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Friday, January 31, 2014

Maple Syrup- Tapping Trees and Cooking Your Own

Making maple syrup was something of a ritual for my family every year during the first thaw when winter was just starting to loosen it's grip. I grew up on a large wooded property with winding trails and paths to walk in through the canopy of leafy trees, especially the maple trees. So when the snow started to dissipate we'd trudge around to every maple tree with some metal spouts, a bunch of 5 gallon plastic buckets, and hit every maple tree on the property.

I remember at first being initially excited. I'm a huge fan of maple syrup, everything else is just imitation as far as pancakes go, so the idea that we could create our own supply was thrilling. Until I saw the amount of sap and the yield. For a kid that was the most dissapointing realization. First of all I thought that the sap was the maple syrup- Why do I have to cook it down?

Most of the sap disappears during this process, and it is estimated that for every 40 gallons of sap you get only 1 gallon of maple syrup. That's the price we pay to get some of that golden sugary goodness. Back then I hated slaving over our old 1940's wood stove in our shed, sometimes having to stay in there well after dark, watching the sap cook down and stirring it occasionally. But now as an adult I want to sprinkle sugar maple tree seeds everywhere and grow a field of them so I can harvest a glutenous amount of syrup all for me me me..and my fiancé.

When and What Should You Tap?

You can make maple syrup with just about any variety of maple tree, but the most popular kind to use is the Sugar Maple or Acer Saccharum.

Generally around mid-March to the start of April is when most people start tapping their maple trees. This can vary as the weather has been a little flaky lately for many of us, but generally the ideal conditions is a freezing cold night followed by a 40 degree day the next. If you jump the gun and you tap the trees too early and another cold spell hits, your tap will be cut off and you will have to wait it out until the thaw starts again. Spring thaw is the best time to gain some sap from your maple trees although you can get some in the fall or on a warmer winter day.

How to Tap Your Maple Trees

Step 1:Mark off the trees to be tapped

Take some twine or construction tape or a can of spray paint and mark each tree you plan to tap. When choosing maple trees, make sure that the tree is at least 10" in diameter. For each 6-8" in diameter more than 10" you can add another tap to the tree. For some old maple trees, they can have as many as 4 spouts in one!

Step 2:Drill It
Now that your trees are marked, take a cordless power drill or a hand drill and bore a hole in the tree 2 feet up from the ground and about 2" deep. Try and angle the hole in your tree upward so that the sap will flow out more freely. You can get a specific bit for tapping trees from sugaring suppliers that are 7/16-inch bits. This matches the size of the commercial tapping spouts exactly, but you can also get a standard 1/2" bit or 3/8" bit to work.

Step 3:Hammer the Spout

Gently hammer in your metal tapping spouts, making sure not to crack the bark of your tree. If you crack the bark, sap will start to leak out of that and you will lose precious sap! So hammer the spout in lightly in bursts to make it go in far enough so that the spout won't fall out and so that you can hang your sap bucket from it.

Step 4:Buckets of Sap
Manufactured spouts for tapping maple trees usually come with hooks so you can attach your sap buckets easily. When I say sap bucket, you can really use any container, as long as you keep an eye on it when it starts to get full. You can use plastic milk containers, coffee cans, plastic buckets, etc. Really whatever is sanitary and free to be filled is game. You will need to either make a lid or have a bucket already with a lid to keep out any debris from the trees and animals who may be attracted to the sweet sticky sap.

Step 5:Boil 'er Down!
Start boiling your sap in 6 gallon or 8 gallon pots on an outdoor fire or stove. You can do this in your kitchen, but it does take a lot of time to cook the sap down, and it produces a lot of vapors and steam. Boil the sap, skim off any foam that starts to produce, and make sure that you don't leave the sap in there too long. You can leave the sap boiling away unwatched for the first couple hours where the sap is reduced to half it's size. Then as it cooks down more, you need to be watchful to make sure it doesn't boil over, get too dark, or boil off too much so that it will crystalize once put into jars. You can test your sap for density with regular sugaring tests or a hydrometer, sugaring thermometer or candy thermometer. Boil your sap until your candy thermometer reads 219º F at Sea Level. For every 550 ft. above sea level that you are located, add 1 degree.

The age old test to see if your syrup is finished, is taking a spoon scoop of the liquid and pour back into the pot. If the liquid sticks to the bottom of your ladel, you have syrup!

Canning Instructions for Maple Syrup

It's not recommended to just have your syrup in containers in the fridge without canning first. They can still get moldy and go bad and yes you will cry when realizing you spent 5 hours cooking down something that now looks absolutely putrid.

So instead, can it!


Heat your syrup back up to a boil and then immediately pour it boiling hot into already hot sterile canning glass jars. Pint jars are a good size to use and just fill them up to 1/4"just below the top. Seal tightly with heated canning lids. Your jars will seal themselves up tight, no need for the water bath. This is a completely sterile, tried and proven way of canning maple syrup that has been done for over a century.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Vintage Christmas Cookie Recipes

Mocha Nut Butterballs

This is probably my favorite Christmas cookie of all time, they are bite sized and highly addictive. You will make them and lie to yourself that they are for Christmas day or for visitors. Please-They won't make it through the next 24 hours. You've been warned.


1 cup soft butter

1/2 cup granulated sugar

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

2 teaspoons instant coffee powder

1/4 cocoa

1 and 3/4 cup flour

1/2 teaspoon salt (I rarely add salt)

2 cups finely chopped pecans or walnuts

Confectioners sugar


Cream butter and sugar and vanilla until light. Add next 4 ingredients and mix well. Add nuts. Shape into 1 inch balls. Put on cookie sheets. Bake in moderate oven (325*. F) for about 15 minutes. Cool slightly and roll in the confectioners sugar. Makes about 6 dozen.

Spicy Chocolate Refrigerator Cookies

These are delicious thin chocolate cookies where the dough needs to be chilled overnight before baking to have the best results. You can dip the edges of the cookies in chopped nuts or candies, whatever your temptation desires. I prefer the chopped walnuts or almonds.


1/2 cup butter, softened

3/4 cup sugar

1 egg

3/4 cup nuts, ground in blender

1 3/4 cups all purpose flour

1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa

1/2 teaspoon each of baking powder and cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon ground cloves

(Multi colored candies) this is where your memories and my recipe differ. But you can roll them many different things.....nuts, crushed hard candies, or the multi colored tiny little balls often used on cakes.


Cream butter and sugar until light. Beat in egg, then add nuts. Mix the remaining ingredients, except candies, and stir into first mixture. Divide into 2 equal parts. Shape each into rolls about 1 inch in diameter. Sprinkle candies On wax paper and coat each roll. Wrap rolls in in wax paper or plastic wrap, and chill over night Cut into 1/4 inch slices and bake on lightly greased, or non stick cookie sheets. Temp 350* F Bake about 10 minutes Makes about 5 dozen.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Best Bûche de Noël Recipes:From Traditional to Tiramisu

A Brief History

This was a tradition amongst my friends back in school and with my own family with our french heritage, to create a Bûche de Noël for Christmas. The recipes can vary, some like the vanilla cake and others prefer chocolate, I have no preference as long as I get to eat it.

A Bûche de Noël or Yule Log, is a traditional Christmas dessert hailing from France, Canada, and other former French colonies. It is a jelly roll made of sponge cake, which is then rolled around a cream filling and topped with a chocolate buttercream or mocha buttercream frosting to give the color of rich dark bark. An end of the log is cut off and then placed on the side of the jelly roll to make it look like a real cut tree branch. Textures are added to the outsides of the jelly roll in the buttercream topping, and then other decorative features are added like powdered sugar to imitate freshly fallen snow, or meringue mushrooms, and more!

The history of this dish dates back to even Medieval times, where the symbolism first originated. Each year around the time of the Winter Solstice, the villagers would burn old logs covered in pine cones, holly, or ivy, as a way of eradicating any misfortunes that had happened in the year and to make way for the new year. They would even keep the ashes as a good luck charm! So through this tradition, they started making the cakes to represent this old pagan custom.

Just don't burn this log, or no one will want to keep any remnant of it.

Original Bûche de Noël Recipe

Jelly Roll:

5 Eggs, separated

1 cup sugar, divided

1/2 cup flour

1/4 cup baking cocoa

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar

Mocha Cream Filling:

1 cup heavy whipping cream

1/2 cup confectioners' sugar

1-1/2 teaspoons instant coffee granules

Mocha Buttercream Frosting:

1/3 cup butter, softened

1/3 cup baking cocoa

2 cups confectioners' sugar

1-1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1 tablespoon brewed coffee

2 to 3 tablespoons 2% milk


Line a 15-in. x 10-in. x 1-in. baking pan with parchment paper; grease the paper. Place egg whites in a small bowl; let stand at room temperature for 30 minutes.

In a large bowl, beat egg yolks on high until light and fluffy. Gradually add 1/2 cup sugar, beating until thick and lemon-colored. Combine the flour, cocoa and salt; gradually add to egg yolk mixture until blended.

Beat egg whites on medium until foamy. Add cream of tartar; beat until soft peaks form. Gradually add remaining sugar, 1 tablespoon at a time, beating on high until stiff peaks form. Stir a fourth into chocolate mixture. Fold in remaining egg whites until no streaks remain.v Spread batter evenly in prepared pan. Bake at 350° for 12-15 minutes or until cake springs back (do not overbake). Cool for 5 minutes; invert onto a linen towel dusted with confectioners' sugar. Peel off parchment paper. Roll up in the towel, starting with a short side. Cool on a wire rack.

In a large bowl, beat cream until it begins to thicken. Add sugar and coffee granules. Beat until stiff peaks form; chill. Unroll cooled cake; spread cream filling to within 1/2 in. of edges. Roll up again. Place on serving platter; chill.

In a large bowl, beat frosting ingredients until smooth. Frost cake. Using a fork, make lines resembling tree bark. Yield: 12 servings.

Tiramisu Bûche de Noël


For Cake:

1/2 cup sifted cake flour (not self-rising; sift before measuring), plus additional for dusting pan

5 large eggs, separated, left at room temperature for 30 minutes

1 teaspoon vanilla

1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons granulated sugar, divided

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar

1/2 stick (1/4 cup) unsalted butter, melted and cooled

2 tablespoons confectioners' sugar

For Espresso Syrup:

1/2 cup espresso or very strong black coffee

2 tablespoons sugar

1 tablespoon Cognac or brandy

For Filling:

8 ounces mascarpone cheese

1/4 cup granulated sugar

1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1 tablespoon Cognac or brandy

1/2 cup chilled heavy cream

For Ganache:

12 ounces 60% bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped

3/4 cup heavy cream

2 tablespoons light corn syrup

For Decoration:

Meringue mushrooms (optional)

Unsweetened cocoa for dusting

Confectioners' sugar for dusting


A 15- by 10- by 1-inch rimmed sheet pan (aka jelly-roll pan; small offset spatula (optional, but really helpful); long rectangular or oval platter or wooden serving board


Make Cake:

Heat oven to 350°F with rack in middle. Butter pan and line bottom and sides with 1 sheet of parchment paper. Butter paper and dust with additional flour, knocking out excess.

Beat together yolks, vanilla, and 1/2 cup sugar in a large bowl with an electric mixer at high speed until thick and pale and mixture forms a ribbon that takes 2 seconds to dissolve when beaters are lifted, 5 to 8 minutes in a stand mixer or 8 to 12 minutes with a handheld. Sift half of flour over yolks and fold it in gently but thoroughly, then sift and fold in remaining flour.

Beat whites with salt and cream of tartar in a large metal bowl with cleaned beaters at medium speed until they just hold soft peaks. Beat in remaining 2 tablespoons sugar, 1/2 tablespoon at a time, and continue to beat until whites just hold stiff peaks.

Fold 1/4 of whites into yolk mixture to lighten, then fold in remaining whites gently but thoroughly. Stir 1/2 cup batter into melted butter in a small bowl until combined, then fold butter mixture into batter gently but thoroughly. Spread batter evenly in sheet pan and rap once on counter to help eliminate air bubbles.

Bake until top of cake springs back when gently pressed with finger, 7 to 10 minutes. Sift top of hot cake evenly with confectioners' sugar and cover cake with a clean kitchen towel (not terry cloth) followed by a baking sheet. Holding sheet and cake pan together with oven mitts, flip cake onto cloth on baking sheet. Carefully peel off and discard parchment paper.

With a long side nearest you and using towel as an aid, roll up cake in towel, jelly-roll style, keeping it wrapped in towel. Cool cake completely, seam-side down in towel, on a rack.

Make Espresso Syrup:

Bring espresso and sugar to a boil in a small saucepan, stirring until sugar dissolves, then boil until reduced to a scant 1/4 cup. Remove pan from heat and stir in Cognac, then cool to room temperature.

Make Filling:

Slowly mix mascarpone, sugar, cinnamon, and Cognac in a large bowl with an electric mixer until combined. If mixture is very loose after adding sugar, beat mixture briefly to thicken slightly (see Cooks' Notes).

Beat heavy cream in another bowl with same beaters at medium speed until it just holds stiff peaks. Fold whipped cream into mascarpone mixture.

Make Ganache:

Put chopped chocolate in a large bowl. Heat cream in a small saucepan over medium heat until it just comes to a boil, then pour over chocolate and let stand 3 minutes. Stir slowly with a whisk until smooth. If bits of chocolate remain unmelted, set bowl over a pan of barely simmering water and heat, stirring gently, until completely smooth, and remove from pan. Stir in corn syrup. Chill, stirring a couple of times, until it thickens to an easily spreadable consistency, about 15 to 20 minutes.

Assemble Yule Log:

Gently unroll cooled cake on a baking sheet, keeping it on towel, then arrange baking sheet so that long side of cake that was inside roll is nearest to you. Brush all of cooled espresso syrup all over surface of cake.

Spread filling with offset spatula evenly over cake, leaving a 1/2-inch border all around. Starting from long side nearest you, roll up cake without towel, leaving it seam-side down on baking sheet. Gently brush off any excess confectioners' sugar.

Cut a 1 1/2-inch-long diagonal slice from each end of roll and reserve. Transfer cake, using 2 metal slotted spatulas as aids, seam-side down on platter. Using ganache as "glue," attach end pieces, diagonal sides down, on top and side of log to resemble branches. Spread ganache all over roll and branches with offset spatula, making it resemble tree bark.

Arrange a few meringue mushrooms, if using, around Yule log, and very lightly sift a little cocoa over log and mushrooms first, followed by a little confectioners' sugar to resemble a light dusting of snow.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

How to make an Evergreen Kissing Ball for Christmas

This was one of the first jobs that I had as a teenager. Every holiday season I worked for a florist shop in my hometown of Greenfield Center, NY called Van Arnums Flower Shop. I loved the smell of christmas trees in there as we worked, but by the 50th kissing ball and having blackish sap stuck to your fingers because your rubber gloves tore, again, you pretty much never want to see as much as another pine needle for another 364 days.

But I learned a neat skill and it's one of my favorite things to make around the holiday season. They look beautiful indoors or out, and you can really let your creativity go wild by adding extra elements like pine cones, ribbons, and even lights. Plus you can substitute other materials for the evergreen branches, like fabric, paper, christmas ball ornaments, and more!

Materials Needed

Styrofoam Ball(s)-Comes in assorted sizes, keep in mind that the bigger the diameter the styrofoam, the larger the evergreen branches that you will need, and the more of them you will need too.

Clippers/Pruning Shears- nice pair of sharp shears to trim your evergreen branches.

Wire Hangers-Easy way to hang up your kissing balls when you are done.

Rubber Gloves- Try and get a heavy duty pair, the disposable ones break too easily.

Ribbon/Extras- Whatever creative elements you want to add to jazz it up a little.

Getting Started

1.) Find Evergreen Branches

You can purchase some from a florist shop, or if you have property where you can go out back and trim some off of a tree, you can also trim off the lower branches of your christmas tree to use those, or as a last resort you can take a ride out along the highway or a low trafficked back road at night and "borrow" some.

2.)Trim Branches

Looking at your styrofoam ball, estimate the length of branch cutting you will need to fill your ball. Estimate that each branch you sink into the ball will have to go in at least 2-3" deep to be firmly in place. Cut smaller branches off of the main bough to size that you desire for your kissing ball. If some pieces are too long, cut the branch again where you need it and then cut again closest to the next joint in the branch that protrudes out of the piece so that you don't have any bare wooden ends poking out of your kissing ball. Make sure you cut your branches so that the ends have a nice sharp angle cut. This will make the next step easier on you.

3.) Insert Hanger

Taking a plain wire clothes hanger, cut to specs and poke through the top of your styrofoam ball and push all the way through. Trim with wire cutters if necessary at the bottom, and bend the end upwards against the base of the ball. Don't worry your branches will cover this up nicely so no one sees it.

4.)Start Filling It In

Begin with taking your 4 best evergreen pieces, and put them in the 4 directions N,S,E & W as if you were poking them into a globe. After that, you start at the top of your globe and in circular spirals going down, start filling the rest of your branches into your styrofoam ball, evenly all the way to the base. Make sure that you don't push in the branches too far or too little, you want them to be stable and for them to make an even diameter around the ball.

5.)Ribbons or Other Decorations

Here is where there are no rules, just go with what you like. I would recommend that if you use ribbon make sure that it has the wire in it so that your bows will stay lively looking and not droop when you hang it. You can also hang ribbon streamers from the bottom of the ball too. Again whatever looks good to you!

The Love of Christmas Cookies-Retro Candy Cane Cookies

It's about that time to start making Christmas cookies for gifts for friends, family, or neighbors or just to sit on the couch with a cup of eggnog and a warm blanket and chow down on.

I have my own personal favorites, this is one classic from the 1950s that hailed originally from Betty Crockers vintage cookbooks. They are not too sweet and taste wonderful dipped in your morning coffee! Best kept stored in sealed tupperware containers, do not refrigerate. Can be frozen if you want to store them for a later date!


1/2 cup butter or margarine, softened

1/2 cup shortening

1 cup confectioners’ sugar

1 egg

1 1/2 teaspoons almond extract

1 teaspoon vanilla

2 1/2 cups white unbleached flour

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon red food color


Heat oven to 375°. Mix thoroughly butter, shortening, confectioners’ sugar, egg and flavorings. Split dough in half and blend food coloring into one half only.

Shape 1 teaspoon dough from each half rolled out into a 4-inch rope. For smooth, even ropes, roll them back and forth on lightly floured board. Place rope side by side; press together lightly and twist. Complete cookies one at a time. Place on ungreased baking sheet; curve top of cookie down to form handle of cane. Bake about 9 minutes or until set and very light brown. If you wish, mix 1/2 cup crushed peppermint candy and 1/2 cup granulated sugar. Immediately sprinkle cookies with candy mixture; remove from baking sheet. About 4 dozen cookies.

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Eggnog for Purists

Common Eggnog Making Mistakes

There are tons of eggnog recipes online that people have posted to make a "safe" eggnog recipe. You mention the words raw + egg and it seems that everyone runs screaming for the hills as if you mentioned the most unholy of holies. Raw eggs have been consumed forever in cooking and guess what, the majority of people turn out just fine. Vanilla egg creams are still one of my favorite old school diner drinks, eating raw chocolate chip cookie dough through childhood , and of course drinking eggnog. All done, still alive.

I've done it too, same as you, making the recipes that call for cooking the egg mixture because of paranoia of salmonella, which of course will kill the bacteria if it is present, but there are several other ways to severely reduce the risk of salmonella poisoning besides cooking the mixture down, which I will mention in a second.

The problem with cooking your eggs is that it makes your eggnog taste like utter garbage. That's a big problem. You just wasted gas, a dozen eggs, your precious time, and a dash of ego to create the worlds soupiest, saddest, most uneggnog like concoction ever. Adding extra heavy cream or whip cream to it will not save it, I tried that too. It will not hide the fact that it tastes terrible.

Now for those of you who want to make a traditionally rich, creamy and frothy delicious eggnog that your friends and family will rave about and beg you to make every on!

Safety Tips

Many chefs have eggnog recipes that call for raw eggs, they all give their warnings because in the age of lawsuits and people just being pretty stupid, you have to make disclaimers. So here is mine, I'm not saying this is full proof and safe as a beverage, there is always some minutia of a chance that you will get sick from eating raw eggs as well as there is a minutia of a chance that you could get ill from eating other foods both raw and cooked that were contaminated. Life is dangerous just being alive, I just prefer that while I am alive to not eat foods that taste absolutely putrid. Here are some ways to prevent salmonella using raw eggs and they all involve common sense and not a stove.

1.) Buy only fresh, refrigerated eggs, grade A or AA.

2.) Use only eggs with non-cracked shells

3.) Avoid getting any contact between the yolks, eggwhites and the shell itself.

4.) If your eggs have chicken poop on them..mayday mayday..

5.) Use eggs that have been treated to destroy salmonella by pasteurization or other methods.

Feeling better? But still not sure if you want to take the risk? Here is another way to help reduce the risk of bacteria in both your 'nogg and you.

"Come They Told Me,..Rum RumRumRum Rummmmmmm"

What would eggnog be without a splash of rum a liter of bourbon and some brandy added to it? The answer is it wouldn't be eggnog, just whipped eggs.

Besides it's necessity for flavoring, alcohol has been historically a tried and proven way of killing off bacteria in uncertain times. Back in the days of the black plague, many countries started brewing beer and whiskey and other alcoholic beverages in lieu of drinking their own water, because they were so worried about contamination. I'm not encouraging drinking to cure infectious diseases but I am suggesting that for those of you who are concerned of getting sick from drinking a raw egg beverage, a little splash of alcohol will go a long way to kill off any lingering beasties if they by some miracle happened to actually survive the pasteurization of the eggs and the industrial sized refrigerators in your supermarket.

The other benefit besides easing your egg paranoia is that it makes you feel warm and fuzzy inside without the need for a fireplace.

The Best Traditional Eggnog Recipe Ever

The key to this recipe is that the eggnog base portion of the recipe is aged for one week to make sure maximum flavor melding of the ingredients is achieved!


For the eggnog:

12 large eggs yolks (reserve the whites)

2 cups granulated sugar

1 liter bourbon

1 quart (4 cups) whole milk

1 cup heavy cream

3/4 cup Cognac or brandy

1/2 cup Barbancourt (Haitian)/Brugal (Dominican) dark rum

Pinch fine salt

To serve:

12 reserved egg whites

1 1/2 cups cold heavy cream

Ice (optional)

Freshly grated nutmeg


For the eggnog:

Place the reserved egg whites in a very clean and airtight container and freeze until the eggnog is ready to serve. Combine the yolks and sugar in a large bowl and whisk until well blended and creamy. Add the the remaining ingredients and stir to combine. Transfer the mixture to a large glass jar (1 Gal.) and tightly seal. Place in the refrigerator for at least 1 week and as much as up to 3 weeks.

To serve:

The night before you plan on serving, place the frozen egg whites in the refrigerator to thaw out gradually. When ready to serve, let the egg whites come to room temperature. Place the egg whites in the very clean bowl and use your power mixer to whisk. Whisk on high speed until stiff peaks form, about 2 to 3 minutes. Remove to a large bowl.

Place the cream in the mixer bowl (no need to wash it out) and whisk again on high speed until medium peaks form, about 1 to 2 minutes. Pour into bowl with eggwhites. Stir the eggnog base with a rubber spatula to re-combine, then add it to the cream and eggwhite bowl. Gently whisk the eggnog together until just combined but do not overwhisk or you’ll deflate the eggnog. Serve in cups over ice, or without, and garnished with some grated nutmeg.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

The Best Thanksgiving Dinner Your Grandma Never Made

Dear Drew-the-Straw-to-Cook-Thanksgiving-For-the-Entire-Family-This-Year "Winner"...

It's that time of year again where the pressure is on to start planning your perfect Thanksgiving dinner. So here you are, searching the chasms of google for key words like "best" and "amazing" and any other word of positive the words thanksgiving or turkey.

We all do it, there is no shame. Why do you think I put the word "best" in my article title? Silly- to hook you in! But really this is THE place for you to get help from. I want to make your life and Thanksgiving easy so I put everything you will need on one page. Right here. Oh ya.

This is the old school Thanksgiving food that is better than your moms' moms' mom. None of that fancy new age Martha Stewart reinvented Thanksgiving recipes with ingredients that no one can find in their local grocery store. Who likes water chestnuts in their stuffing? No one, that's who.

You don't need that. It's garbage and honestly nobody wants to eat anything different than what they eat every other year for Thanksgiving. Maybe a new pie flavor, and that's a big maybe. But everything else about the dinner is like the ten commandments. It's written in stone and it's not meant for us to judge or change. That is it.

Now that we've settled that, let's get started from the beginning step by step what you should do starting from the night before Thanksgiving.

Twas The Night Before Thanksgiving...

So you should of by now bought your Turkey (see this Turkey Calculator for what size bird you need for your crowd and appetite size) and have all the veggies you need and any other ingredients and doo-dads that you made a list of from reading the recipes below..right? Right?? Good.

You bought the Thanksgiving wine too I see. So here we are at step one.

#1. Quality Check the Wine

Open one bottle of red wine, pour yourself a glass, and sip while starting your Thanksgiving prep work. You are checking to see if the wine is corked or not. Who cares if the cap was a twist off, or if like my parents you drink your wine out of a box. You are doing your duty out of respect for your guests palate to make sure the wine is ship shape. If your family asks you the next day, why is the wine already opened, you raise your eyebrows as if the answer should be perfectly obvious to them and say in a deliberately slow and more than slightly condescending manner, that "The wine needed to breathe". They will know you are lying, so do your best to look as sincere as possible.

#2. Start Thawing Frozen Turkey

You may have bought yours fresh recently and it's in the refrigerator, if so, repeat step 1 and then go on to step 3. If your turkey was bought a week or so ago when it went on sale and you wedged it into your freezer space so that it is virtually impossible to remove so much as an ice tray now, kindly step forward.

Now, grab a pair of forceps and wrestle your frozen bird as if your life depended on it, out of the freezer and into a bowl of warm-hot water in your kitchen sink. You do not want the water to be too hot, or you will start cooking your bird a little early. No, that is not a cheat way to make your bird cook faster the next day. It will make your bird tough as hell, and your guests gums bleed as they try to chew 39 million times to choke down one morsel.

Every now and again check on the water bath, and replace with new hot tap water to keep thawing the bird out. It will take all night and maybe some of the next morning, so start this as soon as possible.

#3. Cut and Peel Everything in Sight

From the fruit for the pies, to the potatoes for the mashing, to the bread for the stuffing...Cut. It. Up. Now. Why? WHY? Because you will hate your life tomorrow if you don't. You want to be able to just throw things into pans into the oven and into pots full of water and that is all. You bought a small countries worth of vegetables and stocked it in your fridge. Cut them all up. Don't think you will use them all? Cut them all up anyways, the extras can be used for a veggie tray as apps for your guests, and as a rule of thumb it is always better to have extra of everything you are preparing, then to fall short. Trust me, it can get very very ugly if there is not enough for everybody.

#4. Wash Good Dishes, Wine Glasses, & Linens

I know you have a gravy boat in the shape of a pilgrim coming off the Mayflower, or some other kitsch like paraphernalia that you have tucked away in the recesses of your cupboard high above your refrigerator. You know, that spot where you keep all the good dishes that you use maybe 3 times a year for Easter, Thanksgiving and Christmas that you need to get out the step stool to reach. Everyone has their good set of plate ware, because common ordinary dinners are for common ordinary plates. Yes most times these holiday dishwares are tacky but it's there, it's tradition, and heck it was on clearance last year after Thanksgiving.

Now take out your stemware, plateware and fine silverware. Either run them through the dishwasher on a quick rinse, or wash them in mild sudsy warm water, and towel dry immediately to prevent spotting and streaks. Polish them with a completely dry towel until they give that vibrating ringing sound that means that the job is done.

Decide what table cloth, place mats, cloth napkins and other linens you will use for your table. Take them out and decide if they need to be repressed to freshen them up.

Now go back and repeat step 1, you are doing a heck of a job so far!

#5. Bake the Bakeables

Dinner Rolls, Pies, and any other Thanksgiving item with the ingredient of flour in it, bake it tonight and coordinate what recipes have the same baking temperature so you can put like items in the oven together to cut down on time. Rolls and pies can be warmed the next day at the end of dinner, to be served piping hot for dessert.

#6 Go to Bed

Enough said.

Thanksgiving Day Preparations

Take your thawed turkey, and start preparations based on the recipe and instructions below. Make the stuffing and set in the baking pans covering each with tin foil to be baked later on in the day closer to supper time. Set aside enough of the stuffing to be put into the bird. Stuff the bird and depending on the size of the bird and what time your planning on serving dinner, is when you pop it into the oven. It's better for people to wait a few extra minutes for the bird to be ready instead of it being done too early and drying out "keeping warm" in your oven.

As the day progresses start preparing your side dishes of vegetables to be cooked. Arrange any fruit trays or veggie trays for hungry early arrivers.

Set up the dining area and make sure you have a place for everyone. Have coffee/tea cups and spoons and small plates ready for desserts to be served later on. Have a separate table for your pies and any other desserts to be placed on and to be able to hone in on any tiny fingers trying to sample the goods early.

Thanksgiving Recipes

The Roast Turkey & Stuffing


1 Turkey (see turkey calculator at top of page to decide what size is right for you)

Juice of lemon

Salt and pepper

Melted butter

Small yellow onions





Cubed bread

Poultry seasoning


Preheat your oven to 350º F. Make sure your bird is fully thawed out and is at room temperature. Remove neck and giblets baggie from the birds inner cavity. Don't make the mistake of leaving that inside and cooking your bird!!

Take out a frying pan or skillet and melt a few tablespoons of butter in the pan. Add to this chopped onion and chopped celery. Stir and cook through until the onion is translucent. Add more butter if needed. Gage amounts of ingredients based on your size of bird and how much stuffing your crowd would like to eat. You want enough onion and celery so that it in ratio to the amount of bread you have cubed up. Add bread to the pan and mix into it evenly. Once mixed, add poultry seasoning or fresh chopped parsley, chopped Thyme and chopped Sage to this mixture. Set aside.

Take your bird and season the inside of the cavity generously with salt and pepper, poultry seasoning, and a few drops oflemon juice. Stuff as much stuffing into this cavity as you can. Tie the drumstick ends together to help hold in the stuffing. Salt and pepper and season with a little lemon juice and poultry seasoning the neck cavity, add stuffing loosely into this area as well.

Melt some butter on your stovetop and taking a pastry brush, generously butter baste your entire bird all around. Make slits in the skin of your turkey around all the joint areas and lift up the skin at the top of the bird a little near the neck. Taking your butter and baste a little under the skin near the neck to upper breast area, the joint areas, and wherever your brush can reach into under the skin. Salt and pepper under the skin areas as well. Now salt and pepper the outside of your bird.

Now put your Turkey onto the rack, breast side up, inside your roasting pan. Stick a meat thermometer into your birds thigh if you don't have a turkey with a plastic button gage in it, or if you want to be sure that the gage is correct. Make sure the thermometer doesn't touch the bone.

See the chart below for roasting times for your turkey based on weight and whether you are roasting with stuffing inside. Cover your bird loosely with foil. The last 30 minutes of your roasting time, take off the foil to finish cooking and crisping the skin. Also untie the legs so the finish cooking as well. At this time bake your remaining stuffing in casserole dishes or bread pans for 25 minutes covered with foil. Last 5 minutes uncover stuffing pans to crisp the tops up if you wish.

Pumpkin Pie From Scratch

Cut and peel pumpkin into small chunks. Boil the pumpkin and reduce to a simmer in a small amount of water (just enough to cover). Drain the water completely, mash up the pumpkin. Put the mash through a strainer. Take 1 1/2 cups of your strained pumpkin pureé and add to this 1/3 cup brown sugar, 1/3 cup white sugar, 1 tsp. cinnamon, 1/2 tsp. ginger, 1/4 tsp. nutmeg, 1/2 tsp. salt, 1/4 tsp. ground cloves, 2 slightly beaten eggs, 1 1/2 cups milk, and 1/2 cup cream or evaporated milk.

Pour into a pie shell in a 9" pie tin. Wrap the pies edges with strips of tin foil so they don't burn! Bake for 10 minutes at 450º F , then reduce the heat to 300ºF and bake until firm (45 minutes approximately)

Serve with whipped cream

Buttery Flaky Pie Crust


1 1/4 cup Flour

1/4 tsp. salt

1/2 cup butter chilled and diced

1/4 cup ice water


Mix dry ingredients, cut in cubed butter using a pastry cutter. Blend in butter completely into flour (or use a fork if you have no pastry cutter). Add the water gradually. Roll the dough when mixed evenly into a ball. Chill 4 hours wrapped tightly in plastic wrap. Makes one double crust.

When ready to use your dough to fit to your pie tins, cut ball in half. Take one half of the dough and place it on a lightly floured board. Flour your rolling pin and dust your hands as well. Roll from the center outwards in all directions to make an even flat circle. Every now and then, take your pie tin and place it on top of the rolled out dough to gage the size you need. Make sure to roll out enough and maybe an inch extra around in circumference for the dough to be pinched over the edges of the pie tin.

When finished, take your rolling pin, lightly flour it again and roll the pie dough over the pin to help lift it into your pie tin. Lightly press the pie dough into the tin mold. Add desired pie filling. If your recipe is a double crust, roll out your other half of the pie dough in the same manner, and lift it with the rolling pin onto the top of your pie filling. Taking both the edges from the bottom pie layer and the top, fold them both under along the edge of the tin. Now taking your thumb and index finger, pinch the two layers together at the edges, going all around the circumference of the pie. This will keep them from falling apart and adds a decorative look to your pie crust. Bake at the times and temperatures according to your pie filling recipes. Remember to put foil around the edges of your pie crust to prevent burning, and if it is a double pie crust, cut some slits in the top to all steam to escape.

Classic Apple Pie


6-7 cups sliced apples of your choice

3/4 to 1 cup sugar

1 tsp. Cinnamon

1 tsp. nutmeg

1/4 tsp. cloves

1 1/3 tbl. butter (to dot the topping with)


Preheat oven to 425ºF. Have a 9" pie tin with pie dough bottom layer already inserted inside and ready. Peel your apples, quarter and core them, and cut them into 1/4" thick slices. Put into a bowl with sugar, and spices. Mix well. Take the apple mixture and any juices and pour it into your uncooked pie shell. Take the butter and scatter dabs on top of your pie filling. Next take your top pie layer and place it gently on top of your filling. Pinch around the sides to join the two together. Cut slits in the top. (Another idea is before you put on your top pie crust layer, take a small cookie cutter with a shape you like and cut a few shapes into the crust. Those openings will act as design and also steam vents for your pie! Bake the pie for 50-60 minutes.