Friday, December 2, 2011

Thanksgiving Recipe Round-up

Now that the frantic Black Friday shopping is over and the Christmas decorations are (almost) all up, I'm going to rewind a little bit and give you my Thanksgiving recipe round-up. This year we had an amazing, intimate Thanksgiving with just the kids. I cooked everything completely from scratch- not a single can, box, or frozen item was to be seen and I didn't even lose any sleep over it. Those who have attended my holiday celebrations in the past know that I frequently stay up nearly all night prepping, waiting for rolls to rise or bake or any other number of tasks deemed essential for the perfect holiday meal. This time I kept the menu simple, started three days ahead of time, and was able to really enjoy both the creation of the meal and the additional time spent with those I love.

Fresh turkey
Sour cream and garlic mashed potatoes
Sausage stuffing
Green beans
Cranberry sauce
Sliced bread
Pumpkin and Pecan Pies

For the Turkey, I purchased a fresh one and brined it for the first time. Here is an excellent tutorial on how to brine a turkey. I purchased a spice mix from World Market- this was my ONE convenience item. You can see it here. Other specialty stores sell brine mixes for nearly $20, this was on sale for only $4.99 and I figured I'd spend way more purchasing everything I needed separately, so in the interest of frugality, I decided it would be ok to fudge on just this one item.

Oops, a little blurry- looked clear on the camera. This is the brine.
Basically, the process of brining involves dissolving the spices in a gallon of water over the stove. Then after letting the mixture cool, you soak the Turkey in it over night. I declined to purchase the $7 brining bags that I came across, instead I simply used a clear, clean, tough, outdoor garbage bag, tied tight. I tried to set this in the roasting pan and then in the fridge, but the pan wouldn't fit no matter which way I turned it, so I just put the bag in and prayed. Luckily we had no leaks.

Turkey in the pan that wouldn't fit in the fridge.

For roasting I combined Alton Brown's recipe found here for the aromatics and Martha Stewart's butter and wine gravy recipe found here for flavoring on the outside. I soaked a cheese cloth in the butter and wine mixture and covered the turkey, then roasted for 30 minutes at 425 and finished at 350, removing the cheese cloth at the end so the turkey could turn nice and brown. Be careful with the excess butter and high temps.

Sour cream mashed potatoes are an every day favorite in our house and hubby is the potato expert. He just mashes them with milk, butter, salt, pepper, garlic powder, sour cream, and mayonnaise until it tastes right. When I do it, I like to run them through the food processor to make them extra smooth. These are so tasty they hardly need gravy.

Speaking of gravy, mine separated and was super salty from the brine. That still needs work...

The sausage stuffing was a combination of recipes found herehere, and in my local paper, the KC Star, in the November 20, 2011 issue in an article entitled "Stuff Yourself!" by Elizabeth Mitchell.

First, we must start with a corn bread. This recipe comes from the More-with-Less Cookbook by Doris Janzen Longacre.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
Mix together:
     1 c. cornmeal
     1 c. flour (part or all whole wheat ok)
     4 t. baking powder
     1/2 t. salt
     2 T brown sugar
     1/2 c. dry milk powder (optional)
Make a well and add:
     2 beaten eggs
     1 c. milk
     1/4 c. oil
Stir just until smooth. Pour into a greased 9x9" pan and bake 25 minutes.

Then, we'll make the stuffing:

In a 10-12" skillet, brown:
     1 lb sausage
     1 med. onion
Wipe out the skillet, then add:
     2 T. olive oil
     2 c. chopped celery
     1-2 T. fresh sage
     1 t. fresh thyme (or 1/2 t. dried)
     1/2 c. fresh parsley
     1 t. fresh rosemary
Saute until just cooked. Meanwhile, crumble a 9x9 pan of corn bread and most of a loaf of homemade wheat bread (recipe found here). Add:
     1 3/4 c. chicken broth
     1/4 melted butter
     4 eggs, beaten
Toss in the sausage, onion, and contents of skillet. Place in a greased 9x13 casserole dish and bake at 350 for 25 min, covered, then another 15-20 minutes uncovered, until golden brown.

The Grean Beans came from the November 2010 issue of Good Housekeeping and were made that year by my mother-in-law who gave me the recipe.

2 T. olive oil
4 sprigs fresh thyme
2 large onions, thinly sliced (I think I only used 1)
1 clove garlic, crushed
8 oz. cremini mushrooms, thinly sliced
4 oz. shiitake mushrooms, stems discarded, thinly sliced (I found a mix that was only 4 oz total-worked fine)
3 lb fresh green beans, trimmed (I used 2)

Heat a covered sauce pot of water to boiling. Meanwhile, in a 12 in. skillet, heat oil on medium high. Add thyme and onions; cook 10-12 minutes or until browned and very tender, stirring occasionally. Stir in garlic and cook 1 minute. Add mushrooms and cook 5 minutes or until tender, stirring occasionally. Stir in 1/2 t. salt and 1/2 t. freshly ground black pepper. Remove and discard thyme.

Add green beans and 2 t. salt to boiling water. Cook, uncovered, 8-9 minutes or until tender, stirring occasionally. Drain and rinse with cold water. If making ahead, transfer mushroom mixture to a medium bowl and beans to a resealable plastic bag. Refrigerate up to overnight.

When ready, return beans to sauce pot, add mushroom mixture, stirring to combine. Cook on medium until heated through, stirring occasionally.

The Cranberry Sauce is super easy. Just rinse a 12 oz bag of berries, removing any soft or bad ones, then add them to a lidded pot with 1 c. sugar and 1 c. orange juice. Boil until most of the berries have popped, stirring often. Serve warm or cool.

A good pie crust tutorial can be found here. I halve the salt to suite my own preference but it's good as is. I also used the video here, which gives some excellent technical info. This video gives you some good tips on rolling your pie dough and this one gives some neat ideas for decorating the edge of the crust.

My dad gave me some huge seminole squash that he grew this summer and told me that they are supposed to make excellent "Pumpkin" Pie. He couldn't have been more right! I used the recipe here, increasing the puree to 2 c. because the pie pictured looks a little flat. It turned out divine!

That squash is as big as my kitchen aid!
To make the puree, you can either peel, cut and steam the squash or pumpkin, then run it through the processor, or if you're lazy like me, just cut it in half, scrape out the seeds, then roast it at 350 in a pan, flat side down with 1/2 inch of water in the bottom. Once cool, just scoop it out of the skin into the food processor.

Puree from the Seminole squash. I saved the seeds to plant next year. Just rinse them and lay them on wax paper to dry for a week or so.

For the Dark Pecan Pie, I used Paula Dean's recipe found here, substituting cheap whiskey for the bourbon and 1/3 molasses with 2/3 light corn syrup for the dark corn syrup. So good.

Whipped cream is so very easy to make. Beat 1 cup of heavy whipping cream until soft peaks form, add   1 t. pure vanilla and 1 T. sugar. Continue to beat until desired consistency is reached. Don't over beat because it will become lumpy and more like butter.

Here is the schedule that allowed me to do all of this. The idea is to get as much of the prep done ahead of time so that you have as little as possible to do the day of.

Monday: This is my usual baking day, I made an extra loaf of my regular bread for the stuffing and to serve in lieu of rolls. I put it in the freezer after it had cooled so it would stay fresh.

Tuesday: Shopping day- went and picked up the turkey, brine, and fresh ingredients that I needed. My step-son was a HUGE help because he came along and helped with the baby man while I was in and out of stores. He also shelled most of the pecans that came from my mother-in-law's tree for the pie.

1. Take the sausage out of the freezer so it will be ready to brown tomorrow. (I forgot this step.)
2. Bake the corn bread
3. Make dough for the pie crusts and refrigerate
4. Make pumpkin puree
5. Brine the turkey
6. Go ahead and set the table
7. If you have time, you can also prep veggies (except potatoes), getting them trimmed, sliced and diced so they are ready to cook.
8. Make whipped cream
9. The pies are best baked the evening before, but can be done first thing the next morning. They'll need time to cool before serving.

Thursday: Everything else :)

I should also include our center piece since it was a huge part of the celebration. I put some bare sticks in a clear vase filled with pecans to stabilize them. Then, we cut leaf shapes out of scrapbook paper and had everyone secretly write about things that they are thankful for on at least three leaves. During dinner, we took turns guessing what everyone had written. There were certainly some gems. We all got some good laughs and there were some very sweet moments as well.

This list will be invaluable to me when next year rolls around, making it super easy to put on the traditional meal, no planning needed! Hopefully it will provide you with some inspiration and ideas for your own family traditions. Now, on to Christmas!

This post is linked at the Monday's Homestead BarnhopFat Tuesday, Domestically Divine Tuesday, and Frugally Sustainable

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