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December 2, 2013

2013 Thanksgiving Dinner

OK. No cleaver titles this time around!! I know it's been a while since I posted something. So what better subject to discuss is my Thanksgiving Day dinner. A time for family and gratitude for those who came before me. As usual, the dinner was fantastic!!! You may have you mind blown when you see the amount of food we had (you'll at least see the main courses). As is customary, my family had dinner at my parent's home. Someone will bring something to eat. Mom did the turkey & dressing. While I can't give out the recipes used (since I don't know them), I'll try to share something close and properly cite where I took the recipe from. Most of them anyway.

This is what happens when you arrive just a tad late. As you can see, mac & cheese, cranberry sauce, ham, & turkey (dark & white meat). Mom made the turkey and the cranberry sauce, my cousin made the mac and cheese (and thank goodness he's no longer a vegan) and my Aunt did the ham. One thing of note. Mom did 2- 15 pound turkeys. She finds there's much less margin for error. She cooked it to 165 degree internal temperature and used a brine. She NEVER stuffs the turkey either. Again, reduces any potential for under cooking the bird or whatever the bird will be stuffed with. Here are some recipes that may be of help:
Brines: (1)

 Above is the cornbread dressing. This is a staple at holiday dinner (specifically Thanksgiving & Christmas). It's more of a Southern staple as well (I spent all but 4 years of my life living in the Chicago area but many member of my family are from the South). My immediate family lineage is more spread throughout Southern Illinois. This is fairly simple when it's all said & done. Once you eat a good cornbread dressing, forget it!!! You WON'T want anything else. VERY filling and hearty. As a matter of fact, I'll be eating some of this after I finish this post!! Below are links to some good cornbread dressings for your review. You'll notice that the basic steps are the same but slight differences in what goes into it. Mom's includes mushrooms:
 Southern Style Cornbread Dressing. (3) (4) (5)

Gravy. I won't waste time with a recipe itself but I'll tell you how I doctored my dish up a bit. I found some fresh garlic heads so I added some on my plate and mixed the garlic, gravy and dressing together. I also added some habanero sauce for some kick. It worked like a charm!!

Yams or sweet potatoes. If there's one dish where there's a tight rope/balancing act, this is the one. You can go from not sweet enough to way too sweet. This version of sweet potatoes, also done by my Mom, doesn't have marshmallows. Did you know that the yam and the sweet potato come from 2 different plants? 
 Yes they are: (6).

Sweet potatoes: (7).

Baked ham. My Aunt did this one. If only time permitted, I might have gone out and smoked on on the grill. No brown sugar or honey. Just the pure taste of ham itself. Some clove, salt, pepper and a dash of sage. This ham was about 5 lbs so the oven cooking time is about  2 1/2 hours as it was bone in. The version you see here was done similarly to this. Included is a reference chart that may be helpful. 

The turkey was actually cooked whole. Mom let it rest after cooking and then cut it the following day. In an ideal world, you could do what she does. The turkey was done 2 days ahead and warmed. She also put it in a brine for at least 24 hours (she may have done it a bit longer). 

OK. The finished product. I didn't realize I had this much food on my plate. Clockwise from the top. cornbread dressing, sweet potatoes, ham, mac & cheese, dinner rolls, green bean, turkey & cranberry dressing. People ask me why I don't go out for Thanksgiving dinner? If you think you can top this meal (all 8 courses of it), I'd love to see you try. The above picture is my "before" as it relates to this meal. I'd love to share a cranberry recipe, but I don't have one as of yet and would be lying if I said I knew how my Mom did this. 

I decided to add some other recipes I will suggest. It's similar to some of the things done here. 
Green Beans. Pretty easy. Get some fresh or frozen green beans and boil. For me, it's salt an pepper. We had enough heavy food on the table where a casserole might have been overkill. You can add bacon or some smoked meat. You could also chop some onions, garlic or something of the like. This version below is like the one I would make. (10)

 It's great to enjoy Thanksgiving dinner with family and spending time together is great. I look forward to this meal every year. The picture you see below reflects the after.

Any questions?! I didn't think so!! The empty plate explains itself!! Thanks to my Mom and family members for creating such an incredible meal.

Cited works: 
1. America's Test Kitchen's, taken from
3. Menu Musings of a Modern American Mom:
4. Food Network courtesy of Paula Deen (
5. Traditional Cornbread Dressing, Deep South Dish Internet site, (11/12/2009) 
6. Ask the Test Kitchen's column via Detroit Free Press (11/28/2013)
7. "19 Ways with Sweet Potatoes" via Southern Living Internet site. 
8. "How To Bake Ham" via Better Homes and Gardens Internet site. 
9. Chart taken from 
10 . "Southern Style Green Beans" via "South Your Mouth" blog. 

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