Monday, November 19, 2012
I spent the day cooking and talking, talking and cooking. It was a pleasant way to spend the day, enjoying each other's company while doing one of my most favorite things - cooking for those I love. Of course, the first thing that had to be done was to get the turkey in the oven. Our oldest daughter worked at a cafe in New York City when she lived there and they baked a turkey every day for sandwiches and dinners. It was, perhaps, the best turkey I had ever eaten and that is the way I prepare turkeys now.
Mr. Turkey was an 18 pounder and had been thawing in the refrigerator for several days. He had to be brined on Friday for cooking on Saturday. Have you ever brined a turkey? If not, this holiday is the perfect time to start! It makes the most delicious, flavorful, succulent turkey you have ever eaten and it is really quite simple to do. I used our Coleman cooler for the brining process, or you can get a new 5 gallon bucket at a home improvement store (like Home Depot) to use.
Make sure you remove all the extras from the turkey that are hiding inside and trim any extra skin and fat from the neck cavity. Now, make your brine by adding 1.5 cups of coarse salt to a pan containing a quart of water. Cook and stir until the salt has dissolved. Remove from the heat and let cool before pouring over the turkey.
When the brining water has cooled, put the turkey in the cooler, or bucket, and pour the cooled brining water over the turkey. Keep adding water (NOT hot), until the turkey is covered. You will need at least 7 quarts of water and maybe more. Add a bag of crushed ice to the water and close the lid of the cooler. Turkey can be brined up to 24 hours before baking. If you are using a bucket for the turkey, cover the turkey with water and set the bucket in a cooler and place ice around the bucket.
When you are ready to bake the turkey, remove it from the brining water and wash it thoroughly to remove any remaining salt residue. Place the turkey in the roasting pan. Now for the fun part. This is how I bake the most delicious turkey ever. In the cavity of the turkey, place one apple that you have cut in half, one large onion that you have cut in half, a quartered lemon, 3-4 garlic cloves, and a handful of fresh thyme sprigs. You may have to push and shove to get it all arranged, but it is SO worth the effort. Now, put your hands under the skin on the breast and gently pull the skin loose by moving your hands up and around as far as you can go. Place fresh thyme sprigs under the skin, as much as you can get under there. Now, wasn't that fun?
Next, turn the wing tips so they will lay under the body of the turkey so they don't burn during roasting. This is a really awesome trick I picked up from Alton Brown on the Food Network. It takes a little twisting and turning to make it happen, but again, it is SO worth the effort.
Now, make a tent of aluminum foil over the turkey, leaving the ends open. It took two pieces of foil to cover this big boy. Now, you are ready to begin the roasting process. Place the turkey in your 350 degree preheated oven. Recommended cooking time is 15 minutes per pound for a turkey that is not filled with stuffing. So, if you have a 20 pound turkey you are looking at 20x15, or 300 minutes or 5 hours. Figure roasting time by multiplying the weight of your turkey times 15 divided by 60. BE SURE AND ALLOW ENOUGH TIME FOR ROASTING THOROUGHLY! When a meat thermometer is inserted into the thickest part of the thigh, the temperature should be 180 degrees. Now, you can remove the turkey from the oven and let it rest at least 20 minutes before carving.
I was so busy getting all the side dishes ready, and the grandsons were starving and begging to eat, so I got in a "get er done" mode. My daughter asked what she could do to help and I said you can carve the turkey. I finally had everything ready to go and a loud cheer went up (no, not really), but the mothers started preparing their son's plates when it hit me. NOOOOOOOOOOOO. I did not take a picture of my beautiful turkey. Probably the most perfect turkey I had ever roasted. It was beautifully golden, not one burned place anywhere. How could this be? It was like the moment in A Christmas Story when the Bumpusses' dogs had eaten the Christmas turkey. I was devastated. I had worked all day to make this beautiful bird and there was nothing but the carcass. NO. PICTURE. TAKEN. WAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA. So, I did the next best thing and took a picture of the carcass just to prove there was a turkey. A real turkey that I had cooked. It isn't a phantom. It was a beautiful, delicious turkey. It was all I could do. You can see the beautiful golden skin and the ruins. I know, it's not the same, but it's what I got. That's what happens when you take pictures of the food you are getting ready to eat. This is not a photo op, this is not food that is prepared just for pictures, this is hard core dinner food. No food stylists here, just Grandma trying to get the food on the table.
If you are planning to roast a turkey and don't know how you are going to do it, give this method a try. You will be glad you did. You will have only a carcass to prove you actually roasted that bird. And a smile on everyone's face. And that is the tale of the phantom turkey. Happy Thanksgiving everyone.
Things to Remember:
Be thankful every day, not just on Thanksgiving. Live with an attitude of gratitude.
Thursday, November 15, 2012
They deck their tree and house out in a theme every year and this year they are using bright colors - lime green, hot pink, and turquoise blue. Don fell in love with the snowman hat as a tree topper 2 years ago. We looked and looked at them, but he would change his mind and never bought one. Last year, they used a beach theme for their tree with star fish, shells and all kinds of cute beach themed ornaments, so he didn't think the top hat was the right thing to use as a tree topper. This year, it is THE perfect thing to use to go with all the bright colors on the tree and throughout the house. Needless to say, you can't find one of these just anywhere. So, I told Don I would make him one as part of his birthday gift. I wish you could see it in actuality, it is SO cute with lots of glitz and sparkle. It would make Lady GaGa proud.
What started the whole conversation was Don saying he wanted a top hat this year for the tree, but didn't want to spend the money for a ready made one. Then, I found one on Pinterest that was really cute made from a coffee can. He and Rick really liked it, so I said that is what I would make. As you can see, that is not what I made but I did use a Trader Joe's coffee can for the base. Did I take a picture of the coffee can? Of course not. Sorry. But the can is 9.75 inches tall by 4.5 inches in diameter. It is taller than most regular coffee cans and narrower. Perfect for this project!
Remember, I am doing this on the fly, so I played around a bit and started at one place and proceeded to another. Do you do that when creating? My years of working in theatrical costumes has taught me a lot about things that can be used that are inexpensive but do the job just fine. So, I started with an empty coffee can. Next, I cut up some cereal boxes because I wanted to cover the hat with them.
Next, I traced around the can on another painted piece of cardboard to make the top of the hat, cut it out and hot glued it to the top of the cardboard around the can.
Next, I made what would be the brim. I cut out a large circle of cardboard and that is where the lightbulb went off in my head. This would be too flimsy for what I wanted. That meant time to search the craft room for something else to cover this cardboard with. If you are a crafter like me, then you probably have all kinds of things lurking in the shadows of your craft room. Ding, ding, ding - I found just what I needed. There was a package of 12 x 18 craft foam in different colors and - wahoo- two pieces of lime green foam. That was exactly what I wanted. I covered the cardboard covered coffee can with a piece of foam and trimmed it. I hot glued it down the seam and then hot glued the other end and pressed it over the first seam. Somehow I missed taking a picture of this step. That's what happens when I get into being creative. Oh well. Then I cut a round piece to cover the top of the coffee can and hot glued it down.
For the brim, I traced two circular pieces of foam and cut those out. I sandwiched the cardboard circle between the two foam pieces and hot glued them around the edges. Again, no picture. Please forgive me.
Now, it was time to cover the base pieces with the Deco Mesh. First, I cut a piece about 1 inch bigger than the circle meant for the hat brim. I laid the foam covered piece in the center of the Deco Mesh and gently pulled the edges over the top of the piece. Working in about 2 inch sections, I put a little hot glue on the edge of the circle and pressed the mesh down with a wooden dowel rod I keep for hot gluing so I don't burn my fingers!!!! And boy, does it burn if you touch it! Simply roll from the outside edge toward the center until the mesh sticks to the foam.
Now, I laid a large piece of mesh over the circle I just finished and cut the mesh to the exact size of the circle. Then, you guessed it, I glued the mesh to the unfinished top.
I placed the crown of the hat in the center of the circle aka the brim. I used a pencil and made dots in the foam by pushing the pencil down through the mesh so I would know the crown was centered when I glued it on. After all this work, I certainly didn't want an off center crown! Now, I ran a bead of hot glue around the bottom of the coffee can and set it in place on the brim. I ran another bead of glue around the outside edge of the crown just to make sure it held.
To finish the hat, I used some of the silver snowflakes from a garland that I had purchased at Hobby Lobby to decorate the brim of the hat, the hat band and the underside of the brim so you can see them when the hat is on the top of the tree. I mean, it is a snowman's hat after all.
I CAN'T WAIT TO SEE IT ON THE TOP OF THEIR TREE!!
If you decide you want to make one of these adorable hats, you can use any sized can for the base. It just depends on the look you want and pretty much follow the same procedure using any colors of your choice. You know, I am thinking I may just have to have one of these for each of the grandson's trees and ours too. Time's a wastin' Grandma. You better get busy!
Things to Remember:
Frosty the snowman was a jolly happy soul,
With a corncob pipe and a button nose
And two eyes made out of coal.
Frosty the snowman is a fairy tale they say,
He was made of snow but the children
Know how he came to life one day.
There must have been some magic in that
Old silk hat they found,
For when they placed it on his head
He began to dance around................Sing with me now
Frosty the snowman was alive as he could be,
And the children say he could laugh and play
Just the same as you and me.
Wednesday, November 14, 2012
This is such a tricky time of year because not only do we have Thanksgiving to celebrate, but I am also mid Christmas preparation - making gifts and decorations which sort of takes over the entire house. There is glitter everywhere, glue, paper, ornaments, and the kitchen table is piled high with every manner of crafting equipment. I do have a craft desk in the back bedroom, but there is not enough room to do everything in there, so the kitchen table makes up the additional space I need. Do you have that issue? Not enough space? It really gets perplexing at times. I hate cleaning off the table every night when it's dinner time, but that's just the way it has to be. Everyone finishes dinner with glitter on their face. The guys love me for that.
For our mantel this year, I reused the banner I made last fall and the beautiful glittered trees that I bought. To make it look different, I added 6" burlap ribbon, white lights, lots of small white pumpkins and colorful gourds and candles. It looks so inviting and warm and it makes me happy. Needless to say, the day after Thanksgiving, it all comes down and Christmas replaces these decorations. Although, I am considering keeping some of it for Christmas and changing out the gourds and the banner. I especially love the burlap ribbon. What to do, what to do? Every day at this point, I change my mind. Nothing is written in stone until the fat lady sings as they say.
The picture above was taken at night so you can see how lovely the lights look. Here is the same picture in daytime.
Things to Remember:
I approach decorating like life, it's all about changes and accepting them when they happen. Nothing ever stays the same.
Tuesday, November 13, 2012
If you are serving dinner at your abode and you want a dessert that is scrumptious and not too difficult, have I got a "must try" for you! Woweeeee, this pumpkin cream cheese cake is fabulous. If you are in charge of taking dessert to someone else's home, have I got a "must try" for you! Oh, I just said that didn't I? Well, I am not being facetious when I say give this cake a try. I mean, what's not to love? Pumpkin and cream cheese in the same dessert should seal the deal without any other considerations.
This cake is easier than baking a pie, but has that same moist, spicy flavor that pumpkin pie has. It has cinnamon and cloves and nuts, and cream cheese, and a cinnamon glaze that is oh so good and cream cheese. Look at this slice up close.
Here is what you need (because you really do want to make this!)
1 8 oz block cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 TBSP all purpose flour
1 large egg
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 2/3 cup all purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground cloves
1 1/4 cups canned pumpkin puree
1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 large eggs
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
1 cup chopped pecans or walnuts (optional) ( I used 1/2 cup chopped pecans)
1 cup powdered sugar
2 TBSP milk
1/2 tsp cinnamon
Preheat your oven to 325 degrees. (note temperature) Grease and flour a Bundt pan.
In a medium mixing bowl, combine the cream cheese, sugar, flour, egg and vanilla. Beat with a mixer until smooth and creamy. Set aside.
In a large bowl, sift together 1 2/3 cups flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, and cloves and set aside.
In another bowl, combine the pumpkin puree, oil, eggs, and sugar. Mix well until all ingredients are thoroughly combined. Stir the pumpkin mixture into the flour mixture just until combined. Fold in nuts if using.
Pour half of the pumpkin batter evenly into the prepared Bundt pan. Spoon the cream cheese mixture over the pumpkin batter. Cover the cream cheese with the remaining pumpkin batter. Using a knife, stick it straight down through the top layer of pumpkin batter and cream cheese filling. Swirl the knife around these two layers creating a marble effect.
Bake for 55-60 minutes until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean. Let the cake cool before removing from pan.
After removing the cake from the pan, pour the glaze over the top of the cake, letting it run down the sides. Hold yourself back at this point. Now, serve.
This cake is worth the effort to make, believe me. I had the urge to make something sweet this afternoon while I was Christmas crafting. Do you ever have that urge come over you? The "I need something sweet" urge? If you don't, I understand....but I get that urge and today was one of those days and I wanted something pumpkin. Simple as that. I pulled out this recipe and went to work. Let me say, it was a really good choice! This cake is moist, slightly spicy, with that wonderful vein of cream cheese running through it and that delicious cinnamon glaze topping it. Perfection!
This cake will be just the thing for Thanksgiving, Christmas, and all winter. Yummmmmo! It would be a wonderful gift to give for the holiday season, or take one to work and share with your co-workers. Have the neighbors over for coffee and cake. Be sure and have the recipe handy because they will ask for it. Now go rummage through your cupboards and see if you have all the ingredients because you really, really want to make this. Now. Really.
Things to Remember:
Monday, November 12, 2012
Now, for a really scary update in case you haven't thought of it in these terms -- THANKSGIVING IS NEXT WEEK!!! EEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEK. That means Christmas is right around the corner (actually 43 days from today) and if you are working on project for gifts, it is time to get with it. Since I have been busy making Halloween costumes for the grandsons, and crafts for the Elves' Faire at their school, I am a bit behind on my own projects. So yesterday, I began in earnest.
If you have neighbors, co-workers, friends, or distant family that you like to remember at holiday time but don't have a huge budget (that would be us), or you like to have a hostess gift to take when going to parties, here is just the project for you that will cost you very little!
These are made using saints (or devotional) candles that I bought at The Dollar Tree. Saints candles are usually decorated with the likeness of Saints and are very colorful. These candles come in plain glass and you can do innumerable things with them. They are only a dollar each. My. Kind. Of. Price.
You can buy 9x12 sheets of felt for $.25 or $.35 at JoAnn's or Michael's. I had two red sheets and one black that I used for this project. That is a total of $.75 for felt. Cheap enough, right? You need a little hot glue, some cardboard (like from a cereal box), white glue, some glitter and I decided to use these cute little snowflakes from a garland that I bought at Hobby Lobby for half price at $1.50. I got ALL these snowflakes which is so much cheaper than buying them in small individual packages. You just have to cut them apart. Easy peasy.
Cut across the 9" end of the black felt sheet about 1 inch from the end. This will be the belt for your Santa. Place the black felt strip in the middle of the red felt and glue one end over the seam. Wrap the strip around tightly, cut off any excess and glue the felt so it overlaps the first edge you glued down. If you have some black ribbon on hand, feel free to use that in place of the felt.
Now, to make the belt buckle. Cut a rectangle of cardboard about 1.5 x 1 inch. Spread some white glue or Mod Podge on one side of the cardboard and sprinkle with glitter. Glue the "buckle" to the center front of the belt. This is when I decided to add one of the small snowflakes for a little extra decoration. I put a little hot glue on the back of the snowflake and center it on the belt buckle.
I plan on giving these to everyone who comes for Thanksgiving. I also made some burlap angels that look like this.
I used some burlap ribbon that I had left from my Thanksgiving decorations. I did the same thing with the burlap that I did with the felt. After you glue the burlap to the middle of the candle, make some wings. Cut a 10 inch piece of burlap ribbon and twist it in the middle like this.
Now, lets talk economy here. The candle cost a dollar, half a piece of felt was 17.5 cents maximum, a little hot glue, glitter, and cardboard, say 10 cents. The snowflake cost about a penny. Same for the angel. For less than $1.30 you have a beautiful hand made gift to give and everyone loves candles (these are unscented by the way). All you have invested is a minimum of money and a little time to let someone know you are thinking of them. How awesome is that?
If you want to buy these candles, they are in the section with all the vases and candle holders at The Dollar Tree. I am sure they can be found elsewhere, just not positive where. If you find them other places, please let me know so I can tell my readers.
Have fun with these projects, and maybe you will come up with some ideas of your own. Let me know how it goes.
Things to Remember:
A handmade gift says I was thinking of you.
Thursday, November 8, 2012
Our grandsons attend a Waldorf school and their biggest fundraiser of the year is called The Elve's Faire which is this Saturday. Every family is supposed to donate 12 hand made crafts to the faire. They also have vendors who rent booths, live music and food. I am SO excited to go and see all the beautiful things people have made. Our daughter has 3 young sons, a writing career, an online book club on education that she hosts, she is a representative on the parent council at school and has a home to care for. I took pity on her and told her I would make her crafts (I think I heard a large sigh of relief when I said I would do that for her)!
Waldorf schools encourage children to use their imaginations when it comes to toys and games. They highly discourage electronics which is okay by me. Many of the people in Silicon Valley send their children to Waldorf schools which I find highly interesting. The children begin doing crafting in Kindergarden which is wonderful and they craft all the way through school. They start by finger knitting. It is amazing to see all the little ones knitting away and they easily progress to knitting with pencils and then needles. They do woodworking and all kinds of really beautiful art.
All crafts for the faire are to be made from natural materials, nothing synthetic. Now that puts a whole new light on the subject of craft making. That means no acrylic felt, nothing plastic, nothing polyester and that eliminates a lot of crafting materials. What to do, what to do.
Last year, I made these cut paper snowflakes with the boys and Holly fell in love with them, so she asked that these be one of the crafts. That was okay by me because I have tons of book pages and music pages from another craft project that I had done. These are a little time consuming, but oh so beautiful. They can be made in any size depending on the size squares you start with. Last winter we made huge white snowflakes using some 100% cotton paper that I had. Holly loved my book page wreath that I made so much, that I decided to use book pages and music pages for this project. Here is what you do.
First, choose the paper you want to use. I chose these pages.
You will cut out 6 or 8 squares for each snowflake. I used a box lid that is 4 inches square for my template. (Remember, this will give you an 8 inch snowflake because you are going to glue two sets of sections together.) Trace around your square, whatever size you are using, and cut out 6 or 8 squares.
Fold again corner to corner to make a smaller triangle.
Open up all the squares after you have cut them.
Now, the fun part! This is where the gluing begins. I used a glue stick and the brand I use is from Big Lots (it is their brand) and is called Bridgeport and has a blue wrapper. Best glue stick I have ever found and the only one I use. It sets up immediately. No waiting. Hot glue can work, but you risk burning yourself and you may have lumps in the folded over sections left from the glue. The choice is yours.
This is what you do first.
Place some glue from the glue stick on the inside of the bottom cut piece and fold it over the top piece. I put a pencil in while doing this so I don't mash the center. Remove the pencil after a couple of seconds.
Here is how I do the glue.
I place my thumb against the outside of the piece I am gluing so I have something to press against. Rub the glue around a couple of times on the tip of the cut piece. Be careful not to tear the paper (and yes, you will have glue all over your thumb like in the picture). Pull up the same cut piece from the other side, fold the glued piece over the bottom piece, pinch between your fingers and hold just a couple of seconds.
When you are making each piece of the "flake", you will fold one piece forward, the next piece back, the next piece forward and the final piece back.
Here is my final bunch of snowflakes.
These would be fun for an afternoon or evening crafting project with your children or grandchildren - even in a class room or Sunday school class. It doesn't have to be expensive to be beautiful or thoughtful.
Keep this project in mind for the upcoming holidays. I used them in my windows after Christmas last year during that gloomy January/February part of the winter before Valentine's day. Have fun with this one!
Things to Remember:
Memories of making things for Christmas are some of my fondest childhood memories. Don't forget to make some memories with those you love.