Friday, November 29, 2013

O Christmas Tree!

O Christmas tree, O Christmas tree!
How are thy leaves so verdant!
Not only in the summertime,
But even in winter is thy prime.
O Christmas tree, O Christmas tree,
How are thy leaves so verdant!


O Christmas tree, O Christmas tree,
Much pleasure dost thou bring me!
For ev’ry year the Christmas tree,
Brings to us all both joy and glee.
O Christmas tree, O Christmas tree,
Much pleasure dost thou bring me!


O Christmas tree, O Christmas tree,
How lovely are thy branches!
Not only green when summer's here
But in the coldest time of year.
O Christmas tree, O Christmas tree,
How lovely are thy branches!


O Christmas tree, O Christmas tree,
How sturdy God hath made thee!
Thou bidds't us all place faithfully
Our trust in God, unchangingly!
O Christmas tree, O Christmas tree,
How sturdy God hath made thee!


O Christmas tree, O Christmas tree,
Thy candles shine out brightly!
Each bough doth hold its tiny light,
That makes each toy to sparkle bright.
O Christmas tree, O Christmas tree,
Thy candles shine out brightly!


We hear this song each year, and it makes us think of those lovely trees we put up in our homes. Of course, our daughter had a different version of this when she was about 4 years old. Her version said, “O Christmas tree, O Christmas tree, how lovely are your britches!”

Gotta love it!

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Do you put up an artificial tree or go for the fragrant fresh variety? When I was growing up there was no such thing as an artificial tree, and I remember making the trip to the tree lot on the north side of town to choose just the right tree. We went to the same place each year, and it was such an exciting thing to do! Sometimes it was just my Dad, sister and me on our expedition. Other times Mom went along. And it was especially fun when it was snowing or had recently snowed. I still love that smell and miss the fresh trees, but the artificial trees are just so convenient.

If you plan to put up a fresh tree, here is some information:

Tree Varieties:

There are many varieties, but some will last longer than others. The longest-lasting would be the Fraser fir (about 6 weeks after cutting), the Scotch Pine and Douglas Fir.

When You Get It Home:

Keep the tree outside until ready to put into the stand. Cut a small piece off the bottom of the trunk and set it in a bucket of water until ready to bring it inside. This will allow it to soak up the water. Be sure to keep it watered – if not, a sap seal will close up the bottom of the tree and a new cut will be needed. The trees like lots of water, especially when first brought inside. It may absorb up to a gallon of water in the first 24 hours, and several quarts after that.

To Keep The Tree Fresh -

There are solutions you can buy to keep it fresh, but you can also make your own. 

TREE PRESERVATIVE

1/4 cup micronized iron (available at garden stores)
1 gallon hot water
2 cups light corn syrup
4 teaspoons chlorine bleach

Mix well. Replenish daily as needed. Makes 1 gallon.

(Hint: Place plastic under the tree in case of spills.)

Decorating the Tree -

Many people love to have “theme” trees, and others opt for a traditional style that includes decorations collected over the years. I love the old-fashioned trees full of color and variety. This brings to mind our year of the “Blue Christmas” – Mom decided to decorate everything in blue. Blue lights on the tree, blue ornaments, etc. It was pretty, but not something I’d want to do every year. 

As for lights on the tree, there are the mini lights or the big bulbs that have been popular for so many years. If you have questions as to how many mini lights you’ll need:

2 foot tree (35 to 50 lights)
3 foot tree (70 to 100 lights)
4 foot tree (100 to 140 lights)
6 foot tree (200 to 280 lights)
7 foot tree (315 to 400 lights)
9 foot tree (600 to 900 lights)

And do you remember the bubble lights? We loved those!

There are so many types of garlands you can use! I love the glass bead garlands as they look very old-fashioned. Here’s what you’ll need:

2 foot tree (15 to 20 feet)
4 foot tree (30 to 40 feet)
6 foot tree (50 to 75 feet)
7 foot tree (75 to 95 feet)

Tree Safety -

Trees love to be cool and out of drafts. Don’t put it near the fireplace or heat registers. Be sure all light cords are in good condition before using. Always unplug the lights when leaving the house or going to bed.

And how do you choose a good tree? Here are a few tips. Break off a couple of needles. If they snap crisply, the tree is fresh. If the needles bend they have no moisture. Another freshness test is to lift the tree and bump the trunk on the ground – if outer needles fall off, it’s not fresh. Also look for good color and fragrance.

Some Christmas Tree Facts -

The first recorded decorated tree was in Latvia in 1510.

Christmas trees are grown in all 50 states.

For each tree that is cut for Christmas, there are two or three seedlings planted. And on average about 2,000 trees are planted per acre.

Christmas trees take 7 to 10 years to mature.
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“When we recall Christmas past, we usually find that the simplest things – not the great occasions – give off the greatest glow of happiness.” 

(Bob Hope)
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On a totally different note - as National Caregivers Month comes to a close, please remember those who are caring for someone, either living in their home or in a facility of some sort, especially at this busy time of year. If you can be of help, offer it! Caregivers can always use a break....I know from experience!
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Your comments and suggestions are always welcome. Thanks for reading!






Thursday, November 28, 2013

Happy Thanksgiving!

I hope you’re all enjoying the holiday and that you are blessed with plenty – family, friends and food!

As children become adults with their own families and traditions, ours tend to change. We adapt and actually start making new traditions to fit everyone’s busy lives. We had our big family dinner last weekend due to busy schedules and plans, and it was so nice. There was lots of food and laughter as we visited and shared memories.

So today we’re having just a small family dinner, but it’s still a Thanksgiving feast – turkey, ham and all the trimmings – just on a smaller scale.

We had several desserts on Saturday, but this was my favorite. The recipe was recently in Taste of Home, and I adapted it a bit and used my mother’s pumpkin pie filling recipe. It’s one I always use, and it’s so spicy and delicious!

PUMPKIN PIE TARTS
  
1 package refrigerated pie dough, room temperature
1 (16 oz.) can pumpkin (not pie filling)
1 cup sugar (I used Splenda)
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 teaspoon ginger
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
3/4 teaspoon cloves
1 teaspoon cinnamon
3 eggs, slightly beaten
1 (6 oz.) can evaporated milk
1 cup milk
 
Crust:  Unroll dough. Roll to 1/8” thickness and cut into 4” circles. I used a plastic lid and cut around it with a knife. Place the circles into muffin cups that have been sprayed with cooking spray. You should have 16 circles. Re-roll dough as needed.
 
Filling:  Combine pumpkin, sugar and spices in a large bowl. Add eggs and milk. Whisk until well combined. Using a measuring cup with spout pour filling into prepared cups.
 
Bake at 425 degrees for 10 minutes, then lower to 325 degrees for 20 to 25 minutes, or until crust is brown and filling is set.
 
Remove from pan and cool. Refrigerate if not serving immediately.

Note: You will probably have extra filling - I did. Just pour it into sprayed ramekins and bake it along with the tarts until set in the middle. Pumpkin pie without the crust!
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Again, enjoy your day! Tomorrow....we move on to Christmas!
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Your comments and suggestions are always welcome. Thanks for reading!

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Just In Time for Thanksgiving - A Repeat Post

I hope you are all doing well and are looking forward to a great Thanksgiving with your family and friends. We're doing our family dinner this Saturday due to scheduling conflicts and family obligations, then will have a quiet Thanksgiving Day at home. I just finished a full day of grocery shopping and plan to do much of the food preparation tomorrow. There is a lot of work involved in these holidays, isn't there? But it's all worth it in the end when we sit down at the table and enjoy the meal while sharing old memories and making new ones!

This is a repeat of a recent post, and I hope you don't mind. It contains some interesting information and tips, followed by a delicious recipe that I'll definitely be making for Saturday.

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The holidays are on their way, and one of our favorite things to cook for those holiday dinners is sweet potatoes. Whether we roast, mash or candy them, these tubers are full of flavor and nutrients. The discussions as to whether we’re eating sweet potatoes or yams have been ongoing for quite some time. I’m hoping to provide some clarification as to which is which, along with some tips on selecting, storing and preparing sweet potatoes.



First, let’s clear up the questions as to differences between sweet potatoes and yams.

1) Sweet potatoes are a member of the morning glory family. They are short with tapered ends and a smooth, thin skin. There are 2 types of sweet potato, those with white flesh and others with orange flesh. They have a sweeter flavor and creamy texture.

2) Yams are related to grasses and lilies, and come from the yam family. They are primarily grown in Africa and some tropical areas. They have an almost black, rough and scaly skin, and their flesh is either white, purple or red. Yams are cylindrical in shape and can grow up to 7 feet long. Their flesh is more starchy and dry than sweet potatoes. They are in no way related to sweet potatoes, and are usually only found in international markets – if you’re buying them in a supermarket you’re actually buying sweet potatoes!

The USDA requires “yams” to also be labeled as “sweet potatoes”, thus leading to more confusion for shoppers.

Selecting and storing sweet potatoes:

1) Choose dry, smooth, clean potatoes.

2) Do not wash until ready to cook as moisture will lead to spoilage.

3) Store in a cool, dark place approximately 55 to 65 degrees. I store mine in a peach basket in a corner of the basement.

4) Do not refrigerate until cooked.

A bit of sweet potato history:

1) The sweet potato dates back to around 750 BC in Peru. Native Americans were growing sweet potatoes when Columbus arrived in 1492. The sweet potato was introduced to England by Spaniards, and were a favorite of King Henry VIII. They were then taken to France, where Louis XV and Josephine enjoyed them for a while, but when they lost favor with the royals they virtually disappeared. Spaniards brought the sweet potato to the Philippines, then they were taken to the Pacific, specifically China, then to Japan.

2) In WWI there was a wheat flour shortage, and sweet potato flour was used as a substitute.

Interesting information:

1) 80% of the world’s sweet potatoes are produced in China.

2) North Carolina is the top producer of sweet potatoes in the United States, with Louisiana, Mississippi and California following close behind.

3) Sweet potatoes are a great source of vitamins A and C, potassium and calcium. The vitamin A is great for your skin, and the potassium will help those pesky leg and muscle cramps!

I’m sure you have your favorite ways to prepare sweet potatoes. I recently had company for dinner and made candied sweet potatoes. I boiled them in their skins, then peeled and halved them lengthwise when they were cool and placed them in a single layer in a large baking pan. I made a glaze of sugar-free maple syrup, Splenda brown sugar, butter and cinnamon and poured it over the potatoes, then sprinkled them with chopped nuts. All they needed was about 30 minutes in a 350 degree oven, and they came out great.

My favorite sweet potato recipe, however, is one I’ve made numerous times, and the family loves it. It’s almost dessert!


SWEET POTATO CASSEROLE


4 pounds sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1" cubes
1 cinnamon stick
Boiling water to cover
1 cup dark brown sugar
1/4 cup maple syrup
1 stick unsalted butter
2 tablespoons vanilla extract
1/2 cup whipping cream
4 eggs, slightly beaten

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.

In a large saucepan, combine sweet potatoes and cinnamon stick in the boiling water. Reduce heat and simmer until potatoes are tender, about 45 minutes. Remove cinnamon stick and drain potatoes.

Pour potatoes into mixer bowl, and with a hand mixer at low speed add the brown sugar, syrup, butter, vanilla and cream. Switch mixer to second speed and add the eggs (potatoes should be cool enough not to cook the eggs). Pour mixture into a greased 9 x 13" baking dish, spreading evenly. Bake for 30 to 40 minutes or until a pick inserted in the center comes out clean.

Recipe from the local newspaper several years ago, submitted by 2 chefs who were also local restaurant owners.

Notes: I usually sprinkle the top with chopped pecans or decorate with pecan halves. This one is a must-have at our Thanksgiving dinner!
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Your comments and suggestions are always welcome. Thanks for reading!

Monday, November 18, 2013

City Chicken

A few nights ago I tried something new for dinner. City chicken has been around since the 1930s or so, but for some reason I hadn’t given it a try. I found it at the supermarket on sale, then looked online for ways people were preparing it. Here’s my version:

OVEN-BAKED CITY CHICKEN

1 pound city chicken (or 1 pound of pork, cubed with skewer inserted)
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1 tablespoon water
1 to 1 1/2 cups dry bread crumbs
1 tablespoon butter
2 tablespoons olive oil
baby carrots
1/2” thick onion slices

Mix flour, salt and pepper in a flat bowl. Combine the egg and water in a second bowl. Pour the bread crumbs into a third bowl. Dredge the meat in flour, then egg wash, then in bread crumbs, coating well. 

Melt the butter and add olive oil in large nonstick skillet. Brown the city chicken on all sides. 

Place carrots and onions in baking dish, using them as support for the city chicken – to keep it off the bottom of the pan. Place city chicken on top of vegetables. Add about 1/2 cup water (I seasoned mine with rosemary and pepper for flavor) to the pan. Cover with foil and place in 350 degree oven. Bake for 1 hour.

This was very moist and tender. Fluffy mashed potatoes, green beans and buttermilk biscuits rounded out this comforting meal.
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When reading about city chicken and its history, I learned that in the Depression era chicken was hard to come by in cities and places far from rural areas. Pork and ground meats were much less expensive, so people started shaping the meats onto skewers in the shape of a drumstick. This was also called “mock chicken”. Apparently, it was more prevalent in areas like Pennsylvania, West Virginia and well into northern Ohio.

I think this is definitely something I will make in the future!
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"Most folks are as happy as they make up their minds to be." - Abraham Lincoln
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Today is Mickey Mouse Day! Remember The Mickey Mouse Club? How we loved watching Annette and all her friends, as well as the songs and serial stories (Spin and Marty, etc.).

It's also Push Button Phone Day. A while back my grandson saw a rotary phone somewhere and was fascinated with how it worked. Things sure have changed, haven't they?

Tomorrow is Have A Bad Day Day - but I don't recommend it!
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Your comments and suggestions are always welcome. Thanks for reading!

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Something Free….

Christmas is 6 weeks from today, and I thought I'd send just a little touch of the holiday season your way! Enjoy!


A Visit from St. Nicholas
By Clement Clarke Moore
 
’T WAS the night before Christmas, when all through the house

Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse;

The stockings were hung by the chimney with care,

In hopes that ST. NICHOLAS soon would be there;

The children were nestled all snug in their beds,
       
While visions of sugar-plums danced in their heads;

And mamma in her ’kerchief, and I in my cap,

Had just settled our brains for a long winter’s nap,

When out on the lawn there arose such a clatter,

I sprang from the bed to see what was the matter.
       
Away to the window I flew like a flash,

Tore open the shutters and threw up the sash.

The moon on the breast of the new-fallen snow

Gave the lustre of mid-day to objects below,

When, what to my wondering eyes should appear,
       
But a miniature sleigh, and eight tiny reindeer,

With a little old driver, so lively and quick,

I knew in a moment it must be St. Nick.

More rapid than eagles his coursers they came,

And he whistled, and shouted, and called them by name;
       
“Now, Dasher! now, Dancer! now, Prancer and Vixen!

On, Comet! on, Cupid! on, Donder and Blitzen!

To the top of the porch! to the top of the wall!

Now dash away! dash away! dash away all!”

As dry leaves that before the wild hurricane fly,
       
When they meet with an obstacle, mount to the sky;

So up to the house-top the coursers they flew,

With the sleigh full of Toys, and St. Nicholas too.

And then, in a twinkling, I heard on the roof

The prancing and pawing of each little hoof.
       
As I drew in my head, and was turning around,

Down the chimney St. Nicholas came with a bound.

He was dressed all in fur, from his head to his foot,

And his clothes were all tarnished with ashes and soot;

A bundle of Toys he had flung on his back,
       
And he looked like a peddler just opening his pack.

His eyes—how they twinkled! his dimples how merry!

His cheeks were like roses, his nose like a cherry!

His droll little mouth was drawn up like a bow

And the beard of his chin was as white as the snow;
       
The stump of a pipe he held tight in his teeth,

And the smoke it encircled his head like a wreath;

He had a broad face and a little round belly,

That shook when he laughed, like a bowlful of jelly.

He was chubby and plump, a right jolly old elf,
       
And I laughed when I saw him, in spite of myself;

A wink of his eye and a twist of his head,

Soon gave me to know I had nothing to dread;

He spoke not a word, but went straight to his work,

And filled all the stockings; then turned with a jerk,
       
And laying his finger aside of his nose,

And giving a nod, up the chimney he rose;

He sprang to his sleigh, to his team gave a whistle,

And away they all flew like the down of a thistle,

But I heard him exclaim, ere he drove out of sight,
       
“Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good-night.”


Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Tip Tuesday - Turkey 101

Thanksgiving is getting closer and closer, and it’s time to get serious about planning the dinner menu. Turkey is the traditional meat for the day, but many folks have their own preferences based on heritage and custom.

This Tip Tuesday is all about buying, preparing and serving our favorite bird.

1) When buying a whole turkey, plan on 1 to 1 1/2 pounds per person.

2) To thaw a frozen turkey, place on a sturdy pan in the refrigerator. Allow 24 hours per 5 pounds of turkey. Do not unwrap.

3) After it’s thawed you can brine the turkey for at least 6 hours.

4) Unwrap the turkey, drain off liquid and pat dry with paper towels. The latest information says that poultry does not need to be washed – and that doing so promotes more bacteria and germs. Remove the giblets and save to cook for use in stuffing or gravy. Place the turkey on a rack in a sturdy roasting pan, at least 2” deep. Tuck the wings under and wrap the ends of the drumsticks with foil. Rub with butter or oil and season as desired. Now would be a good time to place aromatics in the cavity – onion, citrus, celery, apples, bay leaves, etc.

5) Roast at 325 degrees per the chart below:

Up to 7 pounds (2 – 2 1/2 hours unstuffed/2 1/4 to 2 3/4 hours stuffed)
7 to 9 pounds  (2 1/2 to 3 hours unstuffed/2 3/4 to 4 1/2 hours stuffed)
9 to 18 pounds (3 to 3 1/2 hours unstuffed/3 3/4 to 4 1/2 hours stuffed)
18 to 22 pounds (3 1/2 to 4 hours unstuffed/4 1/2 to 5 hours stuffed)
22 to 24 pounds (4 to 4 1/2 hours unstuffed/5 to 5 1/2 hours stuffed)
24 to 30 pounds (4 1/2 to 5 hours unstuffed/5 1/2 to 6 1/4 hours stuffed)

6) When an instant-read thermometer reads 180 degrees in the thigh, the turkey is done. Remove from the oven, tent with foil and let stand 20 to 30 minutes before carving. If stuffed, the stuffing should be at 165 degrees.

7) Cook the giblets in chicken broth seasoned with poultry seasoning (or the turkey rub mixture), cool and cut up for stuffing or gravy.

8) Handy tools would be the instant-read thermometer, of course, and a set of turkey lifters. A fat separator would remove the fat from the delicious drippings that you’ll use for the gravy.

9) When dinner is over, separate the meat from the bones and cool thoroughly.

Some other hints:

1) Make your mashed potatoes early in the day, but make them a bit thinner than usual. Pour them into a slow cooker sprayed with cooking spray and leave on low heat until serving time.

2) If there are lumps in your gravy, either strain it through a sieve or use an immersion blender to smooth it out. If it’s a little thin, a few instant potato flakes will help thicken it.

“Magic” Turkey:

I heard about this a year or two ago, but have actually never tried it. If you have, please share how it turned out for you! This one you start the night before Thanksgiving.

Simply prepare the turkey for roasting as above and place it in a preheated 300 degree oven. Roast for 1 hour, then turn the oven down to 165 degrees. Leave the oven closed and let it set at 165 degrees overnight. In the morning the turkey should be at proper serving temperature. And that leaves your oven free for all the other dishes.

I’d definitely be sure to check the temperature on this one. And don’t stuff the bird when doing this.

It seems there’s always a new idea for doing turkeys, but I stick with the old tried and true. In the past I’ve heard about roasting them in paper bags, roasting them breast-side down, and even butterflying them for quicker roasting.
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This is Geography Awareness Week – do they still teach that in school? It’s also National Hunger & Homeless Awareness Week, as well as World Kindness Week and National Young Readers Week.

Tomorrow is World Kindness Day. Thursday we’ll observe National Pickle Day and World Diabetes Day.
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Your comments and suggestions are always welcome. Thanks for reading!

Monday, November 11, 2013

Veteran's Day

Today I just have a big "THANK YOU" to all our military personnel, veterans and their families. Their dedication and sacrifice are much appreciated by all of us who have received the benefit of their service - our freedom.

Truthfully, we should show our appreciation every day, but a special day brings it to the fronts of our minds and reminds us to thank them all.



Friday, November 8, 2013

3 Weeks To Go!

I hope your week has gone well, and that you’re ready for a fun weekend. We don’t have any exciting plans as of now, but things could change, couldn’t they?



Thanksgiving is now less than 3 weeks away, and there’s a lot to do if you’re preparing the meal. I have some quick recipes that will add flavor and save last-minute fuss if you mix them up now. Give these a try!

TURKEY RUB

2 tablespoons rubbed sage or poultry seasoning
1 tablespoon paprika
1 tablespoon seasoned salt
2 teaspoons garlic powder
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
3/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg 

Mix together and store airtight.

I’d sprinkle some of this inside the bird, rub the skin with butter and rub with the remainder of the mixture. To the seasoned cavity add:

1 onion, quartered
1 orange, quartered
6 bay leaves

For a few years I’ve also added a quartered apple. This combination makes for a juicy, flavorful turkey.
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POULTRY SEASONING

1/2 cup dried parsley
1/4 cup rubbed sage
2 tablespoons dried rosemary, crushed
2 tablespoons  dried marjoram
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
3/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon onion powder
1/8 teaspoon ground sage

Mix well. For a finer texture, place in food processor or blender and pulse till desired consistency.
This would be great in the Turkey Rub (above) or in your stuffing.
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PUMPKIN PIE SPICE

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg

Mix and store airtight. 

Perfect for those pumpkin pies and tarts!
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To make your own seasoned croutons for stuffing, buy a loaf of day-old bread at the market. Cut it into 1/2- to 1-inch cubes. Preheat oven to 400 degrees, then turn off heat. Place the bread in a large zipper bag or bowl and spray lightly with cooking spray. Season with desired seasoning - I'd use poultry seasoning, parsley and a touch of garlic powder or Italian seasoning. Mix well and spread on pan sprayed with cooking spray. Place in oven and let set until crisp and dry. Season again if needed. Store airtight.
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 Night before last I mixed up these quick meatballs and served them with thin noodles. Pretty tasty.

MEATBALLS AU JUS

1 pound ground chuck
1 egg, lightly beaten
1/4 cup dry bread crumbs (more if needed)
1 small onion, finely chopped
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon dried thyme

Au Jus:

1 small onion, thinly sliced
1 tablespoon butter
1 packet dry au jus mix
3 cups water

Mix well and roll into walnut-size balls. Place on lightly greased baking sheet. Bake at 375 degrees for 10 minutes. Turn and bake another 10 minutes. 

For au jus, saute the onion in butter until translucent. Add the packet and 3 cups water and bring to a boil. 

Place meatballs in the au jus and heat thoroughly. Serve over noodles.

I got 20 meatballs from this recipe, but yours, of course, could vary depending on how big you make them. Also, if they’re larger they may take a bit longer to bake.
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“A lot of Thanksgiving days have been ruined by not carving the turkey in the kitchen.” 
 (Kin Hubbard)

“No more turkey, but I’d like some more of the bread it ate.” 
(Hank Ketcham)
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Your comments and suggestions are always welcome. Thanks for reading!

Monday, November 4, 2013

Preparing For The Holidays

By now we’ve all started thinking about the coming holidays – Thanksgiving and Christmas – and may already be feeling a bit overwhelmed by all there is to do. Organization and planning are the keys to an enjoyable, relaxing holiday season.

Start with a big calendar that has space for writing, as well as a note pad. Fill in events, appointments, parties, etc. on the calendar. Write everything that you need to do on the note pad. Then prioritize that list. Space chores so that there’s time for fun and rest!

First on the horizon is Thanksgiving. If you prepare the meal, whether it’s your first time or you’ve done it for years, you know there is a lot of work to be done before the actual cooking itself. After today you have 23 days to pull it all together. You can do it! Here are a few tips that might help.


Cleaning:

You’ll want the house to look nice for your visitors, but there’s no need to go to extremes. After all, they’ve come to see you and enjoy the festivities – not to see your house.

1) Put away excess “stuff”. Take out old newspapers and magazines. Clear off the kitchen counters (you’ll need that space!). If children are coming, put away precious breakables.

2) If the carpets are dirty, now is the time to have them cleaned or to spot-clean them yourself. Don’t wait until the last minute.

3) If you use fabric tablecloths and napkins, go ahead and wash them, then press. A good way to store them without fold marks is to roll them around gift wrap or paper towel tubes.

4) This is a good time to polish the silver if you use it.

5) Plan your table decorations. If you serve buffet style, you have much more room to decorate the table lavishly. Be sure the centerpiece is low enough that folks at the table can see each other. Let the kids pitch in to make the place cards – they’ll feel part of the special day.

If these things are done ahead of time, all you’ll have to do is touch-up the bathrooms, dust and clean the floors. And, of course, the cooking.

Organization:

1) Get started selecting the recipes you’ll use, then make your shopping lists.

2) Break down each recipe, listing tasks and planning when to do them. Much of the work can be done a day ahead, such as chopping vegetables, preparing gelatin salads, etc. Most casseroles can be prepared up to the point of being put into the baking dishes, then covered and chilled. Salad dressings can be made ahead. Plan desserts that don’t require last-minute preparations.

3) I keep the recipe together with non-perishable ingredients for each dish to be prepared. That way I don’t forget anything!

4) A timetable will help when it comes to finally baking casseroles and all the other dishes. Much of the time you’ll have dishes that need to bake at different temperatures for different amounts of time and, if you are like me, you have just one oven. Write down this information, then figure an “average” temperature for them all. Baking times can be adjusted to fit the new temperature. Just make sure everything is fully cooked. Of course, temperatures for some things like breads can’t be adjusted, so casseroles should be baked first and removed to keep warm while the bread bakes. Last year I roasted the turkey the day before and baked the ham in an electric roaster. That saved lots of time and dish-wrangling!

Most of all, enjoy the day and be thankful!

My son had an interesting suggestion: Find a good friend who is cooking and invite yourself for dinner! Well, that might be a good idea, but where are the leftovers?
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“As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them.”
(John Fitzgerald Kennedy)
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In preparation for Christmas…..

1) Pull out your Christmas card list and add/remove names as needed. Buy your cards and start addressing a few each night while watching television. Make sure you have stamps on hand.

2) Make a master list of gifts, parties, shopping, and all the things you need to do. Start organizing and prioritizing that list.

3) Start gathering your Christmas movies and music so they’ll be ready when you want to enjoy them.

4) Buy gift wrap, ribbons, tags, etc. And don’t forget the cellophane tape.
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“Christmas waves a magic wand over this world, and behold, everything is softer and more beautiful.”
(Norman Vincent Peale)
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Your comments and suggestions are always welcome. Thanks for reading!

Friday, November 1, 2013

Happy November!

Yes, it’s here. The year is 5/6 over, and the holidays are coming. There are numerous observances during the month of November, and you’ll find them listed on the “Holidays” page.

A couple that we certainly don’t want to forget are the end of Daylight Savings Time (2:00 a.m. Sunday morning) and Election Day next Tuesday. Be sure to set your clocks back on Saturday night – and don’t forget  to vote on Tuesday!

Also, November 11 is Veteran’s Day, and the 28th is Thanksgiving.

Today is *Give Up Your Shoulds Day, *National Authors’ Day, *National Family Literacy Day and National Go Cook For Your Pets Day.

Next week look for:

Saturday (2) – *Cookie Monster Day, *Plan Your Epitaph Day and Sadie Hawkins Day.
Sunday (3) Р*Clich̩ Day, Zero Tasking Day, *Sandwich Day and Jellyfish Day
Monday (4) – Fill Our Staplers Day, Job Action Day, *National Chicken Lady Day and *Use Your Common Sense Day
Wednesday (6) – *Saxophone Day
Thursday (7) – *National Men Make Dinner Day and *National Bittersweet Chocolate With Almonds Day (I like both of these!)
Friday (8) – National Walk To Work Day, *Cook Something Bold And Pungent Day, Domino Day, *National Parents As Teachers Day and *X-Ray Day
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I’m sure that soon we’ll all be going through our recipe files for those treasured Thanksgiving recipes, as well as recipes for treats and gifts for Christmas.

Have any of you ever lost your joy of cooking? No, I don’t mean the cookbook, but the actual joy of planning and preparing meals. I seem to have misplaced mine somewhere, and am trying very hard to find it. I think the routine of cooking every meal, and most times 2 different meals at once to meet various dietary needs in the house, has caused a bit of burnout. I’m hoping the holiday cooking will bring it back! With that idea in mind, I plan to pull out some cookbooks over the weekend and find some new things to try, as well as plan out some menus for the holiday gatherings to come. Wish me luck!
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“November comes
and November goes,
With the last red berries
And the first white snows.

With night coming early,
And dawn coming late,
And ice in the bucket
And frost by the gate.

The fires burn
And the kettles sing,
And earth sinks to rest
Until next spring.”

(Elizabeth Coatsworth)
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Your comments and suggestions are always welcome. Thanks for reading!