THANK IT OFF
November 28, 2014
THE HUNGER JAMES OFFICIAL RATING:
Yesterday was every food lovers dream: Thanksgiving! I am sure you are all still in a food coma – believe me, I am too. This post is going to be a little different than my others, mainly because this year, my roommate and I decided to cook an entire Thanksgiving dinner for ourselves. We both decided against traveling and going home to our families, so we thought this would be the perfect way to keep us busy. Plus, it gave me a lot of material.
A few days prior to Thanksgiving, my roommate Lacy and I sat down and discussed what we wanted on the menu. Surprisingly, we pretty much agreed on everything, except I was told we could only have one macaroni and cheese dish instead of the three I proposed.
On Wednesday (nothing like the last minute), the menu was finalized and we went food shopping to pick up all of the ingredients necessary. Lacy went to Whole Foods while I just went to a Super Target. Whole Foods on a Monday morning is tough for me, so I couldn’t imagine the chaos on the night before Thanksgiving, with everyone running around trying to get the best cranberry sauce or the biggest, organic, grass-fed, smartest, and kindest turkey in stock.
Take a look at the full menu. That’s a lot of food, right? That’s enough to feed ten people, and it was just for us. Not only was it an unnecessary amount of food, it was a lot to take on with this being both our first times preparing a Thanksgiving dinner. “How would we cook everything in one day in our tiny little kitchen? Were we sure that we had all the ingredients? Do we have enough wine? And how many times are we going to scream at each other?” These were the questions that were running through my head on Thanksgiving morning.
On Wednesday night, I was anxious and nervous about finishing all the dishes the next day, so I got a head start and made the macaroni and cheese. (Honestly, I just really wanted a midnight snack…)
So, quietly and cautiously, I went into the kitchen at 11pm and started boiling the water for the pasta. I found the mac and cheese recipe online (you can check it out here) and it seemed pretty simple to me. Now, as all of you know, macaroni and cheese is my all-time favorite food. I could eat it all day, every day. Perhaps that’s why my doctor put me on all that cholesterol medication… Anyways, I wanted to find a really good/easy-to-make recipe that wasn’t Velveeta Shells & Cheese.
While the pasta was boiling, I melted butter into a skillet. I then added the milk and flour until the mixture was paste-like. The next step was to add the cheese. I looked at the recipe and it said to add 1 cup of shredded cheese. 1 cup? Is that sarcasm? I measured out 1 cup and it did not look like it was going to be enough. “They must have made a mistake” I said, while opening a second bag of shredded cheese and pouring it into the milk/flour mixture. Altogether, I think I added somewhere between 2 and 3 cups of shredded cheddar cheese (saving another bag to sprinkle on top).
When the pasta was al dente (that’s Italian for “done”) I combined the noodles with the cheese sauce. I poured it all into a pan, topped it with the remaining cheese, and then put it in the oven to bake for 20 minutes. I was very impressed with myself when the finish product was done. I couldn’t help but try some before bed.
The next morning, I woke up eager to take on the day of cooking! Lacy and
I looked at our menu and tried to think of the best timeline for each item.
What needed to be chilled, what needed the oven, and what was going to be the most time consuming.
I found a recipe for a Peanut Butter Pie online that called for the pie to be chilled for a few hours, so I figured I could start off making that, since it was basically just mixing a few ingredients together. I chose the Peanut Butter Pie mainly because my roommate makes her own peanut butter (whaaaat?). She started roasting her peanuts while I re-read the recipe over and over again until it was committed to memory.
Now, I don’t know anything about cooking and baking, so I tend to follow the recipe exactly (except for the mac and cheese) so I don’t make any mistakes. I needed to whip 1 cup of heavy whipping cream to mix with the peanut butter and cream cheese. That should be easy enough, I thought. I poured the heavy cream into a bowl and grabbed my whisk. The recipe said in 3-5 minutes the heavy cream will turn heavy and thick. I whisked that cream for 30 minutes before it even started to thicken. I called up my aunt for a left-handed cooking question and she told me that we needed a mixer to make the cream but that if I kept at it, eventually, the whipped cream would happen.
Eventually, the cream did turn into a substance resembling whipped cream. I was so exhausted by this point and I had to take three aspirin for my hurting arm. I realized at this point, I could have saved myself some time and pain by just buying Cool Whip from the grocery store, but I was proud at myself once it was all done. I poured the mixture into a graham cracker crust and placed it in the refrigerator to cool.
“I’m going to take a nap,” I said to Lacy while she was peeling potatoes.
I didn’t get three feet from the kitchen before she grabbed my arm (the hurt arm) and said I was not going anywhere and that I needed to help. She handed me a potato peeler and poured me a glass of wine.
On the menu, we have two different types of potatoes: a sweet potato dish with caramelized onions and fingerling roasted potatoes. We peeled, chopped, and mashed the sweet potatoes and roasted the fingerling potatoes with rosemary, olive oil and sea salt.
Now that three of the nine items were
done, we decided it was time to have an
appetizer. Lacy makes the best cheese
ball I have ever had. It consists of cream, cheddar, and goat cheese, all rolled up together and served with crackers. We topped off our wine glasses and dug in.
It was then 4 o’clock and I was tired, full, and drunk. I still had stuffing to make and a chicken to roast. The chicken was going to take 2.5 hours to cook, so I started prepping the bird. I had never made a chicken before, so I was pretty nervous. I had to call my mom six times just to make sure I was doing it right. I put some garlic, rosemary, onion, and half a lemon in the chicken cavity, lathered it with olive oil and put it in the oven. While it was baking, I started to prep for the stuffing.
On the stuffing package, it had an easy and hard recipe, so naturally I went with the simplest of the two. I boiled the stuffing with chicken stock, onions and celery. It was finished in just ten minutes!
Now all we needed to make were the vegetables! One of the veggie sides
we were making was a creamed spinach. We sautéed the spinach in a
large skillet with garlic, red pepper and onions. When the spinach was
soft, we added half a bar of cream cheese and topped it with parmesan
cheese. It needed to be baked for twenty minutes, so we set it aside until
the chicken was done.
The roasted green beans and warm chick pea salad was all that needed to
be made, and that only took 15 minutes, so we sat on the couch, watched
a few “Friends” Thanksgiving episodes, and relaxed.
At 6:45 the chicken was done. It looked so crispy and juicy, that I couldn’t
wait until we sat down before I tried a wing. Lacy roasted the green beans
with almonds and baked the chickpeas with a mixture of walnuts and
brussel sprouts. We put the creamed spinach in the oven and then
reheated the mac and cheese and stuffing. By 7:30 everything was finished
and ready to be devoured.
Top Row: Peanut Butter Pie, Roasted Green Beans, Creamed SpInach, Pumpkin Pie
Bottom Row: Stuffing, Sweet Potatoes, Roasted Chicken, Macaroni and Cheese, Warm Winter Chickpea Salad
Obligatory Plate Picture
Pumpkin and Peanut Butter Pie
Looks good, doesn’t it?! We set up all of the food on our kitchen hutch and served ourselves buffet style. I put a little bit of each on my plate, refilled my wine glass for the seventh time that day, and sat down at our table to enjoy the meal we prepared.
I hear people who cook say all the time that it is so rewarding to eat a meal that you worked hard to prepare, and I couldn’t agree more. I give my mom so much credit, year after year, slaving away in the kitchen. It takes a lot of hard work to make a dinner of that caliber. We were so proud of ourselves for coming up with a menu, executing it all, and having each and every thing turn out amazing.
And since Thanksgiving is the day to be thankful, I want to “Thank It Off” to all of you who continue to read my blog and support me through my journey of gluttony. I also want to thank my roommate for having patience with me when I asked her eleven times how to melt butter or what a teaspoon is.
I hope you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving! Happy Holidays!