Monday, November 26, 2012

This Week’s Menu

We had a great Thanksgiving and had lots of leftovers.  We’ve been eating them all up over the weekend and now it is time to change gears and come up with some non- turkey related meals!  :)

Chili, chips & salsa, salad

Crockpot pork roast, baked potatoes & sweet potatoes, salad


Spaghetti, french bread, salad



Black bean soup, crackers, salad

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Tomorrow’s Cooking Plan and a Few of My Favorite Recipes

I try and do a good deal of the cooking and prep work the day before Thanksgiving.  I like the fact that it makes the day go smoother and I can spend time with my family and friends instead of all my time in the kitchen.  Here is what I have planned to do tomorrow:

I will be making the mashed potatoes a day early. I make them, put them in the fridge and on Thanksgiving Day put them in the crockpot to heat up and be ready. One less thing to stress about before serving the meal. I also pour a little milk into the bottom of the crockpot before adding potatoes. This helps prevent crusting and burning. If they heat too much a crust along the sides will form. So stir them every now and again while they heat up on low. 


Sweet potatoes: I make up my casserole and put it in the fridge. I heat it up shortly before the meal is served: 

Dinner rolls: make them and reheat the next day: 

Stuffing: I will be making crockpot stuffing and cooking the bird unstuffed. I make it up the night before and put it in the crockpot on Thanksgiving morning.

Crockpot Stuffing
12 to 14 c bread cubes ~you can use homemade whole wheat bread
1 large onion, chopped
2 c sliced celery
2 c chopped and sliced mushrooms (opt)
1 c butter
1 t thyme
½ t sage
½ t marjoram
2 t salt
½ t pepper
2 eggs, beaten
3 to 4 c chicken broth

Put bread cubes in a large mixing bowl. Cook onions, celery and optional mushrooms in butter until all veggie are soft. Add to the bread cubes and gently stir. Add spices and stir. Add remaining ingredients, mixing well. 

Put in crockpot and heat and cook on low for 4 to 5 hours.

Pies: I will make my Bosch 4 crust pie crust recipe: My family loves pumpkin pies so I will make 4 of them. Pie Crust – the recipe:  and the tutorial:  and of course the pie:  

My daughter Emily will be making my cranberry sauce:  and bringing an apple pie: 

And no holiday is complete for my family without our traditional 24 Hour Fruit Salad. My kids loved this salad while they were growing up and still feel like no holiday meal is right if it is not served: 


Monday, November 19, 2012

How to Roast a Turkey

I've posted this before and I had a link to it in my newsletter...  but thought I would post it here on my blog in case anyone needed the information.

I am sure a lot of you reading this already know how to cook a turkey.  But I also know that many ladies have never done it before.  I was in my late 20’s before I cooked my first turkey.  My grandma or mom or mother in law had always done that part.  When I went to cook my first turkey I was reading lots of cookbooks and talking with my mother to learn.  It is not like we have the opportunity to practice turkey roasting too often!  

I thought I would just share from my own turkey roasting experience how I have done it.  There are lots of ways to do this and tips, etc..  and I am sure I won’t cover them all but will share what has worked for me. 

First is the actual buying of the turkey.  I typically have purchased frozen turkeys.  The week before Thanksgiving you can find turkeys at the best price of the year.  In fact I usually take advantage of these great prices and buy another turkey or two for the freezer. A mini Thanksgiving dinner at another time of the year is actually kind of fun.   A couple of years ago I bought a fresh turkey from Costco and it was good too.   

If you buy your turkey frozen you will need a few days to let it defrost.  Do not sit it on the counter to defrost.  The outside of the turkey will start to spoil before the center has completely defrosted.  This is especially true for bigger birds. I put my turkey in the refrigerator to defrost.  Two days ahead of time for a small turkey (say 12lbs or under) and three to four days for a bigger turkey.   

The night before Thanksgiving I open the turkey up and wash him and remove the giblets.  I put those in a bowl and put them back in the fridge.  The next day I boil those with some salt and use the broth for my gravy as well as cutting up the giblets to add to the gravy.   I rinse the turkey off in cool water making sure he has defrosted completely.  I put him in a large roaster pan, cover him up with plastic wrap and put him back in the fridge until the next day.   

I also make up my stuffing the night before.  Don’t put the stuffing in the bird the night before to save time.  This can once again cause spoilage.  After I make the stuffing I store it in the fridge.   

On Thanksgiving morning I pull the turkey out, preheat the oven, remove the plastic and stuff my turkey.  I find the easiest way to do this is to set the turkey in my clean sink and use a big spoon (or my clean hands)  to spoon in the stuffing.  Then I set the stuffed turkey on my roasting pan.  I melt a cube (we call them cubes here in my parts.. some call them sticks) of butter and if it is a big turkey I melt 2 cubes.  I take a brush and brush the top of my turkey with this melted butter.  Cover the bird with foil and put him in the oven to start baking.  

After he has baked for about an hour I use my trusty turkey baster and baste him with the melted butter that has drizzled to the bottom of my pan along with any other juices that have also accumulated. 

I continue to cook and baste for the required amount of time.  The closer I get to the finish time the more frequently I baste.  I also take the foil off for the last couple of hours so the turkey can brown nicely.
Now for some specifics: 
Temperature to Bake a Turkey: 
325 is what I have always done
How Long to Cook: 
If your turkey is stuffed:
8 to 12lbs  about 3 hours
12 to 15lbs  about 4 hours
15 to 18lbs about 4 ½ hours
18 to 24lbs  about 4 1/2  to 5 hours
If you don’t stuff your turkey you can subtract about anywhere from 15 minutes to a half hour off the above times.  
However my experience has been that this is a rough estimate. I have had it take longer or shorter..  Your very, very best guide will be your thermometer.   

The temperature of the whole turkey, no matter where you put the thermometer (but not touching bone) should read a minimum of 165 (and that includes taking the temp of the stuffing).  I actually like it when the temps are a bit higher than that say..  180.   

I also wiggle the drumstick and it should move very easily.   When the turkey has finished cooking, take it out of the oven and let is sit for 15 to 20 minutes.  This will give you time to make the gravy and mash the potatoes.
I hope you all have a wonderful day of good food, family and much thankfulness.

This Week’s Menu

I am beginning my journey into cooking for 4 people.. instead of a big house full..  I suspect more nights of leftovers as I work to adjust my mindset to what it takes to feed a smaller group.  As I said to a friend..  who knew you could make spaghetti with less than 3 pounds of hamburger!!  :)  That was the norm for feeding adults and big teenage appetites.  Of course Thanksgiving is this week as well and I'll be serving up a big meal to family and friends on that day..  So here goes my journey and this week’s menu…

Veggie Soup with mini- meatballs ( I am making a few adjustments to the recipe link, one is I am using this recipe to make the meatballs:   and I am using my own homemade stock instead of water and bouillon cubes), bread of some sort, salad

Leftovers..  soup is one of those meals you don’t mind eating again. 

Sandwiches and tomato soup..  I will be cooking all day in preparation for Thanksgiving dinner so I wanted something simple.  I make the tomato soup according to the recipe only making it with my own home canned tomato puree. 

Thanksgiving Dinner!!  Turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, green beans, dinner rolls, salad, pumpkin pies (I'll be sharing my favorite recipes in the next blog post)

Sierra’s birthday!  Sushi (her favorite, purchased from Costco), pot stickers and a few other Asian type foods and maybe a small pizza for those that are not fans of sushi (is it possible that there are people who are not fans of sushi??!!  ;)

Leftover thanksgiving dinner

Black bean soup, crackers, salad


Saturday, November 17, 2012

My Daughter Arrived Safe and Sound

What a crazy week.  It was lots of last minute details getting Leanne ready to leave for S. Korea.  Packing, checking items off her list, weighing the suitcases, deciding what to leave behind, visiting family one last time, spending as much time with her as we could…  and then very early Friday morning we took her to the airport.  We stayed and watched as she went through security and waved “good bye” one last time.  I thought I would hold it together..  but the tears came.  It was hard to watch her walk away and know I won’t see her for a year.

We came home and it was little melancholy for all us during the day.  We kept busy with household stuff and I got my hubby off to work in the evening.  During the day we were watching her flight progress online.  The internet is amazing in so many ways.  Her first stop was San Francisco.  Her layover was only 2 hours and she had to go through security again.  Her first flight was delayed by a half hour so she had no time to let me know she had arrived.  She did not have a cell phone as her plans were to get one after she got to S. Korea.  She did have her laptop, but no time to talk.  She boarded her Asiana Air flight at 12:00 in the afternoon and then had a 12 hour flight.  Her plane landed in Seoul at 12:am our time, 6:pm S. Korea time.  Then it was customs, and someone from the school picking her up. 

I waited all morning to hear from her.  Finally at around 3:30 this afternoon I heard from her.  She was safe and sound and at a hotel resting.  That wait nearly did me in!!  It was so hard to go all those hours and not hear from her or hear if everything was all right.  I prayed a lot and just trusted that the Lord was watching out for her.  And He was!! 

She starts a week of training on Monday morning (our Sunday afternoon).  Not a lot of time to recover from jet lag.  But I know she will do fine.  I will be happy when she is in her apartment and is settled into her new routine (and I know she will be too!). 

That’s all from the homestead for now..  soon life here at home will settle down and we will start working on “normal” again..  :)

Monday, November 12, 2012

This Week’s Menu

Bbq beef sandwiches (using my recently canned beef), tomato soup (using this recipe and adapting to use my home canned tomato puree), salad – it was a busy day today and I wanted an easy meal

Tacos w/all the trimmings, salad

Crockpot chili, chips & salsa, salad


Lasagna, french bread, salad



Sunday, November 11, 2012

Canning Chicken

I just can’t let my canner sit idle for too long! :) I actually just love having my canning shelves full of food choices for quick meals, soups, casseroles. It makes life just a bit simpler and still allows me to feed my family good quality homemade foods.

Yesterday I canned about 14 pounds of boneless, skinless chicken thighs. A few weeks back I did this with beef (blog post HERE). I have already used several jars for soup, enchiladas and bbq beef sandwiches. I figured it was time to add some chicken to the canning shelves.

I cut most of the fat off the chicken pieces and then cut the thighs into 3 or 4 pieces each. I planned on canning this in pint size jars. I added ½ teaspoon salt to each pint jar..

I began to pack the jars with the meat. I packed them tightly and worked to make sure there were no gaps and air pockets. I did not add any liquid. The chicken will cook and make its' own yummy broth.

I then wiped the rims clean and added a lid and ring…

And put them in the canner…

And canned them for 75 minutes (it would 90 minutes for quart jars) at 10 pounds pressure (for my altitude). You can check the correct pressure for your altitude here:

I ended up with 14 pint jars of chicken. 

Friday, November 9, 2012

One Week

I’m sitting here in my quiet house this morning trying to wrap my mind around the fact that Leanne will be leaving for S. Korea in one week! The time is going by too quickly. I am very happy for her as she is so excited for this adventure to begin in her life.

I’m a little sad to see my sweet daughter leave and know she will be gone for a year. It seems like a long time (and I'm ever so thankful for Skype.. :). I remember when Emily left for Denmark and I remember when my oldest son headed off to Iraq for a 15 month deployment (and when he left for Cuba for a 12 month deployment). It seems like such a long road ahead when it begins. One thing I remember is that life does move forward and time goes by faster than we realize. Before I know it the seasons will change and we will be here at this time of year again welcoming her home.

For now the adventure is just beginning and I have been busy helping her get many last minute needed things checked off her list before she has to leave. My blogging may be spotty for another week or so until life settles down again…


Tuesday, November 6, 2012

The Wedding!

Wow!! What an experience for our family! Tobin and I and our two daughters Leanne and Sierra flew down to Sacramento, CA on Friday. Our sons and my sister in law Debbie and her daughter (our niece) Megan drove down.

On Friday night we all enjoyed a BBQ at Brandon’s parents’ home, meeting many of his family members and friends. It was a fun time.

On Saturday morning we had the wedding ceremony at Brandon’s parents’ home. It was attended by close family and a few friends. Brandon is Vietnamese and we experienced a traditional Vietnamese wedding. It was very beautiful and a whole different cultural experience for our family. Then on Saturday evening we had the reception. Again, it was full of culture and a glimpse into this amazing family. We were awe struck by the love, devotion and honor to family and the support and encouragement that we saw among the many family members and friends who attended the reception. There was a 10 course Asian meal served that was absolutely delicious! Followed by much dancing and fun.

On Sunday it was time to head home. My boys and my sister in law got an early start (it was a 10 to 12 hour drive for them). The girls and Tobin and I enjoyed a leisurely breakfast at our hotel and then caught our afternoon flight back home. It was an exciting, blessed whirlwind weekend!

Many, many pictures were taken that day by a couple of great photographers. I got a few but nothing as nice as theirs, I just don't have the official wedding pictures yet.  But I wanted to share a little look into our special day with you. My daughter Sierra got in on the photography action as well and these are a few of the pictures she took (except for the first one, that is only one I have so far of Emily in her traditional Vietnamese wedding dress) …  I hope to share a few more when the official pictures come my way..

Leanne & Isaac (my ballroom dancers) did a dance special...


Monday, November 5, 2012

This Week’s Menu


Chicken curry, rice, salad

Pork chops, baked potatoes, salad

Spaghetti, french bread, salad

Crockpot rotisserie chicken, mashed potatoes, salad


Enchiladas, tortilla chips & salsa, salad

Breakfast for dinner: waffles, eggs, bacon, fruit salad