Thursday, November 29, 2007

Some Pre-Holiday Hijinks

Today turned out to be a who-could-get-who-day.

Oops, seems Mr. Reindeer had an accident on Kelley's charger.

Rats. Kelley beat the mom at her own game!

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

The Sun Rises and Sets (at least some things in life are reliable)

Today was yet another glorious day. Here is my pictorial offering to you, with the hope that your day was just as beautiful.

It's early. Why exactly am I up right now?

I admit it: I'm spoiled. This is the view from my kitchen.

I love the winter (okay, late autumn) sunsets here.

You might have noticed that I love sunsets.

Hopefully, I will be feeling better soon and can update more often. Until then take care and have a happy life.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

What is Wrong with Me?

(And you really don't need to answer that question, really.) I can't believe that I neglected to show you the finished results for the marshmallows. Silly me.

A pizza cutter that has been sprayed with cooking spray works great for the marshmallows. But we learned that marshmallow will stick to parchment paper. More research is needed.

The squares are cut. Sadly, they will need to be recut and then pried off the parchment paper.

Finally! The marshmallows are cut and dredged in confectioners sugar.

Thanksgiving Day Treats

A couple of days ago, I promised an update on the preparations for Turkey Day. Your patience has finally been rewarded. My lovely daughter finished classes prior to Thanksgiving break and immediately set to work in the kitchen.

Kelley has the ingredients ready for pumpkin muffins. Our friend, Jen, graciously gave us this recipe.

Kelley begins the mixing process. Can I tell you that she is very meticulous about everything being just right?

She's mixing in the flour - slowly.

Now Kelley has decided to add cinnamon to the mixture.

After making 2 dozen mini muffins, Kelley makes some regular sized muffins.

The finished product. So tender and moist. What a terrific recipe!

Kelley is using all the space available for her mise en place for Snickerdoodle cookies.

The Snickerdoodles are being mixed together.

Kelley uses the classic method to shape her cookies. Meanwhile, I roll the balls in a cinnamon sugar mixture and place them on the baking sheets.

The cookies are baked to perfection.

Earlier, Kelley made a coffee cake. I missed the chance to document the process. This too was delicious and was eagerly devoured. My daughter made all of these dishes from scratch. I'm so lucky.

What was I doing during this time? Besides taking pictures, I acted as sous chef, readying ingredients and cleaning up after my daughter. Aside from that, my husband had volunteered my services to the bank where he works as they needed a bow for a 5 foot diameter wreath. As my first job included bow making - hundreds of bows - I am quite good at this. There are 30 ten-inch loops in this bow with 6 tails. This bow had to be made in two stages as my hand was cramping quite badly.

Later I prepared a garlic studded standing prime rib roast. The roast apparently got tired after cooking because it fell over.

Roasted Yukon Gold Potatoes accompanied the beef.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

I'm Thankful for...

Once I have more time, I will upload pictures of my daughter making some terrific baked goods for Turkey Day. But for now, you will have to do with these pictures from my camera and my yard. As bad a year as we have had - first with a very late freeze and then with a prolonged dought - this year's fall explosion of color has been magnificent. We have now had two months of fall color decorating our landscape and I am delighted by this rare gift from nature.

My Cornus Floridas (dogwoods) and Fothergilla gardenii in front of my house.

Moon over Cleveland Select Pear (hmm, that doesn't exactly sound poetic now, does it?)

An absolutely beautiful ending to a perfect day. As the days, the months, and the years pass, I find more and more that I so grateful for the little things in life. A moment such as this cannot even be ruined by the nearby gun shots that herald hunting season in Southern Indiana.

I wish each and every one of you the Happiest and most Joyful Thanksgiving ever. Even if you must dig deep down inside youreself, please find something for which you can be truly grateful. I promise you, your life will truly be enriched.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Marshmallow Dreams

My family will confirm that I am no baker, and indeed I barely have a sweet tooth. But I do have to admit to one weakness: marshmallows. Now it is a great thing that one can find marshmallows in those nice bags in the grocery store, but let's admit it - they taste stale. I think the only halfway decent marshmallow out of each bag is the very first one. Sure, they might still be edible years from now, but would you really want to?
So it was with much joy and jubilation when I found a recipe for homemade marshmallows from The Barefoot Contessa, Ina Garten. I dutifully purchased the necessary ingredients and set aside a morning to make this confection. Having not made candy since chemistry class in high school, I was a bit apprehensive, but things went well and with a few alterations to the directions, I found that I had a winner.

Now fast forward to today. I decided that I would make marshmallows for our family's Thanksgiving Day get-together.

The players for today's show: granulated sugar, kosher salt, unflavored gelatine, light corn syrup, real vanilla extract, and Lyle's Golden Syrup (since I didn't have enough light corn syrup for the recipe).

I used a small binder clip to hold the temperature probe in the right place.

The sugar mixture is heating. The digital temperature probe is set to go off at 240 degrees.

While I wait for the sugar mixture to come to temperature, I line a baking dish with parchment paper.

The sugar mixture has been added to the gelatine that had been disolved in some cold water. I begin mixing with my cheap old hand mixer and set the timer for 15 minutes.

Five minutes have gone by and the mixture is beginning to turn white. Seven minutes in, the mixer begins to struggle. Will my daughter's wish come true and the hand mixer die so that we have to get a Kitchen Aid pink hand mixer?

After ten minutes the mixture is noticibly thicker and whiter. At this point I must continually 'dip' the mixer down into the mixture and then pull it back up. The poor mixer would certainly expire if I were to force the matter.

At the 11 minute mark I add the vanilla extract. I promise, Ina, that when this bottle is empty I will buy the "good stuff".

I quit mixing with two minutes left on the clock. I do believe we have reached our desired goal here. Sadly, the mixer survived its ordeal.

Into the pan the marshmallow fluff goes. This will now sit out on the counter for 24 hours and then tomorrow I will turn this slab out onto a cutting board. Then I will cut 1-inch squares and toss them in confectioners sugar.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Stock becomes Consomme

After allowing my turkey stock to chill overnight, I brought it out today to finish the job and turn the stock into a luxurious consomme.

The turkey stock comes out of the refrigerator.

Hee, hee. I made turkey jelly.

Following Rosie Hawthorne's excellent directions, I work on turning stock into consomme. Here we wait for the stock with the egg whites to come to a simmer. Not looking too appetizing here, I must say.

Whereas the stock-making process is mostly a hands-off event, only passing through the kitchen once in a while to add more water to the pot, consomme making is definitely a hands-on procedure. The mixture must be stirred constantly until it reaches a certain point. And then a kitchen timer must be utilized in order to continue the process. Time consuming? Yes. Worth it? Definitely.

And, drum roll, please... the finished product. I set aside two cups in anticipation of making turkey gravy for tomorrow's dinner.

Once the stock/consomme is cooking away on its own, I start work on a Broccoli, Bacon and Dried Cranberry salad for tonight's dinner. In this bowl are bite sized broccoli florets, diced red onion, sliced cooked bacon and dried cranberries.

To this I have added a dressing made from mayonnaise, white vinegar and sugar. I tend to do this by taste, rather than by following a specific recipe.

Many thanks again to the kitchen wizardry of Rosie Hawthorne! Thank you for pushing me to become a better home cook.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Turkey and Potpourri

Today is a stock day. Turkey stock to be exact. Tomorrow I will take that stock and make consomme. But today is all about the slow simmer of the stock. Herbs clipped from the pots on the deck at the crack of dawn Why, yes. That was me outside in my fluffy blue robe this morning. Anyway, aromatic herbs along with carrots, celery, onion and garlic simmer with yesterday's roasted turkey wings.

The turkey stock is ready to start cooking. Can you see all the flavor?

By now the stock has been simmering about six hours. Here taste it.

Cooking stock allows one the freedom to do other things while magic is happening in the kitchen. Today is also the day I begin a yearly tradition. Believe me, I have heard about it if I neglect this duty.

Can you believe I was going to give this old cutting board away to Goodwill? It is so handy.

I've figured out how to safely cut the ends of the fruit. This is my demon knife and I bear many scars from past encounters.

I bought a bag of Texas oranges, a bag of Cara Cara oranges, and two bags of lemons the other day and brought them out this morning. First I readied several old towels and sheet pans. I then thinly sliced the fruit, saving the last third to be cut against the board. Not only is this a safer way to cut the fruit, it is also wise as my bread knife is a demon knife. You could get cut just by looking at this thing (I am happy to report that the demon knife failed to cut me this time).

First, lay the fruit out on old towels to start the drying process.

The cut fruit is spread out on window screens that have been elevated off the floor. From left to right: Texas oranges, Cara Cara oranges (isn't the salmon color pretty?) and lemons. A fan is circulating air across the drying fruit.

The rest of the ingredients for the potpourri: bay leaves, cinnamon sticks and whole cloves. Instructions for simmering the potpourri are also included.

This is what the finished product will look like. This particular potpourri was made a couple of years ago. The potpourri will be ready in time for holiday gift giving.

I even took the time to sand down my cutting boards and then resealed them with mineral oil. In the case of the board I cut the fruit on, it was absolutely necessary given the viciousness of the demon knife. I love days like today. But then again, I just may be easy to please.