Monday, November 18, 2013

My Thanksgiving Meal Plan

I love, love, love Thanksgiving- a holiday about food, family, friends, and thankfulness- what's not to love?!
For instance, I'm thankful we have a real table now- unlike our first apartment!
 Every year I cook a feast- even when we travel to my or his parents' I will make a Thanksgiving dinner for just my husband and I- yeah, it kicks butt that much.
I've enjoyed doing this every year for the past 4 years- it's delicious and I find it low-stress (though that's probably because it's just the two of us, I may change my mind if there's guests! (As you can see in the pictures we don't worry about nice serving dishes either.)) We look forward to it every year. If we ate the leftovers just for dinner it would probably last about a week. However, we gobble it up for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, so it usually only lasts a day or 2 as leftovers (he eats about 5 meals a day while I eat about 2.) While I don't think this is terribly revolutionary or anything, perhaps it will help someone somewhere out. :)

Credentials- I've been helping out with Thanksgiving for a while- pies since 5, cranberry sauce since 8, potatoes since 12 and finally the turkey in college. Now I've cooked it all myself the past 4.

 Okeydokey, now let's get down to it.

What to Have:

Amazing Flavorful And Moist Turkey
 French Garlic Mashed Potatoes
Cranberry Sauce
Green Bean Casserole
Sparking Grape Juice or Cider (though a couple times we made a Spike Your Juice. It's pretty tasty, like sparkling juice with a little kick. I like it best after about 3 or 4 days since it's tasty and barely spiked, though I believe most would like it at around 7-9 days when it'll be more like wine.)

Things Kids Can Help With:

I loved helping with Thanksgiving when growing up, so did my little sister. The three of us would be busy in the kitchen- making it easier for my mom. Luckily there's plenty of kid-friendly tasks that come with Thanksgiving cooking.

1. Stirring anything- I mean anything.
    a. The garlic sauce into the mashed potatoes
    b. The green bean casserole together
    c. Pie filling
    d. The cranberries (if they're old enough to know not to touch it!)
2. Mashing the potatoes- they're very thorough with it....
3. Sprinkling things in or on- the onions on the green bean casserole, sugar in the cranberries, ect ect ect.
4. Fluffing the stuffing.
5. Putting things in the serving dishes.
6. Setting the table.
7. Asking and/or fetching everyone's drinks.

How to Make It:

A Day or Two Before:

Soak the turkey in brine water, as with My Turkey Recipe.

The Night Before:

Pie- I highly recommend making the pies the night before. It saves oven space, time and stress. My mother has always made the best pie crust, so I use Her Pie Crust Recipe.
 I won't lie, this year will be the first year I make pie. I love it, but my husband hasn't been a fan... until last year when our niece convinced him to have pecan pie at our Thanksgiving lunch. Now he loves pecan pie. If anyone has a stellar recipe for it, please comment below, I'd love any tips since I've only made fruit and Mousse pies before!

Cranberry Sauce- Honestly, I just use the directions on the back of the bag of cranberries. I usually actually make this the day of since it's easy for me to squeeze in, however, whenever I would help my mother cook we make it the night before to lower stress of the next day. Cranberry sauce keeps well in the fridge, so if you're trying to have little to do on Thanksgiving day itself, then absolutely do this the night before.

The Big Day:

Set out everything you will need in little groups of what will need those ingredients. Start with the Turkey- follow These Directions to make the sauce. As the butter is melting cut the potatoes for the Garlic Mashed Potatoes.

Pour turkey sauce over turkey. Don't throw away the brine you soaked the turkey in!

Once the turkey is in the oven begin boiling the potatoes in the brine the turkey was sitting in. I get a little paranoid about germs and food so I like to boil the water for about 5 minutes, add the potatoes and let it boil for another couple minutes. (This is usually when I begin the cranberries since I do them the day of.) Tidy the kitchen up a little is you're not making cranberries. Baste the turkey.

Pour the ingredients for green bean casserole (I just do the Campbell's Recipe since my husband doesn't like the fancy fresh ingredients version. I do make two alterations- I add liquid smoke to the mix and I put bacon on top with the fried onions- my husband loveloveloves both touches.) Mix everything together and pour into a pan.
Baste the turkey. By this point the potatoes should be soft. Save the hot water used for turkey brine and boiling potatoes.
 Follow the directions for French Garlic Mashed Potatoes. While the garlic and butter are heating put the green bean casserole in the oven. Finish making the garlic sauce for the mashed potatoes.
 Begin the stuffing (I just use the directions on the back of the box or bag, except instead of using butter in the water I use some of the sauce for the turkey- it makes it taste amazing! While you're getting the sauce, baste the Turkey.Instead of using fresh water use the salt water you used to brine the turkey and boil the potatoes. Again, I like to boil it a little longer than usual before adding the stuffing.) Mash the potatoes while the stuffing is cooking. Add the sauce and stir.

I don't know if it's luck or good planning, but about this time everything finishes up!

 There may be a couple minute difference between two dishes, but I use my mother-in-law's trick of keeping things warm- throw a clean hand towel over it!

 If the oven is off and what you're making is in an oven-safe container you can also keep it in the oven since it takes a while for most ovens to cool down fully it'll keep the food warm. *Edit, I like to finish my turkey off in the toaster oven, so the oven is free to leave things in to keep warm.
 Now it's time to enjoy your spoils! It's so good! :)

Since everything on the menu is very easy to Freeze we always plan on freezing some portions for later. It never works- we always eat it too quickly. Last year we did turn some of the Thanksgiving leftovers into Turkey Alfredo and holy cow that was amazing! I couldn't decide what I wanted more- leftovers or Turkey Alfredo. I craved it months after it was gone.

Anyway- good luck on your Thanksgiving endeavors and enjoy!

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Monday, November 4, 2013

Lemon Meringue Cupcakes with Blackberry Curd Recipe

The Adorable Turtle Babies decided to make some delicious cupcakes for the teachers of the school after a really stressful week! They ended up delicious with a moist lemon cake, blackberry curd filling, and meringue topping. This recipe will make about 2 dozen cupcakes


Cupcake Ingredients:

2 Lemons
3/4 Cup Softened Butter
1 3/4 Cups Sugar
3 Large Eggs
3 Cups Flour
1 Teaspoon Baking Soda
1 Cup Milk
1 Teaspoon Salt

Blackberry Curd Ingredients:

3 Cups Blackberries
1 Cup Butter
2 Eggs
1 Cup Sugar 

Meringue Ingredients:

4 Egg Whites (Warning- raw egg whites can potentially have salmonella. However, do not use the eggs in a carton- the radiation makes it so you can't whip them, believe me, after an hour of trying and a little googling, it will not work!)

6 Tablespoons Sugar
1/2 Teaspoon Cornstarch
Pinch Salt


Preheat oven to 325 degrees.

Begin with the cupcakes: using a cheese grater, use the lemon peels of the 2 lemons to make lemon zest. Squeeze the juice from the lemons into a bowl. Add 1 cup of milk to the fresh lemon juice. Set aside to curdle. In a different bowl mix 1 3/4 cups sugar, 3 cups flour, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1 teaspoon baking soda.
 Add 3 large eggs, 3/4 cup softened butter, and the lemon-milk mixture. Mix.
 Pour into cupcake tin and bake.

Begin the blackberry curd filling. In a pot over low heat place the 3 cups of blackberries.
When the berries are softened add 1 cup sugar, 2 eggs, and 1 cup butter. Heat on low heat, stirring regularly.
 Continue cooking until the curd has thickened. 

If you really have your timing down then you can begin the meringue while the cupcakes and curd are cooking. But if you want to be cautious then you can wait until after the cupcakes are filled. When the cupcakes are slightly undercooked take them out.
Nummy! Lemony!
 Cut out the center of the cupcakes and fill with the blackberry curd.

Whip the 4 egg whites until they form soft peaks. Mix 6 tablespoons sugar 1/2 teaspoon cornstarch, and pinch of salt in a bow. Slowly add the sugar mix to the egg whites as you whip. Spoon meringue onto the cupcakes. Toast the meringue.

More Delightful Desserts!
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