Saturday, November 30, 2013

Post Black Friday and Stuff

I survived Black Friday. Actually, it was not too bad, other than the early start. Not nearly as many shoppers as I expected and most only came for the special price on the Martha Stewart Xmas tree that was advertised and they were gone pretty quick. They actually let me leave an hour early since we were heavily overstaffed. There was a lot of time when the number of orange aprons present outnumbered shoppers.

Thanksgiving dinner was nice and even though it was just for four I think everyone enjoyed it. As usual I fixed enough for 12 and there are a lot of leftovers and out guests went home with plenty as well. I was especially proud of the fact that everything, with the exception of the turkey, wine, and a few ingredients came from the garden. Steamed fresh broccoli, sweet potatoes, mashed potatoes, succotash to mention some and everything else was made from scratch. The surprise hit was the Buttermilk pie which was a last minute whim. If anyone would like to try, let me know and I'll post the recipe.

Working again this afternoon but only for 5 hours and again tomorrow for a full shift. No weekends around here very often.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Day Ahead Butterry Dinner Rolls

Here is a recipe for nice dinner rolls that you can do most of the work the day ahead and that make a very necessary addition to the Thanksgiving feast. The overnight rest in the fridge actually improves the flavor of the bread and saves a lot of mess on the big day. This makes about 2 dozen rolls so there are usually plenty left over for turkey and cranberry sliders.

You need:

1 1/4 cups milk ( whole or two percent or even buttermilk)
2 TBLSP sugar
1 packet or 1 1/4 tsp rapid rise yeast
1 large egg beaten
4 - 4 1/2 cups of all purpose unbleached flour (20 to 21 1/4 oz) I use King Arthur
1 1/2 TSP kosher salt
8 TBLSP softened unsalted butter divided into 8 pieces and 6 TBLSP
6 TBLSP of  softened salted butter for forming, brushing pre and post baking.

Warm the milk and sugar in the microwave until it is about 100 degrees F
In the bowl of a stand mixer put the warmed milk and sugar and add the yeast letting it stand for 5 or 10 minutes or until you see yeast begin to foam. Add the beaten egg and 4 cups of the flour and mix until it just comes together with the dough hook. Let this stand for 20-30 minutes to let the flour hydrate. Add the salt and knead on medium with the dough hook for 6 minutes. After 6 minutes and the  8 TBLSP of butter one TBLSP at a time, letting each mix in well before adding the next. After all the butter is incorporated your dough should be coming away from the sides of the bowl but if not add additional flour 1 TBLSP at a time until it does. Dump the dough onto a floured work surface and knead by had for 1 or two minutes. Put the dough into a large buttered bowl, cover and refridgerate overnight. It should rise slowly overnight until it doubles in size. Remove the dough to the counter a couple of hours before you are ready to bake and let the dough come to room temperature.

 Cut the dough into 24 pieces and with well buttered hands form them into balls by pulling the dough and pinching to form a smooth surface. Put on a large baking pan (half sheet pan) cover and let rise until they double. Baste lightly with melted salted butter and bake in a preheated 375F oven on the middle rack until golden, about 20 minutes. Lightly brush again with melted salted butter and serve.

Instead of making round buns you can roll the dough out until it is about a 1/2 inch thick and cut out circles with a biscuit cutter, brush with butter and fold half then let rise until doubled. Your choice.


Wintry Day and Gravy To Boot

A little dusting of snow around this morning in the Northern burbs of Atlanta though the temp is just slightly north of freezing and a lot of gusty wind. Should be clearing by the afternoon but it makes a great day for staying inside and getting all the prep done for the "foodalypse" or "turkeylypse" or whatever.

Going to get the cornbread baked for the dressing and all the onions and celery chopped and chilled. Get the pie crusts done and the dough for the rolls made up and in the fridge. While it will save me time tomorrow it actually makes for a better bread if the dough ferments slowly overnight which produces a much fuller flavor. Not much else to do ahead but it will make throwing the dinner tomorrow much less hectic. Oh, and I'll make the broth for the gravy today as well. You can make gravy with just boxed broth but making your own broth with a mirepoix and a foundation of boxed broth makes for a much better product. I'll share my method below.

Minimonk has cancelled and decided just to stay home and chill but it doesn't change the plan but it does mean more leftovers(and more pumpkin pie for me).
Everybody have a safe holiday and enjoy your time off. If you are traveling on the East coast be careful. If you are flying...woe is you.

For all you folks a little wary of making your own gravy and resort to the packets or jars give the following a try and you won't go back. Good gravy can save the day and this gravy is not restricted to just turkey. Yeah, it takes a bit of work but you can do the stock days ahead and even freeze it weeks ahead. The final assembly takes just minutes. Try it, you'll like it.

Classic Herbed Gravy

You'll need:

For the stock:
    2 tablespoons olive oil
    2 stalks of celery chopped into 1/4 inch dice
    2 carrots chopped into 1/4 inch dice
    1 onion, coarsely chopped
    2 garlic cloves, crushed
    4 cups water
    4 cups low sodium chicken broth
    1 bay leaf
    2 teaspoons whole black peppercorns
For the final gravy:
    3 tablespoons  unsalted butter
    1 teaspoon each finely chopped fresh thyme, rosemary, and sage (you can use a tablespoon of dried poulty seasoning here)
    2 tablespoons unsalted butter for the final finish
    1/4 cup all-purpose flour
    salt and pepper to taste
Make the stock:
Heat oil in a large saucepan over moderately high heat and add celery, carrots, onion and garlic, stirring occasionally, until golden brown, about 5 minutes. Add water, broth, bay leaf and peppercorns and bring to a boil.
Simmer uncovered, until reduced to 6 cups, about 1 hour. Strain through a fine sieve and skin off any excess fat. Set aside. You can do this a day or two ahead or freeze for weeks. You'll just have to warm it before final assembly.

For the gravy:
Heat the 3 TBLSP butter in a large saucepan over moderate heat, When the butter begins to foam whisk in the flour and cook until golden brown, about 4-5  minutes. Add the fresh herbs and then whisk in the hot stock in a slow stream whisking constantly, until smooth. Simmer until thickened and reduced to about 4 1/2 cups, maybe 20 minutes but maybe longer...don't worry it will thicken when it boils. Finish by stirring in the final two tablespoons of butter. Adjust the seasoning. This is the last minute part but you can do it while the turkey is resting, just make sure to keep it warm.

Note: If you want to use turkey fat from your roasting pan instead of the butter for the gravy part go right ahead and the same applies for any roasting juice instead of the stock. Just make sure all of the fat is separated from the roasting juice and add your stock to the juices to make the 6 cups you need for the gravy. That is all.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Monday This and That

Gonna freeze my butt off this afternoon. Still below freezing here at 1030 in morning and I am scheduled to be the garden cashier this afternoon 1 until close at 9p. Normally the store doesn't open the garden registers when it is this cold but the tree lot is now open so the dead trees must be sold. I'll layer up but after a few hours in the cold and wind nothing stops the cold from seeping down to the bones. The big storm is supposed to move in later this afternoon as well so I may get the added bonus of rain, sleet and freezing rain. Can't wait.

The store is gearing up for Black Friday and it is really depressing. The shelves are always lines with Chinese made garbage dump fodder but with the big shopping holiday approaching the aisles are getting filled with even more. Virtually every box is prominently labeled with CHINA and there are mountains of worthless, cheaply made crap for the suckers to buy. I for one have made it a personal goal not to buy anything from anyone on Thursday or just encourages them. Just remember that every dollar you spend is a vote for the world you want to live in. Consider joining me in not shopping Thanksgiving or on Black Friday. There is absolutely nothing you can't live without out there and for Goddess' sake don't patronize Wally World or any other retailer that is opening on Thanksgiving. Trust don't need what they are selling.

It was going to be a quiet holiday around here but Madam has invited some friends who are in the process of moving over for the Thanksgiving Day. I don't mind and I at least have some warning. I do have Wednesday and Thursday off so I will have time to put it all together. The Depot did give us all a frozen turkey so there is that. I am still trying not to think about having to be there at  445am on Friday...Goddess that is going to suck.

All the idiots that hoorayed the Iraq debacle are pshawing the Iran agreements..whoda thunk? In my view anything that doesn't involve bullets and bombs is a good thing. It's not 'world peace' by a long shot but it is a step in the right direction.

Now that the Senate has the opportunity to actually become a functioning part of government I expect something to actually happen. I'm getting a little impatient.

I'm thinking pumpkin, pecan and buttermilk pies for Thanksgiving. Does anyone have any other requests? Apple maybe? How about lemon meringue?

The menu is lining up as pretty standard fare:
Dry brined turkey
Cornbread dressing
Mashed Spuds (homegrown)
Candied Sweet potatoes (homegrown)
Succotash (homegrown)
green vege - undecided
cranberry-orange relish
Assorted pickles (beets, okra, cukes, etc.)
Fresh yeast rolls

Above mentioned pies and whatever else strikes me. Any of your favorites I should add?

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

New Cholesterol and Statin Guidelines

You may have read that there are new guidelines out for cholesterol and statins that basically say that virtually everyone should be taking statins.

What you should know is that these guidelines are driven by the drug companies that stand to make a profit from selling more drugs and there are a lot of clinicians who don't agree.

Marion Nestle has taken a look and summarized what you should know and do.

Talk to your doctor.
Eat more vegetables.
Get more exercise.

Illusion of Choice

If you venture off the outer perimeter of your grocery store and shop the inner isles (and we all do) and then try to make conscious decisions about which brands to buy then you are suffering from an illusion of choice. Virtually all the brands on grocery shelves are controlled by 10 Mega companies. If you pick the Kashi cereal over other brands because you are impressed by its claims then know that you are actually buying Kellogg cereal. That's just one example that strikes home for me since I like Kashi.

The reality is that the following 10 companies control most all of your food that is not fresh or homegrown and in many cases even the fresh food in the grocery is from some them.

Proctor and Gamble, Nestle, Kraft, Coca-Cola, Pepsico, General Foods, Kellogg's, Mars, Unilever and Johnson&Johnson.

Here is a nifty map that shows the relationships of most of the food companies and their corporate owners.

You can get the full size view of the map here.

As you can see there isn't much on the grocery store shelves that doesn't have one of the big ten food companies fingerprints all over it. All in all it is pretty depressing. That is all.

hat tip to Marion Nestle for the heads up

Friday, November 15, 2013

Rainy Friday This and That

Supposed to work 9 to 6 today but after 45 minutes they decided they didn't need as many folk and sent me home. Not unusual when it's a rainy day so here I am. The new schedule is out today as well and it seems I have the "privilege" of working on Black Friday from the open until 2p. Gonna be ugly as we open at 5am and I have to be there at 445a...aaargh!

Since it is such a crappy day I'll cook something and since I am scheduled off for tomorrow as well I can start a batch of sourdough bread too. Looks like it will be a pot roast since Madam bought a nice sirloin tip yesterday which will braise nicely and it is a good day for a nice comforting dinner. I might even go all out and make a couple of focaccia to soak up the gravy. I get real content when there are roasting beast smells mingled with baking bread smells in the house.

Miss Zoey had a run in with what was most likely a yellow jacket yesterday afternoon. Had a severe enough allergic reaction that we took her to the vet. A benadryl iv and some subcut fluids got her back to normal pretty quickly but she is a bit sleepy today and apparently none the worse for wear.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Back At It

Well I've been off for two days but I am back at it hard today. Scheduled for two full days of returns...Not going to be fun. Got the garden and greenhouse all ready for the cold weather which came as predicted but it is supposed to warm a bit before the weekend. Spent a lot of time cuddling with little Miss Zoey who seems perfectly content to just be in your lap. She has settled in nicely and seems to have accepted this as her new home. She hasn't quite realized that she is not a cat because nothing is safe if there is a way for her to get to it. So far she has retrieved items from the kitchen table and dining room table and actually walk across the table between the two chairs in the den when she wants to change laps.
Off we go.

Monday, November 11, 2013

To All That Served

Regardless of whether it is called Veteran's Day, Remembrance Day or Armistice Day we should all take a moment today and acknowledge the sacrifices of so many that have served nobly over the years. You must remember that some point these brave men and women turned to their nation, families and fellow countrymen and said I will defend you with all my ability even if it means giving up my life. It is no small sacrifice and commitment as truly deserves to be honored on this day and all days.

I salute my fellow veterans and wish with all my spirit that at some point we will have created a world when such sacrifices are no longer needed and instead we can focus our energies toward the common good.

Friday, November 08, 2013

Happy Friday

It's Friday and I have the day off...hooray! Pretty quiet around these parts. Little Zoey seems to be settling in and getting her two servants properly trained. Actually got a bit of a frost last night which I believe is the first for this fall. I'll probably spend some time today cleaning up in the garden and putting away hoses and that kind of stuff.

Happy 10th blogging anniversary to Bobby Cramer at BBWW.

I don't know about you but I am a big fan of porridge (oatmeal), especially in the fall and winter. I especially like steel cut oats even though they take much longer to cook than the regular rolled oats you normally find here in the U.S. I stumbled upon a simple new way to cook porridge from April Bloomfield that is now my go to method. You get the best of both worlds when it comes to oatmeal.

1 1/2 cups water
1 1/2 cups of milk
heavy pinch of salt
1/2 cup rolled oats (not the quick cooking kind)
1/2 cup steel cut oats sometimes called Irish oats

Bring the milk, water and salt to a simmer and stir in the two different oats. Cook slowly uncovered for about twenty minutes. You get the creaminess of the rolled oats and the nice bite from  the steel cut oats. I serve it with a bit of honey, and additional milk but brown sugar or maple syrup is nice as well. Well worth a try.

Everyone enjoy your Friday and weekend.

Monday, November 04, 2013

New Buddy

Couldn't deal with the pet withdrawal so it was off to Atlanta Humane Society on Friday. There was a new arrival just that morning and we hit it off immediately. Her new name is Zoey and she is a Jack Russel mix...which is probably chihuahua or the like. A year and a half old and almost 14 pounds. I think we'll get along just fine.  I'll get a better picture when I get a chance. I'm typing one handed right now as I am tied down with the little girl on my lap.