Planning the perfect Thanksgiving weekend
Katelyn Sander

Planning the perfect Thanksgiving weekend

Spice of Life

Normally, this is one of our favourite times of year filled with great food and even better time with the family. This year, the holiday – like everything else – is going to look a little bit different. Even though your Thanksgiving will just be you and your closest loved ones, that doesn’t mean you can’t celebrate!

And for some, this may even be their first year hosting their own Thanksgiving. So, we’ve put together a few of our favourite recipes, some tips on cooking your turkey, and a quick look at some local tours you can take to enjoy the beautiful fall foliage this weekend.

Prepared Thanksgiving Dinner Takeout

If you’re not ready to tackle the Thanksgiving dinner, or simply want to try something new this year, then there are countless restaurants and caterers across the GTA that are offering delicious Thanksgiving dinners for takeout this year! Celebrate the season without the messy kitchen clean-up.

Tips for Cooking the Perfect Turkey

So, you’ve got your turkey…now what? Good question! For those who are new to preparing the Thanksgiving turkey, take a deep breath and then dive in. We’ve got you covered!

Figure on 1 to 1 1/2 pounds of turkey per person.

To buy the right size turkey for your party, simply tally up the turkey-eating guests. Add a few pounds on for bones and you've got your turkey weight. For example, 8 people will require a 12 to 14-pound turkey.

Cook the turkey on a rack of vegetables.

Create a natural roasting rack for your turkey by layering carrots, onions, and celery on the bottom of the roasting pan. Lifting the turkey off the base of the pan helps to increase hot air circulation around the whole bird so that it will get crispy all over. And the vegetables add great flavour to the gravy.

Brining keeps it moist.

Brining is an easy, sure-fire way to a moist and flavourful turkey. A typical brining solution contains water, salt, sugar, and a variety of spices and aromatics. Just be sure to follow a trusted recipe so you get the right proportion of each.

Keep the stuffing on the side.

Chances are the Thanksgivings of your childhood featured a stuffing cooked right in the cavity of the turkey. Go ahead and use your family recipe, but we suggest you cook the stuffing in a separate pan. Cooking the stuffing in the turkey can provide fertile ground for the growth of harmful bacteria. In addition, a stuffed turkey will take longer to cook, which could result in drier white meat. Instead, loosely fill the turkey with aromatics such as onions and herbs, and cook the stuffing separately.

To tie or not to tie.

To help ensure that poultry cooks evenly, many professional cooks like to truss their birds, which is just a fancy term for tying them up. While it's not a necessary step in cooking a terrific turkey, it can be fun to show off your culinary skills at home. Simply tuck the wings of the turkey under the body and tie the legs together with kitchen string to create a tight package.

Rub the turkey with butter or oil and skip the basting!

Before putting it in the oven, make sure the skin of the turkey is as dry as possible, and then rub it all over with butter or oil. For even moister meat, place pats of butter under the skin.

Invest in a good meat thermometer.

Check for doneness by inserting an instant-read thermometer in the thickest part of the turkey around the thigh, avoiding the bone. At 165F, it's done. The turkey will continue to cook as it rests, so the temperature should rise another 10 degrees or so out of the oven.

Give it a rest.

To lock in juices, tent your turkey with foil and let it rest for at least 15 to 20 minutes before carving. Be sure you don't cover the turkey too tightly as you don't want the bird to steam under the foil.

Perfect cooking times.

It can be difficult to know how long your turkey should cook for. While the only accurate way to know is by using the meat thermometer to check the doneness of your bird, here are a few general time guidelines.

Size of Turkey

Cooking Time (Minutes per pound)

Oven Temp

8 – 12 lbs

15 - 20 minutes

325F

12 – 14 lbs

15 – 17 minutes

325F

14 – 18 lbs

14 – 16 minutes

325F

18 – 20 lbs

13 – 14 minutes

325F

20 – 24 lbs

15 – 20 minutes

325F

Homemade cranberry sauce

This is one of the Thanksgiving dishes you can cross of your list early this week. We know you could just open the canned stuff, but you know your Thanksgiving spread deserves better. For this recipe, you can use either, fresh or frozen cranberries.

Ingredients:
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 (12-oz) package fresh cranberries
  • 2 tsp orange zest, can substitute for orange juice
  • Kosher salt
Directions:
  • In a small saucepan over low heat, combine sugar and water until sugar dissolves. Add cranberries and cook until they burst, 10 minutes. Stir in orange zest and a pinch of salt.
  • Remove saucepan from heat and let cool completely, then transfer to a resealable container and refrigerate.

Thanksgiving spiced cider

This easy recipe for Spiked Hot Apple Cider is perfect for Thanksgiving (and all the fall nights to come). Made with cinnamon sticks, star anise, clove, allspice, fresh oranges, and a spiced rum, this cocktail is sure to warm you right up!

Ingredients: (for 8 servings)
  • 1 orange
  • 2 tsp whole clove
  • 1 apple
  • 1 tsp whole allspice
  • 4 cinnamon sticks
  • 1 gal apple cider (4 L)
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar (110 g)
  • 1 tsp nutmeg
  • Whiskey, or rum, optional
Directions:
  • Pierce orange with cloves. (If you have a tea infuser, tea bag, or cheese cloth, you can use that to keep the spices under control).
  • Pierce apple with allspice.
  • Put the orange, apple, cinnamon sticks, apple cider, brown sugar, and nutmeg into your slow cooker.
  • Turn on high for 2 hours, then keep warm on low until you’re ready to drink.
  • Drink as is or with a shot (or two) of whiskey, rum, etc.

Maple Butter Tart Cheesecake

If there’s one thing that all Canadians can agree on, it’s the fact that butter tarts are one of the most delicious desserts out there. So why not go one step further and combine your favourite Canadian sweet treat with another indulgent dessert — cheesecake. The result is a sweet and salty combination that gets topped with butter tart filling and lots of pecans for extra crunch!

Ingredients:

Crust:

  • 1 1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs
  • 5 tbsp unsalted butter, melted
  • 3 tbsp granulated sugar
  • 1/4 tsp salt

Cheesecake:

  • 1 (250g) pkg cream cheese
  • 3/4 cup brown sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 3 tbsp maple syrup
  • 1/2 cup 35% whipping cream
  • 2 tbsp unsalted butter, melted
  • 1/4 tsp salt

Maple Pecan Sauce:

  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 2 tbsp maple syrup
  • 2 tbsp 35% cream
  • 1/8 tsp salt
  • 1/2 cup chopped pecans
Directions:
  • Preheat oven to 375°F. Butter an 8-inch round springform pan.
  • In a large bowl combine graham cracker crumbs, melted butter, sugar, and salt. Firmly press graham cracker crumb mixture into bottom of greased pan and push 1 inch up the side. Bake until golden brown, about 10 to 12 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 325°F.
  • In a large bowl combine cream cheese and brown sugar. Using an electric mixer beat until well combined and fluffy, scraping down sides of bowl as needed. Beat in eggs one at a time. Beat in maple syrup, cream, butter, and salt.
  • Wrap bottom of the pan with aluminum foil. Pour in filling and place in a roasting pan. Pour boiling water into roasting pan about 1 inch up the side. Bake until edges are set and middle still has a jello-like wobble, about 1 hour to 1 hour 10 minutes. Remove pan from water and let cool, about 1 hour. Remove from tin, cover and refrigerate for at least four hours or overnight to chill completely before serving.
  • When ready to serve, make the sauce. In a small saucepan combine brown sugar, maple syrup, cream, salt, and pecans. Bring to a boil and let bubble for 2 minutes, until slightly thickened. Serve drizzled over cheesecake.

Things to do with the family this Thanksgiving

Where to see the fall colours?

This weekend may be the perfect opportunity for you to pack the car and head on a beautiful, scenic drive with the family to take in the changing fall colours, but where should you start? Here are some of our favourite areas to visit at this time of year:

Peterborough and the Kawarthas

Home to the well-loved Butter Tart Trail, the Kawartha Lakes region not only offers spectacular views, but also some of the province’s best treats. Follow any section of Kawarthas Northumberland’s family-oriented Fall Colours Driving Tour, which takes you through family farms, the Trans Canada trail, and more. Click here to learn more.

Caledon

Scenic rolling hills make for pleasant weekend driving, and the close proximity of local conservation areas, where you can safely distance, add up to a great weekend destination. Locations in the region that you need to add to your list of places to visit: Belfountain Conservation Area or the Cheltenham Badlands (reservation only) and Albion Hills Conservation Area or Terra Cotta Conservation Area (no reservations needed). Click here to learn more.

Milton

Located within the Niagara Escarpment, Rattlesnake Point is more than just a beautiful view from the top of limestone cliffs. The area features four scenic hiking trails, all ranging in length, for a total of 12kms of trails that are available for hikers of all experience levels. Stop at one of the five lookout spots indicated on the trail maps to fully immerse yourself in the fall beauty of the Rattlesnake Point Conservation Area. We recommend the Buffalo Crag Lookout Point for the perfect autumn picture. Breathe in the fresh air and breathe out the city stress! Click here to learn more.

Just looking to drive around?

Here’s the Ontario Fall Colours Progression Report to help you plan where your travels should take you this weekend to enjoy the most beautiful fall displays around the province.

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