Autumn Spice Turkey Brine

We are just a day away from Thanksgiving 2021 and I am so looking forward to enjoying time with our families. We have two gatherings planned; one of which we are hosting, so it’s going to be a fun and very busy weekend!

Thanksgiving in the US revolves around everyone gathered at the table with a bountiful meal served up. We Americans love to eat and generally it’s done in excess.

While my own Pilgrim ancestors that survived that first year to celebrate in 1621 didn’t write about the details of the feast, others recorded that part of the meal consisted of wild fowl. Could this be the reason we have turkey today as the centerpiece of our Thanksgiving dinners?

This year I am brining our turkey before roasting. Brining helps the turkey absorb extra moisture which will help prevent the bird from drying out while roasting. The salt in your brine soaks deep into the meat adding layers of flavor. It also breaks down some of the tough membranes’ turkey is known for having, giving you a tender bird to serve up. The best part of using a brine is it is so easy! And who doesn’t like easy for the holidays?!

To brine the turkey I combine sea salt, brown sugar, juniper berries, star anise, lemon peel, orange peel, dried apple bits and other fresh herbs (I’ll post a link to print the full brine recipe below) with 2 1/2 gallons of water in a large non-reactive pan. Bring to boil, stirring occasionally, until the salt and sugar has dissolved. Let cool to room temperature, then refrigerate so that it is chilled. After the brining solution is chilled add your turkey, cover and refrigerate to soak for 24 hours.

After your bird has soaked in the brine, rinse and prepare to roast using any of your favorite roasting recipes.

I roasted our bird by stuffing it with chopped apples, oranges and fresh rosemary and thyme from the garden, and placing it on a bed of the same ingredients. Since I was really looking for an orange flavor, a few well-placed orange slices between the skin and breast worked magnificently. Tent your turkey with foil and pop into the oven at 350 until the temperature reaches 160 degrees.

I made a baste for our bird using 1 cup of turkey broth, 1 cup Riesling, and a stick of butter. By brining the turkey, I didn’t have to baste near as often.

After removing the turkey from the oven, I let it rest about 30 minutes. Using my baster, I removed the juices from the pan to make up a flavorful gravy. You really need about 5-6 cups, so if you don’t have that much from the turkey, add canned broth. It’s perfectly fine to do this as you’ll still have plenty of that fresh roasted flavor. To keep as much fat as possible from my gravy I love using my OXO fat separator. If you don’t have one, head off to Target right now (thank me for the excuse to shop later) and get you one! This is probably my most used kitchen accessory.

Everyone makes gravy differently, but I’ve found the easiest way is to divide your turkey broth/juices and while most of it simmers on the stove top, save a 1/2 cup of the juices to whisk with 1/4 cup of flour until smooth, then add to your simmering broth; whisk well. Stir in some salt and pepper to taste, maybe some fresh parsley. Cook until you it thickens, about a minute or so.

Plate your roasted turkey and enjoy all the oohs and ahhs you’ll get over your moist, tender and yummy turkey! If you would like a detailed recipe, check out my Autumn Spice Turkey Brine.









































Celebrate Thanksgiving With A Family Potluck

With just seven days until Thanksgiving, most of us probably have our holiday plans in place. If you are still looking for ideas, I highly recommend a potluck style Thanksgiving dinner for you and your loved ones!

Thanksgiving day is all about the gathering together of family and friends, sharing our blessings with one another. Whether we celebrate with family or friends one of the beautiful parts of this holiday is communing with others, generally around a table laden with food. The potluck approach allows for more than sharing, it allows everyone, especially the host to spend more time with those they love. It shouldn’t be a day filled with stress as one person tries to create the perfect event. The beauty of a potluck style dinner is it’s ideal for all sized gatherings.

Believe me, I understand wanting total control over a meal that I am hosting, but over the years our family left the one-person-does-it-all approach behind and we’ve made some amazing memories in my parents kitchen as own when we hosted. From husbands playfully arguing over who was going to lick the beaters and taste testing all the desserts hidden under foil, kids hovering over the desserts to sharing tips and tricks with one another and repeating family tall tales, every Thanksgiving has left a lasting impression in my heart.

Here are a few ideas to help you pull off this communal Thanksgiving dinner, even in as few as seven days!

First, as the host, take it upon yourself to cover the basics. It’s so much easier since you know the logistics of serving, eating and clean up. Choose your dinnerware; china, crystal, paper, or Solo cups; as the host you know best what is needed. If you want to set a table (even if using disposable wares), do so a day or two ahead of time just because it’s easy to knock out. A palette of white ceramics and autumn colored linens create a simple foundation and perfect backdrop for pumpkins, candles, mums or garlands. Lay your tablecloth, place a centerpiece and let it come together.

Second, set up the actual potluck. Let your guest know what you are preparing in advance. Generally a host will provide the main dish, but if your sister’s turkey is better than yours, or your Momma makes a mean ham, by all means ask if they would like to bring those things! Once the basic menu is laid out, everyone can let you know what they are contributing.

*Elevate your celebration: If you have time, request your guests share the recipes they are preparing for dinner in advance. Print off recipe cards decorated for the season,. Separate the recipes into mini booklets and tie together with ribbon for everyone to keep. Who knows, this could become a treasured keepsake as the years pass.

Third, If you want to provide serving pieces for all the food for the sake of aesthetics (I’m obsessed with aesthetics), let your guest know in advance that they can plate at your house. If they brings items in easy to transport containers they have something to carry leftovers home in as well. You can also share with your guests in advance what your color scheme is so they can compliment it using their own serveware. As the host, you can keep things as simple or as elaborate as you desire!

*Elevate your celebration: Grab a box of assorted sized Glad-Ware from Walmart or Target for everyone to make plates to carry home.

Fourth, set up stations for appetizers, main dishes, and desserts in separate areas if room allows and have it so everything is buffet style. Family can serve themselves, then gather together around the table for socializing and dining without having to spend 20-minutes passing food around.

Finally, sit down and pray, enjoy your meal, laugh, and genuinely enjoy every moment together.

Americans unfortunately have bad reputation for dining in a hurry and moving on. For some reason we think all aspects of life have to go at warp speed. This year I challenge you to savor every moment as you laugh, talk, and share in this precious day together. Don’t bring your phones to the table, leave the football game off, and truly appreciate not only the meal, but the company you are gathered with. If 2020 and 2021 have taught us anything it should be to savor every, single moment and treasure all the time we have with family and friends!

Happy Planning!

10 Things: November Edition

Wow!

So I blinked and October came and went. Here it is November with the holidays right around the corner and my head is spinning.

My 10 things list for November is not really a bucket list as much, but a little life update and a glimpse of the direction the last two months of the year is heading. As I type, Audley is mowing the yard for what we hope will be the last time, Halloween decor (that wasn’t put up until a couple of days before) has already been taken down, steaks are ready for the grill and we have plans to watch the Atlanta Braves play Houston tonight in hopes they are bringing home the World Series title (They won as of publishing this post). Its 63 outside with gorgeous Autumn skies.

Hello November in Georgia.

1. Audley and I have new titles… On October 1st MacKenzie Grace delivered our first grandbaby and we officially became Papa and Lolli. Mariah is absolutely perfect and beautiful, and I am so in love! I was able to spend a week with this wee lass and her parents after her arrival. After savoring every moment, it was so hard to leave!

Y’all, Lolli life is so good.

2. It’s time for my annual fall deep clean. Over the last two weeks baseboards have been scrubbed, guest bedding updated, duvet covers changed, shelves dusted, carpets shampooed, curtains refreshed and the raised beds prepped for winter. I find it so much easier to decorate and entertain for the holidays if I start with a clean slate. When it’s time to break it all down after Christmas, the mess isn’t as bad as it could be. I’m not a fan of packing up the Christmas decor having to deep clean immediately.

Does anyone else deep clean before the holidays?

3. November is a great month for self-care. Use the early part of the month to take some time for yourself before the craziness of the holiday season sets in. Go ahead and indulge in Coffee-Mate’s Peppermint Mocha Creamer in your Saturday morning coffee. Top it with whipped cream and take in the autumn sunrise. Grab a patchwork quilt and curl up with a Hallmark Countdown to Christmas movie marathon. Turn off your phone and go to bed early. While we should count our blessings and show gratitude year round, November is a great month to keep a gratitude journal as apart of a self care routine. You don’t have to spend a lot of money to treat yourself. Little things can make a huge impact on our psyche.

4. Take a cooler weather hike. Pull on a cozy sweatshirt, leggings and a pair of tennis shoes and hit up a local state or National park for some fresh air and vitamin D before winter days set in. Its a great way to spend quality time with your spouse and kids without distractions. With the variety of hikes most all parks offer, you can enjoy fabulous views and challenge yourself at the same time. Some of my favorite parks in north Georgia include Sweetwater Creek in Lithia Springs, Red Top Mountain in Emerson, Kennesaw Mountain National Battlefield in Marietta, Cloudland Canyon, and Amicalola Falls.

5. Colorful leaves are peaking a little later this year, at least in Georgia, so it’s not too late to hit the backroads for an afternoon drive. I love to put on a relaxing playlist and get away from the city. There are days my Spotify app is my best friend, especially on days I want to escape.

6. When we traveled out west this past summer we discovered a charming little town in Wyoming called Chugwater (population 200). There, in a charming soda fountain we had our first taste of Chugwater chili. It’s definitely chili season and we are enjoying making Chugwater chili in our kitchen. Check out this small company for yourself. You will not be disappointed …. and by supporting a small USA business your seasoning won’t be stuck on a cargo ship in the ocean.

7. Take some time to plan out your Thanksgiving holiday. There is no worse feeling than for the week of Thanksgiving to arrive and the stress takes over.

Are you going somewhere for the day? What are you preparing? How will you transport your dish? What will you serve it in?

Are you staying home and hosting? Are you splitting the menu or doing it all yourself? China or paper plates? What will you serve? Do you have enough serving dishes?

We are celebrating Thanksgiving with my extended family as always for Thanksgiving this year, but then my in-laws will be coming here for the weekend, which means I have to get my act together. I’ll share a few of my tips to help you organize in the next few days!

8. It’s the season for traditions. Even though we are empty nesters, we are looking forward to our annual viewing of Charlie Brown’s Thanksgiving. You are never too old for Charlie Brown and this classic gives me the warm fuzzies every year!

9. Speaking of traditions, the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade is a favorite while at my parents every year. I adored watching it as a child, loved watching with my children and now enjoy sharing that special time on Thanksgiving morning with my nieces and nephews.

10. Finally, I’m actually looking ahead to December. This adult Advent calendar from Bonne Maman makes me look forward to breakfast the entire holiday season. Next to my own homemade jellies and jams, these are my absolute favorite! Order now because they sell out every year!

via Bonne Maman

I also ordered this fantastic devotional book from the “queen of Christmas” Candace Cameron Bure, Bring On the Merry. This interactive devotional book encourages you to pause daily during what is usually a chaotic season and remember why we celebrate the season. I found my copy on the Dayspring website, but I know Amazon has it as well.

I hope your November is off to a good start, and I hope you didn’t mind the sharing of our life update along with our plans for the season. It’s been a weird couple of years, and my goal for this year to to bring the normal. Peace, love, joy and family. That is all.

A Candy Cane Christmas

It’s just thirty-two days until Christmas.

Can you believe it?!

There were times I thought this year was never going to end, and suddenly it’s Christmastime!

After this long and often stressful year, I’m really excited for the holiday season and will definitely savor every moment with our family and friends and especially the quiet, peaceful nights in with Audley.

Today, I’m teaming up with some of our favorite bloggers for the 4th Annual Christmas Tree Blog Hop hosted by Michelle from Our Crafty Mom. You’ll have the opportunity to visit 28 talented bloggers for plenty of Christmas tree decorating inspiration, so turn up the Christmas music, grab a cup of peppermint hot chocolate and get lost in Christmas inspiration galore!

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Here in our home we are crazy for candy canes.

For as long as I can remember we have decorated our home in some shape, form or fashion with a candy cane theme. It might be a tree… or two, it might be the top of my kitchen cabinets or the dining room, but ribbon or garland or ornaments or the real deal are always featured. It just “fits” us as a family.  Not only have my kids come to expect it (they would be so disappointed & try to “borrow” my decor if I didn’t), but Audley wouldn’t have it any other way!  

Are there more husbands out there who actually love decorating for Christmas?

This year the candy cane theme is adorning our living room tree. It’s our first Christmas season as empty nesters, so it is a great way to pretend the kids are close (all of them live out -of-state now).  They will all be in and out through the season … our Marine is home for Thanksgiving/Christmas leave this week … so I want them to know it’s still home when they come to visit.

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This is the second year I’ve used a flocked tree, and I really do like it.  The colors of Christmas pop and smaller ornaments stand out as well.  Besides, living in the south, this is the closest to a white Christmas we’ll get!

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From top to bottom I tried to incorporate the joy  and traditions of Christmas that are a part of our family.  We bake a lot, so there are plenty of nods to hours in the kitchen cutting out cookies, whipping icing, and indulging in fabulous holiday treats.

Audley and I tucked in ribbon and marshmallows and gingerbread and springy things all around our ornaments to create a full and festive tree.  

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Our tree incorporates twenty-six years of ornaments collected from all six states  we’ve lived in (14 moves total) to carefully chosen floral picks and ribbon plus a few whimsical elves tumbling down the side,  I can tell you just about everywhere we lived as we hang specific ornaments on the tree; lolipops from Rome, Georgia, peppermint teardrops from Clinton, Iowa, a Christopher Radko from our time in Bridgeport, Alabama, a handpainted treasure to reember our years in South Carolina and more recently a very large Mark Robert’s Elf from living in Loganville.   There are so many beautiful memories, in this candy cane themed tree.  I love how it all came together this year. 

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This year I have a sweet addition to my decor … this adorable crate created by my youngest daughter.  It’s so much fun and fits in just perfectly.

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The candy cane theme is wrapped-up (pun intended) with our presents under the tree. 

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I just love incorporating gift wrap that compliments whatever theme we are using, and Audley does a fabulous job with a lot of our wrapping!

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Buttercup seems to think it all looks perfectly delicious, and I’m a bit hungry after talking candy canes, so it’s off to grab a snack and visit all the fabulous bloggers who are sharing their holiday with us!

Check out their links below.  Be sure to leave a comment letting me know you stopped by!  I would love to hear from you.

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Christmas tree graphic (1)

 

Welcome To The Fourth Annual Christmas Tree Decor Blog Hop

Be sure to visit all the participating bloggers below for gorgeous holiday decorating ideas for your Christmas tree.

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Our Crafty Mom // Sustain My Craft Habit // Red Cottage Chronicles // Celebrate and Decorate

Christmas tree decor blog hop collage

Jenron Designs //  2 Bees In A Pod // Virginia Sweet Pea // From House To Home

Christmas Tree Collage

Tribe of Burton // Across the Boulevard // Intelligent Domestications // Simply Beautiful By Angela

Christmas Tree Decor

Modern on Monticello // Redneck Rhapsody // Purple Hues and Me // My Pinterventures

tree hop collage of 2Zucchini Sisters // One Thousand Oaks // Raggedy Bits // Southern Yankee DIY // Fiddle Dee Dee

Christmas tree hop

My Sweet Home Living // Pretty DIY Home // Michelle James Designs // Daily DIY Life

Christmas tree collage of four

Happily Ever After, etc. // Kippi at Home // Simple Nature Decor // Design Morsels