Countdown to Turkey Day!

Countdown to Turkey Day!

It’s that time. Time to gather your friends and family, and experience the very essence of togetherness, celebrating all of our blessings. A time to watch parades and football, and have that one day a year where you are encouraged to gorge yourself on all the traditional dishes you have waited (ALL YEAR!) to devour. Hooray, hooray, it’s Thanksgiving Day! Over the next two weeks, I’ll share with you my meal plan, complete with a timeline and my favorite recipes. Take from it what you wish, and substitute freely. I’m here to point you in the right direction. Just do yourself a favor, and make a plan. I guarantee that a plan will help you enjoy your Thanksgiving Day to the absolute fullest… leaving you plenty of time for Christmas shopping!!

Two weeks ahead, make your meal plan. List the dishes you plan to cook, those you’re going to pick up, and those that others are bringing to the party. Make a grocery list of all of the ingredients you need to prepare the dishes you are cooking. Sort your list by departments: dairy, produce, pantry staples, meats and poultry. Take stock of your bar and include wine, mixers and garnishes on your list. After your grocery list is prepared, check your pantry to see which items you’ve already stocked and cross them off your list. (You’re already making progress!) Now, place any orders you need to make. The turkey, of course (I like to order a fresh turkey), bakery goods and specialty items.

One week ahead, plan your tablescape. Take stock of your china and flatware to make sure you have enough. Same goes for glassware and crystal. Don’t be afraid to mix and match china patterns. There’s creativity in designing a pretty table. Look for festive placemats, table runner or tablecloth cloth. A simple throw blanket can double as a cloth on your table. Locate candlesticks and votive candles. Don’t be afraid to experiment with those cute twinkle lights, wrapped around pillar candles for some real tablescape sparkle! Create place cards, organize your centerpiece and assemble décor for platters. Pinecones are great, but pretty twigs and stems of fruit are good for decorating too. I love to include food as part of my tablescape centerpiece. I place artichokes alongside pears and limes for a green experience. Add a few branches, pinecones and a gourd or two, and you have an organic look that is perfect for the occasion.


Saturday before Thanksgiving, plan on a shopping day! If you are farmer’s market shopper, get up early and visit the market you love. Purchase all of the fresh produce items that you need. Stop and smell the coffee beans. Remember this is not a race. Rather, it’s time to enjoy your stroll through the market. Smile at the people you pass, and greet your favorite farmers. This is the season to be thankful for the growers! Slow down long enough to enjoy a festive cup ‘o Joe while you double check your list. Finish up at the grocers to purchase anything you were not able to find at the market.

Sunday before Thanksgiving, get your apron out! Make the dishes on your meal plan that are easily made in advance, like chutneys and relishes. Lay out serving dishes and utensils.

Tuesday before Thanksgiving, Make it a prep day! Chop and prep all the ingredients you will need. If you need onions for three dishes, chop a bunch. Same goes for apples (for pie!) and potatoes for mashed potatoes. Here’s a trick. Submerge potatoes in cold water in the pot you will use to cook them in, and place them in your fridge. They will be fine until you’re ready to boil. Set your table! Prepare your centerpiece. Get those place cards placed! Set up your bar. Did you remember to make extra ice? If you have a frozen turkey, let’s get it on its way to thawing.

Wednesday before Thanksgiving, focus on breads and desserts.  Prepare your desserts. Get pies ready to bake. Prepare your casseroles and sides. Prepare dough for breads or rolls. Cover everything with plastic wrap, and store in the fridge until tomorrow. You can place the baking dishes on top of each other to save space. Use a heavy piece of cardboard, or a thin baking sheet to separate the dishes.

Thanksgiving Morning, it’s show time! Get that bird ready to roast. Organize your oven racks, and preheat so that you’re ready to bake off desserts, breads and then casseroles. Before your guests arrive, see to last-Minute details! Prepare mashed potatoes. Save the potato water to help thicken your gravy. Set out appys. Get the ice in the bucket. Pour yourself a glass of wine…. you’re doing great!

Pull the turkey from the oven and transfer to a cutting board. While he rests, use the drippings in the pan to make the gravy. As you carve the bird, encourage friends and family to help you get the dishes to the table. Pour gravy into boats. Spoon the sides onto plates. Say a prayer of thanks….


No One Can Accuse This Foodie of Failure to Thrive….

No One Can Accuse This Foodie of Failure to Thrive….


Whenever I find something cool I like my readers to know—especially my recipe testers. Remember the Zumba cookbook we worked on together, and how a lot of what we made featured ingredients that weren’t necessarily unusual, but nonetheless not usually found in our cabinets and pantries? We needed whey protein powder, various nut oils, vegan cake mixes and other organic staples.  And even if we are not working on a healthy lifestyle book right now, we still occasionally need these things.

Tara Stiles, a healthy lifestyles expert who likes to Thrive Image Credit: Tara Stiles, a healthy lifestyles expert who likes to Thrive Image Credit:

Bring in the newly launched online wholesale store, Thrive Market. They sell a huge inventory of all natural and organic products at fire sale prices, and are worth checking out—especially since they sponsor a low income family with every new membership. My assistant, Jennifer Russon already went shopping, and said the $60 annual fee pretty much paid for itself at checkout.

So if you like retail therapy and helping your fellow man out at the same time, check out Thrive Market’s mission statement here: Their thinking on paying it forward and showing your love through good food matches mine to a T.  : )

There’s a New Shop on Main Street

There’s a New Shop on Main Street

There is now a Spice & Tea Exchange in Blowing Rock, NC There is now a Spice & Tea Exchange in Blowing Rock, NC

Last time I was in North Carolina, in the Blue Ridge Mountain town of Blowing Rock, I had one of those “Sunday Best” excursions on Main Street. It was the kind of shopping trip that lit a fire in the oven as surely as it ignited my chef’s imagination. When I came home that day I baked cookies, and roasted chicken and fish; I could not wait to make these simple recipes because I had found exotic seasonings to spice them up: YUMM!! BUURRP!! It is your fault, Spice & Tea Exchange (TSTE)!

I was drawn in by their motto, “if you can’t find it here, it probably doesn’t exist!”  Care to challenge that, Sunday Best Cooks?? I was drawn in by their motto, “if you can’t find it here, it probably doesn’t exist!”  Care to challenge that, Sunday Best Cooks??

I have to hand it to Andy and Gayle, pictured above: it is the perfect time of year to open a tea and spice shop. All the Fall enthusiasts—and I know I have got more than a few Fall fanatics on THE NANA NETWORK—are out there looking to revel in cinnamon, apple and pumpkin-y aromas. I know that I am looking forward to posting some new dessert recipes that call for TSTE’s salted caramel sugar.

But you know me….

I could not stop at sweet, so I had to go for savory, too.  While at TSTE I picked up some Chardonnay Oak Smoked Salt, which I LOVE using to dress up my Sunday Best recipe for a beautiful Sunday Roast Chicken. Of course, I am not alone in my love of “Sunday Best” excursions. My future daughter-in-law, Colleen came to TSTE too, and was excited to use the store’s Peppermint Patty Sugar to rim martini glasses for her signature Chocolate Martinis.

Colleen’s chocolate martini is a 1:1:1:1 ratio of Starbucks liquor, Kahlua, vanilla vodka and half and half Colleen’s chocolate martini is a 1:1:1:1 ratio of Starbucks liquor, Kahlua, vanilla vodka and half and half

Here is the recipe! We jotted it down ; )

So try and find your nearest tea and spice shop! TSTE used to be “Old Florida Spice Traders” until it expanded into what it is today. If you like the look of an old trading post that has chests of drawers, steamer trunks and big glass apothecary jars spilling over with over 170 spices and probably as many (or more?!) teas, then you will love it as much as I did!