BigSis’ California visit

November 30, 2010

Now that Thanksgiving has officially come and gone, BigSis is on her way back home today after spending five days with us here in California to celebrate the holiday and her birthday.

Here are just a couple of pics from the visit. We had a very non-traditional Thanksgiving planned this year and BigSis arrived just in time to join us for our first Thanksgiving Feast with all our friends on our dock at the Harbor. It was a GREAT time!

For BigSis’ birthday on Friday, we enjoyed lunch at a wonderful Mexican restaurant, El Callejon in Encinitas.

BigSis with the boys, Bry and HayHay

We both agreed that they served the best guacamole either of us has had since we were in Cancun years ago!

BigSis & LilSis

We managed to squeeze in two more lunches to our favorite local Mexican food restaurants, a visit to a new Mediterranean restaurant, a little bit of shopping, a night of playing Wii games with the guys, and a day trip to the Casino.

(And we did force ourselves to do a six mile walk every morning so we didn’t feel too guilty about all the overindulgence of Mexican food.)

We had a great visit, as usual, but time just flew by too quickly. :-(

Thanksgiving is a time to reflect on thankfulness and we have so much for which to be thankful. Now, as we count down the days towards Christmas and New Years, instead of letting the busyness of the holiday season cause more stress and anxiety, I am going to try to take the time each day to reflect on our blessings and enjoy the true spirit of Christmas.

~LilSis

Got Thanksgiving Leftovers?

November 28, 2010

We get pretty passionate about Thanksgiving leftovers!  Remember the episode from Friends where Ross took his beloved Thanksgiving Leftover Sandwich with Moist Maker to work, and someone ate part of it and threw the rest away?  Ross was so enraged that he got sent to anger management classes.  That’s how much we care about these leftovers!

I bet most households in America probably still have some of these Thanksgiving leftovers in the fridge. Instead of the traditional turkey and noodle soup, how about a few creative ideas to help you use up all those yummy leftovers?  Here you go…

Thanksgiving Monte Cristo Sandwich

Thanksgiving Monte Cristo Sandwich

Thanksgiving Monte Cristo Sandwich from Family Fresh Cooking

Leftover Pot Pies

Leftover Pot Pies

Leftover Pot Pies from Savvy Eats

Turkey, Wild Rice & Cannellini Bean Soup

Turkey, Wild Rice & Cannellini Bean Soup

Turkey, Wild Rice, & Cannellini Bean Soup from Kahakai Kitchen

Turkey, Cranberry and Brie Panini

Turkey, Cranberry and Brie Panini

Turkey, Cranberry and Brie Panini by Baking Bites

Creamy Mexican Turkey Soup

Creamy Mexican Turkey Soup

Creamy Mexican Turkey Soup from The Recipe Girl

Whatever you choose to make, just be sure that none of your prized leftovers go to waste!

~LilSis

Thanksgiving Turkey Cookies

November 21, 2010

Thanksgiving Turkey Cookies

Here’s a quick and easy Thanksgiving dessert that’s a fun one for the kids. I recruited my 17 year old to help with the eyeballs.

BigSis mentioned this recipe for the Thanksgiving Turkey Cookies a couple of years ago but I never got around to making them until now. We’re celebrating Thanksgiving this year with a group of friends and I thought these cookies would be something a little different to take to the gathering.

As I’ve mentioned before, I’m not the baker in the family and I’m not particularly fond of baking from scratch so I love that you just use refrigerated cookie dough for this recipe.

Thanksgiving Turkey Cookies
(recipe adapted from Pillsbury)

1 roll Pillsbury refrigerated sugar cookies
1 container (16 oz.) chocolate creamy frosting
candy corn
orange decorating icing
Miniature M&M’s
Tiny black or blue nonpareils

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Bake cookies as directed. Cool completely, about 20 minutes.

Spoon chocolate frosting into resealable plastic baggie and seal bag. Cut a small hole in the bottom corner of bag. On each cookie, pipe frosting on outer edge of half of cookie. Arrange candy corn over frosting for feathers.

Pipe orange icing onto each cookie to resemble turkey face and brown icing for the feet. Use a small dot of icing to attach the M&M’s to the cookie for eyes and to dot on a tiny nonpareil for center of eyes.

These little guys were actually pretty fun to make! :-)

(Note to BigSis: Here’s a turkey that even a vegetarian can eat! ) :-)


~LilSis

Adopt a Turkey for Thanksgiving!

November 19, 2010

Adopt Turkey Daphne

Daphne

Most people are talking about preparing turkeys for the Thanksgiving meal, but LilSis is right that this Vegan Sis isn’t one of them.

It’s been 17 years since I feasted on anything that had a face or parents, and Thanksgiving is definitely not an exception. In fact, I think it’s an opportunity to celebrate the real meaning of the day, and it doesn’t have to revolve around a dead bird.

Instead of eating a turkey, how about adopting a turkey?  For just $30, you can sponsor a turkey through Farm Sanctuary, the nation’s leading farm animal protection organization.

“Save a life this Thanksgiving, and join me in starting a new tradition by adopting a turkey instead of eating one through Farm Sanctuary’s Adopt-A-Turkey Project.” – Ellen DeGeneres, Farm Sanctuary’s 2010 Adopt-A-Turkey Project spokesperson

Adopt Turkey Velma

Velma

Your contribution will go toward the care of animals at the organization’s New York or California facilities, and in return you get a color photo of your adopted bird buddy and fun info about him or her.

Plus you get the satisfaction of knowing you did something that honors life, and that if they could, these birds would express their thankfulness to you for that.

How about giving turkey sponsorships to your friends to celebrate your gratitude this Thanksgiving?  We’re always trying to think of something different and thoughtful to give to those people on our Christmas list who have everything.  Do they have an adopted turkey?  Probably not!

Adopt Turkey Kima

Kima

If you decide to celebrate turkeys this year, you’ll be in good company!  On Wednesday, Farm Sanctuary submitted a petition with close to 14,000 signatures to President Obama, urging the White House to send the two turkeys who will be pardoned in a ceremony next week to their world-class shelter in Watkins Glen, New York.  The petition asserts that the shelter is uniquely equipped to provide the expert care necessary for the health, comfort and longevity of these birds.

Want to learn more about celebrating a compassionate Thanksgiving?  Here are a few links to get you started:

Top 10 Reasons Not to Eat Turkeys

PETA’s Recipes for a Vegan Thanksgiving

Farm Sanctuary’s Compassionate Thanksgiving Recipes

Happy Thanksgiving!

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~BigSis

Top 10 Turkey Tips

November 17, 2010

Roasted Thanksgiving Turkey

So, who’s roasting a turkey for Thanksgiving next week? Whether it’s your first time to roast a turkey or if you’re an old pro, here are ten tips to help you assure that you roast the best turkey EVER!

  1. First, decide whether you are going to buy fresh or frozen. Plan ahead if you’re buying frozen. The safest way to defrost a frozen turkey is in the refrigerator and a 20 lb. turkey will take between 3 -4 days to fully defrost.
  2. When choosing your turkey, be sure to read the nutritional label. A lot of the frozen turkeys are basted and will contain more fat and as much as four times the sodium as a fresh turkey.
  3. Decide on the size of the turkey you need based on how many people you will be feeding. If you want leftovers, Butterball says to allow approximately 1 1/2 pounds per person; so for 15 people, you would want to buy a 22 lb. turkey.
  4. Cooking times do vary depending on whether you purchased a frozen or fresh turkey. Allow 20 minutes per pound in a 350 degree oven for a defrosted turkey and 10-15 minutes per pound for a fresh turkey.
  5. I stuff a turkey the same way I do a large roasting chicken. Just loosely fill the turkey cavity with veggies like carrots, celery, garlic, onions and maybe some fresh rosemary. And, I like to add fresh herbs under the breast skin. A turkey will cook more evenly if it’s not densely stuffed. (Our family always baked the stuffing separate from the turkey, never stuffed inside the turkey or in the bottom of the roaster.)
  6. For more even roasting, truss the turkey and tuck the wing tips under the shoulder of the bird. If you don’t want to take the time to truss, just make sure the legs are tucked into the pocket of skin at the tail end.
  7. Before roasting, brush the outside of the turkey with either vegetable or olive oil. Season with salt and pepper and make a tent out of aluminum foil and place over the top of the turkey. (This will prevent the breast from browning too quickly.)
  8. Once you’ve got your turkey in the oven, just leave it alone! There is no need to baste every hour and opening the oven will drop the temperature which will effect the roasting time. About 45 minutes to an hour before you think the turkey is done, remove the foil so the breast can brown and baste with turkey juices. (Our mom also liked to rub butter on the skin at the stage.)
  9. Don’t rely on the little plastic thermometers to pop out. Instead, check the temperature of the turkey with an instant read thermometer. The deepest spot on the turkey, in the thigh, between the leg and the breast should read 165 – 180 degrees. Make sure you do not overcook or you will end up with dry turkey breast.
  10. Remove from oven. Place the foil tent back over the turkey and let it rest for 20 – 30 minutes to allow to juices to redistribute throughout the turkey. To end up with a moist turkey, it’s very important to let it rest. For best results, carve with a very sharp or electric knife.

Voila!  I know the first time I roasted a turkey, it was somewhat intimidating, but it really is pretty simple, isn’t it?

photo credit: r_gnuce


~LilSis

Holiday Potatoes: Make Ahead Mashed Potatoes

November 8, 2010

Holiday Potatoes: Make Ahead Mashed Potatoes

Holiday Potatoes: Make Ahead Mashed Potatoes

We did share our recipe for Holiday Potatoes last November, but they are definitely worthy of another mention, especially at this time of the year. These potatoes are on our Thanksgiving and Christmas menus every year, without fail. My guys would actually love it if I would make these more often instead of saving them for special occasions.

Trust me when I say that this recipe will not disappoint.

Holiday Potatoes

9 large potatoes (I used white, but you can use Russet or Yukon Gold) peeled and quartered
4 cloves garlic, peeled
1 stick butter, softened
12 oz. cream cheese, softened
1 c. sour cream
3 large shallots, peeled and thinly sliced
1 1/2 c. canola oil
salt and pepper to taste

Place the potatoes and the garlic cloves in a large saucepan and add water to cover. Boil until potatoes are tender. Meanwhile, in a medium skillet, heat the oil until hot, add the shallots and cook over medium heat, stirring frequently, until they are golden, about 15 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the shallots to a paper towel to drain.

Once tender, drain and place the potatoes in a large bowl. Cut butter and cream cheese into small pieces and add to bowl. Beat with electric mixer until potatoes are fluffy. Beat in sour cream. Add salt and pepper to taste. Serve immediately or place in a buttered casserole dish and refrigerate.

To reheat, bake for 20 minutes or so at 350 degrees. If the potatoes are completely cold, they may need 45 minutes to heat through.  I like heating mine until they’re a little brown around the edges. Right before serving, sprinkle the shallots with salt and garnish the potatoes with the shallots.

If you’ve never tried a Make Ahead Mashed Potato Recipe, I can almost guarantee you that once you make these, you’ll never go back to making last minute mashed taters EVER again!  Instead of peeling and boiling potatoes in a busy kitchen, just pull these out of the fridge, pop them into the oven, and visit with your family while they’re heating.  That’s one more thing to be thankful for!

~LilSis

Celebrating a Birthday and Giving Thanks Today!

November 26, 2009

Do you know what today is? Yes, I know it’s Thanksgiving, but today is also BigSis’ Birthday! (Since we all know how much of a cat lover BigSis is, I think she might get a kick out of this!)

HAPPY BIRTHDAY, BIG SIS!!!!


It was this time last year when BigSis, SisMama and myself went to Vegas to celebrate BigSis’ birthday. This year we aren’t as fortunate to be together for her birthday.

Since it’s Thanksgiving, I’d also like to say that I’m so thankful for having such a great sister! I know some women aren’t lucky enough to have a sister and some have sisters that they aren’t even close to, which I can’t imagine. So, I consider myself very blessed, and for that, I’m very thankful.

Thanksgiving is traditionally a time when we all give thanks and express our gratitude for those things in our lives that are most important to us.

For me, it’s simple. I can sum it up all in one word; family. I give thanks, not only today, but every single day for our family. After losing my dad and my brother in law, both suddenly, I tend to live life a little differently than before, in a positive way.

I could go on and on about how rough this past year has been on us, emotionally, financially, spiritually, and realistically speaking, the toughest year we’ve ever had in almost 20 years.  Instead of going into specifics, I’ll just say that my husband and I try to live life these days believing in the theory that “when one door closes, another one opens.”

We just live life today being thankful for each other, for our health, for our parents, our siblings, our five wonderful children, and our three beautiful grandsons. At the end of the day, nothing else really matters.


~LilSis

Last Minute Thanksgiving Recipes

November 24, 2009

I’ll be taking our family’s go-to tater recipe – Holiday Make-Ahead Potatoes – to Thanksgiving lunch at SisMama’s house this year.  If I needed to whip up anything else, you can bet I’d be choosing from this group of fab-you-luss recipes!

Breakfast

Appetizers

Side Dishes

Desserts

  • Caramel Apple Bars from SugarPlum
  • Chocolate and Peanut Butter Bundt from My Baking Addiction

Have a Happy Thanksgiving, y’all!


~BigSis

Update: Thanksgiving, Birthday, Vegas

November 30, 2008

We’re back home now, and our long week of celebrating Thanksgiving and BigSis’ birthday in Las Vegas is winding down.  Here’s how it all went.

First, in Vegas:

  • LilSis had a smooth flight in on Tuesday, but BigSis and SisMama got stuck in Amarillo on Monday for over 4 hours due to mechanical problems.  There was a problem that caused hydraulic fluid to spill out all over the runway as the plane was about to take off, and the jet had to be towed back to the gate.  Southwest doesn’t have mechanics in Amarillo, so the part and the mechanics had to be flown from Dallas to Amarillo, and then it took them a couple of hours to fix the plane.  Thankfully, they did a great job and BigSis and SisMama got to Vegas safely, although they lost half a day of their time there.
  • Once we all got there, Vegas was fun fun fun!  And no, we didn’t get into any trouble.  There was no reason for you to worry, Big T.  It was a very “G Rated” trip.
  • We were not thrilled with the service at our usual favorite hotel so we decided to check out as many others as we could on this trip. We really liked Planet Hollywood Resort and Casino and love that The Miracle Mile Shops are attached to the casino. We tried to get out to look at the “infamous” pool on the 6th floor but it was closed due to the weather. We loved Caesar’s Palace and The Forum Shops and just might stay there on our next trip. We each fell in love with a purse from the Coach store at The Forum Shops but we resisted buying them. (It took every ounce of willpower.)
    BigSis wanted this one!

    BigSis wanted this one!

    Lil Sis wanted this one!

    Lil Sis wanted this one!

  • We did see Luciano Pavarotti, Elvis, a girl who looked like Sarah Jessica Parker, two hookers, and two drunk Europeans.
  • The weather in Vegas was not great, especially on Wednesday…BigSis’ birthday!  How dare it be rainy and cold and windy!
  • BigSis came away with about $60 in winnings against around $80 total in losses, so a net loss of $20 in slot machine fun isn’t too bad!  You can’t even see a movie and buy popcorn for that!  LilSis and SisMama didn’t fare quite as well, but none of us are big gamblers so we can’t cry about our small losses.
  • If anyone EVER recommends to you that you take the Deuce mode of double-decker transportation, DON’T DO IT!  Let us just say that we had a terrible experience with it, and lost about 2 hours out of Wednesday.  Nuff said.  Don’t do it.  Take a ding dang cab.
  • We had some fabulous meals in Las Vegas!  On Tuesday, our dinner at The Palm at Caesar’s Palace was by far the best!  They had the best creamed spinach that any of us had ever eaten. The recipe is also in The Palm Restaurant Cookbook. Wednesday, we had a great birthday lunch for BigSis at Taqueria Canonita in the Venetian (delicious mushroom tacos). And The Studio Cafe in MGM Grand actually has one of the best breakfasts in town (excellent omelets and hashbrowns).

    The Palm in Caesar's Palace, Las Vegas

    The Palm in Caesar's Palace, Las Vegas

Then, back at home:

  • LilSis and her family had an excellent Thanksgiving dinner, in spite of her flying in that afternoon and spending 2 hours in traffic getting home from the airport.  The turkey was perfect and the Refrigerator Mashed Potatoes were the big hit, as usual. Thanksgiving dinner was great and everyone was thankful to be together.
  • BigSis and SisMama also flew back to Texas on Thanksgiving, but opted for the Furr’s Cafeteria buffet instead of cooking, since they’d done the family meal on the previous Sunday.  The pros: no cooking, no clean-up, and only $9 per person.  The cons: it was good but not like homemade.
  • On Black Friday, BigSis and SisMama braved the crowds at Galleria Mall to see the lighting ceremony for the largest indoor Christmas tree in the country. Can you say “crowd control”?  Great googly moogly there were bajillions of people there!

Ok, girls and boys, start your engines!  The Christmas season is now here in full swing!  Since we had a late Thanksgiving, we have a short period of time until Christmas.  In the coming weeks, we’re going to focus on Christmas, of course.

BigSis is organizing a bake sale on December 15th at her office building to benefit the Dallas SPCA, and her team’s goal is to raise $3000.  She will have much more to share about that project in the next couple of weeks.

LilSis and SirHoney have to get busy putting up the exterior Christmas lights. It just hasn’t felt like Christmas yet in California since it’s been 75 degrees and sunny almost every day. LilSis also has to get busy on shopping since she has to ship all their Christmas gifts.

We hope you all had a blessed Thanksgiving week, and that you’ll stay with us throughout the Christmas season!  We love Christmas, and we’ll be talking about shopping, decorating and merry-making!