Food for Cold Christmas Nights

The time of year I break my no-food-coloring rule

I'm in denial.

Despite making three batches of Christmas cookies, attending one cookie/gift exchange, wrapping many gifts, and clogging one post office parcel drop in full view of a long line of customers, I still catch myself thinking it's only November. Because who, really, has had time to think about Christmas?

The family was just going over the five-person calendar, trying to figure out when we could have our traditional "Christmas nights," where a Christmas movie is watched, cocoa imbibed, and cookies consumed. Between swim meets, work, babysitting jobs, and choir rehearsals, we only came up with three, between now and Christmas Eve. Bummer.

The benefits of a book club cookie exchane

It's all just too stressful. And since I can't fix anyone's schedule or do anyone's shopping or wrapping or mailing, I can only suggest comfort food.

Got any turkey left? Or cooked chicken, even? Give this dish a try. Comfort food at its finest, filling courtesy of Penny M. and biscuit topping courtesy of cookbook author Deborah Madison.

Ye olde turkey pot pie filling

Turkey Pot Pie
1/4 c butter (half a stick)
6 Tbsp flour
1 c milk
2 c chicken broth
3 c cooked chicken or turkey, cut up
1/4 tsp rosemary
1/4 tsp summer savory
1 Tbsp parsley, chopped
1 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
2 carrots, diced
2 c green peas, thawed
some leftover cooked broccoli or other favorite veggie

Preheat oven to 375F. Melt butter in large saucepan over medium heat; blend in flour. Add milk and broth, stirring until thickened. Add chicken and seasonings. Cover and simmer 5-10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Cool to room temperature. Mix in vegetables. Spoon into ungreased casserole.

1 c flour
1 c whole-wheat flour
1 Tbsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
6-8 Tbsp butter, cut in small pieces
1 c milk

Combine dry ingredients in a large bowl. Cut in butter with a pastry blender or two knives until it makes a coarse meal. Add milk and stir until everything is dampened, then knead dough together with hands. Drop by large spoonfuls over the filling. Bake until crust is golden, about 35 minutes.

Threw some cheddar in the biscuits

I'm happy to report everyone ate this, although the boy picked out the broccoli and peas, leaving a turkey-carrot pot pie. Whatev.

So comfort yourself. Briefly. We've only got nine days till Christmas.

Barbecue Turkey Pizza

By now you might be getting to the dregs of your turkey leftovers. My mother-in-law roasted a twenty-pounder and sent us home with the carcass, from which I pried off six cups of meat before simmering it into a gallon of broth and two more cups of meat. That night (broth-making night), we enjoyed Turkey Tortilla Soup, which I shared with you here.

[Thanks for the pic, Lauren Groveman, since I neglected to take one of mine]

The next evening we enjoyed Turkey Enchiladas, which I included in that same post. But we have added another meal to the leftover-turkey repertoire, a variation on that popular BBQ Chicken Pizza that places like CPK serve. Here's my homemade version.

Barbecue Turkey Pizza (makes two medium pizzas)

dough for two pizza crusts (see bread machine recipe below)

1 cup homemade BBQ sauce (here's a recipe to try)
1 generous cup chopped, cooked turkey meat
1/4 sweet onion, sliced thinly
2 generous cups shredded mozzarella
cilantro for sprinkling, optional

Roll out the first pizza crust to desired thickness. Top with all but cilantro and bake at 425F about ten minutes. Sprinkle on cilantro before serving. Repeat with second pizza crust.

Two pizzas and a salad will serve five, with a few slices left over for lunch the following day! And a note on making your own barbecue sauce: feel free to reduce the sugar called for by at least 1/3. You won't even notice a difference.

Now, I'm one of those rare Americans who actually uses her bread machine on a regular basis. Not to make bread, mind you, but to make dough. Pizza dough, dough for rolls, dough for cinnamon rolls. I know storebought dough is cheap, but you know how I feel about additives and plastic packaging... Besides, when I make dough at home, I can always substitute some whole wheat flour for the white and pretend I'm making health food. So haul out your bread machine and give this pizza dough recipe a try. You can always freeze half of the dough ball, if you only want to make one pizza at a time.

Bread-Machine Pizza Dough (adapted from The Bread Lover's Bread Machine Cookbook)
1-1/3 cups water
1/4 cup olive oil
2-1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1-1/4 cups whole wheat flour
1-1/2 tsp salt
2-1/2 tsp bread machine yeast

Throw it all in and set your cycle for dough or pizza dough. When the machine beeps, it's ready to use!

The family has voted on ham for Christmas, but since I'm down to my last two cups of turkey meat, I may have to roast another bird on the side sometime in January..!

The Best Leftover-Turkey Soup Ever

I had one last bag of cooked turkey in the freezer (2-3 cups) and more than a gallon of turkey broth, and this was the result. (If you already used up your turkey, you can also make this with leftover pork roast, or bookmark this recipe for the next time you have leftover meat. I've made it with leftover pork and storebought broth, and it was still luscious.)

Curried Turkey Soup

Honestly, I'd been craving this soup since the last time I'd made it, and it was worth the wait. Plus, it's super easy. Along with the turkey and broth, you'll find...

There *is* a little chopping involved

Some dimly-lit seasoning
And some of my precious remaining BFM apples and potatoes...

A little sauteing...

A little addition of thickener...

And a dumping in of the rest...

You stir in a little milk or cream at the end, and you're done! Delicious. I do have one child who doesn't like potatoes (I know, right?) and had to eat his way around them, but everyone else had seconds and thirds.

Curried Turkey Soup (adapted from a Penzey's catalogue recipe)
1-2 lbs cooked turkey, cubed or shredded
2 quarts stock
1 Tbsp vegetable oil or bacon fat
1 medium onion, diced
1 rib celery, diced
1 carrot, diced
1/2 tsp dried thyme
1-1/2 tsp curry powder
2 Tbsp flour
2 Tbsp honey
1 large apple, peeled and chopped
1 lb potatoes, scrubbed and cubed
1 tsp dried parsley (or 1 Tbsp fresh)
1-2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp ground pepper
1/2 cup frozen corn
1 cup whole milk

Heat the stock in a soup pot over med-low. In a large skillet, heat oil over medium. When hot, saute onion, celery, carrot, and thyme for about five minutes, until onions are translucent and tender. Stir in curry powder, flour and honey, and cook another 3-5, reducing heat if necessary. Add the chopped apple and stir to coat. Gradually stir in the warmed stock, a ladleful at a time until smooth and thickened. (You won't need all the stock--maybe two cups.) Then pour the thickened stock back into the soup pot. Add the potatoes, turkey, parsley, salt, and pepper, and simmer 30 minutes or until potatoes are tender.

Remove from heat and add corn. Slowly stir in milk. Serve! (Can be reheated over Low.)

I promise I'll share some food gift ideas next week, but I really, really had to share this with you. Thank heavens my husband's family also does turkey for Christmas, because I want more of this soup!

Talking Turkey

As I mentioned last week, before you reach for that Butterball in your grocery store freezer section, you might want to consider a "heritage" turkey from Windy N Ranch. Here are ten reasons why:

Looks, for starters

  1. Flavor. As with chicken, when you breed the speed into their weight-gain, you breed out the flavor. Ever wonder what turkey tasted like to your great-grandparents? Wonder no more.
  2. Cool names. Let "Bourbon Red, Narragansett, Standard Bronze, and White Holland" roll around your mouth and off your tongue.
  3. Antibiotic-free. Though, if they ever figure out a way to give turkeys flu shots that then grant us flu-shot protection, I might be willing to give ground here.
  4. Growth-hormone-free. These heritage turkeys put on weight in the good old-fashioned manner--over time. As in, 50% longer from here to maturity than industrial turkeys.
  5. Steroid-free. Because we like our baseball-players PED-free, why not our turkeys? A-Rod may be allowed to return to baseball next year, but we all know we won't hold him in the same esteem as players with no hint of fakery. Same goes for the crowning glory of the Thanksgiving table. Baseball, apple pie, Chevrolet, and heritage turkeys is all I'm saying.
  6. Stimulant-free. Meaning, I think, the turkeys were allowed no access to alcoholic ragers and video game marathons. Oh--hang on--word just in--"stimulants" refers to growth stimulants fed to industrial poultry. My bad.
  7. Ionophore-free. I'm pretty sure this means the turkeys were raised entirely in the troposphere, and not outer space, where turkeys have no business being. Wait--what? A quick search reveals that "ionophore" "ionosphere." "Ionophores" are "anticoccidials" added to poultry feed. Using my rusty root-word SAT skills, my best guess is that ionophores fight/prevent tailbones...Onward...
  8. Pastured. Whew. A term I do know. These turkeys got to roam about on grass. Grass with no herbicides or pesticides. Some of you may be claustrophilic indoors-y types, but you wouldn't have made good turkeys.

  9. Available at the Bellevue Farmers Market. How easy is that? Place your order this Saturday and pick up later in the month, while you're grabbing your potatoes and bread and soup and fresh cranberries and green beans and apples for pie and pumpkin for pie. One-stop shopping!
  10. And lastly, Acquainted with the delights of turkey sex. It wouldn't surprise you to hear that the Broad-Breasted Whites which make up most of the turkeys in America rarely feel "in the mood" for turkey whoopee. Not only are they confined and pumped full of nastiness and swollen like surgically-enhanced pageant contestants, but they actually are physically unable to enjoy turkey intimacy. As if we needed one more reason to feel Thanksgiving guilt! As turkey lives go, heritage turkeys have it pretty sweet.

The classic Narragansett
Don't know if you're allowed to order by particular breed, but with these beauties it's hard to go wrong!

Bourbon Red [pic courtesy Livestockconservancy.org]
Who am I kidding? These really have got to be the most ridiculous-looking birds that walk the planet. But so tasty.

On a final note, I leave you with this quote from the lesser-known-but-also-awesome girl pioneer book Caddie Woodlawn by Carol Ryrie Brink. Caddie's mom was unable to sell her turkeys at market, and therefore the Woodlawns are forced to eat turkey day in and day out. Plenty of us do this by choice nowadays, but I guess back when turkey had distinctive flavor this could have become a hardship:

"There's nothing nicer than turkey on bread, my child. Think of all the poor children who would be glad of a nice turkey sandwich!"

Tom and Caddie and Warren had often thought of these poor children who had no turkey. Secretly they envied them. One can endure beef every day or even salt pork. One eats it mechanically, without thinking, but not turkey. No matter how disguised with onions or cabbage, or sage dressing, turkey is always turkey. 

Food of Champions

'Tis the season. We officially have a "Corgi" pumpkin on our porch, which I would show you, except it looks nothing like this:

This would be Juba, an actual Corgi

I've got to say, unlike the rest of you out there, spending $7.4 billion on Halloween candy, costumes, and decorations, I'm just not that into it. We bought the pumpkin that became a Corgi, and two bags of candy for the three trick-or-treaters who will darken our door (and I'm rounding up on that number), for a total of $10. Multiply that times 117 million households in America, and you only get a total of $1.2 billion. So, clearly, some of you are going nuts.

Besides, the next Market will be Saturday, November 1, when all of you will be trolling for vegetables to relieve your Snickers hangover. May I recommend...

Little-known fact: purple carrots are yellow in the middle

And once we have the spooky, expensive holiday behind us, there are two important things to look forward to in November: kids' sports championships and Thanksgiving. If you can't give thanks for the one (except to say, "Hallelujah! It's over!"), you certainly can for the other.

But suppose you're really into encouraging and nourishing your little champion--what would be the best food and drink to power the tyke through that meet or match, and give your future Olympian an edge over everyone else's lesser spawn? Good news--I've read a book this week and picked up some tips and ah-has.

  1. "The typical athlete, without using any special nutritional techniques, has enough carbohydrates in his body to fuel roughly three hours of endurance exercise at around 70-80% of effort...If you're exercising for less than 75 minutes, you probably don't need any carbohydrate intake at all for optimal performance. Your body already has plenty of fuel for these shorter efforts without any sort of bars or gels or drinks." I knew it! I knew I didn't have to bring snacks for those dumb baseball games and mighty-mite soccer matches! Spread the word, people.
  2. For "stop and start" sports like soccer and basketball, with games that last 1-2.5 hours, then you might consume between 30-60 grams of carbs and see a benefit. Or, you could just swish the energy drink around in your mouth and spit it out again, because "there's a strong line of research that shows that we have sensors in our mouths that detect the presence of carbs, and that even just rinsing your mouth with carbs has an effect on your brain that can increase your performance"(!). So, okay...for the older kids with longer games, hand over the violently-colored Gatorade, but when they take a sip, run up behind them and scare or tickle them, so they spit it out.
  3. You can make your own Gatorade! U.S. Olympic sports nutritionist Nancy Clark gives this recipe: Dissolve 1/4 cup sugar and 1/4 tsp salt in 1/4 cup hot water. Add 1/4 cup orange juice, 2 Tbsp lemon juice, and 3-1/2 cups cold water. Boom. Done. Homemade. Throw in a few drops of lurid artificial food coloring if your child won't touch it otherwise.
  4. Yes, many performance-enhancing substances have been banned from competition, but here are the proven, still-legal goodies!
    • Caffeine. More isn't better, but some has demonstrated results.
    • Baking soda. It keeps muscles from becoming acidic and feeling fatigued. The downside? You can't take your dose via chocolate chip cookies or blueberry muffins. You have to combine it straight with a little carb-dense meal and risk GI side effects.
    • Beet juice. Something to do with nitrates, which your body converts to nitrite and then to nitric acid, making your blood vessels dilate and increasing mitochondrial efficiency. Apparently, at the 2012 London Olympics, athletes cleaned out all the beet juice in a ten-mile radius. Good luck getting your young 'un to chug that stuff, though.
  5. Diet-wise, McClusky recommends eating "one gram of protein daily for every pound of body weight to support muscular growth, and...at least eight fist-sized servings of vegetables a day." That's a lot of vegetables. Which explains why my children will probably never summit that Olympic podium.
  6. Increase brain fitness. Studies showed that increasing brain fitness increases physical abilities as well. Mind over matter.
  7. And, finally, sleep more. In a study of basketball players, an increase of two hours of sleep per night resulted in a 13% performance enhancement, as measured by free-throw shooting, 3-point shooting, and sprint drills. 13%!!! Put down the steroids and the human growth hormones, Sonny, and just go back to bed!
There's more in this fascinating book--I'm giving it to my son's swim coach for Christmas--so get yourself a copy, even if you just want to turn yourself into the Ultimate Weekend Warrior.
So much for athletic excellence. If you're like me, heading into the holidays, you're thinking a lot more about eating than working out. And if we're talking Thanksgiving, we're talking turkey.
Have you ordered your turkey yet? Windy N Ranch is taking deposits on their organic, GMO-free heritage turkeys! Heritage turkeys are exactly what they sound like--old-timey breeds that look, taste, and behave like the turkeys Ben Franklin knew, when he joked about making them our National Bird.
If you haven't had them before, the real deal is tasty. Tasty goodness. Mmm....you better run, little turkeys. Run run run run run, little turkeys...

Talking Turkey Again

"Can they guess I reheated this from last night?"

A couple weeks ago I posted on my Skagit River Ranch turkey and how my goal was to wrangle thirteen meals out of one bird. I'm happy to report that we're through ten meals, and I still have six cups of shredded, cooked meat in the freezer and two quarts of turkey broth. Meals #9 and #10 were actually the same batch of Turkey-Tortilla Soup--the first time around it fed me and my three children, and the second time it was the four of us and another family of a mom and three kids. She supplied the rolls and salad, and we were off to the races again!

(Which reminds me of another Thrifty Organic Tip: eating in community makes the most of individual surpluses and shortages. Seriously--we still have nine butternut squash in the pantry that my husband grew last summer. Anytime we're invited to a potluck, I immediately volunteer to bring the vegetable side.)

While I was placing my monthly Bellevue Buyers Club order from Skagit, I happened to notice a turkey article of their own, featured in Edible Seattle. It's worth reading in its entirety, but several points particularly struck me:

  • Skagit raises the same "Broad-Brested White" variety as conventional turkey farmers because of the American fondness for white meat. However, The Vojkoviches' turkeys roam pastures freely during the day and roost at night in a giant, mobile turkey house.
  • "The birds’ diet is a combination of foraged bugs and decaying plant matter (up to 30% of their total diet), native grasses such as clovers, fescue, and rye, and a supplementation of organic grains like camelina (an ancient Egyptian grain high in Omega-3’s) as well as spelt, emmer, and wheat, all milled on the ranch."
  • Skagit uses no antibiotics or growth promotants, and their turkeys take six months to reach slaughter size. Compare that to 14 weeks (female) or 18 weeks (toms) in the general industry.
  • Skagit processes all birds on site in their WSDA certified-organic facility, avoiding contamination from shared processing facilities. (Check this article for cross-contamination from shared facilities.)

If you're thinking of joining me in a Lucky Thirteen challenge next year, be sure to reserve your turkey when the Market opens in May. They do sell out!

And speaking of the Market opening, the dates have been set and the countdown officially begun. How easy it is, on a sunny day, to imagine Market season is just around the corner!

2012 Opening Days
Thursday Market opens on May 10th at 3 pm
Saturday Market opens on June 2nd at 10 am

Lucky Thirteen Meals

Your run-of-the-mill Butterball breeder

 I'm on a mission. For the third Thanksgiving in a row, I bought a turkey from Skagit River Ranch. No matter that we would be spending the holiday with my in-laws, and that Christmas, too, was spoken for, protein-wise. I parked that fifteen-pound baby in the freezer and hunkered down for the major turkey-eating occasions to pass.

Now I've got to tell you, a humanely-raised local turkey, which grew up roaming organic pastures and supplementing its organic grain diet with delicacies like flaxseed and sea kelp, is no cheap date. Mine set me back $91, roughly double the price of a conventionally-raised gobbler as pictured above. (The photo is from an ABC news report on "turkey abuse" at a NC turkey "facility.") However, in my general addiction to Thrift, I've challenged myself to stretch that turkey into thirteen meals. Why thirteen? Because it makes the math come out even ($7 of meat and/or broth per meal for 4-5 people).

Meal #1: Fancy Turkey Sandwiches. When I used to work in the South of Market district of San Francisco, there was one deli that roasted a turkey every single day, slicing it up into the juiciest, most luscious sandwiches. My mouth still waters, thinking about it. When I planned Fancy Turkey Sandwiches, I had both them and Gilbert's on Main's yummy turkey bagel sandwich in mind. Ingredients: fancy artisan bread, cream cheese, homemade cranberry sauce, lettuce, and thin slices of cucumber. Two of my kids added cheddar.

Meal #2: Fancy Turkey Sandwiches.

Meal #3: Turkey Tortilla Soup. The very day I roasted the turkey, I stripped it of most meat, freezing the meat in packs of two cups each. Then I plunged the carcass in the stock pot with carrots, onion, and water and let it simmer most of the day. When that was done, I strained the broth and froze that in baggies of two cups each, leaving out enough for the first pot of soup.

Meal #4 Fancy Turkey Sandwiches. (I grant you, these were snow day lunches, every day after the first appearance of FTSes.)

Meal #5: Turkey a la King. Two cups of meat; chopped up, steamed vegetables; creamy sauce made with turkey broth, and egg noodles.

Meal #6: FTSes.

Meal #7: Turkey enchiladas. Mix the standard two cups of shredded meat with shredded cheese and salsa and roll 1/2 cup up in each 8" tortilla. Add a strip of cream cheese, if you like extra creamy. Pour enchilada sauce over, sprinkle with cheese and bake till it's how you like it. (I like the cheese not just melted, but browned on top. Maybe 30 minutes covered and 15 uncovered?)

Meal #8: Southern greens with Turkey leg. This one goes in the slow cooker along with some broth and a chipotle in adobo.

And that's how far I've gotten (apart from having just made myself an FTS on a leftover bagel I found in the freezer). I still have the frozen meat, broth, and enough wing and leg and neck bones to do another batch of broth. Thirteen meals shouldn't be a problem!

If you still have leftover turkey hiding out and a favorite recipe idea, please share. I've got pot pies and turkey-wild-rice casserole up my sleeve, but after that I may have to repeat. I think it's safe to say, however, that local/organic can still be thrifty if you put your mind to it. Next year I might need one turkey for the holidays and one for another thirteen-meal marathon!