Nov. 18--SEBRING -- It's Thanksgiving this Thursday and that means turkey, mashed potatoes and pumpkin pie shared with family and friends.
Food is a big part of the holiday, and the cooks among us often relish that.
For those looking for some variation on the time-tested Thanksgiving recipes, or others who need some cooking pointers, we have compiled some tips and recipes residents and chefs have shared with us, along with some unique local food fare that can spice up your table.
We haven't forgotten the ones who are watching their weight, and have some healthy alternatives that can be explored.
Turkey obviously is the mainstay of Thanksgiving. People bake, deep fry and even smoke their turkeys.
Arlene Tuck likes to lather hers in orange juice before it goes in the oven.
She swears by this recipe and promises this will be "the juiciest turkey you have ever eaten. Even the white meat is juicy."
Tuck's daughter, Alison Scott, has been making her Thanksgiving turkey like this for three years.
"Everyone goes for her turkey and she never has any to take home," she said.
The Palms of Sebring's Chef Mac Gentleman likes to brine his turkey overnight in a mixture of vegetable broth, salt, herbs and water.
"It's way more juicier this way," he said.
Small tips go a long way in making that perfect dish.
Gentleman advises people to invest in a thermometer so they don't let the turkey overcook.
An easy way to tell if the turkey is done is to tilt it while it's cooking and let its juices run. If the juices are clear, the bird is either done or getting there.
Some years Gentleman deep fries his turkeys or injects them with marinades, but he avoids stuffing them because the stuffing takes longer to cook and the whole turkey ends up overcooking.
His stuffing goes on the side, along with chopped sausage, onions and celery.
Sometimes a simple dish like mashed potatoes can become a conundrum.
Gentleman, who likes his mashed potatoes smooth and whipped, advises people to buy a double blender so the whole potato can mash well.
The Hotel Jacaranda's Executive Chef Axel Diaz, on the other hand, likes the chunky texture. That's why he prefers making mashed potatoes from Yukon Gold and Russet potatoes.
Diaz's creamy mashed potatoes recipe adds a new twist to the traditional dish.
His family and friends love it, he said.
Nicole La Placa is a certified health coach and personal cook and uses hemp milk and protein powders in many of her baking recipes.
"I prefer hemp products over dairy and all-purpose flour because hemp is higher in protein," she said. Hemp also is non GMO, unrefined and has a healthy balance of anti-inflammatory Omega 3s, 6s, and 9s.
The chocolate hemp oat recipe is popular with fitness enthusiasts and health-conscious people because of the high protein, anti-inflammatory properties of the hemp, she said.
"Walnuts are also an anti-inflammatory food which makes these muffins a delicious and nutritious treat," she added.
Yucca root is a healthy alternative to white potatoes because it contains anti-oxidants and is thought to lower cholesterol.
It is an excellent source of fiber and vitamin C, La Placa says. The yucca root grows naturally in the badlands and southwest desert of the United States. Yucca root is inexpensive and can be found in the produce section at your local grocery store.
5 pounds of Yukon Gold or Russet potatoes.
1 1/2 sticks of softened butter plus more for baking.
1 1/2 packages (8 ounces) of softened Philadelphia cream cheese
1/2 cup of half & half milk
1/2 cup cream
Salt and pepper, milk for thinning
Peel potatoes, dice, boil in water. Bring to boil until potatoes are tender.
Drain potatoes and return to pan with burner turned low. Mash the potatoes. The more steam they release while mashing, the better. Turn off the heat.
Add butter, cream cheese, half & half milk and season. Stir and add some milk for thinning if needed.
Pour in a casserole pan and dot the surface with butter.
Cover with foil and bake 15 minutes.
Remove foil and bake uncovered for 10 minutes.
In a bucket, put a gallon of vegetable or chicken broth, one cup sea salt, one tablespoon rosemary, one tablespoon sage, one tablespoon thyme, three bay leaves and one gallon ice water.
Spices can be adjusted according to taste preferences.
Let the turkey brine in the chilled broth for 24 hours.
Then remove it, dry it, and cook it in the oven.
Fill ice chest with about 4 gallons of Florida orange juice (for a 20-25-pound turkey).
Place the cleaned turkey in an ice chest and make sure the orange juice covers the turkey. If it doesn't, flip the turkey half way through.
The bird should be left overnight in the orange juice.
Next morning, season the turkey with Everglades Seasoning, salt and pepper.
Brush with melted butter and place bacon strip around the turkey. Place in a cooking bag and cook as instructed.
(c)2012 the Highlands Today (Sebring, Fla.)
Visit the Highlands Today (Sebring, Fla.) at www.highlandstoday.com
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