My Family’s ThanksgivingPosted: December 5, 2011
Thanksgiving has been my favorite holiday since I was a kid. Maybe it’s because my birthday always falls near it. Maybe it’s because from kindergarten through college we had vacation. Maybe it’s because it’s just about family, food and giving thanks. I’ve always done my best to have Thanksgiving week off from everything just to spend time with family and friends.
When I lived on the West Coast, I would fly home in time to cook with my sister Marci the Wednesday night before. At first it was just my sister, her BFF Jill and me. But over the years our Wednesday night cooking parties grew; especially after my sister and her husband moved into their new neighborhood. Then it became a couple’s party as well as a cooking event, with lots of drinking and talking; a Thanksgiving Eve party. Pizza and wings, lots of wine and beer and cooking. My brother-in-law has been known to make shots after the cooking is done too:)
The day/night before Thanksgiving: Marci makes a myriad of pies during the day and peels potatoes. At night we make butternut squash, cube the bread for stuffing, chop & sauté onions & celery in butter and poultry seasoning so the stuffing is ready to mix together in the morning. More desserts; Marci and Jill usually make Caramel Apple Cheesecakes too. And whatever else is on the agenda for that year or didn’t get done earlier. My family has an excel spreadsheet for Thanksgiving; it’s serious business:)
This year I was lucky enough to be home and our entire family (in Rochester) was at my sister’s house for Thanksgiving Eve as well as Jill’s family; it was quite the crew! We prepped the Brussel sprouts too. Our mom has a Brussel sprout dish she makes that everyone loves, but she was out-of-state so my brother made them (recipe below). Coming from 7 kids, our immediate family’s Thanksgiving is around 16 – 18 people, but this year was only 13. We always cook for an army, because there’s a tradition of sending everyone home with leftovers. Seriously.
On Thanksgiving we eat around 3 p.m.; sit down, say grace and then everyone makes their own plate. This year we made the mistake of saying grace in the kitchen before everything was completely ready to go and like Pavlov’s dogs, everyone dug in anyway. My sister, our hostess, wasn’t pleased and may have made a comment about vultures complete with expletives. But, hey, it’s Thanksgiving! Here’s a picture of some of us and the island full of food (not including stuff by/on the stove):
After we eat dinner, pack up food, and clean up the kitchen, then we do desserts after 6 p.m. Here’s a photo of Marci with her chocolate cream, cherry, pumpkin and banana cream pies, along with an eclair cake and caramel apple cheesecake she made. Our sister Marlene added pumpkin bread pudding to the mix. Yes, after turkey, mashed potatoes, stuffing, gravy, butternut squash, brussel sprouts, green bean casserole, sweet potatoes, cranberry and rolls. This year Marci also made creamed onions, which our mom used to make when we were kids and I love. I know everyone loves food, but our family really loves food!
This has been our Thanksgiving tradition for the past couple of decades. Why do I love it? The tradition of cooking and eating all that great food? Yes, but also just to be together and be grateful; to give thanks we’re still here and together … despite whatever challenges life throws our way. Marci, who with her husband Frank has hosted our family’s Thanksgiving for the past decade, declared Thanksgiving night that she wasn’t doing it next year! She and her family are going on a cruise. But what I know about “Sarge in Charge” is after a year off, she’ll be back at it; she likes making those pies way too much to give it up altogether! ❤
Mom’s Brussel Sprouts
Brussel sprouts (based on number of people you’re serving; we use 8 lbs for Thanksgiving. Yes, 8 lbs:)
fresh minced garlic
Italian bread crumbs
Grated Romano / Parmesan Cheese
Wash & trim sprouts and boil until soft. Mom boils, my brother steams & I’ve microwaved, but for this dish boiling really does work best. Drain (keep broth for a vegetable stock). Add butter and fresh minced garlic and stir. Stir in bread crumbs and grated cheese. You can make the night before if you want and reheat; Mom always makes them that day and brings her big pot over to my sister’s. They rock and, believe it or not, are always the first to go when everyone is there.
salt & pepper
I love this squash; it’s my favorite. Used to do the work of peeling it, but the oil in it discolors my hands and makes my skin tight. The easiest way to prepare is to wash, cut off the ends, cut in half lengthwise, scoop out the seeds and place cut side down on a baking tray. Add water until 1/2″ up on the squash, bake at 350 for an hour or until a fork inserts easily. Once cooled a bit, scoop squash into a large glass bowl. Using a hand mixer, beat with butter, salt & pepper. Can be microwaved or reheated in oven the next day. Sounds incredibly plain, but is really incredibly yummy!
I thank God for my big family (3 sisters and 3 brothers), our abundant Thanksgivings and all the blessings we do have, in spite of life’s challenges!