If you have a lamb rack sitting in your fridge, and a hungry family sitting at a table demanding to be fed, don’t fret – you can fix a super […]
My typical simple formula for mashed potatoes is usually: boiled potatoes, butter, and milk – mashed together and that’s it. Recently I’ve been adding another ingredient to it – cheese. […]
Fifteen years ago Brisbanites could only dream of having the kind of access to farm fresh produce that much of Europe and Asia enjoyed for as long as anyone can remember. Roadside stalls with boxes of produce and an honesty box yielded you a hit and miss selection of whatever was in season if you were prepared to hit the hinterland on a weekend but other than that and what you could grow in your backyard, produce buying happened at the local fruiterer and increasingly, at the supermarket.
Enter Jan Power, a feisty, fabulous doyenne of the food industry, a caterer, public speaker and raconteur with a desire to buy food with dirt still on it.
She hated (and still does) all the packaging surrounding a simple tomato and that everything from melons to mangoes, apples to avocados began sporting ugly little stickers advertising the middleman or whomever had handled the produce for an unspecified time after it left the farm.
She collected a small and dedicated band of growers and primary producers, bullied the hapless powers that be into giving her a space in New Farm and went for it.
Fast forward a decade and a half and the Jan Power’s Farmers Markets is recognised as one of the leading markets of its type. She runs a total of ten markets every month in and around the city and is still the only market owner in the country to hold a weekly market smack bang in the centre of the CBD.
The latest jewel in the crown is held in Albion Mill Village just north of the city, which opened in September and is a monthly Sunday market. Coffee and cinnamon wafts through the air early as shoppers and their pooches take to the avenues of just picked produce, meats and Stradbroke Island seafood, organic breads and cakes, brownies and waffles.
Here there’s an emphasis on ready-to-go food items with a myriad of ethnic passports – Hungarian langos is topped with dill, crème fraiche and salmon, breakfast burritos ramp up the spice and German sausages with sauerkraut and mustard send irresistible aromas floating around the grounds.
Attending the markets has become a ritual for many and it often includes the whole family. Mum, Dad, the kids and the family pooch are all welcomed and catered for with delicious (we think) and nutritious cookies and cupcakes made especially for dogs. They are fat and sugar free and contain no chemicals, which is very important to today’s health conscious pooches!
The Manly Market, along the shoreline of Moreton Bay south of Brisbane, happens once a month and is a firm favourite with locals. Fresh juices are piled high with freshly cut fruits, there’s a pop-up French café where you can sip on a café au lait with a pain au chocolat listening to the strains of the accordion and bay breezes wafting over you.
Talking to Farmer Dave from Pick-a-Box about his family recipes for seasonal favourites like bloody sorrel, freshly harvested galangal, turmeric and garlic is one of the highlights of every market. Dave’s farm is in the hinterland north of Brisbane and is a multi-generational family business who have been with Jan since day one. “Jan has done so much for us primary producers, we love her and are very grateful for the opportunity she created for us and for our customers.”
The post Jan Power’s Farmers Markets has a new jewel at the Albion Mill Village. Brisbane, Australia appeared first on Chubby Hubby.
….because you can make them quickly and easily at home, and oh so much better. I remember when I first started to cook and I used to doctor up jarred tomato sauce with herbs and such. I felt very clever about making it “better” – until my mother said, hey, basically you can use plain old tomatoes and make a REAL sauce doing very nearly the same steps. A mind blowing food moment for a teenager – cooking is… easy?!?
OK, not all cooking is easy. But I promise you these three sauces are dead easy. You won’t want to buy them in the supermarket again because they take mere minutes to whip up and taste exponentially better. Never buy jarred or powdered sauce mixes again with these 3 simple and infinitely adaptable recipes for authentic Italian sauces.
2 cups fresh basil leaves
2 cloves garlic
¼ cup pine nuts
⅔ cup extra virgin olive oil
½ cup Pecorino Romano or aged Parmesan
Salt and pepper to taste (kosher or sea salt works best, also freshly ground pepper is preferable)
Combine the basil, garlic and pine nuts in a food processor or blender and pulse until coarsely chopped. Then drizzle in the oil while blending all the ingredients. Stop when you achieve a smooth paste consistency. Season with salt and pepper.
Variations: The combinations here are truly endless. Any green herb or even lettuces will work. For example, try spinach or arugula as the green. Or even add a handful of fresh mint in with the basil. And the same is true with the nut element. Pine nuts can be easily substituted with walnuts, cashews or even pistachios. A fairly popular combination is arugula walnut pesto, but if you want to experiment you can no doubt create your own new favorite.
Marinara in Minutes
2 Tbsp olive oil
4 cloves garlic, minced
¼ cup chopped onion (rough chop or fine depending on how chunky you want the sauce)
½ tsp salt (ideally sea salt or kosher salt)
⅛ cup grated carrot
1 28-ounce tin of tomatoes (I prefer San Marzano, or plum tomatoes), if whole make sure you chop them before adding
1 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp dried thyme
Fresh ground pepper to taste
In a large pot or a deep sauté pan, add the olive oil, onions, garlic with salt and pepper. Sauté until the onions are soft and translucent, about 10 minutes. Add the carrots and sauté another 5 minutes. Add in the tinned tomatoes with all juices. Then add the herbs. Simmer uncovered for 20 minutes or until the sauce has reached the desired consistency.
Variations: You can add crushed red pepper to spice it up making a sort of Arrabiata sauce. You can add bacon in with the onions to make a modified Amatricana sauce. Add vegetables for a Primavera sauce, or even ground beef for Bolognese. Marinara is the base for all these Italian sauces. And pasta isn’t the only partner for this sauce… what about sauce over grilled chicken or salmon?
Mushroom Cream Sauce
2 Tbsp butter
½ cup onions, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
6 ounces mushrooms, sliced (button mushrooms or Portobello work well)
1 cup heavy cream
Salt and pepper to taste (again, use a good quality salt and freshly ground pepper if possible)
In a large pot or a deep sauté pan, add the butter, onions, garlic with salt and pepper. Sauté until the onions are soft and transluscent, about 10 minutes. Add the mushrooms and sauté about 5 minutes. Add the heavy cream and simmer until the sauce has reached the desired consistency, around 7-10 minutes.
Variations: You can add grated cheese such as Parmesan to made a modified Alfredo sauce. Try a mixture of mushrooms for a more sophisticated flavour profile. Use shallots or leeks instead of onions for a slightly lighter taste. You can add bacon in with the onions to make a decadent sauce to top chicken with. Add bacon and omit the mushrooms and you have a modified Carbonara sauce. Or add blue cheese and use to top a steak.
So please, let’s make a promise to each other… no more supermarket Italian sauces! And trust me, once you taste the difference, there is no turning back.
The post 3 Italian sauces you should never buy at the supermarket…. appeared first on Chubby Hubby.
Cranberries are one of my favorite berries to work with in the fall. Their bright color and sweet-tart taste compliments a lot of different ingredients. Dried cranberries are the easiest to use, since you can incorporate them into just about anything, but whole cranberries pack a lot more of a tart punch and also add a lot more color, so I will go out of my way to use them when they are available fresh in the market. These Cardamom Cranberry Muffins are a great way to showcase fresh cranberries in an easy-to-make recipe. The moist muffins are packed with brightly colored cranberries, making them a festive choice for holiday brunches and breakfasts.
Cranberries are often paired with citrus, like orange or lemon. These muffins do have a little bit of orange juice, but most of the flavor comes from cardamom. Ground cardamom has a bright, slightly lemony flavor and that is why it works so well with the cranberries. You get a lot of cardamom flavor in these muffins (particularly if you ground cardamom is fresh), but the cranberries are bold enough to stand up to that flavor and still stand out! I also added a little ginger and vanilla to round out all the elements in these muffins.
I prefer to use fresh cranberries in these muffins, but frozen berries will work just as well. If you are using frozen berries, don’t defrost them before adding them to the batter. The muffins may also need an additional minute of baking time. Cooled muffins are best eaten right away, but they can also be stored in an airtight container for later enjoyment if you want to eat them them next day.
Cardamom Cranberry Muffins
2 cups all purpose flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 large egg
1/2 tsp ground cardamom
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup orange juice
1 1/2 cups fresh cranberries
coarse sugar, for topping
Preheat oven to 375F. Line a 12 cup muffin pan with paper liners.
In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt.
In a large bowl, whisk together vegetable oil, sugar, brown sugar and egg until well combined. Whisk in cardamom, ginger and vanilla. Stir in half of the flour mixture, followed by the buttermilk and orange juice. Stir in remaining flour mixture, mixing until no streaks of dry ingredients remain. Fold in cranberries so that they are evenly distributed in the batter.
Divide batter evenly between prepared muffin cups, filling each at least 3/4 full. Top muffins with coarse sugar.
Bake for 17-19 minutes, or until muffins spring back when lightly pressed and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.
Turn muffins out onto a wire rack to cool completely.
And as always, feel free to lend your advice/answers to any of the questions below.
Dear Pioneer Woman:
Just wondering if I can prepare stuffing/dressing in advance and bake it the next day?
Prepared in Pittsburgh
Rather than assemble the dressing the day before, I think it would be best for you to prepare all the elements, then assemble the dressing on Thanksgiving day. So for instance, with my Dressing with Sausage, Apples and Mushrooms, I will make the cornbread, then dice it and lay it out to dry (same with the other breads I use). I’ll also brown the sausage, roast the mushrooms, cook the apples, and dice the onions and celery. Except for the bread, I’ll store all the elements in the fridge, then the next day, I’ll throw the dressing together!
I always think it’s best to assemble dressing on the day because the moisture will be right, the bread perfect, and the universe in proper working order.
Dear Pioneer Woman:
Every year my father spends days preparing an amazing Thanksgiving spread. Between two turkeys and up to 15 side items, it is quite a sight. I have been entrusted by my father to bring the Cranberry Relish. (It is a big honor since he doesn’t allow anyone else to bring anything). Last year I made one with pomegranates in it that was sweet more than bitter but now I can’t find the recipe. Do you have an easy Cranberry Relish the entire family of 20 will love?
Country Girl from Jersey
Dear Country Girl:
Before I begin, I need to very gently and subtly debrief you on my approach to cranberry relish. Mind you, this is only my opinion, so I’ll be sure to express it delicately and sweetly:
I CAN NOT STAND CRANBERRY RELISH! IT RUINS MY WHOLE THANKSGIVING!
See? You can always rely on me to present my views in the most diplomatic of fashions.
But back to the subject at hand: I don’t care for cranberry relish. I find it bitter and grody and, well…bitter. I much prefer more of a cooked cranberry sauce, and my favorite one contains fresh cranberries, orange juice (or cranberry juice), orange zest, and maple syrup. I just cook it all in a saucepan until the mixture is thick, then transfer it to a bowl and chill in the fridge overnight. It’s more of a cranberry jelly than a relish, and what I’m about to say is just another opinion of mine, so again, I’ll present it as softly and tenderly as possible:
IT’S DELICIOUS AND CRANBERRY RELISH ISN’T!
But of course, don’t let me sway you.
Dear Pioneer Woman:
My boyfriend has 9000 people in his family and I have one in town. We come from completely different types of families. That is fine. What is not fine is that they have a 65-person buffet and live over an hour away. We then have to rush to my dad’s house for “my” thanksgiving. It’s too much. I would love a smaller more intimate dinner with both of our families but not the whole crew! Will this ever happen? Am I rude or selfish to want to just do something simple one year?
All the best,
You don’t say how serious you and your boyfriend are, but if you’re accompanying each other to your respective family celebrations, I assume you didn’t just meet last week. So for the sake of argument, and because we girls just do these things, let’s assume you two will one day wind up in a permanent relationship, also known as the covenant of marriage. When you are married, just know that this issue will come up every year. So the sooner you reach some sort of workable plan, the better!
First: You are not wrong to long for a smaller, more intimate dinner. However, if his family doesn’t celebrate Thanksgiving that way, you shouldn’t have this expectation. His family celebration will likely not change. So if you’re going to be with him for the long haul, you need to realize that the big 65-person buffet is going to be a permanent fixture in your Thanksgiving celebration. More, if the generations continue to multiply, which appears to be the trend. Sorry to get personal there.
There are different approaches you could take: One, you could alternate years—one year at your family’s house, the next year at his family’s house. That way, every other year you can be assured that you’ll have a relatively calm, quiet Thanksgiving and it will eliminate the rushing/traveling from one place to the next. Two, you could continue the frenzied (and filling!) plan you’re on right now, which is to make it to both celebrations, both meals. You could invite your small family to his family’s buffet. No option is right or wrong, but it’s important for you to talk to your love about it ahead of time and come up with a solution you’re both happy with. Because again—this issue won’t go away as long as you’re together. And assuming you will one day wind up as husband and wife, ironing this out now could be a little practice session in future holiday-related conflict resolution!
And if your boyfriend’s buffet can handle a 66th person, let me know. I’m your man.
I mean woman.
Dear Pioneer Woman:
I have for MANY years (32) tried to bake an apple pie, however, when I do make one the apples are still crisp but the crust is done. What am I doing right/wrong and how can I fix it? My husband LOVES apple pie, and I want to learn.
Apple Pie Lover
There are a couple of very easy fixes for this! First, you can slice your apples much thinner; this will allow them to cook and soften more quickly. Second, try lightly covering the top of the pie with aluminum foil for the first half of baking. This will keep the crust from getting too brown too soon, and will give the apples a chance to work their magic. Just remove the foil in the last half of baking so it will have time to become golden and gorgeous.
Try those two things, and I can almost guarantee your apple pie will make you and your husband cry. But the good, happy kind of cry
Dear Pioneer Woman:
I want to try your turkey brining recipe but I honestly had never even heard of brining until I watched you on the Food Network Thanksgiving special last year. Can I use a frozen turkey? When I cook it, do I need to season it? Or will it be fine just brining it?
Happy Thanksgiving to you and your family!
First Time Briner
I always recommend against brining frozen turkeys, and here’s why: Frozen turkeys, generally speaking, are injected with a sodium/water solution prior to freezing in order to preserve the quality of the meat. Because of this, brining on top of that can result in a way-too-salty bird (and way-too-salty drippings). Now, I have seen some frozen turkeys that either do not use the sodium solution or use much less than regular frozen turkeys—you might do some looking at the sodium percentage and see what you can find. Another approach you can take is to go ahead and brine the frozen turkey, but use 1/3 less salt in the brine mixture. That way, some of the other flavors of the brine will have a chance to transfer to the turkey, but you’ll stand a chance at limiting the saltiness.
As far as seasoning after brining, not much is needed. I do a mixture of butter, rosemary, and orange zest, then rub it all over the skin halfway through the roasting process. It makes the skin flavorful, golden, and yummy.
Dear Pioneer Woman:
This is our first thanksgiving as a family. We left home in 2010 when our first son was born and my husband joined the army, and we have always gone to friends’ homes for thanksgiving. We are at a new army base and do not have friends yet, so I guess I am cooking! I am not exactly a great cook, so I’m terrified at making a decent sized special meal. What could be some things I could do to keep it simple but special? Our youngest is allergic to cheese (gasp) and garlic (the horror!) so have to omit those to keep him involved. Thank you so much in advance!
Dear Mama C:
First of all, thank you from the bottom of my heart for your family’s service and sacrifice.
Second, there are many ways to keep it simple on Thanksgiving! First, rather than roast a whole turkey, you can just roast a bone-in turkey breast instead. Much easier to manage, and you won’t have a lot left over. As for sides, it’s very easy to scale down mashed potato recipes to feed four instead of 12 or 16. You can make my mashed potato recipe the day before to save the effort on Thanksgiving. Same with the stuffing/dressing: You can make cornbread from scratch, or you can keep it simple and by a loaf of good, crusty French bread and dry it out. (Here’s my Basic Thanksgiving Dressing recipe; you can cut it in half or fourths and just sub French bread for the cornbread!) And for a good, green veggie, you could just simply sauté some fresh green beans in butter (add bacon or red bell pepper for a little zip.)
One pie should be good for your small family, or you could go the ultra simple route and whip up a batch of these Pumpkin Smoothies! They seriously taste like pumpkin pie in a glass, and you can top them with whipped cream to make them seem like a decadent dessert (and they are!)
Another simple Thanksgiving dessert is to cook some apples in butter with some brown sugar and cinnamon until they’re soft. Then spoon them over storebought vanilla, cinnamon, or caramel ice cream. Easy!
I hope you have a wonderful Thanksgiving together. Know that I’m thankful for you guys.
Dear Pioneer Woman:
This year is the first year that my children and I will not have any family to celebrate Thanksgiving with. How would you keep the spirit of your family present at your holiday table? I would love some decorating and meal ideas that are rich with love and warmth.
Oh, I know the change will be a little tough…but you’re so right that Thanksgiving can (and should!) still be a day filled with love in your house. Overall, one of the best things you can do is make sure your Thanksgiving day is as stress-free as possible, because that will transfer over to your kids. So no matter what sort of meal you’re planning, just do as much prep ahead of time so you won’t be scrambling too much.
Aside from that, you could really set this year apart (thereby deflecting the focus away from how “different” it is) by doing some fun, meaningful things around the table. For instance, you could get some inexpensive small frames at a craft store and make placeholders for each person using old photos of the kids (and yourself!)
Along those lines, make a printable “menu” listing your Thanksgiving courses and set them on everyone’s plates just as you’d find at a wedding or other event. And have some fun with the names for the courses! Name the turkey after one kid, the stuffing after another kid—or use funny superlatives like “Bodacious Broccoli Rice Casserole” and “Stupendously Scrumptious Stuffing.”
Start a new around-the-table tradition of vocalizing things you’re thankful for—you can even turn it into a game by following the alphabet and seeing how far you can get.
Finally, make new Thanksgiving memories throughout the day by creating a new tradition, whether it’s going out to a movie, staying in for a movie marathon or playing a midnight Monopoly game. Or Pictionary. Or Charades.
Happy Thanksgiving to you and your kids.
Dear Pioneer Woman:
How do you prepare mashed potatoes ahead of time? I will be using Yukon Gold potatoes.
Mashed up in Paradise
If you want to be happy on Thanksgiving, you will make these mashed potatoes.
Happy Potato Woman
Dear Pioneer Woman:
I love to cook and I am on your site or watching you on TV getting recipes or ideas all the time. I may throw an after Thanksgiving early Christmas dinner with my friends and I am super interested in trying a brine on a turkey this year, but I am allergic to apples. Is there any other ingredient I can substitute the apple juice/cider with? Or do you have another brine recipe I could use instead?
You can substitute water or no-sodium chicken, turkey, or vegetable broth instead of apple cider.
Dear Pioneer Woman:
My husband and I have been married over 8 years, have 3 children, and live out of state from our families who live in different cities from each other. I say so you know that if we choose to travel we have to choose one over the other. It’s impossible to go both places during a holiday weekend. My mom is super sensitive, competitive with my in laws and gets jealous very easy. It was our plan to stay home this year but on a whim decided to go see my in laws to see some family we haven’t seen since we were married.
I’m nervous to tell my mom because I know she’ll get super mad and make me feel guilty and make rude comments about my in laws. How do I inform her of our plans, stand my ground, yet be sensitive to her not getting to see us this holiday? (My parents just drove up last week for a day to see us so it’s not like they haven’t see our girls in a long time). My husband and family come first but she has a very hard time buying in to that, which makes it even more difficult. She thinks that she can still control my decisions even though I’m 30 and have been running my own life since I was 22.
Caught in the Middle
First, you need to remind yourself that there was nothing inconsiderate or wrong about your decision to visit your husband’s family over Thanksgiving. You need to make sure you have a strong sense of that, because that will help you remain logical when the guilt and doubts set in.
Second, while it’s okay to be sensitive to your mother’s…sensitivity, you shouldn’t have to fear (or avoid) your mom’s possible reaction. I think you said it best yourself: Just calmly and considerately let her know that you and your family are heading up to see his in-laws for Thanksgiving and that you’d love to get together after you’re all back. She may balk and complain. But don’t be afraid of that. Just remind yourself that you’ve done nothing wrong, then smile, give her a hug, and let her know you’ll see her very soon.
Now, if she take the route of bad-mouthing or criticizing your in-laws, this might be a good time for you to ask her not to do that in your presence anymore. Your husband’s family is your family, and it isn’t fair for your mom to speak negatively of them to you. So just tell her you won’t be able to listen to any insults if that’s where she takes it. Sometime those patterns of behavior are just bad habits more than anything else, and it takes someone to say “no more” for them to change.
Have a wonderful Thanksgiving with your husband and kids!
Dear Pioneer Woman:
I lost my twin sister last year. I am so very depressed, and don’t want to celebrate at all during the holidays. My children just don’t understand. How can I cope with all the sadness?
I’m so sorry about the loss of your sister. I can’t even imagine how devastated you must be. I have two pieces of advice, and they might seem a little contradictory.
First, give yourself permission to be sad. Give yourself permission to feel different about this holiday than you have in the past. Don’t force yourself to be yippy-skippy happy the whole time. Your grief is very real.
But second, try to keep in mind that your sister would likely want you to celebrate the holidays with your family. She wouldn’t want you to skip the festivities. Try to keep her in your mind and imagine what she’d say if she saw you spending your holidays sad and withdrawn. She would want you to enjoy this special time.
But back to the “your grief is very real” part, don’t put pressure on yourself to act yippy-skippy as I said above. If you want to cry in the middle of the meal, then by all means let it out! You lost your sister, and while that shouldn’t end holiday celebrations for you, you should feel free to process it naturally—and if that means crying at the dinner table, fine—as you navigate this first major holiday without her.
Sending lots of love and prayers your way. I’m so sorry.
Dear Pioneer Woman:
I would love for some advice on how to handle a touchy situation. My MIL and I sat down last week to iron out our menu for Thanksgiving. She is doing most of the cooking, while I am doing the stuffing and two pies. I thought we had it planned out, but tonight she was questioning me again about the stuffing. I was brought up on “dry” dressing; she makes wet, sage-y dressing, which I don’t particularly care for. But apparently, she doesn’t want me making my style of dressing and said she’ll bring over some sage to put in it. How do I politely tell her that this is one of the few things I’m making and I want to make it according to my recipe?
Bewildered in the Boonies
I have a very simple solution for you! Make the dressing you originally planned to make, then separate off a third or a half of it (according to how many people you think would prefer yours/hers) and give that portion to your mother-in-law in a mixing bowl when she arrives! That way she can add as much extra liquid and as much sage as she likes.
You didn’t mention whether the stuffing/dressing is going in the bird, but if your mother-in-law likes hers in the bird, you might be prepared to just bake yours in a baking dish separately. Putting both versions in the same bird might be an exercise in hilarity…though you could conceivably put them in opposite ends.
Too Diplomatic for this World
Dear Pioneer Woman:
Thanksgiving is about spending time with family and being grateful! It’s so difficult for our family to select what time to have dinner. We have family members that are in the medical field working at hospitals and long term care homes that require them to work varied schedules on Thanksgiving Day. How do I chose a time to serve dinner without having someone feeling left out ?
Loving my family in Pennsylvania
You’re so right that the focus of Thanksgiving should be gratitude for being able to see family, period—especially considering there are many folks who won’t be able to experience that. That said, having guests on different schedules is a little tricky! Because of food safety, you wouldn’t want to leave out a Thanksgiving buffet all day long, so I think your best bet is just to poll all your guests to find out the times they can come eat, pick the most available time, then make individual plates of food for the stragglers (then cover them and keep them in the fridge until they arrive.)
Enjoy your day!
Dear Pioneer Woman:
I have a practical question about Thanksgiving desserts. I am going to make your mouth-watering caramel pumpkin gingersnap cheesecake (say that 5 times fast) for our gathering with my husband’s family. I’m wondering how I get the cheesecake to travel safely for 5 hours (we are in Idaho- they live in Washington state). I have considered making the crust ahead of time and making the filling at my second parents’s house (aka Mom & Dad in-law) but my MIL has had a few hard months with knee surgery and I don’t want to stress her out. So make ahead it is!
Delicious Dessert Driving Diva
Dear Quadruple D:
That’s a great choice for a dessert that travels well, and here’s what I’d do: Pop in in the freezer for about three or four hours (or even overnight) before you depart. It’ll firm up the cheesecake and make sure it’ll be extra cold/safe for traveling. Then, by the time you arrive in Washington, it’ll be perfectly thawed/ready to serve! (Just don’t park it on the floor next to the car’s heating vent or you’ll wind up with a mess. Put it in the coolest part of the car.)
Dear Pioneer Woman:
We are new to town and haven’t met many friends. We have just started a friendship with a couple in town, and they graciously invited us to their home for Thanksgiving. I am tickled and also scared to death. Why? The Mr. of the couple is a professional chef, his business is working with chefs, he sets up chefs all over the country doing cheffy things. Big fancy cheffy things. So- what on EARTH do I bring to dinner?
Searching in Seattle
First of all, please take heart: I had Bobby Flay on the ranch for a Thaksgiving Throwdown a few years ago and I spent the days leading up to it lying under our coffee table and sucking my thumb for the very same reasons you mentioned. What on earth do you make Bobby Flay for Thanksgiving? It’s the stuff of nightmares, I tell you.
But here’s what you need to remember: The chef isn’t really expecting anyone to show up at his house and knock his socks off in the culinary sense. That’s his department! So just take the pressure off yourself and embrace the beauty of this situation: That a couple you just met is welcoming you into their home on a very important holiday. What a kind thing for them to do. What you take along is really secondary!
That said, here are a few ideas:
Broccoli Wild Rice Casserole: It’s pretty, rustic, totally from scratch, and dang good.
Brussels Sprouts with Balsamic and Cranberries: All chefs love Brussels Sprouts—it’s the law—and these are as beautiful as they are delicious.
Speaking of Bobby Flay, here is his Pumpkin Bread Pudding that he made for the Throwdown. (The printable recipe is at the bottom of the post.) It is to die for with a capital TO DIE FOR.
Turnip Gratin: It’s everything that’s wonderful about scalloped potatoes, only with turnips, which any chef would appreciate. This is lovely and very cheesy!
Good luck, and again—just enjoy the day. And enjoy your new friends!
Ain’t No Chef Neither!
Dear Pioneer Woman:
My mother-in-law is notoriously late to absolutely everything. I host holiday meals at my home now to ensure everything is put together in a timely fashion and tell her that dinner is 30 minutes-1 hour earlier than it actually is in order to have her arrive relatively on time (she only lives 30 minutes from my home). It fails every time. My husband and I have spoken with her about this many times but nothing changes. Do you have any suggestions for how to get her to arrive on time to Thanksgiving this year? I am very schedule oriented, especially when cooking large meals such as this.
Have you tried telling her to arrive at your house at 6:00 a.m.? I kid. I think.
But if you’ve tried telling her 30 minutes to 1 hour earlier and that hasn’t worked, why not try telling her 2 to 2 ½ hours earlier? Surely that’s enough of a padding to make sure she’ll get there on time.
I sympathize with you because it is very difficult to delay a meal like Thanksgiving, which is very much about timing. So I’d pick your eating time, tell her you’d like her to arrive two hours before that and see how it goes. Be prepared to give her a grace period of half an hour or so. If she isn’t there 30 minutes before you need to eat, give her a call and let her know the troops are getting hungry and you’re going to be eating soon.
Or you could always send a taxi to her house 30 minutes ahead of time and ask him to park in the driveway and honk. Loudly.
I kid. I think.
Sometimes Late, Too
Since moving for a new job, we’ve been away from extended family for four years now. During that time we have developed traditions that the kids expect and love. These new traditions include visiting my husband at his job, since he often has to work last-minute on holidays. We then have a more traditional celebration on a day when he can be home.
Recently, the in-laws moved to our area. They brought with them their own traditions and expectations about Thanksgiving (and other holidays), including a strong resistance to the possible late-breaking news that we need to celebrate on the “wrong” day.
To appease them, the kids and I would have to give up the trip to the station to see dad, and I would be stuck on my own trying to wrangle four young over-stimulated children in their house of breakables. I’ve offered to host at my house, since I am used to the jarring change in plans, but my mother-in-law insists on making HER Thanksgiving dinner and hosting at her house.
I realize she has seniority, and I want to respect that, but how far do I need to bend to accommodate her expectations? This is our first holiday season with them, and I’d like to set up some boundaries from the beginning.
Thanks for your input, Ree and fellow readers!
Daughter-in-law in Distress
Have you asked your husband what he thinks? Since it’s his family’s house, he might have a preference (or at least some guidance) about whether he thinks it’s more important for you to visit him at the station or go to his parents’ house. It seems to me that preserving the tradition of visiting dad at the fire station would be important to your family over the longterm. On the other hand, if your husband doesn’t feel strongly about it—if the station is busy that day or he’d feel better if you and the kids “represented” at his parents’ house—he might help make the decision easier for you.
But assuming he does want the workplace visit tradition to remain intact, could you go ahead and keep that plan, explaining to your mother-in-law that it’s a tradition that’s important to your husband, your kids, and you, but that you’d love to drop by with the kids sometime later in the day after her meal is over? I can’t imagine she’d object to that, especially considering her son’s wife and kiddoes are making sure he’s not alone on Thanksgiving.
Your Friend, Ree
Dear Pioneer Woman:
My husband and I recently celebrated our one-year anniversary last month. It’s been a wonderful year full of love and fun. We’ve recently started taking about having a baby. What advice would you give us?
Babies on the Brain
My advice would be to have a baby.
Then ago ahead and have another one after that.
And so on.
And while you’re having all these babies, just don’t ever forget why you married each in the first place. I guarantee your fruitful family will stay happy and healthy for a long, long time.
Eternally Sick with Baby Fever
Dear Pioneer Woman:
My in-laws are tough to please. This year, we are traveling three hours on Thanksgiving to their house for Thanksgiving lunch. We will show up just before lunch time, so I don’t have time to cook there. What can I take that will hold up in the car and impress my brutally honest in-laws? My kitchen skills are somewhat pathetic, but I can follow directions!
Texas Turkey Day Traveler
If you can get up in time to bake it (you can assemble it and store it, unbaked, in the fridge the night before) before you leave, I think Soul Sweet Taters would be perfect! Take it out of the oven, then cover it in foil and wrap it in a towel or other form of insulation, and it’ll stay somewhat warm—or at least keep from getting ice cold—on the trip. Then, if you have time to pop it in the oven when you get there, great. If not, it’s still delicious at room temperature!
Another direction you could go is to take this Layered Salad. You could actually totally assemble it the night before, dressing and everything. It’s not traditionally Thanksgiving in nature, but it’s always nice to have a green salad amid all the rich Thanksgiving dishes.
Deviled eggs are another easy make-and-take thing, and you can make them the night before. They’re great as a pre-Thanksgiving appetizer or right on the table. You could also make a platter with deviled eggs along with baby corn, black and green olives, carrot sticks, and other pickled and crunchy things (heck, even Ants on a Log!) to offset the heavy Thanksgiving food. Nothing fancy…but kind of vintage and fun.
Have a wonderful holiday!
Dear Pioneer Woman:
I host Thanksgiving every year and really enjoy it and love to entertain. The only downside to hosting and cooking is I am so tired and worn out by the time my family arrives I barely have time to clean up and look presentable and usually look a mess in my family pictures. How can I get it all right and pulled together, including myself?
This all depends on what time your meal is. If you’re closer to lunchtime or 1:00, try starting the day by showering and getting all dolled up (though not dressed yet since you have a bunch of cooking to do) before you ever set foot in the kitchen. Put your makeup on, fix your hair, then pull your hair back in a low ponytail (if you have the hair for it) and head for the kitchen and start tackling the meal. Even though you’ll be working hard in the kitchen and you’ll need to change your clothes later, at least you’ll be clean and polished under the surface so all you’ll need is a quick touch-up session and you’ll be a glamorous goddess again!
If your meal is at night, you’re just going to have to budget in an hour or so somewhere during the day. My only suggestion would be not to save it for the end, because if you do that, it’ll never happen. Just tell yourself you’re going to break away three hours before your meal to get all cleaned up. That way, you’ll still have a good two hours afterward to make sure everything gets done.
Either way, lay out what you’re going to wear well ahead of time (the day before is best!) so you won’t have to spend time scrambling and looking for clean jeans or socks. Or a bra.
I speak from experience here.
Dear Pioneer Woman:
Thanksgiving without my mom stinks! We lost her 3 1/2 years ago and Thanksgiving has become a day of take out foods. We buy the turkey and most of the sides ready made and we choke down the meal and pretend to enjoy it. My mom and her mom, my beloved nanny, made the best turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, turnips and gravy in the world. It was always a day of cooking and eating and laughing. I’m not sure that I’m actually capable of cooking the whole meal and I know that the laughter is going to take years to return. Any advice or thoughts?
Heartbroken in Hoboken
I’m so sorry about your mama. I can feel from reading your note how painful it still is. Oh, what a void—especially considering your Thanksgivings were always so rich in love and laughter.
I might borrow from the advice I gave above, which is that you consider what your mom would want you to do. I can almost guarantee it would break her heart to see that your family’s Thanksgiving has become a sad day. And I’m certain she would tell you to continue celebrating Thanksgiving as you did when she was here.
Try to look at it this way: Your mom is still there with you on Thanksgiving. All of her love, laughter, traditions, recipes—they are woven into your whole experience. Continuing those things—not just the recipes, but the spirit that was present when she was present—is akin to bringing her along with you on every Thanksgiving from now on. It’s like allowing your mom to still be there.
I hope this makes sense. My love to you and yours.
Dear Pioneer Woman,
My in-laws are coming for the upcoming holiday weekend. I really wish my in-laws loved me, but I fear I will always be the girl that stole away their son (7 years ago). My father in law won’t even speak to me. This makes everything difficult but especially holidays where we have to choose between inviting them or my family. In my head, why would I invite people that don’t want to acknowledge my existence? I’d much rather have MY family here, whom I love and adore and I get that love and respect back! It’s always painful and awkward and stressful! Do you have any advice or wisdom to impart? I know you aren’t a miracle worker, but I’ll take all the help I can get!
Daughter-in-law in Distress
Dear Daughter-in-Law in Distress:
I’m so sorry about your relationship with your in-laws. That definitely puts a damper on things. I can see why you would dread a get-together with them and prefer to be with your own family.
What does your husband say about it? Does he disapprove of the way they treat you, or does he try to stay neutral and get along? Was there some huge argument or fight that resulted in this rift, or have they always treated you coldly? If it truly is just because (as you sense) you married their son, you just have to continually remind yourself that the problem lies with them rather than you. And while it’s probably tempting (and, yes, possibly advisable) to avoid being around them, as long as your husband wants to maintain a relationship with his parents, it’s probably a good idea to be as polite as you can on the occasional events where you are around them. If you don’t engage, take offense, or retaliate, at the very least it (hopefully) won’t get any worse (and who knows? Maybe things will someday get better.) Overall, I’d suggest communicating with your husband about it so you and he can be a united front and face this issue together.
And give thanks that you have a family of your own, where you can always be reminded that you are loved.
Dear Pioneer Woman:
Hi Ree! This is the deal: I am hosting a large Thanksgiving dinner at our farm for my family and my husband’s family. Although not a professional chef or baker, I am the “famous” pie maker of the family. Pies are both my pride and joy. My well-meaning sister-in-law has announced that she is bringing the pies for dessert this year. To make matters worse, she bought the pies in the freezer section of the grocery store. Oh no! I really don’t want to hurt her feelings, and know that she is probably thinking that she is saving me a lot of time and trouble. Do I just bite my tongue? Your perspective would be greatly appreciated!
The Pie Queen
Oh, no! I feel your pain. Okay, let me think. You definitely don’t want to diminish your sister-in-law’s sweet gesture. If she hadn’t already bought them, I might suggest that you just be honest and tell her you love making pies and would she mind if you went ahead and continued to reign in that department. But since she’s already bought them, you may just have to decide that you’re going to knock it out of the park on the rest of the Thanksgiving meal and let your pie prowess take a back seat to your sister-in-law relationship, which is important.
Idea: If she’s bringing storebought pies, how about making some luscious homemade accompaniments/adornments for the pies? For instance, whip up some Brandy Whipped Cream to go over the tops of apple, pumpkin, or pecan pie (assuming she’s bringing one or more of these varieties). Just whip cold heavy cream, a touch of brandy, and powdered sugar until stiff.
You could also make Hard Sauce, which should be declared an eighth deadly sin and is meant to be spooned over warm pies.
If you wanted to really go all out, you could make a batch of homemade vanilla ice cream or cinnamon ice cream, which would be stunning with any of these pies. That would still give you a chance to shine in the dessert department and would make the storebought pies much yummier!
Hope it all goes well for ya.
Dear Pioneer Woman:
I have never made gravy from scratch before (always use the little packets from the grocery store), and I’m scared to try it this year! Can you guide me? I saw some recipes that called for using the neck and giblets, but that is too gross to even consider!
Wanting to Learn
First, please reconsider your stance on neck and giblets. They are heaven. Sheer heaven. They make the gravy irresistible.
And, fortuitously, I just happened to post this step-by-step recipe for Giblet Gravy yesterday! It’ll tell you everything there is to know.
(And psst. If you are truly worried that using the neck and giblets will hurt your religion, you may leave them out. Just know that it will hurt my religion if you do.)
The Gravy Guru
Dear Pioneer Woman:
This isn’t really me asking for advice, it’s more a wish.
I wish that more people would open up their homes and hearts to military families during the holidays. My husband is currently deployed, he actually volunteered to deploy during the holidays to replace a member of his squad that recently had a baby and felt he should be home with his wife. I fully support my husband and all his decisions made, holidays or not.
Being alone during the holidays is awful for anyone, but my heart hurts for fellow military spouses with children this time of year. Sometimes, we concentrate so much on those members that are fighting we forget about their home support. For me the holidays are just another day till he returns, Thanksgiving, Christmas, and birthdays will be in April or May or whenever they decide to send him home. But, not every spouse feels this way. I donated a turkey to a military family and showed her how to cook it for her kids. A few other people will make food and host a small pot luck at her house on Thanksgiving day. I have purchased small gifts for childern of another family that will be wrapped and placed under their tree from Santa on Christmas.
I wish that more people would support those at home and those who have served and maybe don’t have homes or live in a VA facility.
I may be okay this holiday season, but so many spouses have difficulty and are in need of a little “care package” too.
It truly is about the small things this time of year.
I hope you and your family have a wonderful and safe holiday.
Dear Military Wife,
First, thank you and your family so much for your service and sacrifice.
Second, thank you so much for the reminder that servicemen and women and their families don’t always get to celebrate Thanksgiving like the rest of us do. I’ll do my part to keep that in mind this week.
Today is the last day of National Blog Posting Month and the NaBloPoMo challenge of blogging every single day this month has finally come to an end. Since today also happens to be my birthday, I decided to give myself a break and not worry about uploading photos, sharing recipes, or even talking much about food. I spent a relaxing day with my fiancé, opened some fun presents this evening, and had a nice home-cooked dinner with family. It really was a perfect end to a busy, stressful month and rather than feeling burned out, I’m charged up and ready for December. I have new recipe ideas to test and share, sourdough starter to play with, a stack of new cookbooks to try out and review, and some great products to give away. See you in December!