Last week you may have seen this post all about Friendsgiving, well I have to confess: that was the first time I’d ever hosted one. And I LOVED it! Most of all I loved how easy the menu was. Do you remember that show “Semi-homemade with Sandra Lee”? I used to be completely obsessed. The show is all about mixing store-made items with some homemade stuff and showing different ways to jazz up store bought items leaving all kinds of time to add some special touches and a gorgeous tablescape. So when Raley’s contacted me and asked me to try one of their (pre-cooked and trussed) Diestel Turkeys and write about it on my blog. I was all in!
Instead of spending the week before my dinner party defrosting a turkey and researching how long to cook a turkey per pound, how to tell when it’s done, and how to add flavor to a turkey during the cooking process. I worked on these special touches: to go cartons, headdress place cards, and gratitude rolls. I did plan to make my favorite fall/winter squash casserole and my mom’s Orange-Cranberry Sauce, but I made that a few days in advance. (Recipes here) Raley’s Diestel turkeys are free range, never given growth hormones or stimulants, and are fed a 100% vegetarian diet. This is very important to me because serving something I feel good about makes the evening so much more enjoyable.
The turkey comes fully cooked and mine came with three sides: green beans almondine, artisan ciabatta bread stuffing, and classic mashed potatoes with herb butter. Every Raley’s Holiday Dinner includes homestyle turkey gravy and cranberry berry bliss sauce. All this comes in an adorable and LARGE burlap tote bag. If you’re not into these sides they also have: traditional cornbread stuffing, red skin mashed potatoes with crème fraîche, broccolini with pine nuts and herb butter, scalloped potatoes with gruyère, swiss and parmesan cheese, and sweet potato gratin with cranberries and pecans. Um, YUM! All these sides sound really delicious.
When it came time to cook, the turkey really didn’t need anything. But I decided to make a compound butter to spread on the skin and I put some aromatics inside the turkey. (For butter: add garlic, thyme, and flat leaf parsley to room temperature butter. Stir and refrigerate or use right away.) I “tented” the Turkey with foil to prevent the herbs in the butter from burning and put it in the oven for two hours on 325° per the instructions. My house smelled amazing!!!!
While that was working away I started on my festive cocktail. I decided to make a holiday-flavored gin and tonic and call it “Thankful Tonic”. It was super easy. You just put the fresh cranberries in a pot, add thyme, sugar, and water and cook until the berries start to burst, lower the heat and cook for about 15 more minutes. Strain the mixture and you are left with a deliciously festive simple syrup. I set up a cute bar and had a cocktail while I waited for my guests to arrive.
I delegated apps to my friend Megan. You may remember her from her fab FB page “Crocktober“. That’s brie with cranberry jam, salami with cheese and peperoncini skewers, and caprese stacks. All were delicious, but I must say, the salami with cheese and peperoncini skewers were my fave and tasted even better the next day!
Doesn’t that turkey look golden brown and delicious!? At this point all I had to do is carve the bird. I know this may seem scary to some, but I wasn’t about to stand at the head of the table and put on a show (like in National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation). Instead, I did it just like a carve a whole chicken. You’ll need a crazy sharp knife, a pair of tongs, two cutting boards, and a platter. Place the bird on one cutting board and use the other to cut the pieces smaller before placing on your serving platter. I like to start with the legs, then the breasts, then the wings. Just be sure you find the oyster and eat it before anyone else sees it, or you could give it to that special someone. It is the best piece of the entire turkey.
Here are the Raley’s sides. The only one of these sides that needed to be cooked in the oven was the stuffing. The other two were microwaved, the gravy was warmed on the stove, and the cranberry-berry bliss sauce was served cold. I loved this because it really worked well for my average-size single oven. In addition to this menu I had my Squash Gratin and Gratitude Rolls that needed to be cooked in the oven too. Making me even more thankful for the extra oven space.
The overall feedback from my guests is that they really liked the stuffing and the green beans. I was totally skeptical on the stuffing. It had cheese in it! I’ve never had stuffing with cheese in it, but it really was very very good. Everyone thought the potatoes were OK. After further discussing the potatoes we decided they are a blank slate and that we each like to add our own different mix-ins and toppings to our mashed potatoes. So, if I served them again, I would doctor them up with my favorite additions or create a Mashed Potato Bar with toppings galore.
After dinner we went outside and sat around the fire pit for a game of “Head’s Up”. It’s like the game Headbandz, but you don’t need a game, just the app on your phone. The crisp fall air called for my leopard Snuggie. What? You don’t have yours still??
I delegated the dessert to Cam. She brought some delicious brownie bites topped with whipped cream and fresh raspberries. It should be noted that she brought that despite the fact that she had just flown in from Portland that night. I’m not sure how she did that. We also roasted S’mores.
I actually had some turkey left over, so Day 1 was an epic turkey sandwich with stuffing and cranberry sauce. Day 2 we had people over for the 49er game so I put the leftover turkey in a crockpot with taco seasoning and broth and we had turkey tacos.
The bottom line is that I really enjoyed this meal far more than I ever thought I would. It was so easy and so delicious. I was actually super shocked at how juicy the turkey was.
If you’re not into the Diestel Turkey Dinner, they also have a Butterball Turkey Dinner and a Bourbon Maple Glazed Ham Dinner. Each dinner comes with three sides and you can add extra gravy to your order for $6.99 and extra cranberry sauce for $4.99 each. You can add sides to your dinner or you could just order sides if you wanted to tackle the main event yourself. Side dishes are $9.99 each or $9.49 when you buy two or more.
There are also some pretty fab perks to ordering one of these no-fuss/all fun holiday dinners. Something Extra members earn double points on any Raley’s Holiday Dinner purchase AND you can save $5 with the purchase of any bottle of Ghost Pines Wine. You can order your dinner online or in any Raley’s family of stores. Dinners are available for pick-up Nov. 22-27 Thanksgiving and Dec. 20-24 for Christmas.
This is what Raley’s says about their Holiday dinners:
A sustainable, locally-sourced, gourmet Thanksgiving dinner – without all the prep work! That’s right…no defrosting your bird days in advance, no peeling potatoes at the crack of dawn, no fussing over lumps in the gravy…just a delicious meal and more time for you to enjoy with your family and friends.
And they couldn’t be more right. Would you like to try a Raley’s Holiday Dinner? I have a $20 coupon for one lucky reader! I’m going to announce the giveaway winner on Monday so you can place your order just in time for Thanksgiving. All you have to do is comment below and sign up as an email subscriber to my blog (if you haven’t already.)
For more holiday and culinary inspiration, follow Raley’s on Facebook, twitter: @raleys, and Instagram: @raleys. And, in case you missed it, you can see the live, on-air segments from Good Day Sacramento where I talk all about my Friendsgiving experience here and here.
**Disclosure: I received a free Diestel Turkey Dinner and $20 off coupon from Raley’s Family of Fine Stores in exchange for my review. My opinions are my own.