Thanksgiving is almost here.  When do you start thawing the turkey?  How do you make sure the turkey is moist?  There's a lot to know when preparing your Thanksgiving dinner.

I've helped prepare Thanksgiving dinner for my family for as long as I can remember.  I have an ulterior motive, though.  I'm a really picky eater and if I make dinner, I make everything I like.  There is no green bean casserole or squash at my Thanksgiving dinner.  What's on the Brown Thanksgiving table?  Turkey, mashed potatoes, corn, sweet potatoes (but not casserole...yuck), ham, homemade buns, pea salad and pumpkin pie.

I read several magazines, scour many websites and watch countless Thanksgiving episodes on Food Network to plan our big meal.  I have found several helpful hints over the years and I want to share them with you.

I've seen many ways to keep your turkey moist.  Most people rely on brining.  Food Network's Alton Brown's roast turkey recipe has been voted the #1 recipe on Food for 6 years in a row.  He uses a brine.  I think brining looks like too much work.  One of these days I'll try it.  This year I'll opt for the Reynolds Oven Bag.  It's not complicated and it really does make a moist turkey.  Instead of stuffing the bird, I'll cut up an apple, orange and an onion and place that in the turkey.  I'll butter the bird inside and out and sprinkle salt and pepper on the inside and on the skin.  Don't overcook your turkey.  Use a thermometer.  I don't rely on those pop-up timers.  When the thermometer says 165 degrees, take it from the oven and let it rest.  This lets the juices redistribute to keep your turkey juicy.  I usually let mine rest about 15 minutes.  I don't carve the turkey, that honor has been passed on to my brother, Russ.

I think I have finally perfected my mashed potatoes.  I used to over-whip them and they would turn into glue.  Don't do that.  Instead, invest in a potato ricer.  It makes your potatoes fluffy and perfect every time.  No lumps!  Another secret is Yukon gold potatoes.  They are so naturally buttery.  I don't buy any other potato.  Most people put milk or cream in their potatoes.  I definitely recommend cream.  I put my cream and butter together in the microwave and melt them.  Your potatoes don't get so runny if you add hot ingredients (at least that's my opinion).  If you haven't tried cream cheese in your mashed potatoes, you have to!  Make sure it's at room temperature and add about 4-6 ounces to 5 pounds of potatoes.  I also throw in about 1/2 cup of sour cream.  Another ingredient I love in my mashed potatoes, but I won't use for Thanksgiving, is white cheddar cheese.

Don't even ask me about the gravy.  I have never been able to make gravy and I doubt I will miraculously learn how this year.  I leave that up to my brother's girlfriend, Colleen.  I believe it involves turkey drippings, flour and chicken broth.

As for the other sides, we don't get very fancy.  We use Stove Top stuffing, but we add sauteed onions and celery and instead of water we use chicken broth.  The corn is frozen and we add butter, salt and pepper.  If Mom's not looking, I add a little sugar.

My favorite part about dinner is the sweet potatoes.  They are so wrong, but taste so right.  What could be bad about brown sugar, butter and marshmallows? At least I'm eating my vegetables.

I can't forget the ham.  Thanksgiving ham makes the best leftover sandwiches, but there is rarely any left.  I don't do anything special to it.  I put a little pineapple juice in the bottom of the roaster and let it heat through.

Pea salad has been a staple at most Brown family gatherings.  I LOVE peas, but there is something about peas and mayonnaise that makes my stomach turn.  There is no recipe, we just throw the ingredients in a bowl and mix.  It's peas, cubed Velveeta cheese and hard-boiled eggs.  The sauce is mayo, sugar, mustard and half and half.  I know it sounds like I'm playing a joke on you, but this really is a salad we've made forever.

Let's not forget dessert.  This year it's the stand-by pumpkin pie.  We've used Libby's Famous Pumpkin Pie recipe for years.  Colleen is bringing a chocolate pie.  No pecan pie this year.  Even I have my limits.

I hope your Thanksgiving is filled with friends, family and good food.  As Oprah Winfrey once said, "Be thankful for what you have; you'll end up having more.  If you concentrate on what you don't have, you will never, ever have enough."




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