Butter-basted: Use a spoon and separate the turkey skin from the meat. In this pocket insert a flavorful butter paste before baking. Do the whole turkey or keep half plain and butter baste the other half. Here is our favorite recipe for flavored butter baste: 1 stick of softened butter, 2 tsp. crushed rosemary, 1 1/2 tsp. salt, 1 1/4 tsp. pepper, 1/2 tsp. garlic powder. Mix well and spread under the skin before baking.
Did you know that the most common cause of food poisoning is leftover turkey? To avoid this, when carving remove as much meat from the carcass as possible. What you don’t put on the table, place in the refrigerator immediately. Guests can still nibble but the cold inhibits the growth of germs.
Lightly brush the top crust of a fruit pie with milk and sprinkle on sugar just before baking. It will come out with a sparkling top.
Instead of cutting slits into your pie tops, cut out shapes with tiny, festive cookie cutters. The steam will escape and the fruit will show through the opening. The removed dough shape can also be arranged on top for additional decoration before baking.
Save time, don’t completely peel all your potatoes. Mash them with some of the skins still on.
Add a brick of cream cheese to mashed potatoes for an extra rich, creamy taste.
BREAD CUBES Cut leftover or fresh bread or rolls into cubes and drizzle with melted butter. Have fun and add any spices and seasonings to the butter you want. Bake the cubes on a cookie sheet at 300 degrees, stirring often. Use them to stuff your turkey, drop on the tossed salad, float on the soup or top off a holiday casserole.
For fast, fresh cranberry sauce made up to two days ahead of time, you will need: one 12 ounce bag of fresh or frozen cranberries; two oranges, well peeled (remove as much of the white membrane as you can); 1-2 cups of sugar (depending on taste); and two apples, cored. Chop these ingredients in a blender. Refrigerate or freeze until ready to serve.
Open a can of cranberry jelly (the smooth kind, without the fruit pieces). Slice into round servings then use holiday cookie cutters to cut festive shapes out of the slices. Serve the shapes on a plate. Scoop the leftover cranberry jelly into a blender, puree it smooth then fold it into whipped cream and chill before serving for a wonderful cranberry cream.
Rather than try to gobble up all the turkey in a few days or dry it out in the freezer, bottle your leftover turkey and put it in food storage! It is wonderful throughout the year in fresh turkey soup, casseroles or sandwichs. Here’s how: Place a mixture of dark and light meat in clean and sterile glass jars. Fill with water or broth, leaving 1-inch headspace. Add salt and pepper if desired. Adjust lid and ring. Process in a pressure cooker at 10 pounds of pressure, pints for 70 minutes, quart jars for 90 minutes.
Keep centerpieces lower than eye level so you don’t block anyone’s view as they converse back and forth across the table.
Serve dips and spreads in washed and hallowed out mini pumpkins or bell peppers.
Mini pumpkins make great taper candle holders. Just core out a hole in the top and insert a tapered candle.
Save table space by turning your food into your centerpiece. On a glass platter or in a glass bowl place a large pillar candle and surround it with fresh, raw vegetables or fruit. Vegetables that work well in edible centerpieces include broccoli and cauliflower florets, cherry tomatoes, baby carrots, pepper slices, whole mushrooms, etc. Place them randomly around the candle, using toothpicks to secure them in place if needed. If you would like, slip in a few fresh flowers or leaves for additional decoration. If you don’t have a candle, use a bowl of vegetable dip.
Fruits that work well as edible centerpieces include washed and whole pears, apples, apricots and tangerines. You can also use small clusters of grapes, individual cherries, berries, even slices of fresh pineapple, whole lemons, limes, mangos or kiwis. As with the vegetable centerpieces, slip in some greenery or flowers if you would like.
Keep the children entertained. Have Thanksgiving games such as word finds, crossword puzzles, mazes and pictures ready to color for them. Give each child a small box of brand new crayons and they will be thrilled for quite sometime. Keep them happily busy even longer by letting them hang up their pictures for extra holiday décor.
Set up a small craft area away from the food and give them the job of decorating the place cards at each table. Let them use stickers or glitter (if you’re brave), metallic inks, etc. Give them overshirts to wear to protect their holiday outfits and ask an older child to help.
Cornucopia Scavanger Hunt (Adapt this for adults.) Give each child a small paper bag with a cornucopia draw on the outside. Tell them they are to find or draw three to five thinks they are thankful for and put them in the bag. Gather the family together and let the children explain what is in their bags.
Turkey Strut Better have a video camera ready. In a cup place several directions on slips of paper such as happy, scared, funny, loud, pretty, etc. Taking turns have each child draw out a paper slip then walk, strut, gobble, flap or squawk like that kind of a turkey…a happy turkey, a scared turkey, a pretty turkey, etc. If you would like, send the older kids around the house with the camera and the word slips and have them get the adults stop what they are doing and participate. For additional memories, have a camera crew do short interviews with your guests, maybe saying where they traveled from and what they’re thankful for. Later play the video while family enjoys a homemade movie of the day.