Thanksgiving 2014

*Sorry my Thanksgiving post is so delayed! Busy, busy time of the year!*

It is no secret that Thanksgiving is my all-time favorite holiday. Here are my reasons why.

  1. It’s OUR holiday- the only holiday my family always hosts year after year. It’s tradition. It’s a part of my childhood I will never forget.

  2. Family- I have the best family ever, and I love spending time with them

  3. FOOD- obviously the most important reason.

Here’s a portrait of Thanksgiving in my house. I wake up bright and early to watch the parade and dance around my living room to the Broadway performances, help my parents cook (but mostly taste test everything), and then the family comes over around 3:00 and we don’t stop eating until at least 9:00.

Let’s get to the food. There was so much of it. Here’s the menu:

Appetizers:

Fig, Goat Cheese and Caramelized Onion Crostinis

Stuffed Mushrooms

Assorted Olives and Mozzarella Balls

Stuffed Grape Leaves (from Trader Joe’s)

Dips & Crackers (Trader Joe’s) Tapenade, Eggplant Dip, White Bean & Basil Hummus

Sides:

Cranberry Sauce

Garlic Basil Mashed Potatoes

Mashed Sweet Potatoes with Marshmallows

Pomegranate Glazed Brussels Sprouts

String Beans with Shallots

Main: Turkey with Gravy

Stuffing (made inside turkey)

Dressing (made outside turkey) (we’ll get to the difference later)

Desserts:

Grandma’s Fruit Salad

Aunt Melissa (Missy)’s Pumpkin Biscotti and Toffee Cookie Brittle

Pecan Pie (made by yours truly)

Chocolate Oreo Birthday Cake

Pumpkin Pie (Costco)

If I were to sit here and write about every single thing on this menu, it would take me a year. So I’ll just point out some favorites. The Fig, Goat Cheese, and Caramelized Onion Crostini was not a hit with my family. I think they were weirded out by the idea of goat cheese. I, however, happen to love goat cheese. And its interesting pairing with fig preserves and caramelized onions ended up working very well together. Of the dips from Trader Joe’s (which is such a great food store– maybe at some point I’ll write a post about my favorite Trader Joe’s items.. hmmm…) my favorite was definitely the Eggplant Dip! I expected it to be more like an Eggplant Caponata, which often features peppers. And I for one cannot stand peppers. I wish I liked them because it would make my life as a foodie a lot easier, but I just don’t. This Eggplant dip had the consistency of a Caponata, however it tasted more like Eggplant Parmesan minus the fried part and the Parmesan. Does that make sense? Well, it was basically just diced eggplant and tomato sauce. And it was delicious.

My favorite sides were the Cranberry Sauce and the Sweet Potatoes with Marshmallows. I love when sweet items complement the savory ones on the plate. The cranberry sauce, which my mom makes with a hint of orange zest, is filled with gems of whole cranberries that burst with flavor. No canned jelly cranberry sauce in my house! My dad’s turkey could never be dry, but even if it was, the cranberry sauce would fix it in an instant. Cranberry Sauce is such a classic, and it never fails. We always switch up our sides, but Cranberry Sauce is the one that I know I can always count on. Coincidentally, my other favorite side is another that is pretty much always constant– Mashed Sweet Potatoes with Marshmallows. I was never really sure if this was a popular thing or if my family was totally strange for pairing sweet potatoes and marshmallows… But just trust me on this one. It’s something you need to try. The marshmallows melt into the sweet potatoes, creating a candied layer on top. Sweet potatoes are the epitome of fall food, and I couldn’t picture my Thanksgiving table without them.

Next, we have the main event. The meal I wait all year for. The best part of Thanksgiving. The Turkey and Stuffing! My dad takes great pride in his turkey. He brines it overnight, then on Thanksgiving he seasons it with herbs and fresh vegetables, stuffs it, and cooks it for about three hours. While it cooks, aromas float throughout the house, and it begins to smell like Thanksgiving. Mmmm.. The turkey comes out tender and not dry at all with crispy, flavorful skin. Now for the stuffing/dressing. We always just called it stuffing in my house, but always have made some in the turkey and some cooked separately from the turkey because my mom is a vegetarian, so she can’t eat the stuffing that was cooked inside. I recently learned that technically, the two variations do have different names, so this year we called them what they actually were. Not just “the stuffing from the turkey” and “the stuffing from out of the turkey”, but “stuffing” and “dressing”. I will always have a preference for the word “stuffing” though, because dressing sounds like salad dressing and just doesn’t feel right. Thanksgiving is no place for salad. My dad’s prime ingredient in his stuffing is the mushrooms. He uses whatever interesting mushrooms are available in the food store and splurges on the expensive types.

 

This year, his mushrooms were Porcini, Shiitake, and Chanterelle. Another interesting ingredient he always uses is bialys, in place of regular bread. Bialys are bagels (but cooked in a different way than bagels) with a onion and garlic filled depression in the center rather than a hole. He buys them a few days in advance, waits for them to get stale (because they absorb more moisture and flavor that way), and chops them up with the mushrooms as well as leeks, turnips, parsnips, onions, and carrots. His stuffing is truly my favorite part of the meal, even surpassing the turkey. It is addicting. I had four servings of stuffing at dinner, and then once everyone was sleeping, my cousins and I snuck down to the basement fridge and ate more stuffing. It’s that good.

Finally, we have dessert. I wish I could say that I ate a ton of delicious dessert, but by the end of the meal, I was so full that I could barely move, so I went light on the dessert. I tried my Pecan Pie and didn’t like it all that much. It could have used one egg less because the consistency was a bit rubbery. I told everybody not to try it because I didn’t think it was that good, but the people who did try it loved it. What do I know?

One tradition that we have is that each year, my mom makes a birthday cake for my grandpa and I since our birthdays are both close to Thanksgiving. This year, it was a chocolate cake with crumbled Oreos between the two layers, and it was topped with chocolate buttercream. The cake was dense and intensely chocolatey. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. Chocolate, chocolate, and more chocolate are always a good thing.

As another special and food-filled Thanksgiving comes to a close, I am reminded of all the wonderful things life has given me. I am so thankful for health, happiness, and especially for my loving family and friends. Oh, and food. I am very, VERY thankful for food! I hope your Thanksgiving was wonderful!

Enjoy! :) Love, The Perky Foodie

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