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2014 Thanksgiving Playbook (November 2014 issue)
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Ze piece de resistance. My Thanksgiving turkey 2011.

2014 Thanksgiving Playbook. You're Welcome.

November 2014  

Gobble gobble, friends!

It's that time of year that brings excitement to all, with a mix of angst about what and how to cook the Thanksgiving meal. It is the biggest food holiday of the year. The main event. So don't mess it up. But if you do, oh well, there's always Sauvignon Blanc, right?

I am here to help. I've been known as the Turkey Whisperer. When I stay at friend's or relative's homes, I am always responsible for the turkey. I have a friend who calls me every year and asks what to do with the turkey. You can trust me. I'm a professional. In this issue, I bring to you menu plans, grocery list highlights, recipes and more.

If you have any questions between now and next Thursday, feel free to shoot me an email, tweet or smoke signal.

Cheers!
- Michelle
XOXO


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The Menu & Grocery List
Okay, folks. Here is the lowdown. Each year I save my menu in a document and tweak where needed. Sometimes the hostess I'm visiting asks me to help plan, so I send her my list. You can add or subtract however you see fit and work in your own family traditions. Since I'm part Lebanese, my grandma always made a few Lebanese dishes. I wish I had the manpower to pull that off this year, but alas, I don't. I'm responsible for the whole shebang while making sure my one-year-old doesn't inflict damage in between. But I'm hitting on all of the classics this year for 5 adults.

Turkey
  • 13 lb turkey for 5 adults (Plan on at least 1 pound of raw bird per person, which will also give you some leftovers. We like lots of turkey leftovers for a few days worth of sandwiches.) I love how Martha Stewart makes her turkey.
  • Turkey brine: We basically need a lot of kosher salt and dried spices, black peppercorns and fresh thyme. I just grab a recipe from online. Brining, in my opinion, is the best way to prepare a turkey for roasting, resulting in the juiciest and most flavorful bird. 
  • Gigantic plastic roasting bag to hold the turkey and brine in
 Gravy (I make bomb turkey stock and gravy from scratch)
  • 2 extra turkey necks
  • 1 carrot
  • 1 celery stalk
  • 1 onion
  • White wine
  • 1 quart unsalted chicken broth
  • Butter and white flour for the gravy
Stuffing (Yes, I totally stuff that bird. Just not too densely, and I take the internal temperature--165 degrees F.)
  • Big bag of plain bread croutons (stores sell this for Thanksgiving, it’s just cubed, dried bread)
  • 2 quarts good chicken broth
  • Jimmy Dean sausage (the ground kind in a tube, per my husband's grandma's recipe)  
  • 2 stalks celery
  • 1 onion
  • 3 eggs
Mashed potatoes: Full disclosure: I am buying mine from Whole Foods this year to save on time and pot washing. If you make your own, you will want to have:
  • Yukon golds make great potatoes
  • Butter or margarine/spread
  • Milk or cream
  • A flavoring like garlic or something, if you like
Or if you like red-skinned potatoes, try my skinny smashed potato recipe with Greek yogurt. Divine.

Green bean casserole: I just doctor up a recipe I find online. Or if you're looking for something fancy, try this recipe for Green Beans with Crispy Shallots and Cheddar that I created for Sargento a few years back.

Sweet potato casserole: I just throw together boiled yams with cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, Brandy, brown sugar, and top with some marshmallows, of course.

Cranberries: I play around with a new recipe every year. The one on the package is simplistic and perfect. Orange is a delightful accent flavor.

Soft squishy dinner rolls or crusty baguette and some butter 
 
Pies: This year I am buying my pies from a local baker I know who makes them out of her house with love (or with hatred for all of the people who are causing her to work around the clock when she has to make her own Thanksgiving!). Yeah, I know this is way too much pie for the four adults I'm feeding, but everyone has their favorite. And I will savor it for breakfast--yes!
  • Pumpkin pie  
  • Pecan pie
  • Apple pie
  • 8-ounce container fresh whipping cream for making your own fresh whipped cream with powdered sugar and good vanilla
Appetizers
  • Shrimp cocktail: either buy it pre-cooked or try my Poached Shrimp with Creamy Dijon Sauce, like the one from Joe's Stone Crab.
  • Charcuterie and cheese platter is good, classy and easy. Get the best quality that you can afford, and serve with some nuts and a bit of fruit.
  • Peppadew peppers stuffed with goat cheese are so good. And easy. You can grab them right off of the olive bar in many well-stocked grocery stores.
Other random things we’ll need:
  • Wine. Lots. Sauvignon blanc and a good red—I leave that to hubs to figure out.
  • Organic expeller-pressed canola oil or rice bran oil
  • Large roasting pan for turkey – this is important. I have looked high and low for mine. I think we lost it during the move. I will buy another. I loved my Calphalon Roasting Pan.
  • A cooler to hold the turkey. Or an extra fridge
  • Room in your fridge for all of this stuff
  • Kitchen twine to truss the turkey  
  • Cheesecloth for the broth
  • Meat thermometer that works
  • Don’t forget the wine
And equally important, get groceries for good sandwiches the next day!:
  • Good Italian or sourdough bread
  • Mayonnaise
  • Avocados
  • Tomatoes

The Michelle File: My Latest Recipes

Last week I appeared on Arizona Midday on NBC in Phoenix and shared tips on how to make your favorite Thanksgiving recipes a bit healthier. Check out my article and video here
Other's notable recipes. Tried it, loved it!
Roasted Chickpea and Broccoli Burritos from Thug KitchenRecently I stumbled upon this recipe. I've already made it twice and both my husband and I love it. Stella, too! Since red bell peppers are out of season, I swapped them for carrot and celery. The other time, I subbed the pepper with a package of crimini mushrooms and a bit of carrots--our favorite version yet. However, if reading F-bombs offends you, then you will definitely not appreciate the authors' prose. Yes, I'm talking to you Aunt Nancy. If you're feeling extra feisty, you might like their book: check it out here.
Michelle in the News

Surprisingly Simple Strategies Nutritionists Swear By 

My dietitian colleagues and I shared our own personal strategies for staying healthy and keeping fit with The Huffington Post. Read the story here.  

Worst Kids Snacks in the World: This month I worked with Teresa Strasser with The List TV show and we dished on the worst snacks for kids, as well as healthier replacements. Teresa is hilarious and it was such a pleasure working with her. Watch the video here.
Seasonally Obsessed
Not your grandma's Brussels sprouts. I grew up loving Brussels sprouts, cooked from frozen and doused in butter. Tasty from what I remember, yes. But try these on for size: roasted! Trim the nubs, then quarter. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with garlic powder, salt and pepper. And nutritional yeast seasoning if you have it. Roast at 400 degrees F for about 20 minutes or until crispy on the outsides.
Roasted Brussels sprouts. If you're like me, you'll find yourself devouring the crispy leaves before dinner, straight from the pan.
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My New Favorite Things
Fun with Stella: On our most recent grocery store outing I Iet Stella hold onto the Brussels sprout stalk! It captured her attention for at least 5 minutes, until she started to gnaw on it, so I had to distract her with something else. When roasted, she likes munching on at least a few cubes of Brussels sprouts.
Don't have my cookbook yet? You're missing out on over 110 mouth-watering, quick-fix meals filled with clean ingredients that everyone will love! Available at Amazon and wherever fine books are sold. It's also a great gift for the parent who enjoys cooking.
Eat Like Me, Shop Like Me: Check out my new Amazon store. I get a small commission off of anything you buy through my store or link, which helps pay for my IT guy, improving the way I communicate with you online. Check out my aStore here!
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