Friday, November 28, 2008

Post-Thanksgiving "Feed" (aka dogblogging)

Yesterday's yummy Thanksgiving feast (followed this morning by the greatest breakfast in the world, a slice of sweet potato pie!) just might mean that today becomes a small timeout from the gorging, a mini-detox, if you will, for the system.

Of course, any true detox course will include plenty of water--assuming that you drink most of it! (Shorty below seems have forgotten the basic need to drink for a few moments. Oh well...)

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

More Pre-Thanksgiving put some pep your holiday step!

Having people for Thanksgiving--been there, done that. Actually, I enjoyed having people over, but then, I planned ahead. Probably what kills many people is trying to do everything in too short a period of time, like the day before as well as Thanksgiving. A more rigid schedule for cooking on Thanksgiving week is listed on FoodieView, but my less structured schedule is below.

Note: One type of modern technology that comes in handy, particularly when cooking on Thanksgiving itself, is the alarm clock feature on your cell phone!

If I'm a cookin' for Thanksgiving, my (extremely rough) schedule resembles:
  • Sunday--the bulk of the shopping is done today; the only Thanksgiving cooking to be done this evening is making the cranberry sauce. Even if I'm not hosting Thanksgiving dinner, I'm making the sauce tonight to take to the host!
  • Monday--if having homemade rolls, make them today, and refrigerate them until the big day. (Storebrought bread for that day already be refrigerated [if yeast bread] or frozen if some other type of bread.)
  • Tuesday--purchase or make desserts today. The great thing about desserts (besides the yum factor) is that they can be stored away from the other foods--in a cake pan or something, as most pies don't require refrigeration for a couple of days--so they don't take up refrigerator space, which will be at a premium this week! If cooking a turkey carcass, you should have bought it by now, so that you can begin to defrost it in the fridge.
  • Wednesday--prep day! This is the day to either bake most of your side dishes (except for mashed potatoes and greens), or cut up vegetables for dishes to put together quickly for tomorrow. For instance, roasting and cutting up pumpkin if making, say, a pumpkin soup (and cleaning out the seeds beforehand to have roasted pumpkin seeds--umm, umm, good!), making macaroni and cheese, which can then be cooled and reheated on Thursday. If cooking turkey, the deceased critter should be in the process of thawing out by now. Any non-turkey entree should be in the process of being prepared today (thawing out overnight in the fridge, if necessary, etc.).
  • Thanksgiving Thursday! Begin cooking at around 10:30 am--preheating the oven, preparing the main event, setting out the desserts and decorations, etc. If cooking greens, they should be in the pot on top of the stove while the entree is in the oven. After the turkey or other entree comes out of the oven, the other baked items should be put in the oven. Also, cut potatoes should be put in boiling water during this time, so that they can be ready to be mashed in 20 to 30 minutes, as fresh mashed potatoes are best made soon before eating. Begin to make the gravy around this time, as well. (This is where your cell phone's alarm clock feature comes in extra handy--to allow you to nap during the time the entree is resting and the sides are baking!)
Whew! What an accomplishment--a great feast, good company, as well as some rest and sanity.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Easy pre-holiday prep..the sauce!

homemade cranberry sauce
Homemade cranberry sauce is akin to a chutney, and is just as versatile, post-Thanksgiving, because it's easy to handle--just spoon away! It's also easy to make (takes only about an hour to prepare, then let it cool off), doesn't require precision, and is even better after sitting overnight in the fridge. This makes it great if you are doing the holiday cooking, because you can make it a couple days ahead, sparing yourself much aggravation. If you're going to someone else's home, it makes a great gift for the host. Its jewel-like appearance, with chunks of fruit, makes it a grown-up holiday delight!

* * *

Um, thus is born this cranberry sauce "recipe," if you will...a new family favorite! The following makes enough to take some to your host, and some to keep for yourself as well.
  • 2 12-ounce bags cranberries (it's OK if you froze them beforehand; no need to defrost frozen ones before cooking, but give a quick rinse first, to remove any stems)
  • 1/2 cup or more juice
  • an orange, lime, grapefruit, or lemon (zest the fruit first; add the rest of the fruit to the sauce, if you prefer)
  • 2 1/2 cups sugar (may need to add more after tasting)
  • ground coriander (or ground ginger, ground cardamom, or ground nutmeg--cinnamon, allspice, or cloves are too overpowering to fruit flavors, in my opinion)
  • one pear or apple
In a Dutch oven or large saucepan, over medium heat, add the juice, the rinsed cranberries, sugar, then stir. If mixture seems a bit dry, add more juice--any juice is fine.

Add the citrus zest, then chop up the rest of the fruit, and add it to the sauce, if using the entire citrus fruit, then add the spice(s), and stir some more. Finally, chop the pear or apple and add it to the sauce, and stir again.

Stir the pot occasionally to keep it from sticking. The sugar should soon begin to melt within the sauce; after you see this, the berries should soon start simmering, and popping open. (You can assist the process of popping those berries with a wooden spoon, if you're impatient!) Turn down the heat a bit, to keep the sauce from spilling out of the pot.

The sauce is done when it's noticeably thicker than when you began; dip a spoon in it--some of the sauce should remain on the spoon. Taste it at this point; if you think it needs more sugar, add another 1/4 to 1/2 cup, and stir again until this sugar is fully melted into the sauce.

After turning off the heat, let the sauce cool in the pot another hour before spooning it into glass jars and refrigerating; theoretically, it keeps a few weeks, although it's usually eaten up within a couple of weeks!

Friday, November 21, 2008

Fall's last stand

Today's windy, practically freezing chill amidst flurries, seemed the perfect day to go gleaning some of the leftovers from the harvest at Clagett. It seems surprising which crops do last as long as they do, such as:

broccoli raab field
This broccoli raab looks quite good, as did some of the kale and collards also left, in addition to the mixed lettuces. I can't wait to cook down all those greens!

* * *

Although many herbs are quite weather hardy, I was unaware that so many could, and do, survive chilly weather. This is quite fortunate for the coming holiday season, as it means that many fresh herbs will be available for holiday cooking and decor, such as sage, that favorite for dressing and other fall dishes:

sage in the herb garden
Note the parsley field behind the sage; both the flat-leaf and curly parsley were out in force! It's great that highly nutritious parsley lasts so long during the growing season, as it comes in handy for making soups. (The dried version of this herb is so tasteless as to defy explanation as to why anyone thinks it's worth the effort to dessicate.)

The big surprise in the herb field, because this herb had previously died out, and has apparently come back to life (but not before I harvested some tasty seeds!), is--

cilantro in herb garden
This is most surprising, because I assumed the cilantro would be as dead as the basil (which suddenly passed after the first frost) at this time of year, but it recently rebounded (as did the dill). I suddenly hear fresh salsa calling me...

* * *
In addition to the other volunteers and staff at the farm, I will also miss Clagett's canine mascot Cassie, always ready for a belly rub (after running alongside us in the truck or van).

Cassie the farm dog

Friday Folly (aka dogblogging, Where's the Love?)

While many people misunderstood Bush's non-public glad handling of other world leaders at the recent G20 summit (because it sure 'nough did LOOK like a snub, even if the reality is different; I mean, how else is not publicly shaking folks' hands going to be perceived? Duh!).

Of course, there is minor miscommunication as well, not just between people. For instance, how did this guy manage to have his dog only respond to him when he's doing a bad Ringo Starr impersonation? Funny though it is, it can't bode well for order at his home...

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

More good news from the Obama camp!

Today's news about Obama makes me feel even better about our next President. According to the Wall Street Journal online, former Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle has apparently accepted the position as Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS). Daschle, a confidant of Obama's with a strong interest in and commitment to health care reform (he's co-author this year of a book on health care titled, Critical: What We Can Do About the Health-Care Crisis) as well as a Hill veteran, is an excellent choice for the job.

* * *

Obama's Chief of Staff, Rahm Emanuel, is stepping up to the plate, as well. He recently challenged business leaders to support the new administration's efforts toward universal health care, at the Wall Street Journal's CEO Council last Tuesday night. Video below of some of Rahm's remarks:

What more is there to say other than: Go Team O!

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

We'll be in good hands...

Over a month ago, in the second debate with John McCain, now President-elect Obama stated that health care should be a "right," not a privilege. (Video from The Nation.) That alone is a great reason to breathe a sigh of relief that Obama is our next President, because with an incoming Democratic Congress, there's now a window of opportunity to pass universal health care legislation in the U.S.

To that end, Sen. Ted Kennedy said that he will advance a bill in early 2009 calling for universal health care, according to today's Washington Post. For some reason, however, the article's writer seems to believe that health care legislation is unrelated to our economic woes. Wrong!

The lack of universal health coverage in the U.S. is a prime reason for the cashflow problems that the auto industry is experiencing--and its executives have known this for years! Rep. Jim McDermott of Washington state, a physician and longtime proponent of universal healthcare, has put in the public record, as well as on his website, a 2002 letter sent separately by Ford, General Motors, Chrysler, and the auto workers union to the Canadian government, imploring that government to keep its public healthcare system strong! Makes you wonder why the lavishly paid upper echelon of Detroit hasn't been lobbying the U.S. government for universal health care along with bailout cash, when it knows that healthcare costs are one of the reasons for its current mess. (In addition to their outrageous salaries, and unwillingness to build a wide enough selection of high quality fuel efficient cars, that is.)

Friday, November 14, 2008

Friday Follies (dogblogging)

Now that we have a new President-elect, we still have folks attacking him in a nonconstructive manner, with tired, specious arguments (exhibit A: Ms. Palin's comments at a Republican governor's conference, showing that she's still bitter). Such behavior is about as useful as:

Friday, November 07, 2008

Friday Folly (more dogblogging)

Unfortunately, too many of our Republican friends have forgotten that we are one America, and instead of being proud of our country and happy for our President-elect, are engaging in pointless infighting and other behavior, instead of joining with us in solving our many ongoing problems.

Hence, their failure to be constructive is similar to the odd doggie behavior below--and this guy isn't even the current Presidential pooch:

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Mind-Blowing Post-Election "Advice"

If the reality of our new President, Barack Obama, hasn't yet settled in, please take some advice (with tongue firmly in cheek) from David Rees, in his most recent Huffington Post piece, "What To Do When It Finally Hits You and Your Mind: A Safety Guide."

In the meantime, enjoy a classic from the ever-cool (like the new President) Delfonics! That is, if Obama didn't blow your mind already!

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Time to celebrate the new President!

Woo hoo! He did it! We did it! America did it! We have a new president, President O--and it won't take a lawsuit to settle it, either! The race is over!

I almost feel as jubilant as the little guy below!

Monday, November 03, 2008

This one's for "Toot"!

So sad to hear that Obama's grandmother (aka "Toot") passed away late yesterday. From what the Senator himself relates, he got much of his practicality and steadfastness from her. What a tribute to her, and to the country, to make sure that her dearest grandson makes it to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue in January 2009.


In ongoing paranoia to make sure that my vote will count, I went to the Maryland board of elections site to find a sample ballot, as the state was too cheap to mail more than one this year. (And none were to be found at the library, either.) At least the website makes a sample easy to obtain, as its Frequently Asked Questions section has a question, Where can I see a sample of my ballot? After clicking it, it has prompts for first name, last name, zip code of registered address, and date of birth, after which you click on the "Find voter registration information" button; a PDF of an appropriate sample ballot will appear, ready to be printed and taken along to the polls for handy reference. (And in my case, to be signed and dated tomorrow, along with the votes filled out. Just in case, the camera phone is coming along, as well.)

The other two local jurisdiction board of election sites, Virginia and DC, don't make it easy to find a sample ballot. (Perhaps considering the problems that DC is having with its early voting, maybe it's just as well.)

* * *

Remember to get your post-voting tall coffee from Starbucks on the 4th--good for staying wired through the upcoming tense night! (Thanks to for this and other good freebie tips!)

Time to get some shut-eye, for the potentially dragging, er, long day and night ahead.

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Making sure your vote counts...

The Internet is chock-a-block with tips on how to make sure that your vote is counted, whether you vote early or on November 4. (Sorry, no early voting for Marylanders, but the issue of whether to allow early voting for future elections will be on the ballot.) Some solid advice comes via Myra Armstrong's Huffington Post article, "Easy Steps to Ensure Your Vote is Counted."

One thing this and others have noted is that you should take a camera with you, if possible, to record possible problems; even Oprah thought she had a problem having her vote recorded, and her bff Gayle intends to take a snapshot of her vote just in case. Because many camera phones have video function, this tip could really come in handy; if you notice any problems, you can then upload the video to or youtube.

An extra piece of security to consider is to get a sample ballot (I'm getting an extra from the library), mark in ink how you intend to vote, and date and sign it--preferably in the presence of a witness. But I'm just paranoid that way...

Wear comfortable shoes, take a good book and music with you to the polls (if you haven't voted already), and have a great 4th no matter what!