Thanksgiving is the celebration of family, friends and loved ones. It is a time to reflect on our fortunes and give thanks for what we have. Nonetheless, it is also one of the most stressful times of the year for many people. This stress seems to be centered on the famed Thanksgiving feast. We are haunted by golden brown turkeys which are dry on the inside and mushy pumpkin pie. For many of us, having the perfect Thanksgiving meal is essential to a successful Thanksgiving, so I am here to help. Here are some helpful holiday hints that will make your Thanksgiving go without a hitch.

Cornucopia: Make this Thanksgiving your best ever by preparing a stress-free holiday feast


Turkey Tips:


Turkey is often the most stressful part of Thanksgiving. No one knows how big the turkey should be, how long you keep it in the oven for, and at what temperature you should cook it at. Here are some useful tips to keep your Thanksgiving running smoothly (with a delicious turkey at your table).

       

        Weight= 1 pound/person eating.

You should have approximately 1 pound of turkey for every person joining you for a thanksgiving feast. This is enough for the last minute stragglers and those that like to overeat as well (are you really going to eat an entire pound of turkey?) Example: 20 pound turkey for a Thanksgiving feast of 20 people.

        Cook temp (oven) = 325°

        Cook time (oven) = 20 minutes /pound of turkey

Ah, the fateful question: How long do I cook the turkey? Your answer: 20 minutes for every pound of bird you have. Thus, if we are expecting 20 hungry Thanksgiving feasters and have acquired a 20 pound bird to eat, then we will cook the turkey for 20 poundsx20-30 minutes= 400 minutes or 6.7 hrs in the oven, so set your timers and start early.

Thawing (completely thaw turkey before attempting to deep-fry it)

For those of you that prefer the taste of a deep-fried turkey, instead of the usual oven-roasted, the rules are a little different. First of all, you must have the oil very hot, and secondly, you must have the turkey full thawed BEFORE you deep fry it. This is the sole cause of the thousands of grease fires that are ignited on Thanksgiving every year, not thawing the turkey before its date with the fryer. That said, deep frying a turkey is a lot faster than oven cooking, and the turkey time is only about 3 minutes/pound of turkey

If you are opting for the safer, oven roasted version, thawing can take some time. It is recommended that you allow one day of refrigerator thawing for every four pounds of turkey. If you are short on time, you can submerge the turkey in water, allowing 30 minutes for every pound of turkey.

        With the turkey under control, you can now focus on the other essential items of your holiday feast: the sides. If you are clueless as to what to expect to serve, here are some suggestions to jazz up your table and keep your guests coming back for more (better make extra so you can have leftovers). 

         Stuffing: Ahh, stuffing, the essential side, accompanying the turkey and the other various dishes at your holiday table. I recommend making a portion of stuffing separate from the stuffing cooked inside the turkey so that you have enough stuffing to go around. Here is a recipe for stuffing:

Turkey Stuffing:

1 pkg Pepperidge Farm Herb Seasoned Stuffing (cubed)
4 cloves garlic, minced
3/4 cup onions, chopped
1 cup butter (2 sticks)
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 cups chicken broth
3 eggs
1/2 cup fresh parsley, chopped
1 lb turkey giblets, finely chopped
1/2 cup celery, chopped
1 cup chopped mushrooms
1/4 teaspoon each: salt, pepper, onion and garlic powder

In a large saucepan, sauté chopped giblets and (de-stringed) celery in 1 tablespoon butter and 1 tablespoon olive oil; adding onions and after 2-3 minutes and minced garlic and parsley and mushrooms after 5 minutes. Sauté 1 minute more and add chicken broth. Add salt, pepper, onion and garlic powder and remaining butter and stir over low heat for 10 minutes. Stir package of stuffing cubes into broth quickly. Liquid will be absorbed. Turn off heat but leave pan on stove.

Allow to sit for 2-3 minutes, then stir in 1 egg at a time using a large wooden spoon, mixing quickly. Stir completely after adding each egg. Stuffing should be somewhat sticky. If it's not holding together, add 1/4-1/2 cup more broth and mix in. Line the bottom of a bread loaf pan with aluminum foil, leaving enough along the sides to cover the top of the pan when folded over. Spray foil inside the pan with oil or non-stick spray. Pat mixture into pan evenly, spreading with spatula or the back of a spoon.

Bake in 350 degrees 45 minutes; uncover by removing foil from top and allow to bake another 10-15 minutes or until top is golden brown. Baste top with turkey juices from cooked turkey or gravy before serving.


Stuffing is essential for your holiday feast.

2)      Cranberry sauce: this is also one of the essential holiday sides that accompany the Thanksgiving feast. You can buy canned cranberry sauce or you can make it yourself from whole cranberries really easily. Here is how you can make your own homemade cranberry sauce:

Cranberry sauce:

1 cup water

1/2 lb. fresh cranberries
2  cups sugar
1/2 tsp. grated orange rind

In a saucepan, boil water and sugar for 5 minutes, stirring until sugar dissolves. Add washed cranberries; reduce heat and simmer over low heat for 5 minutes, without stirring. Add orange rind. Cool to set; store in refrigerator. Makes about 2 cups (double recipe to make a larger portion)


Homemade cranberry sauce is easy and quick to make, and compliments the taste of your turkey.

Here are some other side dishes that you choose to serve with your meal:
Garlic Mashed Potatoes
Sweet Potatoes or Candied Yams
Green Bean Casserole or plain green beans
Dinner rolls
Salad
Fruit 
Macaroni and Cheese

Brussel sprouts

Dessert: the end of the meal has arrived, but like most people, the dessert is my absolute favorite part. Pie is the most traditional dish to be served for a Thanksgiving dessert, and there are plenty of pie options. The most popular, however is pumpkin pie. Here is a recipe to help you in your quest for awesome pie:

Pumpkin Pie:

3/4 cup pumpkin

2 tablespoons molasses
3/4 cup white sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 tablespoons flour
2 eggs, separated
½ cup milk

1 can of evaporated milk
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
Pie shell


Separate eggs. In a clean bowl beat egg whites until slightly foamy. In a measuring cup, add 1 can of evaporated milk. Add regular milk until you have 1 1/2 cups total. In a mixing bowl, combine all ingredients except egg whites. Beat one minute. Gently fold in egg whites. Pour into pie shell and bake at 425°F for 10 minutes. Reduce heat to 350°F and continue baking for 30 minutes.


Yum, pumpkin pie is awesome, at my house, we have at least 2 homemade pumpkin pies for us, with an additional apple and pecan pie (upon request). They are delicious.

Other pie and dessert options include my personal favorite, pecan pie, apple pie, cherry pie, cheesecake or gingerbread cookies. Although these may be the traditional options, almost any dessert can be served for Thanksgiving and no one will complain, and if they do, they can’t have any.

With these tips in hand, you are ready to have a fabulous holiday dinner. So sit back, enjoy your turkey and pie induced food coma and have a Happy Thanksgiving.


For other free recipes check out Cooks.com for more dishes and ideas