Thursday, December 8, 2011

Jenny asks: Do you have any stocking stuffers ideas?

Great question, Jenny, as I love stuffing the stockings and definitely miss being young enough to have Santa leave one for me!  The stockings were always the first thing we were allowed to open in the morning when I was growing up.  I like to keep "stuffers" simple and fun... (unless, of course, Mr. Claus is stuffing a stocking for Mrs. with a new diamond ring!).

In additions to a special chocolate Santa, here's some ideas...
  • Stickers
  • Personalized pencils
  • Trading cards
  • Fun button or pin
  • Fuzzy slipper socks or fun socks
  • Art supplies
  • Makeup, hair ties/clips
  • Costume jewelry
  • Silly Putty or a Slinky
  • Mittens or gloves
  • A journal
  • A puzzle book
  • Cologne/perfume
  • Matchbox cars
  • Mini Lego set
  • A book of Lifesavers
Create a coupon book from Mom/Dad for a day without chores, favorite dinner menu, trip to the movie or a movie rental, a night of playing favorite games with popcorn and pop, of course...  just keep it simple!

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Cindy asks: What about gravy from a brined turkey?

We brined a turkey for the first time this Thanksgiving. It was the best turkey we have ever made. There was one problem, however. We could not use the drippings for gravy. They were far too salty. What should we have done differently?

Food for thought:
If the pan drippings are too salty,
wouldn't the turkey be too salty too?

 Brined turkeys have been really become popular and for good reason -- juicy meat!  I've brined in the past and still made excellent pan gravy with the drippings, but my immediate response would be to use the day before gravy recipe posted a few weeks ago.  I love having this done ahead of time along with the mashed potatoes. 

Now, back to making gravy from the brined turkey drippings.  Here's a few tips that might help:  
  • Carefully follow the brining recipe, so as not to add any additional salt. And be absolutely sure to keep that turkey cold while brining (there was a host who sent her guests to the hospital this year because she didn't keep the turkey cold enough while brining. Yikes!  Maybe she just wanted out of making Thanksgiving next year.)  
  • Rinse off the bird, inside and out, before roasting.  There should be no visible sign of the salt from brining.
  • Use a homemade no-sodium broth (using the neck and giblets, simmering for quite some time to get a more concentrated flavor) or a low-sodium one like Swanson's Natural Goodness or Trader Joe's Low Sodium Organic Free Range Chicken Broth for the gravy.
Hope this answers your question, Cindy.  Be sure to let me know if any of the tips work for you next time you brine.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Sharon asked: Do you know where I can get a good deal on magazines?

Ahh...  I must admit I am a magazine junkie, but I never pay full price.  If there's a "must have" mag, I Google and search for a deal. If there's no deal to be found, I wait for one like this one from Mamapedia

At a rate of $10 for 2 years -- that's 24 issues -- I buy! 

I usually get all the best deals from  I have been ordering from them for a few years now and their customer service has been great!

Monday, November 28, 2011

Question: What's next?

Hope the turkey isn't cold by the time
you get to the front of the line!
What's next you ask?  Here's my answer:  Retailers will be serving Thanksgiving Dinner in the stores in 2012. 

So this post is more a venting than a real Q &A, but man... are we losing it or what?  Black Thursday?  Really??? 

Stop the madness people!  Focus, focus, focus! Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays.  I love preparing and serving the meal, I treasure any time I can have with family and friends (although I will dearly miss so many of them this year as our table will be small, but absolutely still overflowing with goodness) and I love focusing on the many blessings I have to be thankful for.

I pray that your Thanksgiving 2011 was one filled with a thanks.  Stay focused, stay positive and always find something to be grateful for in each day.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

How do we keep the kids busy during Thanksgiving dinner?

There's a long list of "crafts" that are fun to make and you can Google that, but Thanksgiving dinner creates enough of its own mess doesn't it?  So here's some fun everyone can have with a printout and a pencil.  I think you'll see that many of these will generate some great conversations.
  • Kids from 2 to 102 love to color (definitely a favorite pastime of mine).  Put baskets of crayons out and let everyone show their creative side coloring turkeys, pumpkins or Pilgrims that you can print here.
  • Have fun with a Thanksgiving trivia quiz online or print one out here along with word search, crossword and more.
  • Print and hand out these What Are You Thankful For? cards.
  • Put out all the store ads and have everyone work on their Christmas lists.
You see... it's easy to keep it simple and still have fun.  Just make it a day focused on family, friends and a grateful heart!

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Can I really make my gravy a day ahead?

Answer:  Absolutely. 
Making a few things a day ahead can relieve
a lot of the stress we put ourselves through on
Thanksgiving day in the kitchen.

Thanksgiving 2011 will mark twelve years of using this gravy recipe.  It was clipped from Woman's Day magazine, November 16, 1999.   For the last few years, I've roasted a whole small bird on Wednesday so I get the drippings for the gravy and the extra breast meat is always in demand.  

If you follow the recipe below and want extra flavor, drain the fat off the pan drippings once the turkey is done on Thanksgiving and stir them into the heated gravy.

4 turkey wings (about 3 pounds)
2 medium onions -- peeled & quartered
1 cup water
8 cups chicken broth
3/4 cup chopped carrot
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
3/4 cup flour
2 tablespoons butter or margarine
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper

1. Heat oven to 400 F. degrees. Have ready a large roasting pan.

2. Arrange wings in a single layer pan; scatter onions over top. Roast 1 1/4 hours until the wings are browned.

3. Put wings & onions in a 5 to 6 quart pot. Add water to roasting pan & stir to scrape up any brown bits on bottom. Add to pot. Add 6 cups broth(refrigerate remaining 2 cups), carrot & thyme. Bring to a boil reduce heat & simmer,uncovered, 1 1/2 hours.

4. Remove wings to cutting board. When cool, pull off skin & meat. Discard skin; save meat for another use.

5. Strain broth into a 3-quart saucepan, pressing vegetables to extract as much liquid as possible. Discard vegetables; skim fat off broth & discard. (If time permits,refrigerate broth overnight to make fat-skimming easier.)

6. Whisk flour into remaining 2 cups broth until blended & smooth.

7. Bring broth in pot to a gentle boil. Whisk in broth-flour mixture & boil 3 to 4 minutes to thicken gravy & remove floury taste. Stir in butter & pepper. Serve or pour into containers; refrigerate up to 1 week or freeze up to 3 months.

Do they taste freshly mashed?

  Night Before Mashed Potatoes
They'll never know you didn't just whip 'em!
You won't believe me until you try for yourself.  If you're not trusting enough for this year's big dinner, make note to try them during the year first.  This is the Night Before Mashed Potatoes recipe my family has been using at Thanksgiving for quite a few years now. The texture and taste is like you just mashed them.   ENJOY!

3 lb idaho potatoes
1/4 c milk
2 eggs - lightly beaten
6 Tablespoons butter
Salt & Pepper to taste 

Peel, cube, boil, drain and mash potatoes. Add milk, S & P. Add 1 egg at a time, beating between. Then add 4 Tbs of butter. Butter baking dish, add potatoes, drop remaining butter on top in pieces. Cover and refrigerate overnite. Place on counter to bring to room temperature an hour before baking -- important step!

Bake at 450 deg for 20 minutes (longer if you've made a double batch.  Stir half way through cooking time).  Servings: 8

Monday, November 14, 2011

Will you share your roast recipe?

This is the Savory Chuck Roast recipe you're asking about.  I'm asked for it over and over and am happy to share it.  It is not an original, but one I've used since my sister Debbie shared it with me from her Southern Living magazine [2000]. 

Once you've made it, you will have a hard time trying another. It has been shared with and saved by so many I've lost count. 


1 (3 lb) boneless chuck roast trimmed
2 Tbl white vinegar
1 tsp garlic salt
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
2 Tbl olive oil
1 envelope Lipton Dry Onion-Mushroom soup mix
3/4 cup sherry
1/4 cup brewed coffee
1 cup sliced mushrooms (optional)

Rub roast with vinegar. Cut 8-10 slits in roast and sprinkle with garlic salt in slits. Dredge roast in flour; brown on all sides in hot oil over medium heat. Combine soup mix, sherry and coffee; pour over roast. Add mushrooms. Bake, covered, at 350° F. for 3 hours. Serve with steamed veggies.

CROCKPOT METHOD: After browning meat place remaining ingredients in crockpot and cook on high for 2 hours, reduce temperature to low; cook for an additional 7 hours.

VARIATION 3lb boneless chuck roast, trimmed
2 Tbsp white vinegar
2 cloves of garlic, thinly sliced
1/4 cup flour
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 pkg Lipton Dry Onion Soup
1/4 cup dry red wine, such as Merlot, Malbec or Burgundy
1/4 cup brewed strong coffee
1 cup sliced fresh mushrooms
1 onion, chopped
2 to 3 ribs celery, chopped
2 to 3 carrots, chopped
2 to 3 russet potatoes, chopped

Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees.

Rub roast with vinegar. Cut 8-10 slits into the roast and put garlic slices into the slits.  Dredge roast in flour. Brown all sides in hot oil in a Dutch oven over medium-high heat.

In a bowl, stir together soup mix, wine, and coffee and pour over the roast. Add sliced mushrooms.

Bake covered at 350 degrees for 2 hours. Add other veggies and cook an additional hour.
CROCK POT:  follow same directions for crock pot shown above, but add all veggies to bottom of pot before adding meat, etc.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Sharon asks: Will you share that pilgrim hat treat recipe?

I've been asked for a fun, cute treat for Thanksgiving Day that doesn't involve making dough, rolling and frosting.  This is something anyone can have fun doing and everyone will enjoy eating!

Thanksgiving Pilgrim Hats -- not an original recipe of mine, but one worth sharing.  If you Google it, you'll find multiple posts and variations.  Personally, I am a royal icing girl, but not everyone wants to go through that trouble. 

Using canned frosting...

Using icing that hardens...
Hats on the left - this one is a little messier to make if you ask me, but who's asking -- oh, right -- you are!1 cup vanilla frosting, colored with 5-7 drops yellow food coloring
32 miniature peanut butter cups
1 package (11-1/2 ounces) fudge-striped cookies
32 pieces orange mini Chiclets gum or any other orange candy that with a similar look

Holding the bottom of a peanut butter cup, dip top of cup in yellow frosting. Position over center hole on the bottom of cookie, forming the hatband and crown. Add a buckle of Chiclets gum. Repeat with remaining cups and cookies. Yield: 32 cookies

Hats on the right
16 chocolate wafer cookies (such as Nabisco Famous Chocolate Wafers)
1 tube of orange decorator icing with piping tips
16 small peanut butter cups

Place cookies on work surface; squeeze a dime-size dot of frosting in center of each. Unwrap and invert peanut butter cups on frosting, pressing down gently. Using the round piping tip, pipe a "hat-band" with frosting around peanut butter cup and a square "buckle." Let frosting set before storing. Planning Tip: Can be made up to 3 days ahead. Store airtight at room temperature.
Courtesy of WomansDay

My version... a combo of the two. I use fudge stripe bottoms, orange icing that hardens and the pb cups.