Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Left Over Dinner...What's on the Menu?

Happy Thanksgiving!

This year we are celebrating with my Man's family after some of us do a little Turkey Trotting (an annual Thanksgiving 5k in our town), I love to work off my pie ahead of time! The day after Thanksgiving our little gang celebrates "Left Over Dinner" which we have been working on preparing all through the week. We've always gone to one family or the other for Thanksgiving meal and have never had to fix our own which is a fair amount of luxury, however, it leaves us a little wanting in the LEFTOVER department, so we just begin there.

(I'll be taking pictures and posting them through out the day today on Instagram (here)if you want to see how we fare! Click here or follow us through the Instagram app  @TheWrightPlace )

This year our menu for Left Over Dinner includes:

Turkey with a Mustard Maple Glaze by Bobby Flay and accompanying gravy.

Mashed potatoes for my fellas (I learned a new trick this year and have tried it with success.)

My favorite dish by far is the dressing. After searching high and low for a sausage/apple/cornbread version, I've landed on this one from Anne Burrell. I'll leave out the walnuts and use apples instead of celery. (Though I just heard on Mike & Mike that there is a pineapple stuffing making a name for itself and I may search out that recipe and see what all of the fuss is about!)

I'm considering going rogue with the traditional sweet potato casserole and making this one with a little twist by Sunny Anderson. (My Man is already skeptical.)

There will be corn pudding for Meg, possibly from Ina Garten, but more likely from a faithful church friend whose recipe is tucked happily in a cookbook on a sticky note.

We'll be enjoying Brussels Sprouts because Kate loves them and most of the rest of us agree with her. There will likely be bacon and dried cranberries in the dish which I originally found in a Mark Bittman cookbook. (Basic recipe here...I swapped the figs for cranberries.)

The cranberry sauce from Alex Guarnaschelli is made and is in the fridge getting all lovely with its orange juice and sugar and cinnamon stick.

Dessert will be pies, oatmeal pie and pumpkin pie and pear-cranberry pie with whipped cream. If time and energy allows, I'm excited to try this Cranberry, Apple and Fig Streusel from Sunny Anderson (again). I'll swap the figs for blueberries I think.

Many of these recipes are from the "Thanksgiving at Bobby Flay's" special that aired on Food Network last weekend. It's available online now and was super fun to watch, I know, I've seen it about 3 times now as I've been "researching" for the Left Over Dinner.

All of us at The Wright Place wish you the 
happiest of Thanksgivings...

"Thanksgiving is a time of quiet annual reminder that God has, again, been ever so faithful. The solid and simple things of life are brought into clear focus." 

~Chuck Swindoll

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Writing for Rolos

Tomorrow we finish a semester of our homeschool co-op for the semester. Three of my kids have essays to turn in and are eager to do so because it marks the completion of challenging assignments.

Yesterday I heard Meg trash talking her writing assignment: 

"Only one more decoration to add to this paragraph...BRING IT ON!!" My girl loves a good writing challenge. Kate is finishing three paragraphs on the leadership of Abraham Lincoln and Cole is working on an assignment similar to Meg's but, to my knowledge, has not yet resorted to yelling at his work.

The class that I teach at co-op will also be turning in their final essays for the semester and I'm looking forward to reading them. In exchange for their work I'll be offering jumbo chocolate chip cookies and these...

I call them the easiest loveliest snack EVER. Others call them Rolo Pretzel Delights. They are salty and sweet, and if you add a pecan on top they are just a teensy bit sophisticated. 

All you need is a bag of Rolo candies and a bag of pretzels, the ones in the picture are actually bigger than they need to be. The smaller twists in this same shape are ideal as are the pretzels that are in the shape of a grid. 

Preheat oven to 350˚. Either on a foil or parchment paper lined baking sheet, lay 49 (the number of Rolos in the bag) pretzels.'s the hardest part, remove the foil from the 49 Rolos. Place a Rolo on the top of each pretzel and carefully place in the oven for 3 minutes. 

The Rolos will get very soft and melty. Remove from the oven and top with another pretzel OR with a pecan half OR with an M&M candy (think orange and yellow and red for Thanksgiving or red and green for Christmas). Work quickly pressing what ever the topping is down into the Rolo slightly flattening it.

Allow to cool completely before removing to the serving platter. 

That's it. All done. 

You'll be the hero and you didn't even have to measure any flour or soften any butter.


Thursday, November 13, 2014

Cold Weather = A Big Pot of Warm and Yummy

One of my favorite fall recipes is Japanese Style Beef and Potatoes from the fantastic cookbook Keepers. I've adapted the ingredients slightly to better suit my crowd and I thought I'd share a dish that makes my family grin when they see the cookbook opened to that chicken stock splattered page.

You'll need to make a 15 minute investment to chop the potatoes and onions and other ingredients, but I'm confident you'll find ample reward for your time. Once you've gotten everything chopped, all you have to do is add it to the skillet and you have a one pot wonder that both warms and fills you.

Meat & Potatoes with a Twist
{Slightly adapted from the Keepers cookbook, one of my FAVORITES}
{Printable HERE}
Here's what you need to serve 6:

2 tablespoons canola oil
1 pound ground beef
1 yellow onion, cut in half and then into wedges
3 carrots cut on the diagonal into 1 1/2 inch chunks
1 1/2 tablespoons minced and peeled ginger (see note below...this is an easy ingredient...really)
1/4 cup white cooking wine
2-3 white potatoes, washed and cut into approximately 1 inch cubes
2-3 sweet potatoes, washed and cut into approximately 1 inch cubes
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1 cup chicken broth
1/2 cup water
1/4 cup soy sauce

Here's what to do:

Chop, chop, chop. Cut, chop, and slice the onions, carrots, and potatoes.

While you chop, defrost your homemade chicken stock if you have it.

To a large skillet or dutch oven, add the oil and heat it for a few minutes over medium-high heat. Add ground beef and a small pinch of salt. Cook while breaking it up until there is no more pink.

Guard your chopped veggies from fierce predators while the meat cooks!

Let's talk ginger. You can find it in the produce section of any grocery store. It looks like this...

...not a thing of beauty, but it can really make your food special. Scrape the thin papery brown peel off as much as need for the recipe (about an inch) with a vegetable peeler or the edge of a spoon to expose the firm fragrant yellow flesh. 

After that, cut off the piece and then you will need to cut it into very small pieces (mince) which together will equal 1 1/2 tablespoons. If you choose you can use a grater to get the correct amount. Either place the wrapped remainder of the ginger root in the freezer (where it will keep for many many months) or the fridge where it should last a few weeks. 

Add the onions, carrots and ginger to the pan and cook until the onions get a little bit soft and you begin to smell the ginger. Add the cooking wine and let it simmer while you scrape up any of the browned bits from the bottom of the pan. When the wine has nearly evaporated, add the white potatoes and the sweet potatoes.

{Though a double batch is pictured, quantities given in this recipe are for a single batch.}

Add the brown sugar, the soy sauce, 

the water and the chicken stock.

Stir to combine, the liquid will not quite cover the vegetables. 

Bring to a boil then stir occasionally while dish simmers with the pot lid tilted  ...

...until the potatoes and carrots are soft. Taste to check the seasoning as dish cooks and adjust seasoning if necessary. (If too salty, add more chicken stock. If not salty enough...add more salt ;-)

The dish will probably need to cook for 30-40 minutes. Serve with mashed potatoes or rice or noodles or maybe just a bit of applesauce or green beans. 

Or...since you've already got vegetable, starch and protein you could serve it all by itself and enjoy!!

Here's to warm bellies, big smiles and empty bowls!

Monday, November 10, 2014

Dropping Like Flies...

I was mid-run when I got a text from a kid who was supposed to be reading his history assignment. It seemed that a "situation" had developed at home in my absence.

Here's the text...

He returned a "ha ha" text and I finished my run, happy that the Cool Guy club had served my parenting purposes once again, when I got home Molly was fresh and ready to tackle the rest of her school day. 

A few days later, the other Cool Guy who was in charge of the remote controls during the vital moments of Football Saturday abandoned his mission...

...The Cool Guys are dropping like flies around here!

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

A Gentle Book for Your November

"Where's my book? I just laid it down!"

"Your son hid it from you."


"It's hidden between Bibles on your dresser."


I was 40 pages from the end and I wanted to finish it. The rich words had been causing me to wonder about the end of the story for a day and a half. Marilynne Robinson is a writer of deep truth tucked into simple story. This book, released in October is already on the short list for the National Book Award as well as a few others. The plot is gentle and soft, the characters are complete and lasting. I read Robinson's Pulitzer Prize winning Gilead last year and was completely smitten. Lila, the book I completed last night didn't disappoint and is a beauty for the bookshelf as well.

I began another of Marilynne Robinson's books over the summer but abandoned it to finish another book. I will circle back and finish it soon as well as the other of her award winners Home. Robinson's books are simply lovely. They will not make your heart thump from suspense but her words will absolutely warm your heart as you follow her characters through their circumstances.

There is discussion among the readers of Robinson's books about which book to read first. My opinion is that Gilead will have been helpful to have read before picking up Lila...but it is not vital. Lila can easily be enjoyed on its own for sure, but you are likely to love it a little more if you've got Gilead snugged into your heart first.

I read Lila slowly and purposefully because I didn't want it to end. I'd like to pause my reading for a few days to absorb all of the goodness that was Lila ...


There's a kid in my home who's hot on my heels in our annual book race (and is hiding my books so that I cannot finish them!) and so I'll have to quickly change gears from the lovely Lila to my next selections ASAP!

Monday, November 3, 2014

Days of the Week

The "feels like" temp outside when I woke up this morning was 25˚. The scene outside my window is full of color. My home is warm and cozy and smells of coffee.

It is a Monday however and a whole week lies ahead, stuffed with activity. The little girls chatter away as they eat their breakfast, happily unaware of all that their week holds. To them this week is just like last week which in turn, is to them just like most of the other weeks before:

Daddy's Day Off is the first day of the week which is followed by...

Family Night which usually involves dessert and a TV show to finish the day...

Awana Day is how they speak of Wednesday and it is the centerpiece of our week until...

Co-op Day meets us first thing on Thursdays. We're up and out of the house early on this day and Daddy is rarely home for dinner on these evenings.

Monk Day is Friday and we used to count on an entire evening of back-to-back episodes of our favorite show. However, our big kids aren't home much anymore on Monk nights and Monk himself has been missing from the channel line up, so our Friday may soon experience a make over.

Football Day is what we call Saturdays with all of the expected fun and food and hollering you'd imagine and then lots of preparation and activity preparing for our next day that you might not imagine...

Church Day is our Sunday which is often full to bursting with plans and people and most important worship with our church family both in the morning at worship service and in the evening as we sit in various classes and learn more and interact more with our folks. We put in a full day and so when Mondays rolls back around we are all so happy that it's once again Daddy's Day Off!

This week we've got extra activities before Family Night, before and instead of Awana Night, we are all going separate ways on Monk day, and though Football Day looks pretty good, there's some extra activity to be accomplished as well.

I woke up knowing in my heart that though my days are a flurry of activity and full of change and adjustment, my God remains constant and steady and I'm praising Him for that!

Blessings on your Daddy's Day Off er...your Monday!

Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.
~ James 1:17 ~

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