How do you cook? Are you the person who can open the fridge, look at what you have, and then make something? Or are you the kind of cook who follows a recipe exactly? I didn't start learning to cook until YellowBoy was almost two. Until then, The Engineer had done all the cooking. He is amazing. His mom is a gourmet cook, and he learned from her. I never had time to learn from my mom, because I was always at gymnastics at dinner time. But as The Engineer's schedule became less and less predictable, and dinner wasn't on the table until after eight some nights, I realized that my growing children would benefit from a set schedule and took the plunge. I was hooked right away. Cooking is amazingly fun!
It didn't take us long to realize that The Engineer's style would never work for me. He would just create, and cook in large quantities to freeze several meals each time he was at it. That way I'd have something to melt should he be really, really late. I, however, was going to need recipes to follow. I collected recipes from all over the place. I cut them out of newspapers, out of magazines in waiting rooms (yes, sorry that was me...I know you probably needed the last page of that story, but I needed a coconut-chicken soup recipe even more), I asked friends for their favorites, I googled for recipes, and I finally started using the ones that both my mother and my mother-in-law had so lovingly put into books for me. Turns out that (surprise!) I'm really good at following directions, and just about everything I tried turned out OK. My fear vanished. And we were eating quite the variety of meals. Meals that The Engineer enjoyed just arriving home for, and not having to cook at the end of long day.
Not that The Engineer's given up on cooking. He will still do his big projects. But we gotten smart. Whenever he starts creating, I write it down. What used to happen is that he'd make something great, and I'd ask how he did it. “Oh, a little of this a little of that. I don't remember exactly.” Problem! How could I repeat that? It pains me to think of the many great meals that we'll never have again. So now I'm in the kitchen taking notes whenever he cooks. I'd like to share one of his amazing creations with you, but first, I need to give a bit of background.
Do they run a turkey special where you live? Here, right around Thanksgiving and Christmas, whole turkeys can be had for five or six bucks. We usually buy the limit at each store. (We have four freezers, two in our two fridges, and two deep freezers. Yes, we fill them up. Between our garden, The Engineer's hunting, and bulk buying such as this, we need all of them.) We might use one of the turkeys for a traditional turkey dinner, but the rest of them we can. You've never heard of canned turkey? It's just like those large cans of chicken you get at Sam's. Only WAY better. It is a lot of work, but for one Saturday's labor, you can get enough stock to last the year, and plenty of turkey that's just waiting, ready to go. You know those recipes that say, “One cup of diced, cooked chicken”? I used to skip those because it takes too long if you're starting with raw chicken. Not anymore! I just open one of our pints of turkey and keep going.
Here's how we do it. Roast the turkey. Boil the carcass for a few hours to make the stock. Meanwhile, pick the turkey clean. (We do two at a time.) Fill jars with turkey, and top with your stock. Pressure can. Then fill pints and quarts with your delicious, naturally low sodium, no preservatives stock. Pressure can that, too. One turkey yields about 50 pints of stock (we have a six gallon pot) and seven pints of turkey. So your six dollars goes a long way!
The other prep for this recipe is bacon grease. Don't throw it away! After cooking bacon, save the grease in a jar in the fridge. Now you're ready to fry your eggs in it, or your pancakes, or ONIONS. Yum!
July Turkey Burritos
(We were drowning in garden tomatoes one year, so looking for creative ways to use them, The Engineer came up with this)
½ red bell pepper
½ green pepper
1 large tomato, or two if using romas
1 T. curry (this was actually an accident, he grabbed curry instead of cumin, but WOW, it's great in this dish)
1 T. cumin
1 T. chili powder
¼ t. chipotle powder
1 pint turkey, plus the stock it was canned in
Fry the onion in bacon grease, and add peppers after the onion has softened. Add spices, tomato (roughly chopped), turkey and stock. Stir fry until warmed through. You can be done in 20 minutes, but it can also stand to just simmer away a good long time if you want. Depends on how cooked you like your tomatoes. Wrap in warmed flour tortillas. It keeps well, so don't worry about having leftovers.
I'll leave you with this picture of my recipe collection. It needs organizing, but I'm too busy cooking to do it.