Sunday, November 13, 2011

Meal Plan Monday November 14th, 2011: The Thanksgiving Special

Because we have enough leftovers from last week, and plans with family coming to town this week, I decided to take this chance to share how we do Thanksgiving. We have used this plan for almost the entire time my husband and I have lived together, once we realized that dinner hopping, and spending a lot of time stressing about timing is just not fun. So, our baking and cooking starts Monday, and come Thursday all that is left is turkey in the oven while we relax and watch the parade and movies with the family (we are not football people).

Monday: Breads
This will be more important this year, since we need to make some gluten free options. Rolls mostly, as well as the pie crusts to be prepped. Also, preparing stuffing bread.

1 Pie Crust
1 cup (16 Tbs.)  Jules Gluten Free™ All-Purpose Flour 
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 Tbs. shortening, butter or non-dairy alternative
3 Tbs butter or non-dairy alternative
2 – 3 tablespoons cold water
egg wash (1 egg + 1 Tbs. water) OR milk (dairy or non-dairy) for brushing on crust
In a large bowl, whisk together the dry ingredients.  Cut in the shortening and butter using flat paddle attachment on a stand mixer OR a pastry cutter.  Add the water gradually to make the consistency you need to form a ball – err on the side of it being wetter rather than crumbly.  Form a disc with the dough, wrap in plastic* and set aside on the counter for 30 minutes while you make your filling.
After allowing the dough to rest, roll the pastry out onto a surface dusted with flour. Roll to a diameter at least 1 inch larger than your pie pan.  Gently lift an edge of the rolled out crust over your rolling pin and use the pin to lift the crust so that it is supported by the rolling pin as you lift it onto your pie plate.  Pat into shape and fill with your desired filling.
*This is where I would stop on Monday, and put in the refrigerator overnight.

Tuesday: Desserts
You just can't have a Thanksgiving meal end without pie. We typically do Sweet Potato, Pumpkin, and an Apple. The sweet potato pie I make is demanded by those who have had it in the past. I love that this recipe comes from Mike's Grandma Dell's only cook book, that has since been passed to him. It is a 1961 publication of Betty Crocker's New Picture Cook Book. It is such a lovely collection of recipes and interesting quips on proper wifely behavior.

Perfect Sweet Potato Pie
Sweet Potato Pie (9" pie)
1 3/4 cup mashed cooked sweet potatoes
1 tsp salt
1 1/2 cups milk
3 eggs
1 cup sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp ginger
1 tbsp butter, melted
Heat oven to 425. Beat all ingredients, pour into prepared shell and bake 45-55 minutes or until knife inserted 1" from side of filling comes out clean. Center will set later. Serve after set or chilled.

Wednesday: Sides
All these dishes are prepared in oven safe containers so that all they need is to be cooked through before eating. It also allows flavors to combine, especially in the cranberry sauce, which we like to serve chilled.

Green Bean Casserole: Not that mushy fair you might remember.
We blanched and froze green beans from the garden just to have for this dish. Usually we would make our own cream of mushroom soup (it really is pretty easy, and WAY better than the canned stuff) but this year we are using Pacific Foods condensed cream of mushroom. Topped with homemade gluten free french fried onions, and I finally have a green bean casserole I don't have to force feed people.

Sweet Yams
I love the pretty color combination by using both sweet potatoes and yams. Peeled, chopped, tossed in a baking dish. Then I drizzle with some maple syrup, add a little water to the bottom, cover and cook until soft. Then, of course, we top with marshmallow and broil to crispy brown.

Cranberry Sauce
Now, my siblings insist that it isn't cranberry sauce unless it is shaped like a can. I am learning that I like fresh, as long as it has ample time to chill and the flavors to meld.

2 bags (12 oz each, ) Cranberries
1  1/3 cups water or juice (cranberry, pomegranate, and orange are good)
2 cups of Sugar or honey

Combine and cook until berries start to pop. Chill, and serve!

6 cups Gluten Free bread cubes
1 cup carrots, diced
1/2 cup celery, diced
1/2 cup onion, diced
1 apple, diced
1 tsp sage
1 tsp celery seed
1tsp thyme
1 tsp rosemary
1/2 cup water or white wine (more or less depending on how moist or dry you like your dressing)

Saute carrots, celery, onion, and apple until bright colored and slightly softened. Add seasonings. Deglaze pan with water or wine. Quickly toss with bread cubes, cover and bake until heated through.

Thursday: Turkey Day!

And it really IS all about the turkey today. Since we started using organic, free-range birds, Thanksgiving has tasted even better.  I know brining is what all the top notch chefs tell you to do, but we have not seen that the added time and effort makes a big enough difference for the results achieved. Instead we rub the whole thing down with butter, getting some under the skin, and stuffing it with apples and aromatic herbs. (In the pictures above, we also threw some extra carrots, celery, and potato for making gravy from the drippings.) Heat up oven to 500, bake for about 30 minutes, lower heat to 300 and cook until internal temp reaches about 160. IF turkey starts to brown faster than temperature is rising, cover with foil to finish. Remove from oven, cover with foil if you haven't already, and leave to rest for 15-20 minutes.

While the turkey is roasting and resting it is time to heat up the sides made on Wednesday, as well as making the mashed potatoes and gravy (Sorry I can't help you with the gravy, that is Mike's forte). Ends up making for little more than an hour of actual kitchen time on the big day itself! Trust me, it is great.

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