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Christmas is coming….FAST!


This is one of those years; Thanks giving was so late that we leapt right into the Christmas season before the turkey had even cooled down! I’ve barely used all the Thanksgiving leftovers and now it’s time to think about Christmas goodies.

On the other hand, it’s hard not think about Christmas goodies…mmmmmm. A few years ago, we posted Thirty-one days of delicious Christmas cookies and I plan to revisit those recipes this year. Obviously I’m a little bit behind schedule since it IS December 11 already. So today is a huge bonus day for cookies. Check out some of our favorites:

#1 Grandma’s Dutch Jan Hagel cookies (What I love best about these is that they remind me of my Grandma. :) Second best, they require no special ingredients so I’m always ready to bake them!)

#2 Soft and Chewy Molasses Cookies (These are really my go-to cookie during the Christmas season. Always favorite, always delicious. This is the cookie that feature at my annual Women’s Sanity Night.)

#3 Chocolate Chip Cookie Bars (also my go-to recipe all year round. These are just the best.)

#4 Snickerdoodles (who doesn’t remember eating Snickerdoodles as a kid?)

#5 Mint Brownies (my two favorite dessert flavors in one place.)

#6 Dreamsicle Fudge (this one will change your life. Just try it.)

#7 Buffalo Chip Cookies (the name alone makes me giggle.)

#8 Peppernuts (or Pfeffernusse)

#9 Gumdrop Pfeffernusse (my all-time favorite Pfeffernusse recipe, thanks to Auntie Karen)

#10 Raisin Pfeffernusse (you can eat these by the handful, but probably shouldn’t!)

#11 Anise Pfeffernusse (classic, traditional little peppernuts)

Phew, I’m caught up now.

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I’m pretty easily distracted these days but I will try to keep current on the cookie posts. This time of year is the perfect time to practice your kitchen arts and bless the socks off the people in your life who like good food!

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How to Carve a Thanksiving Turkey Like a Boss

Are you intimidated by that beautiful roasted Thanksgiving turkey? Really? Do you secretly wonder how to carve that gorgeous bird? Well you’re definitely not alone. Learning how to carve a turkey may feel a little daunting but really….it’s a great life skill and not all that complicated.

© 2013 My Sister's Kitchen

Today we* carved a turkey (mostly so I could take photos to show you how easy it is) that has been slow-cooking since yesterday. Because it cooks so slowly, the meat is super moist and practically falls off the bone. This makes the carving process kinda messy. If you use a more traditional oven-roasting method, your turkey will probably hold together a little better.

*special cameo appearances by Maggie & Mollie Kelley.

Start by assembling the tools you’ll need to carve the turkey. We use a big cutting board with runnels around the edge. This helps contain the juices. If you just have a flat cutting board, be sure to put a towel underneath to catch the drippings. We also use a big carving fork and several knives. We like to use a couple of different knives. I’m sure there are whole articles (maybe even whole books) written on the proper knives to use. We like a couple of newly-sharpened utility knives and a big carving knife. We do all the carving right next to a large stock pot. We have a serving platter ready to receive the sliced meat and usually at least one container for odds and ends that will be used for leftovers.

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See those channels around the edge of the cutting board? Those are helpful.

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Slow-cooked turkey

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…and a supervisor. A WILLING supervisor, I might add.


Start by moving the turkey from the roasting pan to the cutting board.

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The slow-cooked turkey always looks a little odd, not like a grilled or traditionally-cooked turkey

We always begin by cutting the legs loose from the body.

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Cut those legs off first. Someone’s going to want to eat a drumstick on Thanksgiving Day.

Then we cut the drumstick at the joint.

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The drumsticks always go on our serving platter whole. Because the turkey is so well-cooked, we can slide the bones out of the thigh part of the leg. Then we slice the remaining meat across the grain.

© 2013 My Sister's Kitchen

Next, we remove the wings, separating them at the joint. The wings also go on our serving platter whole.

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Meanwhile, every time we run into any gristle, fat, skin, or bones, those go directly into the stock pot.

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We’re just starting here. This pan will be FULL of bones, scraps, skin, and other tasty stock-making ingredients.

There are two ways to carve the turkey breast.

First, sometimes we remove the entire breast from the carcass  and cut it across the grain into thick slices. If the slices are at least 1/2 inch thick, they tend to stay more moist on the platter.

© 2013 My Sister's Kitchen © 2013 My Sister's Kitchen

The second way to carve a turkey breast is to slice underneath the breast without removing it. Then slice thinly along the grain into flat thin slices.

© 2013 My Sister's Kitchen © 2013 My Sister's Kitchen

If there are other large chunks of meat that are still clinging to the carcass, you can either throw those into the stock pot, tuck them into your leftover container, or you can put the larger pieces onto your serving platter.

Once you have as much meat pulled off the turkey carcass as you want, put all the remaining bones and bits into the stock pot. EVERYTHING you won’t be eating can go into that stock pot. I usually also pour all the turkey juice into a saucepan for gravy.

© 2013 My Sister's Kitchen

I always strain the chunks out of the juice before I make gravy from it.

Then I swish a little warm water around the bottom of the pan and pour that into the stock pot. At this point, I also add the giblets and neck to the stock pot. Fill the stock pot so that all the bones are covered with water. Set on the stove on a low burner. I love getting the stock pot going before we even sit down for Thanksgiving dinner. It makes such a huge difference on clean-up after we eat.


© 2013 My Sister's Kitchen © 2013 My Sister's Kitchen © 2013 My Sister's Kitchen

So easy that anyone can do it. The more you do it, the easier it will become. There is a powerful incentive for learning to carve a Thanksgiving turkey, you know. If you’re in charge of carving the turkey, you’re the one who gets to test the turkey for perfection. Those little succulent bits that are just soaking in juices…yep, you get to test those too. Mmmmmmmm. Deeeeeeelish!

And our faithful supervisors?  Well, turkey is NOT good for dogs so they had to settle for doing tricks with dog biscuits.

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Maggie: this is NOT a piece of turkey. I will still eat it.

© 2013 My Sister's Kitchen

Mollie: THIS Is not a piece of turkey. Our civil rights have been violated. I will bravely eat this dog treat but I won’t be happy about it.



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Planning Ahead for Thanksgiving Dinner, 2013

If you haven’t started planning for Thanksgiving dinner, it’s time to get going! We’ve majored in the very best traditional Thanksgiving dishes we can find and this is one holiday when we stick with the classics. For a couple of reasons it really helps to start planning early. First, planning well saves my sanity. Second, planning well saves my relationships with all the people that I love and count on to help out with this big food event. Third, planning well allows me to start shopping a couple of weeks in advance. When I do that, I don’t feel quite as shocked by a lot of extra cost all on one day of shopping. Fourth, planning ahead means that when someone asks me that question, “What can I bring?” I actually have an answer for them! © 2013 My Sister's Kitchen

So this weekend, I’m planning and I’ll be shopping throughout the week ahead for most of the food I’ll need for Thanksgiving Dinner.

Next week is when the plan rolls into action around here. Here’s what I’m tentatively thinking.

2013 Thanksgiving Dinner Menu

Note that I haven’t listed any appetizers on this menu plan. That’s because I always answer that question, “What can I bring?” with one word: APPETIZERS!

Saturday, 11/23:

  • Take the turkey out of the freezer and put it into the fridge to defrost slowly
  • Bake the sweet potatoes in the oven until they’re fork tender. Refrigerate them until next week.
  • Go shopping
  • Make sure the tablecloth is clean and ironed

Sunday, 11/24:

Monday, 11/25:

  • Cook white potatoes. Refrigerate in tightly covered container.
  • Bake fresh pumpkin until fork tender. Clean and process and refrigerate
  • Bake dinner rolls and freeze, tightly wrapped

Tuesday, 11/26:

Wednesday, 11/27 :

Thursday, 11/28 AM:

  • Remove dinner rolls from freezer
  • Set table (Just for kicks and giggles, this post on Simple Thanksgiving Decorations is from before the days of Pinterest. In spite of Pinterest, this is STILL how I decorate!)
  • Make dressing/stuffing
  • Plate salads

Thursday, 11/28 PM:

  • Heat two potato casseroles in oven
  • Take turkey out of oven
  • Heat two potato casseroles in oven
  • Heat green bean casserole in oven
  • Put cranberry relish into serving bowl
  • Carve turkey (Here’s our new how-to)
  • Make gravy
  • Heat dinner rolls
  • Put everything on the table with serving utensils

Eat dinner!!!

  • Clean up leftovers
  • Clean up kitchen
  • Start turkey stock
  • Go for a long walk or take a long nap

Thanksgiving evening:

  • Heat pies
  • Make whipped cream
  • Make coffee
  • Serve dessert

It’s entirely possible that I’ve forgotten steps, so if I think of anything else, I’ll come back and edit this post. For me, one of the most important steps of planning is shopping. Almost every year, I come up with something critical that I’ve forgotten to buy. Finding stores open on Thanksgiving Day isn’t easy. Writing everything out ahead of time really helps me avoid that last minute panic and dash to the store for whipping cream, candles, and cornstarch.

For a slightly different style of planning, another foodie, my friend Lori Hubert, shared HER plan for Thanksgiving prep with me. Here’s a photo of her 1-page plan. Note that Lori has only one oven so it’s important for her to plan the sequences of her dinner prep with that in mind.

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Perhaps the biggest benefit for me of taking some time NOW to plan for Thanksgiving Dinner is that I really will be free to spend some time reflecting on all the many reasons I have to be VERY thankful!

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Thirty Days of Fabulous Food (for which we are thankful!) 2013

For the last several years, we’ve taken the month of November to remember all the things that we say THANK YOU for and usually we post each day on Facebook about those things. This year, we’re doing something just a little bit different. We will continue to count our blessings on our own time. On Facebook, we’re counting some of our very favorite recipes for our very favorite homemade foods. We’ve been writing about good food and feeding the ones we love for about 7.5 years now. If you weren’t following our journey back in 2006, you probably missed some of our favorite recipes. We’re taking this opportunity to direct you back to a few of those must have/must try faves.

This post will be a sticky on the top of the website for the month of November. We’ll update it each day with our favorite recipe that we’d like to remind you of.

Now’s a good time to mention that following My Sister’s Kitchen on Facebook is also a great way to keep up with our daily thankfulness this month. Visit us and LIKE…then we’ll start showing up in your feed.

We’d also really love to hear from you what YOUR favorite foods are, so please share with us in the comments below. Feel free to share often, as you think of fabulous foods for which YOU are thankful!

Day 1: It’s not an old recipe; it’s our new favorite! Candied Bacon is taking all the awards this fall.

Day 2: Also a new favorite, Pumpkin Pork Chili. Yummmmmmmmmm.

Day 3: This one is from 2006 and is a staple in our kitchen. Baked Oatmeal. We even had it for dinner last night!

Day 4: Still thinking about breakfast, Baked French Toast Turtle Style. (This could just about be dessert.)

Day 5: All things Pesto. Homemade Fresh Pesto makes life good.

Day 6: Fresh Apple Cake, still our all time favorite dessert.

Day 7: Homemade Power Granola

Day 8: Homemade Grapenuts

Day 9: Pull-apart Sticky Buns

Day 10: Black Bean Salad

Day 11: Broccoli Salad with bacon, grapes and lots of seedy things

Day 12: Sweet Potato Soup or its Curry Sweet Potato version

Day 13: White Chicken Chili–comfort food for the next generation. This is probably our very favorite food on the planet.

Day 14: Perfect Pumpkin Bread — possibly my favorite recipe of all time.

Day 15: Hearty Pumpkin Soup

Day 16: Spicy Homemade Cole Slaw

Day 17: Homemade Chicken Pot Pie (or its cousin, Pot Roast Pot Pie)

Day 18: Tuna Noodle Casserole

Day 19: Oven Roasted Tomatoes

Day 20: Golden Pepper Soup

Day 21: Cranberry Pudding with Butter Sauce

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- don’t forget that we’re on Facebook AND Twitter! “Like” us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter for the very latest in the Kitchen. You can also sign up to get emails every time we post something new here in the Kitchen. Look on the sidebar the link to subscribe.