Sunday, November 30, 2008

“Soup Day” Dawns

So, there was a slight problem with the turkey. We forgot it in the laundry room and found it the day after Thanksgiving. Thankfully (no pun intended) it is very cold in there, so my husband went ahead and cut it off the carcass to get ready for The Great Soup Day, Charlie Brown.

This is an annual tradition that always makes me feel very righteous and pioneer-y. We use up just about everything that is in the crisper to make this absolutely fabulous soup. Every year we do the same lame things: we claim that the turkey was the best ever. Then we tell the story about my first Thanksgiving as a new bride, when I suited up with rubber gloves to remove the turkey innards from the bird, causing my uncle to laugh so long we got worried. Then, when we have the soup, we say it was the best part of the holiday.

So here it is, my own invention, which I call


1/4 stick butter
2 T. flour
2 T. curry powder (I use Madras mild)
1 t. sage or Bell’s seasoning
1 big white onion, chopped
2 Yukon potatoes, cubed
2 stalks celery, chopped
2 carrots, sliced thin
8 cups turkey broth or chicken stock
salt, pepper
2 cups leftover turkey meat
1 cup cream
1 package frozen chopped spinach
Optional: leftover gravy, leftover stuffing, leftover green beans

Melt butter, drop in onion, celery, carrots, and potatoes. Saute for a few minutes; don’t worry that stuff is sticking to the pan, that’s normal. When the veggies have a bit of translucency and maybe even a bit of color, stir in the flour, curry power, sage, salt, and pepper. Cook for a minute to take the raw taste out of the flour, then slowly pour in the broth. This is the base for the soup, and you need to simmer it with the lid on once it has come to a boil. Let it simmer about 30-40 minutes.

Turn off the heat, immediately put in the turkey, frozen block of spinach, and cream. Put the lid back on and let it sit still until the spinach has completely melted into the soup.

If you have some leftovers that you are trying to use up, you can put in a bit more broth and add whatever strikes your fancy. My family is particularly fond of a bit of gravy in this soup.

What I like is that the turkey doesn’t get overcooked, because you are basically just heating it up, not simmering it for a long time. Also, this is the best use for dark meat ever! It is just delicious.

I hope you will try the soup, and let me know how your family felt about it.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

The Crowded Kitchen

I do love Thanksgiving. A different love from Christmas, which has a bitter aftertaste—-namely the months of January, February, and March. But starting Thanksgiving week, the world is rich with possibilities. The future beckons, all dolled up with seductive smells and glitter.

Not least of what matters to me about Thanksgiving is the food. Not even so much the eating of the food (although trust me, I’m no slouch in that department), but for the planning—the military campaign mentality that connects me to my mother, twenty years gone.

I guess it was a generational thing. Certain things had to be done, no exceptions. There was cranberry/orange relish, and out would come Grandma Feazel’s grinder. Clamped to the counter, this hulking holdout from The Great Depression seemed totally bewildered in our 1970’s avocado green kitchen. Even after we got the ubiquitous Cuisinart, that grinder made its annual appearance. It was undoubtedly a laboratory experiment of germ possibilities, so had to be assembled and disassembled with operating room scrub-up procedures.

And the oyster stuffing. Every year my grandmother made it using the instructions written in the spidery hand of my great grandmother. I wouldn’t trade that piece of paper for a million dollars, even though my grandmother was the only one who ever ate any of it at the Thanksgiving feast.

The secret weapon of the holiday was the dessert. We acquired this little beauty in 1960, when we lived near Boston for a year while my father attended MIT on assignment for his company. A very close group formed of those young couples, all on a yearlong adventure, and I recall how sophisticated they all seemed. It was that Camelot era, and everyone was young and beautiful. A cookbook was produced (again you can’t have it for a million), and the pecan pie recipe was introduced into the lore of my family. Unlike other pecan pie recipes, there is no corn syrup in it. It is dense, rich, and memorable. It wasn’t until I came into my own as a pretty good cook that I realized that it was basically a pecan tart baked off in a pie shell. It is like eating pecan fudge with a crust. Heaven. Dibs on the leftovers.

I don’t cook like my mother. I am not of her generation, and I have found that if I slap some butter on the outside of the turkey, put it in a very hot oven, and cook it to the right internal temp, it all works out. Probably no little credit is due to the freshest bird in the world, which we buy every year at the “farm” nearby, nicknamed the Yuppie Palace. The birds are moist no matter what you do to them, but I follow the Gourmet Magazine recipe with confidence and it’s always great, no turkey dust the next morning.

So, bird is easy, sides are painless, pies can be the day ahead. And yet, it is wonderfully crowded in the kitchen. I have my own two girls helping, and the voices of the women who shaped me. They guide my hands, my tongue, and my heart all day. I take out the biscuit cutter with the worn, green knob. I remember my mother’s warning not to let the stuffing get dry. My grandmother takes a rolling pin to that stack of Saltines. We don’t serve oyster stuffing, but I can almost smell it anyway. I am closer to my beloved women than any other day of the year.

Oh, yes, and we can’t ever forget to buy the Durkee’s spread for sandwiches. Never, never forget the Durkee’s, even if you have to drive two hours to find a grocery store that carries it. I’m not saying I ever did that, mind you. . . .

Have a blessed holiday.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

The Last Craft Fair

For the fourth time, we printed the signs, packed up the baskets and trays, loaded the goods into the car with the card table and my grandmother’s tablecloth, and hit the road for the craft fair. Today was the fourth one this fall. We have done four towns, both upscale and blue collar, with merchandise in every price point.

So far the outlay is about $125, and we have sold only one item for $7.50.

Everybody loved the stuff, thought it was fairly priced, oohed and ahhed over how cute, etc. Then they all went somewhere else to spend their money. One woman wanted to buy things with a Visa card. At a craft fair at a church. I ask you . . . .

Food sold well at all the fairs. Cupcakes for $.25. Can you make money selling a cupcake for $.25? My daughters are convinced that most of the vendors do fairs as a hobby rather than a money-making enterprise.

So, I am giving up the Craft Fair

Monday, November 17, 2008

Making a Cute Gift on a Shoestring (Great FREE idea!)

Credit Card Holder with Vintage Buttonand Magnet Closure
I love that term —- shoestring. This little paper creation came to me when I began to wonder how we were going to give Christmas presents to my sisters-in-law and nieces without any money. I had just gotten some little magnetic paper closures from Basic Grey, and with a vintage button, this is a perfect little something for a purse full of either business cards, or credit cards, calling cards, etc. Here are all the pictures, along with a photo of the template, which is simple and easy to duplicate. For the gluing, first put about an inch of glue along the bottom flap, which you have folded up. Next run a line of glue down one of the folded side flaps, fold the other side over to stick everything down, and weight it down for a minute to dry thoroughly.

Decorate away to your heart’s content with interesting embellishments, photos, original art, or even use recycled plastic. I did line the inside of the top with a pretty contrasting paper, just glued it on and cut around to neaten it up. There’s no reason you couldn’t do this with felt, and embroider it. That magnet is such a satisfying little item, makes it seem so professional.

I realized as I was writing this that I can do a couple of masculine ones for my brothers and nephews! Okay, I am going to say the cliche that we all love so much —- “you are only limited by your imaginations.”

Enjoy, and please let me know how you like this.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Six Months at Intel

It’s a night job in the computer labs, four nights per week, about half of his usual contract rate, but it’s a JOB! He’s got the hope of permanent work after six months, and we can just about scrape by without losing our credit rating. He’s already standing taller, looks younger. Just a coincidence that the hiring manager is also a mature employee . . . . I’m sure its just a coincidence . . . . bless his heart!

Friday, November 7, 2008

The Garland

I spotted the prototype for the garland in one of those eminently tasteful decorating magazines. Lovingly situated between two candles in its sedate Connecticut home, the felt and ribbon creation called out to me as a do-it-yourself project.

It looked simple enough—a yard-long white fabric streamer with red checked ribbons attached, the whole thing gathered and scrunched to swag across a mantle. Simple and elegant cherry clusters clung every few inches. This looked easy. A mother/daughter Christmas project for Molly and me.

As with all such visions, the execution turned out to be much more involved than the initial assessment indicated. From one craft store to another we went, wheezing our way through the walls of scent from the holiday potpourri displays. Then to the fabric store for the snowy felt. Along the way we accumulated an assortment of irresistible ornaments, buttons, tiny porcelain roses, and snowmen for the decorations–, each discovery punctuated with Molly’s exclamations of delight. One ribbon down the center looked lonely, so we picked two to layer, one deep red satin, followed by a narrower red checked. It was already beginning to seem a lot more crowded on this garland than the picture.

First we cut the felt with pinking shears. Then, an ironing lesson with fusible web to get the ribbon to stick on down the middle. Another day to make the sturdy gathering stitches, and we were ready to add the goodies. But here we ran into a challenge. Somehow along the way our garland had lengthened to three yards. With this extended goal, our few red, black, and white trinkets began to look sparse and lonely.

I remembered a vintage pin I never wore, and Molly found some Scottie-dog buttons. Suddenly a lot of other jewelry box items were in the mix. There were shoe clips made of cherry-red Bakelite, orphaned glittery earrings, and keepsake red cloth buttons from Molly’s favorite coat, now outgrown. Things kept stored in drawers and boxes came out into the light. Here were the flashy buttons from a dress I gussied up to wear to the company Christmas party. There we found childhood charms, my old girl scout pins, a playing piece from my first Monopoly. We sewed them on in a joyous parade. My mother’s favorite angel pin took its place alongside a scrimshaw charm and a souvenir Alpine bell from my girlhood vacations. My father’s Navy identification disk and a dollhouse basket of eggs marched toward a gaudy red plastic summer earring.

When we finally came up for air and agreed that we had no more to add, the garland shone and jingled. Rich and heavy with memories, it has taken its rightful place with greenery on the stairway, where it will play the holiday lead for many years to come. After a time it will be Molly’s, to give to her daughter.

Molly and I like to sit and admire what we made. Our garland doesn’t look a thing like the magazine picture. It isn’t tasteful at all–it’s excessive and exuberant. We are content.