Thursday, November 22, 2012

Sweet, Sweet Potato Casserole

My Mother-In-Law, Mimi Goode, got this recipe from Dorothy Johnson of theNewcastle, Wyoming Episcopal Church

It is a Sweet Potato casserole that is almost like a pumpkin pie with a pecan pie on top.

preheat oven to 350*

Take one large can of Canned Sweet Potato, drained (29 ounces) or use fresh cooked (2 and 1/3 cups)
mash them well
3/4 cup sugar
3/8 cup melted butter (yeah, thats the way it was written but do 6 tablespoons on the butter stick.)
2 beaten eggs
3/4 tsp. vanilla
1/4 cup milk

Combine all and pour into a greased casserole dish.

Make Topping and spread on the whole thing

3/4 cup firmly packed brown sugar
2/8 cup butter
3/8 cup flour
3/4 cup chopped pecans.  I always use more

bake until edges are browning and the center is set

Trust me, everyone loves this except one wonderful brother in law who only likes baked nuts in pecan pie and NO EXCEPTIONS

Family Traditions

The first Thanksgiving I can remember, when I am one of the toddlers, running underfoot in the kitchen and climbing up on the furniture and playing with cousins by the dozens and sneaking olives to stick on each fingertip and going crazy on the crowd and the steamy aromas filling the house.

Then we get old enough to help. A little, setting the table and pouring the drinks, minding the younger children. The games slow down as we learn board games and card games instead of jumping on the couch and hide and seek.

Then we go away from home and spend the first Thanksgiving making lame jokes about, "do you have any turkey pizza?" while eating in Pizza Hut and then everyone else asks the same question as they wander in through the door in lonely ones or twos, and wishing we could transport ourselves home to the festivities we hear over the phone as it gets handed around. So then we make sure to get there, somehow for the holidays that follow. 

There are always new people added in, and that is good, new spouses, new babies, new friends. But then some of the old faces disappear, divorces or deaths. And the helping becomes hosting and suddenly the whole party depends on you and your house and it is your college kids coming home to a different house, but still HOME

And the recipes have been handed down. Everything else is typed neatly, but the stained ones in Grandma's handwriting don't get switched out or updated. The pie plate that was the big sister's pride of her handmade stoneware set, now depends on you to fill it since she died on that hike in the Grand Canyon

And you realize, you are one of the grey haired, elders, keeping the tradition flowing, and that it was going on for centuries before you were born, and when you too, step out of this world, the family will still be Thankful you were in it once.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

I used to hate Turkey, but I have the best Turkey recipe now.

I have so many things to be grateful for this year.  I know that there is much that is troubled and harsh going on in the world, but I also know that even in the harshest, most troubled times there is also much that is filled with love and beauty.  Thanksgiving and Harvest time is a good time to gather the ones you love close to you and celebrate the gifts of another year.

When I was growing up, we celebrated Thanksgiving and Christmas with Ham or Beef because my Dad swore that Turkey was dry and tasteless. If we went to celebrate with cousins who cooked a turkey they would always deny the dryness and talk him into trying it, but he would enjoy the stuffing and mashed potatoes and sweet potatoes and later say that that turkey was just like all the others.

 You can't make a moist turkey.  Dad told me, and I believed him.  Then I married a man who loved turkey, so we made them, in a baking bag like his Mom and his sisters, but I still agreed with Dad. Without Gravy, Turkey was too dry to choke down.
 So It was more than a surprise, It felt like a miracle, when we joined my brother-in-law one year and decided to try a new recipe together.  Like always, we cooked the neck and giblets in a pan on the stove to get the broth for gravy, because the turkey in a bag method gives you very little broth.  But when we pulled out this turkey, it sat in at least a gallon of broth and the meat was so tender it melted on your tongue and no we have used the same recipe 6 times, and friends have used it.  It is not only perfect, It is easy.
 I can put the turkey in the oven and ignore it for 3 hours and play board games or work on writing my November NaNWriMo novel.
 I can celebrate the kids coming home from college and the sea and forget that I am cooking the dreaded turkey.

 So what do you do?

Grab yourself a unfrozen turkey and remember to take out the giblet bag from the neck cavity.  I usually cook about a 16 pound turkey but vary that based on the crowd you are serving of course.

Take a large washed, pear and place it into the turkey, yes, you'll have to cook dressing in a separate pan.  Then take a turkey cooking bag and shake the flour inside it like the instructions with the bag tell you to do.  Put the bag an its side in a roasting pan and put in six stalks of celery trimmed to about 6 to 9 inches, lay them parallel and just use them to rest the turkey on.  Have someone help you put the turkey in the bag.  Then take another large pear and cut it in half and place each half on the turkey, cut side down, just above each drumstick.

Use the zip tie to seal the bag and make a few 1/2 inch cuts in the bag to vent steam.  If your turkey has a pop up timer make sure the bag is loose above it or it will be held from popping up.

Stick it in the oven and cook according to the bag directions for that size, and aim for 1/2 way between the time for stuffed and unstuffed given in the directions.  Forget about it during that time and it will be great.  Of course you will think you need to be making pies and mashed potatoes and sweet yams and all that stuff, and you do, but it doesn't take the whole time, so also ENJOY YOUR FAMILY!

When you pull it out, there will be a lot of hot broth, so be careful.  Enjoy

I still use the neck to boil up a pan of broth for gravy, and that way I can add in poultry seasoning, soy sauce, garlic and pepper while it simmers.  Then I just whisk a third of a cup of corn starch into a cup of cold water, add it to the broth and stir while it comes to a boil and I get a nice, clear, lumpless gravy everyone likes.

Our must have side dish is a sweet potato casserole with a brown sugar and pecan streusel topping.  But the only real must have is the simple ability to look at the mess and the dirty dishes and the smiling faces and remember, if you're eating and you have dirty dishes and one person you love.  Life is good.