Monday, November 19, 2012

A gathering of Thanksgiving tips and recipes!

Today, with Thanksgiving coming up so quickly, I thought I would share some more of my tips for Thanksgiving dinner.  It would have been more thoughtful of me to post them last week, but I guess it is better late than never.

It seems to me that Thanksgiving is really neglected as a holiday.  It can be very easy to just look at it as a prelude to a Black Friday shopping spree.  But I've been very encouraged in the blogosphere to see so many wonderful Thanksgiving ideas for food, decorating, kids' activities, table settings, etc.  You can find these on people's blogs and on Pinterest.  I have a special board on Pinterest just for Thanksgiving ideas, in fact. If you are interested, click on the red  "Follow Me on Pinterest" button in the sidebar and -- once you have arrived there -- scroll down to find my Thanksgiving board.

So here are some more Thanksgiving tips, recipes and other goodies.  I hope it's not too late for you to enjoy some of them.

In thinking of Thanksgiving dinner, probably one of the first steps after being sure of the number of guests is to make a menu list.  At our Thanksgivings, I am not responsible for all of the food.  People bring things to share, and we establish ahead of time who's bringing what.  Right now my menu for Thursday is scribbled on a scrap of paper.  But before the day I will write it neatly on a pretty piece of paper, under the heading Thanksgiving 2012.  When Thanksgiving is over, I will tuck this menu in the back of my Christmas notebook.  That way, when someone asks me about what to bring next Thanksgiving, I will be ready and can just pull it out and say definitively what we ate.

Now, on to the food!

For the turkey, I have tried a number of roasting methods. But the foolproof, best way I have found is to buy a turkey-sized oven bag and follow the chart and directions for roast turkey. Moist and wonderful every time. I roast it unstuffed.

For the stuffing, I buy a bag of Pepperidge Farm herb-seasoned stuffing and follow the directions on the bag, sauteing plenty of chopped celery and onion in the butter before adding it. Usually, I cook the stuffing in a crockpot on low, adding a little chicken broth if necessary from time to time to keep it moist. One can bake the stuffing in the oven, of course, but I like the crockpot better. And the oven is usually pretty full of other things, anyway.

For the mashed potatoes, this is my very best advice:  Make-Ahead Mashed Potatoes.  If you have never tried this, I think you will be very thankful to have found this recipe.

With turkey, stuffing, and mashed potatoes, one must have gravy.  This is the simplest and best turkey gravy recipe I have found: Easy Turkey Gravy.  It makes a generous amount, and the gravy hounds at your table will thank you!

For vegetable side dishes, here are a few of my favorites:

Sweet Potato Casserole

Broccoli Casserole

Scalloped Onions

Or try this wonderful squash and apple bake:

3 lbs. buttercup squash
3 apples
6 Tblsp. margarine (or use 4 Tblsp. oil)
2/3 cup brown sugar, firmly packed
1 1/2 Tblsp. flour
1 1/4 tsp. salt

Cut squash in halves; remove seeds and fibers. Peel and cut in slices 1/2-inch to 3/4-inch thick. Arrange the slices in a 13 x 9-inch pan.

Core apples but do not peel them. Cut in 1/2-inch to 3/4-inch slices and arrange them on top of squash.

Mix remaining ingredients; sprinkle over top of apples and squash. Cover pan tightly with foil. Bake at 350º for about 1 hour or until squash is tender. Serves 6 to 8.

I have been making this recipe for over thirty years. It’s nice with any autumn meal and would be a great side dish for Thanksgiving. It can be made with any winter squash you like, but my favorite is buttercup.

A nice fresh salad to have with Thanksgiving dinner is this one:


1 large or 2 medium bunches romaine, torn in bite-size pieces
1 can (11 oz.) mandarin oranges, drained
1 cup seedless red grapes, halved
1/2 cup sliced almonds, toasted (I toast nuts in the microwave -- quick & easy)

1/4 cup lemon juice
3 Tblsp. vegetable oil
3 Tblsp. sugar

In a large bowl combine all of the salad ingredients and gently toss together. Put all of the dressing ingredients in a small jar. Cover securely and shake to combine. Drizzle dressing over salad and toss to coat ingredients with dressing. Yield: 4 to 6 servings.

This is a delicious salad! It’s also very good served with a Mexican meal -- the light, fruity taste is a nice contrast to the spicy hot flavors. I think I will add a few dried cranberries for Thanksgiving, too.

Homemade rolls are nice but certainly not a necessity.  If your family likes rolls, however, check these recipes out:

Homemade Dinner Rolls   
 The above is a recipe for wonderful homemade crescent rolls, very easy to make and delicious.

 And below, my daughter Carrie's honey rolls--originally from Quick Cooking magazine, Sept./Oct. 2000 -- which she is often requested to bring for Thanksgiving:

(This is a bread machine recipe, but probably could be adapted to make by hand.)

1 c. milk (70-80º)
1 egg
1 egg yolk
1/2 c. vegetable oil
2 T. honey
1- 1/2 t. salt
3 -1/2 c. bread flour
2-1/4 t. active dry yeast


1/3 c. sugar
2 T. butter, melted
1 T. honey
1 egg white
Additional honey, optional

In bread machine pan, place the first eight ingredients in order suggested by manufacturer. Select dough setting (check dough after 5 minutes of mixing; add 1 to 2 T. of water or flour if needed.) When cycle is completed, turn dough onto a lightly floured surface. Punch down; cover and let rest for 10 minutes. Divide into 24 pieces; shape each into a ball. Place 12 balls each in two greased 8” baking pans. Cover and let rise in a warm place until doubled, about 30 minutes. For glaze, combine sugar, butter, honey and egg white; drizzle over dough. Bake at 350º for 20-25 minutes or until golden brown. Brush with additional honey if desired.

Yield: 2 dozen

A Thanksgiving meal really needs cranberries in some form, but I don't have a recipe to share for that.  There are great recipes for cranberry sauces and chutneys out there, and the canned is fine also.

Now for pies:


1 9-inch unbaked pie crust
1 15-ounce can pumpkin
1 14-ounce can sweetened condensed milk
2 eggs
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. nutmeg
1/4 tsp. ginger
1/4 tsp. salt

Preheat oven to 425º. Combine all ingredients except pie crust in a large bowl and beat with electric mixer until well combined. Pour into crust.

Bake 15 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 350º. Bake pie for 35 to 40 minutes longer or until knife inserted 1 inch from crust comes out clean. Cool pie before cutting or serving. Refrigerate leftovers.

I have never really cared for pumpkin pie, I must confess. A couple of years ago I found the above recipe on line and I have never looked back. This one is truly delicious and so easy. I like to top it with a baked pastry cutout in the form of a turkey.

And here are some other of our favorite pie recipes:

Favorite Thanksgiving Pie Recipes

Lastly here are a few other inspiring Thanksgiving links:

A Thanksgiving Memory  -- a memory of my childhood Thanksgivings at my grandmother's house.  I'm going to reread this myself because it is full of fun vintage ideas.

A Children's Book of Thanksgiving Prayers -- This is a vintage book of children's Thanksgiving prayers with charming illustrations.

Thankful Be -- not from my blog, but from Aunt Ruthie at Sugar Pie Farmhouse.  I read this last year and it continues to inspire.

Hope you have enjoyed this potpourri of Thanksgiving ideas! 

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