Monday, December 20, 2010

Holiday Hosting #2

As you read below, my Thanksgiving meal was truly a blessing and a success.  However, true to form, I did experience my own little Thanksgiving day cooking disaster.

Awhile back, I found a fabulous recipe for an apple pie.  It is fabulous because it is simple, but everyone who tries it insists it is the most delicious apple pie they've ever eaten.  :)  So, I decided to make this pie as one of my Thanksgiving desserts.  My husband LOVES his pie warm, so I waited to bake it until everything else was done.  I placed the pie on the rack in the oven and baked it as directed, not realizing that sugar drippings were oozing from the pie to the oven floor below.  I also did not realize that my dear husband, trying to be resourceful, had placed tin foil on the bottom of the oven to catch any renegade food particles that would potentially fall to the bottom of the oven.  Well, the tin foil was successful in catching the pie drippings, but...

...after we had consumed our delicious pie and everyone was in the living room watching "Elf", I decided I was going to bake the rest of my homemade rolls so that we would have them ready for turkey sandwich leftovers.  I turned the oven to 350 degrees and put the rolls in the oven while my hubby set to work on the dishes.  Five minutes later I heard him yelling from the kitchen - "HEATHER!  COME QUICK!"  I rushed into the kitchen to see the oven-bottom tin foil, engulfed in flames.  Oh dear.  Instantly in my head, I saw images I'd seen on the news of holiday house fires caused by improper use of ovens and stovetops.  Fortunately, it only took a moment for the fire to completely consume the tin foil, and the fire was out in a matter of minutes.  

I did learn from this experience, however, that maybe leaving dirty tin foil on the bottom of an oven isn't a great idea.  And also, I figured out why my mom always put a small cookie sheet on the rack underneath her apple pies when she cooked them.  Then, when the pie is done, you can take the cookie sheet and wash away any flammable sugar drippings.  :)

Ah yes, and the fabulous apple pie recipe?  Here ya go!  Just please don't burn down your house!  I would feel horrible!

1 store-bought pie crust (top and bottom crust)
1/2 cup unsalted butter
1 teaspoon corn starch
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/4 cup water
1/2 cup white sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 bag Granny Smith Apples - peeled, cored, and sliced (a good husband job!)

1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees.  Melt the butter in a saucepan.  Stir in the flour to form a paste.
2. Add water & sugars, bring to a boil.  Reduce to simmer.
3.  Place bottom crust in pan.  Fill with the apples, allowing them to mound in the pie crust. 
4.  Cover with a lattice work crust (great directions here!)  
5.  Slowly pour the sugar and butter liquid over the crust, making sure much falls into the lattice holes.
6.  Bake for 15 minutes in the preheated oven.  Reduce temperature to 350 degrees and continue baking for 45 minutes, or until apples are soft and pie crust is browned.

My pie, before it was baked and caused the fire.  :)

Again, this recipe is GREAT because it is soooooooo simple!  And a lattice work crust makes your pie look professional and BEAUTIFUL, but it's really quite simple!!

So please learn from my mistakes and your pie will be a huge success!!

Till next time,

Friday, December 17, 2010

Holiday Hosting #1...

Sorry it's been so long since I've written... it's actually been so long since I've written that I have so much I could write about.  But, staying with the spirit of the season, I'm going to devote my next two week's entries to holiday happenings!

First, I should tell you about my Thanksgiving hosting experience - the triumphs and disasters.  :)  This will set the stage for the rest of my holiday entries.

We hosted Thanksgiving at our house this year - I volunteered to make everything except the Turkey.  Ambitious?  Yes.  But surprisingly, everything turned out pretty well and came out at the SAME TIME.

How did this incredibly inexperienced non-domestic first-time Thanksgiving hostess do it?  With some careful planning and creative utilization of my space, I would probably call my first Thanksgiving cooking experience a success!

First things first, hosting a successful holiday meal requires careful planning.  As much as I am a person who usually walks into situations blind, I forced myself to take some time a couple of days before Thanksgiving to get myself organized.  I printed up all the recipes I was planning on making and laid them all out on the table in front of me.  I made a shopping list from my recipes, physically checking the items off of the ingredients lists as I went through the recipes (otherwise I KNOW I would've missed something!). I looked at cooking temperatures and times, and I wrote out a timeline for myself of what would need to get done when.  I also determined which recipes could be made the day before or early on Thanksgiving morning, and once I had numbered my recipes in order of when they would be started, I three-hole punched them and placed them in a binder.  I sent my husband to the grocery store to take that stress off of my plate (bless him!) and pulled out my pans and pots and made sure I had enough cooking & serving dishes to cover each recipe.  All in all, I spent about an hour planning - in the end, it was WELL worth it.

I also purposely looked for recipes that could be cooked a variety of ways, rather than everything having to be in the oven at one time (a virtual impossibility, even with my fabulous double-oven).  In addition to the oven, I used my stovetop, vegetable steamer (I really need to write an "ode to my vegetable steamer" one of these days), and crockpot (both the big one and the little dipper).  This made "sharing space" incredibly easy, and everything could easily cook at once.  :)

One of my favorite discoveries this season (and a true hit at our holiday table) was a stuffing recipe that could be made in the crockpot!!  Stuffing is a MUST HAVE at our Thanksgiving AND Christmas meal, and although I was skeptical about this recipe (it was risky to try something like this on such an important holiday) I don't think I will ever go back to oven or bird-cooked stuffing!  I highly recommend using your crockpot friend to save time and space with this incredible recipe!!

Slow Cooker Stuffing
(as adapted from

1 cup butter
2 cups chopped onion
2 cups chopped celery
2 cups carrots, chopped
1/4 cup chopped fresh parskey
12 cups dry bread cubes (I bought the pre-bagged bread cubes in the grocery store - go cheap!)
1 1/2 teaspoons dried sage
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1/2 teaspoon dried marjoram
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
3 cups chicken broth
2 eggs, beaten

1.  Melt butter in a skillet over medium heat.  Cook onion, celery, carrots, and parsley in butter, stirring frequently.
2.  Spoon cooked vegetables over bread cubes in crock pot.  Season with sage, thyme, marjoram, salt, and pepper.  (And savor that SMELL!!)  Pour enough broth to moisten, and mix in eggs.
3.  Cook on high for 45 minutes, then reduce to low and cook for 4 to 8 hours (mine was beautiful in 6 1/2 hours!)

No matter how domestic or non-domestic you may be, I really believe that with careful planning and creativity, you can host a successful holiday meal!!

Look out next time for my Thanksgiving disaster - on the same day as the fabulous meal!!!  :)  Don't worry, it has a happy ending, and you will learn from my mistakes!!