Thanksgiving 2010

Thanksgiving was a big success this year. Good food, good people, and a good time. There was a total of eight of us for dinner, it was a perfect number.

I did most of the cooking, and I wasn’t as flustered or crazy as I usually feel during the holidays. I tried to remain calm and relaxed and it was actually fun to prepare and cook the meal.

I was super organized, and that helped a lot. I made a list of all the meal items, and specified an approximate time that I needed to start to prepare. Turkey was scheduled for 9am, turkey breast was set for 10am, slow cooker stuffing was started at 8am. Keeping a detailed schedule reduced a lot of the stress for sure!

And of course, I had the help of a wonderful husband, and as usual, he’s my patient rockstar!!!


We purchased a local free range 8 pound turkey from a nearby small farm. I was excited to try a truly natural bird. I knew it might not be the choice for all my guests, so I also purchased a 4 pound boneless turkey breast for those that enjoyed more white meat.

The taste of the free range turkey was definitely not conventional. I could taste the difference, and unfortunately, it was definitely a tougher, chewier texture. There was more connective tissue. More research on roasting methods are probably needed. I think it would have been better if braised, but how can anyone easily braise a big ole turkey! I might try lowering the oven temp and slow cook for a longer time.

The experience has not turned me off. I am definitely going to keep purchasing local humanely raised poultry, but I don’t know if I’ll purchase from the same farm again. It was disappointing to not receive a packet of giblets with my bird, and it seemed to be “processed” in haste.

One of its legs was broken, so the end of the leg was sagging, and there was a bit of gauze-like substance still attached to the broken leg. Plus, a few feathers remained, which really wasn’t a big deal. They were easy to pull off.

ETA: I just realized that my turkey was also missing the wing tips. Something didn’t seem right. All the Food Network chefs suggested folding the wings back under the back, but we couldn’t figure out how to do that with our bird. I think it was because the wing tips were gone. hmm, I wonder why they didn’t include the giblets and wing tips. Keeping them for their own turkey broth/stock? Strange and disappointing.

I don’t know if all locally raised fresh birds are like this; I realize that it’s going to be more rustic, and it could be that I’m just not used to the primitiveness… and it certainly hasn’t turned me off from trying other local farms! I just don’t know that this particular farm would be my choice in the future.

Continue reading “Thanksgiving 2010”

Peter Reinhart’s Transitional Whole Wheat Bread – Using a Bread Machine

Peter Reinhart Whole Grain Breads: New Techniques, Extraordinary Flavor

I’ve been experimenting with bread dough, and have found that a long slow fermentation makes the most flavorful, delicious bread! I experimented with my own recipe, but wanted to keep exploring.

I’m all about whole grains, so reading Peter Reinhart’s Whole Grain Breads: New Techniques, Extraordinary Flavor seemed like the next logical step!

I’m really not into hand kneading, even when authors say how easy it is. I have no patience for it, even if it’s only for a few minutes. I use my bread maker and I am very happy with it! I started with a one paddle Breadman, and recently purchased a West Bend 41300 Hi-Rise double paddle breadmaker, which I absolutely love!

Anyway, my first crack at his recipes (Multigrain Stuan recipe – page 102) was a semi-disaster, but I was so proud and happy to finally be working with a soaker and biga! Whoo hoo!

My second try at the same recipe was better. My soaker consisted of random amounts of cornmeal, barley wheat, wheat germ, oat bran, and wheat bran. The cornmeal gave it a pleasant texture.

Next, I tried the Transitional Whole Wheat sandwich bread recipe (page 99) and yum, it really turned out well.
Just look at the oven spring!

Awesome oven spring!

Continue reading “Peter Reinhart’s Transitional Whole Wheat Bread – Using a Bread Machine”

Picked Up My Free Range Farm Fresh Thankgiving Turkey

Yesterday afternoon, I drove to the farm and picked up my wonderful fresh (frozen) truly free range turkey. It was an amazing experience.

When I drove it, there was another small group visiting the farm, so I got to tag along to see the new baby calf/cow in the barn. He was friendly and so cute – 6 months old.

We asked Mrs Farmer (I’m not sharing the real name of the farm since I don’t know if they want extra publicity since they are so small) all sorts of questions and it was fascinating! Her grass fed cows are raised for 18 months. Now that I have a new chest freezer, I can purchase more beef from her. The next batch should be ready in mid December.

So, I took my 9lb turkey home, and put it in the freezer for now. I think the plan is taking it out to defrost tomorrow (Sunday) morning. The online consensus is that it takes about 24 hours for each 5 pounds of turkey. So, theoretically 2 days should be enough time. It’s also safe to leave a defrosted turkey in the fridge for 2 days, and I’ll start the brining process on Wednesday afternoon sometime.

I have a large anodized aluminum pot and I’ll place the turkey in an oven roasting bag with the brining liquid. This is my first time brining, so I plan on taking notes and photographs. Oh gosh, I hope I cook this bird correctly!

This Weeks Crush is Jamie Oliver

So this week I’m crushing on Jamie Oliver!

I just borrowed a bunch of his cookbooks from the library! I love his basic, free style of cooking, and he’s got a warm personality!

I don’t really remember hearing much about Jamie Oliver until I watched him on his TV series “Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution“, but since our new FIOS TV offers a year of free use of a DVR, I’ve been recording all the espisodes of “Jamie At Home” from the Cooking Channel. He’s got such good simple ideas. I’m saving and savoring his episodes! And I’ve fallen madly in love with him.

here are the books I borrowed: (I’ll probably get more of the older ones once I’ve finished with these)

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Organizing Recipes with Evernote – Online, Offline & iPhone

I’ve been busy as a bee, organized the mountain of recipe web pages that I’ve been saving during the last year or so.

Back a few months ago, I originally tried saving each recipe page as a pdf file on my hard drive in a categorized folder. It was very cumbersome, and although I could search for recipes on my laptop hard drive (albeit clumsily), it could be difficult to make my recipes mobile, to find and search on any other mode like the web or my iPhone.

I’d all but given up on the process, until the other day when I re-discovered Evernote.

It just so happened that I was clipping an unrelated web page into the cool Mac app Evernote, and for some reason, I started reading the Evernote tips on my iPhone app, and it suggested organizing recipes using Evernote. YES! What a great idea! Why didn’t I think of that!?

So, I started experimenting, and it worked just beautifully!

Evernote Makes it Easy to Save, Access, Search and Find Recipes

My recipes are saved to my computer hard drive, then synced online to my Evernote web account, and then to my iPhone. I can also save notes on my iPhone or any web browser, and all three will sync!

Besides the iPhone, iPad, and iPod Touch, there are mobile apps for Android, Blackberry, Palm, Windows phones – check their downloads page for details.

Using the iPhone app, I can easily search for “giada pasta” and just my captured pasta recipes written by Giada De Laurentiis will pop up; so I can easily read them while in my kitchen, grocery store, camping, etc.

iphone screenshot - searching on evernote

This also means that anywhere I have internet, say at my mom’s house, I can log into my web account and access all of my recipes. Very helpful if I need to find her favorite oat bran muffin recipe!

Using the Evernote app installed on my hard drive, I can narrow the search even further. If I need to find only my soup recipes using chicken, I can search in my “soup” tagged recipes for the keyword “chicken” – I just love this!

It’s up to you how you want to organize your recipes. You don’t have to use tags, you can just create a new notebook for recipes, and start clipping. Searching will be just as easy, since Evernote scours through all the text content.

And it’s not just for recipes. Today, I captured a Meat & Seafood cooking chart, so I can easily check the cooked temperature for my turkey on Thanksgiving!

So, What is Evernote?

So, what exactly is Evernote?

It’s a Mac and Windows app that can “capture” and organize everything like web pages, images, screen shots, etc. It’s fantastic! Well, it’s fantastic for the Mac. I’ve tried using it on the Windows computer at work, and it’s a bit clunky and hinky, but it’s worth a try. Perhaps a better Windows solution would be the highly recommended Windows app called OneNote that I think has an iPhone app as well.

I have to say the best part of Evernote is it’s FREE, provided you stay within your monthly allotted file usage of 40mb 60mb. And as long as you refrain from capturing lots of photos or images, there should be no problem sticking to the monthly allowance. This month, I’ve captured almost 400 recipes and have used about half my space. I’m careful to edit out all the extra text, links, and images to save.

I’m not going to delve into the details on how to specifically use Evernote, as there is a great “get started” tutorial online, but there are a couple of little tips to mention.

For Firefox browser users, the Evernote add-on makes capturing from Firefox super easy. Once the add-on is installed, a little button is added to the toolbar. Just click the button and the current page is clipped and added to the Evernote software on your hard drive.

Don’t fret if you aren’t a Firefox user, check their web clipper downloads page to find the generic web clipper (bottom of the page). Just drag it to your browser link bar and when you want to capture a page, click it to save it to Evernote.

Once the web page is captured, you can then edit the page similarly as you would in any word processing app. Remove or add text, change formatting, etc.

After you’ve installed and set up Evernote, take a minute to click the “Trunk” button link on the top toolbar and download the Epicurious notebook which includes 10 delicious burger recipes to add to your account.

Evernote logo

I highly recommend Evernote for organizing anything, but for compiling recipes and cooking tips, it’s absolutely indispensable, and I think I’m going to love it more than any iPhone cooking app, because it’s customizable for my needs and includes only the recipes and cooking tips that I am interested in! And IT’S FREE!!!!

UPDATE December 19, 2010: I am loving Evernote even more! I have clipped all of my own recipes into the program, and it’s been wonderful to search for keyword(s) and I can easily find the recipe I want! And bravo to the folks at Evernote! They just increased the allotted monthly file space from 40mb to 60mb! I had no problem keeping under the 40mb, but this will be even better!

And keep in mind, you can also use Evernote for other interests and subjects as well. I keep a lot of my health topics in a separate notebook. Trip planning, Christmas gift lists, doctor’s notes, etc. The options are endless!

Gluten Free Turkey

I find it extremely humorous that a company has to advertise their turkey as gluten free! How in earth can a normal natural turkey get gluten!?

Of course, I needed to find the answer, so I googled.

Just as I suspected, it looks like the gross “processed” solutions they inject in the turkeys (to make them supposedly moist and tasty) contain gluten! So does the gravy packets included with some turkeys.

I’m sorry but that is so gross! And it’s one more reason to stick to natural whole foods! Who wants a turkey injected with some processed glutenous sodium-laden solution!

Other interesting links:

Beef Bottom Round Roast

Darn it! I defrosted a small bottom round roast for dinner tonight, and just stuck it in the oven following “roast beef” instructions I found on the web. I am so glad that I searched for “bottom round roast” just now, because now I’m seeing that it needs to be cooked low and slow! Darn!

I would have started cooking earlier this afternoon, had I known. I specifically asked the meat department associate at Whole Foods Market if this cut should be slow cooked. He said yeah, but you can also cook it like a roast…sooo that’s what I thought!

I’m so glad I found out before it was too late, because it would have been horrible! So, now we have to order take out, and I transferred the roast into my small cast iron and lowered the oven temp. I think it’ll be in there all night!

Cancelled the Jaindl Farms Thanksgiving Turkey

It’s funny how some blog posts evolve. This started out as a post about ordering a “free range” Jaindl Farms turkey, and progressed into an investigation and a personal lesson learned on how turkeys are raised.

So, I placed my online order for the Thanksgiving turkey at Whole Foods Market, but so many thoughts kept nagging me. Where was my so-called “free range” bird coming from?

On the Whole Foods web site, it states:

From Jaindl Farms in Orefield, Pennsylvania. Our free-range turkey has 54% more white meat and 55% less fat. This has been the turkey of choice at the White House for more than 40 years!

It all sounds fabulous, until you really think about it. How are they raising turkeys with all that white meat? And we all know the “free range” claim isn’t always what it seems, so I decided to google “Jaindl Farms” and found their web site.

Jaindl Farms in Orefield, Pennsylvania

On their home page, message from David Jaindl states that they sell 750,000 turkeys annually. Three quarters of a million turkeys? Holy giblets batman! With numbers like that, how on earth could they humanely raise that many birds? My guess is they don’t, so I did some further reading.

Quote from David Jaindl:

Corn and soybeans, the main ingredients in our freshly mixed turkey feed are grown on our 10,000 acres of farm land. Jaindl Farms is a fully integrated turkey farm, breeding, hatching, growing, processing and marketing our premium turkeys.

So they grow their own corn and soybeans (and since they don’t state the opposite, I assume it’s GMO) for the turkey feed (1,800 tons of feed weekly). Using farm land to grow only two types of crops for the sole purpose to feed animals. hmmm. That doesn’t sound like sustainable, responsible farming, does it?

It’s just so big business – from the photos of the owners in their fancy suits (they don’t look like farmers, do they?) to the fact that they supplement their income with land development and rental management. I started to feel guilty for supporting a farm like this.

And then I found the Philadelphia Weekly article written about them back in 2008.

Their turkeys are bred to be “broad breasted and short legged.” Turkeys grown like this cannot walk very well, and they certainly cannot breed in a normal way.

The article stated that Jaindl Farm’s 23,000 turkey hens are artificially inseminated once a week for four months. By my calculation, each of the 23,000 hens needs to lay at least 32 eggs to produce the 750,000 turkeys needed for sale. And it’s just as bad for the poor male tom turkeys. Poor guys have to endure being milked for their sperm.

It’s all so cruel.

Continue reading “Cancelled the Jaindl Farms Thanksgiving Turkey”

Goals…Yes, I Need More Goals!

I read a inspiring topic over on myfitnesspal this morning

Goals are great, but sometimes we reach too high, and our targets fall short. I don’t want to set my expectations too high that failure will be imminent. But I do realize now that I need to set some goals for myself to keep going forward!

November Goals

  1. Keep logging my calories
  2. Continue to eat as clean as possible with occasional cheat breaks (once or twice a week)
  3. Making time to exercise at least TWICE a week – it’s been very difficult for me to get motivated to work out, so hopefully setting a low goal for exercise will help me keep up.
  4. Counting my blessings more often
  5. Being nicer to people and more respectful of others’ feelings

Life is good!!!

country road

Earth Balance Buttery Spread Web Site Inaccessible!

I just tried to visit the website for Earth Balance on my iPhone and how silly! It requires Flash! Ugh!

I’ll have to wait until I get on my laptop to visit

UPDATE November 1, 2010 AM on my laptop: – okay, so I finally can access the Earth Balance web site using my laptop. Geez Louize, what a bloated, clunky, annoying web site. Flash menus are just so outdated and the worst part is, they are not accessible to a lot of visitors, like iPhone users and those using text only browsers, like blind people!

Earth Balance people, if you ever by chance read this, PLEEEEZE create a new text only version of your web site! And make your nutritional data available on site, not as a pdf that must be downloaded each time! Sigh.

Yes, keep your flash version for the kiddies that love the pomp and circumstance, but for old foggies like me (who own iPhones without flash), we just want our information simple and easy; it would be nice if you offered an alternative!