Thursday, November 19, 2020

Celebrating Thanksgiving

Dear Family and Friends,

    Three years ago in late October, we moved to Kalamazoo, far from anyone we knew.  When we settled in, we tried to find someone to come and eat Thanksgiving dinner with us because we were used to a large family gathering and thought that we would need that to feel happy about the holiday; but we were new here, and everyone had already made plans--so for the first time we prepared to celebrate Thanksgiving with only our own household.  We planned the menu, made the pies, and surprised ourselves at how this lovely small gathering of gratitude still felt joyful, pleasant and celebratory.

    I know this year is going to be different for lots of people.  Gatherings will be smaller, or will not happen, many spending Thanksgiving in their own homes, and some quite alone as we try to be safe from the pandemic.  I wanted to share some things I have learned about Thanksgiving, in hopes that it might help with your altered celebration.

    Thanksgiving is sacred to me, a true holy-day.  I didn't really understand this until I came to this new type of celebration.  As I spend time working to create an extraordinary meal for my family, it becomes contemplative. I spend time thinking about them, about the year that has passed, and because of some items on our menu, the harvest and preservation work that we have done.  I am filled with gratitude for the abundance. 

    The work is more, because we obviously don't have aunts and grandmas to fill in the menu, but we choose what we want to eat, and work for it just the same.  We often think of the people that made a certain dish--like Tiffany's pretzel salad, or Dave making the green bean casserole (which I believe he does in memory of when Aunt Lou used to bring it.) We remember the Gigantic Pot of mashed potatoes that Grandma Jacobson makes every year with boats of gravy. We miss them as we reminisce, but we are making our own mashed potatoes and we will rejoice in them too.

    The leftovers are more. Yes! this is the BEST part of having Thanksgiving with a small group: ALL the leftovers are at my house. There is no dish I have to think about wistfully because it drove home across town or to a different state. No! they are right here for my personal consumption happiness.  The kids have also loved this part. It makes Thanksgiving go on for days of picking turkey and reheating stuffing for afternoon snacks. Yum!

    We have made some new traditions. We make a big poster of all the things we can think of that we are thankful for.  Sometimes it is cute (if Leslie or Miriam make it so), but always it is crammed with the list of good things in our lives.  Family members add to it throughout the day. It is fun to read what they are grateful for this year. We try to set a pretty table; we put in a leaf (not for visitors to sit at, but to hold all the FOOD!) and take a picture of our meal to remember the dazzle of it all.  We make calls to family and we sometimes watch a movie or put together a puzzle.

    If you are planning your own Thanksgiving at home, here are some things that might be useful:

1) Plan your menu in detail and write it down. Consider your number of servings and your own stamina.  Creating a feast by yourself is plenty of work, so involve any available people.  Also, if you are serving just your family, ask yourself, "What do we really want to eat?" It might surprise you at the answer. I have one friend who eats steak for Thanksgiving. 

2) Make a shopping list consulting your recipes so you don't forget anything. Again, the details are what will make or break it. Consult your supplies so you don't run out of the regular bits, like butter.  Thanksgiving at my house takes lots of butter, eggs, sour cream and cream cheese.

3) Make a time plan, noting everything that can be made early.  I usually spend the day before on pies.  The real trick about Thanksgiving is getting everything hot at the same time, especially when the turkey has been 'hogging' the oven all morning. You can read more details about time plans here.

4) Find ways to reach out to those you love even if you can't be together. Talk to them about the things you are grateful for. Everything is happier when we focus on joy and gratitude.

5) Give thanks. God has provided again for us. This is precious time.

Here is another link that might be useful:

Thanksgiving Recipe Ideas

Blessings on your home and celebration!



Friday, August 7, 2020

Quick Buttermilk Rolls

These are delicious, soft, easy to work with and quick for a yeast bread...all the things you look for in a great recipe. Hope you love them too! This recipe came from a book called Country Living Recipes.

Quick Buttermilk Rolls
4 - 4 1/2 c. flour, divided
2 pkg. yeast (or 2 scant Tbsp.)
3 Tbsp. sugar
1 1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1 1/4 c. buttermilk
1/2 c. water
1/2 c. shortening

Combine 1 1/2 c. flour, yeast, sugar, salt, and soda in a large mixing bowl or the bowl of a mixer fitted with a dough hook. In a small, microwave safe container, combine buttermilk, water and shortening, microwave for 1 min. or until warm.  Gradually add milk mixture to dry ingredients, mixing at low speed with an electric mixer; then beat 3 min. on medium speed. Stir in remaining flour. Knead (by hand or in a mixer) until smooth and elastic, about 5 min. Cover and let rise in a warm place about 45 min. or until doubled in bulk.  Punch down dough. Shape into 1 1/2 inch balls; place on a greased baking sheet. Let rise another 20-30 min.until doubled again. Bake at 400 degrees for 15 min. Yield 2 dozen.

Notes: The buttermilk mixture will look a bit weird when you heat it, don't worry, that is normal. 

Thursday, July 9, 2020

Sweet 'n Hot Mustard

When I was quite small, because I remember the swing of my legs against the chair and looking way up to see my grandpa's face, I was introduced to hot mustard.  It was Thanksgiving day and I was seated next to my Grandpa Murdock who was passing food to me. When the hot mustard came by, he touched only the tip of the spoon to my plate, leaving a tiny puddle, and telling me, "That's all you need."  I tried it with my turkey. I remember how hot it was, but also that I kind of liked it.

I have tried making my own mustard different times, but last fall I found a recipe that has become a staple at our house, and one I now offer to others who enjoy this zesty condiment. We love it on ham, poultry, sub sandwiches and to dunk pretzels in, the ones from the store, or especially the homemade ones. We find new uses for it all the time because it is so good. Awesome with brats, so maybe make some for the summer grilling season and then some more for the turkey and ham holidays. The original recipe came from a Gooseberry Patch cookbook called Celebrate Autumn.  I have made some adjustments.

Sweet 'n Hot Mustard
2 oz. dry ground mustard
1/2 c. white wine vinegar

1 egg, beaten
1 Tbsp. molasses
1 Tbsp. honey
6 Tbsp. sugar
1 c. mayonnaise

In a small bowl, mix dry mustard and vinegar; cover and let stand for 8 hours or overnight.  In a small saucepan, mix egg, molasses, honey, sugar and mustard mixture.  Stir over low heat until thickened (about 5-7 min.). Allow to cool. Stir in mayonnaise; cover and refrigerate. Makes 2 cups.

Notes: This does have a thick, sticky texture. The original recipe stirs in about a teaspoon of mustard seed with the mayonnaise if you would like to try that. I have found it is cheaper to look for the dry ground mustard at places where they sell spices in bulk than to buy it at the spice aisle of the grocery store. If you are a real mustard maniac, and you want to double this recipe, you still only need to use one egg.

Wednesday, July 1, 2020

English Muffin Bread

I have tried making this before, but I had a rather disappointing recipe, so I am glad to find this one, it is a gem, being easy, fast, consistent and yummy. It works up like a batter bread; even though it includes yeast, there is no kneading.  It comes from the Comfort Foods cookbook our local library staff created.

English Muffin Bread
2 pkt. yeast (4 tsp.)
1 Tbsp. sugar
2 c. milk
1/2 c. water
6 c. flour, divided
2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. baking soda
cornmeal for sprinkling

1) In a large bowl, combine 3 c. flour, yeast, sugar, salt and soda, set aside.
2) Heat liquids until very warm.
3) Add liquids to flour mixture and beat well.  Stir in remaining flour to make a stiff batter.
4) Grease two loaf pans and sprinkle the bottoms with cornmeal. Spoon batter evenly into both pans and sprinkle tops with additional cornmeal.
5) Cover the pans and let rise in a warm place for 45 min.
6) Preheat the oven (do this about 20 min. before rise is finished) to 400 degrees. Bake for 25 min.
7) Remove bread from pans immediately and let cool on wire rack. To serve, slice and toast.

Notes: Let the bread rise until it is as tall as you want it, it doesn't get an oven spring. I like to eat one loaf and freeze the second for another day. I have also used powdered milk, 2/3 c. added to the dry ingredients and then add a total of 2 1/2 c. water. This is excellent with strawberry jam. Yum.

Thursday, June 4, 2020

Beef and Bean Taco Filling

My kids love crunchy tacos, and they can eat a mountain of them. I developed this recipe to make the ground beef stretch to fill more tacos, and it is delicious and hearty. If you want other recipes to help with eating meat on a budget, check out Stretch the Meat, Stretch the Dollar.

Beef and Bean Taco Filling
1 lb. ground beef
1 large onion, finely chopped
2/3 c. rolled oats
1 can black beans, rinsed and drained
1 can pinto beans, rinsed and drained
5 Tbsp. taco seasoning
1 1/4 c. water

In a large skillet, brown the ground beef and onion together. If you are using lean ground beef, add the oatmeal toward the end of browning. If you are using ground beef that will need the fat spooned off, brown it and spoon fat before adding the oatmeal, then give the oatmeal a few minutes to brown as you stir it around with the beef a bit.  When all of that is brown, stir in beans, taco seasoning and water and let it simmer about 10 min. Serve in taco shells with your choice of toppings.  Fills about 20 standard size tacos.

Notes: If you don't need this much for your family, you could cut the recipe in half, or you could just freeze the leftovers for a very fast second meal; heat and eat.

Wednesday, May 6, 2020

Coconut Cake

I have a coconut cake confession: I collect them.  Pictures of them mostly, but also from every Southern foods cookbook I own, there are always these beautiful, tall white cakes that look so scrumptious! But I don't generally make layer cakes. My life always seems to be a bit too pinched on time to really turn out a showstopper; also who knows if I can? Cakes can be fickle and to get a tasty, and tall, not-leaning-to-one-side cake is a feat. This cake is moist and tasty and I'm pretty sure wouldn't hold up to being made in layers because it is so soft, but yummy and pretty and starts with a mix.  My mother gave me the recipe, you will like it, I think. I do!

Coconut Cake
1 white cake mix
 3 eggs
1 c. Milk or coconut milk
1 c. Sour cream
1/4 c. Oil
1 c. Coconut
1 tsp. Vanilla
1 tsp. Coconut extract (opt.)

Mix all ingredients except coconut, beating with a hand mixer for 2 min. Stir in coconut. Pour into a greased 9x13 and bake at 350 for 30-35 min. Until top is golden and middle springs back when touched. Cool. (This will shrink a bit as it cools. Don't be nervous, that is what the frosting is for!)

3 Tbsp. Butter, softened
6 oz. cream cheese, softened
1 tsp. Vanilla
1 tsp Coconut extract
3-4 c. Powdered sugar
A little milk
Coconut for sprinkling on top

Mix butter and cream cheese and flavorings until smooth add 2 cups powdered sugar and a teaspoon or so of milk. Mix adding more powdered sugar and milk to make a good spreading consistency. Frost cake, sprinkle coconut on top.


Tuesday, April 28, 2020

Chicken and Potatoes with Feta

Our local library put together a little cookbook of the staff's favorite comfort foods and we brought it home to enjoy.  It is fun to play with a collection of homey favorites. We have tried several things, but this one was exceptional and should be shared. The original doesn't list amounts for  the main ingredients, so this is what I used, and you can adapt for your family.

Chicken and Potatoes with Feta
10 red potatoes, quartered
2 c. chicken, cooked and shredded
1 medium onion, chopped
4 oz. fresh mushrooms, quartered
2 cloves garlic, minced
4 c. fresh spinach
1 tsp. dried basil
1/2 c. feta cheese
1 c. Italian dressing
salt and pepper

Boil potatoes until fork tender, drain. In a large bowl, combine all ingredients and toss like a salad.  Place in a 9x13 baking dish and bake at  350 degrees for 30 min. Serve it with some French Bread.



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If you are visiting, welcome! I am in the process of a Vulcan Mind Meld with my computer to put all of my right hand recipes for feeding my family on here as fast as possible. Please come back often and stay awhile. There are so many exciting things to come!

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A clearing house for all my favorite recipes. All my food musings. All my favorite cookbooks and kitchen gadgets. If you enjoy it here, and find it useful, welcome!