On to the food photos!!
We hosted Thanksgiving this year at our little house (the actual house, not the RV!). I decided that since we had such a small Thanksgiving last year (namely just us & the kitties), and this year we were having a pretty good crowd (8 in all) that we'd have a serious feast!!
Preparations started the night before, when I made the dressing & pies. It definitely made for an easier Thanksgiving day, having all that made in advance.
Our menu consisted of:
- Turkey (a whopper! 22 lbs!)
- Spiral ham (prepared by my mom)
- Creamed corn (out of the garden!)
- Fried okra (also out of the garden!)
- Vegetable casserole (thanks mom - very yummy!)
- Mashed potatoes
- Mashed sweet potatoes (yes, both. We *heart* carbs.)
- Cranberry salad (courtesy of mom too)
- Cranberry sauce out of a can (I slaved over that one)
- Biscuits and croissants (out of a can, I must admit, but that was by request of Noel, who loves canned biscuits)
Photographic evidence of the feast!
I forgot to take a picture of the ham & turkey before everyone dug in.
Did I mention this turkey was big? 22 lbs! Bigger than the cats combined!! (Also, we offered them a little piece of turkey and the snobs didn't want it. Guess they like their food a little more processed than that.)
- Pumpkin pie
- Sweet potatoe pie (mom brought this)
- Apple pie
(Not pictured, mom's pretty meringue covered sweet potatoe pie).
Ok, especially for Cima, let me put down a few quick recipes and such here.
First off, a great tip for cooking turkey - turn the oven to about 425 or so, then put the turkey in for about 5-10 minutes, then turn the temp down to 325 or 350, whatever you're roasting it on. The blast of heat at the very beginning kind of sears the skin so that it's extra juicy. If you have a turkey breast, you can even turn it breast side down for the first little bit, then turn it right side up so the juices are seared into the meatiest part of the breast. Works wonders, and this was the juiciest turkey ever! It was a honeysuckle white brand, and it was excellent.
My dressing recipe...isn't really a recipe. It's based loosely on my sister's dressing, which is really really good. I took some Pepperidge Farms stuffing mix (both regular & cornbread), poured a can of chicken broth over it in a big bowl, sauteed some onions & threw them in there (I don't like celery so I leave it out). I also put in a diced apple, roasted some sliced almonds and added those, and threw in some dried cranberries too. Why not? Add more water/broth if necessary to get it to the right stickiness so it'll hold together. Mash it into a greased casserole dish, cover with aluminum foil (keeps it moist) & cook for oh, 30 or so minutes until fragrant and golden brown on top. Very easy. You can use pecans or walnuts, and pears would probably be a good substitute for the apple too. Use firm fruit - otherwise they dissolve while baking.
Mashed sweet potatoes are super easy. Personally, sweet potato casserole (the kind with the marshmallows on top) is just too sweet for me. I like the potato part, but not the marshmallow frou-frou. So I peel & boil the potatoes just like for regular mashed potatoes, drain when soft, mash them up, and add some milk, some butter, cinnamon, and brown sugar and mix well. Obviously this is one of those Taste As You Go recipes, because everyone likes theirs sweeter or cinnamonier than other people.
Fried okra is a special delicacy of the south, and honestly I wasn't sure how many people at Thanksgiving would like it (we had several people who hadn't really eaten okra before!) I thought it added something really special that the okra came out of the garden. Made the whole Labor And Then Eat thing more real! I had frozen it straight off the plant, didn't even wash it, just stuffed it in freezer bags whole.
If any of you have ever tried cooking okra, you know how slimy this stuff can be. (Slimy on the inside, hairy on the outside - it's straight out of some kid's veggie nightmare). Here's a trick from my Aunt Betty: if using frozen whole okra, don't thaw it out. Wash it off so it's clean, but cut it right away. It's still slightly frozen on the inside so it isn't really slimy, and it's much easier to bread & cook that way!
For the okra breading, I take about equal parts cornmeal (the kind that's in a bag lke flour, not a cornbread mix!) and all-purpose flour. Add a dash of salt & pepper and mix it all together. Cut up your okra into slices about 1/3 to 1/2 of an inch thick, and dump into flour/cornmeal. No, you don't have to put it in milk or egg first. I said this stuff was sticky, and I wasn't joking! The breading will stick, no problem. Deep fry on medium heat until lightly brown. Okra is really good by itself, but also with ranch or ketchup (supposedly, for the non-purists out there). Drain it well to keep it from getting soggy.
I would give you my secret pumpkin pie recipe, but I don't have one. I used the one off the back of the Laura Lynn Canned Pumpkin can. It worked though! I wish I had written it down! Might have to go back and get another can, just so I have the recipe.
The apple pie? Um...well...get a pie crust, dump a can of apple pie filling in it, put another crust on top, crimp the edges, and draw a pretty picture with the end of a knife. Bake. Eat.
Oh, I can offer a helpful hint to those of you new to pie making though! If in the process of baking your pie, the edges of the crust start to look too dark, make a halo of aluminum foil to go over just the crust and it'll keep it from getting any darker.
So hopefully that's some helpful stuff there. We really enjoyed the day, it was gorgeous weather, and we stuffed ourselves silly. And managed to eat (and enjoy) leftovers for multiple days afterward!
That same weekend, we went to my mom's for pulled pork bbq. We know how to eat in this family. :) Then we went to the Grove Park Inn, an historic hotel in Asheville where all the hoity toits stay while in town. Most recent hoity toit? President Obama! Cool!
Anyway, every year they have a ginormous gingerbread house competition. It's amazing. We enjoyed it, even though it was a lot more crowded there than in previous years.
They had some spectacular entries:
These are GINGERBREAD HOUSES, y'all! Completely edible, except for the wood board they're sitting on. Go ahead. Gape. They don't mind.
I liked the old fashioned look of this one, with 4 different representations of St. Nick/Santa on it:
This one was the grand prize winner. Impressive (it was built as a set of nesting dolls), but honestly I liked some of the others better. Just my opinion.
Lisa, this one is for you (sorry it's blurry - took this picture through glass).
The whole hotel is decorated too, with lots of pretty trees all over, each with a different theme. They had some stunning ones, but this one was my favorite: