Well we made it from point A to point B without having anything weird to write about. Almost feels abnormal after the past couple of weeks where I couldn’t go to the bathroom without ending up as a news item.
Presents are wrapped and under the tree, I’m off antibiotics and my face seems to have discontinued puffing up and down at will. Life is good.
It’s oddly balmy for Northern California this winter. No rain to speak of at all. Personally I like a little of the wet stuff from time to time. I probably couldn’t live in Florida where other than the occasional hurricane to liven things up, it’s mainly just ideal weather most of the time. I need a little change now and again.
Living in the southern states, namely Alabama and Arkansas (seems we started with the A’s and just couldn’t move on), there was lots of rain in the winter. During the summer months, however, a weather man there could have put a recording on every day saying “intense, heart stopping heat, with 100% humidity, and possibility of tornadoes carrying your house over to the adjoining county”, and then gone fishing. Small bursts of rain did show up quite regularly during the heat of the day, as though even mother nature couldn’t let you stew in your own juices without throwing a little water on you to cool you off.
Today it is supposed to be in the mid to high sixties here in Northern California, which means that everything I packed in my suitcase will undoubtedly be too warm. Also, we were going to have a grotesque holiday sweater contest, and now we may have to go with the wet tee-shirt contest originally suggested by my Uncle Mat. Bad holiday sweater contests are actually gaining popularity across the country. I used to have one about twenty years ago that had a stuffed Rudolph head on the front and, switch turned on, the nose blinked and Rudolph the red-nosed Reindeer played on the small radio sewn on the inside. Very annoying. I’m sure I would have won.
Tomorrow night, Christmas Eve, we’re cooking a small turkey for my mother, who is suffering from a big yen for the yard bird and finds Christmas unfulfilling, no pun intended, without it. On the big day itself we’re enjoying prime rib with Yorkshire pudding (yum, sorry that was my taste buds doing the pottie dance), twice baked potatoes and asparagus with lemony hollandaise sauce. For a foodie that’s almost the best present you can get.
What to do with the leftover bird is a new challenge for me every year. The only year I didn’t have to think about it at all was the year, as I’ve written about previously, that our cocker spaniel, Ginger, simply took the meat left on the carcass, and the carcass itself, off the bread board while we were seated at dinner and dragged it grease and all down the hallway and hid it under my son’s bed. Problem solved. Disclaimer: I do not recommend that you try this at home unless you have an excellent method for carpet cleaning.
Another year while living in West Virginia we were invited to our surrogate family’s house for dinner. Since our families were on the west coast, they incorporated us into their large and lovely group, so we felt like we were kin, if you will. All the women in the family were fabulous cooks, and always said about themselves that you just had to look at them to know this to be true. The men, all hunters, provided unusual and often delicious contributions to the meal so you never knew what might show up on the table. My dear friend, Cindy, who passed away way too young after we left the state, used to make a venison lasagna that was the best variation of that particular delectable dish I’ve ever eaten. Once I was there for dinner where possum was on the menu, but I kept thinking of that myopic little creature that I’d found in my backyard several weeks prior with its snout stuck in a tin can we used to catch grease on the barbecue. Just couldn’t get around that rodent tail to get into the dish itself. I know, I know, where is my pioneer spirit? I might have been the only vegetarian on the plains if I’d had to kill my own meat. Most probably the pigs, turkeys, and assorted farm animals would have had a place setting at the table in my cabin.
We had occasion, on several years during our stay in that beautiful state, to share a table with them over the holidays. One year in particular all the women gathered in the kitchen and pulled together the most delicious feast, each of us contributing our own expertise to the meal. It was just button poppin good, to coin a phrase. After stuffing the last available cavity in our bodies, we put away the food making to-go packages for everyone on their way out. Ours was piled with turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, gravy, homemade biscuits and all the fixin’s. As full as I was I was already looking forward to that “day after sandwich” for breakfast the following morning.
The Coles were a gooey bunch, with lots of hugging and sticky goodbyes, something I much cherished about them. It was late when we finally squeezed our overstuffed selves into the car seats and with only our headlights to mark the way made our way along the back roads in the holler and onto the freeway. When we arrived home I looked in the back seat for our goodies only to discover that we’d left them on the top of the car when we drove off.
After calling to thank our hosts the next day, they said they found the containers half way down the road with only a few drops of gravy on them to indicate they’d contained food. Some critter was out there under the stars thinking, “Merry Christmas to me”. Smile.
This is a great way to use up the bird. Enjoy.
Turkey, Artichoke and Cheese Gratin
3/4 lb. ground turkey
1 yellow squash, cut diagonally in 1/4″ slices
3 zucchini, cut diagonally in 1/4″ slices
1/4 cup plus 2 Tbsp. bread crumbs
1/2 tsp. dried sage
1 Tbsp. all-purpose flour
1 1/4 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. black pepper
2 scallions, trimmed and minced
1 8 1/2 oz. can artichoke hearts, drained
1 1/2 cups Swiss cheese, shredded
3 Tbsp. Parmesan cheese, grated
3/4 cups light cream
1 Tbsp. freshly chopped parsley
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
In large mixing bowl mix squashes, bread crumbs, sage, flour, 1 tsp. salt and pepper.
In blender or food processor puree artichoke hearts, scallions, 1/2 cup of Swiss cheese, 1/4 cup cream, the remaining salt and a pinch of pepper.
Spread 1/3 of squash mixture over bottom of a shallow 2 quart baking dish. Spread 1/2 of the artichoke puree over the squash. Top with 1/2 of the turkey. Repeat layering ending with squash mixture.
Mix together the remaining 1 cup of Swiss cheese, remaining bread crumbs, Parmesan cheese, and parsley. Sprinkle evenly on top. Drizzle with remaining 1/2 cup of cream.
Bake for 50 mins. or until top is golden brown. Let stand for 10 mins. prior to serving.