Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Turkey Week wrap-up

Last week kicked off the busiest time of the year for the kitchens of home cooks and bakers. And eaters. Thanksgiving, arguably the biggest foodie holiday of the year, slipped by without me doing a post. I didn't take a lot of pictures of the food I was making or eating over the holiday, so all you're gonna be left with is a stream of consciousness and musings from last week.

The Christmas Creep
In modern life, many of the customs and observances of the holidays as we know them have evolved into a commercial passing. A money-making opportunity for every industry down to diapers. Yes, diapers. I saw a newspaper insert for a drugstore or grocery store advertising disposable diapers printed with big red bows and holly motifs. I wish I were kidding.

Thanksgiving, for a long time, was a holiday with little commercial meddling, save for Butterball and Eagle brand evaporated milk. But now, a new term has been coined to refer to the ever-earlier Christmas shopping season: the "Christmas creep." And this year, somehow, the Thanksgiving dinner, which is essentially what this holiday had become from a very solemn rememberance of the hardships of life as a colony and the charity of Native Americans, has now been reduced even further as just a day to ramp up to Christmas shopping sales beginning at 10 pm.

I'm not bitter. I swear.

My pasture-raised Thanksgiving turkey
The past couple years, I've bought the turkey for the Thanksgiving dinner with my brother and my mom. A couple months back, I ordered an 18-pound turkey from Almost Heaven Farm in Monroe County, via the Monroe Farm Market. Perhaps I should not have gone for such a big bird, but all that turkey meat that I still have left will make good dumplings and soup later this winter. Especially, in planning for the Dark Days Challenge. The turkey was pasture-raised, and not treated with hormones or antibiotics. However, it was not a heritage breed. I have been able to find a heritage turkey in West Virginia (or anywhere nearby) since White Oak Ridge Farms went out of business a few years ago. At least this guy was well taken care of and allowed to engage in some turkey instincts like pecking for bugs and stuff in the grass.

Pumpkin recipes and canned vs. fresh pumpkin
For dessert, I was going to make the pumpkin mousse recipe from the November issue of Martha Stewart Living, but I realized too late in the game that I didn't have any unflavored gelatin. So, this beautiful pumpkin that I grew, will go into the recipe for the Starbuck's pumpkin scones. I made these a few weeks ago, and I think I ate all of them but one. They haunt me. And they were so easy to make. I didn't make the glaze, but they were good without it, or with a little bit of apple butter, actually.

Everyone's got an opinion on whether canned or real pumpkin is better for recipes. I haven't used canned pumpkin puree in years. Simply because I haven't had to. I haven't bought a pumpkin for at least 4 years because people have given me pumpkins and I finally got one to grow this year. My boss had 3 grow from a volunteer vine last year that he brought me. And my mother-in-law buys a bunch every year to do some fall decor in her yard. After halloween, she gave me all hers a few years ago. And I figure why waste them? It's just cheaper to make your own pumpkin puree. And besides, I love roasted pumpkin seeds.

Christmas baking
Last week, I was picking up a bottle of wine from the Capitol Market for another Thanksgiving Dinner, and I happened to catch Cafe Cupcakes open. It recently set up shop in the Capitol Market, and I had read a really nice write up in the paper about it. Also, the owner and baker is a friend of a friend, and I've had her cakes before. I HAD to try a cupcake, despite the fact that I was in between the two Thanksgiving Dinners I was attending last Sunday. Especially since they had red velvet, aka "Dorothy's Ruby Red Slippers." They were made of the darkest red velvet cake I have ever seen and copious amounts of cream cheese incing with edible silver beads and red glitter on them. And, they were unbelievable!

After eating Dorothy's Ruby Red Slipper, I've decided I'm going to make some red velvet cupcakes to take to my in-laws' Christmas gathering this year. I made so many two years ago, and last year I didn't make them at all. The recipe I used before is this Paula Deen recipe, and it's good, but not good like Cafe Cupcakes's. The cake isn't as dark red, which I really liked about Cafe Cupcakes's. And the Paula Deen cupcakes leach grease through the wrappers, which is kinda gross. They leave a greasy spot in my cupcake courier or when you put them out on a platter. I need a new recipe, and I might have to do some test runs to find it. (Oh, darn...)

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