A Markel Family Thanksgiving, Broken Ankle Edition

Normally, Thanksgiving in our house is a three-day affair, beginning on Wednesday (pie day) and culminating the day after. Because of my broken ankle, this year Thanksgiving had to be a four-day holiday. I started by baking four pies (S’mores, Nutella, pecan, and pumpkin), on Tuesday, (and we had a regular school day, too!), in addition to making the cranberry sauce and chopping the vegetables for the stuffing and the turkey soup. I knew there was no way I could do all of that, plus the other five pies and stuffing prep on Wednesday, and I’m glad I planned it that way, because even just that was a lot of work on my booted leg!

On Wednesday, the other five pies were prepared (banana cream, caramel apple made by Bunny, strawberry, cranberry apple, and butterscotch), plus the stuffing was finished and ready to go in the slow cooker Thursday morning. We also read all of our favorite Thanksgiving stories (it was the least I could do to make up for the lack of our regularly scheduled Thanksgiving school) and made hand and footprint turkeys. This was an exhausting day!

I do have to admit, all the pies did look really nice!

Of course, Thursday was the Big Day. There was more work, including giving the turkey a bath in the sink and prepping the rest of the menu. We also watched the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade and the National Dog Show, which are Thanksgiving highlights for me. I also love setting a nice table for a holiday!

In case you’re wondering, my motivation for doing all of this even with a broken ankle was the Fab Five. I have been aware that “the days are long, but the years are short” since the very beginning, and that’s becoming even more real now that we’re getting closer to the time when the children will all start scattering as they reach adulthood.

We had our usual Thanksgiving feast…roast turkey, mashed potatoes and gravy, stuffing, carrots, Brussel sprouts, green beans with almonds, cranberry sauce, and rolls with butter:

Red and white wine, and red and white sparkling grape juice accompanied our meal:

It was a delicious feast!

And then, after much clean-up, the annual watching of Holiday Inn, and the boiling of the carcass for turkey soup, it was pie time!

I went with my favorite, cranberry apple, plus the Thanksgiving standard of pumpkin pie with whipped cream:

The celebration continued this morning with our traditional day after Thanksgiving breakfast of pie:

And then, something new this year! Moose got to march in the town parade with his school’s band. We’ve never attended before, and despite the wind, it was a lot of fun!

This year, our annual day after Thanksgiving Lego build didn’t feature a Winter Village set. Instead, I carried the year’s Harry Potter theme through to Thanksgiving, and we built the Whomping Willow set, plus a free-with-purchase Diagon Alley set.

And then turkey soup for dinner!

And more pie for dessert…this time, I went with the chocolate-based pies…S’mores and Nutella.

And that’s the end of another Thanksgiving in the Markel house. We didn’t go to downtown Belleville following our turkey soup dinner this year, partly because we don’t enjoy the tree-lighting as much without the community sing they used to have, and partly because rain postponed some of the other activities. But almost everything else went according to our normal Thanksgiving traditions, even if the timing of some them were altered a bit…but there was no way I was going to allow a broken ankle to ruin our holiday!

French Toast Mode

They’re forecasting our first significant snow of the season tonight and tomorrow. Actually, they’re saying it might be one of the biggest November snowstorms in St. Louis history! In honor of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch‘s Weatherbird’s “French Toast Map” and all of the people who hit the grocery stores to purchase large quantities of milk, eggs, and bread before a storm hits, I made French toast for dinner. It’s a win-win situation…we like the snow and don’t freak out about it like so many in St. Louis do, and French toast is one of the children’s favorite special dinners!

Tasty Tuesday–Soup!

One of my favorite things about the cool weather that arrives with fall is the addition of soups to our dinner menus. Sure, you can make soup during the summer, but it’s just not the same when it’s hot outside, right? There’s something really comforting about a warm bowl of soup on a chilly day! Here’s a look at some of our favorite soup recipes:

 

Tasty Tuesday–Fajitas

Would you believe I’ve never tried to make fajitas before last weekend? I wanted to try something new, though, so I made chicken and steak varieties, and messed around with the recipe a bit until I got the spices right. Everyone loved them, so I think it was a success!

  • 6-8 Tbsp. vegetable oil, divided
  • 4 Tbsp. lemon or lime juice
  • 3 tsp. kosher salt, plus additional to taste
  • 3 tsp. dried oregano
  • 4 tsp. cumin
  • 2 tsp. garlic powder
  • 1 tsp. chili powder
  • 1 tsp. paprika
  • 1 tsp. red pepper flakes
  • 3 lbs. boneless, skinless chicken breasts or flank steak, cut into thin strips
  • 3 bell peppers, thinly sliced (I like to use a variety of colors)
  • 1 white onion, thinly sliced

Make marinade: In large bowl, combine 4 Tbsp. vegetable oil, lemon or lime juice, 3 tsp. kosher salt, oregano, cumin, garlic powder, chili powder, paprika, and red pepper flakes. Toss with chicken or steak and refrigerate for 3-5 hours.

In large skillet, saute peppers and onions with remaining oil and salt to taste on medium heat until tender. Remove from skillet and keep warm.

In same skillet, saute chicken or steak for five to six minutes until cooked through (do this in batches so you don’t crowd the pan). Discard remaining marinade. Add peppers and onions to pan with meat and heat through.

Serve on tortillas with favorite toppings such as rice, lettuce, shredded cheese, sour cream, and avocado.

Tasty Tuesday–Ideas for Oktoberfest

Oktoberfest is one of my favorite times of year! My children have come to expect me to tell the story of why Oktoberfest starts in September and to make all their favorite Oktoberfest treats. Here are the recipes I’ve shared over the years…pretty much just sides and desserts for some reason, but those are the most delicious kinds of recipes, right?

  • Homemade Pretzels–This is one of favorite recipes, not just for Oktoberfest, but in general, because everyone gets involved in helping shape the pretzels…we’ve had a lot of fun coming up with unique shapes over the years!
  • Cheddar and Beer Fondue–If you’re looking for a dip for pretzels (or brats, crusty bread, and baby gherkins), this is the recipe you want.
  • Spaetzle–I can make over a dozen batches of this recipe in a single week, because it’s one that everybody loves, and it goes with pretty much anything.
  • Apple Strudel–Technically, this is an Austrian recipe, but it’s still an Oktoberfest favorite around here!
  • Black Forest Cherry Torte–This is one of our all-time favorite cakes…I’ve made it not just for Oktoberfest, but for birthday, too!

What are your favorite Oktoberfest foods?

A Story of Spaetzle

Last week, I shared our family’s favorite spaetzle recipe. But as is the case with so many recipes, it’s not just about the food…it’s also about the story.

I first attempted making homemade spaetzle about a decade ago (give or take). I didn’t have a spaetzle maker at the time, so I just pushed the batter through the holes in a colander. It was kind of a lot of work, but I was so excited to make one of my favorite German foods, and share it with my family.

But 10 years ago, my oldest child was five. And everyone knows that five-year-olds (and their younger siblings) aren’t exactly the most adventurous eaters. So Ryan and I enjoyed the spaetzle, but nobody else even tried it. And I decided it just wasn’t worth the effort to make it again.

Until last year. I was planning a German meal for the Fourth of July, and I decided to give it another go. I even ordered a spaetzle maker, which made the job a lot easier, and this time, everybody tried it. It seemed like the children liked it ok, but I didn’t think they were thrilled with it, so I still didn’t make it too often. But a few weeks ago, I had some extra sauerkraut, so I figured I would make some spaetzle to go with it. And suddenly, children were appearing, and begging for a bowl. Apparently, they hadn’t just liked it last year, they loved it. And they still do.

I’ve lost track of how many batches of spaetzle I’ve made in the last few weeks. Today, I tripled my recipe, just to make sure we have enough to go with tonight’s dinner, and to enjoy with lunches throughout the week. It’s a HUGE bowl, but I bet I’ll go through it faster than I expect.

Ten years ago, I despaired of ever sharing this part of my heritage with my children. Now they can’t get enough. So if you’re dealing with young children, and longing to share favorite things from your past with them, whether recipes, books, games, movies, or anything else, just give it some time. They may not appreciate it today, or tomorrow, or even a year from now, but eventually, their tastes may change, and you’ll be left just wondering what you got yourself into!

Tasty Tuesday–Our Favorite Spaetzle

It’s that time of year again…Oktoberfest! I’m looking forward to cooking some of our favorite German foods in the coming weeks, but none is more appreciated than homemade spaetzle…well, other than Black Forest Cherry Torte! Here’s the recipe I use…it makes a lot, so you might want to halve it if you don’t like spaetzle as much as we do (or if you don’t have seven members in your family!). I use a little less nutmeg than many recipes call for, because I find it a bit overpowering, but feel free to adjust to your tastes.

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 4 eggs
  • 3/4 tsp. ground nutmeg
  • 1 pinch fresh ground pepper (white is traditional, but I use black)
  • 1 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 2 Tbsp. butter
  • 2 Tbsp. fresh parsley,  chopped
  • Shredded Gruyère cheese (optional)
  • Sauerkraut (optional)

Mix together flour, salt, white pepper, and nutmeg. Beat eggs well, and add alternately with the milk to the dry ingredients. Mix until smooth.

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.

Working over pot of water, press dough through spaetzle maker or colander with large holes, dropping into water. Cook four to six minutes. Drain well.

Sauté cooked spaetzle in butter. Sprinkle chopped fresh parsley on top. For an extra-special treat, add some shredded Gruyère cheese and sauerkraut while sautéing the spaetzle.

Tasty Tuesday–A Magical Birthday Feast

It’s already been two weeks since Harry Potter’s (and J.K. Rowling’s) birthday! To celebrate that occasion, we tried out some more recipes from The Unofficial Harry Potter Cookbook. I can’t recommend it enough…we’ve loved the recipes we’ve tried so far, and it’s so much fun to have themed dinners!

This time around, we tried Gillywater (a drink made from honeydew melon and mint), hot rolls, Brussel sprouts with béchamel sauce, Chiddingly hotpot (a fantastic stew with many sour notes from two kinds of vinegar and green olives!), and Sirius Black’s coconut cake for dessert (yes, I got Hogwarts paper plates from Walmart!):

No, not all of these recipes appear in the Harry Potter books. J.K. Rowling never explains what Gillywater is, so the author of the cookbook just went with something green and refreshing (which it was!). The coconut cake is also a creation from the author’s imagination, based on the fact that Sirius Black was hiding out in a tropical location, so she decided that when he sent Harry a birthday cake, it would have a tropical flavor. I really appreciate not only the known recipes from the books, but also the author’s interpretation of some of the more vague culinary mentions!

Ready for the First Day of School!

Our super-fun summer has just sped by, and tomorrow it’s already time for the first day of school! To make our last week of vacation extra special, I prepared everyone’s favorite meal (with some exceptions…for example, no one was allowed to request Thanksgiving dinner!). Our lineup for the past week was:

  • Amanda–Reuben casserole
  • Turkey–Stromboli
  • Bunny–Brazilian black bean stew with Pao de Queijo and Brazilian lemonade
  • Moose–French toast with bacon and cranberry-pineapple juice
  • Ladybug–Creamy onion soup with Irish soda bread and pumpkin fizz
  • Chickadee–Mac ‘n’ cheese with bacon
  • Ryan–Cock-a-leekie pie

Tonight we had a “Farewell to Summer” dinner of hot dogs (including Chicago-style and chili dogs) and brats, with a special cream puff dessert:

The school room has been cleaned and organized, and for once, there really haven’t been any significant changes in the way it’s arranged! We’ve either found a really good layout that works for us, or we’ve run out of room to make any changes…or most likely, a combination of the two!

And the First Day of School outfits are ready to go…we’re going with a Harry Potter theme this year!

Tomorrow marks the beginning of our 11th year of homeschooling. As always, I am both excited and terrified, but one thing is for sure…I can’t wait to see what this year brings!

Tasty Tuesday–A Medieval Feast

One of my favorite things about summer school every year is having an opportunity to cook something new and interesting that relates to the theme of our studies. Coming up with a medieval-themed menu was a bit challenging, but we tried a few new things, and we actually liked everything! On this year’s menu were mock mead, pottage (a vegetable and barley soup), beef and bacon pie (the bacon took the place of marrow, which would have been a common medieval ingredient), and baked spiced pears for dessert.

I will confess, we did use modern dishes and silverware (although I did consider using bread trenchers for the pie!), and the cooking methods weren’t exactly medieval, but at least it was an approximation of food people might have eaten during the Middle Ages!