Thanksgiving Recipes

I hope it’s not too late to share a few of our Thanksgiving recipes. We had a wonderful holiday together as a family. Strange not to host grandparents or cousins, but we spent a good bit of time going around the table giving thanks, and they were mentioned often.

turkey in a bag

Turkey baking bags? Could life get any easier than that?

I decided to try a different bread recipe for Thanksgiving. I don’t know why I’m compelled to venture away from our very favorite, so easy, tried and true Mesa Manna, but every once in a while I just have to try a new recipe. This year I spent several hours reading recipes from The Pioneer Woman’s blog. She has such gorgeous pictures, the food practically jumps off the computer screen.

Now if I could just it to actually do that, I wouldn’t have to spend hours in the kitchen cooking.

he's a handy carving guy

It’s important to search for the right kind of help on big holidays. This gentleman is in high demand.

The thing that sold me on these rolls was the promise I could make the dough Wednesday night, and prepare the rolls on Thursday. Mesa Manna gets a wee bit yeasty tasting the times I’ve let the dough sit overnight. Can’t have our bread too yeasty, now can we. Here’s a link to Ree’s dinner rolls. These turned out delicious, but, frankly, weren’t that much better than Mesa Manna. Definitely not worth the extra work (heating milk) or the calories (a cup of oil and sugar). Fun to try a new recipe, which, I guess was my goal.

With the all repetition in my life (“What, there are dirty dishes to wash again? Laundry too, you say?”) I steal the opportunity to enjoy a little bit of variety wherever I can.

it's wonderful to have helpers around

Daniel and Rachel set the table, complete with crystal, silver and cloth napkins. Sarah gave each person five kernels of corn for our time of sharing.

In my search for a low-carb veggie casserole recipe, I stumbled across a fun vegetable website. Maybe ‘fun’ is not exactly the correct word for a vegetable recipe site. How about tasty or creative? Most of the recipes come with pictures (so handy for those of us who are visual learners). I made a broccoli/cauliflower dish. Yummy.

Broccoli and Cauliflower Gratin

1 pound fresh broccoli florets
1 pound fresh cauliflower florets
Salt and pepper, to taste
1 1/2 cups mayonnaise
4 ounces cheddar cheese, 1 cup
3 ounces parmesan cheese, about 1/2 cup
4 green onions, chopped
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
1/4 teaspoon cayenne
3 tablespoons parmesan cheese, 1 ounce

  1. Steam the vegetables until crisp-tender, 6-8 minutes; drain well and season with salt and pepper.
  2. Put the vegetables in a greased shallow baking pan, 9×13″.
  3. In a medium bowl, mix the mayonnaise and the next 5 ingredients. Spoon this mixture over the vegetables and spread as evenly as possible.
  4. Sprinkle the 3 tablespoons of parmesan cheese over the top (skipped this step as I ran out of parmesan cheese).
  5. Bake at 350º 20-25 minutes until the topping is golden brown and bubbly.

Rachel’s requested pistachio salad turned out to be ridiculously easy. Don’t you love it when that happens!

Pistachio Salad

1 small box of Pistachio pudding
1 can crushed pineapple
1/2 bag of mini marshmallows
carton of Cool Whip

  1. Pour undrained pineapple into bowl.
  2. Sprinkle pudding mix on top. Stir and let sit for five minutes.
  3. Fold in marshmallows and Cool Whip. Let chill in fridge.

shall we eat?

We were invited (or maybe we invited ourselves, I lose track) to some friends’ house for dessert. I ran out of time and ingredients to make an apple pie (turns out you need apples for most apple pie or apple crisp recipes – go figure), but did manage a chocolate cream pie and pumpkin pie cake. One family member said the chocolate pie was a little too strong, we’re still working on his background check. Too much chocolate? Gasp! There’s certainly no such thing.

Chocolate Cream Pie in Oreo Crust

1 Oreo pie crust
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/3 cup cornstarch
1/2 tsp. salt
3 cups milk
3/4 cups semisweet chocolate chips
2 (1 oz) squares unsweetened chocolate
4 eggs yolks
1 tsp vanilla


  1. Combine sugar, cornstarch, and salt in a 2 quart saucepan. Stir in milk gradually. Add chocolate chips & unsweetened chocolate. Place over medium heat, stirring constantly, until mixture thickens and boils. Boil and stir 2 minutes.
  2. Place egg yolks in a medium heatproof bowl. Gradually pour half of chocolate mixture into egg yolks, whisking constantly.
  3. Whisk egg yolk mixture back into chocolate in saucepan. Place over medium heat and bring back to a boil, stirring constantly. Boil and stir 1 minute. Remove from heat; stir in vanilla.
  4. Pour mixture into Oreo pie shell. Refrigerate at least 4 hours. Serve with shipped cream.

let the games begin

Of course, it wouldn’t be a holiday without some fun board games. We played Pirate’s Cove here at home and then several rounds of Apples to Apples with our dessert hosts.

Pumpkin Pie Cake was unanimously requested by my family over pumpkin pie. Interesting. It’s a family favorite and a ready hit at parties. I’ll share that recipe later.

It’s almost Monday and we still have some leftovers, although Joshua’s eating them as fast as he can. I already have a request for another batch of cornbread dressing.

I think Joshua has eaten a plate full of these delicious leftovers nearly twice a day since Friday. Yum! Nothing like a traditional Thanksgiving dinner to fill our tummies, and thankful spirits to warm our hearts. I hope each and every one of you had a good Thanksgiving, remember to whom we give thanks.

Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise; give thanks to him and praise his name.

For the LORD is good and his love endures forever; his faithfulness continues through all generations. Psalms 100:4-5


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Thanksgiving Baking

I managed to go grocery shopping today. Nothing like cutting things a little close for Thanksgiving. Now there is a big turkey in the house, and LOTS of ingredients for all the usual Thanksgiving Day fare. Tim’s parents won’t be joining us this year so, gasp, I’ll be doing the cooking myself. As I sat down to think about the menu, I realized how completely spoiled I’ve become over the years as a “guest” and not “hostess” for the major holiday meals.

I pondered some serious questions…

Do I have a favorite stuffing/dressing recipe?
How do you make Grandma’s Pistachio salad?
If I have five dishes to make, in addition to the turkey, how do I get them all done with just one oven?
How long does it take a frozen turkey to thaw?

And most importantly…

How many desserts do I need to make for a family of seven?

Obviously we need to take the rest of the week off from school. There’s far too much work to do in order to get ready for Thanksgiving to continue school. I mean, priorities are priorities! The children have been informed that we will be spending all day Wednesday baking and preparing for Thanksgiving. I plan to pull down my old November Family Fun magazines and let the kids enjoy some Thanksgiving Day crafts. The kitchen is sparkling (Rachel and David did a wonderful job cleaning up this evening) so I should have plenty of room to work on T-Day meal prep. My friend, Leah, emailed me several of her family’s favorite dishes this afternoon. They look delicious. Tim’s office often lets out early on holidays so there should be a nice festive air in the house by the late afternoon.

We love Sharpies!

Sarah is ready to make some fun crafts.

I’m excited and ready for a holiday weekend!

What about you? Do you have traditional dishes that you serve EVERY year, without fail? I’m still searching for the perfect dressing recipe. If you have one, please share. I need yours, Mom! Oh and what is everyone making for dessert besides pumpkin pie?

When I was growing up we often celebrated Thanksgiving with our dear friends, the Smith family. Becky was an amazing cook and was famous for her Thanksgiving pies. She literally made a dozen pies, of assorted kinds, for our family meal. As a newly wed and young mother, one year I tried to copy her and create a Smith Pies Thanksgiving. It was a lot of work, but I managed to pull it off.

The next year I was all set to host Christmas Day dinner with my parents and siblings. Instead, I broke my ankle (while pregnant) on Christmas Eve Day.

No doubt it was the pressure of making all those pies.


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“I Don’t Need To Be Encouraged — I’m Quitting!”

Today I weighed, to see what progress I’ve made on my new calorie-counting (and supposedly weight-loss) plan.

In the past, we’ve owned bathroom scales that were a bit mercurial — you could experience significant weight loss (or gain) in the matter of minutes, as the scale readings varied wildly. In fact, several years ago Kathy and I were dieting, and the scale told us both we gained. Being mature, financially responsible adults, we tossed that scale in the garbage and rushed out to find a more ‘reliable’ device.

This morning, after at least four attempts, I could only squeeze a 0.2 pound loss out of that cursed scale! Maybe there’s something wrong with the batteries?

tomato trash

It could be worse, they could be throwing me in the trash like these tomato plants.

I was pretty disappointed, since I’ve been counting my calories like a miser, these past two weeks. I estimate I’m eating at least a thousand calories a day less than I was eating before, and so I hoped for a 2-pound loss. No such luck.

I came downstairs and loudly bemoaned my lot to anyone who would listen. Kathy was walking out the door, but tried to console me:

“I’ve got to go to my meeting, but when I come back, I’ll encourage you,” she promised, sweetly.

Petulantly, I whined, “I don’t need to be encouraged, I’m quitting!”

There was much giggling among my children, especially Joshua. I guess they know that I’m more bark than bite — sometimes a fella just likes to complain. They used to say this when I was in the Army: “If soldiers aren’t complaining, they’re not happy.” Joshua rushed off to add that quote to his Tome of Ridiculous Sayings, in which I figure prominently.

let's see daddy

“Let me just write that down, Daddy.”

It seems that, before I started this plan, my metabolism was going all-out, like a roaring furnace. I picture sweaty, soot-begrimed workmen in a gloomy factory, shouting over the sound of the flames and conveyor belts:

“Hey, Joe! I just got word from Corporate that there’s another load of high-calorie junk food coming down! Doesn’t this guy ever stop eating?”

“I dunno, Frank — he must think he’s an Olympic Athlete or something. Maybe the boys down in Waste Products could pick up the slack?”

“Those weenies? They’ll start whining about bowel obstruction or something — they don’t care about us, here, and they don’t care about the Company. I guess we better run three shifts again — do you think Sam can take the night shift?”

“I dunno Joe, those guys on the third shift are pretty rough. Hey, Bob, fire up furnace 14, will ya, and tell the lads everyone works an extra two hours, unpaid overtime!”

Now that I’m moderating my caloric consumption, the metabolic workers have apparently unionized, laid off a third of the work force, or taken some of the furnaces off-line for long-needed maintenance. I’m eating so many less calories, but not losing weight — it is enough to make a guy discouraged.

In the face of this lack of weight loss, I decided to revisit the calorie calculations. Sure enough, it seems the calories that a man of my size and lifestyle would burn is quite a bit below the 3000 I had originally estimated. I tweaked a few formulas and ended up with a more conservative ‘maintenance’ calorie allotment of around 2550, not 3000. This suggests that I need to eat no more than 2050 calories a day to lose a pound a week.

Average Calorie Burn
No wonder I haven’t seen any weight loss!

Ooof. Goodbye ice cream, goodbye cheese sticks, goodbye to that extra tortilla. Hello, hunger.

Happily, Kathy has developed several foods that enjoy a high calorie-to-satisfaction return on investment:

  • The fruity-oat bran pancake — 618 calories
    Yes, that’s a lot of calories, but this hearty 1.2 pound cake with complex grains keeps me going from 6 am ’til noon, with nary a hunger pang.
  • Tomato-barley stew with sausage — 476 calories
    Two cups of stew, with tasty sausage morsels — sweet and filling (and made with home-grown tomatoes!)
  • The hunger-panic vegetable pancake — 200 calories
    Never before has pureed cauliflower or broccoli tasted so good. Held together with an egg and some fresh Parmesan cheese, and broiled on Kathy’s cool grill, this pancake has enough substance to take the edge off any hunger.
  • The metabolic — 165 calories of frozen blueberry goodness

David Buddy

David is fond of nearly all those recipes.

Maybe I’ll post the recipes for these if I get a chance. I find all four to be very satisfying, and if I stick to these, they take care of breakfast and lunch entirely and leave a lot of room for other foods for supper, totaling 1459 calories.

I am reminded that at least 10 people promised to pray for me, many on the assurance that I would pray for them. Well, I have been — I’ve prayed every day for each of you (except, as advertised, for one ‘off’ day a week). Please pray that I would have the courage to reduce my calorie consumption further, and that I would see some success in weight loss.

If the metabolic foremen lay off another round of workers, I’m going to have to take drastic action.


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SHS Friends

Once upon a time, when I was a new homeschooler, my sister in law introduced me to the wonderful world of Sonlight Curriculum. I’ve been using Sonlight with my five children for 9 years now. In my attempt to search for other Sonlight home educators, I stumbled across an email loop through Yahoo Groups. It was originally titled “Sonlight” as most of the members were primarily using SL in their homeschool, but, as time passed, the group grew to encompass many different educating philosophies and curriculum. Although the original “owners” of the list remained the same, the name was changed to Support4HomeSchool, affectionately called SHS.

This group of women (and occasional men) have been a tremendous source of information, comfort, inspiration, and guidance during my homeschooling journey. If I have a question on nearly any topic under the sun, from frugal meals to books on Advent, I know the list will generate conversation and help.

June 2006 gathering

Cynthia, Lee and I at Starbucks in 2006.

Over the years I’ve been privileged to meet a few of the women from the loop. Two years ago, I went out for coffee with Lee and Cynthia. Lee is an incredibly talented woman who, as her boys went off to college, created a consulting business for people homeschooling their high schoolers. I highly recommend Lee’s materials, blog, and advice. You can find her at There is an amazing amount of information right on her website, with more available through her videos and personal consulting.

Cynthia is one of the original founders of the SHS loop. She shares her life and heart with the many women who come to the loop, giving of her time and energy to continue building something that has grown tremendously over the years. There are nearly 2000 members in the SHS group. That is a LOT of potential email. Cynthia blogs at Life Is Good. Her pictures are gorgeous! I’m inspired by her unfailing commitment to her children and their busy, active lives.

Last year I wasn’t able to meet with Lee and Cynthia when Cynthia came into town for the weekend, so I was determined to make it a priority this year. Of course, it’s one thing to put a note on the calendar and PLAN to gather with friends, it’s another to actually do it, in the busyness of life.

First the time changed. Lee wasn’t able to join us in the afternoon, we had originally scheduled to get together after the homeschool PE classes, so we decided to move it to the morning.

Next I completely forgot Daniel was babysitting a friend’s little boy at our house in the morning. How was I going to be available in the morning if we were watching a toddler?

Daniel's boat

Daniel’s glasses broke last week. He’s a handsome fellow without them, but would probably like to be able to see clearly.

Then my cell phone was turned off or misbehaving, and I missed the call saying Cynthia had arrived in town and was making lunch arrangements. I was watching the time and knew the plane had landed, but was overcome with shyness and suddenly didn’t want to call and be a bother.


By the time I got the voice mail and connected with Cynthia and Lee, they were already together and beginning lunch. The location? A good 40 minutes away. Anticipating a delay, I had already arranged for a friend to drop the kids off at the Y for their classes and started on lunch so I could run out the door. I told the ladies I would leave immediately and set off. Still, as I was driving I couldn’t help but wonder if I was making a mistake. Was I wasting my time driving all that way for such a short visit. I made some calls, arranging details regarding the children, and poured out my fretting concerns to my friend, Julee.

Julee asked me why I was going. Was I hoping to glean some homeschool tips? No, it was purely just a fun gathering with some cyber friends. I truly expected her to tell me to stay home, not to bother with such a long drive just for a quick visit. Instead, she said, “Sometimes when there are so many obstacles pushing against us the resistance is coming from Satan. I think you should go and see what you can learn from those two experienced homeschooling moms.” Throughout the years Julee has always been incredibly supportive of my homeschooling journey. Once again she was encouraging me.

I quickly texted Cynthia, telling her I was on my way, but it would take me 40 minutes to get there. I asked if they had enough time for the visit to linger on into the afternoon. She immediately wrote back saying yes, and encouraging me to come and meet them.

it's the mall this year

Of course, we had to take a picture to capture the moment.

The day was gorgeous, the sun shining after several days of rain. The traffic was busy but the drive easy, and, of course, the gas prices were low. :)

I found the restaurant with no trouble, met up with Cynthia and Lee and proceeded to have a lovely visit. Not only was it enjoyable to catch up on each others lives and children, it was fun to see how much we knew about things because of our blogs. The internet truly is an amazing thing.

close up of us girls

I am so glad I squeezed the time out of the day to meet with Cindy and Lee.

Mostly I was struck how God orchestrated our conversation. I had the chance to ask Cynthia some of my questions about Rachel (who turns 13 next month), knowing Cynthia has two teenage daughters who love the Lord and are close to their family. I learned Lee has an hour of free phone consulting available each week on Wednesday afternoons. As a homeschooling mom of a high school freshman, this is priceless information. Amidst one of our many discussions, God gave me a brilliant idea for the introduction session for next semester’s co-op class on finances.

Add to the mix some delicious Starbucks, and I can safely say it was a wonderful visit. We had plenty of time to talk, share and enjoy our coffee without feeling rushed. I made it back in plenty of time to pick up the children. God is good and He has blessed my life with a delightful array of interesting friendships.


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A Quick Budget Update

As our budgeting efforts rage on, we’ve become less excited about our monthly progress — I guess we’re easily bored, or something. But there’s nothing particularly boring about reducing our debt, so I provide this brief update.

Thanks to God’s continuing provision for us, we’ve been able to reduce our debt to 35% of its April 1, 2008 level.

November progress
Debt reduction, as of 1 November 2008, after 7 months budgeting.

Mostly, we’ve continued earlier efforts to record and limit expenditures. I must, however, admit that some use of credit has crept back in. We allowed ourselves to continue to use our Amazon Visa card for purchases on Amazon, and we have been using our Costco credit line to fund purchases at that store. Originally, I was in the habit of firing off a payment from our checking account each time we used either of those cards, but lately I have become lazy about that.

About a week ago I received a bill in the mail from the Costco credit card people for more than $600 — I had no idea I had let that account grow so large, so quickly! If it weren’t for a quarterly bonus from my employer, I’d be in the sorry situation of reporting an increase in debt.

Obviously, we need to either (a) be exceedingly diligent in paying those bills immediately, on the same day of purchase, or (b) to really cut out the credit card usage entirely, as proper Ramsey groupies should.

Savings = the excess of income over consumption expenditures —often used in plural

One happy thing happened recently: we’ve started to use the money we actually saved for Christmas to snap up bargains and gifts of opportunity. We’ve been putting money aside ever since we started our budget, so we wouldn’t be surprised when Christmas came. (What? It’s in December, again?) It has been such fun to buy presents that we can afford!


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