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Thanksgiving 2016 tablescape


I loved this Thanksgiving. It was such a joy to cook a big meal for more than just our immediate family.


For years it’s just been the five of us; Dave, Marissa, Connor, my dad and me. Every few years, Dave’s mom would join us, which made the six of us. Still, that’s not many people to eat a meal that you go to so much work for.


Happily, in 2014, Jeff and his parents, Dean and Amy, joined us for the first time. Since my mother-in-law was here too, that took us all the way up to nine people, the most ever at our table! I was over the moon!


Fast forward to this year. Steve and Tram are in a rental while their new home is being built. Steve’s parents are in town.


Add in the twins, Zak and Zoey and there are fourteen of us! I am in heaven.


For the first time in… ever… I am actually cooking for a respectable number of people, thus making the huge Thanksgiving feast worthy of being called a feast. I am in my element!


I mean, it’s the same number of dishes I make every year, but this year it made sense to go to all that work. Love it!!


And, of course, having 2 ½-year-old twins join in the day, makes everything more fun! Zak and Zoey are so adorable, well-behaved and, well, I’m just in love with them and so are Connor, Marissa and Jeff.


I posted a few photos on Instagram and my friend, Sheila, called them Bigs and Littles.


So sweet!


OK, how about some tablescaping?


Since we were at fourteen and my dining room table seats only eight comfortably, we had to eat outside. Not a problem in Arizona, even in November. But just in case it did rain, I flip-flopped the furniture arrangements. Moving all the seating that is under the long covered “fireplace patio” to the open patio area and moving the oblong table that is usually out in the open, to the covered area.


I also brought over the rustic 60-inch wood round table from the other covered patio to create one long table. The photo above is of the two tables under the covered patio and the beginnings of my table arranging. This all took place early on Wednesday morning.


At the same time that I was setting this up, I was also cooking; smoking a turkey breast, making bread dough, cranberry-pomegranate sauce, butternut soup and prepping the sweet potatoes and stuffing. So by the time this photo was taken of the finished tables, it was late afternoon.


The oblong table was covered with a tablecloth, since it’s a patio table and not attractive enough for placemats. Not to mention that I don’t have 12 matching Thanksgiving placemats and napkins anyhow.


The two tables were joined by two large green Jarrahdale pumpkins along with a large white pumpkin. Jarrahdale are my favorite pumpkins. I drove all the way Chino Valley to buy some a few years ago when I couldn’t find them locally. Now that they are available a few places, I’ll drive to half a dozen different stores to find them.

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December 2, 2016   5 Comments

sweet potatoes make the best leftovers

Sometimes it seems as if sweet potatoes are the ugly stepchild at Thanksgiving dinner. The dish that is expected but not overly anticipated or appreciated.


I remember looking forward to them when I was a kid, but today we eat them more than just once a year. Sweet potatoes are in fashion all year long. Then there are sweet potato fries, which are offered and ordered nearly as often as their French fry cousins. If you’re like me, you select them over potato fries more often than not.

I have to admit that this was the case with this dish at our Thanksgiving buffet. Most guests took a small portion for their plate, but chose to fill up on the stars of the day; the turkey, dressing, cranberry sauce, mashed potatoes and gravy.

And that was just fine with me. These maple roasted sweet potatoes made great leftover dishes for breakfast (sweet potato hash with eggs) lunch (added to a turkey taco) and dinner (part of a black bean chili or puréed and added to risotto).


When shopping for the sweet potatoes, I bought three varieties for a pretty trio of colors.

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November 30, 2016   No Comments

new Thanksgiving recipes… for next year

I don’t know how other bloggers get recipes up for the holidays before the holiday! I suppose I could write up this recipe and date it to post in early November 2017, but that seems like much more forethought than I ever want to have to think about!


Instead, I’ll post this and another Thanksgiving recipe, along with my Thanksgiving tabelscapes this week and remind you about them next year, that sounds more reasonable and realistic to me.


Two Notes: The first concerns the brine bag in this recipe: While shopping, I was in a hurry and could not immediately find a brine bag at the grocery store. Instead of asking for assistance, I spotted slow-cooker liners and thought, “They’ll work!”

Yeah, not so much! The liner was a smidgen too small. I could barely gather it all up and seal the bag. I was paranoid about the bag opening and leaking, so I put it into another bag. I still wasn’t secure in the leakage possibilities, so I put that into another bag. By then, I’d used 3 of the 4 bags in the box, so I thought, “What the heck!” and put all that into another bag! All ended well, as the four bags held and not a drop escaped.

My advice – for peace of mind – search out and use a true brine bag!


Second: I was at Cost Plus World Market the Wednesday before Thanksgiving and I found a yummy brine mix. I used 1 ¼ cups of it in place of the salt, peppercorns and Italian seasoning in the recipe below. If you come across a good looking mix, you can do the same or just follow the recipe as written.

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November 29, 2016   1 Comment

gingerbread bundt cake


It’s no secret that I don’t like to bake. I considered buying dessert for the German-Swiss Dinner Party. At the last-minute, I caved. I was inspired to make a gingerbread cake by the beautiful gingerbread-like towns in Switzerland and Germany.


As usual, my baking experience wasn’t great. I coated the bundt pan heavily with softened butter and then coated it with flour.


Unfortunately some of the cake STILL stuck to the darn pan. This, right here, is why I hate to bake! I really should rename this website that. Hate2Bake.com. I just looked it up and the name isn’t taken. Hmmm.


It’s OK, it all worked out because I carefully lifted out the stuck pieces and gingerly put them in place. See what I did right there, gingerly!


Along with the gingerbread, I served Swiss Hot Chocolate with Asbach brandy from Switzerland.


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October 20, 2016   4 Comments

side salad and a Thanksgiving table


Today’s recipe was one of the two side dishes that accompanied the Pork Schnitzel at my German-Swiss Dinner Party.

It’s an extremely easy and quick recipe and a great side dish for just about any main course.


The other thing I’m sharing today is a few photos of a quick taping I did yesterday for Channel 12. I received a text message from one of Tram’s colleagues, Nico, at 7:45 in the morning asking if he could come by in a couple of hours to film a “how to set the table” segment. I told him sure, that I could be ready by 10:00.


I knew it wasn’t going to air until November, so I started pulling out the Thanksgiving stuff. Luckily, I’d just hauled the Halloween decor out of the shed over the weekend, so I knew exactly where the Thanksgiving tubs were located.


Next, I went out into the Miscellany Shed and pulled out the wood slabs to use as chargers and a handful of antlers.

Finally, I dug through the various china cabinets to round up the dishes, crystal and flatware.


One unfortunate thing happened though, I broke one of the wine glasses from my wedding crystal. I’d love to blame it on the cats (they were annoyingly underfoot) or on my rushing, but it was just general clumsiness. Even after sweeping twice, I kept finding glass, long after the shoot was over.


I didn’t get my Halloween decorations put out, which was my plan for the day before the text arrived, but I was ready when Nico arrived… and that’s saying something!

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October 18, 2016   1 Comment

Wiener Schnitzel vom Schwein


Until recently, in Germany and Austria, one was not allowed to call a dish Wiener Schnitzel unless it was made with veal. If the dish was made with pork instead, it needed to be called Wiener Schnitzel vom Schwein.

In 2009, they lighted up and a “Wiener Schnitzel” no longer refers exclusively to a veal dish, but instead to a breaded steak in general.


Since I didn’t want to offend or cause confusion, I just called it Pork Schnitzel on the menu skillet at my German-Swiss Dinner Party.


The recipe is an adaptation of a Tyler Florence recipe. From it, I learned a new technique for breading meat. Tyler suggests letting the breaded meat rest in the refrigerator, uncovered, for 10 minutes to allow the coating to dry out and adhere. It worked great! I’ll be doing that on all my breaded recipes from here on out.

Since I was cooking for 20, it was especially important to make this ahead. I cooked all the schnitzel, refrigerated and then reheated and finished cooking it in the oven. If you are serving immediately, reduce the oven time to about 12 to 15 minutes.

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October 14, 2016   1 Comment

German-Swiss Party Soup


The first course for the dinner party was this cheesy soup. I told you yesterday that this party was all about the cheese and I wasn’t kidding!


Then there was the beer. Since I was serving 20 people, I tripled the recipe. And since I’d bought a nice variety of German beer for the party, I used a variety for the soup too. Honestly, any beer will do. No need to go out and buy anything special, whatever you have on hand, German or not, will work perfectly.


A few photos of my sweet guests!

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October 13, 2016   2 Comments

Brussels Sprouts Flatbread


These tasty flatbreads have so much going for them.

  1. They are easy and quick to make
  2. They have bacon
  3. The bread is prepared naan, no dough to knead
  4. Did I mention that they have bacon?
  5. The ingredient list is short, only five things, one of which is bacon!

I haven’t had bacon in a long time, as you can tell, I’ve really missed it.

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October 3, 2016   1 Comment

now I’m the winner

Nancy Chili Rellenos

Remember when I had my 7th Blogiversary contest and Nancy was the Grand Prize Winner and we cooked together?

sample stack

One of the other contestants who put forth a recipe for the contest sent me the sweetest email after I had delivered the stack of 7 cookbooks to her front door. Amy G. said that she still wanted to share her winning-worthy recipe. I made it, so I know it’s a winner! Amy said that the recipe could be frozen, so I made a double batch at the end of August and can’t wait to pull my frozen stuffed steaks out of the freezer for Sunday’s supper!

So yeah, not only did I get to cook with Nancy and make her great overnight rellenos but I got Amy’s delicious stuffed flank steak recipe too! I’m the winner now! Thank you, Amy G.


Here is what Amy wrote:

“I know I wasn’t the lucky winner to prepare a recipe, but I still wanted to share my flank steak recipe with you.  And, it is not so much a recipe, as a method.

Do you recall the Phoenix Meat Market at 7th Ave and Osborn?  I think it closed mid-1990s…boo hoo!  They sold a steak called “Mexi-Flank Steak”,

And I was lucky enough to watch them prepare a batch one day.   After the market closed, I’ve made my own.

I’ll warn you…this is NOT a pretty presentation…the cheese and chilies will squish all over the place when you carve the meat! But, it is oh so yummy, and piled on to a tortilla, it doesn’t matter what the heck it looks like! I serve the steak with hot tortillas and seasoned black beans, (or a bean/corn salad) and Spanish rice if you really want to blow the diet!  Can’t go wrong with guacamole, too!”

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September 23, 2016   4 Comments

crinkle cucumber slicer

crinkle cucumber slicer

There is a kitchen tool that I have owned for over 20 years which I have used only once. I can’t for the life of me tell you when, why or how I acquired it, I just know that it’s been hanging around forever. I honestly don’t even know the proper name for it but I’m calling it a crinkle cucumber slicer. This past weekend, I used it for a second time.

tool junk drawer

You know how most homes have a junk drawer? Yeah, I have one of those too, but sadly, I have a second drawer that I call the kitchen tool junk drawer. It holds an odd variety of tools I seldom, if ever, use. I had to pull out the drawer to get to the bottom to find the slicer.


The reason the slicer was rescued from the pit of despair is because my dad brought over crates full of cucumbers, beans, peas, squash and corn that he received from his friends in Colorado, who he calls his shirt-tail relatives.

My dad asked me to “put up” the cucumbers and some of the green beans for him. Although I have an obsession with Mason jars, I’m not really into canning. I told him I’d quick pickle them and he could give them to his friends at church. He reluctantly agreed to settle on that.

pickles and beans

All three of these recipes can be processed for canning. If you’d like to do so, there are plenty of articles online with the canning process. HERE is one that I found for you.

The photos show more jars than the recipes make, that is due to the fact that I doubled and tripled the recipes. The first two are Tyler Florence recipes, the third is one I worked up.

sweet pickles

Quick Sweet Pickles

6 pickling (Kirby) or 2 regular cucumbers
1/4 cup kosher salt
1 cup water
1 cup rice vinegar
1/2 cup sugar
1 tablespoon coriander seed
1 tablespoon mustard seed
1 tablespoon whole allspice berries
1 cinnamon stick
3 cloves
1 bay leaf
salted cucmbers

Wash and dry the cucumbers. Using a sharp knife or a crinkle cucumber slicer cut the cucumbers into ½-inch slices and place in a colander. Sprinkle with salt and toss to coat. Place the colander over a bowl and allow it to sit, covered, for about 1 hour.

rinse off salt

Rinse off the salt and dry the cucumber slices well.

dry slices

Place them into a sterilized quart jar.

sweet spices

In a small saucepan add the remaining ingredients. Stir to dissolve sugar and bring to a boil.

add spices

Remove from heat and allow it to cool. Pour the brine over the cucumbers in jar. Cover and refrigerate at least 4 hours, preferably overnight. Will keep, refrigerated, for about 2 weeks.

bread and butter pickles

Recipe from Tyler Florence

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September 6, 2016   1 Comment