Giving Thanks (Despite all the Holiday Chaos)

Saw this in a McMinnville, OR church window--love!

Saw this in a McMinnville, OR church window--love!

In our neck of the woods school is out, traffic is snarled, and Christmas trees are up for sale. Thanksgiving must be right around the corner.  The one and only year we tried our hand at roasting turkey was an unmitigated disaster*, so we will direct you to the experts at The Kitchn for any and all turkey questions:  

Turkey-Buying Guide

Time to Thaw that Turkey

How To Cook A Turkey

How to Take Your Turkey's Temperature

30 Essential Thanksgiving Recipes

Side-Dish-Only Thanksgiving (this, we could do.)

8 Smart Ways to Enjoy a Thanksgiving for Just Two

6 Ways to Host Thanksgiving When You're on a Budget (our tip: talk your way out of it)

And then, of course, there's pie, as if wrangling the turkey wasn't bad enough.  Once again, some of our very favorite cooking experts to the rescue...

Classic Pumpkin Pie

Ginger Pumpkin Pie

Classic Double-Crust Apple Pie

Old-Fashioned Pecan Pie

Pie Recipe Roundup from Simply Recipes 

How to Freeze Unbaked Pies

Pie Mistakes to Avoid

Preventing Soggy Pie Crusts

Now are you hungry from perusing those mouth-watering recipes, or what??

For our readers here in the US, if you plan to travel this Thanksgiving season so are 41 million other Americans (by car) and 3.5 million more (by air.)  Or so AAA projects.  Also keep an eye on the icky weather forecast for the East Coast this week.  We do not plan to travel.  We routinely boycott holiday travel, in favor of mental health.  Our far-flung relatives have stopped expecting to see us at their holiday soirees by this point.  FaceTime is a beautiful thing...although eating dinner in front of an iPad may not hold quite the appeal that eating turkey together around Grandma's table does...

So whether or not you roast that turkey, whip that pie into shape, or head over the river and through the woods to reunite with loved ones for Thanksgiving, we hope you have a wonderful holiday!  If you do plan to drive, check out this great winter driving checklist. We are thankful for YOU, our readers, and for all the blessings of this special season!  




*We have undying respect for those cooks out there who make Thanksgiving look so easy. Please note: we would like to be invited over some time.  We are excellent, appreciative diners. We also do dishes!



Meal Planning Essentials

Meal planning doesn't have to give you heartburn...

Meal planning doesn't have to give you heartburn...

Meal planning is sort of like budgeting.  It isn't exactly a fun process, although as with budgeting, there are fabulous people out there who LOVE it.  To them we say: please come to our house!  Without a meal plan, things tend to fall into chaos around here, especially during hectic weeknights.  There's that dreaded question: "What's for dinner?" You, the cook, must then come up with something, when what you really feel like doing is vegging out in front of the television with frozen pizza while your hungry family members fend for themselves.

The trick to avoiding this whole unhappy scenario is to plan ahead.  There is beautiful software available to assist you in this endeavor, complete with printable shopping lists and nutritional information. For a review of some of the highest-rated meal planning tools, click here.  For us, however, keeping it simple (and cheap) has been the key to developing workable meal plans that we can rely on to get us through the week.  We can't tell you how to plan your meals, because only YOU know what you and your family like to eat, what your budget is, and so on.  

What we can share are some general principles that have worked well for us.  They are, in no particular order:

  1. Go through your refrigerator/pantry and see what ingredients you currently have on hand.  Food waste is a terrible sin. Build your meal plan around ingredients you already have, then shop for the extra bits and pieces that will complete the picture.  Too often food gets tossed simply because we didn't have a clear goal in mind for it when we bought it.
  2. You don't have to make everything from scratch, every night.  If you're just starting out in your cooking adventures, don't sweat it if your meal plan for the night includes rotisserie chicken.  Or frozen pizza.
  3. Plan meals you and your family like to eat.  If you have kids, bring them in on the planning process...this is a great way to get them interested in cooking! 
  4. Hang up your meal plan in a prominent location.  For us, this is the fridge.  You may find a whiteboard handy, or a chalkboard.  This way, if anyone asks "What's for dinner?" you may simply direct them to the list (in a tone that brooks no argument, of course.)
  5. If you're just warming up to the idea of meal planning, we suggest that you start with planning DINNER for Monday-Friday.  This is only five meals.  You can do it!  You can always work your way up from there later on.  You can plan two weeks worth of meals...then a month...complete with breakfast and lunch plans...dessert...the sky's the limit! 
  6. Never hesitate to break from your plan, as needed.  Life is messy.  Adjust accordingly. 

Please feel free to share your favorite meal planning tips and tricks in the comments section below.  We wish you the very best in your meal-planning adventures!