How Do I Pick Out My Thanksgiving Turkey?

Whether this is your first time hosting Thanksgiving or Friendsgiving, the turkey situation can be scary and daunting. As soon as you enter the grocery store, you are hit with multiple options like fresh, frozen, organic, heritage, free-range…and Butterball. I mean, what does it all mean? How big of a turkey do I need?

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A Beautiful Turkey Cooked by Williams & Sonoma

Today, I will try to help with the decision of picking out the turkey. I have researched several types of turkeys so that you are armed when you enter the store. This does not have to be hard.

How BIG of a Turkey Do I Buy?
To make sure you feed all your guest well, your biggest decision should be the size of turkey. An easy rule is 1 pound for every person at your table. If you want leftovers, 2 pounds per person will be perfect. IF you want lots of leftovers, well, you get the idea.

Where is this Bird Going to Cook?
Now, you need to consider where you are cooking this turkey! In your oven, in a roaster oven, and the neighbor’s. You need to size-up the area you have to work with. You can see the problem on Thanksgiving day when your turkey is TOO BIG and you have nowhere to cook it. Big Fail!

Do you have a Pan to Cook your Turkey in?
This is like a dress rehearsal. I like to (days before) establish what pans and dishes I will be using for Thanksgiving. Go ahead and pull out the pan you will be cooking your turkey in. You might need to purchase one or borrow from a friend. If you are using a roaster oven, make sure your bird fits before the big day.

Heritage, Free-Range, Organic, Oh My!
When you arrive to the grocery store, you will be hit with several choices. I consulted my friends over at Food & Wine to break it down for us.
Heritage: One of the most popular birds in the past few years because of their superior flavor, heritage turkeys are purebred and generally older than other turkeys you may find at the store. They tend to be smaller, have more bone and darker leg meat. Life outdoors gives these turkeys a gamier taste than the regular store-bought varieties.

Organic: Certified organic by the USDA, these turkeys are now more easily found in grocery stores, and are Weening’s top choice. They are fed an all-organic vegetarian diet, never given antibiotics and are raised on organic pastures. They tend to be a little more expensive because the feed the birds eat is more expensive.

Free Range: No antibiotics or hormones are given to these turkeys and they have access to the outdoors (at least part of the time, according to the USDA).

Pastured Turkey: This type of turkey is raised outdoors and is pretty much free to do and eat what it wants, although they are also given feed to ensure they get the proper levels of nutrients.

Kosher: Kosher turkeys are raised and processed according to strict rabbinical guidelines. Before they are packaged they are rubbed with Kosher salt, which also acts as a brine.

Brine: Some turkeys are one step ahead of you and have been brined already. Various juices, oils, seasonings, sugar and/or salt are injected into the turkey. Brining is beneficial because it can provide extra moisture and flavor to the turkey in addition to saving you some prep time, but it can dictate the flavor of your turkey and take the seasoning out of your hands. Butterball turkeys are usually brined.

Fresh vs. Frozen: Basically fresh turkeys are kept at a temperature of 27 degrees. When the temperature drops below that, the meat begins to freeze. If you’re buying a fresh turkey, buy it NO more than two days before you plan to cook it; you can usually reserve one at markets and farmers’ markets way in advance.

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Check Out Local Restaurants and Grocery Stores For Cooked

Many local restaurants offer Thanksgiving Turkeys for your convenience. This is a great option and one I have used before. You usually need to order a week before. Your turkey is prepped and cooked by a professional. Then when you pick up, you are given specific directions of how to cook your turkey. This is a great option to take some pressure off the big day.

It Will All Be Fine….
In the end it comes down to what you want to pay. Turkeys can get pricey, so know how many you are buying for and be sure to take into account the leftovers you want to eat for days to come. Otherwise you got this. Feel confident in the purchase of your turkey. Your guest will LOVE it.
Looking Forward,
Amanda

Sweet Potato Casserole

And at most Thanksgiving tables, we find some sort of sweet potatoes.

There are so many ways to make sweet potatoes.  Some are great and some are just yuck! This little sweet potato casserole is like dessert.  The first time I had this dish, we were sharing Thanksgiving at my parents house.  My sister made this side dish and we all went crazy.

If you believe sweet potatoes must be served with marshmallows, I will not judge. You probably like Peeps too, again, not judging.   You can add them to the top.  But you honestly do not need them.  The sugars and pecans make this dish come to life.

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Sweet Potato Casserole

3 cups cooked, sweet potatoes

1/2 cup white sugar

2 eggs

1 cup butter, divided (1/2 cup melted & 1/2 cup softened)

1 T Vanilla

1 cup brown sugar, firmly packed

1 cup chopped pecans

1/3 cup white flour

Peel and mash potatoes.  In a large bowl add eggs, white sugar, 1/2 cup melted butter, and vanilla.  Mix with an electric mixer.  Place in a 13X9 buttered baking dish.

Mix brown sugar, pecans, and flour.  Then add 1/2 cup softened butter.  Sprinkle on top of potato mixture.   Optional:  top with  1 1/2 cup of  mini marshmallows.  I don’t do this but some like it.

Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes.  Serve warm. And leftovers are yummy too!

Thanksgiving Pie– No More Choices

Every year we plan out our Thanksgiving menus.  Turkey, Sides, Appetizers, Beverages, and Desserts!  Oh the desserts!  We are traditional and make Pumpkin and Pecan Pies.  I have thrown in a Chocolate Bourbon Pecan Pie (YUM!).

When I hit the dessert table, I usually take a little bit of everything.  (It’s the right thing to do!)  But what if two of your favorites were combined.  Like Pumpkin Pie married Pecan Pie!!

Well, it happened the other night in my kitchen.  A few years ago, Southern Living introduced this little union.  And we all lived happily ever after! You need to plan to make this pie the night before serving.  It is better when it has time to completely cool and flavors will pop.  I have made a few adjustments to the recipe and it is perfection.

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Preheat oven to 350°. Sprinkle work surface with powdered sugar. Roll out piecrust, and place on prepared surface. Sprinkle piecrust with chopped pecans. Place wax paper over piecrust and pecans, and lightly roll pecans into crust. Fit piecrust, pecan side up, in a lightly greased 9-inch pie plate; fold edges under, and crimp.

Mix together pumpkin  and next 6 ingredients in a large bowl until smooth and well mixed; pour into prepared piecrust.

Bake at 350° for 20 minutes.  Remove and shield edges with aluminum foil or crust protector.  This will keep your crust from burning.  Then bake an additional 25 minutes.

While pie is baking, you will create your pecan streusel topping.  This will create the pecan pie element to your pie.

For Pecan Streusel:
1 1/2 cups pecan pieces
1 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup butter, melted
1/2 t pumpkin pie spice
Mix all the pecan toppings together until well blended.After pie has baked 45 minutes,  gently top pie with Pecan Streusel Topping. Reduce oven temperature to 325°,  and bake 10 minutes. This will allow streusel to golden a bit. Then cover pie with aluminum foil.   Cool completely on a wire rack at least 3 hours.  Once cooled, place in refrigerator over night.  This will allow all the flavors to go crazy.
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Chocolate Bourbon Pecan Pie

We are in the final days preparing for a fun and busy day in the kitchen.  I LOVE Thanksgiving!  I remember the smells of Thanksgiving waking me up as a little girl and being so excited about a day with family and yummy food.

I wanted to share a yummy pie that you might want to add to your dessert bar.  It’s gooey and full of rich favor!  Enjoy!  -Amanda

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Chocolate Bourbon Pecan Pie

1 uncooked pie crust (either store bought or make your own)
1 1/2 cup pecans, chopped
3 eggs, lightly beaten
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup light brown sugar
1 cup light Karo Syrup
1 T Bourbon (I used Willett)
1 cup semi sweet chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.
Place your prepared pie crust in your favorite pie dish.

In your mixer, beat your eggs, sugar, brown sugar, Karo Syrup and bourbon.  Stir in your pecans and chocolate chips. Pour pecan mixture into your prepared pie plate and bake 50 to 60 minutes or until the crust is lightly brown and the center is pretty set.

Remove the pie from oven and allow to cool at least an hour. Slice and serve. Top with a little bourbon infused whipped cream or vanilla ice cream. If serving the next day, you need to refrigerate. In my opinion, let pie come to room temp before serving.

Chipotle Smashed Sweet Potatoes

Thanksgiving is right around the corner.  On most dinner tables you will find sweet potatoes.  Yes, many folks cover them with marshmallows and brown sugar.  If that is your tradition, get all over it.  We wanted to find a healthy alternative to the typical sweet potato dish.  Chipotle Smashed Sweet Potatoes give a nice blend of savory with a kick.  This will become a regular side dish in our home.  Enjoy! -Amanda

Chipotle Smashed Sweet Potatoes

2 large sweet potatoes, peeled and cubed

3 T unsalted butter

1 whole canned chipotle pepper in adobo sauce, chopped (save rest for later)

1 t adobo sauce from can of peppers

1/2 t salt

Put cubed potatoes into vegetable steamer. Allow to steam for 20 minutes or until the potatoes are fork tender. Add butter to potatoes and mash with potato masher. Add peppers, sauce, and salt. Continue mashing to combine. Serve immediately.

Pumpkin Bread

We have entered my favorite time of the year.  Baking in the fall just makes me happy.  The other night our kitchen was alive with the smell of pumpkin bread.  Seriously, nothing says “Hello Fall” like pumpkin bread.  This easy recipe was given to me by my mother-in-law when I first entered the Fuller family.  It has been a traditional recipe ever since.  Make it the night before to experience the ultimate goodness.  Oh the smell of fall!-Amanda

Pumpkin Bread

3 1/3 cup flour

3 cup sugar

1/2 t salt

1 t cinnamon

1 t nutmeg

2 t baking soda

1 cup vegetable oil

4 eggs

2/3 cup water

1 can pumpkin

1 cup chopped walnuts (optional)

On a low speed, mix flour, sugar, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, and soda.  Mix well.  Make a hole in the middle.  Add cooking oil, 4 eggs, water, and pumpkin.  Stir well.  Add walnuts.  Grease and flour 2 bread pans.  Split the batter between the two bread pans.  Cook 1 hour or little longer at 350 degrees.  Cool completely on rack.  Wrap bread and refrigerate.  Make the night before for total yumminess.