Saturday, November 26, 2011

How to Make Thanksgiving Dinner—A Comprehensive Pictorial Guide

When my husband and I moved over 500 miles from our childhood homes in South Dakota and Minnesota, we quickly learned that we could no longer enjoy every holiday and special event with our grandparents, parents, siblings and cousins. It was time to carry on traditions in our new home and connect with new friends in Kansas, much like our ancestors that immigrated to the United States from Norway and Germany adapted to a new country. Thanksgiving is truly a holiday with Christian connections for both of us who’d grown up on farms where the word harvest has special meaning. There had been informal harvest festival celebrations in the United States prior to the reverent “Proclamation of Thanksgiving”  (please read) by United States President Abraham Lincoln.

Preparing Thanksgiving dinner has become routine, credited to years of practice and a great husband who pitches in from the beginning of the culinary event all the way through the clean up. If you have never done this, now is the time to begin. Bookmark this page and refer to it as you plan your gathering. This is only a guide to the way I have become accustomed to doing it. In many situations, you may be able to delegate some of the responsibilities to to your guests who offer to help by bringing something to the table. If this is the case, you may suggest specific dishes (even recipes) and beverages in order to complete the menu you have in mind as you create your own traditions.
  • Start planning a month in advance by inviting guests (if you choose to). A thanksgiving dinner has wonderful meaning even if you don’t have extra guests. Either way, I always choose a turkey and figure recipe proportions to be more than what will be eaten for the meal. Thanksgiving leftovers are one of the best benefits of cooking this huge meal. They can be frozen or used through out the long weekend when it is a treat to forget about cooking so you can spend time doing other enjoyable things. 
  • Look up the recipes you want to make and start a shopping list. My recipes are available upon request.
  • Some items can be made prior to Thanksgiving Day. In my Norwegian tradition, making lefse is an essential item in the menu. Read more at my blog about How to Make Lefse.
  • My menu includes: turkey, apple-raisin stuffing, potatoes, gravy, squash (and/or orange glazed sweet potatoes), cranberry/orange/apple relish, green bean hot-dish, a variety of breads, lefse, butter, sugar, dill pickles, sweet pickles, beet pickles, green/black olives, carrot/celery sticks, water/milk/juice/wine/tea/coffee, pumpkin pie with whipped cream. This pictorial reference doesn’t include all of these items. The menu sometimes varies more or less from year to year.
  • Buy a loaf of bread for the stuffing and cut it up about a week in advance. Place the cubes in a pan and toss them occasionally so they dry up a bit. 
  • If the turkey you buy is frozen, put it in a pan and let it thaw in the refrigerator for about 3 days.
  • Attend a Thanksgiving worship service Wednesday evening (or whenever your church offers such a service). Check out the “find a church” link on this blog page if you don’t have a church. This is more important than the meal. You NEED faith-based food and nutrition from attending church and Bible study regularly with other Christians for a healthy spiritual life.
  • Study your recipes and try to schedule the preparation timing so everything is on the table fresh and hot. In order to get started early enough, set your alarm and wake up someone to help you. Take time for a shower once you have the turkey in the oven.
  • Early in the week, enlist others in the household to help in every way possible such as house cleaning, laundry, purchasing groceries. On Thanksgiving Day, don’t be afraid to allow guests and family members help with setting the table, serving drinks, clearing the table, doing dishes, cleaning the extra meat off the carcass, putting things away. Besides the blessing of a meal together, everything about the event is more enjoyable for the host/hostess when the work is shared.
  • Don’t worry about having everything perfectly clean and organized before guests arrive. Hospitality is a gift from God. Most people stress much more than necessary over using that gift. Invite people who don’t expect perfection. Live and learn!
  • Some families like to melt into the sofa and watch sports, but since I’ve never been a TV sports addict, I recommend other activities after the meal and clean up. Sometimes a nap is nice if you aren’t entertaining guests. Board games, card games, conversation, and a long walk in the country before sunset are my favorite activities.
  • One of my Etsy shop clients recommends a family project of filling information in a family tree chart for each family member.
Here’s a picture story of making Thanksgiving dinner:
If using frozen lefse, roll dough and pumpkin pie, take them out of the freezer to thaw and rise.
Put the dried bread cubes in a large bowl
Cook the butter, chopped onion and celery for the stuffing. The aroma will excite your senses and boost your enthusiasm.
Rinse and put the turkey in a pan. Remove the extra items that are usually put in the cavity. Save the neck to tuck in the cooking bag with the turkey after it is stuffed.
Chop apples and measure raisins for the dressing.
Season and mix dressing ingredients.

Stuff both ends of the turkey.
Get out the sewing kit.
Stitch the skin on the front end to hold the stuffing in place.
Follow the directions that come with a turkey size cooking bag.
Make fresh cranberry/apple/orange relish with an antique meat grinder.
Remember to count your blessings. Cut squash in half and scoop out the seeds.

Add butter and brown sugar (or this can be added after baking), cover with foil and place in pan to bake. Scoop out the baked squash, blend well with more butter and brown sugar, place in serving dish and keep warm.
Wash potatoes
Peel potatoes and boil.
Prepare green bean hotdish.
Bake rolls.
When the turkey thermometer pops, remove from oven. Transfer turkey to another pan, but leave the juices in the pan. Transfer the dressing into a casserole and return to oven to keep warm, leaving the cover off so the top gets a little crunchy.
Make gravy.
Rice the potatoes or prepare mashed potatoes.
Put everything on the table.
Pray. Invite the Lord to be a guest at your meal [do this for every meal, every day]. Savor the aromas, the flavor and texture of each bite, eat slowly and enjoy conversation. Allow family and/or guests to share blessings in their lives, adding to a prayer of thanksgiving. 
Happy Thanksgiving! “First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way. This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.” 1 Tim. 2-1-4

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Thanksgiving for modern appliances and electricty

I posted an antique called a sad iron (or flat iron) in my Etsy shop today. Imagine having a couple of these, heating them on a wood burning stove, ironing with one until it cooled down, then switching it for a hot one! Metal handles had to be gripped with a thick cloth. In order to get the heat, imagine chopping the wood and hauling it in and building a fire. Even though many garments don’t need much ironing these days, I still love the comfort of cotton which does. Plugging in the iron and catching up on ironing feels like a luxury after thinking of the pioneers who worked so hard to accomplish the same tasks.

To get the clothes clean, pioneers pumped and hauled water, heated it on the stove and dumped it in a big tub. With organic lye soap which they’d cooked themselves, they physically washed by hand, with the use of a washboard, hand cranked clothes one-by-one through a wringer; then placed them in another tub of fresh water to rinse and cranked each garment through the ringer again! After all this, they threw the heavy water out the door. Not being able to toss them in a dryer, they hung all the garments to dry. In retrospect, I realize Life is Good as I took breaks from the computer to throw another load into the computerized washing machine and dryer. We should never complain about laundry in this day and age!

My husband is a picker, similar to the guys on the popular show “American Pickers”. Today he was restoring of one of his “finds” called an ice box, a modestly sized piece of solid oak furniture, well built with shelves and galvanized tin interior lining. It has a door where you place a big block of ice that was purchased from the iceman. The ice had been laboriously sawed out of frozen lakes. A drip pan was placed behind a wooden door at the bottom which had to be emptied every day. As I approach my modern refrigerator and dispense cubes of ice and filtered water without even opening the door, I think, what a blessing! I could go on, but you get the idea.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Monday, November 14, 2011

How to make Lefse, a delicious Norwegian tradition!

Make mashed potato, whipping cream, butter, salt and sugar mixture. This can be done a day ahead and refrigerated. Make sure it is completely cooled before adding the flour.
Cut in flour. Knead with hands.
Form into logs. Cut a slice.

Store logs in refrigerator while you continue. 
Put the pastry cloth on the round board.
Set up your working space.

Make a patty.
Sprinkle flour to prep your board.

Use a special rolling pin with teeth. Have a dry toothbrush handy in case the dough gets stuck in it’s teeth, Uffda-namen! 
Roll from center to outside carefully trying to form a circular shape.

Grill should be piping hot! Use one stick to put it on, the other to turn it and take it off. It’s great to do this as a team.
Flip a little bit over the edge of a flat stick, then rotate the stick to wind the dough onto it.
Rotate the stick to unroll the dough onto the grill.

Grill lefse until bubbly. Then use the stick to scoop it up in the center. Lay it back down on the other side. 

Scoop up the lefse after it is grilled on both sides.
Have a stack of several thick cotton cloths ready. Use a clothes pin to make a handle on one corner of the top half of your stack of cloths. 
After removing lefse from grill, place the round flat between the towels. Cover immediately to keep the moisture in as you continue to roll them all out and while they begin to cool.
Cut a piece in half. Butter and sprinkle with sugar.
Fold it in half and then roll it up. Ya! This is the one you eat right away to make sure it is good enough to serve family and friends.
After they have cooled uncover, fold each piece in half and stack. Then cut the stack into 3 wedges, leaving a hinge on the center section. The outer wedges form their own hinge from the first fold. I forgot to take a photo of this. Freeze it if you are making this ahead of time or if you have made more than you will eat in a few days.

Cook the meal, set the table. Gather the group. Give thanks to God for all the blessings he provides.
It’s ok to hold the lefse in your hand while you butter, add sugar and roll it up to eat with your meal. Pass the plate and let everyone prepare their own.
Serve lefse with turkey that has been roasted in a cooking bag with apple-raisin stuffing, mashed or riced potatoes, gravy, squash, cranberry-orange-apple relish, green bean hot-dish, home-baked rolls, dill pickles, olives, radishes and/or other veggies, water or milk, wine, coffee, pumpkin pie with whipped topping. 

Saturday, November 5, 2011

The blessings of a creative bond of friends, mothers, daughters, grandmothers, greatgrandmothers

Making handmade cards is a fun event I share with the girls from church. As an artist who dabbles in rubber stamping, I’ve accumulated a collection of stamps, papers, ribbons, colored pencils, markers, paints, scissors that cut various edges, glues, embellishments... all the goodies to make unique greeting cards unlike anything that can be purchased. This craft differs from my career in graphic design because it does not require a computer. Back to good old touching materials and tools—folding, cutting and pasting—choosing images, words, color and textures. Mix in some girlfriends, tunes, snacks and drinks and whalah, a creative party! The date also served as a meeting of the organization Lutheran Women in Mission (LWML) which included a short story devotion, a prayer, a little business and this project. This is the third year I’ve hosted such an event. Not everyone who would have liked to, was available to come each year. We all have full schedules and responsibilities, but we enjoy each other’s company when we are able to participate. No matter if it be few or many, the companionship of women who share a common faith is a blessing to be thankful for. Ages range from 21 to 81(?). Actually, if you count the babe who came along, the age range was much wider. There are wonderful advantages in bringing together women of various stages of life.

  • Learn from each other
  • Share various life experiences
  • Cheer each other
  • Close the generation gap
  • Gain wisdom
  • Share humor
  • Help one another
  • Serve others and serve God

Today we created 27 greeting cards which will be sent to members of our congregation. We believe this form of encouragement and sharing will brighten the day of people we care about. The occasions will vary:

  • Birth of a child
  • Special accomplishment
  • Thank you
  • Hospital stay
  • Death of a family member

If you are a woman looking for a way to enrich your own life and the lives of others, I encourage you to seek the camaraderie of other women outside of your daily work and family tasks. You will likely discover the wonderful benefits of pushing yourself to use your gifts of creativity, hospitality and friendship.