Sunday, November 25, 2012

Turkey & Rice Soup

Its leftovers time!!! By now, I'm sure you've worked through the turkey sandwiches, turkey enchiladas and turkey pot pies -- or whatever your favorite leftover recipes are. And..... you should be left with a beautiful set of bones. Let's make something awesome out of that!!

I made this yesterday-- it took me about 2 1/2 hours from start to finish. I packaged up most of it for Hubby's lunches (that's technically what I made it for to begin with....) but kept a serving out for me. I had that today for lunch and not to be too conceited about it, it was the best turkey soup I've ever had! Probably had something to do with the fact that its the first time I also ever made my own stock instead of cracking open a box or can......

Of course, if you've already picked that bird clean or didn't get any bones in your take home bag from Grandma's house, you can easily do this with a chicken carcass (even from a grocery store rotisserie chicken-- we don't judge here!)

I used my ~4 1/2 quart soup pot but any good size pot will do! If yours is smaller, you might end up with a higher tidbits to broth ratio and vice versa for a larger pot. I got about 14-15 cups of soup out of this.

Recipe: Turkey & Rice Soup

1 turkey carcass (preferably with bits still on it)
2 stalks celery, chopped coarsely
2 large carrots, peeled and chopped coarsely
1 small or 1/2 a large onion, peeled and cut into chunks
2 bay leaves

1 cup uncooked rice (white, brown, wild or a mix, your pick!)
up to 2 cups extra turkey bits (if your carcass is particularly clean....)
extra carrots, celery & onions if you are squeamish

1) Put carcass into pot, fill until bones are covered with water (pretty much right up to the top). Toss in celery, carrots, onion and bay leaves.
2) Adjust heat to keep soup at a low boil/simmer.
3) Add water as needed to keep level near the top of your pot.
4) Cook for 2-3 hours (2 hours got me a rich, deep flavor & nice soft veggies)
5) Using a spider strainer or mesh collander over a bowl, strain all bones, veggies, bay leaves out of your soup-- KEEP THESE!!!!  Return strained stock to soup pot.
6) Pick through all the bones for edible, usable meat chunks (chop or shred if necessary). Discard all bones, gristle or skin. Return good meat to soup pot. I had a pretty meaty set of bones and didn't actually have to add any extra.  If you don't have enough turkey for your taste, add in some chopped turkey meat (no skin or gristly bits, please!).
7) If you aren't squeamish, continue picking through your strained bits and take your soft cooked veggies and chop them into bite size pieces. Return to soup pot.
  •  If you don't wish to use the pre-cooked veggies, finely dice new celery, onion and carrots. In a separate pan, cook the onion and celery until softened. Put veggies into soup pot and cook until soft. (This could add up to an hour!)
8) Stir in 1 cup of uncooked rice. Simmer soup until rice is fully cooked (about 10 minutes)
9) Taste soup and add salt and pepper to taste (I'm not gonna lie here... its gonna take a pretty amazing amount of salt -- like 2 tsp or more!)
10) ENJOY!!

So the time breakdown for me was 2 hours of occasional minding while the bones simmered. About 20 minutes of carcass picking and cooked veggie recutting. A final 10 minutes for the rice to cook. Honestly the process was so painless that I'm embarrassed I've never done it before. This is probably the 3rd Thanksgiving that the Hubby has brought home the bones and they've always ended up at the bottom of the freezer for months until I finally threw them out. This year the in-laws made 2 turkeys so I have another complete set of bones to cook! Yay!! As an added bonus, if you are of a cheap thrifty nature, like myself, the total cost of this entire POT of soup was under $2. If you compare that to a can of Progresso, you are looking at $3 a can and this made 6-7 cans' worth. Nice!

Feel free to comment below!

Click on the "like" button to add us to your Facebook newsfeed!

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Pumpkin Cream Cheese (Coffee) Cake

Happy Thanksgiving!!

If you don't have enough on your plate (or perhaps you need something to use up a leftover cup of pumpkin puree) or you are looking for an easy themed breakfast to feed the family-- here it is!!

I made this recipe last night for the first time and while I like it, it was supposed to be a dense cheesecakey type of dessert. It came out so light and fluffy I decided it was much better suited for a cake. I'm thinking that it is light enough to serve as a breakfast but you could go ahead and bake this off as a dessert for Thanksgiving. It's super easy and quick and much less effort than making a pie. And, I think it'd be AWESOME with a nice dollop of whipped cream on top.

In the end, I think its probably better it came out lighter than I intended as Thanksgiving, in general, tends towards pretty heavy foods. This cake was made specifically for the hubs to take to work and share with his other coworkers stuck on the job today (an unfortunate consequence of working in an emergency related profession). Since people will be snacking on it at all times of the day (from 5 am on...) I think it will actually end up a better dish than the bars I set out to make!

This recipe makes a large (24 ish) amount of servings. If you are looking for something smaller, just halve the recipe and bake in an 8x8 or 9x9 square pan!

Pumpkin Cream Cheese Swirl Cake
(adapted from this recipe at

6 Tbs melted butter
1 1/2  cups sugar
2 eggs
1 cup pumpkin puree

1 3/4 cups all purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg (more like 1/4 if you do fresh grated)

8 oz cream cheese, softened
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup vanilla
1 egg

1) Preheat oven to 350 F. Grease a large (13 x 9 or better) cake pan
2) In a medium mixing bowl,  beat butter and sugar. Beat in eggs and pumpkin until completely blended.
3) Stir dry ingredients together in a separate bowl: flour, cinnamon, baking soda, baking powder, nutmeg.
4) Add dry ingredients to wet. Mix well.
5) In a separate bowl (go ahead and use that one you just emptied the flour out of...) beat cream cheese, sugar and vanilla until smooth. Mix in egg.
6) Pour 3/4 of pumpkin batter into prepared pan. Drop tablespoons of cream cheese mixture over top. Drop remaining tablespoons of pumpkin batter over top of cream cheese mix. Drag butter knife through mix several times to make swirl pattern.
7) Bake for 30-40 minutes (depending on the size of your pan-- my 13x9 took 37 min.) Top should spring back when touched. Cool for 10 minutes & serve!!

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Quick and Easy Whole Wheat Pumpkin Pancakes

Okay, I know I've been promising these for awhile. They are SUPER easy and this week is the perfect week to enjoy them. Nothing says "Thanksgiving" like pumpkin!!

To start with, you will need some pumpkin puree--- NOT PIE FILLING!!!! You can either crack open a can (I like the organic pumpkin puree by Farmer's Market with a bpa free lining) or you can make your own (especially if you are baking off some pumpkins for pies this week anyways....)

For a full batch, you will need 1 cup of puree but I usually make a half batch. That will get you about 12, 4" pancakes. For our family (2 adult eaters and one small child eater) that is usually plenty. Especially if its a side dish to eggs or fruit. If you have a bigger family or want leftovers (they freeze beautifully!) go for the full batch!

To make these, we are starting with our homemade whole wheat baking mix (or Bisquick if you haven't gotten around to it yet)

Recipe: Wheat Pumpkin Pancakes (full batch)

2 cups whole wheat baking mix
1 cup milk
2 eggs
1 cup pumpkin puree
2 teaspoons pumpkin pie or apple pie spice mix (or just plain ground cinnamon)
2 Tablespoons sugar

1) Mix dry ingredients in a medium mixing bowl. Add eggs and milk. Stir to combine. Mix will be slightly lumpy. Stir in pumpkin puree.
2) Heat griddle and grease w/butter or coconut oil. Cook on medium heat until bubbles on top surface of pancakes pop and stay open briefly. Flip and continue cooking until second side is golden brown.
3) Top with butter and maple syrup.

If you are looking for a little extra something to fancy these up, stir into the batter 1/2 cup chopped nuts (pecans or walnuts would be nice) or flavored chips (chocolate actually goes well here but I happened to find an unused bag of cinnamon chips in the bottom of my baking supplies and they were AMAZING).

As always, your thoughts or comments are always welcomed below.

Click the like button to follow us on Facebook.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Being a Who for the Holidays

I've been spending a lot of time thinking lately-- about stuff. You know-- STUFF. Our house is full of stuff. The boys' rooms are full of stuff. Our closets, garage and yard are bursting with stuff.

A little over a year ago as we were prepping our house to be put up for sale (and the subsequent move) we did a lot of paring down. Really spent some time considering whether individual items were really necessary, useful, or important. It felt really good to be able to look around our house and see that what we had really contributed to the home instead of just being more clutter. Unfortunately, about 18 months have passed since then. And the stuff monster has been hard at work.

Starting in October (for crying out loud!!) the big HOLIDAY machinery has begun to wind up-- Buy this! Buy that! BUY! BUY! BUY! Quite frankly, I've about had enough of it. I love the winter holidays. Its a special, magical time where we focus on our family and friends and giving to others. What could be better than that?

Unfortunately, the spirit of giving has been greatly overshadowed by the spirit of having. Giving stuff and getting stuff has become the end-all be-all of the holiday season. I don't need more stuff. I don't need to clutter up my friends' and familys' homes with stuff. I don't need to buy the boys so much stuff that they can't possibly fit it in their rooms. Its time to say, "ENOUGH!!  ENOUGH WITH THE STUFF!!!" 

Here's my plan for cutting down on the consumerism of the season:

1) I'm not going out on Black Friday. I appreciate the need of businesses to make money, however I do object to them requiring employees to give up their family time to come in at 8 pm or midnight or 3 am or whatever on Thanksgiving weekend.

2) I'm going to try to get my adult friends and family to exchange homemade (food or crafts or services or whatever) gifts instead of store bought ones.

3) I'm going to try to spend more time doing things as a family-- baking cookies, watching holiday movies, going to see holiday lights, playing games.

4) I'm going to find an opportunity to volunteer or help in my community.

I'm sure there is a lot more that I could do but I think this is a good place to start. I want my kids to look back on the holidays of their childhood and have a warm cozy feeling.  I want the holidays to be about family, love, and peace.... not STUFF! I want to raise 2 Whos in our own little Who-ville who would still have an awesome holiday even if they had NOTHING--not even a can of who-hash.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Making the Most of your Pumpkin: Seeds & Puree

DIY Pumpkin Puree: A Beginner's perspective

Next up is roasting one of my pie/sugar pumpkins. I ended up with 2 as I bought one at the pumpkin patch and then got another one in our farm box last week. I have a couple of experiments to try as I've never attempted to make my own pumpkin puree before-- you have to admit, its pretty easy to just crank open a can..... so I'm following the directions from this page:


First Experiment-- Can you cook/eat a carving pumpkin?? If yes, what does it taste like??:

I cooked up the smallest  of our regular pumpkins -- it was little dude's Halloween pumpkin but we just did those push in decorations-- kind of like Mr. Potato Head, so its not been exposed to dirt & bugs. This was a pretty small pumpkin-- about 3.5 lbs. I prepped and roasted it the same as the directions above, adding time to get it completely cooked. I was pretty easy to get all the guts and seeds out.

After it was cooked and cooled, I peeled both halves. This was a bit of a slow job and pretty messy too. The peel just didn't want to come off easily. Then I pureed half. The result is a very light yellow orange color and is a little bit grainy -- almost like applesauce. The flavor is not very pumpkin-y. It tastes a lot like yellow summer squash to me. I chunked up the 2nd half and I'm deciding if I'm gonna eat it now with a little butter and salt or try to freeze it for later. While seeming perfectly edible as a squash, it's not coming across with any kind of pumpkin color or flavor. Perhaps I'll mix it with some applesauce and a sprinkle of cinnamon to make some new baby food for the little dude!

Edited: I did add in about 1/2 cup or so of unsweetened applesauce and 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon to the puree. It tastes like chunky applesauce to me. Seems like a good way of hiding extra veggies...

Second Experiment-- Does a pie/sugar pumpkin really taste sweeter?? How does homemade puree compare to canned??:

After the regular pumpkin, I cooked up the pie/sugar pumpkin. I found the prep/cleaning a bit more difficult than the regular pumpkin. The seeds were really stuck in the guts and the guts were really tightly stuck to the walls. It took probably twice as long to clean and prep as the other pumpkin (maybe the regular ones are bred for easy carving??). However, that being said, after it was roasted the skin came off like a breeze. I just scooped out the pumpkin like I would if I had made baked sweet potatoes.

After pureeing, the texture, color and flavor of the pie pumpkin is MUCH different. The puree is significantly more orange and thicker/smoother in texture-- again very similar to baked sweet potato. And the flavor is much more pumpkin-y.

I can definitely see/taste the differences and I probably won't bother roasting off a regular pumpkin again. But it sure was interesting to do the experiment!

Regular pumpkin---------Sugar/pie pumpkin

Roasted Pumpkin Seeds!!

I finally got around to cooking the pumpkin seeds from our Halloween pumpkins yesterday. We didn't carve the pumpkins until Weds. afternoon but then were so busy with trick or treating that we didn't have time to bake them off that night. I'm happy to report that letting them sit out in a collander overnight didn't hurt them one bit!  If you haven't gotten around to doing yours yet either or have the seeds saved from making the puree above, I'd recommend following the instructions on this page:

She has it step by step and the only thing I did differently is to have baked them for much, much longer. Maybe I had more seeds? Maybe because they sat overnight? Which ever it was, they seemed to take FOREVER to dry out properly. But now I have a nice jar of crunchies. We'll just have to see if they last more than a day this time!

As always, feel free to comment below!!

Click on the like button to follow us on Facebook.