Thursday, November 24, 2011


Today is Thanksgiving. ALREADY. It's over. It was different and wonderful and now it is finally politically correct to have my entire house decorated for Christmas. Not that I decorated two weeks ago or anything crazy like that.

I am going to write all about the details because this is the stuff that I like to look back on...all the little things about my favorite holidays that seem like a big deal now, but I won't remember in a few years. This year, my parents are busy renovating their house and it is completely torn up right now, which means that they were unable to host our usual family meal. And for what I think is the first time ever, our family separated for festivities. My sister Meredith hosted at her house in Tyler for her in-laws and my parents went there, along with my other sister Alieson. I hosted here at my house for my in-laws and us (obviously). With Meredith and I both being married with children who are getting older, the holidays have started to slowly change. It is hard for me to do things differently because I keep forgetting that I am a grown up now we treasure our traditions so much, but I have been making a real effort to think positively about doing things outside the box. My parents are coming to visit on Sunday and will stay for a few days next week, so we are still getting to celebrate with them.

This month, I have had the BEST time deciding on my menu and planning out the big feast. I will be the first to say first hosting gig in 2009 was not very good. In fact, if I am being honest, I didn't really end up liking anything that I served. It was my first time ever hosting a big group...heck, more than two people...and I was destined to screw a lot of things up. I made a lot of rookie mistakes and I ended up feeling sad that I hadn't pulled off very good food. I was just starting to be really proud of my work in the kitchen at that point, but lord knows that I didn't know how hard it was to pull off Thanksgiving for 12. Or 13. A lot. My biggest mistake was trying to make dishes that I thought people wanted to see, rather than things I knew and loved and was good at. I also didn't try everything before I made it, which is the classic rookie mistake. No recipe is how you want it the first's just a base point for creating what you like. I clearly didn't have that completely figured out a couple of years ago. Just because a recipe sounds good in a magazine or food blog does not mean that it actually IS good. The fresh green bean casserole I made was absolutely horrible that year and I don't even LIKE green bean casserole. What was I thinking? I also made EVERYTHING the day before, completely, which turned everything into leftovers before anyone had a chance to taste it. I was so nervous about having it all done before everyone arrived, that I did too much in advance. I didn't have enough knowledge to know which steps were acceptable the day before and which weren't. It was all just blah and I even managed to screw up the pies, which I am generally great at. SOOOO, this year I felt a thousand times better about things. I had a much smaller group and I made things I knew were good. Road tested, if you will. And, in what will probably be the only time ever, everything was perfect and ready on time! I love food and cooking with such a serious passion and it felt so amazing to have the Thanksgiving dream meal in my head actually turn into reality. Here is the menu for posterity.

Marinated Cheese Appetizer with cranberry pecan relish, crackers and wine
Roasted Turkey Breast with Truffle Butter
Leek and Wild Mushroom Stuffing
Glazed Pearl Onions
Four Cheese Scalloped Potatoes (with GOOD cheese!)
Roasted Brussel Sprouts with Pomegranate and Hazelnuts
Jalapeno Cranberry Sauce
Jalapeno Cornbread
Parker House Rolls
Pecan Pie
Chocolate Pie

I am still gloating that I managed to make all aspects of the meal from scratch and actually complete them on time today. The Parker House Rolls were a real labor of love. I got it into my head that I needed to make homemade rolls this year. I have never attempted this before. I made THREE - count 'em - THREE batches of dough before I found what I wanted. And these are yeast rolls with lots of sitting and rising and kneading and waiting. Thank GOD I started making the dough last weekend. I was planning to make it ahead and freeze the rolls before baking them, which gave me plenty of time to curse all the idiot recipes I tried before finding the sweet spot. I was smoking pissed when the second batch didn't work, either. But the third was perfection. They rose into pillows of joy, I tell you. :-) Now that I know what to do, I plan to make them from scratch every year. It's easy to freeze ahead and they are so amazing. But, I am a bread-aholic, so this may be a bigger deal to me than others. I only remembered to take pictures of a couple of things, and luckily these were one of them. HEAVEN!

I also loved the glazed pearl onions and this was my first year to make those myself, too. I was on the fence about serving creamed or glazed and which of the thousands of recipes I found to use and after trial and error, I decided on these guys. They seriously turned out like pieces of candy. So yummy!! They will also stay on the menu in the future.

I also got a shot of the table last night after I finished putting it together. I think it turned out cute, considering I rigged it from a paper tablecloth and the fall mantle decorations that I just took apart. :-)

I really wish that I had remembered to take pictures of everything else, but it was so busy and I totally forgot before we started eating. The stuffing was a recipe that was given to me by my amazing best friend Kimberly Roberts and it was so. insanely. good. I have heard her raving about it for years and finally decided to listen to someone that I KNOW has excellent taste and boy, was that the right choice! I made it with the most fantastic bread that I could find in Central Market and it turned out absolutely fantastic. Jer says he wants it every year and I agree. This one will become a family tradition! And let me HIGHLY recommend roasting a bird with white truffle butter! It took some hunting around Central Market (which is our very high end grocery store), but I found it and it was worth it! The breast was moist and delicious and just a yummy treat. I am very thankful that I roasted that breast, because we ordered a Greenberg Smoked Turkey this year and we got a horrible one! I couldn't believe it! I have been eating those for years and I don't know how we got the short end of the stick this time. It was waaaay too smokey and literally tasted like a forest fire in my mouth. YUCK. So strange! Everything else on the menu was a tried and true favorite and turned out great. This year, I did all the prep for each recipe (like chopping veggies and herbs and combining sauces and seasonings into little cups) and then actually prepared all the dishes today, instead of the day before. That turned out to work perfectly. All the time consuming stuff was done and the cooking part was easy! I actually was finished a little too early and ended up needing to keep everything in the oven to stay warm. It took less time than I thought and I will continue with prepping the day before and cooking the day of. MUCH better! Jer's mom also brought my favorite Chambord sweet potatoes, so the day had all my favorites.

After we ate like crazy, we all sat around to watch the Cowboys WIN and Colin had the best time. He got a little over tired at the end and needed to lay down with me in bed for a few minutes, but overall it was a perfect day for all of us. I am so thankful for all of the wonderful family and friends in my life. I have a lot of blessings, that's for sure!

Here are a few more shots from our week before Thanksgiving...this is a self-portrait shoot that we did one afternoon with the timer on the camera. I love my handsome boy and I need to work on getting in more pictures with him.

We made turkey cookies one afternoon after school and Colin had the best time! Look at that orange icing grin!

Three of my best boys all cozy on the couch while I cooked yesterday morning. It was the best sight to see in the world! We are just missing a couple of cats to complete the family...and they don't do paparazzi very well. You will also love the addition of baby Lucy to this shot. Colin takes very good care of his "daughter". He felt she needed to watch shows with them. AND her "grandfather" needed to hold her. I love my son. :-)

And now...let's do some Christmas, shall we?? WOO HOO!!
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