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Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Gratitude Story

One of my favorite pioneer stories is a story I heard in Martin's Cove several years ago. It is the story of the Mellor family, who crossed the Plains with the ill-fated Martin Handcart Company.
Sixteen-year-old Louisa Mellor Clark, oldest child of the family, recorded this incident in her journal: 

“The first snowstorm left about two feet of snow on the ground, and we began to feel very nervous. We had to wade through more streams, and sometimes up to our waists, and when we got through our clothes would freeze on us until a great many gave up and many died, mostly old people. At last the snow got to be four and five feet deep and often we had to shovel a road before we could move. Thus our traveling was very slow and our provisions nearly gave out.
“My mother, still being weak, finally gave up and said she could go no further. The company could not wait for her, so she bade my father goodbye and kissed each one of the children Godspeed. Then my mother sat down on a boulder and wept. I told my sister, Elizabeth, to take good care of the twins and the rest of the family, and that I would stay with mother. I went a few yards away and prayed with faith that God would help us, that He would protect us from wolves, and that He would let us reach camp. As I was going back to where my mother was sitting I found a pie in the road. I picked it up and gave it to mother to eat. After resting awhile we started on our journey, thanking God for the blessings. A few miles before we reached camp we met my father coming out to meet us. We arrived in camp at 10:00 p.m.

“Many times after that mother felt like giving up and quitting, but then she would remember how wonderful the Lord had been to spare her so many times, and offered a prayer of gratitude instead. So she went on her way rejoicing while walking the blood-stained path of snow.”

There are two things I love about this story: 1. The wonderful, kind way Heavenly Father answer the sincere prayer of a worried daughter and  2. The deep gratitude for blessings expressed by the family in the most difficult of times. 
May your heart be full of gladness for your blessings this Thanksgiving season!

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Before You Sit Down to Thanksgiving Dinner....

...come to the church Thanksgiving morning and burn some calories! There is an exercise group meeting this Thursday at 8 am in the gym. This group is open to everyone of every age and fitness level. Chelsy Hooper leads the exercise group, and they would love to see you there. Leave the kids home if possible, and come get your day started right! This group regularly meets Tuesdays and Thursdays, 9-10 and on those days, bring the kids.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Brining Turkey

I've heard a lot about brining turkeys and decided to try it this year. Brining makes poultry moister and more flavorful. It takes a little more time, but it's worth it. If you want to know why brining improves quality, read Here.
Although turkey is a little more expense this year, it's still an economical meat, and great for leftovers.

Start with a completely thawed turkey. If your turkey is frozen, you need to let it defrost in your fridge for 3-5 days, depending on the size of your turkey. Leave it in the original package to defrost. When your turkey is completely thawed, remove giblets.

Prepare your brine. I'm cooking a large (22 lb) turkey, so I needed a total of 2 gallons of brine. Brine is salt water, usually with some sweetener and some seasonings added.
The basic recipe is one gallon of water or broth (I used broth) and one cup of coarse or Kosher salt.  You can look up many good brining recipes online. A good brining recipe usually includes 1/2 to 1 cup of sugar and a few tablespoons of whole spices. Bring the water, salt, and sugar to boil in a large pot on the stove, then add whole spices as desired. I used 1 tablespoon whole allspice and 1 tablespoon whole black pepper. Boil for a minute or two, or until salt and sugar are completely dissolved.. Add one gallon of ice water with lots of ice to cool water.

The hardest part of brining is finding a container big enough to immerse a turkey in. I own a extra large stockpot, but you could also use a bucket or watertight cooler. It needs to be something that fits into your fridge. If the weather is right you could also use your back porch or garage. Just be sure to monitor the temperature carefully to avoid freezing or over-warming the brining turkey.  Your turkey needs to be completely immersed--you may need to weigh down the turkey to keep it under water.  Put the whole thing into your fridge for 8-10 hours.  
Do not leave your turkey in brine longer than 10 hours, as quality begins to decline after too long in brine water.

 After 8 to 10 hours, remove turkey from brine, rinse very well, and brush with canola oil or melted butter. Fill turkey cavity with diced onions, carrots, celery, spices, oranges, apples, or leave empty.

Cook on the bottom rack of your oven for time and temperature appropriate to turkey size. I cooked my 22 lb turkey for 3 1/2 hours at 325 as my turkey packaging suggested.  I like to cook with a foil tent for the first 2 hours, then remove the last hour or more to brown.

Use a meat thermometer in the deepest part of the turkey to reach the perfect doneness--around 165 degrees.

The brined turkey was noticeably moister--a little more effort and a little more time was well worth the effort!

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Relief Society Curriculum for 2012

 You may know that our Relief Society manual for 2012 is 
Teachings of the Presidents: George Albert Smith..

As usual, your ward or branch Relief Society presidency will be distributing the new manual in 2012. In the meantime, the manual can be view online at  here. You can even listen to the manual by clicking on the appropriate icon on the page.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Did You Know? Blenders and Mason Jars

  Do you know that the blades for your blender also fit a standard mason jar? As we enter the holiday cooking season, it's handy to use a mason jar when you don't have time to wash the blender jar. Oster blenders used to come with a mason jar to be used in this way--my original one did. You can use either the pint or quart size.

Just put your food to be blended into the mason jar and screw your base on.

Invert onto your blender,

and blend as usual.
Mason jars work especially well for chopping nuts or whole spices.
Several years ago when my blender stopped working, I kept the base part with the blades. Now I have 2 sets of bases and when I'm in a hurry, I don't have to wash anything until I'm all done if I need to use the blender a lot.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Acorn Squash Soup

This is the time of year to enjoy winter squashes.  This recipe calls for acorn squash, but any winter squash would work.  I got this recipe from my brother, and it's quick, easy, and delicious!

Acorn Squash Soup

3 cups mashed, cooked acorn squash (about one medium squash)
1 small onion, chopped
1/4 cup chopped celery
2 tablespoons butter
1 teaspoon chicken bouillon granules
1/2 teaspoon dill weed
1/4 teaspoon curry powder (or more if you like spicier soup)
dash cayenne pepper (or more)
2 cups chicken broth
12 oz fat-free half and half
4 oz cream cheese, softened
salt and pepper to taste

Cook and mash acorn squash. One method: microwave the full, uncut squash on high for 5 minutes. Cut in half, remove seeds and strings with large spoon. Place halves face down on plate, microwave 6-8 minutes more (or until you see it wilt). Let cool, scoop out squash. Mash to smooth consistency with a hand mixer. Set aside.

In a large saucepan, saute celery and onion in butter. Stir in bouillon, dill, curry, and cayenne pepper until blended. Gradually add broth, half and half, and softened cream cheese. Bring to a boil; cook and stir for 2 minutes. Add the squash, salt and pepper; heat through, stirring constantly.

In a blender, process soup in batches until smooth. Or use an immersion blender.  Pour into bowls and serve immediately, or return to pot to keep warm (stir frequently-it will bake onto the pot easily.).  Garnish each bowl with crumbled bacon--optional.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Cultivating Gratitude

November is the time we naturally think and talk about our blessings. Vaughn E. Worthen said:

"Gratitude is a positive experience that comes from recognizing gifts or blessings and feeling thankful. It is also an attitude, a way of perceiving life, in which individuals are willing to acknowledge and receive the beneficial actions of others on their behalf. Gratitude is also a habit that can be cultivated, causing one to focus on the blessings of life."

Brother Worthen also points out that those who cultivate and practice gratitude feel less depressed or anxious, and more happiness, with a greater sense of well-being. They are also healthier, more forgiving, less envious, more generous, and more able to cope with adversity.
(Mar 2010 Ensign, "The Value of Experiencing and Expressing Gratitude")

See  here and here and here for ideas we have shared in the past for cultivating and experiencing gratitude. It doesn't take a lot of effort, your plan may include quiet reflection or some activity or daily reminder to pause and count your blessings. You and your family can do something as simple as:

 printing a page of leaves from the computer,

coloring them,

cutting them out,

and writing on the back of each leaf something you thankful for. After stringing a ribbon through each leaf,

 hang them on a "tree".
How do you cultivate gratitude in your life?

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

The Party's Over... what to do with all this leftover Halloween candy?

1. Freeze it.
You can store candy in the freezer for at least a year. Be aware that freezing chocolate may change the color, but not the quality of chocolate.
2. Use it as a replacement for chocolate chips in your favorite recipe.
Just substitute equal amounts of M and M's for chocolate chips and mix and bake as usual.

OR coarsely chop any kind of chocolate candy bars and use in the same way--substituting chopped candy for chips. You can also freeze this chopped candy and use it for cookies or ice cream mix-ins later.

3. Melt it.
 Use a heat-proof bowl and a pot. Put an inch of water in the bottom of the pot and set the bowl inside. Make sure the water doesn't touch the bottom of the bowl.

 Add your candy bars and

 melt over low heat.

Add a little milk

and continue to stir until smooth.  Now you have a yummy, fast sauce for ice cream or cakes.  It is particularly good on pound cake, ginger cake, or pumpkin cake.

When melting, avoid using candy with cookies. Anything else (nuts, coconut, peanut butter) works fine.

4. Donate it.
The local family shelter, food bank, nursing homes, and other charitable organizations take candy donations. You may want to call before donating to make sure your favorite organization is interested in leftover candy.

5. Eat it.
If none of these solutions work for you, I'm willing to bet you can find someone to help you devour your leftovers.
  What do you like to do with your leftover candy?