Giving Thanks and Inhabiting the Kitchen

I didn’t really plan Thanksgiving week to be a perfect Proof of Concept of the Inhabited Kitchen approach to cooking and meal planning – but it was.

The Inhabited Kitchen method of Planning for Meals saved our Thanksgiving dinner - and our whole week!

As I mentioned last Wednesday, I had a particularly difficult string of unusually bad migraines. Ending, in fact, after I posted Wednesday… but I have been all right since then, thank you, to my great relief.

But this meant that I could not do any of the pre-cooking I normally would for a holiday like Thanksgiving. Indeed, I wasn’t up to cooking even the simplest regular meals on Tuesday or Wednesday. But this is the reason I have a system, and a freezer and cabinet full of food that can be simply prepared.

I already told you about Tuesday – when the migraine hit just as I was about to start dinner, and Rich cooked what I had planned. But it happened again on Wednesday! Since I went straight to bed, totally disoriented,  I’ll let Rich tell you what he did then…

The Guest Post by the Guest Cook – Richard

“Rich — the migraine is coming in really bad, could you make dinner? There’s, I don’t know, frozen meat and veggies and stuff. And it should be soon, if you can manage that.”

So abandoned to my fate with a vague wave and a plaintive look of trust, I set out on my Quest. Dinner Ho!

OK, OK, I can do this. Go stare at the fridge, check the freezer, and mutter to myself. That’s how she always starts out.

Ah, there’s a frozen half-bag of cooked pork, that looks like a good start. Check the weight, 9 oz, that’s fine. And some green muffins for the veg, good, good. We have some cooked rice, I think…yes! We’re set.

Pulled pork, greens (kale, as it happens), rice. All cooked, so I just have to heat it up. Probably be a bit bland and dry as is, can I do something to perk it up a bit. Didn’t spot any fridged or frozen broth, go with some soup base (Better than Bouillon). And spices, cumin’s good with pork, and I saw some ginger paste I think…

Heat up some oil in a deep pan, toss in the cumin, and then the ginger while I cut up the frozen green muffins. (Not strictly necessary, but it’ll cook faster.) Add the soup base and some water, oops. I was going to put in the pork first so it could get more of the spicing, shouldn’t matter that much, just keep going. There, the pork’s in now. Stir things around. Smells good, this may work.

Add the greens and rice. Looks too dry, add more water. Cover, reduce heat. Set table. Hmm. maybe I should have started with an onion or something? Might have been nice, this should be OK.

And you know what? It was.

When the aura passed and I could see again, and the meds kicked in, I got up, shaky and ravenous (bad migraines do that to me, once the nausea passes) – and he put food in front of me. (It had been ready for a while, by then, and he reheated it for me.) And I ate, gratefully. And after a while I started noticing that it even tasted good… I was impressed, I hadn’t expected seasoning… he’s been watching me and reading the blog. My Hero… <sigh> (laughs…) No pictures – we were a bit distracted.

Thursday dawned, and I was exhausted – but also feeling a bit better. I had planned to get the turkey on Tuesday, but everything had slid back, and by Wednesday I had known that I was not going to be up to dealing with a whole bird… Now, honestly, roasting a turkey is not all that complicated, but it was going to involve hauling out the roasting pan, and making room on my tiny counter, and I just didn’t want to be in the middle of a big job and crash… so on Wednesday, I opted to just get a drumstick, and cook it in the slow cooker. And I’ll tell you, that’s a real option for a small family who want to keep it simple. I set it up late Thursday morning (we eat dinner late, even on holidays) with a handful of fresh sage and just a splash of water to get it going, and felt quite pleased with myself that whatever happened, we’d have dinner.

Half an hour later, Rich told me he plugged it in… Yeah. No brain. That’s why I opted for simple…

Well, I’m not going to stuff a turkey drumstick, but we had a Japanese winter squash that looked lovely (if a bit large) so I decided to go ahead, make my cornbread stuffing, using my corn muffin mix (so it was pretty easy,) and use it in the squash (so something would look festive!) We had gotten sausage for the purpose, so I used a little of that, and both sauteed peppers, and sauteed celery and carrots from the freezer, instead of the fresh vegetables my original recipe called for. OK, that was done…

The Inhabited Kitchen method of Planning for Meals saved our Thanksgiving dinner - and our whole week!

I had previously made a big batch of Pan Roasted Brussels Sprouts and frozen them, just because… so I decided to simply microwave some of them, instead of cooking fresh. (I still have a whole bag in the fridge – I’ll get to it soon.)

The Inhabited Kitchen method of Planning for Meals saved our Thanksgiving dinner - and our whole week!

Dessert. I’d vaguely considered some sort of apple dish, though planning had gotten lost along the way… I cored two apples, dropped a couple of walnuts, a couple of cranberries, and a pinch of cinnamon in each, in oven proof dishes. Baked a while (I actually do not now remember how long…) to finish in the microwave when we wanted them hot at the end of dinner…

I cut up an apple, tossed it and some cranberries into a small pan, added a splash of cider to start it, covered, and simmered about 15 minutes. Added some raisins. Didn’t even consider the spices I used last year… so not as elegant, but still nice. Let it cool, and put it right in a bowl and on the table.

All right, this is looking like a special dinner… We set the table with every day dishes – I was not up to spelunking for the good china. My grandmother’s wine glasses live on a shelf we could access easily, though, and we had remembered to get sparkling cranberry juice as a festive libation, along with ice water in goblets.

The Inhabited Kitchen method of Planning for Meals saved our Thanksgiving dinner - and our whole week!

Rich cut and cleaned the squash (I was still too shaky to deal with Big Sharp Knives) and I baked it. When it was ready, I poured the liquid from the slow cooker into a small saucepan, added a pinch of salt and a roux cube, stirred until thick, and I had sage seasoned turkey gravy. Heated the sprouts, and served.

Wow, that was good for a meal planned and cooked with No Brain and No Energy…  We each only ate about half the squash – it was really too big – but the turkey was good, and we enjoyed the gravy with the stuffing and on the meat. There was cranberry sauce. I ended up microwaving just one baked apple – we were full – and poured cream over it, then we split it.

The Inhabited Kitchen method of Planning for Meals saved our Thanksgiving dinner - and our whole week!

This is not the meal I would plan for guests. It’s not the meal I would plan for us, if I hadn’t been sick all week. But it was a festive holiday meal that I could make under the circumstances, which had conspired against me…

And I give you this backstage look, as it were, to tell you – you can do this, too. Any or all of these shortcuts are options, if you also are sick, if you have to work that day (my brother worked in a hospital for years. Holiday? What holiday? Hospitals are open…) Or if you just want something a bit nice but don’t want to spend the day in the kitchen. Not everyone enjoys cooking…

Two very different meals. Each much nicer than it could have been. Each much easier than it could have been… Each brought to you by Planning For Meals…

And my thanks to all of you, for being here and reading this… Without you, while my kitchen would be inhabited, the Inhabited Kitchen website would not.

The Inhabited Kitchen method of Planning for Meals saved our Thanksgiving dinner - and our whole week!


12 thoughts on “Giving Thanks and Inhabiting the Kitchen”

  • This is honestly such a romantic post! It also makes me realize how quick and simple it is to Sautee and freeze up what’s leftover instead of sticking hard an onion or green pepper in the fridge to rot.

    Fantastic post by fantastic people. 🙂

    • Well, thank you! (Romantic… oh, my… LOL)

      And yes, that’s exactly how I do a lot of it. Saute the whole pepper or onion, freeze half, I have it for later… really easy, and it’s saved so many later meals.

    • Thank you, yes, I so appreciated that!

      And I was amazed when he did that. He can cook, he’d fed himself for years before I was on the scene, and he can follow a recipe (as he did the night before,) but left to himself his approach was pretty minimalist… so the seasoning was a pleasant surprise.

      I decided to ask him to write about it, because it was a perfect demonstration of how easy it is to pull a meal together when you are prepared, and how easy it is to then add variations.

    • LOL we eat many vegetables… We always liked them anyway, and being in the CSA gives it a boost! They’re often the center of the meal, not an afterthought.

  • So sorry you were sick! But it looks like you were able to put together a nice dinner anyways! Who says Thanksgiving has to be all about a huge roasted turkey and 50 different sides?

    • Thank you. Glad to say that a week later, I’m doing fine – whatever was causing that odd run has stopped.

      But, right! It’s nice to have some tradition, but not at the cost of the cook… bluntly, I’m more important than any dinner. Because I was doing better, and had some things already prepared, I was able to hit the highlights, which itself did make me feel better, but I went in knowing that I could skip any of them, and it would still be a day to give thanks that I had choices.

  • This is such a refreshing and real post. I love it!! I especially love your husbands train of thought – so cute, and lovely to see that he is reading your blog, and picking up some tips along the way. I hope your migraines ease up for the rest of the holidays, they are a horrible thing!

    • Thank you! (It was certainly real enough… LOL)

      And thanks for the good wishes. I do know most of my triggers, and last week was some sort of Migraine Perfect Storm – I’m not sure I’d ever had a series quite like that! I’ve been doing much better this week… and I’m feeling a lot better.

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