Archive for November, 2009

This was only my second time making Thanksgiving, so the food is still shiny, new, and exciting to me.

So I went with a very simple recipe for the turkey because my parents went wild and paid for a turkey, instead of earning a free one through buying groceries. And they splurged for a free range, sexy turkey. So I just chucked some onion, garlic, and herbs inside and rubbed the outside with an herbed garlic butter. After the first half of cooking, I basted with a mixture of the turkey’s juices, orange juice, and soy sauce. Easy, simple, and it turned out juicy and reliable. There was a surprising amount of white meat for a free range bird, but apparently it was an especially breasty breed of bird – but the white meat wasn’t anymore flavourful for the wandering around. But I do think you could tell a difference with the dark meat – with a richer and more complex taste. And a cruelty free holiday!

And my mother scandalized me by not letting me come up with a recipe for dressing – but, instead, she bought Stove Top’s cornbread dressing. And to doctor it, she stirred in sliced scallions right at the end. Yeah. But I have to admit, even if it was sleazy, it was still very tasty and we finished all of it.

She was also going to have our only vegetable be microwaved frozen sugar snap peas (because my father can’t have Vitamin K), but I insisted on a second vegetable (mostly because I still had an abundant amount of Swiss Chard in the garden to use up before first frost). So I melted two teaspoons of bacon fat. Once that warmed up, I tossed in three cloves of garlic, thinly sliced. Once that started to brown, I tossed in the Swiss chard (washed, leaves cut off the spines, and then sliced across into 3/4″ ribbons, still damp). I had meant to add red pepper flakes after, but I ended up getting distracted getting the meal on the table, so there weren’t any – and the dish was delicious without them. Not healthy, mind you, but delicious. My friend, who is a chef, was absolutely right – swiss chard must always go with bacon.

And then there is the dish of which I am the most proud. The sweet potato casserole. Everyone makes this dish, and there are hundreds of recipes for this on the internet – but the first five pages on google didn’t come up with the recipe I was looking for. All of the called for butter. Many of the called for heavy cream. I really liked the recipe that called for orange juice and zest, and then I was amused to notice that the orange juice was never used in any of the versions claiming to be lower fat. Also, while I remember from my youth great debates over whether one would add diced apples or crushed pineapple to the casserole, not a single recipe called for any fruit. So I ended up kind of making my own way to a healthy version of this side dish for my diabetic father.

Sweet Potato Casserole – topped with marshmallows

First off, I made made it in individual ramekins, instead of a large dish, so there would be portion control. I don’t know if it’s necessary, but just for the ease, I did lightly butter the dishes.

Roast and peel 2 medium sweet potatoes.

Core, peel, and dice finely half of a smaller apple.

Stir them together in a bowl with the juice of one orange and the zest of half of the orange.

Since my parents have on hand the sugar/splenda blend, I used that. It runs twice as sweet as a comparable measure of sugar. Start with an eighth of a cup and taste, adding up to a quarter of a cup.

For spices, I added cinnamon, sweet paprika, black pepper, and a few drops of vanilla extract.

Then I stirred in 1/2 a teaspoon of baking powder and 2 egg whites. Beat that thoroughly through the mixture.

Fill the ramekins, making sure to leave about 3/4″ from the top because not only do you need room for the marshmallows, but also you the casserole will rise as it bakes.

Then I popped the ramekins into the 325F oven with the turkey for 45 minutes. I pulled them out and let them cool (they did puff up like souffles, but the settled down and still had a light, fluffy texture).

Once the casserole is no longer piping hot, cover with the big marshmallows (size totally matters). And, yes, I used normal, storebought marshmallows instead of trying to find a healthy way around that part.

After the turkey comes out of the oven, throw the ramekins back in and switch it to broil. By the time everything else is on the table, the marshmallows should be perfectly browned and puffy.

Also there was gravy. Mmmm…

After the fourth basting, I sucked up about a cup of the drippings and set them aside long enough for the fat to separate out.

Toast some flour until is it as dark as you want it. My mother went with a nice almond color.

Then spoon the fat from the drippings and add it to the flour. If that is not enough to make a smooth pasty, add some butter.

Once that was smooth and ready to have liquid added, my mother poured in the drippings slowly enough that they’d boil and incorporate smoothly.

After the whole cup had been added, I warmed up another cup of vegetable broth, and she added that until she reached the consistency she wanted.

Then she added a little kitchen bouquet (I don’t know – it’s tradition. But you could also toast the flour more in the beginning). Even though there was soy sauce in the basting liquid, after tasting the gravy still needed a little more salt, too. She has a mixture of white pepper, thyme, and rosemary that she grinds herself – a pinch of that. And a teaspoon and a half of Manischewitz wine for richness.

And then after dinner, we had an apple pie I bought at my farmers’ market and the fior di latte and almond gelato I bought from Capogiro.

And now I am back home and making turkey stock from the carcass. Good times.

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24
Nov

Thanksgiving menu planning and family dynamics

   Posted by: JS74nCLOr6    in Uncategorized

The past several years, my parents have gone to my sister’s for Thanksgiving. And she and her husband have made traditional Thanksgiving food (roast turkey, mashed potatoes, dressing from a package, gravy, and steamed broccoli).

This year, however, they shall be going to her in-laws because she’ll be too preggers to fly for Christmas.

So I get to make Thanksgiving for the second time ever. Really – just my second time cooking this mean, so I am not bored of the routine in the slightest.

So I called me mother to menu plan…

For the turkey… well, I was going to take a five or more year old free turkey from our deep freeze and turn it into something amazing through magic and impressiveness. My father, trusting neither my skill with freezer-burned meats nor the turkey in question, insisted on getting a fresh turkey. Apparently, it’s a very nice one, so I’ll go with a much simpler recipe than I had originally thought.

Actually, apparently, my mother isn’t waiting for me to think of a recipe at all. She bought a packet of turkey roasting herbs and the onion for it already. What herbs are these? Thyme, rosemary, and other things I still mostly have growing outside my apartment ready for final harvesting.

And for the vegetable, I am putting my foot down. All my father will eat for a green vegetable is either sugar snap peas or baby peas. Frozen. From green giant. And I declared that not enough vitamin content to count as worth my father’s time, so we’re having a green vegetable he won’t eat – namely, the last harvest of the swiss chard in my garden. So there.

My mother has already bought the sweet potatoes… because of my parents’ health issues, I’ll be making the traditional sweet potato casserole in individual-sized ramekins.

And then I was pondering the savoury starch option. Maybe mashed potatoes from scratch. Maybe I’ll make dressing from scratch. BUT my mother informs me she has already bought a (bag?) of Stove Top’s cornbread stuffing. Mer. So I’ll at least doctor it up a bit for fun and profit.

So all that’s left for fun is dessert. And I’m bad at desserts. I’m thinking of trying to make the old family recipe pecan pie. Unfortunately, I told my mother that, so I am betting that when I get there I will find either: a) a storebought Mrs. Smith’s pie or b) 2 brand new bottles of Caro, light and dark – even though I found half a dozen such bottles the last time I cleaned out their pantry, and I’m sure I left them one of each, kept one of each, and threw out several others.

It’s odd, because I’m pretty sure my mother understands how much fun I have with cooking and planning food. And I thought she trusted me to make fancy stuff still withing the limit of what my father’s bland tastes are willing to eat.

ETA: Oh, right – so one of the points of this whining. There’s still a random frozen turkey at my parents’ that they are never going to eat. And I have this plan for ethical meat consumption that goes: I’m going to eat all of the meat my parents have wastefully bought and then buried in their freezer. But turkeys are huge. Does anyone (well after Thanksgiving, because the turkey will keep) want to help me eat this turkey experiment? Or are you all afraid of the freezer taste, too?

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24
Nov

menu planning this week(end)

   Posted by: JS74nCLOr6    in Uncategorized

menu planning & shopping lists

  • Thursday – making dinner at parents’
    • soup
    • turkey
      • garlic
      • onion
      • herbs
      • soy sauce (take mine)
      • orange juice (buy)
    • savoury starch – stuffing from a bag
    • sweet starch – sweet potato casserole in individual ramekins
      • bring ramekins from home, and crappy baking sheet
      • mother already bought sweet potatoes
      • 2 egg whites
      • 1 orange (for zest and juice – bring zester from home
      • dairy until the right consistency
      • diced apples?
      • spices
      • marshmallows – does mom have?
    • cranberry stuff
    • green vegetables
    • dessert
  • Saturday – making dinner for friends helping me winterize my apartment (also buy plastic for windows)
    • Chicken Raft
      • thaw chicken breast meat
      • get celery flakes from mom?
      • take a jar and retrieve bisquick from mom – and recipe
      • buy milk
    • Kenyan Collard Greens
  • Sunday – fondue party
  • Friday (12/11) – Food Blogger Potluck
12
Nov

Urban Farming

   Posted by: JS74nCLOr6    in Uncategorized

So I’ve been reading a fairly dry report of urban/community farming in Philadelphia

And reading to the end pays off with this gem:

Beyond these instances, no other community gardeners reported selling their harvest – with the notable exception of the neighbor children who garden at the Fair Hill Burial Ground, who set up an occasional vegetable stand at 9th and Indiana, a corner formerly notorious for its heroin market (though they were part of a youth program run by Friends of Fair Hill Burial Ground).

We met some gardeners who described bartering relationships in which they and fellow gardeners trade vegetables for other goods and services on a very informal basis. One gardener boasted he traded food for the affections of women, and we don’t think he was joking.

Earlier, however, was an isolated mention about the decline of community farming in the ’80s in the area where I’ve been looking to move, specifically because of the abundance of available plots of land:

The interaction of these two trends – the aging of gardeners and the decline of support programs – was sometimes as important as each of these factors individually. Some of this predated the funding cuts, as the spread of drug activity and related crime drove gardeners off the land in Mantua, Belmont, and other neighborhoods. Crack addicts stealing cabbages and collards discouraged gardeners, and street-level drug gangs intimidated them.

Mer.

12
Nov

urban farming

   Posted by: JS74nCLOr6    in Uncategorized

So I’ve been reading a fairly dry report of urban/community farming in Philadelphia

And reading to the end pays off with this gem:

Beyond these instances, no other community gardeners reported selling their harvest – with the notable exception of the neighbor children who garden at the Fair Hill Burial Ground, who set up an occasional vegetable stand at 9th and Indiana, a corner formerly notorious for its heroin market (though they were part of a youth program run by Friends of Fair Hill Burial Ground).

We met some gardeners who described bartering relationships in which they and fellow gardeners trade vegetables for other goods and services on a very informal basis. One gardener boasted he traded food for the affections of women, and we don’t think he was joking.

Earlier, however, was an isolated mention about the decline of community farming in the ’80s in the area where I’ve been looking to move, specifically because of the abundance of available plots of land:

The interaction of these two trends – the aging of gardeners and the decline of support programs – was sometimes as important as each of these factors individually. Some of this predated the funding cuts, as the spread of drug activity and related crime drove gardeners off the land in Mantua, Belmont, and other neighborhoods. Crack addicts stealing cabbages and collards discouraged gardeners, and street-level drug gangs intimidated them.

Mer.

9
Nov

Charities

   Posted by: JS74nCLOr6    in economics

I’m putting together a list of charities I like so I can narrow down the ones I’d donate to for the end of the year and/or my birthday.

And I’ve noticed that I don’t have any environmental organizations.

These days, most of the work I’ve been supporting that worries about sustainability and the environment is food-oriented.

So who is helping the trees?

I’m not looking for the Sierra Club. I’m looking for organizations that are smaller and more agile, where more than 50% of their income goes toward the work they are doing, rather than organizational expenses. I want a watchdog for industry. Someone working locally. Doing something specific that makes a difference.

Oh! Just typing this up has reminded me of one! Philadelphia’a Pedal Co-op. I should totally support them.

Any other suggestions?

ETA:ational but good –

Environmental Working Group – lobbyists and nonprofit activists working to change policy – ewg.org

Trust for Public Land – lobbying and holders of large and small scale sizes of land for conservation tpl.org

10,000 friends – http://10000friends.org/ have national and local (PA specific) plans to promote smart growth in urban development (meaning conservation is part of the larger picture instead of piecemeal)

Center for Health Environment and Justice- started by Lois Gibbs (love canal lady) around keeping communities healthy and safe and advocating for their wellbeing
http://www.chej.org/

(those are the biggies, here are the grassrootsy ones with a greater need for your money)
http://www.ciw-online.org/ Coalition for Imokolee Workers – migrant farmers organizing for rights

Native peoples organizing around environment and climate change (maybe sara has an opinion on them) http://www.ienearth.org/

Rhizome Collective – http://www.rhizomecollective.org/ doing great work anarchist style

Growing power – www.growingpower.org. will allen (macarthur fellow) saves the day by making compost, giving people green jobs, and growing produce in rust belt cities.

Local (PA)-

Any conservation easement organization (means they put farmland or other productive land into sustainably managed forestry, foraging, etc)-
Natural Lands Trust www.naturallandstrust.org
Pennypack Ecological Trust http://www.pennypacktrust.org/

PASA – PA sustainable agriculture www.pasafarming.org

Even more local (Philly)-

Clean Air Council – doing good work around air emissions and pollution http://www.cleanair.org/

Bicycle Coalition – http://www.bicyclecoalition.org/

Community Environmental Defense Fund – http://www.celdf.org/ Really awesome legal services around environmental movements for communities that can’t afford it

UNI – urban nutrition initiative http://www.urbannutrition.org/

Chester County Environmental Justice group – http://energyjustice.ning.com/ or http://www.ejnet.org/chester/ but I don’t know how organized they are

Fair Food Philly – http://fairfoodphilly.org/

Pennsylvania Horticultural Society – http://www.pennsylvaniahorticulturalsociety.org/home/index.html

If you’re looking for super specific things, a fun website is www.kickstarter.com (like Kiva.org but for whatever and whomever wants to sign up)