Happy Thanksgiving

Happy Thanksgiving!  I love this day, but this post is going to be short as I am booking to to get everything done.  We have 15 coming for dinner tonight and there is a ton to do.  Thank heavens for the schedule of preparation that we have been working on this week.  It will make it pretty easy.

The first thing I did this morning after drinking a big Diet Coke was to wash the turkey and get it in the oven.  I boil the neck, heart, and gizzard to get broth for the stuffing, adding a little salt and fresh herbs.  We rub the turkey down with butter and stuff it with the pre-chopped celery, onion and herbs from the day before.  I follow the Reynolds instructions to get our perfect bird every time.

While the turkey is baking we make the stuffing and peel the potatoes for my favorite mashed potatoes.  For the stuffing I melt a cup of butter and sauté rough chopped celery, onions, and fresh herbs until sweating.  I add 3 - 5 Tablespoons of poultry seasoning to this mixture.  Then I add the dried bread cubes and toss well.  After it has been tossed I add the broth mixture from the turkey parts until it is the perfect moisture.  Place the stuffing in a covered baking dish and top with pats of butter.  Yes, I know it is a lot of butter, but it is Thanksgiving and stuffing.  I bake it for 30 to 40 minuets and let it brown a little on the top.  This stuffing has been served at our table for over 20 years and is the perfect compliment to everything else on the plate.

While the stuffing is baking we peel the potatoes and get the mashing done.  Lots of butter and sour cream go into my mashed potatoes.  They are soooo yum!  I heat the rolls, top the Jello with whipped cream, get the punch ready, put everything in it's serving dish, make the gravy from the turkey drippings in the Reynolds oven bag and the last thing I do right before we eat is marshmallow the Sweet Potato Casserole and broil it until perfectly toasted.

We had a wonderful Thanksgiving with our family and a few friends.  I love this day even with all the work because there is nothing that I love more than my family and good food always brings them around.  I hope you had a wonderful holiday too and felt the blessings of Him who gives all.  Happy Thanksgiving.

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Happy Thanksgiving Week - Wednesday

Today is my favorite day in the week of Thanksgiving prep. because it is pie day.  I truly think National Pie Day should be changed to the Wednesday before Thanksgiving as I think there are are more pies baked that day than on any other!  Everyone has their favorites, but I like to stick to the three traditional Thanksgiving Pies (of course with a little twist) pumpkin, apple, and pecan.

One of the cutest little surprises on Thanksgiving Day are the little individual pumpkin pies baked in a mason jar lid.  They are so easy to make and are the perfect little "snack" before the big meal.  We always snack on pie before dinner...don't you?

To make these pies you take your favorite dough recipe (mine is at the bottom of this post) and form it into the lid of a wide mouth sized mason jar or canning lid.  Place the lids on a cookie sheet for stability.   Fill to the level of the lid edge leaving your dough edge sticking above.  Bake at 350 degrees for about 20 minuets or until the custard is set.  Take out of oven and let cool.  Top with fresh whipped cream and say yummmmmm!

I try to get all the pies baked on Wednesday.  While the pies are baking, I table set and a once over look at the centerpiece and clean the house!
Pumpkin Custard Pie

Apple Cranberry Pear Pie

I set out the punch mixes and make sure I have something great for the overnight guests to eat the next morning.  Usually it's muffins and fruit...a little something healthy before the feasting begins.

I also rough chop the vegetables and herbs for the turkey and get the turkey all prepped.  Some years we have brined it,  but our favorite way to cook a turkey is in a Reynolds Oven Bag with fresh herbs, celery, and onion.  It is the more moist turkey you will ever eat!

Make sure you get a little rest today too!  You will need your reserves for tomorrow!  

Favorite Pie Crust Recipe

2 and 1/2 Cup All-purpose Flour
1 Teaspoon Salt
1 Tablespoon White Sugar
1 Cup Cold Butter (Cut into pieces)
1 Cup Ice Water
1/4 Cup Apple Cider Vinegar

Using a food processor, mix together flour, salt, and sugar.  Pulse in the butter until you get pea-sized crumbles.  Mix the ice water with the apple cider vinegar.  Sprinkle in a little of the ice water while mixing the crumbles in the processor until the water is incorporated and the dough forms a ball.   If you have dry bits left you can add a touch more water until they form together and add them to the larger ball.  Divide the dough in half and shape the dough into a flat disc.  Wrap with plastic and refrigerate for at least an hour.  Roll our with minimal flour or I love to roll out my pastry in parchment paper to avoid adding more flour to the dough.  It also helps with lifting the dough into the pie pan.  Enjoy!

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Happy Thanksgiving Week - Tuesday

It's Tuesday or "Day Two" of our Thanksgiving dinner preparations, and so far it is going great.  The goal here is to do whatever can be done to make Thursday a relaxing day.  If your family is like mine, they start showing up at the house on Wednesday, so I am trying to get everything I can do today.  

1.  Wash and iron linens.
2.   Make sure special dishes are ready.
3.  Make sure your final grocery list is complete ( I will make a late night run to avoid the crowds).
4.  Make Sweet Potato Casserole.....

Sweet Potato Casserole

8 to 10 Sweet Potatoes
Olive Oil
Sea Salt
1/2 Cup Butter
1 Can Evaporated Milk
1 + 1 Cups Brown Sugar
 2 + 2 Teaspoons Saigon Cinnamon
1 Teas. Vanilla
1 1/2 Cups Chopped Pecans

Peel and dice sweet potatoes into 2 inch chunks and place in a baking dish.  Sprinkle with olive oil and sea salt.  Bake at 350 degrees until the potatoes are fork tender.  Bring out of the oven and place in a large mixer bowl.  Add 1/4 cup of the butter, 1 cup of the brown sugar, 2 teaspoons of the cinnamon, vanilla and evaporated milk.  Beat together mashing the potatoes and incorporating the ingredients together.  I personally like to leave some chunks whole in the mix to add a little "bite" to the casserole.

Spoon into a well buttered baking dish.  To make the topping, mix together 1/4 cups of softened butter, chopped pecans, the rest of the sugar and cinnamon.  Spread this mixture over the top of the mashed sweet potatoes.  Cover the dish with a lid or tin foil until Thursday.  

When you are ready to bake the casserole, heat the oven to 350 degrees and bake for 25 to 30 minutes.  Just before you take it out of the oven, sprinkle a couple of cups of mini-marshmallows over the dish and place under a low temp broiler to melt and slightly brown the mallows.  It takes just a few minutes, so watch them closely.

Serves 15 to 20 people.

The other task for today is to chop the onions, carrots, celery, and herbs for the turkey and stuffing.  I place them in separate containers and refrigerate until needed.  I love doing this ahead of time because it saves time, and my boys don't get realize they are doing little bits of Thanksgiving Day dishes every day...instead of all at once.  It's a "mom" mind game!

My family's favorite appetizer on Thanksgiving is the Cranberry Cheese Ball.  Again, it is super easy to make and tastes much better when it is made a few days ahead of time.  

Cranberry Cheese Ball

2 Packages of Cream Cheese, softened
1 Bunch of Chopped Green Onions
1 Package of Dried and Sweetened Cranberries
2 Cups of Sharp Grated Cheddar Cheese
2 Teaspoons of Worcestershire Sauce
3 Cups of Chopped Walnuts

In a mixer add all of the ingredients except for the chopped nuts.  Using a cookie paddle, mix together the ingredients until everything is incorporated together.  Using a spatula press the mixture into a may need to use your hands to form a good ball.  For today, place the naked cheese ball in a bowl and cover with plastic wrap until Thursday.  Before serving, pour the chopped walnuts into a medium size bowl and roll the ball in the nuts, pressing the nuts into the surface of the ball.  Serve with crackers or crisp breads.

If you are serving a jello salad, today would be a good day to make it and get it in the fridge....mine is in there chilling till the big day.

Tomorrow is pie day!!!!!  I have a few of my grown-up kids coming to help...and I can't wait to spend time with them.  Get some sleep!

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Christmas Wool Pillows

It's time to begin decking the halls and one of my favorite quick projects for adding a big pop of color and warmth are wool appliqued pillows.  If you can cut, glue and go up and down with a needle you can make these!  I have three patterns for you, Swiss Cross, Holly and Ivy, and Christmas Eve Special Delivery.

Swiss Cross and Holly and Ivy DIY Christmas Wool Pillows

I have three patterns for you to choose from...or you can make all three!  For these pillows you will need - 
  • 1 yard of wool felt per pillow
  • 16 " pillow form
  • scraps of wool 
  • pom poms for the wreath pillow
  • needle and embroidery hoop
  • scissors
  • fabric marker for tracing
  • embroidery floss to match your wool
  • Aleen's No-Sew Fabric Glue
  • free downloadable pattern from TD Christmas Wool Pillow Pattern Templates

Christmas Eve Special Delivery Wool Applique Pillow

The first step to making these pillows is of course to gather your wool scraps and cut out the pieces.  I use a fabric marker to trace out my pattern on the wool.  If you are tracing a directional piece such as the truck you will need to trace it in reverse so the most colorful side of the wool shows.  To get the template pieces for these three pillows click on the link above.

Once your templates are cut out you need to place them on the pillow cover.  To make the pillow cover cut a wide strip of the wool 17" wide by 36" long.  This will make a envelope style pillow cover with no need for a zipper or button.  This type of pillow cover works especially great for heavy fabrics such as wool.  Lay your pillow form in the middle of the strip to see where your front borders will be and mark with pins. 

Now it's time to adhere your wool scraps to the pillow front.  Turn your pillow cover right side up and center your design pieces in the marked off front square according to the pattern.  Turn the pieces wrong side up and glue a small strip of Aleene's No-Sew Fabric Glue about 1/4" from the edges and glue onto the pillow background where it belongs. Lightly press into the fabric and let dry.  Continue with the rest of the pieces.

To stitch down the edges of the wool felt pieces, you take a coordinating embroidery floss and stitch a simple tack stitch all the way around.  Your stitches should be about a half inch apart.  Tack down all the edges.  Now let's make the pillow....

To make the pillow cover cut a wide strip of the wool 17" wide by 36" long.  This will make a envelope style pillow cover with no need for a zipper or button.  This type of pillow cover works especially great for heavy fabrics such as wool.  

Fold the left over fabric over the back and pin or clip down wrong sides out.  You can either hand-stitch the sides together or use your trusty sewing machine to make a running stitch up the sides about a 1/4 inch from the edge.  Sew all the way up both sides and turn right side out.  Your pillow cover is now done!  Stuff with your pillow form and fluff.

To make the wreath pillow you will need a 1/4 yard of two different green wool scraps to give a contrast.  Once the front square of my pillow cover was marked, I found a small round salad plate and marked a circle to use as a template for my leaves.  After cutting all of the leaves out, I took them to my sewing machine and using a bright green thread, I stitched a vein into each one.  Then I layered them in different directions and glued them down.  I glued the pom-poms on with Aileen's Fabric Glue as well.

In total these three pillows (Swiss Cross, Holly and Ivy, and Christmas Eve Delivery) took about two hours to put together.  I had my boys help glue the pieces on and stitch down the edges.  I like getting them involved with decorating for the holidays.  If you have any questions about these pillows, send me an email and I'll be happy to answer them!  

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