Food and Drink

Recipe for a Successful Thanksgiving

17/30

Since Thanksgiving 1979*, Tom and I have been cooking and celebrating our holiday feast together.  (So many years . . . of turkey and stuffing and cranberries and pie.)  

Our tried-and-true recipes show the wear and tear of decades of Thanksgiving use.  (This is the only stuffing I've ever made -- first tried in 1981 and still in the turkey 35 years later.)

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We've pretty much got it down to a science by this point.  In fact, our Thanksgiving menu is so entrenched that I dare not change a thing!  From time to time, I've suggested a new sweet potato recipe or rebelled by trying a different cranberry sauce.  Nope.  The family is not having it!  (But, Moooom.  I loooove those sweet potatoes.)

So, as the big day approaches, it's time to fire up the Thanksgiving Machine.

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Our "recipe" for Thanksgiving?

  • Plan ahead.  (Order a fresh turkey in early November -- and don't forget to order extra legs!)
  • Stay organized.  (We keep all of our Thanksgiving recipes together in one file, so we know just where they are.)
  • Create a timetable.  (When to do what, from a couple of weeks out until the big day.)
  • Make a master shopping list.  (And shop early enough that the crowds aren't last-minute crazy.)
  • Do what you can ahead of time.  (So much less frustrating.)
  • Enlist help.  (Much easier these days, with so many capable adults.)
  • Stay out of each other's way.  (And watch out for dog-helpers.)
  • Laugh often.  (Because something will always be . . . funny.)

Most of all?  Have fun -- and enjoy the time with family and friends!

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* In our earliest years, we did spend a couple of Thanksgivings at our respective "family tables".  But for the most part?  We've been cooking it our way -- and loving it!

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This post is part of Think Write Thursday.  Read other posts here, or sign up to receive the weekly prompts here.

 


A Breakfast to Remember

Welcome to Think Write Thursday -- a blogging joint-venture by Kat and Carole.  Each week, they will release a topic for bloggers to think . . . and then write about.  

This week, Kat and Carole invited us to think and write about the best breakfast we ever had . . . 

Hmmmm.  I've enjoyed many really great breakfasts in my life.  I could tell you about . . . fresh-baked croissant and café au lait in Paris.  Or the traditional Christmas morning breakfast we eat here at my house.  Or maybe . . . Tom's super-delicious fried egg sandwiches.  Or there's any breakfast I've ever eaten at Food Dance here in Kalamazoo.

How to choose?

And then it hit me.  I'm not going to tell you about the BEST breakfast I ever had.  I'm going to tell you about the MOST MEMORABLE breakfast I ever.  (And, as you'll soon see, they are NOT the same thing.)

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When I was a little girl, I hated oatmeal.

Actually, that is probably not a strong enough word.  Because I DETESTED oatmeal.

I would eat Cream of Wheat, and didn't fuss about Malt-o-Meal.  But oatmeal?  I gagged.  No matter how my mom tried to disguise the stuff with brown sugar, raisins, or cinnamon, I just couldn't manage it.  Lucky for me, my mom took pity.  She let me eat Rice Krispies instead.

Then, in 1970 - when I was 10 - Quaker introduced the first instant FLAVORED oatmeal.  Maple and Brown Sugar.  In individual packets.  Just add boiling water.  The kids on the Saturday morning TV commercials ADORED the stuff!  They were so happy -- just sitting there, perky and chirpy, mixing their own Instant Quaker Oatmeal with Artificial Maple and Brown Sugar Flavor!

Heck.  I wanted it, too!  I was absolutely convinced by the ad men on Madison Avenue that DESPITE the fact that I HATED oatmeal . . . I would adore THAT oatmeal!

The supermarket begging commenced.

Me:  Moooom.  Can we try THIS?  (Holding up box of Instant Quaker Oatmeal with Artificial Maple and Brown Sugar Flavor.)

My Mom:  No.  You hate oatmeal.

Me:  Not THIS oatmeal.  It's new.  It's INSTANT Quaker Oatmeal with Artificial Maple and Brown Sugar Flavor.

My Mom:  No.

This went on for several weeks.  I was determined.  Each week, I pointed out the Instant Quaker Oatmeal with Artificial Maple and Brown Sugar Flavor.  Each week, my Mom SHUT. ME. DOWN. with those words . . . You hate oatmeal.

Finally, after weeks of begging and cajoling, I wore my Mom down.  (She was probably having a rough day and was tired to begin with.)

Me:  Can we please, Please, PLEASE get this Instant Quaker Oatmeal with Artificial Maple and Brown Sugar Flavor?  PLEASE.

My Mom:  No.

Me:  PLEASE?

My Mom:  (completely exasperated and totally worn down) If I buy this, YOU WILL EAT IT.

Me:  Of course, Mother Dearest.  Of course I will eat it!  I will eat every bite and lick the bowl and ask for More, PLEASE.

I had broken her down!  The Instant Quaker Oatmeal with Artificial Maple and Brown Sugar Flavor hit the cart.  I couldn't have been more excited!

And.  Well.  You know what happened the next morning?

One bite . . . and I GAGGED.

Hated it.

Those artificial flavors did nothing to camouflage the taste and texture of the oatmeal that I despised, and the texture?  Lumpy glue.

My Mom, though?  She didn't miss a beat.

Eat your oatmeal.

I didn't.

Eat your oatmeal.

I didn't.

You will SIT THERE until you EAT THAT OATMEAL.

I sat there.

All morning.

Finally, she let me go . . . with that Ultimate Mother Standby BUT YOU WILL EAT IT FOR LUNCH.

Lunchtime rolled around . . . and there sat my bowl of Instant Quaker Oatmeal with Artificial Maple and Brown Sugar Flavor.  She didn't even bother to heat it up.  And it was WAY worse than it was at breakfast.

I sat there.

She watched me from the living room.

My sister gloated.  (She wisely kept a low profile over the whole Instant Quaker Oatmeal thing.)

I sat there.

Saturday afternoon.  I was sitting there with that damn bowl of oatmeal.

The clock ticked.

The oatmeal sat.

I was starving.  But I couldn't gag down one spoonful.

It was a total standoff.

Finally, I noticed that my mom had disappeared.  She was nowhere to be seen.  It was my Big Chance!  I made a break for it and dumped that horrid bowl of Instant Quaker Oatmeal with Artificial Maple and Brown Sugar Flavor down the sink.  And then . . . I went in search of my Mom to show her my now-magically-empty bowl. 

It worked!  She bought it!  I was FREE AT LAST, FREE AT LAST!

And . . . I have not eaten oatmeal since!

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This was one of my Mom's favorite stories.  Later, when I was a little older and she told me her version of the story, I learned that she was completely at a loss for how to get out of this "parenting mess."  She had drawn that line in the sand -- you will not leave the table until you eat that oatmeal -- and she didn't know how to get out of it once she had issued that edict.  She KNEW I wouldn't eat it.  (Heck, she wouldn't eat it!  She tried the oatmeal herself and thought it was awful.)  So . . . after all those hours of The Standoff, she left me alone for awhile -- hoping I would dump it so she could pretend I had eaten it!  Sneaky-sneaky!  As a 10-year-old, I thought I had pulled a Fast One.  But, no.  Not really.

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Read about other "best breakfasts" here.  And . . . sign up for Think Write Thursday here.


Memorial Brew

Let me just start out by saying . . . my mom NEVER cared for beer.  

(She did like Baileys, though.  And the occasional glass of white wine.  And sometimes a nice, smooth merlot). 

Tom made it a personal quest to find a beer she would like.  He came close once, with a raspberry lambic.  But it really didn't stick.

Anyway, Tom got it in his head that we needed to brew a beer in memory of my mom.  Because the rest of the family (with the exception of Erin)?  Beer drinkers.

So Tom and my dad (who has never brewed beer before) set out to create a special IPA in honor of my mom.

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It's been a good project for this phase of our lives.  Forward-thinking.  Active.  Interesting.  Exacting.  Distracting.  We all need that right now.  (And especially my dad needs that right now.)

Last night was bottling night.

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(Tasting glasses at the ready.  Because of course.)

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In honor and memory of my mom - Yvonne - they've decided to call this particular batch of beer. . . "YPA."

It should be at its peak . . . right around the time we all gather together for Thanksgiving and my mom's memorial service.

I think she'd be pleased.  And I know she'd raise her glass (of Baileys) in celebration!

 

 


Improving on a Good Thing

When we're up north, we like to sit around the campfire at the end of the day (if the mosquitos aren't too bad) with a beer or some wine.  

Some nights, we treat ourselves to these, too.

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Over the years, Tom has become a Master at making S'mores.  He perfectly toasts two marshmallows until they're Just Right, and then slams them between two half-graham crackers sandwiched with half a Hershey chocolate bar.

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Perfection.

But this year, he found something at the local grocery store that made them Even Better!

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Yes.  FLAT marshmallows!

They're a little hard to get on the toasting stick* -- but they make the PERFECT marshmallow for S'mores.  (Quickly, too.)

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Technology marches on!

(Yum.)

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* I think these marshmallows are specifically designed so you can make microwave-S'mores.  But that just seems somehow wrong to me.


Something Sweet

I try to be really disciplined.

And I generally look away when it comes to dessert.

But.

Oh my.

I really love a good dessert!  

 

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(Brian and Lauren's wedding cake.  YUM!)

And sometimes, well.  My sweet tooth wins!

My favorites?

  1. Pavlova - Light and just a teeny-tiny bit chewy and oh-so-perfect with whipping cream and fruit.  (Perfection.)
  2. Fruit tart - Another light and fruity favorite!  (Mmmm.)
  3. Sticky Toffee Cake - Not usually pretty to look at . . . but pretty fabulous to eat!  (Mouth watering.)
  4. Hot Fudge Brownie Sundaes -- Rich and delicious home-baked brownies topped with vanilla ice cream and hot fudge.  (So. Good.)
  5. Creme brûlée -- With or without fruit.  (I always want to lick the bowl.)
  6. Gelato -- Plain.  Almost any flavor.  (But especially hazelnut.)
  7. Carrot Cake -- With nuts, but please hold the pineapple.  (The cream cheese frosting is non-negotiable.)
  8. Pie -- Fruit pie of almost any kind -- but especially peach, cherry, or apple.  (À la mode, please.)
  9. Lemon bars (or, really, Lemon-Almost-Anything) -- A little bit sweet, a lot bit tangy.  (And always perfect.)
  10. Chocolate malt -- The way to Tom's heart.  (Only chocolate will do for him.  And heavy on the malt!)

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How about YOU?  What are your favorite desserts?

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See what everyone else has to say here.  (And prepare yourself for mouth-watering goodness!)

 


Cooking . . . Mom Style

Mother's Day is Sunday . . . so Carole has us thinking about our Moms this week -- and those favorite dishes our Moms used to make!

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My own Mom has never particularly loved cooking -- but she certainly has some specialities! In fact, there are some things my Mom makes that I just can't duplicate . . . even with her recipes.  Other dishes have just become "staples" over the years, and others?  Well.  My Mom's are just BETTER.

Like . . . 

  1. Potato Salad.  Although I have a couple of recipes of my own that are pretty darn tasty, nothing compares to my Mom's.  (She doesn't have a recipe.  Yeah.  She just whips it up.)
  2. Magic Cookie Bars.  I have her recipe . . . but mine never, ever, EVER turn out quite like hers!  (Brian once told me that "Nanny puts extra love in hers."  I suppose he's right!)
  3. Lasgne.  For decades, I have requested my Mom's lasagne for my special birthday dinner!  (It was a very special treat when I was young.  Because lasagne is always a bit of a pain to make.)
  4. "Grass Salad."  Who knows what it's really called, but ever since I was a child, it has been "grass salad."  (Green beans, French dressing, and dill; served cold.)  (It goes particiularly well with lasagne, I might add.)
  5. Pumpkin pie.  I've never even made one of my own!  (My Mom always brings the pies for Thanksgiving dinner.)
  6. "That Salad That No One Likes."  I can't quite remember why it's called that -- because everyone actually DOES like it -- but it has become a staple at our Thanksgiving table every year.  (It's some combination of raspberry jello and cranberries, and it's really quite tasty.)
  7. Mashed Potatoes.  My Mom makes perfect mashed potatoes -- smooth, fluffy, no lumps.  (Yum.)
  8. Blueberry Torte.  This was my Mom's "special dessert" when I was a kid -- and it remains one of Erin's all-time favorites.  (Whenever Erin comes home for a visit, my Mom makes an entire torte -- just for Erin.)
  9. Cakes.  My Mom is a Master when it comes to cakes!  Her cakes always turn out fluffy and even and pretty (from every direction).  She also has "the touch" when it comes to frosting!  (She took cake decorating classes when I was a kid -- and my birthday cakes were always beautiful.)
  10. Comfort foods of my childhood.  Although she hasn't made these for me in decades, I'll always have the fondest memories of my mom making me cinnamon-sugar toast, soft-boiled eggs, and pudding when I was a little girl!

How about YOU?  What are your favorite Mom-dishes?

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Find out what everyone else has to say here.

 


On the Trail

Six weeks ago . . . when Tom agreed to be on a relay team for a run in early April . . . I'm sure he never truly anticipated snow.  Or below-freezing temperatures.

Oh, he knew it COULD happen.  (Because spring is a fickle beast.)  But, really?  What were the chances????

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Yep.  There you have it!

Snow.

Ice.

And . . . totally committed to running this thing!

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The Kal-Haven Trail Run is a 33.5 mile race along the Kal-Haven Trail - a rail trail that links Kalamazoo with South Haven.  Some people run the whole thing on their own, but most people choose to split the course up and run it as a relay.  Here's Tom, above, just about to overtake the woman in orange neon near the end of his 8-mile stretch.  Tom ran as part of a 6-person co-ed team -- with friends of ours from the gym.

I was f-f-f-freezing just watching and taking pictures.  (Good thing I had my Stopover sweater!  Never thought I'd still be wearing it . . . in APRIL.)

After the race . . . best part!  Mexican food (and margaritas!) in South Haven.

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And then out to the beach . . . 

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for a walk on the pier.  (Where it was so freakin' cold!!!)

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(But it was sunny.)

Great day to be on the trail... despite the weather!

 


Right Now - March 2016

March came in like a lion . . . but it's (pretty much) going out like a lamb.

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I know spring -- and especially early spring (like . . . March) is fickle.  But I'm sure ready for the Real Deal to begin!

Here's what's happing for me . . . Right Now.

Watching  Well.  Nothing on television.  Because I've decided to move into a cave until the ugliness of the presidential campaign is behind us.  (I do come out to vote.)  (And watch movies.)

Reading  In my ears: The Story of the Lost Child by Elena Ferrante (the 4th in this excellent quartet; I'm going to miss this series after I read this one);  in print: The Secret Chord by Geraldine Brooks (good; compelling; but . . . well.  Confusing Bible names throw me off.)

Knitting  An adorable little toddler pullover for a great-niece-in-law (Tom's brother's son's daughter).  I missed making her a baby sweater (because timing) -- so need to hurry and get this toddler sweater off the needles before she grows some more!

Listening to  Bruce Hornsby.  (We'll be seeing him in concert as part of the Gilmore Piano Festival next month.)

 

Dreading  Taxes.  This weekend.  They WILL be done.  (And that is all I'm gonna say about that.)

Drinking  Chocolate milk.  Red wine.  Whisky.  (But not together.)

Planning  I'm creating my "Plant Watch List" of things I want for my garden this year.  I do this each year -- and it's a great way for me to stay loyal to my garden plan.  (Because it's so tempting to just start buying every pretty bloom I see.  And especially in the spring, when I'm starved for blooms.)

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Looking Forward to  Riding my new birthday bike.  Something new . . . a bit of a risk . . . but certainly - adventures ahead!

Humming  Bennie and the Jets.  (Yeah.  Still.)  (I tried to embed a video, but they're all restricted.  You'll have to sing it on your own.)  (I'm sure you already are. . . )  

Itching to  Do some sewing.  A copy of Merchant & Mills new Workbook (long ago pre-ordered) arrived in my mailbox yesterday.

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Delighted by  Tea Drops.  My sister sent me a box for my birthday.  Tasty.  Cool.  And they work just the way they say they will!

Organizing  I continue chipping away at organizing my digital photos.  It's a giant task -- and may never be truly complete.  But I'm working at it.  (It's made me just put my "real" camera aside for the time being.  Because, really.  I don't want more photos to organize right now.)

Enjoying Thunderstorms!  When they aren't violent, I just love a good thunderstorm.  

Celebrating  The end of an era and the beginning of something new.  ;-)

How about YOU?  What's happening for you . . . right now?

 


Kalamazoo . . . We've Got Falcons

Okay.  So, technically, I live in Portage, Michigan.  (That's where I pay taxes.  And my kids attended the Most Excellent Portage schools.)  But I'm only two blocks from the Portage/Kalamazoo border, and I've always more closely identified with Kalamazoo.  So I consider my community . . . Kalamazoo.

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(Our meager skyline.)

Ten interesting things about Kalamazoo . . . 

1 - Home of Bell's Brewery and The Eccentric Cafe.  (Need I say more?) - And, really, that's just the tip of the iceberg.  There are many top-quality breweries in town.  Enough that Kalamazoo has it's own Beer Week in January every year.

2 - Kalamazoo is a college town, with both a major public school - Western Michigan University, and a highly-regarded private, liberal arts college - Kalamazoo College (or "K" as it's known locally) in the city.

3 - Kalamazoo has an interesting past . . . as the home of both Checker Cab and Gibson guitar.  (Although both companies are gone now, their legacies still show up in unique and interesting ways throughout the city.)

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4 - Kalamazoo is located right on I-94, putting it in easy driving range of both Detroit and Chicago.  In fact, Kalamazoo is located pretty much half-way between the two cities, making day-trips easy.

5 - There are several Frank Lloyd Wright houses in Kalamazoo.  (Two separate neighborhoods.  One is quite close to mine - we've been to a party in one of those homes.  The other is a bit out of town, but still in the area.)

 

6 - The 90s band The Verve Pipe is from Kalamazoo.  (Even though the video clip I'm using says "from East Lansing."  It was really Kalamazoo.  They just went to school in East Lansing.)  Someone else you may recognize - Derek Jeter - is also from Kalamazoo.  He played baseball at Kalamazoo Central High School, and still does a lot of charitable work with kids in the community.  

7 - Kalamazoo is a relatively small town (4th largest city in Michigan) -- but we sure have a lot of top-notch arts and cultural organizations and opportunities.  (Theatre, music, visual arts.)  It's also a sort of literary hotspot -- many writers live and write here, including Jaimy Gordon, who won the National Book Award in 2010 for her novel Lord of Misrule.

8 -- Kalamazoo is also very science-based.  Formerly the home of Upjohn Pharmaceuticals (all but gutted now, thanks to layers of mergers and eventual decimation by Pfizer) (sorry;  just gonna say it), the community still values science and science education.  (Really -- there might be more scary smart science nerds here, per capita, than anywhere else in the world.)

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9 - Kalamazoo has an INCREDIBLE farmer's market.  The community has totally embraced the farm-to-table concept, and supports "locavore" restaurants, grocery stores, a year-round food co-op, and this amazing farmer's market.  (The photo above only shows about a quarter of the market.)

10 - And . . . we've got peregrine falcons!  Tom's office window faces the building where the falcons hang out.  He can watch them fly!  (And once, he watched himself turn on the light in his office on the "falcon cam.")

I love living in Kalamazoo -- it's a pretty cool place.  What do YOU like about your community?

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