Archive for » November, 2010 «

More Thanksgiving – Cranberry-Lime Salsa

One more bonus recipe for you – and it’s one of my favorites. Hubby makes it nearly every year and it’s perfect on the turkey, or on leftover turkey sandwiches. Cranberries with just a hint of heat. Divine. Yes, it has salsa in the title. And yes, we found it originally in a California cookbook, of course. It’s worth trying and super-easy to make. And when you take the seeds out of the pepper, it’s not that hot. Leave the seeds in if you want some extra heat. Try this and you’ll never go back to canned cranberry jelly.

Cranberry-Lime Salsa

12 oz. bag fresh cranberries
1/2 c. sugar
1/3 c. lime juice
1/4 c. chopped cilantro
3 scallions (green onions), chopped finely
1 jalapeño, seeded & minced
2 garlic cloves, minced
salt & pepper to taste

1. Take a medium saucepan and add your cranberries and some cold water – enough to cover. Bring it to a boil & cook for a couple of minutes — just until the cranberries begin to pop. Drain.

2. Grab a large bowl and combine the lime juice and sugar. Stir until the sugar dissolves. Then stir in the cranberries and the rest of your ingredients. Season with salt & pepper to taste. Flavor is best when you let it stand at least 30 minutes before serving. Better yet, make it the night before and put it in the fridge to let the flavors meld even more. You can serve it cool or room temp – depends on your preference.

A stress-free Thanksgiving

Maybe Thanksgiving can’t be totally stress-free if you’re cooking for a large group, or even just your family. But you can take steps to reduce your stress. Choose simple side dishes that are flavorful, but not time-intensive. Use a crockpot. Or two. Or even have your guests bring several sides while you concentrate on the turkey and gravy.

Last year, I made dinner for us, the daughter and her boyfriend, and the bro- and sis-in-law. That’s not a large group for most people, but it’s about the max we can fit in our small place. And with a small kitchen, large meals aren’t easy. But it can be done.

The rolls I love to make (Pioneer Woman’s No Knead Dinner Rolls) can be started a day or two ahead of time and stored in the fridge. My candied sweet potatoes can be partially done the day before and refrigerated until you’re ready to pop them in the oven. And you can cook your dressing and green bean casserole in crock pots. Just get things ready early, pop them in the crockpot, and you’ve got two side dishes with minimal fuss.

Speaking of dressing, my mom usually makes hers from scratch using stale bread and homemade cornbread. It’s really good. And I need to learn how to make it. But to shorten things, I use a box of stuffing. Yes, I do. But to make it more my own, I sauté an onion and some celery and add it to the mix. I also add dried sage (I really like a lot of sage in my dressing). Add those things, and use chicken broth for your liquid and it’ll taste just as good as homemade!

Here are a couple of recipes for some tasty side dishes that aren’t too hard to make. I really like the carrots, while the entire family just LOVES the sweet potatoes. I believe I originally found these recipes in my Better Homes and Gardens CookBook. I have a newer edition (the pink plaid one), but I actually prefer the recipes in the much older edition my mom gave me. I need to put it in another binder, though, as it’s falling apart. There are some seriously good recipes in there (the cinnamon rolls are amazing) and it’s a great reference. I’m constantly looking up cook times for meat and veggies – it has several references based on the type of cooking you’ll be doing.

On to the recipes!

Candied Sweet Potatoes

4 med sweet potatoes (~2 lbs)
1/4 c. packed brown sugar
3 Tbsp butter, melted
1/2 c tiny marshmallows
(you could also use chopped nuts, but we all prefer the marshmallows – it really makes the dish, trust me)

1. Peel your sweet potatoes and then cut into 1 1/2″ chunks. Cook them in just enough boiling water to cover until tender – about 10-12 mins or so. Drain. (You just barely want them tender, or they’ll overcook later.)

2. Transfer to 2-qt baking dish. Add melted butter & brown sugar, stir to combine.

** Now, you can stop here if you’re doing prep the day before. Just cover and chill up to 24 hours. When you’re ready to start again, uncover and bake as directed in step 3. Don’t forget to let it come to room temp before putting it in the oven. Cold dish + hot oven = broken dish & a big mess. **

3. Bake at 375 degrees for 30-35 mins or until potatoes are glazed, stirring gently twice during baking. Then sprinkle on the marshmallows and bake an additional 5 mins more.

Brown Sugar-Glazed Carrots

1 lb. med carrots peeled (baby carrots will also work just fine)
1 Tbsp butter
1 Tbsp brown sugar
Salt & Pepper to taste

1. Cut carrots in half, cross- and length-wise.

2. In med. saucepan, cook carrots covered in a small amount of boiling salted water for approx. 8-10 mins or until crisp-tender. Drain and remove from pan. (You definitely want the carrots on the crisp side so they don’t get mushy.)

3. In same pan, combine butter, brown sugar, and salt (a dash). Cook and stir over medium heat until combined, then add carrots. Cook uncovered, about 2 mins, until glazed. Stir frequently. Then season to taste w/black pepper.

There you go – a couple of my Thanksgiving standbys. If you want the green bean casserole recipe, it’s always on the side of the french-fried onions can. And yes, I do make it every year. Total comfort food for us.

What’s YOUR favorite side dish for Thanksgiving?  

Comment replies – quick question

So, one really quick question for you all. I tend to reply to comments here on the site so others can see them, too, rather than replying via email. (Although sometimes I’ll copy the response into an email as well.)

What’s your preference – a reply here, or directly to you via email? Do you care?

The home stretch

Today marked my last doctor’s appointment before the baby arrives. Last ultrasound at the office. Last trek to be poked and prodded. Finally.

And by this time next week, we’ll have a wee little one to hold and love and lose sleep over. I am so very ready. In fact, we finally found the car seat. The clothes are ready. I just need to pack my hospital bag. Finish cleaning said car seat. Do a little more cleaning.

Most of my work projects are finishing up. I’m starting to hope I’ll go into labor early, but only AFTER I finish this last project. So I guess I’d better get on that, huh. So just that one to finish and then I’m off of work for a few weeks. Not entirely sure how long. Probably about three or four. Six at the most. I’ll be back at work most definitely after the beginning of the year.

It won’t be long before we head out to see family for the holidays. I’m really looking forward to that part. We have so much going on that it’ll be nice to just relax, bask in our new addition, and enjoy time with the grandparents. I know they’re going to have so much fun with both kids. Especially the older one – he’s such a funny little guy that I know my dad is going to have a blast with him. He’s so precious. Last night, hubby was getting him to say “mommy” instead of his usual “mama” and it was the most beautiful sound to my ears.

I think he’s on the verge of being willing to make more sounds, especially as we try to work on getting him to repeat things. I bet my dad will try to get him to talk as well. We’re stubborn like that.

So that’s where we are. Full of anticipation. Waiting it out. Looking forward to a new chapter — except for the lack of sleep part. I mean, really. Who looks forward to that? EVER?

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Good intentions

America's Test Kitchen Light & Healthy 2010 Light & Healthy 2010 from America’s Test Kitchen

I originally bought this book for the low-fat recipes. After a severe gallbladder attack, my doctor told me to cut down on fatty foods. I thought these recipes would be perfect, given how much we love America’s Test Kitchen. And the recipes are really good and I want to try a bunch of them.


I’m also currently pregnant and have gestational diabetes, which means I also have to avoid sugar. It’s quite hard to find low-sugar recipes in this book. I’m not just talking about added sugar either. High carbs. Lots of fruit. Those all contribute to higher blood sugar for a diabetic and there are a LOT of those types of recipes in here. So even though I anticipated great things, I haven’t really used the cookbook that much. I certainly will after the baby’s born and some of my dietary restrictions are removed.

What I’d really like to see, though, are more diabetic-friendly recipes. It doesn’t need to take up the entire book, but how about a few thrown in here and there? Or a section just for low-sugar recipes? My ideal cookbook would contain low-fat, low-carb recipes with alternatives to fruit and sugar. Some fruit is fine, but dishes that rely heavily on it just won’t work.

If you want low-fat, I think you’ll like this cookbook. I’ll be cooking more from it very soon. But if you’re diabetic AND looking for low-fat recipes, you might want to take a really close look at the recipes before buying. Or stick with a diabetic-friendly cookbook. Maybe America’s Test Kitchen will come out with that next?

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Climb every mountain

Today we finally got something off of the to do list. LAUNDRY. I’ve been complaining for weeks that we have a mountain of laundry to do. And that I really wanted to get it done before the baby gets here. Because once the baby arrives, we won’t have time to do it and there’s nothing worse than coming back from a trip and having a ton of chores staring you in the face.

So we took the morning, went to a big laundromat (found on Yelp & it was perfect for our needs), …. and spent about $40. Give or take. BUT, they had huge washers. Seven-load washers, in fact. (However, I never get how they figure that, because I’m pretty sure it’s not seven loads of a top-loader machine.) And five-load washers. And so on. And? Over 30 dryers. Of which we used FOURTEEN. I kid you not. Of course, we split up some of the wash loads to have things dry quicker.

Our laundry filled up the back of the Odyssey. No joke. FIVE Ikea bags crammed full, plus several trash bags. But by going to the laundromat, we got it done in less than three hours. And the boy was entertained almost the entire time. Bonus!

It is such a relief to have all that done. Now, we need to get the mountain of dishes done in the next eight days. It could go either way.

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I miss (my) Art

Journal of Interest - more inspiration

So it’s been weeks, maybe even a month or more since I’ve done anything with my art journals. I don’t have a dedicated space for making art, so each time I have pull everything out and put it back when I’m done. And to keep my son out of things, it has to be done after he goes to bed. And recently I’ve been working after he goes to bed, so no art time for me.

I miss it.

I read artsy blogs, especially by those who do art journals. I see cool things I want to try. I feel inspired. Yet I don’t do anything about it. I have a feeling it’ll be that way for at least the next six months or more. It is what it is.

That’s something that will still be waiting on me when I get back to it. It is patient. No judgment. No rules. And I actually look forward to getting back to it at some point. And maybe someday having an office / studio where I can leave things more accessible. Very high up on shelves, of course, but easier for me to use when inspiration strikes.

That’s such a lovely thought.

Phoning it in

Literally, as I use WP on my Droid.

About 3 am, in the midst of insomnia, I realized something about myself. I’m way more of a pessimist than I ever realized. The last 48 hours have opened up a new world of possibilities for us, and I’m busy worrying about how things could go wrong. Hence the insomnia.

But now that I see how it’s crippling me, it’s time to change that. I can’t control everything. Never could. I need to let go just a little more.

I’m working on it.

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My son, the comedian

Our boy is trying to assert his independence. He’ll turn 3 in about 10 days, so it’s no surprise. He loves to have choices, so we offer him one thing or the other and let him decide. But sometimes he’s pretty insistent that he wants something even when we say no.

Especially when it comes to Go-Gurt. I don’t know if I should be happy we introduced this into our household or not. The kid really loves it. So I let him have one or two each day. But he’s constantly asking for more. And since he can open the fridge, he goes and gets one and presents it to me for approval. In fact, a few days ago he came to me, smiled the sweetest little smile, rubbed noses with me, and then produced a Go-Gurt from behind his back.

He’s a smart one, already learning how to work mama over.

Yesterday was a battle of wills. Every five minutes he was asking for a yogurt, then crying when we said no. It had been that way all day – the whining and battling. We were all getting exhausted from it. Daddy sternly told him enough was enough, and the boy came over to me, whining and putting his head in my lap. Daddy then told him he’d better turn that frown upside down and put a smile on his face. Again, sternly. The instant the word “smile” came out of hubby’s mouth, my son put on the biggest, cheesiest grin you’ve ever seen. It was immediate. I looked at him, then looked at my husband, trying hard to stifle a laugh.

Hubby’s face was turning red as he tried not to laugh. It took only seconds before we cracked up. Things went from super-serious, you-need-to-stop-whining-child to full-on tears running down our cheeks. I have never seen that child change his demeanor so quickly. It really was hilarious. By the time we finished laughing, everyone was in a better mood. And our sides were hurting. A lot.

Do you know how painful it is to make a 9-months-pregnant woman belly laugh?

Totally worth it.

A funny thing happened…

tonight, but I’m running out of time and can’t tell the whole story yet. I know. I suck, huh? But I have to tell the whole thing. Let’s just say we have one funny kid.

Only one doctor appointment to go. Today’s was good. Fluid levels good. Baby heart rate good. We’re just waiting. Only 12 more days. Yikes! Guess we’d better get on that laundry so our guests don’t die when the pile topples onto them. It could happen. I’m embarrassed to have anyone over at this point. Truly.

By the way, don’t ever try to go to a coffee shop to get some work done on Veteran’s Day. Everyone else who normally works is there, too, just taking up space. Go home, people!

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