Thanksgiving 2016

As the years go by so do changes become more noticeable. Over the years, we have had a person unable to come here and there but there was always next year to look forward to for everyone to once again gather around the table and share food and conversation. Children, however, seem to have grown by leaps and bounds and making their own ways in life. This year, we were missing my older daughter who now lives too far away to come home for a mere dinner. My older son hasn’t made it home for a Thanksgiving in almost nine years. Now, the ‘baby’ of the family had to work on Thanksgiving Day although we did take him a care package of all the fixings the next day.

Our favorite family has shared the holiday with us for probably going on almost ten years now. Their mother and their youngest were not there and missed a lot. The mother was working and the ‘baby’ of her family is now in the convent. BUT, we were joined by a future member of their family, their daughter’s fiance.

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Once the food was set before us, we coped with out them and ate well and happily!

Every year finds me trying one or two new recipes, usually in the dessert department. This year, it was a banana cream pie with layers of said fruit, caramel, and homemade graham crackers with generous portions of fresh, whipped cream. The other one was a cheesecake baked with a layer of pumpkin.

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The day was good, the food was good yet it finished with a bit of nostalgia with all the changes in our lives and the quick passing of time. God is good!

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Preparing for Thanksgiving – The Day Before!

Well, my list and step-by-step notes looked a lot easier to accomplish then the actual work. Why is that? Could it be that laundry, children needing to get here and there for work, and stopping for needed nutrient re-enforcement had something to do with that? Well, we started the morning off with Mass so I suppose things could have gone way wrong or become more tiresome than normally expected. Anyway, done for the day although my poor husband is mopping floors to do. And, like a puzzle, we actually found room for most of today’s dishes in the refrigerator. We have, however, learned to never expect that to be easy and have ice chests standing by for anything that might not make the A-team in the modern appliance.

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Today, was dessert baking day. Since we have gone gluten-free, I’m always looking for the perfect pie crust recipe. Every year, the pie crusts have been more than adequate but not up to comparing with it’s wheat flour version. This year, success! I was even able to bake a crust for filling with chocolate/peanut butter custard and it turned out tender and flaky. Once I saw I was finally on the right track with this gluten-free recipe, it made baking the pumpkin and pecan pies more enjoyable. There is also an apple crisp cooling on the counter for anyone who doesn’t like any of the other choices . . . or wants some of EVERY choice available. It happens at Thanksgiving.

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I read that people generally consume a bit more calories at Thanksgiving. Wow, they figured that out, huh? Seems the calorie count can get up to 5,000. I went with some healthier choices on the menu this year and have three salads ready for tomorrow, too.P1010057

Our new kitten, Buster, doesn’t get up on counters or into too much trouble but is enjoying all the hustle and bustle going on today. Wait until he gets to try his first bit of turkey tomorrow.

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Quick Almond Toffee Bites

Sharing with you my quick and easy recipe for coming up with a last-minute gift or a hostess gift to bring to a holiday party . . . or to make for yourself and indulge.

Quick Almond Toffee Bites

1 ½ sticks butter, no substitutes
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup brown sugar, packed
1 cup toasted and coarsely chopped almonds

Melt the butter and sugars together in a pot and bring to a rolling boil. Maintain the rolling boil for five minutes, stirring constantly. Add the nuts, bring to a rolling boil and continue for another five minutes, stirring to prevent burning.

Spread the mixture on a sheet of greased foil (heavily use Pam or any other vegetable spray.). Sprinkle with chocolate chips and spread out as they melt. Put in the refrigerator until set. Break into pieces and store in a closed container in a cool place.

Three Days to Prepare – One Hour to Eat!

Cooking dinner for Thanksgiving is a gift of love from the cook to the family and guests at the dinner table. . . and I wouldn’t change the process one, little bit.
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Preparing for a Thanksgiving meal isn’t hard but it takes time, planning, and about three days to pull it all together. Today, was day one. And, yes, I’m a great one for making lists for anything I have to do in life. Thanksgiving requires a few more than one list. I need a grocery list, a dinner plan, and a cooking schedule. The background list to all this is what cleaning up around the house and yard need particular attention. Yesterday, was shopping day and, as usual, Tuesday is the beginning of the cooking and shopping to pick up what escaped the list yesterday.

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Today was the simpler day. First thing this morning I put a bit pot of water, vegetables and turkey necks to simmer all day. This is my basis for making the gravy and for moistening the dressing. Baking started as one can’t make dressing without bread and we are gluten-free so I make the bread myself to keep everyone healthy. Cranberry/Apple sauce is now chilling in the refrigerator. No canned jelly stuff around here. It has too much sugar and I like to be able to taste the fruit.

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Salads always make an appearance at the Thanksgiving table so the beet salad is marinating in a dish in the refrigerator awaiting some last-minute seasoning on Thursday. The apples for the Apple Crisp have been peeled, sliced, and are soaking in sugar, lemon, lime, and cinnamon.

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Tomorrow, things heat up a bit as I have three pies to make besides baking the Apple Crisp.

Thanksgiving Side Dishes – Recipes!

Although turkey is the centerpiece of a Thanksgiving meal, I’ve noticed that any and all side dishes get almost as much attention. Sweet potatoes are always on the menu but often change their presentation from year to year. This is a recipe that cuts back on the calories a bit (sorry, no marshmallows!) but still has all the taste.

Pecan Sweet Potatoes

3-6 yams or sweet potatoes (depending on how many will be gathering around the table.)
½ cup packed, dark brown sugar
½ cup butter, melted
1 cup roughly chopped pecans
2 teaspoons freshly grated orange zest
1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Peel, slice, and simmer sweet potatoes until just tender. They will finish off the last bit of cooking in the oven.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Vegetable oil a baking dish large enough to contain your sweet potato slices.

Combine the brown sugar, butter, pecans, orange zest, and cinnamon in a bowl. Mix well.

Place half the sweet potatoes in the prepared baking dish and spread half of the brown sugar/butter mixture over them. Cover with the rest of the potatoes and cover with the rest of the brown/sugar mixture.

Bake for 20-30 minutes, uncovered until there is a few brown edges and the potatoes are fork tender and heated through. Serve!
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And, if you are tired of mashed potatoes or want to provide something extra for those who want something to go with the ham, Scalloped Potatoes make the meal smell most welcoming.

Scalloped Potatoes

5-6 medium white potatoes
½ cup butter
1 teaspoon freshly-ground black pepper
½ teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour or gluten-free flour blend
2 cups shredded sharp cheddar cheese
½ cup shredded Romano or Parmesan cheese
1 cup whole milk

Peel and thinly slice the potatoes

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Vegetable oil spray a deep, oblong baking pan or one of your choice that will accommodate the ingredients.

Place half of the potato slices in the prepared baking dish. Slice up the butter and put down half over the potatoes. Sprinkle one tablespoon of flour or flour blend over the butter and cover with 1 cup of the cheddar and 1/4 cup of the Romano or Parmesan. Sprinkle with half the salt and pepper. Cover with the rest of the potatoes and ingredients. Carefully pour the milk over the potatoes, cover, and bake for 45-60 minutes until fork tender. For a brown top to the dish, remove the cover for the last ten minutes of baking.

Thanksgiving Thinking . . . Snacking Oatmeal Cookies!

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November first shows up and you know it is countdown to Thanksgiving. I try and plan ahead but there are always last-minute panic attacks that disappear once the turkey exits the oven and friends and family are nothing but happy with the holiday food placed in front of them. The days leading up to the feasting day can be testy, however, My thought is making a big batch of something fun and sort of healthy to ward off unhappy ‘spirits’ as they get anxious for the real day and are tired of quick meals in order to make time for the big, Thursday meal in November.

My favorite go-to snack has always been oatmeal cookies! I have a multitude of recipes but this is one of my favorites. They go together easily and if things get really testy in the preceding days, I’ve found that sandwiching two  cookies around a small scoop of ice cream is a miraculous tonic.

Barbara’s Favorite Oatmeal Everything Cookies

Recipe:
1 cup butter, softened
1 cup brown sugar
3/4 cup granulated sugar
2 eggs, well-beaten
1 Tablespoon (yes tablespoon) vanilla
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
3 cups oatmeal (quick cooking or old fashioned, not instant)
1 cup raisins or dried cranberries
1/2 cup chocolate chips
1/2 cup chopped pecans
Zest of one orange

The key is to soak the raisins or dried cranberries. This makes all the difference in the world. Beat eggs and vanilla together and then add the raisins or dried cranberries, stir. Soak for about an hour.

Directions:
Preheat to 350 degrees

Cream butter and sugars until light and fluffy. In a separate bowl combine flour, salt, baking soda, cinnamon, ginger and nutmeg. Stir the dry ingredients until well blended. Add dry ingredients to creamed mixture and mix well. Now add in the egg and raisin or cranberry mixture. Then add oatmeal and chocolate chips/nuts. zest and combine well. Form into balls on cookie sheet. Bake 10-15 minutes. Let cool on cookie sheet for 2-5 minutes or until firm enough to transfer to wire rack.