Thursday, September 27, 2012

Roasted Turkey and a full freezer

The boys were successful hunting.  They brought home two moose, which is plenty of meat for the 5 of them that went out.  My brother took a couple of coolers full of meat, and we'll send a cooler down to Dan from Georgia, then divide the rest between my oldest son, who lives in town, my brother in law and us.  We will send some down to the kids in the states, but they really don't have a lot of freezer space and it is so expensive to ship, but they like having a little moose in their freezer to remind them of home and feed to their friends.

Needless to say, our freezer is very full with meat right now.  I'm down to two containers of chicken stock and won't be able to make and store some any time soon.

We also had two turkeys, yes two, left over from last November.  The grocery store I shop at gives a free turkey for every $100 or so you spend, so I shop in small increments those two weeks they run that special.  We usually have one at Thanksgiving, one on New Year's Day and donate the rest to the food bank.  For some reason this year we did not get them donated and they sat in a cooler on the back deck for a couple of days until Dave decided they had started to thaw and we needed to cook them.  So we cooked two turkeys.  One we (meaning Dave) deep fried, and one we (meaning me) roasted.  We invited friends over to have dinner with us and we wouldn't let them leave without bags of turkey.

We will have turkey sandwiches, and I'll make some soup with turkey, I'll also freeze bags for my lunch.  Did I mention that Dave doesn't like turkey?  Yea, I'm going to eat a lot of turkey in my lunch for a while.

Perfect Roasted Turkey

1 turkey, rinsed, cleaned and stuff in the cavity removed (you know the neck and that stuff)
1 onion
2 stalks celery
1 lemon
1 bunch fresh thyme
3 Tbsp. butter
1 cup chicken stock

Turkey Gravy
2 cups broth from roaster after turkey is cooked
2 Tbsp. butter
2 Tbsp. all-purpose flour

Preheat the oven to 400ºF.

Rinse the turkey and clean the bits of feathers that always get overlooked.  Make sure the cavity is empty (some people save this for gravy, I don't).  Place turkey, breast side up, in a roasting pan.  Gently slide your hands between the skin and the breast meat.  Place pats of butter under the skin.  Salt and pepper the turkey inside the cavity and on the skin.

Cut the onion in half and peel, chop celery into 3-4 inch long sticks, and quarter the lemon; place in the cavity of the turkey, add the bunch of thyme.  Pour 1 cup stock into bottom of roasting pan.  Cover turkey with foil and place in oven.  Roast for 1 hour, turn oven down to 350 and roast for about 10-13 minutes per pound, or until thermometer inserted into thigh registers 165ºF.  During the last 2 hours, remove the foil and bast with broth from the roaster.

When turkey is cooked, remove from oven and place turkey on platter, cover with foil to rest for 20 minutes.  Strain broth from roaster, cool slightly and skim fat from top.

To make gravy:
Melt butter in a medium sauce pan over medium heat.  When butter is melted and stops foaming, sprinkle in flour, stir until flour is incorporated into the butter.  Let cook, stirring frequently, until a golden brown color.  Whisk in two cups turkey broth that has been strained and de-fatted.  Bring to a boil to thicken.  Taste and add salt and pepper to adjust seasoning.

I always start my turkey a little early, it can rest more than 20 minutes if you need it to.  On big holidays, I'll let it rest, have Dave carve it, refrigerate it and reheat it just before the meal.  Don't ever leave your turkey at room temperature move than 1 hour (I think if you google it, experts will say 2 hours, but why risk it?).

The ratio of the gravy is easy to adjust it is just one Tbsp. of flour and butter to every cup of liquid.  Cook the flour and butter so it is a nice toasty brown to remove that raw flour taste.

September 27, 2012     Daylight 11 hours, 40 minutes, 24 seconds     Temp  43º F

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Soup and Sandwich Night, Roasted Tomato Soup

O.K., so football season doesn't officially start until after the Yankees win the World Series or they are eliminated from the play-offs, but they do have these games on t.v. that Dave always wants to watch.  Our t.v. is upstairs and we don't, as a rule, eat in front of the t.v., except for Mondays during football season (Dave is trying to get Thursdays in too but so far I've resisted).

Dave is back from moose camp (they were successful with 2 moose this year), so Monday night football officially started at our house.  I usually fix soup and sandwiches for dinner on Monday during football season, it is warm, it is filling, and with the sandwich, Dave will put up with soup for dinner.  To start our season off, I'm using the last of the red tomatoes from the greenhouse for the soup.  Along with the regular sandwich, I've made grilled cheese croutons.  The sandwich has to have meat so I'll make a meatloaf sandwich with some left-over meatloaf, and cook it on the sandwich press.

I tend to fix the same soup and sandwich combo over and over.  I'd love to hear from you on your favorite combos and I'll try them out on the picky-eater (Dave).  Thanks for your help!

Roasted Tomato Soup

  • 2 1/2 pounds fresh tomatoes 
  • 6 cloves garlic, peeled
  • 2 small yellow onions, sliced
  • 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 quart chicken stock
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • 3/4 cup heavy cream
Preheat oven to 450 degrees F.
Wash, core and cut the tomatoes into halves. Spread the tomatoes, garlic cloves and onions onto a baking tray. Drizzle with 1/2 cup of olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Roast for 20 to 30 minutes, or until caramelized.
Remove roasted tomatoes, garlic and onion from the oven and transfer to a large stock pot. Add 3/4 of the chicken stock, bay leaves, and butter. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for 15 to 20 minutes or until liquid has reduced by a third.
Wash and dry basil leaves, if using, and add to the pot. Use an immersion blender to puree the soup until smooth. Return soup to low heat, add cream and adjust consistency with remaining chicken stock, if necessary. Season to taste with salt and freshly ground black pepper. 

Grilled Cheese Croutons

Do you really need a recipe?
2 slices bread
shaved Parmesan cheese

Butter bread on both sides, lay one slice bread on hot pan top with cheese,top with second piece of bread. Grill until golden brown, turn over, grill second side until golden brown (you want it toasted a little more than you usually would want).  Place on cutting board, cut into cubes.  Place on top of soup, garnish with shaved parmesan, if desired.

September 25, 2012     Daylight  11 hours, 53 minutes, 40 seconds     Temp. 48º F

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Pecan Crispies

Our friends and back door neighbors moved.  They pulled out yesterday, after a tearful goodbye and headed to a new adventure in Colorado.  They took their twin girls, our dogs are very sad.

I am happy for them (no, really I am, really).  A great opportunity waits for them in Colorado and they will be in the real world.  Mark really missed the real world, and an Alaskan winter is hard on a person.  Suzanne, with her ever cheerful smile and positive attitude, is a treasure.  I'll miss her sense of humor, her willingness to try new things, and her bold approach to every situation.

So, I'm feeling a little sorry for myself today.  When I look out the kitchen window, the backdoor house is dark, curtains pulled, waiting for new occupants.  The weather is cold, overcast and gloomy, like me.    I decided to cheer myself up and make cookies.  So I did, and I'm stuffing my face with cookies and feeling sorry for myself.  I need to straighten up, Suzanne would not approve.

Pecan Crispies
1 c. butter
1 c. firmly packed brown sugar
1 c. granulated sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp. vanilla
1 1/2 c. all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
2 c. quick cooking oatmeal
1 1/2 c. crispy rice cereal
1 c. finely chopped pecans, toasted

In a large bowl cream butter and sugars until fluffy.  Add eggs and vanilla, beat until smooth.  In a small bowl, combine flour, baking soda, and baking powder.  Add dry ingredients to creamed mixture. Stir in oats, cereal, and pecans.  Shape dough into four 8-inch long rolls.  Wrap in plastic wrap and chill 2 hours.

Preheat oven to 325ºF.
Cut dough into 1/2 inch thick slices.  Place 2 inches apart on greased baking sheets.  Bake 10-15 minutes or until bottoms are lightly browned.  Transfer to wire rack to cool.
Makes about 4 dozen

September 20, 2012     Daylight 12 hours, 26 minutes, 48 seconds     Temp. 53ºF

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Happy Birthday with Walnut-Carrot Cake

September is a busy month in our office, school has started and we have three birthdays.  That leaves two of us to plan.  Anita, being the smart one of the two (me, being the other), thought we should order lunch and then have cake and ice-cream.  She is brilliant!

I made the cake, a walnut carrot cake.  The carrots were fresh from the garden.  It is a moist, rich cake topped with a cinnamon cream cheese frosting.  I had to stop myself from eating all the left over frosting, after I ate about a half a cup with a spoon, I did finally stop myself, only because I promised myself I would make cinnamon rolls later this week and use the left over frosting on them...can't wait.
Use the small holes on your grater to make fine shreds for cake and muffins, like on the left.
Use the large holes on your grater for salads, like on the right.

I do feel very righteous when I eat carrot cake.  Carrots are a vegetable and the cream cheese frosting is cheese so full of protein!  You can't go wrong with veggies and protein.  I hope you enjoy.

Carrot Cake with Cinnamon Cream Cheese Frosting
adapted from Back in the Day Bakery Cookbook

2 c. all-purpose flour
2 tsp. baking powder
2 tsp. baking soda
2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp. nutmeg
1 tsp. salt
1 1/4 c. canola oil
4 large eggs
1 c. granulated sugar
1 c. packed dark brown sugar
1 tsp. vanilla extract
4 c. finely grated carrots
1 cup chopped walnuts

Preheat oven to 350ºF.  Butter two 9" round cake pans.  Line the bottom with parchment and butter parchment.  Lightly dust the pans with flour, tapping the pans to shake out the excess.

Sift together flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt; set aside.

In large mixing bowl, combine oil, eggs, both sugars, and vanilla and whisk until the mixture looks light and pale in color.  Fold in the flour mixture in thirds until just combined.  Gently fold in the carrots and walnuts until thoroughly combined.

Divide batter evenly between the prepared pans and smooth the top with a spatula.  Tap the pans firmly on the counter top to remove any air bubbles from the batter.

Bake 40-50 minutes, until the center of the cake springs back a little when touched and a cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean.  Let cool for 20 minutes, them remove the cake from the pans and transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

To assemble the cake, level the tops of one of the cake layers with a serrated knife.  Place it cut side down on a serving platter.  Spread the top of the layer with frosting.  Place the second cake layer on top, right side up, and frost the top and the sides with frosting.  Decorate top or sides with chopped walnuts.

Cinnamon Cream Cheese Frosting
8 Tbs. butter (1 stick), softened to room temperature
2 8-oz. packages cream cheese, softened to room temperature
1 Tbsp. vanilla extract
1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
5-6 cups confectioners' sugar

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter, cream cheese, and vanilla until smooth and creamy.  Gradually add the cinnamon and confectioners' sugar, beating until light and fluffy.

September 18, 2012     Daylight 12 hours, 40 minutes, 4 seconds     Temp. 52ºF

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Frost and Soup

Well, there is no denying it now, winter is on the way.  It frosted twice last week and my plants are worse for it.  Time to pull the zucchini, the last of the (now slimy) flowers and the tomatoes.  I'll put all the green ones in a box with a  banana so they will ripen.  I'll dig the potatoes, pull the carrots and leeks and clean up the last of the plant litter in the garden until next spring.  It is a very sad thing and sort of depresses me.
Oh, my poor zucchini plants, lost in the first frost.

Dave is in moose camp (no moose so far) and this is my chance to cook things I like and he won't eat.  One of those things is ham and bean soup.  I love the smell of the soup as it simmers away, the warm smell it fills the house with.  I love a warm bowl of soup for dinner after a long day.  Dave doesn't agree with the idea of "soup can be dinner" attitude, he wants something with it.  So while he is gone, I'll have soup a couple of times, then freeze the rest in serving size containers for my lunch.

I love it when Dave is in moose camp.

***Post Script
I put this soup together in the morning before work, turned on the crock pot and knew I was in for a treat, all my own, for tonight.  About  2:00 Dave called and said he was on his way to town with meat for the butcher (they got a moose, so disregard the "no moose so far" comment above).  I started to laugh and said, "Guess what's for dinner."  Dave answered, "I don't care as long as it isn't bean soup."
Can you believe it.  He can make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, I'm having soup.
One pound of cranberry beans before soaking.

One pound of cranberry beans after soaking in water overnight.

Ham and Bean Soup
adapted from how my mom made it

1lb. dry beans, I used cranberry beans this time, use what you like
1 Tbsp. olive oil
1 onion
2-4 ribs celery
2 carrots
1 clove garlic
8 cups chicken broth
2-4 cups of diced ham, use what you have left-over or in the freezer

Rinse and check beans for stones, place in large bowl and cover with water leaving about 2-3 inches of water over the top of the beans.  Soak overnight.
In the morning, rinse beans.  Bring 8 cups chicken stock and beans to boil, boil 5 minutes.  Meanwhile, chop onion, celery, and carrots.  Heat pan and add olive oil, saute onion, celery and carrots for about 5 minutes until they begin to soften, add garlic and cook 1 minute more.  Add vegetable mixture to crock pot.
After beans have boiled for 5 minutes, add to crock pot with vegetable mixture, add diced ham.  Cover and cook 6-8 hours on high until beans are tender.

Use what ever beans you like, navy kidney, cranberry, or a mixture.
Sometimes I buy the mixed bag of bean soup, but throw away the "flavor packet" that tastes gross
I had the butt of a small ham Dave used for sandwiches that I chopped and added, and I had about 1.5 cups of shredded pork in the freezer I also used.

September 13, 2012     Daylight 13 hours, 13 minutes, 17 seconds     Temp. 49ºF

Thursday, September 6, 2012

New Lights

My brother putting together the lights in my "studio" (my daughter's old room)

If you have noticed the sunlight at the bottom of the posts, you see we are losing light quickly, about 6 and a half minutes a day right now.  Considering my very limited knowledge of how to use my camera (the guy who posted that he gives classes never called back like he said he would), and the fact that I live in a dark hole, I purchased some lights!  Now my pictures will still be bad, but they won't be dark.

My brother is in town from Kansas to go moose hunting with my husband.  He came in on Sunday morning and was headed to camp on Tuesday.  I treated him to some wonderful Alaskan experiences.  I took him to walk the boreal forest train at Creamer's refuge and we walked through Pioneer Park aka Alaskaland to all of us who know.  We had a little extra time, so he put together my lights, they came in 457 pieces all the way from Alabama.
Now, I just need the photography guy to call me back...
My new lights put together and ready for the next picture.  We'll see if it makes a difference!
September 6, 2012     Daylight 13 hours, 59 minutes, 56 seconds     Temp. 63ºF

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Banana Crunch Muffins

It is kind of funny how we use schedules to form a structure around our lives.  Monday is clean the bathroom day, Tuesday is Taco night, Friday is movies and pizza...  We need that stability, that sameness for us to feel connected and in control.
In control, ha!  My friend, Donna says "Dogs, children and husbands are God's way of reminding us we are not in control."  Boy is that ever true.

It isn't like I have control issues or anything (O.K. anyone who knows me can stop laughing right now). Well, maybe I do, just a little.  And I do like sameness, routine, and the illusion that I can control it all and always look good and have my lipstick perfectly applied.  I know the reality of it all is that I am in control of nothing, and slapping on some Dr. Pepper chapstick doesn't count.

Part of my routine, my sameness, is having Muffin Monday in the fall.  I hear the geese leaving town early mornings when I am waking up, Dave heads off to Moose Camp with an assortment of buddies, the yard is put away for the winter, wood is stacked on the side of the house and I begin to bake in the mornings.

I'm starting Muffin Mondays with one of my all time favorites.  It is from Ina Garten's Barefoot Contessa cookbook.  They are moist, fragrant and have a bit of crunch from the granola added to the batter and to the top.  They look as beautiful as they taste and they are the perfect way to get into the Fall routine of muffins.  But I think I'll do something totally bring muffins on Tuesdays instead.

Banana Crunch Muffins
from The Barefoot Contessa Cookbook

3 cups all purpose flour
2 cups sugar
2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 lb. unsalted butter, melted and cooled
2 extra large eggs
3/4 cup whole milk
2 tsp. vanilla extract
1 cup mashed ripe banana
1 cup medium diced ripe banana
1 cup chopped walnuts
1 cup granola
1 cup sweetened shredded coconut
granola for topping

Preheat oven to 350º F.

Line 18 muffin cups with paper liners.  Sift the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt into the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment.  Add the melted butter and blend.  Combine the eggs, milk, vanilla, and mashed bananas, and add them to the four and butter mixture.  Scrape the bowl and blend well.  Don't overmix.

Fold the diced bananas, walnuts, granola, and coconut into the batter.  Spoon the batter into the paper liners, filling each one to the top.  Top each muffin with granola.  Bake for 25-30 minutes, or until the tops are brown and the toothpick comes out clean.  Cool slightly, remove from the pan and serve.

September 4. 2012     Daylight  14 hours, 13 minutes, 18 seconds     Temp.  54ºF