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Archive for the ‘Thanksgiving’ Category

white pumpkin tableIf you are hosting Thanksgiving this year and aren’t sure how to set your table, here are some ideas!

You can make the gathering as casual or as elegant as you like, there are no set rules you have to follow. The only rule I enforce is that you have a good  time!

To begin your tablescape design, think about the number of guests you will have attending and how formal the meal will be. Is it a laid-back crowd that would prefer something simple? Are the guests more of a fine-dining group who are comfortable with a formal place setting? Think about these things as you decide how ornate, or simple, to decorate your table.

For a casual thanksgiving gathering, you could place a table runner down the center of the table with a few candles, mini pumpkins and nuts as decoration. You could use placemats at each place setting.

Your everyday dishes can be made to look special when you layer them and add some fun accents to the table. Think about placing a large pinecone at each place setting and fastening a piece of thin wire around the top. Bend the wire to hold a small place card. This is a fun way to create a seating arrangement while adding a little pop of fun to each place setting.

For a more formal gathering, use a tablecloth. If you are worried about Uncle Fred spilling on your fine linen, use a washable and easy care table covering.

Haul out your good china or a more formal pattern if you have one. Create a beautiful centerpiece or arrangement. Make sure it is low to the table and not obstructing the view or put it up high enough that guests can see under it. You can do this by using a plant stand or small side table. It adds quite a bit of drama to your table. Make sure you have candles for added warmth. If you have cloth napkins, use them!  If you are using fresh flowers, make sure the smell is not overly strong. It will compete with the smells of your food and can even inhibit the taste. It is also a good idea to steer away from strong floral aromas in case some of your guests have allergies or may be sensitive to the odors.

If you want a table that is more formal than casual, but less stuffy than elegant, set your table with a cloth, add in a nice centerpiece, but make the place settings a bit more fun. If you have two or three dish patterns that go together (like a cream set and a brown set) mix and match the pieces. This works especially well if you don’t have enough of any one pattern to make it around the table.

However you decide to entertain this Thanksgiving, remember a little preparation goes a long way and that the most important thing is to connect with those who have gathered in your home. And don’t forget to be thankful for each face seated around the table!

For more autumn entertaining ideas, download your free copy of Savvy Entertaining. It’s available on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Apple, Kobo, and from ShannaHatfield.com

She Who Can’t Wait to Eat Pumpkin Pie

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Large male turkey in nature

Going with the theory of “better safe than sorry,” here is a list of hotlines and websites for any disasters that may strike Thanksgiving Day!

BUTTERBALL

Online Help

1-800-BUTTERBALL (800-288-8372)

REYNOLDS

Online Help

1-800-433-2244

FLEISCHMANN’S YEAST

Online Help

1-800-777-4959

LIBBY’S CANNED PUMPKIN

Online Help

1-800-854-0374

OCEAN SPRAY

Online Help

1-800-662-3263

PILLSBURY

Online Help

1-800-775-4777

BETTY CROCKER

Online Help

1-800-446-1898

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turkey

Since we are two weeks away from Thanksgiving, I thought I’d share this count down.

If you haven’t started planning your big turkey dinner yet – you’ve still got time!


Two Weeks Out

• Get an accurate head count from those planning to attend. This helps you know how many seats you need, if you need to set up an extra table (or borrow an extra table).

• Plan your menu in detail.

• Finalize your guest list and issue invitations.

• Prepare and bake freezable cakes, pies, cookies, and/or rolls. Tightly wrap all unfrosted baked goods in plastic wrap and freezer bags, then store in the freezer. Think about what a great idea this is. You will have your desserts prepared well in advance and, should you have guests drop by unexpectedly, you’ll have something you can thaw out on a moment’s notice.

• Finalize menu details including everything from beverages and appetizers, right on through salads, entrées and side dishes, as well as  desserts, and any after-dinner drinks. Choose a good mix of dishes and make sure some of them may be made somewhere besides in the oven (stovetop, microwave, slow-cooker). If you are buying large pieces of frozen meat (like your turkey) purchase now and store in the freezer.

• If any of your guests offer to bring a dish, let them. Find out exactly what they are bringing and adjust your menu accordingly.

• Make your first run to the grocery store for items that are non-perishable (stock up on paper towels, tissues, toilet paper, aluminum foil, plastic wrap, resealable bags, chicken stock, canned goods, flour, sugar, etc.)
One Week  To Go
• Anything that can be prepared a week in advance, take care of it now.

• Make a second trip to the store to get items that you’ll be using in the next week (think eggs, cranberries, etc.)

• Decide if you will b e serving the meal buffet or family style, where everyone will sit, what table linens you will use, what decorations and centerpieces you need, what serving pieces you need, if you have enough plates, glasses, eating utensils. If not, figure out what you are going to do to make things work (borrow, rent, purchase pieces).
Three Days Ahead of Time
• Remove meat (such as turkey) from the freezer and begin thawing  in the refrigerator (follow package directions).

• Clean all your serving pieces and place them on the table with sticky notes marking what will be served in each dish.

• Clean out the refrigerator so there is plenty of room for all the groceries and all dishes you will need to store on the big day.

• Start cleaning outside the house near the front door area. Make sure your welcome starts there with a clean and inviting entry.
Two Days Ahead of Time
• Prepare any dishes that can be made a few days ahead of time.

• Gather all plates, silverware, glasses, pitchers, that you will need and make sure it is all washed, polished and ready to go.

• Make a final run to the grocery store. Get your fresh produce, dairy products, extra eggs and bread and anything else you are going to need.

 

The Day Before
• Remove all baked goods from the freezer. If they need garnished or frosted, do that now..
• Prepare any baked goods you couldn’t make ahead. Any dishes that can be assembled and left overnight in the fridge (like casseroles) can be taken care of now.
• Do whatever prep work you can now like washing and peeling carrots, prepping celery, etc.

• Make your game plan for the following day. Decide what needs done first in the morning, what tasks family members can assist with,what time you want the food on the table, etc.

• Finish cleaning the house. Make sure the entry, the guest bath, kitchen and the area where you will be eating are extra clean. Empty all the garbage cans. Place candles in strategic areas (use all the same scent family) and ready to be lit. Set the table, place the centerpieces and go soak your feet!

Turkey Day
• Make sure the meat is in the oven with time to spare. You want to factor in time for the meat to “rest” before it is carved.

• Do as much prep work as possible on side dishes, such as assembling salads and relish trays, before guests begin arriving. Many dishes, such as mashed potatoes, can be completed a little early and kept warm until you’re ready to serve dinner.

• Assign family members duties for the day. Younger children can be door greeters and coat takers. Make sure you have a dedicated area for coats and handbags. Older children can pass appetizers and beverages to guests as they arrive. Give someone the duty of quickly running the broom down the front walk, lighting candles and making sure the guest bathroom is spotless.

• Take a deep breath, smile, relax and enjoy this day of giving thanks and blessings!

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As I bustled through the grocery store today, I noticed they had all sorts of pumpkin this and caramel apple that on display.

It made me really want a piece of pumpkin pie. Or pumpkin cake. Or pumpkin bread with chocolate chips. Or…

Oh, you get the idea.

Anyway, if you are looking for some fun fall recipes, entertaining tips and party ideas, I invite you to download Savvy Autumn Entertaining.

Autumn Cover

It’s free!

You can find it on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or you can download a PDF version from my writing website.

She Who Loves Fall

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If you are hosting the Thanksgiving festivities tomorrow and have struggled in the past to make gravy that tastes good, you are not alone.

I come from a long line of women who make really, really good gravy. Unfortunately, that gene seemed to have skipped right past me.

For years, I struggled to make gravy that either:

1. Did not look and taste like thin gruel

2. Did not look and taste like lump paste

I watched my Mom and Grandma make excellent gravy with seemingly no effort at all. I copied what they did and still my gravy turned out awful.

Finally, my most wonderful mother-in-law, who also makes good gravy, showed me how she does it. Suddenly, there were choirs singing and people rejoicing (that would have been Captain Cavedweller). I was a gravy-making maniac.

A simple recipe is:

2/3 fat from drippings

2/3 cup flour

2 cups chicken broth

water

Remove turkey from roasting pan. Pour drippings (turkey juices and fat) from pan into strainer over small bowl. Skim 2/3 cup fat from top of drippings and place  in heavy saucepan or cast-iron skillet. If there is not enough fat, add enough melted butter to fat to measure 2/3 cup. Reserve remaining drippings. If you have excess fat, discard.

With a wire whisk, rapidly beat flour into fat in saucepan. Cook over medium heat 1 to 2 minutes, stirring constantly, until mixture is smooth and bubbly. This will removing the starchy flavor from the gravy. Remove from heat.

Measure reserved drippings together with broth; add enough water to equal 5 cups liquid. Gradually stir broth mixture into flour mixture. Heat to boiling over high heat (5 to 6 minutes), stirring constantly. Boil and stir  an additional minute.

You can salt to taste.

Here are a few tips for making tasty gravy so you can leave behind the gruel and paste-like creations.

  • Keep it lump-free by using a wire whisk when adding the flour to the drippings. Beat it fast and furious to keep lumps from forming.
  • Measure accurately. Too little fat can make the gravy lumpy; too much fat can make the gravy greasy
  • If you don’t have enough drippings, you can use water from cooking potatoes.
  • If you have plenty of pan drippings and like lots of gravy or are serving a crowd, just double or triple the recipe. This is necessary with our family! My Dad would eat gravy on everything, given the opportunity!
  • For thinner gravy, decrease meat drippings and flour to 1 tablespoon each.

If your gravy is greasy, put a slice of fresh bread on top of the fat for a few seconds to absorb it; remove bread before it breaks into pieces.

Despite your best efforts of removing lumps, if you still have some stragglers, you can pour gravy into a food processor and process until smooth, or press gravy through a strainer. Return to saucepan and heat before serving.

If your gravy is too thin, dissolve 1 tablespoon of flour in 2 tablespoons of water then whisk into gravy stirring constantly and boiling for a minute.

For some reason, if your gravy ends up too salty, add a raw peeled potato, cut into pieces to the gravy pan. Cook and stir  about eight minutes, then remove potato pieces.

Wishing you lump-free, perfect gravy as you celebrate Turkey Day tomorrow!

She Who Wishes you all a very Happy Thanksgiving!

 

 

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One of my favorite things about entertaining at home is presentation– making things look pretty. There is something so fun about deciding what serving pieces to use, what looks good where and then having the whole thing come together just before the doorbell rings.
When you are planning to entertain, think about serving the food buffet style. This method of serving does two wonderful things:
• It keeps the host from being so tied to the food and the kitchen.
•It creates a casual atmosphere where guests feel more at ease and are much more likely to mingle.
Isn’t it awesome to watch your guests connect and have fun? Kind of the whole point of enteraining (well, that an excuse to eat too much good food!)
Another thing I love about buffet entertaining is that it allows the host to get the buffet set up in advance.
Whether you are doing a single or double-sided buffet, make sure all food is within easy reaching distance. You don’t want someone dragging their sleeve or shirt-tail through a bowl of cranberry sauce.
Most importantly, have fun with it! You are the artist and the buffet is your canvas. Get creative and let your personal style shine through.
Start by placing a cloth on your table, counter or whatever surface you are using for your buffet. It can be a neutral shade like white or cream, although my go-to standard is black (hides the spills and stains!). Use sheets for inexpensive and easy care table coverings.

Next, add height to your table. Strategically place boxes, books, whatever you have on hand that is sturdy to give you some height elements.

Now, add another cloth drape over your height elements. I like to use a cloth in the same color as the base cloth. The purpose of this covering is to hide the height elements. On top of this, I add a table covering in a contrasting color or pattern. For Thanksgiving, choose something in an earthy color. Or go wild and crazy and use burlap fabric or something rustic  (rustic… but clean!  You can purchase burlap by the yard at most craft or fabric stores.)

Add a centerpiece. You’ll want it to be off to one side and to the back, if it is a one-sided buffet or in the center for a double-sided buffet. It should be the highest point on your table.

Start layering in your serving pieces. You can get the table all set up today, put sticky notes on each piece labeling it so it will be easy to remember the mashed potatoes go in the big square bowl and green beans go in the medium round bowl, etc.

Finish off the look of the table with a few candles, pine cones or nuts. If you use candles, you might want to opt for the battery-operated variety. No open flame worries there.

Some other quick tips:

• If you want a cake stand and don’t have one, flip a sturdy bowl upside down and place a platter on top. To make sure the platter doesn’t slip, you could dab on a few drops of rubber cement, which is pretty easy to remove.

• To keep your hot foods hot, warm bricks in the oven then slip them under your table coverings (place them on thick pot holders so the heat doesn’t damage your table surface). Place casseroles or plates on top and the bricks will hold the heat.

• To keep cold foods cold, you can fill bowls with ice and nestle beneath your table coverings. Set your serving bowls in the bigger bowls or pans and food will stay chilled.

• Make sure you have plenty of plates, forks and napkins as well as glassware. When we entertain, it seems like it doesn’t take long until all the forks in the house are dirty!

However or wherever you spend Thanksgiving, I hope it is with people who make your heart smile and bring you joy.

Wishing you all a Blessed and very Happy Thanksgiving!

She Who is Grateful for So, So Much

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