Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Thanksgiving weekend wrap-up

I had a wonderful four-day Thankgiving weekend! I don't know about you, but I like to sleep in on Thanksgiving morning, so we eat later than some folks. We had five for dinner, but I cooked enough for 10. We had a Mary's free-range turkey which I brined the evening before, using Alton Brown's brining instructions. Man, was it good. Now I've set myself up, big time: I'm expected to brine the turkey every year. The deal is, I make the turkey, cornbread dressing from my mom's recipe, and giblet gravy, and the guests bring the veggies. (My gravy was missing something this year. I couldn't figure out what it was until yesterday morning, when I found the turkey liver in the refrigerator.)

Oh, and cranberry sauce. I have to have cranberry sauce. I used to make cranberry sauce. Now I just take canned Ocean Spray whole-berry, mush it up in a bowl until the can marks disappear, and grate some orange zest on top. No one knows the difference and it saves me 30 minutes. Turkey, dressing, gravy, cranberry sauce. And wine. And cheese. And olives. And hummus dip. In case people get hungry before dinner.

After more than 4 decades, I can finally say I'm as good a cook as my mom was. (I'm pretty sure she forgot a turkey liver or two in her time.) This year, when I made the cornbread for the dressing, I forgot to set the timer. I ran to the oven as soon as I smelled cornbread, fearing the worst. It was perfect. Ha!

I can cook 'off the cuff' now, like my mom. For example, Colleen brought a yummy salad with feta cheese and toasted almonds for Thanksgiving, along with some fresh green beans and a mini watermelon. (The mini watermelon was a healthy dessert, she said, just in case the fireman didn't show up with the pie.) What should we do with these green beans, she asked? I steamed the green beans in a casserole dish in the microwave for 5 minutes, covered them with Imagine brand portabello mushroom soup (a Central Market freebie with purchase), scattered a can of French's French Fried Onions on top (those onions had been in the pantry for god knows how long) and stuck it in the oven for 15 minutes: voila, green bean casserole. Penny brought whipped sweet potatoes with marshmellows. She said she'd wished she'd had some pecans to go on top as well. Pecans, you say? I grabbed a bag of chopped pecans out of the freezer, we sprinkled some on top and threw it in the oven next to the green beans. Anyone need anything else? Well, said Brian, I really wanted a little Bailey's Irish Cream today, since it's a special occasion; we stopped by the liquor store on the way over, but it was closed. Guess what I had in the back of the refrigerator. That's right - a little bottle of Bailey's. Am I a good hostess or what?

Scott the fireman brought over a cherry-blueberry pie right around the time the UT-A&M game started. There's no photos of the pie - it was that good. Except for the pie, we had enough leftovers to send some home with our guests, make turkey sandwiches for two lunches, have two repeat Thanksgiving dinners for two, AND had some leftover dressing and gravy to freeze. I'm trying my hand at turkey mole enchiladas later this week, and I froze the turkey carcass for soup later. Nothing went to waste, except for that darn turkey liver.

OK, back to gardening topics. I just love yellow and orange two-tone tulips. The colors seemed just perfect for a fall holiday bouquet. (No, I didn't grow these; I haven't had a lick of luck with tulips.)

I also love orange cosmos. These, I did grow! The butterflies enjoyed a sumptuous holiday pollen feast. Here's a few that stood still long enough for a snapshot.
Painted lady butterfly

Painted lady butterfly

American snout butterfly

Male queen butterfly

The other Thanksgiving deal is, I cook, Jack cleans. So after the cooking was done, I pretty much had the rest of the weekend off from KP duty, which allowed me time to attend to a few gardening duties, including building the mini hoop houses for the raised beds. Hoop, there it is!

These were insanely easy to build. I used 1/2 inch PVC pipe in 10 foot lengths. It's recommended the length of the pipe be twice the width of the bed. Since most of my raised beds were 4 feet wide, I cut the pipe to 8 foot lengths with my garden loppers. (The zucchini bed is 2 feet wide, so I cut those pipes down to 4 feet.)

The pipes are anchored down with 2 foot lengths of rebar, pounded into the ground on either side of the bed until 6 to 8 inches is sticking up above ground. Simply bend the PVC pipe over the bed; the rebar inserts into the ends of the pipe to hold it into place. Easy peasy. I got a bunch of floating row cover at Dromgoole's on Monday morning. We're ready for December's freezes: bring it on!

And how was your Thanksgiving?


  1. Looks like a yummy feast, and I enjoyed your bright cosmos and butterfly pics. As for tulips, have you tried the clusianas yet? I bought 'Cynthia' bulbs last year, and they were lovely in the spring--not as showy as the big hybrids perhaps, but they're supposed to come back, even in central Texas: http://www.penick.net/digging/?p=2213

  2. Looks like you had a great Thanksgiving.
    And, you're all ready for the freeze this week. I had some of that row cover last spring....now, if I could just find it. I don't have much to cover. Maybe they'll make it, anyway.
    We had a really nice Thanksgiving here in Wimberley, too. Now, on to Christmas decorating.

  3. Ooh, Pam! I haven't tried the clusianas. Thanks for the tip. The Cynthias look wonderful!

    Linda, now I have to cut up the row cover and actually get it over the beds! Too dark and wet to do it now...I sure hope it doesn't freeze tonight.

  4. The orange cosmos look great this time of year. Mine are still going strong, too. They are the dominant color in the garden right now and the bees and the butterflies love them.

    If you're interested in Tulipa clusiana, here's some information on them: http://www.zanthan.com/gardens/plants/clusiana.html