(Note: This will also work with hams and other cuts of meat as well, but I’m just going to talk about turkeys.)

Using my method, a complete holiday turkey dinner can be cooked in under 3 hours–or less if you have a small bird.

You can use a thermometer to tell when it’s perfectly done, or cook it until it’s falling-off-the-bones done. Either way, it will be tender and juicy!

Since store-bought birds all come with added ingredients, meaning they have been soaked or injected with water/salt/sugar/etc., there’s NO need to brine it prior to roasting. Even freshly butchered birds will steam nicely inside a covered roasting pan and not dry out.

As the cook in your household, I’m sure you’re as ready for a holiday as your family and guests are, but do you get one?

In years past you may have stressed about preparation in the days leading up to Thanksgiving or Christmas, and then drug yourself out of bed before everyone else so that you could get that big turkey stuffed and slow roasting for another four or five hours, dutifully basting it every hour or so to keep it from drying out. Well you don’t have to do it that way any more! 

I want to tell you how you can sleep late this holiday morning AND host a traditional dinner—without sacrificing the wonderfulness of fresh home-cooked foods.

Getting plenty of sleep and waking up fully rested is an important key to being able to enjoy the day with your family and guests. And of course you’d like to have time in the living room with those people, instead of being stuck in the kitchen.

Here are three keys to making that happen for you:

  1. Make sure you have the one necessary piece of equipment, in addition to a working oven: a LARGE COVERED ROASTING PAN (or a very large oven-proof pot with oven-proof lid) BIG ENOUGH TO ENCLOSE YOUR TURKEY (or other meat).
  2. Unless you are buying a fresh turkey, make sure your turkey will be thawed in time. Put it to thaw in the fridge a few days ahead (3 days for a 12 pound bird, 5 days for a 20 pounder).
    • Here’s a calculator for determining how large of a turkey to buy for the number of people you are serving, and how long it will take to thaw; just ignore their cooking times, since we are going to use a faster method.
    • There’s no problem if it thaws out two or three days early, but no more than that so you won’t have to worry about spoilage.
    • If your fridge is especially cold, or you can’t start thawing soon enough, you may find it still frosty on baking day; in that case run hot tap water in and out of both ends of the bird. But trying to work with a completely frozen bird will NOT turn out right.
  3. Get your house presentable before going to bed the night before. You may even want to set the table ahead of time, if you don’t have pets which will walk all over the place settings.

If you don’t own a large COVERED roasting pan, they are fairly inexpensive at department stores or even some larger grocery stores; or you might be able to borrow one from an elderly relative who no longer uses theirs. Ideally, you want something like this:

Large Covered Roasting Pan (enameled metal)

Large Cover Roasting Pan (enameled metal)

 

After a lazy morning and a hot cup of tea, you’re ready to start cooking. Here’s what to do:

  1. Peel and chunk a heap of vegetables. Whatever kinds you want, but I recommend a mix of white or russet potatoes, sweet potatoes, parsnips, onions, and garlic.
    • Large pieces are best, like cutting your potatoes into thirds or quarters, carrots into halves.
    • Rinse your chunks of both varieties of potatoes in a bowl of water as you cut them, because coating the surfaces in water will prevent them from turning black before they start cooking.
    • Use your own judgment as to quantity, depending on number of people being served. Leftover veggies are great in soups or turkey pot pies.
  2. Start your oven heating to 500 degrees Fahrenheit. Yup, 500 degrees!
  3. Brush the inside of the bottom half of your roasting pan with oil, so the veggies don’t stick before the turkey juices start flowing. DO NOT put a rack in the pan; you want the veggies down in the turkey juices for best flavor.
  4. Place the potatoes in the roasting pan first, followed by other vegetables (because slender or small items like carrots will disintegrate if on the bottom). Onions and garlic go on top of the other veggies, so their flavors will seep down and make the potatoes yummy.
  5. Now for the turkey. Unwrap it in a clean sink, remove all extras (organs and neck), rinse inside and out, remove the plastic or wire gadget which holds the legs together, and place the bird BREAST SIDE DOWN on top of the vegetables in the roasting pan. The turkey’s juices will run down through the breast, so the driest meat will not be dry at all.
  6. Place the cover on your roasting pan, making sure that it closes all around. If it won’t close, you may need to wiggle the bird a bit, or reach under it and push the vegetables to the corners so the bird will settle lower. The lid MUST close all around, or else steam will escape and your meat will really dry out in the extra hot oven!
  7. Place the closed pan in the oven. It does not matter whether the oven has gotten fully hot yet.
  8. Be sure to thoroughly wash your sink, faucet, and any counter contaminated by raw turkey.
  9. While the bird and veggies start to roast, start the “stuffing.” (This will be made on the stove top so the empty bird can cook faster, but will taste like it came from inside the bird because we’ll use turkey juices.)
    • Chop or crumble some bread.
    • Saute onions and garlic (optionally, add soy sauce), and add them to the bread with your favorite herbs.
  10. Prepare a pie that can go in the oven when everything else comes out. This can bake while you eat, and be eaten hot and fresh or later in the evening when stomachs have more room for it.
  11. Pull the roasting pan out and set it on your stove for a moment. Ladle out as much of the juices as you can, and return the covered roasting pan to the oven for the turkey to finish cooking.
  12. Divide those hot turkey juices. Mix some into your “stuffing” and put the rest into a pan for thickening into gravy.
  13. Lightly fry your stuffing in a skillet, stirring frequently to blend and thoroughly warm the bread. Also finish making your gravy.
  14. When the turkey is fully cooked, put the pie into the oven and serve everything else with a side of cranberry sauce. (You might want to set a timer to remind you to check your pie, so it doesn’t burn while you are engrossed in dinner conversations.)

The key to speed here is the covered roasting pan. It allows for a super hot oven and keeps all that super hot steam inside which causes quick roasting, without allowing the meat to dry out!

So now you know how to cook a complete holiday dinner (turkey, veggies, stuffing, gravy,  cranberry sauce, and pie) with most of your day left over for having fun. Enjoy!

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© 2014 Noname Porter-McShirley

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Aside from the people buying billions of bottles of water for convenience, huge numbers of people don’t trust their sources of drinking water. They either buy filters for their faucets and fridge dispensers, or buy filtered water from the store. Even if you don’t think you buy your water, what about the electricity to pump it out of the well? Or, depending on where you live, there could be a charge per gallon on your water and sewer bill? So to me, throwing out perfectly good liquid and paying (one way or another) for more water to cook with looks like a waste.

Whenever I cook pasta or beans I save the “broth” for making another batch, or for soup stock. But there’s another liquid I used to throw down the drain, simply for lack of a better idea. That is, until now.

My family goes through a LOT of dill pickles. Pickles on lentil burgers. Pickles on tofu sub sandwiches. Pickles on peanut butter and mayonnaise sandwiches. I even like pickles in tossed salads. So I was thinking about all the pickle juice I’ve thrown out over time.

Pickle juice is mostly salty watery vinegar (with some garlic and or herbs, and if it’s from sweet pickles it would contain some sugar). All breads include water or some kind of liquid in the ingredients. Bread also tastes best made with some salt, which I read somewhere is chemically important in the rising process. Sugar (or honey) is also good for softening the flavor of whole wheat flour, and for making yeast grow. (As a side note, adding a sugar crystal to a droplet of water containing yeast particles has so far been the most interesting thing my son and I found to watch under his microscope.) Biscuits and soda breads benefit from some vinegar mixed into the liquid ingredients, as it reacts with the soda to add puffiness. I even use vinegar in my pancake batter to help them rise. So, it almost sounds like pickle juice was made for making breads, doesn’t it?

This week I finally tried using a whole quart of dill pickle juice in making regular yeast-raised whole wheat dough for four loaves of bread. Also, instead of sugar, I added the syrup from a can of peaches, and I threw in the liquid from a can of black olives. When the bread came out of the oven, everyone devoured a loaf as usual, spread with butter and honey. My son agreed that this batch of yeast bread came out very well. No one could guess from the great flavor of the bread that I had done anything odd. It certainly did not taste like pickle bread.

I’ll admit that since I only had one quart of pickle juice on hand, I had to increase the volume of liquid by adding water. (Don’t ask how much–I rarely measure when cooking.) But the important fact here is that a whole cup of pickle juice per loaf of bread did not at all harm the bread’s flavor.

Vinegar is believed to have health benefits, so the juice probably improved the nutrition of our bread—even though store-bought pickles are obviously made with white vinegar. Some sources say apple cider vinegar is recommended for the most health effects, which makes sense because it still contains more of the original food material not present in distilled (white) vinegar. But other sources explain the health value of the acid content of white vinegar. Apparently, any vinegar is good for you, even though some kinds may be even better. So, if you make your own pickles using apple cider vinegar, and then put that juice in your bread, you might reap even more benefits than I did.

Here are two handy articles about the nutritional values of vinegar. Normally I don’t like the quality of eHow articles, but it really depends on the particular article’s author, and I’ve read similar information as this in numerous other places including books.

http://www.ehow.com/facts_4814363_health-benefits-vinegar.html

http://www.ehow.com/facts_4814363_health-benefits-vinegar.html

Even WebMD can’t argue that there clearly seem to be benefits to consuming vinegar:

http://www.webmd.com/diet/apple-cider-vinegar?page=2

There are multiple books on the market dedicated to the health benefits of vinegar, which include helping with such things as cholesterol, diabetes, weight-loss, allergies, skin care, and more.

Whether or not you believe the findings on vinegar’s benefits, the absolute least that I did was conserve money and water, by reusing three liquids which were already processed for human consumption and which otherwise would have gone down the drain.

Do you have other uses for pickle juice? Have you tried cleaning with it, giving your mirrors and counters that “fresh pickle scent”? How about using it in place of vinegar in that old method of clearing sink drains? I have yet to try these uses myself, but I’m thinking about it—if I have any left after bread-baking 🙂

 

© NPM

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Why were (or are) aprons seen as negative symbols?

Women once lived in aprons on farms, where they worked morning to night—cooking, washing, gardening, making soap, butter, and everything else the family needed. Aprons were easier to wash and cheaper to replace than whole dresses. Easy to remove a messy apron upon the surprise arrival of a visitor.

It’s understandable that women wanting freedom from their ancestor’s place in the kitchen might shun the apron.

It’s also understandable that men did not want to be caught in an apron at home, in order to avoid appearing either effeminate or too spineless to make their wives do the “woman’s work.”

Somewhat hypocritically, for ages men have had no problem wearing an apron as a chef, dishwasher, butcher, cheese maker or baker in the village or town. So it wasn’t the cooking or cleaning that was unmanly, it was the working in the home rather than outside of it. Even today, some men would be fine wearing an apron for barbequing at a backyard party, but not wearing an apron in the kitchen on the other side of the house wall. . . . But that’s a side point.


So how can an apron be accepted by women as a tool, and seen as a positive symbol?

The apron is a protector of our clothing. We don’t have to be stuck in stained and depressing casual wear. We can dress up or dress professionally, then don the apron as we enter the kitchen and remove it when we leave for the outside world—or for the home office.

Dressing well and using an apron part of the day can:

  1. Help us remember not to let the household chores pull us down or completely fill our days.
  2. Boost our sense of self by reminding us that we are more than household workers.
  3. Remind us that we choose to serve both the world at large, and our families at home.


Personal experience:

When my son was a baby, an apron would not protect my sleeves or my back from his drool, slobbery hands, and unexpected vomit. It was more practical to accept that I should stay in cheap clothes that would all be stained. What difference would it make if the boiling spaghetti sauce splattered my sweatshirt, when my son had already stained it? An apron would have been a pointless bother.

But after years of being a stay-at-home mom, I am ready to move into broader work—even broader and more outgoing work than what I can do in my spare time from a home office. My son is a young man, not a messy tot. It’s time for new things.

While I refuse to remove the benefits of home-cooking from my family, I must squeeze housework into a smaller section of my day. Part of the process is planning and disciplining myself, but part of it is also pulling my mind out of the old rut. I have to transform my thinking from being a mom who wishes for more, to being a professional with a family. How I see myself–literally see myself in the mirror–affects my thinking patterns.

So upgrading my clothes is a necessary step, not only for my self-image, but also in order to be prepared for professional meetings. However, buying aprons was my first step, to be able to keep those new clothes in good condition while caring for my family.

Those aprons are exciting symbols of a transforming life. Symbols of being capable and active in the home and outside the home.

 

 

© NPM