Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Thanksgiving Leftovers-Time Spinning Reckless

This year our Thanksgiving group gathered near Squaw Valley at Lake Tahoe.
The weather was glorious, and we spent most of one day at this beach. Some even took a dip. 
Maybe this post title should be "Thanksgiving Afterglow" or "Thanksgiving Rocks" or something other than what "Thanksgiving Leftovers" connotes. True, I will soon get to an easy breezy super-good low-carb leftover turkey recipe.

But the big story, for me, is that the Thanksgiving celebration PK and I share annually with family, dear friends, and, always, a few newcomers, provides a lasting burst of energy and hope. Leftovers, so to speak. 

Leftovers, that unlike turkey, which disappears into soups, casseroles, sandwiches within a week, will continue forever. How could I ever forget this picture of grandson Noah "smiling" for the camera with his uncle Chris  trying to match his enthusiasm? And so many other great moments.
Here we are, recovered from Thanksgiving-feast comas and ready to play beach games. 
After five years, our cross-generational Thanksgiving group has grown to 20+, a number we hold steady as the desire to include others, and the reality that too many would complicate our accommodation requirements and the intimacy that's central to the whole deal, makes us curb our enthusiasm.

Renting a place to accommodate 20 -25 is a challenge. Having a great time with that number, however, is no problem. We long ago progressed beyond the one-day celebration and are now up to three to five days. Heavy feasting. Immoderate wine drinking. Tireless dancing. Animated conversation. Hiking. Spirited ping pong. A horseshoe-like game called washoes. And whatever outdoor activities the weather or terrain allows. All make for a colorful whirl of time spinning, reckless, on fast forward. 

This annual gathering, and also friendships and traditional celebrations that have gone before, remind me of what matters: honesty, friendships, old and new; family, whether blood-related or not; zest for life; traditions, both established and developing; flexibility; and maybe most important, recognizing that although the universe doesn't give a crap about you, your friends and family do.

And you care about them. Big time. What's more important than that? (Maybe zest for life, if you can manage that on your own.)

Here's a compilation of photos from this year's Thanksgiving celebration with credit to Steve Lambros and Laurie Gerloff (and me) with others from Lauren Frank, Gail Frank, Paula Stone, Chris Korbulic and Tom Landis.

The Goods

Here's that pretty dang good and super easy recipe for leftover turkey. Cooking is a shared responsibility at Thanksgiving, and PK and I were in charge of turkey this year. We brought two; one fresh, one smoked, around 19 pounds each. We ended up with mostly smoked turkey leftovers—a good thing! Because I used smoked turkey for this casserole, I didn't add any salt. If your turkey isn't brined or salty, you may need to add a little punch.
All ingredients are leftovers. I brought the artichoke/jalapeno dip and raw broccoli for appetizers that didn't get used. As usual, we had way too much food despite our pledge to go light. Ha! For a similar result, you could add YOUR leftovers and tie it all together with a pre-made sauce or dip, such as the artichoke jalapeno concoction. 

Turkey Snap - Broccoli, Artichoke/Jalapeno Turkey Casserole
Serves four. Bake in a 9X13 casserole at 350 for 30-35 minutes to bake. FIVE MINUTE prep.
  • 2 (approximate) cups Costco's Stonemill Kitchen's artichoke jalapeno dip (1 carb for 2 TBSP), enough to cover the casserole bottom.
  • Sliced cooked turkey, enough to cover the dip. Turkey may be smoked or roasted. I used smoked. HAM could be substituted.
  • 2-3 cups raw broccoli florets, cut into bite-sized pieces. (Save time. Buy precut and trimmed in a bag.) 
  • 3/4 cup chopped onion
  • Grated cheese, cheddar, Parmesan, or whatever you have on hand, enough to spread on top of the casserole.
  • Salt and pepper to taste. Note: If you use smoked turkey or ham, additional salt could be overkill. 
  1. Preheat the oven to 350.
  2. Spread enough artichoke jalapeno dip in the bottom of the casserole dish to cover it with 1/4 to 1/3 inch.
  3. Arrange sliced turkey or ham generously atop the dip. 
  4. Mix remaining dip with the raw broccoli and diced onions. The mixture should be visibly covered with the dip, but not thickly. If the mixture seems too dry, and you ran out of the dip, add mayo. Too little is better than too much.
  5. Spread the broccoli/dip mix atop the turkey slices.
  6. Cover with foil and bake for 25 minutes.
  7. Remove from oven and uncover. Top with grated cheese and pop back into the oven for 5-7 minutes. Remove when cheese is melted, and let rest for a few minutes before serving.  
Note: The broccoli will still be al dente after 25 minutes. If you like broccoli more tender, give the covered casserole another 10 minutes in the oven before melting the cheese. 

Monday, November 19, 2012

Hello Winter Salsa

Fall is so beautiful in Southern Oregon. Our own country road, about to take a sharp left to follow the blackberry fence. 
Fall tantalized us for a long time with summerish temps. That was then. It is now winter, just in time for Thanksgiving, which seems an odd time to be slicing and dicing the season's final pico de gallo with tomatoes harvested just last week. That is so late. We haven't had a hard frost yet, which is so unusual. But I'll take the tomatoes, even if they are mottled and wimpy.
Late late season tomatoes, a surprise harvest from plants we didn't have time to pull before our wonderful Blues Cruise earlier this month. Late tomatoes are pretty much limited to Roma types.
Pico de gallo. Definitely the year's last, and blurry!
Off season, I use canned tomatoes. It's not fresh salsa, but still good! 
We still have jalapenos and a few sweet peppers to add to salsas and stir fries.

Winter Salsa

1 large can (one size up from soup cans) whole tomatoes, preferably Roma type. A quart of home-canned tomatoes will do
1/3 cup diced onion. Use green onions or a sweet onion, if possible
2-5 sliced, diced jalapeno peppers. Seed and remove white membranes unless you want a lot of heat
Pepper flakes to taste
Juice of a half lemon (depending upon size)
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp sweetener, if desired
1/2 to 1 cup cleaned and dried cilantro leaves
salt to taste
Note: In the absence of fresh peppers, I use pepper sauces or flakes to add heat. 
Use a food processor. Place onions and peppers into the work bowl and process briefly. Drain the canned tomatoes and save juice for another use. (How about a bloody Mary?) Add whole tomatoes, lemon juice, cumin, sweetener, if using, and cumin. Process until tomatoes are how you like them. I prefer chunky. Add the cilantro and a pinch of salt, if using. Let salsa mellow for a few minutes. Then taste and adjust. 
Fall photos below. 

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Post Blues Cruise Stress Syndrome (PBCSS)

Hoisting a mojito on a Puerto Rican beach. The Blues Cruise began and ended in San Juan, Puerto Rico.
There's a wonderful Old Town there, and also a World Heritage site. And we saw some amazing Flamenco dancers.

I overheard a dejected fellow Blues Cruiser complain that she was suffering from this painful syndrome (PBCSS) a week ago. We (all 2,500) Blues Cruisers were disembarking at the ungodly hour of 8 a.m. from the Celebrity Summit cruise ship after seven raucous, rock n' rollin, bluesin' n bumpin', grindin' n growlin' days at sea with a boatload of blues musicians. And also some bluegrass, honky tonk, boogie woogie, jazzy, funky musicians, on the Legendary Rhythm and Blues Cruise. Well, it was just great.
  • Live music from late afternoon til early morning, except on "sail days" when it began around 11 a..m.. Some jams lasted until nearly 9 a.m. Or so I heard.
Susan Tedeschi (in the middle} was one of several musicians who stepped up for the North Mississippi AllStars when their main guy's arrival was delayed by Hurricane Sandy. 
  • Cruise fare. Sumptuous, over-the-top, and it seems "free" even though we paid in advance.
Some type of fancy carbohydrate with happy server.

Shrimp chilling in one of many ice sculptures.
  • Invisible beings constantly cleaning our "room." (We're not at the "suite" level of accommodation, but felt like privileged beings nonetheless.) 
  • Fun like-minded cruisers all wrapped up in the music.
  • License to stay up all night partying. Well, not all night, but I made it past 4 a.m. a few times.
  • Wonderful islands to explore, however briefly.
  • Riding the elevator with Derek Trucks, Taj Mahal, Susan Tedeschi, Ana Popavic, Victor Wainwright and other luminaries.  Excuse me for name dropping, but .....

This was a vacation in the best sense of the word. It was loaded with surprises, delights, and star-studded moments, and was a complete departure from my ordinary life. For one thing, no cooking for 10 days!
More photos:

But....there's something called Cruise Guilt.  I experienced my usual dilemma when faced with the reality of being one of the luckiest people on earth. Lucky by accidents of birth and marriage. Lucky because an "invisible" person who works umpteen hours a day cleaned up after me. Lucky because I had at my disposal enough food to feed a small nation. Lucky because, unlike so many people on the streets of the four tropical islands we visited, I have all my teeth.

I have never visited a developing or Third World country—or impoverished areas in the USA— without the contrast between lucky me and seemingly unlucky "them" creating grey clouds that cast shadows on my usually sunny disposition. It's compassion, but it doesn't go far enough. I've beat myself up about the disparity of being on the "have" side of the haves and have-nots since I was a child. Sure, I give to charities, and I don't try to barter with street vendors. Just give 'em what they ask, or more than they ask. During one especially odd time in my adult life, when I was thinking about What would Jesus do?, I toyed with giving everything away and living an ascetic life. This was, of course, impossible because I was married with children, and I did not want to give the husband or the children away.

We left the alternative-reality-bubble-of-excess of the cruise ship four times to make quick swipes around tropical islands: Dominica (my favorite), Barbados, St. Lucia, and Martinique. Reentry into ordinary life was rugged. Harsh, as my friend Laurie noted as we spent nearly 18 butt-numbing hours traveling from Puerto Rico back to Oregon. Traveling away from powdery white sand, azure bathtub ocean water and round-the-clock world-class entertainment. Back to......well, what is it we have here? The first few days were unseasonably warm and sunny and we harvested some surprise tomatoes. But now reality has descended and it is definitely dreary fall/winter. I will hang onto that great moment drifting in the swimming-pool colored Caribbean trying to keep my rum drink from taking the sea.
Yes, that's the Caribbean, not a swimming pool, and my rum drink remained saltwater-free.
I will also cherish moments such as this:, when the female musicians on board absolutely kicked it. That was one of the best spontaneous performances I have ever seen.

And now. Back to everyday. What's up here in Ordinary Life? This afternoon I played Skip Bo with my 96-year-old mom and other ancients at her assisted-living place,where I visit almost daily. Rotary projects include boosting membership. Women's Crisis Support Team Circle of Friends online newsletter writing is in my immediate future. Fall/winter gardening continues. Thanksgiving plans are coming together.

Ahhhh, Thanksgiving. A cherished time with friends and family and an opportunity to  officially thank the Universe for blessings great and small. Going on the Blues Cruise? Definitely on the "worthy of  gratitude" list.