Saturday, November 26, 2011

Full on Thanksgiving Spectacular

So I'm still recovering from a very full weekend of cooking, baking, cooking, eating, cooking, a little more baking, some light puppy wrangling, and entertaining.  As I said, yesterday, after work, I fixed our very own little Thanksgiving feast.

I mentioned pumpkin pie yesterday.  Besides that, we had the turkey of course, mashed potatoes, stuffing, cranberry sauce, green beans, sweet potatoes, and rolls.  It was crazy, crazy good.  I was working pretty much nonstop from the time I got off work (ironically) to about 6pm when we sat down to dinner.

Cricket also got a little plate of turkey, mashed potatoes, and stuffing.  She loved it, but we may have created a monster.  Now she just sits next to us while we eat, looking cute.  She knows that sitting is one of the tricks for which she gets a treat, so she tries to sit for us whenever she wants something.  It's funny because we have hardwood floors, so her fuzzy little butt slips back little by little and she keeps having to back the sit up.  It's super cute, but maybe one of those things you just have to see for yourself.

So let's start with the all-important bird.

We bought a 10.5lb. turkey...there's only two of us after all.  I decided to brine it this year, since apparently brining is The Thing to do this year.  At least according to all the food blogs I read it is.

I whipped up a brine, and this is what I used.

Turkey Brine

1 container vegetable broth (32oz)
1 quart water
1/2 cup sea salt
1 Tbsp sage
1 Tbsp thyme 
1 Tbsp rosemary
1/4 c. brown sugar
1 bulb garlic, chopped
1 granny smith apple, peeled and chopped
2 quart ice water

Place vegetable broth, 1 quart water, salt, spices, garlic, sugar, and apple into a large pot, and bring to a boil, stirring to dissolve salt.  Keep boiling for 2 minutes, then remove from heat, allowing to cool to room temperature.  Once cool, add 2 quarts ice water to brine.

Now comes the turkey part of the equation.  I've heard a lot of good things about brining a turkey, and a lot of them turned out to be true.  Now, in case you thought I was, let me just make it clear that I am not a scientist...but I've read that somehow the saltiness of the brine changes the chemistry of the turkey in such a way that it comes out deliciously moist and tender.  Which is true.  You just need to plan ahead.  Bear in mind, my turkey was only 10.5lb.

Roasted Brined Turkey

turkey brine
10-ish lb. turkey
roasting pan
1/2 stick butter
1 granny smith apple, cut into slices
2 stalks celery

If your turkey is frozen, defrost it on a platter in the fridge for about 2 days before you want to roast it.  The night before you're going to cook the turkey, make the brine.  

Remove turkey from wrapper, remove all the junk inside it and discard.  Rinse the turkey thoroughly.  Place turkey breast-up in brining bag, inside roasting pan.  Pour the brine into the brining bag with the turkey, make sure cavity is filled.  Try not to do what I did and splash about 1/3 of brine onto yourself, your dog, and the floor.  It will not be a fun clean-up session.  And it will make your dog very salty.

Return turkey to fridge, turning once halfway through brining time (allow about 12 hours).  Once you are ready to cook the turkey, remove it from brining bag and discard brine.  Rinse turkey thoroughly, patting dry with paper towels until completely dry.  Place breast-up in roasting pan and allow to come to room temperature, about 1 hour.

After an hour, place 1/2 stick butter, 2 stalks of celery, and one sliced apple into the turkey's cavity.  Place in the center of a preheated oven at 350 degrees.  You want to cook your turkey for 13 minutes for each pound, basting every 45 minutes.  For mine, that came out to just about 2.5 hours.

After cooking, remove turkey from oven and allow to rest about 20 minutes before carving.

Next up, let's talk about cranberry sauce.  Now, I'm not above eating the jellied stuff.  It's delicious.  I'll eat it right out of the can if no one's looking.  Please don't judge me.  Here's how I make the real stuff, which is actually better.

Cranberry Sauce

1/2 cup orange juice
1/2 cup pineapple juice
1 cup sugar
12 oz. cranberries

In a medium sauce pan over medium heat, dissolve sugar in juices.  Once sugar has dissolved, add cranberries, and place lid on saucepan.  Cranberries will pop.  Cook about 15-20 minutes and then remove from heat, allow to thicken as it cools.  

Now for one of my favorite sides, mashed potatoes.  This is the recipe I use when I don't want to overdose on garlic.  Crazy, I know, who doesn't want to overdose on garlic?

Creamy Mashed Potatoes

5 lb. butter gold potatoes, peeled and quartered
1 package cream cheese, softenend (8 oz)
1 stick butter
1/2 cup evaporated milk
1/2 tsp. seasoned salt
1/2 tsp black pepper

Boil potatoes in a pot of salted water 30 minutes.  Drain and return to pot, over low heat.  Mash and blend with an electric mixer until creamy.  Add all other ingredients, blending well.  Add more salt/pepper to taste.

Last but not least, I'll give you a gem of a family recipe.  This is sweet potato casserole from Aunt Jennifer...the only version of sweet potatoes I'll eat, let alone enjoy.  Thoroughly.  A Thanksgiving staple, this was my first time making it myself and it was great.

Sweet Potato Casserole


2 eggs slightly beaten
3 cups sweet mashed potatoes
1/3 cup butter
1 cup sugar
1/3 cup milk
1 tsp vanilla


1 cup brown sugar
1/3 cup flour
1/3 cup butter

Mix all the filling ingredients together until smooth.  Spread into a greased 9x13'' pan.  

Mix topping, stirring sugar and flour together.  Cut butter into mixture, sprinkling on top of the sweet potato mixture.

Bake for 40 minutes at 350.

Now all I could find the night before Thanksgiving was "yams in heavy syrup".  That sounded a little gross and not quite right, so I decided to brave it and go the old fashioned route.  So, meet sweet potatoes:

Wash them, peel them.  This is what they look like after that!:

Chop 'em up...

Boil 30 minutes and blend with an electric mixture and you get this!  Mashed sweet potatoes.

Here's a little Thanksgiving plate action.

Delicious huh?  And how is all of this possible after a long hard day of work?  Boom!  Crazy people list.  Note the color-coordinated dishes.

And after that, I made a wreath!  Because after Thanksgiving, Christmas is fair game!

And then we put the tree up.  Cricket helped.

(sort of)

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