10 Things December Edition

It’s the most wonderful time of the year and I’m ready to savor every moment this season has to offer! I’ve got my bucket list made out and thought I would share a few ideas with you to add to your own list.

1. Visit a Christmas tree farm. If you want the freshest of live trees this is the best way to pick one that will last! Sip on cider, take some fun pictures and bring home a tree that’ll make a lovely centerpiece for the holidays. Thompson’s Tree Farm in Lawrenceville is a great place to check out if you are in the Atlanta area.

2. Donate to Toys for Tots. Sponsored by the Marine Corps, Toys for Tots strives to collect new toys and distribute to less fortunate children across the country. This is a huge undertaking and requires a lot of community support. Could you imagine if every family, that was able actually placed a toy in the bins all around the city, how many children’s holiday could be changed?

3. Make Christmas cookies. These Cream-Filled Cookies or traditional Sugar Cookies are perfect for friends and family alike. They’ll be a hit no matter where you serve them this season.

4. Pay for someone’s coffee. Nothing makes a person’s day brighter than to treat them with a cup of coffee. It’s been a stressful couple of years for A LOT of people and I promise this little act of kindness will go a long way.

5. Take a drive to look at Christmas lights around town. Put some Christmas music on the radio and head out to see all the twinkling lights your town has to offer. This has been a favorite tradition of mine since I was a little girl, and with social media access you can often find where the best diplays are before you head out.

6. Send out Christmas cards. Yes, it takes time to address, write a message and sign the card, but this is a tradition we all need to get on board with again! I love recalling memories we have shared with so many friends and family over the years as I write each message, and it’s the same as I open each card we receive as well. We’ve lived in six states, attended the same Bible camp for years, carry on friendships from college, and traveled on mission trips where we have created a lasting bond with many. Turn off your social media and get personal. One evening of a favorite Christmas movie and a box of cards goes a long way.

7. Speaking of movies, enjoy a Christmas movie marathon over the holidays. From 1954’s White Christmas to 2021’s A Boy Called Christmas there are plenty of movies for every mood!

8. Set up a hot chocolate bar for the family. I’m absolutely loving these adorable Jolly Good marshmallows from Two’s Company. I picked up my bag from the new Buc-ees up the road, but you can also find something similar at Williams-Sonoma.

9. Make a wreath. Simple or elaborate, it’s up to you, but grab some ribbon, a nutcracker and some sparkly floral picks and create your own welcoming wreath.

10. While Jesus was most likely born in the spring and not December 25th, Read the Gospel of Luke in the days leading up to Christmas as a reminder of why the birth of Jesus is so important to many of us who celebrate the Christmas season for more than Santa Claus. For many it’s the only time of the year they are open to hearing about Christ and I’m more than happy to oblige.

Have you put together a bucket list for you and your family this season? I would love to hear what you’ve added to yours!

Happy December!

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.









































Trick or Treat: Caramel Apple Cocktails

Happy Halloween!

Things are a little different this year without the kids at home for this fun holiday. Trick or Treating went by the wayside years ago, but you’re never too old for a bonfire or holiday themed food with teenagers.

But here we are; our first empty nest Halloween!

And Audley and I plan to treat ourselves!

One of my favorite fall highlights is apple season. This year I didn’t get to pick my own, but I still made a trip up to my favorite north Alabama orchard with Momma. Crow Mountain really has the best apples!! It’s always fun to decide how to use them, and this year I changed it up from dessert to a delectable and over-21 grown-up Halloween treat ….

Caramel Apple Cocktails

The ingredient list is short: large apples (I love a Granny Smith) that you’ve hollowed into a “glass”, melted caramel to rim your apples, apple cider (try to find local), Crown Royal Vanilla, Ellington Reserve Salted Caramel Whisky (use airplane bottles), and brown sugar.

Wash and dry your apples, then slice the tops off and hollow out the inside of the apple. Don’t go all the way to the bottom or your cocktail “glass” will leak. I used a spoon for hollowing out the apple.

Rim the edge of your apple with melted caramel. Since you will be working around juicy apples, this works best when spooned around the edge. Sprinkle with brown sugar. Also sprinkle a little brown sugar inside the apple.

To mix the cocktail (for 2) heat 5 ounces of apple cider, then add 1.5 ounces of the caramel apple whisky, 1 ounce vanilla Crown, and stir. Pour into the apples you’ve made into glasses.

Pour into the apple glasses, garnish with a cinnamon stick and enjoy!

These take just a few minutes to prepare; keeping you in a Halloween frame of mind while toasting an empty nest!

And don’t waste your apple! When you’ve finished your drink, slice the apple to eat for a spiked caramel apple treat!

Make Your Own Pumpkin Cream Coffee

I absolutely love coffee.

Savoring a large cup or two in the quiet morning hours has become a necessary and important part of my daily routine. There are mornings I even wake up early to make sure I have this coffee time before we have places to be, including Sunday mornings before worship.

I’m also quite fond of pumpkin spice season at Starbucks. That first sip of pumpkin cream cold brew is the highlight of September 1 each year and I relish each cup throughout the fall. Living just outside Atlanta I don’t go out for just coffee though, unless I have plans. With the kiddos grown there isn’t as much running around going on. Besides paying $5 for coffee every time I go out the door definitely adds up.

But, I still want to enjoy pumpkin spice during this fall season.

So I’ve come up with my own “copycat” recipe to enjoy at home or on the go.

It’s super easy to make and fits in our budget much better. The best part of all is it is delicious on hot as well as iced coffee!

The ingredients for the cream topping are simple: You’ll need heavy whipping cream, pumpkin purée (homemade is best so that you are getting actual pumpkin & not a “squash mixture”), brown sugar and of course pumpkin spice.

This works best made in small batches; in other words, coffee for one.

For one cup of 8 ounce coffee, using a frother whisk a 1/4 cup cream, 1 heaping tablespoon of pumpkin purée, 1 teaspoon brown sugar, a one pinch pumpkin spice. This should be slightly thickened and easily pourable. This is how your coffee is sweetened and needs to drift to the bottom some.

Pour your hot coffee into a mug. Then top with the cream. Garnish with pumpkin pie spice and enjoy alone or with a friend if you must.

BTW, this is really delicious when made with vanilla coffee.

The iced coffee is similarly assembled; add ice and 8 ounces of coffee, then pour the pumpkin cream over the top. Give it a quick stir to help the cream drop.

Just a couple of quick notes:

First, don’t over spice the top. It should be very subtle & when drinking you DO NOT want to inhale or sip pure pumpkin pie spice! Second, there is a reason Starbucks doesn’t give you a straw for your ICED pumpkin cream coffee … if you sip through a straw you only get a mouthful of Cold. Black coffee. If you drink from the top, you will relish the rich pumpkin cream with each sip.

Learn from my mistakes people.

And enjoy your coffee.