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Unwell, indisputably. November 30, 2011

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Our blog, Poor Richard’s Almanac, received the following comment on our post “Perfect pecan pie.” For some reason, our Akismet spam filter consigned it to spam:

“I loved up to you will receive performed proper here. The caricature is attractive, your authored subject matter stylish. however, your command get got an nervousness over that you would like be handing over the following. unwell indisputably come more before again as precisely the similar nearly a lot steadily inside case you shield this hike.”

We don’t know about you, but we think there seems to be something shady about this communication. An inside case? Handing something over? Shielding this heist, uh, hike?

Whatever we get got, however attractive our caricature, we’d feel indisputably unwell about responding to this one. And here we pride ourselves on answering every single reader query! We guess that, this time, our command just get got a little improperly performed.

Welcoming the Christmas season. November 30, 2011

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Silence Dogood here. Last Sunday was the first Sunday of Advent, when our friend Ben and I very sadly bid farewell to the season of Harvest Home that culminates in Thanksgiving, which we love, and turn our faces to our very favorite time of year, the Christmas season.

Mind you, it’s not even December yet, so you won’t find us putting up our tree or cloaking our cottage home, Hawk’s Haven, with lights, or anything like that. We like to build up to Christmas to keep the excitement going. But we do like to acknowledge the change in seasons with a few significant changes.

First, to celebrate the Advent season, when all the Christian world prepares to celebrate the birth of the Christ Child, we set out our Advent calendar. In our case, it’s one by the beloved children’s book author and illustrator, Tasha Tudor, whose early 19th-century lifestyle we admire enormously. Advent calendars have little “doors” (usually paper, as in the case of ours) that you open each day to reveal an illustration, thought, or scripture passage, leading up to Christmas. The excitement of opening a new door every day awakens the child in all of us.

Next, we get out our Christmas incense, balsam and pine and frankincense and myrrh and every good Christmas thing, and our Christmas candles, pine-scented, cinnamon- and clove-scented, bayberry, and so on. We love candles and incense, and we love changing them according to the seasons, so this is an important seasonal ritual for us, ushering in the Christmas season.

We don’t want to rush Christmas decorating, but we always set out two harbingers of Christmas on our mantel on the first Sunday of Advent: a small olivewood Nativity scene from the Holy Land that I acquired as an undergraduate, and a delightful Mary Engelbreit card of Santa approaching a chimney with “Believe” written below. We do believe in all that the magical season of Christmas has to offer.

The only other early-Christmas effort we make is to get out and start playing our collection of Christmas music. Every year, we try to add a CD or two to our collection, and, loving music as we do, nothing says Christmas to us (besides the smells of the season) more than music. We’ll share our faves with you tomorrow.

Soon, we’ll begin watching our annual “Scroogefest” of various DVD interpretations of Charles Dickens’s beloved A Christmas Carol. We’ll read our favorite Christmas classics. We’ll decorate our tree, mantel, and table, put up a wreath on the front wall of Hawk’s Haven, our cottage home, plan our Christmas meals, write our Christmas cards, gather all our Christmas gifts. We’ll prepare to delight each other and spoil our dog, cats, and birds, surprise our neighbors, and give our very best to our families and friends when the big day comes.

Meanwhile, we’ve got a lot to do. And a lot to enjoy. And the enjoyment starts now!

            ‘Til next time,

                       Silence

Batting a thousand. November 29, 2011

Posted by ourfriendben in wit and wisdom.
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Please forgive us here at Poor Richard’s Almanac for tooting our own horn, but we figured that only our fellow bloggers would understand our excitement at achieving a new all-time-high viewer record. This past Thanksgiving, our blog had 950 views, shattering our previous record of 786. Our dream is to get 1,000 visitors a day, and while we’ve yet to achieve that, 950 comes pretty darn close.

Mind you, we have no clue how 950 views rates in the blogging world. Maybe everybody else routinely gets 10,000 views a day. But for us, it’s definitely a high point. Especially since our blog has no photos, no ads, no nothin’, and we don’t tweet, have a Facebook page, or do anything else to promote it. It’s just the three of us, our brains, and our keyboards.

We’re so thrilled to have reached this point! And we thank each and every one of you who’s taken the time to come to Poor Richard’s Almanac and actually read a post, photo-less as it is. We hope you enjoyed reading it as much as we enjoyed writing.

               Our friend Ben, Silence Dogood, and Richard Saunders

                                        for Poor Richard’s Almanac  

 

We need “Occupy Madison Avenue.” November 29, 2011

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Our friend Ben was horrified to see in yesterday’s Yahoo news that an artist from Vermont is being attacked by Chick-fil-A for using the slogan “eat more kale” on his hand-screened T-shirts, bumper stickers, and other products.

Like everyone, I’m sure you’re aware of Chick-fil-A’s highly effective (and trademarked) advertising slogan “eat mor chikin.” Our friend Ben loves the clever Chick-fil-A ads in which cows try to divert hungry diners from burgers to chicken, which always remind me of that wonderful Far Side cartoon where you see two bears in a hunter’s gun sights, and one is pointing hopefully at the other.

The rest of the world must love the funny ads, too, since Atlanta-based Chick-fil-A ranks second only to KFC (formerly known as Kentucky Fried Chicken) in sales, or, as the article put it, “in market share in the chicken restaurant chain industry.” Ulp, if that wouldn’t give one pause to begin with.

But that’s not all. According to the article, Chick-fil-A has cited 30 previous examples of people who attempted to “co-opt” the use of the phrase “eat more,” all of which backed down after the company sent its lawyers after them. Now it’s going after Bo Muller-Moore’s “eat more kale.”

Our friend Ben is no lawyer, but I take exception to Chick-fil-A’s attempt to co-opt the English language. “Eat more vegetables/leafy greens/fiber/fish/whole grains/your favorite here” was around long before Chick-fil-A, hence, I presume, their humorous spelling, “eat mor chikin,” which allowed them to trademark the phrase to begin with. I could see a case if they discovered someone using “eat more chicken” or, say, “eat mor beaf” or “eat mor srimp” or something as their slogan. Like the company’s lawyers, I would see that as trademark infringement.

But “eat more [food]” is plain English. Chick-fil-A has no right to co-opt the English language, and neither does any ad campaign. This is our language, not the exclusive language of advertisers, and we’re fighting for our rights to keep it available to the public. Suppose tomorrow, you’d be sued if you told someone “I love you” because some corporation had trademarked the phrase? It’s positively Monsanto-esque.

It’s also worth pointing out that Bo Muller-Moore has not launched a chain of kale-themed fast-food restaurants. He is not even a kale farmer, or a restaurant owner whose establishment specializes in kale. He’s an artist attempting to spread the good word about eating locally through his wearable art. How Chick-fil-A could see him as competition is beyond our friend Ben. I can’t see kale outselling chicken anytime soon, either, for that matter.

I say, go Bo! I hope you get a definitive ruling in your favor from the Supreme Court. It won’t just be a victory for you, but for all of us who support free speech. And Chick-fil-A, shame on you!!!!

Could I win a cooking competition? November 28, 2011

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Silence Dogood here. Our friend Ben and I don’t get television reception out here at our cottage home, Hawk’s Haven, in the precise middle of nowhere, PA. So when we happen to travel and find ourselves spending the night in a hotel, TV reception is a valued commodity. OFB would love to tune in to a football, baseball, or basketball game. But he knows he has no chance against one of the food channels and their cooking competitions.

Actually, he’s been really good about it, thanks to my gift for TV-focused performance art. When I see a show like “Chopped,” I scream volubly about the outrageous so-called food combinations that the poor competitors have to incorporate into each course. (Live sea urchins, cotton candy, rutabagas, and durians, anyone?) I scream at the unfortunate competitors who make grotesque errors attempting to combine the hateful, bizarre ingredients. I scream at the judges who say such precious, pretentious, plain old nasty things about the time-pressured chefs’ attempts to make edible concotions out of these atrocious combinations of ingredients.

OFB notes, probably with good reason, that watching me is far more entertaining than watching any TV show. For me, certainly, food television is an interactive experience. I can’t sit passively instead of participating in the inevitable debacle.

This might lead fans of these TV cooking competitions to ask, if I’m so great, how would I fare in one of these competitions? They have a point. Actually, two. As far as I can tell, these shows are judged on four criteria: speed/efficiency, taste, creativity, and presentation (“plating”).

All of these ultimately reflect on the fact that the competitors are professional chefs who head restaurants or catering companies and are working on a clock. And, as is true across the board with business, unless you’re willing to plow money in, you can’t have all four.

Time is the luxury typically required for taste, creativity, and presentation. This goes flat against speed/efficiency, the ticking clock that defines all these TV competitions. “Chopped” allows its competing chefs 20 minutes to create and plate an appetizer from its bizarre ingredients, 35 minutes to create a main dish, and 20 minutes to create a dessert. Good luck. Yet this is the challenge chefs face every day in restaurants around the world, minus the horror of bizarrely combined ingredients. And in real life, I’d hate to see the reaction if a diner were kept waiting 20 minutes for an appetizer or dessert!

Fortunately for the competing chefs, the show does plow money in for them in the form of every high-end professional time-saving gadget and piece of equipment known to man, plus a kitchen full of ingredients provided for their use, from a fully-stocked bar to a loaded fridge and spice rack. This also mimics the conditions in a professional kitchen, where time is of the essence, yet quality can’t be sacrificed. 

So, how about it, Silence? Yes, I can look at any insane combination of ingredients and, Sherlock Holmes-like, fit the puzzle pieces together to make actual food. Yes, I can draw on a pretty extensive knowledge of international foods and ingredients. Yes, I could dance around the kitchen (I sadly assume nobody would permit me to listen to loud music and sing while I’m cooking as I usually do), combine the ingredients, create something astonishing, and even, hopefully, astonishingly good.

Would I horrify my fellow competitors and judges? Undoubtedly, since they’d wonder why I didn’t seem stressed—in fact, actually seemed happy, as I in fact always am in the kitchen—and wonder again why I didn’t seem chained to the ever-ticking competition clock. Why wasn’t I using the food processor and other equipment? Surely I couldn’t expect to win with a paring knife, mortar and pestle?! 

Easy, I’d say. I’m a home cook. I don’t have to get endless and varied meals on restaurant tables according to a timetable coupled with diners’ eccentric requests and a sharp eye on the bottom line. I never have to conform my ideas of delicious food to those of diners who are paying for it. I cook exactly what I want, when I want, for whom I want. There’s no question of competition, in our home much less on television. 

Could I win a cooking competition? Almost certainly not, though I wouldn’t be averse to trying. As OFB would be the first to point out, my forthright and irreverent comments to the judges would make good television if nothing else. I’m not an aspiring restaurateur, I’m not a professional chef, I’m just someone who loves to cook and create innovative recipes. I have no interest in making money from my food, or I wouldn’t have spent all this time sharing my recipes with all of you on our blog. 

I love food. I love cooking, and creating my own recipes. I love sharing those recipes and cooking tips with all of you and getting your feedback. I also love watching cooking shows, which I find highly entertaining. But I think I’ll leave those cooking competitions to the realm of entertainment and watch them with enthusiasm when I get the chance.

After all, what would I gain from competing in one of these shows? Absolutely nothing. Instead, I’d deprive someone who dreamed of going into professional cooking of a chance to compete. Shame on me! Not to mention that I’d deprive myself of the opportunity to rant and rave at the TV show every time it was aired and I had the chance to see it.

To me, cooking is fun. Cooking should be fun. Watching cooking shows should be fun. And all of it is. I love to cook, I love to create new dishes, I love to watch those cooking competitions and put myself in there, opening yet another basket of outrageously combined ingredients and thinking through to what I could do with them to make a delicious combination.

But my working life as a business executive has taught me that there are factors you can combine to get certain outcomes, and no shortchange is possible. Those tend to reduce to time, talent, and money, and two of the three must be present for a successful transaction. Yes, you can get work done quickly and cheaply, but the quality will suffer; you can get work done slowly and cheaply, but your deadline will suffer. To get good work done in a timely manner takes money; to get good work done on a budget means sacrificing any idea of a deadline, and working within the creator’s own timeline. 

Chefs are among the hardest-working professionals in the world. I’m very happy to wish them well, urge them on, and comment on their mistakes as a member of the TV audience. If they’ve managed to make it onto national TV, I’m sure their careers will be very bright, however they fare on a cooking show.

             ‘Til next time,

                          Silence

Do you have George Washington’s wine cooler? November 27, 2011

Posted by ourfriendben in Ben Franklin, wit and wisdom.
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It’s me, Richard Saunders of Poor Richard’s Almanac fame, here today to talk about a good old-fashioned Early American mystery. I first became aware of it in a Wall Street Journal article, “Washington Chilled Here: A Wine Cooler’s Tale” (check it out at www.wsj.com).

The article tells a very sad tale, involving three of our favorite Founding Fathers, Washington, Alexander Hamilton, and Gouverneur Morris. Apparently Washington commissioned Morris in 1789 to have four wine coolers made by a British silversmith to his exacting specifications. To quote the article:

“Specifying the design of a wine cooler for his claret and port, the founding father [Washington] said the bottles had to sit upright rather than at angles, the neck of the decanters had to rise above the cooler rim and there had to be room at the bottom of the bowl so the bottles would sit above the ice.”

Iced port. Now there’s a thought. But I digress.

The point is that Washington had one cooler lengthily engraved to present to his favorite co-Founder, Alexander Hamilton. Unlike most men of his time, including many of the Founders, who were strong States’ Rights men and had joined together merely to throw off the yoke of Britain, Hamilton was a visionary genius. He envisioned the America of today, with a strong central government, a sound treasury, and a standing army, a country that would become a force to be reckoned with on the world stage. And his vision fired Washington’s imagination.

The Father of our Country embraced the Federal view with a passion, and did everything in his power to help Hamilton make it a reality, defying other Founders like Jefferson, Adams and Madison, and outraging States-Righters like Patrick Henry and Sam Adams. If justice were served, the real Father of our Country would be recognized as Hamilton, its creator and architect, not Washington, its figurehead.

The two men shared a warm personal relationship as well. Hamilton, 20 years younger and an orphan, looked to Washington as a father figure, and Washington returned his affection. He recognized Hamilton’s brilliance when Hamilton was one of his aides-de-camp in the Revolution, and the two remained fast friends for the rest of their lives.

I realize that this hardly sounds like a sad story. But it is. First, both men died prematurely, Washington most likely from the bleeding and purging inflicted by his doctors after he caught a bad cold at Mount Vernon, and Hamilton at the business end of Aaron Burr’s dueling pistol. But what makes this story particularly sad is that Washington’s gift, which has remained and been cherished in the Hamilton family ever since, has now been consigned to the auction block by the ironically named Alexander Hamilton Spaulding.

“Once Mr. Spaulding’s mother moved to a retirement community, the item became too difficult to keep,” the article explains. So, now that mom’s no longer there to safeguard the family treasure, “Sandy” is looking to strike it rich by auctioning it off. Shame on him, unworthy of his ancestry, unworthy of his name! 

If Mr. Spaulding and his family no longer want the Washington/Hamilton wine cooler, surely it belongs to the nation, and should be donated to a museum where all Americans could see this treasure of American history. He could donate it to Mount Vernon, Washington’s home, or to the Smithsonian or Colonial Williamsburg or the Library of Congress or the National Archives or Winterthur or any museum that showcased early American history. He could make it a national treasure rather than selling it to the highest bidder. It’s a slap in the face to both Washington and Hamilton that he isn’t doing it. How sad that things have come to this!

Okay, we’ve covered the sad part. Let’s move on to the mystery. As noted, Washington commissioned four of these wine coolers. The Hamilton family has theirs, and two are at Mount Vernon. Apparently no one knows what became of the fourth wine cooler, and there lies the mystery. Washington must have also commissioned it as a presentation gift to someone, since he didn’t keep it. Perhaps he presented it to Gouverneur Morris, who, after all, had been put to the trouble of having the coolers made. Perhaps he’d had it made for our favorite Founding Father, the great Benjamin Franklin. Or for Thomas Jefferson or Lafayette or heaven knows who.

Whatever the case, Washington was so revered, not just in his lifetime but through the Nineteenth and early Twentieth Centuries, that it’s improbable in the extreme that someone would have simply taken a personal, engraved gift from him and melted it down for scrap. (Especially since it was plate rather than sterling silver, so its value melted down would have been nil.)

But it is possible that someone inherited the wine cooler along with numerous items from a great-aunt’s estate and had no idea what it was. It is possible that someone was facing financial problems and decided to sell it off. It is possible that, as I write, it is sitting in an attic somewhere with a bunch of other family mementoes, or sitting in some flea market or antiques shop waiting to be rediscovered.

Is it in your attic? Will you, perhaps, stumble upon it at your local antiques mall? I suggest that you keep your eyes peeled. And, if you do happen to have it or find it, that you do the noble thing and donate it to our nation. George Washington and Alexander Hamilton would be proud.

                     Warmly,

                               Richard Saunders

Vegetarians beware! November 26, 2011

Posted by ourfriendben in wit and wisdom.
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Silence Dogood here, with a warning to all vegetarians: beware omega-3s. Now that the powerful health benefits of omega-3s have been recognized, food manufacturers are putting them in everything. And for most people, that’s a good thing. But not for us.

Just today, I was in my local grocery and saw that there was a sale on Otria dips, which are made with Greek yogurt and are thus a far healthier choice for the dip-addicted our friend Ben than other fatty, calorie-laden options. I was enthusiastically adding them to my shopping bag when I caught sight of the ominous words “With Omega-3s.”

As always, this set off alarms, so I quickly flipped the container and read the ingredients list. Sure enough, the omega-3s came from menhaden fish oil. They almost always do. To add insult to injury, the container had a bold warning: “Contains eggs and milk.” Uh, how about “Contains fish oil”?! Sigh. Guess I’ll be making my own Greek yogurt dips for OFB.

I’ve even found omega-3s from fish oil in milk. It’s amazing what the food industry will add them to. And I’ve yet to see any ingredients list that includes omega-3s from plant sources.

So fellow vegetarians, look sharp: If the label says “omega-3s,” put that package down and walk away. Somewhere, a fish will thank you.

         ‘Til next time,

                      Silence

Luscious Thanksgiving leftovers. November 25, 2011

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Silence Dogood here, reprising a timely post from 2009. Leftovers are a fact of Thanksgiving life. And of course they’re delicious. Reheated turkey and dressing with cranberry sauce, or delicious turkey sandwiches with mayo: Yum!

But you can do a lot more with the leftovers from your Thanksgiving feast. Admittedly, my taste in food is simple: As long as it’s delicious, it never bores me. Back in the day when I still ate meat, I could have eaten turkey sandwiches or reheated turkey ’til the end of time. But as it happened, my Mama had a leftover turkey specialty that I loved best of all: creamed turkey.

After all the big slices had been cut off the turkey and used to make hot turkey or turkey sandwiches, she’d carefully cut off the remaining shreds and put them in a pot with plenty of butter, salt and white pepper, turkey drippings, and cream, and cook them until the turkey was heated through and the sauce had cooked down thick. Then she’d make toast and serve the creamed turkey over that. To me, this was heaven on earth: the creamy turkey and the crunchy toast. You could, of course, serve creamed turkey over biscuits, rice, pasta, or even cornbread, and I’m sure it would be delicious. But there was something about the crunchiness of the toast that made it really special.

Turns out, creamed turkey isn’t the only thing you can do with leftover turkey. In our paper, the Allentown PA Morning Call, food editor Diane Stoneback interviewed the local matriarch of all things turkey, Anne Jaindl, who at age 80 was still cooking turkeys several times a week and making the most of the leftovers. Here are three of her favorite recipes for leftovers:

               Anne Jaindl’s Turkey Tetrazzini

8 oz. spaghetti (cooked according to package instructions)

6 Tbsps. butter

3 Tbsps. flour

1 1/2 cups turkey stock

1/2 cup heavy cream

3 Tbsps. dry sherry

1/4 tsp. nutmeg

salt and pepper to taste

1/2 lb. mushrooms, sliced

1 lb. cooked turkey cut into bite-size pieces (about 3-4 cups)

2 Tbsps. grated Parmesan cheese

Melt half the butter in a heavy saucepan. Sprinkle in flour. Stir over gentle heat for 2 minutes. Stir in hot stock and bring to a boil. Simmer until thick. Cool for 5 minutes, then add cream, sherry, nutmeg, salt and pepper. Melt remaining butter in separate pan. Add mushrooms and fry gently. Arrange cooked spaghetti, turkey and mushrooms in baking dish; cover with sauce. Sprinkle with Parmesan and bake at 375 degrees F. for 30 minutes.

               Anne Jaindl’s Turkey Barbecue

1 onion, chopped

4 stalks celery, chopped  

1 clove garlic, crushed

1/2 cup catsup

1/4 cup vinegar

1 Tbsp. Worcestershire sauce

1 Tbsp. brown sugar

1 tsp. dry mustard

1 lb. cooked, cubed turkey (about 3-4 cups)

Combine all ingredients and simmer about 15 minutes.

                 Anne Jaindl’s Cranberry Turkey Stir-Fry

1 cup cranberry sauce

1/3 cup dry sherry

1/4 cup water

1/4 cup soy sauce

1/4 cup vinegar

2 Tbsps. cornstarch

2 Tbsps. cooking oil

2 cloves garlic, minced

2 cups carrots, sliced

2 cups zucchini, cut in strips

2 cups cooked turkey, cut into 1/2-inch cubes

4 cups bean sprouts

Combine cranberry sauce, sherry, water, soy sauce, vinegar, and cornstarch. Mix until smooth. Set aside. Stir-fry garlic in hot oil for 30 seconds. Add carrots: stir-fry for 3 minutes. Add zucchini and turkey and stir-fry 1 minute. Add cranberry mixture; cook until bubbly (about 2  minutes). Serve over sprouts. [Or pasta or rice.---Silence]

These recipes certainly help you think of good things to do with turkey, or even turkey and cranberry sauce. And speaking of cranberry sauce, if you have a lot of leftover sauce, you probably can’t face eating all of it with your turkey leftovers. So consider using some of it as a luscious topping for ice cream or sherbet. Vanilla, peach, and mango ice cream strike me as especially good choices, or you can bring out the orange in your cranberry sauce by using it as a topping for orange, lemon, or lime sherbet. (Bet it would taste great over pineapple sherbet, too.)

Which reminds me, you might consider trying cranberry sauce as a substitute for the usual pineapple in an upside-down cake. It could be delicious! If you enjoy a cherry or strawberry topping on your cheesecake, I’ll bet you’d enjoy a cranberry-sauce topping, too. It would also layer beautifully in a trifle. Or try this super-simple dessert: Slice a storebought angelfood cake into three sections crosswise. Whip a pint of heavy cream with sugar. Spread cranberry sauce over the top of each layer, followed by whipped cream, then gently put the layers together and serve.

Needless to say, if you bought an extra bag or two of fresh or frozen cranberries and didn’t end up using them, your options are almost unlimited. Cranberry bread or muffins would be fantastic. But how about cranberry chutney? Here are a couple of recipes from a classic cookbook in my collection, The Cranberry Connection, published in 1977 and written by Beatrice Ross Buszek of Cranberrie Cottage, Nova Scotia: 

          Cranberry Orange Muffins

1 3/4 cups sifted flour

2 1/2 tsp. baking powder

2 Tbsp. sugar

3/4 tsp. salt

1 well-beaten egg

3/4 cup milk

1/4 cup sugar

1/3 cup cooking oil

4 Tbsp. butter, melted

1/3 cup homemade cranberry-orange relish

To make the relish: Put 4 cups of fresh cranberries and 2 oranges, quartered, through a grinder. [Er, a food processor?---Silence] Stir in 1 1/2 cups sugar. Chill or freeze and use as needed. [You could also halve the recipe.---Silence]  

To make the muffins: Sift together flour, 2 T sugar, baking powder and salt. Mix well. Combine egg, milk and oil. Add to dry mix and stir until moistened. Spoon half the batter into 12 2 1/2-inch greased muffin cups. Top each with 1 teaspoon cranberry-orange relish. Then fill with batter mix. Bake 25 minutes at 400 degrees F. While still warm, dips tops in melted butter, then in the 1/4 cup sugar.

           Refrigerated Cranberry Chutney

4 cups cranberries

2 oranges

1 lemon

2 apples

1 cup raisins

1 cup brown sugar

1/2 tsp. powdered ginger

2 Tbsps. candied ginger [Crystallized ginger?---Silence]

2 Tbsps. grated onion

6 Tbsps. minced green bell pepper

Core apple and put fruit through chopper. [Food processor?---Silence] Add remaining ingredients. Mix well. Cover and refrigerate. Makes 3 pints.

Okay, now you’ve got the turkey and cranberries covered. What about the dressing? Well, if it’s that soft, gooey dressing that’s cooked inside the turkey, aka stuffing, you’re on your own. But if it’s the savory, crunchy dressing that’s cooked separately, and if you also have leftover mashed or whipped potatoes or mashed sweet potatoes, you’re in luck. Spread the potatoes in a buttered casserole dish or pie pan and top with a layer of dressing. Dot the top with butter and heat in the oven at 300 until hot through. Yum!!! (Naturally, you can always make a fresh batch of mashed potatoes if you don’t have potato leftovers. It’s worth it!)

What about those sweet potatoes? If you have leftover baked or mashed sweet potatoes, you might consider making Landis Store’s Sweet Potato Souffle. It’s the best! (Use our search bar at upper right to find my earlier post, “Thanksgiving: Those sweet potatoes” for the recipe.) Or how about adding them to baked goods, like Sweet Potato Biscuits or Sweet Potato Corn Cake (a type of cornbread)? Here are recipes for both from Bill Neal’s classic Southern cookbook, Biscuits, Spoonbread, and Sweet Potato Pie

          Sweet Potato Biscuits

2 cups all-purpose flour

heaping 1/2 tsp. salt

3 1/4 tsp. baking powder

1 tsp. sugar, if desired

1/2 tsp. baking soda

5 Tbsps. cold shortening, butter, or a combination

7/8 cup buttermilk

1/2 cup mashed or pureed cold cooked sweet potato

Sift the dry ingredients together into a large bowl. Add the cold shortening and/or butter and work all through the flour with your fingertips. Every bit of flour should be combined with a bit of fat. Add the buttermilk and sweet potato and stir vigorously until the dough forms a ball. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface. Knead lightly for 10 strokes. Stop just as soon as the dough begins to look smooth. Pat the dough out to approximately an 8 x 8 x 1/2-inch-thick square. Cut into 2-inch rounds. Place on an ungreased sheet and bake in an oven preheated to 500 degrees F for 8 minutes, until lightly browned. Biscuits will be a lovely apricot color. Serve hot with lots of butter. [And slices of aged Cheddar or maple syrup or apricot jam!---Silence] Makes 12-14 biscuits.

              Sweet Potato Corn Cake

2 cups cornmeal [White cornmeal is traditional.---Silence]

1 tsp. salt

1 1/8 cup water

2 Tbsps. butter

2/3 to 1 cup mashed sweet potato

1 1/4 cups buttermilk

1 egg

2/3 cup all-purpose flour

2 1/2 tsps. baking powder

1 tsp. baking soda

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Sift flour with baking powder and baking soda into a large bowl; add cornmeal and salt and mix thoroughly. Beat egg with buttermilk. Bring the water and butter to a boil. When the butter has melted and the water is boiling, pour over the cornmeal-flour mixture and stir thoroughly. Add the buttermilk mixture and sweet potatoes and stir again to blend. Bake in a buttered 9-inch tin in the preheated 375-degree oven for 30 minutes or until golden brown on top. This is delicious split and buttered with honey or molasses. Makes 6 servings.  

Moving on, what if you have a can (or part of a can) of leftover pumpkin? (We’re talking about 100% pumpkin here, not pie filling.) I, of course, enthusiastically recommend my Curried Pumpkin Soup and Pumpkin Chili (search for my earlier posts, “Curried pumpkin soup” and “Silence’s Chili Surprise,” for the recipes). And I suspect you could substitute equal amounts of pumpkin for the sweet potato in the biscuit and corn cake recipes. But here are two other intriguing options, from Pumpkin Lovers Cookbook:

             Pumpkin Spaghetti

1 cup canned 100% pumpkin

1 cup heavy cream

1 cup grated Parmesan cheese

1/2 tsp. ground nutmeg

1/4 cup softened butter

12 oz. thin spaghetti

salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Bring water to a boil and cook the pasta. When it’s nearly done, mix the pumpkin, cream, nutmeg, and 1/2 cup Parmesan in a small pan. Bring just to a simmer over low heat, stirring once or twice. Remove from heat. Drain spaghetti and pour into a large bowl. Add butter to spaghetti and toss ’til butter is melted. Pour pumpkin mixture over pasta. Toss. Serve with additional Parmesan, salt and pepper.

           Pumpkin Custard

1 1/2 cups canned 100% pumpkin

2/3 cup brown sugar

3 beaten eggs

1 1/2 cups scalded milk

1 Tbsp. cornstarch

1 tsp. cinnamon

1/2 tsp. powdered ginger

1/4 tsp. each powdered cloves and nutmeg

Mix all ingredients thoroughly and pour into a buttered baking dish. Bake in a preheated 350 degree F. over for 45 minutes. Serves 4 to 6.

Sometimes you end up with leftovers you don’t expect. Our neighbors sent us home from one Thanksgiving dinner with an entire container of cooked corn, for example. I had made the Gourmet magazine recipe for corn pudding using John Cope’s Dried Sweet Corn and substituting half-and-half for the milk (we were out of milk, gasp), and it was delicious. (See my post “Thanksgiving, PA Dutch style: Dried corn” for the recipe.) Alas, no trace of this delicious corn pudding remained, so I decided to make another with the fresh corn. It was delicious. I could have also added some of the corn to my own standard cornbread recipe, or tossed some into sauteed sweet onions and mushrooms to serve over pasta or rice, or…

Anyway. Making the best use of leftovers, so you eat every last bite with as much delight as the first, is a wonderful way to stretch your food budget. And those tastes of Thanksgiving remind us to count our blessings and be grateful. Let us hear from you if you have favorite ways to use leftovers! 

           ‘Til next time,

                         Silence

What’s the most popular Thanksgiving side? November 24, 2011

Posted by ourfriendben in recipes, wit and wisdom.
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Happy Thanksgiving to all of you from all of us here at Poor Richard’s Almanac!!!

Silence Dogood wanted to point out that Yahoo had just done a survey of the most popular Thanksgiving side dish, asking vistors to vote for green bean casserole, mashed potatoes, or sweet potato casserole. We love green beans and roasted or baked sweet potatoes, but ix-nay on the nasty canned-soup-based green bean casserole and ooey, gooey marshmallow-topped sweet potato casserole.

So Silence hit the button for mashed potatoes to see how everybody else had voted. She was sure that one of the casseroles would win, and was stunned to see that 52% of voters sided with her for the mashed potatoes, a big winner over the 20-something votes for the green bean and sweet potato casseroles. Apparently Americans aren’t as taste-challenged as many might believe.

Mind you, Silence and I both think that the most popular sides should be delicious dressing and dressed-up mashed potatoes, so we’re not sure why dressing/stuffing didn’t figure on the Yahoo list. All you fellow mashed potato fans, enjoy your celebration with a big side of luscious dressing! And enjoy your green beans boiled, then tossed with butter, cracked black pepper, and RealSalt or Trocomare, and your sweet potatoes sliced and roasted with olive oil, cracked black pepper, rosemary, basil, and thyme.

Whatever. We plan to offer our own selection of appetizers and sides: endive boats, dinner rolls, tossed salad, coleslaw, mashed Yukon Gold potatoes and Butternut squash, green beans, dressing, cranberry sauce,  roasted veggies. Followed by pumpkin, pecan, and cherry pie.

But yes, Thanksgiving wouldn’t be Thanksgiving for us without mashed potatoes. We’re delighted to find out that 52% of the rest of us feel the same.

Happy, happy, happy day!!!!

                         Our friend Ben, Silence Dogood, and Richard Saunders

 

 

 

Ultimate Thanksgiving mashed potatoes (plus). November 23, 2011

Posted by ourfriendben in recipes.
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Silence Dogood here. For our friend Ben and me, whatever else we serve, Thanksgiving wouldn’t be Thanksgiving without mashed potatoes. But they seem pretty plain Jane compared to the rest of the holiday fare, and if we had guests, the poor mashed potatoes tended to sit neglected (except by the two of us). Not any more!

I was thrilled to find a special recipe that combined potatoes and winter squash in a way I was convinced would be healthy, hearty, and perfect for that all-American holiday, Thanksgiving. (Squash and potatoes are both native to the Americas, after all.) In this recipe, you’re combining the vitamin A and high-fiber content of winter squash with the inherent yumminess of potatoes and the protein of cheese. And the gorgeous color combo of golden Yukon Gold potatoes and orange Butternut squash is ideal for a winter feast.

I discovered the dish originally on the Tennessee Locavore’s blog (http://tnlocavore.typepad.com/). She makes it as a casserole. But I wanted to make it for Thanksgiving dinner, and between my dressing, summer squash casserole, roasted veggies, rolls, and corn pudding, the oven was pretty much taken. So I simplified the recipe and made it stovetop, in the heavy Dutch oven I use to cook the potatoes. Check out her blog to see her recipe, which I’m sure is luscious. But oh my, the version I made was simply fabulous. Our friend Ben, no slouch when it comes to eating mashed potatoes or praising my recipes, announced that he ranked this in the top five of everything I’ve ever made for him. Check it out:

      Mashed Potatoes and Winter Squash

2 lbs. Yukon Gold potatoes, chunked

1 Butternut squash, peeled and chunked 

9 ounces (one block) Gruyere cheese, grated

3/4 cup shredded Parmesan

4 tablespoons butter

3 eggs, beaten

1 teaspoon Trocomare or salt (we like RealSalt)

1 teaspoon lemon pepper or cracked black pepper to taste

Boil the potatoes and squash until tender; drain, mash, and stir well to blend. Return to very low heat. Add butter, cheese, eggs, and spices, stirring well to blend. Heat and taste, adjusting seasonings, and serve.

This really is delicious, and pretty easy, too, though peeling and seeding the Butternut squash isn’t much fun. But our local grocery sells pre-peeled and chunked winter squash, so I’ll use that this time. I’m notoriously texture-sensitive, so the slippery-slimy texture of winter squash would normally cause me to pass up any dish containing it, but the potatoes in this dish cover for the squash, and I thought it was incredibly good. Trust me, your guests won’t ever think of mashed potatoes as boring again. Don’t be surprised if it’s the first dish to vanish from the table!

         ‘Til next time,

                   Silence

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