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The countdown continues

Monday, November 24, 2014

I got all of the shopping done yesterday. I hope! Everything on my list, anyway. I spent about $71 on food, plus things like kitchen towels and hot pads and a new turkey roaster. That's what I actually spent, not what will actually be used for Thanksgiving dinner. It includes, for example, a four pound bag of sugar and a five pound equivalent bag of splenda. It also includes lots of pecans to make the crusts for the pies. It doesn't include the things I already had, like eggs and flour and butter. If I were to figure out what dinner actually costs, it would probably be about $70, and if I adjusted it for the low carb things like I did last year, it would probably come out close to $60. I'm not going to bother with that, though.

I think I have my guest list pretty much set. At least, I sure hope so! It stands at 16 people, which is more than I had expected or had really planned for. That's ok. We'll manage. The 16 pound turkey should be big enough. I've seen between 3/4 pound per person and a pound, so that's right in there. I'll move the apple that I had intended to put inside the turkey to the apple salad, and cook another potato or two. The only thing I might get, if I feel really motivated, is a couple more sweet potatoes. I have three pounds, and that's not very many. Maybe on my way back from working at the homeless shelter Wednesday morning.

Anyway, Thanksgiving preparation is pretty much on track. How's yours coming?

Seattle, how's your 27 pound turkey doing? Did you find an oven bag that big?

MrThing, you're welcome here! You and your wild kiddo and your wife and the baby that's about ready to pop!

  


Countdown to Thanksgiving

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Ok, now there are 14 confirmed people for dinner (one of whom I'm not at all sure is coming), and five maybes. I had been figuring on about 14 people when I started put this together, but, like Topsy, it just growed.

I called a friend today and she said I can borrow her two card tables and eight chairs. That's a big relief. Don't know where I'll put them, though.

Got almost all of my Thanksgiving shopping done this morning. Just have to get the turkey and the broccoli. The other five stores I went to are all together on the edge of town. I'll get the turkey and broccoli at Kroger, which is just up the street. I need to get the turkey so it can start thawing.

I don't think there are any changes since I posted my preliminary menu, but here it is.

Turkey
Gravy
Mashed potatoes (and yes, I'll really mash them, with a potato masher and everything!)
Whipped sweet potatoes with butter
Roasted green beans (69 cents a pound at Marsh, and they were nice and crisp and fresh when I got them this morning. By Thursday, maybe not quite so fresh.)
Creamed spinach (rats! I forgot to get the spinach!)
Broccoli slaw
Apple salad
Cranberry sauce
Pumpkin pie (I'll make two with sugar and one with Splenda)
Whipped cream
Tea and coffe

I've figured out how to do some simple rearranging of my furniture to get more room to extend the dining room table. I don't think it will extend it enough, though, so I'll probably set up two card tables in the living room, back to back, so they're one table. That would seat six, and then eight or so in the dining room. That means serving buffet style in the kitchen, which isn't a problem. There's an island (one side is in the living room and one side is in the kitchen) so people can go around it. Should work.

Doing two tables will make it easier to find tablecloths. I think. And I need to check to see that I've got enough napkins. Paper ones, but nice paper.

I'm sure it sounds like I'm making a big fuss about it all, but I'm having fun. That's the important part, right?

  
  Member Comments About This Blog Post:

MRTHING2000 11/24/2014 5:37AM

    Save me some! LOL

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VEG954 11/23/2014 8:35PM

  Sounds like you've been quite busy putting all this together.
It isn't easy cooking for the Thanksgiving crowd.
Sure hope you have lots of help.

Wonder how big a turkey will be cooking in your oven.

Wish you the best.

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BUDGETMAW 11/23/2014 4:20PM

  That's so sweet of you to say, Seattle! Actually, I'd be totally freaking out if I were having this many Americans. These people are all foreigners and have almost certainly never been to an American home for Thanksgiving before, so they don't know what to expect. I figure I can chock up an problems to American customs and recipes, and they won't know the difference!

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SEATTLE58 11/23/2014 4:00PM

    It sounds like you're a perfect hostess like Martha Stewart, there you are! Good for you! I feel like I'm getting tips from you and I just love it! You will do this all so beautifully! emoticon

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NAYPOOIE 11/23/2014 3:11PM

    Absolutely.

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GEORGE815 11/23/2014 3:09PM

    Sounds like a great bash. Such a great thing sharing a Thanksgiving like the did in the first one.

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Thanksgiving Planning Update

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

So at the moment I have somewhere between ten and eighteen people coming for Thanksgiving dinner. Well, between nine and seventeen people coming, plus me.

Two people haven't responded. They're international students and I don't know whether they assume that if they don't say no it means that they are coming. Or if they assume that if they don't say they are coming it means that they aren't. I'll send them another email.

One of the international folks from the library asked about bus service out here. There is none, and the buses aren't running on Thanksgiving Day anyway. I told her that if she had a friend who could bring her, the friend was welcome, too. So that's another two maybes.

One of the international folks from the library gave an email address that they can't decipher at the library. I haven't been able to send him an invitation, but the library folks had extended one on my behalf. Another maybe.

And I told the international group that I'm matched through that I have room for an extra three people. That was assuming that the first two maybes didn't come and before I invited the second maybe's ride, and before I found out today that another person had signed up through the library. I thought I had everyone from the library already. I won't hear about these three until Friday at the earliest, since the deadline for people telling the organization isn't until tomorrow.

Planning gets more and more hectic.

I'm thinking of maybe getting two 14-16 pound turkeys, and freezing one if we're at the lower end of the guest list. But I'm not sure how I'd cook both of them. A smoked turkey that I could serve cold might work, but I don't have a smoker. I think I'll look for ways to smoke a turkey without a smoker. Put liquid smoke in the brine, maybe? Or I could boil one instead of roasting it. That seems to have been a popular way to cook turkey a hundred years ago or so. Maybe because they were tougher back then? I'd serve ham, except that one of my guests doesn't eat pork, and I'd guess by her name that she's either Jewish or Muslim. I told here that I wouldn't serve pork. Decisions, decisions.

(I used to have trouble wrapping my head around the idea of not eating pork or not eating meat in general, for religious or ethical reasons. Then one day it occurred to me that from their perspective it probably wasn't much different than me not eating human flesh, for religious or ethical reasons. Some vegetarians don't want to eat anything that was cooked in a pan that had been used to cook meat. I'd feel the same way about eating anything that had been cooked in a pan that had been used to cook human flesh! Fortunately, I have all of the social, legal, and religious taboos on my side so it isn't something I have to worry about. But it has made me more accepting of other people's crazy obsessions with not eating pork or not eating meat or whatever.)

On the plus side of the budgeting for Thanksgiving, Marsh has fresh green beans for 69 cents a pound, so I'll get a bunch of those. I was afraid they be a couple of dollars a pound.

And I still have to clean up my house!

  
  Member Comments About This Blog Post:

MRTHING2000 11/21/2014 7:03AM

    Wish I could come over! It would save me from a stressful trip to the in-laws with tons of wild grandkids crawling around. Only our kiddo is running at the moment--and she's wild too

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BUDGETMAW 11/20/2014 10:28AM

  Thanks, Mr. Thing! I was going to say that I don't have a grill of any kind, but I do. I'd forgotten about it. I don't think it's big enough for a whole turkey, though. I'll have to check it out. The bacteria wouldn't be a problem around here. Not with temps in the 20s or low 30s! The smoke would raise the temp a bit, but I should be able to let it smoke more than just an hour before finishing it inside.

I'll definitely keep this in mind if I decide a need more than one turkey.

One more maybe turned into a yes. Just seven more maybes to go!

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MRTHING2000 11/20/2014 6:32AM

    Its great that you are serving as an ambassador for international students. Way back in the day my mom said they used to close campus and kick people out of the dorms during holiday weeks. Sort of sucks if you are from a far away land and have nowhere to go! I don't think Oregon State does that anymore.

On the smoked turkey--you have a few options. I would NOT put liquid smoke in the brine. You could, but the flavor sucks (they 'smoke' green wood to make it) and there's a risk you could make it inedible. A little bit goes too far usually.

If you have a charcoal grill or even a gas one you still have some options. A handful of pellets or small (I mean like flake size) wood chips make for a good smoke source in a small tinfoil basket, or if all else fails use a foil made into a packet, and stick it with a fork about 3-5 times to give tiny air holes for the smoke. I do this for burgers.

The real question is if want just a hint of smokiness or go all out smoked for like 8 hours. If you just want a smoked taste, then you could let it 'steam' in there for about an hour or more, then toss it in the oven. You wouldn't need to turn on the grill. Or if you did, go super low on a burner or use just a few charcoals and put foil over the grate (if a gas grill) and put the turkey as far away as possible. It would sort of 'cold smoke'. I wouldn't go much longer due to the risk of low temps growing bacteria. Then toss it in the oven and finish it a bit lower and slower than you normally would.

If you really want to smoke it the whole cycle, then a gas grill is pretty easy to do. Charcoal but works great if you watch it. Target 275deg for this and keep it there. Then go until the internal temp is done. You'll probably have to move it around every 20 minutes so it doesn't burn on one side. You'll have to replenish the chips when the smoke dies down. It could take 3+ hours easily.

There's always a risk of over-smoking it. 3 hours of smoke is more than enough. It is far better to 'under smoke it'. Don't be surprised if it has a pinkish hue, that's normal for the meat to do that. As long as the target internal is reached, that's long enough. 3-5 degrees before the target pull it off. Popup timers will fail you every time. Use an internal one to check.

The foil thing should go very close to the burner or coals. But you don't want it to ignite, just smoke. It may need to go right on there at first to get going then 'near it' just to keep going. If the chips ignite they won't smoke for long and you may get flare-ups.

I made a rotisserie turkey breasts (2 actually) for the in-laws last year. No kidding, even the vegetarians tried some and went back for 3rds. Seriously. It took just short of 2 hours. I didn't smoke these but the mesquite lump charcoal imparts a nice flavor.

And if you smoke it, DO NOT stuff the turkey. Getting that right isn't impossible but smoked stuffing sucks. If possible, I would use a turkey breast because there's less waste and it cooks/smokes quickly (1 hour smoke max).

Good luck! Don't give up--its a worthy goal!

Sorry for the long post! I hope others see it and take the initiative to try it. Deep fried turkey sounds fun but isn't and I don't think it is worth it.

I would love to do competition bbq but I am not there yet.

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A brilliant idea!

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Well, I think so, anyway. I have an extra freezer in the garage that's empty at the moment. If I turn it on low I should be able to use it as a fridge for Thanksgiving! I should be able to either move things from the fridge in the house out there and leave the fridge for Thanksgiving dinner, or else leave stuff in the fridge and put the Thanksgiving stuff out there. Things like the pies that will be made a head of time, and the turkey while it's thawing and brining, and the Broccoli Slaw if I make it ahead of time, and so forth. And I can use it for storage for things that don't need to be refrigerated, too, like potatoes and sweet potatoes before they're cooked. That should help tremendously! I have a refrigerator/freezer thermometer so I can make sure it stays at the right temperature.

  
  Member Comments About This Blog Post:

VEG954 11/18/2014 10:12AM

  You are so clever!
Bright idea.

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Broccoli Slaw with Cranberries and Pecans

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Thought I'd share this recipe with you. It's from the book "Good Cheap Eats: Everyday Dinners and Fantastic Feasts for $10 or Less," by Jessica Fisher, author of the blog "Good Cheap Eats." There were LOTS of recipes that sounded good and either were or could easily be made low carb. I definitely recommend the book. She says that she got the recipe (which she adjusted, of course) from three blogs -Small Notebook, Smitten Kitchen, and the Kitchn.

Actually, I adjusted her recipe, too, mostly so it makes more. The original recipe starts with 2 heads of broccoli, which is about 7 cups. And I increased everything else accordingly. She says that her recipe makes four to six servings. I'm figuring that mine will feed twelve as part of a Thanksgiving Dinner. I may need to increase it again, depending on how many of us there are. Though a two pound bag of broccoli is a lot!

BROCCOLI SLAW WITH CRANBERRIES AND PECANS

2 pounds broccoli crowns, finely chopped (I'll get a bag of just the very top pieces from Sam's) (2 pounds florets = 10 cups florets, will be less once chopped)
1-1/3 c pecan pieces, toasted
1/2 c dried cranberries (try to find them that don't have sugar)
1/2 c diced red onion (I can't tell the difference between red and yellow onions, so will use yellow)
2/3 c mayo
3 T lime juice (I'll use the kind from the bottle) (about the juice from one and a half limes)
3 T red wine vinegar
1-1/2 T dark brown sugar (or regular brown sugar) (or Splenda and just a drop of molasses)
1/2 t salt

Combine the broccoli, pecans, cranberries and onion in a large bowl. Whisk together the mayo, lime juice, vinegar, brown sugar and salt in a small bowl. Pour the dressing over the salad and toss well. Refrigerate until served. Can be made a day ahead.

  
  Member Comments About This Blog Post:

BUDGETMAW 11/23/2014 3:10PM

  I did as you suggested, Veg. Or at least, I will do as you suggested. Kroger has broccoli crowns for 99 cents a pound, and I'll get three pounds of those for $2.97 instead of $4.98 for two pounds at Sam's. The ones from Sam's are less work, but that's ok.

I am sticking with the cranberries and pecans, though. They seem more festive and Thanksgiving-y.

Comment edited on: 11/23/2014 3:10:45 PM

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VEG954 11/18/2014 10:10AM

  Just a suggestion...
When I make broccoli that is similar to your recipe, these are the changes I make to keep the cost down:

substitute raisins for cranberries
Use toasted 1 cup of almond slivers for the pecans
peel and roughly chop the stems of the broccoli

A bunch of broccoli is usually much cheaper than the bagged florets.

Please keep us posted and I know your turkey dinner will be fantastic!

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