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The Pleasure, The Privlege is Mine

This little guy, along with his brother, are packed away for what I hope is another year of service.
I don't even remember where I bought them, but they sure add a touch of whimsy to the table, speaking of which, for once I had both tables fully set by the time the family arrived.
Although I do the cooking, this holiday is not about me, instead I want to bring all of my loved ones to the table, including those who are no longer with us. The glasses belonged to my Mother for the longest time before I inherited them. She, in turn, inherited them from my Father's Uncle, so you know they are old as the hills. The new kitchen table helped add more seating, covered here with a tablecloth Maureen no longer wanted.
As a newlywed I received an eight place set of china which has gone unused for years now. Not because I don't like it, mind you, but with 14 adults to feed, it just doesn't do the trick anymore. Nor, for that matter, has it for ages. In one of those times Angela insisted she needed something new, she donated her barely used flatware to me which worked beautifully as I think there are 12 place settings. Plus, she, once again, loaned me her roasting pan. Now you would think I'd have my own, but the truth is, I do not have storage space for a once-a-year pan.

You may have noticed it has been some days since I last blogged, and that would be because I went about things the hard way, making just about everything from scratch, beginning with bread on Monday to use for the dressing.
After letting it sit for two days, I then cut it all into cubes, toasted them in the oven on Wednesday evening, so it would be ready for assembly on Thanksgiving day. It all went according to plan.
As well, I made brown chicken stock for the gravy,
using the method from the Flying Biscuit Cafe cookbook Matt gave me years ago. Instead of just dumping the ingredients into the stockpot, you brown everything first, including the onions with the papery skin still attached. Obviously straining is required.

Ever since I've been next to Missy at the WG market, I've been hooked on pimento cheese, buying hers to have on hand. Well, why not make my own? The snack tray I put out before dinner looked so colorful with pimento cheese as the centerpiece.
And yes, those are homemade pickles and roasted almonds. The crackers are from a package.

Generally I try to serve some of my families favorites, however, chocolate is usually not part of our tradition. Perhaps it should be from now on? Combining two things I've learned this year.
Parchment paper and the lettuce knife for cutting the brownies cleanly--a winning combination. Perfect squares, not so much! By the way, these brownies were Tex-Mex, with added cinnamon and red pepper.

Cooking vegan is not new to me, although it still remains challenging. What to fix for Pat and Ruth weighed on me for days. Eventually I settled on this menu for them:

  • Roasted vegetables including eggplant, zucchini, yellow squash, red onions, white onions, orange pepper, and Cubanella pepper, all mixed with olive oil, and a few splashes of balsamic vinegar. 
  • Tabbouleh style salad with Israeli couscous as the grain. After toasting the couscous, I mixed in lemon zest and juice, olive oil, a bunch of fresh mint, and the same for Italian parsley. Lots of chopping going on. Oh yeah, two seeded tomatoes, diced fine. 
  • Green salad which worked for all as I made the salad dressing vegan.
  • Mashed potatoes using olive oil and potato water for mashing.
  • Plain corn, another Lisa must have.
  • Green beans with a toasted bread crumb and lemon zest topping
  • Rolls made with shortening rather than butter
  • Finally, a gingerbread pumpkin loaf with walnuts using white vinegar in place of eggs
I'm pretty sure they liked it all as most everything was gone when it was time to clean up. I nearly forgot the cranberry sauce made earlier in the week. In my youth cranberry sauce was nothing I cared about, but these days I really like it. Not only is it easy to make yourself, but it adds a great color splash to a Thanksgiving plate. I cooked the cranberries with 1/2 cup water, same for sugar, or so I think, adding a few drops of orange oil, as well as orange zest off the stove. After tasting it I thought it seemed a tad sweet, so I added about 1/2 t of chipotle chili powder. Nice.

Re-visiting pumpkin pie is how they titled the recipe in Cook's Illustrated. Was it worth the trouble? I think so. Instead of whirring all the ingredients in the blender, something I can pretty much do in my sleep, I followed their recipe beginning with cooking the can of pumpkin with a can of candied yams on the stove. Another change was pre-cooking the pie crust, first with weights, then without, so the filling did not make the crust soggy. Brilliant idea as far that was concerned. Whipping cream, milk, a bunch of eggs, maple syrup and spices, and there you have it. Wonderfully creamy is how it turned out. Would I go to all the trouble again--yes, I would.

Gracing the big table, the flowers sent by my brother-in-law Danny looked lovely in an orange vase no less.
Which reminds me, I'm supposed to change the water which I'll do when I'm done with this!

Brining the turkey...would I do that again? I'm not sure. When Bruce picked up the pan from Angela's house, she sent along a cooking bag which is what I used on Wednesday night. Calling for a four hour brine in salted water, I did just that, placing it in the refrigerator in my old "fix and mix" Tupperware bowl. The trouble is, I had to stay up until 11, which we all know is way past my bedtime! I then dried it all off, placing it on a cooking rack set over one of my handy dandy old pizza pans, uncovered in the fridge for the overnight rest. Although everyone seemed to like it, I'm not sure it was any better than any other turkey I've cooked in the past. Lots more to it, but one thing I did learn is that you can cook a turkey pretty quickly if the oven is set to 400 degrees throughout. Too quickly in this case as some folks came about an hour late for various reasons. That was more likely the culprit, too long in the oven, but I can't be sure, so perhaps I'll give it a go one more time.

Fallon, Bill's girlfriend, remarked that I was so cool and calm this Thanksgiving, and she was right. Because I'd spent part of the previous four days preparing, things just fell into place. Now that is a Thanksgiving tradition, if possible, I plan to finesse!

You would think after so many, many years of doing it, there would be nothing new to learn, but that is not true for me; always, there is always something new to learn. For a few years, when I was a young woman, Thanksgiving was a holiday I normally worked when employed at the hospital. For the life of me I can't remember who did the cooking then, but for as many years as I can remember, I've done Thanksgiving, while Lisa does Christmas for an even larger crowd. It is no wonder she stayed until after 9PM, relaxing, and chatting!

Who was missing? Our sisters Carol and Nancy, Matt, Tom, Jonathan, Alissa, my parents and more. They were missing only from the table, not, however, from our hearts. We have so very much to be thankful for around here. Sometimes, when I stop to think about how two kids really, married young, raised four sons, and pretty much, up to this point, made good, I'm overwhelmed with gratitude. So, indeed, the pleasure, the privilege is mine to share our bounty with our loved ones.
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