Friday, November 13, 2015

A Taste of Thanksgiving: Week 2

Well, Week 2 of our study is officially wrapped-up.  How did you do?  If this is your first time here, don't despair, the How to be Thankful study is meant to be a lesson for the whole year through... pick it up and try it at any time!

Today we wrap up our week with some fun tid-bits.  Last week we looked at Thanksgiving Appetizers, because we were just starting out.  This week I want to look at the Main Meal, because we have been diving into the meat and potatoes of the study!  (I know, corny, I'm full of bad puns!)

It is hard to share a recipe this week... everyone typically has their tried-and-true plans for the main meal.  Turkey (and/or Ham), Mashed Potato, corn, green bean casserole and so on.  I have tried variations and add-ons to this menu over the years, but nothing sells like the classics.  The one recipe I can share isn't really a recipe at all...

Tips for the Perfect Turkey
This is the one thing I get asked every time we have Thanksgiving company... how do you get your turkey so juicy.  Not once does a guest see me open my oven and baste my turkey.  The answer: old family recipe.

you need:  
Paper bag large enough for your bird
red wine (I typically use Mogan David)
roasting pan (with rack is preferable but not required)
stapler or large metal paper clips
meat thermometer

Start by making sure all the little 'extras' are out of your bird.  There is usually a packet of innards in the region of the neck cavity and a neck in the main cavity.  Be sure all cavities are clear of these extras.  Rinse your bird really well inside and out.  Pat it dry.  Paper towels or regular towel work fine, just be sure not to re-use the towel until it has been washed.  Now, roll your sleeves up and wear an apron or something you can change out of, this part is messy: grease up the ENTIRE inside only of your bag with the margarine.  Also grease up your bird.  Sprinkle some salt over top and inside, just to taste.  I usually try to secure the way-ward wings with toothpicks or small metal pokers when I have them.  It isn't absolutely necessary though.  (I usually do my bird while still in my pajamas.  When I am down I can put them in the dirty laundry, wash up and change into my clothes for the day)

I like to put my bag in the roasting pan (on its side with wide side along the bottom) before moving the bird, it makes this next step easier.  Slip bird inside of bag so the wide end of the bird almost touches the bottom/or back of the bag.... don't worry if the bag is touching the bird on any side.  The margarine keeps it from sticking.  I usually put my hand and forearm into the main cavity of the bird and lift it into the bag that way.  Pour about 1-1 1/2 cups wine inside of bird.  Seal bag using stapler or paper clips.  You won't be opening again until much later.  Don't worry about the alcohol in the wine, it roasts out and is completely safe for children, pregnant moms and the rest.

Bake bird on lowest rack according to package directions.  I believe the typical roasting is 15-20 minutes per pound in a 325-350 degree oven.  Turkey is done when internal temperature is at least 165 degrees.  It will smell weird (not bad, just different) at times while it is roasting and on occasion I have even had a little haze come from my oven.  If concerned, you can check on it, but not once, in over 25 years of roasting turkeys this way, have I ever started or risked a fire (my grandma has done this 50 years longer than me with raving results!)

You can carefully open the front of the bag when the time is up and pop a thermometer in to verify it is cooked to the right internal temperature.  When it is done, I have used the tip of letting it rest for about 30 minutes before carving.  Seems to work well and opens up the oven for all those last minute dishes best served hot like green bean casserole and yams!  While these last few items are doing their thing, the paper bag will easily tear open, we unusually open along the top as seen in the above picture (sorry for the blur).  Hubby was so sweet last year to don my apron and get to work teaching Brenden how to carve.  Doesn't that bird look pretty?  I slipped in and siphoned out some of the drippings from the turkey and made gravy while he worked. 


I have no special gravy recipe.  I swear by Wondera and use it for ALL my gravy needs year round because my gravy is perfect EVERY time just by following the directions on package.  If you haven't heard of it, you can find it in the baking isle around the flour and corn starch.

Gold Medal Wondra Quick-Mixing Sauce & Gravy Flour, 13.5 oz

Sides and Such
You might notice in the background of the above picture that I have a roaster.  I don't use it for roasting!  What I use it for is big dinners, like Thanksgiving.  Sometimes I put it on my staged buffet as a server/warmer but last year I put it back on the counter and used it to keep other dishes, that had been cooked stove top, warm until serving....

Corn on the cob.... I pile into one of the included smaller pans which rests along the top.
Stove Top Dressing... I put into a serving dish and place on the bottom of the roaster.
Mashed Potato... I put into a serving dish and place on the bottom of the roaster.
Dinner rolls... I wrap in a towel or foil and place in roaster. 

I also put a dish of water in the roaster to create warm moisture so the food doesn't dry out while it warms.


I LOVE a pretty table... especially at the holidays.  Since going in and out of the mission field we haven't had company for Thanksgiving (everyone we know locally has family they go to for dinner).  Still, having grown up in a large family with parents from large families, I have been use to a lot of people, a lot of food, and the idea that the day is set apart from others.  So how do I compensate for this?

Unlike a regular weekday meal:
- we have special appetizers
- we have more than one or two sides (and leftovers for a week!!!)
- we have dessert... and usually a variety
- I set the table with my special lace tablecloth, candles and a full array of dishes and silver (not sure why the above picture from last year is lacking in placemats and dishes... typically I set the table with more flare)
- I REQUIRE best dressed (or at least best Sunday dress) before anyone is allowed at the table. Ties are optional.
- Dinner discussion is corralled around gratitude reflections and the coming Christmas season
- We close the evening with a game or family movie (or both when energy allows!)

Believe it or not, we use to have a house-full for the holiday meals.  At one point, we even arranged special place settings for each adult guest and made sure the kids area was fun and inviting.  My favorite (and simplest) was the year I plucked leaves off my silk arrangements and used a gold marker to write each guest's name (not sure if you can see it clearly, it has faded some over the years):

Another year, when organizing a special women's fall dinner at my church, I carved, using metal cookie cutters, and hot glued this nifty centerpiece:
It was the talk of the evening!

Fun for the Kiddos
I could have shared all sorts of Thanksgiving day crafts and to-dos (For dinnertime, I always kept themed coloring pages handy for the kids and one year we even put out strips of paper for making Indian headbands.)  But, I am willing to bet many of you already have ideas or have been browsing Pinterest... so I thought I would share our original idea...

A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving Deluxe Edition
Our activity actually doesn't happen on the DAY OF Thanksgiving, but rather, the week of, in order to break up the boredom of a week off of school.  I am a big Charlie Brown fan and I love all their movies.  My favorites are the holiday ones and Thanksgiving tops the list.  If you haven't seen it, it is a must-buy.  Peppermint Patty invites herself and a few friends over to Charlie Brown's house for Thanksgiving Dinner but 'ol Chuck and Sally are suppose to be going to Grandma's for the big meal.  So, they compromise by having an earlier meal with their friends.  Only one problem: Charlie Brown doesn't know how to cook anything except toast!  With the help of Snoopy and Linus they pull off their own meal.... you have to watch the movie to see how it turns out! 

When my kids were still small I got the funny idea of having our own Charlie Brown Thanksgiving.  The menu is strictly movie related... down to the specially folded napkins and table cloth!  One exception: we don't eat outside at a ping-pong table!  We watch the movie while enjoying our 'dinner' in the living room (in order to view the t.v.) and we invite friends.  In the pictures here from the year we stayed with my mother-in-law before heading into the mission field, my nephew joined us.  My kids are now from middle school to college age and they still ask for this fun tradition!

The Menu  
Buttered Toast
Jelly Beans
Jello Parfait

That is all!  I sort of winged it with the parfait, mixing prepared strawberry jello and cool whip, topped with a dab of whip and cherry on top.

Some things are just timeless!

What recipes and Thanksgiving dinner traditions are favorites in your family?


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