Thanksgiving Trio

Mmmmm. Thanksgiving. I love spending the day with my family and have figured out that cooking a little bit each day leading up to Thursday gives me plenty of time out of the kitchen on the actual holiday.

We’re not hosting Thanksgiving this year but are taking along the sides and desserts so I’ve been cooking up a storm the past couple of days.

When we have Thanksgiving at home, I typically make just one dessert (which is plenty for the five of us) but thought we needed more for a larger gathering — hence three different yummies. The pie* and bundt cake recipes both came from Southern Living, one of my favorite magazines. The ganache-covered cake is from a Cooking Light recipe (another of my fave reads). They just look so tasty and it’s been hard not to take a nibble! But I’d rather not show up with a chunk missing from something, so they’ve managed to remain intact.

Wishing you and yours a very happy Thanksgiving!

* I did not have bourbon on hand so I substituted Southern Comfort. And I used chocolate chunks instead of morsels.

25. Having all my kids home for the holiday.

Gobble Gobble

Our Thanksgiving this year will be one unlike any other my daughter has experienced in her short life.

I’m cooking.

Now, for most of my adult life, I’ve cooked and served Thanksgiving dinner for our family. There were a few years pre-kids and after the boys were born that we had dinner at this or that grandparent’s home but those mostly ended after we moved to Florida 12-plus years ago.

I love making big dinners, even if it’s just for the four (now five) of us. During our law school years, we’d invite other students who wouldn’t be traveling for the holiday. It was so much fun and we have a lot of great memories from those occasions.

That all changed when Miss L arrived on the scene a month before Thanksgiving 2004. Honey knew I’d have my hands full with caring for a newborn and he didn’t want me to overdo it just weeks after having my third C-section. He insisted we eat Thanksgiving dinner out. At a restaurant.

And it was wonderful. A full buffet of goodies, no dishes to clean, no hot pans to juggle, no leftovers to tempt me into overeating for days after. We enjoyed it so much, in fact, that we decided it would be a new family tradition — which would be continuing this year had the restaurant we’d agreed was perfect not turned into a special events facility. sigh

Not that it would have mattered this year, since we made plans to spend Thanksgiving with my folks at their home in South Carolina. Only … their plans changed because of my stepmom’s health and we found ourselves struggling to find a replacement dinner spot. It took a little work, but I convinced Honey that it would be no big deal for me to cook dinner this year. I had to promise that I wouldn’t go overboard, so no appetizers and only two desserts (and one of those is — gasp! — Sara Lee). Oh, and I have to make his favorite green bean casserole (I won’t tell you what I call it but it includes the word ‘slimy’).

Best of all, I have an excuse to make Aunt Marlene’s famous Sweet Potato Casserole. I’m not exaggerating when I say that my family cookbook opens to that page. It’s as much a part of Thanksgiving as turkey and dressing (and I make it every year around this time, along with a pan of Granny’s dressing because it’s just not November without them both). Try it; you’ll be just as addicted as the five of us.

Aunt Marlene’s Sweet Potato Casserole
1/3 cup milk
1 cup sugar
3 cups cooked mashed sweet potatoes
1 tsp. vanilla
1/2 cup margarine
2 eggs, beaten
Mix all ingredients and pour into a 9″x12″ baking dish. Then mix ingredients for topping and put on top of casserole. Bake 25 minutes at 350 degrees.
1 cup brown sugar, packed (I like dark brown sugar but that’s my personal preference)
1 cup chopped pecans
1/2 stick butter or margarine, melted
1/2 cup flour
Mix flour and sugar. Spread over potato mixture. Sprinkle pecans over flour and sugar mixture. Pour melted butter or margarine over all.

Thankful: My seam ripper. Grrrr.

Memory Lane

My high school senior brought home the paperwork last week for putting a baby picture in his yearbook. No way was I going to miss that chance, especially since he’s gone from being this chunk of baby cuteness to a 6’1″ string bean.

Among the pictures I dug out was this one. Both boys on the first day of school, 1996. My oldest was starting kindergarten; his little brother was 3 and going to preschool at the same private school in Florida. It’s hard to believe they are the same giant teenagers I live with today. Or that it’s been 12 years since that picture was taken. Really, it doesn’t feel like that long ago.

Speaking of long ago …

On the left is me, Easter 1972, around 18 months of age. The other photo was taken about a year later. I’m quite the fan of that deer-in-the-headlights expression on the right. I was actually trying to find pictures of me in mama-made clothes to scan in (still looking, BTW) but got a kick out of these and scanned them in for posterity.

Remember my ode to my mom’s meatballs? Imagine my surprise to find this photo of her in action. I’m going to have to ask my dad if he knows when it was taken, since I’m not sure of the date and I don’t recognize the house at all (but not surprising since we moved around a little bit, thanks to the Army). I really don’t remember having seen this picture before, so to find it now, so close to the time of my reminiscing, just makes me happy. And a little teary.

What’s Cookin’

I love to cook. Always have. Somewhere in storage, there’s a picture of me — no more than nine years old — with a bowl and sign proclaiming “Mary’s Famous Tuna Salad.” Didn’t know I was so modest, did you? ha ha ha ha!

Before I forget … the disaster cake came, in part, from a wonderful, wonderful book called The Whimsical Bakehouse. I have all three of their books and find them to be just wonderful. If I ever get a chance to type up the recipes, I’d be happy to share them but I can’t even guess when that might happen. Anyway. You can see one of my first TWB creations here, if you’re interested.

My family loves desserts and loves breakfast. Beyond that, it’s sometimes impossible to get everyone to agree on the same meal. There are maybe two vegetables everyone eats. Honey doesn’t care for the combination of meat and anything sweet. My oldest likes pretty much nothing. It certainly makes cooking a less pleasant task, since inevitably someone’s going to be unhappy with what’s put before him/her.

I think that’s what has made tonight’s dinner one of my favorites. Everyone likes it. So much so that we rarely have leftovers, even when I double the recipe. It’s from the April 2008 issue of Cooking Light magazine. Gnocchi with Chicken Sausage, Bell Pepper and Fennel. Kind of surprising that I like it, since I’m not a fan of licorice. And I’m really the only one who eats the pepper. It’s become a regular on our table and I’m hoping no one gets burned out on it, since it’s also fast to prepare. I do omit the parsley and use a chicken-and-apple sausage carried by my local grocery store. On occasion, I use whole wheat gnocchi instead. I can’t tell much of a difference in the flavor, although the boys do — but they still like it. I think you will, too.

Gnocchi with Chicken Sausage, Bell Pepper and Fennel

1 (16-ounce) package vacuum-packed gnocchi (such as Vigo)
2 teaspoons olive oil, divided
6 ounces basil, pine nut, and chicken sausage (such as Gerhard’s), casing removed and sliced
1 cup thinly sliced fennel
1 cup thinly sliced red bell pepper
1 cup thinly sliced onion
1/2 cup (2 ounces) freshly grated Asiago cheese
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

1. Cook the gnocchi according to package directions, omitting salt and fat. Drain the gnocchi in a colander over a bowl, reserving 1/4 cup cooking liquid. Keep gnocchi warm.2. Heat 1 teaspoon olive oil in large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add sausage to pan; sauté 3 minutes or until lightly browned, stirring frequently. Remove sausage from skillet using a slotted spoon.

3. Heat remaining 1 teaspoon oil in pan. Add fennel, bell pepper, and onion to pan; cook 13 minutes or until tender, stirring occasionally. Add sausage, gnocchi, cheese, black pepper, and reserved cooking liquid to pan; cook 1 minute or until cheese melts, stirring constantly. Remove from heat; stir in parsley.

Yield: 4 servings (serving size: 1 1/2 cups)

Party Sweets

Here’s the little cupcake dress I finished the other night. OK, mostly finished — it still needs buttons and buttonholes (any suggestions for button color?) but otherwise is done. Oh, wait. I need to rip out the hem and redo it. See how wonky it looks? It’s not just the picture. The hem really is that wonky. That’s what I get for sewing so late.

The dress is a pattern I picked up at the Expo (I can look it up if someone is that interested). Cupcakes are again from Sublime Stitching; I’m really enjoying that book and just embroidery in general. I have lots of ideas for other projects. For the record, I’m still plugging away on my crocheted scarf. I’m determined to have one wearable object, even if it takes a while. The experience has convinced me that I’ll need to sign up for knitting and smocking classes if I want to actually make something I’m willing to show off.

I think this dress will be perfect for all those special events and parties we’ll be hitting when the weather warms up. For now, it’ll be virtual party wear for …

Ultimate Blog Party 2008The Ultimate Blog Party! I’m joining the fun at 5 Minutes for Mom and taking part in this year’s global blog event. I even put up a nice glittery banner just for the party! The Blog Party is a great way to find other cool blogs and also win some pretty nifty prizes. I’ve already found quite a few great reads to add to my Bloglines, plus “run into” a couple of friends whose blogs I already read.

For those who are stopping by for the first time, I’m Mary, the self-professed craft addict. My blog is about a year old and documents my many adventures in crafting — some more successful than others. When I’m not crafting, I’m hanging out with my three kids or spending time with my very cute and tolerant husband (aka Honey).

What’s a party without food? Gotta feed my guests so I’m going to share one of my favorite recipes. It’s actually what I made for dinner last night! I found the recipe for Spicy Chicken Cakes with Horseradish Aioli in Cooking Light magazine last year and it was an instant hit with the fam. That’s no small feat around here, since there are five very picky eaters in this house. I have made a few modifications to the recipe, namely using Ian’s wheat panko breadcrumbs instead of making my own. I also use packaged ground turkey breast instead of grinding my own chicken. Martha Stewart can do everything from scratch if she wants. I have three kids, a husband who works too much and no interest in doing every little thing. We also like our aioli a little hotter, so I add a lot more horseradish. Enjoy!