Family


Life is busy.

This summer was VERY busy–went to so many great places, we ate so much yummy food and saw so many people we love.

vineyard

french bicycle

gingerbread houses

Eiffel Tower

Switzerland

cousin camp

There were also things that I didn’t do this summer–like write any blog posts! Gasp!

My poor little Pork Chop Tuesday has limped along thanks to a couple of popular pins on Pinterest.

Nutcracker plaid quilt

I have had the cloud of “gotta blog” hanging over me since May. black cloud

Another one of the things I didn’t do this summer was attend the Arkansas Women Bloggers blog conference. As I read through everyone’s conference recaps and chased them on Twitter and Periscope I wished that I could have gone. Money was a little different this summer. Big vacation+First child off to college+Purchase of an additional vehicle…I decided adding a conference was not the thing to do. I came across one of my fellow blogger’s post about the conference. She spoke about keeping the most important thing the most important thing. What an inspiration! Here I was all worried about the fact that I had not paid my blog any attention all summer and sad that I didn’t go to the blog conference. All along one of the biggest take-aways from the conference was what I was living! I spent wonderful, quality time with family this summer–keeping the most important thing the most important thing!

I’m trying to pick up blogging again. Boy it is rough. I’ve forgotten how to edit photos. I’m rusty at the keyboard. I am too embarrassed to tell you how long it has taken me to put this post together.

So, there you have it, summer in a nutshell. Thanks for hanging in there with me. I’ll be relearning Photoshop and WordPress. I only have 1762 more pictures from our Europe trip to edit!

 

Well, I did it! I made Thanksgiving dinner!

I know it was a big sacrifice for Mom and Dad to give up their personal Thanksgiving traditions of doing all the cooking to come be teachers for the next generation.

I am so thankful they agreed to this little project. I am very glad to know how to do things “Mom and Dad’s way”.

Our table wasn’t too fancy. I had planned to get out the good china and change the tablecloth. The table looked plenty festive and our everyday dishes were dishwasher safe!

We did use fancy little butter dishes.

butter dish

Thanksgiving table

Please notice the tiny Thanksgiving table next to the glass of water.

tiny table

I found this idea on Pinterest more than a year ago. I let the girls make them. They didn’t mind the sprinkle sorting as much this time. The little tables turned out really cute, I think!

Thanksgiving crafters

Thanksgiving table decor

The cheese ring appetizer is one of Chip’s favorite parts of Thanksgiving! When I told him that Mom was going to make the Cheese Ring he panicked! He was afraid it wouldn’t be the right cheese ring. I assured him it would be okay since I had gotten the recipe from her.

Cheese ring

He was the first one to test it out. Two thumbs up from the Critic.

eating cheese ring

Well, here is the feast…

feast 1

feast 2

chef

You might have noticed a couple of items on our buffet that were not mentioned in a specific blog post.

Green Bean casserole, Mashed Potatoes and Green Fluff.

I felt obligated to have a green vegetable on our buffet. The green bean casserole recipe can be found here or on the back of the French’s Fried Onion canister.

As far as the mashed potatoes go, I’m pretty plain. Boil some Yukon Gold potatoes. Mash them up. Add butter, milk, salt and pepper to taste. Some folks get all fancy with cream cheese or sour cream or garlic or cheese. Plain is the preferred method at our house.

The green fluff is a MUST HAVE at all our holiday gatherings. It’s just the old Watergate Salad recipe.

watergate salad

Ooo, I can’t forget the bread–giant Sister Shubert rolls! They are the best for leftover turkey sandwiches.

How do you like my buttering method-rub a stick of cold butter on top of the rolls right after the come out of the oven.

buttering rolls

Katie was trying to take pictures for me. For some reason she was not able to see anything on the camera. Mashed potatoes will do that to ya.

iphone hazard

Guess who LOVES rolls?!

bread lover

What a feast!

full plate

Don’t forget dessert. I had to try half a piece of each pie.

pieces of pie

group minus one

Some folks chose to have their sparkling grape juice with dinner, others with dessert.

bubbly

We gobbled ’til we wobbled!

empty dinner plate

empty dessert plate

lick the plate clean

Thanksgiving naps are the best!

snooze

In case you missed the Thanksgiving 101 series, here are all the posts. You can also find them by clicking on the This and That tab at the top of the page.

The WHAT????!!!

 

cushaw

Cushaw–Cucurbita argyrosperma

You may have seen these green and white beauties at your local pumpkin stand or farmer’s market this fall. They are beautiful to use in your fall decorating. Did you know you can eat them?

Cushaw has always been a part of our family’s Thanksgiving feast. Sometimes we would have it for Thanksgiving and Christmas, depending on how big of a cushaw we found.

I realize that traditionally at holiday time folks have a sweet potato casserole or sweet potatoes with marshmallows on top.

My Dad grew up in Baton Rouge. Baton Rouge’s warm climate is perfect for growing cushaw.

I remember my grandmother making it when we would visit. The recipe for Cushaw comes from the Junior League of Baton Rouge Cook Book.

rrr1cbk

I wish I had taken a picture of my Mom’s cookbook. It is all tattered, stained and well-used looking.

When my husband and I got married, Dad insisted that I have a River Road Recipe book. There are several editions. The first is in its 70th printing! Dad still recognizes some of the ladies’ names who submitted recipes. I don’t know if he remembers Mrs. Edward Wall or not. I’m sure my grandmother knew her.

Thank you Mrs. Wall for your Baked Cushaw recipe. It is a family favorite.

When Mom was telling me how to prepare the cushaw, she told me I could bake it or boil it. She said if I boiled it to be sure that it got drained really well.

I decided to try baking it.

I’ll tell you right now, a cushaw is hard! It took real muscle to get that thing sliced.

Below is the neck of the cushaw. I baked it @400˚. I was a bit discouraged when it was not soft enough to mash after an hour of baking!

sliced squash

The inside of the cushaw looks like a pumpkin. The bottom part was much easier to deal with than the neck.

seeds inside

There was just so much of it!

bagged vegetables

I decided to try boiling the base of the cushaw since the neck didn’t turn out so great after baking.

Boiling is the way to go!!!

Cut off the rind before boiling.

I boiled it until it was soft enough to mash. I was sure to let it sit and drain thoroughly before doing anything else to it.

two sticks of butter

I guess the fact that there are 2 sticks of butter and 2 cups of sugar in the Baked Cushaw might be the reason Cushaw is a family favorite!

add nutmeg

My 4 quart mixing bowl was too full to allow for mixing. I had to move to the Barbie popcorn bowl-ha!

bigger bowl

ready to bake

Baked Cushaw

1 medium cushaw (Mine was HUGE. I’m not real sure what “medium” means. You can see how much I used in the pictures above.)

2 eggs

2 cups sugar

2 Tbsp flour

1 tsp vanilla

1/2 pound (2 sticks) butter-melted

1/2 tsp baking powder

Nutmeg-to taste

Mix together. Bake at 350˚ until browned.

Note: Be sure you mix your butter in before the eggs. You don’t want scrambled eggs in your cushaw.

Nutmeg grater

Nutmeg goes in the mix. I don’t know how much I put in there. The recipe says “to taste”. I grated until Mom said “stop”. I know–not very helpful, sorry.

It also goes on top.

more nutmeg

It turned out so yummy!

Healthy? With 2 cups of sugar and 2 sticks of butter I’m gonna say-no.

The cushaw is rich in vitamin A. It is a vegetable! I’m countin’ it!

As a kid, Thanksgiving dressing was never my favorite. Mom always made two batches–one with oysters and one without.

I’m not sure how the oyster tradition came to our family. I always took my obligatory dressing from the without pan.

Now I voluntarily put dressing on my plate. : )

Mom didn’t really have a “recipe” to give me. She just told me how to make it.

First-make a batch of cornbread. Rather vague instructions.

I use the recipe from the back of the Aunt Jemima Corn Meal package for my cornbread. I’m not sure if Mom uses the same one or not.

Cornbread recipe

I always make my cornbread in a cast iron skillet. I suppose it’s just is the Southern way!

cast-iron skillet

Sorry, no picture of its golden deliciousness.

After the cornbread has cooled, crumble it.

crumble the cornbread

I took the easy way out and gave it to the girls to crumble. They were so excited to have a break from school that they needed to do something!

dressing ingredients

Chop up a medium onion and 2-3 ribs of celery. I chopped my veggies early. I was so glad to get them out of the refrigerator. I could open the FREEZER door and smell onions!

sliced bread

Soak a couple of pieces of plain white bread in milk–

soak the bread

about “that much” milk.

I started smashing the bread with the back of a spoon. Apparently, that was wrong. Mom came behind me and squished it with her fingers. I think she just wanted to have the Thanksgiving experience too.

mix dressing

Mix the cornbread, veggies and soaked bread together.

Add two eggs and seasoning. We added about 1 tsp of Poultry Seasoning, 1/2 tsp of salt and 1/4 tsp pepper. It could have used a bit more of the poultry seasoning.

seasonings

Next, start ladling in the turkey broth. You can use chicken broth if you like.

turkey stock

I put in 8-12 ladles of broth. My ladle was pretty small though.

You want your dressing to be kind of wet looking.

mixed dressing

Spread it in a pan and bake for 20-30 minutes at 350˚.

dressing

This picture is before it went in the oven. I failed to get an “after” picture. Well, there is a picture of the whole Thanksgiving spread. It will come later.

The top of the dressing gets nice and brown.

It turned out pretty good. Chip said it had too much onion in it. Next time I will add more poultry seasoning though.

If it ends up a little dry, that’s okay. You can always smother it in GRAVY!

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.

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