Posts Tagged ‘Thanksgiving’

Thanksgiving Countdown Tip #7:

November 18, 2017

Go grocery shopping this weekend. Even sooner if possible.

There are many things that I won’t purchase until the last minute, such as fresh herbs, vegetables, and other highly perishable items. But for those things that will keep, go now! As we get closer to the holiday, the lines get crazy long, the shelves get emptied of all the Thanksgiving classics, like canned pumpkin, cinnamon, and cranberries, and the overall stress levels climb. For those of you in the ‘burbs, this might even reach the frenzy of a regular Saturday at a NYC Trader Joes. For us city folk, it’s off the charts.

Get it over with as soon as you can, and move on to the more compelling parts of preparing the feast.

photo: Glasshouse Images


Thanksgiving Countdown Tip #6:

November 16, 2017

One word: Tablescaping. Yes, it’s a thing.

Do you have a tablecloth and napkins? If the answer is yes, pull them out, check for stains and iron them now. If the answer is no, it’s time to shop or innovate.

Do you have something that can be used as a runner down the center of the table? How about a roll of brown kraft paper, that can be scattered with votive candles, and seasonal greens? There are tiny pumpkins around this time of year that are available in a creamy white or orange. I’m not sure how they taste, but they look great! You can get crafty and spray paint some with a metallic paint, or a color that works with your home decor. Herbs in tiny vases or scattered among greens, small vines or branches, or even eucalyptus feels seasonal. Lay a spring on each napkin for a festive touch. Cranberries, persimmons, and clementines in a bowl offer a shot of color that can be eaten later.

Not enough matching china or napkins? Mix it up! Rather than using a few ad hoc place settings to fill in, embrace the eclectic aspect and intermingle the different pieces. If you are only short a couple of settings, place them at the two ends of the table so it looks deliberate. I have lots of mismatched teacups that my grandmother collected that I serve soup in. It adds a uniqueness to the table that is a conversation starter.

Clean, (unstained) dishtowels make great napkins, and rarely need to be ironed. For a more rustic look, a pack of striped or checked kitchen towels is a great investment that you can repurpose for their original intent later.

Have fun creating the perfect decor to suit your style and level of formality!


Thanksgiving Countdown Tip #5:

November 15, 2017

Now that you have figured out your cookware situation, do you have the tools to execute that meal?

If you don’t own a stand mixer, food processor or immersion blender, you might want to reconsider your recipe. Do you have a turkey baster or an amply sized carving board? We know you sharpened your knives! Now is the time to check and either shop, borrow or adjust your plan. Once you get started cooking, it’s too late.

Photo: Glasshouse Images


How To Host A Successful Thanksgiving

November 21, 2016
The Jones Family

The Jones Family

When one of my favorite websites, The Kitchn, invited me to participate in their Thanksgiving video series, I jumped at the opportunity. But the real magic happened when my family wandered in, and reluctantly joined in on the fun.

While the content is as promised, what puts a smile on my face is seeing my family together as we really are; raw, authentic and very happy. In a time when many are feeling isolated, disenfranchised and afraid, looking at my multi-cultural and multi-racial family, gives me great joy, and for that I am thankful. This Thanksgiving, do not let fear or hatred cloud your thoughts. Family isn’t just about gene pools; it’s about love. I hope you can feel ours in this video.

This is us…

Tips For Cooking the Best Thanksgiving

*Sorry, I can’t get the video to embed. Please click on the link to view.

Thank you Rebecca and team at The Kitchn + Apartment Therapy for letting us be part of your series.

Thanksgiving Prep: List Making

November 8, 2016


Now that election day is here, and we can begin to cleanse our palettes of all the nastiness and hatred that accompanied it, it’s time shift our focus to THANKSGIVING! With only 16 days to go, there are lists to be made, and pre-work to be done, to make the big day way less stressful than political campaigns we just lived through.

Over the next 2 weeks, we will be sharing our preparations with you, so you can get ready for the Superbowl of Cooking right along with us.

Today’s project is a big one, but it sets us up for success. It’s all about planning and making lists.

First, grab yourself a folder; real, or digital and mark it “Thanksgiving 2016”. Whatever lists you make, and recipes you gather will live in this folder.

Start your list making:

First and foremost, make a guest list and invite people however you choose. Emails, phone calls or letter pressed invitations are all fine. Make this as casual or as formal as you like. Keeping a guest list will allow you to have an accurate headcount so you are sure to have enough food, drinks, placesettings and chairs for everyone that is coming. And if your house is like ours, be prepared to take in a few “Thanksgiving Orphans “at the last minute.

Next, plan the menu. Write down every course, and if you are sharing the cooking with some of your guests, assign dishes to each of them now. Put their name next to the dish they are reponsible for right on your menu so you don’t need to worry about it.

Gather your recipes. Now is the perfect time to pull out all of the recipes you will be using for the meal. Many cooking websites and magazines are overflowing with Thanksgiving recipes, so if you want to try something new, or you don’t have a favorite recipe for something, now is your chance to do a little research. Place the recipes into your folder as you find them.

Now that you have your menu and headcount, it’s time to check to see if you have all the serving dishes, utensils and place settings to accommodate everyone. Think about table cloths, napkins and extra tables and chairs if necessary. Check for serving dishes, and oven to table dishes for things that require them, Arrange to borrow what you don’t have, or go out and purchase it now, before things get hectic. Trust us, you don’t want to be scrambling around at the last minute, when you need to be home cooking. You know where we are going with this one: make a list of what you need and plan to get it all by the end of next weekend.

Once all of your lists are made, place them in your Thanksgiving folder. We will be referring to all of this later in the week.

Happy Planning!!!

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Talking Turkey: What Could Possibly Go Wrong?

November 25, 2015


So you’re roasting the turkey this year. What could possibly go wrong? All kinds of things. But don’t worry, we’ve got you covered. Here are a few things that might trip you up when cooking a turkey, and some quick solutions:

It’s getting close to dinnertime, and the turkey isn’t done. Or, you simply didn’t get it into the oven on time. It happens.

Solution: Spatchcock it! Spatchcocking is the act of cutting the bird down the spine, and flattening out the two sides.  It’s similiar to butterflying. Once the turkey is split, it cooks in just a couple of hours.
If the turkey has been in the oven for awhile and still isn’t done, try cutting it up, and putting it back in the oven. The pieces will cook much more quickly than the whole bird. As a last resort, slice it and put the slices back into the oven. The turkey should be opaque, and white or light brown in color for the dark meat. Any translucence, or pinkish color means it isn’t cooked through.

So, how do I know when its done?

Answer: Insert a meat thermometer into the thigh. The temperature should register 165 degrees at the deepest point.

But I don’t have a thermometer!

Solution: Wiggle the legs. They should move freely. If they are still tight, they aren’t cooked yet. Also, the juices should run clear. Any blood in the juices means the turkey has not reached a safe temperature to eat yet.

The skin is too brown / the skin is not getting brown.

Solution: If it is browning too quickly, cover it loosely with an aluminuim foil tent. If it not browning enough, crank up the heat for the last half hour or so. If cooking at 425-450 degrees doesn’t do it, try the broiler. Just be sure to rotate the chicken to get all sides nice and crispy.

The turkey is ready, but everything else needs to be reheated.

Tent the turkey in foil and heat up those side dishes. A big bird holds the heat for awhile before its carved. Also, speaking of carving, let it rest at least 20 minutes before slicing. It allows the juices to settle and will yield you moister meat.

One last thought: There is usually a bag of turkey parts tucked inside the cavity of the bird. (It is usually the livers, neck and giblets.) Make sure to remove it before cooking the turkey. It is a rookie mistake, but one we have all done. Except you. Because now you’ve been warned. You’re welcome!

Happy Thanksgiving!

Photo: Glasshouse Images

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The Theory Of Pie

November 23, 2015


It is officially pie season. Pumpkin, apple, pecan…you name it, we’re making it! In past years, we gave you a comprehensive guide to making the perfect pie crust. This time, we are focusing in on what could possibly go wrong, and how to nip that problem in the bud.

So what happens when you followed our directions to a tee, yet the pie crust lost some of it’s shape in the oven? First of all, you eat it. Even the less lovely crusts usually still taste great. Shrug it off and learn from the experience.

Once of the biggest problems is shrinkage. It isn’t good for clothing or, ahem other things, but it is also a problem for pastry. With all that butter or shortening, the crust is bound to shrink a little. Here are a few tips:

Carry the Weight: Prebaked, or blind baked crusts suffer the most. The filling seems to keep it in place somewhat, even when it wants to shrivel. Make sure that crusts that require pre-baking are properly wieghted.  Cover the pie with foil or parchment paper, and then fill it with pie weights or beans. Bake it for the prescribed amount of time, and then gently remove the weights and the lining, and place it back into the oven to brown. Be careful not to pull the liner off too quickly, taking a hunk of hot, partially baked crust with it.

Prick It: To avoid the crust bubbling up, prick it in multiple places with a fork. This will allow the air to escape, and keep it from getting soggy in the process.

It’s A Stretch: When rolling the dough and placing it in the pan, don’t stretch the dough to fit. Instead, cut the rolled dough larger than you need it to be, settle the center part into the bottom and sides of the pie plate, and then give a little nudge towards the center before trimming off the excess. The dough is slightly elastic, and if it is stretched, it will eventually snap back. Tucking the excess under and crimping it, or adding a decorative border will give it some heft and keep it from shriveling.

Give It A Rest: Let the dough rest in the pan for a bit before trimming and baking. This lets the gluten relax and reduces the shrink factor. Don’t overwork the dough. Gluten, the protein which gives dough it’s elasticity and strikes fear in the hearts of trendy eaters everywhere, is activated when the dough is manipulated. Heavily kneeded doughs, like pizza crust have more gluten than you want your pie crust to have. Handle the dough gently, and minimally to keep it from becoming tough. ( Yes, even the most gently handled crusts have some gluten in them, if they are made of wheat flour.)

Just Chill: Just like us, the dough needs to relax and chill. In this case, it should be done in the refrigerator. Think about butter, one of the prime components of a pie crust. It expands when it is warm and soft, and contracts when it is cold and hard. Chilling the crust allows the butter to solidify. We often make our pie and tart shells a day or two in advance to allow the dough to be firm and cold when we bake them. You can even wrap them well and freeze them for a couple of days. There is no need to thaw them before baking.

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Talking Turkey: Countdown To The Big Day

November 12, 2015


Thanksgiving is the Olympics of cooking ( and eating!). If you approach this event as a marathon, not a sprint, you and your guests will enjoy it more. We wouldn’t want to head into the big event without doing some advance work, and you shouldn’t either.  Since the holiday is just two weeks away, its time to do some serious planning. If you are preparing the entire meal from scratch, it is virtually impossible to do it all in one day, or to just “wing it.” Grocery stores sell out of key ingredients at the last minute, and the crowds make the shopping experience more stressful than it needs to be. While some people cook ahead and freeze it, I prefer to make everything fresh within the last day or two leading up to the holiday.

Here is a a schedule of what needs to be done so that you can plan a low-stress, delicous and fresh feast for Thanksgiving.

Two or more weeks ahead:(that means NOW!)

Invite guests

Plan the menu

If you are doing a potluck, assign guests specific dishes to bring to avoid duplications or holes in the menu. If you are doing it yourself, start a file with all your recipes in it. This can be digital or paper, but it helps to have everything in one, convenient place, rather than pulling out cookbooks and magazines. Photocopy the pages you want, and put the books away.

Order your turkey from the local farm or butcher. We get ours from Dipaula Turkey Farm and they are far superior to any frozen bird you will find. It costs more, but it is well worth the splurge.

Make shopping lists. Go through all of your recipes and make a list of what you need. Inventory your pantry items to see if you need to add any of the basics to the list.Don’t forget aluminuim foil and plastic wrap! Then, break the lists down by perishable and non- perishable items. The sooner you can pick up the non-perishable items, the better. Just do it, and get it out of the way. I tend to buy different types of things at different stores, so I list things by where I will need to get them.

One Week Before:

Make pie crusts and freeze them. Pie crusts are one of the very few things that I freeze. If you are planning to make several pies, it pays to do this in advance. The crusts benefit from a good chilling before baking to avoid shrinkage, and they don’t need to be thawed beforehand.

I also freeze rolls or biscuits unbaked and pop them in the oven at the last minute. Getting these messy items out of the way are a big help.

Inventory your serving dishes, tableware and linens and see if there is anything you need to buy, or take care of. Don’t wait until the last minute to iron 30 napkins, or polish the silver. Do it ahead of time. You will be glad you did.

Two Days Before:
If you are serving soup, now is the time to make it. It will stay nicely in the refrigerator and some will actually taste better once they have had time to sit. If there is any excess fat, it will rise to the top and solidify, making it easy to skim off.

If you have time, make the cranberry sauce and any dessert items that won’t get stale, such as chilled cakes, or cookies.

Pick up the rest of the groceries. At this point, I buy everything but any seafood I might want for appetizers, and the turkey.

The Day Before:

Pick up the turkey.

This is the day I try to go all out and get as much done as possible. I make the sweet potatoes, cranberries if I didn’t do it already, and clean all of the vegetables I will need for the salad and side dishes. I bake the pies and any other desserts and wrap them to keep them fresh. I even toast the bread for the stuffing, since the drier, the better. I make salad dressings or any sauces that can be prepared in advance. Mis en plas is your friend.

Set the table, or better yet, get someone else to do it for you. Bring in all the extra chairs needed.

Lay out the serving pieces. I serve the main meal as a buffet, so I line up my bowls, platters and serving pieces along the buffet, and put a post it note by each one assigning it to the item it will hold. This not only ensures that I have what I need when I am scurrying around at the last minute trying to get the food out, but also that I don’t forget something. I have opened the refrigerator many times at the end of the evening only to discover an item I forgot to serve, or a garnish I didn’t remember to use.

The BIG Day: 

Prepare the stuffing and make the turkey. Never stuff the bird until you are ready to cook it. This promotes bacteria growth that can make you and your guests sick. Wait until you are ready to put it into the oven before stuffing it. Also, be sure to remove all of the stuffing before storing the turkey for the same reason.

Wipe down the bathroom, sweep the floors and make sure the dishes are done and the dishwasher is unloaded.

Right before the guests come, get any other last minute dishes ready, and begin to slowly reheat anything you made in advance.

Bake the rolls or biscuits.

Toss the salad, make the gravy and anything else you couldn’t do in advance.

Have a glass of wine with your guests, and enjoy the fruits of your labor!

Photo: Glasshouse Images

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Talking Turkey: Thanksgiving Portion Planning

November 10, 2015


When planning Thanksgiving, it is always difficult to figure out just how much to make of each item. With so many delicious side dishes stealing the show, how much of each is the right amount? We did a little research, and came up with the calculations, so you don’t have to.

Hors d’oeuvres: I struggle with this every year, as I hate for people to fill up on appetizers when the real deal is coming right up. You do need something, so that people aren’t sitting around starving and worse yet, getting drunk before dinner. Consider 3-4 bites per person, or about 3 oz. each for a dip or spread. I often serve shrimp, and some kind of cheese straws or crackers and some spiced nuts to nibble on. I try to keep the preparation simple, since I am already spending two days in the kitchen getting the main meal ready, and don’t want to fuss with appetite spoilers.

Soup: We love to start with a butternut squash or pumpkin soup. The rule of thumb is to make one 8 oz. cup per person, since there is a heavy meal to follow. We serve our soup course in delicate antique teacups and find that is just enough as a prerequisite to the big event.

Turkey: Figure about 1 to 1 -1 /2 pounds per person. Since quite a bit of this is weight comes from bones, this amount should ensure that everyone is well fed and leave you with the requisite leftovers. If the breast meat is the most popular in your home, consider a smaller turkey, and an additional turkey breast to make up the difference. If you buy a boneless breast, consider 8 oz. per person the magic number.

Gravy: Everyone we consulted cautioned against running out of gravy. The Food Network recommends 1/3 cup of gravy per person, and an extra cup for every six people. That means about three cups for every 6 guests.

Potatoes: The quantities varied on this one, so err on the high side if you have potato lovers in the group. Suggestions ranged from 1/2 to 1/3 to even 3/4 pound of potatoes per person. It is probably best to just go with one potato per person regardless of weight. For those giant sweet potatoes and yams, figure 1/2 per person. If you are making both sweet and white potatoes, take that into consideration and err on the smaller amount, as people will likely take a bit of each.

Cranberry Sauce: Our homemade cranberry apple compote, aka Cranberry Jones, is always a hit. Figure 1/3 to 1/2 cup of cranberry sauce per person. We can’t attest to how much of the jellied kind that comes out looking like a can might be consumed.

Stuffing: Figure about 3/4 cups of stuffing for each person. We like to cook some inside the turkey and another batch cooked separately in the oven. People tend to for one or the other, as the consistency is different. The stuffing cooked in the bird is moist, and the other tends to be crisp. To each, his own!

Rolls and biscuits: Go with about 1 1 /2 rolls per person, unless they are homemade, in which case I would consider 2 per person. I usually round it off, depending on the yield of the recipe. For 10 people, 18 rolls or biscuits should be fine.

Salad and Vegetables: With everything else going on, this category seems to get left behind. I always make the mistake of dressing a large salad, only to toss it at the end of the evening. Where I would normally figure a large handful of greens per person, with a couple of extras for good luck, others recommend just one ounce of greens should do the trick. For other vegetables, the magic number seems to be about 4 oz. per person. That means a pound of green beans will feed about 4 guests.

Pies and Cakes: While one pie yeilds about 8 slices, this is the time to aim high. My daughter always requests an extra pumpkin pie for the next day, when she and her grandfather eat it for breakfast. I usually offer a few desserts, but the pies seem to be the highlight on Thanksgiving. For 8-10 guests, make sure to have 2 pies.

With all the dietary issues people have, take that into consideration when planning. The vegetarians won’t touch the turkey, but they will likely consume more of the side dishes. Gluten free types won’t be indulging in rolls, pie or stuffing, but they may make up for it in by eating more of other foods. It is easy to be accommodating, if you plan ahead. While there is plenty to eat regardless of your diet, and I don’t think additional dishes are necessary, it is nice to use vegetable broth in the side dishes instead of chicken broth, if you are hosting vegetarians. One year, I took a scoop of every side dish as I was cooking and made that portion vegan. The guest was very grateful and able to enjoy the foods of the season and feel like they were part of the festivities. Nobody is expecting gluten free pies and breads, but the bulk of the side dishes should be edible for the gluten free crowd. Consider using corn starch instead of flour, or setting aside some gravy before it is thickened to accommodate their diet.

Photo: Glasshouse Images

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Check out our new site Indigo Jones Eats

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All The Rest is Gravy

November 26, 2014

A good gravy goes hand in hand with a beautiful roasted turkey. We get rave reviews for this one, made with the pan juices, and a little help from some pantry items.


Mushroom Gravy:

Pour the pan juices from the turkey in a bowl, scraping any brown bits from the bottom of the pan. Strain them into a glass measuring cup, and add 1/2 cup of white wine, and enough stock to measure 6 cups in total.

Sauté 2 pounds of sliced mushrooms until they are golden brown and the juice has evaporated. It will take about 15-20 minutes. Mix in reserved garlic herb paste, and sprinkle with about 1/3 cup of flour. Toss to incorporate the flour, so lumps will not form when the liquid is added. Whisk in the broth/pan juices and bring to a boil. Continue whisking as it thickens. Season to taste with salt and pepper, and enjoy!

photo: Glasshouse Images

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