Tag Archives: Fun Stuff

Our Thanksgiving Plan

It’s been a while since I(Deena)’ve posted something, hasn’t it?  Getting my dissertation written plus being on the job market unfortunately doesn’t leave me with a lot of creative energy, but today I have something I’m super excited to share with y’all.

To say that I am obsessed with the winter holidays might be the understatement of the year.  Thanksgiving is my favorite, because food, duh, and it is a perfect opportunity to relax for a day.

This year, we’re staying home and spending Thanksgiving with our neighbors.  It is going to be a wonderful, stress-free day full of good food, the wine I only buy for the holidays, and catching up with some of our favorite people.  We’re very lucky to live on a cul de sac in a nice-but-not-snooty suburban neighborhood, and we have better neighbors than I ever could have dreamed of.

Without further ado, here’s our plan for hosting this year!

MENU

Appetizers: I don’t want to take focus off the Thanksgiving meal, but I do want to provide some snacks for our guests to enjoy while we watch football.
-A big cheese board with 2 types of cheese (TDB, but I do love the Toscano from Trader Joe’s), crackers, salami, spice roasted pecans, grapes, and pickles.
-Cranberry baked brie with crackers (Not really using a recipe for this, but I am going to top a wheel of brie with cranberry sauce and wrap it in frozen puff pastry, then bake until it looks good)
-Spanakopita (Frozen from TJs)

Drinks: Thanksgiving is time to bust out the good wine!  This year we’re also serving a signature cocktail.  Beer is a must, and don’t forget the nonalcoholic drinks for kids or people who prefer not to drink.
-A double batch of these cranberry margaritas will serve as our signature cocktail.
-We’re also keeping a bottle of good (Bulleit) bourbon on hand, because it’s the south, y’all.
-A perfect but not too expensive red wine is Mollydooker: The Boxer (shiraz).  My uncle was kind enough to purchase this wine for our wedding, and it has since become our go-to special occasion wine.
-I’m not a huge white wine fan, at least not when it is cold, but turkey.  We’re serving the Kim Crawford Sauvignon Blanc, which is a nice crisp, dry wine.
-A mix of microbrews and light beer.  We’re planning on serving Shiner Holiday Cheer, Aviator Frost Nipped, and Yuengling Light.
-Sparkling cranberry and apple juices (from Trader Joe’s) as a delicious nonalcoholic option.

The main meal: Here I’m going for classics with a twist.  Excited!
-Hickory smoked turkey.  I’m using one of the pre-brined turkeys from Trader Joe’s to save myself a little headache.  Also not really using a recipe but planning a bbq rub and loading the liquid reservoir of my smoker with either beer or cider.
-Gravy, courtesy of Whole Foods.  Since we’re smoking the turkey, I’m not sure what the dripping situation will be and I am leaving the gravy to the pros.  I already preordered and paid for it, and will pick it up after work on Tuesday.  How convenient is that?
-Mashed potatoes.  Y’all, I just bought a potato ricer and it is one of the best purchases I have ever made.  I’ll boil and rice the potatoes, then add salt, milk, and butter.
Sweet potato and swiss chard gratin.  I know people usually go for sugary sweet potato dishes, but I’ve made this before and it is just to die for.
-Cranberry sauce.  Again, no recipe except boiling cranberries, water, and sugar.  I am making about 5 bags’ worth as this is Nick’s favorite.
-My best friend Caroline’s macaroni and cheese.  She has a killer recipe, and kids just love it.
-Pepperidge Farm stuffing.  I tried a homemade cornbread dressing recipe a few weeks ago, but I used jiffy mix for the cornbread and the end result just had a bizarre texture.  I decided to keep it simple (stupid) and use the Pepperidge Farm mix my husband and I both like.  There’s no shame in some shortcuts when you have this much food to cook.
-My dad’s carrots.  Again, no recipe, but we caramelize them in a mixture of french onion soup mix, lemon, sugar, and water.
-My neighbor is bringing more veggies as well.  Need some green to cut through the carbs!
Pumpkin dinner rolls with cinnamon honey butter.  Tried these out a few weeks ago, and omg.  I am making a double batch and suspect that the kids will love them.

Dessert: I am serving the classic pumpkin pie alongside two desserts that are a little more fun.
-Decaf coffee.  Do people drink coffee with dessert, or is that just my family?  Regardless, I picked up some decaf beans.
Classic pumpkin pie.  I’ve never made a pumpkin pie before because my grandmother is the queen of pies, but this year I will give it a shot.  I’m not making the praline sauce (team whipped cream over here!), and I’m using frozen pie crust.  If you hate making pie crust like I do, I highly recommend the frozen pie crusts from Trader Joe’s.
-Homemade whipped cream.  Kitchen Aid to the rescue!
Nantucket cranberry pie.  This is so, so good.
Pumpkin whoopie pies with cinnamon cream cheese frosting.  I follow her cookie recipe exactly, but I am not a big maple syrup fan.  I instead make a cream cheese icing and spike it with cinnamon and nutmeg.  I made these as one of the desserts for Nick’s 29th birthday party, and the kids would have eaten the entire plate if their parents had let them.

Shopping/prep tips/misc: I want to do a more detailed post on this, and it will probably help y’all if I have hindsight after the day is over.  Here’s what I’m thinking now:
-I’m doing my grocery shopping in two rounds.  After work yesterday, I went and grabbed all the nonperishables.  Next Monday, I am planning on grabbing the turkey and all the vegetables after work.  There is no way I could have done it all in one trip by myself, but I think it is certainly possible to make one trip if you bring another person.  I wanted to save my slave driving for making my husband clean the house.
– I was surprised by how much serveware I was missing!  I ordered most missing things from amazon, and bought foil pans and cocktail napkins from Target.  I am serving my apps, dinner, and dessert on these plates, because I know I am going to trash my kitchen in the cooking process.  My spread may not look like something from Southern Living, but it will be delicious!
-I am planning to set up a self-serve bar/apps table and then put the dinner food on a buffet table.  I’m not really sure how I will decorate the dinner table, but I figure that tea lights and flowers are usually a win.  I bought these cheap but festive napkins in orange.  Decorating is not my forte.
-We have 2 children coming so I wanted to get them something special.  I’m sure it isn’t fun to hang out with adults all the time!  I bought things to make them treat bags, and I got them each a small toy (Target dollar spot).  I also bought a gingerbread house making kit and plan on having board games on hand to fight off restlessness.
-Last month’s Real Simple had a really good article on pet etiquette surrounding the holidays.  My plan is to brush the cats and dog on Wednesday, then clean the hell out of my house.  I won’t be vacuuming on Thursday as that can stir up dander and aggravate guests’ allergies.  The dog will be in his crate and the cats will be upstairs during our gathering.

That’s all I have for now.  What are your Thanksgiving plans?  Is Thanksgiving your favorite holiday, too?

A Weekend in Food

Hi everyone! We had a fantastic weekend full of food (okay, and cleaning). Here’s what we ate!

On Friday night we celebrated our friends’ recent engagement with dinner at the Stanbury.  Everything we had was delicious, but my favorite was the scallop crudo.  We’re super excited for our friends as they start a new chapter in their lives, and this was a great place to celebrate!

On Saturday, we spent most of the day cleaning and decided to relax and eat dinner at home.  I made bbq red snapper tacos, inspired by the bbq mahi tacos at one of my favorite restaurants.  Easy, healthy, and delicious.

20140722-145713-53833357.jpg
Fish tacos!

On Sunday, we started the day with a bowl of this quick but delicious granola, yogurt, and sliced peaches.  And lots of coffee.  We’ve learned that buying a big house with two full time jobs sometimes means we need to just take a weekend and hit the reset button–especially when it comes to our bedroom, which we probably had not cleaned in a somewhat embarrassing amount of time.

Nick worked so hard this weekend! I thought he deserved a special reward, so  I made him a perfect summer cocktail on Sunday night.  I peeled and muddled one peach (one beautiful peach from my favorite lady at the farmers’ market) and a couple of basil leaves.  I then added bourbon and ice, and there you have it.  It was too strong for me, but Nick just loved it.

20140722-145714-53834250.jpg
Nick’s new favorite cocktail

Ever since my parents bought us a smoker, our Sunday dinners have changed for the better.  We started a rack of beef back ribs around lunchtime on Sunday, and by 6 pm they were perfect.   I also sliced up some of our garden tomatoes and drizzled them with olive oil and salt, and steamed some white corn.   It was a delicious seasonal dinner, and I am looking forward to many more adventures with our new toy.

20140722-145715-53835164.jpg
Smoked beef ribs

What did you eat this weekend?

 

Fun Stuff: May (and some June) Edition

Okay people, I know it is almost July.  Work has been absolutely nuts and we’ve both been traveling like its going out of style.  Here’s what we’ve been up to for the last month (and some)!

Nick went to Denmark for work, and I was lucky enough to be able to go along.  We had a great time wandering around Copenhagen and enjoying the local culture.  We capped the trip off with a visit to my aunt and uncle’s house in Geneva.  The picture below is from a day trip we took to Yvoire, France.  Wonderful views and excellent gelato!

We're in France!
We’re in France!

We enjoyed a quiet Memorial Day at home, including getting our house back together(ish), having our crazy race day, and visiting our neighborhood pool.

We also added more to our veggie garden, bringing our tomato plants up to a grand total of seven!  We already have some big tomatoes, and we are impatiently waiting for them to ripen.  I have never successfully gotten jalapenos to grow before, but this year all three plants are growing like crazy.  We also have about 12 small crookneck squash and 6 small cucumbers.  I am so excited and preparing for our summer vegetable explosion.

Last week we traveled in parallel.  Nick went to Indy for a Fuel Ethanol conference, and I went to Stuttgart, Germany for a water resources conference.  I was able to take an afternoon and visit the Klinsmann Bakery (owned by the family of US Soccer Coach Jurgen Klinsmann–he also worked there!) in Boatneng which was just beyond neat.  The bakery was incredibly pastoral and made no mention of soccer or Klinsmann’s fame, save for some cookies shaped like soccer players.  While in Germany, I also got to spend time with some friends from UNC and visit family friends in Heidelberg.

Klinsmann Bakery
Klinsmann Bakery

Speaking of US Soccer, World Cup fever is in full force over here at the Giffen residence.  To say we have been going crazy is a bit of an understatement.

This weekend, we’re taking a quick trip up to Richmond for a wedding, then running home on Sunday to host some friends for the USA game.  We hope you had a great month, and GO USA!

 

Fun Stuff: April Edition

Hi everyone!  Today I’m sharing some of our favorites from our lives this month.

I made a huge easter dinner even though it was just the two of us.  Ham, sweet potato and chard gratin, deviled eggs, green beans with candied pecans, and a beet, citrus, and mint salad.  For dessert we had lemon mascarpone and mango sorbet parfaits.  And a Bellini bar.  It was a beautiful day, so we had dinner outside and enjoyed the nice weather.

We had so much fun at the Tar Heel 10 Miler!  It was a tough race, including a 1 mile climb up Laurel Hill at the end of the race.  They gave us separate splits for Laurel Hill, and Nick finished third in his age group!  Afterwards we explored Chapel Hill and Carrboro.  We looked at plants at the North Carolina Botanical Garden (they have carnivorous plants!), then sampled some beers at the Steel String Craft Brewery, and had a lovely dinner at Kipos.  We are definitely going to sign up for this race again next year!

Coming off of the race, Nick has decided he wants to run a mile PR (his PR was 6:14 back in high school) and will be using this plan.  We’ll keep you updated!

I cannot wait to make this pad thai salad.  I LOVE pad thai, and this looks perfect for the hot summer months.

In girly news, I finally bought this Garnier BB cream.  I’m now wondering why I waited so long to try BB cream.  This stuff is amazing–the moisturizer is light enough so that I don’t break out, and the tint covers small blemishes.  I’m obsessed.

I’ve been looking for closed toe shoes that look good with shorts.  I run a lot, and a weekly pedi just isn’t a thing for me.  I ended up with a pair of sperrys and a pair of toms.

This year was the one year that I got my veggie garden in the ground on time, but we got frost April 15 and 16!  I covered the plants with plastic bags each night, and everything survived.  I planted Greek basil, Thai basil, mint (in a planter!), rosemary, crookneck squash, grape tomatoes, yellow tomatoes, cucumbers, and jalapeños.  I am wishing I had more bed space so I could plant more stuff!

We hope you had a wonderful month!