Just in time for Thanksgiving – the Turtato

I’m sure you’ve heard about people who have opened a bag of chips or made a grilled cheese sandwich and discovered their food has been graced with the  image of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Well, not quite as exciting but almost as good. I bought a basket of potatoes from a local farmer at the farmer’s market. It looked like an ordinary little basket of potatoes, until I got it home. I dumped the bag out on the counter, and discovered  – the turtao, or maybe a poturkey. It’s a potato in the shape of a turkey. Divine intervention in the potato patch, or over-active imagination? You decide.

100_3630 Turtato 2, https://huffygirl.wordpress.com, © Huffygirl 2013100_3633 Turtato, https://huffygirl.wordpress.com, © Huffygirl 2013© Huffygirl 2013

I still don’t bake Christmas cookies

Not my cookies

Not my cookies

Okay, I’m THAT person. The one who does not bake Christmas cookies. It’s not that I don’t bake, because I do. It’s just that I’m not any good at baking cute, decorative cookies. My cookies are all gobs of dough flopped down on a cookie sheet. They taste great (if the rate at which they disappear is any indicator,) but they don’t look like anything special.

I used to at least make an attempt to bake Christmas cookies, by taking the ordinary cookies I usually make and adding red and green to them. You know – sprinkle red and green sugar on top of the Snickerdoodles and they instantly become  Christmas Snickerdoodles. Or put red and green M & Ms in the chocolate chip cookies instead of chocolate

Mine are more like this.

Mine are more like this.

chips, and voilà – Christmas cookies.  I figure red and green sugar and M & Ms were invented just for people like me – the Christmas baking impaired. But they never really looked all that great and nobody was fooled – they technically were not Christmas cookies.

So then I created a better plan to make people think that I baked Christmas cookies, which involves large quantities of  red jam and powdered sugar. You know, red for Christmas, and powdered sugar for snow of course. What’s not Christmasy about that?

Mine are NEVER like this.

Mine are NEVER like this.

Here was my plan. Two days before Christmas when I started to feel inadequate because there were no actual Christmas cookies in my house, my cookie plan escalates to Defcon 2. I’d make almond sandies, which of course are rolled in powdered snow, er sugar. Then a batch of jam thumbprints, with red jam, natch. Then the pièce de résistance – I would arrange this assortment on a CHRISTMAS PLATE, add some fudge, which everyone knows is a Christmas food, and there I’d have it – Christmas cookies. The white, the red, the festive plate, everyone was fooled into thinking I was a Christmas cookie baker after all.

What about your Christmas baking experiences? Are you one of those people who starts at Thanksgiving, baking ten different kinds of Christmas cookies, each one more complex than the previous? Or do you buy the big bag of red and green sprinkled cookies at Costco? Or are you THAT person – the one who makes the elaborate ginger bread village with mansions, shopping malls and Santa’s workshop?

Merry Christmas everyone!

© Huffygirl 2012

(Originally posted 12-23-2010)

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

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

World Food Day

Today is World Food Day, a day set aside to bring awareness of hunger around the world. It’s a great time to think about what you can do locally, or globally to help. Give to your local food bank. Donate food from your garden to a shelter. Send a donation to a food charity. Support local farmers at your farmer’s market.

Time to cut back on junk food?

Think about your own food consumption too. I took a survey of my snack shelf and realized that I’m spending money on food that I really don’t need. Snack foods generally do not offer any nutrition and are high in salt and fat, which tends to make them addictive. It may be time for me to do a snack shelf make-over. Many restaurants offer huge portions and free drink refills. Think about skipping the soda and bringing half of your entrée home for later. Whatever you do to cut back on your own food consumption, send the money you save to support a food charity.

If we all do a little, it will help a lot. What other ways can we support the effort to stop world hunger?

 © Huffygirl 2011

Passing on a family tradition: Making pasties

Okay, first, it’s pah-stee, not pAy-stee. I’m talking about food. Pasties, or Cornish pasties, are self-contained meat pies. Legend has it that the pasty was brought to this country by immigrants from Cornwall, England, who came here to work  in the mining industry, in the upper peninsula of Michigan and upper Minnesota. The miner’s wives made this tasty delicacy with a mix of meat, potatoes, onions, and rutabaga, wrapped in pie crust. The miners would tuck a towel-wrapped pasty into their pockets and take them to work, where they would stay delightfully warm until lunch time. Right.

I can’t speak for Minnesotans, but anyone raised in Michigan, or anyone who has traveled to the upper peninsula, should know what a pasty is. Michiganders know that the best pasties are found the farther north you go of the Mackinac bridge. In fact we all heard the expression growing up “you can’t get good pasties this side of the bridge.” Today you CAN buy pasties south of the bridge, usually at local diner-type restaurants, but I contend the best ones are still north of the bridge (Houghton maybe) although we have found good pasties in St. Ignace, just across the bridge, at a mom and pop store that sells pasties, fudge, magazines and bait.

My husband’s family got their pasty traditions from the family roots in Duluth, Minnesota. Shortly before we were married, my future mother-in-law schooled my husband and me in the art of making pasties, thinking she couldn’t let her first-born son starve to death with a wife who didn’t know how to make a pasty. There was no recipe – just Mom’s tutelage in making and rolling out the dough, spending what seemed like hours dicing up meat, potatoes and carrots (no rutabaga in this family’s pasties), filling the crust, trimming and baking.

Since that day many years ago I’ve added my own refinements – I no longer trim the dough into a neat half-circle as my mother-in-law did – it just wastes dough and time and adds nothing to the finished product. I now use one pat of margarine instead of two (cholesterol conscious I guess) and cut the prep time at least by half by chopping all the ingredients and making the dough in the food processor. Things aren’t diced as evenly and prettily, but hey, I’ve got better things to do than standing in the kitchen dicing half the day. And it still tastes great.

Recently, best husband and I passed on the tradition by teaching our first-born son how to make pasties. Besides explaining the basics, we passed on all the little tips that we’ve gleaned from making pasties over the years. I feel better knowing that someday when I die, I will have at least passed on the secret nuances of pasty-making that one will never learn  from reading  a recipe, hopefully to be passed on again and again, so the family pasty tradition will remain alive.

Recipe to follow.

Two generations of pasty makers: husband and first-born son.

© Huffygirl 2011

The world’s best club sandwich

I’ve just eaten one-quarter of the world’s best and most authentic club sandwich. My only wish is that I had taken the photo before I started to eat it, so everyone could see what the world’s best club sandwich should look like: a  glorious presentation  on a delicate floral china plate, with a crisp pickle spear, and crunchy chips heaped in the center. Really, this is how it should be, but nowadays seldom is. What most restaurants (and by most I mean the dominant American restaurants, the dreaded chain restaurants) pass off as a club sandwich is this: toasted bread, only two layers, thinly sliced deli turkey, bacon, greenhouse tomatoes, and, the worst insult ever, American cheese. No, no no. A club sandwich should be like this one: a triple-decker sandwich with  thick slabs of real white meat turkey, juicy vine-ripened tomatoes, crisp green Romaine lettuce, bacon, and never, ever, ever, cheese.

So where did I find the world’s best club sandwich? I’m sitting in the waterfront dining area of The Carriage House, a charming Mackinac Island restaurant snuggled so close to the Hotel Iroquois that we almost didn’t find  it. We discovered it on a nighttime walk, snooped around the back, saw the waterfront seating area, and decided to come back during the daytime for lunch. Besides a great atmosphere and the world’s best club sandwich, we had a terrific view of the harbor, Victorian homes on the east bluff, and a pair  parasailing. What could be a better lunch than that?

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© Huffygirl 2011