Happy Thanksgiving to my fellow Canadian’s this past weekend!
Thanksgiving marks a few things in the holiday season calendar. The change of seasons, pumpkin spice lattes (personally not a fan), and looser pants for bigger meals. I mean warmth. Just kidding! The pants are for the copious amounts of turkey and pumpkin baked goods I can fit in my face before I hurl.
This year marks our first turkey carnage holiday with our little guy. Luckily with him having turned six months old this means he can now have some meat! After doing some online research, and also checking medical sites I decided on turkey mixed with butternut squash. I had already made and froze butternut squash portions the previous week so I would only need to prep the turkey meat, I will get into preparing meat in baby food form later on in this post, until then stay tuned and read on!
In Vancouver we always hosted what we called “Orphan Holiday’s”. The guest lists changed slightly over the years but basically, since we weren’t from the area and many of our friends weren’t, we would host all major holiday meals at our place. Our friends, which we consider many of them to be extended family over the years, would bring things like desert and any other sides they may enjoy. Typically we would prepare (by we I mean I) a 15lb or larger bird, sweet potato casserole, mashed potatoes, and then my husband would do other veggies. I also made a mean pumpkin pie ice cream cheesecake, which I MAY share at another time!
This holiday season is the first time I have celebrated with my family in nearly 12+ years, I’ve honestly lost count. I was really excited to cook for my parents this time around. Mom and I managed to get all of the shopping done in one day, mind you, it took about 4 different shops and a lot of coffee. The week prior I was feeling under the weather so it’s amazing that I stayed awake at all, what with little man, Geoff’s run/work schedule, as well as mom’s schedule (I’ve been using her car). It’s been wearing me a little bit thin, and cranky.
On Monday morning I got up, had two double cups of americano and got to work. I started prepping my sweet potato casserole, something I adapted from my mother-in-law’s recipe from what I had tasted. To be honest I don’t have a recipe, if I did I would share but I go by taste and it really all depends on the size/amount of sweet potatoes that I use. I typically do the boiling, mixing of ingredients and the putting in the dish part before I start my turkey then I cover the casserole dish with tin foil and leave it on the counter. If you are going to be leaving it for a few hours, put one or two tea towels over the top to lock in more heat. If you put it in the fridge expect to be cooking it for much longer. The rough breakdown is:
Sweet Potato Casserole:
2 sweet potatoes, about the size of two small fists each (let the odd measurements begin)
Almond milk – enough to mash sweet potatoes
Butter – to mash with
Brown sugar, ground cinnamon, ground nutmeg, ground clove, ground ginger – to taste for seasoning
Salt – to taste, mainly to enhance other flavours
Bag of large marshmallows
Preheat your oven to 350. Peel, chop and boil sweet potatoes until a fork will pierce directly through upon poking. I use a food processor, or stand mixer to mash/puree my mix, you can use a hand masher as well. Mash potatoes with milk and butter, once the liquids have been incorporated start adding in your spices, I have listed them in the order of amounts I use, for instance there should be more brown sugar than cinnamon, more cinnamon than nutmeg, etc. See, I told you I don’t have an exact recipe for this, it’s all in taste and smell, plus it’s not baking so it’s based on your taste. Add a small amount of salt, just to bring out the other flavours. After everything has been combined evenly distribute into a casserole dish of your choosing and cover with tin foil. Bake until the top no longer has liquid bubbling. It should still be mushy like mashed potatoes, but if it looks like it’s sweating, give it a bit more time, or uncover and let it bake off faster that way, usually I see mine bake off in about 30 minutes in a 9×13 dish. Once the mashed sweet potatoes have baked remove the tin foil if you have not already and evenly distribute marshmallows over the top, leave some space between the edge of the baking dish and your outer marshmallows as they will sometimes bubble out of the dish and all over your oven, not fun. Crank the oven to 425 and let the marshmallows get golden brown. Remove from oven and let sit for about 10-15 minutes, then dig the hell in and enjoy!
My turkey is honestly REALLY easy. I have a turkey roaster which makes preparations really easy, I’m used to using that, however, at my parents house I don’t have it and had to use the oven. I make a compound butter, which again, I don’t use measurements because I’ve made it so much but read on if you are curious. The typical rule of thumb is to cook your turkey at 325, 20 minutes per pound of the bird. This is based on an unstuffed bird. Always look up cooking times just to be sure. Especially if you are stuffing your bird, your cooking time will change. Your end turkey temperature should be 165 degrees. I typically use a turkey timer which I purchased from a cooking store, but again, I am at my parents place so a thermometer was used instead. Geoff usually makes the gravy so I won’t even get into that.
1 thawed turkey, rinsed, giblets and neck removed, pat turkey dry with paper towel
1-2 lemons (depending on the size of your turkey/size of lemon)
1-2 onions (depending on the size of your turkey/size of onion)
4 bay leaves
1 stick of unsalted butter at room temperature
Juice from ½ a lemon
Extra virgin olive oil
Fresh cracked black pepper
6-8 sprigs of fresh sage (to taste)
4 sprigs of fresh rosemary (to taste)
6-8 sprigs of fresh thyme
In a bowl mix together all compound butter ingredients. Put bay leaves into the rear end of the turkey. Cut lemons and onions in half that have been put aside for the turkey and put inside of the turkey with the bay leaves. The onions and lemons will steam the turkey from the inside and keep it moist (sorry for the horrible word). Lifting the turkey skin, starting from the rear start to put compound butter under the turkey skin, rub as much as you can under the skin and rub remaining butter over the rest of the turkey. If you have any leftover fresh herbs you can place them on and around the bird. Put one to two cups of water, or broth in the bottom of your baking tray, the liquid should not touch your bird. Cover with tin foil, for the last half hour Cook until internal temperature is 165, check every 45 minutes to an hour, depending on your oven, and baste if necessary, I say if necessary because I didn’t have to base this one. For the last 15-20 minutes turn the oven up to brown the top of your turkey. Carve or have someone else carve for you like I do and enjoy! Note that when I make my Christmas turkey I replace the lemons with oranges, it compliments the season and it’s wonderful.
Now that I have shared my wonkey recipes with you for the adults it’s time to talk baby food. Remember to consult your physician before starting on meats with your little one. Our little guy has been on solids since right before he turned four months, don’t judge me, every baby has different needs. Up until this holiday Peyton had not yet had any meat so I was excited and a little bit worried just in case he may either have an adverse reaction, or if he wouldn’t like it. Earlier in the week Geoff picked up some ground turkey breast for me to prepare for little P’s holiday feast.
Cooked ground turkey breast prior to pureeing for baby food.
Pureed turke breast ready to freeze!
Cooking meat for littles, especially when it’s in puree form can be a little bit difficult. Getting the texture right is the biggest hurdle. I personally choose ground turkey breast for ease of breakdown after, some people use an actual turkey breast which they boil and then chop up, or chop up then boil. For my ground meat I cooked it in a non-stick pan with no seasoning and no oil or butter, just it alone, making sure it was cooked thoroughly. Once it was cooked I let it cool for a bit before I put it in my baby bullet. Typical rule of thumb when blending meat is one 1/4c to each cup of meat, I personally had to use a bit more water to get the right consistency, it’s a lot of trial and error so just start with 1/4c water and you can always add more. One pound of ground meat yielded me 14 1oz ice cube tray servings once everything was said and done!
Take 1 of the baby turkey feast, not into it at all.
Take 2, starting to get better.
Take 3, success!!
Since this was the first time we would be introducing meat to our little guy I wanted to mix in a veggie I knew he loved, you could also pick sweet potato or pumpkin to keep it seasonal to the holiday! The first few bites made for some really funny faces but we got through it and I have been giving him turkey with his veggies for the past few days as well to try to get him used to the taste of a meat protein, so far so good but he does NOT like turkey on his own for now. We fed the boss and then worried about the adult meal afterward. Compared to how big our Orphan Holiday’s have been in the past this was very intimate, just my parents, Geoff and I. Aside from my in laws being down in Cape Breton and enduring a flood situation, the holiday was full of love and memories for us with Mr. P for sure.