Thanksgiving Madness

This coming Thanksgiving will be my third time cooking the big meal all by myself.  You would think that I would be relaxed and know what I am doing; which is so not the case!  For some reason this Thanksgiving has me all frazzled.  I am researching how to time out the dinner so things stay warm and when to pop which dish in the oven with what.  It is like a well choreographed dance routine that someone has yet to teach me.

For a little perspective and because every person that has cooked a Thanksgiving or Christmas meal has at least one crazy oh my goodness story.  I want to let you into my kitchen for last Thanksgiving.  I was cooking dinner for my folks, great aunt, and two of my friends, this is a total of 6 people including myself.  Seems simple enough, I got myself a fresh 15 lb turkey so I wouldn’t have to deal with defrosting and that I would be able to brine the turkey.  (Fun Fact: you can’t brine a frozen turkey because they put saline inside the bird to help them freeze faster so you would get an extremely salty bird, if you brined it)  It is now Turkey day it started out easy, woke up took the bird out gave it its bath and then popped that baby in the oven.  I then made my butter wine basting mixture and got to roasting.  I basted every 30 mins and my bird started turning that gorgeous brown color and things were just peachy.  Then I got a call from my friend who said they decided that they were going to go to their coworkers house instead of mine; so here I was a planned dinner for 6 turned into 4.  The upside is at least there would be less people not more at my dinner, but that still sucked to hear the day of.  So I am back to basting and thinking of all the yummy leftovers we will have, then bam out of nowhere the bird was unexpectedly done! What!? How can it be done it should have at least one more hour to go, and my guests aren’t going to be here for over an hour.  So here I was frantically calling my parents telling them to get over here because the turkey was done early.  Which then meant that I had to rush to cook everything else because I thought I had a whole hour left to cook the sides.  So I am sure your thinking this doesn’t seem that exciting or funny; and you are right up until this point it isn’t unless you could see me trying to get a hold of the folks; who of course aren’t answering their phones, running around my kitchen boiling water for potatoes, trying to get the bread out of the can and into crescent rolls, and then ultimately forgetting to get the gravy started.  All while trying to keep the bird covered so it would stay warm while I waited for my step-dad to get there and carve that sucker.  Because this girl still has no clue hot to carve a turkey or chicken without it just being chunks.

So here I am with a dinner done too early and the sides only partially done when everyone finally gets to the house.  I get them into their seats and start laying all the food out that was done, while finishing the gravy that I initially forgot about.  Then we eat and it is all delicious even with all the chaos.  Now stay with me, I still haven’t gotten to my crazy funny Thanksgiving story.  We finish our meal and I enlist my step-dad to finish taking the bird down to the bone so we can put the leftovers in the fridge.  He is happily carving away and pulling the meat off then all of a sudden he stops and asks if the meat looks cooked.  I was like what are you talking about of course it is cooked it was the right temp and we already finished eating.  Well it turns out that the top 7/8ths of the bird was cooked but the bottom portion was not.  So even though the turkey said it was done and registered at the right temp it wasn’t actually cooked all the way.  Now the crazy part is how does the bottom of the bird be the only part that doesn’t cook?  This is closest to the heating element of my stove.  Also this wasn’t the first time I have ever cooked a turkey it was my second, and the first one was perfect if I do say so myself, so I had no doubts that I could manage a turkey last year.  Well obviously I can only manage 7/8ths of a turkey.

Which brings me to this Thanksgiving, I think I am freaking out and am unable to focus because I am scared I am going to only cook 7/8ths of my turkey this year and I really do not want to repeat that.  But the other issue I am thinking about is how do you keep the turkey warm while you cook all the other sides.  Every blog post I read says they let their turkey rest from 30 mins to an hour before carving and it is still hot.  How is this possible?  I can’t even let a whole chicken rest sitting covered on my counter keep warm for 15 mins.  So how do these people manage a whole hour?

Luckily I get a little reprieve because football controls our family life and the Green Bay Packers are playing Thanksgiving Day my parents and I will be at the local Packer bar to watch the game.  Which means we will be having our Thanksgiving on Friday, which allows me one extra day to do things.  Especially since as of today I still haven’t done a single ounce of shopping; but I have made multiple shopping lists so that is a step in the right direction. I think.  I am planning to make the stuffing from scratch for the first time, brine my turkey for at least 24hrs, and bake my first apple pie in years.  Since I am freaking out I am considering making the mashed potatoes in the crockpot.  A lot of the recipes I read online seem to really like the set it and forget it approach, but at the same time what if they suck then I don’t have any potatoes.  I think I need someone to tell me to calm the heck down things will be fine and who cares really.  Worse case scenario we have to go out and eat.

So what is one of your oh my goodness stories or do you have a tried and true tip to make the turkey day schedule a breeze? Please leave me a comment below so I know I am not the only one freaking out over how to accomplish a holiday meal!

Mini Cheesy Meatloaf

While trying to decide what I wanted to cook for the week I got this craving for meatloaf.  I know it seems like a weird craving but for some reason it just sounded so good.  I remember my parents making a cheese stuffed meatloaf as a kid, we didn’t get it all the time but it showed up on the dinner table often.  It was quick and cooked in the microwave; we had a thing for meals cooked in the microwave so much so we have a huge recipe box full of microwave only recipes, who knows maybe I’ll but one of those out in the future.  Now I have had some good meatloaf and the bad, I think there is a fine line between something delicious and just a block of meat; and unfortunately it doesn’t take much to cross into the bad.  I think this is why meatloaf gets such a bad rap often times it is hard and flavorless, I have had many people tell me how gross meatloaf is and then they describe that cafeteria meatloaf from elementary school.  I am sorry there was no way to make that taste good.  So when I think about what I was served as a kid it was always full of flavor and stuffed with cheese how can you go wrong with that.  Now honestly I can’t tell you the last time I actually had meatloaf but I had to do something about this craving so I came up with this:

©Blurred Lines

©Blurred Lines

Since I did not have my parent’s recipe on hand and I didn’t really know where to start but I did know what I wanted in it, simple flavors and cheese.  I did a little research on the good old internet and crafted my own recipe.  I took bits and pieces from recipes online and my knowledge of how my parent’s always whipped it up or guesses on how they whipped it up.  The biggest decision I made was to make it in small individual loaves versus the large loaf that most people remember being served at the dinner table.  Next I wanted to have a sweet & salty type sauce on top to help with moisture and below you can see the whole recipe.  Don’t forget to make adjustments as you see fit, a little more spices here or less cheese (but who wants less cheese) cooking is fun and should be enjoyed so use what you love!

Mini Cheesy Meatloaves

1 lb ground beef (or any other ground meat you prefer)

1-2 eggs lightly beaten (I used two medium eggs adjust for the size you have on hand)

1 cup shredded cheddar cheese

1/2 medium yellow onion diced

1 tbsp dried orageno

1 tbsp dried parsley

1 tsp granulated garlic or minced garlic

1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce

1 cup plain breadcrumbs (you may need more or less depending on how wet your meat is, I used an extra 1/4 cup)

Salt & Pepper

Ingredients for the Sauce

1/4 – 1/2 cup Ketchup

1 tbsp Horseradish Mustard (next time I will up this to 2 tbsp)

1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce

1 tbsp brown sugar

Heat oven to 425° F and then place your oven rack in the middle of the oven.  Line a rimmed baking sheet with tinfoil and spray with nonstick cooking spray.

While the oven preheats get a large bowl and put in your ground beef, spices, Worcestershire sauce, lightly beaten eggs and breadcrumbs.  The next part is messy but the only way to make meatloaf, remove any jewelry and then get your hands in there and mix it all up.  At this point if it feels really wet add additional breadcrumbs just to soak up the extra liquid and help keep things together.  Once you have it all mixed up throw in your onion & shredded cheese and give it another good mix.  Feel free to add everything all at once then mix it up, I did in two mixes because honestly I forgot those two ingredients on the other side of the counter and I decided to write this exactly how I did it not that it matters but you never know.  The joys of cooking, you can improvise as you go through it is never exact and that is half the fun.  This is how it should look once mixed up, meat doesn’t look dry and everything is fully incorporated.

©Blurred Lines

©Blurred Lines

Once everything is mixed up you are going to form 4 to 6 loaves with your hands, and place on your greased cookie sheet.  It all depends on how big you make them, I only made 4 this time.  I got two on the larger size and two smaller ones, which was perfect for lunch the next day.

©Blurred Lines

©Blurred Lines

After you have formed your loaves and given your hands a good scrubbing it is time to make the sauce.  In a small bowl take your ketchup, mustard, spices and sugar and give it a good stir.  Once it is all mixed up spoon the mixture over each of the loaves giving them a nice top coat.  The sugar in the sauce will begin to caramelize and become almost like barbeque sauce.

©Blurred Lines

©Blurred Lines

By time you have sauced the loaves your oven should be nice and hot.  Go ahead and place them in middle of your oven for 25 – 30 mins or until the center is no longer pink.  At 25 mins I pulled mine out and as you can kind of see below I cut into it to make sure that it was cooked through and it was perfect.  Depending on how the size and thickness you may have to adjust the cooking time.

©Blurred Lines

©Blurred Lines

Once you remove them from the oven let them sit for 5 mins to rest before diving into your yummy dinner!  Just look at all the melted cheese mixing in the with sauce, yum!  I served mine with asparagus that was tossed with garlic salt and parmesan cheese and red potatoes that I cooked in the microwave and topped with butter, salt & pepper.

I really enjoyed this dish, it has a nice texture not hard like some meatloaves can get if they are over cooked, I think the small loaves help with this.  The nice thing about the onions is that they soften up and add moisture to the loaf which really helps keep the texture soft and more like a really good hamburger.  I ended up bringing the leftovers to work so my mother and I could enjoy them and they were just as good the next day.

I would love to hear how yours turns out or if you made any changes and how they worked, just leave me a comment!