Wishing you all a very happy Thanksgiving! Today I am thankful for:
- Family to eat with and share holiday hijinx all weekend long.
- A big helper boy in the kitchen and another little BOY on the way.
- This blog for storing my Bipartisan Sweet Potato recipe all year long. ‘Bout to go make a double batch.
On Friday afternoon I ran into a friend in the grocery store and she said she was doing her Thanksgiving meal shopping. First I was stunned at her organizational skills that she would shop that far out. But then I was shocked by the fact that she really isn’t shopping that far out!
Public Service Announcement: THANKSGIVING IS THIS THURSDAY, PEOPLE!
The past few years we’ve headed to Bladenborough, North Carolina to spend Thanksgiving with Keith’s grandma and extended family. It’s quite a huge crowd and so we do things pot-luck style, so I come out easy in the cooking department. But I know that some of you out there are feverishly trying to figure out how to cook that turkey before the in-laws and various extended family members start dropping in, so I thought I’d give ya’ll some pointers. And by “thought I’d give ya’ll some pointers” I mean, “I called my dad and my brother and they had some great tips to pass along.” Full disclosure: I’ve never actually cooked a turkey. But when I do….I will absolutely follow this primer that I’ve put together for you below. I’ve eaten plenty of them cooked by the dynamic duo of Mason Daniel and Mason Daniel Jr. and I can attest to the fact that they are mmm, mmm, goooood. “Cooking a turkey” in our house means we fry it or we smoke it….and I’ve given you instructions for both below. If you’re wanting to do something that involved the oven…well…..I’m sure there are plenty of instructions out there for you….just not on this blog.
How to Cook The Perfect Turkey According to The Mason(s) Daniel
Part One: How to Fry a Turkey
Frying a turkey is great if you’re having to cook for a crowd or don’t have a whole lot of time. It can also be a super risky way to go though if you don’t know what you’re doing. Here are some tips for staying safe and turning out a tasty bird.
- Turkey Fryer – Make sure you use a turkey fryer such as this one. You can easily find them on Amazon.com, at Home Deport or Walmart or at an outdoor store.
- Peanut Oil – Use 100% peanut oil. Other oils, even blends, have a much lower flash point or ignition temperature and will catch fire.
- Thaw Your Bird -MAKE SURE THE BIRD IS COMPLETELY THAWED OUT AND YOU HAVE DRYED THE BIRD OF ALL WATER! Sorry for yelling but we don’t want oil boiling over and catching the whole fryer on fire. Turkeys not thawed all the way through can explode!
- Cook Outdoors – Set your fryer outside away from the house, preferably out of the wind. DO NOT set up in your kitchen or your garage. A driveway or similar away-from-the-house location is ideal.(My brother is a firefighter, so he’s very serious about this one. He’s seen lots of turkey-frying-gone-bad scenarios.
- Save the Neck Tag & Empty Out Your Bird- Be sure to take out all contents from the bird such as giblets, neck etc. and save the tag from your bird, it has the weight of the bird.
- 4 Minutes Per Pound – is the magic number. Be sure to cook your bird to that weight. ex. turkey weighs 18 lbs. 18 lbs x 4 minutes per =72 minutes. no more or less for a perfect bird that is done down to the bone.
- Cook at 325 degrees – it’s the magic number when frying. Most every restaurant (ie. a famous fast-food-chicken place) cooks their chicken at 325.
- Babysit Your Bird – Frying turkeys is like babysitting except you are also babysitting a stopwatch. You need to keep a constant watch on your temperature and your time.One common mistake people make when frying a turkey is in the initial dipping their turkey into the fryer, and that is they have the temp of the oil right at 325 degrees. well the problem is even though the turkey is thawed and dried it is still cold and when dipped will drop your oil temp too low to cook the you spend all this time ramping up your oil to compensate. The better solution is to INITIALLY get your temp up to about 400 degrees. Then set your turkey down in the oil,it will usually drop your temp down to guess what… 325 degrees…perfect! When removing the turkey let it drain over the oil pot until you see no more oil dripping, then carve and enjoy.
- Turn Off The Gas – Unless you have additional birds to fry….turn that gas off! My brother and his firefighters answer alot of calls for cooker fires because people go inside to eat and forget to turn the fryer off!
Part Two: How to Smoke a Turkey
Smoking a turkey is a whole different animal all together because with smoking, your pretty much duplicating what your doing in the oven but with smoke. The steps outlined below also work really well for chickens, so you can smoke poultry all year long!
- Outdoor Smoker – All the men in my family (dad, both brothers, husband) have some version of this outdoor smoker and it’s served them well. In fact, my dad has two of them so he can do multiple birds at one time.
- Beer Can Stand– Something like one of these.…or my brother says you can find them at Publix next the tongs/grill brushes etc.
- Use 1 CAN of beer – Cut the top of a beer can out with can opener and pour out 1/2 of the beer, add whatever spices you would like to use (ie. minced garlic onions etc.) into the beer can. Put it in the beer can stand and set the turkey on top of it.
- Set the smoker to 225 degrees! – Smoke at 225degrees until the internal temp is at least a 175 to 180 degrees. Keith uses this great remote controlled grill thermometer that might be something you’d want to consider.
- Cook for 6 to 7 hours – smokers differ, and temperature is important, but this is a good estimation.
- Babysit Your Bird – Just like with frying, you’ll want to babysit closely to keep an eye on temperature, fire, amount of water in the pan, etc. Smoking takes a lot longer and has to be babysat to ensure you keep that 225 degree temp 6 to 7 hours should do it but smokers differ.
The great part about smoking or frying a bird is that they keep well. Growing up my dad would smoke several chickens at once…he’d spend all Saturday in the driveway cooking. We’d eat one for dinner and nibble off the leftovers all week. But the others would go in the freezer and we’d take them out as we needed them. Also, further proof that smoking poultry runs in the family….here is my other brother and his son making a beer-can chicken.
And if cooking a turkey isn’t in your plans…well…..maybe a little re-run of “The One With All The Thanksgivings” is. You’re welcome.
Don’t you just LOVE classic Friends?
Back in the early days of this co-blogging adventure, every Friday we would share a photo of the two of us from one of our many joint adventures. We kept that up for 30 weeks or so before exhausting the supply of “good ones”. I covered our 9th grade year book already, but just 10th grade was lost until last weekend. Joyous occasion!
In truth I think Bethany and I enjoy these posts more than anyone else, and I know she has had a really wild ride these last few weeks, so B – hope this makes your Friday better!
So, back in 1998, Bethany and I spent every morning in homeroom listening to announcements over the PA system. Our names were actually in alphabetical order in both 9th and 10th.
Okay this year book was whacked, as you can see. Bethany’s last name got an extra “s” added to it. My hyphen is MIA. And if you actually knew the rest of those people, you would see how terribly wrong this all is. In fact, we’re lucky our names are even in the proximity of our photos. There’s one guy in there who wasn’t even in our grade!
Big news! Bethany got her flowing locks chopped at some point that year. Look how cute:
Meanwhile, my hair got harder and harder to manage. Here we are in Drum Line and Jazz Band, respectively.
I really did kinda love band, although you may not be able to tell from this photo.
Bethany was not only cute, she was incredibly skinny, and also in the coolest extracurricular activity there was: Show Choir. You think I’m kidding but I’m not. In our weird high school, the ‘glee’ kids were the ones dumping the proverbial slushies on everyone else. Not Bethany, mind you. She was just there because she could sing and dance and be cute all at the same time.
Look! She was so skinny, they put her at the top of the pyramid in the school musical! This was a production of ‘Bye Bye Birdie,’ of which I have no recollection.
And here’s the only significant activity we both participated in that year: OM. I would also like to point out that while we did come in 2nd place at State Finals, it was 2nd out of two. Thank you very much.
Nice to see you, 10th grade! Lots of fun times but I wouldn’t do it again for a gazillion bucks.
Addendum: Oh my stars. Proof that you really can find almost anything on youtube.
I’m not sure if its due to the fact that it’s gotten cold here pretty quickly in Nashville, or if it’s just the time of year, or all the construction going on in our neighborhood or what, but it’s safe to say there has been a bit of a varmint invasion in our area. My hilarious friends Paige and MK have begun a “ministry for squirrels in need of a fresh start” and have relocated several bushy-tailed friends out of their yards. The cashier in the Home Depot the other day mentioned he’d pulled two racoons out of his attic (shudder). And then this past Sunday, we found a possum in our yard.
We knew that there were possums in the hood….we’d seen two baby ones hiding under the shed in the back yard last year, one up a tree in the alleyway behind the house, and then our friend John had caught one eating my tomatoes one night back when I was trying to grow a garden. But all had been quiet on the o’possum front for a while, so we’d kind of forgotten about it. And then on Sunday morning I was using the leaf blower to clean off our back deck and I saw some commotion in one of the bushes. I assumed it was one of the chickens or Booger the cat, all of whom were roaming around while I fixed up the yard. But then a second later I heard Keith yelling at me to come and see what he’d found and then I saw the unmistakeable skin tail and realized that he’d found an unwanted little creature lurking about.
Possibly the best part of the photo below is that I happened to be wearing a “Possum Town Marathon” t-shirt. Mary-Hall and I are both from Columbus, Mississippi, dubbed “Possum Town” by Native Americans until it earned its current monkier in 1821. There’s even an annual BBQ festival called the “Possum Town Pig Fest.” Believe it or not, I grabbed this t-shirt out of my drawer that morning not knowing I’d come face to face with it’s namesake a few hours later.
What ensued was nothing short of the makings of a great “you might be a redneck if…..” joke. When the little critter refused to scurry out the back gate that Keith had opened, an all out chase began. After about 10 minutes, we were able to corner him until he ran into a cat-carrier that I had snatched out of the shed just in the nick of time. We took a few photos of our friend and then relocated him a few miles down the road to a little-used historic marker with lots of bushes and hiding places.
My friends were totally weird-ed out by this story. “Possums creep me out,” MK texted me followed quickly by Mary-Hall with the exact same text. (seriously.) But not me. I have a bit of a possum affinity stemming back to when I was five years old and we found “Dusty” in our garage one chilly morning. His momma had met with an unfortunate end and this tiny critter was huddled next to the warmth of a large appliance. My mom had a soft spot for animals so we took this little guy in without a second thought. He lived with us for about a month or so until he was big enough to have a good shot at making it on his own in the woods next to our house.
Apparently things haven’t changed much since I was five…..my grown-up response to finding a critter in the backyard is to blog about it. But as a kid I wrote a story about it. The title was brilliant; “About a Possum We Have.” And because my ability to spell did not match my ability to string words together, I dictated the whole thing to my mom who typed it out. (Major mom points for that one. Especially since that was in the pre-computer days and mom did the whole thing on her typewriter.) I flipped through the pages to bring you a few quotes. I’m pretty sure I was smarter at five than I am now.
“All possums have prehensile tails, like our possum’s. Have you seen a monkey hang by its tail? Well, possums can too, That is what “prehensile” means. His tail looks like skin; very little hair is on his tail.” (clearly mom had taken advantage of the situation to help me do a little research on possums and had explained the word “prehensile.”)
“We were also surprised when we looked in a book and found that possums have 50 teeth….” “We were really surprised because at his age he has teeth, and sharp ones too; whereas a human being baby his age would not…..” “Now he is even crunching hard Cat Chow. He eats it like squirrels eat acorns, holding the Cat Chow in his front paws.”
And because I totally couldn’t resist it, here are both photos taken exactly 28 years apart, side by side. Pretty much I still look the same.
So there you have it. Never a dull moment around here. Anyone else have critters lurking in your yards?
Today the pregnant lady wants to talk about ice cream, go figure. Actually it was Bethany who started this with her post about fancy ice cream flavors last week. I got to thinking about the eons of pumpkin puree in my freezer and just how it might make into a good ice cream. And frankly, what this blog really needs is MORE pumpkin-related content. 1, 2, 3, 4, whee! So first up I went with my standby B+J recipe, and then I decided to try a “paleo” variety too, just for kicks. Live on the edge, right?
Both are good. You may be thinking, “ice cream? Its cold outside!”. But nay, my friend. Ice cream makes an equally awesome dessert in cold weather as it does in the peak of summer. If you don’t believe me, I dare you to try it. 🙂 And yet, who would eat pumpkin ice cream in the summer? That just wouldn’t be right. Seasonal ice cream flavors for the win.
So here are the two recipes. Take your pick, they are similar… but different…
Modern Day (Sugar laden) Pumpkin Ice Cream
- 2 eggs
- 3/4 cup sugar
- 2 cups heavy cream
- 1 cup milk
- 1 cup pumpkin puree
- 1 tsp cinnamon
- 1 tsp nutmeg
- Whisk the eggs till your forearm hurts (2 min).
- Whisk in the sugar.
- Add the cream, milk, pumpkin, and spices.
- Whisk some more.
- Freeze according to your ice cream machine’s instructions.
If you like pumpkin spice lattes, this recipe is your friend. The nutmeg and cinnamon definitely dominate over the pumpkin here, in a good way.
Paleo Pumpkin Coconut Ice Cream
- 2 cans full fat coconut milk
- 1/2 cup maple syrup
- 1 can pumpkin puree
- 1 tsp vanilla extract (is this paleo? leave out if not)
- 1 tsp cinnamon
- 1 tsp nutmeg
- Mix it all together.
- Whisk some.
- Freeze according to your ice cream machine’s instructions.
I put ‘coconut’ in the title because there’s really no masking of the coconut flavor in here. Luckily, I love coconut. Some paleo diet versions allow heavy cream, so if that’s your thing, then by all means sub it for the coconut milk.
This ice cream is great straight from the machine, so be prepared to serve it right away. It freezes solid in the freezer, and develops just a hint of weird taste after thawing back out.
This being my first taste of paleo ice cream, I have to say, I’m intrigued. I want to try a few more options, maybe include some eggs next time, and also rethink my old coconut rum recipe. I think the coconut milk would be a shining star in that mix.
Last night Keith and I hosted a birthday party for two friends who just happen to have birthdays in the same week. There was lots and lots of yummy food, tortellini soup, cupcakes, baked brie with honey and pecans, pulled pork BBQ…..the girls in charge of the menu went all out! But one of the snacks was such a cute idea that I had to pass it along to you.
My sweet friend Holli had offered to bring stuff for s’mores, which in MY thought process means grabbing a box of graham crackers and a bag of marshmallows and a few Hershey’s bars at the checkout- line on my way to the party. Holli however went all out. She made individual s’mores “kits” and put them all in a cute wicker basket to pass around the campfire. Before she headed out the door, I made sure to secure permission to post her cute creations on the blog and she was gracious enough to let me!
What You’ll Need:
*1 bag/package of individually wrapped “fun size” Hershey’s candy bars
*1 box graham crackers
*1 bag jumbo marshmallows
*1 box NON-ZIPLOCKING, FOLD-TOP sandwich bags such as these.
*1 roll of baker’s string, ribbon or twine
*small paper tags such as these.
What To Do:
*in each sandwich bag, place 1 marshmallow, 1 individually wrapped chocolate bar, and 1/2 of a graham cracker.
*tie a short piece of string, twine or ribbon around the bag to seal it (probably about 6 inch lengths would work best)
*choose a number, monogram, or graphic to decorate the tags, then tie one on to the ribbon of each packet.
*place all the s’mores packets into a basket and serve around the campfire!
Because both the birthday boy and girl were turning 32, Holli chose to put the number 32 on each tag. However, this would be a great way to customize the project to fit your own occasion. You could easily use the initial of the birthday person, date (birthdate, due date, anniversary, etc.), some sort of cute picture (such as a pink or blue image for a baby shower), a holiday clip art, or even your favorite sports team logo for a fall tailgate! The sky is totally the limit as far as labels are concerned. And these cute favors are obviously adaptable to a variety of situations.
I hope you enjoy these around your next campfire as much as we did last night! And speaking of campfires…..we have a guest blog in the works that might inspire you to put together some s’mores kits and head out to the woods! Stay tuned!
November is so many things these days –
- No Shave November
- Mou-vember (moustaches?) (maybe those two are the same thing, don’t know)
- National Novel Writing Month
- Innovation in Mississippi Month (very important, obviously)
- Personal Finance Awareness Month in the Johnson Residence
I know, right? So exciting!
August and I have been putting off getting our finances in order for oh, approx 1.5 years. And why November finally seems like the right time to get everything together I don’t know, but it does. It may have something to do with the upcoming 20 week ultrasound and the new baby that’s barreling towards us like an oncoming train. Or it may also be reality setting in that our one big financial goal – to pay off our house in 5 years – ain’t just gonna happen without some planning. We want that mortgage to be GONE and its not gonna go away on its own.
Step #1 in this system overhaul was to create a budget. We already track all our expenditures on Mint.com. This is a free ‘quicken’-esque website. Its pretty slick and we’re big fans. It can collect all your online financial information, including most bank accounts, credit cards, mortgages, etc. The ipad and iphone apps are very handy, too. And, you have to spend a little time every week or two helping it to categorize each purchase, but at the end there are lovely pie charts and bar charts of your financial history.
I’ve found that this tool appeals largely to the ‘ipad set’, while others are queasy about having all their personal financial information in one place on the internet. And personally, if mint.com got hacked someone might know how much is in my checking account, but they wouldn’t have the ability to spend it, so it doesn’t concern me. (Kids these days, and such.)
So, on 11/1 we finally sat down and spent 15 minutes making a real budget. I opted to go uber-simple and make a really easy spreadsheet listing all our expenses in order, something like this:
- August paychecks
- Mary-Hall paychecks
- Mortgage payment (plus extra principal to meet our 5 yr target)
- Utility bills
- Grocery budget
- Gas budget (will make you cry)
- Household supplies budget
- Clothing budget
- Restaurant budget
- Entertainment & misc spending money budget
- Other one-off expenses we expect for November
And so theoretically, the sum of the paychecks should equal the sum of everything else. With help from Mint, we looked at how much we were spending in each category, and then considered whether we were okay with that, or not.
First, we realized that we may not be able to keep up our current pace of double mortgage payments every month once I go on maternity leave – not without some major cutbacks. We shall see. So maybe it’ll take 6 years, or maybe we can trim some of our other budgets.
Second, we realized that our restaurant spending of recent is just plain too high. And its not like these are quality experiences… More of the “I’m too tired to cook so we’re going to Sonic” variety. There’s a definite need for better grocery planning. But to make it simple this month, we switched from card (we’re debit only) to cash for this category. Once the cash is gone, its grocery-only for this family.
You always hear that spending cash is harder than spending plastic, so we’re giving it a trial run this month. Has anyone out there tested this theory? Sometimes I feel like I spend cash, especially $1 bills even easier than plastic. But at least there’s a hard limit on the spending. Here are some of our budgets for November:
- Gas – $550 – ack
- Electricity for November – $96
- Groceries – $300
- Restaurants – $150 – Last month we spent $350 so this is a sizable cut.
What about you guys? Any tips?
By now you all know that I’m a “recovering picky eater.” As a kid, I barely ate anything besides raw veggies and bread. Even with ice cream, which you think most kids love, I was particular about what flavors I liked. I was a vanilla girl through and through, although I also liked chocolate. Later on, I loved chocolate chip, but I didn’t like cookies and cream even though one would think those were similar. (It was a texture thing I think…I didn’t like Oreos either until well into high-school.) And somewhere around age ten I discovered chocolate-chip cookie dough and it was all over from then on out. It’s still one of my favorites.
One of my most vivid memories of my dad from when I was a kid centered around ice cream. I remember it clear as if it happened yesterday, although I was probably about five or six when this particular incident occurred. We were in the Braum’s in Ft. Worth, Texas where we lived at the time. I’m not sure why we were there (Braum’s was typically reserved as an after-a-special-occasion treat such as a violin recital or something) or where my mom was, but I was standing there in line hanging on to the silver metal railing that I loved to play on and my dad looked down at me and asked what I wanted to order. Normally, I would have had a scoop of vanilla. Or chocolate. Or chocolate chip. But on that particular day, I apparently was feeling a little daring. I’m pretty sure dad said, “You can order whatever you want” which opened the door for all sorts of possibilities I’d never previously considered.
At that age I had a certain fondness for the color pink. Hanging on the wall of the Braum’s franchise was a framed photo of a triple-decker-scoop strawberry ice cream cone. I’d admired its beautifully pink layers from afar many times while eating my burger and crinkle-cut french fries, or as I munched on my “safe” single-scoop-vanilla cup from one of the faux-wood-printed laminate table tops and orange molded bench chairs. But I’d never considered that that very ice cream cone could jump out of the confines of printed paper in a frame and into my hand for me to eat. Never, that is, until my dad uttered the word, “whatever.”
“I’d like that.” I said, pointing at the strawberry masterpiece. “That?” asked my dad. “Are you sure?” I was sure. Very sure. Three scoops of that pinky goodness in a cake-cone, please. I remember my dad uttering his signature chuckle…the one he uses when he thinks that something is not the best idea in the world but he also doesn’t see the point in arguing with it. He nodded to the clerk behind the ice cream vats and said that we’d like the ice cream cone in the photo. The clerk obliged and soon I was holding the gigantic treat in my own two little hands. It seemed like a dream come true. I admired it for a moment, and then took a big bite.
It wasn’t until the ice cream was actually in my mouth that I considered that there had to be a reason the ice cream was pink. There was a flavor behind that pink hue. A flavor that unfortunately, I did not like. I did not like one bit. Sure I loved REAL strawberries. But ice cream that was supposed to taste like strawberries just wasn’t cutting it. I felt my eyes get hot. There I stood in front of the cash register clutching the biggest ice cream cone I’d ever seen…and I didn’t like it.
I’m not a parent, so I can’t say I know this from experience, but I’d wager to say that there are a few moments in life where you can really make it or break if for your kid. I don’t know what I did or didn’t outwardly express in that moment (if I froze, or if I cried) because all I can remember is the swirling, internal, child-like distress of not knowing what to do next. But whatever feelings I did or didn’t show, Dad totally saved the day in that moment. He turned to the clerk and smiled and said, “And I think we’ll need a single scoop of vanilla in a cup.” Then he gently took the cone away, and ate the entire reject himself while I noshed on my replacement, plain-jane sweet.
This past Saturday night, my husband and I were coming home from picking a few things up at the store and I made the comment that I was craving some ice-cream. There is a new Jeni’s Splended Ice Cream Scoop Shop in our neighborhood and so we decided to give it a try. As “grown-up Bethany” studied the menu I had to laugh at all the flavors I was considering; black coffee, Cinderella’s pumpkin, sweet potato and toasted marshmallow. Nothing boring about any of those. And then one caught my eye that I had to have: Raspberries and Sweet Corn. In ice cream? you ask. Yes. And it was the most delicious flavor I have ever tasted. I ordered a “Trio,” three perfectly sized scoops garnished with a waffle cone triangle crisp. Along with the raspberries and sweet corn scoop, I chose Loveless Biscuits + Peach Jam and Brambleberry Crisp. Sadly, it did not occur to me to take photo of my treat, but it looked something like this photo that I found on the interwebs.
So next time you’re in the neighborhood (or anywhere there is a Jeni’s shop) be sure to check out the rainbow of flavors available. And if your kid chooses something crazy…just go with it. There might be a memory in the making.
Sometimes when I blog it’s last minute. It’s something that comes to mind and I sit down and type it out and post. But sometimes that blog has been brewing for a long while. These blogs are usually about some big event that I’m looking forward to, and then there’s extra delight in knowing that I can bring it to you all after it happens. Like when I ran my first half marathon. Or lost ten pounds. Today’s blog is one of those blogs. Today, I bring you the cover art of my album. I feel like a proud Mama, even though the real Mama in this story is Alexis (Goodman) Ward of The Visual Republic.
Alexis was originally a “Friend-In-Law” (as I like to call them); one of a fantastic group of long-time friends of Keith’s that I “inherited” when we started dating and then got married. I loved so much getting to know all of my husband’s friends and the process of them becoming MY friends. They are dear, dear friendships. Keith and Alexis had been friends for years, and we hit it off early on (Lex is one of those folks that instantly makes you feel comfortable, valuable and well-liked from the second you meet her.) Since then we’ve traveled and had many adventures together including camping in Yosemite together just a month or so ago. Anyhow, Alexis is amazing on a professional level as well…in fact most recently, a CD cover of hers was up for a Dove Award which is pretty awesome. All that being said, when doing my own album became a reality, I knew that she was the girl to make it look pretty and she did just that. So without further adieu, I give you the album cover!
Remember…if you would like to pre-order a copy of the CD, you can do so by clicking on the graphic link below. PreOrder sales are our way of funding the album so every CD purchased goes a long way! Thank you so much for your support! And if you ever need some mad graphic design skills….be sure to get in touch with Alexis @ The Visual Republic!