Sunday, November 30, 2008

Thanksgiving Extravaganza

Hosting Thanksgiving was so much fun! Even with half the space we used to have in Brooklyn we managed to cook a 26 lb turkey! make homemade stuffing, four side dishes, breads, a relish tray and three different pies. Not to mention all the wine and beer! Along with my parents and my little brother erin's parents also joined us for dinner and her mom made the mashed potatoes and brought a few appetizers and a relish tray!

I knew this post was going to take awhile to get through so here we go....

I know I have mentioned before that I probably get my love for cooking from my dad. Although my mom does alot of the day to day cooking at from my dad, who is famous for trying new recipes (which I of course LOVE to do). The two of us decided to come up with our own stuffing recipe this year. We started with three loaves of bread (a garlic, three cheese and an herb loaf), he cut them into chunks the night before and let them crisp up in the oven like curtons (about an hour at 325). We basically made our own breadcrumbs. The next morning, after my turkey chase race (i won 2nd place by the way and got a medal and a homemade apple pie!) we mixed in some add ins: fresh cranberries, onion, celery and eggs to bind it all together.
We also used some Fat Free canned chicken stock to moisten the mixture. My dad seasoned it with some basil, fresh garlic and various other spices :). We also used a little bit of thyme...which I didn't like. I think that thyme greatly overpowers other spices and have made a mental note to watch out for it in upcoming recipes. Next we stuff the 26 lb bird and threw it in the oven!! (okay placed it very carefully)

Next we move on to all the side dishes. Now in my family we pretty much have the same dishes every thanksgiving and although I strive to be healthy in eating i also fully intended to enjoy my holiday traditions! I made it a point to check with my guest regarding anything that absolutely must not be altered for their enjoyability. Surprising most of the dishes were up for changes as far as they were concerned. I started with the Green Bean Casserole. I had discovered in my Nov/Dec issue of Eating Well a way to healthify this one and thought I would give in a try. Their Green Bean Casserole seemed to be more homemade to me, and if it's healthier why not?! The only difficult item to find was the powdered buttermilk, but everything else was fairly straight forward. Now I know I already mentioned my distaste for's in this one too :(. This picture shows the casserole before being assembled. The large chunks are the fresh mushrooms and the thyme did add a nice color to the mix. Overall I loved the homemade taste of this one! The fresh mushrooms and leeks YUM! But the thyme really overpowered it for me! erin loved it however so to each their own. If I make it again i honestly think i would completely omit that spice.

I didn't take any pictures of this next one (I think my food photographer was busy serving or rather drinking wine :). I had made a Brussels sprouts dish last Thanksgiving and although I know not everyone is a BS fan...i love them! So does erin, so I made sure to try another one this year. I wanted to try something festive so I picked Brussels Sprouts with Chestnuts. I tried to roast my own chestnuts last Christmas and it was reeeeally hard so i shopped around and found some already canned (NOTE: these were pretty pricey ringing in at $15 for one jar!). We had alot of leftovers of this one but I LOVED them...and loved the leftovers as well. What can I say I like Brussels sprouts :).

Finally my favorite side dish of the day...and my dad's too! This was possibly the lowest calorie dish that we had! I almost didn't attempt this one because it was the substitute for my Mom's Candied yams that we have EVERY YEAR, however after talking to everyone and realizing that I was the one who was worried about missing the yams...why not switch it out. This one was from Hungry Girl and in her clever way it's simply titled : Get Squashed! Due to the fact that a serving size was a 1/4 of the pan, I doubled the recipe. It was super simple to assemble. It was really soupy when I first put it together. I added more butternut squash to the pan until it thickened a bit (I didn't measure my addition). It was still soupy when I put it in the oven but I knew with the egg beaters that it would solidify a bit. It turned out great!! I also chose not to measure the marshmallows and instead made sure they were covering the whole pan!

This was really really good! I highly recommend it and challenge anyone to say that this taste like a healthy dish...anything but. She mentions that you could even have this as a desert and I fully agree!

I must say that we really planned the cooking well. We prepped before erin's family came over so when the turkey was done all the dishes were ready to cook! We didn't do anything special with the turkey just threw some poultry seasoning on it and let it roast.

Erin even did some of the carving...okay one piece, but she did a great job! We left the rest up to my dad. On a cooking note something he strongly recommends is letting the bird sit for about 1/2 hour after taking it out, prior to carving. It helps the turkey really absorb all the juices.

PHEW...if you are still reading than you made it through the Thanksgiving extravaganza. I was really pleased with the way everything turned out! it sured helped to have my parents their cooking and amazing guest as well. As mentioned before my mom also baked boxed banana and lemon poppy seed bread. erin's mom brought some Amish bread and a baggie for me to start my own (upcoming post alert!).

I had an amazing time cooking, chatting and of course eating and I must say that I have quite alot to be Thankful for this year.