This week is Thanksgiving. For the past 5 or 6 years, and a few more randomly before that, I have cooked dinner at my house. We’ve had from 5 people up to 30 last year. This year we expect a manageable 10.
I like Thanksgiving because it’s not about gifts. It’s about food, family, friends and being thankful for what we have. There is a lot to be thankful for, even if it doesn’t seem like it at times. As much as we all like to complain about what we don’t have, or what the government doesn’t do, or how much someone else has, we are very fortunate to live in a country of real opportunity and freedom. I don’t want to turn this into a political post by any means. However, just try to think about the things that are available to us and open your heart to gratitude. I personally am grateful to have the freedom to choose how I want to live my life if I am willing to do the work. I am grateful for the massive infrastructure that allows us to travel from one part of the country to the other, the telecommunication network that allows us to connect with each other and broadcast our thoughts and information, electricity to provide light and warmth, clean water to drink, and an abundance of food. Many of these I take for granted on a day to day basis, until it’s not there. When there is a storm or some other disaster that takes away any of these things I am reminded of how dependent I am on them always being there. For today, I am happy to have them.
And of course, I am also very grateful to have family and friends that I love. Thanksgiving is a time to share that love and gratitude with each other. Yeah, they drive us crazy at times, just as we drive them crazy 😉 But when they aren’t here, we notice and regret not having spent more time together. I am especially reminded of that this year as a dear friend passed away about a week ago. Take the time today, because there is no guarantee of tomorrow. Remember those who are no longer with us and enjoy those who are.
Now, about the food!! Holidays are challenging to stay on my grain-free, sugar-free path. I could make everything paleo-friendly but I know that others who aren’t following that lifestyle will miss the stuffing and gravy and other “goodies”. I love stuffing myself so this is where I “cheat” big time!
Here’s my menu:
Turkey, of course – Here’s a recipe from Alton Brown that I loosely follow. I have a 20 pound turkey, which I’m glad I got since we now have 10 instead of the 5 that I thought. I like to have leftovers so that I can cook less often later 🙂 I don’t use a bag for the stuffing as Alton does in his video; I just spoon it out into a serving dish. Then, I remove the turkey to a cutting board and let it sit for a few minutes covered with foil. I scoop out any dressing and other large pieces from the roasting pan. Then, strain the dripping into a fat strainer/separator. Leave any leftover cooked bits in the bottom of the roasting pan to make gravy (see below).
Traditional stuffing – I like to use Mrs. Cubbison’s. It’s probably just nostalgia because it’s what my mom used but it’s what I always use for a base. It makes it easy, especially now when we don’t have bread in the house, and I like the seasoning. I add a little of my own flavor to it usually – onions, celery, chopped water chestnuts, maybe some nuts like walnuts, and whole cranberries and/or diced apples.
Mashed potatoes – No real magic here. I just use regular russet potatoes, peeled, diced, boiled in salt water, and drained. Add butter and mash. Season with some salt, pepper, garlic powder, maybe some nutmeg. Add a little milk or cream or sour cream – if you create a clear spot on the bottom of the pan and add it then you don’t have to preheat – and mix in. Use a large, sturdy whisk to “whip” just enough to be smooth. Don’t try to overdo it or they will become “gummy”. I don’t really measure but here’s a step-by-step recipe with ingredients and amounts if you prefer.
Homemade gravy. Adapted from Recipe by Ree Drummond on foodnetwork.com
Turkey giblets, reserved from the turkey
1/4 cup fat from roasted turkey drippings, and the skimmed drippings
1/3 cup flour, plus more if needed
32 ounces chicken broth, plus more if needed
Freshly ground black pepper
Boil the giblets in a small saucepan of water over medium heat until cooked, about 30 minutes. Remove the giblets, set aside, and keep the water in the saucepan. This can be done ahead of time that day or the day before.
In the same roasting pan used to cook the turkey (which should not have been cleaned!) add the reserved turkey fat. Sprinkle in the flour and whisk into the fat until it’s all worked together into a paste. If the paste is too thick/clumpy, add in a little more grease. If it’s too greasy, sprinkle in more flour. Whisk and cook the roux over medium-low heat until deep golden brown.
Pour in the chicken broth and leftover skimmed drippings, whisking the whole time. Allow to cook and thicken for several minutes, whisking occasionally. If the gravy gets too thick, or if it’s too salty, thin it out with a little of the giblet water. If gravy is too thin, just keep cooking it until it thickens up.
Add plenty of black pepper. Chop up the giblets and add them in. Remove as much of the neck meat as you can and add it to the gravy. Serve immediately!
Nutty Green Beans with Bacon and Blue Cheese Adapted from a recipe by Claire Robinson on FoodNetwork.com
1 pound haricots verts (French green beans), trimmed
2 slices onion, cut into quarters
1 tablespoon minced garlic
3 slices bacon
4 ounces blue cheese, cut into small chunks
1 1/2 cups toasted whole pecans, coarsely chopped
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the beans and cook for about 2 minutes. Remove the beans from the water and immediately place in a bowl of ice water. Remove the beans from the ice water and set aside in a medium bowl.
In a large sauté pan or cast iron skillet, over medium heat, cook the bacon until crisp. Remove the bacon and place on paper towels. Add the onion and garlic to the bacon drippings and sauté briefly. Add the beans and cook over medium heat for 2 to 3 minutes. Break the cooked bacon into bite-size pieces and add to pan. Finish by stirring in the toasted chopped pecans. Season with the freshly ground black pepper and just a tiny pinch of sea salt. Add the blue cheese and toss. Serve immediately.
Dessert – I always like to try a new dish. This year I’m going to try Paleo Pumpkin, Coconut, and Maple Custard Cups from NomNomPaleo.com. They look scrumptious!
Cranberry Sauce – I think I’ll also try Michelle Tam’s Paleo Cran-Cherry Sauce. I used to hate cranberry sauce until I discovered fresh made. What a world of difference it makes!!
And, brought by family and friends;
Whatever else makes it here!
I know that no matter how much I plan and prepare I will be in a chaotic state for at least an hour or two before dinner. Never fails. But that’s okay. Everyone says they enjoy the meal and the day, and that’s all that matters. I will, again, try to make it a little smoother. No matter what, we will be together and thankful for what we have.
If I can take some time from the chaos I will take pictures and post the finished products. Please share your day, as well.
Have a most fabulous day! Edie