Thankful & Blessed

This is the seventh edition of The Pioneer Woman Cookbook Challenge. This edition is from a Year of Holidays cookbook , Thanksgiving, pgs: 244- 286.

Thanksgiving has definitely come and gone here in the US, and yes, Christmas is literally just days away! Are you ready for it? I and going to be honest here, I am not ready for Christmas. I usually am but this year is unusual. I believe the move had a lot to do with it. Why? Because we keep finding ourselves buying things that we didn’t think that we needed. More so on my end than TW’s. Especially in the kitchen. Just when you think you have everything you need then there comes the time when you need more gadgets, gizmos, whozits and whatzits. I am sure Ariel has plenty to share but around the holiday time there never seems to be enough. Never enough bowels, casserole dishes or space in the refrigerator to hold it all. Unless you own your own property and can store most of the feast outside. Yep, I said outside. So as long as you have a porch where your neighbors or critters will not get into your food and the temperature is below 41 degrees, you’ve got it made! That is one of the blessings of living in a cold area during this time of year, leaving food safely outside (stored in a container) covered so that no one leaves your dinner with contaminated food in their bellies. Speaking of food, I am going to try to skip on the super long story telling that I usually do with my post and just give more of a synopsis of our Thanksgiving feast Because I have a lot more of Ree’s food that I have to talk about and to catch up with! Plus I have some good news to boot which I am hoping will allow me to increase my blogging to more than once a week or whenever I can.

First things first for my US readers, I hope that you had a wonderful Thanksgiving dinner and holiday. Lord knows ours was good, both the food and the company. Hectic on my end because I cooked the entire meal and for some reason I just couldn’t get it going a head of time. I had the pie crust, the cranberry sauce, the brine made a head of time with the turkey soaking in the brine but everything else that was suggested from Ree’s game plan wasn’t happening. Not until the day of Thanksgiving.

TW had to work on Thanksgiving morning so we both were up at 3:00 am and that’s when I got a few cups of coffee in me and out of nowhere I go the ball rolling. And yes, I did get everything done which is a wonderful feeling to beat the feet of arriving guest.

We also had a house guest that never left my side and he did a great job of keeping my floors clean of any fallen food. Believe me I wasn’t complaining one bit about it. I missed the little guy since our move and I know he missed me too.

Since my youngest niece was going to Disney World right before Thanksgiving to march with the high school band at The Magic Kingdom, my parents decided a that they would go watch her march and enjoy a day at Disney. They also decided to take their time coming back home by stopping along the way at historical places in Alabama, Missouri and Illinois. In the mean time somebody had to watch Bear. Luckily for us and them our apartment complex is dog friendly and we made arrangements with the property manager before moving in to allow us to dog sit without being charged. We had a wonderful week with Bear around, and he learned quite quickly to keep his barking at a minimum. Matter of fact when he returned home he barely barked. My mom asked what did I do to make him stop barking. I told her nothing. He listens to me, he always has.

So lets talk food.

My Favorite Turkey Brine Recipe No. 24

I never in the years of cooking a Thanksgiving turkey have I ever used a wet brine. I always dry brined it. Basically a rub of salt and spices applied to the bird a day a head. Either way is no big deal. Yes, I would use Ree’s recipe again. On the plus side while the brine was cooking, it made my apartment smell really good and it covered the marijuana smell from my neighbors. Oh, and TW almost lost all the brine as I was turning the turkey in the bag. He let go and the brine went all over the floor, the counter and everything in its path. Dishes that were clean needed wash along with rugs, countertops and the flooring. We laugh about now but it wasn’t so funny at the moment, he felt bad and I didn’t get upset with him because stuff like that happens in a kitchen.

Roasted Thanksgiving Turkey Recipe No. 25

If I was ever cursed with the worst oven in the world, it would be the one in our apartment. It does not cook right. What would have taken just around three to four hours to cook a 13 pound turkey, took this oven around six hours. Even though the temperature thingy never popped up, the juices ran clean in all the right places and the turkey turned out wonderful.

Giblet Gravy Recipe No. 26

I have no photo to share of the Giblet Gravy, nonetheless I did make it. I did choose to opt out of having the giblets in the gravy and fed them to Bear. Giblets are usually his Thanksgiving dinner treat.

Perfect Mashed Potatoes Recipe No. 27

Shown unbaked off because the butters are not in swimming in pools of liquid around the top of the mashed potatoes. I used what I had on hand as far as potatoes went and what I had were the russet potatoes. Ree asks for Yukon Gold, and I was trying to save on cost. Not to mention I was also trying to make this recipe for a small crowd. It worked out okay but I needed either less liquid or add a few more potatoes. It turned out good but I am on the fence on this one.

Cranberry Sauce Recipe No. 28

Again another one I didn’t get a finished photo of but I did make it! I actually had fun with making the cranberry sauce. Growing up we’ve always had the canned cranberry sauce so for me this was a new adventure. I loved it! There were a few things overall that I do want to mention and the first one being that you do not need natural tap maple syrup. I love that stuff way more than Mrs. Buttersworth’s, however, Mrs. Buttersworth’s or whichever on the shelf pancake syrup works just fine. Secondly this recipe needs a ton of extra sugar. Since I have never made cranberry sauce from scratch before, I didn’t know how this recipe would turn out. It turned out to be very lip puckery. I asked my mom if the maple syrup would have made the difference. She said, No, it wouldn’t have. Just add more sugar or stick with the can. Which is also what TW’s mother said too. Stick with the can! said TW’s Mom. Over all this one was a fail and all I heard out of TW’s mother was, “Next year you’ll do everything with processed foods!” My thoughts were no, my lymphedema was brought on by process foods. I am getting away from that stuff! Excess sodium is bad for me and my lymph nodes!

Skillet Cornbread Recipe No. 29 & 30

Recipe numbers 29 and 30…What?!?!?!?

Yep, you read right. Ree has a tendency to use her recipes in other publications and skillet cornbread is no exception. Not only can you find skillet cornbread here in the holiday book but you can also find it in Ree’s first book, “The Pioneer Woman Cooks | Recipes From An Accidental Country Girl” on page 102.

Okay enough snarkiness. As for the cornbread it was really good. It’s not a sweet cornbread like we are used too but it was still good. Yes, I would make it again but make it sweet.

Basic Thanksgiving Dressing Recipe No. 31 Dressing with Dried Fruit and Nuts Recipe No. 32

Dressing or Stuffing as I called it is my absolute favorite side dish. To me it is the ultimate of comfort side dishes so I ended up being indecisive of which stuffing I wanted to try or make. Why? Ree has four options to choose from and well, challenge or not, none of us are going to eat that much stuffing.

I know, I know if it were not a challenge the four stuffings would be more of suggestions instead of “OMG, I have to make all of these to complete this challenge!” That’s when I sat back took in a deep breath and said, No! Just like the “pirate code” in the movie(s) Pirates of the Caribbean, it’s more like guidelines than set in stone for this challenge. Eventually I will get to every recipe complete.

As for the two stuffings that I did make, I will stick with the Basic Thanksgiving Dressing. That one was a fan favorite in this household. The Dressing with Dried Fruit and Nuts was something I was really looking forward to and it came up as a disappointment which is not Ree’s fault. I’ve had dried cranberries and oranges in my stuffing before and I loved it, so when I saw this recipe I was excited to try it. I am sad to say that it didn’t hit the pallet right for me and I will pass on ever making it again.

Lastly about this recipe is that for a stuffing it can get kind of pricey. Ree has you on the hunt for three kinds of breads plus making the Skillet Cornbread. I made the cornbread but opted out for a bag of scrap bread mix that was offered at one of our high end grocery stores. They all ready dried out and cubed the day old bread which consisted of the breads that Ree has you using in her stuffing recipes. Going with the store scraps was way cheaper than buying each individual loaf of bread Ree calls for. I did just so my challenge is covered here dried out the cornbread in the oven so I could mix it in with the store bought bag of scraps.

Green Beans and Tomatoes Recipe No. 33

This recipe turned out to be a happy surprise. Typically around here Green Bean Casserole is served at every holiday and it is one recipe that my family and TW himself can agree on is probably the worst thing you can do to green beans. I know how unAmerican is that! I am just going to say if you love the infamous Green Bean Casserole don’t hate us because we don’t. We can agree to disagree. As for the Green Beans and Tomatoes, it is now a staple in our household.

Soul Sweet ‘Taters – Recipe No. 34

Wow again another finished dish that I managed not to get a photo of. Like the Green Beans and Tomatoes this dish was another happy surprise. I am not going to lie, I was hesitant of this recipe because the last time I made something like this it turned out to be an over kill of sweetness. The running joke was, “Would you like some sweet potatoes with that sugar?!?!?!?” Which resulted in never following that recipe again. Ree’s recipe as Goldilocks would say —is just right. I loved this one and I am not a sweet potato fan.

All Buttered Pie Crust Recipe No. 35

In Ree’s Thanksgiving Game Plan she has The Perfect Pie Crust (also found on pages 128-129 in The Pioneer Woman Cooks | Recipes From An Accidental Country Girl) to use in all her pies. I’ve already made this pie crust and really did care for it. I’ll chat about it another time. I did however, found another pie crust recipe of Ree’s that I think is “the perfect crust.” The All Butter Pie Crust (Dinnertime, page: 140) between the two recipes is something I am familiar with. It is the recipe that I grew up with, and what a happy surprise that Ree has it tucked away with her Individual Pot Pie recipe which can be found in her third book “Dinnertime.”

Caramel Apple Pie – Recipe No. 36

Pecan Pie – Recipe No. 37

Pumpkin Pie – Recipe No. 38

With pies this year I decided to make them into individual servings. This way instead of having three large pies sitting around not getting eaten, these pies can be made and then stored in the freezer for another day.

Caramel Apple Pie

It wasn’t bad and my dad liked it when I brought one over to my parent’s after they returned home. As much as Ohio is tomato country, we are also orchard country and vineyard country as well. For cripe sakes the reason why apples are here is because of the legendary Johnny Appleseed. Both my mom and I agree that an apple pie needs spices to enhance the flavor of the apples. Unfortunately this is the second apple pie recipe from Ree that I have made (talk about it another day) that lacks spices. Another thing that is in this recipe which I would take out is using flour as a thickener. Flour gives a pasty flavor to the apples and the pie over all. Hence the reason why spices are needed. Using cornstarch as a thickener is a way better option than flour and it doesn’t leave that weird flavor to a pie like flour does.

Pecan Pie

It is sad to say that my daughter has made more pecan pies than I can account for. My mom for some reason skipped over me and taught my daughter to make the Bourbon Pecan Pie recipe that my mom is known for. What the heck Mom! So Ree’s recipe was the first pecan pie I have ever made and I thought that it turned out great. It looked great. TW and my parents said it turned out great. I then decided to cut one open to find out for myself how well it turned out….that damn oven! Needless to say the inners of that pie spewed all over my counter top.

Pumpkin Pie

We all agreed that this was a good pumpkin pie. And of all the failures that my oven has turned out this is one that set up and became a success. Yes, I had to cook them longer than Ree’s time allowance but with a little bit more patience the pie(s) turned out just fine. As for flavor, I am beginning to think that Ree is a bit shy with spices beyond the cayenne pepper and the chili power. Or maybe I am used to a pie that brings out the best quality of the pumpkin.

With divorces and relationships that fall apart, they also bring a odd togetherness of families. My daughter was fortunate enough to meet her great grand parents on her dad’s side of the family. After my daughter’s great grandmother passed away all the granddaughters were given the secret pumpkin pie recipe. I am glad that Grandma I kept her recipe a secret, because her pumpkin pie recipe is the best pumpkin pie I have ever had. No offense Ree but your pumpkin pie is good but you can’t surpass Grandma I’s. And I am glad to announce that’s a wrap for all the Thanksgiving recipes that I adventured into making from Ree’s A Year of Holidays book.

Thanksgiving from Ree’s recipes was an over all success. The food was well received. There are some recipes I will keep, I will make again, and there are some that will not ever see the light of day in my kitchen ever again. Over all we had a wonderful Thanksgiving and I hope you did too. Now for everyday life and yes, Christmas.

Here are recipes I held off for making another day are:
  • Dressing with Sausage, Apples, and Mushrooms
  • Oyster Dressing
  • Broccoli-Wild Rice Casserole
  • No-Knead Cloverleaf Rolls
  • Pumpkin Smoothie (have all the stuff to make them, just haven’t had the time)

And before I completely sign off from this post I do have some good news. I, after a year of searching for a job (and rejections) that busted my butt to get a college degree for I finally landed one. I will be staying with my current employer in a newer position, which will put my education to use and I am super happy. I couldn’t be more thankful and blessed at the same time.

Go about life Victoriously!

Love ya,

Alex Victoria

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