Our Thanksgiving Plans (And a Recipe for Dressing)

We're sticking around here for Thanksgiving this year, which is a mixed bag of emotions for me.  I am so excited and thankful that our little family is forming our own traditions.  We have the opportunity to have some friends stay overnight with us (friends from Virginia who now live in Rhode Island), and our dear Fellow Southern Transplants are also going to join us for a big dinner on Thursday.  Yes, we miss extended family so much - especially at big times like holidays - but a home overflowing with friends is a blessing not to be overlooked.  We have much to be thankful for.

Family Thankful Tree: Heavy-laden Tree, indeed!
Thankful for these two bright souls!
Our food roundup this week is going to be pretty straightforward, as far as Thanksgivings go.  I am preparing the turkey.  I have pretty consistent success with brining turkeys when I've prepared them before.  Brine is basically concentrated salt water, and the bird sits in the solution for a lot of hours (18-24 is what I'll be going for).  I will bake it in an oven bag on Thursday morning, and the Mister will be in charge of carving it up.

Here is a brine recipe that I will probably use as a starting point: Good Eats Roast Turkey by Alton Brown.  But, let's be honest ... I don't have allspice berries hanging out, and it's unlikely that I'll go out and buy them.  In fact, I'm not sure that my palate is distinguished enough to notice a mere 1 1/2 teaspoons of ginger either in a giant bird.  That's why I'm loosely bound to this recipe.  So, my brine will be salt, a little sugar, and peppercorns.  When the bird goes in the oven, there will be some celery, onions, lots of garlic, and most likely an apple in the cavity.

If you're really not sure about brining a whole turkey, you can try the technique on any other kind of meat at a time that is less emotionally loaded ... take a whole chicken, a roast, or other cut of meat, and submerge it in saltwater for some hours.  The salt in the water acts as a tenderizer and moisturizer.  Really ... it's hard to beat.

Other than the bird, I am in charge of making some gravy and a pan of dressing.  The Homeowners are bringing a pumpkin dessert, homemade cranberry sauce, and sweet potatoes.  The Fellow Southerners are bringing all the delicious vegetable sides: squash, green beans ... be still, my beating heart.

Here's a side note: I have recently learned that "dressing" is a southern phenomenon.  Yankees (and perhaps everyone else that does not have southern roots) do not eat "dressing," they eat "stuffing."  Dear friends, I will be preparing dressing.  I never identified myself as a "southerner" until I moved away.  But by golly, I will call myself any kind of Southerner if it means I get to eat this:

Crumble up 1 pan of cornbread, 6 slices of lightly toasted white bread, and 10 baked Hungry Jack biscuits in a large bowl.  In a smaller bowl, combine 5 cups of broth (any kind), 2 1/2 cups chopped celery, and 1 large onion, diced.  Pour the broth mixture into the bread mixture.  Divide between two 9"x13" pans.  Beat 3 eggs and pour over the dressing.  Bake at 350 for 30 minutes or until brown and set.

Since our friends (The Strategic Family) are going to be staying overnight with us, I am also planning some meals for Friday that won't require me to be in the kitchen for hours.  Breakfast will (most likely) be a make-ahead pan of apple-cranberry baked oatmeal.  I plan on putting this Hunter's Minestrone in the crock pot on Friday morning for a warm lunch along with some grilled cheese sandwiches.  And dinner will be turkey leftovers (perhaps in sandwich form?  Leftover dressing is a great alternative to sliced bread).
Apple-Cranberry Baked Oatmeal
What about you?  What's your Thanksgiving table looking like?


A Whole Year!

Happy birthday to our sweet little lady!

What a hoot and a half this one is!  A year is an amazing amount of time to reflect on change ... really, how could she have gone from a tiny bundled infant to a smiley pasta-eating, step-taking (just a few!), game-playing, sister-adoring, blue-eyed joy fest in such a short time?


Sweet day ... sweet kiddo ... what a joy!


Etsy Shop is LIVE!

Well, friends ... the rhymeswithsmile Etsy shop is live!  So go check it out!


Also, you all are awesome.  More awesome than naps, doughnuts, and all things baking soda ...


Coming Soon: Quilts for Sale

Fun news: I'm reopening my etsy shop soon!

I bet you're sitting on the edge of your seat in anticipation.  I am sure that you've always wanted to own a rhymeswithsmile quilt.  And, I know you've always wished you had a friend who made stuff like this, so you can say, "Oh, yeah, I know the girl who made that."

To help you cope with your excitement, I'll give you a little sneak peek:

More details soon, I promise!


Fridge Finds: What's (Really) Cooking, Part 6

I'm linking up today to the last of the Fridge Finds blog party posts.  The finale is brought to us by my dear friend The Strategic Homemaker - and she's got a week's worth of warm, yummy comfort food to showcase (can we hear three cheers for soups?!?).  I'm particularly impressed with her ability to reinvent leftovers, and go a WHOLE WEEK and only serve meat once.  Are you intrigued yet?  Go check it out here, you!

And, as a fun little recap, click through these other awesome Fridge Finds!

Week 4: The Whiteds

Thanks for playing along, friends!


Sweet Potato and Black Bean Burritos

or shall I call them "boo-ritos"?

Sweet Potato and Black Bean Burritos
Serves 2

1 Tbsp. cumin
1 Tbsp. chili powder
2 tsp. garlic powder
2 tsp. onion powder
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. black pepper
1 medium sweet potato (about 1/2 lb), peeled and diced in 1/2" cubes
1- 1 1/2 c. cooked black beans (or 1 can black beans), drained
2 Tbsp. olive oil, divided
2 flour tortillas
Toppings: grated cheddar cheese, salsa verde, sour cream

Combine first six ingredients, then put HALF of it (about 2 tablespoons) in a ziploc plastic bag with the diced sweet potatoes. Seal the bag and shake to coat.

Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a skillet over medium-high heat.  Add seasoned sweet potatoes and cook, stirring frequently, for 8-10 minutes or until soft (add more oil if needed to prevent sticking or burning).  Remove from heat.

In a small saucepan over medium heat, stir together the black beans, the remaining seasoning mix, and the other 1 tablespoon of oil.  Cook, stirring frequently, until beans are heated through.

To assemble the burritos, divide the seasoned beans and seasoned sweet potatoes evenly between the tortillas.  Top with cheese, salsa, and sour cream.

Ya'll, some traditions start on purpose.  And others are accidental.  

Purposeful tradition, begun last night: the Mister and I decided that we wanted hang out in the yard and give out hot cider to trick-or-treaters.  So there was a fire in the fire pit, a crockpot full of apple cider, and a giant stack of 5-ounce paper cups awaiting the neighborhood kids (and parents).  Only one crowd of teenage girls who gave us the cold shoulder ... everyone else seemed to like the idea.  Once it started raining, though, it was time to ditch it and scramble inside.

Purposeful tradition, attempted last night: dressing up the sisters as a pair (at least as long as they'll let us have input on their costumes) ... Big Sis was a homemade cupcake (thrifty and last minute, yes!) and Little Sis was a baker (thanks to an easy raid of the costume box and kitchen toys).

The reason it was attempted and not achieved?
I couldn't get them in their costumes, awake, at the same time.
Little Sis is not so excited about things on her head (see below).

Big Sis decided she'd rather wear her pumpkin bead necklace and hiking shoes than be a cupcake.  Who can blame her?

Accidental tradition, begun last night: repurposing the discarded costume almost immediately.  You remember how I said that we had a fire in the fire pit?  Well, I had to start it myself (the Mister had to work a little late) and I did not spend the time I should have prepping the kindling.  I lit and re-lit that thing half a dozen times, before I settled on Big Sis's undesired paper-bag-turned-cupcake-liner costume sitting in her chair.  After a quick check with her, I shredded that puppy up.  That did the trick: we had a roaring fire within 10 minutes.  Strange, I know ... counter-cultural almost (I joked with one trick-or-treat parent about what I had done, and got a stare of horror in return).  But it was kinda fun!  And weird.  Can I just say it?  I burned my daughter's costume.  It was way more unimpressive than it sounds, but I think it could be a fun tradition.

Accidental tradition, begun last night: burritos.  BOO-ritos.  I made it because it's what we had around.  But they were delicious!  You can tone back on the spices if it's too much for you, but at least try the full amount of cumin.  Add in some oregano and/or crushed red pepper if you want to shake things up.  
I think I will make booritos every Halloween night, not because they're spooky in any way, but because I love a good pun (speaking of which, my brother passed this gem along to me yesterday.)

And now, your turn: what are your purposeful or accidental traditions?  Are they as weird as these?  Are you giving me a horrified look right now that I ignited a kid's costume in the name of ambience?