Happy Urkey Day Dear Readers!
May your day be FILLED to the tip-top with joy and love!
Today is a pajama-wearing, sipping and munching-all-day-longing, napping and laughing kind of day.
Be part of the party!
Okay, Dear Readers, it's here. The day before THE day is here. It's time to relax and enjoy the preparations. Yep. RELAX. Thanksgiving is a joyful, no agenda, kind of day so just relax.
This morning I made Apple Cider Donuts, fed the birds, cleaned and refilled the bird baths and stomped about my muddy, mucky garden. I began to poke around and what do you think I found? Carrots! LOTS and lots of carrots! I thought the frost had gotten them but nope, they are glorious! Ugly yes, but glorious. They smell of pepper and sweet earth. I have really missed getting my hands dirty. This unexpected harvest will become part of our Thanksgiving table somehow. I did not plan for them but it's important to be relaxed and open to possibilities in the kitchen. Maybe I will roast them since a roasted vegetable is not currently on my "menu." Yes! Roasting it is!
Now, for today, here is what you could be doing to make tomorrow a bit easier.
1. Prep the turkey for Urkey Day. Remove all the bits inside and place them along with onion, peppercorns, herbs and a little carrots and celery. (You're not making soup so be mindful how many carrots and celery you add.) Cover the whole thing with water, bring to boil and then simmer it a couple of hours. (This will be used in your stuffing and at the bottom of the roasting pan when you roast the turkey. Now, place the bird in the refrigerator to dry until tomorrow morning when you cook him. (I also stuff some paper towels in his butt.)
2. Make pie crusts. Roll out the crusts between sheets of parchment and store them in the refrigerator until your are ready for them. Make any crust decorations and chill those too. Bake any pie crusts that need to be blind baked.
3. My sides are done but if yours are not, do those today. IF you are serving appetizers, have those ready or better yet, assign those to someone else and have some easy back up ready like, GASP, purchased cheeses and/or dips and crackers with dried fruits and nuts.
4. Make and chill the stuffing.
5. Set the table, including all the serving pieces. Make sure the wine(s) are properly chilled.
6. Let everything go. Urkey Day is about giving "thanks" and sharing a meal with people you love. You are ready. You have done all the work ahead of time so you can be part of the party.
Please share any day before THE day tips in the comments section.
Okay, Dear Readers. Up and Adam! Get yourselves in gear and get organizing for the big feast! Now, if you are the "Cooker" of the family, as I am, that means today is the day for the following preparations:
1. Clean (or at least pretend to) your home. Better yet! Get your visiting loved ones (your college kids) to do it for you. (You might as well clean yourself while you're at it. You don't want to smell like a turkey after all.)
2. Clean your kitchen. This is not a negotiable preparation item. The reasons for having a VERY clean kitchen are many; a. You are a better cook in a clean kitchen. b. Cleanliness is next to, well, good foodliness. c. Everyone always gathers in the kitchen so have yours be clean and tidy.
3. Begin preparations for the side dishes such as the mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, green beans, etc. (i.e.) Wash the potatoes and place them in the cooking pot so it's simply add water and boil on Urkey day, savvy?) Realize you need to purchase ingredients for the side dishes! Now that you realize you need ingredients for the the side dishes, MAKE A LIST!!!!! Carry it about your house with you and check your cabinets and refrigerator and freezer for ALL the things you need, not just for Urkey Day but for the rest of week. (Snacks, milk, eggs, etc.) For goodness sake, put "turkey" on your Urkey Day list. Tomorrow at the store will be hideous. Avoid the dreaded "double shop" by having a list. Oh yeah, BRING THE LIST WITH YOU TO THE STORE!!! Take a picture of the list so when you forget the list, you are covered. (I have heard this can be helpful.)
4. Now that you have done your preparations, make certain all these wonderful yummies (you are about to purchase and make) can fit in your refrigerator! Before anything else, go get your roasting pan and make room for it in the refrigerator, NOW. Trust me, you will thank me later.
5. Purchase wine and meal components TODAY (if possible) so you can prep your turkey at your leisure and avoid all the poor (non-Mary's Kitchen-reading) shmows at the store tomorrow.
6. Make your pie crusts today! (YES! Make the pie crusts! You got this!) If not, purchase a really good pre-made one and don't tell anyone. Prepare your pie fillings today also. I always bake my pies on Urkey Day; after all, it is only once a year.
7. Relax. Have a nice drink. After all, you got your kid(s) to clean your house and you read this blog so even if you are a super busy procrastinator, like me, you're on track for Urkey Day! Yay you!
Please share any Urkey Day preparation tips in the comments section so we can help each other.
Well, Dear Readers, Thanksgiving week has arrived! Our older daughter, Alyssa, is home, I only have a few things to pick up at the store, guests are invited, meal preparation is underway and our daughters and I are going to make Apple Cider Donuts for first time Wednesday morning. Wait. What? I am making more food the week of Thanksgiving? Yep. Not only that. I am making more fattening food the week of Thanksgiving! What the heck! The Thanksgiving meal is really like any other meal, Dear Readers, just more of it. More sides, more main dish, more desserts. So, lets think about it a bit differently. Lets think of Thanksgiving Day as Urkey Day. (That is just Turkey Day, minus the "T.") There now, isn't that a little easier to think about?
To revisit the "more" aspect of Thanksgiving Day, a turkey is just a large, finicky chicken. Most of us have made mashed potatoes before right? (Easy Peasy) For Urkey Day, just make more. Stuffing is little more than bread, stock, onion, meat (if you use it) spices, apple, all mixed together until it tastes like your mother's stuffing right? Right. (Again, easy peasy.) Other sides like green bean, peas, carrots, Brussel sprouts or whatever your family likes are used as decoration around the table. Speaking of decorations, go outside and collect some lovely leaves and scatter them about your table top. Place candles and pretty chargers on your tablecloth-topped table and use cloth napkins. Remember, do ALL this table setting the night BEFORE so it's one less thing to do. (Assign this task to the kids.) I even go so far as to place the serving pieces on the table where I want them so I don't forget anything. YOU are part of the party so make sure you will be part of the party!
Tonight, after work, make the cranberry sauce. (Don't laugh, it's crazy easy to make.) I like orange juice and zest and brandy in mine but browse the internet for a recipe you like. If you have not dried your bread for the stuffing, do that tonight as well. Now, go pour yourself a nice drink and relax; after all, it's only Urkey Day.
So my birthday is coming up. It's the BIG one... The BIG 5-0! Yesterday my husband, Russell, surprised me with a reverse surprise birthday party. What is a "reverse surprise" birthday party? It's when the people come to you, not you to them. We had plans with two of our favorite friends, Deb and Randy, already and soon the doorbell started ringing. It was my dear friend, Warren, fresh from his hip replacement surgery. He had a lovely bottle of Prosecco and I honestly thought he was just in the neighborhood. He wished me a "Happy Birthday" and I said, 'Please, come and join us. Eat!' Deb and Randy said, 'We were the reason to keep you home.' Our daughters knew and it seems everyone I know and love knew too... Thank goodness I was clean! I had NO idea! Zero! Zip! Nada! It took a while to compute these people came for me. Other dear friends, Kris and Vanessa came. Vanessa is opening a new shop next week and is exhausted. They are such dear, dears. Steve and Jamie came with their new son, Max. (I have a crush on Max. I am the ultimate cougar it seems.) Jamie had a very difficult birth and the two are tired so that was a treat to both meet Max and see them. My friend Cindy stopped by and Russ arranged for other out of town dear ones to call, like my friend, Heather, who recently moved to Nevada and my best friend, Claire. (Claire was willing to fly in from California for the weekend too!) I have not had a birthday party since I was 12. I still cannot believe he put all this together... I guess this means I have to be nice to him... NAH!!!!
Well, Dear Readers, the week before Thanksgiving has finally arrived! In fact, the week before Thanksgiving has come and gone. We are sitting, uncomfortably (no doubt) at the "days" before Thanksgiving place holder. Have you started your meal preparations for the "Big Day?" Yes. In all honesty, I have. I have my "Grandma Mary's Apple Pie" filling all made. I have some of the components of my stuffing completed, like the dried bread and ground beef. Our turkey is ordered and ready for pick up Tuesday. I am in the process of compiling the ingredients for Apple Cider Donuts to make with our girls, Alyssa and Mia, on Wednesday. Our company is coming and bringing wine, cheese and a salad. I have the ingredients for my Pumpkin Pie and crust ready to go.... Whew! I can hardly wait to share the scrumptious meal I have planned with my family and friends!
Since, I know and you that I know $hit happens, I thought it best to give you a HUGE tip. A HUGE tip taken from my daily dose of thyroid medication bottle. Please, on Thanksgiving, do the following: Take two bites of turkey by mouth. Aren't you "thankful" you read today's blog? I mean, what if you were thoroughly confused about "how" to consume your turkey? I am happy to help... Certainly, this is not advice you need but it never hurts to spell out the obvious does it? If pill bottles set the "bar" for how intelligent people are in this world; frankly, we are all in a bit of trouble. However, as in ALL things, there is no judging here at Mary's Kitchen, so (just in case) you needed directions, I have provided them. You are welcome, Dear Readers!
Our daughter, Alyssa, is coming home for Thanksgiving today! I can hardly wait! What to do? What to do? Put her to work, of course! She is young and strong. What else would I do? There is the laundry, the mending, the cooking and cleaning. There is the yard work and painting to be done too. Why else do people have children? I personally produced my own private assistant. What am I nuts? OF COURSE I will milk that for all its worth! Why aren't you doing the same?
Ha! Ha! Just kidding! I want to swoop her up and hold her tight. I want to make her favorite dishes and treats and share them with her over tea and tequila. I want to hear her stories of college and college life. Stories about classes and friends and parties and adventures she has had and plans to have soon. I want to breathe her in and just look at her. Alyssa is one of my closest and wisest friends. She is a gift in my life.
Okay! Enough mushy stuff!
I bet, all you Dear Readers out there, impatiently waiting for your child(ren) to grace your homes with their youthful presence for Thanksgiving, feel the same way. I bet you cannot wait to greet them with open arms and just hold them tight and marvel at all the things they are becoming.
Share who's is coming home and how you plan to welcome them in the comments section.
Accidents in the kitchen can happen at any time and under any circumstance. The phone rings, you answer it and get to chatting. You think to yourself, 'Jeez it's great to catch up with Aunt Kay!' Aunt Kay talks about her recent trip to Greece and you tell you about your trip to Greece. You tell Aunt Kay how wonderfully the girls are doing and she talks about how proud she is of them. (This goes on and on.) You click off the phone and make a note in your calendar to set up a Skype chat call so you don't lose touch again...
Doesn't this sound like a lovely bit of reflection? Doesn't it trigger a sweet memory of your own? Doesn't it make you smile to think about reconnecting with a loved one? The feeling of elation and satisfaction when contact with someone we love is re-established is like a sort of high, right? Right! Of course it is, Dear Readers! We are human and we need connection? As humans we also need to eat. I left a detail out of the above story... I left out the detail this reconnection took place during dinner time meal preparation. In fact, this story took place shortly after the carrots were put on the stove to steam until just the perfect amount of crisp-tender was achieved. Because you are an experienced home chef, you added mere teaspoons of water to the steaming pot. Also because you never get distracted, you cranked the burner to "high." Your brilliant plan was to do another small, quick task while the minuscule amount of water in the bottom of the pot came to a simmer. After it reached a simmer (you know this only takes seconds,) your "plan" was to turn the heat down to "low." ALL of this brilliant plan went up in smoke (just like your carrots) once you answered the phone!
To add to the plot, lets just suppose this phone-anwering, carrot-burning-scenario happened on Thanksgiving Day. Lets suppose this just for $hits and giggles... Are you supposing it? (It's really not that difficult.) Distractions happen in the kitchen, Dear Readers. Distractions happen to the inexperienced and the experienced home chef alike. So, what to do? What to do? Have a Contingency Plan! Dah! Really, Dear Readers, what would you do without me? There are of course tips I could provide for "saving" charred food BUT, the best Contingency Plan I will offer you is twofold; 1. DO NOT panic and 2. DO NOT apologize. Stuff happens. It is OKAY! The world will not disappear and your Thanksgiving meal will be great with our without the carrots or beans or whatever it is you burned. Why? Because you remembered to put in the most important ingredient into your meal, love. Your family, friends, guests, whoever, love, value and appreciate YOU. YOU are who they are there for in the first place. The meal is just an added bonus.
Share your "Contingency Plans" for burned food in the comments section.
Okay. Lets start at the beginning. God created the Earth then light. Next came the separation of light from dark. He made the atmosphere and for kicks, the ocean. On the third day, he made the Garden of Eden and on the fourth day, the sun. (Glad about this one in particular.) After the sun, came the fish and birds. (God was a sensible guy, this makes sense. A Thankful nod to Him for birds.) Day Six, he kinda messed up a bit because he created us. (Cut to today, things have gone downhill a bit over the years I think.) Day Seven, God kicked his heels up, grabbed a margarita and admired his work. (Check the bible, this is accurate)
Now, lets jump ahead about a bit. There are two parts of import in this story, at least where Thanksgiving Day is concerned; the part where God created birds and where God created us. We eat birds. It's just that simple. We eat birds with gravy. We in the United States eat one bird in particular on one particular day, lets call him Tom. Tom is a turkey. Tom has no idea about what is going to happen to him, thankfully. So, lets proceed with absolute delicacy so as not to alarm poor Tom. Today's blog only concerns Tom in a roundabout way. Today's blog is about the gravy we slather all over Tom after he is cooked. Today's blog is about chicken. Yep, you read that correctly. Today's blog is about chicken.
Between now and Thanksgiving, any time you roast a chicken, save the drippings. Say what? Yes. Save the drippings; in fact, make extra drippings. 'How am I supposed to do that?' You may be thinking. Well, it's easy, add a little water or stock to the pan when you roast your next chicken. Pour the drippings into a container and refrigerate or freeze them. Repeat the process as much as possible between now and Thanksgiving, scraping off the layer of fat that will build but saving the last layer to flavor the gravy.
On Thanksgiving Day, when you begin roasting Tom, add a bit of water or stock to the bottom of that pan too. The water or stock will both help keep Tom tender and moist and will also be added to your gravy after most of the fat is removed. BIG TIP: Remember there is seasoning in the drippings so make sure your gravy does not turn out too salty.
Do you have any gravy about gravy? Please share your tips in the comments section.
'I would like a gumdrop roof please.'
'I would like chocolate tiles for MY roof!'
'Lets put a snowman outside! OOOO! Better yet! Lets put a Nutcracker outside! They're the bravest!'
I know I'm jumping the proverbial decorating gun a bit but remember, there is no judging here at Mary's Kitchen. The main reason it's not too early is because I am not ready for Thanksgiving. I know, I know. I recently posted a blog about some steps to take to help get ready for Thanksgiving. I'm human and don't have enough good sense to follow my own advice! So. Sue me!
The above snippets of conversation took place over icing sugar, gumdrops, chocolate, nonpareils and gingerbread; piles and piles of gingerbread. When the girls were little, we made gingerbread houses of every sort. (We made plenty that fell down and took extra batches of icing too but that will be our secret.) The older the girls got, the more intricate the houses became. We eventually made two, one for each daughter and it took days (weeks really) to wash out the icing and put away the decorations. We enlisted our dog (who at that time was a little Italian Greyhound named Mariposa) to help mop and she loved it! We always made a little Posie dog who lived in each house. We bought gingerbreadkits and also made homemade gingerbread. Since the house would just sit and collect dust, I usually opted for the kits but one year we made a party out of the baking them homemade. I made lots of house pieces ready for assembly and had our neighbor, with her daughter over and she and Lyssy made and decorated houses to their hearts content. Some of the houses we made were eaten on the spot but each girl made at least one to keep. Happy times...
Do you have a gingerbread house-making memory to share? Please do so in the comments section so we can help each other to distracted from all the things to do before Thanksgiving.
Avid home cook and passionate instructor