How many times have YOU gone to the grocery store today?

True, there WILL be some grocery stores open tomorrow for a few hours, but Thanksgiving really is one of those days when shopping is limited. Every year, I realize about ten minutes before the stores close (whenever that is) that I HAVE forgotten a few critical things.  Every year. You’d think I’d learn.

cornstarch for gravy

Actually, I HAVE learned a little and I’m no longer forgetting the cornstarch for making gravy. In fact, I have a little list of the odds and ends that are easy to forget. Here’s my little list of things I MUST NOT FORGET this year. Maybe you can add to the list.

Cornstarch (for making gravy)

Cranberries for Cranberry Sauce

Heavy Cream (to whip for serving on pie)


Candles for the table © 2013 My Sister's Kitchen

Chicken Stock for the Turkey stuffing (when I haven’t had time to make it myself)

Decaf coffee to go with all that pie!

The funny thing is that every year, I add another thing to my list….and every year, I forget something new!

So what last-minute items are you even now thinking that you need to quick run out for?

hearty stock for vegetable beef soup










Why Yes, it IS Thanksgiving time again. Is it your turn to host this year?

Getting Ready for Thanksgiving in My Sister's Kitchen

Yes, it’s that time of year again. I think that Thanksgiving Day is probably the biggest food holiday of the year for me and this year will be no different. I’m hosting Thanksgiving dinner here this week and I’m already feeling a little bit behind. Thankfully, I’ve got my Thanksgiving menu down to a science (or as much of a science as luscious food CAN be!) and I’ll be drawing from our old favorite, traditional recipes. We haven’t added much to our repertoire here for awhile because we really have settled in to our favorite holiday foods.

Therefore, I STILL can recommend all the recipes that we’ve posted over the last 8 years. If you click on the Thanksgiving tag, you’ll find every post that relates to this holiday of thankfulness. Please enjoy! As always, if you find links that are broken or recipes that are unclear, please let us know and we’ll fix those right away!

Have a Blessed Thanksgiving this year!

Barb and Laura


Simple Meals for Busy Moms

Cookbooks in My Sister's Kitchen

The worst thing about dinner is that it’s relentless. Dinner time shows up every.single.evening, without fail. The best thing about dinner is that it does, indeed, come around every single evening. That means that every time I serve up a less-than-fantastic meal to my family, there are many, many more chances ahead to redeem myself.

The biggest hint that I can offer busy moms who are trying to juggle the busyness of life with little people and daily meal prep is this: SIMPLIFY. My kids remember very few of the meals that I made when they were small, but they have crystal clear recollection of the times that I was cranky and frazzled and stressed. The simpler your meals are, the less stress for you and your kids.

First, I would be lying through my teeth if I told you that the key to my success was menu planning. Menu planning is GREAT and the occasional times that involved actually coming up with a plan for a week’s worth of meals were downright awesome. But the truth is, most of the time, I never really got around to planning out menus each week. If that works for you, go for it. Planning a menu is a strategy that I haul out when things are most dire, like when I’m facing a week of visiting guests. For everyday purposes, however, meal planning never really works for me. I usually have an idea of what dinner tonight will be and if I’m really on top of things, I have a vague clue about tomorrow.

That said, here are a few principles that I regularly employed in my kitchen when my kids were younger and I urge you to consider:

1. Find the favorites: every family has a dozen or so meals that they really enjoy. Figure out which those meals are and major in them. This is not the season of life for unrealistic expectations about becoming Martha Stewart. (IS there a season for that? I submit that there is not.) If your kids love mac and cheese, don’t apologize for serving it twice a week. If you love Mexican food, bury yourselves in burritos every four days. Once you’ve brainstormed 8-12 meals that you and yours enjoy eating for dinner, look ahead at your weeks. If Wednesday night church makes dinner a little hectic, make sure you choose a simpler meal. If you’re going to be out all day, think about putting dinner in the crockpot in the morning.

Some of our family favorites over the years (the easy-to-make favorites, that is):

Chicken Pot Pie: if you use the rolled pie crusts, this is practically fast food. It’s also serious comfort food around our house.

Thai Chicken Wraps: these are so yummy and so adaptable that most kids can find something to like about them.

Pizza: so many choices.

Pasta dishes that clean out the fridge: This is a great way to use up leftovers when you have lots of little bits of stuff.

Pressed Sandwiches (don’t be afraid to dignify a pressed sandwich by calling it dinner. Pressed sandwiches are our best go-to dinner on a busy night.)

Creative Quesadillas: Seriously, what CAN’T go on a quesadilla?

Breakfast for Dinner: this was always a secret weapon on those days that were out of control on the busyness or scheduling. Egg burritos and a glass of OJ was always in the back of my head for an emergency dinner plan.

2.  Take shortcuts. Some shortcuts are worth taking. When I’m in a hurry, the grocery store rotisserie chickens are a godsend. If I’m within a mile or two of Sams club, I always get my rotisserie chickens from there because those chickens are HUGE! Sometimes having bagged salads instead of needing to wash and trim all the produce for a big salad makes the difference between HAVING salad or not having it. And Pillsbury rolled pie crusts? Don’t even get me started. I NEVER need to be making a huge pie crust mess in my kitchen when I can open the box and unroll one of those bad boys.

3.  Don’t be afraid of leftovers. I think that sometimes leftovers get a bad rap. If food was good the first time, it’s probably going to be better the second time. I try to find ways to use leftovers to make something slightly different the next night. For instance, after a meal involving the rotisserie chicken or a chicken and rice casserole, I often don’t have enough leftover chicken to just serve that by itself, but it’s perfect for making fried rice or a chicken and veggie stir-fry. After I’ve stripped the chicken bones of all their meat, the bones and skin go into the stock pot to simmer into stock for soup or pot pies. If you have a LOT of leftovers, package it up and freeze it. Pulling a container of rich homemade soup out of the freezer an hour before dinner feels like I have a super power.

4.  Enlist the troops. Ask your kids what they love to eat. You might be surprised. Enlist their help in planning out the week with you. Put them in CHARGE of figuring out dinner based on what’s in your pantry. Find out if Dad wants to pitch in some evening or if the kids and dad want to try their hand at dinner all on their own. There’s no percentage in being a control freak in the kitchen.

ALWAYS accept help. This goes right along with enlisting your kids as resources. Kids can be amazingly capable in the kitchen, given the opportunity. Spending a little time teaching them the correct way to use the tools of cooking can pay off big time later. Cooking together can be GREAT.

5.  Lather, Rinse, Repeat. Really. So what if you had Sloppy Joes on Monday. If all of you like them, you can have them again on Friday.

6.  Don’t be afraid to order pizza. Most moms, myself included, have the occasional FAIL of a meal. If it’s really too bad to eat, give yourself and your family a break and just order pizza. Or eat breakfast cereal for dinner. One notable kitchen disaster at my house involved far too much pepper in a fish chowder. None of us could choke it down and I realized that sometimes it’s okay to admit defeat. That day, the black pepper won. So we ordered pizza.

Most important: find what works for YOU and your family. The shortcuts that worked for me, won’t work for the mom who has kids with serious food allergies or for the family committed to eat vegan. That’s okay. There ARE shortcuts that can keep you sane; it’s just a matter of taken a little time to think through the details.

And remember, most kids would rather have peanut butter sandwiches on a picnic blanket in the park than a seven course Better-Homes-and-Gardens picture perfect dinner. If it means that I can say no to stress, so would I.

And speaking of stress….we’re coming up on what can be THE most stressful food holiday of the entire year. If you’re relatively new to making Thanksgiving dinner for the family or even if you just need some new ideas, we have a LOT of great Thanksgiving food resources for you. If you’ve ever wondered how to make gravy or how to whip whipping cream or how to carve a turkey, we have it all! If you click on any of the planning for Thanksgiving posts, you’ll see links to lots and lots of our favorite recipes.

Happy Thanksgiving!



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Christmas is coming….FAST!


This is one of those years; Thanks giving was so late that we leapt right into the Christmas season before the turkey had even cooled down! I’ve barely used all the Thanksgiving leftovers and now it’s time to think about Christmas goodies.

On the other hand, it’s hard not think about Christmas goodies…mmmmmm. A few years ago, we posted Thirty-one days of delicious Christmas cookies and I plan to revisit those recipes this year. Obviously I’m a little bit behind schedule since it IS December 11 already. So today is a huge bonus day for cookies. Check out some of our favorites:

#1 Grandma’s Dutch Jan Hagel cookies (What I love best about these is that they remind me of my Grandma. 🙂 Second best, they require no special ingredients so I’m always ready to bake them!)

#2 Soft and Chewy Molasses Cookies (These are really my go-to cookie during the Christmas season. Always favorite, always delicious. This is the cookie that feature at my annual Women’s Sanity Night.)

#3 Chocolate Chip Cookie Bars (also my go-to recipe all year round. These are just the best.)

#4 Snickerdoodles (who doesn’t remember eating Snickerdoodles as a kid?)

#5 Mint Brownies (my two favorite dessert flavors in one place.)

#6 Dreamsicle Fudge (this one will change your life. Just try it.)

#7 Buffalo Chip Cookies (the name alone makes me giggle.)

#8 Peppernuts (or Pfeffernusse)

#9 Gumdrop Pfeffernusse (my all-time favorite Pfeffernusse recipe, thanks to Auntie Karen)

#10 Raisin Pfeffernusse (you can eat these by the handful, but probably shouldn’t!)

#11 Anise Pfeffernusse (classic, traditional little peppernuts)

Phew, I’m caught up now.

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I’m pretty easily distracted these days but I will try to keep current on the cookie posts. This time of year is the perfect time to practice your kitchen arts and bless the socks off the people in your life who like good food!

Barb  IMG_5388

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