Thursday, November 18, 2010

Put Thanksgiving Meal Stress on the Back Burner

As Thanksgiving Day approaches, the tension is mounting for the cooks. That's especially the case if company is coming!

But it doesn't have to be that way. For starters, it is, after all, THANKSGIVING DAY!
We have much to be thankful for, and so it is important to focus on that. All the rest is small stuff. For starters, if you have smiling faces on the people you love as they gather around the table, you could serve up macaroni and cheese and celebrate!

So if you're planning the traditional dinner, and you have the money to go grocery shopping because you have a job, and you have a table around which to gather the people you love ~
you're rich by the much of the world's standards.

The best strategy in getting ready for the big meal to plan ahead and keep it simple.

The central player is the turkey, so buy it early enough so it will have time to thaw. (The larger ones can take a couple of days to thaw in the fridge.) If you're planning on making a cranberry salad, that should be done the day before.

If you're having company, let someone else bring a potato dish (sweet potatoes or traditional, mashed potatoes) because managing both, along with gravy, is probably the most time consuming part. If your not having guests, assign that task to another member of the family.

Once the turkey is stuffed and in the oven (usually early in the morning to be ready by midday), you can then focus on a couple of healthy side dishes ~ with recipes calling for green beans, squash or carrots.

Here's another tip. Clean up pans and dishes as you go ~ then you won't be overwhelmed with the messy array spread over the stove and counter tops, and spilling over into the kitchen sink.

If you have children over age five, let them set the table. (You can fine tune the layout later!)

Another key: Focus on the moments and the tasks right in front of you and forget about the litany that remains to be done. Also ~ take a minute every now and then to just breathe!

Don't get hung up on the Norman Rockwell vision in your head of the perfect holiday setting. That guarantees it won't be what you hope for. Embrace what surrounds you, with all its imperfections.

And smile a lot ~ because that's what everyone will remember.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Nothing Like Soup to Nourish Body & Soul

November is a month for soup.

Soup steaming from a bowl resonates with chilly winds and gray skies, and a crock pot can get plenty of use between now and abundant turkey left-overs!

I fixed a wonderful blend today ~ a sweet potato and peanut stew. (See recipe section of this blog)

What I love about soups is you can vary the ingredients, depending on what you have on hand.
I've written a number of times about the value of having a food pantry ~ with such items as canned tomatoes, beans, and broths.

Those are employed in this recipe, along with a few diced sweet potatoes, some spices like cinnamon and cumin, mixed with garlic and red pepper flakes ~ and peanut butter!

It can all go into the crock pot at once, or if you want to fix it quicker on stove top, saute the spices and garlic in a dab of olive oil, and then add it to the pot with everything else.

The blend of spices warms the spirit, as well as the palette.

As with any dish that combines a host of nutritious ingredients, you shouldn't crave more once you've eaten a hearty bowl of this soup!

Friday, November 5, 2010

Splitting a Meal Helps Keep Calories in Check, & Your Checkbook!

You want to save money and eat right. You can't eat restaurant food and accomplish that.


It's about balance. It doesn't have to be an "either or" decision.

Typically, the frugal course is to cook at home. But sometimes you want some variation from that routine. You can make that choice, and it can still be relatively healthy, and still be affordable.

For example, my husband and I had been very busy all day, and while we could have cooked up something at home, it was Friday night and we wanted something different.

We know, of course, that to go out for dinner is always in the neighborhood of $35 or $40. We only feel good about spending that much money once or twice a month ~ maybe.

So I suggested Andy stay at home and relax and I'd get something for us. I selected a local Asian restaurant and picked up one order of vegetables and rice for us to split. That was less than $10.00.

When I got home, the wine was opened and we shared what turned out to be plenty for two people. It was delicious ~ it was something different ~ and it was very affordable.

Tomorrow I'll refocus on preparing something good here at home.