Monday, November 10, 2008

Thanksgiving Food

It's not Thanksgiving yet, but at the Junk House we have been eating Thanksgiving food for the last few days. I have been practicing my Thanksgiving meal this week because both our parents are coming to our house for Thanksgiving this year, and I haven't made a Thanksgiving meal since 2005. Not only that, but I decided to use a different recipe for everything I made this year. Last time I "cheated" a whole lot, using canned and pre-made ingredients. This year I want to do everything "right" - and I am pleasantly surprised to find out that the real way is hardly more difficult than the easy way.

Crock Pot Turkey
This is so easy, and it turns out great. I highly recommend making your turkey in the slow cooker, provided yours is large enough to hold your bird. I imagine up to an 8-lb breast would fit in most large crock pots. Here are the directions: season your turkey (I used garlic powder, sage, salt, and pepper), turn slow cooker on low, leave for 7 to 8 hours. Enjoy tender, moist turkey that night.

After turkey has finished cooking, strain out the drippings into a saucepan. Bring to a boil and reduce slightly. Add a cup or so of chicken stock, which has been mixed with 2 Tbs of flour or the proper amount of cornstarch. Boil until desired consistency has been reached. Season as desired.

Mashed Potatoes
Boil 1 medium potato per person until fork tender (about 15 minutes). Drain, add butter, milk, salt, and pepper to taste.

Cornbread Dressing
Bake a pan of (unsweetened) cornbread. Let cool, and then crumble. Saute 2 or three stalks celery and 1 small onion until soft. Pour into the cornbread crumble, add chicken stock and/or butter, a bit of salt, pepper, and sage and 1 egg and mix until goopy. Spread into a greased pan and bake 30 minutes or so at about 350 F.

Green Bean Casserole
Trim a pound or so of green beans, and chop a dozen or so mushrooms (this is the most time-consuming part of the whole menu). Saute these in an oven-safe frying pan until the green beans have taken on their brilliant green coloring and the mushrooms have cooked. Add 1 1/2 cups milk and maybe a pat of butter. Add 1/3 cup of Cream of X Soup Substitute Powder (I leave out the bouillon) and cook until thickened. Season to taste, top with cheddar cheese (or parmesan, or fried onions if you must) and pop into a 350 F or so oven for 20 minutes or so.

Cranberry Sauce
Place 4 cups of fresh cranberries in a saucepan with 1 1/2 cups orange juice. Place 5 whole allspice berries, 5 whole cloves, and 2 sticks cinnamon in the pan (or tie up in cheesecloth and then place in pan). Cook over medium heat until cranberries have all burst. Add honey or sugar to taste and cook until sugar is completely dissolved and/or the mixture has thickened slightly. Remove the spices and refrigerate.

Sweet Potato Souffle
Cook 2 sweet potatoes (microwave for 5 to 10 minutes or so) and let cool until you won't burn yourself anymore. Then peel and mash. Add a couple tablespoons of butter and mix until butter is melted. Add 1/2 cup milk, 1/3 cup walnuts or pecans, 1/3 cup honey, maple syrup, or sugar, 1 Tbs vanilla, and 1 egg. Top with nuts and drizzle with honey or maple syrup and bake at 350 for about 30 minutes.

The only recipe I wasn't totally satisfied with was the green bean casserole. It just didn't taste the way the canned beans and canned soup taste. *sigh* But it's a lot healthier, so I'll just have to deal with it. ;-) As you can see, the directions aren't difficult, the recipes don't require much hands-on work, and in general making these recipes the "real" way is just not all that hard. I hope these simple recipes have inspired you to give it a go.

What Thanksgiving foods are essential in your family? What crucial foods did I miss?

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3 have poured out their souls in electronic text:

  • Alan

    "Junk House" ;-)

    We're looking forward to your Thanksgiving culinary delights!

  • Laura

    I meant to ask you about the dressing recipe you used when you mentioned making it recently. I think I'll use that this year!

    Last year, the dressing I made was the biggest disappointment of the meal. The cranberries -- which I see you like, too! -- were the biggest success. If you don't let the cranberries thicken too much, they are delicious over plain yogurt the next morning... or every morning for the duration of cranberry season, for that matter.

    The other success I had last year was my green beans -- well, just the topping. I learned that simple breaded, fried scallions are a million times better topping for green beans than fried onions, whether homemade or storebought. Even my picky DH loved them! Slice thin, coat in salted and peppered flour, then fry in a thin layer of oil till crispy. Add them after baking or towards the end of the baking time. Like you, I tried to make the green bean mixture equivalent to the traditional cream-of-X variety, but mine was also not as good. (Actually, mine was not very good at all.) This year I think I'll just saute green beans and garlic, and top with the fried scallions.

    If I had your homegrown bounty, I'd add some greens to the menu. And I know you two are healthy eaters, but no desserts? ;-)

  • Sherry

    Is that the sweet potato recipe you want me to make this year?

    Laura is right, those cranberries are delicious! Maybe it is because she is so close to where they are grown. That might be one advantage for living "up north"!