Tuesday, November 30, 2010

È il giorno di tacchino! (It's turkey day!)

"Mr. Turkey, Mr. Turkey
Big and fat
I'm going to eat you
I'm going to eat you
Just like that!"
~taken from song Joshua sang in his pre-school Thanksgiving program

Another Thanksgiving arrived and I was determined not to deal with usual hustle and bustle of trying to get a week's worth of cooking (and eating) all in a day. For some reason, we Americans feel the need to stuff ourselves, along with a generally bland-tasting large bird, all in the name of being thankful every fourth Thursday of November.

Okay, so I am not against the holiday of Thanksgiving~ I do enjoy the cooking and eating and hanging out with family for a day, not to mention our crazy dessert & bunco time in the evening! I just think we need to realize how much we have to be thankful for everyday and how much the Lord takes care of our every need. It was with this thought that I purposely strove to make 2010's Thanksgiving different. Mary and I spent the Monday before helping out at church de-boning turkeys & making stuffing for their annual dinner on Thursday. Snow fell Monday night which gave David the day off Tuesday, so he joined us again at church de-boning more turkeys along with setting up tables and chairs for the 500 people they were expecting. After taking a walk in a snow-dusted Capitol Park and attending noon Mass, we headed to Straight from NY Pizza in downtown Salem for a needed and welcomed repast.

Wednesday found us preparing everything we were going to take to my folks while still being sure to take time to enjoy being together. After picking up Cari from her apartment, we headed to St. Joseph's for the Thanksgiving Vigil Mass. We returned home (along with Cari who would be spending the night- something her parents love having her do) and finished up a few last items- especially my traditional Thanksgiving cinnamon rolls. Cari worked on her gluten-free cornbread dressing so as to not have to make it at Grammie and Poppa's the next day.

After a good night's sleep, we headed over to the Pitalo's house with a carload of goodies. My facebook status read something like "headed over with cinnamon rolls, sweet potato souffle, cornbread dressing, two kinds of dinner rolls, 5 bottles of wine, hazelnut-pumpkin cheesecake...). It was fun to be able to try some new recipes for this year's feast- both because I wanted to as well as needing to for Cari's gluten-intolerance.

Upon our arrival, the coffee was brewing and bacon ready to go with the cinnamon rolls and the Macy's Parade. Normally, we watch the parade looking for the opportunity to comment on costumes or the lip-syncing of musical artists. This year we were all focused on one part of the parade- the Grants Pass, Oregon High School marching band. That's right, three of my nieces were in the parade! Needless to say, all other things stopped as we watched the girls (and the
rest of the band) strut their stuff along NYC's streets. Knowing the girls had already been having a wonderful week there~ my niece Jana had texted the kids and I a photo of St. Patrick's Cathedral on Wednesday which we all loved~ we were thrilled to see all their hard work pay off!

After the parade, the work commenced to finish up dinner. My dad was in the process of smoking two turkeys while there was a third in the roaster. Mary took over the making of the mashed
potatoes while David made the salad. I heated up the sweet potato souffle- made gluten free this year- and Cari's cornbread dressing along with my mom's delicious dressing and the sweet potatoes to be roasted.
I then got to work on my newest recipe "brussels sprouts with pistachios and lemon". Now, before you stop reading and do something else, hear me out. I grew up thinking this vegetable was from the nether-world and should be barred from being grown. This was due to the fact that my mom (like many mom's out there~ you know who you are) didn't quite know how to make these little orbs taste good. I can remember sitting down at the dinner table refusing to eat the two on my plate while she patiently sat waiting for me to do just that. It was because of this I chose never to serve them to my family. I decided this was the year to "never say never" and try making them in a way that would please people's palates. The dish turned out really delicious~ those that normally would have turned up their noses at brussels sprouts actually tried them, and there may have been one or two converts.
After a blessing prayed by both my dad Tom and grandpa Ed, we sat down to enjoy the fruits of our labors. Having most of my kids there (college boy Josh was enjoying a Pennsylvania farm Thanksgiving week with a fellow student for the week) along with numerous family members made for a bountiful feast of thanksgiving!

The evening was not quite over as friends came over after dinner for our annual Thanksgiving dessert and bunco night. With lots of delectable desserts- including Ron's Oreo Cheesecake, Angela's pumpkin-pecan pie, Shelly's no-bake cookies and peanut butter balls and my hazelnut pumpkin cheesecake with florentines- there was something for everyone to try! When dessert was finished, it was time for a rousing game of bunco~ the sound of rolling dice and laughter wafted throughout the house while the fireplace burned brightly and joy was present.

It came time to head out to our own homes which we did with well-sated stomachs and spirits. This year's Thanksgiving was one I think our forefathers and mothers would have been pleased with as we celebrated not only the bounty of our table but the copiousness of family and friends!

Here are a few recipes from our Thanksgiving dinner~ don't wait 'til next November to give them a try!

Brussels Sprouts with Pistachios & Lemon
(adapted from Bon Appetit)

3tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1/2 minced sweet onion
11/2pounds brussels sprouts, trimmed with leaves pulled from cores-discard cores
3/4cup pistachio nuts
2tbsp lemon juice

Heat oil in large non stick skillet over medium high heat. Add onion and stir for 2 minutes. Add brussels sprouts leaves and pistachios and sautee until leaves begin to soften but are still bright green, about 3 minutes.Drizzle with lemon juice and add salt and pepper to taste. Transfer to bowl and serve.

Cari's Cornbread Dressing
(adapted from Bon Appetit)

1 double batch gluten-free cornbread, cut into 1-inch cubes
5 tablespoons butter, divided
12 ounces fully cooked Chicken & Garlic sausages (about 4), halved lengthwise, then cut crosswise into 1/2-inch-wide pieces
1 medium fennel bulb, trimmed, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1 medium onion, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1 medium red bell pepper, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
2 tablespoons chopped fresh thyme
1/4 teaspoon coarse kosher salt plus additional for sprinkling
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper plus additional for sprinkling
2 cups low-salt chicken broth
1 large egg

Position rack in center of oven; preheat to 350°F. Spread cornbread in single layer on large baking sheet. Bake until dry and lightly browned, 30 to 35 minutes. Let cool.

DO AHEAD Can be made 1 day ahead. Store in airtight container at room temperature.

Melt 2 tablespoons butter in heavy large skillet over medium-high heat. Add sausage pieces; sauté until brown, about 4 minutes. Transfer sausage to large bowl.

Melt remaining 3 tablespoons butter in same skillet over medium-high heat. Add fennel, onion, and bell pepper; sprinkle with coarse salt and pepper. Sauté until onion is golden, 10 to 12 minutes. Add to bowl with sausage.

Preheat oven to 350°F. Add cornbread, thyme, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and 1/8 teaspoon pepper to vegetable-sausage mixture; mix gently. Whisk 2 cups broth and egg in medium bowl. Add broth mixture to cornbread mixture and toss. Transfer mixture to 13x9x2-inch glass baking dish.

Bake stuffing uncovered until crisp on top, about 45 minutes. Let stand 15 minutes.

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