Friday, December 30, 2011

Why Matzo Ball Soup?

A merry heart does good, like medicine, But a broken spirit dries the bones.  Proverbs 17:22

The virtuous like the merchant ships, She brings her food from afar.  She also rises while it is yet night, And provides food for her household....Proverbs 31:14-15

     There are about three months of winter left to endure (spring starts March 20th), and down in South Carolina, the cold weather is just getting started.  I suppose that every family has its own routine when sickness invades, but in ours, matzo ball soup has become a tasty way to bring relief and to feel loved and comforted.
      I can divide our family into two camps during illness - and I say this with great humor and affection:  One is the "tough guy" camp.  It is a lonely one because my husband, Scott is the only member.  He never complains, and so it is not apparent the man is sick until he literally sneezes on you or collapses.  The other camp in the Wand household is called the "Whiney Baby" camp (we admit this freely). That is pretty much the rest of us.  Somehow we manage to get around, "Do all things without murmuring or complaining" (Philippians 2:14) by convincing ourselves that our requests are actually needs. We want to be pampered when we feel yucky.  This special group needs lots of attention.  Please bring us a box of tissues with aloe, hot tea on a saucer, ginger ale with ice and a bendy straw, and finally, a piping, hot bowl of matzo ball soup, oh, and please don't leave me because I might need my back scratched -  and I'm just describing me.  Harrison is the more selective patient.  He doesn't want any of the above except a decent sandwich on toast, with lots of mayonnaise, and lots of picklesAnd, "Would you please bring that bench thingy from your desk in here so I can have a little table for my drink?" This camp has been known to say things like, "Are you sure I don't have a fever?  I think my head is getting warmer."  To which it is often replied (with a smile), "Nope.  Keep trying."  The only thing "tough guy" requires is a shot of orange juice and a nap (but we pamper him anyway and although he appreciates it, he doesn't require it).
     Two of us, however, happen to be excellent nurses.  One is me, of course (I'm like, the mama) and the other is Emily.  The others - not so much.  They don't exactly neglect you, but you're pretty much just going to receive the "basic package" of nurturing.  Emily attends you like a superstar waitress and asks questions like, "How do you want your sandwich?  Would you like your bread toasted?"  Your food will arrive with extras like lettuce, tomato, and maybe even a little pickle spear on the side.  She has even been known to uncover your feet and give you a pedicure.  She'll make you hot tea with just the right amount of honey and add fresh mint from her garden.  Her care is so phenomenal it makes you want to lick a grocery cart just to receive it.
     Hayden, although amiable and willing to help, is an artist, not a nurse.  She prefers more interesting projects like cake decorating, crafts, journaling, and reading.  Sick people totally cramp her style.  A bedside conversation with Hayden goes something like this,
"Honey, did you put mayonnaise on this sandwich?" 
"Oh, did you ask for mayonnaise?"
"Do you think you could add a little mayo on this and cut it in half?" 
"Yes, Ma'am." 
Sandwich comes back. 
"Uh, Sweetheart?" 
"Yes, Ma'am?"
"Could you put some ice in my drink?" 
"But I did!" 
She'll then lean over, peer into your glass, and point out a lonely, little ice chip adrift in a sea of beverage. 
"Could you please put a handful of ice in here?" 
"Yes, Ma'am." 
Then a sneeze. 
"Ugh, Sweetie, could you grab me a tissue?"
She'll then hand you two sheets of toilet paper. 
Somehow you sense that you have totally exasperated Hayden and you end up feeling like some kind of hospital diva.  If you want Hayden to hang around, put an old movie on the television, and she'll surely climb in next to you.  She'll snuggle up close and say something like,
"Wow!  You are soooo warm!" 
And then she'll rub her icy feet on your legs.  At just about the moment you are about to exclaim, "Do you even have a circulatory system?", she'll suddenly use those wonderfully cool fingers to play with your hair.  But, as your eyelids begin to close into blissful slumber, beware!  She is ever so carefully sliding the remote from out of your pathetic, sickly hand...........
   As for the boys, well, why should you ask them for help?  Where are the girls?  If in fact, you do happen to ask one of the little ones for help (maybe the girls are sick for example - a desperate situation indeed), a confused expression comes over their little faces as they try to process the information. 
"You want me to make you some soup?" 
Then the little guy will leave and twenty minutes later you'll hear Legos spill out onto the floor and you know the soup has been forgotten.  Forget asking Harrison.  He is nowhere to be found.  Scott is a great nurse when he remembers to check on you.  But I digress.  Back to the soup.
      Matzo ball soup was first introduced to our family when we began practicing a Messianic Passover Seder each year on Good Friday.  We have been doing this for several years now to prepare our hearts for Easter and simulate the deep meaning of the Last Supper.
     The first course of our Seder is a Jewish tradition that has been around for a looooong time - a bowl of matzo ball soup.   This became something we reserved only for Passover, but it was simply so delicious, we now also use it as our "Jewish penicillin".  Because it isn't always convenient to whip up a big 'ol batch of soup when the family gets sick (especially if I'm one of them), I try to can several pints and store them to be reheated as individual servings as needed.  The matzo balls are frozen so they can be reheated easily with the soup.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Just got this email from my Uncle Ed........

I have a recipe for you... My favorite. Buy Ragu "chunky mushroom". Heat. Boil dried rigatoni from a box until it's slightly overdone. Pour hot Ragu over a plate of the rigatoni, add dried grated parmesan cheese that was on sale at the CVS, eat sitting on the couch watching bad science fiction on TV. Repeat every day for dinner until the left overs are finished. 
Unk Ed. 

The Turkey Project (Turkey Pot Pies)

      Ah, leftovers.......My side (Jennifer's) of the family celebrates Christmas on Christmas Eve and my husband's (Scott) side of the family celebrates on Christmas Day.  The meals are actually pretty similar (turkey, ham, and a ton of delicious casseroles) and our family is always blessed to receive a large portion of  leftovers.  I roasted a huge twenty three pound turkey this year so we could have plenty of sandwich meat, but I was left with a whole lot more dark meat than white and my kids don't seem to care as much for this.  After visiting with my inlaws, we were also given two large freezer bags of turkey legs, wings, and mostly dark meat to take home.  I did not want to waste any of  it!  I made a plan to not only utilize the meat, but stock up our freezer with some fast and easy meals!  Remember, this can be done in PHASES for the busy mama.  You can substitute any of these ingredients for homemade!  You can also replace the meat with chicken or beef - just make sure your gravy or condensed soup compliments your meat choice.

You will need: 
Leftover turkey (you will need one cup of diced meat for each pie (I make these in two's, so that would be two cups for each pair)
Turkey gravy (1/2 to one cup per pie or one to two cups for each pair) 
You can also use a can of cream of chicken soup or whatever kind of cream soup you like for each pie.  Do not add liquid to the soup.
One large can of  Veg All veggies for every two pies or a small one for each pie.
Pie crusts in tins for bottoms
Rolled pie crusts for tops
Freezer bags
rolling pin
cookie cutters
large bowl
mixing spoon
large clean table
freezer space!

Phase One:  Sorting
            I put on an apron, gather all of my bags, trays etc. of turkey and sit down with three bowls and a trash can.  Bowl one is for white, sandwich meat.  Bowl two is for dark meat and pieces of white meat too small for sandwiches.  Bowl three is for two very fortunate doggies (skin, cartilage, and anything slimy!). The trash can is for bones.  This is actually pretty time consuming and messy since the legs and wings of the bird must be stripped of skin, meat, etc.  It is important to carefully look for bone that can hide in the cartilage pieces you want to throw into the dog bowl.  After this step, you can bag up your meat in separate freezer bags and refrigerate (or freeze), feed the pups, take out the trash and call it a day (or move on to phase two).
Phase Two:  Chopping
            The freezer bag of white sandwich meat is done and waiting in the lunchmeat drawer in the refrigerator for anyone who wants it.  Get out your cutting board, a sharp knife, and another bowl.  The dark meat  must be diced into small bite sized pieces for the pies.  This can be time consuming and messy depending on how much meat you have.  When you are finished, you may place your diced turkey into a freezer bag, freeze and wait until whenever you have the opportunity to continue or can afford the rest of the ingredients.  You can refrigerate if you plan to continue within a day or two, or move on to the next step.  The important thing is to get these steps done quickly so that the meat doesn't go bad and you waste a great opportunity!
Phase Three:  Gravy prep
             Hopefully you have some leftover gravy.  I picked up some extra packets (on sale for 99 cents) to multiply what was left.  I combined my leftover gravy (which was made from a combination of pan drippings, water, and my favorite envelope mixes) with extra drippings I had saved, water, and a couple more packets of gravy mix.  My large pot of gravy has been moved to a cold burner and is now cooling on the stove top.

McCormick makes a really great gravy mix.  Love the taste!
Phase Four:  Construction
             Place all pie shells and boxes of pie pastry on table to thaw a little.  Open one of your pie shell packs and place on counter.  In a large bowl, combine two cups of diced turkey, a large can of drained mixed vegetables (or blanched fresh, thawed out frozen, etc.) and 1 to 2 cups of gravy.  Mix and pour into two pie shells.  Move pies to another out of the way table, get two more pie shells and continue until all pie shells are filled.

These are generic, Food Lion pie crusts. 

Two cups of turkey go into the mixing bowl.

I drain the veggies.

Add to the turkey.

Add one cup of gravy and mix.  Add another if it looks too dry.

Divide mixture between two pie crusts.

             Unroll a pie pastry, place on top of filled pie, flute with fork, and trim edges.  Find a willing youngin' to roll out scraps and use cookie cutters to make fun shapes for the top while you work.  Cover all pies, top with shapes, make at least two slits in top and place into freezer bags.  Freeze for a convenient dinner at a later date. 

I am using the Wal-Mart generic rolled pie crust.  It is more pliable than Food Lion's.

Sealing the edges.

Trimming the excess.

My daughter, Hayden, rolling out the excess.

Cutting pieces for the top.
Placing the decorations on the top of the pies.  We don't want to waste that dough!
Making slits in the top.

Woo hoo!  Fourteen turkey pot pies for our freezer.  Whew!

              To prepare:  You can either thaw out the pie and bake at 350 degrees for thirty to forty minutes (until top is golden brown) or bake frozen for an hour to an hour an a half.

Sammy eating his first of three pieces.


Best Broccoli Casserole

My mom, sister, and I are going to be posting a bunch of recipes now that Christmas is over. One of my favorite recipes is our broccoli casserole; and I got to make it this year.
Because we make so many dishes for the holidays, we make them ahead of time and freeze them.  If you freeze your casseroles, you'll need to take them out the day before to give them enough time to thaw.  They take a long time!  You may even want to write a thawing schedule, so you won't forget to take out your turkey, etc.

To make it you will need:
1 large bag frozen broccoli (you can also use fresh)
1 onion
bread crumbs
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese (we like sharp)
1-2 cups mayonnaise
1-2 cans cream of mushroom soup
2 eggs
salt and pepper
food processor
casserole dish
spray Pam

Start by processing all the broccoli until it is finely chopped. You can use frozen or fresh. Fine dice the onion and saute it in butter until translucent -do not brown. This step is so you won't be biting into some crunchy onions.

You can make some bread crumbs if you're not using store bought. We usually freeze all of our bread end pieces and then use them to make a bunch of bread crumbs using our mini food processor.

Processing bread crumbs
Mix chopped broccoli, onions, soup, eggs, salt, pepper, and mayonnaise in a large bowl.

Then stir in a cup or two of shredded cheese.

It should look like this.  If it doesn't look as moist, then add more soup or mayo.

Spread out the broccoli mixture into a greased casserole pan and melt about 6 Tbsns. of butter in a bowl or measuring cup. Mix bread crumbs into the butter until the bread crumbs are crumbly without being dry.

Cover the top of the casserole with the bread crumbs.

Casserole being covered with Saran wrap to be frozen.

Cook a thawed, uncovered casserole at 350 degrees for 30-40 minutes.