Thanksgiving Leftover Ideas…Because It’s a Marathon, Not a Sprint

Ok, so if you are just joining us, here are some helpful past posts regarding my favorite holiday, specifically my Thanksgiving Planner (which is still my proverbial holiday bible of organization and recipes), the What I Wish I Knew post, and if you want to see a diatribe about the disappearing Thanksgiving, click here. Thanksgiving is my personal Superbowl, and I’ve cooked for crowds both large and small. I love it, but since I cook sooooo freaking much food, I really do need leftover ideas, because the Heathens will balk at eating the same meal for three days afterwards. My leftover approach is two-fold: have a selection of dishes that I make and freeze, then a selection of meal ideas to take us through the long weekend. After spending a small fortune on Thanksgiving, you can bet your behind I’m going to stretch those leftovers like crazy.

So, here’s some options:

Make and Freeze

  • Turkey Tetrazzini–I now use Pioneer Woman’s recipe which I love. I make several batches and freeze them for easy, weeknight meals. The bacon and peas add a great dimension to the turkey and it definitely is a taste profile that is approachable to all of us. I put it in foil pans, and wrap in both foil and plastic wrap to prevent freezer burn. Just be sure to remove the plastic before baking.
  • Turkey and/or Ham Pot Pies–I confess that this is the one post-Thanksgiving dish where I take ALL the shortcuts. I use refrigerated pie crusts, canned soups, canned veggies, and fresh herbs to feel better about myself. I assemble and freeze, then defrost and bake until golden and bubbly. If you are burnt out from cooking, these are a way to get something in the freezer in 10 minutes or less.
  • The ham bone (usually with a few scraps on it)–I freeze this by itself and make 15-bean soup later (crockpot or Instant Pot).
  • Stock–I simmer the turkey carcass with aromatics and freeze for later use.
  • Soups, chili, casseroles etc–These are viable options and pretty much any chicken soup or casserole you can freeze, just swap in the turkey.

Meals

  • The Thanksgiving Panini of Awesomeness–We use the gravy like mayo, then basically pile everything on it, including turkey, ham, cranberry sauce, stuffing, mac and cheese, sweet potatoes, and more. If it’s lying around, it can go in. Grab some French bread and panini all the leftovers into delicious submission.
  • Along those lines, we slap some ham and American cheese between two glazed donuts and panini those in the waffle maker…because it’s sinful and delicious, and waffling makes everything better.
  • These Monte Cristos, but instead of tomato chutney for garnish, I sauté a little chopped (fresh) jalapeno in butter, then add leftover cranberry sauce, heating until it’s thinned down and sauce-like (think sweet and spicy). These sandwiches are much easier than a mess of the traditional frying.
  • “Funeral Sandwiches”–Google it, but ham has never been happier…except in that donut panini thing. Bear can put down a whole tray of these.
  • Similarly, mix up some turkey, dressing and cranberry sauce, fold into won-ton wrappers, and fry until golden. Wonton and egg roll wrappers offer plenty of options to mad-scientist your way through creative leftover mash-ups, just wrap the mess up and fry it!
  • Here’s some of my Food Network ideas: Stuffed Pork Chops (made these and love them),  I haven’t tried these Crispy Turkey Bites, but they are on the list, and this stuffing/mac and cheese mash-up looks so crazy, it may be good.

Overall, my best advice for leftover management is to be creative, but don’t wait until this week *cough, cough* to come up with a plan next for next year. I jot down ideas all year long as I see them, so that, come Friday, I have 10 different plans waiting in the wings so I stretch the most expensive meal of the year into endless adventures in decadence. I’ll see you at the gym come Monday.

 

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Thanksgiving Menu–2017

Welp, I finalized the Thanksgiving menu. Overall, it’s all do-able, and I’ll make the mashed potatoes in the Instant Pot to free up burner space.  Otherwise, it’s going to be an adventure.

Best be hitting the gym now…

Yarnbox Versus Knitcrate–Which One I Like and Why

So, earlier this year, the husband and the Heathens gifted me a 3-month subscription to Yarnbox, which is a monthly box subscription for knitters/crocheters. I love yarn, and I love getting packages, so this was the absolute perfect gift. After my three months was up, I wanted to branch out and see if other subscriptions were just as satisfying, so I gave Knitcrate a try for a couple of months. Ultimately, I cancelled that one and went back to Yarnbox.

(Note, I subscribe to Yarnbox classic, and since cancelling my Knitcrate, they have changed their plans so my old subscription would now be considered the Artisan crate, which looks like it has come down in price since then.)

So, what’s the appeal of a yarn subscription? I get to try new yarns that are not typically at my LYS, and discover something new every month. However, before I go into why I favor the Yarnbox, here’s the points of comparison I started with because all of us fiber geeks are as diverse in preference as it gets:

The Yarn–I want to see quality and quantity for the price, and I think Yarnbox wins out (see below). I like variety as well. Yarnbox lets you set some preferences about colors, yarn weights, etc., so you can better tailor what you will get to your taste. For example, you can say “never send me brown yarn,” if you have a hate on for brown. To my knowledge, Knitcrate does not let you set any preferences, but this could have changed since I cancelled. I believe both boxes sell any leftovers so you can snag an extra hank if you love something and want a bigger project’s worth of yarn.

Patterns–Both boxes come with a couple of patterns. For some, this is part of the value, but not for me. I am super picky about patterns, and I don’t waste time knitting a pattern I’m lukewarm about. Ravelry is my playground when it comes to pattern hunting. If you place a big emphasis on the patterns that come in these boxes, you should check out their respective groups on Ravelry to get a feel for them.

Extras–Knitcrate Artisan came with a small extra or two each month. Yarnbox typically does not, though they did include a Soak sample (wool wash) in last month’s box.

Cost/Value–They are about the same (now, not when I had Knitcrate), though Yarnbox offers discounts for pre-purchased subscriptions, rather than month-to-month, but this is immaterial to me since I do month-to-month.

So, let’s take a look at some of my Yarnboxes:

These are just a few, but each month, I feel like I’m getting introduced to new yarns, new companies, and the quality and yardage for the cost is great. I’ve only been disappointed one month out of about seven, but that was more about my personal taste. Also, I get lots of colors but never anything I hate.

My first month of Knitcrate came with a cute keychain charm, a wooden llama needle gauge, and here was the yarn:

Don’t let the picture fool you, these are pretty small hanks, though they are of good quality, (for comparison, this Knitcrate provided 340 yards of sport weight yarn, while the above Yarnbox with the purple Sugar Bush Bliss was 525 yards of sport weight ). Also, they come from a very well-known company with wide distribution. The next month seemed more promising with two bigger hanks and…scissors. But dear lort, the color:

Trust me, it’s a lot brighter than the picture looks, and just not me. However, I was happy with the quality and discovering a new yarn brand that wasn’t such a big player, so it definitely was more of what I expected than the first month.

So, after a couple of months, I realized I was underwhelmed by my Knitcrates. I think the notions idea is cute, but in reality, it’s stuff I don’t need. I have 25 pairs of scissors and about 10 needle gauges (especially since all my interchangeable needles have one included). I’d rather put those dollars toward more yarn than on the chance of really redundant accessories.

Remember, patterns are not on my priority list, so both boxes are equal in that aspect. What sealed the deal was the chance that I would be paying for yarn that was just too far outside of my preferences. Also, at the time, my Knitcrate Artisan was about 10 bucks more a month than my Yarnbox, but I think they have since lowered the price, so take that for what it’s worth.

Ultimately, I think Yarnbox appeals to me because I feel like I get great new yarns, learn about new companies/indie operations, and I get to have some preferences while maintaining the surprise. So, take my opinion with a grain of salt, and I’m going to get back to my knitting.

***The usual disclaimer: Neither of these companies know me, because I’m just not that cool. My opinions here are all my own, and nobody gave me free stuff, or solicited my blog, or promised me a cameo in the next Kanye video. I just like talking about yarn…and food…and my abject hate for warm weather in November.***

 

Fresh Purple Hull Peas in the Instant Pot/Pressure Cooker

So, I’ve been playing with the new gadget. Overall, the Instant Pot is pretty handy. While I think some recipes I have seen go overboard in trying to make it the end-all-be-all, “lets cook everything in it” wunderkind, I still can see using it a couple of times a week. Thus far, it’s worth the investment.

My awesome neighbor dropped by a couple of days ago with a big bag of freshly shelled purple hull peas from the farm. Score! Local food and purple hulls I didn’t have to shell myself? Can’t beat that with a stick. I knew these would work fairly well in the pressure cooker, so I tossed them in and ended up with perfectly cooked, delicious peas in record time. Here’s how I did it:

Fresh Purple Hull Peas in the Instant Pot/Pressure Cooker

  • Print

  • 6 cups shelled purple hull peas
  • 1 ham hock
  • 32 oz. chicken broth
  • 1/2 TBS plus 1/2 tsp. kosher salt (divided)
  • 1 tsp. black pepper
  • splash olive oil (supposedly this helps beans/peas not foam like crazy, so I added it as a precaution)

Place peas, ham hock, chicken broth, 1/2 TBS of salt, pepper, and olive oil in the Instant Pot/pressure cooker. Attach lid and set pot to “manual” for 20 minutes. Allow pressure to release naturally. Taste peas for seasoning and add remaining salt if needed.

One thing I really appreciated about cooking the peas in the pressure cooker was that I did not steam up my kitchen by simmering them on the stove for hours. The heat index is 102 degrees today, so you can see how that also helps tip the scales onto the “it’s ok I splurged on a trendy thing” side. At least, that’s what I’ll keep telling myself.

Down the Rabbit Hole–Yes, I Bought an Instant Pot, Tell Me It Will Be Ok?

Y’all, I’m not an impulse buyer. I am also from the Alton Brown school of thought in that my kitchen has no room for “uni-tasker” gadgets. I don’t fall victim to infomercials, nor do I see the value in random items such as a perfect pancake silicone insert, countertop rotisserie, or even the microwave omelet cooker. I’m fairly old-school in that my electronic kitchen gadget staples include:

  • Kitchen Aid professional mixer (yes, it has to be a professional with the arms and clip-on bowls, not the screw-on bowls. If that’s what my grandmother and mother used, that’s what I’m using. My mom’s lasted 20+ years)
  • Cuisinart food processor
  • basic hand mixer
  • blender
  • immersion blender (for hot stuff, as I’m accident prone)
  • slow cooker (and even then, I have a Hamilton Beach model where you can put the metal pot insert on the stove top to sear meat then transfer directly to slow cooker so you aren’t dirtying up a separate pot/skillet)
  • a waffle maker (in which I waffle way more stuff in than waffle batter. Doughnut, ham, and cheese paninis anyone?)

As far as non-electric gadgets, the most eccentric I get is a slap-chop device which I need to finely mince stuff when my knife skills won’t cut it and the food processor can’t handle that small of an amount of garlic, jalapenos, or shallots consistently. It’s like the middle child between my knife skills and food processor. Ultimately, my drawers are full of multi-use basics with no “as seen on TV” foolishness to be had.

So, back to this whole Instant Pot craze (which we all know is a brand name for an electric pressure cooker). I’ve seen a ton of recipes using it on popular food blogs and Facebook. It was one of the most purchased Black Friday items last year. But surely, it’s just another gadget craze that shall pass, right?

Well, dang it if I didn’t get sucked in. I read recipes, reviews, applications, and kept shrugging it off as a splurge I don’t need. That is, until this weekend at the camp…oh this weekend…when a bad bout of heat stroke and plenty of time resting on the couch led me back down the Instant Pot rabbit hole. After two delirious and dehydrated hours scrolling through Google hits (while trying to keep my stomach from permanently exiting my body), I decided I just had to have it. And so, I bought it today, because those delirious conclusions hung on like a leech despite my recovery.

Now, what the heck am I supposed to do with this thing? I Pinterest-pinned a bunch of stuff, but I better put my shiny new Instant Pot to good, successful use fast in order to redeem my detour into random kitchen gadgetry.

Any ideas? Send help fast!

 

The Summer of the Fish

It’s no secret that we love to fish, and now that Bean is older and a wee bit more patient, we get to go a lot more often. Thus far this summer, we’ve fished the waterways of south Louisiana, a local lake, and down on the shores of Galveston. We still have plenty of side trips planned (assuming the brutal Louisiana heat doesn’t cook us to death), so I hereby declare this the Summer of the Fish!

Finished Knit–Straboy Sweater

My knitting opus is complete! I fell in love with this pattern a while back and  it took me nearly a year of on-and-off knitting, but I finished it for the husband (just in time for summer, right?). I probably will need a long break from cables and trinity stitch, but I could not be happier with how this turned out.

Pattern: Straboy from the book Contemporary Irish Knits

Yarn: Knit Picks City Tweed in Orca Colorway

Needles: Size 7 and 8 circular needles and DPNs for parts of the sleeves

Size: 44-inch chest circumference

Notes and Mods: The only adjustments I made were to lengthen the sleeves by a couple of inches. The husband has abnormally long arms, so much so that I have to order his shirts online because stores typically don’t stock his sleeve length. I did have some issues with the instructions, but the pattern author is very active on Ravelry and answered my questions very quickly. This took way more yarn than I anticipated, and I had to reorder twice! Luckily, the yarn did not vary too much between dye lots, so it’s not noticeable. The husband loves it, and hopefully, we will have some semblance of a winter this year so he can wear it.

Also, this project was my first using the Knit Companion software for the iPad, and I am so glad I bought it and watched the tutorial. This software was invaluable in managing the charts, because me and paper charts do not get along so well.

 

Things I’m Into This Week

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We are deep in the heart of Mardi Gras season, which means lots of crawfish, parades, and King Cakes. When I’m not overindulging, I’m enjoying time with family and friends, making memories and celebrating everything good about my neck of the woods.

In the meantime, here’s a round up of the things I’m into this week, which are clearly food related given my current climate:

Watching: A Chef’s Life. I guess I am late to this PBS gem, but I now binge watch it on the weekends. The combination of a character-driven documentary that still focuses on southern food culture is like crack for peeps like me. If you need some inspiration for your own garden, this show also delivers on that front. Bonus: It’s free to watch online via PBS.

Reading: Speaking of which, I’m reading Deep Run Roots by Vivian Howard, the chef in the aforementioned show. This cookbook is an opus, and I love every page. I found it after hearing about the documentary, and it’s one of the most well-executed cookbooks I’ve seen in a long time. However, I will give the disclaimer that it’s more of a 40/60 balance between recipes for home cooks and wannabe chef/foodies, so flip through it before you buy. I’m really particular about the cookbooks I will drop cash on (versus online spelunking for recipes), so I understand if this brick isn’t for everyone.

Listening: I’ve gone down the podcast rabbit hole, and I was probably last to know about The Sporkful. I come from a family that talks about our next meal while we are eating the current cuisine, so I appreciate a podcast that constantly looks at food and culture with the same obsessive eye that we do.

So there ya have it. A snippet of my indulgence for your foodie pleasure. Back to the kitchen, and that leftover piece of King Cake.

**Disclaimer–This post was not sponsored in any way, and none of these people know who I am. I’m not that cool, dude, just tunnel-vision afflicted.**

Finished Knit–Azel Pullover

azelI have been working on a sweater for my husband for months now. It’s this lovely, intricate, cabled pattern that I now refer to as “The Sweater of Doom.” Why? When I started the project, I forgot that he’s a tall man with extra-long, monkey-like arms. And no, I’m not being facetious. I have to special order his dress shirts and he can’t wear off-the-rack long-sleeved shirts because the sleeves end at his mid-forearm.  This sweater has become the opus I may never finish.

Anyway, as I trudge along, I occasionally have to take a break and knit something, ANYTHING else. This is a popular pattern that has been making the rounds, so I whipped one up for Bean, who, of course, never wants to wear it. She’s about to go on the banned knitting list if she doesn’t get with the program.

azel-2Pattern: Azel Pullover (available for purchase on Ravelry)

Yarn: Bernat Softee Chunky is Wine colorway

Needles: Size US 13

Notes: I made the 8/10 size and am glad I did. Bean is 4 years old and wears a size 6 in clothes. As you can see, it fits as intended, so if you are making this for a small human, I’d go up a size. Also, I typically stick to bargain, machine-washable yarns when I make anything for the kids. I save the good stuff for me.

Super Bowl Snack–Bourbon Meatballs That Will Make People Love You More

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Ya know, for the life of me, I do not understand why the Super Bowl is on a Sunday night. Rumor has it that many of us have work and school the next day, so staying up late, partying, and feasting would probably be an event best served by a Saturday timeslot. Alas, since we all do have to do that whole responsible work/school thing, we usually keep our festivities low-key. I make some snacks, maybe have a family member or two over (if that), and put on my fat pants. I love an excuse to have a menu consist entirely of appetizers, because I like variety…and not having to construct a singular meal that at least one picky eater is going to complain about.

Rather than the fancy Crab Mornay or Lamb Chops from holiday parties, the big game is all about hearty, easy-to-make (and eat) food. These Bourbon Meatballs are just that. Stir everything together, cook for a bit, then settle down and watch your attendees go bananas over them. You can transfer them to a slow cooker to keep warm, making them an easy, hot appetizer for any event. I even took them to a Mardi Gras parade last year. My husband thinks these are manna from heaven, and no one ever needs to know how freaking easy they are. It’ll be our secret, ok?

Bourbon Meatballs


Ingredients

  • 1 32-ounce package of frozen, Italian-style meatballs, thawed
  • 2 cups good-quality barbecue sauce (I like Sweet Baby Rays or KC Masterpiece for this. Just avoid the $1 bottle crap)
  • 1 cup bourbon
  • 1 cup honey
  • 3/4 cup yellow mustard
  • 1 TBS Worcestershire sauce

Procedure

  1. In a large pot, combine barbecue sauce, bourbon, honey, mustard, and Worcestershire sauce. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat.
  2. Add meatballs and reduce heat to medium-low. Simmer for 15 to 20 minutes. Provide toothpicks to your hungry guests and give them death threats if they even think about double-dipping.  Oh, look, there some bourbon left in the bottle! Whatever shall we do?
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