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Thanksgiving Planning: Get Those Dishes In Order

Thanksgiving Dinner

Because there is so much prepping and food involved with Thanksgiving, people tend to overlook what items they will need to actually cook and serve the food they plan on making.

With Thanksgiving being a week away, take this time to figure out what you will be using and to plan where it will go.

Sound odd? Let me explain it a bit, this is the point where you want to decide on which baking dish the stuffing is going in, which bowl the mashed potatoes will be served in, etc.  This is especially important for dishes that need to be heated up in the oven.  Once you’ve decided on the dishes, you can play around with placement in the oven and figuring out cooking times.

What goes where in the oven and when does it go in?  For example, stuffing takes longer to cook through than green bean casserole so you’d want that to go in first.  And you will want to make sure the items that do need heated up can share space and all fit in the oven.

Once you have the baking and cookware items picked and you know they will all fit in the oven when they need to, it’s time to move on to the table.  Whether you’re doing a buffet style set up or a big sit down to-do, you need to make sure all the food items will fit on the table.

Pick out what serving dishes you’d like to use for the big day and start arranging them on the table.  Trust me, it’s a lot easier to figure this out when the dishes are empty instead of trying to do it the day of when they are full of hot food and surrounded by hungry guests!

I know, this sounds like a lot of work.  But by tackling these little details before Thanksgiving, it makes the big day run so much smoother eliminating a lot of stress. Once you have the casserole dishes picked out and the serving bowls decided on, you can set those aside so they are ready to go when you need them.

Make a list of what kitchen items you’ll need and then go through that check list and pull all of those items out setting them aside.  Checking items off the list can be done the night before.  When it comes time to start cooking, you’ll have everything ready to grab and go.

Don’t forget that many things can be made the day before so that this will save you even more time on Thanksgiving Day allowing you to spend more time with your family and further reducing some stress.

Things like a roux for gravy or even the gravy can be made the day before.  So can the stuffing and green bean casserole (wait until you heat it up to add the crispy onions).

I’ll be providing you with an example schedule on getting you through the week of Thanksgiving!  Shopping days, when items can get prepped, and what things can get made ahead so keep an eye out for that!

In the meantime, start getting those dishes picked out!

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Review: President Sea Salt Butter

President Sea Salt Butter

President Butter recently contacted me and asked if I would be interested in reviewing their butter.  President butter is made in Normandy France from the cultured cream of  grassfed cows (The press release stated).  Since I love grassfed butter and it’s the only butter I will eat, I was curious to give this a try.  I’m always looking to expand my butter palate!

They sent me a few different styles to sample but the one that I enjoyed the most was the Sea Salt Butter.  It’s a softer butter making it easier to spread when at room temperature but the unique part is that it has ribbons of sea salt mixed throughout.  You can even see the salt lining the rim of the container.

I’m not a huge fan of salt in butter, but this butter stands out with a balance of creaminess with a salty bite.  It goes great with bread and would be amazing on a baked potato, cornbread, or fresh biscuit.  This butter actually enhances the food that is paired with it.

The Sea Salt butter comes in a fancy little container that would not look out of place on a table at your dinner party.

This would make a great addition to your holiday table this season.  Place this butter on a pretty plate and it will be the star of your holiday spread.

If you’re looking for something unique this holiday season to serve at your parties, definitely give this one a try!

Disclaimer: I was sent this butter for review and was not obligated to post about it.  Opinions are my own and I was not compensated for this post.

 

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Brine, Glorious Brine

Bourbon Brined Turkey

A brined turkey is a glorious thing!  It seems daunting but it’s actually very simple to do.  Yeah you’ll need some special equipment and figure out spacing in the fridge but it’s totally worth it!

For a basic brine you will need:

  • Kosher Salt
  • Brown Sugar
  • Water
  • A large bucket

You can purchase a 5 gallon bucket at any home improvement store and they are not in any way expensive. I promise they are budget friendly!  Clean it with dish soap and hot water and then label it as a “food bucket” that way you won’t be tempted to use it for something else and contaminate it.

You’ll need to be able to fit the bucket in your fridge for 24 hours.  If you live in an area where it’s super cold outside (under 20 degrees F) you can keep it outside.  Just remember to keep it safe so no animals are tempted to eat your Thanksgiving bird!

If you don’t have room in your fridge to fit a 5 gallon bucket (I currently do not) and your heart isn’t set on roasting a whole turkey, you can break the turkey down and brine the breast and legs in separate containers.  That leaves the back and wings leftover and they are perfect for making stock!  Most likely that is what I’ll be doing this year.

I love brining so much that I have already written several articles sharing tips that I’ve learned over the years.  Here’s a couple to get you started!

Brining A Whole Turkey (a how to)

Tips on Brining (Including seasonings and liquids you can use in a brine)

Bourbon Brined Turkey because holidays should always include booze.

So don’t be scared, give that turkey a good brine bath this year!

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Our Thanksgiving Menu

We are just a little over two weeks out from Thanksgiving and it’s time to start considering a menu plan!  When I first started making Thanksgiving dinner for Scott and I, it was this huge affair filled with all the typical dishes.  It was way too much food for two people to eat yet I felt like I needed to make sure we had all the classics or else it wouldn’t be a real Thanksgiving.

Over the years, I have learned that Thanksgiving dinner can be whatever you want it to be!  Now I keep things really simple with a turkey and a few side dishes that we really love.

Turkey in  a roasting pan

Turkey will always be on the table for us.  This year I’m not buying a whole turkey but instead will be buying a breast with some additional legs.  My refrigerator is small and can’t accommodate a whole turkey in a brine.  However, I do have a Bourbon Brined Turkey recipe that is fantastic! If you have the space, I highly recommend you brine that bird!

Collards

 

Collard greens are one of our favorite side dishes and I have been incorporating them in to our Thanksgiving feast the past few years.  They can be made in the slow cooker which makes things so much easier. This frees up space on the stove for other things like making gravy and mashed potatoes. Plus they can even be made the day before or cooked in the slow cooker over night so the only thing you have to do on the big day is reheat them (or keep them warm).

Collards provide plenty of leftovers and heck, you can even eat them for breakfast!

Spicy Cranberry Chutney from The Spicy Paleo Cookbook

Cranberry sauce will also make an appearance!  I prefer to have it as a breakfast item but Scott really enjoys having it has a side dish with the big dinner.  We usually have Cranberry Apple Sauce which is super simple and full of flavor.  This can also be made a day ahead and gently warmed right before serving.

If you’re looking for something totally different, Spicy Cranberry Chutney would be a great addition!

Gravy, and stuffing

Mashed potatoes and gravy is a must.  I like to prep the potatoes ahead of time so that all the starch is removed and they become fluffy and creamy.  I also prefer to use yukon gold potatoes because they create a nice buttery color when all mashed up.  I admit that I have been leaving out the stuffing so that I have room for more greens!

Gravy doesn’t need to be time consuming, I’ve recently started making blender gravy which eliminates the need for a roux!  Using homemade stock and pan drippings, this technique guarantees a smooth and flavorful gravy every time!

If you are going to stick with making a roux for the gravy, the roux can be made up to two days ahead!  Just make sure to store the roux in an airtight container.  It will be ready to go when it’s time to make the gravy.  Just gently reheat the roux in a pan and then add the liquid.

We might be skipping the stuffing this year but you don’t have to! Here is a recipe for a Savory Apple Stuffing that is perfect for Thanksgiving Day.

Sweet Potato Pie

Since sweet potatoes are such a staple at Thanksgiving, I tend to use them in a pie instead of making them as a side dish.  This year I’m working on a pumpkin cream cheese pie (recipe soon!) but this Bourbon Sweet Potato Pie is what we had last year.

Our Thanksgiving is super simple, full of flavor, and has plenty of leftovers.  If you are making Thanksgiving dinner for the first time or will be creating a meal for a small number of people, this menu is perfect for you!  Most things can be made a head of time leaving you with more time to relax and enjoy the moment of the big day.

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Shaved Brussels Sprouts and Sweet Potato Salad

Salads.  It’s one of those dishes that when I hear it, a few things come to mind.  I automatically assume it’s either lettuce or grain based.  Unless it’s at a summer gathering, then I think it’s either going to be potato or macaroni salad.  I’m trying to change my perception of what makes a salad so that I can experiement a little more.  Salads don’t have to be lettuce or grain based!  This might not be some amazing revelation to you but for me it opened up a lot more possibilities.

I was looking for something that I could create that would yield leftovers.  I wanted something to have at lunch that was veggie packed but not your standard boring mixed greens salad.

Since it was fall, I decided to incorporate a bunch of traditional fall ingredients like sweet potatoes and cranberries to create a salad that is great for lunch or as a side dish.  It’s also perfect for traveling so it can be taken to work (mason jar salad!) or to a party or picnic.  It’s grain free, it’s vegan, it’s Paleo.  It’s all the buzz words.

Shaved Brussels Sprouts and Sweet Potato Salad

 

Andrea’s Shaved Brussel Sprouts and Sweet Potato Salad

For the salad:

  • 2 Medium Sweet Potatoes, peeled and chopped
  • 1 1/2lb Brussels Sprouts, trimmed
  • 1/2 Red Onion, finely chopped
  • 1C Dried Cranberries
  • 1 tsp of Olive Oil for cooking

For The Dressing:

  • 2TBSP Dijon Mustard
  • 2TBSP Maple Syrup
  • 1/4C Balsamic Vinegar
  • 1/4C Light Olive Oil
  • 1/2tsp Salt
  • 1/2tsp Ground Black Pepper

 

In a small glass bowl, whisk together all the ingredients for the dressing and set aside.  Bring a large pot of water to a boil and add in the cubed sweet potatoes.  Boil until the sweet potato is just fully cooked through so that a knife pierces it easily but the sweet potato isn’t mushy.  About five – 10 minutes.  Drain the sweet potatoes making sure to remove as much water as possible.  Add to a large mixing bowl.

Using the fine grate or thin slice blade for your food processor, shred or shave (either works here) the Brussels Sprouts.  In a large skillet add in 1 tsp of light olive oil and heat over medium heat.  Add in the sprouts and cook for about 3 minutes.  Remove and add to the sweet potatoes.

Add in the cranberries and the red onion, toss to combine.  Pour the dressing over top of the salad and gently mix until everything has been coated in dressing.

Serve immediately or cover and place in fridge until ready to serve.  Serves 4 meal size portions or 8 as a side dish.

A couple of notes:

I slightly cooked the sprouts to help bring out more flavor and reduce their bitterness a bit.  This is a taste preference.  If you like raw sprouts then it’s OK to skip this step.  If you allow the salad to sit for several hours before serving, that will help breakdown the sprouts a bit.

This dish gets better the longer it has time to marinade in the dressing.

It does make for a big salad and this served two people as a meal for two lunches.

Leftovers are great but make sure to eat this in at least three days, otherwise the sprouts start getting a little funky.

Adding in some nuts, seeds, or even a little feta or goat cheese on top would make great additions to this salad!  A little twist on the traditional veggie side makes it perfect for holiday gatherings.

Have fun guys, and remember, always play with your food!  Enjoy!