Thanks! Giving

I’m am so happy it’s November.

First for a narcissistic reason – it is the month I gave birth to a beautiful baby girl who to this day amazes me. I love you Laura!

Second, because it’s Thanksgiving. But this year I’m going to say Thanks! Giving. I want to thank my ability to give. I am very fortunate to be where I am in life. I am able to donate hours to an organization I’m proud to help with.

But this is the time of year we can probably all give a bit more. It doesn’t need to be in canned goods. You can help by visiting the elderly. I went to the home my father in law lives in. We go see him about twice a week. Today when we went to see him a group of young kids were just filing out. They had made cards for the residents. Some were simple drawings, others nice poems, but all home made.

I went around the dining room visiting some of the ladies I’ve help with gardening, saying hello, asking how they were. They all wanted to show me their cards, tell me about the visitors and how even the adults (the teachers) took the time to visit and (I quote), “Such a wonderful thing to have someone sit and talk me! They were oh so nice.”

Please, I ask each of you, be thankful and do not forget our elderly. It’s so easy to take a can of beans or corn and drop them in a bucket at the grocery store. But to take 30 minutes of one day, any time of the year, and stop by a senior center and just listen, it will change your life, and enrich theirs.

Thanksgiving Leftovers – Appetizers and Soup!

So we all have them, we all eat them. The same dinner for at least 3 nights. We eat our fill of turkey sandwiches…but there is so much more to enjoy.

A lot of people have a big dinner with family and friends. Relish these moments, enjoy their company. Even when Uncle Bob tells the same jokes every year, and Aunt Edna insists on instructing you how to make gravy, you must smile and be gracious. You will remember these memories for a lifetime.

But Thanksgiving is over. The clean up is done, the linens are folded and put away, but you are stuck with a LOT of food. Good heavens how on earth will you eat all this? Not all at once I hope, unless you are training for one of those eating competitions. Then by all means Go Go Go!

So for those of us with left over galore..let’s play shall we?

First up let’s do a couple of appetizers. Wait let me back up. You don’t need to serve these now, you can freeze your leftovers to use for a say, oh I don’t know, a holiday party. I hate to mention this but Christmas is only a month away. Time for you to get to Crack-a-lackin, but with Thanksgiving leftovers you’ll be one step ahead of the game.

I have 3 appetizers for you, just ideas really. Let your imagination soar!  Let’s begin I love appetizers, you don’t need them for parties make em up and enjoy them for dinner while sitting on your front porch or back patio.  I apologize that my pictures are not the quality I would like. Someday if I win a lottery, after I donate a lot to charities, I plan on hiring a professional photographer to just follow me around, for like a year. Onward…

Fried Stuffing with Cranberry and Sourcream dipping sauce

Stuffing Hush Puppies with Cranberry Sour Cream dipping sauce. Panko bread crumbs are magical! They elevate so many dishes from “Yeah this is really good” to “Wow this dish is awesome!” And seriously, who doesn’t want ‘awesome’ associated with their dish? This is simply your leftover stuffing, rolled into balls, dipped into an egg coating and rolled in Panko and then deep fried till golden brown. The sauce I used was leftover homemade cranberry sauce and sour cream. Wow these were so tasty!

Shepperd Pie Bites

I adore Sheppards Pie. Having a pie that is savory is just such a wonderful thing. I took a cupcake pan and par baked pie dough I cut to fit the bottom. (Bake it just half way)  Then I made a mixture of chopped turkey, green onions and gravy. On top of that was some left over mashed potatoes. I then took the same sour cream and the homemade cranberry sauce and used that to add some sweetness. I’m sorry I forgot the picture with the sauce on top.

Empanadas

Empanadas. Mini spanish pastries, just the perfect size to enjoy easily with a glass of wine or good beer.  The mixture was leftover greenbean casserole, corn with red peppers, chopped turkey, ricotta cheese and cumin. I again took pie dough and formed the empanada’s and brushed with butter. Sauce for this one was sour cream, ancho chilli powder and lime juice.

But the Piece de Resistance…Turkey Noodle Soup. Folks this dish is not only a great hearty dish to have for dinner, it’s the dish that will save your friends and family from the flu, the cold from hell or a day they have the blues.  This is the soup that will save the soul from the depression, give energy to the weak, and put a smile of contentment on the face of anyone looking for the memories of Thanksgiving.

We start with taking the carcass of the turkey (my turkey was 20 lbs.) , 4 cans of Swanson’s Chicken Broth (49oz), 3-4 cups of water,  about 6 carrots (1-1.5 inches in diameter) peeled and I just cut them them into thirds,  1 bunch of celery root end removed, 1 medium onion quartered, 8 whole pepper corns, 2 tsp thyme, 2 large sprigs of fresh sage.  I put the carcass, stock, water and veggies into a large stock pot and brought it up to a boil and simmered for 3 hours.

Turkey Carcass, Veggies and Stock

Turkey Carcass, Veggies and Stock

This was strained through a large holed colander and then a fine colander. The veggies I discarded (ok I admit I did eat quite a few with just a bit of salt and pepper for  a snack. A really tasty snack.) The meat…so if you have never picked meat of a carcass do understand one thing, take your time. You need to slowly pick thru it, removing sinew, skin, small bones. You only get one chance here so make it count. The meat should all be close to the same size as the veggies.

Diced Carrots

Diced Carrots

Diced Celery

Diced Celery

Consistency is great for cooking things evenly, but more important for mouth feel.

Once it’s all cooked up it’s time to strain it. This removes the large veggies, pepper corns and carcass. I use tongs to pick out as much as I could. I put the carcass pieces and meat in a large bowl, snack on the veggies and then strain. You will be left with a nice stock.

Double strained Turkey Stock

Double strained Turkey Stock

And now….for the magic that is Turkey Noodle Soup. Here are the ingredients. This is magical. Please, I am not one of those that touts ‘if I give you the secret ingredient I must kill you.’ Nay! Here, take my secret ingredients, use them, enjoy them, pass them on. But most important smile and nod as you taste thinking in the back of your mind, “omg..she was right! This IS the best soup I have ever made and tasted.” And then share the love.

I give you….

Soup Ingredients

Soup Ingredients

You see before you Turkey, Egg Noodles, Carrots, Celery, Celery Leaves (Oh yes..do not toss those out as you trim your celery), 1 cup of turkey gravy, 1 cup of your dressing/stuffing. Oh yes…gravy and stuffing are added to this soup. It is a must to make sure that every bowl smells and tastes like Thanksgiving and brings back that comfort feeling.  But one of the really cool ingredients? Celery leaves! I know, it’s crazy but it works. These add such a lovely delicate flavor.

Celery Leaves add wonderful flavor.

Celery Leaves add wonderful flavor.

Now you will notice that that when you remove the turkey carcass it seems like there will a lot of meat. But not so much as you think.

Turkey Meat from Carcass

Turkey Meat from Carcass

Once all this is cooked and the noodles added you have Thanksgiving Nirvana! There is no garnish as this soup has everything it could possibly need. There is no side dish like bread as this soup is the perfect dish of sustenance.

Turkey Soup

Turkey Soup

For the Stock

1 15-20 lb Turkey Carcass
4 (49oz) cans of 33% less Sodium Chicken Stock
3 quarts of cold water
5 Carrots – Peeled and cut into thirds
10 Stalks of celery cut into thirds
1 onion halved
10 whole black pepper corns
2 fresh sage stems (about 8 leaves each stalk. If you don’t have fresh sage you can use about 4 tsp of dried sage)

Bring to a boil and let simmer for about 2-3 hours.

For the Soup –

5 cups of diced carrots
6 cups diced celery
Strained Turkey Stock
Shredded Turkey
1 cup turkey gravy
1 cup turkey stuffing (if you add fruit to your stuffing, then before you add the fruit on Thanksgiving day reserve 1 cup without the fruit for your soup)
1 Lb of Egg Noodles
Salt and Pepper

Remove from heat and discard veggies and put meat/carcass into a bowl. Strain broth in a large strainer, and then a second time through a mesh strainer. Put the broth back into a big stock pot and start to simmer.  Add the carrots, celery and meat and bring to boil. Reduce heat and let simmer 30-40 minutes until carrots are just tender. *whispers* Ok here’s a secret I’m going to share with you all. If you cook your egg noodles they will mush out. Once your carrots are tender, remove your soup from the heat, let it sit off heat for about 30 minutes, stirring often. Then, and only then, do you add your noodles. The residual heat will the cook the noodles to the perfect consistency. It will take about 6-8 minutes. Start to cool you stock. For me this meant putting my pot in the sink and filling it with cold water. I had to change the water 2 additional times. All my soup was then packaged in quart Ziploc baggies. I now have a freezer full of 24 bags of soup. 

Now that is something to be grateful for.

Thanksgiving

We all have reasons to be thankful. To each of us it has meaning, memories, it gives us pause, thrills us or can even make us melancholy.

This year is a different one from our normal. And I think this new Thanksgiving will our norm for many years to come.

In the past, while living in S. Calif., I would cook for the clan. Not a huge one 10 (later nine with the loss of my mother in law) of us total and a couple of times with added neighbors or friends. I adore cooking. The dinner spread would consist of appetizers like crab stuffed cherry tomatoes, stuffed mushrooms, fresh veggies and cheeses. The smell of roasting turkey permeated the air and to this day can make me salivate on command. When everyone came to the table the wine would be poured and dinner would be served –

Roast Turkey
Stuffing (2 ways – One from the bird the other with sausage and water chestnuts)
Mashed potatoes with gravy
Swirled sweet potatoes with mashed potatoes called Duchess Potatoes
Corn with red peppers and butter
Green Bean Casserole (still LOVE this dish!)
Fresh made cranberry sauce (of course had to have a can of the jellied for hubby and father in law)
Deviled Eggs (Thanks Shannon)
Black and Green Olives (It never gets old putting olives on your fingers. Even as an adult I do it. I’m instantly transported to being a kid)
Cranberry Jello with Red Hots (Thanks Mom)
Baked Dinner Rolls

Of course there was pumpkin pie and pumpkin chiffon pie for dessert. It was then that we’d enter our food coma.

This year it’s just Derek and I. We’ve moved to Oregon and the family is still in S. Calif. And our daughter moved to Sweden. So you may wonder, why am I thankful?

I am thankful for my family, that I still have them around even though they might be far away. I am thankful for my wonderful husband who makes me laugh and worked so hard to give us a wonderful retirement. I am thankful for a daughter who makes my heart sore with pride. (This Thanksgiving is also her 24th birthday!) I am thankful for my new friends I’ve met here in Oregon. (Hi Anne Hi Kish) I am thankful for our Police Officers, Firefighters and our Military to diligently give up their holidays to help ensure we have safe and free ones.

So I hope this posting finds you enjoying your holiday, remembering loved ones, feasting with abandon and having a day to remember.