Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Disaster Averted: Thanksgiving Edition

So you have done all of the prep you possibly can and everything is organized and ready to go.  But obviously the day comes and something is bound to go wrong.  Here are some quick fix tips to solve any major Thanksgiving disaster!

1. Turkey
Either the turkey is underdone or overdone, neither of which is good for Thanksgiving.
If your bird is underdone: Most of the time the turkey breasts cook faster than the dark meat on the bird.  If you find this happening while you are cooking, cover just the white meat with aluminum foil and uncover the dark meat.  If the bird is already out of the oven and you notice your dark meat is pink, here is the best cover up.  Put the whole bird on the table so everybody can see it and thinks you made the most perfect turkey ever.  Bring it back into the kitchen and cut off the breasts, slice them up and serve them.  While everybody is eating the white meat, have the dark meat cooking in the oven until it isn't pink anymore.  Slice that up and serve it.  Then nobody is waiting for the turkey to be done and you aren't killing anybody by serving raw poultry!
If your bird is overdone: The best way to avoid this disaster is to keep basting the bird.  If you find the turkey has been left in the oven too long and has turned dark, just peel the skin off.  Nobody will notice missing turkey skin when it is all sliced up on a beautiful platter.  If it is dry on the inside, after it has been sliced, pour all of the leftover pan juices over the sliced turkey.  They will look shiny and moist and absorb some juice.  And to be honest, there is so many things on the plate already the turkey will probably get mixed with 5 different other things and nobody will notice its dryness.  And another quick tip: Gravy makes everything delicious and moist.  Use this to your advantage!

2. Stuffing
There are always so many problems caused by stuffing the bird with stuffing.  Either the stuffing is overdone while the bird is raw, or the turkey is done and our stuffing still has not come up to temperature.  Here is some advice: Don't stuff your bird.  The raw juices soak into the stuffing, and even though heat can kill the bacteria, since the stuffing is all the way inside your 15 lb turkey, it is the last thing to get hot.  If you must have a stuffed bird, cook your stuffing separately and put it into the bird after everything has been cooked (and no raw bacteria can contaminate the food).  But honestly, make things easy and just serve your stuffing on the side.

3. Gravy
So I have already said that gravy can really cover up any kind of disaster, but what happens if the gravy is a disaster itself?  If you notice your gravy gets lumps once you add flour or constarch, quickly shut the eat off and continue whisking.  Then run it through some kind of sieve without pressing anything through.  What happens if you burn the gravy? Again quickly shut off the pan and pour it into something else without scraping anything off the bottom.  Most of the burnt part will be left in the pan.  And here is another little gravy secret: Keep some store bought gravy and packets on hand.  No harm in making a semi-homemade Thanksgiving.  These store bought alternatives do the same thing as the homemade version.  Moisten anything that has been made dry and fulfill the once a year gravy craving.

4. Mashed Potatoes
So mashed potatoes are usually everybody's favorite, so messing these up isn't the ideal situation.  To avoid lumpy mashed potatoes, use a ricer or food mill.  If your mashed potatoes get gluey add some sour cream and cheese, put it in a baking cheese with bread crumbs on top and bake them in the oven.  The dry heat of the oven will take the gluey texture out and then your guests think they got some new fancy potato dish.  Same thing goes for mashed potatoes as the gravy: Have on hand some store bought option.  These are always creamy and fluffy and can be made in the blink of an eye if a disaster strikes at the last minute.

5. Pies
So pies can be difficult to make.  Especially Thanksgiving ones like pumpkin and pecan pie.  I am sure everybody has made a soupy pecan pie or a cracked pumpkin pie.  For the pecan pie, always have lots of ice cream on hand.  Spoon ice cream into cups and scoop the filling on top with whipped cream.  Then crumble up the crust for an additional crunch and call it deconstructed pecan pie.  For the pumpkin pie, if you find that is has cracked.  Pipe pretty mounds of whipped cream on top.  Now you look like a fancy cake decorator and I am sure nobody will complain about additional whipped cream. 

So hopefully none of these disasters will happen to you, but if they do here are some quick fixes.  Some of these fixes I might just do from the beginning (Pecan pie sundae sounds pretty good to me).  Happy Thanksgiving everybody! Pin It Now!

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Roasted Turkey

Since Thanksgiving is coming up I thought I would post my Dad's delicious Turkey recipe. 

20-25 lb turkey (You don't have to get one this big, my family just does everything in excess)
2 tablespoons salt, plus a few extra tablespoons to wash
2 tablespoons paprika
2 tablespoons sage
2 tablespoons garlic powder
2 tablespoons parsley
1 stick of butter
1 apple
5 sprigs of rosemary

So this may sound odd but my dad washes the turkey with salt.  Basically when you are washing the turkey just sprinkle a lot of salt over it and rub it in and then rinse it off.  I guess it is kind of similar to brining.  Then put the turkey in a large roasting pan and sprinkle with 2 tablespoons salt, paprika, sage, garlic powder, and parsley.  Evely disperse this on the outside, and also on the inside of the turkey.  Put an apple inside the turkey.  This will absorb any excess fat.  Then put in the rosemary sprigs to infuse flavor. Now comes the best part.  Literally just put a stick of butter right on top of the breast bone of the turkey.  This will melt throughout the process and baste the whole bird.
Then cook the bird in a 325 over for 5 hours.  That is about 15 minutes per pound.  Cook the bird with the foil over it, until the last half hour.  Baste the bird every hour with the pan drippings.  For the last half hour, turn the oven up to 375 degrees and allow the skin to brown.  That means the total cooking time is about 5 1/2 hours.  Enjoy and Happy Thanksgiving!

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Saturday, November 19, 2011

Thanksgiving Prep Guide

Here are 10 things you can do to make this Thanksgiving stress free! My family has been having Thanksgiving at our house for many years and let me tell you, it has taken almost all of those years to have it run smoothly.

10. Review your Recipes- You may think you know your grandmother's stuffing recipe by heart, but I am sure under the time constraints and stress of preparing so many dishes you are going to make a mistake.  Have all of your recipes organized a few days before hand and review all of the ingredients you need. Maybe even consider cutting back a few recipes that really weren't that popular the year before. (My family tried this but we somehow created more recipes)

9. Make out your grocery list- List all of the ingredients you will need for your recipes and go around your kitchen checking off the ones you have.  Also make sure that if you need 2 cups of flour for your pumpkin pie crust that you don't have 1 1/2 cups.  The last thing you want is running out to the store 5 minutes before the guests are about to arrive to buy a forgotten ingredient (My dad is usually the one that fixes the mistakes I make in this department).

8. Clean your oven- Since I am the sloppiest cook ever (nicknamed the wild chef) the amount of cheese I let spill over in the oven all year long is ridiculous.  Clean your oven a few days before so there are no smells of cleaning supplies and you won't have burnt food stuck on the oven smoking while your delicious turkey is in there. 

7. Learn the Bird- Make sure the morning of Thanksgiving you aren't handling a frozen bird.  Turkeys take a while to defrost.  If you immerse it in cold water it will take 30 minutes per pound, if you leave it in the refrigerator about 1 day per 5 lbs.  Don't forget to take out the packet in the cavity with the gizzards and such.  You don't want this stuff to cook inside your bird.  And although it may look fancy to stuff your turkey, it honestly isn't very sanitary.  Save your stuffing for side dishes, not IN side dishes.  And never forget to let your turkey rest for at least a half hour after its cooked.  After all of the labor and time you put into this turkey, don't ruin it by cutting open a hot turkey so all of the juice runs out.

6. Prep the fridge- You may think there is plenty of room in your fridge for all of the food, but when you have a bunch of sides, guests bringing desserts and enormous containers, and appetizers you are looking at a full fridge.  Plan ahead of time to avoid cleaning out the fridge 5 minutes before dinner will be served. 

5.  Set the table early- My family usually sets the table the night before.  When we all help it gets done fast and then the next day all we need to focus on is the food.  No worrying if we have matching forks, plates, and cups the day of Thanksgiving. (Usually we give my dad all of the mismatched stuff)

4. Clear your countertops- You would be surprised how much counter top space you need for Thanksgiving dinner.  Take away the toasters and coffee pots just for a few hours while prepping is going on.  And plus the last thing you want is turkey juice getting all over your appliances.  Also clean the countertops as you go.  My parents taught me this trick a while ago, and I recently figured out that cleaning as you go is so much better than at midnight when you have been preparing the meal since 6 am that morning.

3. Review your pot and utensil inventory- Obviously everything will probably need its own pot or dish, so make sure you have enough.  My family even makes post it notes of everything we will make and puts it on the assigned dish.  This way when the mashed potatoes are out of the pot, they have some place to go!

2. Develop a strategy- Look at the things that can get done in advance and be frozen.  Plan things in order or cook times and importance.  Some Thanksgiving we left making the cornbread last cause honestly there are so many more delicious things, and if we forgot it it wasn't a big deal.  Also things cook at different cooking temperatures so cook everything that has the same cooking temperature at the same time.  Also try to prep as much in advance.  Do all of the chopping first and put things to the side so you can assemble it later. 

1. HAVE FUN- I never understood why the holidays are notorious for being stressful.  They are about fun, food, and family, not stress.  The worst thing that can happen is you go to Boston Market and get an already prepared meal for your guests.  But honestly do you think things will get that bad that you will need to do that?  If the turkey burns call it cajun turkey, if its under cooked throw it back in the oven.  Thanksgiving happens every year.  If you make a mistake this year, then fix it next year.  My family plays Christmas music while we cook and all of us are in the kitchen together pretty much the the entire day before Thanksgiving. It is a lot of fun when everybody helps out. Give everybody a job to do.  My brother is the taste tester and my dog cleans up any food that we drop. I used to be stressed about making the graham cracker crust perfect or having the creamiest mashed potatoes, but honestly it will all work out in the end.  And if something goes really wrong then you just laugh about it and you can tell that story for years to come!

Happy Thanksgiving! Pin It Now!

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Hashbrown Casserole

Have you ever tasted the Hashbrown Casserole at Cracker Barrel? Well here is the recipe that tastes almost identical to it.  Best part is that it only has 5 ingredients and takes almost no effort to make. 

1-32 ounce bag frozen hashbrowns (let them defrost for an hour on the counter or put them in the microwave for a minute or two)
2- 10 3/4 ounce cans cream of potato soup
8 ounces sour cream
2 cups sharp cheddar
1 cup parmesan cheese
(do not add salt to this recipe, the soup contains enough salt)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a large bowl mix the soup and sour cream together.  Then add the hashbrowns and stir until combined.  Then add the two cheeses and stir until everything is incorporated.  Put into a greased baking dish and bake in the oven for one hour or until top is golden brown.  Serve hot and enjoy!

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Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Spooky Halloween Punch

This is so fast, it looks so cool, and it tastes delicious. 

2 liters ginger ale
1 gallon any flavored sherbet (I used rainbow which had raspberry, lemon, and orange)

Fill a large bowl with the two liters of ginger ale.  Don't worry about not creating bubbles, the more bubbles the spookier.  Then using an ice cream scoop, scoop spoonfuls of sherbet onto the punch. Do it gently so you do not pop any bubbles.  Keep doing this until you use up all of the sherbet.  Do not stir.  Serve with a ladle and punch glasses.

For an extra spooky treat, we took a surgical glove, filled it with water and froze it until it was solid.  Put this in the bowl before adding the ginger ale.  Not only is it spooky but it also keeps the punch cold all night long!

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