Thursday, November 29, 2012

Turkey Bologna Revisited and Thanksgiving Leftovers


This time of year is all about the turkey. Leftover turkey sandwiches from Thanksgiving comprised of most of the my lunches this week. Last week, I picked up some 100% Whole Wheat Everything Bagel Slims from Trader Joe's that I haven't actually been eating as bagels, but rather using them to make some kick-ass sandwiches.

The first sandwich I was making before I had the luxury of Thanksgiving leftovers was comprised of one everything bagel slim, mustard, mayo, a slice of Muenster cheese, and a slice of turkey bologna. I reported on turkey bologna last year, and this year I decided to give it another shot because it was on sale for $2 at Meijer. This time, I got Oscar Meyer brand rather than Applegate Farms, so I can't vouch for the humane treatment of the turkeys involved in making the bologna, nor the lack of chemical crap. But hey, $2 is in my price range, and this package will make a lot of sandwiches. 

They were really pretty tasty sandwiches, too! I'm a little skeptical of the whole "slim bread" movement considering a regular slice of bread often has less calories and more fiber than its trendy slim cousin. I am, however, a huge fan of the everything bread movement. The only bread I will order from DiBella's Old Fashioned Submarines is their everything bread. It's like a party in my mouth! 

Trader Joe's sells everything bagels that are absolutely delicious and make excellent sandwiches. They are also a bit large, so I was actually happy to see the slim version. The taste is, admittedly, a bit different from the regular everything bagels, though this didn't really bother me since I was slathering them with mayo, mustard, meat, and cheese anyway. 

Once the turkey leftovers entered my fridge, I immediately had to try some on the everything bagel slim. I forwent the mayo and mustard this time, instead simply layering on the turkey and a slice of Muenster. Then a brilliant idea struck me. I put the sandwich in the microwave for 30 seconds, just enough time to melt the cheese a bit, warm the meat, and soften the bread. The result was utter perfection. 

Turkey breast on everything bread with cheese is my new favorite leftover sandwich. I think it could only be improved by the addition of a layer of leftover stuffing. C'est magnifique! 

Monday, November 26, 2012

How to Make Easy Herb Butter

I spent Thanksgiving this year with my boyfriend Greg's family. He and I both had to work the day after, so it was nice to stay close to home. (Though I did then visit my family in Kalamazoo on Sunday, which is still sandwiched between work days. C'est la vie.) 

I went over to Greg's house at about eleven in the morning, and we headed over to his aunt's house just down the street soon after to see if we could help her with dinner preparations. While Greg chopped parsley for the stuffing, I made herb butter for the rolls. There was a recipe to follow, but we decided to modify it. My favorite thing!

First, I started with one stick of unsalted butter that had been set out on the counter to soften. I creamed this with a spoon in a small glass mixing bowl. Then I mixed in one tablespoon of lemon juice, which I think might have been too much. It left the butter quite tangy. Next, I took two pinches of the parsley that Greg was chopping and mixed it with the creamed butter. Then I told Greg to chop up two cloves of garlic for me. 

I tend to go overboard with garlic by my mother's reckoning, but I think this was a good amount of garlic for everyone. The chopped garlic was then creamed quite thoroughly in with the butter and parsley mixture. This was important, I think, because it crushed a lot of the little garlic pieces and better spread the flavor throughout the butter.

The resulting herb butter was fluffy, a bit tangy, as I mentioned above, and deliciously full of garlic and parsley, my two favorite seasonings. Everyone enjoyed it, which made me very happy considering I really didn't know what I was doing, which, honestly, is most of the time.

This is one recipe I will definitely have to make again, perhaps experimenting with different flavors. It looks fancy, but it is really easy! Try it!

Thursday, November 22, 2012

A Thanksgiving Poem

Baked apples with cinnamon,
Or roasted Belgian endives.
Cauliflower covered with cheese,
And pumpkins baked into pies.
Figs and cranberries
Make wonderful desserts,
As do pomegranates,
And don't forget pears.
All of these things ripen,
Are harvested in Fall.
That is why we give thanks,
And eat them one and all.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Thanksgiving Dinner Ideas

Instead of doing a new recipe today, I thought that I would pull together a few of the recipes that I have already done during the course of this blog that would make great additions to any Thanksgiving feast, especially if you have special food needs. Here is the breakdown:

Side Dishes

Meat Dishes

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Baked Acorn Squash Makes a Comeback

Last year, I made baked acorn squash for the first time. It was delicious! Nutty and buttery and sweet. (I used butter, baking walnut pieces, and brown sugar to flavor the squash.) I decided that this year, since I enjoyed it so much last year, I needed to make more, only this time, change it up a bit and use different toppings.

Since I wasn't following any one recipe, I first preheated my oven to 400F, later lowering it to 350F as the sticker on the acorn squash suggested. After cutting the squash in half, I added a little water to my pan and sprinkled some over the squash halves. What I forgot to do was put them squishy side down while baking them. Oops!

I don't think that could have affected the texture, but maybe since it came out very fibrous. It also might have not been ripe enough. I don't think I know enough about squash to really make an informed judgement here.  It also took longer to cook - maybe an hour. I ended up zapping my dish in the microwave for 30 seconds, too, since it still didn't seem quite done enough to me. 

My flavorings this time were butter, ground cinnamon, and ground nutmeg. Since I used brown sugar last time, I was going to use maple syrup this time. I couldn't remember if I actually had any maple syrup, though, and before I checked the fridge, I noticed the bottle of Alaskan wildberry syrup that I had yet to do anything with. So instead of maple syrup, I drizzled some wildberry syrup over the squash instead. 

The taste this time around was quite different from last time, but I still enjoyed it. I think I'd enjoy it more if the texture were less stringy (and yes, I did scoop out the innards). I was thinking that perhaps I should cook it a bit longer and use a masher to mash the squash like potatoes, and that might take care of the texture.

Probably not a flavor combination I'd make for Thanksgiving dinner, but good enough for my lunches made of leftovers. I need to eat more vegetables and such. My body demands it! So between the two acorn squashes that I have made, I think I prefer last year's, but that could just be the texture thing.

Monday, November 12, 2012

The Fleetwood Diner

The Fleetwood Diner is one of the only 24 hour restaurants that I can think of in Ann Arbor, Michigan, and the only one that isn't part of a chain. (Though there is another location in Lansing, I don't think that makes it a chain.) It is also the home of the Half & Half Burger, made up of half ground beef like a normal burger and half ground bacon. Yes, bacon. Naturally, my boyfriend Greg had to order this, and I believe he said it was surprisingly bitter. I couldn't bring myself to ask for a taste. I was quite happy with my bacon-free cheeseburger.

The Fleetwood Diner also lays claim to Hippie Hash, comprised of hash browns, grilled veggies, and feta cheese. Really, it doesn't sound half bad, except that it has peppers in it, and peppers and I don't get along very well. I guess being vegetarian is what makes it "hippie," and, this being Ann Arbor, the hash is not the only vegetarian option on the menu. They also offer tempeh burgers, among other things.
Again, this being Ann Arbor, and since Ann Arbor is located on the eastern side of Michigan, the Diner's menu also includes gyros and coneys. Mmm! (Though I haven't tried either yet.)

To me, the coolest thing about the Fleetwood Diner isn't its menu. I love that it's a freaking diner! It's shaped like my grandpa's old camping trailer, and about the same size. The counter inside is lined with round stools with vinyl cushioned seats. And the guy - there's only one - cooking your food is standing at the grill right being the counter. You can sit and watch him make your food and even chat while he does it. Outside are tables with folding chairs clustered around the door beneath the striped awning.

If the time is right, you can hop across Liberty for a nightcap at Bill's Beer Garden. Or vice-versa. The two establishments are owned by the same person. In fact, the two owners of the beer garden met while working together at the diner decades ago. (Click the link for a rundown of their brainchild.) 

Newcomers to Ann Arbor should really check this diner out. Sure, there are lots of fancy and fun restaurants on Main St, but off-Main has a lot to offer, too, and must be tried, too.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Ann Arbor's Very Own Beer Garden

From the creators of Mark's Carts, I introduce to you Bill's Beer Garden located in the parking lot of Downtown Home and Garden in Ann Arbor on the corner of Liberty and Ashley. Mark Hodesh partnered with Bill Zolkowski to bring us yet another unique Ann Arbor landmark-in-the-making.

I had heard rumors months ago about a beer gardening opening up in our kooky little city, and it was with great excitement that I texted my boyfriend Greg one night while walking back to my car from work that there was a sign up advertising Bill's Beer Garden. When Greg met me downtown tonight, we found the garden open.

Apparently it opened in late October - right before my birthday! - and somehow managed to escape my notice. It is open Thursday through Saturday from 5pm to 11pm and Sunday from 4pm to 9pm until December 2nd. And if you're thinking that it seems a might cold to be sitting around a parking lot drinking beer, fear not! There are two fire pits set up and given a constant supply of wood to keep the blazes going strong. So grab a beer, pull up a chair, and get cozy in front of a warm fire. Now that is a good time!

Don't like beer? Me neither, really. While Greg enjoyed his beer, I was quite pleased with my mulled wine, delightfully served in a little mason jar. Both the beers and the wines on the menu are Michigan-made and include brews and vintages from all over the state. My wine was from Leelanau. 

While we were there, old big band era music was playing over the stereo, but I've seen it rumored that live music will also occasionally pop up. 

So if you are looking for a new and unique drinking experience, jog on over to Liberty and Ashley and give Bill's Beer Garden a try. There's no cover, just be 21 years of age or over. And have a good time!

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Cranberries

No, not the Cranberries, though I do really enjoy their album No Need to Argue, this blog is, in fact, about the little red superfruit packed with fiber and antioxidants. I was inspired by my two recipes recently that both involved cranberries, the pumpkin bread and the shredded Brussels sprouts mixture

First off, there are many health benefits to cranberries, as I mentioned above. Pure cranberry juice and eating dried cranberries have been shown to prevent and relieve various infections, making it a natural antibacterial that, when consumed on a regular basis, can act as an alternative to antibiotics. Cranberries are also an anti-inflammatory.

But that isn't why I really wanted to look into cranberries. I wanted to know how cranberries became associated with Thanksgiving. If one buys into the fairy tale about the First Thanksgiving (and it is a fairy tale, believe me), then it seems logical that we would eat cranberries along with turkeys and blah-blah-blah because that's what the Pilgrims ate. Yeah, no.

I mean, yes, the Pilgrims probably did eat cranberries because they found them growing all over Cape Cod, but why would, say, Virginians eat cranberries? Or Floridians? If the idea of the early real Thanksgiving feasts was to give thanks for the local bounty, cranberries would have no place outside of their native region. I've always heard that turkeys being a tradition came from turkey farmers trying to push their product, and I believe it. Maybe the same thing happened with the cranberry?

The world may never know. At least, I may never know. All of the website I find simply say "Native Americans probably shared cranberries with the Pilgrims, so that must be why it's a tradition." The problem with this is that this is not how traditions are actually born. Cranberries are harvested in the fall, which also happens to be when Americans celebrate their Thanksgiving, so I suspect this plus clever marketing is why we eat cranberries every November.

Since I can't seem to actually get a satisfactory answer to my question "how did the cranberry become a Thanksgiving staple," I will share with you some interesting facts.
  1. The name cranberry comes from "craneberry" because early settlers allegedly thought the flowers looked like the heads of cranes. The native people tended to call them names that translated to "bitter berry."
  2. History credits Henry Hall for first farming cranberries in 1816.
  3. It is claimed that ripe cranberries bounce. (I need to test this.)
  4. Native Americans used cranberries to dye fabric in addition to using them in food and medicine.
Okay, so there aren't very many facts, but I'll bet the average person wasn't aware of at least one, if not all, of them before reading this blog.

And now you know a little more about this traditional Thanksgiving food. Feel free to talk about it over your own feast. And, by all means, direct people back to this blog. Seeing is believing!

Friday, November 2, 2012

Pumpkin Bread Remix

My friend Robin makes the best pumpkin bread that I have ever had. In fact, among me and my friends, Fall is synonymous with Pumpkin Bread Season because Robin makes us all little pumpkin bread loaves as presents. And there is much rejoicing.

After Robin, the best pumpkin bread I have is actually from a box. Seriously, Trader Joe's Pumpkin Bread Mix is fantastic! It's fluffy, flavorful, and oh-so-easy to make. I usually pick up a few boxes every Fall when it comes out. 

This year, Trader Joe's also got in Pumpkin Cranberry Scone Mix, which is also super tasty, but more expensive than the regular pumpkin bread mix. I was talking about this to my mother and wondered aloud if I could just get the regular mix at the lower price and add my own dried cranberries. She stood up, went to the cupboard, and pulled out a half-empty bag of dried cranberries. 

And so, for my apartment's Halloween party, I made two loaves of Trader Joe's pumpkin bread. The first I made according to the box's instructions. To the second, I added a handful of dried cranberries and mixed them into the batter thoroughly before pouring it into the bread pan. 

The result was, indeed, quite delicious, adding a nice fruity tang to the sweet pumpkiny goodness. It did, however, take another 15 to 20 minutes to bake than the regular mix had. 

I realize Halloween is the holiday we usually associate with pumpkins, but I see no reason why pumpkin bread or pumpkin muffins shouldn't be a nice addition to a Thanksgiving feast, especially with the addition of the strangely traditionally Thanksgiving-y cranberry.