Thanksgiving turkey tray

For an afternoon holiday appetizer tray, I found this cute idea on Pinterest. If you haven’t found Pinterest yet, I highly recommend the website as a great way to find ideas for just about anything.  I have tried many great recipes on the site, and have saved more than 11,000 pins so far into various boards. Find me on Pinterest under my name.

Here is my version of an appetizer tray that I served on Thanksgiving day.  It was well received by my family. It was a cute way to serve a very basic appetizer while everyone was waiting for the main event. The relish tray is arranged in the shape of a turkey.

Earlier in the day, I cut and prepared the vegetables and then just before serving, arranged them on the tray.  It was easy and fun.  And also encouraged raw vegetable eating instead of other more caloric snacks!


turkey and gravy for Thanksgiving

We had a quiet Thanksgiving this year as our children were busy with work and other plans, so my husband and I enjoyed the first Thanksgiving in 40 years with just the two of us.  We met in college, and since we have been together, we have always shared the day with someone else besides ourselves.  I really enjoyed the day with him, and our meal was intimate and celebratory as well. We have much to be thankful for, and especially for each other.  I prepared a smaller turkey and smaller portions of several of our favorite side dishes.


I actually enjoy cooking and creating something so beautiful to eat and enjoy, along with the whole process of planning a menu, selecting the ingredients, and preparing the meal.  I usually try one new recipe every year, and this year I made Ina’s Make ahead turkey gravy with onions and sage from her new cookbook that was released in November–Ina Garten Make it Ahead.  The gravy is very similar to her onion gravy that I have featured on the blog another year.

It was delicious and it will be my new “go-to” gravy recipe.  I used fresh sage leaves from my garden that were still plentiful in November, as well as the other herbs to season my turkey–thyme, rosemary, and parsley.  The garlic was also from my garden.


To make the gravy base a day or two ahead–Gather these ingredients:

3/4 stick margarine, 1 large red onion, 4 garlic cloves, 6 tablespoons flour, 4 cups chicken stock, 2 tablespoons red wine, 10 large sage leaves, kosher salt and pepper, and one cup of Pinot Grigio to be added the day of serving.

Melt the margarine over medium heat.  Add the sliced onion and garlic.  Stir for 15 to 20 minutes until the onion browns.  Sprinkle the flour over the onions and cook for 1-2 minutes.  Add stock, red wine, sage, salt and pepper.  Cook for 20 minutes. Allow to come to room temperature.  Strain and remove solids.  Refrigerate until ready to use.

When turkey is done, remove turkey to rest, and add wine to the turkey pan.  Boil and simmer.  Add gravy base and whisk into the pan. Simmer until well combined.  Taste for seasoning and add salt or pepper as needed.  Serve in a warm gravy boat.



pumpkins for Thanksgiving

Everyone likes to display a pumpkin on their porch for Halloween, but I love to keep my pumpkins through Thanksgiving.  I usually prefer a display of many pumpkins or squash types.  This year I have a green pumpkin on my porch, along with smaller pie pumpkins in my lower windows.


Along with the pumpkins, I use dried plant material that I collect from my dried ornamental grasses from the previous year.  These dried grasses make perfect nests for the pumpkins on my front porch.  Using wire baskets or a cement urn keeps the pumpkins off the ground.  I need to protect them from small chipmunks that seem to like a nibble once and awhile.  I find that the cold weather in Michigan keeps my pumpkins very fresh outdoors.  If the temperatures rise, then the risk of the pumpkins becoming soggy increases.  When Thanksgiving approaches, I remove the seeds and toast them in the oven for a great Thanksgiving snack.


maple glazed roasted turkey for thanksgiving with silky gravy


over the years, i have used many glazes for thanksgiving turkeys.  this year, i used a holiday recipe from Rachael Ray.  in a saucepan, i combined 1/2 cup maple syrup with 1 stick of margarine and some chopped thyme.

i used the glaze to baste my thanksgiving turkey.  i cooked the almost 12 pound turkey at 325 degrees covered for 2 hours, basting every 45 minutes.  then, i increased the temperature to 350 degrees and roasted uncovered until the thermometer reached 180 degrees.  i basted every hour or two more times.

Rachael suggests just mixing the butter and syrup and not melting, but rubbing onto the turkey before cooking.  i did not try this technique, but it would also give a nice browned skin to the roasted bird.

i served the turkey with a homemade turkey gravy.  the recipe came from bon appetit, November 2011 issue.  the gravy can be made a day in advance and heated for thanksgiving dinner.  to make the gravy:  bring 4 cups of stock to a boil in a medium pot.  melt 4 tablespoons unsalted butter in a large heavy sauce-pot over medium heat.  whisk in 1/4 cup flour and cook about one minute.  in 2-3 minutes, the roux will become golden brown.  add the turkey stock and boil.  next add seasonings as desired.  i added thyme, 2 tablespoons Madeira, salt and pepper.  mushrooms could be added, as well as other turkey seasoning herbs.

i think next year, i will use wondra flour, instead of all-purpose flour.  this may help the gravy to be even more silky and smooth.


orange cranberry sauce for the holidays


Martha Stewart has several recipes for holiday cranberry sauce.  this one makes about 3 1/2 cups of sauce.  if you have guests that enjoy the flavor of cranberries, this one is also nice for turkey sandwich leftovers.  i found this recipe in Martha’s everyday food magazine.

the sauce comes together very easily in about thirty minutes on the stove-top.  it must be stored in the refrigerator, and can be heated before serving.


in a medium saucepan, combine two bags of cranberries, with 3/4 cup sugar up to 1 1/2 cups of sugar.  i used the smaller amount for my recipe.  add orange zest from a couple of oranges and 1/2 cup water.  season with salt.  bring to a boil over medium high heat.  reduce to a simmer and continue to cook for 20 to 25 minutes until the mixture thickens.  remove from the heat and add one cup of fresh orange juice.


pear and pecan turkey dressing


food network magazine presented a variety of dressing recipes in their November 2009 issue.  i decreased the quantity of ingredients to make this stuffing dish smaller for our family.  most of their recipes use up to 16 cups of toasted bread cubes.  i used only one bag of classic stuffing mix for my recipe.

this recipe could be also used to stuff a 10-12 pound turkey.  for this thanksgiving, i baked my dressing in a separate casserole dish.  if using as a stuffing, it would be important not to add too much chicken broth, or the stuffing will be too juicy and wet after baking.

to make the dressing:

in a saute pan, add about 2-3 tablespoons canola oil and warm.  add one chopped white onion, a couple of carrots, 2 stalks celery, salt, ground pepper, and thyme.  cook for five minutes to warm and soften all these ingredients.


add two diced bosc pears and saute for two or three more minutes.  next, add 1/4 cup bourbon and simmer for two more minutes.  then add 2 to 2 1/2 cups warm chicken broth.  return to a simmer and cook for a few more minutes.

meanwhile, in a large bowl, mix 1-2 eggs with 1/4 chopped parsley.  add 1 bag of prepared stuffing mix, and one cup chopped pecans.  combine with the hot broth mixture.

toss the stuffing and spread in a buttered casserole baking dish.  dot the top with margarine or butter pats.  cover with foil and bake for 30 minutes at 350 degrees.  remove the foil and bake for another 30 more minutes until done. serve with roasted chicken or turkey.


potatoes chantilly


these potatoes are absolutely delicious.  if you are looking for a recipe for old-fashioned scalloped potatoes that is creamy and extremely tasty, look no further.  i used two different recipes to come up with the outcome of a classic look and an upscale taste.  i used 3 Yukon gold potatoes and 3 red potatoes for this casserole dish to serve at thanksgiving.

to make the potatoes:

use a mandolin to slice the potatoes in flat circles, 1/8 inch thick using the measure on the mandolin. layer the potatoes in the oiled dish. on each layer, season with salt, ground pepper and parsley flakes. and, add a layer of shredded Gruyère cheese and small pats of margarine, about 2 tablespoons total for the whole casserole.  i used one block of cheese for this recipe.  next, pour over 1/2 cup of cream or half and half.  i used half and half.  finish the casserole with seasonings and cheese, as in the other layers.

bake in a 425 degree pre-heated oven for 30 minutes.  then, add foil to the top of the casserole and bake at 350 degrees for another 30 minutes.

similar recipes will use russet potatoes, nutmeg, skim milk, garlic, or cheddar cheese.  any of these options could be tried, however; i love this combination of ingredients.  certainly this is not low-calorie, but it is a wonderful holiday potato offering.