The bird is the word

Here’s the report on the brining of the Thanksgiving turkey bird: it turned out great, very moist and delicious.  We followed Alton Brown’s recipe for roast turkey on Foodnetwork.com. Apparently, the recipe is the single most popular one on Food Network’s website.  The recipe also comes with a couple of very informative videos which demonstrate how to cook the bird. The videos are well worth the nine minutes it takes to watch both of them.

A couple of points about the cooking process: First, I bought a fancy battery-operated digital meat thermometer like the one Alton has in the video. It was worse than worthless–it declared the turkey to be done after half an hour of cooking. I left the digital thermometer in place while the bird continued to cook, but I carefully added my trusty old-school thermometer to the other side of the turkey and just peered through the oven door window to watch the thermometer so the bird didn’t overcook. Second, the bird cooked quickly. Our 10 lb bird took only about 1 ½ hours to cook (20 mins at 500 degrees F and just over an hour at 350 degrees F).

All in all, the next time you’re needing to cook a turkey, I highly recommend the Alton Brown recipe.




Happy Thanksgiving!

I’ve been woeful about this blog, not from lack of interest but rather sheer laziness (and a pinch of feeling overwhelmed recently with my day job). But today seems a fitting day to start writing again because I have a few brief words of wisdom to offer: don’t start a large household project (like, say, repainting your kitchen cabinets and adding new hardware) a couple of weeks before hosting out-of-town guests for a major holiday. There’s the slimmest of chances that, despite your best intentions, you may not finish the project before the guests arrive. And, on the morning of the major holiday, your house may just look like this:

Fortunately, my dear guests (who arrived Tuesday), have pretended to turn a blind eye to the chaos for which I can’t thank them enough.

In other news, today I’m cooking a turkey for the first time ever. Whoa. I’m a little intimidated. After conducting an enormous amount of Internet research on ways to cook a turkey, I’ve settled on brining it.

That’s the bird in the brining bag now.

Meanwhile, to the readers who are celebrating Thanksgiving today, have a wonderful day. To the readers who aren’t celebrating Thanksgiving today, I hope your day goes alright too.

I’ll write again (soon!) to tell you how the turkey turned out and to give you all the details on the kitchen project.

Charlie’s favorite show is Max & Ruby. There’s one episode where Ruby and her best friend Louise start a lemonade stand. Charlie loves that episode and, by extension, now he loves making lemonade (well, technically he loves “helping” me make lemonade which usually means strewing lemon juice and sugar all over the floor). Charlie, however, doesn’t much like drinking lemonade. So invariably we have a bunch of lemonade in the refrigerator at any given time. After a particularly stressful day recently, this beleaguered momma got creative.

Momma’s Lemon Drop Martini

  • sugar for the rim of the glass
  • vodka, to taste
  • fresh squeezed lemonade, to taste
Pour a small amount of sugar onto a plate. Grab a martini glass and run the rim under some water. Upend the martini glass into the sugar, making sure that a nice amount of sugar sticks to the entire rim. Turn the martini glass over and attend to making the martini. If you have a cocktail shaker, put some ice in the shaker and then combine the vodka and lemonade in whatever ratio you choose. I use about one ounce of vodka and four ounces of lemonade for each martini; more adventuresome souls might wish to up the vodka to lemonade ratio. Give the vodka and lemonade a good shake. Strain the martini into the sugared glass.  If you don’t have a cocktail shaker, just put some ice in a glass, add the vodka and lemonade and stir with a spoon to get the liquid nice and cold. Pour the martini into the sugared glass using the back of the spoon to block the ice from dropping in (it’s not awful to have ice in your martini, but the drink will look classier without it). Sip and relax on a hot summer night.

If you’ve been reading this blog awhile you know that I love my CSA. I really do. I was thrilled when home deliveries of organic produce started about a month ago. The only problem with the CSA (and I don’t think this problem is unique to my CSA) is that every week I get a lot of greens. You probably can’t imagine how many greens show up on my door step. Just as an example, here’s a recent photo of one week’s delivery:

In case you have trouble differentiating your greens, this includes Swiss chard, bok choi, lettuce, kale, and beets (I eat the greens as well as the beets). Other weeks we’ve had mustard greens, Napa cabbage, senposai, and collards.

While I’ve had success preparing greens a few different ways (some of which I even blogged about here, here, and here), I need additional options. So dear readers, do you have any recipes for greens that you’d be willing to share? I would be most appreciative. Actually, at this point, I suspect Mark would be the most appreciative member of the household. He doesn’t really like greens to begin with and yet they keep appearing on our dinner plates cooked in the same manner each time.

Basil, in brief

Who likes fresh basil?  I like fresh basil.  Fresh basil likes me, too, especially when I put it in the fridge or in a cup of water on the counter.  For a few days, fresh basil will be happy with either of these options.  Fresh basil, it turns out, does not like me if I do both.  Yesterday, I put fresh basil in water in the fridge, and within hours, fresh basil became not-so-fresh basil, shriveled, brown, and very, very unhappy.

Worth its salt

You know I love coupons. A year ago, however, I had yet to see the coupon light. I didn’t know it was possible to get items from grocery and drugstores for free. Now I know it’s not only possible to get things for free, sometimes you can even profit from buying certain items.

I went grocery shopping at Harris Teeter this past weekend for a bunch of items. I’m a member of their VIC program — their equivalent of a frequent shopper’s program. They also have a program called e-VIC which is basically an amped-up version of the VIC program. As an e-VIC member, I get additional savings on certain items and access to electronic coupons that can be downloaded directly to my VIC card. The coupons get deducted automatically at the register when I buy the corresponding items.  The fun thing (yes, I think coupons are fun — don’t you?) about the e-coupons at Harris Teeter is that you can use them in conjunction with paper manufacturers’ coupons for extra savings. When you combine an e-coupon with a manufacturer’s coupon with a store sale, well it’s like winning the lottery.

So this past weekend I bought this salt.

I would have taken a photo of the actual container of salt I bought, but Charlie recently broke our digital camera. That's a whole other yikes money story though.

The salt retails for $1.99, but Harris Teeter had it on sale as a buy-one-get-one free (which, by the way, means that it’s half off; you don’t actually have to buy two to get one of them free). I had a paper manufacturer’s coupon for $.50 off which I knew Harris Teeter would double to $1.00 off (their coupon policy is to double paper coupons with a face value up to $.99). I also had an e-coupon for $1.00 off Diamond Crystal sea salt. Now, if you’re using a manufacturer’s coupon, Harris Teeter won’t let you profit off an item; that is, if the item is $.75 and your coupon is for $1.00, they’ll only deduct $.75 from your total. So I was curious what would happen if I used a manufacturer’s coupon with an e-coupon — using either of these would make the salt free, but combined, I stood to profit by $1.00. Well, the e-coupon system and the manufacturer’s coupon systems clearly don’t talk to each other at the register because both happily deducted from my total. Thus, it was like Harris Teeter paid me $1.00 to buy the salt.

I came home so, so proud of my profit. I told Mark about it and, while impressed, he said that next time I stand to make money off an item, I need to buy only that item to see what would happen. Mark reasons that the real excitement would be to walk out of a grocery store with more money in my pocket than when I went in. Oh yes, indeed, that is a titillating prospect.

Have you ever run your dishwasher and had an ominous smell come from it and you just knew you’d melted something plastic by mistake? This is exactly what happened to me the other day. I opened the dishwasher door and found that a little plastic lid had slipped down from the top rack and melted onto the heating element at the bottom of the dishwasher. My first reaction was to panic. As you may recall, the dishwasher was a gift from my sister Anne and is far too new for me to have ruined already. I really didn’t want to have to tell Anne that the dishwasher was kaput. I shut the dishwasher door and walked away. Denial is typically how I deal with problems, at least at first.

After stealing courage, I opened the dishwasher door and peeled the melted plastic lid off the heating element. It left behind a real mess. You can get an idea of the mess by looking at the remains of the lid.

Not good.

So I broke out my laptop and started searching on the Internet for ways to remove the melted plastic. I ignored the surprisingly numerous methods that involved an open razor blade — yikes. I settled for trying to scrape off the hardened mess with a stiff plastic spatula.

First I shoved a plastic lid (not the remains of the one I’d melted!) under the heating coil to catch the bits of plastic as I scraped them off.

Then I grabbed a very stiff spatula and set to work gently scraping at the plastic. Side note: As many of you know, I have a really hard time getting rid of stuff because of my (usually irrational) fear that I might need that exact thing I’m throwing out or giving away. This particular stiff spatula came with a food processor my sister bought me years ago (are you beginning to the get the feeling that everything in my kitchen was given to me by my sister? That’s not true. My parents and my aunt give me kitchen stuff too). Anyhow, the spatula is ridiculous because it’s so stiff that it does a rotten job completing normal spatula functions. I have considered tossing it many times, but something always held me back. Today I’m here to tell you that when I realized I would need to scrape off the hardened plastic from the dishwasher heating element, I thought of no tool better equipped to handle the job than my otherwise worthless spatula. And now I have given hoarders the world over another excuse to hang on to their junk. You’re welcome.

Anyhow, the spatula worked like a champ. The plastic peeled right off.

And my idea to use the lid to catch the plastic bits was also genius, if I do say so myself.

After I’d scraped off all I could, I ran my fingers along the heating element and felt a tiny amount of residual plastic. So I ran the dishwasher. After it finished the wash and rinse cycles and just as it was beginning the heated dry cycle, I opened the dishwasher door. I ran a thick rag along the hot heating element where the plastic had been and wiped up any last remnants. Now I am proud to say that the dishwasher is good as new. Did you get that, Anne? Good as new. I swear.