Happy Easter!

Table setting 2– all from Target (Threshold and Hearth and Hand collection)

Table setting number 1 (Target Threshold and local florist and local primitive gift shop)–I think this one is really Spring like and less Easter, so I’m going with #2!

Our Easter dinner is going to be:

Ham with a brown sugar mustard glaze

Hasselback potatoes

Roasted Brussels sprouts

Glazed Carrots

Parker House Rolls

Lemon Cheesecake

Whatever you’re doing this coming Sunday–have a wonderful make memories kind of day be safe and be well! 🐝

Easy Christmas Cookie recipes and What’s Ahead in 2020!

Italian Lemon Cookie recipe is  here

Cranberry Orange White Chocolate Chip Cookie recipe is here

I haven’t started baking yet, but will the second weekend of this month. I have thankfully purchased all the ingredients and can’t wait to try them! Something a little different for the holidays to go along with the thumbprint and sugar cookies I always bake.

What’s Happening with my blog in 2020?

I started my blog in 2009 as an outlet from all the school work I  was always doing–I was in my second year of college and needed a hobby or? something to de-stress and get myself involved in that wasn’t school or work. I decided to blog about my food journey because we were about five years into changing up our lifestyle and I thought that would be fun to blog about..

My blog posts were private for three, maybe four years? Then one day I decided to make some of them public and eventually my blog went public and I began to receive feedback for some of my posts and the rest as they say is history. Through the years this blog hasn’t changed much–at least it doesn’t feel like it. My posts have almost always centered around food, or foraging, or recipes, meals, farmer’s markets, and gardening.

I had zero goals for my blog–it stayed a place for me to write and share what I’d learned about any given subject but mostly those mentioned above.

Through the years I’ve made some great friends, I think learned to write better( better grammar, punctuation, and better story-telling) had a couple of my essays make it to food research/resource sites, and been lucky to have had over 100 followers (40 added just this year) which to some may seem like nothing but to me means an awful lot.  I feel so thankful that people hit the follow button on my blog which really has never been more than my journal and followed along. Thank you!

Through feeling more confident about writing, I began to do something that had always been a dream of mine and that was writing book reviews. I’ve shared several on the blog. From those experiences I’ve been contacted by publishing companies and authors and now regularly join author book launches, which are a lot of work, and read for publishing companies and authors an average of 5 books a month and write reviews. This is not paid work mind you, which is fine for now, and may someday (I hope) be compensated. That said I work full-time, run a household, have volunteer work, and a pet that has special needs filling up my time as well.

My blog has helped me in several ways meet my dream of being a book reviewer.  So I’m not throwing in the towel completely.  I will continue to blog now and then–returning here when there are container garden pictures to share, and our forever gardens some day soon we hope–once we move, farmer’s market hauls, and a recipe or two. Here and there it will contain a book review  of mine –most likely any cookbooks and/or food related books I review. 

I feel my blog as it has been for the last few years has come to an end.  I’ve always put a lot into every post I’ve written even when it was just me reading my posts. Once I started getting followers I imagined we’d talk passionately about all things food related until all hours of the night–but that never happened. That’s o.k.  I still made friends and found great blogs to follow and I’m thankful for what has come out of it.

So with that my friends I say–  I wish you all a very Merry Christmas and I’ll see you again at some point in 2020 with a new blog post.

 

 

 

Turkey Dinner for 12 & gratitude printable

This week I found a fantastic printable that I copied onto my chalkboard.
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Source for printable–  & may I say that I just love this blog-All Things Bright and Beautiful

Well folks, its Thanksgiving week already. Where does the time go? My husband and I went shopping this past weekend to avoid the big rush and purchased a ton (it sure felt like it) of food. We helped friends host family members and a deer hunter get-together and helped feed over 40 people for 3 days. On top of that we finished our Christmas shopping, painted the bathroom, picked out new carpeting and both worked overtime at our full-time jobs. But oh the reward of the big feast all weekend. I made a lot of homemade sloppy- joes, bbq’d what seemed like an endless supply of brats and baked 6 pies. Now after another full week of work, we’ll be doing it all over again come Thursday. It’s very rewarding to cook for people who love to eat and we are extremely grateful to have friends and loved ones near us throughout the Thanksgiving and holiday season. I’m thankful to know such wonderful people not only through work, but through living in this area and through the various organizations we volunteer for. It’s  really a labor of love to entertain the special people in our life.

For Thanksgiving dinner there will be 12 people give or take 5 more. I wanted to make sure we had plenty of food and also some leftovers as well as something here and there to send home with everyone. So I perused the internet until I found some pointers about how much food to prepare for 12 people. I will be the main cook/hostess so it’s all on me. Here’s what I found at Taste of Home .   I think we nailed it with what we bought and have on hand- I currently have two 20-pound turkeys defrosting in the refrigerator and I’ll be baking 1-13# ham.  We’ll be having sides of mashed, rice and stuffing, along with cauliflower, squash, brussels sprouts, corn and sweet potatoes. We will have both veggie and fruit trays for before the meal and cookie and cake trays after the meal. The desserts are yet to be decided, I’m thinking cheesecake, pie and creme brulee . On Wednesday, after work, I’ll be making the homemade bread and rolls. Having a lot of people for dinner isn’t new to us but this is the first Thanksgiving I’ve cooked alone for more than 10 people.

Until next time, I wish all of my readers a wonderful Thanksgiving day(if you celebrate the day)and as always until next time–be safe and be well.

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Homemade Turkey Gravy

Over the years I have perfected two things Thanksgiving dinner related- the turkey and the turkey gravy. The only thing about my thanksgiving meal that never turns out is the stuffing. I’m not one to stuff my bird– I’ve tried bread crumbs and day old dried bread but it never tastes as good as store bought. But store bought has so many ingredients in it. Have you ever looked at the ingredient list for Stove Top stuffing? We cannot eat it. So no stuffing this year, but of course there will be a well made Turkey and lump free gravy.  And lots more, but this post is about turkey gravy (ahem).

My tried and true recipe is here . Where it says gravy or cornstarch, I always use cornstarch. You are to dissolve the cornstarch in water ( as little as needed to make a thin paste) and while it is dissolving I take a clean finger and stir it around until fully dissolved and then add to the drippings in the pan. When I used to use a spoon to help dissolve it, the cornstarch (clumps of it) would stick to my spoon. Make sure your paste of cornstarch is thin. Besides being a simple recipe, it is simply delicious and your people will thank you.

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Here’s wishing all who are following my blog, or who just stop to read a post or two, a wonderful Thanksgiving Day!

A Minnesota Christmas- A Ghost from Christmas Past (growing up in the 70s)

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Photo Source

A Christmas Essay by Kim VanderWerf for goodfoodgreatdesign ™ (previously posted on my blog Feast 12/12/15)

I grew up in the 1970s in a little valley about thirteen miles from the nearest town and belonged to a family of five. Which was made up of mom, dad, a younger brother, and a younger sister. We lived in a hundred-year-old farmhouse next to our grandparents’ on the family farm.  From our home, we could see our grandparents’ next door, our neighbors across the main gravel road in front of our home, distant neighbors by their barn light (known as a security light now) and the wisps of smoke from their wood stove.  Occasionally we would hear the bark of that distant neighbor’s coon hounds if the wind blew just right. As the year wound down and the holidays grew near, a certain mood took over in our household.  Christmas time was a special time in our home; a time when it seemed my parents’ moods brightened and even they had a child-like state of mind. You know the one I’m talking about. The happy, peaceful and hopeful feelings that every child has at Christmas time. My siblings and I didn’t have to be reminded to behave, nor do I ever remember being threatened that Santa would not come. Though no doubt we were anxious, and probably at times slightly giddy, we knew that Christmas was about more than just presents.  You see our parents’ weren’t like some of the parents’ of the time, they did not compete at Christmas time with the Jones’.

First and foremost in our home at Christmas time it was all about Christ. Christ was brought into our lives by way of the church we belonged to and its annual Christmas program. It was there that we learned the story of the baby Jesus as each year one of us took a turn participating in the play. Though I loved going to church and enjoyed watching the Christmas play, I really looked forward to the box of candy we were given as we exited the nave.  The play was held at night time so all the way home all you would hear from mom was “no candy before bed”. To which of course meant I had very little time to ever so quietly sneak out the biggest piece of peanut brittle I could find.

Christmas time meant a lot of time spent with the elder members of our family. I grew up with four step great aunts all in their 70’s and a step great uncle. There was also a reverend in our family along with a church choir director. So one could say I was brought up surrounded by Christian influence. Often my father would include bible verses in simple conversation even though he himself was a lapsed Lutheran. Whether it was the ever-present Christian influence or the spirit of the season, mom made sure that giving to others remained an important part of our Christmas festivities. She was ever busy trying to find just the right gift for the elders, wrapping them just right, and making arrangements from one to the other on when we’d come over to visit. Even at their ages each great aunt had their home warmly decorated for Christmas and all had made the customary goodies from their native country of Norway. Once the meal was ready we would enjoy Swedish meatballs, mashed potatoes, carrots, corn, and gravy. Desserts were varied but usually were cranberry salads, glorified rice and of course- lefse, rosettes, and sandbakkels.

After the meal we three kids would sit quietly amongst the adults as they visited. Then eventually we’d be handed our gift. From the elders, our gifts were usually homemade. Over the years my sister and I received hand knit Barbie clothes, stocking caps, mittens, and homemade Christmas tree ornaments. Never did we look down upon these gifts even though we knew our friends were receiving the store bought kind from their aunts and uncles.

Because of the different groups, my mom belonged to there was always the Secret Santa gifts to look forward to buying and receiving. It was fun to watch her get someone’s name and then have to go out and try to find the gift requested. It was even more fun to see her expression when someone who wasn’t shopper savvy would draw her name and ultimately give her a gift she hadn’t requested. But of course mom would make good use of it and the rest of us, well, we’d sure get a good laugh out of it.  My sister and I belonged to 4-H so we would also have a Christmas party and exchange gifts. I always asked for a Lifesaver’s Storybook for my gift and sometimes I would actually get one. For me, that was the ultimate gift and one I still asked for up to a few years ago. As a family, I think we enjoyed the giving of gifts way more than ever receiving them.

Christmas Eve was always spent at our grandparents’ home watching Doug Henning, the magician, on t.v. while grandma prepared her Oyster Stew. Neither of my siblings, nor I or mom, would eat the Oyster Stew so grandma prepared a casserole for us. Of course,  it goes without saying my eyes were constantly perusing the candy dishes because grandpa would usually have quite an assortment of hard candy at this time of year.  After the evening meal, we would present grandpa and grandma with their gifts. Grandpa was easy to buy for because like me he had a major sweet tooth. So he usually got a flannel shirt, some mixed nuts, and hard candy. Grandma liked the prettier things in life so her gifts were pretty knick-knacks, gloves, or her favorite– a gift set of Chantilly dusting powder. Before the end of the night, grandma would open a box of chocolates and each of us would be able to pick one. I always wanted the vanilla cream one but usually ended up with a caramel nougat. Then back to our home we would go where we would shortly be sent up to bed. After a few reminders that “Santa won’t come if you’re still awake”, we would settle down and go off to sleep.

Come Christmas morning we would wait for two (sometimes more) hours for dad to finish chores. While Mom was in the kitchen making a special breakfast of sausages and eggs we were allowed to open our stocking. Our stockings were stretched out old socks once worn by Dad now retired, clean, and full of goodies. Each stocking contained a handful of hard candy in cling film, a candy cane, and the ever traditional orange. You can read the story behind the tradition of putting oranges in stocking here, which I thought was very interesting. Having cared for many elderly people throughout my healthcare career, I know that getting an orange for Christmas during the Great Depression was a real treat and sometimes all a family could afford. Mom no doubt was carrying on a tradition started by her grandparents as she was born a few years after the final year of the Great Depression in Canada. Fruit at Christmas time and all through the holidays is a big thing throughout Europe, the U.S., and Canada. There’s fruitcakes, fruit baskets, and fruit of the month clubs to name just a few things that promote the giving and partaking of fruit during the Christmas holidays. Of course, as soon as I saw the hard candy or candy cane the orange I was given was soon lost to the world. Just kidding, it was set aside to eat AFTER the candy and breakfast was eaten.

Once dad was in the house we could open our bigger present; as we each got one big present. I usually asked for LP records, while my sister asked for games or clothing.  Our little brother always wanted whatever new John Deere tractor or piece of machinery was popular that year from the local farm implement.  Smaller gifts were Christmas nighties or slippers, new denim jeans or socks. After our presents were opened it was dad’s turn and I think all of us were most excited for his reaction. Each year he got the same things, yet, he was always thankful and happy to get new ones-socks, long underwear, and that ever-present winter staple in the Midwest– a flannel shirt.  And what about mom you ask? Well, she purchased her own Christmas gifts because she was ever so particular as to what she would want. Usually, she wanted a flannel nightgown, soft socks or slippers, and sometimes a soft sweater or housecoat. She bought the gifts I wrapped them and come Christmas morning they were a complete surprise to her.

Christmas decorations in our home were simple; our tree was always decorated with handmade ornaments. The traditions were abundant from the meal we ate on Christmas Eve with our grandparents’ to the oranges in our stockings Christmas morn. Christmas vacation was a time for sledding parties and ice-skating and one year even going for a horse-drawn sleigh ride. Mom would spend two weeks every year making her famous homemade fudge and special Christmas Sugar cookies. Which of course meant that between all the Christmas break activities I was forever sneaking into the pantry eating fudge and sugar cookies. Christmas dinner was usually mom’s famous baked BBQ ribs but sometimes it was a ham with her delicious scalloped potatoes and creamed corn. I loved, loved, loved my Christmases growing up. It set in stone how I’ve spent each Christmas since I’ve left home. Steeped in tradition with its common theme in giving, Christ is still the reason for the season in our home.

Each year at this time I look back and the ghost of Christmas past is very present. It’s a great experience, I’m very thankful for the memories I have. As I grew into an adult I passed some of my family’s Christmas traditions onto others, and I am certain that if they’ve remembered the giving part rather than focusing on the receiving part their Christmases have always been memorable. When I first met my husband he was very stressed at Christmas time. His family celebrated, throughout his childhood in the states, Christmas on December 5th. That is the date that people from the Netherlands celebrate Sinterklaas Day. I’ve written about this day on my blog a few times. In short, it is a day dedicated to the children in the Netherlands where St. Nick arrives by boat and gives gifts and candies to all. As adults, my husband’s family drew names and then got together on December 5th to exchange the gifts.

When we got married I was expected to change my day of celebration to December 5th.  But I would not do that. Instead, I compromised and did both because there was no way I was going to give up the way I celebrated Christmas. Their celebration did not involve Sinterklaas arriving in their home giving gifts to kids but instead was each adult drawing names and then buying the gifts from that person’s list. Christmas dinner was the same meal served at family get-togethers throughout the year. And although we enjoyed getting together with family on Christmas day what inevitably happened between family members and gift giving made it a very stressful day for us. Let’s just suffice it to say what usually happened would definitely rival some of the Christmas movies made today where the entire family is having a meltdown.

By our second year of marriage, I had taken my husband home so that he could see how my family celebrated this special time. I wanted him to experience how warm, and friendly and giving centered my family made the special day. After that experience, he was sold on celebrating Christmas the way my family enjoyed celebrating it. By the third year of our marriage, we were celebrating in our home with some of the traditions I had grown up with and some new ones of our own.  Now twenty-one Christmases later Christ and the gift of giving is still the main focus of our Christmas time.

As your family gets ready to enjoy whatever celebration you have in the month of December don’t let how others choose to celebrate the day affect how you enjoy yours. Comparison really is the thief of all joy. Enjoy your traditions and make new ones. Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays and Good Cheer!

Here are a few more Christmas decor pictures. Notice half-way through our little ham needed to get in on the action. He kept posing in front of the camera each place I stopped to take a snap. Finally, once I got the hint, I took his picture.  Our Christmas tree is decorated in Blue, White, and Red as a remembrance of those who lost their lives and the families of those whose lives were lost in Paris. You may also notice if you click on the photo that there are spaceships. Yes, spaceships. For nearly twenty-one years my husband has been collecting Star Trek ships (Hallmark Ornaments) and this year I promised him they could go on the tree. So they are there amongst the blue, white and red and if I may so I think they look just grand!

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Until next time…

Written by Kim A VanderWerf
12/12/2015

A Very Cranberry Christmas

Cranberries are definitely not just for Thanksgiving. Cranberries work perfectly paired with ham, duck, and turkey at Christmas time too.

Last Christmas I made an Orange Cranberry Bread w/ Honey from a recipe here that was a hit.  It worked great to serve it Christmas morning, and by Christmas dinner, it was ALL gone.

Every year I watch two Christmas movies from the show Little House on the Prairie–A Merry Ingalls Christmas and then the past three years I’ve made one homemade ornament or decoration inspired by these heartwarming shows. The first year we made a silver star out of aluminum foil like the one Carrie buys for a penny at the mercantile. The second year my husband made this paper garland–

this year we are making a cranberry garland like this one over at Ocean Spray only we’re skipping the popcorn.

At Thanksgiving time I don’t make cranberry sauce, I make a cranberry relish instead. I use a recipe by Tyler Florence that works great and goes well with turkey, ham, or duck. I also use it to spread like butter over bread with leftover ham or turkey for sandwiches.

So, that’s my story about my love for cranberries at Christmas time. Making homemade ornaments for Christmas is a way to incorporate something simple, yet cherished, into your holiday making. Cranberries though traditionally served at Thanksgiving look marvelous and taste great when added to bread, relish, even salsa.

I’ll be sharing my post with Marty over at A Stroll Thru Life— come on over and join the party!

Fall Feast Plans

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Fall is my favorite time of the year, with springtime a close second. One is a time of new and the other the time before everything rests and is renewed. Fall is also a very busy time for my husband and I as a couple, for myself as a volunteer and for tasks that at times seem never ending.  Fall cleaning is one of the first things I do on my to do list. I thoroughly dust everything, shampoo carpets throughout our home, haul our winter coats and stuff to the cleaners (though I usually do this in the spring) and decorate for fall and then the holidays. I decorate our home for Halloween, Thanksgiving and for Christmas and I go big. All of it is time consuming, but totally worth it when it is done.

A couple of weekends ago we traveled into Madison for one of the last Farmer’s Markets outside of the year.

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I found time to upload a couple pictures of our fall decor~

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freshly cleaned carpet

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cozy new pom pom throw

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My birthday is near the end of the month and all I want to do is catch up on all my reading. I have two cookbooks to peruse, and I’d love to get through my stack of magazines. Instead we will go to our favorite restaurant and let someone else cook for the night. Less than a month later I will be preparing a big Thanksgiving meal for family and friends here in Wisconsin. This year’s menu is: Turkey, apple walnut stuffing, green bean casserole with fried shallots, pickled peach and cranberry salsa, roasted sweet potatoes and salted caramel peanut butter fudge pie.

I was inspired by these menus at Country Living.

That’s all for now. Later in the week I will be back to share more fall cooking inspiration!