Drowning in leftover turkey


After many years of hosting Thanksgiving dinner, I’ve finally found a quick and easy way to use leftover  turkey. At my house there’s usually a large portion of dark meat left, that often gets discarded before I can sneak it into casseroles or give it away to departing guests. This year, faced with an unusually large amount of leftover gobbler, and a smaller than usual number of leftover relatives, I was struck with inspiration. Everyone loves pulled pork, so why not pulled turkey? Here’s the recipe:

Pulled turkey

Left-over cooked turkey, cut into 2-3 inch pieces, any amount

Barbeque sauce, any kind you like (I used Brownwood Farms Cherry Barbeque Sauce)

Liquid for simmering (chicken broth, water, or my favorite, Bell’s Oberon beer)

salt and pepper to taste, plus any spices you want to add (garlic etc)

Simmer turkey pieces in about 1-2 inches of your chosen liquid in a saucepan, until pieces easily pull into shreds with a fork, about 1-2 hours. Drain cooking liquid. Add salt and pepper, (about 1/2 teaspoon of each for 2 cups of turkey), any other spices such as dried chives, or garlic, and enough barbeque sauce to adequately moisten the meat. Simmer on low heat until meat is warmed through. Serve on buns.

© Huffygirl 2012

Celebrating good old-fashioned grilled cheese


Grilled Cheese Sandwich

Grilled Cheese Sandwich (Photo credit: powerplantop)

This probably seems odd. The woman who proclaims herself as “…waging a one-woman war against cheese” is excited about National Grilled Cheese Month. First, let me clarify: I’m not opposed to cheese itself, just the overuse of cheese, such as when every item on the restaurant menu includes cheese;  and the use of “cheese-like food” being passed off as cheese.

But grilled cheese? That’s the ultimate Mom food. I relish my childhood memories of Mom making us grilled cheese sandwiches on Fridays. Having grilled cheese was a treat, a departure from our usual tuna or egg salad. Mom didn’t really like to cook, and getting out a frying pan to make grilled cheese bordered on cooking, so it didn’t happen often. I’d watch the process with anticipation. First, she got out a stick of margarine, and set it on top of the gas range near the pilot light for a few minutes to soften. Of course we had real, old-fashioned margarine, not the light buttery vegetable oil spreads like we have today. She’d slather two slices of soft white bread with margarine while the frying pan was heating, then peel off a thick slab of American cheese from the package. Real American cheese, not  the slippery, plastic wrapped “cheese-like food slices” of today. If I was really lucky, I’d get to have chocolate milk, and maybe even potato chips, but the sandwich was so good alone, that really didn’t matter. I liked my sandwich well-toasted, pretty close to burned. I’m still not sure if I developed that taste on my own, or just expected it that way, as Mom tended to over-cook most things on our ancient gas stove. I’d sit at the red kitchen table, my feet swinging far above the floor, and enjoy my greasy, drippy cheese sandwich on a special Friday afternoon.

Since I’ve  developed a dairy allergy in adulthood, I can’t join in the National Grilled Cheese Month festivities. But if I could, I’m be making a grilled cheese sandwich today just like Mom used to make.

What’s your favorite grilled cheese memory?

© Huffygirl 2012

Would you like a massage with your sushi?


Octopus vulgaris

Image via Wikipedia

Okay, so I don’t like sushi. All right, I’ve said it. I know I’ve now opened myself up to a   rousing round of flack from sushi lovers everywhere about the virtues of sushi, the health benefits of eating fish, and what’s wrong with me that I don’t like sushi. I’m ready for the onslaught.

But I don’t like it. First, sushi is mostly fish. Raw fish. I don’t like fish. It’s either fishy or bland. And I’m of the school of thought that any food that is worth eating should be tasty without undergoing extensive manipulation and alteration. I can slap a piece of chicken on the grill, and it’s delicious as is. I don’t have to batter it, fry it, chop it up, mix it with other things, slather it in butter, or massage it.

That’s right, I said massage it. I heard a disturbing report on the news today of an acclaimed, expensive sushi experience. In the process of describing the superiority of the sushi at this restaurant compared to others, the documentarian described what makes this sushi special: the octopi receives extensive massaging before serving. Turns out most sushi restaurants just don’t massage their octopi enough. “Tragically undermassaged” it seems. I’m as shocked to hear this as you are, but really, it’s true. At least an hour of massaging is about right , and anything less is just inferior and lazy.

And the price of this well-massaged sushi meal? About $300. All I can say is, if I’m shelling out $300 for a meal, it better be food that’s cooked, and I better be the one getting the pre-meal massage!

Related link: Cameras follow world’s greatest sushi chef (npr.org)

© Huffygirl 2012

Weekly Photo Challenge: Breakfast


I admit it – I’m not a morning person, so that pretty much makes me the breakfast curmudgeon. When I saw this challenge, my heart sank. Breakfast is not something I celebrate – it’s something I do just to get it over with. Cereal in a bowl or toast on a plate, and hope I feel more awake and chipper after I’ve eaten and moved on to the next step of the morning routine. I’ve never been one of those “Leave it to Beaver” breakfast-making moms. My kids learned how to put cereal in a bowl at a very early age. Hey, it’s my job to teach them to be self-reliant isn’t it?  I don’t feel guilty at all, well maybe just a little bit, but they turned out fine so I guess it didn’t hurt them to have the breakfast curmudgeon for a mom.

When we have overnight guests, I really wish I was the kind of hostess who would greet them in the morning with a stack of fluffy homemade pancakes, crisp bacon and freshly squeezed juice. Instead, I’m the hostess who shows them our wide selection of cereal and hope they will jump right in and help themselves. After all, I’m just trying to make them feel at home.

I’ve scanned over some of the entries by my fellow bloggers and have been blown away by the number of people who prepare beautiful, enticing breakfasts. I’ve seen stunning pictures of fancy, gourmet oatmeal, muffins, pancakes, french toast, eggs, and every imaginable breakfast delight, artistically arranged and begging to be eaten. Amazing. At this point, I should probably insert my photo of my breakfast, but really, what would be the point? Anyone who wants to know what my breakfast looks like, do this: open your cupboard, get out a bowl, look at it. See, easy.

Instead, I thought I’d share some links from my fellow bloggers who took a creative turn on the theme of “Breakfast.”

From my blogging buddy Mayfielder – this is my favorite: Fenland Photos: Breakfast

Amateur Golfer has an interesting take as well, one familiar to many college  students: Amateur Golfer: Breakfast

Jake’s entry shows a thoughtful juxtaposition: Jake: Breakfast

Fergiemoto’s entry will make you say “Awwww.” Fergiemoto: Breakfast

Oh, all right, heres mine: Huffygirl, breakfast curmudgeon’s breakfast: 

And here’s what I wish it looked like:

(Except for that bad spot on the apple, that is.)

© Huffygirl 2011

Chocolate Chip Cookies: The recipe is in my head!


The well-used recipe

I have a whole recipe box full of recipes for all kinds of cookies, but 99.9% of the time when I’m baking cookies, I choose my tried and true chocolate chip. I’ve made these cookies so much that I have the recipe memorized – no need to get out the battered and grubby-looking  recipe card, although I sometimes do just to make sure I haven’t missed anything. This recipe is adapted from the original Toll House Cookie recipe  (what do toll houses have to do with cookies anyway?) that appeared on the back of the Nestle semi-sweet chocolate chip package 37 years ago. One of my modifications was to add extra chocolate chips, because, let’s face it, that is the REAL reason why we eat chocolate chip cookies. This makes a large batch of cookies, unless you eat too many samples of the dough during baking. (Yes, I know the FDA, CDC, NAACP and FAA do not recommend eating raw cookie dough. But c’mon – is there anyone who doesn’t do this?)

1 1/3 cups Crisco or other vegetable shortening, softened

1 cup white sugar

2 cups light brown sugar, packed

2 teaspoons vanilla

2 teaspoons water

Cream together the above ingredients with a large mixing spoon. 

Then add:

4 large eggs

1 1/2 packages of semi-sweet chocolate chips (12 ounce packages)

Mix well. If you like to have nuts in your cookies,  add those now as well.

Add the chocolate chips before adding the dry ingredients - much easier to mix in!

Add the following dry ingredients,  adding about half of the ingredients, stir, then add the rest:

4 1/2 cups white flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon baking soda

2 teaspoons salt

After dough is thoroughly mixed, drop by tablespoon-full onto cookie sheets covered with parchment paper.

Use a tablespoon or a cookie dough scoop.

Bake 375 degrees Farenheit for 10 minutes and 10 seconds. Cookies will puff up and appear to be underdone when removed from the oven. Allow cookies to rest on the cookie sheet a few minutes to finish baking, and they will be soft, but completely done. Enjoy.

Yum!

 © Huffygirl 2011

A non-recipe recipe for non-recipe cooks: Slow-bake beef and vegetables


Because of food allergies, recipes at my house are pretty simple. A lot of cooking I learned from my mom, who had few recipes but made simple, traditional meals, adding ingredients “until they look right.” I recently came up with this no-fail recipe for beef and vegetables that is easy and can be adapted to one’s tastes. Why no fail? Amounts don’t have to be measured – just

Place meat in the bottom of the pan, cover with vegetables. (Photo: Huffygirl)

estimate and throw in what looks right. You can bake it at a lower temp and longer if you need to be away for the afternoon, or higher and quicker if you’re short on time.

Ingredients:

1-2.5 pounds of beef, either sirloin, round steak, chuck or shoulder roast, depending on the size of the group you wish to feed and the time you have available. Sirloin is the quickest cooking time

Frozen, cut green beans about 1 cup

Baby carrots, about 1 to 1  1/2 cups

Celery, about 2-3 stalks, cut into 2-inch pieces

4-6 unpeeled red skin potatoes, cut into 1-inch cubes

2-3 cups water (may use part beef broth and/or wine if desired)

2-4 small onions, whole

spices to taste preference : I used 1/2 tsp salt and freshly ground pepper, and

Sprinkle seasonings on top. (Photo: Huffygirl)

a sprinkling of oregano and thyme, about 1/8 to 1/4 teaspoon each. Other spices you might like are rosemary, tarragon, garlic, or a splash of dijon mustard.

Secret sauce ingredient – Williams Sonoma Beef Demi-glace, about 2-3 teaspoons

Corn starch for thickening – 1-3 tablespoons depending on amount of liquid

Place the meat in the bottom of a large roasting pan. Cover with the vegetables, potatoes and onions.

Sprinkle seasonings. Pour in 2-3 cups liquid – enough to moisten everything, but does not have to be covered.

The secret ingredient (Photo: Huffygirl)

Add the secret sauce ingredient to the water. Place pan uncovered in oven; bake at 300-325 degrees for half an hour; cover with lid and bake an additional 2-3 hours, depending on the size of the beef, until everything is done. If you want the sauce thickened into gravy, add 1-3 tablespoons of cornstarch dissolved in 1/4 cup of cold water about 30 minutes before serving. Serves 3-6 people, depending on the amount of meat used.

Add bread and ready to eat! (Photo: Huffygirl)

Variations: For a southwest flare, add 1/2  to 1 cup of salsa. May use sweet potatoes in addition to or instead of white potatoes. May add any kind of vegetable that you like that will tolerate long, slow baking. May vary oven temperature depending upon how much cooking time you have available. If you need to be gone for the afternoon and leave it in the oven unattended, may go as low as 275 to 300 degrees. Or put it in a crock pot for the entire day on low.

  © The author and Huffygirl’s Blog, 2010 to 3010. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to the author and Huffygirl’s Blog with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Stuffing versus dressing


A stuffed turkey

Image via Wikipedia

In the states it’s almost time for Thanksgiving, an annual holiday where everyone eats too much turkey and pie, and watches the Lions lose again. For the Thanksgiving cook, the meal preparation always brings up the age-old debate – stuffing vs dressing. They both start out the same – dried bread cubes, seasonings, sometimes broth, margarine or butter, and water, made into a conglomeration that is either stuffed inside the turkey (stuffing) or baked separately in a dish (dressing). Everyone has their own opinion on which is best, and families line up fiercely divided each year on which way this delectable Thanksgiving carbohydrate should be served. Accompanying this debate of which way is tastier is the issue (some myth, some fact) over which way is healthier or safer. Who knew that dried bread cubes could raise such ire among otherwise friendly people?

In my family growing up, we always had dressing. I’m not sure why, but I think it was in part due to the fact that: it was easier. The dressing could be made while the turkey was cooking instead of earlier in the day when the turkey was ready to go into the oven. It was quicker. Stuffed turkey is supposed to take longer to cook than unstuffed (although in my own cooking experience I have never found this to be true.) It was safer. Many people believed that the stuffing could become contaminated with bacteria from absorbing the meat juices and turn an otherwise delightful day into a merry trip to the emergency room.

Then I met my future husband whose family was all stuffing, all the way, and why would anyone consider doing it differently? What could be better than bread cubes infused with savory turkey juices and the two pounds of butter that Buttterball and others inject into their turkeys before sending them off to the store?

So what’s a girl to do? I have to admit I found both ways tasty, although sometimes the stuffing did not look quite as appetizing as the dressing, depending upon what colors it turned from the meat juices it absorbed during cooking. Eventually when I took over hosting the Thanksgiving meal, my compromise was to make stuffing and dressing. The amount of stuffing that would fit inside the turkey was not enough to serve everyone at the table anyway, so I would serve a dish of each, or sometimes mix them together, which I guess gives you something which is neither stuffing nor dressing, but there is not really any good combination word you can make from combining stuffing and dressing. 

This compromise did not come without a cost, however. Members of the dressing contingent would make sly comments like “Make sure you’ve cooked that stuffing to 160 degrees so we don’t all get food poisoning, ha ha,” while members of the stuffing contingent would say “I prefer stuffing because that dressing always turns out so dry.”

And when it comes right down to it, where did the whole stuffing/dressing custom come from anyway? Imagine the Pilgrims at the first Thanksgiving. They’ve had a horrible year. First, all that travel and they couldn’t even earn any points from it. Then, having to build a settlement, squabble with the Native Americans, endure hardship, disease, cold and hunger. Finally, the ones who survived prepared what was probably a somewhat meager feast in celebration. There was no Kroger stores in Plymouth, so they had to hunt down their turkey, then pluck it, cut off the inedible parts, and remove the disgusting innards. After going through all that, and wrestling the turkey into some heavy cast iron roaster you’d think that the Pilgrim cooks would have had enough of turkey prep for one day. But some creative person, staring into the empty cavity of the just gutted turkey said “hey, wouldn’t it be a great idea to cut up bread into cubes, add water, lard and spices and stuff this sucker?” And the rest as we say, is history.

Whether you eat stuffing or dressing, may you all have a happy and grateful Thanksgiving!

© The author and Huffygirl’s Blog, 2010 to 3010. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to the author and Huffygirl’s Blog with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Satire Friday: Kitchen Nirvana


I’ve reached my kitchen nirvana. It’s been awhile since I’ve been at this place, so I’ve stopped just inside the doorway to take it all in. In front of me is a display of everything you need to make Easter cupcakes. Silicone cupcake bakers in spring colors – yellow,  green, pink, aqua. Jars of colored sugar in every color imaginable. And there’s two kinds of sugar – regular colored sugar and a thicker, sparkly version. There’s a tree to hold the finished cupcakes. There’s a whole set of bunny china complete with rabbit-shaped napkin rings. “I could make Easter cupcakes with two different kinds of colored sugar,” I say to myself. I picture the table set with bunny china, with the sparkling tree of spring-colored cupcakes rising up as the centerpiece. The relatives are sitting around the table, oohing and ahhing at the splendor of it. Suddenly I’m yanked back to reality by the calm voice of reason running almost silently in the back of my mind. Wait a minute – I’m not the kind of person who buys special holiday china. I don’t even have china – our “good” dishes are 35-year-old stoneware, which for the most part except for a few chips, still look pretty good. I don’t make fancy, fussy Easter cupcakes. I make cake in a 9 by 13 pan and spread one color of frosting over it, and never add sparkly colored sugar. So what has come over me? I’m in Williams-Sonoma. And not just any Williams-Sonoma. I’m at 900 North Michigan Avenue, on the second floor of the Bloomingdale building in Chicago. This is where it all began. This is where I first found kitchen nirvana.

It all started with a spatula. My husband and I were shopping in Chicago and had been going up and down Michigan Avenue discovering stores that we’d never seen before and didn’t even know we needed. Then on a whim we stepped inside the Bloomingdale Building. We were drawn in by F. A. O. Schwarz on the ground floor. But wait, there’s more. The Sharper Image. Hammacher-Schlemmer. Here’s a store that only sells expensive cigars, and one that only sells skyline pictures of Chicago. We were captivated by capitalism. And then we stepped inside Williams-Sonoma.

We saw sets of cookware that cost more than our first car; clay roasting pans in an array of sizes; a whole display of pepper grinders, perched upon a bed of peppercorns, begging to be tested. There was solid copper cookware, hand painted china, olive pitters, garlic presses, lemon zesters, lettuce knives, coffee grinders, espresso machines, and kitchen soap with matching colored dish towels. We knew then and there we could no longer settle for just being cooks – this was the store that would make us into chefs.

We knew we had to buy something here – something to begin our transformation. But we had tuition to pay and kids to raise and really couldn’t afford cookware that equaled the cost of a house payment. So we settled for a spatula.

Since then we’ve returned periodically to get back that chef-like feeling. Every time we came we were swept up into a kitchen alternate universe, where gravy separators, olive-wood tasting spoons and flambe ladles suddenly seemed like gadgets we could not live without. We once bought a cookie press, convinced that we  would start making different shaped cookies for every holiday. Turns out that all it ever got us was a chance to practice swearing before every holiday, while we produced a collection of unrecognizable cookie blobs. We actually discussed how we could possibly ever roast a chicken again without special linen trussing string that came in an acorn-shaped wooden holder, when just the week before I had announced that I was never going to put myself through the ordeal of roasting a chicken again, and if for some reason we needed a roasted chicken we would buy the rotisserie version. What came over us when we entered the store that changed us from rational, normal humans to kitchen fanatics?

We’ve never found the answer. It must be something piped in through the air ducts, or some spell that the cheery greeters cast on us as we approach the store. We don’t know the cause of our kitchen craziness, but we’ve finally found a solution. Next time we come, we’ll have a code ready to bring us back to reality. Something to jolt us back when one of us starts to get caught up in alternate-universe kitchen obsession. Something to bring us to our senses. Something to remind us that we are practical, every-day people who cook ordinary food, and will never, ever be chefs who can’t get by without a clam knife. “Remember honey, we just came in to buy a spatula.”

© The author and Huffygirl’s Blog, 2010 to 3010. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to the author and Huffygirl’s Blog with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.