Hopefully Helpful Thanksgiving Advice

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Well here we are…Thanksgiving day is nearly upon us. If you are hosting a holiday meal you should have been planning before now, BUT if you have procrastinated….do not despair my friendly advice will see you through to a perfect holiday meal.

ALL ABOUT THE BIRD:

1. Choosing a bird(s): people have lots of opinions about the perfect turkey. Fresh, frozen, free range, heritage? Blah Blah Blah… I think that if cooked well, fresh or frozen turkeys will taste equally delicious. My advice is this, if you have 5-6 days to defrost your turkey just buy it frozen. It will save you a few dollars at the grocery store and it will taste wonderful. Norbest is my favorite turkey brand. If you go this route allow 1 day per 4 pounds for your happy little bird to defrost. Place it on a towel at the bottom of your refrigerator so it doesn’t leak everywhere.

2. Have enough turkey: Let’s face it…most people want white meat. I’m sorry to all you dark meat lovers, but it’s true. So make sure there is enough. Once you start carving a turkey it can be sad just how little breast meat there is. If you need to do more than one turkey, just do it! If you don’t have time, oven space, or the desire to make an entire 2nd turkey, just make an extra turkey breast in your CrockPot. Click Here to find a delicious recipe for a slow-cooker turkey breast from Taste of Home. 

3. If you have ANY turkey questions, there are experts to answer them: The lovely people at Butterball, even if you don’t buy their turkey, are happy to answer all your questions via the Turkey Talk-Line at 1-800-Butterball (1-800-288-8372). They are real live-savers, and they know EVERYTHING about turkey.

4. Choose the right roasting pan: Having the right tools makes cooking easier, but a good cook can make do with even the most primitive tools. Nevertheless a good non-stick roasting pan will make your turkey and your gravy a complete success. Last year my mom bought me an amazing non-stick roasting pan from KitchenAid.  It is a bit of an investment, but it truly changed everything. Instead of trying to scrap up yummy bits for my gravy, I just used a nice silicone spatula to painlessly gather yummy drippings from the pan for my gravy.

5. Don’t stuff the bird: I know many of you are ready to stop reading my blog forever now, and a year ago I would have agreed with you. BUT, last year I tried an “unstuffed bird” and it was so much more moist. And it cooked in much less time.

6. Plan Plan Plan the cooking time: Your bird will need time to roast, so plan oven space accordingly. However, make sure to plan enough time. I roast my turkey at 325° in a conventional oven for about 15 minutes per pound. 

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Side Dishes:

Turkey is great…but there are so many other wonderful things to be eaten as well.

Obviously, the most important side dish is Stuffing or Dressing. This is important, and it is one of my biggest pet peeves. If it is cooked INSIDE THE BIRD it is called stuffing. If you cook it OUTSIDE THE BIRD it is called dressing…capish?

Here is the recipe AND cooking method for my favorite stuffing. Stuffing should be simple and delicious. Many people add weird things like cranberries, chestnuts, or sausage. Please don’t..it’s not good and many of your guests may not eat pork sausage (WE DON”T) so just don’t do it. For goodness sake, one year MARTHA added oysters…and that’s enough to make me leave the table.

If you aren’t stuffing the bird, for heaven’s sake don’t bake the dressing in the oven. It will dry out and be gross. Just cook it in your Crock Pot. This method saves time, space, and requires no thought at all. The first year I made stuffing in my slow cooker it changed my life!

Ian’s Traditional No-Fuss Slow-Cooker Stuffing/Dressing:

1 stalk celery (not rib, the whole stock cut into ribs): washed, dried, chopped

2 medium yellow onions, chopped

4 tablespoons butter or margarine

2 large bags bread crumbs: These are everywhere this time of year I buy Franz. Save the seasoning packet that it comes with. 

5-6 slices stale white bread cubed (just set some out a on the counter a few days before you make your stuffing. Adding this bread will make your stuffing even more moist and delicious.

4-5 cans Swanson’s chicken Broth (don’t buy fat free, it has not flavor)

Sage

Thyme

Salt and Pepper

DIRECTIONS: 

  1. In a large skillet, saute celery and onion in butter/margarine until tender. Set aside.
  2. In very large bowl combine breadcrumbs, stale bread, and sauted veggies.
  3. Add at least 3 tablespoons of sage to mixture, 1-2 teaspoons of Thyme, and seasoning packets from breadcrumbs. Make sure there is enough flavor.
  4. Slowly begin to mix in the chicken broth, one can at a time. Only do this until the mixture is moist. STOP when it is moist.
  5. Add salt and pepper to taste.
  6. Put mixture in greased large slow-cooker. Cook on low setting for at least 4 hours.
  7. Or, stuff into your turkey and allow extra cooking time.
  8. Or, (BUT PLEASE DON”T) bake in a greased casserole dish in your oven at 325° for 1.5 hours.

 

Vegetable Sides: 

1. Veggies are always a conundrum to me because no one seems to like the same thing. I usually stick to several standbys. Homeade Creamed Corn…honestly for this search Pinterest for a recipe that sounds appealing to you, I’m still looking for the perfect one. Roasted Acorn Squash. Again find a recipe that you like. And Brussels Sprouts. Sadly in our family I have to eat them alone. I like to steam them and then drizzle a sauce mixture of lemon juice and mayonnaise.

2. Fresh Green Salad: This is always nice to help you feel better after eating so many “cooked” dishes.

3. Mashed Potatoes: Really just an excuse for gravy, but they can be tasty. I do believe that instant mashed potatoes have their time and place, but it is not on Thanksgiving Day. Make your own, mash them with your hand mixer. The best part about these is that they can be made ahead and put in a greased slow-cooker for several hours too. There’s no reason to be slaving over a hot stove for the final hours leading up to your meal. Get some of these things done ahead of time.

 

GRAVY: 

I am always guilty of smothering my Thanksgiving meal in gravy. It’s just so tasty. I love a simply gravy recipe. This recipe from What’s Gaby Cooking is perfect!

 

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We’ll talk about dessert another time. Enjoy! And keep planning!

 

 

 

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