Thursday, November 29, 2007
In the meantime, check the blogroll for others experiences:
The Daring Bakers Blogroll
Tuesday, November 27, 2007
Friday, November 23, 2007
So, on Tuesday I went to Stop and Shop and picked up a bunch of bunches of their "3 for $12" flowers. The selection of flowers in fall colors was largely limited to mums which aren't a favorite of mine, but they do say "fall". I bought 1 bunch of big orange mums, i bunch of little yellow button mums, and some medium-sized red mums. In addition, I picked up a bunch of red hypericum berries, some yellow alstromeria (Peruvian lillies), and a bunch of yellow carnations (one of my absolute least favorite flowers). I also bought 2 blocks of oasis floral foam. The grand total of my purchase: $29.00. The flowers don't look very impressive when popped into a vase for storage (I cut the ends off each one and places them in a vase with floral preservative). But they will look good in the finished arrangements.The key to many flower arrangements is having lots of greens. The greens you find at the supermarket are extremely disappointing, and even at a florist they can be pretty disappointing, but I have a secret place to get greens--my backyard! Even in November there are still lots of green leaves--and not just pines! I took my pruners and went for a walk around the yard where I cut leafy branches off of my rhododendron, azalea, forsythia, and euonymous. I also cut some bare branches off of other bushes, some budding branches from the dogwood tree, a bunch of the spiky leaves from my summer container gardens, and a ton of vinca leaves that grows under my dogwood tree. Armed with the greens, I was ready to start my flower arrangements.
The first step is to soak the floral foam in a big pot of water so it's fully saturated. Then, select containers. I selected a white footed salad bowl from Williams Sonoma that my sister-in-law had given to me. It's pretty low, and it's elliptical shape is great for a centerpiece. I wasn't sure what to use for the 2nd container, but I decided on a basket that my friend Wendy had packaged my shower gift in. I found a bowl that fit into the basket just perfectly so it could hold water. Once the floral foam was saturated, I cut it to fit into the bowl and basket. I kept most of it in 2 big blocks, but cut a little off the ends and wedged it into the empty spots in my bowls.
Now comes the trick, cover the entire block of foam with greens before you place any flowers. I started by putting rhododendron leaves all around the edge.Then I added in some azalea, also near the edges, and filled most of the top with vinca. I added some other leaves here and there for interest and color (the azalea was a pretty reddish color while the forsythia was a chartreuse green).Once the whole block of foam was covered with greens, I added my biggest flowers to anchor the arrangement. I put 3 big mums in an arch across the top of the white bowl, and a big mum on either side of the basket. Next I filled in with all of the other flowers, cutting then to length as I went and re-cutting them if they ended up being too tall. I tried to use half of the flowers in each arrangement.
Once all of the flowers were in, I went back and filled any gaps with remaining leaves. As the final touch, I added some spiky branches and grasses.
Here are the 2 final products:
And here they are on the Thanksgiving tables:I was pretty impressed with my centerpieces. They weren't professional, but I think they look pretty good, especially for the grand total of $29.00 that I spent!
Wednesday, November 21, 2007
Pan drippings from a turkey cooked on the bottom of the pan (not on a rack)
flour--about 3 tablespoons
chicken or turkey stock--about 2 cups
water--about a cup or so
sea salt and freshly ground pepper
skin from the turkey you just cooked
herbs and bacon from under the skin of the turkey you just cooked
Start by putting the roasting pan containing the drippings on the stove over low heat. Skim off some of the fat so you have maybe 3 tablespoons left (no need to be precise). Add flour a tablespoon at a time as if you were making a roux (which is what you're doing, only with turkey fat instead of butter). Stir the turkey fat, browned bits from the bottom of the an, and flour together until smooth. Turn the heat to medium and add the chicken stock. Stir until smooth and there are no lumps of flour/roux. Add some water to thin it out a little. Add some skin from the turkey for more flavor (remember the turkey skin was covered with bacon grease and salt and pepper). Scrape the herbs and diced bacon off of the turkey and add that too. Simmer until very fragrant and of a good gravy consistency. If it gets too thick, add some water. Strain the gravy through a sieve into a container or gravy boat. Enjoy!!!
Gravy is one of the major reasons people gain an average of 7 pounds between Thanksgiving and New Years!!!
After I made the gravy on Sunday, D and I sat down to a great lunch of turkey, corn muffin stuffin', gravy, and cranberry sauce. He came in from raking the leaves and was really happy to have a hot home cooked meal--a great pre-cursor to Thanksgiving dinner!
Oh, but I wasn't done yet. After making the turkey breast, stuffing, and gravy, there was still more to do! I had a beautiful turkey carcass just screaming to be made into stock. In my opinion, the slow cooker was invented for making stock! I picked all of the bits of meat off of the turkey and put them into a bowl in the fridge for later. Then, I broke the carcass apart and loaded the whole thing into the slow cooker along with a very coarsely chopped onion, about 1/2 a heart of celery (including leaves), the 10 or so baby carrots I had in the fridge, 2 cloves of garlic I peeled but didn't use for the turkey, and enough water to cover the whole thing. Then I set the slow cooker on low for the next 12 hours (and had it automatically switch to "keep warm" at 4am until 8 when I got up). Then, in the morning, I strained it all into a tupperware container. When I strain it, I like to pull out the veggies first and use the back of a spoon to smush them through the sieve. Then I pour the rest of the liquid through and strain out all of the bones.
Today I'm working from home, so for lunch I pulled out the turkey stock and leftover turkey bits for some soup. I used a spoon to remove the layer of fat from the top of the broth. Then I spooned the broth into a bowl. Well, more accurately I spooned the "turkey jell-o" into my bowl. I know that gelatin comes from animal bones and so this wasn't that surprising, but it was funny to see.
Turkey "Jell-o" with turkey on top (after I microwaved it, it turned into delicious trukey soup!)
Since I'm home, I just pulled out one of my favorite books about cooking "On Food and Cooking: The Science and Lore of the Kitchen" by Harold McGee to find out more about the gelatinization process. Here's what he says:
"Collagen is the major structural component of the simplest of many-celled animals, the sponges, and accounts for some 30% of the protein in the human body. It is found in the skin and tendons as well as in between muscle cells and muscles, and it is a large part of the matrix in young bones that is later filled with hard minerals. The name comes from the Greek for "glue producing," referring to the fact that when it is heated in water, insoluble collagen is transformed into gelatin, a soluble, gummy solution that can be used for glue as well as a thickener for soups and desserts."
Pretty cool stuff. If you don't have this book and you like to cook (or like science and eating), I highly recommend buying it or getting it out of the local library. It was recommended to me by Rich Herzfeld of Chef's Table in Westport, CT. I took my very first "real" cooking class from him and learned a tremendous amount (including adding brown sugar to food that is too spicy, making large amounts of roux and freezing it in small portions, and wilting cabbage leaves by sticking them in the freezer).
Tuesday, November 20, 2007
Here's the ingredient list for the stuffings I made (this makes LOTS of stuffing--a baking dish full of regular bread stuffing and 16 corn muffin stuffin's).
Monday, November 19, 2007
Emeril's Bacon and Herb Roasted Turkey Breast
5.67 lb fresh hotel style turkey breast (bone-in)
1 tsp fresh ground pepper
Then, on Saturday morning after taking the cat to the vet for her vaccinations, I added a few more things to the shelf and labeled the boxes. It's very handy having boxes that are actually labeled--it means you know what's in them without having to open them (novel concept, isn't it?)In all of this organizing, I found a bag of refrigerator magnets from my old apartment, so I stuck them all to the ugly filing cabinet, because, why not?! This corner of the room still doesn't look great, but it's better than this. While D was out buying a snowblower (we had our first flakes this morning), I pulled out the trusty drill/screwdriver and installed a shoebag in the closet to hold our hats, gloves, and scarves. Much better than the cardboard box!
And, I found some old plant hooks in my toolbox (leftover from 4 or 5 apartments ago) and hung them on the window. you'll notice they are upside down--this is on purpose because the hangers wouldn't stay on if they were upside right. Incidentally, the spider plants are descended from a plant my friend Wendy had in her very first apartment in Cambridge 10 years ago. I love plants with a story!
Tuesday, November 13, 2007
I went to the Crate and Barrel Outlet at lunch and picked out a book shelf with adjustable shelves that I thought would be perfect for my office/craft room. Perfect for holding books and supplies...and I found cute fabric covered boxes to go with! unfortunately the bookcase didn't fit in my car. Hoping I can pick it up tomorrow--not sure how just yet!
Thursday, November 8, 2007
"I will send a handmade gift to the first 3 people who leave a comment on my blog requesting to join this PIF exchange. I don’t know what that gift will be yet and you may not receive it tomorrow or next week, but you will receive it within 365 days, which is my promise! The only thing you have to do in return is pay it forward by making the same promise on your blog."
So, leave me a comment if you'd like me to Pay It Forward. I will try my very best to send you something before Christmas.
Wednesday, November 7, 2007
In addition to these, I sent Jess some honey I bought at Idylwilde Farms and a flour sack dish towel that I stamped using a carved wooden block I bought in Coolidge Corner. When I was doing the dish towel, I also did some onesies that came out really cute (I just gave one to my friend Chelsea's daughter on Monday). These block printing things came out so well that I went back to Brookline and bought 2 more stamps. I've also found an online source for buying onesies, etc. in bulk, so I may just start an Etsy store one of these days!
Monday, November 5, 2007
1 rose carefree wonder planted
1 rose knock out planted
1 honeysuckle harlequin
2 rose double knock out planted
2 lantana patriot classic passion transplanted as houseplants
3 monarda (bee balm) "raspberry wine" planted
3 nepeta walker's low (catmint) planted
4 devil's ivy (pothos) transplanted
15 narcissus geranium (daffodil) bulbs planted
59 tulip bulbs planted
90 years celebrated for my grandmother's birthday
So, I Googled it and found the original blog entry. It's from this blog. Click here to read it and make sure you have Kleenex near by to wipe away the tears of sheer, ridiculous, laughing joy!