Thanksgiving Wins and Fails

I hope you all had a lovely, peaceful break. For my non-US readers, this holiday generally means we eat too much and shop too much, but, we spend time with people we care about which can often, sadly, be rare during our regular, busy life.

I’m just going to share the few things we did and cooked that worked (and is, therefore, a recommend) or failed (don’t bother with this idea) and maybe you can benefit from my highly scientific research. I’m a giver!

I had family come stay with me for the holiday and it managed to be lovely. You can be the best hostess in the world and it doesn’t mean everyone is going to get along or have fun or even want to participate in what you have planned. Fortunately, I didn’t have any of that and we all had a really nice time and enjoyed ourselves.

I like to keep it pretty simple because I don’t think people like being herded around and it is more fun if you all make decisions about what sounds like fun that day (or minute). The trick to this is being really organized so you have things ready to execute if it ends up being something everyone wants.

I had an elaborate menu planned for the whole visit and ended up making two meals. The rest of the time we either happily noshed on left overs or we were out and about so we ate out. It was perfect. If I had not planned and shopped for all those meals though, you know I would have found myself in a bind. So I’m happy with the planning and the meals I’ll make for myself over the next couple of weeks. It’s all good.

For the big meal itself, I also keep things pretty simple. I love the pictures of elaborately decorated tables, but, realistically, the table is going to be packed with people and food. I learned a long time ago not to bother going over-board with the table.

If you’ve done it right, it gets full of the best decoration of all: food!

I did get kind of fancy with the deviled eggs. I’ve been wanting to try some alternate recipes just for fun. We made two different kinds, a Mediterranean deviled egg and a shrimp deviled egg. The shrimp deviled egg ended up being so good, that as soon as we popped one into our mouthes, we immediately started figuring out how many more we could make. We wanted ALL the eggs in the house to be the shrimp deviled eggs. I can highly recommend this recipe. The only change I made was not having green olives in it. I don’t like green olives.

The other recipe that everyone loved and is absolutely the easiest to make is the corn pudding. Don’t let the name fool you, this is a corn/bread hybrid that is a side dish. It is SO good. It’s a slow cooker recipe so it’s a great option when you are having to cook up a big meal. You don’t need the oven or stove. You throw a few ingredients in the slow cooker in the morning and just ignore it the rest of the day so you are free to do other things.

I don’t actually have any pictures of the turkey. We scarfed it too fast. The brining combined with cooking in the bag was AWESOME! That was the best turkey I’ve ever had. Everyone totally agreed and swore we’d never do another turkey again without the brining. I brined for a little over 48 hours (Monday evening to Thursday morning). The cooking bag cooked the 16.5 lb turkey in 2.5 hours. This made my Mom nuts as she worried and worried the turkey wouldn’t be ready. She always had to get up at the crack of dawn to start the turkey so for me to just shrug and not even start prepping the turkey until noon just felt wrong to her.

So she twitched and fussed but it worked out perfectly. She also admitted later that she was sure it would be salty but is a believer now. Absolutely amazing and I highly recommend the method. A fresh turkey, brined for 48 hours, and cooked in a cooking bag. Totally the way to go.

There were some disappointments. Some of the slow cooker recipes had the times off so much that the dish couldn’t even be eaten when planned. I was making a corn risotto Wednesday night with a blue cheese and steak roll up. The corn risotto needed to cook about 4 hours longer than the recipe said it would cook and the blue cheese and steak roll up recipe had me cooking the steaks about two hours longer than it should have. They were dry. The corn risotto was delicious, but I would make it the day before you want to serve it. The roll ups were also awesome, but I would make it in a 4qt dish and shave off at least an hour, possibly two.

The sweet potato and apple bake was a disaster. It never cooked properly so I won’t even bother to link to it. Clearly there is an error in that recipe.

We did do things other than eat. We did not shop because none of us can stand crowds and we just aren’t big consumers and shoppers. We’re pretty simple. We don’t need to be fancy and have everything we need so we left the Black Friday madness to other people.

Instead, we hit a local theater to see a play. I have some friends from LA that have moved up here to take over a wonderful little theater so I couldn’t wait to go see their work. It was amazing. Local Portland people should check out the theater. The play we saw wrapped up its run but this is a phenomenally talented group and we enjoyed it SO much! Everyone should check out their local theaters. It’s a wonderful way to support your local arts community and you can find some amazing talent in those little theaters.

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This is Christmas play running right now

Two more reasons to love and support your local theater:

  1. People are there to see the play, not be socialites so folks are dressed comfortably.
  2. Cyber Monday deals! Tickets to Portland’s Artist Repertory Theater Christmas show are only $25 today! You can pick any date during the run so you can coordinate with friends or visiting family or just sneak in by yourself as a nice break from holiday hub bub. Check your own local theater’s website today. They might be having a special too.

The festivities were liberally sprinkled with naps, reading, movies and general awesomeness. The new kitchen performed beautifully and was much admired.

Totally worth it.

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