Turkey Day

I cooked Thanksgiving dinner this year for the first time in 30 years, and it wasn’t a disaster. I didn’t take any photos because I was too busy cooking, but I’m going to post at least a couple of recipes, for cranberry sauce and turkey rub. I don’t want to forget what I put on the turkey because it was awesome.

Since I was cooking everything myself, I thought I’d do as much ahead of time as possible. I’d been eyeballing a recipe for make ahead turkey gravy for a long time, and decided I’d give it a go. It calls for roasting turkey wings with vegetables, then boiling them, then using the broth to make the gravy. Since you can’t buy just turkey wings, at least I haven’t seen them, we got some pruning shears and hacked the wings off of our bird. So yeah, you wouldn’t really want to see photos of my double amputee Thanksgiving turkey. Or maybe you would. Anyway, we carved it up before company arrived, so no one was the wiser.

Back to the make ahead gravy. Sucko. It tasted like carrot water. I doctored it up with packaged gravy mix until it was tolerable, but it wasn’t great. What was great was the broth from cooking the turkey. I cooked it in an oven bag, so there was lots of broth. It tasted amazing and made the best gravy. I didn’t even have to doctor it up to make it taste good. Just thickened it with a little cornstarch. So moral is, there are no short cuts if you want good turkey gravy. Sorry famous chef who shall remain nameless.

And for posterity, I pass along recipes for the turkey rub and easy cranberry sauce.

Smoothies, Starring Gayle & Deann

For those have-to-get-your-butt-out-the-door-in-record-time mornings, smoothies are a good way to go. I’m a big fan of drinking and driving. Only for me, it’s usually Starbuck’s, then I show up for a job with a big coffee stain on the front of my shirt. Always the professional. I’ve been thinking about investing in one of those adult bibs, seriously. But I digress…..

Cousin Gayle sent me the recipe for her daughter Deann’s breakfast smoothie, which will work for our gluten free, dairy free people. My bonus daughter Angela is a big fan of the morning smoothie also. Maybe she’ll share some good recipes.

I saw another interesting take on the old smoothie this morning in a Facebook post. This won’t work with my blender, but might be worth a try if you have one of those old style blenders with the blade that screws onto the bottom.

Supposedly your basic blender blade housing will also screw onto the top of your basic Mason jar. So you fill jars with your cut up fruit &/or veggies of choice and pop them in the freezer for up to two weeks. In the morning you just add milk or your liquid of choice, screw on the blender bottom, and blend your smoothie right in the jar. Be sure to hold onto the jar while you’re doing this! Then you have your smoothie in the jar, ready to drink on the run.

Since I can’t try this with my blender, some intrepid soul will have to try it and let me know how it goes. If it doesn’t go well, remember, it wasn’t my idea. I don’t always do the things I propose, I just propose them.

What Mom was cooking this morning was protein power pancakes. Not going to give regular pancakes a run for their money, but a lot better for you. I always have some protein powder hanging around, also good for sticking in a smoothie, so pancakes are yet another way to put it to use, and a good way to feel better about having pancakes for breakfast, right?

Mug Muffins

I’m really obsessed with the idea of a mug muffin, a single serving tasty treat ready in only minutes, fresh from the microwave. I’m also not really a big fan of breakfast. Sometimes I really love to dig into the whole big breakfast, but on a day to day basis, not so much.

My idea of the perfect breakfast starts with coffee, ends with coffee, with something sweet with no redeeming value somewhere in the middle. Like donuts, scones, cookies, toast. Pretty much anything I can stick in my face that requires no effort, just to keep the coffee company. I know I should be ashamed, but hey, it is what it is.

I am trying to be better though, working on the challenge of having a healthy breakfast, a little tasty treat, while making as little effort as possible. Voila! Enter the mug muffin.

This sounds like a great solution, but execution has proved to be difficult. If it tastes good, you might as well eat a cupcake. If it’s healthy, you might as well eat cardboard. I finally gave up trying other people’s recipes and came up with a banana nut mug muffin that’s easy, healthy, gluten free, and best of all, Mr Man actually LIKES it! Hey Mikey! (If you don’t get that, you’re not old yet.)

So I submit my recipe for a banana nut mug muffin. It firms up a little as it cools off, but who can wait that long? So you pretty much have to eat it with a spoon. It’s soft, moist, sweet, and pretty darn good. It would even pass as a dessert, maybe with a little cream cheese frosting or vanilla glaze. So much for healthy!

Pig Out Night

Mr. Man and I have been on the Whole Life Challenge diet for four weeks now. We’ve been sticking with it and eating only good for you food, but we have some bonus points saved up and we’re going to shoot the whole wad tonight on some fried chicken strips, GRAVY (be still my heart), mashed potatoes, green beans with bacon, cole slaw, and Rice Krispie treats for dessert. Can we eat now????

The point of the “diet” isn’t to lose weight, it’s to eat healthy, leaving out all the most common foods that cause inflammation. Since I’m getting old and arthritic, I’ll have to admit that I really do feel better leaving out dairy, wheat, sugar, soy, chemicals….. but it’s not always easy. Why are all the best things in life bad for you?

You’d think that at least to ease the pain, one might really lose a lot of weight. Mr. Man has lost 16 pounds in four weeks. Me? Not even close. Is that fair? No! So I’m going to drown my sorrows in a glorious feast before getting back on the wagon tomorrow, and I’m not even going to feel bad about it.

It fact, I’m going to feel pretty darn good because Mr. Man’s specialty is fried chicken and gravy. The bonus of having parents raised in the Ozark Mountains of Missouri! So, I only have to make the sides dishes tonight!

I tried to buy a cole slaw kit in a bag. Yes I did. I’m that lazy! But sadly, I have to resort to making coleslaw from scratch. So since I actually have to make something, I’ll give you my recipe for coleslaw. In case you can’t find a kit in a bag either. Life is hard sometimes.


Asian Night

I don’t know about you, but when I go out for Asian food, I want VARIETY! I want the noodles, rice, a few different dishes, the whole megillah. Oh man, if my daughter-in-law is reading this, she just said, “HUH?”. She thinks I speak in some strange foreign language half the time.

OK Angela, “the whole megillah” means having it all, “the whole nine yards”, “the whole ball of wax”, “the whole shootin’ match”, “the whole shebang”. It has nothing to do with the cartoon character Magilla Gorilla, although he was pretty big. And you probably have no idea who Magilla Gorilla is anyway do you? Ah, that darn Generation Gap.

Anyway “megillah” is the Hebrew word for scroll. Reading from those scrolls on holy days was long and tedious. The “whole megilla”started out meaning a long, tedious, or complicated story. Then it also started being used to just mean the whole darn thing.

Now where was I? Oh yeah, Asian dinners. Anyway, last night the kids were coming for dinner so I thought I’d give it a shot. I managed three dishes, Broccoli Beef in Oyster Sauce, Chicken Lettuce Wraps, and Sumi Salad, with a side of steamed rice courtesy of the rice cooker.

Actual cooking is easy, it’s the prep work that sucks. But I got all my ducks in a row earlier in the day, and with Angela’s help we got dinner cooked in short order.

The rice cooker took care of the rice, so I didn’t have to think about that. Angela manned one skillet, fixing the chicken dish. I had broccoli beef going in another skillet. Or, I could have made the chicken and kept it warm in a crock pot, just stirring in the green onion before serving. That works too. You could even hold the broccoli beef warm for a while if you want to get real crazy and make another dish, like some pot stickers. But I wasn’t that ambitious. Maybe another day.

Happy Birthday Grandma!

It was Mr. Man’s mother’s birthday, so I fixed dinner for the family and transported it 30 miles. I get ridiculed for my ginormous collection of cooking paraphernalia, but I really do use all this stuff. I have a group of three serving crock pots, a big crock pot, two small crock pots, and two teeny tiny ones. And I need them all, till death do us part.

I also have one of those portable coolers that keep food hot or cold, depending on which way you flip the switch. I imagine they’re not much good at cooling, but I have ice chests for that. I need it to keep food hot, sometimes for hours.

So I put some salisbury steak and mashed potatoes in the heater. Filled the bank of crock pots with three different veggies, and we had our own version of Meals on Wheels.

Seems fitting I let Grandma choose the cake, since it was her 89th birthday and you should get some perks for being that old. (I don’t think there are very many, just sayin’.) She picked a good old fashioned carrot cake, which luckily everyone likes. So…I pass the recipe on for posterity.

On Men In The Kitchen

I welcome men in the kitchen. I welcome anyone who wants to cook for me because I hate to cook. If the dog could whip up breakfast for me, I’d let him go for it.

Unfortunately, around here Man + Kitchen = Disaster. Today I have no work I have to finish, so I thought I’d make some cookies. Well, Mr. Man got a bug up his nose to make cinnamon rolls last weekend, and I’ll have to say they were pretty good. Better than mine. BUT…..Bobby Flay he’s not.

He tried to mix up a giant batch of bread dough using a little hand mixer. Are you kidding me? Even the Cuisinart couldn’t handle it so he had to give up and knead the dough by hand.

And once that little hand mixer was out of sight, it was also out of mind. (We all know men simply cannot multitask.)

So today I took out the mixer to whip up some sugar cookie dough and this is what I found…

I had to pick dried up bread dough out of the holes before I could stick the beaters in. Sigh!

And it’s a good thing I’m pretty rational, or I’d swear we had a Poltergeist in the house. I’m always finding cabinet doors standing wide open. And every time I need to use something like a measuring spoon, it becomes a treasure hunt. Because even though those spoons have been kept in the same drawer for years, somehow they materialize in random drawers with no rhyme or reason. And what’s the aversion to washing a pot or pan by hand? If it won’t fit in the dishwasher, Mr. Man WON’T wash it.

OK, I feel better now…..

Back to making sugar cookies, in January, using a Christmas tree cookie cutter. Because I put all my cookie cutters away. Somewhere. In what I’m sure is a very good place. And someday I’m going to figure out just where that place is.


For The Gluten Free

If you’re eating gluten free just because you think it’s healthier, I say forget about it. None of us are getting out of here alive so we might as eat, drink and be merry.

However, we do have a family member with celiac disease, which is a cruel fate for an Italian. Barilla makes a pretty good gluten free pasta, but that doesn’t help when it’s holiday time and nothing will do but homemade ravioli. So I found this gluten free pasta recipe and used it to make some darn good ravioli, and I didn’t even have to say so myself.

One of these days I’ll get around to publishing our family’s ravioli recipe. They’re really not that hard to make. But in the meantime I’ll share my recipe for gluten free pasta.

The dough has a different texture, rather slippery when wet. Without gluten, it lacks elasticity, which makes it really impossible to make ravoilis the way we usually do. You really need to make raviolis one at a time when using gluten free pasta. Just wet the edges of both pieces of pasta and crimp well.

OR you can roll out your dough, spread on the filling, then roll up jelly roll style. Wrap the roll in cheesecloth, tie the ends so it looks like a big firecracker, and drop it boiling water to cook. When done, cut in slices and top with your sauce and cheese. Looks different, but is easier and tastes just the same. In this case it would be called “Rotolo Italiano”. (Italian Roll)

The Ham That Wouldn’t Die

Curse of the Holiday Ham. We gave half of it away. We made ham, biscuits and gravy. We made grilled ham and cheese sandwiches. I think the ham was somehow growing in the refrigerator when we weren’t looking.

Today I decided to kill the beast once and for all, so I made some crock pot split pea soup. I really should make soup more often, but I’m pretty lazy. This is about as effortless as it gets and I can barely manage that. But, for all of us who set the bar really low when it comes to effort made in the kitchen, or for those who just need one more way to kill off that holiday ham, split pea soup is about as easy as it gets.

Sweet Potatoes

Holiday time has rolled around again. Time to prep for my standing assignment, sweet potatoes. No, I don’t mean yams. Grocery stores sometimes label them as yams, but they’re really sweet potatoes. Sweet potatoes sound delicious. Yams sound like something you just yacked up. But whatever you call them, we’re cooking the taters that are purple outside and orange inside. The ones that are about 2″ in diameter work best in this dish, and try to get them fairly uniform in size so they cook at the same time. So, pick through that potato bin like it’s your job.

My sweet potato recipe comes from my Aunt Violet, who was my Dad’s older sister and my stand-in grandmother, since his mother died before I was born. She owned a little restaurant in Fowler, California for a while, and she was a really awesome cook. She taught me all about healthy eating. Fruit pies & her homemade jams & jellies contained fruit. Fruit is good for you. Hence her pies and jelly were health foods and must be eaten at every opportunity. Same goes for these sweet potatoes. Remember that under all the butter and sugar are sweet potatoes, which are very good for you, so you can feel good about shoveling them in.

Her sweet potatoes have spread to my Mom’s family, and to my husband’s family, who now require them at all holiday meals. Fortunately these are a dish best made ahead of time, so the sweet potatoes get to soak in all the tasty goodness of the syrup we cook them in. You can make them a day or two ahead of time, or even a month ahead and stick them in the freezer. Freezing doesn’t hurt a thing, in fact it might even make them better.

I bake them at home and transport them to family dinners in an electric roaster, to keep them warm until serving time. Two 9 X 13 pans full is enough for our big family dinners of about 35 people.

So, check out Aunt Violet’s sweet potato recipe. Somebody else better learn to make them because I can’t do it forever!