I have safely arrived in Arkansas for the ElevenMoms trip and day one went really great. I literally hopped off the plane, dropped my bags in my room, and headed out the door to head to the Campbell’s Soup Kitchen Lab for a Thanksgiving feast.
We were treated to a tutorial on how to prepare an inexpensive holiday dinner by Executive Chef Chris Lee, who is currently representing the Swanson’s brand. If you have not heard of Chef Lee before, he was named among the “Top Ten Best new Chefs of 2006″ by Food and Wine and “Best Chef 2005″ by Philadelphia Magazine. He received rave reviews for the stellar cuisine at the Striped Bass, including a highly coveted and extremely allusive Four Bells review from the Philadelphia Inquirer. Travel + Leisure included Striped Bass in its “Best New American Restaurants 2004″ issue and Gourmet Selected it as one of the country’s top restaurants in 2006. Basically, he’s pretty much awesome!
His tutorial provided easy tips for moms that would help make Thanksgiving dinner a little easier on a tired hostess. A few of the tips were:
- When cutting onions, ventilate your kitchen with a fan to help with the fumes and ALWAYS use a sharp knife. If you use a dull knife when cutting onions, it will cut more jaggedly and cause more fumes to be released into the kitchen.
- Don’t stuff the bird with stuffing, it just isn’t safe. In order to cook the stuffing and kill the bacteria, the internal temperature would need to be 165 degrees. When it is packed into the bird, it can be difficult to reach that temperature, but there are other great frugal alternatives. In lieu of the stuffing, why not try stuffing your bird with lots of vegetables and fresh herbs. The bonus to stuffing your bird with these is a more flavorful gravy. Chef Lee recommends stuffing your bird with onions, carrots (no peeling necessary), celery, and leeks. For herbs, he loves a mixture of herbs like sage & rosemary.
- Make sure to tie the bird up after stuffing it, but make sure you are tying with twine made especially for the kitchen. Other twines can cause a fire in your kitchen, which would not be a good way to start your holiday feast. He recommends instead of just tying the twine once, you loop the twine through three times after making your loop to tie and then pulling it tight.
- To get a lump-free gravy, start with flour and a little cold liquid. If you are using stock/broth, just start with mixing a little flour and cold liquid together to start your roux before putting it in the pan. That is the trick to get all of those flour lumps neatly blended!
- Swanson’s has come out with a new product- they are now selling stocks, which will definitely help with your Thanksgiving dinners and making rich and flavorful soups. For frugal chefs, the broth is the cheaper choice, but if you are looking to deepen the flavors in your cooking, the stock can be a great option. According to the team, there will not be much difference in price point on these products.
After our Thanksgiving tutorial, we were able to sit down and have a Thanksgiving feast! We enjoyed all the great things that Thanksgiving dinner has to offer- turkey, mashed potatoes, sweet potato casserole, and my personal favorite…green bean casserole! The food was absolutely delicious!
We were then able to hear about Walmart’s new advertisement campaigns and share what direction we thought their holiday advertisements should go in. Since the economy slump is in the back of everyone’s minds, Walmart wanted to hear our suggestions for ad campaigns. We all shared our input on these and I suggested advertisments that were focused on family traditions rather than focused on buying items. I also requested that they do advertisements that focused on families doing charitable giving around the holidays. With the economy slump, few people are giving right now and it would be inspirational to see advertisements focusing on giving back to our communities.
Other feedback was offered. GeekMommy requested that Walmart not target just moms, but to broaden their target market. She has many single friends who don’t understand the mom-focused advertisements, and thought it would be good for Walmart to broaden the horizon a bit. JessicaKnows shared the great feedback she received from doing her fall fashion vlog and wanted Walmart to showcase the great fashion finds that you can get at their store, something that she felt few people knew about.
The entire Campbell’s team were incredibly gracious hostesses that made us feel like we were at home. Not only did they have holiday pictures of our families on the big screen throughout the meal, but they sent us home with two baskets- one filled with recipes for what to do with all those holiday leftovers with some ingredients included, but they also had another basket filled with everything we would need to make their delicious green bean casserole. Tucked inside were these sweet little aprons which I conned Alyssa, from Kingdom First Mom, into modeling for me. Isn’t she the cutest?
We finished our dinner with pumpkin pie- a great ending to a wonderful evening!
Be sure to visit ALL of the ElevenMoms sites for lots more on our trip:
Common Sense with Money
From Dates to Diapers
Green Your Decor
Deal Seeking Mom
Keeping the Kingdom First
Skimbaco – The Lifestyle
The “Cent”sible Sawyer
The Domestic Diva