Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Thanksgiving highlights

Well, I didn't have these pictures ready when I made my T-Day post, but here are a few shots now, long after the fact.

The turkey was perfectly browned and very juicy.

Here are those chocolate peanut butter chip cookies I was talking about in the previous post.

This is a bowl from our china set, prior to being stuffed with mashed potatoes.

The requisite green bean casserole.

The steamy, yeasty rolls.

Nothing beats homemade turkey gravy. This was amazing.

Our silver, set next to our china. Enlarge the picture for the detail. Jess chose this pattern and it's lovely.

Moving the stuffing from the bird to the bowl. This is my favorite part of the entire dinner. (Eating it, not moving it, silly.)

Bernice can always be found where there is food.

Anal listmaker than I am, and absent-minded as I am when I am under stress cooking such a big meal, I have a timeline for my dinner that I use every year. My sister-in-law found it humorous. She doesn't do the cooking at her house - maybe that's why.

And after it's over, I can finally relax a little. Do I look tired?!


I don't know what it is, but I just can't get into the holiday candy- and cookie-making groove this year. It's usually necessary to begin well before Thanksgiving...but I just couldn't. For more than a week, Thanksgiving dinner was all I could think obsess about. Sure, there are a few more weeks before the holidays. But the problem is, we'll be seeing him on Saturday, and I need to have a variety of stuff made for his goodie box!

I kind of got started two days before Thanksgiving. I made a batch of chocolate cookies with peanut butter chips. They turned out insanely good...better than they should have. As a result, a lot of them got devoured on Thanksgiving Day, and Jess took some in to work for his department's "leftovers luncheon" the day after. So there weren't that many left.

On Sunday, Jess offered to work on one of his contributions and he made a batch of cashew brittle. It turned out very nicely. I made a batch of hot pepper peanut brittle, and it was also delicious. But nut brittles and chocolate cookies wouldn't be enough. Especially when he knows I make a lot more than those.

So a couple of nights ago, I made the centers for my chocolate-covered coconut candies. And then I made a batch of cookie dough for my gingered oatmeal-raisin cookies. But I was too tired to bake the cookies that night, so I refrigerated the dough to make them up later. And I was too tired to dip the chocolates, so I refrigerated the centers to make them up later.

Tonight, I baked the cookies, but I'm still not motivated to dip the coconut chocolates. Shit. Besides that, we still need to make fudge, cashew clusters, peanut clusters, cherry bon bons, and chocolate mints. How will we pull that off by Saturday afternoon? The nut clusters and fudge are easy enough, but the bon bons, mints, and dipped chocolates are a pain.

We're going to be very, very busy for the next two days.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Turkey Day

Well, I have recovered enough from Thanksgiving to blog about it. We had Jess' family over for dinner, a total of eight adults, two kids, and one baby.

For starters, I began my prep for the day on Monday, as I usually do. I bought a fresh Bell & Evans turkey from the local Italian market and brined it for 6 hours on Monday night. After brining, I rinsed it, dried it thoroughly, and then put it in the small fridge downstairs to dry out for the next three days. I prepared cookie dough for the chocolate cookies with peanut butter chips. Jess cleaned house and shampooed the carpets.

Tuesday night, I made the dough for rolls, and put together the pumpkin torte (I don't like pumpkin pie, but pumpkin torte is fab!) Jess cleaned bathrooms & sorted and threw out mail (if you only knew how much junk mail we get, you would know what a job it is).

Wednesday night, I made the sweet potatoes with pears and apples, and made the green bean casserole, and baked the cookies. I usually don't like green bean casserole, so I went onto to find a version I might. It called for making the mushroom mixture and the bread crumb mixture from scratch. Sounded like a good idea. Jess did more house cleaning and vacuuming.

Thursday morning, Jess cleaned and organized like crazy and I went to work in the kitchen. I started the turkey, put together the stuffing (I made a LOT so I would have leftovers) and boiled the potatoes.

I make a great stuffing, if I do say so, and I make it from scratch. Jess always likes the stuffing from the bird, because it's moister and tastier than the stuff made in the pan. But the bird doesn't hold that much stuffing, so most of it must go in the pan. For the stuff that goes in the pan, I used extra chicken broth and butter to make up for the turkey juices, and less egg. It worked terrifically. I also add cooked chicken (rotisseried chicken from the market works great) to it, as well as craisins for a sweet and salty combo. I also used fresh sage and rosemary in addition to powdered, which really made a big difference in the brightness of the flavors. It turned out so amazing this year that I will probably not be able to perfectly duplicate it, but I am going to try!

For most meals, there's always something that isn't that great, but to my surprise, everything was delicious. The turkey was so juicy, and the skin so crispy that it crackled with crunchiness on the outside and dribbled moisture on the inside. Coated in the fresh herbs and kosher salt, it was outstanding. I am not a big turkey fan because the dark meat is too strong-tasting and the white meat is too dry. But this turkey had neither issue.

The stuffing was amazing, and covered in gravy, was totally outrageous. As Brooklyn Bitch would say: So. Fucking. Amazing.

When I asked Jess' niece what she liked best, she thought about it for a minute and said, "Everything!" She's usually picky about what she likes, but when I cook, she usually likes whatever I make. She told me that there's almost always something that she doesn't like when she eats away from home, but that she always likes coming to our house because everything is always good. I was very happy with that compliment - her mother is a very good cook.

When Jess' nephew tasted the pumpkin torte, his remark to his mother was, "Do you know how to make this?" She replied, "No," and his immediate comeback was, "Learn how. This is so much better than pumpkin pie." Ah, my job is done.

All in all, wonderful. I think it was about the best Thanksgiving meal I have ever made. I wouldn't waste my time on the green bean casserole again. Sorry, Christopher Kimball. You are usually right on target, but I found your casserole to be overly garlicky, too onion-y, and just not great. I'll stick with my regular green beans or make them like my good friend Brad makes them (with water chestnuts, dill and red bell peppers). I also decided I would not use Hodgson Mill yeast again. The past two times I have used it, my bread has come out on the verge of I will stick with Fleischmann's.

How was your Thanksgiving?

Sunday, November 18, 2007


You know, there's nothing better than home, in spite of the fact that you've just returned from the most relaxing, closest-to-perfect vacation ever (more about that during the week...probably after T-day). We enjoyed such a good time with the cousins, and then on Catalina and in La Jolla.

Even though the weather was gorgeous at 69 degrees most every day in the San Diego area, it was wonderful to return to the chilly temperatures that have finally changed the tree leaves to spectacular shades of crimson, maroon, mulberry, tangerine and gold. And it was nice to see green in more areas than just small patches here and dry as it was there, it's easy to understand how the recent fires moved so quickly. The whole place is a tinder box. Even though the beds at two of the three hotels were very nice, the bed is just nicer at home (and after a long red-eye flight, we hopped in the minute we got home...aaahhhh). Even though our cousins' dogs were lots of fun, it was more fun to get home to our own dogs, who were thrilled to see us.

Vacation is always nice, and this one was beyond description. But being home with my baby is the best! Have a wonderful Thanksgiving, everyone. We'll be cooking and cleaning like mad the next three nights.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

On vacation

So, no blogging this week to speak of...we're on vacation in southern California, where the weather is spectacular every day. We flew in on Friday night and attended a bar Mitzvah on Saturday in San Diego. Monday, we drove to Long Beach for the ferry ride to Santa Catalina Island, twenty-six miles off the California coast, and are staying in the most spectacular bed & breakfast I have ever seen. It's at the top of Mt. Ada and overlooks Avalon Bay. It's called The Inn on Mt. Ada. Visit their site to see the house; I will also post pictures when we return. Not only is the view amazing, the accommodations are too, and the food easily topped any we found in the village.

We have to leave tomorrow to go to La Jolla. I'm a little bummed. I love this place more than about any place I have ever vacationed. Anyway, that's all for now. More to come when we return.

Saturday, November 03, 2007

Okay, I promised...

I promised I would give the recipe for my crab cakes, and so here it is. I also promised another recipe, but it will have to wait...too busy today to blog for more than a minute. Pinknest expressed some skepticism over fried vs. broiled. Believe me, these are terrific without being fried!

Fresh crab is best, but if that's not available, canned crab meat can be used - however, I only recommend the canned crab meat that's in the refrigerated section (I personally like Byrd brand - they have an all-claw meat version).

Fabulous Crab Cakes

1 pound crab meat, in chunks (do not shred)
1 1/2 tablespoons dry bread crumbs
2 teaspoons chopped fresh parsley, optional
salt and pepper to taste
1 egg
1 1/2 tablespoons mayonnaise
1/2 teaspoon ground dry mustard
ΒΌ c. chopped scallions
1/8 c. chopped red bell pepper (finely chopped)
1 T Old Bay Seasoning
1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
1 dash hot pepper sauce

Preheat oven broiler. Mix together crab meat, bread crumbs, parsley, seasoning, salt and pepper. Beat together egg, mayonnaise, hot sauce and mustard. Combine with other ingredients and mix well. Form into patties (use a 2/3 cup measure, and flatten slightly with fork) on a lightly greased broiler pan or baking sheet. Broil for 10 to 15 minutes, until lightly brown.