Friday, November 25, 2011


Thanksgiving is such a wonderful holiday. While I try to take time every day to be thankful for everything wonderful in my life, especially my son and husband, it’s great to have a holiday dedicated to being thankful (and eating). Since this was my son’s first Thanksgiving, we opted to celebrate the day at home, just the three of us. We had such a great day together! We were able to have a lot of family time and I have to admit that I was stress free. We decided to have our Thanksgiving dinner at 6 since that’s when my son normally eats his dinner. That gave me all day to prepare (plus, I had already done some preparation the day before). And since it was two of us eating, we decided that we should skip the dessert (my son doesn’t get to eat that kind of stuff yet). I actually didn’t make a single dessert. I struggled with this decision during the planning process but now that I’ve got a refrigerator full of leftovers I know it was the right decision.

This was definitely the best Thanksgiving I’ve ever had. I really took the time to enjoy my husband and son and to enjoy cooking a Thanksgiving dinner for them. I couldn’t have asked for a better day.

Here is what I prepared for our Thanksgiving dinner:

Roasted turkey- We went with a small turkey, 8.5 lbs. In past years, we’ve brined and then grilled our turkey. But we wanted to take a simpler and easier approach this year. We decided to use an oven bag (turkey size). Once in the bag, I put a small white onion (cut in half) into the cavity of the turkey, rubbed canola oil, salt, pepper and a small amount of poultry seasoning (probably ½ tsp) on the outside of the turkey. The turkey cooked at 350 degrees for two hours and 45 minutes. It was delicious and so moist! And because of the bag, clean up was so easy!

Stuffing, two ways- I found this recipe on How Sweet It Is: Double Bread Stuffing with Brown Butter, Bacon and Sage. We decided to try that for Thanksgiving, rather than the traditional cornbread dressing with chicken that my grandmother taught me to make. I didn’t have any leeks or shallots on hand and was unwilling to brave the grocery store so close to the holiday, so I used an additional onion instead. I also baked it at 350 degrees rather than 375 because everything else I needed to bake at the same needed to be at 350 degrees. It was delicious! And I have to admit that I’m loving browned butter! I just wish butter was healthier so I could justify eating it more often!

As I was making the stuffing, I realized that I had enough sourdough bread and cornbread to make two pans. I didn’t want to make two pans of the same kind though. So I decided to make a cajun style stuffing with andouille sausage. I used cornbread and sourdough bread, prepared the same as the stuffing above. I sautéed one large onion and two ribs of celery in one tbsp bacon drippings and two tbsp butter until tender. Then I added 12 sage leaves, roughly chopped and one diced gala apple and cooked until the apple was tender. Next, I added 1 tsp crushed dried rosemary, 1 tsp salt, ½ tsp white pepper and one package (4 sausages) of andouille sausage. I cooked the mixture for another few minutes until the sausage started to brown. Then I added about ½ c. chicken stock to get those delicious brown bits off the bottom of the pan. To the bread, I added two cups chicken stock and gently stirred until moistened. Then I added the sausage mixture and folded it into the bread mixtures. Baked at 350 degrees for 45 minutes.

Mashed Sweet Potatoes- I prepared this dish on Wednesday using 6 medium sized sweet potatoes. I wrapped each potato in foil then baked at 350 degrees for an hour and a half. Once cooled, I removed the skins. Then I mashed the potatoes in an oven safe bowl with 4 tbsp butter with ½ c. brown sugar. Refrigerate until needed. On Thanksgiving, I put the potatoes in the oven for 30 minutes at 350 degrees.

Mashed Potatoes- I boiled 5 lbs of peeled, gold potatoes until fork tender. Once drained, I added one stick of butter, one package of cream cheese, salt and pepper. Then my husband mashed the potatoes until they were perfectly smooth. My husband is the best potato masher!!

Baked Green Beans- one of my friends (and co-workers) makes the most delicious green beans with brown sugar and bacon. When my son was born, he and his wife brought us dinner one night and it included these green beans. I was instantly hooked! When I asked him how to make them, he said that it was so simple and I only needed four ingredients: green beans, butter, brown sugar and bacon. So I decided that Thanksgiving was the perfect time for such an indulgent side dish. I used a family size bag of frozen whole green beans. Around noon, I emptied the package of green beans into their baking dish so that they would be thawed by the time I was ready to cook them. To prepare them, I crumbled 5 pieces of cooked bacon on top of the green beans. Then I mixed together one stick of melted butter and ¾ c. of brown sugar and poured that over the bacon and green beans. Then I baked the green beans, uncovered, at 350 degrees for 1 hour. Absolutely perfect!

Brussel Sprouts- my husband loves brussel sprouts, or at least he loves my brussel sprouts. I start out by cooking 6 slices of bacon in a large skillet (that has a lid). Once the bacon is finished, I let it cool and crumble it. In the bacon drippings, I sauté half an onion and the brussel sprouts (about 1 lbs, cut in half) on medium until they start to get that good brown color. Then, I add salt, pepper, 1 c. chicken stock and one tbsp butter. Turn the heat down to low and let the brussel sprouts simmer until tender. Top with the crumbled bacon before serving.

Rolls and Cranberry Sauce- we took the easy route here and bought frozen rolls and canned whole berry cranberry sauce.
I am a big fan of making big batches of things and then freezing the leftovers.  We plan to eat this for dinner again on Friday and lunch on Saturday. Then, I will freeze whatever is left which will most likely be sweet potatoes and mashed potatoes. I freeze the leftovers in portions small enough for us to eat for one meal. That way, I have quick and easy, homemade options in my freezer for those crazy days when I just don’t have the time or energy to make dinner.

My son’s Thanksgiving dinner: My son had turkey, sweet potato “fries,” plain green beans and toast. This was his first time he’s had any kind of meat. He really liked it!
For the sweet potato “fries,” these are organic sweet potatoes that I cut into matchsticks, toss with olive oil (about 1 tbsp), then bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes. He loves these! I actually made up a batch of these on Wednesday. I like to make a big batch and then freeze most of them for use on a day when I don’t have time to cook.

Hope everyone had a wonderful Thanksgiving!

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