It’s the Thursday after Thanksgiving... so yes, a week after Thanksgiving and today is the day I finally got back on track with that healthy family affair I wrote about. Hey, a week is nothing compared to the weeks it’s been since I’ve made it to the gym!

In the last few weeks I’ve been sick, the family has been sick and my baby girl has been having nights like she did as an infant - up a lot. My gym time, as I wrote, is in the morning. My sleep has been decreased quite a bit so I’ve slept in a bit longer instead of going to the gym. I do have a goal to get back into the gym and I know I will.

In the meantime it’s been all about what I’m eating. I have turned down every treat and goodie that has come into and shared into the newsroom. I have increased how much water I drink. I have had only healthy meals with good carbs, lean protein, and lots of veggies and fruit. In just the first couple of weeks I felt better and my jeans fit a bit better around my waist.

Then Thanksgiving hit and I cooked.. and cooked it all from scratch.

The last few weeks really have been draining for me. We had the choice to go to Nebraska to be with my family for Thanksgiving, or stay her with my DH’s parents (yes, the one’s with whom we’re living.) My stepsons were with their mom for Thanksgiving, but they got to spend the day with us the day after Thanksgiving. While we could have done an up-and-back trip to my sister’s in North Platte, Ne., we decided traveling with a near-15-month-old baby in that kind of quick trip was not worth it.

I don’t know why but a feeling of joy and excitement that I can’t really explain overwhelmed me in the days before Thanksgiving. I was about to have a few days off of work, over a holiday that I haven’t had off in years with my husband who also didn’t have to work for the first time in years. We weren’t going to have to rush to do anything. We weren’t going to have to split the holiday between a few hours between family and our work family.

I was like a kid on a sugar rush - pure excitement. I decided I would cook a small meal for my in-laws and husband. All my cookbooks are in storage (again living with the in-laws) so I searched the internet for recipes I was familiar with and a challenging turkey recipe.

I haven’t cooked a turkey in over a decade. The thought of taking on the turkey was tantalizing to me.. so much so I decided to smoke the bird... I’ve never smoked meat... ever. Since I was cooking for such a small group I decided to just do a turkey breast.

I wanted a fresh bird instead of a frozen one, so I went to the butcher nearest our home. I was lucky they had one turkey breast and one-half turkey breast left. I got the half turkey breast (only later to regret this decision.)

I copied and pasted ALL the recipes I was going to use for the entire menu in one document. From that I put together a shopping list and to my surprise for a completely homemade meal, I had very little I actually needed to get.

The Menu:
  •  smoked turkey breast... and wings
  •  dinner rolls
  •  mashed potatoes
  •  gravy
  •  glazed sweet potatoes 
  •  green beans with bacon 
  •  regular green beans
  •  bread stuffing
  •  pumpkin pie
  •  strawberry rhubarb cobbler
  •  cherry crisp  
Open the PDF file to see my menu and recipes. 
A couple of days before Thanksgiving I found out that my step-sister-in-law and her boyfriend would be joining us. This is when I regretted not getting the whole breast. My DH and I went to a few grocery stores the night before Thanksgiving to find turkey legs I could add to the menu. We didn’t find any, but did find the last fresh turkey wings in the last store we searched.

I spent the rest of that night baking all three desserts and starting the brine for the half turkey breast and two wings. I also got the green beans cleaned and all the potatoes ready for cooking the next day.

I drank a good bit of wine and had a fun, very content time. My DH, who didn’t want to cook at all because he does a lot of the cooking on a normal day, was kind enough to assist me with cubing bread for the stuffing, peeling and cutting up potatoes and sweet potatoes.

I went to bed close to 2 a.m. tired but not exhausted and drained as so many nights before.

We got up in time on Thanksgiving to watch the Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade. I was again thrilled like a little kid. I was overjoyed to be watching the parade with my baby girl... well as much "watching" that can be done with a toddler. There were a couple of moments where the images of the big balloons and music captivated her. I loved seeing her expression.

It’s been years since I’ve been able to watch... not answering phones from people complaining of the broadcast of the parade. As I watched the various networks with the parade, I found myself complaining out loud to what seemed to be a lack of parade on TV and an over-abundance of network promotion or music. (I have every right to lecture the TV... I would never actually call a station to complain!! hint hint to anyone who has ever thought the local stations have anything to do with the production of national TV, like the parade.)

At 10 a.m. I got to work cooking the meal. I started with the dinner rolls. My beautiful Kitchen Aide is all alone in storage. My MIL doesn’t have a mixer. So I mixed the dough the old fashion way... with a fork.  Once the dough was on it’s first round of rising, I got the turkey breast and wings out of the brine.

I slathered them in Rosemary Sage Butter then wrapped the meat with bacon - yes bacon. You’ll have to see my menu and recipes to understand. You can open the PDF below. I combined a recipe for roasting a turkey breast with smoking a turkey breast.

In fact I rarely follow a recipe completely. I do my own measurements and add/eliminate ingredients according to taste. In the PDF of my menu and recipes you will find each recipe with a link to the original source. Anything that is Italicized are my own variations and adjustments.

It’s a good thing I don’t always use a measuring cup. Until that morning I didn’t know my MIL doesn’t have a full set of cups. I didn’t even find the few that she does have until AFTER everything was made! I used drinking glasses, spoons and the palm of my hand as measuring tools!

Since I had never smoked meat I did a lot of research on smoking meat on a gas grill. I made smoke bombs to make this work. I didn’t realize my FIL’s grill had a very small top  rack that wasn’t big enough to hold all the meat. I tried to put it all on the low grill rack but quickly realized as the drippings caused the flames to leap and the temperature to increase rapidly that the meat would only burn not smoke and cook.

I improvised. I moved the wings to the small top rack. I used two loaf pans to balance a metal flat strainer on which I placed the half breast to get it up off the grill. Now the smoking began!

My goal was for a late lunch at 2 p.m. and I got everything on the table by 2:30 p.m. Yes, I was pretty pleased with myself. My homemade Thanksgiving meal was enjoyed by all and satisfied a long-lost love of cooking and baking that has been begging to be found again.

I was cooking for a vegetarian so all dishes but the turkey and green beans were changed to be vegetarian. Again, all my variations are italicized. If what I haven't written yet gets you to open the file then maybe this will... my gravy was made with wine. There. Now you HAVE to check it out.

But, now it’s a week later and I’m getting back to my healthy eating. “Why a week,” you ask? My MIL’s 60th birthday was just a few days ago so between leftovers and going out to dinner in birthday celebration my diet was shot. So I’ve got a week to get back on track. This is a hard time for many to stay on a healthy diet. Not only is it the holidays though for me it’s also birthday season. Between both sides of the family we have 7 birthday to celebrate between Thanksgiving and January 3. Two of those birthdays are my husband’s and my own!

So I won’t even try to say I will stay on track, but I will say I will do my best to make better decisions than in the past and will work even harder than in the past to get back on track.