A morning hike with clementines for snacking, turkeys colored from a traced hand and leftover sandwiches stuffed with all the fixings. So many little things to love about Thanksgiving! 🦃
Commercially speaking, Thanksgiving is an overlooked holiday. Retailers jump from Halloween to Christmas with barely a nod to this deserving day.
Case in point: we stopped in a convenience store last weekend on the drive home from a cross country meet and noticed boxes of Reese’s Christmas trees for sale－and it was still five days before Halloween!
Perhaps because it isn’t so commercial, Thanksgiving is a favorite holiday among many people I know. The only shopping required is at the grocery store, and what better time to embrace family, friends, good food, happy memories and the little things in life that really matter?
In that spirit, November’s Favorite Things post celebrates a handful of little things for which I’m thankful — like fun family traditions and tasty treats along with a few Favorite Things staples.
🧡Most importantly, I’d love to read what YOU love about this holiday as well as any and all happy memories and traditions that surround it.🧡
Things I love about Thanksgiving
- Remember tracing your hand and making it into a turkey? For a fun project on Thanksgiving Day, let children color their own hand turkeys on a piece of construction paper to use as a festive placemat. 🍽 (I remember one year we had feathers from the craft store to glue onto our turkeys, which I thought was quite special!)
- Most years, my extended family starts Thanksgiving day with a hike on a trail selected by my father and/or father-in-law. On occasion, we’ve run in a local Turkey Trot 5K, and weather dependent, the hike has sometimes been replaced by an afternoon walk through our neighborhood. When the kids were little, my mother-in-law always sent us off with plenty of clementines for snacking. 🧡
- At some point during our Thanksgiving meal, we take turns sharing something for which we’re thankful. It’s a small but welcome reminder of the big and little things that are meaningful to those around us. Oftentimes the answers are obvious (but no less important), but on occasion someone reveals something especially poignant or unexpected.🥰
- It’s also fun to ask everyone around the table what their favorite Thanksgiving dish is. Adding the least favorite could be even more entertaining! (Either way, a mere mention of my love of sweet potatoes is sure to bring an impassioned dissent from my younger son!)
- Speaking of food, beyond the aforementioned sweet potatoes, some of my personal favorites include the turkey (thigh meat!), corn spoon bread, my mom’s stuffing, make-ahead mashed potatoes and Jeweled cranberry sauce. For a lighter offering, this crisp salad complements the traditional menu quite well. For a sweet ending, pumpkin pie cake and butterscotch haystacks are a little different than the usual pies but always a hit－and easy to make in advance. For a special start to the day, we all enjoy this coffee cake or these incredibly easy overnight sticky buns. My grandmother’s sausage and egg casserole has legions of fans, too. My dad will tell you that Apple Crumb Cake can be served twice, once as a coffee cake for breakfast or brunch and again for dessert after the turkey dinner!
Thoughts for the month
My mother-in-law remembers the first turkey she served her family as a newlywed: it was overcooked and the drumsticks literally fell off the turkey as the platter was placed on the table. She was mortified that her first effort fell short of what her mother and grandmother had always served. But guess what? Everyone still loved the meal, had a fabulous time, and she’s gotten lots of mileage and laughs out of the story in the years since.
With a big holiday meal on the horizon, we could discuss all sorts of tips aimed at producing a golden, juicy turkey served alongside a bevy of mouth-watering side dishes, all perfectly hot and looking picture-perfect. But striving for perfection (or even near perfection) is stressful. Accordingly, other than keeping a detailed list to stay as organized as possible, my best tip is to keep the menu simple－and if someone offers to help, graciously accept! This way, the stress level is low and the enjoyment factor is high. My grandmother and mom always relied on plain old peas and corn (from the freezer) for two of the sides. Most everyone doused them with gravy anyway, and those who didn’t were more than content with a sprinkle of salt and pepper.
Similarly, I remember when my grandmother began cooking the turkey the day before Thanksgiving. She’d have my grandfather carve it and let the meat steep in the pan juices overnight. On Thanksgiving Day, she’d issue a brief apology because nobody partook of the delicious aroma wafting from her kitchen the day before. But guess what? The kitchen stilled smelled pretty great and the turkey meat was juicer than ever having soaked in the pan juices. Plus it worked better for my grandmother, who did a lot as it was…and there were fewer big pans to wash after the big deal!
Helpful hint for small and large gatherings alike
Perhaps you’re cooking for two and don’t need a whole turkey － or maybe one turkey might not be enough? (There must be plenty for leftovers!) Slow Cooker Turkey Breast ⇩⇩ is an easy way to cook tender white meat without taking up oven space, which can be in short supply on Thanksgiving Day! For extra juicy white meat that works well with this preparation, don’t miss my grandmother’s tip, above.
Favorite new (or new-to-me) product
I discovered Food Should Taste Good Sweet Potato Tortilla Chips in an airport a year or so ago and they have become my absolute favorite savory snack. The chips are lightly salted, super crunchy and a small handful staves off pre-dinner hunger nicely. The taste of sweet potato is noticeable yet mild, and the root vegetable theme seems especially seasonal. The ingredient list is short and recognizable, and the nutrition stats are preferable to many other chips and similar snacks. They also happen to be dairy- and gluten-free, non-GMO and kosher.
Funny of the month
I’m Crusty Drumsticks, how about you?
Book of the month: How to Walk Away by Katherine Center
How to Walk Away by Katherine Center － The opening chapter reeled me in like no recent book has. I was passing the time at my monthly allergy shot appointment, where I get a shot in each arm. I then have to wait 30 minutes before getting checked by the nurse so I can be on my merry way. I track my time with a digital timer that the nurse provides. When it beeps, the nurse quickly inspects my arms for a reaction. All this is to say that I started this book while I was waiting. Somewhere along the way, I checked the timer and time was up － but I never heard the alarm, which is a rather persistent, clearly audible beep. When I went to see the nurse, I said “Either the beeper is broken or I was so absorbed in this book that I didn’t hear it!”
I don’t want to provide too many details because the plot begins in earnest in Chapter 1. (Hence my not noticing the beep!) Suffice it to say that this page turner is a story about facing major life challenges and sometimes difficult family relationships. Margaret, the main character, copes with her newfound place in life with an engaging sense of humor, understandably laced with a bit of sarcasm. Her voice makes reading this story effortless. At times, you will likely be horrified by her family members, but I venture to say you’ll grow to love her spirited sister.
I’ve been reading mostly nonfiction recently, and Center’s gripping story and easy writing style made this a welcome change of pace. Though a work of fiction, Center heavily researched the subject matter for accuracy, which I always appreciate.
Kitchen of the month
The top pick for this month was a close call among three of the featured kitchens. The following was the winner by a smidge. Thanks to the bright, open design, readers who wouldn’t typically gravitate towards black cabinets embraced them. One small detail to which many objected was the curved counter edges. For those who may not be aware, I post a new kitchen every Friday morning on my Facebook page and would love for you to weigh in!
🍁As November begins, enjoy the falling leaves, the frosty mornings, the warm sweaters… and wishing you a very happy Thanksgiving! 🍁