I have been working with Cooking Planit for several months now and really like the utility of the application. I used to cook a large meal at the beginning of the week and eat off leftovers till about Wednesday when I would get sick of the same old thing, throw out the rest and eat fast food till the weekend. Cooking Planit helps me organize simple enough dishes on a small scale to cook several times a week with minimal leftovers. Seems like an easy enough idea but the temptation of the drive thru can be overwhelming when faced with prepping, cooking, and cleaning a whole meal. The ease of finding two or three delicious recipes, linking them into a meal, scaling it down and even putting together a shopping list makes it more manageable, even for a chef.
Holidays are an entirely different issue. Although I am originally from Austin, when my parents retired they moved back to Graham in north Texas where my mom is from. My older brother who has a long list of Special Needs is cared for by them and my younger brother along with his gorgeous and hilarious wife and their brilliant and beautiful children also have a house in Graham. So, much like my entire childhood going to my grandmother’s house, I travel up to spend time with my family for holidays. My mom is a woman of many talents but cooking is not one of them. She is the first person to make a box brownie mix and take it to cheer up a sick neighbor but a full scale holiday meal is not fun for her or us. So she allows me into her kitchen (although not much of a cook, she can be territorial about the space) to put together family favorites and maybe a “fancy” dish or two for special occasions.
Like most families, our holidays have a tradition of being done to excess. My grandmother would cook for days before we got there. Then she would get up in the wee hours of the morning to put the turkey in the oven and spend hours creating a multi course feast. The fondness of these memories and the honor of being the selected family chef to carry on the tradition led to many years of over complicated planning, prepping, and back breaking execution of some wonderfully delicious meals, half of which ended up thrown away after a day or two of way too many leftovers.
Each year, as the list of health concerns at my parents house has grown, we have moved away from the fancy china in favor of the easy clean up of paper plates and disposable baking pans. And as all of our waistbands have expanded I decided to try to scale down the feast as well as organize the prep and planning with Cooking Planit. A couple of the recipes are not up on the site yet but should be soon. My bff Michelle makes the world’s best cornbread and I used that as a base to make my grandmother’s traditional cornbread stuffing along with a turkey breast put together casserole style. Although there are eight of us, even a small whole turkey yields way more leftovers than we need. A 3 pound turkey breast was just the perfect amount with a wee bit left for the next day. Another Southern must is giblet gravy. It goes over everything without sugar, at least on my plate. I will link these recipes up when we publish them for the holidays.
For the sides, I chose 5 from Emily’s long list of delicious options. Instead of scaling it up for 8, since I was doing such a variety, I chose to prepare it for 4 which ended up being a perfect amount. Everyone got a little bit of everything with enough for seconds but only a bit of leftovers. First up was the spinach, blue cheese, and pistachio salad. Delicious and my dad is now addicted to pistachios. Next was the brussels sprouts with pancetta and sweet potato and bacon puree. Since pancetta was impossible to find in Graham, I ended up using bacon for both. The kids sadly passed on the sprouts but they were so good compared to the mushy version I hated as a kid. The sweet potatoes were a huge hit. As a rabid bacon lover, I am surprised I had never thought to pair the two before but the salty sweet combination was a real winner. The haricot verts with almonds was a healthy alternative to the traditional fat laden green bean casserole. The cream cheese mashed potatoes were the other big winner of the meal. Creamy and rich with the fresh bite of the green onions.
The biggest surprise was timing of the meal. I made the cornbread the night before so it would be ready for the stuffing but the rest of meal I set up in the My Cookbook feature and it said the whole meal would take 2 hours and 19 minutes. I think most of us are familiar with the other holiday tradition of the actual start of a holiday meal being at least an hour past the time you plan it. My mom kept asking me if we should put the turkey in the oven or start prepping sides hours before “dinner time” but I assured her that everything was under control. I started cooking at 2:30 and when the kids showed up at 4:50, the last dish was coming out of the oven. Just enough time to heat the rolls while the turkey rested before carving. Success! I have never done a holiday meal in under 3 hours.
So, yes, I work for Cooking Planit and this whole post may sound like a bit of a commercial but it is really nice to work for an app that actually does what it says it will. And who couldn’t use a little help in the kitchen, especially around the holidays?