Each year I come up with a menu for Thanksgiving, and include a lot of the recipes, so that we can share, anticipate and get excited about our upcoming holiday together. (there are 2 files of recipes linked). And it’s a way to share with our people who can’t make it to be with us.
This year, my inspiration was really that whole California Ranch kind of idea – so ingredients like nuts, fresh herbs, grapes and cheeses have to play a role. Of course, I also have to include traditional elements like turkey, cranberries, corn, squash and sweet potatoes of some variety. And this year, I wanted to have some familiar traditional favorites for my folks too – things that we grew up with. Finally, we are a family that has football on TV during the day. While we will likely have our dinner with fancy china, silver and crystal – it will most likely take place near half-time. An eclectic and varied feast day to be sure.
My folks grew up in southern California, my Dad a transplant from New Mexico. They always had some kind of garden/farm part of their lives, whether for their livelihood in my Dad’s case as a kid, or picking vegetables for the troops during WWII. My Mom’s parents always had either a garden or were part of a co-op (way, way before that became fashionable), so that was a part of their and our lives – even if it’s just a pot of basil struggling to grow, or my sister-in-law’s amazing garden that boggles my imagination. That was, and for some still is, the bounty of California. And while I’ve never actually lived there, it’s definitely imprinted itself on our family’s lives over the years.
So this year, we have a bit of a different menu. The dressing I grew up with, flavored with potatoes, walnuts, butter and herbs. But a more (outside of our family) “traditional” herb dressing – this time with fresh herbs that we will pick that morning from our garden will be included to satisfy those who prefer something else.
We’ll also have a turkey basted with butter and herbs on the grill. We always seem to need more, plus it’s fun for the boys to have something to keep track of, particularly when it is outside in our amazing weather (we hope!).
There are always other “must-haves”. My niece insists that she will never have a Thanksgiving without my Grandmothers rolls. My mother is now the master of that recipe. This time though, another niece suggested hiding notes from all of the family members telling what they are thankful for – it should spark some interesting conversation! And we’ll include some from those who won’t be literally at the table, thereby including them in our festivities.
Of course there will be mashed potatoes… but I also always have to have some traditional staples from early celebrations – namely cranberries, turkey, corn, sweet potatoes and squash. I don’t usually have to have them in particular guises, as long as they are present. Some years, we’ll have cornbread stuffing or a corn bread, or, well, bread! This year we will have an amazing corn pudding. For squash, we’ll stick with traditional pumpkin pie, though in years past we’ve had a zucchini saute, a zucchini soup, roast acorn squash, or a pumpkin soup. I always love a nice cranberry sauce to go along with things (especially sandwiches after!), and this year, we’ll have a cranberry-pear chutney. I know there are people in the sauce/relish debate. I’m a sauce person. Just sayin’. In years past, sweet potatoes have probably been in the most varieties of recipes, flan, cheesecake, pies, whipped, roasted, topped with marshmallows… And of course we will have the 2 turkeys as well. Since you can’t really have anything Californian without green chiles, we’ll have to start the day with chile relleno casserole (I have to cover all of the bases, but I figure it’s OK as long as it’s within 24 hours).
We’ll have a few more old favorites, and a couple of new ideas. It should be fun and festive! So here’s this year’s menu for Thanksgiving 2012:
- Buffalo Chicken Meatballs
- Clam Dip
- Olive and Green Onion Dip
- Herbed Olives (our French Fridays Recipe of the week)
- Roast Turkey with Potato, Sage and Walnut Stuffing
- Herb-basted Grilled Turkey
- “Simple is Best” Dressing
- Corn Pudding
- Cranberry-Pear Chutney
- Sweet Potatoes with Bourbon and Maple
- Mashed Potatoes
- Green and White Beans
- Arugula, Grape and Almond Salad with Balsamic Vinaigrette
- Grandma’s Dinner Rolls
- Pumpkin Pie
- Crispy, Crackly Apple-Almond Tart
- Pecan Pie
Here’s wishing you and yours a wonderful Thanksgiving. Filled with wonderful memories – and of course, some wonderful food too!