Thursday, November 24, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving!!

I've had such a full morning already! 

Sausage balls and coffee to start the day; the bird is in the oven (fingers crossed! kinda nervous!). 

Kevin is on the roof putting up Christmas lights - it's cool and foggy outside and the cats are watching us from the window. 

When I go out to hand him a tool and come back in the house it smells WONDERFUL!! I've missed that turkey smell on Thanksgiving.

Have a great Thanksgiving day everyone!

One of the place setting with Fiestaweare and vintage linen napkins.

Centerpiece with some of the gorgeous roses from our backyard.

Sausage balls to fuel the morning

The glorious bird! Pictured after one hour of roasting.

The cats watching us from the window ...

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Thanksgiving 2011

As I mentioned previously, I am doing my own Thanksgiving 'spread' this year ... all by my self.

This is kind of a big deal.

Every Thanksgiving (and Christmas) since we got married Kevin and I have spent with other people - either friends or his family - so I've just made sweet potatoes or apple pie or something. This year I have a turkey and a ham (Honey Baked of course) and I'm making several sides (I hesitate to call them "vegetables" since they are really so far departed from, for example, steamed broccoli).

Here is my menu:

- Roast Turkey (this makes me nervous)

- Pan Gravy (this also makes me nervous)

- Spiral Cut Ham

- Sweet Potato Casserole (tried and true recipe - delicious!)

- Mashed Potatoes

- Parker House Rolls (a first for me but the recipe looks easy)

- Green Bean Casserole (I have tried and loved more foodie variants but I'm going old-school this year)

- Cornbread Sage Dressing

- Lime Jello Salad (there is just something magical about having this on my plate during the holidays, no lie)

- Cranberry Sauce (yes, from the can; jellied and whole fruit)

So turkey and pan gravy officially make me nervous. I have never made them before. I'm kind of scared. But I'm staying positive!

*I will make a delicious turkey*
*my gravy will not be lumpy*

Part of me kind of wishes we had people coming over, but this year - another first - it's just going to be me and Kevin. I love sharing my cooking with people but sometimes I get so tired of sharing the holidays with family. Does that sound awful?? I know everyone says that is the point of the holidays but when family is nuts and it's just more of a stress and a duty to spend time with them, sometimes it's a nice, well-deserved break to just spend a holiday with your favorite person ever and some pretty awesome food (actually I'm not 100% assured of 'awesome').

Small sidenote: I love Thanksgiving and I appreciate this country but ... I kind of think about these people at Thanksgiving.

What's kind of silly (and always a disappointment for me) is that I have this image in my head of what holidays should be - always have since I was tiny - but they have yet to fully live up to those expectations. That's why expectations are generally to be avoided, I've learned.

Anyway, I have this rose-colored vision of Thanksgiving that entails me getting up early to put the bird in the oven, brew a pot of coffee and put the sausage balls in the oven, turning on the parade and hanging out in my living room with my husband and us laughing and sharing the morning and 'making memories'. I think though that 'making memories' is a little overrated because I'm always making experiences ... sometimes I just don't remember them. Which is why I try living *right now*, in the moment instead of looking back so much.

I love looking back and reminiscing but there is something kind of sad and almost desperate about that. It just makes me a little down. So I try hard to just stay right now instead ... so I can work on making the very most of right now instead of wasting it on being nostalgic. There is no rewind button.

So instead of making up images of what life should be and then being being disappointed, I'm going to appreciate life for what it is.

This year I'm so grateful for ...

- My Husband and Best Friend
- Our Home
- Our sweet cats who are crazy but we love them
- My stable job and the fact that I like all the people I work for (what?! is that even possible?)
- Learning a lot of new things
- Having an open mind
- Old Friends

What are you grateful for this Thanksgiving??

Friday, November 4, 2011

Recipe: Fall Shepherd's Pie

Yes, it's officially cold enough for Shepherd's Pie and heaters and sweatshirts. That makes me happy. Although leaving the house for work and finding out that it's 38 degrees is a little shocking. Not in a bad way, necessarily.

So yesterday afternoon I saw this recipe for Fall Shepherd's Pie. Backing up: This year, I intend to have my first Thanksgiving Dinner. I eat other people's Thanksgiving dinners every year but have yet to make my own. I haven't made my own Thanksgiving turkey! Ever! This is not good and this year changes it all. First turkey, first Thanksgiving in our house at our dining table, not another person's house and dining table. I've been writing up menu ideas and shopping lists and I'm getting my HoneyBaked Ham ordered. I'm feeling very festive.

Anyway, I found this recipe and got very excited about it since it made me feel like Thanksgiving and football (I don't even like football) and cold air and falling leaves and cocoa and Hot Toddys. It's a seasonal twist on the classic recipe: instead of ground beef, ground turkey (you could totally use actual Thanksgiving turkey leftovers, too), cranberries and sweet potatoes. It tastes like those last few bites of Thanksgiving dinner where everything on your plate has become one and there is sweet from the potato and tart from the cranberry sauce and savory from the turkey and gravy. Yeah.

Here is the recipe from - they seem to have a thing for rainbow foods but have other non-rainbow foods, too.

I split the recipe in 1/2 because it just seemed like a lot. It still filled two medium casseroles. Quantities below are original, not halved but I've added notes about my process next to applicable ingredients or instructions.

Fall Shepherd's Pie

Preheat oven to 350

2 pounds ground turkey
3 ribs celery, chopped [I still used 3, even though I split the recipe ]
1 onion, diced small 
2 carrots, chopped [I used 3 carrots, but mine were small-ish]
2 T butter [I used 3 T]
2 T flour [again, 3 T ... when in doubt more gravy is always better!]
1 box chicken stock
1 bag frozen corn
1 bag frozen cranberries
4 sweet potatoes
1 Russet potato, though any regular 'white' potato will do [I used 2 sweet and one regular potato]
Pinch Cinnamon & Allspice
1 cup milk
1/2 stick butter

Peel and dice the potatoes. Arrange on a baking sheet and roast til tender [I just boiled them on the stove]

Meanwhile, brown the turkey in a large skillet then set aside.

In the same pan [I added a little olive oil], saute the celery, onions, and carrots. Add and melt the 2 tablespoons butter, then whisk in the flour and let it cook for a few minutes, stirring constantly so it doesn't clump.

Add the cooked turkey back into the pan, then add the stock and bring to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer for about 10 minutes to thicken the gravy.

When the potatoes are tender, drain and mash them, then mix in the half stick of butter and milk. Mix in the cinnamon and allspice. [I forgot about the spices until the potatoes were already spread in the dishes, so I just sprinkled them on top of the potatoes]

Add the turkey mixture to the bottom of a casserole dish.

Next, mix together the corn and cranberries and add them on top of the turkey. [I warmed the corn and cranberries in the same pan for a few minutes before adding]

Finally, spread the mashed sweet potatoes smoothly over the top and bake at 350 for about a half hour.

When things are getting bubbly and the top is starting to brown, pull it out of the oven.

Allow to sit for 10 minutes before serving.

I could not resist extra helpings of this! It's definitely a go-to cool weather dinner from now on. I decided to make it spur-of-the-moment but the ingredients are pretty much kitchen staples (except for the berries, but I did have a couple bags on hand) so you don't have to make a special trip to the store for this recipe.

Enjoy! And let me know if you love it, hate it or made any of your own modifications. =)


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