Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Thanksgiving Treat: Pumpkin Spice Granola

About a month ago,  I posted the ever so awesome Pumpkin Spice Granola.  It is so good!!!  I have  made it twice since I found the original recipe and I decided to share it with our Thanksgiving guests.  Due to my husband's schedule we never go out of town for Thanksgiving.  It is understood by both sides of our family that the five of us stay home and everyone is welcome to join us.  Since we established this tradition our Thanksgiving has become my favorite holiday.  Typically both sides of the family come over plus friends or pretty much anyone who needs a place to go.  Have I mentioned before that my husband and I love feeding people?  I think I have.. maybe one of twice. :)  We love it - it is our love language! I always try to have a special treat for our family and friends to take home (along with their leftovers).  I have baked homemade bread, made hot chocolate mixes in mason jars, holiday potpourri bags (see here), and this year will add the granola. Here is the original site for the recipe, Pumpkin Spice Granola recipe as originally posted by Joyful Healthy Eats.  The first time I made the granola I stored it in mason jars (see here), however, this time I thought the bags would be cute. I placed the granola into festive bags, then added a label and ribbon.  If you would like to use the label feel free to print below.

Here's to wishing everyone a wonderful Thanksgiving filled with love, family, friends, and FOOD! :)

Monday, November 17, 2014

National Homemade Bread Day!!!

Yes, this is an actual day! Today is National Homemade Bread Day. Now, who wouldn't be excited about that? The kids and I thought it would be a great idea to add it into our lessons for today.  We have been planning this day for a couple of weeks, now.  I guess you could say our family likes bread just a tiny bit... :) I didn't want to lose an entire day of lessons so we completed their school work while the bread rose and baked.  It was lots of fun, but man were we busy! The kids made two types of bread: white flour dinner rolls and banana bread.
Learning about yeast and how it is a living organism which makes the bread rise.  We also discussed that if your water is too cold the yeast won't activate and if the water is too hot you may accidentally kill the yeast.  If you want good bread you have to have happy yeast!

Its going to be a good day when you get to operate the Kitchen Aid.

I spent quite a bit of time teaching each of them how to knead the dough properly.  They took the instructions very seriously and did a great job.

I am not sure what this was about.  There was a lot of singing and jumping up in down in a circle...  Although, I have my own happy dance I may or may not do when fresh bread is in the house.  I guess they come by it naturally.

While the bread was rising, we started on the banana bread.  The kids thought the over-ripe bananas were super gross.  So, naturally they needed a picture with those gross bananas.

This picture cracks me up!

Y'all she will be five in four months...How is this possible?

Sampling the second the rolls were cool enough to handle.

Everyone insisted they have a picture taken with the roll in their mouth.  Too funny.

We had tons of fun and did sooooo much math.  I purposely used smaller measuring cups and spoons so they would have to multiply to get the correct measurements.  Also, there are three children so I incorporated division in taking turns.  We needed to make sure everyone had the same amount of certain ingredients (i.e. flour) to add to our recipes.  Plus there were fractions flying all of the place!

I think we will have to observe this day again next year!

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Putting in a Pool - Week 12 and Almost Finished!

So, I am finally able to write an update post on the pool.  I looked back to see when the last update was written, September 23rd!  I cannot believe it has been that long.  I remember at that point I felt like it was never going to end and we were only on the fifth week. We are now on week 12 - is that not ridiculous?!  The weather, poor scheduling, the weather some more, a little bit more poor scheduling has put us way behind.  In the beginning we were told it would only take 6-8 weeks.  Ummhmmm.... The last time I wrote an update this is what we had.

It was at this point that it sat...and sat...and sat.  The backyard was basically a swamp.  I think after two weeks of this stage we finally had re-bar around the pool for the decking and then that stage sat...and sat... and sat.  I stopped taking pictures and posting because it was just turning into a horrible eye sore.

About a week ago, we started letting the kids play inside the pool.  Why not?  It wasn't able to serve in any other capacity.  However, it made an awesome pirate ship!

Finally, this morning we started making headway.  And guess what?  It is filling up as we speak!!!  Mind you it is in the upper 40's and rainy but hey, we've got ourselves an actual swimming pool!

The white plaster looks so clean compared to the ugly concrete we have been staring at.  

These are small tiles to outline each step.  

The kids were beyond excited this morning.  Our youngest son made his presence known by loudly stating, "It's about time!"  Then he was quickly moved inside and reminded not to say everything that comes to mind...even if it is true.  

We are all very ready to have the temporary fence removed.  It has been up far too long.

It is kind of hard to see in this picture due to the rain but there is a small amount of water covering the bottom of the deep end.  The best part, this is water that is suppose to be there not just rain water that has collected.  :)  

We were told it will take about 24 hours to fill...  I took this picture an hour after we started the water.  It is kind of an odd feeling knowing that we will go to bed tonight with the hose running full force.  I bet Charlie checks on it a dozen times. :)

He also said he is getting in regardless of the weather.  His actual words, "I don't care, I am getting in.  I will polar bear it if I have to!"  So nice... twelve weeks of pool construction brings out our classy side.  :)

Let me know if you want a ticket to that show! 

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

The Butcher's Blog: Turkey Talk, Part 2

Thanksgiving is getting closer by the day.  Have you started planning?  I love planning holiday meals, holiday baking, holiday eating, holiday leftovers, you get the point.  Since the fourth Thursday of November is drawing near, I sat my hubby/butcher down and asked a few more questions about the topic of turkeys.  He was very patient with me and my constant interruptions while he was watching Castle. The word turkey isn't exactly his favorite word this time of year, especially when he has 40 plus deer waiting to be processed at the same time.  I think 16 of those were actually delivered today!  Like I have said before, we will see him in January. :) So, here we go. Turkey Talk:  Part II  (click here to view Turkey Talk: Part 1) There are various types of turkeys and for some people it may seem a bit overwhelming.  We decided on a few of the most common types and described them below.  I hope it is helpful. Organic Turkeys
  • The turkey is fed an all organic diet (which includes the following requirements)
    • all feed which the turkey ingests is certified organic by the USDA
    • no pesticides or herbicides can be used on the feed
    • no synthetic fertilizers can be used in the soil where the feed is produced
    • the feed was grown on land which had a 3 year dormant period
    • the seeds for the feed are also certifiably organic seeds
    • seeds are not GMO (genetically modified organisms)
Premium Brand Turkeys
  • This is the most common type of turkey sold at super markets, grocery stores, and small markets
  • minimally processed and without artificial ingredients
  • typically this type of turkey is fresh rather than frozen.  A fresh turkey has never been chilled below 26 degrees Fahrenheit.  
  • Toms are male turkeys.  Typically if you want to purchase a larger bird with a lot of breast meat you should go with a Tom.  Toms are typically around 18-20+lbs.
  • Hens are female turkeys and usually weigh much less than a Tom.  There is not a difference in taste when it comes to toms vs. hens, it really is just about the size.
Remember, these are not the only types of turkeys but the most common.

Switching gears a bit but still staying with the topic of turkeys, here are two important things to keep in mind when ordering from a butcher shop or meat market:
  1. You will need to place your order with a weight or size of the turkey in mind, knowing that the butcher will do his/her best to get close to that weight.  For example, if you order a 14lb. turkey you may receive a slightly larger or smaller bird based on what is delivered.  It is always best to up your estimate to insure you have enough for your guests.  The weight ranges are typically 12-14lbs., 16-18lbs., and so on.
  2. It is best to place your order as soon as you decide on your weight and number of guests.  Waiting until the last minute may mean you have to take what is left which may not be what you had in mind.  Let me put it to you this way, my husband was already taking customer orders for Thanksgiving turkeys in October.  Wow!
So, you may be wondering, what kind of turkey does our family eat?  We eat whatever turkey is usually left at the market and needs a "home".  About a week prior to Thanksgiving I begin reminding my husband not to sell our turkey.  He has told me the story many times of his family having enchiladas for Thanksgiving.  His dad sold every single turkey in the market including their turkey! :)  Personally, I think my husband gets a little enjoyment with that story and my reaction.  So, starting next week when he leaves for work in the morning, I will remind him, "Please don't sell our turkey."  His typical response will not be reassuring and most definitely mischievous.  :)

Monday, November 3, 2014

The Butcher's Blog: Turkey Talk, Part 1

I can't believe it is Thanksgiving time already!  I have a love, hate relationship with the month of November.  I love the weather, meal planning, decorations, food, and family.  I dislike (I really don't like to use the word hate) my husband's work schedule.  As a butcher in a three generation family business (meat market to be exact), the months of November and December are C.R.A.Z.Y.  We always joke that we will see him after the first of the year.  :)  I asked him a few months ago if he would be willing to give me some important pointers when it comes to the Thanksgiving turkey or also known as "Tom".  He was more than happy to share the information for my blog.  In fact, there is so much information that I am going to break it down into separate parts.  Today, we will focus on Part 1, pre-game or prep time.

Q:  How should I determine the size of turkey I should purchase?
A:  Typically you should estimate 1lb. per person (when picking a whole turkey).  If you are planning to feed 20 people go with the minimum of a 20lb. bird.  A 20lb. bird will give you approx. 8-9lbs. of meat after it is cooked.  Most people eat about an 8oz. portion of turkey.  So, when you are looking for a whole turkey the rule of thumb is 1lb. per person before the turkey is cooked.  Also, if you love leftovers you may want to go a couple pounds larger.

Q:  How should I thaw my turkey?

A:  Always thaw the turkey in a refrigerator or an area that is 41 degrees or less.  NEVER THAW THE TURKEY ON YOUR KITCHEN COUNTER.  When thawing the bird in the fridge, give yourself two to three days of thaw time.  Also, always place the bird on a tray or baking sheet and put on the bottom shelf of the refrigerator.  This will keep from the turkey juices from spreading and contaminating any other food in the fridge.

Q:  Do I need to wash the thawed turkey?

A:  Right before the turkey goes in the oven, smoker, or fryer make sure you wash the turkey inside and out with cold water.  Remove the giblets and neck from the inside of the bird.

Q:  How do I know when the turkey is completely done and safe for eating?

A:  165 degrees is the magic number for any type of poultry.  Make sure to have a meat thermometer to keep an eye on the temperature.  Place the meat thermometer in the thigh at the hip joint.  This area takes the longest to cook.  If this area reads 165 degrees you can be sure the rest of the bird is finished.

Q:  Breast up or breast down?

A:  If you are presenting the bird and carving it in front of your family and guests, you will want to bake it breast up.  If you plan on carving the bird in the kitchen or before your guests arrive, bake it breast down.  Baking the bird breast down is not the prettiest but it will keep the breast meat juicy.  

Okay, so I think that is enough for this post.  If you have any questions let me know and I will ask the butcher! :)

I am hoping the next Turkey Talk post will define different types of turkeys.  For example, the difference between organic vs. free range etc.  

Have a fantastic Monday!