Giveaway Alert

I don't often join in on the giveaway fun that many blogs offer. However, I am a huge fan of Nigella Lawson and my friend's blog, Confessions of a Stay at Home Mom, is doing a giveaway of her new book. If you are interested, head on over there and check it out!


Gifts from the Kitchen

I am very familiar with the plate of Christmas cookies or the banana bread that you are often given around the holidays. Not that I don't love cookies and breads...but I get so overloaded with them during the holidays that some of them are sure to go to waste.

I recently learned how to do some "gifts in a jar" from a friend of mine and from a whole pile of books I checked out of the library on the subject. These gifts enable a person to have most of the ingredients to make something, but they can make it whenever they want to instead of having to eat it right away.

Here's the one my friend taught me to make:

Chocolate Chip Cookies in a Jar

  • Large canning jar (1 quart, I think)
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 1 cup quick oats
  • 1/2 cup chocolate chips
  • Scraps of fabric
  • ribbon or twine
  1. Mix together the flour and baking soda and carefully place into the bottom of the jar as the first layer.
  2. Place the brown sugar as the 2nd layer and the white sugar as the 3rd.
  3. Top the white sugar with the quick oats. Then, use the chocolate chips to fill to the top.
  4. Cut out a piece of fabric into a circle and tie onto the top of the jar with ribbon or twine.
  5. Attach the following directions (either handwritten or typed on nice paper)
Chocolate Chip Cookies

1 stick melted butter
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Empty jar into bowl, stir in butter, 1 beaten egg, and vanilla. Mix well.
Drop on cookie sheets and bake for 8-10 minutes.
Makes 2 dozen cookies.

What I love about this gift is that it's inexpensive and actually useful. When someone is in a pinch they can grab the jar and whip up a treat! Like I said before, there are tons of books on these types of gifts and I plan to try some more. You can do it with soups, special hot chocolate and tea mixes, muffin mixes, breads, and scones.

Go ahead and research some additional recipes and I'll share the good ones that I come across. It really makes a thoughtful and practical gift!



Thanks for visiting even though I didn't post anything for the entire month of November. I could list all the things that have kept me crazy busy over the past many weeks...but I'm not going to. For me, writing this blog is fun. It's something I do that is relaxing and gives me a great deal of gratification. I use it as a resource I want to make my favorite recipes. I use it to share recipes with others. So thanks for stopping by...and thanks for not getting irritated at my inconsistent blogging habits.

Speaking of being thankful...I hosted Thanksgiving last week. It went SO well! Turkeys totally do not stress me out anymore. The first time I made a turkey, I did not give it enough time to thaw in the fridge. The day I was supposed to cook it, I stood in front of the kitchen sink crying while the stupid frozen turkey bobbed up and down in icy water it was supposed to be thawing in. Then when I finally got it thawed, I began to gag when all of the "parts" emerged from the inside of the turkey.

Now I thaw it well in advance. I grab those "parts" (a.k.a. giblets and neck) with bravery and throw them in a saucepan to boil away for the gravy. What a different a few years makes.

I've done a previous post on some Thanksgiving recipes that I enjoy. I thought I would add to that post here. It may be too late for Thanksgiving...but if you're making a turkey for the holidays, here's how I do it.

Ali's Favorite Way to Roast a Turkey*
  • 15 lb - 20 lb turkey
  • 1 lemon
  • 1 orange
  • 1 bunch fresh thyme
  • 1 bunch fresh sage
  • 1 bunch fresh rosemary
  • 1 head of garlic
  • 1 large onion
  • 1 stick of butter, softened
  • Olive oil
  • Salt and pepper
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Remove the gizzards and neck and put into a small saucepan filled with water and an onion. Bring to a boil and then simmer for several hours.
  2. Rinse the turkey, inside and out, and then pat dry with paper towels. Generously salt and pepper the inside of the turkey.
  3. Cut the lemon and orange into quarters and stuff inside the turkey. Take a few sprigs of each fresh herb and put aside. Stuff the rest of the herbs into the turkey.
  4. Cut the head of garlic in half crosswise so that the cloves are cut in half. Cut the onion into large pieces and stuff the garlic and onion into the turkey.
  5. Remove the thyme, sage, and rosemary leaves from the stems and chop finely. Mix the herbs into the softened butter.
  6. Gently use your fingers to separate the skin from the breast meat of the turkey. Massage the butter directly onto the meat, under the skin. And yes, I truly "massage" the butter into the meat.
  7. Tie the legs together with kitchen string and place into a roasting pan. Pour some olive oil over the skin and then generously salt and pepper the outside of the turkey. If you have a few bits of fresh herbs left, toss them on too!
  8. Cover up the bird with foil and put in the oven. Depending on the size of the turkey (look it up online) set your timer for a few hours before it's supposed to be done (mine was 20 lb. so I cooked it for about 4 1/2 to 5 hours). A few hours before it's done, go ahead and baste it with some of the pan juices.
  9. About 45 minutes or an hour before it's due to be done, remove the foil so that the skin will brown up (think of the olive oil as tanning oil).
  10. Check the temperature in the thickest part of the thigh. It should be around 165 degrees or the juices should run clear when you pierce it with a knife. Take it out, and cover it with foil. Let it rest for a good 20-30 minutes. It stays hot under the foil and the juices go back into it so that it's nice and moist.
  11. Carve each breast off as one large piece and then slice into thick slices. I think it's so much tastier that way...I just don't like the traditional thin slices as much.
  12. While the turkey is resting, remove the pan drippings from the roasting pan. Strain out the gizzards, neck, and onion from the saucepan. Combine the remaining liquid and the pan drippings into a larger saucepan. Make a mixture of flour and water and whisk into the drippings. Strain several times if there are lumps. My grandmother did this part, so I won't pretend to be an expert on gravy making...but it seemed relatively simple and turned out delicious!
*I am kind of against stuffing the turkey. I know a lot of people do it very successfully...but I feel as though I'd have to cook the turkey long enough to allow the stuffing to get done and meanwhile, the turkey would get dry. Plus, I just love all those aromatics that I use to stuff the turkey.

My sister almost always makes the stuffing for Thanksgiving and tried a different recipes each year. This is the one she tried this year and it turned out great!

German Stuffing
~This stuffing is a great mix between sweet and savory flavors~
  • 2 cups chopped celery
  • 2 cups chopped onions
  • 4 tbsp butter
  • 6 cups chopped and peeled apples
  • 1 cup raisins
  • 1 cup prunes, chopped
  • 1 bag cranberries (fresh, not dried)
  • 16 cups cubed white bread or 2 bags of stuffing
  • 6 tbsp sugar
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 cup apple cider
  • 1 cup turkey or chicken stock
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Saute the celery and onion in skillet until tender. Transfer to a large bowl and add apples, raisins, prunes, cranberries, bread, sugar, and salt.
  3. In a smaller bowl, beat eggs, cider and stock.
  4. Pour over bread mixture and toss lightly. Stuff turkey (if you are doing that) or bake in a casserole dish. Bake for 40 minutes or until golden.
You didn't think I forgot about dessert, did you? I don't really like the texture of pumpkin pie, so I make pumpkin bars instead. They are awesome!

Pumpkin Bars with Cream Cheese Frosting
~These are so moist and flavorful~

  • 4 eggs
  • 1 2/3 cups granulated sugar
  • 1 cup vegetable oil
  • 15-ounce can pumpkin
  • 2 cups sifted all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 8-ounce package cream cheese, softened
  • 1/2 cup butter or margarine, softened
  • 2 cups sifted confectioners' sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

  2. Using an electric mixer at medium speed, combine the eggs, sugar, oil and pumpkin until light and fluffy. Stir together the flour, baking powder, cinnamon, salt and baking soda. Add the dry ingredients to the pumpkin mixture and mix at low speed until thoroughly combined and the batter is smooth. Spread the batter into a greased 13 by 10-inch baking pan. Bake for 30 minutes. Let cool completely before frosting. Cut into bars.

  3. To make the icing: Combine the cream cheese and butter in a medium bowl with an electric mixer until smooth. Add the sugar and mix at low speed until combined. Stir in the vanilla and mix again. Spread on cooled pumpkin bars.

Recipe taken from www.foodnetwork.com and is written by Paula Deen

And last, but certainly not least, is my Aunt Diana's apple pie recipe. She is the master pie maker of the family and I was fortunate enough to have her teach me how to make pie at a young age. Here's the simple recipe for a delicious pie...

Aunt DD's Apple Pie

  • 9-12 Granny Smith apples (depending on the size and depth of your pie plate)
  • Dash/pinch of salt
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • Handful of flour
  • Sugar and cinnamon to taste
  • 2 cups sifted flour
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 cup Crisco (shortening)
  • 1/4 cup ice cold water
  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
  2. Core and slice the apples to about the same size slices. Stir together apples, salt, sugar, handful of flour, sugar and cinnamon until the apples make their own juice.
  3. Combine 2 cups flour, salt, and Crisco in a large bowl. Cut with a pastry blender or two butter knives until the mixture becomes flaky.
  4. Add ice water a tablespoon at a time until it can be formed into a ball.
  5. Knead for a minute or two, and then split in two (patting into two discs). My Aunt doesn't do this...but I refrigerate the discs for about a half hour to let it rest.
  6. Roll out one of the disks until thin and even. Gently fold in half or roll around the pin to transfer it to the pie dish.
  7. Add the apples to the pie dish and put a few small chunks of butter in the apples.
  8. Roll the 2nd crust and place on top of the apples. Crimp to the bottom crust around the edge of the pie. Cut a few slits in the top to let the steam out and brush with a mixture of 1 beaten egg and a few tablespoons of milk or water. Sprinkle with a little sugar to make it sparkle when it's done.
  9. Bake for 45 minutes to an hour on a tray (in case it drips over the side of the pie dish). Cover the edges of the pie with foil or a crust cover, if they begin to burn before it's done. I usually check it by sticking a butter knife down through one of the slits to see if the apples are cooked.
I have been blessed with so many wonderful things in my life...I truly have a lot to be thankful for.