Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Thanksgiving Prep and New Recipes

This year, I am tweeking my Thanksgiving menu a bit. Since it's easier to stay at home and cook versus trying to get out somewhere with Dear Son, I'll be cooking at home for four people. While I am still serving the same favorites that I do every year, I have decided to try two new recipes and change up the turkey. Whatttttttttttt???? You heard that right...the theme this year is an easy, breezy, lip smackin' Thanksgiving meal.

Let's revisit my Thanksgiving menu and talk about the normal preparation. My typical menu goes something like this:

  • Whole Turkey cooked in my Showtime Rotisserie

  • Sweet Potatoes

  • Broccoli

  • Grandma's Homemade Stuffing Recipe

  • Rachael Ray's Apple Crisp with Vanilla Ice Cream
This year, I am doing a few enchancements:

  • Switching to all organic food when possible.

  • Changing from cooking a whole turkey to cooking turkey breasts.

  • Making my own cornbread using the Neely's Honey Cornbread Muffin recipe for my homemade stuffing recipe. Update: I made the Neely's Honey Cornbread recipe tonight and added 1 cup of organic sweet corn off the cob that I got from the farm this summer. I chopped it in the food processor and added it to the wet ingredients. I baked the cornbread in a 13 x 9 pan for 25 minutes (you could go a few minutes less). I knew something really special was going on when the smell of the fresh sweet corn permeated my kitchen while it was baking. After it was done, I tried a small piece with some organic butter. It was amazing. Delicious. Will never make any other cornbread recipe again. Thanks Gina and Pat Neely!

  • Trying a new five star Apple Crisp recipe by the Neely's. I've never tried Pat and Gina Neely's recipes before so I am anxious to see how I like them.
Let's see what this looks like.

  • Instead of cooking a whole turkey, I'll be cooking turkey breasts. After all, that is the part that I like best and truth be told, I don't care for dark meat, the legs, the skin or anything else. I know, I know, a freak of nature, but that's just the way it is. I love turkey breast! Anyway, in this month's House Beautiful Magazine, Tyler Florence talked about cooking turkey breasts as opposed to cooking a whole turkey. In it, he says, "Roasting a whole turkey to get a perfectly cooked breast is the equivalent of cooking half a cow for a nice filet mignon." I couldn't have said it better, so out with old and in with the new. We are trying it this way for 2011. In the article, he actually has you take a turkey and cut out the backbone, then cook it flat. Actually, if truth be told, one of the reasons I am trying it this way is because it's just so darn simple. I have a Breville Smart Oven, which is a countertop convection/toaster oven and it cooks turkey, chicken and beef amazingly well. I got this oven as a gift from my sister last year and make everything in it. It turns out fantastic and is easy to clean. Who doesn't want easy on Thanksgiving? Last year, I was reading through the reviews on the oven and people stated that the only thing they didn't make in the oven was a turkey so I decided to make turkey breasts in there and they were amazing. Typically, I cook all organic meat and poultry in there and it turns out great every time. The organic chicken not only cooks fast, but it moist on the inside and yet the outside is moist as well and not dry. Fantastic. So this year, I purchased turkey breast to cook in there. Yes, I could have purchased a whole turkey and removed the backbone but then I'd still have a whole turkey, lol. Instead, I decided just to purchase the turkey breast. One tip is that if you like, you can purchase the turkey breast in a bag; Butterball makes them as do a few others. However, instead of cooking the turkey breast in the plastic bag, just thaw it in the refrigerator two days ahead of time then remove the plastic bag and cook the turkey breasts on a grill pan in the convection oven. Due to concerns over BPA, I would never, ever, cook anything in the oven with a plastic bag. Certainly, an organic free range whole turkey would be a lovely choice however when I priced organic whole turkeys last year from various farms, the price was around $150 or so, so it was cost prohibitive. Unlike organic chicken breasts, which is easier to find, organic turkey or organic turkey breasts are a bit tougher to find at local stores.

  • Broccoli-In the past year, I switched to organic foods so this year, I'll be making organic broccoli.

  • Sweet potatoes-I love sweet potatoes and typically prefer organic sweet potatoes over regular golden potatoes however since Dad is coming for dinner, he prefers golden potatoes so I'll make homemade, organic garlic mashed potatoes (made with organic golden potatoes, organic milk, organic garlic and organic butter).

  • Stuffing-I make my Mom's homemade stuffing and the stuffing calls for breadcrumbs and cornbread crumbs. For many years, I purchased herb seasoned bread crumbs and last year, I used my own bread crumbs made from my own bread that I make in my Zojirushi Mini Breadmaker. I have had a breadmaker since 2008 and bake all of my own bread, rolls, pizza dough, cinnamon rolls, hamburger buns, etc. from scratch. There is NO comparison to using homemade bread crumbs versus store bought. None. The taste difference is spectacular!

Two weeks ago, I tested out a new cornbread recipe from Allrecipes.com In my Mom's recipe, she used the Jiffy Cornbread Muffin Mix. I knew there was a better way but I hadn't tried any cornbread recipes. After selecting the Allrecipes cornbread recipe, I made it and found it to be good but it crumbled easily. More searching led me to the Neely's Cornbread recipe, which received a 5 star rating. It's made with honey which I am guessing acts as a binder to hold the cornbread together better and add moisture. So this year, I'll make the Neely's Cornbread recipe, made with organic corn meal. In addition, I have some organic sweet corn that I purchased this summer and have just enough to crush up and mix with the actual cornbread. Imagine that, cornbread made with real corn! There was one other enhancement that I wanted to do but didn't get a change. The Neely recipe is made with honey. I had hoped to get a jar of honey at the Arboretum, and made from bees at the Arboretum, but I didn't get a chance to get there. Next year, I'll purchase the honey in season and have it for Thanksgiving. That will be a real treat. This year though, store bought honey will suffice.

Next, I'll try the Neely's Apple Crisp. They add maple syrup and pecans to their's versus Rachael Ray's Apple Crisp which is simple but delicious. I purchased organic apples for the apple crisp and have real maple syrup from Vermont so it should be delicious. Topped of course, with real vanilla ice cream. Another tip is to prepare the Apple Crisp and then put it in the oven to bake right before you sit down to dinner. That way, by the time you are done eating, it's ready to take out of the oven and it's nice and hot, perfect for serving. In addition, you have that wonderful smell of the apples and cinnamon while you eat.

I try to keep Thanksgiving fairly simple, I mean how much food can you really eat in one day? I do however enjoy the taste of homemade food and because organic food has better flavor, you really get a nice explosion of taste.

Today, I made homemade bread to use for breadcrumbs. Tomorrow, I'll make the cornbread and crush up the breadcrumbs for the stuffing. Other than that, I should be ready to go.

On Thanksgiving morning, I'll use the same cooking schedule that I use every year. It can be a lot trying to get everything cooked on top of taking care of Dear Son but I find by using a schedule, it's much easier. Basically, it's just a list that I typed up that tells me what I need to do at what time so that everything will be ready on time. I find that it helps a lot since I don't have to recreate the time schedule every year. I keep this schedule in my Home Manual under holidays so I can grab and go every year. That's it for this year. Are you doing anything different for Thanksgiving this year? Are there any recipes that your family really enjoys?

Note: If you want to see more of my kitchen recommendations, click here, then scroll down to the bottom of the page and click on, "Great Kitchen Gifts". You can also find it by clicking on the, "Shop-Toys & Gifts for Special Needs Children" then scrolling to the bottom of the page.

All of the tablescape photos are from my former apartment. You can see the rest of my photos, which I refer to as my, "Sugar Maple Tablescape" in it's entirety by clicking here.


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Mama Pickles said...

Instead of getting our turkey from a butcher, we are getting ours from a wonderful farmer that we found at a farmer's market. It is a pasture raised turkey and we are so excited to try it. We've had chicken, eggs, and beef from them and it has been amazing. I know you said turkeys are expensive and it was a lot more than we usually pay, but it ended up being $67 for a 17 pound turkey. You should check into them. They do a farmer's market in the summer and have a drop off point in the winter that might be close to you. I make the drive from the city. They are very worth it. http://www.natureschoicefarm.com

Dream Mom said...

Mama Pickles-Sounds like a good option. I am quite limited in getting around at all without a wheelchair van. I can only run errands when Dear Son is at school (he only goes a few mornings a week) and none of the farmer's markets out here are on his school days so I am limited to online or the grocey store for now:) I do look forward to the day when I can eat more food from the farmer's market; for now, I just eat as much organic as I can.

Send me an email and let me know how you like your turkey. I think it's great you found some great food from the farmers market. You CAN NOT beat the taste!

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