Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Wordless Wednesday {leaf crunching}


Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Thanksgiving Recap and Christmas Memories

The table awaits. 

The table is graced. (BTW -I am not really that tall.  I was sitting on a kitchen stool!)

The aftermath.

The cousins.

The turkey and dressing may be gone but the glow of time spent with family and friends remains.  My sister and brother-in-law departed on Sunday after a week of work and play.  They are the best sous-chefs in the universe.  I could not have pulled off the meal without their help in the kitchen and around the house.  My husband and boys were on tidying and cleaning detail and they, too, took care of business effortlessly.  Thank you everyone!  Our guests made the whole process worthwhile - especially ending the evening with howls over the game Balderdash.  We learned words like whisterpoop and baldersnatch and the memories of our invented definitions still make me grin and chuckle.  The kids were angels and finished their evening playing in the yard well past dark.  

In my post about brining a turkey I had mentioned I hadn't made gravy with those drippings yet.  Well, the gravy turned out to be delicious and practically made itself.  Plus, by using the frozen drippings (from the turkey made in advance) combined with the drippings on Thanksgiving day, we actually had more gravy than we needed--- for once.   And lest you think the day went off without a hitch, let me confess - we awoke on Thanksgiving morning to find that the brining bag had dripped a slow leak overnight and we ended up having to toss all the veggies, sanitize the entire fridge and run to the grocery store to buy fresh vegetables!  Moral of the brining story is to brine in a stock pot not a bag!  Oh well, lesson learned and the turkey still turned out to be delicious and moist and my favorite turkey ever.  

And so, like many others, we have made the transition from Thanksgiving to Thanksgetting Advent and Christmas.  :)  

This is our tree in the family room.  The presents underneath are the wrapped Christmas books I posted about here.

Our kids' tree.  This is a tradition my mother started.  The tree with the colored lights gets all the fun ornaments that the kids make at school as well as the new ornament I give them each year.  I write their names and the year on the bottom and when they are grown they will have a set of Christmas memories to hang on their own trees.  Target(no surprise) has great selection of ornaments that reflect personal interests like sports, animals or characters the child currently loves. This is the tree I see while I work at my computer, listening to Christmas music on Pandora.  Love it!

This little elf hung on my childhood Christmas tree beginning almost forty years ago.  Each time I hang it up I am taken back in time to those snowy, cozy Christmas nights when my Grandmother would sleep over at our house even though she lived in town.  Little did I know she and my mother were up all night drinking coffee and wrapping last minute presents!  

Do you do the Elf on the Shelf tradition?  We never have but this website is cute.

I hope the glow of your Thanksgiving memory carries you through to Christmas when we share the best gift of all together - the birth of our Lord and Savior - Jesus Christ.  May his peace and love be reborn into your heart and home again this year.

Sharing here...


Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Autumn Splendor


Monday, November 21, 2011

Brine {Don't Whine}

I simply must urge you to consider brining your bird this year.  I had never done it before.  It seemed off-putting somehow.  Did I have a big enough pot?  Would the turkey taste too salty?  And, most importantly, why bother?  My mother never did and the turkey was just fine.  But as I thought about it, just fine was how I would describe turkey in general.  Never had it blown me away with deliciousness.   Could I be missing something?

Then I saw a Good Eats episode by Alton Brown in which he demystified the reasons for brining.  He explained that at first, the salty solution draw moisture out of the turkey (which sounds counter intuitive). But then, the bird magically draws the salty solution back into its cells where it remains trapped and no matter how long you cook your fowl, it will stay moist and flavorful.  I was sold.

Last week I did a test run.  I bought a 15 pound turkey and combined the following two recipes (Alex Guarnaschelli's Thanksgiving Turkey Brine, and Alton Brown's Good Eats Roast Turkey ) for my own twist on brining.  It was the most delicious turkey I have ever eaten.  Sounds dramatic, yes, but nevertheless, 100% true.  I stood at the fridge the next morning eating the chilled white meat with my fingers.   (Note - I have yet to make gravy from these drippings.  I have heard it can be overly salty but I am not too worried as there were few drippings in the first place.)

I'll never again cook a turkey without brining it first!
Here's how I did it.

6 quarts tap water, divided
3/4 pound kosher salt
1/2 cup dark brown sugar
1 cup soy sauce
1 head garlic , broken apart and peeled (I did not do this the first time but now I will)
1 bunch fresh thyme
1 tablespoon red pepper flakes, rubbed in the palm of your hand first
1 tablespoon allspice berries

For the Turkey:
One whole turkey, thawed
1 stick butter, softened
2 cups low sodium chicken broth, warmed in microwave until hot

1.  In a large stockpot, bring 3 quarts of water to a boil.
2.  Add salt, soy sauce, sugar, garlic, thyme, pepper flakes and allspice berries.
3.  Stir until salt is dissolved.
4.  Add remaining 3 quarts of cold water and as much ice as you can while still having room for the entire turkey.
5.  Once the brine has cooled sufficiently, add the turkey, legs up.
6.  Cover and place in the back of your refrigerator overnight.
7.  The next day, simply drain the turkey brine, pat turkey dry and place on roasting rack over roasting pan. I prefer not to tie legs together but to allow them to splay open making the roasting time more even.
8.  Lift skin from turkey breast and rub butter beneath skin as well as all over the outside of the turkey.
9.  Place in 350 degree oven on lowest oven rack.  
10. Roast for 3 1/2 hours or until reaches a temperature of 170.   Halfway through roasting pour hot chicken broth into roasting pan.  This will create a steamy oven which also keeps the turkey moist.
11.  Allow the turkey to rest at least 30 minutes before slicing to keep juices from running out.  

I hope you'll try this sometime and enjoy it as much as my family did.

Happy Thanksgiving to you!


Multitudes on Monday {grateful photo moments}

Joining with Ann Voskamp in counting my blessings ...


Saturday, November 19, 2011

Sunflower Seed Caramel Pie {nut-free pecan pie}

My mother and sister are deathly allergic to all nuts, nut oils and anything that remotely comes into contact with a nut.  As a result, I had never, ever tasted pecan pie until I got married and my mother-in-law served me a piece at her house.  Instantly I swooned.  For someone who absolutely loves salty and sweet combinations, this was heaven on a plate.  

Then it hit me, my own mother used to make a pie that looked similar only it substituted salty sunflower seeds for the forbidden pecans.  Recently, I found the recipe and made a test-run of it to see if I wanted to serve this at my house for Thanksgiving this year.  The answer was a resounding YES!  

Warning - if you plan to make this for someone with nut allergies be sure to read the sunflower seed package carefully - many brands roast them in peanut oil!  Watch out!

Sunflower Seed Caramel Pie 

3 eggs, beaten
1/2 cup light brown sugar
1/2 cup light corn syrup
1/2 cup dark corn syrup
1/4 cup white sugar
3 tablespoons butter, melted
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup roasted, unshelled salted sunflower seeds
1 unbaked 9 inch pie crust (I used Pillsbury prepared crust)
Whipped Cream for topping (recipe follows)
Cinnameg Sugar (recipe follows)

1.  Heat oven to 350.
2.  Line pie plate with prepared crust.  Pour one cup of sunflower seeds into unbaked crust.
3.  In a small bowl, melt butter.  Set aside to cool slightly.
4.  In a large bowl, beat eggs lightly.
5.  To beaten eggs add sugars, syrups, melted butter and vanilla.  Mix well.
6.  Pour liquid mixture over sunflower seeds in unbaked crust.
7.  Bake at 350 for 50 minutes or until center of pie is only slightly jiggly and well set.
8.  Remove from oven and allow to cool completely before serving.

Whipped Cream Topping 
1.  Pour one cup of heavy whipping cream into the bowl of a large mixer fitted with the whisk attachment.  
2.  Cover with a clean dishtowel to prevent splattering.
3.  Whip at medium speed while gradually adding 3 tablespoons white sugar.
4.  Continue whipping until well combined and holds its shape.
*I make this the day ahead and keep in sealed container in the fridge.  Just before serving, give it a gentle stir to soften.  Works amazingly well!

Cinnameg Sugar
1.  In a small bowl mix together 1/4 cup sugar, 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon, 1/4 teaspoon  ground nutmeg, and a pinch of salt. Mix well.
2.  Pour into a small shaker and enjoy this seasonal sprinkle on coffee, toast, muffins, and most especially, on top of the whipped cream for this pie!

Sharing here:
Strut Your Stuff Saturday @Six Sister's Stuff
Weekend Wrap-up Party @Tatertots and Jello


Friday, November 18, 2011

The Roman Catholic Missal {chanting and changing}

If you are a Catholic, you have heard about the revisions to the Roman Missal translation for the United States, which will be implemented on the first Sunday of Advent, November 27th.  I admit, I am a person who enjoys change so I feel a little excited about these more eloquent translations.  However, I am not a cradle Catholic, so it has taken me 13 years to follow along comfortably with the liturgical responses as they are now!  It'll be comforting to think that all Catholics will be feeling a little awkward together as we get used to new responses during Mass.  For the members of my family who are not Catholic, they will be thrilled to have something to follow along with when attending church with our family. 

Since I am by far not the best resource for the details of what has changed or why, I will share a few resources with you where you can find out for yourself:

1. Pat Gohn has written a four part series at Patheos detailing the new translations.  This is a great place to begin.

2.  Rebecca Teti wrote a piece for Faith and Family Live that is brief and I loved her take on seeing this as an opportunity for us to pay closer attention to the words we say at mass.  Seeing these changes as a way to deepen our connection to Christ encouraged me.

3.  Finally, this website has put all the new changes into musical chant.  These chants are the sound of holiness to me.  Here is a sample of the new Greeting where the laity will no longer respond with , And also with you, but instead with the much lovelier, And with your spirit.


Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Pretty, Happy Funny, Real {Instagram}

Have you ever used the instagram app? (It's free!)  I recently discovered it on the iPhone and have enjoyed sharing  my everyday photos there.  It includes editing tricks that make the photos look unique and also allows you to link your photos to Facebook, Twitter or Flickr with one simple click.  Here is a sampling from this past week.

Falling Leaf

I took this photo of a leaf falling in the backyard this week.  Now nearly all the leaves are gone.

Five Guys Ketchup
KC likes a little hot dog with his ketchup!

Hummer Limo Night Out
 A neighbor turned 40 and her husband organized a limo and dinner out with 17 of her friends.  We had a fun time feeling silly (and old) in this psychedelic ride.

Learning To Write
KC is learning to write and I am seeing my three year old grow up before my teary eyes.  I will truly miss the threes.

Do you instagram?  I would love to follow you there.  
My username is mistysmornings and I if you would like to connect.

Sharing here every Thursday:
round button chicken


Wordless Wednesday {clouds}


Monday, November 14, 2011

Candied Sweet Potatoes

*From the archives*

If you are looking for an ooey gooey, marshmallowy coated sweet potato recipe then you are not in the right place.  However, if you are looking for a simple, make ahead sweet potato recipe that  lets the sweet potato flavor shine, this is the place.  

First of all, let's not worry ourselves with the yams -vs- sweet potatoes debate. Either one will be delicious in this recipe so buy some orange-skinned potatoes and get peeling.

Slice them lengthwise and then cut each piece in half again.

Tumble them into a large casserole coated with non-stick spray.

Dust them with lots of cinnamon and nutmeg and a pinch of salt.

Snow them with sugar and dot with butter.

Drizzle in some Karo syrup.


Cover and place in 375 degree oven for an hour and a half or until bubbly and thickened.

They form a delicious syrupy sauce and truly do get better the next day.  To me this dish looks like Thanksgiving and smells like Christmas which makes it a perfect addition to any buffet table.


4 large sweet potatoes
3/4 white sugar
1/4 light Karo syrup
1 cup water
3 Tbsp. butter
1 tsp. cinnamon 
1/4 tsp. nutmeg
salt (a good pinch)

Heat oven to 375
1.  Peel and cut potato into eight pieces.
2.  Place in casserole sprayed with Pam.
3.  Cover potatoes with cinnamon, nutmeg, salt, sugar, corn syrup, butter and water.
4.  Cover dish and bake for at least an hour and a half, basting occasionally, until potatoes are fork tender and sauce has thickened.
5.  And, if you must, you can top with marshmallows near the end but I won't!  :)

MAKE AHEAD OPTION:  I have already made these and put them in the freezer.  I will simply thaw the day before and then reheat in the oven on Thanksgiving Day.

Note: If you have leftovers, mash them up with butter and sprinkle with cinnamon sugar when serving. 

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