Zesty Carrots

 

At the end of yesterday’s post I told you that the one thing I would have changed about my early Thanksgiving dinner would be to calm down a little bit towards the end and get better pictures of each food item. This dish especially deserves a better picture, but we were all into our first bites when I realized that I hadn’t taken pictures of it. After hearing a round of compliments from everyone at the table, I knew I needed to get at least one picture so I could share it here before Thanksgiving. Hopefully somewhere down the line I’ll get a new (better) picture to really do this side dish justice, but for now this’ll do (and it’s a good thing I snapped it when I did because after everyone’s second helping there wasn’t much left!).

Zesty carrots are an absolute requirement at my Thanksgiving meals. The recipe goes back to my mom’s mom, but it’s appearance every Thanksgiving goes beyond nostalgia. It tastes unlike anything else at the Thanksgiving table. I will admit that it took me several years to finally put it on my plate and give it a try, but once I did there was no turning back. It’s possibly one of my favorite sides each year. This year I included it in my menu plan, not knowing how it would be received. Everyone loved them. Between mouthfuls I heard lots of “Mmm, these carrots are really good,” and two of my guests commented that they don’t usually like carrot dishes but loved this zesty take.

Don’t let the ingredients throw you off. I realize that seeing “miracle whip” among the ingredients for a carrot dish is weird, but there’s a balance of flavors here. A little spice from the horseradish, a little sweet from the carrots, a little zest from the miracle whip. There’s also a good balance of texture; creamy from the sauce and crunch from crumb topping. You may be tempted to skip right over this odd pairing of ingredients, but I dare you to just give it a try.

Grandma Shirley’s Zesty Carrots

Ingredients
6 large carrots, scraped and cut into very thin slices*
1/4 cup reserved cooking water
2 Tbsp prepared horseradish
2 Tbsp butter
1 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
1/2 cup Miracle Whip (not Mayo)
2 Tbsp onion, grated or finely chopped

Crumb topping ingredients
1 Tbsp unsalted butter, melted
1/3 cup Panko bread crumbs
1 Tbsp fresh parsley, chopped
Pinch of salt

*I use the mandolin blade for my food processor to cut the carrots.

Directions
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

Place the sliced carrots in a cooking pot (with a lid) and cover with about 1 inch of water with a pinch of salt. Bring to a boil then cover and cook until tender, about 5 minutes. Drain but reserve 1/4 cup of the cooking liquid.

Move the carrots to a 2 quart baking dish. In a small bowl or measuring cup, combine the reserved cooking liquid with the rest of the sauce ingredients. Pour the sauce over the carrots and use a spoon to evenly coat the carrots (use just enough sauce to cover the carrots, there may be an extra tablespoon or 2 of sauce if your carrots are smaller).

In a small bowl, toss the melted butter with the Panko bread crumbs, parsley and salt. Sprinkle the crumb topping over the carrots.

Bake for 20 minutes or until the crumbs start to turn golden brown and the sauce is bubbly.

Adapted from my grandma Shirley

Thanksgiving

 

Have you ever been dreaming of a big beautiful Thanksgiving feast, only to find out 2 weeks before hand that one of the key participants (ie your husband) has to be out of town for work? Bummer, huh? Well that is no reason to give up on your dreams or for him to have to miss out on the turkey fun. So you decide to jump in head first and host a Thanksgiving 48 hours later. This is a true story, in case you haven’t picked up on that already.

The short title of this post is Thanksgiving. The long title of this post is The Last Minute Thanksgiving: Planning, Preparing, and Eating a Thanksgiving Meal in 48 hours (and still have time for 2 loads of laundry). So let’s just jump right in, shall we?

The very first step to this process is to give yourself a break. Don’t put too much much pressure on yourself. Patty (the Millionaire Matchmaker) often tells her clients to come up with a list of 5 non-negotiables and to be prepared to negotiate on other things. Why? To keep from having a mile long list of things they have to have which essentially means nothing will ever make them happy. So think of your Thanksgiving plan like this. What are 5 things that are really important to you, and what are some things you might have to negotiate to keep your 5? I love to bake, I love to cook, I love it even more when I do it all from scratch, but there wasn’t enough time to make everything from scratch. I gave myself permission to take a few short cuts, like store bought pie crust. So just relax! This should be fun!

Now that you’ve taken a chill pill, it’s time to do your quick plan. First, your guest list. How many and what, if any, special requests or needs do they have. My group wasn’t too big (7 total) and the only special request I had was to keep it close to tradition (and have an awesome pumpkin pie).

This brings us to the meal plan. Make a list of the foods you want at your dinner. Go back to the previous paragraph and remember to not put too much pressure on yourself. The only recipe I hadn’t already tried was the turkey, so I picked one that wasn’t so intimidating. I found an awesome recipe (without brining) from a very trusted source. Then get all of your recipes together in one place. Also go through your dishware and decide what pieces to use for what dishes and make sure you have enough flatware.

Now that you have your guest list and meal plan, make a grocery list. Use your recipes and check your cabinets, don’t assume you have enough flour, off the couch and look! Then check your list. Check it twice. Heck, check it 3 times. There isn’t a lot of room for extra grocery trips in the 48 hour Thanksgiving. Oh, and remember, you’re going to need a fresh turkey (which’ll be better than a frozen one anyway). I got mine at Whole Foods, but Trader Joe’s also has fresh turkeys and they were cheaper (would’ve been nice to know before I panicked and went to Whole Foods). If you don’t have either of those stores then check your white pages and call around.

Here was our meal plan, along with my plan of attack and/or short cuts:

Appetizers:

  • Stuffed Mushroomsmade a million times before and always a crowd pleaser
  • Cheese plate with crackerswhat’s easier than a cheese plate?
  • Hummus and pita chipsGotta love Trader Joes hummus!

Dinner:

  • Salted Herb Roasted TurkeyNo brining! Yay!
  • Gravy
  • Mashed PotatoesPre-cut the potatoes the day before and soak in cold water.
  • Cornbread DressingShort cut here, I bought the cornbread and used a bag of regular stuffing instead of trying to make my own breads and wait for them to dry out
  • Apple Cider Vinegar Green Beans with Shallots and Bacon Stove top recipe to save oven space
  • Creamed Corn – CROCKPOT! Throw it all in when you put the turkey in the oven and let time do all the work!
  • Zesty Carrots Totally prepped the day before. Day of only requires a 20 minute bake.
  • Cranberry Sauce Totally prepped the day before. Day of only requires being set on the table
  • Soft Yeast Rolls This was one of my non-negotiables. If it’s not that important to you, buy some already made from the store!
  • *Herbed Compound ButterTotally prepped the day before.

Dessert:

  • Pumpkin PieShortcut here, store-bought pie crust, also made the day before
  • Pecan Pie CupsStore-bought pie crust, also made the day before

Drinks (asked a guest to take care of the drinks):

  • Wine
  • Beer
  • Sodas

*Recipe to come in the following 2 weeks

Next, you need to work out a time-line. Things that can be done on day 1, things that can be done on day 2 and things that need to be done the day of. Once you place the work in the correct days, start working the hourly time-line for the day of. It’s easiest to start working backwards. For more ideas on how to do this, check out Annie’s Eats. She has an excellent Thanksgiving planning post, which served as a good reminder for a few things I almost forgot about! To see a breakout of my days and time-line click here.

So how did the day go? Fantastically! At 1:20 I was sitting on the couch just waiting for the turkey to cook. I was so glad I decided to do most of the cooking the day before. The food still tasted great and my kitchen was saved from being a total disaster the entire day. Looking back the only thing I would change is to calm down right before the meal and take better pictures of each food item. I was so excited about everything I didn’t get a good picture of some of the foods I wanted to share with you (especially the cornbread dressing, I love the recipe but unfortunately didn’t take a picture!)

That’s it. Can’t wait for my next chance to host!