Friday, November 27, 2015

The best thing about "Black" Friday ... Thanksgiving leftovers!

So it's Black Friday... forget about shopping ... it's time for Thanksgiving leftovers! I never have to worry about gaining weight on the pies. My hubby Bruce downs any of the leftover pie by midday on the day after Thanksgiving. 

The thing I love eating the most is Turkey Stuffing Casserole. This casserole recipe has become as much a family tradition as Thanksgiving dinner itself. Now that it's just the two of us at home, one casserole makes enough for 3-4 meals. It's a good thing hubby likes leftovers. Pair this casserole up with a nice salad and add a little cranberry sauce and it's the perfect dinner of comfort food, traditions, and memories.

Turkey Stuffing Casserole

1 package stuffing mix (I use StoveTop Savory Herbs or Turkey)
4 cups cubed boiled potatoes
2 cups cubed cooked turkey
1 can cream of chicken soup
1 can cream of celery soup
1 cup grated cheddar cheese
1/4 cup chopped onion
1/2 teaspoon poultry seasoning
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon pepper

In a large saucepan, combine the two soups with 1/2 - 1 can water. Heat to boiling. Remove from heat and add the turkey, onion, poultry seasoning, salt, and pepper. Stir well. Add potatoes and cheese and stir to combine. Pour into a 2 or 2 1/2 quart casserole dish. Prepare the stuffing according to the directions on the package. Layer over top of the casserole. Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes, or until hot and bubbly around the edges. 

Memories from Recipes

As I was anticipating this year's Thanksgiving feast, I pulled out the cookbook to find our favorite recipes so I could make sure all of the ingredients were on my shopping list. Most of my recipes are on full page typed and printed pages, but then there are a few of our very favorite recipes that are handwritten on random pieces of paper or recipe cards, stuffed in plastic sheet protectors, that I refuse to get rid of because of the memories they invoke each time I use them. Here are just three of our very favorites...

Sweet Potato Casserole ... this recipe is from one of my best Arizona friends, Joan Jansen. Each time I make this recipe, I think of the many years we spent together on early morning walks, working together at Weight Watchers, watching our kids grow together, and laughing and crying together through good times and bad ... Memories that I will treasure forever. 

Imitation Black Bottom Pie (our family members actually all agree that this should really be called "black middle pie" instead since that's where the "black" portion of the pie is located) ... this recipe is from my dear departed sister-in-law Vickie. She was a very sweet, yet opinionated woman, who I was proud to call my sister. She was not always respected by the people she loved the most, and was taken much too early by the ugly disease of Cancer. Our family was honored to be able to care for her during her last days, and we will always be grateful for those special memories that we made.  

And finally, Grandma Leavitt's Peanut Butter Balls (normally a recipe that we make at Christmas time, but has been known to surface during other special occasions during the year) ... this is a handwritten little slip of paper from my husband's grandma, sent to me at my request. I have such fond memories of this special lady that lived a good long life, many of those years spent as a widow. She was full of wisdom, laughter, and love, and I cherish the times we spent together. 

Sweet Potato Casserole
This has become a staple at our Thanksgiving table. The thing that makes this really speacial is the streusel topping... yum!

4 large sweet potatoes, canned or fresh (I prefer fresh)
(1) 5 oz. can evaporated milk
2 Tablespoons butter
1 Tablespoon vanilla
1 teaspoon lemon extract or juice (I prefer juice)
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
Dash of salt
Dash of cinnamon
Streusel Topping
1 cup chopped nuts ( I prefer pecans) with small amount of flour
1 cup packed brown sugar
1 stick (1/2 cup) butter

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Mash sweet potatoes until smooth. If using fresh potatoes, peel and cut in pieces and cook until tender. Drain and mash. Add milk, butter, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, and flavorings. Combine well and spread in casserole dish.  (Tip-to make this easy, combine all ingredients in bowl of stand mixer and mix with flat beater until smooth.) Combine streusel topping ingredients until crumbly and spread on top of potato mixture. Bake at 350 degrees for 40-45 minutes or until hot and bubbly around edges. The casserole can be made ahead of time, put in the refrigerator and baked just before serving. Add about 10 extra minutes. 

Imitation Black Bottom Pie
A traditonal family pie for Thanksgiving and other other special occasions. 

1 cup flour
1 stick ( 1/2 cup) butter

Combine to make a smooth dough and mold/press into greased pie plate. Bake at 350 degrees until barely brown (about 15 min.) Cool.

Bottom layer
(1) 8 oz. package cream cheese
1 cup powdered sugar
(1) 8 oz. tub of Cool Whip

Cream together cream cheese and sugar. Add Cool Whip and mix until thoroughly combined. Spread over cooled crust.

Middle layer
(2) small packages of instant pudding mix, chocolate or fudge
3 cups milk

Beat together until thickened and smooth. Spread over cream cheese layer.

Top layer
(1) 8 oz. tub of Cool Whip
Chocolate pieces or mini chocolate chips

Spread or pipe on top of pudding layer. Decorate with chocolate pieces or chips. Refrigerate several hours or overnight.

Grandson Blake, after finishing off his Thanksgiving pie.

Peanut Butter Balls
In our family, we are all peanut butter and chocolate fans. So whenever homemade candies are made, this is the first request. A favorite Christmas treat, but also made for other occasions during the year. These can be made as dipped balls, or as a filling for molded chocolates.

2 cups smooth peanut butter
1 stick (1/2 cup) butter
1 lb. (approx. 4 cups) powdered sugar
3 cups Rice Krispies

Combine together well to make a dough. Form into balls and chill. Dip in chocolate or chocolate candy coating. 

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles... do they ever get old?

Is it my imagination, or are the Turtles making a huge comeback? And how old are they anyway? I remember decorating TMNT cakes when my kids were young... like about 30 years ago. I did a little research a few days ago and found out that the Turtles first made their appearance in 1984. Here it is 31 years later and they are more popular than ever... crazy!

I tried to find a picture of that first TMNT cake that I designed all those years ago, but couldn't seem to find it. Looked everywhere. I vaguely remember wanting to toss the picture so no one would request another cake like it. Back then, most of the cakes I decorated for birthdays were sheet cakes and all of the decorations were done in buttercream. I copied the pattern, cut it out with an exacto knife, and pressed it into the crusted buttercream. I then filled in the outlined design with thinned buttercream. I remember this TMNT cake being very detailed and very time consuming. (Not that some of the cakes I design now aren't time consuming), but all those different colors of buttercream are not always a joy to decorate with. I still do that once in awhile, but not nearly as often. 

Cake decorating has come a long way since then. We now have so many different mediums and different techniques to work with. During the last few months, I have decorated cake pops, cupcakes, and cakes... all with TMNT... cute, but still time consuming and a lot of work. And I just can't believe they're still around!

 RK pops in turtle colors