Monday, November 28, 2011

Lesson Learned: Holiday Edition

I learned a few lessons this Thanksgiving weekend.

1.Making homemade dressing the very first time is a pain in the butt.
        -So I'm sure half of this is my fault but homemade dressing is a huge pain.  I hadn't fully read the recipe until Thanksgiving day.  Then the stupid onion wouldn't peel.  Tiny pieces came off at a time.  At this point, I was very frustrated and told Steve to peel it because I wasn't wasting anymore time on it.  I started chopping the celery.  We didn't put our last batch of onions in the fridge and I could tell.  My eyes stung chopping the onion.  I sat down to cut up the bread for the dressing and it turns out I made 2 loaves too many.  Go me.  I had decided to cut the stuffing recipe in half since there were only 4 of us.  In case you ever need to know, the 2-lb loaf my bread machine makes equals 9 cups of bread.  I put everything in the crock pot but didn't reduce the cooking time.  The dressing was slightly dryer than Grandma's.  I'm not sure I'm making this next year.  If I do make it for next year, I think I will cook it a day or two before Thanksgiving and warm it in the crock-pot the day of Thanksgiving.

2. OXO peelers are lethal.
         -Steve cut his finger last year peeling the potatoes.  I've cut my finger in the past peeling carrots.  This year I decided to peel the potatoes so Steve wouldn't hurt himself again.  I peeled the carrots and half of a potato before cutting my finger.  It hurt like hell.  It also causes your finger to gush blood.  I ran my finger under cold water and put pressure on it before Steve grabbed a band-aid for me.  I called my aunt to commiserate about the progress of my Thanksgiving and proceeded to nick my thumb.  The peeler is in a box for Goodwill.

3. Dancing when flouring your turkey bag makes the day a little better.
    -Yes, I dance at strange times.  I blame my mom.  Music was always blaring at home and she was usually dancing to it.  Not only was she dancing to it but she'd usually convince us to dance with her.  It's in our blood.  I also had a mixed CD blaring that contained a lot of 70's rock and 90's alternative music.  Dancing is bound to happen with that combination.

4. Small kitchens are not ideal for making a holiday meal.
      -My kitchen is tiny and I can't wait to be out of it.  Our dirty dishes took up the counter with the sink leaving the very tiny counters next to the stove for Thanksgiving meal prep.  I don't think I have to elaborate on why that's a pain.

5. Gravy turns out better when your mother-in-law helps you make it.
     -My white wine gravy turned out pretty good.  Or so people say, I haven't actually tasted it yet.  Linda whisked the drippings and the wine together as I poured.  I'm fairly certain this is why it turned out this year.

6. The 24-hours for every 4 pounds to thaw a turkey rule is a lie.  It takes longer than that.
     -Our turkey was just under 12 pounds.  I took it out of the freezer the Sunday before Thanksgiving and put it in the fridge.  This allowed 3 complete days in the fridge (not counting Sunday or Thanksgiving day).  Part of the turkey was still frozen on Thanksgiving day.  The directions to quickly thaw a turkey were to place it in cold water in the sink.  We placed it in the sink with cold running water and our turkey thawed.  It created unnecessary stress on Thanksgiving day.

7. Recipes given by family members are the best.
     -My cousin Angie gave me her pumpkin bar recipe after my previous blog post.  She doesn't give it out to very many people but offered it to me.  I'm proud to be among the select few that gets the recipe.  The bars are delicious and simple.  I made them for Steve's employees and they gave me the title of The Angel of Baking Everything.  Thanks Angie!

8. Delegate more food responsibilities next year.
    -After this year, I'm definitely going pot-luck for my next holiday.  Making all of the dishes is a lot of work and Linda had offered to bring food or help.  I'm filing that away in my memory for next year.  I think next year I'll have a list of the dishes I would like to have for Thanksgiving and ask family members to sign up for the dishes they want to make.

9. If your china is packed away, the white Corelle will work just fine and double as serving dishes.
     -Because we're moving in a few weeks, my guest bedroom is full of boxes.  I keep my china in the storage closet in the guest bedroom.  You can see where this is going, can't you?  The boxes are in the way of getting things out of the storage closet.

10. If your gravy boat is packed away, a Pyrex 2-cup measuring cup works just fine too.
    -We don't have a gravy boat or gravy ladle for every day use.  Pyrex is as good as it was going to get.  I found it slightly humorous.

11. Don't be depressed if you didn't have a fancy Thanksgiving table if the food tasted ok.
    -I'm disappointed my Thanksgiving table wasn't as fancy as I would have liked but that's the perfectionist in me coming out.  The food tasted good so that's all that matters... right?

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Get Your Game Face On

The countdown to Thanksgiving has begun and so have the preparations.  I'm hosting Thanksgiving again this year.  We're having a very small group.  David and Linda are the only guests that I know are coming.  Other family members are welcome since the smallest turkey available was 12 pounds.  We're going to be eating turkey forever... it's a good thing I like it.  My Thanksgiving menu is:

-homemade stuffing (Hey my side of the family, did you hear that? You can stop icking about Stove Top because this year, I'm trying to make the real stuff...enjoy Grandma's at her house.)
-cranberry sauce
-mashed potatoes and gravy
-green bean casserole
-veggie tray
-cheese and crackers
-lettuce salad
-pumpkin pie

I had a great idea to do prep all week long... Great idea, right?  The cranberry sauce was made Sunday.  I've made 2 loaves of bread for the stuffing.  I think I need 4.  The recipe says 18 cups of soft bread.  Hey, my side of the family, if I have left-over stuffing you're invited to come eat it anytime you want.  The bread machine made a loaf on Sunday and another yesterday.  Today I forgot to get it ready before we left to get groceries.  Bread takes over 3 hours... that was so not happening tonight after 7pm.  Linda did email and ask what she could bring or help with.  I told her to bring the rolls, cheese and crackers.  I've also delegated the mashed potatoes to her again this  year.  If she only did that, it would be enough.  I know how to make mashed potatoes but the smell makes me want to gag.  I haven't mastered making mashed potatoes and the angle my neck needs to be so the potato steam doesn't hit me in the face.  I hope I never get that mastered.  It just doesn't need to happen.

Tomorrow, I'm making the pumpkin pie (and the pie crusts), the squash and assembling the green bean casserole.  Oh and I work  7-4pm tomorrow.  I'm going to be tired.  I have Mike's Cranberry in the fridge as my reward.  Speaking of alcohol, I found a gravy recipe with white wine in it.  It sounds delicious.  And since my gravy was way too thick last year, I figured up the ante and make it more difficult to make, right?  I am aware that I'm crazy but it's the good crazy.  The good crazy always leads to a fun story.  The scary crazy leads to an interesting but potentially bad story... that's not me.

I'm going to have Steve help me make the squash.  I don't know how to make it.  He made it last year.  Squash usually doesn't make an appearance at my family's Thanksgiving.  Steve really likes it so it's becoming a traditional part of our Thanksgiving dinner.

I was watching the Food Network this past Sunday (shocking, right?) and Guy Fieri was making cranberry sauce.  His cranberry sauce had serrano peppers, orange juice and a chipotle pepper in adobo sauce among other things in it.  As he grabbed the chipotle pepper, he said "that's right.  it gets weirder as you go."  I so want to try this.  But I'm already being adventurous with my gravy and the homemade stuffing and didn't want to stretch myself too far.  Next year, maybe I'll give this a whirl and if it's good, I'll make an extra batch for Darcy.  Cranberry sauce is her favorite part of Thanksgiving.

My crock-pot will be housing the stuffing.  I'm so glad I got the big 6-quart crock-pot.  (Thanks again Nancy and Jen!)  I think I can make that day of but should probably chop the veggies for it and the turkey tomorrow.

As a surprise for Linda and because he likes them, Steve made refrigerator pickles for the veggie tray.  I hope they last until Thursday.  Last time he made a batch, they were gone within a day or two.  Again, I don't know how to make these.  Steve got the recipe from his mom.  The original recipe is David's mom's.  Linda found a very similar recipe in the Winthrop cookbook.  According to Steve, they taste exactly the same.  Isn't it fun when food is a part of your family history?  (Ok, it is to me... I'm weird.)  

And to add to my insanity, I'm making a few treats for Steve's employees since they have to work on Thanksgiving.  (A coworker offered to work for Steve so he has the day off.  Thanks Anthony!)  Steve's employees will get their treats on Friday.  I want to make pumpkin bars and a cranberry chutney.  The cranberry chutney is served over cream cheese and is eaten with crackers.  I really want to try it.  I might have to sneak a bite before I give it to them.  I don't have a recipe for the pumpkin bars yet... is that bad?

I've got my game face on.  Get ready Thanksgiving, I'm cooking and I'm going to kick your butt!

Friday, November 4, 2011

I'm dreaming of a...

Purple kitchen.  Steve and I are buying a house.  I had told him awhile ago that I wanted a purple kitchen.  He's a little scared.  He asked if I was going to paint all of the walls purple.  I think he was envisioning four walls painted Vikings purple.  I explained I didn't want that.  I want purple accessories and dishes.  I do plan on replacing my white Correlle with purple Fiesta Ware.  Any purple Fiesta Ware.  Younkers and Khols both carry Fiesta Ware and are located in Sioux City.  Neither store carries the current purple Fiesta Ware.  How is that possible?! I will find purple Fiesta Ware.  It's going to happen.  Both retailers have stores in Sioux Falls too.  I'm going to be checking those branches.  I will not be denied my purple Fiesta Ware.  Fiesta Ware has had many different purple shades through out the years.  I want any and all that I can get my hands on.  On the plus side of my search for purple kitchen accessories, I saw a purple casserole dish at Kitchen Dressings.  I took it off the shelf and showed Steve.  I also told him that it was a hint.

The kitchen is large and I can't wait to use it.  I've been dealing with small apartment kitchens for almost 10 years.  I want my big kitchen.  I need my big kitchen.  I will be able to do so much more cooking, baking and experimenting there.