"We are what we believe we are."
C.S. Lewis

Monday, October 12, 2015

Thanksgiving

 If there wasn't crying in the kitchen on Thanksgiving at my house last year there was at least gnashing of teeth.  I resolved that this holiday I would take my time planning, shopping and preparing so that I could sort of glide into the dinner feeling organized and optimistic.
Dinner was on Sunday so I began the process last week: I planned the menu on Tuesday, did all of the shopping on Wednesday and started preparing things on Thursday.  By the time Sunday rolled around things were indeed unusually calm, the dinner came together seemingly without effort.

This is how it all came together:


Cranberries for the chutney.
 On Thursday I made the cranberry chutney.  I found some miniature jars which I knew would be attractive and fun on the table.  I used a recipe quite similar to this one, though I omitted the raisins because the Rascals hate them.
 With those little jars tucked inside the refrigerator I felt like I had the ball rolling.  Confidence is everything.

I decided to do some baking on the Friday as well as cooking up a batch of something that would start the Thanksgiving weekend off on the right note... the note redolent of both a pumpkin festival and autumnal glory that is...
How about a pumpkin gnocchi?  So easy and just the thing if you have to open up a can of pumpkin anyway, here is the recipe I used.
 I don't have any patience for cooking fiddly things, this dough is quite forgiving and easy, and look at the pumpkin colour:
Gnocchi dough.
 I served this to my youngest Rascal and a few of her friends, it was a thumbs-up.
Frying the sage in butter for the sauce...

The finished pumpkin gnocchi with brown butter and balsamic sage.
 I decide to bake a sort of pumpkin pound cake type loaf, perfect for a quick breakfast leading up to the big dinner and to be made magnificent with cream and caramel for dessert following the turkey and fixings.

I used a recipe similar to this one (though I substituted ground cardamom and a bit of nutmeg for the pumpkin pie spice, and I also used sour cream rather than milk).
The dry ingredients for the pumpkin loaf.
I used ground cardamom and nutmeg.
 I found this rather long loaf pan at the kitchen store:
 After baking it on Friday I wrapped it in plastic until Sunday, a few slices went missing before the big day but as it was such a long loaf to start it didn't make much difference.
Long pumpkin loaf: perfect for stealing slices from.
 We went to visit family on the Saturday but I did think to chill some booze before we left.  On the Sunday morning I was awake bright and early to bake up a batch of Thanksgiving Granola:
Thanksgiving Granola
Oats, pumpkin seeds, golden flax, walnuts, sunflower seeds, sesame seeds and dried cranberries.
 Granola is so easy to bake and can be customized to suit your tastes.  I use a basic recipe similar to this one though I substitute coconut oil for the vegetable oil.  For this Thanksgiving granola I used maple syrup only, rather than a combination of maple syrup and honey.  Any nuts or dried fruits can be substituted, for example I never use raisins due to the Rascal Hate Factor but I will use dried cranberries (or dried cherries and sour apricots).
I made an extra batch of granola to be sent back to Uni with my son and his girlfriend.  Saying goodbye to our son after a holiday at home is always so fraught with anxiety and sadness to see him go... having something good from home to tuck into his backpack is a helpful coping tool.

Another helpful coping tool is of course a nicely stocked bar, this holiday I even bought some mead:
Rosewood Mead
 We forgot to drink it but it lies in wait for Christmas, unless I can think of a suitable excuse beforehand...

On the day of the dinner, while the granola was baking away, I set the table with some simple plates and linens.  The individual jars of cranberry chutney were laid out at each place:
 Then it was time to get on with the stuffing for the bird.  I always make a bread stuffing as it is a favourite of the Rascals, and there's one key ingredient that is a deal-breaker:
Bell's Seasoning
Bread stuffing for the bird is just not possible without it.
 The thing about Bell's is that I have never been able to find it up here in Canada.  I usually stock up on it when we go skiing or when I visit my family in Georgia.  I'm running dangerously low so if you are fortunate enough to be sitting in the fine United States just now maybe you could send me some, I'll trade you some maple syrup!

I like to serve three vegetable side dishes on Thanksgiving, and luckily root vegetables are easy to prepare ahead of time.
I peeled the carrots and the butternut squash, accessorized with rosemary, leeks and some brussel sprouts, swished olive oil and salt over the whole lot and slid them in the oven to await their roasting:
Vegetable prep:easy.

Fortunately I have two ovens, these trays waited in one of them while the bird roasted in the other.
 The third vegetable dish I like to prepare can be accomplished on the stovetop: brussel sprouts with shallots and chestnuts.  I placed everything in a large cast iron skillet (including the butter on the bottom) and left it waiting on the stove.
Sliced brussel sprouts, shallots, chestnuts and lots of butter.
 Then it was down to the potato prep: I peeled six pounds of russet taters and placed them in water.
 At this point we took a break so we could walk Scout and marvel at the falling leaves etc.  Also we drank some cider, watched some football and went on Pinterest (that was just me).  After all of these pleasantries it was easy to get back to the task at hand: whipping some cream for the pumpkin pound cake, or what was left of it:
Whipped cream icing, what could be simpler or better?
Drizzle with some Bonne Maman caramel spread, that's how to make it better.
 I put the bird in the oven 3.5 hours ahead of dinner.  I tend to buy a smaller bird these days, at one time I would try to source a 20 to 25 pound turkey but I would find that I would overcook it, it was too heavy to manage, it would lead to general frustration which as we all know is the prelude to Crying In The Kitchen...
A smaller bird is more manageable and easier to afford if you're looking for a free-run bird etc.  This one was 13 pounds:
 I use this recipe, which is fairly basic, though I do tend to accessorize the turkey with some sage leaves.  I also use a basic chicken stock from a tetra pack rather than turkey stock, it works out just fine.

How easy is it to decorate in the autumn?  Pumpkins, simple mums and candlelight are a comforting and winning combination, all of those golden amber shades...


 The timing of a big dinner is everything and this is where delegating becomes a good skill to have.  I give MrBP the job of mashing the potatoes and whipping up the gravy, while I get the vegetables onto attractive serving dishes with garnishes of fresh herbs:
Roasted vegetables with some fresh rosemary.
 I use a combination of green stoneware and terracotta serving pieces for Thanksgiving, in keeping with autumnal colours:
 Cleanup?  That's easy: give it to the kids to do.  We retired to the television room with some tea to watch the sports while they earned their keep scrubbing pots and re-organizing the fridge to contain all of the leftovers.
Sparkling clean dishes: those Rascals have been earning their keep.
 Today shone brilliantly with a blue sky reflecting on the fall garden.  I planted these yellow and pink mums this last month, I just love the colour combination in this brown french pot:
This pot on the terrace reminds me of my Colour Story (blush-pink, golden yellow, brown and a more vivid pink)  for wardrobe this autumn (a story I've been working on this last weekend on the old Frock Philosophy blog, I'll update this post with a link when I have it up later this week).

If you have celebrated Thanksgiving here in Canada this last weekend I hope it was a happy one, and if you are still looking forward to yours (November 26th in the USA this year) let it be calm, merry and may it contain Bell's seasoning.
xoxDani

51 comments:

  1. Thank you, Dani! Your delicious menu and photos have completely inspired me to get a head start on American Thanksgiving! And I will keep an eye out for Bell's; I'm embarrassed I've never heard of it.

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    1. T&C House, you are welcome, so happy you liked the post. Please find the Bell's seasoning, it's so good. I linked to the company page, I love their story they are a piece of American history XO

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    2. Wait! I'm in Georgia! Where would I find it here???? :)

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  2. Thank you, Dani, for the Thanksgiving menu inspiration for next month. I, too, have never heard of Bell's seasoning but now I have - it's sitting in my Amazon cart. I will gladly trade for maple syrup! ;) Glad you have a wonderful Thanksgiving with your family.

    P.S. Oh, what did you wear?

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    1. Bag Lady! How are you? I took a picture of my outfit and stuck it on my instagram account (DaniBP on Instagram), I wore an old old JCrew tweed dress in a herringbone green, a Brora fair isle cardigan and a Brora plaid scarf. My thing right now is wearing lots of fair isle and plaid together I love it.
      I'll post on it later this week on the Frock blog, I've been meaning to write something on autumn clothes for weeks. It's been a gorgeous fall here this year. XO

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  3. oooooooh it sounds and looks so fabulous! You know how mad I am for Thanksgiving and this scratches the itch as I still have another month+. I wrote my menu this morning. Okay I'm worried you only had six pounds of potatoes! Is that enough? Or maybe your family is just much more appropriate and fit than mine. I make like 15 pounds of mashed potatoes and it still usually ends with my brother licking the bowl scolding me for not making more. I'm glad there was no crying this year. I had a breakdown once with a 30 pound turkey and was on the floor like Nancy Kerrigan asking WHYYYY?? through Sauvignon blanc soaked tears. I'm worried this year as my friend/turkey farmer told me early in the season that her turkeys were a small breed (12-15 lbs) so I got two. Well on Saturday she told me they are huge and to expect 25 pounds each.
    I applaud you for allowing the children to clean. Im terrible about accepting help and barricade myself in the kitchen and forbid anyone from touching anything. I've never heard of that seasoning! I'll keep an eye out for it.

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  4. Stephen Andrew your Thanksgiving is going to be truly fabulous. What do you have, six weeks to go? Do you have Ellie's Thanksgiving book, I'm going to buy it for next year. You know that has to be a good read. If I had told MrBP that there were only six pounds of potatoes he would have been frantic, knocking on the neighbour's doors etc. But there were only 6 of us so I knew it would be enough... and actually we just had the leftover potatoes cooked as pancakes and served with smoked salmon.
    Two 25lb turkeys good lord do you have two ovens? Laughing at the image of your WHYYYY? I should drive on down to Ohio to be your domestic help for Thanksgiving but I might start crying and then we'd both be on the floor clutching bottles of sauv blanc! Sounds fun actually XO

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    1. Okay I'm at ease, a pound of potatoes per person sounds right. Thankfully I do have two ovens. But they are on different floors. Luckily, I'll cook my turkey sous vide so it'll only take up oven space in the last hour when everything is done. Depending on my attendance-somewhere between 7 and 17 at this point (grrr)--I might be able to just freeze one of them.

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    2. I remember now that you do the sous vide! Which I've only ever seen in a professional kitchen. I think you are taking Thanksgiving to a new level. Between 7 and 17? Sounds like you need some commitments, I hope they let you know soon or you'll be driven mad! Two ovens makes everything much easier, I was really appreciated my new range on Sunday XO

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  5. Your Thanksgiving meal sounds divine and I applaud your organizational skills and advanced planning. Bravo to you for delegating the clean up to the kids. Our son and wife are far too busy with their 3 children so we do the clean up. Happy Thanksgiving and enjoy your leftovers!

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    1. Hostess I loved your post today and especially the dinner you cook for your grandchildren, the cuteness must be unbelievable. Yes your son and wife: with 3 kids they get to skip the clean-up duty! I've been training those Rascals for years and they are quite skilled now at clean-up and even fridge organizing. Boy they grow up fast don't they.
      Hope your day was very happy too XO

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  6. Just stunning! well done you and how divine does it all look? x

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    1. Thanks FF and I was wondering today if Thanksgiving was a thing in Aus, I looked it up and apparently not? But you could pull it off like no-one's business. XO

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  7. Impressive meal. How nice that you have a clean-up crew - the kids. Seems very fair. You did all the cooking and prep work! Well done! I love Bell Seasoning too. My mother used it too. I use it in soups, gravy, and on veggies sometimes. It adds great flavor and is very versatile. I've decided on Prime Rib Roast for Thanksgiving. Somehow I've lost my taste for turkey. Thanks for sharing, Susan

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    1. Susan I have to say I don't get very excited about the turkey either, I think a roast would be excellent. Another fan of Bell's, isn't it the perfect combination of ground spice? I like that it is salt-free too so the preferred amount of sea salt can be added separately. XO

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  8. How glorious everything looks! Happy Thanksgiving to you and your family!

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    1. Thanks Fred and you still have yours to look forward to, I have to say I've always liked the timing of the US holiday, my goal is to celebrate both but it doesn't always happen. XO

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  9. Fabulous - worth waiting for! We had 14 and like you, I began waay ahead so that I could enjoy the day. We were in the country lake-side -so beautiful. Will try some of these recipes they look divine! Anna26

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    1. Anna26 you had 14 well done! Oh gosh it must have been fantastic up where you are, the weather was divine, picture-perfect Thanksgiving. Our neighbourhood looks beautiful right now, you would love it, and the contractors are back but they are next door at Jen's house gutting and rebuilding a new kitchen, it's nice to see the crew and have them not in my house. ;) XO

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  10. Yum, yum, yum, yum, yum! That pumpkin loaf in particular! Also roasted vegetables thumbs up.

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    1. Lisa I know roasted vegetables are so easy and delicious and also good as leftovers. Try a pumpkin loaf, it was very popular. XO

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  11. Wow, everything looks delicious!! Happy Thanksgiving to you and your family!! I must try that pumpkin pound cake. I have never heard of Bell's seasoning, I will look for it the next time I am at the grocery store!

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    1. Louise buy some in NY before you come home, it comes in a small cardboard box in the spice section. I hope things are going well for you, XO

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  12. Great to see you back! I want to try the brussels sprouts dish!

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    1. Thanks Hex :) Yes try that dish it is very easy. I buy roasted chestnuts in little packages at the grocery, they are typically in the produce section. The shallots are key with the brussel sprouts and when thinly sliced and browned on the stovetop the brussel sprout becomes a delicious vegetable, they are fairly horrible to eat when boiled in my opinion, XO

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  13. What a mammoth weekend of cooking! I do love a big meal, all the planning and meal prep and the fun of the event itself… but I'm with you on the dishes. I've usually run out of steam by that point. Lucky you had the Rascals to do it for you! The table setting was also so lovely- very appropriate with the colours and theme, and with a simple elegance. Glad to read a post from you - I was wondering how you were, but clearly it's been a busy time in the BP house. xxx

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    1. Heidi thank you, yes it's been a very busy fall around here and the inspiration to post was eluding me as well...these big meals are very tiring no matter how much preparation it seems, I was very happy to pass over the clean-up to those kids. Of course they are older now so it's easy for them. I hope you and the family are well :) XO

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  14. What a beautiful meal. You always make things so elegant. We are running from house to house so when Mr. OAK suggested that Dietrich's handle the food, I was quite pleased. Looking forward to next year when hopefully there is just the one kitchen to manage.

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    1. Jen things will calm for you for sure! At this time last year we were packing up to move out of the house for the renovation and I cooked Thanksgiving dinner on two cracked electric ceramic burners, the old stove on its very last legs. I think I did cry actually, come to think of it.
      I hope you had fun with the Mr and the kids, that's the only thing that matters XO

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  15. Everything looks and sounds quite delish! One of my biggest pet peeves is the term "effortless entertaining" espoused by certain lifestyle mavens. Poppycock! There is no such thing. All entertaining takes planning, time to execute, and much effort if it is to be a success, much like your Thanksgiving meal was.

    I shall be on the look out for Bell's Seasonings but in all my years here in California, I've never come across it. Now I have something to hunt down for you.

    Happy (late) Thanksgiving, by the way!

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    1. CD thanks so much, oh I'd love to see your Thanksgiving table, have you ever posted on it? I wonder if Bell's is an east-coast thing. I bought it while grocery shopping on a ski holiday years ago only because I found the little box so charming... and now I can't cook a holiday meal without it. The stuffing is the most popular dish on the table, I think the Rascals would wrestle over it. XO

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    2. Yes, I am beginning to wonder if the seasoning is an east coast thing, but as I said you've given me something to look for now.

      As I'm a relative newcomer to the blososphere, I've only done one Thanksgiving post and that was last year's, found here:

      http://chronicadomus.blogspot.com/2014/11/thankful.html

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  16. Happy Thanksgiving! What a beautiful and delicious feast...so glad you let have have a peak into your holiday.

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    1. Thanks Julie. I hope you and the family are all well XO

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  17. Looks and sounds so wonderful, my mouth is watering,and somehow I can smell all the spices. And isn't subbing sour cream (or Greek yogurt) in baking recipes just the best? Such wonderful, dense, moist results! So glad you created and enjoyed a great Thanksgiving!

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    1. n.b. I agree it's always better than adding milk or buttermilk to a recipe. Gives a better texture. Thank you! XO

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  18. Dani a belated Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours. You made it into such a lovely and delicious day thanks much to your thoughtfulness in preparing so much ahead!! Beautifully done!

    xoxo
    Karena
    The Arts by Karena
    Palm Beach Chic

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    1. Thanks Karena, it was a good way to avoid crying in the kitchen, I'm trying to avoid any more of those episodes. ;) XO

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  19. wow dani, this post must not have been easy to put together. thank you for your hard work! everything looks perfect and delicious. i hope your day was wonderful. xo

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    1. Janet it was a good day, thank you. My older daughter encouraged me to post this... she likes having the archives of recipe and process to refer to.
      I hope you are well and I bet you are so enjoying being home! XO

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  20. beautiful, happy thanksgiving my friend xo Renee

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    1. Renee! How are you Beautiful? I hope you had a wonderful Thanksgiving yourself XO

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  21. OFF TO FIND YOU BELLS SEASONING!!!!!!!!
    Everything LOOKS SO GOOD!
    I will be in touch if I find it!
    XX
    PS, Where does one subscribe to your blog?

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  22. Contessa thank you and I hope you find the Bell's it's so good, but I wonder if those men of yours will like it, I hope so... I just moved the follow-by-email gadget thing to the right hand sidebar at the top of the blog, I had it well hidden, I think I've been going through a shyness complex... that won't do! Thank you Contessa XO

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  23. Such a lovely menu - I feel inspired:)

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  24. Hi Dani,
    Happy belated Thanksgiving. I'm going to try making your pumpkin gnocchi. It looks amazing with the sage butter. I'm a sucker for anything made with pumpkin but the gnocchi looks especially delicious. Your attention to every small detail must have been appreciated by your family. Thanks for the inspiration!

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    1. AmW I hope you tried it and I hope it was loved by all :) XO

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  25. if you want to email me your address, i will try to send you some bell's. usually pretty easy to find here is boston and it it is the best!
    katefanderson (at) gmail.com

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    1. Thanks Kate I might take you up on that extremely kind offer :) XO

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  26. Wow, here comes the latecomer, this is incredible, I couldn't make a single dish above, it all looks so delicious and you are so accomplished.

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