“Better is a dry morsel with quietness, than a house full of feasting with strife.” Proverbs 16:33
I guess I am blessed that I rather savor, as much the smorgasbord of foods, as the colorful personalities in my family. I appreciate the ones that do all the talking, because even though I can’t get a word in edgewise, and have forgotten what I was going to say 20 minutes ago (trying to be polite and not interrupt until there was finally a lull), must confess that at least it’s never boring. And when they all go home, the house is sooooo quiet – sometimes in a good way, sometimes in a sad way, but most always in an entertaining way that lingers in my thoughts.
I am thankful for the scholarly brainiacs who bring up politics, money, and religion and have intelligent things to say. Even though I have a hard time keeping up sometimes and my meager contributions aren’t well respected, they keep me abreast with what’s going on in the world, and entice me to later investigate some things I wasn’t aware of. Plus they help me to form more solid opinions and develop my anger management and diplomacy skills, which are always good skills to hone.
I could not be more grateful for the hovering ladies who congregate underfoot in my cramped kitchen as I’m trying to put the finishing touches on my dishes, for even though there are too many cooks in my kitchen, they are usually the ones who also help clean everything up after, and cheerfully put it all away.
I tolerate the booming television and adore the maniac sports fans watching it, for they are usually fun loving and playful – the ones that grab me and put me in a headlock for no particular reason while I’m pulling a pan of cookies from the oven and being waaaaay too serious about things. They help me keep my sense of humor.
And the kids, while scurrying dangerously underfoot and needy of a million things when I’m a little bit stressed over the chaos already, are fun to interview over dinner and are always up for crafting and games. They say the dangdest things that stay with you for years. And as long as they realize they MUST <hands on hips – stern mommy face> use the coozies (with their names on them) that I gave to them, to identify their beverages, so that I don’t find a landfill of opened and half drank sodas all over my house later, we’ll be good to go. Having a big garage with games and toys, and several things for them to do – where they can be a little loud without being disruptive, and are basically unable to really break anything, is also a sanity saver.
Unlike Christmas, and even Easter, which have evolved over the years from a blessed religious observance to a major shopping ordeal, Thanksgiving seems to have remained untainted from the time of John Smith & the Pilgrims, Honest Abe’s proclamation, and to our modern day. I guess that is what I love most about it. Gratefulness to God and eating with people are my most favorite things in the world. I adore the simplicity of the holiday! Especially when everyone shares the cooking and I’ve pretty much done all mine the day before and have only to reheat or drag out from the ice box.
Honestly, though November in our house is anything but simple. It is our family’s month of madness. There are at least two birthdays a week starting the last week of October and stretching into December, with anniversaries peppered in here and there. The last Thursday in November is particularly crazy. Why my husband and I chose to be married on November 24th is a mystery to me. We share our day with the birthdays of both my mom and his sister. And then about every 4 years Thanksgiving lands on us too. I really don’t know what we were thinking. Who gets married at Thanksgiving? Two people, I guess, who desperately wanted to get out of Wyoming when the snow flies. Consequently, between the grocery list and gift list, by the time Christmas has arrived we’re just flat, stinkin’ broke and feel like we’ve run a marathon! I don’t want to go shopping. I don’t want to put up a tree. I just want to pass out. That’s probably why I appreciate the simplicity of Thanksgiving, and only wish I could find a way to make it less expensive.
This is where my sister comes in. The coupon queen. The bargain goddess. The gal that can be counted upon to find a way (if there is one) to kill a dozen birds with one stone. I’m not being sarcastic. I marvel at her… even if I sometimes feel a little like an item on her to-do list. She’s got this holiday figured out, for sure. She and her husband tried for years to house hop and eat all day long to make everyone happy, but for a couple with ALL of their family in town it only took a couple of years to realize a person can’t eat that much food, or be in so many places at the same time. So she decided to host the shindig at her house and invite all of us there. She and hubbie provided the turkey and we all brought our favorite dishes. It all worked out magnificently for us. We each got to play chef but none of us were overloading our ovens. It was very budget friendly. And we all got to see each other.
My sister usually laid out snacks for all of us to nibble on until the meal was ready, and all the guests had arrived. Then we formed a buffet line around her kitchen counter, after first gathering to ask God’s blessing on our meal. She cleared her living room of furniture and set up tables and chairs in the space, and we all sat together and stuffed ourselves until we all looked like a clan of Jabba-the-Huts or Fat B@$+@>)$ from Austin Powers – “Get in my belly!” Karen and Steve always made some sort of bread to die for, and desserts that made your tongue want to divorce your mouth and just live with the pie forever. I usually made a potato casserole and an everything-but-the-kitchen-sink stuffing. Someone in our clan always brought mashed potatoes, green bean casserole, and yams. We always had turkey and gravy, fresh made cranberry relish, and a Watergate Salad.
After supper the men would sneak off to watch the football game, the women would clean the kitchen and make TV dinners of all the left-overs, which we divvied up among ourselves. I always brought a craft for us all to do – usually something that we could use at Christmas, like one year we made wreaths out of green-painted clothespins and wire clothes hangers bent into hoops and then adorned with a big fancy bow, to hang on the wall and pin our Christmas cards on – I still use mine to this day. Another year we made peanut butter and birdseed ornaments with rice cakes and string, to hang in the trees outside. Another year we painted pots and planted narcissus bulbs in them that bloomed at Christmas.
By the time we finished with crafts the men were usually done with the game and we’d all gather back around the tables to play games. It became a hobby of mine to look for games at second hand stores and yard sales, and consequently I’ve amassed quite a collection. We always spent a little bit of time muddling our way through the rules of our new games, and then after playing them we’d pull out favorites from past years. People were always welcome to bring a favorite game for us to try. In between games we’d eat dessert, or drag out leftovers to snack on. My sister always kept the veggie tray loaded, and the chip bowls full.
When we couldn’t keep our eyes open any longer, we’d gather up our leftovers from the fridge, if there were any left, along with our crafts and games and headed for home, feeling very filled and fulfilled. It was this awesome and wonderful yearly tradition…
And then the Hoffman’s moved to Texas. Bye-bye old traditions and crowded house. Bye-bye pot luck. Bye-bye craft party and family games. Bye-bye cold and snow. Bye-bye noisy, bustling house. <sigh>
Our first Thanksgiving in Texas we went out for dinner. We made reservations at Neals in Concan. That’s not a bad tradition to have – except we decided that if we ever do it again we’ll order one dinner to eat there and one dinner to bring home, so we can have leftovers. The next year we were loath to have a *quiet house* Thanksgiving, so husband invited some of the orphans from his work who had to work the holiday and didn’t have any family here. We actually did that for the next several years, and a couple of the years the orphans were also Marines; and it felt really good to get to do something nice for them.
The first Texas Thanksgiving craft I did was to take my garden’s overabundance of cayenne peppers and make wreaths and ristras out of them.
And this year the growing-like-weeds grandkids are going to color and make finger puppets of the Peanuts gang, and learn to play Yatzee with their granny, just like their grandpa used to play with his grandma every Thanksgiving! And we’re going to snack on popcorn, jelly beans, and pretzels while we watch A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving on DVD.
Do you have a favorite Thanksgiving dish? These are the favorite things my kids always asked me to make….
There’s always a Veggie Platter: (also showing in this photo, clockwise from top left: bottle of Pinio Noir wine, Pumpkin Pie, Pecan Cobbler, Salted Carmel Apples, Salted Caramels, Watergate Salad, Cranberry Relish, Ambrosia, and a Turkey veggie platter with individual cups of veggie dip).
And always deviled eggs:
We ALWAYS have TURKEY at Thanksgiving. That’s a tradition that will always be….but because the hubbie has never been a big fan of turkey, I try to change it up a little every year – make it different from the way I made it the year before. My personal favorite is just the good old fashioned roasted buttery Butterball, golden on the outside and juicy on the inside, served on a platter surrounded with herbs and fruits, just like the Norman Rockwell painting, with a boat-full of smooth and silky turkey gravy. MMM…mmm…mmm. While I die and drool, this is NOT husband’s favorite, sooooo…after burning him out on baked Turkey for several years, I decided one year to try stuffing the bird with fresh Herbs de Provence, garlic and onions, and an orange and apple (halved), and then I grilled it out on the BBQ grill, and you know what? It was really a nice change of pace. And I decided I liked change. So, the next year after that we got a smoked turkey (ordered it from a local guy that did them), and honestly, who doesn’t love smoked turkey? Another year we did a Cajun, deep-fried turkey. OMGoodness – YUM! Who doesn’t love fried turkey? And finally last year I brined the turkey, using Pioneer Woman’s recipe, and baked it in the oven as per her meticulously photographed instructions. I even went so far as to order an organic turkey from the butcher at the grocery store, just to see it if made any difference – and yes, it was expensive, but holy cow was that fantastic. I guess the only ways left are the Turducken, or to just make sticky-smoky glazed turkey drumsticks – just the drumsticks, or to rub the whole giant bird down with a spicy dry rub, poke a few jalapeno slices under the skin, cover it in bacon (or Pancetta), and roast it in the roaster! Mmmm…health food. Yes…I think I will give that one a try this year. And then maybe we could change up the brines. And when I have exhausted all possibilities I guess we’ll take a walk down memory lane.
HASHBROWN POTATO CASSEROLE
2 lb pkg frozen hash browns
1 stick butter, melted
1 cup chopped onion
1 can cream of chicken soup
8 oz. carton sour cream
2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
Garlic Salt to taste
2 cups corn flakes, (plus ½ stick butter, melted)
In a large bowl mix hash browns, 1 stick butter, onion, soup, sour cream, and cheddar cheese, and garlic salt. Toss until combined. Spoon into large, buttered, oblong baking pan. In a large Ziploc bag crush cornflakes and toss with melted ½ stick of butter. Sprinkle over potatoes in an even layer. Bake at 350 degrees for 1 hour.
½ loaf sour dough bread cubed, toasted, crusts removed
1 small pan day old cornbread, crumbled
½ loaf whole wheat, crusts removed, cubed and dried (or may substitute salad croutons)
1 stick butter
1 large onion, chopped
1 cup celery, chopped
½ small pkg fresh mushrooms, chopped
½ cup cooked wild rice
1 large can chicken broth (or 2 cartons)
2 Tbsp poultry seasoning
1 tsp. Thyme
Salt and pepper
Place bread cubes and crumbles in a large bowl. Sauté onions and celery in ½ stick butter until translucent and tender. Toss in with bread. Sauté mushrooms in ½ stick butter until tender and butter is absorbed. Toss in with bread. Add cooked rice and seasonings to taste. Pour broth over bread and toss until moistened. Spoon mixture into a large buttered baking pan. Cover with foil and bake for 45 minutes. Uncover and bake another 30 minutes. Spoon turkey gravy over and serve piping hot.
GREEN BEAN CASSEROLE
1 large bag frozen green beans
2 Tbsp butter
½ cup chopped onion
2 cups sliced portabella mushrooms
1 can cream of mushroom soup, (I like Amy’s Mushroom Bisque)
1 cup heavy cream
1 cup gruyere cheese, shredded
½ lb crispy fried bacon, crumbled
¼ cup toasted sliced almonds
1 can Durkee French fried onions
Sauté onions and mushrooms in butter until mushrooms are tender and butter is absorbed. Stir in soup, cream, and cheese. Add salt and pepper to taste. Stir in green beans and toss to coat. Transfer to a buttered casserole dish. Mix bacon almonds and French fried onions in a bag and sprinkle over green beans. Bake in 350 degree oven for 45 minutes, or until green beans are tender and bubbling.
SWEET POTATO BAKE
4 sweet potatoes baked until tender and scooped out of the skins
1/2 cup sugar (may substitute honey, agave nectar, or maple syrup)
1/3 cup butter, melted
½ cup milk
2 eggs, beaten
2 tsp Vanilla extract
1 cup chopped pecans
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/3 cup flour
1/3 cup butter
Heat oven to 375 degrees. Mix sweet potatoes with remaining 5 ingredients. Transfer to casserole dish. In Ziploc bag mix topping ingredients and sprinkle over sweet potatoes. Bake for 20 to 30 minutes or until lightly browned on top.
4 Turkey Wings
2 medium onions, quartered
8 cups Turkey broth
¾ cup chopped carrot and celery
½ tsp Thyme
½ cup flour
4 Tbsp butter
Pepper to taste
Bake wings in oven (400 degrees) for 1 ¼ hours. Put wings, onions, carrots, celery, and thyme into the turkey broth in a large pot on stove. Bring to boil and reduce to simmer for 1 ½ hours. Remove wings and take meat off the bone, discarding skin and bones. Set meat aside. Strain broth and set aside. Melt butter in a large sauce pan and as soon as it is foamy whisk in flour. Cook stirring continuously until flour begins to turn golden, then whisk in the hot broth. Stir continuously over high heat until thickened. Taste, add salt and pepper, taste again, add shredded turkey wing meat, then remove from burner, cover it, and place where it will stay warm until ready to serve.
1 dozen small to medium jalapenos
1 block cream cheese, softened
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
1/2 lb. crispy crumbled bacon
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cut jalapenos in half lengthwise. Use a spoon to scoop out seeds and membranes. Set aside. In a small bowl mix cream cheese and shredded cheese together. Spoon this mixture into jalapeno halves. Sprinkle bacon crumbles on top of each jalapeno half. Place on cookie sheet and bake in oven just until cheese becomes melty, about 8 minutes. Remove from oven and serve.
CRANBERRY RELISH MOLD
1 bag fresh Ocean Spray cranberries
½ cup chopped celery
1 orange w/ peel left on, cut into quarters
1 apple, seeded but not peeled, and cut into quarters
½ cup chopped walnuts
1 cup sugar (or more to taste)
1 large package cranberry Jell-O
Whirl first 6 ingredients in a food processor until minced into small pieces. In separate bowl add hot water to Jell-O as directed on package and stir until dissolved. Add cranberry mixture from food processor and stir to combine. Place in a bowl, cover with plastic, and refrigerate for at least 4 hours. If you desire to mold the relish, drain cranberry mixture in strainer or squeeze through paper towels before adding to Jell-O. Spoon into a donut shaped Jell-O mold and chill for several hours until ready to serve.
2 small cans crushed pineapple with juice
2 small boxes Pistachio Pudding mix
1 9-oz carton Cool Whip
2 cups miniature marshmallows
2/3 cup chopped walnuts
Combine pineapple with pudding in medium bowl; add whipped cream, marshmallows and nuts. Fold until combined. Chill several hours or overnight before serving.
LIBBY’S FAMOUS PUMPKIN PIE
1 deep dish pie crust (homemade or store bought – I usually always cheated)
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
2 large eggs
1 can (15 ounces) Libby’s 100 percent pure pumpkin
1 can (12 ounces) evaporated milk, preferably Nestle Carnation
Whipped cream, for serving
Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Fit dough into a 9-inch deep-dish glass pie plate, pressing it into the edges. Trim to a 1-inch overhang all around. Crimp edge as desired. Prick bottom of dough all over with a fork; set aside. (*I like to crush some pecans and scatter them on the pie crust, and then press them down in.)
In a small bowl, mix together, sugar, cinnamon, salt, ginger, and cloves. Beat eggs together in a large bowl. Add sugar mixture and pumpkin; stir to combine. Stir in evaporated milk until well combined. (*I add a TBSP of Vanilla!!!)
Pour mixture into pie shell and bake for 15 minutes. Reduce temperature to 350 degrees; bake until filling is set, 20 to 30 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack and let cool 2 hours. Serve with whipped cream, if desired, or place in refrigerator until ready to serve.
MRS-H’s BOURBON PECAN COBBLER
1 cup oat flour (1 cup regular oatmeal processed to a fine powder)
1 cup all-purpose flour
¼ teaspoon baking soda
1/2 stick butter, softened
2 cups Buttermilk
2 cups light corn syrup
2 cups packed brown sugar
6 Tablespoons butter, melted
¼ teaspoon of salt
1 eggs, slightly beaten
¼ cup half and half
2 Tablespoons vanilla extract
2 Tablespoons of Bourbon
3 cups pecans, coarsely chopped
Pre-heat oven to 375ºF. Generously butter a 13 X 9 inch pan.
In a large bowl mix together all cobbler CRUST ingredients, and then spoon into buttered pan. Set aside.
To prepare sauce, combine corn syrup, sugar, butter, and dash of salt in a small saucepan over medium heat, stirring just until sugar melts; bring to a boil. Cook 5 minutes or until amber colored; remove from heat. Break the egg into the half-and-half and beat until mixed. Slowly drizzle egg mixture into sauce, stirring constantly with a whisk until fully incorporated. Add vanilla and bourbon; whisk until smooth. Add pecans. Pour over the crust.
Bake for approximately 40 minutes, or until edges look crispy. Allow the cobbler to cool for 20-25 minutes before serving.
I love the tradition that so many have of spending all of November proclaiming the things they are thankful for. What if we only got to keep the specific things that we thanked God for? That’s something to think about for sure. And on that note, I am soooo thankful for God’s extravagant generosity and love towards me in spite of my often ingratitude, and I pray that I be more aware of the things He does for me every moment of the day and night. May I always thank Him for all the prayers He’s answered, and thank Him for all the plans He has for me, and all the plans He has for my family. I thank Him too for the brave men and women who made the treacherous trip to this country on the Mayflower, many giving their lives in the hopes for a new opportunity here, and religious freedom. I am thankful for the presidents we’ve had in this country that have loved and served and feared God, and led us with integrity and grit. I hope and pray that you, my dear reader (and new friend), have a big wonderful Thanksgiving surrounded by friends and family who love you and are dearly loved in return, and that you will know the depth and width and breadth of God’s love for you. IJN