This month of November it’s common to hear in podcasts and other media the theme of gratefulness. Thanksgiving reminds us all of what we have that we cherish…our family and friends, our health, a roof over our heads and food for meals. Although being thankful is truly what this holiday is about, I’d like to think that being grateful is my mantra every day of the year and not just the third Thursday in November!
I used to have a practice of listing five things I was grateful for. Sometimes I listed Tom and the boys. Others my job and friends were included. I listed my health more than once, for despite a few health scares I’ve always managed to stay strong and healthy. Most times I thanked God for having Tom and the boys healthy too.
I learned this habit from Oprah and did it religiously for a few years in my journals. Slowly it faded away yet I mentally go over my grateful list most days and continue to thank God for all the good in my life as well as the difficult challenges. It’s plowing steadily through those barriers that has built my character and fortitude. It comes full circle and after experiencing the rough bumps on this road of life, I am aware that the hurdles have strengthened me. I am extremely thankful for the gifts hidden along the way, for they have made me the person I am today!
Now that I’m approaching 50 this coming year and my family is raised, I have ample time to reflect. Being grateful every day doesn’t mean a joy ride or perfect circumstances but to me, it is finding special and maybe little things that can brighten my day. A kind smile or phone call from a friend or family member, feeling the rich soil of the garden and planting seeds for future days, being able to walk on both legs and cherishing serenity in nature are all things I’m thankful for.
The more I think about this the more I realize that being grateful in some way every day is the key to happiness. If you notice what you have( such as being healthy or having a beautiful family) and not dwell on what you don’t have, you’ll truly appreciate what God has gifted you. I believe everyone has something to be grateful for and if you ponder over this you can generate quite a list.
What are you grateful for? Do you reflect on this just in November or everyday of the year? The more we notice all the good things in our lives, the richer your experience will become.
I’m busy getting ready for the Thanksgiving holiday on Thursday. Today I’m vacuuming and shampooing my rugs, generating a last minute grocery list and planning my table setting. I’m grateful that I’m able to do this at home and Tom’s sister Bev and her husband Chris are coming, as well as my youngest son Branden. Dylan and his wife Lexy will come later for dessert , so both my sons will be here together. Excitement is in the air as the big day approaches!
My father in-law left us many special memories, too many to tell in one sitting. From all these remembrances, his fun dinner parties stand out in my mind. When Bob retired, he started cooking. I have his beef stew, taco pie and pizza recipes in my collection. It’s the pizza recipe that remains dear to me as it reminds me of fun times at the Blowey house.
I fondly remember one evening standing in my in-law’s kitchen, while Bob made homemade pizza with my mother- in -law Theo. She helped arrange the sliced peppers and onions. He was so funny that he would watch her working to make sure she did it the way he wanted. You see, Bobs pizzas were homemade and crafted with love, the very same as Theo’s homemade crafted pies.
Bob made magnificent trays of pepperoni, cheese and even shrimp pizza! When Tom’s siblings visited on weekends, they would have a grand spread of pizza, Bob’s speciality! Don’t I miss those days and the mouth-watering pies!
So Bob’s recipes for pizza sauce and the crust have lived in my scrapbook cookbook but I have to confess…I’ve never made them! Maybe I thought that I’d never come close to his creations and the yeast factor scared the heck out of me! ( Yeast and I have never gotten along but lately I’m daring to try it and it’s working well!)
Here I’ll share his recipe for homemade sauce and crust. You need a full day of cooking the sauce, on and off for several hours for a rich flavor. I made my pizza on a weekend when I had plenty of time.
1/4 c olive oil
1 garlic clove
2 cans tomato paste ( I used the medium size)
1- 15 oz stewed tomatoes, peeled & cut fine
1- 28 oz diced or puréed tomatoes
1/2 green pepper chopped
1- onion chopped or grated
1 tsp salt
2 tsp oregano
1 tsp Italian seasoning
In a large skillet cook garlic in oil until soft. Add onion and green pepper and cook until translucent. ( just a couple of minutes) Next add tomato paste, stewed tomatoes and diced or puréed tomatoes. Bring to a boil and simmer. Add seasonings and stir well. Cook sauce for 20 minutes and then shut off. Keep covered. Do this routine three times throughout the day, 20 minutes and then shut off each time. After sitting and simmering all day on and off, it’s ready to top your pizza!
3/4 c warm water
1 pkg dry yeast
1/8 tsp sugar or honey ( I used honey)
4 c flour
1 tsp salt
1/4 c olive oil
In a small bowl put warm water with yeast and honey, stir. Let stand in a warm place for 10-15 minutes. It will get bubbly. In a large bowl combine 1 cup flour and salt. Add oil to yeast mix. Pour into the large bowl of flour and mix together. Gradually add second cup of flour. Stir with a wooden spoon. When dough is mixed, add third cup of flour. At this point you may need to add a small amount of water. When it begins to pull away from the sides of the bowl, turn it onto a floured board. Gradually knead the remaining cup of flour into the dough. It should become smooth and elastic and no longer sticky. The amount of flour will vary depending on how moist the dough is and the weather. Coat a bowl with olive oil and place the dough ball in it, rolling it to coat it on all sides. Cover it tightly with plastic wrap and set it in a warm place, until it has doubled in size. This takes about 1 1/2 hours. ( I put my oven on and placed the dough on the warmest place on the stove top. )You will know when the dough is ready by pressing your finger in it, it will leave an impression. Preheat oven to 450 degrees F. Roll out dough on a floured surface. This makes a 20 inch round pan or a 12 x 18 baking pan. Brush oil in pan, place rolled dough and brush oil on dough. Place pizza sauce 1/4 inch thick. Next place sliced green pepper and onions. If you wish to add pepperoni, do it after the veggies. Top with mozzarella cheese. Sprinkle Italian seasoning or oregano on top. Cook 15-18 minutes till brown and cheese is bubbly.
So as I crafted my first pizza Bob’s way, I felt that he would have approved. He was so proud of his pizzas and that rubbed off on me, so many years later. I wish to dedicate this post to my father-in-law on the day he was born on. Here are some photos of him fishing and on a camping trip with Tom.
This will be my third year hosting Thanksgiving at our home. It’s been a learning process and it still continues as I work on planning the cooking. Somehow it all comes together in the end like a perfect wrapped package, despite anxiety over the details. While I have planned on how things will go, my go to for organization is to make many lists. I jotted down a simple menu and as the big day approaches it’s been tweaked a bit. It changed as I discovered which relatives will bring what dishes. Next I wrote a grocery list. This year I had two, one for a week ago and one for fresh veggies for today. I picked up chicken broth, pickles, olives and the turkey last week and today shopped for fresh veggies and last-minute additions.
I brushed up on recipes, talked to my mother-in-law about her tasty sausage stuffing and my sister-in-law Bev on her fabulous gravy. I will make these dishes the best I can in the next few days and every year it should get easier and become a science.
I’ve already made my son’s cookies since he prefers them to pie and tomorrow I’ll make deviled eggs and start roasting veggies for the gravy. I’ve planned what I’ll make on which day and the big pie baking day will be Wednesday. Wahoo!
Here’s some advice for your Thanksgiving planning that have helped me. I always love to read my blogging friends holiday tips!
* Go early to the grocery store to avoid crowds. The next few days will be hectic
* Write a list of dishes you wish to prepare and a separate list of items needed for them
* Communicate with family and friends to see what they are bringing
* Ask your spouse and family members to help peel veggies, vacuum the house or other tasks you may need done while you cook and bake
* Light the candles, wear your favorite apron and play Christmas tunes as you cook. It will lighten the mood and relax you.
Laugh with your loved ones. Doesn’t Dylan look happy?
* Most Important, have fun and thank your blessings as you plan and prepare the feast!
As I wrap this post up I wish you all a blessed and Happy Thanksgiving! Indulge in good food, company and remember to acknowledge what you are grateful for! I’m beyond thankful for my loving family, they are my anchor and life is so sweet with them! I’m thankful that my son Dylan proposed to his girlfriend Alexis this month and will marry her in August! I’m so thrilled to be gaining a sweet daughter in law! I’m also grateful for my friends, my little job at school and the children there.
Good morning my friends! I’m reposting this because I think it’s imperative for the cook of the family to be organized! I use many of my cookbook binder recipes(which holds family traditional recipes ) as well as recipes on Pinterest. What I’ve done lately is print our favorites from Pinterest and place in the binder. That way it’s easier to find than in a cluttered folder with thousands of pins.
About ten years ago I revamped my recipe collection in a big way. First I threw out my dilapidated recipe box and hauled out recipes that I never used. Second, I found a cute whimsical Susan Branch cookbook kit with scrap booking pages and stickers. The book was cheap enough but cheaply made too, as I found out this year.
Like many housewives who cook everyday, my recipe book started to show wear and tear. Then one day after making a delicious meal for my family, the books’ binding fell apart. I busily shoved it on my little shelf in the kitchen and soon forget it’s desecration. Every time I reached for my recipe collection, the broken book with pages falling out reminded me that I had been doing this awhile and my book couldn’t keep up.
Last week, on an energetic whim, I set my mind to repairing and giving new life to my book. I searched our file cabinet and found a 1 ½ inch binder that one of the boys had used for school. I recycled it at the end of that year and put it in my stash of “ maybe I’ll use that someday.” I’m grateful for that because sometimes I throw things out in an organization fit.
Next I found plastic page protectors to slip all the handwritten and computer copied recipes in. I highly recommend this step because we all know cooking can be messy and can stain and alter our nice cards.
What I especially love about the Susan Branch cookbook kit was that it supplied folders with heading for extra recipes. What I’ve always done is displayed my favorites, family favorites,my mom’s recipes, Tom’s mom and dad’s and meme’s staunch winners on the pages and others can rest in the folders.
I bought the cookbook scrapbooking kit on Amazon but you could do it yourself, if you have the supplies needed. You would need a 1 ½ inch binder, scrapbook pages, stickers, recipe cards, pouches for the miscellaneous recipes and page protectors. If you do buy the scrapbook kit, try to find one with a sturdy binder or buy the binder separately.
Now I can’t wait to cook and use my cookbook, that I gave new life to. It’s the little things that make me happy in the kitchen.
I never liked leftovers as a child or young adult. My mindset was that tasting more than once couldn’t be topped. I always thought why would I want the same dish the next day? Things have changed now that I’m a middle aged adult. Tastes and preferences change and that’s good, so leftovers won’t end up in the trash.
The last few months my husband and I are finding a new life, an empty nest with both our sons out of the house ( except for vacation breaks and summers). It’s been a challenge to try to cut down from cooking for four to two people. I tried it for a few weeks and didn’t seem to make enough for us. So since I have cooking for four embedded in my brain I’ve used it to my advantage! The leftovers serves as the meal next day. Either I take them to school for my lunch or we have them for dinner the next night.
Who hasn’t taken a leftover meal and changed it or made it better by adding ingredients? The key to optimal flavor and variety is doctoring it up! Here are some suggestions that I’ve tried:
Take macaroni and cheese and add hamburger, diced fresh basil and garlic or add chopped up bacon instead
Crockpot chicken can have new life with a teriyaki sauce and served with a stirfry
Leftover beef can be enhanced with mushrooms and gravy and serve over egg noodles
Lasagna or spaghetti can be doctored up by adding more sauce ( so it’s not dry) and another layer of cheese
Leftover fish or shrimp could go in a fish stew ( I’ve never made that)
Crockpot tenderloin pork can be pulled apart for barbecue sandwiches or bulkies. Just add barbecue sauce
Leftover hamburger can be used for Shepherd’s pie, Sloppy Joe’s, taco
Whatever is leftover, look at your refrigerator for ideas. Maybe fresh broccoli or carrots could be added. Any kind of cheese from extra sharp cheddar and Parmesan can spruce a meal up. You could add sliced peppers, onions, mushrooms and garlic. Use leftovers for a rice meal, just cook fresh rice pilaf and add vegetables. Leftover mashed and roasted potatoes can be paired with chicken, beef or pork and complete a meal with fresh veggies.
There are endless possibilities if you tap into your creative side. After all, a cook takes simple ingredients and magically transform them into an appetizing dish! We are enjoying our second day meal and it’s easy to do!
Just a week and a half ago, when my sister in law and I were prepping for the Thanksgiving dinner, my thoughts were how organized we were while we cooked. Because I have a good sized kitchen and workspace now, we each had ample counter room to gather our ingredients and get to work. Not only that, but we washed dishes after each task and dried them shortly after.
Now I have a question for you and you just think about it and be honest with yourself, are you organized or messy? When you cook or bake, do you clean as you go or create a magnificent mess and deal with it later? Maybe it doesn’t matter to you, as long as it gets cleaned up eventually. Perhaps you are already organized and neat as a pin in the kitchen, so then just be content that you’ve created great kitchen work habits.
Honestly most of the time, I make a bit of mess, a disarray of ingredients on the counter amid bowls and cups and measuring spoons, while cooking or baking. I’ve always been that way, organized setting up the ingredients but messy with the rest.
Now that I’ve faced this problem, I feel like I should work on it to become a bit more organized. First it’s necessary to fill the kitchen sink with soapy hot water and as I use the cups, teaspoons and bowls I can plop them in. Washing dishes as you go prevents a big mess and saves time in the end. Next I plan to wash the counter as I spill flour, sugar or whatever. Lastly it’s helpful to put each ingredient away as you use it. I do this sometimes but it’s truly not a habit yet.
Other tips to stay organized:
*Write down baking times or set a timer as a reminder of your goodies being done
*Plan your oven times. This was a challenge at Thanksgiving because we used the oven for several things, many with different baking temperatures. Decide which dishes go in first and set the timer. Write a list or keep a mental list of the pies, cakes or dishes, their temperature and baking time. It helped us that we did some dishes the day before.
*Write down any ingredients that you use up for a future shopping list. It’s important to pen this, because you may forget you used it up until you need it for baking again.
*If you must share your space, do it in fun. Fun chatter and a magical music playlist will lighten the mood. Designate which counter top or space you and your friend will have. Give that person the bowls, cups and measuring spoons she needs.
*Play music and create a magical atmosphere
Staying organized and clean in the kitchen will alleviate any chaos or mess. You’ll be happier that you did this and probably will save yourself some clean up time.
Do you have any kitchen organization tips that you would like to share?
Every family has a staunch recipe that stands the test of time. It’s the go-to dish that always results in success. It’s passed down with pride and the unspoken agreement that future generations will do the same. My family has this recipe… it was my Grammy Doyle’s dessert recipe and you always could count on her making it at gatherings, whether it was my dad’s birthday or Christmas.
The word was that it was a secret, though I’m not sure of the origin. I’ll never know where my Grammy got it or if it was handed down to her. All I know is that it’s one of the few constants when going to her house and I will never stop associating Grammy with her Mystery Mocha dessert. Now that she is gone, this recipe means even more…a little reminder of what was.
When arriving in the small hamlet of West Fairlee, Vermont, one corner market stood. A traveler would see quaint simple houses. Next to the fire station stood my grandparent’s house on a little hill and when you rolled up the sloped gravel driveway, you spied a screened in porch. Amid dusty chairs sat an old forlorn piano, forgotten and well out of tune. All the grandchildren probably tinkered with the keys at one time or another.
This many years later I can still hear the rickety screen door, as if it was on the set of the television show, The Walton’s. Inside the house you entered in the dining room, where was a huge wooden table that had fed six children at one time and all the visiting relatives through the years. Another prized piano stood beyond, where my Grammy played church hymns on it. This treasure was played often and every once in awhile she played for us.
The living room had wooden exposed beams, a rustic living space with a few windows to let light in. A long old fashioned radio stood on one wall, which belted out many Red Sox games. My Grammy and Grampa would sit and listen to the radio and play by play well into the seventies. Then years later a television stood there as well, but I think it was never the same to them as the play by play. As kids, we would creep over to Gramps, who would be relaxing on the couch and he would grab us and tickle us. Wth a silly grin and rolled up tongue, he was the tickle master. There were squeals of delight because he was fun and loving.
Mystery Mocha cake was often baked for my dad, since it was his favorite. He was her first born, David, and was and still is a chocolate fan. (I think this is where I got my chocolate addiction!) When my parents were married, my mom made it and I’m sure my stepmom makes it as well. Now my sister and I make it from time to time. My sons aren’t used to the rich chocolate taste and since it has coffee in it, they don’t care for it, but my husband likes it well enough and I do too.
It’s as if Grammy’s kitchen comes to life when I make Mystery Mocha, for it’s a family recipe and a reminder of her and our visits to the Doyle house. It does taste the very same, with rich, dark chocolate with a complement of mocha flavor from the double strength coffee. I think it’s more than a recipe but a bit of Grammy’s legacy in every bite!
Grammy Doyle’s Mystery Mocha Cake
1 cup flour
2 teaspoon baking powder
⅛ teaspoon salt
1 square unsweetened baker’s chocolate
2 Tablespoons butter
½ cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla
½ cup brown sugar
½ cup granulated sugar
4 Tablespoons cocoa
1 cup cold double strength coffee
Mix dry ingredients. Melt the unsweetened chocolate with the butter. Add the milk and vanilla. Put mixture into greased cake pan and top with the following: brown sugar, granulated sugar, and cocoa. Pour cold coffee over the top. Bake at 375 F for 45 minutes. Serve with vanilla ice cream or whipped cream.
Serve for family or company. I recommend serving this rich dessert with a scoop of ice cream or a dollop of whipped cream!
This is dedicated to all the bakers out there ,who put their heart and soul in their labor of love, especially my Aunt Sandy who passed away a few years ago. When I think of my Aunt Sandy, baking with love comes to mind. Her cookies were delicious! She had a special way with baking and gave so much of herself to others. I miss her dearly and know that I’ll see her again someday.
I love aprons and how when I tie one on, I become a baker of yesterday, representing years of aproned mamas baking their hearts out in their comfy warm kitchens.
One of my favorite things in my kitchen is my antique pot rack. I consider it a country kitchen must.
Traditions of Autumn and Pumpkin Pie
Not long ago in the midst of our fall setting I wished to bake a pumpkin pie. Every year when autumn arrives and our world wears its vivacious colors among the crooked branches, I cook and bake comfort foods. Like many cooks, it’s a celebratory way to accept a new season and welcome frosty winter coming soon. It was to celebrate fall’s gifts to our family.
It was a quiet and tranquil Saturday. With my music filling my kitchen and inspiring my soul, I got to work. Twinkling kitchen lights winked at me as I gathered my ingredients. With a hasty snap, on went the the red and white striped apron , that’s when I mean business!
This year my pie was very different as I experimented a bit with recipes and substitutions. A few months ago, I learned that I’m lactose intolerant and can’t digest milk and it’s products well. I found a good recipe on Pinterest using brown sugar instead of granulated and was up for a change. Next instead of using evaporated milk, I substituted half milk and half almond milk. I know what you are going to ask, did the almond milk make it watery? Believe it or not, it turned out terrific and I decided not to tell my husband about the changes. He’s the type of guy who doesn’t taste anything wrong until you mention the secret ingredients. So I played the hush game and Tom said it was the best pumpkin pie I’ve ever made! Then I enlightened him and he was fine about it.
Being an old soul and belonging in an old fashioned kitchen, I love the idea of making and rolling out your own pie crust. With that said, can I make a huge confession? I stink at making good pie crust and I’ve discussed this with my mother -in-law many times. It always comes out crumbly and hard to manage, let alone cover a pie plate with. This time I cheated with a Pillsbury pie crust and it was great! There are occasions I try making my own. Thanksgiving is coming up and I’ll make the monumental effort to achieve a good pie crust all by myself!
Doesn’t the beaming light rays transform my pie into something majestic and angelic? He hee, I love this photograph as it depicts my magical feelings for baking in my kitchen, in my home. Baking for me is more than the mixing and molding your goodies to a delicious product. It’s being made in my country kitchen in the peaceful light of my surroundings with my oven and spatial counter space. It’s the heavenly scents wafting in the room and reaching our living area, enough for our cats to wake up and investigate. When I bake I’m transformed to the olden days where mamas spent days by the crackling stoves and hungry husbands came in from the barns with a smile and loving wink. It’s almost like I go inside a farmhouse from long ago and live that simple life for a bit.
Happy baking to all mamas and papas out there! This is a simple reminder to live in the joyful moments of your loving labors, whatever they made be.😉
Every Fall season I look forward to walking among my tomato plants, spying red and ripe fruit. With vim and vigor I snap them off the vine and dream of making delicious homemade spaghetti sauce. Most years I make endless batches, a weekend project lasting well into October. I relish harvesting these Crimson beauties and lining them up on my counter to see. Once they ripen and age a bit, it’s time to get to work!
I put them tenderly in a hot bath and boil for a few minutes. You can tell when it’s time because the peelings will start to give in the water. Next I drain them and place in a cold water bath. Sit them in the bath for a minute or two. This helps peeling the skins easily. Peel the tomatoes and discard skins. Put tomatoes in blender or food processor to purée. Sometimes I skip this step for a chunky sauce and I figure it will cook down.
Dice green pepper ( if you’re lucky you’ll have some garden ones, mine didn’t grow this year…beautiful healthy plants bearing one sacred pepper) and onion. Add tomatoes and a few cans of tomato sauce or jarred spaghetti sauce to thicken. This is kind of cheating but is homemade with the fresh tomatoes. I’ve added fresh carrots and zucchini before, a splash of olive oil and a tablespoon of sugar if you don’t add the carrots. Don’t forget the chopped fresh basil! Yummy!
Simmer an hour and shut off. Let set for awhile and then simmer again for 45 minutes. Let set. I do this in stages and have had great results. I usually save a portion for dinner that night and scoop into freezer containers. Let cool. Freeze and label.
It’s a great staple for pasta or eggplant parmigiana and is refreshing to find in the freezer in the dead of winter. It’s a gift tasting your harvest a few months later, some motivation to plant again in the spring!
While I’m knee deep in homemade sauce I’m thinking of possible other tomato uses. Do you have any ideas?