I’ve had several inquiries as to why I haven’t posted in a while. I don’t have a clever answer.
It was Thanksgiving.
I got sick.
It was my birthday.
The universe would’ve imploded if I hadn’t got my Christmas decorations up on time.
And because it was Thanksgiving and my birthday and I got sick and the universe would’ve imploded if I hadn’t gotten my Christmas decorations up on time, my house got really, really messy. I’m not exactly sure how most people define “messy”, but in my house it means “so disgusting a call to child services is warranted”. Heaven forbid anyone but Mooooooo-ooom do anything about it. Don’t tell Mr. Husband I said that. He did do some dishes and let me stay in bed for a whole day without being asked. I hate to use the “oh you know men!” (Cymbal crash) line of jokes here, but… seriously?
As you can imagine, my time has been somewhat occupied. Actually it still is. I have at least another solid day of work ahead of me before I’ll be able to call my home livable again. And that’s by my standards. You know what? Just do yourself a favor. Never come to my house.
I thought it would be appropriate, given my lack of time to commit, to share a Thanksgiving weekend rundown. I’ll even share a few recipes, but only the ones I’ve made a thousand times and know will turn out because I want to look smart and impress you with my cooking skills.
Will the real Thanksgiving please stand up?
My need to prepare ridiculous amounts of overindulgent foods comes in handy during the holidays. Not only is marathon baking encouraged, it’s celebrated. I started my preparations around Halloween and by the time Thanksgiving week rolled around, I had an entire menu planned. In the past I’d had some pretty serious kitchen disasters involving the allotment of oven/burner time and I was determined not to let that happen again. So I did what most normal people do this time of year. I made a schedule that began on Monday and ran up to Thanksgiving dinner. Each day had a list of items I would prepare and at what times of the day I would need to cook them based on both the requisite temperatures and baking times. Standard holiday practice, right? It went something like this:
Afternoon: Bread for stuffing (store-bought bread would be too easy)
3:30 p.m.: Toffee and other candy (utilizing white chocolate MELTING wafers leftover from previous kitchen disaster)
5:00 p.m.: Prepare six pie crusts (why make just TWO pies when you can triple the recipes and make SIX?), refrigerate overnight.
6:00 p.m.: Bake only three of the six pie crusts and make homemade whipped cream 7:00 p.m.: Chocolate cream pies
11:00 p.m.: Cheesecake, 11:00 p.m., turn oven off at midnight, DO NOT OPEN DOOR to prevent cracking. Pull prime rib out of freezer at this time (remember this, it comes into play later).
6:00 a.m.: Pull cheesecake out of oven
9:00 a.m.: Caramel-pecan pumpkin pies
6:00 p.m.: Deliver candy and extra pies to neighbors (looking cute in new clothes, with a smile)
Morning: Dough for rolls in bread machine
4:00 p.m.: Prime rib
While that’s cooking put together pineapple stuffing (which is my favorite)
Add to oven at 4:20 p.m.
While those are cooking put together baked macaroni and cheese
Add to oven at 4:40 p.m.
Add rolls to oven at the same time
5:10 p.m.: Mashed potatoes
5:20 p.m.: Pull stuffing, macaroni, rolls, and prime rib out of oven (NICE TIMING!) While those are sitting, make stove-top stuffing (I’m so ashamed) – because only Mr. Husband wanted this and he said boxed was ok because my oven can only handle so much
Gravy at the last minute
6:00 p.m.: Serve dinner
I swear. I swear. I swear. In my mind this all seemed reasonable at the time.
Here’s what actually happened (once again you’re getting internal dialog for illustrative purposes, you’ll know it when you see it because I’ll put my thoughts in quotation marks):
On Monday the kids and I made bread and assorted chocolate dipped items without incident. In fact, we even used up the white chocolate MELTING chips. Then we moved on to the toffee. The toffee shouldn’t have been an issue since I’ve made it so many times that I no longer need a recipe. I reached into my drawer to pull out my trustworthy candy thermometer only to find the lower portion shattered.
“Crap… my thermometer is broken. I’ve had this thing forever. I love this thing. It’s not too big or too small and it always stays clipped securely. Wait. Is there broken glass all over the bottom of this drawer?”
You should know that as a child I saw an episode of “Alfred Hitchcock Presents” involving someone putting ground-up glass into someone’s eggs to kill them and inherit their wealth. I’m pretty sure somehow they ended up accidentally eating them and dying. Since that day I’ve had a hysterical fear of small shards of glass. Not of cutting myself, but that I will accidentally consume them and die. It’s right up there with undercooked meat. I’m not exaggerating. Mr. Husband broke an outdoor light fixture yesterday and glass shattered all over the ground and I turned my head sideways while sweeping it up for fear of inhaling the shards and dying on my porch.
Speaking of fears derived from childhood experiences… I’ve decided you need to hear this one right in the middle of my Thanksgiving story because I just remembered it and I feel like sharing.
Once my sister’s friend told us a scary story about a murderous doll while we were camping, then I saw the “Living Doll” episode of “The Twilight Zone” and I could not even be in the same room with a doll for a year.
My grandma makes these crochet dolls:
The one she made for me had dark hair but I couldn’t find a good picture.
It was very sweet of her and as a little girl these were super-cool, but the minute I heard that doll story she became a minion of the antichrist. I couldn’t sleep at night knowing she was in the house somewhere. I became paranoid that my insistence on hiding her away was angering her. I lost countless hours of sleep.
Until one afternoon I fell asleep in my room only to be awoken by whispering and laughter. When I opened my bedroom door I found Mrs. Scary Doll standing there looking at me, with a knife in hand. A butter knife, lovingly arranged by my mom and sister.
I am not making this up. This actually happened in my life.
There’s an upside. Even at age ten I had a fairly decent grasp on twisted humor and the knife-wielding doll cracked me up. It was so ridiculous that I wasn’t really afraid anymore after that. Although I did bring my daughter a porcelain doll from Germany last year, which I thought was adorable at the time, but now she sits on a shelf in my laundry room and I swear she watches me. Mr. Husband asked if he could put her back in the box the other day. I told him to leave her out so that the kids could still see her. Secretly it was because I was afraid that putting her a box would enrage her and she would kill me in my sleep. This is absolutely true.
So… yeah… back to Thanksgiving. You’re welcome for that by the way.
“How long has there been broken glass in this drawer? I cook with measuring cups and spoons out of here all the time! How long would it take for ingesting glass to hurt me? Wait. Do they still use mercury in thermometers? It’s fine. It’s not going to hurt you. You’ve made this enough times you’ll know when it’s done by sight.”
So I moved forward with my attempt to bring brown sugar and butter to 295 degrees by sight. I thought I was doing pretty well until my son came up from the basement and bellowed, “Something smells burning in here!” I took that as my cue to pour it out onto my chocolate layer. The minute it made contact I too smelled the burning smell but convinced myself it was just from where the flame and pot made contact. I put it in the fridge to cool.
When I moved on to my pie crusts I was struck by a brilliant idea. I decided that instead of using a pastry blender and doing it by hand, I could whip out the NINJA blender and do it that way.
In fairness, using a blender does actually work for a single pie crust. I’ve done it many times. Unfortunately it does not work so well when making six at once. Maybe it was too much flour. Maybe it was the fifty thousand cups of shortening. Whatever the problem was, it resulted in a greasy paste jammed into every last millimeter of my beloved NINJA.
Hours. I spent hours degreasing and cleaning blades and tiny nooks and crannies. Sometimes with a toothpick. That poor NINJA never had a chance. I haven’t used it since. I hope it still works. As you can guess, the crusts were unsalvageable and I was out of shortening so I went to bed.
On Tuesday I bought more toffee ingredients and some frozen pie crusts even though it killed my soul and a new candy thermometer. This new thermometer came with a little temperature guide, which I think will come in handy the next time I’m making crack and want to get the consistency just right.
As I was preparing to do my evening baking, my son inquired about the turkey.
Here’s a recap of how this conversation went:
Son: Don’t forget to pull the turkey out to thaw. They need a lot of time.
Me: I’m not doing a turkey this year, no one likes it and we’ll just end up throwing it away. I decided it would be fun to try something different so I bought prime rib instead.
Me: Do you think you’ll try prime rib?
Son: No turkey? But it’s Thanksgiving! We have to have a turkey! (Panic ensues)
Me: If I made a turkey would you even take one bite of it?
Son: If we don’t have a turkey it’s not real Thanksgiving! (Panic increasing)
Me: Would you take a single bite?
Son: NO… but… WECAN’TNOTHAVEATURKEYITWON’TBEREALTHANKSGIVING!
Then he burst into tears and ran screaming into another room. I never even got around to baking the three crusts or the chocolate cream pies. But I was able to get the cheesecake in the oven according to schedule.
On Wednesday I pulled the cheesecake out of the oven and it looked like this:
Then I gave it the finger. That’s right, I flipped off a cheesecake.
I was so mad at that stupid cheesecake I just put it out in the fridge and hoped it would die a slow and painful death by cracking itself into a million pieces. It was already half there anyway.
I did manage to complete all of the pies and candy (successfully!) in time to take my kids to a Christmas parade/tree lighting/fireworks extravaganza, which was completely miserable because it was so cooooooold and their feet were frooozen and apparently it “wasn’t the real Santa anyway” and “fireworks are only for the fourth of July.”
I drove around delivering candy and pies as scheduled. I only looked okay, but I was smiling. Probably because I was so relieved to be out of the company of my ungrateful Christmas-killing children.
Here’s a visual of my desserts, I know the suspense is killing you.
By the time Thanksgiving Day rolled around, (Which my son insisted was just a normal day, only with a fancy meal since we still didn’t have a turkey) I was completely worn out but absolutely determined to complete a perfect feast.
Mr. Husband decided to snap a few photos. This is my favorite.
(Try the stuffing. I dare you.)
I prepared a kosher salt encrusted prime rib.
I know you’re probably thinking this is a picture of a regular meal only fancy because it’s not a turkey. Don’t be confused. I am a brilliant chef and I decided to try something new.
And I made the pineapple stuffing that I heart so very much.
And I made the macaroni and cheese. This recipe called for a combination of a boxed mix and fresh ingredients. Normally it irritates me to no end when I look for a recipe only to find out it calls for boxed mixes (for example, a cake recipe that lists the first ingredient as a box of cake mix). However, in this case it seemed like a good compromise. I made it using this:
I bought it at along with my toffee ingredients. On November 26th, 2013. I wonder if I should let the good people up at Target know they’re selling expired goods? It didn’t matter much to me. I’m pretty sure this kind of stuff will last until through all eternity.
And I made the rolls. Here’s an unflattering view of me kneading dough:
This was before I put them in the oven. They have to sit and rise, which they did (a lot) while I was creating the aforementioned culinary masterpieces.
And I mashed potatoes and pulled the other stuff out of the oven. Here’s a fun visual of them sharing my oven that I clearly never clean. I had already taken the meat out so you’ll just have to imagine that there’s a $50.00 roast covered in Kosher salt on that lower rack.
And I finished up the other stuff and put it out on the table to look pretty.
And I began the final step, removing the salt shell from the prime rib (not turkey). I pulled it back anticipating a perfect roast, only to find one mostly cooked prime rib with a ginormous raw spot in the middle of the upper left hand side. Here’s the problem with prime rib (not turkey), you can’t practice on something that expensive so your first run is actually your test run. My test run taught me that it’s never a good idea to put so much stuff in the oven at the same time. If we’re being honest, I already knew that. But I’m fresh out of spare ovens so I convinced myself that this time I could outsmart the one I do have. I did not.
(Remember, I’m using quotation marks for my thoughts.)
“Okay, maybe it’s not so bad. After all, prime rib is supposed to be served fairly pink. Maybe this is what it’s supposed to look like. Let me stick this meat thermometer in that spot. 120 degrees!?! It clearly read 145 when I took the temperature in the oven! Did I put it in the wrong spot? Great. Now all of my sides are sitting out on the table and they’ll be cold and ruined. We were supposed to eat around six or six-thirty and it’s seven-fifteen. Most people finished their meals hours ago.”
I pulled the thermometer out and blood gushed out of the hole it had created. Gushed isn’t an adequate description. It spurted. Like the way blood would spurt out of something that is still living. I came to the conclusion that the best way to handle this would be to turn the oven up really high and shove it back in.
A while later I pulled it out and checked the temperature. It was still bloody and undercooked in that one spot.
A little after that I pulled it out and checked the temperature. It was still bloody and undercooked in that one spot.
Repeat that for another hour.
By the time the pink spot was sufficiently cooked, the rest of it was fairly burnt but I just didn’t give one tiny little expletive anymore because it was eight –thirty at night and my guests and I were starving. Did I mention that the guest head count for this not-real-because-we-didn’t-have-a-turkey imposter meal was four? That’s four including myself. Also known as just my family.
Let me sum up the weekend in nine simple statements:
1. The meat was still too undercooked for my standards so I had to put mine in the microwave to brown. Yep. I put my portion of a $50.00 roast in the microwave. I didn’t like it. I don’t like red meat all that much to begin with.
2. The rolls rose so much that they were gigantic and spilling out of the pan and burned on top while almost raw in the center.
3. The macaroni and cheese was flat-out gross. I had to turn it sideways to drain the off the grease like it was ground beef.
4. The pineapple stuffing was overcooked and dry.
5. The mashed potatoes were okay.
6. The desserts (including that jerk of a cheesecake) were completely and totally amazing. Although I did learn that you need to slice the caramel pecan pumpkin pie before putting it in the fridge or else it will form a layer that resembles a thin sheet of ice across the top (imagine what happens when you try to cut through it). It was still good so I’m not upset about it.
7. I spent an entire week preparing a meal that my family sat and ate for just under ten minutes. I wish I could just put “THE END” here and call it a day, but there’s more to this story I’m sure you’ll love hearing.
8. I woke up at about two in the morning with a stomachache. It got a little worse but there was little I could do about it because I’m the queen of heartburn and I had long since passed up the maximum daily dose Zantac. I should be on prescription medication but Thanksgiving week of last year I freaked out and got into a major screaming match with my doctor’s nurse over a (different) medication refill and now my charts are flagged and I don’t want to go in there anymore. It’s nice how that came full-circle.
Anyhow, the stomach pain progressed until I could no longer convince myself that I would just breathe deep and get through it. I knew it was time to get up and face the horror that is known as vomit. Skip the next paragraph if you have a weak stomach.
And I puked and puked and puked. If you’ve never had the pleasure of vomiting after a (fake) Thanksgiving meal I’d highly recommend you avoid it. It’s unpleasant to say the least. I spent the next two days in bed alternating between fever and chills. No one else got it. I’m just lucky that way.
9. Sunday was my birthday but grown-up birthdays aren’t any fun so I’m not sharing anything about it except that I copied all of Ladd’s birthday meal from the Pioneer Woman website. It was good. I have roughly seven hundred pounds of cake left over.
Well there you have it, my Fake Thanksgiving in a nutshell. May you find reading it to be more pleasurable than living it.
P.S. Here are two recipes as promised. These are the two I’ve been asked for most. The story is over now. You can stop reading if you aren’t going to need them.
Pineapple stuffing: 2 cups of stale (but not too hard) bread cubes. You don’t have to make your own unless your me and you want to overly-complicate things. 3/4 cups of sugar. 1/2 cups of butter. 4 eggs. 1 cup of crushed pineapple. Use fresh, it’s a pain but tastes so much better. 1 small onion, sautéed. 1/2 cups of cubed ham. You can leave out those last two ingredients but I think they counter-balance the sweetness. Basically you cream the butter and sugar together, beat in the eggs, add the onion and ham or whatever you think will taste good then put the bread cubes in and mix. If you want it to resemble more traditional stuffing, leave it chunky. If you want to be creamier, which is better so you should do it this way, mix it much longer. Then put it in an 8×8 pan and cook it for an hour at 350. Let it set for about 15 minutes before you eat it. This recipe is my own. I made it up based very roughly on another one that I didn’t like much.
Toffee: I’ll just provide a pictorial. It will make more sense:
Put some sliced almonds on a cookie sheet with edges. Parchment paper is recommended. Cover it with Hersey bars. (My daughter thinks the word “Hersey” is “horsey”, so you can call these horsey bars if you want)
Melt butter and brown sugar in a saucepan. (Amounts pictured, it’s basically equal parts)
Boil it until it reaches 295 degrees.
Pour it over the chocolate. Cover it with more chocolate and spread it around like so.
Cover it with almonds.
Stick it in the refrigerator and let it cool. Then pull it out and break it into pieces.