November 28, 2013

Happy Thanksgiving!!





























I’ve really been in the Thanksgiving spirit this year and I decided that I really wanted to try my hand at roasting a turkey.  Brad and I contemplated having a friend pre-thanksgiving feast but that would have meant canceling our Christmas party, which we really didn’t want to do.  Still, I REALLY wanted to roast a turkey, and I kept seeing amazing Thanksgiving side dish recipes I wanted to try.  I decided to make Thanksgiving for two (which, by the way, is basically impossible.)

Brad and I settled on a couple of interesting recipes for our Thanksgiving Feast:  Sweet Potato Boats, Acorn Squash with Maple Pecan Butter, and Cranberry Orange Sauce.

This past Sunday while Brad was at work I decided to tackle the feat of Thanksgiving dinner.  I started around 9 a.m. jotting down what temperature each dish cooked at and for how long.  With only one oven I knew it would take specific timing to get everything to finish around the same time.  Once I knew what time to start each of the side dishes I started scouring the internet for directions on how to roast a turkey.

I know, I know, it’s 9:00 a.m. the day I’m going to roast a turkey and I still had no idea how to do it.  However, in my defense, I hadn’t originally planned to make the turkey on Sunday.  I was waiting on directions from a co-worker of mine, who happens to be a great chef, but with the holidays and family / friend gatherings, I didn’t see another time when I would get the chance to roast the turkey.


After browsing various recipes, I found that it was still a few hours before the turkey needed to go in the oven.  I took this chance to make the cranberry sauce, as it was the only dish that could be made early and refrigerated. 

Cranberry OrangeSauce: 

Ingredients:
1 Cup Sugar
1-1/4 Cups Orange Juice
Zest from 1 Orange
1 teaspoon cinnamon
12 ounces Fresh Cranberries
 
Directions:
In a saucepan combine sugar, orange juice, orange zest and cinnamon.  Warm until sugar dissolves.
Add cranberries to saucepan and bring to boil
Reduce heat and simmer for 5 minutes.
Cool, cover and refrigerate
 
The cranberry sauce was quick and easy to make. I put it in the refrigerator and headed to the park with Maggie as I still had some free time before I had to get the turkey started.

When it was finally time to get the turkey out I found that I hadn’t needed to spend time searching for directions, Butterball gives roasting instructions with their turkeys (you’d think I’d have noticed that when I bought it).  I turned the oven on to 325 degrees and coarsely chopped up onion, celery, carrots and garlic, tossing the vegetables with unspecified amounts of salt, pepper, dry rosemary and dry basil.  I then unwrapped my turkey only to read that the first instructions are “find the 2 cavities in the turkey and remove the neck and gizzards.”  (So to clarify: I have to stick my hand up this turkey’s butt and pull out the neck?!?! That is not only gross but degrading to the turkey…I mean you already killed it and then for a kicker you decided to shove it’s head up it’s butt?!”) For starters I couldn’t even find the neck cavity because they cover it with a flap of skin, I was already confused by the directions.  I reach my hand into the one cavity I could find and it sounded something like this “Oh my gosh, oh my gosh, oh my gosh…eeewww, gross, eeewww, eeewww, gross, gross, eeewww.”  I pulled the neck from it’s body and was completely freaked out.  Still there was supposed to be another cavity!  After about a minute of prodding the turkey, I found the skin flap, pulled it back and reached my hand into the neck cavity.  It sounds very similar to pulling out the neck.  Actually, this part wasn’t nearly as bad, because this part was at least bundled in a bag.  Everything after this was a breeze (I mean, how much worse could it get anyway?) Next I patted the turkey dry with a paper towel, put the turkey into a roasting pan, filled the cavities with the chopped vegetables, brushed the turkey with oil and tented foil over the top.  It was about 12:30 PM when I put my turkey in the oven and I was PUMPED!  I was so excited, the hard part was over, now all I had to do was wait while the oven did the rest of the work. 

The next item to go in the oven was the sweet potatoes.  The directions called to start by baking the potatoes for 1 hour at 400 degrees to soften the inner flesh.  As the turkey was baking at only 325 degrees, I figured I would just leave the potatoes in there for longer than called for.  After about 1-1/2 hours I pulled out the potatoes and cut them in half.  As I tried to scoop out the flesh I noticed that some of the potatoes were still quite firm inside so I put them in the microwave for about 5 minutes to finish cooking.  Once the potatoes were soft, I scooped out the flesh and used my beater to mash it along with several other ingredients (see recipe below).  I then put the boats on a baking sheet, filled them with the now mashed sweet potato and topped each boat with the pecan flax crumble topping.



Now came that perfect timing thing I was trying to figure out earlier in the morning.  The sweet potatoes are supposed to bake for 15 minutes, then you add marshmallows and continue baking for 15 minutes (30 minutes total).  The acorn squash calls for it to be cooked for 30 minutes, then another 10 minutes after filling each piece with maple pecan butter (40 minutes total).  Since there was only a 10 minute time difference and I was running short on room in the oven, I decided to place the acorn squash on the same pan as a few of the sweet potato boats.  So, after I cut, seeded and quartered the acorn squash I put it on one of the sweet potato baking sheets, and put both pans on the top rack in the oven.  I turned the oven temperature up to 350 degrees and began to hope that this all worked out.

Still I wasn’t done, I also wanted to make rolls.  The rolls called for baking for 15 minutes at 350 degrees.  When I pulled out the sweet potatoes to top them with marshmallows, I also topped the acorn squash with the maple pecan butter.  I then pushed the turkey to one side of the oven and put one pan of sweet potatoes next to it.  I put the other pan of sweet potatoes (and acorn squash) along with the rolls on the top shelf.

Everything was in the oven and prepared to be finished only 15 minutes after Brad got home from work! I was so proud of myself, I even made time to clean up some of the dishes before Brad got home.  He was really surprised to see everything I had done and I was so pleased that he finished the dishes for me! 

Unfortunately, when the timer went off nothing was done!  The temperature in our oven is off, by what I thought was 25 degrees, apparently it’s more like 50 degrees off.  Also the oven loses heat every time you open it, which was no less than 6 times after I put the turkey in.  I left everything in the oven for approximately 10-20 extra minutes.  The rolls were done, the potatoes were done, the squash was done…to my complete disappointment the turkey was NOT DONE! I had been so excited that I had timed everything just right and it was ruined, the turkey still about an hour to cook.  Fortunately, I have the best and most understanding husband who simply said “It’s okay, we’ll just eat everything else and eat the turkey when it’s done.”

Even though, we had to eat the turkey separately, dinner was AMAZING and I think I have a lot to live up to next year.  Even better, everything is great reheated the next day, and the next, and the one after that which is good because I think we’ll have leftovers in our house for a while.

As it is Thanksgiving here a just a FEW things I’m thankful for:

  • My amazingly supportive husband, who loves me completely and is the only person in the world that can put up with my craziness day in and day out.
  • My energetic puppy Maggie Moose, who can always cheer me up, gets me exercise even in the cold by making me take her for walks, and never leaves my side when I’m sad or sick.
  • My friends, who laugh with me, cry with me, love me, listen to me and at the very least, make amazing memories with me
  • Brad’s friends who have accepted me unconditionally, without question or judgment, and who I am able to consider my own friends
  • My family who love me through thick and thin, who has always been available when I need them most, who hold on tightly even when I try to let go, and who are understanding even when they don’t understand


Have fun, be safe, hug those that are close, and tell someone you are thankful for them.

HAPPY THANKSGIVING EVERYONE!

This veggie turkey is what I made for this year's Thanksgiving Feast with my family!




Ingredients:
4 large sweet potatoes (that are not too curvy)
2 Tablespoons dark brown sugar
2 Tablespoons maple syrup
2 Tablespoons coconut oil, melted
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 eggs
1/4 - 1/2 cup light coconut milk (I used 2% milk instead

Flax Crumble Ingredients:
2 Tablespoons coconut oil (solid)
2 Tablespoons flour
1/4 Cup dark brown sugar
1 Cup raw pecans, chopped
2 Tablespoons unsweetened coconut flakes (or used sweetened and forgo the mini-marshmallows)
2 Tablespoons oats
1 Tablespoon flax seeds (optional)


Directions:
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Poke a few holes in the potatoes and bake for 1 hour or until soft and tender (Or cook your potatoes in the microwave for approximately 10-15 minutes, or until soft)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees
Once potatoes are cooked, cut them in half and allow to cool for 5 minutes
Scoop flesh out of potatoes leaving a thin layer of potato in the skin. Place the skins on a baking sheet
In a medium sized bowl, mash potatoes well.
Add brown sugar, maple syrup, coconut oil, cinnamon and vanilla to potatoes and continue mashing until smooth.
Stir in eggs and ¼ cup milk (add more milk if potatoes are too thick)
Evenly spoon the potatoes back into the potato skins, the filling should be just popping over the skins.
Make Flax Crumble: mix ingredients together with your hands, making sure to coat everything this the coconut oil.
Evenly top sweet potato boats with flax crumble.

Bake for 15 minutes, add marshmallows and return to oven for 15 minutes



Ingredients:
1 acorn squash
1/4 Cup Butter
1/4 Cup Maple Syrup
1/4 Cup Pecans

Directions:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees
Cut the squash in half and remove seeds.
Cut each half in half (end up with 4 pieces of squash)
Place squash in baking dish, skin side down
Bake uncovered for 30 minutes
Mix together butter, syrup and pecans – evenly divide mixture on squash pieces
Continue baking for 10 minutes, or until butter mixture is melted.

November 21, 2013

Professional Hand Model

I love my husband so much. True story. I always see adorable little old married couples walking at the park holding hands and hope to someday be them.  Then, of course, I think of holding Brad’s hand and the image changes to us just walking side by side at the park.  Seriously, when I hold Brad’s hand it's like he’s wearing gloves made out of sandpaper.  He has the driest hands of anyone I know.  You can hear them scratch across my clothing when he touches me.  We've tried about a dozen different kinds of lotion but nothing works.  He lotions his hands every night before bed to no avail. I've suggested that he moisturize his hands more often but he refuses because he doesn't like the greasy feeling the lotion leaves behind.

Pinterest Activate! (It’s like a Superhero Search Engine)

What I like about searching on Pinterest is that you find things that are actually helpful not just articles from the highest paying advertisers.  Pinterest allows you to find things that other people, like yourself, have found helpful. Occasionally you’ll have to sift through junk but it’s mostly helpful and a lot quicker (Seriously:  google “dry hands” then pinterest search “dry hands”.)

What I found made me feel like an idiot.  You know that moment when the answer is so obvious it’s basically smacking you in the face?  Yeah, THAT moment. 

EXFOLIATE THEN LOTION

It makes so much sense after it’s pointed out.  When using the lotion Brad was just moisturizing the dried up dead skin on the top layer of his hands.  The dead skin cells need to be exfoliated away so the lotion can get to the good skin and actually work!

Dry hands? Here’s what you’ll need:
  • Petroleum Jelly
  • Granulated Sugar
  • Lotion

Mix approximately ½ teaspoon of petroleum jelly and 1 teaspoon of granulated sugar in your hands. Then scrub your hands all over with the mixture.  Wash the jelly and sugar from your hands then apply the lotion.  You could probably use this sugar scrub also.

Brad’s hand felt softer almost immediately.  If he would take the time to do this every night there is no telling what a difference it would make, but as they say, “you can lead a horse to water….”

You say you don’t have dry chapped hands?  Here’s another reason we should all be exfoliating our hands before lotioning:  A friend of mine was at the bar and ended up in a conversation with the bartender about not being ID’d.  He told her that it’s not necessarily a person's face that gives their age away.  He said that he can tell whether or not to ID someone by the “age” of their hands.


Maybe George Costanza could still be a hand model after all.





November 12, 2013

No Soup for You!


We took Maggie to the Pumpkin Patch!  She really enjoyed the Corn Maze but wasn't interested in the goats at all (and they didn't much care for her either.)  It was a short visit as it was pretty cold and wet but I bought 5 baking pumpkins, 2 acorn squash, and 1 butternut squash.  I've never cooked with the latter two before but I stumbled upon a couple of recipes that I really wanted to try.


Have you ever cooked with a butternut squash before?


*the following passage is based on true events


I really wanted to try my hand at making a sweet potato / butternut squash soup.  The instructions simply say to peel and cube the butternut squash.  Easier said than done; I was unaware of how hard they really are.  It took me the better part of two hours just to peel and cube this thing.  During our battle the squash managed to get the better of me; I was wounded by the edge of a serrated knife but I battled on.  The squash must pay for it's sins by burning at the stake!  What I didn't know was that the Butternut Squash would not be taken so easily. He gathered all his comrades and together they banded against me.  The oven took the first shot, burning my flesh but I would NOT be defeated.  I sent the squash and it's friends (sweet potato, onion, and carrot) to burn in the fiery blazes of hell!  After 40 minutes of basking in the glory of my hard fought victory, I relieved the squash and his friends of their fate and removed them from the oven.  

The squash was weakened but full of heart.  I dumped the infantry into a bladed torture chamber and started it's gears.  Many men threw themselves to death in an attempt to save their friends, and save their friends they did.  The engine of the chamber gave a roar and smoke billowed from inside.  The battle was lost but the war was not over.  I took to squashing them one by one with my bare hands; it took longer with pulverize them but was so much more satisfying. Then just when the men thought it was over I dumped their remains into a boiling vat and there they sank into oblivion.  



True story.


I started making this soup in the afternoon, while Brad was still at work.  By the time he got home the kitchen was a disaster area and the soup was nowhere near being finished.  I had cut myself with a knife and burned myself on the oven.  Finally, when I thought I had things under control, the blender goes on the fritz and I was left with no way to puree the ingredients.

At the end of the night, we were left with thick, chunky soup, and albeit tasty I just could not get past the texture.


Brad really enjoyed it though.  Other than the one bowl I picked at, he ended up finishing the entire pot.  That is either one REALLY AMAZING husband or a not so awful soup.  I suppose it could be both. 


I honestly doubt that I would ever try my hand at making this soup again, or anything else that requires peeling and cubing butternut squash.  Maybe if Brad did all the chopping I would consider it, but right now the painful memories are too difficult to get past.


However, if you are feeling extra adventurous (or know a secret super easy way of softening butternut squash) you should definitely try making this soup.  I bet it's delicious when the consistency is correct.

You can find the recipe (as well as this photo) at Pretty Good Food.  Let me know how your soup turns out and maybe you can share your secret with me.