Good Heavens! Thanksgiving already?

Good evening, Dear Readers:

Well, I’ve been quite busy, and offer my sincerest apologies for the lack of content here. I can’t believe it’s been a month since Halloween already!! SHEEESH!!

I’ve actually got TWO drafts saved, and haven’t been back to finish them off. I hate that, but I’ll try to get back on it this week.

A big Shout-Out to the wonderful folks at Oil & Vinegar in The Woodlands–more in the next post, but I had a recent trip up there and made sure to stop in for some of my favorites. Found out that Anton & Karia Kharoufeh, the owners of the Woodlands Oil & Vinegar, regularly check out my humble blog and remember me when I go up there. Now to have more content! If you’re in The Woodlands Mall sometime, they’re located just inside the entrance by Barnes & Noble (inside the mall, not outside like Anthropologie.)  REALLY, really, wonderful olive oils and delicious vinegars that you won’t find anywhere else, as well as some other great gourmet foods. If you’re truly a foodie, it’s worth the trip. And many thanks to The Kharoufehs for being readers, too.

Incidentally, there are two little tomatoes in the HeatCageKitchen garden, and as I write this, it’s been raining pretty good, and as I write this, it’s 40F outside. Well, at least the rosemary is happy. That’s another long-neglected project that might get some attention this weekend when it warms up a bit.

So, my Turkey Day will not actually involve turkey this year., and the years-long  “Buddhist Thanksgiving tradition” has given way to other things, so we’re all going in different directions. That’s OK–I’m going to my friends’ K&M’s place, and K will be roasting. . .duck. DUCK! Admittedly, I’ve only had duck once, maybe twice, but I’m game. (Get it?? I’m GAME!!) Another person will be bringing brisket, and I’ll be making a big batch of the Cranberry Ginger Relish that nets me multiple emails for the recipe just about every time I make it. (I’ve made it for myself with SomerSweet instead of sugar, and it works well and tastes great.) Five ingredients including water; sherry vinegar works best at the end. Seriously, it’s easy, quick, and is always well liked. First you taste the sweet and tart, then, POW! That ginger/sherry heat hits you right in the kisser! I made some for me with SomerSweet a couple of weeks ago and it didn’t last long. I just kept going back to the fridge for a spoonful. . .yum.

Oh, BTW, a safety warning–one of my favorite celebrity chefs, Giada de Laurentiis, sliced her finger on the set of Thanksgiving Live last Saturday. I did not see this, but saw the pictures on Facebook later. Giada joins a list of celebrities who have had holiday hospital visits, including Martha Stewart and David Letterman. WARNING: please pay attention, because four years ago, I did the exact same thing with a mandoline.It’s what I get for talking to Auntie on the phone whilst slicing onions for the turkey brine. With folks walking around visiting and talking, it’s easy to lose track of what you’re doing, and you don’t realize it until you see the blood.

Nobody wants blood on the pecan pie, OK?

Now, if your Thanksgiving is a bit on the traditional side, and you have a post-dinner football game, um, Jason Gay in today’s Wall Street Journal has some sage advice. OK, it’s hilarious–go read it, along with the comments.

And finally, the preparations for a presidential pardon of the national turkey is discussed in today’s paper. No, I’m not kidding, they TRAIN the turkey to behave in front of the President. Having been turned on to Animal Planet’s show My Cat From Hell, featuring a wild-looking guy named Jackson Galaxy, I can believe that they can condition a turkey to be cool in front of the President, TV cameras, Secret Service guys with loaded weapons, and wild children all over the place.

What is this, American Turkey Idol?

I wrote a post at this time last year on My Alternate Thanksgiving, and if you missed it, check it out, there is a recipe for Leftover Turkey Chowder that is wonderful. Also included was some advice in The Tuscan Turkey and Turkey–The Big Chicken if you are in need of some help with it. Suzanne Somers no longer sells salt rubs on her site, but you can find recipes online (just do a search) or head over to Williams Sonoma and/or Sur La Table to get some already made.

Since I was spending Thanksgiving alone last year, that meant going directly to the soup, and skipping the traditional dinner. This was my choice, of course, and if you try this soup, you will understand why. SOOO good, but I’ll skip it this time and maybe make it for Christmas, unless I get invited elsewhere again.

More articles to come, and thanks for being patient.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!


Happy Easter, Passover, Bunny Day, and Sunday!

Hello, Dear Readers:

As I’ve said a few times, I’m a Buddhist, since 1986. Therefore, Easter, Passover, and most other holidays aren’t part of my individual faith. However. . .that doesn’t mean I ignore them, especially if there’s food involved. I mean, why? No need to be rude if someone offers you a macaroon or king cake or something. . . .

Is your church group doing something for Easter? Egg hunt, having an Easter Bunny on hand, or maybe some other kind of spring-related celebration? Bet you’re not having the Easter Bunny jump out of an airplane. Well, someone is. . .and it’s a man who teaches Navy SEALS to jump out of planes, in a bunny suit. I mean. . .that’s a manly man you do NOT argue with, OK? He can kick your butt wearing that bunny suit, and you will address him as “Sir.”

Anyway. . .

I grew up Catholic. Didn’t meet anyone Jewish until I went to college. At Loyola in New Orleans. What I know about kosher is what folks have told me over the years (and the bits I’ve seen on TV), like what kosher salt is really for. (Of course I use it–doesn’t everybody?) I’ve never been to a synagogue. The only reason I know about Rugelach is because they’re in Barefoot Contessa Parties on page 69.

I mean absolutely no disrespect to anyone who is Jewish. I am only proclaiming my lack of information about Judaism, particularly as it relates to the culinary arts. Nothing more, I promise!

Imagine my thoughts when I came across Raspberry Rugelach. I saw them in Central Market on Friday, and I *almost* got some, but. . .it had wheat flour in it. Raspberries in dough? Oh, yes. . .but are they kosher for Passover with flour in them?  I asked the lady next to me if she was Jewish. Well, if she was, then she would have known if the rugelach was kosher. But she wasn’t, and she didn’t. Maybe next year. The cream cheese threw me off–I thought to be kosher for Passover it couldn’t have flour. Maybe that’s Hannukah or Yom Kippur. Again, I’m the *last* person to ask about that sort of thing; I was just hoping for no flour.

In the same book on page 176: Apple Crostata, a delicious dessert that’s good any time of year. (It too has wheat, in the form of flour.) I’ve never had anyone turn it down. Me included. Hey–it’s for special occasions. I’ve taken it to Thanksgiving a couple of times, and to a birthday party once–there is rarely any left. I think a couple of years ago I had one slice left and gave it to my neighbor, who finished it off quickly and enjoyed it as much as everyone else did.

Now, Easter is also wonderful, because there are chocolate bunnies and chocolate eggs and chocolate, well, everywhere. YUM! And those chocolate eggs filled with peanut butter? I’ve craved those once or twice (but not in a while.) I’m trying to stay away from sugar/carbs as much as I can; but sometimes, only chocolate will do. Like this, for instance, found in Central Market on Monday:

Chocolate sold by the pound at Central Market

Chocolate sold by the pound at Central Market


I don’t remember the brand, but I can tell you it’s fancy, possibly from France. This weighed at least 2 pounds and was nearly the size of a brick. This is not a candy bar. Well, not in the traditional sense, but it is for me. Trust me when I tell you I sent this picture to my neighbor, and I was SOOO tempted! this brick is about $10, if I remember correctly; might have been $15. She texted back, “Don’t.” I didn’t. But I thought about it real hard. That’s a lotta chocolate, and even Giada de Laurentiis would be hard pressed to resist.

If someone left that in my Easter basket, I’d be all over it. And I’d put it in a locked safe, too. IT’S MINE!!!

Now, a couple of years ago, I was on a business trip in Washington, DC. Yes, the nation’s capital. There were six of us–four from Houston, one from Florida, and one from California, a younger bloke we sort of tortured a bit. We were walking around somewhere and had dinner in a nice restaurant and dessert in a gelato shop. However, we passed a little shop I found out later was called Edibles Incredible, a DC favorite. I couldn’t resist a little more chocolate (I think I had sugar free), but I had to go back in when I saw this baby:

Peeps Sculpture, May 2011, Edibles Incredible, Washington, DC

Peeps Sculpture, May 2011, Edibles Incredible, Washington, DC

Yes, dear readers, those are hundreds, if not thousands, of marshmallow Peeps, in what one might call a “sculpture,” or as they called it, a “display.” Whatever you call it, that’s a lotta Peeps. OMG. I’m not a particular fan of them, but I HAD to take that picture.

It was absolutely gorgeous, and about 10 or 15 feet high. Heck, I didn’t measure it, but it was way taller than my five-foot-three frame. It was huge–and it was a little bitty store! I forget what kind of chocolates I bought, but it was just a couple, and of course, handmade and very delicious.

Speaking of Easter. . .my mother used to tell the story that her engagement ring was a true surprise hidden in a chocolate Easter bunny, and she nearly threw it away. Whoops. . .fortunately, somehow, a very expensive diamond ring (very 1950’s) was saved and the folks got married some time after that. They’ve been married something like 55 years now.

It’s been many years since I’ve had a chocolate Easter bunny, much less an Easter basket, but that’s OK. Sometimes when I’m having a day. . .only some chocolate will do, you know?

And on Monday, all the Easter candy goes on sale 50% off. The thrifty mother will have a secret freezer to stash them in so that the kids don’t know when she bought it. The chocoholic will simply go shopping and make himself or herself very happy.

I’m going to try and behave myself.

Happy Easter, Passover, and Happy Dining!

The Obligatory V-D posting

Hello, Dear Readers:

Happy Mardi Gras. No, I’m not in New Orleans, I just know some folks are and are out on the town wearing green, gold and purple in the only place that look works.

I’ve been busy with a number of things lately, and I have a new recipe and one or two other postings to write about soon. But this being Valentine’s Day week, and Jezebel the step-kitty sitting by my side, I guess I’d better post something chocolatey.

Why am I unattached? My first love is chocolate, that’s why.

If you’re in NYC, here’s a little fun on V-D that you’ll need reservations for: the Valentine’s Day Sewage Tour. Say WHAT? And it fills up fast–no pun intended.  What, do you do that before, or AFTER that fancy restaurant dinner?  Romance, indeed.

The best Valentine’s Day card I ever got was literally 20 years ago from a guy I’ll call “Football” (because he was shaped like one.) Football got me a card that had a cartoon drawing of a classically handsome male on the front that he’d carefully drawn a mustache onto and thoughtfully blacked out one of the front teeth. It said, “What does it mean when a handsome man brings you flowers and candy on Valentine’s Day and then takes you out to a French restaurant for dinner?” When you opened it, the card said, “Your alarm clock hasn’t gone off yet.”

Yes. . .that is, to this day, the best card I’ve ever received from a bloke. Thanks, Football, wherever you are today.

I have ordered some more SomerSweet, finally, so I hope to make some Yeast Free Brownies soon. Maybe for Valentine’s Day if it arrives on time. The difference is that I don’t have to share with anybody. When I did share some with a couple of neighbors last summer, they were VERY well received.

I make them without the toasted pumpkin seeds, and for SomerSweet you’ll have to check the batter to see if it’s sweet enough. I was using 5 tablespoons of the old version, but I don’t remember how much to use of the baking version. Or you could just use Sweet N’ Natural if you wanted. This is a very healthy brownie recipe that’s so good, you’ll forget they’re better for you. Just keep them in the fridge, and let them sit out a bit before you eat them, or you’ll be paying an unscheduled visit to your dentist. (Coconut oil really hardens up in the fridge.) And there’s your first recipe.

Before I continue, here’s a fun and embarrassing story from my past. About ten years ago, I was, ahem, “living in sin” out of some necessity with a male I’ll call, for the sake of anonymity,  “Rodent.” We both came down with some kind of god-awful flu bug, and all I could do was lie on the couch and watch TV with him–for a week. My preferred viewing was the newly discovered Food Network. You see, I did not have cable in many years, and he had every freakin’ channel on the planet. So there I was watching Food Network for days and days while I tried to get over fever and the rest of it.

It just happened to be that Valentine’s Day was on Saturday that year, and The Food Network dubbed it Chocolate Obsession Week. All week long, all kinds of chocolate recipes for the best Valentine’s Day ever. I couldn’t get enough. I couldn’t get any chocolate either, because both of us were so sick.

So after several days, my fever broke, because I went to Rodent’s home office where he was tapping away and said, “I’m hungry–what’s for dinner?” There was no way either of us were in any shape to do any cooking, so he was going to do the takeout thing again. (I think we’d done pizza once or twice, too, but no cooking.)  He asked, “what do you feel like eating?” I said, “chocolate!” He turned around, looked at me and said, “No more Food Network for you!”

With THAT picture in mind–if Valentine’s Day to you brings up visions of fancy restaurants, chocolates, flowers, romance, and all that other stuff. . .this one was cold medicines, aspirin, and blankets. At least Rodent has a “fake-me-out” gas fireplace that was nice and warm while we had fever.

And, today we’re friends miles apart.

Here’s another one on the pumpkin seeds I leave out: a few months ago I discovered that I had some pumpkin seeds in the back of my pantry that had been there for years. I also had the idea that they were still good, too. I used a toasted spiced recipe from an old cookbook and, well, within a half-hour I discovered that no, pumpkin seeds do NOT stay good in your pantry indefinitely. It didn’t take long for the nausea to set in, and let’s leave it at that.

Now, it wouldn’t be right if a food blogger didn’t at least mention some chocolate recipes this week, and I’ve got a few that just might fit your tastes.

First up, one of two recipes by Nigella Lawson, the Chocolate Cloud Cake. I saw her do this one one of her shows and had to try it. I used unsweetened chocolate and melted it with SomerSweet, and it worked perfectly.  I had it for dessert all week after I saw it. I only made it once, but I still remember it well.

Tyler Florence has a similar recipe called Chocolate Cracked Earth, another flourless chocolate cake, which is also quite good. Again, made it one time with SomerSweet, loved it, and that was it.

The second Nigella recipe is from Forever Summer, (now published in the US as Nigella Fresh.) Chocolate Raspberry Pavlova is as pretty as it is delicious, and isn’t a terribly difficult thing to make. I made it a few years ago when I was invited to an “all girls” Valentine’s Day dinner, again, on a Saturday night. (Shortly thereafter, I met another gent, who I’ll call “Blob.” We’ve split up and are not in touch.) I made this to spec, since it was intended for a number of people who would likely not care that it was made without sugar. One slight alteration I did was to use a heart shaped pan to draw the shape on the parchment, and baked it that way. Otherwise, it’s the same. I had a picture of it somewhere, but I can’t put my hands on it. This, too, is memorable, and I would make again if I had the occasion, heart shaped or no.

Is your honey-baby gluten-intolerant? Or do you just want something just a little less involved, but equally tasty so you can show your love to someone?

I’ve already told you about my love for the wonderful Larabars, and a couple of years ago they posted some recipes on Facebook for the holidays. Unfortunately, they’re gone, but I found it on RecipeLion, so you can make them too. For Valentine’s Day, the simple, delicious Gluten Free Black Forest Parfaits are easy with Cherry Pie Larabars (you could also use the Chocolate Chip Cherry Torte version), whipped cream, melted chocolate, and a few other simple ingredients. You could use agave syrup in place of honey, if you like. I made this for myself a few years ago for Christmas, when the recipes first appeared on Facebook. I’m glad I took screenshots and printed it, but I can’t find the file. Note: the whipping cream should be 2/3 cup, but use as much as you like.

I even have two chocolate dessert recipes perfect for Valentine’s Day if your honey is vegan with a sweet tooth!  NO, I am NOT switching sides. I just love my sweets.

The first one, Chocolate Peanut Butter Chia Pudding, is actually really good, but takes some time to chill and set. The reason I tried this was because I bought something online and a sample of chia seeds came with it. Had NO idea what to do with them, but a little searching yielded this recipe. It’s actually really good, and I couldn’t help myself, so it didn’t last long. But since I don’t normally buy chia seeds. . .I haven’t made it since. Maybe I should.

The second one, Raw Vegan Chocolate Mousse, is also really good, but note that it takes a while because you have to soak the raw cashews for six hours, then you have to chill it a while after blending. Yes, it’s worth it. Admittedly, I used cocoa powder and didn’t mess with cacao nibs, but. . .I was in the mood to try it, OK?

Bonus recipe: Homemade Nutella, which is also Gluten Free. I love this stuff!  Having made this a few times, I can tell you that you can buy “hazelnut flour” in some places, (finely ground hazelnuts) and you can use it as a shortcut instead of toasting hazelnuts here. Just measure it out and go for it with the food processor. Like the stuff in the jar, it’s a spread-on kind of condiment, but I’ve been known to eat this in a small pinch bowl with a spoon. It is VERY thick and sticky, but is REALLY delicious, without a lot of chemicals.

And there you go–something for everyone for Valentine’s Day.

No, I am not doing gift suggestions, unless you want to go and buy an assortment of Larabars or something. But that’s up to you.

Happy Valentine’s Day. Enjoy!

Meeting an old friend again

Hello, Dear Readers:

Well, it’s the holiday season and, honestly, I haven’t had much foodie adventure since The Tuscan Turkey got turned into soup a few weeks ago. But it’s OK, everyone loved it, and I just have some cut up Tuscan turkey meat left in the freezer. Well, OK, enough to keep me happy for a while, and make The Soup of Enlightenment if I really want to, but I don’t, since I had it at Thanksgiving, skipping over the big meal to that part.

I will tell you that I was just in Cost Plus World Market, using a $10 coupon to get stocked up on the fantastic Typhoo Decaf Tea from the UK and got me some microwavable steamed puddings–the real British stuff, produced in New Zealand. Really. I guess the Brits like it, but I never asked–but I’m having steamed pudding for Christmas!! (I’ll let you know.) Convenient, and just a little bit, enough to try it once. If I wanted to, I could use Nigella Lawson’s recipes out of her Christmas book, but really, I’m giving myself the gift of peace and quiet this year, and lots of sewing. Not to mention the Doctor Who Christmas Special on Tuesday thanks to a very nice neighbor who is out of town. I did offer to do a carpet cleaning for her while she was out, but she declined. Maybe I’ll just clean her windows before she gets home.

BTW, if you join their World Market Explorer program, you get those $10 off $30 purchase coupons regularly, including one for your birthday.

Oh, and while I was there, nibbling on the sample cookies, I talked to a lady who was going to get ingredients for a cranberry sauce. One of Paula Deen’s recipes from I love you, Paula, but fifteen ingredients, including Grand Marnier! I was shocked when I read that. She didn’t know what Grand Marnier was, either. I told her that she would have to get it at a liquor store, which are closed on Sunday in Texas, and that it would probably run $35 or $40 a bottle. She had no idea. . .so I told her to forget this one and go look up the recipe for my favorite Cranberry Ginger Relish and make that. Four ingredients, fifteen minutes, and make it three days in advance. Easy, and it’s sweet and warm at the same time.  “Can I get all the ingredients at Kroger?” she asked. Absolutely, including sherry vinegar. It sidles up to you all nice and sweet, then POW! Hits you right in the kisser. Everybody loves it, including me, and I always get requests for the recipe when I make it.

Now I want some, too.

Rest assured that some kind of diet will commence after January 1, and I will ease my way into it over the next week. Might go to a potluck next Saturday, we’ll see, and I’ll bring something good, if I go. Exercise too, Pilates is my preference, with some yoga thrown in for good measure, since walking will be impossible soon. More on that later.

So anyway. . . .

Last week I had my third interview in a different department at a major medical center here in Houston. I’m not going to say which one, but it’s big, well known, and they have great benefits. The interview started about 3:20 pm, and I left the facility at 5:30 pm, escorted by a Texas Medical Center (TMC) police officer. (I rode in the FRONT seat, OK?)  I was lost, and he offered. . .hey, I can trust a guy with a pistol on his hip!  Especially since I had on my suit and a crisp white collared shirt, not to mention sky-high heels. No t-shirt and jeans on this day–I needed to look sharp, and I did.

I believe I will be hired on soon, which means bus rides and walking around a lot. No way I’m driving to work every day.

My TMC copper got me back to the building where my vehicle was, and I checked out–at nearly 6:00 pm! I was very HUNGRY at this point, and decided to get a bite in town since it was high traffic and driving home was a bit of a nightmare. It was also the Friday before Christmas, and everyone is not only getting off work but heading to shop. (Bay Area Boulevard was a parking lot at 1:30 pm.)

As I drove up Holcombe towards Buffalo Speedway, I was trying to remember where I could find a good dinner around there. Hmmm. . .Burger King. No. Some kind of wing shop–no. Taco Bell (which required a left U-turn in heavy traffic)–bookmark for later. Spec’s Liquor Warehouse–no. Some little sushi place–absolutely not. I knew I could get to Rice Village if I turned right on Kirby, but having been there a week before and had much trouble parking, I kept driving.

Then I remembered a little place that used to be there when I worked for Baylor all those years ago. Would it still be there? I started thinking. . .it was by a grocery store, but which one? I knew it was on the left. . .I saw Rice Epicurean Market, but no little place. I kept going, and saw the Randall’s Flagship about a mile or so up the road, along with a Barnes & Noble in the same strip mall. Then my eyes saw what I was seeking–their name on the marquee. It was still there, after all these years, in a city where permanence is fleeting. It was a sight for sore eyes that day.

Prayers get answered one at a time. Gifts do not always come in a box wrapped in paper and ribbon. Trust me on that.

This little place is called Yapa Kitchen-Fresh Take Away. When I worked at Baylor, we used Yapa’s catering for our activities, and everyone loved the sandwiches and lunch boxes they brought us. There was one occasion that for some reason, we had to use a different catering company. (I think someone higher up told us to.) We were very disappointed and made sure we called Yapa after that.

Once in a while I’d go get a sandwich over there if I was driving around or running office errands. Their sandwiches were delicious, unbelievable cookies, and great chef-prepared food in the case. The store is actually quite small, and hasn’t changed since the last time I was there–maybe 2001?  I held the wheel tightly and kept thinking about what I could vagely remember from my days working in the VA Hospital (as a Baylor employee.)

It came flooding back when I walked in the front door. It was pretty much the same as I remember it. Some of the cookbooks look old now.

I gazed in the case and saw all kinds of delicious things. I was thinking about a crab cake, since it wasn’t too expensive (not ready for $25 a pound pepper crusted tenderloin yet, but will celebrate when I get my new job.) I asked if there was anything else to look at. “Well,” the young bloke said, “we have a few sandwiches over here.”  There were four. I saw two chicken salad sandwiches, one turkey with cranberry, and a roast beef.


I grabbed the last roast beef, and asked about dessert. They still had that little case on the side, and I remembered having their delicious creme brulee once. But their cookies were in big jars on the counter, and I got a chocolate chip and a white chocolate/macadamia nut cookie. He asked me if I’d like some horseradish sauce; I declined. There was some already on the sandwich, and it was just enough and just perfect.

That, dear readers, is what hit the spot and scratched the itch on Friday, December 21st at about 6:15 in the evening.

The sandwich, on a really great whole-grain bread, was just as good as I remembered it. Ditto the cookies. Next time I get two of those slightly soft and chunky white chocolate/macadamia nut cookies. Both were good, but I liked that one better.

To the observer (or the guys working the counter that night), it was just a sandwich and cookies to have while I sat at a table and flipped through my magazine. To me, it was like finding an old friend again. No, I didn’t go in all the time when I was there, just once in a while, and it was a nice little refuge, even though they were quite busy during the day. The food was good, the people were nice, and it was just up the street. You can get a delicious lunch or dinner to eat in or take home with you.  I once bought three of their cookies and brought them to someone in the hospital, because I knew they were the best to be had that day, plus they were on the way to the hospital.

And it’s still like that. For this, I was, and am, very grateful.

Yapa is quite a distance for me to go now, since I’ve been in the suburbs since 2002, I’m in town about once or twice a month, and to be honest, I don’t go into TMC unless I have to, as I have for the past 3 Fridays. Should I find myself working back at TMC, I might have the opportunity to visit more often; we’ll see.

If you’re in Houston and find yourself in the Medical Center area for whatever reason, consider having lunch at Yapa; their menus are online, so see what they have and find what you like before you get there. They are located at the corner of Holcombe and Buffalo Speedway in the little building close to the corner. The address is 3173 W Holcombe Boulevard (77025) and you can call them at 713-664-9272.

Warning: While Yapa is a little place worth visiting, it’s not in the big building with Randall’s. Yapa is in the small one-off building in the parking lot. You know the type of building I mean, an auxiliary building. You can see it here–Yapa is in that building on the right, close to the big building.

Thanks for still being there, and feeding this hungry feline when she really needed it.

Happy dining!

The Tuscan Turkey

What a difference a week makes.

A couple of weeks ago, the wonderful Suzanne Somers posted on Facebook that her Sea Salt Rubs are a great way to season a Thanksgiving Turkey. Oohh, good one! But I wasn’t doing a turkey, right?

Well. . .on “Black Friday” I get a phone call from Ann, who I affectionately refer to sometimes as the “crazy Chinese lady.” She’s actually very nice, but sometimes does odd things. (Don’t have to be Chinese for that, it just makes for a fun nickname.) Ann is from Taiwan, and despite being in the US for many years, with three Americanized children, still sometimes doesn’t always grasp bits of American culture, or doesn’t always get the joke. It’s the language barrier, so I try to explain it best I can.

However, on this particular day, Ann has purchased a turkey, just for me. I’m surprised, and I hope I didn’t sound mad (I haven’t been myself lately) and I said, “What am I going to DO with it?” I don’t have a big enough freezer, and it turns out that this turkey weighs 22 pounds.

Yes. Twenty-two pounds. Turns out it was on sale. Along with a few other things.

So it was decided that we would make it for the study meeting tonight. A Buddhist non-Thanksgiving. Just like in one of the Barefoot Contessa books.

Ann called me at 7:30 this morning. I was asleep. WAS. Knowing that this will take four hours to cook, I told her I’d be by around 12:00 pm. Well, I got to sewing, and watching my Saturday morning cooking shows, and so I was running a little late.

Maria’s birthday party is next Saturday night. I got all her presents finished off and perfect. Now I can go and drink if I want to, because there’s no driving involved.

I got to Ann’s about 12:45, and we started in on the turkey right away.  While I was sewing, I remembered Suzanne Somers’ Sea Salt Rubs, and that I have some in the pantry–Provence, Tuscan and Southwest (my favorite.) After considering it, I decided to take a box of the Tuscan Sea Salt rub, thereby making  it. . .the Tuscan Turkey.

I had this idea that I would set up the turkey in the roaster and leave. No. Next thing I know, I’m making mashed potatoes, salad, sweet potato frites and at the last minute, the infamous Cranberry Ginger Relish. Only a little red liquid remained.

So I melted some butter and mixed in one packet of the Sea Salt Rub. When it came time to season the turkey, I needed more, so I melted another stick and added another packet of the rub. THAT did it–rubbed it inside and out, and tossed in a packet of poultry herbs Ann also bought on sale–sage, thyme and rosemary. It was so GREEEN!!  But it seasoned that turkey perfectly. (NOTE: I think olive oil would have worked, too, but butter seems to give such a nice color and taste to it.)  I also used the last bit of butter in the fridge, along with some half and half, for the mashed potatoes.

Ann is now out of butter.

I just kept going, and once one task was done, I started another. Worked perfectly. Until. . .

The Buddhist meeting was actually at 5. Once the sweet potatoes were cut and prepped for baking, we stashed them in the oven. At 5:30, I turned the oven ON. At 6:00 pm, I unplugged the turkey roaster, brought it inside, and turned the turkey platter upside down on top of the roaster to warm it for when I was ready to cut and serve it.

I should have asked John or Mickey to help me bring that thing in from the back porch. It was heavy. Now my lower back hurts, darnit. Yeah, I know better. A little Aleve and I’ll be OK in a couple of days.

The turkey rested for a little more than 30 minutes, mostly because we just kept talking about the subject at hand. And I got a little help with the carving; I know how to do it, but my technique is off; I was just going to start cutting chunks, but Mickey took the knife and fork and did a beautiful job of cutting picture-perfect slices. I can’t do that. What a nice man.

Ann is growing basil on her patio, and I told her she should make some pesto. Ann has no idea what that is, although later I found out that daughter Rose does. Rose makes pesto and uses pesto frequently. I was also telling Ann about the delicious Pea Pesto Soup from Nigella Lawson, and how much I love it. Ann doesn’t get it, but Rose will make some Pea Pesto Soup for Ann one of these days, so Ann can know just how delicious it is, and what to do with her windfall of basil in the backyard. Thank heavens for Rose.

Through all of it, we never gave any thought to dessert. NONE! It was a bit impromptu, and some delicious satsumas brought from someone’s backyard became an easy-to-peel dessert. (I did think about stopping for chocolate, but ended up not doing it.)

So, in the end, I got to make the perfect turkey, a week after Thanksgiving, and everybody loved it. Me too. It was a lot of fun, and I hope we can keep doing it.

I went through two aprons tonight, too. My brother sent me an apron recently that says across the front, “The last time I cooked, almost nobody got sick!” I will likely NOT wear that apron anywhere. He never lets me forget the dinner I made for him and his family more than 15 years ago.

Oh, and Ann’s husband went to Australia for a business trip. He emailed from the airport in Moscow while he was waiting for his flight to Singapore, and then to Perth. We sent him a picture of us with the turkey before we ate it. I hope he doesn’t get too mad.

Since we didn’t have a really *big* crowd, there is plenty left over. Ann, being the nice lady that she is, gave me most of it. So, I’ll be chopping up turkey tonight, and figuring out what to do with it all, and if I should consider making another pot of The Soup of Enlightenment. and probably that other soup from Suzanne Somers with the tomatoes in it. Well, I have time on that one, just need some more half-and-half, and another batch of some kind of stuffing. I’ll think about it tomorrow.

You can see the pictures here.

Happy Dining!

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