Good morning everyone! I hope you all are just as excited as I am 😀 This is our last day of school before Thanksgiving week break. I love this time of year, it’s a great time to reflect, relax and get in some much needed rest before jumping back into the daily schedule that is our lives. Another reason I love this time of year is because I get prep all kinds of goodness for an up and coming food-fest without killing myself in the kitchen!
Much planning goes into our food prepping, we have to decide what gets made and put into the freezer, what can wait to be made a couple of days ahead of the holiday and when to begin taking stuff out of the freezer to thaw it out almost completely before baking it. It all makes for an easy holiday when you can put semi-frosty casseroles in the oven to bake, no more getting in the kitchen at 9am to get veggies chopped, cornbread crumbled, casseroles combined and baked…trust me you’re going to have a more enjoyable time in the kitchen this year by going ahead now with your baking and feel more relaxed with more time to spend with your family (which is more important than slaving away in the kitchen)!
- First let’s start off with the bird. Goose, turkey, chicken, or duck whatever your choice of fowl is you’ll want to go ahead and get that bag boy cooked up and deboned. Unless you have a tradition of slicing it up at the table. In which case continue on McDuff! Our family isn’t big on slicing Mr. Turkey up on the table, Dad has always taken it to task to slice up the turkey himself and placing an assortment of dark and white meat into a disposable aluminum pan with a little of the turkey stock ladled over it. Cover it up with foil and keep it in the warming drawer until you’re ready to serve. Same works for ham too! You can cook it up several days in advance, freeze it, thaw it, add some ham stock to it, cover and keep warm in your lower oven. The meat is moist, tender, and no on will be able to tell that you cooked up ahead of time.
- Casseroles are a must this time of year. Festive Squash Casserole, Green Bean Casserole, Sweet Potato Casserole, and the list goes on 🙂 Any casserole can be placed in the freezer, thawed and baked. We add our crunchy bread toppings and cheese on top before freezing and during cooking everything crisps back up and melts beautifully. The key is to thaw it all out, take everything out as soon as you get up and set it out unwrapped from its freezer paper cocoon. By about 2pm you’ll have mostly thawed casseroles ready to bake, and the key is to bake them gradually. You’ll probably have some cold spots that are going to need extra time baking, keep the casseroles covered with foil until everything is thoroughly hot. If you want your crispy toppings to crisp back up, remove the foil and cook until it’s nicely browned and bubbly around the edges. Might take 10–15 minutes, keep an eye on it. If you’re a marshmallow fan on your sweet potato casserole you’ll want to leave those off of you dish as it reheats in the oven. Once the casserole is heated through you can then add the marshmallows to the top and return it to the oven til it reaches a desired doneness.
- Pies: I have fond memories of my Mom making pumpkin, pecan, apple, and chocolate pie a couple of days ahead before Thanksgiving and Christmas. The house always smelled amazing and I can remember taking teeny tiny pinches off the flaky crust…I was a sneaky child 😉 How can you prep pies for the holidays? Start by making and freezing your dough. Yes, you can freeze pie dough. If you can buy it from the store frozen, honey you can freeze the homemade dough as well! Freeze in a square or circle wrapped in plastic wrap, then wrapped in foil, and finally wrapped in freezer paper. Sounds like a lot of fuss it’s better to be safe than sorry. Thaw it out overnight or from the time you get up and make your pies. You could skip this step entirely, go ahead bake your pies up, freeze them and take them out the morning of the feast. You can even stick them in the warming drawer for that warm right out of the oven feel 🙂
- Cornbread dressing or stuffing? We’re not into the whole stuff the turkey with seasoned bread. That might be a hold over from my Mom’s childhood. She learned to make cornbread dressing from her mother in law and has perfected it over the years. It can certainly be made ahead of time and reheated. I won’t delve too much into this because of the growing debate between stuffing and dressing…to stuff or not to stuff…just know that if you make the casserole version you can bake, freeze, thaw, reheat it and still have and amazing casserole for your harvest table! Just don’t forget the giblet gravy 😉
- Gravy is it’s own food group in our family. It is great on a slice of homemade bread, dipping yeast rolls in it, smothering cornbread dressing in, floating a slice of turkey, or just right off the spoon. Yes, we love our gravy, you can either freeze the turkey stock or go ahead and make the gravy to freeze. When warming it up check the seasoning to see if it needs more salt and pepper.
About the only thing I’m not going to instruct you on in making ahead of time are the mashed potatoes. Freezing potatoes can offer iffy results, might not be as creamy or fluffy as you prefer them. It’s the one thing freeze leftover potatoes to use for potato cakes but on Thanksgiving or Christmas Day it’s important to serve the very best to your loved ones and friends. So whether they are mashed from freshly peeled or it comes from a box, make the mashed potatoes on the day of so it will be at its freshest!
Have I left anything out? CRANBERRY SAUCE! Yikes, almost forgot about that saucy perfection *oops* Ok make that two things I wouldn’t recommend making ahead. I prefer the homemade stuff though I grew up on the jellied version. I actually grew up hating that stuff because it didn’t look or taste right, but my Dad had to have it every year because it’s what he grew up with. Three years ago I decided to make it from scratch, the recipe is on the back of ever bag of fresh cranberries, I make a sugar free version that’s sweetened with xylosweet. Flavored with orange zest and instead of water I like using diet cranberry juice instead of orange juice.
So now you should be ready to get a jump start on your holiday, getting started this weekend will be a great way to get ahead even if you choose to only freeze a couple of things. You’ll be slicing your time in the kitchen by more than half!
And for your out of town guests, serve up this buttery sweet blueberry biscuit cake (which is my variation on The Simple Cook’s Bo Berry Biscuits). You could make them into individual biscuits or save yourself some time and spread the thick batter into an 8×8 inch baking pan. The recipe doubles easily and can be baked in advance minus the lemony glaze.
It’s a simple recipe:
Bo Berry Biscuit Recipe
2 Cups Flour
1 Cup milk
1/3 Cup sugar
5 T of butter
4 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
3 oz of blueberries (fresh or dried)
1 Cup of powdered sugar
1/8 Cup of water
1 tsp of vanilla
½ tsp of lemon juice
Freeze butter. Preheat oven to 450F. Mix salt, sugar, flour, and baking powder in a bowl and sift. Add the cold milk into dry ingredients and mix. As dough begins to form, use a cheese grater to grate your frozen butter evenly over dough. Fold dough, and knead… repeat until all butter is spread evenly throughout dough. Fold in the blueberries. Gently pull of chunks of dough and pat to form biscuits. Place on ungreased cookie sheet or cake pan. Place in oven and bake for about 7-12 minutes (until golden). Melt 1 tablespoon of butter in the microwave, and paint finished biscuits with pastry brush. Mix glaze ingredients in a bowl, and drizzle over BoBerry Biscuits with a fork.
Now, the variation I did was using frozen blueberries. I didn’t thaw them out, and I loved the idea of shredding the butter with the cheese grater. I have never done that before and really it helped to get the butter incorporated into the batter. When I pulled it out I could see little pools of melted butter on top, heart flutters.
I like an intense lemon flavor with blueberries and strawberries so I added extra lemon juice to the glaze. But other than those slight changes, I followed the recipe and this turned out perfectly! If you wanted to add some lemon zest to the batter you could, or do a medley of orange, lemon and lime zest for a citrus cake (minus the blueberries). I think that would be very yummy with a citrus glaze!! It’s a wonderful treat and pairs nicely with hot tea 🙂
You can definitely serve this up with your choice of breakfast meats, scrambled eggs, or enjoy it all by it’s lonesome self. I think it would also be great with cranberries for a more harvest feel, just adjust your sugar since cranberries are really tart, add some orange zest and some orange spiced glaze on top.
This is going to be my final post until December 2,2013. I hope you all have a blessed holiday, stay safe and warm.
From my family to yours Happy Thanksgiving!!!
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