A week of Thanksgiving cooking

It’s over. My parents, sister and grandfather departed Tallahassee at roughly 6:30 a.m. today to head back to Pennsylvania after a few days of cooking, eating and manatee spotting (my sister loves manatees, so we went to Wakulla Springs to see some).

This was my FIRST time hosting Thanksgiving, so I was pretty nervous. My mom was going to handle the turkey, though I bought it.  And she brought the spice mixture for the stuffing and cranberries. I was responsible for hors d’oeuvres, homemade applesauce, pumpkin pie, squash casserole, corn and sweet potatoes. We sort of both worked on the mashed potatoes at different times.  My boyfriend brought over ingredients for a special champagne drink and my friends Lindsay and Chris brought wine and a bouquet of flowers for a centerpiece.

Here’s how the cooking went down.

Monday

Applesauce day. I didn’t have off until Wednesday, so I decided to start cooking Monday morning at roughly 7 a.m. I cut and peeled 10 apples, threw them in the crock pot with a 1/2 cup water and 1/2 cup sugar,  sprinkled it liberally with cinnamon and let it cook for eight hours.

Tuesday

I had it all planned out that I would make sausage balls when I got home from work Monday, but there was still some cleaning/painting of the bathroom that had to be done, and I didn’t get to bed until after midnight. So, I got up at 6:30 a.m. Tuesday and after a shower and breakfast, started in on the sausage balls. (I finished at right about 9 a.m., so I could scurry off to work)

You brown a pound of Italian sausage (casing removed) as you break it into smaller pieces. Drain the grease and put in bowl. Mix in three cups of bisquick and four cups of cheddar cheese and a  3/4 cup of water. Mold them into balls and bake at 400 for 12-15 minutes.

Wednesday

There was a near disaster in our Thanksgiving plans. My sister’s and dad’s flight from Pittsburgh to Jacksonville was delayed because of a mechanical failure and U.S. Air nearly canceled the flight. (My mom and grandpa had driven with a bunch of stuff for my new house and arrived Tuesday afternoon). But they wound up getting in to Jacksonville just a few hours later than originally planned.

So, that morning, instead of driving to the airport, Mom and I cooked. She worked on the stuffing and I made pumpkin pie.

I just followed the recipe on the back of the Libby’s pumpkin can.

Mix 3/4 cup sugar, 1 tsp cinnamon, 1/2 tsp ginger, 1/4 tsp ground cloves in small bowl. In larger mixing bowl, beat 2 large eggs and stir in 1 can of pumpkin and then the spice mix. Gradually stir in 1 12-oz can of evaporated milk.  Pour mixture into 2 9 inch pie shells or 1 9-inch deep dish pie shell.  Bake at 425 for 15 minutes, then reduce heat to 350 and cook for 40-50 minutes or until knife inserted in the center comes out clean. Let cool for two hours, then serve or refrigerate.

Click here for my mom’s stuffing recipe.

Finally, it was Thursday

My parents arrived from their hotel at about 9 a.m. (my sister and grandfather stayed with me) and my mom went straight to the kitchen.  She hadn’t totally finished the stuffing prep, so she worked on that for a little while. At about 10:30 a.m.,  the boyfriend showed up with ingredients for squash casserole (his only food request, so his mom sent the recipe).

The casserole (of which I don’t have a pic) was pretty easy to make. You washed and sliced 6 squash, then boiled them until they were very tender and mashed them to get rid of the excess water. I transferred the squash to a casserole dish and mixed it with 1 cup of sharp cheddar cheese and some crushed saltines to make it crunchy.  (Since I’d never had it before, I decided to just add more than 1 cup cheese. Cheese would only help, right?) After I’d mixed the three ingredients together, I sprinkled some more cheese on top and topped it with more crushed saltines. It then baked for a half hour at 350.

In early afternoon, we started peeling and cutting up regular potatoes and sweet potatoes. My mom put the regular potatoes on the stove to cook for the eventual mashing, while I decided to pre-cook the sweet potatoes in the microwave for about four minutes to soften them up before putting them in the oven to roast.  When the sweet potatoes came out, I drizzled honey over them and put in a few spoonfuls of brown sugar.

Somewhere in there, my mom made a champagne cocktail for everyone to enjoy. Recipe here.

My actual dining room is too small for eight guests, so it became the food station. That’s my grandma’s china at the end, which my mom brought down for me. The silver came from my other grandma, who passed away about a month before I was born.

Since the weather was perfect, we ate outside. My friend Lindsay had procured an extra long table for us to use.

And then we ate, and ate and ate some more! Many things to be thankful for.

Friday

We ate leftovers, watched football and most importantly, we saw some manatees!

My sister has had an obsession with manatees since she was little and after I moved to Florida, she had major hopes of seeing one. We have made repeated trips to Wakulla Springs so she could see one, but the trips have always come up short. Meanwhile, everyone else who has come to visit has seen them. So, we tried again Friday and hit the mother load of manatees. There were probably  more than 20 swimming in the springs and more in the river. Sarah said she could now die happy.  It was the perfect end to their trip.

Hope everyone had a nice Thanksgiving with lots of family, friends and food.

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