Thursday, November 15, 2012

Menu for Happiness: A Traditional Thanksgiving with a Twist

Julie Grice
One smart, organized blogger, Julie Grice, who writes the blog SavvyEat.com, shares her tips and tricks for preparing a stress-free Thanksgiving meal in this post. With her food science and engineering background, she’s the ideal person to create a delicious menu with recipes from Allrecipes.com that can be prepared step-by-step and day-by-day to create a Thanksgiving #RecipeForHappiness that’s relaxed and easy. When not composing blog posts, Julie is also a blog designer for Savvy Blog Services, and an administrator for the Healthy Living Blogs community website.



If there was ever a time of year to get organized and start cooking ahead of time, Thanksgiving is it. Rather than waking up at 5:00 a.m. next Thursday to start cooking your feast, consider beginning the prep work over the weekend. You’ll be left with a manageable task list for Turkey Day, giving you time to really enjoy the holiday with your family and friends. I guarantee you’ll be thankful you worked ahead to get ready, so I’m sharing ideas about how to do this as my #RecipeForHappiness.

The Traditional ‘Thanksgiving with a Twist’ Menu
I always like to try a few new dishes for Thanksgiving to add flavor twists to the meal. This selection offers the best of both, combining traditional favorites with new dishes such as the cranberry chutney with the spark of fresh ginger, turkey accented with subtle flavors of maple syrup and herbs, and shredded Brussels sprouts instead of whole. All crowd-pleasers!

Maple Roast Turkey and Gravy
Awesome Sausage, Apple and Cranberry Stuffing
Winter Squash Rolls
Chef John’s Perfect Mashed Potatoes
Cranberry, Apple and Fresh Ginger Chutney
Green Bean Casserole Remix
Shredded Brussels Sprouts
Honey Roasted Carrots
Mrs. Sigg’s Fresh Pumpkin Pie
Irresistible Pecan Pie
Kerri’s Holiday Punch
Wine
Cider
Maple Roast Turkey and Gravy (Photo by LynnInHK)
My #1 time-saving tip: To make sure you get everything at the grocery store in a single trip, I recommend using Allrecipes’ Shopping List feature. Be sure and remember to also purchase any wine and cider for your guests to drink!

Time-saving tip #2: When preparing each recipe, lay out all the ingredients on the counter or table with the appropriate bowl and utensils. Then you’ll be able to ‘grab and go’ for each recipe step as needed.

Time-saving tip #3: Some cooks like to wash prep dishes at the end of cooking. I recommend do it in stages so you don’t have a pile-up.

Time-saving tip #4 for turkey thawing: If your turkey is frozen, it will need one day for every five pounds to be properly thawed for roasting on Thanksgiving Day. For food safety reasons, always thaw the turkey in the refrigerator. (Not on the kitchen counter or in the sink!)

The Plan
Sunday, November 18
Roast and puree the pumpkin for Mrs. Sigg’s Fresh Pumpkin Pie. Allow the pumpkin puree to cool before pouring it into a bowl, and then cover and refrigerate. It will be ready when you’re in pie-baking mode.

Mrs. Sigg's Fresh Pumpkin Pie (Photo by jessicaweigant)

Boil the winter squash for the Winter Squash Rolls. Mash the squash, and then spoon it into a bowl you can then cover and refrigerate.

Winter Squash Rolls (Photo by R. Martin)
Monday, November 19
Cook the bacon for the Shredded Brussels Sprouts and the Green Bean Casserole Remix. Allow the bacon to cool before crumbling and refrigerating in a covered container. Collect the bacon grease in a separate container, and then cover the bowl and refrigerate.

Shredded Brussels Sprouts (Photo by Jessica)
Prepare the sausage mixture for the Awesome Sausage, Apple and Cranberry Stuffing only to Step 2 of the recipe directions. Place the cooked sausage mixture into a bowl, cover tightly, and refrigerate.

Tuesday, November 20
Make the syrup for the Maple Roast Turkey and Gravy. Cover and refrigerate.

Make the Cranberry, Apple and Fresh Ginger Chutney according to the recipe instructions. Spoon it into a bowl, and then cover and refrigerate.

Cranberry, Apple and Fresh Ginger Chutney (Photo by foodelicious)
Place the containers with the juice concentrates for Kerri’s Holiday Punch in the refrigerator to thaw. Set the containers in a large mixing bowl to catch any drips or leaks and avoid a mess in your refrigerator.

Kerri's Holiday Punch (Photo by Michelle)
Wednesday, November 21
Prepare and bake Mrs. Sigg’s Fresh Pumpkin Pie. Allow the pie to cool completely on a wire rack before covering it loosely with plastic wrap or aluminum foil and refrigerating it. (You’ll want to pull it out of the fridge and let it come to room temperature before serving to your guests.)

Prepare the recipe for Irresistible Pecan Pie as directed. Cover the pie loosely with a towel, aluminum foil or plastic wrap, and store on the counter. (Note: Pecan pie will tend to harden if stored in the refrigerator.)

Irresistible Pecan Pie (Photo by Kristinmae)
Put the frozen green beans for the Green Bean Casserole Remix into a bowl, and place in the refrigerator to thaw. Make Kerri’s Holiday Punch and refrigerate until serving time.

November 22 - Thanksgiving Day!
Depending on the size of your turkey (plan about 20 minutes per pound), begin roasting the Maple Roast Turkey 5 to 6 hours before you plan to seat everyone for dinner. Remember to figure in time for the cooked turkey to rest, tented with aluminum foil, for 1 hour before carving. Allowing the turkey to rest lets all the delicious juices resettle throughout the bird (they were pulled outwards as the turkey roasted). If you carve the turkey too early, all the juices will run out of the meat, leaving you with a dry bird.

Here are steps to follow to organize and make it easy to prepare the remaining dishes for your Thanksgiving feast.

While the turkey is roasting:
Here are tasks to complete at this stage so when the turkey comes out of the oven, all you’ll need to do is assemble the side dishes!

1. Mix the dough for the Winter Squash Rolls and allow it to rise twice, as indicated in the recipe. Cover and set aside in a cool place until you’re ready to bake them.
2. Toast the bread for the Awesome Sausage, Apple and Cranberry Stuffing.
3. Peel the carrots for the Honey Roasted Carrots.
4. Shred the Brussels sprouts and mince the green onions for the Shredded Brussels Sprouts.
5. Prepare Chef John’s Perfect Mashed Potatoes. Cook and simmer the mushrooms for the Green Bean Casserole Remix as indicated in the recipe.

While the turkey is resting:
At this point, all you need to do is complete the final preparation steps and either cook or bake the side dishes. Three are baked at the same oven temperature, which makes it super easy.

1. To make the Awesome Sausage, Apple and Cranberry Stuffing, mix the toasted bread with the sausage, apples, cranberries, parsley and liver mixture you prepared on Monday, as directed in the recipe. Drizzle with the stock and butter, and spoon the mixture into a greased casserole dish. Bake the stuffing (which is now actually called dressing, since it isn’t being stuffed inside a bird) at 350°F for 45 minutes to 1 hour. Check on the dressing occasionally. If it begins to look dry, spoon a few tablespoons of stock over the top.
2. Prepare the Honey Roasted Carrots as directed in the recipe. They need to bake at 350°F for 40 minutes to an hour, so place them in the oven at the same time as the Awesome Sausage, Apple and Cranberry Stuffing.
3. Assemble the Green Bean Casserole Remix and bake at 350°F for 20 minutes.
4. Cook the Shredded Brussels Sprouts on the stove-top while the turkey is resting. This will take about 15 to 20 minutes.
5. About 20 minutes before you’re ready to gather guests at the table, turn the oven temperature up to 400°F and bake the Winter Squash Rolls.
6. Make the gravy for the Maple Roast Turkey and Gravy.

I hope this plan gives you a head start on planning your Thanksgiving meal, and your day is relaxed and delicious! Let me know what you’re cooking at your house for the feast. Do you have any special tips to stay calm and focused in the kitchen?

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