dinner-party-menu-thanksgiving

I’m a traditionalist when it comes to Thanksgiving. I like to have all the same good stuff, year after year. It actually takes some of the planning stress out, because I always know what I’m going to make when I host. What IS always stressful, though, is timing everything out. So here is my recommended Thanksgiving menu (of course with all of my favorite things), and an easy outline for when to prepare everything. Also, while I typically recommend buying several items when hosting dinner, I believe in making most stuff for Thanksgiving. The homemade element adds a special touch and the chaos is FUN.

PS the picture above is from the Thanksgiving I thought it would be a good idea to make everyone individual pies. It was a great idea in theory and cuteness, but a terrible idea in manual labor output.

PSS sorry for all the terrible pictures in the links below. Most of them are from when I was in the middle of hosting Thanksgiving, and I was very very busy. And maybe a little tipsy.

Menu:

Appetizer: Trader Joe’s cranberry goat cheese + Ginger snaps

Appetizer: Cranberry Avocado Salsa

Main: Perfect Roasted Turkey + gravy

Side: Herb & Sausage Stuffing

Side: Yukon Gold Mashed Potatoes

Side: Brussel Sprout Salad 

 – I would simplify this salad for Thanksgiving purposes: saute the brussels instead of roasting (oven space), buy balsamic glaze instead of boiling down your own, and buy bacon from the salad bar if you can (otherwise make bacon day ahead)

Side: Green bean casserole – using the Campbell’s soup recipe! It’s hard to beat.

Side: Sweet Potato Rolls – gotta have bread!

Dessert: Pumpkin Pie with Cream Cheese Swirl

Dessert: Store bought Apple or Pecan Pie

How to execute:

Up to a week before:

Make the sweet potato rolls. Put them in a freezer storage bag and keep them in the freezer until Thanksgiving day. Take them out morning of.

1 day before:

Make the mashed potatoes. Yes! These are great for make-ahead. When warming them up on Thanksgiving day you can add a little cream or butter if they need more moisture.

Make the pumpkin pie; store in fridge

Brown the sausage for the herb sausage stuffing. Keep in ziploc bag in fridge.

If using a frozen turkey, start thawing.

Day of:

~6-7 hours before – prepare the Turkey and put it in oven (varies depending on turkey size)

Have a sip of wine.

Anytime- prepare green bean casserole in casserole dish, and cover; wait to bake.

Have a sip of wine.

~2 hours before- cook celery, onions, etc and assemble sausage stuffing; wait to bake.

Have 2 sips of wine.

~1 hour before – prepare brussel sprout salad

Have 4 sips of wine.

~45 min before (delegate here!) – remove turkey from oven and let rest. Prepare gravy. Put green bean casserole and stuffing into the oven and bake. Prepare cranberry avo salsa and set out cheeses. Warm up mashed potatoes.

Have 87 sips of wine.

Happy Thanksgiving!!

 

 

My Best Chili

my-best-chili

It’s rainy here! And sort of chilly! So I have chili on my mind! Why all the exclamation points! Because we’ve been waiting for cooler weather here, and I think we finally have it. For a few days in a row. No more sweating while putting the boys in the car, no more feeling like the sun is literally aging me the second I step outside the door, and no more wearing white floral dresses in November (at some point I just stopped shopping). Speaking of aging, I went to the dermatologist this week for a mole check and few skin tips, and I came home with 3 prescriptions, 2 pricing quotes on procedures that I “need,” and a sheet of anti-aging essentials with about 80% of them circled based on my skin type.  Basically I need to invest in a new face.

So onto my chili. This is officially my chili. What I will make forever. Because there are soooo many recipes out there, and I already have this one  on my blog. I made this one loosely based on my previous version, but I tweaked quantities and did two simple things that made a HUGE difference: 1) I ground the beef down reeeeally small so there were no large pieces and 2) I cooked it for a long time.  Amazing what this did for the texture and flavor.

Recipe

  • 2 lb 90% lean ground beef
  • 1 yellow onion, diced
  • 1/2 clove garlic
  • 1/2 cup red wine
  • 1.5 teaspoons kosher salt, more or less to taste
  • ~43 oz diced tomatoes with juices (1 large can + 1 regular)
  • 1 can tomato sauce (15 oz)
  • 1/2 can or full can black beans, drained (I used 1/2)
  • 2-3 tablespoons chili powder (3 if you like more heat; I used 2)
  • 1/2 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 heaping teaspoon cocoa powder
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon pasilla powder if you can find it, or ancho chili powder
  • ground pepper
  • 2 tablespoons corn starch mixed with 1/4 cup water

Brown meat, adding onions and garlic.  Using a wooden spoon to break beef down into very small pieces. An immersion blender works well here too.  Cook beef, onion and garlic through.  Add in red wine and salt. Cook down for a few minutes. Add in tomatoes, tomato sauce, beans, and all spices.  Bring to a simmer. Stir in corn starch + water mixture.  Simmer uncovered for about 20 minutes.  Cover, turn heat to VERY low, and cook for at least one hour, but preferably 2 or 3. Taste for salt and add more if necessary.

pumpkin-pie-with-cream-cheese-swirl-and

Some days just can’t be as successful as others. I’m sick, I feel very tired and lazy, and all I want to do is watch Ellen re-runs all day. I finally left the house to go get a healthy smoothie to boost my immunity, but literally couldn’t get a parking spot so went to Chick-Fil-A instead. You win some, you lose some.

But as I was driving home I realized Thanksgiving is just a few weeks away! And I’ve had this pumpkin pie recipe in my draft section for a whole year, since I made it last year. And I’m blogging it now, because I think you should make it for your Thanksgiving this year. You won’t regret!

I loooove pumpkin pie. Love it. Only complaint is that sometimes I crave a sweeter crust than the same old pie crust.  And I like to put little spins on things to make them my own.  The solution? Gingersnaps and Biscoff cookies for the crust, of course. Wow. Add a cream cheese swirl and you’ve successfully elevated that same ol’ pumpkin pie.

I use this pumpkin pie recipe, there is no reason to look further. Sally’s is perfect, and I’ve done the research. I make her sugared cranberries too for a little festive flair.

For the cream cheese swirl:

  • 1 package cream cheese
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • vanilla

For the Gingersnap/Biscoff crust

  • 2 cups gingersnap/biscoff cookie crumbs (I did half and half, or you could just do gingersnap)
  • 1/4 cups brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon flour
  • 5-6 tablespoons melted butter
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

Make the crust first by mixing all ingredients. Press into a pie pan, then bake at 300 for 10 minutes. Create the pie filling, then fill about 3/4 of the way up. Not too full or it won’t bake evenly. You will have some leftover – I ate mine with the spatula.  Make the cream cheese filling, then drop in spoonfuls all over the pie (I think I used about 3/4 of it, and again ate the rest with a spatula). Use a toothpick or similar tool, and swirl the cream cheese with the pie filling.  Bake according to Sally’s instructions, about 55 minutes at 375.

slow-cooked-french-onion-chicken

My sister should have never given me an FBI hat (she’s an agent).  I liked the hat originally because it had a nice fit and was a nice color, but now I like it because it gives me a lot of power and control.  Crossing streets, stopping traffic, asking people to slow down on our residential streets. Today I had to ask a family at the park to put their dog on a leash and based on their reaction I think they thought they were getting arrested. Or maybe that’s just my hope.  Seriously though – I’m a dog lover – but Pitbull, still a puppy at 8 months old, running rampant at a children’s park, chasing my boys because they are the perfect bite size little chew toy.  He actually looked like a perfectly friendly puppy, but even my childhood dog bit people when he was little. And quite frankly I just have enough threats to dodge when I’m alone at the park with both of them – I need to minimize the ones I can control. AND – it’s the law and at the FBI we enforce the law.

(sorry Ingri, I hope I don’t get you fired)

Onto this chicken. This chicken will change your life. My husband still hasn’t stopped talking about it, and he keeps throwing out ideas of what else we could do with it (“we could eat it on a sandwich with melted cheese.” “I bet we could eat it as a wrap.”  “I think it would be great on a salad.” Yes, yes and yes. Chicken does in fact work as all those things).  But it is one of my easiest recipes, it was so flavorful and the chicken is shreddable-tender when it’s done. The chicken thighs are really what take this over the edge, but if you can’t find a boneless skinless version, you could just use breasts.

Recipe

  • 3 lb boneless skinless chicken thighs
  • Olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • ground pepper
  • 1/2 cup white wine
  • 1 package Lipton onion soup mix
  • 1 tablespoon dijon mustard
  • 2 cups chicken broth
  • 1 cup water
  • 3 tablespoons corn starch mixed with 1/3  cup water
  • Few dashes worcestershire

Preheat oven to 300. Heat a little olive oil in a large dutch oven, and season the chicken thighs with S&P.  Brown the chicken thighs on the both sides, about 2 min/side (if your grocery store doesn’t have boneless skinless thighs, you can sub for chicken breasts. Thighs just get a little more tender).  Once all the thighs are browned (you can drain a little fat here if you want), deglaze the pan with white wine and reduce for 5 min. Pour the onion soup mix over all the chicken and add the mustard.  Add in the chicken broth and water to cover about 3/4 of the way up the chicken. Cover and cook in the oven for 2 hours.  Remove from oven and place over medium heat on the stove; transfer the chicken to a bowl using a slotted spoon or tongs (chicken should be fall apart tender).  Whisk together the  corn starch and 1/3 cup water. Pour into the gravy mixture and allow to thicken. Add a few dashes of Worcestershire. Serve gravy over the chicken.

 

cinnamon-toast-crunch-french-toast-casserole

I feel like I missed out on years and years of eating french toast. My mom always loved it, and I couldn’t for the life of me figure out why someone would ever order french toast over a pancake. But as I got older and wiser, I started to understand why. The reason is – it’s good. And really just another vehicle for maple syrup. After I decided I liked it, then I had a whole new problem. Instead of struggling to understand why someone would order french toast, I struggled to decide whether I should order french toast or a pancake at brunch.  Actually, that’s why we had twins. There’s no deciding anymore; we can order the french toast AND the pancakes. The grilled cheese AND the chicken fingers. The hot dog AND the hamburger.  God must have known about this lifelong struggle of mine and decided enough was enough – we’re blessing her with two eaters.

So onto this casserole. I really don’t like making brunch at home. It’s messy, usually requires lots of different ingredients and pans, and it makes the house smell like bacon until the end of time. But this french toast casserole – is different. It’s easy, quick, requires one dish, can (should) be prepared the night before, smells AMAZING when baking, and is so worth eating you won’t even think about the cream and butter in there.

Recipe

  • 3 tablespoons butter, melted
  • 1 large loaf Challah bread (about 1 lb)
  • 7 eggs, beaten
  • 2 cups half & half
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup pure maple syrup
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla

Topping

  • 1 stick butter, melted
  • 2 cups Cinnamon Toast Crunch or similar
  • 2 tablespoons sugar

In a large bowl, whisk together the beaten eggs, half & half, milk, brown sugar, maple syrup, cinnamon and vanilla. Set aside.  Slice a large loaf of challah bread into 2-inch cubes.  Melt the 3 tablespoons of butter, and pour into a 9×13 inch dish to coat.  Place the cubed bread into the dish, then pour the cream mixture all over the bread, making sure to soak every little square inch. Cover and refrigerate overnight (you can do just a few hours if that’s all the time you have, but overnight is best).  The topping will be prepared the next day.

When ready to bake, remove from fridge. Preheat oven to 350.  Lightly crush the 2 cups Cinnamon toast crunch. Mix with the stick of melted butter and 2 tablespoons sugar.  Pour the cinnamon toast crunch mixture over the casserole, making sure the melted butter gets in every nook and cranny.  Bake uncovered for 45 minutes. Serve with maple syrup (although you really don’t need it).

One Pot Chicken Pot Pie

one-pot-chicken-pot-pie

I bet if you googled ‘chicken pot pie’ there would be 87 million search results. Oh actually – just did it because saying that made me curious – 6 million results. Lots of pot pie recipes. You know why? Because it’s awesome. Who doesn’t love pot pie? The devil, maybe, and that’s about it. And I have a couple recipes on this blog already for pot pie (here and here) – and both are good, but I’ve been really trying to simplify things in my life lately. Well mainly just my recipes; I haven’t simplified anything else. So this recipe minimizes steps, minimizes pans, and skips the homemade crust. I personally love homemade crust, but I’ve realized through the years that making homemade crust is really a thankless job. It’s tedious, time consuming, and quite frankly nobody cares. My husband could do without it entirely. So I topped the pot pie with Pillsbury biscuits instead! Loved it. Husband loved it. And this pot pie….oh man. Better put on some eating sweatpants.

Recipe

  • 2.5 lb boneless skinless chicken thighs (or breasts if you can’t find them)
  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • 1 cup chopped onion
  • 1 clove minced garlic
  • 2 cups chopped carrot, steamed in microwave for 3 min
  • 1/4 tsp pepper
  • 4 cups chicken broth
  • 1 chicken buillion cube
  • 5-6 tablespoons corn starch dissolved in 1/2 cup water
  • 1/2 cup half & half
  • 1.5 cups frozen pearl onions
  • Kosher salt…up to 1-2 tsp
  • 2 cups frozen peas
  • 1 package refrigerated biscuits
  • 3-4 tablespoons fresh chopped parsley

Preheat oven to 300.  Melt the butter in a large dutch oven over medium heat on stove. Add onion and garlic and cook. Add carrots and stir to combine. Season chicken with salt and pepper and add to pot. Pour in the 1/4 teaspoon pepper, chicken broth, and buillion cube. Bring to a simmer and stir in corn starch whisked into water. Let thicken, then stir in the half & half and onions. Taste for salt. If using full sodium chicken broth, you probably don’t need any. If using reduced sodium, add a tsp or so. Cover pot, place in oven and cook for 1.5 hours. Remove from oven, stir in the parsley, peas, and place biscuits in a single layer on top of pot pie. Cook uncovered in the oven for 40 minutes, until biscuits are done.  Remove from oven, let sit for a few minutes to cool, then shred the chicken with a fork (should be very tender at this point).  Broth/gravy will thicken as it cools, but if you like a thicker/more mashed potato like sauce, you can mix in a couple more tablespoons of corn starch and bring to simmer (make sure to dissolve it in water first).

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