The Day Before Thanksgiving 2014


Heather says:

Thanksgiving is tomorrow.

Are you ready?

Have you been playing along with this year’s Countdown to Turkey Day 2014. What did you think? Was it thorough enough? What needs to be improved?

As per usual, I’ll be adding a few more recipes to the site for Christmas and next year.  This year has been so amazingly different from last. I ran into someone the other day who commented, wow, you look ten years younger. I feel it.

I have so many things to be grateful for and you are one of them. The Home-Ec 101 community has helped me grow a lot over the past 8 years. I’ve built this site, written and published a book, changed my life, gone through hell and come out the other side a happier, stronger more confident person. You guys have been a part of it all, thank you.

On to today’s to-dos

For many families today is for baking and food prep.

Here are few last minute tips to help everything go smoothly.

Check the turkey now. Has it completely thawed?
Use the water bath method to finish defrosting the turkey. Once thawed the turkey can go back into the fridge until tomorrow morning.

Yes? Make sure it’s not sitting in a pool of water. That’s just a cross-contamination scenario waiting to happen. Wipe it up with a dilute bleach solution.

Tomorrow, go ahead and pull your turkey out of the refrigerator a few hours before roasting. Remember when we talked about not skipping temperature stages with meat when cooking?

Please check your pantry and refrigerator one more time.

Are your knives sharp?

No? Read this tutorial How to Sharpen a Knife, it’ll help you get through tomorrow safely. Did you really just ask why? Sharp knives are safer than dull knives.

If you have several recipes calling for diced onions, bell pepper, and/or celery, go ahead and chop it all today. Cover tightly before refrigerating.

Do not pre-cut your potatoes and toss them in the fridge, it’s a bad idea. If you must know they turn a horrid shade of dark grey.

If you want a head start on mashed potatoes, you can make them today and then bake in a covered, oven-safe dish to reheat (with lots of butter, please). Alternately, tomorrow morning, peel and dice the potatoes, then hold them in a bowl of cold water. Rinse the potatoes before cooking in salted water. The same goes for sweet potatoes and apples, exposure to air makes them oxidize. Oxidation doesn’t hurt anything, it’s just quite unattractive.

If you are pre-cooking your side dishes, don’t forget to check your Thanksgiving Day Timetable to ensure everything will be hot and ready to serve at the same time.

If you’re using your own bread for dressing, go ahead and tear / cut that up today, too.
Still looking for a traditional sage dressing? Try this apple, cranberry sage dressing. It’s wonderful. If you need a vegetarian dressing recipe, just follow that one and replace the chicken / turkey stock with vegetables stock, easy peasy.

Cornbread for the dressing? Make that today, too. Remember cornbread dressing is gluten free dressing, provided you use plain cornmeal and NOT cornmeal mix for your cornbread. Do you need a sweet cornbread recipe or a plain cornbread recipe for your dressing?

If you don’t have young children or pets and you have a formal dining room vs the every day table, you can even go as far as setting the table. Put the plates and glasses on the table upside down or cover them with a large -clean!- sheet so they don’t catch any dust. Tomorrow, just before the guests arrive, flip or uncover everything. Do not pre-set the table if you have young children or pets. Somehow or another they’ll just make more work for you or create an embarrassing fur or sticky fingerprint situation.

If you’re playing host to friends and family, please check the guest bathroom. Make sure there’s enough TP, soap, and something with which to dry their hands. Please make sure that the guest towel doesn’t look like its only purpose is decorative. I can’t be the only person who worries about messing up someone’s starchy, frilly towel arranged over sea shells. Make sure the towel for hand drying is in an obvious, convenient spot. It’s better than having guests forced to wipe their hands on their pants.

If you have room, go ahead and chill any beverages that will be served.

If you choose to truss your turkey for roasting, it can be trussed today. Need a tutorial? See How to Truss a Turkey. Just don’t forget to take the turkey out of the refrigerator about an hour before cooking.

Do you have any last minute tips?

Please remember even if nothing comes out right, your mom, sister, and drunk uncle Roy are driving you nuts, or if it’s just not turning out as planned, Thanksgiving is a celebration in the spirit of gratitude. The fact that we have friends and family willing to even begrudgingly come together is a sign we are truly blessed. If you know someone, perhaps a serviceman or woman far from home, set an extra place and welcome them and invite them to your table. It doesn’t matter how simple the meal, the intention is what matters.

We have two families in this life, the one we are given and the one we create; embrace them both this holiday season.

Happy Thanksgiving to all of you from

The Great Pantry Check and REcheck

Heather says:
Thanksgiving is nearly here, all of the work you’ve done over the past few weeks will help ensure your event runs smoothly. Today it’s time for the Thanksgiving Pantry double check. Did you see that. I said DOUBLE check. You not only need to do this today, but again before Thanksgiving. Why? Teenagers. Household gnomes. The Movers. The Spouse. The Roommates. The kid going through a growth spurt. The surprise guests. Whatever or whoever it was, someone may grab the last of something you need for Thanksgiving Dinner.

Do you need to catch up on the entire Countdown to Turkey Day Series? Don’t worry, we’ll be here when you get back.

What’s on today’s agenda?

It’s time to pull out your Thanksgiving menu and grocery list again. Today you will use your grocery list to do a pantry double check. Did someone swipe your mini-marshmallows or use all of the evaporated milk when the milk ran out?

It’s worth looking again.

Is your frozen turkey thawing safely in the bottom-most section of your refrigerator? It should be. If your turkey is still in the freezer you may want to check out this post on thawing a turkey safely using a water-bath.

Make your list of perishable goods and buy them tomorrow or Wednesday.

If you’ve been keeping up with housework, spend a little extra time today making sure the place is presentable.

Do yourself a huge favor and make sure you aren’t down to the last roll of toilet paper. I’m serious, running out of TP with a houseful of guests would be awkward. For you, for them, sure it’s funny ten years down the road, but why be the butt of that joke?

har har

Are you serving wine on Thanksgiving?

There is a handy, free smartphone app created by  The Wine Sisterhood to help calculate how much wine you’ll need for your Thanksgiving dinner. It’s called Drink-U-Lator and is available for both iPhone and Android (yay!).  The app calculates a responsible amount of alcohol to have available for your guests.

That’s pretty much it for today, provided you have all of serving dishes clean and ready to go. The rest is optional.

Are you doing a Thanksgiving centerpiece?

Do you need a centerpiece?

Not really.

However, here are directions to make a simple Thanksgiving centerpiece like the one pictured.

Are you ready for Thanksgiving?

Pre-Thanksgiving Sunday Confessional

Heather says:

It’s a chilly rainy, November morning -and yes, this song is stuck in my head- I’m trying to get up the wherewithal to head to church across town. When it’s not my turn with the kids, I sometimes have a very hard time forcing myself to head to Mass even though I know I’ll feel better having gone. It’s more of an inertia problem than an I don’t want to.

It’s been a long time since I’ve done one of these, right after my first vacation was the last, I think.

Life isn’t the perfection of magazines, TV, and Instagram. All of those platforms are framed and lit to show the best (or worst if that’s what you’re into) of a situation. No one is perfect. We all have our faults and insecurities. The Sunday Confessional is a chance to admit some of those faults rather than trying to live up to the impossible ideals of the media we subject ourselves to.

Here are the ridiculous things I do that I just want to put out there (and maybe learn some of you do the same?):

I add any old book title to my 7 year old’s stupid reading log. That child reads more than I do. There are books in every corner of my house, the car, and in her bookbag. It’s rare not to catch her reading and there is no way on God’s green earth I’m going to make her recount to me the title and author of every thing she has read that day. I don’t have time for that crap, it’s annoying. She’s met the quota.

Last weekend as part of my job at FeedBlitz, I created a screencast demonstrating how to create what’s called a re-engagement campaign. This a process publishers can use to make sure the people in the newsletter are actually reading and interacting. Ho hum… except I was using my own account to create the demo and the list associated with this website to populate the campaign, just to show how it really works. I finished my project and went back to my weekend and I completely forgot to turn off the dummy automated email I had scheduled as part of the project. And it gets worse, I also forgot to turn off the automated scheduled mailings of the posts here on this site. /facepalm  So not only did everyone receive a fake We Missed You, they also received two copies of the post. Good job, Heather.

I am getting rid of a piece of furniture via Craig’s List. Because I am ridiculously ashamed of the state of the fixer-upper, I’ve made my boyfriend handle the interactions. When a couple came over to look at it last night, I went and hid in the bedroom until they left. The house is clean, I just haven’t gotten to any of the rooms you see when you walk in the front door. The squatter did a number on the walls and door frames and I can’t deal with people thinking I did that my home. Even people who I’ll probably never see again.

Speaking of Craig’s List, I got all excited when Craig Newmark and I talked on Twitter not too long ago (I’m a big geek)

And the final one, the big and true one. . . I need to fix my priorities. The last few years I buried myself in work, it  was easier than facing the mess of everything. Now that my life is in order and I have the ability, head and heart-space to do so, I need to work on showing my friends how much they matter to me, by making them a priority, too. How do you show your friends they matter to you after you’ve neglected them for too long?

What do you have to get off your chest?

Gluten-Free Chicken Gumbo

Heather says:

I am ridiculously happy. I was recently doing my weekly shopping and found Pillsbury Gluten-Free All-Purpose Flour Mix near the regular flour at Publix. It isn’t the fanciest of grocery stores, but it’s generally a step above of say Food Lion. Long story short, this gluten-free flour mix already contains xanthan gum which mimics the elastic nature of wheat gluten. Happy day, I can now make a gluten-free roux that doesn’t break down. The gumbo was still thick after re-heating to take pack for the kids’ lunch.

Easily Make Gluten-FrAee Chicken Gumbo

And even better than staying thick? It’s a one-to-one substitution. Please note, you may notice that the roux doesn’t get as dark as a traditional roux. I gave up on a dark roux after 15 minutes. I was starving and really didn’t want to crank up the heat only to have to start over if the roux began to break down, so it was a blonde roux gumbo, but it was gluten-free which made everyone happy.

Shortcut – substitute frozen trinity and onion / pepper seasoning mix instead of chopping everything, for a much faster prep. (Yes, working full time and commuting the chauffeur the kids does cause me to take some short cuts some nights. Please don’t ask how often we have breakfast for dinner, now be quiet and eat your scrambled eggs)

: Chicken Gumbo

  • 3 – 5 lbs bone-in, chicken (chicken thighs work perfectly)
  • 2 large onions, sliced
  • 3 celery ribs, with leaves, chopped
  • 2 bell peppers, diced
  • 4 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
  • 1 lb andouille sausage
  • 2 Tablespoons Cajun or Creole seasoning -please check that the brand you use is gluten-free
  • 2 quarts cold water
  • 1 lb frozen okra pieces
  • 2 tomatoes, diced
  • 1/2 cup gluten-free flour mix that contains xantham gum
  • 1/3 cup bacon fat or vegetable oil
  • OPTIONAL 1 tsp salt (to taste)
  • file seasoning (when serving)
  • Hot Sauce (Tabasco or my favorite Louisiana Hot Sauce)

  • In a large pot (6 quart minimum) add the water, chicken, sausage, onion, bell pepper, celery, garlic, and Cajun seasoning. Bring the water to a boil, immediately reduce to a simmer and cook over low – medium low heat for 2 hours.
  • Remove the chicken, cool enough to handle, and debone, discarding the skin and bones. Return the chicken to the gumbo along with the okra and tomatoes.
  • In a heavy skillet heat the bacon fat or vegetable oil until hot, reduce the heat to low and sprinkle in the flour and stir carefully to begin making roux. Cook the roux until the color is somewhere between peanut butter and milk chocolate, depending on your preference.
  • Whisk the roux into the gumbo and cook over low heat (at a simmer) for twenty minutes.
  • Taste and add additional seasoning, if necessary.
  • In each bowl, stir in a scoop of cooked rice, a pinch of file, and a dash of hot sauce.

Preparation time: 20 minute(s)

Cooking time: 2 hour(s) 30 minute(s)

Number of servings (yield): 8

Boneless chicken alteration

Use 2 -3lbs, weighed before cooking.

Brown the chicken and dice. Skip to the roux making portion of the recipe and make the roux, then add the onion, celery, bell pepper, and garlic directly to the roux, just as you would in shrimp étouffée. Then slowly stir in the chicken stock you have substituted for water and then add the Cajun seasoning, bay leaves, chicken, okra and tomatoes. Stir well and simmer for 20 minutes.


One Week Until Thanksgiving

Heather says:

We’ve got one week to go until Thanksgiving. This means that it’s time to actually dig out your serving ware and make sure it’s clean. If you ‘re going to polish your silver (who has silver anymore?) it’s time to do that, too.

Make room in your refrigerator for your produce and the turkey itself. Yes, this means throwing out those science experiments and those condiments from 2010. Just let it go already.

If you are short on refrigerator space you can supplement it with a cooler kept in the pantry, garage, or even on the back porch. Just keep in mind that you’ll want to thaw the turkey in the refrigerator itself, if you want to be sure it thaws according to the 24 hour per 5 lb rule.

If you are buying a fresh turkey, make sure you don’t pick it up until Tuesday afternoon.

Will there be children in your home on Thanksgiving? Have you figured out something to keep them occupied?

If you’re not sure if you’re on track for Turkey Day, check out what we’ve covered so far.

I tried to keep it short and sweet today after my mailing bungle earlier in the week. I’m sorry about that. See you tomorrow!