A Smoked Turkey Makes Quite the Savory Gift

     One of the most delicious gifts that we received this Christmas was a mesquite smoked turkey prepared by dear friends on Christmas Eve.  Turns out that a smoked turkey is the gift that keeps on giving.

Don’t let the blackened crust scare you.

     After being the centerpiece of our Christmas dinner, the carcass became 26 cups of smoked turkey stock the next day.  I placed two cups each into quart freezer bags, then placed them on a tray to put in the freezer.

Now I’ve have stock in convenient amounts that will serve as the basis for many a smoked soup in the coming winter months.

     I also had enough leftover meat to make three casseroles.  In addition to the family favorite, Tamale Casserole, which was particularly delicious with the smoky flavor, I experimented with a basic turkey and wild rice casserole recipe that I found on Cooks.com.  With some simple adjustments, I added a bit of green to this otherwise very white dish and got loads of compliments to go with it.

Turkey with Wild Rice and Spinach Casserole

1 medium onion, chopped
8 0z. sliced mushrooms
1/2 C butter
1/4  C flour
1 1/2 C chicken or turkey stock
1 1/2 C half and half
3 C cooked turkey, cut up
1 box Uncle Ben’s Original Wild Rice
8 oz. package chopped spinach, thawed and squeezed dried of as much water as possible
1/2 C slivered almonds

Preheat oven to 350° and lightly grease a 2 quart casserole dish.

Cook onions and mushrooms in butter over low heat, stirring frequently, until onions are transluscent but not browned.  Gradually stir in flour until thickened and well blended.  When it begins to bubble, stir in the stock and half and half.  When blended, bring to a boil while stirring constantly.  Once boiling, continue to stir for one minute.

Remove from heat and stir in spinach, wild rice and seasoning packet and turkey.  Pour into prepared casserole and cover with aluminum foil.  Bake for one hour.  Remove aluminum foil, sprinkle evenly with almonds and bake for an additional 15 minutes.  Remove from oven and cool slightly.

Serves 6-8.

     So many delicious dinners from one little ol’ bird.  What a wonderful gift!


Christmas Floraspirations

I prepared this post to be published before yesterday’s unfathomable tragedy.  As we all mourn for the innocence lost and made even more painful by its occurrence during this season of hope and light, we know that we cannot let evil stop our preparations for the coming of Jesus.  With unbound sympathy for the parents and families of the victims in Newtown, Connecticut, I pray that these Christmas decorations and traditions will comfort and remind us how much we need the grace and comfort of Jesus Christ not just during this incongruous holiday season but all the year long.

     The annual Christmas decorations are finally up, and all but a box or two has been returned to the attic.  Now it’s time to find and arrange the flowers and greenery that will hopefully take us past Christmas Day.  My Three Chopt Garden Club has been my source of floral inspiration (hence “Floraspiration”).  These designs that a small group of us created for the Kent-Valentine House, as well as the elegant green and white arrangements created by some talented ladies for our Club’s annual Christmas party, have inspired me to try some new looks this year.

(Drooling over this mirror-top. It’s a perfect idea for my dining room.)

     Are you feeling inspired to get arranging yet?

All photos by Avad Fan on iPhone.

Looking for Holiday Greens in Richmond?

Find beautiful arrangements plus unique greenery for your own creations at

Holiday Gifts & Greens Market "Inspired by Nature"

     The ladies of The Boxwood Garden Club create fabulous wreaths and table arrangements for you to purchase at the Holiday Gifts & Greens Market at Grace Baptist Church in Windsor Farms.  The key to scoring something wonderful for your holiday home is to get there when the doors open. The outstanding designs sell out very quickly.

     I bought these two topiaries last year and put them in the large metal cachepots.  Though the boxwood and magnolias were live and green when purchased, I have let them dry throughout the year, and they still look beautiful to me.

Holiday topiaries at the fireplace78

     A lot of the arrangements that you will find at the sale look similar to these greenery arrangements gracing the pages of Pinterest.

In addition to arrangements and a small selection of curated vendors selling Christmas presents, you can also purchase fresh and often hard-to-find greenery to create your own holiday designs.

     Put December 7, 2012 on your smartphone calendar and be at Grace Baptist Church in Windsor Farms by 10 a.m.  This is one shopping event that you really will not want to miss.

‘Tis the Season

for pre-ordering Christmas cards on sale.

     September 15th is here, and I’ve only got another half of the month to plan and order this year’s Christmas card if I want to get the September discount.  How can it possibly be time to start thinking about the holidays?  I haven’t even downloaded the pictures from our summer vacation to sunny Southern California yet.

     Oh, well.  Since time marches on, I’d better march myself over to One Thing at a Time inside the Shops at 5807 to see what’s new in the way of greeting card fashions.  I am looking forward to seeing the holiday offerings from Lallie’s new and more affordable SoNancy line.

     In between searching the vacation pics for a decent card photo, I’ve got to start making my lists, so I can check them twice.  Does the thought of the holidays bring you joy or make you feel more like the Grinch?  Maybe if I really do plan ahead and get organized now, December will be jolly.

Five Gifts of Christmas for Family & Friends: Part 3

     Today’s selection for my quick Week before Christmas gifting ideas is tried and true.  It has made regular appearances on my gift-giving list for too many years to count.  It is definitely one of my family’s favorites, and they would rather hoard my annual purchases than share with others.

     If you haven’t tried the Virginia Diner’s Double-Dipped Chocolate Covered Peanuts, you do not know what you are missing.  I have sampled many others to see if any rivals exist, and to date I have found none that can begin to match their size and flavor.  Virginia grown peanuts are incomparable, and the Diner’s milk chocolate combination is spot on.

     I remember well the first time I tried this confection.  They had been a Christmas gift to my parents and, once tasted, were devoured in no time.  The following Christmas, the kids and I took a road trip down Route 460 to the Virginia Diner’s original restaurant and store in Wakefield, Virginia.  While the old-fashioned diner food was good, I was there to stock up on the chocolate peanuts and bought up their last remaining cans.

     The Diner now has a retail Shoppe at the Short Pump Town Center, so the hour-long car ride is no longer necessary.  In recent years, I have been able to purchase this Christmas goodie through a local fund-raiser, as well.  I never worry whether my gift will be unique for the recipient because you can never have too much of it.

     I hope your holidays are as sweet as this holiday treat!