Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Time Saving Tip - Easy Thanksgiving Meal

This year I've decided to adopt no-muss, no-fuss holiday celebrating.  The focus should be giving thanks, celebrating connections with others and just plain ol' gratitude in abundance.  So to make sure we have things in the perspective (gratitude first, eating second) our Thanksgiving meal will be pretty simple...nothing fancy, just tasty favorites from the past (: 

Here's a run down of our traditional meal...
  • turkey
  • dressing
  • gravy
  • potato salad
  • corn
  • green beans
  • cranberry sauce
  • sweet potatoes
  • deviled eggs
  • fresh fruit plate
  • fresh veggie plate
  • pumpkin pie
  • pecan pie
  • coconut cake
Let me tell ya, that's more carb in a meal than I'd like to see, but it's the holiday so we don't hold back (:  One thing that really helps to save time is making things in advance.  I've already gotten a frozen turkey and he's sitting happily in the freezer waiting for his debut.

The coconut cake and homemade cranberry sauce will be made on Monday and kept in the freezer until Thursday morning.  The dressing (heat and serve), pies (thank you Mrs. Smith) and sweet potatoes will be made Tuesday.  The potato salad, sweet potatoes, deviled eggs, fruit and veggie trays are happening on Wednesday and then finally Mr. Bird, gravy, corn and green beans will be the only items actually cooked on Thanksgiving Day.

I was debating over cooking him ahead of time with a little heat 'n' serve action the day of, but decided the smell of a cooking turkey wafting through the air on Thanksgiving day was well worth the extra effort earlier in the morning.

I usually like to make things from scratch, but this year a few shortcuts are in order to make things easier.  Here are the "recipes" that I'll be using for this year's festivities...
Coconut Cake
  • Sour cream pound cake from the grocery bakery
  • 2 packs of fresh frozen coconut
  • 2 large containers of whip topping (not something we normally use in our house, but okay twice a year)
In a bowl mix 1 1/2 containers of cool whip with 1 1/2 packs of coconut to create the light, airy "frosting."  If you'd like a heavier weight "frosting" simply add a package of cream cheese.  (The other half of the Cool Whip will be used for the pumpkin pie and the leftover half of coconut with be used to sprinkle on top of the cake). 

Spread mixture on each layer and "put the cake back together."  Then frost the cake with the rest of the Cool Whip/coconut mixture and sprinkle on the remainder of fresh coconut.  This is such a simple recipe, but you'll be very pleased with the results.  I've been told it rivals any coconut cake made from scratch.

If you want to make this recipe even easier, simply get a big bowl, crumble the pound cake up and begin making layers.  One layer of crumbled pound cake, then a layer of "frosting," then more pound cake crumbles, more frosting mixture, etc. Top off with the fresh coconut.  During Easter we add strawberries to the mix for a lovely spring dessert.  For Christmas one year I layered in my fresh walnut cranberry sauce for a twist.  YUM!!
Cranberry Sauce
  • 2 packs of fresh cranberries
  • Enough orange juice to just cover the cranberries
  • The rind of one lemon and 1/2 an orange (I prefer to use a microplane)
Add cranberries, orange juice, lemon and orange rind to a pot and bring to a boil.  Keep stirring to make sure it doesn't burn.  You'll begin to hear the cranberries pop...once it becomes a little thicker, reduce the heat and cover.  Let it simmer until it reaches the preferred consistency. Some people like to add sugar but we like things a little on the tart side and simply add a touch of honey.  A cup of walnuts is awesome in this too!  Very simple, but so much better than something you'd get out of a can!
  • 16 oz. package of Pepperidge Farm's Herb Seasoned Stuffing
  • 8 oz box Jiffy Cornbread mix
  • 32 oz of chicken stock
  • 1/2 cup chopped celery
  • 1/2 cup chopped onion
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 teaspoon poultry seasoning
  • 1 teaspoon sage
Sauté onions and celery with a pat of butter.  Mix all ingredients, including onions and celery, in a bowl.  Grease a casserole dish and pour in mixture.  Bake for 30 minutes at 350 degrees.

Potato Salad
  • 8-10 large potatoes, diced
  • 6 chopped boiled eggs
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 3 stalks of celery, chopped
  • 1/2 cup of mayo
  • 1/8 cup of grain mustard
  • 1 Tablespoon of raw honey
  • 1 small jar of pimentos
  • Pepper to taste
  • Sprinkle of paprika
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. (Make sure you have the right amount of salt to season the potatoes as you will not be able to add salt at any other time.)  Add diced potatoes and cook until tender but still firm...about 15 minutes. Drain.

In a large bowl combine honey, mustard, mayonnaise and pepper to create the dressing. Then add the potatoes, eggs, onions, celery, pimentos and gently mix together.  (If you like your potato salad on the moist side, you may need to add a tad more mayo or mustard.) Top with a sprinkle of paprika. 

**Never add salt to the final mixture as it will draw out the moisture of the potatoes and create a puddle of water in the bottom of your bowl**

Deviled Eggs
  • 1 dozen eggs
  • 1/4 cup mayo
  • 2 Tablespoons of mustard (not dry mustard)
  • A dash paprika
  • 1 teaspoon raw honey
  • 1/4 teaspoon celery seed
  • Salt and pepper to taste
After boiling eggs, slice those puppies open, place yolks into a bowl and mash with a fork.  Add mayonnaise, mustard, paprika, honey, celery seed, salt and pepper and mix thoroughly. If the mixture is too dry for you, then add more mayo. Fill the empty egg white shells with the mixture and sprinkle lightly with paprika. 

  • Turkey drippings
  • 1 cup cold chicken stock
  • 1 Tablespoon corn starch
  • Salt and pepper to taste
Place corn starch and 1/4 cup cold chicken stock in a large skillet and mix (I prefer to add stock and corn starch into a small jar with a lid and shake...it mixes much faster).  Pour turkey drippings from your roasting pan into the skillet along with the rest of the chicken stock, salt and pepper (as well as any other spices you love) and heat to a boil.  Immediately reduce heat and simmer to thicken.

So there we go!  An easy, breezy Thanksgiving meal plan that doesn't chain you to the kitchen for an entire day so you can enjoy the real reason for this season (:  

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