Nov 19, 2012

Thanksgiving 2012 - Part VI (Turkey)

This would be a very difficult topic to address because so many people use so many different ways of preparing a Thanksgiving turkey. Examples of the differences that people do for Thanksgiving are:
  • Some stuff the turkey cavity and neck
  • Some don't stuff the turkey at all
  • Some use wire brackets to close the legs
  • Some (like me) actually hand sew the cavity & neck area close
  • Some don't close anything
  • Some use plastic steaming bags
  • Some openly roast the turkey and tent it with foil at the end
  • Some baste during roasting
  • Some never baste at all
  • Some thaw it on the counter in a water bath overnight
  • Some thaw it in the microwave
My only point to all of this is that regardless (not "irregardless") of what process you use to prepare a Thanksgiving turkey, there are some things we ALL have in common to insure a delicious holiday dinner and avoid getting people sick.

  1. Use a meat thermometer to make sure that it reaches at least 165 F in the deepest part of the thighs, breast and stuffing
  2. Let it sit for at least 20 minutes after you take it out of the oven before carving
  3. Get all of the leftovers back in the refrigerator within 2 hours of taking it out of the oven
  4. Eat or use the leftovers within 3 days of cooking it all
  5. Don't feed the dogs from the table (yeah, that isn't recommended EVER)
  6. Always rinse the bird before stuffing or cooking
  7. Remove the bag of giblets if it has one!!!!
  8. Have some dishes available for a vegetarian family member
But my most important point is that you need to remember that holidays are not necessarily about "tradition," but more about spending time with those around you. Sometimes you need to compromise. See my original blog entry about Thanksgiving Compromise to better understand. You want to spend time with friends and family, but it has to be enjoyable to all to make it gel. Remember, it IS a holiday and we all want to be happy. Make it happen... and


Thanksgiving 2012 - Part V (Pumpkin Pie)

I'm jumping ahead a little here about Thanksgiving and addressing a pumpkin custard pie. I'll make another entry to discuss the turkey. The following is another family recipe that I got from Aunt Phyllis, who got it from my Great Grandma Eunice. I'll only pre-warn you that it is DELICIOUS and makes two 9" shallow pies or one heck of a deep dish one.

  • 1 large can Libby's Pumpkin (29 oz)
  • 1 can evaporated Carnation milk (12 oz)
  • 1 can of water (12 oz, use milk can)
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 7 eggs slightly beaten
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp allspice
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp pumpkin pie spice
  • 2 nine inch pie shells, unbaked
  1. Mix all ingredients thoroughly 
  2. Pour into pie shells
  3. Bake at 425 F for 15 minutes
  4. Set oven to 350 F and bake 45 - 55 minutes until toothpick is clean from center

Nov 12, 2012

Thanksgiving 2012 - Part IV (Green Bean Casserole)

It was never really a common dish at my family Thanksgiving dinners, but I know a LOT of people make green bean casserole only on that day. We did have it once in a while, but most often we substituted candied yams or home made mashed potatoes instead. But, those are other entries. This one is to share the simple recipe and my family recipe for green bean casserole. Simple one first.

  • 1 - 10 3/4 oz can cream of mushroom soup
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • Dash ground black pepper
  • 3 - 14.5 oz cans French style green beans, drained
  • 1 1/4 cup shredded cheese 
  • 1 1/3 cups French fried onions
  1. Mix soup, milk, pepper, beans, cheese and half of the onions in a 2 qt casserole dish.
  2. Bake at 350 F for 20-25 minutes (when it is bubbling slightly). 
  3. Stir and cover with the remaining fried onions.
  4. Bake for 5 minutes.
Okay, that is an easy recipe to make that tastes pretty good. But my grandmother made this casserole too, and made me learn it.

  • 2 TBSP butter
  • 2 TBSP flour
  • 1 small onion (diced)
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 4 cups cooked green beans
  • 2 cups shredded cheese
  • 1/2 cup smashed Ritz crackers
  • 1 TBSP melted butter
  1. Preheat oven to 350 F (175 C).
  2. Melt 2 tablespoons butter in a large skillet over medium, stir in flour, and heat for 1 minute.
  3. Mix in the onion, sour cream, green beans, and shredded cheese. Stir to evenly coat.
  4. Pour that into a 2 1/2 quart casserole dish. 
  5. In another small bowl, mix cracker crumbs and remaining butter.
  6. Drizzle over the beans.
  7. Bake for about 30 minutes, or until the top is golden.
As you can see, both recipes take about the same amount of time, the first is very simple, but the second adds some additional taste and texture. The green beans in the second one can be the canned and drained ones from the first recipe, but steaming fresh and raw green beans makes them memorable. Either way, enjoy...

Thanksgiving 2012 - Part III (Grandma's Stuffing)

In Thanksgiving 2012 - Part II, a simple, tasty recipe for making stuffing in a crock pot appeared. Now I'm going to share my Grandma's stuffing. I warn you up front that this recipe makes a LOT of stuffing and takes some time. But then again, there is no such thing as having "too much stuffing," especially when it is this good.

  • 2 loaves of bread
  • 1 lbs ground sweet Italian sausage
  • 1 lbs ground beef, pork, or even turkey
  • 2 medium onions (chopped)
  • 8 stalks celery (chopped)
  • 3-4 cups vegetable broth
  • 2 sticks margarine or butter
  • Dash of thyme
  • Dash of sage
  • Dash of celery salt
  • Dash of black pepper
  • Dash of marjoram
  • Dash of oregano
  • Dash of rosemary
  • Dash of basil
  1. On Tuesday evening, lay out all of the slices of bread on the counter to dry overnight.
  2. On Wednesday, cut the bread slices into cubes, and continue with the next steps.
  3. Brown the ground meat and onions in a large skillet.
  4. In a medium stock pot, bring vegetable broth to a slight boil and melt the butter in it.
  5. Turn the broth to low, add the celery, and simmer for about 5-8 minutes.
  6. Drain the celery but retain the broth (scoop out celery with a slotted spoon).
  7. In an extremely large bowl or stock pot, put in all of the meat, celery, and bread.
  8. Mix well, and occasionally add a dash of each of the herbs.
  9. Add a little of the broth to make it moist but not wet. Refrigerate.
  10. Thursday morning, mix stuffing again and add any more herbs/spices you want.
  11. Stuff the bird and place extra stuffing in a casserole dish.
  12. Put casserole dish of stuffing in the oven during the last hour of roasting the bird.
Because the stuffing is done Wednesday, don't eat all of it before you need it for the bird.
The above recipe makes enough for a 20 pound turkey and some on the side.
Keep in mind that stuffing should be moist, but not wet.
Make sure that the stuffing reaches 165 F when the stuffed bird is roasted.

A key thing I would be remiss to not share, remember what Grandma always said, "recipes are a guideline, change them as you see fit... you are the one eating it..."

Nov 11, 2012

Thanksgiving 2012 - Part II (Stuffing)

As mentioned in Thanksgiving Sometimes IS about Compromise and Thanksgiving 2012 - Part I, it was mentioned that I'd discuss the most often MOST important part of Thanksgiving dinner, the STUFFING.

This is a modern recipe for making stuffing but compromising how it is done for amazing taste and economy of scale. A lot of people do not stuff their turkeys anymore with home made stuffing but still require a lot of work and space in the oven for the casserole dishes used for stuffing, the green bean casserole, and even candied yams. How about we compromise what it takes to prepare stuffing AND save you some room in the oven? Use a crock pot...

  • 1 14oz bag of Pepperidge  Farm herb stuffing mix
  • 1 stick of margarine or butter
  • 2 cups water
  • 3 celery stalks, chopped
  • Spices/herbs that you like
  1. Melt butter in the water in a large stock pot and bring to a boil.
  2. Add celery and cook on low for 5 mins.
  3. Pour stuffing mix, celery, and broth into the crock pot.
  4. Mix well.
  5. Cook on low for 6-8 hours, adding some liquid, herbs, and stir as needed until the turkey is done.
Easy peasy, tasty, saves room in the oven, and most importantly is filling and moist. Add a bouillon cube to the water to add a little flavor. I recommend a vegetable bouillon cube. Using the crock pot also enables you to offer to make the stuffing when you are having dinner at another house (just be sure to cook it mostly before you get there so it is done when the turkey is). Enjoy

Nov 10, 2012

Thanksgiving 2012 - Part I

As discussed in Thanksgiving Sometimes IS About Compromise, I said that I'd share some family recipes handed down to me from my grandparents. Here goes with Part I, about the turkey baste and "tenting" the turkey with foil. This one is fairly simple, but other Thanksgiving entries will be made about the 2nd most important part of that meal, stuffing! Now, back to the baste.

  • 1/4 cup butter or margarine softened/melted
  • 1/2 cup dry sherry or apple juice (apple cider works well too)
  • 1/2 tsp rosemary
  • 1/2 tsp oregano
  • 1/2 tsp basil
  • 1/2 tsp marjoram
  • 1/2 tsp savory
  • 1/2 tsp thyme
  • 1/2 tsp sage
  • 1/2 tsp paprika
  • 1/2 tsp rubbed sage
  • 1/4 tsp ground black pepper
  1. Combine all ingredients
  2. Brush/rub liberally on the turkey in the last 2 hours of roasting
  • Use a basting brush instead of your bare hands
  • Use whatever you want (whiskey, vodka, gin, etc) as the liquid for the baste. Most of it will all be cooked off in the last 2 hours.
  • Use Old Bay seasoning instead of the long list above, especially if from New England
  • Use a large sheet of aluminum foil, folded in half, to provide a "pup tent" over the turkey as it is baked and basted in the last 2 hours. This prevents the baste from burning before it invades the flavor of the meat

Nov 9, 2012

Thanksgiving Sometimes IS About Compromise

Over the years, we learn that life requires some compromise, especially on the holidays, and specifically about the meals we eat for them. One of the biggest, Thanksgiving Day. I grew up going to my grandparent's and learning the family recipes to make the meat stuffing, stuff the bird, sew it closed, make Italian salad dressing, and the desserts; all of which made from scratch. We had to start the stuffing on Monday, the salad dressing and pies on Tuesday, and then get up before dawn to get it all pulled together and put the bird in the oven on Thursday. We spent a LOT of time in the kitchen. When we started hosting Thanksgiving at our house, I actually shooed my parents and sisters out of the kitchen so I could get it done myself. It was just easier that way.

I continued my family traditions of cooking when the in-laws came for Thanksgiving. Bear in mind that I grew up cooking with Italians, Greeks, and Germans but my in-laws were predominately English. They were very surprised at what they tasted in my cooking. The largest bird I ever prepared was a 29 pound bird, and we had NO leftovers by the end of the meal. My nephews were astonished to watch me get the stuffing OUT of the bird (they had never seen that, both the body cavity AND the neck).

We now get to the point of this entry, compromise. They compromised their experience for mine, and I tamed down the recipe used for them. A few years later, my ex-wife decided a vegetarian menu suited her, I stopped making full turkeys, and compromised by cooking a small turkey breast (just for me), and took meat out of my stuffing recipe so we could both enjoy it. I still got my turkey, discovered a few new veg recipes that I still make, and it was all good. Compromise with everyone involved, makes the holidays smoother and more memorable.

Thanksgiving Dinner
Can I extend it a little MORE? Hell yes. Family OFTEN requires you to compromise and keep the bigger picture of the holiday in mind. Eventually my son admitted that he hated the taste of turkey, but liked cheeseburgers. I compromised with him about "turkey for Thanksgiving" by using Grandma's Burger Recipe and make turkey burgers for the holiday. I still make the mashed potatoes from scratch, and everyone agrees that they are the best. Maybe I'll break down and share that family recipes for the mashed potatoes and crock pot stuffing with all y'all in the coming weeks since the holidays are coming up.

Bottom line, life is all about compromise. Don't give up everything you desire in life, but take into account those around you for theirs. Life is about sharing it, not making it complicated. Along the way, you'll start some new traditions that nobody has ever mentioned before... like turkey cheeseburgers for Thanksgiving...