Thanksgiving Countdown Tip #6:

November 16, 2017

One word: Tablescaping. Yes, it’s a thing.

Do you have a tablecloth and napkins? If the answer is yes, pull them out, check for stains and iron them now. If the answer is no, it’s time to shop or innovate.

Do you have something that can be used as a runner down the center of the table? How about a roll of brown kraft paper, that can be scattered with votive candles, and seasonal greens? There are tiny pumpkins around this time of year that are available in a creamy white or orange. I’m not sure how they taste, but they look great! You can get crafty and spray paint some with a metallic paint, or a color that works with your home decor. Herbs in tiny vases or scattered among greens, small vines or branches, or even eucalyptus feels seasonal. Lay a spring on each napkin for a festive touch. Cranberries, persimmons, and clementines in a bowl offer a shot of color that can be eaten later.

Not enough matching china or napkins? Mix it up! Rather than using a few ad hoc place settings to fill in, embrace the eclectic aspect and intermingle the different pieces. If you are only short a couple of settings, place them at the two ends of the table so it looks deliberate. I have lots of mismatched teacups that my grandmother collected that I serve soup in. It adds a uniqueness to the table that is a conversation starter.

Clean, (unstained) dishtowels make great napkins, and rarely need to be ironed. For a more rustic look, a pack of striped or checked kitchen towels is a great investment that you can repurpose for their original intent later.

Have fun creating the perfect decor to suit your style and level of formality!



Thanksgiving Countdown Tip #5:

November 15, 2017

Now that you have figured out your cookware situation, do you have the tools to execute that meal?

If you don’t own a stand mixer, food processor or immersion blender, you might want to reconsider your recipe. Do you have a turkey baster or an amply sized carving board? We know you sharpened your knives! Now is the time to check and either shop, borrow or adjust your plan. Once you get started cooking, it’s too late.

Photo: Glasshouse Images


Thanksgiving Countdown Tip #4:

November 14, 2017

Today is a good day to take stock of cookware and serving pieces while you still have time to shop, borrow or innovate.

Look at your recipes, and make sure that you have the proper pot, pan or ovenproof dish to make it in. You may be cooking in larger quantities than your kitchen is equipped for. For roasting pans and bakeware, there is a variety of disposable items available for very little money. You don’t have to worry about bringing them home if you are taking the food elsewhere, and although not the most environmentally sound choice, going disposable means you don’t have to wash it!

Once things are cooked, they need to be served. No judgment (ok, maybe a little) if you want to serve from the foil pans, but we prefer to plate things. Check for platters, bowls, and utensils for each dish you are making, and be prepared to have to transfer things that others are bringing, although a good guest will bring a serving dish too. (see above) Feel free to ask someone else to bring a serving piece or two that you can return, washed and dried at the end of the evening.

photo: Glasshouse Images



Thanksgiving Countdown: Tip #3

November 13, 2017

Freeze it!

I have never been one to freeze things…I mean, if you make too much in advance, thaw and reheat it, you may as well just buy a TV dinner. That said, there are a few things that actually benefit from the deep chill. Pie crusts and biscuits to be precise. Go ahead and make your doughs now, roll them out and freeze them right in the pie or tart pan. If you are using a top crust, cut your lattice strips, decorative elements or full topper, and freeze it flat on a sheet pan. Just make sure that anything you freeze is well wrapped. Use plastic wrap and wrap in both directions to ensure that it is fully sealed and protected. Bottom crusts and biscuits can be baked frozen. Top crusts should be thawed just enough to be pliable. Frozen dough maintains its shape better and shrinks less during baking.  Brush it with a light egg wash to help it brown and you’re good to go.

It doesn’t take long to make crusts, so get them done now and save time and mess on the big day.

photo: Glasshouse Images


Thanksgiving Countdown Tip #2:

November 10, 2017

Today’s tip: Inventory your pantry.

definitely not our pantry

We take for granted that we have basics like salt, pepper, and oil on hand at all times. But remember, you are probably going to be cooking more than you are used to and using much larger quantities of all those staple items. This weekend, spend a few minutes taking inventory of your pantry and make sure that you have ample amounts of every spice, as well as oil, vinegar, flour, and sugar. Check for the freshness of your baking powder and soda, as they do expire and lose effectiveness. Make sure you have pan spray and aluminum foil, as well as parchment and plastic wrap. Trust us, you don’t want to have to stop everything to run to the store ( if you can find one that is open) or brave the crowds with overflowing carts because you ran out of cinnamon.

Bonus points for actually wiping down your shelves and drawers while you are at it. There is something about starting the preparation with clean and well-organized cabinets that makes the process much more pleasant.


photo: Glasshouse Images


Thanksgiving Countdown Tip #1:

November 9, 2017


It’s only two weeks before Thanksgiving. This year, we are going to toss out a tip here and there to help get you ready for the big day. Today’s suggestion?
Sharpen your knives! A dull knife makes food preparation a chore. Whether you own a sharpener or need to take them to someone to do the job professionally, get those knives honed to precision. You will give thanks for that while you are preparing the feast, and carving the bird.

photo: Glasshouse Images


Verbal Venom

October 27, 2017

A few mornings ago, I scrolled through Facebook, glancing at articles, posts, and short videos. In a time of extreme political discourse, it is interesting to see what people have to say. It’s no secret which side of the table I sit at, but I read articles written from many points of view, whether I agree with them or not. I haven’t unfollowed people whose views are extremely different from mine, as I think it is important to burst the bubbles we often place ourselves in and understand what we’re up against with the rest of the world. And with clenched teeth, I explore the comments section on many of them.

While I fully expect to see some friction on political posts, it has become more than that. Somehow, it escalates quickly from a disagreement of views to an all-out assault on humanity. Name calling and the use of grammar and spelling more commensurate with a third-grade education is peppered with vulgarity. The threads stretch into the hundreds, if not thousands of comments, most being unworthy of notice. This morning, I happened to watch a short video about making Halloween treats from store-bought cookies and candies. I was absolutely gobsmacked to see the nastiness that such a whimsical and benign post brought about. Women attacking other women for having too much time on their hands and assuming that their homes were unkempt or their children uncared for because they took the time to cut an Oreo in half and attach it to a peanut butter cup to make a bat. Or someone stating that pretzel monsters and spider cupcakes are “un-Christian.” Don’t even get me started about the remarks related to the purchasing of “googly eyes.” Have we really reached such a low point that there isn’t a subject in existence that doesn’t set off a chain of verbal venom?

What has happened to us since the call to become a “kinder, gentler nation” so many years ago? I am truly scared to live in a world where our views on big issues are so disparate that we violently clash both in word and deed on a regular basis. There are times that it is unfathomable to me that people actually think the way that they do. I am even more afraid to live in a world where an Oreo cookie and a chocolate dipped pretzel stick can inspire this level of rage and rhetoric at 7:30 a.m. on Monday morning. Sheesh!




Kitchen Tips Tuesday: Baking A Few Items At Once

October 24, 2017

I keep lots of cookie and scone dough on hand, so I can just pull it out and bake it off at a moment’s notice. Sometimes this means I need a few of these and a few of those. While all those cookies might fit easily on one cookie sheet, bake times are not always the same.

King Arthur Flour recently shared a great tip, which rectifies that problem completely. They suggest placing each type of cookie on its own strip of parchment paper on the baking trays. When one row is done, simply pull the entire sheet off the pan and continue baking the others.

Pretty smart, huh?

photo: Glasshouse Images



Kitchen Tips Tuesday: Storing Raw Meat

October 17, 2017


Whenever I purchase raw proteins; chicken, fish or meat, I put them in a plastic bag in the store, before slipping them into my own canvas tote. While that may seem to defeat the purpose of bringing your own reusable bag, it keeps any juices and harmful bacteria from leaking and contaminating my bag, and in turn, my other foods. Those bags can harbor lots of nasty germs that can make you sick. It is important to wash your bags regularly to avoid cross-contaminating other foods, especially those fruits and vegetables that don’t get cooked.

Once you get home, be sure to place those foods on the bottom shelf of your refrigerator so any leaks will be contained, and the chance of drips onto other items is limited. This holds true for defrosting animal proteins as well. It is safest to defrost them slowly in the refrigerator, and placing those high-risk items on a plate on the bottom shelf will protect your other foods and food surfaces from contamination.

photo: Glasshouse Images



Kitchen Tips Tuesday: Mirepoix

October 10, 2017


It’s no secret that I am a big Trader Joe’s fan. I brave the crowds frequently to stock up on items that are unbeatable for both price and quality.

One of my latest discoveries is not new to the brand, but it is new to me and it is life-changing. One word. Mirepoix. 

Mirepoix (meer – pwah) is a staple in the French culinary world, consisting of diced onion, carrot and celery, which provides the base for soups, stews, and sauces. It takes a bit of an effort to make, due to the washing, peeling, and dicing of the vegetables.

Trader Joe’s offers it in a 14 oz tub, layered with the perfect proportion of one-half onion, three carrots, and 3 celery stalks, all cut and ready to use. In the time it took to unpack my groceries, I had sauteed the Mirepoix and was ready to add the other ingredients for a quick pureed soup. And did I mention it’s only $2.99?

Quick Pureed Soup:
Slowly saute the mirepoix in butter or olive oil, until the vegetables start to soften, and the onion becomes translucent. True mirepoix is not meant to brown or caramelize.

Add the vegetable of choice, (zucchini, cauliflower, and broccoli are all good options) and any herbs you might like. Add enough chicken or vegetable stock* to fully submerge the vegetables and simmer covered until they are soft. Puree the mixture until smooth, put it back in the pot, correct seasonings and enjoy!

* If you don’t have stock on hand, Better Than Bouillion is another easy fix. It comes in a jar and is spoonable, rather than dehydrated into a salty cube. It is organic, not full of fake ingredients, and a big dollop added to the pot of water makes a tasty soup. It is high in sodium, so be sure to taste before adding additional salt.




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