(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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If you’re out this Spring to trim back new growth around the edges of your property before wildness takes over, you might just run into Poison Ivy and not even know it until too late.

In the Spring Poison Ivy has no tell-tale leaves yet, but (as I once found out the hard way), both the bare vines and new shoots can irritate your skin in the Spring just as badly as the leaves can during Summer.

One easy and free way to protect yourself from this “invisible” danger, is to cover your skin with long pants, long sleeves, gloves, and even goggles if plant material might strike your face. If you need to cover a gap between sleeves and gloves, cut the toes out of an old pair of socks and wear them on your wrists. Be sure when you’re done working around the yard to put all your clothing in the washer and then wash your hands.

BUT sometimes no matter how careful one is, that’s not enough. Maybe a branch got up your pant-cuff, or poison ivy cropped up where you never thought it would be and you weren’t protected. We don’t want to live in fear of the outdoors! So…

Thankfully there is one natural thing which really helps me whenever I get my skin poisoned by Poison Ivy:  Jewelweed.

While you can buy Jewelweed products online, I have no personal experience to be able to recommend which version is best (although while searching for photos I found this interesting product testimonial http://beautyinfozone.com/skin-care/secret-weapon-alert-creation-pharm-jewelweed-topical-mist/ ).

What I can tell you is that if you can find it growing wild, it’s easy to make your own treatment. Jewelweed “tea” won’t instantly cure Poison Ivy, but it will (at least for many people) remove the painful itching for hours at a time, and it’s safe to reapply as often as one wishes!

How To Make Jewelweed “Tea”. . . NOT for drinking, but for wearing!

You will have to locate and harvest Jewelweed during its short Summer growing season, and freeze the “tea” for use throughout the rest of Summer and into Spring. So use the links below to see what the plant looks like, and then go Jewelweed hunting. You may want to print a few pics to take with you on your search, so you can avoid simular-looking plants which will be of no help. It grows in semi-open shady, dampish places, like in a very young wood—the type you might find in urban areas, behind city parks or apartment buildings, and on undeveloped treed lots. In one person’s YouTube video, Jewelweed was found along a roadside (I’m guessing at the edge of some trees for partial shade).

Once you find the right plant, and you feel sure it’s the right plant, gather a big handful. When I did this, there were plenty so I plucked entire plants. However if you don’t find very many plants, I’m guessing there’s enough Jewelweed juice in the leaves alone, so you could try letting the plants continue growing by very gently picking just a couple of leaves from each plant until you have a big handful of leaves.

If you’ve picked entire plants, be sure to cut off and discard the roots, so as to not get dirt in your “tea.” Then, boil some water (just about enough to cover your leaves), turn off the heat and stir the leaves or plants down into the water. Let them soak until cool, remove the plants/leaves, and freeze the amber-colored water in ice cube trays. These are your “Jewelweed tea cubes.” Once frozen, seal the cubes in plastic to prevent evaporation inside the freezer. Whenever you have an itch you suspect is Poison Ivy, rub a Jewelweed tea cube on the effected skin, and return the cube to the freezer for later when the itch starts to bother you again.

IDENTIFYING JEWELWEED:

SUMMARY:

  1. Identify Jewelweed plants.
  2. Gather a handful.
  3. Trim off dirty roots.
  4. Boil water (in non-aluminum pot*).
  5. Steep (soak) plants/leaves in the hot water till cool.
  6. Freeze & seal for later use.
  7. Rub on irritated skin for itch relief.

*Side note: boiling water in aluminum releases aluminum into the water which is not a good habit, as too much aluminum entering your body can cause severe health problems.

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© NPM

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Whether you are one who cleans all the time, one who never thinks about it until visitors are coming, or someone who hates dirt but dreads selecting cleaning chemicals and investing time in scrubbing, here’s a delightful solution. No chemicals, no scrubbing, no block of time needed.

The ideal time for easy, chemical-free bathroom cleaning is right after someone’s hot bath (or long hot shower). The advantage of this timing is that the steam will have loosened the dirt, dust, and scum. Wiping down steamy walls, door knobs and moulding, tub, sink, mirror, toilet tank, or anything else in the room, will easily remove at least one layer of dirt. If you haven’t cleaned in a long time, you might have to repeat the steam-cleaning process (wiping things after the next hot bath) before all of the dirt comes off, but it’s a quick and easy task.

You might not even realize how dirty the walls and door are until you start wiping them down while they are steamy. Even if you’re used to frequent cleaning, this method will save you time and money.

TIP (for cool seasons): If company is on the way, and you don’t have time for a long hot bath, you can fill the tub and let the room steam all by itself while you are straightening another room. After you’ve wiped down the steamy bathroom, leave the door open to release the heat into the rest of the house. This may only save a tiny bit on your heating bill, but the water was already hot, sitting in the water heater doing nothing; it may as well be working for you!

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©NPM

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