This is the week to make the lists and check them twice – the Thanksgiving lunch list and the grocery shopping list to go with it. I recently discovered the free Keep app, and it has been such a blessing to keep all of my food lists on it. The lists sync automatically on my phone, my tablet and my laptop, and I am loving it. Sometimes technology is a truly great thing to help out with the little things.
While I normally purchase most of our groceries at the club store these days, I will no doubt purchase some things at our local grocery store for Thanksgiving, too. The Thanksgiving week sale ad just came out, so it is time to look over the shopping list one last time and schedule a trip to the grocery store at a time that is not as crowded. I’ve stood in too many ridiculously long lines at the grocery store on the Tuesday or Wednesday before Thanksgiving, sometimes to just purchase one item that I forgot on a previous trip. I’m so done with that nonsense now, if at all possible, and working carefully on the shopping list in advance has helped to prevent such unneeded stress.
I intentionally planned leftovers from lunch for our camping trip and to send home with others for a second meal. While the lineup is not low-carb by any stretch, I will try to only partake of very small portions of the items that are not “legal” for me. I’m still not ready to risk sabotaging my diet too much at this point, after working so hard to lose the weight this past year.
So far this week, I’ve finalized the lunch list, and I am finalizing the shopping list. I’ve also made good progress on house cleaning, as there will be little time for that next week as I prepare our meal and get things ready to leave in the RV later on Thanksgiving Day. I also made the pie crusts and put them in the freezer. I used Pioneer Woman’s “Perfect Pie Crust” recipe this time because it is easy to make, makes two at once, tastes great and freezes quite well. Making traditional pie crusts is not one of my best talents, to be sure, and this recipe is a very simple one. It can also be found in her holiday cookbook, too.
With both Thanksgiving and our next RV trip coming right up, things are going to be pretty hectic here until early December. We also have both movie and play tickets that I am excited about, as well as an evening out with two of my best friends. I will continue to post over at Animal Wonder for the rest of this month to meet the blogging goal there, but I doubt that I will be back here to post until after our trip, unless I somehow get ahead of schedule. I hope you all have a blessed Thanksgiving!
I follow Food Network on Facebook, and last Friday, they posted something that gave me a bit of concern, especially for younger cooks or even older cooks who are just now looking into the possibility of cooking the big bird for the first time. I know that feeling all too well. I’ve been there myself, and I suspect many of you have been there, too. I just hate to see anyone stress for no reason over something like this, so I would like to share some helpful information about a particular point they attempted to make on Friday.
In what I believe was an honest attempt to help those who are looking to cook a turkey for the first time, or perhaps cook a better turkey for the first time, someone at Food Network posted a “top ten” list of things *not* to do. Here is a quote of the first item on their list.
Turkey Taboos: 10 things NOT to do this Thanksgiving
1. Use a frozen turkey
While I understand that the taste of a fresh turkey is very likely a fabulous thing, the vast majority of people around this country do not have access to purchase a fresh turkey. And even if they do have a turkey farm nearby, the cost is often quite expensive, sometimes close to $100 for a fresh bird of any size! So, for item #1 on this list of things to not do in preparing a turkey, I think this needs to be considered in the real world where most of us live and certainly not list it as a “taboo.” Good grief! “smh” By the many comments on their post that basically said the same thing I’ve shared, I’m in the majority of folks that disagree with their take on item #1, too.
There is absolutely nothing wrong or bad in preparing a turkey that was first frozen. Let’s let one of Food Network’s own explain this little fact further.
One of Food Network’s most popular, long-time personalities and one of their best chefs, in my opinion, is Alton Brown and his long-running show is Good Eats. I have always enjoyed watching his show over the years because he often shares the science behind his preparation method in an entertaining way. I have also shared here on a couple of occasions that I only use Alton Brown’s turkey preparation recipe when cooking our bird for the holidays because it produces the best turkey I’ve ever eaten.
Alton is on record in the following video (from about five years ago) about fresh vs. frozen turkeys, and I hope that by sharing his video, perhaps a few cooks this year will not waste their time and money in search of a fresh turkey. Hubby and I fell into that trap ourselves a few years ago, and we ended up just purchasing a frozen bird anyway.
Perhaps Food Network should have consulted with one of their most popular chefs before posting item #1 on their list?
And while we’re talking turkey today, here is another great video by Alton that is both entertaining and informative. This is the exact process that I use to prepare our bird. The turkey sits in the brine overnight prior to cooking the next morning, and we put the bucket either in our spare refrigerator or outside with a cover over it on our patio table, as our overnight temperature is often pretty much perfect for this process in late November and December. If the temperature outside is warmer where you live, you might just keep it in your refrigerator overnight in a brining bag or keep it in a brining bag in a well iced cooler overnight. As Alton mentions in the video, the salt concentration will also help to keep bacteria formation down during the brining process, so don’t skimp on the salt that is listed in the recipe. This is one of his classic videos and a spoof on Mystery (Food) Science Theater.
Ree Drummond, aka The Pioneer Woman, also follows this same basic procedure, too. I watched a rerun of one of her earlier Thanksgiving shows on Saturday morning to see how similar her turkey preparation is to Alton Brown’s method, although she basted her turkey every 30 minutes while cooking. My experience with Alton’s recipe is that basting really is not necessary because the bird is so moist without it. No sense making this harder than it needs to be.
Ree’s holiday cookbook is absolutely fabulous, and her Thanksgiving recipes in the book are worth the price of the whole book. Best. Mashed. Potatoes. Ever! I received my cookbook as a thank-you gift from a sweet friend last year, and while I cannot eat these types of foods day in and day out, these recipes are truly wonderful for all of the holidays listed in the book.
Brining is the key, even for a properly thawed frozen turkey. You may also read elsewhere to not brine anything but a fresh turkey. Feel free to just ignore those comments. Just rinse the bird *very well* for several minutes after the brining process. Ree rinses her turkey, then puts it in a separate bucket of cold water for 15 minutes to help rinse away as much of the salt as possible. After rinsing, just pat the turkey very dry before putting it in the oven. The result will be a great entrée that is very moist and flavorful, as long as Alton’s directions are followed according to the recipe at the link below. Don’t forget the covered rest time of 15 minutes after baking, which is important. Seriously, this is absolutely the best turkey we’ve ever had.
There is a good reason why this particular recipe remains one of the top recipes at Food Network’s site year after year. 😉
To see some of my previous detailed posts on preparing a Thanksgiving dinner, just check out the links below. I’ve noticed that some folks have already been doing just that, and I hope my information is helpful to you!
We had a nice Christmas this year, but I will admit that I’m glad that life is soon going to return to normal once again. I enjoyed the two Christmas Eve church services that we attended more than anything else this year, especially the midnight service that we have not been to in many years. It was so special to come out of the service at midnight to the beautiful sound of the cathedral bells tolling outside. Our son did not get off from work in time to go to our usual service at 5 pm, so we went to the midnight service with him and took my mom to the earlier service, which was jam-packed once again but as beautiful as always.
We had some great food to eat again this year, as we cooked another turkey with Alton Brown’s famous recipe, along with my own homemade dressing for our big dinner on Christmas night. I’ve only made dressing for about the past five years, but it is so good and easy that I doubt I ever buy the frozen stuff again. I added some diced mushrooms to it this year, and everyone really liked it a lot. My sister and her husband joined us for a snack supper on Christmas Eve, which included a honey-glazed ham, sliced cheeses, Parmesan bread and some other munchies. For Christmas brunch, just before opening our gifts, we had our usual scrambled eggs and sausage toasts, along with the Harry and David pears that our daughter and her husband sent us. It was a great food lineup, for sure, even before all the cookies that adorned our snack table for several days.
Hubby surprised me with a set of Beats Executive headphones, something that was not even on my “gift radar.”
Now that I’ve had a few days to try them out, I realize that I’ve missed out on some amazing sound quality by just using my regular ear buds with my iPod. These headphones are awesome, especially when I select a good preset or tweak the equalizer for the songs that I listen to as well. The only downside to these headphones is the fact that the noise cancellation feature must be on at all times or the headphones will not work. At lower volumes, such as listening to an audiobook, the slight buzz of the noise cancellation can still be heard, too. For that reason, I will just continue to use my ear buds when listening to an audiobook. Otherwise, these headphones are great for listening to all of my music, and that is an understatement! Hubby did very good this year. 😉
Of course, our real Christmas gift will be arriving in less than two weeks. We will be getting our new standard poodle puppy, and we still have not picked a name for him. Right now, we just call him Little Red, but we really need to decide on a name before we pick him up. Hopefully we can finally decide on a name while we are on vacation next week.
We are making a camping checklist once again today, and checking it twice, for sure. I’m so excited to soon be on the road in the RV once again, as we will be headed out for an entire week of vacation on Monday. Our son will be joining us on this trip, which is nice because his birthday is next Saturday. We have something pretty neat in mind to celebrate his birthday, too. Another couple will also meet up with us on Thursday for the rest of the week, which should be fun. We have not been camping with them before, so we are looking forward to having them join us on this trip.
Our camping trips right after Christmas the past two years have been among the most enjoyable trips that we have made in the RV. I think we are just so ready to get away and relax after all the holiday hype, and it has been such a great thing for us to do, even though we are actually leaving a few days later than usual this year. We actually like the cooler weather, with highs in the 50’s and 60’s and lows in the 30’s. That is pretty much perfect camping weather for us, it seems, and it makes for some great hiking to exercise off the cookies that I’ve been eating lately. Hopefully, we will have some excellent star-gazing opportunities on this trip, too, since we will have dark skies at night while we are gone. I even cooked our black-eyed peas today so that they will be ready to just reheat and eat on New Year’s Day. We have always eaten black-eyed peas on New Year’s Day, even when we were kids, and we are not about to break that long-standing tradition.
I hope you had a great Christmas this year, and I wish you all the best for the new year!
I am finally done with my Christmas cookie baking escapades, thanks to a last-minute “push” to bake and decorate almost 80 cookies on Saturday night, in addition to all of the others I baked last week. Since Thanksgiving was a week later than normal this year, I knew that I was going to be behind in my baking, and that proved to be true, unfortunately. I would liked to have baked about three more types of cookies, but it just didn’t happen this year unless I decide to bake a batch or two after Christmas for our upcoming RV trip next week.
I also included homemade fudge, homemade peanut butter Rice Krispie bars, assorted chocolate and hard candies, Bob’s Candy Canes, homemade instant spiced tea mix and some flavored popcorn with most of the cookie trays, and I liked those additions this year for these gifts. I haven’t had the spiced tea mix in years, and I made sure that I kept some of the mix for us to enjoy for Christmas, too.
I have delivered most of the cookie gift trays, and it has “blessed my socks off” to deliver them to my elderly friends and some family members. Our next door neighbor, who is a sweet elderly widow, loved hers so much that I thought she was going to cry right there at the front door. She has already written me the sweetest thank you note, and she just went on and on in great detail about how she was going to enjoy each and every cookie on that tray. It was priceless, and I will keep it forever. I took a gift tray to our son last night just as he got off from work, and he was so grateful to receive it, too.
If you want a blessing during the holidays, I highly recommend taking a plateful of baked goodies to elderly friends and family members, especially if you can surprise them with it. I hope that I can continue to do this for many years to come. After my experience this year, I would love to be able to give many more cookie trays away, too.
Here are the cookies that I baked this year. Hubby volunteered to help with decorating the sugar cookies all on his own, and he did a great job. Of course he did. He has that artist’s touch, much more than I do, for sure. I told him that he is officially hired for future decorating needs. That will teach him to volunteer! Seriously, we had a fun time decorating cookies, although in the fifth hour of decorating about 11:30 pm on Saturday night, we were both getting a little slap happy. Hence, you may see a few decorated cookies that are a bit “different.” How about a stocking covered in dots as just one example?
I will let the photos tell the rest of the story. My personal favorites are the “psychedelic snowflakes,” and they are actually quite easy to do. I came up with that design, and they really are so pretty and bright!
Yesterday at 5 pm, it was 72 degrees. Today at 11 am, it is 20 degrees and ice is falling outside.
Winter is here again with yet another big arctic blast for us today, and it appears that the temperature will not get above freezing until sometime next week. Our low temperature on Saturday is going to be around *5* degrees, which is just getting ridiculously cold for us. Add in even the lightest wind, and we will have chill factors below zero.
Needless to say, I am staying inside as long as humanly possible this weekend.
All of this wet stuff falling outside is going to remain frozen for days, and after dealing with ice and snow just two weeks ago, I’m seriously going to have to get my Christmas shopping list organized to make quick work of it when the streets finally thaw, since I opted to forego the madness of shopping after Thanksgiving once again this year to spend some quality time in the great outdoors, which I wrote about in my previous post.
I’m also going to try to put my time at home to good use over the next few days. I still have some Christmas decorations to put up inside, and I need to start preparing my kitchen and freezer for my upcoming cookie baking escapades in a few days. I need to clear everything off of all the cabinets in the kitchen to make as much room as possible for the baking process and for the baked cookies as they come out of the ovens. My plan at this time is to get the kitchen re-organized over the weekend and start baking cookies next week. I freeze the cutout cookies until I am ready to begin decorating them, and hopefully the decorating process will begin next weekend or shortly after. I also freeze any other cookies that I bake until I am read to put the gift platters together. To freeze the cookies, I first separate the layers of cookies with wax paper, then wrap them in plastic wrap as tightly as possible, and finally wrap them in a double layer of heavy-duty aluminum foil. The longest period that I kept them frozen last year was about two weeks, but I think they would be fine for a longer period of time when properly wrapped, too.
I delivered my cookie platter gifts about ten to twelve days prior to Christmas last year, and I hope to have them ready to deliver to friends and family about that same time-frame this year.
Decorating cookies is the highlight of Christmas food preparation for me now. I even shared a bit of the decorating fun with a friend and her two little grandchildren last year, and we all had a fun time creating our own unique cookie works of art.
Until last year, I always purchased our decorated Christmas cookies each year from a fabulous bakery nearby, but I had to learn to make them myself last year after our treasured bakery closed for good. Learning how to apply the icing properly was most definitely a trial and error process, but I finally got the hang of it after a few attempts with the flood icing.
The most difficult decision for me right now is deciding on the other cookie recipes to bake this year, along with the decorated sugar cookies. Decisions, decisions! There are so many great holiday cookie recipes to choose from these days, and if you really want to jump into the holiday cookie scene, just start searching on Pinterest. Just make sure you have a few hours once you do. It’s also a great way to unwind with a glass of wine after a spending an entire day dealing once again with an out-of-control extended family member or two as well. Don’t ask me how I know that. 😉
We had a truly blessed Thanksgiving holiday. Even though we had a small group of four for lunch at our home, it was a great meal and good company, for sure. Our son and my mom joined us for lunch around 11:30 am, and we all had our fill of traditional food and pie, followed by watching a few recorded episodes of Duck Dynasty, which I thought might be a hit with our little group. My hunch was correct, and my 92 year-young mom laughed until I thought she would make herself sick, especially over the episode about the RV road trip. Who knew that RV stands for “Redneck Vacation” anyway? 😉 Seriously, we laughed more than we have laughed in a very long time, and it was wonderful. We also went on a little walk around the neighborhood before taking my mom back home. We also got to talk to our California daughter by phone for about an hour late in the afternoon, too. I miss having my girl close by, but she and her hubby are doing well. That is something to definitely be grateful for.
Speaking of pie, I made a new pie recipe, and it was so good! It was a Caramel Apple Pie, and that recipe is most definitely a keeper. Of course it is. It is from The Pioneer Woman. Here is the link to that recipe, and it is also in her new holiday cookbook, too.
Around 5 pm on Thanksgiving Day, my husband and I left in our RV for a long weekend of camping at Caprock Canyons State Park. The snow storm that hit earlier in the week apparently caused some other campers to cancel their holiday camping reservations there, so we were able to secure a reservation on Wednesday night for the holiday weekend, which was a big surprise for us. We had just about given up hope of finding an open campsite for the holiday weekend, but when we checked online on Wednesday night, there was one 50 amp site available. We reserved it right away and spent Wednesday evening loading a few more supplies for our trip.
Caprock Canyons is such a great state park, and fortunately, it is within a reasonable drive for us for a quick little getaway trip most any time of the year, as long as we can plan far enough ahead of time to secure a reservation for a water and electric site. The more I go there, the more I love it, too. It is a uniquely beautiful and secluded place, and it seems we learn more and see more with each return trip. The park seems to be drawing more visitors from distant places now, as we note when we say “hello” and are greeted in a foreign language, which is always a treat for us. One family greeted us in German on this trip, or at least we think it was German.
I will write a follow-up post with more details about Caprock Canyons sometime soon, but for now, I want to share some things about this particular trip that made it so special. God surely knew how much I needed a sanity break right now, I think. We camped next to a very nice family from the Dallas/Ft. Worth area, and we enjoyed visiting with them. It’s always fun to have nice neighbors, and we’ve found this to be more the rule than the exception when we go camping, thank goodness.
We made two long hikes (for us), one that was three miles and another that was four miles, and on each hike, the scenery was just breathtaking. Girly Girl loved hiking with us, as always. Our first hike was along the Canyon Rim Trail near our campsite.
The view below is only a ten minute walk on an easy trail from where we camped in Honey Flat campground. This panorama photo just does not do it justice either.
We also hiked on Eagle Point trail for about a mile into the canyon for the first time. Unlike the Canyon Rim Trail which is flat for about over a mile at the beginning, Eagle Point trail starts at the top of the canyon and goes down into it. The weather was cool and wonderful, and we just kept going down and down into the canyon and enjoying the hike so much. Of course, what goes down must come up when hiking, so the climb back out of the canyon took a little longer. My legs “talked” to me a bit afterward, but it was totally worth it all to make that beautiful hike.
We also went on several shorter hikes, especially in the evenings just before sunset, and the stillness, the beauty, and the sounds of the birds and wildlife all around almost made me want to cry. It was so very peaceful and good for the soul. I took the photo below while taking a hike with Girly Girl while hubby was getting our fire ready to cook steaks on Saturday evening. No one else was around, except a few birds and a coyote that was pretty far away but howling nonetheless in the distance.
We also enjoyed a nice, long motorcycle ride one afternoon, and we were even able to drive to another small town in the area for a quick visit with some friends that were there on their own holiday getaway. As we rode back to the park, we made a quick detour to Monk’s Crossing to take a look at the “rail to trail” path there that leads to Clarity Tunnel. This is an epic bike ride that we would like to make sometime, hopefully sooner rather than later, and it is also a part of the state park, even though it is several miles away. On our way back to the park, we saw yet another amazing sunset. Again, the photo doesn’t do it justice, but I had to give it a try.
Finally, on Friday night, a family with some children that were camped nearby built a campfire at their site, toasted marshmallows for s’mores, and sang Christmas carols around their campfire. They sang very well, too. We could see and hear them as we sat outside by our RV under the stars, which were amazing on that clear night with no moon. We drank some hot apple cider as we star-gazed and listened to our wonderful carolers nearby, and it was as if God was saying that it was finally time to begin celebrating the Christmas season once again. That was one of those special moments that I will likely remember for a very long time, too.
I also found myself missing our Big Ol’ Baby once again on this trip. I will probably always remember him when we go camping, I guess. I saved the last picture that I took of him and Girly Girl in the RV back in September when we camped in New Mexico, and I brought it up on my phone to look at it a couple of times as I sat inside and looked at the empty place on the sofa where he would usually sit. Girly Girl is doing pretty good, but it is obvious that she is more insecure now, too. This is the first time in her life that she has been alone, and we are not happy with how she is behaving since losing her buddy. So, we will be getting a new puppy pal to join her in early January when he turns six weeks old. We finalized the deal last week, and he will be our mutual Christmas gift. Now, we just have to decide on a name for him, but fortunately we have five weeks to do it. We are looking forward to adding another four-legged family member, too! 😀
This was our third consecutive year to go camping during Thanksgiving after our family meal, and I think it’s safe to say that this is probably now a new tradition for us. I hope we can do this for many years to come.
For my last post on Thanksgiving food this year, I thought I would share how I prepared a quick Thanksgiving lunch for four last week when my dear aunt came for a quick visit. She does not come to see us very often, as she is getting on in years, so I decided to make an early Thanksgiving lunch in honor of her special visit.
I didn’t know that she was coming until 5 pm the day before, so there was not much time for advance food preparation. I really wanted to serve some homemade goodness, so after a little thought, here is what I came up with.
Boar’s Head Maple Glazed Honey Coat Cured Turkey Breast
I simply went to the deli counter at the grocery store and gotfour slices of this delicious turkey in dinner slices. Just before we were ready to eat and after removing the dressing from the oven, I warmed the slices in the 350 degree oven on a parchment-lined cookie sheet for about five minutes. After the turkey slices were warm, I then put the rolls in to warm. (see below)
Mashed Potatoes with “Extras”
I bought a tub of plain prepared mashed potatoes in the refrigerated section, then added some extras on the stove over low heat, adding a little milk, butter and cream cheese to make them creamier and tastier. I was astounded at how good they were, too. This was my quick version of my favorite mashed potatoes recipe by The Pioneer Woman, which can be found here, although I made a much smaller batch. I was careful to only add the additional ingredients a little bit at a time, and I didn’t need to really add any additional seasonings to my batch, since they were already seasoned.
Homemade Cornbread Dressing
The only thing that I cooked the night before was a double recipe of cornbread. (I also washed a head of romaine lettuce – see salad below.) I used two packages of Jiffy Cornbread Mix and just followed the instructions on the box. After it cooked, I crumbled it up finely and put it back in the oven at 225 degrees to allow the crumbs to try out for about 45 minutes and left the pan of crumbs on the kitchen counter overnight, covered by a clean towel. An hour before lunch the next morning, I chopped a small sweet onion and four celery stalks in the food processor, then sautéed them in a small skillet with some butter until they were soft. Next, I combined the cornbread and veggies in a large mixing bowl, added some chicken stock 1/2 cup at a time until the mixture was a smooth consistency but not runny. Finally, I added roughly a teaspoon each of thyme, sage, garlic powder, salt and 1/4 tsp of black pepper. I poured it into a glass baking dish sprayed with non-stick spray and baked it at 350 degrees for about 40 minutes until it was slightly brown on top and completely done in the middle. Easy peasy! I have a friend that just seasons hers with poultry seasoning, if you don’t already have the other spices on hand.
Easy Garlic Green Beans
Instead of opting for a typical green bean casserole, I opted to just prepare some good green beans instead. I used this ten-minute recipe that uses frozen green beans, and they were delicious! For a little splash of color, I also added a few diced pimentos from a jar to them just before serving.
Romaine Tossed Salad
My “go to” tossed salad anytime is simply a head of romaine lettuce that is thoroughly washed and dried leaf by leaf and torn by hand, diced Roma tomatoes and carrot that has been peeled with a vegetable peeler. I serve it with either bottled ranch dressing or olive oil/balsamic vinegar right on the table, along with some freshly ground black pepper for anyone that might like it. For my salad, I also toss in a few pine nuts, too. In fact, I’m happy to toss a few pine nuts in just about anything now.
Sister Shubert Dinner Yeast Rolls
If you have not already discovered these excellent yeast rolls, hang on to your hat. They are already cooked and found in the freezer section. They only need about ten minutes to warm in a 350 degree oven and even less time if you let them sit out to thaw just a bit before warming. I keep one or two packages in the freezer at all times and just pull out what I need for dinner. They are one of my favorite dinner rolls ever, even though they are frozen, and we always take some in the freezer of the RV when we go camping, too.
Dessert – Blue Bell Pralines and Cream Ice Cream
Since I really didn’t have time to bake a pie, I just bought a pint of this delicious ice cream and served it in single scoops in my small glass dessert cups. A single scoop of ice cream was just the ticket for our group after this lunch and required no prep time.
In actual prep time on my part, not counting the oven cooking times where I was free to do other things, I spent less than 30 minutes the night before and about 30 minutes the next day before lunch. My lunch guests were so pleased to have an early Thanksgiving lunch, and it was very easy to pull together.
I’ve had quite a number of hits on my site over the past few days from people looking for Thanksgiving meals ideas and prep information, so I hope this gives another option to those folks that want to prepare a good, quick meal for a small group and not spend a lot of time in the kitchen.
I’m off to finish some final preparations for our camping trip tomorrow. I’m a little “iffy” about this trip, as the forecast is not looking too promising, but we are prepared for the cold. I just hope the roads stay clear of ice and snow, as the first big arctic front is going to pass through while we are gone.