Tag Archives: friends

Easter, Friendship and Orange Sour Cream Cake!

So sorry I didn’t have a chance to wish everyone a Happy Easter yesterday but as you were hopefully enjoying a wonderful day with family and friends and not reading blogs, I’m thinking that even a day late it is still okay to say Happy Easter!

So, HaPpY EaSteR!

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We had a wonderful day, celebrating the Savior and enjoying friends old and new. A beautiful Spring day. Hunting eggs. Laughing. Breaking bread. Sharing life.

We do not have a lot of family close by but we are incredibly blessed to have friends who have become family.

Old friends. Friends who’s children have grow with ours. Friends we have cried with through the tough stuff (and there has been some tough stuff) and rejoiced with at the victories, the healing and the hope. Because there has been a lot of that too. They are moving to Texas this summer and I am reminded that life is filled with change. But they are family, that will never change, and distance doesn’t matter.

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Old friends we once lived next door to, shared a fence with. They are family too. I miss seeing them everyday; knowing they are right there, just over the fence. I promise, I do love them, I just didn’t get a picture of them yesterday. I’m still working on my “capturing the moment skills”.

New friends.  Isn’t it the best when your kid’s best friend has awesome parents?!  Not only are they good people but brave people, undeterred by the giant snake at the end of our driveway. At least it wasn’t poisonous.

Oh, how I wish I were kidding.

Easter-12One tiny tangent because I must forget about the snake and tell you what is in Eileen’s glass. Trust me, you want to know! It is simple but, wow; half lemonade, half Prosecco and a whole lotta delicious! Cold, bubbly, refreshing. Sooooo delicious! I see a few more of those in her an my future this summer.

One more guest and friend to tell you about. The Colonel. My husband’s former commander whom we love to visit with. His last name is Patton – if only he hadn’t retired and had become a general. I’d love to be able to say General Patton’s coming for dinner. Well, except that he’s Air Force. And nice.

So much and so many to be thankful for.

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We missed the family and friends we couldn’t be with and hope for many Easters to come where we can all be together.

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Oh, right, cake. I promised you cake. I’ll tell you about the cupcakes above some other time. The cake I promised is my Grandma Elizabeth’s Orange Sour Cream Cake. It was a big hit yesterday. I had to hide away one last little piece so that I could photograph it this morning.

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My plan was to photograph that last little morsel of cake with orange wedges but unaware of said plan, my husband ate my garnish. I plated one little slice of orange and stepped away for just  a moment; but around here, that’s all it takes. So instead, plan B, I threw in a few of the kid’s colored Easter eggs and I think it turned out pretty good. I’m not sure which is more fun, making the food or photographing it.

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Orange Sour Cream Cake

Ingredients

  • 3 eggs
  • 1 cup butter (2 sticks)
  • 1 cup sugar, extra fine *see note
  • 1 Tbsp. orange zest
  • 1/2 cup chopped walnuts, optional
  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1 cup sour cream

Directions

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Separate the eggs and set the yolks aside to be used later. Beat the whites until you just have stiff peaks. Set aside.

Cream the butter and sugar together thoroughly (3-5 minutes). *Note: the recipe calls for super fine (also known as caster sugar). If you don’t have any, you can make your own by pulsing granular sugar in the food processor a few times.

Beat in the egg yolks, one at a time, making sure to thoroughly incorporate each. To the creamed mixture, stir in the orange zest and chopped walnuts (I leave the nuts out).

Sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Stir into the creamed mixture, alternately with the sour cream; starting and ending with the flour. Beat well and then gently fold in the egg whites.

Pour the batter into a  well buttered and floured bundt pan and bake at 325 degrees for 45 minutes to an hour. Cool in the pan for 10 minutes and then turn out onto a cooling rack that has been placed on top of a sheet tray.

Orange Simple Syrup:

Bring to a boil 2/3 cup orange juice and 1/2 cup of sugar. Boil for 2-3 minutes. It will not reduce much and is not supposed to as it is a syrup to flavor and moisten the cake and not a glaze. Slowly spoon the syrup over the cake to let as much as possible absorb in.

Let it sit for at least 30 minutes and then gently move to the serving dish. Garnish with orange slices and a dusting of powdered sugar if you like.

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This would be a great brunch cake. Enjoy!

And finally, just a few more Easter Highlights from the Brew Crew …

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We always color eggs the night before Easter. My family did it that way growing up and I now have some of the best memories of the crazy eggs my dad would color and the fun we had together.

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I want my kids to have that too.

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Every year, I have taken a picture of my kid’s egg dye stained fingers. I love their hands.

 Every year, the hands are bigger and not quite as stained.

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They are getting so big. Older and more careful.

Pretty soon there will be no more messy little hands to photograph.

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This year, only Nathans.

Actually, I’m pretty sure this boy will be makin’ a mess for a long while to come.

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But wild messes or not, his still sleepy Easter morning face is what mommy will remember. Snuggles with his new friends left by the “Easter Bunny” and the calm before the “wild”…

Easter egg hunting. Big yard. Lots of eggs. TONS of fun!

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And thankfully, Easter egg hunting still seems to be cool; or at least not totally lame.

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A well deserved break. After all, those eggs don’t hide themselves.

I don’t know if you noticed it or not, but there is a silver bowl that sits as the centerpiece on my dining room table (in the very first picture of this post). It was a precious gift from my aunt; something she knew I really wanted but would never buy for myself. It is precious not because it is silver but because of what is engraved around it …

“Together with friends and family is always the happiest place to be.”

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The Traditions of Thanksgiving Day

It is 5 a.m., Thanksgiving morning (actually, it is currently Friday afternoon – you didn’t really think I had time to write on Thanksgiving morning did you? – but I am sharing a memory so please bear with me) the house is peaceful and the joyful madness in the kitchen is about to begin. But first, a cup of coffee and a little breakfast and a moment to enjoy the quiet and the still of the early morning.

A perfect pear and the stuffing will never miss that little crust of bread. Sighhh, I wish I could have truffle butter every morning.

My quiet moment is just that, a moment. There is a lot to be done. This year I will be feeding six adults and eight kids. Not the 25 I fed last year but I love the smaller more intimate gatherings just as much. The people who are coming to spend Thanksgiving with us are special. People I love being with and am looking forward to making a meal for. Friends who have become family. Friends that we have created tradition with. As so many military families do. We started having Thanksgiving together more than 10 years ago, before any of us had children. Now, as I plan the table settings, I realize, we are officially outnumbered. My how we have grown together and how thankful I am for them.

I’ve finished my breakfast and licked any remnants of truffle butter off of the butter knife so, I guess it is time to get started. First on the agenda, stuffing. My favorite. I prep and put together many of my side dishes the day before but I always save the stuffing for Thanksgiving morning. Just one more tradition on a day of many.

I love the smells that fill the kitchen as I make the stuffing, smells from my childhood. Sausage sputtering away in a hot pan and onions and celery sauteing in a sinful amount of butter. I remember waking up to those smells in the morning as a kid and I want my kids to remember it too.

It isn’t even baked yet and it is irresistible. Just a little nibble for quality control. Ahhh, be still my heart. If you’d like to try it, you can find the recipe here, Sausage and Herb Stuffing.

Next, prepping the turkey and starting the stock.

A simmer pot of stock is a must for making gravy and warming up the turkey after it has been sliced and arranged on a serving platter. I throw the turkey neck and giblets into a pot with water, the celery ends, a few small onions and a few sprigs of fresh herbs (sage, thyme and rosemary). When I am ready to use it, I strain it and keep the broth warm on the stove top.

The turkey, the star of the show. I am a briner. Not everyone is. I say whatever works for you but I love how moist and flavorful my turkey comes out after 24 hours of bathing in a salty brine. There are a lot of brining recipes out there. I just buy a package of brining mix from World Market or Williams Sonoma and brine my turkey in a large stock pot in my extra fridge. You can put your turkey in a bringing bag and then brine in an iced cooler if you don’t have the fridge space. Works like a charm.

She isn’t much to look at yet, but she will be … or he, I’m not really sure, I didn’t check.

You can make yourself crazy reading all of the different ways to cook a turkey. Here’s what works for me; brining for 24 hours followed by a good rinse and pat dry, then a rub down with 2 sticks of butter combined with chopped fresh rosemary, thyme and sage (I gently lift the skin and rub it directly on the breast meat as well) and a generous sprinkle of salt and pepper. I tuck the wings under and fill the cavity with a quartered lemon, a quartered onion, and a few sprigs of thyme, rosemary and sage. I put a cup of stock, a cup of white wine and two chopped onions in the bottom of the roasting pan, insert a probe thermometer into the meaty part of the thigh and roast at 325 degrees until the thermometer reads 165 degrees (approximately 3 hours for a 14-16 pound turkey). I do cover the breast with foil if it is getting too brown and I baste 3 or 4 times, or once an hour-ish, during the cooking process. When the turkey comes out of the oven, I tent it with foil and let it rest while my side dishes bake and I make gravy from the pan drippings.

Now for setting the table(s). I hate to iron. I love to iron my table linens. My only explanation is that ironing table linens is easy, even relaxing, and I find it enjoyable because it has to do with food and eating. And I love anything that has to do with food and eating.

Last year, we had so many people for dinner that we had to bring our giant picnic table in from the back yard; which actually worked out great. Benches hold a lot of bottoms!

Thanksgiving 2011

This year, with fewer people, I could get a little more creative and decided to go tan and white with my dishes and linens. I love white dishes but enjoy using a different color salad plate to add some interest. An added bonus is that you can have variety without taking up the storage space that having multiple sets of dishes would. I am always on the lookout for beautiful and interesting salad plates.

A tradition I started a long time ago is to put an ornament at everyone’s place. For me, Thanksgiving marks the beginning of the Christmas season and I want my guests to leave with something for their tree and a remembrance of the day.

This year I found these adorable wooden woven hearts (at Target – where I find so, so many things) which came in white and a beachy whitewashed wood. Lovely.

Someday, my dream of having a 20 foot (or so) long dining room table will come true but for now, I serve all of the food buffet style, because there is just too much of it to put on the table. I do, however, put the salad and a bread basket and butter plate, cranberry sauce, cheese for the salad (this year it was a delicious applewood smoked bleu cheese) and a gravy boat at each end of the table (the gravy doesn’t go on until just before we eat – but I’m sure you already knew that).

For the kid’s table, I found an adorable paper table-cloth (at Target – are you sensing a theme here) with coloring activities, word searches, tic-tac-toe, etc. so the kids had something fun to do while getting settled for dinner.

My daughter is a leftie.

Each of the kids got an ornament too. This year, sweet fabric animals for the girls and colorful dinosaurs for the boys (Target).

The tables are ready.

The Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade is on – gives a whole new meaning to the phrase “parade rest”, doesn’t it?

David has donned the coat from his pirate costume and a straw hat and proclaimed himself a pilgrim.

Our guests have arrived and the kid’s table is a hit.

The turkey is done (I told you she’d be pretty) …

and carved.

The sides are out of the oven. You can find my recipes for Sausage and Herb Stuffing, Sweet Potatoes and Zesty Carrots here. And the recipe for Aunt Peggy’s Corn Casserole here. Enjoy!

It looks like the only thing left is to sit down together, say grace and enjoy the good food and great company the Lord has blessed us with.

I am thankful for …

My Lord and Savior who continues to work in me, pushing me further than I could ever go without Him. A kind and gentle husband who loves me. My children who are such a gift. Family. Friends who have become family. Health and healing. Treasured and beautiful traditions. The home that God has given us, which is so perfectly suited for welcoming company. The sweet faces that are gathered around our table; happy and healthy and loved.

Does anyone have room for dessert?

I’ll give you one guess where I found these adorable cupcakes. You got it, Target – you are paying attention! The beautifully frosted sugar cookies came from A.J.’s – a lovely specialty grocery store that we have here in Arizona.

And the pumpkin pies came from a wonderful little Pie Shop just down the street called Piefection. I can bake. I love to bake. I am not super woman. And, as Ina Garten (who I am also very thankful for) says, “no one has more fun if you make dessert yourself.”  Yes, I know that you can buy gargantuan pumpkin pies at Costco for about $5.00 and I have done that. These pies cost a little more than that and are worth it for two reasons. First, they are handmade with the best ingredients and are delicious and second, I will always support a gal who is brave enough to do what she loves and start her own pie shop. If you are in the area and want a fabulous piece of pie, here is where you can find one:

Piefection, 6731 E. Brown Rd., Suite #104, Mesa AZ, 480-218-PIES(7437), http://www.piefectionaz.com

Did someone say dessert? What timing. We’re just glad Uncle Mark made it and that Thanksgiving dinner re-heats well. The life of an airline pilot, you work a lot of holidays.

Another wonderful Thanksgiving and so much to be thankful for.

This year, I am also thankful for the people who inspired me to write and to start my own blog. I absolutely love writing it and am so thankful to those who have taken the time to read it, like and comment on my posts and support me. I appreciate you so much. I hope you had a wonderful Thanksgiving in the company of those who mean the most to you.

Oh, I almost forgot, I am also thankful for truffle butter; very, very thankful.

A Few of my Favorite Sides

Thanksgiving is one of my favorite Holidays. Which is not surprising considering how much I love food and feeding people.

Each year, even though I promise myself I won’t, I usually buy at least three magazines (okay five) with Thanksgiving recipes. I already have more recipes than I will ever need, use or even read all the way through. And, truth be told, I usually end up making the same things every year anyway because, well, I love them, they are family recipes and they are … tradition. But I still buy the magazines because you just never know and because I have a serious magazine problem.

Here are a few of my favorite family sides, tried and true, made year after year (despite my intention of trying something new).

Sausage & Herb Dressing/Stuffing

This stuffing (or dressing because I like it baked separately, not stuffed into the turkey cavity) recipe is really the one recipe I never deviate from. I can’t. Thanksgiving wouldn’t be Thanksgiving without it. I have changed it up a little from my mom’s original recipe (a fresh herb option, etc.) but for the most part this is the stuffing I have had every year for as long as I can remember.

  • 3 Quarts Diced White Bread (I like crusty artisan bread but I trim off a little of the outer crust if it is too chewy or hard. You can use any white bread).
  • 2 1/2 tsp. Kosher Salt
  • 1 1/2 tsp. Paprika
  • 1/4 tsp. Nutmeg
  • 1/4 tsp. Black Pepper
  • 1 1/2 tsp. Rubbed Sage (or 10 fresh sage leaves, thinly sliced)
  • 2 tsp. Dried Thyme (or 2 Tbsp. fresh thyme leaves)
  • 1/2 Cup Chopped Fresh Flat Leaf Italian Parsley
  • 3 eggs
  • 3/4 Cup Butter + 2 Tbsp. to dot the top of the stuffing
  • 1 Cup Chopped Onion
  • 3 Cups Chopped Celery
  • 1-2 Cups Low-Sodium Chicken Stock
  • 1 pound of sausage – browned and cooled (you can use hot or sweet Italian sausage or a half pound of each or whatever sausage you like).

The night before: dice the bread and let it sit out on a baking sheet to “dry-out” over night, or you can toast it in a 350 degree oven for 10-15 minutes the next day. However you do it, it needs to be dry (not hard but dry).

Place the bread in a LARGE mixing bowl. Mix the salt, paprika, nutmeg, pepper, sage, thyme and parsley together and then sprinkle over the dried bread cubes. Beat the eggs and add them to the mixture. Stir and set aside. Saute’ the onion and celery in the butter until soft and transparent (5-8 minutes), add a pinch of salt to help “sweat” the onions & celery rather than brown them. Cool slightly and then add to the bread mixture. Add enough stock to generously moisten the bread (approximately 1 cup – but it may need more depending on the bread you use). Add the browned and cooled sausage to the mixture. Stir until everything is well incorporated. Put your mixture in a buttered 9×13 casserole dish, dot the top with the remaining 2 Tbsp. butter, cover with foil and bake at 350 for 45 minutes. Remove the foil and bake another 20 minutes until golden brown and crusty on top. Serves 8-10

Sweet Potatoes and Walnuts

Forget the marshmallows! If you love an ooey gooey sweet potato dish then this one is for you. All of my childhood Thanksgivings included this dish and I love it but I have to be honest, I really LOVE roasted vegetables and this year, I am going to serve a roasted sweet potato and butternut squash combo. But here’s the ooey gooey one in case you want to try it, I promise you won’t be sorry (but you will need to work-out the next day).

  • 2 1/2 Pounds of Sweet Potatoes (or yams)
  • 1/2 Cup Broken Nut Meats (walnuts or pecans, whichever you prefer)
  • 1/2 Cup Brown Sugar
  • 1/4 tsp. Nutmeg
  • 1 tsp. Cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp. Kosher Salt
  • 1/2 Cup Butter, melted
  • 1/2 Cup Orange Juice

Steam the sweet potatoes until just fork tender (20-30 minutes) and let them cool completely so you can handle them. Peel and cube the sweet potatoes into bite-sized pieces. Place the sweet potatoes into a buttered 2 quart baking dish. Scatter the broken nut meats over the sweet potatoes. In a small bowl, combine the brown sugar, nutmeg, cinnamon and salt and sprinkle over the sweet potatoes. Combine the melted butter and orange juice and pour over the sweet potatoes. Bake at 350 degrees for 45 to 50 minutes. Serves 6-8

Zesty Carrots

Warning: my husband hates these; but that is just because he’s weird and doesn’t like any sort of casserole. Have you ever heard of a mid-western boy who doesn’t like casserole? I know, crazy. His idea of a Thanksgiving vegetable is a can of corn warmed up in the microwave – where’s the fun in that? Unless you leave it in the can when you warm it in the microwave – that could cause a little bit of “fun”. I am not recommending that, I’m just saying it would be interesting.

  • 6 large carrots – cut into quarters or thick “pennys”
  • 1/4 cup water reserved from cooking the carrots
  • 2 Tbsp. grated onion (or 1 small grated onion)
  • 2 Tbsp. Prepared Horseradish
  • 1/2 Cup Mayonnaise (or May Mays as my son says)
  • Salt and Pepper to taste

Crumb Topping:

  • 1/4 cup dry bread crumbs (I use Panko)
  • 2 Tbsp. Melted Butter
  • Paprika

Cook Carrots in water until they are tender crisp (about 8-10 minutes). Drain the carrots, reserving 1/4 of the cooking water. Arrange the carrots in a shallow baking dish. Combine the onion, horseradish, mayonnaise, reserved carrot water, salt and pepper and pour over the carrots. In a small bowl, combine the bread crumbs and butter and sprinkle over the carrots. Lightly sprinkle the top with paprika. Bake at 375 degrees for 15 to 20 minutes. Serves 4-6

So there you have it. Three amazing side dishes my mom spoiled us with. I apologize that I don’t have pictures – I will post them after Thanksgiving when I’ve made the recipes (I guess I’ll have to make the sweet potatoes after all – oh, darn). Give them a try and let me know how you like them. And don’t forget about Aunt Peggy’s Corn Casserole that I posted yesterday.

Since you were kind enough to read all the way through, I am going to let you in on a little secret. The BEST green beans EVER are at Target. The Archer Farm’s steam in the bag green beans. Throw them in the microwave for sixish minutes, toss them with some olive oil and a good pinch of kosher salt and you will be a star! Fresh tasting, crunchy, perfect green beans just like that – or use them in your green bean casserole; if you don’t have a weird mid-western non-casserole eating husband.

Happy Thanksgiving!