This year, Thanksgiving was different for many reasons.
My daughter and her husband went to visit his family for the holiday. They had a great time. Which made me happy for them, but that small place inside of my mother's heart ached because she was gone from the kitchen.
Which is completely silly, because they live with me and I see them every day.
My sister and her family were all caught up in work or other must-do activities of life. We had agreed that if they had time, there would be food at my house if they were hungry. But I'm sure they were happy to go home and plop down in a recliner and rest after their hectic days. Although we weren't able to enjoy an afternoon together, they are always in my heart.
My father -- after recovering from battling the flu for more than two months -- was ready to go visit his friends for the holiday. He hung around and ate lunch, napped a little with his cat L.B. and then left to visit the Hardee's crew. He came home with a big smile on his face and his pockets filled with baked goodies.
My son seemed to be very happy. I caught him dancing in the living room to oldies music playing on the radio. He had a friend stay over for the holiday. The two played video games and helped clean the house between eating.
As for my husband and myself, we arranged to make the cooking easier by scaling back and simplifying the menu. I don't care what anyone says, the economy is tough and you have to make every dollar you spend count.
We decided this was not going to be a day for pre-made or store-bought items. In all honesty, they are too expensive in the long run. We agreed to get elbow deep and go "old school" while cooking this year.
So, with all the extra effort, I thought I would keep track of how many people were able to eat from the food bought for our holiday, which totaled to $100. I was curious if taking all the extra time would be worth it.
The shopping list included everything necessary to make a homemade holiday dinner from scratch. If any of these items were used to cook something, the number of people who ate it and how many times was included in our Thanksgiving meal.
Of course we had a 15-pound turkey. We brined it this year. (Hint, I recommend you try this if you never have. It was great! Thanks to Alton Brown and Food Network.)
We also made a pork roast and side dishes of homemade smashed potatoes (using the potato masher of course), baked butternut squash and sausage, oyster dressing (with boiled egg whites in it because there was a slight disaster with the deviled eggs), southern corn and tomato dish, gravy, cranberries and homemade buttermilk biscuits.
The night before I made chocolate chip cookies, so that covered the dessert part.
Might not sound like much, but there was a lot of food to choose from.
Lunch was served at noon, and everyone got full. (Approximately eight full plates were served for lunch. Not sure haw many people were able to sneak a taste or two while sitting the table.)
Although my father's favorite dish was absent -- my grandmother's recipe for homemade noodles -- I promised he'd have them on Friday for dinner.
Around 4 p.m., hubby and I made two batches of baked potato balls (jalapeño and sweet potato -- the latter batch is still being tested/recipe to come later) to take to our friends. It was nice to visit friends and enjoy some appetizers (the beer battered fried mushrooms and the pumpkin pie were awesome!) over a couple of drinks and great conversation. (Eight servings there, and approximately 30 when we took the same items to our pitch-in dinner at work Tuesday.)
When my daughter and son-in-law arrived home with a few friends, the leftovers were hit again about 10 more times before the clock struck midnight.
On Friday morning, some leftover pork roast and turkey made it into breakfast (five more servings). I was getting worried there would not be enough leftover turkey for the noodles.
However, after slapping a few hands throughout the day, there was more than enough for a big pot of homemade turkey and noodles. I was even able to successfully reheat the smashed potatoes to make 10 more servings from our humble Thanksgiving dinner leftovers.
To ensure those with a "holiday sweet tooth" could be satisfied, I took some time out of the day to make two batches of cookies, one chocolate chip and the other blueberry oatmeal-lace cookies.
Before going early-morning shopping Saturday, some of the turkey and pork roast was chopped up and added to the gravy to make crock-pot vegetable soup. The house smelled terrific when we got back. (Eight more servings on Saturday and four more on Sunday!)
On Sunday, honestly there wasn't much left in the fridge. A few nubs of turkey, the baked butternut squash and the dressing.
However, I was determined to use the leftovers and created a Thanksgiving Leftover Pizza.
Starting with the pizza dough, I put all the dry ingredients into a large clean metal bowl, including 2 ½ cups all purpose flour, one packet active fast-rise dry yeast and one tablespoon each of sea salt and sugar. Stir until mixed well then form a hole in the center of the flour mixture.
Add 1 1/2-cups warm beer (85-90˚ F) and two tablespoons of butter or garlic-flavored oil and mix well inside the bowl, adding a tablespoon or two of flour or corn meal until the dough forms a ball. Knead inside the bowl 10-12 times then form into another ball. Lightly coat dough ball (or balls if you want to make 2-4 pizzas) with olive oil and let rest at least 30 minutes in the towel-covered bowl.
After roughly chopping the last remaining turkey, I added it to a one-pound package of Italian seasoned ground turkey and the small amount of leftover pork sausage (about a 1/4-cup) browning in my cast-iron skillet with half a finely sliced red onion, two chopped celery stalks and three tablespoons of crushed garlic.
Looking for inspiration, and a way to make the most of the remaining leftovers, I grabbed a bottle of Teriyaki sauce and the whole cranberries (about ¾ of a 16-ounce can) from the refrigerator. Into my cast-iron skillet went two tablespoons of brown sugar, the cranberries and a ¼-cup of the sauce (maybe a bit more) with the turkey sausage mix. Turning down the skillet to simmer, I let the mixture reduce for about 15-20 minutes.
Lightly oil your pizza/cookie sheets before forming and placing the dough (whether thick or thin) on the pans. Brush dough with a garlic/parsley/salt butter before baking on the lowest rack of your oven for 10-15 minutes at 400 degrees.
The dough should feel soft to the touch and slightly done in the center to ensure it can stand up to the toppings while baking.
Place the desired amount of turkey mixture on the pizza dough. Layer more fresh cut onions or mushrooms on top before adding the amount of shredded mozzarella or Monterey Jack cheese your family likes. (I really wished I would have saved a few of the cranberries to put on top to make the pizza look pretty, but there's always the next time.)
Brush the edges with the garlic butter and sprinkle any leftover on top of the cheese.
Bake for 20-30 minutes in a 400-degree oven or until the cheese is bubbly and the sides are a golden brown.
Remove and let sit a few minutes before cutting.
Since we have a really large pizza pan, I only made one. But it served 12 people, which brings my tally of servings from Thanksgiving dinner and the leftovers to a total of 95 servings at a cost of approximately $1.05 each.
(I also kept track of the amount of time spent in the kitchen cooking all this food, and surprisingly it was approximately 10 hours actual cooking time over a hot stovetop. If the labor costs were $7 per hour, than each serving costs an additional .74 cents. Thus making our meal $1.79 each. I guess a person could go further with the statistics to come up with a better cost analysis, but that's the limit of my mathematical capabilities today. My husband would have to do that.)
And I still have the butternut squash dish and the oyster dressing to work with!
It is going to take some creative thinking, but I'm determined to use them before Wednesday.
Got any ideas for the oyster dressing? Because that one has me stumped, and I'm at 58 hours and counting.