Sunday, November 27, 2005

WDB #11- Balloons

G has a lot of fun playing with Ziggy. This weekends treat was to suspend two balloons from upstairs with fishing line and see what Zig would do. He barked and jumped at the balloons until he burst them both. Great fun had by all.

Another great WDB event hosted by Sweetnicks.

Friday, November 25, 2005

SHF/IMMB- Joint Virtual Cookie Swap

Jennifer, the Domestic Goddess, and Alberto at Il Forno this month are jointly hosting a Sugar High Friday and Is My Blog Burning event- "Joint Virtual Cookie Swap".

The holidays are a season for baking and what better than festive cookies to share with friends, family and co-workers. I decided on the cookie that is the center of my baking passion. The decorated sugar cookie. The cookies will bring out your creative side. With a pallet of colors to choose from, anyone can customize the cookie from this receipe for any occassion. Cookie cutters are available in all sorts of shapes and there are companies out there which can customize a cookie cutter just for you.

NO FAIL SUGAR COOKIES (from Kitchen Gifts)
6 cups flour
3 tsp. baking powder
2 cups butter
2 cups sugar
2 eggs
2 tsp. vanilla extract
1 tsp. salt

Cream butter and sugar. Add eggs and vanilla. Mix dry ingredients and add to butter mixture. Mix well.

Chill for 1 to 2 hours

Roll to desired thickness (I like ¼ inch) and cut into desired shapes. Bake on ungreased baking sheet at 350 degrees for 8 to 10 minutes or until just beginning to turn brown around the edges. This recipe
can make up to 8-dozen 3" cookies.

Royal Icing (from Kitchen Gifts)

2 tablespoons meringue powder
1/4 cup water
About 2 cups confectioners' sugar
1 teaspoon flavoring such as vanilla, lemon, orange or almond (optional)

It's easiest to make royal icing if you use a large electric mixer. You can make smaller quantities in
a small bowl and just stirring with a spoon.

Put confectioners' sugar, meringue powder and flavoring in mixing bowl. Start mixer and add water a little at a time until you get the desired consistency. It's best to keep it a little stiff at first and thin it later to pipe or fill.

Mix until smooth and shiny.

Take out portions of it to tint with food coloring. Keep the icing you are not working with covered with a damp cloth or paper towel so it doesn't dry out.

Colored Royal Icing In Pastry Bags

Royal icing will keep. Put leftover icing in a small Tupperware type container or plastic squeeze bottle and pop it into the refrigerator. It will darken slightly over time.

Thin royal icing with water until it is a good piping consistency. You want it not so stiff that you can't get it out of the bag, but stiff enough to hold it's shape.

Use Royal Icing for Cookies that you want to keep. It hardens nicely and it also freezes, so you can make and decorate cookies a week or two ahead of time.
Flickr Photos

For a listing of other great cookie design sites see links on Food Got to Love It

Thursday, November 24, 2005

Turducken- A Successfull Dinner

This was a most successful Turducken. The family and friends loved it. It tasted scrumptuous according to my neice CheyChey.

Hope you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving.

Flickr Phtos- Turducken

Turducken - 15 Degrees To Go

Happy Thanksgiving all. It's down to the wire now. All my side dishes are complete and ready for warming up. My Turducken is in the oven. I woke up at 3:30am this morning to get it going. My oven was preset for 225 degrees. After getting it going, I graciously went back to bed. By the time I finally got out of bed and checked at 8:00am (4 1/2 hours into cooking), the temp was at 127 degrees. I started the basting with the pan juices. Looks quite moist even without the basting but just in case.

By 10:00am (6 1/2 hours into cooking) the temp was at 150 degrees and it looks and smells fantastic. The color is already a golden brown but not quite complete yet-15 degrees to go.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Turducken- Almost there

I left work early today so that I could start in on the makings of tomorrows Thanksgiving meal. The birds finished their brine and now all that's left is to build the Turducken.

Chicken post brine

Duck post brine

Turkey post brine

Now it was time to stuff. I placed a plastic cover on the table top. I removed the stuffing I prepared last night from the refrigerator. I pulled out the skewers, cooking twine and spiral poultry needle I just purchased from Surfas. Ready to build the holiday centerpiece.

The sewing up process was a bit harder than I anticipated. Skewers didn't work, so I just tried some old fashioned sewing with the twine. This side won't show during presentation.

The breast side presentation is a little off but that shouldn't impact the final product. My next decision is when do I start the cooking process. My family usually expects an early afternoon dinner. With an approximate 9 hour cook time at 225 degrees to reach an internal temperature of 165 degrees, that would require me to have the Turducken in the oven by 5:00am. My other choice is to place it in the oven around midnight allowing me to get some sleep plus allowing extra time just in case I don't get to 165 degrees in 9 hours. Such decisions.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Turducken - Here I Come

11/17/05- Thursday
Removed 14-pound turkey from freezer to defrost in the refrigerator. Plan to de-bone Tuesday, 11/22/05.

11/18/05- Friday
Removed 5.5 pound duck from freezer to defrost. Plan to de-bone Tuesday, 11/22/05.

11/19/05- Saturday
Removed 5-pound chicken from freezer. Plan to de-bone Tuesday, 11/22/05.

Now that I have removed these three birds from the freezer, I guess I have committed myself to making Turducken this Thanksgiving. After reading up on others experience with cooking the treat, I understand that the de-boning is the most active time consuming process next to the time needed to cook these birds.

11/22/05- Deboning:

After daydreaming all day at work on how I was going to accomplish this, I was ready. Every step of the process I had gone over in my mind. I felt like I was already experienced.

Sharp knives I do have. I took my husbands fancy deboning knife and my Globals plus some poultry shears and placed them in my "surgical tray". I also made sure I had some backup knives of all sizes. I sharpened all the knives and placed the sharpener near by just in case I needed to redo one.

I placed a plastic disposable table cover on my kitchen table. At hand I made sure I had the knives, a roll of paper towels and kitchen towel at my side. I also used one Saran Sheet to place under each bird to absorb any juices and keep my table dryer. I set up my video and digital camera to document the process and I was ready to go.

The Birds:

The birds were washed, giblets and necks removed and patted dry. Each bird was kept in the refrigerator until it was time for its de-boning.

Notice, I haven’t said anything about any help for me. Ziggy was my only source of encouragement and obviously he couldn’t help. I was going to do this alone. Others have noted that it took about 3 hours to complete the deboning of all three birds with some assistance. Since I have never deboned anything other than filleting a fish, I was prepared to take longer.

I placed a large stockpot on the stove filled halfway with unsalted water. My plan was to add the bones to this water as I progressed.

I started with the chicken. I decided the wing tip and first section of the wing were not necessary to debone and so I just cut them off and added to the water I had for stock prep. From each drumstick, I cut off about ¾ inch of the tip in the hopes that it would be easier to remove this bone. These tips were added to my stock water. I then sat down and prepared for my first cut down the spine of the bird. I made one long cut and proceeded first with the left backside. Keeping my knife close to the bone I painstakingly cut and detached the carcass from the chicken. My first obstacle was the thighbone. I found it easier to use the poultry shears to pluck the thighbone from the main carcass. I then detached the meat from the bone. I slipped my finger through the cutoff tip of the drumstick and used my finger to detach the meat from this bone working my way up the bone. I reached the point where the drumstick attached to the thighbone. This was one of the hardest dissections as there are a lot of strong tendons. Poultry shears helped a lot. Note during this process, the chicken remains in good condition. I am not making ground chicken. Now that the drumstick and thigh are deboned, I proceed to the scapula bone and wishbone.

This just took patience and clean cuts. I still had the third section of the wing to de-bone. Noting that the chicken will be inside the duck. If I massacred the wing section, it would not be noticed. I made one cut on the bottom of the wing, opened it up and pulled out the bone. I then proceed further around the carcass to the breast meat. I also used my fingers a lot to detach this meat from the bone. I proceeded to the right side and repeated the process. I now had a nicely deboned chicken. It tooled me 35 minutes. I placed it in a plastic bag and returned it to the refrigerator. The bones were added to the stockpot.

I took extra time to wash the knives and tablecloth after each bird. Also note that I had a sink full of warm soapy water with a little bleach in it. This was my disinfecting as well as clean up solution.

The same process was done on the duck. The major difference is that there is a lot more fat in the duck skin and less actual meat. The thighbone was a bit harder to detach from the main body and I gave up on deboning the third section of the wing. I added both duck wings to my stockpot.

The turkey was a breeze compared to the chicken and duck. I chose to keep the bone in for the drumsticks and wings. This goes along with others. It also helps to maintain the final look of the turkey for presentation.

Total time to finish all three birds was 2 ½ hours including a couple of telephone and bathroom breaks. Cleanup was just to add the bones to the stock solution, throw away the disposable tablecloth and paper towels, wash the knives and shears. Wash down the table and drink a cup of tea as I sighed of relief.

I decided to do my "mis en place" for the stuffing/dressing and all my other Thanksgiving dinner entrees. I always prep onions, celery, bell pepper and garlic. Each was packaged in a ziplock bag for use as needed.

The Stuffing/Dressing:

I decided to use a combination of traditional dressing with Cajun spices (cayenne, paprika, garlic, oregano, thyme, black pepper, salt). I bought some Mrs. Cubbisons cubed stuffing mix which I will add to the traditional trinity (onion, celery and bell pepper cooked in butter until the veggies are wilted) with some cubed andouille sausage and seasoned with a blend of spices adapted from Emeril’s seasoning recipe.

If you do not plan to immediately cook the Turducken after you stuff it, I suggest you make the dressing early enough so that it can completely cool in the refrigerator before building your Turducken.

My birds are now ready to brine.

After de-boning, the birds were placed in a brine solution adapted from radio talk show hostess Melinda Lee. She suggested using a solution of apple juice 1 ½ gallons, whole cloves 2 tsps, whole black peppers 2-3 tsps, brown sugar 1 ¼ C, Kosher salt 1 ½ C, orange peel with none of the white part and water but with my Cajun seasoning choice I left out the apple juice and just used water with the other ingredients. This solution was heated until the salt was completely dissolved. I suggest you make the brining solution well in advance so that it is completely cooled before the birds are added. I did this 11/22 am before going to work.

I also took a suggestion from one of Alton Brown’s Thanksgiving shows and used one of those big umpteen gallon plastic water coolers with the spickot at the bottom. The tall and narrow shape is just right for the birds. Because I do use this container for picnics and outdoors parties, I lined it with a plastic kitchen waste bag so the seasonings in the brine wouldn’t stain and permanently set up residence in my cooler. I placed a gallon size plastic bag full of ice in the bottom of the liner, added the deboned turkey, then another gallon bag of ice, added the chicken and duck and topped this with a third bag of ice. I poured the brine solution into the container and added a bit more cold water to make sure everything was covered. Placing the ice in the plastic bags prevents the thawed water from further diluting the brine solution. I then placed the cooler with ice in the garage to better assure that it stayed very cold over the 12 hours it is to brine overnight. (L.A. high temps have been in the upper 70’s for the past week.)

11/23/05- Post brining and Building the Turducken.

Stay tuned.

Other sites on how to make a Turducken:


Sunday, November 20, 2005

Ziggy's New Toy- WDB #10

G went to a swap meet yesterday in Orange County. Of course all he bought were toys for Ziggy. This new ball was the highlight of the choices. Ziggy chased this ball all over the house not missing any nook or cranny. He sometimes even managed a few soccer moves by hurling the ball across the room via his nose. He didn't stop until he was nearly exhausted. Then he just layed beside the ball as if guarding or protecting it.

Sweetnicks is back and hosting this weeks Weekend Dog Blogging event # 10.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Thanksgiving at Mama's House

A group of us at work were talking about how our families celebrate Thanksgiving. While the environment I work in is culturally diverse, you can imagine the differing traditions, foods and activities. We talked about what type of foods do you serve, who does the cooking, where does your family congregate, what happens to leftovers, how do you make this, that or whatever? Is there some traditional prayer, words, thank you or commemorations? What I found is that there is a lot of variation on the same turkey theme. For example, my mother never cooked mashed potatoes for Thanksgiving. We did always have candied yams as the starch of choice. The only vegetables on the table were green beans cooked until limp and southern greens either collard or mustard or a combination of the two with either a smoked turkey drumstick or ham hock. Sometimes she would add cabbage to the greens. We never had a squash entrée or anything like pumpkin, broccoli, peas or asparagus.

The standard menu was always Turkey with Dressing, Ham, Macaroni and Cheese, Corn Pudding, Southern Greens, Green Beans, Monkey Bread, Corn Bread, Jell-O Mold, Ambrosia (fruit cocktail mixed with marshmallows and whipped cream), Sweet Potato Pie and a late edition for when my daughter stopped eating meat- Baked Salmon. No deviation was allowed from this menu except for the substitution of the Jell-O or Ambrosia with whatever was listed in Family Circle Magazine as the highlighted fruit or jell salad of the season. Protests were loud and clear from all of us if Mama even mentioned a consideration of making something else instead of one of the standards.

We did venture out and either smoked, fried or just baked the turkey. The ham some years was dressed with pineapple slices and a cherry or just a honey glaze. Dressing was always made from left over bread pieces and cornbread my mother stored in the freezer until a holiday. She simply sautéed diced celery, onion and bell pepper in butter. She toasted the bread until dry not burnt, cubed it then added it to the celery mixture. Canned chicken broth was added until the consistency was right. Not a single measurement, just the right amounts by touch, sight and taste and always perfect. She never added apples, nuts, dried fruits, sausage or oysters to her dressing.

Gravy was another matter. For some reason it always tasted good, was smooth and mahogany colored made from plain old bacon grease oil, water, salt and pepper to taste. The flour and bacon grease were combined and constantly stirred until a rich mahogany color and never burnt less you start over again. Water was added when the color was just right. The already boiled turkey giblets were cut up and also added. The only problem we had with the gravy was that Mama made it the day before and never seemed to master adding just the right amount of water to smooth out the refrigerated glob when she heated it up for serving. My sister and I took on doing this.

For some unknown reason dinner was always served at 2pm. As I said, not sure why, but for all holidays, it’s the same. We all sit down at the formal dining room table which is never used except for holidays. All the food is placed in Royal Albert china serving ware and presented in the center. I don’t remember when this china first showed up and I never paid any attention to it until about 5 years ago but for a poor south central L.A. family, that’s pretty high on the hog.

My father use to bless the table and since his passing, my husband now has that honor. We also sometimes have my young nephew offer the blessing in that my family is short of males to pass on this honor. We pass around all the foods and we all stuff ourselves until there is no more room regardless of what diets we may be on. When Mama cooked, she rarely sat at the table as her chosen job was to assure we all had everything we needed from full glasses of Hawaiian Punch to warm bread. When we finish she removes everything from the table and readies it for us to take home leftovers.

The guys retreat to the den to watch some sporting event, while the kids go off to play. The women then sit around the table, drinking wine, catching up on gossip and getting into everybody’s business.

Over the last few years, I have taken over hosting most holiday dinners. The Thanksgiving menu remains unchanged. However, this year, I have pondered preparing the turkey a little differently. In line with food fads across the country, I’m thinking Turducken. I guess I only have a couple of more days to make up my mind. I assure you’ll hear about it here if I do. I did purchase a duck and a chicken in addition to the $5.00 super market special on turkeys with a $25.00 purchase.

From what I have read about Turduckens is they are fairly easy to prepare as long as you have your butcher debone all the meats. Well, this I didn't do, so I am preparing myself to do this Tuesday night (if I follow through on the thought). Keep in mind, I have never deboned even a chicken. This will be special.

Saturday, November 12, 2005

WDB #9- All Dressed Up

Now that colder mornings are upon us, I bought this fleece coverup for Ziggy. I must stay out of the pet stores as I find myself drifting to the pet apparel section in search of something for my Zig.

I would say he doesn't mind this outfit, however, the drooped ear tells me something different.

Stephanie at Dispensing Happiness is filling in for Sweetnicks for this weekend's WDB. Thanks Stephanie.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Tamale Festival

The L.A. Times Food Section Datebook lists a Tamale Festival Food Event this weekend, Nov 11-13th in L.A.

It is a three day event with over 100 vendors featuring tamales made in the style of varying Latin American regions. They note that admission is free and tamales are $3.00 each. Check out the Tamale Festival web site for times, directions and events.

I have always wanted to try to make tamales and this may be my opportunity to learn as there will be classes offered during the festival which I would love to see.

Sunday, November 06, 2005

I Confess

Thanks to Amy at Cooking With Amy for coming up with this meme. Who knew there were so many secrets.

I confess:

1- I love to cook "bacon pieces and ends" versus neat little slices.

2- When cooking, I can't stand to have anyone in my kitchen helping me unless it is to wash the dishes.

3- When I cook fish for my husband, I never taste it. I'm not fond of fish.

4- I absolutely love pork cracklins and eat far too many for my own good.

5- I think oatmeal is slimy.

6- I have a jar of saved bacon fat in my refrigerator.

7- I have a can of powdered butter milk in my refrigerator.

8- I hide my Global knives so no one else can use them.

9- I have a closet full of kitchen gadgets I have never used.

10- I hate to waste anything so leftovers often wind up in some other dish.

11- I always have cheddar cheese in my refrigerator.

12- I have a set of fine china I have never used.

13- I cook bacon in the microwave.

14- I have a slice of liver pate in my freezer and I swear it has been there for at least 2 years.

15- I make cookie dough and freeze it until ready to use.

16- I can't stand invited guests to bring pot luck items which they want to cook in my kitchen at the party.

17- I often prepare too much food for the number of guests invited.

18- I always have a bottle of Chardonay chilled.

19- I firmly believe you don't need a costly smoker to make excellent brisket.

20- I purposely drop pieces of meats on the floor just for Ziggy to find.

21- I have a ziplock bag filled with packets of hotsauce and ketsup from take outs in my refrigerator.

22- I wash and re-use plastic disposable forks and spoons.

23- I am not fond of rice or any rice dish.

24- I watch FoodTV far too many hours.

25- I write my name and date of purchase in every cookbook I get.

26- I rarely exactly follow a recipe.

27- I know my friends hate it when we go out to dinner and I ask them to take a picture of their food with my camera.

28- It irritates me beyond belief when anyone cooks in my kitchen and doesn't clean up the mess.

29- I love my kitchen timer and temperature gadget.

Friday, November 04, 2005

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Ethiopian Food in West Philly- Abyssinnia Restaurant

A very quaint corner location in a primarily residential location. This is not the place to go for fast food. Abyssinnia is mainly frequented by an Ehtiopian crowd who meet here to watch the Eagles play on a Sunday afternnon. After ordering, we sit back and enjoy the game with the crowd. After about 30 minutes, T whispers to me that the reason it is taking so long today is because I ordered the meat combo. (She is a vegetarian). I understand that such a small restaurant couldn't possibly have all the menu choices already ready to dish out so I am patient. The kitchen is located distant from the main eating area and bar. It would have been nice to be able to sneak a peak of the kitchen or even the cook.
Veggie Combo for T. Less than $9.00
Located on the corner of 45th and Locust in Philadelphia.
Meat Combo for me. Less than $10.00
I did enjoy this meal far more than my first Ehtiopian meal at a nice
Culver City location. I couln't name for you what was served as I lost my cheat sheet listing the choices. The meat combo did have both a lamb and chicken entree in addition to a number of veggie choices. My combo did not contain a collard green choice, though T's veggie combo did (Yes, I love collard greens). T often eats there mainly because the food is good, fits her eating habits and there is a lot of it.