Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Thanksgiving 2012 in Review

This is the time to jot down notes about what worked about this year's Thanksgiving menu and what didn't work.  Dinner was really good, but there were some variations to recipes as we cooked on Wednesday and Thursday.

I had planned to stuff my turkey with stuffing this year in spite of all of the warnings against that.  But . . . when I psyched myself into believing two turkeys may be needed instead of just one, we prepped them a day early and stuffed them with a mixture of lemons, oranges, celery, onions, sage, parsley, rosemary, and thyme.  We smeared them with an herb butter (one stick of butter for each turkey softened and mixed with one Tbsp Poultry Seasoning and 1 tsp salt).  The herb butter gets smeared on and under the skin.  The turkeys were sprinkled with salt and pepper and placed in a Reynolds cooking bag.  They went into the refrigerator overnight.

The turkeys went into the oven on Thanksgiving Day at noon.  They baked at 450 degrees for the first hour and then the temp was reduced to 325 degrees for about 2 1/2 more hours.  Once they came out of the oven, I let them sit and rest for about an hour as the final dishes were prepped.  My kids still like to help cut the turkey.  We all love that tasty crispy skin!   My hubby complains about any recipe that includes fresh herbs -- he said the turkey had a funny taste -- but everyone else thought it was yummy!

The Chutney this year was a no-go.  I didn't like this recipe.  It will be back to an old recipe next year.  This one was far too savory.  It needed to me much sweeter.

The Jell-o Magic Mousse was made exactly as written and it was great!  I made it the day before so it had lots of time to set and came out of the mold absolutely perfectly.  I used Lemon Jell-o for the first layer and Mango for the next.  It was as pretty as it was tasty.

The Green Bean Casserole was the biggest change.  We didn't make the standard recipe.  We changed this up using no canned or bottled products - fresh ingredients only.  It was really good!  (Watch for the post for Best Ever Green Bean Casserole)

I left my gravy recipe alone.  It took lots of years, but that recipe has been perfected.  Luke told me this year's was the best gravy ever :)  I started with about 12 cups of water for the turkey stock and then used the stock not only for the gravy, but also in the Green Bean Casserole, the stuffing, and mashed potatoes.

I love my normal stuffing recipe, but it's never quite as good when at least part of it not cooked in the turkey. It lacks that extra flavor and moisture.  I always try to add a little extra turkey stock to the stuffing to make sure it's moist.

See my posts for Sweet Potato-Pecan Casserole and Spectacular Mashed Potatoes for those recipes.  They are a can't miss.

There were changes made to the Pecan Pie, but the Perfect Pumpkin Pie remained unchanged.  Watch for the Southern Pecan Pie recipe in the next day or two.

Dinner was great.  Family and friends make it that way.  I think we've just about perfected the menu.  That's easy to say now . . . next year I'll be busy looking for new ideas like usual :).

I hope you find a few good ideas to share with your family next year.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

My Favorite Week of the Year

Tomorrow is the start to my favorite week of the year.  It's the beginning of a week that's full of family, food and fun.  It's a week of reflection on my life and hopes for the future.  I always take the week off work to cook and clean and get the house in shape for the holidays.  There are lots of snacks to make - and now the grandkids can help :). And there is a Thanksgiving meal to make to share with family and friends on Thursday.  We'll have a fun week.  Most of you know my hubby watches all three grandkids every day, so we'll have lots of help.

Papa pulled out all of the Christmas decorations today, so the lights will go up over the next few days and then be lit Thanksgiving night after dinner.  We put up our tree and decorate for Christmas while we watch It's A Wonderful Life every Thanksgiving night.  That's a tradition we started years ago.  I'm a believer that Thanksgiving should have its perfect day before the Christmas rush takes over.

Friday, the kids and I will travel to New Windsor to celebrate Thanksgiving with my parents, brother, sister, and families.  It should be a great weekend!

We had a year full of blessings --
   Granddaughter Elisabeth Lynn was born on January 25th
   We see all three of our grandkids almost every day
   Luke started the Automotive Program at Vatterott College on July 5th and is doing very well
   Emma is 2/3 of the way through Culinary School at L'Ecole Culinaire and getting fantastic grades
   We are all gainfully employed
   Everyone is healthy
   My boys are hunting together this year - I love that they spend time together :)
   My parents and Eddie's mom are well and will be spending the holidays with us
   Our brothers and sisters and their families are part of our daily lives
   We had lots of time to spend with family throughout the year - and we all still like each other :)

Life isn't all puppies and rainbows -- we have bad days and dark clouds now and again.  But the good days far outnumber the bad.  Life is good and we have so much to be thankful for.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Thanksgiving Menu 2012

It's taken me a bit longer to finish up plans for this year's Thanksgiving dinner than usual.  But . . . most of the menu is now in place.

Turkey - I have a 20 lb turkey and plan to stuff it with ordinary stuffing.  I know they tell you not to do that because it may not cook thoroughly, but if you use a Reynolds cooking bag and cook your turkey for about 10 minutes per pound (approximately 3 1/2 hours for a 20 lb turkey) it should be cooked to temp.  Use a cooking thermometer to check the temp of your stuffing.  It should be at least 165 degrees before it is served.  To prep the turkey, I'll remove the package of giblets and use them to prepare the turkey stock - see Gravy - A Healthier Version post.  I'll make a seasoned butter of one stick of butter, 1 Tbsp Poultry Seasoning, 1 tsp Kosher salt, and 1/2 tsp black pepper.  The seasoned butter should be rubbed on the skin of the turkey, under the skin of the turkey, and inside the cavity of the turkey.  Season your bird all over with the seasoned butter.

Check for prior year's blog posts for the following recipes that I'll be serving for our dinner:
Use the search box at the top, left corner of the screen to type the search name.

Stuffing - My Favorite
Gravy - A Healthier Version
Jell-O Magic Mousse (ours will be orange and lemon)
Roasted Sweet Potatoes with Cinnamon Pecan Crunch
Mashed Sweet Potatoes (the only kind Luke will eat)
Mashed Potatoes
Thanksgiving - Cranberry Pear Apple Chutney
Green Bean Casserole
Pecan Pie
Perfect Pumpkin Pie
Pudding Pie

I asked for input from all family members, and these are the recipes they've asked for.  This is a classic menu.  It looks just like last year, and the year before.  I think we have a menu that will last for years and years.

Feel free to use the recipes and modify them to make them your own.

Sending the best of holiday wishes to your home from ours.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Thanksgiving 2012

This time of year I always seem to become reflective.  I like to look back on the year and its events and I like to look back at my life in general.

I grew up in a small farm town in the Midwest where everyone knew not only your name, but every single detail of your life.  During my teen years, I couldn't find a way out of that town fast enough.  Now, looking back, small town life had lots to offer.  I chose to raise my family in suburbia.  My husband and I bought a house 30 years ago in a tree-lined neighborhood of Fenton, MO (the city of trees) and raised our children.  Fenton is about 20 miles west of St. Louis.  It's just far enough out of the city to have quiet neighborhoods with large one-acre lots, but close enough to make use of the amenities the city has to offer -- the Zoo, Science Center, sporting events (who doesn't love the Cardinals?) (does anybody still love the Rams?), shopping, and work opportunities.

Thanks to Facebook, I've reconnected with lots of people from my high school days.  Some of these people I've chosen to stay in touch with, others I almost forgot about, but am happy to visit with again.  All of our lives have taken different paths.  I love to hear about their lives and share details of my own.  It's funny how after years of no communication at all some of our friendships pick up right where they left off while others keep a distance.  I'm thankful this year for my many friends -- Facebook friends and others -- you are a touch stone in my life.  I love sharing pictures and stories with you.

Have a blessed Thanksgiving, my friends!

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Santa Hat Brownies

I've been hard at work looking for unique ideas for Thanksgiving dinner.  In my quest for the perfect dessert, I discovered a great Christmas treat -- Santa Hat Brownies.  I think these will not only be yummy - they will be adorable!  The recipe is from Pampered Chef and I can't wait to make them.

Prepare and bake a brownie mix in the Mini Muffin Pan - prepare according to package directions.
Wash and core 24 medium-sized strawberries
Spread a thin layer of whipped topping (I like Cool Whip) on top of each mini-brownie
Place a strawberry (pointed end up) on top of each brownie
Dot the top of each strawberry with a tiny dollop of whipped topping

These would be a cute idea to send to school with youngsters, take to work, or serve at a holiday party.