Holiday Food Part 1 – Thanksgiving

This is the first part of a holiday food series.  Click here to read the second part or here to read the final part.

Through most of my life I have been a big fan of the holidays in every aspect from food to family to gifts.  Over the years I have found my enjoyment of giving and receiving gifts has diminished.  I used to spend $100 on each person (mom, dad, sister and Jason) even if it meant just buying things to reach that amount.  The past few years Jason and I have scaled back and only spend about $30 on each other.  My sister and I aren’t exchanging gifts this year, and I’ll likely only spend around $50 on each of my parents.  While the amount of shopping has decreased, my desire to cook and bake for the holidays has increased.

My birthday fell on Thanksgiving, and Jason and I chose to stay home and cook for ourselves.  We did this last year as well and made some tasty Cornish hens, but I wanted to step up the cooking and go more traditional this year.  I found a recipe for stuffed turkey breast since making a whole turkey for two people seemed a bit unnecessary.  I thought I would need to order a turkey breast but actually found my grocery store stocked with frozen ones.  The recipe included a part about making homemade stuffing, but I chose to buy an organic ready made bag to use instead.  I also found recipes for mashed sweet potatoes and corn casserole.  I searched recipes for homemade dinner rolls, but those seemed like a lot of work so I opted to buy frozen ones.  I also considered making a pumpkin pie since I’ve never made a pie, but I figured I was taking on enough and there would be plenty of baking for Christmas.  The grocery store supplied the sangria, pumpkin pie, Cool Whip and a small $5 yellow cake with white buttercream icing as a birthday cake for myself.  Normally I am a choco-holic but that cake just called to me.

Thanksgiving morning I continued my tradition of watching the Macys Thanksgiving Day parade.  Since the turkey breast only required an hour to an hour and a half to cook I knew I could wait until at least 10:30 to begin cooking.  Jason assisted me by slicing the turkey (I feared slicing the whole way through it) while I cooked the stuffing on the stove.  He then stuffed the breast and into the oven it went.  He also chopped the sweet potatoes for me as he’s much faster with a knife than I am.  He returned to the living room to continue watching the parade while I started on the corn casserole.

I discovered why some people opt to have double ovens – the turkey and casserole were to cook on two different temperatures.  The turkey had cooked at its own temperature for a half hour, so I chose to set the oven a bit lower to accommodate the corn casserole figuring the turkey could always cook longer if needed.  I hadn’t made homemade mashed potatoes in quite some time and actually forgot how long the water would take to boil.  I utilized my toaster oven for the dinner rolls to avoid resetting the oven temperature yet again.  I did not expect to be able to use the turkey breast to make a homemade gravy nor did I actually want to attempt it.  I have always been partial to packet or jarred gravy unless it’s gravy made in a restaurant.  For those reasons I emptied a jar of turkey gravy into a serving dish to microwave before the meal was served.

I pulled the turkey breast out of the oven sooner than expected given it had cooked on a lower temperature for most of the time.  The corn casserole took a few extra minutes despite cooking on a higher temperature.  The sweet potatoes I had worried wouldn’t be finished in time, but once the water was rolling they cooked quickly.  The dinner rolls took a bit longer, and I should’ve thawed them out prior to putting them in the toaster oven.  They were the last item to go on the table.

All the food was finished cooking within 15 minutes of each other, something that I was incredibly proud of as I normally struggle to time multiple items.  I had thought ahead and wrote a list with each item and its cook time and temperature and referenced that which I think helped.  The turkey was a tad dry possibly due to having sat for longer than the listed 10 minutes.  The gravy alleviated that though.  I’m not a huge fan of sweet potatoes, but I ate more than usual because the flavor was very balanced with the seasonings.  Jason, who is a big sweet potato fan, enjoyed them even more.  To me the star of the meal was the corn casserole.  Jason’s stepmom makes one that we always look forward to at Christmas, and I was happy that mine turned out equally as good.

Thanksgiving was the first I really pushed myself to try some “harder” recipes.  I was a bit nervous about the turkey breast and putting stuffing it.  I was also nervous about trying so many new recipes at one meal.  I’m very proud of how well timed and delicious our meal was.  I didn’t experience the stress that I expected to and may even consider making a large meal for my family in the future.

Please note I am not affiliated with AllRecipes.  The fact that all the recipes listed come from their website is personal preference.

Did you cook for Thanksgiving?  Do you get nervous cooking big meals?  What tips do you use to ensure multiple items are finished in time to serve them together?


About Tracy

Runner. Writer. Reader. Environmental and Indigenous Peoples advocate. Work from home Workforce Specialist. NASM Certified Personal Trainer. Assistant Varsity Track Coach. Fascinated by the ocean, waterfalls and Christmas lights.
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15 Responses to Holiday Food Part 1 – Thanksgiving

  1. swosei12blog says:

    That’s a pretty good accomplishment to have all of the dishes ready within 15 minutes of each. Congrats. One of these days, I would like to cook/host a dinner. But, I think that my need for perfection would screw everything up, and my dinner would end up being catered by Domino’s Pizza. Eh, I do like Domino’s Pizza so that may not be a bad thing.

    I’m with you on the gift-giving thing. Every year the adults in my family always try to plan a Secret Santa with a $50 limit but it never seems to pan out. Then some folks end up getting gifts for everyone, while others just get one gift for the matched person. I try to stick to my rule of only children receive gifts and the parents receive a bottle of (cheap) wine. To be honest, that’s why I prefer to go back home during Thanksgiving rather than Christmas.

    • TracyNicole says:

      Thanks! I agree that I think I’m too perfectionistic to host Thanksgiving for everyone. My parents are also traditional in thinking that they have to have the same food every year; when I told my mom about the ingredients in the mashed sweet potatoes my dad wrinkled his nose and said I ruined them – I said why, because I didn’t cover them in marshmallows? So I don’t think they’d have an appreciation for my more “adventurous” cooking anyway.

      I agree the gift giving is such a pain at least when you’re an adult. It’s like most people just buy what they want/need throughout the year so figuring out what to ask for is so hard and trying to find things to buy is just as hard. Can’t we just make the holidays about the food and companionship? Oh and lights – I love Christmas lights!

  2. swosei12blog says:

    I know folks say it’s different when you have kids. But to be frank, if I have kids, they will get 1-3 gifts MAX. Let’s start taking the commercialism out of Christmas.

    • TracyNicole says:

      I don’t have kids and have no intention of having them, but am looking forward to the day that my sister does. I plan to try to gift experiences more than actual gifts – movie tickets, bowling passes, etc. The more parents I talk to the more they seem to like those gifts anyway as it’s not adding more clutter to their house with unneeded toys. I’ve heard the rhyme that everyone should get 4 gifts for Christmas “something you want, something you need, something to wear and something to read” – I could get on board with that.

  3. I cook a big Thanksgiving meal for my family of three and have for many years now. The timing is a bit tricky but it helps that the turkey can sit out for 15-20 minutes after it’s done baking. I’ve also found that putting a layer of aluminum foil over things like casseroles will keep them warm for a good 15 minutes at least. The rolls are always the last to go in the oven and we always start eating just after they’ve gone in, so I can pull them out piping hot before we’ve finished eating. Like everything else in life, you learn as you go along. My first big dinner was nothing like now but I’ve learned a few things over the years. ; )

    • TracyNicole says:

      Isn’t it fun to be able to “cook big” even though it’s only for a few people? I feel much less pressure that way! I’m glad to hear I’m not the only one who tries to figure out the timing and I appreciate the tips you gave and will put them to use the next time I tackle a big meal.

  4. My husband and daughter love (as do I) our big meals we have for Thanksgiving, Christmas, and Easter so it’s totally worth all of the work, plus my daughter helps and my husband cleans up so it’s definitely a family effort!

    • TracyNicole says:

      I agree particularly if it’s only done those few times a year. Normally I’m not a big fan of cooking, but I’ve grown to enjoy tackling harder holiday meals and having Jason help makes it easier!

  5. Laurie says:

    Your Thanksgiving dinner sounds yummy! congratulations for pulling it all off. And happy birthday, too! I did not cook for Thanksgiving this year. My youngest son cooked and I just made the pies. It was awesome! I will be cooking Christmas dinner, though.

    • TracyNicole says:

      Thank you! What kind of pies did you make? Some year I would like to tackle a homemade apple pie, crust and all though I may start by making one with a premade crust! Do you make a ham for Christmas or something else?

      • Laurie says:

        I made pecan (my son’s favorite) and pumpkin. I always make homemade crust. I am too cheap to buy a crust! 🙂 I usually make crab cakes for Christmas!

      • TracyNicole says:

        I have never had pecan pie. For years I’m was eh on most nuts other than cashews but recently found I like the dark choc trail mix from BJs quite a bit so I’d be willing to try it! Homemade is always better even if it’s extra work! Crab cakes are a nice changeup from the usual ham 🙂

  6. Pingback: Holiday Food Part 2 – K Family Christmas | The Writing Runner

  7. Pingback: Holiday Food Part 3 – M Family Christmas | The Writing Runner

  8. Pingback: 2018 – Finding New in the Old | The Writing Runner

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