For my Christmas dinner I make everything I can in advance and pumpkin pie is a natural because it has to cool and be refrigerated to serve cold anyway. My easy recipe uses an oil crust and I made it with cold pressed avocado oil. The filling is a breeze using canned pumpkin and low fat canned milk so it’s light and low fat. Now you won’t feel too guilty about the whipped cream!
When I make homemade stuffing from scratch, I really mean from scratch. I baked a loaf of white bread yesterday and today I’m drying it into cubes for my simple bread stuffing. This stuffing gets more raves than my turkey! Making things in advance really takes the pressure off of big holiday dinners so today and I’m drying the bread and making the stuffing too. I’ll just reheat it before serving.
If you’ve ever cooked an entire Thanksgiving turkey dinner then you know it’s all about surviving. As far as I’m concerned, anyone who does it all from scratch deserves a one-week cruise in the Bahamas! I do it all from scratch: the turkey & mashed potatoes, the gravy, the stuffing, cranberries, green beans, and pumpkin pie. How do I survive? By doing everything I possibly can… in advance.
That includes the pumpkin pie, the fresh cranberries, the stuffing, and even the gravy. I make my gravy in advance and just stir in some of the turkey drippings before serving. To make the best gravy and stuffing, I need a good stock so here’s how I schedule my prep:
One week ahead: I bake my easy white bread with 1 Tbsp. sugar and dry it to make cubes for the stuffing. The dried cubes keep well for days but they must be completely dry.
Two days ahead: I make turkey stock using two turkey wings. I rub them with oil, salt & pepper, and roast them on a sheet at 375° F for an hour. Then I put the wings and drippings in a soup pot with about 8 cups of water and all the same veggies & spices as my chicken soup. I cook it for 3 hours, strain, cool & refrigerate. Then I skim the fat off the top before using. Oh, I take the meat off the wings for snacking – it’s delicious! I also cook the fresh cranberries.
One day ahead: I bake my pumpkin pie and make my gravy and stuffing.
Obviously, not everyone wants to work this hard so a store bought loaf of white bread is fine and you can use chicken stock (Swanson’s unsalted in the carton is good). Some people like to crisp the stuffing in the oven but I prefer it soft. It feels more like it was cooked inside the bird that way.
Whether you make it ahead or on the day of, stir in a little of your turkey drippings before serving – it makes a big difference. Click herefor the recipe. – Jenny Jones
Here is the Christmas present I made for myself… or what’s left of it anyway. You don’t have to be Polish to love a slice (or 2 or 3) of makowiec (mah-KOH-viets). It’s usually a bread to be shared but this one is all for me! I made it without the powdered sugar glaze and opted for an egg wash and poppy seeds on the top.
The filling is made with ground poppy seeds, fresh orange and lemon peel, ground almonds and vanilla. It’s a Polish holiday bread for Christmas as well as Easter but I say make it for any holiday, or birthday, or laundry day, or tax day…. Click here for the recipe.
And Merry Christmas to all my fellow cooks and bakers. Thank you for all your comments and photos – I appreciate it so much when anyone takes the time to make a comment or send a photo. I have posted most of the recipes I make but I will try to add more as they make it into my kitchen. xoxoxo
Pecan pie doesn’t have to be complicated. Mine is simple and you don’t need any fancy ingredients. And it’s healthier too, with an olive oil crust. I used to make pie crusts the old way with either shortening or butter and ice water but an oil crust is so much easier. It’s quick and you can just pat it into the pan or I roll it between wax paper and then transfer it into the pan. By the way, the pan is never greased when you’re baking pie.
In this case I use a standard 9-inch pyrex glass pie pan and not a deep dish pan. My pecan pie filling is super simple. Everything goes into one bowl, stir for one minute and boom. Done. It uses less butter than most along with brown sugar, white sugar, and corn syrup but keep in mind that corn syrup IS NOT high fructose corn syrup. They don’t even sell HFCS to the public.
If you’re trying to bake without butter, I also have a completely butter-free pecan pie in my Baking Without Butter category. My two pies are exactly the same recipe except one uses butter in the filling and one uses a trans fat-free spread. For my butter-free filling I used Benecol. I baked both pies today for a blind taste test and I served a small slice of each one on the same plate. Guess what? Nobody could tell the difference! They are both so delicious, filled with lots of toasted pecans and a sweet, gooey filling. I’m definitely making my pecan pie for Thanksgiving this year, and probably Christmas too, and maybe my birthday… then there’s tax day… and well, you get the picture. Enjoy! Click here for the recipe. – Jenny Jones
I am already planning my Thanksgiving dinner including a homemade pumpkin pie from scratch. But then I do everything from scratch. I even bake the bread that I dry to make my own stuffing mix, but that’s another recipe. This pumpkin pie is low fat and light because it’s made without butter or cream, or even whole milk. I love it! It’s all low fat and healthier, even the crust. Ever since I discovered how easy it is to make an oil pie crust not to mention how much healthier it is, especially made with extra light olive oil, it’s the only pie crust I ever use.
If you’ve ever made a shortening or butter crust with the ice water you know how hard it is to patch cracks. That’s why I love an oil crust. It’s easy to put together and you can just pat it into your pie pan. Or do what I do and roll it between wax paper to get an even thickness of crust. And any cracks or open spaces can easily be patched with pieces of dough.
Cooking a big Thanksgiving dinner for your family is a challenge. Even for an experienced cook, it’s a lot to put together and my rule is to make absolutely everything I can in advance. And that’s easy for pumpkin pie. In fact, it has to be made in advance because it takes hours to cool and then needs to be refrigerated. I even make the whipped cream in advance. What? You don’t make your own whipped cream? Has anyone told you how easy it is? It’s ONE ingredient… plus a little sugar. It takes about two minutes to make and whipping cream has no carbs.
If you’re tempted to try using fresh pumpkin I have two things to say. One, you have to cut and cook it first and it’s easier to build a guest room over the garage. Second, canned pumpkin has more vitamin A than fresh. I believe in cooking from scratch but not this time. I always use canned pumpkin. But make sure it’s only pure pumpkin and not pumpkin pie filling.
My healthier pumpkin pie is made with 1% milk, 2% reduced fat condensed milk, eggs, sugar, and spices. Of course cinnamon is the most important spice but all cinnamons are not the same. The one most stores carry is Ceylon cinnamon but I recently discovered Saigon cinnamon and wow! It’s more potent, more fragrant, and it’s the only one I use. My brand is Spice Islands. If you use Saigon cinnamon, you don’t need as much as you’ll see in the printable recipe. (There’s a how-to video coming next week!)
Homemade pumpkin pie will always trump a store bought pie so I hope you’ll try my recipe. Why not make one this week… just to test it out of course. Click here for the recipe. – Jenny Jones
“Homemade caramel corn?! For me?? I love you!” Caramel corn has to be the best Christmas gift you can make. I’ve baked cookies and breads and they make great gifts but people start asking about my caramel corn in September! “Are you making caramel corn again this year?” Everyone goes crazy over it, probably because there is no place you can buy anything that even comes close. I try to bring it in person when it’s just out of the oven and by the time I get home, I get a phone call saying it’s all gone and asking when I’m going to make more.
If you’re looking for something to bake for Christmas gifts, consider making homemade caramel corn. It’s easier to make than cookies because it uses less ingredients. And it’s pretty quick the way I do it. I pop the corn in a paper lunch bag in the microwave, which takes less than two minutes (see my video). The syrup cooks on the stove in five minutes and the rest is waiting time while the popcorn and nuts get covered with a sweet, delicious caramel coating.