Monday, November 16, 2015

Thanksgiving Menu + Game Plan

I did a double take at my calendar this morning, Thanksgiving is next week?  Wait.  What?  I missed a week somewhere.  Between the blogging and instagram community in full deck the halls mode and us just celebrating Charlie's birthday last weekend (he turned 7 in October!), I'm all out of sorts time wise.  Since I'm hosting, I decided to get my thoughts together on what I'm serving and how I'm planning my time. (The new Barefoot Contessa Thanksgiving special yesterday helped!)  I (like everyone else) try to make as much ahead as possible, so the kitchen isn't pure chaos on Thanksgiving day.

Here is my menu and day by day plan...

This Week
1. Order pies (ie. call and tell my mum she is in charge of desserts. ;)) 
2. Order turkey
3. Plan menu (check)
3. Plan table setting, buy new linens or candles if needed. 

1. Grocery store

1. Prepare Cranberry Sauce (this is my favorite recipe)  
2. Prepare apple sauce (Mum's recipe)

1. Flower shopping for table and buffet
2. Last minute forgotten groceries run (inevitable)  - usually Jimmy's job!
3. Start setting table

1. Make Herb and Apple Bread Pudding (recipe
2. Blanch Green Beans, cover and refrigerate 
3. Make glazed onion relish (my recipe
4. Peel and cube butternut squash, refrigerate 
5. Prep potato + fennel gratin (recipe)
6. Set out and label serving dishes in buffet area

1. Several hours before dinner: Prepare turkey (recipe) - making a breast instead of a whole bird this year since there will only be 6 of us!
2.  Prepare gravy (star of my Thanksgiving dinner, recipe)
3. Bake gratin
3.  An hour before dinner: peel and make make mashed potatoes, roast butternut squash (toss with pecans and dried cranberries before serving), finish green beans - warm them up by tossing in pan with olive oil and browned shallots. Warm up apple and herb bread pudding. (This all sounds like a lot, but really it is just putting things in the oven or tossing them in a pan. The only thing requiring minimal work is the mashed potatoes - Charlie's favorite! Uncork wine.
4. About 20 minutes before dinner, light candles and freshen up :)

I'm sure you noticed a theme with the recipes. Ha.  I stick with my girl, Ina, for holidays like Thanksgiving. And if the recipe isn't hers, then it's likely my Mum's.  I should note, I do have two ovens which helps a bit (even though one is teeny tiny) since the gratin, turkey, bread pudding, and butternut squash will overlap in time.  Also, when planning a menu this big I have a wild card, an item that I'd like to make if time is running smoothly and I'm enjoying myself, but I can easily cancel too if needed. In this menu, it's the potato and fennel gratin.  I'd like two potato dishes, but if it doesn't happen it really doesn't alter the menu much.  I will just make it on Friday to have with leftovers instead.  Also, we still need to eat breakfast, lunch and dinner on Tuesday and Wednesday and I don't want it to be fast food and take out, so I try to have easy nibbles for those meals so the boys (including Jimmy) can help themselves.  It just isn't fun to be in the midst of prepping a holiday meal then stopping to prepare another.

Enjoy the prep and planning but don't stress the small stuff.  Everyone enjoys the day more when the cook is relaxed and it's not all too perfect.  

Sunday, November 1, 2015

October + Halloween In Pictures

Was this not the most spectacular October?!  The foliage was especially stunning (or is it this good every year and I just forget?), the days were sunny and the mornings and evenings were chilly enough for fires, hot chocolate and spiced lattes.  Every morning Charlie and I bike to school and I always think the same thing, can it get any prettier?  Is this town for real? I am so very grateful to live where I do and to experience an October like we just did.  Pictures and words do it no justice.  Jimmy and I had planned to steal away to Massachusetts for a weekend but canceled and I'm so glad we did.  October here is my favorite and it already goes by far too quickly, I don't want to miss any of it.  Plus our weekends are filled with soccer and football, also things I hate to miss.  Fall getaways will have to be saved for many years from now and that is fine by me.     I am sad that the vibrancy of October can't last longer, but I suppose that's part of the magic, right?  And hey,  it's still Autumn, with Thanksgiving to look forward to (I'm hosting again), many more days of falling leaves (and raking!  oh, the the never ending raking!), crunchy leaf walks,  pumpkin spiced desserts and scented candles - so, welcome November!

I snapped a few pictures throughout the month and many last night (why can't Halloween always fall on a Saturday?).  Here are a few snippets from around our village and home...

^^Homecoming parade in the beginning of the month. Charlie is in the front row, waving at everyone but me, so this was the best I could get. ^^
^^ Jimmy jokes that I take this same image every year, but how can I not? ;) ^^
^^ stone walk and gate to village cemetery ^^

^ The evening of Charlie's 7th birthday, we went to watch the High School football game where Andrew played in the halftime show in a combined Junior and Senior High band performance.  It was a fun night.  Charlie got sick the following day (3:00 AM in the morning to be exact...) and we had to cancel his party plans, so I'll wait till the rescheduled celebration to post pics and talk about his special day. Hopefully, illness free next time...^^

^^ We bike past this tree every morning and Charlie and I love watching it change color and start to lose its leaves.  Such a beauty. ^^
  ^^ Halloween!^^
^^ Homemade caramel popcorn and hard cider for our friends that went trick or treating with us.  Kids did not drink the hard cider, only the parents!!  But they did eat the popcorn.  Ha.
Popcorn recipe here, Printable tags here ^^
^^ Before the school Halloween Parade on Friday ^^
^^ Andrew playing trumpet in the parade, wearing pieces of a recycled patriot costume ^^
^^ The first graders making their way down the street ^^

^^ Before trick or treat.  Charlie and I spent 2 days after school carving these pumpkins.  He was such an enthusiastic helper this year.  My skin might be dyed a permanent shade or orange. ^^

^^ Football player, ninja, business man, and Abe ^^
^^ A couple phone pics of our pumpkins - C and I loved them so much! :) ^^

Sunday, October 11, 2015

A Saturday Country Drive + Apple Picking

This weekend was glorious!  I was so thankful for an early soccer game on Saturday (Our weekends have been full of soccer and football lately. Maybe too full.), leaving the whole day open for a family outing.  While I loathe any sort of road trip, a long drive in the country on a perfect autumn day is a different story.  A sun dappled landscape in shades of wheat, gold and rust, dotted with old barns, the occasional church steeple and white fenced farms of grazing horses and cows.  It's like spending the day inside a painting and I love it, even better when spent with my boys.  We put away our phones, turned up the country music, packed a yummy picnic and headed east to Karnes Orchard, a picturesque apple orchard, for the afternoon.  This orchard has been in the same family since 1876, yet went through a period of dormancy in the 90s and reopened in 2013 - amazing.  You can read the history here.  There are no hayrides or gift shops or really anything other than apple trees as far as you can see and the best fresh cider.  There is something so enjoyable about sharing an authentic farm experience, free from lots of added fan fair, with my family. It was just what I needed to feel in the fall spirit and I'm grateful I captured some of it on film.

^^Picnic prep...Baguettes with bacon, extra sharp cheddar, apples and arugula for lunch. Along with homemade brownies, a big bag of Cape Cod chips and bottles of water.^^

^^Andrew is as tall as me. Can't believe it. ^^

^^ New favorite apple - cross between a red delicious and a honeycrisp.^^

^^ Rotten apples make great baseballs ^^

We brought home some of their cider too and I made my second batch of apple cider donuts this week.  I'm still tinkering with a couple recipes.  I will be sure to share when (if?) I feel like I perfect it.  I have a feeling cider donuts are just better fried, so that's my next attempt.