November 21st, 2011  |  Carbs, Cluck cluck, Family Dinner, Occasions, Side Dishes, Veggies  |  1 Comment

I love thanksgiving.

Its one of my favorite holidays and there's something about it that makes me incredibly warm and fuzzy inside.   

I believe that the company of our friends and family is as important as the food we serve but I do not believe in slaving over the meal in the kitchen all day so much that I'm too wiped to remember what we are celebrating when its time to sit down at the dinner table!

This meal has a few shortcuts to make your time spent in the kitchen less and the time with your loved ones more!!

The truth is I don't really like turkey much-- its the blandest, driest meat out there and personally I wish it was socially acceptable to eat pork tenderloin with all the wonderful side dishes that Thanksgiving traditionally  comes with.  I mean , I could seriously eat stuffing and green bean casserole for days and not get tired of it, but turkey is just so blah to me.

This year I decided to take it up a notch and try smoking the turkey while cooking it on low heat on the grill.  To smoke the turkey fully would take a lot more time and we are trying to cut down prep time here, not add to it.  The half gravy-half sauce mixture is sure to delight the taste buds and I'm spicing up the dressing with jalepenos and sausage to really add some pizazz!  

This recipe for cumin roasted butternut squash pairs perfectly with the turkey and dressing and  I'm also livening up the green bean casserole by using fresh green beans, chayote squash and mushrooms... forget the canned version--once you try this one you'll never go back!

For dessert,  its pretty much mandatory to have pumpkin and pecan pies, right?  I have tried many a different pecan pie in my life and I ALWAYS come back to the recipe on the back of the light Karo syrup bottle.  It's classic, delicious and everything a pecan pie should be.  I also recommend using the Betty Crocker pie crust (in the box--you just add water and roll it out and it is the flakiest most delicious pie crust there is and you can toss in a teaspoon of cinnamon to the mix to give it an added flavor boost).   Be sure your pecans are  fresh and whole halves (not chopped); and though it is probably too late to get them before thanksgiving now, pecans from the Cuero Pecan House are the absolute BEST!   See more on pecans here.

When it comes to pumpkin, unless you've got super traditionalists on your hands who want straight up pumpkin pie, I HIGHLY suggest these pumpkin cheesecake squares I found in Bon Appetit mag a few years ago. They are sensational!!! There's more crust and topping than pumpkin or cheesecake, but I've never once made them that someone wasn't begging for the recipe.
Buy your dinner rolls too... simply brush them with a little butter or olive oil and sprinkle with a coarse sea salt before warming them in the oven.

I hope you all have a wonderful Thanksgiving holiday and are surrounded by those you love most.  Remember to enjoy yourself and dont make your meal too fussy...

BBQ Turkey


7 lb turkey breast
poultry seasoning
apple juice or orange juice (no pulp) in a small spray bottle


Prepare 2 smoke packets by soaking 3-4 cups of wood chips {cherry or apple} in water.  Drain and Divide chips in half and make two foil packets and wrap them up.  Using a knife, poke several holes in the top of each packet.  {See building smoke packs here}.

Place packets one side of the grill over burner turned up to high heat.  Turn other burners to low heat.   Allow packets to sit over heat for about 20 minutes so that the smoke gets going strong before you put the turkey on.

Place turkey on a disposable foil roasting pan or line a fireproof pan with foil and center turkey on it.   Using fingers, rub poultry seasoning liberally all over turkey.   Place pan with turkey on grill over burners set to lowest heat.

Spray with orange or apple juice every half hour.  Turkey is done when instant read thermometer reaches 165 degrees.  Turkey will cook from the smoke as well as the low heat underneath.

My 7 lb turkey (breast only because we are white meat people) was finished cooking in 2 hours and 15 minutes, but since different grills cook at different heat temps, be sure to check the meat temperature frequently.  Allow turkey to rest 20 minutes before carving and save the juice in the pan for the gravy.

Jalepeno-Sausage Dressing


1 box your favorite stuffing mix [I used Trader Joe's]
1 package breakfast sausage [I like Jimmy Dean]
2 fresh jalepeno peppers, seeds & veins removed and then diced
2 ribs celery, chopped thin
1/2 cup yellow onion, diced
2 tablespoons chopped fresh sage
3 green onions, green and white parts sliced thin


In a large skillet over medium high heat, cook sausage until crumbled and browned, stirring often.  Drain any grease off sausage and add vegetables.  Continue cooking and stirring until vegetables are soft.

Follow package directions for stuffing mix [for accurate amounts of water, etc.] and stir in sausage-vegetable mix before baking.  I used Trader Joe's stuffing mix and baked it in 9"x13" buttered casserole dish in a 350 degree oven on convection bake setting for about 35 minutes.  I omitted the extra butter the package called for because I knew I was already getting extra grease and flavor with the addition of the sausage.

A couple of tips: If you don't like pre-packaged stuffing, double the amounts of the celery, onion, sage and green onions. Cook the sausage and vegetables as directed above and combine them with 2 cups crumbled cornbread and 2 cups dried out bread cubes [super special hint: my mother-in-law uses several types of dried breads including RYE bread which gives it a wonderful extra flavor that you wouldn't expect].  Use about 4-4 1/2 cups of chicken broth to wet the ingredients along with one whisked egg.  Bake for 35-40 minutes in a buttered casserole dish.

Freshened Up Green Bean Casserole


1 lb fresh green beans, cleaned and trimmed
1-2 chayote squash sliced thin, seed removed
1 small yellow onion, diced
6-8 oz sliced white mushrooms
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 cup cream
1/4 teaspoon thyme
1 small can French fried onion strings
Salt and pepper


In a large pot of boiling water, cook green beans and squash for about five minutes.  Drain and set aside.

Preheat oven to Convection Bake 350 degrees, or bake at 350 if your oven does not have that feature.  In a medium skillet over medium heat, heat olive oil and add onions.  Cook, stirring occasionally, for about two minutes.  Add mushrooms and continue to cook for another 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Reduce heat to low and add cream and thyme.  Continue stirring until sauce begins to thicken, about 2-3 minutes.  Pour mixture over beans and squash and mix well.  Pour into a lightly greased oven proof casserole dish.

Sprinkle with French fried onion strings and bake for 20-25 minutes until onion strings turn golden brown.

Cumin & Honey Roasted Butternut Squash with Goat Cheese & Pepitas


2 lbs butternut squash, peeled and chopped into 1" cubes
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon orange zest
2 tablespoons honey
1 teaspoon cumin
2 oz crumbled goat cheese
1/4 cup pepitas, toasted
Salt and pepper


Preheat oven to convection roast setting at 375 degrees, or bake at 400 if your oven does not have that feature.  Combine olive oil, honey, orange zest and cumin in a large zip locking bag.  Add squash and toss to coat evenly.

On a large rimmed baking sheet, spread out squash in an even layer.  Sprinkle with salt and pepper and roast for 35 minutes, turning pieces midway through cooking time.

Remove from oven when pieces are lightly caramelized.  Sprinkle with goat cheese and pepitas.

BBQ Turkey Gravy


2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
Pan juices from turkey + chicken broth (about 1 1/2-2 cups)
1/2 cup your favorite BBQ sauce
Salt and pepper, to taste


In a medium saucepan over medium heat, melt butter and whisk in flour, stirring constantly for about two minutes until roux begins to darken.

Add in any turkey juices left in the pan (I had about 3/4 cup) and chicken broth so that the total amount of liquid added equals about 2 cups.  Reduce heat and  allow gravy to simmer, stirring occasionally for about 5-7 minutes.

Add barbecue sauce and continue to cook on low for another minute or two.  My BBQ sauce already had a good bit of salt in it, so I didn't need to add any additional, but I did add pepper because I like a peppery gravy.  Taste your gravy to see what you need and add salt and pepper accordingly.

If you really wanted to save time, you could buy a jar or packaged gravy and mix in the BBQ sauce.

One thought on “Thanksgiving

  1. I love it! The BBQ turkey and gravy seem so fun, I’m jealous it’s too late to change my plans to make them myself and the twists on dressing, green bean casserole, and squash are welcome, too. Everything looks delicious.

    As a man born and mostly raised in Massachusetts, however, I am *scandalized* by the absence of cranberries. Cranberry apple chutney is the first thing I make tomorrow to kick off my pre-game cooking day. Happy Thanksgiving!

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