Sometimes I Get Distrac–oh look! It’s Raining!

Good morning, blog readers! Today’s post is not going to be about food. That is mostly due to the fact that I have not made anything for the past two days. First, we ordered in Pizza (we only get take-out once every few months, but I was having a busy day and simply didn’t have the energy to even think about it) and then Hubby made breakfast for dinner last night. So I have absolutely no food-related photos to share with you.

What I can share, however, is something about me. And my many distractions.

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Distraction is something that every writer will have to face at some time or another. Of course, most people, whether they are writers or not, will experience it as well. But for me, distractions are a frequent–oh look! A puppy!

With four young children (aged 5, 4, and twin 1 year olds), I tend to get “distracted” rather frequently and very easily. My work is constantly set aside when my children require my attention, or they want juice, or they want to colour, or watch a movie, play a game, or… well, the list could go on.

I also get distracted easily without my children’s help. There are countless ways for one to get distracted; there are household chores, meals, tea, diaper changes, the dreaded to-do list, and the worst of all… social media. I enjoy it far too much. I am constantly on FacebookPinterest, and checking on my Twitter and Goodreads accounts. It is simply unfair how addictive social media has become, and as I am always on my computer, it is far too easy to click my internet button and browse my pages instead of writing or editing my next chapter.

The question is, as a writer, how do I keep myself focused on what I am writing and not on that tempting “safari” button at the bottom of my screen? Well, it’s simple. When I need to focus (when my kids are busy with other projects or they’re with their grandparents), I turn off my network. Easy as that. Sure, I find myself still clicking on my browser, but when the screen pops up saying “you are not connected to the network”, I  remember that I should be working, so I close it down and get back to writing. It actually works very well with me. I can get right back to what I was writing, and after a short while, I stop clicking on my browser button.

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Another of my biggest set-backs (which I mentioned above) is my “mom chores”. I have a great big to-do list of things that need to be accomplished around the house, permission slips that seemingly constantly need to be signed, meals to make, bottles to give, babies to cuddle, vacuuming and sweeping to do… The list, as I say, goes on. Of course, most of those things I will happily put aside my writing for. When my kids need me, I will always be there… I know they won’t want to cuddle me forever, so I take advantage of the time I have now.

That’s all for today! Thank you for reading!

What about you? What distracts you? What do you do to regain your focus?

(I found the included photos on Pinterest.)

Colourful Chocolate Chip Cookies

Good morning, blog readers! Today I’m writing about a very odd batch of colourful chocolate chip cookies. My eldest son wanted green cookies and my middle son wanted purple… so I obliged them.

Again, I went on Pinterest and searched cookie recipes (let me tell you, there are some crazy delicious-looking cookies on there that I definitely plan on trying) and this is what I found:

*Note: firstly, I’d like to add that I thought the ratio of chocolate chips to flour was off, so I removed 1/2 a cup of chocolate chips and added 1/2 cup of oats (the recipe below reflects this change).

This is the recipe I followed:

– 1 1/4 cups flour
– 1 tsp baking soda
– 1/2 tsp salt
– 1/2 cup unsalted butter at room temperature
– 1/2 cup brown sugar, packed
– 6 tbsp granulated white sugar
– 1 egg
– 1tsp vanilla extract
– 2 cups semisweet chocolate chips
– 1/2 cups oats

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These are the directions I followed:

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

2. Line two cookie sheets with parchment paper. I ran out of space on my sheets, so I snuck in a couple of larger cookies. Next time, I think I’m going to prepare a third cookie sheet.

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3. Sift together flour, baking soda, and salt. As I did in a previous recipe, I didn’t sift these. I used a whisk and mixed the dry ingredients together.

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4. In large bowl, beat butter, brown sugar, and white sugar until smooth (two minutes?).

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5. Add egg and vanilla then mix on low.

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6. Slowly add flour and mix until incorporated. Here, my electric mixer began to sound like was going to burn out… the grinding and groaning tipped me off, so I switched to a wooden spoon.

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7. Add chocolate chips and oats.

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8. Here, I separated my dough into two sections and began adding the food colouring. In retrospect, I probably should have added the colour along with the wet ingredients, because this was very difficult to stir and the colour didn’t integrate very well.

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9. Scoop balls onto parchment paper.

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10. Bake one sheet at a time for approximately 13 minutes. Mine were in for a little longer because my cookies were bigger. It was also very difficult to judge if they were fully ready because of the colour. Some cookies ended up a little crunchy on the outside.

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Despite what the recipe that I followed had said, this was FAR from the perfect cookie recipe. I’m trying a different one next time. Plus I’m going to avoid using colouring. There’s just something strange about eating green and purple cookies. My kids loved them, though!

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Enjoy and thank you for reading!

Tomato Soup – Attempt #2

Good evening blog readers! Today I’m writing about my second attempt at tomato soup. It was better than the last one… but not by much. My husband says he loved it, but I think he’s just flattering me.

I found the recipe on Pinterest, but it is a different one than the last one I used.

This is the recipe I followed:

– 7 vine tomatoes
– 2-3 cloves of garlic
– 1-2 tablespoons olive oil
– Pinch of salt (to taste)
– Pinch of pepper (to taste)
– Chicken broth (recipe called for 2 cups, but I accidentally put in the whole container… which was about 4 cups)
– 1 cup cream
– 1 can tomato paste (I added this because I had to compensate for putting in too much broth)

Directions:

1. Mince garlic and put in saucepan with olive oil, salt, and pepper on low heat.

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2. Chop tomatoes (I make sure to take out the stem area – as pictured below) and add it to the garlic and olive oil (be sure to retain the tomato juices). *Note: I made the mistake of putting the tomatoes into their own pot as I misunderstood the directions on the blog I followed. I ended up adding the garlic mixture on top of the tomatoes – which is probably why it ended up still tasting a lot like garlic.

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3. Let the tomatoes, garlic, and olive oil mixture simmer on medium for 15 minutes.

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4. Add in chicken broth.

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5. Let it cool for a few minutes before you put everything in the blender.

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6. Blend until smooth.

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7. Return to stove and add cream.

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8. At this point, we added in the tomato paste and I used the whisk to stir it in.

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9. Add salt, pepper, or any other flavours of your choice.

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10. Eat it on its own or enjoy with a grilled cheese!

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Enjoy and thank you for reading!

Altered Direction

Hello, everyone! I’d recently been contemplating my blog and I’ve come to a decision to take an altered direction with it. I plan to continue blogging about my food, as that had been my original plan with this, but I have decided to also add blog posts that consist of my other interests, as well.

Should you continue to follow me (please do!), you will likely see posts on the following:

– Books (both mine, and others that I have read and loved)
– Hobbies (crocheting, painting, book and antique collecting)

Rest assured, that the bulk of my blogs will be about food, as I fully intend to continue being creative on that mien.

Thank you all so much for reading! You’re the best!

– Cheri

The Perogie Casserole, with Turkey

Good morning, blog readers!

Today I’m writing about a new discovery of mine. The Perogie Casserole. In this case, I used our turkey leftovers in it, but ordinarily I do not.

I found this particular recipe on the back of the perogie package, but I’ve added little differences.

The ingredients:

– Perogies (we use frozen)
– 2 cans of Cream of Potato soup
– Broccoli (we often use carrots here; sometimes both)
– Cheese – shredded (the variety is your choice. In this case we used white cheddar)
– Leftover turkey meat (you could use chicken or if you want, no meat at all)
– Tomatoes (larger tomatoes chopped, or small tomatoes)

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Directions: (preheat oven to 360 degrees F)

1. Open can of soup and put into bottom of casserole dish.

2. Mix in 1/2 can of water and stir.

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3. Add chopped turkey over soup.

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4. Chop vegetables and add 1/2 over turkey.

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5. Cover with perogies.

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6. Add remainder of veggies over perogies.

7. Add the other can of soup on top and “smooth” over with the back of a spoon so that the surfaces are covered.

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8. Top with shredded cheese.

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9. Put it in the oven at 360 degrees F for 25 minutes. I usually watch it after the 25 minute mark to check its progress. Sometimes it isn’t quite ready. Wait until the cheese is golden brown or bubbly. Remove from oven.

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10. Scoop out and serve, topped with chopped tomatoes.

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Thank you all for reading! Have a great weekend!

Pineapple Upside Down Cake – Thanksgiving Dinner (Part 4 of 4)

Good evening, blog readers! I’m sorry it’s taken me so long to get to this post. Things are always busy in the Champagne house. But here I am, ready to write for you!

This blog is about the pineapple upside down cake that we had for dessert for our Thanksgiving dinner. Let me tell you something… it was delicious! Very, very sweet… but delicious.

This is the recipe I followed: (I doubled the recipe)

Cake:

– 4 eggs
– 1 1/3 cups white sugar
– 8 tbsp pineapple juice
– 1 1/3 cups flour
– 2 tsp baking powder
– 1/2 tsp salt

Topping:

– 1/2 cup butter
– 1 1/3 cups brown sugar (packed)
– 1-2 cans pineapple rings (we only needed 1)

*Note: I left the maraschino cherries out of the recipe because we as a family do not like them. Also, in the photos below, I had already mixed the flour, baking powder, and salt together.

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The directions:

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F and butter/spray muffin tins (or in my case, my oft-used bunt cake pan).

2. In a mixing bowl, add eggs, sugar, pineapple juice and beat for 2 minutes.

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3. In a separate bowl, sift together flour, baking powder, and salt. (I just mixed them, I didn’t sift them. It still turned out well.)

4. Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients and mix for two minutes.

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5. In a sauce pan, melt butter and add brown sugar. Stir on low for one minute.

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6. Pour layer of warm brown sugar mixture into bottom of cake pan/muffin tins.

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7. Place pineapple rings on top.

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8. Pour cake mixture over pineapple rings (until pan 3/4 of way full).

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9. Bake! We baked ours originally for 25 minutes, but when I went to check it, it was still watery. I kept it in the oven for another 20 minutes. After that, I kept checking with the toothpick test until it was done. I’m not certain how long it was, precisely.

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10. Remove from oven. Let it cool for “3 minutes”. Run a knife around the edge. The recipe says to place a wire rack on top and flip the whole thing over, but I wanted to preserve the topping juices so I turned it over onto a plate.

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I’ve got to say that I was very impressed with my work here. It looked beautiful!

11. Cut, serve, and enjoy!

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Thank you all for reading!

The Cheddar Biscuits – Thanksgiving Dinner (Part 3 of 4)

Good morning, everyone! This morning I’m writing about the white cheddar biscuits that we added to our Thanksgiving dinner.

This is the recipe we used: (I doubled the original recipe)

– 4 cups flour
– 2 tbsp baking powder
– 1 tsp salt
– 2 cups cream
– Cheddar cheese
– 1 cup butter

(Note: we omitted the “chives” from the original recipe.)

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*Note: In the photo above, I had already added the salt and baking powder to the flour mixture.

The steps:

1. Mix the flour with baking powder and salt. (The original recipe said to sift it together, but my husband said it was unnecessary.)

2. Cut in butter until it resembles coarse meal. Now, I had no idea what this meant, but thankfully my husband was around to answer my questions.

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I genuinely had no idea what I was doing or what this portion of my baking should look like. My husband said that I should do it quickly because you don’t want the butter to soften. He helped me quite a bit… I’m sure they wouldn’t have turned out as well as they did if he hadn’t been there to help me!

3. Add cheese.

4. Add cream.

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5. Mix quickly with fork until dough “comes together”. Again, I didn’t know what this meant. I couldn’t figure out why my dough was so crumbly and lumpy, so I kept mixing. Until my husband came in and saw what I was doing and took over.

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6. Using your hands, gently put the ingredients together. I think you can safely assume that  I continued to have no idea what I was doing. Hubby moved immediately to the next step.

7. We dumped the mixture onto our counter and Hubby patted it down until it was about 1/2 an inch to 3/4 of an inch thick.

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8. Use circular cutter (we used a cup/glass) to cut the dough into circles.

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9. Put cut-out biscuits onto parchment paper lined cookie sheet.

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10. Bake for 12-15 minutes at 450 degrees F. *Note: keep an eye on them after the 15 minute mark if, like us, yours aren’t quite done. We watched until our white cheddar had darkened and then we removed them.

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These cheese biscuits were delicious. Seriously delicious. The family we had over for thanksgiving dinner took seconds, thirds, even fourths of these. They’re great for sopping up gravy!

*Leftover biscuit recipe idea: A day or two after Thanksgiving, we still and a few (6 or so) biscuits left over in the fridge. With these, we (*ahem* I mean, my husband) made mini pizzas. Put homemade pizza sauce directly on top of the biscuit, added a thin slice of Hungarian Salami and topped it with shredded cheese and put it in the oven. So good! I desperately wanted more, but there weren’t any left. The kids loved it, too.

I hope you enjoy these as much as we did!

Thank you for reading!

The Veggies, Stuffing, and Gravy – Thanksgiving Dinner (Part 2 of 4)

Good morning, happy blog readers! Today I’m writing about Part 2 of our Thanksgiving dinner, the veggies, stuffing, and gravy. I don’t have as many pictures of the vegetables because there was so much going on in our kitchen and so many dishes to prepare that I simply didn’t have time to take pictures at each stage. Sorry!

The vegetables are remarkably easy to do. This is what we did:

Mashed Potatoes:

1. Chop potatoes.

2. Put potatoes in steamer.

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*Make sure to put water in the bottom of your steamer! I’ve made this mistake before – it’s disastrous. It burns out the bottom of your pot and it makes your food smell (and taste) like burned metal. Plus it stinks up your house. So please, make sure there is water in the bottom of the steamer!

3. Steam.

4. Check potatoes with a fork to ensure that they’re soft for mashing.

5. Put cooked potatoes in bowl and mash with a potato masher.

6. Add butter (and milk/cream if you wish), salt (or other seasonings to your taste). We just add butter and salt and sometimes garlic if it fits. For this dinner because the turkey had so much garlic, we decided to just add butter and salt. It was great!

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While the potatoes were steaming, we had other dishes on the go. The next I’m going to write about is the carrot side dish.

Steamed, chopped carrots: (very nearly the same instructions as the potatoes) (The photos I have are in combination with my last side – stuffing. See below for pictures.)

1. Peel and chop carrots.

2. Put carrots in steamer.

3. Steam until soft but not mushy.

4. Remove from steamer and add butter and salt. Serve!

Our last side is the stuffing. Now, there are dozens of different recipes for stuffing. Ours, however, was the simplest of them all, as we genuinely did not have time to fuss over it. Some people stuff the bird with the stuffing, but again, we were so focused on the other dishes that we did not have the time to think about it. So… we used Stove Top Stuffing.

Stove Top Stuffing:

1. Follow the directions on the box. – Melt the specified amount of butter in a pot and add in the stuffing. Easy peasy.

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Done and done. Now for the most challenging and finicky aspect of this blog. The gravy! I’ve had my share of gravies in my life. Thin, runny ones, thick ones, chunky ones, and then there’s the perfect one… the one in this blog. (Haha!)  Ok, so here’s what we did. Recall in the previous blog post about my turkey, when I shared that we slathered the bird in a butter mixture (butter, bacon fat, lemon juice, garlic, parsley, salt, pepper…). Well, all that fatty goodness was sitting in the bottom of the turkey pan just waiting to be turned into delicious gravy.

*Note: I highly recommend that you drain off some of the greasy, fatty oil from the top (if not, then you’ll have to put a LOT of water, flour, and flavour into it because ours wound up being very thick and oily – but also very delicious).

Ingredients for our gravy:

– Turkey drippings
– Water
– Flour
– Soy Sauce

What we did:

1. Remove turkey from pan and place pan (containing drippings) onto two elements on your stove (on low heat setting).

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2. Let it warm and add water and flour. (I highly recommend that you use a separate container as a “shaker” to shake the flour with a small amount of water to fully integrate the flour. This eliminates any clumps of flour from forming in your gravy. We use an old “OXO” container as a shaker.)

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3. Whisk.

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4. Keep adding water (we added several cups of just water) with flour/water mixture and whisk it together. Constant, constant whisking. The more water and flour you add, the more gravy you’ll end up with.

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5. Our family trick, when it comes to Gravy, is adding soy sauce. It eliminates the need to spice it, as you’ve got the delicious flavour of the turkey drippings. Add the soy sauce to taste.

6. Keep whisking, adding water and water/flour mixture if needed and soy sauce to taste, but give the gravy time to reduce to the desired consistency.

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7. Ladle gravy into gravy boat or, as we did, into a liquid measuring cup. Serve, and enjoy!

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This meal served 5 adults, 2 children, and 2 babies… and our dog (she cleaned up what the babies dropped to the floor), and we had plenty of leftovers.

Thank you for reading! Happy eating!

The Turkey – Thanksgiving (part 1 of 4)

Good morning, happy blog readers!

Today I’m writing part 1 in our Thanksgiving dinner experience. (Part 2 will be vegetables and gravy, Part 3 will be the biscuits, and Part 4 will be dessert).

Firstly, I would like to strongly suggest that you throw the bird’s “package” (if it came in one of those shrink-wrap bags) when it says how long you should let it sit in your fridge and then out in the open, completely out the window. Because let me tell you something… they’re wrong. We had the turkey in our fridge for 15 hours (more than their recommended 8) and then on our counter for several more (again, longer than their recommended amount), and I tell you something, it was still a frozen block of ice when we tried to work with it. We were running out of time, so we ended up sticking it in the microwave on the “defrost” setting for over half an hour. And it was still frozen. We couldn’t even get the giblets out of it. Hubby ended up sticking the whole bird in the sink under running hot water to get the thing to thaw enough for him to take the giblets out. It was ridiculous.

On that note, I would highly recommend that you ensure that your turkey is thawing properly or acquire a fresh one. Next year I think we’ll go with fresh.

Anyway, when it came to preparing the turkey, we followed this video. This is what we did:

First we prepared the ingredients in the rub:

– 1 cup butter
– 1 lemon
– 2 – 3 cloves garlic
– Salt
– Pepper
– Olive oil
– Parsley, freshly chopped
– Bacon fat (refrigerated)

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The steps:

1. Put the butter into a bowl (ours was fresh out of the fridge, which made this process so much more challenging; the butter wouldn’t mix properly with the other ingredients an was rather chunky. I would suggest using softened butter.)

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2. Add salt, pepper, drizzle of olive oil, and minced garlic.

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3. Squeeze the juice from one lemon into the mixture. *note: I made the mistake of not removing the seeds… do not make my mistake. It took far too long to dig beneath the butter chunks to find all the seeds.

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4. This is where we added our bacon fat. This is completely non-obligatory. We like to add it because it adds flavour and salt to the bird. Plus it makes the most delicious gravy! We scooped out a spoonful and added it to the butter.

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5. Add in parsley (I forgot to take a photo – sorry!) and mix it all together with your hands.

6. Carefully fit your fingers beneath the skin of the turkey (but not too much), gently creating a space there.

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7. Grab handfuls of the butter mixture (up until about half of it is gone) and put beneath turkey’s skin, spreading it as far as it can go.

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8. Cover the turkey’s skin with the remainder of the butter mixture. (Again, this would be much easier if the butter had been softened.)

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9. Lightly drizzle olive oil on top (to keep butter from burning) and put it in the oven! We had ours in at 350 degrees F for four-five hours. Keep an eye on it and keep basting! We set a timer for every half an hour for basting. (The butter mixture melts and creates the juices at the bottom of the turkey pan.)

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*Note: We used a turkey thermometer to make sure that all the meat had been cooked properly.

Voila! Our turkey!

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Final thought: Because of the butter mixture and our consistent basting, the turkey turned out moist and flavourful. Seriously. Amazing! The lemon, garlic, and parsley added so much to the flavour and scent of the turkey, one could eat it without the need for gravy. Mmm… I might just have some left-overs for breakfast…

Tune in for the next part where I talk about our veggies, mashed potatoes, and gravy!

Have a great one! Thank you for reading!

My Little “Helpers”

Good morning, blogger world! I’m afraid that I do not have all that much time with social media or cooking new things of late. Rest assured, though, that we did make a Thanksgiving dinner this year, which I will post in a 4-part blog (turkey, veggies, biscuits, and dessert). For now, however, I thought I’d post about my little “helpers”, aka my children.

For the most part, my older sons (aged 5 and 4) don’t pay any attention to what I’m doing in the kitchen. It’s my younger two (twin 1 year olds – 17 month olds, to be exact) that get into trouble while I’m cooking in the kitchen. Allow my photos to demonstrate.

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As you can see, they keep me pretty busy while in the kitchen. But hey, it’s a mom’s job, right? So there you have it, this is my life while cooking.

Thank you for reading!