CORONAVIRUS DIARY: December 1, 2020

December 1, 2020

The longest year on record…

…or at least it feels that way.

It’s December, usually one of my favorite months. My birthday, the holidays, all those Christmas movies! This year I’m very nervous about Covid getting completely out of control while simultaneously happy to celebrate the bitter end of 2020.

I also wanted to follow up on the new recipes I tried out this year for Thanksgiving. I am thrilled to report I have found the recipe for the best dinner rolls I’ve ever had! One of the reasons I selected it was that it only made a dozen, and we were only 3 people. They were gone by Black Friday and no one complained about the leftovers. Unfortunately, you need a subscription to access the recipe (they are offering a 2 week free trial) and it’s called Fluffy Dinner Rolls from Cook’s Illustrated. There is a video on YouTube:

There are also people who have posted the recipe online which I feel funny about doing so I’m not, I’m just letting you know it’s out there.

I dry brined the turkey this year and it was way easier and just as good as the wet brine I’ve been doing for years. We’ve been on a Thanksgiving leftover parade for days and enjoying every minute of it. I think the last of the turkey is for dinner tonight. I really love stuffing that is made in the turkey because the flavor is incomparable. But to be safe, I’ve learned to take it out while the turkey is resting. I put it in a casserole dish, dot with butter, and finish cooking in the oven until it reaches the required temperature. The top gets all crispy and really turns this humble dish, a combination of dried sourdough bread, onions, celery, mushrooms, and butter, into something extraordinary.

For dessert, I tried something new – Marbled Pumpkin Gingersnap Tart from Deb Perelman at Smitten Kitchen. It was really good if you like pumpkin pie and cheesecake! My marbling didn’t come out as nice as the pictures on Pinterest, but I used organic pumpkin and the color just isn’t as vibrant. I made the crust with a combination of Trader Joe’s ginger snaps and cinnamon graham crackers, and it was phenomenal. Now I’m trying to think of other pies I could make in that crust. I think if everything is back to “normal” next Thanksgiving, I’ll make my usual pumpkin pie but in this crust. I couldn’t find the recipe on the Smitten Kitchen site, but again it’s all over the internet, including in this article: Marbled Pumpkin Gingersnap Tart, A Perfect Holiday Dessert

Last Thanksgiving pictures, I promise!

I had to take some vacation time or I was going to lose it, so I was off for about ten days. Ten long days. I couldn’t go anywhere or do anything, so I cooked and baked and read. Ten books or so. I should have written some reviews but I also got lazy!

I started Barack Obama’s book, A Promised Land, and I am loving it but it’s slow going. I forgot how beautifully he writes! But at 780 pages he could have used a little editing (I heard that he fought to keep every word.) For example, he starts by writing that he isn’t going to write about his community organizing days because he has already written about it, then proceeds to write about it. I am only about a third of the way through, I’ve been switching off with my usual happy stuff, and I’ll post a full review eventually.

Anyone get a good deal on Black Friday? Small business Saturday? Cyber Monday? My husband went shopping (mostly online) so I’m excited. Hanukkah comes early this year – like most Jewish holidays, it is either early or late, but never on time. Hahaha! I know people went to the mall and Best Buy and Walmart, etc. but not in the numbers they usually do, thank goodness. At least according to what they showed on the local news.

I live in Florida where our governor is a trump sycophant and he acts like he wants us all to die. I just don’t understand it. His latest moronic move was so insane I think he set a new record for Flori-duh! Check out this article:

Meet the Uber-driving, conspiracy theorist blogger who DeSantis just hired.

When Gov. Ron DeSantis needed to hire a data analyst, his staff picked a little-known Ohio sports blogger and Uber driver whose only relevant experience is spreading harmful conspiracy theories about COVID-19 on the Internet.

In his own words, Kyle Lamb has few qualifications for the job at the state’s Office of Policy and Budget, which pays $40,000 per year.

Truth is always stranger than fiction. As always, thanks for reading and stay safe!

CORONAVIRUS DIARY: Thanksgiving Edition, 2020

November 26, 2020

Happy Thanksgiving!

Even though it is only the three of us today – me, my husband, Larry, and my daughter, Ariel, I still have been cooking up a storm. A small storm this year. I cut back on the number of sides and am making smaller amounts of everything. So stuffing, of course, mashed potatoes (I love Ree Drummond’s recipe) roasted Brussels sprouts with a balsamic drizzle. and dinner rolls. This year I am trying a couple of new recipes since why the hell not.

I tried to get a small turkey but wasn’t too successful. I’ve been getting organic turkeys for years but the smallest I could find was about 16 pounds and that was just ridiculous for 3 people. I finally found a 12 pound Butterball after going through a long refrigerated case and settled. I’ve been brining the turkey using an Alton Brown recipe for more years than I care to think about, but even he is dissing his own recipe in favor of dry brining, so I’m trying that this year. Just salt and pepper, I started it Tuesday and left it covered until Wednesday, then uncovered until it was time to go in the oven.

We love turkey around here, and especially leftovers: turkey & cranberry sauce sandwiches, turkey salad with dried apricots and pecans, turkey pot pie, Tex-Mex turkey casserole topped with cornbread, and turkey soup made from the frame. Then no more turkey until next year!

I’m also trying a new dinner roll recipe. Every year I try a different one because I haven’t found one that I really love. They’ve all been good, just not good enough to stop looking. This year I am making Fluffy Dinner Rolls from Cooks Illustrated. It uses an interesting technique where you make a flour paste with water, then microwave it for a minute or so before blending into the rest of the recipe.

I got one of the last few 25# bags of King Arthur all purpose flour from Costco last week and I’m putting it to good use! I normally make stuffing from a good white bread, so I ordered a loaf from Whole Foods that I had delivered. Except it came sliced. Thinly sliced. So that was a no go for stuffing. To add insult to injury, I was going to make grilled cheese sandwiches with a big salad for dinner the other night, and the bread had gone moldy! Luckily, my sourdough starter is insanely strong so I made a loaf of that and will use it for the stuffing.

I’m also trying a new dessert. Usually, I make apple pie from Rose Levy Beranbaum’s The Pie & Pastry Bible (Kindle version is only $2.99 today!) It is the most incredible apple pie. The crust is made with cream cheese and butter, which makes it so flaky and tender and gives it great flavor. The apples are thinly sliced so no empty, gaping holes anywhere, and they macerate for a good hour with the spices before even going into the pie shell. Then the juices are cooked down until syrupy before pouring over the apples. It is a long and complicated recipe, and worth every single step. I even did a lattice top once. Only once.

I also usually make pumpkin pie. I never had pumpkin pie until I met my husband, and now I love it. I make a gingersnap crust (I know, not traditional!) and there’s a bit of cream cheese in the pie filling, making it extra creamy. Best of all the recipe makes two 9″ pies. But this year, that’s not especially helpful. So I found a recipe from Smitten Kitchen for Marbled Pumpkin Gingersnap Tart, which I’ll make as a pie. I looked for the recipe on her site and see that she only has Cheesecake-Marbled Pumpkin Slab Pie which leads me to believe that the original recipe is in one of her cookbooks. But no worries, if it appeals to you just Google it, it is all over the web. I’ll just say that slab pie is not a great choice for three people! Then my boss mentioned she is making peanut butter cookies, which reminded me I have a big jar of super chunky peanut butter that really needs to be used up so adding that to the menu. Sugar-free though, I’ll sub erythritol for the sugar so Larry can have some, too.

I love having some appetizers and a cocktail an hour or so before I have to finish everything up. Every year I try a new Thanksgiving-themed cocktail. I’ve made Cranberry Friendsgiving Cocktail, which takes a week of soaking fresh cranberries in vodka (it is gorgeous!), adding a dash of simple syrup, then finishing with prosecco. I also roll a few cranberries in sugar and freeze them, then drop them in. Served in champagne flutes, it’s a beautiful drink. I’ve made a bourbon-apple cider cocktail that was pretty good but my husband, a bourbon purist, found it wasteful of good bourbon. This year I’m making Frozen Apple Pie Margaritas, which I saw on The Kitchen. I checked out the recipe and decided to switch out the cinnamon schnapps which can easily take over for just a pinch of cinnamon instead, or maybe even pie spice. I’ll see. It looks like a fun drink and a nice reward for days of cooking.

My son and daughter-in-law have been quarantining and this past Saturday, jumped in a car with his sister- & brother-in-law for a five hour drive upstate to western New York. His in-laws rented an Airbnb, and are driving in from Chicago so they can all spend the week together. I am so envious! And nervous, even though they’ve all been so careful. The Covid numbers are absolutely horrifying. I haven’t seen Daniel and Miriam since last Thanksgiving. It is the longest I have ever gone without seeing my son and it really hurts my heart. I miss him, and Miriam, and it is my most fervent hope that we can see them sometime in 2021.

As always, thanks for reading and stay safe! Wishing you all a very happy and safe Thanksgiving!

CORONAVIRUS DIARY: November 12, 2020

November 12, 2020

Since my last diary post was basically a rant against the current president and administration, and a plea to vote for Biden and Harris, it seems only fitting that I mention the results. Biden & Harris won after several days of agonizing over the count. Larry broke out the champagne at 11:30 Saturday morning when it was finally announced, and we celebrated!

I just realized that it is only 2 weeks until Thanksgiving. I am very grateful for the election results. I am grateful that my family is all safe and healthy. I am grateful for my job and my boss and my co-workers. I am grateful that my husband got a promotion during this pandemic and finally has a boss who appreciates him.

This is always a difficult holiday for me. It was my mom’s favorite, and I miss her. This year it will just be me, my husband, and daughter – possibly a friend as well. A couple of years ago I started inviting friends, but this year, well, it just doesn’t seem like the safest idea. Maybe one though – I have a largish dining room table and if we spread out, I think it will be okay. Maybe. The latest numbers are so scary though.

Regular readers know I like to cook and bake, but I don’t think I’ve ever shared a recipe here. So here is a Thanksgiving gift from me to you.

Gravy. Everyone loves it but not everyone makes it well. It can send people into a panic despite the fact that there are a million recipes online. Here’s one more, and trust me when I say it is the only gravy recipe you will ever use again. I’ve been making this gravy for over 30 years now!

I’m going to make a bold claim, but I stand by it. This recipe is great because you can make it up to three days in advance. It makes a lot of gravy, at least a quart. You can freeze leftover gravy and just reheat it when needed. Best of all, it is so delicious you will wish you could have it on everything. And did I mention you can make it in advance?!!!

Best Turkey Gravy Ever!


Turkey neck & giblets
6 C. chicken stock
1 C. dry white wine or dry vermouth
2 large onions, sliced
1 C. sliced carrots
1/2 C. celery leaves & stems

6 Tbs. butter
3/4 C. Flour

Up to 2 cups turkey drippings
Salt & pepper to taste


Take butter out and leave on the counter to soften.

Cut neck and heart in half. Put liver in a small covered dish in the refrigerator. Combine neck, heart, gizzard, onions, carrots, celery leaves, stock, and wine in a stockpot and bring to a boil. Simmer uncovered 1 1/2 hours. Add the liver and cook 30 minutes more.

NOTE: If your turkey doesn’t have giblets or is missing the neck, substitute a turkey wing. Don’t cut it off your turkey, just buy one!

NOTE: For celery leaves, cut off the tops of the stalks, celery and all, and chop it all up.

INSTANT POT? You can combine all the ingredients, including the liver, and cook in an Instant Pot for 20 minutes, high pressure, natural release. You can also skip the wine and just use an extra cup of stock or water if you prefer.

Let cool then strain into large measuring cup, pressing out as much liquid as possible. Add water if needed to make 6 cups.

NOTE: When I make this on the stove, I almost always have to add a bit of water. With the Instant Pot, I end up with more than I need. Don’t toss any extra! Add it to the bottom of the pan when you put your turkey in. Or use it to baste the turkey when you run out of butter (I’ve heard that happens to some people.) Or use it to moisten your stuffing and/or dressing. It’s good stuff; you will be happy you have it Thanksgiving day.

Mash softened butter and flour with a fork until well blended to a paste. Divide into 4 chunks. Return strained broth to a 3 qt. saucepan and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium. Whisk in the flour mixture one chunk at a time until well blended. Keep stirring with the whisk until thick and boiling for three minutes. Press plastic wrap or parchment paper onto the surface of the hot gravy and refrigerate up to 3 days. Then…

Thanksgiving Day!

Remove plastic wrap and heat on medium-low, whisking occasionally. Whisk in up to 2 cups turkey drippings (skim off the fat if possible). Cook until hot, stirring occasionally. Add salt and pepper to taste.


Happy Thanksgiving!