Sunday, 6 April 2008

Squirrels and Nuts, and Turkey Pot Pie

"Happiness is a present attitude - not a future condition" ~Hugh Prather

We had a rather lazy day here yesterday, not doing too much of anything. I did my weekly shop to replenish the larder here at Oak Cottage and then we tidied up a bit . . . the rest of the day loomed in front of us like a blank canvas just waiting for us to make our imprint upon it.

I decided to do a little bit of cooking in the morning. There is nothing I like more than puttering about in the kitchen. That is the place in our home where I am the most at peace and happiness reigns. As I puttered, I looked out the window and happened to see a little visitor at the bird feeders . . .

Squirrels live in abundance here on the Estate and I have shown you pictures of the white squirrel that lives here before on these pages. ( It's Not a Ghost )I have not seen the white one around in quite some time now, so I wonder if he hasn't moved on to another exciting adventure somewhere else. It's quite possible that I just haven't seen him though, as he has always been somewhat elusive to me. I've only ever caught quick glimpses of him. Yesterday's visitor was just a plain ordinary gray squirrel.

I am always tempted to want to chase them away, and indeed, I only have to say the word "Squirrel" and Jess is scratching at the back doorway, frantically trying to get outside and chase the offending creature out of the garden. They do have a need to feed as well though. God loves them too. I just cannot be cruel, especially when I get to see how ingenious they are when it comes to being fed. This one yesterday, was no exception to the rule, and I had great fun watching him dangle from the top of the feeder by his two back feet, whilst he feasted on the nuts. He was being quite the acrobat!! It was so cute to watch, although eventually I did have to chase him away, as he was emptying the nuts out in no time at all!!!

We often see wildlife in our garden. The other night just at dusk, as I was getting in from work, Todd whispered to me to come to the window in the kitchen, and there, in the twilight, was a red fox, busily snuffling up all the bread Todd had thrown out earlier onto the grass for the birds to eat. It was amazing to watch. I just love living in the rural countryside . . . these simple pleasures are like the icing on the cake for me. It's a wonderful life.

I thought I'd be creative again yesterday afternoon. I had so much fun last weekend creating a fun painting and all week I have been sketching little drawings whenever I have had the chance to do so. I have a whole stack of them waiting, that I hope to paint eventually. Todd says he is going to frame them and hang them upstairs, probably in the spare bedroom. They are fun and whimsical and I have enjoyed doing them so very much thus far.

I think we get the most joy out of simple pleasures, don't you?

My mother could make a potpie out of anything, and we always loved her potpies. Anytime we had leftover roast or poultry, and there was not enough left of it to make a meal of it in slices, she would chop it up and mix it with a bit of gravy and the leftover vegetables and into a pie it would go. She always made the most lovely pastry, and these pies were enjoyed ever so much by each one of us. To this day if we go there, she has at least one of any given variety in the freezer, that she drags out and treats us with, much to our pleasure.

I remember one incident when I was a very young teen and she had to go away for a few days. She left me in charge as the cook. All I was really doing was re-heating meals she had already prepared, but it didn't really matter . . . in my mind I was cooking. One of the meals was to be a turkey pot pie and I can remember heating it up and portioning it out onto our dinner plates. I thought at the time that I had cut each piece equally, but to this day I am accused of having taken the bigger piece for myself, and in truth . . . I probably did! Isn't that the cook's prerogative??

I had some leftover turkey and some gravy in the freezer and decided to use it up yesterday by making a pot pie. I cooked my vegetables fresh for it and then decided that neither Todd nor I needed the pastry, him because of his newly diagnosed hiatis herina, myself because of my ever widening girth. I decided to cover it with a delicious drift of fluffy mashed potatoes, which went down a real treat. "This is lovely." was Todd's response as he dug into it happily . . . sort of a Turkey Shepherd's Pie.

*Turkey Pot Pie*
Serves 4

What do you do when you have some leftover turkey, vegetables and gravy that you want to use up? Why you make a pot pie of course. This is not usual in that I have chosen to forgoe the pastry and cover it with a tasty thatch of mashed potatoes instead. This was so delicious we didn't miss the pie crust at all, and I dare say neither would you!

2 cups cooked turkey, cut into bite size pieces
2 cups leftover gravy
2 cups leftover cooked vegetables, cubed if necessary (peas, carrots, swede, corn, beans, etc. whatever it is you have going. My mother often used frozen mixed vegetables, thawed)
1 small onion, peeled and minced
1 tsp summer savoury
salt and black pepper to taste
4 cups hot, freshly mashed potatoes (made with some milk and a knob of butter, seasoned to taste)
Melted butter for brushing on the top

Pre-heat your oven to 200*C/400*F. Lightly grease a shallow casserole dish and set it aside.

Mix together the turkey, gravy, onion, cooked vegetables and seasonings in a bowl, mixing them all together well. You can taste the mix to make sure the seasoning is right. If you like you can soften the onion first in the microwave for a minute, but if you have minced it fine enough this shouldn't be necessary.

Spread the meat and vegetable mixture into the casserole dish, smoothing it on top evenly. Spoon the hot mashed potatoes evenly over top of all, making sure the filling is pretty much covered. I like to rough up the top a bit with the tines of a fork, so that we get some crispy browned bits when it is done. Brush lightly with some melted butter and bang it into the oven. Let it cook for 35 to 40 minutes until the top is nicely browned in places and the filling is happily bubbling away.

Remove from the oven and let sit for 5 to 10 minutes before spooning out to serve. Try hard not to give yourself the largest portion. You'll never live it down if you do. :-P


Sylvie said...

Marie, for some reason I've not been getting feeds in my reader for your blog. I should have known better and checked though as I know you write every day. The meal looks great and I love the pics of the squirrel. We used to feed them at our old flat, eventually they became so tame that they'd take food from our hands and then so tame that I found one sitting on my kitchen table eating the contents of my fruit bowl. What a cheek!

Anonymous said...

Squirrels. I love them to bits. I actually miss them so much. We used to have alot at our Florida house, but none here at the new house. It's a new subdivision, so they took out most of the trees...and the squirrels have moved on. :-/ I just have the birds to feed and amuse now...


The Blonde Duck said...

I love your drawing! Ben and I like to watch the critters in our yard too. We have all sorts of spiders and birds that are part of the Pond. I love the pot pie! Folks down here throw all leftovers in a tortilla. I may have to start dumping it all in a pie!

Diane Duda said...

They are fun and whimsical, Marie! And absolutely charming! I love the colors and their little outfits.
Can't wait to see more!


Gillie said...

Isn't it amazing how acrobatic how squirrels are!?:)