Tuesday, November 19, 2013

A Thanksgiving Timeline

There are 470,892 Thanksgiving recipes out there, so instead of sharing the recipes I used when we hosted Friendsgiving this weekend, I thought I'd share my timeline in painstaking detail because that's what really amps people up. Thanksgiving is a meal where the main course takes up your oven for a lot of the day and there are 702 side dishes you also need to put into the oven. And it has to be on the table simultaneously, so it all comes down to timing. If you want any of the recipes, please leave me a comment or shoot me an email at lifeaccordingtosteph@gmail.com and I'll get them to you. My menu for eight adults and one child:

Raw yellow peppers with onion dip
Devilled eggs a la Debbie
Cheese and crackers
Butternut squash soup a la Angie

Mashed potatoes
Stuffing - in the bird and out of the bird
Spinach casserole
Sweet potato casserole
Green beans
Rolls & butter
Cranberry sauce (jelly)
gravy - with pan drippings
gravy - with pan drippings and giblets

Peanut Butter and chocolate buckeyes a la Jenny
Apple and pumpkin pie a la Amanda

Dinner was scheduled for Saturday at 6:00. Sorry if this bugs your eyes out, but here's my play by play:

2-3 p.m.: Grocery shopping: me at two stores and MFD at two stores.
3:30 - 4: Chop herbs for brine, prepare brine for the turkey, put turkey in the brine breast-side down and into the fridge. Name your turkey. Our turkey's name is Bernard.

4:15: Slice foccacia bread into bite sized pieces for stuffing. Allow to sit out for the rest of the night on a jelly roll pan.
4:30 - 6:00: Chop celery and onions for the stuffing, sage/rosemary/thyme for the stuffing, peppers for the app, onions for the spinach casserole, herbs for herbed butter. Store in separate tupperware containers. Remove a stick of butter from the fridge. Snap ends off of beans, store in a ziploc bag.
6:05: Become consumed with fear that my 15.23 pound turkey will not be enough, and put a 7 pound bone-in turkey breast in the oven. Baste every half hour.
7:00: Thaw and squeeze water from two packs of frozen chopped spinach. Store in tupperware.
8:20: Remove turkey breast, let rest for 20 minutes then remove to platter.
8:30: Make giblet gravy with the pan drippings (MFD).
8:45: MFD carves turkey breast. I cut up lemons, limes, oranges for drinks.
9:00 Make herbed butter with the herbs designated for it and the butter that's been softening for a few hours.
10:00:  Turn the turkey over onto its back in the brine, put the cubed bread into a gallon-sized ziploc.

8:00 a.m.: Turn turkey over so it's breast side down in brine again.
9:00: Prepare spinach casserole and bake.
9:15: Receive email mentioning butter, realize butter was left out of the casserole, haul ass into the kitchen and frantically add it.
9:30: Prepare sweet potato casserole.
9:40: Remove spinach casserole and allow to cool on counter, put sweet potato casserole into oven.
9:45: Saute onions and celery for out of the bird stuffing, assemble.
10:00: Remove turkey from brine, dry thoroughly with towels, put on a platter and refrigerate.
10:15: Remove sweet potato casserole from oven and allow to cool on counter, put stuffing into oven.
10:15: Realize I will need more bread for in the bird stuffing. Toast backup bag of pre-cubed bread in the oven for 20 minutes. Thank the universe audibly that you always overbuy and do not have to rush to the store. 
10:20: Realize I need more herbs, onions, and celery for in the bird stuffing. Chop then saute.
10:45: Remove stuffing from oven and allow to cool on counter.
11:00: Remove turkey from fridge and set on counter. Dry it again.
11:15: Put stuffing, spinach casserole, and sweet potato casserole in the fridge.
11:45: Prepare turkey with veggie oil, herbed butter, and stuffing.
12 noon: The bird goes in the oven. Baste at 45 minutes and every half hour after that, rotate pan hourly.
12:15 p.m.: Make onion dip and refrigerate.
12:20: Wipe down the kitchen, run the dishwasher, do the kitchen floor. Put towels used to dry out turkey and clean into the wash.
1:15: Consider painting nails but realize you need to wear oven mitts as gloves for the next five hours.
2:00: Set the table.
2:30: Set the drinks up, make extra pitcher of iced tea, put a stick of butter out in a glass dish, fill up salt & pepper shakers
3:15: Turkey smells done and according to the thermometer, it is done. Tent that bird with foil.
3:30: Peel and cut potatoes, store in pot of cold salted water on stove top. Open three cans of corn and put in a bowl, cover with saran and refrigerate.
3:45: Move bird to large platter. Make gravy with pan drippings.
4:00: MFD carves turkey (and eats it surreptitiously like a wild jackal), arranges it in a weird presentation, and covers tightly with foil.
4:10: Turn oven to 200 and put spinach casserole, stuffing, and sweet potato casserole in the oven, covered.
4:30: Raise heat to 350.
5:00: Boil water for potatoes. Start to get really hot after standing in front of oven for eleven hundred days.
5:15: Steam green beans for 6 minutes, put gravy in gravy boats, open cranberry sauce and refrigerate. I am now moving like a well-oiled machine. 
5:25: Put apps and cold drinks out, fill ice bucket, light candles.
5:30: Saute green beans in three batches.
5:30: Finish off mashed potatoes (MFD). I heat up giblet gravy from Friday night.
5:35: Pull sweet potatoes out of the oven, put turkey and mashed potatoes in (covered), reduce heat to 275.
5:45: Put rolls in basket and cover with a towel.
5:50: Remove everything from the oven, put marshmallows on top of the sweet potato casserole and broil. Put remaining food on the table. Keep a close eye on sweet potatoes. Microwave corn, green beans, and gravy. Go go Gadget arms.
5:58: Make sure everyone has drinks and all dishes have spoons. Ladle soup into bowls. Bark out orders. 
6:00: Grab cranberry sauce in a last chance power drive.
6:04: Sit down to eat. Boom. The meal is eaten in less time than it takes to peel the potatoes, which I only ever do on Thanksgiving. We eat them with skins the rest of the year. 

Gather round, my friends. 
(If you fit with all the food)
Can tables collapse?
My advice:
1. Buy what you can. For me that's rolls and cranberry sauce. If you make rolls, make them ahead and freeze them.
2. Do not concoct a pie in the sky menu that you're not going to be able to execute. Keep it simple. Let people fill the holes in your menu. Write down or know a schedule in your head.
3. Do whatever you can before hand - chopping veggies is a big one. Setting out dishes you'll be using is too.
4. Ensure your turkey has ample time to thaw if you buy frozen. And dry that bird like it's the only thing keeping the world from catching on fire.
5. Make dishes ahead and reheat.
6. Have another pair of hands or two for the last 40 minutes and make someone else carve the turkey. MFD took care of the potatoes and Debbie helped with dishes and putting food out.
7. Wash and clean as you go, and get rid of as many dishes as you can before anyone arrives.
8. Have an empty dishwasher ready to be filled. You do not want to face clean up with a loaded and full or loaded and clean dishwasher.
9. Purchase Dollar Store tupperware so people can take leftovers home and not steal your precious tupperware.
10. Have fun - it's not supposed to be so stressful that YOU don't enjoy the day.

We didn't need the turkey breast except for leftovers - I like to have enough to send people home with food. We all want Thanksgiving leftovers, don't we?

Are you hosting Thanksgiving? Going somewhere and making a dish? Give me the scoop.

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Wednesday, November 13, 2013


When you see the word forgiveness, what comes to mind? What feelings does it invoke?

For a good portion of my life, people who didn’t deserve my forgiveness came to mind. My brain started firing like a machine gun and my chest got tight. Why should I just forgive someone who wronged me? They should have to pay in some way. It should be something I can hang over their head, possibly for eternity. 

Every time I thought about the situation, my chest would begin to agitate like a washing machine. Back and forth between negativity and rage and sadness and then the spin cycle wrung me out and I was just washed out. It was a lot of work churning up all that negativity.
I used to think being forgiving showed weakness. Then I got my head out of my ass and realized the opposite is true – weak people hold on to their hurts and pride themselves on not forgiving. They make their hurts a part of them and blame their hurts for what's wrong in their lives. Weak people give their hurts all the power. It takes a strong person to be knocked down, to stand up again and not allow negativity to claim their lives. It takes a strong person to forgive. 

Forgiveness is not about absolution. You are not telling someone it's okay to mistreat you. Forgive others not because they deserve forgiveness, but because you deserve peace. Forgiveness has nothing to do with anyone besides you
When you don’t forgive, you carry the hurt. You grow bitter, resentful, and oversensitive. And when you've been fucked by life in general or are a victim of circumstance, what then? How do you get over it without forgiving it? There’s a reason being happy is infinitely easier than being locked in battle with yourself or someone else. Negative emotions take an incredible amount of energy to hold aloft. In order to hold a grudge, you have to keep bringing yourself down to a place of pain. 
When you do that, there’s no room for anything good and you're too tired to make good happen. You can’t grow as a person because you’re holding yourself back and living in the past.  In addition to being hurt, you’re stunting yourself. Not too smart, is it? 
I’d rather acknowledge that someone hurt me, accept it, say I forgive it and let it go. I’m not giving it any more space in my brain or my heart. I'm taking back the power. I choose what to expend my energy on, and it’s not going to be spent on bullshit or picking at old scabs. I won't hang on to or blame the past. I will own my present and make my future. I won't be a victim. I will be a fucking warrior. 

Sometimes while forgiving people I realize it’s not healthy for them to be in my life anymore so I give them the boot. Forgiving does not mean forgetting in some cases, and while people deserve a lot of chances, I don't think that number is limitless. However, more often forgiving someone leads to a better relationship between us. Everyone makes mistakes and hurts people they love, intentionally and unintentionally as well. If you’d want forgiveness from someone, you need to be someone who gives it to others. We all need mercy and we all need to show mercy at times. 

If you're holding on to old hurts right now, throw a private forgiveness party and kick that shit to the curb toot sweet. And the next time you come up against something painful, don’t hold on to it like it's a badge of honor. Process it as quickly as you can and move towards the positive. Don’t give someone else’s actions the power to dictate how you feel about yourself or how you live your life. Give yourself the gift of forgiveness. Take a deep breath and reclaim your power. 

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Linking up with
Because Shanna Said So - Random Wednesday

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Rustic Tuscan Sausage Soup

Try your hand at this simple, hearty soup. You won't be sorry. Plus I love the word rustic. So play along.

I found the recipe at Feast on the Cheap and modified it to my liking. If you double this, it will feed an army. It freezes well. It's always good to have some soup in the freezer. 

1 lbs. sweet Italian sausage patties
3 carrots, washed well and chopped (I don't peel them) 
1/2 sweet onion, chopped  
2 tbs minced garlic
1/4 cup water
2.5 quarts chicken broth
2 14.5 oz cans diced tomatoes with juice
1 can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
1 tbs dried basil
8 oz whole wheat shell pasta, uncooked
8 oz spinach leaves (you can use frozen)
salt & pepper to taste
Brown sausage over med-high heat in the bottom of a large stockpot. Crumble the sausage as you brown it. 

Add the carrots, onion and garlic and saute until tender and starting to turn a bit golden, about 7 minutes. Add water if it starts to get a little dry or too brown.

Add the chicken broth, tomatoes, beans, pasta and basil. Bring to a boil over high heat, then reduce to a simmer. Cover the pot and continue cooking for 7 minutes.

Stir in the spinach and cook until just wilted. Taste and season with salt and pepper.

MFD tops his with parmesan cheese. He likes it. And now Haikuesday:

Rustic sausage soup
Whisks me off to Tuscany.
Airfare is too high.

Congrats to Nadine, winner of the Chloe + Isabel $25 shop credit!

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p.s. Tuesday sucks.

Linking up with Blissfully Miller and Let's Get Bananas for

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Vote. And eat eggs. Those are the messages for today.

It's voting day in many states today. You bet your sweet ass I am at the polls every election day - major, minor, mid-year, primary. If your state votes today, be at the polls. Many people have fought for your right to vote. Don't squander it. And if you don't vote, never ever complain about anything in this country. Ever again.

Now then. Eggs.
Most of my days start with them. I need protein in the morning or I am a major asshole by 11 a.m. My go to breakfast is eggs because they're easy to make, easy to transport, and they reheat well in the microwave at work. They're an integral part of my weekly food prep.

Sometimes I scramble them with cheese and veggies, sometimes I make egg salad, but most often I make egg muffins. I use a Pampered Chef brownie pan to do this, but a regular cupcake pan is fine. The magic of these muffin eggs is that you can put whatever you want in them. I've used ground turkey taco meat, tomatoes, cheese of all kinds, broccoli, mushrooms, ham - they hold it all. This week I used breakfast sausage and cheese.
Yields 12 muffins
11 eggs
1/2 tsp sea salt
1/4 tsp ground mustard
1/4 tsp garlic powder
1 tbs milk or cream
1 pound breakfast sausage, browned (you will only use half)
Cheese - I used gouda

Preheat oven to 350.

Cut cheese into pieces - I usually put three small pieces in each muffin slot. You can add more or less.

Brown sausage. Drain and allow to cool, then add to muffin slots by the tablespoon, about a tablespoon and a half in each. I eyeball it.

Beat eggs with spices and milk. Make it easy on yourself and do this in a large measuring cup that has a spout so it's easy to pour.

Pour eggs over your sausage and cheese add-ins.

Bake for 30 minutes.

Easy peasy protein yeezy. Pack those sumbitches up and you have breakfast made for the week.

I froze the other half of the cooked breakfast sausage. BOOM. Already one step ahead for next time.
Chicken or the egg?
"It's an important question,"
Said no one ever.
What's your go-to breakfast?

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Linking up with Blissfully Miller and Let's Get Bananas for

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