Eight days and counting until Thanksgiving. Are you prepared?
Some pies and sides can be frozen, then thawed and heated the day before Thanksgiving or even on Turkey Day. Turkeys take more time to defrost. Remember, thawing the turkey must be done before Thanksgiving. Plan on 24 hours defrosting time for every 4 pounds of turkey weight. Simply place the frozen bird with breast side up in the refrigerator in a large pan. Do not defrost in the sink or outside the fridge.
If you stuff the bird, do it just as you are ready to cook the turkey. Do not stuff the night before; bacteria can form.
A handy meat thermometer and a 2- to 2 1/2-inch deep roasting pan are necessities when cooking the perfect bird. A thermometer stuck in a turkey thigh should read 180 degrees, 170 degrees in the breast and 165 degrees in the center of the stuffing, according to Butterball experts.
When roasting a stuffed bird, an additional 30 minutes to an hour of cooking must be added to ensure the bird and stuffing are done, according to the folks at Butterball. A 4 1/2- to 7-pound unstuffed turkey takes about 2 1/2 to 3 hours in a 325-degree oven to cook, while a 22- to 24-pound one takes 4 to 4 1/2 hours. That same 22- to 24-pound stuffed turkey takes 5 to 5 1/2 hours.
Turkeys should be roasted breast side up. Cover the breast portion during the last hour of cooking to keep it from drying out.
Since my family likes only the white meat, I buy a turkey breast that will fit in my slow cooker and cook it on low. I put apple, orange and onion slices in the bottom of the slow
cooker and pour in 1 cup of apple juice or apple cider and 1 cup of white wine. I season the breast with salt, pepper, garlic and a little Cajun seasoning before placing in the slow cooker.
I cook my cornbread dressing in a roasting pan in the oven. According to my late husband, the cornbread for the dressing needs to be made a day ahead of baking to allow the cornbread to dry out. My pastor's wife makes a great dressing in her slow cooker. If you have two large slow cookers, it makes for an easier Thanksgiving meal.
For those pies, pecan, apple and even pumpkin pies can be frozen. Pecan and apple can be made completely, wrapped tightly and frozen. Simply remove from the freezer and bake.
The custard for the pumpkin pies can be made in advance and frozen. Again, remove custard from freezer and thaw. Partially bake a crust, fill with pumpkin custard and continue baking until done, according to Fine Cooking magazine.
King Arthur Flour experts suggest making apple pies to the point they are ready for the oven, wrap and place in a large freezer bag. Remove the pie the day before you wish to serve it and let thaw in refrigerator. After it is thawed, pop the pie into the oven. So easy.
Probably the all-time favorite pumpkin pie is the one found on a can of Libby's 100 percent pumpkin. My grandmother used this recipe, and when it came to pies, she always turned out winners.
LIBBY'S FAMOUS PUMPKIN PIE
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
2 large eggs
1 (15-ounce) can pure pumpkin
1 (12-ounces) can evaporated milk
1 unbaked 9-inch deep-dish pie shell
Whipped cream, optional
Mix sugar, cinnamon, salt, ginger and cloves in small bowl. Beat eggs in large bowl. Stir in pumpkin and sugar-spice mixture. Gradually stir in evaporated milk.
Pour into pie shell. Bake in preheated 425-degree oven for 15 minutes. Reduce temperature to 350 degrees and bake for 40-50 minutes or until knife inserted near center comes out clean. Cool on wire rack for 2 hours. Serve immediately or refrigerate. Top with whipped cream before serving if desired.
-- From Libby's
A favorite recipe of Diana Kimball of Palmetto, Fla., is what she calls the night before coffee cake. This could be served for a Thanksgiving breakfast or brunch or even as dessert.
NIGHT BEFORE COFFEE CAKE
2/3 cup butter
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup chopped dates or raisins
1/2 cup nuts
Cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy; add eggs and mix well. Sift dry ingredients in separate bowl; add these alternately with the buttermilk. Stir in nuts and raisins or dates. Pour into a greased and floured pan 9-by-13-inch. Top with a mixture of 1/2 cup brown sugar 1 teaspoon cinnamon. Sprinkle topping evenly over all and cover with foil. Refrigerate overnight. Remove foil and bake at 350 degrees for 37 minutes or until done.
-- Submitted by Diana Kimball
Kathy Dooley has an alternative to turkey that works well for smaller families: Roasted Chicken Provençal. This would be good for any time.
ROASTED CHICKEN PROVENÇAL
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1 tablespoon coarsely ground black pepper
1 tablespoon thyme
1 lemon -- zest and juice from
1/2 teaspoon rosemary
1 teaspoon fresh oregano
1 teaspoon kosher or sea salt
1 whole roasting chicken, rinsed
Mince the lemon zest and herbs. Combine with lemon juice and remaining ingredients, except chicken.
Gently pull the skin from the breast of the chicken and place a bit of the prepared Provençal marinade over the entire chicken, making sure the entire chicken is coated well.
Place a chicken roaster in roasting pan and place the chicken upright on the roaster. Bake for 50 minutes in a 350-degree oven.
Two readers want crabmeat au gratin recipes from Lookout in downtown Gulfport and the now-closed Vrazel's, which was on U.S. 90 in Gulfport.
Favorite holiday dish?
Readers, if you have a favorite Thanksgiving side dish, send me the recipe, but quickly please. The holiday is fast approaching and then come Hanukkah, Christmas and New Year's. The year is speeding along.
Dressing or stuffing?
What do you call it, dressing or stuffing? Do you like the side made with bread or cornbread? Or do you prefer oyster dressing? Let me know quickly. Thanksgiving is at hand.
Sweet potato bread pudding
"Could you find out the recipe for sweet potato bread pudding that is served at Lookout in Gulfport?" Pam Taylor of Gulfport said. "My friend Beth would love the recipe."
Readers, if you do a bread pudding with sweet potatoes, please send me the recipe to share others.
Praline recipe, please
Rosie Grace-Lewis of Biloxi wants a recipe for pralines. She has misplaced her recipe. Readers, can you help her?
Andrea Yeager, can be reached at email@example.com and at Cook's Exchange, P.O. Box 4567, Biloxi, MS 39535-4567.