Archive | November, 2010

Cranberry Hangover

29 Nov

Now that Thanksgivings # 1 & 2 are officially over, and Friday’s Black cloud has cleared out, it’s time to throw away the leftovers. Given that I had no turkey cooking at my home–at least, not until Christmas Day–the most I had to consider tossing was the bottomless bowl of cranberry sauce I had made for Thanksgiving #2.

At this time, I have enough for Thanksgiving #3, if anyone should want to have one.  Apparently, few at Thanksgiving #2 like cranberries. Unlike me, they don’t seem to want for the traditional berry compote, even with its zing of orange peel.

I must confess, I haven’t the heart to throw it out. It’s perfectly edible at this point and I’ve made a good dent in what remains. I’m just having trouble finding things other than turkey to pair it with. Last night’s sloppy joes just didn’t seem right.

That's a lotta cranberries.


Talkin’ Turkey

25 Nov

Called Kaukab a bit ago. Wanted to wish her a ‘Happy Thanksgiving,’ but, more importantly, I wanted to find out what she had cooked.

It’s always an interesting dialogue between us, particularly when the holdiays come around. Here’s a snippet:

KD: “Hi, ‘Happy Thanksgiving!’, What are you cooking?”

K: “Eh, You cookin’ turkey?” (Surprised tone in that her daughter had made the first call.)

KD: “Well, no, but I ha…” (Dialing up the speech-o-meter, trying to get in all the justifications of non-turkey making)

K: “Oh, I cook turkey, sweet potatoes, mashed potatoes, corn, salad…”

KD: “Who’s all com…?”

K: “No, no one comin’; just me and Joanne (my younger sister, who lives with her–long, long story; you don’t want to know). I don know why everybody cookin’? I…

KD: “Did you make any tabouleh?” (trying, desperately, to deflect holiday cynicism reeking from the telephone)

K: “Robert (her neighbor, a chef,who lives across the street from her) give me some parsley, but it not too good…”

KD: “I made tabouleh, hummous, and your green beans on Sunday for friends…” (Somehow hoping to gain favor with Kaukab–a Herculean feat)

K: “Eh, dat good; no one eat the dark meat; I cook only da white meat…” (Answering to earlier questions, like an Oprah viewer talking from her suburban living room, fidgeting with her delayed feedback earpiece)

At this point, my phone, nearly broken and simulating a pay phone, begins beeping. I am usually annoyed by these, in that I have to quickly run upstairs to violin girl’s room to grab the old, working phone when I want to continue talking with others. But, in this case, I am pleased. Pleased, because I will have approximately one more minute in which to wrap up my holiday call, thus permitting Kaukab only a few last Thanksgiving jabs at her daughter’s failings…beginning with the opting out of turkey cooking and ending with her disapproval over my lack of making sure that violin girl had followed through on calling her grandmother to thank her for the birthday card/money sent in early November. “She meant to, but she’s been really busy…” proved unacceptable.

And, so, today…I am thankful. Thankful, for hubby and kids to remind me of what is most important. Love. Everything else is just turkey talk.

Wishing You A Blessed Thanksgiving

Kaukab’s Daughter

Thanksgiving Countdown Madness

24 Nov

Today’s the last full day I have to roam the various grocery stores in search of the last remaining items needed for Thanksgiving.

We’ll be eating our holiday meal in Ohio, just up the wooded hillside from our old place, at my sister-in-law’s house. (She’s married to one of hubby’s brothers.) This year, I’m in charge of the salad and cranberry sauce. I offered her a choice of two homemade salad dressings: a vinegarette or a creamy garlic, parmasean. Creamy won out.

I’ve already got the romaine…and plenty of lemons.

Here’s my list:

1 lg. red onion

Mayo (Gotta be the Hellmann’s)

1 baguette

2 pkgs. fresh whole cranberries

Just four little items! Seems simple enough, right?

I can hear Kaukab now: “Whad I tell you? You dondt know how to listen!”  Yep, all the way from Cleveland.

Here’s hoping you find all you need for a Happy Thanksgiving. It sure would make Kaukab’s a more pleasant one.

Real Gravy

22 Nov

My dear friend, Agnes, asked me how I made gravy; so, I thought I’d appease her, and anyone out there with gravy-avoidance syndrome.

Which reminds me of the time, years ago, when I had Thanksgiving dinner at our house. Hubby’s mom was known around them parts as the gravy-making queen. Somehow, she had developed a reputation for it, which held for a couple of generations. Until I saw her, up close and personal, start to make it.

She had prepared it using the known steps: using the turkey juice renderings; using a thickening agent; and heat. But, something foreign-looking to me appeared from her satchel. Yes, really. A satchel. A small bottle of dark liquid was uncapped and slowly poured into the nearly white, flour-y “gravy,” bubbling rapidly on my stove, like a witch’s brew. There were “oohs” and “aahs” from the daughters-in-law onlookers, as if some magic potion had turned the anemic gravy into a rising star.

This “magic potion” was none other than a liquid corn syrup with artificial everything. I had heard about it, but Kaukab never used it. Her gravy always looked like the pre-potion version.

After that, I decided I’d make my own. From that moment on, I made it using the traditional method. No artificial anything in my gravy.

What’s the secret, you may ask? It all starts with a great broth. I always rub my turkey with butter and season with garlic salt and cracked black pepper, and dried sage, rubbing it all over. I also cut large pieces of onions, celery, carrots, and 2 or 3 whole garlic cloves and put them in the turkey’s cavity, along with rubbing a little sea salt and more pepper. These will flavor the broth rendered during the roasting period. I also take the giblets and neck bone and cook them in water with salt and pepper.  Once cooked and cooled, I strain the liquid a couple of times, reserving it to use for making the gravy. This will impart additional flavor. You don’t have to, though. It’ll still taste good without this step. You can also use chicken broth (a cup or two).

Making the gravy. You can do it one of two ways:

If you’re making it straight from the same roasting pan then do it this way:

1. Remove the turkey.

2. Skim most of the fat from the broth.

3. Lightly mash the cooked veggies, or some of them into the broth.

4. With roasting pan on the burners, turn heat to high and bring to boil. Meanwhile, in a measuring cup, put in 2 to 2-1/2 Tbs.  of  flour and with a fork, slowly stir while adding cold water, filling it to 3/4 to 1 C. full. (This will depend on how much gravy you’ll be making.)

5. If  you don’t have a lot of broth rendered, then use chicken broth or a little white wine to deglaze the pan, if you’ve not made the giblet water mixture.

6. Slowly add the flour/water mixture to the bubbling turkey broth, using a wisk and stirring quickly and constantly to get it smooth.

7. Taste, and adjust for flavor by adding more salt and pepper.

8. Let cook on med. high for another 10 -15 min. to get the flour taste out and reduce so will thicken a little. Once cooled, will thicken a bit more.

The other version is what I did at our Thanksgiving #1 party. This was because the turkey was cooked in one of those huge roasters, so it not only rendered lots of turkey broth, but the roasting unit wasn’t going to work for the method described above. In this case, I poured the broth into an iron cast skillet (doesn’t have to be; it’s what our cook had and I like them) and brought the broth up to boiling. I then proceeded with the same steps described above.

And, that’s about it.  The thing about gravy is that it’s about preparing the broth for both color and flavor. So, by using veggies in your turkey roasting and seasonings, you’ll never have to resort to the magic-making that SOME do.

In Kaukab’s case, there’s nothing artificial about her.

Dressing Up

21 Nov

It's All About The Bread


This is the dressing I made for our Thanksgiving #1 get-together yesterday. It got rave reviews, and I must admit, it was my most favorite attempt, by far. I owe it all to the bread. In years past, I resorted to using those pre-packaged minature bread cubes and my dressing, although passable, lacked a certain texture.

So this year I decided to invest the time in making my own bread cubes, using a lovely hefty wheat bread in the mix, so-to-speak, and the result was well worth the effort. Here’s what I did:

1 loaf of  sliced,white bread (save the empty bread bag to later keep the toasted bread cubes)

1 round artisan wheat bread (the hefty kind)

32 oz. chicken broth

4 -5 celery stalks, finely sliced (I slice through each stalk twice lengthwise and then thinly slice across them.)

1 med. onion, medium chopped

8 – 10 mushrooms, sliced (I used the reg. old button kind)

Cut veggies should look something like this:

poultry seasoning

garlic salt

finely cracked pepper 

1 stick unsalted butter (3/4 of it used to saute veggies; 1/4 to both grease the pan, saving about 4 small pats to place atop dressing)

Preheat oven to 200 degrees.

Cut bread into large cubes, place on baking sheets and lightly toast, but not turning color. You want to just remove the moisture. Set aside. (I prepared the bread cubes the night before, allowed to cool and then put all in the bread bag which had contained the sliced bread, lightly tied. In the morning, I put them on a large baking sheet, spreading them out a bit to lose any leftover moisture.) Then into a large bowl.

In the meantime, heat chicken broth in separate pan and keep hot. During this time, heat a large skillet on medium-high, and melt 3/4 of the butter. Put the veggies in and stir around a few minutes, turning heat to medium after first couple minutes. Add garlic salt, pepper and poultry seasoning to veggies to taste. Continue cooking, stirring occasionally, until veggies are translucent. Remove from heat and let stand.  At this time, preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Next, add cooked veggies to the bread cubes. Add about half of heated chicken broth to bread mixture and lightly toss. Add the rest, tossing thoroughly, but gently. (Note: you may not add the entire 32oz., depending upon the amount of bread you end up with. You want a moistened, but not soggy dressing–unless you like it that way.) Add more poultry seasoning, garlic salt and pepper to adjust for taste.

Ready to be mixed


Mixed And Ready For Baking Pan


Once mixed, place in buttered pan and gently spread out. Dot remaining butter (the 1/4 used to first butter pan and should have about 4 or 5 small pats) atop the mixture. Put into the preheated oven, uncovered. Bake for 30 – 35 min. or until dressing is nicely browned and springy. Remove from oven and let cool a bit before covering with foil; otherwise, it will tend to get somewhat soggy. And we don’t want a soggy dressing. That’s the gravy’s job.

You know, I think even Kaukab might want to try making this. Let’s give her call.

On second thought…

Thanksgiving #1

20 Nov

Today, we will be attending our second annual Thanksgiving get-together. This event came out of several discussions centering on family obligations. Obligations many of us have come to expect but with reluctant acceptance.

Some are blessed with families, all truly happy to come together around a rather large bird.  But for many, the thought of spending festive time with those who share a gene pool, no matter how good the turkey and fixings, can be overwhelming.

Hence, today’s “family” Thanksgiving. All in attendence come with the same baggage. Except my hubby. He likes going to see his family. Not that there aren’t any blood relatives who play unfairly. There are. It’s just that hubby learned from a very young age how to ignore them. Unfortunately, no one at Kaukab’s table did.

Last year, at our first event, we all came together at one of the families’ homes, situated on 10 acres with a lovely creek running through it. We did it ‘Better Homes and Gardens style. Outdoors, with a long row of tables, clothed with fall colors and mis-matched chairs. We all brought various foods. I brought dressing, green beans (not the casserole one), and cranberry sauce (from fresh whole berries that I did not pick from my bog).

This year, I’m bringing more dressing and cranberry sauce. Someone decided to do beans this year, so I’m off the hook. (This same person doesn’t feel comfortable making dressing, so I raised my hand and was approved.)

Kaukab never made cranberry sauce from whole berries. I’m not sure why. We grew up with the canned cranberry with the ring imprints. And, she never made dressing. Her Thanksgiving table held mashed potatoes and gravy, corn, tabouli or salad, and rolls to supplement the turkey, which she’d prepare very early Thanksgiving morning in time to have our holiday meal no later than 1p.m., as opposed to our cousins, who lived two blocks over. They’d have theirs during the dinner hour, generally around 6p.m.; which meant, that we’d have to wait a long time between our meal and theirs before we could pile into the car and visit the several first cousins who’d make their way from numerous other street blocks to this same house.

My Uncle “Jimmy,” (Jamil) who was younger than my father and more “Americanized,” would have the bar set up and all kinds of football blaring from the television and radio. He’d be the one making the drinks and then plunk himself in his chair, t.v. tray positioned and armed with small dishes of olives, nuts, cheeses, and pita bread, and puffing on his large cigar, making sports-talk to anyone who’d listen. Usually, my father would be seated to his right on the nearby sofa, blurting out political-speak, rambling on about taxes, crooked politicians, and the ruin of American society. These two divergent speak-easys would inevitably collide and I’d see them both morph into boyhood figures. Amusing, but not pretty.

The women staked their claim on the kitchen. This is where I learned the fine art of a different politic. The subtlties of verbal one upmanship, which sometimes became not-so-subtle. Over coffee and dessert, these mothers would discuss matters running the gamut from recipes to rendevous of unsuspecting church ladies. Mostly, they’d speak these unspeakables in Arabic, often forgetting that I understood every word-morsel offered. Often, I would hear from Kaukab an indignant, “Whad a madder weet you!” Which, would inevitably cause a verbal rumble around the festive holiday table. At evening’s end, all would kiss-and-make up, wishing one another a final ‘Happy Thanksgiving.’

Every Thanksgiving, we could look forward to the same. Year in, year out. As the cousins got older and had families of their own, the Thanksgivings as we knew them, stopped. Funerals became the new Thanksgiving. Amusing, in a different, morbid sort of way.

So today, I’m looking forward to having Thanksgiving #1. Sharing good times with those who’ve become like family. Minus the crazy.

Holiday Confusion

17 Nov

I’m hereby declaring an end to holiday switching.

Each holiday shall remain in its designated month.

No Thanksgiving cornucopia displays and turkey salt and pepper shakers brought out among the Halloween decorations in mid-September.

Out with Christmas wreaths dangling from city lightpoles before I’ve  had a chance to enjoy the Thanksgiving turkey.

I don’t want to see fake poinsettias and candy cane-marked cookie dough cylinders when I’m shopping for cranberries.

I can’t be bothered with thinking about what to cook for Christmas before I’ve even figured out what to prepare for Thanksgiving. 

It’s too much!  Even for Kaukab.

Meat From My Childhood

15 Nov

Recently, I had shown the kids a movie about meat. I thought to enlighten them (and me) about where that Golden Arches “beef” patty they so naively order originates. I’m not sure the movie served my purpose of scaring them into eating less of the fast food, processed meat, in so much as it diverted their attention away from ordering burgers and substituting them with chicken. The fact that these fast food chickens were also processed didn’t seem to register with them. What they had seen mostly in the movie were beef cattle. Compared to them, the chickens didn’t seem so bad. It’s amazing the amount of mind-bending adolescents can manage in the name of fast food noshing.

Even though the movie didn’t satisfy all of my intentions, it did manage to remind me of a time when meat was meat. There were real butchers with real bloody-white aprons running family shops who knew where their meat came from. A few of those butchers supplied Kaukab with her’s. Usually every other Saturday, Kaukab would pronounce  to my father that it was time to go to the West Side Market to buy enough meat and fish to feed her family of seven. In those days, the Market was better known to middle-class immigrants who knew the importance of quality food products at a good price.

Once home, the meat and fish (sometimes, octupus) were carefully unwrapped from their paper wrappers and sorted out for partition to be used for numerous meals throughout the next few weeks. They would often buy large slabs of beef, from which my father would carefully cut several assortments to be used in stews, soups, and various stuffed vegetable dishes–my father pushing cubes of meat into Kaukab’s hand meat grinder while I watched, mesmorized by the yarn-like product spilling into the large bowl below.

The best part came when my father fed us a special treat of raw sirloin or filet he’d cut into small squares, lightly dusted with salt and wrapped in a small torn piece of pita bread. There we were, five little kids all seated around Kaukab’s table, waiting for our pieces, noshing quietly on raw meat, like contented lion cubs.

An Uptick

11 Nov

A short while ago, I checked my blog’s dashboard. Seems many enjoy reading about boys’ undergarments. I’m not sure if it’s undergarments in general or just those belonging to mine. Either way, it’s probably not a healthy thing, although they have generated a sizeable uptick in readership these last few days.

And while increased readership is pleasant, even desired, I’m not sure it should come at a cost of discussing the particulars of my boys’ drawers. Nor, would I be any good at hiding such talk from Kaukab for any substantial time.

So, if it’s alright with everyone, I’m going to refrain from any further comment about them. The underpants…Not the boys.

Thank you for understanding. I know Kaukab would never.

Underwear For Breakfast

10 Nov

I had great plans for Monday’s school.  I generally have a love-hate relationship with Monday–love, for new beginnings; hate, for the unpredictable failings lurking closely, sniffing my best-laid plans for a positive, successful day.

I had my breakfast of  Greek yogurt drizzled with olive oil sans pita bread–leftovers from the “Sweet Sixteen” party a few days earlier–and I was getting ready for the start of the school day. On my second cup of my requisite green tea, I hear a loud commotion emanating from the upstairs hallway. Just then, drummer boy pounds mightily down the stairs exclaiming, rather indignantly, that his brother, driver boy, has stolen all of his “assigned” underwear. Seriously?

Neither had managed to get themselves any breakfast, and I had lots of school work waiting on them. These boys, who once apparently loved each other, and whereby I have boxfuls of photographs to substantiate such a claim, had reached a new low.

After depositing all of their underwear onto the floor, I followed the First Law of Kaukab. I collected said underwear, pounded down the stairs, and deposited them into the kitchen trash; whereby, driver boy, in a fit of anguish, pounded down the stairs, pronouncing that he was going to fish out all of his underwear and take them to the basement laundry.

Eventually, we had school. The boys, however, forfeited breakfast time–thus, neglecting the Second Law of Kaukab, that all must be fed breakfast.

An interesting pattern I seem to like repeating.

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