Friday, November 23, 2018

Feast of Thanksgiving 2018

I actually understand why some folks prefer to go out to dinner or to others homes on Thanksgiving, It's a lot of work when you are the host.  We hosted only ourselves, but we put on quite the spread!  This morning we are left with dishes and all the desserts that we could not even touch due to being full.

You see it all started a few weeks ago.  We began to change from grain heavy meals during the week, to more limited, then to barely any.  The meal portions got a little smaller, or were filled by more nutrient dense items. While we couldn't finish our plates - what we did have was amazing!

Menu for a Feast of Thanksgiving went like this:

Appetizer course
Chilled Prawns
Cheese bites
Hard Salami
Pickled Asparagus***
Homegrown cucumber pickles***
Cold imitation crab dip
Buttery crackers
Whole grain crackers

Main course
Apple wood smoked Turkey
Golden mashed potatoes
Gluten-free smokey Gravy**
Roasted Homegrown Carrots and Beets***
Green Bean Mushroom bake with onions and bacon**
Coconut cream Ambrosia salad**
Dinner rolls

Dessert Course
Pumpkin cheesecake*
Pumpkin Pie*
Pumpkin Pecan tarts with almond meal crusts*,**
Smoked Pumpkin Cheesecake **
Pumpkin pecan Pie/Tart**
Whipped cream
Whipped coconut cream**

Beverage course
Sauk Farm's Grape Cider

*Personal sized **Experimental or new dish. ***Includes good items grown here

Now you might feel this menu was not that daunting.  We had a few hiccups along the way, one being that I bought too big of a bird and B did his best to accommodate my purchase.  We joked that the best way we learn is trial and error.  But at the end of the day, even in light of the issues we faced and lessons learned, we had a beautiful spread and ended in laughter!

Smoked Turkey

Brined with half of a bag of leftover Spice Islands brine, plus some salt, dried cranberries, few juniper berries, extra peppercorns, and a bay leaf.  Brined for 1.5 days (went into the brine Tuesday evening).   To prep for the smoker, we covered the bird in an olive oil herb blend (rosemary, sage, thyme - from home, plus pink sea salt), then stuffed the cavity with 2 granny smith, 2 Sauk farm organic Winesaps, 1 onion, and more thyme and rosemary.   B set the smoker up at 4am, and the bird from hell (as his family calls turkey) went into the smoker at 5am.  B wet smoked it, basting with an apple juice/cider blend. 

Our dog, being his first thanksgiving and all - found out that every time B went for the door, he cold go and smell the aromas that were coming from the smoker box.  He would come back inside and look at me like  "Do you smell that??"  It permeated B's clothes.  We all drooled that day!

Despite our best efforts, 15.5 lbs of turkey in the smoker at a low setting takes a long time.  But there at the end, it was so good!!!  The best flavored turkey ever is our smoked turkey.  B holds me to it when I told him that it was better than I could ever do in the oven.
Turkey in the brine 

Ready for the smoker

Smoked turkey

The sides

If I have to give a recipe on how to make mashed potatoes, I'd stop blogging.  There are things you learn when you are young and part of a large family.  I learned how to make mashed potatoes when I was about 5.  I have been cooking beside the women in my moms family from an early age. So if a 5 year old can make mashed potatoes, so can you.  If you buy pre-cooked potatoes or instant for thanksgiving, and you don't have an ailment - shame on you.  I understand timely matters - I bought rolls this year - but if you are having mashed potatoes - sweet or regular, for the love of all things,  make them from scratch.  If you don't know how or if you are nightshade free, find an Irish granny and ask for help. Potatoes are simple, and the best ingredients make the best mashed potatoes. Enough said on that topic, moving right along.

Roasted beets and carrots

We grow our own beets and carrots every year.  Harvested the weekend before Thanksgiving, they are dug up and given a good washing.  Once the turkey is in for a bit peel and quarter the beets, chop the carrots.  Drizzle with rosemary infused olive oil, sprinkle with salt & pepper, and add a few sprigs of rosemary into the baking dish.   Set out on the counter until its time to cook.  These are baked in a 350 degree oven for 40 minutes or until easily pierced.

Green bean Mushroom bake - dairy, corn, wheat, soy free

The last few weeks I have been trying to avoid my trigger foods -  corn, soy, wheat, dairy, sugar, and artificial preservatives.  For the most part I have been successful. Thanksgiving did have dairy, some wheat, and limited sugar.  We used honey, coconut sugar, coconut cream where possible, and just used full fat versions when not.  When it came time to discuss green bean casserole - B mentioned he didn't really like the standard version.  Thus we tried something new.

8x8 baking dish
Fresh or frozen green beans 
Washed and quartered mushrooms
1 white onion, sliced
2 cloves of garlic chopped
8 strips of thick cut bacon, cooked, cooled and crumble into bits
olive oil

Directions:  cook bacon to crispy, making sure to render all the fat (baking in oven helps do this pretty good).  let cool, then crumble.
assemble dish while turkey is cooking, as you wont put this into the oven until the  turkey is just about done.
Toss together beans, onions & mushrooms with olive oil to coat, place into dish, sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Top with the cooled bacon and set on counter at room temp.  
Note - when this dish cooks it will generate some liquid so don't overflow your dish too much.  
Bake for 30 minutes in a 350 degree oven or until the top of the dish shows some crispy  bits.
Green bean mushroom bake

Gluten-Free smokey gravy

Last year we did more of an AIP dinner and learned some hard lessons.  Gravy should be made with flour and butter.   Not nuts, not roots, real grain flour and good quality butter.   I was reading on the Lexi's clean kitchen blog about gluten free gravy.  She mentioned that most gluten free gravies use cornstarch.  Well we wanted to avoid corn this year, so that option was out.  Next she advised that King Arthur flour had a good all purpose gluten free flour that would do the trick.  At 6.00 a lb it better!   The only difference we noted was that the gravy didnt have the sheen to it that all my other gravy usually does.  And if we didn't tell you it was gluten free, you would never have known!

King Arthur gluten free all purpose flour, about 1/2 cup
1 stick challenge unsalted butter
Homemade chicken bone broth
turkey simmer broth *
Turkey pan drippings

* turkey simmer broth is the neck which soaked in the brine, simmered in water and stock with onion slice plus half an apple with a sprig of thyme.  simmerabout ed all day on the stove gives great turkey flavor.  strain and use in place of water in your gravy mix.

First make a roux. Melt butter to hot bubbles, add flour and cook, stirring constantly until light brown and slightly nutty.  Whisking at a consistent pace, add the drippings, then the bone borth, then the simmer sauce.  whisk until smooth and allow the gravy to heat throughout.  Taste test, season and add more stock to your liking.  Maintain a low    /simmer until ready to serve.  Serve warm in a gravy boat. 

Imitation crab dip

flaked style imitation crab
4 oz cream cheese, room temp
1/4 cup sour cream
1/4 cup mayo
chopped green onion
onion powder
garlic powder

In a food processor, combine  crab and cream cheese, pulse a few times.
Add sour cream, pulse
Add mayonnaise, pulse
Add green onion,onion, garlic powders, salt & pepper and pulse until well combined.
Taste test!!  Adjust to add more whatever as needed to your liking.
place into shallow dish, cover and chill for 2 hours.  
Serve with crackers.


Desserts, personal sized

So there are some of our recipes this year.  This was our dogs first thanksgiving and our first without our Missy Kitty.  Grateful for our home, life, surroundings, friends, and family.

Hoping you and yours made it memorable too!!

Saturday, November 3, 2018

Missy Kitty

Today marks one month since we had to put our Missy Kitty to sleep.  It is not an easy milestone, as so much has happened since my last blog. 

Originally she was supposed to a cat to keep my grammy company.  When I moved, she went with me - and since then she's been by my side.  Earlier this year she had survived an eye removal due to a lens issue.  We all had hope she would last another 5-10 years. 

One month ago she woke me up, throwing up and looking lethargic.  It was my normal day to work from home, and for that I will ever be grateful. 

She continued to decline all day.  I had to clock off work early and came to the realizaton that this was her last day.  I talked to my mom, sister, and B - we all had tears as this cat meant a lot to everyone.   Our dog knew something was wrong.  Usually they tormented each other and that day he nuzzled her, laid by her side and was the most gentle I had seen of him.  Not knowing if I could drive, my friend said she had some calming medicine if kitty needed it.  She wasn't able to lift her head and I knew it only hours before she'd end up having major problems.  She was already shutting down.   With a goodby to puppy, Missy took a last ride downriver, where her wonderful vet waited past their normal closing time. 

After loooking at her, hearing about the day and some of the prior weeks (eye started to become more dialated than usual), Dr. J  thinks she had a vascular stroke.   The eye lens shifted, she couldn't see the last few hours, and she was in obvious pain. this wasn't something we could have prevented, it was only a matter  of time due to her eye.  It was the right thing to do.   She went night night amid tears and laughter and lots of love with me, her vet, and the vet assistant.  I took her home with me and since B wasn't home, I had to move the green beans to make room for her in our chest freezer. 

In the days that followed, I was super glad for our puppy.  He barely left my side and we grieved together.  I was so heartbroken.  When B got home days later, he made a beautiful box where we laid her to rest with her favorite blankie, toys, collar and all of our love.   Her final resting place is in our rose garden, in between two rose buses, where we can see her spot out our dining room.  My plan is to make a wood sign for her as her memorial garden.  One day we do want a bigger place, and while I won't move her, i will always take her sign with me. 

Some may think I grieve too hard for just a cat.  She was more.  I am aproaching my 40's.  We have failed to concieve the last 6 years, so that darn cat was my kid.  And she's gone.  I know it doesn't fully equate to the loss of a human child - it never can.  But the loss and grief is the same.  There was an empty part of me that just ached for days.  The only solace I took is that she didn't have a long and slow painful death.  She was super healthy one day, and failing the next.  She always trusted me, and in those final moments, she was at peace.

The night we laid her to rest, I decided to make roast chicken - her favorite - for dinner.  An hour into cooking, the chicken wasn't cooking very well.  The lower element went out.  Man did we have some laughs!  You can bet she was chuckling or smirking up there in kitty heaven, just thinking, no roast chicken without me hunans!  Two Amazon orders later, we got the the right replacement element - and I haven't make roast chicken since.  The next time we do, we will dedicate it to our Missy.  Our first taste tester here at Books n Brew, but not our last.

Our pets are more than just nusiances, they are family and we love them just as much - even sometimes more so!

I don't have a recipe to post today, nor a book,  It's just my post about my sweet Missy Kitty. Hug them tight and give lots of love - for their lives are not as long as ours, but they are such packed with lots of love.

Sunday, September 30, 2018

Ciopino Night

After teasing so many people when buying my ingredients, I bet y'all want my recipe.
I don't have an official recipe. Ciopino is much like gumbo, chili, or meatloaf.  There are tons of varieties and the end result can vary due to ingredient changes.  Here is my usual ingredient list, which may be modified without notice.

This time, I wanted to stretch it and made more of a broth base than a thick soup base.   But it was still wonderful as the taste is entirely dependent on the quality of the ingredients. 

Heavy stockpot with lid, pot to steam clams/mussels, knives, wooden spoon, ladle.

1 whole dungeness crab.  Shell on.
1 lb raw large prawns, tails on.
1 lb raw bay scallops (cause sea scallops are way too expensive for this)
2 lbs fresh Manila or savory clams, scrubbed
1/2 to 1 lb mussels, scrubbed
2 lbs firm white fish (rockfish or cod is best)

Everything else:
3 small onions, chopped
5 celery stalks, diced
3 cloves garlic, diced
Vegetable or chicken stock (Vegetable stock seems to let the seafood shine a bit better)
1 bottle of clam juice (or make your own)
2 cans whole plum tomatoes
1 small can tomato paste (use less if you want a more brothy base)
1/2 lemon sliced
Dried Oregano
Dried thyme
Bay Leaf
Red Pepper Flakes
Ground  Black Pepper
Worcestershire sauce
Dry white wine or Dry red wine (i have tried using both.  Use white if you want a brothy base, use a red if you want a rich hearty soup base)
Parsley - chopped
Sourdough bread

Basic instructions
Prep the veggies, set out other ingredients.
In a heavy bottom stock pot, add the onion, garlic and celery and sweat until onions become translucent.  Add 1-2 cups of wine, cans of tomatoes with juice, and bring to a boil then reduce by half. 
**Some would say that only the garlic should be sweated and the wine.  But this is my way.    :)

Next, clean the crab by removing the shell, and breaking body in half, then half again.  Clean out the crab innards and keep the shell.
Remove shells from prawns, and scrub mussels and clams.
By this time you should be ready to add the desired amount of tomato paste, the clam juice, dash or two or Worcestershire, shake of red pepper flakes, herbs, squeeze of lemon juice, salt, pepper and some stock if needed (1-2 cups) then let cook with a lid on over medium for 20 minutes. 
Steam open the mussels and clams in a separate pot with some lemon and garlic.  Once they open, remove from heat.
Drop into soup pot: Crab bodies, then fish, scallops, prawns, and then crab shell. Replace lid on the pot to maintain the heat, allow 5-10 minutes for the seafood to cook.
Preheat oven to 375 degrees
Remove lid and drop in clams and mussels.  Turn off heat and let sit another 5 minutes.
Put sourdough in the oven to warm for 5-7 minutes.
Take down some bowls, add some parsley to the bowls, scoop big portions of ciopino into the bowls.
Remove the sourdough, cut into large 2" pieces, and serve immediately.


PS - for any extra, once cooled completely - remove the clam and mussel shells, put into freezer safe containers, label and enjoy during a cold winters night.  Keeps well for a year.  To reheat, add 1 cup of vegetable broth to a stock pot and bring to a boil, then add the frozen portion and bring to a simmer. 

Saturday, September 29, 2018

Ciopino Time

My favorite time of year is here! When the second garden season is starting, the leaves are turning, and its cool enough to make warm soups and stews.   One such recipe I have been waiting to make, Ciopino. 

If you don't like seafood or tomatoes, chances are you may not appreciate the qualities of this dish.  Who knows, you may just find your next favorite fall meal.
I still have some shopping left to do, but if you are like me, you'll be sourcing the freshest ingredients:

Dungeness crab, mussels, clams, prawns, scallops, white fish, garlic, lemon, onion, celery, tomatoes, dry white wine, herbs like oregano, parsley, bay, and of course the meal isn't complete without a crusty sourdough.  These simple ingredients will form what we gloriously savour at least once a year.

Recipe will come later, same with pictures.  Off to hunt down some clams!

Sunday, September 16, 2018

Here comes the .... rain.

Yesterday the garden was selectively harvested - outside raised bed tomatoes, peppers, watermelons, some cucumbers, and some zuccchini.  Anything previous harvested item (corn stalk) was removed to make way for the winter garden of  radish, onions and of course our broccoli is still growing strong along with our kale. The cabbage was decimated by cabbage worms in the last week (ugh!) So after I moved the front potted tomatoes into the green house, all of the trimmings were put to the fire. 

Why fire?   We cannot compost until a lid is added to the compost bin as puppy thinks it's fun to dig in it.  At least most of the food scraps have turned into wonderful dirt, but still, eww.

The rains started here in the Upper Skagit Valley, the burn ban was lifted.  I enjoyed my brush fire although I can say with certainty that cabbage does have a smell when burned. With no more 75 plus degrees in the forecast, it was time to prepare for fall.

Today my foot hurts, so it is the first opportunity to sit out on my back deck, cup of coffee, a book, wrapped in a blanket on a lounge camp chair and enjoy the rainy morning.

Welcome rain. Glad to see you back.