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Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Turkey-ing Around

I had been living in US for a mere 5 months when I experienced my first Thanksgiving and holiday festivities here in the state. It was grand, mind you: rows and rows of nuts and dried fruit and colorful harvest/autumn decoration which soon followed by the shiny decoration with red and green and poinsettia all round. And lest forger the turkey, the biggest bird I've ever saw in my whole life, for a mere 59 cent a pound. Uhh.... Say that again??

For some reason, the supermarkets near where we live in California had these turkey galore just before Thanksgiving, selling their 16 lbs (about 7.2 kg) turkey for a mere 10 dollar. My husband decided we should have a real turkey dinner for Thanksgiving, and off we went to fetch one. We found a deal in our supermarket, 59 cent/lbs if you purchase additional $25 worth of groceries. That was easy. At the cashier I handed him a coupon I got from the supermarket flyer, which then reduced the price to a mere 47 cent/lbs. Our 13 lbs turkey costs us a mere $6.30. We didn't do turkey dinner though, and went Thanksgiving with his family instead. So instead I cut the turkey into pieces and conveniently threw them in freezer bags for later use. I ended up with these parts: 2 drumsticks, 2 thighs, 2 wing drumsticks, 2 wings, 2 wing tips, 1 neck part (they're big enough for snacking), 2 boneless breasts, and the backbone/spine.

Rice congee/porridge; Turkey soup 

I immediately threw to backbone and the breast bone into the crock pot and, adding up some onion-carrot-green onion-and potato to the mixture, making it into soup/broth in a mere 4 hours. The meat from the bones were enough to fill a big lunch box, and I ended up with about three 24 ounces jars of turkey stock. I used one jar (plus some cooked turkey meat) to make rice congee/porridge for me and our son. It was delicious, and especially easy since all you need to do was to put some cooked white rice in the broth and let it dissolved into gooey deliciousness for about 20-30 min (don't forget to stir it now and then). Our son gobbled it up!!

Roast Turkey with baked asparagus and Dhal; Turkey Potpie and assorted stuff 

The drumstick, neck and wing parts went the next day. I used Pioneer Woman's Caveman Pops Recipe, but I somehow screwed up. The wing parts and necks were delicious, but I ended up chopping the meat from the drumsticks (legs and wings) to be used later because they were too dry and too spicy. The thighs were used for Turkey Potpie, adding up the remainder of the meat from the Caveman Pops recipe for taste. The result was a very flavorful potpie, and only a small portion remained which I salvaged for my husband. Again, this was relatively easy since I was using the frozen vegetable and turkey stock for the potpie and my husband made the mashed potatoes. You could even cheat and use the instant mashed potatoes if necessary.

Turkey Sandwich; Popcorn turkey with celery and ranch dressing

The delicious breasts coming up next. I roasted one half of the breast in the crock pot using this recipe. The writer was right, it came out really moist and tender. I propped the meat on top of 'rack' made from carrot and potatoes, allowing it to be cooked with being immersed in its own juice and thus dilute its flavor. I sliced them carefully and conveniently used the sliced turkey for turkey sandwiches. The beauty of cutting a whole turkey is that you could easily used them anytime you want and not having to eat the same thing for the whole week. It took me well over a month to finished up the last part of the turkey, the remaining one half of the breast, as I was alternating the turkey with other meat for variety. For the last dish I decided to just cut the turkey meat into cutlets and made spicy breaded cutlets. It's great for lunch, it's great for snacks, and it's so convenient to carry on our weekend excursion. And again, these all for a mere $ 6.30.

After Thanksgiving they still had sale on turkey, and I saw a whole lot of turkey that only costs $6-$13, but not many people bought them. Seriously, all you need is a big sharp knife and about 30 min of your time, max. Granted, you would need to pair the food up with something else and you would need other ingredients too; but that said, you can always keep the ingredients to the minimum: celery sticks with the cutlets, frozen veggies for potpie, baked asparagus with the caveman pops, green onion with the congee. I always think less is better, no need to go over the top especially when you have a small family or cook for yourself. And at 59 cent/lbs you seriously couldn't get a better deal. You can also do this with chicken (lowest price at my supermarket was 88 cent/lbs) which still made for a cheaper alternative than beef and pork, and a much healthier option than processed meat. If you are still in doubt, watch the how-to video below.

I am not a vegan, but I believe that human should eat with conscience and waste as little food as possible. And I am also efficient by nature, my country's diet was not really of abundance. By being creative and keep your mind open, you can maximized the food that you eat. Discarded fat and bones from pork/cow/chicken would make really good broth, for instance, instead of buying the factory-made broth. This would helped not only the tension on your wallet, but also increased your health and, and eventually helped the animals too. Don't bother saying you can't afford it, even at $1.29/lbs (normal price for whole chicken) it still packed more flavor and nutrients (and waaaaaay less preservatives) than a can of processed meat ($3/can). A 30-minute marinade sauce only costs $3 and it can be use for the whole chicken (and more); or simply use whatever dried herb you have in the pantry and salt and pepper. Don't get discouraged with complex recipe or long cooking time, there are tons of recipes that don't need long cooking time or a 2-pages long ingredients, just keep things as simple as possible. Give it a try, you'd be surprised to see how nice it is to eat fresh instead of processed food.

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