Through the Kitchen Window

So the Challenge is officially underway. Deadline for registering was 30th September and that date arrived with us showing 16 participants and a pot of $320.00 up for grabs. How’s THAT for incentive???

The owner of the bulletin board we all read set us up a “child board” where our blogs, or journals, are held. Basically this allows those of us in the challenge to interact, offer each other advice, encouragement, kudos etc as well as give us a compact area to find each other. Some are better at blogging than others. Yours truly, for instance, is execrably bad at it. Not because I don’t take the time to visit the board, but because, well, I dunno why really. It’s just the way it is.

Me notwithstanding, there are many members of the challenge who not only make time to blog regularly and keep us informed of their successes, failures and bumps along the way, but they also take time out to read other blogs and comment and encourage. Way back at the beginning, this was our main reason for setting up the Challenge, to give us a place where there were people going through the same thing. People who understand how hard it is to turn a deaf ear to the pizza that calls us. How difficult it is to ignore the pumpkin pie with our name on it. The two litres of butterscotch ripple left over from dinner that “can’t” go to waste. To add insult to injury, we have just come through our Thanksgiving weekend here in Canada. So, for many of us in the Challenge, we hit week three (or thereabouts) facing the seemingly insurmountable challenge of a big turkey dinner with ALL the trimmings. And here, dear Reader, is where yours truly fell down.

Let it be noted that, although it was going slowly, it was, until this nefarious holiday, at least going. Going into my fourth week of the Challenge I stood at a six pound loss. Not bad for me.

Then I start plans for Thanksgiving dinner. All of my brood was coming home for the big day. Marina came in from Montreal on the Friday, spent the night with her brothers, Vincent and Matthew, in their student pad in the city and then on Saturday morning they were joined by Jamie, Vincent’s girlfriend and made the trek home to Alliston. Our dear friend, and my surrogate daughter, Rosellen was an important part of the group. A friend of the boys’ who has now become a family friend, Michael, was also here. My SO, Larry, and his two boys, James and Bryan were on hand too. From there we mushroomed. Helen and two of her three, Lisa and Jonathan; Laura had to work poor thing; and Jonathan’s girlfriend Dana. Geneen and her teenaged son, Ken. My dear friend (old friend, but don’t tell her I said so) Anna and her friend Brent. And a last minute addition of Zeva, my sushi mentor, and her son Edward. In all, we numbered twenty one around my table. Needless to say, no dining room would hold this group so we laid tables all the length of the living room and around the corner into the dining room as well.

Once I had the logistics all set up in my mind, food came next. So . . . can I be expected to diet while planning a feast??? NO!!!

And I didn’t.

We had a 33 pound bird. Stuffed with a no bread stuffing (Larry has a wheat allergy) and an extra pan of stuffing for the masses. My stuffing is relatively simple and a perpetual favourite. Diced bacon, onion, potato dices, mushrooms and rice. The proportions are pretty much ad lib really. How much of everything you use depends entirely on how much stuffing you want. Not to mention, what you’re more or less partial to. I start by sautéing the bacon, then in the bacon fat, brown the onion, the potato and the mushrooms, removing each after they’re done to a large bowl. Do the mushrooms last because they will absorb up the fat. Then in the same pan, I start the rice in much the same manner as I would do a risotto. Melt a couple of tablespoons of butter and add two cups, or more or less, of short grain rice. Stir till it’s well coated but don’t let it get too brown, then, slowly add hot stock. I just dissolve mushroom bouillon cubes in boiling water and use it, but if you have fresh stock, or prefer chicken or vegetable cubes, that works too. Add your stock gradually and add just enough so that the rice is almost done, that is, it still has a bit of bite at the centre. Then add the rice to the rest of the stuffing ingredients and combine. Season to taste, I don’t use sage or savoury, but that’s a personal preference. Stuff the bird and away you go.

With the turkey and stuffing, we had the requisite mashed potatoes and gravy, squash, corn, and peas but we also had brussel sprouts, lima beans and asparagus. We traditionally have Yorkshire pudding with our turkey. I know it’s a roast beef thing, but trust me when I tell you my kids wouldn’t enjoy turkey nearly as much without them. This year, because Larry and his boys were joining us and it’s a part of their tradition, we also baked (well slow cooked on the bbq) a ham and for the ham we had scalloped potatoes. This was all rounded out with a fresh tomato salad and a huge green salad and accompanied by fresh crusty baguettes.

In deference to Larry and his allergy, my gravy was thickened with a mixture of rice flour and potato flour and except for the fact that it tended to clump more easily and so I had to be extra diligent in my whisking, it turned out very well. Also my scalloped potatoes experienced a change when I used the same rice / potato flour mixture to thicken the cream sauce for them. It gave the dish a slightly different consistency, but it wasn’t a bad difference.

For dessert we featured watermelon, cantaloupe, pineapple, grapes and berries and two huge tubs of Neapolitan ice cream courtesy of Anna. Marina made her famous chocolate pecan pie, one in the traditional manner and one Larry-fied with a crust made from, you guessed it, rice and potato flour. Jamie made pumpkin pie, one traditional and one crustless for Larry. Zeva brought a beautiful strawberry shortcake and a nod to Seinfeld with a cinnamon babka.

We planned and shopped for days ahead. We started the night before making the stuffing to be ready for the bird in the morning. Then at 6:30 I’m up and showering for my date with “george” in the kitchen. We had a nice chat while I trimmed and rinsed him about his sacrifice for my family’s Thanksgiving table. He seemed happily resigned to his fate. Then I stuffed him, trussed him up, covered him in butter and bacon and a heavy duty foil tent and by 8:00 am he was happily roasting in my oven. I started him in the oven at 500 deg and after the first two hours, turned it down to 450 deg and he stayed at that temperature, in his foil tent, till 3:30 pm when I took the tent down, removed the bacon I had larded him with, and returned him to the oven to brown up to the nice mahogany colour that speaks of a successful bird.

At 4:30 he was ready to meet his fans. We gave him a glorious send off. I think he would have been pleased.

After dinner we dealt with all the leftovers. I sent people home with doggie bags, but I still ended up with a fridge full of food. So . . . for most of the week after Thanksgiving, I was STILL not dieting. But that’s ok. Monday is on its way and for me, like all great dieters of our time, Monday is the magic day.

So look out Challenge-ites!!! Monday the 17th will mark my re-start. There will be no looking back. That is, at least not until the next holiday.

TTFN!!!

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