Turkey Day and Despite a Tough Year, Still Grateful

Thursday is the American holiday of Thanksgiving.  For those that follow me you know this is my favourite holiday.  With all the materialism built in with a lot of holidays I like we have one where is’t just family and good food.

It’s been a tough year for my family.  We have 12 round the table and we weren’t guaranteed we’d have 12 this time round.  Fortunately my sister’s neck is just about good as new and my dad’s life saving surgery went as well as it should have.  And we are fortunate my cousin in Kenya has made a near complete recovery from his car accident.  Thank goodness the two taxi drivers rushed him to hospital barely alive.  This was while others looted his car.  So you can imagine the amount of gray hair that made light of day in our family this year!

We’re very much looking forward to 2016, as you can imagine!

For this post I wanted to reshare a few of my recipes I’ve made over the years for Thanksgiving.  I figured I’d get them in before the holiday rather than after for once.  🙂

Sage pear turkey 5 2014

The Sage Pear Turkey fast became a favourite of mine.  Pear works so well with the sage and stuffing the skin with butter just makes it divine.

Cranberry Raisin Sauce 6 2014

Hopefully this year I won’t forget to serve the cranberry sauce!  I made this last year with port and it was really delicious.  I like to do variations each year for something new.  I’ve done it with orange, ginger, thyme.  Surprisingly cranberry is a good match for many different ingredients.

Stuffing balls 6 2013

Stuffing balls are a fun variation.  These are made with pork.  This year I’ll be separating these out to have sourdough stuffing then pork balls as some can’t have gluten.

I was going to share a blog post of pumpkin pie.  Looks like I haven’t done a post on that!  Guess what will be coming soon?

For those that celebrate this holiday I hope it is a safe and fun one.  And may you not have to travel too far!

Sage Pear Turkey

How did it get to Saturday already?  Where did this week go?  My husband is travelling for two weeks and I’ve had the kids this week.  It’s been a whirlwind of band practice, concerts, tennis practice, and herding the pets.  Plus the tax office is starting up with some things and suddenly it’s Saturday.  I hope next week goes by just as fast because then my husband will be home. 🙂

We had a lovely Thanksgiving but we delayed it a day because a snow storm blew through the night before the actual holiday.  We were lucky because we didn’t lose power but a lot of people did and they were stuck with all that food and no way to cook it.  Some got creative and fired up the old grill.

As usual we order our turkey from a local farm.  Usually we order it from Mayfair Farms a few towns over.  When we don’t it’s because I flaked and waited too long.  This year I didn’t, I ordered early and asked for a small turkey, about 12-13lbs.  Yes, that won’t be a problem, I am on the list!  Pat on the back and all.  Well, best laid plans and all that because the turkeys turned out to be even healthier and hungrier than planned.  Our turkey ended up being 17.56 lbs!  Holy moly.  So I quickly put out the word to my family members to bring containers.  Did any of them do that?  Absolutely not.  Sigh.

As I drove out into the woods to pick up our bird it started snowing and by the time I got to the farm it was really pretty.

Sage pear turkey 9 2014

Craig and Sarah, who own the farm, have been here for a few years now and have really made it into a growing concern which is wonderful.  And I was greeted by the “guard” dog who definitely had to check me out.

Sage pear turkey 8 2014

Each year I try to do the turkey a bit differently from the last to keep it fresh so I thought I would do a sage and pear roast turkey with butter.

Sage pear turkey 1 2014

I softened 1/2 cup of butter and worked in a handful of chopped fresh sage.

Sage pear turkey 2 2014

Luckily the turkey still fit into the roasting pan.  Not the lid though so I had to use tin foil to cover.  Murphy was really hoping I’d screw up somehow and the turkey would magically fly out of the pan and onto the floor.

Sage pear turkey 3 2014

I’ll admit I don’t like this next step of mucking about with raw poultry.  I stuffed most of the butter under the skin and what little was left rubbed into the outside of the skin.  Season with salt and pepper.  I used white pepper because we ran out of regular pepper.

Sage pear turkey 4 2014

In the basin of the pan add a peeled pear, chopped, half a red onion, a few cloves of garlic, a handful of sage, and a few teaspoons of fresh thyme.  Add 1/2 cup of dry sherry, and a couple of cups of water.  Cover with tin foil or a lid and begin roasting at 325F/160C.  If the turkey is less than 15lbs, cook it 15 minutes per pound, if more than than, then drop it to 12 minutes.  This is per the Fanny Farmer cookbook.  So our turkey was about 3 1/2 hours.  An hour and a half in I basted.  When there is an hour to an hour and a half left remove the cover.  Normally I wait to the last 45 minutes but because I added so much butter I knew this wouldn’t dry out.

Sage pear turkey 5 2014

Now I love turkey skin and let me tell you this was amazing.  Crispy and full of flavour!  And because I put in all the ingredients for the gravy at the beginning it is just about made.  I put it on the boil and add dissolved corn flour a bit at a time to get the thickness I want.  Stir constantly.  I usually add a bit of Gravy Master but not too much because I want the subtle flavours of the pear and sage to come through.

Sage pear turkey 6 2014

We did our usual roast veg and I made the stuffing balls I did last year.  I also made a fabulous cranberry port sauce.  That I forgot to serve. Honestly, all that effort.  All well I’ll serve it at Christmas.

Sage pear turkey 7 2014

Of course we had way too much food.  I always stress about making sure we have enough food though logically I know we’ll have leftovers taking over the fridge.  But it was wonderful to have family together for my favourite holiday.

Leftover Roast Chicken? Soup Is On Of Course!

I know it’s not very original to make homemade chicken soup after doing a roast chicken but it tastes so good!  My husband has conference calls every Tuesday evening and we usually do pizza but I wanted to do something different.  Soup was perfect because I could make it early then it was ready when he was done.  I’m usually very hungry by then!  So is he to be honest.

Over the weekend I made an Apple Sage Roast Chicken and there is still quite a bit of chicken on it.  I need to use more of the chicken so I can use the bones to make stock.  As it is a local farmed chicken it is a little more expensive than store bought so I use everything.  Which you should do anyway but the motivation is a bit higher!  And with the USDA stating China can muck about with our chicken and not label it as such I am more grateful than ever I can get local meats!  Honestly what were they thinking?

Chicken soup is one of those super easy meals to make and if you have leftover gravy from the roast even better.  Half your work is done for you.  During the week that is perfect.

I prepped the ingredients first as it only takes a few minutes to get everything in the pot.  I cut off the chicken from the roast and chopped up 4 cloves of garlic, half an onion, a carrot, and some pearl mushrooms.  The mushrooms are local and I hadn’t seen them until recently but they have a light flavour.

Chicken soup 1 2013 Chicken soup 2 2013

Heat up some olive oil in a pan and saute the garlic and onions for a few minutes then add the chicken.  Cube some potatoes.  Ours came from one of the small bins of potatoes growing in our garden.  It’s funny how small some will come out but I still use them.

Chicken soup 3 2013 Chicken soup 4 2013 Chicken soup 5 2013

Add in the potatoes and carrots and saute for a couple of minutes then add just over a cup of leftover gravy.  Add water until the veg is covered.

Chicken soup 6 2013

Bring to a boil and simmer til the potatoes are cooked through.  This takes less than 15 minutes to throw together.  And because the gravy was full of flavour so was the soup.

Chicken soup 7 2013

We served it with my husband’s homemade rosemary bread.  It was so good.  I love it when he makes bread.  🙂


Apple Sage Roast Chicken – Autumn is Here!

A couple of weeks my good friend Corrie did up a roast chicken with an apple and some onion.  It was really good so when my aunt requested chicken of some sort for her birthday dinner I knew I wanted to do a version of that chicken.  I love a good roast and it is finally cool enough to dust off the ovens properly and start exercising them again!

I’ve mentioned before I can’t believe there are 12 of us now in the family.  Problem is all the kids are still growing and it was a bit of a puzzle to get us all round the table.  We have sort of a kids table dog-legging off the main table so we all fit in the dining room but that was a tight squeeze for the kids as well.  The crazy thing about our house is while it’s large, it’s a lot of hallways and regular size rooms.  But given how fast the all the kids are growing (my youngest nephew will need his own chair soon!) we need to get that sorted.

It is wonderful having everyone together.  It is hard with all of us so busy but so important too.  My daughter made a fabulous cheesecake.  I’ll need to have her make it again so I can do a post on it.  And well, so we can eat it again.  🙂

This is a great dish for a large gathering as it is easy to put together.  My sister and mum brought starters.  We did up some roast potatoes, Brussel sprouts, and carrots for the veg.

Preheat the oven to 325F/160C.  I chopped up some fresh sage from our garden and half an apple.  The dogs got the other half.  They were looking very hopeful.

Apple sage roast chicken 1 2013 Apple sage roast chicken 2 2013

In the roasting pan I place the chicken add the sage and apple, chop a bit of onion and add that with a cup of water and half a cup of white wine.  I drizzle some olive oil over the chicken and season with salt and pepper.

Apple sage roast chicken 3 2013

I cover mine so the chicken stays moist for all but the last 20 minutes or so.  I do a bit of broil to bring up the skin and the meat is tender and moist at the end.  Cooking time is about 25 minutes per pound.  I do baste a few times.

Apple sage roast chicken 4 2013

Remove the chicken from the pan and cover with tin foil to keep warm.  Bring the gravy mixture to a boil and add a bit of flour mixed into the water to thicken.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.  Allow it to boil for a few minutes to make sure the flour is cooked.

Apple sage roast chicken 5 2013

Pour the gravy over the chicken and enjoy.

Apple sage roast chicken 6 2013

This had a light taste of sage and apple to it.  It came out quite delicate but worked really well with the chicken.

Thanksgiving Turkey and Gravy

My favourite holiday is Thanksgiving.  There is nothing materialistic about this holiday.  We celebrate family by being thankful for what is important.  A healthy family, food on the table, and a roof over our heads.  Our wealth is not in the objects we collect but in the love we have for each other.  And one way I enjoy showing my love for my family is to cook for them.  My husband and I spent two days cooking and cleaning to get the list done.  We joke about two days of work for 1/2 hour of eating.  LOL But we enjoy the results.  Because there is so much food I won’t do it all in one post.  That would be very long post.  🙂

I love doing the turkey and gravy.  Now you always hear about the debate about using brine on the turkey or dry roasting it.  I don’t do either and I’ve never had a dry turkey.  It comes out moist and flavourful.

Heat the oven to 325 F.  The Fanny Farmer Cookbook recommends 15 minutes per pound if less than 16lbs and 12 minutes per pound if more than that.  Our turkey was just a smidge under 14lbs.  Also, I recently read that heirloom turkeys when done can still have pink tinged juices so you want the turkey to be 165 F when finished deep in the meat.  We got our turkey from a local farm two towns over so I was glad I read about this.

Once I put it in the roasting pan I drizzle it with olive oil.  Another tip with the turkey, don’t wash it, just put it in the pan.  Washing it will spray germs.

I liberally apply salt and pepper to the skin.

Whatever is added now is the base for the gravy so it is important to use the best ingredients.  I grabbed some rosemary and lemon thyme from the garden and put the sprigs into the pan.

I chop up some garlic and onions and toss these in.  Next I add a few cups of water and about 3/4 cup of white balsamic vinegar.  It has a lemony taste that I was going for.  Cover and pop into the oven.

To add another layer of flavour to the gravy I simmer the heart, liver, and neck in water while the turkey is cooking.

I keep the turkey covered for most of the cooking time so it steams with all the flavours.  For the last 20 minutes or so I uncover it to brown a bit.  Now as my daughter and I are the only ones that really like the skin my main objective is to keep the turkey moist rather than crisp the entire skin.  There are times I get it really crisp and sometimes it is like this time round not so crisp.  I set the turkey aside covered to rest while I make the gravy.

I remove the sprigs of herbs and add the water from the neck, heart, and liver to the gravy.  I set aside the neck to add to the stock I’ll make.  The dogs get the heart and liver.  🙂  Bring the gravy to a boil and add either flour mixed in water or corn starch mixed in water to thicken.  Add a bit at a time until you get the consistency needed.  I also add a bit of gravy master for flavour and colour.  Season as needed.

It’s important to boil as it thickens so you don’t have a flour taste.  I stir regularly to keep it all the same consistency.

It was wonderful having my parents, my aunt, and my sister and her family around the table with our family.  As some are vegetarian we have a lot of turkey left over!  Time to get creative.


Yorkshire Pudding

“Beat the batter, not the bowl, lad”  My Grandma’s words to my dad when she taught him how to make Yorkshire Pudding.  There are certain things in life carry meaning when we create it.  For me it is a connection to the past.  When I make Yorkshire Pudding I think of my Grandma and I think of the time my dad first showed me how to make these.  And I hope to pass that to my kids.  My best memories are centered around food.

The idea of having roast beef without Yorkshire Pudding is alien to me.  At their best they can be amazing.  Having said that, they can be royally messed up!  I’ve set my mum’s oven on fire with overflowed fat.  Credit to her that she didn’t throw me out in the snow.  And those actually came out really well.  Who knew!  I’ve also made hockey pucks in the past.  This food takes practice.

Preheat the oven to 450 F.

Most recently I’ve been using the recipe from “Good Housekeeping Step-by-Step Cookbook”.  It’s a pretty good book that covers the basics and so much more.  So we do pull it out from time to time.

3 large eggs

1 1/2 cup milk.  (I just use the milk we have which is 2% fat)

1 1/2 cup flour

3/4 tsp salt.

The recipe calls for 3 T of the pan drippings from the roast beef.  I don’t do this as you will see below.

Break the eggs into a medium bowl.

Beat them until slightly frothy but not too frothy.

Add the flour, milk, and salt.  Begin to blend.  Here is where the “Beat the batter, not the bowl” comes in.  I have found a whisk rather than a fork to do this works better.  But you want to whisk in a circular motion with the bowl tipped a bit on the side so it is almost a vertical motion.  Don’t hit the sides, everything will be incorporated.  It makes a flapping sound as you do it.  This keeps the air in.  You want the batter smooth without any lumps.  If you beat it too much and the air is lacking you get hockey pucks.

One thing I discovered this time round was that because of the timing of the dishes I didn’t bake this right off.  The batter rested about 20 minutes.  This greatly improved everything.

Now traditionally the pudding is baked in a large pan.  You would put the drippings in the pour the batter over it and bake.  I know if you go to the pub in Kettlewell in Yorkshire you get a plate of a large pudding filled with gravy and a plate for the rest of it.  I say the pub as there is only one.  A small village.

I do individual ones.  I take a muffin pan and put a heaping teaspoon of shortening in each well.  You want enough to cover the well at the bottom when melted.  Pop it into the oven to melt.  Take the pan back out and fill each well about 1/2 to 3/4 full depending on the size of the wells.

Place into the oven to bake 12-15 minutes.  Don’t keep opening the door to check!  This is very important.  Look through the glass.  When they are a lovely golden brown remove from the oven.

At this point I have to resist the urge to grab one and dip it into the gravy. 🙂  But they are ready to serve.  I used the gravy from yesterday’s post of Roast Beef and Gravy.

I just love filling those little wells with gravy!


Roast Beef and Gravy

With the weather cooling down it was time for a roast.  We really enjoy a traditional Sunday roast but as we have dodgeball now we did it on a Saturday.  Because of the components to the roast I will do it in a few posts, otherwise this would be a very long post!

So off I went to the grocery store to get the roast beef.  They didn’t have any all natural roast beef out but fortunately the butcher was there and he said he could get me a nice cut.  He even did two so I could choose.  I chose the less expensive one.  🙂  Only needed a few pounds for our little family!

Preheat the oven to 325 F.

When I do a roast I make sure there is liquid in with the roast.  One, so the meat doesn’t dry out, and two so I have some nice fixings for the gravy.  To start I slice up a little bit of onion and garlic and put it in the base of the broiler pan.  I add rosemary and thyme.

Next I add water to nearly cover the veg and add about 1/2 cup of marsala wine and 1/4 cup of dry sherry.

I add the broiler tray on top of this and place the meat in the center.  Add salt and pepper and some olive oil to the meat.

Pop into the oven.  Some recipe books say about 20 minutes per pound.  Ours was 2.27lbs and to get it to about 130 F for rare we had it in there for an hour and 15 minutes.  So check the temp at about an hour to gauge where you are for the doneness you want.  Once done remove, cover with tin foil and let rest.  Resting is very important before you cut the meat.  It allows the juices to reabsorb into the meat.

Next, on to the gravy!  Pour the drippings into a pot on the stove.

Start the gravy simmering.  To thicken add flour or cornstarch which has been dissolved in water to the mixture.  Bring to a boil.  I ended up making this gravy a little too thick as I’m used to making a large batch of gravy for the holidays.  I got a little carried away!

Add salt and pepper to taste and I like to add gravy master to this.  It gives it a lovely colour and some seasoning to it.  Let it boil a minute or so then simmer.

Slice the roast beef to serve.  As it was just the four of us I put the gravy on as I was dishing out the food.  If it is a large group then I use a gravy boat for the table.

All that is left is to sit down and enjoy.  Prep time for this was about 5 minutes or so and to do up the gravy took less than 10 minutes.  It’s an easy meal with great results.