Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Thanksgiving cooking countdown....

My wood stove cooked turkey from last Thanksgiving.
I work backwards from the time I am planning to serve so that I know exactly what I need to do and how I need to do it. I used to live in a house with a formal dining room and this means that I used to set the table the night before so that it was just one more thing that I could do ahead of time. You can read all about my T-Day schedule for my old house HERE. Now we live in a farmhouse with an eat-in kitchen and no other dining room and certainly no buffet for staging the food. It is definitely a more difficult house to have a large party in and is really not designed for formal affairs which means our dinners are also more country. Last year was my first Thanksgiving in this house and after Christmas, New Year's, and Pascha; I have learned a lot about how dinner need to work in this house.

First things first, I have an eat-in kitchen with a gas stove, wood stove, fridge, and a china cabinet in it. Most of the dishes, food, sink, and dishwasher are in the pantry in a separate room off the kitchen. There is no room for a formal buffet in the house and one side and one end of the table are pushed in to a corner with built in benches which means that about half the guests can't get up to the table anyway. This means that we make all the children sit and we have the sides and drinks at the table but the plates, silver, napkins and the main dishes are on an island in the middle of the kitchen. Best investment I could have made since moving here. I also have a taller octagon shaped table in the living room that is perfect for serving appetizers, so I will clear the knitting things and antique clock from the top of it and instead put a pretty cloth and my trays out there.

For many years, the kitchen was the room that was heated and so most of the family has grown accustomed to sitting in there. All the time. At the little table that was there.  Drives me crazy. When you make everything from scratch, down to the bread that the stuffing is made of, the last thing you want is people hovering as you are cooking. Also, if the table is nicely set for dinner (real dishes, people, and real napkins), I don't want people moving things around on the table or using those dishes for their appetizers. My in-laws think I am crazy because they are not foodie types and they certainly don't care if the table is properly set but that's okay. We meet in the middle where I like to make food and they like to eat it. As long as I cook, they are happy; as long as they eat, I am happy. Works out in the end! 

So, here is how I will run tomorrow morning with a scheduled sit-down meal at one in the afternoon.

7:30 in the morning...I will pop the chocolate croissants that I already made into the oven for 35 minutes. I will make some hot chocolate for the kids and some coffee for Ben, the teens, and me. We will just linger over the croissants. No rush on the turkey. They don't take half as long as people 

7:45...Ben needs to start the fire in the wood oven. We are going all old school with the turkey. Worked out pretty well last year, so why mess with ssuccess

8:00...unload the dishwasher and put away all the hand wash from the night before. If there is going to be a place to put the new dishes, I need to do this. I will also have someone take out the compostable trash.

8:30...start the turkey. You should use the true blue, tried and trusted Cook's Illustrated method. See the link above for all the details on how it roasts. Brilliant, easy, and always delicious. I will be roasting in a wood oven which is unbelievably good and a bit complicated and lots of babysitting. Totally worth it.

8:35...bust out the Christmas movies and the crafts. The kids need to be busy. We are doing the standard handprint turkeys with real feathers as well as those 3D hands. They take time and focus which means the kids will be busy. This is also the time we bust out our traditional mimosas. Can't wait.

9:30-9:45 or so... flip the bird. We can stop feeding the fire quite so much because we want the oven to cool down some. By this time, the house will be more than a little toasty and we will probably have the door open to the mudroom and the windows in the kitchen cracked open from the top. That oven works, baby. Remember to check that post linked at the top to read more about how to roast your bird. I will also pop the bacon wrapped dates and oysters into the oven at this time. Gotta have some fabulous appetizers, right? They are sitting in the fridge just waiting to go.

11:00...I will cover the bird and turn it end to end to help it roast evenly. I will also have the kids set the table. I have a four foot by ten foot solid maple table made by one of the kids' godfathers. We usually leave it exposed so we can really enjoy it but for formal dinners, we put out my special tablecloth. It is actually the perfect length for the table. It is an embroidered one from Puerto Rico and my mother gave it to me from Christmas a decade ago. We will also put out the matching napkins. It means the world to me and it comes out for all the special events.

Noon...I will pop the stuffing, green bean casserole (after I have added the topping), and the sweet potato casseroles into the gas oven. Start the potatoes for mashed potatoes. I will probably have another mimosa about this time. I will start checking the turkey and it should be ready about now, maybe in twenty minutes. I will tent it and allow it to rest for 30 minutes before I carve it.

12:30...I will make the gravy using the pan drippings and a roux and have the kids move the covered casseroles out to the table. Ben will open the red wine to allow it to breathe and the kids can get ice and glasses ready. I will carve the turkey and bring it to the table.

1:00...we will ring the dinner bell, pray, serve and eat.

Sometime later, I will pull out the pies and whip the raw cream freshly and we will enjoy our dessert with sparkling non-alcoholic cider. It all depends on what we feel like.

We will keep all your families in our thoughts and prayers tomorrow and we hope you have a beautiful Thanksgiving with your families and friends.

Happy Thanksgiving!

In case you have never made 3D hands, and I had not until today, here is an awesome video. My kids are loving this. Big tip: make sure that you arch up enough over the hand. For some reason, it is easier to remember to do this over the fingers. Also, stop precisely at the pencil outlines and make it a sharp stop, the sharper-the better.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

The day before Thanksgiving...

Squeee! Tomorrow is the day before Thanksgiving! I have lots of plans for tomorrow and I am so excited to get started. So, here is what I am doing. The first that that I did was start with a clean fridge. If you are going to have a place to put all the food that you are cooking ahead of time and a place to put all those leftovers, you need to start with a clean fridge. Hubby picked up the turkey from our farmer, William, on Monday night. Actually, he picked up three. One is in the fridge and the other two are in the freezer. One is for Christmas for us and the other is for monk's Christmas dinner. We are in the thick of the Nativity Fast and we are forgoing all kinds of deliciousness for Thanksgiving, which we observe as a significant local custom. But before I go to bed on Thursday night, all those leftovers will be frozen (the ones that are not vegan) and popped into the freezer. Come Christmas Eve morning, I will put them back in the fridge to thaw.

So. The day before the big day! What do I have planned?

1. I know what I am having dinner for tomorrow night. There is no harder night to cook for than the night before Thanksgiving. You are all cooked out and if you are fasting, nothing really looks good. You just keep thinking about all the fab food that you did not taste. For breakfast tomorrow we are having almond milk-chia pudding with sliced bananas, for lunch homemade cinnamon cashew butter on bread and milk, and for dinner we are having pasta with veggies and white beans with cashew cream. Do you know what you are eating?

2. I will bake the sourdough rye/wheat bread I have prepped the starter for before bed tonight. We are having sourdough cloverleaf rolls with Kerrygold butter. I am dreaming about butter. It will be the only time we have it until Christmas Day. You would dream about it, too. My son, Greg, has been carefully tending his rye starter to make it really active. He has a thing for rye and it is his job to babysit the sourdough so he calls the shots when it comes to the kind of bread we have. So really, I mean that I will bake from Greg's starter. Then I put them in their ceramic serving dish covered with plastic wrap and then foil. On Thanksgiving, we will remove the plastic, brush them with butter, replace the foil and just warm them before dinner.

3. I will make three loaves of white bread with skim milk. I am thieving all the cream from my jars  or raw milk and turning the skim milk into party day bread. Our crazy expert dairyman gets cream from his cows even in the Keweenaw winters. He is practically a magician. Anyway, I will use one of the loaves for the bread crumb topping for the green bean casserole. One will be used to make  a smoked oyster stuffing with lots of fabulous butter and eggs after the loaves are diced and toasted with olive oil. The last is for lunch.

4. I will make the cranberry relish. I use fresh cranberries and I have never actually had the canned stuff. It doesn't really look food and I am pretty sure that I am not missing out. It is pretty easy, I use a pound and a half of cranberries, 1 cup of honey, 2 cups of liquid (sparkling wine, orange juice, apple juice, plain water), pinch of salt and most times I throw in three Halo oranges with their zest and a couple sticks of cinnamon. I put in the serving dish and it is ready to go.

5. I will make green bean casserole. I am making one with plenty of fresh bechamel with grated Parmesan, lox, crimini mushrooms, onions, and garlic covering blanched beans. I can prep by putting it in the serving dish without the topping. I will make the topping with bread, crispy onions, butter, and more parma. I can pop it into the freezer separate from the refrigerated beans. On the big day, I will bake it half way in the roaster oven. When my turkey is out and resting, I will put the beans in the big oven with their topping.

6. I will make the pies. I am splurging and having white flour pasty with Kerrygold butter! We are having only pumpkin, we baked and mashed all the pumpkins today.  We will have two plain pumpkin pies and another with an almond and arrowroot crust (you can get the almond crust recipe in Nourishing Traditions and my can-free pies recipes HERE).

7. I will set aside a three cups of cream for whipping into glorious pie topping. I cannot abide non-dairy whipped topping. Anathema.

8. I will rub down my turkey with a spread of olive oil, cracked black pepper, salt, chopped garlic and cumin. I will set it in the roasting pan, back side up. I roast it for 1/3 of the time at 425F and then I gently cover (NOT with a lid!!!!) the top and roast for another 1/3 of the time, then I flip the bird and finish. By the way, I do not destroy my turkey by roasting too long, please be kind to your guests and do not baste and make the skin all soggy and nasty and do not roast it to 180F. It won't be dry if you do not overcook it AND the skin will be a glorious mahogany color and deliciously crispy. See my handy turkey day cooking schedule HERE with more turkey information on it.

9. I will make the grain-free sweet potato casseroles. Bacon, toasted brined nuts, butter, eggs, sweet potato and bacon? Yes, please!

10. I will make the chocolate croissant dough which I will bake on the morning of but will have ready to go on the sheet pans. I use the Martha Stewart recipe HERE but I tuck I little bit of chocolate in each one before I roll up. I drizzle them melted chocolate after they are out.

11. I will make the Parmesan, bacon, rosemary biscuits and date balls. Gotta have some delicious appetizers, right? I mean really, it is a day devoted to eating.

12. I will make sure that I have some craft projects and games ready to go for the kids. They can drive you crazy when they need to be occupied and you are already busy. Look on Pintrest and then put a teenager in charge. Offer a gift card, movie tickets, or whatever and you will find that they are often creative and reliable.

13. Last but not least, I make sure that all my platters, wine glasses, satin tablecloth and napkins  are clean, out and ready to go. I will be ready to go on the big day with a beautiful table.

On Thanksgiving day, most of the food is prepped if not cooked and ready to heat and serve. Dishes are not much of a big deal. I will leisurely bake the croissants and enjoy a mimosa with my husband while the children have organic sparkling apple cider. Best. Day. Ever. Tomorrow I will have the T-Day schedule. I don't do it only for you, I also do it for myself. No kidding. I actually follow the schedule. Stop by tomorrow night and get it!

Monday, November 24, 2014

How it came to this....

Awww. Claudia is sooo cute and...
whoa! My windows are freaky dirty!
I will be having all Thanksgiving related posts for the rest of the week. It is far and away my favorite holiday! Yay! I am so excited. I went to coffee with a friend (Katie from the Pink Pioneer Girl blog) from up here last month and we drafted out a Thanksgiving plan. 'Cause that is how I roll and fortunately for me, she rolls in the same direction and is not freaked out by me!

Want to see EVERY Thanksgiving post I ever wrote? Of course you do say I in the tone of someone wielding slides from a vacation and a projector. You can see them all HERE or you can pop over to my Facebook page HERE and see them there!

Tonight I had all kinds of plans for really getting into my schedule for the week and I am going to flake on you. No posts on brining turkeys. No posts on pie crust. That is because I am going to sit on the couch and rest. My hip is killing me! Tonight I had two dance practices and a Finnish harp (kantele practice) scheduled but then it got to be a little too much winter for the peeps up here. Too much winter for them is like snow-pocalypse for the rest of the country. I fought my way home through the snow and ice and made it back in one piece. We had some warmer weather (yay, 34F degrees!) which melted the snow and then it turned into water so when it got cold again it turned into ice and then was covered by 4 inches of lake effect snow in just about two hours.
Seriously? Are your eyes bleeding from staring
through the filth on my windows? Mine might be.

I was pretty pleased that it all went so well and I stopped close to the house to let the kids out. I got everyone shuttled back to the house and then got back in the van. I even got the van into the pole barn 200 feet from the house without even stuck. Go me! Then I got out and walked back to the house with all the paraphernalia that the kids had left in the van. I walked in the tire tracks because I am a moron and I chose my black lambskin boots over my own skin. Stupid choice.

You know how when you slip and slide you often have that moment when you know you are going to fall? That moment before you fall when you can reconcile with the fact that you will in fact fall on the ice and it will hurt? Yeah. I hate that moment but at least you know what is coming. I bet you can guess that I slipped on the ice and fell. It was sudden. It was like I was walking and then I was laying on my side in the snow. I rolled onto my back and waited a minute. I considered my lot in life and what it was that not only brought me to lay in the snow in an unbuttoned coat here in the Keweenaw.

It is Ben's great-grandfather's fault. He left Finland for a fresh start in America and got himself a shiny new homestead in a place that snows like that! I considered for a moment that he could have gone anywhere. He could even have gone to Florida. If he had gone to sunny Florida, I could at this moment been lying in sand on a sunny beach. Not in the snow wincing in pain from what will be a hideous bruise in the morning. It is therefor also his fault that I am too sore to sit in a chair and type anymore. I am going to have a beer. I think I deserve it.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Vegan molasses cornbread...

We are in the early part of the Nativity Fast so we are prayerfully abstaining from all kinds of delicious including meat, dairy, and eggs. We are eating a lot of canned sardines, canned wild salmon, and smoked oysters which all fine and good but it does make you miss some things. However, come next month when we forgo the fish, it will seem like a luxury! Mixing things up a bit to add variety to our menu, I decided I wanted cornbread, which is one tricky customer. It only makes it worse if you try to use sprouted flour instead of white. Cornbread is already a crumbly bread because of the cornmeal and if you add sprouted wheat, which is also crumbly, but do not have eggs to act as a binder, then your bread will literally just fall apart.

So what do you do when you really need cornbread to go with your vegetarian chili? I mean, like need it deep in your bones, need it? You make this. That is what you do!

This recipe relies on a couple of tricks to make the bread hold together a bit better, so pay attention. You can use these tricks to modify other whole grain vegan baked goods. Use whole fat coconut milk which holds together beautifully. This recipe also uses molasses which works as a great binder especially in cooperation with flaxmeal. Flax makes this awesome gooey mess that can help your vegan baked goods both retain moisture and have a delicate crumb. Hungry now? Good. Let's do this thing!

Vegan (Fast Friendly) Molasses Cornbread

Egg substitute, stir together:
1/4 C flaxmeal
1 C HOT water
1/3 C molasses
1/3 C honey

Dry Ingredients,whisk together first five before cutting in fat:
3 C Sprouted Kamut or Prairie Gold or Bronze Chief wheat flour (if you use spelt, cut this back to 2 3/4 C)
2 C corn meal (for better nutrition use lime treated Mexican Corn Masa but reduce each cup by one scant tablespoon)
1 TB, heaping, aluminum-free baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1 1/2 tsp salt
1 C palm shortening

Liquid ingredients, stir together:
1 can of full fat coconut milk with water added to equal two cups
2 TB apple cider vinegar

Preheat oven to 400F and grease a 9x13 pan, I like to use ceramic. Add the liquid to the dry and the egg substitute and stir until just combined. Scrape into the pan and smooth the top. Bake for 35 minutes until the top bounces back when slightly pressed and a toothpick inserted near the center comes out almost clean. If it pulls out cleanly, you will have dry crumbly cornbread. Crumbly is not yummy, just so you know.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Beating the storm...

We heat with wood. We use a large wood burning furnace behind the house and it heats the water that circulates through the radiators on the ground floor. The upstairs is heated by the downstairs heat rising up through grates on the floor and through the stairs. The stairway is a major conduit of heat. If we sit near the bottom, we can feel the cold air spilling down on us while it changes places with the warm air silently rushing past it on its way up the stairs.

We're in full winter here. By the weekend we will be over five feet of snow for the year already and it is not even Thanksgiving yet. It means that we are bracing for what could be a very, very long winter. Last year was the coldest winter on record here and we almost, almost reached the snowfall record. Early predictions were for an average winter, meaning less cold and less snow. So far, they have like the wrongest of wrongness. Seriously. Today was bitter cold. Before the latest snow moved in, our UPS driver came with our Amazon order (yay, Prime!!) which is a major grocery supply for us. He came in right after the plow and was anxious to be on his way again. He has been listening to Spanish language CDs and usually stays to visit for a minute but not today. He wanted to beat the weather. So did I. Greg's new glasses were in and he wanted to go get them. I tried to get out and back before the storm did. There was a lake effect snow warning coming along with high winds which means horrific driving conditions. I did not really beat it back.

I thought about stopping at the store for groceries on the way home but I could not see the buildings on the side of the road and I was worried about missing the turn. I could barely see the oncoming traffic and could not actually see the turn to Walmart. The giant flipping Walmart was right there and I could not even see it let alone the turn into the lot! At that point, I decided I just needed to get home before the weather got worse. I was afraid of being stuck in 15 passenger van with summer tires out there on a UP highway. I just kept going even though I could see practically nothing.

There is a nifty trick to navigating in a white-out. We use the rumble bars. The ones that divide the lanes of oncoming traffic have a higher pitch than those on the outside. You keep plowing forward bouncing from the higher pitch to the lower pitch and keep going until you get where you need to be. I am not kidding. That is really what you have to do. It would be ridiculously foolish to stop and get stuck or have someone who cannot see you plow into you from behind. You have to keep moving.

 I thought you might like to see some photos. So, I went out with Raymond while he filled the furnace and I snapped that picture of the kids looking out the window. I waited for a short break in the wind and got lucky. I did brighten it a little bit. It keeps it from looking like a depressing "scenes from Fulton Prison" type shot. I also got one of Eli shoveling and I brightened that one as well because, winter. Eli wants you to know that it gets so cold that your eyes freeze. The wind literally freezes the tears in your eyes and you get this slushy stuff in your lashes. But, since I brightened the shot, it looks so sweet and pretty and not scary. However, for full effect I took photos of Raymond out there in the fierce blowing snow and I am bringing them to you, no filter. No nothing. Just all real winter, peeps.

I went out their with my camera and bare hands to get these shots for you people. Oh. My. Gosh. If you think they look cold, let me tell you how miserable it was to be out there not just looking at the snow and wind but walking through it. My hands stung badly for about ten minutes after I came in. But I did for you, because I care.

Just looking at this makes me want another cup of tea and a blanket. And more cornbread. I invented a molasses corn bread recipe tonight that was pretty darn good. I think you might like. I will have it up for you to have tomorrow!
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