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Let's give thanks...

I love Thanksgiving. I love planning my menu. I love setting my table. I love gathering around the table. I love hearing what others are thankful for. And I love cooking all day. I also love that it is the unofficial start to the Christmas season, but we will get into that later. My freshman year in college, my friends and I all decided that before we left for break we should all have our own Thanksgiving dinner. This is now called Friendsgiving, but that wasn't a thing yet. I lived on campus, but it was a campus apartment, so we had a "kitchen". Picture a closet with a fridge and a stove. I love the ignorant confidence we all had about cooking a Thanksgiving feast. In my memory, it turned out great, but I wonder if my current self would agree.

That was the first of many Thanksgiving meals I have prepared. Once I coupled with my southern husband, the menu grew, as it is customary to have mac and cheese and biscuits at ALL celebratory meals in the south. I was resistant at first because, do we really need another starch on the table?, but after 15 years, it's as much a part of Thanksgiving dinner as turkey or mashed potatoes.

This year, we are traveling to visit my family for Thanksgiving in Seattle. My smart, tenacious, badass of a sister in law, (shout out to Stephanie!) just had the grand opening of a totally new kind of grocery store she founded called Kitchen and Market. They have been offering meal kits since the beginning of the pandemic, but now officially have a store in Pike Place Market. One of the amazing concepts that sets this store apart from others is that they have prepped dinner kits ready to take home and "pop in the oven". And of course they are offering Thanksgiving feasts. Imagine, your turkey is pre-brined, pre-seasoned and ready to cook. All of the ingredients you need for an amazing dinner are prepped and ready. If you live in the Seattle area, check it out Or you could drop by the store in Pike Place near Piroshki Piroshki.

Naturally, we will be supporting the store and using the meal kit for our Thanksgiving meal. While I know it will be delicious, and easy-peasy ( because someone else has done all of the heavy lifting), I am a little sad to not be using the tried and true thanksgiving favorites this year. Through lots of trial and error, I have found my go to recipes and methods for certain parts of my meal, and so I thought I would share those with you here.

My go-to Thanksgiving turkey recipe is from Thomas Keller. It's a 2-3 day prep process, but it's worth it! 1 day in a brine, and at least 24 hours of air drying in the fridge. If you don't have the fridge space, this one may not be for you. I have a classic freezer on top, normal fridge and somehow I find a way to make it work, because it's the best I have made, hands down. The turkey comes out perfectly browned and moist.

Click the link below for the full recipe. This pic was taken the year that I played with making the turkey a day early, carving, and reheating. It actually worked really well, and cut down significantly on kitchen stress and overheating on the "big day". I learned that pearl from a William Sonoma article that I have attached below. I follow the Thomas Keller recipe to the T, which is rare for me, but who am I to think I can do better than Thomas friggin' Keller!

There is always someone attending Thanksgiving that prefers the canned cranberry "sauce". It is best served straight out of the can with the corrugated can marks left in it. For those who prefer something homemade, here is my recipe for Orange Spice Cranberry Sauce.

I did not grow up in a green bean casserole family, and if you are a die hard lover of the GBC, skip ahead, as I like to keep my green beans simple. After trimming my stems, I toss my green beans (I prefer the small haricot vert, but whatever's clever) in a pan with EVOO, and let this chill out for a minute. I like to get a little blistering on the skin. After a couple of turns in the oil to get some good caramelization, I add a HEALTHY amount of minced garlic, probably 3-4 cloves, depending on their size, a big pinch of salt, and about 1 tsp of red pepper flakes. Once the garlic is fragrant, I add roughly 1/3 cup water. Then, I turn the heat down to medium and let them steam for about 7-10 minutes. And that's about it! I'm a lover of all things lemon, so I will usually zest a half of a lemon, toss it around, and finish with a little flakey salt. Voila!

One thing I love about a simple prep on something is that you can really taste each ingredient. Here are a few of my faves!

Setting a beautiful table to be gather around can seem daunting if you have never done it before. You don't need fancy china or silver flatware to create a elegant table scape. Here are a few tips to create a lovely table without spending a fortune.

  • Brown butcher paper: I have used brown butcher paper in soooooo many ways over the years. It is so versatile, so feel free to get a big roll:) It makes a rustic placemat atop a simple tablecloth ( or large flat bed sheet) that you can customize with each guest's name. One year, my daughter and I wrote each guest's name and the prompt "I am thankful for..." on the butcher paper placemats. I have also used it as a tablecloth in and of itself on the kids table. Setting crayons and markers for the kiddos to play with.

  • Eucalyptus Leaves: These are almost always available at Trader Joe's, and other grocery stores. They are inexpensive and look great laying flat on a table. You don't want to put big centerpieces on the table for 2 reasons: You want your guests to be able to see each other, and you will likely have food on the table, or at the very least wine.

  • White Plates: I am a big fan of white dishes for a couple of reasons. 1. The food is the show piece, a busy pattern on china can really distract from how beautiful the food is. 2. It never goes out of style. 3. You can change the vibe on a table with linens, flowers, candles, and white will work with whatever esthetic you are going for. I have collected many white plates over the years, from antique stores, Homegoods, Ross, etc. They don't all have to be exactly the same as long as they are all white your table will look great! Also, there are great quality, nice looking disposable plates if you must, but they are nearly the cost of real plates at a discount store. If you have space to store them, I say spring for the real ones.

  • Rosemary: A couple of sprigs of rosemary in a bud vase, or tied around a napkin (in lieu of a napkin ring) really adds natural beauty and smells great.

  • Other accents: Little pumpkins, votive candles, bottles of wine with flowers in them, succulent arrangements.

However you are celebrating Thanksgiving this year, I hope that you are able to stay rooted in the intention of the day. Sometimes people get caught up in table settings, food, family tensions, or making sure that they have an extremely profound message of gratitude, and the pressure of perfection leads to overwhelm (guilty!). Take a moment on Thanksgiving to stop. Stop talking, stop cooking, stop stressing and look around. What do you see? Hopefully, you see people you love, a warm home, a bountiful feast. All things to be grateful, and also things that are easily taken for granted. Create a moment for yourself to pause, and let the day wash over you. That's where you will find authentic gratitude and joy. Happy Thanksgiving!!

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