Monday, November 29, 2010

Thanksgiving

What a wonderful week we have had! Yes, it was crazy and busy, but that just makes it fun!! We really kicked the week off on Tuesday when my brother came in from Atlanta. His birthday was the 20th so we all went to dinner to celebrate him turning 25! On Wednesday I woke up totally stressed--it was Thanksgiving cooking day! I don't know why I was in such a snit about it-I was only cooking 2 things! PLUS-perhaps the greatest part of the week-I had finally relented and hired my mom's housekeeper to come to our house for the first time that day. We never seem to have time to give the house a good deep cleaning and when we do have time we absolutely HATE doing it. It makes me so cranky! I know I should probably just suck it up, but after seeing what an amazing job Nidia did, I am too spoiled to go back! When I got home from work the house was immaculate! It really made my stress level decrease that day, just knowing that cleaning was NOT something that I was going to have to do! Forrest was out playing football in "Turkey Bowl 2010" with my brother and some of their high school pals while I was at home cooking my first Thanksgiving dishes. Last year I brought canned cranberry sauce and Sister Schubert rolls. Low pressure, right? Now that I have a little more cooking under my belt I volunteered to make something and I was determined to do a GREAT job. Everyone it seems has their "signature dish" that they bring to our holiday gatherings so I really wanted to find one for me! I agonized about my decision, and finally selected Alfredo Rice Casserole (everyone else had their own dishes planned so I had to pick something that wasn't close to being the same). I found the recipe a few months ago in the Southern Living Holiday Cookbook and have been anxious to have the right occasion to make it. I think it turned out very well!!
Alfredo Rice Casserole--looks yum!

Alfredo Rice Casserole: (I doubled the recipe)
1 1/3 cups refigerated Alfredo sauce (I ended up using a jar and a half, but wish I used both whole jars)
1 cup cooked brown rice
1 cup cooked wild rice
1 cup marinated quartered artichoke hearts, chopped (I just used 1 whole can for the doubled recipe)
8 bacon strips, cooked and crumbled (I used bacon bits--easy!)
2 green onions, thinly sliced
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/4 cup chopped sun-dried tomatoes (the recipe says "not packed in oil" but they don't sell those in Gadsden so I just rinced mine off and they were fine)
1/4 cup chicken broth
1 garlic clove, minced
1/2 tsp pepper
(I also added 1 small can of pieces and stems mushrooms, well, 2, since I doubled it)
In a large bowl, combine all ingredients. Transfer to a greased 8 in square baking dish. Bake, uncovered, at 350 for 20/25 minutes or until bubbly. If you are making it ahead, just mix it and put it in the fridge. Cook it right before you eat so it stays warm and moist!
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I also whipped up a batch of Double Decker Fudge, which I found in Taste of Home Magazine. I can't beleive I forgot to take a pic. It was totally easy and tasty--I caught Forrest sneaking some the next morning!
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Double Decker Fudge ( doubled this too)
1 tsp butter
1 cup peanut butter chips
1 can (14 oz) sweetened condensed milk, divided
1 tsp vanilla extract, divided
1 cup (6oz) semisweet chocolate chips

Line an 8 in square pan with foil; butter foil and set aside (only do this if you want to take it out of the pan and serve it on a different dish-also I just sprayed my foil with Pam)
In a microwave safe bowl, combine peanut butter chips and 2/3 cup milk (I used a whole can when I doubled it). Microwave on high for 1 minute; stir. Microwave at additional 15 second intervals, stirring until smooth. Stir in 1/2 tsp vanilla. Pour into prepared pan. Refridgerate for 10 min.
Meanwhile, in a microwave safe bowl, combine chocolate chips and remaining milk. Microwave on high for 1 minute; stir. Microwave at additional 15 second intervals, stirring until smooth. Stir in remaining vanilla. Spread over peanut butter layer.
Refigerator for 1 hour or until firm. Using foil, remove fudge from pan. Cut into 1 inch squares.
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After my cooking extravaganza Forrest and I went to the Downtown Tavern to meet some of our high school friends that were in town for the holidays. It was really fun to see everyone again! We called it a night early because we had a busy day ahead of us on Thursday.
We started the day at my Uncle John and Aunt Sue McCord's house and celebrated with my dad's side of the family. This year our friends the Murrays and Joni Smith came too, since their families were going to be out of town. It made the day much more special, I thought!

The girls at Thanksgiving
After we had our fill, we went home to pack and then hopped in the car and drove to Selma, to spend time with Forrest's mom's family. We ate left overs and basically just chilled out all night--and let me tell you, that was a welcome change from our crazy weeks! All of Forrest's aunts and uncles on that side were there with their dogs so it was great fun! Ruffles was a little nervous of all of them, but it was really sweet to see them all play together!
The next morning, we were on the road again---this time, to Tuscaloosa for the AL v. AU game (no comment). Mom and I ate brunch at the AOII house, which Aunt Fran had decorated to the nines! I have never seen the house look so amazing! I know the girls will miss her when her interim housemother position ends in a few weeks!
The panda trees

Me and Randi getting our game faces on
 After the game we hung around for a while, catching up with friends and chowing down on pizza, before heading home. This trip took us 3 hrs (yes, 3), but we were really glad to be home and in our own beds by 10pm that night!
On Saturday we were up and at'em again. We were hosting a dinner party and we both had so much to do! I was anxious to get the Christmas decorations up and Forrest wanted the yard to be raked and clean before our friends came in so we were bustling around the house all day (well, except when Forrest went to play another round of football and I went to church). I LOVE my Christmas decorations----how could anyone NOT love Christmas decorations??? I don't have tons and tons of them, but I enjoy collecting them each year. I went to several sales the day after Christmas last year and I totally loaded up on stuff for this year that I was finally able to pull out of the basement!

I love these sparkly snowflakes!

Christmas ball and garland wreath--Forrest's mom made it for me!

My light up, sparkly presents! I will move these to the tree, when we get it!

Baby Christmas tree centerpieces. Forrest snagged these for me at Lowes for like 8 bucks!


"Tipsy" centerpiece

The pets' stockings--my favorite part!
Before I knew it, 6pm arrived and so did our guests! We invited our friends the Pucketts, the Gulases, Ellen and Nelson, and Jay and Claire. We had this same group over a year ago at the same time and I wanted to do it again since we would all be in town. The relationships in the group all over lap--all of the guys were Lambda Chis, 4 of us girls were AOII's, several of us went to high school together, and all but one of us is from Gadsden. Because we all went so far back, we had so many fun and different memories to talk about the whole night! Forrest and I thought people would need a change from Thanksgiving leftovers so he made his Enchiladas Especiales de Forrest.

Forrest's enchiladas
Baked Enchiladas (we tripled this!)
1 tablespoon butter
1 onion chopped
1 small can of chopped green chilies (drain liquid)
1 pkg (8oz) creem cheese (I use the 1/3 less fat kind)
3 1/2 cups cooked chicken, shredded or chopped
1 pkg of flour tortillas (8 inch)
2 (8oz) pkgs of shredded cheese (cheddar, Mexican, whatever)
1 can green or red enchilada cause (we usually double this, even when we don't double the recipe)
1 small can of sliced black olives to sprinkle on top (we double this every time too, but we love olives)

Melt butter in large pan over medium heat.
Add the chopped onion and saute for 5 minutes
Add green chiles. saute for 1 minute
Stir in cream cheese and chicken
Cook until the cream cheese melts, stirring constantly.
Spoon small amount of mixture into each tortilla and roll it up.
Place into a 13x9 greased baking dish.
Pour enchilada sauce over tortillas when all are in the pan.
Sprinkle with shredded cheese and olives
Bake 45 min at 350
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In keeping with the "Thanksgiving Fiesta" theme, Katie brought a 7 layer dip, Ellen brought Spanish Rice, Jay and Claire brought Sangria and other wines (including a CHOCOLATE dessert wine that was delish) and Lauren brought Margarita cake, brownies, and a pie! We had so much fun catching up, watching football, and SINGING!! While we were clearing the table, Jay went to check out our piano and started playing things by ear. Let me tell you--he is amazing! Now, I can play songs by ear, like, note by note, but Jay can play chords, both hands, and SING! Craziness! Once he got going, the whole group of us wound up sitting in the living room, drinking wine (ok, the guys had beer), and hollering out requests to Jay. I can honestly say it was one of the most fun nights we have ever had at our house! I hated for the night to come to an end!

Sing it Jay

Sonny was exhausted after such a busy weekend!

Ruffles was too!
The next day, we went to Birmingham to celebrate Thanksgiving with my mom's big fat Italian family. Yes, we have spaghetti on Thanksgiving there, but we have turkey and dressing too! I always love holidays there because there are so many people eating, yelling, laughing, and remembering! By the time we got home, we were totally wiped out! I camped out on the couch in front of the TV all night while Forrest started studying (boo for school--but please pray for him, because he has lots of tests coming up).  It is also his birthday this week, so we are in celebration mode still!

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