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 saute 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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Happy Thanksgiving Week - Monday

It's that time of year again!  How did Thanksgiving come soooo fast?  It seems like we were just dressing up like witches and goblins.   This year we are so blessed to have some of our kiddos close enough to join us for dinner...and one of our grand babies too.  You can bet I'll be giving him extra helpings of mashed potatoes!  

When I was a young married mom I lived away from all of my family and didn't know how to cook a Thanksgiving meal.  I was fortunate to have a neighbor who was in her 70's and was a seasoned cook.  That particular year I had all of my new in-laws coming from out of state for the holiday and I was scared to death of how I was going to be able to pull it off.  She was so sweet to give me her menus and schedule of how to prep ahead for everything.  Let's just say her recipes are our favorites and have been used for 27 years now.  I wouldn't think of making a Thanksgiving dinner without them.

Starting today I am prepping and cooking and will for the next three days...just a little at a time, which makes the big day sooo much easier!  It really isn't that difficult to do well.  So I am going to pass her wisdom and recipes on to you this week.  

On Monday I make the cranberry sauce and rolls, and shop for the rest of the food..... 

To make the cranberry sauce, purchase a bag of whole fresh cranberries.  Wash them to make sure they are clean and there aren't any stems or mushy berries.  Place them in a medium sauce pan.  Add a cup of water, a cup of sugar, and a few slices of orange.  Bring the mixture to a boil.  Let boil for 15 to 20 minutes until everything pops and softens.  Remove the orange slices and pour the sauce into a bowl and place in the refrigerator.  Cover and keep until Thanksgiving Day...and the leftovers after!

Here is the recipe for the no-fail dinner rolls that are so super easy and yum!  I make them on Monday and place them in zip-lock freezer bags in the freezer until Thursday.  I thaw them out Thursday morning and heat them just before we eat.

No Fail Dinner Rolls

3 Cups of Warm Water
2 Tbsp.  Instant Yeast
4 Tbsp. Sugar
4 Tbsp. Oil
1 Tbsp. Salt
1 Tbsp. Liquid Lecithin 
7 to 8 Cups Flour

Mix warm water, yeast, sugar together.  Add the oil and salt and three cups of flour.  Mix for a few minutes together.  Add the Lecithin and the rest of the flour.  Mix together until the dough is formed into a ball and is moist to the touch.  Heat over to 375.  Let the dough rest for five minutes.  

Spray two muffin tins with non-stick spray.  Break off three small pieces of dough and roll each into a ball and place in one of the muffin cup tins.  Let rise for 20 minutes and then bake for 10 to 15 minutes or until golden brown.  Brush with melted butter as soon as the rolls come out of the over.  Let cool and place in freezer bags until Thanksgiving Day morning.

This roll recipe makes a ton and can also be used for pizzas, scones, and cinnamon rolls too.  So keep this one bookmarked!  You'll want it again I promise.
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DIY Christmas Wool Pillows - Fresh Living

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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Apple Caramel Bundt Cake

Sundays are my favorite day to bake.  I love coming home from church and thinking up a way to make something yummy and new.  Maybe it's because my best sous chefs are around! This past Sunday we made an Apple Caramel Bundt Cake that was better than any cake I've had in a long time.  It might even trump my Pineapple Carrot Cake.  

It uses chunks for sugared cinnamon apples in a rich homemade vanilla cake and is topped with my favorite caramel drizzle.  Served with a scoop of vanilla ice cream it might cause uncontrollable outbursts of mmmmm's and ahhhhh's!  Besides it's gave me a chance to use my vintage bundt cake pan!!!

Apple Caramel Bundt Cake

1 cup brown sugar
2 teaspoons of Saigon Cinnamon
2 large apples, peeled and chopped into small pieces
1 1/3 cup white sugar
1 cup of softened butter
4 large eggs
1 tablespoon of real vanilla
3 cups of all purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1 cup vanilla soy milk

1.  Grease well your bundt pan.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

2.  Mix together peeled and chopped apples with cinnamon and brown sugar.      Set aside.

3.  In your stand mixer, whip the white sugar with the softened butter until soft.  Add eggs one at a time until incorporated.  Add vanilla.

4.  Sift together flour, baking powder and salt.  Add to butter/sugar mixture one cup at a time.

5.  Slowly add the milk until the batter is smooth.

6.  Add about an inch of the batter to the bottom of the pan.  Spoon in half the apple mixture.  Add a couple cups of batter over the top of the first apple layer. Add the rest of the apple mixture and top with the rest of the batter.  

7.  Bake in the 350 degree oven for 45 minuets until an inserted toothpick comes out clean.  Let cool 20 minutes and tip over onto serving plate.

8.  Top with my  Homemade Caramel.  Serve with ice cream.  

Oh my....this is sooooo good with the mesh of warm apples, caramel and a rich vanilla cake. This recipe is a must make before winter comes!
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Bless the Loved Ones Beside Us

I love November and the time it gives us to reflect on the things that we are the most thankful for.  For me the top of the list is my family and the love we share...and of course who can forget the food!

I have a new pattern in the shop just in time for Thanksgiving.  It is called "Bless the Loved Ones Beside Us".  It is a very simple applique and embroidery pattern that will fit an 11" x 14" frame.  I plan to keep mine up year round near our kitchen table!  I hope you enjoy this new pattern as much as I do!
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