Monday, November 20, 2017

Two pies for Thanksgiving


... one new, one tried and true!

Yesterday at church we had a harvest dinner theme to our potluck.  One lady cooked a turkey and  others brought fantastic side dishes, salads, and pies.  For my pie contributions, I used one old favorite recipe and one that was brand new to me.

The old favorite was this
CRUMB TOP APPLE PIE

1/2 c. brown sugar
1/4 tsp. nutmeg
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. salt

Unbaked 9” pie shell
6 apples, peeled, cored, sliced
Lemon juice

Crumb topping:
1/2 c. sugar
3/4 c. flour
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
Dash of salt
1/2 cup butter (may try using less; I think I've used as little as 1/3 cup before)

Begin by mixing together the brown sugar and spices in a small bowl. In the pie shell, alternate layers of apples with the spice mixture. Sprinkle each layer with lemon juice before adding another layer. When all apples and spices are in pie shell, make the topping by mixing the sugar, flour, cinnamon, and dash of salt in a medium bowl. Cut in the butter with a pastry blender until crumbs form. Top the pie with the crumb topping.

Bake the pie at 450ΒΊ for 15 minutes; then reduce the heat to 350ΒΊ and bake 30 minutes more. Serve warm if desired with cheddar cheese or ice cream on the side.  (For the potluck, I served it at room temperature and did not serve with either ice cream or cheese.  Every scrap of this pie was eaten!)

This excellent pie comes from Jane & Michael Stern’s wonderful cookbook, Square Meals. I have made this pie so many times that its page in my handwritten cookbook is freckled with apple juice and spices!

Now don't look at the several steps and decide this is too complicated.  It's actually very easy.  The hardest part is peeling, coring, and slicing the apples.  Once you get that solved (which I sometimes do by using one of those hand-cranked peeling/slicing/coring gadgets) it is literally as easy as pie.   My only quarrel with those gadgets is that they slice the apples a bit too thin, which can make for a mushy pie.
 πŸ    πŸ‚    🍁    πŸ‚    🍁    πŸ‚    🍁    πŸ‚    🍁    πŸ‚    🍁    πŸ‚
The new recipe is Cape Cod Cranberry Pie, which I found in the Gooseberry Patch book Christmas Pantry.   This is made in a pie pan and slices fairly easily into wedges; still, I suppose it is not technically a pie for one makes no actual crust.  Still, it was delicious and I will definitely make this again for it was so easy.  I made this pie gluten-free simply by substituting the Bob's Red Mill 1-for-1 flour.    Here's the recipe:

CAPE COD CRANBERRY PIE

2 cups fresh or frozen cranberries
1 - 1/2 cups sugar, divided
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
1/2 cup butter, melted
1 cup all-purpose flour (regular, or gluten free)
2 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla

Spray a 9-inch deep dish pie pan with non-stick baking spray.  Place cranberries in prepared pie pan.  Sprinkle with 1/2 cup sugar and the walnuts; stir to combine.  In a bowl, mix remaining 1 cup sugar, melted butter, flour, eggs, and vanilla with a whisk (I used a hand mixer).  Pour this batter over the cranberry mixture in the pie plate.  Bake at 325ΒΊ for 45 minutes or until brown.

Another time, I may cut down on the sugar in the batter part of the recipe.  I think 3/4 cup would be plenty.  The recipe also called for 1/4 cup of oil, but I didn't use it.  I felt that oil was unnecessary since there is quite a bit of butter in the recipe already.  It turned out very well and I will make this again, likely at Christmas time.

If  you needed some fresh inspiration for Thanksgiving pies, I hope you have found some here today!

Friday, November 17, 2017

Gratitude challenge progress, part 2


This delightful graphic is by Abby at Little Birdie Blessings
Just checking in today with another update on how things are going with the Gratitude Challenge over at Revive Our Hearts.  For some exciting, encouraging news, I'm happy to report that I was able to work on two days' worth of the challenges often enough so that I am now caught up.  I'm right where I should be and so thankful for that. 

Today I want to share what I learned from the Gratitude Challenge, Day 6, titled "In Fresh Wonder of God's Mercy."

I was reminded that the best thing that has ever happened in my life is being saved from the sure destruction that my sins deserved, and ushered into the family of God.  Today's devotional observed that, sadly, time seems to dull our appreciation of Christ's magnificent, sacrificial work on our behalf.  Yet, thankfully, gratitude to God can reopen that wonder to us.

One believer's paraphrase of Romans 5:8 is as follows: "God demonstrated His love toward us in this: While we were in open, hostile rebellion against Him, having no interest in Him -- not only that, but also actively despising Him and all that He stands for -- Christ died for us."

The "Gratitude in Action" assignment was to take time to wonder anew at the mercy God has had upon me, letting my gratitude swell and overwhelm me once again.  I was to read Romans 5:1-11 and to make a list of the blessings that are mine in Christ Jesus and thank Him for them.

Here is the list I came up with:
πŸ‚  Justification by faith
πŸ‚  Peace with God
πŸ‚  Access by faith into God's grace
πŸ‚  Rejoicing in hope of the glory of God
πŸ‚  The ability to glory in trials, understanding that they are working for my good
πŸ‚  God's love shed abroad in my heart by the Holy Spirit
πŸ‚  Saved from God's wrath by Christ's sacrifice
πŸ‚  Reconciled to God
πŸ‚  Joy in God.

And this is the prayer that I wrote thanking God for these blessings:

"Lord, I am amazed as I look at and ponder the many incredible blessings in just these few short verses.  That I can be reconciled to and have an actual relationship with the God of the universe, whom I had offended -- it is just beyond comprehension.  That He is working in my life daily and that His love, joy, and peace are integral parts of my everyday life ... those truths are simply mind-boggling.  How very thankful I am for all that You have done for me and for all that You do in my life each day.  Thanks and praise seem like very small responses.  May You help me to live a life of joyful service to You!  In Jesus' name, Amen."

So thankful that I've been able to participate in this Gratitude Challenge, as I'm finding it a real blessing.  I'm continuing to thank God for one of my blessings each evening in November on Instagram as well.

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Thanksgiving dinner helps and hints


Nearly every year I try to post a few recipes and helps for Thanksgiving dinner.  This is pretty much a repost of last year's post on the topic (with a few additions), but I'm sure some of my newer readers have missed the ones I've done previously.  So, if you need a little help with the Thanksgiving feast, you are invited to borrow whatever you may need from these tried-and-true ideas and recipes.

Thanksgiving is just one week away -- so if you still have some planning to do, grab a pen and paper and make some lists.  Then get to the grocery store and avoid the rush!

I posted the following in 2012, and it includes a lot of the same links I'm sharing today, but it might be helpful to someone:  A Gathering of Thanksgiving Tips and Recipes.

I'll start with some ideas for pies, which one might be baking a day or two ahead of time.  Pies are the most intimidating part of the meal for many people, so I offer you these Helpful Tips for Thanksgiving Pies.  If pie crust intimidates you (as it does many others), then don't stress about it.  I give you a recipe for an easy oil pastry, but if you don't want to go that route, then the sheets of refrigerated pie crust one can buy (I've even seen them in store brands!) work very well.  You can even buy frozen pie shells that aren't half bad.  Or if you just don't want to make pies, you can buy some very nice pies from bakeries that specialize in them.

Some of our Favorite Thanksgiving Pie Recipes are included in this post.  Maybe you will find a new family favorite!

But what if you are avoiding wheat, or a family member who'll be at your table is eating gluten free?  No worries.  This Gluten Free Pie Crust is easy to make and very good.  It's a simple press-in-pan crust and so it really won't work for a double crust pie.  But anyone who has lived without wheat for any length of time will be so happy to have a pie they can eat that they won't care if it's just a single crust pie.  It works perfectly for pumpkin pie, for example.


Probably the next most intimidating part of the meal is the turkey itself.  
Photo from Pixabay
If you have, or are buying a frozen turkey, the rule of thumb for thawing it is to allow 24 hours in the fridge for each 5 pounds of the turkey's weight.  I find this not quite enough, so allowing an extra day would be my advice.  Invariably if I follow that rule of thumb, the giblets are still frozen in place.  Last year I bought my frozen turkey (21 pounds) on the Thursday before Thanksgiving and put it right into the fridge to start thawing.  So if you have a large turkey and it's frozen, get it out right now and put it in your fridge.

Cooking it in an oven bag is my best advice on roasting a turkey.  It shortens the time considerably and produces tender, juicy meat.

From my Autumn in the Air booklet (Cracker Barrel, 2001)
Then there is gravy, which can also be intimidating and which I stressed about for many years.  People love it and expect it, but making it at the last minute can be very stressful.  Usually there are other people in the kitchen, helping out with other things, and that complicates matters (even though they are truly trying to help when they watch over your shoulder and give advice).  So for a few years I then turned to canned or jarred gravy, transferring it to a saucepan and removing the evidence of the cans and jars well ahead of the guests' arrival.  That was great, but I found the gravy packets made even better gravy.

And then finally, I found this recipe:  Easy Turkey Gravy.  It truly is easy and it makes lots and lots of gravy.  If you are feeding people who think there is never enough gravy, try this.  For once they will be satisfied and there may even be some gravy left to serve with the leftovers or to make hot turkey sandwiches.

 So there are a number of good options for gravy: jars, packets, or the above great recipe.

Stuffing (or dressing) can also be a source of discouragement.  I usually use a bag of Pepperidge Farm stuffing mix, prepare it with celery and onion as the package instructions suggest, and also add dried cranberries.  In my tips and recipes post ( the first link at top) I detail how I cook it in a slow cooker.  Just don't leave it in there for too long, as it will burn and dry out.

Make-Ahead Mashed Potatoes is my go-to recipe for making mashed potatoes for a lot of people.  One year I was seriously thinking of using the Idahoan instant mashed potatoes, which are actually very good and are only $1 per packet, but my hubby urged me not to because he loves the make-ahead mashed potatoes so much!

Sweet Potato Casserole is our family's festive sweet potato recipe.  I've made it with canned sweet potatoes and it comes out just fine.  I don't make it every year because personally, my husband and I prefer buttercup squash.  But if we are having a lot of people, I'll usually do the sweet potatoes as well.  (For sweet potatoes as a general rule, we prefer them roasted.)

Broccoli Casserole is another great side dish that always goes over well.  This is a recipe from my sister-in-law Dawn.


I tend to skip serving rolls when there is so much other good food on the table, but if your family won't let you, then try these: Homemade Dinner Rolls.  They're a homemade crescent roll and are really delicious.

If your family insists on creamed onions (as mine does), here's the recipe I use:  Scalloped Onions.  It uses the frozen small onions.  Life is far too short to peel those little pearl onions.  I always buy the frozen (unsauced) ones and make my own sauce.

Cranberry sauce or relish can be purchased and is just fine.  If you want to make your own, try the Taste of Home site for some good recipes, or you may be able to find one here.  Cran-Apple Sauce is one delicious option.  Some of the bags of fresh cranberries also feature a cranberry sauce recipe, and I have made those, often substituting brown sugar for white, which gives a nicer flavor in my opinion.

For a memory of my childhood Thanksgivings at my grandmother's farmhouse,  you might like to read A Thanksgiving Memory for a little nostalgia.

By the way, that's my grandmother in the photo above, and the recipe is for my great-grandmother's Date Cake, which was somewhat of a tradition at our holiday dinners.  It was served thickly frosted with white frosting and with walnut or pecan halves pressed into the frosting.  It was never a favorite of mine and I haven't made it since, but I think I may make one this year for either Thanksgiving or Christmas -- just for old time's sake!

And if you enjoy vintage things, you might like to take a peek at this Children's Book of Thanksgiving Prayers.  This was actually sold as a greeting card, I believe. 

 Setting the Thanksgiving table is always an enjoyable task, and I like to get it taken care of well ahead of time.  I've made a few Thanksgiving table toppers, hot mats, and so on over the years.  These Thanksgiving Candle Mats always make an appearance on our Thanksgiving table!
Some years I bring out the cornucopia!
 For more Thanksgiving posts, click on the "Thanksgiving" label in the word cloud of labels in the right sidebar.  You may find some surprises I've forgotten about!

I hope this oft-repeated advice is helpful to someone this holiday.  Have a wonderful Thanksgiving!

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Mid-November Hodgepodge


Lovely graphic from CrossCards.com
Wednesday again, so that means it's time for the Hodgepodge with Joyce and friends at From This Side of the Pond.  Head on over and get the questions, answer them on your own blog and then on back over to Joyce's to link up!   Here are the questions for this week:

1. What takes you out of your comfort zone?

Lots of things!  Probably too many to count.  I tend to have a very narrow comfort zone, I guess. 

2. Your least favorite spice?

Hmmm .... we're talking spices, right?  Not herbs?  I can think of a number of herbs that aren't my favorite.  But off the top of my head, I have to say that I like most spices.

3. What's a small change you'd like to make?

I'm trying to think of a small change.  Seems like many of the changes  I have in mind (especially in regard to the house, say, or lifestyle changes) are big.

4. Do you enjoy visiting historic homes? If so, of the homes you've visited which one was your favorite? What historic home near you is open to visitors? Have you been?

I do enjoy visiting historic homes, and probably of the ones I've visited I've liked Green Gables and other L.M.Montgomery sites the best.  Another favorite was Orchard House in Concord, MA (Louisa May Alcott's childhood home).  There are a few different historic homes in our state, including a number at Strawbery Banke in Portsmouth, NH (which I have visited, but it's been years).  There are many in our state that I have not visited.
 Southern Living rounded up eleven of the best in the southern part 
of the US and they're as follows-

Monticello (Jefferson's home in Virginia), Nathaniel Russel House (Charleston SC), Swan House (Atlanta), Ernest Hemingway's home (Key West), The Biltmore (Vanderbilt home in Asheville NC), Mount Vernon (Washington's home in Virgina), San Francisco Plantation (Garyville, Louisiana), Windsor Ruins (Port Gibson Mississippi), Longue Vue House and Gardens (New Orleans), Whitehall (Palm Beach FL), and Pebble Hill Plantation (Thomasville GA)


Have you been to any on the list? Of the homes listed which would you most like to visit?

Pretty sure the only one I've visited on this list is Mount Vernon.  I think of those on this list, I would most like to visit The Biltmore.  The home below is a house from my own history ... my grandmother's house. 

5. What's something you think will be obsolete in ten years? Does that make you sad or glad?

I hope this isn't something that will actually happen, but it sometimes seems that good manners and common courtesy (not to mention common sense) could become obsolete any day now.   Obviously, that makes me sad and very concerned for our society. 

6.  Insert your own random thought here. 

First real snow of the season yesterday.  I am not ready for this.  We got about an inch and it is still on the ground, but the weather is supposed to warm up, so I hope it won't stay.
Taken through my living room window during the snowstorm

Saturday, November 11, 2017

Gratitude challenge progress


This November I signed up to participate in the Gratitude Challenge over at Revive Our Hearts.  For some reason --who knows why? -- I thought this would be an activity I could do while still keeping up with my regular Bible study in Colossians.  I also wanted to write a few blog posts concerning how the challenge is working in my life.

I guess I tend to be a tad unrealistic in my expectations of what I can accomplish.  A few days into the challenge, I still had not found time to work on it each day.  I came to the realization that I would have to set Colossians aside for the month of November if I truly wanted to keep up with the Gratitude Challenge.

As a result, I'm a few days behind with it, and I hope I can do two days in one a couple of times so that I don't end up taking this into December -- where it will have the domino effect of derailing any Christmas or Advent study I might wish to do.

So, I'm going to share here my study and thoughts from one of the days in the Gratitude Challenge, and hope to do more as the days go on.  For my first post on this topic, I chose Day 2, November 2, in which the theme was focusing on Christ as the Source of light, life, and all joy.

Interestingly, this day's challenge focused on the book of Colossians, so it fit in with what I was already learning in my personal Bible study.  The emphasis of  Day 2 was that as those who have a personal relationship with Christ, our faith and joy emanate only from Him -- and that He calls us to a life of faithful obedience and heartfelt gratitude.

We were instucted to read from Colossians 1:3 through Colossians 4:2, underlining or circling word of thanks.  Then we were to meditate on these verses, praying them back to God and using them as a basis for giving thanks to Him.

I won't tell you what verses I found the references to thanks and thanksgiving in.  You can do that for yourself!  I found six of them.

Here is what I prayed as a result of this day's study:

"Lord, there is so much in these passages.  Colossians is such a rich book!  I am so thankful today for Your Word and its instruction.
"I do thank you today for my fellow believers.  May I be faithful in keeping them and their spiritual growth before You in prayer.  I am so thankful that You have made us fit to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light.  Truly, this is a work that only You could do.
"Help me, Lord, to be continually growing so that I will be rooted and built up in You and strongly established in my faith.  I am so thankful for the fine Bible teaching I've been privileged to enjoy over the years.
"I pray that You will help me to continue in abounding thankfulness for all that You have given me.
"I am so very thankful for Your peace and I pray that I and my fellow believers will allow it to rule in our hearts.  This is what You have called us to!
"I pray that You will help me, Lord, so that whatever I do in word or deed will be that which is done in the name of the Lord Jesus, that which will bring glory to Him.  His sacrifice on my behalf is the only reason that I can do any of this, so I am everlasting thankful to Him.  Help me to live my life as You'd have me to, as a thank-offering to You.
"Help me to continue in prayer, watchful for all that You are doing in my life and being constantly in the attitude of thanksgiving.
"I praise You for all that You have done in my life, and for Your continued working in my life.  Thank You, Lord!  In Jesus' name, Amen."

Another thing I've been doing for the month of November is a simple daily post on Instagram thanking God for a blessing that He brings to mind each day.  I'm pleased to say I've been keeping up with that much, at least!

I also wanted to note that the lovely graphic at the top of the post is from Baptist Bible Hour.

Wednesday, November 08, 2017

November 8 Hodgepodge


Delightful graphic from Abby at Little Birdie Blessings
 It's Wednesday again, and that means it's time for the Hodgepodge with Joyce and friends at From This Side of the Pond.  Head on over and get the questions, answer them on your own blog and then on back over to Joyce's to link up!   Here are the questions for this week (and I warn you, they are tough ones!):

1.  In a rut, in a jam, in the groove, out of sync, off balance, out of touch...which saying best fits some area of your life currently (or recently)? Explain.
From 1953
 I guess I would pick out of sync, though what I really feel is in a time warp.  Cleaning out nearly 70 years' worth of accumulated stuff will do that to a person!  I feel as if when I get home from a cleaning/sorting stint, I need to debrief before I can get back into my everyday life.  I'm planning my days pretty carefully to help with that.

2. What is it about somebody else's style of work (coworker/employee/shared volunteer project/household chore) that makes you crazy? Why?

  Here's one that I'm encountering on nearly an everyday basis -- my mother (now in heaven so her style of work no longer matters), rather than just throwing away junk mail, old letters, etc.  kept what she called "correspondence boxes" containing such items, along with stationery, note cards, address labels, etc. to use in answering her mail.  That sounds good, but the problem came when unexpected company arrived and she would scoop all of her current correspondence into a new box.  There were many of them, scattered all over the house.  Every time I think I have come to the end of correspondence boxes, another one surfaces.

3. What's a tradition that always makes you feel at home?

Hmm .... I am racking my brain on this one.  And I am completely drawing a blank.

4. A favorite song with a girl's name in the title or lyrics? Any reason why this is a particular favorite?


I guess I would say "Mary, Did You Know?" for fairly obvious reasons.  (I wouldn't have thought of this question in a million years.)

5. Share a favorite quote, verse, or saying relating to gratitude or thanksgiving.

"Know ye that the LORD, He is God: it is He that hath made us, and not we ourselves; we are His people, and the sheep of His pasture.
"Enter into His gates with thanksgiving, and into His courts with praise: be thankful unto Him, and bless His name."

Wish I knew where I had found this; I don't, sadly.  If it's yours, I apologize for not giving you credit.
6. Insert your own random thought here.

Christmas is only 7 weeks away!  Not sure where this year has gone, but it has flown.   Anyone out there ready for Christmas?  I've started, but I'm far from ready.
And so ends another Hodgepodge.  Happy Wednesday, everyone!

Monday, November 06, 2017

Our late-October getaway


During the last weekend of October, Mr. T and I were blessed to enjoy three wonderful days and nights on Back Lake in the Great North Woods region of our state.  This was the time we had available, and also the time we were able to book our very favorite cabin.  So, although the time frame was late October and there could easily be the potential for chilly weather and even snow, we planned our getaway, trusting God for whatever weather He would send.

It was raining when we headed out on Thursday, and rained quite hard for much of the way.  We stopped at a McDonalds about halfway into the trip and enjoyed coffee and muffins as we continued to travel north.

By the time we arrived at the cabin, the rain had slowed to a drizzle and we were able to unpack the van without getting anything wet.  Then, Mr. T started a crackling fire in the fireplace as we settled in.  What a treat that was on a chilly, drizzly day!
It was an easy supper night as well; I had made a chicken rice soup in the slow cooker for Wednesday night, and there was plenty left over to bring with us.  We enjoyed a relaxing evening by the fire and a wonderful night's rest.  We did not set an alarm clock the entire time we were there!

The rain had picked up again during the night, but Friday morning was very windy as the storm began to clear out.  After good quiet times in God's Word and in prayer, we took a walk and were very thankful we had brought our winter coats!  We walked as far as the public boat launch, which was a good walk.  Just as we approached the beach area, we saw a very large bird come in for a landing.

It was a blue heron!  We sat at a picnic table on the beach and watched it for awhile; it stalked along the shore but kept at a good distance from us.  We headed back to the cabin, and on the way Mr. T spied the heron again, on the lake shore right next to a house.  He was able to get a a fairly good picture of it.
Our friend Charlotte has a cabin in the area and she had invited us over for lunch.  What a bountiful lunch it was!  Salisbury steak, baked potatoes, squash, and broccoli -- with apple crisp for dessert!  After lunch we enjoyed a lovely visit on her sunny porch.  Amazingly, she had many flowers still blooming around her home.  Near the very end of October, at the 45th parallel -- pretty amazing to still have roses!


When we got back to our cabin, the weather was warm and sunny enough for us to enjoy some time on the water and the dock.  I sat on the dock for awhile soaking up the sunshine, though it was still too breezy to enjoy needlework -- one of my preferred occupations while dock-sitting.  Mr. T took his kayak out for awhile.

Later, we took another walk --one that Charlotte had told us about on Murphy Dam at Lake Francis.   It was still breezy and getting cold as we walked, but it was a lovely walk and one that we would (and did) do again.
Lake Francis, seen from one side of the dam
The village in the distance, seen from the other side of the dam
Supper was more leftover soup and some wrap sandwiches.  After the huge lunch we had enjoyed, I didn't need to prepare the supper I had planned.  While we ate, we watched a beautiful sunset.
The next morning dawned crisp and clear, with mist rising off the lake.  
We went out to breakfast at Happy Corner Cafe, one of our favorite local places.  Mr. T had stuffed French toast with sausage and I had an avocado omelet.  There is so much variety on the menu!
Avocado omelet
Stuffed French toast, sausage patties on the side
In late morning, Mr. T and our friend Charlotte took off to go kayaking at one of her favorite spots. 
I spent the time while they were gone doing all sorts of needlework while sitting on the dock or at the adjacent picnic table.  It was warm and sunny and just perfect for stitching while enjoying the outdoors!  You can read more about what I stitched over at my Christmas blog.
View from the dock
One of my cross-stitch projects
Later that afternoon we walked the dam again.  We went a little earlier this time so it wasn't as cold.  Then we came home and enjoyed a nice supper of pizza and three-bean salad.

The next morning we got everything packed and headed out in time to get to the church service we'd planned to attend.  After a lovely and leisurely lunch with friends, we drove home in a light drizzle -- the prelude to Sunday night's big storm. 

What a wonderful getaway it was!  We felt thoroughly refreshed and are so thankful for the quiet and restful time God gave us up north.