Monthly Archives: November 2011

Thanksgiving Favorites

Happy Thanksgiving to all! 
I hope that, no matter where you are in life, you spent the day in the company of good family & friends, and delicious food. In celebration of the holiday, I thought I’d share with you three of my family’s “standby” recipes.

Mom’s Slow-Roasted Turkey
(the easiest and most moist turkey you’ll ever make!)

Ingredients:
1 whole turkey (fresh or frozen)
Approx. 1 cup margarine or butter
Parsley
Salt
Heavy-duty aluminum foil
Large roasting pan (lid not vital)

Notes:
Thaw the turkey in the refrigerator at least a day ahead of preparation, enough to remove the giblets and neck from the cavities of the bird. However, if you forget to thaw it, you can just cook it straight from the freezer – just allow a little extra time for cooking.

Directions:
Begin the night before, about 10 PM for  12-15 pound turkey, a little earlier for a larger turkey. Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Tear off TWO strips of heavy-duty foil, each long enough to wrap around the bird and then some – be generous. Lay the strips on top of one another, long edges together. Carefully fold together about 1/2″ along the long edge, the entire length of the foil. Then fold over again, and then once more. It makes a strong, no-drip seal of the foil pieces. Open foil out on table or countertop. Don’t put the turkey on the foil until you are ready to wrap it (to minimize the chance of tearing the foil).

Rinse turkey in cold water in a clean sink. (Now is the best time to remove the giblets and neck.) Carefully place turkey in the middle of the foil. With a paper towel, blot it more-or-less dry. Then dot the turkey with 1/2 tsp dabs of butter all over. Salt all over. Sprinkle parsley on, if desired.

Carefully, without poking holes in the foil, pull sides of the foil so they meet & fold/roll the edges close to the turkey. Then roll up the ends. Turkey will be completely sealed in the foil, trapping in the juices and making the turkey moist and tender. Place the wrapped turkey in a baking/roasting pan deep enough to catch juices that will escape later.

Place turkey in oven, cook at 325 degrees for +/- 45 minutes. Then reduce heat to 275 degrees and slow cook until it’s done. Obviously larger turkeys take longer. For a 12-15 pound turkey, it will need to cook overnight from about 11PM, checking when you first get up (don’t forget to reseal the foil), with periodic checks until it is done. You know it’s done when you jiggle the turkey leg and it falls off.

No basting or middle-of-the-night checks necessary! You may also fold back the foil to dip out broth for dressing or gravy. Slow cooking like this, you can literally cook it until the meat falls of the bones, and it will still be tender and moist.

Open the foil after the turkey is fully cooked, a little before serving. Return it to the oven and turn the heat to 400 degrees for about 15 minutes to give a nice brown glow to the turkey. Carve and serve.

Big Sister’s Sweet Potato Casserole

Ingredients:
3 cups cooked and mashed sweet potatoes
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup butter
2 eggs
1 t. vanilla
1/3 cup milk

For Topping:
1 cup brown sugar
1/3 cup flour
1/3 cup butter
1 cup chopped pecans

Directions:
Mix together sweet potatoes with sugar, 1/2 cup butter, eggs, vanilla, and milk. Put in a casserole dish.

In a separate bowl, mix brown sugar, flour, and 1/3 cup butter. Crumble this mixture into small pieces and spread over the top of sweet potatoes. Sprinkle with pecans.

Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes.

Little Sister’s Family Holiday Pie

Ingredients:
4 extra large (or 5 large) egg whites, at room temperature
1/8 t. baking powder
1/8 t. cream of tartar
1 cup granulated sugar
14 squares graham crackers, broken into 1/2 inch pieces
1 cup pecan pieces, plus a few extra for topping
1 8-oz tub Cool Whip

Directions:
Heat oven to 300 degrees. Lightly grease 9-inch pie plate.

In a large mixing bowl, beat egg whites and baking powder until soft peaks form. Add cream of tartar, beating constantly. Add sugar, a tablespoon at a time, beating constantly until stiff peaks form. Using a rubber scraper, fold in graham crackers and pecan pieces. Spoon into pie plate.

Bake 30 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean. Cool completely on wire cooling rack.

Stir Cool Whip until fluffy, then spread over the top of the pie after it has cooled. Sprinkle the top with pecan pieces and allow pie to set in refrigerator.

I’d love to hear about your favorite family Thanksgiving recipes or traditions … please, leave me a comment and share with me!
I hope you had a blessed day!

My 7 Wonders: People

I wrote earlier about the 7 wonderful places I’d seen in my life, but especially during this Thanksgiving week, I would be remiss not to reflect upon some of the most wonderful people I’ve had in my life. So I hope you’ll forgive me, but I decided to go “off topic” a little bit and insert my own part two of the story so that I could focus on the people.

As I begin, I should confess that I had great difficulty narrowing this down to just 7 people – how in the world is that possible?! So while there are a couple of individuals here, you’ll find that I cheated just a little bit and made some of them into groups of individuals. Even still, this is by no means an exhaustive list – but I had to stop at 7! 🙂

1. My Grandparents – This may seem an odd group of people with which to begin (after all, why not parents?) and by naming them first, I mean no disrespect. It’s just that they’ve been on my heart more often than usual lately, and typically because I’ve had some lesson I learned from them come to mind.  I was blessed to get to know and grow up with all four of my grandparents in my life. None of them lived in the same town – my Dad’s parents lived about 90 minutes away from my hometown, but my Mom’s parents lived in Tucson. I know many grandparents have an internal battle when grandchildren don’t live nearby, but I can honestly say that while my time and relationships with my two sets of grandparents were very different, I think that was due just as much to personalities as it was to location.  My times in Tucson were precious keepsakes that remain vividly painted in my heart, so although I wish I saw them more, I also know that it was the infrequency of those times together that makes my memories so visit. And yet that does not diminish the impact of my time with my other grandparents, because they were close enough to be more a part of the “every day,” getting to come on occasion to recitals, games, or birthday parties. Each one treasured in its own way.

I have only one precious Grandma still living, and now that I have grown up and moved away from my own hometown, I don’t get to see her or talk to her nearly as often as I’d like. But oh, how blessed I have been to have four such loving grandparents in my life.

2. My niece – I am not a mother, though I said from the time I was just a little girl that I wanted to have a houseful. That’s not the path God has chosen for me, as I’ve never married. While I hope and pray He still has marriage in my future, as the years go by, I am not sure that I’ll ever become a mother.  But in my niece, I get to see love from a whole different light. She truly is my sunshine. I get to have a different relationship with her than I would get to have, I think, if I were a mother. From the day she was born and I first held her, she clutched a piece of my heart that will never again be the same. And if that’s even a small measure of what it’s like to be a mother, I think I can at least imagine what Moms mean when they say it’s like having your heart walk around outside your body.  I’m so blessed that I get to be Aunt Sheryl to such a sweet not-so-little-anymore 11-year old girl!

3. My Parents – My childhood wasn’t perfect (nor is anyone’s), but I got to grow up in a home where both my parents stayed married, loved us, and loved the Lord.  We had our rough times and our great times, but I am who I’ve become today because of the impact my parents had in my life. And years later, they still watch over my sister and I with such love, concern, and pride.  I’m so glad that out of all the parents in the world, these two are mine.

4. Sister & Brother-in-law – My sister and I are about 4 1/2 years apart in age, so growing up, we were not at all close.  I followed her around like she hung the moon, and she tried to ignore the pest who shadowed her every turn.  It wasn’t until I got to college that our relationship truly began to flourish, and today I would call her one of my best friends.  Our personalities are very different, but we can talk about almost anything – and have even grown to disagree with one another with open minds! 🙂 As for my brother-in-law, he and my sister started dating when I was just a young teenager, so he’s been around for quite awhile. While we don’t have a lot in common, I appreciate that he’s always there being a big brother. When I’ve gone through breakups and disappointments, he’s been there ready and willing to battle for me and protect me – even if I only knew that through my sister. Now that I’ve bought a house, he comes to visit and always finds a project or two that he can take care of for me while he’s there that I might have trouble doing myself. I’m so grateful.

5. Pets – I know these aren’t really people so I hope you will forgive my slight departure, but in my family, pets are family.  Who else in life is just plain always there no matter what, adores you even in your ugliest moments, and even senses when you need a little extra TLC?  I’m a cat person at heart – I don’t have anything against dogs, but just didn’t grow up with them around. Some of the loneliest times in my life were in the few years when just based on living circumstances, I couldn’t have a cat in my home.  It didn’t matter that I was surrounded by friends and such – when I came home, it was just me. Having animals has taught me that you can demonstrate love without a single word, and that sometimes all you really need is to know you matter to someone (something) else.

6. Friends – This is a very broad category, but I’ve been blessed to have friendships of all different kinds in my life. I am loyal to a fault so while I’d like to say I haven’t had any “friends for a season,” I have, and though I miss them dearly, I remain better for having had them in my life for even a time. I have friends I hang out with, friends whom I laugh with, friends I call with big celebrations, friends I call in tears … friends come in all different varieties and my life is richer because of each one.

7. Past students – I spent 10 years in the classroom before moving into other roles within education, and in those 10 years, probably about 600 students walked in and out of my classroom. I hope and pray I made a difference in their lives – not just academically, but on that human level that says, “I believe in you. Always.” But I also wonder sometimes if they realize that they, too, made a difference in my life. For my early adult years were spent getting to watch that spark of learning grab hold of my students, inspiring them to keep going. I got to encourage them through the tough times and listen when they had nowhere else to turn. I got to see that not everyone has as smooth and easy a childhood as mine was, and that sometimes being that one steady, safe place is all a student needs to flourish. Oh, for every student who walked through my classroom doors, I learned a thousand lessons. I wouldn’t have traded a single moment.

~~~~~~~~~~~

What about you?
Who are the people who have most impacted your life?
Have you told them that lately?

P.S. I didn’t include pictures here not because I don’t have a multitude from which to choose for posting, but because I know that some of those whom I spoke of would rather not have their pictures posted in such a public forum. So out of respect for them, I hope you’ll bear with my picture-less post. Trust me – they are all precious! 🙂