Tag Archives: Christmas

20-day diet prep plan: Day 10 — Make a plan for Christmas!

Eating well is a form of self-respect.

Christmas is only two days away!

Decide NOW which sweets and carbs are most important to you, and commit to eating ONLY those. I encourage you to write this out, post it on Facebook, or tell a friend, to really crystallize it in your mind, and commit to it.

The idea is to hit a line somewhere between “I can’t have any sweets or treats,” and “I’ll eat whatever I want!” Plan on skipping the things that you don’t love so much, but enjoy and really savor the things you do! Maybe your friend can help you sort out what those things are.

Here’s a message I put on my calendar a few years ago; I set it to reappear every December 20:

Christmas sugar reminder

This is a gift you’re giving yourself, so that you’ll feel better afterwards! Remember…

Eating well is a form of self-respect.

 

 

But if you do “slip up” or “mess up,” think about this…

Saying I messed up so I may as well eat crap is like saying i dropped my phone so i may as well smash it.

 

But more importantly: lest we get too wrapped up in food and other material stuff, let’s also remember that Christmas is about something much more important…

Peace on earth, good will to men

A peaceful Christmas to you and yours;

may you recognize and thoroughly enjoy every blessing that is yours!

(See you here on the 26th.)

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{ Christmas calligraphy by Anderson Inkwell }

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Best Thanksgiving leftovers ever! – homemade turkey pot pie

turkey pot pie

Here’s our family’s favorite thing to eat the day after Thanksgiving: homemade turkey pot pie!

If my daughter’s home, we’re treated to a homemade crust. If she’s not, I usually rely on Pillsbury ready-made crust. (This photo is from Pillsbury’s website.)

turkey pot pie

I didn’t get to host Thanksgiving this year, so I don’t have turkey leftovers to make it with, SO unfortunately I can’t give you how-to shots, but here’s the recipe.

Homemade Turkey Pot Pie Recipe

5-1/4 c. chicken broth (3 14-oz. cans)

3 carrots, pared (or 12 “baby” carrots), cut into bite-size pieces, ~ 1/2”

1 small white or yellow onion, diced

1/4 lb. fresh mushrooms, sliced (or one 4-ish oz. jar of sliced ‘shrooms)

2/3 to 1 c. frozen peas

3/4 c. butter

2/3 c. all-purpose flour

salt and pepper to taste

4 c. cooked turkey, cut into bite-size pieces

 

(My baking dish is 9” in diameter and about 2.5” tall, with straight sides.)

Bring chicken broth to boil in a 3-quart or larger sauce pan. Add carrots and onion and cook until almost tender. Add mushrooms and peas; cook 3-5 minutes more.

Remove vegetables from broth and set both aside. You should have about 4 c. of broth.

Preheat oven to 400 F.

In same or larger saucepan, melt butter; whisk in flour. Cook, stirring constantly till bubbly and a little golden. Gradually whisk in reserved hot chicken broth. Cook until mixture thickens and bubbles 1 minute. Season to taste w/ salt and pepper.

Add the vegetables and the turkey to the saucepan; stir gently and cook till turkey is heated through. Turn the mixture into the baking dish. You may refrigerate it at this point for later baking, if desired.

Prepare one pie crust. Cut an opening in the center and a few small holes around it (to vent steam; not just for decoration). Fit dough over filled baking dish; press dough down all around edge. Trim if necessary, leaving 3/4” or so to drape down the side of the dish.

Bake 40 minutes or until crust is nicely browned and filling is bubbly.
Adapted from Food Editors Favorites, 1983.

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20 Cranberry Sauce Recipes

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A variety of cranberry sauce recipes, for Thanksgiving or Christmas…

Cranberry Sauce Recipes
image: OurFamilyEats

Roasted or Baked Cranberry Sauce

Simple Roasted Cranberries (Gluten Free, Grain Free, and Paleo) from OurFamilyEats. I love that this one really is simple, and that it uses maple syrup for the sweetener.

Bobby Flay’s Baked Cranberry Sauce, which calls for finishing it off with a quarter cup of bourbon. Some reviewers substituted other liquor or liquers (orange being a popular flavor). 41 reviews, and every one of them 4-star!

Roasted Cranberry Sauce with Herbed Candied Walnuts, from Bon Appetit. Lots of sugar in this one!

Boozy and Baked Cranberry Sauce. Even though it has “boozy” in the name, its alcohol content is much less than Mr. Flay’s. Also looks easy: just four ingredients.

Sugar-Free Cranberry Sauce

Cranberry Sauce Recipes
image: The Vintage Mixer
And another “sugar-free” cranberry sauce recipe, but it uses honey. You could sub maple syrup or your preferred sweetener. It also includes crushed pineapple; interesting!
And another. This one calls for Equal, but a couple commenters said they used Splenda and it worked well.
Paleo-friendly cranberry sauce; uses apple juice and maple syrup for sweetener. (Listed as

Paleo/GF/DF/EF/SF/NF)

Another Paleo cranberry sauce, from nomnompaleo, using sweet cherries and apple juice.

Traditional Stove-Top Cranberry Sauce Recipes

Cranberry Sauce Recipes
image: Simply Recipes
Every recipe I’ve ever tried from Elise at SimplyRecipes has been great. Here’s her traditional recipe. But she also suggest various add-ins. I might try blueberry!
(And her recipe is the same as the most popular cranberry sauce at AllRecipes; more than 1200 reviews, and still five stars!)
Another classic cranberry sauce recipe; this one from Pioneer Woman. Similar to the others, but uses maple syrup in place of sugar, and orange juice in place of white sugar.

Unique Cranberry Sauce Recipes

This page at Fun & Food Cafe features five different cranberry sauce recipes, with unusual ingredients. I like the sound of the second one, which has raspberries and walnuts!
Ginger Cranberry Sauce, via RecipeLion.
Another from the same source: Cranberry Sauce with Apples (and Mandarin oranges, and pineapple).
How about Cranberry Sauce with Jalapenos? I think that would be a big hit with smoked turkey.
Happy Thanksgiving!

Please, sir: May I have some more pudding?

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Because it’s the day before Christmas, and I still have TONS to do, I’m going to make this post short.

My daughter and my BFF and I got together yesterday and made some yummy, yummy recipes. First time we’d ever made these, and they both get three enthusiastic, sugar-high thumbs up!

Warm Lemon Pudding Cakes, via Seasons & Suppers. As the three of us tasted our first bites, we were all rendered speechless, except for satisfied, “mmmm’s, all around. As it bakes, the mixture separates into two layers: a creamy layer on the bottom that’s similar in taste and texture to a very tart lemon curd, topped by a thin layer of super-light fluffy cake.
We made these in 4 oz. Mason jars. (Everything’s better in a jar!) Super cute, and — PLEASE NOTE: in these small jars, they only take about 15 minutes to bake. We still used the hot water bath method called for in the recipe.

Bread Pudding Cupcakes, by Sugar Derby. We left out the raisins, subbed pecans, and didn’t bother with the cream cheese frosting. Either plain, or topped with a bit of the neighbor’s homemade salted caramel sauce, they were fabulous!

These will both definitely be part of our best desserts list now. Should be in yours, too.

Merry Christmas to all!

DIY fruit and flower centerpiece

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I like to decorate simply for holidays, and one way I often do that is to gather bit and pieces from my own yard to create centerpieces for tables, the mantle, etc.

Inspired by this lovely image at StyleMePretty, I decided to also incorporate some fruit for our Thanksgiving tables this year.

Here are some of the components I used…
Top left: twigs with berries off a flowering tree in our front yard, whose species I don’t know. Hawthorne, possibly.
Top right: a $4.88 bunch of carnations. Small mums would be lovely, too. In retrospect, I wish I’d picked something more golden to help the color palette lean more toward autumnal colors, but oh well! Not a big deal.
Lower: greenery from my yard — on the left, a small-leafed variety of trailing euonymus; tendrils of vinca minor on the right. If I were doing this for a Christmas table, I would definitely use some evergreen sprigs, too.
I also purchased some clementines and small Gala apples. I was hoping to get plums, since I loved the darker hues in my inspiration image, but alas, no plums at the store today. I would have liked to include pears as well, but they were too big for this arrangement. 
Now to the steps…
I started with a large pasta bowl, and placed in the center of it a votive candle holder, filled it 3/4 full with water, then arranged three apples and three clementines around it in an asymmetrical pattern. (Top left image.)
Next, I snipped the carnations down till they were just long enough to sit in the votive of water with their heads resting on the fruit, and tucked them into the votive holder until the blossoms filled the space. I used three or four, depending on how full they were. 
Then I pruned the euonymus down to just one or two bunches of leaves, so that they functioned more like a flower. I tucked a few of these in between the carnations, just barely peeking above them.
Then I tucked a few berry sprigs in around the perimeter, as well as a few pieces of vinca, then stepped back to assess (the lower right image in the montage above). Hmm… definitely needs more filling in around the perimeter.
So I kept adding things in. I tucked a couple flowers into the especially bare spots, and gathered some more and longer strands of vinca, and kept adding till I was happy with the fullness. The photo above shows it from directly overhead, so you can see how things are arranged. As you’re making an arrangement, be sure to assess it from all angles that it will be seen from. A table centerpiece needs to look good from all sides, while something to go on a mantel, sideboard or buffet has a more limited view.
We have two tables, so two arrangements are needed. And because these arrangements are going on fairly narrow rectangular tables, I made the vinca only extend out on two sides of the bowl. 
Here are the finished pieces. I’m very happy with how they came out!
I also love the price! Here’s how it breaks down…
  • Bowls, votives, berries and greenery: Free; I already had them.
  • Fruit: Total of about $4. The apples were three for $1, so two bucks there, and probably about the same for the clementines. I’ve tossed the package, but it was a two or three pound bag, and under $7. I only used about a quarter of the bag.
  • Flowers: Less than $5.

So my two arrangements came in under $10. — for both of them! Sweet!

Recipe review: Pumpkin cake with cream cheese frosting

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Pumpkin cake

This recipe came up on AllRecipes when I was looking for a sheet cake to make for a potluck, but it’s actually for a 10×15 cake pan. Maybe “sheet cake” means different things in different parts of the country, but here in Kansas, it means a very thin cake — about 1″ deep — baked in a rimmed cookie pan. This time, though, I made it in two 8″ x 8″ foil cake pans, so as to not have to retrieve my pan. It worked for that, too.

Several reviewers commented that the cinnamon was too weak in its given amount and that it needed other spices; others opined that the frosting needed more cream cheese flavor. So I made some tweaks, and it turned out perfect!

Here is the original recipe, and here is my edited version…

Pumpkin Cake

1 (15 oz.) can canned pumpkin puree
2 cups white sugar
1 cup vegetable oil
4 eggs
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
cream cheese frosting (see below)
1 cup chopped walnuts or pecans (optional)

Preheat the oven to 350 F (175 degrees C). Grease and flour (or spray) a 10 x 15″ cake pan.

In a medium mixing bowl, beat pumpkin, sugar, and oil. Add eggs, and mix well.

In small mixing bowl (a 4-cup measuring cup works nicely), combine flour, baking soda, cinnamon and salt, and stir till well combined. Add these dry ingredients to the pumpkin mixture: pour in a third, and stir a bit; a third and stir a bit; the rest, and stir gently until well blended. Do not overstir.

Pour batter into a greased 15 x 10 inch baking pan. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out dry. Cool completely before frosting.

Spread frosting on top, then sprinkle with nuts, if desired.

Cream cheese frosting

1 (8 oz.) package cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup butter, softened
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 – 3 cups powdered sugar

Using a mixer, blend the cream cheese, butter and vanilla; mix well. Add in powdered sugar gradually. At about 1.5 cups of sugar, taste test, and continue gradually adding and tasting until it’s to your desired sweetness.

*Note: If made in a full-size cookie pan — also called a jelly roll pan — this could be used to make a pumpkin roll. Once baked, the semi-cooled cake is turned out onto a clean, flat dish towel, then gently rolled up while it cools. Once cooled, you would unroll it, spread it with cream cheese frosting, then roll it back up, wrap in plastic wrap and chill for an hour or more. To serve, cut in 1″ slices. See Libby’s website for how-to details.
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The sheet cake image is from AllRecipes. The pumpkin roll image is from Libby’s website.
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Timetable for roasting vegetables

roasted vegetables
I have previously posted this in recipe form, but since I work out a detailed timing schedule for all of my cooking on Thanksgiving and keep it in a file on my computer,* I thought I’d share my schedule for making a large batch of roasted vegetables for a crowd.

This schedule assumes you’ll be serving the meal at about 12:30. Adjust as needed.
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Roasted vegetables cooking schedule

earlier** – chop carrots, onions, peppers and zucchini
10:30 – preheat oven to 400 F; cut potatoes
10:50 – put carrots and potatoes in oven; snap the asparagus
11:10 – turn carrots and potatoes
11:35 – take carrots and potatoes out; put onions and peppers in
11:45 – turn onions and peppers
11:55 – take onions & peppers out; put zucchini in
12:05 – add asparagus to zucchini; toss; put back in
12:15 – take veg’s out of oven

The full recipe.

Make-ahead tip: The vegetables can be roasted and kept at room temperature up to 2 hours in advance or refrigerated up to 1 day in advance. Reheat from room temperature at 350° F to 400° F. Do they taste as amazing as roasted veggies fresh out of the oven? Not quite, but still delicious!

*This makes me sound super organized in the kitchen. Ha! The REASON I spell all this out carefully and keep record of it is because, while I can (and do) get by with winging-it in the kitchen for daily cooking, holidays and parties require more organizing than I can do in my head. And I find that the less info I try to store in my head, the less wigged-out I get trying to stay on top of it all!

**For all the veggies except the potatoes, you can chop them earlier that morning, or do them the day before and store in the fridge, grouped according to what goes into the oven together.