Wednesday, November 30, 2011

~Good Things for November~

picture from marthastewart.com


Once again the Good Things for November kept its promise of delivering ideas, tips and inspiration for everyday living.




Another round of good things is here.  Upon reflection, November was a fun and busy month for me as it included a Thanksgiving feast, several long distance trips and some quality time spent with several "far away" friends.  Next up...December!  More holidays and even more fun. 


Note:  For specific how-to directions and an in-depth look at the Good Things ideas please refer to marthastewart.com or the November 2011 Good Things section. 

Corn-Husk Wreath How-To
You can find husks in the international section of the grocery store, where tamale ingredients are sold. To avoid staining your hands, wear rubber gloves.

Tools and Materials


Husk Wreath How-To

  1. In a large bowl, prepare a dye bath with a ratio of 2 teaspoons of dye to each cup of warm water.
  2. Working in small batches, soak husks until they reach desired color. (You may need to swish the liquid around to dye the husks evenly.)
  3. Remove husks, and lay them flat on paper towels or kraft paper; let dry slightly.
  4. While husks are still damp and pliable, begin making the wreath. Tear husks in half lengthwise along their natural striation. Working in rows and overlapping as you go, loop each husk and anchor its ends to the wreath with a U pin. Continue until the form is covered.
  5. Hang from a loop of ribbon.




 I have an affinity for wreath making.  Once I spotted this corn husk wreath in the magazine, I set out to make one of my own.  For awhile it hung on our front door but it now frames our garden entrance.



Caddies Stack

A few days ago I purchased this caddy for $2.99 at a thrift store. I love good deals!  This caddy (bottom center) is probably designed for a different location, however, it serves as a wonderful storage solution for our small bathroom.  Plus, the handmade soaps and bubble bath are displayed in plain sight acting as a reminder for tub-time.




Hold the Door!

In the magazine a weighted gourd is used as a door stopper.  In my house the gourd door stopper would be used as a pinata.   So, I will come back to this idea once the kids are older.  For the past few years I have been growing gourds in our garden.   I enjoyed reading about a functional use for the gourds.

Next year I will probably make this gourd into a Halloween decoration. We'll see. 


Easily Impressed

For about $10 I purchased both the wax and the seal at Michaels craft store.  What a cute way to present a bottle of wine! 




Squash Blossoms

This is a vase from one of our homegrown squashes.  Using squash or pumpkins as a vase is always a great idea.


Sugar and Spice

This is a neat idea.  If you ever have extra pumpkin pie puree then consider making it into a spread.  When the puree is added to a mixture of pumpkin pie spices and maple syrup it then becomes a delicious spread for your morning toast.  Yum!


Calm the Kids' Table

I used an old Whole Foods paper bag to make a large piece of art paper.  Giving the kids a simple, creative activity while they await their dinner is a practical idea.



~It's a good thing!~

~Spinach and Cheddar Strata~

picture from marthastewart.com


Everyday Food, May 2010
  • Prep Time 10 minutes
  • Total Time 30 minutes
  • Yield Serves 4

Ingredients

  • 1 teaspoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 10 ounces spinach
  • 3 cups day-old bread cubes (1 inch)
  • 5 large eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 1 1/4 cups grated sharp white cheddar (3 ounces)
  • Coarse salt and ground pepper

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. In a large skillet, heat oil over medium-high. Add spinach and cook, stirring constantly, until wilted, about 2 minutes. Transfer to a colander and drain, pressing with a rubber spatula to release as much liquid as possible. Divide bread and spinach among four small, shallow 8-ounce baking dishes.
  2. In a medium bowl, whisk together eggs, milk, and 3/4 cup cheese. Season with 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Divide mixture evenly among baking dishes and top with 1/2 cup cheese. Set dishes on a rimmed baking sheet and bake until set in middle and golden brown on top, 20 to 25 minutes.
It's a good thing...or is it?

What the heck is a strata?  It sounded interesting so I gave it a whirl.  I'm a bit curious about this strata dish.  Hold on for a sec, let me check into this strata thing, okay? 

Ok, I'm back.  According toWikipedia, a strata is usually a breakfast dish that has layers of bread, cheese, vegetables and or meat layered inside.  The word strata refers to the layers. 

We are a family of egg lovers (except for me) and so how could we go wrong with such a dish that included things like eggs and cheese. Of course I came across the typical problem of having the children carefully, and very precisely, plucking the greens from the plate.  But, at least most of the dinner was well received. 

Photo Gallery

The recipe said to use 10 oz. of spinach.   Instead, I used what was growing in our garden which was an assortment of dark, leafy greens and some borage leaves.  Borage is a medicinal herb that is said to exhibit stress reducing properties, among other beneficial actions.  Interestingly, the flowers can be added to homemade cough syrups.  I had to throw in this information because one my interests includes harvesting, growing and using medicinal herbs.

Getting ready to cook.

Once the leaves had been wilted, I followed the directions for straining out the excess moisture while using my spatula and colander for drainage.

The borage and lettuce-mix cheddar strata before baking.

The strata of greens is covered by cheese, eggs and bread. 

Gabriel says that this is a thumbs up dish.  He takes his food very seriously.

~Dinner Was Served~




~Baked Ziti with a Crunchy Italian Salad~

picture from marthastewart.com


Everyday Food, October 2007
  • Prep Time 20 minutes
  • Total Time 40 minutes
  • Yield Serves 4

Ingredients

  • Coarse salt and ground pepper
  • 8 ounces ziti rigate (ridged) or other short pasta
  • 1 cup part-skim ricotta
  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten
  • 3/4 cup finely grated Parmesan
  • 1 cup shredded part-skim mozzarella
  • 1 jar (24 to 26 ounces) best-quality tomato sauce (about 3 1/2 cups)
  • 1/2 loaf Italian bread (5 ounces)
  • 2 tablespoons butter, melted
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 tablespoon sherry vinegar or red-wine vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 head Belgian endive, stem end trimmed, thinly sliced
  • 2 bunches arugula (3 1/2 ounces total), thick stems removed

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Cook pasta until al dente, according to package instructions; drain and reserve.
  2. In a small bowl, combine ricotta, egg, 1/4 cup Parmesan, and half the mozzarella; season with salt and pepper.
  3. In the bottom of a shallow 2-quart casserole dish, spread half the tomato sauce. Top with ziti, then ricotta mixture and remaining sauce. Sprinkle with remaining 1/2 cup Parmesan and remaining mozzarella. Place casserole on a rimmed baking sheet, and bake until top is browned and sauce is bubbling, 20 to 25 minutes.
  4. Meanwhile, prepare garlic bread: Make deep, even cuts into the bread, about 1/2 inch apart, without cutting through the bottom. In a small bowl, combine butter and garlic; season with salt and pepper. Brush garlic butter between cuts in bread. Wrap bread loosely in aluminum foil, and bake with ziti during last 10 minutes of baking.
  5. In a large bowl, whisk together vinegar and oil; season with salt and pepper. Add endive and arugula, and toss to coat. Serve baked ziti with salad and garlic bread.


It's a good thing...or is it?

Dinner praise?  Yes!  Actually, the entire family loved this meal.  My kids already love noodles but if you add a little cheese then they are very happy little eaters.  For obvious health reasons I often refrain from serving such a meal.   However, once in awhile it is enjoyable to sit down with a nice plate of hot noodles and lots of cheese. During dinner I even heard, "thanks, mom!" a few times.  Finally, this home cook got some love from the patrons.  Now, if only I can find a way for them devour their salad with the same enthusiasm.   



Photo Gallery

Parmesan cheese has a strong flavor that the kids don't always appreciate.  I used Monterey Jack instead of the Parmesan cheese for this recipe.
We opened a bottle of Martinelli's sparkling cider and began making dinner. 
The noodles and cheese...
With some good tomato sauce...

are simple ingredients for a fast meal that is sure to please. 

Now that everything was added the ziti was on its way to the oven.  


The Belgian Endive Salad with Arugula

I can't say that my usual salads include either one of these ingredients.  With a simple oil and vinegar dressing, it proved to be a refreshing side to the hearty, heavier main course.
There you have it, the baked ziti.  With all that cheese, I knew it would be a big hit! 

~Dinner Was Served~


~Lollipop Cookies~

picture from marthastewart.com

Everyday Food, October 2007
  • Prep Time 25 minutes
  • Total Time 1 hour 15 minutes
  • Yield Makes 24

Ingredients

  • 2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour (spooned and leveled)
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • Colored sanding sugar or sprinkles (preferably black and orange)
  • 24 wooden ice-pop sticks

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt; set aside.
  2. In a large bowl, using an electric mixer, beat butter and granulated sugar until light and fluffy. Add egg and vanilla; beat until combined. With mixer on low speed, add flour mixture; mix just until combined (do not overmix).
  3. If using two colors of sanding sugar, place each in a separate shallow dish (or combine them in one). Roll dough into balls, using 1 1/2 tablespoons for each. Roll in sanding sugar, pressing lightly to coat completely. Insert a wooden stick in center of each ball; place on baking sheets, about 1 1/2 inches apart, with wooden sticks lying horizontally. Lightly press down on each ball with the bottom of a glass to flatten slightly.
  4. Bake until edges are golden and crisp, about 20 to 25 minutes. Transfer cookies immediately to a wire rack to cool completely.
It's a good thing...or is it?

It was just a regular day here at Paradise Basin.  The morning was packed with our usual routine and so I wanted to give the children a taste of something different, lollipop cookies.  Squealing with joy, the children quickly washed their hands and got ready to bake.  We found these cookies to be both fun and easy to make but the end result was the best part of all, warm, buttery cookies that resemble lollipops.

Photo Gallery

Gabriel and Sarah are more than ready to get started.
Gabriel is mixing the dry ingredients together.
Next, we creamed the butter and sugar in the mixer.
We turned off the mixer to scrape down the sides of the bowl.  Sarah was curious about what was happening inside of the bowl.
Gabriel was really getting into the cookie decorating.
And so was Sarah.
We noticed that Gabriel had a typical toddler moment while decorating.  His face was flat on the table and he was scarfing down the sprinkles. 
Once the kids were done decorating, we popped the cookies into the oven.
Mr. Cool and his two side kicks said that the cookies were awesome.  Jordan wasn't too sure about them as he wasn't a fan of the sugary sprinkles.
After eating our cookies we headed outside to play.  The sky was beautifully decorated in its own way. 

~Just Dessert~


Saturday, November 26, 2011

~Our Thanksgiving Dinner~

Gabriel and Sarah wearing their Pilgrim hats.

Pilgrim hat link:





The Menu

Roasted Kabocha Squash Bowl with Autumn Vegetables  (recipe from Sunset Magazine 2005)



Butter-Pecan Sweet Potatoes

Everyday Food, November 2004
  • Prep Time 10 minutes
  • Total Time 50 minutes
  • Yield Serves 8

Ingredients

  • 8 medium sweet potatoes (5 pounds)
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • Coarse salt
  • 2 tablespoons butter, cut into small pieces
  • 2 tablespoons light-brown sugar
  • 1/3 cup pecan pieces
  • 1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Peel potatoes and halve lengthwise; slice crosswise 1/2 inch thick. On a baking sheet, toss potatoes with olive oil; season with coarse salt.
  2. Transfer half the potatoes to a second baking sheet; cook both sheets until potatoes are tender, tossing occasionally, 25 to 30 minutes.
  3. Sprinkle with butter, brown sugar, pecan pieces, and cayenne pepper, dividing evenly. Bake until sugar is caramelized and hard, about 10 minutes. Gently toss; serve immediately.

Cranberry Relish (from Joy of Cooking)


Buttermilk Cornbread (contributed from my dad)

Shiitake Mushroom Stuffing with Sausage (my dad made it without sausage)

Martha Stewart Living, November 2009
  • Yield Serves 12

Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 large onions, chopped (6 cups)
  • 4 leeks, white and pale-green parts only, quartered, finely chopped, and rinsed well (5 cups)
  • 1 bunch celery, finely chopped (4 cups)
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 8 ounces shiitake mushrooms, stems and caps sliced
  • 1 pound sweet Italian sausages, casings removed (for Sausage Stuffing)
  • 10 cups dried white Pullman bread or sandwich bread, crusts removed, bread cut into 1/2-inch cubes (from 2 loaves)
  • 2 cups dried apricots, coarsely chopped
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh sage
  • 2 tablespoons fresh thyme
  • 2 cups homemade or store-bought low-sodium vegetable stock
  • 8 ounces (2 sticks) unsalted butter, melted
  • Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper

Directions

  1. Heat 2 tablespoons oil in a large straight-sided skillet over medium heat. Add onions, leeks, celery, and garlic. Cook until onions are translucent and tender, about 20 minutes.
  2. Add mushrooms, and cook until soft, about 5 minutes. Transfer mixture to a plate, and let stand until cool, about 5 minutes. (Onion-mushroom mixture can be refrigerated overnight.)
  3. If making sausage stuffing: Return skillet to medium heat, and add remaining 2 tablespoons oil. Stir in sausage, and cook, breaking into small pieces, until browned, about 9 minutes. Remove from skillet using a slotted spoon, and transfer to paper-towel-lined plates. Let drain. (Sausage can be refrigerated overnight.)
  4. Combine onion-mushroom mixture, bread, apricots, sage, and thyme in a large bowl. Just before baking, pour stock and melted butter over top of mixture. Season with salt and pepper. Mix to combine.
  5. To make sausage stuffing: Transfer 5 cups stuffing to another large bowl, and mix in sausage.
  6. Let stuffings stand for 10 minutes, allowing bread to soak up liquid.
  7. To cook mushroom stuffing: Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Place stuffing in a 9-by-13-inch baking dish, and bake until top is crisp and stuffing is heated through, 50 to 55 minutes. Let stand for 10 minutes before serving.
  8. To cook sausage stuffing, follow directions for stuffing spice-rubbed roast turkey (recipe above), or preheat oven to 375, transfer stuffing to a 9-by-13-inch baking dish, and bake until top is crisp and stuffing is heated through, 45 to 50 minutes. Serve warm.

Cook's Note

To dry the cubed bread, leave it out overnight or spread it on a baking sheet and heat it in a 200-degree oven. The onion-mushroom and sausage mixtures can be made one day in advance and mixed with the bread and liquids just before cooking.

Roasted Butternut Squash Lasagna

Martha Stewart Living, November 2011
  • Prep Time 1 hour 35 minutes
  • Total Time 4 hours 30 minutes
  • Yield Makes one 9-by-13-inch lasagna
    Serves 8 to 12

Ingredients

  • For the Filling

    • 2 large butternut squashes (about 2 pounds each), halved lengthwise and seeded
    • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
    • Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper
    • 1 stick unsalted butter, cut into pieces
    • 2 1/4 cups finely grated Parmesan cheese (about 8 ounces), plus more if needed
    • 1/2 cup finely crushed amaretti cookies, plus more if needed
    • 1/4 cup finely chopped fresh sage, plus more if needed
    • 1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg, plus more if needed
  • For the Bechamel

    • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into pieces
    • 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
    • 6 cups whole milk
    • Coarse salt
    • 1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • For Assembly

Directions

  1. Make the filling: Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Drizzle squash halves with oil, and season with salt and pepper. Roast squashes, cut sides down, on a rimmed baking sheet until tender and browned, about 1 hour. Let cool. Scoop flesh from skins, and puree in a food processor until smooth.
  2. Melt butter in a small saucepan over medium heat. Continue to cook until browned and fragrant, about 3 minutes. Transfer to a bowl.
  3. Combine 3 cups squash puree, 1 cup Parmesan, 2 tablespoons plus 1 1/2 teaspoons amaretti cookies, sage, browned butter, 1 teaspoon salt, and nutmeg in a bowl. Adjust seasoning as desired with more Parmesan, amaretti cookies, sage, salt, and nutmeg.
  4. Make the bechamel: Melt butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Whisk in flour. Reduce heat to low, and cook, whisking often, for 3 minutes (do not let flour brown).
  5. Meanwhile, bring milk to a gentle simmer in another small saucepan over low heat. Gradually whisk hot milk into the roux, whisking constantly to prevent lumps from forming. Season with 1/4 teaspoon salt and the nutmeg. Raise heat to medium, and bring to a boil, whisking constantly. Cook, whisking, until thickened, about 10 minutes. Reduce heat to low, and cook until the raw flour taste is gone, 5 to 10 minutes more. Season with 3/4 teaspoon salt.
  6. Reduce oven temperature to 375 degrees. Assemble the lasagna: Coat bottom and sides of a 9-by-13-inch baking dish with a thin layer of bechamel (about 1/2 cup). Arrange two 8-by-21-inch sheets cooked pasta on top, barely overlapping, to cover bottom and sides of dish. (Edges of pasta should hang over sides by about 2 inches.)
  7. Top with 3/4 cup squash filling, and sprinkle with 1 tablespoon amaretti cookies. Top with 1 sheet of pasta (fill in any gaps with pieces of another sheet if needed), trimming edges as needed so that pasta fits neatly in dish.
  8. Top pasta with 3/4 cup bechamel and 2 tablespoons Parmesan. Continue layering in same order (pasta, squash and amaretti, pasta, bechamel and Parmesan) until you reach the top of the dish, ending with 1 sheet of pasta (you may need to fill in gaps with pieces of another sheet; you should have 10 layers of pasta). Fold in the overhang from the first layer of pasta to create a package. Trim pasta sheets as needed to prevent too much overlap, then spread remaining bechamel over top.
  9. Bake, covered with parchment-lined foil, for 20 minutes. Uncover, and sprinkle with remaining Parmesan. Bake until top is browned, about 35 minutes more. Let cool slightly before serving.

Cook's Note

Unbaked lasagna can be refrigerated for up to 1 day. Baked lasagna can be refrigerated for up to 3 days.

Vegetarian Roast (brought over from my dad and purchased from Whole Foods)

For Dessert

Pumpkin Mousse

Martha Stewart Living, November 2011
  • Yield Serves 8 to 10

Ingredients

  • 1 envelope unflavored powdered gelatin (1 scant tablespoon)
  • 1/4 cup cold water
  • 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons canned unsweetened pumpkin puree
  • 4 large eggs, separated
  • 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons pure maple syrup
  • Pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • Pinch of freshly ground white pepper
  • 2 tablespoons dark rum
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • Sweetened whipped cream, for serving (optional)
  • Pastry Leaves, for garnish (optional; see Pate Brisee recipe)

Directions

  1. In a small saucepan, sprinkle gelatin over the cold water, and let soften 5 minutes. Cook softened gelatin over medium heat, swirling pan, just until gelatin is dissolved; do not let boil. Let cool completely.
  2. Place pumpkin puree in a large bowl. Stir in softened gelatin, then add egg yolks, maple syrup, nutmeg, vanilla, ginger, allspice, salt, white pepper, and rum. Whisk until fully blended.
  3. With an electric mixer on medium speed, whisk egg whites and the sugar to soft peaks. Gently fold egg-white mixture into pumpkin mixture to combine. Whip heavy cream on medium high to stiff peaks, then gently but thoroughly fold into pumpkin mixture.
  4. Divide mousse among 8 to 10 glasses; refrigerate until set, at least 2 hours, or up to 1 day, covered with plastic wrap. If desired, top each with a dollop of sweetened whipped cream and a pastry leaf before serving.

Cook's Note

Food Safety Note: The eggs in this recipe are not cooked.

Deep-Dish Pumpkin-Meringue Pie


  • Prep Time 25 minutes
  • Total Time 8 hours 10 minutes
  • Yield Makes one 9-inch deep-dish pie
    Serves 10  

Ingredients

  • For the Crust

  • For the Filling

    • 3 large eggs
    • 1 can (15 ounces) pure pumpkin puree
    • 1 can (12 ounces) evaporated milk
    • 3/4 cup packed light-brown sugar
    • 1 tablespoon cornstarch
    • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
    • 3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
    • 3/4 teaspoon ground ginger
    • Coarse salt
    • 1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • For the Meringue

    • 2 cups granulated sugar
    • 8 large egg whites, room temperature

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Make the crust: Roll out pate brisee to a 1/8-inch thickness on a lightly floured surface. Fit dough into a 9-inch deep-dish pie plate. Trim edges, leaving a 1-inch overhang; fold edges under and crimp as desired. Refrigerate for 30 minutes.
  2. Line crust with parchment, and fill with pie weights or dried beans. Bake until edges just start to turn golden, about 15 minutes. Remove pie weights and parchment. Bake until crust is golden brown, 15 to 20 minutes more. Let cool on a wire rack.
  3. Meanwhile, make the filling: Whisk together eggs, pumpkin, evaporated milk, brown sugar, cornstarch, vanilla, cinnamon, ginger, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and the nutmeg in a large bowl.
  4. Reduce oven temperature to 325 degrees. Pour filling into cooled crust. Bake until center is set but still slightly wobbly, 50 to 55 minutes. Let cool in pie plate set on a wire rack. Refrigerate until well chilled, at least 6 hours (preferably overnight).
  5. Just before serving, make the meringue: Combine granulated sugar and egg whites in the heatproof bowl of a mixer set over a pan of simmering water. Whisk until sugar dissolves, about 3 minutes. Transfer bowl to mixer, and whisk on medium speed for 3 minutes. Raise speed to high, and whisk until stiff glossy peaks form, about 6 minutes more. Dollop meringue onto pie, and spread using a swirling motion.
  6. Hold a small handheld kitchen torch at a 90-degree angle 3 to 4 inches from surface of meringue. Move flame back and forth until meringue starts to brown.

Pecan Pie (contributed by my dad)



It's a good thing...or is it?



Thanksgiving came and went.  The time spent together was wonderful.  However, my blog is mainly about the food and the reality of the experience.  Now that I have had the time to digest the holiday I'm sure you want to know the juicy details.  Okay, here it goes.  I've listed the top ten things that I learned and/or will do differently the next time around.

1)  First off, congratulations to all the people out there that work hard to make a Thanksgiving meal, especially with small children running around.  Previous years have been easier as the children were smaller but now that they are 2 and 3 it was a bit more hectic.  For instance, the envisioned beautifully decorated table and unscathed pie will have to be left to future Thanksgivings.  I've learned over the years that accepting our own reality, whatever that may be, is the key to enjoying any holiday.

2)  Making the food while the children were awake was not a good idea.  I should have had a triple shot soy mocha and then made the food when the kids were asleep.  That would have made concentrating on the recipes much easier for everyone.

3)  I should not have let the desserts sit out on the kitchen counter.   Large handfuls of my pumpkin pie were taken out by an unnamed little person.

4)  The pie crust...well, let me tell you what I have learned.  The upper edge of the pie crust had a small hole.  Not a big deal, right?  Nobody would see it so who cares?  No, no, no!  As I poured the pie filling into the crust I noticed that the pie filling was disappearing!  Guess where it went?  Behind the pie crust.  So when the big moment came to enjoy the pumpkin pie, people enjoyed a mouth full of soggy pie crust.   The crust was saturated with the pie filling because the pie filling leaked behind the crust.  I did learn a lesson from this, however.  Do not let your crust have any holes in it, even if you think that it will be covered by the filling.  Your crust will be a soggy mess.

5)  The butter-pecan potatoes.  Not good.  The picture looked pretty and appetizing.  When I made the potatoes it looked very unappetizing.  I cannot say what I did differently because I don't think that I did anything that deviated from the recipe.  The potatoes just didn't look right at all.  So, I pureed them in my food processor instead of serving them sliced.  The turnout was disappointing.

6)  The temperatures.  We ate later in the day to accommodate our guest's schedules.  Of course, the food was made before they arrived and a few things were made the day before.  When it came time for the big moment, quite a few items were cold. Typically, one could just microwave the food until it is warm and then serve it hot with no problem at all.  Well, our microwave has been broken for about a year and we haven't missed except for Thanksgiving day.   Luckily, we had a microwave in the garage.  The problem was that I was not familiar with how to use it this other microwave.  Let us just say that the food was not served very warm.  Next time I will pay better attention to setting aside adequate time to heat everything up in a microwave that I know how to use.

7)  The table setting dilemma.  When you have small children, you cannot set the table in advance unless you do not mind it being seriously rearranged.  Our table was not decorated until shortly before the food was served. I was short on time and so I had to leave out most of the table decorating.  The perfectly set and decorated table will have to be done when the kids are older.  Then, I can set the table early in the morning, or even the night before, and  then focus on the food.  Yes, I've accepted my reality. 


8)  Makeup and hair? Ha! That was all left to the very last minute before the guests arrived.  I certainly didn't feel my best, and my hair was a crazy mess.  Pulling myself together was not on my list of things to do as I was too busy running around getting everything set up.  I did have a smile on my face that I think superseded my crazy fro and my bare face. 

9)  The kids clothes. Ah, yes.  I picked out cute outfits for our Thanksgiving dinner, and I couldn't wait to see them all dressed up at the table. As it turned out, they preferred wearing pajama tops (without the bottoms) and nothing else.  I tried, but was unsuccessful in dressing them as civilized toddlers.  Yet again, I took a deep breath and let it go.  As my dad's girlfriend  says, "they are country kids".  That's for sure ;)

10)  Too many cooks in the kitchen.  I had asked my Dad to bring over a few things for the dinner. Everything that he cooked was a Martha Stewart recipe, and the food was delicious!  The shiitake mushroom stuffing that he made was out of this world!  He also brought some cornbread, a pecan pie, and a vegetarian roast from Whole Foods.  When he arrived, there were just a few things that needed to be heated up in the oven.  Not a big deal, right?  Other than having the oven opened several times so that he could slide his food in (while I was baking my lasagna) and having him fall down because Gabriel was running around the kitchen, it was great.  Next time though, all the food that is brought over should be already made.  If it needs warming in the microwave, fine.  The oven, no.  It was just too much having to share my only oven with several other dishes. My oven is monogamous.


There you have it.  My top ten things that I would have done differently, or that I have learned to just accept.  I'm glad that everything happened on a holiday such as Thanksgiving because in the end, the day is about communing with our family.  Yes, even if it's over a plate of luke warm food and soggy pumpkin pie.  I hope that by sharing our experience with you that maybe some of these things can be avoided next year, for both of our sakes.   


Photo Gallery

Looking back, I didn't capture the day on camera as much as I would have liked, but I managed to capture a a few pictures of the big day.  I do have plenty of mental pictures and funny memories that will be remembered for quite sometime.  Below are a few pictures from our Thanksgiving day.

Cranberry Relish
(Recipe from Joy of Cooking and made by my mother at Thanksgiving when I was younger)

Cranberry relish is one of my favorite dishes at Thanksgiving.  I decided to carry out the tradition and made the same sauce too.

I made the roasted butternut squash lasagna as one of our main dishes.  After doing this, I realized that I really do need a pasta drying rack.  I had long sheets of pasta with no place to set them.  My two baking sheets were no match for the large piece of noodles.  I was left  hanging them in strange places around the kitchen while I  worked on the other batches of noodles.  Overall, I was very intrigued by the lasagna making process. In the past, I have made spaghetti and linguine by hand, but making lasagna noodles was new to me. 
  
The lasagna required a bechamal sauce.  No problem!  I had soy milk on hand and I decided to use that instead of the 6 cups of whole milk.  To my surprise, it thickened up nicely even without the fat from regular milk.  In the future, I think I would use almond milk instead of soy for the flavor.
This is the lasagna before it was cooked.  The recipe called for amaretti cookies (an Italian cookie). I had never tasted this kind of cookie before.  They had an almond-like flavor and were really good.  I cannot wait to try them with a cup of coffee.  However, I do not think that they really contributed much to the lasagna.  The sweet and distinct flavor dominated the lasagna, and made the roasted squash flavor nearly invisible.  I am not sure if I liked the sweet flavor.  Personally, I would skip the cookies, and instead add a little more cheese such as mozzarella, ricotta, or both.
The pumpkin pie before the meringue topping was added. 
The pumpkin pie after it was enjoyed by one of the kids (before we had dessert). 
I managed to set out a few snacks.  I also served a hummus dip inside of a cabbage.  This was inspired from the November 2011 Living magazine that showed something similar to this.
Here is my dad carving the vegetarian roast that he brought.
This roast was awesome!  You could tell that it wasn't the real deal, but it still tasted great. In previous years, I enjoyed brining our turkey and undergoing the whole turkey-making process.  In retrospect, I did not really miss the absence of a turkey.  The vegetarian roast made a great stand in for a turkey.
I made name cards for the table that were set out just before dinner.  The name cards were from a template from Martha's website.  They were simple to make.

The Desserts

This is the pumpkin mousse.  I omitted the whipped cream topping and garnish, then served it plain.  We had many other desserts, but I wanted to keep this just a little healthier.  I enjoyed the pumpkin pie spices and the rum flavor very much.
This is the deep-dish pumpkin pie with the meringue topping.  I made sure that the eggs were room temperature so that the meringue would be extra fluffy.
My hand torch was out of fuel so I used the broiler to brown the pie instead. 
The night was coming to an end.   We ended our evening over a cup of coffee, pumpkin mouse, pecan pie, and a pumpkin pie with meringue. Even though the pumpkin pie was soggy, we had several other options to choose from.  It was a great evening with wonderful company.  That night, I slept for ten hours and then I took a three hour nap the next day. 

Well, on to the next holiday, Christmas!  Lets cross our fingers that it will be merry and bright, that we will have good health, and that we will serve pies that are not soggy.  Cheers!



~Dinner Was Served~



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