Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Thanksgiving And Holiday Recipes

This year?  My goal is all about making things easier for me in terms of holiday cooking.

After everything we've had to deal with for the last month or so, I've decided simple is definitely better this year.  Especially if it is something I can make-ahead and doesn't require the culinary skills of Julia Child in her prime to get it on the table.

I don't need to prove my worth at knife skills or perfect my hollandaise, because my family already knows I can cook.  There's nothing to prove here.

I just want a relatively healthy and very yummy meal on the table without a lot of fuss. Is that too much to ask?  I sure hope not.

At our house, Thanksgiving requires a few family favorites that cannot -- and I mean can NOT -- be varied because they were ones that my Granny made as I was growing up and it just isn't Thanksgiving without them.  The first is her onion, celery, sage and chicken broth variation of bread stuffing (no fruit, no chestnuts, no cornbread, no oysters, thank you very much, not in this family...but YMMV according to your family's traditions).

The second is her cranberry and orange jello salad (I'll share the recipe with you below the fold.  I've made a few minor adjustments to the recipe to accommodate a need to reduce our sugar consumption, but I've made notes where that is true.).  It isn't a holiday without a ruby-red dish full of cranberry salad on our table.

Other than that?  We can play a bit.

When it is just the three of us, I pop a frozen turkey breast in the crockpot to cook on HIGH for 6 or 7 hours until it gets done, with a little low-sodium chicken broth,  a couple of tablespoons of butter, a cut up onion and some poultry seasoning.  (Check the meat temperature with a thermometer -- should be at least 180 degrees F in the thigh to be done.)  Because I put it in breast-side down, the meat stays moist because it self-bastes in the crockpot.  Plus that leaves my oven free for stuffing and sweet potatoes, because the turkey is out of the way on the counter.

When it is a larger crowd?  I have to work around a bit and make a few sides ahead so that all we have to do is reheat.  It takes some planning to do that, though, and I like to start early when I can to find just the right mix of plan-ahead foods, fresh veggies, and family favorites.  If I can find something easy that is also really yummy, it often goes in the rotation year after year.

For example, I've included a couple of ham recipes that I found in the links below, but I normally just buy a pre-sliced spiral ham, pop it in the crockpot with a little bit of water and a few whole cloves tucked into the ham and one or two in the water itself.  I'll cook the ham on LOW for a few hours, it gets tender and yummy and I don't have to worry about basting or brushing on a glaze every few minutes.

It really depends on the holiday and how many guests we are having as to what I do.

But I've worked out some shortcuts like that through the years to get a tasty meal on the table without me having to collapse with exhaustion by the end of the day.  I've found that with lupus, you have to make more careful choices on where to expend your energy -- that's true not just for me, but also for anyone whose time is really limited by being overextended at work or with other family obligations, too.

So, with that in mind, I've started perusing possible recipes and I share some links with you below after a recipe:

Granny's Fresh Cranberry Salad

1 1/2 c. raw cranberries, washed and well picked to remove any mushy or blemished ones
1 orange, quartered with rind still on, seeds removed
1/2 c. splenda (or 1 c. sugar, depending on whether you have a diabetic in the family or not)
1 (0.6 oz) pkg. sugar free cherry jello (or a big-sized regular cherry jello)
1 (0.3 oz.) pkg. sugar free raspberry jello (or a small-sized regular raspberry jello)
2 c. boiling water
1 1/2 c. orange juice
1 c. chopped walnuts

Place cranberries and de-seeded orange slices (with peel) in a food processor and chop until you have very small pieces.  Dump into a bowl.  You may have to do this in batches to get evenly-sized bits.  Mix fruit with sugar and/or Splenda and allow to sit for a little while on the counter so that juices begin to mix in with the sweetener.  Heat water to boiling and add to both jellos in a large bowl.  Mix really well to make sure all the gelatin dissolves, about 3 minutes or so.  Stir in orange juice well, then add cranberry mixture, including any juices that have accumulated in the bowl.  Stir in walnut pieces to distribute evenly.  Cover bowl and chill until set -- works best if you make this overnight.

This looks amazing in a clear glass serving dish on the Thanksgiving table, and it is wonderful with turkey and stuffing.  You can omit the nuts if someone in the family has an allergy, but include them if you can for the crunch and the bitterness of the walnuts that offsets the sweetness of the rest of the dish.

And now for the recipe links and other helpful information.  I've tried to include a lot here, but I wanted everything to be in one place to make it easy.

Here are some comprehensive recipe round-ups on sites I use frequently for healthier recipe ideas:

-- At MyRecipes.com, which includes Cooking Light, Sunset, Southern Living and Health.
-- At EatingWell.com.
-- At Better Homes & Gardens.
-- The Butterball turkey tip line information page.
-- A whole host of stuffing recipes.
-- A vegetarian Thanksgiving menu planner.

And some individual recipe links:

-- Fresh Herb Turkey
-- Simple Baked Ham
-- Potluck Potato Casserole
-- Green Beans With Honey-Mustard Glaze
-- Mashed Potatoes With Roasted Garlic Butter
-- Ultimate Roasted Turkey
-- Crockpot Sweet Potato Casserole With Pecan Topping
-- Roasted Turnips, Sweet Potatoes, Apples and Dried Cranberries
-- Sauteed Green Beans And Onions With Bacon
-- Pepper-Jelly Glazed Carrots
-- Rustic Applesauce
-- Lemony Green Beans
-- Easy Corn Casserole
-- Whipped Sweet Potatoes with Hazelnut Topping
-- Broccoli and Carrots with Toasted Almonds
-- Orange-Glazed Ham
-- Cider-Glazed Carrots
-- Sweet Potato And Apple Gratin
-- Cider-Glazed Roots With Cinnamon Walnuts
-- Herbed Pan Gravy
-- Roasted Pumpkin-Apple Soup
-- Healthier Sweet Potato Casserole
-- Pear and Blue Cheese Salad
-- Mesclun Salad With Roasted Pears
-- Garlic-Mint Peas
-- Creamy Herbed Mashed Potatoes 

(Lovely photo via Edgar Barany.)

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