Thursday, November 25, 2010

A Blessed Thanksgiving to You!

I hope that all of my readers and friends have had a truly blessed Thanksgiving Day! Our day was full of food, fun, family, and friends.

Here are just a few verses of praise to our wonderful Lord on this Thanksgiving Day:

"Thy mercy, O LORD, is in the heavens; and Thy faithfulness reacheth unto the clouds.
"Thy righteousness is like the great mountains; Thy judgments are a great deep: O LORD, Thou preservest man and beast.
"How excellent is Thy lovingkindness, O God! therefore the children of men put their trust under the shadow of Thy wings."
(Psalm 36:5-7)

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

Monday, November 22, 2010

Thanksgiving menu and recipes

Well, our 20 pound turkey has been thawing in the fridge since Saturday, and I've finally firmed up what I'm making for Thanksgiving and what our 7 guests will be bringing.

Our Thanksgiving menu will include:

Roast Turkey
Roast Duck (homegrown, brought by guests)
Mashed Potatoes, Gravy
Sweet Potatoes (brought by guests)
Squash (brought by guests)
Creamed Onions
Peas (brought by guests)
Salad (brought by guests)
Cranberry Sauce

Crumb-Topped Apple Pie
Pumpkin Pie
Cranberry Dream Pie
Key Lime Pie (brought by guests)

The beverages with dinner will be cider and water.

With dessert, I plan to serve coffee and hot spiced cider; tea will be available for those who prefer it.

I suppose most of you already have your menu set and know exactly what recipes you'll be using. But just in case, I will share some of my tried-and-true methods and recipes here.

For the turkey, I have tried a number of roasting methods. But the foolproof, best way I have found is to buy a turkey-sized oven bag and follow the chart and directions for roast turkey. Moist and wonderful every time. I roast it unstuffed.

For the stuffing, I buy a bag of Pepperidge Farm herb-seasoned stuffing and follow the directions on the bag, sauteeing plenty of chopped celery and onion in the butter before adding it. Other wonderful additions to stuffing include dried cranberries and/or some crumbled, cooked, drained sausage.

Usually, I cook the stuffing in a crockpot on low, adding a little chicken broth if necessary from time to time to keep it moist. One can bake the stuffing in the oven, of course, but I like the crockpot better. And the oven is usually pretty full of other things, anyway.

For mashed potatoes, these are the best:


8 medium to large potatoes, peeled and cut up
8 ounces cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup sour cream
1/2 tsp. onion powder
Salt to taste
Parsley flakes

In large saucepan or dutch oven, combine potatoes and enough water to nearly cover them. Bring to boil; reduce heat, and cook, covered, 20 minutes or until potatoes are tender. Drain. Mash the potatoes, gradually adding cream cheese, sour cream, salt, and onion powder. Beat with electric mixer (or by hand if you prefer) until fluffy. Spoon into a greased 3-quart casserole dish. Sprinkle with paprika and parsley.
Cover and refrigerate overnight. *
One hour before serving, remove potatoes from refrigerator. Preheat oven to 350º. Bake potatoes uncovered for 45 to 60 minutes or until thoroughly heated.

Yield: 6 to 8 servings
* Potatoes can be baked immediately if you prefer to eat them the same day. Bake at 350º for 30 minutes or until thoroughly heated.

This recipe is a must for Thanksgiving and other gatherings when large amounts of people will be eating mashed potatoes. For our Thanksgivings when we have 20+ people, I usually double this or make 1 1/2 times the recipe.

For years I struggled with making turkey gravy, often resorting to packets of mix or canned or jarred gravy. The following recipe, which I found online, is just perfect and so easy. And it makes a lot, so gravy hounds can really enjoy themselves and ladle on the gravy to their heart's content. (On second thought, it's probably not all that good for their hearts...)


5 cups turkey stock with pan drippings
1 can cream of chicken soup
1 tsp. poultry seasoning
1/2 tsp. black pepper
1 tsp. seasoned salt
1/4 tsp. garlic powder
1 cup milk
1/3 cup flour

Bring the turkey stock to boil in a large saucepan. Stir in soup, and season with poultry seasoning, pepper, seasoned salt, and garlic powder. Reduce heat to low, and let simmer.

Warm the milk in the microwave, and whisk in the flour with a fork until there are no lumps. (Or shake the milk and flour together in a plastic shaker.) Return the gravy to a boil, and gradually stir in the milk mixture. Continue to cook, stirring constantly, for 1 minute, or until thickened. Be careful not to let the mixture scorch on the bottom of the pan.

For cranberry sauce, I am going to have a can of jellied sauce, but will do something with whole cranberries also. Last year we tried and enjoyed a baked cranberry sauce recipe from the Susan Branch e-newsletter. This year, I may make that again, but I'm also considering a cranberry chutney.

We have to have pie. Even for just a few people, I think it's nice to offer a choice of pie flavors. I am making three and a friend is bringing a key lime pie.

First, my best advice on pie crust:

(for a 1-crust pie)

1 1/3 c. flour
1 t. salt
1/3 c. canola oil
3-5 T. milk

Stir together flour and salt in a small to medium bowl. Measure oil into glass measuring cup, add milk to oil. Pour milk and oil into the flour/salt mixture. Combine with a fork till it forms a nice ball of dough. Take a wet dishcloth and wash off a section of your counter. Lay a large piece of wax paper on the wet area (so it’ll stick). Put the dough on the wax paper and lay another piece of wax paper on top. Roll out the dough to desired size and shape between the 2 pieces of wax paper. This works really well and saves you having to flour the counter!

For a double crust pie, use

2 cups flour
1 tsp. salt
1/2 cup canola oil
1/4 cup milk

Mix and roll out as above.

I have double or tripled this recipe with no problems. However, I do find that when doubling or tripling, I end up with an extra crust or two, so keep that in mind when figuring how much pastry you’ll need.

Many people think they wouldn’t like a pie crust made with oil. I always use an oil crust for my pies, and they always turn out well. I think an oil pastry is much less finicky than one made with shortening or butter; the dough is much easier to work with. And of course, a crust made with canola oil is healthier, too!

I should also add that many pastry-challenged people use the refrigerated, already-rolled-out sheets of pie crust, and they like them a lot. I'm too frugal to buy them, but I like them too.


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

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 450º for 15 minutes; then reduce the heat to 350º and bake 30 minutes more. Serve warm with cheddar cheese or ice cream on the side.

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.


1 9-inch unbaked pie crust
1 15-ounce can pumpkin
1 14-ounce can sweetened condensed milk
2 eggs
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. nutmeg
1/4 tsp. ginger
1/4 tsp. salt

Preheat oven to 425º. Combine all ingredients except pie crust in a large bowl and beat with electric mixer until well combined. Pour into crust.

Bake 15 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 350º. Bake pie for 35 to 40 minutes longer or until knife inserted 1 inch from crust comes out clean. Cool pie before cutting or serving. Refrigerate leftovers.

I have never really cared for pumpkin pie, I must confess. A couple of years ago I found the above recipe on line and I have never looked back. This one is truly delicious and so easy. I am going to top it -- as my friend Marilyn always tops her pumpkin pies -- with a baked pastry cutout in the form of a turkey.

The third pie I'm planning to make is a new one to me, but I like its festive appearance, and the recipe sounds quite simple. You can find the recipe here: Cranberry Dream Pie

If you would like to see more of my Thanksgiving recipes, do click on the "Thanksgiving" link in the word cloud of labels in the sidebar to the right. Enjoy!

I hope that these recipes, even if a bit last-minute, may enhance your family's Thanksgiving this year!

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Fall comfort food -- soup and bread

Steaming bowls of soup accompanied by hearty homemade bread -- this is some of our very favorite comfort food in our family! We could eat a different soup (or leftover soup) every day for quite awhile and not get tired of soup. Maybe in a few days I can get together some posts with recipes and links to more of my favorite soup recipes. Meanwhile, I will just share the links to what I prepared this past Tuesday evening. Both the soup and bread are somewhat unusual.

This Cream of Lentil Soup recipe was a new one for me. I kept seeing the recipe in a back issue of Country Woman magazine and was really intrigued by it. We love lentil soup, and I have a favorite recipe for it. But this Cream of Lentil one was so unusual, I just had to try it. It was delicious! The combination of flavors was subtle and yet complex -- it all added up to one very good soup. I used evaporated milk instead of cream. My only problem was that there really wasn't enough liquid (since one drains the cooking liquid from the lentils before assembling the soup) t o make it properly "soupy". I ended up adding some fat-free half & half to bring it to the right consistency. I'd definitely make this again.

To go along with this soup, I made an old favorite -- Herbed Oatmeal Pan Bread from one of the early issues of Taste of Home. I always seem to crave this bread in the fall. It's so hearty and rustic-looking.

What are some of your favorite soup and bread recipes?

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

A vintage find!

On our recent trip out west, our daughter took me shopping and out to lunch one day. It's always such a treat to spend special time with her, a busy mom of three. One place we visited is perhaps my favorite shop there in Elko, Nevada: a wonderful consignment boutique called Mishmash & Muddle. I like to visit this shop whenever I am in Elko, and have never yet left without purchasing something. The shop has a wonderful assortment of treasures, from clothing to dishes to jewelry to -- my favorite -- vintage linens. For the most part, the prices are extremely reasonable.

Here are my best finds this trip. Not sure if they are meant to be tea towels, napkins, or possibly even guest towels.

The price was only $2 each (as is; there are some stains and fold marks).

At first I hesitated, but then my daughter suggested they could be used in my Valentine decorating. Sold!

Friday, November 05, 2010

Two terrific Lo Mein recipes

I've recently tried a couple of delicious Lo Mein recipes and thought I would share the links. The first one, Ground Beef Lo Mein, I made several weeks ago and it was delicious. Super easy, too.

Then last night, I made this yummy Pineapple Chicken Lo Mein. It was not quite as easy, but still simple and very delicious. I have made this recipe before just as written, and it was wonderful. But this time I substituted a package of frozen stir-fry vegetable blend (just the Walmart store brand) for the green peppers and carrots called for in the recipe. We liked the flavor even better this way and it was easier than taking the time to cut up peppers and carrots.

If you're looking for something simple and a little bit different for a weeknight supper, give one of these great recipes a try!

Thursday, November 04, 2010

Last of the harvest

Yesterday, I pulled the carrots. They were the only things remaining in our little vegetable garden. We had harvested everything else before our vacation, fearing frost would come while we were away (which it did). A couple of nights ago the temperature went down to 20º, so I decided it was time to get the carrots out of the ground too.

We had planted a kaleidoscope mixture of carrots. I think they are so pretty, even though some are small and others quite misshapen. A couple of the purply-red carrots actually look like beets! (But one of them is cracked, so you can see the orange insides.)

This morning I gave all the carrots a good scrubbing. They look good enough to eat, and no doubt we will be enjoying them very soon!

I apologize for the blurry photos, but I sort of like this soft misty effect.