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Getting ready for turkey day

November 24, 2008 - Kathie Evanoff
Thanksgiving is this week and due to a busy work schedule, pre-planning is mandatory for a stress-free day. After all, what good is a holiday if you can’t enjoy it?

I have celebrated many Thanksgiving holidays, both as a working person and as a homemaker. I have to admit that as a working person, the holiday is much easier.

As a working person, we know the challenges we face when we have a holiday coming up. While many people enjoy a long weekend, those of us in jobs that aren’t conducive to taking extra days off, only will get one day, Thursday. Our friends and family know this as well and are very good about not putting on any added pressure. We’ve done the huge family dinners, both in our own home as well as carrying hot, covered dishes to other people’s homes. I am fortunate that my husband enjoys cooking and is more than willing to help in the kitchen on those big holidays. In most cases, he cooks every weeknight dinner as it is, so weekend and holiday dinners are often my responsibility. But if I need an extra pair of hands to lift the bird from the oven or to make the gravy, he is always helpful.

I remember one Thanksgiving in particular when we were expecting a huge number of family members for dinner. So many, in fact, that we had to move our kitchen table to the dining room and create an exceedingly huge table. I was never a fan of the “kid’s table” set-up. Having been banished to that smaller table, often in the next room away from the best of the conversation when I was young, I was determined that my children, as well as their cousins and whoever else was at the house, would always be welcome at the main table for holiday dinners. My husband had just purchased one of those “new-fangled” turkey deep-fryers. But the fryers don’t accommodate as large a turkey as we needed for our guests, as well as providing leftovers for all the really great after-Thanksgiving meals. We came up with the bright idea to have a turkey cook-off; he with his deep fried turkey and me, with my herb-filled roasted bird.

While I spent much of the morning preparing homemade sage dressing, stuffing rosemary, basil, garlic, thyme and butter beneath every inch of skin I managed to pry up from the turkey’s body, finding a large enough roasting pan and cutting out just the right size drumstick and breast covers from aluminum foil, my husband had simply to wash and dry his bird before gently lowering it into the hot oil. I did have the advantage of watching parts of the Macy’s parade during my turkey’s slow cooking process, but while he was diligently watching over his deep-fryer, I was making all the side dishes, so the majority of work was still on my plate.

At the table, we asked our guests to choose which turkey they liked the best. They nearly all chose the deep-fried turkey with its crispy outer skin. While my turkey was pretty good too, especially after all my great pains to monitor its internal temperature to avoid drying out the white meat or undercooking the dark, it was the oil-laden turkey that won the most votes.

While that was a fun holiday, I wasn’t working at the time and my competitive spirit kept me going through the hard work. But now, I prefer the easy way out. I want to be able to watch the parade without spending my time in the kitchen. I want to be able to enjoy my one-day off for the holiday. So we haven’t planned any more elaborate family gatherings, instead choosing to spend our day with our immediate family. We still cook enough turkey for leftovers, but the bird is much smaller now. I no longer spend hours baking a half dozen pies. Nor do I have to drag out my largest, heaviest stoneware bowl to mix the several pounds of dressing. I don’t cut out new recipes weeks before the event that take expensive ingredients only to have no one eat them anyway. I don’t get up at 5 a.m. to make sure the turkey is in the oven on time for an early meal. I do make plans to enjoy my day.

This year; however, we did do something a little different. Instead of buying a huge-breasted grocery-store turkey, we opted to get a fresh bird from a local farm. Our turkey enjoyed a life outdoors where it was able to perch in trees and pluck all insects it wanted from fresh, green grass. This turkey, because of its smaller breast and more muscle-tone will need to be cooked a bit differently. I am currently researching the cooking method for the free-range heritage turkey, now sitting in our refrigerator in wait of the big day. Keep reading to find out how it turns out.

Breakfast this morning was a nice, steamy bowl of warm oats with banana, brown sugar and ½ ounce walnuts. I forgot the cinnamon, but it was still a good way to start a cold morning. Later on for lunch, I put a quarter slice chicken breast on a ciabatta roll with lettuce and mayo and served that with a cup of minestrone soup. For vending machine soup, it wasn’t half bad.


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Breakfast: 2 ounce grains; 1 ounce meat; 1 tsp. healthy oils; ¾ cup fruit; 65 discretionary calories.