Domesticity Nouveau

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Warm up that belly!

My fridge and freezer are strange places. They have little bits of this and that since I save almost any little bit of this or that because I know I can use it later. This comes in handy for some interesting creations at times. Yesterday that creation happened to be Sweet Potato Enchiladas. There is something very pleasing and comfy about sweet and spicy food; perfect for a stormy evening.

I was inspired by a recipe I found at All Recipes, but didn’t have exactly the ingredients listed, but that has yet to stop me! Below is my rendition of the recipe. Keep in mind that I make almost everything for our home from scratch, probably the reason my fridge and freezer are strange places. In this recipe my homemade ingredients were yogurt, black bean burgers and enchilada sauce. My most recent batch of enchilada sauce (recipe below) was incredibly spicy, so I used yogurt to temper the spice and stretch the sauce a bit, you may not need to do this with store bought enchilada sauce. If you don’t have black bean burgers, I imagine a can of black beans rinsed and drained would work just as well. If you don’t have Chipotles en adobo, trying sautéing some chopped red pepper with the onions, or leave out the peppers. You can adjust everything to your liking. If you don’t like heavily seasoned foods, use less spice or use more if you do like a heavy spice. I you don’t like black beans, leave ‘em out or use something different, maybe some frozen corn or left over rice. If you don’t have yogurt, try sour cream or leave it out. You get the idea! My one word of caution is you can always add, you just can’t take out… go be creative!

Doyle Sweet Potato Enchiladas

(yep, that would mean Irish Mexican food)

2 large sweet potatoes in large chunks, w/ or w/out skins
1 small yellow onion chopped
3 black bean burgers
1 1/2 cups plain yogurt, divided
2 Tbsp diced Chipotles en adobo peppers with sauce
2 tsp Chili Powder*
2 tsp Cumin
2 tsp Oregano
1 tsp Garlic Powder
1 pinch of cayenne
Salt & Pepper to taste
16 oz spicy enchilada sauce
Corn Tortillas, probably about 12
Oil for frying tortillas**
Cheese such as cheddar or jack for topping
Sliced olives for topping

Boil sweet potatoes till soft. While potatoes are boiling, cook black bean burgers until just done and sauté onion in a tiny bit of oil until soft and starting caramelize. Break up the burgers and add with onions to the sweet potatoes and mash with 1/2 cup of the yogurt. Add your seasonings and adjust to taste.

Preheat oven to 350F. Fry tortillas, one at a time, pausing between each to generously fill with sweet potato filling and roll into an enchilada, place in an 9”x13” baking dish (have a smaller baking dish ready in case you need it for extras). Mix enchilada sauce and remaining yogurt together to your liking, or don’t mix in yogurt at all, up to you. Pour the sauce over the enchiladas, top with cheese and olives. Bake for 30 minutes, until gooey and bubbly and you can’t wait to dive in. I recommend serving with slices of lightly salted avocado.

*I use straight chili powder, not the commercial blends that are labeled as chili powder. You might need to adjust your seasonings with slightly less cumin since that is a common ingredient in commercial blends. We like a strong spice, so perhaps start with half or less of all the spices to get it to your liking.

**Frying the tortillas till soft & easy to roll is a traditional method. An alternative method is to warm the individual tortillas for a few seconds in the microwave till soft enough to roll. It isn’t nearly as delicious, and I won’t use a microwave, but you’re eating it, not me…

Corn tortillas are a very budget friendly tool come dinner time. Try making enchiladas with scrambled eggs and hash browns O’Brien (more Irish Mexican), fill with left over chicken or ground beef, mash up some black beans, left over rice and corn… you get the idea… wrap some stuff in a corn tortilla and pour sauce over it! It may not always be a “traditional” Mexican enchilada, but that won’t stop it from tasting delicious!

Enchilada sauce isn’t as budget friendly, at around $2-$4 for a small can. My enchilada sauce is somewhat different from what you can find in a can at the market or on your plate at a restaurant, but for about the cost of one can, you can have about 12 pints! About a year ago I spent several days reading all the enchilada sauce recipes I could find and came up with the one below. I make a huge batch and freeze it so I always have it handy for quick dinners. It is still a work in progress, but this is where I am so far. Someday I will perfect it… I will… I Must… I will MASTER enchilada sauce!!!! Bwahahaha (evil laugh for effect)

Enchilada Sauce

12-16 ounces dried chili peppers*
1 head roasted garlic
2 yellow onions, chopped & sautéed until soft and golden
1/4 cup dried oregano
1/4 to 1/2 tsp cocoa powder
2 Tbsp to 1/4 cup brown sugar

To roast garlic: Heat oven to 250 degrees. Separate cloves from the main garlic bulb, but leave paper on. Cut off the root end of the cloves. Place cloves on a piece of foil, drizzle lightly with olive oil, and mix to coat. Close up foil to make a packet and place in the oven for about an hour, or until the cloves are soft and lightly browned. You can also simply cut the top portion of the head off, keeping all the cloves intact, but this can take longer to roast and I often get the papers in my concoctions when I go to squeeze out the garlic.

While your garlic is roasting, sit down in front of the tv with a large soup pot, a garbage bowl and your bag of peppers. Remove the stems and seeds from the dried peppers and place in the garbage bowl. Tear the seeded peppers into pieces, put in the large soup pot. Make sure to not touch your face while you do this, as the oils from the peppers will be all over your fingers. I don’t wear gloves, but some people do.

Cover the dried peppers with water. Bring to a boil and simmer for a few hours until the peppers are very soft and falling apart. Keep an eye on the water level to make sure they are always covered and stirring occasionally. Once soft, add oregano and onion, squeeze roasted garlic into the pot, taking care to keep the papery skins out. Take an immersion blender to the pot and whirl away until there are no remnants of anything and you have a smooth sauce. I suppose you could do this with a blender or food processor in batches if you don’t have an immersion blender. Taste, add salt as needed and the cocoa powder and brown sugar if you are using them. Pour into pint jars, leaving an inch of head room and freeze.

*Dried chili peppers can often be found in the produce section or the Mexican food aisle. Different peppers have different flavors and heat levels. I buy mine in the produce section and don’t have a clue which pepper is which, so I just grab a mix. You can look online if you want to get more specific, but I like the surprise factor!

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Caramel Goodness

Caramel is one of my favorite foods. Smooth, creamy, sweet... mmmmmmm. Once I start eating it, it is hard for me to stop. I think the craving has its origins in my very pale skin; if I eat enough, I will turn a beautiful caramel color, like when you eat too many carrots you turn orange.

This holiday season I’m hoping to get a good knowledge base in candy making. My entry into this foreign land has been similar to Goldilock’s visit to the three bears. I started with hard candy, and it was okay, not spectacular, but it was hard. Next I made pulled molasses taffy. After a couple of hours of pulling taffy, it never became taffy. It was quite tasty, but much too soft. My third attempt was caramels, and they were just right!

I was given the recipe by a friend at church (Thanks, Janelle!) and hoped that I would have success. I have been reading about sea salt caramels for a while, and really wanted to try them, but couldn’t bring myself to pay the outrageous amounts they go for. So, I made my own. Below is the recipe as Janelle gave it to me and my version for sea salt caramels.

Epikos Caramels

2 cups granulated sugar
1 cup packed brown sugar
1 cup corn syrup
1 cup butter (NOT margarine)
1 cup evaporated milk (NOT sweetend condensed milk)
1 pint heavy whipping cream
1 ¼ teaspoon vanilla

Grease a 12x15” pan. In a medium pot (I used a 4 qt), combine everything but the vanilla. Watch the heat of the mixture with a candy thermometer, while stirring over low to medium heat. When the mixture reaches 250F* remove from the heat. Stir in the vanilla. Transfer to prepared pan and let it cool. When cool, cut the caramels into squares and wrap in wax paper for storage.

Epikos Sea Salt Caramels

2 cups granulated sugar
1 cup packed brown sugar
1 cup corn syrup
1 cup unsalted butter (NOT margarine)
1 tsp sea salt
1 cup evaporated milk (NOT sweetend condensed milk)
1 pint heavy whipping cream
2 teaspoon vanilla
Sea salt to sprinkle on top

Line a 13x9” baking dish with foil and heavily butter. The foil will make it easier to remove the caramels after they have cooled. In a Medium pot (I used a 4 qt), combine everything but the vanilla. Watch the heat of the mixture with a candy thermometer (essential), while constantly stirring gently over med to low heat. Be patient, do not turn up the heat to speed this along and be gentle, do not stir like a crazy person. When the mixture reaches 250F-255F* remove from the heat and stir in the vanilla. Transfer to prepared pan, sprinkle with sea salt and let it cool. When cool, remove from pan and cut into squares. Wrap squares in wax paper for storage. The amount this makes will depend on the size you cut your caramel squares, but it makes A LOT, more than enough to share and still eat yourself silly.

*The mixture will easily reach about 220F, and then stall for a while. Resist the temptation to turn up the heat, just be patient and take the delay as an opportunity to thinking loving thoughts (or any other emotion you choose) and stir them into the caramels. I cook mine to 255F because I like a firm caramel and live in a humid climate. Also, if you live above sea level, you will need to adjust the final temperature. To do this, place your candy thermometer in a pot of water and note at what temperature it begins to boil. Water boils at 212F at sea level, but may boil at 202F for your altitude. Subtract the difference from your final cooking temperature.

When your caramels are cooling, you might look at your pan and think you will never get the cooked mess of goo out and you momentarily hate me for trying this recipe. Your hate will quickly turn to love when you realize that candy is one of the easier foods to clean up. All you have to do is let your pan and utensils soak for a bit in water; the sugar dissolves and everything washes away easy-pleasy! If it isn’t washing away easily, you haven’t been lazy enough! Let everything sit for a bit longer and be patient! Go pour a glass of wine and relax!

Along the same lines as caramel is Dulce de Leche. For those of you not acquainted with Dulce de Leche, it is this wonderful sweet & creamy Latin American caramel-like sauce or candy. It can be quite expensive if you want to buy it, especially when you consider how inexpensive it is to make… and how easy! It has four ingredients, and will cost you under a $1.50 to make 16 oz.; far better on the wallet than the $10-$20 you would pay for such a gourmet treat. I’m always amazed at how expensive “gourmet” foods are when they are usually the most simplistic and basic of ingredients.

I had milk that was about to go bad and really didn’t want to throw it out. Our ancestors faced this same dilemma. Well, maybe not the same dilemma, but they understood how to preserve their food to make it last as long as possible. Before the mighty refrigerator, milk was preserved as yogurt, cheese, butter and…. Dulce de Leche! So if you don’t drink your milk fast enough, consider this as an option, you will thank me and probably want to hide it so you don’t have to share.

Dulce de Leche

2 qts whole milk
3 cups sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 tsp baking soda

In a large sauce pan (I use an 8 qt) over medium heat, combine the milk, sugar and vanilla. Slowly stir until the sugar dissolves. Stir in the baking soda and prepare for foam!* Don’t try to incorporate the foam, just let it do its thing. Once the mixture begins to simmer, reduce the heat to low and keep it at a low, slow simmer. Stir occasionally until the mixture reduces to about 2 cups and becomes a dark caramel syrup, anywhere from 2-5 hours, depending on humidity and your stove. Store in the refrigerator up to four weeks, if it lasts that long. Dulce de Leche can be used as an ice-cream topping, filling for cookies, stirred into hot cocoa or hot apple cider, or just hide in the closet with a spoon.

*Michelle’s note: This is really going to foam like crazy, which is why it is essential that you use a pot much larger than you think you will need. Expect the mixture to foam a bit each time you give it a stir. I switch spoons after the initial mixing and that seems to help cut down on the foaming. You can easily reduce this recipe by half.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

My favorite beverage... GRAVY!!!

For me, the most essential element to a fabulous Thanksgiving is the gravy. It helps to have mashed potatoes, stuffing and turkey to put it on, but it isn't necessary... a spoon and bowl are all that I need. Come to think of it, sitting by the fire sipping from a warm mug of gravy sounds perfect!

So what goes into a good gravy? Like a lot of fabulous foods, you need to build flavors through a few simple steps. You have to start with a tasty base, add in the delicious drippings from the roast turkey, and season it just so. Another key to good gravy is the quantity... there MUST be a massive amount!! Whoever came up with the idea that a scant 1/4 cup is a serving of gravy must have had a mother who was a horrible cook!

How you thicken the gravy will also contribute to your gravy experience. My mother always used cornstarch to thicken her gravy because she was afraid of having lumps from the flour. I now have to use cornstarch because of my body's severe rebellion to wheat and gluten. So my recipe that follows uses cornstarch, but feel free to adapt it to flour if that is what you are used to.

A big part of the Thanksgiving experience is having the flavors that you grew up with. I believe that is why Thanksgiving is such a comforting holiday, it is filled with the familiar and familial. If you have ever experienced a turkey-day away from your family and with food that didn't taste like your Mom's, you understand the importance of tradition; It comforts and soothes the soul. The smells reconnect you to all the years past where you enjoyed good food and the blessings of having a family. It makes you feel safe because it is something you know from it's repetitive nature. It nourishes your soul because it connects you to the roots of your family, knowing that generations upon generations of your family have gathered annually to eat the same meal you are eating today. But I digress...

Mama 'bare's gravy recipe:

Turkey neck (find it inside the turkey's cavity, or under the tail, when you clean the turkey before roasting)
1/2 medium onion, cut into large chunks
1 medium carrot, cut into large chunks
2 stalks celery, cut into large chunks
Poultry seasoning or sage & thyme to taste
Chicken Broth and/or water
Salt and pepper to taste

As you wash and prep your bird for roasting, pull out the neck and gizzards and what-nots from inside the bird's cavities. Set the neck to the side for your gravy... what you do with the rest is up to you, growing up we cooked the organs for the kitties so they could have a treat. Once you get the bird in the oven to roast, it is time to make your gravy base. I always pour a can of chicken broth in the bottom of my turkey roasting pan... not to keep things moist, but to assure that I have great dripping to add to the gravy base later.

Over medium high heat, brown the turkey neck and veggies in a 2 quart sauce pan. Just use a dry pan, no oil or butter. This takes about 3-4 minutes per side and adds some depth to the gravy flavor. Don't worry if bits stick to the bottom, this is a good thing because those brown bits add deliciousness!!!

Once your neck is browned, quickly pour in 1/2 can of chicken broth and scrape up anything that stuck to the bottom during the browning. Pour in the remaining broth and fill the rest of the pan with water, to within 2-3 inches of the top. Sprinkle lightly with poultry seasoning or sage & thyme (1/2 tsp each). I don't like my gravy to be heavily seasoned since I tend to heavily season my stuffing and that perfumes the rest of the meal, but seasoning is a matter of taste and yours may be different from mine. Wait until the end to adjust seasonings, though.

Bring mixture to a boil, reduce heat, cover and simmer for a few hours while your turkey cooks. When you are ready to make the gravy, remove the neck and veggies from the pan. Toss the veggies to the doggies or the compost pile. I let the neck cool a bit and pull off the meat, which I add back into the broth.

When the turkey is done, pour all the drippings from the roasting pan into your gravy base. It's at this point that you want to do your fat skimming. Either use a spoon to carefully remove the fat layer on the top of your gravy base or use a fat separator or throw in a handful of ice cubes which congeal the fat and quickly scoop out the ice cubes and fat or however else your mother taught you or leave all the fat in. It is up to you, but do remember that you need a small amount of fat in your gravy base in order for your thickeners to work and fat has a lot of flavor. Personally I use a spoon because I am A. cheap, and B. concerned that I will loose gravy to the few drippings that will stick to the inside of the fat separator, possibly decreasing the amount of gravy available to drown my plate in. (I do set aside a small amount of this gravy base and dripping mixture to drizzle over my extra pan of stuffing, it helps to boost its flavor like it was roast in the bird.)

To thicken the gravy, bring the gravy base to a boil. Mix together a couple of heaping spoonfuls of cornstarch, about 3 TBSP, and mix with a small amount of water, until thin enough to pour. Drizzle cornstarch slurry into boiling gravy base while stirring. Let the cornstarch work it's magic for about a minute. If it isn't thick enough, add a little more cornstarch and water until you get it how you like it, if it is too thick, stir in some water until you get it how you like it. If you prefer a gravy thickened with flour, you are going to have to call your Mom and ask her how she does it, or hope that one of the wise people who leave comments leaves some tips on flour based gravy :)

It will thicken a bit as it cools, so make it a wee bit thinner than you would like. Turn the heat off and season to taste with salt and pepper. Remember you can always add, but you can't take away. And if you are going to error in your seasoning, always better to under season since people can add salt and pepper at the table.

Pour into a mug..... er, gravy boat, and enjoy!

Hybrid Gravy

So not everyone wants to go to the effort of gravy from scratch and that is completely fine! You have to stick with your comfort level and taste, you need to do what makes you happy. If your Mom always made gravy from a package and that is where you feel safe & cozy, then make it from the package!!!

Hybrid gravy is somewhere between gravy from scratch and instant gravy. Boil the turkey neck in water for a few hours and replace the water in the instant gravy with your turkey broth and/or skim the fat off the drippings from the roasting pan and add some dripping to your instant gravy. Viola, hybrid gravy!

Regardless of the gravy recipe you follow, the one ingredient never listed is your love. While you are stirring and waiting for the glorious gravy to thicken, take some time to project the love you have in your heart into your gravy. Imagine your gravy covering them with love, imagine swimming in it, feeling the warmth and... oh wait, that's my secret fantasy!

Gobble Gobble, wobble wobble!!!

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Thanksgiving 101

Thanksgiving is almost here!!!! This is by far my favorite holiday because it is all about food!!! But what if you were sick the day they covered Thanksgiving in home-economics? What if your school didn’t offer home-economics? What if your Mom prepared Thanksgiving dinner by getting you dressed and driving to her Mom’s house?

One thing I am incredibly thankful for is my Mom patiently allowing me in her kitchen when I was young. I used to ask how long it would take until dinner was ready and she would say something like thirty minutes. Then I would ask when dinner would be ready if I helped and she would say an hour. Eventually my skills improved over time and I could help with dinner in a manner that wouldn’t delay the entire family chowing down on some tasty grub.

On several occasions, one recently, I have been asked for help in doing a Thanksgiving dinner, which has inspired this rather long dissertation. My apology for the length, but it’s a big meal!

As the preparer of the meal, it is important that you enjoy it as well. With that in mind, you need to decide which of the following four categories you fall in:

1. Kitchen Queen – you can and have done everything from scratch for a Thanksgiving meal. You might not have mastered fine French cooking, but that’s okay because you don’t need those skills for Thanksgiving.
2. Kitchen Princess – You have the equipment, you have some skills, but you are a Thanksgiving virgin. Cooking dinner and baking cookies is one thing, but a holiday feast is a wee bit intimidating
3. Kitchen Jester – You have seen people use a kitchen and you have used the kitchen… only because the phone is in it and that is where you keep the menus for delivery and take-out
4. Kitchen Nightmare – you know who you are

As the person that is preparing the meal, it is important to honestly answer where you stand. If you are in over your head, you will not enjoy Thanksgiving. I’m going to go out on a limb and guess that you are a Kitchen Princess. Kitchen Jesters are figuring out which grocer to order from and Kitchen Nightmares are making reservations or coming to your house to eat! As a princess, it is important to pamper yourself, which in the kitchen means working smarter not harder…. and wearing a cute apron.

So where do you start? First, take a deep breath, and keep up the deep breathing until Christmas is over. Pour yourself a glass of wine. Relax. Turn on some music.

The first thing to keep in mind is that your attitude shows up in your food. If you are stressed and worried and frazzled, you can’t be stirring in love for your friends and family. This applies to the planning and prep as much as it does the actual cooking. Now drink your wine, relax and smile!

Thanksgiving is not complicated, as long as you are organized. There are a lot of steps, and the key to not tripping up is to plan. Proper planning prevents piss poor performance. Thanksgiving is about food and family. Family planning is another topic altogether, so that leaves planning the food.

A couple weeks before T-Day, start thinking about what you want to serve. Are there any traditional family foods? Make a list of everything from beverages to dessert to the turkey sandwiches afterwards. I apply the K.I.S.S. principle to Thanksgiving. There are a lot of dishes and keeping it simple, well… it keeps it simple. If you do want to try something new and fancy, make it now to see if it will be realistic (or taste good) come turkey day. Forget all those fancy magazines with grandiose recipes that have you baking pumpkins filled with soup, brining the turkey in a special herb blend, and decoratively carving rare, hard to find vegetables for roasting. Stick to the basics until you are a Kitchen Queen, and most KQ’s became KQ’s because they know and value the superiority of simple, good, clean food.

What will you serve?
Meat – Turkey, ham, tofurkey?
Side Dishes – mashed potatoes, yams, brussels sprouts, green bean casserole?
Condiments – cranberry, gravy, olives, relish tray, butter, salt & pepper?
Bread – rolls, bread, biscuits?
Beverages – gravy, water, soda, wine, cocktails, juice, sparkling cider, pepto bismol?
Dessert – pumpkin pie, apple pie, pumpkin cheesecake, pepto bismol?
Snacks for before or after – cheese & fruit, veggie tray, snack mix, potato chips, dip?
Sandwiches after – bread, mayonnaise, bacon, lettuce, tomato, cheese, chips?

Now that you have an idea of what you will cook, walk away for today, but let your brain start processing stage 2.

Planning Stage 2. Pour yourself a glass of wine, take a deep breath, turn on the music and relax. It’s time to evaluate your tools. Do you have the right size pots and pans to cook all your dishes in? How are you going to serve it? Do any of your recipes require special equipment, like a mixer or food processor? Will everyone sit down to your table and pass your yummy creations around the table or will you serve buffet style? What will you put your yumyums in? Do you have enough serving dishes and serving utensils? How about plates, napkins, silverware, glasses etc? Containers for leftovers? Kiddie table with non-breakables and non-stain-ables?

Deep breath, glass of wine. Now don’t be overwhelmed. These are just questions, take your time answering them, pour another glass of wine. This planning is the foundation of your success, and you will be successful!!! And if not, it will at least be memorable because of the lack of success.

Planning Stage 3. Pour yourself a glass of wine, take a deep breath, turn on the music… I’m not kidding about how important it is to relax and enjoy the process! Your next step is to make a shopping list. Gather all your recipes and jot down a list of the ingredients. Then go through your cupboards and cross of anything you have enough of. Your final product will greatly depend on the freshness of your herbs and spices, so if you can’t remember when you bought them, it is probably time to get new ones. You already have the jar, so don’t throw it away. Simply buy your herbs and spices in bulk and refill the old jar; you will save A LOT of money doing this. And if you don’t have a certain spice, don’t buy a jar of it, buy it in bulk. You can save around $3-5 per jar. Watch the papers for sales and stock up where you can. Butter can be frozen, soda keeps. Buy on sale throughout the month, keeping the perishables for the Thanksgiving week run. The stores in my area often have coupons for free turkeys with a certain purchase amount. If you don’t normally buy organic, this is one meal where it is worth the extra moo-la. The flavors are far superior and that alone will make simple dishes a smashing success!

Make a list of any cooking tools or serving utensils you will need to acquire as well. You can find many of them at the dollar tree, especially good for foil baking pans and glassware. Thanksgiving can get expensive really fast, but it doesn’t have to. Don’t be afraid to borrow from family and friends if they are coming to your house to eat, they obviously won’t be using their dishes!

Planning Stage 4. Pour a glass of wine, relax, turn on the music and be happy. Make a list of what you will need to set the table and gather as much of it together now as you can. Put the table cloth, napkins, napkin rings, candles, etc into a basket and set it aside for later. Then when it is time to set the table, you won’t be running around finding everything only to realize that you are missing something. The days leading up to turkey are about food. The days leading up to the days about food are about everything else. You can also easily hand this basket to someone who wants to help you out, but you don’t want anywhere near the food until it is time for them to eat it.

Planning Stage 5. This one is short and sweet, but still pour yourself a glass of wine, turn on the music and smile at everything you are accomplishing! Gather together all your containers for leftovers and put them in a bag somewhere. The last thing you are going to want to do at the end of a big meal and after cooking all day is scrounge up the containers. If they are all in one place, in one easy to grab bag, it will make things a lot easier on you and your helpers.

Planning Stage 6. This part requires math, so maybe only pour ½ glass of wine and turn the volume down on the music. Start with the time you want to serve dinner and work backward. Take a gander at the roasting time for your turkey’s size and add an hour. This hour is for wiggle room and to allow time for your side dishes to cook. For example, you want to have your meal at 3 pm. You are roasting an 18 pound stuffed turkey, which takes approximately 5 hours to cook. You will want to have it in the oven at 9 a.m. To get an idea on how long to calculate and what size bird will feed your guests, check out the Butterball site. It has all the info you will ever need on turkey prep, and it saves me from having to retype the info here.

Putting your bird in at 9 a.m., with the goal of dinner at 3 p.m. gives you 6 hours to accomplish everything else. Those 6 hours go by fast! Do as much prep work in the days before that you can, it will save you a lot of headaches and hassles while the turkey roasts. Chop the vegetables the nights before, so everything is ready to assemble the day of. Cook as much as you can ahead of time. Pie crusts can be made a few weeks ahead of time and frozen until the day before when you make the filling and bake the pie. Rolls can be made and frozen, then reheated.

Here’s a sample schedule to give you an idea:
Weekend before - Eat everything in the fridge to make room for gobble gobble wobble wobble day, clean the house
Monday - Get the turkey out to thaw if frozen, put your recipes together in one spot and read over them
Tuesday - assemble all your dining and cooking dishes, make sure everything is clean and pretty, prep what veggies you can, like onions, carrots and celery. Make cranberry sauce if doing it from scratch.
Wednesday - bake your pies and, take out anything you have frozen so it has time to thaw, set the table and tidy up around the house. Go to bed early!
Turkey day
7:30 a.m. Clean the turkey and get the roasting pan ready
8 a.m. Make the stuffing & stuff the turkey
9:00 Turkey in the oven & extra stuffing in the fridge
9:15 Assemble side dishes and put in fridge
1 p.m. Take side dishes out of fridge to warm up, along with the butter
1:08 Start peeling potatoes & get them boiling
2:00 Take turkey out of oven and tent with foil
2:15 Side dishes in the oven to bake, call for some helpers
2:30 Get condiments and wine to table & make the gravy
2:45 Mash those taters & carve the turkey
2:55 Reheat/bake rolls & bring everything to the table
3:00 Grace
3:03 Eat, drink, laugh & love, graciously accept compliments about your amazing meal
3:45 Dessert
4:15 Bring leftovers to kitchen and box up
5:00 First load of dishes in the washer
5:07 Nap and snacks

If people ask if they can help… you say YES! Remember it is important that you enjoy the day, too! They can peel potatoes, make the relish trays, bring a side dish, bring a centerpiece, bring snacks, bake a pie, open a jar, reheat the rolls, set the table, decorate the table, bring dishes to the table, open the wine, pour the drinks, clear the table, package leftovers, wash the dishes, clean the day before, or bring you wine.

People always like to gather in the kitchen.... it must be the delicious smells of your cooking! But unless they are helping, they are underfoot and make for a cranky Kitchen Princess. Set snacks and drinks up away from the kitchen so it keeps people out of your way. Those who really want to help (and who will be helpful) will stay in the kitchen, those who just want food will follow the food.

Depending on where you live, the outdoors can be your refrigerator. Store beverages outside the night before so they are cool and your have fridge space for food. Put leftovers outside to cool first so your fridge doesn’t have to work so hard to cool everything down. If you can’t use the outdoors to your benefit, keep the beverages in a cooler away from the kitchen so you have less foot traffic and more room in the fridge.

Your kitchen is going to get quite warm with the oven on all day and things bubbling away on the stove. Don’t turn on the heat in the house until people comment about being cold. You might want to get a fan ready to blow heat out of the kitchen. Don’t point it into the kitchen, it might blow something undesirable into your delicious creations!

Always have two of each prep tool. Why should just one person peel the ‘taters when two people can? Prep work is necessary for everything you cook, so it is important to be smart about it so it can go efficiently. Have the trash can handy, or a scrap bowl on the table. Assemble everything you need before you begin, you are going to have to pull it out anyway and this saves you trips to and fro. Sit at the table to do your prep work; you are going to be standing all day on Thanksgiving and that will be no fun if your feet hurt from the days before. Figure out how much onion, carrot, celery etc. you are going to need and do it all at one time. Have containers handy for the prepped food and stick it in the fridge as you are finished with it

Wear comfortable shoes, you will be on your feet a lot!

I’ll post my recipes over the next few weeks, but if there is something specific you want to see or have a question about, let me know and I’ll get to answering it right away!

Having the Better Homes and Gardens magazine layout display is great, but not realistic for everyone. Don’t be a perfectionist, be about the love. Stir it into your dishes, say it with your smiles and hugs. What they say about being able to hear a smile over the phone is true for food too; when you keep loving thoughts of the people you are cooking for in your heart while you cook, it gets stirred into your meal and it is the difference between a good and a great cook. The perfect Thanksgiving is one spent with friends and family, eating a fabulous feast and counting your blessings. If you forget to light the candles, the yams burn and the gravy is really salty, it doesn’t matter because you blessed your family with love.

mmmmmmm, smells so good!!!

Yesterday I made candy and the house smelled soooo good. Then I made corned beef and cabbage and the house smelled not so good. I really enjoy corned beef, if only there was a way to get around the smell that lingers for too long. I woke up still smelling it, which is not what I was I was hoping to wake up to. My ideal wake up smell is coffee and bacon, lots of bacon.

To counteract the smell in the house, I was going to plug in all the air freshener thingies, but then I remembered that they made both of our noses unhappy and our eyes burn. So what is a girl like me going to do? Make something better!

After a very brief dig on the internet, I came across the recipe below for gel air freshener. I remember seeing these things at craft fairs several years ago... canning jars all decked out with uber amounts of lace and ruffles. Not my style at all. I like the concept, and frugality, and ease, just not the lace.

I'm not one to steal a recipe without giving credit to the author, but this recipe is EVERYWHERE, so I'm not feeling so bad this time. I was excited to remember that I had all the ingredients, thanks to Brette finding a big box of Knox when he deep cleaned the kitchen for my birthday present... oh, the joy a clean kitchen brings me!!!

Okay, here is the super simple, fast and easy, way to make air freshener.

You will need:
A Jar to your liking, without it's lid, you want the smell to get out of the jar, right? If you don't have a pretty jar, maybe you have something pretty that you can hide a jar in, or hide the jar. The jar part is up to you, you know what you like!

2 cups of water, divided (no, not parted, that would require Moses)
4 packets of Knox unflavored gelatin
1 TBSP of salt (this inhibits mold)
Essential oils or home fragrance oils
Food coloring - optional

Heat one cup of water in a small saucepan until simmering and remove from heat.
Stir in gelatin until completely dissolved
Add remaining cup of water and stir
Add salt and stir till dissolved
Add the smelly stuff, 20-30 drops, or to your liking and stir
Add one or two drops of food coloring (optional)and stir
And stir one more time just for fun
Pour into your container and let sit for a few hours to solidify

Once it is set, you can give it a vigorous stir and break it into bits and pieces, fill a clear bowl and set in a candle... if you want to get all fancy, I'm about the practical. You can also glue all sorts of lace and ribbons to a canning jar if that is your style... it's your house, not mine :)