Thanksgiving this year was a bit different for us. We had planned on hosting some family that day, but due to unforeseen events, it hadn’t transpired as planned.
Even though we didn’t celebrate that day, I decided to go ahead and make a mini Thanksgiving meal for Jake and I to enjoy the Sunday after Thanksgiving and I was able to try out a bunch of new recipes.
Here’s what was on the menu, linked to their original recipes. I put an asterisk next to the ones that I think were especially unique:
- Pretzel and Sausage Stuffing*
- Roasted Vegetable Gravy*
- Citrus Roasted Turkey*
- Green Bean Casserole
- Homemade Cranberry Sauce
- Whipped Potatoes
Pretzel and Sausage Stuffing
This pretzel stuffing is definitely worth making again. I asked Jake what his favorite thing was that I made and he said the stuffing. I think the herbs and the pretzel give it a really special, unique flavor.
The original plan for this pretzel stuffing was to make my own pretzel rolls a day or two in advance. I was going to make the same ones that I made for the Mini Oktoberfest that we hosted last month. However, I didn’t have the time, so we picked up some frozen pretzels at the store. The recipe calls for 12 cups, so I should’ve gotten 2 or 3 bags. The stuffing tasted good, but definitely needed that extra “bread”.
I tore the pretzels into pieces and toasted in the oven according to the recipe directions – 350 degrees Fahrenheit for about 15 – 20 minutes until toasted, but not hard.
In the meantime, I diced the onion, carrots, and celery. The recipe calls for 3-4 stalks celery, 3 carrots, and 1 medium onion. However, the amounts specified are about 3/4 -1/2 cup of each. I found that the quantities yielded more than the 3/4-1/2 cups. I think it would’ve worked out fine if I had more pretzels to balance out the vegetables. I went ahead and added the minced garlic and poultry seasoning with my prepped vegetables since they were all going to go into the pan/pot to cook at the same time anyway.
I sauteed these with the butter until they were soft. After cooking, I put them back into the “prep” bowl so I could use the pot to cook the sausage.
No photo for the sausage, but I used a few link that we had in the freezer. They were hot Italian sausage link. I thawed them out and squeezed the filling into the pot to cook through and crumble.
While I was cooking the sausage, I chopped the herbs. (Don’t they look B-E-A-UTIFUL?)
Once that was sausage was done cooking, I added back the cooked vegetables and mixed in the herbs.
I prepared the liquid by mixing the chicken broth and eggs.
I then poured the stuffing into the baking dish, packed it in, and poured the liquid evenly over the top of the stuffing. I then baked at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for 30 minutes covered and another 20 minutes uncovered. I added a little extra time uncovered than the recipe specified because the top was brown enough to my liking.
Roasted Vegetable Gravy
The ingredients are flexible, but here’s what I used:
- 3 carrots
- 3 celery stalks
- 1/2 onion
- 2 Tbsp butter
- 1/4 cup flour
I didn’t follow an exact recipe for this, but I had recently watched a holiday cooking tips video by Food Network. Basically, they were saying there is no need to use flour or cornstarch to try and thicken up your gravy. Instead, puree some roasted vegetables and add that to the gravy. I LOVED THIS IDEA and I would definitely do it again. The gravy ended up with a unique flavor and it was just something different than the “norm”.
I basically used the leftover carrots, celery, and onion that I didn’t need for the pretzel sausage stuffing. I chopped the vegetables into medium/large pieces and I didn’t even bother peeling the carrots. I roasted the vegetables (no seasoning, just tossed with a little olive oil) in the oven at 350 degrees Fahrenheit. It time it, but it probably took about an hour to roast to the point where the vegetables were very soft.
Once the vegetables were done, I put them into a blender and added a bit of hot chicken broth. Actually, I had previously been boiling the green beans (for the green bean casserole) in chicken broth, so I just took some from that pot. I like to think maybe a little bit of the green bean flavor infused into that chicken broth too 🙂
I blended until it was a puree. I think I could have blended it a little more and added a little more broth.
To at least get a base for the gravy, I melted the butter and mixed in some flour. Then, I added chicken broth.
Finally, I mixed the puree in with the gravy base and it was done!
Here’s a photo of some of the other dishes with the gravy displayed at the bottom left.
Citrus Roasted Turkey
We bought a small 6 lb turkey, since the dinner was primarily just for the both of us and we were hoping to make a little doggy bag for Jake’s dad and for us to have some leftovers.
Jake stuffed the turkey with onion, oranges, apple, and rosemary. He also put a few small slivers of onion right under the skins and squeezed a little bit of the juice from the orange on to the bird.
He also laid bacon pieces over the top of the turkey for both some flavor and to help keep the bird moist.
In the baking dish, we also added some additional orange, apple, and onion chunks. I also put a tiny bit of chicken broth at the bottom of the dish to also help keep the bird moist.
We cooked between 325 – 345 degrees Fahrenheit for about 3.5 hours. We don’t trust the plastic temperature gauge that comes in the turkey, so Jake took it out and we just checked it periodically with a meat thermometer. (Because Jake loves to cook meats, we have about 4 different meat thermometers. Haha!)
The turkey yielded a lot more meat than we thought and it was very juicy! I was so sad that this bird didn’t have a lot of skin because I love eating that crispy delicious part. However, I can’t complain. And I know Jake was really happy with the way this turned out given that there was not a lot of prep and no brining involved.
Green Bean Casserole
This was a Food Network recipe that I hadn’t tried before. It was very easy and flavorful, without a lot of ingredients because it uses cream of mushroom canned soup. First, I took the thick stems off the green beans and broke the larger pieces in half. I boiled the green beans in chicken broth.
In the meantime, I chopped the onion. I then sauteed the onion and mushroom in melted butter until the onions were translucent and the mushrooms were soft.
I then mixed the green beans with the onion and mushrooms. I added the can of cream of mushroom soup, added in some store-bought French-fried onion rings, salt, black pepper, and garlic powder.
I put everything into a baking dish. I baked for 20 minutes at 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
After the initial 20 minutes then I added the cheddar cheese and baked until the cheese was melted.
I had a little extra of the French-fried onion rings, so I added the rest on top.
Overall, this was really good and easy. The cheddar cheese ruins the look of the casserole. Maybe next time I’ll mix the cheese in instead of just sprinkling it on top.
Homemade Cranberry Casserole
I’ve never made cranberry sauce before, but I know that fresh cranberries are tart, so I was worried at how this would come out. It still had a bit of tartness and at first, I thought maybe it was too sweet. However, the more that I ate it, the more that I liked it and the more I think I had previously just been comparing it to canned cranberry sauce. This is definitely worth a try and is very simple.
I pretty much just plopped all the ingredients into a small pot and kept it on a low boil/simmer until the cranberries were popped and cooked down. It may seem a little liquid-y at first, but let it sit and cool for a bit and everything will come together.
Finally, there were the whipped potatoes. I’m sorry, but I can’t divulge the exact recipe! This is my mother-in-law’s recipe and I’m happy that I was able to to give it a try. There isn’t anything in this that is unusual. In fact, I encourage you to use your favorite mashed potato recipe. The only new thing you may want to try is whip the potatoes using a hand mixer instead of just mashing! This helps keep the potatoes creamy, even after refrigerating and eating as leftovers.
I hope that these recipes and tips give you some ideas either for next Thanksgiving or for you holiday or Christmas meals this year.