Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Hi, guys. I'm back. Starting this weekend, I'll be adding new recipes, new menus and hopefully helping those of us on a limited budget. Hope you tune in a few days from now and check out what's going on.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Thanksgiving Day!! Now what do I do?

Okay, so the big day is here. You've got to get your dinner for 8 or 10 people together. Hopefully you prepared everything ahead of time according to schedule, and now it's just a matter of putting all those things together. If not...good luck.

This schedule is assuming a late lunch at around 2-3 pm. You can adjust timing according to what time you want to serve your meal. The pivotal part is the turkey and when it reaches a temperature of 170 degrees in the deepest part of the thigh. That will determine your dinner time and the timing of most of the other dishes.

8 a.m. - Rise and shine. If you haven't made your pies yet, hop to it!

9 a.m. - Preheat your oven to 500 degrees. Rinse and pat your turkey dry. MAKE SURE YOU REMOVE  THE GIBLET BAG! The follow the additional directions below.

9:15 a.m. - Prepare the giblets for your gravy, if desire. See recipe link below. This takes time, so be sure to prep the giblets now for the preparation of the gravy later on in the day.

9:30 a.m. - Place turkey in the oven. Mix dressing ingredients and put in crock, turn on high.

10:00 a.m. - Turn the oven temp down to 375 degrees.

10:30 a.m. - If you're using the upside down method, flip your turkey breast side up now.

10:35 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. - Relax with a glass of wine and your family. Make your plan of attack for Black Friday.

12:30 p.m. - Take the rolls out of the fridge to rise (or if you didn't make them yesterday, make them now).

12:35 p.m. - Go back and relax some more (if you made your rolls ahead of time).

1:00 p.m. - Check your turkey temp with a meat thermometer. Shouuld register 170 degrees in the deepest part of the thigh. If not, keep cooking and check in 30 minutes.

1:30 p.m. - Check your turkey again. If it's ready, remove it from the oven. If not, keep baking until temp is reached. Then place your sweet potatoes in the oven. Reduce the oven temp to 350 and bake per recipe.

1:35 p.m. - Put potatoes on to boil. Cook for 20 minutes or until fork tender. Mash per directions below. Check on the dressing. If it's getting  set in the center, like a custard pie, turn it to low to keep warm.

1:45 p.m. - Melt 3 T each butter and olive oil in a large skillet. Add the green beans, the sliced onion and mushrooms to pan. Sprinkle with 1 tsp salt and 1/2 tsp black pepper. Saute for about 10 minutes or until onions are translucent and beans are crunchy/tender. Remove to serving plate and keep warm.

1:55 p.m. - Drain potatoes. Mash with 1/3 cup milk, 1/3 cup cream, 1/2 stick butter. Salt and pepper to taste. Adjust wet ingredients per your desire.

2:05 p.m. - Remove the sweet potatoes from the oven and put the rolls in. Bake per directions.

2:10 p.m. - Make gravy per recipe below.

2:15 p.m. - Make sure you have everything out on the buffet table. You should have prepared: cranberry sauce, dressing, mashed potatoes and gravy, green beans, turkey, rolls and pies.

2:25 p.m. - Have everyone serve themselves, buffet style.

3:25 p.m. - Make everyone else clean up, and you sit down with a nice glass of wine and rest. You've had a busy day.

Giblet Gravy: I never make the stuff, I get the Campbell's gravy in a jar. But here's a link to a recipe that's pretty much exactly like my mom makes, so if your  Thanksgiving turkey and dressing just isn't the same without giblet gravy, give this a try.

I like to bake my turkey upside down for the first hour. It keeps the turkey breast very moist, but it's not always that pretty. So instead, this time we're just going to rub the turkey all over with olive oil. Sprinkle with black pepper, seasoned salt and garlice powder (if available). The to seal the skin and keep the bird moist, we're placing 1/2 stick of butter inside the cavity and baking at 500 degrees for the first 30-45 minutes. This should sear the skin so that the buttery steam moistens the breast from the inside out. A 16 lb bird shouuld fully cook in 3.5 to 4 hours, but always time your sides to your bird. Nothings worse than having all your sides turn cold because your turkey wasn't done in time.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Dressing, Sweet Potatoes and Pies, Oh My!

Today I'm going to give you the recipes for dressing, sweet potatoes and pies).

For the dressing, we're just going to prepare the cornbread and other dry ingredients today, then we'll mix everything together in a big bowl tomorrow and pour it into a buttered crockpot. The sweet potatoes we'll put together completely and store in the casserole dish we'll be cooking it in, so hopefully you have enough room in the fridge somewhere around that thawing turkey to put a casserole dish of pre-prepped sweet potatoes. If not, you can always cook them the night before and reheat in the oven at 350 degrees for 30 minutes the day of (or if you're desperate you can nuke them for around 6-8 minutes, but I think the oven is better).

The Dressing

1 cup of the diced onion
1/2 cup of the diced celery
1 pan cornbread (1 box of jiffy made per package directions) 
8 slices white bread (wheat is okay, but it won't be quite as moist) 
1 1/2 tablespoons sage (or to taste...I actually taste it, even with the raw eggs. Call me crazy.) 
2 cans cream of chicken soup (actually, I like to use 1 can cream of chicken, 1 can cream of celery)
1 32 oz carton chicken broth
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
4 beaten eggs

Butter the crock. Mix together all ingredients and pour into the crock. Cook on high 2-3 hours or low 5-6 hours. Keep watch on this. If it appears to be too thin while cooking it on low, bump it up to high. The dressing should not be soupy, nor should it be dry, but somewhere in between, like an English pudding (sort of a cross between custard and cake).

IN MAKING AHEAD:  Prepare your cornbread. After it cools, crumble it into fine crumbs. Toast the bread and crumble into fine crumbs. Add sage, salt and pepper. Store in a large zipper bag or bowl covered with plastic wrap until ready to prepare on Thanksgiving Day.

Sweet Potato Casserole

1 40 oz can Bruce's Yams (or sweet potatoes)
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
2 eggs, beaten
1/2 stick butter, melted
1/2 cup whole milk or cream
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract 
1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1/4 cup flour
3 tablespoons butter, softened
3/4 cup chopped pecans

Drain the potatoes, mash with a fork and whip with a mixer until smooth (or as smooth as you can get it). Add remaining ingredients and mix well. Pour into a buttered 2 quart casserole or 13 x 9 inch pan. Mix together the topping ingredients (it's easiest to add the pecans last, after mixing the sugar, flour and butter together). Spread evenly on top of the potato mixture. Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes (in 13 x 9 inch pan) or 45 minutes (in casserole).

TO MAKE AHEAD: Prepare the potatoes and place in the preferred dish. Cover with plastic wrap or casserole lid and place in the fridge until ready to cook. Prepare the topping and place in a zipper bag or covered bowl at room temperature. Remove from fridge and allow to warm up to room temp on the counter for 30 minutes. Top with the topping mixture and bake.

Pumpkin Pie

Okay, there's no better recipe than the Libby's recipe, so here's the link. I'm not even going to bother putting a different one out there.

Just note, you don't have to use the evaporated milk, you can use regular milk or half milk, half cream.

Here's a photo of my last year's pumpkin pie. Buy an extra box of crusts, or make your own, and you can do the little decorations. I used my well loved mini cutters from Pampered Chef.

Pecan Pie

1 unbaked pie crust
1 C light corn syrup
1 C firmly packed brown sugar
3 eggs, slightly beaten
1/3 C melted butter
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp vanilla
1 C pecans

Prepare your pie crust. Mix remaining ingredients and pour into the crust. Sprinkle top with pecans. Bake for 45-50 minutes at 350 degrees or until the center is set (the very center, about a half dollar around, barely jiggles when you gently move the pan). Insert a toothpick in the center, and it will come our fairly clean when done. This is my dad's recipe, and he would spend tons of time arranging pecan halves in concentric rings over the top of the pie. He was very patient. Not me. Sometimes I even throw the pecans (chopped) into the batter and pour it all into the crust at once.

TIPS FOR PIES:  For crusts that don't shrink, add the filling to the crust, then refrigerate for 15 minutes before putting in the oven to bake. If your crust starts to get too brown, fold strips of foil and place over the edge of the crust. If your pumpkin pies tend to crack, bake them with a small pan of water in the oven to keep the tops moist. If you add pie crust decorations, brush them with an egg beaten with 2 tablespoons water, or some folks use milk. I've used both, and prefer the egg mixture.

The Rolls

Here's a link to one of my previous post with a quick yeast roll recipe. You can make these on Wednesday and put them in the fridge after cutting them. Then just bring them out of the fridge on Thanksgiving, allow them to rise until double somewhere warm near the oven, and bake per the recipe. You can also use this for cinnamon rolls, just roll the dough out after mixing, spread with a mixture of 1 cup brown sugar, 1 stick butter, and 1 tablespoon cinnamon. roll up and slice. Place rolls in a 13 x 9 inch pan sprayed with cooking spray and place in the fridge. Let rise like the refrigerated rolls and bake per the usual directions. Top with a mixture of powdered sugar, vanilla and milk.

Tomorrow, your turkey day prep list.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Tuesday is Cranberry Sauce day!

Okay, here's the recipe for the cranberry orange sauce. There are lots of recipes for this. Many use cinnamon, and it's a very rich flavor. But since not everyone likes that cinnamon flavor, this is a very simple cranberry sauce that includes orange juice and zest for a nice depth. You can make this up to a week ahead of time or the day of. It's really simple and takes about 15 minutes to make.

Cranberry Orange Sauce

1 12 oz package fresh cranberries
Zest and juice of 1 orange
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup water
pinch salt
1/2 tsp cinnamon (optional)

In a saucepan, mix together the water, juice, zest, sugar, salt and cinnamon (if desired). Bring to a boil, then reduce to low simmer and cook until sugar dissolves, about 3 minutes. Add the cranberries and bring back to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer until the cranberries burst and the sauce thickens, about 7-8 minutes. Place sauce in a container and allow to cool to room temperature before covering and refrigerating. Take out and bring to room temperature before serving.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Prep Day - OR - How to tackle that Thanksgiving dinner without killing yourself

Here we go, getting ready to do the prep work for all of our dishes. Today, chop, chop, chop and outlining of what to prep when.

First, the chopping:

  • Dice one and a half of the three onions (cut one onion in half lengthwise, from root to top). Store in a zipper bag or tightly closed container in the fridge.
  • Cut the remaining whole onion in half lengthwise, then slice the one and one-half onions crosswise into 1/4 inch slices. Store in a zipper bag or tightly closed container in the fridge.
  • Dice 4 stalks celery. Store in a container in the fridge.

Now, for the prep schedule:

Sunday: Chop and dice per above, bake cornbread according to package directions then crumble into fine crumbs and store in zipper container at room temp, snap ends of green beans and store in plastic bag in crisper drawer of fridge, slice mushrooms and place back into brown paper bag in crisper drawer
Tuesday: Make cranberry sauce, store in sealed container in fridge.
Wednesday: Prep sweet potato casserole, peel and chop potatoes (leave in salted water to prevent browning), bake pies, prep dinner rolls and put in fridge after rising (recipes will be posted on Monday and Tuesday).
Turkey Day: Cook!

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Menu and shopping list for Thanksgiving

Okay, here we go. Below is the menu and the shopping list. I'll have the actual cost of the meal later, but for now just let me say; be careful where you get that turkey. You can get some great bargains on your Thanksgiving bird by looking at the deals at your local supermarkets. Some have whole turkeys for as low as 49 or 59 cents a pound. For a 20 pound turkey, that's only 10 bucks! Others do the "scratch my back..." philosophy and offer a free turkey if you buy groceries, or $10 off a turkey if you use your store card. Go for the best deal you can find.

And don't be sucked in by that Butterball commercial. They're expensive, and you can have just as good an outcome with that cheap or free bird you can get at your local market or discount store. All you need are some softened butter, herbs and two hands you aren't afraid of getting a little greasy. Look at it this way; at least you'll get nice soft hands after you shove all that butter under the turkey skin.

So, without further ado, here's the complete, traditional Thanksgiving menu for 8:

Slow-cooker dressing
mashed potatoes with giblet gravy
sweet potato casserole
green beans sauteed with mushrooms and onion
fresh cranberry sauce with orange zest
dinner rolls
sage butter
pumpkin pie
pecan pie

Shopping List

Turkey (about 2 lb per person, if you want leftovers, 1.5 if you don't)

3 medium to large onions
5 lb bag russet potatoes (3 lbs will do, if it's on sale and cheaper)
1 bag fresh cranberries (12 oz)
1 orange
2 lb fresh green beans or 2 16oz packages frozen green beans
8 oz fresh mushrooms (buy in bulk, if possible, because that's cheaper than the packaged)
1 head celery
1 pkg fresh sage (usually in the salad fixins area of the supermarket)

2 dozen eggs
1 lb butter
1/2 gallon whole milk
1 pint heavy whipping cream
1 pkg Pillsbury pie crusts (not frozen, but in the refrigerator section)

2 boxes Jiffy cornbread mix
1 loaf white bread
1 large (40 oz) can sweet potatoes (yes, me)
1 15oz can pumpkin (not pumpkin pie mix)
32 oz box chicken broth
1 can cream of celery soup
1 can cream of chicken soup
1 bottle white corn syrup (store brand is just as good as Karo)
1 small jar pumpkin pie spice (you can get this at the dollar store cheaper than the supermarket)
1 small tin dried sage (again, from the dollar store, unless you can find cheaper)
1 lb box brown sugar
2 cups shelled pecans, whole or chopped, doesn't matter
Self Rising Flour

You may already have some of these things. If so, great. I did call for buying the pie crusts premade instead of making them. Two reasons for this. You're really going to be stressed for time, and making pie crust is simply something you can skip. And the second reason is, if you buy the refrigerated kind that's rolled up, you can unroll it into your own pan, crimp the edges as you would if you'd made the crust, and your guests will be none the wiser. And, I call for canned sweet potatoes for basically the same reason. Fresh ones can be a hassle, messy, and you just don't need the added time consumed when you're already stressed as it is.

NOW THE NUMBER ONE TIP:  If you bought a frozen turkey, take it out of the freezer NO LATER THAN SUNDAY NIGHT!!!  Place it in the bottom of your fridge to thaw for several days, or else you'll wind up with a still frozen bird on Thanksgiving morning, and nobody needs to try to thaw a bird at 5 a.m.

So, there's your shopping list. Tomorrow, we'll prep as much as we can ahead of time to give you even more time to relax on Thanksgiving.

Take the fresh mushrooms out of the plastic bag and put them in a brown paper bag in the crisper drawer of your fridge. This will keep them fresh and white, with no slimy brown spots before the big day.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Back in time for the holidays

It's been a while since I posted, and I've missed the challenge of making dollars stretch for our families. I've been trying to get our house ready to sell so we can seriously downsize. Our current home is just way too big, and I'm tired of dusting and vacuuming all the time when I could be writing. :-)

The holidays are upon us, and this week I'm going to share some foolproof, make-ahead and easy recipes to keep you out of the kitchen and visiting with family (or watching the game). They aren't all going to be completely frugal, but we should be able to keep that holiday meal cost down to a minimum by prepping ahead and making things from scratch (but with easier and less time consuming recipes). So, instead of that package of Stove Top, I'll share a slow cooker recipe for dressing that's way tastier and extremely easy.

Stay tuned and the first recipes, as well as a Thanksgiving menu, will be coming soon.