The Bunka Log
Saturday
Dec032016

The Friday Refrain: Saturday Edition!

Do you ever feel like the red pig in the midst of the shockingly bright plastic sheep? Yeah, me too. And then on the flip of that - are you recovered from November yet? Yeah, barely me either. Thankfully it's December when you can just relax about all that planning stuff.

I've been making my Christmas Album list and checking it twice, but I'm afraid it will be next week before I can share it, with bonus Spotify playlist. (it's the playlist's fault really, and my laziness) But what came out on this first Friday of the last month of 2016? I'll tell ya! Rolling Stones are back with Blue & Lonesome. Smooth singing John Legend released Darkness and Light. Childish Gambino is back with Awaken My Love! Neil Young released Peace Trail. (and hey, his stuff is back on the streaming sites, so have it at it folks!) And that's the big ones I believe...

Deck the halls with last week's release list

As for picks for last week, I think it's best if you just tune into Half Pints once Josh gets it posted. The week slipped away from me and I had a hard time getting listens in. Only hit up like 20 albums thus far. Thank goodness it's December and the releases will start to taper off and I can catch up before trying to wrap my mind around the vast collection of amazing music that 2016 has given us. Yeah, things sucked in the world, but man we got some great music. At least there's that. So keep your ears and eyes at attention for that Christmas Album list and in the meantime, Happy Listening!

Wednesday
Nov232016

Simply Thanksgiving part cuatro

Here's what you got to do today:

Thaw out your veggie stock!

- Don't forget to turn on Turkey Confidential as you're doing your cooking, with the Macy's Day Parade in the background.

- Double check cooking time and when you need to start your turkey. Take out of fridge 30 minutes before roasting.

- Get your pies out of the way this morning. Nothing like pies baking in the morning to get those stomachs growling.

- Get a 9x13 or pan big enough for how much green bean casserole you're making. If you want no mushrooms, blend your cream of mushroom soup - but remove the bay leaf first! Remove the bay leaf anyway. Then pour into pan, add about 1/2 cup of breadcrumbs, 1/2 cup of shredded parmesan, a handful of fried onions, and then your green beans. It's ready to go in the oven whenever. 30 minutes cooking, add french onions on top and finish another 15 minutes.

- Stuffing: You can do it two ways - 45-60 minutes, or in a crockpot. Regardless of which way you do it, right before you're going to start cooking it, get a big bowl out. Pour in your stale bread stuff, add your veggies, and then add 2 cups stock. You can add more stock as needed, I recommend using your hands to mix so you know how the stuffing's feeling - too wet, too dry, just right? And this is all your preference because some people like crunchy, some soggy, some just right. There's not correct answer.

- Sweet potatoes spread in a casserole and top with marshmallows they'll be about 25-30 minutes at a 350 degree oven to finish

- You can use a double boiler to heat up your mashed potatoes when it gets to be showtime.

- Make that veggie plate! And stir that dip together if you haven't already.

Well that's it. I realized halfway through that this was probably not the year to continue a timeline of what to do for Thanksgiving because we're hosting and going to a thanksgiving not even a week after hosting 30 people for Prethanksgiving... Oy. Good luck and Happy Thanksgiving!

Wednesday
Nov232016

Simply Thanksgiving part three

All right, you've got some tunes, you prepped your veggies, made your stock - what next? Last minute decoration ideas, check out my past Thanksgiving posts. My favorite decoration - I threaded fake leaves from the dollar store onto thread and taped it to the wall. Iit moves gently sometimes, it looks pretty, I just love it. Just imagine it on the wall behind the head of your Thanksgiving table.

And now it's time to roll up your sleeves and get to work. If you've prepped all your veggies, this will be a cinch. Just sauteing and watching things cook. *you might want to reference real recipes besides my vague descriptions following, just in case. But the idea of cooking and timing the dishes should work out the same.

Essentially: we're making the cream of mushroom soup, sauteing the stuffing veggies, boiling/mashing/seasoning our mashed potatoes and sweet potatoes like so:

1. (preheat oven for roasted sweet potatoes if not, go on to) Saute mushrooms/onions/garlic for soup

2. Saute stuffing veggies

3. Put pots of water on to boil for potatoes and sweet potatoes, if room and/or willing to do all that. (I suggest at least boiling the tubers tonight) if roasting sweet potatoes, get them seasoned and prepped according to recipe. Start peeling the potatoes.

4. Season the veggies.

5. Water might be boiling by now, if you're mushrooms are soft, let the water boil and continue with the soup. If the mushrooms are still cooking, keep working on getting your potatoes peeled and cut so you can boil them.

6. Veggies probably done, turn off and let cool. Make your cream of mushroom soup.

7. If anything, finish up your potato prep while cream of mushroom soup is simmering.

8. Turn off soup once it's simmered enough and finish up your mashes.

9. See you tomorrow for the final countdown.

Now for the detailed instructions:

if you're roasting sweet potatoes instead of making mashed marshmallow yumminess

preheat your oven to 425 or whatever your recipe says. During down time of mushrooms and veggies, get your sweet potatoes  tossed and ready to go in so you can just pop them in the oven it's ready.

Now get your cream of mushroom soup going

First, grab a pot big enough for your cream of mushroom soup. Melt 1 1/2 to 2 tablespoons butter over medium heat, adding the equivalent of olive oil. When it's heated, add the mushrooms and begin sauteing. Add that onion and garlic you chopped yesterday.

Time to saute the stuffing veggies

If possible, heat up a skillet big enough for your stuffing veggies. I do about the same butter/olive oil for my stuffing veggies, once heated, add the veggies and saute. You can check between the two sautes, making sure it's not browning or sticking, stirring occasionally. By the way, I say stuffing, but I never stuff my turkey because you have to be so careful with that - it's technically dressing but that just sounds weird. So I say stuffing, even though I just stuff it into a 9x13 or slow cooker.

Stuffing and green beans continued

As the stuffing veggies are cooking, add the herbs. 2 T. sage, 1 T. parsley, 1/2 t savory, 1 t. rosemary, 1 t. thyme, 1 t. oregano and 2 t. salt. Once the veggies are soft, you are good until tomorrow. Cool and refrigerate.

 Once the mushrooms are soft and cooked turn to a little under medium heat, grab your flour and measure out 2 cups milk - DON'T ADD YET. Stir in 1 T. flour to your mushrooms, it'll get all clumpy and keep stirring until you don't see any powdery flour. Gradually stir in milk, then add 2 cups broth. Toss in a bay leaf and bring to simmer. Season with salt and pepper. Let simmer 15-20 minutes. Cool and refrigerate.

Meanwhile back on the range...

While veggies are cooking, and you're willing to keep cooking, get a pot of water big enough to hold however many potatoes you're cooking and bring to a boil. While it's getting to boiling, and you're watching your other veggies, peel, rinse and quarter your potatoes. The smaller potato pieces you boil, the quicker it cooks, but you don't want to go crazy either. 2-3 inch pieces are about 15 minutes of boiling I think. I always lose track of time. Drain potatoes, turn heat to medium low, add a couple tablespoons butter and add potatoes back to pan, add a bit of milk, and start mashing. Add milk until they reach a good consistency. Immersion blenders not recommended for mashed potatoes because it will get all gummy and you want a little texture to potatoes.

If you're making marshmallow yummy potatoes

and you have enough room, you can put another pot large enough to hold the water covering the amount of sweet potatoes you are boiling on another burner and get the water boiling. Dump in the sweet potatoes and boil until tender. (again depends on how big the chunks you cut are) Once soft, drain, and bring back to pan. Add a little molasses, maple syrup, brown sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, a pinch of clove, a pinch of salt and use orange juice to give it that smooth texture instead of milk. Or a combo of the two. A fun twist, coconut milk and/or orange juice would be fun too. Anyway, now spread in a casserole, cool a bit, cover and refrigerate.

There. You have prepped for Thanksgiving. Do you have your serving dishes and ware picked out and washed yet? Make sure you take the time to at least get a game plan! I'll write another post this evening about what to do tomorrow, and you'll be all set. Just assembly, put together your veggie tray and shabam! Oh, wait, go ahead and whip together that veggie dip tonight if you have the energy, otherwise, it'll take two shakes tomorrow. Let's all go relax and have some tea or wine and watch Home for the Holidays, shall we?

Tuesday
Nov222016

Simply Thanksgiving Friday Refrainish

Welcome back all! Apologies for the lateness - weather and just overall crazyness around here but here it is: So today, it's time to make your pastry crust (Martha Stewart is the best) and prep your veggies. Look at your recipes, write down how much you need of each/how to cut, and then get to it! Here's my basic breakdown, if you just want to keep it simple this year:

STUFFING: For every pound of bread, I do 2-4 carrots diced, 2-3 ribs of celery chopped, 1 large onion chopped, 3 cloves of garlic chopped. You could also do 1/2-1 whole sweet potato, a rutabaga or a turnip might be fun in there.

Green Bean Casserole: I make my cream of mushroom soup. If you didn't prep your mushrooms yesterday, do so today. For one 8oz container of mushrooms (you need two for a 9x13 pan of casserole though), 1-2 garlic cloves, and 1/2 a small onion. Trim up your green beans if you're using real and blanch tender crisp to get that out of the way. I like thin beans. I always buy french cut frozen. And once I used real and french cut them myself. (and then forgot the casseroles were in the oven and went out to meet some friends and had a terrible mess, but no fire, when I got home)

Sweet Potatoes can be prepped ahead of time. Potatoes get weird like apples, so unless you can submerge them in water, wait until tomorrow.

Crudites/Vegetable platter: I dislike dried up veggies, so I wait until tomorrow or Thanskgiving morning.

Turkey: Don't forget to prep what you put in your turkey. I do a whole garlic head, then quarter an onion and a lemon.

Pie Crust: Don't overwork your dough. I like to food processor the butter and dry ingredients, then pour into a bowl and slowly add the water. The first tablespoon I'll stir with a pastry cutter or such, but after that, I use my hand to gently gather the dough, and that way you can feel if it is coming together, or a bit dry. You'll also knowif it is still wet. If you get a dough ball that is too dry, wet your hands and gently work the dough to fix it. You might have to wet your hands a couple of times, depending on bad it is. Wrap in plastic and set in fridge.

While you're prepping, you can groove to my bizarro Thanksgiving Playlists I have linked up at the bottom. I searched keywords I associate with Thanksgiving and included bands or albums with that keyword in it. Now, I got a little flexible - if a name had "pie" in it, I might have included it. There are a couple of metal tracks, one in the middle and one in the end, just a heads up for those who find it too obtrusive. The Family list is with all albums or bands with Family somewhere the title - a warning, I found tracks that overall fit together, but if you blindly click to an artist, you might be surprised to find it's nothing like that track and I was very lucky to find so many tracks that could work. Anyway, there you go.

Monday
Nov212016

Simply Thanksgiving

Greetings, I know I didn't get a Friday Refrain posted... But I have two amazing playlists I'll be sharing this week anyways. Today though, it's price comparison time! This is like football stats to me. Who has the best deal on the turkey? Where's the cheapest heavy whipping cream? And who has my most needed frozen french cut green beans?

I went to Cub, Target, Aldi's and Hy-Vee. The Hy-Vee is the Eagan location, the other three were in Midway. I didn't actually post the turkey prices because we have become more meat-conscious. We're not in a place where we can pay $80 for an organic turkey, but we did make the change to an all-natural turkey this year. So here's what I can tell you about turkeys: $1.99/# for an all-natural turkey is par for the course. If you just want the cheapest bird, the Rainbow Outlet in Midway is advertising Essential Everyday for $.77/#, 2 cents cheaper than Cub. $.99/# is average for your name brand turkeys, Honeysuckle and Butterball. To be honest, I'm not a Jennie-O fan, so I don't even register those prices in my head.We are also buying cage-free eggs so I just know that $2.99 is the best price I see.

As for the rest, here's a pdf spreadsheet of the prices I saw. (also the prices I deciphered from my scribbles) I apologize if anything is incorrect and for the things I didn't actually check at every store. Generally stores keep their prices the same for two weeks around Thanksgiving, but there's no guarantee. The potato price at Korte's is with a coupon from their weekly ad.

In general,  baguette is a good price at $1.99. The bread crumbs I price is for a bag of pre-torn and dried bread. I only found it at Cub this year, and the best part is that they sell a bag of mixed kinds too. I realize that my shopping list might seem odd (especially since I had some things in my pantry already so I didn't include them on the comparison). I think there is nothing wrong with a simple Thanksgiving meal. A simple turkey rubbed with olive oil and rosemary/parsley/thyme with a head of garlic in the cavity, simple mashed potatoes, old school maple syrup/orange juice/brown sugar sweet potates with marshmallows on top, homemade green bean casserole, homemade stuffing, with apple and pumpkin pie for dessert. Oh and if you have an immersion blender, homemade whipped cream will make guests swoon and takes you 5 minutes at most.

To be honest, if anything, buy the rest and make homemade whipped cream. I've seen people eat it plain, like ice cream.

So here's the game plan - today, in a stock pot, put 2-4 ribs celery, quartered onion, 2 carrots, a prune (optional but I like the depth), 3 garlic cloves, a bay leaf, some salt/parsley/pinch of pepper. Bring to boil and then simmer at least 1 hour. If you want to make your own cream of mushroom soup for the green bean casserole, while you get your stock going, prep your mushrooms. Add mushroom stalks to the stock pot and slice the caps. Save in fridge until tomorrow. Cool the stock, and freeze.