Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Turkey Pot Pie

Want to use up those leftovers?  This is a great recipe to make for those cold nights, when you need a bit of comfort.   This comes from a website called Group recipes, but I use a puff pastry crust, because everyone prefers it to a standard crust.


How to make it

  • Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.  Thaw pastry for 20 minutes then roll out.  Place one sheet in a glass 9x13" pan.  
  • Melt 2 Tablespoons butter in a large skillet over medium heat; add the onion, celery, carrots, peas, parsely, oregano and salt and pepper. Cook and stir until vegetables are soft. Stir in the bouillion and water. Bring mixture to a boil. Stir in potatoes and cook until fork tender but still a little firm.
  • In a medium saucepan, melt the remaining 2 Tablespoons of butter. Stir in the chicken and flour. Add the milk or half & half, and heat through. Stir chicken mixture into the vegetable mixture and cook until thickened. Cool slightly, then pour into the unbaked pie shell. Cover with other sheet of pastry and cut a few slashes in the top..
  • Bake in the preheated oven for 15 min. Reduce temperature to 350 degrees and continue to bake for another 20 min. or until crust is golden brown.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Family Pains

     School has resumed.  The latest community theatre production has been performed.  Sigh, time to get back to the regular day to day.
     It won't last, however.  Christmas cards need to be written, the oldest starts a new play in the next few days, there are still gifts to purchase and a holiday meal to plan, not to mention, we will enjoy a few holiday outings yet, ourselves.  (It's so nice when I get to be the guest!)
     Today, sitting with my lady friends, while our children had home school classes (there's not much "home" about home schooling.), we discussed our recent family get togethers.  The consensus seems to be that family tends to be far more impolite than friends would ever consider being.  The saying goes, "Familiarity breeds contempt."  and I tend to agree.  My lovely readers, let me remind you that just because you grew up in the same house as someone or raised an individual to adulthood, it does not give you the right to ride roughshod over your host. (or guest.)  Do not demand food or drink items.  If you have an allergy to something, your family will know that already and plan accordingly.  However, if you simply don't enjoy a particular dish...well...simply...don't eat it!  Don't whine and complain the whole time.  You might think about trying something new or even bringing a (already prepared and ready to serve) dish to share.
     As for helping, there are two schools on this.  Some love to have all the guests in the kitchen, washing and cooking, so help those hosts.  As for me, Stay Out Of My Way!  I've been hosting events for years and you are only adding to my stress with "Where should I put this?"  and "Do you have a _______?"  Sit down and enjoy some time to be pampered.
    Don't monopolize the conversation or belittle family members while at their house. (this actually happened to one of my coffee klatsch ladies over the holiday, how horrific!)   Age is no excuse.  Eight to Eighty, you need to be polite!
     Ah, well, without our family, who would we complain about?  Just don't do it while at their house!

Keep celebrating!

Monday, November 26, 2012

On to the Next Holiday!

     Well!  Did everyone have a pleasant holiday?  I certainly did and I am glad it is over!  Please don't get me wrong.  I love everything about presents to buy, I get along wonderfully with my family and we all enjoy a day to celebrate each other (and food.).  It's just so much work and's over and before you can blink, you are out the door to buy, buy, buy.

     I, personally, am a cyber-Monday sort of lady.  You see, I enjoy my 19th century sensibilities, as long as I can have 21st century conveniences.  I went to the large shopping mall on Saturday with my dear husband. Our kids were in a theatrical production until late and we thought it might be a good time to do a bit of purchasing.  I was miserable.  We just went to a few stores and I was pleading to go back home.  It is ever so crowded and gracious manners are so few and far between.  (Try a "Thank You" or "Pardon Me", rather than shoving past, it works marvelously.)

     As usual, it is easier to shop online.  My daughters want makeup, clothes, books.  My pre-teen son wants (can you guess?  I bet you already did!)  Electronics!  My nieces want gift cards and my best lady friends get small luxury items that they would not purchase for themselves.  All can be, happily, shopped for using that wonderful glowing machine in my family room.   Sigh, pass the spiced's a lovely evening.

Leaves one ever so much more time for planning the next get-together!

Keep celebrating!

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Old Fashioned Bread Stuffing

I just got done making my stuffing for tomorrow.  It is an old recipe my dear aunt used to make for us.  See, my father, God rest his soul, was a bit fussy as a child so my grandmother decided to do without the giblets, which he did not like.  The result is this classic recipe.  The only thing is, when I wanted to learn to make it, oh, many years ago, my aunt had no recipe.  (They never do, do they?)  She called me one day and said,
     "I'm making the stuffing.  Come over and see how."

I did, and it is now in my head, waiting for my daughters to learn.  Anyway, this is the recipe.  You will note that there are no real measurements, you must go by taste!

1 - 1-1/2 loaf of challah, cut up in cubes and dried over a period of days.
1 -2 sausage rolls. (My hubby likes his stuffing heavy on the sausage, but you decide.)
about 6 ribs of celery - chopped
2 good sized onions - chopped finely
about one stick of butter
about 1 cup hot chicken stock
lots of sage
pepper, salt

Saute celery and onions in about 1/2 stick of butter until soft.  Pour into bread cubes.  Brown sausage, taking care to smash it so you have small bits of sausage, rather than big hunks.  Pour into cubes.  Put about 1 or so cups of chicken stock into the pan and scrape up bits of sausage, onion.  Heat and pour into cubes. If you need more moisture, continue to add stock.  Add sage, pepper, salt.  Mix thoroughly.  Taste.  Add more of what you need.  Repeat until you have the flavor you desire.   Pour into buttered 9x13" pan.   Thanksgiving Day, you place a bit of butter on the top of the stuffing, cover with aluminum foil and bake for 30 minutes at about 350 degrees.

I do not stuff the turkey.  I used to, but honestly, I just don't like the soggy texture or the idea of eating the stuffing out of the bird.  There is also a risk of food poisoning.  I understand that you may like the flavor of drippings on the stuffing, but that is easily remedied by substituting drippings from the pan for the butter, when you cook it.

Keep Celebrating!

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Must Haves for Thanksgiving

Well, I'm relaxing a bit before the craziness of the next two days.  I thought I'd give a list of the products I cannot do without for Thanksgiving.

Challah Bread - makes great dried bread cubes for stuffing!
Frontera Cabernet - wonderful inexpensive wine
Yankee Candle - I love all the festive scents at this time of year.  My favorite is Autumn Leaves
Butcher Stores - fresh turkeys are wonderful
The Fresh Market - I love to get my dinner rolls from here.  The knot ones are my fav.  Not only that, but the atmosphere of the store itself is marvelous.  Enough to put anyone in a holiday mood!
Bath House Soaps - after the guests have gone, I'm completely wiped out.  The soaps from this company really help me unwind.  You can order any scents that thrill you, and bonus, they are really pretty too!

These are a few of my favorite, la, la!

Keep Celebrating!

Holiday Prep!

     My Goodness, can you believe Thanksgiving is only two days away?  There is still so much to do!  Let me help you organize yourself a bit, so the stress of the season is so much less.
     I hope you already have your guest list finalized and your turkey should either be currently thawing in the fridge or be on order at the butcher.  We prefer fresh.  Yes, I do believe it tastes better, but best of all...nothing to take up the precious refrigerator space!  We purchase ours from Orchard Prime Meats.   They take my order for whatever size I need and then give me a number.  Every year I am afraid I am going to lose my number, so I write it in a few places.  I ask my daughter to read it back to me, so I am sure not to transpose.   I also order my rolls from the local bakery.  These will be picked up, along with my turkey on Wednesday afternoon.  
     Then I clean and brine my bird.  Since the bird is usually too big, (We have 20 people on average), I brine it in a soda cooler filled with ice.  
    Today, Tuesday, is my main cleaning day.  Floors are hand washed, stove is cleaned and bathrooms are sparkling.  On Thursday, my kids will give a general once over, before guest arrive.  Also this is a good day to purchase the liquor you will need, (not just to get through, but for your guests!)  This year, along with the standard wine and beer, I plan to offer Irish Coffee and after dinner cordials.  Chambord is a perennial favorite.    
    I also prepare my Classic Cranberry Jello Mold.  This gets ever so many compliments.  I highly recommend it!  
     Tomorrow, I make stuffing and pies.  
     Thursday, I prepare the potatoes in advance and keep them in the slow cooker.  I cook the Brussels sprouts, leaving them only part way done, in order to saute them in butter right before serving.
    I must be leaving you to your preparations now and continue with my own.

Keep Celebrating!


Monday, November 19, 2012

An Impromptu Teen Cast Party

     Yesterday's teen cast party was fun!   I had no idea how many kids to expect, so I had to be ready for anything.  I'd guess we had about 15, not including my own.

     My menu for the event was:

                     Mini Pepperoni Pizzas -
                     Puff Pastry Sausage Bites - Very easy to make in advance and freeze!
                     Deli Spirals - Nancy's
                     Beer Nuts - no real beer in them!
                     Potato Chips and Sour Cream Onion Dip (they went through 2 bags!)
                     Sugar Cookies
                      Various Soft Drinks, including "Champagne" (sparkling grape juice)

     The kids played games, like Apples to Apples, Never have I Ever, Family Business and various games on the Wii.  They laughed and laughed!
     When it was all over, about 2 hours later, one of the girls said, "I wish my mom was as fun as you!"  Though I can't imagine what was so fun about me, other than that I kept the food flowing!
      My kids were thrilled and very grateful, which is good, because I plan on calling some favors in on Thanksgiving!

     Keep Celebrating!

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Please take note

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     Continuing our series, Hostess with the Mostess, how to deal with gifts.  This is so easy, but many people wonder how to handle it.  My best suggestion is, Use Your Common Sense.

     I bring something to everything to which I'm invited.  I think it is important to let the hosts know you appreciate the invitation.  So, when YOU have a party, what to do with the gifts you receive?

     If your guest brings you a bottle of wine, I believe it is important to serve that wine.  If a specific wine is already being served, offer to open it a bit later.  If it is a wine you don't care gracious and have some. (unless there is an allergy, something my husband deals with.)  Another common gift is a box of chocolates, open immediately, put on a nice dish and serve, either with your appetizers or as an accompaniment to the dessert course.  Your guest may say to you,
     "These are a little something just for you."

     Then you may smile conspiratorially and hide them away for later!  Tee, hee, my favorite kind of hostess gift, I must confess.

     Sometimes you will get an incredibly generous gift, usually from a long time friend.  Treat this as you would any other gift, with effusive thanks, prominent display and a note later in the week.  Can this be a facebook or email note?  Yes.   Miss Manners would disagree with me on this, but in the real world, it is just as nice as a written one.   To be perfectly honest here, I am a professional organizer and my personal preference is less paper.  Your note will later become clutter.  Sorry, Miss Manners, that's the truth of it.

     I love giving hostess gifts.  You can be ever so creative and give such inexpensive, fun things.  At Christmas one year I found the most adorable snowflake salt and pepper shakers.  May I recommend visiting the after season sales and stocking up on small items?  They don't take up much room and you will be prepared for the last minute invite.

Well, that's enough for now.  I must prepare for my own impromptu teen gathering.  Have fun, everyone!

Saturday, November 17, 2012

The unexpected

     I will return to my hostessing tips later, but right now, I want to talk about yesterday!

     My kids are all in a theatre troupe and last night was opening night for their current play.  Now, usually they all go out afterwards for snacking and chatting, but the adults did not want the teens to go, so my kids and their friends felt a bit disappointed.  So, I, as a good mother, said,
     "Well, invite all the teens back to our house after Sunday's matinee."
 Only, upon arriving back home did it dawn on me that I just invited a houseful of teenagers to my house 4 days before a houseful of Thanksgiving guests will descend upon me.

     No need to panic, however, if this happens to you.  Teens are actually the easiest guests to entertain!  If you have some form of electrical gaming system, chips, cookies and/or frozen snacks, you can be, once again, the "Hostess with the Mostess."  So tomorrow afternoon, I will zip out for soft drinks and give the house a once over with vacuum and dust rag.  Then I will await the deluge.   "What?", you say, "Not going to buy chips?"  I will tell you that I ALWAYS have chips and chocolates along with various frozen snacks in the house for just such occasions.  You can pick them up when they are on sale and freeze or pack away in your pantry.

No need to ever be afraid of the unexpected gathering...just add food and relax!

Friday, November 16, 2012

What to do with the Children

     In my post "Art of the Guest", I made mention of rules for parents with small children.  As I previously mentioned, my suggestions for hosts are related to each of the rules for guests.  So....what to do with the children?

           My husband and I did not stop entertaining just because our children were toddlers.  In order to have confident future hosts and hostesses, you must expose your young family to entertaining at an early age.  However, these youngsters cannot be expected to behave as angels for the entire time of your event.  Our solution was to ask our regular babysitter to join us for the evening at her regular pay scale.  She would be a treated as though she were a regular guest, (and, indeed, a most welcome one!), but we'd pay her to supervise over our children and others that may be invited.   It was not a difficult job, as all the parents were right there, if needed, but it was invaluable, in that our sitter kept the kids occupied, saw that they ate something and kept childish spats to a minimum.   This is a definite option if you, the hostess, have small children of your own.

     If your children are teens, as mine are now, they will most likely not mind at all, if you ask them to keep an eye on the little ones.  My children are perfectly fine with this and have been praised by many a young parent!  It would not be a bad idea to slip your teen helpers a small sum of cash afterwards, but I don't recommend telling them that they will get any remuneration.  A family helps one another and that should be the reason they do it.

     Older hostesses can do this as well.  It is a simple matter to find a young person from your family or social group that could use a bit of extra money or even volunteer hours.  Volunteer hours are needed in many communities to graduate or be confirmed into your faith.  My daughters got volunteer hours for helping a single mother throw her son a birthday party!  What a fun way to earn those hours!

     So, fear not, friends!  After all, the holidays are all about feeling young!


Thursday, November 15, 2012

So, you have additional guests....

     As we continue with our Hostess with the Mostess posts, I want to discuss #2 on our list.  What to do if your invitee wants to bring someone.

     This is rarely a real problem.   Most times, you can easily accommodate an additional person.   This does not mean there are not times when you need to hold (kindly, gently, yet firmly) to your original plan.

     If you are having a large bash, (remember, that, to me, is about 30+), one or two extras will hardly make a difference.  Say expansively,
     "Why, of course, we'd be thrilled to meet him/her!"

Then enjoy the evening!  You may meet a new friend!  My best friend brought someone new to a recent party and she was such a delight that she will continue on my guest list for years to come!

     However, if you are hosting one or two couples, chances are that you've carefully chosen these friends and already partially planned your menu.   It can mess up the chemistry you are looking for if an extra is added.  This is not always the case, most times I am happy to add to my guest list, but for the times that you need to keep it to only those invited, you can graciously and with great reluctance say,
    "Oh my, you know any other time, I'd be happy to include them, however this time, I was so hoping it would just be us.  We selfishly wanted you to ourselves for the evening!"

    This should diffuse any hurt feelings and leave your guests feeling special, which to me, is the reason one entertains in the first place.

    Both scenarios have happened to me on a regular basis, so you know I'd never give you advice I haven't taken myself!

Now sit down and put together that guest list for your Christmas bash.  Hope to see you there!

Hostess with the Mostess

     Yesterday, we talked about what makes a good guest.  Today, I want to explain how to be a great host.  Now, please understand, I am not Martha Stewart.  You won't find tips on how to make handmade invitations from me.  I am going to give you tried and true suggestions from real life and they work!
     Many of these are inversely related to the guest tips.  I may take them one at a time, because hostessing is what I do best.  So let us begin,

1.) Send your invitations out, giving the guests ample time to R.S.V.P.   You can't be angry at not getting responses if you only gave them a few days to decide.  Also, if you give too much time to respond, your invitation is apt to be lost in the shuffle.  May I suggest this time frame:
    4 weeks for a large bash, by this I mean 30+ bodies.  (Bodies means any eating mouths, small babies obviously won't eat much, so don't count them, however, toddlers do count, not because of the food, but because they can be a handful and you cannot always expect their parents to have read my rules for guests!).        
     2 weeks for a small dinner party or theatre party.  You are usually only inviting 1 to 2 other couples and you will probably get a response in the next few days.
     Now, that being said, impromptu invites from you to dear friends can be immediate.  Some of our best times have happened when we call and say,
     "Hey, we are bored, want to join us for cocktails?"
 However, that is best reserved for only your dearest friends, as you will not have to plan or clean too much.  They already love you!
     Here is where you ask me where I stand on Facebook or email invites.  I am all for them!  I used to be a purist and send out invitations to large parties only by snail mail, but your old-fashioned lady has joined the new era and now I do a combination of both.  I like the FB invites, because you can nudge your guests gently if they do not respond in a timely fashion.   It is much better than calling up and asking,
    "Will you be joining us?"
Also, most people check their social media daily and are less likely to lose or forget your invitation.  There is a caveat:  Be careful to not send the invite to your whole friend list by mistake.  I did this once and was a bit panicked that 200+ people were about to descend on my house.  As I am a member of a home school group, many of these folks, I had never even met.  Fortunately, they had the grace to decline.  Oh, one more thing.  Keep the guest list PRIVATE.  That should go without saying.

I guess I've talked your ears off, so go start planning something for the holidays and we'll talk again soon!


Wednesday, November 14, 2012

The Art of The Guest

In my household, we host many, many events. Dinner parties, huge holiday events, get-togethers for the kids and just impromptu gatherings. My house is the place where everyone is welcome! I know many of you are going to be invited out for the holidays this year and I would just like to offer a bit of advice on what makes the ideal guest

  1.   You MUST RSVP in a timely fashion. I cannot emphasize this enough. Your host has to prepare the menu for the event and without a proper headcount that can be extremely difficult. Also, your host may be planning on goodie bags for children or small chocolate place settings. It is awkward to be at that point in the evening and find you are short items. 
  2.   Please don't ask to bring additional guest, unless it is a significant other. (though if the other is truly significant, I assume your host would have already invited them.) If you are a serial dater, don't bring your current flame. It is tricky to know how to play that, when the next event will bring a new love. 
  3.  WATCH YOUR CHILDREN. A holiday event is not a babysitting service. If your host has teens and you have youngsters, it is not proper to expect the teens to watch your children. They may have duties or guests of their own to entertain. In addition to this, do not let the children stand over the snacks and chow down. Be responsible.
  4. polite. Don't attack other guests politics or bring up controversial topics in order to see sparks. (I actually have had this happen recently. Guess who will not be invited back.) Try to meet someone new instead of hiding off with those you know. I always think, "Hey, I will probably not see these people till next year, so I'm going to chat someone up." 
  5.  Bring your hostess something...anything. If she tells you she needs nothing for the party, that is probably true, but it is a welcome gesture to offer something for her personally later. Wine, chocolates, home baked goodies, all are appreciated. My dearest friend comes to Thanksgiving every year with her family and brings us all the fixins' for a Bread pudding breakfast the next morning. It is a delightful thing! 
  6.   HAVE FUN!!!! My dear mother in law, who passed last year and I miss her dreadfully, always said that the amount of fun you have at a party is, to a large degree, your responsibility. So be open, cheerful and polite. You will be invited to many more events!

Monday, November 12, 2012

Lessons from a mom

Ladies...I am aware that these tube skirts are quite the thing right now. However, please do not assume that ALL of you can wear them, nor should you assume that they are suitable for all occasions. That being said, allow me to explain. My sister in law, who makes questionable fashion choices at the best of times, recently decided to join us for a school event of my daughters. Always concerned, when this women is involved, I could hardly contain myself when she sashayed (I do mean sashay!) into the auditorium. Now, ladies, understand, she is a 30 old, happily(?) married mother of two. She was wearing a sparkly black short, short tube skirt, slinky red top and strappy sandals! No tights on those pasty, flabby legs. Ugh. Oh and worse, when the students needed a volunteer, she waved and yelled until she was chosen. My poor girl...her face when her aunt came wobbling down the stairs...sigh... Anyway, I was furious and did it ever show! She wouldn't even look at me. I try to always look appropriate for my age and weight. I don't want to look sloppy or slutty. I want to look like a respectable person. To do otherwise would embarrass my children or shame my husband. I suppose I am old-fashioned, but I think the world could use a bit of least our EYES could!
Last night, we finally watched Atlas Shrugged Part 1. Three of us have already read the novel by Ayn Rand and we had the movie since last Christmas, but we wanted to wait until Part 2 was out. It was very well done. My oldest daughter, who has not yet read the book, was stunned by the similarities to today's headlines. She kept looking over at us, saying "Hey, we've talked about that in class." If you haven't read this book yet, please do so and if it is too intimidating, (It's really an easy read, once you get the characters straight.) try the movie.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

I do this all the time. I apparently think my son will jump with joy at the idea of adding a new subject to his already full schedule. Fortunately, my husband does not get angry! I do though. I see a subject we don't cover and I want to teach it to my son. I do that to myself too. My stack of books is toppling as I type!
     I am a full time, mom.  I home-school my youngest, my two older girls go to high school and are happily involved in theatre.  For a bit of extra cash and goodies, I like to enter sweepstakes.  While my son is busy with school work, I figure I may as well do something semi-productive.
     My passion is history, right now I'm learning Anglo-Saxon, otherwise known as Old English.  It's not that useful, but very interesting, especially regarding place names.
     I will mostly be posting contests or the occasional complaint about politics, that I dare not voice on Facebook or with my capital "L", Liberal friends.

That's all....carry on.