Autumnal Mulled Cider

Over the past 3 to 4 years I have lived in southern California and now Hawaii, but I am a born and raised Massachusetts girl at heart. I didn’t realize how much I would truly miss the autumn weather, the changing leaves, and all my boots, scarves, and cozy sweaters.

My social media has been filled with pictures of my friends & family enjoying all those fall delights. I know, I know, I get to live in paradise, and the tables will turn when they are shoveling snow and I’m on the beach, but it’s still hard sometimes. (Honestly, I even miss winter too.)

The one way I can get those autumn vibes flowing through me is with seasonal food and drinks. Well, that and my artificial fall leaf wreath and Halloween yard decor from Target. So today I’m sharing my quickest, easiest fix for when I’m missing New England and the crisp October breeze: mulled cider… in the slow cooker!

  • 2 quarts organic apple cider
  • 2 Tbsp maple syrup (the real stuff, if you can splurge)
  • 1 orange, sliced
  • 1 Tbsp whole cloves
  • 1 Tbsp whole allspice
  • 3 cinnamon sticks
  • rum or whisky (optional)
  1. Put the cider into a slow cooker & stir in the maple syrup. Add the sliced orange.
  2. Using cheese cloth or a coffee filter (my go-to), create a bundle of the cloves, allspice & cinnamon sticks. You can break the sticks in half to make them fit better. Tie the bundle tightly with twine for easy removal. If using a coffee filter, I like to use a toothpick to poke some holes so that the flavor infuses quicker. Place the spice bundle in the cider.
  3. “Cook” on low for at least an hour before serving. Leave it all day on low heat or the warm setting. Serve punchbowl style & add a shot rum or whisky to your glass at your discretion (& my suggestion).


A look at my coffee filter spice bundle for reference

The slow cooker is key for me because it makes it easy to serve and it also doesn’t heat up the house like keeping it on the stovetop all day would. (Very important when October still means 85 degrees and humid.)

I make this constantly in the fall. It’s lovely for long Sundays watching football or waiting for trick-or-treaters. It’s been a staple at my Thanksgivings and Christmases for the past few years. Nothing tastes more like New England in autumn to me than mulled cider.

It’s a wonderful option for family and holiday gatherings because it gives people the option of what kind of liquor to add, if any. Kids can still partake and any non-drinkers at your party will feel like they get to enjoy something special besides sparkling water or soda. If you get one of the big gallon jugs of cider or more, you can keep replenishing the pot if it’s a big group of people.

What’s the first thing you run to make when fall rolls around?

Hawaiian Sweet Roll Stuffing

I am in full-on holiday mode here in Hawaii. I mentioned that my last few holidays were all over the place thanks to military life, but this year, we have all our decorations (and furniture) and there’s no traveling to do, so it’s on. Christmas movies, mulled cider, baking, twinkle lights, evergreen scented candles, gift shopping… I LOVE this time of year.

Speaking of gifts, if you don’t follow my Instagram, this would be a good time to start. My first ever giveaway is live! You have a couple more days to win one of two tropical care packages to warm up your holiday, curated by local Hawaiian businesses!

Annnnd while we’re speaking of things… speaking of Instagram… this post is because of a poll I did. I asked which recipe you wanted me to share for the holiday season and the vote was split down the middle. In my last post I shared my method of cooking turkey or chicken in a spicy Cajun style for a family meal. Today it’s all about stuffing (or dressing, depending on where you live.) I call it stuffing, despite never actually putting it inside anything other than a baking pan.

Since stuffing can really reflect where you come from regionally, I decided to put together the traditional flavors I’m used to, but with a twist.


If you couldn’t tell from the title, it’s Hawaiian sweet rolls!

I also used some goodies from my garden that I get to enjoy year round here, because honestly, it’s producing food faster than I can cook it sometimes.

For this recipe, I measured out exact quantities of my finely chopped veggies because I wanted to get the ratio right and not end up with either a dry or soggy stuffing.


I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again: prepping vegetables is a zen experience for me

For grocery shopping purposes, I’ll include what you actually need to shop for. Always buy a little more than you think, it’s better to have too much than too little, and leftovers can always be thrown in the roasting pan of the main entree, put in a salad or a crudité spread, etc.

  • 1 package of King’s Hawaiian sweet rolls (12 rolls)
  • 4 Tbsp olive oil
  • 2 tsp dried oregano
  • 2 tsp dried thyme
  • 2 Tbsp chopped sweet peppers (buy 2-4 depending on size, mine are the thin Italian kind I grow in my garden, but any small sweet pepper will work)
  • 3/4 cup chopped swiss chard leaves (buy the bushel)
  • 1/4 cup chopped swiss chard stems
  • 1 cup chopped celery (buy 4 stalks)
  • 1 cup chopped carrot (buy 2)
  • 1.5 cups chopped yellow onion (buy 1 large)
  • 1 Tbsp chopped fresh thyme
  • 1 Tbsp chopped fresh parsley
  • 1 Tbsp chopped fresh sage
  • 1 Tbsp chopped fresh rosemary
  • 2 Tbsp minced garlic
  • 14.5 oz can low sodium chicken broth
  • 1 large egg
  1. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Chop the Hawaiian sweet rolls into cubes, about 1/2 inch (crouton size). In a large bowl, toss the bread cubes with 2 Tbsp of olive oil & dried oregano & thyme. Spread the cubes evenly onto a baking sheet & toast for about 10 minutes until golden & crispy. Return to the bowl & let cool.
  2. Over medium heat, add the remaining 2 Tbsp of olive oil to a large skillet or pan. Cook the chopped pepper, swiss chard, celery, carrot & onion, stirring occasionally, for 5-7 minutes until tender & the onions turn translucent.
  3. Stir in the chopped fresh thyme, parsley, sage & rosemary & the minced garlic to the veggies. Cook for 2 minutes until fragrant & remove from heat. Allow the veggies to cool for at least 5 minutes before tossing with the toasted bread cubes in the bowl.
  4. In a smaller bowl, whisk together the chicken stock with the large egg. Pour over the bread & veggies & gently fold it in, until well incorporated. Transfer to a greased 13×9 baking pan or casserole dish. (At this point you can cover & save for later in the fridge or freezer.)
  5. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees & bake for 35-45 minutes.

Who doesn’t love a good stuffing? It’s a lot of ingredients, and admittedly a good deal of prep, but it’s worth it. When I made this for Thanksgiving, it was the first thing my guests requested for their to-go leftover plates.



You’ll also realize it’s worth it when you smell those herbs & garlic hitting the pan

One of my favorite things about it is that I can prepare it ahead of time and freeze it. Seriously, figuring out stuffing did just fine being frozen for a week or so was a game changer to my holiday meals. The key is to double wrap it in plastic and get most of the air out, then cover it in tin foil. Then I keep it covered and let it thaw out overnight in the fridge before the day I’m going to cook it. (If you prep it the day before, just leave it in the fridge until showtime.)


It looks so good but resist eating it out of the bowl… remember the raw egg

I love that stuffing can be made in so many different ways by just swapping out ingredient for ingredient. Maybe skip the carrots and go with granny smith apples? You can sub out the sweet peppers for jalapenos to add a little spice or if you want something meatier, cut back on the amount of vegetables and work in some sausage. Stuffing can end up being your personal signature on the meal.

I hope your holidays are shaping up to be as fun (and delicious) as mine are! I might not be back here until 2019, but as always, you can keep up with me on Instagram. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

Spicy Cajun Turkey (…or Chicken)

Some people get the post-Thanksgiving blues once the big meal is done. Me? Not so much. Since I do all the cooking (which I always call my own personal sporting event), my husband does the cleaning, and then it’s time for CHRISTMAS DECORATIONS.

We have a rule in this house: no Christmas stuff gets put up before Thanksgiving. But the second those leftovers are in the fridge, I grab myself a glass of mulled cider and get to work on our tree. Maybe it’s a little bit of wanting to get my money’s worth out of my decorations, but mostly I just love the way a house looks with some extra glitter, tinsel & twinkle lights. The halls are decked from Thanksgiving night until New Years Day.

Now, you might think I am sad that my biggest cooking day of the year is over… again, not so much. I don’t go quite as “hard” as Thanksgiving, but Christmas is another reason to make a holiday feast, so I decided to share some recipes that can carry over.

I did a poll on Instagram asking my followers if they wanted my turkey recipe or my Hawaiian sweet roll stuffing recipe and the results were literally 50/50. So, ask and you shall receive! Today I’m going to start with the turkey.

You can get turkeys for *super* cheap after Thanksgiving. I saw them for 99 cents a pound a couple days after, so it’s a great, economical way to enjoy the big bird more than one time a year. (Plus, if you overcooked it on Thanksgiving, this can be your redemption.)

Not everyone wants to deal with the whole turkey all over again, so I’m actually going to give you my recipe for a bone-in turkey breast. This is perfect for about 4-6 people, and actually what I made on Thanksgiving since we had a small crowd. And maybe you don’t want turkey again at all, which is understandable. I know a lot of people who go with ham on Christmas, but I’m a poultry and seafood only kind of gal. If you want to change it up just a little, you could also use this same preparation on a chicken!

There are two parts to this recipe… the brine and the rub.

First things first: you’ll need a bone-in whole turkey breastapproximately 4-7 lbs. (Mine was about 5 lbs this year.) Alternatively you could use a whole chicken. 

THE BRINE

  • 2 cups beer, anything light, or blonde, or a lager (I used Kona Longboard Lager)
  • 4 cups water
  • 1/4 cup salt
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1 lemon, sliced in half
  • 6-8 cloves of garlic, smashed
  • 1 Tbsp black peppercorns
  • 4 sprigs of fresh rosemary
  • 4 sprigs of fresh thyme
  • 2 sprigs of fresh sage
  • 2 habanero peppers, sliced in half
    1. Put the beer, water, salt & brown sugar into a large stock pot and bring to a boil, stirring to dissolve the salt & sugar. One it starts to boil, add the remaining ingredients and lower the heat. Simmer it for 5-10 minutes, until fragrant.
    2. Let the brine cool completely. (Very important, you don’t want to start cooking the bird.)
    3. Place your turkey breast (or chicken) into a brining bag & carefully pour in the cooled liquid, including the lemon, garlic, herbs and peppers. Add more water if needed to submerge the breast fully. Tie the bag tightly, put in a pot or baking dish & refrigerate for 6 hours to overnight.

IN-BETWEEN TIPS 

  • If you have not heard of a brining bag, they are just thick, clear plastic bags you can get at the store. You can also use a sturdy trash bag or a plastic/glass container, if you have a big enough one. You don’t want it to be huge, because you don’t want to be adding a gallon of water to get the turkey submerged.
  • If you are hosting a large crowd and want to do a whole turkey or two chickens, keep the brining recipe the same but double the rub. The only difference is you definitely want put it in the fridge overnight to brine.
  • Before it’s time to cook, take the turkey out of the fridge, remove it from the brine, and pat it dry. Let it sit out and come up to room temperature. This is SO important. If the turkey goes in the oven cold, it takes longer to cook, and this way the skin starts to crisp up immediately, instead of having to warm up first.
  • If you are doing a whole turkey or chicken, you can re-use the lemons, garlic, herbs and peppers from the brine to stuff inside for extra flavor. For the turkey breast, you can put them in the bottom of the roasting pan to add flavor to the drippings.
  • I like to put veggies under my turkey in the roasting pan, but it’s not necessary. For the record, I used 3 chopped carrots, 3 chopped celery stalks and a chopped yellow onion. 

THE RUB (for bone-in turkey breast or 1 whole chicken… double for a whole turkey or 2 whole chickens)

  • 1 Tbsp smoked paprika
  • 1 Tbsp garlic powder
  • 1 Tbsp dried thyme
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 2 tsp onion powder
  • 2 tsp dried oregano
  • 2 tsp white pepper
  • 1 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1/4 cup butter, melted & cooled
  1. Remove turkey from the brine and pat dry. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.
  2. Mix all the spices together in a bowl. Stir in the cooled, melted butter to create a paste. Slather the turkey all over in the spice mixture.
  3. Place the turkey on a rack in a roasting pan & tent it with foil, careful to keep it from touching & rubbing off the spice mixture. Cook for 30 minutes covered, then remove & cook another 30 minutes. Start checking the temperature every 15-20 minutes from here, until it reaches an internal temp of 155-160.
  4. Remove the turkey from the roasting rack, place on a cutting board, tent with foil and let it rest 30 minutes before carving. Reserve pan drippings to add to your gravy.

If you have kiddos or aren’t a spicy fan, leave the habaneros out of the brine and the cayenne out of the rub, and you will still have a tasty turkey. The rub goes on pretty thick and creates almost a crust, which really helps lock in all the flavor and juices.

I’ve been working on this for a couple years and it always gets rave reviews. Turkey has a reputation for being bland and boring, so you have to add a lot to get a lot out of it, but honestly it’s not a ton of work. Just a ton of ingredients.

Even if it’s not the holidays, you could do this with chicken any time of year, for any occasion. It’s a perfect Sunday dinner. And if you happen to see turkey breast on sale at the store, grab it and try this out one weekend. Serve it over some mashed potatoes or roasted vegetables. Slice it thin, and have incredible sandwiches all week long. Use the carcass to make stock for your next soup. Why does turkey just have to be for Thanksgiving?

Not just turkey either. In a few days, I’ll be back with my Hawaiian sweet roll stuffing! See you then!

Aloha, 2018!

Hau’oli Makahiki Hou! Happy New Year!

Let’s be honest. 2017 was a little rough overall. I’m not going to get into the state of the world and my (many, many) thoughts on it, because that’s not this type of blog. I can say that beyond all the weirdness and bad news that was floating around, 2017 actually ended on a positive note for me personally.

The year started off with my husband in the middle of his 7 month overseas deployment. That was extremely hard. I don’t speak much about being a military wife, because I am not really that involved in the community. Don’t get me wrong, I have made a ton of friends over the past couple years with people in the service and their significant others, but you aren’t going to find me joining any social clubs or showing up to the bake sale. Those events make sense for a lot of people, especially those with children, so I am not making fun. It’s just not for me.

People outside the Navy community would say all the time how I was brave during deployment, or how they couldn’t imagine being away from their spouse for the better part of a year. I appreciated those thoughts, but I always felt awkward. I know other wives who have children or who were pregnant or who are running their own business… I just had to worry about myself. I also think about those deployed to much more dangerous parts of the world than my husband was.

I didn’t think I deserved much credit, but I also never really admitted how hard it was. Not like, hard to get things done or take care of chores alone, but just how empty the house felt sometimes. Luckily, I have a wonderful family and friends both near and far (even if I didn’t take advantage of those shoulders to cry on all the time) and now we are on the other side. So, no use dwelling now!


Brighter days are on the horizon

The beginning was rough, but the ending of 2017 was amazing. We got our new orders to Hawaii, bought a house and as of December 16th, officially moved!

The military moving process, especially across an ocean is… interesting. It’s also why the blog hasn’t been updated since Halloween. I spent November tying up loose ends, preparing for our move and packing. Yes, on a military move, they will literally do 100% of your packing for you, but I am CRAZY and did a lot of it myself. (All the little things and personal items, the furniture I was glad to leave in their hands.) We moved out of our California townhouse on December 1st and our belongings were loaded up to be shipped to Hawaii.

For the next couple weeks, we traveled to see both our families in the Midwest and New England, then back to California to get my car shipped and make the final leg of our journey to our new home.


Goodbye, California!

This part also involved flying with our beloved Corgi-mix, Mona. I’m not going to get into how stressful it is to get a dog cleared to live in Hawaii, but I’ll tell you we had to start the process at the end of the summer. It’s all about timing with vaccines, blood tests and paperwork. She had to spend one night in quarantine while they processed her papers, but luckily she was good to go. PHEW.

Oh, all our stuff that was shipped a month ago? Including all my kitchen gear? Yeah, it’s still somewhere out there. For the past couple weeks my husband, dog and I have been living in a four bedroom house with nothing but an air mattress, a couple beach chairs and an iPad. We just got a pull-out sofa a few days ago for our downstairs guest room/den and I’m pretty sure it’s saving my lower back from permanent damage.

I’m glad I had to foresight to put together a mini kitchen kit for myself. I’ve been working with a tiny cutting board, one crappy knife, a rubber spatula and not much else. I caved and bought a baking sheet and a small sauce pot, but it’s still not enough to really make the food I want to make. That’s why there have been no new blog recipes. I was optimistic that our things would be here by the new year, but oh well. It’s going to be a sweet day when they do arrive. And at least I remembered to put a beer/wine opener in my kitchen kit.

I know, I move to Hawaii and sound like I’m bitching about not having my knives and pans and spice rack (not to mention my bed, my TV, my computer…). It’s a tad inconvenient, but we have been so busy exploring and working on the house, that it’s been just fine.

Actually, it’s been fantastic.

We spent Christmas day at the beach. We went back up to try more of the North Shore food trucks. We have been out to try new restaurants, bars and breweries near our neighborhood and in downtown Honolulu. We’ve sat for hours in our new backyard playing cards and having cocktails in plastic cups. I’ve seen a double rainbow. Heck, I’ve seen RAIN (I really missed that in Southern California). We all, dog included, are enjoying the weather, the outdoors and our new home.


I can’t confirm or deny if I was so excited I almost cried… I really love rainbows

Oahu is beautiful, but the best part has been the quality time with my husband. Last year’s holidays were great because I was home in Massachusetts with my family, but it’s always strange to not have him around. Even though we had no presents or decorations, 2017 was still a great holiday season together.

We’ve started painting and remodeling our house and I’m so excited with our progress so far. We are pretty much finished with the front hallway, the downstairs guest room/den and the bathroom across from it. Next up is the big stuff: main living area and the kitchen, which is going to require some outside help. I’m SO ecstatic to be designing my own space and see it come to life. The next Picky Gourmet kitchen is going to be picture perfect!

For the coming year, there’s a lot on my mind for this blog. I’m excited to expand a little further past recipes and share some house projects with you and more of my life in general. I always tried to keep my blog focused only on food and recipes, because I figured that’s the only thing people really wanted to read, but feedback tells me otherwise. People keep suggesting I open up more… surprise, surprise.

I have a feeling the Picky Gourmet is going to look a lot different by the time 2018 comes to a close, but let’s take it one day at a time! I’m very excited to see what this new year holds and I hope you all are feeling that renewed, hopeful energy as well.

Expect a food post ASAP. Meanwhile, enjoy some more photos from Hawaii and make sure to follow @ThePickyGourmet on Instagram for foodie adventures! Let’s do this, 2018.


Downtown Honolulu views from the Hale Koa hotel


Waikiki at sunset


A beach in Kailua, Lanikai in the distance


Yokohama Bay Beach, about as far west as you can drive on the island


A beach park on the east side of the island


I could get used to this

Until next time!

xoxo

Leftover Turkey Soup

It’s been a crazy few weeks. Since my husband is deployed, I decided to hit the road and drive myself and my dog home for the holidays. I drove 5 days with a couple friends from California to Massachusetts. I’ve done this trip a few times already, it’s a lot of fun with company but still exhausting. I originally wanted to cook Thanksgiving dinner for my family once I got back, but now I’m glad I took their advice and sat it out. I’ve been home about a week and am just now feeling like I’ve caught up on sleep.

A couple weeks ago I cooked a “friendsgiving” meal in California. Afterwards, I came up with a leftovers soup recipe that was pretty great. I planned on posting it the day after Thanksgiving. Problem is, I left my handwritten recipe on the west coast. I know a lot of people have already used their leftovers or eaten them all, but once I got my hands on a turkey carcass here, I had to try and recreate my soup.

So after a small delay, here is my leftover turkey soup!


For the stock:

  •  1 roast turkey carcass
  • 4-6 qts water
  • 12 oz wheat beer
  • 2 Tbsp salt
  • 2 Tbsp pepper
  • 1/2 yellow onion
  • 1 large shallot, cut in half
  • 3 celery stalks, cut in thirds
  • 2 carrots, cut in thirds
  • 1 lemon, cut in half
  • 2 pieces of peeled ginger root, about 1″
  • 6-8 garlic cloves, smashed
  • 2 stems fresh rosemary
  • 1 stem fresh sage
  • 4 stems fresh thyme
  1. Put the turkey carcass in a large stock pot. Pour in 4-6 quarts water, until the turkey is submerged. Add the beer, salt, and pepper, and bring to boil.
  2. Add the rest of the ingredients and reduce hear to low. Simmer for 2-4 hours until meat is easily removed from the bones.
  3. Using a ladle, strain 4 quarts of stock through a mesh colander or cheese cloth into a separate bowl or vessel. Pick as much turkey meat off as you can and add it to the stock. Set aside.


For the soup:

  • 4 Tbsp butter
  • 1/4 cup leftover squash puree (you can substitute with flour if needed)
  • 2 tsp garam masala
  • 2 tsp curry powder
  • 2 zucchini, cut in half lengthwise and sliced
  • 1 1/2 yellow onions, cut into petals
  • 5 celery stalks, sliced
  • 4 carrots, peeled and sliced
  • 1 shallot, diced
  • 4 qts homemade turkey stock
  • 1 cup of carrot greens, coarsely chopped
  • 1 Tbsp fresh rosemary leaves
  • 1 Tbsp fresh sage leaves, chopped
  • 1 Tbsp fresh thyme leaves
  • 1 lemon, zested and juiced
  • salt & pepper to taste
  1. In a ceramic soup pot or dutch oven, melt butter over medium low heat. Stir in squash (or flour) until thick, making a roux. Add garam masala, curry powder and a pinch of salt and pepper.
  2. Add zucchini, onion, celery, carrot and shallot to the pot and stir until coated. Reduce heat to low, cover, and let simmer for 20 minutes.
  3. Carefully pour or ladle the turkey stock and meat over the vegetables. Add the carrot greens, rosemary, thyme, sage and lemon zest. Cover and cook on low heat for at least 2 hours, stirring occasionally. In the last 5 minutes, stir in the fresh lemon juice and salt and pepper to taste. Garnish with fresh herbs and bread (optional)

What’s kind of funny is that my brother in law loves making turkey soup after Thanksgiving. He does his with hot peppers, corn, beans… much more of a Tex-Mex take on it. He made his, and I actually “borrowed” the leftover turkey from a friends dinner the next night. So basically, it was soup wars this weekend at home. No one could pick a winner though, since they were two totally different takes.

I like traditional recipes with a twist. I kept my soup fairly classic, but was inspired by the cinnamon and nutmeg smell of the leftover squash puree, and decided to add in some Indian spices to enhance those flavors.

Soup is an easy way to use up Turkey Day leftovers. The cover photo is my first batch. I didn’t use the indian spices, squash, ginger and zucchini at first. It was definitely more traditional. In the end, I’m glad I got a second chance to revisit and add to this recipe.

You don’t need to follow this, or any, recipe word for word. Soups are a great tradition for after the holiday and every family probably had a way they like to do it. Whether it’s spicy and heading south of the border like my brother in law’s take, a classic with a twist like mine, or made with whatever herbs, vegetables and flavors you enjoy, it’s always a hit. And a great way to condense and clear space in the fridge, am I right?

Like I said, I’m with my family through the holidays. I’ll try and come up with some fun posts while I am here, especially now that the countdown to Christmas is on!

The Picky Gourmet Guide to Thanksgiving Prep

Halloween ends, and suddenly we are thrown into Christmas season overnight. Seriously. I was in Target to get candy on the 31st and saw all the naked trees lined up at the back of the store, ready to brought out, decorated and on display for November 1st.

I get it, it’s exciting. My husband always rolls his eyes when I drag out my holiday décor too early for his liking… but I wait until the day after Thanksgiving. Remember Thanksgiving everyone, that holiday that actually takes place in November? I do, because it’s one of my favorite days of the whole year. It’s a day devoted to family, friends and food… what more do you need?

What’s funny is that back in the day, being a picky eater, Thanksgiving made me a little uneasy. We didn’t sit down as a family a lot for dinner due to everyone having a crazy schedule, so when we had guests on top of actually sitting down together for a meal, I was always nervous about being called out for my sparse plate. Luckily, Thanksgiving included a lot of my “safe” foods- rolls, potatoes, corn, things like that. I actually never ate the turkey until I was a teenager, and then it took me another couple years to venture into using the gravy. But let’s flash forward to now, when I’ve come to my senses and am obsessed with Turkey Day.

Last year after moving to California was my first time cooking the big meal for my husband and friends. It. Was. Awesome. People kept asking if I needed help, saying I looked so busy, but I loved every single second of it. The reason it felt so easy, in spite of the half a dozen dishes I prepared that day at the same time, was because I prepared. So don’t let the stores and TV commercials make you forget about Thanksgiving! Here are my tips for making sure you are prepared.

Practicing on a turkey breast is a great way to prepare

  1. Plan your menu at least two weeks in advance. Figure out how many people are attending, how much food you need to prepare, and pick out your recipes. Simplify things by writing out a grocery list and combining ingredients (things like herbs, butter, oils and seasonings). Don’t write out that you need 2 sprigs of rosemary for your turkey, and down the list have 2 more for your potatoes. Find the common items and total them out, as in I need 4 sprigs of rosemary total for my menu.
  2. Practice. If it’s your first time, try out recipes before hand. Roasting a bone-in turkey breast is a great test drive, and you can slice it up and use it for sandwiches, soups, etc. Lot’s of people have “friendsgiving” events before the actual holiday where everyone makes one dish to bring. That’s a nice way to practice something you are unfamiliar with to get a sense of the time and effort needed for the dish.
  3. Add a bit of nostalgia. Don’t get totally fancy and new school, people want comfort food on Thanksgiving. Think back to your family meals growing up. What was the one dish that stands out to you? For me it was corn casserole, and I called up my mom and had her send me over the recipe. (It ended up being by Paula Deen, who knew)
  4. Divide the cooking areas. Unless you are lucky enough to have double ovens, timing things out can be tricky. I like to utilize my slow cookers and my stove top as much as possible. Also, a lot of baked, casserole type dishes can make the meal heavy and lacking in texture. It’s also a good idea to write out a schedule with cooking times and locations so you know when to start what dish.
  5. Prep as much as you can before the big day. Chop your veggies, then blanch and shock them (it makes the colors more vibrant!) and divide them into tupperware according to the dish they are going in. Make sure your turkey is thawed in advance, preferably with time to brine it. Make sure all the dishes, platters and utensils you need are clean and put them out where they are easily accessible.
  6. Cut a couple corners. You don’t need to do everything. Buy store bought rolls and use those disposable aluminum baking pans if you can. The world won’t end if you take a shortcut somewhere.

Thanksgiving isn’t the day to wing it and experiment, so I picked out some recipes by other folks to create my menu. Oh- one last tip that I heard somewhere last year and loved. Print or write out your recipes and tape them up on the cabinets. It might look crazy, but it’s so helpful to just look up and read, especially when your hands are dirty and busy!

Anywho, here’s my menu from last year. I used the same recipes for my friendsgiving event a few days ago, except for the fact that I only made a 5lb turkey breast.

Served up with some bread and some mulled cider out of my second slow cooker, it was a fantastic meal. This is great for around 6-8 people with some leftovers, so if you have a larger crowd you might want to add in some extra sides and make sure you get a big enough bird.

Bad lighting, great food

Obviously, whatever you cook on Thanksgiving should be a reflection of you and your family. It’s all about love and comfort food, so do what makes you happy. If you take the time to really plan out your day, you’ll be able to relax and enjoy your company much more. Holiday’s shouldn’t be stressful. They should be fun.

Good luck with your holiday preparations! Check back in around Turkey Day, when I’ll be posting my leftover Thanksgiving soup recipe.