Random Thanksgiving Post

Happy Thanksgiving to all my blog readers! I have much to be grateful for this year, and I’m sure many of you do as well. You can share some of your “thanksgivings” in the comments, if you like. Here’s a few of mine:

  1. I’m thankful for my family and friends. A few years ago, I didn’t know many of the friends I have now (including several of you, dear readers) and I’m so grateful to have wonderful people in my life.
  2. I’m grateful that my 16-year-old cat recovered from a serious illness so well that he now looks and acts healthier than he has in years.
  3. I’m thankful that I’m still on-track to finish NaNoWriMo even after having pneumonia.
  4. I’m grateful that people in our country still think it’s important to take a day of Thanksgiving. Though it’s just “turkey day” to some, there’s plenty of good people out there who remember why we’re spending a day giving thanks.

I found an article from 2011 collecting different quotes from American presidents about Thanksgiving. Thought I’d share a few that I liked:

Now therefore I do recommend and assign Thursday the 26th day of November next to be devoted by the People of these States to the service of that great and glorious Being, who is the beneficent Author of all the good that was, that is, or that will be — That we may then all unite in rendering unto him our sincere and humble thanks — for his kind care and protection of the People of this country previous to their becoming a Nation.” (George Washington, 1789)

“Rarely has any people enjoyed greater prosperity than we are now enjoying. For this we render heartfelt thanks to the giver of Good; and we will seek to praise Him, not by words only, but by deeds, by the way in which we do our duty to ourselves and to our fellow-men.” (Theodore Roosevelt, 1902)

“Let us ask the Divine Blessing on our decision and determination to protect our way of life against the forces of evil and slavery which seek in these days to encompass us. On the day appointed for this purpose, let us reflect at our homes or places of worship on the goodness of God and, in giving thanks, let us pray for a speedy end to strife and the establishment on earth of freedom, brotherhood, and justice for enduring time.” (Franklin D. Roosevelt, 1941)

“The blessings that are ours must be understood as the gift of a loving God Whose greatest gift is healing. Let us join then, with the psalmist of old: ‘O give thanks to the Lord, call on His name, Make known His deeds among the peoples! Sing to Him, sing praises to Him, tell of all His wonderful works! Glory in His holy name; let the hearts of those who seek the Lord rejoice!'” (Ronald Reagan, 1987)

And here’s a link to an article for all my introverted friends wondering how they’ll survive the social getting-together that happens on Thanksgiving: 9 Quick Tips to Save Your Sanity This Thanksgiving. Just remember — occasionally needing a break from your families doesn’t mean you don’t love them. It means you like them enough to give yourself the space you need so you don’t get cranky and take it out on them.

This is turning into a thoroughly random blog post, but why stop now? I tried a new recipe this Thanksgiving: Pumpkin Snickerdoodles. My sister has discovered Pinterest, so she sends me all the food she thinks looks good in the hope that I’ll make it for her. Snickerdoodles are my favorite cookie, so I decided to try this one. The addition of pumpkin adds a unique spin on the flavor that’s perfect for fall. I’ve linked to the recipe so you can try them out yourself, or at least stare at the delicious pictures.

And lastly, a shameless plug for my Etsy shop. The Geek Spa is having a Black Friday sale. Use code “BlackFriday” for 20% off now through Monday.BlackFriday2014

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Blog Updates

Some of you probably noticed there wasn’t a recipe post last week. There’s not one today, either. I want to start to focus this blog a bit more narrowly, and spend more time writing e-books and fiction. I’ll probably still post recipes as I find some that I want to share, but there will no longer be one every Wednesday.

I want to make this blog more helpful to my readers. Most feedback I receive has been on my posts about personality psychology and Christianity. With that in mind, the Christian-themed posts will continue every Saturday, and my immediate goal is to finish and release the INFJ e-book I announced a few months ago (it’s mostly finished, but you still have time to contribute if you like. Click the link for more information).

I’ve also been working for a couple years on a high school English curriculum for homeschoolers. My younger brother is working through it now (it’s great — I get someone to test my curriculum, and I’m being paid in books for teaching his English class). My goal is to make it flexible enough that parents can tailor the assignments for different students’ learning styles and personalities. If all goes well, the freshman course will be out in a year or so.

If you have any thoughts, comments, or suggestions, please share. My goal is to write things that you want to read, and I like to know if I’m on the right track 🙂

The Easiest No-Knead Bread

Easy No-Knead Bread | marissabaker.wordpress.comMy new favorite bread recipe comes from alexandracooks.com. Be sure to click over there and visit her recipe, since she has lots of tips for making this turn out just-right, as well as several variations that I haven’t tried working with yet. What I’m posting today focuses on making one peasant loaf and one faux focaccia loaf.

This bread is incredible easy to make, but you do have to plan ahead. I need about three hours between the time you start the bread to the time when you can eat it.

Announcement: I’m planning some changes to this blog to focus on providing more useful resources for my readers. My posts on type psychology have been the ones people consistently comment on as being the most helpful, so I want to focus on that while continuing to write my Christian articles and introducing homeschooling resources for teaching high-school English. With all these changes, I’m most likely going to be phasing-out these weekly recipe posts or moving them to a different blogging platform (unless you all REALLY want me to keep them, in which case they’ll probably be less frequent).

Easy No-Knead Bread

2 cups lukewarm water (110–120° F)

1 tablespoon sugar

2 teaspoons active-dry yeast

4 cups flour (3 cups all-purpose, 1 cup whole wheat)

2 teaspoons salt

room temperature butter, about 1 tablespoon

1 Tablespoon olive oil

1/8 teaspoon Italian seasoning

1/4 teaspoon parsley

1 clove garlic, diced

coarse sea salt

Dissolve the sugar into the water in a small mixing bowl or glass measuring cup. Sprinkle the yeast over top, then let it stand for about 10 to 15 minutes until the mixture is foamy.

Meanwhile, in a large bowl, whisk together the flour and salt. Once the yeast mixture is foamy, stir it up. Mix the yeast mixture into the flour until it forms a soft dough.

Easy No-Knead Bread | marissabaker.wordpress.com
before rising

Cover the bowl with a tea towel run under hot water and rung out so it is slightly damp. Set it aside in a warm spot to rise for about one-and-a-half hours.

Easy No-Knead Bread | marissabaker.wordpress.com
after rising

Grease one oven-safe bowl or a medium casserole dish and one 9-inch by 9-inch baking dish. Use 1/2 tablespoon of butter for each. Using two forks, punch down the dough and scrape it from the sides of the bowl, turning the dough over on itself. Using the two forks, pull the dough apart into the equal portions and then scoop one into each baking dish.

Easy No-Knead Bread | marissabaker.wordpress.com
dividing the dough

The peasant loaf, the one in the bowl or casserole dish, is now done. For the faux focaccia, mix 1 Tablespoon olive oil, 1/8 teaspoon Italian seasoning, 1/4 teaspoon parsley, and 1 clove diced garlic. Spread the dough out with your fingers to fit the shape of the pan, then dip your fingers in the olive oil mixture and press the top of the dough to make dimples in the surface. Spread the remainder of the olive oil mixture on top of the bread, and then sprinkle the top with coarse sea salt.

Easy No-Knead Bread | marissabaker.wordpress.com
right before the second rising

Preheat the oven to 425ºF. Let the dough rise for about 20 to 30 minutes, then bake for 12 minutes. Reduce the heat to 375ºF and bake for another 10 to 15 minutes. Remove from the oven and turn the loaves onto cooling racks.

Easy No-Knead Bread | marissabaker.wordpress.com
cooling

Brush the top of the peasant loaf with butter. Let the loaves cool for about 10 minutes before cutting.

Easy No-Knead Bread | marissabaker.wordpress.com
aren’t they lovely?

 

Snickerdoodle Blondies

Snickerdoodle Blondies | marissabaker.wordpress.comI tried a couple recipes for snickerdoodle bars or blondies before finding this one from Six Sisters Stuff. It’s so good! I still prefer the actual snickerdoodle cookies, but this is a very tasty bar form that takes much less time to make since the dough doesn’t need chilled and you bake the whole thing at once.

Snickerdoodle Blondies

Snickerdoodle Blondies | marissabaker.wordpress.com1 cup butter, room temperature

2 cups packed brown sugar

2 eggs

1 Tablespoon vanilla

2 2/3 cups flour

2 tsp baking powder

Topping

2 Tablespoon white sugar

2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Combine the butter, brown sugar, eggs, and vanilla in a large bowl by hand or with an electric mixer. Stir in dry ingredients.

Snickerdoodle Blondies | marissabaker.wordpress.comSpread batter in a greased 13×9-inch baking pan. In a small bowl, mix the cinnamon topping ingredients, then sprinkle over the top of the batter.

Bake at 350°F for 25-30 minutes or until top springs back when pressed.

Snickerdoodle Blondies | marissabaker.wordpress.com

What to do with Zucchini?

It’s the Great Garden question — what do I do with all that zucchini taking over my garden? It seems to grow overnight. One moment it’s shorter than the length of my hand and the next moment it’s the size of a baseball bat. I usually stir-fry zucchini or turn it into bread (see recipe here), but I needed more options. So I turned to the ever-trusty Google for answers and found several recipes to try.

Do you have any favorite zucchini recipes to share? Link them in the comments below 🙂

Zucchini Recipes

Zucchini Muffins from Simply Recipe  is the first of these zucchini recipes that I tried. They have a really good flavor  — love the cinnamon and nutmeg. They’re neither too dry nor too moist. We had a Lord of the Rings-like conversation here when my mother, sister, and I were talking about how filling these muffins were and my brother got this guilty Hobbit-ish look on his face and said, “I’ve had three.”

Verdict: This recipe is definitely a keeper!

Roast Carrots and Zucchini “Fries” from Voracious Veggie. This is the very best way to cook carrots. They’re healthy and taste like candy. Since we like them so well, we thought we’d follow this blogger’s suggestion and cook zucchini the same way. Maybe I did something wrong, but they were gross. Soft, squishy, slimey — the texture was so bad I couldn’t even tell you if the taste was any good.

Verdict: keep the carrots, toss the zucchini

Zucchini Pistou from Baked Bree uses as it’s base a French version of pesto made with zucchini  as well as basil. It caught my attention because Bree’s pictures are so gorgeous. Mine didn’t look much like this (for one thing I ran out of basil and used walnuts instead of pine nuts in the pistou), but it had a pretty good flavor.

Verdict: I cooked too much pasta, which spread the sauce around too much, so I plan to try this one again and see if I can get it right.

Julia Child’s Zucchini Tian. This one is still on my to-do list. It’s doesn’t look hard, just a bit time consuming. I’m sure anything baked in that much cheese has to taste good, though 🙂

 

Chicken and Broccoli Shells

Chicken and Broccoli Shells | marissabaker.wordpress.comThis recipe is one of the answers to the question, “What do you do with broccoli heads the size of bowling balls?” Seriously, that’s how big these things are. I’ve never seen broccoli grow this large. We weren’t able to use it all before they started to bloom, but the plants we cut are already producing side-shoot broccoli heads. If you’ve grown broccoli, you know the second heads are significantly smaller than the first ones. For these plants, that means they are size of broccoli you see in the grocery store.

Chicken and Broccoli Shells

2 whole skinless, boneless chicken breasts cut in 1″ cubes

2 teaspoons vegetable oil

1 1⁄2 cups chopped broccoli, fresh or frozen

2 cups chicken broth

1 can (10.5 ounces) cream of chicken soup

1/2 teaspoon pepper

2 cloves garlic, minced

2 cups small shell pasta, uncooked

1 cup (4 ounces) cheddar cheese, shredded

Heat oil in skillet over medium-high heat. Add chicken and cook until no longer pink. Add broccoli, broth, soup, pepper, garlic and pasta. Bring to a boil.

Chicken and Broccoli Shells | marissabaker.wordpress.com

Reduce heat to lowest setting, cover, and simmer for 15-20 minutes, or until pasta is tender. Stir occasionally to prevent sticking. Check near the end of cooking and add a small amount of water, if needed. Stir in cheese during last two minutes of cooking.

Chicken and Broccoli Shells | marissabaker.wordpress.com