Tag Archives: Thanksgiving

Stuffed

2 Dec

You know I love a little post-holiday recap so here it goes…

We hosted Thanksgiving again, and this year we had out-of-town guests (and for the first time house guests!), new friends and two babies at the table. Someone even got her very own Thanksgiving plate with turkey, gravy and all the trimmings…

That’s right, Emily’s eating table foods.

Turkey and gravy and stuffing, oh my!

How is it possible that Emily’s eating from the table and yet I’ve barely mentioned anything about eating solids on this blog? Probably because it was practically over before it began. After nearly 3 months of purees and carefully introducing foods one at a time, the doc gave us the OK to feed her what we’re eating (with a few exceptions, of course).

I suppose I could have posted a baby-food recipe or two, but making Emily’s food was really pretty simple. I didn’t have any fancy equipment or complicated recipes–just an immersion blender (the same one I use for soups), a steamer basket (the same one I use to steam our own veggies) and a couple ice-cube trays for storage–and Emily took to just about everything I made her.

She’s tried everything from blueberries and bananas to this chicken and even these pancakes. Heck, she’s even had my pumpkin pie.

Can’t keep the redhead out of the fridge–or pantry for that matter.

Almost everything that’s gone into her mouth has come straight from my kitchen. We tried a couple packaged baby foods while we were traveling, but we thought they all tasted like canned tomato sauce. So I made my own. Which, let’s face it, I probably would have done regardless.

I want Emily to know that food doesn’t (usually) come from a box or a can or a plastic wrapper. I want her to know that food comes from Mother Earth and that there are seasons and occasions and traditions associated with what we eat and when. I want her to know that what she puts into her body matters, and that food should be as minimally processed as possible. I want her to know that cooking is an act of love, but moreover it’s nothing to be feared; following a recipe, after all, needn’t be more complicated than following instructions on some package. The best foods are prepared simply and seasonally, and shared with those you love.

That’s why I adore Thanksgiving. It’s about from-scratch cooking, utilizing the season’s bounty and recipes that have been passed down through generations. I love that the fourth Thursday of every November we eat turkey…and stuffing and sweet potatoes and cranberries and all the trimmings. And we gather round the table with family and friends–9-month-olds and 86-year-olds alike—and give thanks.

For that I am thankful.

Psst! One year ago today was Emily’s baby shower! And at 9 1/2-months-old, Emily’s officially been OUT for as long as she was IN!

Thankful

26 Nov

Me and the baby on the big day.

You may remember that I kicked off my third trimester on Thanksgiving. I am sorry to report that even though I was eating for two, I was unable to make it to thirds. I did have a particularly hearty plate of seconds so I’d call that a victory.

We have a lot to be thankful for this year. We took time to jot down a few of these things throughout the month in our Thanks Jar. Here’s a sampling of some of the random things that made the cut. Oh, and if you’re wondering who Emily is, I’ll let you figure that out by process of elimination. ;-)

For IKEA – Jessica 

Garfield’s nail trimmers – Eric 

For our happy sunlight-filled home – Jessica 

For being woken up at night by coyotes howling in the desert – Eric

I am glad that Garfield keeps me company in the kitchen – Jessica 

I am thankful that Emily and Jessica are healthy and doing so well – Eric 

For feeling Emily kick! – Jessica 

For lazy Friday nights at home – Eric 

I am thankful that I was able to go for the “big” walk – Jessica 

Jessica is going for longer walks with me – Eric

For Danny – Jessica (regarding our nephew)

That our house is getting cleaner and more organized – Eric 

For Eric’s hard work around the house – Jessica 

Janelle and Wes are getting married (soon!) – Eric (regarding his sister and future brother-in-law who will be wed on 12.12.12!)

I’m so glad Emily is going to have such a fun dad! – Jessica 

While it probably won’t snow here this winter, it’s going to be a flurry of activity around these parts as we take our prenatal classes, decorate the nursery, stock up on baby stuff, celebrate the holidays, and try to get as much done around the house before our little Valentine arrives.

Yes, it’s official, we’re nesting.

But don’t worry, there’s bound to be time for some holiday baking somewhere in there. I am eating for two, after all.

This week, however, I’m taking a break from food blogging and will be giving you a sneak peek into our desert abode (you know, other than our kitchen) with two posts featuring let’s-get-this-done-before-the-baby-gets-here projects that we crossed off our list over the long weekend.

Somebody hand me Eric a hammer.

Veggie Minestrone Soup

21 Nov

I’ve taken to making a soup in the final days leading up to Turkey Day. Last year, it was this one and this year I had big plans to make a veggie minestrone soup I bookmarked a couple of months ago.

OH. MY. GOODNESS.

This is hands down one of the best soups I’ve ever made or had. My impetus for making it was that I wanted to use the last bit of a Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese rind and this soup called for a two-inch chunk. And while that imparted a lovely flavor, this soup was so much more complex than that.

It’s unlike any other minestrone soup and it all starts with the flavorful white beans. I cooked dried navy beans in the Crock-Pot (you could also do it on the stove) with garlic and a bit of salt and the broth it produced was out-of-this-world good. I was wondering how “brothy” the soup was going to taste since it used water in lieu of vegetable or chicken broth, but the bean-broth base was my first clue that this was going to be an extra-special soup.

The addition of carrots, celery, onion, garlic, fresh tomatoes, sage, bay leaves, macaroni, rainbow chard–and that cheese rind–did this soup proud. We lapped it up between high-fives and decided then and there that this soup was going into our regular rotation.

And if that wasn’t enough, it also earned bonus points for having a subtle essence of Thanksgiving. Warm, homey and autumnesque, it was basically November in a bowl.

Happy cooking to you and yours this Thanksgiving!

Veggie Minestrone Soup

Makes 5 or 6 servings

For the beans:
1 cup dried navy beans
4 large garlic cloves, minced
1/2 teaspoon salt

For the soup:
2 to 4 tablespoons butter
2 large garlic cloves, minced
2 carrots, peeled and diced
1 small onion, diced
2 celery stalks, thinly sliced
Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
1 cup fresh tomatoes with their juices, diced (canned is fine, too)
1 bay leaf
1 1/2 teaspoons ground sage
2-inch piece Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese rind (optional, but it does add a wonderful flavor)
2 cups packed shredded kale or chard
1 cup macaroni
Grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese for garnish

To cook the beans, soak overnight (or for at least 4 hours). Drain the beans, rinse well and transfer to a large soup pot or Crock-Pot. Add garlic, salt and at least 4 inches of water (the more water you use, the more broth you’ll get). Cook on high in a Crock-Pot for several hours (no pre-soaking is required if you have time on your side) OR simmer for 1 to 1 1/2 hours on the stove until tender. Save the broth–I ended up with 2 cups.

Heat a large soup pot over medium heat. Melt the butter and cook the carrots, onion and celery, stirring often, until the vegetables start to soften and brown, 3 to 4 minutes. Season with salt and pepper while the veggies are cooking. Add the garlic and cook for one more minute.

Add the tomatoes, bay leaf, sage, cheese rind, bean broth and enough water to cover the vegetables by several inches (I added 5 cups) and simmer, uncovered, for 30 minutes. Season with additional salt and pepper during this time.

Meanwhile, cook the pasta according to the package’s instructions and set aside.

Lastly, remove the bay leaf and add the cooked beans, pasta and greens and simmer for 20 to 30 minutes more.

Ladle into individual bowls and sprinkle generously with Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese and serve.

Some of the broth will get soaked up as the soup rests in your fridge. Not to worry: just add a bit more water to thin it out as needed. You can leave the cheese rind in with the leftovers or discard it–just be careful not to ladle it into someone’s bowl.

Adapted from cucina nicolina

Cranberry-Apple Smoothie

15 Nov

Cranberry Apple Smoothie

Even though I still have plenty of summer fruit stocked away in my freezer for smoothie-making purposes, I wanted to make a fall version of my favorite summer smoothie.

I had frozen cranberries and fresh apples on hand, so this is what I came up with. Bananas, cranberries, apples and milk came together to make an autumnesque smoothie. The result was a fun take on the usual.

It was a pretty good stand in, really, the only major difference being you could taste the texture of the apples. This seemed a little strange at first, but after the initial couple of sips, it went down just fine.

We served it alongside Waffles of Insane Greatness for dinner last night (yep, we’re occasional breakfast-for-dinner kind of people). I get pretty excited about anything that’s not milk, water, juice or decaf tea these days–my pregnancy liquid mainstays.

But mostly I’m just biding my time until Turkey Day …

Cranberry-Apple Smoothie

Makes two smoothies

1 large frozen banana, roughly chopped

1 cup frozen cranberries

1 apple, roughly chopped

1 cup milk

Place all ingredients in a blender and blend until smooth. Top with additional cranberries for garnish if desired.

Orange and Cinnamon Cranberry Sauce

8 Nov

Orange and Cinnamon Cranberry Sauce

T-minus 2 weeks till Turkey Day!

This is very exciting news for a pregnant woman who will be kicking off her third trimester on the big day. Bring on the turkey and all the trimmings! I’d like to personally thank the clothing industry for inventing maternity pants as I fully plan on utilizing their elasticity to have thirds this year. (I always plan on having thirds, but never make it past seconds. This is the year!).

I’ve mentioned before that I’m a traditionalist when it comes to Thanksgiving fare and prefer not to mess with a good thing. But sometime last winter, I got tired of my staple cranberry sauce and tried a new recipe. And WOW. While the other one was a huge step up from the stuff in the can, this took it to another level.

I served it alongside mac and cheese on election day. Is that a combination that only a pregnant woman could come up with? Maybe. If so, thank you, Eric, for putting up with my occasional strange food combinations. At least I’m not eating pickles and ice cream.

Orange and Cinnamon Cranberry Sauce

Makes 5 or 6 servings

1 bag of fresh cranberries, washed and drained
1 cup sugar
1 cup dark brown sugar
1/3 cup of water
1 cinnamon stick (or 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon)
1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 orange, zested and juiced

Place cranberries, sugars and water in a medium saucepan. Heat until boiling and then reduce to a simmer. Immediately add in cinnamon stick, nutmeg and allspice. Let simmer for 8-10 minutes. Remove from heat and remove cinnamon stick. Stir in orange zest and juice. Allow to cool completely before serving as the sauce will thicken.

Recipe from Cake and Allie

Psst! On another Thanksgiving note, we’re doing our Thanks Jar again this year. I’ll probably share a few of our favorites over the holiday weekend.

Thanksgiving Day

26 Nov

Our first Thanksgiving in our new home was everything we hoped it would be and more. It was filled with good food, good company and good memories. It is a day we won’t soon forget.

Studying the family stuffing recipe

Mixing the stuffing!

My dad has always cooked Thanksgiving dinner so we teamed up together (thanks Dad!)

Pretty table (with our “Thanks Jar” centerpiece)

 

Eric carving the turkey (yes, he’s wearing a lederhosen apron)

The next morning, we read the notes of gratitude from our “Thanks Jar” over a pot of tea. Some were funny and some were sweet. Some were about the little things in life, and others were about big things. We really enjoyed reading each other’s notes from the past two weeks and were surprised how many of our “top-secret” notes matched up. Here’s a random sampling:

For a working garbage disposal (and a handy husband!!) – Jessica

Our garbage disposal actually works! – Eric

Finding our forever home that is perfect in every way – Jessica

The view from our backyard – Eric

I am thankful that Eric does the grocery shopping (and that he likes it too!) – Jessica

Time to spend with family – Eric 

I am thankful that Garfield is settling in so well – Jessica

I’m thankful that my wife wanted a CAT :) – Eric

Our first turkey

I am thankful for our first Thanksgiving in our new house – Jessica

I’m thankful that our first Thanksgiving went so well – Eric

As I write this, Eric is stringing up Christmas lights and I’m about ready to start writing our annual holiday letter to our family and friends. Oh, how time flies!

Hope your Turkey Day was everything you hoped it would be and that you enjoy the holiday season ahead. And if you need holiday entertaining recipes, you know where to find them …

How to Make Pie Crust

18 Nov

How to Make Pie Crust

Turkey Day is less than one week away! I have a menu and a shopping list. I have a working garbage disposal (more on that from Eric soon). A new microwave is on the way. I do not have a turkey. Maybe I had better get on that. I had a nightmare the other night that I bought a frozen turkey, but there wasn’t enough time to thaw it before Thanksgiving. I guess that’s where the new microwave comes in. Better yet, maybe I should buy a fresh turkey.

Last year, my sister had turkey nightmares before hosting her first Thanksgiving; she dreamed that she went to buy a turkey at the grocery store and everyone was blocking her access to the birds. I guess turkey anxiety is normal.

What I lack in the turkey department, I make up for in the pie department. I have four pie pumpkins (I only need one; we’re just stocked up for the season) and I’ve already made the crust dough.

Have you ever made homemade pie crust? People think it’s hard, but it’s EASY!

Do you have flour, butter, a few spoonfuls of sugar and a pinch of salt? Then you can totally make this easy pie crust!

My recipe comes from my mom, which comes from her mom, which comes from her mom. There are lots of tutorials out there about how to make the perfect pie crust that involve certain ingredients being at certain temperatures, et cetera. This recipe isn’t fussy. Use butter, or shortening. Chill the butter beforehand, or not. Add two tablespoons of sugar, or five. Add a pinch of salt, or not. Chill the dough for 20 minutes, or for 2 hours.

It isn’t rocket science. It’s pie dough.

I usually follow the recipe below, which I know by heart. Please know that I probably make it ever so slightly different each time. I add the salt and sugar to taste. Sometimes I forget the salt completely (no biggie). I’ve made it with Crisco, and I’ve made it with butter (these days, I lean toward the latter). You can make your own small adaptations, but if you follow this foundation, you will have delicious, flakey homemade crust.

I promise you that it will be easy and that it will be GOOD. It will elevate your Thanksgiving pies, whatever they may be. Plus, you can make it ahead of time.

Then you can worry about more important things … like turkeys.

“Easy-as-pie” Pie Crust

Makes enough dough for one 9-inch pie

1 cup all-purpose flour

1/2 cup butter (1 stick)

1/4 cup water

2 tablespoons of sugar

1/8 teaspoon salt

Grease a 9-inch pie pan with butter. Set aside.

Mix all ingredients together by hand until dough is easy to work with. If it’s too dry, add a splash more water. If it’s too wet, add another tablespoon of flour. Refrigerate for at least 20 minutes before rolling out.

Be sure to flour your rolling pin and cutting board prior to rolling out the dough (to prevent it from sticking). Roll the dough as thin as possible and transfer to pie pan. Use a fork to poke a few small holes in the bottom. Fill with desired filling and bake!

If you’re scared to make your own pie crust (or know someone who is) please try (or share) this recipe. Homemade crust makes the pie!

*Nerdy disclaimer: Piecrust is one word, but popular use is two words. I may be a baker by night, but I’m an editor by day. Got to pay for butter and flour somehow, right?

Giving Thanks

13 Nov

We have a lot to be thankful for this year. In less than two weeks, we’ll be celebrating the first Thanksgiving in our new house complete with turkey, stuffing and all the trimmings.  Our travels for the year are over (except for a trip to the North Pole up north to chop down our Christmas tree) and we’re finally settling in to this desert abode of ours.

As we look back on this whirlwind of a year and look forward to the holiday season and year ahead, it seemed appropriate that we pause to reflect on a few things we are thankful for. I bookmarked this link last year (since Pinterest wasn’t around yet) and bought a pretty glass hurricane jar and some autumn-colored scrapbook paper this week.

The idea is that we write down one thing we are thankful for every day leading up to Thanksgiving. We started on Thursday, which means we’ll have 15 notes each (30 total) to read on Turkey Day. The burnt orange and fiery red papers look so festive in there that we’re considering making it part of our Thanksgiving table centerpiece.

We’re hoping to make this a tradition in our new home, archiving the notes of gratitude each year. It should be a neat way to look back on years past and something fun that future kiddos can participate in.

We’ve promised each other that there won’t be any peeking till Turkey Day, but I have a feeling we were both thankful for the same thing yesterday.

On an otherwise cloudy day, we brought home this little ray of sunshine. His name is Garfield and he LOVES belly rubs. He’s a little shy, but we have a feeling we’ll coax him out of his shell. Right now, he’s most comfortable on the first step of the top of our stairs, which is where we took this picture. Last night, it was hard to distinguish between the pitter patter of the rain and the pitter patter of Garfield prowling around house (at least the upstairs part).

We think that he’s going to enjoy the smell of turkey roasting in the oven in a couple of weeks. And for that we are thankful.

Psst: You can read a few of the notes we included in our Thanks Jar here.

Cranberry Sauce

10 Nov

cranberry sauce

It’s two weeks till Turkey Day!

We’re hosting this year. Gulp. It’s our first Thanksgiving in our new house and as is tradition for new homeowners in my family (started by my sister and brother-in-law who hosted Turkey Day the first year in their new digs), our casa has been designated turkey central.

I’ve been thinking about the menu and am drooling over the New York Times’ Thanksgiving section. But as much as I love trying a new recipe, I’m a traditionalist when it comes to Thanksgiving.  Turkey. Stuffing. Sweet Potatoes. Green Beans. Mashed Potatoes. Gravy. Rolls. Cheesy CauliflowerPumpkin Pie

And cranberries.

For many years, we had cranberries out of a can. But a couple of years ago, my mom bought a bag of fresh cranberries and made them from scratch. And guess what? It was easy. Almost as easy as opening a can.

Now, they’re the new cranberry staple on our Thanksgiving table. And my mom is bringing them to our house this year. Maybe trying new recipes on Thanksgiving is a good thing.

The best part? They don’t have to be relegated to Thanksgiving only. Fresh, hot-of-the-stove cranberries make a lovely accompaniment to fall roasts, soups and stews. They will make your house smell divine and whet your appetite for Thanksgiving.

Cranberry Sauce

Makes 4 cups

1 12-ounce bag of cranberries*

1 cup sugar

1 cup water

*Cranberries freeze well and disappear from grocery stores after the holidays so you might want to stock up. It’s not necessary to thaw the cranberries prior to cooking them.

In a medium saucepan, bring the sugar and water to a boil. Reduce heat to medium and stir in cranberries. Simmer for 5-8 minutes until most of the berries have popped open. Remove from heat and serve immediately or refrigerate. It will gel a bit in the fridge and take on a more traditional consistency.

P.S. Today we started a new Thanksgiving tradition leading up to Turkey Day. Tune in this weekend for details!