11/30/13

Apple turkeys – my family’s crazy Thanksgiving tradition

Part of the joy and craziness of being a family are those traditions that you grow up thinking are normal but you later find out existed only in that family bubble.

My family is a creative bunch. We are also all a tad crazy. Both aspects tend to reflect in our traditions. No more so than in our favorite family Thanksgiving tradition – Apple Turkeys.

I am not positive what year the apple turkeys began but I am 37 years old and I don’t remember a Thanksgiving without them.  So, they must have come in when myself and my cousins were pretty young.

Apple turkeys are a great activity to keep kids (and grown up) kids busy while the meal is cooking. They are pretty easy to do too.  All you really need are enough apples to cover every participants, a pile of various candies and toothpicks.

This year, it was just myself and my boyfriend Chris. So, my candy pile was smaller than usual but in general the idea is that everybody brings a couple kinds of candy that they think will lend themselves to apple turkey building. It all goes into the stockpile for everybody to draw from for the construction of their turkeys.

My sister, on the other hand, had her two boys, my parents and her in laws. So, her pile was a bit bigger.

apple turkey candy candypile1

With the tools laid out, the toothpicks are used to attach the candy to the apple to make them look your own personal brand of apple turkey.  The two bellow are what myself and Chris came up with on this Thanksgiving.

our apple turkeys

Here is a shot from a family apple turkey building day a few years ago. As you can see, possibilities are endless though and that is part of the fun. There isn’t a right or wrong way to do it as long as everybody is having fun.

Now, I will say that over the years that my family has added a bit of friendly competition in the mix. At the end of the build session, we line up all the apple turkeys and vote on who did the best job.  That was a bit more fair before my sister and cousins started to have kids. Now, they come with their own built in voting block. Not fair!

These days, the family is spread all over the world. Facebook has come to the rescue to keep our family tradition alive. In recent years, we have been setting up a Facebook event where various branches of the family add photos of their apple turkeys when they are done making them. We’ve been taking that opportunity to invite family friends to the event in hopes of growing the apple turkey Thanksgiving tradition to beyond our family. Why not grab some turkeys and candy and try it out at your next Thanksgiving family gathering?

 

11/28/13

Getting back into the kitchen

Home cooking comes from the soul.  If I am honest, it has felt as if my soul has been dulled for the past few years.  Al ot of big change have taken place. The most significant of which was going through a divorce that not only saw me leave my home but my adopted country.

I had been living in London for 15 years but when I made the incredibly painful choice to get a divorce, I thought that it would be easier to change everything around me rather than be constantly reminded of the situation.

I relocated to California. Yup, about as different from the United Kingdom! I loved London so much that I had taken dual British citizenship. There was as much,if not more,emotional turmoil from breaking up with the city as there was from leaving my ex-husband.

Cooking has always been something that I have enjoyed. As far back as my childhood, I enjoyed few things as much as I did flipping through cookbook collections. I suppose that was a bit like an old school Pintrest but with a ton of torn off paper used to bookmark recipes I thought looked good rather than pinning them to virtual boards.

When I was married, I cooked just about every day. Since being in California though, I have barely spent real time in my kitchen.  Part of that has to do with the challenge of cooking for one. The tiny apartment kitchen that I have at the moment hasn’t helped either. Truthfully though, I just didn’t feel a motivation to put forth too much effort.

Recently, that has changed. I met a man that took me out of my ‘never again’ stance and convinced me to allow love into my life again.  As I started to fall in love with him and feel the connection between us grow, my soul started to warm up.

Today was not only our first Thanksgiving together but it was the first meal I have ever cooked for him. Nothing like putting pressure on yourself!

From the menu planning, you would never have guessed that I was only cooking Thanksgiving dinner for two.  The focus of the meal was  British style roast turkey. Which pretty much just means covering the bird in bacon for the cooking, shoving herby butter under the skin and pushing an onion into the cavity rather than stuffing.   I also made caramelized Brussels sprouts, thyme roasted carrots, broccoli, whipped mashed potatoes, bacon wrapped cocktail sausages and homemade cranberry sauce.

How I thought I was going to manage to get all of that on the small table I have, I don’t know. As you can see, even Kermit was amazed by how much I cooked.

thanksgiving2

I was nervous about cooking for him but he really enjoyed it all.  Of all things, the sprouts were what he loved the most. A man who likes sprouts? Yeah, I am keeping him.

It felt so good to have filled a plate entirely with food I cooked rather than opening some packets or taking things out of the freezer. To have all that effort appreciated felt even better.

Thanksgivng meal

I am feeling the need to be back in the kitchen again. So much so that I am going to make that the focus of the Doughgasm food blog. I’m going to try to use it to motivate myself to try new recipes, learn new techniques and generally rediscover my passion for cooking.

Oh, he loved my creme de menthe brownies too.  🙂

creme de menthe brownies

Today, I am thankful for a new love and a return to a more familiar version of myself.