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Let's Talk Turkey—Recipes for Your Thanksgiving Meal

Updated on February 13, 2019
Carb Diva profile image

Exploring food facts, folklore, and fabulous recipes, one ingredient at a time.

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“What we’re really talking about is a wonderful day set aside on the fourth Thursday of November when no one diets. I mean, why else would they call it Thanksgiving?”

— Erma Bombeck

This morning Andy Williams is singing in my head.

If you were born in the last three decades you are probably asking yourself "who is Andy Williams"? Mr. Williams began his singing career in the late 30's and early 40's as part of a quartet with his three older brothers. In the 50's he began singing on his own—his big break was singing on the Steve Allen "Tonight Show". Recording contracts and Grammy awards soon followed, and then his own variety show.

So, why Andy Williams, and why today?

He sang "It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year". Yes, I know it's a Christmas tune, but I prefer to think of it as a Thanksgiving song--for foodies, this is definitely the most wonderful time of the year and it's time to start planning the menu for Thanksgiving Day.

Slow-Roasted Turkey

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Ingredients and equipment you will need

  • 20-pound turkey
  • roasting pan, with lid
  • roasting pan rack
  1. You will need a covered roasting pan to make this work. Don't do the foil disposable pan. Don't do the open pan. You MUST have a roasting pan with a cover.
  2. Remove the wrapping, the plastic leg ties, the neck and whatever other goodies might be hiding in a bag inside.
  3. Thoroughly inspect your turkey. Remove any loose fat, pin feathers, or whatever other nasty things you might find lingering.
  4. Next, place the now clean turkey upside-down in the roasting pan on the roasting rack. Most recipes say "breast up". I always roast "breast down" so that the juices trickle down to keep the breast meat moist. Dry the skin thoroughly with paper towels and then rub about 2 tablespoons of olive oil onto the skin. Salt and pepper the skin.
  5. This is also the time to add "aromatics" (see below) to your turkey. Fragrant/flavorful fruits, herbs, and spices inserted into the cavity of your turkey will add impart their subtle flavors to the turkey meat and will enhance the resulting juices (which will be used to create an amazing gravy).
  6. Preheat oven to 500 degrees F. Place the upside-down turkey (uncovered at this point) in the oven and roast for 30 minutes. This will destroy any bacteria lingering on the outside of the turkey.
  7. After 30 minutes, place the lid on the turkey and lower the temperature to 200 degrees F. Roast for 20 hours. Yes, you read that correctly. One hour per pound of turkey. If perchance your turkey is an 18-pounder, roast for 18 hours. Because your oven might not be precisely 200 degrees, I would recommend that you check on your turkey one hour BEFORE it is due to be done.
  8. At this point, your turkey will be done--moist, succulent, tender, and most of all--SAFE!
  9. Allow it to sit for at least 30 minutes, and then carve and serve. Or, do as I do--cook your turkey one day before you plan to serve it. Allowing it to rest even more than 30 minutes makes carving super easy, and you can reserve the drippings, refrigerate overnight, and skim the fat from the top to make a healthier gravy.

Suggested aromatics

  • one large onion, cut in quarters
  • 3 to 4 cloves garlic, peeled
  • 2 or 3 fresh bay leaves
  • 2 or 3 sprigs fresh sage, thyme, and/or rosemary
  • 1 large orange, cut in quarters

Carb Diva's Thanksgiving Stuffing

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Ingredients

  • One 1-pound loaf firm white bread, (French, Italian, etc.)
  • 1 stick (8 tablespoons) unsalted butter
  • 2 cups onion, chopped
  • 1 cup celery, finely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon fresh sage, minced
  • 1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 tsp. ground black pepper
  • 1/4 tsp. grated nutmeg
  • 1 cup chicken or vegetable broth
  • 1 large egg, beaten

Instructions

  1. Cut the bread into 1/2-inch cubes. Allow to air dry 48 hours or place in a single layer in a rimmed baking sheet. Place in a 250 degree preheated oven. Turn off the heat and leave for one hour in the oven to dry.
  2. Heat butter in a large skillet over medium heat; add onions and celery and cook, stirring frequently, until tender, about 5 minutes.
  3. Remove from heat. Stir in sage, thyme, salt, pepper, and nutmeg. Stir in the bread cubes and toss until well combined. Combine broth and egg in a small mixing bowl. Add the broth/egg mixture a little at a time to the bread mixture until the stuffing is lightly moist.
  4. Turn into a large buttered baking dish. Bake at 350 degrees about 45 minutes, until top is lightly browned.

Cranberry Sauce Two Ways

When I was growing up, I hated cranberries. We ate them only once a year, at Thanksgiving, but the appearance and taste were memorable enough to stretch from one year to the next. A jiggly blob that looked exactly like the can it had just slid out of--it looked a bit like Jello, but the taste was horrible!

I just didn't "get" cranberry sauce.

Then I started shopping and cooking on my own, reading recipes and I found bags of fresh cranberries and countless ways to use (and flavor) them. I have two favorite cranberry sauce recipes--one uses fresh berries and takes only seconds. The other one is cooked, but hands-on time is only about 10 minutes. Both taste great--and aren't shaped like a tin can.

Fresh Cranberry-Orange Relish

  • 1 12-oz bag fresh cranberries
  • 1 large naval orange
  • 1 cup sugar

Wash and sort the cranberries, removing any stems or berries that appear shriveled. Cut the orange into 4 quarters. Remove the seeds and cut off the stem end. Place cranberries and orange quarters (unpeeled) in a food processor and pulse until coarsely chopped. Stir in sugar to taste, cover, and chill at least one hour.

Triple Cranberry Sauce

  • 1 cup frozen cranberry juice cocktail concentrate, thawed
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1 12-oz bag fresh cranberries
  • 1/2 cup dried cranberries
  • 3 tablespoons orange marmalade
  • 2 tablespoons fresh orange juice
  • 2 tsp. orange peel
  • 1/4 tsp. allspice

Combine cranberry juice and sugar in medium saucepan. Heat to boiling over medium-high heat and stir until sugar is dissolved. Add fresh and dried cranberries and continue to cook, stirring constantly, until fresh berries begin to pop, about 7 minutes. Remove from heat. Stir in remaining ingredients. Cover and chill.

Best Mashed Potatoes

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I never thought that mashed potatoes could be a problem. Peel potatoes, cut them up into chunks, place in a pot, cover with water, boil until soft, drain, and then flog with a potato masher until all of the lumps are gone or you are exhausted (whichever one comes first).

I was raised in the 50's. I'm not sure if mashed potato flakes existed at that time. But even if they did, they probably would have been much too expensive for our table.

However today there are so many choices—in addition to simply mashed, you can also have red mashed, Yukon gold mashed, garlic mashed, chive mashed, mashed with all-the-fixings, mashed with bacon. And, if you can't boil water, there's even mashed already prepared in the freezer case.

Wow!

Let's go back to the basics. Mashed potatoes are easy. But I am cheating a bit. I have a gadget in my kitchen that was never available to my mom.


The Potato Ricer

In my humble opinion, this is the most amazing invention since the bread slicer. If you want to create fluffy, cloud-like, ethereal mashed potatoes you must purchase a potato ricer.

Once you have that in hand, I guarantee that your mashed potatoes will be perfect.

Carb Diva Mashed Potatoes

  • 4 large russet potatoes, peeled and diced
  • 1/2 cup milk,heated in a saucepan or in the microwave
  • 2 tablespoons butter, at room temperature

Place the potatoes in a medium saucepan, cover with water, and boil until soft (about 10 minutes). Drain and place in bowl.

Process the potatoes through the ricer into the saucepan.

Stir the heated milk into the riced potatoes. Stir in the butter, and add salt and pepper to taste.

Slow-Cooker Sweet Potatoes

Several years ago, in a Lucy Ricardo-type of insanity, I thought it would be fun to invite all of my side of the family to our house for a Thanksgiving Day dinner/potluck. Please don't misunderstand--there's nothing wrong with any of the members of my family. We all get along marvelously and love each other dearly. It's just that...........there are so many of us!

Since it was my kitchen, I elected to roast the turkey and make the gravy and stuffing. I used the Internet to calculate meat-to-bone ratios and how many pounds of turkey is needed per person and quickly discovered that I would need a bird the size of a sumo wrestler. I settled for a 28-pounder.

We borrowed dinnerware from the church and even brought in the chipped plates from the camper. We borrowed chairs from neighbors and set up the display tables we use for garage sales. And then the doorbell rang. And rang. And rang again. After the 30th person entered our house, I stopped counting.

The remainder of the day is a bit of a blur. There were no leftovers. But one thing does stand out in my mind. My lovely niece Donna brought a sweet potato casserole that did not include marshmallows. Praise God!

Donna's Pineapple Sweet Potatoes

  • 6 cups mashed sweet potatoes (no milk or butter added)
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1/2 cup butter or margarine, softened
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1/2 tsp. lemon extract
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp. ground nutmeg
  • 1 can (8 oz.) pineapple slices, drained
  • 1/4 cup chopped pecans

In a mixing bowl combine the first 9 ingredients (sweet potatoes through nutmeg); mix well. Place in a slow cooker. Top with pineapple slices and pecans. Cover and cook on low 4-5 hours or until an instant read thermometer registers 160 degrees. Makes 12-14 servings.

Green Bean Casserole

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This green bean casserole from EatingWell is a revised, much healthier version of the old-time original. Skip the canned soup and all of the fat and sodium that come with it.

Cornmeal Biscuits

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Ingredients

  • 2 tsp. active dry yeast
  • 1/4 cup warm water
  • 2 cups buttermilk
  • 4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup cornmeal
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 2 tsp. salt
  • 3 tablespoons sugar
  • 3/4 cup shortening

Instructions

  1. In a small bowl, dissolve yeast in warm water. Let stand 5 minutes or until foamy. Add to buttermilk and set aside.
  2. In a large mixing bowl, combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and sugar. Cut in shortening with pastry blender until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Stir in yeast/buttermilk mixture and knead just to bring together about 5 or 6 times.
  3. On a lightly floured surface, pat dough out to 1/2-inch thickness. Cut out biscuits with a 2-inch round cutter. Place on a lightly greased baking sheet. Biscuits should be almost touching.
  4. Cover and set in warm, draft-free place for 1 hour or until doubled in size. Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. Bake biscuits for 10-12 minutes or until browned.

Pumpkin Pie in a Glass

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All of us love pumpkin pie, but with just one oven it can be difficult at times to get pies, casseroles, and turkey all prepared at once. So I visited KraftRecipes and found a great pumpkin mousse that not only tastes like pumpkin pie but is fast and easy and doesn't require an oven. I'll give you two versions. Click the link above for the original recipe from Kraft, and then see the changes I made below:

Carb Diva Pumpkin Mousse

  • 1 cup cold milk
  • 1 can (15 oz.) pumpkin
  • 2 pkg. (3.4 oz. each) JELL-O Pumpkin flavor instant pudding
  • 2 cups thawed whipped topping
  • 1/2 cup chopped crushed gingersnaps
  • 1 tablespoon toffee bits (i.e. Heath Bar bits)

Mix together milk, pumpkin and pumpkin-flavored pudding mixes in a large bowl. Beat 2 minutes. Stir in thawed Cool Whip. Spoon into serving bowl or individual parfait glasses. Refrigerate at least 4 hours. Top with crushed gingersnaps and toffee bits just before serving.

© 2014 Linda Lum

Comments

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    • Carb Diva profile imageAUTHOR

      Linda Lum 

      3 years ago from Washington State, USA

      Peg - I guess you and I are of the same generation. I love to cook, and wouldn't mind having Andy Williams on continuous loop playing in the ground (toss in some Nat King Cole too). Thanks for your support.

    • PegCole17 profile image

      Peg Cole 

      3 years ago from Northeast of Dallas, Texas

      You have this meal totally covered! This sounds so good my mouth is watering. I love to cook nearly every thing you have listed here. I even have a granite wear roasting pan that I've used for years. Can't wait for the day. And I truly love Andy Williams, too.

    • Carb Diva profile imageAUTHOR

      Linda Lum 

      4 years ago from Washington State, USA

      Bill, it seems I can always count on you to say something sweet. Glad you liked the intro; hope you and Bev try some of the recipes.

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 

      4 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Being a writer first and an eater second, I loved the introduction and yes, I definitely remember Andy Williams. :) Moon River anyone???

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