Many of us are hustling right now to prepare for the upcoming Christmas holiday: decorating, shopping, attending work parties, presentations, baking, and let’s not forget upcoming dinner ideas if you’re responsible for hosting Christmas this year. We traditionally eat ham for Christmas dinner in our house, but I know there are many American families who have turkey on Christmas instead, which is why I wanted to clue you in to the fabulous turkey dinner we just had this past Thanksgiving, and hopefully it’ll help make your Christmas dinner planning much easier this year too.
Come Thanksgiving each year, our family tries a new Turkey menu to spice up our Thanksgiving holiday. Since this is normally our holiday to host at my house, I usually plan the menu and the rest of my family members graciously play guinea pigs and compliantly make side dishes and desserts to bring over for dinner. The last few years we tried Thanksgiving Paula Deen style, another year it was a totally healthy and organic menu with everything being low sugar, low salt – and another year we went off the deep end….deep-fried turkey. It’s always a lot of fun to see what we like or don’t like, but I can honestly say this year’s turkey dinner may be the very best one we’ve ever had.
The whole menu came from a new app, Thanksgiving Menu Maker From Fine Cooking (by Taunton Interactive), and I’m happy to say that we discovered many wonderful tasting dishes that everybody loved. And the nicest thing for me (besides not having to cook everything myself), was the meal planner part that let me pick and choose great food, create an automatic grocery list, and gave me a nice and easy food schedule to keep me on course with day-by-day tasks leading up to the big day (like brining a turkey, making cranberry sauce, Spicy Maple Walnuts, and other things ahead of time), which made Thanksgiving day a breeze. We chose the Herb-Butter Roasted Turkey with Pinot Noir Gravy. This was the first year I ever brined a turkey — try it – it’s worth it. With food prep done ahead of time, I even had time to iron linens the night before. On the downside, the only recipe we didn’t follow as closely as we should have was the Pinot Noir Gravy, which came out a bit salty (but still very good). I look forward to trying that one over again next year….or maybe sooner.
Thanksgiving Menu Maker From Fine Cooking (by Taunton Interactive) is a free Food & Drink app that will take the stress out of hosting the Thanksgiving meal “thanks” to its tempting (91 holiday) recipes (covering appetizers to desserts), easy Menu creator, automatic Shopping List maker, detailed timeline Schedule for food preparation, helpful Tips, and more to help you pull your Thanksgiving meal together with ease and finesse — just like a pro.
My initial impression of this app is that it’s warm, appealing, clean, and easy to use. You start out browsing the recipes which are placed into main categories that run along the top: Starters (has 16 recipes), Main Dish (has 17 recipes), Sides (has 35), and Dessert (has 23). All the included recipes range from traditional to a little unconventional — with recipes for vegetarians as well — dishes like Butternut Squash Lasagne with Goat Cheese, Sage, and Breadcrumbs. But, for the turkey lovers, there are 12 turkey choices (grilled, smoked, brined, dry brined, roasted, etc.). The included recipes come with 3 convenient icons (where applicable) to indicate whether or not the dish can be made ahead of time, is vegetarian, or takes less than 30 minutes to make. Sides include a variety of sweet potato, potato, stuffing, cranberry dishes, and more. Although there are a handful of green bean recipes, one was noticeably missing as a standard in our house — green bean casserole. I settled with Green Beans with Toasted Slivered Almonds as my back up choice. As far as desserts, the Dessert section (of course) has traditional favorites, but also includes some interesting and tantalizing recipes for Spiced Pumpkin Cheesecake with Gingersnap Crust, Brown Butter Pumpkin Layer Cake, and Double-Ginger Pumpkin Tart. Every recipe throughout this application gives simple step-by-step instructions covering all aspects of that specific dish. The recipes even include the per serving nutrition information, as well as a share function to email yourself the recipe or others who may also be contributing to the meal.
Along the bottom navigation is the rest of the app’s functionality: Recipes, Menu, Shopping List, Schedule, and Tips. The really fun part comes from choosing the dishes you’d like to make and then creating your own menu plan, which then creates an automatic shopping list conveniently broken down into 4 parts (Fresh Produce, Meat, Eggs, Dairy, Pantry Staples, and Other Groceries). You’ll need to pay close attention to serving sizes when creating your own custom menu because the serving amounts vary greatly (from 2-16 people), so you could have plenty of something and not enough of another. A handy feature I’d like to see is the ability to quickly and easily change portion/serving number so as not to miss out on any of these great recipes. On the flip side, there is a nice Schedule function that clues you in on what food prep should be done and how far in advance (1 week ahead to just before serving dessert).
The Tips part of the app has a ton of great information, Tips will take you to a “The Complete Guide to Thanksgiving” for 10 pre-made Thanksgiving Menus to make your life way easier with titles like “A Fast and Easy Thanksgiving Dinner” — that feeds 8 (but not enough to feed our clan). You’ll also find a rescue plan for the top 10 Thanksgiving disasters and “Leftovers You’ll Love” — as well as other topics. The Tips portion of the Thanksgiving Menu Maker From Fine Cooking (app) takes you out of the application and into their Fine Cooking website where you can further explore, view more recipes, and how-to videos. There’s so much information to take in on the website that you could get easily spend a lot of time in this land of cooking, but if you want get back to where you came from you’ll have to re-enter the app. One other thing to point out in this Free Food & Drink application is that you can get the “Fine Cooking Magazine app” — which gives you 1 free issue: CookFresh, and the other monthly issues are $6.99 each, $9.99 for the Thanksgiving Cookbook, or $29.99 for a whole year subscription.
Overall, Thanksgiving Menu Maker From Fine Cooking is a very nice free app to help you easily create a whole meal plan from its 91 recipes, provides a nice variety of themed recipes, creates awesome shopping and schedule lists, has plenty of useful information on their website, but the lack of a serving convertor is disappointing and drops the ease and convenience down a few notches, but if you’re not too picky about your Thanksgiving meal and can work around the pre-planned menus, you should be able to plan your meal with hardly any effort at all and present elegant and delicious dishes that will make your guests very thankful.
Download The Thanksgiving Menu Maker from Fine Cooking – Free iPad App App Now