Friday, November 23, 2007

Thanksgiving Day

Note: This post was originally called Thanksgiving Preparations, but I have been so busy it never got posted. Better late than never, I say.

I am preparing Thanksgiving dinner for my parents, my family, and my daughter's best friend. We'll have turkey with giblet gravy and dressing, whole cranberry sauce, a potato casserole, a corn dish, two kinds of sweet potatoes, freshly baked crescent rollls, pumpkin pie, pecan pie and a relish tray filled with olives, pickles, deviled eggs and the like.

In the past I have searched recipes and tried variations of traditional fare. Some were successes, some were merely serviceable. This year, I let my husband and children decide the menu. Almost every recipe was something I can prepare mostly in advance. As I write this, my Thanksgiving dinner is two thirds prepared, and it is Wednesday evening. Tomorrow, I will get up and roast the turkey, make a fresh pumpkin pie, put finishing touches on the sweet potatoes and bake everything. It has been the easiest Thanksgiving meal I have ever cooked.

Roast Turkey

Combine 1 part sugar with 2 parts salt. Season to taste. I use sage and chili powder, about a tablespoon each. Mix well and rub over the skin of the turkey. Refrigerate the turkey overnight without covering. (I put parchment paper in the bottom crisper of my refrigerator and pop the turkey in with the rub applied to the bottom, then apply the rub to the rest of the body and return the crisper drawer to the fridge. It works like a charm.)

Remove turkey from the refrigerator in the morning and rub off the seasonings (do not rinse). Apply olive oil to the skin. Do not stuff. Place celery and carrot sticks in the bottom of the roasting pan. Halve an onion and slice; add it to the pan. Cover just the bottom of the roasting pan with chicken broth (about one cup). Place the turkey on top of the celery and carrots. Place in a 325 degree oven and roast for 3 to 4 hours, depending on size, until it reaches the desired internal temperature (I like 170 degrees). The skin will be crisp and beautifully browned. The dark meat will be cooked through and the breast meat will be moist. Every time.

I used to brine my turkey. This is much better and requires infinitely less preparation.

Traditional Southern Dressing

Brown one pound of bulk Italian sausage. Add a sweet onion, diced, and two stalks of celery, diced. Cook until the vegetables are tender. Drain. Return to flame and add four cups of chicken stock and two tablespoons of butter. Simmer while you prepare the bread.

Cube one 8" x 8" pan of cornbread. Add one tablespoon of rubbed sage. Combine with one 16 ounce package of herbed dressing mix (I use Pepperidge Farms). Add several tablespoons of chopped fresh parsley.

Combine sausage mixture and bread mixture. Mix well. Add chicken stock to achieve desired moistness. Turn out into buttered 3 quart casserole dish. Bake in 375 degree oven for 30 to 45 minutes.

I don't think I have ever made dressing the same way twice. This is the basic recipe I use. Sometimes I add chopped pecans or dried cranberries or both. My mother uses oysters and adds green peppers to the onion and celery. The result is always delicious.

Fresh Cranberry Sauce

Combine two cups of cranberries, one half cup of sugar, two tablespoons water, one tablespoon fresh orange juice, 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon and a pinch of salt in a large, heavy saucepan. Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until cranberries burst, about six to eight minutes. Serve warm or cold.

I like this spooned over vanilla ice cream when still warm.


As it turns out, this really was the easiest Thanksgiving ever. I got up and put the turkey on to roast at 7:30am, then baked the pumpkin pie. I have two large ovens, so I could bake the dressing, potatoes, sweet potatoes and corn dish in one oven as the turkey finished roasting in the other. The crescent rolls were baked last while the table was filled with food. Dinner was served about 12:30pm. Everything was warm and everything was delicious. Best of all for me, it was easy since I did most of the work on Wednesday. The children cleaned up while I put away food. I spent the afternoon visiting with my parents and my husband. I don't ever remember having such a leisurely and pleasant Thanksgiving. Well, not when I was the one cooking, anyway.

I hope everyone had a wonderful Thanksgiving.

Monday, November 19, 2007

My First Fun Monday

Karisma is hosting Fun Monday. All my blog friends have been participating for weeks and it looks like fun, so I decided to join in.

Karisma says:

I want you to take a trip down memory lane, and keep right on going, right back to your childhood. And I want to hear "THAT STORY". You remember the one? Yes, you do! The one your parents, siblings, extended family or friends, would never let you forget, live down or get over!"

Dead laptop equals no pictures of Kaycie as a kid.

But, there is absolutely no lack of embarrassing stories. In fact, I am having difficulty deciding which one to tell. The one where I fell from the swing set while showing off and cut my back open then cried, not because I was hurt, but because there was blood on my brand new sundress? Or the one where I ran up the stairs into the very clean, very closed sliding glass doors and did a somersault backwards . . . in a skirt . . . on Christmas Eve . . . in front of my father's entire family? The one where I told my parents the Sonic reached out and hit my truck? Or maybe the one where I put a hole into the hollow core bathroom door with a kitchen knife trying to get to my brother? No, definitely not that one. Hmmmm. I know.

I was eighteen years old and a senior in high school. My father had just bought me a new car. It was a Volkswagen Rabbit to replace the incredibly cool but ridiculously dangerous fiberglass Bradley GT Daddy gave me the summer I was sixteen. He wanted me to have something reliable to drive to college. It was blue, had a stereo and I could get more than one friend in it. I thought it was SO cool. There was just one problem: it had a standard transmission and I could not drive it.

I had been driving almost two years and drove about as well as any other teenage girl. Which means badly. My father never rode in a vehicle with me if he could help it. It always ended in him yelling and me crying. However, my mother did not drive a standard, so it fell to him to teach me.

The Rabbit was parked in the driveway. I got into the driver's seat and my 6' 2", 225 pound father folded his big frame into the passenger seat. I remember being amused because the top of his hat touched the ceiling and even with the seat all the way back, his knees were almost touching the dash. He told me to start the car. Without depressing the clutch (!), I turned the key. The car lurched forward and died. It came to rest on top of the air compressor that was between the car and the house, the front bumper pressed against the siding on the house. It was a miracle nothing was damaged. I immediately asked Daddy why the car was in gear. In a snotty, teenaged girl kind of way. For some reason I thought the car should have been in neutral because the parking brake was set. Choice words came out of his mouth and there was something said about me being ignorant of driving and a smart ass on top of it. Anyway, we went around the block a couple of times without me killing the car and Daddy called it done. I am sure it was to keep from murdering me.

Later that evening, my mother sent me to the store to get some cheese for the tacos she was making for dinner. Daddy decided I should take the Rabbit for practice and sent my brother with me to help me through shifting gears. My fifteen year old brother. Yeah. That didn't work out so well for us.

After much fussing (me) and threatening to walk (my brother), we finally made it the six or seven miles to the grocery store. My brother complimented me on driving through the parking lot without killing the car. It was most definitely sarcasm. The grocery store was just south of the Sonic and they both sat right off Interstate 169 which ran through the middle of town. After successfully buying cheese and starting the car, I turned out of the parking lot headed north, and just as we were passing the Sonic, an enormous rendering truck ran the stop sign on the other side of the street and hit the Rabbit right in the driver's side door. The impact of the accident threw the car into the driveway of the Sonic. I'd had the Rabbit three days.

My brother remembers having his eyes clenched tightly, afraid to look. Without opening his eyes, he said my name. I didn't answer. He said my name again, louder. Silence. After a few seconds, he got the courage to open his eyes to look my way. The door was standing wide open and I wasn't answering him because I was gone. He got out of the car, stood up, and looked at the truck that had hit us.

I was about 5' 4" then and 110 pounds soaking wet. I had climbed up onto the running board of the truck and was furiously yelling at the guy who had hit us, waving my finger in his face. My brother says it went something like: "Don't you know what that stop sign means? I have had that car three days! Three days! My Daddy is going to kill you when he gets here, you just wait!"

I yelled at him until someone came up and gently led me away. Nowata is a small place, and the people who owned the Sonic knew who we were. They called Mom and Dad who were there in no time. The police barely beat them. The guy driving the truck tried to blame me for the accident. Shrinking violet that I am, I began yelling again.

Anytime that anyone in my family talks about accidents, sooner or later (usually sooner), someone tells this story. My parents seem to take special pleasure in telling it now that I have a teenager driving. My brother, of course, laughs with glee, then tells anyone present how he was scared for his life anytime he was forced to get into a vehicle with me. The jerk.

My husband takes this story as evidence that I have never been smart enough to be afraid of anything or anyone.

Hey, at least I can take care of myself.