Monday, December 1, 2014

Homemade Holidays: Thanksgiving

The turkey is all carved, the pie is all eaten. We've all filled our bellies with sweet potato and our hearts with love. Hopefully you've all spent the holiday enjoying family and friends, and not stuck indoors chasing a sale. 

This was the 10th Thanksgiving we've hosted with our family. I started the year we were married and I love having my family over to celebrate food, fun and a lot of laughs. As you can imagine, I've  tweaked recipe's and "attack plans" over the years. I've stumbled upon some time saving hints that have helped to make our feast a more enjoyable one. So I decided to compile a list of all the different tips and share them all with you!

First let me start by saying I have finally phased out any processed, canned, or boxed aspects of the Thanksgiving dinner. So if you're like me and did not grow up this way but have a desire to find a better way, keep reading! Yes it was all made from scratch, it was all organic and most of it was all locally grown. Despite what you may think it is not harder to cook everything from scratch, and it was not more expensive. I actually found that it was more cost effective and not only simpler with all of the schedule adjustments I've made, but also much more enjoyable. 

You see, cooking everything from scratch provided my family more of an opportunity to spend time together and create more memories. As always my little sous chef enjoyed joining me in the kitchen and pitching in to bring it all together. It's a great lesson for the boys as well as myself. They learn early on what it takes to help something this big come together and I learn patience, lots of it! Besides I may be biased, but these were my best potatoes to date! I can't help but think of all the smiles and love that was shared while being mashed each time I took a bite,I'm getting ahead of myself...

Even a toddler can get excited about this!
It all started with this wonderful bounty from one of our favorite local farms (more on that another time). We were lucky enough to really clean up; purchasing raw milk, all the potatoes we needed for mashing, turnips, herbs, pumpkin and even farm fresh eggs. This experience alone gets the excitement going. There's something about rummaging and picking all the different produce you need to bring a meal together that really adds to the anticipation of the food. It's no secret that I feel a lot of people in this country are so disconnected from the food they eat, this is an integral part to cooking and nurturing a love for cooking. It's also a direct connection to eating healthier whole foods. I enjoy fostering that connection in my boys and showing them how food is grown and all that goes into cultivating a harvest. They love chasing the chickens and feeding the cows while we are there, it's a win/win!

So once I had most of my ingredients for all of my homemade recipe's, I decided to put together a schedule of all of the items that could be made ahead of time. Seeing as how I have one oven it took some pretty strategic planning on my part, but I've finally perfected the schedule! 

  • Saturday or Sunday before Thanksgiving is when I scour the local farms for the fresh produce and dairy. 
  • Monday I lay out my game plan and get all of my bake ware assembled, then I match up who will be hosting which dish.

  • Tuesday I spring into action and start with the Mashed Potatoes, boiling and mashing to my hearts content. I season and add some cold slices of butter and put into the freezer, taking it out on Turkey Day and thawing throughout the morning before heading into the stove. I figured out a few years back that it tastes exactly the same, if not BETTER! I usually start to cut up the bread for stuffing on Tuesday as well, seeing as how it needs a bit of time to get nice and crispy. This is also when I bake some of my pumpkin pies or pumpkin cheesecake (I hand them out to neighbors every year, so I make an average of six pies) and refrigerate them. This was my first Thanksgiving with Darla my Kitchen Aid Pro Series stand mixer (yes I named her) and what a difference! This is definitely on my list of must-have kitchen accessories!
    Mmmmm... Pumpkin!
  • Turkey: Tuesday is also when I start the brining process. I started doing this about 5 years ago and have never looked back! I do what is called a dry brine, I'm just not a big fan of the wet brine, it's preference really. The Dry Brine allows the bird to take in all of the yummy spicy herb goodness and the result is one juicy and flavorful bird! I wrap this baby up with the rest of them and toss it on into the fridge. Side Note: I buy fresh turkeys from a local farm so it is not frozen. Again, this is my preference. If you haven't tried this instead of the hormone injected frozen turkeys that sat on an ice truck for a week, then be my guest. I promise you will fall in love!
  • Wednesday I make sure my bread is ready, if not I will toss it in the oven for a few minutes to get it all nice and crispy. I proceed with chopping all of the fresh herbs and sauteing the sausage and veggies, once all mixed and I've taken more than my fair share of "taste tests" I cover it and off to the freezer it goes! Bam, two down! 
Fresh herbs are key to great stuffing!
I switch gears and start in on the Cranberry sauce. No canned jelly for me, this is fresh and flavorful! I like my cranberry sauce room temperature so popping it in the fridge when I'm done and taking it out the day of to rest on the counter until serving time is perfect and simple.

Once these sides are complete I start preparing the dough for my homemade dinner rolls. These pull apart rolls are perfect for dipping in gravy and fun to make with your little ones. I start this process on Wednesday night because the dough needs time to rise, so I make the most of the evening and let it be all night long.

I try to make the most of my evening by snapping the ends off of my green beans for the casserole while enjoying a glass of wine with the hubby.

Seeing as how most of the sides are complete and only need to be thrown into the oven, there's no need for an early call time with me and the bird. I'm free to snuggle with the family for a while and enjoy breakfast.

  • Thursday I wash the brine off of the turkey and rub a little something extra on my not-so-feathered friend and pop him/her into the oven!

If I tell you, I have to kill you...
Once he's in, I'm free to watch the parade and go on and on about how wonderful the weather is in New York and how its eighty degrees in South Florida. Yada yada.

Don't you love blanching greens? I do!
I finish mixing everything for the green bean casserole and get ready to roll some dough!
This is where the fun is at!
My boys are big fans of homemade play dough, so they were right at home helping me roll the dough into little balls and putting them in muffin tins.

I set them on the warm counter next to the oven and continue to let them rise until just before popping them in the oven  to get golden brown and buttery... Mmmm.

This is usually where I go into "craft-mode" and start setting the table (although I think I am going to try that on Wednesday night next year). There's no need for the homemade holiday to stop in the kitchen! I'll admit it I'm a sucker for a beautiful tablescape. I love it even more if it's crafty on the fly. We don't have fancy dinners often, so I like to really do it up for holidays. We normally don't use paper plates or plastic-ware, but on Thanksgiving it especially seems like a crime! I couldn't disrespect the bird! 
The pine cones were gathered on a nature walk and tied with twine around the napkins.
The devil is in the details and I enjoy the simplicity of using what you have.

Once the table is set and the bird is resting safely, it's time to start popping all the sides in the oven to get warm and bubbly. This is usually where I scurry around looking for something decent to wear and slap on some mascara. Once the sides are finished and the gravy is bubbling we perform the "cattle call". 

After we each say a little something about what we are most thankful for, it's time to eat, drink and be merry!

I hope this schedule will help you to enjoy more time with your family, perhaps even come up with your own schedule. It has helped me to provide a natural and homemade meal for my family on Thanksgiving and I hope it can do the same if not encourage you to find your own way. I've recently started working again and this schedule allowed me to continue creating the meal I have for years without compromising it due to lack of time. That's the beauty of utilizing your week, it makes this homemade holiday accessible for everyone. 

Happy Thanksgiving from our home to yours!

Essentially Yours,


No comments :

Post a Comment