Sunday, November 29, 2009

My Thanksgiving Pie

Two weeks ago, my pie turned out great! The kids and I loved it! My pie for Thanksgiving didn't turn out so well. I was reminded of what an art pie making is =)

Here are my mistakes and things I learned:
#1 I made my pie crust and left it in the fridge too long. I know it's important to chill it a little, but i left it in all day. I couldn't get back to it until much, much later. Not a good thing. It was really difficult to roll out and then it wouldn't roll in a circular shape so I had to reball it and roll it again. I ended up handling it a lot and in the end it was still much thicker than I would have liked... which led to the next problem.
#2 The Libby's pumpkin pie recipe works best with canned pumpkin and not fresh. Fresh is so much more watery. Two weeks ago I used canned and this time I used fresh that I had frozen. I will definitely use canned if I use that recipe again.
#3 I used my deep dish pie pan, but all of the filling wouldn't fit because the crust was too thick = not as thick of a pie. That's what I had loved about my pie 2 weeks ago--that it was thicker than the average 9" pumpkin pie.

So, those were my 3 lessons I learned about pumpkin pie making this Thanksgiving =)

Aside from that, I did make the stuffing, pie, mashed potatoes, pickled peaches, and yams on Wednesday. That made life much easier on Thanksgiving Day. Last year, I had put the stuffing off until the day of the big meal and it made the day much more hectic. I will definitely make sure I do that again for Christmas =)

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Good Food

Last night as we ate at Mimi's Cafe, we sat and realized that you can fix bad service, but you can't fix bad food. We had really good food last night, but really bad service! I spoke with the manager and we will definitely go back--because it's really likely that the service won't be bad and we did love the food =)

I think the worst part about bad food is that you feel like you've wasted money eating out. So, at least we didn't feel that way last night!

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Less Expensive Cream Sauce

Last night, I made a cream sauce to go with our pasta. I was just getting ready to make my mom's old seafood fettuccine sauce when I realized it had 1/2 cup of butter in it and my eyes got a little buggy. I figured I would cut it back to 3 Tbsp and see how it went. But, I called my mom first to see if she had any advice. She did! It just so happened that she just tried a new recipe recently and it turned out great! It's much less expensive and cheaper. The old recipe had 1 cup of heavy cream and 1/2 cup butter in it (making it more expensive). The new recipe had 3 Tbsp of butter, 1/4 cup red fat mayo, 1/4 cup parmesan cheese, and 1 cup of chicken broth. I think together those are less expensive and healthier. I modified my mom's recipe a little and this is what I came up with...I'm writing the recipe below. We loved it--even the kids!

Reduced fat =) Seafood Fettucine

8 oz. red fat cream cheese (but not non fat)
1 cup chicken broth
1/4-1/3 cup parmesan cheese
1/4 cup red. fat mayonaise
3 Tbsp. butter
1 sm. onion, minced
1 stalk celery, minced
8 oz. mushrooms, sliced
1 lb. shrimp: thawed, cooked, peeled, and deveined

Saute the mushrooms in 1 Tbsp. butter on med. high heat. When they are sauteed, ladle them out with a slotted spoon and set them aside. Wipe out the mushroom liquid from the pan with a paper towel (if you leave it in, it will color everything).
Add in the other 2 Tbsp. of butter and add the onion and celery. Saute and then again ladle them out and set them aside with the mushrooms. But, this time leave the extra butter that's leftover in the pan.
Add the chicken broth, cream cheese, parmesan cheese, and mayonaise. Heat over med. heat and whisk until creamy.
Add the vegetables back in and the shrimp. Heat through. The longer you cook the shrimp, the smaller they will get, so you only want to get them warm.

This was really yummy. We had gotten a treat at Trader Joes and bought some uncooked shrimp from South America for $9 that were supposed to taste like little lobsters---and they did! So, the sauce was especially good and far less expensive than eating it in a restaurant. The sauce would have been a very good cream sauce even without the shrimp if you don't like shrimp and I think you could even try chicken in it if your family prefers chicken alfredo with pasta.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Homemade Gravy

One of the things I loved every Thanksgiving growing up was my grandmother's gravy for the turkey. I watched my grandmother make gravy so many times. I learned that the trick for the brown color for her gravy was a few drops of Kitchen Bouquet.

But, here's how I make my gravy...
I take about 2-3 Tbsp. real butter (depends on how much turkey juices you have) and melt them in a cast iron skillet. I sprinkle about 1/4-1/3 cup flour over it. I use a flat (Important!) whisk because it lets you get the flour and butter in the edge. Stir all of the flour into the butter until it is all absorbed by the butter and looks like little balls--it doesn't need to brown. But, all of the flour needs to be mixed into the butter. This makes a roux.

For the liquid: Put a plastic bag into a 4 cup glass Pyrex measuring cup. Pour the turkey juices into the plastic ziploc bag (sometimes I have juices that need to be poured into more than one bag). Let it sit for a few minutes. Then close the top of the bag. Pull the bag out and place the Pyrex in the sink. Make a small (1/4-1/2 inch) snip in one of the bottom corners in the bag. Don't make a snip that would cut through. Just snip it to let the juice out. Let the juices pour into the Pyrex. The fat will have risen to the top when you let it sit. Watch as the juices pour into the Pyrex. As soon as you see the fat about to go through the hole, move the bag over the edge and into the sink.

Making the gravy: With the roux, pour in a little liquid and use the whisk to mix it all in until it is all absorbed.--Pour only a little liquid in at a time. Whisk it all in. Don't rush this step! It's really quite simple, but if you pour it in slowly then you will avoid lumps. Don't try and do anything else while you're doing this part (I have a bad habit of multi-tasking). It won't take long and then you can get back to everything else. Towards the end, if you put too much liquid in at one time, let it boil down and cook a bit. But, stir periodically, so it won't burn on the bottom of the pan. After your gravy is the thickness you want (and not runny) and you've used your liquid up, pour into a gravy boat and serve! If you would like to, you can add some salt and pepper and a few drops of kitchen bouquet at the end, but wait until the end and see if you like the color and the taste first.

Happy Gravy Eating! =)

By the way, if you end up with lumps at the end (put it in a blender =) ) The first few times I practiced making a gravy, I had to do that! But, it still tasted fine and was smooth!

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Thanksgiving Baking and Pumpkin Pie

When we bought our house in GA, the lady before us had left a tray in the bottom of her oven covered with foil. We never did this growing up in my house, but I saw the benefit to doing it so I've kept up the practice ever since. The blessing of the tray is that when you discovere something you've put in the oven has spilled, you can take the tray off, put a pan under the item and keep on baking without the spillage on the bottom of the oven that quickly turns to burnt smell.

But, I discovered another great thing this week. Well, it's one of those fun little things. I now have a Pie cookbook that I love--called Pie by Ken Haedrich. It's this huge book! (I also have his Apple Pie cookbook which is also really good) There are several pumpkin pie recipes in the book. He included the one off of the Libby pumpkin can and mentions how there is too much filling for the pan. So, I tried to use my deep dish pie pan instead of a regular pie pan. All of the filling fit in it and it made for a much thicker pie--and honestly, I liked it better! Before it always seemed like such a thin pie--I wanted more filling. But, in the deep dish pie pan, it was great!

So, that's my fun thing I learned for this Thanksgiving dinner--ahead of time.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

The end of another month

It was the end of another month and I stayed up last night finishing up our budget. It wasn't what I had hoped, but I know it could have been worse =)

This month we got my homeschooling area into order and our bedroom. I am thankful for both and I'm thankful we were able to do both for far cheaper than I expected to. We will likely never get a $3000 bedroom set made of real wood that would be beautiful. There's just too many other needs when you have a family of 5+1 dog. But, for around $200, my husband got a Malm dresser from IKEA and a mirror to go over the dresser I have. I replaced the knobs on my dresser with silver ones to match the 1920s wardrobe that I bought at a garage sale for $20 and painted white (I just didn't have enough time to refinish it otherwise) and I replaced the knob on the closet door with a white one from Eli's old dresser. Chris' old dresser went into Sami's room and Sami's into Eli's. A lot of moving around, but it worked out well. The room fits with the rest of our house. It's not out of Better Homes and Gardens (which by the way did you ever notice that the people in that magazine all have no kids or one kid?), but it fits with the rest of our house and all my clothes are finally in a place. For the past 4 years, I just had this to hang my clothes on. It was functional, but I didn't like looking at my clothes all the time. I'll take a picture of my "new" old wardrobe soon. It is a blessing to have a place for things.

Downstairs we got a 5 x 5 Expedit cube from IKEA and it is now filled with all of my homeschooling materials. It is a blessing to have a place for everything. It's also a blessing that now my chalkboard has a home so that Sami can practice writing her letters everyday with chalk on it and I don't have to pull it out or worry it's going to tip over.

It's a funny thing about organizing. It always seems to cost a lot of money =) to do it. But, I'm thankful for these two projects. Our ideas started out big (!) and then scaled back and scaled back again and in the end were just right.

One friend said recently to me that the way we keep our homes reflects the environment we want to create for our kids to grow up and live in. I feel calmer inside when everything has a place where it belongs =) And my home feels calmer.