Monday, November 25, 2013

Our Thanksgiving Menu

Sometimes it's really fun to try new things, experiment with a challenging cooking technique, or create a modern twist on an old favorite.  There are all sorts of books, magazines, websites and TV shows to spark creativity and encourage a little experimentation.  Sometimes, it even starts to feel like pressure - we have a lot of information coming from all directions telling us to make this, try that, buy this serving piece, decorate like that.

This year, I'm keeping it simple.

I like to cook, and I like things to be pretty, so this is not about missing out on those aspects - it's just about having a cook-friendly, tasty meal of favorites that we already know we love.  I want my family to enjoy a good meal, and I want to enjoy my family. 

Here is our Thanksgiving menu:

Torn Greens with Glazed Pecans, Pear and Craisins
Creamy Orange Vinaigrette
Herb-Seasoned Roast Turkey Breast
Pan Gravy
Mashed Potatoes
Green Bean Casserole
Ginger-Orange Glazed Carrots
Pumpkin Pie
Gingerbread Cats
Coffee/Tea/Cocoa with dessert, if desired.

Here's the Breakdown:

Salad:  This is just torn leaf lettuces - usually a couple of varieties combined.  Nothing fancy, but it looks pretty and tastes good.  I'll glaze some pecans with a little butter, sugar and pumpkin pie spices.  This can be done in advance, and I'll make extras we can eat before or after the meal.  I pile the lettuce on the plate, sprinkle with a bit of shredded carrot, freshly thin-sliced pear, angle-sliced celery, glazed pecans and craisins.  It's very pretty.

Dressing:  I make this ahead, and it's really simple.  I mix a little sugar, orange juice and apple cider vinegar together.  Add a low-flavor oil and a dollop of mayo, then combine.  Mix in some orange zest, taste and adjust.  It's better if it's made a few days ahead. so the zest can better infuse the rest of the dressing.

Turkey:  "Herb-Seasoned" sounds fancy, doesn't it?  I lightly coat the turkey breast with a spice blend, rubbing it up under the skin, and then sprinkling it over the top of the skin too (not too much, though).  I like to put it on the meat the day before so the flavors can marry.  This year, I think I'm going to use some steak seasoning we got when we went to Aldi.  It's a very good spice blend, and I think it will look pretty and taste great.  I'll roast it in a dutch oven, covered, and then remove the cover so the skin can brown.  I brush the skin with a little butter toward the end to make it shiny and pretty.

Stuffing:  You read about Grandma, right?  I'm not sure my family would like the oysters, but Husband likes Stove Top, and so do I.  (Daughter thinks that the very concept of stuffing is absolutely disgusting.  More for us!).  That was easy.

Pan Gravy:  When I pull the turkey breast from the dutch oven, I'll make gravy from the drippings, thickened with flour and then strained.  After straining, stirring in a bit of parsley makes it really pretty.

Mashed Potatoes:  Skins on, with butter.  Mashed potatoes freeze well, but look awful when you thaw them out.  Upon re-heating, they turn back into nice mashed potatoes.  Mine are already made and waiting in the freezer.  When I put them in the bowl, I'll sprinkle a bit of paprika, in honor of Grandma.

Green Bean Casserole:  This is another of Husband's favorites, so we stick with the recipe he grew up eating.  I only make a small amount, since we think it's best when it's first made.

Ginger-Orange Glazed Carrots:  This is Daughter's favorite.  All I do is steam carrots, then transfer them to a shallow pan.  Add a little butter, salt and pepper, freshly grated ginger and a bit of orange marmalade.  Very easy, and they taste great.

Pumpkin Pie:  Handmade crust, home grown pumpkin, but it's still not that difficult.  The pumpkin is already cooked and pureed, so from there I just follow the pumpkin pie recipe in my cookbook.  I always spill in a little extra pumpkin pie spice, because we like it that way.  I'll make the pie the night before, so the oven isn't over crowded on Thanksgiving day.

Gingerbread Cats:  Daughter doesn't like pumpkin pie, so we're going to bake a batch of gingerbread men the week of Thanksgiving.  We'll make a few kitties with our cat cookie cutter, and those can be her Thanksgiving treat.  I'll freeze the gingerbread men for now, and we'll get them out when we're ready to decorate some for Christmas. 

We eat Thanksgiving dinner as a late lunch, so I'm not really concerned with having appetizers or anything like that.  Supper is generally just us re-heating whatever we liked best from the main meal, and I'll likely put together a raw vegetable tray.

Happy Thanksgiving!  Remember to count your blessings and enjoy the day!  If you like, post a link to  your plan, or leave a comment and let us know what you're doing for Thanksgiving.


Jennifer said...

A couple years ago I took over holiday meal planning from my mom because it seemed to unnecessarily stress her out. Since all of our older relatives live near my parents, we have holidays at their house so that traveling isn’t an issue for them. I planned the menu back in late October of the standard fare and assigned dishes for relatives to bring based on what they’ve traditionally brought in the past. I’ve been sale shopping from my ingredient list since early November and I’ve conceded to buying name brands at the best price I can get since I know that my extended family are biased towards name brands. I still think my mother is wound a little tight, but hopefully she’ll relax a bit as time goes on. (She called me Sunday to tell me what she’s done and to say that it feels like there’s something more that she should be doing. I had to tell her, “Woman! Just do what I’ve assigned you on the list and clean the house. That’s it!” Old habits die hard, apparently. :))

Green and black olives; pimento cheese stuffed celery-me
Homemade whole cranberry sauce-mom
Canned jellied cranberry sauce-me
Waldorf salad-prepared day of
Sweet potato casserole-me, prepared day before
Mashed Yukon Gold potatoes w/skins-mom, prepared day of
Turkey-me, prepared day of w/salt pork cooked on the breast
Stuffing-me, homemade, partially prepared day before
Giblet gravy-mom, partially prepared beforehand
Veggies-me & mom; I prefer frozen peas but mom wants to try a brussel sprout recipe
Rolls-grandma and her niece
Fudge nut pie-sister
Pumpkin pies-me, prepared day before
Hot berry cider-me, thrown together in slow cooker day of
Whipped cream, butter, milk, drinks, etc.

I think dividing dishes up between different people to bring to the meal, pre-preparing some dishes and limiting the amount of work the hostess does should help make the holiday more enjoyable for everyone involved. Happy holidays everyone! May the seams of your pants remain intact! :)

momma-lana said...

We will start by offering little wine glasses of sparkling Knudsen juices when our guests arrive. Grandson will have a sippy cup and probably hand it back to me since he thinks anything but water is disgusting in his cup.

We will roast a whole turkey with stuffing inside the bird. I have been saving bread ends and stale partial loaves for about 3 weeks. It is all cubed and in the freezer.

Pan gravy, my uncle taught me a trick. I add water to the pan and then whisk in my flour before beginning to heat it. It makes velvety smooth gravy.

Mashed potatoes-I am going to cook them in the crock pot this year-I will peel the day before

Green beans-our DIL's mother is making these because I just cannot make them as good as hers.

Paula Deen's Sweet Potato casserole with the yummy brown sugar and pecans on top-I have this in the freezer-thaw and bake

Green Giant corn in butter sauce-a tradition

Broccoli Casserole

homemade rolls

pineapple salad

cranberry orange relish and the jellied stuff out of the can

Apple pie
Chocolate pie
Pumpkin pie
Whipped cream

Sweet tea and lemonade which some mix half and half
Dr Pepper, cause we live in SC and it is a must have for some


YUM! Looking forward to it!

I had hoped to put a second small turkey in the smoker but it is just TOO cold for the smoker this week.

Ruth Dixon said...

My extended family is super traditional (meaning they fight change tooth and nail) and unfortunately my daughters (26, 24 and 17) feel the same way. So it'll be Turkey, mashed potatoes and gravy, sweet potatoes, stuffing, some sort of fruit-ish type salad, bread, cranberry sauce, olives, pickles, followed by pumpkin pie and my mom will make another type of pie, I'm sure. We'll split up the cooking so that will make it easier. I'll have to make another turkey and batch of stuffing and potatoes for the required leftovers. We will eat too late and too much. One year we had an earlier dinner, which I thought was great, finishing at 2 pm or so. My mom didn't like it so much, and at 75, she doesn't argue, she just does it her way. Oh well! Such are the stories of holidays.


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