KatieOlthoff.com participates in affiliate marketing and other forms of advertising. We only recommend products and services we believe in and think they will be of use to you. As such, posts on this website may contain affiliate links. For more information, please read my disclosure policy. Thank you for your support of this website and our family.

Getting Ready for Christmas: Tips and Tricks from Squaw Creek

Every year, I look forward to Christmas.  Beautiful decorations, yummy goodies, candlelit church services, holiday music, time with family and gifts to show them how much I love them.  What’s not to love?
What’s not to love?  Turns out there’s plenty.  The holidays are great, but it’s no secret that they can also be stressful.  My holiday motto is “Keep it Simple, Make it Meaningful” but simple and Christmas seem to be very contradictory.
So here is the Squaw Creek Survival Guide for Christmas with Kids
Christmas with Kids

Tip #1: Shrink your big tree
My fake tree is huge.  But I care more about floor space in my dining room than whether or not the tree looks perfect, so I only put up HALF the tree.  That’s right – I put the branches on the front, and then smash it against the windows.  Not as pretty, but much more functional.
Christmas Tree
(Someday I’ll get the trim back up around the new windows!)

Tip #2:  Keep wrapping supplies close at hand
I use this decorative snowman bucket (can?) to hold my wrapping supplies.  That way, they’re easy to find when we’re wrapping last minute gifts as we head out the door to one of our 17 family gatherings.
Christmas Wrapping Paper
Tip #3:  Feed your kids.
I have no doubt that my kids will eat a lot of Christmas goodies, then get worn out and crabby because they are lacking in nutrition.  I have a plan for this…I will bring foods my kids like to every family gathering.  Last year, that meant peanut butter sandwiches.  This year, it’s still up in the air, but rest assured, they WILL eat something besides sugar cookies!
And when we’re not at those family gatherings, they will eat scrambled eggs.  Both Adam and Isaac LOVE scrambled eggs, and the protein seems to keep them off the “sugar high – sugar low” roller coaster.

Feed Your Kids Something Healthy at Holiday Gathering

Tip #4: Keep Your Yum-Yums Simple
Last year I blogged about my favorite microwave recipes for Christmas, and also how I made roll-out sugar cookies without losing my mind.  Read these posts.  You’ll thank me later.
Make cut-out cookies easy
Tip #5: Skip the Elf and Read Books Instead
You can throw something at me if you want, but we’re not doing the Elf on a Shelf thing.  Seems like too much work for me.  Instead, to get the kids ready for Christmas, we wrapped our Christmas books and then unwrap one every night.  The last one will be unwrapped on Christmas Eve.
Christmas Book Countdown
Tip #6: Enlist Help
I try to involve my kids in all of my Christmas “tasks” (except shopping.)  The presents might not be as pretty if a 4 year old wraps them, and it may take 4 times as long, but think about how this time benefits him.. When we wrap together, Adam gets quality time with his mommy, tons of fine motor skill practice, and gets to experience the joy in giving.
Both boys helped decorate the tree.  Again, it’s not the most beautiful tree in the world, but it’s very special.
Let Your Kids Help!
Tip #7: Purge Toys
We make it a point to purge toys before Christmas every year.  This gets the house ready for all the new toys that will be coming in.  If you’re having trouble deciding what to keep and what to toss, visit The Little Stories blog and check out all of Kim’s posts on toys. 
Toys In The Attic
(photo via Overcoming Busy, who does a “Pre-Christmas Toy Purge.”)
Tip #8: is actually FIVE tips in ONE beautiful blog post!
I wrote this blog post after Christmas last year with tips for surviving family gatherings.  Re-reading it, I’m amazed at the good info I provided and how darn cute my kids were last year!
Party Animals: 5 Tips for Surviving a Party with Youngsters
Boys at Christmas

Those are my survival guidelines…which one was your favorite?  Pin it, share it or email it, and save some other mommies some grief!

And how about you?  How are you planning to survive and ENJOY this Christmas season?

Video of OUR Turkey Farm

There’s a turkey farm video circulating the internet right now, but I like this one a LOT better. 
This video shows the way turkeys really live. 
It’s not undercover, and it’s not sensationalized or fear-mongering…it’s just the truth.
turkey farm

AgDay reporter Tyne Morgan visited our farm in October and the interview aired this morning, 11/20/12 on AgDay (a national farm news agency.)

I highly recommend you take the time to see how turkeys are REALLY raised, and then share that info with anyone who will listen!

View the video (or read the article) HERE.

Any other questions about how turkeys are raised?  Please ASK!  Questions about other types of farming?  Visit CommonGround to find a farmer who can give you the answers.

Thanksgiving Turkey: Part 2–How to Roast a Turkey and the Butterball Turkey Abuse Video

My friend Ann graciously shared how to roast a turkey, but before we get into that, I want to address a recent issue that you may have seen on the news.
turkey animal welfareMercy for Animals has released a video showing abuse of turkeys at a Butterball turkey farm. I want to be very clear when I say that we, and the majority of the other farmers in the United States, do not abuse our animals.
Our turkeys spend almost 6 months on our farm, and during that time, they live comfortable lives. They have constant access to food and fresh water, and the climate controlled barns mean that they are not stressed by changes in the weather. A ventilation system ensures that they get fresh air, and sick or injured turkeys are taken care of.
We have specific animal care guidelines to follow from the National Turkey Federation and our meat processing plant, and yearly on-farm “audits” to ensure that we are doing things correctly. All the farms who provide meat to our processing plant must meet the same high expectations.treatment on turkey farms
Obviously, there are bad farmers in the world. But 98% of farms in the United States are FAMILY FARMS, and most of them show the same dedication to animal welfare that we have. For a livestock farmer, the world revolves around the well-being of your animals. I can list example after example showing how much our birds mean to us and the things my husband has sacrificed in order to make sure that they are comfortable and healthy. Missed family gatherings, late night alarms to adjust system settings, hours and hours and hours spent in the heat keeping turkeys cool…it goes on and on.
baby turkeysSo this Thanksgiving, Mercy for Animals would like you to believe that your turkey lived a tough life, but the truth is far from that. Don’t let one bad actor give all farmers a bad name. Rest assured that the vast majority of turkeys raised in the United States are comfortable and healthy.
If you have ANY questions about the way turkeys are raised, please ASK!

Now, how to roast a turkey, from Cook’s Country (AKA America’s Test Kitchen)
Roasted Turkey
1 (12-22 pound) turkey, fully thawed
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
Salt and pepper
1. Prepare bird. Adjust oven rack to lowest position and heat oven to 400 degrees. Remove the plastic wrapping from the outside of the whole turkey or turkey breast. Remove the giblets and the neck. (Giblets are the turkey’s gizzard, heart and liver. The giblets and neck, when cooked until tender, are delicious additions to the gravy or stuffing. Pat turkey dry with paper towels. Tuck legs into pocket of skin at tail end (alternatively, tie legs with kitchen twine) and tuck wings under bird.
2. Butter and season. Line V-rack with foil and poke several holes in foil. Set rack inside large roasting pan and spray foil with cooking spray. (A metal cooking rack in a shallow pan or a covered roasting pan with approximately 2-inch sides will allow for the heat to circulate evenly around the turkey.) Brush breast and legs of turkey with half of butter and season with salt and pepper. Arrange turkey, breast side down in rack. Brush remaining butter over back of turkey and season with salt and pepper. Roast turkey for 1 hour.
Be sure to thoroughly wash any surfaces that come in contact with the turkey and the giblets and your hands.
3. Flip turkey. Remove turkey from oven. Tip juices from cavity of turkey into pan. Using clean pot holders or kitchen towels, carefully flip turkey breast-side up. Roast until breast meat registers 160 degrees and thigh meat registers 175 degrees, 1 to 1 1/2 hours. Transfer to carving board and let rest, uncovered, for 30 minutes. Carve and serve.
Turkey Roasting Timetable (for 325 degree oven)
Weight of Turkey
Cook Time
4 to 8 pounds
1 1/2 to 3 1/4 hours
8 to 12 pounds
2 1/2 to 3 hours
12 to 14 pounds
3 to 3 3/4 hours
14 to 18 pounds
3 3/4 to 4 1/4 hours
18 to 20 pounds
4 1/4 to 4 1/2 hours
20 to 24 pounds
4 1/2 to 5 hours
Thermometers: If your turkey has a pop-up timer it should spring when the turkey reaches the recommended temperature. However, a meat thermometer is a more reliable gauge and should be used to test the temperature in several places. If you use an instant read thermometer, it is not designed to stay in the turkey while in the oven.
While the USDA recommends that you not stuff a turkey, you can still enjoy dressing. An unstuffed turkey cooks faster than one that is stuffed. And, baking the dressing separately reduces the amount of fat absorbed by the dressing inside the turkey.
1. Oven casserole – Bake in a greased, covered casserole dish during the last hour while the turkey roasts or until dressing reaches 165 degrees.
2. Foil pouch – Bake in a foil pouch next to the turkey in the roaster pan.
3. Microwave – Cook in a microwave-safe casserole dish in the microwave.
4. Slow cooker – Free up oven space by making dressing in a slow cooker.
Note: Make sure dressing reaches 165 degrees.
Turkey Gravy
1. Pour drippings from the roasted turkey (the fat and juice in the roasting pan) into a large measuring cup. Let stand about 10 minutes.
2. Skim off 4 tablespoons of the fat that accumulates on the top and place back into the roasting pan or a saucepan. Reserve the turkey broth.
3. Whisk in 4 tablespoons of flour. (A whisk helps prevent lumps). Cook and stir over medium heat until bubbly, thick and slightly brown. Turn heat down.
4. Slowly add 2 cups of turkey broth. (If there is not enough liquid add milk, water or purchased broth to make 2 cups.) Cook and stir until thickened. Add chopped, cooked turkey giblets, if desired. Stir in salt and pepper, to taste.

Remember – any questions or concerns about the way turkeys are raised?  Please ASK ME!

Thanksgiving Turkey: Part 1

Although we raise between 100,000 and 120,000 turkeys per year on our farm, we buy a turkey at the grocery store for Thanksgiving.  Our turkeys are too big to be Thanksgiving birds.  They are processed for ground turkey, lunch meat, and other tasty turkey options.
large farm
Thankfully, I’m not in charge of buying or cooking the Thanksgiving turkey, but in case YOU are, here are some tips for you (all info is from the Iowa Turkey Federation and/or Cook’s Country magazine.)

Buying a Turkey
It is best to plan on one pound of whole turkey per person, which will allow for some leftovers.
Fresh: A fresh turkey will keep for one to two days in the refrigerator, so only purchase it a day or two in advance. Store the turkey on a tray to catch any juices. DO NOT buy pre-stuffed fresh turkeys.
Frozen: A turkey may be stored in the freezer up to one year. Depending on the size of the turkey, begin thawing it up to five days in advance.

Thawing a Turkey
Thaw turkey in its original wrapper. It is best to thaw turkey in the refrigerator or in a cold water bath. NEVER thaw turkey at room temperature.
Refrigerator: Allow approximately one day for every four to five pounds of turkey. Make sure the refrigerator is set at 40 degrees Fahrenheit.
Cold Water: Allow approximately 30 minutes per one pound of turkey. Change the water every half hour.
Weight of Turkey
Refrigerator Thawing Time
Cold Water Thawing Time
8 to 12 pounds
2 to 2 1/2 days
4 to 6 hours
12 to 16 pounds
2 1/2 days to 4 days
6 to 8 hours
16 to 20 pounds
4 to 5 days
8 to 10 hours
20 to 24 pounds
5 to 6 days
10 to 12 hours
Example: Say you’re cooking a 12-pound turkey. The frozen bird should be placed in the refrigerator on Monday so that it’s defrosted and ready to cook on Thanksgiving Day.

Turkey Breast Recipe Roundup

turkey breast recipes - Page 001We have a flock of turkeys that’s almost full grown, which means it’s time to test for food safety.  Two weeks before a flock goes to market, we “sacrifice” several birds and send chunks of fat to be tested for pesticide, herbicide and antibiotic residues.  Food safety is one of our highest priorities, so this is a standard practice that happens with every single flock we send to market.

Since we just have to send in small samples, the rest of the meat ends up in our freezer.  Right now, I’m fully stocked with fresh, lean turkey breast, so I thought I’d make a list of some great turkey breast recipes I’ve gathered from around the blogosphere.

Slow Cooker Turkey Breast from Sisters Stuff:
Slow Cooker + turkey breast = yummy!  But don’t cheat and try to rush it on high heat…cook it SLOW (you know, like the title says.)

Crockpot Turkey Breast:
Another slow cooked turkey breast…this one has a few more ingredients, but one of them is wine.  Mmmm. :)

Turkey Jambalaya Recipe

Turkey Jambalaya:
From Cooking Light magazine, this turkey jambalaya looks delicious!  (Would be a great use for Thanksgiving leftovers, too!)

Smoked turkey breast: 
We got my dad a smoker last year for Christmas!  I’ll have to have him try this recipe.

Turkey Ole
I love faux Mexican food!!  And this would be such an easy weeknight meal!

Thanksgiving Turkey in the Crockpot
This looks so easy, and delicious!


Cashew Turkey Stir Fry
Mmmm…I LOVED this recipe. Another great weeknight meal!

Buffalo Turkey for lunch meat 019

Buffalo Turkey Breast
This buffalo turkey breast is so versatile.  Slice it for sandwiches, use it for buffalo pizza, or make buffalo flavored turkey wraps!


Award Winning Grilled Turkey Tenderloin
This is THE marinade/grilling recipe to use. We used this recipe at our big open house when we built our turkey barns.

Herbed Turkey and Rice Pilaf
Even looking at this recipe is comforting.  Looks like a great meal for a cold winter night.

Turkey Tetrazzini
Easy and yummy, classic turkey dish!

 Grilled Turkey Breast Recipe
Another great recipe for the grill!

Roasted Turkey and Pumpkin Chili
This dish screams FALL! Pumpkin, squash and turkey in chili.

Turkey and Sausage Pot Pie
A great use for Thanksgiving leftovers!

There you have it – 15 turkey breast recipes.  There’s sure to be something for everyone, and no excuse not to eat more turkey!

 (Maybe you should pin this blog post so you can keep track of the recipes?)

Updated December, 2014

I've added a bunch MORE recipes to my blog since originally publishing this post...check them out, too!

Easy Orange Turkey in the Crockpot

Slow Cooker Turkey and Potato Cheese Soup

Mexican Turkey Lasagna

Lemon Garlic Turkey Rotini

For even more turkey recipes, visit Iowa Turkey.

Let’s be friends.  Sign up to receive Squaw Creek posts via email.