Dave

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Thursday, November 27, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving...

My dog Gracie and I walked out on the deck this morning and it felt incredibly calm outside. At 6 in the morning, you can usually hear the sounds of cars starting, traffic in the distance and at least a few dogs barking, but this morning, it seemed as though the fog was somehow making everything darker and quieter. I could actually hear the water from the coi pond two houses down.

I lifted Gracie up so she could peer over the fence lines just in case there might be a cat that needed to be barked at but there was none. Aside from the water feature, pure silence, complete calm. Probably still a little sleepy, Gracie draped her head over my shoulder like she might be just comfortable enough to want me to rock her to sleep.

And then the rooster started cock-a-doodle-doing, and that was it. I let Gracie down, heard the engine of a car start and several dogs began the morning symphony. Can someone explain to me why somebody has a rooster in a sub-division? Do you suppose there are a bunch of hens laying eggs on the next street over?

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So I had asked for recipes for two Thanksgiving dishes - the sweet potatoes and the cranberry. Several folks left comments and sent e-mails, and I appreciate it.

Of course, this post might have been called, "I'm not Rachel Ray", because I attempted to prepare both of the dishes at the same time, and though I have not tasted either dish yet, I'm pretty sure that I get a big fat "F" in the multitasking in the kitchen department.

We'll all know for sure when I serve my finished delights later, and I'll certainly report back the result here.

Starting with the cranberry salad:
The first thing I did wrong was, I purchased a 6oz package of Jello instead of the 3oz. So right off the bat I had to decide if I was going to just use half, or use the old can of cranberry my wife found in our cabinet, apparently left over from last year, and double the recipe. I considered it, but to be honest, the can expiration date said October 10th 2008. I'm sure there is wiggle room for these things, but I just put it back in the pantry and decided to follow the recipe directions.

There is one thing about recipes that I don't like, and that is when they direct you to follow the directions on the package. Look Betty Crocker, if you want me to follow your directions, then give me ALL of the directions. Don't have me look on a package of Jello. What if I decided to go with a generic brand Jello made in Mexico or something, and the directions are in Tex-Mex? Then what?

And this is where it all started to fall apart. The recipe says, "Dissolve Jello in boiling water (as per pkg)". Okay, well the package says to dissolve it in boiling water but then to add in an equal amount of cold water. Should I do that or should I go back to the cranberry salad recipe and "Stir jellied cranberry sauce until smooth"?
So, I added in the cold water and I think that was where things got out of hand. With the Jello dissolved and now luke-warm (the mixture of the boiling water and the cold water does that), I began to stir in the cranberry sauce into the Jello. Okay. Problem is, I missed the second step of "Stir jellied cranberry sauce until smooth" so now I found myself trying to get all the lumps of jellied cranberry out before the Jello could harden.I gave up and put it in the refrigerator so it could chill and thicken.

Now keep in mind, all this time I was working on my other recipe, the sweet potatoes, and trying to keep the kitchen clean. But between looking for different utensils, wiping off spilled red Jello from the counter top and learning that sweet potatoes actually fly when they encounter a mixer, I was getting frazzled.
Okay, fast forward to slightly thickened Jello mixed with partially smoothed cranberry sauce. The next step was to fold in the orange peel, drained crushed pineapple, the pecans and flaked coconut.I've gotta tell you, it didn't look very appetizing, at all. Oh, the other thing is, I had no idea that we do not own a Jello Mold. A what? Jello Mold. What? My wife said I should use a Bunt cake pan but I thought that might be a little hard to clean out, so I found these festive plastic containers my wife bought for the 4th of July. I think we put peanuts in them.

So, there you have the cranberry salad. I'll let you know if anyone eats any of it, and further, if anyone likes it.

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If you think cranberry salad is a challenge, try combining two recipes for sweet potatoes. Reader Rich sent in a a recipe for sweet potatoes which I had planned to use, but at the last minute, another reader, Janet, sent in her recipe for Sweet Potato Casserole. I have tasted said Casserole, and it is what got me on this whole kick in the first place. When I started looking at the two recipes side by side, I realized that they both were fairly similar - same ingredients, but different amounts.

Example: Rich's recipe called for 2 eggs, Janet's called for 4. I went with 4. Rich's needed 2/3rd cup of evaporated milk, Janet's called for 1/3 cup of regular milk. I went with, well, I'll get to that later.
Janet's recipe said to boil the sweet potatoes in the skins, then slip them off. I had no idea how that would work out. Come to find out, they do come off fairly easy once you realize you have to pick them up and handle them. Uh, be sure to wash your hands, kids.

Next, you need to mash the potatoes with a masher. Yes, we have one. No I couldn't find it until my wife came in and found it in the drawer where it is supposed to be.
Both of the recipes called for 1 cup of sugar and both of them asked for 1 tsp of vanilla. I added in the 4 eggs and then started looking for some butter. The only real butter we had was frozen, so I had to take time to melt a stick in the microwave. You know how that could take, I don't know, a minute?

Well, during that delay, I was doing something with the cranberry salad and washing dishes, and taking pictures and stuff. Something very terrible went awry, but I would not realize it until later.
So once all the sweet potato mixture was smoothed out from mixing it and dodging the flying chunks that apparently weren't boiled quite enough to make them squish nicely between the blades of the mixer, it was ready to go into the pan we bought for it. Okay, maybe I used more that the 4 cubs of sweet potatoes, because the pan was full. Oh, and Janet's recipe said to bake it in a 2 quart casserole dish. Rich's called for a 13 x 9 pan. Who knows?I had actually placed the pan in the oven when I went back and looked at both recipes and realized that the topping mixture had to go on the sweet potatoes before it was baked, not after!Janet's topping called for 1/2 cup of brown sugar, Rich's for 1 cup. I went with a cup. Janet's called for 1/4 cup flour, Rich's 1/2 cup. I used 1/2 cup. They both needed butter and chopped pecans and I had that.Now, I did not realize the difference in cooking heat or time until literally this moment while writing about it, so this may be an issue. Janet's recipe said to set the oven at 350 and bake for 55 minutes, which is what I did. I now see that Rich's said to cook at 325 for 30 to 40 minutes or until golden brown. Good Lord! This may present a situation. But when the sweet potatoes were pulled from the oven, they really smelled good.Oh. And as I was cleaning the kitchen, I happened upon this little gem. Yea, my sweet potatoes contain neither Janet's 1/3 cup of milk, nor Rich's 2/3 cup of evaporated milk. Maybe that would have helped in the mixing process.

Either way, let's just keep this little piece of information between us girls. If anyone starts to get sick from eating the sweet potatoes, I'll just give them a glass of milk and offer them the cranberry salad.

3 comments:

Evil Twin's Wife said...

LOL. It sounds about like my day, (with the cranberry sauce), but I only did regular mashed potatoes and they turned out fine.

Anonymous said...

Eva say:)
OMGoodness the sweet-taters were out of this world:)I love not having to cook :). Happy Thanksgiving ya'll !!

Rich said...

Dave, am happy to hear your sweet potatoes came out well on Thanksgiving. I must admit I was in a rush to get out of town and head up I-35 north so I did a quick copy/paste of my wife "Machille's" sweet potato recipe that I sent to you. Just wanted to set the record straight as I am not much of a cook and can't take ANY credit for that recipe. Cheers. P.S. - her potatoes turned out terrific as usual.

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I love to observe the odd things happening around me as I go about my day. I especially like it when I can get a picture of people being themselves. Here, I attempt to report the various people and events I have encountered in my neighborhood, and my city. I'd also love to hear from you. Feel free to e-mail your experiences and photos of life in San Antonio.

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