Y’all remember the movie Shrek? If you’ve read my bio (and I hope you have!), then you know I began - with my best friend Alanna - making the entire Thanksgiving meal in middle school. Seriously, we kicked our parents out of the house. Well, this first Thanksgiving we cooked together was right after Shrek came out on VHS. Yes, I said VHS. Blockbuster was my jam. Anyway, there’s a scene in the movie where Donkey is talking to Shrek during the famous “onion” conversation. Donkey mentions something along the lines of, “Why can’t you be a parfait? Everybody loves a parfait! You go up to a person and say hey, ‘Would you like a parfait?’ They ain’t gon’ say, ‘No, I don’t like no parfait’ Everybody loves a parfait!”
Needless to say, we quoted that movie, and especially that part, all week. So when it came to the best way to eat our Thanksgiving leftovers, the answer felt obvious. Turn them into a parfait!
That first year, we layered just leftover buttery turkey and traditional dressing into a pint glass, microwaved it, then topped with canned cranberry sauce (don't hate!). Over the years, we have all sophisticated our methods on the best way to layer and reheat our leftovers. This is how I make it now:
Grab a dinner plate and add on everything you would normally want to eat for leftovers. For me, that’s pretty much just turkey and dressing and a little bit of mashed potatoes. I love broccoli casserole and squash, don’t get me wrong. But for a leftover turkey parfait, I just want the basics.
Reheat your plate in the microwave according to microwave directions, or ~2-3 minutes.
Grab a pint glass or even a parfait glass! Start your layering. I like to start with a scoop of dressing, then turkey, then mashed potatoes, then gravy (reheat this separately), then cranberry sauce. Continue. In my opinion, microwaving all of the hot components first makes it easier to layer in the cold cranberry sauce when assembling your parfait. Our original method of microwaving everything in the glass and adding the cranberries on top was fine, but I never got enough cranberry! This also breaks up the heat and texture, so it adds a nice surprise with every bite!
The name may sound gross, but please, dear readers, give this a try. I promise it will be the only way you eat leftover Thanksgiving (or any leftovers?!) from now on.
If this is too adventurous for you, or just feels wrong - another leftover recipe I (and especially Ryan) love is Giada's Crispy Turkey Bites. The bomb.com.
I have never made up my own Thanksgiving recipes, I'll be honest. For such a big food day, I have always left it up to the pros. That being said, I have tried SO MANY recipes on Thanksgiving and it has truly been awesome! And while most people are of the school of thought that you never try a recipe for the first time when you'll be entertaining, I highly disagree - and so does my mom!
So today I am sharing with you my absolute favorite recipes that I have collected over the years, and a few I might try out this year. Just in case you are still finalizing your holiday menu. After all, I'm basically finalizing mine by writing this. Except for champagne, that is always on the menu.
I have tried so many turkeys over the 15+ years I've been making Thanksgiving dinner. Stuffed bird, citrus bird, pomegranate bird, a bearnaise bird (yum), one year we even put the stuffing under the skin of the bird! But I made this turkey last year and it was the best one I had ever made. The meat was juicy and the skin was crispy and kind of salty-sweet. So good!
Psst...BI-LO has frozen turkeys for 39 cents/pound right now! I got a 15-pounder for $5 last night.
Cooking Light Lemon-Thyme Turkey
This is the dressing I swear by. I could probably make it in my sleep. It's the perfect texture, balancing between crunchy and creamy, and is the perfect background for really any turkey you make. I think I'm going to make this in the crockpot this year, to save oven space.
And I just use regular Italian seasoning instead of finding Italian dressing mix, since I already have it in my pantry.
My Uncle Darryl usually makes the gravy, or at least, he makes one of the gravies. I never used to make it because he made giblet gravy and I didn't want any part of that. But then I realized I didn't have to include giblets and I was all in.
I don't have a recipe I follow for gravy, actually. When I take the turkey out of the roasting pan to rest, I pour the pan drippings into a fat separator (I like the one linked below), and let everything settle. Then I set the roasting pan on the stove - it will take up the space of two burners - add enough grease back into the pan so it equals about 1/4 cup grease, then whisk in 1/4 cup flour. Keep whisking, scraping up the bits on the pan, until it turns a pretty golden color. Whisk in a cup of the reserved pan drippings (not the fat!), and a cup of low-sodium chicken or turkey stock. Keep whisking until thick and smooth, then pour into a gravy boat.
If you make the turkey I linked above, the gravy may be a little on the salty side, so just taste as you go, and if it's too salty, add a little water - it won't dilute the flavor, just mellow out the salt.
These mashed potatoes are so good and so easy, I actually make them all the time. I don't bake them when they're finished, I just make them towards the end of cook time for the turkey and other sides, and put the lid on the pot. That keeps them warm enough. Oh! And I don't normally peel the potatoes, because the skin is so thin on Yukon gold potatoes that no one minds. This recipe makes A LOT of mashed potatoes, so I'll probably cut it in half since I'm only feeding 6 people this year.
I'm also of the mind that you only need one potato dish. So I don't usually make a sweet potato dish unless asked. Last year, I made these, and TBH, they were more hassle than I thought they'd be but everyone else loved them: Cooking Light Sweet Potato Stacks with Sage Browned Butter.
Martha knows what's up. This dish is so easy to make, it's usually what I work on as we pull everything out of the oven and carve the turkey. It has never taken me 45 minutes to make, especially if we have leftover bacon from breakfast (normally unheard of, but if I know it's going to save me time later, I'll refrain) and pre-shredded brussels sprouts.
Martha Stewart's Shredded Brussels Sprouts with Pancetta
Recipes I Want to Try This Year
Mac and Cheese
My little sister normally takes the reigns on mac and cheese on Thanksgiving, since I can take it or leave it. ON THANKSGIVING ONLY PEOPLE, CALM DOWN! But, she won't be able to come this year (sad) and I was considering not making any until Ryan requested something cheesy on the table. Luckily, Southern Living has my back. In their Thanksgiving issue this year, they included their Best-Ever Macaroni and Cheese, along with two variations: Roasted Broccoli Mac and Cheese, and Herbed Breadcrumb-Topped Macaroni and Cheese.
I think I'll pick the Best-Ever or the Herbed Breadcrumb version, because I don't want to step on my Uncle Darryl's toes broccoli-wise. He makes the best broccoli casserole, aka cheese casserole with a little broccoli. Which mac and cheese would y'all try?
A Festive Appetizer
I saw Valerie Bertinelli make this Cream Cheese Log with Sweet-and-Spicy Cranberry Relish on her Food Network show last Saturday and it looked like a super easy and super flavorful appetizer that I could make a day ahead. Except I'll be omitting the green onions because, gross.
I also requested my mom make Roquefort grapes this year - mix room-temperature Roquefort cheese (or blue cheese) with a little room-temperature cream cheese, then mold around cold green grapes, and roll in toasted crushed walnuts or pecans. Easy, flavorful, tangy, and crunchy.
An Interesting Take on Salad
You didn't think this would be a recipe list without a Giada recipe, did you? She has a ton of great holiday themed recipes, but this is the one that stood out to me this year. Okay, it's technically a pastry, but I feel like the arugula on top makes it a salad. Kind of? Just let me have it. Either way, I'm going to make her Savory Butternut Squash Crostata, but I'm going to sub shallots for red onions because I don't love a strong onion flavor (see above).
I don't normally make a dessert for Thanksgiving. I either leave it up to someone else (my sister or her boyfriend) or consider the wine my dessert. But I saw Trisha Yearwood make this Lemon Pecan Slab Pie on The Kitchen last weekend and based on Jeff and GZ's reactions alone, I knew it would be amazing. See, I don't have much of a sweet tooth, but I do love pie crust, and since this is a slab pie, there is lots of crust. And it seems like the lemon really makes the flavors pop. Plus, it looks relatively easy. I'll just throw this in the oven when everything else comes out and it will be done by the time we're done eating!
I am so excited for my favorite holiday - lots of delicious food and most importantly, spending time with my family. I hope you add one or more of these to your menu this year - and stay tuned for a great idea for leftovers inspired by my pre-teen self coming next week!
What's your favorite Thanksgiving dish? Comment below!
I love chili. It really is one of my favorite foods. I like traditional chili with ground beef, I like Texas style chili, I love a good white bean chicken chili - and turning that into enchiladas! And the easiest chili I've ever made, turns out to be more like Brunswick stew!
I have been making this recipe for years, after my mom's best friend Elizabeth brought it over for Halloween one year. You see, we always have chili on Halloween. Always. And one year we decided to make a few different kinds and Elizabeth contributed this little gem and we all fell in love. So this year, our neighbors came over to hand out candy with us, and when I served them this chili, they both exclaimed, "Oh this is Brunswick stew!"
What?? I have had Brunswick stew so many times and my food-loving brain never made this connection?! I was so surprised and also a little proud? I don't know. Call it chili, call it Brunswick stew, call it whatever you want! Just know that it is delicious and it couldn't be easier.
Um, so, yeah, these are the ingredients and you just dump them in a pot. Let it simmer for like, 20 minutes.
Sorry I cheated on you BI-LO, but you didn't have Lloyd's barbecue! And yes, it has to be Lloyd's. I have tried other brands and the balance of flavors and textures doesn't turn out right. Lloyd's also makes chicken barbecue, if you don't eat pork.
I also like to buy reduced sodium canned vegetables for this because a) the barbecue sauce has plenty of salt, and b) I don't drain and rinse the beans or the corn. You need the liquid from the cans to create the liquid for the chili. Also, feel free to experiment with other veggies! This is a choose-your-own-adventure recipe, as most of mine are - I'm just tellin' ya how I like it!
And if you're making this just for yourself, or just two people, the leftovers freeze beautifully. I pour it all into one large freezer Ziploc, but you could definitely freeze it in smaller freezer bags, for individual portions.
Well, this is my second post to begin with an apology - but this time, I have an excuse. It was Ryan's fault. He went back to being on a shift schedule and hasn't been home, and since the pictures featured in this post are ones he took, I had to wait until he took a day off yesterday for him to share them with me. And there are A LOT. So sit back, relax, and enjoy!
Oh and don't worry - I'll be back to posting food very soon. Thanksgiving is coming up after all!
After our wonderful visit to Prague, we took a few buses and trains to Munich so we could enjoy Oktoberfest. We stayed at the Holiday Inn Express Munich City West, which was really convenient to the train station. Our first stop was hunting for lederhosen and dirndls to wear to Oktoberfest. While Ryan and I didn't find any, Alan and Rachel did! We went to Oktoberfest that night about an hour before they closed for the night and I will tell you right now, if you are not on the same level of drunkenness and feeling the camaraderie (or a beer drinker), you will not enjoy it. By that time of night, the tables are sticky and it's loud and crowded. I hated it, but I knew Oktoberfest was the one big thing Alan wanted to do, so I put on a brave face and tried to stay positive. HOWEVER - when we went the next day, I had a much better time. Here's why:
The second picture was the tent where we finished our night - those are hops hanging from the ceiling. We saw so many fields of hops on our trains to and from Munich, it was super cool.
Look at this cutie. It was so great to watch him have a great time with his best bud. Also - our waitress was baller and was able to find wine for Rachel and me.
Speaking of Rachel, the next place we went was on her trip list. I've found over the years of trips with friends and sometimes family, it's good to have a mental "list" of one thing each person wants to do on the trip. So for this trip, mine was the Taste of Prague, Alan's was Oktoberfest, and Rachel's was to visit Rothenburg ob der Tauber. Ryan didn't have one, besides to see me hold a bird, which I will never do because birds terrify me.
Rothenburg ob der Tauber
Y'all, Rothenburg was my favorite place I have ever been, and that's saying something. It's part of the Romantic Road in Germany, and is this tiny walled city that is quaint and has lovely people and big open squares and small gift shops, and a beautiful vineyard. I think we also hit it in the sweet spot of our trip, when we can relax a little because there is no agenda and we're just all happy to be together.
When we first got there and were walking around, I saw a woman open her window and water the flowers growing in her windowsill planters and decided that was the dream - to be able to open your windows and water your flowers, right there. The whole town had a very Beauty and the Beast vibe. And if you know me well, you know Belle is my favorite princess.
We also discovered Ryan is a pretty good photographer on this trip. Who knew?! So all of the pictures in this post are from his phone.
Like for real. Check out that picture of grapes. This was the vineyard, which was pretty much right behind where we stayed, Boutiquehotel Goldene Rose (which was lovely and we had a great host, but I forgot to ask Ryan to photograph it and didn't take any pictures of it myself). You couldn't buy any wine at the actual vineyard, but there was a wine shop down the road that sold all sorts of German wines, including the wine made by the grapes in this vineyard. It was delicious.
I want a print of the begonias in the windowsill picture.
Oh, and do you see that tower in the upper left-hand side of the first picture?
We climbed it.
Have you ever realized all of a sudden that you're completely terrified of something you didn't know you were afraid of? Have you ever had it happen TWICE? The tower was so tiny and cramped to climb up, I realized that I might have a touch of claustrophobia. Then, realized just how high up we were and there is no room to walk around up there - it's the bell tower, you, then the railing. That's it. I never had a problem with heights until then. Ryan bravely took these photos with a death grip on his phone and we immediately went back down. Honestly, I completely forgot we did this until looking through these photos - I must have blacked it out in my memory.
After that terrifying adventure, we grabbed lunch on a shady patio and I had this delicious pasta with pea pesto, sundried tomatoes, and goat cheese. Next, we grabbed some wine and decided to walk part of the wall that borders the town.
We were so sad to leave this beautiful place. It's funny, I definitely thought Prague was the highlight of our trip, until we came here. Don't get me wrong - Prague is amazing and we had an awesome time there, but Rothenburg felt like home.
After some very long (and a few delayed) train rides that night, we got back to Berlin. The next day walking around, I think the trip caught up with us and we were so tired and didn't have much on our "list" for Berlin, so we kind of jig-jagged around the city.
We went to a few stops along the Berlin Wall Memorial, ate an amazing burger at Burgermeister, stopped at a Biergarten, and we knew there was a marathon happening, so we went to see the Brandenburg Gate late in the afternoon, hoping it would be over and guess what we stumbled upon?
A roller blade marathon! It was fun to see so many people out cheering them on, especially on a dreary day where we were all feeling tired and ready to be back home.
Overall, we had a fantastic time with our friends - we always do. Thanks guys for being patient waiting for these posts and reliving our adventures with me.
Stay tuned for an easy chili recipe coming to you this weekend!
Food that maximizes flavor and minimizes effort and time.