It’s Thanksgiving here in New England. We’ve been blessed with beautifully warm sunny days and cool evenings…perfect for sleeping. Admittedly, I have a love/melancholy relationship with this time of year. While it saddens me a bit to close up the gardens and tuck away patio furniture, there are so many things to love about fall in New England…the rich, vibrant colors, the crisp air, throwing on a sweater and taking a long walk with my Airedale pal, Jack.
Ahhh…November. Besides being my birthday month, November brings with it the call of winter. The air is crisp…the breezes cool and the sun is warm on our faces.
And the smells...yes, the smells. I love the smell of a wood burning stove warming the bones of the house early in the morning, or the lit buttercream candle on the kitchen table that slowly mixes with the deliciously wonderful smell of pumpkin spice coffee brewing nearby. Close your eyes…you can almost smell it.
One thing I will miss when winter arrives are the flocks of wild turkeys that visit our property every day. On any given day, 14-34 fat, healthy turkeys frequent the yard scoffing up sunflower seeds, ticks and who knows what else. It’s quite enjoyable watching them chasing grasshoppers and sunning themselves on the fence after a rain. They march single file down the driveway from the pond across the road to eat their fill. Passersby on our quiet country road stop their cars allowing the turkey parade to safely cross. Next spring, we’ll look forward to seeing the baby poults marching closely amidst the protective adults. Turkeys are social beings and should a poult stray from its’ mother, he will frantically call to her. The mother and rest of the flock will stop what they are doing to search for the missing youngster. Kinda like us, right?
Memories of a simpler time…
There are sounds of fall that I’ve loved since I was a child. I remember watching my dad split wood for the fireplace at our lake house. One of my chores was to stack the logs in the wood shed where they would dry until needed that winter. On winter weekends when we stayed at the lake house to go ice skating, my dad would build magnificent fires in the large field stone fireplace in the living room and I’d sip on hot chocolate waiting for my mittens to dry by the fire.
Today, I still love the sound of splitting wood but now it’s my husband that’s doing the splitting. Oddly, I like the sound of the chain saw down in the woods and there’s something comforting about firewood neatly stacked in rows by the side of the barn waiting to feed the wood stove that warms the bones of this house that I love.
No family close by? Start a new tradition…
You can still celebrate this beautifully delicious holiday and special time of year with friends. My daughter calls it Friendsgiving...a special day with all the traditional American Thanksgiving fare but the added invited guests are close friends who cannot be with family. Throw in a few competitive athletic games and you’ve got a day to remember, talk about and make plans for next year.
Turkey…the Centerpiece of Your Thanksgiving dinner.
Turkey…slowly roasting in the oven for hours filling the house with the most delicious smells of the year. And every time you open the oven door to baste that magnificent bird…more smells fill the kitchen.
Growing up, Thanksgiving dinner was served at 2PM. Mom was up early and busy in the kitchen preparing the bird to be stuffed while we patiently waited for the Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade to begin. In those days, the stuffing was cooked inside the bird…thus the word “stuffing”. Today, we bake it along side the turkey in a dish of its own. Call it what you want…dressing or stuffing…it’s all good. The only thing I stuff my turkey with are peeled onions cut in half, a couple carrots and celery stalks.
My Secret Touch…
After you season the turkey with a little salt, pepper and poultry seasoning, lay bacon strips on top. As the bacon bakes to a crispy, delicious shade of brown the fat oozes all over the turkey skin giving it and the drippings a great depth of flavor. When the bacon is done, simply remove it from the turkey onto a small dish and break it into bite size pieces. Give the turkey a good basting and back into the oven it goes. Pass around the bacon as a precursor bite to what’s just ahead or keep it for yourself…you, after all, are preparing this amazing meal. Trust me…this will be the absolute best bite of bacon you have ever put in your mouth and will be the start of a new tradition.
Or…Is It All About the Sides?
Some say the sides steal the show and make the meal. Personally, the scrumptious crisp turkey skin is my favorite. Everyone loves mashed potatoes with Thanksgiving turkey. After all, you need something to drown in the gravy. I have some fantastic mashed potato recipes under “Sides” in the menu bar and I invite you to click here to check out “10 Best Potato Recipes“. So, kick up your potatoes this year and get ready for smiling faces and second helpings.
Gotta serve your green bean casserole or guests will be upset? Kick it up a notch and make my grown up version Green Bean Casserole with Crispy Fried Shallots. Click here or find the recipe under “Sides”.
If so, you’ll like this quick and easy recipe: Heat a skillet over medium heat and add 3 tablespoons coconut oil and let it heat up for 30 seconds. Add one pound Brussels Sprouts, cut in half lengthwise, cut side down. Season with S&P. Cover and cook for 5 minutes until the under side is dark brown and caramelized. Remove the lid, toss with some minced garlic and shallots and cook 1-2 minutes more, uncovered.
May I suggest…
Prepare delicious honey-glazed baby carrots by boiling baby carrots over medium heat until just tender. Drain…then melt 2 Tbls butter in a skillet over low heat. Stir in 1 Tbls brown sugar, 2 Tbls pure maple syrup and a dash of salt. Add the carrots and combine. Keep stirring and cook about 5 minutes until the carrots are glazed. Yum!!!
Please check out the recipes under “Sides” for more great suggestions, such as my Best Homemade Cranberry Sauce. It’s easy to prepare and so delicious you’ll wonder why you’ve been serving canned cranberry jelly all these years. And don’t forget the stuffing. You’ll find an outstanding recipe for Sausage Stuffing under “Sides”. Make your Thanksgiving celebration memorable from the moment guests arrive to later crashing on the couch when they leave. And…
When guests arrive…my motto: a good seasonal cocktail in hand will cover any mistake in the kitchen.
Don’t leave out the leftovers.
Thanksgiving dinner leftovers are a tradition of their own. Who doesn’t look forward to the infamous turkey sandwich. Add a layer of my homemade Sausage Stuffing and you’ll kick it up a notch from ordinary to extraordinary.
- How about preparing a BBQ Turkey Pizza using your favorite pizza house dough, shredded turkey, mozzarella cheese, tomatoes and BBQ sauce…or
- Add slices of turkey to your next Cobb Salad (click here for my recipe Classic Cobb Salad) …or
- Prepare a gourmet Turkey and Brie Sandwich using French bread, turkey, sliced Brie cheese, arugula and apple butter…or
- Go the traditional route and make a hot turkey sandwich smothered in gravy for dinner tonight.
As always, I welcome and look forward to your feedback and comments. Do you have a favorite Thanksgiving tradition you would like to share? How about a Thanksgiving cooking nightmare? I have one… the first turkey I ever prepared, I left the bag inside the cavity containing the neck and other unmentionable parts. We discovered it when carving the bird. Slightly embarrassing….but I’m sure I’m not the first that’s guilty of that.
Whether you celebrate the Thanksgiving holiday or not and where ever you live in the world…this is a day of remembering and giving thanks. A special thank you to our veterans and active military for their service and the many personal sacrifices they made and continue to make in order that we may live in a free world. I include loving thanks to Adam who is actively serving in the US Air Force. Thank you for your part in keeping us safe and may God watch over all of you…keeping you safe.
Happy Thanksgiving…make something amazing today.