Five Tips for Thanksgiving Success and a Giveaway!

This year for Thanksgiving, I’m inviting all my local friends who don’t have any family in the area. It’s going to be a potluck, of sorts, which means I’m giving up control of a large portion of the meal. I’m making the turkey, stuffing, gravy and mashed potatoes (okay and some martinis and a cranberry sauce). Everyone else is bringing the rest. I’ve done Thanksgiving dinner for many years now, and wanted to share my tips for success.

1. BRINE THE BIRD: Yes, it’s a little work ahead of time (not that much) and yes, you have another couple steps with the turkey, but it makes the turkey OMG tender. I buy the giant Ziploc bags for the turkey when I can’t find brining bags, and do it the day before. I swear, you could roast that turkey for twenty hours and it would still be tender. Brining is worth it. trust me. If you want to know how I do it (there are all kinds of variations), I have my brining recipe on my blog.

2. PLAN AHEAD: I’m starting my Thanksgiving plan today. I’ll shop tomorrow, and I have a whole long Me and Mandy after making pies 2012list of what needs to be done and when (I keep last year’s plan in a folder so I’m not reinventing the wheel every time). A list, along with a timeline, makes it a LOT easier.

3. DON’T BE A CONTROL FREAK: It’s okay to let your friends and family help. To let your mother-in-law peel the potatoes or your kids roll out the pie crust, or even let someone else make the green beans. Stick to your one main thing (the bird for me) and don’t stress about the rest. Me and Mandy after making pies 2012 (me and my daughter after we finished making pies :-)

4. ENJOY THE DAY: If you plan ahead, you won’t have much to do when guests arrive (except for slicing the turkey, which should rest after it’s done roasting, so even that can be done just before everyone arrives and covered with foil). I try to have everything done and made (mashed potatoes in the crock pot, stuffing in the oven, pies done the day before) at least an hour before guests arrive. Then I’m enjoying a glass of wine with my friends and family when the bird is done.

5. IT’S JUST A MEAL: I learned that lesson the year my husband made the pumpkin pie we were bringing to dinner (this is before I took over, LOL) and added salt instead of sugar. Yeah. I have had stuffings that were too dry. I have forgotten to buy potatoes. Run out of ice, burned the pies. In the end, it’s just a meal, and I’m not going to take it too seriously. Enjoy the friends and family, and don’t sweat the small stuff. After all, there is always dessert (and if it’s been ruined by too much salt, hopefully you saved some Halloween candy! :-)


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Making Leftover Turkey Yummy Again

Here’s a great recipe from my great friend Donna Alward, with a fun suggestion for leftovers! I’m putting this on my list for the week’s dinners!

She also has a wonderful, heartwarming book out this month, just in time for Christmas! If you’re looking for a book that will give you a little extra dose of holiday spirit, pick up A Cadence Creek Christmas! And now, without further ado, Donna’s recipe for leftover turkey!

9780373742660_LPIt’s always a conundrum in our house. How much turkey can you eat until you’re sick of it? This time of year in particular, there’s Thanksgiving Turkey soon to be followed by Christmas Turkey. (Incidentally, I love that Canadian Thanksgiving is in October, so we have a bigger gap between those holidays. I’m not too proud to shop at your Black Friday specials, though!)

We have the traditional turkey dinner, and then there are  Hot Turkey Sandwiches the next day. Then there might be Turkey Fried Rice and spring rolls, or Turkey Pot Pie. One of our favorite recipes, though is even easier and really tasty. And my husband, who normally SHUNS anything that is a casserole (except lasagna or scalloped potatoes), admits it’s one of his favorites too. The great thing is you can use whatever vegetables your family likes.



That’s right. I said Mr. Noodle.

1 tbsp olive oil

2 pkgs Chicken flavor Mr. Noodle

3 cups chopped turkey

2 cans cream of chicken soup

2 cans water

½ diced onion, ½ cup diced celery, 1 cup sliced mushrooms (all three optional)

2 cups frozen veg – peas, mixed veg, whatever your preference


2 cups chopped broccoli

1 cup breadcrumbs with ½ cup parmesan cheese (you can sub bread crumbs for your preferred crunchy topping)

Directions: Saute onion, celery and mushrooms in olive oil until softened. Add turkey to heat through. Stir in cream of chicken soup, water, bouillon from the Mr. Noodle packets, and vegetables. Once it’s heated through, break up your noodles and add to the mixture, stirring to coat noodles with sauce.

Once the noodles are a bit softened, turn the mixture into a casserole sprayed with non-stick spray. Top with the bread crumbs and cheese and bake at 375 for 35-40 min.

The recipe goes together so fast you should still have time to pick up my latest book and see what’s happening in Cadence Creek – mainly a wedding, a week before Christmas. Here’s the blurb:

 It’s Christmas in Donna Alward’s Cadence Creek…

Taylor Shepard has come to Cadence Creek to organize her brother’s Christmas wedding. Organizing such a special event might be a little bit stressful – but she can’t deny she’s swept away by the town’s holiday charm…and by brooding rancher Rhys Bullock. 

Loner Rhys has been burned far too many times in the past. He’s sure he has city girl Taylor all figured out -she’ll be hightailing it straight back to the city in a few days! But as the snow starts to fall, Rhys and Taylor embark on a tentative winter romance. Could Taylor be the Christmas present Rhys never even knew he wanted?

Donna’s website

Twitter: @DonnaAlward

ReRun: The Thanksgiving Plan

I post this one each year, because it pretty much covers how I do Thanksgiving. Why mess with what works? I won’t be making quite this much food this year, since it’ll just be my family, but you can easily adapt this to fit what you want. Also, look for a great post on using those leftovers from author Donna Alward later this week!

>>This has been my Thanksgiving plan for four years in a row, so I thought I’d rerun the tips. I have changed this slightly–in that I bought the brining bags at the store instead of using a pail (Farberware makes them and they were in the aisle with the roasters and kitchen twine, etc.). I have had success every time I use this recipe. Buying a fresh bird makes life ten times easier, but I have in a pinch defrosted a frozen bird and then brined it.

(and as an aside, for those of you who are friends with me on Facebook, on Monday I posted a link to my blog and a friend who is a professional chef shared his tips for brining, so check that out!)

Thanksgiving was a HUGE success in my house. Brining the bird was DA BOMB and I highly recommend it. I mean, HIGHLY recommend it. I have never had a juicier, more delicious turkey–it was beyond simple to cook, and twelve people devoured nearly an entire 21-pound bird. Lots of going back for seconds and thirds that day!

Take notes if you want for next year, because here’s how I did it (and managed to have a LOT of relaxation time on the big day, too):

Wednesday Night: Brine the Bird (in the fridge by 8pm)
Equipment needed: 5-gallon pail from Lowe’s or Home Depot
My version of Alton Brown’s recipe for Brining from I’m Just Here for the Food
(which involves essentially cooking some water, brown sugar, peppercorns, bay leaves and kosher salt, then cooling and adding to the bucket).
Plus: 3 gallons ice water and 1 1/2 cups kosher salt

Thursday Timeline:
7:00 a.m.: Remove bird from Brining Liquid
Preheat oven
Dry bird, stuff with an onion, celery sticks. Brush whole bird with melted butter, then tent with foil, stick a meat thermometer in it, then put the bird in the oven.

8:00 a.m.: Cook sausage for stuffing, chop vegetables for stuffing (celery, carrots and onions), then cook when sausage is done. Add dried cranberries, leave to cool and set aside

8:15 a.m.: Peel 8 pounds of potatoes and start boiling them for mashed potatoes

8:45 a.m.: Start simple syrup for kids’ Floating Island Punch
Put Frozen raspberries, pink lemonade and sugar in bowl to thaw for Poinsettia Punch for grownups :-)

9:30 a.m.: Mash potatoes and put in crock-pot–done till 11:15 a.m. (take a nap, read the ads for Black Friday shopping…I do all my house cleaning on Wednesday, so I’m chilling for these two hours)

11:30 a.m.: remove foil tent from turkey, baste with more butter and turn oven temp up to 425 degrees
Start green beans (I made a healthy version, which I can post later)
Start Citrus-Glazed Carrots

12:15 p.m.: Assemble stuffing

12:30 p.m.: Remove turkey from oven and let set
Put rolls in oven
Put stuffing in oven
Make gravy

1:00 p.m.: Serve and eat 😉

My MIL made the pies, and I had baked cookies on Wednesday night, so all the rest was done ahead of time. I usually make the pies a day or two ahead of time, but this time someone else did them, so I was saved that chore. This turkey was SO SO good, though. I just can’t even tell you 😉

How was your Thanksgiving? Was it a huge success? I do dishes as I go, and run the dishwasher about halfway through so that everyone can eat on real plates. Clean-up is still a lot of work, but it’s not AS bad as it could be.

And if you want to read about my Black Friday adventures, I posted on RTB today about them!


PS: I’m running a 5k Turkey Trot on Thanksgiving morning. Why? So I can eat more pie, LOL.