Saturday night, ironing my father’s work shirts: collar, sleeve, fronts & back. I remember being taught how to do it myself – the hiss as you pulled the iron upright, the spurt of steam to ease out a particularly wrinkled patch and the moist warmth of the rapidly cooling cloth as you pulled it onto a hanger to join the rest. My husband wears button up shirts to work every day, but I discovered the wonders of “no iron” shirts. One or two of my shirts ought to be ironed. In response, I never wear those shirts. And even if I unburied that old ironing board and exhumed the iron we bought when I got married… I do my laundry segregated in a laundry room in the basement. (One of the few joys of doing the laundry is you get to watch WHATEVER YOU WANT ALL BY YOURSELF while you fold it.) So my sons would not be introduced to the phenomenon even then.
Clean the house – including vacuuming & dusting
I work full time. Lately, full time has been even fuller than 40 hours a week. I also have a 1 hr each way, each day commute, and I travel for work regularly. Once home, I cook for my family, do aforementioned laundry, schedule our summers, pay the bills, raise two kids, volunteer in my church and enjoy a rich social life. Sometimes I even make it to the gym to work out! About the time Grey turned two, cleaning the house on a glorious Saturday morning, I wondered how much it would take to hire cleaners to come once every two weeks. I have barely turned on a vacuum since that glorious day.
Now, I know *how* to clean a house. I can mop. I can vacuum. I can dust, and wash windows. I can polish. I’m not amazingly great at it, nor is it a great source of pride to me. But my sons have never seen me spend a Saturday morning truly cleaning the house. Magic fairies (we call them “the ladies” which is questionably accurate) come and make the house smell great and change our sheets and scrub the floors. I threaten the kids to pick up their room with the reminder that “the ladies” are coming and anything left on the floor will inevitably get put into a random bin. I think that – unlike ironing a shirt – cleaning a house is actually an important skill for a kid to have, so I’m trying to figure out how I’ll teach them this vestigial skill of mine before they become responsible for their own houses.
Lest this list get to be a list of ways in which I am not a housewife, I thought I’d add in one other thing that I would like to do, and don’t. Since I tore my meniscus night on four years ago, I’ve noticed I’m very physically careful. I have a back which is a challenge, and a zombie left knee, and I’m often sore and achy. And so… I don’t jump. I just don’t. I don’t hop or leap or generally move quickly. I’m active – I hike and climb. You wouldn’t think of me as a sedentary person – but I wouldn’t (for example) jump on the trampolines at Skyzone, and I often bow out of activities that require cutting and dodging. I wonder sometimes if I’ll ever rediscover my courage and flexibility, or if this will become who I am.
Sew a button – or anything
In Jr. High and High School, we were fortunate to have vocational education. There was a well appointed “Home Ec” classroom and quite an extensive shop with gear for woodworking, machinery, CAD and other practical applications. (Fun fact: my computers credit in high school was actually in CAD drafting.) In a sign that the ’50s were still going strong in that neck of the woods at that time, by default in Jr. High the girls would get one semester of Shop with Mr. Jones and three semesters of Home Ec with Mrs. Muir. I suffered through my required first semester of Home Ec, learning how to bake a biscuit and sewing an apron (seriously – an apron!?!?). I learned enough to sew a seam, thread a bobbin, put on a button and read a pattern. But although I cook often and regularly, clothing now does not reward the effort of sewing. It costs considerably more to buy fabric and sew it yourself than to go to Kohl’s and get something.
I particularly thought of this because Thane made a puppet in Cozumel and LOVED sewing it. Loved it. I think he’d really enjoy learning some sewing, but I’ll extremely ill-suited to teaching him. Also, let us speak of gender neutral options that exist in sewing kits. (HINT: THEY DON’T!)
After my first semester of home ec and my first semester of shop, I knew which one I preferred. There could not be a RULE that said girls couldn’t do shop instead of Home Ec and so I happily spent 8th grade as the one girl in a class of 26 guys learning how to put together a lawnmower engine and turning a bowl on a lathe.
Sit down & write a letter to my mom
I have loved writing letters for my whole life. I still do. I have boxes full of papers and envelopes, and stacks of pencils. I have written hundreds of letters in my life – to my uncle, or my penpal on the Island of Sumatra that I once met in Olympia and wrote to for years. I wrote letters in codes. I wrote them backwards. I wrote them and then cut them up to be a puzzle. I wrote to people I knew well and people I’d never met.
I remember my mother writing letters too. She wrote to her mother, mostly. I remember the envelopes with the return address from Zaire and lovely block pattern that were filled with regular missives – daughter to mother – and the return envelopes that came with beautiful cursive addresses.
But. Well. My mom reads my blog, right? And sometimes I call her on my way home. Periodically I send her emails or comment on her G+ postings. Once a year – on Mother’s Day – I write her a letter. (HINT HINT SIBLINGS!) But to my sons, that letter is indistinguishable from goofing off on Facebook, or being at work, or playing Minecraft. It’s just mom on her computer, again.
For a period growing up, our home was heated by wood. (This was true of many homes around us, and remains true for some.) My father, the archetypal good Boy Scout, knew all about the cutting, splitting, stacking and seasoning of firewood, as well as the tending of fires. I learned this art on hot August afternoons where there was no where I’d rather NOT be than in the “back forty” splitting, stacking & hauling with wood chips in my hair and splinters in my fingers. We’d get a cord or two of logs delivered off a local logging truck – which were were NOT allowed to play on lest they shifted. Then we’d gradually cut our way through them, trying to make sure no one got crushed or chain-sawed up or had an axe head fly off at them.
The Easter I was 13, my grandfather gave me my very own axe. (A Boy Scout axe, light and sharp, with a blue handle and gilt writing.) I know how to aim an axe, how to heft it. How to condense the space between your hands as the head flies towards to wood. I know where not to stand when someone else is splitting. I know what to do when the axe gets stuck. I know when you’ll need a splitting maul instead, and how to construct a woodstack that will be a pride to you among your neighbors. (Actually, I’m not really sure we ever got that right. I for one did not care about the opinion of my neighbors on my wood stacking abilities.)
Ah, the things that I learned to do that are of a time past. I doubt I will ever regularly iron my husband’s shirts during M*A*S*H episodes, sew a summer dress, heat my house with wood or spend an hour every week to write my mother a letter and put it in the mail. (I may eventually have to clean my house again, and I hope some day I’ll get to jump!)
But while my housewifery is clearly being called into questions, there are a few arcane arts I preserve. I often feel – when I do these things – like an archivist or a wizard. I think very much of my ancestors while I do these things. I remember their hands at work at these same tasks.
Bake bread & pies
There was a period of my life when my mother decided to bake all our bread. This was particularly true when she was struggling with her carpal tunnel syndrome. She said that working the dough made her hands feel better. I remember the countertop kneading, the distinctive slap as she’d shape the loaves. I certainly remember how delicious they were. (She usually made 2 small loaves, one of which was mine by right and tradition.) I mastered my mother’s recipe (although I make it much more rarely since my husband bakes bread for us weekly!) and still enjoy that same slap on the loaf!
I also learned to make her pies, although in all truth I have never mastered quite that pinch of the crust that she makes look so effortless. Also, it took me like 9 years to get my crusts to come out round instead of square.
My sons have stood in the kitchen and watched me in my apron – flour on the tip of my nose – wresting with dough. Just like I watched my mom. But better yet, they have also watched their father do the same!
Put up a batch of jam
I usually do this after they’re in bed, truthfully. But they have watched me transform a bushel of apples to gleaming jars of apple butter. I picked the crabapples during their soccer practice which I turned into delicate pink crabapple jelly. I remember my great grandmother’s crabapple jelly, made from the tree in our back yard. Every time I hear the “pop”! of a jar lid, I remember. And hopefully my boys with find the sound a keen source of memory too – connecting them through shared memory across generations.
So, what do you no longer do? What do your children not realize you even know how to do? And what relics of bygone eras do you hold firmly to
There were plums and prunes and cherries,
There were citrons and raisins and cinnamon, too
There was nutmeg, cloves and berries
And a crust that was nailed on with glue
There were caraway seeds in abundance
Such that work up a fine stomach ache
That could kill a man twice after eating a slice
Of Miss Fogarty’s Christmas cake.
At the last two Family Meetings, when the subject of Christmas planning came up, Grey has adamantly insisted that any Christmas plans must, MUST, include a Christmas pudding. I confess that this rather unexpected demand warmed the cockles of my heart. “Just what I need this Christmas!” I figured. “A ridiculously elaborate and archaic baked good that needs-must be served flaming!”
So I googled around a bit. I was somewhat dismayed by some of the ingredients. Suet? Citron? What are the odds my local Stop & Shop has those? Plus, all the recipes I read were in metric units. Although we have a scale for just this exigency, I prefer my teaspoons and ounces. Happily, I thought to check my never-used “Joy of Cooking”, and there it was:
I dragged my eldest on a grocery store scavenger hunt with me. He found the dates. I found the citron. A helpful butcher’s assistant helped us find the suet. (Pro tip: it’s in with the steaks and beef – you’ll check the tiny “British” section fruitlessly.) I did use sultanas (golden raisins) instead of boring ol’ American Raisins. And we emerged victorious, with the fruits of our labors.
By the way, in case you’re as curious as I was, a citron is a completely new fruit to me. I’v never seen one before, but apparently it’s a nearly inedible fruit. I presume the Brits heard about that and took it as a personal challenge. I was truly shocked that they were available for purchase in my little Stop and Shop. I tasted one and they were, um, interesting.
Last night, I figured I’d make the pudding. I got the raisins and currants going, and discovered that step took two hours. Then this afternoon after church, I figured it was high time to make the pudding. I chopped the suet, mixed with my hands, and had several bowls of ingredients.
It was at that point that I discovered the steaming of the pudding takes at least three hours (and I have somewhere to be this afternoon) so I think that will be this evening’s activity.
My Christmas gift from my Mother-in-law was some of her wedding silverware. I’ve secretly always wanted real silver silverware, but it’s the sort of thing I could never justify actually purchasing, so I’m thrilled. I have plans for a fancy-shmancy Christmas dinner, totally from the Joy of Cooking, with my best dishes and linens. My intention is:
Roast lamb shoulder with roast vegetables
Roast asparagus (a family favorite)
To which my son would like to add “Grey-joulais” which is rice with nuked veggies on top. Of course, I think this will be lovely.
And I’ll finish the whole thing off with a flaming (likely inedible – let’s be honest) Christmas pudding!
First, a few words about the unfolding horror in Sandy Hook Elementary. Like so many, I know about and deeply disapprove of many of other horrors: the mass rape and killing in the Congo, the drone strikes in Pakistan and Afghanistan, the ongoing scourge of inner city violence. But those all seem distant and abstract: chronic, unsolvable problems. But Sandy Hook comes very close to home.
My son is a first grader, seven years old. He was sitting in his first grade class on Friday morning with his first grade teacher and his young classmates. The kids who died were exactly like him. The same age. The same safe, suburban setting. Loving parents. Capable teachers. No enemies. The only difference between Grey and, say, Benjamin, is that Grey is still here and looking forward to Christmas. (Grey knows about the shooting, of course. His response was, “But mom, they didn’t even get to open their Christmas presents!”) There was absolutely nothing those parents or teachers could have done to prevent this from happening to their children – and there is nothing I can do to ensure it never happens to mine.
I am so, so, so sorry for the families that lost their loved ones. I hope that we can have sensible discussions about what weaponry should be available to civilians. I hope that we can improve access to mental health care, and support families raising mentally ill children more effectively. I hope we change our news coverage to de-glorify the commiters of these atrocities. I hope that this helps us work towards the safety and innocence of all children everywhere, including in war-torn Congo, “collateral damage” in our war on terror, and in our neglected communities. I can see myself in the weeping of those parents in Connecticut. I need to see myself in Syria, too.
Finally, we all are reminded that life is fragile, precious and never to be taken for granted.
So I shake myself off and make dinner. And as I’m making dinner, I contemplate my Most Successful New Years Resolution Ever. Two or three years ago – I forget now – I resolved to serve a vegetable with every meal. I also resolved to not be too picky about what the vegetable was. One brilliant piece of parenting advice I got when I was younger was that if I want my kids to eat vegetables I should not skimp on the cheesy sauce, ranch dressing, salt and butter. Trade the nutrition (and habit) for the calories. I can gradually reduce the sauces as the kids get accustomed to the taste of the veggies, but they’ll keep the habit of the vegetables for the rest of their life. I think, within reason, this is true.
And more or less every meal I’ve cooked since that resolution took effect, I’ve had a vegetable on the table. Grey now professes to like broccoli, carrots, corn, tomatoes, asparagus and brussel sprouts. He’ll eat the first four even when not asked to. Thane has been a harder sell. The kids are REQUIRED to eat one polite bite of the evening’s vegetables, and he’s slowly being overcome by repetition. And importantly, I’m eating a lot more vegetables too. When it’s right there on the table, I’ll have a serving or three.
A key to continuing this resolution has been ease. I have seasonal methods of making sure it happens:
We are part of a farm share, and during the summer my ‘fridge is full to overloaded with turnips, carrots, greens, peas, beans, squash and purslane. You start planning your meals for maximum produce consumption as you stare at the veggie crisper that ate Stoneham. Sheer abundance has required us to try veggies we’d never tried before (we’ve come to adore radishes, and discovered that brussel sprouts are excellent). It’s also dramatically reduced the cost of attempting to feed your kids veggies. I mean, produce can be expensive. Would you really buy a five or seven dollar bag of produce that you don’t think your kids will eat, especially if it only looks so/so fresh? Maybe not. But when that obscure produce is in your fridge and is going to go to waste unless you do something, you’ll prepare it and not care so much if your kids only have a bite or two – or even if none of you like it.
By the time the farm share season is over, I am _done_ being innovative. I do not want to try to think of recipes that require kale. I want something super easy. It turns out that – for once – marketers have heard my plea! There are massive selections of steam-in-bag veggies available in the supermarket. Many of these veggies are nutritionally excellent: frozen veggies and canned ones can actually be better than fresh ones in the Supermarket, because they can be less durable varieties and are packaged closer to prime. And you cannot beat the ease of use on these: buy, put in freezer, remove from freezer, nuke for 5 minutes, serve. You can get unseasoned and seasoned ones. And each bag of vegetables costs somewhere between one and two dollars: a pretty cheap slug of produce compared to fresh prices. Convenient, tasty and cheap TOTALLY works for me, and has made it pretty easy for me to keep up with my old resolutions.
So, how about you? How do you get your veggies? What prevents you from getting veggies? What’s your most successful New Year’s resolution ever?
Today is the day before Mocksgiving which is, while not a national holiday, a Brenda holiday. So I’m off work and in the midst of a marathon cooking session.
It’s quiet in the house on Mocksgiving prep day – which is a vast rarity. But it’s always noisy in my head. Mostly, while I cook, I talk to you. I observe, make jokes, give you updates and bask in your admiration. It always seems wrong that you and I should have such a nice conversation while you don’t get to take part, so I figured I’d clue you in.
Here are some of the things we talked about this morning, you and I.
You asked, “What’s Mocksgiving?” and I told you all about it. Basically, it’s Thanksgiving with friends. This one will be my 12th. I’ve been hosting this every year since I got married. Yes, I hosted it the year Grey was born, when he was barely a month old. Yes, I hosted it the year Thane was born, when he was a fortnight old. Yes, I hosted it last year, when I had massive knee surgery in September. (I actually don’t remember anything about my knee and the cooking last year.) I love it.
Every year, I panic that I will have more people attend than I can physically fit in my house. This year I was relieved when the count 25 adults and 10 kids (of whom six are old enough to, you know, sit). I thought my total count started at like 35 adults.
I always, always, always feel badly that I can’t simply invite the whole world and everyone I know and everyone I’ve ever met. If you and I have met and you thought, “But I thought she liked me! Why didn’t she invite me?!”, the answer is because we all actually sit down to eat. In my house. All 30+ of us. And so it must be a finite universe of people.
My day began at almost normal work time. I ran some errands this morning: dropped the kids off, went to the podiatrist (I know – so exciting!), got a flu shot, bought Mocksgiving specific groceries (the ‘fridge isn’t big enough – several things are staying slightly cooler on the porch) and gassed up the car. Then I started in on my list.
– Turkey has been in the ‘fridge since Tuesday, defrosting. Only 20 lbs this year. Hope it’s enough.
– Pie shell for lemon merangue pie is done
– Bread is on its first rise (need to punch it down in about five minutes)
– Pecan pie is beeping at me in the oven
– Pie starter is made and chilling in the fridge
– Pomegranate molasses is simmering in prep for the cranberry sauce
– Run the first of about 4 dishwasher loads I’ll do today, including cans for the cranberry sauce. Because, of course, in my inexorable brilliance I’ve decided to make a quadruple batch and can it. Yes, it’s stupid. But, well, it’s my stupidity and optimism that make me so charming, right?
– Run a first clean of the house (many things need to be moved)
– Bring the spare dishes upstairs (2 & 3 dishwasher loads)
– Figure out how many chairs we’re short
– Peach pie
– Blueberry pie
– Lemon merangue pie
OK, I’ll keep you updated. Check back!
2:15 pm – Mocksgiving Eve
Mocksgiving Brenda is very grateful to summer Brenda for her hard work. I have complete blueberry pie and peach pie fillings put away in the freezer. The peach pie is especially precious, costing great labor. Peach pie is my second favorite pie, next to lemon merangue. Farm share, succulently perfectly ripe peaches caught at their height and put away for November is a great gift.
I was thinking how nice it was to have a day away from work. No project planning, no technical specifications, no time estimates, no deadlines.
Then I realized I had carefully mapped out the next two days practically by the hour. I had drawn up a detailed list of recipes, and figured out the optimal order to make sure they all got done on time and considering the dependencies between them (stove use, refridgeration, rising time, etc.). And for each of these, I had an excellent estimate on how long it would take me to prep, how long to cook, etc. Furthermore, I have deadlines almost every hour for most of the day to ensure some task gets done in order to meet the next task in line.
Ah well. At least I don’t have to get client signoff?
2:35 pm Mocksgiving Eve
Time to form the loaves and leave the bread for the third rising. Adam’s been using my loaf pans for his bread, which is cooked in parchment paper. Parchment paper leaves sticky residue, so I just spent 20 minutes scrubbing my loaf pans. Maybe I should ask for some new loaf pans for Christmas.
Speaking of gear, I have three awesome pie pans and a gazillion boring pie pans. I think I need to focus on procuring more awesome pie pans. I mean, if you’re going to make pie, shouldn’t it be in an awesome pie pan? And I make between 4 – 6 pies at one go more than once a year.
So loaf pans and pie pans. Yup.
2:45 Mocksgiving Eve
Second time through Mumford and Sons’ collected words. I’m convinced “Broken Crown” is from the point of view of Satan in the garden.
Forming loaves always reminds me of my mom. She made this same recipe of bread often growing up. When she had carpal tunnel, she made a lot of bread because she thought it helped. I remember hearing her “spank” the bread and thinking it was hilarious.
6:34 Mocksgiving Eve
Well, I made much progress since my last update. I got the bread baked, signed up for cable with a great deal (what can I say… I was home… I miss sports…), made the blueberry pie & the peach pie (thereby completing my pie crust complement), and did make and can the cranberry sauce. Also, I did a load of dishes and made it so you could see the floor.
Also, I have a lot of canned goods. This is not all of them. And I had enough empty jars in the drawer where I stick empty jars to can a batch of cranberry sauce. As usual, I should have prepared more jars, but I figure two big dishes of cranberry sauce is enough for tomorrow. It’s “take a tablespoon” cranberry sauce, not “fill up a bowl” cranberry sauce.
All I have left to do tonight is help the kids clean their rooms, give them baths and make lemon merangue pie. Just thinking about that pie is making me tired.
9:15 pm Mocksgiving Eve
Things I don’t like about making lemon merangue pie:
– Zesting lemons. I swear my zester has developed a taste for human flesh.
– Four dirty pots
– My solo crust ALWAYS schlumps.
– I can never make peaks like mom does.
Things I like about making lemon merangue pie:
– Watching the corn starch mixture turn. So cool.
– Licking the pot after I’ve made the filling
– I always feel badass for being able to make merangue.
Fun fact: the lemony yellow color of the filling – for all that it contains the juice and zest of three to four lemons – gets its yellow color from egg yolks.
So bonus! I have a document that has most of my critical Mocksgiving recipes! In case YOU need ideas for your Thanksgiving feast, or want a Mocksgiving all your own, here’s what I make every year, including the stuff I don’t use recipes for. (See also, turkey and mashed potatoes.)
Lemon Meringue Pie
Mocksgiving Shopping List:
Very large turkey
5 – 6 butternut squash halves
5 lbs yukon gold potatoes
*1 package fresh cranberries
*4 cups pomegranate juice
3 – 4 lemons
**2 boxes butter
Home Pride Buttertop Wheat
**Bells Poultry Seasoning
Black cherry soda
Vanilla ice cream
* for optional recipes
** check pantry
Turkey & Mashed Potatoes
1 cup olive oil
2 cups chicken broth
Make about 6 hours before intended serving time
– Purchase largest available turkey
– Defrost in ‘fridge at least 3 – 4 days prior
– Add beverages to the ‘fridge when you take out the turkey
– Remove giblets & neck (so much easier when it is actually thawed) – discard
– Preheat oven to 325
– Massage turkey in ~1 cup olive oil added in increments
– Cover wings and drumsticks with tinfoil
– Stuff turkey (see stuffing recipe)
– Add 2 – 3 cups chicken broth
– Put turkey in oven, covered if possible
– After the first hour and a half, baste every 30 minutes or so
– After turkey hits done temperature (180), remove from oven and pot, and tent (put tinfoil over it) for 30 – 40 minutes
– Carve and serve
5 lb bag of yukon gold potatoes
½ cup butter
1 – 2 cups milk
Make about 1 hour before intended serving time
– In very large pot, add about 1 gallon water (1/2 full)
– Wash and quarter potatoes (I do not peel – it is optional if you are feeling bored)
– Put on stove and bring to boil – keep simmering for about ½ hour until potatoes begin to crumble at edges (Within reason you cannot overcook. You can also leave in hot water indefinitely on the same day without harm.)
– Drain potatoes & return to pot
– Add butter and milk
– Mash with either removable mixer or hand masher
– Once in serving bowl, top with a pat of butter in a divot and a dash of paprika
Stuffing & Butternut Squash
1 cup butter (2 sticks)
2 large chopped onions
5 stalks chopped celery
1 loaf wheat bread (traditionally “Home Pride Buttertop Wheat”)
1 tablespoon salt
3 tablespoons Bell’s Poultry Seasoning
Make 7 hours before planned meal (first thing in the morning – while the turkey is defrosting on the counter)
– Chop onions and celery
– Melt butter in largest fry pan (the big steel one – not cast iron – this makes too much)
– Fry onions and celery in butter
– While they’re cooking, cube the bread and add to a very large bowl
– Pour seasonings over bread & mix
– Pour hot butter/onion mixture over bread & stir with spoon (it’s hot!)
– Stuff the turkey as soon as it’s possible to touch the stuffing without burning your hands. You should be able to get most of it in. If you want to make some as a side, or you can’t get it all in, you can use chicken broth and put it in as a side dish after you pull the turkey. I usually get it all into the turkey-pot.
– 5 or 6 prepeeled “half squashes” (NOTE: It is totally never worth it to peel and core your own butternut squash. Trust me.)
– 1 cup brown sugar (to taste)
– ¼ to ½ cup butter
– Dash of cinnamon or nutmeg if desired
Make right after you get the mashed potatoes on the stove.
– Using your second biggest pot, fill halfway with salted water.
– Cube the squash and add to pot
– Boil until edges begin to crumble – as with mashed potatoes. Like potatoes, these are hard to overcook and can remain in hot water.
– Drain and return to pot
– Add butter and brown sugar
– Hand mash
– If desired, top with dash of cinnamon or nutmeg once in serving dish
Bread and Pie Starter
Johnstone White Bread
Make 1 – 2 days in advance. Can be frozen once baked. Critical for hot turkey sandwiches afterwards.
Add to electric mixer mixing bowl:
5 cups hot water (110 degrees, or as hot as your tap goes)
½ cup sugar
2 tablespoons yeast
2 tablespoons salt
– Let sit until action (bubbles), then add
½ cup (one stick) melted salted butter
– Gradually blend in “enough” regular flour (~10 to 11 cups) until dough begins to pull away from sides of bowl
– Knead on floured surface, adding flour as needed
– Let rise in large ceramic bowl greased with Crisco, covered with cloth, for 1 hour
– Punch down (cover hands in Crisco) and let rise for 45 minutes
– Preheat oven to 335
– Grease bread pans (4 big, 2 small) and form loaves, using Crisco on hands and pans. Place bread inside pans.
– Let rise 30 minutes
– Bake 30 – 40 minutes, until crust is golden brown
– Remove nearly immediately from pans and cool on wire racks. Wipe top of loaves with Crisco.
Pie Crust Starter
Enough for 4 – 5 pies
Make 1 day prior to making first pie. If you don’t have enough time, put in the freezer for as long as you can before using it. This starter must be used COLD.
6 cups regular flour
1 tablespoon salt
Scant 3 cups Crisco
Keep refridgerated and use very cold
One crust = 1.5 cups of pie starter
Roll on well floured pastry cloth
Prick bottom of lone crust
If no other instructions, bake lone crust at 400 degrees
For most single crust pies, cook bottom ahead of time, but don’t for pumpkin.
Lemon Meringue Pie
Make pie crust ahead of time, preferably day before pie. Be sure to prick bottom and get sides tall enough to go over the top of the dish. Make day before. Can be saved on the counter for 1 or 2 days.
4 eggs, yolks and white separated. Keep only 3 yolks.
1 ½ cups sugar
⅓ + 1 tablespoon cornstarch
1 ½ cup water
3 tablespoons butter
2 teaspoons grated lemon peel
½ cups lemon juice
½ cup sugar
4 teaspoons cornstarch
½ cup cold water
Egg whites (above)
⅛ teaspoon salt
1) Mix ½ cup sugar & 4 teaspoons cornstarch in very small saucepan. Stir in water, and cook over medium heat stirring constantly. Once entire pot changes color and consistency to translucent, turn off heat and let cool.
2) Beat egg yolks & set aside. Mix 1.5 cups sugar and ⅓ cup + 1 tablespoon cornstarch in slightly larger saucepan ( 2 qt). Stir in water, cook over medium heat stirring constantly until translucent like the first set.
3) Add some of the hot 2 qt pot to the egg yolks & mix. Add back to the 2 qt pot and stir. Stir in 3 tablespoons butter, lemon peel & lemon juice. Once mixed, put saran wrap over top of contents to keep from forming a tough layer.
4) Beat egg whites and salt in large, very clean mixing bowl until soft peaks just begin to form. Very gradually mix in sugar mixture (1 qt pot) until stiff peaks form.
5) Add lemon filling to pie crust
6) Cover filling with meringue, making sure to “seal” the pie by bringing the meringue right to the crust.
7) Bake 15 minutes until peaks of meringue are brown.
Please note that this recipe does have some salmonella risk, since egg whites are incompletely cooked.
From Betty Crocker
Make day before party.
⅔ cup sugar
⅓ cup butter melted
1 cup light corn syrup
½ teaspoon salt
3 large eggs
1 generous cup pecan halves
1) Heat oven to 375. Roll out pastry.
2) Beat sugar, butter, corn syrup, salt & eggs until well blended. Stir in pecans. Pour into pastry lined pie plate.
3) Bake 40 to 50 minutes until center is set
From Betty Crocker
Stick into oven while dinner is being eaten.
5+ cups peeled, cored apple slices
Sprinkle these with
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon salt
¼ cup water
¾ cup flour
1 cup sugar
⅓ cup butter
Drop over apples. Bake at 350 for 1 hour.
Optionals: Bread Pudding & Cranberry Sauce
Chocolate Chip-Peanut Butter Bread Pudding
Bake during or after dinner
3 cup dry white bread cubes
½ cup semisweet chocolate pieces
⅔ cup sugar
½ cup peanut butter
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 cups milk
1) Preheat oven to 350
2) Grease a 2 qt baking dish. Place bread cubes in dish. Sprinkle with chocolate pieces.
3) Beat together sugar, peanut butter. Add eggs, vanilla and salt. Gradually stir in milk. Pour over bread, pressing down to make sure all bread is moistened.
4) Bake 40 – 45 minutes.
From Better Homes and Garden Prizewinning Recipes
4 cups pomegranate juice
½ cup sugar
¼ cup lemon juice
Heat mixture until dissolved. Simmer for about an hour, until syrupy. Consider canning in smallest canning jars.
1 ⅓ cup sugar
1 ⅓ cups red wine
1 12 oz package fresh cranberries
3 tablespoons pomegranate molasses
¼ teaspoon dried basil
2 ½ tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
Stir sugar and wine in heavy saucepan until liquid. Boil about 8 minutes. Add cranberries and boil until they pop. Stir in pomegranate molasses & basil. Cover and chill. Add cilantro before serving.
I’m pretty sure I have several posts lined up in my mental list. Sadly, now (45 minutes before bedtime) on Sunday night when I finally have time, I’ll be darned if I can remember any of them. Isn’t that always the way? Ah well.
Easter was lovely. The weather was superb. The kids were incredibly cute and well behaved. I was in some of my finest trumpet form in years, and played some of the hardest repertoire I’ve attempted in quite some time. We went out to dinner tonight at a local restaurant, and then wandered around our local town square in the warm twilight. There was tag, the scent of magnolias, holding sticky sweet little hands, and an evening ending in ice cream. It was a delight.
I’m figuring this is the last time Grey will believe in the bringers of gifts: Santa, Easter Bunny. He wrote the Easter Bunny a note, “How do bunnies go across water?” he asked in it. He asked me if the Easter Bunny was real. I asked him what he thought. He pondered, and said that maybe it wasn’t a bunny, but a person who sneaks into our house to leave the gifts. I don’t invest a tremendous amount of my personal credibility in these myths, nor do I have them well constructed. I’m pretty sure Grey is at the “trying hard not to notice” stage.
Grey has been really awesome lately. I’ve had a lot of fun with him. The other night he decided to make a chocolate cake. He got out a recipe and all the ingredients. He needed some help with some techniques (greasing the pan, measuring fractions), but he did a remarkable amount of it himself. I was really proud of him. So I decided any kid working with flour regularly needs their own apron.
It’s surprisingly hard to find an apron for boys, but I managed:
Don’t boys play chef anymore? Sheesh.
We also have had our last swimming lesson of the winter. Grey started them in fall, and ever single Saturday morning has been spent with swimming lessons, followed by lunch, followed by aikido. However, Grey is staring down his first ever graduation: preschool. In July he will go to summer camp instead of preschool. And part of the YMCA summer camp is swimming lessons! So although Grey is not yet 100% independent in water, I figure we might just be able to get our Saturday mornings back. That would rock. I think Thane may be sad, though. He really liked their babysitting. And he has to be potty trained in order to do swimming lessons which… well, we’re nowhere close to that.
This summer camp sounds awesome. They have weekly field trips, go to swimming lessons, go to the town pool on another day, and play play play. I’m totally jealous. I’m also totally ready for him to be starting Kindergarten in the fall. I think we’re all ready and excited.
Thane has a little less going on, being two and all. He’ll move to transitional preschool this summer (yes, the sound you’re hearing is the “kaching!” going off in my head as the boys move to less expensive forms of child care….) His language is totally exploding. He’s putting together complicated sentences with unusual verb forms and complex structures. “You would have done it, mommy.” He likes to mimic his brother, who is remarkably tolerant about it. He has a 24 piece dinosaur puzzle he puts together over and over again, with remarkable dexterity.
My sweet Thane is a natural singer. He sings ALL THE TIME. He sings nursery rhymes. He sings folk songs. He sings while he puts the puzzles together. He sings at night. He sings in the morning. He sings the doxology before dinner (which he will refuse to eat). He sings Ring Around the Rosy. He sings “Star of the County Down” and “These are My Mountains”. I love his singing.
Grey and Thane are the best brothers you could possibly expect them to be … which is to say, not perfect, but they have a lot of fun together.
So that’s what’s going on over here. Hopefully this week I’ll find some time to remember what I was going to write about and write about it… but I wouldn’t hold your breath.
PS – I do remember one bit. I was actually in California for two days this week. That’s really surprisingly disruptive.