HAWKEYES 12-0!!!


And the best part?


Next week?


It's GREAT to be a HAWKEYE.

Counting Our Blessings...

We missed having ALL of our family together here this year, but our day was filled with SO MANY blessings.

From this...

To THIS...

 I had lots of help from my sous chef Luke.

I skipped the Green Bean Casserole and made roasted Brussels sprouts with bacon and balsamic glaze...Loved them!  (Recipe later.)

Sara's delicious wild rice salad.  (I'll share the recipe later.)

A table full of Family...Food and FUN!

Moist turkey...and plenty of leftovers...

Time for PIE!

(That's Sophie's Great-Great Grandma and Grandpa Grady in the portraits behind her.)

Full tummies?  NEVER too full for Grandpa's POPCORN!

What a WONDERFUL day.

Forget Black Friday.
When I'm with FAMILY...I have EVERYTHING I want.

Happy Thanksgiving to EVERYONE...

To All Of My EPICUREAN EXPLORER  Blog Followers...

May this THANKSGIVING DAY be filled with Family, Friends, and Food...

And may we all take time today to be GRATEFUL for all the gifts we've been given!

Happy Thanksgiving 2015...From MY Kitchen...To YOURS!


Here are the dishes I'm preparing for our Thanksgiving dinner, and I'll add my prep schedule for some of them.

Garlic Mashed Potatoes
Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Bacon & Balsamic Glaze
Candied Sweet Potatoes 
Dinner Rolls
Cherry Pie
Pumpkin Pie

I made sure I added these items to my grocery list, based on MY menu...
Poultry Seasoning
Stuffing Mix or Bread Cubes
Kluski Noodles (Thick noodles that don't get "mushy" when cooked in chicken broth)
Balsamic Vinegar
Sour Cream (I put in my mashed potatoes with butter and garlic)
Flour (for gravy)
Brown Sugar (For sweet potatoes)
White sugar (for pies)
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Brussels Sprouts
LOTS of Chicken Broth or Stock
Half & Half or Cream (For mashed potatoes)
Chicken Bouillon cubes or powder
Pie Crusts (if you're baking pies!)
Evaporated Milk (For Pumpkin Pie)
Whipped Cream
Fresh Herbs-Especially Parsley
An Orange (For cranberries)
Dinner Rolls
Sweet Potatoes or Yams (Canned are fine...Just "doctor them up" as my Mom said!)
Pumpkin Pie Spice

On Wednesday
Make pies
Cook cranberries
Check your menu and make sure you have all the serving spoons, cooking utensils, etc. you need.
SET THE TABLE (It's only Tuesday as I'm writing this...and my table is already almost done!)

I'll add butter dish, salt and pepper, glassware, serving platters, serving spoons later...and matches to light candles!

On Thanksgiving Day

I found an AWESOME website ( with great instructions for HOW TO ROAST A TURKEY so I'm sharing that link here.  No need for me to reinvent the wheel.  Her instructions are almost exactly like I do it.  The only step I don't do is to salt the turkey the night before...but I may try that this year.  I can always learn something new, too!
Click Here:


I have a 22 lb. turkey, and I want to serve dinner at here is MY game plan...

6am...Remove Turkey from refrigerator and bring it to room temperature for two hours.  Do NOT wash the bird. Simply dry it off with paper towels and rub the skin with salt and pepper, and butter or olive oil.  (I make a compound butter and work it under the skin of the breast.)  I've included some photos from last Thanksgiving to illustrate my point.  (And thanks to my sous chefs Emma, Delaney and Claire for making THAT day so special!)  Like I said...This year I may prepare it Wednesday night, so all I'll have to do at 6am is pull it out of the refrigerator and let it sit until 8am.  (And I'll go back to bed!)

HELPFUL HINT:  Remove your rings from the hand you use to loosen the turkey skin from the breast meat.  Otherwise you will tear the skin.

BE SURE TO REMOVE THE PAPER PACKET OF GIBLETS FROM THE NECK CAVITY.  I put those in a saucepan and add onion, carrots, garlic and celery with water and Poultry Seasoning and some chicken bouillon, fresh parsley, salt and pepper...and I simmer it to make extra broth.  I strain and use for gravy...or you can just throw giblet packet away if you're taking the lazy route and using boxes of chicken broth instead. Make sure you buy two or three boxes so you have plenty on hand.  It's better to have extra than not enough!  ('ll be using it to make gravy, and to add to your dressing/stuffing too.) And also use the broth from the roasted turkey.  Just be sure you know the difference between the FAT in the pan, and the BROTH.  You will use them in separate steps to make your gravy.

8:00am...BEGIN ROASTING TURKEY In a shallow roasting pan, put turkey on top of several large carrots and celery stalks, some fresh herbs if you have them, and a quartered onion...and stuff some veggies and herbs into the bird as well.   (Sometimes I stuff in a quartered apple or lemon or orange too.  And all of that will be thrown away after the bird is cooked.) The veggies on the bottom of the pan will act as a rack, and they will flavor the broth which will eventually become the gravy.  Put prepared turkey in a preheated 400 degree oven for 20 minutes.  Then reduce temp to 350 degrees and proceed as directed on the website. If it begins to brown too much, just "tent" the bird in the oven to finish cooking.

Be sure to clean your counter and sink (and hands!) with soap/water/bleach before and after handling the raw turkey!

After turkey is in the oven, peel potatoes and put them in a pot.  Cover them with water.  Do NOT salt the water until you plan to cook them.  You can actually prepare the mashed potatoes in advance of the meal!  Simply put the covered pot of mashed potatoes over a pot of barely simmering water until dinner time.  (I have made mine up to two hours before dinner!)  Just stir vigorously before serving, and add a little more butter and/or half and half if needed when serving.

While the turkey roasts, prepare all the other side dishes you plan to serve. (You will cook them as dinnertime approaches.)

SWEET POTATOES Prepare your sweet potato casserole if you're serving one.  It can sit at room temperature until ready to stick in the oven for 30 minutes while turkey is resting.

STUFFING/DRESSING  (You'll need Chicken Broth for THIS dish too)
9:00am...I make my dressing in a slow cooker sprayed with cooking spray to free up oven space! Works great!  Stir several times while cooking.  Cook about 4 hours.  COOKING TIP: Keep in mind, a slow cooker is a VERY MOIST environment!  So you may want to use LESS broth in your stuffing than if you were baking it in a pan in the oven.  You can also put 3-4 layers of paper towels across the cooker under the lid to absorb some of the moisture.  Just keep an eye on it and do whatever works for you.

Using this turkey roasting method, I'm betting your turkey will be fully cooked by 11:30 or Noon.  Test with a thermometer!  Do NOT use the pop up timer inserted in most birds!  That timer is set to pop out at about 180-185 degrees...and that is TOO LONG for moist turkey!  The breast will be completely overcooked.  Make sure the leg/thigh joint is loose and the juices run clear...and you'll be good to go.  (It will continue to cook up to another ten degrees as it "rests" on the platter.)

When the turkey registers 160-165 degrees, remove from the oven, and put tin foil "tent" over bird.  You can let it rest for up to an hour!  So NOW is the time to make your gravy, and to put your other side dishes (sweet potatoes, etc.) into the oven at 350 degrees.   You can make your gravy in the roasting pan, or you can pour the FAT (not the broth) into a saucepan.

For some people...GRAVY is not easy to make...

These photos show a gravy I recently made with milk instead of broth, but simply substitute chicken broth for your Thanksgiving turkey version.

Here is how I make it...

Start with EQUAL PARTS FAT AND FLOUR!  (You can separate the fat from the broth in the turkey pan and use that fat.)  For a big dinner like Thanksgiving I would use at least 1/2 cup of each...flour and fat.  If you don't have enough fat in the turkey pan (you should have enough) you can substitute butter for turkey fat.

Sprinkle the flour into the fat and stir with a whisk to combine...

COOK THAT MIXTURE for several minutes!  That's important to cook out the "flour" taste. You don't want your gravy to taste like wallpaper paste!  Notice that the mixture begins to turn slightly brown...then it's cooked.

Then add your chicken broth-either homemade from the giblets, or from the 32 oz. boxes I told you to have on hand.  (Remember...the gravy in THIS picture was made with milk...thus the white color.)
Here you can add whatever herbs you'd like. Here I added thyme...

Keep cooking and stirring the gravy vigorously to prevent lumps, and bring it to a BOIL!  You'll never know how thick your gravy will be until it boils!

I also add a heaping teaspoon of chicken bouillon to my gravy...

And I stir in a handful of fresh chopped parsley right before serving.

HELPFUL HINT:  If your gravy is too thick when it boils, just add more broth.  If it's too thin, just put a heaping tablespoon of flour in a cup and whisk in some chicken broth to make a paste.  Then vigorously stir this mixture into the boiling gravy and keep stirring.  It will thicken like magic!

TASTE...and adjust the seasoning.  It's ready!  You can make the gravy while the turkey is resting, and add more broth if it thickens too much before serving.  You can DO this!  It will be delicious!  When you make Thanksgiving dinner this way, it's not a last minute scramble for ANY of the dishes you're serving.

I hope this timeline will make your day stress free.

After all, it's a day to be THANKFUL...not stressful.  And let me know which tips you used for your special meal!

Slow Cooker "Pork Two Ways" Potato Soup

I'm not much good at following recipes as they're written.  (I don't even like to color within the lines with the grandkids.) So when I see a recipe online that sounds promising, I immediately begin to "doctor it up" as my Mom used to say.

The recipe online said to cook this soup on LOW for SEVEN HOURS!  Remember...the only raw things are the hash browns and the green onions!  I cooked on LOW for about four hours and then turned to WARM.  (And that was PLENTY of cooking time!)  I also suggest stirring several times if you're in the kitchen...And if I was leaving for work in the morning, I think I would try setting it only to WARM until I got home.  Then I would put it on HIGH for 30 minutes or so and stir in the cream cheese. are only guidelines.  Play with it until it's right for you and your family. (This is NOT rocket science!)

I am looking for ways to use up things in our cupboards and our freezer before our big exodus to the Sunshine this is MY version of...

CROCK POT POTATO SOUP (With Both Ham and Bacon!)

1 30 oz. bag of frozen hash browns
1 pkg real bacon bits, divided...Save some for garnish  (I use Aldi brand)
1 can cream of chicken soup
1 32 oz. box of chicken broth (I use Aldi brand Fit & Active Reduced Sodium)
8 green onions, diced (both white and green parts)
leftover ham steak, cubed (if you have some)
8 oz. regular cream cheese, softened and diced
dried parsley..add while cooking
fresh parsley, chopped and added right before serving
salt and pepper to taste

And Aldi Tuscan Garden REAL Bacon Bits...

I had left over ham I diced it and added it about halfway through cooking time...You could add it ANY time.

And I diced up some softened cream cheese about one hour before dinner time and threw it in the pot. I stirred it several times to blend it into the soup before serving.

Right before serving, I stirred a BIG handful of chopped fresh parsley into the slow cooker.  And I topped the finished soup with some more bacon bits and shredded cheese...

The verdict?
Hubby loved it.
I liked it...the flavors were good...but I like more texture and layers of flavor in my soups.  (The fresh parsley saved the dish for me!) So I might try using diced breakfast potatoes instead of hash browns, or adding more "sturdy" ingredients when the soup is almost finished.  (Maybe some kale?) And maybe I'll use REAL, FRESH diced potatoes.  Like the saying goes...Fresh IS Best! are just a starting point for me...Just take a leap of faith and create your own masterpiece.

 And be sure to write down how you DO make it...or you may never be able to re-create it if it turns out to be delicious!

Who Says?

The Hawkeye flag was proudly waving atop the Old Capital building in Iowa City this morning...

Oh...and by the way...
Who says we don't have mountains in Iowa?


Friday night began like most other Autumn nights in Iowa City...

And then it began...

It's amazing what a difference an hour can make!

So Hubby laid out his gear for the Hawkeye game on Saturday...
Long Underwear...Check
Coonskin Cap...Check??

And when we woke up on Saturday morning we were greeted by THIS!

It was pretty as a picture...

But the wet, heavy snow and 35 mph wind gusts left much to be desired on game day!

Our tailgating pals know the routine.  When we cancel our outdoor pregame festivities, they head indoors to our house.

Not my day to cook...but the food showed up in abundance!

And everyone was HAPPY...especially since they were warm and toasty.

That coonskin cap made an appearance,,,

And the guys were glued to their smart phones and the TV to see how other games were unfolding...

This was the week for Chili Dick's Chili!

Not your usual chef's hat, but Chili Dick knows how to dress for success...and warmth!

The winter clothes were thrown aside until it was time to bundle up and set out for that walk of several blocks to the stadium...

This looks like one of those "for better or worse" moments in a marriage...

Then it was off to the game!

That's Chili Dick enjoying one last sip of a cold one...on a really COLD one!

So when all was said and done...

And after a few nail biting moments...


You EARNED it.
And it's obvious you've believed this all season...

Now...On to Nebraska...and then to Indy.
You ARE the champions...And it was a COLD DAY in Iowa City when you proved it!