Recipes and tips to be Thankful for

I totally missed posting about Canadian Thanksgiving this past October, so I decided to time this post with the upcoming American Thanksgiving this Thursday. This year, I was fortunate enough to have three Thanksgiving dinners to be thankful for. The first, was a delicious meal cooked by my mom the day after I arrived in Winnipeg.

The second was also in Winnipeg, Thanksgiving weekend, cooked by my Aunt Sandy.

Sandy always does beautiful table decorations

And the third was a joint collaboration between my mother-in-law, my aunt, my sister-in-law and I upon my return to Scotland, for my Scottish family.

Please note the cheeky expressions on my husband’s and his brother’s face!

Since moving to Scotland and having another family here, I’ve made Thanksgiving Dinner a regular fixture every year for us. Most of the time, it’s at my in-law’s house because our house is too small to host more than six people. We generally make two large chickens instead of a turkey because turkeys need to be special ordered here in October, (they don’t celebrate Thanksgiving, for those of you who didn’t know), and cost an arm and a leg at that time of year! (or would that be a wing and a thigh? Ha ha…. groan). We were fortunate enough to have a turkey for Thanksgiving 2010, when my mom was here for a visit, and it was the best turkey I’ve ever had! It was a free-range bronze turkey, which after some googling, I discovered that bronze is in reference to the animal’s colour, not a medal that’s been awarded to the breed of bird or rearer. Whoops!

The delicious ‘bronzed’ bird
My Thanksgiving dinner always consists of the bird, stuffing and mashed potatoes. I always include one vegetable accompaniment and gravy. For dessert, we generally have a spicy fall dessert, like apple pie, apple tarte tatin, or this year, carrot cake. We don’t have the traditional pumpkin pie because a) you can’t get canned pumpkin here in grocery stores, and b) I don’t like it. In the past, I’ve also made a cranberry jello mould, a traditional side on my dad’s side, but it’s not been very successful at meal time, so I’ve scrapped it.

I want to share with you my two must-have Thanksgiving recipes that are both delicious the night of the actual meal, and in days to follow as leftovers, and both are enough to feed 10 people.

Grandma Sasaki’s Stuffing
This is the recipe my Granma used for all her Thanksgiving and Christmas meals. It’s so simple and so good! It’s also been adapted as the stuffing for our Christmas meals here in Scotland now too, as my husband’s family also loves it. There aren’t any precise measurements for the ingredients, it’s more of a you’ll-know-it’s-done-when-you-see-it recipe. These quantities make an entire 9 x 13 inch dish of stuffing. The cups are American cups rather than UK, and no seasoning is required as there is already so much flavour in the pork sausage meat.
1 lb pork sausage meat, preferably from the butcher
1 large white onion, chopped
3-4 stalks celery, chopped
2-3 cups bread crumbs
salt and pepper to taste
*chicken stock or water if your mixture gets too dry
In a large pot, brown the sausage meat, then add the onion and celery. Cook until the onion is transparent. Add the bread crumbs until the mixture gets dry; this should look like large lumps of stuffing stuck together. If mixture becomes too dry, add a little chicken stock or just water. Place in oven-proof 9″ x 13″ dish, and bake in oven for the last 20 minutes of your bird. Alternatively, you can stuff your bird, then roast it for its normal amount of time, but I prefer the first option as you get a nice crunchy crust on top.
My Mom’s Creamy Oven Mashed Potatoes
This recipe screams Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners to me! Not only are these mashed potatoes creamy, but they’ve got this amazing savoury taste from the added sour cream and cream cheese. I usually make these the night before our meal and keep them in the fridge until it’s time for them to go in the oven. Again, quantities are in American cups.
5 llbs potatoes, peeled and quartered
8 oz cream cheese, at room temperature (this is the equivalent of one regular tub of Philadelphia)
1 cup sour cream
2 tsp onion salt
1 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
2 tbsp butter
Cook the potatoes in boiling water until tender. Drain well.
Mash the potatoes with a potato masher (or handheld electric masher, which works wonders!) unitl smooth. Add the cream cheese, sour cream, onion salt, salt and pepper. Beat with a wire whisk or electric beaters until smooth and fluffy.
Place potatoes in a greased 2 quart casserole, dor them with butter, cover with foil, and heat at 175’C/350’FΒ  for 45 minutes, or until heated through.

Stuffing and potatoes in action at my first Scottish Thanksgiving dinner
Are you planning to cook your first Thanksgiving meal? Although it can seem like a huge ordeal, the experience can be made easier by following these tips:

1. Plan ahead! Organise what you’re making at least a week before, if not longer. This gives you enough time to source your food and order anything special. It also gives you time for #2

2. Ask for help! Whether it’s your husband cleaning the house the day of the meal, asking someone to bring dessert, or asking for help in the kitchen whilst cooking, extra hands are always appreciated. There is nothing that kills a Thanksgiving dinner buzz more than being too tired from cooking all day to actually enjoy it. This year’s Scottish Thanksgiving was prepared by three ladies in my family and myself, which allowed all of us some input but also time to visit with family and enjoy ourselves.

3.Prepare what you can before the big day! I realise some food, like your bird, needs to be made the day of, but other dishes like the mashed potatoes and your dessert, can easily be made the day before and kept in the fridge.

4. Make someone else clean up! The rule in our family is that if you cook, you don’t clean up after the meal. So if I cook, my husband does the dishes, and vice versa. This year’s Thanksgiving saw the ladies cook and the mean clean whilst enjoying a whisky.

I hope that wherever you are, and whatever you’re cooking, you have a happy American Thanksgiving weekend. And don’t forget the dogs should enjoy some dinner too! And also, don’t spend too much money on Black Friday shopping!

A patient pack of dogs
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

On a side note, I’ve entered the 2013 Balmoral 10 km this coming April, and have my sights set on the Cupar 5 mile road race in February, where I hope to be joined by Rachel and Amy, from my running club. Pat and I are off to Aviemore tomorrow for a few days of rest and relaxation, and a meal at the best restaurant in Scotland, (in my opinion), the Old Bridge Inn. Good night!
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6 thoughts on “Recipes and tips to be Thankful for

  1. Great blog Danielle – three Thanksgiving dinners! Gramma would be thrilled you are using her dressing recipe. She actually got it from a old neighbour of ours – hers had huge quantities of black pepper in it! Auntie Sandy

  2. Ok…what kind of person doesn't like pumpkin??? And I never would have thought that canned pumpkin and turkey weren't staples across the Western world. You learn something new every day.

    I've never prepared Thanksgiving dinner (or any dinner really…), but this year I think I'm going to make some gluten free desserts. Hope they turn out better than those vegan cupcakes I tried…

    Have a great holiday!

  3. I'm pretty much the only person that doesn't go crazy for Starbucks pumpkin spice lattes; in some ways, I'm anti- whatever is super trendy and whateve everyone loves, and pumpkin of any kind applies to this. You can get turkey here for Christmas, but butchers and grocery stores don't stock them around Thanksgiving time because it's not celebrated here, hence you need to special order it instead.

    You should make a dinner! Practice with a roast dinner first. And good luck with your gluten-free desserts, I expect to see a post on them πŸ˜‰

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