My Father at 100 by Ron Reagan

I don’t read non-fiction books very often but I’ve wanted to read Ron Reagan’s book about his father called “My Father at 100″ ever since it was published nearly 2 years ago. It’s been on my Amazon wishlist since then, but I could never justify the cost. Today I found it on my library’s audio book website and decided to download it.

I’m so glad I did. It’s a wonderful story about a boy and his dad. There is very little political talk, but when there is, it’s very informative, and not at all ‘political’.

My recommendation is, no matter your political leanings, you should read this very touching story. It’s very honest. It’s obvious that Ron loves and respects his father very much, even if he didn’t always agree with him.

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US History book backs up my post about Trickle Down

In our house this year we’re trying something new regarding school. My youngest son is doing his junior year of high school online though a program called Connections Academy.

His textbooks are all online. Today, I was doing some reading to help him out with an assignment regarding the causes and effects of The Great Depression.

I’ve copied the section I read today that kind of made me squeal. It’s pretty much what I was trying to say a few weeks ago when I wrote about why trickle down economics doesn’t work, so I’m sharing.

Trickle Down doesn’t work

This excerpt comes from page 704 of the Pearson eText book Prentice Hall United States History.

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Grammy’s Pumpkin Pie

I don’t know how long this has been handed down, I’ve always just known it as Grammy’s recipe (my mom’s grandmother).  This recipe is a little different than most pumpkin pie recipes. It uses less pumpkin, so it’s not as strong. Also, the texture is a little different. My     mom says it’s more like a custard (I’m not sure what that means since I’m not a custard fan).  Anyway, here goes:

Pie in a cake pan.

3 eggs, lightly beaten
¾ cup light brown sugar
1 cup canned pumpkin
¼ tsp salt
¼ tsp ginger
½ tsp nutmeg
½ tsp cinnamon
¼ tsp allspice
1 ½ cups evaporated milk (1 can)
1 ½ tablespoon melted butter

Preheat oven to 425. Prepare a pie crust in at least a 9” pie pan.

Combine the beaten eggs, brown sugar and pumpkin in a medium sized bowl. Stir until smooth.

Add the salt, ginger, nutmeg, cinnamon and allspice, stir in well.

Stir in the milk.

Add the melted butter, and finish stirring.

Pour the mixture into the pie crust.

Place in 425 degree oven for 30 minutes, then turn it down to 350 for another 25-30 minutes.

The pie is done when a knife comes out clean.

Tips:

If you use a smaller pie pan, you will have a mess as it will spill over while it cooks.
I discovered this year that cake pans work really well in a pinch.
You can use an electric mixer or a whisk, doesn’t really matter which.
The original recipe calls for the butter to be ‘a piece about the size of a walnut’ but I have adjusted it over the years and found that a tablespoon and a half is about right.

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Here’s what I’ve done so far today:

Cooked the corn casserole. It’s in the fridge, just needs to be thrown in the oven/microwave to reheat.

Baked the apple pie. It’s in fridge, cooling.

Cooked and crumbled the bacon for the stuffing and green beans. They’re in a plastic bag in the fridge.

Finely chopped and sauted one onion for the green beans and carrot dishes. It’s in a plastic bag in the fridge.

Baked one pumpkin pie. It’s cooling on the counter before I wrap it up and put it in the fridge.

Baking the second pumpkin pie. It’ll be out of the oven in about 45 minutes.

PIES ARE DONE

Convinced the kid that his bicycle could fit in his room if he cleaned up and rearranged a bit. Now I not only have room for tomorrow, but I can put my tree up on Friday.

Things I still need to do tonight while I still have extra hands to help:

Dust downstairs

Sweep and vacuum downstairs

Move furniture around so there’s room to put the leaf in the table so we can all sit down to eat tomorrow. Well, four of us will be able to sit. Still not sure what to do for a fifth seat.

Put the leaf in the table.

BABY PROOF! The grand baby is crawling now.

Eat dinner. I’m frickin’ starving after all this.

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Stoup in under 2 hours

I needed a relatively quick, yet really cheap idea for dinner that would allow for enough leftovers to get a whole other meal out of it (for 3 people). I had $10 in my pocket to last me until Thanksgiving.

I went to the grocery store and got about a pound of stew meet for $3.00, a bag of frozen mixed vegetables for $.98, and a can of crushed tomatoes for $.98. I had potatoes because DUH! Thanksgiving’s on Thursday.

At home, I crushed up two cloves of garlic and sauted them up in my dutch oven with some vegetable oil. The chunks of stew meat were a little big, so I cut them up into smaller pieces, and then dredged them in floor. Next, I browned the meat with the garlic. While that was browning, I cut up 3 potatoes into ½ cubes (maybe a big smaller). Once the meat was brown I threw in the potatoes, added about six cups of water, dumped in the frozen veggies, and the can of tomatoes. I added some salt, pepper, thyme and oregano. Over a full flame on the top of the stove I allowed it all to come to a boil.

Once it started boiling, I turned it down to medium-low and let it cook for about an hour, stirring a couple of times.

After about an hour, I mixed up about 1/3 of a cup of Wondra flour with 1 cup of water, and stirred it into the pot, hoping it would thicken up to a stew consistency.  I put the lid back on and let it simmer for another half hour or so. Unfortunately, it didn’t get quite as thick as I had originally wanted it, but it’s thicker than a soup. I suppose I could have added more flour, but I was starving and didn’t want to wait another half an hour for the flour to cook.

Anyway, my son, who’s a seriously picky eater, and doesn’t like stew, and isn’t a huge soup fan either just yelled at me from the other room that this was AMAZING!

Usually, when I have more money and time, I also chop up an onion and sauté it up with the garlic, cook it at least 3 hours, and then add a box of mushrooms about ½ an hour before I’m ready to eat.

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Bacon and mushroom stuffing

Bacon and mushroom stuffing for a 14-16 lb turkey

6 cups or so of cubed bread (a bag of the prepared stuff works great)
½ cup of melted butter
4 oz of bacon (about ¼ of a 1 lb package, sliced) cut into 1/4” pieces
2 medium onions, chopped (I may only use 1 to 1 1/2, as I’m not a huge onion fan)
6 cloves of garlic, minced
1 lb of fresh mushrooms, sliced thinly
Salt & pepper to taste
1 tsp Sage
1 tsp Thyme

Sauté the bacon until it’s about half way crisp. Add the onions and cook until they begin to become translucent. Add the mushrooms and garlic, and cook until they become soft.

Put the bread in a large bowl. Add the spices and stir it up. Add the bacon/onion/mushroom mixture, and stir well. If it seems too dry, add the melted butter, but the bacon fat may be enough.

Stuff the turkey appropriately (about 2/3 full). Any remaining stuffing can be put into a greased baking dish and baked separately.

Or, when stuffing the bird, wrap the stuffing in some cheese cloth before putting it in the bird. Remove the package from the bird about an hour before it’s done, and mix it with the remaining stuffing before putting it in the baking dish, and put it in the oven after the turkey is done cooking and while you’re making gravy. If it still seems a little dry you can add some stock or more butter to add some moisture. I prefer my stuffing on the drier/crispier side, and then cover it in gravy.

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A thousand words on how to cook a turkey

I was writing this out to share with a friend and decided that I’d post it here to for all of posterity.

Take the bird out of the fridge at least an hour before you’re ready to stuff it. Take it out of all the packaging. Don’t forget that there are packages of giblets in the main cavity, and there may be some in the neck, too. The first time I did a turkey I forgot that package until I was stuffing it.  Rinse it in cold tap water, and then pat it dry, both inside and out. Let it rest and come to a general room temp (doesn’t have to be exact, but it’ll cook more evenly than if it’s cold. If there is a metal bracket that holds the legs together, try to keep it in. It will come in very handy later. If it comes out, that’s ok, but try to remember where it was stuck so you can try to re-use it after the bird is stuffed.

While the bird is resting, fix the stuffing.

There are a couple of ways of doing the stuffing. I’m going to try something a little different this year. Usually I stuff the bird as best I can, and then bake the rest later so we have leftovers. This year, I’m going to wrap some of the stuffing in cheesecloth before stuffing it into the main cavity. Then, when there’s only about an hour or so left I’ll pull it out and mix it with the rest of the stuffing before I bake it. That way, you get the flavor of the in-the-bird stuff with the crispiness of the baked (I prefer my stuffing to be crispy, I do not like it soggy)

With the bird, I pull the breast skin, and as much of the thigh/leg skin away from the meat and shove slivers of butter and slices of garlic between the skin and meat. This adds a lot of flavor.

Then you can put the stuffing in. Remember to not stuff it too full because the stuffing will expand and could make a mess.

Start with the neck area. A large spoonful or two is probably plenty (the large kind of cooking spoon). Pull the skin down over the stuffing and then tuck the tips of the wings under to hold it in place.  If you can’t get that to work, use some toothpicks or skewers.

Then, stuff the main cavity. Again, only fill it about 2/3s full. If you have the metal bracket, slip the legs back into it (so that the turkey looks like it’s trying to keep its legs crossed). This can sometimes take a little muscle, but don’t worry about hurting it, the bird’s already dead. If you don’t have the metal clip, tie the legs together with string (I’ve even used sewing thread a couple of times when I didn’t have any string.) Tying the legs together helps keep the stuffing in so that it doesn’t come out as it expands.

If you want, you can put salt and pepper and maybe some sage on the outside of the breast. I don’t cook with much salt, so I don’t usually do that step.

If you have any cheesecloth (and I strongly recommend finding some, I know WalMart carries it in the fabric section), Cut a piece about 2 feet long (long enough to reach from one end of the bird to the other). Unfold it so that it’s only about 2 layers thick. Lay it over the bird like you were covering it with a blanket. You want it to cover as much as possible.

Pick the bird up and put it in your roasting pan. It’s really better if you have a rack in the pan, but if you don’t that’s ok. Make sure the cheese cloth is tucked under all around, but if you’re going to remove the stuffing early leave it loose at the ends. Once I tried wrapping it all the way around, but it was no fun trying to take it off a hot bird.

Melt a stick or two of butter/margarine or use some olive oil and poor it all over the cheesecloth to saturate the entire bird.

You’re ready to pop it in the oven. Figure about 20 minutes a pound at 325 degrees.

I usually try to remember to baste about every ½ hour to 45 minutes, nothing too taxing, just a couple of spoonfuls of the pan drippings over the breast.

Use a meat thermometer if you have one, everything should be at least 165 degrees, check the breast, the thigh, and the stuffing (unless you’re removing that early)

When the bird is done, take it out and remove it from the pan to a cutting board, one with ridges to catch the drippings if you have one. You need to let it rest for at least ½ an hour to 45 minutes. Anything over an hour is a waste, and you could end up with cold turkey.  This gives you plenty of time to make the gravy. Take the cheese cloth off when it’s still warm and wet from the basting. It can get a little hard to pull off once it starts to cool.

The cheese cloth keeps the skin from getting too cooked, or burnt before the bird’s ready. You don’t need to tent it with aluminum foil if you use the cloth. I have a small oven and never have room for the aluminum foil, and the cheese cloth just works so well it’s not worth it to me to use it.

Carving should be one of the last things you do before sitting down to eat.

If you have the time (I know you have your hands full, so it’s not essential) try to plan out a schedule ahead of time and print it out. It’s very easy to forget things when you’re rushing around trying to get everything ready at the same time. I’ve been working on my scheduled for weeks and I think I’m ready.

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