I do know that I am not the only one who can cook, although I can throw down in the kitchen with the best of them whenever I tear myself away from the sewing room. Yes, there are many other fabulously skilled sewing cooks. Today, I thought I'd introduce you to yet another "SEWING GOURMET". I've been reading Marjie's blog for years now. Every year as it nears Thanksgiving I watch her blog with much anticipation of her Thanksgiving meal preparations.
So sit back, relax, Grab a nice cup of tea and let me introduce you to Marjie of Modern Day Ozzie and Harriett.
Hello to all of Faye's wonderful readers! I'm Marjie of Modern Day Ozzie and Harriet; I have 9 children, 7 of whom are grown and gone, cook a lot, sew less than I'd like, and remember every day to enjoy life, because the good times are so precious. I'd like to thank you, Faye, for inviting me to talk about our Thanksgiving plans. It's one of the biggest holidays in our household, and seems to be cherished by all of my family.
To get Thanksgiving off to a good start, I begin planning around November first. When I start planning, I peruse my cookbooks; I have so many that my wonderfully talented third son built me a special bookcase for them. Sadly, I took this as a sign I need more cookbooks, and so now some of the books are double stacked. But there are a few menu-type cookbooks, and it gives me great inspiration for the days leading up to the big day, when family is moving back into the house for somewhere between 4 days and a week.
The ceramic house on the shelf is the only piece of my holiday train set which survived our attic fire last year; it's a great reminder that things could always be worse, so we need to be thankful for the good things every day.
This is an outline of my menu for this year, starting the Friday night before Thanksgiving, and proceeding right through the Sunday after. If it's written down, it gets cooked. If not, it will never see the light of day. With the menus laid down, I can plan my shopping trips. You'll note numbers in parenthesis after each date; that's how many people I think will be here on that day. Of course, the head count can change a little, but I'm usually pretty accurate. Just thinking through the census makes it much easier to figure out what to make! You don't want to broil steaks for a dozen people when you could instead make a roast beef with a lot less work, for example.
My mother in law was known as a great baker, and my husband encouraged me to expand my baking horizons years ago, so our sons would always tell their families about their mother's great desserts - he says that's what really matters to boys. Long ago, when I was talking to her about my Thanksgiving planning, she told me to take advantage of ready to use ingredients: "It's a whole lot easier, and, honestly, tastier, to use canned pumpkin than to try and cook and puree your own," were her words of wisdom. "If God didn't want us to use cake mixes, he wouldn't have made Betty Crocker and Pillsbury so very good!" She also really liked the pie crusts that are now available to roll out in your own pie plate (although I have learned to make my own, and everyone loves them). I'm quite happy, however, to use things like packaged quick bread mixes, add a few ingredients to punch up the flavor, and no one ever suspects they're from a mix. For example, and seasonally appropriate, to pumpkin bread mix add an extra teaspoon of cinnamon or pumpkin pie spice, plus a little vanilla extract. Cranberry bread mix really shines if you use orange juice instead of water to make it. Alternately, to your cranberry bread mix, add a shredded apple and a teaspoon of cinnamon. And, of course, walnuts are always a great addition, too.
On Thanksgiving, I lay the table with snacks starting around noon. The Monday or Tuesday beforehand, I bake a few loaves of quick bread, flavored up as mentioned above. I also buy grape tomatoes, cut and cleaned carrots and celery, and arrange them on a tray with dip in the center. Sliced cheese (usually sharp cheddar) and crackers like Wheat Thins go on another plate, and everyone keeps themselves happy with healthy snacks, instead of attacking the desserts hours early. We always invite a friend and his (now adult kids) and their wives, and he brings a huge platter of shrimp cocktail. The secret to making everything look inviting: put it on a pretty plate; don't put the cracker box on the table with a container of dip. For the record, I make my dips with low-fat sour cream; I need to save a few calories wherever I can.
Spinach Dip (My favorite with veggies or crackers)
1 cup sour cream
1 envelope onion soup mix OR
1 tsp beef base or beef bouillon granules plus 1 to 2 tbsp dried chopped onion
10 ounce package frozen spinach, thawed, squeezed dry and chopped
Milk for desired consistency
Stir the onion soup mix or beef granules and dried onion together in a bowl; taste and add more dried onion, if necessary. Add the spinach, stir together, and add milk to bring it to the right consistency. Refrigerate at least 2 hours (overnight is better). Note that I use low-fat sour cream and nonfat milk and no one has ever noticed that it's not full fat!
Planning Thanksgiving for 20 to 25 people can be hard. We have at least one vegetarian every year, plus people with blood sugar issues, and my dearly beloved's heart issues, requiring low-fat and reduced sodium cooking where possible. Skim milk for mashing the potatoes and removing all the fat from the pan drippings are obvious starting points. And I gratefully accept whatever dishes my guests want to bring: our friend always brings his own sausage stuffing, which he created about 4 years ago, and his older son's wife brings a dessert and, last year, dinner rolls. Finding enough huge serving bowls is the biggest problem.
To feed so many people, and still have enough leftovers for one or two days, I cook a pair of 24 pound turkeys, plus 4 to 6 extra drumsticks; we call it the Chernobyl Turkeys. (If you aren't old enough to remember the Chernobyl nuclear power plant disaster, you, like my kids, won't find that funny at all.) And we carve the birds before they get to the table, so it will be easy for everyone to help themselves. I do decorate the platter with parsley under the meat, and an orange cut into eighths, plus a few small stems of grapes. Everyone is convinced that pretty food tastes better, after all.
And, to make Ms. Faye happy, how about a couple of quick and easy side dish recipes?
Sauteed Brussels Sprouts
1 pound Brussels Sprouts
1/2 tsp salt
Olive oil to coat the bottom of the pan
1 tsp minced garlic
1 tbsp bacon bits
Simmer the Brussels sprouts for about 3 minutes in lightly salted water; drain. Cover the bottom of the pan with olive oil, add the garlic and cook for a minute, then add the sprouts and bacon bits. Cook for about 5 minutes, until the sprouts are done.
1 pound carrots, sliced
2 tbsp butter
1 tbsp honey
1 tbsp water
1/2 tsp salt
Melt the butter with the honey, water and salt; add the carrots, and cook until fork tender (time will vary depending upon how thick you slice them; mine take about 5 minutes).
Parsleyed Red Potatoes
2 pounds red potatoes, washed and cut into chunks
4 tbsp butter or margarine
Ground black pepper
1 bunch of parsley, leaves coarsely chopped
Boil the potatoes until fork tender; drain. In the same pan, melt the butter and lightly sauté the parsley. Return the potatoes to the pan, add pepper to taste, and stir to coat. (You may want more butter, but just 4 tbsp provides a nice light coating to the potatoes).
Happy Thanksgiving, everyone! And a special thanks to our gracious Sewing Gourmet for letting me ramble on her blog!
Marjie @Modern Day Ozzie and Harriett