Thursday, November 27, 2008

Thanksgiving, pt 5 Turkey and stuffing

Turkey and stuffing:
Stuffing, yes, stuffing. As in I stuff my bird. My family has stuffed turkeys for generations and we've never gotten sick. However, we don't leave the turkey out, we don't prestuff the bird and then put it in the fridge, we don't slow cook the bird. In fact, we wash the cold bird inside and out with cold water, make the stuffing, IMMEDIATELY stuff the bird with it, season the bird and then IMMEDIATELY put the bird into a large enamel roasting pan, put the lid on the pan and put the pan into the preheated 325 degree oven. If I vary from this in the slightest, then all bets are off. You're on your own with stuffing your bird! I'm just telling you how I cook my turkey. YMMV THE FOOD POLICE SAY; "DO NOT STUFF TURKEY". SERIOUS ILLNESS MAY RESULT. It takes about 2 - 2.5 hrs to cook a 14 lb bird to 170 degrees this way.

1 turkey any weight
onion powder
garlic powder
poultry seasoning
For a 14 lb bird (add or subtract ingredients as bird weight goes up or down):
7 slices of white bread (yes, you may substitute your bread - whole wheat)
1/2 lb regular sausage (yes, you may use country sausage or hot sausage if you want)
1/2 large onions, diced
1 celery rib, diced (one stalk, piece, etc. just one, not the whole plant.)
1 tsp olive oil, oil, bacon grease or grease from cooking the sausage.
1/2 tsp salt (opt. I don't use much salt, so I don't use salt in my stuffing)
1/2 tsp garlic powder (opt)
1/2 tsp Adobo (opt)
1/2 tsp poultry seasoning (opt)

1. Cook the sausage on med-low heat. When no longer pink, remove from pan, place on paper towel that is on a plate and allow to drain. Pour off any excess grease. I buy "Jimmy Dean Sausage". I found that even though it's more expensive, I don't have a pan full of grease when I'm done cooking, but YMMV. In fact, as there was no grease in the pan, I had to add a little bacon grease to cook my veggies in.
2. While the sausage is cooking, dice the veggies. When the sausage is done, cook veggies in that pan, still set to medium low. After putting the veggies on to cook. Toss the bread onto the oven rack to toast and set oven to preheat (325 degrees.Bread doesn't need to be "browned", just dried out.
3. Also while the veggies cook, rinse out your roasting pan and dry it (to get rid of any dust that may have settled in it since it's last use. When I remember, I will spray the pan with a little cooking spray or olive oil.
4. When the veggies are done, remove the bread from the oven and break them into little chunks. In a bowl, mix the bread, sausage, veggies and any spices you want to use. Be careful, the sausage will be warm and the veggies hot!
5. THEN, take turkey out of fridge, open turkey bag, remove the ends of the legs from the little leg holder thingy, take neck, and giblets out of the body cavity. CHECK THE NECK AREA, sometimes they put part of the giblets in there! Wash your turkey inside and out with running water. (don't use soap! One day, when I was about 9, my mom told me to "wash the chicken". So I proceeded to pour dish soap on it and soap it up. lol She caught me and asked what I was doing - to which I very innocently replied; "Doing what you told me to. You told me to wash the chicken".) That's when I learned that "washing" a chicken/turkey was nothing more than rinsing it off well and looking for pin feathers. Check for pin feathers and remove if you find any. Remove the very inaccurate pop-up thingy. We're going to use a thermometer to see when the turkey is done! Turn turkey on end in sink so the water can drain out. This should all take no more than 3 minutes.
6. I start by lightly stuffing the neck area. I then fold the wings back on themselves (so it looks like the turkey is on it's back with it's "arms" behind it's head. Then I proceed to lightly stuff the body cavity. DO NOT PACK EITHER CAVITY! If you don't use all the stuffing (and I rarely do), then throw it away, give it to the dog or bake it with the turkey in a separate pan. Usually, it's only a handful that's left for my normal 14lb.something oz. bird. I then put the legs back into that little leg holder thingy that they put into the bird. The bird is now on it's back, centered in the pan.
7. Now I season the bird with Adobo, onion powder, garlic powder, and poultry seasoning. I put it on a little heavier than I would if I were putting the seasonings on food on my plate. Insert a thermometer into the breast, about 1/2 way, making sure it doesn't touch the bone. (I use a quick read thermometer, so it doesn't go into the bird until I'm ready to see if it's done.)
8. Immediately place the lid on the roasting pan and put the whole thing in the oven. Turkey usually needs about 15 mins per pound of bird. So a 14 lb turkey should take about 3 hrs to cook. Mine usually cooks faster. I think it's the covered, dark enameled pan that is the culprit. I've check the oven temp with an oven thermometer, and the temp is accurate. So the only other thing is could be is the pan.
9. Bake at 325 degrees until internal temp reads 165 to 170 degrees.
10. (I just used the thermometer to check my almost 15 lb bird. After two hours, the temp is 150 degrees.) It took 2 hrs 45 mins to cook this bird today.

Thanksgiving part 4 Chocolate Pecan Pie, Hershey Bar Pie

Ok, here are two really easy recipes for desserts, but taste delicious.

This is such a yummy dessert! It's very rich.

3 eggs, beaten
1 cup white corn syrup
2/3 cup white sugar
1/3 cup melted butter or margarine
1 tsp vanilla
1 cup chocolate chips
1 1/4 cups pecan halves
1 unbaked pie crust

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a 9 or 10" pie plate with the pie crust, flute edges. Place pecan halves/pieces on bottom of crust and then put chocolate chips on top of the nuts. Stir together eggs, corn syrup, sugar, melted butter, and vanilla. Pour mixture over the chocolate/nuts. Cover edge of pie with foil. Bake for 25 minutes. Remove foil and bake 20 to 25 minutes more or until a knife inserted in center comes out clean.

If you choose to use a cookie sheet to catch any run-overs, either put it in the oven to preheat and place the metal pie pan on the cookie sheet. If your using a glass pie pan, don't preheat the cookie sheet, just set it with the pie on it in the preheated oven. In 25 mins, when you take the foil off the pie, also take the pie off the cookie sheet. If it were going to bubble over, it would have done it by now and settled down.

I tried putting the cookie sheet on the shelf underneath the pies and they didn't get done properly. Once I removed the cookie sheet, the pies finished cooking just fine, but I had to put foil back over the pie crust again.

Ok, decadence first class:

Hershey Bar Pie

1 1/2 lbs Hershey Bar or Hershey Bar with Almonds (3 8oz bars)
1 12 oz tub of Cool Whip, thawed
1 9" -10" pie crust (I used to use Pillsbury, but at $3 for 2 crust, I'll be making my own!)

1. Blind-bake one pie crust. (Place in pie pan, prick all over, put in 350 oven for about 10 mins or until golden brown.) Let cool about 15 mins.
2. Break chocolate into pieces, melt on low or in microwave (nuke 30 seconds, stir, nuke another 30 until melted. It only took 3 cycles on my old microwave. Don't over melt in microwave!) Set aside and let cool a little 3-5 mins.
3 When crust and chocolate are cool, spread a small amount of chocolate on bottom ONLY of crust. Place rest of chocolate in a large bowl and mix with cool whip. (with a spoon.)
4 Place mixture into pie crust. Cover and let chill for however long you can stand it.

Cooking Tips
I only let crust cool a few minutes. Don't let the chocolate cool too much, it will harden again! If it's too hot, it will break the cool whip. I nuke my chocolate, it doesn't get as hot that way. When you mix in the Cool Whip, it will harden quickly.

Ok, I think this does it for desserts for the holidays.

Thanksgiving, pt 3 Why am I Blogging When I Should be Cooking?

Hahaha, sob, sob, sob.

In the last year, I was gifted with a new to me fridge. I had to buy a new blender (0ld one bit the dust and we have few thrift stores here, none with a decent blender). New equipment means changes in cooking times, in freezing and thawing times.

Yep, veteran of countless Turkey dinners is sitting here on Thanksgiving day, thawing a turkey in cold water instead of baking and eating it. Actually, it's a miracle we have a meal at all. It was this Monday, YES, 3 DAYS ago, that I realized, HELLO! It's Thanksgiving - THIS WEEK!!! I had to go get groceries. You know, like: TURKEY, potatoes, celery, onions, cranberry sauce, olives. The stuff that makes the feast a feast. So we get home and it all goes in the fridge. Now with my old fridge, put something frozen in the fridge part - like the turkey and wahlah, in a day, two at tops, it's thawed. Not this bad boy! I got up this morning and grabbed the turkey off the shelf, and it hit me. Thump. Not a gentle, thawed thump. No, a rock-hard, frozen THUMP. Nooooo. Say it isn't so. sigh

But that's one of the fun things about holidays. Nothing goes as planned, so don't get you tinsel in a tangle. Thankfully, I only have the two kids at home and no company coming. Oldest had to work from 7:30am to noon. She finally got home at 1pm. It's now 4:51 and I'm just now getting that bad boy in the oven. Dinner will be at 7:30. A little late, but hey, it'll be done and it will be good.

Thanksgiving, Pt. 2 Pumpkin pie/ pumpkin puree/toasted pumpkin seeds

Pumpkin pie ala Darlene

The nutmeg, which was substituted for ground cloves, adds a softer sweeter flavor.

4 eggs, slightly beaten
3 cups pumpkin puree, fresh, or from frozen and then thawed, or 1 29oz. can solid packed pumpkin
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 tsp salt
2 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
3 cups (2 12 oz. cans) undiluted Evaporated milk, whole or skimmed (NOT Condensed!) I measured this and actually, it wasn't quite 3 cups. More like 2 3/4 cups.

2 9" (4 cup volume) unbaked pie crusts (homemade, boxed, refrigerated or frozen "deep"dish)

Myself, I use Pillsbury from the refrigerated section. My grandfather was a pastry chef, my mom loves to make pie crust. When I made this pie one year, she raved about how I had "my grandfather's touch". I sheepishly confessed to buying it. I hate the rolling out of the dough. However, now that the cost has gone up to almost $3 for 2 crusts, I'll be rolling my own.

1 Preheat oven to 425F

2 Combine filling ingredients in order given; pour into pie crusts. (Actually, this year I put my glass pie plates on the cookie sheet, put the cookie sheet on the pulled out oven shelf and THEN pour the filling into the pie pans. Saves trying to move very filled pies without spilling them. I set the timer for 22 mins and at that point, removed the pies from the baking sheet and placed them directly on the rack. I also covered the edges with tin foil. They have continued cooking for another 22 mins and need about another 5 mins.)

3 Bake 15 minutes at 425F. Reduce temperature to 350F. Bake an additional 40-50 minutes or until knife inserted near center comes out clean. Cool; garnish with whipped cream, cool whip, etc.

Yield: 2 9" pies

Cooking Tips
If you have any leftover filling, place extra into small, greased casserole and bake along with the pies.

When using metal or foil pans, preheat cookie sheet when you preheat oven. When using a glass or ceramic pie pans, DO NOT use cookie sheet directly under pie pans. (place on next rack)

If using SHALLOW 9" pans (2 cup volume), make in two batches. Bake for the 15 mins, reduce oven and bake only an extra 20 to 30 mins., checking near center for knife to come out clean.

Author: Darlene Burgess

To make pumpkin puree:

This method is very labor intensive. Not! Forget trying to peel the tough skin. Forget the watery taste from boiled pumpkin.

Buy a pumpkin. There are smaller "pie" pumpkins or you can use a "regular" pumpkin. The the two I cooked yesterday were about 10 lbs each. They were regular Jack-o-lantern size pumpkins.

I washed the skin on them with my scrubby to get off some dirt on them. I then had son cut the top off of one, then set it on the cut edge and cut the pumpkin down the middle - from blossom end to stem end (or rather where the stem would have been had he not just cut it off.)That's it, just two cuts.

I removed the seeds (we're using them later!)Just scoop them out. Don't worry about the stringy stuff now, just get all the seeds you can and then set them aside, strings and all.

I didn't bother scraping the insides and trying to remove the stringy insides. Those are more easily removed after cooking.

To Cook:
Place on cookie sheet (well, really, it's a jelly-roll pan - it has a lip on it), cut side down (so the skin is "up"). Place in 350 degree oven and let cook until done. With my large sized pumpkins, I could only cook 1/2 a pumpkin at a time, but a smaller pumpkin will cook with each half side-by-side. It took about 50 mins for it to get tender. It doesn't matter if the skin starts looking "burned" on top. The flesh inside is still good. "Potato test" it - when you can pierce the pumpkin, sort of like a potato and it's tender, it's done. With the smaller "pie" pumpkins it only takes about 30 mins to cook both haves together. So set timer and go do something else (like check to make sure the turkey is really THAWED!).

Carefully remove it from the oven. It will have a little liquid in the bottom of the cookie sheet, so don't burn yourself when you move the sheet. I set mine on top of the stove top and work with it their, rather than moving it else where.

Remove the skin. I use a fork to peel back the skin and cut off any dried out spots - like the cut edges of the pumpkin. I then cut these large 1/2's into 4 parts with the fork. I turn each part over and scrape the edge of the fork over the surface of the pumpkin. Or you can use a spoon. You just want to scrape off that top layer that was the ugly, stringy part. Then put that piece of pumpkin in a bowl. Repeat for the other 3 pieces that you just cooked. Then throw away the scraps (or put them outside for the squirrels, chipmunks and birds to eat). Rinse off the cookie sheet and put the next piece of raw pumpkin on it. Repeat for each pumpkin you've purchased.

While the next piece of pumpkin is cooking or when you're done cooking the pumpkin, you will need to mash up the pumpkin. Yesterday I bought a stick blender. Ehhh, it was ok, but still too chunky for my tastes. (It may have worked better if I had done it in small batches instead of a bread bowl full. lol). So I got out my newish blender. Ehhh, my old blender did better with it, but since it was all I had, I messed around with it until I could get it to make a smooth puree. With this newer blender, I put the semi-blended, almost puree into the blender container in 3 cup batches. Why 3 cups? Well, how many cups is in the above pie recipe? Yup, 3. So after I've blended my pumpkin, I can pour it into a qt. zip bag, remove the air, zip it and freeze it. When I need pumpkin for my pie, I don't have to mess a cup up measuring it. All I have to do is thaw and pour into the crust. If you use pumpkin for other things, measure and blend in the size you will use - or a variety of sizes. Some for muffins, pie and soup. Anyway, back to the instructions. After putting the almost puree (or the just cooked pumpkin chunks) into the blender, I had to use the "pulse" option on my new blender. Before I could just toss it in and hit high and it worked. This machine is a bit more finicky. I had to pulse a couple of times, push the puree down (don't do this with the machine RUNNING!) and then I could use the low setting and have it blend. How do you know how smooth you will like your puree? Well, do you like potatoes with a little bit of unmashed potatoes in it? Yes, then you will probably like your puree with little bits and pieces of unblended pumpkin in it. No chunks in your potatoes? Then blend it smooth. It's a similar textured veggie.

Out of those two big pumpkins, I had six 3-cup bags of puree and one 2 cup bag. I would have had more, but I hadn't eaten all day and was hungry, so I put some of the puree in a bowl and added about 1 tsp of bacon grease. Heated it an ate it. Then I made another bowl. lol So I probably would have had eight 3 cup bags had I not eaten some of it. (And it was GOOD!) I could have added some milk and spices to it and made soup, but I was hungry and didn't want to wait or cook some more.

On to the seeds. When you are finished cooking the pumpkin (if you don't forget them), you can cook the seeds while pureeing the pumpkin.
Put the seeds in a colander and rinse. You will want to pick off all the stringy flesh and break the seeds apart from each other so that you have individual seeds, not seed groups. Toss the stringy part. Shake the colander some so that you get rid of a lot of the water. At this point, there are two ways to do the seeds. Some people bring the seeds to a boil and boil them for 10 mins or so. I don't do that, I just put them on my (was in use, now rinsed off) cookie sheet, spread them out and sprinkle them with salt (or any other seasoning you'd like to use.) I put them in the 350 oven for 10 mins, stir and do another 10 mins. I stir and see if then still need more time to toast. Yesterday, it took me 30 mins to get them toasted, but I had the seeds from 2 pumpkins, so it took longer than a single pumpkin, but short time than doing two separate batches. When golden brown, remove, let cool and store in a zip bag. (store???? hahaha)

Thanksgiving pt 1 Things To Be Thankful For

Happy Thanksgiving to all.

Ok, we're in a depression and things aren't really all that great. There's no money to buy stuff, people are out of work, CEO's of some of the Big Corporations are ripping tax money off of the workers while maintaining their life-styles. They come in private jets, wearing costly apparel and want Congress to bail them out. They were paid to run these corporations for a profit and raided them instead. They take home multi-million dollar salaries + bonuses and then the tax-payer is getting to bail out the now bankrupt business while these parasites get to continue "running" the company. People are being hateful to one another. Beating up little old people who disagree with you is now ok in some quarters. Judges can just throw out laws or reinterpret the Constitution any way they want and it seems "We the People" have no more say in what's happening. In other words, there seems to be plenty to dispare about. Or is there?

One of the best things to do is to count how much you do have instead of focusing on what you don't have. I'm glad we have a special day that encourages us to think of all that we have been blessed with. It doesn't meant that the jobless will have a job tomorrow or any of the other ills of the day are magically "gone", just that things really could be worse for us.

I was a missionary in Colombia, S.A. Needless to say, when my kids were young and wanted to complain about what they didn't have, I would tell them stories of the people and children that I met there. Children who ate food thrown out because it was too rotten to sell, who would pick it up out of the pathways and eat it-after people had stepped on it. Children sleeping outside in the open, huddled together like little puppies, wearing nothing but a pair of shorts, a holey sweater and wet crochet shoes. Me? I was wearing a coat and a sweater and the wind was still blowing through me - it was COLD outside. The two little boys were about 6 and 8 years old. Their mom was probably a prostitute and they were sent outside to be away from her "work". How about the old lady at the market who was picking up rice grains out of the dirt where they had fallen from the rice seller's table. That rice was free - it was all she could "afford". And on the stories go.

Now do we feel grateful? Grateful for clean, parasite free water. Grateful for an abundance of clean, parasite free food. For the ability to go where ever we want without having to carry special papers from the government and without having to check in with the local police upon arrival.

How about the closet full of clothing we have. I knew 4 brothers that were in such dire straits that they only had one pair of pants among them. Only one could leave the house to look for work or go to school. So each day, they had a turn to wear the pants. They were 18-24 years of age and their parents had died. There was no safety net under them. No where to turn except to each other. And one pair of pants to allow them to gain the money they needed for food and rent.

How about the spaciousness of our homes. Yes, even a tiny 14"x40" trailer that held 4 people, 3 of which were under the age of 6 - and all their stuff. Baby beds, swing, baby carrier, toys, etc. Friends of mine in Florencia, Caqueta, Colombia had an room that may have been as large as 8'x10'. It had a cement floor. It held two twin beds and a small table upon which was the Coleman stove they used for cooking. There was no bathroom or running water in their "home". They had to go outside to a makeshift bathroom and a public faucet. There were 7 of them, the youngest was 8 years old. They all went to work each day. There was no schooling for the kids - even the "free" schools cost money. And how do 7 people sleep on two twin beds? I have no idea.

Family member passed away recently and you're feeling blue? How would it have been to have had to dig their grave. While digging their grave, you'd throw out the bones of the people who had been buried there before; knowing full well that in the not too distant future, someone would disinter your loved one. This is not done out of disrespect, but out of poverty and lack of approved burial space.

I own a 1986 car - hey, that's older than my oldest child. It runs. That's about all I can say about it. But that's what I CAN say about it. It DOES run. I had friends that had a bike. They went everywhere on the bike. All FOUR of them. And there are MOUNTAINS in Colombia. Dad stood and petaled. Teen daughter rode the handle bars, school-aged son rode on the front cross-bar, Mom rode side-saddle on the seat. (I even saw one family that dad had another child sitting around his neck while the rest of the family rode as my friends did. Wouldn't they have loved my old car? You bet!

How about freedom of worship? When I was in Florencia there was artillery fire in the mountains every day. The guerrillas that were at war with the government in that area had heavy artillery and it really was a war zone. While there, I befriended a family whom were members of my church. By their standards, they were solid middle class, but by our standards they were a very poor family. They had two books, one a Bible, the other a Book of Mormon. That's all the books in the tiny house. The children love to read the scriptures so I promised the children their own copy of the Book of Mormon if they learned the Articles of Faith (13 statements, a condensing if you will, of the main points of what we believe). At the time, the oldest boy was 10. Every day, when they got home from school, they would sit in front of the TV. During commercials, the oldest-Boris, would drill his younger siblings. Four years after I had left the area and was home, I heard that Boris had been execute by the guerrillas. His "crime" - he was a member of an "American" church. Which is interesting since we have more people in our church who speak Spanish than English!

We have the privilege of being able to go where we want, say what we want, be whomever we want to be. We have nice homes; clean,running water; the ability to heat and cool our homes. We don't have to get the government's permission to move; change jobs; nor do we have our loved ones killed if we vocally disagree with what our government does. We have multiple changes of clothing, a variety of foods to eat. Nice cars and we don't have to bribe judges, doctors or the government for our lives.

Is this country perfect. No, we have our share of problems. Are there hungry people in the U.S.? Yes. Are too many people homeless? Yes. Do we have places that rival 3rd world countries right here at home? In comparatively small places, it might seem that way. That is, unless you've been to the bad sections of 3rd world countries.

There are some places in Colombia, right in Bogotá (their capitol similar to our DC), that stretch for miles that is nothing but bombed out rubble. It's left-over from the violence of the 1950's. It is such a violent section that the Post Office, Garbage collectors, Doctors, Hospitals, Fire Dept, Police, not even the ARMY will enter that area. The "tallest" structure looks to be about 5'high. Yes, 5 FEET high, and nothing but RUBBLE. Nothing standing, just broken bits and pieces of what was once buildings all fallen in on itself. People live in that rubble like rats in crawlspaces. And there are TENS of THOUSANDS living there. Or rather, squatting there. I've been all over the US and have lived most of my life in the South. I've been in the Appalachian area and seen its poverty. But mostly, our poorest people have more than the "middle class" in many poor countries have; more than the "rich" in some countries have. Even in my "poverty" and I make WELL below the poverty rate, I am richer than most of the people who live in Colombia. In fact, richer than most of the people who live in the underdeveloped countries in the world.

Our challenge today and everyday is to look at what we have, where we live and be grateful that which we are blessed with. It's not a crime to want to better ourselves, in fact, it's good to want to do better in life. But not at the expense of our families or those around us. Not to the point that we are angry, disappointed or depressed with what we perceive we have been "cheated" from having. Those whom become like this are generally bears to be around - cross, cranky, surly, and mean-spirited. Do we want to be like that? Do we want to drive off family and friends? All it takes is changing our point of view. Change from ingratitude to gratitude and watch life become joyful again!

Are we looking at all we do have and feeling more thankful? I know I am.