Happy Thanksgiving – the celebration of the settlement of the new world and the survival of those who made the harrowing trip. At least that was the idea originally; now it is the beginning of the holiday season, the start of shopping madness and the forced happiness to demonstrate that one has the “holiday spirit.”
Despite that cynical beginning, I do love the holidays, but I miss some of the real spirit of the season. Christmas decorations are up at Halloween, Christmas carols are heard on Veteran’s Day and Thanksgiving is just the feast before the shopping rush. Or it can be that. I still refuse to play carols until the day AFTER Thanksgiving, will not shop on Friday (and totally refuse to shop today) and take the day to relax and be thankful for all I have.
We didn’t travel this year (a complete first for me). Yes, we did not spend Thanksgiving with any extended family, but that doesn’t mean I didn’t cook. And only cooking for Bob and one co-worker/friend I had the freedom to go very non traditional and experiment. And there were lots of experiments today. I went safe with the ham and went with a Honeybaked Ham. Yes, it is cheating, but what a way to cheat. I did, however, make …
Homemade stuffing. My nod to tradition. I made the bread (yes, this is totally homemade), used leeks, bacon, apples, sage, celery and thyme. It came out pretty good – but the bread does need to be harder before soaking in the veggie broth. Not bad for a first try.
First there is a tomato/mozzarella salad with basil (from the garden) and balsamic dressing. This should be a summer dish, the tomatoes were so pretty, I just had to do it. The other dish is a celery and apple “slaw.” It is almost a salad, but I wanted to ensure there was something that was not sweet and added some crunch. And really, I had apples and celery in my basket last week, so I HAD to use them. Both of these were very simple and hard to mess up, so I knew we would have something to eat today.
Then was the experiment I was most excited about – mashed squash. One is an acorn squash and the other is a butternut squash. Both were roasted on the grill and mashed with caramelized onions that I made yesterday … Yes, I caramelized onions all by myself. And yes, it does take an hour to do it, so do not believe the recipes that tell you it takes ten minutes. …. This was a good dish and made a great substitute for mashed potatoes. The squash was just savory enough to take the caramelized onions. My only complaint is that that cooled really, really fast. As in it was the last dish finished and it was the coolest on the table. But, they still tasted great.
Then came the roasted green beans. I am not a huge fan of green beans, but I got some in the basket last week and wanted to use them today. So … I marinated them with olive oil, sage, garlic, scallions and a little salt then roasted them on the grill as I did the squash. They looked a little weird but tasted really, really well. I may come to like green beans yet.
If you are a dessert fan, I highly recommend the Pecan Pie Cheesecake. This is one of my favorites.
The cheesecake itself is pretty basic, but the yummie goodness on top makes this dessert. It has brown sugar, cream, butter, whiskey and toasted pecans. The ingredients don’t tell the whole story, but just think of a warm, velvety pecan pie and you begin to get the idea. The crust is chocolate wafer and toasted pecans which just adds a depth of flavor that is magical.
So this was our experimental, non-traditional Thanksgiving dinner. We didn’t travel, didn’t do turkey, are not going shopping, but are celebrating in a classic sense – we are thankful for all that we have, those we love and the health and blessings we enjoy each day. To me, that makes this a perfect day.
Oh, and if you need one more sinful delight Caramel hot chocolate with homemade caramel whipped cream. YUM.
Happy Thanksgiving everyone! Get ready for the post titles to be holiday songs – I get to enjoy them for one month a year, so I made the most of it!