Category Archives: thanksgiving

Thanksgiving Prep Kit

November 20, 2016

It’s that time of year again friends.  Thanksgiving!!!  I love Thanksgiving.  So much yummy food.  I am already dreaming of leftovers!  So I am hosting Thanksgiving again this year.  What are you doing?  Where are you going?  What are you making?  I wanna know!!!

Here is what I am making:

  • Roast turkey
  • Rosemary, thyme, apple, walnut and chicken liver stuffing
  • Mashed potatoes
  • Roasted Brussels sprouts
  • Candied sweet potatoes
  • Homemade gravy
  • Orange-cranberry sauce

I like to keep the menu traditional and simple.  Even though it still takes days of planning and hours to cook.

How do you time all of this preparation?

On the Tuesday before Thanksgiving, I pick up the turkey I pre-ordered.  I am very specific about the size.

One year, I ordered my standard 12-15lbs turkey and the butcher gave me a 28lbs bird.  I was mortified.  Apparently the farmer the butcher got his turkeys from had larger birds than expected.  I cried and cried.  I thought Thanksgiving was ruined.  There was no way this turkey was going to fit in my oven!  I was so distraught the butcher offered to come over and cook the turkey for me.  They were going to spatchcock the bird.  I was so upset!  Who presents a spatchcocked bird on Thanksgiving???  True story.

Anyway,  on Tuesday I prepare the brine and when it cools I keep it in the fridge until I am ready to brine the bird.  Here is a link to my favorite brine.

Also on Tuesday, I bake my bread for the stuffing.

On Wednesday, I make the orange cranberry sauce in advance. This keeps easily in the fridge. Here is my favorite recipe along with what to do with left over cranberry sauce.

Wednesday is also a good day to prep all the onion, celery, walnuts and herbs that I will need for the stuffing. That way, come Thursday I just need to sautée it all up and assemble the stuffing/dressing.

Wednesday night, before bed, I place the turkey in the brine.  I brine the turkey for about 8-10 hours and rinse it well the next morning.

Thursday morning, while the turkey is roasting, I prepare the rest of the vegetable.  I peel the potatoes for the mash, keeping them in cold water until I am ready to boil them.  I also peel the sweet potatoes and trim the Brussels sprouts.

I have enough spare room in my oven to make the candied sweet potatoes and then the dressing.  I warm them up again while the turkey is resting.  Also while the turkey is resting, I can roast the Brussels sprouts in the oven, while I make the gravy.

And that’s that!  The next day, I dream of left overs.  Here is what I do with them.

So are you panicking yet?  No need.  Here are some other links I like to help you along this coming Thanksgiving:

1.  New York Times tells us how to roast the perfect Turkey.

2.  Marilyn Monroe had a stuffing recipe!

3.  Melissa Clark talks gravy.

4.  How about some kick in your cranberry sauce?

5.  Mark Bittman’s Brussels sprouts with garlic!

6.  How about a million ways to make sweet potatoes?

Finally, I love this article about all the different Thanksgiving traditions in this melting pot called America.

Good luck and enjoy!

Happy Thanksgiving!


Here’s a secret: Sometimes I like leftovers…ssshhh!

November 29, 2015

The Great Day of Thanks is over and you have the Mother of all Leftovers sitting in your fridge.  Now what?  Don’t waste it.  But you don’t like leftovers?  Here is the problem with leftovers.  If you try to recreate the exact same dish the way you had it the night before, it just won’t work.  It’s never quite the same and it feels like you are having a dry, sub-par dish.  You feel cheated.  Trust me, I know!  I used to be like that too.  But my husband turned me on to this quick cheat for turning day-old food into a dish that is just as good, dare I say better than what it used to be.

Sometimes I look forward to leftovers…ssshhh!

What you need to do is transform your leftovers.  Here is my favorite thing to do with Thanksgiving leftovers: A HASH.  In fact, this will work with any type of leftovers when you have a protein, veggies and a starch to work with.

Take your leftover turkey, sweet potatoes, brussels sprouts, beans, whatever you have on hand and transform them into an awesome brunch or dinner the next day.  Here’s how:


Turkey Hash – flexible, serves up as many leftovers as you have

Heat up a skillet of your choice (I like cast iron) and melt a tablespoon of butter.  Take equal portions of your Thanksgiving leftovers, and reheat them in the skillet flattening them.  Leave them like this for a few minutes. Turn your hash every now and then.  You want to get crispy, brown bits all over the hash.  In the meantime make yourself a soft boiled egg.

Serve and top your plate with a soft boiled egg.  Split the egg open and instantly you have a sauce for your hash.  Enjoy!

How do you make a soft-boiled egg you ask?  I have a dummy proof method.

Here’s how:


Soft-boiled eggs – makes 2-4 servings

Bring a saucepan full of water to a rolling boil.  Once it’s reached a hard boil, turn it town to a simmer, add 4 eggs.  Set your timer for 4 minutes and 30 seconds.  Timing your eggs is important.  Soft boiled eggs, I like to leave them for 4m30s or 5 minutes.  If you are a fan of less runny eggs, then go for 6-7minutes.  Once the desired time is over, remove them from the heat and run cold water on them for several minutes.  This will help you peel your eggs, even when they are “soft boiled” and very delicate.




A red sea of cranberries…

November 29, 2015

A couple years back, I was driving to Wausau, Wisconsin.  Usually, there is not very much traffic on the road to Wausau, so I found it very odd when every car on the road came to a screeching halt.  As I slowly inched my way into town, I finally saw what the “gawkers” were looking at.  A trailer truck split open down the center, sacrificing its contents onto the road.  An enormous red seas of tiny red cranberries had made their escape.  That was a sight to behold.  Along with snow, ice and fog, Wisconsin can now add cranberries to the list of hazardous driving conditions.

So cranberries, that under appreciated fruit…

Okay, it’s the day after Thanksgiving and you brined and roasted the turkey.  You candied the sweet potatoes.  You grilled the brussel sprouts, mashed the potatoes and topped them with gravy.  And then, chased it all down with pumpkin pie.  It’s official.  You have a Thanksgiving Cooking Hangover.  You don’t want to cook ever, ever again.  Solution:  Leftovers!

I for one, LOVE left over Thanksgiving fare.  All the hoopla leading up to Thanksgiving will yield several days of easy dinner meal planning.  It’s like a power-Sunday cook-up, but on a Thursday.  So, I am sure you all have ideas of what to do with left over turkey.  Turkey hash, turkey tetrazzini, turkey enchiladas.  Left over sprouts?  Stick them in an omelette.  Left over sweet potatoes?  Mash them in between a couple of corn tortillas with cheese and black beans and you have a fall-like quesadilla.  The list goes on and on.  But what do you do with left over cranberry sauce?


We all know that cranberry sauce is a very important but sometimes under appreciated part of Thanksgiving.  It’s the colorful pop on a plate full of brown, orange and green.  It’s the cool sweet treat to lighten up your mouth after a heavy, gravy-laden roast dinner.

So what do I suggest you do with these little glimmering jewels of leftover sweetness?  Here are a few easy things you can do with cranberry sauce especially when you don’t want to cook anything serious until next year!

  • Turn your turkey sandwich into a “leftover sandwich” with sprouts and mashed potatoes and a smear of cranberry sauce.
  • Do you like brie and preserves?  Top your brie with cranberry sauce instead.  Or better yet a grilled brie and cranberry sandwich.
  • Cranberries are not just for dinner anymore.  Have you ever thought of making a yogurt and cranberry sauce parfait topped with a pistachio coconut crumble?

Here’s the recipe I love:

Orange-Scented Cranberry Sauce, adapted from Martha Stewart


1 bag (12 ounces) fresh cranberries

3/4 cups sugar

1/2 cup fresh orange juice

1/4 cup of water

2  strips orange zest


In a medium saucepan, combine cranberries, sugar, water, orange juice and zest. Bring to a boil over medium-high. Reduce to a simmer and cook until thickened, 20 to 25 minutes. Remove from heat and cool. Refrigerate until needed.

To make a parfait, just layer yogurt, crumble and cranberry sauce in a small glass or Ball jar.

So don’t knock cranberries.  They travel far to get into your belly.




Turkey brine, or how to NOT make lemon oregano turkey

November 24, 2015

It’s Thanksgiving this week and I am cooking my first Thanksgiving Dinner all by my “big girl” self.  Eight people.  No problem.  I can do this.  After all it was my mother who made it her unofficial duty to make sure I was able to cook a feast for 40.  So I will pull from my days as my mother’s “sous chef” to make this dinner happen.  Of course, those days also make me think of Thanksgivings past…

My parents, who are originally from Greece, were so grateful for their new homeland in America, they of course wanted to assimilate and adopt their new country’s traditions, like making a giant turkey for Thanksgiving.  The problem however, was that they didn’t have very many American friends.  They mostly hung out with other cousins and friends from back home who also emigrated to the states.  Okay, basically it was as if they moved their entire village to the states…language, food, traditions, etc.  So there was a miniature Filiatra, Greece circa 1950’s mindset in Chicago.  My mom didn’t have a reliable source to reference for “how to make an good old fashioned American-style Thanksgiving turkey.”  So my mother did the only logical thing she knew how to do.  Lemon Oregano Thanksgiving Turkey.  True story.  If it worked for a chicken, why couldn’t it work for turkey?  It’s just a bigger bird after all.

After many years, imagine my surprise when I discovered that lemon and oregano were in fact NOT traditional Thanksgiving flavors.  It’s true.  So I said, “Mom, it’s time we make a change here.  Gravy should not be tangy.”  And from that point forward, we figured out how to make the traditional turkey.

Which brings me to the real point of this blog post, how does one make a truly delicious turkey for Thanksgiving?  Is it your turn to host Thanksgiving?  Are you googling, “how to roast a turkey?”  There are 76,500,000 results by the way.  Is it the first time you are cooking a giant chicken..ahem, I mean, a turkey?  Do not fear the turkey.  I will show you the way.

Here are a few tips to make your life easier and take the guess work out of making a turkey?

  1. Buy a fresh turkey, not frozen.  Frozen turkeys are already pumped up with salt solutions.  You should be controlling the flavor and saltiness instead.
  2. Use a proper meat thermometer.  The breast meat should read 160F.  Those plastic “pop up” turkey timers never work.
  3. And please, I beg you, DO NOT BASTE your turkey.  Read why here.  Basting only lets the heat out of your oven every time you open it.  It’s not going to keep your turkey moist.

If you want a tasty bird that is juicy without fail, then you have to BRINE.  Yeah, I’m a believer.  It’s easier than you think and everyone will be amazed.


My favorite turkey brine, is the one that Ree Drummond, The Pioneer Woman makes.  It’s her favorite turkey brine too.  Just look here, she says so.  I trust her.  And you should too.  She uses oranges and rosemary to flavor her brine.  Hey, isn’t that kind of like using lemon and oregano?  Citrus and an herb.  A little?  No?  Yeah no!  Don’t.  Ree’s brine recipe is the way to go and will produce the most tender, fragrant turkey you ever had.  I promise.

See that picture up there?  I did that.  And you can too.  Yes, I know it looks like a science experiment, but cooking IS science.  And magical and scientific-y things are happening in that brine.  So stop googling and start brining.

Let’s do this.

Best Turkey Brine Ever – from Ree Drummond, The Pioneer Woman


3 cups of apple juice

2 gallons of water (that’s 32 cups if you are measuring that way…LOL)

4 tablespoons of fresh rosemary leaves

5-6 cloves of minced garlic

1 & 1/2 cups of kosher salt

2 cups of brown sugar

3 tablespoons of whole peppercorns

5 bay leaves

the peel of 3 oranges


Here is how the timeline will work:

Make this recipe the day before you want to brine your turkey, so that it’s nicely cooled.  In a large stock pot, add all of your ingredients together and bring to a boil, stirring to dissolve the salt and sugar.  Once your brine comes to a boil, turn it off an cover.  Cool your brine down and place in the refrigerator until you are ready to use.  Done.  Easy.  Go to sleep.

The next day, place your turkey in a brining bag with the brine you diligently and easily made the night before.  Pat yourself on the back.  Place your brining turkey in the refrigerator for 16-20 hours.  Ree says that her recipe is for brining a 20 lbs bird.  If you have a smaller bird, consider brining it for less time.  I usually brine a 15 lbs turkey for 12 hours.  That works for me.

When you are ready to roast your turkey, remove it from the brine and rinse it well.  Let it sit in a sink full of fresh water for 15 minute to help rid it of excess saltiness.  The brine will have done its work already, so rinse away.  Roast as you would normally.  Prepare to receive compliments.  Smile.

Enjoy.  I won’t say “I told you so.” 😉

Happy Thanksgiving.