The Patriot’s had just scored a touchdown. My husband was yelling at the TV in excitement, when I called him for dinner. Already pumped, he stepped into the kitchen when he saw the turkey, the broccoli casserole, the potatoes, stuffing, squash, and cranberry sauce. And although he’ll deny it, I swear he skipped in pure joy. That, my friends, is how you know you just made your husband very, very happy.
Practice Thanksgiving Dinner #1
As this was my first attempt at cooking a turkey, I decided to save the thirty-pounders for the professionals and stuck to a turkey breast. Making it even easier on myself, I placed the six-pounder into my crock-pot, threw in some onions and carrots for flavor, rubbed some spices onto and under the skin of the turkey (a mixture of 1 tablespoon sage, 1 teaspoon salt, 1/2 teaspoon black pepper), added two cups of chicken broth, and then cooked it on low for 8 1/2 hours.
The cons of doing this are pretty obvious. You don’t get that golden brown color and the end result is a bit less pretty. The less pretty I was fine with, however, because the meat really did just fall off the bone. It was SO tender and full of flavor. I’ll definitely be making this recipe again, both for the taste as well as the convenience. Cooking a turkey doesn’t get any easier than this!
But have I mentioned yet that it wasn’t pretty? 😉
The Cranberry Sauce
I am in love with home-made cranberry sauce. So much so that I have been stocking my freezer with the plump red berries, because I recently found out that they will keep in the freezer for up to a year! To make the sauce, pour a bag of cranberries (fresh or frozen) into a pot and add one cup of water and one cup sugar. (Although you can add less sugar if you’re trying to lower your sugar intake… or if you like your cranberry sauce extra tart). Bring to a boil. Continue to boil for 4-5 minutes, stirring constantly. Cool and then store in the fridge for at least two hours to chill and thicken. (Oh, and this tastes SO good on vanilla icecream if you have left-overs!).
The Butternut Squash
Butternut squash is so amazingly easy that I eat it at least once a week in the fall. 🙂 Peel it, scoop out the seeds, slice it into chunks, boil it, simmer it for 20 minutes, and then mash it up. Honestly, the hardest thing is deciding whether to season it with salt and pepper or to flavor it with brown sugar, cinnamon, and nutmeg.
The Mashed Potatoes
My husband likes his mashed potatoes full of flavor… and with lots of butter. I, on the other hand, have a love-hate relationship with this side dish, because I hate how it refuses to taste right if made ahead. I can make all the other veggies ahead of the meal, and they taste perfectly fine. Potatoes, on the other hand, scream, “I’ve been reheated!”
To solve this issue, I came up with a top secret potato recipe. Well, it’s not top secret anymore… But it totally was. 🙂 I boil potatoes ahead of time and mash them up as I normally would. I add lots of garlic powder, some pepper, a drop of milk, and a dash of salt. Then, instead of adding butter, I add some Sargento reduced-fat shredded cheese. The cheese gives the potatoes a rich flavor, while adding nutritional benefits — such as calcium — that butter obviously wouldn’t. I place this in a baking dish and stick it in the fridge. Then, just before dinner, I place the dish into the oven for 20 minutes at 350 degrees F. It’s super easy, full of flavor, and it’s a side dish that both Nate and I can appreciate. The top also browns nicely, making it quite pretty. So what’s not to love?
The Broccoli Casserole
It’s a secret recipe from Nate’s family, so I can’t post it here online for all to see. But email me if you really, really want the recipe, and I’ll put a good word in for you. 😉
The Sweet Ending
I know that a large meal doesn’t require a sweet ending, but somehow I wouldn’t have been satisfied with my pre-Thanksgiving dinner had I not indulged in something… well… sweet. And a berry cobbler was the perfect way to end my first attempt at putting together a Thanksgiving dinner.
Was the meal perfect? No, there are things that I’ll need to practice over the upcoming years. I mean, the stuffing I served wasn’t even homemade. (Martha Stewart is cringing right now). But I had fun. And it was delicious (according to my husband who went for seconds), hearty, and most definitely made with love. And that’s even more than I could have hoped for.
Old-Fashioned Berry Cobbler — Adapted from the Pillsbury Complete Cookbook
4 cups fresh or frozen blueberries
1/2 cup strawberry jam
2 tablespoons cornstarch
1/3 cup sugar
1 tablespoon margarine, cut into small pieces
1 cup all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup margarine or butter
2 – 4 tablespoons milk
1 teaspoon sugar
1. Heat oven to 425 degrees F. Spray 8-inch square (2-quart) baking dish with nonstick cooking spray.
2. In large bowl, combine berries, jam, cornstarch, and 1/3 cup sugar. Mix gently. Spread in sprayed baking dish. Top with 1 tablespoon margarine.
3. Bake at 425 degrees F for 30 minutes or until berry mixture begins to bubble and is thickened, stirring every 10 minutes.
4. Meanwhile, in large bowl, combine flour, 2 tablespoons sugar, baking powder, and salt. Mix well. With fork, cut in 1/4 cup margarine until crumbly. In small bowl, combine egg and 2 tablespoons milk; beat well. Stir into flour mixture until a stiff dough forms, adding additional milk if necessary.
5. On lightly floured surface, roll out dough to 1/2-inch thickness. With 2-inch cookie cutter, cut out shapes. Stir hot fruit mixture, top with dough cutouts. Sprinkle cutouts with 1 teaspoon sugar.
6. Bake at 425 degrees F for 10-20 minutes or until fruit bubbles around edges and biscuits are golden brown. Cool at least 15 minutes.