There are two camps of Thanksgiving cranberry eaters–whole or jellied.

The jellied is very easy to fix. Open a can. Jiggle it onto a serving dish. Slice. Bonus if you have a cranberry jelly server like Mom’s below.

jellied cranberry sauce

My Dad is in the jellied cranberry sauce camp.

Mom likes the whole cranberry sauce, so I got to learn how to make it.

As a kid, I never ate either kind of cranberry sauce. It was always just one of the items on the Thanksgiving buffet that was not Kraft macaroni and cheese or a pb&j.

I remember sampling the jellied sauce. It was very tart! I was WAY to picky to try the whole cranberry sauce.

The whole cranberry sauce isn’t much harder than the jellied.

Mom uses, you guessed it, the recipe on the back of the cranberry package.

whole cranberry sauce recipe

There are many recipes out there that call for adding other ingredients-apple, citrus, nuts. Since this was my first time, I decided to hold to tradition.

First you are going to wash your cranberries. I actually picked these up last year after Christmas and stuck them in the freezer! I don’t really know why I did that. Seemed like the thing to do at the time. Must have been a good sale.

rinse the cranberries

Add the sugar to the water and bring to a boil. Once boiling, add the cranberries. Mom said she dumps it all in the pan at the same time. I followed the directions on the package for this first time.

boil the cranberries

Let the mixture boil for about 10 minutes.

boiling cranberries

You will start to hear the berries pop! Aren’t they pretty?!

popped cranberries

Boil for a bit longer, until the whole concoction starts to set up a little.

reduced cranberries

Pour it into your serving dish and you are done. Serve it warm or chilled.

We made the cranberry sauce on Wednesday night.

I was a big girl and tried it. I really like it a lot more than the jellied. I think I may have to try a batch with some of that fancy stuff in it.

For years my Dad has been the bird-master. He smokes the turkey overnight in a small smoker he has had for probably 40 years, and it is always delicious!

Several years ago, Mom and Dad got us a smoker of our very own for our anniversary.

It has been used exactly once.

The summer after receiving the smoker, we decided to try smoking a turkey–you know, in case we ever had Thanksgiving at our house. Well, it didn’t go all that well. The turkey was WAY under-cooked on the inside and WAY over-cooked on the outside. That was the last time we tried using the smoker. You know it can be expensive to ruin meat!

With Thanksgiving finally at our house, we got our official lesson on how to cook the Thanksgiving turkey!

First things first–Buy a turkey.

turkey

Martha Stewart says allow for 1 1/2 pounds per person.

I didn’t really listen to her. I bought an almost 22 pound bird. Mom had told me about a 15 pound turkey would be fine for the 6 of us. I had kinda forgotten that little tidbit when I was at the store.  Better to have too much than not enough, right?!

I bought my turkey the week before Thanksgiving. Be sure you clean out your refrigerator before going to the store, so there is plenty of room to defrost your turkey. I knew my turkey would take a while to thaw. Allow a day for every 4 pounds.

turkey tag

Mom and Dad arrived at our house a little after 7:00 and brought spend-the-night necessities.

We got straight to work.

While the guys got the smoker ready, Mom showed me how to prep the bird.

birdbath

Remove all the packaging and give the bird a rinse with cold water. Be sure to remove all the yucky stuff from inside the cavity of the bird. Save it though. You will use it later. (A light meal would be my recommendation for Wednesday night, YUCK!)

My turkey had this brace inside. It was a little tricky to remove. Apparently, preparing a 22 pound turkey burns some calories! Bonus!

turkey brace

Next, pat the turkey dry and rub all over with butter. I felt like a turkey-masseuse. My bird was happy–first the jacuzzi then the massage table.

buttered up

You’ll want to truss the turkey legs. I didn’t have any kitchen twine, so I used dental floss, of all things. Hey, it worked great! Just wrap the string around the ends of the leg. Go back and forth and all around. Tuck the wings back behind where the neck used to be. Sorry, I didn’t get a picture of that. (Looking at the pictures, I think I actually did the trussing before the buttering.)

trussing

trussed

Then Dad came and took the turkey to the smoker.

ready for smoking

Smoker instructions…

Soak 2 “good” handfuls of hickory chips in water for 30 minutes.

Hickory chips

Fill the bottom of the smoker as full as you possibly can with charcoal.

charcoal

Light the charcoal and let it burn down.

Dad with the fire

reduced coals

When the charcoal is ready spread the soaked wood chips on them.

Fill the smoker’s water pan with water — this will steam the bird as it smokes.

Put the water pan in place.

Put the metal grill right above the water pan.

Place the bird on the grill and close the smoker.

into the smoker

smokin' bird

It should slowly burn all night.

smoker

Now go to bed and get a good night’s sleep!

BUZZZZZZZ!

That was a short night!

In the morning the bird looked great!

smoked turkey

Ahhhh! So nice and golden! I’m so thankful Chip’s co-worker, Jen, gave me this hand-me-down pan (along with many others, too!). It was the perfect container to transport my giant turkey. Thanks, Jen!

golden turkey

Based on past experience, Dad suggested we go ahead and take a little peek to make sure the turkey was cooked all the way.

peek inside

Sure enough, it was a little too pink on the inside. We stuck it in the oven at 350˚ for about 30-45 minutes. It’s a good thing that we used that pan instead of the cutting board. No transfer necessary.

When it came time to carve the turkey, Chip followed the instructions on this video:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iAe7-GpV98E

It was a great method!

Be sure your knife is good and sharp. Knife sharpening is not my favorite thing to do. It’s like fingernails on a chalkboard.

I do like my little sharpener/honer. I have never used a honing steel. I have watched Mom use one for years and it terrifies me!

sharpening the knife

tackling the bird

Remove the leg.

remove the legs

Remove the breast.

remove turkey breasts

Repeat on the other side.

slicing turkey

turkey breasts

Slice the breasts.

turkey slices

Since the turkey finished cooking in the oven, plenty of drippings were available for gravy making! In the smoker, the fat just drips down into the pan.

Sprinkle flour all over the fat in the pan.

add flour

This is my flour of choice.

Wondra flour

Wondra is nice and fine. Which means less of a chance for lumps.

Let the flour and fat bubble up a little, just enough to cook out some of the flour flavor.

Add your turkey broth. Oh, wait, I forgot to tell you about that.

Remember all that nasty stuff you pulled out of the turkey? Put it all in a pot with enough water to cover it. Add a little salt and pepper and, if you like, a little poultry seasoning. Then boil it.

Ta Da! Turkey broth!

boil the neck bone

Keep stirring the gravy on the stove until it all looks like gravy is supposed to look. Turkey gravy is not nearly as pretty as roast beef gravy.

turkey gravy

I really hate to end this post with an ugly picture of turkey gravy. Here, look at the turkey again.

golden turkey

Turkey smoking=success!

 

gc_givethanks_1Back in October, Mom and I started talking about Thanksgiving. For YEARS Thanksgiving was at my Mom and Dad’s house. Even after my husband and I got married (the weekend after Thanksgiving!) Thanksgiving was still at Mom and Dad’s. (For a long time, my in-laws lived out of the country making a Thanksgiving swap very difficult and costly.)

My sisters and their spouses and all the cousins would come. It was great–crazy, but great!

As the years have passed, things have changed. We no longer head out for Black Friday sales. With demanding jobs far away, we are not able to gather everyone together like we used to do. I wish it could be the same. I guess change is just part of life.

One year we all loaded up and went to Liz and Trey’s in Texas for Thanksgiving. Another year, flying out to Virginia to be with Nana and Bud was fun and different. A couple of years ago we all headed to Laura and Brent’s new house near Fort Smith, AR.

In the 22 years that Chip and I have been married, we have NEVER had Thanksgiving at our house! I’ve never even made much more than mashed potatoes for Thanksgiving. So, I asked Mom and Dad if they would come to our house this year and teach me how to “do” Thanksgiving. I invited the sisters, too. Remember those demanding jobs? Too bad they can’t come. : (

While Mom and I sat on the plane on our recent trip to Baltimore, I got all the low-down for Thanksgiving 101!

There will be several blog posts. Most of them will come after Thanksgiving, obviously. Be sure you save your favorites on Pinterest for next year or even for Christmas!

The Pies!

Yesterday I made my pie crusts. Here is the recipe I use. Of course, you can use store-bought if you like.

cubed butter

The hardest thing about making a homemade crust is hauling the food processor out of the closet!

Food Processor

I got to use my fancy pastry mat that my hubby gave me for my birthday.

pastry mat

The dough has to chill. That’s why I made it yesterday. Then it has to warm back up a little before you roll it.

roll pie crust

Perhaps it needed to warm up just a little more!

working hard

Gather all your ingredients–pie helper optional!

pie helper

Mom uses the Pumpkin Pie recipe on the back of the Libby’s pumpkin! Well, that’s easy enough!

Pumpkin Pie recipe

Mix the dry. Mix the wet. Mix together. Follow directions on the back of the can!

dry ingredients

dry ingredients mixed

eggs

add pumpkin

add wet to dry

add milk

Once you finally have your pie crust warm enough to be rolled, make sure it is all even-no lumps.

testing for evenness

Place the crust in the pan and crimp the edges. Of course you can get all fancy with your edges if you like. We chose regular crimping.

pie crust in pan

pie crimping

pie fluting

prepared pie crust

Then fill the pie crust with the Pumpkin Pie filling.

filling the pie shell

pumpkin pie filling

almost there

baking pumpkin pie

I know you will be SHOCKED by this…but this was my first Pumpkin Pie! Had I made one before, I would have known to use the deeper pie pan for the Pumpkin Pie. I also would have known how careful one must be when transporting the unbaked Pumpkin Pie to the oven! Almost didn’t make it!

My first pumpkin pie

Looks pretty good.

The Pecan Pie…well, it was my first Pecan Pie as well.

The Pecan Pie recipe is on the back of the Karo Syrup bottle.

Pecan Pie recipe

Check out this newfangled bottle. There is a measurement mark for one cup right on the bottle. I used it. I didn’t like it. I was afraid I would accidentally use too much. An easy way for less-mess-measuring is to spray your measuring cup with cooking spray prior to filling it with the sticky syrup.

easy measuring

So, we followed the directions on the bottle, mostly.

pecan pie filling

The directions said to stir the pecans into the syrup mixture. Well, we had recently been watching a cooking show where the guy made  lovely rings on top with the pecans. Oooo, yeah! Let’s make it fancy!

fancy pecan pie

That was all well and good and time-consuming, however, we had lots of leftover pecans. I didn’t want my first Pecan Pie to not have enough pecans in it!!!

So, I had the “bright idea” to chop up the remaining pecans and kind of poke them down in those empty spots.

Don’t do that.

more pecans

Our pie went from fancy and beautiful to looking like someone had already chewed it up!

ugly pie

It got a little scorched in the oven even though I covered it with foil. Not sure why part of my crust flopped over.

Fingers crossed that it tastes good!

cooling pies

So how do you make a Pecan Pie that looks all fancy and still has the right amount of pecans in it?!

Stay tuned…more Thanksgiving 101 to come. I’ve already chopped celery and onions and made the cornbread for the dressing.

I recently returned from my first-ever trip to Baltimore, MD.

WOW!

There is so much to see and do in downtown Baltimore!

I was there for the Sweet Adeline International Competition!

Baltimore Welcome

My chorus, Top of the Rock, was invited to compete in the Harmony Classic portion of the contest! For those of you unfamiliar with Sweet Adelines–it’s a BIG DEAL!

The entire week was full of activities and contests. However, I was unable to stay the whole week, so I had to do my touring FAST!

We arrived late Sunday night. Our first rehearsal wasn’t until Monday afternoon, so we had time for a little exploring!

breakfast sandwich

Breakfast was at Potbelly. We discovered Potbelly on a trip to Houston a couple of years ago. They have yummy breakfast sandwiches and oatmeal. They are very reasonably priced, which is a good thing!

I saved my little Potbelly bag just because it had a “P” stamped on it. Yes, I’m a nerd!

Camden Yards

Our hotel was right down the road from Camden Yards–where the Orioles play baseball! My husband is a big baseball fan, so I had to snap a couple of pictures for him!

Oriole Park

The Baltimore Inner Harbor was really cool! Tons of restaurants and shops. I would have loved to tour the Domino Sugar plant! Boat tours of the harbor were available. Some of my friends took the tour and said it was great! I just didn’t have time.

Domino Sugar

This was not their tour boat. I guess it could have been though!

paddle boats

Some other friends hit the National Aquarium later in the week. I picked up some t-shirts for the kids at the Hard Rock Cafe.

Hard Rock Cafe

The McCormick World of Flavors shop was a fun little shop in the Inner Harbor, lots of Old Bay seasoning! Mom and I enjoyed the salt sampling we did there. Our favorite was the lime salt. I asked if they had any other samples we could try. One of the gals working there is a cupcake maker. She brought me some samples of her frosting. They weren’t bad. Here is a link to her Facebook page.

McCormick World of Spice

Off to rehearsal-the reason we came! Weeks prior to our trip, chorus members exchanged words of encouragement and small gifts with a Secret Sis. Look what my Sis gave me at the big reveal–a Baltimore scrapbook! What a unique and thoughtful gift! She included all kinds of scrappy Baltimore goodies in it. Thanks, Becky! You were a great Secret Sis.

secret sis

At one of our rehearsals several of us decided to dress alike–unintentionally.

black shirts

Later, we all dressed alike–on purpose this time!

with mom

Why do we girls always squish our faces together in pictures?

about to hit the stage

stage ready

friends

red costumes

in the lobby

Can you tell we are excited to hit the stage?!

bus ride

We did GREAT!

Guess what? We came in 3rd place–IN THE WORLD!!!!

Bronze medal

You can see for yourselves…

I have a couple more tidbits to share with you from my trip so stay tuned.  I can’t wait to go back to Baltimore one day when there is a little more time for exploring!

I did make it home in time for Senior Night with my girl! I even managed to make it though without tears.

senior night

NEWS: Pork Chop Tuesday gets great “product placement” on TV’s longest running program. ; )

Check it out!

Thanks, Ryan Kravitz, for sending this for the archives!

Be sure to take a look at the Why “Pork Chop Tuesday” section of the blog.

The weather has been beautiful the past few days!

Highs in the low 70s and lows in the mid 50s make for good walking weather.

I never use ear buds when I go walking. I like to hear everything around me–like cars!

I really enjoy hearing the leaves rustle in the wind and squirrels scamper up tree trunks.

Morning walks are a good way to sort through all the junk rattling around in my brain. Sometimes I even go on prayer walks and pray for the people in the houses and schools I pass along the way.

The other day, I decided to snap a few pictures while on my walk. I have actually done this before in hopes of starting a blog series. Well–here is your first installment of “Scenes from a Walk”. We’ll see if it becomes a series or not.

cracked sidewalk

When I was a kid visiting my grandmother, my sister and I would get bored with “grown up” talk. The city park a couple of blocks away was a welcomed escape. I loved climbing on the sidewalk that had been displaced by tree roots.

I reminisced about those days and climbed on the concrete just like I used to do. What you don’t see in this picture is me almost doing a face-plant about 10 steps past the broken sidewalk! Unfortunately, the car whizzing by didn’t miss it!

beginning of fall

We are just starting to see a little fall color here in Central Arkansas. I love it!

autummn leaves

fall leaf

architectural arches

I like seeing other folks’ fall decorations.

fall porch

pumpkin cut outs

skeleton cutout

Are you seeing fall colors in your neck of the woods?

Is your house ready for trick-or-treat festivities tonight?

Mention the city of New Orleans and you will conjure up a plethora of images in folks’ minds.

New Orleans

There is yet another dish that is identified with The Big Easy–Bananas Foster.

Brennans-New-Orleans-by-Dean-Ennis-feature

Here is a little history I found on a New Orleans visitor’s guide.

In the early 1950s New Orleans was the major port of entry for bananas shipped from Central and South America. Owen Brennan, owner of Brennan’s Restaurant, challenged his chef, Paul Blange, to include bananas in a new dessert. It was Owen’s way of promoting the imported fruit. At the same time, Holiday Magazine asked Owen to provide a new and different recipe to include in an article on the restaurant.

And so was born Bananas Foster, a decadent dessert named for Owen’s friend, Richard Foster, a local civic and business leader. Today, Bananas Foster is served at Brennan’s and other fine New Orleans restaurants. Each year, Brennan’s flames 35,000 pounds of bananas for the famous dessert.

I recently had a wonderful dinner with my quartet and our spouses. (You can check out our Hyper Octave Facebook page here.)

dinner party

Donna and Jim really put on a spread for us–complete with fresh flowers and candlelight.

Jim made Gumbo with delicious andouille sausage and shrimp. Our salad was mixed greens with avocado and orange slices. That’s Jim’s homemade Orange Vinaigrette you see on the table.

We all enjoyed the dinner and felt like we needed a crane to move from the table. Then, Donna announced dessert!

Could I stuff in any more food?!

Bananas Foster?

Why,YES! Some room suddenly became available!

We all moved to the kitchen for the dessert “show”. I couldn’t pass on the opportunity to feature another guest chef!

Jim started by melting a stick of butter with 1/2 cup banana liqueur.

melting butter

banana liqueur

While Jim took care of the pan, Donna feverishly peeled and quartered 8 bananas.

hostess

bananas

Into the pan with the bananas!

cooking bananas

Add a dash of cinnamon and the brown sugar–TWO cups!

brown sugar

brown sugar and bananas

Oops! Wait! The brown sugar was supposed to go in BEFORE the bananas! Donna moved fast to remove the bananas. The brown sugar needed to caramelize a little before adding the bananas.

recipe rescue

Let that cook up in order to thicken a little.

caramelizing bananas

Add about 1/4 cup of rum…

Bacardi

and light on fire!

Jim did move his pan out from under the cabinets–just in case.

flaming bananas foster

Unfortunately, none of us thought to turn off the lights until the flames had disappeared. You can kind of see some blue flames in the picture above.

As if all the sugar and butter were not enough, a scoop of vanilla ice cream finished off the dish!

desserts

Bananas Foster

Oh! It was so good! I wanted to lick the plate!

I enjoyed every bite–all 490 calories, not including the ice cream!

Yeah–I went walking the next day!

Thanks so much, Donna and Jim. You treated us like royalty!

Bananas Foster

serves 8

  • 1 stick of butter (could probably get by with 1/2 )
  • 1/2 cup banana liqueur
  • 2 cups brown sugar
  • dash of cinnamon
  • 8 bananas, sliced into 4 quarters
  • 1/4 cup rum
  • Vanilla ice cream

Melt butter in pan with banana liqueur.

Add brown sugar and cinnamon. Allow to caramelize a bit.

Stir in bananas until warmed. (Not too long, you don’t want mushy bananas.)

Warm the rum for a few seconds in the microwave.

This is the time to turn off the lights for added drama!

Add rum to the bananas–immediately light on fire.

After alcohol burns off, serve with vanilla ice cream. Drizzle some of the sauce on top.

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