Thanksgiving, and leftovers.

This was the first year I've ever cooked a Thanksgiving dinner. I'd say I was over prepared, since I did a lot of knitting the day of... not that I'm complaining. I ordered a smoked turkey, which I had never tried before, from the Amish organic meat guy that I also ordered beef and pork from this year. It was fantastic! My first bite confirmed that it was indeed similar to ham, but it was such a stress free way to make a Thanksgiving turkey, that I would absolutely do it again.

These rolls (on the right above) are also one of my favorite party foods, since you mix the dough the night before and let it sit until about 2 hours before you want to bake them. I'd say they fall into the enriched bread category, since they contain a fair amount of sugar, some milk and butter, but they are always popular. Instead of feeling leaden like many enriched doughs, these are light, and hold well for a couple of days after too.

The smoking process requires the bird be cut in half, so I froze half of my bird. The meat is actually then fully cooked, and only needs to be heated through. I borrowed a Rival electric counter top roasting pan from my in-laws, and was rewarded with an entire oven of free space. I had the stuffing and Potato Pumpkin bake ready the day before, so it really only needed to be on an hour, 90 minutes if you include the rolls' baking time.

By the time I ate pie later in the evening, I was really very full. I can not eat to my full capacity anymore. I was reminded of this when reading this post by Glutster today. Ah, to be 20 again...

There were hardly any dishes from this adventure either, at least no more than any other day, which was an added bonus. We had a leftovers party the next day with Sasa and Dimitri to quickly dispense of most of the leftovers. I had made enough steamed broccoli to feed North Korea, so I decided just before they arrived to make a broccoli soup. That wasn't a bad idea, since it was also delicious.

Made like this:

All my leftover broccoli, a carrot, an onion, 2 c. of stock and 2 c. of skim milk. Easy peasy. Add some salt, pepper and Aleppo and blend with an immersion blender. Then mix in about 4 oz. of shredded (Cranberry Chipotle Cheddar - I love Wisconsin...) cheese and you have a pretty easy, healthy, delicious soup!

I was leaving town, so I sent along the leftovers with them, but I'll be making this again soon. The Boy-O and I took a quick trip west to cut down our tree and visit my parents for a day. When I returned, there was just enough turkey left for a couple of sandwiches. I ate one last night, and one for lunch today on some plain old white bread I made.

It has been quite a while since I made plain white bread. This is the Cook's Illustrated American White Bread, which is just that: soft, plain and white. It was the proper choice for the last of the Thanksgiving turkey. I polished off the last of my first jar of spicy dilly beans, a keeper of a canning recipe if I ever had one, and am on track for a cleaned out fridge. We're heading south to Orlando, FLA in a couple of days, and I like to have a clean slate when I return from a trip. The break in cooking before we go will be used to decorate the tree, knit and meander around the house in general.

Boy, Marisa at Foodinjars was not kidding about how good these dilly beans are...

So many people have such horror stories about their first Thanksgiving behind the stove. I'm very thankful that mine was such a good experience to remember! The coming weeks will be spent in Christmas cooking preparations. Cookies, of course. Every year I seem to go overboard and think that I never have enough. Tamale making is going to be in the works again this year, too. I love making tamales, and this is my third year using the Rick Bayless method. The only thing I do wish I had were an extra pair of hands to help with the spreading, and about 20 extra feet of counter space. But as long as I plan enough in advance, I am just as happy to do it alone. Still if you are in the greater Milwaukee area, and want to lend a hand, just let me know.

One day until Pie Day, or Thanksgiving as it is also known.

First off, these photos will not be as clear or artful as normal. It's hard to snap photos when your hands are covered in butter and flour. I am truly amazed that I've never dropped my camera thus far due to "kitchen hands", but I'm sure that now I've mentioned it, it will fall gracelessly from my grasp later this afternoon...

I decided to waiver from the Vodka Pie Crust I was planning to make for my Thanksgiving pies, and opted for the Alton Brown method since I've had nothing but success from his recipes in the past, and they used slightly less fat than the Vodka Dough. I was also in the mood for weights, and so out of the cupboard came my digital scale, and all the ingredients were assembled nice and neat in the food pro.

Check it out if you have 10 minutes:

Now, I did not use a brick of lard, mind you. I did use 2 T. of organic, non-hydrogenated shortening, and the resulting pie dough was beautiful and easy to work with. The most novel thing about this pie dough making method is that after food pro assembly, you simply toss the dough into a zipper top bag, and then gently knead it into a disk through the plastic. Mess free! I am the messiest pie dough maker ever, and nary a stray crumb catapulted from the counter during my whole process.

I mixed up the doughs yesterday, and pulled them from the icebox to roll this morning. Another amazing thing is Alton tells you to cut two sides off the zip top bag (one of my sides was the ziptop part), and then use the plastic to roll out the dough. This is genius, since I barely needed any additional flour to roll, and absolutely nothing sticks to the board.

When I got to this point, I did slice off the other two sides of the plastic bag, and then repositioned the plastic as needed. I think I've found a way to have pie more often! Usually, I stick to cake, since I do love it, often it only requires one bowl, and I can manage relative neatness while assembling.

Finished pie photos will most definitely accompany my Thanksgiving dinner post, sometime after the fete tomorrow or Friday...

But look at my work area! Not messy at all, and now I'm on to assembly of the Potato and Pumpkin Bake that Marisa at told me (and all of her readers) I had to make. Meanwhile, if you haven't made a pie yet, or just needed some encouragement to go ahead and make one, give Alton's Recipe a try. You won't be sorry, and neither will your clean kitchen.