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Thanksgiving Favorites & Thinking Out Loud

by on November 20, 2008 · 28 comments

It occurred to me today that Thanksgiving is less than a week away. I knew it was coming, but the exact date was foggy. Plus, we’d planned a small Thanksgiving with just the three of us plus my mom – a group whose taste preferences I know as well as my own if not better. I even entertained the idea of ordering our Thanksgiving meal from Luby’s cafeteria. Why not? I’ve made my share of turkeys and in the end it’s just turkey. And hey, I’m just one person with one oven making the whole meal. Maybe ordering the turkey, gravy and stuffing would let me focus on desserts and sides….and isn’t it all about togetherness anyway?

I was all ready to put the Luby’s order in when Todd called to say he’d invited the family of a co-worker to join us. The fire was re-kindled! I put aside the notion of calling Luby’s and began going through my favorite recipes pile. I even did some of the grocery shopping today.

For safekeeping, I’m posting this year’s recipes here. Maybe they’ll help you out this Thanksgiving or next.

Gravy is a pain in the you know what, but to some people, it’s what makes the turkey. It’s not something you can just skip and the little packet of gravy that comes with the turkey won’t do….then again, with the price of food this year, maybe it will have to. Turkey wings are a little more expensive this year, but they’re a main ingredient in this gravy. I made it last year and everyone loved it. Plus, it can be made days ahead of time.

Woman’s Day Make-Ahead Turkey Gravy

4 turkey wings (about 3 lbs)
2 medium onions, peeled and quartered
1 cup water
8 cups chicken broth
3/4 cup chopped carrot
1/2 tsp dried thyme
3/4 cup flour
2 Tbsp. stick butter or margarine
1/2 tsp ground black pepper

Heat oven to 400 degrees F. Have ready a large roasting pan.
Arrange wings in a single layer in pan; scatter onions over top. Roast 1 1/4 hours until wings are browned.

Put wings and onions in a 5-to-6 qt. pot. Pour water in roasting pan and stir, scraping up brown bits from bottom. Add to pot with wings and onions. Add 6 cups broth (refrigerate remaining 2 cups), carrot and thyme. Bring to a boil; reduce heat and simmer, uncovered, 1 1/2 hours.
Remove wings to cutting board. When cool, pull off skin and meat. Discard skin; save meat for another use.

Strain broth into a large container, pressing vegetables to extract as much liquid as possible. Discard vegetables; refrigerate broth and allow fat to rise to top. Skim off fat. Transfer broth to 3 quart pot and set on stove.

In a bowl, whisk flour into remaining 2 cups broth until blended and smooth.
Bring broth in pot to a gentle boil. Whisk in broth-flour mixture and boil 3 to 4 minutes to thicken gravy and remove floury taste.

Stir in butter and pepper. Serve or pour into containers; refrigerate up to 1 week or freeze up to 6 months.

Makes 8 cups

Ace Sagor is the father of a friend I went to high school with…someone I’d lost touch with years ago. Last year, my aunt asked me to vote for Ace’s stuffing in a stuffing contest. She had no idea that I knew the Sagors and had only heard about the stuffing because a friend asked her to vote. So I like making Ace’s stuffing not only for the fact that it’s awesome (it mixes cornbread and regular bread…a key element in my favorite stuffings) and it reminds me what a small world this is. P.S. Feel free to throw in a few cubes of waffle.

Ace Sagor’s Cornbread Dressing

8 cups cornbread, crumbled
4 cups soft white bread shredded
1 cup butter (salted)
1 cup diced celery
1 large onion, chopped
½ cup green pepper, chopped
1½ teaspoons poultry seasoning
2 eggs, beaten
2 cups chicken broth
Salt and pepper to taste
Oil to sauté

Preheat oven to 350° F.

Cut butter and add to breadcrumbs (both corn and white breads).

Sauté veggies in oil and add to bread mixture.
Mix in seasonings.

Add in eggs and broth until thoroughly mixed and moist.
Bake in large covered dish for 30 minutes. Remove cover for last 10 minutes to brown.

If you want good cranberry sauce, make sure to add orange. This is a very basic recipe, but the orange makes it memorable. Sometimes I throw in a little lemon zest. This is another make-ahead.

Allrecipes Basic Cranberry Sauce

12 ounces cranberries
1 cup white sugar
1 cup orange juice

In a medium sized saucepan over medium heat, dissolve the sugar in the orange juice. Stir in the cranberries and cook until the cranberries start to pop (about 10 minutes). Remove from heat and place sauce in a bowl. Cranberry sauce will thicken as it cools.

My mom’s the only one who eats sweet potatoes, but her love for them knows no bounds — especially at Thanksgiving. Every year I make this dish just for her. She’s the only one who eats it and gets to take home all the leftovers. This year, she’ll have to share. It’s a Cooking Light recipe, but it’s not very light.

Cooking Light’s Streuseled Sweet Potato Casserole

5 pounds cubed peeled sweet potato (about 5 pounds)
1/2 cup half-and-half
1/2 cup maple syrup
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 large egg, lightly beaten
Cooking spray
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1/4 cup chilled butter, cut into small pieces
1/2 cup chopped pecans

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

Cook potatoes in boiling water until tender (about 14 minutes).

Combine the half-and-half and next 4 ingredients (half-and-half through egg) in a large bowl, stirring with a whisk. Add potato to egg mixture; beat with a mixer at medium speed until smooth. Spoon potato mixture into a 13 x 9-inch baking dish coated with cooking spray.

Combine flour and sugar in a food processor; pulse to combine. Add chilled butter; pulse until mixture resembles coarse meal. Stir in pecans; sprinkle over potato mixture.
Cover and bake at 375° for 15 minutes. Uncover and bake an additional 25 minutes or until the topping is browned and the potatoes are thoroughly heated.

This is another Allrecipes.com favorite. I usually don’t add 6 oz cream cheese and a cup of sour cream to my mashed potatoes, but the add-ins help make this a good make-ahead dish. I guess the fat keeps the potatoes from getting gummy or drying out.

Allrecipess Make-Ahead Mashed Potatoes

5 pounds Yukon Gold potatoes, cubed
2 (3 ounce) packages cream cheese
8 ounces sour cream
1/2 cup milk
2 teaspoons onion salt
Ground black pepper to taste

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F (165 degrees C).

Place potatoes in a large pot of lightly salted water. Bring to a boil, and cook until tender, about 15 minutes. Drain, and mash.

In a large bowl, mix mashed potatoes, cream cheese, sour cream, milk, onion salt, and pepper. Transfer to a large casserole dish.

Cover, and bake for 50 minutes in the preheated oven.

Fuzz is going to make the pumpkin pie this year, which meant I needed the easiest and least messiest recipe possible. This one sounded good. I don’t think I’ve made it before, though it sounds familiar. I guess after this Thanksgiving, I’ll know whether it’s a repeater. It had high rankings on allrecipes.com.

Eagle Brand Basic Pumpkin Pie

1 (15 ounce) can pumpkin
1 (14 ounce) can EAGLE BRAND® Sweetened Condensed Milk
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 (9 inch) unbaked pie crust

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. Whisk pumpkin, sweetened condensed milk, eggs, spices and salt in medium bowl until smooth. Pour into crust. Bake 15 minutes.

Reduce oven temperature to 350 degrees F and continue baking 35 to 40 minutes or until knife inserted 1 inch from crust comes out clean. Cool. Garnish as desired. Store leftovers covered in refrigerator.

Pecan Pie

I’m trying to avoid pecan pie obsession this year, so I’ve decided to stick with what’s good and make this one. I’m going to make it two days ahead of time, freeze it, then thaw it out on T-Day. Pecan pie is one of those things that actually tastes better after it’s frozen and thawed…or at least in my opinion.

So that’s the menu as it stands. Every dish is simple, but the logistics of Thanksgiving are more complicated when you consider there is only one oven and a turkey that will be hogging it up for 4 hours. I guess the next step is to make a time table of when everything should be prepared.

Grilled Corn (Todd handling)

Steamed Fresh Green Beans

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Published on November 20, 2008

{ 28 comments… read them below or add one }

Amy November 20, 2008 at 9:37 pm

I’m going to do crockpot dressing, just like you taught me last year. It was great, plus I need oven space :)

Katrina November 20, 2008 at 10:41 pm

Thanks for all the recipes!
Love the statement to throw in some waffles if we want! ;) If we do we could call it Million Dollar Stuffing! heh
Sounds like you’ve got everything in order for a great, simple meal!

Heidi November 20, 2008 at 10:53 pm

The pumpkin pie recipe is verrrrry similar to the Libby’s recipe – can’t go wrong.

Anna November 20, 2008 at 11:25 pm

Ace’s recipe is a lot like the crockpot recipe. I think I’m going to make a hybrid test version tomorrow and see if I can perfect it. Anything to free up the oven is a plus.

snookydoodle November 21, 2008 at 2:37 am

wow what a nice menu. very hectic though with all those dishes.

johngl November 21, 2008 at 7:47 am

On the gravy, I’ve taken to using turkey necks as well as the wings. The collagen in the neck tissue adds a distinct unctuousness (is that a word?) to the gravy without adding fat.

Great recipes!

Katie November 21, 2008 at 8:27 am

That’s a good pie recipe– standard but good. I don’t go in for fanciness with pumpkin pie. No bourbon whipped cream or hazelnuts for me. Sweetened condensed milk is the way to go!

Randi November 21, 2008 at 8:32 am

No green bean casserole??? LOL.

Why do so many recipes call for 3oz of cream cheese? I never see 3oz packages.

Anna November 21, 2008 at 8:47 am

Katrina, Ace’s recipe is kind of similar but without the spinach & waffles.

Heidi, I think the Libby’s recipe uses evaporated milk. Since condensed milk is so different than evaporated, I’m expecting some textural differences. We’ll see.

SD, hectic is my middle name. Just kidding. If I plan everything out and make things early in the day, things will be fine. I’m more worried about the house being presentable.

John, I’ll see if H.E.B. has necks. I’m not sure they sell them separately, and I need them separately since this is a make-ahead recipe.

Katie, I totally agree. People expect traditional pumpkin pie, so the challenge is to find a good traditional recipe with the perfect level of sweetness, spices and flavors. I don’t know if this one will be it, but it sounds good.

Randi, thanks for reminding me. I added steamed green beans and grilled corn to the menu. I like having a few fresh unadulterated veggies available too.

Also, we have 3 oz packages of cream cheese here in Texas.

Maryann November 21, 2008 at 9:30 am

Anna, I love the Make Ahead Gravy and make it every year. This year I couldn’t find the turkey wings anywhere! I ended up using 6 large chicken thighs and it still turned out great. It is in the freezer now waiting for Thanksgiving. Everybody loves it and they want the recipe but when I give it to them they said it is too much work and don’t want to make it. I guess that doesn’t bother me when the end result is so good plus it makes lots of gravy. I really enjoy all of your recipes and find that we both think alike when it comes to baking and cooking. I don’t mind the time spent because I love doing it so much.

Sue November 21, 2008 at 10:13 am

A traditional Thanksgiving menu sounds so good to me this year. We have a vegetarian in the group and over the years the menu has really shifted to her preferences because, hey!, why not!? The rest of us like the vegetarian fare too. We’ve strayed so far from traditional, that the rest of America would hardly recognize our menu as a Thanksgiving menu. Oh well! It’s good, and my group thinks it’s special so I guess that’s what we’ll do again this year.

Anna, I’m with you. I’d be far more stressed about the prensentability of my house, than the food. For me, the house isn’t a priority unless I’m expecting guests.

Gloria Seales November 21, 2008 at 10:45 am

Anna, I found this recipe for green beans a couple of years ago from one fo the Taste of Home cookbooks and thought I’d share it with you. It gives them a little extra “umph” for the holidays.

Green Beans with Zucchini
6 servings
The Best of Country Cooking 2004
4 cups cut green beans (1-inch pieces)
1 small onion, diced
¼ cup butter
2 small zucchini, cut into ¼-inch slices
4 bacon strips, cooked and crumbled
Salt and pepper to taste
Place beans in a saucepan and cover with water. Bring to a boil; cook, uncovered, for 8-10 minutes, or until crisp-tender; drain.
In a large skillet, sauté onion in butter for 3 minutes. Add the zucchini; cook for 4 minutes. Stir in the bacon, beans, salt and pepper; heat through.

LilSis November 21, 2008 at 11:22 am

Hi Anna,
Thanks so much for sharing all those recipes. I actually have the same make ahead potatoes on my menu. They always turn out fantastic. I’m going out of town on Tuesday and flying back in on Thanksgiving Day so I’m also trying to do find a few things that I can make ahead and freeze. I just printed out your pecan pie recipe and will be making that over the weekend. (I’ll be giving you a “shout out” in my post on Sunday for that recipe.) Do you think the pumpkin pie would also freeze well?

Anna November 21, 2008 at 12:06 pm

Maryann, turkey wings were $6.00 and thighs were on sale for $1.80. I took your advice and went with the thighs. We’ll see how it goes!

Sue, I love the idea of a vegetarian Thanksgiving, but I have too many vegetable aversions to be a decent vegetarian. But I think it would be fun to make one — definitely more fun to cook than a turkey.

Gloria, green beans I do like! That sounds like a good dish. I’d eat around the zucchini, though.

LS, I’m going to do a test pecan pie today and will let you know if this one turns out just as good as it did last year.

Julie November 21, 2008 at 12:26 pm

I made a bunch of Tgiving recipes last weekend, b/c I’m going away to see family next week. I did my first cornbread stuffing and it was awesome…I made the cornbread and used chorizo. I really like your gravy recipe…will save for next year.

LilSis November 21, 2008 at 12:31 pm

Thanks Anna,
I’ll be baking mine on Sunday, so I’ll look forward to hearing how yours turns out. And, do you think the pumpkin pie will freeze well?

Anna November 21, 2008 at 12:39 pm

Julie, the chorizo sounds like a good addition. I usually leave the meat out of stuffing, but I know people really love it. Maybe one day I’ll try it.

LS, I think the pumpkin pie would be fine — especially since this recipe uses condensed milk.

Judy November 21, 2008 at 12:53 pm

I’ve always made a decent gravy with no problems. For the past two years, though, I’ve made Emeril’s giblet gravy (http://judyskitchen.blogspot.com/2007/12/emerils-big-bird-with-giblet-gravy.html). The first time I made it, I was worried it wouldn’t be good because there’s hardly any turkey in it, just the neck and the giblets. It’s the best gravy I’ve every had,full of rich flavor, and it’s a very easy make ahead — certainly easier than brewing a broth for the gravy. I make it the day before when the turkey is all thawed out. Last year, I needed the giblets for something else and made it just with the neck and it was still fantastic. It’s the only gravy I’ll make now.

Judy November 21, 2008 at 12:56 pm

As far as pumpkin pies go, I know you’re not a fan of pumpkin, but I’m obsessed with it. While it’s impossible to try every pumpkin pie recipe out there, I’ll be making a new pumpkin pie every chance I get. This year, it’s CI new pumpkin pie recipe — a mix of pumpkin and sweet potatoes with a vodka crust. Leave it to CI to come up with something like that. But for Fuzz, the condensed milk recipe is perfect because it’s hard to mess up. I think in a few years she’ll be showing you how to cook.

Anna November 21, 2008 at 1:02 pm

Judy, I’ve been doing some research and you and John aren’t the only fans of turkey neck gravy. If you Google it, you’ll find it has quite a following. My problem is the grocery store doesn’t have turkey necks and the only way I can get one is to gut my turkey early (which I’m not doing). I want to make the gravy really far in advance and get it over with ;).

That CI pumpkin pie recipe sounds very interesting. Vodka in the crust? I guess some sort of chemical reaction happens with the alcohol? Maybe it evaporates and the crust comes out flakier?

Karen November 21, 2008 at 1:10 pm

I have made the CI pie dough recipe a number of times now, it’s very good and the technique is different. It’s very easy to work with – rolls out better than any other dough I have made. I have only used it for double-crusted fruit pies, I haven’t done an open pie or a pre-baked crust with it yet, but will next week for my pecan and pumpkin pies.
Here’s a link to the recipe done by Smitten Kitchen. She did it by hand, I use a food processor.

http://smittenkitchen.com/2007/11/pie-crust-101/

LilSis November 21, 2008 at 1:51 pm

Thanks again Anna,
I’ll make both on Sunday and freeze. My family is going to be shocked. I know this is going to be hard to believe, but this will be my first time at making homemade pecan pie and I haven’t made pumpkin in over 15 years. My mom has always been in charge of the pies, but since we won’t be together this year, I’m surprising the men in my house with TWO homemade pies. I hope Judy is right when she says the pumpkin pie recipe is hard to mess up. I need “foolproof” recipes!

LilSis November 21, 2008 at 2:15 pm

Judy & Karen,
Thanks for sharing the info about the CI Pumpkin Pie. I looked at the recipe and watched part of the video. It looks great but I’m definitely out of my league with that one. I’m not yet ready to make my own dough. I’m just keeping my fingers crossed that all turns out well using the frozen pie crusts. Baby steps, right?

Judy November 21, 2008 at 2:37 pm

CI says the science behind the vodka is this: it’s 60% water, 40% alcohol. The alcohol burns off and supposedly makes the crust more tender. The crust is initially wetter, but when the alcohol burns off, it condenses and also becomes flakier. And they say that alcohol doesn’t react with gluten. The crust can be made ahead and frozen or refrigerated for up to 2 days. It must be at least chilled overnight. So it’s a perfect make-ahead, and once the dough is mixed, it’s as easy as a Pillsbury — just unwrap and roll out. It’s also supposed to not shrink as much, which is a real advantage when prebaking a shell — like for pumpkin pie.

Judy November 21, 2008 at 2:38 pm

This is coming from a pumpkin-obsessed person: I’ve never met a pumpkin pie I didn’t like, so whatever you make, it’ll be good.

D'Ann November 23, 2008 at 2:41 am

MMMmmm. I love cornbread dressing!

We now live in CO SPrings (moved from Texas), and my husband and I both miss Luby’s. They have great waldorf salad!

Michael-Ann November 24, 2008 at 12:53 am

We had Thanksgiving at our house tonight and I made that sweet potato casserole. It was so good, everybody loved it. I can’t wait for tomorrow for leftovers. Also, I’m going to New York on Thursday and your chocolate chip cookie tour is on my list of things to do. Thanks for all the good stuff!

Gloria October 11, 2009 at 2:18 pm

I am wondering if you have ever made the double layer pumpkin cheesecake pie found here? http://allrecipes.com/Recipe/Double-Layer-Pumpkin-Pie/Detail.aspx
I use the same recipe I clipped off of a cool whip container or a Jell-O box many years ago. I make it every year and it seems to get better reviews than the pumpkin pies (of course that could be the quality of the pumpkin pies). Plus you don’t have to bake anything if you don’t make your own Graham cracker crust. Always use 3/4 cup of 1/2 and 1/2 or milk, not one cup.
Also, this goes against the traditional “look at that beautiful turkey” on Thanksgiving day,
but we always make our turkey a day ahead of time, carve the turkey, put it into a giant pan, cover it with chicken broth, and throw it in the refrigerator. Then we heat it up the next day and we have lots of time left over for all the other things that need to be done on Thanksgiving Day. In addition, if the turkey is over or under done, we have time to fix our mistake!

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