We Adopted a Turkey! Hooray for Martha!

This is a conflicted time for our family.  My daughter being a vegetarian and my sister and brother in law, the vegans, don’t want to think about turkeys being slaughtered for Thanksgiving.  My parents will have a turkey.  How the bird gets cooked and carved is for the carnivores in the family only.  In an effort to off-set the killing of many turkeys our family has decided to help save one.  Really it’s about donating money to help care for a turkey that has been rescued from a factory farm.  There are many such animals at Farm Sanctuary, a rescue in New York, Northern and Southern California.   A visit to the sanctuary in Los Angeles led to my daughter’s vegetarianism a few years back.  Where she learned “Animals are Friends, No Food”.

So my daughter choose this adorable turkey, named Martha to adopt.  When I told my family about the adoption campaign at the dinner table (we were eating something vegetarian) both my kids were excited.  My son, the carnivore, said he’d even pay the $30 fee.  My daughter was let down at first when she realized adopting the turkey meant in name only and it wasn’t coming to live with us as a pet.  Next, she had to think about putting her own money in to contribute to Martha’s care, which I said was the deal.  However she came around and there was a $5 per child share with mom and dad picking up the last $20.  It seemed fair.  My daughter was so excited that she called and told her grandmother who adopted another turkey, Minerva while they were on the phone together.  I wish my daughter would use those sales skills when it’s time to fundraise for her school.  She hasn’t put it together that her grandma rescued Minerva but will be buying another bird, a dead one to eat.

We’ll see what happens…..That’s what makes holidays interesting.



Hanukah Meet Thanksgiving. Recipe for Sweet Potato Butternut Squash Latkes.


It seems quite exciting that Hanukah and Thanksgiving coincide this year.  It hasn’t happened until the early 1900’s.  t don’t know why but I think there are many twists that could be put on the holiday table to combine the meal. In the past when my family was all going to spend Thanksgiving together but miss Christmas together we combined the holidays into one and called it “Thankmas”.   So how about this new match up?   Thanksukah?  Hanugiving?

Chabad.org/Food and author Miriam Szokovski have some great recipes to combine the best of the Hanukah and Thanksgiving flavors and traditions.  Here’s one I’ll definitely be trying….Thanksukah or not.

Sweet Potato Butternut Squash Latkes

Instead of sweet potato pie, try these sweet potato butternut squash latkes. You’ll get the flavors of Thanksgiving but the crispy fried texture of Chanukah.


  • 1 butternut squash
  • 2 Yukon Gold potatoes
  • 1 large onion
  • 1 sweet potato
  • 4 eggs
  • ½-3/4 cup flour
  • 2 Tbsp salt
  • Olive oil for frying
  • OPTIONAL: If you’re serving these aa a dairy meal, throw in ½ cup grated parmesan cheese


  1. Dice and sauté the onion in 2 tbsp. olive oil and ¼ tsp. salt.
  2. Peel and shred the butternut squash, sweet potatoes and potatoes.
  3. Mix all the ingredients in a large bowl.
  4. Heat olive oil in a non-stick frying pan. Scoop the batter using a 1/8 cup measuring cup for uniformity. Drop into the hot oil (keep the flame on medium-high). Cook until brown and firm on one side – approximately 5 minutes. Flip and cook 2 more minutes, or until brown, on the second side.
  5. Remove from oil and drain on a paper towel. Repeat until all the batter has been fried.
  6. Serve fresh.

Note: Recipe makes approximately 30 medium latkes.


Ready, Set, Safety. Tips for Planning and Creating a Healthy Holiday Meal

If you’re making your list and starting to plan for next week’s turkey dinner there’s a great website created by the Partnership for Food Education to help.  This resource has info on everything from how to choose, store and cook a turkey as well as some fun food prep activities for kids and yummy recipes to please everyone at your table.  Check it out here.

Once the planning and shopping is over and you’re ready to get into the kitchen here are a few things to remember in terms of home food safety for your holiday meal: Clean, Separate, Cook, and Chill.

  •   Clean – Wash hands with warm water and soap for 20 seconds before and after handling food; wash surfaces often with hot water and soap.
  •   Separate – Separate raw meat, poultry, seafood and eggs from other foods in your shopping cart, grocery bag and in your home refrigerator; use separate cutting boards for fresh produce and for raw meat, poultry and seafood. Keep in mind your turkey shouldn’t be lying next to your spinach, and yams, until everything is cooked and on your plate.
  •   Cook – Food is safely cooked when it reaches a high enough internal temperature to kill the harmful bacteria that cause illness. Your turkey should be cooked to a minimum of 165 °F as measured with a food thermometer. Check the temperature of your stuffing as well! Best and most healthful results come from preparing and cooking the stuffing separately – outside the bird.
  •   Chill – After a big holiday meal, we’d like to think everything will keep while we take a quick nap; however for safety, your delicious leftovers need to be refrigerated promptly – within 2 hours. Divide large amounts of leftovers into shallow containers for quicker cooling in the refrigerator. Keeping a constant refrigerator temperature of 40 °F or below is one of the most effective ways to reduce the risk of food poisoning at home.These reminders to follow the Fight BAC!® basics are from The National Turkey Federation and Partnership for Food Safety Education.



Forget Something? Thanksgiving Ingredient Substitution Tips

I can’t believe Thanksgiving is this week!  I’m still recovering from Halloween and my husband’s birthday last week.  I received this email from WearEver cookware with good last minute substitution tips I thought I’d share.  This may save you that extra trip to the grocery story on Thanksgiving morning while you’re making that pumpkin pie.

WearEver Pure Living’s Thanksgiving Rescue Tips

Cooking Emergency 411:

1 cup honey = 1 1/4 cups sugar + 1/4 cup liquid 1 cup whole milk = 1/2 cup evaporated milk + 1/2 cup water
1 tsp. lemon juice = 1/2 tsp. vinegar
1 cup butter = 1 cup margarine or 7/8 cup vegetable oil
1 cup yogurt = 1 cup buttermilk
1 Tbsp. flour (for thickening) = 1/2 Tbsp. cornstarch or 2 tsps. quick-cooking tapioca
1 cup buttermilk = 1 or 2 Tbsps. lemon juice or or vinegar plus enough milk to make 1 cup
1 Tbsp. fresh herbs = 1 tsp. dried herbs
1 square unsweetened chocolate = 3 Tbsp. cocoa plus 1 Tbsp. shortening
1 tsp. baking powder = 1/3 tsp. baking soda plus 1/2 tsp. cream of tartar
1 cup all-purpose flour = 1 cup whole wheat flour
1 cup brown sugar = 1 cup white sugar plus 2 Tbsp. molasses
1 egg = 1 heaping Tbsp. soy flour plus 1 Tbsp. water
1 cup self-rising flour = 1 cup all-purpose flour plus 1 1/2 tsp. baking powder and 1/2 tsp. salt
1 tablespoon of dried minced onion = 1/4 cup raw minced onion


Holidays, Cold and Flu Are Here…Tea to the Rescue

Last year we got the flu just before Thanksgiving.  This year it was literally on the drive home from my parents.  Thanksgiving dinner was great as was the visit, but the drive home made us not want to think about doing it for a very long time.  Long story short my poor son got sick in the car and we ended up having to stay in a motel on I5 just outside the Grapevine where he was up all night with the flu.  The next day we were finally able to drive home – my son sleeping most of the way.

It would be two days later when my daughter got it (although a milder version).  And now my husband and I both have colds.  There is one thing that seems to be soothing whether healthy or sick during these cooler months for all ages and that is tea.  You know about my love of iced tea, but hot’s great too.  My kids love tea with a touch of honey.  My pediatrician’s nurse actually suggested it as a remedy for coughs rather than medicine. (But never for those under 1 year.).  This time of year we stock up on peppermint tea which you can only get in winter.  But we also have a large variety of everything from cammomile to ginger to mint to chai to fit everyone’s mood and illness.  Tea is the most popular drink in the world – so there must be something there.

Mint Chamomile Tea

A cup of chamomile tea can be soothing for a child on a cold day or with a cold inside. The added mint syrup lends a bit of sweet and spice. Most children don’t like drinks and food too hot. Keep temperature on warm or lukewarm.

Makes 1 cup


1 cup water

1 bag chamomile tea

2 teaspoons Mint Syrup (see below)

Bring water to a boil
in a saucepan. Add tea bag and let steep for 3 to 5 minutes. Carefully squeeze
tea bag and discard. Add syrup and stir.


Mint Syrup

The symbol of hospitality, mint has been used for scores of culinary and medicinal purposes over the centuries. This simple mint syrup can be added as a sweetener to hot
and cold teas, as well as lemonade and plain water.

Makes 2 cups syrup


¾ cup turbinado sugar

2 cups water

2 cups fresh mint (1 bunch), torn into 2-inch pieces

In a small saucepan, combine sugar, water, and mint. Bring to a boil over medium heat and cook until sugar has dissolved, about 1 minute. Remove from heat and let stand for at least 30 minutes.

Pour though a fine mesh strainer set over a bowl or pitcher and discard mint.

Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 1 month.





Thanksgiving Meal Wrap Up

So Thanksgiving is already over.  While ours was small.  We unfortuantely scared away the grandparents with the flu.  On the actual day, everyone was healthy.  All in all I was pleased with the food.  I always like the walnut mushroom stuffing.  My son picked mashed potatoes, though in years passed it’s been sweet potatoes.  The kids were great helpers with the brussels sprouts.  Really a fool spoof way to get a brussels sprouts hater to turn the corner.  Because grandma didn’t come and bring my kids’ requested pumpkin bread, we even managed to make a few loaves, so not to dissappoint. (We even shared with the neighbors)

However there was a dissappointment and that was the main attraction…the turkey.  I did the brine.  Everyone always says how great it tuns out.  But not for me.  Not for this bird.  I followed the directions.  Managed to spill some of the brine all over the kitchen.  Those bags can be tricky with so much liquid.   The bird browned and it tasted fine.  But fine really isn’t what we’re looking for.  There was something missing.  I realized what it was about 3/4 of the way through cooking.  There was no juice.  Where were the pan drippings?  And there was no aroma.  Why didn’t the house smell like roasted turkey.  My best guess is that the moisture stays in.  Well I want moist, but I also want drippings and aroma.  So next year it’s back to the wine and butter baste only.  Always worked for my mom.

On a high note was one of the best desserts I ever made.  No really.  It was Lilly Pulitzer’s Gingered Pumpkin Tart.  This was amazing.  The perfect mix of sweet and spicy.  I thought the crystallized ginger would be too much and was serving it on the side, until everyone asked for more.  The ultimate was fresh whipping cream and a dollop of vanilla bean ice cream.  I’m already trying to determine what occassion to make it for again and who I should share it with.

The kids were in charge of the table decor.  Note the colored tea lights (those are usually for outside).  There was a bit of a squabble over who would make placecards.  So my son made them for dinner and my daughter cleared those and set hers out for dessert.  They also made a stick centerpiece in the shape of a turkey.

Take a look…

peeling brussels
Ellery and her cranberry sauce
Me and my bird
the centerpiece arrangement
A piece of the gingered pumpkin tart

This Year’s Thanksgiving Challenge….The Flu

So my challenge last year was the vegan menu.  However if you’ll recall (see last year’s post) I was pleasantly surprised with all the dishes and everyone – vegan and carnivore – seemed full and happy.

This year’s challenge is that it’s only a few days before the big turkey day and my son has the stomach flu.  Poor kid.  I got a touch of it last night, but nothing like he has.  His grandparents have already bowed out of coming for the holiday.  I certainly understand.  Who wants to come to a potentially guarantined household?  And that’s the problem for me too.  The wondering who else may be sick on Thanksgiving?  Will I get worse?  What about my husband and daughter?

Being that I try to make dishes ahead, I already have cranberry sauce made, as well as a tart crust.  I opted out of the lackluster pumpkin pudding (see previous post about test) for a pumpkin ginger tart instead.  At least we have something, right?  I could put the cranberry in the pie tart and call it a cranberry tart.  I feel like everyone remembers the sweet stuff anyway.  How bad could that be? 

I’m thinking positively and today I picked up my heirloom turkey.  It was already ordered, so I really didn’t have much of a choice.  Because our group is so small this year (and getting smaller), I decided I’m going to try brining the bird.  I feel like I’m the only person to have never brined a turkey.  I’m feeling confident because it’s not a 15 pounder.  I’m not going to worry about making space and the bag leaking all over my fridge, since I’ll be able to get my petit 9 pounder in a large stockpot.

At the very least the turkey will come in handy for turkey noodle soup if we all get sick.  Here’s crossing my fingers our planned menu goes somewhat as planned.  But if it doesn’t happen, we’ll do it another night. 

Here’s our favorite brussels sprouts recipe for Thanksgiving or the rest of the year.

Leaf Us Alone Brussels Sprouts

(pg. 205, Petit Appetit: Eat Drink and Be Merry)

Although they are one of my favorites, I realize Brussels sprouts are not welcome by many. I think they get a bad rap because they are usually boiled, bland, and still rock hard in the center. Peeling the leaves and discarding the center core, makes for an entirely different taste and texture. And yes, you and your kids may even have a new green favorite. Note this takes time and patience, but little hands make great peelers.

Makes 6 servings

1 pound Brussels sprouts

¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil

1 teaspoon freshly squeezed lemon juice

1/8 teaspoon salt

1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Line a jelly roll pan with aluminum foil.

Cut off bottom stem or core of each sprout. Carefully peel away the leaves until it becomes too hard to peel. Cut off bottom core again and peel more layers. Continue cutting and peeling until it is too difficult to peel apart.

Place leaves in a large mixing bowl. Drizzle with olive oil and lemon juice and stir until all leaves are coated. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and stir again.

Spread leaves onto prepared baking pan in a single layer. Roast for 10 to 12 minutes, until leaves are cooked and start to crisp with golden edges.

Kids Korner

I brought these to the table to peel while my children were having a snack. It must have looked interesting as both my four year old and 18 month old starting peeling, too. I told them they were Brussels Buddies. My son just kept telling his dad “We’re only eating the skins.”


I Heart Pumpkins with Pumpkin Pudding Recipe

I love pumpkins.  They signify fall to me, and Halloween is just the beginning.  I love their shapes, their colors (my favorite color is of course orange), and their tastes… Really everything from butter to muffins to breads to pancakes to pies to ice cream (I can go on and on).  I just can’t get enough.  Luckily you can buy canned pumpkin year round.  If you can’t in your area, now is the perfect time to stock up.

Here’s some photos from this year’s trip to the pumpkin patch.  We go to the same one every year (Peter’s Patch at the Springhill Jersey Cheese Co.), so I won’t bore you with the same blog (read last year’s).  However we experience it new every year as we share it with someone different each year.  This year with friends with kids.  It was such fun to see the kids all having full together:  milking cows, digging potatoes, petting donkeys, choosing pumkpins and racing up hay bales.  Here are a few favorite photos from the day.


I found this amazing looking recipe for pumpkin pudding from one of the Top Chef Dessert Judges on the Daily Candy website.  I’m hoping to recipe test it for something different for this year’s Thanksgiving table.  If you try it before me, let me know how it goes.

Dannielle’s Pumpkin Pudding

Serves four


1 envelope gelatin
¼ c. water
3 eggs, separated

½ c. milk

¾ c. brown sugar

1 15-oz. can of pumpkin

1½ tsp. pie spice

1 tsp. vanilla

¼ tsp. cream of tartar (optional)

1/3 c. sugar

1. Dissolve gelatin in water and set aside.

2. Combine egg yolks, milk, brown sugar, and pumpkin in saucepan, stir well, and cook over

medium heat until thickened. Remove from heat.

3. Stir in spice and vanilla, and then add gelatin mixture.

4. With handheld or stand mixer, whip egg whites and cream of tartar until soft peaks form

(about four minutes). Slowly add white sugar and fold into the pumpkin mixture.

5. Divide among teacups, cute little bowls, or carved-out mini pumpkins, and refrigerate until


6. Garnish with fresh whipped cream.


I made the pudding and while my family enjoyed it, I did not.  It had a texture that I didn’t care for.  Not like a creamy pudding at all – more like pumpkin pie filling.  I didn;t feel it was special enough for the big day.  Please note it makes much more than the recipe stated “4 servings”.  It filled 8 parfait glasses!


Thanksgiving Lessons…

So I survived Thanksgiving.  But I must say it was more stressful than I would’ve liked.  First, I kind of burned myself out with all the school actvities (see “feast” post) and recipe testing the week prior.  Yes, I loved seeing the school kids eat my little sandwiches,  muffins, etc., but sometimes I wish I was the parent who doesn’t cook and can just bring something premade (gasp!).  No, of course I would never.  However I notice the parents who pick up something lovely at a bakery or restaurant often look much more rested and happy at some of these functions than I do after baking until midnight.

I was a bit worried about my sister’s new diet too (see post about “A Vegan”) .  I’m not the person that could serve someone a plate of crudite veggies and call it Thanksgiving dinner.  So I welcomed the challenge and did lots of recipe testing (and pie eating) prior.  Thankfully the dishes turned out pretty well and everyone (especially my sister) was very appreciative.  I adapted the dressing and sweet potatoes to vegan by using the vegan sticks instead of butter.  (Thankfully wine and brown sugar come in handy).  My sister made a really good butternut squash rissotto (see recipe here on care2.com) and last minute (I ran out of time) a saute of brussels sprouts in thyme and white wine.   The apple cranberry pie recipe came from the cookbook I gave my sister.  It was tart but tasty.  Although it didn’t totally set up like other apple pies I’ve made in the past.  I question the use of tapioca over flour for the apple filling.  Flour isn’t an animal product. 

Greens with Persimmon and Pecans
Greens with Persimmon and Pecans
Butternut Risotto
Butternut Risotto
Walnut, Crestnut, Sausage, Sage Stuffing
Walnut, Crestnut, Sausage, Sage Stuffing
Mashed Sweet Potatoes with Orange and Ginger
Mashed Sweet Potatoes with Orange and Ginger
Apple Cranberry Pie
Apple Cranberry Pie

 Of course we roasted chestnuts and peeled them.  This started as a tradition at my house growing up.  My mom would roast chestnuts to make her mother’s stuffing on Thanksgiving morning.  Then my mom, sister and I would peel them.  Of course it’s easiest to do when they’re hot, so we’d be peeling and scalding our fingers, and complaining.  But somehow that became the tradition.  Later when I was an adult hosting Thanksgiving I bought preroasted chestnuts for chestnut soup.  The soup was great, but it seemed a little sacreligious not to peel them ourselves.  So this year my kids wanted to peel too.  My mom was proud to have “three generations peeling together”.  My recipe adds water to the chestnuts in the oven which steams them and makes them easier to open.  But some of them are still tough to do – especially if cooled.

Merry Thanksmas 2009 029

Very A-peeling
Very A-peeling

So you may be wondering about the turkey.  We almost didn’t have one and went completely vegan.  Not because I didn’t order (2 weeks prior) or pick one up (fighting the crowds at Whole Foods at 8 a.m. on Wednesday morning), but because it wasn’t thawed to cook.  I ordered a “fresh” Diestel organic turkey, so I was surprised when I picked up my bird and it seemed hard and frozen.  I was assured that it was just “flash” frozen and simply has a thin crust of ice so that it could be transported and would be ready for cooking or brining in the morning.  Huh?  I took it home and  put it in the fridge.  Thanksgiving morning I made my brine (this was a first for me) and then unwrapped the turkey and it was still rock hard.  Yikes!  I was mad.  What now?  This seemed a big set-back to me.  (What are we going to eat with the two kinds of cranberry sauce/relish with?)

Luckily my mom and sister were calm and said to take it back to Whole Foods.  I figured they’d say too bad or run water on it for the next 4 hours.  I was wrong.  Going to the store on Thanksgiving at 8 a.m. is much more civilized than going the day before.  The people at the store couldn’t have been nicer.  The customer service was worried and perplexed at first, and called the butcher.   The butcher came out with 3 thawed turkeys (cancelled orders) which I could choose from.  Hooray!   So the bird was brined and quite moist and flavorful.

Merry Thanksmas 2009 046

 All and all, the meal and visit with my family was a success.   Whew!  

You can cook all day, and days before, but it all really comes down to the last half hour.  This is the time when everyone is busy, helping and more than ready to eat.  It was pretty fun.   My mom and kids were decorating the table (we had been using it for board and dice games much of the day) with final touches such as fancy folded napkins and handmade placecards.  My sister and brother-in-law were stirring risotto.  I was carving the turkey and heating gravy.  My husband was using a new video camera to capture it all and interview all the guests/family.

Aside from the visiting and food, another highlight of the day was leaving the kitchen and everyone taking a walk on Richardson Bay.  The weather was sunny and brisk and I especially needed some fresh air.  I waivered about going, as the turkey would go in late, but I gave myself a reprive from getting the dinner out on time (we had established 4 p.m.).  Dinner at 5:30 was just fine.


A Tale of Two Feasts

Both my daughter and my son had “feasts” at school today.  My daughter is in preschool and I volunteered to do the food for the feast.  As the preschool classes get older, the teachers allow the children to choose what they’d like for their feast.  They usually pick pizza.  Not exactly what I picture in thinking of the pilgrims and native americans sharing on the original day.   However at age 3, the feast is traditional (somewhat) and there is no voting on the main menu.  I like the idea of the traditional food and so I supplied all the food for the feast.  (I won’t when it’s pizza).  The menu consisted of:

mini turkey and cheese sandwiches and roll-ups

fruit salad – some balked at the orange stuff…persimon

canberry sauce

sweet potato chips

steamed veggies and carrots with dip

oatmeal-chocolate chips cookes – which the kids made

Here’s what it looked like:

mini turkey cheese

sweet potato chips

cranberry sauce

preschool feast

I have to say it went over well.  Most kids ate something, and some even asked for seconds of fruit and sandwiches.  The kids were very proud of their handmade tablecloth, which was painted butcher paper.  So cute. 

The second “feast” of the day was at my son’s kindergarten friendship feast.  This was a clever idea.  The kids in each kindergarten class were each asked to bring an ingredient, such as onion (ours), tomatoes, stock, noodles, zucchini, etc.  Then one mom went home and made soup from the ingredients and returned with it the following day.  I knew making all the other items for feast number 1, I couldn’t make soup too.  Luckily someone else volunteered, but I did offer to make pumpkin muffins to accompany.  Here they are:

pumpkin ginger muffins


All four kindergarten classes ate soup together with teachers and some families and siblings.  Each class had made their own version of turkey hats and leaf placemats, which they were proud to bring home after.  The soup and muffins were appreciated and eaten.  Here’s a picure of my son and daughter sitting together.  The teacher is so sweet and treats her like one of the kindergartners.  After just coming from her feast, I was surpirsed to see she ate more than some of my son’s friends.

kindergarten feast

I must say with all these feast preparations, shopping, cooking, packing and clean up, I’m going to need to find some energy for the real feast on Thurs.  I’ll keep you posted…