Saturday, November 28, 2009

Thanksgiving - and Pumpkin Curry Soup

Happy Thanksgiving! Hope you have enjoyed recalling the goodness of God this week. I have so much to be thankful for! And my list would have to include long weekends!

It was so good to have Ed home for the last three days! And maybe the best part is that we had no plans and nowhere we had to go for any of those days! Ed's family was together two weeks ago and my family plans to be together Sunday (tomorrow). So the last couple days were open to do whatever we pleased! At least as much as is possible with four children! In other words, sleeping in was NOT on the list of options!

It is rare for us to have completely unscheduled days! Of course, we found ways to fill up the hours! Ed borrowed a carpet shampooer and worked his way around the house cleaning carpets. The carpets badly needed cleaned but the job looked overwhelming to me. Ed spoils me rotten! I'm thinking it is pay back time! Thankfully I like to bake and he has hinted that there are some recipes he hopes to see this Christmas. (And since he reads what I write here, I've rather committed myself. Right?)

Since my bumper pumpkin crop this fall I've been trying to get the courage to make pumpkin soup. This week I finally did and we enjoyed it even more then I expected! I put several recipes together to come up with this version. Definitely a good warming soup for a cold day! If you have some leftover pumpkin and turkey broth, give it a try! (Sorry I forgot to take a picture!)

Pumpkin Curry Soup

2 T butter
1 onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
2 carrots, chopped
1 stalk celery, chopped
1 1/2 tsp curry powder (or more if you wish)
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
4 cup chicken or turkey broth
3 cup pumpkin puree
1 cup milk

Saute vegetables in butter until slightly tender. Add seasonings, broth and pumpkin. Bring to boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer for 15 - 20 minutes. Remove from heat. Stir in milk. In batches, blend in food processor or blender until smooth. Serve warm.

This soup may be made up to a day ahead and warmed gently before serving. Do not boil.

Garnish with croutons, sour cream, or crumpled bacon. Also may be served over rice.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

What to do with Turkey Leftovers!

Sixteen ways to use leftover turkey!

Edited from 2008

At our house, turkey is far more then a holiday tradition! Buying a large turkey has been one of my favorite ways to stretch our grocery dollars. I've written more about it here and shared an easy way to roast turkey here.

But if you have no way to use up the leftovers, a large turkey is not a good deal. I am sharing my favorite ways to use leftover turkey. I usually put turkey leftovers in pint boxes or bags for use in these recipes. When I my leftovers are gone, it is time to roast another turkey!

You'll notice most of these recipes are originally for chicken, but I find that roasting a large turkey is much cheaper and simpler way to prepare these recipes! Having cooked chopped turkey in the freezer is my life line to fast home cooked meals! I usually only buy chicken for grilling or for recipe that I want whole chicken breasts.

Chicken and Biscuits

2 cup cooked, chopped chicken (or turkey)
1 cup frozen or cooked vegetables (corn, peas, carrots)
Place chicken and vegetables in 2 qt casserole
3 T butter
3 T flour
1 tsp salt
1/8 tsp pepper
2 c water
Melt butter in pan, add flour, salt and pepper. Stir to blend, lightly brown. Add water. Stir and simmer a few minutes. Pour gravy over chicken and veggies.

1 1/2 cup flour
2 1/4 tsp baking powder
3/4 tsp salt
1/4 cup butter
1 egg
3/4 cup milk
Mix together flour, baking powder, and salt. Cut in butter until mixture resembles course meal. Combine egg and milk. Stir into flour mixture. Drop by spoon-full over chicken and vegetables.
Bake 425 degrees for 20-25 minutes.

Creamy Chicken Enchiladas

This recipe brings back memories of a former life as a traveling single when I'd beg Rachel to make this! And she usually complied!

2 T butter
2 chopped onions
2 (4.5 oz) can chopped green chilies (drained)
1 (8 oz) pkg cream cheese, cut up
3-4 cup cooked cubed chicken (or turkey)
16 (8 inch) tortillas
2 cup shredded Monterey Jack cheese
1 cup milk or cream

Melt butter in skillet, saute onion for 5 minutes. Add chilies, saute 5 minutes. Stir in cream cheese, add chicken. Cook, stirring constantly until the cream cheese melts. Spoon 2-3 tablespoons of mixture in center of tortilla, roll and place, seam side down, in a lightly greased 9x13 pan. Sprinkle with cheese. Drizzle with milk. Bake at 350 for 45 minutes.

Chicken Lasagna

1 can cream of mushroom soup
1 can cream of chicken soup
1 1/2 cup sour cream
2-3 cups chicken, cooked and chopped
1/2 tsp onion powder
1/4 tsp poultry seasoning
Combine all of above. ( I use a large batch of homemade cream soup.)
12 lasagna noodles
2 cups shredded cheese
Parmesan cheese

In greased 9x13 pan, layer noodles, soup mixture and cheeses. Repeat for three layers. Bake at 350 for 1 hour, covered.

Favorite Chicken Casserole

8 oz seasoned bread cubes
1 stick butter
1 cup broth
Mix together lightly. Place half of mix in a 9x13 greased pan.
2-3 cup cooked chopped chicken
1/2 cup chopped celery
3/4 tsp salt
1 cup cooked chopped vegetables (brocolli, beans, carrots, etc)
Mix. and place over bread. Top with remaining bread.
2 eggs
1 1/2 cup milk
Beat eggs and milk. Pour over casserole. Cover with foil and refrigerate over night. (May also freeze.)
1 can cream of chicken soup
Spread soup over top of casserole. Bake at 325 degrees for 40 minutes, uncovered. Sprinkle with 1 cup shredded cheese and return to oven for 10 minutes.


1 lb spaghetti, cooked
3-4 cup diced cooked chicken
2 can mushroom soup (or large batch of homemade soup)
2 cup chicken broth
1/4 tsp celery salt
1/4 tsp pepper
1 diced onion
3/4 cup cheese
Mix all together. Place in 9x13 baking dish. Bake 1 hour at 350 degrees.

Chicken Rice Soup

Comfort food at it's best! And a recipe from one of my favorite Titus 2 ladies - Priscilla. Besides my mom and mother-in-law, Priscilla is the lady I most want to be like "when I grow up"!

3 quarts chicken broth
1 cup diced carrots
1 cup diced celery
1/4 cup diced onion
3 cups chopped cooked chicken
1 pint corn
1 cup brown rice
seasoning as desired (I use salt, parsley and thyme)

Place in large kettle. Simmer for 1 hour, stirring occasionally.
(May also be made in crock pot.)

Southwestern Chicken Soup

1 quart broth
3 cup cooked chopped chicken
2 cup corn
1 quart tomato juice
1 pint diced tomatoes
1 chopped onion
2 chopped garlic cloves (optional)
1 tsp cumin
2 tsp salt
1 tsp chili powder
1/8 tsp pepper
1/8 tsp cayenne pepper
3/4 cup brown rice

Combine in slow cooker. Cook on low for 4 hours. (Or simmer on stove for 1 hour)

Chicken and Dumplings

I love quick one-pot meals!

4 cup broth
2 cup diced cooked chicken
1 can cream celery soup (or homemade soup)
vegetables as desired (peas, corn, carrots, etc)
Mix together in large pot or dutch oven. Bring to boil
3 1/2 cup baking mix (like Bisquik)
2/3 cup water
herbs (like parsley) if desired

Mix baking mix, water, and herbs. Drop dough by spoonfulls into slowly boiling pot. Reduce heat to medium low. Cook uncovered for 10 minutes. Cover and cook 10 minutes longer.
You could also use your favorite biscuit recipe for the dumplings.

Turkey Quesadillas

Fast, easy, and so good!

4 (10 inch) tortillas
1 cup refried beans (optional)
1 cup shredded cheese - cheddar or Monterrey Jack
1/3 cup salsa
1 cup diced cooked turkey
olives, peppers or any other desired ingredients

Place two tortillas on baking sheet. Spread with refried beans. Mix cheese, salsa, turkey and any other ingredients together. Spread on tortillas. Top with second tortilla. Press firmly. Bake for 10 minutes at 425 degrees. Cut in 6 to 8 wedges. Serve with salsa, sour cream or guacamole.

Chicken, Broccoli, Rice Casserole

1/2 cup diced celery
1/4 cup diced onion
1/3 cup butter
Saute vegetables in butter.
1 1/2 heads broccoli, chopped
1 cup rice
1 cup cheese
1 can cream soup
2 cups water
2-3 cups cooked chopped chicken
Mix all together. Bake at 350 degrees for 1 1/2 hours.

Freeze Ahead Turkey Pot Pies

This is adapted from my mother-in-laws recipe, and probably the reason my husband loves turkey pie so much! She would make the small individual size pies. She didn't make a bottom crust for the pie, only spreading pastry over the top of the pies. Great memories were made by the boys of surviving on pie when mom and dad were away!

Pastry for 6 or more pies
12 cups cooked diced turkey
6 cup diced potatoes
4 cup corn
3 cup diced carrots
1/2 cup butter
1 medium onion
1 cup diced celery (optional)
1/2 cup flour
1/2 tsp pepper
5 tsp salt
3 cup milk
5 cup broth

Cook potatoes and carrots until tender. Saute onion and celery in butter. Stir in flour, pepper, and salt. Gradually add milk and broth. Stir until thickened. Stir in potatoes, carrots, corn and turkey. Pour into prepared pie crusts. Top with crust. Cut steam vents. Crimp edges. Wrap securely and freeze. Makes 6-7 pies. Bake 375 degrees for 1 1/2 hour (or less)

For a smaller recipe for making turkey pie, go here!

More turkey ideas:
Curry in a Hurry - mentioned in my cream soup recipe
Turkey Salad - Mix chopped turkey with mayonnaise and pickle relish
Turkey and Filling - posted with the filling recipe
Turkey Melts - Spread bread (hopefully something crusty and homemade) with mayo or mustard, layer slices of turkey and some Provolone cheese, toast under broiler

And one more recipe from a reader!
Turkey Croquettes - Joanna

2 T. butter
2 1/2 T. flour
1 cup milk
2 cups minced cooked turkey
1 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. onion powder
1/8 tsp. pepper
2 T. minced parsley or celery
2 eggs, beaten
1 cup dried bread crumbs

Make a white sauce of the butter, flour and milk. Add the finely chopped turkey and seasonings.
Cool thoroughly and then shape into croquettes (approx. 1/4-1/3 cup each).
Dip in crumbs, then beaten eggs and again into crumbs. (This part is messy, but you could freeze before doing this step to eliminate that, and then let thaw before baking.)
Fry in oil for 3-5 minutes.  I prefer baking them at 400* for 25-30 min. Serves 6. 
Now you may understand why I love leftover turkey!

Friday, November 20, 2009

New Book - My Brother's Keeper

My Brother's Keeper is a new book hot off the press. It is a children's book written about our dear friends Keith and Jeanne, from the perspective of their oldest son telling about caring for his handicapped brother.

This family is a constant inspiration to me. When I'm tempted to complain about the challenges of mothering, I imagine the endless doctor appointments, waking up at night to seizures and knowing your child will ever live a normal life and suddenly my load seems very small. Their acceptance and joy in caring for their son amaze me.

This book is one of a series of books about children facing changes in life. For you locals, it is available now at Mattie Lowery's. It should be at Country Drygoods sometime next week. You can order from Vision Publishers and read about the book from the author's perspective.

Christmas is children will be receiving a new book! How about yours!

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Pumpkin Pie

Every cook seems to have their favorite pumpkin pie. This is my mom's variation - and we think it is terrific!

1 1/2 cup pumpkin puree
1 cup brown sugar
1 1/2 cup milk, scalded
3 eggs
1/2 tsp salt
1 T cornstarch
1/4 tsp ginger
1/4 cloves
1 tsp cinnamon
1 (9 inch) unbaked crust

Blend pumpkin, eggs, sugar, cornstarch and spices. Gradually add milk and mix well. Pour into unbaked crust. Bake at 425 for 10 minutes. Then reduce heat to 350 degrees and continue baking for 30 minutes.

Looking for more pumpkin recipes? Check out this list at Amy's Finer Things!

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Blessing Tree

Last year a friend gave me the idea of a "blessing basket" - a place to gather notes on which you've jotted down blessings. We adapted the idea into a Blessing tree the year.

First I drew a simple outline of a leafless tree on a large piece of poster board. I cut out simple leaves of various colors. For the last couple weeks we've all been writing down things we are grateful for on the leaves and gluing them to the tree.

We've been dealing with a lot of whining recently and this simple project has been one way to focus our children's attention from what I want, to what I've been given. I won't say it has totally taken care of the problem, but it hasn't hurt!

How are you making Thanksgiving a part of your daily life this year?

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Easiest Roast Turkey

I've received more rave reviews after sharing this recipe than any others. Everyone loves to have a simple fool-proof method to roast turkey! I already wrote about why I think turkey is a good deal here. If you found a good price on turkey and are wondering what to do with it - try this method!

This isn't an original recipe. Years ago, my mom found this in one of Emilee Barnes' books. It is so easy to have a moist turkey with this slow cook method! My husband hated white meat until I used this method. If you wish for your turkey skin to be nicely browned, do not cover the turkey. I usually cover the pan because I think I get more broth when covered. In fact, I usually get so much broth that I need to get some broth out with my baster mid-way through the roasting time so that it doesn't spill out over into the oven.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
Remove the gibblets. (They will be inside the cavity somewhere in a white bag.)
Wash turkey well, dry turkey with paper towels. Salt the cavity.
Rub outside of turkey with olive oil.
Stick meat thermometer into the turkey. (I skip this.)
Place breast down on a rack in your large roaster. (I don't have a rack, and it works fine.)
Roast one hour at 350 degrees to destroy surface bacteria.
Adjust heat to 180 to 200 degrees for a turkey of any size. Roast one hour per pound.
Once the turkey is done, it will not overcook. You can leave it in the oven for an additional 3 to 6 hours and it will not overcook.

Just a tip: if you have a newer oven, if may have a safety mechanism that will turn off the oven automatically after twelve hours. Since for me, this is usually in the middle of the night, before I go to bed, I turn off my oven, then quickly turn it on again. Then I don't have any surprises in the morning!

I usually get a very large turkey (over 20 pounds) because I like to have lots of leftovers. I was told that turkeys over 20 pound have a greater to meat to bone ratio. I'll chop up the cooked meat, put it in pints and use it for any recipe calling for cooked chopped chicken. A great time saver! But this size turkey can be a real pain to thaw! I can barely fit it into my fridge! Just sitting the turkey on your counter to thaw isn't a good idea for food safety. I place the turkey in a large ice chest, and fill with cold water. The turkey will thaw faster if the water is changed often. I sit in on the counter next to my large laundry sink. It is rather easy to pull the plug on the ice chest, drain out the water, and then refill several times until it is completely thawed.

A friend told me that she used a large electric roaster for her turkey. No cluttering up your oven for those long hours! I found this to work well (with an electric roaster that this same friend found for me at a yard sale). In the summer I could place the electric roaster in the basement and keep the heat out of the kitchen.

Hope you give this method a try!

Monday, November 16, 2009

Artisan Breads Every Day - French Bread

Continuing my way through Peter Reinhart's new book...

Classic French bread

For some time, I've been trying to create a french baguette at home. The kind of french bread that is crispy on the outside, chewy inside with big holes! This recipe is certainly the easiest yet most successful attempt yet. The recipe requires very little kneading so I just mixed it up in a bowl with a spoon and didn't even get out my mixer. The dough was easy to handle and shape into loaves.

Changes made... I replaced two cups of white flour with whole wheat flour and decreased the overall flour by 1/3 cup.

Next time I will...increase the whole wheat flour some more and add a tablespoon or so of vital wheat gluten.
Conclusion...definitely will be made again at our house!

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Making Christmas Meaningful

Edited from 2008

It is very important to me that our family focus is on our Lord at Christmas. Last year I posted a few ideas that I gathered from here and there. This year I thought I'd post it earlier to maybe give you a few ideas of things to try in your home. I would love to hear your ideas as well!

1. The Christmas Story from Luke 2 - the obvious place to start! Allow young children to act out the Christmas story with a cheap and non-fragile nativity set. Our children get a great bang out of acting out the story with dad as the donkey. One family memorized a verse or two from Luke 2 before allowing the children to choose another figure in the nativity set to set out.

2. Christmas carols - Learn some of the stories behind the carols we sing. Start early in December in singing the carols as a family so that your children can participate in caroling later in the month.

3. Caroling - Hands down, caroling is my favorite Christmas activity (even beating all the great food!) Many churches carol to the elderly in the church, which is a great tradition. But it can also be fun to get together with just a few families and carol to some neighbors who may not have a church. Since the first year we were married, we've been getting together with some friends and we each choose a neighbor to sing to. Each year our neighbors, who never go to church ask if we are coming to sing. We began with no children but this year the children out number the adults, which I think adds to the fun, despite the hassle of getting in and out of car seats!

4. Messiah by Handel - We usually can't wait until December 1 to get the recording out! Actually Ed has been known to pull out the Messiah recording in July! I've heard of families that use the Messiah as a family devotional. They listen to a short portion then look up the Scripture that the music was based on. Show your children how the movement of the melody notes illustrate the words. For example, listen to the song "Every Valley" and notice how the notes move back and forth on the lyric "crooked" and then stay on a single pitch for the word "straight."

5. Jesse Tree - We have never done this but I like the idea of marking the days until Christmas with Scripture. The idea of a Jesse Tree is taken from "a branch shall come forth out of Jesse" and there is numerous devotionals online, such as this one and this one. They usually go through the prophecies about Christ and continue through his life and ministry with a Scripture reading for each day in December.

6. Service to others - I think the best way to fight the "gimmies" is to focus on the needs of others. I have great memories of serving Thanksgiving dinner at the Salvation Army and I can recall twice that our family spent Christmas Eve holding a service at the rescue mission. It was amazing to me as a child that there were people who had no better place to go on Christmas Eve then the mission. As a youth, one of my favorite Christmas activities was delivering Angle Tree gifts to prisoner's children in Baltimore. Believe me, going with a group of country teens to inner city Baltimore is an adventure all it's own!

One year at our family gathering, my aunt gathered all the materials to put together school kits. We watched a short video showing the children who will receive the kits. All the children then helped to assemble the kits with soap, toothbrush, pencils, crayons, notebook, etc in a draw string bag. I thought it was an simple but good activity for the children to participate in doing something for others. And we parents weren't stuck with bringing home any more toys in our already crowded homes.

I know we don't think we need one more thing to do at Christmas. (Or maybe any other time of the year!) But prayerfully read Matthew 25. "When you do it to the least of these, my brethren, you do it unto me". We wonder sometimes how we can "give back" to our Lord, who gave so much for us. This chapter may hold the answer, though it may mean a re-evaluation of our priorities.

Of course, as a mother of young children, God's first priority for me is going to be in my home! I'm not talking of putting our children in day-care so that we can go out an serve others! There will be stages of life where our place is primarily going to be in the home, even if it means very little interaction with others. But I do believe the Lord will give us opportunities for serve as a family, if we are only willing. There is many needy, lonely, hopeless people that need to be shown God's love through God's people. It can be as simple as visiting an elderly neighbor or taking cookies to another busy mom. I am grateful that my husband has encouraged me to spend one night a month at a Bible study at our local detention center. I think he knows that I come home from that evening energized and encouraged from an evening studying the Word. Serving others is going to look different for each of us - but service isn't an option for the Christian.

7. Stories - Some books are holiday classics! I have to read A Christmas Carol by Dickens, at least the first and last chapter, each year! The Gift of the Magi by O. Henry is another classic. I also love the story of the Richest Family in Church. You may have other favorites. One family wraps up Christmas stories and each evening the children unwrap one book to read. One year when I was a child, we put all the titles of our Christmas books on little slips of paper and pulled out one each evening. We didn't have enough for each day of the month, but some evenings we didn't have time to read a story. Besides picture books and short stories, we read some of the special Christmas chapters in the Little House books by Laura Ingalls Wilder. It was fun to contrast the Christmas in Farmer Boy with The Long Winter. Stories such as these, where children were delighted with one piece of peppermint candy or an orange are great reminders for children in our luxurious society.

You may be able to find some good stories at the library but, of course, use caution! It is important to me that stories do not portray a materialistic view of Christmas but instead focus on giving. We only own four Christmas books, so far, and I think they all fit this criteria. They are The Christmas Kitten by James Herriot, The Grinch that Stole Christmas by Dr Suess, The Mitten Tree by Candace Christiansen, and Miracle in a Shoe Box by Franklin Graham (which I can never read without tears!)

And one more thought on Christmas stories...many Christmas books add fictional characters to the Luke 2 story. When I taught Bible Released Time to public school students, I always had a student who wanted to add to the Biblical Christmas story with the stories they had been told of a little drummer boy or a small angle who got lost, etc. At times, I had a hard time convincing them that their story wasn't found in the Bible! These stories may be innocent but make sure that your child knows the truth of the Biblical account!

Do you have any favorite Christmas stories you could recommend? What Christmas traditions does your family enjoy to focus your attention on our Lord? I would love to hear them!

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Artisan Breads Every Day - literally!

I haven't been around here very much recently. Really I've hardly been on the computer. But I have been baking...and baking...and more baking!

Several of you have asked about the bread book that I helped to test recipes. It finally came out and I received my copy last week. Wow! Even though I've seen most of these recipes, the final result is even better then I expected! The cookbook is Peter Reinhart's Artisan Breads Every Day. Like his other books, this one shares Peter's passion for helping ordinary home bakers make extraordinary bread.

I am so excited about seeing the final edition of these recipes, plus all the great photos that I've been baking bread nearly every day! To be honest, I think I'm slightly obsessed! Meals have turned into a simple soup and fresh bread almost every night. Extra loaves have been pushed into the freezer or shared with friends. But if I am going overboard, at least I haven't heard a murmur of complaint from my husband!

During the recipe testing for this book (which by the way, was completely unpaid volunteer position, but the chance to interact with a great baker and teacher was totally worth it!) I tried most of the recipe for this book. Our favorites were the many seed bread, rustic pain a l'Ancienne, and crackers. I didn't have even one flop, which I don't think I can say for any other of my bread cookbooks. Even the sourdough recipe worked! And I had tried making a sourdough starter at least two other times with no success!

I did not test most of the rich bread recipes, including the babka, panettone, or croissants. I was planning to get to those recipes while I waited for our baby's birth, but she came a week early, and my recipe testing ended abruptly! To be honest those recipes intimidated me but after seeing the photos in the book, I'm excited about trying them.

The photos above show the first recipe in the book, 'Lean Bread'. A classic french bread type recipe that demonstrates the sub-title "Fast and Easy Recipes for World-Class Breads". The clear directions and photos really do make these recipes "easy" but the "fast" part could be contested. Don't expect to pull out your flour and yeast and be eating bread in an hour. Peter follows the flavor rule ("flavor rules") and almost all of these recipe use a slow, cold overnight fermentation to develop the flavor. The dough is mixed, usually without kneading, sat in the fridge, and baked the next day. Though there is not a lot of hands on time, this also isn't fast food! And I think that is a good thing!

Though there is numerous whole wheat recipes in the book including several 100% whole wheat breads and pizza crust, I added whole wheat flour even to the white flour recipes. For example, in the lean bread, I used 1 cup of whole wheat flour and decreased the overall flour by 1/3 cup. The result was excellent!

Actually there isn't a recipe that I don't want to try. So I'm just starting at the beginning of the book and working my way through it one recipe at a time! Maybe I'll post photos and comments on each of the recipes, as time allows. But for taste tests, you'll have to stop in - or purchase your own book! (Just so you know, I'm not being paid to endorse this book! I just really like it! If you do purchase a book through an Amazon link, I do receive a tiny referral fee.)

Actually there is quite a few new bread books out. If you are looking for a gift for a bread baker, you have lots of options this fall. On my list to look up at the library is "My Bread" by Jim Lahey (creator of the so-called NY Times No-Knead Bread) and "Healthy Bread in Five Minutes a Day" by Jeff Hertzberg and Zoe Francois.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Turkey Time- Almost Here

Edited from 2008

Thanksgiving turkeys are one of my favorite frugal finds. A little prior planning this month provides us with some cheap eating for months!

About this time each year, I start looking for good Thanksgiving grocery sales, especially on turkey. I usually try to buy three or four turkeys at the best price possible. Last year I bought five turkeys at around 33 cents a pound!

A large turkey can be cheaper and have more meat then several chickens. I try to buy the largest I can find. Birds over twenty pounds will have a greater meat to bone ratio. After roasting the bird, I freeze the meat in meal sized portions. I figure one large turkey can feed my family for about twelve meals. If I've paid less then $10.00 for the turkey, it is an unbeatable deal for poultry!

I try to do a little planning ahead in order to take advantage of the turkey deals. Usually stores require you to buy a minimum (usually $30 or $40) to take advantage of their turkey deals.I plan to do as little of grocery shopping as possible in the weeks before Thanksgiving. I'm trying to just live off our pantry so that I have a long list to use when I stock up on turkey. It is a good time to stock up on the other items that our also on sale at Thanksgiving.

If you live local, please share the best prices you have found for turkey. I've found that Walmart is the worse place to buy turkey at Thanksgiving because they never have sales. I've had the best success at Weiss and Food Lion. Some places will match competitors prices, but I haven't found that method worth it. Somehow they always seem to find a loop hole!

I know that to some, a 20 pound turkey can look rather daunting! So many readers have shared their success with the slow cook method I shared last year. So in future weeks, I plan to repost my mom's easy method for roasting a turkey. Since a huge turkey is only a good deal if you eat it, I'll also share some of our favorite ways to eat leftover turkey.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Baking Day!

I have found it a real time saver to bake more then one thing at a time. Rarely do I make up only one recipe. While I have the oven on and the mixer dirty, I usually keep baking! I rarely have only one pan baking in the oven. I can usually think of something that I can slide alongside, even if it is just some baked potatoes!

I'm not at all organized about it like MoneySavingMom. I just start baking and see how far I get without any real plan. A lot can depend on the other day's events, children, etc. Maybe a plan would help me have even better use of time. I also don't have any real schedule of how often I bake. When I have the time, desire, and need to bake - I just do it!

I have done almost no baking recently since we were so blessed with food over the funeral. Earlier this week I cooked up several pumpkins. Yesterday I looked at the large bowl of pumpkin puree and decided it was time to use it up! It turned into a real pumpkin baking day!
And the result...
pumpkin muffins
pumpkin torte
pumpkin pie
pumpkin cheesecake
chocolate chip pumpkin bars

I know that looks like a LOT of dessert! We are not eating it all ourselves! The muffins we had for breakfast, the bars went in the freezer, the torte and cheesecake are going to a family reunion on Sunday. That left the pie which we enjoyed for supper! Usually when I bake, I make changes to make a recipe more healthful, adding whole wheat flour and eliminating some of the sugar. But this time, I was making recipes, as is, with all the high fat, high sugar ingredients that make these recipes ones we look forward to at special occasions! I also mixed up a batch of bread to put in the fridge to bake tomorrow.

The pile of dishes looked rather daunting but when I remembered that I could have had a pile of dishes five different days - the pile didn't appear bad at all!

Any of you have regular baking/freeze ahead days? Do you have any tips?

Friday, November 6, 2009

Gardening Year in Review - 2009

What a good year in the garden! We had plentiful rain (except for a few weeks in August) and a cooler-than-usual summer made gardening far more enjoyable. A newborn, born in April, did complicate gardening. It seemed that I would only have begun working in the garden when she woke up! But maybe that was God's way of making sure I didn't overdue it!

Most of my gardening was done in tiny segments of time, frustrating at times but taking lots of breaks probably wasn't a bad idea! Really, I was just thrilled to be able to bend over again and enjoy the outdoors with my children! Gardening is just a joy to me and the produce is just an bonus - though a very nice bonus!

I thought I'd take some time to think back over the year and record some of the things that worked (or didn't)! I may even link this to the Organic Gardening Carnival over at Keepers of the Home. I love hearing from other gardeners and gaining tips for future years.

First some background:
Our garden is in USDA zone 6. (If that means anything to you!) We have been gardening all the seven years since we married and moved to our almost three acres. Most of our property is pasture and a huge lawn, I don't even know how big our garden actually is.

Each year we tackle a few new projects. About the time we think we are about finished making changes - we get a new idea! I couldn't possibly garden without my husband's help. Ed does the bulk of the "grunt" work (tilling, mowing, planting, turning compost). I just get the fun of caring for the plants and harvesting! Oh, and the cooking! And we all help with the eating!

If you want to take a garden tour from back in July, go here.

Best new plant -
'Amish Paste' tomatoes! This was the first year I planted them and I was totally impressed. This is an old heirloom variety. The tomatoes are a paste type tomato similar to Roma but much larger in size. I was so tired of peeling Roma tomatoes for sauce making and the Amish Paste tomatoes made the job much faster.

But there was more then the size to rave about. In the past we've had problems with tomato blight. I expected that this variety would have worse problems since it isn't a fancy new hybrid. But even though we had a wetter then usual summer and I heard of others in the area having problems with blight, our tomatoes were beautiful! The plants grew over six feet tall and produced abundantly. About the only complaint I could think of was they are not an early variety and I was a little impatient for the first tomato. Of the three varieties I planted, all were late bearing. Next year I'll know to plant at least one early plant to enjoy some early tomato eating. But I plan to plant mostly Amish Paste tomatoes for preserving!

Best new perennial-
We couldn't eat it but I also loved this aster 'Monch'. I planted it in May and it bloomed non-stop and is still blooming now in November! I guess the real test will be if it can last through the winter. It is supposed to be hardy in this area. I am not planning to do any coddling. If a flower can't make it in my perennial bed on it's own, then I'll replace it with something that can! I wish there were more flowers this easy to grow and blooms this well!

Best Pumpkin
We grew pumpkins/winter squash for the first time this year. The varieties we grew were Baby Pam, Red Kuri, Green striped Cushaw, and Sweet Dumpling. All were chosen because they were supposed to be good eating, and long keeping - plus look nice for some fall decoration! All the varieties grew well and produced abundantly. My favorite for eating was the Red Kuri. I couldn't really tell much difference between them for flavor but the Red Kuri was such a nice dark orange color and the others were more a pale yellow. But the Red Kuri did not keep as well. While the others are still hard and good, the Red Kuri has slowly been going soft. I have just been keeping my eye on them and when one get soft around the stem, I quick cook it up before it goes bad. I used up the last of them this week, so they still lasted several months.

Worse new plant-
I already wrote about my non-head forming broccoli. I did contact the company and they said they've heard of other with the same problem and offered me a new pack of seeds or my money back. It didn't help me have broccoli this spring but I did appreciate their effort to make it right.

What I learned-
Never plant a new variety without planting some of the old tried-and-true. If I would have planted some of my old broccoli as well as the new variety, we could have still had some broccoli this spring.

What I would do differently -
Start with larger blueberry plants. We planted six small plants. Two are growing well, two are surviving, and two are about to expire. We are new to blueberries, so it could be that we are making other mistakes!

Best spent morning -
We love the simple three bin compost pile that Ed built this spring. With the help of our chicken bedding, we've been churning out compost at much faster rate then ever before! And we can NEVER have too much compost! You can see how simple it was to build here.

Repeated problem -
Keeping onions. I've talked to many other gardeners about how to keep onions. I've tried many of their tips, but still have no success. Our onion crop was beautiful this year. I braided them and hung them in the wood shed. I had plenty of onions for canning pizza sauce but they are now beginning to rot from the inside out. Every time I go out for an onion, I throw several away. It is so discouraging. I am wondering if it has something to do with our clay ground. Our garden lays low and has deep rich soil. We rarely need to water and it hold moisture well - but maybe onions don't like those conditions. I'm just guessing because I've talked to several gardeners who have wonderful success with onions who have sandy or slate ground and much drier conditions, even though they live near us. I may try a raised bed next year. Also the onions I picked first when the stalks were still green are keeping much better. Anyone have other ideas?

Repeated success -
Once I did get broccoli (this fall) I've enjoyed worm free vegetable without sprays, thanks to row cover! I wouldn't want to be without row cover in the garden as it has so many uses. I've written about this simple method here.

I'll do this again -
Covering our strawberries with a simple bird netting was Ed's brilliant idea! It saved so much frustration! See photos here.

Maximizing garden space -
I'm guessing that sometime in the future we'll extend our garden into the pasture. But for now, I'm trying to make the best use of the space we have. I wrote about this year's successes here.
Children's Garden -
We all really enjoyed the Children's Garden. It was fun to grow some unusual plants in their garden like the Rainbow Inca corn and Rattlesnake beans. You can read about it here and here. I'm dreaming up ideas to make next year's garden even better for them.
Gardening for Chickens-
Another new project was gardening for our chickens. The goal was to grow some food (not all) for our new chickens to cut on feed costs. I was told to start when their young to teach them to eat food scraps. Our chicks were only days old when we started giving them grass to scratch through. We've learned what things they enjoy, and what just lays in their pen untouched. Apple peelings are some of their favorite.

I grew mangle beets, swiss chard and kale specifically for them and they enjoy them all. I'll know next year to plant far more. Each morning when I visited the hen house, I would either take kitchen scraps (if I had something they would enjoy) or pull something from the garden on the way out. They also enjoyed overgrown zucchini and cucumbers, old sweet corn (we left some just dry on the stalk) and sunflower seeds.

It was a bountiful year and in some ways I hate to see it end, though I have plenty of inside work that is waiting for me! We are already dreaming of next year. Ed would like to try planting some grain and is already preparing some experimental plots in the pasture. We also talk of adding some more berries, though our blueberries are hardly encouraging this year.

Every year is a new chance to learn about God's creation and enjoy His provision is a very tangible way! We are trying to take some extra time this month and "count our blessings". Certainly our garden this year was one of those!

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Maximizing Garden Space

I'm always trying to squeeze the most use out of the space as possible. Successive planting help greatly. In the past when we finished harvesting a garden area, we planted a cover crop. This year we never had opportunity for cover crops because we were always planting a succession crop. When we pulled our peas, we planted late potatoes. Beans were replaced with late broccoli, etc. Some day we plan to extend our garden, but for now, I want to make the best use of each foot.

We did try several new things to stretch our garden space this year. One was planting pumpkins next to the fence, allowing the vines to grow into the pasture.
Last year, a volunteer gourd grew in this spot and I noticed that the cow in the pasture never touched the plant. I figured bovines must not like vine crops and planted pumpkins (notorious space hogs) along the electric fence behind the asparagus and grapevine. They grew lush and huge and, sure enough, the cow didn't touch them, not even eating the grass growing among the vine. At least for a while! One day, I found a huge section of the pumpkins were eaten. Not only were the vines trampled and eaten but large chunks were bit out of the pumpkins as well! It really didn't matter. We had a huge crop of pumpkins even after sharing with the cow!
But I doubt I would plant vines here again because the pumpkins grew up the grapevines. I didn't think it was good for the vines to share their space with pumpkins. Especially since we have struggled with black rot on our grapevines in the past.

The other experiment was growing sweet corn in the strawberry patch. After we finished harvesting the strawberries (end of June) we planted late sweet corn along each side of the two strawberry rows, making four rows of corn. We had some extra seed so I figured if it didn't grow it was no great loss. I just scratched a hole with a stick and pushed the seed in the ground, which was rather hard from being trampled on wet mornings while picking berries.
The shocking thing was that nearly every kernel of the corn grew! In our garden, where we had carefully tilled and hoed a neat row, our corn germination rate was horrible! Usually late corn is shorter and does not produce as well, but this corn took off! Whether it was our unusually cool wet summer, or the compost we've heaped on the strawberries or some unknown reason, it was some of the nicest sweet corn we have ever grown.

Gene Logsdon wrote in his berry book that he grows his best sweet corn in the old strawberry patch. Whatever the cause, it was a beautiful patch of corn. Now the real test will be to see how the strawberries do next year. They didn't seem to mind sharing their space. I think the corn helped to shade out some of the weeds and we were careful to make sure their was adequate water for both crops. If it works, it would be a great way to maximize garden space by growing two crops in the same area.

Do you have any ideas for making the best use of your garden space?

Crockpot Apple Butter

After the success with pumpkin butter, I wanted to try apple butter. Quite a few years ago I had made some but this time I wanted to try using the slow cooker to avoid all of the stirring and potential for charred apples.

There is lots of recipes for crock pot apple butter on the web. I put several recipes together and cut back a little on sugar - and we loved the result.

Here is how I did it:

Fill crockpot with peeled cored sliced apples. My crock pot held about 5 quart of apples. A mixture of apple varieties is preferred and I used Golden Delicious, York, and Staymen.

Cook apples on low overnight.

In the morning, the apples were soft and the crock pot was only about half full. I mashed them up with a fork and added sugar and seasonings.

1/2 cup white sugar
1 cup brown sugar
2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp cloves

I cut back the sugar as far as I dared. Many recipes called for far more. We thought this was sweet enough. I was scared to cut back more because the sugar in apple butter is what gives it the caramelized flavor instead of tasting like applesauce.

Cook on low for several hours, stirring occasionally.

By lunch time, the aroma was wonderful! But the apple butter was not thick enough. I placed a knife over the top of the slow cooker to hold the lid slightly open. This allowed the steam to escape. After cooking for several more hours on low, the apple butter was thick and rich! A wooden spoon could be stood up in the middle of the cooker - a sign that it was finished.

You could put the apple butter through the blender or food processor - or just used a hand held stick blender. To me, apple butter doesn't need to be perfectly smooth and skipped this step.

You could freeze or can the apple butter but I plan to give some away and keep the remaining in the fridge where I doubt it will last long! This just shouts for a slice of homemade bread!

Linked to Ultimate Recipe Swap - Apples


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