Tuesday, November 20, 2018

My Thoughts on Black Friday Shopping

I’m going to try and keep this blog post short and to the point as much as possible.  I never realized how passionately I felt about the subject until a few years ago, so let’s back it up…..

Personally, I have never gone Black Friday shopping.  I love a deal as much as the next person, don’t get me wrong. I love the thrill of a good thrift, I research, and price compare almost any purchase over $20 (for real lol), and I take pride in stretching my budget (a nice way of calling myself cheap).  
 With that said you would think BF would be right up my alley, but I know I would not be able to handle the chaos and crowds and it just wouldn’t be worth all the anxiety. I don’t have any huge issues with the concept, as long as it keeps to Black FRIDAY.
My problem started when it gradually (or not so) creeped its way into Thanksgiving.  Growing up and even into high school it was always kept to Friday.  Most places opened at 5am, then it became, 3am, midnight, then before you knew it stores were opening at 5pm Thanksgiving Day.  

My mom has had to work a second part time job at Kohl’s for the past 11 years or so.  Over the course of those years the shift from Black Friday into “Gray Thursday” became blatantly apparent. We started eating earlier in the day, so she would be able to make the meal, but was always left either packing her dessert to go or she was scarfing it quickly before the rest of us were ready just to be able to have some before heading off for her shift.  It always made me sad.

One year, when one of my nieces was quite little (I want to say second grade?) she even wrote a paper in school about how she wished her Nana didn’t have to leave Thanksgiving to go to work at the store.  If that isn’t telling, I don’t know what is.  Kids notice these things.

So, while this has always been something that bothered me, there was one thing that REALLY set me off one year.  A fellow blogger that I followed for years was proudly posting all over social media about the all the great deals she just scored, and it was only 5 o’clock on Thanksgiving Day!!  I was completely triggered.  I’m going to be completely honest here, I replied to her post and I was not the nicest about it.  I should have either said nothing at all (which is usually the best route to take) or I could have approached it differently.  I did however feel the need to shine some light on it though.  I truly think she was blissfully unaware of how it effects other people.  This particular woman had mentioned before that she went straight from her parent’s house to a stay at home wife/mom.  She does run a small sales business and her blog from home, so I’m not claiming she doesn’t work, but there is no way you can compare that to an outside job that could potentially REQUIRE you to work on a holiday.  It just isn’t the same.

I’m not knocking her situation, good for her that she doesn’t have to work outside the home and can make her own hours, but that in turn had made her unaware of how others may not have that luxury. 

Every time you shop on Thanksgiving you are keeping those workers from their homes and families.  And for what?  So you can score that deal 6 hours earlier?  Can your big TV, gaming console, and toys not wait just a few more hours so that those people can be with their families? Is it really THAT important that it can’t wait? 

There are so many people that we need to work everyday of the year regardless of what day it is. Doctors, nurses, firemen, various staff in hospitals and other care settings, 911 operators, police….we NEED them.  But do we really need that cashier at Kohls?

I think it got me so riled up because every year that I am with my family for the holidays I am so grateful.  I spent years clamoring to get the day off, eating and running to my shift, and stressing over the schedule coming out for a month.  Of the 8 Thanksgivings that The Boy and I have been together I think he has been able to attend 3 (maybe 4?) times due to his job as well.  Missing out on these times make you eternally grateful for when you can be there.  Some people have a job or lifestyle where they have NEVER had to miss out, so they simply don’t understand it.  That’s why felt compelled to write this.  Maybe someone who has never thought about it before might give it a second thought.

I also wanted to add that my current job guarantees me all the major holidays off and I could not be more grateful.  It’s a relief to not have to worry about it every year and that I get this precious time with my family.

In closing, can we all just agree to keep Black Friday to Friday?  K thanks!

I hope you all have a safe (and tasty!) Thanksgiving

Saturday, November 17, 2018

Applesauce Custard Pie

This recipe was just created by myself 6 days ago.  I made it as part of our celebration of my Uncle Gary who just recently passed away.  Let me tell you the backstory.....

Ever since I was little I remember my mom saying my Uncle Gary loved applesauce pie.  I even remember her making it for him a couple of times as he stopped through town.  The things is though....I never really understood the appeal. It's apple sauce in a graham cracker crust and frozen.  That's it.

Recently, he and I had become rather close and in one of our hours long conversations I ended up throwing shade at this beloved dessert of his.

 I said " I don't get it.....it's just frozen apple sauce...in a crust??"

His reply was looking at me and basically saying " Yea,and what's your point??"

I went on and on telling him that I thought I could improve upon it and make him a baked version.  He made a face of disgust and waved it off (he had a certain way of waving things off that makes me laugh every time I think about it)  I was trying soooo hard to convince it would be good.  

"No really, it would be almost like a custard.  I would base it off my pumpkin pie recipe but use applesauce instead"

At this point I'm pretty sure he was convinced that there was a possibility it could be good, but of course he was not about tell me that.😜  I asked him if he would try if if I made it this year for Thanksgiving.

I got another wave of the hand and a "Fine, I'll try it"   


It may not have been a resounding yes but it was as much as I was going to get out of his stubborn smart ass self!

Unfortunately, a cancer diagnosis came quickly at the end of October and within 15 days he passed away.  It made me so sad that he never got to try the pie, but I wanted to still create it and serve it in his honor.....along with some of the other weird desserts he loves ( like spice cake with peanut butter frosting, not gross, but not something that immediately comes to mind as a delicious combination lol)

Luckily it seemed to come together well in my first attempt and the family that tried it at the gathering seemed to like it.  I did have to laugh though because as the night was winding down, I noticed not one single person had taken a slice of his original version of the pie. 

I said "Poor Uncle Gary, nobody ate his weird pie!"

Then a bunch of us ate some small slivers of his applesauce popsicle of a pie just for him!  It's not bad....it's just a funny idea for a dessert.

The original version

So this pie is for you Uncle Gary!  Mom says you wouldn't have liked it...I think you would have.  (Even if you wouldn't ever have admitted it 😜)

The funny thing is I actually HATE apple pie.  (I know, I know....how unamerican of me)  But I really just loathe the texture of cooked apples.  I have always said I like the flavor, but can't do the texture.  If I touch a piece of apple pie at all it's just to eat some of the surrounding goop on the crust.  Pieces of apple are avoided at all costs!! So I actually really like this recipe because it has all the yummy flavor of apple pie but is smooth and creamy. 

Apple Sauce Custard Pie

1  9" unbaked pie crust
2 cups cinnamon applesauce
1 14oz can sweetened condensed milk
1 tsp. vanilla extract
3 eggs, beaten
Cinnamon for sprinkling

Mix together the applesauce, sweetened condensed milk, vanilla, and eggs.  Pour into a 9" pie crust.  Sprinkle the top with cinnamon.  Bake in a 350 oven until the center of the pie is set.  It took 40 mins in my oven but could vary. 

Love you Uncle Gary 💓

Friday, November 16, 2018

The BEST Stuffing Ever

Stuffing really is a funny concept when you think about it.  You take bread that was once at the perfect moisture content and dry it out, only to sog it up and then put it in the oven to partially dry it up again.

Like I wonder who thought “MMMmmmm” I bet soggy bread is DELICIOUS!!!  But right they were and I will forever be in debt to them for their contribution to this world.  Stuffing is hands down my FAVORITE part of Thanksgiving.  I could do without turkey, pumpkin pie…..those are just fillers in my world.  That soggy bread takes center stage!

Luckily….I also happen to make the best damn stuffing out there!  Now normally I’m not one to be super cocky….but when ya got it ya got it…right? 💁  And man does this recipe got it! 
I spent 10 years just throwing it together always meaning to measure and actually “write” a recipe of what I was doing and finally wrote it down just last year.  Just in time too because I’ve gotten 3 requests just this week to share it.

So what makes it so dang good?

 Well first, start with a good bread.  Something soft but not too soft, chewy, but not too chewy.  (Sounding a little Goldilocks right?)  Basically, you don’t want mushy Wonderbread and you don’t want the bread that’s so chewy you have to rip into it like an animal.  My perfect in between bread that is also cheap and accessible is the Italian loaves from the Walmart Bakery.  Bonus points too if it’s the herb loaves! 

The next key point is the sage sausage.  I love the flavor that the sausage adds and by using the sage variety you really give it that Thanksgiving taste.  You crumble and brown it as finely as you can and then keep all the glorious fat.  That’s right, not draining the fat here….it’s vital to the final outcome!

Next up, butter.  Did you think that the sausage drippings was enough fatty goodness?  Well it’s not!  Now you melt in some butter.  Don’t be disgusted….just trust the process……

Mushrooms.  Yep, there’s mushrooms in it.  You might be tempted to leave them out, but I really think you should keep them in.  They’re chopped up finely so even all the so called mushroom haters in my family still adore this stuffing.  Being chopped up fine they blend well into the whole mix without biting into any big chunks.  They just impart a great texture and flavor that I think would really be missed.

There’s obviously more in the recipe (as you’ll see below), but these are the ingredients that I think really make it.   One thing I didn’t do when I was writing this all down last year was the actual bake time.  You’re going to have to kind of navigate that one for yourself.  I usually bake it covered with foil at 350-375 for at least 25 mins before I uncover it and bake it longer until some of the top and edges are crispy and it has dried out a bit.  You can bake it to whatever moisture point you like it.  Just start checking it after 20 mins to see where you are at.   Think you can handle that? Hope so…..cuz you don’t want to miss out on this pan full of delish.

Before baking

After Baking

The BEST Stuffing Ever

3 14oz loaves of Italian bread, cubed
2 medium onions, small diced
1 head celery, small diced
2 lb. sage sausage
1 lb. mushrooms, finely chopped
1 lb. butter
1 tb. kosher salt
The leaves from 15-20 sprigs of thyme (you can do this to taste, I like 20)
4 cup chicken broth

Lay bread cubes in a single layer on a baking sheet and bake in a 300 oven until dry.

Brown and finely crumble the sausage. DO NOT DRAIN THE FAT.  Lower the heat to medium and add the butter and melt.  Add in the onion, celery, and mushrooms and sweat until the veggies are translucent.  Stir in the thyme leaves and salt.

Pour in bread cubes and toss the bread around to coat in the fat as evenly as possible.  Add the broth and stir until all the bread is moistened.

Spread the bread mixture into a buttered baking dish and cover with foil.  Bake in a 350 oven for at least 25 minutes, checking to see how moist the bread is still.  Bake uncovered an additional 10-15 minutes or until you stuffing reaches your desired amount of brown and crispy on top and is as dry or moist as you prefer.

So there ya have it!  If you end up making it I would love to hear!