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.

Company’s Coming!

Guests for dinner tonight. Merl had a hankerin’ to smoke some brisket and I’m not going to stand in his way. He patted it down with our favorite rub, and plans to cook it for ten hours, low & slow. If it’s not great, it’ll be a tragedy and we’ll be ordering pizza for our guests. You never know, could happen.

I’m making some pilaf and roasted asparagus to go with that, plus a salad and some french bread broiled with butter, garlic, and Parmesan cheese on top. Can’t go wrong with that….I hope!

And then there’s dessert. I’ve had a request for a cheesecake recipe. I make several different types of cheesecake because like ice cream, it’s all good in my book. But tonight I have a cheesecake purist coming for dinner. He likes his straight up, no frills, no toppings, if it ain’t broke don’t fix it. I also have a family member that can’t eat gluten. So I figure I’ll start with this basic cheesecake recipe that has a gluten free filling. (Most of my recipes call for a small amount of flour.) I use regular graham crackers for the crust, but you can buy gluten free graham cracker crumbs if gluten is your kryptonite.

So, cheesecake’s in the oven. Brisket is on the grill. The yard smells like a forest fire. And the dog is looking hopeful. If all goes well, I’ll post asparagus and cheesecake recipes tomorrow. If not I’ll post a photo of an empty pizza box!

 

No, I haven’t given up…

It’s just that this is the busiest time of the year for real estate appraisers. People are paying me to work. Nobody’s paying me to cook. Most of the time, I don’t even get a pat on the head. So, I hold out my hand and weigh my choices. Money on one hand, thankless servitude on the other. Kind of a no-brainer.  One hand’s hanging a whole lot lower than the other.

That’s not to say we’ve given up eating. We always do plenty of that. There just hasn’t been much going on worth sharing.

But, Tuesday’s Mr. Man’s birthday, so things should be a little more promising. His dream dinner is pretty much some kind of grilled meat and a baked potato, skimp on the veggies and don’t waste your time on a salad. But he won’t be the only one eating dinner, so we’ll see if we can’t do a little better, make everyone happy, and hopefully I can at least get a recipe or two posted.

Till then…

Happy Mother’s Day!

Here’s to not cooking all day! I’m very goal oriented, so I’m sure I can succeed.

As I write this, Mr. Man is in the kitchen making me breakfast, so we’re off to a good start. Smells like….bacon!

There’s a lovely new plant to kill sitting next to me. I give it about a month.

Son Jace and his fiance Angela are cooking dinner for me. I don’t know what, but I do know Jace will be making homemade cinnamon rolls for dessert. Maybe I can get the recipe for you!

So, sadly, on the second day of the Whole Life Challenge, I’ll be taking a mulligan. So glad there is room for failure built in!

I plan to do absolutely nothing today. Perfect! So Happy Mother’s Day to all the ladies out there. May you do exactly as you please and enjoy your day!

Maybe I can even get a hug from my son today without him gritting his teeth or saying, “It BURNS”! We all live in hope.

Hey Grandma, What’s For Lunch?

Diggies

That would be some good Merrick grain and chicken free dry food, mixed with some beef that’s been slow cooked in a crock pot overnight, mixed with some human food grade dried fruits & veggies re-hydrated in a little water and beef broth, delicately warmed in the microwave and tossed at the table before serving. And that’s how we roll!

Word to the wise, if you dog’s constantly licking his paws, try eliminating chicken from his diet. Or grain. Or in our case, both. Sigh!

Aloha!

Last night I made Shoyu Chicken, which is basically teriyaki chicken Hawaiian style. It’s a little unusual and totally delicious. It has a pretty strong, spicy flavor that goes well with plain old steamed rice, broccoli, & a side of pineapple because hey, it’s Hawaiian.

This does need to marinate all afternoon, but the boneless, skinless chicken thighs cook up quick on the grill. Also completely effortless if you can get someone to go out and grill them for you while you pretend to be busy getting the rest of the meal together. Yeah, “we” do a lot of grilling around here.

You really need to make this! I promise!!!

shoyu chicken

Time To Decorate The Trees!

It’s that time of year again. My husband’s aunt from Missouri thinks it’s strange that out here in California we don’t just decorate trees at Christmas, we decorate them in the Spring and Summer. It’s either that, or the birds reign down terror from above.

We’re surrounded by oranges, almonds, green tree fruit, and our little lone cherry tree is the only buffet in town. I might as well ring a dinner bell. I wouldn’t mind sharing if birds would politely select one cherry and eat it, but no. They’re like those rude people who take a bite out of every chocolate in the box looking for the one they like best.

Hence we decorate our trees with mylar strips that hopefully will take the place of us standing out there waving our arms and shouting “Shoo!”. Does it work? Well, better than nothing.

cherry tree

Interesting thing though, you’ll notice there’s a 4 X 4 post laying inside of the tree that has something that looks like a bucket on top. That’s the rather expensive weather station I bought Mr. Man so he would be a successful citrus grower. I’m guessing he mowed it down with his truck and trailer, but didn’t seem to feel the need to mention that to me. There should be some interesting dinner conversation at our house tonight!

Speaking of dinner, I am cooking something good tonight, since a condemned man deserves a good last meal and all. I’ll post that tomorrow.

Last night though, we just had quicky doctored up Chinese chicken salad with the help of Costco.

You know how it is when you’re strolling through Costco and somebody hands you a sample of something and you think, “Oh, that’s pretty good!”, and so you buy it, and you take it home, and then you find out one bite was good but a whole serving is just disgusting? Or maybe it’s just me.

But I give their Chinese chicken salad kit a pass, sort of. My worst complaint is seems like every party I go to they’re serving Costco Chinese chicken salad, because it’s not bad and it’s easy. But if everybody serves it, then it’s boring. So if I’m serving Chinese chicken salad I make my own. But that doesn’t mean I turn my nose up at Costco’s M(almost)RE. I use it as a starting place to whip up a sort of Chinese chicken chef’s salad when I need to fix something quick, or I really don’t feel like cooking, or it’s hot, or the sun is in my eyes.

Anyway, I buy the kit, which has two sets of fixin’s, then I divide them up into two zip lock bags and stick them in the freezer. The chicken and dressing thaw out fast in the microwave when you need them.

You have to buy lettuce anyway, so I pick up some cherry tomatoes and whatever else I want in my salad, or whatever I have on hand like hard boiled eggs, leftover roasted asparagus, beets, cucumbers, carrots, craisins, feta cheese, avocado……

By the time I’m done, the boring old chicken salad is transformed into a main dish even my husband will eat. Yes, he actually said, “Now why can’t you get a salad like this in a restaurant”. High praise indeed. It’s a lot of salad to plow through, but you can manage if you really apply yourself. Anyway, that’s what Mom “cooked” last night. No recipe required.

costco salad

Happy Birthday Jace!

Today’s our son Jace’s birthday. (Cue balloons and confetti!) He’s been working long hours lately, so I figure the best thing I can do for him today is set him up with a good meal and a little peace and quiet.

Speaking of peace and quiet, that reminds me of a favorite Jace story, since this is his day and all…

Few who know him today would guess that when he was a little boy, his mouth was in gear every second, of every day. If I had just a nickle for every time I heard, “Look Mom!”, I could have retired ten years ago. One day the endless verbal stream was getting to me, and it must of shown on my face because he asked me what was wrong. I told him, “I’d just like a little peace and quiet”. He went over to his craft table, snipped the corner off of a piece of colored paper, and presented it to me very solemnly saying, “Here Mommy. Here’s a little piece of quiet for you”. Everybody say awwwww…..

So Jace, here’s to you buddy. Hopefully we can give you some good food, tolerable company, and a little “piece of quiet” today.

We’ll start off with some deviled eggs and glazed chicken drummies, in case you’re feeling a mite peckish before we get dinner on the table. We’ll send Dad out to the grill to cook a some prime rib on the rotisserie. I’ll make some scalloped potatoes, roasted asparagus, heck, might as well have some green beans too. Then we’ll finish up with your favorite butter pecan ice cream, which I even made lactose free just for you:)

Might take a while to get any recipes posted. We have a party going on today! (But I did post a recipe for the Broccoli Beef In Oyster Sauce we had for dinner last night.

Broccoli beef in oyster sauce

Oh yeah, I made some Crack In A Bag too!)

crack in a bag

Ah…..COFFEE!!!

Oh yeah, I have a serious love affair with coffee. One which my husband does not share. At least he loves the smell, probably because it brings back childhood memories of what home smelled like in the morning.

But coffee has come a long way, baby. I no longer have to drink the stank swill my Mom brewed or settle mystery instant crystals of unknown origin. For me “the best part of waking up isn’t Folger’s in my cup”. I’ve kicked it up a notch with home roasted, yummy goodness!

Keep your muscle cars, your speed boats, your dirt bikes, this is what gets my engine revving every morning, my Fresh Roast SR500.

SR500

I stare transfixed and salivating as it turns hard little green beans that smell like grass into plump, toasted, airy little morsels of goodness in about six minutes. I’m endlessly fascinated, which may say something sad about me, but there you have it.

Lucky for me, our son Jace shares my love of coffee. We’ve had fun trying different coffees from around the world and find we’re partial to coffee from Guatemala, Costa Rica, & Honduras isn’t bad either. You can order organically grown coffee if that’s your deal. I look for coffee that’s washed and dried in raised, covered beds, so hopefully cleaner than the majority that’s dried on the ground.

It’s a fun toy, would make a great gift for that coffee lover who has everything. I bought mine from coffeeproject.com, if you’re interested. Green coffee I usually get from sweetmarias.com.

Coffee, ahhhhhh, that’s what Mom’s cooking this morning!

Whole Life Challenge

Starting May 7th, I’ll be participating in my third Whole Life Challenge sponsored by Livestrong.com. It’s basically a commitment to live a really healthy lifestyle for 8 weeks, with the hope that you’ll be inspired and on track to maintain a healthier lifestyle. It’s pretty tough, but if I can do it, anyone can.

Although the dietary restrictions are pretty severe, it’s not a “diet”. The goal isn’t to lose weight, it’s to be healthier. Part of that is eating better, but also involves a commitment to exercise, stretch, drink more water, get enough sleep, etc.

Because it’s supposed to promote a healthier way of life, it’s also realistic. Nobody’s perfect. If you stick with it you do get bonus points, to take a day off from exercise, have dessert or go out for pizza, or whatever you’re craving.

You keep track of your daily progress, and have the support of your teammates. Personally, I don’t have a prayer of eating healthy all the time. There are just too many good things to eat and life’s too short. But I’ve found I can stick with it for 8 weeks, I do feel better and have more energy, and it does inspire me to keep eating better and exercising more afterward.

Last time around, it was just me and my friend Alicia on team “Country Club”. The most awesome result was Alicia’s little granddaughter also followed along, started making better food choices and exercising more, and lost 14 pounds in just 30 days!

So we’re going around again. If you want to join us you can sign up at http://www.wholelifechallenge.com. and join us on team “Country Club”. Misery loves company. (There is a fee, but it’s worth it.)

Guess we’d better make some pretzels before the 7th!