Saturday, January 12, 2013

They say..

…that a change is as good as a vacation. I don’t know if that’s always true, but I’ve decided to make a change. I’m moving the blog from Blogger to Wordpress.

This, contrary to appearances, isn’t a sudden decision. I’ve been thinking about it for a while now, ever since I started the Postcrossing blog, “It Only Takes a Stamp”. That one is the second blog I have with Wordpress (along with “In Ev’s Kitchen”) and I’m finding that I really like the interface.

This will be the final post here; I do hope you’ll join me over at Wordpress. The blog’s been set up; there will, of course, be some tweaking as time goes on. If you do join me there, I hope that you will update your RSS feeds. I would hate to think that you’d have to miss any of my posts.

I’ve decided that, to celebrate the new look and the new blog, I’m going to have a contest. Head over to the new blog to read the details.

The new address – you’ll need that if you’re going to enter the contest, right?

You’ll find me at Strings ‘n Things Two; here’s the link:

See you there!

Saturday, January 05, 2013

It’s a New Year–Back to the Same Old, Same Old

Realistically, the year on the calendar may have changed, but life is just more of the same old winter routine it always is. We’re all just another day older. And life goes on.

Sorry. That sounds a little cynical, doesn’t it? I don’t mean it to sound that way. That’s how it is. Now that all the celebrations and partying and over-consumption of food and alcohol is behind us, it’s back to life as it normally is. One foot in front of the other, so to speak. Around here, that means I’m getting back to work, knitting, Postcrossing, and the normal, everyday, regular kind of stuff we do around here. There’s something comforting in that.

Yes, I said knitting. I have been knitting. I’m planning more knitting. I’m eyeing yarn.

The Metalouse shawl, which could (maybe) have been finished by the turn of the year isn’t done yet. I really didn’t keep in mind that as the shawl grows, so does the stitch count. It’s closer than it was to being finished, but it isn’t quite done yet. There’s another reason, as well. While working on it one evening, I suddenly realized it reminds me of a hamburger!

Look at it! I mean, really… It has yellow, red, green and a contrast colour of brown… yellow mustard, red ketchup, green relish (or lettuce), and a brown patty… a hamburger! I have to admit that looking at it now makes it a little difficult to work on. I’m even questioning whether or not I should finish it. Thing is, I like it!

Will I wear it though? A dilemma! Any thoughts?

A while back (before all the Christmas turkey madness), I wrote about making myself a new pair of wrist warmers. Well, I never did finish, or even cast on, the second one. I decided I simply didn’t care for the new one and I’ll probably frog it; no use wasting good yarn. Last night, I cast on for another set of wrist warmers (and downloaded a pattern for another pair… more on that in another post). Somewhere on Ravelry, I saw a pattern for a very simple pair of wrist warmers that was knit in very plain stockinette in a luxurious lace weight yarn. I downloaded the pattern but am not following it. I only wanted it for the stitch count.

These are a very fine knit, knitted on 2.25 mm needles, but the yarn is so yummy! It’s Malabrigo lace weight. If you’ve never touched Malabrigo  yarns, make it a point to do so! This is a silky, soft, squishy, scrumptious lace yarn. It’s a pleasure to knit with and I’m hoping it will be soft and warm against my wrists.

It feels good to be knitting again!

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Oh, the Leftovers!

When one has a Christmas dinner with only three people at the table and when one cooks an 18.5 lb. turkey, one tends to have a LOT of leftover turkey.

That one would be me. Every time I open the fridge door, I’m confronted by Ziploc bags of leftover turkey (John has stripped and frozen the carcass already, thankfully). I can only handle a very few turkey sandwiches, sorry to say. And turkey soup will be coming before long. In the interim, I’m trying to figure out what the heck to do with all that turkey.

Yesterday, I made turkey croquettes. I don’t make croquettes very often as they’re fairly labour and time intensive but they definitely go over well.

I cooked up about half of them yesterday (all in all there were about 4 dozen) and took some out to the garage after the guys got back from a road trip (not John, but the landlord and a couple of friends). They were well accepted and it wasn’t us eating up an entire batch.

I’ve just now finished cooking up the last couple dozen croquettes; they can be warmed up as required. I must say, this is one way of making a dent in the pile of leftover turkey, one very yummy way. John’s happy.

Recipe? Well, there isn’t one really. It comes down to making a nice, tasty, very thick sauce, adding the ingredients you want, forming it into tube shapes, breading them, dipping them in egg, breading them again, letting them “dry” at least an hour, and then deep frying them. These are best described as turkey pot pie in your hand.

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Another Year Closes

I had thought about doing a bit of a retrospective on the year that was but, you know what? It WAS. It’s past, it’s been blogged about so why rehash the past? I’d rather be looking forward than backward.

The Christmas madness is behind us; it was fun but I’m happy to get back into a rhythm, a routine… normalcy. There’s just New Year’s Eve now. We’re not sure what we’ll be doing, probably making and sharing olie bollen (a Dutch tradition, translated literally as oil balls – fritters filled with raisins, currants, and diced apples, and dusted with icing sugar) with other residents of the house, possibly around a wood stove in the garage. We’ll see.

For the next couple of days, however, I’ll be relaxing and either knitting or reading. Yep, my knitting mojo is back and my wrist is cooperating. I have a few projects to finish but I couldn’t resist casting on for a project from the latest Knitty, Metalouse. It’s the perfect project for some of the gorgeous, long colour-change sock yarns that are out there right now and, I can tell you, it’s a flat out fun, easy knit! That is, it’s easy if you remember that the center increases are always done on the right side rows.

I could, possibly, have this finished before the new year arrives. Seriously, there are only another 40 or so rows to go. The pattern, by Stephen West, is well written and easy to follow; I can see this being a very popular project on Ravelry.

Last week, seeing as it was Christmas and all, I spoke with all three of my children and some of my grandchildren. One of them had, apparently, received a new jacket for Christmas and had a request for his grandma. New mittens! It isn’t often a 6 year old boy requests hand knit mittens but he did. When I asked him what colour he wanted, his answer surprised me. Red! He wants red mittens. So, what’s a grandmother to do with a request like that?

That’s right… buy more yarn! I’m thinking I’ll make the cuffs in a corrugated ribbing, alternating the black (actually, it’s more of a charcoal heather) with the red. The variegated pink will be turned into a pair of mittens for his sister. She, being a girly girl, naturally requested pink mittens. I’ll have to see if I can’t find a cute “girly” mitten pattern somewhere… or design a pair. Any suggestions?

I’ll have to get these done quickly, I think. I’m not sure what it’s like where the kids are but around here, right now it’s looks like this…

Wishing you all a very happy 2013!

May it be all you dream it to be.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Diary of a Christmas Dinner: Judgement Day

Christmas dinner is over for another year. To say it’s been interesting is an understatement. And now, I’m sure you’re eager to know how it all went, what decision the jury has come to.
Well, considering all the work that went into this Christmas dinner, we all (John, myself, and Mike) agree that we are underwhelmed.
We found the meat to be a bit on the dry side, but that may be because it was slightly overcooked.
The entire process of painting an 18.5 lb. turkey was not an easy undertaking. Nor was turning a bird that size; we ended up sacrificing an almost new pair of oven mitts just for that purpose.
The dressing was tasty but I probably wouldn’t make it that way again. In all honesty, I prefer my dressing on the savoury side and I missed the sage; I found this dressing, for all of its lovely ingredients, a bit on the sweet side.
On the plus side, there is one thing I did find spectacular and will definitely do again. The basting liquid! John found the resulting gravy too salty but I think we could have thinned it out more than we did. He turned the liquid in the roasting pan into a quick gravy, just thickening it, where I would have used it as a gravy base. It was definitely full of flavour!
And the leftover neck meat and organs are making wonderful treats for the dogs who come to visit.
Will we make the Morton Thompson turkey again? Probably not. Did it make for a memorable Christmas meal? Absolutely! How many people do you know who can say they’ve cooked a Morton Thompson turkey?

Diary of a Christmas Dinner: Part 5 (photo intensive!)

Christmas Day

Intro: I’m posting this the day after Christmas only because the day was a rather busy one and by the time things were quiet enough to post, I was half asleep on the sofa in the living room… at 7:30 p.m.!

Well, today is the day. We got up at 7:30 a.m. Right now, it’s just after 8 a.m. and we’re pouring coffee into ourselves before we get the day going. John’s brought the turkey in from outside, where it’s about -5ºC.

The basting liquid is back up to a simmer and will remain there as long as we need to baste the turkey. Whatever remains will go into the gravy. The kitchen needs a bit of tidying, dishes need doing, so I’ll be doing that and then baking the dinner rolls I didn’t make last night. Plans change, life happens. We ended up going upstairs for drinks and nibblies, at S’s invitation. Now, I’ll have to make the rolls today.

The first thing to do, of course, is to stuff the turkey. There was way more stuffing than we needed but I always insist that the first time you make something, follow the recipe. The bowl at the front, with the yellow “goop” (that’s a technical term, by the way), is the paste that later gets painted over the turkey.

These bags of stuffing are now frozen. That’s about 8 cups of stuffing that will likely be used for future roasted chickens.

The first thing that needs to be done with the prepared turkey is to brown it thoroughly, to give the outer paste covering something to adhere to. This step is done at 450ºF; it takes about an hour and creates a lot of smoke. Even though it’s hovering just below freezing outside, we had all the doors and windows open about half way through this step.

Once the turkey is browned, the first coat of the paste is painted on and the turkey is placed back in the oven so that layer can set. A second layer is then painted on, using it all up. The paste is a mixture of egg yolks, dry mustard, onion juice (half a large onion liquefied with the help of a blender), salt, cayenne, lemon juice and thickened with flour.

The heat is then turned down and the real cooking begins. From here on, until the turkey is done, it is basted every 15 minutes. Thank goodness for the timer app on my iPod Touch. It’s even easy enough for John to understand!

When the allotted time is up, in this case, about 4 hours, the turkey comes out of the oven looking like this…

It smelled amazing! And looked disastrously black! For now, though, it’s dinner time. There’s one more quick post coming, just to recap and let you know how it all turned out.

From John, Evelyn, and our friend Mike…

Monday, December 24, 2012

Diary of a Christmas Dinner: Part 4

Christmas Eve Prep

Today is the day we do all the prep work for tomorrow’s big day. Yesterday, I made the cranberry sauce as per the advice I received from a fellow customer at Urban Fare. As we were both picking up bags of cranberries, she asked if I made the sauce as per the recipe on the bag; I told her I don’t make the sauce, my husband does. (I don’t eat cranberry sauce with my turkey; I just can not get used to having sweet sauce with savoury meat. I don’t like ham and pineapple on my pizza either.) She suggested I make it as per the recipe and, once it’s cool, add some Grand Marnier or Cointreau. I did just that. I like it, but I’d be more tempted to put it on toast rather than eat it with turkey. But that’s just me.

On today’s slate – the dressing and the basting liquid/gravy base.

Incidentally, John changed his mind and decided to brine the turkey anyway. It’s been outside (it’s hovering around the freezing mark, colder than the refrigerator, which is stuffed to the gills so the turkey wouldn’t fit even if it had to) all night.

When John got up, the first thing he did, even before coffee, was to dump out the brining liquid and set the turkey on a rack in the brining pot. Now it will dry until tomorrow morning.

The Stuffing

The stuffing is made up of three components: the fruit, the seasonings, and the filler. The recipe calls for each component to mixed up in its own bowl, then the three combined and mixed “until your wrists and forearms hurt”.

Here we go…

In Bowl #1 we have apple, orange, lemon, water chestnuts, ginger, and crushed pineapple.

In Bowl #2 – cloves, mustard, caraway, celery seeds, poppy seeds, oregano, bay leaf, black pepper, mace, parsley, garlic, turmeric, onions, celery, marjoram, savory, poultry seasoning, and some salt. I mixed the dry ingredients together, then the vegetables and then mixed them all up together. I foolishly thought the small bowl would be big enough. Hah!

In Bowl #3 are the bread crumbs and the melted fat rendered from the turkey fat, butter, bread crumbs, ground veal, and ground pork.

We thought that our largest mixing bowl would be large enough for everything but we had to resort to using one of the plastic tubs I use as a knitting basket. After a good washing, the knitting will go back into the bowl but for now, it’s just right!

The dressing is now all mixed up and in the refrigerator, ready for the turkey tomorrow. There’s just one thing left. The basting liquid/gravy base.

This mixture of the neck, the gizzards, and seasonings is now simmering on the stove and will continue to simmer until tonight, and then again tomorrow, until we’re ready to use it. It will be basted on to the turkey every 15 minutes during the cooking process.

Yes, it’s a lot of work but it’s been fun to get this part of the prep work done with both of us contributing. And, to be honest, it really hasn’t taken all that long to get to this point… perhaps an hour between the two of us. I think, in my opinion, the toughest part was chopping the onions. All four of them… large onions.

I know this is turning into a long post, but I have to tell you that, at this point, the simmering basting liquid smells amazing and even the dressing smelled pretty good while I was mixing it. Even having a small nibble to test for salt levels indicated that the dressing is going to be pretty tasty, too. This could be good!

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Diary of a Christmas Dinner: Part 3

The Bird

8:00 a.m.

Today is the day we pick up the turkey. I think I’ve already mentioned, haven’t I, that this is a free range, fresh, organic turkey? John ordered it at a local market (Lakeview Market, for those interested).

This morning, I’ll be clearing off the kitchen table so we’ll have room to work with the bird. Yesterday, John proposed that, in addition to everything else we’ll be doing to this turkey, we brine it for 24 hours. I’m not sure it will need it considering the fact that it is a free range turkey but I will leave that up to him. The one thing that concerns me is whether or not we have a container large enough to hold a turkey in brine. I doubt that the usual stock pot we use for brining a 3-4 lb. chicken will hold a 16+ lb. turkey. There is the canning pot, though.

9:00 a.m.

It’s time to head over to the market to pick up the bird. When we got to the meat department, there was a bit of confusion; they couldn’t find John’s name in the order book. Eventually, they did find his phone number on the order sheet and discovered that whoever had taken the order had misheard John’s last name and spelled it as Fkae rather than Skae; our turkey was brought out from the cooler.

Now that we have it home, John’s chosen not to brine the turkey. It now comes down to planning the timing. We’ll be aiming to have the bird in the oven by noon on Tuesday. I’ll keep you informed.

(I must add a thank you to Brad at Lakeview Market for allowing me to take the pictures, after a brief explanation that we would be blogging about the process of cooking our turkey in a manner that was somewhat out of the normal method. Most markets don’t allow customers to take pictures in their shops so, Brad, thank you!)