Thanksgiving turkey

Last year’s Thanksgiving turkey post … getting ready for tomorrow!

food with pictures

I am not posting pictures of my Thanksgiving turkey from this year, because I don’t find pictures of turkeys all that appetizing. Or maybe it’s only the photos I took don’t look that appetizing. Anyhoo, the turkey today tasted great. It was tender and delicious. But no photo, sorry.

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I am thankful to have been given my mother’s oval roaster. Amazing results every time! This roasting pan is one of my favorite things.

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Remember that bag of onion, celery, garlic and carrots from the other day? That’s what goes into the bottom of the pan when I make my Thanksgiving turkey. Then I add a cup of chicken broth.

The washed and dried bird goes on top, then a generous dusting of Bell’s. That stuff is awesome! Now, sure, you could make your own poultry seasoning using a combination of rosemary, oregano, sage, ginger, and…

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stuffing

Another Thanksgiving recipe to get us ready for the big day this week. Stuffing … my favorite part of the meal! And easy to make in the slow cooker, saving valuable space in the oven for the turkey and other sides.

food with pictures

I shall start by saying that I am fully aware the name of this should be “dressing” rather than “stuffing” since stuffing is meant to stuff inside the turkey, and dressing is meant to be cooked on the side. I have always called it stuffing and will continue to do so. That is my prerogative. And now to continue with the post. 🙂

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When I was in 7th grade I took Home Ec class. That would be Home Economics to you young people. Or what they now call Teen Living or FACS (Family And Consumer Sciences). In the fall of that 7th grade year we were in the kitchen section, and in the spring we went to the sewing room. I enjoyed both, but especially the times we cooked. No surprise there.

That fall, prior to Thanksgiving, the class was making all the components of a typical Thanksgiving feast…

View original post 694 more words

stuffing

I shall start by saying that I am fully aware the name of this should be “dressing” rather than “stuffing” since stuffing is meant to stuff inside the turkey, and dressing is meant to be cooked on the side. I have always called it stuffing and will continue to do so. That is my prerogative. And now to continue with the post. 🙂

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When I was in 7th grade I took Home Ec class. That would be Home Economics to you young people. Or what they now call Teen Living or FACS (Family And Consumer Sciences). In the fall of that 7th grade year we were in the kitchen section, and in the spring we went to the sewing room. I enjoyed both, but especially the times we cooked. No surprise there.

That fall, prior to Thanksgiving, the class was making all the components of a typical Thanksgiving feast, and the teacher allowed us to bring in family recipes if we wished to. I was so proud of my grandmother’s stuffing and was excited to show it to the teacher, in hopes that she’d pick it for the recipe the class used. Well, when I wrote it out to give to her, I called it stuffing when it was actually dressing. Or vice versa. I can’t remember the exact details. But what happened next was one of the worst moments of my 7th grade year: The teacher converted the recipe to be the opposite of what it actually was. For example, there is more liquid in dressing than in stuffing, since when stuffing is in the bird the natural juices of the turkey add that extra necessary liquid, but when cooking it on its own, you need to have more liquid to start with. So I can’t quite remember if she added liquid or reduced the liquid in my grandmother’s recipe, but she did one of the two. I was quite a shy child and especially nervous around adults, so the mistake was never corrected. Consequently, when the class made our Thanksgiving feast, the stuffing was not what it should have been. It was not even close to my grandmother’s amazing stuffing.

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The following recipe is not my grandmother’s recipe. I’m sad to say I don’t have a copy of her original. What I have done is created a stuffing that I enjoy. And by “enjoy” I mean “love so much I could eat it and only it for meal after meal, especially on Thanksgiving day and the next morning for breakfast … and for snack”.

I usually make this without sausage, but while doing my Thanksgiving shopping this year, my local store had pork sage sausage sitting right there at eye level, calling my name. I like their sausage, since it has no fillers or strange ingredients.

So I decided to make two batches — one with sausage and one without. Due to limited space in the oven, I did the sausage-free stuffing in the crockpot while cooking the one with stuffing in the oven. This is the second time I’ve used my crockpot for stuffing, and it turned out wonderful! It’s also fast and stays warm without drying out. And it frees up much needed oven space.

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Stuffing

In a skillet melt:

  • half a stick of butter

Over medium/low heat, slowly cook in the butter:

  • 1 onion, finely chopped onion
  • 4 stalks celery, finely chopped
  • a few cloves of garlic, finely chopped (optional)

Add:

  • a few teaspoons of Bell’s seasoning or a few teaspoons sage (I’m usually very generous with this seasoning and add about 4 teaspoons)

Note: The day before Thanksgiving I prepped these ingredients by having them all chopped and put into a baggie with the butter and seasoning.

 

Stirring often, cook until the onions and celery are very tender.

 

 

In a greased casserole dish (or greased crockpot … I use butter to grease these), put in:

  • half a bag of cornbread cubes
  • half a bag of herb seasoned bread cubes
  • the cooked onion and celery
  • cooked chopped pork sage sausage, if desired

 

Stir the ingredients.

 

Now pour into the casserole dish (or crockpot):

 

Using a spatula or the back of a large serving spoon, press the mixture, making sure all of the bread gets saturated with the chicken broth. If you can see some of the liquid on the edges when pressing down on the bread and vegetables, you’re good. If not, add more liquid (broth or water).

 

 

In a 325F or 350F oven, cook covered for about 30 minutes, then remove the cover and continue to cook for about 15 minutes more (exact cooking time will depend on the size of your pan, and your oven).

Or…

In the crockpot, cook on low a few hours, or on high for a shorter time. (Note: I started mine on high for one hour, then changed it to the warm setting and kept it there all afternoon … tasting it often.)

 

Thanksgiving turkey

I am not posting pictures of my Thanksgiving turkey from this year, because I don’t find pictures of turkeys all that appetizing. Or maybe it’s only the photos I took don’t look that appetizing. Anyhoo, the turkey today tasted great. It was tender and delicious. But no photo, sorry.

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I am thankful to have been given my mother’s oval roaster. Amazing results every time! This roasting pan is one of my favorite things.

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Remember that bag of onion, celery, garlic and carrots from the other day? That’s what goes into the bottom of the pan when I make my Thanksgiving turkey. Then I add a cup of chicken broth.

The washed and dried bird goes on top, then a generous dusting of Bell’s. That stuff is awesome! Now, sure, you could make your own poultry seasoning using a combination of rosemary, oregano, sage, ginger, and marjoram, but Bell’s does it in just the perfect amounts, making it easy for me. I sometimes add salt and pepper, and sometimes honey, but today I simply put on the Bell’s and that was enough.

I start the turkey with the breast side down, then I cover it for the first hour or hour and a half. After that I flip the bird (laugh if you must), and keep it covered for a little longer. When there is only about an hour left I remove the cover. I also baste it with the liquids in the pan at least twice.

As for cooking time, 20 minutes per pound is what I aim for. This roasting pan tends to cook it quicker, so 15 minutes per pound is more accurate in my case.  I know the turkey is ready to come out of the oven when the internal temperature is at least 165F. And I always allow it to rest at least 15 minutes before giving my husband the job of carving it. Now, I’m not one of those people that thinks carving a turkey is a man’s job, but it is my husband’s job. He does it better than I do, and I’m busy making the gravy and getting all the food on platters and in serving dishes, so it works out for us. Divide, conquer, slice and serve. It works well for us.

*Note: For my gravy process please see this link. Delicious non-lumpy gravy…. Yum!

Thanksgiving preparation

The day before Thanksgiving is a busy day in my kitchen. I’m not complaining, because I really enjoy all the prep work! I put on my fancy apron, select a fun CD to listen (and sing) to, and off I go.

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Growing up my family of eight would spend Thanksgiving (and all other holidays) at my dad’s parent’s house, which was about half an hour away … over the river and through the woods to Grandmother’s house we went. When we were old enough to realize that my grandmother woke at 2am in order to prepare everything and have it ready to serve at noon, precisely at noon, it was a shock. So much work. So early in the morning. And we ate it so fast. Almost as soon as the dishes were put on the table *poof* it was time to clean up and back into the kitchen she would go (with all us girls following her, of course). That lovely woman spent so many hours (and so many early morning hours) preparing feasts for her family. She loved feeding us, and was extremely thankful that she was able to.

I feel the same way about feeding my family — putting delicious meals on the table for them to eat pleases me and I think of it as a showing of love. But I am not a wake at 2am kind of gal. I’m usually going to bed at 1am, so that just doesn’t work for me! That’s why I came up with the plan to do all the prep the day before. Since I need onions for three dishes, I prepare them all at the same time — some finely chopped, some sliced, others in big chunks. Same for the celery and carrots and everything else that needs to be cleaned and cut before cooking. As I’m doing all this chopping, I have the cranberry sauce cooking away on the stove.

Here’s a photo of my veggies all prepped and ready for Turkey Day:

See that bag that says “stuffing”? That’s my favorite. In it I put finely chopped onion and celery and garlic, and the half stick of butter, as well as a few teaspoons of poultry seasoning. All I need tomorrow is the saute pan! When it’s time I just open the baggie, dump it all in the pan, and cook them. When they’re tender I’ll transfer them to the baking dish, add bread crumbs and chicken stock, then cover and bake. Not one cutting board or knife needed!

And that bag on the right will be used first thing in the morning. It goes into the roasting pan with the turkey. Lots of onion, celery, garlic and carrots. Just as when I make a roast chicken, these in the pan help to flavor not only the bird, but the gravy as well.

An hour before serving time I’ll make a vegetable mix using those two bags on the left. I separate the veggies because I start with the onion and carrots, which take a bit longer to get tender, then add the broccoli, asparagus and green beans. Normally at Thanksgiving I serve just a simple green veggie, usually green beans, but this year I had the urge to get as many veggies on the table as possible.

Oh, did I forget something? Yes, that little bag of plain carrot sticks. Have I mentioned my super picky children? One of them will not eat cooked veggies … ever … at all … EVER. She instead will eat these, either as is, or in a fruit & vegetable smoothie with her meal.

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Other items I get ready the day before Thanksgiving include the desserts. Always apple pie (my favorite) and pumpkin pie (my husband’s favorite). And my daughter makes a chocolate dessert of some sort (her favorite). And we can’t forget about breakfast for tomorrow …. I’ve prepared Baked French Toast. Yum! I’m so looking forward to a big pot of coffee and this delicious French toast! And I won’t have to worry about being up all night doing the busy work — it’s all done!

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Happy Thanksgiving everyone!  And happy Thursday to all of you non-USA readers!  I’m thankful for all of you!

polish kitchen

The month of May reminds me of my grandmother. She was born in May, and 94 years later died in May as well.

The memories I have of my Grandmother mostly include food. She was simply an amazing cook, and I don’t know the exact words to rightly describe how wonderful her food was. Let’s just say her secret ingredients were thankfulness and love, and with those in every dish, that should give you some idea how the food tasted.

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I remember her spending most of her time in her kitchen. Even when she was a working woman (out of financial necessity — maybe in the 70’s?) she’d still wake hours early to bake and/or start a meal for later in the day, and she’d come home on her lunch hour to serve a meal to her beloved husband, who worked from home.

Every Sunday we enjoyed and were blessed with a huge family meal — over the river and through the woods we’d go — at Gram’s house. There were never any shortages of meats, vegetables, and desserts. It was her mission to provide at least one favorite item from each of those categories, for each family member. This was no small matter. Gram had only two sons, yet when both sons arrived with their wives and children on Sunday for the promptly-at-noon meal, we ended up with 14 people around the dining room table. It’s mind boggling to think of all the preparation that went into preparing all that food, every Sunday. It didn’t bother her to wake at 4 a.m. in order to accomplish this seemingly effortless task. Serving delicious food to her family, and cooking with love, was a blessing she never undervalued.

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Years ago I wrote this poem about my grandmother. I know poems shouldn’t have explanations, yet I’d like to note a few things, so that this poem, and through this poem my grandmother, are clearly understood.

Her parents came from Poland, and spoke little or no English. She was forced to speak only English when she attended grade school, and the teachers changed her name, with the ridiculous intention of helping to make the socialization aspect of school easier for her.

As a young child I spent many hours and countless summer days at her house. Neighbors would come in and out often, and when one of those neighbors came in with a letter from the old country, my grandmother would translate it for those that couldn’t read Polish. I craved listening to those foreign sounds through the screen door, and am sad that this language was not passed down to my generation.

Polish food was a specialty of hers, as expected, and she also excelled in many American dishes, such as pork chops, spare ribs, and apple pie. Everything she made — everything — was simply delicious. Even her coffee was the best I’ve ever had.

They had times when she was newly married that they went without. Gram was creative with a cabbage. Though my father, her oldest son, never went hungry. She wouldn’t have allowed that. Whatever meat they could get was served to him, to make him big and strong and to never know hunger. When times changed and she had the resources to provide food for her family, she did so with such joy. It was a blessing she never took for granted.

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Polish Kitchen

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Pierogi

Kielbasa

Golabki

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Honorata

Her beautiful given name

Changed to make it easier for the other school children

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She ate cabbage while to her son she served meat

Years later the grandchildren never went hungry

Her small kitchen filled with food and love

The table overflowed with the gifts of plenty

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Coming in to speak words the children didn’t recognize

Neighbors called her

Dorothy

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Egg Bread

Spare Ribs

Apple Pie

sausage with peppers and onions

I grew up eating a lot of kielbasa. My father’s side of the family is of Polish descent, and the town my grandparents lived in had a large Polish population. As I’ve mentioned before, my grandmother, my dad’s mom, was an amazing cook. I was a huge fan of almost everything she made, though as a picky child I stayed away from her prune pierogi and her often served sauerkraut. But her golabki (stuffed cabbage rolls) were a huge favorite of mine! Also a favorite, and served at every family gathering, was kielbasa.

I don’t make kielbasa the way she did — not sure I know exactly how she did it — and I’m not lucky enough to have a Polish butcher in my town, so, unfortunately, the kielbasa I get at my local grocery store is not reminiscent of what Gram served. Therefore I purchase the best one I can find, and cook it up with onions, peppers, and a bit of barbecue sauce, then serve it on rolls. Definitely not the way Gram did it! But this is definitely not Gram’s kielbasa.

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Sausage With Peppers and Onions

Cut one onion in half, then slice it.

Clean, cut and slice a green pepper and a red pepper.

In a saute pan, coat the bottom with canola oil, then cook the onion and peppers over medium heat.

While these are cooking (keep an eye on them… you don’t want them to burn), make a batch of barbecue sauce.

Take the sausage (I used a national brand’s version of turkey Polska Kielbasa, but you can use any kind you like), cut it into 1-inch to 2-inch sections, then slice each lengthwise. Add these pieces to the soft onions and peppers. Cook and stir until the meat is heated through — this won’t take more than 5-10 minutes. Again, keep a close eye on it so that they don’t burn — turn the heat down a bit if you need to.

Once they are nicely cooked on both sides, turn the heat off and add 1/2 cup barbecue sauce. Stir, then cover. Let it sit for about 5 more minutes.

Get your favorite bun, toast it if you’d like, and top it with a big scoop of the sausage, onions and peppers. I add some good old yellow mustard on mine. Yum!