Thanksgiving Dinner, CenterCutCook Style! A run-down of the decor and food I served for Thanksgiving Dinner, 2012.
Hi everybody! I’m back after a week-long “break” to celebrate Thanksgiving! I really wouldn’t consider it a break, however, since the week was spent preparing for Thanksgiving Dinner and everything that goes along with it (cleaning, cooking, more cleaning, more cooking etc., etc.,) After I received several emails asking what Thanksgiving was like at my house, I decided I’d make a post to outline some of the things I learned after hosting Thanksgiving for the first time!
While my hubby and I were in college, we typically didn’t make it home for the holidays, so I was used to cooking a little meal for the two of us on Thanksgiving. This year, however, I was responsible for it all and I definitely learned a few things along the way. I tried to take as many pictures as possible, but sometimes, snapping a pic just didn’t happen! I was too focused on getting everything made, without burning it all (my worst nightmare!).
My theme this year was to “keep it simple.” Let’s start with decor. I’ve never been huge on decorating for Thanksgiving. Christmas is more my thing, but I did try to make an effort to put up a few Thanksgiving/Fall type decorations around the house. One of the quick projects I made was a simple “Thanksgiving” banner that I hung across my sliding glass doors. It took me about an hour to make, and only required some decorative paper, scissors,a hole puncher, and sticker letters. I bought the decorative paper at Jo-Ann fabrics on clearance for $8 (from $25) for a HUGE pack. Score! To hang the banner, I ran out to the garage and brought in a spool of twine we had on hand. It completed the look perfectly!
Thanksgiving Banner (and the Big Green Egg that was cooking our turkey)!
When it came to a centerpiece for the table, I decided to go the fresh flower route because it’s simple, and easy. And I like simple and easy. These fresh flowers I picked up at Costco for $14.99 and they worked perfectly. I used a piece of yellow fabric that I had on hand from my days as a teacher (I always used fabric on my bulletin boards) and fluffed it up under the vase. For a few accents, I bought a pack of mini pumpkins and gourds from Target. PS: Notice the water is pink? I have no clue which flower turned the water pink, but it looked awesome!
Fresh Flower Thanksgiving Centerpiece
Growing up, my Mom always used to make place cards for the holidays, so I followed in her footsteps and whipped up easy place cards. I used paper from the aforementioned huge pack o’ paper I bought at Jo-Ann’s, some fancy scissors, and a little card stock. They came together pretty quickly, and actually turned out nice!
Thanksgiving Place Cards
Because my kitchen is just average/on the verge of small in size, I try to keep minimal amounts of dishes, kitchen appliances, and gadgets around. For this reason, I do not own a set of “Fine China”. I just have my regular white square plates that are used everyday, and those are the ones I used for Thanksgiving. We had seven people coming for dinner, and my square table seats eight, so it worked perfectly. I didn’t have to set up any additional tables and worry about where I was going to put everyone. As you can see from the picture, yes I used paper napkins, and I was totally okay with that. :)
Thanksgiving Table Setting:
I was a teacher long enough to learn that five year olds don’t have the attention span to sit for long periods of time (e.g., Thanksgiving Dinner!), so I decided to print out some Thanksgiving coloring sheets and put some crayons on the table for my niece and anyone else who wanted to get in touch with their childhood coloring days!.
Turkey Day Coloring Pages and Crayons:
Shall we get to the turkey now? This was my first time cooking a whole turkey and it was definitely a learning experience. In a nutshell, here’s what I learned.
- A 21 pound turkey will take up your whole darn fridge. And when you don’t have a second refrigerator like me, it becomes a little tricky to store it and everything else that you need to make dinner.
- Brining a 21 pound turkey is no easy feat, and might actually lead you to threaten to throw the whole darn turkey out the window. But I’m not speaking from experience. ;)
- Brining a 21 pound turkey in a bucket that does not fit a 21 pound turkey, is NOT a good idea.
- Turkeys are slimy, and gross. Gross, gross, gross! I’m thankful that ham is served for Christmas.
- Apparently there’s a bag o’ “goodies” that gets stuffed into the turkey that you’re supposed to remove before cooking! When I removed the neck, I thought I was done. Upon carving the turkey, I learned otherwise!
- My turkey was done a whole hour before the recommended time of 12-15 minutes per pound. Next time I will temp the turkey more frequently.
I decided that we’d grill our turkey, and the recipe that I came across suggested to brine the turkey so that it would not dry out during the grilling process. The only problem is that I had no container large enough for the 21 pound turkey. I ended up using a bucket, but 1/3 of the turkey stuck out! I ended up flipping the turkey mid-way through brining so that the other part of it got immersed in the brining liquid, but it was definitely a pain! Below is my big ole turkey, just hangin’ out in the bucket.
The Brining Bucket:
This picture was taken right before I had to get the slippery turkey out of the bucket, to prep him for the grill! I ended up seasoning the turkey real simply with kosher salt and course ground black pepper. I stuffed quartered lemons, and halved garlic heads in the cavity of the turkey. And then I used a knife to gently lift the skin away from the breast meat and slipped some fresh rosemary in there.
The seasoned turkey, ready for the grill:
Once the grill was heated up and ready to go (My hubby was in charge of this part), off the turkey went! Thankfully our grill is pretty large and was able to comfortably fit the 21 pound bird. The only downside to cooking a turkey on a grill is that you don’t get the smell of roasted turkey in your house. But, the rest is all wonderful. It was great having my oven available the entire day!
The turkey on The Big Green Egg:
Unfortunately, I didn’t snap a picture of the bird after he was done cooking, all I’ve got are pictures of what was left after he was carved. Like I mentioned earlier, I had read from numerous sources that the turkey should cook for about 12-15 minutes per pound. Using these numbers, it *should* have taken over 4 hours for this turkey to cook but it was actually a little over 3 hours. When I temped the turkey right before we took it off the grill, it was at about 175-180 degrees. A turkey is done cooking when the breast meat temps 165, so technically, I overcooked the turkey. I think the brining is what salvaged my turkey because most of it was actually decently moist. I am, however, looking forward to the next time I cook a turkey because now I know to temp often!
While the turkey was cooking, I was working on everything else to go along with it. I really didn’t think much about appetizers initially, but then I decided I should probably have something on hand for people to munch on while they were waiting for dinner to be served. I very easily could have made Warm Artichoke Spinach Dip but by the time I thought about it, it was a little late. I ended up buying some artichoke dip from Costco (actually pretty good), and some Boursin cheese (my fave!) with an assortment of crackers and bagel chips.
Appetizers – Boursin cheese on the left, crackers/bagel chips in the middle, artichoke spinach dip on the right.
Like I said, I tried to keep everything pretty simple, and all-in-all everything turned out good! Here’s what we had:
- Grilled Turkey stuffed with lemons, garlic, and rosemary.
- The Best Mashed Potatoes with gravy
- Corn Bread Stuffing with sausage and herbs made from Old-Fashioned Corn Bread
- Updated Slow Cooker Green Bean Casserole (no cream soup, folks!) – I’ll have to post the recipe soon!
- Fresh rolls (they turned out okay, but I’m on the hunt for a great dinner rolls recipe!) with Cinnamon Butter (totally a hit!!!!)
- Simple Cranberry Sauce – 16 ounces of berries, 1/2 cup water, 1/2 cup orange juice, 1 cup sugar
- Bacon Wrapped Asparagus Bundles
Please excuse the blurry picture! I was trying to snap pictures fast so that everybody could fill their plates and didn’t pay much attention to the quality of the photos I was taking! The food was set-up buffet style so that the table wasn’t cluttered with big dishes, and it worked well.
For dessert, my in-laws made a delicious pumpkin pie, and a pumpkin roll! Both were yummy!
All-in-all, it was a pretty successful first Thanksgiving! I definitely learned a few things along the way and will be better prepared for next time. I hope you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving with great food and wonderful company!
Now it’s time for my FAVORITE holiday…. Christmas!