Do you remember that one time, way back when, with 36 hours between a couple of trips I had to take to the opposite ends of the country, and I mentioned a holiday party and cooking a Thanksgiving meal from scratch?
You remember that? (Name that parody)
Yeah, I wasn't sure that you would.
Since I wasn't going to be around for Thanksgiving this year, and since my heart was set on a big, bountiful, delicious Thanksgiving spread with family, we decided to have our own. Early. Very early.
Our whole weekend was spent in delicious celebration of the holidays. Meshing Fall and the traditions of Thanksgiving seamlessly into Christmas spirit. You guys, the Holidays came and exploded in our house.
Beginning with some serious fall yard cleanup, sweeping those colorful tokens of autumn into pillowed heaps.
And a run for mama. But only after pacing the distance of a few houses and back with Aliyah because she wanted to run tandem. But it was cold. So, I slipped my lone run in after all.
That's how I like to run... alone. It's quiet, save the sound of my footsteps on the pavement that still allow me to tune into the deep breaths in and out, powered by the steady beat flowing through my headphones. There's no pressure, no stress, no need to overachieve. It's just me. Just me and my ever growing challenge to run faster, longer, stronger. I can be myself, wear what I want and think what I want. And running through my beautifully imperfect neighborhood resonates with my beautifully imperfect life... and it feels incredible. Though the burn in my lungs from the cold air doesn't.
But the embers of this amazing weekend were only getting warmed up.
We nursed them to life by donning last year's still-fitting Christmas pajamas, lighting candles, cuddling up for a good movie followed by hours of Christmas music echoing through the house, starting a fire and drinking peppermint hot cocoa in our favorite destination mugs while digging through our Holiday decor... our annual Christmas tree ceremony.
And if that weren't enough to set those embers on fi-yah, the next morning, as we cleared the room to prepare for a house-full of family, my daughter found the empty space perfect for dance recital preparation... an impromptu decision to showcase her burgeoning skills, stocking clad feet and all.
By evening, that same space was filled with hearty chatter, clanking glasses and scraping forks, and the Thanksgiving menu couldn't be eaten fast enough. My baby pulled at my pant legs as I prepped and served the last of the dishes, older littles played musical chairs with their seats until they found the perfect seating arrangement, and the rest played out almost as perfectly as I'd imagined it to be... With the tables being cleared out when bellies were full for enchanting dance showdowns and a slow dance wrapped in my husbands arms.
Babies were passed and loved on, conversations extended into the night huddled around the coffee table and kids had their fill of play. And though it's not quite Thanksgiving yet, and albeit it's hard for me to even attempt putting words to the emotions of gratitude and thankfulness I feel for fear of cheapening it, I'm ever grateful. For family and friends. For those special moments that light the embers of passion in me, making life that much more grand and beautiful. I'm thankful.
And so, without further ado, the menu.
I relied heavily on the vast recipe index of Pioneer Woman to make this Thanksgiving spread a success, with a couple of others thrown in the mix. Here are links to the recipes I used, and if I can do it, anyone can.
1) We brined the turkey and then cooked according to this time chart after spreading butter with the same seasonings used in the brine (except for salt) under the skin and on top of the bird.
2) Creamy Mashed Potatoes
3) Cornbread Dressing with Sausage and Apples, although I used a bag of Pepperidge Farm Cornbread Stuffing and nixed the mushrooms from this recipe. (So, maybe the entire meal wasn't from scratch.)
Here's my altered recipe:
1 bag Pepperidge Farm cornbread stuffing
½ pounds Italian Sausage
2 cups Diced Onion
5 whole Granny Smith Apples, Large Dice
5 Tablespoons Brown Sugar
1 cup White Grape Juice
½ teaspoons Kosher Salt
32 ounces, fluid Low (very Low) Sodium Chicken Broth
1 teaspoon Ground Thyme
½ teaspoons Turmeric (more To Taste)
2 teaspoons Rosemary, Leaves Minced
½ teaspoons (additional) Kosher Salt
Black Pepper To Taste
Fresh Parsley, Minced
In a large skillet, crumble and brown sausage over medium high heat. Remove sausage from skillet and set aside. Without cleaning the skillet, add in diced onions and brown for five minutes. Increase heat to high and add diced apples, brown sugar, and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Cook for 3 to 5 minutes, or until deep golden brown.
Decrease heat to medium and pour in juice. Stir and cook to reduce liquid by half, about two to three minutes. Pour apple/onion mixture into a bowl and set aside.
Return skillet to medium heat (again, without washing) and add thyme, turmeric, rosemary, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and pepper. Heat for a few minutes, then set aside.
Add stuffing to a large bowl, then add browned sausage and apple/onion mixture (and juice that might have accumulated.) Next, add broth mixture gradually as you toss the ingredients, being prepared not to use all of the liquid according to your taste.
Check seasonings at the end and add in minced parsley. Pour into a large baking dish and bake at 375 for 20 to 25 minutes, or until golden brown on top.
4) Sweet Potato Casserole, even family members that don't like sweet potatoes loved this!
5) Oven Roasted Asparagus
6) Buttered Rosemary Rolls, I added butter and chopped, fresh rosemary sprigs to the top before baking.
7) Turkey Gravy, make sure to use no- or low-sodium broth if brining your turkey.
8) Pumpkin Pie, I used leftover puree from our pumpkins (before it became pumpkin butter).
9) Moist Pumpkin Spiced Muffins with Cream Cheese Frosting, used my own pumpkin puree for these as well.
10) Faux Fall Sangria (recipe coming soon)
11) Dulce de Leche Coffee, minus the booze, I don't think we had any pregnant mamas over, but lots of nursing ones.
I'd love to hear, what are your Thanksgiving plans?