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Last Minute Holiday Dinner

Didn’t know you were cooking a Holiday Dinner until the last minute? Unexpected guests dropping by? Or need to make something quick, to take to the feast elsewhere?
I have complied a list of instructions and recipes that will work for 4-6 people (with hopefully a few leftovers). or you can skip to the single items, if you just need to prepare one or two dishes to take with you.

What I have here is a basic, traditional Turkey dinner- with quick & easy side dishes. (and fairly cheap on the budget too!)

My shopping list:

one 15-19lb Turkey (w/giblets)
1-2 packets of Turkey Gravy
2 boxes Stove Top Stuffing (chicken flavor)
small bag of Potatoes * or a box of instant potatoes
1-2 Walla Walla Sweet Onions (one large or two smaller)
Garlic cloves
Mushrooms (the little pre-cut package if on sale, or about 3-4 good sized bulk)
*optional Celery and Green Onions for stuffing
2 Eggs
2 Large cans of Cut Sweet Potatoes / Yams
1 can of Chunk Pineapple
1 cup Brown Sugar
cinnamon, nutmeg and/or pumpkin spice
1 bag of Mini-Marshmallows
*optional whole cranberries, walnuts and/or pecans for Yams
1-2 cans of Corn, Peas or Green Beans
1-2 cans of whole pitted Olives
1-2 cans of Cranberry Jelly
1 Jar of Kosher Pickles
Dinner rolls or Buns

and of course dessert- Pumpkin Pie, Apple Pie, etc (I am going with frozen, ready-to-bake this year)
Whip cream and/or Vanilla Ice Cream

You will also need:

Tinfoil (heavy duty)
Paper Towels or Napkins
a Large Roasting Pan (I used the disposable foil pan, for easy clean-up, they are fairly cheap)
a Turkey baster, or a small heat proof cup with a handle- even a ladle will work
and lots of Saran Wrap and/or Ziploc Baggies!

First, lets start with the turkey. You want to start this about 3-4 hrs before dinnertime, depending on the size of your turkey. (see guide at bottom)
What I recommend for 4-6 people is a 15-19lb turkey. Hopefully by now it is completely thawed- if not, don’t panic! Just place it in a large pot in the sink, and periodically run warm (not hot) water over it- keep changing it when the water gets cold.

Take all the giblets out- there should be some in the body cavity in a paper bag. (sometimes there are some in the neck area as well)
Place all the giblets, neck included- in a pot, fill halfway with water. You can add seasoning salt or poultry seasoning and simmer uncovered.
Keep on the stove (be sure to check the water level periodically, as it boils off you will need to add more) until ready for use later. (directions for later use will be below)

Rinse the turkey well, inside and out (if you used the quick thaw method above, you can skip this step..)
Drain completely and pat dry with paper towels (or clean cloth). Place in large roasting pan. Now, I am making the stuffing in a separate casserole dish, so the turkey will cook a little quicker.
*if you want to cook your turkey stuffed, now would be the time to add the stuffing. (my recipe for stuffing below will work inside or separate from the turkey) you want to spoon the stuffing in, until the turkey cavity is full- but do not pack it in too tightly.

If you are also cooking the stuffing in a separate dish- finish with the turkey..
Next I slice up about 1/2cup Walla Walla sweet onion in large chunks, and 1-2 cloves garlic (*optional) and place them in the cavity of the turkey. This really flavors the turkey while it is cooking.
Then rub butter or oil on the skin, coating completely- don’t forget the legs! Sprinkle on seasonings- seasoning salt, poultry seasoning, pepper- you can even use a packet of gravy mix or Lipton onion soup mix.

Cover the turkey (in the roasting pan) with tinfoil in a “tent” fashion. *You can do this by taking out two lengths of tinfoil, about 3inches longer than the pan itself. Place one on top of the other, and fold over the long sides two or three times, to create a seam.

Fold out the two pieces, and secure over the edges of the pan, making sure that the middle does not rest on the turkey (so it doesn’t stick).

Place in the oven and cook according to the size and weight chart below.. If you happen to have one of those nifty roasting bags- you can forego this, and place it in the bag- following the bag roasting instructions. but I have found that using the tinfoil tent- the turkey turns out just as moist…

Now, while the turkey is cooking, you want to prepare the side dishes- getting them ready so when the turkey is done, you can just slide them in the oven.. of course if you have double ovens, you will not need to wait..

First, I do the Candied Yams or Sweet Potatoes. To save cooking time, I purchased the canned yams. Empty two cans- juice and all, into a casserole dish.

Add 1 can of Pineapple chunks, along with just a little of the juice.

Sprinkle with about 1cup of Brown sugar.  Then place several pats of butter all around the top. Sprinkle the top with a little cinnamon, nutmeg and/or pumpkin spice.

*optional you can also add whole cranberries or even sprinkle a few walnuts or pecans in.
*Using canned yams or sweet potatoes reduces the cook time dramatically!
(*don’t add the marshmallows yet, those are for later)
Cover with tinfoil and set aside for cooking later.

Next we are going to work on the Stuffing.
For easy, quick stuffing, I use Stovetop stuffing (or similar brand) in the box. Do Not Follow the instructions on the box! We are going to do it a little different…
First chop/dice up about 1/2 cup onions, some mushrooms, and the giblets (should be done cooking enough by now to chop up) you only want to chop up the heart, liver and gizzard. (don’t worry, you will never even know its in there- and it really makes the stuffing so much better~) Leaving the neck in the pot to continue simmering..

*optional chop up some celery. (I am substituting the traditional celery for green bell peppers)

Saute all the veggies and the giblets together with butter over med heat. set aside.

Meanwhile dump all the stuffing from 2 boxes of stovetop into a large mixing bowl.

Now add the saute mix to the Stovetop bread crumbs- butter and all. add 2 raw eggs. Mix well.

Next, take a little of the broth from the giblets and add just a little at a time, mixing well, until moist. you want it kind of “mushy” but not really “soggy”

Spoon into casserole dish ( *if you like the flavor, sprinkle a few chopped green onions on top of the casserole.) and cover with tinfoil.

Set aside for baking with the yams, when the turkey is out.

At this time, you should check the turkey, and baste it if necessary.  (be careful of the hot steam under the tinfoil!) and make sure you put the tinfoil back on tightly.

(now you should be able to rest a while..)

When the turkey is done, Place the yams and the stuffing in the oven at 350° F. and cook for about 35 min. (yams should be bubbling) and the stuffing will be done when firm and you have an internal temperature of about 155-165F)

While casseroles are in the oven, you can start peeling the potatoes. Chop into “bite size” pieces and boil for mashed potatoes. (make as usual) If you are using instant potatoes, you can pretty much wait until everything else is done to make them.

When the Yams are done, take out and remove tinfoil. Cover with a layer of mini-marshmallows.

Broil until slightly toasted. (Please watch this very carefully as it can burn very quickly… )

To make Gravy– I take about 1 cup of the giblet or turkey broth, and mix with a packet of turkey gravy mix. If you want it to be a little thicker, mix up some Cornstarch with cold water (according to the box) and add to the broth mix, heating in a pan for a few minutes. It will thicken as it cools..

Now I take time to place the olives, sliced cranberry sauce and pickles on a serving dish. Wrap with saran wrap and set it in the fridge. (take out when setting the table.)

Warm or bake the dinner rolls, then wrap in tinfoil and set them on the stove top to keep warm until dinner is served.

If you are having corn, peas or green beans, (I buy the canned) put them in a microwave safe dish, juice and all. Microwave on high for about 3-4 minutes (uncovered). If you are using frozen veggies, you can cook them the same way, covering with water- You may need to cook them a little longer.

Now- any pies or desserts that need to bake in the oven, put it just before you set the table, so they will be done after you are done eating. (they can cool while your tummy settles…)  I used to make my own pies, but now, when I am in a hurry, or having a last minute dinner I just buy the frozen pumpkin and/or apple pie.

That’s it! Enjoy!

Turkey Cook times:
# Use this roasting schedule as a guideline; start checking for doneness 1/2 hour before recommended end times:
Net Weight (in pounds) (in hours)
10 to 18 lbs.: 3 to 3-1/2 hours, unstuffed; 3-3/4 to 4-1/2 hours, stuffed
18 to 22 lbs.: 3-1/2 to 4 4-1/2 hours, unstuffed; to 4-1/2 to 5 hours, stuffed
22 to 24 lbs.: 4 to 4-1/2 hours, unstuffed; 5 to 5-1/2 hours, stuffed
24 to 30 lbs.: 4-1/2 to 5 hours, unstuffed; 5-1/2 to 6-1/4 hours, stuffed
# Turkey is done when the meat thermometer reaches the following temperatures:

* 180 to 185°F deep in the thigh; also, juices should be clear, not pink when thigh muscle is pierced deeply.
* 170 to 175°F in the thickest part of the breast, just above the rib bones.
* 160 to 165°F in the center of the stuffing, if turkey is stuffed.

# Let turkey stand for 15-20 minutes before carving to allow juices to set.

And a very useful guide:
Butterball’s Top 10 Turkey Questions

Click Here for a Printable Version of this page.

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