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A Photo Journey through Thanksgiving 2012

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I know Thanksgiving is over and everyone is ready to move onto the next big holiday, but with the week of Thanksgiving being my favorite cooking week of the year I thought it was worthy of a couple more blog posts.  This one is simply a nice visual journey through all of the dishes I made this year with some descriptions.

Next week I'll highlight the recipe for Cranberry Pepper Jelly that I make every year. It is fantastic on sandwiches, baked brie, with cream cheese and crackers, etc...  So while most have already made their one turkey of the year there are still plenty of opportunities to enjoy the spicy-sweet deliciousness all year long.

So let's start the photo journey with that one...Cranberry Pepper Jelly. This is almost always the first thing I make, the weekend before Thanksgiving, since it has a 3-6 week shelf life in the refrigerator. I've honestly never liked anything other than canned cranberry sauce (I know, blasphemous!) until I discovered this recipe. Now I'm totally hooked on it's spicy-sweet combination and for the first time ever didn't even touch my canned cranberry sauce this year!

The next thing I make the weekend before the holiday is homemade turkey stock as a base for my gravy. If you don't want to do this you can always use store-bought chicken or turkey stock, but I find that making your own makes a big difference in the gravy and it's honestly very easy. If you're like me, this also means you get a little extra Turkey meat for your leftover soup as well since I refuse to throw away all of the meat on the turkey wings after making the stock.  Just pick it all off and freeze it until your ready to make your soup or other Thanksgiving leftovers.

A couple of days before Thanksgiving I start brining the turkey and prepping all of the veggies that will hold for a day or two.

I find that nothing makes for a juicy turkey like brining it for 2 days in advance...not frying it, not starting it cooking upside down, nothing. I also slather it in herb butter (both on top and under the skin), so that doesn't hurt! My favorite brine that I have found over the years is a beer brine...I use Newcastle which makes this turkey a bit of an expensive date, but trust me your guests will be singing your praises. And we all know that's hard praise to get with so many bad, dry turkey experiences from Thanksgivings past! Make sure the brine is completely covering your turkey...sometimes you have to get a bit crafty with pressure on the bag in certain spots to make this happen.

It's also important to have a great carver on hand day-of so that you can plate your turkey in a beautiful and appetizing way...my husband is a pro at this by now, so I'm lucky here as you can see below.

A SavoryGirl Thanksgiving, 2012

I love Thanksgiving...good friends, family, food, football and fun.  What's not to love? To be honest, though, I didn't always love it...when I was a kid it seemed kind of silly to me how my mom slaved away all day just for one meal. But ever since I've been the cook I totally get it. Yes it can be a lot of work but it's the work of love. All that effort is worth it for the "ooohs and aaaahs" when you walk in with the Turkey. Or watching your husband's face as he takes that first bite of your famous Sweet Potatoes that he loves so much but only gets this one day a year. Personally, I also love the strategy and planning that Thanksgiving takes...and that's the key to actually enjoying this holiday as host. So not only am I sharing my menu, but I am also sharing my detailed cooking and timing plan to get it all done and downloadable shopping lists. That's right, time to start enjoying your own Thanksgiving party!

You all know by now that I love to cook and hopefully you agree that I am a pretty good judge of recipes as well...therefore I can almost guarantee that my menu below is going to be delicious. I've been hosting large Thanksgiving dinners for years now and I can proudly say I haven't had a dud yet (knocking on wood as I type!). Some of the dishes below are old favorites but many are new.  Since I have a bit of a smaller crowd this year I'm keeping appetizers more simple than usual (and yes one leans Mexican!) but otherwise this year's menu is pretty typical of a SavoryGirl Thanksgiving. You can also check out my Thanksgiving" href="http://www.savorygirl.com/site/recipes/a-savorygirl-thanksgiving/" target="_blank">previous SavoryGirl Thanksgiving Menu, if the one below doesn't suit your fancy.

Last year the Pancetta Crisps, Succotash, Kale Salad and Cranberry-Pepper Jelly were big hits out of the new additions...one of which is making a repeat performance this year along with the turkey brine recipe and my ever-present sweet potatoes.

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A SavoryGirl Thanksgiving

Ah, Thanksgiving.  One of my favorite holidays...the arrival of my Thanksgiving Bon Appétit every year is practically a Henricksen holiday in it's own right.  One of the reasons I love it is because we have a 5 year tradition of renting a house with friends in fun places like Paso Robles and Palm Springs.  This year we're headed back to Palm Springs for a 2nd year with a crew of 13.  It's the first year we have to rent two houses and we have a record high of 5 people flying in from the East Coast...so it's going to be a fun long weekend full of good friends, fun in the sun and great food.

I have to admit though, I also love Thanksgiving because I truly enjoy the challenge of planning out the meal and strategizing for how to bring it all to life in a way where I can still relax and enjoy the day with friends by the pool.  The fact that I have to cart half of my kitchen and brining turkey to our destination certainly makes for an added challenge, but that just makes a successful meal all that more satisfying!

My menu for this year with links to recipes is below.  I've also provided my "week-of" schedule since that's the secret to my success.  Lots of cooking and prepping the week leading up to Thanksgiving so the day of it's mostly just cooking and assembling.  The day of, hour-by-hour schedule is also included since timing is everything on Turkey Day!   Wish me luck as I scale up to cook my largest Thanksgiving yet...and of course if you have tips and tricks of your own I would love to hear them...
Roasted Pear-Butternut Squash Soup with Stilton

This is one of our all-time favorite soup recipes...I first made it a few years ago as a starter for Thanksgiving but it’s been popping up a few times a year since.  The beautiful thing about this recipe is that it is so easy...chop up some veggies, roast them at a high heat, cool and puree.  Done!  And any soup that has a little cheese sprinkled on top has a fan in me...I love me some cheese, the stinkier and stronger the better! Makes ~ 4 entree sized servings, serve along with warm crusty bread
Paula Deen’s Rum Pumpkin Pie with Praline Pecans

It's that time of year again...time to overbook our schedules with cocktail parties, gift exchanges and eat way too much yummy food! You know, those foods that you love but only have at this time of year...for me Paula Deen's Rum Pumpkin Pie with Praline Pecans that I make every Thanksgiving is at the top of that list. I first tried this recipe years ago when I began hosting my own big Thanksgiving dinners for friends and I haven't gone back to plain old traditional pumpkin pie since! So what makes this pie so addictive? First, the depth of flavor that just the slight bit of added rum adds. It doesn't seem like 2 tablespoons of rum would make that big of a difference, but trust me, don't skimp here. Second the perfect layer of whipped cream covering the entire top of the pie is essential.  No more single dollop of whip cream per slice...a whole layer on top of the freshly made topping is the way to go. Lastly the praline pecans...make more than the recipe calls for and sprinkle on top liberally. This sweet, crunchy, nutty addition adds the perfect amount of textural distinction to an otherwise melt in your mouth creamy pie. If you're feeling ambitious and want to make your own pie crust, Paula's Perfect Pie Crust is a fantastic recipe...buttery and flaky. Of course, there's no shame in store-bought pie crust...just buy the frozen sheets of  rolled out dough that you put in your own pan which is much better than the kind that is frozen and already pressed into a tinfoil pan. Whatever you decide about your crust, make sure this pie is filling it...you'll be the talk of your Thanksgiving party and have everyone wishing you made two. Seriously...this is the only dessert that I've ever hid from people so I can have the leftovers all to myself!
Spicy Cranberry-Pepper Jelly

Simple Ingredients Make for an Amazing Cranberry-Pepper Jelly

I have been slightly obsessed with this Spicy Cranberry-Pepper Jelly since I first made it back in 2011...which is funny because until that point I was a die-hard canned cranberry sauce girl. Gasp!  I know, I know, but it reminds me of childhood and I do still love it. But now, I look forward to this Spicy Cranberry-Pepper Jelly more than almost anything else at Thanksgiving.  And the great thing is that this condiment is so yummy and versatile that it lives well past Turkey Day. Fantastic on turkey sandwiches of course, but also great with baked brie or really paired with any cheese. It also makes a nice cracker dip along with some cream cheese.

This cranberry-pepper jelly knows no bounds and it's super easy to make as well. I'm posting it nice and early because I always make a triple batch the week before Thanksgiving and give out jars of it to all of my direct reports at work as a nice little holiday gift. The recipe is from the 2011 Thanksgiving issue of Bon Appétit with only a couple of very minor SavoryGirl adaptions included below.

So first things first...the ingredients. Super simple ingredients here along with a heavy-bottomed pan and you're ready to go:

Weekly Menu: November 30 – December 6, 2014

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Sunday: Leftovers: Thanksgiving Leftover Sandwich!
Monday: Leftovers: Thanksgiving Leftover Sandwich!
Tuesday: Warriors Game!
Wednesday:   Leftovers: Lentil Country Supper (from last week)
Thursday: Drinks and Dinner Out
Friday: In San Diego!
Saturday: In San Diego!
Well...I'm useless this week. Still have lots of leftovers in the fridge from Thanksgiving and even a bit of leftovers from last week still. So I'll be finishing those up before heading out of town to go catch the Patriots play the Chargers in San Diego for the weekend. For those of you who need a little Thanksgiving leftover inspiration though, my classic leftovers sandwich photo above should get your mouth watering!

As always, if you need a few more recipes  visit my menu archives and recipes to find other meals to round out your week. Happy cooking...
Weekly Menu: November 23-29, 2014

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Sunday: Herbed Veal T-Bones with Cheesy Polenta and Roasted Asparagus
Monday: Lentil Country Supper
Tuesday: Leftovers: Veal with Cheesy Polenta
Wednesday:   Leftovers: Lentil Country Supper
Thursday: thanksgiving" target="_blank">Thanksgiving with Friends!
Friday: Thanksgiving Leftovers
Saturday: Dinner Date!
Starting off the week with another Omaha Steaks cooking adventure!  This time it's using Veal T-Bones...but I recruited a friend who's a good cook to help me make (and eat) this one. He's going to leverage the recipe linked above as inspiration, but since it's a different cut of veal than in the recipe we'll adapt the cooking approach accordingly. Should be tasty, although I have to say I've never had veal t-bones before so will be interested to see how it turns out! Then I'm bringing back an old, healthy winter favorite...lentil country supper.  Rounding out the rest of the week is Thanksgiving, of course!  I'm heading to a Friendsgiving this year so not putting on my full spread like I normally do but I am still making my Spicy Cranberry-Pepper Jelly, Sweet Potatoes with Marshmallow & Coconut and Rum Pumpkin Pie.  Wouldn't be Thanksgiving to me without those three!

As always, if you need a few more recipes  visit my menu archives and recipes to find other meals to round out your week. Happy cooking...
Weekly Menu: September 29 – October 5, 2013
Sunday: Lentil Dal with Bitter Greens & Curried Butternut Squash
Monday: Eggs in Purgatory with Artichoke Hearts & Capers over Polenta
Tuesday: Leftovers: Lentil Dal
Wednesday: Leftovers: Eggs in Purgatory
Thursday: Pork Chops with Kale & Brussels Sprout Salad
Friday: Eat Out
Saturday: Leftovers: Pork & Kale Salad
This is going to be a yummy week.  The lentil dal dish from my old, worn Cooking Light cookbook is a really nice vegetarian dish.  Filling, nicely flavored and perfect for this time of year.  For the butternut squash just chop it up in cubes and coat with olive oil, curry powder, salt and pepper.  Roast it at 450 for about 25 minutes, or until soft.

You all know I love eggs for dinner, and this recipe is no exception.  The recipe actually calls for potatoes in the dish, but I like to leave them out and serve it over polenta to make it even more filling.  If you want to go with the original recipe, just serve it with some hearty toast.

Lastly, I've had some nice pork chops in the freezer for a while so I thought I'd pair them with that delicious Kale & Brussels Sprout salad that is always  such a hit over Thanksgiving.  I'm  really looking forward to having that again, healthy, easy & delicious!!  
Weekly Menu: December 9-15, 2012
Sunday: Homemade Turkey & Rice Soup (DIY)
Monday: Buffalo Turkey Meatballs, Buttered Noodles & Roasted Broccoli Rabe for the Pat’s Game!
Tuesday: Leftovers: Turkey Rice Soup
Wednesday:   Leftovers: Buffalo Turkey Meatballs
Thursday: Easy Breakfast for Dinner...Christian out of town
Friday: Eat Out
Saturday: Work Christmas Party!
The day after our cookie party usually means we're a bit rough around the edges. That means that Sunday is the perfect day to finally get that Thanksgiving carcass and leftover meat out of my freezer and simmer a homemade stock all day to make some soul satisfying soup. I don't have a recipe for you on this one...just winging it based on the leftovers and veggies I have in the house.

Monday night the Patriots are playing the Houston Texans on Monday Night Football...so we're having some friends over to watch the game. I'll make our favorite football food...these meatballs are amazingly reminiscent of buffalo wings but with a lot less guilt. I even use 2% fat Greek yogurt instead of sour cream to make the blue cheese dressing. To make it feel like more of a meal than an appetizer I'll make some buttered Parmesan noodles and roasted broccoli rabe to serve alongside the meatballs.  Go Pats!

Christian is heading out of town on Wednesday until Saturday so the rest of the week will be easy, breezy leftovers and other simple dinner solutions.  Saturday I'll pick Christian up from the airport and we'll whisk up to Santa Rosa for my boss' Holiday Party...gotta love this time of year!