Saturday, November 26, 2011

The Turducken Verdict

I hope you all had a wonderful and relaxing Thanksgiving with your friends and family.  My day started at 5:30am when I got up, showered and dressed and headed to work.  Working a holiday is usually lighthearted and fun but this year is was a crazy stressful day. I was so happy when it was time to head home.

When I arrived at home the first thing I noticed was that house did NOT smell like Thanksgiving.  The Turducken had been in the oven for about 4 hours by this time so it was too late to regret our decision.  We had a glass of bubbly and watched the parade while we finished up the meal.  I had already made the green bean casserole, gravy, cranberry conserve and dessert the day before but still hadn't decided what to do with the potatoes.  The Turducken decided for us as it had rendered the most amazing rich duck fat, an opportunity I wasn't going to let go to waste.  We boiled up the Dutch gold potatoes, halved them and then roasted them in the hot duck fat until they were golden brown and crusty.  HEAVEN!


It was difficult to carve, looks like a hot mess

Thanksgiving Dinner 2011

So, what's the verdict?  While the Turducken didn't smell or taste like the Thanksgiving I'm used to, IT WAS DELICIOUS!  I'm so glad we tried it and there's one more thing ticked off my culinary bucket list.  We especially loved the duck, it was so tender and flavorful.  Rob and I never thought we would want to roast a whole duck, but we do now and probably will at some time during the holiday season. 

Tally is feeling much better, her paw healed up nicely and she enjoyed the evening in the best seat in the house.  I am so thankful for my family, on Thanksgiving Day and every day.

We had Indian pudding for dessert.  Cornmeal, milk, eggs, molasses and spices all baked up in a crock in the oven.  Served warm with vanilla gelato, this certainly smelled and tasted like a traditional New England Thanksgiving.  A perfect end to the day.

Enjoy the rest of your weekend and be sure to take advantage of this deal~If you have a Kindle or the Kindle app on your PC and are interested in free cookbooks, Amazon has 23 international cookbooks available, so don't miss out! I downloaded just about all of them, can't wait to check them out.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Gremlins Smote My Baby

I apologize for the delay with the Williamsburg trip review post but last night we had another mishap with Tally.  The gremlins must have heard how happy I was so they decided to smite my girl with a big old splinter in her left paw.  We spent Friday evening (and a fortune) at the emergency vet hospital.  The Vet had to open the pad of her paw to remove the splinter then suture the incision.  

We came home with her wearing a big bandage and a cone but the cone freaked her out so badly she kept trying to run away from it and crashing into everything.  It's not as funny as it sounds, it was just heartbreaking.  The cone had to go and I made this makeshift cover out of my witchy-poo knee socks and bandage tape to keep Tally from getting at it. After a long night of little sleep, Rob and I spent the afternoon taking turns raking and bagging leaves and watching Tally to keep her activity restricted so that paw can heel.  She'll be on pain meds and antibiotics for the next week or so.

I'm at work tomorrow, so I'll be back next week.  A bit of good news, I decided on Thanksgiving dessert!  Indian pudding.  What's that, you ask?  It's a wonderful, traditional New England baked custard made with cornmeal, eggs, milk and molasses.  It's served warm with a dollop of vanilla ice cream or fresh whipped cream.  It's a long-time family favorite and I look forward to making and enjoying it once again.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Countdown to Thanksgiving

Can you believe it's a just a week until Thanksgiving? I usually have the menus and shopping lists all ready to go by this time but not this year.  I did order the centerpiece of the meal back in early October, the Turducken!  I've been wanting to try this ridiculous dish for years and when I found out my favorite butcher shop does a smaller version, I had to do it.  Have you ever tried Turducken? 

I'm editing this post because I didn't explain what Turkducken actually is.  I saw Paula Deen make one on the Food Network years and years ago.  It's a boned out turkey that is layered with stuffing then a boned out duck is placed on top, then more stuffing then a boned out chicken in placed on.  The whole thing is stitched up and roasted or deep fried.  The one I'm getting is a Turducken Roll, which is a turkey breast half layered with stuffing, two duck breasts, more stuffing and chicken breast and all rolled up and ready to roast then slice.  

*Image courtesy of

Other than making my fresh cranberry sauce, I have no idea of the rest of the menu.  Since I have to work on Thanksgiving Day and my mind is completely on the move to Virginia, I'm dragging my feet a little.  I'm planning just two side dishes, one vegetable and probably mashed potatoes and gravy because Rob just loves that.  Last year's pineapple upside down cake is going to be tough to top this year.  I have the Thanksgiving issue of Martha Stewart Living on my Nook, perhaps she'll provide me with some much needed inspiration.

And perhaps some will come from you:  What is on your Thanksgiving menu this year?

Monday, November 14, 2011

Home, but for How Long?

I have been away since Wednesday and I have so much to share!  I've been sitting on this news for about six weeks but now that everything is finalized and the plans are in motion, I can share all the details.

Rob accepted a position with a new company.  It was, as they say, an offer he couldn't refuse.  Today is his first official day.  The company is located in Newport News, Virginia.  We just spent the better part of the last five days touring Williamsburg, which is going to be our new hometown.  I admit that I was so hopeful that we'd love it but had no idea what to expect.  What's the verdict?  My dear husband who doesn't gush, spent the entire time gushing like a school girl after her first viewing of Twilight.

In addition to cutting the distance to my family and friends in Boston IN HALF (hello doable driving distance) and getting us much closer to the coast (just an hour to the beach) Williamsburg is just lovely.  I'll be back with a full trip report with more pics, food porn and dining reviews (who knew that Williamsburg was a foodie's haven?) so you can see for yourself.  But here is a little taste.

Thomas Jefferson in Merchant's Square writing 
the Declaration of Independence

Colonial horses

One of the many bodies of water surrounding "The Peninsula"

York River at Historic Yorktown

The James River at Jamestown, first settlement 1607

Next step is to get Shady Dame on the market, we'll do that after the first of the year.  I will miss this beautiful home, along with having my dear friend Donna being so close by and of  course the great staff at work but other than that there isn't much I'm going to miss about the urban sprawl that is Metro Atlanta.  I think it's going to be just what the doctor ordered for this girl who has spent each passing year a little more homesick.  Wish us luck!

Have you ever visited Williamsburg?  Do you live in the area, any advice?

Monday, November 7, 2011

Homemade Beef Stock

Back when I wanted to learn to make stock, it seemed complicated but once I made that first batch, I have not gone back to cans and cartons.  Homemade stocks are not only easy but also very healthy for our bodies.  There is a reason that chicken soup is the oldest remedy in the book for a common cold, provided that you make the stock from scratch.  Sally Fallon Morell, author of Nourishing Traditions, wrote a wonderful article extolling the virtues of stock or "bone broth" as the real food enthusiasts refer to it.  Have a read here to learn more.  Beef stock is high in CLA, conjugated linoleic acid which a powerhouse for our health.  Read more about CLA here.

Best of all, I've read that bone broth is very good for the skin.  I'm usually skeptical when it comes to beauty remedies unless I try them first hand.  Since it's been soup weather here, I've been making up lots of stock and using it almost all of our suppers the past few weeks and let me tell you, my skin looks really good.  Smooth, moist, supple and glowing.  None of that change of season dryness that I always experience when we first start putting the heat on.  Now if that isn't an endorsement to make broth, than I don't know what is!

I made a batch of beef stock the other day and used it for the base of two delicious dishes this weekend.  Here's how I did it.  I bought four pounds of grass-fed beef bones for about $7, they were already cut and packaged in the Whole Foods meat section.  If they aren't available in the case, just ask the butcher.

I roasted them in a 450 degree oven for 30 minutes.  Roasting the bones gives the stock a richer flavor.
While the bones were roasting, I filled a stock pot with a few carrots, some celery, a leek and some salt, herbs and spices and added purified water.  I set it on the stove to start cooking.

I added the roasted bones and brought to a boil.  I skimmed the scum that rises to the top.  You only need to do that once.  After that, it's smooth sailing.  I reduced the pot to a simmer, covered it and let it go for 12 hours.  I didn't watch it or anything.  I went about my business all day.

Look how the color changed...

 I strained out the solids, let the stock cool and then popped it in the fridge overnight.

All that delicious fat rises to the top and solidifies for easy skimming.

Don't throw that fat away, that is pure grass-fed beef tallow and it's full of deliciousness.  You can use it like butter in cooking.  I stored it in a mason jar in the fridge and used it along with the stock in my weekend cooking.

This is how homemade beef stock looks, full of collagen and minerals and best of all, wonderful flavor to add to lots of different dishes.

I made two dishes this weekend using both the beef fat and broth.  Saturday night it was homemade onion soup.  I caramelized a mountain of onions in the beef fat.   Once they were deep golden brown and the pan had a dark brown fond on the bottom, I deglazed the pan with some dry Marsala wine, I scraped up all those brown bits.  Then I added the beef stock and fresh herbs (parsley, rosemary and oregano) and let it simmer for about half an hour.  I got two slices of sourdough bread, topped them with freshly shredded Gruyere cheese and toasted them in the oven until crusty, brown and bubbly.  Into bowls and topped with the soup onion soup.  Oh, so good!

Sunday dinner was pot roast.  We devoured it after raking and bagging leaves all afternoon, I didn't get a chance to snap a pic but it was proclaimed to be the Best Pot Roast in the Universe.  In my dutch oven, I browned a grass-fed chuck roast in the beef fat then moved it to a plate.  I sauteed onions and garlic until tender then put the roast back in and then put in the beef stock, I added a blob of ketchup and glug of Worcestershire sauce for extra flavor.  I put enough to come half way up the roast.  I popped it into a 300 degree oven for 90 minutes.  I then flipped the roast and added a bouquet garni, carrots, rutabaga, parsnips and baby gold potatoes and cooked for another hour.  Then I added thick sliced portabello mushrooms and cooked for another 30 minutes.  Everything was so tender and delicious.  The pot roast gravy was heavenly.  I have leftovers all ready to take to work tonight and tomorrow, can't wait!

Have you made homemade stock yet?

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Dumbbells vs. Dumbbells

Being more active for the past 5 weeks has been amazing.  If I can keep overcoming my biggest obstacle, which is my own mind (aren't we all our own worst enemies when it comes to health and fitness?) then I can keep improving.  I'm getting stronger and my endurance is returning (because, let me tell you, when you don't use it, you lose it!)

I'm loving being back at the gym lifting weights, it really makes a difference to my body shape.  I had been looking for a pair of black jeans for over 2 years now.   I found a really sharp pair of black boot-cut Levi's at TJ Maxx on Friday but didn't have time to try them on.  I took them home GAH they are too tight, can't even button them so I tossed them aside to the return pile. I was gathering up returns and things this morning for my errands later this week and figured I'd give the black Levi's one more try.  They fit!  I just washed them and put them into rotation.  I have to admit, a moment like that is far more satisfying than getting on the scale.

Being back to the gym, I found that there are new trainers.  Two of them are females and I overheard one of them with her trainee the other morning.  "I'm not going to give you weights for your lower body, the muscles will get bulky and push the fat out making your legs look bigger."  *Insert my open-mouthed shocked face here*  Lori from Finding Radiance reckons I should have knocked some sense into her with a dumbbell.  This poor girl is paying about $30/half hour for a trainer and she's getting this bad advice.  Unless she's going to spend 5 hours a day lifting weights and starts adding some anabolic steroids to her Cheerios, she's not going to get bulky!

If you are interested in getting more physically fit, do some research first and if you are going to hire a personal trainer, really give them a good interview.  You want to make sure they are knowledgeable with the correct information in order to help you reach your fitness goals.

What's the most appalling thing you have seen or heard at the gym?