Monday, November 28, 2011

My Favorite Sandwich of the Year

We had a wonderful Thanksgiving weekend this year.  We enjoyed fires in the fireplace, visiting with family, good food, a few laughs, a family tradition of bowling, hiking, some late night shopping and leftovers!    I do count leftovers as a blessing, especially when I can turn them into an amazing sandwich in the midst of decorating for Christmas.

Board of Ingredients:
  • Buns, Rolls or Bread
  • Leftover Turkey, Sliced
  • Cranberry Sauce
  • Dressing
  • Mayo and or Leftover Gravy

I am completely serious about this sandwich. 

Start with a layer of mayo.

Cranberry sauce goes on the other side.  If you had gravy you could add it right on top of the mayo.  It's good! 

Layer on some of that yummy turkey.

And I know this sounds weird, but add some dressing.  It's sort of like an extra layer of bread in your sandwich, but this layer has ton of great Thanksgiving flavors in it. 

Now, I am off to enjoy two things.  The sandwich I wait for all year and making sugar plum ornaments.  Enjoy!

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Baked {Make Ahead} Mashed Poatoes

Thanksgiving is the busiest holiday there is in the kitchen.  This is one big meal to put on the table.  Besides the meal, we usually like to play a few games during the Macy's parade in the morning.  The football game is a little more closely watched by my football fellas so Alyssa and I spread a puzzle out on the coffee table right in the middle of everything.  I do not want to miss out on all the fun, so I make sure I am not stuck in the kitchen.  I do as much as I can ahead of time.

These potatoes are the boys' favorite item on the table.  The recipe is an oldy but a goody and it would not be Thanksgiving for my boys if they did not have massive amounts of these potatoes.  They are already talking about them.  My plan is to make a double batch.  One batch for Thanksgiving.  The second batch I will throw in the oven for them to eat with leftover sandwiches on Friday.  {I can't wait for leftover sandwiches!}

        Board of Ingredients:
  • 5 Pounds of Potatoes Peeled and Diced
  • Paprika
  • Milk
  • Sour Cream
  • White Pepper
  • Salt
  •   Chives
  • Cream Cheese
  • Butter

My chives are still beautiful outside so I used fresh, but you could use freeze dried chives as well.

You want your potatoes to be chopped so they are all roughly the same size.  This is important so they cook evenly.  You don't want some chunks to be overcooked and falling apart in the cooking water while other larger chunks are still crunchy. 

Add the diced potatoes to a large pan, cover them with water and add a generous pinch of salt.  Bring the pot up to a boil and reduce to a simmer.  If you cover the pot while the water comes up a boil, it can boil over so keep an eye on it.  While the potatoes are simmering, it is easiest to leave the pot uncovered.  Simmer the potatoes until they are tender and they easily fall of a fork when you pierce a chunk of potato with fork tines. 

When the potatoes are done, drain the potatoes.  Make sure you let all the water drain out so you do not wind up with watery taters. 

Mash your taters up.  I actually break them up a bit this way, then I put mine through the food mill.  You could use a potato ricer or just use a potato masher. 

This is what the potatoes looked like after they went through the food mill.  They look so good.

Now, lets add a few things to make these the most decadent potatoes on the planet. 

Stir.  I licked the spoon and I can tell you that they were really good. 

Now add a pat of butter to the top and stick these in the fridge.  Fogetaboutit!  I don't know where that came from.  Anyway, when you bake these guys, they puff up a bit.  So leave room in your casserole dish for them to expand.  When you are ready to bake them, take them out of the fridge and bring them to room temp.  Bake them for about 45 to 50 minutes or until the center is hot.  I stick a butter knife blade down the middle of the potatoes and leave it for a few seconds.  Pull the knife out and feel the knife to see if the potatoes have heated through. 

Snowy Mashed Potatoes


5 Pounds of Potatoes, Peeled and Diced
8 Ounces Cream Cheese, Room Temperature
1 Cup Sour Cream
1/2 Stick Butter, Room Temperature
Hot Milk
1/4 Cup Chives
1 Teaspoon Paprika
2 Teaspoons Salt
1/2 Teaspoon White Pepper


1. Boil the potatoes until they fall off a fork easily. Drain well.

2. Mash, rice or mill the cooked potatoes.

3. Add the rest of the ingredients and mix well.

4. Put the potatoes in a baking dish. Add one pat of butter to the top of the potatoes and cover. Refrigerate.

Baking Instructions:

1. Remove potatoes from refrigerator and leave on counter for one hour.

2. Bake potatoes in a 350°F oven for one hour or until center of potatoes are hot. Enjoy!

For a printer friendly version of this recipe click here.

Cranberry Sauce

This cranberry sauce recipe has been a family tradition for me ever since I can remember.  As a youngster I got to make it for Thanksgiving.  These days my daughter is making it for our Thanksgiving. I will never forget teaching her how to make this recipe a few years ago.   At 12 years old, she is now a cranberry sauce expert and she is going to show you how she does it today.

The Board of Ingredients:
  • Fresh Cranberries
  • Sugar
  • Water
  • Grand Marnier (Optional)
  • Mandarin Oranges (Optional)
  • Orange

Pour the cranberries into a medium saucepan over medium heat.

Add a bit of water to the pan. You only need about a third of a cup of water.

Cover the cranberries and let them go.  Pretty soon you will hear them begin to pop.  It will sound very similar to popcorn, only not as loud. 

When the popping slows down, remove the lid and let the water cook out a bit.  

While the cranberries are cooking, you can zest the orange.

Set the food mill up over a bowl if you have one.  Otherwise you could strain the cranberries through a sieve pushing the pulp through with a spatula.

Pour the cranberries into the food mill.

Straining or milling gets rid of the skins and some of the seeds.

Look at that beautiful pulp!

Add the orange zest. 

Add the sugar.  Now would be the time to add a teaspoon or two of the Grand Marnier if you were adding it.  We do not add since the kids will be eating the sauce. 

Stir the sugar in so the heat of the cranberries melts the sugar. 

Juice the orange.

Stir the orange juice in and you have a perfectly awesome cranberry sauce. 

We always use these pretty glass bowls to serve the cranberry sauce.  The bowls are from my grandmother and the cranberry sauce is so beautiful.

The kids like a little extra kick of orange in their cranberry sauce.  So we are mixing in some mandarin oranges so everyone is happy.

Alyssa is garnishing the sauce bowls with a slice of mandarin orange and cranberries. 

Aren't they pretty?  I can't wait to eat it.  Alyssa let me lick the bowl.  ;-)   

Press 'n Seal gets me through the holidays.  Just wrap it up and store it in the fridge until you are ready to put it on your table.   Cranberry Sauce - Done!

Cranberry Sauce


12 Ounce Bag Fresh Cranberries
1/3 Cup Water
1 Cup Sugar
1/2 Teaspoon Orange Zest
2 Tablespoons Orange Juice
Mandarin Oranges - Optional


1. Add cranberries and water to a medium saucepan over medium heat. Cover and cook til cranberries have burst open. Remove lid and cook water away stirring occasionally.

2. Strain to remove skins and some seeds.

3. Stir in the sugar, orange zest, orange juice and mandarin oranges if desired.

4. Pour into the serving bowl and chill in fridge until time to serve. Enjoy!

For a printer friendly version of this recipe click here.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Personalized Place Cards

I will never forget our first Thanksgiving with the boys.  They moved in during the summer and Thanksgiving never had a great deal of meaning for the boys.  In fact they were rather suspicious as Joel and I excitedly prepared for the holiday.  To give them a way to contribute I had them make name cards for everyone.  I bought a pack of foam turkeys that they put together with some Elmer's Glue.  They had so much fun making those turkeys.  The added a paper ribbon with everyone's name to each little turkey.  It was so precious.   

Today they could care less about making name tags for the Thanksgiving table.  Thanksgiving is special to them for their own reasons now.  But for me, name cards are still an important part of our holiday, even if is just us around the table.  I never want to forget our humble beginnings and how far we have come as a family.

Anyway, onto the salt dough.  Ever play with salt dough?  It is a super simple dough to whip together and play with.  Once you get it formed and baked in the oven, you wind up with a hardened paint-able piece.  Salt dough has endless creative possibilities.  

The Board of Ingredients: 
  • Flour
  • Table Salt (Not Kosher)
  • Water

My daughter is making the recipe today.  Add the flour...


and water to a bowl.

Mix until the dough forms.  If it is on the sticky side add a bit of flour.  If it is dry add a bit of water.  I kneaded the dough in the bowl a few times to get a nice smooth dough consistency. 

Isn't it pretty?

Now it is time to roll the dough out. Give your work surface a dusting of flour.

Divide the dough in half.  Pat one half of the dough into a disc.


Sprinkle the dough with more flour.  

Roll the dough out.  We rolled the dough out to roughly an eighth of an inch.  The thicker the dough is the longer it will take to dry out in the oven.  If you go much thinner than an eighth of an inch, the baked dough could be brittle. 

Cut the dough however you desire.  I love this oak leaf.  Wait til you see what we are doing with it.

Transfer the shape to a cookie sheet.  Use a drinking straw to cut a hole in the dough if so desired. 

Look at how cute she is!  Anyway, throw the salt dough in the oven and bake at 200 degrees until the shapes are dried. 

I baked the shapes in the oven for about six hours.  I turned the oven off and left them in the oven overnight.  (The next morning my son decided to make muffins for breakfast.  When he turned on the oven, he did not check to see if there was anything in the oven.  He accidentally toasted the leaves and acorns. Oh well.)  When they are dried out and cool you are ready to start decorating. 

I am giving them all a coat of matte acrylic paint.  The matte color should be a sort of primer for your final look.  Since I am using metallic paints (they are 50% more expensive than the matte finish) I want to make sure that I need as few coats of the metallic paint as possible. 

Now for the fun part.  I am using two different shades of brownish for the acorns. 

You could add some details to the acorns with a paint pen if you wanted to.

The leaves take a few more steps.

Start by giving each leaf an organic swirling swish of color. 

When the first color is dry, paint the rest of the leaf in another color.  (Ignore that grey stuff on the leaf.  It is just the paint that is not completely dry.)

I added a third color.  I just painted on thin stripes here and there in odd numbers.  Each leaf either got three or five stripes.

When the leaves were dry, they were a bit brilliant for my tablescape plan. 

I decided to dry brush the leaves with antiqued bronze metallic paint to give them a more muted look.  I love how they turned out.  The acorns were perfect as they were. 

To put them together you need some twine a bit longer than a foot in length. 

Tie an acorn on one end and an oak leaf on the other end.

I just wound the twine around the rolled up napkin.  You can leave them the way they are or you could...
  • Add a name with stickers or a paint pen
  • Have each guest write down what they are most thankful for
  • Write out a Bible verse about thankfulness that your guests can share
  • Use them as favors and let each guest take theirs home

Salt Dough Recipe


1/2 Cup Water
1/2 Cup Salt
1 Cup Flour


1. Mix all ingredients until a dough forms. Knead dough for a few minutes.
2. Divide the dough in half and roll out to 1/8 of an inch thick. Cut dough with knife or cookies cutters.
3. Place salt dough on a cookies sheet. Bake dough in a 200°F oven for six hours or until dry and hard.
4. Paint and decorate salt dough shapes. Enjoy!