So this morning a member of my cooking group posted about making homemade granola. It got me thinking about trying to make a batch myself. I love granola, but the fresh granola that is available at any of the local farmers’ markets has been climbing in price to a point that I can’t justify the cost for what it is.
Now my mother has a granola recipe that she has used for years, but I just don’t like it. Too many ingredients and too many nuts and seeds. So I went hunting for a recipe I liked better.
Mix everything EXCEPT for the raisins together in a large mixing bowl.
Line a rimmed baking sheet or jellyroll pan with a piece of parchment paper.
Spread your mixture from your mixing bowl evenly on the pan.
Place in preheated oven (300°) . Bake until a golden toasty brown color approximately 40 minutes. Make sure that you stir the granola around on the cookie sheet approximately every 10 minutes while you are baking. You need to do this to make sure the granola bakes evenly. This is also why you have to use a jellyroll pan or another kind of baking sheet with a big enough lip or your granola will end up all over your oven.
Once granola is cooked, bring out of your oven and cool in the pan for about 20 minutes to half an hour. Stir in your raisins. Allow granola to come to room temperature and store in airtight containers. I like using canning jars for this purpose.
Today Rachael Ray announced it was (as per Butterball which may or may not have a trademark on the day) National Thaw Day. She said:
“No matter what size bird you are dealing with, if you are cooking a frozen turkey it needs to get out of the freezer and get into the fridge today,” Rachael suggests. “Store it in the lowest part of the refrigerator, and take it out [of the freezer] today and it will be perfect by Thanksgiving day!”
Ok so it is funny, as I was staring at my frozen turkey this morning, I was wondering the same thing. Some years I have gotten a fresh turkey, but this year economizing is the name of the game so I took advantage of my free turkey from the grocery store. I actually have the points for two free turkeys, but have only picked up one at this point. Maybe I will donate the second one.
Anyway, apparently every four pounds of turkey is equal to one day of refrigerator thaw. And once defrosted a turkey can hang out in the fridge another four days. My turkey is in a plastic shopping bag and resting in a shallow pan. I don’t want anything to leak if possible. After all, who wants to scrub the refrigerator on Thanksgiving Day?
A week ahead of time is also when I start to think about how the table will look. I collect vintage linens so I can change my table out from year to year. And no, I never pay a lot for old and vintage linens. Garage sales, church sales, flea markets, thrift shops. I look for lots of things in numbers I can deal with, tablecloths that can be tea stained or dyed if need be. I only look for natural fibers, so polyester will not be found on my table – I don’t like the sheen, feel, and texture. I generally hand wash my linens, so a week ahead gives me time to do that and get them ironed up if need be.
I also love vintage dishes, so you might find those on my table as well. I have some cool goblets also gathered courtesy of garage and church tag sales. I don’t do paper plates, plastic cups, and aluminum foil containers as serving dishes.
In my former life with my former in-laws (for lack of a better description of what to call these people), one of the ex factor’s sisters not only had the darkest living room I had ever been in (dark green walls and all her own art work – some was decent, some of it looked like paint-by-numbers), but she wouldn’t know how to set a buffet without aluminum foil containers and cheap paper napkins.
I wouldn’t comment except she made such fuss about how fabulous a table she set, and all I ever saw every Thanksgiving were those aluminum foil containers on the sideboard and table (and the bottles of salad dressing on the table, paper napkins and really bad as well as warm white wine choices.) She was also one of those people who would ask you to bring something and then make something in the category of what she requested like it was a competition instead of a holiday meal. And if you arrived five minutes past her decreed holiday start time, chances were she was eating without you which I always found rude to guests who traveled a distance to be with her. I think one of my favorite Thanksgivings with this woman was when her dog stole the leftover turkey right off the counter.
Anyway, when you have had a few painful Thanksgivings like that, you learn how to craft one you can be proud of, but a holiday that won’t drive you bonkers either. The key is simplicity. The KISS theory, or keep it simple stupid. I believe even if you aren’t doing a more formal dinner, you should take the time to set the table well to complement your meal preparation. It is a holiday, not pizza night.
If you are doing all the cooking, realize it doesn’t have to be the proverbial last supper. The world will not end if you don’t have multiple kinds of potatoes, every Thanksgiving veggie known to man including that disgusting green bean casserole made with those deep-fried dried onion things. If you are doing a communal Thanksgiving and you are the host or hostess, lay out your menu and be clear about your assignments to other people.
Don’t forget the salad. It can be simple or seasonal, but take the time to make your own vinaigrette. So much better than the bottle.
Let’s talk stuffing. Know what I discovered yesterday when I was thinking of buying a Thanksgiving stuffing mix to cut out a step? High fructose corn syrup is an ingredient. I saw it on the ingredients list in Peppridge Farm and Arnold’s pre-bagged dried stuffing cubes. Bleck.
I won’t be taking that stuffing short cut. I am going traditional and have plenty of fabulous herbs left alive, so my turkey and stuffing will definitely include fresh sage and rosemary. And a combination of garlic, shallots and onion. Baby Bella mushrooms are a must. Maybe minced apples and raisins, not sure. I won’t know until Thanksgiving morning. (Nothing better than the smell of stuffing ingredients sautéing away in the pan!)
And yes, I make my own cranberry sauce. It is so easy a caveman can do it. My base recipe is 2 bags fresh cranberries, 2 cups sugar, 1 cup orange juice, 1 cup water, cinnamon, a little fresh ginger. Sometimes I add diced apricots or a persimmon or two. Sometimes I turn it chutney and add funky ingredients like diced green tomatoes.
As for other sides? Well this year it will be yams done somehow (I like them better than sweet potatoes) – I am thinking of roasting them with a couple of carrots and then mashing them somehow – a puree then warmed up in the oven with maybe little marshmallows on top to appeal to the kid factor. Maybe a yam-pumpkin puree. And a simple salad. Gravy.
Dessert? Undecided. Looking like an apple pie. Haven’t decided. Saw a double crust apple apricot pie on page 126 of the November 2012 Food & Wine that looks promising. Or I might do my own apple with streusal topping. I haven’t finished checking out my favorite magazines yet.
As for the big bird itself, it is helpful to remember a couple of simple tricks to keep turkey-lurky from drying out. I pre-heat my oven to 450 degrees for twenty minutes before putting turkey in the oven. When I put the bird in the oven, I leave it at 450 degrees for the first half hour, and then I reduce the temperature to 350 degrees for the duration.
Most people say 15 minutes per pound is a good rule of thumb. So my turkey is 15 pounds. So that is 15 x 15 = 225 minutes or 3.75 hours. Sometimes my gass oven is a little pokey on the roasting, so it could be longer. But I have a thermometer :<}
I cook my turkey covered for almost half of its cooking time. I do put a couple of cups of water or broth in the bottom of my pan along with bay leaves and onion. I baste around every 45 minutes. When you baste, haul big bird out of the oven and shut the oven door so you don’t lose the heat.
And yes, I do indeed rub my turkey down with butter before I herb and salt and garlic the skin and put it in the oven. I do not brine my turkey. I have thought about it, but never done it. I have no desire to deep fry my turkey so I can’t comment on that.
Check out this blog link for a KISS method of turkey cooking. Whole Foods also covers the basics, Southern Food does too, and when all else fails there is Butterball and they have a turkey hotline too. While Martha Stewart has a LOT of recipes, I find her recipes may be confusing and overly complicated for the beginner home chef. There are a LOT of turkey recipes out there. I like to consult web sites that I know test the recipes Food TV and Epicurious are the websites I haunt the most.
I like to entertain for friends and family. I like to cook, so you may find cheeses and whatnots mixed in from DiBruno Brothers and Carlinos, but for the most part you find what I serve I actually prepared. Maybe I am old-fashioned, but it is something I just like to do. I also believe in adopting Thanksgiving orphans. I have been one a couple of times over the years when family and friends were scattered to the four winds for the holiday. I actually have an article on easy entertaining featuring Chef Angela Carlino in the fall issue of Main Line Parent Magazine (which I haven’t seen yet in print because I keep spacing on picking up a copy).
Do you have a Thanksgiving tip or recipe or tradition you would like to share? Feel free to post a comment!
Now for the last word: if you don’t feel like cooking, might I suggest Thanksgiving at The Yellow Springs Inn? Check this out from Exton Dish! (Yes, click HERE)
A place to SKIP is Farmhouse Bistro at People’s Light. We did that last year because family and friends were all scattered and it is something we would not do again, or recommend. We’ll leave it at that.
This post must now come to an end. I have recipes to read.
Any vegans in the room need to turn away from the page now. We’re talking chicken. And I love chickens. I am also a fan of Chickenman in West Vincent and am hoping he doesn’t get run over by the road master of West Vincent or the peace love and eminent domain lady and the lawyer of reinvention either.
But I digress. And besides, I bet Chickenman would love my home cooking as well as witty political repartee n’est–ce pas?
Back to cluck…so easy to wander down a rutty path towards politics when discussing chicken dinners. After all chicken dinners are the staple of most politicians.
And yes, as per above photo I do know where chickens come from. No, I will not be doing my version of Little House on The Prairie and fetching a chicken and slaying it for dinner. Mine came from the market.
It’s summer I don’t want to stuff anything except maybe the occasional tomato or deviled egg. But today has been thunderstorm city and who knows if it will keep on not raining or not, so oven it is.
I love roast chicken and this is the plan B roast chicken when you don’t feel like stuffing.
First I clean out my chicken and remove the gizzards (which I freeze for homemade stock another time.)
Then I June Cleaver it with my cleaver. Oh ok: translation: I place my raw chicken breast side down on a non-wooden cutting board and cleave her open (see photos). Then I place her breast side up and spread out on a little roasting rack in a pan I have lined with that half parchment half foil paper, foil side up (easier clean up – sorry – it is Friday and I don’t want to be slave to kitchen.)
Then I look for two little skin pockets that I help along with a little paring knife (see photo) and I stuff 4 cloves of garlic sliced under the skin (evenly on each side) along with the herbs I have handy and fresh outside – oregano, mint, thyme, rosemary, 2 bay leaves.
Then I channel my inner Julia Child but not to the point of Paula Deen and I rub the chicken with a pat of butter (ok so maybe it is like a tablespoon plus a smidgen.)
Then I rub on the skin salt, pepper, a little garlic powder, oregano, basil, smoked paprika, regular paprika, tarragon, cumin, and dried Valencia orange peel. Look, I don’t go THAT overboard, a dash or this and a dash of that until it smells good going in the oven. Omit what you don’t like.
Into a pre-heated 350 degree oven it goes. I have seen recipes that say different things with regard to the internal temperature and doneness, but I just let my meat thermometer do the thinking and when it says done for poultry I haul it out of the oven and rest the cluck for at least 15 minutes with foil on top. Tonight’s bird is 6.74 lbs. so it will cook about 2 to 2 1/2 hours at 350 degrees.
A note is halfway through I always sour a roast, whether it is chicken, turkey, pork, beef, etc. I sour it with whatever wine is open. I don’t drown it, just refresh it.
Tonight I have fresh corn and a salad to accompany my cluck.
I have now bought two packs from two different Bed Bath & Beyond stores and did not get complete hanger packs both times! And hangers were broken! I do not have time to go back to the store and chase this so I get to eat a loss because their products are deficient. In my opinion, this product has problems because again, I purchased the slim line hangers from two different stores.
This second package I opened had not only broken hangers, but hangers that didn’t even have the metal hook part! Save your money until either Bed Bath and Beyond takes hanger packs that are incomplete or partially broken off the shelves or until Real Simple puts their name on a better manufactured product.
I don’t know about you, but I can’t afford to just throw money away because it has a “Real Simple” on the label.