Food


Well, I did it! I made Thanksgiving dinner!

I know it was a big sacrifice for Mom and Dad to give up their personal Thanksgiving traditions of doing all the cooking to come be teachers for the next generation.

I am so thankful they agreed to this little project. I am very glad to know how to do things “Mom and Dad’s way”.

Our table wasn’t too fancy. I had planned to get out the good china and change the tablecloth. The table looked plenty festive and our everyday dishes were dishwasher safe!

We did use fancy little butter dishes.

butter dish

Thanksgiving table

Please notice the tiny Thanksgiving table next to the glass of water.

tiny table

I found this idea on Pinterest more than a year ago. I let the girls make them. They didn’t mind the sprinkle sorting as much this time. The little tables turned out really cute, I think!

Thanksgiving crafters

Thanksgiving table decor

The cheese ring appetizer is one of Chip’s favorite parts of Thanksgiving! When I told him that Mom was going to make the Cheese Ring he panicked! He was afraid it wouldn’t be the right cheese ring. I assured him it would be okay since I had gotten the recipe from her.

Cheese ring

He was the first one to test it out. Two thumbs up from the Critic.

eating cheese ring

Well, here is the feast…

feast 1

feast 2

chef

You might have noticed a couple of items on our buffet that were not mentioned in a specific blog post.

Green Bean casserole, Mashed Potatoes and Green Fluff.

I felt obligated to have a green vegetable on our buffet. The green bean casserole recipe can be found here or on the back of the French’s Fried Onion canister.

As far as the mashed potatoes go, I’m pretty plain. Boil some Yukon Gold potatoes. Mash them up. Add butter, milk, salt and pepper to taste. Some folks get all fancy with cream cheese or sour cream or garlic or cheese. Plain is the preferred method at our house.

The green fluff is a MUST HAVE at all our holiday gatherings. It’s just the old Watergate Salad recipe.

watergate salad

Ooo, I can’t forget the bread–giant Sister Shubert rolls! They are the best for leftover turkey sandwiches.

How do you like my buttering method-rub a stick of cold butter on top of the rolls right after the come out of the oven.

buttering rolls

Katie was trying to take pictures for me. For some reason she was not able to see anything on the camera. Mashed potatoes will do that to ya.

iphone hazard

Guess who LOVES rolls?!

bread lover

What a feast!

full plate

Don’t forget dessert. I had to try half a piece of each pie.

pieces of pie

group minus one

Some folks chose to have their sparkling grape juice with dinner, others with dessert.

bubbly

We gobbled ’til we wobbled!

empty dinner plate

empty dessert plate

lick the plate clean

Thanksgiving naps are the best!

snooze

In case you missed the Thanksgiving 101 series, here are all the posts. You can also find them by clicking on the This and That tab at the top of the page.

The WHAT????!!!

 

cushaw

Cushaw–Cucurbita argyrosperma

You may have seen these green and white beauties at your local pumpkin stand or farmer’s market this fall. They are beautiful to use in your fall decorating. Did you know you can eat them?

Cushaw has always been a part of our family’s Thanksgiving feast. Sometimes we would have it for Thanksgiving and Christmas, depending on how big of a cushaw we found.

I realize that traditionally at holiday time folks have a sweet potato casserole or sweet potatoes with marshmallows on top.

My Dad grew up in Baton Rouge. Baton Rouge’s warm climate is perfect for growing cushaw.

I remember my grandmother making it when we would visit. The recipe for Cushaw comes from the Junior League of Baton Rouge Cook Book.

rrr1cbk

I wish I had taken a picture of my Mom’s cookbook. It is all tattered, stained and well-used looking.

When my husband and I got married, Dad insisted that I have a River Road Recipe book. There are several editions. The first is in its 70th printing! Dad still recognizes some of the ladies’ names who submitted recipes. I don’t know if he remembers Mrs. Edward Wall or not. I’m sure my grandmother knew her.

Thank you Mrs. Wall for your Baked Cushaw recipe. It is a family favorite.

When Mom was telling me how to prepare the cushaw, she told me I could bake it or boil it. She said if I boiled it to be sure that it got drained really well.

I decided to try baking it.

I’ll tell you right now, a cushaw is hard! It took real muscle to get that thing sliced.

Below is the neck of the cushaw. I baked it @400˚. I was a bit discouraged when it was not soft enough to mash after an hour of baking!

sliced squash

The inside of the cushaw looks like a pumpkin. The bottom part was much easier to deal with than the neck.

seeds inside

There was just so much of it!

bagged vegetables

I decided to try boiling the base of the cushaw since the neck didn’t turn out so great after baking.

Boiling is the way to go!!!

Cut off the rind before boiling.

I boiled it until it was soft enough to mash. I was sure to let it sit and drain thoroughly before doing anything else to it.

two sticks of butter

I guess the fact that there are 2 sticks of butter and 2 cups of sugar in the Baked Cushaw might be the reason Cushaw is a family favorite!

add nutmeg

My 4 quart mixing bowl was too full to allow for mixing. I had to move to the Barbie popcorn bowl-ha!

bigger bowl

ready to bake

Baked Cushaw

1 medium cushaw (Mine was HUGE. I’m not real sure what “medium” means. You can see how much I used in the pictures above.)

2 eggs

2 cups sugar

2 Tbsp flour

1 tsp vanilla

1/2 pound (2 sticks) butter-melted

1/2 tsp baking powder

Nutmeg-to taste

Mix together. Bake at 350˚ until browned.

Note: Be sure you mix your butter in before the eggs. You don’t want scrambled eggs in your cushaw.

Nutmeg grater

Nutmeg goes in the mix. I don’t know how much I put in there. The recipe says “to taste”. I grated until Mom said “stop”. I know–not very helpful, sorry.

It also goes on top.

more nutmeg

It turned out so yummy!

Healthy? With 2 cups of sugar and 2 sticks of butter I’m gonna say-no.

The cushaw is rich in vitamin A. It is a vegetable! I’m countin’ it!

As a kid, Thanksgiving dressing was never my favorite. Mom always made two batches–one with oysters and one without.

I’m not sure how the oyster tradition came to our family. I always took my obligatory dressing from the without pan.

Now I voluntarily put dressing on my plate. : )

Mom didn’t really have a “recipe” to give me. She just told me how to make it.

First-make a batch of cornbread. Rather vague instructions.

I use the recipe from the back of the Aunt Jemima Corn Meal package for my cornbread. I’m not sure if Mom uses the same one or not.

Cornbread recipe

I always make my cornbread in a cast iron skillet. I suppose it’s just is the Southern way!

cast-iron skillet

Sorry, no picture of its golden deliciousness.

After the cornbread has cooled, crumble it.

crumble the cornbread

I took the easy way out and gave it to the girls to crumble. They were so excited to have a break from school that they needed to do something!

dressing ingredients

Chop up a medium onion and 2-3 ribs of celery. I chopped my veggies early. I was so glad to get them out of the refrigerator. I could open the FREEZER door and smell onions!

sliced bread

Soak a couple of pieces of plain white bread in milk–

soak the bread

about “that much” milk.

I started smashing the bread with the back of a spoon. Apparently, that was wrong. Mom came behind me and squished it with her fingers. I think she just wanted to have the Thanksgiving experience too.

mix dressing

Mix the cornbread, veggies and soaked bread together.

Add two eggs and seasoning. We added about 1 tsp of Poultry Seasoning, 1/2 tsp of salt and 1/4 tsp pepper. It could have used a bit more of the poultry seasoning.

seasonings

Next, start ladling in the turkey broth. You can use chicken broth if you like.

turkey stock

I put in 8-12 ladles of broth. My ladle was pretty small though.

You want your dressing to be kind of wet looking.

mixed dressing

Spread it in a pan and bake for 20-30 minutes at 350˚.

dressing

This picture is before it went in the oven. I failed to get an “after” picture. Well, there is a picture of the whole Thanksgiving spread. It will come later.

The top of the dressing gets nice and brown.

It turned out pretty good. Chip said it had too much onion in it. Next time I will add more poultry seasoning though.

If it ends up a little dry, that’s okay. You can always smother it in GRAVY!

For years my Dad has been the bird-master. He smokes the turkey overnight in a small smoker he has had for probably 40 years, and it is always delicious!

Several years ago, Mom and Dad got us a smoker of our very own for our anniversary.

It has been used exactly once.

The summer after receiving the smoker, we decided to try smoking a turkey–you know, in case we ever had Thanksgiving at our house. Well, it didn’t go all that well. The turkey was WAY under-cooked on the inside and WAY over-cooked on the outside. That was the last time we tried using the smoker. You know it can be expensive to ruin meat!

With Thanksgiving finally at our house, we got our official lesson on how to cook the Thanksgiving turkey!

First things first–Buy a turkey.

turkey

Martha Stewart says allow for 1 1/2 pounds per person.

I didn’t really listen to her. I bought an almost 22 pound bird. Mom had told me about a 15 pound turkey would be fine for the 6 of us. I had kinda forgotten that little tidbit when I was at the store.  Better to have too much than not enough, right?!

I bought my turkey the week before Thanksgiving. Be sure you clean out your refrigerator before going to the store, so there is plenty of room to defrost your turkey. I knew my turkey would take a while to thaw. Allow a day for every 4 pounds.

turkey tag

Mom and Dad arrived at our house a little after 7:00 and brought spend-the-night necessities.

We got straight to work.

While the guys got the smoker ready, Mom showed me how to prep the bird.

birdbath

Remove all the packaging and give the bird a rinse with cold water. Be sure to remove all the yucky stuff from inside the cavity of the bird. Save it though. You will use it later. (A light meal would be my recommendation for Wednesday night, YUCK!)

My turkey had this brace inside. It was a little tricky to remove. Apparently, preparing a 22 pound turkey burns some calories! Bonus!

turkey brace

Next, pat the turkey dry and rub all over with butter. I felt like a turkey-masseuse. My bird was happy–first the jacuzzi then the massage table.

buttered up

You’ll want to truss the turkey legs. I didn’t have any kitchen twine, so I used dental floss, of all things. Hey, it worked great! Just wrap the string around the ends of the leg. Go back and forth and all around. Tuck the wings back behind where the neck used to be. Sorry, I didn’t get a picture of that. (Looking at the pictures, I think I actually did the trussing before the buttering.)

trussing

trussed

Then Dad came and took the turkey to the smoker.

ready for smoking

Smoker instructions…

Soak 2 “good” handfuls of hickory chips in water for 30 minutes.

Hickory chips

Fill the bottom of the smoker as full as you possibly can with charcoal.

charcoal

Light the charcoal and let it burn down.

Dad with the fire

reduced coals

When the charcoal is ready spread the soaked wood chips on them.

Fill the smoker’s water pan with water — this will steam the bird as it smokes.

Put the water pan in place.

Put the metal grill right above the water pan.

Place the bird on the grill and close the smoker.

into the smoker

smokin' bird

It should slowly burn all night.

smoker

Now go to bed and get a good night’s sleep!

BUZZZZZZZ!

That was a short night!

In the morning the bird looked great!

smoked turkey

Ahhhh! So nice and golden! I’m so thankful Chip’s co-worker, Jen, gave me this hand-me-down pan (along with many others, too!). It was the perfect container to transport my giant turkey. Thanks, Jen!

golden turkey

Based on past experience, Dad suggested we go ahead and take a little peek to make sure the turkey was cooked all the way.

peek inside

Sure enough, it was a little too pink on the inside. We stuck it in the oven at 350˚ for about 30-45 minutes. It’s a good thing that we used that pan instead of the cutting board. No transfer necessary.

When it came time to carve the turkey, Chip followed the instructions on this video:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iAe7-GpV98E

It was a great method!

Be sure your knife is good and sharp. Knife sharpening is not my favorite thing to do. It’s like fingernails on a chalkboard.

I do like my little sharpener/honer. I have never used a honing steel. I have watched Mom use one for years and it terrifies me!

sharpening the knife

tackling the bird

Remove the leg.

remove the legs

Remove the breast.

remove turkey breasts

Repeat on the other side.

slicing turkey

turkey breasts

Slice the breasts.

turkey slices

Since the turkey finished cooking in the oven, plenty of drippings were available for gravy making! In the smoker, the fat just drips down into the pan.

Sprinkle flour all over the fat in the pan.

add flour

This is my flour of choice.

Wondra flour

Wondra is nice and fine. Which means less of a chance for lumps.

Let the flour and fat bubble up a little, just enough to cook out some of the flour flavor.

Add your turkey broth. Oh, wait, I forgot to tell you about that.

Remember all that nasty stuff you pulled out of the turkey? Put it all in a pot with enough water to cover it. Add a little salt and pepper and, if you like, a little poultry seasoning. Then boil it.

Ta Da! Turkey broth!

boil the neck bone

Keep stirring the gravy on the stove until it all looks like gravy is supposed to look. Turkey gravy is not nearly as pretty as roast beef gravy.

turkey gravy

I really hate to end this post with an ugly picture of turkey gravy. Here, look at the turkey again.

golden turkey

Turkey smoking=success!

 

Chip and I enjoy having a lunch date every now and then.

I have wanted to try out The Root Cafe for a while. It is on South Main in Little Rock, AR. The Root has several fun neighboring shops and restaurants.

The Root Cafe

The Root is all about “Building Community through local food!” They use as many products as possible from small local farms. Their menu even notes where items originate.

Locavore Sign

I arrived at the cafe before my date. There was quite a crowd, so I jumped in line.

The place is small. It used to be a dairy bar. Being elbow to elbow with other customers, I felt a little rude whipping out my phone to snap photos.

Keeping a sharp eye out for my date, I studied the menu while I waited in line.

I ended up having to let several folks jump me in line before Chip arrived.  Fortunately, we had studied the menu options on-line a bit the night before, so I knew what he wanted.

He showed up just as I was about to order his Deviled Egg Salad Sandwich and fries.

Deviled Egg Salad Sandwich

French Fries

The bread for the sandwich came from one of the fun neighbors I mentioned, Boulevard Bread Company.

I had the Praline Salad. It was full of praline pecans. The dressing was a spicy cumin vinaigrette and it was very yummy. The salad was served with “seasonal” fruit. So, yours might look different when you go.

Praline Salad

Dining indoors was a little cramped. We ended up on the side porch. There is also a front porch dining area as well as a small garden area. All were full!

porch dining

I really enjoyed the atmosphere at The Root. It felt very urban.

The food was really good. I loved the salad dressing on my salad. I stole a couple of Chip’s fries. They were quite tasty, too. I think next time, I will have a burger and sweet potato fries. I saw several being delivered to tables. They looked amazing.

Chip enjoyed the bread and the egg salad. However, being an egg salad connoisseurs, he was disappointed with the way the egg salad squished out of the bun. He recommends toast.

They had a display case full of lovely desserts. Sorry, no picture of the case. I did snap a shot of the HUGE Chocolate Chip Cookie we split.

Huge Chocolate Chip Cookie

After mowing down the cookie, we headed across the street to MOXY Modern Mercantile. It is a fun little shop with lots of unique gift items…

like this giant pencil!

Giant Pencil

 

The Root Cafe is a fun lunch date destination. Check it out!

My friend, Joanna, has a gluten-free-of-the-month subscription. Her husband got it for her for Christmas. Sweet-huh?

Knowing that I blog mostly about food, she offered to share with me her latest “treat”.

Seaweed Love package

Seaweed? Really? Thanks.

Seaweed is supposed to be good for you. Okay, we’ll try it.

nutritional facts

It looked interesting enough.

roasted seaweed

thin sheets of seaweed

seaweed snack

That’s it!

That is the nicest thing I can say.

It actually reminded me of when my sister and I would play mud pies as kids. After a rain, there would be this slimy moss that we would call “spinach” in our mud pie cafe. When we set it on the man hole cover in the front yard to “cook”,  it would end up looking very similar to this roasted seaweed! Mmmm.

This was NASTY!

The Critics all agreed! I wish I had a picture or a video of all of us trying it. The faces were priceless! It would have been fun to see who kept it in their mouth the longest.

Thank goodness none of us put a whole sheet in our mouths! We each broke a piece off of one sheet.

It smelled like fish food. My guess is the taste was pretty close, too.

Joanna, thanks for sharing?

Critics’ Corner

Chip: This is the best seaweed I’ve ever eaten.

Megan: Only one word befits this thing that should not be considered food: disgusting.

Katie: Unused toilet paper tastes better than this (please don’t ask how I know).

 

Finally time for lunch. I had grown quite thirsty on our Moss Mountain Farm tour. I was starting to get a little hungry, too.

Our tour group was led into the barn for lunch.

barn

Each reserved table was set with lovely white roses.

white roses table arrangement

We sat with some nice folks from Little Rock, Conway and Fort Smith, AR as well as Atlanta, GA.

The barn holds some of Allen’s paintings from his Squash series.

squash paintings

It felt pretty fancy for a barn! If only I could get our shed cleaned out, I’d have a place just like this. HA! Okay, maybe not JUST like it.

barn lighting

I love how  antique farm tools were used as decoration.

antique farm tools

Lunch was a bed of fresh, mixed greens topped with tomatoes, cucumbers, and grilled chicken.

salad with grilled chicken, grape tomatoes, and cucumbers

I have a confession to make. I don’t like tomatoes. Tomato sauce, salsa, tomatoes cooked in soups I’m okay with all that. Well, as long as they are chopped up really small. I think it is a textural thing. When the plate showed up with all those beautiful tomatoes I got a lump in my throat knowing I was going to have to eat them. I tried not to turn my nose up too noticeably. Here I was, a food blogger, at a fancy farm! I’m supposed to love all vegetables, right? Sorry.

I decided to be a big girl and try my first grape tomatoes. Guess what–I kinda liked them! There was not as much slimy surface as on a slicer. I found them to be a little on the sweet side. Believe it or not, I ate almost all of them! I must say, I was proud of myself.

grilled chicken

I also felt like I HAD to eat my salad before I dug into my dessert!

pie

Buttermilk Pecan Pie with fresh whipped cream!

Here’s a closer look. Try not to drool on your screen, please.

buttermilk pecan pie

YUM!

As we finished our dessert, Laura, our guide, answered questions from the crowd while we waited for Allen to arrive from Little Rock.

We stepped out on the drive for our meet and greet time. Allen is such an expressive person, it is hard to grab a good picture of him.

chattiing with P. Allen Smith

I looks like he is telling us a fish tale here. More than likely he is telling us about his chickens and their “poultry palace”.

P. Allen Smith

Next, it was time for photos and autographs in the gift shop.

Mom and I still had to see the chickens, roses, and vegetables in a matter of about 30 minutes! We made a dash to be first in line. Fortunately, Mom had made her cookbook purchases when we first arrived at the farm.

Moss Mountain Farm gift shop

Mom with P. Allen Smith

We zoomed down to the end-of-the-earth to see the chickens.

They were chickens.

Poultry Palace at Moss Mountain Farm

It was interesting to see all the different varieties. It was dark, so that made it difficult to photograph.

rooster

red, white, and black

poultry in black and white

farm baby

I liked the chickens. I just was anxious to see the Rose Garden before our time was up.

We trudged back up the hill toward the rose garden. Allen was finished with autographs, so we stopped for one more picture. Earlier, I had only taken pictures of Mom. I decided I wanted one too.

Looks like navy gingham was a good choice!

with P. Allen Smith

 

On to the roses!

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