Why Yes, it IS Thanksgiving time again. Is it your turn to host this year?

Getting Ready for Thanksgiving in My Sister's Kitchen

Yes, it’s that time of year again. I think that Thanksgiving Day is probably the biggest food holiday of the year for me and this year will be no different. I’m hosting Thanksgiving dinner here this week and I’m already feeling a little bit behind. Thankfully, I’ve got my Thanksgiving menu down to a science (or as much of a science as luscious food CAN be!) and I’ll be drawing from our old favorite, traditional recipes. We haven’t added much to our repertoire here for awhile because we really have settled in to our favorite holiday foods.

Therefore, I STILL can recommend all the recipes that we’ve posted over the last 8 years. If you click on the Thanksgiving tag, you’ll find every post that relates to this holiday of thankfulness. Please enjoy! As always, if you find links that are broken or recipes that are unclear, please let us know and we’ll fix those right away!

Have a Blessed Thanksgiving this year!

Barb and Laura

 

Getting ready for St. Patrick’s Day food

With a name like Kelley, how can I not revisit this topic of St. Patrick’s Day recipes every year?

 

I  want to share those recipes with you again, just in case you’ve misplaced them.

Here are our favorites:

St. Patrick's Day grocery list

Black-n-Tans

Reuben Sandwiches for lunch

Irish Lamb stew

Baked Corned Beef

Fried Peppered Cabbage

Irish Soda Bread

Irish Coffee

Irish Cream Fudge

The one thing that I HATE about St. Patrick’s Day is the pinching, so I work really hard at wearing green! Everything else about St. Patrick’s Day? LOVE.

St. Patrick's Day Dinner 051

Barb

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Entertaining at Christmas: Keeping it Simple

There are entire books devoted to the subject of how to pull off big elaborate entertaining events. I’ve done big parties, fancy dinners, crowds of people and hooboy is that a lot of work! In this season of my life, I’m looking for quieter, simpler gatherings most of the time. Tonight was one of those gatherings at our house. I hosted 9 or 10 women from my church for a Sanity Night. In spite of enduring a whole LOT of teasing about sanity or the lack thereof, I actually do feel calmer and more sane at the end of the party than I did when I started. I’ve learned that it’s important to take time to collect myself and regroup during the insane busyness of this Christmas season.

Sanity Night Cookies

I’ve been doing Sanity Nights for my friends for several years now and I highly recommend them.

The Recipe for Sanity Night

The key is simplicity. Not every party needs a gazillion different appetizers or a dozen different types of cookies. Choose one cookie to serve. Tonight, I actually served two kinds because I wasn’t sure if the first ones were going to turn out. Usually, though, I stick to our favorite Molasses Cookies. (The other cookie selection I opted for tonight was Cookie Brittle, mostly because it’s the FASTEST cookie recipe I have!)

Sanity Night Cookie table

Serve something hot to drink. Tonight I skipped the coffee, although a good aromatic decaf would have gone nicely with the cookies. I set out a variety of teas and I made a huge crockpot full of Hot Spiced Cider. Between the molasses cookies, the peppermint teas, and the hot cider, my house was filled with amazing smells!

The atmosphere is almost as important as the fragrances. It really helps if you’ve already decorated for the holidays. I like to use lots of candles and lots of little lights. Central to our evening tonight was the crackling fire in the fireplace. If you don’t have a fireplace, a coffee table with a large tray of candles can create the same ambiance. Make sure you have some Christmas music playing softly in the background too.

Fireplace on Sanity NIght

The very most important ingredient in a Sanity Night is the bunch of good friends that you invite. I’ve learned that most of us are so busy during this holiday season that it’s really tough to get out for one more night. I can barely stand the thought of adding one more thing to my busy calendar. So Sanity Night is a night with no agenda. We sit around and drink our cider and eat our cookies and just talk. Because Sanity Night at my house is a come-and-go thing, friends can drop in for 15 minutes or stay for two hours. It’s comfortable and no-pressure.

For me, Sanity Night has become an important mile marker in each Christmas season. It’s an evening when I stop to breathe, spend time with friends, and think through what the rest of my holidays are going to look like.

Now, before I wrap this up for the night, I want to get back to those Molasses Cookies….I made a discovery today when I ran out of time. I simply didn’t have time to roll the dough into balls and then roll them in sugar. I was OUT of minutes.

So I lined a 9×13 baking dish with aluminum foil, sprayed some non-stick spray on it and spread a layer of molasses cookie down. I had to wet my hands down a little to be able to pat the dough down flat. I sprinkled sugar over the top of the molasses cookie bars and popped them into a 325° oven. I baked the bars for about 30 minutes.  A test toothpick came out clean when I inserted it. After the the bars had cooled just a little, I lifted the foil out of the pan. I used a pizza wheel to cut the bars into little spicy molasses squares. VERY yummy and every bit as good as molasses cookies! So next time you need a little hurry-up, try this shortcut!

Sanity Night Peace and quiet

 

Barb

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Homemade Eggnog

Major Disclaimer: In general, consumption of raw eggs is discouraged by just about every federal agency out there. Make this recipe at your own risk.

One option that mitigates the risk of using raw eggs involves using pasteurized eggs. My experience with pasteurized eggs is that they are just like regular eggs for a week or two. After that, they get weird and don’t last all that long. So if you want to make eggnog using pasteurized eggs, buy the freshest eggs you can find and use them right away.

 

Homemade Eggnog

  • 8 eggs
  • 1/2 c. sugar
  • 1 pint whipping cream or heavy cream
  • 1 pint rum (optional)
  • 2 t. real vanilla
  • 1 quart milk

Beat the egg yolks and whites separately. Add 1/2 cup of sugar to the yolks and beat. Blend the eggs together. Add whipping or heavy cream and beat well. This recipe then calls for 1 pint of rum, but the pure vanilla will give it plenty of flavor if you opt not to add the rum. Add 1 quart of milk and beat well. Chill and enjoy!

Barb

Laura Bee’s Sweet Tea

 

 

When we moved to the southeastern part of the US, there was one thing that I found totally incomprehensible: sweet tea. I grew up drinking large quantities of sun tea when I was a kid in Arizona. I GET that. It was so refreshing and we could drink gallons of it in a day. But Southern Sweet Tea?

In the last 2.5 years, I’ve learned something about iced tea: Southerners take their sweet tea VERY seriously–possibly even more seriously than barbecue! I’ve learned that if you want tea that isn’t sweet when you order iced tea in a restaurant, you ask for UNsweet tea–not unsweetened tea, but UNsweet tea.

Something disturbing happened to me about 3 months ago. I realized that a glass of sweet tea sounded…well…like a good idea on one particularly warm spring day. Then I actually ordered sweet tea to go with my Panera sandwich. A week later, my youngest son “caught” me serving myself some sweet tea at a potluck. A few weeks ago and to my enormous surprise, I found myself saying, “I need to learn how to MAKE sweet tea!” So I commenced to researching the topic and here is what I found.

First, I suspect that the simplicity of making sweet tea is deceiving. I’ve learned that it’s not hard to make good sweet tea…but it’s also not hard to make pretty nasty sweet tea. I’ve also learned that ordinarily gracious southern belles can get very uptight when people make sweet tea ALL WRONG.

My dear friend, Laura, (not the Laura who is my sister), was one of the first to notice my newfound addiction to taste for sweet tea. This happened because Laura is Very Serious about sweet tea. She maintains that all the ingredients in sweet tea are natural and just the way God intended them to be used–no chemicals or articially sweet things like you can find in sodas. She always has sweet tea in her fridge, ready to serve when I drop by her house. After being served perfect sweet tea every visit for several weeks, I finally asked Laura how to make sweet tea myself.

Like I said, it’s easy. Simple.

Laura Bee’s Sweet Tea

Laura runs a pot of hot water thru her coffee maker onto 3 large iced-tea sized tea bags and lets those steep for an hour or two.Then she stirs 1 1/3 c. sugar into the hot tea. She stirs this until the sugar is completely dissolved and then pours the mixture into a gallon jug. Laura tops off the jug with cold water from the tap and puts it in the fridge. She always serves her sweet tea over ice.

So, I’ve been practicing this newfound skill and doing a little reading online about sweet tea and I’ve learned a few things.

  • Sweet tea is pronounced like one word. Say the word “sweetpea” and you have the right emphasis. It’s sweet tea, not sweetpea. You don’t ever say it like it’s two separate words: sweet.tea. Not done.
  • In some places it’s considered very bad manners to serve lemon wedges in the sweet tea without asking your guest FIRST if they want lemon.
  • Which kind of tea you use makes a huge difference. The two best brands to use are Luzianne or Tetley. I tried using the store brand from our local market and the difference in taste was noteworthy and negative.
  • Most people say you should never EVER squeeze the tea bags after they’ve been steeping. It’s best to simply lift them out of the tea and discard. Personally, I HAVE squeezed the tea bags and had no trouble. No Sweet Tea Officials have bothered me…yet.
  • You can add some variation to your sweet tea by using flavored teas. Green tea works too, but it won’t get as dark as black tea. I made a lovely batch of sweet tea with 3 bags of Luzianne tea and two bags of pear tea. Pretty much the sky is the limit on tea flavors. If you like a certain type of tea, try it.
  • A lot of people recommend adding a pinch of baking soda to the steeping tea. This supposedly mellows out some of the tannins and makes the tea darker.
  • Most people consider BOILING the tea to be a crime. Perhaps a federal offense.
  • It’s very important to refrigerate sweet tea.
  • Sweet tea should be served over ice.
  • Sweet tea should be sipped, not chugged. Just because I can drink 3 quarts of sun tea in an afternoon does NOT mean I should drink that much sweet tea…unless I want to develop diabetes!
  • Some people add fresh mint leaves to a glass of iced sweet tea.

Since I really AM a coffee gal at heart, I really can’t donate my coffeemaker to the cause of sweet tea, so I went hunting for other methods. The method I like best so far involves filling a medium-sized saucepan with water and 1 1/3 c. sugar. I bring that to a boil and remove it from the heat. I put three large tea bags into the sugar water and cover the pan tightly. This mixture should steep for an hour or two. I remove the tea bags (secretly squeezing the bags when nobody is looking.) Then I pour this syrup into a gallon jar and add enough cold water to top off the jar. I chill the gallon jug and serve the tea over ice, garnished with a mint leave…and possibly even a slice of lemon. (Of course, I wouldn’t serve the lemon without express permission from the one drinking the sweet tea!)

My next experiment is going to involve some fresh mint leaves in the steeping process. I’ll let you know how this turns out. Sweet tea today…what’s next? banana pudding?

Barb

NOTE: Laura tells me that she’s a Lipton girl and somehow only Lipton iced tea tastes exactly right. Also, she regularly enjoys Chick-Fil-A sweet tea when she’s out and about.