I love Thanksgiving. Mostly because most of our family will be together, but also because I get to cook. This year I’m not eating much because I’ve been juicing, but I’m still looking forward to cooking. Some may call that crazy, but it works for me. Here’s the plan: Shop for food, cook, serve, clean up and leave for Las Vegas the next morning so I’m not tempted to eat the leftovers. Really, it’s a perfect plan, don’t you think? I get a quick weekend away, am not tempted by leftovers and the husband has food until I get home. a win, win, don’t you think?
Some years there are more at our table for Thanksgiving than others… this year there’s going to be just 6 or 7 of us. Plus, Mike will be running a plate of hot food up the street to a friend of ours who can’t join us. Regardless of how many will be here for dinner, I always cook enough for 16 – 20 people for a couple of reasons…
- It’s as easy to cook for 8 as it is for 20.
- Left overs are the best. Mostly because they taste good, but partly because they get me out of cooking for a good part of the next week, tee hee!
- You never know who will stop by. I am a fan of the “more is merrier” club. Don’t have anywhere to go? Stop by! For me, family isn’t about blood, it’s about love. If I love you, you are family. Even if I hardly know you, but like you… you’re family. Life is much happier that way, don’t you think?
Every year I make the exact same thing with the exception of dessert and sometimes the potatoes. That said, you would think I would have some photos to share, but I guess I’ve been too busy cooking to stop and take photos. This year I promise to get some shots and will add them to this post next week, but in the meantime I thought I would share my favorite lick-your-plate traditional Moeller family recipes along new recipes for the potatoes and dessert!
Here’s what’s on the menu Thursday…
- Oyster Soup (a tradition from Mike’s side of family)
- 18-24 lb Turkey
- Stuffing with Raisins (My grandmother’s recipe)
- Sweet Potato Casserole
- Delicious Mashed Potatoes
- Green Beans with Ham
- Butter Bit Rolls from Kroger
- Paula Deen’s Pumpkin Cheesecake
Want the recipes? Here they are below… I’ll add photo’s as soon as I make it!
Note: I am all about what can I do the night before. I find this keeps me from being a crazy woman on Thursday and allows me to actually enjoy the cooking process and my family. In case you want to try any of these recipes, I’ll point out the things you can do the night before and at what point on Thursday I do everything else. Dinner is typically served around 5 or 6 pm…
Oyster Soup (Thanksgiving afternoon) Everyone loves this. Well, I really don’t… but everyone else does and I accept the responsibility of carrying on this Moeller family tradition. Mike’s mom made this every year and brought it to my house once I started cooking Thanksgiving dinner. After she passed away my niece Melissa brought it. Then she had the nerve to get married, have twins and start cooking her own Thanksgiving dinner Now the responsibility lies completely on my shoulders. It’s really simple to make, but you do have to pay attention so you don’t scorch the milk! I make this right before everyone is due to walk in the door and serve it as an appetizer while I’m finishing up everything else. Here’s the ingredients:
- 8 – 4 ounce containers of raw oysters
- 1/2 gallon of milk. At this point, make it whole milk… it’s not like fat-free is going to make a difference.
- 2 sticks of butter
- Salt and Pepper to taste
Heat oysters + their juice at a medium heat until the edges of the oysters curl. Add milk and butter, stirring often. Do not allow it to boil and take care not to scorch the milk on the bottom of the saucepan. That darned scorching just sneaks up and happens if you are not attentive… I mean really, it’s not like there is not a dozen other things going on, right?
Stuffed Turkey Yes, I stuff my turkey. Yes, I know that’s bad, blah, blah, blah… but my mother’s mother and her mother before her, stuffed her turkey and turkey stuffing is not the same when it isn’t stuffed in a turkey. The end. Go ahead, be safe. Eat the stuffing that was baked separately in the oven – I did that batch just for you. It just means there’s more of the good stuff for moi!
Cooking a turkey is actually quite simple. If you’ve never made one, don’t fret – you really can’t mess it up if you do it my way. Actually, my way is the Reynold’s way using Reynolds Turkey Bags. I can’t imagine making my turkey without them. I may try this brine recipe one of these days… I may try it this year, but I’m not sure that a bucket will fit in my refrigerator… hmmm. In the meantime, this is what I usually do:
Making a Turkey - (Thanksgiving morning) Guaranteed to be juicy and delicious!
- Ideally, buy a fresh (non-frozen turkey) An organic/non-antibiotic turkey would be lovely it fits your budget. If you do get a frozen one, make sure to defrost in the fridge for at least two days and if it’s still frozen the night before, run cold/warm water on it until you can pry out the package of giblets (see below) and then refrigerate again. If still frozen on Thanksgiving morning run some cool/warm water over it until defrosted. Try to avoid this obviously, but in a pinch it will get the job done.
- The night before Thanksgiving remove the package of Giblets with the heart, neck, liver, etc… to make the broth.
- An hour before you cook the turkey give him a little bath and make sure he’s clean.
- Pat him dry and stuff (see below) and then follow directions for the Turkey Bag.
- I like to rub oil and some seasonings on the turkey before I place it into the floured bag with slits.
- Once in the bag, I place the turkey directly on a roasting pan with or without a rack. A rack is probably better, but if you don’t have one, that’s okay. An 18 -24 lb stuffed turkey will be done in 3 1/2 – 4 hours. Yum.
Best Stuffing Ever – (Part 1 – night before/Part 2 Thanksgiving morning) Shhhh. Don’t tell me your stuffing is better, it can’t be. This is my grandmother’s recipe and it the secret ingredient is raisins. Raisins make it awesome and if you don’t like raisins, I will make a batch without raisins just for you, but it will pain me. Why? Because the raisins elevate it from the best stuffing to the best stuffing ever. Trust me on this.
- 4 cups of broth (recipe below)
- 2 14 oz bags of Pepperidge Farm Herb Seasoned Cubes (don’t substitute or get a different seasoning)
- 1 XL onion or 2 medium onions diced
- 2 cups diced celery
- 1 lb of butter
- 1 3/4 cup of raisin
Night Before: Make the broth by boiling 5 cups of water, the giblets (minus the liver), salt, and pepper. You can throw in a stalk or two of celery and a couple of chunks of onion if you’d like. Once boiling, turn down and simmer for 60 minutes. Add the liver and continue to simmer for another 30 minutes. Remove from heat and strain broth with a wire sieve. Place 4 cups into a glass storage bowl and refrigerate until morning. If you have less, add water to measure 4 cups.
Thanksgiving Morning: In large sauce pan melt butter on medium heat. Add diced celery and onions. Saute about 10 minutes until celery is soft and onions cooked.
In an extra-large bowl, gently mix the bread cubes, broth and butter mixture. Carefully stir in the raisins. You don’t want everything to get too mushy.
Lightly stuff your prepared turkey (washed and patted dry). Do not pack in too tight. To prevent the exposed stuffing from getting crispy, tuck a piece of bread or two at the opening to protect it. Note: I don’t tie up the legs. The bag keeps them tight enough.
Place remainder of stuffing in an 9 x 13 glass baking dish, cover with foil and bake at 350 degrees for 30 -45 minutes along with sweet potatoes and mashed potatoes.
Most Delicious Mashed Potatoes - (Night before) I am trying a version of homemade potatoes from Pioneer Woman. No one can describe a recipe quite like her, so I will just give you a link directly to hers.
I’m pretty sure it will be delicious… it is made with half n half and butter. How can it not be delicious? Click here for the Recipe
Gravy - (Make this while the turkey is being sliced) I have to tell you that up until my Mother-In-Law passed away, she made the gravy. After that, I
shamefully warmed up a jar of turkey gravy. A few years ago I bit the bullet and started making my own. To tell you I know what I’m doing would be a lie. I have no idea what I’m doing, but for some reason, it always tastes good. Here is a link to a recipe from someone who sounds like they know what they are doing. I would trust that one more than mine, but if you really want to know how I make mine, here goes….
- Pour about a cup or two of the turkey drippings (warm juice in the bottom of the roaster) into a sauce pan and heat on low. I can’t really say I’ve ever measured it.
- Pour about 1/2 cup of broth or so into a glass measuring cup. Never really measured this either!
- Add some flour and whisk like crazy. Maybe I add a TBSP or so… just add and whisk until it’s blended. I try to avoid lumps so I add it gradually… sometimes. If I get lumps I stir more and then quit worrying about them.
- Then I gradually pour into the saucepan and as it continues to heat on low I stir until it thickens.
- Salt and pepper to taste
That’s it. It’s always good. Who knew it could be that easy?
Carolina Sweet Potatoes – (Make after you get the turkey in the oven) Yes I know. I already made mashed potatoes, but while those are delicious, these are sinfully delicious. I just can’t imagine not making them. The recipe is from a church cookbook my mother gave me years ago. We love them. Chances are, you will too.
- 4 cups mashed sweet potatoes (drained if using from a can)
- 1 cup of sugar
- 2 eggs
- 1 stick margarine melted
- 1 tsp. vanilla
- 1/3 cup milk
- A couple of handfuls of mini-marshmallows
Combine all ingredients (except the marshmallows) and mix well. I use a hand mixer. Pour into a buttered 19 x 13 glass pan and bake at 350 for 45 minutes. Pull out of oven and top with a layer of marshmallows. Put back in oven for a few minutes to melt. Don’t forget about them, or they will get a bit toasty. I may or may not know that from experience!
Green Beans – (Morning of Thanksgiving) Don’t tell anyone how simple these are. People love them, I love them even more because they are so simple. I’m giving you the fresh version (always best) along with “in a hurry and stressed” options. Choose whichever makes you happier…
In a crock pot place…
- Your choice: 3 or 4 cans of drained whole green beans OR a bag of fresh green beans washed with ends snapped off
- Your choice: An diced yellow onion, a 1/2 cup of frozen diced onion or a generous dash of dried onion flakes.
- Vegetable broth – enough to mostly cover the beans
- A 1/3 to 1/2 of stick of butter sliced
- Pepper to taste
- A dash or two of Lawry’s seasoning (don’t over salt)
- If desired – a pinch of pepper flakes. I just put pepper flakes on the table as an option
Turn on high for at least 5-6 hours if using fresh green beans – it’s done when beans are tender. Turn on low if using canned green beans.
Butterbit rolls from Kroger. (Warm 10 minutes before serving dinner) Yes, I buy rolls at Kroger. I’ve tried rolls from assorted bakeries and even made my own, but everyone loves a butterbit and that is fine with me. I simply place them on a tray, cover with foil and warm in an oven turned down to 250 for 10 minutes or so. Remember to set out a stick of butter or my favorite – original earth balance to soften up the morning of Thanksgiving.
Paula Deen’s Pumpkin Cheesecake – (Night before) I have to say I am always a bit disappointed with pumpkin pie. It just feels like it’s missing something. This year I’m going to try to spruce it up by making a 5 star Pumpkin Cheesecake by Paula Deen. I figure if 848 people gave it 5 stars, it can’t be all bad. I’ll up-date this with tips and photos after I make it! Click here for the recipe!
So that’s what we’re having… what’s on your plate? xo Amy