Our Thanksgiving Feast… from scratch!

I hope everyone enjoyed their Thanksgiving meals and had a nice, relaxing, turkey filled weekend.  🙂

I know I did! 

I live a few hours from home, so come every major holiday, I end up making the rounds to visit family.  I love my family and don’t see them as nearly as often as I would like.  As a result to all the running around, I don’t usually end up with any leftovers.  I started cooking my own Thanksgiving meal for a few friends and whoever happened to be my roommate at the time.  Over the years, the meal has evolved into a feast.  And as my cooking skills have gotten better, I’ve started making more things from scratch. 

The menu this year was:
Baked onion cheese dip
Cheesy potatoes
Celebration green beans
Sweet potato rolls
Cranberry salad
Caramel apple cheesecake
Sweet potato pie

Jason’s mom made her delicious homemade stuffing, and Jason made the cranberry salad.  So I don’t have those recipes… however, I can share the others for you.  Everything was amazingly delicious and I’m giddy about having leftovers and not having to cook all week!

Most of the recipes we used were from Taste of Home, except I just did a traditional turkey and the cheesy potato recipe I got from my grandmother.  🙂

We started off with the baked onion cheese dip as our appetizer. 
We followed the Taste of Home recipe without making any of our own modifications.  It makes about 3 cups of delicious dip that we served with an assortment of crackers.

2 cups (8 oz) shredded cheddar cheese
1 cup (4 oz) shredded pepper jack cheese
4 oz cream cheese, cubed
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1/4 tsp dried thyme
2 cups chopped sweet onions, divided
Assorted crackers

1.  In a food processor, combine the cheeses, mayonnaise, thyme and 1 cup onions; cover and process until blended.  Stir in remaining onions.
2.  Transfer to a greased 3-cup baking dish.  Bake, uncovered, at 375 degrees F for 20-25 minutes or until bubbly.  Serve with crackers. 

It came out great and everyone seemed to like it!  The only thing I would be sure to mention, is that be aware of how big/small you’re chopping your onion.  We chopped ours a little too big, so if we make this dish again then we’re going to make sure to chop them a little smaller.  🙂

For the turkey, we just did a traditional turkey in an oven bag.  Ours was about 22 1/2 lbs.  We got an oven bag, chopped up some onion and celery, put it in the bottom of t he bag in our roasting pan.  Then we oiled up the turkey with some EVOO after cleaning it, rubbed a little paprika on, and put it in the oven at 350 degrees F for just over 3 hours.  It sounds really simple, but I love how it turns out.  🙂

Our potato recipe is one that my grandmother used to make when I was younger.  I love it too, and it’s usually a hit wherever I go.

12 potatoes, boiled
1/2 cup butter, melted
3 tbsp butter, melted
2 cans (10 3/4 oz each) cream of chicken soup
2 cups sour cream (we use a light sour cream)
1/3 cup chopped onion (or more if you like onions)
2 cups shredded cheese (we use mild cheddar)
3 cups crushed corn flakes

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Peel and grate potatoes, spread in 9×12-in baking dish.  Mix 1/2 cup butter, soup, sour cream, onion and cheese together.  Pour over potatoes.  Top w/ corn flakes and butter.  Bake for at least 30 mins. 

I usually put the dish in the oven for 30 mins and then check to see how much of the soup mixture has made its way down into the potatoes.  If I want it to cook a little more, then I leave it in.  It’s pretty easy.  To make it even easier you can substitute the boiled, shredded potatoes with a bag of frozen hash browns.  You may have to cook it a little longer, but it gets the same result.  Delicious!

The celebration green beans are another Taste of Home recipe. 

1-1/2 lbs fresh green beans, trimmed
2 tbsp canola oil (we used EVOO)
1 tbsp cider vinegar
1/4 tsp salt
1/8 tsp pepper
1/4 cup sliced onion (we use red onion)
1 garlic clove (we like garlic so we usually use 2-3)
1 tbsp butter
2 tbsp dry bread crumbs
2 tbsp grated Parmesan cheese

1.  Place the beans in a steamer basket; place in a saucepan over 1 in. of water.  Bring to a boil; cover and steam for 7-8 minutes or until crisp-tender.  Transfer to a 2-qt. baking dish coated w/ cooking spray.
2.  Combine the oil, vinegar, salt and pepper; drizzle over beans and toss to coat.  Set aside.
3.  In a small skillet, saute onion and garlic in butter until tender.  Remove from the heat; stir in bread crumbs and cheese.  Sprinkle over beans. 
4.  Bake, uncovered, at 350 degrees F for 18-22 minutes or until topping is lightly browned.

I never was much for fresh green beans.  But this recipe completely changed my outlook.  Just remember that the dish is only as good as the ingredients, so be mindful of the green beans you use.  (I spent 10 minutes at the store trying to make sure I got good green beans).  But I love this dish as an alternative to the typical green bean casserole you find.  The vinegar gives it a nice flavor.  We’ve also prepared this using as little as 1/2 lb of green beans, however the vinegar flavor is much more noticeable if you have fewer beans. 

We’ve also made this using green beans and cauliflower as well.  But be careful, because the cauliflower will really soak up the vinegar.  If you don’t want that to happen, steam the green beans and cauliflower apart, toss the green beans with the oil/vinegar mixture, then stir in the cauliflower a few minutes later.  This seems to help the beans absorb more of the vinegar than the cauliflower.

I had to do some slight modifications to the Taste of Home sweet potato rolls recipe since I don’t have a bread machine.  But they turned out okay… a little funny looking… but okay.  🙂

1/2 cup water (70-80 degrees F)
1 egg
3 tbsp butter, softened
3/4 cup mashed sweet potatoes(we bake them until soft, then mash them)
4 to 4 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
3 tbsp sugar
1-1/2 tsp salt
2 packages (1/4 oz each) active dry yeast

To see the bread machine recipe, view the link above.  The instructions below are how I prepared the rolls. 

1.  Disolve the yeast in the 1/2 cup water. 
2.  Add the butter, sugar, salt and egg.  Stir.
3.  Stir in 1 cup of flour, then stir in the sweet potatoes. 
4.  Add the remaining 3 to 3 1/2 cups of flour as needed to make a firm dough. 
5.  Place dough in a greased bowl, turn to coat the top.  Cover with a towel and let rise for 1 hour or until doubled. 
6.  Punch down, divide into portions of desired size, roll each portion into a ball.  Place on greased baking sheets.  Cover and let rise until doubled, about another 30 minutes. 
7.   Bake at 400 degrees F for 8-10 minutes.

They turned out pretty good I thought!  The recipe says you can get 30 rolls out of one batch, I think I got about 18-20 since I did larger sizes.  Mine must not have been rolled into balls very well because they all came out in different shapes, but they were all very delicious and moist.  They’re also great as leftovers.  Ours ended up the perfect size for a mini turkey sandwich.  🙂

We did 2 desserts, because I wasn’t sure what Jason’s family would enjoy more.  The first was a cheesecake, since Jason and I love cheesecake, I figured it was a pretty safe bet. 

We also got this recipe from Taste of Home.  It turned out amazing!  Even the name sounds delicious… caramel apple cheesecake

The original recipe says to use a springform pan.  Which I don’t have… so I had to improvise again.  Instead I used a 9 1/2-in Pyrex pie dish that I have.  And it turned out great.  Also, since we already had regular graham cracker crumbs on hand, we used those.  And we don’t really care for pecans, so we eliminated them from the recipe.  The original recipe can be found at the link above.  Our modified version is below.  🙂

1-1/2 cups cinnamon graham cracker crumbs (we used regular graham cracker crumbs)
3/4 cup sugar, divided
1/4 cup butter, melted
1 package (14 oz) caramels
2/3 cup evaporated milk
2 packages (8 oz each) cream cheese, softened
2 tbsp all-purpose flour, divided
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1-1/2 cups chopped peeled apples
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon

1.  In a small bowl, combine cracker crumbs, 1/4 cup sugar and butter.  Press onto the bottom and up the sides of a greased pie dish.  Bake at 350 degrees for 10 minutes or until lightly browned.  Cool on a wire rack.
2.  In a heavy saucepan over medium-low heat, cook and stir the caramels and milk until melted and smooth.  Pour 1 cup over crust.  Set remaining caramel mixture aside.
3.  In a large bowl, beat the cream cheese, 1 tbsp flour and remaining sugar until smooth.  Add eggs, beat on low-speed just until combined.  Add apples, cinnamon, and remaining flour; fold into cream cheese mixture.  Pour into crust. 
4.  Bake for 45-55 minutes or until center is just set.  Cool on wire rack for 60-90 minutes.  Refrigerate overnight.  Serve with reheated reserved caramel mixture so guests can drizzle it on top.

It was a huge success.  The only thing we would change is that we would probably make sure we chop the apples a little smaller.  We did about 1-in cubes, and they seemed just a little too big.  But it was delightful!

Our second dessert was also from Taste of Home.  A sweet potato pie.  I’ve never been much for pie.  And the last time I tried pumpkin pie, I didn’t care for it.  But Jason said this one taste very similar to a homemade pumpkin pie.  So I may have to rethink my outlook on pie….  We did things a little different.  I tried my little heart out to make my own crust, but it just wasn’t happening.  So I cheated and bought a crust… but to make up for it, we used our own sweet potatoes rather than the canned sweet potatoes the recipe calls for.  Again, we eliminated the pecans. 

1 deep dish, 9-in pie crust
3 eggs
30 oz (just under 4 cups)mashed sweet potatoes (we bake them until soft, then mash them)
1 can (14 oz) sweetened condensed milk
1-1/2 tsp pumpkin pie spice
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp salt
Whipped topping

1.  In a food processor, combine eggs, sweet potatoes, milk, pumpkin pie spice, vanilla, and salt.  Blend until smooth.  Pour into thawed pie crust. 
2.  Bake at 425 degrees F for 15 minutes.  Reduce heat to 350 degrees F; bake 35-40 mins longer or until a knife inserted near the center comes out clean.  Cool on a wire rack.  Garnish with whipped topping.

I actually did like this pie.  We had some leftover after we filled the crust.  It wasn’t enough to make another pie, so we put it in an oven safe bowl and baked it along with the pie.  It was ready about 10 minutes before the pie, and was just as yummy!

I hope you all had as delicious of a Thanksgiving as we did!

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