Friday, November 29, 2013

Thanksgiving at Our House

Thanksgiving prep day two was filled with baking. My little chefs and I made 48 mini pies (pumpkin and apple) and then a small apple pie. I also prepped everything for the stuffing. While the baby was asleep my son and I took a timeout from Thanksgiving to go outside and do some serious sled riding. Well maybe not serious sled riding, we don't live on a mountain top and thank goodness because after mom releases the sled, she follows down the little hill to pull the sled back up. Not much work at all but he had a lot of fun seeing how far he could sled through the yard. I also forgot to mention that I had planned on doing the pies by myself but my son's preschool was cancelled so having him help me took a little longer than expected. 

The pies looked pretty great, although some of the crusts on the pumpkin ones got a little too brown for my liking but I wasn't going to try any until Thanksgiving dinner. This was a mistake - although, even knowing what I know now, I wouldn't have remade the pies because there just wasn't enough time. 

Okay, so on Wednesday night I had my game plan for Thursday morning which consisted of recipes, drop dead times that stuff had to be started or I'd be in trouble, the nursing and sleep schedule for the baby, and the table and chair layouts. 

Thursday morning rolled around and everything was going pretty good. I had the turkeys cleaned, seasoned, bagged, and put into the roasters. Everything seemed to be under control with the tables and chairs so I decided to go shower and get ready before I really started cooking. WELL…when I came down into the kitchen and checked the turkeys to make sure everything was going good - HA - I blew the breakers - the turkeys had not cooked for the 45 minutes I had assumed they were. Yep, a little freak out, Thanksgiving with no turkey, so I needed to get back on track. Oh my! Luckily everything else went smoothly. I was rushing and moving around the kitchen but when I say let's eat at 12:30 p.m. I want to eat at 12:30 p.m. Also a special thanks to my husband for helping as much as he did - a ton! 

I'd like to share some of the recipes that were a hit and tell you what was a miss!

Buttermilk Mashed Potatoes with Cheddar - new recipe
Macaroni and Cheese - new recipe
Green Beans 
Small Apple Pie - traditional pie

Mini Pumpkin & Apple Pies

A short few notes on the misses. The mini pies looked so cute and fun but the taste just wasn't the same as a piece of a full pie. I enjoy my pie dough crust with a bunch of sliced apples inside, the heat and steam staying in the pie while it cooks. When I made the mini apple pies, I used a recipe I found on Pinterest and it just wasn't what I thought it would be. They weren't bad but next year will be full apple pies. Now for the pumpkin pies, they were bad. Not only did I get them darker than I wanted, they were dry, there wasn't enough pumpkin in each cup and I have a pumpkin pie cake recipe that is so much better, thanks to my aunt for that one. The stuffing, well I purchased store bought bread crumbs and followed their recipe - nope, not next year. 

Okay so I want to share with you the the recipes for the best mashed potatoes, pretty good macaroni and cheese, and fantastic green beans. 


Buttermilk Mashed Potatoes with Cheddar - from the Food Network
2 pounds whole Yukon gold or red potatoes
Kosher salt
1 stick softened butter or 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 cup buttermilk
Freshly ground pepper
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
2 tablespoons chopped fresh dill
2 tablespoons chopped fresh chives
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese

Put the potatoes in a saucepan; cover with cold water and add 2 tablespoons kosher salt. Bring to a simmer over medium-low to medium heat and cook, uncovered, until tender, about 45 minutes. Drain the potatoes and let sit until just cool enough to handle, then peel and transfer to a bowl.

Add the butter to the potatoes. Add the buttermilk, 2 teaspoons kosher salt, and pepper to taste; mash with a potato masher or fork.

Stir the parsley, dill and chives into the potatoes. Fold in the cheddar. Spoon the mashed potatoes into a serving dish.


Baked Macaroni and Cheese - from All Recipes - but slightly changed for our tastes
1 box spiral pasta
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup butter, softened - divided
1 cup sour cream
1 tablespoon cream cheese, softened
1 (8 ounce) package shredded sharp Cheddar cheese
1 egg yolk
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper
1 cup milk
1 (8 ounce) package shredded mild Cheddar cheese

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Cook pasta in the boiling water, stirring occasionally until firm to the bite, about 7 minutes. Drain and transfer to a large bowl. Sprinkle macaroni with 1/2 teaspoon salt and stir 1/2 cup butter into the pasta.
Mix 1/4 cup butter, sour cream, cream cheese, sharp Cheddar cheese, and egg yolk together in a bowl. Stir flour, 1/2 teaspoon salt, cayenne pepper, and milk into the sour cream mixture.
Stir sour cream sauce into pasta and pour into baking dish, sprinkle mild Cheddar cheese over the top.
Bake in the preheated oven until heated through and cheese topping has melted, about 15 minutes.


Green Beans
3 pint size bags of frozen green beans from our garden
5 cloves of fresh minced garlic
2 tablespoons of butter
2 teaspoons of cayenne pepper

In a large skillet heat all ingredients until beans are cooked through, tossing occasionally. 


Overall, everything was great and I enjoyed spending time with family, especially seeing my son have so much fun with his cousins. 

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Let it Begin - Thanksgiving Prep Day 1

Anyone that hosts Thanksgiving dinner or lunch knows you start prepping well before this week with inviting family and friends, buying groceries, getting tables and chairs, and etc. but today I really start. Yesterday my son had his Thanksgiving feast at school, so over the weekend I made and shredded the turkey for about 60 preschoolers. I can tell you that without a doubt that was the easiest turkey I've ever made and probably the juiciest. I actually did it in one of the turkey cooking bags, not only did it turn out better than ever, it was so simple. My plans for Thursday have now changed and I will now be making both turkeys in bags without stuffing them.

Not happy she wasn't
 being held. 
Anyway, back to today…I teased my son by putting on a starch white apron (forgot I even had until I was pulling out roasters from the garage) and telling him he could help but he would need to say "yes, chef" when I asked him to do anything. He laughed and laughed and told me that I'm not a chef, I don't have a job so he doesn't have to call me that, then the laughing continued.

Each year it's been a tradition for him to help with the cranberry sauce and now that he's five he can do much more with me just supervising. When I started having Thanksgiving at our house, I wanted him to be able to help, cranberry sauce was one of the easier things to do and he gets to tell everyone that he made it!


Cranberry Sauce
1 pkg. cranberries (not frozen)
2 McIntosh apples
1 1/2 c. sugar
3/4 c. water
3/4 c. apple juice

Rinse cranberries (remove any with blemishes)

Peel, core, and dice apples. (When my son was younger, he used a butter knife to cut apples.)

In a saucepan, bring sugar, water, and apple juice to a boil. Add the berries and apples. Stir continuously for about 10 minutes or until berries start to pop. (Little kids love hearing the pops.)

Cover and place in refrigerator. Serve cold.


I also made the pie dough today so it had plenty of time to chill and also because I want to do as much ahead of time as possible. My plan is to make mini pumpkin pies and mini apple pies.


Simple Pie Dough
2 1/2 c. Crisco shortening
1 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. salt
2 c. milk
6 - 8 c. flour

Mix shortening, baking soda, salt, and milk. Then add enough flour to make a stiff dough. Roll out or chill. (Makes about 7 crusts.)


Oh and I forgot to mention, another special bonus with using the bags for the turkeys, I can use both of my roasters and my oven can be used all of Thursday morning for stuffing, pasta spirals and cheese, and keeping anything and everything warm - especially the buttermilk mashed potatoes with mixed herbs and cheddar. Yes, it's a new recipe, and yes, it's probably not always the best idea to try new recipes for 25 people but I'm doing it anyway. My house, my craziness. :)

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Quick 5 for a Better Day with Kiddos

Undoubtably if you are a parent you've had a day when you feel like the kids are playing a game of ganging up on you and you are losing. And not just losing a little bit, losing horribly. No matter what you do they won't stop whining, screaming, being mouthy, or whatever it is that pushes your buttons. Kids can be masters at knowing just the right button to push, but before you throw in the towel, here are 5 quick tips to help you through your day.

1. Breathe 
I know it sounds so simple but breathe...without huffing. Breath deep and slow to calm yourself.

2. Be Patient
Remember they think like kids, they act like kids, because they are kids.

3. Laugh
Do something silly, make a funny face, tell a joke, laugh with them. Or better yet, let them laugh at you.

4. Be Kind
As adults we develop thick skin, but little ones don't. Be conscious of your tone of voice, sometimes it's not what you say but how you say it.

5. Hugs
Hug your kids! This is a favorite for me, who doesn't love giving or receiving a hug from your little ones?

Monday, November 18, 2013

First vs Second

Today I saw the newest Luvs commercial, well maybe it's not new, but it's the first time I've seen it - the one that shows a mom having a young girl use hand sanitizer before she holds the first baby and by the second child she's handing over the baby to the auto mechanic. It's a cute commercial to advertise the diapers but it really hit home for me, not the diapers message, but how much more relaxed I am with my second. I still can't imagine myself handing over the baby to my auto mechanic but I'm not as obsessive about cleanliness with the second. And I'm sure any family reading this is saying thank goodness. 

With my son I was so worried about everything! When he was a tiny infant I had read that back in the day mothers didn't take their babies outside into the world until they were baptized (around 3 months old). I thought that's a great idea, I don't want him catching a cold, other people touching him, or what if he fusses or screams and people stare. 

My baby girl, well she's been out and about. She attended her brother's baseball game around 2 weeks old. Don't get me wrong, I don't want her catching a cold and I still cringe when someone wants to look at her at the grocery store because in my mind, I'm repeating…please don't touch her, please don't touch her. But I no longer insist on people washing their hands and if family or friends want to hold her I don't feel that apprehension that I had with my son. 

When I sit down to think about how much more relaxed I feel with my daughter, I can say I'm surprised I didn't give myself an ulcer with my son. I'm not a naturally calm, relaxed person and outsiders may not see me as calm but trust me, you should have known me five years ago. 

Our little girl is a screamer compared to our son, and while no mom wants her child to meltdown in public I don't sweat through my clothes nearly as much. I don't have anxiety about her screaming during church beginning on Thursday or worrying if I can get through the grocery store before she wakes up. 

I do hope being more relaxed with the second helps me to relax more now with my son. He needs to have the benefit too, after almost five years, he deserves it. :) 

Now the bigger question...for those of you that have more than two children, do you get even better with remaining calm?

Monday, November 4, 2013

Out to Eat with a Baby?

Do you fall into the category of definitely leave the baby at home or don't go out to eat OR of course the baby is going out to eat and if they cry, well they cry? Or maybe you fall somewhere in-between depending on the situation.

I'll never forget the first time we took our son out to eat and he screamed uncontrollably in a very nice restaurant, and while it was five years ago, I'll never ever forget it. We left with boxed food.

Last weekend my husband wanted to go out to dinner and he wanted me to pick the place but gave his opinion first, which was great with me as long as the baby seemed to cooperate. It's family friendly but it's a nicer than a kid-friendly place. I planned on nursing right before we left so she would be fed, changed, and comfortable - hopefully sleeping through our meal. 

Things don't always go as planned. I nursed her, changed her diaper, and was hoping on the short ride to town she'd fall asleep. No such luck but she was calm and playing with toys. We walked into the restaurant and asked for a both to slide her into - we only waited like five minutes for a table, in part because we decided we'd do a 5:00 p.m. dinner, a little early for a Saturday night but we'd miss the crowd. The baby started to fuss with her toy and kick her feet like she was upset so I looked to my husband and said "this may not work." 

I don't like my children to cry/scream at a restaurant (well at all, but babies will be babies) because I don't want someone else's dinner ruined because of me or my kids. Now if it's someone else's children, I don't mind. I look at it like things happen, babies cry, the parents want to eat out and they don't have a choice but to bring their child. They won't ruin my time and actually, it would bother the mom and dad much more than me, I've been there and I understand. 

Anyway, the host took us to our table and the car seat wouldn't fit in the booth so we placed her on the back part of the table and pulled the shade hoping she'd fall asleep. As you can imagine, she didn't. She started to cry a little louder, not a meltdown but crying harder. Of course we were trying to entertain her with toys, cover her with a blanket, take the blanket off, shush her, rock the seat, all those things you try to do. I said we should probably just go and forget it but my husband wanted to wait and see, he thought she'd calm down. We ordered and she stopped, maybe we could do this. 

The waitress was phenomenal and brought our salads right away but the baby started to cry again, the table behind my husband wasn't happy with us. The woman in her booth seat thrust herself against the back of the seat to push at my husband, then turned around and gave me horrible looks. Well that's all it took for me to really get upset. I stood with the seat and swayed her hoping I could get her to fall asleep while my husband tried to eat his salad and wait for our waitress to ask her to just box our dinners. Because the woman kept turning to look at me and my husband with hatefulness I was becoming more upset and when my husband stood to switch me so I could eat my salad, I was too worked up to eat. With tears in my eyes I said I'd walk to the vehicle and wait for him to come out. The waitress and host came back to say it was okay and we should stay, but I couldn't. They even told my husband that if the baby stopped we could come back in and they'd re-plate our food. (So very nice.) 

When my husband stood to leave the woman gave him a mean look and huffed at him several times so he acknowledged her by asking if she had a problem, what was her problem, and then mentioned something about "like she never had kids or heard kids cry." He was upset because he knew I was in tears so I can't imagine his tone was pleasant. She turned her head and refused to acknowledge my husband spoke to her at all. 

Please keep in mind that I was in the vehicle at 5:22 p.m. 

We brought our food home and had a nice dinner together. It's just sometimes nice to go out to a restaurant to eat, we don't do it often and thought we'd try. I don't want to ruin someone else's experience but if you don't try, you'll never know. I'm not sure what the nasty customer would have preferred we do - in my opinion, other than the tears, I think we handled the situation the best for the other patrons. 

Do you go out to eat with little ones, and what has been your experience if they cry or scream? I'd love to hear from you.