Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Thanksgiving Dinner

I made Thanksgiving for myself this year.   Not the first time.  Probably won't be the last.  I don't mind at all. I love cooking.  It's a relaxing day for me.  No pressure.  No worries.

So even though I'm alone, I still put on the full Thanksgiving spread.  Just a little pared down.  Here's my recipes for dinner.

Cranberry sauce

12 oz. fresh cranberries
1 cup orange juice
1/2-3/4 cup white sugar

Put all in a pan and heat to a rolling boil.  Reduce heat to a simmer and simmer until sauce thickens a bit.  Take off the heat, allow to cool and put in a serving dish.  Can be made ahead and chilled.

Sweet Potato Casserole

My favorite part of the meal.

3 whole sweet potatoes, peeled and boiled until soft
1/2 stick butter
1/2 cup orange juice
2 eggs, beaten
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup white or brown sugar (optional)
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg

Whip all with a beater.  Put in a casserole pan.  Cover with topping.  Bake at 350 degrees F for approximately 30 minutes or until thoroughly heated.

Pecan topping
3 tablespoons butter, melted in microwave
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 cup pecans
2 tablespoons all purpose flour

Mix sugar, flour and nuts with butter in a bowl and sprinkle over sweet potatoes.

I do not stuff my bird with stuffing while it roasts.  I make it separately and have never bothered to stuff the bird with it.  I serve it on the side.  I always use Pepperidge Farm sage stuffing and follow the directions on the package except that I also add one can of diced water chestnuts.  Mmmm.  That's good eating right there.

I brine the turkey for approximately 24 hours.
Brine solution:
14-16 lb. turkey
1-2 gallons of water (whatever it takes to cover the bird)
1 cup salt
2 oranges, quartered
2 lemons, quartered
3 sprigs rosemary
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
handful of black pepper corns

To roast the turkey, I've been using Bobby Flay's Roasted Turkey Rubbed with Roasted Jalapeno-Sage-Orange Butter

2 cups orange juice
Zest of one orange, grated
2 sticks unsalted butter, room temp
3 jalapenos, roasted, peeled, seeded
1/4 cup fresh sage (or 1/2 teaspoon dried)
Salt and pepper
and, of course, the turkey

Put the orange juice in a nonreactive pan and bring to a boil over high heat.   Reduce to about 1/2 cup.  Let cool to room temp.  Put the butter, cooled orange syrup, orange zest, japaleno and sage in a food processor and whip until smooth.  Scrape into a bowl.  Make this a day in advance and store it in the fridge.  Bring to room temp before using.

Preheat oven to 450 degrees F.  Remove the innards from the turkey and set aside.  Rinse the bird with cold water and pat dry. Rub the surface of the turkey with 1/2 of the butter.  Season the skin and the cavity liberally with salt and pepper.  Truss the turkey, put in a roasting bag, and place on a rack in a large roasting pan.

Roast the turkey for 30 minutes, then turn the temperature down to 375 degrees and continue to roast for 1.5 hours or until the internal temperature reaches 165 degrees F.  I usually buy a bird with a pop-up thermometer, so I use that as my signal that it's done.  Brush the remaining butter on the bird every 15 minutes.  Remove the turkey from the oven and let rest for 20 minutes before carving.  I generally watch the bird pretty closely and loosely cover the top of the bird if it is getting over browned.

I usually carve in an unceremonious manner.  First I remove the legs and thighs, then I remove both the breasts and pull off the wings.  I slice one of the breasts in thick slices and leave the remaining pieces whole.  I usually go for a thigh.  I like the dark meat.  No pun intended.

After dinner, I go back and start picking the carcass clean and put on a stock pot, dump in the carcass, some celery and carrots and usually a yellow onion, quartered, cover with water, and make some stock.  The stock comes in handy for the leftovers.

Broccoli Casserole

1 large head of broccoli (approximately 5 stems)
1 cup mayo
1 can cream of mushroom soup
1/4 small onion, grated
2 eggs, beaten
Durkee French Fried Onions
1 cup grated cheddar cheese (optional)

Prepare the broccoli. Place broccoli in an oven- and microwave-safe bowl with approx. 2 tablespoons of water and microwave on high for 7-10 minutes.  Remove from microwave.  In a bowl, beat 2 whole eggs.  Add mayo, mushroom soup, cheese and onion to the eggs.  Spoon liquid mixture over broccoli and cover with dried onions.  I skip the cheese because I'm lactose intolerant, but it is very good in the dish.  Bake at 350 degrees F for approximately 50 minutes.

And there you have it.  My Thanksgiving dinner in a single post.   I wish you all the best Thanksgiving you can possible have.   Maybe one day, we'll enjoy Thanksgiving dinner together.

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Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Apple Pie Liqueur

This is delicious.  It's liquid candy with a punch.  I highly recommend it.  Goes well with campfires, holiday parties, and great friends.

Apple Pie Liqueur

1 gallon apple juice (I used 3 cans frozen with 15 cans of water)
1 gallon apple cider
4 cups brown sugar
4 cinnamon sticks
2 tablespoons of allspice berries
4/5 whole cloves
1 teaspoon fresh grated nutmeg
juice of one fresh orange
A fifth (750 ml) Everclear
1/2 fifth (350 ml) Spiced Rum

Place all ingredients except the everclear into a pot and bring to a boil.  Stir well until the sugar melts.  Remove from heat and allow to cool to room temperature, at least 1 hour.

Add the entire bottle of everclear.

Warning:  Everclear is flammable. As in REALLY FLAMMABLE. Do not put this into the pot when it is warm.  Do not use it near an open flame.

FOLKS.  Keep Everclear away from the heat!

Strain the allspice and cinnamon sticks from the liquid and bottle. Place one piece of the stick cinnamon in each bottle. This makes a very, very large batch.  Great for Christmas presents.  Not overly alcoholic.  I would guess it's about 40 proof but I haven't really done the math.

You won't be sorry.

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Great Kitchen Idea: Recipe/Take-out menu holder

If you are like me, when you cook, hanging on to the recipe gets to be a problem.  You lay it down, walk away, clutter the counter tops, and just when you are at that emergency point, you can't lay your hands on the recipe.

Problem solved.

Cost:  About $4.00.

Put it on the back of the cabinet door where I do most of my food prep.  

Then I thought, why not find a good place for those take-out menus while I'm at it!

Problem solved.  Recipe is always where I need it at eye level, never misplaced and in case of spills on the counters, it doesn't get soiled!  Take out menus are always handy!

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Friday, November 9, 2012

Homemade laundry soap - Not a Fan!

** Read to the bottom for my 6 month update**

I've been beyond derelict in getting around to fulfilling those New Year's resolutions, one of which was to explore means of "greening" my life.  So today I decided to try my hand at making my own laundry soap.  I found a recipe online and headed off to the local Rural King in search of various detergents.

It's really very simple to make. One large box of baking soda, another of borax, Arm and Hammer Super Washing Soda, one tub of Oxi Clean, and 3 bars of Fels Naptha soap.

Unwrap and stick the soap in the microwave for 2.5 minutes at half power (it puffs up like a marshmallow).  Then spin the bar soap in a food processor to create soap powder.

Put everything in a 3.5 gallon bucket, mix well and voila.

You use much less of this since there are no fillers.  Each load gets 1-2 tablespoons of soap, depending on its size.  It took minutes to put together, and the cost is about half that of the cheapest liquid laundry detergent on the market.  Here are the figures.

All  Free & Clear Laundry Soap, 150 oz.
Tide 2X Ultra, 150 oz.
Product Cost

 $               11.97
 $            17.97
 $            2.99

Baking soda
 $            3.99

Oxy Clean, 96 oz.
 $            4.00

Arm and Hammer Super Washing Soda
 $            3.24

Fels Naptha Soap (X3)
 $            4.47

 $            1.40
 $                 0.90
 $              1.35
 $         20.09
 $               12.87
 $            19.32
# of Loads
Cost per load
 $            0.08
 $                 0.13
 $              0.21

After using this for a week or so, I've decided that there is too much filler and not enough soap in this.  So I'm going to add two more bars of the Fels Naptha and see if that doesn't improve its performance some.  Check back for more updates!

OK, after using this for a while I have some feedback.  First, unless you wash in hot, hot water, anything but the completely powdered fels naptha soap fails to melt.  Unmelted soap can't do it's job. In fact, even in hot water, I sometimes find little balls of fels naptha soap in the dryer vent screen.  So, I have to say, in many instances, I'm washing my clothes in softened water without soap!  So no, I can't say that I'm a fan of this for everyday use.  I now use it as an additive to my laundry soap.   Softened water does allow the soap to do a better job, but I've returned to using store-bought liquid laundry soap as the main cleaning agent.

And no, I won't be making this again.  I can always add a little washing soda toand borax for much less $$.

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