Thanksgiving is the time of year when families get together and celebrate all that there is to be thankful for. Of course, it is also a time to sit down with family and friends for a wonderful meal of turkey with all the fixings.

For smaller families, however, sometimes a turkey is more bird than we can handle, even when it comes to leftovers. While I love turkey sandwiches, turkey soup, and turkey casserole just a much as the next person, more often than not, turkey can end up being too much of a good thing.

Last year we tried something different and roasted chickens, instead. The beauty of chicken is that it's not radically different from a turkey, but is smaller and more manageable. Plus, most people love roast chicken, and if you brine it, the meat comes out incredibly moist and delicious. Served with a variety of side dishes, it can form the basis of a wonderful Thanksgiving meal that is festive and will please everyone at your holiday table.

Roast Chicken

Due to its smaller size, chickens are easier to brine. For a family of four, a 2- to 3-pound chicken should be plenty. When we have 7-8 people, we cook two. Brine the bird early on the day of cooking.

The Brine

  • 1 quart cold water
  • 1/4 cup table salt or 1/4 cup + 2 Tbs kosher salt
  • 1/2 cup sugar

Method

Make one quart of brine for each pound of food, but no more than 2 gallons. (Your chicken should be no more than 8 pounds, which is a pretty big chicken.) Dissolve the salt/sugar in a separate bowl beforehand. Use a large plastic bag or an 8 to10-gallon pot or large bowl. Any plastic bag or container will do, as long as you can seal it and the chicken is completely immersed in the brine.

Brine 1 hour for each pound of food but not longer than 8 hours. Take the chicken out of the brine, rinse, and pat with a paper towel and let air dry. Pre-heat oven to 375 degrees.

Brush skin with olive oil and roast for 1 1/2 to 1 3/4 hours for a 2- to 3-pound chicken. For a 3- to 4-pound chicken, roast for 1 3/4 to 2 1/4 hours. You want to roast the chicken until it reaches an internal temperature of around 170 degrees, as measured with a meat thermometer. When the chicken is done, let it rest for 15 minutes before cutting. While it is cooking, you can prepare the stuffed pumpkin and sweet potatoes.

Stuffed Pumpkin

(Adapted from Julia Child's Stuffed Pumpkin recipe)

Ingredients

  • sugar pumpkin, 3-4 pounds
  • one medium onion
  • 1 medium carrot, chopped
  • 1/2 each red and green pepper, chopped
  • 3-4 cups bread stuffing
  • 1 tsp each of thyme, sage, and salt
  • fresh grated pepper
  • grated cheese (cheddar or mozzarella)
  • hot chicken or vegetable broth
  • olive oil

Method

Cut the top of the pumpkin (save the top) and clean. Brush the inside with olive oil.

Sauté onions, carrots, red/green peppers in olive oil until soft. Add 2 to 3 handfuls of bread stuffing along with thyme, sage, salt, and pepper, and cook for 5 minutes. Spoon mixture into pumpkin and then pour in hot broth until the pumpkin is full.

Optional: Place on microwave safe plate and microwave pumpkin for 5 minutes, rotate, and microwave for an additional 5 minutes.

Cover opening with cheese and place in oven at 375 degrees. If microwaved, bake for 1 1/2 to 2 hours. If not microwaved, bake for 2 1/2 to 3 hours, or until flesh (at the top opening, don't pierce the side) becomes soft enough to easily pierce with a fork.

When done, scoop out and serve with chicken.

Baked Sweet Potatoes

Sweet potatoes are a great alternative to regular potatoes since they are more nutritious and higher in fiber, and have a wonderful sweet flavor.

Method

Rinse the potatoes with cold water, then pat dry. Pierce the skin on one side with a fork and place on a baking tray. No need to cover with foil. Bake at 375 for 1 to 1 1/2 hours, or until the potato is easily pierced with a fork.

When done, cut down the middle and add butter and salt, or just a little salt. They're even delicious by themselves.

All of us at Parenting Squad would like to wish you and your family a warm, safe, and happy Thanksgiving!