Saturday, November 28, 2009

Update on The Lists and the Day in Photos

Laura and Kevin set a lovely table for us.

I asked my son Kevin to photograph the day for me and told him I would buy any photos I could use on my blog. A buck a piece is his going rate, he says, so this post ought to just about pay his way into a movie with a friend this afternoon!

Featherlight roll dough ready for dividing and shaping.

Oma's (my mother's) Macaroni & Cheese

Scraping every last bit of Vanilla Ice Cream off the dasher.

So lists are good. And though there's always a mad rush at the end, trying to get the gravy made and the peas cooked, ice in the glasses, and rolls baked at the very last minute while my husband carves the turkey, things went more smoothly this year than they ever have. I didn't get everything on my lists done. I decided to forgo making cinnamon rolls and sticky buns in favor of an hour-long bike ride to the Discovery Gardens with my son. But the lists definitely kept me on track and there was no last minute panic at having forgotten an important part of the meal.

Birthday presents didn't get wrapped until just before I handed them to my husband, the sweet potatoes didn't get prepped the night before (and I ended up cooking them on the stove, instead of in the oven), I decided to use butternut squash instead of pumpkin for the pie and didn't bother roasting the seeds. But it all came together pretty much on schedule and we sat down with thankful hearts to a glorious feast just after 2:00 pm.

We were a small group this year, just six of us. We took our time enjoying the food and conversation and eventually ended up in front of a crackling fire in the living room listening to and telling old family stories. To me, that's the best part of all holidays and celebrations and if a delicious meal helps bring everyone together, then I am happy to do my part.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Prepping for the Big Day

As the big day draws near, my to-do lists are getting longer and more detailed. I'm trying to get as much done ahead as possible because I need to pick my daughter, Laura, up in Portland on Wednesday and I'll be gone from Tuesday afternoon to Wednesday afternoon. On top of that, my husband's birthday falls on Thanksgiving this year!

The following notes are not meant to make me look like a martyr or slave to my kitchen. Cooking is my thing and this is my favorite holiday. But for anyone who is cooking a big dinner for the first time (my oldest daughter is doing her first Thanksgiving dinner in North Carolina) , I thought these lists might come in handy.

The Menu

Roast Turkey
Mashed Potatoes and Gravy
Cornbread Dressing
Buttered Peas
Fruit Ambrosia (Mom's bringing it)
Macaroni & Cheese (Mom's bringing it)
Cranberry Sauce
Featherlight Rolls w/butter and homemade jam
Candied Sweet Potatoes
Olives and Sweet Pickles
Apple Pie
Pumpkin Pie
Homemade Vanilla Bean Ice Cream
Sparkling Cider & San Pellegrino

Here's the game plan:

Several days ahead--

Big grocery trip for all of the non-perishable items. DONE!

Make a huge batch of granola for easy breakfasts. DONE!

Bake 100% whole wheat buttermilk bread and freeze several loaves for turkey sandwiches after Thanksgiving. DONE!

Refresh dormant sourdough starter so I can make Pain au Levain to use in the McDaniel Family Cornbread Dressing (that's my twist on it--it only calls for cornbread and whole wheat bread, but I like the slight tang of sourdough). DONE!

Iron all the cloth napkins. DONE!--I paid my son to do it.

Chop onions for the dressing and freeze. DONE!

Put the frozen turkey on a tray in the extra fridge to begin defrosting. DONE!

Make pie crusts and freeze. TOMORROW

Chill beverages. TOMORROW

Make cranberry sauce. TOMORROW

Bake Pain au Levain. TOMORROW

Cook pumpkins and puree for pie. Roast seeds. TOMORROW

Last trip to grocery store for perishables. TOMORROW

No school this week, so my son is home to help with all of the above!

Tuesday morning--

Make cornbread.

Wrap birthday gifts. Sign card.

Mix whole wheat cinnamon roll/sticky bun dough.

Clean house for the last time before the holiday.

Wednesday evening after we get home--

Leave cornbread out to dry.

Mix featherlight roll dough.

Make custard for ice cream.

Prep sweet potatoes (peel, slice, layer in buttered casserole with brown sugar, butter, a bit of salt and lemon zest. Cover and refrigerate.

Shape cinnamon rolls and sticky buns.

Bake pumpkin pie and apple pie.

On Thanksgiving Day--

Bake cinnamon rolls and sticky buns.

Get the turkey in the oven.

Set the table.

Soften butter for rolls.

Make ice cream.

Divide and shape rolls.

Bake sweet potatoes.

Make and bake dressing.

Whip cream for pumpkin pie.

Put out olives, pickles and cranberry sauce.

Boil and mash potatoes. (Save potato water for breadmaking)

Bake rolls.

Cook peas.

Make gravy.

Enjoy dinner with my family! (then relax while they do all the dishes)

I don't know if I will have time to post anything during all this, but I hope you all have a wonderful Thanksgiving Day with your family and friends.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Canning Venison

My husband got a deer last week, so I have been canning venison. It is incredibly easy. You just cut the raw meat into chunks, add salt, put the lids on and process in a pressure canner. When packing raw you don't add any water or broth, but the meat makes its own juices while it is processing. Honestly, unlike most things I preserve, the final product is not very appetizing to look at--sort of like a jar of chunky dog food--but the meat is so tender! I love having it on hand to make a quick stew or "venison bourguignon." I'm going to try using it for shredded "beef" tacos too.

We froze the tenders and backstrap and had the rest ground into burger for chili, tacos, and spaghetti this winter.

Monday, November 9, 2009

A Food-filled Weekend

Four back-to-back food events filled up my entire weekend. I started off Friday night in charge of the "local concessions booth" at our Think Local Umpqua screening of FOOD, INC. With the help of some teenage boys to run the popcorn machine (popping locally-grown popcorn) and a couple girl scouts to bag the popped corn, serve cookies and biscotti and pour eggnog and apple cider, all I had to do was handle the money. We had a great turn-out and managed to squeeze 117 people into the room we had set up for 80.

Saturday morning I headed out early for our OSU Extension "Gifts from your Kitchen" class in Sutherlin. Twenty-five people turned out to learn some new ideas for homemade holiday gift-giving. My part of the two-hour class was to demonstrate making flavored vinegars. I brought lots of vinegars to sample: Chive Blossom, Blackberry, Raspberry, Rosemary, Blueberry-Lemon and Mulberry. Geri Johnson then did a demo on microwave peanut brittle and creamy caramels and Clara Langton finished up with some hands-on cookie and soup mixes.

I had to dash out a bit early to make it to my next event--being one of the five judges at the Umpqua Dairy recipe contest cook-off. Two of us were local home cooks and three were professional chefs from the Valley River Inn, Seven Feathers and Market of Choice. Umpqua Dairy had narrowed the entries down to nine finalists: three desserts, three appetizers/side dishes, and three main dishes. We got to review the recipes and sample each one, then score them on ease of preparation, originality, appearance/appeal, and taste.
It was fascinating to listen to the chefs discuss and critique the recipes from a professional viewpoint. They thought of things that didn't cross my mind. We chose a winner in each category and grand prize winner overall. I am sure the News Review will do an article with all the details and the local tv station covered it, though I didn't get to see the news. We sampled a Fall Citrus Carrot Salad, Cheese Tarts, Crab, Spinach, and Artichoke Macaroni and Cheese, Creamy Chicken Chowder, Spiced Chicken Fettuccini, Holiday Bread Pudding, Sour Cream Panna Cotta, and Crab and Spinach Stuffed Tomatoes, but the grand prize went to Nancy Woodside of Roseburg for her Razzapple Sour Cream Streusel Pie, which was divine. Something I will definitely make soon for Sunday dessert. I got to keep my copy of all the recipes, but I can't post them because Umpqua Dairy is going to publish them in a cookbook next spring. Trust me, if you like dairy products, you're going to want the cookbook.

We finished the judging by 4:00 pm and as luck (or gluttony) would have it, my husband and son and I had tickets for the 7:00 pm seating of the annual Scandinavian Smorgasbord at Faith Lutheran church! It's a fundraiser for their church missions and one of our family traditions. So, after putting away all the supplies from my morning demo and taking a quick nap, we headed over to the church to listen to the German Band before filling our plates with Swedish meatballs (my favorite), potato sausage, cold poached salmon, Swedish Beans, red cabbage, lefse, homemade breads, red potatoes, pickled herring, pickled beets, cucumbers in sour cream, apple salad, cheese, liver pate and Swedish apple dessert. The ladies (and a few men) must spend the entire week cooking and prepping for this event. One of these years I'm going to see if they'll let me help out so I can get a behind-the-scenes look (and maybe a few recipes?) at all their hard work.

You'd think I wouldn't be able to eat for a week after all this, but it was my mom's turn to cook Sunday dinner and she made her fabulous pork roast with mashed potatoes and gravy, so there was no holding back.

Time to hit the gym this week!

Friday, November 6, 2009

Maple-Covered Walnuts

Local walnuts are ready at Cleveland Rapids Orchards. The Lehne's have a great crop and they've kept the price the same as last year.

Walnuts and blueberries are two of my favorite local foods and I generally toss a handful of each into my morning bowl of oatmeal or cold cereal. For a great recipe that uses both of these superfoods, check out my Blueberry-Walnut Zucchini Bread.

The following recipe is quick and easy and great for holiday gift-giving.

Maple-covered Walnuts

1/2 cup real maple syrup
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 tablespoon butter
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 cups walnut halves

Line a cookie sheet with waxed paper. In a heavy skillet (I use cast iron), combine the maple syrup, cinnamon, butter and salt. Bring to a boil over medium heat and cook, stirring constantly, until the mixture is dark and thick and the consistency of raw egg whites, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in the vanilla. Add the walnuts and toss until well-coated with the glaze. Spread out on the waxed paper to cool.

Note: If you did not cook the glaze long enough and the nuts are still sticky even after they have cooled completely (give them at least an hour or so, depending on the weather and humidity in your kitchen), just put them in a low oven for a bit to help them dry out.