A Belated Thanksgiving Feast: An ode to the classics with a couple of twists

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

(Here’s the link to the recipe.)

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”.

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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.

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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

(Here’s the link to the recipe.)

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

(Here’s the link to the recipe.)

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.

Whipped Potatoes

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.

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I hope that these recipes and tips give you some ideas either for next Thanksgiving or for you holiday or Christmas meals this year.

Sincerely,
Fu’d

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A Visit From My Parents: Cabbage Casserole and Slow Cooker Shredded Chicken

My parents and I don’t get to visit with each other very often. They’re retired out in Nevada and I’m here on east coast. And although they came out to Hawaii for my wedding this summer, we didn’t have a lot of time spent together between preparing for the wedding and entertaining others that had come to celebrate with us. Before that, the last time we visited was during the holidays a couple years ago. Fast forward to last week – They happened to be setting off on a cruise from NY, so they took some time beforehand to stop by and see me and Jake.

I decided I wanted to prepare a couple of dishes for them so they could eat at their leisure. I made a cabbage casserole with ground turkey and a simple slow cooker chicken/black beans/corn/salsa dish to go along some Jasmine rice.

I had made this cabbage casserole once before for my friend Lindsay, but I forgot some of the things I didn’t particularly like about the dish. I ended up making and baking the whole thing as specified in the recipe. But believe it or not, I ended up taking everything out of the casserole dish, rinsed it off, added new seasonings, and re-baked it. (Here’s the link to the recipe.)

First, the recipe calls for cooking the chopped cabbage a bit in water to soften it up. I think this was unnecessary. I think it could have just been cooked down a bit when added to the ground turkey mix.

Separately, I cooked the ground turkey and then added in the onion, diced tomato, and first part of the tomato paste.

Once the onions were translucent, I added the semi-cooked cabbage, salt, pepper, cayenne, lemon juice, packet of minute Basmati rice, and chopped parsley. I let that cook for about 15 minutes. (I didn’t use dried mint as specified in the recipe because I didn’t have any.)

The recipe then calls for the rest of the tomato paste stirred in and everything transferred to a baking dish to bake at 350 degrees Farenheit for 40 minutes.

The image below is what it looked like the first time I baked it.

I taste tested it and wasn’t thrilled with it. It wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t what I was hoping for. I thought there was way too much tomato paste and there was a little too much spice for this particular dish.

I put it in the fridge overnight and re-evaluated the next day. I still wasn’t happy, so I ended up dumping everything back into a pot and rinsing it with water to try and get rid of some of the excess tomato paste and cayenne pepper. I tried to drain most of the water out and put it back on the stove to evaporate some of the water. I added in garlic powder and onion powder. I put everything back into a clean baking dish, sprinkled some cheese on top, and put it back in the oven to bake. The result the second time around was much better in terms of flavor. I should have let the water cook out a little more, though. It fell apart a little bit when serving. Also, I froze the leftovers and had some a couple of days later. It was a bit mushy because of the little bit of extra water.

Overall, I learned my lesson for the next time I make this and will make it right the first time!


The second dish I made was the slow cooker chicken. This is a recipe I’ve made several times in the past, both in the crock pot and in the pressure cooker. Since I was making this ahead of time, I went with the crock pot since I had some time. This is one of the easiest recipes that takes almost no effort at all. I used one large chicken  breast torn into a few smaller pieces, one can of black beans (not drained), one jar of medium heat Tostidos salsa, and about 3/4 cup of frozen corn. That’s it. Set it on low for about four – six hours. You can choose to use chicken tenders and leave them whole or do what I did and take the chicken out, shred it with a fork, and put it back into the mix.

We ate this over some Jasmine rice. Very simple, but very good. I imagine you could eat this as an appetizer with chips, too!

I had also ended up making a quiche with some frozen store-bought pie crust and they really loved that, as well. I think they liked having the variety and ability to choose what and how much they wanted to eat.

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It was nice to see them and I’m glad the food turned out well 🙂 I hope this inspires you the next time you need to prepare foods ahead of time or feed a small crowd!

Sincerely,
Fu’d

Game Day Eats – Wings, Sliders, and a Vegetable Casserole

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It’s game day! This is the first day of the NFL season and our friends, Ben and Liz, invited us over for some game day fun. I’ve known Liz since middle school and after many years, we ended up back living in the same town as each other and have become good friends. Our husbands have, as well!

We grilled, had a few drinks, and rooted for our team, the New England Patriots. Hey, what do you expect? We’re from Massachusetts after all!

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Geared up for game day! 

Ben and Liz covered the snacks and the meats.  There’s nothing better than a bowl of chex mix (one of my favorite junk food snacks), cheese, and crackers to whet the appetite before digging in at game time. Plus, look at the Sunday Funday serving dish – I’m loving it!

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Ben grilled up some wings and Liz prepared turkey sliders and pastrami sliders. The wings had a delicious caramelization from the marinade. The pastrami sliders were heated up just perfectly in the oven to get that melty swiss cheese and slightly toasted bun, which Liz had brushed with some garlic butter. They were both nice enough to capture photos for this blog post! Don’t you think they did an awesome job?!

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Jake and I were in charge of the side dishes. We naturally gravitated to our usual store-bought macaroni salad as one option. Of course I also saw this as an opportunity to try something new. So, I dug into my “Make It” Pinterest board to see if any of my pinned recipes jumped out at me. I found a veggie/side dish option that I thought had the perfect flair to say goodbye to summer and hello to fall.

It was a Zucchini, Squash, and Corn Casserole with a buttery parmesan breadcrumb topping. (Here’s the link to the recipe.) It has the flavors of summer, but the warmth we crave when there is a slight fall chill. I followed the recipe very closely.


First, I prepared the creamy mixture (sour cream, mayo, egg, etc.). I didn’t use fresh breadcrumbs – I used equal parts of canned Italian Style and Panko.

I then added kernels from three fresh ears of corn. Each ear yielded approximately one cup of kernels for me, but this may depend on the size of your cobs.

I sliced the zucchini and squash. I have a mandolin, but I don’t really like using it, so I sliced by hand. I also used my handy dandy vegetable chopper to chop one sweet onion. My mom gave this to me years ago and it is a great way to get a rough chop without the effort or the tears.

I cooked up the onions, squash, and zucchini in a large pot instead of a skillet. I found that it gave me more room to stir the vegetables without fear of them going overboard. I also melted butter to mix with remaining breadcrumbs and parmesan.

Finally, I folded the cooked vegetables into the creamy corn mixture, leaving out as much of the extra liquid as I could. I spread the final mixture into a 9″ x 13″ glass baking dish and evenly spread the breadcrumb mixture over the top. This cooked in the oven at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for less time than the recipe – I only need about 30 – 40 minutes.

The end result was really good and could work as a side dish for many types of meals. If the zucchini and squash were in season for fall/winter holidays, I think this could work then, as well. Frozen corn is easy substitute. I would definitely make this again.

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Don’t worry, we didn’t forget about Ben and Liz’s dog, Bella, the cutie black lab below! We brought her some duck jerky. Yummy!

Overall, it was a great afternoon with friends and a win for our home team! Shout out to our friends Ben and Liz for hosting! Can’t wait for more of these great get-togethers this NFL season!

Sincerely,
Fu’d