To Die for Thankgiving Dinner ~ Easy Prep!

I first, posted this 2 years ago, and I’m asked about our Thanksgiving line up all the time.  It’s not the healthiest meal, but it sure is tasty!! My rationalization is that if I get a workout in sometime in the morning (Running around the house like a chicken with her head cut off definitely counts!), then eating this meal is A-OK!  Seriously, this is your meal line up!!

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Thanksgiving. Wow. That day is just a gift. A great big gift of Yummy, yummy, yummy food.

Oh and the family, laughter, and football games are pretty cool too!!  This year Thanksgiving fell the Thursday after the site relaunch. So the site went live again Monday, the girls all came down with massive colds that night, and 12 people + kids were coming to our house on Thursday. Hmmmm…mission impossible??

Thankfully I had thought about it a bit.

First, I like to host things at our house. It’s selfish, but I know our house and I know the boundries for my Littles and the visiting Littles when they are here.  So subsequently, I’m more relaxed because I’m not chasing them out of trouble at someone else’s house.

Second, with almost every major holiday, EVERYONE is happy to help in someway, especially if the party doesn’t have to be at their house. So delegate! My parents were assigned the Turkey/Gravy/Cranberry Sauce, my Mother-in-Law the pies, my Sister-in-Law the wine, my Brother-in-Law the appetizer. So that just left Side Dishes for me.

Third, with a little bit of prep work, you can actually enjoy the day too, rather than work yourself to the bone.

Now to be honest, I very often prep ahead for meals, meaning chopping, dicing, etc. But I have never made all the side dishes (especially for Thanksgiving) the day before. So I was going on a wing and a prayer. (But after this the result of this year, I will be doing this for the REST OF MY LIFE! I truly enjoyed Thursday and the food all turned out better than I could have imagined!)

Monday night ~ I printed all the recipes I was making, clipped them with a binder clip to keep them all together, and wrote out the shopping lists.

Tuesday ~ I did all the grocery shopping. The super fresh-I-could-have-eaten-the-entire-bag-dinner-rolls went straight into the freezer. That night I baked a super easy pan of Jiffy cornbread for the stuffing.  While it was baking I chopped, diced, & prepped anything I would need to assemble the dishes the next day, and popped everything into ziplocks. Then left both breads for the stuffing out to start drying.

Wednesday ~ I made arrangements for Addie to go an extra day to Daycare, so I would only have 2 Littles while I assembled everything.  When Piper went down for her nap at 9:00AM, Hayden played with her puzzle and Mama got busy.

Cheese mama!! (Sorry, she see’s a camera and can’t help herself…)

The tastiest Broccoli Casserole, Hay approved too.

The puzzle wasn’t exciting anymore, so I let her wash the dishes.

You’re freaking out right now aren’t you?? (Hee, hee.) Polycarbonate (Plastic) Wine Glasses folks. Plastic. And I love em. A gift from my Genius Sister-in-Law. Perfect around the pool…or just to have when you have crazy Littles running around your house…

Anyway, with this going on behind Hay, I was happy to have her busy at the sink. She in fact washed dishes for about 45  minutes. Does it really matter what they are doing as long as they are safe and occupied??

Love the look of the stuffing coming together. I kid you not, it was THE BEST Sourdough Cornbread Sausage stuffing I have ever eaten in my life. And everyone at the table will tell you the same thing. Make this and make it soon! Thank you Picky Palate for coming into my life!

About this time the Sweet Potatoes were ready to mash. Hay thought she should be prepared…

And that she should say “Cheeeeeeese!” again. What? You would think she was the daughter of a blogger or something, sheesh.

Sweet Potatoes done. Have you seen these pewter dishes from Match? I have the Toscana Pewter Pyrex Casserole Dishes. They were wedding gifts (and I mean GIFTS!) and are AWESOME.  You can cook whatever you want in the glass Pyrex dishes, then drop them in the Pewter when you’re ready to serve. (A SERIOUS wish list splurge item, but I love em! So I gotta share em with ya!)

In the hour Piper slept, I made the Broccoli Casserole & the Sweet Potatoe Casserole, Sourdough Cornbread Sausage Stuffing, and the Mashed Potatoes. The Tupperware was for my sister to take to her in-laws, simply the extra from doubling all the recipes.

Then with Piper on the floor at my feet and Hayden entertaing her, I finished the last of the deliciousness. Again a Picky Palate treat, Cheesy Bacon & Green Bean Casserole Pot Pie ~ sooo scrumptious! While the kids ate lunch, I cleaned up the kitchen.

Later that night, my sister brought containers to transport and bake the extra sides at her in laws. I wrote instructions on the tops of each and added accompaning toppings to labled Ziplocks (love me a Ziplock bag & and Sharpie!)

I was certainly tired when I went to bed that night, but knowing the bulk of the work was done, was HEAVEN to my brain!

Now, you’re probably wondering about the main star of the day. Well, as luck would have it, I have a dad that is skilled with the Grill. I found a fabulous sounding Turkey recipe  on Twitter and Dad took over that responsibility (LORD LOVE HIM!). Let me tell you, thay Turkey did not disappoint! WOW! It was a Maple Brined Smoked Grilled Turkey. I will forever be a fan!

This was a late addition. I thought I should have one healthy alternative and my Genuis Sister-in-Law raved about this Green Bean Salad from the Flat Belly Family Cookbook. I did prep the veggies on Tuesday night as well, then threw it together in about 15 minutes the day of. Nice little refreshing salad. I’ll post the recipe later this weekend.

While the Turkey was on the grill, I pulled all the side dishes out of the fridge, (about 3 hours before I planned to bake them). I also pulled the Puff Pastry from the freezer to defrost for the Green Bean Casserole, and the dinner rolls to defrost. All the side dishes baked at 350 degrees for roughly the same time. I topped them with their respective toppings and 30 minutes later we were enjoying a meal to die for! Don’t forget to pop the rolls in the oven for about 10 minutes to get toasty too. Have them waiting to go on a cookie sheet.

Broccoli Casserole & Sweet Potatoe Casserole

Yum Mashed Potatoes! Can you say butter?

Oh Man.

I will be seeing this Turkey in my dreams for years to come.

The side of my kitchen counter served as a buffet for everyone to help themselves.

Then head to the table.

Seriously yummy.

See these glasses? Remember them. You’re about to hear a whole lotta a goodness about them…

And if you eat all that I’ve told you above, you will most likely have a Thanksgiving Food Hangover that apparently requires sunglasses…

Or at least that’s what 2 of my Littles told me.

Our Thanksgiving Feast that would be AMAZING for Christmas too:

Maple Brined Smoked Grilled Turkey

Broccoli Casserole & Sweet Potatoe Casserole

Sourdough Cornbread Sausage Stuffing

Cheesy Bacon & Green Bean Casserole Pot Pie

Mashed Potatoes

Green Bean & Pumpkin Seed Salad

Fresh Bakery Dinner Rolls

Cranberry Sauce

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{good eats} how do you butter your corn?

I love this tip!  It’s one of those that you think, HOW have I never thought of this before??

So how many of you butter your corn before wrapping it in foil for the grill?  Or Maybe you butter your corn after (when it’s super HOT, and you can barely lay a finger on it).  I

‘m sure that most of you do all this the old fashioned, “family style”, way with a butter dish on the table and to each, their own….

BUT, if you are part of the crowd that pre-butters, as in the first example, foil + grilling, then this little trick is for you.

My brother-in-law, “Master of the Grill”, shared this one with me a few weekends ago…

STEP 1: Spread softened butter on a piece of bread…

STEP 2: Coat your corn from end to end….

STEP 3: Place corn on a piece of foil.

STEP 4: Add desired seasonings (salt, seasoned salt, fresh herbs, etc)

STEP 5: Wrap up, and close the foil around the corn.

STEP 6: Grill.

Honestly brilliant. This may just be how I do our corn forever and ever. I think it would be a great way to get kids involved and helping with dinner too!

Enjoy!  (We sure did!!)

{Good Eats} Kitchen Tip for Leftovers

What do you do with your leftovers?  Do you panic to use them up the same week?  Sometimes I plan out the week and make sure I’m cooking enough chicken or steak for later in the week to simplify my life.  But other times I know we wont be around to eat it, or that I’ve got a busy week the following week.

Simple solution, a freezer Ziplock.  Just prep the leftovers however it’s easiest for you. I prefer to chop things up. That way I’m able to throw the frozen meat into just about any dish (Like Crockpot Chicken Bowls).  Or let it defrost overnight to use.  Trust me, this is a great time saving shortcut!

And we all need a little more time in the day!

Thinking outside the box…

The other day I had to cram a bunch of errands in, so the 3 Littles and I headed out for a few “adventures”, one of which was Costco.  And of course when one is at Costco, one sees lots of tasting tables.  And the sweet Aidells folks happened to be there the afternoon the Littles and I were all there.

Have you tried these before? I have always liked their sausages, so I was game to try the meatballs. They said this flavor was a big hit with kids and my Littles happily took the toothpicks that were offered. In fact they took the next toothpick too, and the next, and the next, and the…..yeaaaaa, I think they ate 5 each. They were pretty tasty! A great, quick, healthy kid option….

Let’s review ~ all natural, they are never frozen, and my kids love them. Sure, I’ll take a box.

Then I served them to the kids a couple of nights later:

Addie: “I don’t like deese”.

Me: “No really, Addie, you DO. I saw you, you LOVE them. “

Then it occurred to me, there were no toothpicks!  I just happened to have some lollipops sticks left over from a party and quickly turned dinner into Meatball Pops…

“Oh Mommy! I LIKE deese!!!”

“I can pick them up like this!”

“And eat dem!!”

“Me too Mommy, I like deese too!”

“Can we have 15 more please!?!?”

My tip for today, if at first you don’t succeed….think outside the box.

You’ll be surprised what happens!

my favorite basil pesto

This is BY FAR my favorite Basil Pesto recipe.

Truly, it’s hard to go wrong with Ina Garten.  The Barefoot Contessa pretty much rocks my kitchen’s world.

This is such an easy thing to make and packs SO MUCH flavor!  Your kids will love it (mine practically lick the bowl clean).  You can serve it for company and feel like you’ve done something “fancy”.  And it only takes a few minutes to whip up.  If you don’t have an overly abundant basil plant waiting for you to pick the heck out of it, grab a fresh bunch from the farmers market, or Trader Joe’s ($4!)  It’s worth it!

Then grab a bunch of garlic.  I cheat and love to use the frozen cubes from Trader Joe’s.  Each cube is a clove of garlic.  Frankly, this is just easy and quick for me and it still tastes fresh.  But get your garlic anyway that works for you.

Load everything up in your food processor.  (You might also be able to use a blender. I’ve never done this, but it would probably work too…just don’t hate me if it doesn’t work, and well, if your blender brakes…).  Then let your Little help you with the buttons.  Mine get the biggest kick out of pushing that “Pulse” button.  It’s “their job” when the food processor is out.

This particular batch I packed up in Tupperware and took on my road trip to make an easy dinner for friends, so I don’t have a fun dish to show you.  Sorry about that!  But seriously, it tastes yummy over EVERYTHING!

Here’s some ideas….

Mix it in with warm cooked pasta and serve with a little grated Parmesan on top…

I love to make a “Caprese Pasta” dish with it – fusilli, tomatoes (chopped or grape), cubed mozzerella, Parmesan and Pine nuts to garnish….

A friend brought it to me after Piper was born in Chinese food containers with peas and pine nuts, delicious and great packaging!

First time I made this, I toasted little baguette slices, slathered a little pesto on the warm bread, and topped with left over Oven Tri-Tip, and a fresh tomato from the garden….oh HEAVEN HELP ME!  That was good!

Anyway, great pesto, quick and worth making rather than using a store bought pesto.  It has a great salty, nutty flavor… to die for!

Enjoy!

Barefoot Contessa’s Basil Pesto

Ingredients:

1/4 cup walnuts (definitely don’t leave out!)
1/4 cup pignolis/pine nuts
3 tablespoons chopped garlic (9 cloves)
5 cups fresh basil leaves, packed
1 teaspoon kosher salt (don’t skimp!)
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 1/2 cups good olive oil
1 cup freshly grated Parmesan (I use this generously, just sayin….)

Directions:

Place the walnuts, pignolis, and garlic in the bowl of a food processor fitted with a steel blade. Process for 30 seconds. Add the basil leaves, salt, and pepper. With the processor running, slowly pour the olive oil into the bowl through the feed tube and process until the pesto is thoroughly pureed. Add the Parmesan and puree for a minute. Serve, or store the pesto in the refrigerator or freezer with a thin film of olive oil on top.