Sunday, November 27, 2011

Weekend Cooking - The Annual Thanksgiving Feast

I'm a pretty traditional person when it comes to Thanksgiving.  When I was first married, my mom would travel to our home in Tennessee and help me prepare the meal.  Then, one year she couldn't make it at the last minute, and I was on my own.  We had many phone conversations that year and the next, but after that, I was A-ok.  I absolutely LOVE preparing this meal.

To stay organized and to make sure I enjoy the process rather than getting overwhelmed, I started taking notes on my recipe cards and kept one card just with the menu and important reminders for the dishes that I only make once a year.  I enjoy looking back over my cards each year and seeing the little notes I make to myself.  So far this process has worked for me because I still enjoy Thanksgiving just as much as everyone else.

For this week's Weekend Cooking installment it only seems natural to include my Thanksgiving menu here with the comments I would add as reminders for next year.  

Turkey - Turkey freaks me out.  Yes, I know; I'm silly.  But, it really does.  I save it for last so that it doesn't touch anything else.  (I told you it freaks me out).  I've always used my mom's recipe for my turkey, but it's hit and miss...I'm also scared to death that I'm going to undercook the thing, and everybody will leave vomiting, so I usually overcook it.  It's certainly still edible, but it ain't memorable by any stretch of the imagination.  I know, I know, use the dang meat thermometer...I have one...but I always forget until I pull Mr. Gobble out of the oven and slap myself on the head.  I've wanted to try brining for several years, but I live in rural MS...the freshest turkeys I'm going to find around here are the ones running around in the woods behind my house.  And, I'm so not going there...the already dead ones freak me out enough.  So, frozen Butterball is my best bet, which means brining still hasn't happened.  However, this year I found an incredibly simple recipe over at Lisa's Buttery Books called Turkey with Rosemary ...oh. my. gracious. The flavor of this turkey was mouth watering...of course, if you don't like rosemary, you won't like this, but even my brother-in-law who is a discerning eater commented in the middle of the meal..."I can't believe the flavor in this meat!"
You do have to stick your hands all down in the turkey to rub the butter mixture between the skin and the meat...and that was tough for me...but the taste is worth the trouble.

Brown Sugar Spiral Sliced Ham - I let the Honey Baked Ham folks do their magic on this each year...I've tried to make my own exactly's just not even close to the same.  

Cornbread Dressing - this is my mom's's one I just know how to do and really can't give you amounts, etc.  It has cornbread, onion, celery, boiled chicken, chicken broth, eggs, salt and pepper.  I always make too much and freeze a pan for Easter.  I did not add enough salt this year (I'm always scared of putting too much), so I need to be a little more generous next year.  I also was unsure of the number of folks coming, so I cooked the extra pan too...I didn't need it, but that's ok due to the salt issue.

Sweet Potato Casserole - I found this recipe in a Kentucky cookbook many many moons ago...I don't even own the cookbook anymore; I just have my recipe card...I don't do the marshmallow vs. brown sugar pecan topping debate...I use both :)  One of my nephews kept fly by pinching the melted marshmallows before I could get the dang thing on the table this year.  And, several of the kids asked about this casserole as they walked through my front door.  (Can you see my smile from ear to ear?).  Several years ago at my middle daughter's request, we were going around the table taking turns telling something we were thankful for while the marshmallows the middle of the prayer we smelled smoke; sure enough, I had caught the marshmallows on fire.  We scraped them off and ate the casserole anyway :)

Green Peas - from the can...LeSeur baby peas are best...boiled with just a little butter 

Mashed Potatoes - the real kind...boil potatoes, drain, add butter, salt, pepper and milk.  Whip with hand mixer.  The kids like to make a "bird's nest" with their potatoes and put their little green peas on top.

Corn Casserole - this  is my mother-in-law's's the very easy Jiffy recipe, but I cook it to death. We decided a couple of years ago that it was best if this became her Thanksgiving task from now on.

Roasted Asparagus - I love asparagus, and I try to add some veggies to my menu that are not casseroled to death.  My mother-in-law used to make an asparagus casserole because my father-in-law liked it so much.  I kept up the recipe for the first couple of years after we lost him...but nobody else eats it, and it just seemed so much sadder to have to scrape all that down the drain after the meal.  This year I decided to branch out and roast some fresh asparagus.  This is such a simple process, and it only takes about 10 minutes...found this on PW's website.  Roasted asparagus has also earned itself a spot on our traditional Thanksgiving menu.  I think Pops would have approved :)

Green Bean Bundles - Most of our family won't eat the traditional green bean casserole...I tried several different variations and then finally just started heating up green beans from the can.  I'm not sure what my people have against green beans.  The Green Bean Bundle recipe was a new recipe last year, and it was delicious, so it has become a staple.  3-4 green beans wrapped in bacon and cooked with brown sugar, butter, garlic powder and onion salt.  Yum!!!  There are 80,000 versions of this recipe on the Internet...some using fresh beans and very few using canned.  I used canned this year, but fresh would be a good tweak to make although it would add some cooking time.

Yellow Squash Casserole - this was a new recipe as well...also from Lisa @ Buttery Books.  A lot of my family is reluctant to eat squash, but the ones who tried this casserole were blown away by it...the buttery goodness brings out the taste of the squash and doesn't overpower it...This one's a keeper too and will be on the menu next year.  Even better as leftovers :)

Pumpkin Pie - my youngest will eat pumpkin pie with her fingers...I've tried several recipes since she likes it so much, but I never get the filling's edible but not very pretty and tends to be more like pudding than pie towards the middle.  This year on Pinterest (what else?), I found a recipe and video on The Joy of Baking website...I decided to give pumpkin pie one more shot...and it WORKED!! My little one actually cut herself a piece of pie and held it in her hands while she ate it!! SUCCESS!!

Butterfinger Pie - my middle daughter's specialty - Butterfinger bars, cool whip, ice cream and a graham cracker crust.  There's never anything left of this recipe.  The first year she asked to make this I almost didn't let her because I didn't think it really fit the Thanksgiving menu.  I'm so glad now that I did.  It's so special for her to have her own contribution to the that is most welcome!! 

Pumpkin Trifle - this is the only recipe from this year's menu that won't make it to next year.  I make this recipe several times each fall and take it to potlucks at church...always to rave reviews.  Nobody but my mother-in-law touched it at Thanksgiving.  Ain't goin to all that trouble to throw all that stuff away.  I will replace this dessert next year with my old standard Bourbon Bread Pudding.   As we were sitting around eating dessert, my brother-in-law asked my husband, "Did she not make bread pudding?"  Husband said, "Did you not make bread pudding?" Oy.

Yeast Rolls - I use Rhodes frozen bread dough to make these...I spray my muffin pans really well early in the morning of Thanksgiving and fill each space with 2 dough rolls.  By 30 minutes before lunch the dough has thawed and risen to fluffy puffy heights.  10 minutes in the oven and I never have any of these matter how many I make.  Easy Peasy.

Till next year :)

Weekend Cooking is hosted by Candace @ Beth F Reads

**After all the blog controversy this past week I feel compelled to say that none of the companies or name brands mentioned in this post know me, care about me or have compensated me in any way for reviewing their products.


  1. A sweet potato casserole sounds awesome to me!!

    The picture of the whole turkey freaks me out too... but I take a wild guess that is because I don't eat any kind of meat.

  2. Whoa ... that is definitely a Thanksgiving feast! Your recipes sound delicious and that turkey looks picture-perfect. (It would freak me out too ... hence, the Tofurky on our table.)

    And your disclaimer cracked me up. :)

  3. Oh my gosh, it sounds like you had a wonderful Thanksgiving smorgasbord! I love all the variety that you have in your dishes, and would love to be at your house for Thanksgiving some time! I only cooked my own Thanksgiving dinner once, and when I did, I was hot and whiny when I got done. I would love to do it again sometime though, even if it were just for the four of us. Great post today!

  4. I am so excited you tried some of our recipes! That is so funny you don't like to have your turkey touch anything. I mix everything on my plate together so it looks like a big Thanksgiving casserole.

  5. Oh my gosh, I completely understand your turkey aversion. My first several Thanksgivings (I'm on my fifth? this year) I had to have a decent amount of wine before even touching the thing. I have high and optimistic hopes for this year though! Thanks for sharing your impressive menu!

  6. Rosemary Chicken is an old favorite. Wonder why I never thought to use it with turkey. You got a very nice brown on the bird. Looks so mouth-watering. The trifle is an elegant way to serve pumpkin; I had not seen this treatment before.

  7. I was just about to mention all of the yummy vegetables you have on your list and then I saw the BUTTERFINGER Pie. ZOMG does that sound amazing.

    But the rest of your menu does, too. I've never cooked a Thanksgiving meal on my own since I live so close to my parents, but I love the idea of taking notes for the next year! Great idea.

  8. Wow, what a spread! I haven't ever made the full Thanksgiving meal, but I usually make a turkey for just my family on Christmas Eve. I'm the same way about overcooking the bird, but since I like dry turkey better anyway it's all good. I absolutely hate rosemary (the only herb/spice I feel that way about BTW) so I'll be passing on that recipe. :) I love those frozen Rhodes rolls though - so much easier than from scratch! Oh and I think raw poultry is just yucky. My husband gets the job of chopping up raw chicken whenever it's needed.

  9. Oh my GOD, woman, that is a feast!!! Seriously huge and delicious-sounding. The only thing I typically make for Thanksgiving, that I really stake my claim around, is the dressing. We make a corn and white bread dressing with SAUSAGE in it! Tis the best thing ever. :D

    I bet it was a beautiful meal!

  10. Yum! That all sounds so good. My mom makes a corn casserole for brother and I have been known to pout if she doesn't make it.

  11. Wow that is a lot of food hope you were feeding an army. I will try the butterfinger pie! and the roast asparagus!