Sunday, June 10, 2012

The Root Beer Cake

My friend Matt is very popular.  He throws birthday parties like I do.  In ridiculous places with ridiculous numbers of people.  This year, Matt had his (40th) birthday party at an indoor trampoline gym place.  And here's the thing.  I really like to bake when there are going to be a lot of people.  Parties are my thing, it makes all the time washing dishes and being covered in butter seem worthwhile when I get all the eventual praise.

The trampolining was fun.  The people working at the trampoline place were terrifying.  The cake was amazing.  Seriously, people are still talking about it.  Well, at least I am, and I'm people.

Matt likes weird things (it's why we get along), so I decided to make him a root beer cake.  The recipe cake from the Baked cookbook and their stuff is pretty much no-fail.  Also, it gave an option of using root beer schnaps and I happened to know that my brother had had a bottle of root beer schnaps in his basement for about ten years.  I decided it was time to liberate it.

I wanted to find an icing that would make the whole thing taste like a root beer float and I did find an icing recipe that said it tasted like vanilla ice cream.  I even went out and spent $12 on special vanilla bean paste rather than just using vanilla extract.  I didn't really the icing lived up to its hype, but other people (who aren't quite as offended by sweets as I am) definitely enjoyed it.  And now I have the majority of a bottle of vanilla bean paste too, so that's something.

The cake itself was quite tasty.  It was moist and rich and really tasted like root beer.  I'm not sure this cake is going to make it into my recipe vault, but at least now I know what to do for people who love root beer!

Unfortunately, I didn't get any shots before I put 41 candles in, but it's pretty this way too.

40 is a lot of candles when they're all lit up!

Nothing says "mature" like a guy in a balloon hat blowing out the candles on a cake made out of root beer!

The Ten Month Quilt

I have been getting a lot of lip recently about not blogging, so here we go.  This post is going to be very unsatisfying to those of you who like sweets, but very satisfying for those of you who are looking for another reason to think I'm awesome.

I made a quilt.  This is not the first quilt I've made, but it is the first one I've made in a long time.  I was super due for a new quilt/bedspread thing for my bed since I was mostly using the same quilt I made right before I went to college 1,000 years ago and it is in a variety of shreds and tatters.

The plan was to make something plain, patchwork, or something pretty easy, but then I went to Amsterdam and we went into all these quilting stores and I was awed and inspired.  

I decided to do triangles.  Then I decided to do blocks of triangles.  Once I'd figured out what I wanted to do in the general sense, and purchased the fabric (including a lot of fat quarters, which are the ends of bolts of fabric and mean it is incredibly hard to find more when you run out), the cutting began.  For this, I owe a lot of thanks to my father who is a bit of a cutting machine if you plunk him in front of the TV with a board, some fabric, and a pair of left-handed fabric scissors.

The cutting was followed by the pinning and then the sewing.  Most of this happened on the Cape and almost all of it took place while listening to the Harry Potter books on audio for the 700th time.  At one point my father asked why I didn't listen to something new, but I pointed out that listening to something you know very well is good when the sewing machine is going to be going off at random 15 second intervals. 

By the end of the summer, I had blocked all the pieces together and then school started.  So, the pieces sat in my living room for the next eight months.  Once in a while I looked at them.  They were pretty.

Come April vacation, I schlepped the sewing machine back down to the Cape (there is more space there), and set back to work with my scissors, ironing board and sewing machine.  It was an absolutely beautiful week, so I put the ironing board and iron outside on the deck, and left the sewing machine inside on the screened porch.  It was kind of bliss.

Four days of ironing, sewing, stitch-ripping, more sewing, and swearing later, it was ready to be sewn together.  This part took three women and my being inside the quilt on multiple occasions.  

But when it was done, it was worth it.

Here it is in all its glory.  The Ten Month Quilt.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

The Painted Burro - a restaurant rave

I am lucky enough to be friends with a wonderful woman who is married to a wonderful chef. This makes me lucky because, as a single girl in my 30's, most of my friends are married, and having a friend who's married to a chef means she's husband-free a lot of nights. Not only do I have someone to play with, but I also get to go with her to restaurant-y events and eat delicious food. For example, I spent the two last nights at the "friends and family" pre-open nights of The Painted Burro, the new Mexican place in Davis Square. And now I get to rave about it!

Attending on two consecutive nights meant we could pace ourselves on ordering, and eating for free meant we could try pretty much EVERYTHING.

They began by bringing an adorable tin pail of delicious, warm, tortilla chips, and a small bowl of fresh salsa to the table. We ordered drinks - Margarita de la Casa, which I'll admit was a bit sweet for me, but also lime-y and tequlia-y, so that was good - served on the rocks in a funky glass. Then we got the ordering rolling with the Spicy "Vaquero"Nuts and Corn, which were yummy (I've never met a corn nut I didn't like) to start. Sticking to appetizers and tacos for the first night, we moved on to the Romaine Salad which was a nice Mexican spin on a traditional Caesar salad, and the Guacamole " El Mero Mero," which I'm pretty sure I would eat everyday for the rest of my life if given the opportunity. We got the guacamole with the optional fire roasted poblano and onion rajas - optional deliciousness.

Moving on. The next order was for two sets of tacos: Crispy Maine Redfish and Skirt Steak "Asada." Both were crazy tasty, but the steak ones were definitely the winners in my book. These aren't Taco Bell or Ortega tacos, by the way. These are solid and enormous tacos. The two that come on the plate could easily be a meal. Actually, one could probably be a meal, but I really like to eat.

As a crazy game time decision, we also decided to order the Chicken Liver tacos. I'll admit that these weren't my favorite. I heard afterwards that they might have been a little bit overcooked (it was the first night, that's bound to happen!), but it also could have been that I was already too full or that my childhood love of chicken livers might have faded since I actually now know what function the liver performs.

I had been thinking about what I was going to order all day and I knew our plan was to hit the entrees since we had skipped them the night before. Right away, we ordered two more house margaritas (why not?!), an order of the guacamole (plain this time), the Mizuna and Red Oak salad, and the Oxaca Cheese Grits (which are a side order). The Mizuna and Red Oak salad was awesome. I liked it even more than the salad from the night before. It came with yummy watermelon radish pickles and a tortilla "crostini" with papaya chutney stuff. I could have eaten that as a meal in itself.

The grits were also amazing. I actually had to ask Lauren to move the grits out of my reach at one point when I realized I was dipping deep fried tortilla chips into guacamole and then in cheesy grits. That seemed a bit gluttonous. But those grits were another thing I could have eaten as a meal in themselves, for the rest of my life.

For entrees, I had had my eye on the Flat-Iron "Asada" since the night before, especially after tasting the steak tacos. Lauren ordered the "Street Cart" Chicken since she is mindful of my dietary nuttiness and wanted me to be able to taste hers. Both of them were good. And by good, I mean ridiculously delicious. The chicken dish consisted of half a roasted chicken, flavored all the way through the meat, and cooked absolutely perfectly. I am usually wary of chicken in restaurants because it's so easy to accidentally dry out, but this was ideal. The steak was also cooked perfectly and came with grilled poblanos, green peppers, and charred onions. It was absolutely perfect. (And, I can now honestly say, totally reheat-able. I was the envy of the entire faculty dining room at lunch today.)

The decor of the restaurant is very rustic and funky (I would go for the faucets in the bathroom alone). They used a lot of reclaimed wood for the tables and chairs, and there is a lot of punched and
hammered tin and fun (if not creepy) art on the walls. 

Something I love about this restaurant is how much they are attempting to cater do people with different dietary restrictions. There's an Enchilada "Del Paraiso" on the menu that is all vegetarian, and also a veggie taco, which you hardly ever see. And while the food isn't necessarily inexpensive, there are options at different price points. Bar snacks start at $4, appetizers start at $9, and the tacos, which range from $9 to $14 ($16 for the super special chupacabra taco), and as I mentioned above, are definitely big enough for a meal.

All in all, I was blown away by the quality of food and service. I am pumped about all the other things on the menu I'm looking forward to checking out (short ribs!), since I'm expecting I'll be spending a lot of time at this place in the future, and the ones I want to go back to over and over again (holy guacamole!)

They open TONIGHT, so get going!

219 Elm Street
Davis Square
Somerville, Mass.

You can see a sample menu, and make reservations at!

Saturday, March 10, 2012

The Strawberry Tart

Here's thing- I had forgotten I like to bake.  It became a chore.  I bought that cookbook and all of a sudden was dishing out $50 a week to make recipes I didn't even really want.  Then I got overwhelmed by the Baked cookbook (which is still utter magic to me).  I guess I got burnt out (which is even funnier when it's a baking joke).

Then, I was watching the Barefoot Contessa the other day (since all I seem to do in life is go to work and watch the Food Network) and Ina was making miniature strawberry tarts.  This coincided perfectly with the day I had accidentally spent my boss' money on strawberries, which would kill her.  Spending her money wasn't an accident, inadvertently trying to kill her, was.  So, I already had the strawberries and Ina said the tart was French-inspired.  If there's one thing you should know about me, it's that no matter how hard I try to deny it, I secretly want to be Parisian.  There, I said it. Besides, Ina made it look so easy.  Just whip up some pastry cream, whip up a hand made pastry dough, what could be more simple?!

Sarcasm aside, it actually was pretty simple.  Ina Garten's pastry cream recipe was way easier than any other pastry cream recipe I've made and came together perfectly.  I don't even think I used as much cornstarch as she called for (ran out).  And I made the dough without a food processor and it came together well and I am pretty sure the muscles in my right arm are aiming towards Popeye. I don't own a food processor, I really don't have room for it and usually can make do with the Magic Bullet blender and immersion blender.  Not for dough though, and come to think of it,  I didn't have room for the 6-quart enamel Dutch Oven I begged for for my birthday either, and I seem to be making that work (it's beautiful and green and makes perfect bread).  Maybe my dining table will just become storage for oversized cooking baking equipment...

Back to the dough, I thought back to the Cooks Illustrated pie dough recipe and subbed about half the liquid in the dough for vodka and then tossed it back in the fridge.  Hopefully, whatever the vodka does to the gluten in normal pie dough will have the same affect in pastry dough.

Part of my inspiration to take to the kitchen again might be the audiobook I'm listening to.  I like listening to audio books when I'm in the kitchen cause I stay entertained and don't have to worry about missing what's going on on a TV show.  I am currently listening to The Help on audio and the recording is excellent.  I know, I know, I'm about four years late to The Help party, but I was resistent.  It's a grown-up book and about white people saving black people, and I try to avoid both of those things.  I had no idea it was going to be such a good grown-up book about white people saving black people.

The whole tart came together pretty easily, though there were definitely multiple steps to the process.  My tart shell wasn't as pretty as Ina Garten's, and it did shrink a little.  I also don't think I had quite enough strawberries.  The pastry cream set up very nicely, and tastes delicious though; all-in-all I am very pleased with the result.

Here are some pictures:
baked pastry shell

baked pastry shell filled with pastry cream

baked pastry shell filled with pastry cream and topped with strawberries

baked pastry shell filled with pastry cream and topped with strawberries, glazed with
orange marmalade reduction and chopped pistachios
This is my favorite picture, it's the paper towel I dried the strawberries on.

Here's the recipe from the Food Network website.
The things I changed:
1. I made one regular large sized tart because I don't have mini tart shells. The pastry baked for about three minutes longer on the second bake
2. I subbed out about 1/8 cup water in the dough recipe for vodka
3. I used about half as much cornstarch as called for and it turned out fine
4. I subbed bourbon for cognac because I sub bourbon for everything
5. I subbed orange marmalade for apricot jam
6. I chopped the pistachios 

Strawberry Tarts

Copyright 2004, Barefoot in Paris, All Rights Reserved

Prep Time:
35 min
Inactive Prep Time:
1 hr 0 min
Cook Time:
25 min
4 tarts


  • 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3 tablespoons sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) cold unsalted butter, diced
  • 2 tablespoons cold shortening (recommended: Crisco)
  • 1/4 cup ice water
  • 2 cups Pastry Cream, recipe follows
  • 2 pints whole strawberries, hulled and halved
  • 1/3 cup apricot jelly
  • 3 tablespoons shelled pistachios, halved, optional


Combine the flour, sugar, and salt in a small bowl and place in the freezer for 30 minutes. Put the flour mixture in the bowl of a food processor fitted with a steel blade. Add the butter and shortening and pulse about 10 times, or until the butter is in the size of peas. Add the ice water and process until the dough comes together. Dump on a well-floured board and form into a disk. Wrap in plastic and chill for at least 30 minutes.
Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.
Roll out the dough and fit into 4 (4 1/2-inch) tart pans with removable sides. Don't stretch the dough when placing it in the pans or it will shrink during baking. Cut off the excess by rolling the pin across the top of each pan. Line the tart shells with a piece of buttered aluminum foil, butter side down, and fill them with dried beans or rice. Bake for 10 minutes. Remove the beans and foil, prick the bottom of the shells all over with a fork, and bake for another 15 to 20 minutes until lightly browned. Set aside to cool.
Before serving, fill the tart shells with the pastry cream. Arrange the berries decoratively on top of the cream. Melt the apricot jelly with 1 teaspoon of water and brush the top of the tarts. Sprinkle with pistachios, if using, and serve.

Pastry Cream:

5 extra-large egg yolks, room temperature
3/4 cup sugar
3 tablespoons cornstarch
1 1/2 cups scalded milk
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 teaspoon Cognac
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 tablespoon heavy cream
In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the egg yolks and sugar on medium-high speed for 4 minutes, or until very thick. Reduce to low speed, and add the cornstarch.
With the mixer still on low, slowly pour the hot milk into the egg mixture. Pour the mixture into a mediumsaucepan and cook over low heat, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon, until the mixture thickens, 5 to 7 minutes. Don't be alarmed when the custard comes to a boil and appears to curdle; switch to a whisk and beat vigorously. Cook, whisking constantly, for another 2 minutes; the custard will come together and become very thick, like pudding. Stir in the vanilla, Cognac, butter, and heavy cream. Pour the custard through a sieve into a bowl. Place plastic wrap directly on the custard and refrigerate until cold.
Yield: 2 cup

Garten, Ina. "Strawberry Tarts." Food Network. Food Network, 2004. Web. 10 Mar. 2012. .

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Epic End of the Year Post

I have been an epic failure as a blogger recently and for that I apologize.  I blame NaNoWriMo.  You try writing a 50,000 word novel in a month and keep up with your cake blogging as well.

I have found some magnificent recipes over the past two months that I need to share here.

Monster Cookies:
To begin with, I made the most amazing cookies of all time.  They are from the Baked cookbook and are ridiculous.  They are called Monster Cookies, so I made them for Halloween.  I have made them once or twice since because they truly are amazing.  The Monster Cookies are oatmeal, peanut butter, chocolate chip, M&M cookies.  Yes, you hear right, all of those things go into one cookie.  And they are amazing.  They are not super sweet, especially considering what's in them, but they are gooey and chewy and chocolatey and delicious.

As we know, I have issues reposting recipes without permission, but luckily for your guys, everyone else in the world does not share my intellectual property concerns (damn librarianship!).  Here is a link to the recipe on someone else's site.

I will admit that I messed with the recipe a little when I made them the second time.  Shocking, I know.  But in this case, all I did was add Reese's Pieces, in addition to the chocolate chips, M&Ms and all the rest of the stuff.  They only made it more amazing.

The Salted Caramel Brownies
So, remember the Sweet and Salty Cake from a few months ago?  You know, my masterpiece as a baker. Well, it turns out that the Baked boys have a salted caramel brownie recipe that uses that same salted caramel.  So I made them.  And somehow I didn't take a picture, which is really too bad because these brownies are maybe the most amazing brownies I've ever had.

The recipe for these aren't actually in my cookbook, I think it's in the second book they put out.  I have the regular brownie recipe in my book though, and it turns out that to make the salted caramel brownies, you just put a layer of salted caramel in the middle before you bake them.  I had some salted caramel left over from when I accidentally set off my smoke detector three times in one night, so I thought I'd make them.

The reason this recipe is so good is less because of the caramel (which is admittedly amazing), and more because of the 11oz of high quality chocolate and five eggs.  It's actually the reason I am in the process of bankrupting myself with the purchase of Scharffen Berger chocolate.  It really is so much better when you start with a high-quality product.  Who knew?

Anyway, these are delicious.  I made them again in lieu of a birthday cake for a coworker.  They're pretty easy to make too, if you have a better knowledge of non-fire-inducing caramel chemistry than I do.  Or if you already have the caramel in your fridge.

Here's a link to the recipe on some other rule-breaker's website.

The Double Chocolate Peppermint Crunch Cookies
So, it seems that I have no only been failing as a blogger recently, but also as a photographer, because I have no picture of these cookies either.  I can link you directly to a website for the recipe for this one though, so I think I get points for that.  These cookies were pretty amazing.  They had the consistency of brownies on the inside, but the firmness of a cookie on the outside.  I also used the better (Scharffen Berger) chocolate to make them.  Also, from my perspective, there is very little you can do wrong with melted 60%+ chocolate, cocoa powder, chocolate chips and crushed candy canes.

The only thing that's persnickety about this recipe is that you have to drizzle the baked cookies with melted chocolate and then put on crushed candy cane pieces.  That being said, it was a pretty easy recipe to make.  I found these to be great to keep in the freezer.  I had a last minute holiday party and was able to pull out a bunch of them and bring them over.

This is the picture from the Epicurious website.  Mine actually looked pretty much the same.

The Chocolate Peppermint Chanukah Cake
At Thanksgiving, when I was all high on cooking and praise, I volunteered to make a cake for our family Chanukah party.  Three weeks later, when it came time to make the cake, I was a little baked out, but I persevered!  I was in a peppermint mood (see above and below), and decided to recreate the Zivah Lily cake, which I actually now know is a Baked recipe, even though I didn't know it then.

I made the cake and peppermint ganache.  I used peppermint schnapps only in the ganache instead of a mixture of peppermint and creme de menthe.  For the buttercream icing, I didn't have the energy to make the recipe from the book (which I now owned), and so I cheated.  I am openly admitting this on the Internet too, so now everyone knows.  I had some icings from previous recipes in my fridge, so I mixed it all together, added some butter, more sugar, a bunch of schnapps, and a large amount of blue food coloring.  It actually came together quite nicely.  It was remarkably fluffy and smooth.

I put the cake together with the three layers of chocolate cake, a layer of buttercream, layer of ganache, and so on.  I frosted the whole thing with the ganache.  The ganache

Not really sure how this next part happened, but I applaud my family for their sense of architecture and balance.

The Peppermint Gift Boxes
Each year at the holidays I give gifts to some of the people who work in my school.  I strongly believe that by keeping the custodial and production center staff in sweets and treats makes my working life a far more enjoyable experience.  Usually, I make chocolate peppermint fudge and it goes over well.  One time I made chocolate-dipped candied grapefruit rind, but that didn't go too well.  Turns out not everyone shares my slight obsession with grapefruit.

This year, I went with the old standby of fudge, but kicked it up a notch by adding white and dark chocolate peppermint bark as well.  I also found some pretty silver cupcake boxes that were perfectly sized for the gifts.  I boxed them up and they were met with great acclaim.  I am happy to have done my part to keep people fat and happy this holiday season!

The Fougasse
In the French bread baking class I took in October, we learned how to make something called a Fougasse, which is basically a French focaccia.  You make it by making two balls of dough and forming them into teardrop shapes.  Then you put a bunch of garlic oil, blue cheese and rosemary on top of one layer and the second layer on top of that.  The you coat that with some more garlic oil and yummy stuff and then you snip it in all kinds of snazzy ways until it turns into a leaf.  It was actually pretty easy to make and tasted amazing.

This is the one I made in class:

And this is the one we made for Thanksgiving:

The Apple Pie
Remember in October when I dragged my friends apple picking?  We went to that place in the middle of nowhere and there was a lot of traffic and then I forced them all to take a wide variety of ridiculous pictures and somehow ended up getting a bunch of apples chucked at me as I stood there innocently.  My friends love me. (I know this because they continue to come apple picking every year as long as I organize it).

Anyway, you know that part that comes after apple picking when you get home and you have 8,000lbs of apples and you unload them all over your counter and then you kind of stare at them for a while.  And they stare back.  And you start imagining ways you can cook them and then you start imagining ways you can cook them without having to peel them because everyone knows that peeling apples is pretty much the worst thing ever?  Well, this pie came right about then.

Honestly, I don't remember how I made the pie filling.  It involved sauteing the apples with some brown sugar and I want to say either bourbon or spiced rum.  Spiced rum is likely, because that sounds like something I'd like better with apples.  I do know I used the best pie crust recipe in the world.  It's the Cook's Illustrated vodka pie crust recipe.  You put vodka in the crust because it does magic with the gluten content.  That's right, it's magic.  (Magic is what I call things like chemistry and math I don't understand).  Anyway, here's the recipe and some pictures of my beautiful pie.  Christmas weekend it finally got to come out of the freezer and get cooked.  It was delicious!


  • 2 1/2 cups (12 1/2 ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon table salt
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/4-inch slices
  • 1/2 cup cold vegetable shortening, cut into 4 pieces
  • 1/4 cup cold vodka
  • 1/4 cup cold water

So, that's it for me in 2011.  I'll be back on track come the new year!

Monday, December 26, 2011

Stop 28: Arizona Jalapeno Cheddar Cheesecake

Hey, remember a long time ago when I decided to make every recipe in a particular cookbook and blog about it?  Yeah, I'd forgotten about it too.  But look, here's a new post.  And it's all about cheesecake!

The cake for Arizona is a Jalapeno Cheddar Cheesecake.  I assume this is because southwestern cooking is known for having smokey and spicy things in it, like jalapenos.  This cheesecake was the most interesting cake I think I've ever made, not from the creation perspective, but more from the "when the heck would you serve this?" perspective.

I was going to a wine and cheesecake party (what's that you say, the best party idea you've ever heard of? me too), so I was all set with the where to bring it.  I'm still not 100% sure when I would serve it in "real life" though.  The thing is, it wasn't really sweet.  And it wasn't really savory.  It was the perfect mix.  

The recipe calls for a corn chip crust, which follows the same general idea of a cookie crust, but with corn chips instead.  It was pretty ingenious, and tasty.  The filling was an interesting mix of chopped jalapenos (for which I totally asked the guy working at the bagel shop for plastic gloves so I wouldn't make the same mistake I made the last time I tried to chop jalapenos and then couldn't put my contact lenses in without crying in pain for two days), shredded cheddar cheese, cream cheese, and, well, sugars.  There was turbinado sugar, white sugar and brown sugar.  So it was sweet.  But it was savory.  And a little bit spicy.  In actuality, it was kind of awesome.  

You bake it in a 9x13" dish, which made the serving a little bit odd.  Since I was bringing it to a party, I decided to cut it and plate it up before going.  I topped each piece with a slice of fresh jalapeno, which Brown recommended to let people know what was in it.  That part didn't seem to work, but it looked cute.  It was met with great esteem as well.  By the people at the party, my brother, my mom, the guy who works at the bar who ate half the container I had with me.  My father wasn't a big fan, but you can't please everybody all of the time.  I think I would make the recipe again, maybe for a brunch.  Or a super bowl party.  If it wasn't so aesthetically confusing, it might go well with chili.  In any case, this one's going in the recipe box.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

The Gravy (and the rest of Thanksgiving in photos)

I know I'm a few weeks late with this and everyone is now onto thinking about other holidays, but I needed to talk for a few minutes about my Thanksgiving gravy.

My Thanksgiving gravy was AMAZING.

Gravy has always been a bit of my arch nemesis on Thanksgiving because I do a dairy-free t-day and everyone seems to write recipes filled with butter and cream.  I decided to forgo everything I read and just go with my own knowledge and experience.

When I grill my turkey, I put it in a roasting pan (this is because without a roasting pan your grill will catch on fire.  Trust me on this one.) and then fill the pan about a third of the way up with apple cider.  As the turkey cooks, I refill the cider once or twice.  The turkey steams in the cider and tastes even more delicious.

What I did to make the gravy this year was to take the neck, giblets and heart and put them in a saucepan covered in a mixture of water, boxed mushroom broth and fresh apple cider.  I don't know the exact amounts, but it was enough to more than cover the meat.  Then I brought it to a boil and let it simmer.  For a long time.  At some point I added some leftover chopped onion from the day before and a bunch of thyme that was also leftover.

When we cleaned out the second turkey, I added the innards from that one and more of the same liquids, brought it to a boil and let it simmer again.  For a long time.

When I took the turkey off the grill (early, of course, because my turkeys are always done early), I took out the innards I had been cooking and added the liquid from the bottom of the pan, which was now apple cider and turkey grease.  It was delicious.  I strained the liquid through a mesh strainer and syphoned off most of the fat.  I used the ice cube trick my grandma taught me.

Once it was strained and defatted, I put it back in the pan and whisked in about two tablespoons of flour.  Then I let it simmer again.  For a long time.

Eventually, as it was getting close to time to eat, I added about a tablespoon of cornstarch.  I now know, from watching Paula Deen, that I should have whisked the cornstarch into something cold and then added that so it wouldn't clump, but because I didn't know that, I just whisked extra hard to get the clumps out.

I let it simmer until it was time to eat and it was delicious.  It was a little bit sweet from the cider and a little bit salty from the meat and the consistency was outstanding.  I was very proud of myself.  I might have eaten some on pasta two nights later, but I'd never tell...

The gravy creation:
This glamorous picture was taken early on in the gravy-making process.  Don't I look adorable?

I cleaned up for the grease-syphoning part.

And lacked confidence for the flour-whisking.

Here are some other fun turkey-day highlights:
My absurdly adorable nieces trying on their turkey hats
The turkey was tender enough to fall off the bone before carving.

Some of the sides (i.e. what we use the oven for on Thanksgiving)
This awesome chocolate pumpkin no-bake thing my chocolatier brother concocted.
Walk on the beach post-meal, pre-dessert (that's the dog, not the Loch Ness Monster, though I can see the confusion)
The answer to the question of whether I had a good time on Thanksgiving.
(Though I swear one of those was for someone else.)