A Secret to a Relaxed Holiday Dinner

by Debi

Can you imagine a relaxed Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner without needing to actually cook a turkey on the big day? You’d be able to enjoy the festivities as much as your friends and family!

Believe it or not, it’s possible to roast your turkey ahead of time and store the cooked meat in the freezer to reheat and serve on the big day. If this sounds a bit too much like eating leftovers, let me assure you that by following these simple freezing and reheating instructions, you’ll have moist, delicious turkey — and not one of your guests will suspect you didn’t spend the entire holiday slaving away in the kitchen keeping watch over a hot oven.

I’m posting this one week before Christmas which might be a bit too late for the rest of you to prepare ahead for next week, but I wanted turkey dinner tonight and I’m going to do the freeze-ahead thing so we’ll have an easy dinner on New Year’s.  Be sure to bookmark this page or print it out in your recipe notebook for future reference!

Feel free to use your own favorite turkey recipe if you prefer, and then follow the freezing/reheating instructions at the end of this article (but I personally don’t think you’ll find a tastier turkey recipe!).

TO PREPARE TURKEY:

  • 3 onions, quartered
  • 6 celery stalks, cut into 2-inch pieces
  • 2 medium carrots, cut into 2-inch pieces
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 1/2 cups white wine (or water or chicken broth)
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 2 teaspoons pepper
  • 2 teaspoons sage
  • 1 teaspoon thyme
  • 3 cups chicken broth, canned (reserve for freezing process)

In bottom of a deep roasting pan, place two quartered onions, four celery stalks, the carrots, bay leaves and white wine (or water). Remove turkey giblets, rinse bird inside and out. Pat dry with paper towels. Stuff turkey loosely with remaining quartered onion and celery stalks. Brush turkey with olive oil mixed with salt, pepper, sage, and thyme. Cover turkey loosely with a large sheet of foil coated lightly with olive oil, crimping foil on to edges of roasting pan. Cook according to chart below. During last 45 minutes, cut band of skin or string between legs and tail. Uncover and continue roasting until done. Baste, if desired.

Turkey Roasting Chart (loosely wrapped with foil):

  • 12-16 pounds / 325 degrees F / 4 – 5 hours
  • 16-20 pounds / 325 degrees F / 5 – 6 hours
  • 20-24 pounds / 325 degrees F / 6 – 7 hours

Testing for doneness:

About 20 minutes before roasting time is completed, test bird. Flesh on thickest part of drumstick should feel soft when squeezed between fingers, drumstick should move up an down easily, and meat thermometer inserted into thickest part of leg should read 185 degrees F. (Or follow manufacturer’s instructions.)

- FREEZING INSTRUCTIONS

DRIPPINGS: Pour liquid and drippings from roasting pan into a bowl. Remove vegetables. Allow bowl of liquid to cool in refrigerator until fat congeals on top. Scoop off fat with a spoon and pour drippings into a labeled freezer bag. Thaw to use for making gravy on serving day.

TURKEY: Allow turkey to cool in pan for 1/2 hour; then place turkey and its roasting pan into refrigerator. Allow to cool completely (several hours). When fully chilled, slice turkey as usual. Remove all meat from bones. Place breast and dark meat slices into labeled freezer bags. Pour canned chicken broth into bags over meat. Freeze.

TO SERVE: Thaw bag of meat and broth, and place into a covered baking dish for 30 minutes at 350 degrees F. Or place turkey and broth into a microwave-safe dish, cover with plastic wrap, and heat until hot (the time will vary with different microwaves, so check manufacturer’s instructions). Drain off broth (reserve to make more gravy, if needed). Arrange the heated turkey slices attractively on a serving platter. Serve hot.

**Excerpted and adapted from the 10-Day Holiday Meal Plan in Frozen Assets: Cook for a Day, Eat for a Month (SourceBooks).

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Debi’s Carrot Cake Bars

by Debi

This recipe really does have a “secret” ingredient that makes it the moistest, tastiest carrot cake bar you’ll ever serve.  :-)

What’s the secret?  Well, this recipe calls for jars of baby food carrots instead of grated carrots.  Seriously!  But don’t tell the secret.  Your guests will never know.  You can just tell them it’s an ancient family recipe you were given from a friend.  ;-)


Debi’s Carrot Cake Bars


Ingredients:

  • 4 eggs, beaten
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1 1/2 cups salad oil
  • 2 cups flour
  • 3 small jars of baby food carrots (not the itty bitty one-serving size, you’ll need 12-ounces of baby carrots total)
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 cup chopped walnuts or pecans

Instructions:

  1. Mix together eggs, sugar, salad oil, and flour.
  2. Add remaining ingredients and stir until well blended.
  3. Pour into two 9×13-inch greased and floured baking pans.
  4. Bake at 350 degrees for 35 minutes.
  5. Frost with Cream Cheese Frosting (recipe below) when completely cool.

Cream Cheese Frosting

Ingredients:

  • 1 package cream cheese
  • 4 tsp melted butter or margarine
  • 3 1/2 cups powdered sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla

Mix all ingredients with an electric mixer.  When creamy, frost carrot bars.  Cut into squares to serve.

CARROT CAKE (Alternative Serving/Baking Suggestion):

Also, if you pour this recipe into just one baking pan instead of two, and then bake it for a bit longer (can’t remember offhand the exact amount of time difference between the bars and the cake), this recipe makes the absolutely most delicious carrot cake ever!  Moist, yummy, and amazingly simple.  And best of all, no grating required.

This was hubby and my Birthday Cake of choice in the early days of our marriage — over thirty(!) years ago. When my oldest daughter turned one, this was her first birthday cake, too. Hey, I think I might have a photo around of that momentous occasion … I should dig it out and scan it in. :-)

Enjoy!

~Debi

A Short History of Me or “Where I’ve Been and Where I am Now”

Believe it or not, I’d never set out to write books.  Strange as it may seem, book contracts just sort of fell into my lap.  Recently several people online have expressed interest in my book and internet history, and where I’m at today.  So I thought I’d take a few minutes today to share my story, such as it is.  It’s not super exciting or glamorous, and definitely nobody’s going to make a movie about it like they did with Julie and Julia.  But, hey, like Julie Powell, I actually was discovered online and given a book deal because of my websites.

But I’m getting ahead of myself.  Let’s back up. Continue reading

Ratatouille: It’s What’s For Dinner!

I love Ratatouille. It’s one of my all-time favorite meals.  We’re having it tonight for dinner to celebrate me completing my first quarter of Grad School — I turned in my last paper of the quarter this afternoon!

So let the holidays begin!  No homework for a month.  :-)


Ratatouille


Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup olive oil (more or less)
  • 2 large onions, sliced (or one gigantic one like I used)
  • 2-3 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 medium-sized eggplant, cut into 1-inch cubes
  • 4-6 medium sized zucchini (or one humungous one from the garden), thickly sliced
  • 2 green peppers, seeded and cut into chunks (I used 1 green pepper and 1/2 each of a red pepper and yellow pepper .. makes it more colorful)
  • 2 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. basil
  • 1/4 cup fresh minced parsley (I was out of parsley so didn’t use it … didn’t miss it, either)
  • 4 large tomatoes, cut in chunks

Instructions:

  1. Over high heat, heat olive oil in a large pan or Dutch oven.  Add onions and garlic and cook until softened but not brown.
  2. Stir in eggplant, zucchini, peppers, salt, basil and parsley.  Add a little more oil if needed to keep the veggies from sticking.
  3. Cover and cook over medium heat for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. Stir gently and carefully to retain shape of veggies as they soften.
  4. Add tomatoes.  Stir gently.  Add more oil if sticking.
  5. Cover and cook over medium-low heat for an additional 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.

This is best if served a day or more after preparation.  It can be served hot, cold, or at room temperature.

~Debi

Under Construction … this and that (long)

I’m in the process of revamping this blog so things might be in a state of flux for awhile as I sort out what to do with older posts, decide how to organize things, and figure out where to go from here with this blog.

Life got pretty crazy for me and my family a number of years ago (long story) and I’m still feeling like I haven’t completely got my feet back on solid ground.  I’ve also spent several years focused on things like returning to college full-time and dealing with another bout of crisis-after-crisis (health things with my kids, mainly).  It’s been a long road for all of us. Continue reading