Places to Party

Monday, November 25, 2013

When Turkey Attacks! Or.. For the Love of God, No More Tetrazzini

Norman Rockwell Holiday.

Soon the American Thanksgiving will have come and gone and in a week anything that remotely resembles turkey anything is going to look as appetizing as your best friend’s sweat socks.

But when did the fact that you had a large turkey dinner force you and your family to eat turkey for the next two weeks? Who made those rules? I mean, sure, no one wants to spend that kind of money on one meal and only get one meal… but just because you had it today, doesn’t mean you need to have it all week…

So, how to stretch this bird to get every last penny invested out of it? Here is how I handle the turkey to get every bit out of it and to make my life easier in the upcoming month(s). Make freezer meals. After all, while it may not sounds appetizing after the umpteenth turkey sandwich this week, well, in a month, it will sound darn appealing, especially when all the hustle and bustle of the holiday season kicks in and the last thing you have time for is cooking…

  So… soon as it’s cooled and before the tryptophan turkey coma sets in, remove all the meat from the bones separating into light and dark meat if you like.  Then make stock:
Turkey Stock
1 Turkey carcass
1 cut up onion (loosely cut, nothing fancy)
½ to 1 tsp minced garlic
2 tbsp rosemary
1 tsp thyme
2 tsp parsley
2 bay leaves
Water to cover

Put on the stove and simmer for about 1 ½- 2 hours. Cool if you can to handle. This is very important. Remember hot liquid scalds. Last  year some of my stock splashed back on my chest and gave me 2nd degree burns. I still have a light outline of the scar. So if you can, definitely cool.

Once cool enough to handle, strain the solids out and discard. Put the entire stock in the fridge and cool overnight so that the fat solidifies on the top of the broth. Next morning, remove the fat and place into freezer safe bags or containers and place in freezer. Now you have homemade turkey stock that you can use for any recipe that calls for chicken stock and you basically made something from nothing. Store or freeze.

Turkey Divan

Granted this isn’t the healthiest meal available but it is so delicious so why this fell out of style is beyond me. This is simple and when you have a lot of turkey meat it is an excellent use up. I make several pans of this and put in the freezer. It’s simply a quick trip to the freezer to put this in the fridge to thaw while I work. When I get home, simply pop this into a 350 oven to cook. This is a modified version from my 1980’s Betty Crocker cookbook:

That 50's made with chicken... but perfect
use up for turkey.

Turkey Divan

Several large chunks of turkey
Frozen broccoli
½  tsp salt
¼ cup both butter and flour to make rue
2 cups stock
2 Tbsp dry white wine
nutmeg (optional, to taste)
½ cup grated Parmesan cheese

Make rue and add stock.

Make a rue by melting the butter and once melted, put in the flour and salt and cook until thickened. Once thickened and cooked so that the flour taste is out (a min or so, shouldn’t be dark), remove from heat and slowly incorporate liquids. Put back on heat and cook until boiling. Remove and cool a bit.
Add wine.

Add broccoli and cheese.

Arrange your pans (I use foil for freezing)  Place a layer of frozen broccoli down. ( I break mine into chunks while in the plastic bag if frozen together), top with your chunks of turkey and cover with sauce. Top with cheese and wrap in foil. Put 350 degrees Fahrenheit and the name of the dish on the foil and pop into the freezer for an easy meal sometime in the future.

Turkey Enchiladas
I’ve used this recipe so many times it is literally disappearing from my homemade cookbook.. I modified this version from one I found on some website that was obviously a chicken recipe. This is the perfect recipe for those last bits of meat no one is going to eat. You know the ones. They are the last ones in you bag of meat that, well, just look unappetizing although they are perfectly fine. (No pictures here as I haven’t made my turkey yet.) The funny thing is, these always get eaten up and they always ask for more..

Here is how I finish my entire turkey.

Turkey Enchiladas

Left over turkey cut into small, shredded pieces.
Olive oil
¾ cup chopped onion
¼ cup chopped green bell pepper
(you can also add jarred or fresh jalapeno pepper if you are so inclined).
¾ cup sour cream
¾ cup cheddar cheese (or whatever you like)
¼ tsp salt
2 ¼ tsp dried parsley
15 oz can tomato sauce
1/3 tsp dried oregano
¼ tsp black pepper
¾ clove garlic minced
6-10 inch flour tortillas
½ c to 1 cup shredded cheese
Jarred taco sauce (I can this every year for the best cost savings).

Put a couple of tsp of oil in a pan to coat the bottom of the pan. Sauté your onion and green pepper until soft. Add garlic and sauté for a minute more, add all remaining ingredients with the exception of the tortillas, taco sauce and ½ cup to 1 cup of cheese. Place filling in one portion of the tortillas and roll up. Place in an oven/freezer safe container(s) seam side down and divide taco sauce and reserved cheese between pans and sprinkle over each. Wrap in foil and freeze.

When ready to eat, put in a 350 degree oven for 20-30 mins. (from frozen).

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Chicken & Dumplings with a Side of Nostalgia Please....

Grandma Wren and that handsome little guy is my dad.

Much to the delight of my father and the chagrin of my mother (who already had a refrigerator full of food for Christmas), Christmas when I was young included Grandma Wren bringing over a big stockpot full of chicken and dumplins. Chicken and dumplings is a soul satisfying dish of hot broth with big chunky floury dumplings in and mouth satisfying pieces of chicken. This is a perfect week dish to put in the fridge for lunches and a wonderful use up for your holiday turkey.


Grandma Wren’s Chicken & Dumpling’s

(with a little modification)                      

Flavorful broth (my recipe)                   
Serve up piping hot with a big soup spoon!

1 chicken
1 chunked up onion
1 bouillon cube
2-3 bay leaves
2-3 Tbsp rosemary
1-2 tsp of thyme
2 Tbsp parsley
water to cover

Put all in a pot and cover chicken with water until covered completely. Bring to almost a boil on medium and then simmer for 1 ½-2 hours. Cool and strain out solids. Put in refrigerator
a few hours or overnight to allow fat to solidify and remove.


Roll out to about 1/8" or so.
Dumplins puff up when cooked.

Dumplings are so easy and so open to additions. The original recipe is version has no herbs in it but I put in a couple of tsps of dill and parsley. Feel free to improvise.

2 cups flour                                                     
½ tsp of salt (to taste)
chicken broth from the above recipe
Herbs as desired (optional)

Mix flour, salt and herbs (if desired) together. Slowly add broth (maybe a ladleful at a time) to produce a dough. Roll out on a floured surface and cut into strips. Brush off any additional flour with a pastry brush. Cut strips into 1-2 inch pieces.

Drop dumplins a couple at a time to prevent them sticking into
a large globby mess.

 The Soup

Chunk up chicken and add to soup. Slowly dropping a few at a time so they don’t stick, drop dumplings into boiling soup. Dumplings only take a few mins to cook through. Season soup with salt and pepper. If desired, add a can of cream of chicken soup to make it creamier. Serve piping hot with a great big side of nostalgia for good old fashioned, stick to your ribs food.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Coziness, Comfort and Everything that Means Home

Appliqued Scottie Dog pattern.

I love quilts. Quilts denote family, home, coziness and comfort. When our pioneer ancestors headed west, many of those women would gather bits and pieces of cloth from their loved ones clothing in which to sew into a quilt. This was often the last time they may ever see their loved ones alive so these bits and pieces meant everything to them. In the last century, young girls were expected to complete anywhere from one to three quilts prior to marriage so that they would have some necessary items prepared to start their future homes. In These Happy Golden Years, one of the first things Laura Ingalls Wilder notices when her new husband brings her to her new home, is her "Dove-in-the-Window quilt spread upon the wide bed , and her two feather pillows stood plumply at the head of it." 

Log Cabin set in star pattern.

As they traveled, many of the quilt patterns took on different names and that is why a Star of Bethlehem in one place is a Texas Star in another. Quilting bees were the “Facebook” of their day, allowing women to gather and share the news of the town. The gift of a quilt from these ‘bees helped to gift a new bride, console a widow or may even have been used to raise money for social causes. They were often the only chance for busy pioneer women to take some much needed time away from home.

Large 4 patch.
While I don’t particularly like to quilt, I do love to patch. I love to choose the colors and see them come together in pattern of my choosing. Like the pioneers, I’ve often used quilts to mark the special occasions in my life. When I married, I had a wedding ring quilt made my by quilting teacher. I chose the fabrics but had her put it together as I knew that I didn’t have the acumen to even attempt it at that point. I use this quilt every day.

My Wedding Ring Quilt.

When my son was born, I created a Star of Bethlehem quilt which still graces his wall. A local quilt shop was having a wall hanging competition and I asked him if I could enter his quilt in it (It was his quilt after all.) and he told me, “I wish you wouldn’t, that is special to me.” That, coming from my now teenage boy, really brought home what that quilt meant to him. He knew that quilt was made for him out of love and will probably have it with him the rest of his life.
Dixon's Star

I’d like to think that when I pass away all these quilts will be cherished my future grandchildren yet unborn. I still have an embroidered coverlet that my grandmother made me when I was a child and know how dear that is to me especially since her passing. I truly hope that my quilts become threadbare with use and love. That would be a fantastic legacy.

Friday, November 8, 2013

Wintermint Fresh.....

Cleaning up for a cozy winter!

Wintermint Fresh…..
       .... Yum, that's good Clean....

While spring cleaning gets loads of attention, I think for my money, the big winter cleaning is much more important. Those last few days that you can actually open the windows and clear out all the dust and debris just prior to locking yourself up tight for six months make all the difference between feeling ready to face the upcoming dreary winter days and just trudging through it.

Big confession here, I hate cleaning. I have to put some spin on it and tell myself that I’m not actually cleaning but cleansing (sounds so much more Zen), not organizing but reclaiming forgotten treasures. Sometimes it takes everything I can think of to get motivated. But knowing that cleaning the windows, washing the rugs all lead to a winter of cozy family life makes it worthwhile.

Having only two days each week to really clean my house, here is my Winter Hit List.

Winter Hit List

  1. If nice open windows.
  2. Wash the windows, outside first, then inside.
  3. Clean the wood stove (if you got it).
    Time to pull out the quilts!
  5. Wash all bedding and if you have a feather bed, take it to the laundry and wash and dry it on the big washers. Put on bed after Febreezing it.
  6. Dust or wash all surfaces, then vacuum rugs and deep clean with a wet mop
  7. Do a deep clean on the refrigerator and throw out anything that has taken on a life of its own. Do the same for the freezer.
  8. Clean the vent pipe on the dryer.
  9. Clean out all cat pans and clean with dish soap and water.
  10. Wash out all indoor trash cans.
  11. Clean up the stoop and the garage.

Now again, I HATE CLEANING. So one way I psych myself out to do it is play mad scientist. I like to make some of my own cleaning products. These aren’t necessary all natural but they do the job and utilize things you already have in your kitchen. I’m going to share with you one that I got out of The Flint Journal years ago that I make all the time. It is essentially the same ingredients you’ll find in your name brand window cleaner you just bought in the store.

Window Cleaner
(Remember a part can be any measurement you want as long as you are consistent. … i.e. ½ cup, 1 cup, etc.)
1 part ammonia
1 part water
1 part rubbing alcohol
Food coloring if desired

Mix and place in a clearly marked container. Keep out of reach of children. Used black and white newspaper with this mixture to keep your windows sparkling.