Unexpected Vacation: Harpers Ferry and the Baltimore Museum of Art

A little over a year ago, almost all our family (Jake excepted) took a short vacation together.  Going on vacation all in the same car was something we thought we’d sworn off forever, but this was a quickly planned journey.
John’s uncle was sick, and he wasn’t getting better.  John felt strongly that we needed to get up to Baltimore to see him, and soon.  It turns out he was right.
We had a wonderful couple of visits with Uncle Boh.  He’d been in the hospital right before we arrived, and had to go back almost right after we left, but he was home while we were there, and we were able to share meals and conversation.  It was truly a blessing, as he died less than two weeks later.
We couldn’t burden Uncle Boh and Aunt Barbara with our company the entire time we were in town, obviously.  So we took the opportunity to see some sights.
Even when you’ve spent as much time visiting one place (Baltimore) as we have, there’s always something new to explore if you look! We visited Harpers Ferry, West Virginia one day and the Baltimore Museum of Art the other.
John and I had been to Harpers Ferry close to 30 years before, but I had only the vaguest memories of that rainy day visit.  We were blessed with incredible weather this trip, which made for some beautiful pictures that I am excited to share here.  Unfortunately, my waiting so long to memorialize this trip means that this post will be long on pictures and short on explanations.
If you’ve heard of Harpers Ferry at all, it will be in connection with John Brown and his failed attempt here to abolish slavery via armed insurrection.  You’ll learn plenty about those events if you visit.
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That, obviously, is the man himself!  Below you’ll see the building where he and his men holed up.
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Harpers Ferry is full of history with displays in several of the buildings on the main street.

There are also shops and restaurants to explore along the main thoroughfare and side streets.  Harpers Ferry is a stopping point along the Appalachian Trail so there is some serious hiking gear available.
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There’s an historic home to visit and a church (and the remains of a church) to investigate.
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Situated at the confluence of the Potomac and Shenandoah Rivers, it’s also a place of extraordinary natural beauty.
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Looking back at this visit one year later, I still remember how beautiful everything was and how happy we were.  It was one of those perfect days.
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The next day we stuck closer to home base, and visited the Baltimore Museum of Art.  I can’t think why we’d never been there before.  It’s not because of the kids, because our kids like that kind of thing.
Here’s some of what we saw outside:
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Inside there were several sections to explore.  We saw sculptures and other three-dimensional expressions of art:
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The collection of the kind of paintings most people probably think of when they hear the words “art museum” was indeed impressive:
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But they also have interesting collections of art from Africa and Asia:
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They also had a great modern collection that we had to rush through because we were supposed to be somewhere.
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But that’s okay, because now I have a reason to go back there!
And don’t worry, we didn’t leave Baltimore without taking part in the essential summertime ritual:
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Let’s Get Healthy (But We Won’t Call It a Resolution!)

There’s just something about a new year, isn’t there?  It feels fresh and new and full of possibilities.  Hence the talk of resolutions and the increase in gym membership purchases!

I am reluctant to commit to something so definite and portentous as resolutions any more.  Not sticking to them seems like failure and who needs more reasons to feel bad?

Still, I can’t deny that some of the good health habits I worked so hard to form a few years ago have become somewhat less habitual. And a new year is as good a time as any for taking stock and making some changes.  I’m still lighter and healthier and stronger than I was before my healthy journey began, but let’s just say that pie has a lot of carbs, and that we don’t hike every weekend any more.  And I’ve got a BIG birthday coming up this year (gulp!), and I’d like to feel healthier and stronger by then.

So I’m going back to the gym and walking and healthy eating, but I’m not calling it a resolution.  In case you are feeling like doing something similar, here’s what I am going to do.  For the rest of this month I am going to reshare posts I’ve written on health, low carb eating, recipes, and hiking, to help motivate myself and anyone else who could use some motivation!  If you want to see what I’m sharing, follow Life in Every Limb on Facebook and be sure to check “see first” so you don’t miss any posts.

Happy New Year and good luck to you on your resolutions or goals for the year or whatever you wish to call them!  Tell me about them in the comments, if you want.


Low Carb Love Affair

A few weeks ago I shared the story of my lifetime of dieting, and I promised to write about the healthy changes I’ve made.  Since this morning I visited the wellness nurse and can now report I have lost 45 lbs. since taking charge of my health at the end of March, it seems like a good time to fulfill that promise!
After years of looking askance at the claims of low-carb enthusiasts, and being absolutely sure that a calorie is a calorie is a calorie, I am now a convert.  I won’t bore you with the latest science because you can google as well as I can.  Let’s just say it makes sense to me, and that the proof is in the pudding, or in this case, the lack thereof.
Like I wrote before, I am a diet expert, and this is the easiest diet I have ever been on.  If you want to get healthy, and lose weight, and feel good, and never be hungry, this is the diet for you.
I had to make a couple of major changes that were very difficult for me.  The first one was giving up cereal.  I loved cereal, and I not only ate it for breakfast every morning, I also had a bowl right before bed every night.  When I first decided to make healthy changes, but before I met with the wellness nurse, I went out and bought a lot of very healthy whole grain cereals, only to find out at my first appointment that pretty much all cereal is too high in carbohydrates for it to work in a low carb diet.  I was EXTREMELY attached to that evening bowl of cereal and it was hard to get past that but I did.
The other super hard thing was coffee.  Coffee is fine on a low carb diet, but not when it’s full of sugar.  So I started by cutting the number of cups per day rather than cutting the sugar!  Slowly (one week at a time) I cut the sugar by .5 tsp until I could drink it with nothing but cream.  This was huge!
I now cook exclusively with butter, olive oil, and coconut oil.  Remember when coconut oil was bad and canola oil was good?  Well, forget that.  I don’t even use Pam (or the generic equivalent) anymore.
Giving up bread, pasta, potatoes, and rice is not hard in the sense that I crave and want those things and feel sad about them but rather in the sense that they are ubiquitous and seem almost necessary!  So I have a few substitutes:  low carb bread that you can get at Kroger for an occasional sandwich (about twice a week); low carb wraps (also from Kroger) that can be used in lieu of hot dog buns, or to make burritos; low carb sandwich thins for hamburgers or black bean burgers; and mashed cauliflower with cheese instead of mashed potatoes.  I’ve heard of some pasta and rice substitutes that I haven’t tried yet, but mostly I just have given those up for now.
Someone asked me the other day if I still go out to eat and the answer is yes, absolutely!  Eating out is easy on this diet.  At American restaurants order steak, chicken, or fish and substitute broccoli for the customary baked potato and take the complimentary bread home to your kids.  At Asian restaurants get meat and veggies and just eat a couple of bites of the rice.  If you must go to Italian restaurants, get a non-pasta entree.  At Panera Bread or the like, get salad and soup instead of the sandwich.
It can be a little daunting to remember what is low carb and what is not, but if you have an iPhone you are in luck!  Yes, Siri can count your carbs for you.  And of course before long you will more or less know, just like you know how many calories or points or fat grams are in things after awhile when you follow those kinds of diets.
On a typical day I eat two scrambled eggs and coffee for breakfast.  I have hummus with vegetables, or apple slices with peanut butter, or handfuls of nuts for snacks most of the time.  And you are encouraged to have two or three snacks (and lots of water) each day, to keep your metabolism moving.  For lunch I try to go heavy on vegetables.  For supper I focus more on the meat.  I am eating all the things I have avoided my entire dieting life, and it turns out that these are the things that make you feel full and satisfied.  I AM NEVER HUNGRY.
Now that I basically know how many carbs most things have in them, I don’t really count them.  Supposedly I’m allowed to have about 40 a day, but my philosophy is just to try to avoid them as much as possible so that if I need to go over ever (this happens sometimes when we are eating out at a church function or some other place where the menu is not under my control) it will sort of even itself out.  So unlike other diets, there is nothing to count or write down (although that might be useful if you are having problems staying on track) and no meal plans to follow.  THIS IS EASY.
Will I eat this way forever?  Not exactly, but probably in a modified way.  For example, I just can’t wrap my head around the idea that whole grains and beans are bad.  So when all my numbers are below where they should be, and I have lost all the weight I want to, I will likely reintroduce these items occasionally.  I do still eat small amounts of beans and brown rice even now.
Below are some examples of easy, delicious, and lower carb meals I have been enjoying.
Tuna salad made with actual mayonnaise, pickles, onions, cucumbers, celery, and tomato:
Food Tuna Salad
Tomatoes, black olives, olive oil, and brown rice:
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Tomato, fresh basil, and mozzarella:
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Salad with artisan lettuce mix, mushrooms, peppers, tomatoes, feta cheese, and Green Goddess dressing:
Have you ever tried low carb eating?  Any other life-change success stories to share with us in the comments?

More on Our Journey to Health, Brought to You by ObamaCare

It’s been a couple of months since my last update, and things have been happening (and also some things have not been happening, as you will see!).
When I updated you last, I was complaining about the bureaucratic elements (mess) involved in Obamacare, AKA The Affordable Care Act, despite my overall satisfaction.  We were waiting to get a letter notifying us of our official hearing on the appeal I filed to try to get Teddy, William, and Lorelei covered.  Well, I am still waiting.  I have never received a letter or a call or ANYTHING.
However, I also told you that I was going to have to submit another huge batch of financial information, and proof of citizenship, and I don’t know what all else.  So I got that all together and went to upload it to the (still very user unfriendly and prone to crash) website, and could not for the life of me figure out where to upload the documents.  Last time I think I just mailed them.  So I called the help line.
This is the first bright spot of Healthcare.gov, and I want to reiterate it:  The people who staff the help line are efficient, courteous, and knowledgeable, and there are no ridiculous hold times such I have experienced with, for example, TennCare (40 minutes or more).  This guy was quickly able to tell me how to upload the documents, and also said that he thought from looking at my account that it was a mistake anyway.  I wasn’t taking any chances, of course, so I did upload them, and thought I would also take a moment to ask him is he knew anything about my appeal.
Naturally, another department handles that, but he told me if I wanted we could reapply right then for the rest of the family, and that if we were successful, they could be covered by the first of the next month, and that the deductible we’d already met would apply for them as well.  He did it for me while I stayed on the line and supplied the information, and lo and behold, one hour later, everyone in our family was on the way to being insured!
He also put in a request to make it all retroactive to my original application date.  They’ve since denied that and I am getting ready to file yet another appeal.
Our premium did go up as a result of the addition of three people.  We are now paying $411/month, which I am quite sure is still pretty darn low.
What have we been doing with all this awesome health insurance?
Emily, William, Lorelei, and Teddy have all gotten checkups now and have been pronounced in good health.  William and Lorelei both got some immunizations, and Lorelei had several icky warts frozen off (she was very brave!).  John and I both saw the dermatologist.  Y’all, I have been dreading that checkup for years.  Skin cancer runs in my family and I was sure I would hear some awful news.  Instead, the doctor told me I have relatively light sun damage and she doesn’t think I have anything to worry about! (I celebrated by coming home and laying out in the sun.  Just kidding.  Sort of.)  Teddy and I visited the chiropractor yesterday.  Now if you know anything about chiropractic you know it usually takes at least a couple of visits to straighten out whatever brings you there (sciatica, in my case).  So in the past, as a self-paying patient, I would usually try to get by with one visit.  But with a co-pay of $8, I think I’m going back Monday.
Now you know that as a result of all this care and support, John and I have both made some significant dietary changes.  John has now lost 20 lbs., and I’ve lost approximately 40.  He had his blood drawn last week and will find out on Monday whether his numbers have improved along with his weight.  I won’t have another checkup till October some time, but I can tell you that I feel great, have lots of energy, and can walk four miles up and down hills on a summer day without dropping dead.

John and I smiling and feeling healthy!
John and I smiling and feeling healthy!

I wrote a post on my five favorite low carb things to eat a couple of weeks ago and y’all, the page views on that post went out the roof!  So I expect people might be interested in hearing in a little more detail about some of the dietary changes I’ve made, and I’m planning a post on that next week probably.  But for now let me just share one amazing change that I am incredibly proud of:  I now drink my coffee with NO SUGAR AT ALL.  Only cream.  And anyone who ever saw me drink coffee before will know how huge that is!
If you would like to read all about our healthcare triumphs and travails, please see below:
The $64,000 Question, Answered
Who Are the Uninsured?
Uninsured No More
ObamaCare Update
ObamaCare Update 2
ObamaCare:  My Latest Update
ObamaCare Revisited

Five Favorite Low-Carb Things To Eat

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Y’all, I used to scoff at low carb.  But now I’m a believer.  I’ve lost weight but more important I reversed those pesky numbers which were inching up into critical territory.
I love to eat, and that hasn’t stopped.  So herewith I share with you five favorite low carb things to eat.
1.  Apple slices with peanut butter.
This is my bedtime snack these days.  Crunchy all-natural peanut butter because we have ALWAYS used all-natural peanut butter and Kroger brand because we are thrifty.  Okay, I know you aren’t supposed to eat right before bedtime, but I used to eat a big bowl of carb-filled cereal every night before bed.  So I’m getting better.
2.  Hummus with just about anything dipped in it.
Except pita bread because carbs.  Usually it’s celery, occasionally it’s baby carrots, sometimes it’s mushrooms or red or yellow peppers.  You can buy big containers of all kinds of hummus super cheap at Aldi.  Trader Joe’s also has good deals.
3.  Nuts.  All the nuts.
Oh, nuts. So high in fat.  So bad.  At least, that’s conventional diet wisdom.  Y’all, I eat great quantities of nuts and so far I am still losing weight, but if I stop it will be because of the nuts I’m pretty sure.  I buy the cheap mixed nuts from Kroger, peanuts, cashews, sunflower kernels, almonds, and cashews.  Whenever I get hungry between meals I grab a handful, which is roughly a serving.
4.  Eggs.
Another perfect food with a bad reputation.  Eggs have all the good things in them and they are cheap.  Well, except when you start feeling guilty and buy cage-free.  We consume way too many eggs to be able to afford to pay $4 a dozen, so we compromise and buy one dozen of those for Emily, one dozen of the super high omega-3 kind for me, and three dozen of the cheap kind for Teddy.  No, I am not kidding.  That’s six days’ worth.  I sometimes wonder if the grocery clerk thinks we own a restaurant or run an orphanage.    Anyway, I eat two scrambled eggs for breakfast EVERY morning.
5.  Steak.
I love steak.  It’s one of my favorite foods period.  And suddenly it’s not a forbidden treat–it’s a staple!  We buy steaks by . . . I don’t know, the ton or something . . . from this guy who sells them off his truck for ridiculously low prices.  So there’s always steak in the house, although it disappears more quickly when Teddy is home.
I plan to write a longer post some time in the next month or so on my current diet (and my past diets) so we’ll call this a teaser post.  Head over to Mama Knows, Honeychild for more favorites!

It All Boils Down to This

It’s New Years Day and y’all know what that means, right?  Black-eyed peas and greens, at least for us Southerners.

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As long as I can remember, my mother forced us to eat at least one bite of black-eyed peas each New Years Day, “For luck,” she said.  Later I learned that greens are also required, if you want to make money in the new year.  And who doesn’t want that, right?

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Luckily in this house a majority (read:  everyone but the little people) like either the peas, the greens, or both.

I’d never realized until this year that this tradition is strictly a Southern one.  I looked up its origin this afternoon while I was cooking and learned that it started post-Civil War, when supposedly those affected by Sherman’s March to the Sea were left with precious little to eat except for the black-eyed peas which the Union soldiers (who called them “cow peas”) assumed were only good for fodder for the Southerners’ long-gone cattle.  The erstwhile Confederates grew strong again on this minimalist yet healthy diet, and the foods eventually morphed from a generic “new beginnings” meal to one symbolizing future luck and prosperity.

As I perhaps have mentioned, I am an English major so I found additional meaning in today’s meal.

Just look at these collard greens, y’all.

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I don’t know if you can tell but that’s a LOT of greens. (And for only .99 at Kroger, too!)  It’s three enormous bunches which were too big for the plastic produce bag and took up the entire bottom shelf of my refrigerator.  It probably took me an hour to wash and rip them up so I could cook them.  The picture of them in the pan?  That was less than half of them.

Yet after ten minutes cooking, we were left with this:

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Yes, that’s what they boiled down to.  So that’s the source of that saying! I thought, cleverly, to myself.

But I also really did think, and announcedto my husband, that I am going to try to apply the lesson of the greens to any situations (I won’t say problems yet) that arise this year.  Whatever big tangled things I have to deal with, I’m going to envision them as a big mess of greens that haven’t been cooked yet.  I’m going to know in advance that really there’s just a little kernel at the heart of whatever it is that I really have to deal with.  Before I get all worked up and confused and overwhelmed, I’m going to think about what it all boils down to.

Happy 2014 to you!

I Fell off the Wagon . . .

The NaBloPoMo wagon, that is.  But, y’all, this week has been brutal.
First there was the all-nighter.  Jake got his paper done.  Emily bagged on us around 3 a.m.  I stayed up and up and up.  For those of you who have heard me rant about helicopter parenting, all I can say is that sometimes even big kids need their mothers, and Jake needed me that night.
Furthermore, any of you who do legal work will no doubt cringe when I mention that I also had discovery requests to fulfill the following day.  So I was working on that the following morning while continuing to help Jake with the paper.  I did not get to finally collapse until close to 4 p.m.  I slept for 17 hours.
This blissful unconsciousness put a serious dent into Thanksgiving prep time, however.  Normally I would have at least shopped for the food on Tuesday.  But that had to wait until Wednesday and I did not get down to serious cooking business until close to 7 p.m.  Brining the bird, cooking the giblets, and preparing the sweet potatoes and the mashed potatoes took until about 2 a.m.  Six hours later I was back up to cover the turkey in bacon and get it into the oven.  Then I moved onto the pies, and in between those major tasks handled all the little details that those of you who have hosted 18 people or so more Thanksgiving dinner won’t need me to explain.
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The fruits of all this labor were delicious, and as they say, a good time was had by all.  But after they all went home, it was back at it for me to clean up until around eleven (well worth it to come downstairs this morning to a clean kitchen instead of a mess).  Whenever I made the mistake of sitting down for a rest I wasn’t sure I could get back up again!  I finally treated myself to a long-anticipated soak in the spa tub and I thought I might just have to spend the night in there.
Mark my words, y’all:  I am NOT doing this again next year!  Next year you are going to be reading a post about how we went to Mass and then next door to the Crown Plaza for their Thanksgiving buffet.  You heard it here first.

Vegetable Chili That Even Meat Lovers Love

I was 19 when I moved into my first apartment–on-campus housing at Georgetown University with three friends.  Excited about having a kitchen, I ambitiously dumped the meal plan and looked forward to home-cooked meals.  To prepare, I bought a green notebook and wrote by hand many family recipes that I considered essential.  I seem to recall that Buttermilk Pound Cake was the first entry!

I held onto the notebook as the years went by.  Whenever I had to consult my mother on how to make sweet potatoes for Thanksgiving, or Hot Cross Buns for Easter, I would jot down the recipe so I wouldn’t have to call her again.  During the first couple of years of marriage, when I actually tried out new recipes almost every single night, I copied down the ones that made the grade.

Many of the recipes were never made a second time.  But over the years the cover fell off of the notebook from so much use.  Recipes like Apple Cinnamon Bread became dotted with grease and cinnamon stains.

Then the house burned down.  The recipe book was not the first thing I thought of missing, but it’s one of the things I still consistently wish for, over and over.  I’m calling my mother for recipes again, and I’m hunting for other ones on (thank God for) the Internet.

This Vegetable Chili recipe originally appeared in Sheila Lukins’s column in Parade Magazine around 1991.  You’d think that would be an easy thing to find online, but I have not found the exact recipe and I have searched every way I know how.
I remember well the first time I made it.  John looked at it doubtfully and wanted to know how you could have chili without meat.  A few minutes later he was eating his words along with the chili.  It’s been a favorite ever since.  Additionally, it’s a meal I like to make when I am feeding another family (if I know they like vegetables), whether they have a new baby or sickness or a death in the house.  I double a cornmeal muffin recipe and divide a buttermilk pound cake into two loaf pans, and I have dinner for us and enough to share with another family.

I was doing exactly that for a family that happens to be vegetarian last week.  I found a close approximation to the recipe I wanted and I remembered the rest.  Jake did most of the chili under my direction while I did the baking.
Vegetable Chili

  • 1 medium eggplant, cut in 1-inch cubes
  • olive oil
  • 2 yellow onions, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced; or 3/8 t. garlic, powdered
  • 2 medium zucchini, chopped
  • 3 assorted bell peppers, chopped (I like to use red, orange, and yellow)
  • 1 yellow squash, chopped
  • 1-2 jalapeno peppers, seeded and finely minced (decide how much to use depending on the hotness of the peppers and your taste)
  • 1 28-oz. can whole tomatoes, cut in half, with liquid
  • 5 fresh Italian plum tomatoes
  • 1 T. cumin, ground
  • 2-3 T. chili powder (to taste)
  • 2 t. oregano, dried
  • 1 t. fennel seeds
  • 1 c. cooked white beans (rinse first if using canned)
  • 1 c. cooked kidney beans (rinse first if using canned)
  • 1 T. lemon juice
  • 1/3 c. red wine
  • 1/3 c. chopped fresh cilantro
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • plain yogurt, shredded cheese, and chopped green onions for garnish

Preheat oven to 350.  Chop eggplant and stir with 2 T. oil.  Place in 8×8 baking dish, cover with foil, and bake 30 minutes, stirring at the 15 minute mark.  Set aside when done.

In a stockpot, heat 3 T. oil on medium.  Add onions and cook for five minutes.  When I made this last week I had Jake chop everything in advance so he wouldn’t be stressed. but normally I chop as I go.  So I add the garlic. and then the rest of the vegetables one at a time, as I finish chopping.  So each one cooks a couple of minutes as you chop the next, and then cook about five minutes more after the jalapenos have been added.
Add the canned tomatoes and liquid, then chop the fresh tomatoes and add.  Add the cumin, chili powder, oregano, and fennel.  Stir in the reserved eggplant and simmer for 20 minutes over low heat.

Add the beans, lemon juice, and cilantro.  (Oh, the difficulty I had finding cilantro in 1991!  I’d never heard of it–had to consult the Joy of Cooking–and no one else had either!  I had to drive to the “rich” Kroger in West Knoxville to find it.) Add salt and pepper to taste (you may need to adjust this later) and simmer for five minutes.
Garnish with plain yogurt, shredded cheese, and green onions, and serve with corn muffins.

Serendipity in the Kitchen

I rarely use recipes, certainly not for everyday foods.  I like to think of my own mind as a sort of cookbook, capable of synthesizing ingredients into masterpieces.  I’m not sure if that’s a special talent or something that can be learned from years of cooking, maybe it’s a little of both–my 18-year-old son can do it.
Anyway, sometimes I’ll look in the refrigerator and my mind will start going and before I know it there’s an idea I have to try.
Our refrigerator is pretty close to empty at the moment, and that sort of challenge always seems to kick my creativity into high gear, as I try to come up with a use for seemingly unrelated ingredients that will harmonize into something more than only edible.
Tonight’s experiment was a success!
At this time of year we always have a log of Brie in the refrigerator (at least until we eat it all!).  It goes on sale at Kroger for half-price just before Thanksgiving and stays that way until the New Year (which is when we stop buying it!).  At the moment we also have quite a bit of bacon on hand–I bought a little more than I needed for the turkey.   Then there was half a can of cranberry sauce (the jelled kind) that my son had been eating all by itself.  So here’s what I did:
I fried up some bacon (three slices is all I ended up needing).
I placed 8 saltines (that’s all I had–something fancier might have been better, but those were fine) on a cookie sheet.
I sliced half a Brie log into 8 rounds (about 1/4 inch thick) and placed those on the crackers.
I broke the bacon into portions (about two inches each) and placed those on the Brie.
I put a spoonful of cranberry sauce on top.
I popped the cookie sheet under the broiler for about two minutes–just long enough for the Brie to get warm but not long enough to melt.
Et Voilà!
bacon and brie
They were delicious!

The Best Turkey I Ever Made

I don’t know about you, but I always get nervous about roasting the Thanksgiving turkey.  It’s such a big responsibility.  If your casserole doesn’t turn out exactly right, so what?  There are about 100 more casseroles on the table.  But if the turkey is bad?  That’s a Big Deal.
So every year I get out the cookbooks again because I can never remember exactly what I did before.  I’ve achieved fairly good results over the years by submerging the turkey completely in liquid (whatever I have on hand–tons of cans of chicken broth, orange juice, beer, and whatever else it takes to get the thing covered) in the roasting pan.  But it’s so heavy it takes two of us to lift it and it makes the refrigerator shelf sag!   This method helps to keep the turkey moist, and then I solve the dry breast meat problem by soaking cheesecloth in butter and covering the breast with that, and then basting right over it.  This is a combination of a recipe from Gourmet Magazine and the old Joy of Cooking (mine burned in the fire and I have the new one now, which I DESPISE.).
I don’t get excited about cooking turkey not only because it’s stressful but also because it’s kind of boring!  The only adventure is whether it’s going to be done on time and how moist it will be.  There’s not a lot of scope for the imagination–at least not until this year!  Because a couple of weeks ago a Facebook friend posted a picture of a turkey WRAPPED IN BACON.  Yes, you read that right.  I knew immediately that I wanted to try this.  Her picture did not link up to a recipe but when I said I wanted to try it she Googled one for me. (Thanks, Michelle!)  Of course I had to add my own twists to it.  Here’s my recipe.
Bacon Wrapped Turkey
1 turkey, 20 lbs. (I used the cheapest frozen one I could find, and you would never have been able to tell!)
3 12-oz. boxes of bacon (also the cheapest kind I could find)
1 stick butter, softened by leaving it at room temperature
1 onion
5 stalks of celery
1 can of chicken broth
other liquid for soaking (whatever you want.  I used chicken broth, salted water, and beer.)
If you are using a frozen turkey, you are supposed to thaw it in the refrigerator, allowing one day per five pounds.  But guess what:  that’s an inexact science at best.  You might want to check sooner than I did–which was the night before I was supposed to cook the thing, and it was frozen as hard as a brick.  Should that happen to you, soak it in cool water in the sink, changing the water frequently.
The night before you are going to cook the turkey, wash it and pat it dry, inside and out.  Put it upright in a stockpot and put in as much liquid as you can.  Cover and refrigerate until you are ready to prepare it.
Put your celery sticks in the bottom of your roasting pan (You won’t need these if you have a really good roasting pan with a rack; I needed them because I was using the cheapie foil kind from the supermarket and I wanted to sit my turkey up a bit.) Pour in your can of broth.  Drain your turkey, dry it off, and put it in the pan.  Loosen its skin as much as you can and rub it with softened butter inside the cavities and over and under the skin.  Season with sage, garlic, salt , and pepper (or whatever else you like!) under and over the skin and in the cavities.  Put the onion inside the turkey and tie up the legs (I cross the “ankles” and tie them together with string wound around like a figure eight.).
Now take your bacon and drape it all over your turkey, making sure it is completely covered.  The bacon will stick because of the butter.


Preheat your oven to 500 degrees.  Insert a meat thermometer into the thigh near the body, but don’t let it hit bone.  Tent foil over the turkey.  Put it in the oven and immediately turn the heat down to 325.  The purpose of the initial high heat is to seal in the juices.
A 20-lb. turkey is supposed to take 4 hours to cook.  For the purposes of this recipe we will pretend that real life and real turkeys always follow the rules, but you need to be prepared to adjust.  I put my turkey in the oven at 9 and took it out after 2.
You can ignore the turkey for the first 3 hours.  After that take off the foil and let it cook for 30 minutes with its bacon wrap still in place.  Then you are going to have to take it out of the oven to do the next part.  Be very very careful because there will probably be a lot of drippings in your pan.  If you are going to make gravy this will be a good time to get out some drippings so you can have a head start.

(Please just ignore how dirty my stovetop is, okay?)
Take off the bacon.  Use a fork–it’s hot!  You can chop it up for use in another recipe, or put it away for later, or feed it to your dog. Baste the turkey and put it back in the oven.  At this point you will want to baste it every 30 minutes or so until it is done.  When is it done?  When the thermometer reads 170.  I actually took it out when it wasn’t quite there because it will continue to cook for a bit after you remove it from the oven.
Let the turkey “rest” for 15 minutes or so before carving.  Here’s where I got a bit of a scare–the outer layer of flesh is going to be pink.  Your turkey IS NOT RAW.  It is slightly smoked from the bacon.
Everyone RAVED over this turkey.  One and all said it was the best one I ever cooked.  The breast meat wasn’t just “not dry”–it was downright juicy and flavorful.  This is how I will be cooking my turkey every year from now on.