Monday, November 26, 2007

My Mother’s Danish Dumplings

This recipe has been passed down from generation-to-generation in my family. It’s a rich, tender dumpling that goes really well with turkey soup. I’ve also made it with homemade chicken soup, but turkey soup is our favorite.

Mix up the dumplings in a saucepan while your soup is simmering. When the vegetables start to become tender, add the dumplings to the pot. The 20 minutes they take to make in the covered pot should correspond pretty well with the time when your soup is ready to serve.

Bring to boil in a medium-sized saucepan:
½ cup water
¼ cup butter

Sift together in a small bowl and then add to the boiling water and butter:
½ cup flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1/8 tsp. garlic salt

Stir this mixture vigorously and constantly until it forms a ball that doesn’t separate. Remove the pan from the heat, cool slightly.

Then add:
2 large eggs

Beat well until mixture is smooth.

Then add:
1 Tbsp. dried or fresh parsley

Stir until the parsley is well distributed. Then when your vegetables are just starting to become tender in your soup, drop tablespoon-sized dollops of the dumpling mixture into the bubbling soup. You should be able to make about 12 dumplings of this size. Cover your pot and simmer for 20 minutes. Then enjoy!

Ahhhh...Turkey Soup

We had a WONDERFUL Thanksgiving this year, with family from Iowa and Minnesota. I’m so thankful to the Lord for bringing us all together for two days. We celebrated Thanksgiving and my father’s birthday, and we had a great time visiting and sharing meals.

There were seven of us in our little two-bedroom townhome, and our kitchen table seats six comfortably, but no one complained about being cramped. We have a sofa bed in the living room, a futon in the basement, and a twin bed plus a twin air mattress in the second bedroom upstairs. And I’m so thankful that my husband installed a shower in the main floor bathroom over the past year or so. That gave us two complete bathrooms for people to use for showers in the mornings. Oh, and we had two dogs, too, both our little schnauzer and their one-year-old German shorthair.

I roasted and carved the turkey the day before, as I mentioned earlier on this blog. That helped a great deal with getting thing without as much fuss on Thanksgiving day. I also assembled the stuffing in the slow cooker the day (chilling it in the fridge until it was time to cook it on Thursday). And I made two kinds of cranberry sauce (one with sugar and one with Splenda). The whole wheat rolls were made beforehand, too, baked a couple of weeks ahead of time and frozen until we needed them. That just left the potatoes, vegetables, and gravy on Thursday, and I had lot of help in the kitchen from my family that day.

My relatives from Iowa were very generous to bring three kinds of delicious homemade pies—homegrown cherry, regular pumpkin, and low-sugar pumpkin. They also brought cookies, Kringla, and little turkey-shaped treats made from candy and crackers…We were all very well fed for the holiday.

After all that cooking, my tendency would normally be to stay out of the kitchen for a while. But my father and husband and I all love homemade turkey soup. So we boiled the turkey carcass, which I had saved after removing most of the meat, to make a wonderfully rich and flavorful broth. I also added leftover broth from the giblets and neck, and leftover defatted drippings from the turkey roasting pan. Then I chopped a bunch of carrots, celery, onion, and potatoes…Or rather, my dear father helped me to chopped them while I worked on removing the last of the meat from the bones after boiling them for a few hours. (It’s amazing how much meat you “harvest” from the bones this way.) I also threw in a generous amount of minced garlic, plus sage, thyme, garlic salt, and black pepper to taste.

You really don’t need a recipe for this soup. You make it with generous amounts of vegetables and meat, and then add seasonings until it’s rich and flavorful. Simmer this on the stove until the vegetables are tender, but not soft. At our house, we’ve all agreed that we love this soup as much as the roasted turkey, especially when I add my mother’s Danish Dumplings to the pot!

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Rethinking My Priorities

I finished my first knitted hat last night. It really turned out well! I’m still following along with a free podcast called Knitting Step By Step. It’s really easy, and I’m just amazed at my success! The hat turned out looking very professional, and it fits great as well! I might not keep it for myself, though, because it’s more sporty than feminine. It would probably make a great gift for one of the guys in our family.

In fact, right away I thought that my husband might enjoy wearing it. He did say he likes it, but generally wears baseball caps, even in the winter time. And he’s a very practical man in terms of clothes. He doesn’t see any point in having more than he needs.

Anyway, I finished the hat last night while we were reading. And while my husband praised my work, he did say something later that made me think again about my priorities. He told me that while he understands my need for a creative outlet, he would rather have my hugs than my hats…I was hugging him at the time, and I held him closer when he said that. You see, we both had to wait a long time before God brought a spouse to us. I was nearly 35 and he was nearly 53. We believe that we appreciate marriage more because we had to wait so long. But even so, we are already finding that it’s far too easy to slip into a comfortable mode of relative independence. I could easily lose myself in my craft projects, and my husband could lose himself in music or sports. And after some bad news from his side of the family yesterday, we were both thinking about the priceless value of our relationship.

One of my husband’s relatives served divorce papers on his wife yesterday. They had been married for 20 years, and this man is ready to throw it all away. We both responded with anger, sadness, and disappointment. We had heard that this couple was arguing a lot, but they have never sought counseling. Each claims that the other is the problem.

They’re not believers. So they don’t have the support of the Lord or a church family, and we’ve been praying for them for several weeks now. We’ve been asking God to do whatever it would take to bring them to Himself.

We’re also looking at this situation in terms of what went wrong. One thing we can see is that this couple has grown comfortable living lives that a fairly detached. He works early morning to mid-afternoon, so he goes to bed really early at night, while she’s a night owl, staying up late to watching TV. Then he’s up early again and she doesn’t wake until the middle of the day…With that schedule, it’s probably a wonder they’ve been married for so long.

My husband would probably more naturally be a night owl, too. But we put a priority on spending time in the evening. We both go to bed early so that we have time to read and pray together. But for the past year or so, I’ve often brought a craft project with me to bed when it’s his turn to read. I didn’t know that he was bothered at all by that. He really tries to understand my needs, and he knows that I don’t have a lot of time during an average week for my crafts. But last night, he told me that when I sit with my crochet or knitting or quilting while he reads, he feels like I’m detached from him.

So this morning, before I left for work, I took all of my knitting things out of the bedroom. I waited so long to have someone like him, who really wants me to be close and to connect emotionally, spiritually, and physically. I know that because of our age difference, it’s very likely that I’ll be alone again someday…unless the Lord takes me first or returns for us before death. And if it happens that I’m alone, I know that I will regret taking doing my crafts during our special time of the day. In fact, at that point, I would be willing to trade all of my crafts and pastimes and hobbies for even just one more hug from him.

As an aside, there is a bit of a solution in sight for my desire to have time for creative pursuits. As much as I love to cook, my husband encouraged me last night to consider spending less time on the weekends in the kitchen so that I can enjoy my sewing room more often. He said that as much as he enjoys everything I make for him to eat, he is willing to have soup and sandwich meals more often if it gives me more time for my crafty pursuits on the weekends…I have such an amazing husband. It’s an incredible gift from the Lord.

So next weekend, after all of the cooking for Thanksgiving is over, I’m going to try to set aside an hour or two to work in my sewing room. I can still do my crafts over lunch at work, and I can still bring them along with us when we go places (because he’s always willing to drive so that I can knit or crochet). But then, at night time, when we have our special time together, I’m going to leave my crafts in the sewing room so that I can enjoy his warm embrace…It seems there’s a lesson for me in this for my relationship with God as well. How many times do I choose to spend my quiet hours with God? His arms are always open for me, too.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Slow Cooker Stuffing

This recipe came from the Taste of Home Recipe collection online. I adapted it a bit for my use, and I’ve been very pleased with the result…moist, flavorful stuffing to go with roast turkey and the trimmings.

1 cup chopped onion
1 cup chopped celery
1/4 cup butter
14 cups cubed bread (use a variety of types)
1 tsp. garlic salt
1 tsp. dried thyme
2 tsp. rubbed sage
1/2 tsp. ground black pepper
1 cup turkey broth (I use the broth I make from the turkey giblets, or you could use a can of chicken broth)
2 eggs

Saute onion and celery in butter. Stir in seasonings. In a medium-sized mixing bowl, beat the eggs and then combine with broth. Add the sautéed mixture and stir to combine. In a large mixing bowl, toss your variety of types of bread cubes to combine. Pour liquid mixture over the bread cube and continue to toss to combine. Then transfer the stuffing to your slow cooker. (I have a nonstick interior in my slow cooker, but if you don’t, it might be helpful to prepare it first with a coating of cooking spray.)

Cover and cook on low for 3-4 hours or until heated through. This recipe will serve 12 or more.

My Favorite Way to Roast a Turkey

Everyone seems to have their favorite way to roast a turkey. I think this is an improvement from what has been the traditional way in my family. My source for this recipe is Leanne Ely of I’ve adapted it a bit over the past few years, but it has always produced a juicy, flavorful turkey, including the breast meat. I had never eaten turkey breast this moist until I tried this method of handling the bird.

You must start with a turkey that is completely thawed. That may seem obvious. But I, too, have been guilty of not planning enough ahead to thaw meat completely and safely. The safest way to thaw raw meat is in the refrigerator, allowing 24 hours of thawing time for every five pounds of weight. I’m going to be doing a 22-pound bird this year at our house. So we bought it last Thursday and will be allowing a full week in the refrigerator to thaw since I’ll be roasting it on Wednesday of this week…I like to do the bird the day before the big meal so that the fuss and mess are done before my guests arrive, and I also find that it helps to have my oven available for other dishes on Thanksgiving Day.

On the day you plan to roast the bird, take it out of the refrigerator and put it into your sink. Remove the outer wrapping and take out anything that’s been packed inside the two cavities. Often, you’ll find a package of giblets and a neck, and you might even find a package of gravy. Remove these items and wash the gravy packet well so that you can put it back into your refrigerator until you need it.

Open the package of giblets into a saucepan and fill it half full of water. You’re going to be setting it on the stove to simmer for a few hours to cook the giblets and the neck and make a broth that you can use for the stuffing. (After it has simmered for a few hours, set it aside to cool a bit. Remove the giblets and the neck, chop the meat, discard the bones, and chill the meat and the broth in the refrigerator for later use.)

Now wash the turkey well with fresh. Pat it dry with paper towels and then transfer it into your waiting roasting pan…You might want to have someone to help you at this point since you’ll be working with the raw turkey for a bit now and yet it will be helpful to have someone nearby with clean hands to handle the melted butter and other seasonings that you will use.

Melt 1/4 cup butter to rub between the breast and the skin (you can generally separate the breast from its skin in parts so that you can access more of the flesh), and then run the remaining melted butter all over the rest of the butter, again concentrating on the breast part.

Sprinkle the turkey inside and out with ample amounts of dried sage, thyme, garlic salt, and ground black pepper. I usually ask my husband to season the two cavities first, and then I have him do the back of the bird and finally the breast last, since you’ll be roasting the bird breast-side up in your oven. Oh, and I also ask him to preheat the oven for me as well. You’ll want to set the temperature to 500 degrees.

I never bake stuffing in the turkey anymore, for a variety of reasons. It lengthens the roasting time required, risking that your white meat will dry out before your thigh meat is completely done. There’s a risk that your stuffing might not be fully cooked, even if the bird is done and, if that happens, you will need additional time to bake the stuffing in the oven to ensure that it’s hot all the way through and safe to eat. And it’s really not necessary to stuff the bird. I have a great recipe that I will also share, which works well in a slow cooker, for stuffing. If I don’t tell people that the stuffing was made in the slow cooker (and not in the bird), no one ever knows.

Instead of stuffing in the turkey, I use fresh vegetables to loosely fill the cavities, including a carrot, a stalk of celery, and an onion or two. I’m not sure why this is helpful, but it does work, and then I usually use the roasted vegetables (along with additional vegetables) in a turkey soup that I make the day after Thanksgiving.

Next, place your meat thermometer in the thickest part of the thigh muscle, but not touching the bone, positioning it so you can read it through the oven door. You’re not going to open the door much at all with this method of roasting, because every time you open the door, your oven can lose 25 degrees of heat and then require another half hour of roasting time…which, in turn, dries out your white meat.

Pour a half cup of water into the bottom of your roasting pan, and place it into your preheated oven for 30 minutes…Don’t worry about ruining your turkey at this point. This amount of time is safe, and it will actually form a beautiful deep golden crust all over your bird, which will keep the juices inside, where you want them to be.

After that half hour, open the oven door quickly and remove the turkey to tent it loosely with aluminum foil. This is the only time you should open the oven door again until your turkey is done. Be sure to position the thermometer so that you can read it through the door by simply turning on your oven light. Turn down the oven temperature to 325 degrees and roast it for the remainder of the recommended time for your turkey’s size. For my 22-pound turkey, I’ll need 4-1/2 to 5 hours of total roasting time (including my half hour at 500 degrees). About a half hour before that time is up, I’ll be checking my thermometer through the oven window to make sure that it reaches 165 degrees. Then, I’ll know that it’s done.

is a good website with up-to-date food safety information on roasting turkey.

Another way you can tell that the turkey is completely roasted is that you will see that the juice is no longer pink when you cut into the center of the thigh, and the drumstick moves easily in the socket when lifted or twisted…Still, it’s best to let the turkey sit on the counter with the aluminum foil tent over it for another half hour before carving. And that’s it. If you follow these instructions, you should have a tender, moist, flavorful turkey for your meal.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Whole Wheat Bread or Rolls

Before I found the Honey Whole Wheat Bread recipe, this was my absolute favorite for whole wheat bread. This is still a favorite, but the other wins out during the time of the year when I don't have Herman in my refrigerator to use. But even off-season (when Herman is frozen), I haven't ever found a better whole wheat roll recipe than this one.


2/3 cup dry powdered milk
2 cups lukewarm (110-115 degrees) water
1 pkg. dry regular (not rapid rise) yeast

Combine and add to yeast mixture:
3 cups whole wheat flour
1 cup bread flour
¾ cup Herman sourdough starter (See master recipe.)

Cover the above mixture and proof 1-2 hours until double in size.

Mix the following ingredients into the dough:
¼ cup molasses
1 Tbsp. salt
3 Tbsp. soft butter
1 tsp. baking soda

Mix in 3-1/2 cups additional bread flour to make stiff dough and knead for about 10 minutes. Then turn into a greased bowl, cover with a damp dish towel, and let rise for 1-2 hours until doubled in size.

Punch and divide dough in half for two loaves or bread or into smaller pieces for dinner rolls (dipping dinner rolls into melted butter before placing them into pan). Use well-greased bread pans for the loaves or a well-greased 9x13 pan for the rolls. Cover with a damp dish towel and let rise for another two hours.

Bake at 370 for 45 minutes for loaves of bread or 25-30 minutes for dinner rolls.

Sugar and Spice Coffee Cake

Mix together in large bowl:
2 cups Herman sourdough starter (See master starter recipe.)
2 eggs
2/3 cup oil

Sift together in medium-sized bowl:
1 cup sugar
½ tsp. salt
2 cups flour
½ tsp. baking soda
2 tsp. baking powder
½ tsp. each ginger and cloves

Mix into dry ingredients:
Nuts, raisins, or blueberries to add to the batter (amount to your taste)

Stir dry ingredients into wet ingredients, and then pour into 9x13 pan that has been greased and floured.

Blend the following ingredients and sprinkle over top of batter before baking:
1 cup brown sugar
¼ cup flour
¼ tsp. each cinnamon, cloves, and ginger
¼ cup melted butter

Bake at 350 for 30-40 minutes or until toothpick inserted near center comes out clean (i.e., no unbaked batter, though you might see crumbs or bits of sugar and spice).

Note: This recipe freezes well. So I've often made the whole batch when I didn't need the whole pan full. Then, when company comes and there's not enough time to make something special for breakfast or brunch, I pull this out, thaw it, warm it in the oven to serve.

Our Favorite Pancake Recipe

In a large mixing bowl, stir together:
1 cup Herman sourdough starter (See master starter recipe.)
½ cup oil
2 eggs
½ cup milk

In a medium-sized mixing bowl, sift together:
1 cup flour
3/4 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt
2 Tbsp. sugar
1 tsp. baking powder

Add mixed dry ingredients to mixed wet ingredients, making sure that you don’t leave large lumps (small lumps are okay). Use a ¼ cup measuring cup to scoop onto hot griddle for pancakes. (This is also really good for waffle batter without any changes in the recipe.)

In the Kitchen with Herman

No, I haven't found a new friend named Herman, or adopted a doggie pal for Charlie. Herman is my sourdough starter. I'm not sure where or when or why a sourdough starter was given a name like Herman, but my family has had Herman in our kitchens for 15 or 20 years.

My mother was given a cup of Herman sourdough starter many years ago when we all lived in Iowa. I think it was a recipe that being passed around at the same time as my mother and her lady friends were passing around cups of "friendship fruit". Both Herman and "friendship fruit" were easy to share with friends because both recipes involved creating a master batch of ingredients and then adding to it and using part of it regularly.

With the "friendship fruit", I'm only aware of two ways that mother used it--as ice cream topping and in a friendship cake recipe. I don't have the recipe for friendship fruit on hand right now, but I remember that it contained many cups of canned fruit and sugar, and that it fermented a bit over time. What I do know more about at this point is Herman, because Herman had staying power in our family. We didn't just use it up or give it away after a while. We made a permanent place for Herman in our homes.

The primary ingredients of the master starter mix are flour, milk, and sugar. You mix these ingredients together and give them time to ferment and develop a yeast culture. You store it in the refrigerator, stir it regularly, and add to it periodically as needed. Technically, the instructions call for daily stirring, feeding every five days, and baking every 10 days, but we've found success in a much less demanding schedule. I stir it when I think of doing it, feed it when I need more of it, and use it when I'm ready to bake. And when a long period goes by and I don't have the time or interest in baking with it, I freeze a cup of it for future use. Herman doesn't seem to mind the freezer (I call this his hibernation period), and he readily revives again after thawing and feeding him.

Anyway, I could probably go on for quite a while about Herman, but it might be better to just give you the basic master starter recipe and then a quick recipe for the best pancakes we've ever had, which happen to use Herman as a base. They're light and fluffy, and don't be scared about the fact that they have a sourdough base even if you don't think you like sourdough in general. When we've served these for company, they never guess that they're sourdough pancakes until I tell them. This is a relatively sweet sourdough starter, and Herman just makes them very light and tender. I think they're delicious even without anything on them, though we love using real maple syrup at our house. In the near future, I plan to post my recipe for whole wheat bread and coffee cake, both made with Herman.

Master "Herman" Sourdough Starter
1 cup flour
1 cup milk
1/2 cup sugar

Heat milk to 110-115 degrees. In a medium-sized mixing bowl, mix the flour and sugar, and then gradually add the heated milk. Cover the bowl with a towel and set in a warm place (70-80 degrees) to "sour". Stir this mixture often over the next two or three days. It will start to ferment and a colony of yeast will develop. When the mixture has a bubbly froth, it's ready to use.

For long-term storage, transfer your starter (Herman) to a plastic bowl with a lid that you can leave slightly ajar so that it can continue to breathe. To feed him, add the same ingredients and the same proportions as listed above for beginning the starter. Or, if you need more or less Herman, I've had success adding half of each ingredient for a smaller batch, and I would imagine that you could add double each ingredient for a larger batch. It all depends on how much you need for your baking plans.

I’ve been Casting On…

Where has the time gone? I can’t believe how long it’s been since I’ve posted to this blog.

Let’s see…between then and now, we’ve had a couple of dinner parties with old friends, we’ve painted the spare bedroom, and this past week I’ve been fighting a bad head cold and sinus infection. But in the midst of all this, I’ve still managed to find time to cook family meals and to finish a few craft projects. I just haven’t taken time to write about anything we’ve done.

In any case, I do want to post some more recipes soon, including my tried-and-true sourdough recipes for baking and my favorite way to roast a turkey. And I want to finally post a photo or two of my craft projects now that I finally have my films developed and my prints organized and ready to scan for posting.

In the meantime, though, I do have a great video podcast to mention, which I’ve been using lately to teach myself to knit with some encouraging success…If you’ve ever wanted to learn to knit, you should visit Knitting Step By Step for free, easy-to-follow patterns, basic knitting instructions, and short little video clips done in podcast format.

The podcast hosts, Ivy Reisner and Jason Block, demonstrate different methods of casting on and binding off your knitting projects, explaining the benefits and uses of each, and then they slowly guide you through knitting projects of growing complexity. The first project is a garter stitch scarf, giving you the opportunity to practice the most basic knitting techniques. I finished my scarf last weekend and cast on at the start of this week for project #2, which is a knitted cap with a ribbed brim.

For the knitted cap project, they teach you how to purl, how to alternate between knitting and purling to make ribbing and to do a basic stockinette stitch pattern, and then how to increase and decrease stitches on your needles. I’ve done the ribbing and a couple of inches of the body of the cap, and I’m absolutely amazed at how nicely it’s turning out!

Many years ago, probably 15 or 20 (?), I tried my hand at a little knitting, but I didn’t go very far at all. Now I’m making something that looks fairly professional…This is giving me enough confidence to dream of someday making a knitted sweater, maybe even with cabling or a multi-colored pattern of some kind!

After the knitted hat, Ivy and Jason’s podcast will show me how to make mittens and then socks…another of my dream projects for knitting. I’ve already purchased sock-weight yarn and double-pointed needles for the sock project. I can hardly believe that I might be able to knit my own socks someday. I still love to crochet, but with knitting it seems the possible projects that I could make go on for miles and miles…