Monthly Archives: November 2009

A Thanksgiving Success Story

So when I said that I would post photos tomorrow what I really meant was four days later.

Our Thanksgiving meal was a big success! I think there is a lot of hype built up about cooking the Thanksgiving meal, but if you have at least moderate skills in the kitchen, than it’s not that hard.

The Turkey

Shooting up the turkey

Travis handled all turkey preparation. He created some sort of injection and then shot the turkey up with it. Kind of like an episode of Intervention, except the turkey was never going to make it to rehab. Then he put the turkey in a 500 degree oven for 30 minutes to make the skin golden brown. After that, he covered the turkey with foil and turned the temperature down to 350. The turkey cooked for about 4 1/2 hours. It was 21 lbs. of pure fantasticness.

Travis with his bird

Side note: We bought the turkey four days in advance of Thanksgiving and started defrosting it in the refrigerator the second we got home. When we pulled the turkey out of the fridge on Thursday, we found that it was not completely defrosted. This slowed down our cooking time significantly as we had to set it in the sink and let it defrost in a bath of cool water.

Here’s a tip: Leave the turkey in it’s bag if you have to defrost it in the sink. We took it out of the bag and started filling the sink. Then Travis did a quick Food Network search and found that turkey can actually absorb a lot of water. Because of this we had to quickly move the turkey into a bag. Let me give you a visual: I am holding a flimsy plastic bag while Travis attempts to pick up a slippery 21 lb. turkey. Not cool. We ended up putting the bird in garbage bags. What? Don’t judge – you should know by now that Travis and I are a bit redneck innovative.

The Stuffing

My Stuffing Recipe (Mine, mine, mine and a little bit of my Dad’s)

1 loaf Dutch crunch bread (stale or toasted to crispiness)
1 loaf multigrain bread (also stale or toasted to crispiness)
1 box store stuffing mix (if you buy enough bread you won’t need this. I, alas, did not purchase enough.)
1 package bulk sausage – I used Jimmy Dean with Sage flavoring
1/2 onion diced
4-5 celery stalks diced
Baby Bella Mushrooms chopped
Fresh Thyme, Rosemary and Sage
1/4 cup heavy whipping cream
1 tbsp. butter (real butter, not margarine)
1 cup chicken broth

Stuffing. The lighting was off. It actually looked and smelled a lot more appetizing than this picture.

Cook sausage in pan. When sausage is no longer pink add onions and celery. When onions are translucent and celery is soft, but still crunchy, add mushrooms. Saute mixture with chicken broth. This will help soften the vegetables, give the mixture more flavor and gives you a little liquid to break down the bread. Add bread and stuffing mix to a casserole or dutch oven. Pour vegetable mixture over the bread and stir together. Pour cream over top. Slice up butter and place chunks on top of mix. Take fresh herbs and place on top (adds a little flavor and makes for a nice presentation). Put in oven at 350 for about 20 minutes or so uncovered.

The Taters

Huh. So that is a completely unattractive mashed potato shot.

This was one recipe that was good, but not over the top amazing. I roasted a whole head of garlic in the oven and then smashed it up, adding to the potatoes. I had expected a more powerful taste, but the garlic flavor was almost lost in the potato mixture. All in all, though, they were a perfectly acceptable mashed potato.

Roasted Sweet Potatoes

These were a tasty little treat. Whenever I roast vegetables I always wonder why I don’t do it more often. It is so easy!

Here’s this recipe:

2 or 3 sweet potatoes or yams (I used both)
Honey or Agave Nectar
Salt and Pepper
Olive Oil

Cut the potatoes into 1 inch pieces. Place on baking sheet. Drizzle with olive oil, honey and agave. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Bake for 30 minutes at 350. Voila!

The Sprouts

Try them. You'll like it.

I think Brussel sprouts get a bad rap. I like to think of them as mini cabbage. I roasted these as well and it turned out marvelously. Cut Brussel sprouts in half, place on baking sheet. Drizzle with olive oil. Bake at 350 for about 20-25 minutes.

Guilty Conscious: I also cooked some bacon and then sprinkled it on top of the brussel sprouts as they roasted.
Redeeming Moment: I added golden raisins when the sprouts were out of the oven. They’re fruit, right?

The Piece de la Resistance
Dun, da, da, dun! Pumpkin Cheesecake. Did you know that it is almost embarrassingly easy to make a cheesecake? Me neither. This recipe was so simple and the result was delicious. Paula Deen has never steered me wrong. This was my first foray into using a spring form pan and I did learn that I may have needed to grease it before adding the graham cracker crust. I’m also not sure if there is an easy way to get a cheesecake out of a spring form pan. If so, please share your tips with me.

Finally, the complete meal –

Smorgasbord

And, in case you thought I forgot, I’m thankful for:

  • Having a tremendous amount of love in my life
  • My family who call me bridezilla, but better not don’t mean it
  • That Travis and I have been lucky to continue working this year
  • My beautiful, amazing friends who nurture my soul
  • Daisy dog and the devilish duo Hans and Louie
  • Travis for making my dreams come true
  • Oh and I’m still pretty happy that Obama won the election. Just thought I’d throw that in there.

T-Minus 1 to T-Day

This year marks a rite of passage for Travis and me. We will be cooking a complete Thanksgiving meal by ourselves.  Last year was spent with my family, the year before that was spent with a few friends here in Reno.

Gobble Gobble!

Unfortunately, this year we couldn’t convince (ahem, beg) anyone to celebrate with us. We’re on our own (with the exception of Travis’s sister, but she lives with us so she’s kind of a default guest, as in she gets no other choice).

I’ve dreamed of hosting holidays, cooking, baking, drinking, decorating like Sandra Lee or as if I’m an art director at Crate and Barrel. I just haven’t quite had the opportunity or the space to do so. Instead I plan on cooking my ass off and playing hostess on a much smaller scale.

Here’s Our Menu:

Turkey – All I know about this is that we’ve bought one and it is defrosting in our fridge. This is Trav’s department. He bought a special injector thingy and he’s putting it in a bag in the oven. He’s also been watching a lot of Alton Brown. That’s all I got.

Stuffing – I don’t know anything about dressing (are they the same thing?) and I grew up in a house that didn’t use recipes so I’m doing a sausage, celery, mushroom stuffing that I’m pulling from memory. It’s stuffing though, right? It’s already cooked bread that you add some fat to and bake. How hard can it be?

Cranberry Sauce – Travis likes the canned stuff and I love the Trader Joe’s brand. Check!

Mashed Potatoes – When I was a kid my parents took me to a buffet where they had mashed potatoes and I told them, “I’m in heaven.” That still holds true today. We’re going to make a roasted garlic mashed potato with red potatoes instead of russet.

Sweet Potatoes/Yams – We only had sweet potatoes at Thanksgiving and they were always my favorite part of the meal. Now that I’m an adult and can have sweet potatoes anytime I want the charm isn’t the same, but I still love me some sweet potatoes. This year I’m doing a roasted sweet potato/yam concoction with olive oil and honey. My dad always made a mashed souffle of sorts that I loved, but I thought roasting would give a better texture that won’t compete with the mashed potatoes.

Brussel Sprouts – This is my substitute for green bean casserole. Lets face it – the best thing about green bean casserole is those crunchy onions that you snack on while you are making the nasty green bean casserole. Instead, I’m changing things up and making this recipe from Real Simple. It has bacon. Enough said.

Pumpkin Cheesecake – Paula Deen doesn’t steer you wrong. Ever. She uses butter and sugar liberally. And I see nothing wrong with that. Here’s her pumpkin cheesecake recipe that I’m going to try.

Am I forgetting something? Whatev.

Photos to come tomorrow.

Happy Thanksgiving!

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A Completely Not Wedding Related Post

The other night Travis and I made this pasta, which was absolutely simple and delicious. I love to cook and since my life has been completely mad since May I haven’t taken the time to explore in the kitchen as much as I used to.

What makes this recipe so great is that the ingredients are simple and the entire dish can be ready in about a half an hour. Also, it contains Brie and Brie is a gift from God.

 

Recipe from Real Simple

One Tasty Little Dish

 

 

We added some prosciutto to the pasta, which added a nice saltiness to the mix. Since I didn’t have any arugula on hand I used some Spring Mix that we had hanging out in the fridge. It didn’t have the same spicy flavor as arugula, but it got the job done.  Here’s the Pasta with Brie, Mushrooms, and Arugula recipe.

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Stay married if you want kids

Stay Married if you want kids.

Wow – what an amazing article. Too much to write about now, but I thought I would share.

Dear Weight Watchers

I open my inbox today and what is wating for me? A little note that begins, “Jennifer, come back to Weight Watchers and save $25.”

Hmmmp. Weight Watchers you hardly know me at all. I have not gone by Jennifer since first grade (ok, except for that short year after college when I thought it sounded more professional). And also, WW, you completely let me down and left me feeling completely disillusioned by the weight loss game and your GD points system made me obsess over every freaking thing I put in my mouth for six months.

So, no, I decline your invitation to come back or to save $25. No thanks.

I guess you figured out that I quit Weight Watchers. A while ago. Like almost 6 months. And guess what has happened? I gained back the 6 pounds that I lost while on that program. I can also still fit in all my clothes.

I didn’t become a morbidly obese person who sits in a closet and eats Twinkies in the dark. Yeah, I actually eat vegetables because I like them.

Here’s the thing: I followed the WW program. I tracked every little itty, bitty point. I went to my weekly meetings.

I DID EVERYTHING THEY TOLD ME TO!

And I lost 6 pounds in 6 months. Not cool. So not cool.

It was a lot of effort (and money) for a very small pay off.

I finally hit my breaking point when I went to a meeting and the leader said everyone was going to lose 10 pounds in 6 weeks. I wanted to throw my hands in the air and yell, “Are you freaking kidding me? What makes you think that is even possible for me after doing this program for 6 months and losing a pound a month?”

And that’s when it hit me. They count on you having failures. It is far easier to keep someone coming to meetings if you tell them over and over again that they must not be following the program, eating too much, or not working out enough (or too much).

Their business model has to bank on people coming back over and over again, creating a cycle of people who obsess over food, berate themselves for not losing, and then return with eyes full of hope that this time it will be different.

I don’t want to harp too much on WW because I did find their materials to be really helpful and the meetings, for the most part, were motivating. I think they have the right idea and for a lot of people WW is a savior that they desperately need.

Now I’ve tried WW three times and I can say positively, without a doubt, that this is not the solution for me. It just didn’t work for my body or my mind. What I’m doing now is trying to make good decisions every day and trying to eat the right amount of food for my body. I haven’t lost any weight, but I feel like a giant weight has been lifted from my mind.

I may not lose 50 pounds before the wedding, but I’m tired of worrying about looking perfect.The man who is in love with me likes me just the way I am. And it’s about time that I do the same.