Friday, November 27, 2009

Investing in Turkey Stock

How was your Thanksgiving? Ours was nice, quiet and grateful. S. said a lovely prayer she learned at religion, the food was good, the pies were sinful, the company was the best. Our town lost two children this week to being hit by cars. It is so sad, and yet it reminds us again, as if we needed it, that life is a fleeting thing and no one can count on tomorrow.

Bill, my father in law, passed away last April, just after Easter. At that dinner I made a toast about how much I valued us all being together and how we all knew it wouldn't be this way forever. I certainly never expected to have him go so soon.

This holiday was quiet without him. He would have been so proud of S. saying that prayer. He would have enjoyed the food with abandon, and laughed more than anyone else at the table. We tried to honor him, by eating, laughing, enjoying and taking the time to appreciate each other.

In the spirit of taking time, I am making Turkey Stock. I plan to use it in my cooking, saving some for Christmas Dinner. I will use it instead of buying canned stock, so we will save money. But the biggest investment I see is in the lesson slow cooking teaches my children. They grow up in such a fast environment. Everything is convenient and quick. This shows them that we can be less wasteful, save money, make food that tastes better and is also better for us, and most importantly, that things that take time can be better than the convenient choice.

So before we sat down to eat our leftovers, I picked over the bones of the turkey and put what was left into a pot. Here is what I put in with it...

1 Turkey Carcass
1 cup of leftover roasted root veggies from last night. (Not important but will add to the depth of flavor)
all the leftover parts of the celery from my cooking (Stems, flowers, and two stalks that were left) I keep them big so I can strain them out later)
2 carrots (I love to eat these later so I peel them before I put them in)
1 yellow onion quartered
two handfuls of parsley
one handful of Thyme
2 bay leaves
a handful of kosher salt
a few teaspoons of black pepper
Cover the whole thing with cold water and boil. Turn heat down to low and simmer for four to six hours. Near the end, taste it and season it with salt and pepper as needed. When it is done, let it cool a little and strain it using a cheese cloth draped over a colander. Put the colander over another big pot or bowl, and get some help with this step it can be spilly. Cool completely over night in the pot you cooked it in, I put the pot right in the fridge once it is cool enough. In the morning you can skim off most of the fat and freeze it in single use sizes, in freezer bags. (They freeze flat for easy storage.) Don't over fill the bags because the stock will expand a little when it freezes.

The house smells yummy, all the better to enjoy our leftovers.

And of course, I saved room for leftover pie.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Learning to plan

We are tightening our bootstraps around here. We are trying to save some money. Or rather, spend less, as the case may be. As many of you are too I expect. So I have taken to clipping coupons and comparing them to the store circular. Stocking up when things are on sale and hopefully avoiding buying too much at full price. Obviously the more you stock up, the eaisier this is. I spent the last few days planning our Thanksgiving menu, clipping coupons, checking circulars, and trying to be sure the scale of our meal is scaled down to our smaller group. The smaller group... well that is another post in and of itself.

With Thanksgiving, and actually any big meal I am cooking, I like to plan it well in advance, know when things move in and out of the oven, when I am to be doing what. I like to be on a schedule. It helps me to feel in control and relax and enjoy the cooking.

The Menu

I will have cheese and crackers, and my dad is making Lobster Rolls as an appetizer.

"Mom's Roast Turkey" from Elise at Simply Recipes.

Gravy from that same recipe.

Stuffing- this I make myself, I use a mix, some sauteed onions and celery, some chicken broth and my slow cooker. It's not a science. I add enough broth to moisten (Apologies to Kelly who doesn't like descriptive food words.), and add more broth every hour or so when I stir it if the stuffing needs it. I like having it in the slow cooker, frees up valuable oven time.

Mashed Potatoes- Again, no recipe to speak of. I use Yukon Golds, peel, cut in small chunks, put in a pot of cold water and boil till soft. I mash them up with some roasted garlic, melted butter, heavy cream, salt and pepper to taste. Wa-La! Yum. One day I will have to write up these recipes but I am too busy planning now. ;)

Roasted Asparagus- I chop off the ends, put in a ziplock with olive oil and kosher salt and toss. Lay them out on a baking sheet and roast at 400 till done. Usually somewhere around the 10 minute mark.

Corn Bread- I am trying a new recipe this year, it looks good.

My Dad is making a port wine cranberry sauce.

For dessert, two pies. One I have made before and it is amazing and one new one I chose to help me not waste some ingredients....

So here is my plan-


Move Turkey to fridge


Move Turkey to counter at 11
11:30 Roast Garlic
12:30pm Make Turkey (4 hours?) eat at 5, so start cooking at 12:30
12:40pm Stuffing in crock pot
prep ingredients for corn bread
Prep Pies
3pm Serve cheese and crackers and lobster rolls at 3.
4:00 prepare corn bread
prepare potatoes
4:30ish Take Turkey Out
bake corn bread
make mashed potatoes
make gravy
carve turkey
corn bread out
Roast Asparagus
bake two pies
eat dinner while pies bake
take pies out and serve

Could I do more in advance? Yes, I could. And some years I have. This year I am looking forward to spending the day cooking and eating things fresh and hot. I am having a small group this year, of people I see all the time, and I dont feel as much need to socialize. Plus, people will gather in the kitchen and cook with me. It seems like the right plan for this year. I will let you know how it goes.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Meatballs and Mayhem

S. had strep and has been home for two days. N. is grouchy and crabby. Today, they go back to school. You would think I would be happy, but I have to go to the dentist for two fillings and to have my crown replaced (apparently the old dentist did it wrong, surprise surprise.)
I do have a new Blackberry which I am hoping to have up and running by tonight so that makes me smile. Oh and last night we had yummy meatballs. I have always struggled with meatballs. Too tough, too small, too big, not cooked enough, cooked too much, no flavor, too spicy... you get the idea. You know, I am Jewish, my mother never cooked. She made Shake and Bake and TV Dinners. And when Weight Watchers started making frozen meals, we were immediate converts. So Italian cooking is a bit of a stretch for me. But I have tried. And yesterday a friend of mine mentioned "Fried Meatballs" and how it is an all day event for her, but everyone loves them. I would have asked for the recipe, but I don't do all day cooking. I needed an easier version. So I read a million recipes, watched a few videos, and I am pretty happy with the result...

Not a Whole Day Meatballs and Easy Sauce

2 pounds ground beef (I used sirlion, because I usually do)
2 eggs
1 onion diced
1/2 cup bread crumbs
1/4 cup skim milk
handful of dried parsley and basil mixed together
1 t Janes mixed up salt
3 T of butter (softened)
2 T olive oil
1/4 cup beef broth
1 large can tomato sauce
1 large can crushed tomatoes with basil garlic and oregano

Heat up pan and add a bit of the olive oil. Saute the chopped onions until soft and translucent.

Set onions aside to cool.

Put the bread crumbs an a small bowl, add the milk, stir and set aside.

In a large bowl, beat the 2 eggs, add the meat, the Parsley, Basil, Mixed up salt and or any spices you might like. Then add the wet bread crumbs, the cooled onions and the softened butter. Mix until combined with your hands. (Don't over mix, it can toughen the meat)

Add the remaning olive oil to your pan and heat. When the pan is hot start rolling ping pong sized meatballs and dropping them in. Shake pan around often to evenly brown the balls and keep them as round as possible. Do not crowd the pan. (It took me a few batches).

When you are done, set aside as many as you want to use in tonights sauce and let the rest cool on the counter. When they are cool freeze in a tupperware. Once they are frozen you can transfer to a ziplock bag and keep in the freezer for another meal. (I add them frozen to sauce and cook them up)

Add a little beef broth to the pan and scrape up the brown bits from the bottom. Then add the cans of tomatoes. At this point you can add a drop of sugar or some spices to taste. Once it is warm and combined and you like the taste, add the meatballs and cook for at least 30 minutes.

I served this with Rotini and a loaf of Italian bread.

It was a nice ending to a difficult day.

Monday, November 16, 2009

A Typical Sunday

The windows are open because we are having a rare warm clear day in New York's November. Paul is outside teaching S. how to mow the lawn and N. is wearing barbie knee and wrist pads and running around pretending to be a super hero on the grass. I am inside, burning my new "Welcome Christmas" candle, watching the food network and making dinner. The menu is a common one for our family, an old standby, Chicken Cutlets, pasta with butter, and peas.

Chicken Cutlets and Pasta

6 thin sliced chicken breast cutlets
1 cup seasoned bread crumbs
1 egg
1/2 cup water
2 T Olive Oil
1 t mixed up salt (I use Janes)or other seasoning
1 pound pasta (any shape)
3 cloves of Garlic, minced
1/3 C fresh grated Parmesan cheese ( I use my micro plane to grate this right into the pasta)
A few pinches of Fresh Parsley, chopped fine.

Season the chicken cutlets on both sides.

Beat egg and water together.

Dip chicken in egg wash and then in bread crumbs.

Heat olive oil in large skillet on a medium flame.

Cook breasts a few minutes on each side until lightly browned. Take out and rest on paper towels to de grease.

Meanwhile I prepared the Dittalini Pasta (Small tubes) on my pasta pot until al dente.

To the skillet I add a spoon full of Pasta water and scrape up the browned chicken pieces. Then I add about 2 T of butter, a sprinkling of the mixed up salt, and three cloves of minced garlic.

When this is all combined, I add the pasta and cook for another minute or two.

Top with fresh grated Parmesan Cheese and parsley.

I made steam fresh peas to go with it.

It was really good, and my kids eat it for dinner and the next day for lunch. Sometimes I double the chicken and freeze some for quick weeknight dinners, this time I didn't.

I wrote the above yesterday, today, things have shifted. S. is home sick after the nurse called me to pick her up. I had just finished my food shopping and bought soup greens to make stock for Thanksgiving. So, instead of that, the chicken soup is bubbling on the stove while my feverish girl watches the Jungle Book in her pink Snuggie.

Maybe soon I will take a break from my plan of cleaning up and read her a whole chapter book at once. Maybe...

Friday, November 13, 2009


So, the chicken was good. I could have cooked it a bit longer to be honest, but it was good. N. liked the outside crispy part and S. liked the asparagus the best, but did eat some chicken. I need to buy more asparagus and start sending it in her bento lunches. She loves it. We need to get away from the turkey bologna every day. I don't even want to know what is in that. It scares me.

But on to today's topic... entertaining for cocktails. The children are sleeping at Grandma and Grandpa's on Saturday and we have dinner plans with friends. We are going to a new Sushi place in town that looks just wonderful and has received rave reviews. I invited them here for cocktails first. Sounded fun, until I realized that I have no idea what that means! My parents and grandmother have people over for cocktails, not me. I don't even drink much.

So I looked up some recipes and found this...

So I bought what I needed and I will be making Red Lotus Cocktails. I have red wine, white in the fridge, and beer. I also reviewed my notes of how to make a cheese plate. I think I got the info from Ina Garten but I am not sure. I got a strong creamy Blue, a sharp Gruyere, and a soft Italian cheese which is sort of like Brie, but Italian. The man at the cheese counter at my favorite market was very helpful and let me taste everything. I got three different kinds of bread/ crackers and a bunch of concord grapes for garnish. I also picked up a small assortment of stuffed olives. So, Italian/ Asian fusion? I am going with it.

Do you do cocktails? It is old fashioned of me? Wish me luck. I have never even used my shaker.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Jumping In

I am trying to savor the moments. Treasure the time. Be aware and awake and involved. My children are growing up so fast and life goes so fast. S. is 6 and N. is 3, almost 4. My house is completely renovated and looks just as I always dreamed it would. My body is on it's way to being the way I have always wanted it to be. (I have lost 50 pounds this year after Lap Band Surgery and a lot of hard work.) My husband P. has a job that makes him happy (something I don't take for granted now a days.) I have wonderful friends, an amazing, close family, and in short, a life I need to value and notice and honor.

I cook and bake a lot, so I expect that this blog will be a way for me to share my recipes with you. I entertain often, so I plan to use this blog as a way to plot out menus and plans. And I spend a lot of time doing my primary job which is mothering. So I suppose I will mother out loud a bit as well.

What's on the menu tonight? Chicken drumsticks, asparagus, and perogies. I am trying to get away from processed food as much as I can (much more on that in the future, I promise) and my children like dark meat chicken. Sometimes. I just can't keep doing the nuggets and turkey hot dog routine to get protein in them. So, they don't like the skin, they don't like the breading if it is thick, but if it doesn't look good... they wont give it a chance. It's a challenge. So for today..

Breaded Chicken Legs

10 drumsticks
1/2 C Bread Crumbs
1/2 C Parmesan Cheese
2 tablespoons chicken seasoning (I use the roasted garlic and herb mix)
1/4 C White Whole Wheat Flour
2 eggs
1/2 C Skim Milk
1/4 C Salt (I will explain this, I promise)

First I soak the chicken legs in cold water mixed with 1/4 cup of salt. This helps to get some of the blood out of the bones, so it doesn't show up on the final product.

Then I cut the skins off all of the drumsticks.

I dry the drumsticks and dip them in the two eggs beaten and mixed with the milk. ( I used a Pyrex and dipped then in one at a time)

Then a drop them 3 at a time into a zip lock loaded up with the remaining ingredients (Flour, bread crumbs, parmesan and seasoning) Shake them around to coat.

Put the drums in a baking dish and bake at 350 for 30 minutes, turn over and bake again for 30 more minutes or until done.

I will update and let you know how it goes...

For now, welcome to my kitchen counter, have a lovley afternoon.