“Yes, this is the first turkey I’ve ever cooked but how hard can it be?” I assured my friends with youthful enthusiasm. It was November 1967 when I found myself living in Idaho Falls, Idaho, and away from my family who were located in the Pacific Northwest.
With a never-say-die attitude, I decided to prepare Thanksgiving dinner for myself and three equally homesick friends. My kitchen-dining room combination was larger than a postage stamp but smaller than the average sized walk-in closet. It had a two-burner apartment size stove with a half-sized oven, and a 1941 issue refrigerator that had seen better days.
Someone had given me an almost complete set of light brown Melamine dinnerware with big pink flowers stamped in the center of each plate. My flatware was a starter set from Goodwill Industries, along with a sundry of dimpled pans and dented kitchen utensils.
I’d been honing my culinary know-how during the past two months by preparing packaged macaroni and cheese served with a can of heated French cut green beans. What other skills could I possibly need?
Mom had sent me a holiday CARE package of Cranberry Orange Conserve and 2-dozen pumpkin pie tarts, which put me well on my way toward serving an unforgettable meal.
At 7 a.m. Thanksgiving morning I slid the foil 9-pound foil wrapped bird into a 350° oven. Who needed roasting instructions? Mom always started cooking the turkey about 5 a.m. and it was ready around 4 p.m., so 9 hours for my sounded about right. Besides, luck was smiling down on me as my carefully chosen gobbler had a new-fangled, pop-up gizmo neatly tucked into its breast that would let me know when the bird was ready to eat.
“This is going to be easy! Is all I have to do is roast this bird until the little red thingamabob pops up. I can’t miss!” I announced with confidence.
Around 3 p.m. I noticed my guests were glancing at each other and fidgeting.
“The little red gizmo hasn’t popped up so it can’t be fully cooked, but we must be getting close!” I shouted from the kitchen to my nearly faint dinner guests.
“Tick, tick, tick,” another hour went by.
“Okay, it might be done.” I relented. “I’ll do the carving.”
Cutting hot, cedar shake shingles with a cold butter knife is the only way I can describe it. Our mouths had been watering for hours anticipating moist and juicy slices of turkey breast, thighs and drumsticks, but the golden bird was brittle, dry and crumbly through to the bone. The neck and giblets baked inside the bird’s cavity, were equally as crisp.
To this day my face turns crimson with the thought of my first turkey dinner fiasco, particularly when I hear the words “turkey jerky” spoken in hushed tones.
Every year when Thanksgiving rolls around, I’m grateful for early-in-life acquaintances who fade into the past, and for my mom who sent packages to me after I left the nest. Looking back on my first turkey roasting incident I remain thankful to Mom for having the foresight to tuck a jar of Holiday Cranberry Orange Conserve and the pumpkin tarts into the package.
Holiday Cranberry Orange Conserve
Place cranberries in large baking or roasting pan. Sprinkle sugar over cranberries. Cover; bake at 350˚ for 1-hour; stirring twice during baking time. Remove from the oven. Stir in marmalade and chopped nuts.
Cool slightly and pour into warm, sterilized jelly jars. Seal each jar tightly and cool to room temperature. Keep in refrigerator for up to 2 months or freeze until ready to use. Makes 8-8 ounce jelly jars.
Note: I suggest making a batch of Cranberry Orange Conserve as soon as fresh cranberries begin appearing in the produce department. Its beautiful ruby red color and rich, sweet-tart taste helps me get into the holiday spirit. This conserve is an excellent accompaniment to roasted turkey, chicken, or pork; and it’s unforgettably delicious when slathered on peanut butter toast.
Try your hand at making some of the following holiday friendly recipes, which are far more tempting to the palate than my first turkey (jerky) dinner. These are recipes I’ve gathered throughout the years, and after trying them you’ll learn I’ve come a long way in the kitchen since the 60s! Happy Thanksgiving!
John’s Mashed Potato Casserole is a generous, make-ahead dish that is sure to capture the heart of all who gather at your house on Thanksgiving Day. Even small appetites will be screaming for second helpings of this not-so-conventional cheesy holiday standard.
John’s Mashed Potato Casserole
4 pounds potatoes, peeled and cut into large, uniform chunks
1/2 cup butter
1 bunch (4 or 5) green onions, cleaned and thinly sliced
1/2 to 1 cup milk
1 8-ounce package cream cheese, softened
1 cup Parmesan cheese, shredded
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
Place the potatoes in a large saucepan and cover with about 2″ of lightly salted cold water. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to medium and simmer for 15 to 20 minutes or until tender when pierced with a fork. Drain thoroughly; transfer to a large mixer bowl.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. While potatoes are cooking, in a medium skillet over medium-low heat melt butter. Add green onions and sauté until tender. Add 1/2 cup milk, cream cheese and Parmesan cheese; stir until cheeses are melted. Add the melted cheese mixture to potatoes and beat with electric mixer until fluffy. Add salt and pepper to taste.
If mixture seems too stiff, add a little more milk. Pour into a buttered 9”x13” casserole dish and bake, uncovered, at 350° for about 30 minutes. Mixture should be nicely browned on top and slightly bubbly. Makes 10 servings
Recipe comes from the kitchen of John Buffington, Puyallup, Washington.
Baked Broccoli and Cheese Side Dish
1/2 cup onion, chopped
4 tablespoons butter or margarine
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup flour
3 eggs, slightly beaten
2 10-ounce packages chopped frozen broccoli
or 2 10-ounce packages chopped frozen spinach
1 5-ounce jar Kraft Old English Cheese
1 cup Nabisco, Cheese Nips, crushed fine
4 teaspoons butter or margarine
Sauté onion in 4 tablespoons margarine until onions begin to soften. Stir in salt and flour. Fold in broccoli (or spinach), eggs and cheese. Spoon into 2-quart baking dish that has been coated with non-fat cooking spray. Sprinkle with crushed Cheese Nip crackers. Dot with 4 teaspoons margarine. Bake, uncovered, at 350 degrees for 30 minutes. Makes 6 servings.
I’d like to share this Pumpkin Cookie recipe with you that comes from the kitchen of Linda Lipinski of Nokomis, Florida. It’s a real keeper, just like Linda and all the terrific recipes she so willing shares with others!
Linda’s Pumpkin Cookies
1 box yellow cake mix
1/2 cup instant oatmeal
1 15-ounce can plain pumpkin
1 teaspoon ground allspice
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 Tablespoon cooking oil
Mix above ingredients together with mixer. Spoon dough onto cookie sheet making
each cookie the size you like; don’t flatten them down. Bake at 350 degrees for 12 to 18 minutes, or about 12 minutes for medium size cookies. This is a soft cake-like cookie.
3 cups powder sugar
4 Tablespoon orange juice
1 teaspoon grated orange peel
Mix all 3 glaze ingredients together; frost each cookie while still slightly warm. Yield: Approximately 24 cookies. DELICIOUS!
Elegant Turkey Crepes are a perfectly delicious solution for using-up leftover turkey, that is if there are any leftovers!
Elegant Turkey Crepes
1/4 cup celery, thinly sliced
1/4 cup onion, chopped
1/2 teaspoon poultry seasoning
1 tablespoon butter or margarine
1 10-3/4 ounce can cream of mushroom or chicken soup
2 cups cooked turkey or chicken, finely chopped
8 Crepes (purchase in frozen food section or make at home)
1/3 cup milk
1/2 teaspoon orange rind, grated
Fresh parsley, optional
In saucepan, over medium heat, sauté celery and onion in butter until tender. Add poultry seasoning; stir in 1/2 cup soup and chopped turkey, continue stirring until heated. Spoon into center of crepes and roll up. Place in oblong serving dish and keep warm on lowest setting (setting #1) in microwave.
In another saucepan, combine remaining soup, milk and orange rind; heat; stirring occasionally; pour over crepes. Garnish with fresh parsley, if desired. Yield: 4 servings
Suggestions: Make the crepes before preparing the filling and set them aside. Do not stack the crepes. Allow them to cool separately so they don’t stick together. When crepe batter is poured into sauté pan, pick the pan up and roll it gently in a circular motion so batter can thin out to make a lighter crepe.
Quick tip: Most grocery stores carry pre-made crepes in the refrigerator and freezer sections of the store.