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Archive for November, 2012

 

If you are hosting the Thanksgiving festivities tomorrow and have struggled in the past to make gravy that tastes good, you are not alone.

I come from a long line of women who make really, really good gravy. Unfortunately, that gene seemed to have skipped right past me.

For years, I struggled to make gravy that either:

1. Did not look and taste like thin gruel

2. Did not look and taste like lump paste

I watched my Mom and Grandma make excellent gravy with seemingly no effort at all. I copied what they did and still my gravy turned out awful.

Finally, my most wonderful mother-in-law, who also makes good gravy, showed me how she does it. Suddenly, there were choirs singing and people rejoicing (that would have been Captain Cavedweller). I was a gravy-making maniac.

A simple recipe is:

2/3 fat from drippings

2/3 cup flour

2 cups chicken broth

water

Remove turkey from roasting pan. Pour drippings (turkey juices and fat) from pan into strainer over small bowl. Skim 2/3 cup fat from top of drippings and place  in heavy saucepan or cast-iron skillet. If there is not enough fat, add enough melted butter to fat to measure 2/3 cup. Reserve remaining drippings. If you have excess fat, discard.

With a wire whisk, rapidly beat flour into fat in saucepan. Cook over medium heat 1 to 2 minutes, stirring constantly, until mixture is smooth and bubbly. This will removing the starchy flavor from the gravy. Remove from heat.

Measure reserved drippings together with broth; add enough water to equal 5 cups liquid. Gradually stir broth mixture into flour mixture. Heat to boiling over high heat (5 to 6 minutes), stirring constantly. Boil and stir  an additional minute.

You can salt to taste.

Here are a few tips for making tasty gravy so you can leave behind the gruel and paste-like creations.

  • Keep it lump-free by using a wire whisk when adding the flour to the drippings. Beat it fast and furious to keep lumps from forming.
  • Measure accurately. Too little fat can make the gravy lumpy; too much fat can make the gravy greasy
  • If you don’t have enough drippings, you can use water from cooking potatoes.
  • If you have plenty of pan drippings and like lots of gravy or are serving a crowd, just double or triple the recipe. This is necessary with our family! My Dad would eat gravy on everything, given the opportunity!
  • For thinner gravy, decrease meat drippings and flour to 1 tablespoon each.

If your gravy is greasy, put a slice of fresh bread on top of the fat for a few seconds to absorb it; remove bread before it breaks into pieces.

Despite your best efforts of removing lumps, if you still have some stragglers, you can pour gravy into a food processor and process until smooth, or press gravy through a strainer. Return to saucepan and heat before serving.

If your gravy is too thin, dissolve 1 tablespoon of flour in 2 tablespoons of water then whisk into gravy stirring constantly and boiling for a minute.

For some reason, if your gravy ends up too salty, add a raw peeled potato, cut into pieces to the gravy pan. Cook and stir  about eight minutes, then remove potato pieces.

Wishing you lump-free, perfect gravy as you celebrate Turkey Day tomorrow!

She Who Wishes you all a very Happy Thanksgiving!

 

 

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Just imagine: your picture-perfect Thanksgiving is coming together… well, perfectly! Everything is going along just like you planned than Bam! You realize you forgot to turn on the oven and there is no way the bird will be ready by the time your guests arrive. Your cranberries are curdling and your pie crust is soggy.

You need some help, right now!

Here are some important hot-line numbers that may be of use to you this week. The following list also has some great info on their websites. Check them out:

 

BUTTERBALL

Online Help

1-800-BUTTERBALL (800-288-8372)

REYNOLDS

Online Help

1-800-433-2244

FLEISCHMANN’S YEAST

Online Help

1-800-777-4959

LIBBY’S CANNED PUMPKIN

Online Help

1-800-854-0374

OCEAN SPRAY

Online Help

1-800-662-3263

PILLSBURY

Online Help

1-800-775-4777

BETTY CROCKER

Online Help

1-800-446-1898

 

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Here are some helpful tips on setting a holiday buffet…

One of my favorite things about entertaining at home is presentation– making things look pretty. There is something so fun about deciding what serving pieces to use, what looks good where and then having the whole thing come together just before the doorbell rings.
When you are planning to entertain, think about serving the food buffet style. This method of serving does two wonderful things:
• It keeps the host from being so tied to the food and the kitchen.
•It creates a casual atmosphere where guests feel more at ease and are much more likely to mingle.
Isn’t it awesome to watch your guests connect and have fun? Kind of the whole point of enteraining (well, that an excuse to eat too much good food!)
Another thing I love about buffet entertaining is that it allows the host to get the buffet set up in advance.
Whether you are doing a single or double-sided buffet, make sure all food is within easy reaching distance. You don’t want someone dragging their sleeve or shirt-tail through a bowl of cranberry sauce.
Most importantly, have fun with it! You are the artist and the buffet is your canvas. Get creative and let your personal style shine through.
Start by placing a cloth on your table, counter or whatever surface you are using for your buffet. It can be a neutral shade like white or cream, although my go-to standard is black (hides the spills and stains!). Use sheets for inexpensive and easy care table coverings.

Next, add height to your table. Strategically place boxes, books, whatever you have on hand that is sturdy to give you some height elements.

Now, add another cloth drape over your height elements. I like to use a cloth in the same color as the base cloth. The purpose of this covering is to hide the height elements. On top of this, I add a table covering in a contrasting color or pattern. For Thanksgiving, choose something in an earthy color. Or go wild and crazy and use burlap fabric or something rustic  (rustic… but clean!  You can purchase burlap by the yard at most craft or fabric stores.)

Add a centerpiece. You’ll want it to be off to one side and to the back, if it is a one-sided buffet or in the center for a double-sided buffet. It should be the highest point on your table.

Start layering in your serving pieces. You can get the table all set up today, put sticky notes on each piece labeling it so it will be easy to remember the mashed potatoes go in the big square bowl and green beans go in the medium round bowl, etc.

Finish off the look of the table with a few candles, pine cones or nuts. If you use candles, you might want to opt for the battery-operated variety. No open flame worries there.

Some other quick tips:

• If you want a cake stand and don’t have one, flip a sturdy bowl upside down and place a platter on top. To make sure the platter doesn’t slip, you could dab on a few drops of rubber cement, which is pretty easy to remove.

• To keep your hot foods hot, warm bricks in the oven then slip them under your table coverings (place them on thick pot holders so the heat doesn’t damage your table surface). Place casseroles or plates on top and the bricks will hold the heat.

• To keep cold foods cold, you can fill bowls with ice and nestle beneath your table coverings. Set your serving bowls in the bigger bowls or pans and food will stay chilled.

• Make sure you have plenty of plates, forks and napkins as well as glassware. When we entertain, it seems like it doesn’t take long until all the forks in the house are dirty!

However or wherever you spend Thanksgiving, I hope it is with people who make your heart smile and bring you joy.

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Tuesday I blogged about a silly gift I put together for my friend’s 40th birthday.

What I didn’t share with you is the trauma I experienced buying the candles for her cake.

It never fails that I will find the one chatty checker at the store. Captain Cavedweller can get in line and no one will say a word to him other than “did you find what you were looking for” and “thanks, have a nice day.”

Me, in the time it takes for the checker to ring up and  bag my purchases, I can know how many kids they have, why their brother is in jail, the last time their car was serviced and how they like their bread toasted.

The day I was buying my BFF’s candles, I stood smiling at the checker who would not stop talking about her washer and dryer, her kids aptitude for creating dirty laundry and why she wished her neighbors would bring back something they borrowed.

Nodding my head, only half-listening, she asked me about some of the gifts I was buying for BFF. I told her my friend was turning 40 and I was putting together a gift for her.

Without missing a beat, she picked up the “40” candles, looked at them, looked at me and asked, “So, are these for your daughter?”

I’m pretty sure my jaw dropped open. It is possible I even swallowed my gum.

I don’t know that I have ever been so insulted.

As in Epic Insult.

Sure I misheard what she asked, I couldn’t quite bring myself to have her repeat it. Apparently, from the time I got out of bed and ran to the store to the time I stood in her check-out line, I’d aged 20 years!

Finally able to speak, I shook my head. “No, they are for my friend.”

“Oh,” the checker said, then went on rambling about something else.

Fuming, I managed to contain my desire to slap some sense into the woman and thanked her as I piled bags in my cart and trudged out the door. I barely arrived home when Captain Cavedweller called to see how my day was going.

He got an ear-full about the checker which made him laugh so hard, I thought he might actually rupture something.

Since that wasn’t bad enough, he proceeded to tell several people at work who also thought it was hilarious.

I’m still living that whole thing down.

And I haven’t been back to the store since, either.

She Who Is Aging Rapidly

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