Thanksgiving in the Time of COVID-19

If there’s anything that didn’t change too much for us this year due to COVID-19, it was Thanksgiving. That’s not to say things weren’t different at all, but we never travel for Thanksgiving, so at least we didn’t miss that, and we don’t always have family over, so while we missed seeing them, it wasn’t necessarily expected either. So, a lot of our three-day Thanksgiving holiday looked pretty much the same, starting with Pie Day on Wednesday, when we baked eight pies (seven for our family, and this year, one to give away).

In the middle of the baking, the children also made their yearly hand-and-footprint turkeys…Turkey and Bunny were kind enough to play along again this year at my request, since it is their last year in my homeschool.

We watched a very different version of the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade on Thanksgiving morning (in the words of Al Roker, it wasn’t the parade we wanted, but it was the parade we needed), which we enjoyed very much because it was something somewhat familiar. The same went for the National Dog Show, which was extra exciting for me this year because the dog I wanted to win actually did! And then we got ready for dinner. One of the best parts of any holiday is setting the table:

And the food. There was a lot of food, even with the turkey mishap we had in the morning (I ended up having to throw out the turkey I had purchased to roast, and we decided to order a second Beast Craft BBQ smoked turkey to ensure we had enough leftovers).

It’s always a pretty-looking dinner!

After clean-up and Holiday Inn, I got out the pies:

I limited myself to trying two kinds. This was my first attempt at lemon meringue pie, and I was very pleased with the results!

I made sure to play Animal Crossing: New Horizons, and helped Franklin prepare his holiday feast:

The day after Thanksgiving has been pretty different. We didn’t get to see Moose march in our town’s Santa Parade this year, which was disappointing…I’d really come to enjoy that event. And there was no town tree lighting or gingerbread house walk or trolley ride to look forward to after dinner. This morning, though, the family traditions did continue with pie-for-breakfast:

And turkey sandwiches for lunch, which I almost like better than Thanksgiving dinner itself!

Lego building is also part of our day-after-Thanksgiving celebration…I built the free-with-purchase A Christmas Carol set we received:

I always make turkey soup for dinner the day after Thanksgiving:

And after dinner, the Fab Five built a Lego Harry Potter set to add to our Hogwarts setup in the school room.

It wasn’t exactly the Thanksgiving we had planned, but all things considered, we had a very nice family celebration!

Pie Day 2020

Happy Pie Day!

We baked eight pies today. Not a record, but still a lot of pies, and our house smells like a bakery!

Caramel-apple (Bunny made this one, and it’s definitely the prettiest of the bunch!):

Lemon meringue:

Cranberry-apple:

Peanut butter:

Pecan (Someday I’ll make a pecan pie that actually looks pretty, but until then, at least it tastes good!):

S’mores:

Butterscotch:

Pumpkin:

Now we just have to wait until tomorrow to dig in!

Tasty Tuesday–Basic Fried Rice

I’m no expert on Chinese food, but I do know what kind of fried rice I like, and I’ve been trying to replicate my favorite fried rice for almost two decades now. I’m not claiming it’s authentic, but it is tasty, and it reminds me of the restaurant I used to like to eat at before it closed!

  • 3-4 Tbsp. canola oil
  • 1 onion, diced
  • Salt and pepper
  • 5 cloves minced garlic
  • 2-inch piece fresh ginger, peeled and minced
  • 5 green onions, chopped, white and green parts separated
  • 1/2 cup julienne carrots
  • 4 large eggs, lightly beaten
  • 4 cups cold cooked long-grain rice
  • 1 tsp. sesame oil
  • 2 Tbsp. soy sauce (or to taste)

Heat a large heavy-bottomed nonstick skillet over high heat. When hot add 1 tablespoon of canola oil. Add the diced onion to the pan, season with salt and pepper, and cook for 1 to 2 minutes until onion is fragrant Add the garlic, ginger, white part of green onions, and carrots and stir-fry until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Transfer to a large bowl.

Return the pan to the heat and add 1 Tbsp. of oil. Add the eggs and season with salt and pepper. Scramble eggs until almost set, then add to vegetables in bowl. Break the eggs up with a wooden spoon or spatula.

Return the pan to the heat and add 1 Tbsp. oil. Add the rice to the pan and use a spoon to break up any clumps. Season with salt and pepper and stir-fry the rice to coat evenly with oil, adding an additional Tbsp. of oil if necessary. Stop stirring, and then let the rice cook undisturbed until its gets slightly crispy, about 2 minutes. Stir the rice again, breaking up any new clumps. Add the remaining green onions, sesame oil, and soy sauce. Transfer to the bowl. Stir all the ingredients together with the rice, taste and adjust the seasoning with salt and pepper, if necessary. Serve.

Tasty Tuesday–Cooking Through a Pandemic, the Eighth Month

Kind of getting tired of cooking, but we have tried quite a few new and delicious things in the last month or so (and we got to have Pizza Hut and White Castle, too!):

I don’t think we did quite as much baking over the last month…we did keep making cookies every Sunday, and we also had a few other special treats, including a birthday cake:

The holidays are yet to come, so the cooking and baking is really just beginning!

Halloween in the Time of COVID-19

Halloween is the one holiday this year that looks pretty much the same to us, since our celebrations are always minimal at best. But I still wanted to make the day special, so I went to some extra effort with our meals.

We started the day with pumpkin spice cinnamon rolls. Yes, they were from a can, but they were still a treat!

I chose all of the elements of our dinner from our Harry Potter cookbook. We had braised lamb, Brussels sprouts, boiled potatoes, mashed parsnips, and butterbeer.

Dessert also came from the Harry Potter cookbook…a chocolate gateau.

We spent the day watching movies (Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, because it’s about candy, and Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone), and It’s the Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown, plus we listened to my favorite Halloween episode of The Baby Snooks Show. And of course, Animal Crossing: New Horizons was played!

Another holiday in the time of COVID-19 has come and gone, but the big ones are still on the horizon!

Tasty Tuesday–Potato-Parsnip Soup

I’m always on the lookout for a new soup recipe, and when I saw one for a potato-parsnip variety, I was intrigued, because I both really like potato soup and the flavor of parsnips. I made a few changes so it would suit us a little better, and in the end, it was a huge hit (and also a very pretty meal!)!

  • 2 lbs. baking potatoes, peeled and cut into chunks
  • 1 lb. parsnips, peeled and cut into chunks
  • 1 large onion, cut into chunks
  • 6 cloves garlic, smashed
  • 3 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 Tbsp. paprika
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • black pepper to taste
  • 32 oz. chicken broth
  • 1 1/2 c. whole milk
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • Crème fraîche or Mexican crema, bacon bits, and chopped chives for garnish

Preheat oven to 425.

Toss potatoes, parsnips, onion, and garlic with olive oil, paprika, salt and pepper. Spread on a baking sheet and roast in oven for about 40 minutes.

Combine vegetables with broth in large stock pot. Simmer for 30 minutes.

Puree in blender or with immersion blender until smooth.

Return to pot and combine with milk and cream and add salt and pepper to taste; heat though without boiling.

Garnish as desired.

Tasty Tuesday–Cooking Through a Pandemic, the Seventh Month

I guess I’m still doing this!

I think I have the school/cooking routine down pretty well at this point, although some days, it seems like I go straight from the school room to the kitchen. That’s weird, because I usually cook all of our dinners, even in pre-COVID-19 days. But for the last seven (?!?) months, I’ve certainly been putting more effort in, because it’s really the only thing I can do for my family, so it’s still kind of a learning curve, even though it doesn’t seem like it should be. We’ve had some favorite recipes in the last month (both chicken and steak shawarma, plus our favorite chicken with grapes and couscous, not to mention breakfast-for-dinner several times), and tried a few new things (a stir-fry of my invention, creamy chicken noodle soup, and a new kind of chicken for tacos):

There has also been baking (and some frying), including apple cider donuts, pretzels, my award-winning apple and pumpkin bread, and our every-Sunday cookies:

I guess I’ll keep this up through the end of the year, because it’s always fun to keep track of what we’re eating during the holidays, and they’re getting awfully close!

Tasty Tuesday–Super Simple Shredded Slow Cooker Chicken for Tacos

This recipe is so simple, it really doesn’t even need to be written down, but it was a huge hit with my whole family, and took very little effort, so I thought I’d share. It’s not only great in tacos, but also an excellent quesadilla filling!

  • 3 lbs. boneless, skinless chicken breast
  • 1 cup taco seasoning
  • 1 can condensed cream of chicken soup

Place chicken in slow cooker and cover with taco seasoning and cream of chicken soup. Cook on low 8-10 hours or until cooked through. In last hour of cooking, shred chicken and return to slow cooker, mixing with sauce.

Michaelmas Eve

Michaelmas is one of my favorite lesser-known church holidays, but even in the time of COVID-19, Tuesdays are kind of a hectic day for us, so I decided to make a special dinner tonight for Michaelmas Eve. The main dish was beef Wellington:

It was a pretty fancy dinner for a Monday!

For dessert I made a pumpkin angel food cake roll:

Surprisingly, I didn’t really like it, but the children did, and it looked really nice!

Now I can officially start counting down the days until Advent!

Tasty Tuesday–Wing Runner STL

Time for a look at the newest concept from the good people over at Beast Craft BBQ/ Beast Butcher and Block…Wing Runner STL!

Who doesn’t love chicken wings, am I right? I was intrigued when Beast Butcher and Block announced a new sub-restaurant providing delivery and carryout wings running out of their St. Louis location, and I was ecstatic when I found out that it was also going to be offered right here in Belleville!

Wing Runner currently offers 10 different flavors of wings (plus a cauliflower “wing” for the non meat-eaters who darken the doorstep of a BBQ joint). Sides are very limited, and because it’s a separate business, you can’t just tack items from Beast onto your order. We went with a bulk pack of 50 wings (there are seven of us, after all, but we didn’t finish quite all of them in one sitting!)…you can get up to five flavors, but for our first visit, we chose the four we were most interested in.

First up, my choice, the roasted garlic butter wings:

Of course we had to try the traditional mild buffalo (they also have hot buffalo, but not all of our children are open to that level of spice):

The spicy BBQ mustard was another popular request:

And the char siu, featuring sesame seeds, was our “wild” choice:

Well, not as wild at the habanero jerk…we got a 5-piece order of those to try alongside the other flavors.

Have you ever seen a better-looking plate of wings?!?

OK, on to the flavors. The habanero jerk was HOT. Like, scary hot. Even Ryan, who is the biggest fan of heat in the house, couldn’t eat more than two wings. So, if you order those, just be aware that your face may melt off. They’re excellent…I know that on a culinary level. But my taste buds would not thank me if I ate them again!

The other four flavors were all a huge hit. I don’t think I could pick a favorite if I tried…they were all delicious in their own way. The char siu was especially amazing…it was such an unexpected flavor on wings, and that just made it taste better. The spicy mustard had a great kick, and I loved the actual mustard seeds on the wings. The garlic butter had just the flavor I was hoping for, with the pleasant addition of cotija cheese crumbled over them. And the mild buffalo was exactly what you want out of a traditional buffalo wing.

I’m hoping it won’t be too long before our next order. I really want to try the shishito lime wings, and the fish sauce caramel sounds just unusual enough to be delicious. I’m also pretty sure I need to try the dry rub wings, too, and any seasonal varieties they offer in the future! It’s always exciting to see what new ideas David Sandusky and Beast come up with, and they never fail to disappoint!