Thanksgiving Sanity-saving Cheatsheet

Posted: under Cooking with children, Family favorites, Homemade, Large family.
Tags:

Grubby pilgrim – 2007

Do you want to talk about an adrenaline rush?  How about realizing that Thanksgiving is in ten days and you have done NOTHING to prepare for it?  Nothing, I repeat, nothing, and you are expecting 36 guests and counting.  I say, “and counting”, because you really never know who all the college kids will bring home until they have packed up and are underway.  The more the merrier, and I mean that with all my heart.  It just takes some planning, whichI have only now begun.

My husband and I love to cook. We love to try new dishes and improve our favorites.  On Thanksgiving Day we have a great time getting our “cooking itch scratched”.  We almost always eat supper together as a family every day, but the time pressures of our daily life too often squeeze our cooking time, and the meals-of-choice become those that are lean, nutritious, easy to make, and quick to clean.

But on Thanksgiving Day, we get to savor not only the eating, but also the preparation of the food.  There is a joy to be experienced in the chop, chop, chopping of the ingredients alongside a child.  The aromas, the flavors, the little noses peeking over the counter seeking beaters to lick – I wouldn’t change a thing.

Thankfully, I do not have to recreate a Thanksgiving menu from scratch every year.  There is a little organization technique I figured out a few years ago that works wonders for our family.  If you can picture my husband, my daughter, and me, racing around the kitchen, cooking and stirring and roasting and whisking.  We were constantly misplacing our recipes and finding our favorite cookbooks smeared with mousse or gravy.  Then there was the whole challenge of timing the cooking.  Sometimes two ovens just didn’t seem like enough!

Checking the master menu.

As a coping strategy, I started photocopying or printing off the internet our planned Thanksgiving recipes.  Even recipes I know by heart I added to this pile, because I wanted to have a complete menu. I fastened all the recipes together. I made a list of my dishes on the front, then put the recipes in order.

 

Next, I made a cheatsheet of cooking times- what needs to bake at what temperature and for how long.  By charting this, I could visually see how to pair up dishes, and I could stick a post-it note reminder on the oven.   “Beef goes in at 12, mushrooms go in at 12:30.”  The master recipe menu also helps to plan for prepping.  “Exactly how many garlic cloves do I need to peel?  And how many cups of chopped onions?”  Having the recipes all together, even the ones memorized, helps to delegate tasks when you can not be two places at once.  “Finish up the casserole; I’m finishing the gravy.”

Many of our favorite Thanksgiving recipes come from Bon Appetit magazine and can be printed off of their online source, epicurious.com.  Often their recipes offer “Do Ahead” suggestions, saving time and sanity.

If it’s smeared with gravy, it’s got to be good.

When the meal is over and the dishes all washed, this collection of recipes becomes a memento of the year’s feast, and a reminder for next year’s planning.  Some recipes, such as Masa Cornbread Stuffing with Chiles, become family favorites.  Others, such as Popovers, will be passed over this year.  Popovers are easy and delicious, but are oven-hogs, requiring 40 minutes in the oven- and no peaking or sharing oven space!

2009

When all is said and done, there will be tons of food and piles of dirty dishes.  But also bellies filled with delicious food and hearts bursting with warm memories.  And that’s the best part.

 

 

 

Comments (0) Nov 13 2012

No Brainer Homemade Peanut Butter

Posted: under Family favorites, Homemade, Homemaking, Large family.
Tags: ,

Wholesome food for growing boys!

It was a memorable day.  My husband arrived at our home for lunch and I was assembling peanut butter sandwiches for our children.  I was three pounds down into a five pound container of Peter Pan peanut butter.  My husband walked in, saw what I was doing, and asked, “Are you trying to poison our children?”  What?!  “Haven’t you heard?  Peter Pan peanut butter has launched a massive recall for salmonella contamination!”  We whisked the container away to the office and pulled up the recall numbers on the computer.  Yep.  We had consumed most of a container of contaminated peanut butter.  Now we knew why, a week earlier, we all had , shall I say, “digestive distress”.

“We are not buying peanut butter anymore.  I want you to start making peanut butter again.”

Again.  That was the operative word.  I already knew how to make peanut butter.  When my husband was in medical school, I learned how to be a homemaker and how to make, basically, EVERYTHING from scratch.  I gardened extensively, made gallons and gallons of pickles, salsa, jams and jellies, ground wheat, baked all of our bread, bagels, pretzels, crackers, made yogurt and yogurt cheese, mayonnaise, you name it.  But my homemaking endeavors have been squeezed by the time pressures of homeschooling our rapidly expanding family.  Somethings I no longer have time to do.

But homemade peanut butter is a “no brainer”.  It requires little thought, little effort, and the reward is delicious peanut butter that actually TASTES like peanuts!

 

No Brainer Homemade Peanut Butter

1 food processor

1 large can of roasted cocktail peanuts  (avoid dry roasted, or else you will have to add oil)

Sugar or honey to taste

1.  Fit chopping blade into food processor.

2.  Fill 1/2 to 2/3 full with peanuts.

3.  Turn processor on, then cover your ears!  It will sound like a jet engine, or like teeth being sheared off of a gear.

4.  After 3 minutes, turn off the processor and let it cool for  a few minutes.

5.  Turn processor back on, and blend to desired consistency.

6.  Add sugar to taste.  For a 52 oz. can of peanuts, I use about 4 teaspoons.  I actually think it doesn’t require sugar, but adding sugar increased that “stick to the roof of your mouth” quality that my children prefer.

As you grind up the peanuts, the transformation is fascinating.  Big nuts become small chunks, which fracture into peanut dust.  Then, beginning at the bottom of the food processor, the dust seams to liquify.  There is a moment when you fear the contents will never blend, but then the friction of the chunks with the liquid causes this wave of peanut-butter-yumminess to blend the contents into peanut butter perfection.  It is hard to explain, but you will know it when you see it.  The point is this:  don’t give up when all the “butter” is on the bottom and the “chunks” are on the top.  Give the machine a rest, then let it finish the work.

I store the peanut butter in a plastic container in the refrigerator.  It improves the texture.  I do not worry about refrigerating it when I travel.  I have never had peanut butter turn rancid and I have never had the oil rise to the top (like you see with store-bought, fresh-ground peanut butter).

The salmonella/peanut butter contamination was five years ago.  I have been making homemade peanut butter ever since.  Once my family transitioned to fresh made, they grew to dislike the flavor of manufactured peanut butter, which is little more than peanut-flavored shortening.

Now isn’t that easy?

 

Comments (4) Nov 01 2012