A Thanksgiving Primer

By | November 2, 2019
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Well, here we are…Thanksgiving week has arrived.  Four days until my favorite holiday and I have been busy making lists, ordering our fresh turkey {from Willie Bird in Sonoma} and cracked crab {our traditional Thanksgiving eve dinner}, and hopelessly surfing through cyberspace discovering some of the most wonderful looking dishes that would complement any Thanksgiving feast, most of which will, sadly, never make an appearance on our Thanksgiving table {at least not this year}.  You see, my family is a group of hard~core traditionalists around the holidays, especially when it comes to Thanksgiving.  I have been occasionally granted some latitude with Christmas dinner…making prime rib, duck, and even a beautiful Beef Wellington one year…but  with Thanksgiving dinner, few things are negotiable.

The same familiar dishes that I have been making for as long as I can remember {well before we had children and, even a few, before Michael and I married}, dishes that were learned not from recipes but from standing on a stool watching older generations work their magic:  butter~roasted turkey with homemade pan gravy {deep~fried turkey was really popular when we lived in Texas but, despite reportedly wonderful results, the horror stories of frying “accidents” were always a deterrent for me;  Mallory, whose birthday falls on November 1st calls this turkey her “birthday food” and is somewhat miffed that she needs to wait another 3 weeks to enjoy it, when the rest of us each enjoy our favorite foods on our respective birthdays}, bread and sausage stuffing {the children start to worry if they don’t see trays of cubed white bread sitting out to become stale the week before the holiday; the recipe for this stuffing from my childhood was altered a bit when I met Michael and cooked our first Thanksgiving dinner together…sausage was added as an enticement to try my mushy wet stuffing mixture & he has been hooked ever since}, mashed potatoes {the ones my grandmother taught me how to make & Maddie’s ultimate favorite food}, cranberry sauce {Max, the only five year old I have ever known to like this sweet~tart condiment and, now at the age of fifteen, has been a fan ever since…he lets me know when I have added just the right amount of orange zest}, and apple pie with salted caramel {made for Michael on our first Thanksgiving, it is now what Maddie requests instead of a cake on her birthday}.  As the children get older, it is heartwarming to see how much these memories mean to them and that they are learning these holiday traditions not from recipes but from cooking along with me.

I have had the occasional & successful “new addition” to the holiday repertoire…last year it was Roasted Chestnuts {via Bon Appetit, see below}.  Thanksgiving is not what I think of as an ideal occasion for serving hors d’oeuvres {given the amount of food served at dinner} but, after a hearty breakfast and a glass of egg nog while watching {a bit} of the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, we usually do not partake in lunch.  Last year, I prepared these buttery, salty, herbed chestnuts and they were the perfect mid~afternoon nibble to hold us over until dinner.   They made a reappearance at a Christmas Eve gathering a month later and were a complete hit.  I am  bringing them back this year by popular demand.

As far as “new additions’ this year, I am going to try adding a soup to our “nibble hours”…a small cup of soup to accompany our roasted chestnuts…and any left-over soup will be a wonderful accompaniment to those glorious turkey sandwiches on Friday.  I am leaning towards a Thai~Spiced Pumpkin Soup {via 101 Cookbooks, see below}. The forecast is calling for a steady rain on Thanksgiving day and, after a late-morning trip to the barn to take care of the horses, this soup will be a warm welcome home.

Making the soup on Wednesday will save me precious time on Thursday…I will simply slip the soup into the slow~cooker {set to “warm”} Thursday morning before we leave and by the time we get home the soup will be ready. Brussels sprouts have been our go-to Thanksgiving veggie for years but I am going to introduce Broiled Green Beans with a Lemon Gremolata {via a Better Happier St. Sebastian, see below} this Thanksgiving.  Not only will the gremolata add a bright, refreshing taste to the holiday dinner plate, but the ability to broil the beans in a second oven frees up prime real estate on the stove~top at a very critical time during dinner prep.  I normally do not serve a salad on Thanksgiving Day but I like to serve a special salad along with our cracked crab on Thanksgiving eve.

This year, I can’t wait to try this lovely Shaved Brussels Sprouts Salad with Persimmon & Pomegranate {via Honestly YUM, see below}…we will be getting our Brussels sprouts after all.  Finally, after all the dishes have been washed, precious leftovers have been safely tucked into the refrigerator and guests have headed home, I look forward to sipping some Cranberry Spice Tea {via Gourmande inthe Kitchen, see below} as the fire in the fireplace slowly fades away. Confession:  I am toying with the idea of making a batch of Homemade Cranberry Sauce In A Can {via Food52, see below} just to be able to set out lableless tin cans of jellied cranberry sauce on the dinner table and see everyone’s reaction…oh and I bet the sauce is awesome as well.

As far as cocktails go…I LOVE the idea of a holiday signature cocktail but, in reality, I must admit to being a champagne/wine kind-of-gal.  A glass of champagne, sipped as dinner guests arrive, leads to a lovely Sonoma County pinot noir with dinner.  That being said, as long as I am not bar tending, I am always eager to try new concoctions…so invite me over and try and change my ways.  The cocktail recipes below have piqued my curiosity…let me know if you give them a try!

So, instead of my usual Weekly Dinner Menu this week, I leave you with some of the recipes that have caught my eye in preparing for this Thanksgiving.  If you are looking for inspiration, I hope you can find some here…


I like alcoholic beverages on special occasions…and it just so happens that I think life is super special.  All the time.  ~  Grace Helbig

Autumn Crush |  Verses From My Kitchen

The Pumpkin Patch  |  Set The Table

The Ultimate Thanksgiving Punch  |  Honestly YUM


If more of us valued food and cheer and song over hoarded gold, it would be a merrier world.  ~  J.R.R. Tolkien

Roasted Chestnuts  |  Bon Appetit


Winter is the time for comfort, for good food and warmth, for the touch of a friendly hand and for a talk beside the fire:  it is the time for home.  ~  Edith Sitwell

Thai~Spiced Pumpkin Soup  |  101 Cookbooks

Roasted Pecan & Acorn Squash Soup  |  Adventures In Cooking

Roasted Kabocha Squash Soup  |  Honey & Jam


Be present in all things and thankful for all things.  ~  Maya Angelou

Shaved Brussels Sprouts Salad with Persimmon & Pomegranate  |  Honestly YUM

Cranberry Walnut Kale Salad with Fresh Cranberry Vinaigrette  |  Kitchen Confidante


The best and most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen or even touched.  They must be felt with the heart.  ~  Helen Keller

Herbed Stuffing  |  Epicurious

Thanksgiving Stuffing Muffins  |  Feasting At Home

Alice Waters’ Potato Gratin  |  Alexandra’s Kithen

Turnip Gratin with Bleu Cheese  |  Bijouxs:  Little Jewels From The Kitchen

Perfect Mashed Potatoes  |  Martha Stewart

Sweet Potato Casserole with Pecan Streusel  |  This Gal Cooks

Herbed Popovers

Cranberry~Port Gelée  |  Canal House

Raw Cranberry~Orange Sauce  |  Honestly YUM

Homemade Cranberry Sauce In A Can  |  Food52

Balsamic Brussels Sprouts with Pancetta  |  {Ina Garten via} Alexandra’s Kitchen

Broiled Green Beans with Roasted Lemon Gremolata  |  a Better Happier St. Sebastian


And the days that I keep my gratitude higher than my expectations, I have really good days.  ~  Ray Wylie Hubbard

5 Links To Read Before Cooking A Turkey  |  Food52

Dry~Brining a Turkey  |  Honestly YUM

Classic Roast Turkey & Old~Fashioned Gravy  |  Epicurious

Roast Turkey with Pears & Sage  |  Adventures In Cooking

Achiote Butter~Basted Roast Turkey with Ancho~Chile Gravy  |  FromAway:  Cooking & Eating in Maine

Roast Turkey Breast with Roasted Garlic Gravy  |  Simply Recipes

How To Make Gravy  |  Honestly YUM


People who love to eat are always the best people.  ~  Julia Child

Apple Slab Pie  |  Brooklyn Supper

Rose Apple Pie with Bourbon Glaze  |  A Cozy Kitchen

Apple Pie with Salted Caramel  |  Simply Delicious

Pear & Almond Frangipane Tart  |  From The Kitchen

Dad’s Sweet Potato Pie  |  Joy The Baker

Gingerbread~Eggnog~Pumpkin Pie  |  Thumb In Plum

Maple~Pumpkin Bread Pudding  |  Adventures In Cooking

A Carrot Cake with Cream Cheese Swirl  |  The Vanilla Bean Blog

Chocolate Cake with Caramel Coffee Mousse Filling  |  The Novice Housewife

White Chocolate Cranberry Cake  |  Hungry Rabbit NYC

Warm Lemon Pudding Cake  |  Seasons & Suppers

Chocolate~Bourbon Pecan Pie Cupcakes with Butter Pecan Frosting  |  Half~Baked Harvest

Chai~Iced Pumpkin Cookies  |  Reclaiming Provincial

Butternut Squash Ice Cream with Caramel Sauce  |  A Brown Table

Grand Marnier Soufflé  |  The Kitchy Kitchen


Live in each season as it passes; breathe the air, drink the drink, taste the fruit, and resign yourself to the influence of the earth.  ~  Henry David Thoreau, Walden

Mulled Wine  | Flourishing Foodie

Apple Brandy Hot Toddies  |  Food & Wine

Spiced Apple Cider  |  BHGFood

The Cozy Frair  |  The Boys Club

Cranberry Spice Tea  |  Gourmande In The Kitchen


Think of all the beauty left around you and be happy.  ~  Anne Frank

Thanksgiving Turkey Sandwich  |  Spoon Fork Bacon

Turkey Pot Pie For Another Day  |  Food52

As for this week’s menu, prior to Thanksgiving eve, I have absolutely NO idea what we are eating!   It is a stunningly beautiful day with mild temps here in the Bay area today so steaks on the grill with a simple salad sound good for tonight’s Sunday dinner.  Monday & Tuesday, dinners are shaping up to be salads made from whatever is in the refrigerator, keeping us wanting for Thursday’s feast.  But, before I go, I just want to say “Thank You” to each of you who continue to visit this little space.  “Thank You” for your time, interest and, for joining me for dinner.  I enjoy sharing this family time with you and I wish you and your family a blessed Thanksgiving!