a festive backyard feast

Well, after much planning, cleaning and cooking- Thanksgiving was a success. Or, everyone is REALLY good at lying. 
Since we have a little cottage and had 9 guests for Thanksgiving, we had a rather authentic Thanksgiving in our wall tent. I have to say, it was lovely! 
I set up a long table to dine accompanied by a buffet table and a crackling wood stove, warming the apple pie. Candles were lit and Christmas lights were hung. 
On the menu was: roasted sage, parsley, thyme and rosemary turkey; cornbread stuffing in the slow cooker; creamy mashed potatoes in the slow cooker; a green bean casserole with pimentos, bacon and fresh garlic; butternut squash casserole (tastier than sweet potatoes!); rolls; salads, and much dessert. 
To top it off, Chris had his batch of Pumpkin Beer bottled and cold. Mmmm…. 
I loved having all the family together and boy was it smart pre-cooking some dishes the days before and doing slow cooker dishes. I actually had peace in the kitchen on Thanksgiving. 
Here are some photos. Hope your Thanksgiving was wonderful. 


No need to table Thanksgiving , just follow 10 basic tips

I never had to cook growing up and honestly, never strived to learn, thus making me very domestically challenged in the kitchen.

It wasn’t too long ago that I tried making my first cup of tea without taking the tea bag out of the wrapper, and it was just last week that I burnt a whole pot of chili, leaving me with one hour to buy canned chili and attempt to trick our dinner guests.

Just ask my husband. The poor guy probably cooked better during his bachelorhood. Now, I put dinner on the table and intently watch him take the first bite.

Mostly, so I can see if he likes it and secondly, so I feel safe to eat it, too.

When I was younger, everyone would pitch in to help during the holidays, but I was never given any job related to cooking. I was to set the table or occupy the little ones.

My parents knew my inadequate cooking skills from the beginning when I made a batch of cookies and swapped the sugar and salt ratios.

Then there was that one Thanksgiving after my great-grandmother passed away that I was given the task of making her famous rolls. Let’s just say that asking your 85-year-old great-grandmother in the midst of serious dementia for her famous roll recipe isn’t the smartest idea.

In college, I decided to cook a mock Thanksgiving. I figured that at 20 years old, I’d better learn to at least make one holiday meal.

On a hot day in July, my sister and I got out the family recipes and began to make a proper feast. After spending hours cooking, reading instructions over and over again and then having to make a number of phone calls to further explain the instructions, the table was set and it looked marvelous.

I felt good about my successful holiday meal. But before I jumped to the phone to tell everyone how I just Martha Stewart-ed a Thanksgiving dinner, my sister and I both laid on the couch, digesting mashed potatoes, turkey, rolls, cranberries, Brussels sprouts, pie and stuffing.

Wait, where was the stuffing?

Then it occurred to us, and our jaws dropped. After cooking the stuffing inside the turkey, I had forgotten to take it out. One turkey carcass and a whole bunch of Grandma’s warm stuffing was lying at the bottom of the outside Dumpster.

I would like to say after two years of being married, I am getting better in the kitchen. I have minor disasters here and there, but most of our friends continue to come back over for dinner — so that must say something. I can’t tell with my husband, because he is stuck with whatever is on the table.

The real test will be this Thanksgiving, which I will be hosting. Hosting and cooking: an art I have yet to master. I am already feeling quite encouraged by my sister’s enthusiastic acceptance of the invitation. She has never been afraid to tell me that my cooking skills are a bit under par, to put it nicely.

“I had other options,” she said. “But you’ve become so domestic these days that I know it will be really good.”

So, this year there will be no burnt casserole, undercooked rolls, dry turkey or missing stuffing. You might as well just call me Paula Deen, Tur-duck-en Queen. Happy Thanksgiving!

Here are a few of my learned lessons and turkey-day tips:

1. Don’t try to do something really challenging to impress. When you know the box recipe will still be a little challenge, stick with that.

2. Just cook the stuffing in the slow cooker to make it easy and avoid any misplacement.

3. Make side dishes in advance so that you’re concentrating on only one recipe at a time. Then write down somewhere what you’ve made so you don’t forget what is in the freezer.

4. Read the recipe all the way through, a few times. It doesn’t help when you make an entire dish on Thanksgiving and then find that at the end of the recipe, it says to refrigerate overnight.

5. Get out everything you will be cooking and serving with beforehand. Then you don’t have to use your baby’s bottle as a turkey baster because you forgot to replace your broken one from last year.

6. Don’t use recipes from dementia patients.

7. Hire a baby-sitter: not for the baby, but for when you have to do something and need constant eyes on the stove.

8. If you feel you’re being lied to about a good meal and clean plates, just check with the dogs. You’ll be able to tell if they have had some table scraps.

9. Lighting enough fragrant candles and keeping the oven fan on will remove the burnt food smell fast.

10. Don’t tell your city-bred, Bambi-loving relatives that they aren’t munching on beef in that casserole — it’s venison. 
This column, My ABC Soup, is published every third Sunday of the month at www.nrtoday.com

where to get your Thanksgiving dinner ingredients

I will be hosting Thanksgiving dinner this year which probed me to do some extra research, detailed organization (as you see in a previous post) and attempt to get the biggest bang for my buck, sticking to my grocery budget. With food prices continually on the up climb, I knew this would be a bit of a challenge. 
But, good for you locals, I saved my list, compared prices and can now pass along where you will get the best deal on some typical Thanksgiving food items. Keep in mind that my list is for a dinner of nine and wanting some leftovers.
  • Gourmet cheese: If you are looking for smaller portions of gourmet cheese, GROCERY OUTLET has servings for under $5
  • Wine: If you are looking for a few bottles of a good or local table wine, GROCERY OUTLET has $10 wines marked down to $3.99; If you are wanting more quantity over quality, COSTCO Yellow Tails, champagne and other house wines in the momma-size bottle are cheaper by $1 here. (Compared to Sherm’s) 
  • Turkey: COSTCO! Compared to all the other grocery stores, including Sherm’s and Grocery Outlet – Costco has Foster Farms turkey’s for $.89 per lb compared to Sherm’s at $1.39 and up per pound.
  • Stuffing: Costco has a package of 3, 16 oz. bags of Pepperidge farm herb and other types for $6.59 ($2.19 per 16 oz.); Sherm’s has Stove Top 6 oz. (regular) boxes for $1.19 each and Mrs. Cubbison’s Stuffing at $1.68 for two 6 oz. servings. Therefore, COSTCO is again, biggest bang for your buck if you want more stuffing.
  • Rolls: Until the 24th, COSTCO has a coupon for $2.50 off a package of 5, 8-pack Pillsbury Crescent Rolls (total of 40 rolls per pack; originally $7.89). Coupon limit is 3. This brings you to $1.07 per 8-pack. Can’t beat that anywhere.
  • Pam Spray: COSTCO coupon brought a 2-pack of 12 oz. Pam Spray bottles to $4.89 ($2.44 per bottle).Sherm’s price is $3.58 for a one, Pam Spray smaller bottle & even beats generic brand (i.e. Western Family). 
  • Cinnamon Sticks: Wish I would have known this in my past stick buying life – COSTCO has an 8-oz package of McCormick Cinnamon Sticks for $5.79; Sherm’s (in the Hispanic foods section) has a bag/2 oz. at $1.89 – $7.56 for 8-ounces. COSTCO prevails again.
  • Olive Oil: Grocery Outlet & SHERM’S beats out Costco (unless there is a coupon) by $2. Both have 1 liter bottles for around $5.98 and up. 
  • Chicken Broth: SHERM’S has 2 cans for $1 ($.50 each) of Swanson’s Chicken Broth; a Costco 12-pack would bring you to about $1 per can for the same 14-ounces. 
  • Cheddar Cheese: A Bandon cheddar 2.5 lb. block is still on sale at COSTCO for $5.99; Sherm’s has a 2 lb. Bandon cheddar block for $4.98. Costco then wins, charging $1.99 per .5 lb vs. $2.49. 
  • Half & Half: COSTCO has a 1/2 gallon for $2.99 vs. Sherm’s at $3.58 and up for a half gallon. 
  • Gravy:  I’m not a gravy maker and the Costco Turkey Gravy all-ready made/just heat containers are SO yummy! 2-pack/60-ounces is $6.99, coming to $3.49 per jug and that equaling a penny per ounce. Packet gravy mixes are at Sherm’s and other places for 4/$1 for 1 oz. and up. Can’t beat COSTCO.
  • Eggs: COSTCO organic 5-dozen for $7.05; Sherm’s 5-dozen for $7.99.
  • Butter Sticks: COSTCO Kirkland Butter sticks are 4/1b. sticks for $9.59, coming to $2.39 per 1 lb. block; SHERM’S has their brand for $2.39 or Umpqua for $2.68 per lb. block. So, about the same (but local is always better if the price is close!). 
  • Cream of Chicken/Mushroom Soup: SHERM’S for $.58 each for regular 10 3/4-oz cans or 3 for $5, 24-oz. cans.
  • Russet Potatoes: 15 lb. bag is at Sherm’s and GROCERY OUTLET for $2.79 per bag. Costco’s is $5.97 for a 20-lb bag ($.18 vs. $.29 per lb. 
tips tips tips
Now, I would say couponing is a huge tip. I am trying to learn how to coupon. Make sure to research online or in the paper at least what your local stores are offering. 
Fred Meyer/Kroger, which I usually get my small portion, fresh produce items at (if they don’t look to spiffy at Sherm’s), will allow you to load manufacturer’s coupons right onto your rewards card, automatically deducting them. Easy for someone a beginner couponer like myself!
Just because a more expensive store (i.e. Safeway or Albertson’s) is going to give you a free turkey with $150 purchase, doesn’t mean you are saving $$. You’re still spending more.
Not shopping with a baby for once allowed me to be a crazy lady and get out my calculator, looking at how much you are actually getting for the price. Cheap grocery stores like Sherm’s or Grocery Outlet knows how to trick customers in pricing things at $1 or less, but the amount you are getting is also less. If it is a food or item that will last, go with the bigger amount/biggest bang for your buck.
Also, from the old lady down aisle 15 who really wanted me to know her knowledge: “LOOK AT EVERYTHING ON THE LABEL!” she snapped at me while I was grabbing my low-sodium chicken broth. She said that in most cases, when you look at the percentage, the sodium is only 1-percent lower and the price is higher. She was in-deed correct for Campbell’s Tomato Soup: 19-percent sodium on a “low-sodium” marked can vs. 20-percent sodium on a regular can. Regular cans are always on sale vs. low-sodium ones.
Here are some good coupon sites for grocery:
http://www.ilovecostco.com/blog-category/costco-coupons (always gets coupons up before book is out)
Happy shopping & happy Thanksgiving!