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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Mini Oktoberfest

It has been an entire week since I last published a blog post. I guess that’s what happens when work is particularly busy! Nevertheless, Jake and I hosted our planned Mini Oktoberfest last weekend and it was so much fun! We prepared a bunch of German eats and our friends spent the day with us eating, laughing, playing games, and having some drinks! We even had a stein-holding contest. I opted out due to the impending embarrassment and also because I played videographer. Haha! More to come on that…

Here’s what we made (with links to the recipes):

We had some friends that brought extra delicious treats, as well:

Sausages

I already wrote last week in my food blog post (Oh My! Homemade Pasta and Sauces, Carbonara Arancini, Caesar Dressing, Sausages, Chargrilled Oysters & Clams) about Jake’s sausage prep. When he cooked them this past weekend, he grilled the majority of them, but he chose to cook some of the beef and pork sausages in the smoker. The cooked brats were placed in a beer, butter, and onion bath and sat for 5-10 minutes to give a little extra flavor. Overall, the sausages were good, especially for a first attempt. The beef and pork recipe was actually for patties, which I think made them a bit dense. The chicken and apple sausage may have had too much liquid from the apples because they fell apart a little easier. They were, however, really flavorful and full of great spices. The only problem is there was so much excitement, we didn’t take any photos of the cooked sausages. Oops! Jake thought the smoked brats smelled and tasted a like kielbasa, so he definitely wants to try those next.

I’m sorry if this photo is not up your alley, but for those who appreciate meats, this is probably like a Picasso!

Pretzel Rolls and Beer Cheese Dip

I made the pretzel rolls and beer cheese dip the morning of the party, since I didn’t want the pretzels to get stale overnight. I was NOT looking forward to it, but I sucked it up and did it. The dough was actually really simple to make and I loved how smooth and clean it was after rising for an hour.

I read comments on the recipe that people wished they made smaller pretzel bites so more people could try them. So, I opted to make pretzel balls instead of the twisted pretzels. I simple tore off approximately equal size pieces of dough from the risen dough ball and rolled it in my hands. I tried to cut an “X” on top of each one, but they were a little too soft – that’s why the rolls didn’t come out very symmetrical.

I plopped two at a time into the boiling baking soda/water bath. It became cumbersome to set the timer to 30 seconds each time, so I just eyeballed it. Letting them sit for longer than the 30 seconds, though, did make the dough more soft and gooey. I suggest not trying to multitask or anything while doing this. I then baked them and only after 5 minutes, I checked the bottoms. Not surprisingly they were already brown, so I moved all them on top of a baking rack.

Toward the end, I actually let them sit for another 5 minutes or so in the oven with the temperature off. This is because I felt like the sides could get a more brown, while trying not to over-brown the tops. I thought to myself during the baking process that flatter pretzels would’ve cooked more evenly on the outsides. In the end, though, they turned out great. They just needed that extra little time to sit.

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I followed the beer cheese dip recipe, although I accidentally put all the mozarella in the mix, instead of reserving the specified amount for sprinkling/browning on top. Luckily, I had some extra I was able to add. I don’t think the changed ratios of cheese made any negative difference to the dip. I actually also doubled the recipe, which was perfect for the amount of pretzels and people. People loved this dip!

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Cabbage Casserole

The cabbage casserole was prepared completely the day before, except for the final baking, which I did while the pretzel dough was rising. I used ground chicken, so our guests that can’t eat beef could munch on this. The main deviation from this recipe is that I ended up using probably only 2/3 of a medium/large cabbage, which is a bit less than I think the recipe intended. I found that it would’ve been difficult to fit in the pot if I had had more and the ratio of meat-to-cabbage would’ve been a off. This dish was a great addition that doubled as both an entree and a side.

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German Potatoes

I had pinned 3 different German potato recipes, but I settled on the one that was more of set it and forget it, since there were already a million other things we’d be doing and cooking. I prepared the potatoes the night before and then dumped everything into the crock pot the morning of the party and let it heat through/finish cooking up until it was time to eat. I was disappointed that it called for boiling the potatoes ahead of time. It would have been infinitely more convenient to be able to literally dump it all in the crock pot and let it cook. I’m sure some adaptations could be made to accommodate this.

I think I made more than 4 cups of potatoes because I wanted to make sure there was plenty. I hadn’t increased any of the other amounts, so my potatoes were probably a little less saucy than they were supposed to be. These weren’t bad. I wished there was just a little more flavor. Perhaps if I had just increased the amounts of mustard, vinegar, or salt, then that would’ve done the trick. I also didn’t have fresh parsley and I think that would have been a nice addition, as well. It was still good and I ate all the leftovers anyway!

Onion Pinwheels

The onion pinwheel recipe was actually an onion tart recipe. I didn’t feel like making the tart dough/crust and I don’t have a proper tart baking dish. I took the easy way out and used Pillsbury crescent dough. For the amount of onions I made, I bought two cans of the crescent dough. I prepared the onion mix the day before.

Then that morning, I rolled out the crescent dough as a single piece, pinching a bit at the seams so it didn’t totally rip apart. I spread the onion mix across the rectangular piece and rolled it. I then sliced about 1/2″ thick rolls and put then in parchment paper, on top of a baking rack, so that the bottoms wouldn’t get too brown.

These were great as an appetizer and the caraway seeds gave it a unique flavor! Don’t be scared by the amount of onion. Once the crescent tough puffs up between the layer of onion, it provides a nice buttery and flaky component. Also, I didn’t use speck. Instead, I used regular bacon from our local store. I think using a heavier, higher quality bacon or pancetta would tip this over the edge.

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Cucumber Salad

The last dish I cooked is the cucumber salad. I chose to do this to provide some crispness and freshness among all the heavy foods we were eating. I used sour cream because I already had some that I needed for the other recipes. I thought that perhaps Greek yogurt would’ve been a little better for this dish. I also used a dried dill that isn’t overly dry. Overall, I think this was successful and mild in flavor, which was nice. I don’t think it was a favorite among all the other food choices, but I continued to eat some of the leftovers.

Now comes my talented friends!

Spatzle Casserole

Lindsay made two dishes. She made spatzle, which is sort of like a pasta dish. Normally, the dough is shaped by pushing it through a colander with wide holes. Because Lindsay didn’t a colander that fit the description, she ended up manually shaping the spatzle into more of a small dumpling shape to make a casserole with caramelized onions. This was another great alternative for non-beef eaters and made for a good entree or side!

Bee Sting Bars

Lindsay also made bee sting bars, traditionally called “Bienenstich”. I had sent her a recipe for a bee sting cake, but she was worried about prepping it ahead of time. She did a little more searching and found bars. She was worried about this, too, because there was no cream on the bars like the cake did. She ended up just making the bars and they were so good. Buttery bottom and a sweet layer with almonds on top. These were even better the next day!

Coconut Pecan Chocolate Balls

Last, but not least, were Liz’s delectable brownie bites with a coconut pecan frosting mixed right in there. These were ooey, gooey and delicious. I felt like eating just one was like I had an entire slice – it was so rich and these were a huge hit with our guests. I might just have to steal this for my next get together!

I almost forgot, we also had the stein holding contest. Jake won, but just by a hair ahead of Ben, Liz’s husband. They held the steins for just over 3.5 minutes! I’ll forego uploading the video because you can hear me WAY too clearly narrating. Lol.

All in all, it was a lot of prep and a long party night, but I wouldn’t have changed it for the world. I love cooking and being able to entertain. I hope all our friends had fun, too!

Sincerely,
Fu’d

Oh My! Homemade Pasta and Sauces, Carbonara Arancini, Caesar Dressing, Sausages, Chargrilled Oysters & Clams

Next weekend, Jake and I will be hosting a mini Oktoberfest, mostly as an excuse to make sausages and enjoy some time with friends. So, this past weekend, we had our friend, Lindsay, over to do some sausage prep. And of course anytime Lindsay comes over, we have ourselves a cooking fest. This is what was on the menu Saturday night (linked to the recipes we followed, if applicable):

Sausages

We recently bought a stainless steel sausage attachment set for the stand mixer and were excited to try using it. Jake first prepared the meat by cutting it up into smaller pieces and then he placed them in the freezer for a little bit so they would get really cold. He also put the grinder attachment in the freezer to get that nice and cold. While waiting for that, he ground a lot of the spices needed, like fennel, caraway seed, coriander, marjoram, etc. Since we don’t have an herb grinder, he used the coffee bean grinder that we have. I think it might all be the same thing anyway.

Then, he ground all the meat. For the chicken and apple, he actually fed some of the apple through the grinder, as well. Then he added all the different seasonings. These were then placed back into the refrigerator to keep them cold.

Finally, he stuffed the casings. And in the case of the chicken and apple sausage, he used vegetarian casings! The verdict is still out on how all of these sausages taste, since we won’t be cooking then until next weekend, but they look delish!

Arancini

Lindsay made arancini for the first time and it was fantastic! She prepped the risotto and the filling before coming to my house. The filling calls for pancetta, but she used prosciutto. I think it gave the same overall flavor profiles, except probably less smokiness than intended. It did give a sharp saltiness, which was do good and complimented the smoother, creamier flavor of the risotto.

She did the two-step breading with egg first, then rolled in breadcrumbs. A

And instead of pan frying, baking, or deep frying, we decided to use my handy air fryer! Success!

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Homemade Caesar Dressing

With all the heavy foods, lindsay and talked earlier in the day about trying to incorporate some greens/veggies into the cooking day. She also tried another first for her. She made a caesar salad with homemade caesar dressing. It was really good! Unfortunately, I was so full by the time it was done that I only just tasted it and didn’t get to eat a lot! She was originally going to plop all the ingredients into a blender, but we used the immersion blender instead. This was so easy and really should be a simple weeknight meal for anyone – just a few chopped romaine hearts and this dressing, maybe with chicken on top. Perfect!

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Chargrilled Oysters

The third dish Lindsay made was charbroiled oysters and clams. The intent was to just do oysters, but all the stores she went to were low on oysters! The inspiration was a trip to New Orleans this past March for my bachelorette party; we had grilled oysters that Lindsay wanted to recreate. (In my opinion, the ones Lindsay made last weekend were sooo much better.) We employed Jake to try to shuck these, but the oysters were too hard, so we ended up cooking them for a few minutes to get then to open up a bit. Then, we opened them and added the butter sauce. Ugh, these were so good, too!! I’m telling you, we really had a feast. I love seafood in general, but pair it with butter, garlic, parsley, and cheese…incredible. I swear you could put those ingredients on dirt and it would still taste delicious. Haha!

Bolognese

I actually prepped the bolognese sauce earlier in the day because I luckily reviewed the recipe and saw that it needed to simmer for 3 hours. This was simple, but time consuming! Waiting for the milk to first boil down, then the wine to boil down, then the 3 hour simmer…I could’ve taken three naps! It was a really nice recipe and totally yummy, but it didn’t taste like I expected for some reason. I think I’m more used to some of the bolognese recipes I’ve had at restaurants (authentic or not) that don’t have the carrots, celery, etc. I expected it to be a little thinner//less tomato-y. I’m not sure I’d make this again, only because I think I’d like to experiment with more bolognese recipes. I’m determined to find the right one for me!

Pesto

The pesto was so easy and, oh my goodness , it was so fantastically good. I was hesitant about making the pesto because I’ve always been a little “iffy: on the flavor, but this sold me. This was a nut-free recipe, so it really let the basil and cheese shine. In fact, I’m about to drizzle this over our Monday night’s shrimp dinner.

Then, I made two different pastas. One was a two-ingredient pasta I wanted to try because it sounded so easy. It was just one can of pumpkin puree and 3 cups of flour. I found that I needed more than 3 cups. I added the extra flour slowly to the mixture. So, if I had to guess, I probably used a total of 3.25 – 3.5 cups of flour so that the dough wasn’t too wet. And wow, this batch made A LOT of pasta. I ended up with probably 24 oz if I had to guess. I froze 6 bundles of about 3 oz for Jake and I and for Lindsay. Then, we probably cooked about another 6 oz. The pumpkin flavor was very subtle and the texture was perfect. I was very pleased with this!

Spinach and Basil Pasta

I was also loving the other pasta, which was made with blended spinach and basil. The color was amazing and the smell was divine. I thought eating it with the pesto would be basil overload, but it wasn’t. Lindsay had it with some bolognese; that didn’t look as pretty, but was still so good!

 

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Now, the diet starts on Monday again and lasts until next weekend’s mini Oktoberfest. You NEED to follow or check back to see what we’re cooking up that day.

Sincerely,
Fu’d