The weather is turning chilly and it’s time to break out the soup recipes! Keep your bellies warm and mouths watering with this delicious traditional German vegetable soup–a particular favorite of my mom’s.
German Vegetable Soup
1 large onion
2 stalks celery
6 medium potatoes
2 large carrots
1.5 liter water
1 veggie bouillon cube
(Alternatively, if you have stock in a brick or homemade broth, use that–but you will need to check your salt levels)
1 tsp dill seed
1 tsp caraway seed
Cream to taste
Grab a big soup pot (I like my trusty le Creuset). Heat some oil in your pot and sauté the onion and celery (I tend to use olive oil because that’s what Chico likes).
Meanwhile, peel and chop the potatoes and carrots into bite-size pieces. Once chopped, add them to the pot and sauté about a minute or two.
Add the water & bouillon (or stock or broth, whatever you’ve got), dill seed and caraway seed. Bring to a boil and cook until the veggies are done (probably about 15 minutes–but check with a fork).
Add cream to taste. I like to add enough to make it a bit milky-looking.
Fun tip: If you want an even creamier consistency, but still like to have chunks in your soup, transfer half the soup to a large bowl. Using an immersion blender, whizz it until it’s nice and smooth, then transfer back to the main soup pot.
Voilà! You’ve got a nice creamy soup with some chunky texture.
(I’m not sure what makes this soup German. Anyone have a clue?)
It’s the day after Canadian Thanksgiving, and I’m slowly coming out of my turkey-stuffing-cranberry-sauce-gravy-induced coma.
I spent the three days before Thanksgiving Monday prepping and cooking for the big meal, so as not to end up with a disaster like I did when attempting my first turkey day back in 2012. The hard work paid off, and I had the pleasure of seeing my guests lounging about the living room in a happy stupor after the meal.
The Critical Prep Period
So what is my secret? Organization. Planning, planning, planning.
First, make your menu. I did mine on Thursday. Choose recipes that you know (or at least that you’ve seen made), and that have relatively simple ingredients and processes. Don’t make life harder for yourself.
Second, plan to make everything in advance. I started cooking on Friday, and that helped keep things from getting overwhelming. By the time Monday came around, the only cooking I actually had to do was the turkey!
So here is a breakdown of my Thanksgiving-prep period, complete with recipes. For those of you who celebrate American Thanksgiving, feel free to use this as a guide!
Friday: Shopping & Sauces
With your menu (and hence, your shopping list) done on Thursday, you can hit the stores on Friday.
I visited Montréal’s Marché Jean Talon for all my fresh ingredients. Apples, pears, cranberries, sweet potatoes, etc.
Next, I visited les Volailles et Gibiers Fernando on rue Roy and picked up a 4.8kg (10.8lbs) turkey. I went for fresh because we’ve never done frozen turkeys in my family, but that’s up to you.
After my experience in 2012, I had learned the importance of picking up your turkey ahead of time!
Next, on to the sauces:
A ton of apples (2lbs perhaps?) – I used “lobo” apples as per the recommendation from the dude at Jean Talon market. They were delicious
1/4 cup sugar
Cinnamon, to taste
Nutmeg, to taste
Pinch of salt
Coarsely slice your apples (no need to core or peel) and toss them into your largest pot. Add the sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt and turn on the heat. Cook the apples down, stirring occasionally, until they’re nice and mushy. It took about 30 minutes for me.
Place your food mill over a bowl and spoon your apple goop into the food mill. Leave it to sit and drain into the bowl. This might take a couple of batches if your food mill doesn’t fit all your apples (alternatively you can use a fine strainer). Reserve the runoff liquid.
Pass your apple goop through the food mill, making sure to get every last bit of delicious moisture. If you find your applesauce is too dry, add some of the reserved liquid to help moisten it up.
Homemade Cranberry Sauce
1 bag of Ocean Spray cranberries (about 340g of fresh cranberries)
1 cup water
1 cup sugar
Pinch of salt
Combine the water, sugar and salt in a saucepan and heat until the sugar is melted in the water. Add the cranberries, bring to the boil and simmer for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, so that the cranberries start EXPLODING (that’s the fun part).
More prep tip: See my stuffing recipe later for more info, but it’s a good idea to buy a couple of loaves of bread and dice them up at this point to let them get good and stale. You want stale bread for stuffing because fresh bread gets too soggy.
IMPORTANT NOTE: If you’re cooking both sweet and savory things in one day, always do the sweet stuff first and store it away from the smells of the savory cooking. You don’t want your muffins flavored with turkey broth!
Fresh Homemade Turkey Broth
This recipe is inspired from the “light stock from poultry” recipe from the Joy of Cooking, but with a couple of tweaks.
Turkey neck & giblets
Chicken carcass (like from a roast chicken)
1 bay leaf
1 tsp thyme
6 whole cloves
1 medium or 2 small onions
2 stalks celery
Bring the raw turkey neck & giblets to a boil and blanch for just 5 minutes. Pour off the water. Add the chicken carcass and enough water to cover everything and slowly bring to the boil. Simmer it, uncovered for 30 minutes. Add the rest of the ingredients. Note: I don’t bother even removing the skin from the onion or peeling/chopping the celery and carrot. I just make sure it’s all clean.
Bring that all to the boil and let it simmer, partly covered, for 3 hours. Your house will smell divine.
Saturday is also a good day to get some prep done for your recipes for the next day. I did a lot of pre-chopping for Sunday in order to make life easier for myself on Sunday.
Plan to spend a lot of time making this crisp: you need to peel and chop all those apples. It’s a royal pain. PRO TIP: Remove the zest, and juice the orange and lemon first. Drizzle the juice over the apples as you peel and chop them, to keep them from turning brown. I only used half of the zest.
My Mom’s Turkey Stuffing Recipe
4 big stalks of celery
Lots of butter
2 apples, peeled and chopped
2 loaves of bread, chopped and left to get stale
1/2 cup raisins
1/2 cup walnuts
Turkey broth or chicken bouillon
If you’re preparing this recipe a day in advance, start by melting a lot of butter in a generous pan. Cook the celery and onion until just softened. Add the apples and cook for a couple of minutes more. At this point you can set that aside to cool and keep it in the fridge until the day of.
On the day: Bring the celery, onion and apple mixture back to room temperature. If you chopped your bread and let it get stale ahead of time, now’s the time to mix it all together into a large bowl with the raisins, walnuts and pepper. Moisten with a mix of the turkey broth you made and chicken bouillon. The benefit of using chicken bouillon from a cube is that it has some sodium. If you don’t want to use bouillon, you’ll have to add salt to the recipe. Add just enough broth to make the stuffing good and moist, but not soggy (perhaps 2+ cups–depends on how much bread you used).
Heat it all in the oven at 175°C (350°F). The best time to do that is when the turkey has come out of the oven and is resting before carving.
Optional: You can stuff the turkey with some of the stuffing, but that will mean it will take longer for your turkey to cook, and remember that the stuffing has to get to 160°F, which puts your turkey at risk of drying out.
Curried Lentils & Sweet Potatoes
I’m going to save this recipe for a later date because this article is getting huge, but this was a nice twist on a traditional Thanksgiving recipe. The spices gave it a different flavor and jazzed up the whole meal. I’ll share this recipe soon, promise.
Turkey Gravy Recipe
I was probably most nervous about the gravy. I had really failed at it the last time I tried, so this time I was determined to succeed. This YouTube video from Whole Foods was particularly helpful. My mom suggested some modifications, though.
1/4 cup butter
1/4 cup flour
1 chicken bouillon cube
White wine (optional)
On Saturday, I made the velouté. Melt the butter and bouillon cube together in a saucepan and add the flour. Mix it well until it becomes a thick paste and cook for 1-2 minutes. Slowly whisk in your turkey broth, adding a bit at a time until it makes a nice liquid velouté. Simmer for 1-2 minutes. At this point you can remove from the heat, let it cool and put it in the fridge for tomorrow.
On the day: Warm up the velouté in a saucepan. When you get the turkey out of the oven, place the roasting pan over two burners and get the drippings up and boiling on medium-high heat. Boil for about 5 minutes. If you don’t have a lot of liquid, here you can use some white wine to get the stuff un-stuck from the pan. Cook for a couple more minutes, then add the velouté. Cook for a couple more minutes, then season to taste. (Note: If you used the bouillon cube, taste first because the seasoning on your turkey and from the bouillon might be enough.) Pour it all into a gravy boat! Voilà! No lumpy gravy!
On Sunday, I also tidied the house and set the table for the next day. What can I say, I’m just *that* organized.
Monday: Thanksgiving Day!!
Because of all the prep work I’d done ahead of time, Monday was relatively easy. All I had to do was get the turkey into the oven at the right time and assemble the stuff I had prepared in the previous days.
Roast Thanksgiving Turkey à la BrainInJane’s Mom
Turkey – Take it out of the fridge an hour ahead of time to get to room temperature
1 tbsp paprika
Lots of olive oil
3 cloves garlic, crushed
Salt & pepper
1 tbsp flour
Preheat the oven to 175°C (350°F). Clean that turkey! Wash it thoroughly inside and out, and pat dry with paper towels. Chop the onions and lemon in half and shove ’em into the cavities (there’s the main one, and the neck one!).
Combine the paprika, olive oil and garlic in a bowl and generously rub aaaaaall over the turkey. Really pour it on there! Finally, season generously all over with salt and pepper.
Toss the flour into the oven bag and shake it about to coat. Insert the turkey and close the bag with its tie. Place in your roasting pan, making sure that the bag doesn’t stick out of the pan. Cut six 1/2-inch slits in the top of the bag.
Put the whole thing in the oven and cook for the appropriate amount of time. My 10.8lb turkey took 2.5 hours (it’s good to check 1/2 hour before to see how you’re doing, temperature-wise. It needs to get to 165°F in the breast).
IMPORTANT: Your turkey must sit and rest for 30 minutes after coming out of the oven and before carving. That’s the perfect time to throw in your stuffing and casseroles to heat, while your guests are tantalized by the delicious smells emanating from the kitchen… Also, you can get your gravy ready now. Because I used the oven bag for the turkey, there was tons of liquid in the bag and I didn’t need to use the white wine to detach the drippings from the pan.
Sit Back, Relax, and Enjoy!
Well done! You’ve just done a marathon of cooking and prep, and now you can sit back, relax, and enjoy your guests. Since everything was prepared in advance, I was not stressed at all on turkey day, and was able to have fun with my friends without having to worry about anything in the kitchen.
Some additional tips: Have someone bring a green salad and some wine, and make sure you’ve got plenty of coffee and tea to offer to people as a digestif. And of course, a post-Thanksgiving meal walk on a nice day is always a good way to wind things up.
I’ve recently learned a few household tricks that have made life so much easier for me. Here are my 4 favorite life hacks:
1. Fruit Fly Trap
Summertime, and the living is easy. Unless, of course, you’re a fruit fly. Then you’ve got about a day of mature adult life and it’s a mad scramble to reproduce.
No one wants fruit flies reproducing on their produce, though! Here’s a great trick I learned for trapping the nasty little buggers so they don’t swarm your fruit.
What you’ll need:
Apple cider vinegar
Piece of paper
Jar (preferably larger than the one pictured here)
Pour about half a cup of apple cider vinegar into your jar, then squeeze a couple squirts of dish soap into it and stir it up. Yum! Then, fold your piece of paper into a cone shape and stick it into the jar so that it’s not touching the liquid.
The apple cider vinegar will attract the nasty little fruit flies and the dish soap will ENTRAP them when they try to take a drink of the forbidden liquid! Then, even if they do manage to fly out of vinegar, the cone-shaped paper will make it harder for them to escape the jar.
Voilà, no more fruit flies.
2. The Lazy Woman’s Shoe Polish
My dad has this amazing shoe polishing kit, full of different-colored polishes for all their pairs of shoes. He’ll pull it out on a Saturday afternoon, set down some newspaper, put on an old apron, sit on a stool, and get to work polishing and buffing his and my mother’s shoes to a gorgeous shine.
I’m far too lazy for that. Plus, it’s hard to find the right color of polish these days.
When my Chico bought me a leather bag for Christmas (yes, you can be jealous), he asked for some care tips from the guy at the store.
The gentleman said the best way to both clean and polish leather is to buff it with a plain old moisturizer.
I find it works about as well as polishing, and my shoes are always bright and shiny.
Note: I would always re-waterproof your shoes after you buff them with moisturizer.
3. Use Boiling Water on Berry Stains
This is a classic old household trick that so many people have forgotten!
Berry stains come out with boiling water. Berries include blueberries, raspberries, strawberries, mulberries… Whatever! But, most importantly, this also includes the killer: red wine.
Spilled some red wine on your white shirt? No problem! Boil up some water in your electric kettle (because everyone has one of those, right??), place a pyrex measuring cup inside the shirt under the stain (because you don’t want to pour the wine stain through one side of the shirt to the other) and simply pour boiling water over it.
It’ll turn a kind of gray color at first, but if you keep pouring it on it will fade slowly. Be sure not to let your pyrex cup overflow, though! And don’t burn yourself!
Bonus: Bloodstains come out with a good soak in ice water. If you cut yourself shaving, gentlemen, just grab some ice cubes from the freezer and place the shirt in a container. Soak it with the ice cubes and very cold water and the blood stain should come out in a cold water wash.
4. Water Stains on a Wood Table
Now, to be honest I haven’t tried this one. But my grandmother has and she said it worked like a charm.
Take water stains out of your wood table with a drop of mayonnaise. Yes, mayonnaise!
Just put some on a paper towel and rub in a circular motion over the water stains. My grandmother said you’ll have to switch out for a clean paper towel to dry up the mayonnaise, but it should take out a relatively fresh water stain.
I doubt it’s very effective on old water rings. That’s what coasters are for, people.
Share Your Household Tricks!
Call ’em what you want: tricks, tips, life hacks. But share them! I’m curious to know, for instance, if an aspirin at the bottom of a vase of flowers really helps keep them fresh. Tell me!