Monday, November 7, 2011

How to make your Thanksgiving Dinner Stress Free

As all of you are aware that Thanksgiving is just right around the corner. How are you managing everything this holiday while working a full-time job or taking care of your children and still trying to please your family with a nice holiday dinner? I know you mom's out there have years of practice and experience, is a pro, but what about the newbie? What about someone who has never ever cook before? Well, my advice is to start planning early.

Make a List:
Plan your thanksgiving dinner in advance. Write down what you want to make for the number of people that are coming. Are you going to make everything from scratch? How much time do you have or think you need? Try to make or prepare everything in advance. If you are making everything from scratch, do you have all the ingredients at home? What are some of the things that you can buy in advance and probably on sale that are not perishables? Are you making a turkey? What kind of turkey?

Old Fashioned Stuffed Turkey Recipe

Herb Roasted Turkey Recipe

Here is what I am planning to make for my thanksgiving dinner. 
Apple Cranberry Sangria

Spinach Artichoke Dip

Rustic Chunky Cranberry Sauce
French Onion Soup
Mixed Green Salad with Cranberries, Nuts and Fruits
Apple Cranberry Stuffing
Roasted Rosemary Garlic Potatoes

Main Course:
Herb Roasted Turkey with either Turkey Gravy

Pumpkin Pie
Apple Cobbler Sundae with Fudge Brownie, Caramel and Ice Cream

Start Early:
Start preparing everything early. You can always make cranberry sauce ahead of time, like a couple of days before to help save time. You can always reheat the sauce if you want the sauce to be hot. Another thing you can do ahead of time is desert, depending on what kind of desert you want to make. You don't have to make desert you can always buy them. If you like homemade desert, you can make something that can last a couple of days in the refrigerator or freezer.

If you want appetizer for your guest who always arrives early or on time, you can make some homemade dips the day before.

Rustic Chunky Cranberry Sauce Recipe

For instance, I can make the following ahead of time, maybe the day or the evening before. If you have a double oven, most likely you can make all these in an evening.
Apple Cranberry Sangria
Spinach Artichoke Dip
Rustic Chunky Cranberry Sauce
French Onion Soup (make it from scratch and freeze it)
Pumpkin Pie
Apple Cobbler Sundae with Fudge Brownie, Caramel and Ice cream

So that means, I really don't have that much to make on Thanksgiving Day. I have the Turkey, Salad, potatoes and stuffing to make on Thanksgiving Day.

Turkey Preparation:
You need to get the turkey a few days in advance, because it needs to defrost in the refrigerator for a couple of days depending on how big your turkey is. In addition, you need to start preparing your turkey a couple of days early, so you won't get all stressed out on Thanksgiving Day.

After turkey is defrost, take out the giblets and neck and rinse it under cold water. It is time to brine the turkey to keep the turkey moist and juicy when it is roasting in the oven. Dissolve 2-3 cups of salts in a large stockpot that fits your turkey with 2 gallons or more water for at least 4-6 hours in the refrigerator (make sure turkey is submerge).

Now rinse the turkey in cold running water. Pat the turkey dry, inside and out and let it rest in the refrigerator to air dry overnight for 8-24 hours before you roast it in the oven. You don't have to let the turkey rest for that long. If you want to save time, prepare the turkey overnight is the best thing to do.

Thanksgiving Day:
A few days ago, you have decided on the kind of turkey you want to make (Herbs or Stuffed Turkey). First things first, start making the stuffing or the herb mixtures, prepare your turkey and make sure you remember to put the turkey in the oven with extra time you need to roast the turkey before your guests arrive. If your turkey only needs 2 1/2 hours to roast, add in an extra 30 minutes. You need to let the turkey rest before you carved the turkey. You can put your prepared turkey back in the refrigerator and start preparing other dishes like the sides, appetizers or bake desert.

If you are planning to make turkey gravy, make sure you save the turkey neck and tail. Depending on what kind of turkey you are making, you can add some carrots, celery, chopped onion or shallot and a couple sprigs of thyme to the bottom of the pan with some water to keep the vegetable from burning, don’t add too much water, just enough to keep the vegetable moist. When the turkey is done, remove turkey; add a cup of vegetable stock, a cup of turkey stock, and a cup of white dry wine to the vegetables. Bring it to a boil and reduce liquid by half, reserved liquid. By adding a few of these items, it will help to enhance the flavor of your gravy in this simple recipe.

I normally, filter out all the the oil from the turkey dripping before using it to make my gravy. You can save half of the fat for the flavors if you like.

Note, make sure you taste your turkey pan dripping first. This is important; you don’t want your gravy to be too salty, especially if you are making some kind of mixture for the turkey. If your turkey dripping is on the saltier side, you can reduce the turkey dripping and add a little more water instead.

3 tablespoons unsalted butter
¼ cup flour
1 cups low sodium turkey stock
1 cups low-sodium chicken stock or broth
1 cup water
Reserved pan dripping liquid
Salt and ground black pepper

In a large sauce pan, melt butter in a medium low heat and whisk in flour, vigorously and constantly until nutty brown. Whisk in all the liquid ingredients, one at a time, continue to whisk vigorously. Bring it to a boil and reduced to about 4 cups and add salt and pepper to taste.

As always, I would reduce the level of salt and oil in my cooking for a healthier diet that is just personal preference. I always skim off all the fat & use at least ¾ less salt in our food.

If you have made some of the dishes a head of time, you really shouldn't have too much to do on Thanksgiving Day. You could chat with your guest and enjoy appetizers with your guest, relax and enjoy your thanksgiving dinner with everyone.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Be thankful for what you have and help those who are less fortunate than you
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