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Thanksgiving Goodness A Time Of Celebration
Thanksgiving A Long Standing Tradition
The month of November always comes in with a strong impression. You have conquered the first of the steps toward Christmas by getting past Halloween.
The air turns chilly and the leaves fall to the ground. November also brings with it a honored celebration, Thanksgiving. This holiday filled with turkey, ham and lots of family gatherings has been honored since the pilgrims first came to the New World.
The United States celebrates this holiday on the fourth Thursday of the month of November but other countries have their own days of celebration.
The First Thanksgiving Myths And Facts
This Thanksgiving holiday, share the story of the first Thanksgiving with your children to help them learn more about what they should be thankful for.
At school, your kids will learn all the holiday myths and will be given the heart-warming tale of how the English settlers and the Indians came together for a tremendous feast. In reality, the Thanksgiving holiday was not nationally observed until President Lincoln declared it by decree in 1863, following a seventeen-year campaign by a magazine writer named Sarah Josepha Hale.
During the Civil War, following Northern victories at Vicksburg and Gettysburg, Lincoln asked that Americans give thanks for the union. As waves of immigrants came over, an easy-to-digest historical narrative was needed and the innocuous meeting of pilgrims and Indians fit the profile.
So what did the Wampanoag Indians and Plymouth colonists share at their initial Thanksgiving meal? According to historical records, "fowl" and "deer" were the only reported items served.
Historians add that potatoes and sweet potatoes were not common staples at that time, the autumn corn would have been dried out, there is no evidence of butchering a pig and the process of cooking cranberries with sugar was not yet in practice. Without an oven, it's unlikely there were any cakes, pies or breads. No recipe for pumpkin pie existed, as it was probably more like stewed pumpkin, and they had no cows on the Mayflower for milk or cheese.
The first Thanksgiving was a three-day feast, according to the reports. The pilgrims generally ate their meals around noon, with the housewives up very early to prepare. Even back then, leftovers were served as breakfast the following day.
According to historians, the best food was served to adults of the highest social standing, with children and servants waiting on them, and most guests would have just eaten what was closest to them at the Thanksgiving table, rather than sampling everything as we do today. The Wampanoags ate whenever they were hungry and had pots brewing all day long.
Both Indians and colonists ate meals consisting of different meat dishes, more so than vegetables, which were difficult for colonists to procure in November.
There are other accounts of the first Thanksgiving, of course. Some say the pilgrims who landed at the Virginia "Berkeley Plantation" in 1919 celebrated the first Thanksgiving, proclaiming: "We ordain that the day of our ships arrival at the place assigned for plantation in the land of Virginia shall be yearly and perpetually kept holy as a day of thanksgiving to Almighty God."
Other authors and historians report Thanksgiving is attributed to the Spaniards circa 1565 in Saint Augustine, Florida or 1598 in El Paso, Texas.
No matter who began the American tradition or how much it has changed, it's good that we take a moment to reflect upon all that we are thankful for, including sacrifices made by the brave settlers who colonized this fine country.
Preparing For The Holiday Meal
While you're counting down the days to your Thanksgiving holiday, you're likely filled with anxiety, wondering, "How many people are coming?
What kind of turkey should I buy?
When should I buy my turkey?
How should I store my turkey?
How long does it take to thaw?
How long are Thanksgiving turkey leftovers good for?"
Always Plan In Advance
The best thing you can do to keep stress at a minimum and ensure your Thanksgiving dinner turns out alright is to plan in advance. Shopping early will ease your tension. Before you head to the grocery store, decide if you want a fresh or frozen turkey and look to see where you can fit it for storage.
If you're buying a whole turkey, then plan on 1 pound per person. A pre-stuffed frozen turkey will average around 1 1/4 pounds per person and you should keep it frozen until you're ready to cook. You can buy a frozen bird at any time but if you're buying fresh, then you should buy it on Wednesday or Thursday.
The USDA recommends not buying a pre-stuffed fresh turkey. To thaw your Thanksgiving turkey, place the frozen bird in the refrigerator 24 hours per 4-5 pounds of turkey, or 1-2 days. If you don't have room for thawing, then you can put the turkey in cold water to defrost for 2-6 hours for a 4-12 pound bird and up to 10-12 hours for a 20-24 pound bird.
You may also use a microwave if possible.
Planning The Timetable
The Thanksgiving Day timetable is one of the trickiest things to plan. It can be stressful when you've got company coming over and you're trying to plan to eat at four but you aren't really sure how long the holiday cooking will take. It's probably best to have your company arrive a few hours before you anticipate the food will be ready.
You can finish within 4 1/2 hours by following this timetable. Cook the cornbread the day before, chop your stuffing veggies and store, trim green beans and set out all your ingredients/spices the day before. From 12:30- 1, prepare your stuffing mix and set aside. From 1-1:30, turn the oven on, make the seasoning rub and prepare your turkey. From 1:30-4:00, roast the turkey, basting every 30 minutes with pan juices and checking the internal temperature.
From 1:30-1:45, prepare the stock and skim surface, adding the vegetables to the broth and simmering from 1:45-2:45. Make the cranberry relish from 1:45-2:00 and don't forget to baste that turkey! From 2:00-2:45, you can prepare the green bean casserole and get out the gravy ingredients. Add the stock to the cornbread, stir and place in a pan to bake.
At 3, you can baste and rotate your turkey and remove the cornbread stuffing at 3:30, covering to keep it warm. Check the Thanksgiving turkey at 4:00 and if it's not finished, keep checking every 10 minutes.
Make the gravy according to the recipe when the bird's done, sit down at your beautifully decorated Thanksgiving table and enjoy your dinner!
Clean The Kitchen As You Go
To keep the holiday stress at bay, put your jittery energy to good use. Keep a clean, clutter-free counter and put ingredients away between steps. If you're done using a few dishes, wash them before dirtying more.
Enlist the help of others if you begin to feel overwhelmed. Kids are often much more helpful than they're given credit for. Often, setting the table and decorating are fun chores for kids to help with. Teenagers should definitely start to learn the ways of the kitchen too. Don't allow the Thanksgiving stress to take over.
If you find it's too much, delegate desserts or appetizers to someone else.
After all, Thanksgiving is a time for the whole family to enjoy.
The Thanksgiving Feast What To Cook
This November, thousands of American families will be planning a sumptuous Thanksgiving feast. Yet no two Thanksgiving dinner menus will be exactly the same.
When most people think of a Thanksgiving feast, images of a juicy turkey, piles of mashed potatoes drowned in gravy and succulent, piping-hot stuffing come to mind.
Some dream of mom's pumpkin pie, while others imagine gelatinous cranberry molds. In addition to traditional Thanksgiving meal items, today's households have very diverse needs: some families need to work on a budget, while others need to find vegan/vegetarian selections.
Perhaps you need that formula for a 60-minute turkey dinner or you are looking for healthier Thanksgiving recipes to accommodate dieters, diabetics and seniors on heart medication.
They say "variety is the spice of life," so why not try something different this Thanksgiving holiday?
If you make the Thanksgiving meal every year, then it can be easy to lose sight. Some families have a suggestion box and ask if there's anything they would like to see on the menu for the following year.
Usually, through trial and error, you'll see what your family does or doesn't like, depending on the number of leftovers and the ferocity with which they are gobbled up. Every menu will differ, but most Thanksgiving dinner menus include: turkey, mashed potatoes, gravy, stuffing, carrots, sweet potato pie, cranberry sauce, biscuits and pumpkin pie.
Some families have one or two busybody cooks, while other families do the "bring a dish" scenario. To lessen your stress, you may want to enforce the "cook doesn't do the dishes" rule.
Planning Your First Thanksgiving Meal
Planning your first Thanksgiving feast can certainly keep you up all night worrying. Many first-timers set their sights on mastering the turkey, the mashed potatoes, the gravy and the stuffing, allowing other family members to prepare a side, an appetizer or a dessert.
You may have to cut corners somewhere by buying a store-bought cheese platter or cake initially, but don't agonize over it.
Finding the right recipe can take time and you've already got so much on your plate. Curb your Thanksgiving dinner menu if you must. If you have tons of last-minute oven sautÃ© items, think again. Or if you've got sweet potatoes, stuffing, potatoes and biscuits, consider sacrificing some of the carbohydrates.
Be sure you make, and double-check, your list well in advance to avoid last-minute heart attacks.
While 95% of American families serve a Thanksgiving turkey as their main dish, there are a growing number of young people who are experimenting with vegetarianism or veganism.
Brad Pitt, Gwyneth Paltrow, Carlos Santana and Alicia Silverstone were among the Americans who went turkey-less last year for their Thanksgiving feast, trading in the bird for mashed potatoes, glazed carrots, sweet potatoes and Tofurky instead. It can be hard to imagine anything made out of soybeans tasting like meat, but Tofurky often pleasantly surprises.
If you'd rather, then Portobello mushrooms stuffed with Gruyere cheese provide the smoky flavoring and the meaty texture that satisfies. Some families also go for a veggie Shepard's pie made of puff pastry. Halved acorn squashes stuffed with Swiss chard, caramelized onions, hazelnuts and parmesan cheese is another delicious entree.
If you're cooking for vegans, then remember to keep meat, dairy, eggs and animal fat out; replacing the items with soy or rice cheese, unsweetened soy milk, non-dairy spreads and fake meats if needed.