Saturday, November 19, 2011

Culinary Adventures

Tomorrow at noon, our church is sponsoring a Thanksgiving Dinner for both our members and the residents of Sunset Village. Members of our congregation were asked to help provide various items for the dinner. Having never cooked a turkey before in my life, I wasn't about to have a wrestling match with the bird this year. So...

The mission: 10 pounds of mashed potatoes, pumpkin cake, and a beef roast for supper tonight. Not necessarily in that order.

Well..... knowing I would arrive at church hours before my potatoes were expected to make an appearance and feed the crowds, I decided against making the potatoes before the crack of dawn. I may be crazy, but not quite that much! And so it was: I spent my afternoon puttering around my kitchen, and let me tell you, it smelled wonderful!

Herb-Crusted Beef Roast
First up, I decided that we needed a roast for supper tonight. Enter The CrockPot, one of my best friends. I may have mentioned it before, but I have this simple little cookbook entitled 365 Easy Slow Cooker Recipes with which my mother gifted me some time ago. Let me tell you, I have yet to be disappointed. This little book contains some super simple recipes requiring only 3-4 ingredients; other, more complex recipes may require ingredients not always available in the average kitchen. Regardless, the variety of recipes and simplicity of slow cooking keep me coming back to this book time and again. Tonight's selection was the Herb-Crusted Beef Roast (complete with bacon!), and it lived up to my expectations. D enjoyed it (of course, it had bacon), but we agreed gravy would have been an excellent addition. I did substitute a few of the herbs for ones I preferred and had on hand, but it took maybe 5 minutes to put together and turn on the crockpot (ignoring all the time I waited for it to defrost in my fridge this morning.... I may not have planned that one very well in advance). But that's the beauty of crockpots- there's not really a need to plan ahead. Just throw some meat and random veggies, maybe a sauce or glaze in there, turn it on, and it's ready by supper time.

Look ma! 12 cups of pumpkin!
Next up on the list: Pumpkin Cake for Thanksgiving Dinner tomorrow. I wanted to bring a dessert as well as the potatoes. There's no rule against bringing more than one thing, and I have 4 QUARTS of pumpkin to use, thanks to my Mother-in-Law's "accidental garden" aka compost pile (and that's only half of what she gave me!). Well, 4 quarts of un-pureed pumpkin. So step one: Puree the pumpkin. Oddly enough, the puree button on my blender isn't currently working (sad face). 12 cups of pureed pumpkin later, I was ready to make the cake. I tried a new recipe for this one (although to be honest, all pumpkin cake recipes are new to me), from The Pastors Wives Cookbook, which I received as a wedding present. I wound up making two smaller cakes (8x8), and had enough left over for 6 cupcakes. D, who doesn't even like pumpkin all that much, bravely agreed to taste-test one for me. Rave review. Added a little cream cheese frosting (I cheated and used the store-bought kind), and they're ready to go for tomorrow!

Holy potatoes, Batman! 
And that finally brings us full circle to our potatoes. 10 pounds seemed like a lot, and it was. Especially for one who cooks for 2, and 1 of those 2 doesn't even like potatoes. He doesn't know what he's missing, poor guy. I went with the basic butter and milk, omitting my secret ingredients (you didn't think I'd give them away, did you??), although in retrospect, I kind of wish I would have. Oh well. They may not be the fanciest potatoes there, but they taste good, and they're made with love (sorry! not the secret ingredient).

I also helped decorate at church for tomorrow, and it looks cute! I've got one huge pumpkin (the second one from my Mother-in-Law's "accidental garden") that I'm bringing for final decorations. We're definitely going to have our hands full tomorrow morning, but I've enjoyed my afternoon's labors of love and thanksgiving for what I have that I can use to bless others.
Pumpkin Cake! Om nom!

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