Holiday Recipes! Duck and Butternut Squash Stuffing

First off, let’s start with some personal stuff.  I recently got a new job at Earth Fare in the meat department, something I’ve been trying to do for a while.  I finally convinced the manager after some good words put in by a girlfriend of mine who works in another department.  I absolutely love it.  I’m learning new things, am working for a company that I’m proud to work for, and will have good benefits after my first 90 days. HALLELUJAH! I saw an hour of sick time on my first paycheck, holy CRAP. This is a first for me…ever. And I’m not standing in a greasy kitchen with a pan full of fries constantly in front of me screaming EAT ME all day long.  Everyone seems eager to teach me to be a cutter and I seem to be picking it up pretty quickly.  Plus, dealing with the public isn’t even as bad as I imagined. 

On another note, today is Evan’s birthday! He is now 4 and time is going by so very quickly.  Even though today will be about him (as has most of this week) there is still an underlying sadness that Mom isn’t here this year. I suppose all holidays will be like this from now on.  I just still remember her being by my side throughout my entire labor, wiping the blood up off the floor as I walked to the bathroom after he was born. I know that is probably too much detail to share (get over it, it’s a natural part of bringing a child into the world) but I can’t think of anyone else who would’ve done that. Anyway, back to the post and no more about post-labor bleeding.

I was really in the mood to get a duck so I looked a few places and found one at Duma Meats.  It was surprisingly inexpensive, only $16 for a 4 pound bird.  It was supposedly family raised and from Indiana.  I checked into a few recipes to roast it but ended up sorta using this one, I think the first site that comes up if you type in roasted duck into Google. My roasting time was shorter and instead of roasting at 300 I did 325.  Since I am too lazy to type out every step, check out those super detailed instructions. I also glazed my bird with a mix of honey and balsamic vinegar rather than the one they use. Also, check out what to do with the giblets under the photo of the duck before going about the roasting process. We all know I don’t like to waste anything.

Here was my final product when it first came out of the oven:

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I was happy with the crispiness and the amount of fat I was able to keep after. Here’s what I did with the neck and giblets (all but the liver…that’s still in the fridge for the fiance)

Chop neck with cleaver into 1 inch pieces.

Chop 1 small onion, 1 carrot, and 1 stalk of celery and heat with a little oil or butter in a pan. Add neck and giblets. Add two cups of water to cover and a bay leaf and simmer for about an hour and a half to create a stock for the gravy.

Meanwhile, while your duck is roasting (F is too close to D for this post. Duck turns into another word too easily) prepare your stuffing!

1 small butternut squash, peeled, seeded, and chopped into 1/2 in cubes

Toss squash in melted butter (or steal some of the duck fat from the pan, even better) and roast oven for about 20 min until just started to become tender (don’t overdo it, it’s going back in the oven)

For the rest of the stuffing you will need:

1 small onion, chopped

4 stalks of celery chopped, some leaves included

1 teas. each fresh chopped sage, thyme, and rosemary

2 Tbl fresh chopped parsley

1 cup almond meal

2 eggs

1 cup dried cherries or other dried fruit

1/4 cup chopped walnuts

1/2 cup chicken stock

salt and pepper

Saute celery and onion with some more duck fat. Once translucent, transfer to baking dish.  Add the squash plus the rest of the ingredients and toss together. Bake covered with foil for the last 25 minutes of the duck being roasted. Uncover and brown for another 5-7 minutes.  

This stuffing was SO good. The squash takes the place of the bread but it still carries the traditional taste everyone loves.  You could add some sausage if you wanted, but I wanted to keep it meat free. You could also stuff it into the bird and roast it that way. 

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Ok so there are a few more things to take care of.  Your giblet stock should be nice and reduced by now. Save the fat in the bottom of the roasting pan (so good on anything) and use a red wine to scrape up the browned bits on the bottom of the pan. Add the deglazed stuff to your giblet stock. Boil rapidly until reduced to a nice slightly thick gravy.

I am the most horrible bird carver ever so it was a little mangled, but save all your bones! Break them with your cleaver and toss them into a stock pot with some celery, onion, carrot, and bay leaves. Read my previous post on making stock here. Getting all that you can out of the bird is so important for both health reasons and to save money. 

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First jar is some duck fat (I had already used some) and the other two are of stock that I can use in soups or casseroles or just drink by itself because it’s delicious.

And remember, you don’t have to save the good birds just for the holidays!

Getting Kids to Eat Their Veggies (and egg yolks, and cod liver oil..)

I feel like I have it pretty lucky with my son.  He loves salmon and kale chips and I usually don’t have a huge problem with him trying new things.  We have a rule that he has to at least try it.  If he doesn’t like it, that’s fine.  I don’t force him to eat things that I know would be cruel to any child.  If I know I’m making something for dinner he doesn’t like, I will make a simplified child version just for him (instead of a frittata with eggs and veggies, he’ll have scrambled eggs and a few pieces of broccoli or asparagus on the side. Even though you and I both know that really it’s all the same thing, kids don’t see it that way.)  I don’t believe that making them sit at the dinner table until their plate is clean will get you anywhere or get the kid to like the food. In fact, I think it might make them hate it even more.  Like I said, the rule in my house is you have to at least try it and a lot of times after a little fight that involves the covering of the mouth and screaming, he ends up smiling devilishly and liking it.  Even though I have pretty good luck with that method, there are certain things I just can’t get him to eat such as fresh leafy greens or the yolks of eggs unless they’re scrambled.  He loves the whites of hard boiled (or medium actually) eggs, but wants nothing to do with the  nutrient dense yolk (I was the exactly the same way when I was a kid, but now am convinced it was because of the 20 minute boiling that would turn the yolk into chalky sulphery grossness. Please don’t do that to yourself of your children.) I have the ultimate solution that I’m sure a lot of you have already figured out but in case you haven’t:

SMOOTHIES!

Yep, blend it up with a banana or blueberries (just don’t overdo it on the sugar) and wait until after they drink it to tell them what was in it.  Some things I like to throw together are bananas, blueberries, kale or spinach, avocado (this makes it super creamy and takes the place of yogurt or milk as well as being high in healthy fats), I may even sneak some liquid lemon flavor cod liver oil in there. 

Another thing is kids are very into the way things appear.  I once made roasted sweet potatoes, cut into 1 in cubes. He wanted NOTHING to do with it.  Then one day I made them into fry shapes and he ate them up.  We also like to pretend food is other things, broccoli is of course trees for the dinosaur or giraffe to eat, fish is fish trying to escape a big shark from eating it, etc. 

Have fun with your kids and their meals.  It doesn’t always have to be torturous.  We don’t have to shove food down their throats that they don’t like but starting them early on a healthy and balanced diet is key to future health!