11/20/14

How to Host Thanksgiving Dinner 101 and a giveaway with Mint Arrow for my favorite Thanksgiving cooking tools!





WHAT.
It's your turn to host Thanksgiving dinner?
And you've never cooked Thanksgiving dinner?  Ever? If you're 25 or 55, you've come to the right place. Planning, recipes and step by step timeline to help you get Thanksgiving dinner on the table- without a meltdown! And guess what? I've partnered with my daughter, Corrine at Mint Arrow, to bring you my  favorite tools for Thanksgiving dinner and a chance to win them all!

Thanksgiving 101:

My first piece of advice is stick with traditional. Trust me. Traditional is best for Thanksgiving. That means turkey, mashed potatoes, gravy, stuffing, sweet potatoes, cranberry sauce, rolls, salad and of course, pie. 
A couple of suggestions before we start:

  1. Take a deep breath. This is just a meal. Sure, it's the most anticipated meal of the year, but in the end it's only a meal. Meat, potatoes, gravy. You can do this.
  2. Take any help offered. If you're hosting, and others want to help, LET THEM HELP.  It's okay if you don't have total control. If Aunt Betty's pie is a runny mess, no big deal. Remember, although I'm a bit of a food freak, it's okay if everything doesn't taste exactly as you planned or if every dish doesn't turn out to look like it could be photographed for the next issue of Martha Stewart Living. This holiday is about family and friends and blessings. If a guest offers to help, or if you ask them to help, I've found the best way to end up with the best dishes at your feast is to let guests bring what they love to cook. Every year my sister in law Sheri makes Southern specialties, because her husband is from the South, and she learned how to make broccoli casserole and cornbread dressing and Southern specialty pies while they lived in Alabama for years. Those are always her assignments. She makes them better than anyone else. Period.

Now those two important items are out of the way, I'm going to point you in the direction of recipes on A Bountiful Kitchen I believe are  both delicious and simple for first time cooks or hosts to use on Thanksgiving. After the recipes, Ill break down the timing as far as when to cook what, so it all ends up on the table hot, at the same time.
Here we go.

Typical Thanksgiving eve scene in A Bountiful Kitchen...



Turkey
If you can get a fresh turkey and you like fresh better than frozen, great. Order one. Don't plan on running to the store on Wednesday to pick up a fresh turkey up without ordering in advance!  
If frozen, make sure to start thawing it about three days before cooking. If I purchase a 24 lb turkey, I start thawing it (at least)  Saturday or Sunday before Thanksgiving. Place it in the fridge in a pan. You can leave it in the wrapping.  Don't ever thaw a turkey on the counter. Unless you want to end up in the bathroom or the ER for a very long time after Thanksgiving dinner...
Here's my tried and true most simple way to cook a turkey for Thanksgiving dinner. It involves a roasting bag, a few seasonings, butter and a roasting pan. A few minutes of prep and a few hours in the oven. That's it. No basting, just slide in the oven and bake.  Are we best friends yet?
And yes, it really does brown up nicely inside of a bag. Isn't that a thing of beauty?








Pan Gravy

Using the drippings from the turkey for the best gravy. If you have a roasting pan, you'll be able to roast the turkey in the pan and then make the gravy right in the same pan.

This recipe isn't up yet, but will be on Saturday. You'll need a few cans (2-3) of chicken broth, butter, flour, salt, pepper and chicken flavor booster (I like Swanson brand or Knorr) . Check back for recipe link...






Mashed Potatoes: If turkey is king, mashed potatoes are queen.



After you've made these, you'll never, ever go back to boiling on the stove.
Plug in the slow cooker early in the day, mash up your potatoes right in the slow cooker and keep your prepared dish on the warm setting until showtime!









Cranberry Sauce:


Fresh Cranberry Sauce (basic recipe)
look on ABK's index for a few variations of cranberry sauce

One of those- never, ever, EVER  buy in a can items. This is the most simple recipe of all. The difference in taste? Not even comparable.
You can make this up to a week in advance.
Takes about ten minutes total to make. Let cool, refrigerate and take out a few minutes before serving dinner.








Start drying your bread now.  Here's a few tips on preparing the bread for your stuffing. If you don't have time or just can't face cutting up and drying your own bread, grab a couple of boxes of bread cubes at the grocery.  This is my moms tried and true crowd favorite stuffing. you can make it a few days ahead and refrigerate until ready to heat up. Also, cooking tip- I stopped cooking stuffing in the bird a few years ago. It slowed the cooking time of the turkey considerably and made predicting the cooking time more tricky.  







Sweet Potatoes:
If you're a Southerner, you can't have Thanksgiving without at least one sweet potato dish. This is my sister in laws famous dish. So good, you'll be tempted to fill up on these before you get the rest of the meal on your plate. I like this dish,  again, because it's a total make-ahead dish.
Make it this weekend, and then place it in the fridge and follow the recipe directions for make ahead.







Green Salad:


Every Thanksgiving dinner needs a green salad. I love this one. It's simple and fresh. Cut the fruit the day (or two) before.  Use a Spring Mix or Spinach leaves for the greens. Make the dressing up to a week ahead. All you have to do the day of the meal is place the greens on salad plates on the table, top with fruits and drizzle with dressing. So simple.





Jello or fruit salad



What's Thanksgiving without J-E-L-L-O ?
You'll love this recipe. Make it on Tuesday. Let it sit until the big day. You can make it in a 9x13 or individual custard cups.
So good, it will turn a Jello hater into a fan.





Rolls:


I like this recipe for beginners because there's no rolling out and shaping. Just let rise once, scoop into pan, raise again and bake. You can make these the night before.





And finally, Pie.
Really now. Who can have Thanksgiving without pie? Can you fully trust a person who says they don't like pie? Maybe, but my inner voice tells me they really do like pie, they've just never eaten good pie.
I chose two recipes I think are simple and most people will love.
Pecan pie being the first. Pecan pie is probably the easiest pie to make for beginners.
Make the crust, shape and place in pan. Follow my tutorial on crust making here.
The second recipe is for classic pumpkin pie. My recipe takes the classic Libby's recipe and adjusts the spices and milk so you won't end up with a runny filling. Perfect pumpkin pie. Every time.







Oops, almost forgot. Ice Cream. No, you don't have to make your own. Just don't forget it.
If you DO want to make your own, here's the link to my Dark Cherry Chocolate Ice Cream.






Complete Menu and Links:
Pan Gravy (link coming Saturday)



-TIMELINE-

5-6 days ahead-  
-Thaw the turkey in refrigerator if you are cooking over a 20 lb turkey. Remember, the insides need to be completely thawed before cooking. 
-Print out recipes, gather in one folder or binder and make grocery lists. 
-Buy all non-perishable groceries (and some fresh, depending on how early you are preparing dishes). Don't forget items like spices, jam, drinks, ice.
-Make cranberry sauce.
-Cut up bread, dry in oven. 
-Make dressing for the green salad.

3-4 days ahead-
-Cook the yams or sweet potatoes for the sweet potato casserole dish. Let cool, mash in bowl. Refrigerate until ready to complete recipe. 
-If you are making ice cream, mix it up, follow directions and keep frozen until Thanksgiving. 
-For the stuffing, cook the sausage and all of the veggies. Refrigerate until ready to add to the rest of the stuffing ingredients. 

2 days ahead-
-shop for any remaining perishable items- greens, dairy (don't forget the sour cream and whipping cream), flowers, if you like fresh flowers on your table. 
-Make the jello
-Complete the stuffing, mix together, place in fridge. 
-Cut up fruit for the green salad, place in separate bags. 

1 day ahead-
-Make pies. Set in a cool dry place. If you make pumpkin pie, refrigerate after completely cooled. Pecan pie may be left on the counter. 
-Wash potatoes.
-Make rolls, let cool and place in a plastic bag so they don't dry out after they are completely cooled.
-Gather ingredients for roasting turkey, place in one spot in kitchen. 
-Set out all serving platters, bowls, and utensils. I like to set the serving utensil right in the dish, so I don't have to look for (or direct someone to look for) serving utensils while I'm in the final stages of preparing the meal.  If you can, set the table for dinner. Don't forget the salt and pepper. 


Thanksgiving Day-
-Put on your apron and some comfy shoes. 
-Prepare turkey for cooking. Do this about 4-5 hours before serving dinner. 
-Cut up potatoes and place in slow cooker about 5 hours before dinner is served. 
-Cook Turkey according to chart on recipe notice how many pounds your turkey weighs BEFORE tossing the weight tag on the turkey. 
-About 2 hours before turkey is done, remove the sweet potatoes and stuffing from refrigerator. 
Let sit on counter for one hour. 
If you have a second oven, place these dishes in oven to warm at 325 for about one hour, loosely covered with foil. If the stuffing is too dry, add a few tablespoons of chicken broth and gently fold the stuffing a bit to loosen the bread and allow the broth to moisten the stuffing. 
If you have one oven, Place these dishes on another rack in oven with turkey if possible for about an hour. If you have to wait until the turkey is done, cook both side dishes at 375 for about 30 minutes on middle rack, uncovered. Check to see if they are warmed in the middle of dish before serving. They can go into the oven immediately after the turkey is removed, adjust the heat and start cooking right away. 
-After the mashed potatoes are cooked (about 4 hours), complete recipe and keep slow cooker on warm setting. 
-Place any frozen veggies (corn, green beans, etc) in pans on stove with water and butter in pan. Do not cook yet. 
-Place the rolls on table in basket. 
-Place butter, jam, cranberry sauce etc on table. 
-Plate and dress salad, set on table. 
-Place jello salad on table.
-Remove turkey from oven and let sit for 10-15 minutes. Follow directions for removing bag.
-Transfer turkey to platter to serve. Cover loosely with foil while making gravy. 
-Have someone fill drink glasses. 
-Make gravy according to recipe. While making gravy, cook corn. 
-Transfer turkey to table.
-Remove stuffing and sweet potatoes from oven and corn from stove pour into serving dish, place on table. Place mashed potatoes in serving bowl on table. 
-Place gravy in bowl with ladle and place on table. 
-Take off your apron, gather with your loved ones at the table, and thank the Lord for all you have. 

Happy Thanksgiving! 







11/18/14

How to Roast a Turkey in a Bag




I  think I cooked my first Thanksgiving dinner when I was 19 or 20 years old. It was in a little apartment on 6th avenue in Salt Lake City. The floor of the kitchen was covered in turquoise carpet, with matching turquoise counter tops, stove and fridge. Those were days before Google and Food Network. Days of trial and error. Many, many errors!

After years of cooking turkeys and trying to guess what time the turkey would be done (or if it was done at all) and the debate over should I or should I not baste the turkey, or do I or don't I cover the turkey in foil,  I decided to go the poultry bag route. My mom was a believer for many years before I jumped on board, and Mom's turkeys were always, always  moist and delicious. Guess what? Mom was right. This is hands down, the easiest, most fool proof way of cooking a turkey I have found.

Here's my step by step guide with tips below the recipe.
If this is your first time cooking a bird, or  if you are a seasoned Thanksgiving host, you'll love this method.  In a couple of days, I'll also post my turkey gravy in a pan and a method for producing moist stuffing that's cooked outside of the turkey.
The countdown is on.
10 days till lift off.



Ready? Do yourself a favor. Read this step by step all of the way through right now.
Then once more before starting.
If you're reading this and it's the Sunday before Thanksgiving, and your turkey is still in the freezer. Get it out NOW. Place in the fridge and start thawing.


Gather these items and place on counter.
Didn't use food handlers gloves this time, but if touching raw poultry makes you queasy,
get some.  Not pictured, but important- the bag.
Place one tablespoon of flour inside of the bag and shake
so the flour coats the inside of the bag. Preheat the oven and adjust the rack. 


Warning. The next few photos are of a n aked bird. Not attractive. But necessary in this tutorial. 
My apologies. 


Take the bird out of the packaging. It should be totally thawed.
 I usually set it on a large jelly roll pan, or in a cleaned out sink.
Tip on its side and release any water. Pat dry with paper towels and discard.
Place bird on its tummy and tie with cotton string to keep the legs
and wings from drying out while cooking. 


Observe in this photo how I was a little too aggressive in tying up my bird.
Poor thing. I tied him up so tight, that the strings ended up making an indent
in my beautiful turkey. Be firm, but gentle. 










Here's a better overall shot. Run the string under and on top of the bird, tie. Gently.
Then season with salt, pepper, garlic (or garlic salt) and poultry seasoning.
Place the turkey inside of the bag that has been coated with flour. 

There he goes. Into the bag. 

No action shot, but at this point, I drizzle olive oil and melted butter
 (or sometimes I just dot the butter on top and skip the melting) on top of the turkey. 


Gather the ends of the bag together and tuck under the bird.
Seal the end of the bag with the little twisty tie in the box.
Tuck under the turkey. Cut 5-6 one inch slits in the top of the bag.
Insert a meat thermometer into the bag on the outside of the plastic
so you can read it while it's in the oven.
Or make sure there's a place to insert an instant read thermometer.
Place it in the oven, just below the middle rack, remove any racks above the turkey.
Cook according to the size of turkey. 

The gauge is reading 170 in this photo.
180 is what you're looking for with a whole turkey if you insert the
thermometer in the turkey breast. 



After the turkey has set out for about 10 minutes, gently remove the bag. 

Cut the bag away and gently peel away from turkey. Cut the strings as well.
Use lifters or two big forks and transfer to a serving platter. 

See the little white button? That's the sensor the turkey people insert to tell you if the
turkey s done. Or not. I can't tell you how many times my little sensor has not popped up.
ALWAYS  use a thermometer.
Always.
Always. 

Wow. Did you cook that?
That's what your in laws are going to say.
Well, yes. I did.
Congrats. 






Roast Turkey in a Bag
A Bountiful Kitchen

One turkey 12-24 lbs, fresh or a frozen turkey, completely thawed
One Turkey Oven Bag ( Reynolds)
1/4-1/2  cup butter, melted
garlic salt, about 1 tablespoon
poultry seasoning, about 1-2 tablespoons
salt and pepper
Olive oil, about 2-3 tablespoons
cotton string for tying up turkey
heavy pan for roasting
meat thermometer

Set rack on second to bottom rack in oven. Remove any racks above. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Remove the turkey bag from the box and add 1 tablespoons of flour to the bag. Shake the bag so it is coated lightly with flour and set the bag in the roasting pan.
Set the turkey in a clean sink. Remove the turkey from wrapping.  Reach inside and remove any parts in the cavity. Usually there will be a neck and a bag with other parts (heart, liver, etc) sick, I know. Make sure to remove these from the inside of your turkey before cooking. Repeat. Make sure to remove before cooking turkey!
Keep the neck to make gravy, see instructions below*.
Pat the turkey dry (inside and out) with paper towels, and discard. If you are stuffing the turkey with dressing, now is the time to stuff the turkey. Loosely pack the stuffing into the turkey and secure the ends of the turkey with a skewer.  Place the turkey on a jelly roll pan. Using string, tie up the turkey legs and the wings so they are close to the turkey body. If there is a band of skin close to the legs, you may also tuck the legs into the skin. Tying or tucking is necessary so the wings and legs will not dry out while cooking. Sprinkle with a generous amount of garlic salt or powder, poultry seasoning, salt and pepper.
Pull the bag open, so it is easy to place the turkey in the bag. Leave the bag in the roasting pan.  Place the turkey inside of the bag. Drizzle the melted butter and a couple of tablespoons of olive oil over the top of the turkey, try to cover most of the surface of the turkey. This will help the turkey to have a beautiful golden color after roasting.
Take the loose ends of the bag and tuck under the turkey. Tie up the end of the bag using the zip tie enclosed in the package. or you may use some of the string to secure the end of the bag.
Tuck under all loose ends. Cut about 5-6  1 inch slits in the top of the bag for steam to release.
Insert a meat thermometer into the thickest part of the turkey thigh, through the bag, so the thermometer is on the outside of the bag. If you place the thermometer on the inside of the bag, it will be difficult to read.
Bake turkey according to package directions:
12-16 lb turkey 2- 2 1/2 hours
16-20 lb turkey 2 1/2 -3 hours
20-24 lb turkey 3-3 1/2 hours

Remove from oven when turkey is done. The internal temperature should be 180 degrees if thermometer is inserted in breast and 170 if inserted in thigh.
Let the turkey sit for about 10 minutes, then gently peel away the bag. Lift the turkey onto a platter for serving.
Dump the juice from the bag into a bowl or saucepan  and skim off the oil that rises to the top and use the remaining liquid for turkey gravy.

Tips-
-Food handlers gloves. Always a good thing when preparing a turkey for cooking :)
-*Place the neck in 6 cups of cold water. You may add an onion, halved, carrots, celery and peppercorns.  Bring to boil, then simmer gently for about 1 hour, or until meat is cooked. Remove neck and vegetables and discard . Let broth cool.  Strain and use for  turkey gravy.
-Studies have found that more germs are spread when washing a turkey before cooking than if the turkey is simply patted dry and placed in the oven to cook. The reason relates to contamination of surfaces, utensils etc.
-I've been making turkey in a bag for years and have found the turkey is usually done about a half hour earlier than the time listed above.
-Always, always, always use a meat thermometer. One year, I relied on the pop up insert in the turkey. It never popped up. I kept baking and baking and baking. No pop up. You can spend anywhere from $5 to $200 on a thermometer. Get one. You'll be glad you did!
-You may use any combination of seasonings. I like garlic (powder or salt), salt, pepper and poultry seasoning. I've used fresh garlic, but didn't feel like I was able to cover the turkey as well as when using garlic salt or powder. Sometimes, if I plan ahead, I crush garlic cloves and place those in the melted butter. Fresh herbs are always wonderful as well.
-You may place vegetable in the cavity of the turkey. Sometimes I cut apples, onions and celery in half and place inside of turkey before cooking. Discard after turkey is cooked.
-If you cook a turkey with stuffing in the bird, make sure to pack it loosely. Allow for a little more baking time about 1/2 hour to 45 minutes. I like to bake the stuffing separately in another dish. This way, I can more accurately predict when the meat will be done.






11/12/14

Savory Yams with Bacon, Cream and Fresh Thyme and Harmons Giftcard Giveaway Winner!

photo credit Becky, Vintage Mixer


A few weeks ago the Harmons bloggers gathered and had a little pre-Thanksgiving meal. It was an afternoon of  photo taking, discussing our favorite holiday dishes, and of course, feasting on good food. We all went away stuffed and excited to share new recipes with our readers!


Savory Yams with Bacon, Cream and Fresh Thyme


photo credit, Caroline Drake, Armelle Blog
We partnered with Harmons to offer five, yes, five $100 gift cards just in time for holiday grocery shopping! Harmons provided the gift cards, and we've provided recipes to make this your best holiday season, ever.


photo credit- Becky at Vintage Mixer

For our Harmons gathering, I made Slow Cooker Mashed Potatoes and Savory Yams with Bacon, Cream and Fresh Thyme (recipe below).
You'll want to follow each of the Harmons bloggers for multiple doses of amazing cooking and general family/lifestyle ideas each day! The other dishes that rounded out our meal and links to recipes are listed below. Don't forget to scroll to the bottom of this post for multiple chances to win a $100 giftcard!


Fresh Cranberry Orange Relish from Becky at Vintage Mixer
love, love, loved both of these recipes. 
photo credit Becky, Vintage Mixer


photo credit Caroline Drake, Armelle Blog


Chocolate Mousse Pie from Caroline at Armelle Blog
made with an olive oil crust. On my list of pies to make this month.

photo credit, Caroline Drake


Sesame Green Beans with Bacon and Chestnuts 
from Rachael at LaFujimama
pretty sure this will be on my holiday table!




Sausage Herb Stuffing from Jesseca at One Sweet Appetite
can't wait to try this, stuffing is my favorite. 




photo credit Caroline Drake, Armelle Blog

Last, but not least is my recipe for Savory Yams with Bacon, Cream and Fresh Thyme.  This recipe is rich, without being over the top. So often yams are used in a sweet dish at holiday time. I thought creating a dish that used savory flavors would be perfect for our holiday gatherings. I've made it three times in the past three weeks, and it's been a hit every time.
Fifteen more days til Thanksgiving!
Can't wait.






Savory Yams with Bacon, Cream and Fresh Thyme
A Bountiful Kitchen
print recipe


5-6 medium size yams or sweet potatoes (about 8-10 cups total)
1/2 lb bacon
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 small onion, chopped (about 1 cup)
1 cup heavy cream
fresh thyme, about 4 tablespoons stripped from stems, plus a few sprigs for garnish after cooking
salt and pepper

Wash yams, place in large pot. Cover with cold water. Bring water to boil and cook for about 30 minutes, or until barely fork tender.
Meanwhile, chop bacon and cook until crisp, drain grease and set aside.
Wipe out pan used to cook bacon, add 1 tablespoon of olive oil and cook until soft and slightly golden.
Remove yams from boiling water. Drain and set  yams on counter and let cool a bit. Peel and slice or cut into small chunks.
Place cut up yams in a greased 9 x 13 or similar size baking pan. Sprinkle with fresh thyme.
Drizzle fresh cream onto yams. Sprinkle with cooked onions and bacon.
Cover and bake for about 30 minutes at 350 degrees, or place in refrigerator until ready to bake.
May be made up to 3 days in advance. Let sit on counter when removing from refrigerator for about an hour before baking.
Garnish with additional fresh thyme before serving.




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11/6/14

Slow Cooker Mashed Potatoes



If you are like me, no matter the size of your kitchen, when Thanksgiving rolls around, it never seems big enough. There are never enough cooking surfaces, oven space or counter space to fit all of the dishes you are hoping to serve piping hot, at the same time for your Thanksgiving feast.
So many dishes, so little space.
Enter the humble and oft forgotten slow cooker. Dump the potatoes in,  add a little water and salt. and in about 4 hours. BAM. You're in business.



It really is that simple.
Amazing.
Why didn't I think of this years ago??
Why doesn't my keypad have multiple emojis so I can insert the - bewildered, embarrassed, and now totally happy emoji  face parade??!! I'm sure you can picture those faces.
Happy days are here again my friends.
One less dish to keep warm on the stove or in the oven!
Happy cooking.
PS are you following on INSTAGRAM? Look to the right, see the icon?  If not, do it. now. You'll be glad you did. Next week, I'm partnering with Harmons and 4 other bloggers to bring you original recipes for a delicious holiday meal AND  a big giveaway just in time for your multiple trips to the grocery store!





Slow Cooker Mashed Potatoes
A Bountiful Kitchen
print recipe

5 lbs red potatoes, scrubbed, cut into fourths (I leave the peels on)
3/4 cup water
2 teaspoons salt
1/2- 3/4 cup butter, cut into tablespoons
half and half, about 1 1/2 -2 cups
1 cup sour cream (optional)
pepper and more salt if needed

Place potatoes in large 6-7 quart slow cooker or crock pot. Pour in water. Sprinkle salt over potatoes.
Place lid on slow cooker and set on high heat. Don't lift the lid! Cook for about 4 hours.
Leaving the insert (bowl) in the slowcooker do the following:
Do not drain the potatoes. Place the butter in with the potatoes. Using a potato masher, mash the potatoes and butter together.  Add the half and half (about 1 1/2 cups). Continue to mash until desired consistency. Add the remaining 1/2 cup of half and half,  if needed.  Add sour cream (if using) and mix well. Taste and add more salt and a little pepper if desired.
Turn the heat to warm and keep warm until ready to serve for up to two hours. If needed, just before serving, add additional milk or half and half and fold the potatoes

Tips:
-Do not over mix, or beat the potatoes for a long time with a mixer. The potatoes will  take on a gluey type texture.  It is almost impossible to over mix the potatoes with a potato masher.  If you don't have one,  I highly recommend buying one.  I've had mine for at least 25-30 years,  and it's still going strong.
Click on the photo below to order yours for just a few dollars: