easy, traditional and simple Christmas Dinner!!
I grew up with this simple basic Christmas or Thanksgiving menu which I want to share with you today. With so much preparation in cooking and baking, we have always kept the dishes simple and traditional.
This is the menu that our family has prepared for decades…..plus the simple schedule of how to plan your time for meal preparation. Hint: always allow a little bit extra time…..
You can see what we do and can then begin to create your own simple Christmas and Thanksgiving menu traditions.
Our basic dinner menu is:
Dressing or Stuffing
Mashed Potatoes (with the peels on)
Whole Cranberry Sauce
Real Butter Spread
Real Whipped Cream (or whip cream in the spray can if time was running out….the kids loved this one!!)
Special Note: bake pies and/or Zucchini Bread the day before or early on Thanksgiving morning!
PREPARING the TURKEY:
If your turkey is frozen, please follow the instructions on how to properly and safely thaw your turkey either in the refrigerator or in a sink filled with cold (not hot) water. Make sure to allow plenty of time for it to thaw. Never thaw a frozen turkey on the counter as bacteria can develop in poultry when thawed in this manner.
When the turkey is close to being thawed, you can speed things up a bit by rinsing the cavity with cold water.
After the turkey has thawed, make sure to remove the giblets. These are in a bag in the neck cavity and there is another inside the turkey. Remove both these bags. Do not cook your turkey with the giblets left inside these bag!
Remove the turkey from the plastic bag. Take the paper bags out of the neck area and the cavity of the bird. You may boil the neck and the giblets (heart, liver and gizzard) to use later when making your gravy. Instruction to make gravy to follow.
Rinse the turkey with fresh water and place breast side up in a roasting pan. If your pan has a rack in the bottom, place the turkey on that.
If you plan on stuffing the turkey, now is the time. Stuff the main cavity and the neck cavity and then roast your turkey. Cover your roasting pan with the roaster lid.
The stuffing recipe is listed below.
ROASTING the TURKEY BIRD:
Make sure your roasting pan will fit into your oven. Lower the bottom rack if necessary to accommodate your pan. Preheat your oven to 325 degrees.
Place the turkey and covered roasting pan in oven. Bake for 15 minutes per pound. A 14 to 18 pound turkey will take about 3 1/2 to 4 hours. Plan on basting your turkey with the drippings in the pan or with a spoon at least every hour.
You may sprinkle rosemary lightly over the turkey about one hour before it is finished. The rosemary gives the roasted turkey a nice flavor and it makes it look wonderful.
Internal Temperature for poultry is 185 degrees when it is fully roasted.
Place your meat thermometer in the meaty part of the breast or leg. If your turkey has an automatic timer, plan on watching for the red center to pop up when the turkey is done.
Make sure to read all the instructions that you received with your packaged turkey. If you have a fresh turkey, you may follow all of the above steps.
Now that your turkey is in the oven roasting, begin planning your time to get your other dishes started.
STUFFING or DRESSING: start drying bread cubes in the morning or the day before
This is a very easy bread stuffing recipe. You may use commercial dried bread cubes or make your own dried bread cubes.
To make your own, you will need 1 loaf of your favorite bread. I like to use Franz Organic Great Seed Bread or something like Wheat Montana 100% Whole Wheat Bread or any type of specialty breads that you would like.
Remove your loaf of bread from the wrapper and cut the slices into cubes. Preheat your oven to 150 degrees. Place the cubes on a cookie sheet that has edges and dry the bread cubes in the oven. Stir every 15 minutes until the cubes are dry.
You can stuff either stuff your turkey or bake the stuffing separately in a buttered baking dish. Either way is fine.
Recipe for Dressing or Stuffing:
You will need:
- 1 large onion – diced
- 6 stalks of celery – cleaned and sliced (include some of the celery leaves)
- 8 to 10 cups of dried bread cubes or commercial bread stuffing (not the Stove Top stuffing, just seasoned or unseasoned bread cubes)
- 3/4 cup of butter – melted
- Salt and Pepper to Taste
- 2 teaspoons Poultry Seasonings
Optional: for an extra special stuffing: add 1 pound of browned Homemade Breakfast Sausage!
Stuffing or Dressing Instructions:
- First, clean and dice the onion and celery.
- Next, melt 3/4 cup butter in a large kettle, dutch oven or cast iron skillet.
- Add the onion and celery and slowly saute until they are semi-soft.
In a large pan or bowl, combine the bread cubes, onion and celery. Sprinkle Poultry Seasoning, Salt and Pepper over bread cubes. Gently mix until combined.
If stuffing your turkey, simple take bread, celery and onion mixture and lightly spoon into the cavity of the turkey. Do not pack in tightly. Secure the leg to hold the stuffing in place. If you turkey has the plastic piece to secure the legs, tuck the legs back in place after stuffing. If your turkey does not have this holder, then use black thread or string to wrap the legs to hold them together.
Do not forget to stuff the neck cavity with the extra dressing. You can the secure the neck skin in place with a skewers.
Baking Stuffing Separately:
When baking stuffing separately, then add the following:
- 1 to 2 cups of Chicken or Turkey Broth, water from the boiled giblets or just plain water (add a little more if you like moister stuffing)
Pour Chicken Broth, Turkey Broth or Water over bread mixture and gently fold together. Add more liquid if the stuffing seem too dry. Remember people will probably put gravy on their turkey and dressing so that will help if it is a little dry.
Turn the mixture into a large buttered baking dish. Cover with lid or foil. (I like to protect our food from touching the foil. I always first put a sheet of Parchment Paper on the food and then cover with foil.)
Refrigerate until ready to bake. Place the baking dish in a cold oven so the pan does not break. Bake at 350 degrees for 35 to 45 minutes or until heated completely through.
If you would like to make your own bread for your stuffing, try this easy French Bread Recipe. You could bake and freeze this French Bread until you are ready to make your stuffing!
Mashed potatoes are such a nice addition with Turkey and Gravy! Once your turkey is in the oven and you have made your bread stuffing. It is time to scrub and cut your potatoes for mashed potatoes.
Simply scrub and clean 3 to 5 pounds of potatoes. You may use either russet (baking potatoes), red or yellow potatoes. They all make wonderful mashed potatoes.
Hint: leave the skins on if you would like. This speeds up the process by not having to peel each potato plus it also increases the fiber content.
Getting them ready ahead of time is very convenient.
Cut in half or quarter and place in a kettle or pot of cold water. Your potatoes will take approximately 45 minutes to cook. Bring them to a boil approximately one hour before your turkey is finished roasting.
Test a few of the potatoes to see if they are tender by poking them with a fork. The fork should slide in easily.
Once they are finished, strain the potatoes but save some of the potato water for your gravy. This potato water has nutrients that adds extra goodness to your gravy.
Place the hot potatoes back in the pot or kettle and mash with a hand masher.
Add 4 tablespoons of butter 1/2 to 1 full cup of milk and continue to mash until the desired consistency. The mashed potatoes do not have to be totally smooth. They are a little more rustic with a few chunks!
(I never add extra salt as the turkey will have salt in the juices and the gravy will have some salt. Individuals can add extra salt at the table.)
Put the lid back on the mashed potatoes until ready to serve. Place in a fancy serving dish or serve out of the kettle depending on your style!
Many people are afraid of making gravy (and pie crusts, too!) but it is so easy: the secret to making great gravy is to have the correct measurements.
Equal numerical parts of fat, flour and water. (cooking has a lot to do with MATH: proportions and measurements!)
Gravy has a 1 tablespoon : 1 tablespoon : 1 cup ratio. These is so easy to remember.
For example, for one quart of gravy you will need:
4 tablespoons butter, 4 tablespoon flour and 4 cups broth or water)
- Carefully pour off all drippings from turkey roaster into a pan or bowl. Be careful as this will be very hot.
- Melt 4 tablespoons of butter in a large skillet over medium heat.
- Sprinkle 4 tablespoons of unbleached flour into the melted butter, stirring constantly to eliminate lumps!
- Slowly pour in 4 cups of turkey drippings, broth, leftover potato water or plain water while stirring constantly until the gravy comes to a boil.
- Gently boil until the gravy begins to thicken
- Taste and season accordingly.
The gravy will continue to thicken as it cools. You can simply add more water to bring it back to the consistency that you like.
Please Note: Be careful not to use too much salt as the turkey will have some salt and you do not want everything to be salty. Pour your gravy into a small pitcher for easy serving.
You will need 2 cups whole fresh or frozen Cranberries. Rinse and sorted cranberries and discard any that are bruised or soft.
Place the cranberries in a sauce pan with:
- 1 Cup of Water
- 1 Cup of Sugar
Bring this mixture to a boil and then reduce the temperature. Simmer mixture until the cranberry skins pop. Listen closely as you
can actually hear the cranberries pop!
Simmer for 10 minutes.
Cool and then chill Cranberry Sauce in the Refrigerator until serving time.
Pick one or all of the following for your Relish Tray:
- Black Olives
- Green Olives
- Celery Sticks
- Carrot Sticks
- Homemade Refrigerator Pickles
Prepare ahead and refrigerate until serving time.
GREEN PEAS or GREEN BEANS:
Lightly steam or bring to a boil and heat either fresh or frozen Green Peas or Green Beans. The green adds a splash of color to your Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner plates.
Having some type of buttered rolls or sweet bread is a nice accompaniment to your simple Thanksgiving Menu. I grow zucchini and love to grate some and put it away in the freezer.
Take a look at the mid-century Zucchini Bread Recipe that is sure to please!
HEALTHY BUTTER SPREAD RECIPE:
Having butter is such a treat. Making a healthy butter spreadable is also a treat…..I love having spreadable butter on hand all the time.
Here is a super easy recipe for Healthy Spreadable Butter that will work beautifully on your Thanksgiving or Christmas Table!
PERFECT PIE CRUST for PUMPKIN PIE:
This is a super easy pie crust that works every time. Just make sure to follow the measurements exactly. This pie crust recipe is rolled out between sheets of wax paper which makes a flaky crust.
PERFECT PUMPKIN PIE FILLING RECIPE for one 8 ” Pie Crust:
- 1 Fresh Egg
- 1 1/4 cups Pumpkin Puree or Canned Pumpkin
- 2/3 cups of Organic Cane Sugar or White Sugar
- 1/4 teaspoon Pink Himalayan Salt or Regular Salt
- 1 cup of Evaporated canned Milk
- 1/2 teaspoon Cinnamon
- 1/4 teaspoon ginger
- 1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
Add all ingredients in your blender and blend on low until everything is well mixed. Pour into your homemade pie crust. Bake at 350 degrees for 1 hour until set. Double check by gently sticking a knife in the center of the pie. Make sure it comes out clean. Cool until serving time. Refrigerator all leftovers.
Double for 2 pies.
PERFECT PUMPKIN PIE FILLING RECIPE for one 9 ” Pie Crust:
- 2 Fresh Egg
- 3/4 cups of Organic Cane Sugar or White Sugar
- 2 cups Pumpkin Puree or Canned Pumpkin
- 1/2 teaspoon Pink Himalayan Salt or Regular Salt
- 1 can of Evaporated canned Milk
- 1 teaspoon Cinnamon
- 1/2 teaspoon ginger
- 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
Add all ingredients in your blender and blend on low until everything is well mixed. Pour into your homemade pie crust. Bake at 350 degrees for 1 hour until set. Double check by gently sticking a knife in the center of the pie and it comes out clean from the center. Cool until serving time. Refrigerator leftovers.
Double for 2 pies.
REAL WHIPPED CREAM:
Fresh Homemade Whipped Cream is a delicious treat. It will be enjoyed by all…..especially the after dinner coffee drinkers that love a dollop of cream in their coffee♥ If you run out of time, try the spray bottle of Whipped Cream from the dairy section at the grocery store.
Our kids have always loved this…..but please note: it does not last long with everyone taking a quick mouthful!
Set a beautiful table and give thanks for the bounty that we have been blessed with…..
Enjoy your time with your family and friends as you create your own traditional, simple Thanksgiving or menu!
This is perfect for Thanksgiving Dinner, too!!
This article was first published on www.OriginalHomesteading.com