Another Annual Orphan Thanksgiving

This year I am upholding my own Thanksgiving tradition with what I refer to as Orphan Thanksgiving. It is a cozy and enjoyable event for the people who share in this wonderful celebration. I invite friends who don’t have a place to go for the holiday, usually because their relatives live far away.

Though there is a considerable amount of food prep involved, I get a kick out of making each dish and roasting and carving the turkey. You might think that this desire to cook huge holiday meals and have people over is something that was handed down to me from my mother, but my mom never entertained guests in our home, and she never considered herself a cook. My mother’s idea of cooking was to heat up Stouffer’s entrees or throw a piece of meat on the broiler, and when the holidays arrived, she made restaurant reservations instead of spending time in the kitchen. Somehow I had a natural affinity for cooking and baking, and I also quickly discovered how much I enjoyed hosting events. I am certain that my desire to host parties evolved from my tendency to nurture others.

Thanksgiving-Dinner-New-York-CityWhat’s on the table this year? Turkey, stuffing, sweet potato casserole (a HUGE hit), mashed potatoes, and green bean casserole. I’m letting my guests bring dessert to ease the cooking and baking load, since I make these feasts by myself. Since I fully believe in enjoying “normal” foods during the holidays, provided they are enjoyed in moderation, I have no problem featuring a few “forbidden” foods on the holiday table.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

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Orphan Thanksgiving…My Tradition

For many years I have hosted what I refer to as Orphan Thanksgiving, and it has become a tradition in my home. I realize the nomenclature has a lonely connotation, but it is a wonderful event and I enjoy it thoroughly, as do the people who share in this wonderful celebration. I invite friends who don’t have a place to go for the holiday, usually because their relatives live far away.

Though there is a considerable amount of food prep involved, I get a kick out of making each dish and roasting and carving the turkey. You might think that this desire to cook huge holiday meals and have people over is something that was handed down to me from my mother, but my mom never entertained guests in our home, and she never considered herself a cook. My mother’s idea of cooking was to heat up Stouffer’s entrees or throw a piece of meat on the broiler, and when the holidays arrived, she made restaurant reservations instead of spending time in the kitchen. Somehow I had a natural affinity for cooking and baking, and I also quickly discovered how much I enjoyed hosting events. I am certain that my desire to host parties evolved from my tendency to nurture others.

Thanksgiving-Dinner-New-York-CityThis year I will continue the Orphan Thanksgiving tradition and make my secret recipe for stuffing, throw a turkey and a spiral ham in the oven, make mashed potatoes, and tempt my guests with homemade fudge, pumpkin pie and other tasty treats. Some selections are relatively clean, while others are fully decadent and challenge any fitness-minded meal plan. Since I fully believe in enjoying “normal” foods during the holidays, provided they are enjoyed in moderation, I have no problem featuring a few “forbidden” foods on the holiday table.

This year I am throwing something new into the mix. I recently had a networking mixer/barbecue, and one of my guests brought Cards Against Humanity, which quickly turned the party into a rollicking good time. We all had a blast allowing ourselves to indulge in the game, which utterly and completely flies in the face of political correctness. I enjoyed the game so much that I bought ALL the expansion sets, along with the original game set, for Thanksgiving and beyond.

It is incredibly satisfying to know that my good friends will be in my home, celebrating life and enjoying good food.

Let Your Slow Cooker Do All The Work

crock-potThere is a funny story about how I acquired my first slow cooker, and one which resulted in some resistance to using it for a number of years. I was living with a boyfriend who thought it would be a brilliant idea to give me a Crock Pot for Christmas that year. I am sure many of you know what a faux pas that was! I was so pissed that I refused to even unpack the item for several months, then finally relented and used it. I actually loved the convenience it afforded me, especially since I was expected to cook dinner for my man on a nightly basis. I made stews, soups, chicken, jambalaya, and didn’t have to make much of an effort to create these wonderful home-cooked meals.

Thankfully my resistance to using a slow cooker has passed over the years. Whenever I use my slow cooker I am always rewarded with moist, perfectly cooked meat with minimal effort. It’s a snap to throw meat into the slow cooker, add liquid, chopped veggies and seasonings, then allow the cooker to do its thing from 4 to 10 hours while I go about my day. I still prefer the awesome char that comes from broiling or grilling, but with my crazy schedule, it is often impossible to find the time to employ those cooking methods. So if you’re one of those people who never seems to have time to cook, but you prefer home-cooked meals, consider using a slow cooker.

One thing I have noticed is that whenever I cook chicken breast in the slow cooker, it tends to taste the same no matter what seasonings I use. At some point I may try a brine or marinade and put the mixture in the fridge overnight to infuse the meat with flavor, then cook it with the slow cooker the following day. Once I figure out a good prep mixture, I will share the recipe on my blogsite.

There is a favorite recipe which I have for beef (particularly beef shortribs) which is absolutely delicious and incredibly simple. Cover the entire surface of the beef shortribs or roast with medium grind black pepper and rub into meat, then place into slow cooker. Chop green onions to make 1/4 cup and one shallot then set aside. Mix 1/3 cup olive oil, 1/4 cup red wine vinegar, 1/3 cup water and 1 clove crushed garlic in a bowl, then add the green onions and shallots. Pour mixture over beef, place lid on cooker and cook for 8 to 10 hours.

You can even cook a whole chicken in the slow cooker with little effort. Simply season the bird, place in the slow cooker, add chopped vegetables, water, olive oil, garlic cloves, lemon juice and set the cooker on high heat for 4 to 6 hours. If you’re really pressed for time, you can set a rice cooker to cook brown rice so that both dishes are completely ready for you when you get home.

If you don’t have a slow cooker, you can purchase one for as little as $30 (get at least a 3 quart size). I have the 6 quart cooker which allows me to cook whole roasts and whole chickens without an issue. These gems also last a good, long time. The one that my old boyfriend gave me lasted twenty years before I had to replace it with a new model. Slow cookers will simplify your life in the kitchen!

My Shake And Bake Sweet Potatoes Recipe

You can use either sweet potatoes or yams for this clean and delicious recipe! I used to make very large batches when I was still competing, and think this recipe and the yield are perfect for those who do their food prep ahead of time. I don’t peel the potatoes beforehand but you can certainly do so if you wish.

DR. NAITO’S SHAKE AND BAKE SWEET POTATOES

Preheat oven to 450 degrees Fahrenheit.

INGREDIENTS:
5 pounds sweet potatoes or yams, washed and cut into one-inch sections
Potatoes in bag
1/2 cup olive oil
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 tablespoon pumpkin pie spice
1 tablespoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground cloves

GlazePlace cut sweet potato sections into a clean kitchen trash bag. Mix remaining ingredients in a bowl, then pour into bag. Twist bag closed and shake mixture so that it coats the potatoes evenly. Place coated potato segments in a large baking dish which has been sprayed with non-stick cooking spray.
Ready for the oven
Bake for 45 to 50 minutes or until slightly tender.

Slow Cooker Sweet Potatoes

Originally published on mensphysique.com on Thursday, 03 October 2013

http://www.rxmuscle.com/blogs/the-kitchen-eating-strategies/9393-slow-cooker-sweet-potatoes.html

Food prep continues to be a tedious process for me, despite the fact that it is a regular occurrence. I am sure many of you can relate to such woes and are searching for ways to cut prep time down so you can take care of more important things in life. Usually I roast sweet potatoes in the oven, but I was particularly unmotivated the other evening and decided to adopt a lazy approach while still using the delicious marinade I typically mix up. I use a heavy hand with the spices because I want that holiday flavor, so you might want to cut down the portion of spices if you want a more basic flavor.

I usually avoid using the slow cooker because food items tend to get mushy, but as long as the potatoes are cut into large sections, that should not occur. Another bonus is that your place will smell incredible when these are cooking!

olive oilIngredients:

5 pounds sweet potatoes or yams, washed and cut into large cubes

¼ cup olive oil

¼ cup balsamic vinegar

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

2 tablespoons pumpkin pie spice

1 tablespoon cinnamon

Directions:

Place sweet potato crock potsweet potato sections into a clean plastic bag. Mix remaining ingredients together, then pour into bag. Twist bag so that it is securely closed, then shake it so that the potatoes are evenly coated with the marinade mixture.

Open bag and pour contents into slow cooker. Add 1 cup water and set cooker on low.
sweet potato crock pot

“But I Can’t Cook!”

Chicken breastsNutritional consultations are always interesting for me because I find out how truly weird some people’s eating habits are. Busy work and life schedules are often to blame for poor eating habits, but when I hear patients say that they are completely devoid of any cooking skills, I begin to wonder if they were ever encouraged to learn how to cook. I truly believe that every adult should have basic cooking skills. It is not that difficult to cook eggs in a skillet, throw meat on a broiler, cook oatmeal or bake a potato. It’s not as if any of those items require advanced culinary skills in order to make them tasty!

You should be able to cook different types of meat without much effort. Other than meat (and this includes red meat, poultry and fish), you can simply purchase frozen or fresh vegetables and eat them with minimal prep beforehand. Get a cookie sheet and some nonstick cooking spray. Take chicken breasts, pre-formed turkey or beef patties, or fish fillets and place them on the sprayed cookie sheet. With poultry and beef, you can broil these meats for about eight minutes, then flip over, broiling for another eight to ten minutes. If the chisken breasts are very thick, slice them lengthwise so that they cook more quickly and more evenly. Make sure the centers of the chicken breasts are cooked through and not pink. With fish, you are better off baking them at 375 degrees Fahrenheit for six to eight minutes, flipping over, then baking for another six to eight minutes. If you are feeling adventurous, you can add some light salt-free seasoning or salt and pepper.

It really isn’t that difficult to cook, so why not try cooking up some lean protein this week?

Orphan Thanksgiving

For many years I have hosted what I refer to as Orphan Thanksgiving. I realize the nomenclature has a lonely connotation, but it is a wonderful event and I enjoy it thoroughly. I invite friends who don’t have a place to go for the holiday, usually because their relatives live far away. Though there is a considerable amount of food prep involved, I get a kick out of making each dish and roasting and carving the turkey. You might think that this desire to cook huge holiday meals and have people over is something that was handed down to me from my mother, but my mom never entertained guests in our home and did not cook. Her idea of cooking was to heat up Stouffer’s entrees or throw a piece of meat on the broiler, and when the holidays arrived, she made restaurant reservations instead of spending time in the kitchen. Somehow I had a natural affinity for cooking and baking, and I also quickly discovered how much I enjoyed hosting events.

Thanksgiving-Dinner-New-York-CityThis year I will continue the Orphan Thanksgiving tradition and make my secret recipe for stuffing, throw a turkey in the oven, make mashed potatoes and tempt my guests with homemade fudge, coconut brownies and vegan banana bread. Some selections are relatively clean, while others are fully decadent and challenge any contest prep meal plan. I fully believe in enjoying “normal” foods during the holidays, provided they are enjoyed in moderation. I feel the greatest comfort knowing that good friends will be in my home, celebrating life and enjoying good food.

My Yummy Shake And Bake Sweet Potato Recipe

I prefer the texture of yams to sweet potatoes, but you can use either one for this clean an delicious recipe! I make a very large batch which is reflected in this recipe and which is perfect for those who do their food prep ahead of time. I don’t peel the potatoes beforehand but you can certainly do so if you wish.

DR. NAITO’S SHAKE AND BAKE SWEET POTATOES

Preheat oven to 450 degrees Fahrenheit.

INGREDIENTS:
5 pounds sweet potatoes or yams, washed and cut into one-inch sections
Potatoes in bag
1/2 cup olive oil
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 tablespoon pumpkin pie spice
1 tablespoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground cloves

GlazePlace cut sweet potato sections into a clean kitchen trash bag. Mix remaining ingredients in a bowl, then pour into bag. Twist bag closed and shake mixture so that it coats the potatoes evenly. Place coated potato segments in a large baking dish which has been sprayed with non-stick cooking spray.
Ready for the oven
Bake for 45 to 50 minutes or until slightly tender.