lifestyle


Thanksgiving meal hacks to save time

Thanksgiving meal hacks save time

pictured: OK, so this isn’t a Thanksgiving tablescape-you got me! Blogging hack-find an old photo on your phone and re-purpose it! This was taken a couple of summer’s a ago at a rewardStyle event in San Francisco.

Thanksgiving is one of my favorite family holidays. I love waking up early, working out at the gym, and then helping my mom host Thanksgiving. When I was growing up, it was just my Mom and I. We never hosted Thanksgiving. We always went to my Grandmother’s house or my cousin’s house.

My family is big, so my Grandmother or my cousin had to do a LOT of work. They also had to do a ton of prep the day before in order to ensure Thanksgiving day went smoothly. My Grandmother cooked everything herself, but my cousin enjoyed a little help from her guests. We would all bring one dish to share, and to help ease her burden of hosting. She was very efficient, and had the best systems to make the day go smoothly. There were easily forty people at her house on Thanksgiving day, so I learned a few tips and tricks as a child at her house that I have brought into my adult life.

My great aunt hosted Christmas when I was a young adult, and she had a ton of tips and tricks I adopted as well. Now, as a married mother of three, I have taken my relatives tips and tricks, and incorporated them into my holiday hosting routine. I hope you like them, and I hope they help you too!

Thanksgiving Day meal hacks to save time

  • Host a potluck! Does your aunt make the best mashed potatoes ever? Does your sister-in-law make a killer green bean casserole? Ask them to bring their famous dishes to your house on Thanksgiving because you love love love them; and can’t imagine Thanksgiving without their delicious dish! They will be flattered, and you just saved yourself a ton of work. Pro Tip: If your relative or guest is a chef, cook, or works in some sort of food prep, don’t ask them to cook and bring food. Just ask them to bring their favorite wine, soda, or juice. I’m certain he or she would not want to feel obligated to cook on his/her day off from work.
  • Cheat on your dishes: Did you know that delicious green bean casserole other people always cook is actually made from green beans, Campbell’s Cream of Mushroom soup, and French’s crispy fried onions? Oh yeah, the recipe is on the French’s box and also on Campbell’s website. It is really easy to make, and it looks complicated. Same with stuffing. My great aunt once shared her super-secret stuffing recipe, guess what it was? Stove Top Chicken flavored stuffing in a box. It takes five minutes to make. You can add chopped apples, raisins, and/or mushrooms to make it beefier. Or, you can add anything you want to add to your stuffing! It tastes great baked inside the turkey, or served alone. Super easy right? No-one will know unless you forget to hide the box. Haha
  • Prep the house the night before: Set the table, and clean the kitchen the night before Thanksgiving. Be sure to pull out all your big serving platters and place them where you can easily reach them. Line the pan you plan to bake the turkey in with aluminum foil the night before, and empty the dish rack in order to ensure a spotless kitchen. This way, the only thing standing in your way of cooking your Thanksgiving meal will be your breakfast dishes. Those are easy to clean! -Unless you start frying things, then you’re on your own.
  • Prep the food the night before: It’s easy to do a little bit of food prep the night before Thanksgiving. You can chop vegetables and then store them in the refrigerator; you can also clean the turkey, place it in the pan, and store it in the refrigerator., You can even make casseroles the night before. I do not recommend making the mashed potatoes ahead of time-don’t even peel them early. Mashed potatoes need to be made fresh-sorry!
  • Create a buffet: It takes forever to plate everyone’s food. Use your kitchen counter or other similar space as a buffet and let everyone serve themselves. It’s easier than waiting for people to pass dishes on the table, and it is way faster than plating the food yourself. Plus, who doesn’t love a buffet? I do!
  • Clean as you go: Did everyone finish all the mashed potatoes? Quickly clean the serving dish it was in and place it in the drying rack. You can chat with your guests in the kitchen while cleaning it. Did you know it literally takes 30 seconds to wash one serving dish? If you let everything pile up during the day it could take 30 minutes to clean everything, but if you clean random pots and dishes throughout the day, your end-of-day clean-up will be minimal. If you are worried about disappearing in the kitchen to clean one dish, remember this; it takes more time to escape to the bathroom than it does to clean a dish. So don’t worry about it, no-one will even notice unless they are in the kitchen.
  • Use paper products: Are you hosting more than twelve people at your home on Thanksgiving? Since most table settings are twelve, chances are you won’t have enough dishes for everyone; or you may not want to supplement your dishes with fine china. The easiest Thanksgiving Day meal hack is to use paper plates and disposable silverware. You can place a one-time use recycling bin and one-time use compost bin in your kitchen where everyone can throw away their scrapes, plates, napkins, and plastic silverware. This will eliminate cleaning dishes after everyone leaves, and you can wrap the bins up, and put them out with the recycling and compost. You will also feel good knowing you are recycling and composting instead of filling up a landfill. Love!

Low calorie soda alternative: I always feel guilty giving children and non-drinkers sugar heavy sodas during the holidays. So, my favorite hack, to avoid giving my guests diabetes, is to make a soda at home which ends up being under 50 calories. It’s really easy to make! You use one tablespoon of your favorite Torani syrup and add sparkling mineral water to the rest of the glass. Pro tip: I like to add a spoonful of vanilla syrup to sweeten the drink if I am using a fruit flavored syrup, it makes it taste more like soda-with a fraction of the calories.

Shop my low-calorie soda alternative and food cheats

Thanksgiving is a casual, family holiday which may include close friends. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Everyone is relaxed on Thanksgiving and ready to pitch in! Also, don’t forget the most important thing on Thanksgiving, be thankful for what you have, and have fun!

Happy Thanksgiving and thanks for stopping by!

XOXO
Cathy


Homemade Potatoes Au Gratin recipe

potatoes au gratin recipe homemade

One of my favorite types of potato dishes is Potatoes Au Gratin. I cook potatoes often at home since my husband loves them, but I never tried to cook Potatoes Au Gratin at home in fifteen years of marriage! So, over the weekend, I decided to try cooking it, but couldn’t find a recipe I liked. What do I do when I don’t like the recipes I find online and in cookbooks? I make up my own!

I tested out this recipe with my whole family, and served it with seared scallops, and fresh carrots. I have to say, carrots don’t really go well with scallops; so lesson learned! Haha That being said, they all loved the way I cooked the scallops and the Potatoes Au Gratin! Yay!

Potatoes Au Gratin is a tasty side dish, especially during the colder months. There is something comforting about them; so I will place this dish in the comfort food category!

This is a great side dish to serve at home, or to cook and bring to a family or friend gathering that is pot-luck style! It goes great paired with steak, meatloaf, pork, or a vegetable stew if you are vegetarian. It was a little overwhelming with seafood; oooops! Still tasty though! haha

Without further ado, here is my new Potatoes Au Gratin recipe! I hope you enjoy it with your family!

Tools you’ll need:

13 x 11 casserole dish

Mixing bowl.

Wooden spoon

Cutting board

Mezzaluna or cutting knife.

Aluminum foil

Ingredients:

4 russet potatoes, peeled and thinly sliced.

½ pint heavy whipping cream (I prefer Clover)

½ stick of butter (I use unsalted and prefer Clover or Land O’ Lakes)

1 8 oz. package of Sargento Italian Blend shredded cheese. If Sargento isn’t sold near you, this is a mix of mozzarella cheese, Parmesan cheese, provolone cheese, Romano cheese, Fontina cheese, and Asiago cheese.

Season to taste: salt, paprika, and finely ground basil

how to make potatoes au gratin at home

Prep:

Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees and make sure there is a shelf in the middle of the oven.

Melt butter, and ensure it covers the bottom of the casserole dish.

Slice potatoes as thinly as possible.

In a mixing bowl: pour whipping cream and add salt, paprika, and basil to taste. Whisk or stir to blend.

Line the bottom of the casserole with potatoes, overlapping each other. The first layer should be about two potatoes.

homemade potatoes au gratin recipe

Pour 1/3 of the cream mixture over the potatoes.

Use 1/3 of the cheese mixture, spreading it out evenly over the top of the creamy potatoes.

Layer the rest of the potato slices over the cheese. There should be about two potatoes left.

Pour the remainder of the creme mixture, about 2/3, over the potatoes, ensuring they are all covered.

Cover the top with the rest of the cheese.

Cover the casserole dish with aluminum foil.

yummy potatoes au gratin recipe

Cooking instructions:

Bake for 60 minutes at 400 on center rack.

After 60 minutes, remove, serve, and enjoy! Makes about twelve servings.

Calories per serving: about 259

potatoes au gratin recipe

There you have it! A yummy Potatoes Au Gratin recipe to enjoy with your friends and family! I hope you love it for the holiday season and anytime you want a yummy, comforting side dish.

Thanks for stopping by!

XOXO

Cathy

*My apologies for the so-so photos. I took them in my poorly lit kitchen at night. 

comfort food side dishes


5 Ways to see the happy side of life

Disclaimer: I am not a mental health professional. The following is my opinion. If you are feeling extremely unhappy and sad, please visit a mental health professional for advice and assistance.

Happy National Happiness Happens Day!

What is National Happiness Happens Day? I wondered the same thing, because it is different than the celebration of general happiness; which happens in March. National Happiness Happens Day is a celebration of just being happy.

Everyone has happiness inside of them; no matter how dark or bleak the world may look. No matter how many problems we each face everyday, there is something inside of us that is happy. Sometimes small things make us happy, and sometimes larger than life things make us happy. The important thing to remember is that we need to remind ourselves about what makes us happy when we are down, that way we can return to being happy!

No matter how many bad things might be going on in our lives, there are many more good things in our lives to be thankful and grateful for. These are things that make us happy. Here are five ways to see the happy side of life, no matter what mood you might be in at the moment.

  1. Mother Nature: We live in a beautiful world. Whether you believe God created it, or you believe it was created another way, the Earth is a beautiful place. We have majestic mountains, life-giving trees, and delicate flowers. The water of the Earth gives us life and the ground provides us with a means to grow food. If you are in the dessert, a forest, coastside, or on a prairie, there is beauty in the nature around you. It is important to stop and take a moment to breath in the beauty of nature and appreciate it’s grand glory.
  2. Exercise: Whether you are a gym rat, or have sworn off exercise as the greatest evil of all, moving your body will make you happy. It releases endorphins, which is a natural chemical in your body that makes you happy. Our beautiful bodies created by God, or if you are atheist-created somehow, have the ability to naturally make us happy. Nothing can lift your spirits more then taking a walk outside, shooting hoops at the park, going for a jog, or hitting the gym. All it takes is a minimum of thirty minutes a day of exercise to make us happy.
  3. Make a Pro List: At some point in your life, you may have made a pro/con list. Instead of making a pro/con list, just make a pro list which details all the things you are happy for in your life. Pin it on the refrigerator door, or somewhere you look everyday. This will be a daily reminder of the things that are amazing in your life, and everytime you look at it you will feel happy and thankful. Love that!
  4. Favorite Food: There is an expression, “the way to someone’s heart is through the stomach.” There is nothing like comfort food. Eat food that makes you happy; and be grateful you have the means to eat it!
  5. Favorite Places: Where is your happy place? This could be an amusement park, a quiet neighborhood park, a hiking trail, the top of Mt. Tam., a cozy café, your Mother’s worn sofa; or anywhere you feel secure, happy, and carefree! If you feel down, go there! If you are happy, go there! Always keep your happy place on your calendar so you can continually look forward to it!

What are some things in your life where happiness just happens? For me it’s the beach, a view of Mt. Tam, swimming laps in the pool, working out in a fitness class, spending time with my family, cooking a favorite meal, relaxing with a good book, sipping warm green tea, having a conversation with you about fashion trends, and gazing at the stars. Let me know where happiness happens for you in the comments below!

Enjoy National Happiness Happens Day and have a very happy day!

XOXO

Cathy