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an autumn bouquet

Fall flowers

As you may know, my family has very talented eaters.  We love good food, so what better holiday for us than Thanksgiving- a holiday about feasting in order to demonstrate and give thanks for the overflowing bounty in our lives.

A green pumpkin in the sunshine

An heirloom Cinderella pumpkin from my garden.

This year we set up 2 days of feasting.  Afterall, the Pilgrims feasted for four days.  (I know this from the many trips I took as a kid to Plimoth Plantation.)

male and female pilgrim statues carrying fall produce

Pilgrims arrive for the feast.

Feast Part 1: Our Thanksgiving Morning Buffet

Last year we began a family tradition of watching the Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade while sampling a wide variety of morning treats, to delight the diverse palettes in our household.

A spread for Thanksgiving morning

Our Breakfast Buftet

For New York traditionalists, we had bagels with scallion cream cheese and smoked salmon.  Our healthy eaters enjoyed clemetines and the gigantic, candy-sweet red grapes I found this year.  For variety, I made guacamole, from Nicgella Lawson’s impossibly easy recipe, and served it with chips and salsa.  I baked Pumpkin Pecan Loaf from Williams Sonoma’s mix in this autumnal ceramic loaf pan they produced a few years ago.

Autumn sweet bread

Pumpkin Pecan Loaf

We also ordered a box of frozen Pain au Chocolate from them; I set them out the night before to rise, then baked them the next morning.

chocolate croissants rising

Pain au Chocolate rising in the early morning sunshine.

Gooey, dark chocolate deliciousness. To add some more protein, I left out 2 types of cheeses with whole grain crackers.  This year I included Saint Andre cheese because it’s so creamy and mild that it wouldn’t overpower the grapes.  Sharp cheddar added some bite.  We had several different kinds of nuts to add more fiber and protein and to satisfy those who enjoy salty snacks: almonds, cashews, and pistachios.

breakfast oon Thanksgiving morning

Our sumptuous spread before the sofa.

We toasted to the start of a delicious, festive weekend with Prosecco, and washed everything down with Italian coffee and this incredibly special tea.

Mariage Frer tea tin

Earl Grey Provence from Paris

My dear friend, Tawnya, hand carried this tin of Mariage Freres Earl Grey Provence tea all the way from Paris, and I saved it for a special occasion.  Along with bergamot, the genius Parisians have infused this tea with lavender.  Imagine the taste and smell of that!

 autumn weaths on white double doors

Time for dinner

We walked next door to The Brick House restaurant, in a historic building, for an early evening dinner.

lamposts and garden decorated for autumn

Sights along the way.

Part 2: Our Family Feast

Thanksgiving table setiing tablescape

The table awaits…

I cooked our Thanksgiving feast on Friday.  That way, all our relatives and friends could come, without any stressful conflicts of interest.

a fall wreath on a black paned door

Welcome family and friends

I don’t have any pictures of the food because I got caught up in last minute cooking (the gravy), warming everything up, and serving it all while it was nice and hot!

Native american sculptures fpr Thanksgiving

The original Thanksgiving participants

Normally (as you read in the previous post), I start cooking a month in advance and make everything from scratch.  This year Hurricane Sandy set everyone in our area back at least 2 weeks.  So, I made the dishes from scratch that I knew I couldn’t find elsewhere, like my yellow squash casserole, or that I knew I made best, like my butternut squash bisque.

Thanksgiving table setting with flowers

Bisque kept warm in a pumpkin tureen.

The bisque was mostly savory with just a hint of full bodied, pumpkiny nuttiness.  The recipe (which follows this text) came from an old cookbook my mother gave me to start me out cooking in my first apartment, right out of college.  I repeated last year’s menu for the turkey and stuffing (see the prior post).

Autumn flowers and candles

Our Thanksgiving Centerpiece

However, as a new twist, I ordered some simple vegetables, which I doctored up with my own spices, from 2 local gourmet caterers .  To the glazed carrots from The Market Basket, I added ground ginger; one of our guests took his first bite and exclaimed, “Oh, there’s ginger!”  To the mashed potatoes from Kings I added half and half to loosen and soften them, a little real butter, and ground nutmeg.  To the brussel sprouts, I added sautéed, chopped turkey bacon, then sprinkled them with grated parmesan cheese.

Brown Spode turkey plates

Special plates for a special day.

I actually could have gotten away with pretending to have made it all myself, but I hesitated when asked, which gave it all away.  So a bold, friendly guest shouted out, “Yes, you did! Just say you did!”  I replied with a grin, “I either made it myself or made it my own.”  My beloved hubby read the first section of a poem of thanksgiving by Howard Thurman, then he blessed the table. (Click the link to read this moving poem.)

Blessings lists in a green felt  basket with pumpkins

Count your blessings sheets for guests.

While we ate, we shared out the list of blessing everyone had made during appetizers (cleverly recycled from Thursday morning’s breakfast buffet).  But, the biggest blessing of all was being surrounded by loved ones, sharing our joy, and praising God.

Church steeple reaches for the sky

Thanks be to God!

Butternut Squash Bisque

(from American Home Cooking, 1993)

Serves 4 (I doubled this recipe for appetizer portions for 11 people)

Ingredients

2 TBsp butter

2 small onions, chopped

1 lb butternut squash, peeled, seeded, and cubed (I bought mine this way)

5 cups vegetable stock (or chicken stock)

½ lb potatoes, cubed (I used russet because these are meant to smooth out the soup)

1 tsp paprika (I used mild instead of hot)

½ whipping cream (optional)

Freshly cracked pepper

Directions

  1. Melt the butter in a Dutch oven.  Add the onions and cook until translucent and soft (about 5 minutes).
  2. Add the squash, stock, potatoes, and paprika.  Bring to a boil.  Reduce the heat to low, cover the pan, and simmer until vegetables are soft, about 35 minutes.
  3. Pour the soup into a food processor, or blender, and process until smooth. (I have to do this in batches because my food processor will not hold the whole panful of soup at one time.  I dump the puree from the food processor into a large bowl.  Once it’s all pureed, I dump the contents of the bowl back into the pan for the next steps.)
  4. Return the soup to the pan, and stir in the cream, if using (I always use the cream!)  Season with cracked pepper.  Reheat gently.

Wishing you every blessing,

Christina

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