Monthly Archives: November 2009
Okay, the last Thanksgiving-themed post: What are your favorite things to do with Thanksgiving leftovers? Please post in the comments…I’m curious!
For us, honestly, an awful lot of the food gets eaten just in its ordinary form in the days following the feast. I pick at the cold turkey, we have “Thanksgiving Redux” for dinner the next night, and most of it gets chomped up before much time goes by. (Pie for breakfast is an annual tradition.) But there are a few specifics:
1. Turkey Stock: First thing I do after completely picking the bird clean of all its meat is drop the carcass into my crockpot with a few carrots, some celery ribs, and a quartered onion. Then fill it with water. I think this year I cooked it for about 20 hours on low (the rest of the day and then overnight). The next day I strain it into a bowl and chill it in the fridge for most of the day so the fat can solidify, then I can easily skim that off. This year I held back some of the dark pan juices from the turkey and threw that into the stock as well. The end result was almost four quarts of really lovely flavorful stock for making…
2. Turkey Soup! –Hardly needs instructions or recipe; saute veggies, throw stock and some cut up turkey in it, cook a while, add some noodles or rice. Good stuff.
3. Turkey Quesadillas–Today for lunch we grilled a couple of tortillas, put some cheese, salsa, and shredded turkey on it, and heated in the microwave till the cheese melted. Really good. (Some black beans in there would have been even better.)
4. Shepherd’s Pie–I haven’t made this one in years, mostly because I seldom have enough leftover mashed potatoes to make it happen. Basically, you throw cut up cooked turkey and some vegetables (maybe mushrooms, celery, onions, peppers, and some of that zucchini you blanched and froze last summer?) into a casserole, pour gravy over it, spread mashed potatoes on top, maybe sprinkle with a little grated cheddar, and bake till hot through and golden on top. This is a pretty serious and heavy meal, but it’s lovely for really cold raw nights.
If I think of other things in the next few days, I’ll update this post…but in the meantime, what do you folks do?
I saw this post over on Tree Hugging Family and think it’s a great idea: Buy Nothing Day 2009. Protest rampant and crazed consumerism, avoid mob ugliness, and save a few particles of CO2, all by…doing exactly nothing.
Honestly, it’s not a stretch for us–while I was growing up my family has had a longstanding tradition of not ever going anywhere near a store on the day after Thanksgiving. Okay, we would go near a store in order to get to the movie theater where we always saw something the whole family could agree on at about noon or whenever the cheaper shows were, but we always also looked for the movie theater that was not near the mall.
Now that I’m an adult with my own family, we are usually either visiting with my folks the day after Thanksgiving and preparing for a long drive back to Chicago on Saturday, or we are at our own home and digging out the Christmas decorations. In a way, even in this “It’s the day after Halloween put up the wreaths” culture, it feels too early for us, but on the other hand both of us get so busy once December hits that it just makes sense to put up the lights and tree and stuff on this one blessed Day Off when no one has to be anywhere and no one is going shopping. What others call Black Friday has always for me been a day of family and domesticity and puttering, and it’s honestly one of my favorite days of the year.
So…I guess the only way I can support this initiative, since I’ve supported it without knowing about it for as long as I remember, is to blog about it and offer a challenge to anyone else who might long for a little slow simplicity the day after Thanksgiving (for those who have the option,which I realize many don’t. We’re lucky this year): Stay home. Sleep in. Wear jammies till noon. Have pie for breakfast and turkey sandwiches for lunch while the turkey stock simmers in the crockpot. Watch a movie; watch a ball game. Take the day off.
Enjoy. And give thanks all over again.
We are looking forward to a lovely calm family holiday weekend. The original plan was to head back East to where we all grew up, where my mom cooks a fabulous free range turkey that almost brushes against the sides and top of the oven, it’s so big, complete with stuffing and sweet potatoes and mashed potatoes and gravy and cranberry relish and God knows what’all else. There are always three pies, and we are one of those families where most members unapologetically ask for “a sliver of each,” because it wouldn’t be Thanksgiving unless you tasted the pumpkin, apple, and pecan pies. Every chair in the house has someone’s rear end in it, there are several tables, and the whole family and extended family show up. (Our family isn’t that huge–for us, a Thanksgiving with 15 people is fairly ginormous and chaotic.) Unfortunately, my mom busted her ankle while at their most-of-the-year house 14 hours away, and the doc said the two days of driving without any chance of elevating the foot would be absolutely not a good idea, not to mention that subsequently busting her posterior to assemble the feast would be a little unrealistic, so for the first time in many years the Giant Thanksgiving Festivities will not be taking place.
So instead, I’ve got my own free range turkey, much smaller, and we’ll cook up our own mini-feast. We’ll miss the family gathering, the chaos and noise, and my mom’s fabulous turkey (though if I do say so, mine is pretty good too–after all, who’d I learn from?), but it’ll still be a really nice day. (I will probably only make two pies. For 4 people. I happen to really like pie for breakfast. Leftovers rule.)
If we were going to all be together, I would’ve printed up this article about how to get non-violent polite green conversations going over the Thanksgiving table…it would’ve been fun to try some of these out! Suggestions for how to handle skepticism over global warming, the aunt who “loves her SUV,” insistences that what we eat has nothing to do with our health, stuff like that.
I have much to be thankful for. Wishing everyone a wonderful day! (And I’m deciding here and now that I’m going to stay away from the computer tomorrow. So there.) Happy Thanksgiving!
I’m just curious…Thanksgiving is one of those holidays where, for many of us, Family Tradition Reigns. Remember the Friends episode when Monica had to make 4 different kinds of potatoes because each Friend had a different idea of what were the “right” potatoes, without which “It just wouldn’t be Thanksgiving”?
So I’m curious, and I hope folks can take a few minutes in the comments to share–what will you eat on Thursday?
Here’s our Thanksgiving menu:
- Turkey (free range), about 14 lbs for 5 or so people because we love leftovers and turkey stock, roasted according to The New Basics cookbook–cooked on a bed of veggies and basted liberally with tawny port wine. (One year I used ruby port–the turkey was an improbable but gorgeous bright red-gold color when it was done)
- Stuffing, in the bird, and yes I know how much fat it gets in it, also from The New Basics: the recipe calls for dried cherries and toasted hazelnuts and sausage; I’ve instead used raisins, pecans, and extra apples, and omitted the sausage. Lots of sage and thyme, hopefully from the herb garden, which hasn’t frozen yet. Like the turkey, this has lots of port wine in it, and no added butter.
- Garlic smashed potatoes. I am too lazy to peel and whip them. No deep reasoning here.
- Cranberry-orange relish, my mom’s recipe: this is where you basically hack up an (organic) orange into inch-or-so chunks, remove whatever seeds you can easily remove, chop it in the food processor, and then toss in a bag of (organic) cranberries and some (maybe a cup?) sugar, and pulse till it’s a consistency you like. Incredibly easy but fabulous. (Mom, if you read this, please feel free to comment or correct!) I swear the first time I actually saw the canned stuff served at a Thanksgiving table on a plate, complete with the ridges from the can, I had no clue what it was. Or why anyone would want to eat it.
- Sweet Potatoes, form of cooking and serving as yet undecided. Before children I did a thing with bourbon and pecans and brown sugar that was wonderful (sweet potatoes with bourbon get an awesome flavor), but the kids probably wouldn’t go for that, so most likely I’ll just steam them and then bake them with brown sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, and whatever.
- Rolls or bread. Full disclosure: this is by my husband’s request, and I was like, “we need bread on top of all this?” However, I do have a thing of ready-to-bake dough from the Artisan Bread in Five Minutes book, sitting in the fridge, and it’ll be fairly easy to pop the turkey out of the oven and rolls in, and they can bake while the bird is resting.
- Pie: My own preference is the Pecan Pumpkin pie from the Moosewood Restaurant Book of Desserts–covers two classics in one pie, and is much better than any other pecan-pumpkin pie I’ve made from any other recipe. However, since I’ll have my hands full in the next few days anyway, and since my son is begging for apple, I’ll make one apple pie and one pumpkin pie. Pecan maybe I’ll do at Christmastime or something. (Did you know you can double the amount of pecans and substitute maple syrup for the corn syrup in Your Basic Pecan Pie Recipe–you know, the one on the Karo bottle that you thought was a treasured old family recipe–and it’s ten times better and doesn’t support the corn industry?)
So that’s our feast. And yes, I do realize that, despite the name of this blog, there is not a single literally “green” food on the menu. It would just be overkill, since we’ll only be able to even dent the above, and for me it really is the above foods that comprise a “real” Thanksgiving.
So, how about you? What do you eat on the Big Feast Day? I’d especially love to hear from Turkey-Free Veggiefolk…if it were me and I were doing a bird-free Thanksgiving I’d probably do most or all of the above, minus the turkey and probably the sweet potatoes, cook the stuffing out of the bird (of course), and have as a “main” (i.e. pretty and impressive) dish a big Baked Stuffed Pumpkin with Apples (the recipe works in crockpot or oven!). And in that case, I wouldn’t balk at fresh-baked rolls and would probably add a few Green Things…But EVERYONE, whether you are To Bird or Not To Bird, I love to hear what you’ll eat!
All three of these posts are from a world which I no longer inhabit…but they made me laugh. How far we’ve come!
(That last one, especially certain people I know and members of my family might not realize is intended as satire…)
Last winter, my kids gave their teachers their own self-designed (okay, I helped. A lot.) winter spice tea blend. It was easy and fun, and while not as cheap as I might have hoped, it was definitely cost-effective and made for some good times spent making it. And man it was good.
I bought the black tea in bulk from our local Whole Foods; they have lots of different kinds, and honestly I just bought the cheapest since I knew we’d be dressing it up enough that the finer flavors of the tea would be fairly lost. The spices I bought from mountainroseherbs.com, which sells really good organic and ethically harvested herbs and spices:
Winter Spice Tea Blend
- 6 cups black tea
- 1 cup cinnamon chips
- 1 cup dried orange peels
- ¾ cup dried ginger root
- ½ cup cardamom seeds (hulled)
(I didn’t really know much about tea quantities, but I figured out that half a pound of loose tea is about 4 cups.) We just mixed it all up in a bowl, smelling it often to decide if we had the proportions right. So that all got divided up into containers, each with a little muslin “bouquet garni” bag–which you can buy at the grocery store, they are fairly inexpensive, or if you wanted to you could sew your own–and instructions (about a heaping teaspon per cup of tea)…and it’s mucho yummy. It was also fun to engage the kids in it–they helped with the experimental blends and sampled different versions of the tea before “we” (okay, it was me, but I won’t tell) settled on the final ratios. And then we had fun measuring and sniffing and mixing, and pouring out into different containers.
I ran out of tea long before the rest of the spices, so by definition the remainder of the spices became mulling spice:
- 1 cup cinnamon chips
- 1 cup dried orange peels
- ¾ cup dried ginger root
- ½ cup cardamom seeds (hulled)
- 1/4 cup whole cloves
You’ll notice we used the same basic proportions as for the tea, we just left the tea out and added some cloves. And of course we kept a good supply of each to get us through the year ourselves–we didn’t give it all away!
Spent more than I meant to when all was said and done, but it was a) a learning experience, b) a morning of good and formational fun for me and my kids, and c) not exactly what everyone else will be giving their teachers!
I love hot cocoa, I love chai, I love hot winter drinks and fancy eggnog lattes…but I don’t like paying upwards of $3 for a small (excuse me…”tall”) cup of Something at the local coffee joint, complete with disposable cup and ridiculous numbers of calories.
And yes, I’m the person who, when I do break down and hit Starbucks, orders hot chocolate with skim milk but says yes to the whipped cream. So sue me.
Since this is the time of year when gifts and holiday Stuff is on people’s minds, I’ll probably be joining the rest of the mommyblogosphere over the next couple of weeks posting DIY ideas for gifts and yummies, especially the kind that can be substitutions for otherwise processed or heavily packaged goods.
For some unknown reason, back in July of all things I posted recipes for homemade hot chocolate–both the stuff you make by the cup in your own kitchen, and a mix that you can just add water to. Seriously, these are both way way better than the stuff that comes in the little packets, much more chocolaty and just plain tasty than that chick with the braids on the commercials peddles. (Er…does the Swiss Miss still look like that? It occurs to me that I haven’t seen one of those commercials in ages…)
Recently I also found a recipe for homemade chai tea mix, which is another thing I tend to buy at the coffee shop from time to time, and which I likewise hate shelling out the money for. The recipe, unfortunately, had a high level of Coffee-Mate in it, like so many recipes for hot drinks one finds on the internet, and that stuff is verboten in my kitchen. So I futzed a little and have put together a recipe that just uses powdered milk.
Instant Chai Tea Mix
In a blender, mix:
- 1.5 cup powdered nonfat milk
- 1-1.5 cup sugar
- 1-1.5 cup instant unsweetened tea mix (the stuff that under ingredients says “100% tea”)
- 1 tsp ground cinnamon
- 1 tsp ground ginger
- 1/2 tsp ground cardamon
- 1/2 tsp ground allspice
- 1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
- 1/4 tsp ground cloves
Blend to a fine powder. Store in dry airtight container. Multiply recipe as desired.
To serve: in a cup, put 2-3 tbs. mix; pour 8 oz. hot milk or water over it and stir. (Milk is better…water is lower cal.)
(VERDICT: the milk version is really lovely and rich and tastes a lot like what you’d buy at the coffee shop. The water version is still good, but obviously not as rich. I like two tbs. mix in the milk version and 3 in the hot water version…)
That’s it! If you’re just making it for yourself to drink at home, you don’t even have to do the blender thing; the powdered milk looks funky and doesn’t mix quite as well unless you blend it, but it still works and tastes really good.
Homemade real chai is even yummier, and also just as easy if you have already-blended chai tea bags–just brew them in hot milk instead of hot water, sweeten with honey, and you’re good to go. (That’s the downside of the mix; there’s not really a practical way to get honey into it, and honey is part of what makes chai taste so nice. I suppose you could eliminate the sugar from the mix entirely and just sweeten on your own…)
So have fun! Cocoa and chai both do really well as gifts packed in nice dry jars with a little instruction sheet alongside.
And by the way…another little trick I discovered along the way was that instead of coughing up the $$$ for an eggnog latte, I can just make my own coffee at home and put in a little eggnog (homemade or store-bought) instead of milk or cream. It’s my downfall, because every year I’m able to get a little away from coffee, but then once the holiday season hits I’m drinking down the coffee because I want an excuse to drink just a little bit of eggnog every day…it’s sort of pathetic.
Tomorrow I’ll post my recipes/methods for making our own winter tea blend (another gift idea) and mulling spices.
The Lorax was one of my very favorite books when I was a kid. I could practically recite the whole thing. And it scares me a little how 35 years have gone by and it’s even more topical than it was then…
Check this out: I totally want to buy one.
Click here for the original website and an opportunity to buy one for the Truffula Tree lover in your life…
Over on The Green Phone Booth today I posted about how to make one’s own face/body creams and lotions. (That’s Part UN) It’s honestly much easier and involves many fewer ingredients than I ever would have thought, and it works better for my skin too–no space age magical potions, just simple natural stuff, and my skin has never looked or felt better. Click on over there for the basic recipe…what’s below won’t make a whole lot of sense until you do.
I thought maybe over here, at the same time, I could post some of my recipes for more specific “formulas” for specifically targeted body parts. The basic recipe will still be the same; what changes will be the base oil (since some oils are more absorbent and some are heavier) and/or the essential oils you use to give it fragrance.
If you’re not interested in going the whole lotion route, these recipes could also be made by just adding the essential oils to an oil base and rubbing a little bit on moist skin; for the non-facial blends, you could also mix a little oil-and-fragrance-blend with epsom salts or coarse sea salt, or brown or raw sugar, and make a nice salt or sugar scrub for before a shower…
I use lavender oil as a sort of basic fragrance oil for almost everything; it’s a great blendable scent which easily takes on the fragrances and healing qualities of other oils it’s blended with. Plus it’s fairly inexpensive. Also, remember that the proportions below are just my own preferences, what’s worked for me–feel free to mess around! Note: many aromatherapists caution against using any citrus oils on the skin at all, because they can cause allergies and sensitization. Sweet orange oil is considered one of the most benign of the citrus oils, and I have never had any problems with it. But just so you know!
For lotion–Facial blend: grapeseed, apricot kernel, or sweet almond oil (or any combination) as liquid oil, beeswax with maybe a little cocoa or shea butter as solid oil, with one of the following combinations:
- 15-20 drops lavender oil
- 12 drops lavender oil, 5 drops chamomile oil
- 10 drops, lavender oil, 5 drops chamomile oil, 2 drops sweet orange oil
- 15 drops lavender oil, 3 drops sweet orange oil
- Note: may substitute up to 1 oz. jojoba oil for some of the liquid oils. Jojoba is more expensive but is wonderful for use on the face and absorbs rapidly.
Facial blend for mature skin: Grapeseed, apricot kernel, and/or almond oil as liquid oils, and a 3:1 ratio of beeswax to shea butter for solid oil, with:
- 15 drops lavender oil, 5 drops rose geranium oil, 2 drops sweet orange oil (opt)
- Note: may substitute up to 1 oz. jojoba oil for some of the liquid oils. Jojoba is more expensive but is wonderful for use on the face and absorbs rapidly. Great for mature skin!
Facial blend (oily skin): Grapeseed, apricot kernel, and/or almond oil as liquid oil and only beeswax as solid oil, with:
- 15 drops lavender oil, 5 drops rosemary oil
- Note: may substitute up to 1 oz. jojoba oil for some of the liquid oils. Jojoba is more expensive but is wonderful for use on the face and absorbs rapidly.
Tired Foot Blend: 1/2 cup olive oil and 1/4 cup grapeseed oil as liquid oil and half and half mix of beeswax and cocoa butter (or heavier on the cocoa butter if you’d like!) as solid oils, with one of the below: (these make great sugar/salt scrubs! Once the salts and oils are mixed they don’t keep very long, though, so mix just before using)
- 10 drops peppermint oil, 5 drops tea tree oil, 5 drops sweet orange oil (opt)
- 8 drops peppermint oil, 6 drops rosemary oil, 5 drops tea tree oil
- 10 drops lavender oil, 5 drops peppermint oil, 4 drops rosemary oil
- Note: If you’re making lotion instead of scrub or salve, go heavier on the cocoa butter and lighter on the beeswax
General Body Cream–Women’s blend (believe it or not, this is a great PMS combo for me and does wonders to lift my spirits):
- 15 drops lavender oil, 10 drops clary sage oil, 5 drops lemon oil (or substitute sweet orange–again, take care with the citrus oils!)
- Choose carrier oil type based on your own skin type; olive oil for drier and more mature skin and lighter oils for oilier skin or more humid climates. Cocoa and shea butter are better for mature skin but avoid them for oily skin
Salve for tired muscles:
- eliminate the whole water/blender/lotion thing here–just melt 3/4 cup of a combination of olive and grapeseed (or almond or apricot) oils with 1/4 cup beeswax/cocoa butter mixture, add essential oils, and let cool. (Well, you could make a lotion if you wanted to, but this is more specifically medicinal…
- Essential oil blend: 15 drops lavender oil, 10 drops chamomile oil, 10 drops ginger oil, 5 drops helichrysum italicum oil (opt–great stuff, but very expensive). A little eucalyptus is nice for this too.
Important: feel free to play around with your carrier oils till you find the combination that suits you–but be careful not to introduce any other organic material to your lotions, or they will grow mold within the week. No matter how many places you read that cucumber or strawberries are great for the skin, mixing them into your lotions will result in an incredibly short shelf life! Same goes with herb-infused carrier oils: essential oils are fine, but oil that’s had fresh rosemary macerating in it for two months and is then strained will make a lotion that might smell lovely for a week but which won’t last much beyond that.
I actually got into this whole aromatherapy/cosmetic-making thing from learning to make some of my own baby products–diaper ointments, baby oils, and such. If you have a friend with a new baby, these could be a nice gift:
Butt Goo (Yes, that’s what we always called it in our house. We used it for everything, though–diapers, first aid, rashes, whatever.)
- In double boiler (or pyrex in pan of simmering water) melt 1/4 cup beeswax in 1/2 cup olive oil and 1/2 cup grapeseed oil.
- Test hardness by dripping a little bit onto something from the freezer–if it hardens immediately into a consistency you’re happy with, you’re done. If it needs a little more beeswax or a little more oil, do that and try again. Remember if you’re not happy with the finished product you can always re-melt it (salves only–re-melting doesn’t work as well for lotions!)–but the essential oils can’t take too much heat, so try to avoid this if possible.
- Into melted oil/wax, add essential oils of lavender and chamomile (Roman or English) in a 2:1 or 3:1 ratio. Newborn infants should only have 2-3 drops of essential oil per ounce of carrier (i.e., if you follow this recipe and have 10 oz. total liquid oils, you’ll want maybe 15 drops of lavender and 5 of chamomile.) Older children can increase this a little. By the time a baby is maybe 6 months old, I’d increase the essential oils in the blend slightly, and also probably add a few drops of tea tree oil; this is a great antifungal.
- Stir well; pour into containers and let cool. Label. (Always label!!!)
Baby Oil: This is the easiest of all! Follow the above instructions, but leave out all the heating and melting and wax–just add your essential oils to your carrier oil and mix well. I like sweet almond oil as a base for babies, but grapeseed or apricot work really well too. A little of this as a massage oil after a baby’s bath is lovely. (Mom can use it too!)
So…I hope this gives folks some ideas! Buying essential oils can get expensive if you try to build up your stock too quickly; a small bottle each of lavender, orange, and chamomile oil will get you a long way, and if this turns into something you enjoy you can always build up your collection over time. I’ve been doing this for about 5 years and I’m only on my third bottle of lavender oil, which is by far the one I use more than anything else; remember that you use this stuff by the drop. For me it’s been a worthwhile investment on a really great adventure–if you try any of this, drop me a comment and let me know how it goes!
I love granny gowns–those big voluminous distinctly un-sexy cozy warm nightgowns that make the winters feel a little warmer. I have loved them since I was a kid, when I would get one as a gift every Christmas Eve, which I would then sleep in and wear to open presents the next morning. It’s a love affair I never quite grew out of.
Unfortunately, I’m also tall. And the whole granny gown gestalt doesn’t quite work if the thing only comes to your knees or so. Plus, while I love them in theory, that high neck with the eyelet lace thing had a tendency to choke me sometimes…
When I stopped at the fabric store to buy something for a Luke Skywalker costume a few weeks ago, I happened to notice that all their cotton flannel was 60% off. That’s all it took.
I think I’ve mentioned before that I am also interested in historical costuming, and that I’ve clothed my family for Renaissance Faires for the past couple of years. So earlier this week I took my favorite easy chemise pattern (basically, Elizabethan–or in this case, Italian–undergown) and made one up in flannel. It comes all the way to the floor, has long sleeves, and a low scooped neck that doesn’t choke me. And it’s as cozy and comfy as anything I remember from childhood.
The pattern I used is here (with elastic or drawstring–I used elastic–neck and wrists, very un-”period” but just fine for a nightgown), but this one (gathered neck and sleeves) looks also like a good one I might try next. (Hint: the smaller the overlapping area in the corners–those triangles you cut off–the wider your neckline will need to be–think armpits here! And if you are someone comfortable with sewing in gussets, those triangles can be used to add roominess under the pits as gussets–instructions for doing that you can find at this site, which has yet another pattern for making a chemise-that-would-also-make-an-easy-flannel-nightie. See how its suggested layout asks for four little triangles? Well guess what–if you use the FIRST site, the triangles will be automatically cut out when you make the neckline. I’m a big gusset fan, myself.)
It’s exceedingly easy–I’m 5’10″ and 4 yards of fabric gave me a really nice nightgown with almost no scraps afterwards. I could easily make several for my daughter too, if I can find a way around the whole flammability thing–on the one hand, I hate to have her sleep in chemically treated fabric…on the other, this stuff (I tested it) goes up really fast if you put a match near it, and given that we have a gas stove and she’s both highly curious and fairly klutzy I just would be a little too nervous. 100% wool flannel is naturally flame resistant, so if I can find some of that I will give it a shot for her, but in the meantime it looks like it’s just me…
This project took me just about 2 hours total, beginning to end, including taking measurements, cutting fabric, and ripping out the sleeves when I sewed something wrong the first time. (Yeah, I know, I do that all the time. My seam ripper is my best friend.) I’ve made about 4 chemises by this pattern in the past, so it wasn’t brand-new to me, but it’s still a pretty easy project if you sew even a little.
Go for it!