Thanksgiving menu planning

Usually it’s just the four of us for holidays. This kind of sucks, because I absolutely love to cook and the holidays are a great chance to showcase my cooking. Years ago, I decided not to let the fact that it was only us stop me from going all out on the holiday fare. I kind of make an all day event of it.

If I find the time and the inspiration, I will make some sort of breakfast, but it’s the least important meal of the day. For lunch, we bring out the appetizers. This year, we will be having sausage, cheese, & crackers, glazed meatballs, and veggie roll-ups (made with my homemade tortillas).

We will be having a traditional dinner of turkey, mashed potatoes, stuffing, gravy, green beans, cranberry sauce, and dinner rolls. I’m making Parker House rolls this year. They are one of my favorite dinner rolls, yet I so rarely make them. For the turkey, I am thinking a blend of lemon, garlic, sage, thyme, and rosemary will make a delicious bird. I’ll use the pan juices to make my gravy. I do not stuff my bird in the traditional sense. Instead, I will throw lemon and seasonings inside the cavity.

Assuming that we still have room after we have consumed all of the above, I will be making a couple of desserts. This year, the kids wanted pie and cookies. We decided on the traditional apple pie. I am going to make homemade whipped cream to top the slices. After a little thought, I decided to turn my favorite pumpkin dessert into a cookie. I have adapted my pumpkin cupcake recipe into a cookie recipe. I will be topping them with a cream cheese cookie icing.

I suspect that come Friday, we will hardly want to move. Though, I also assume that the guys will have to work that day.

I’ve spent the last few days working out recipes and planning every detail of Thanksgiving dinner. I have a legal pad that is half full of recipes for that day. These recipes may make it into the cookbook alongside so many other great recipes I’ve been working on.

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Now that all the recipes are written, it’s time for me to plan my holiday schedule. I like to decide what can be made in advance as well as knowing exactly what time every little piece needs to go in the oven or slow cooker or on the stove top. I plan my holiday meals down to every last detail. This doesn’t always result in a dinner delivered on time, but it keeps things on track so that only things out of my control can delay me.

My son’s birthday falls just a couple of days before Thanksgiving this year. He has requested black forest cake. I have requested that he give me until next weekend and allow me to focus on all that I need to get done for Thanksgiving this week. He is agreeable to that. For his birthday dinner, Clark will be making chicken and dumplings.

After I’ve got my recipes together and my timing planned out, I will prepare my grocery list. This will include comparing prices of my two local grocery stores, Meijer and Kroger. I live pretty much smack dab between the two. Meijer often has the better prices, but as of lately they do not seem to be bothering to stock their shelves. I am hoping that they will at least be prepared for the holiday rush, though I am not holding my breath as they didn’t even have any cranberry sauce on the shelves Sunday which was the first day of the sale.

How is everyone else doing in their holiday meal preparations?

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Delicious Apple Pecan Tart Recipe

Yesterday, I finally sat down and started planning my Thanksgiving menu. The kids decided that they want apple pie this year. I love apple pie. I have been playing with my pastry dough recipe, and haven’t had a chance to try my most recent adjustments. I am looking for a flaky and buttery crust. I think I may have found it.

I decided that I did not want to wait until Thanksgiving and try my crust on a holiday dessert. What if it failed? What if it fell apart? Nope. Better to try it out, now, and make sure it can hold up to an apple pie. I didn’t want to make pie again.

That’s when I came up with this delicious Apple Pecan Tart recipe. First, you’re going to need your favorite pastry dough recipe. You’re going to make enough for two pie crusts, but you will only make one flat disk out of the dough before sticking it in the refrigerator.

Apple Pecan Tart

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Materials:

• Parchment Paper
• Pizza tray
• Vegetable peeler
• Sharp knife
• Melon baller
• Cutting board
• Medium bowl
• Large bowl
• Cooling rack

Ingredients:
• Favorite two crust pastry dough recipe
• 4 Granny Smith apples
• 1 tbsp honey
• 1/2 tsp vanilla
• 1/2 tsp allspice
• 1/2 cup pecan pieces or chips

• 2 1/2 tbsp sugar, divided
• 1 tbsp flour
• 2 tbsp melted butter

Directions:
In medium bowl, combine honey, vanilla, and allspice. Set aside. Peel an apple (I prefer to do one apple at a time to reduce browning). Quarter the apple through the stem. Using the melon baller, remove the center seed pod. Trim away the core. Cut the apple into thin slices. Gently toss the slices in the honey spice mixture. Repeat with remaining three apples. Stir in nuts. Set apple mixture aside.

On a very lightly floured surface, roll out the pastry dough to about a quarter inch thickness (about 17 or 18 inches in diameter). You are not looking for a perfect circle, just a general idea of a circle.

Carefully transfer dough to parchment lined pizza tray. Whisk together two tablespoons of sugar with one tablespoon of flour. Sprinkle over pastry dough (this will keep your dough from getting soggy and help the bottom bake up beautifully).

Dump your apple mixture in the center and spread it evenly leaving three to four inches of pastry dough around the edges (or if you’re picky about your tart having a perfect circle, layer them starting from center and working your way out being sure to include pecans as you go).

Brush or drizzle the top of the apples with melted butter. Sprinkle with remaining half tablespoon of sugar. Fold pastry dough over top of apples. Cover pastry with a clean, large bowl. Place in refrigerator for at least 20 minutes or until ready to bake.

Preheat oven to 375*. Bake tart for 45 minutes to an hour, until apples are tender and pastry is golden brown (if apples are browning too much or starting to burn, place a circle of foil over the apples, careful not to cover too much of the pastry).

Carefully slide the parchment onto a wire rack and allow the tart to cool slightly before serving.

That’s the tart I came up with last night to test out my pastry dough recipe. The pastry dough was every bit as flaky and buttery as I’d hoped it would be. The tartness of the apples blended beautifully with the allspice and the sweetness of the honey and vanilla did not take away the tartness of the beautiful granny smith apples that I used. The crunchiness of the pecans brought it all together. This one will definitely be making it in to the cookbook.

apple peeler, corer, slicer

I don’t remember where I read the tip about the melon baller for assisting in coring the apple. I had one of those combination apple slicer/corer things, but it broke. I do have an apple peeler, corer, and slicer just like the one pictured above. It didn’t provide the right type of apple slice for what I wanted in my tart. I decided to give the melon baller a try. It worked perfectly. If you haven’t tried this method, yet, you really should.

I’ve still got a big Thanksgiving menu to plan, and my son has indicated that he would like a birthday dinner and black forest cake for dessert. His birthday falls two days before Thanksgiving. I already told him he is getting booted to the following weekend. Lol. I’m off of here to go work on some more recipes and my cookbook. I also have some pierogi to make today before we lose that delicious filling.

I don’t mean to toot my own horn…

Well, actually I do! I am so proud of myself. Yesterday, in The Monster Behind the Shower Curtain, I told ya’ll that I was going to give pierogi dough a try.

My experience with pierogi is limited. I’ve eaten a variety of Mrs. T’s Pierogies, which apparently is a laughable misnomer as pierogi is actually the plural of pierog (which coincidentally is rarely used because they are generally served as two or more pierogi). I also attempted to eat a pierogi at the hospital when I had my daughter. That was a boiled, flavorless thing that lived up to the expectation of hospital food. Basically, I’ve never actually had a real pierog.

I learned quite a bit while researching the pierog and its dough, yesterday. I read that your filling options are limited only by your imagination. Me, being me, I didn’t use anybody’s filling recipe. None of them seemed to carry the flavor I was envisioning. I used the dough recipe posted here.

I did as Edyta suggested and dumped my flour right on the counter and sprinkled it with a pinch of salt. I made a well for my warm milk and melted butter (I melted the butter in the warming milk). My well was not big enough, and my milk mixture started to escape. I chased it with flour (and caught it). At this point, I’m looking at the mess on my counter and wondering how it could possibly become dough.

Slowly, I pour little bits of very warm water in at a time and fold the flour mixture around it. At one point, it got so sticky that I thought I had messed up and added too much water. I just kept working it and praying. I actually ended up needing just a smidge more water. It rolled into a nice beautiful ball (and amazingly the counter was clean!) I grabbed my large bowl and put it over the dough to let it rest (yes, you still need a bowl, just not in the traditional way).

After the dough rested for about twenty-five minutes, I rolled it out. It wasn’t too hard to roll out. I cut it into quarters and rolled out one quarter at a time because of limited counter space. In the future, I will keep the other quarters under the bowl to prevent the outside from drying as this made it harder to work with.

I don’t have a wine glass or a round cookie cutter (only fun shapes around here, lol), so I used a glass tumbler. The cutting out the circles was, of course, a long and tedious process. I was watching the clock and getting a little bit nervous as the minutes ticked by like seconds.

When all was said and done, I had almost eighty circles. I divided them in half and went to work filling them. Dinnertime was fast approaching, and I was starting to worry if I would get them all done. I started a pot of water to boil. As soon as it came to a rolling boil, I dropped my first batch of seven. I’m watching them, waiting for the rise to the surface while filling and sealing more. As soon as they pop, I’m counting out sixty seconds while still filling another pierog.

I pulled that first batch and moved them to a platter Next time, I will use a cookie sheet to place the finished ones on because they stuck together when I stacked them (I know… duh). I drop the next batch in the rapidly boiling water. Continue process. I was a multi-tasking fool. Still, time ran out, and the boys got home from work. I was still stuffing and boiling them.

After they were all boiled, I fried them up in some butter and they were ready to serve. I ended up with thirty-one chicken pierogi and thirty-nine potato and cheddar pierogi. Eight of the chicken ones burst during boiling. I expected it. I rolled/stretched the dough too thin. I was pretty sure it was too thin before I even dropped it in the water. As for the potato ones, a few of them were short some of their filling from leakage, but none of them were empty. Overall, not bad for my first ever pierogi making experience.

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The ones on the left are roasted chicken, and the ones on the right are potato cheddar.

I have a bit of both fillings left, so I need to make more dough so that I can stick some pierogi in the freezer for later use. I think I am going to do that tomorrow. Today, my back, shoulders, and hips are sore. I spent a few hours standing at that counter, yesterday, mixing and rolling and filling pierogi dough. It was definitely one hell of a workout.

I do feel that my chicken ones need a little work. I had read one recipe that used a thickened gravy in their roasted chicken pierogi. I was nervous about putting gravy in there, but they came out rather dry, so I believe that next time I will try it with a sauce of some sort. The potato ones, I don’t think I would change a thing about (except maybe actually measuring things instead of eyeballing them, lol).

Overall, I am very happy with my first pierogi. I was pleasantly surprised that most of them held together. I am extremely proud of myself for this accomplishment.

The joy I felt when I successfully created my first pierogi made me realize why I’m having so much trouble focusing on writing anything else. My passion is in my cooking, and I’ve got this cookbook started. I think I’m going to bow out gracefully from the nanowrimo that I’ve fallen farther and farther behind in, and, instead, focus my energy on the cooking and developing my recipes and building my cookbook that I’ve been working on for the past year.

This doesn’t mean I won’t work on that nanowrimo novel. I think it is a great story, and I’m looking forward to seeing where it goes. I’m just not expecting to actually reach 50,000 words by the end of November, and that’s okay. I’ll keep pecking away at it, and it will be finished when it is ready to be finished.

Off to get another cup of coffee and figure out my plan for the day. I know I have a lot of dishes and laundry to do, today, because I fell behind while making pierogi, yesterday. But, that’s okay. It was totally worth it.

 

The Monster Behind the Shower Curtain

It’s late. It’s dark. Mom and dad just sent her to brush her teeth. She flicks on the hall light and slowly walks the long hallway to the bathroom. She eases open the door and peers inside.

A nightlight near the sink glows softly. She quickly turns on the bathroom light. There’s a weird shadow behind the shower curtain. Is there something in the bathtub? She tries to shake off the feeling of being watched.

She starts to brush her teeth, watching the shower closely in the mirror. She leans over to spit. When she stands straight again, she swears something has changed. Did that shadow just move?

She Prepares herself to open the shower curtain, sure that she is going to find some terrible monster lurking inside. Perhaps something slimy and nasty that has crawled out of the drain. Armed with her toothbrush in front of her, she flings open the curtain to reveal the empty bathtub containing nothing more ominous than bottles of shampoo, conditioner and body washes.

Feeling silly but not quite at ease, she decides to leave the shower curtain open while she finishes getting ready for bed. She finishes brushing her teeth, her watchful eye never leaving the mirror. She turns  off the light and closes the bathroom door as she leaves.

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#NaNoWriMo #amwriting but not as much as I want

I delayed writing my blog today until after I had gotten some NaNoWriMo writing done. Yesterday, I didn’t actually manage to write a single word. I’d sit down at my keyboard and the dryer would buzz. I’d get that load folded and put away and my daughter needed something. Before I knew it, it was time to start dinner, and I hadn’t written a single word.

This doesn’t mean that I didn’t get any work done yesterday. I got out my notebook and I worked through some of the struggles I was having. I planned and plotted where I wanted the story to go.

When I sat down today armed with my handful of notes and ideas, I expected the words to just flow. They came, in stops and starts. At one point, I baked a cake (dark chocolate pineapple) to relax my mind and change the subject for just a bit. While the cake was in the oven, I sat back down at my keyboard and the words just started flowing.

My main character was a hundred percent dependent on the promise of another character. I had the whole thing planned out in my handy dandy notebook. Then that other character called and cancelled. I didn’t expect it. She didn’t expect it. All my notes right out the window and the plan totally changed. I went with it.

I managed to write 1,862 words today for a new total word count of 12,869 words. This leaves me 2,134 words short of where I should be at the end of day nine. That’s not so bad. That’s barely more than one day’s worth of words. I’m hoping to catch them up this weekend.

Off of NaNoWriMo, last night’s Cream of Chicken soup I was talking about in #amwriting #nanowrimo update and a little #cooking talk was delicious. The only one who didn’t enjoy it was my daughter. She said that there was something off about the broth. I asked her if it was perhaps because it was a cream soup and not a broth soup and she said that might be it.

As I said yesterday, I’ve never actually made cream soups before. I don’t know why. I should have. I think my next soup to tackle will be a fully loaded baked potato soup. I’m thinking that if I bake the potatoes and then puree them, it will make a delicious, thickening soup base.

I sort of trashed the kitchen baking my stress relief cake, so I better get off of here and knock out a load of dishes. Then, I’m making a dark chocolate pineapple frosting to go on top of my beautiful cake (it’s seriously the most beautiful cake I’ve ever baked, and I hate to hide it under frosting). I’ll post pictures to my Instagram later.