The Perfect Thanksgiving Dinner

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The Perfect Thanksgiving Dinner

What makes the perfect Thanksgiving Dinner?  Well, it doesn't take much...  It should be easy, not what you eat every day, taste great, and have friends or family to share it with.

Here are the ingredients:

  • Lots of gratitude to God. He's the reason for the season!!
  • visiting relatives, children, grandchildren, or friends--lots more fun!
  • a place to take a walk after dinner
  • games and perhaps a movie no one has seen yet
  • a camera!! 
  • pets (like horses, cats or dogs to eat scraps or play with)
  • football or frisbee
Those things make the holiday fun and special ...

But seriously, for dinner..the following things are great but substitutions are allowed.  :o)
  • one defrosted turkey or other poultry and some foil
  • a few cans of green beans and some kind of sauce (cheese or soup), plus anything crunchy to top it with
  • a few cans of sweet potatos, brown sugar, and butter (nuts optional)
  • 5-10lbs white potatoes and some butter
  • cranberries or sauce (optional)
  • a pie or any other nice dessert (whip cream is nice too)  (or pour a can of fruit pie filling in an 8x11 dish and cover with a box of cake mix, dollop with butter and bake about 30min. at 350 for easy cobbler--my daughter-in-law's recipe)
  • favorite drink for dinner, and coffee to go with dessert
  • instant stuffing (optional)
  • rolls optional 
  • 2 -3oz boxes lime jello, 1 8oz pk. cream cheese, 12-20 oz whip cream and 2 13oz cans crushed pineapple  (totally optional...but really yummy!)
Our dinner hasn't changed in 20 years! We have taken a cooked turkey and the cans of veges and soup and some frenchfried onions to have Thanksgiving while camping.  We bake the potatoes in the coals.  Even my 19yr old cooked Thanksgiving dinner!--(actually it was Christmas but we do the same menu.)  Too bad we all had the stomach flu that day. 

I start early..I get up at 6 or maybe as late as 7pm and get the turkey in the oven. That way he'll be cooked by 1-2pm.  I do give him a bath the night's a family ritual!  We put him in a tub of cold water to defrost overnight.  Then in the morning, I take off the plastic, rinse him, pat him dry, rub him with oil and salt and rub a little salt inside.  Then I sit him on a rack in any pan big enough to hold him.  I cover him loosely with foil and turn the oven on 325.  My cookbook says about 6-7 hours for 25 lbs. He was well done today when I took him out and the meat was falling off the bone!

Click here for roasting times per pound of turkey

Frankly, when we can all smell's probably time to take him out!  I cover him with foil ASAP and don't carve him up until we all sit down for dinner. That keeps him nice and juicy! (Poor Turkey..He gave the ultimate sacrifice and we appreciate it. :o). I'm afraid I'm a little sentimental about poultry!)    I do drain off all of the broth and fat.  I pour the fat into a can to discard later and save the broth for gravy.     Once the turkey is in the oven, the time critical element is over.  I jump back into bed for another hour of snoozing.  Ahh....Nice!

Cooking dinner for a holiday is like cooking any other except that it's more important to cook the things that take the longest or need to cool, first.

Here are the steps and schedule for our family:

7am TURKEY: Start turkey. See above instructions. Go back to bed for a while!

9am CRANBERRY SAUCE: Cook Cranberry sauce...1 cup sugar, 1cup water, 3 cups frozen cranberries. Bring to boil, simmer for 10 minutes, let cool on the deck. Cover with towel so the cats don't lick the top layer off and the honeybees will leave it alone!!

9:30am JELLO SALAD:  Make lime jello salad. (Not on the list, but we all love it!)  Boil 4 c. water in hot pot, stir in 3 3oz pks lime jello till dissolved. Stir in 8oz pk cream cheese till melted--or use blender.  Stir in leftover juice from two 20oz cans crushed pineapple.  Let set in fridge until it starts to thicken.  Then stir in a med. size cont. of whipcream and the pineapple and let set in fridge until dinner.

10:00 am MASHED POTATOES: Peel and cut in chunks, the white potatoes.  I fill the pan. (I don't want to cook the day after Thanksgiving!).  Salt and leave setting in water on stove to cook later.
10:30am SET TABLE, MAKE DRINKS: Set table nicely. Make iced tea early so it can cool and won't need so much ice or make homemade lemonade (1c. lemon juice, 1c. sugar, 2qts water). Get coffee ready so you only have to push a button. Put butter on plate to soften, put sugar in sugar bowl.  Ask kids to help!  For a festive drink, you can stir together carbonated water and frozen juice. Nice!

11:00am STUFFING: Set bags or boxes of stuffing near stove until ready to make. (Takes 5 min. or less). Stir pineapple and whip cream into jello to set the rest of the way.  Put cranberry sauce in fridge to cool.

11:15 GREENBEAN CASSEROLE: Stir together 2-4 cns greenbeans, 1-2cans mushrooms soup, salt, pepper, 1/2-1 c. milk and 1/2 a container frenchfried onions if you have them. (Substitute any soup you like or make white sauce and stir in grated cheese).  Pour in 8x11 pan to wait until turkey is out of oven. (Top with crackers or corn flakes or potatoe chips and butter if you don't have FF.Onions about 5 min. before you take it out of oven.)

11:30pm SWEET POTATO CASSEROLE: Stir together chunks of canned sweet potatoes, generous amount of brown sugar and 1/2to 1c. walnuts or other nuts (if you have them and like them).  Top with dollops of butter all over. Cover in foil and set aside to cook later.

12:00pm  LIGHT LUNCH BREAK: Have a little snack like fruit, applesauce, eggs, or toast for lunch,  if you plan to eat by 2-3pm. Take a break!

12:30pm. BREAD/POTATOES: Put rolls or frenchbread etc on cookies sheet and brush with butter to cook right before dinner.  Start white potatoes cooking.
1:00pm  START CASSEROLES: Take turkey out of oven and put sweet potato casserole and greenbean casserole in oven at 350 to cook for 30 min.

1:15pm. GRAVY:  Pour broth out to make turkey gravy.  Cover turkey in pan completely so juices can't get out. Don't cut until ready to serve.  Let cool a bit.  Make gravy.  About 3 T. cornstarch per 2 cups broth. Add as much water as you have broth to double gravy.  Salt and pepper gravy. Stir in cornstarch or mix twice the amount of flour(vs. cornstarch)  with water and whisk into broth.  Make sure broth has cooled down so as not to make lumps. Stir continuously over high heat with whisk until thick and bubbly. (If you need to add more flour,stir it into cool water in a small bowl or cup, then whisk that into the hot gravy to avoid lumps...never add dry anything to hot gravy!)

1:30pm Follow package directions for stuffing.  (A hot pot heats the water quickly.)  Usually, you heat the water and butter (I substitute turkey drippings) to boiling, remove from heat, stir in dry stuffing mix, cover, set aside for 5 min. fluff and then bake for a little while in you want.

1:45pm FINISH POTATOES: Take out casseroles and set aside. Drain water from potatoes, mash, add butter, whip with beaters. Salt and pepper to taste. (keep warm)

2:00pm SERVE DINNER/HEAT ROLLS. Put food in containers with serving utensils. Fill glasses with ice.  Cook rolls.

You are done.  This schedule leaves plenty of time for breaks, washing and drying dishes so you don't have to do them later, and visiting.  Don't make this complicated! And say yes if anyone offers to help. If no one does, ask them to. :o)

After twenty years of always doing the WHOLE dinner...I can do this in my sleep.  I'm all for GREAT TASTE, EASY COOKING and lots of visiting!

The family ALWAYS loves this dinner and it never gets old.  Holidays are for fellowship and hearty, easy, good tasting dishes that you don't eat every day.  So what if they aren't super healthy!  It's time for feasting not fasting!  Eat healthy the rest of the year, and the pies and whip cream won't hurt you. :o) 

Pray before dinner and thank the Lord for all your blessings. Take a walk after dinner...and save the dessert and coffee for later.  Play games, visit a lot!,  play with the babies, and take lots of pictures to preserve the special memories.  And remember!...No dessert unless everyone helps with the dishes!

Have a great Thanksgiving!

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