Happy Thanksgiving! (better late than never?)

Happy two days after Thanksgiving!

I am happy to report that our first Thanksgiving was a smashing success! I mentioned in my last post that Kevin and I hosted Thanksgiving at our house this year – our first major holiday as a married couple and in the new house. And it was my first time hosting a major holiday ever, so I was pretty happy with how everything turned out! We ended up having 12 people over – smashed in our dining room between three folding card tables and a mash-up of borrowed chairs. It was awesome.

thanksgiving 1 watching Dad butter up the turkey!

I was a little nervous about the amount of people so I didn’t turn down offers of help when I got them. My sister brought cranberry sauce, a pie, and some appetizers; my neighbors graciously brought green bean casserole and another pie; my parents brought bread, rolls and a third pie; my mother-in-law bought a ham and we took care of the rest – turkey, mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, and corn.

As usual, Kevin and I read a bunch of turkey recipes and then just sort of did our own thing. I had found a recipe for a lemon-herb-butter roasted turkey which I was planning on trying until 10:45pm the night before Thanksgiving, when my darling husband decided he wanted to brine our turkey…never mind that we didn’t really have any supplies for brining; it ended up working out pretty well! Once the turkey was brined, we nixed the lemon, made an herbed butter compote to lather our turkey in, stuffed it with an apple, an onion, and some mixed fresh herbs (sage, rosemary, and thyme – yum!) and tossed it in the oven for a couple of hours.

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beautiful!

I was worried about oven space for the potatoes until I got the brilliant idea to make them in the crock pot. I thought why not, right? My crockpot applesauce turned out so well, I figured potatoes weren’t that much different. So I looked up a few recipes online and went with it. The verdict?

potatoes

Total win! The sweet potatoes were a huge hit – I simply diced a couple pounds of sweet potatoes and tossed them in the crock pot with a apple juice, cinnamon and nutmeg and let it cook for about 4-5 hours, stirring occasionally. Once the potatoes were soft I mashed them up and topped with pecan halves – delicious!

The mashed potatoes surprised me as well. I diced and added the potatoes to the pot with chicken broth and minced garlic, let them cook for 4-5 hours, and once they were soft enough to mash I mashed them and added some sour cream and grated parmesan. They were so easy, and because we set up our dinner buffet style, you can serve the potatoes right out of the crock pot! It definitely helped ease my stress on Thanksgiving day!

I should have taken more pictures but I was too busy enjoying the company of good friends and family; and of course we spent a lot of our time with Baby Bear – he loves his Aunts Jen and Britt and his Uncle Will! It made my heart so happy to see him with my family – it was the first time most of them had met but within minutes it was as if they’d known each other forever!

We talked my younger sister into spending the night, and because it is a tradition in my family to avoid the stores on Black Friday (I get claustrophobic in crowds), we decided instead to bake Christmas cookies!

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Similar to the cookies we made for fall with my sister and brother-in-law, these sugar cookies are a longstanding tradition in my family. And because it is now officially the Christmas season, what better way to celebrate than with Christmas music and sugar cookies?! (Don’t worry, we’re getting our tree and decorating later today!)

It was a blast showing Baby Bear how to make the cookies, although admittedly he got bored pretty quickly. Still, I think he had fun, and of course everybody likes to eat cookies!

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me and Aunt Britt-Britt!

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getting ready to decorate!

cookie lights!

cookie lights!

I’ve said it a few times already – but it’s amazing what that little boy does to my heart. Sharing some of my favorite holiday traditions with him makes me so happy, and seeing him and his daddy – my family – fills me with so much love that sometimes I think my heart is going to burst. I may sound mushy and schmultzy but it’s true. I had no idea what it felt like to be a mom…and it’s a crazy and incredible experience.

Anyway, that’s all for now. I hope everyone had a fantastic Thanksgiving!

And now, we’re off to get a tree! Hooray!

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And he’s back!

Baby Bear is back with us for the week! Hooray! It’s amazing what that little boy did to my heart, and it’s been a blessing to have him back in our lives. Exhausting, but a blessing! Kevin and I are looking forward to having extended family to our house on Thursday, our first time hosting a holiday 1) in the new house and 2) as a married couple, and the fact that Baby Bear gets to be part of it just makes it that much better.

baby bear

Taking a nature walk through the neighborhood

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Father and Son

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The coolest present EVER.

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Saturday morning stop for some sweets

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Love.

Welcome home, Baby Bear!

Best Dinner Ever

You know that phrase, “Winner winner chicken dinner?” I hate that phrase actually, I think it’s kind of dumb and I don’t really understand the point of it, BUT.

This dinner? Was a total winner. Excuse the cheesy rhyming, it was completely unintentional.

chicken dinner 2

But seriously. You’re going to want to stop whatever you’re doing and go make this dinner right now. Well, after you’ve finished reading this post, of course! The funny thing is that it was, as usual, the result of Kevin and I just going through our absolutely random refrigerator contents to see what we could come up with. Why is it that our unplanned, thrown-together-at-the-last-minute meals always end up being the best ones?

To break it down for you, we made pan fried chicken thighs, collard greens with bacon, and carrot and parsnip fries with roasted garlic. Pretty random, right? I really wanted to make chicken thighs in the cast iron skillet I took possession of once I married Kevin and his stuff arrived here from California, we had collard greens that needed to get used up, and I made the parsnip and carrot fries because I bought parsnips at the grocery store with no earthly idea if I’d even like them so I added them to the carrots. And I tossed in the garlic cloves at the last minute because I love garlic and I don’t really need any more reason than that.

I can’t even explain how good this meal turned out to be. The chicken was perfectly crispy, the collard greens were seriously out of this world, and the carrot and parsnip fries added a very particular sweet yet tangy flavor to counterbalance the saltiness of the chicken, bacon, and greens.

The best part? There’s no real “recipe” to follow – it’s pretty much whatever you feel like doing!

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We kept the chicken simple – I seasoned bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs with some salt and pepper and cooked them in a cast iron skillet, skin side down, for about 15 minutes on medium-high heat before moving the entire skillet to the oven (475 degrees) and cooking for an additional 12 minutes. Then I flipped the chicken and cooked for another 5 minutes or so, until the other side of the chicken skin was brown and crispy and the chicken was cooked through. Beautiful.

chicken dinner 4

The parsnip and carrot fries with roasted garlic were made the same way I make any roasted vegetables, I sliced the parsnips and carrots and threw them in a bowl with the whole garlic cloves, some olive oil, salt, and pepper, and spread them on a foil covered baking sheet. I cooked them alongside the chicken for about 15-20 minutes, flipping once, until they were brown and crisp. Normally I’d cook the vegetables for about 30 minutes at 350 degrees, but it took less time because the oven was so hot for the chicken. Just an FYI there.

chicken dinner 5

The collard greens were, believe it or not, my favorite part of the meal. I’ve actually only had collard greens once before – at a BBQ restaurant, and to be perfectly honest they were only so-so. I think they were overcooked and I’m pretty sure they weren’t served with delicious bacon pieces. All we did for these was dice some slices of uncured apple smoked bacon and cook them in a skillet before adding the chopped collard greens and cooking down for about 7-10 minutes. Isn’t that the most beautiful shade of green you’ve ever seen?

Gaah. So delicious. And on the difficulty scale (1 being crock pot easy and 5 being boeuf bourguignon difficult), this recipe comes in at about a 2.5-3. Not because it’s all that difficult, but you do need to pay attention to each different item so it doesn’t burn. But all that aside, it was pretty darned easy for a Wednesday night dinner! And it’s something I definitely would NOT be ashamed to serve to company.

I love easy yet elegant dinners, don’t you?

chicken dinner

I want to eat the whole dinner over again. Is that too weird?