Monday, November 22, 2010

Top 10 Thanksgiving Tips + Song Perfection

Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday because it combines cooking, eating, and, loved ones.  I love the simplicity of one meal dedicated to giving thanks for the good things in life.  I have much to be thankful for - but I will spare you my speech and get down to it.

I have been cooking Thanksgiving dinner with my mama bear since I was a wee tot and have collected some thoughts along the way courtesy of the Hamzeh kitchen.  I hope one of the below items will be useful for you come Thursday.

1. TURKEY - Hamzehs don't baste. We cheat the process and the Turkey always comes out moist and perfect without need for constant baster babysitting.  Here is what you do: after cleaning the turkey, shove large pats of butter under the skin all over and throw a couple pats into the cavity. Stuff the bird, wrap him up in foil and cook in the oven per the directions that accompany your turkey, and during the last 30 minutes of cooking, open the foil to brown the top of the turkey.

2. GRAVY - Of course, homemade gravy made from the delicious turkey drippings is delish, BUT in case yours just doesn't get as smooth as you like... Buy a jar of gravy or a mix as a backup, and then add to it the drippings from your turkey. Heat up the gravy plus the drippings, and whisk it all together and pour into your gravy boat (our gravy boat is in the shape of a turkey). You will get accolades for your non-lumpy gravy.

3. STUFFING - I fake seemingly "100% from scratch" stuffing and it works. Last year I was shocked & flattered to receive an email asking for my stuffing recipe because this sweet gal told me her mother-in-law raved about my "homemade stuffing."  Here is what you do: Cook Mrs. Cubbinson's Seasoned Corn Bread Stuffin' mix per the directions & then add cranberries, apples, & pecans.  I use half the butter called for in the recipe, & if you think it needs more liquid, add a bit more chicken broth or 1/3 cup OJ. One day I will make my own stuffing from scratch, but until then, this is a winner.

4. CRANBERRY SAUCE - I don't do canned cranberries. Real cranberry sauce is the easiest thing to make in the world and tastes far superior in my eyes. Buy a bag of cranberries and, per the directions, dissolve a cup of sugar into a cup of water.  Bring to boil and throw in the cranberries.  Easy and worth it.

5. CORNBREAD - I have made cornbread from scratch once from the Joy of Cooking, and it was not my finest culinary hour. I am yet to redeem myself because I have stuck with Marie Callender's Cornbread Stuffing mix ever since with Z modifications. I add melted butter to the mix because the mix, according to the directions, comes out dry. You can also add dry rosemary or dill which is great if you like savory cornbread.

6. SALAD - Although an overlooked dish in the traditional Thanksgiving meal,  I think salad is necessary because all of the other dishes are warm and have a soft texture.  I still like a bite of raw crunch with my meal. My pick is an endive salad with each spear containing cranberries, candied pecans, and Gorgonzola cheese all drizzled with Newman's Own Balsamic Vinaigrette. Although they can be purchased, I candy the pecans myself by melting butter and brown sugar in a sauce pan and then toss in the pecans to coat. Then spread them out on a glass plate until they are cool.  They are so good, try not to eat them all before the meal!

7. YAMS - I follow my mom's recipe for yams and it's awesome. Buy 1 can (or more if you are making a lot) of cut sweet potatoes (but use fresh if you like) and spread them out in a shallow pie dish. Then add a half a stick of butter in pats all around. Sprinkle about a half cup of brown sugar, a handful of pecans, a pinch of nutmeg and cinnamon over the yams. Cook in 375 degree oven for about 45 minutes to an hour.  Remove from oven and top with mini marshmallows, & pop back into the oven for an extra 5 minutes or until marshmallows turn golden brown.  

8. GREEN BEANS - I know green bean casserole with the canned mushroom soup is a classic, but making this without the cans is easy and fun courtesy of  Alton Brown.  Check it out below. I found making Alton's onions a little tricky so I use the French's canister onions instead.

9. MASHED POTATOES - Make them from scratch and make them your own style! I have asked around the office and my co-workers are adding everything from bacon to celery root - or just keep it simple with butter, milk, and salt.

10. DESSERT - It's all about the pies and in the Hamzeh house, my bro, Rabih, makes the best pies!  He makes pumpkin, apple, pecan, & a cheese cake - so yummy and perfect as breakfast the next morning with a glass of milk or coffee.  If you are looking to make something a little different than a regular apple pie, try this 20 Ingredient Apple Pie from NPR's Splendid table.  It sounds really great, and if anyone makes it, please report back as to how it went.  I am passing the recipe along to Rabih.

I want to share one last unique recipe  that my fellow foodie co-worker shared with me - Stuffed Pumpkin. It looks like a spectacular addition to the Thanksgiving table.  I haven't tried it yet, but plan on it.  Stuff it with any number of items - rice, stuffing, or cheese, as indicated in the recipe. 

And now for the matching music selection -  I am keeping it simple this week with one perfect song (one of my dad's favorites) that symbolizes how Thanksgiving makes me feel.

Wishing you all a happy, tasty, and lyrical Thanksgiving.
Hugs and Kisses.


  1. What a great pairing of food and music. I also love the concert listing feature you have created. Maybe you can do that for some other cities around the Globe?

  2. Thanks Chahira - Hope you had a great thanksgiving. Thanks Ian - will work on expanded concert calendar.