Warm and Cozy Cinnamon Baked Apples

baked cinnamon apples

The only thing better than biting into a crisp fresh apple is digging into warm, spiced baked apples which are not only delicious but relatively healthy. Baked apples make a great stand alone treat as well as a fantastic topping for ice cream, french toast, pancakes, waffles, toast or even chicken! They are also incredibly yummy stirred into vanilla yogurt, it makes for the perfect filling breakfast. I like to make a big batch of these apples and then keep them in the fridge so I have them on hand all week for my breakfast and snacks.

This recipe is great because nothing really needs to be exact. Feel free to add a little more cinnamon and spice or if you like your apples more “syrupy“, add a little more liquid or even a dash of maple syrup for flavor and stickiness. There really is no way to mess this recipe up so get comfortable playing around with the ingredients and flavor profile.

One quick trick to speed up the prep time is to use an Apple Corer and Slicer which makes the job so much easier. I feel that the apple slices are a little on the thick side so I like to halve them however, you can bake them “as is” just be sure to increase the cooking time. Serve the apples warm right out of the oven, at room temperature or even cold. They will keep for a few day if placed in a tightly sealed container in the fridge. Enjoy!

Ingredients

  • 2 tbs unsalted butter, divided
  • 2-3 tbs dark brown sugar
  • 3 tsp vanilla sugar or granulated sugar
  • 3 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp ground nutmeg (optional)
  • 5 large baking apples peeled, cored and sliced to medium thickness (Honeycrisp, Granny Smith, etc)
  • 3-4 tbs water or apple cider

Instructions

Preheat the oven to 350ºF. Grease a large baking dish with 1 tablespoon of unsalted butter. Set aside.

Mix together the brown sugar, vanilla (or granulated) sugar, cinnamon and nutmeg. Toss the apples slices in the mixture and coat evenly.

Place the apples into the baking dish and add the water or cider to the baking dish. Dot the apples with the remaining 1 tablespoon of butter. Bake for 30-35 minutes or until apples are tender but not mushy.

S’mores Cookie Bars

smores bars.jpg

There is nothing quite like S’mores, they are a warm, gooey, scrumptious bite of heaven. They are without a doubt one of my most favorite desserts and they are always a crowd pleaser as well. I love this particular recipe because it makes it easy to serve them up to a bunch of people without having to make them one by one. In fact, they are so easy to make that even your kids will be able to whip these up, it’s the perfect recipe for those little budding chefs to try their hand at!

These amazing S’mores Cookie Bars comes from one of my favorite baking sites, Sally’s Baking Addiction , you can click right here to link to the original recipe. These are absolutely perfect as written, the only minor change that I made was to use bittersweet chocolate chips instead of semi-sweet because I really love dark chocolate.

Take note, when the bars are done baking, it is very important that you allow them to cool completely otherwise they will be a warm, gooey mess and very difficult to cut. However, if you don’t care about appearances, attack that pan and go crazy! I always love a nice warm S’mores so even if they have cooled and been cut, you can give them a quick zap in the microwave to warm back up. Any leftover bars will keep for about a week in a tightly covered container. Enjoy!

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup (115g) salted butter, room temperature
  • 3/4 cup (150g) packed brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 large egg, room temperature
  • 1 cup (125g) all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup (100g) graham cracker crumbs (about 9-10 graham crackers)
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 and 1/4 cup (225g) semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 1 heaping cup marshmallow creme

Instructions

Preheat oven to 350°F (177°C). Line an 8×8 or 9×9 square baking pan with aluminum foil, leaving enough overhang on the sides to easily remove the bars when they have cooled. Set aside.

In a large bowl using handheld or stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, cream the butter and brown sugar together on medium-high speed. Beat for about 2 minutes until smooth and combined, then add the vanilla extract and egg, beating until combined. Scrape the sides of the bowl down as needed. Set aside.

Toss the flour, graham cracker crumbs, and baking powder together until combined. With the mixer running on low, slowly add the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients. Mix until combined.

Press 2/3 of the graham cookie dough into prepared pan. Spread the marshmallow creme on top. Sprinkle the marshmallow creme with chocolate chips. Mold the remaining cookie dough into flat pieces and layer on top of the chocolate chips. (There will not be enough dough to make one single layer so some chocolate chips will be exposed.)

Bake the bars for 25 minutes, or until the top is lightly golden brown. Allow to cool completely with the pan set on a wire rack before cutting into squares. Bars stay fresh covered tightly at room temperature for up to 1 week.

“How-To” Cooking – Chicken Cutlets

When done well, there are few foods that are quite as delicious as a crispy, golden, fried chicken cutlet. While seemingly simple to make, a few small mistakes can result in a cutlet that is soggy, lacking breading and bland tasting. Use these tips to ensure a crispy, flavorful, delicious chicken cutlet every time you make them.

The first step to great chicken cutlets is to properly prepare the meat. Ready made, thin cutlets are available in the supermarket however, they generally charge a premium for them. You can also buy chicken right from your butcher and ask them to pound it thin for you but since most people have boneless, skinless chicken breasts readily available at home, it is helpful to know how to prepare them yourself.

  • Trim the chicken – It is important to remove all of the fat, sinew and silver skin from the meat as this will allow the chicken to expand and become nice and flat.
  • Thinner is better – Pounding the chicken into thin cutlets allows the protein fibers in the meat to break down which makes the chicken more tender. For really thick pieces of chicken, it may be necessary to first slice the chicken in half horizontally before pounding. Place the chicken into a sealed plastic bag or between a piece of plastic wrap as this will keep any fragments of chicken or juice to be contained while pounding out the chicken. Aim to pound the chicken down to about a 1/4″ thick.
  • Season the meat – Unseasoned meat is bland and boring so be sure to add some seasoning before breading the cutlets. Kosher salt and ground black pepper are two great basics to use but any number of other spices (garlic salt, paprika, etc.) will all add delicious flavor to the finished cutlet.

Once the chicken is pounded thin the next step is to prepare it for frying. Proper dredging and breading are an essential component in making great chicken cutlets. If improperly executed the chicken will not hold onto to its breading, it will lack flavor and it will be greasy and soggy. The basic rule of thumb is: flour, egg, breadcrumbs in that order. The flour gives the egg something to adhere to and the egg gives something for the breadcrumbs to adhere to. They all work together to create a crispy, golden chicken cutlet.

  • Start with flour – Plain, all-purpose flour is fine to use in this step however, it can be a little bland. Add a little Kosher salt and ground black pepper to it for an extra flavor kick. Also, try cutting some of the flour with cornstarch which helps to make a crispier, crunchier cutlet. Dredge the cutlets through the flour to coat both sides.
  • Thin the egg – You don’t want to dip the cutlets into thick, gelatinous egg so thin it out first with a little water. Use about 1 tbs of water per egg and whisk until the eggs are nice and smooth. You can add more seasonings in this step as well, I like to add parsley to my egg mixture.
  • Coat with breadcrumbs – You can be creative with this step, plain breadcrumbs are a fine coating however, seasoned breadcrumbs are even better as is a mix of breadcrumbs and panko breadcrumbs which make the chicken cutlets super crunchy. Add some grated Parmesan cheese to the breadcrumbs for a little extra flavor. Other things to try as a coating are crushed salted pretzels, saltine crackers or even chips such as Doritos®. I prefer a nice panko and seasoned breadcrumbs mix for my coating but you can get as creative as you like with this step.

chicken cutlet prep.jpg

The last step in making chicken cutlets it to fry them up. You can bake them as well but they won’t be quite as crispy and flavorful as when they take a quick dip in some hot oil. I generally use vegetable oil when frying but any neutral oil with a high smoke point (peanut, corn etc.) will work fine too.

  • Flavor your oil – While the oil is heating up throw in a few smashed garlic cloves or some fresh herbs. This will impart delicious flavor to your cutlets as they fry up. Remove the garlic and/or herbs as soon as they start to bubble up and brown so they don’t burn and ruin the cooking oil.
  • Don’t overcrowd the pan – Add the cutlets one a time to the frying oil leaving space between each one. Overcrowding the pan decreases the cooking temperature and allows too much moisture to be released which prevents browning. Fry the cutlets a few at a time allowing the oil to come back up to heat in between batches.
  • Season one last time – As soon as you remove the cutlets from the oil season them with a little Kosher salt. The heat from the cutlets will allow the salt to melt and be pulled into the meat.
  • Serve – You can serve chicken cutlets hot right out of the fryer or at room temperature. They are even really delicious the next day, cold, right from the fridge.

**NOTE** – I love to fry in my Presto® Electric Skillet. Because it is lidded it contains the splatter from frying, it frees up space on my stovetop for other things that I am cooking and cleanup is a breeze. For more information on this skillet, click here .**

Easy Homemade Granola

homemade granola.jpg

Granola can be part of a healthy diet plan however, most of the versions that you find in the supermarket are loaded with sugar and are often fat laden and high in calories. This version comes from the cookbook entitled, The Everyday DASH Diet Cookbook: Over 150 Fresh and Delicious Recipes to Speed Weight Loss, Lower Blood Pressure, and Prevent Diabetes (A DASH Diet Book). The DASH Diet® has long been touted as a great way to eat in order to lower your blood pressure, prevent diabetes and change your eating habits over to a more healthy way of living. It’s not so much a diet as it is a healthy lifestyle change which most of us could benefit from.

My husband was diagnosed with excessive hypertension in his early 20’s and has been on medication ever since. In his case it is genetic however, the DASH Diet® is still a great way for him to keep his blood pressure under control. For myself, having had gestational diabetes and now the start of Type 2 diabetes it is beneficial to me as well to follow a healthier eating plan. I’m looking forward to including healthier recipes such as this into our eating plan for 2019 as it will benefit both my husband and I and our two children.

This granola, while very yummy, is not like what you are used to from the store so it might take a little getting use to. It’s not overly sweet since with most of the sweetness coming from the dried fruit. That being said, if you do prefer a sweeter granola you can always add more sugar, honey or even maple syrup to get that added sweetness. Granola is a great topping for yogurt or served as a cold cereal with a little bit of lowfat milk added to it. The nice thing about this granola is that you can customize it however you wish. Try out different dried fruits such as apples, dates, or pineapples, play around with the spices as well and even add a handful of nuts or sunflower seeds to it. Find the flavor combination that is best for you. Enjoy!

Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup packed dark brown sugar
  • 2 tbs water
  • 1 tbs vegetable oil
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp pure maple syrup or pure vanilla extract
  • 4 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
  • 1 cup raisins
  • 1/2 cup chopped apricots

Instructions

Preheat the oven to 300ºF.

In a large bowl, whisk together the brown sugar, water, oil, cinnamon and flavoring until the sugar is dissolved. Add the oats and mix until lightly coated. Spread evenly on a large rimmed baking sheet lined with a silicone mat or parchment paper.

Bake, stirring occasionally bringing the toasted oats towards the center of the pan, until the oats are evenly crisp, about 35-40 minutes. Remove from the oven and stir in the raisins and apricots. Let the granola cool completely. Store in an airtight container for up to 2 weeks.

Cozy Chicken Pot Pie

Golden Pot Pie

There is nothing quite like a steaming hot Chicken Pot Pie to warm the soul. It is one of the quintessential comfort foods and the perfect to meal to serve on a cold winter night. It might surprise you to know that making a Chicken Pot Pie from scratch is actually easier than you think. A few basic ingredients and just a few minutes of your time and you’ll have this on the dinner table in no time!

This recipe, which is my all time favorite, comes from the Epicurious website, click here to check it out online. The great thing about a pot pie is that you have the flexibility to play around with the filling and the spices to create a flavor profile that suits your palette. You can substitute turkey for the chicken, add in more veggies, change-up the vegetables and so on and so forth. As I’ve mentioned in other posts, I do not care for mushrooms so I leave them out of my pot pie. Instead I use diced Yukon Gold potatoes, a bit of sliced celery and if I have them in the house, I love pearl onions over regular diced onion. I also use a nice chicken stock instead of broth as I find the flavor to be far richer and more complex than that of chicken broth. Kitchen Basics® is my favorite brand but any stock will work just as well. For an even creamier base, add a touch of cream to the stock once it’s thickened. Enjoy!
Ingredients

  • 1 package (17.3 ounces) puff pastry sheets, thawed
  • 1/3 cup unsalted butter
  • 4 medium carrots, peeled and sliced (about 2 cups)
  • 3 medium onions, chopped (about 1 1/2 cups)
  • 8 oz. mushrooms, sliced (about 3 cups)
  • 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
  • 3 1/4 cups chicken stock
  • 1 tsp dried thyme leaves or 1 tbs minced fresh thyme leaves
  • 1 tbs Dijon mustard
  • 1/2 tsp ground black pepper
  • 3 cups cubed cooked chicken
  • 1 cup frozen peas, thawed
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley

Instructions

Heat the oven to 400°F. Unfold the pastry sheet on a lightly floured surface. Roll the pastry sheet into a 12-inch square. Press the pastry into a 2-quart round casserole. Trim the excess pastry. Prick the pastry thoroughly with a fork. Place aluminum foil onto the surface of the pastry. Bake for 25 minutes. Remove the aluminum foil after baking.

While the puff pastry bakes, heat the butter in a 12-inch skillet over medium heat. Add the carrots, onions and mushrooms and cook for 5 minutes or until the vegetables are tender-crisp, stirring occasionally. Add the flour and cook and stir for 3 minutes or until the flour is golden brown. Slowly stir in the broth and heat to a boil. Cook and stir until the mixture boils and thickens.

Stir in the mustard, thyme, black pepper, chicken, peas and 3 tablespoons parsley. Remove the skillet from the heat.

Unfold the remaining pastry sheet on a lightly floured surface. Cut the pastry sheet crosswise into 6 (1 1/2-inch thick) strips.

Spoon the chicken mixture into the casserole. Weave a lattice pattern over the filling with the pastry strips. Trim any excess pastry. Sprinkle with the remaining parsley. Place the casserole onto a baking sheet.

Bake for 45 minutes or until the filling is hot and bubbling and the pastry is golden brown. Serve hot.

**Note – While a lattice topped pot pie is very pretty you can save yourself time by simply placing the whole puff pastry sheet on top of the pot pie as seen above. Crimp the edges and cut 2-3 vent slits in the pastry and bake as directed.**

Banana Walnut Muffins

banan muffin2

Fresh, warm muffins are always a big hit (especially with my children) and because they are so easy to make, there is no excuse to keep using those boxed versions which are filled with additives and chemicals. With just a few basic ingredients you can have a warm batch of muffins ready to be served with your Sunday morning breakfast. Make a double batch and once they are completely cooled, freeze them so that you will always have homemade muffins on hand. A quick defrosting in the microwave and it’s like they were baked fresh that day! Also, because this is such an easy recipe to follow, it’s the perfect recipe for your little budding chefs to try their hand at.

This recipe comes from a great cookbook that was put out by Williams-Sonoma entitled, “Muffins“. Sadly, it is no longer in print but you can borrow it from your local library or buy it on Amazon from 3rd party sellers. I was able to find a copy in great condition for only a few dollars. If you’re fortunate enough to come across a copy, other noteworthy recipes from this cookbook are the Chocolate Chip Muffins, Cranberry Orange Muffins and Vanilla Pear Muffins. Enjoy!

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 cups (7 1/2 oz/235 grams) all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup (6 oz/185 grams) granulated sugar
  • 3/4 cup (3 ox/90 grams) walnuts, coarsely chopped
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp Kosher salt
  • 1/2 cup (4 fl oz/125 ml) canola oil
  • 1 large egg
  • 2-3 medium sized very ripe bananas, slightly mashed to yield 1 1/4 cups (10 oz.315 grams)
  • 3 tbs buttermilk

Instructions

Preheat the oven to 375ºF. Grease a standard muffin pan with cooking spray or use paper liners.

In a bowl, stir together the flour, sugar, chopped walnuts, baking soda and salt.

In another bowl, whisk together the oil, egg, mashed bananas and buttermilk until blended. Add the dry ingredients and beat well until evenly combined and creamy.

Spoon the batter into each muffin cup filling it level with the rim of the cup.

Bake until golden, dry and springy to the touch, about 20-25 minutes. A toothpick inserted into the center of the muffin should come out clean. Transfer the muffin pan to a wire rack and cool for 5 minutes. Remove the muffins from the pan and place them on  the wire rack to continue to cool. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Makes 12 muffins.

 

 

Boeuf Bourguignonne (Beef Burgundy)

beef burgundy

When winter finally makes it arrival all I crave is warm, cozy comfort food. Boeuf Bourguignonne, also known as Beef Burgundy, is a classic French dish that is rich, savory and soul warming and it is one of my favorite dishes on a cold winter night. It is cooked low and slow in red wine and beef stock which makes for a deep, flavorful stew. As the dish simmers, the alcohol will burn away leaving behind a rich, complex flavor. Beef Burgundy originated in the Burgundy region of France so as you would expect, a nice Burgundy wine works well in this dish. Other good choices are a Beaujolais, Pinot Noir or any other French red wine from that area.

I came across this particular recipe a few years ago in a publication by Paula Deen entitled, “Cooking With Paula Deen“. (November 2013, Vol. 9 Issue 6) She calls for mushrooms however, as I don’t care for them I chose to leave them out. Also, she recommended adding the carrots in the last 30 minutes of cooking but I find in that short of a time the carrots do not soften and you’re left with hard, crunchy pieces which is not what you want in this dish. Therefore, I like to add them in with the beef, wine, stock and spices and allow them to simmer for the full 2.5 hours, I find the texture is much better with the extra cooking time.

Unlike a traditional stew where you cook chunks of potatoes with the meat and other vegetables, this dish is served over mashed potatoes . I like to take it one step further and serve them over garlic mashed, I love the extra flavor it adds to this dish. For instructions on making garlic mashed potatoes, see the note at the bottom of my Homemade Mashed Potatoes recipe. Enjoy!

Ingredients

  • 2 tbs vegetable oil
  • 2 lbs chuck roast, trimmed and cut into 1″ cubes
  • 1 tsp Kosher salt
  • 1/2 tsp ground black pepper
  • 1 (14.4 ounce) bag frozen pearl onions
  • 1 (8 ounce) package sliced baby portobello mushrooms, optional
  • 1 tsp minced garlic
  • 1 (32 ounce) carton beef stock
  • 2 cups dry red wine
  • 10 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 4 carrots, cut into 1″ chunks
  • 1 cup frozen peas

Instructions

In a large Dutch oven, heat the oil over medium-high heat. Sprinkle the beef with salt and pepper.

Add the beef to the pan and cook until browned on all sides. Using a slotted spoon, remove the beef and set aside. Add the onions, mushrooms and garlic and cook for about 5 minutes or until tender. Return the beef to the pan with the stock, wine, carrots, thyme and bay leaves.

Bring to a boil then reduce the heat to a simmer, cover and cook for 2 hours. Add the frozen peas and simmer, uncovered, for 30 minutes more.

Serve over Homemade Mashed Potatoes

 

Cacio e Pepe Pasta (“Cheese and Black Pepper” Pasta)

cacio e pepe pasta

When my days are hectic and busy there is nothing I appreciate more than a quick and easy dinner. This Italian dish, which translated means “cheese and pepper“, is especially great because you don’t even need to boil the water first, you simply add the dry pasta right to a pan, cover with a little cold water and cook! The sauce is also a cinch to make and it consists of basic ingredients that are readily available in almost every home.

This recipe is right from one my favorite chefs, Alton Brown. He does such a great job of explaining the science behind cooking and then he follows up with easy step-by-step directions to create a yummy meal. You can find his original recipe right here . I followed the recipe exactly as written the first time but in subsequent makings, I adjusted down the amount of ground black pepper that is called for. I absolutely love pepper and I put it on everything but I did find that a 2 full tablespoons of pepper was a bit intense and overwhelming, especially for my kids. So I cut that back to only a tablespoon the next few times I made it. My advice is to start with just a small amount and then adjust accordingly as you cook. You can always add more if needed however, it is impossible to take it away once it’s been added. For a more hearty meal you can toss in some sliced grilled chicken or vegetables but it really is a wonderful dish simply as is.

One last note, I have found that the often times the cooking water simmers away before the pasta is finished cooking. If you notice the water getting too low, do not be afraid to add more to the pan, just get it back to a simmer quickly.  You will need at least 3/4 cup of the water to create the cheese sauce so don’t let your pan run dry, keep an eye on your water level. Enjoy!

Ingredients

  • 1 lb dry spaghetti
  • 2 tbs Kosher salt
  • 1-2 tbs ground black pepper
  • 3 oz Pecorino-Romano cheese, finely grated 
  • 1 1/2 oz  Parmesan, finely grated 
  • 1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 3/4 to 1 cup starchy pasta water

Instructions

Add the dry pasta to a straight sided sauté pan then add the salt and just enough cold water to cover the pasta. Cover and set over medium-high heat.

When the water reaches a boil, remove the lid and decrease heat to medium to maintain a simmer. Stir the pasta every minute or so making sure the ends of the noodles stay submerged and that they aren’t sticking together.

While the pasta cooks, begin the sauce. Combine 1-2 tbs of ground black pepper, the Pecorino, all of the Parmesan and the olive oil in a large, deep mixing bowl. Work ingredients together with the back of a wooden spoon until a thick paste forms.

When the pasta has been simmering for 5 minutes, ladle 1 cup of the hot cooking water into a measuring cup then slowly drizzle 3/4 cup into cheese paste, mixing until smooth.

After the pasta has been cooking for 10 minutes start checking for doneness, you want it to be just barely “al dente” as there will be some carryover cooking in the next step.

Use tongs to lift the pasta out of the cooking water and allow to briefly drain before adding to the cheese paste. Grasp the pasta with the tongs and stir vigorously for 2 minutes (really use a lot of elbow grease here — this is not a light toss). The pasta will continue to release starch and the sauce will emulsify. Around a minute thirty you will see cheesy water magically transform into a proper sauce. If you find your sauce clumping, add a bit more of the pasta water and continue working the pasta.

Portion pasta into 4 bowls, top with a sprinkle of extra grated cheese and ground black pepper and serve hot.

Hard Cider and Brown Sugar Chicken

cider chicken

You guys, this was SO good! I mean REALLY good! There was so much flavorful, rich, sticky, yummy goodness. The best part? It’s so ridiculously easy to prep that you will have it all ready to go within in minutes. Bonus, it cooks quickly too so you’ll have dinner on the table in no time! I served the chicken with my Easy Peasy Seasoned Rice and steamed green beans.

I absolutely LOVE the New England region of this country so it’s no surprise that one of my most favorite cookbooks is from a true New England girl, Jessica Robinson. This recipe comes right from her cookbook entitled: New England Farmgirl: Recipes & Stories from a Farmer’s Daughter. It’s a really awesome cookbook filled with easy to make comfort food. I followed the recipe exactly however, instead of slicing the chicken into strips I chose to slice my chicken breasts and pound them thin. To cook them all evenly and at the same time I used my Presto 06852 16-Inch Electric Skillet with Glass CoverThis inexpensive skillet is worth having in your kitchen, click here , to read more about why I consider this appliance a kitchen “must-have”. Enjoy!

Ingredients

  • 2 lbs boneless skinless chicken breast, sliced thin
  • 1/2 cup hard apple cider
  • 1/4 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar
  • 2 tbs molasses
  • 2 tsp Kosher salt
  • 1-2 tsp ground black pepper
  • 2 tsp ground mustard
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 1 tbs unsalted butter
  • 1 tbs vegetable oil

Instructions

Place the cider, brown sugar, molasses, salt, pepper, mustard and paprika into a large bowl or Ziploc® bag and mix until well combined. Add the chicken and allow to marinate for 2-4 hours.

Warm the oil and butter over medium heat. Add the chicken to the skillet and discard any remaining marinade. Cook the chicken for about 4-5 minutes per side or until cooked through. Remove from the pan and allow to rest on a plate for a few minutes. Drizzle with any remaining glaze from the pan. Serve hot.

 

Your Week-By-Week Thanksgiving Countdown

turkey-1299176_1280

Don’t panic but Thanksgiving will be here before you know it! My helpful November checklist has plenty of planning tips and ideas to help get you ready for the big day! I’ve laid them out week-by-week to help better organize you and get you ready for the holiday. Keep checking back for added tips and information as we get closer and closer to the holiday. Gobble, gobble!!

THREE WEEKS BEFORE THE HOLIDAY

  • Time to plan your guest list and begin reaching out to family and friends in order to get a headcount.
  • Take inventory! Do you have enough paper goods, china, utensils, serving bowls and dishes, glasses, etc? Look over what you have, plan your table settings and go shopping early for items that you might be missing.
  • Stock up! Thanksgiving isn’t without leftovers and if you’re planning on sending your guests home with “doggy bags” make sure you have plenty of food storage containers on hand. You can find lots of different options at restaurant supply stores, warehouse stores such as Costco and party outlet stores. Make sure to have an assortment of sizes and shapes so that everyone has what they need for leftovers.
  • Plan your menu. Start thinking about what appetizers, dishes and desserts you’d like to make OR which ones you’ll need others to bring that day. Also, plan what things you can make ahead of time and freeze so that you have less work to do on the actual holiday.
  • Get your home holiday ready by planning what decorations you’d like to put out and how you’ll fit everyone. Try different configurations for your tables so that every guest is seated comfortably that day.

TWO WEEKS BEFORE THE HOLIDAY

  • Plan out your table setting and guest seating. Gather dishes, silverware, linens and serving dishes. Make (or buy) guest place cards and fill them out. If possible, set up your table now so it’s one less thing to take care of Thanksgiving week.
  • Begin your grocery shopping early. Purchase non-perishable items such as chicken stock, Gravy Master, soda, wine, beer, canned vegetables, flour and other baking essentials, etc now so that you have less to shop for later.
  • Start making room in your pantry, fridge and freezer. Use up the food you have, organize to make room for more.
  • Plan out your cooking schedule. Make yourself a list outlining what you need to cook, when you need to cook it and for how long. Having a cooking plan in place ensures that your meal comes together perfectly and at the same time on the big day!
  • Cook ahead! Start prepping what you can now to make your cooking flow more easily later. Good ideas to make and freeze are pie crusts, cookie dough, rolls, cranberry sauce, gravy stock, etc.
  • Get your house holiday ready! Start cleaning, especially in areas of the house you aren’t in often such as the formal living and dining room. Put our your Thanksgiving decorations and create a warm, festive place for your guests.
  • Start thinking about serving dishes. Plan out which platters and bowls you will use for each dish. Use sticky notes to label each one so that on Thanksgiving you won’t need to scramble for the right serving vessel, everything will be ready and marked.
  • Plan about your drink menu. Wine, soda and beer are all essential drinks to have on hand but think about adding a specialty cocktail that you can easily make for your guests or even a nice autumn inspired sangria. Hot mulled cider is also another cozy, festive beverage to serve on Thanksgiving.
  • Breathe and take some time for yourself to decompress.

ONE WEEK BEFORE THE HOLIDAY

  • If using a frozen turkey, begin to plan your thawing schedule.

In the Refrigerator (40°F or below)
Allow approximately 24 hours for every 4 to 5 pounds
4 to 12 pounds 1 to 3 days
12 to 16 pounds 3 to 4 days
16 to 20 pounds 4 to 5 days
20 to 24 pounds 5 to 6 days

In Cold Water
Allow approximately 30 minutes per pound
4 to 12 pounds 2 to 6 hours
12 to 16 pounds 6 to 8 hours
16 to 20 pounds 8 to 10 hours
20 to 24 pounds 10 to 12 hours

  • Finish your food shopping however, buy fruit and vegetables as close to the holiday as possible so they are at peak freshness.
  • Chill beverages ahead of time and if possible, have a cooler set out on the big day to keep everything cold without sacrificing fridge space.
  • Confirm your guest list.
  • Finish cleaning your house. Also, if you have not done so already, clean our your refrigerator and make room for all of the ingredients and prepared dishes.
  • Set your table with the linens, dishes and silverware. Put out your labeled serving pieces so they are accessible as you need them.
  • They day or two before Thanksgiving, chop up all of your vegetables so that you can easily grab what you need when cooking.
  • Prepare all of the cold dishes in advance, about a day or two before Thanksgiving. This includes any relishes, dips, cranberry sauce, or cold salads. Also, prep your cold hors d’oeuvres such as cheese platters and crudités.
  • Prep your stuffing the day before so it is ready to be baked the day of Thanksgiving.
  • Assemble nut platters and candy dishes ahead of time so that all you need to do on the big day is place them on the tables.
  • Go over your schedule for cooking times. Make sure you have every dish accounted for and planned out ahead of time.
  • The day before Thanksgiving, prep your bird so that all you have to do in the morning is put it in the oven. Place the turkey on a roasting rack, season, add your aromatics and cover with tin foil.
  • Take a breath! You’re in the home stretch now.

THE DAY OF THANKSGIVING

You made it!! The big day is finally here!! Time to pull everything together and get this feast on the table.

  • First things first, get an early start! The more time you leave yourself to get things ready the more calm you’ll be.
  • Go over your checklist and double check all of the cooking times so that everything will finish cooking in a timely manner and be ready to be served together.
  • Preheat your oven and adjust the racks.
  • Get the turkey in the oven. Try and avoid opening the oven door too much throughout the roasting process. The more you open the door, the more heat you let escape thus increasing the overall cooking time.
  • While the turkey is roasting, prep your app trays. Cover them in plastic wrap and store until ready to serve. Also, prep any remaining side dishes and take anything out of the fridge that needs to be at room temperature before being baked or served.
  • Double check you table settings and put out any last minute chairs, dishes, serving pieces or silverware.
  • Assemble all of your labeled serving bowls, platters and dishes nearby so everything is within reach as the food is ready.
  • Fill ice buckets and set up your bar. Get your cocktail ingredients prepped and ready to go so as guests want a drink you can make them quickly.
  • Make sure your dishwasher is empty as it will make cleanup later much easier.
  • Once the turkey is ready, allow it rest before carving. In the meantime, warm up and/or finish cooking all of the other dishes you will be serving.
  • Make you gravy. Keep it nice and hot over low heat on the stove. Serve it right as dinner is ready.
  • Carve the turkey and arrange slices on a nice platter. I like to separate the dark from the white meat so it’s easier for everyone to take what they like.
  • Don’t forget to allow plenty of time for coffee to percolate later. While the coffee is brewing, take our your desserts and get them ready for serving. If making fresh whipped cream, now is the time to whip that up. Also, soften ice cream for easier serving.

Last but not least…………………….ENJOY!!!! Take your time, enjoy the fruits of your labor and be grateful and thankful for this wonderful day of food, friends and family.

From my house to yours, HAPPY THANKSGIVING!!