Tips for Less Stress For Thanksgiving & Christmas Dinner This Year and Plenty of Holiday Dinner Ideas
Why do people always get stressed at the holidays? Is it the rush to get everything done? Is it wanting everything to be “perfect”? Is it having to deal with family members that know how to push our buttons? Most likely it is a little of each.
So how do we have a stress free Thanksgiving and Christmas dinner? Here are a few simple tips to have a more enjoyable holiday meal.
1. Plan ahead – While planning the Thanksgiving meal, do you plan who is going to help? Instead of doing it all yourself, recruit your family to help. Not only will the work go faster, it’s more fun working together. Make a list of what needs done before everyone arrives. Give everyone something to do and assign things that are age appropriate to the children. Before you know it, the leftovers will be wrapped in foil and everyone will have had a great time.
2. Covered dish meal – If you are having a large group get together for Thanksgiving or Christmas, divide the menu amongst all those attending. The host family can provide the main dish (turkey or ham) and the drinks. Each family brings a favorite side dish and dessert. If you want to make sure there is a variety, provide a menu and mark things off as people chose what they want to fix.
3. Simplify – Instead of having a huge feast, prepare a smaller meal. We all tend to overeat at Thanksgiving and Christmas, so make an effort to make fewer dishes. Not only will the preparation be smaller, so will our waistlines. Another option is to prepare as much ahead of time as you can. Slow cookers can be used to make all kinds of foods, even desserts. Many things can also be made as “freezer meals” and stored for weeks before re-heating them.
The key to less stress on Thanksgiving and Christmas is – Cook Ahead! the less actual cooking you need to do on the holidays, the lower your stress levels will be.
We all know that Thanksgiving is a special time for family, friends and lots of food. Thanksgiving is the only holiday that the sole focus of the holiday is the meal. Pulling together the perfect Thanksgiving turkey and stuffing dinner can be a daunting task, whether this is your first time or you are a seasoned pro.
Preparing Thanksgiving dinner can be stressful but it’s our most delicious meal of the year to enjoy with family and friends!
Here are some sane tips for how to cook a perfect Thanksgiving or Christmas turkey, as well as some festive holiday dinner recipes that will leave you feeling a little less stressed.
The Perfect Thanksgiving or Christmas Turkey – How to Cook a Perfect Thanksgiving Turkey this Year!
HOW BIG A TURKEY SHOULD I BUY?
The general rule of thumb is to allow about 1 lb. of turkey per person. If you would like leftovers, buy a larger bird. If you are having 10 people for dinner, then get at least a 10 lb. turkey. While no one is going to eat 1 lb. of turkey on Thanksgiving, this estimate is based on the total weight of the turkey, including all the waste, as we all know a 10 lb. turkey doesn’t have 10 lbs. of meat.
Choose your turkey based on how many people you are serving, and whether you want leftovers or not.
A large turkey is great value, but only if you either have a large group to serve, or would like leftovers for sandwiches for the next week!
But don’t forget, the larger the turkey the more work to pack up leftovers and make soups or leftover dishes. Make sure you have time after Thanksgiving to deal with the leftovers.
Fresh or Frozen Thanksgiving Turkey?
Just remember when buying a fresh turkey, it needs to be cooked within 2 days of purchase. Frozen turkeys can last safely for up to one year, so it’s a good idea to buy a few frozen turkeys around the holidays while they are on sale.
How to Thaw that Frozen Turkey
Because we are working with poultry, keep the turkey tightly wrapped to avoid cross-contamination and possible Salmonella poisoning.
Thaw the turkey in the package wrap in the refrigerator. You must think ahead of time for this, as it takes several days. Allow about a day for every 4 lbs. of turkey. In other words, a 20 lb. turkey will take about 5 days in the refrigerator.
There is a “faster” way of thawing a turkey also. Place the unopened turkey in a sinkful of cold water, completely covering the turkey. You will have to change the water about every half hour to keep the turkey cold. Allow about 30 minutes per pound to thaw this way. So, a 20-lb. turkey will take about 10 hours. Not exactly convenient with changing the water every half hour, but it is an effective method, especially if you’ve forgotten to thaw the turkey beforehand!
Always cook the turkey immediately after it has been thawed.
Ready to Roast that Turkey!
Ready to Roast! When you’re ready to roast the turkey, locate and remove the giblet bag and neck in the turkey cavity. Rinse the turkey inside and out with cold water and pat it dry with paper towels. Place the turkey, breast-side up, on a roasting rack set in a roasting pan. (Disposable pans, available at the grocery store this time of the year, are great here!).
Heat your oven to 325 degrees – Or Use The Turkey Roaster that we highly recommend –> Oster CKSTRS23-SB 22-Quart Roaster Oven with Self-Basting Lid, Stainless Steel Finish
Brush or spray the skin of the turkey with oil or butter to prevent it from drying too much. This will also help the skin turn a nice brown in color. Keep your eye on the turkey; after a couple of hours you should cover the top of the turkey, including the top of the legs, with aluminum foil to prevent the skin and the breast from becoming overcooked and drying out. Insert a meat thermometer into the thickest part of the breast, but don’t touch the bone.
The turkey will be done when the internal temperature reaches 170 degrees and the juices are clear. You can also place the thermometer in the thigh, making sure not to touch the bone here either. Roast until the internal temperature reaches 180 degrees if inserted in the thigh. Usually, frozen turkeys also come with directions on the package and a roasting chart which is accurate. Find the weight of your turkey on the chart, and roast accordingly. It’s a pretty foolproof method!
Also, always try to buy one of the turkeys with the “pop up” thermometer, these seem to work well, too. Start checking to see if the turkey is done about a half hour before the chart time indicates.
COOKING TIMES FOR TURKEY BY WEIGHT:
A 10-18 lb. stuffed turkey will take 3 3/4 to 4 1/2 hours to cook.
A 10-18 lb. unstuffed turkey will take 3 to 3 1/2 hours to cook.
A 18-22 lb. stuffed turkey will take 4 1/2 to 5 hours to cook.
A 18-22 lb. unstuffed turkey will take 3 1/2 to 4 hours to cook.
A 22-24 lb. stuffed turkey will take 5 to 5 1/2 hours to cook.
A 22-24 lb. unstuffed turkey will take 4 to 4 1/2 hours to cook.
A 24-30 lb. stuffed turkey will take 5 1/2 to 6 hours to cook.
A 24 -30 lb. unstuffed turkey will take 4 1/2 to 5 hours to cook.
If you stuff your turkey, follow these few tips.
Sautee your vegetables- celery, onions, etc. prior to adding to stuffing mix. If you add sausage, oysters, or other meats, make sure they are cooked before adding to the stuffing mix also. Stuff right before you put the turkey in the oven; because of health concerns this can’t be done in advance. Fill both the neck and body cavities loosely with the stuffing; don’t pack tightly. You will, however, need to roast the turkey longer if you choose to place your stuffing in the cavity. If you choose to cook the stuffing in a casserole dish, you can add it to the oven (if there’s room!) during the last 30-45 minutes of roasting time. If you don’t have room, you can cook the stuffing ahead of time and reheat later.
Your approximate roasting times are listed below but are not hard and fast. It could easily take a bit longer or less time than indicated. Don’t panic if this is the case. When the turkey is removed from the oven, let it stand at least 15 minutes before carving.
This year, try your hand at some homemade traditional stuffing.
THANKSGIVING TURKEY STUFFING RECIPES
Try one of these 4 great stuffing recipes:
– Easy Traditional Stuffing
– Turkey and Fruit Stuffing Recipe
– Oyster Stuffing Recipe
– Herb Sausage Stuffing Recipe
– Apple Raisin Stuffing
EASY TRADITIONAL STUFFING
1 (1 pound) loaf sliced Italian bread
3/4 cup butter
1 medium onion, chopped
4 – 5 stalks celery, chopped
2 teaspoons poultry seasoning
1 teaspoon sage
salt and pepper to taste
1 – 1 1/2 cups chicken broth
Let bread slices air dry for at least 3-4 hours, then tear into small pieces.
In a large pan, melt butter over medium heat. Cook onion and celery until soft. Season mixture with poultry seasoning, sage, salt, and pepper. Stir in bread pieces until evenly coated. (This is easiest with your hands.) Moisten slowly with chicken broth; mix well. Don’t over moisten or stuffing will be soggy. You can stuff your turkey or bake along side in a casserole dish for 35 minutes at 350 degrees.
UNBELIEVABLE TURKEY AND FRUIT STUFFING
1 1/2 cups cubed whole wheat bread
3 3/4 cups cubed white bread
1 lb ground turkey sausage
1 cup chopped onion
3/4 cup chopped celery
2 1/2 tsp dried sage
1 1/2 tsp dried rosemary
1/2 tsp dried thyme
1 Golden Delicious apple, cored, finely chopped
3/4 cup dried cranberries
1/3 cup minced fresh parsley
1 cooked turkey liver, finely chopped
3/4 cup turkey stock
4 Tbsp unsalted butter, melted
On a cookie sheet place cubed bread in a single layer. Bake in a preheated 350-degree oven for approximately 5 minutes until bread is toasted. Remove from oven and place in a large mixing bowl. Over medium high heat cook sausage and onions together. Be sure to break up sausage so there are no large clumps. Once sausage is cooked through add celery, sage, rosemary and thyme. Cook for approximately 3 minutes being sure to stir often to blend flavors together. Once sausage mixture is cooked add to toasted bread. Blend in apples, cranberries, parsley and liver. Add melted butter and turkey stock to mixture and blend well making sure all ingredients are thoroughly mixed together. Stuff turkey with mixture.
This will stuff a 10 pound turkey.
2 medium onions, chopped
4 celery ribs, chopped
1/2 cup butter
7 cups of 7 day old French bread cubed
1/3 cup fresh parsley, minced
1 teaspoon poultry seasoning
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon white pepper
1 8-ounce can oysters, drained and coarsely chopped
1/2 cup chicken broth
Sauté onion and celery in butter in large skillet until soft. Add oysters. Cook until they curl, about 5 minutes. Combine bread, parsley, poultry seasoning, salt and pepper in a large bowl; stir in broth gradually. Mix gently until moistened.
This will stuff a 12 pound turkey.
HERB SAUSAGE STUFFING
1 cup butter
3 cups celery, chopped
8 ounces fresh mushrooms, sliced
2 large onions, chopped
2 teaspoons thyme
2 teaspoons marjoram
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon sage
1 teaspoon black pepper
1 lb. bulk port sausage, browned
1 lb. bread crumbs cubes for stuffing
4 eggs, beaten
1 1/2 to 2 cups chicken broth
Sauté celery, mushrooms and onions in butter, add browned sausage and all the seasonings. Simmer three minutes. Put bread cubes in a large bowl. Add the beaten egg. Stir in sautéed vegetables. Add enough of the chicken broth to moisten.
This will stuff a 21-24 pound turkey.
APPLE RAISIN STUFFING
3/4 cup of minced onion
1 1/2 cups of chopped celery
1 cup of butter
7 cups of soft bread cubes
1 tablespoon of salt
3 cups of finely chopped apples
3/4 cup of raisins
1 1/2 teaspoons of crushed sage leaves
1 teaspoon of thyme leaves
1/2 teaspoon of pepper
In large skillet, cook and stir onion and celery in butter until onion is tender. Stir in about 1/3 of bread cubes. Turn into deep bowl. Add remaining ingredients and toss. Stuff turkey just before roasting. Yield 9 cups enough for a 12 pound turkey.
Following are our favorite Thanksgiving and Christmas Recipes. From our house to yours! Enjoy!
DELIGHTFUL HOLIDAY MASHED POTATOES
6-8 Medium Potatoes
1/4 cup milk
1 8 oz. carton sour cream
1 8 oz. package cream cheese
4 Tbsp. butter, divided
1 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. pepper
1 Tbsp. dried chives
Preheat oven to 325. Peel potatoes and cut in half lengthwise. Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil and cook potatoes until tender. Drain potatoes and place back in the pan. Whip potatoes and add milk, sour cream, cream cheese, 2 Tbsp. butter, salt, pepper, and chives while whipping. Pour into a baking dish and dot with 2 Tbsp. butter. Bake for 20-25 minutes.
SIMPLE CROCKPOT HOLIDAY TURKEY Serving size 6-8
With this recipe you can make a juicy, slow cooked turkey for Thanksgiving day entirely in your crock pot. Using a slow cooker makes cooking this classic dish fast, easy, and almost effortless. The best part about cooking your turkey in a slow cooker is that it keeps your little bird from drying out or becoming rubbery, and you are free to concentrate on all the other details of the Thanksgiving feast!
4 – 5 pound turkey or turkey breast, fresh or frozen
1 medium onion, chopped
1 rib celery, chopped
1/4 cup salted butter, melted
1 sprig of rosemary, chopped
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon pepper
1 1/2 cups chicken broth
2 sage leaves
Grease the interior of the slow cooker to prevent sticking. Rinse the turkey and pat dry with paper towels. Put the chopped onion and celery in the turkey’s cavity or line the bottom of the slow cooker with the vegetables if you’re using a turkey breast. Place the turkey in the center of the slow cooker. Pour the melted butter over the turkey and sprinkle the chopped rosemary, salt, and pepper on top.
Pour the chicken broth around the turkey and add the two sage leaves to the broth. Cover and cook on high for 6 hours or until done. If you’re starting with a frozen turkey, the cooking time could be longer. Remove the turkey from the slow cooker and let it stand for at least 10 minutes before carving and serving.
Quick Tip: An hour on high in the slow cooker is the same as 2 – 2 1/2 hours on low. You can use this as a guide to lengthen the amount of time the turkey is in the crock pot if you need the turkey to stay in the crock pot for longer than 6 hours.
THANKFULLY SIMPLE GRAVY RECIPE
5 cups turkey stock
1 cup water
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 tsp poultry seasoning
1/2 tsp ground black pepper
1/4 tsp celery salt
1 tsp salt
Place water in small mixing bowl. Slowly add flour stirring as you add to dissolve flour. Bring turkey stock to a rapid boil over high heat. Once boiling reduce heat to medium low. Add flour mixture slowly stirring as you go. Once all the flour mixture has been added, stir in poultry seasoning, pepper, celery salt and regular salt. Bring back to a boil. Continue boiling until gravy is the consistency you like.
MAKE-AHEAD MASHED POTATOES*
6-8 potatoes, peeled and cut into chunks
1 small onion, chopped
milk and butter to taste
1 egg, beaten
8 oz. cream cheese, softened
2 tsp. dried parsley
Cook the potatoes and onions until fork-tender. Drain, trying not to lose too many of the onion pieces. Mash with enough milk and butter to taste.
Add the additional ingredients except the butter, and beat until well-mixed. Spray a casserole dish with nonstick cooking spray, and add the potatoes. Dot with butter. Refrigerate.
When ready to serve, bake at 400 degrees (straight from refrigerator) for 30 minutes. If you remove from refrigerator ahead of time and the potatoes come to room temperature, cut down on the baking time.
*These can be made a day or two in advance, and save time on the day of the meal!
THE ELVES CORNBREAD STUFFING
1/2 stick of butter
1 cup diced celery
2 cups diced onions
2 cups water
1 16 oz can of corn, drained
3 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
2 chicken flavored bouillons
6 cups crumbled cornbread
1/2 cup chopped pecans
Dash of black pepper
Preheat oven to 350F. Lightly grease a 2 ½ quart baking dish and set aside.
Melt the butter in large skillet over low heat. Add onion and celery and cook for approximately 5 minutes or until tender. Add water, corn, bouillon, paprika, oregano and pepper. Mix well and then add the cornbread and chopped pecans. Stir through the chopped parsley and spoon mixture into baking dish. Cover with foil and bake for approximately 30 minutes.
MIS MASHED SWEET POTATO BAKE
6 medium sweet potatoes
1/2 teaspoon grated orange peel
1/4 cup orange juice
2 tablespoons brown sugar
2 tablespoons butter
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 cup milk
Peel and slice potatoes and boil in water until tender. Drain. Mash with a potato masher or electric mixer. Add orange peel, orange juice, brown sugar, butter, salt and cinnamon,. Add egg and milk. beat till fluffy. Add additional milk if necessary. Turn into a greased 1-quart casserole. Cover; bake in a 350 degree over for 45-50 minutes. Serves 6 to 8.
TRADITIONAL THANKSGIVING CORN SOUFFLE
l box JIFFY Corn Muffin Mix
l 14 oz. can creamed corn
l 14 oz. can whole kernel corn – drained
2 eggs beaten
l 1/2 cups sour cream
l stick butter – melted in microwave
Combine all ingredients in greased 9 x 13 greased casserole pan. Bake 350 for 40-50 minutes.
Delicious Thanksgiving Desserts
PUMPKIN PIE CAKE
1 1/4 cups of sugar
1 large can of evaporated milk
1 teaspoon of cinnamon
1 15 oz. of can pumpkin
1 package yellow cake mix
1 stick butter
1 cup chopped walnuts
Mix together pie ingredients and pour into an ungreased 13 x 9 inch pan. Sprinkle
over top of this in layers: 1 package yellow cake mix, 1 stick butter, melted; 1
cup chopped nuts. Bake 1 hour at 350 degrees or until knife comes out
clean. Serve with whipped cream topping.
PUMPKIN PIE BARS
1 (18 1/2 oz.) box of yellow cake mix
1/2 cup of butter or margarine, melted
1 (30 oz.) can of solid pack pumpkin (3 cups)
1 cup of sugar, divided
1/2 cup of light brown sugar (firmly packed)
2/3 cup of evaporated milk
1 1/2 teaspoons of cinnamon
1/2 cup of chopped walnuts
1/4 cup of butter or margarine, softened
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Grease and flour a 13 x 9 inch baking pan.
Remove 1 cup of the cake mix; reserve. In a small bowl, lightly beat 1 egg. In a large bowl, stir together remaining cake mix, melted butter and beaten egg. Press into prepared pan. In a large bowl, lightly beat remaining 3 eggs. Stir in pumpkin, 1/2 cup of the sugar, brown sugar, evaporated milk and cinnamon. Pour over cake mixture in pan. To the 1 cup cake mix, add
remaining 1/2 cup sugar, walnuts and softened butter; mix until crumbly. Sprinkle over pumpkin mixture. Bake 50 to 60 minutes. Serve warm or cool.
DOUBLE LAYER PUMPKIN PIE
4 oz. of cream cheese, softened
1 tablespoon of milk or Half & Half
1 tablespoon of sugar
1 1/2 cups of thawed Cool Whip
1 Graham cracker crust
1 cup of cold milk or Half & Half
2 pkg. (4 oz. serving size) of instant vanilla pudding mix
1 can (16 oz.) of pumpkin
1 teaspoon ground of cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground of ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground of cloves
Mix cream cheese, 1 tablespoon milk or cream and sugar in large bowl with wire whisk until smooth. Gently stir in whipped topping. Spread on bottom of crust. Pour 1 cup milk into bowl. Add pudding mix. Beat with wire whisk until well blended, 1 to 2 minutes. (Mixture will be thick.) Stir in pumpkin and spices using wire whisk; mix well. Spread over cream cheese layer.
Refrigerate at least 3 hours. Garnish with additional whipped topping and nuts if desired.
TRADITIONAL PUMPKIN PIE
1 (9″) pastry shell
1 (16 oz.) can of pumpkin
1 (14 oz.) can of sweetened condensed milk
1 teaspoon of ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon each of ground ginger, nutmeg & salt
In large bowl combine all ingredients except pastry shell; mix well and turn into shell. Bake for 15 minutes at 425 degrees. Reduce oven temperature to 350 degrees; bake for 35 to 40 minutes longer or until knife inserted 1″ from edge comes out clean. Cool before cutting. Garnish as desired. Refrigerate leftovers.
THANKSGIVING CHEESECAKE SURPRISE
2 (8 ounce) packages cream cheese
3/4 cup white sugar
1 (15 ounce) can pumpkin pie filling
1 1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
1/4 tsp salt
2 prepared 8-inch pastry shells
In large mixing bowl beat on medium speed cream cheese and sugar until cream cheese is smooth. Add pumpkin pie filling, cinnamon, ginger and nutmeg mixing until all ingredients are incorporated together. Add eggs one at time making sure to beat each egg into mixture thoroughly. Add salt and beat on medium speed until creamy. Fold pumpkin mixture into piecrusts evenly. Bake in a preheated 350-degree oven 45 minutes or until set and toothpick inserted in middle of pie comes out clean. Cool to room temperature. Garnish with cool whip.
PUMPKIN AND EGGNOG PIE
1 can (15 ounces) 100% pumpkin
1 1/4 c. prepared eggnog
2/3 c. sugar
1 1/2 tsp. pumpkin-pie spice
1/4 tsp. salt
3 large eggs, beaten
1 (9-inch) frozen deep-dish pie crust
8 oz. container whipped topping
Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
In large bowl, mix pumpkin, eggnog, sugar, spice, salt, and eggs with a whisk until well blended. Place frozen pie crust on cookie sheet, and pour in the pumpkin mixture (it will come to the top of the pie crust.) Place cookie sheet with the pie on the center rack of the oven.
Bake pie for about 1 hour to 1 1/4 hours, or until filling puffs up around edges and center is just set but not puffed. Remove from oven, and cool pie completely on wire rack. Refrigerate until ready to serve. Serve topped with a dollop of whipped cream sprinkled with nutmeg, if desired. Keep leftovers refrigerated.
Thanksgiving is a time of food, family and fun. Traditions are passed down from one generation to the next. It’s never too late to create new holiday traditions. It doesn’t even have to be something “huge” either. Sometimes the smallest things can be the fondest memories.
Create a family cookbook by putting together all the traditional favorites recipes. As new things are tried, and enjoyed, add them to the book. As the younger generation grows up and gets married, present a copy to the new bride and groom. This way the recipes get passed down and not forgotten.
MORE HOLIDAY READING –