our thanksgiving

plates

More holidays should be like Thanksgiving (and I don’t just mean because of the food). In my family, this day means the four of us gathered around the table in the middle of a Thursday, eating comfort food, with Bailey somewhere nearby. We don’t exchange presents and we don’t spend hundreds of dollars. There aren’t any Thanksgiving songs to sing or Thanksgiving movies to put on. There’s the meal, and the random television shows after, but there’s little else. It is filled with everything that matters and none of what doesn’t. And this year, on a day when the hot water went out and the weather got much colder and two fire trucks rushed to our neighbor’s for some kind of emergency, we were blessed to look around and see not what we lack but what we have. You know, this little family I have been given are the three people I have fought most with in this life, the ones who know exactly what drives me crazy and who have seen me at my most selfish and ugly, and we disagree on many things, but, I know I don’t say this enough: I am so thankful for them.

Here’s a look, via photos, at our Thanksgiving:

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good enough for grazing

granola bars

This may seem a strange thing to say, the day before the nation’s biggest food holiday, especially one in which I’ll be doing the cooking, but here it is: I’m not really one for huge meals.

I mean, don’t get me wrong, I love Thanksgiving. It’s right up there with Easter as my favorite holiday. Every end of November, I love that we have a specific, routine reminder to stop and be grateful for all we’ve been given, and of course part of that is the table spread with turkey and stuffing and sweet potatoes and mashed potatoes and green been casserole and rolls and Jell-O molds and pies. But, if I were to offer one small complaint with this holiday, it is this: the indulgence of eating all those good things—and so much of them—at one, long, stuffing-yourself-until-your-pants-don’t-fit sitting. I’d much prefer to graze all day, and in fact, that’s what I do.

In my family, at Thanksgiving, we make more turkey than we need, so we can have sandwiches for a week after. We save all the sides and have entire meals, days later, of exactly the same thing. And a few years ago, when my then-boyfriend came to meet my family the day after The Big Thursday, we re-created the entire spread, as fully as if it had been the real deal.

One day of feasting becomes a week or more of quality grazing, and that’s exactly how I like it.

So anyway, this year, you could blame my lack of worry on last year’s relative success, as now I plan to pull everything together as the day unfolds, without a single to-do list or written strategy at my side. Or you could thank my parents, who paid for all the groceries and my mom who simply asked for a list and went and bought everything. You could say it’s because we’re staying in Illinois instead of transporting all kitchen tools and food up to the family cabin in Wisconsin like we did last year. But the truth is probably even simpler: I’m not worried about Thanksgiving because I’ve had my mind fixed on other things, things like trying new Brussels sprouts, making faux trail mixes of hazelnuts and chocolate, eating bowls of scalloped tomatoes for dinner, before snacks of clementines and then cookies with apple cider. You could see the pattern in my eating and rightly conclude: this girl’s got her mind on grazing, even at Thanksgiving, so when everyone’s talking turkey, she’s eating granola bars.

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A Thanksgiving Giveaway!

Update 11/30/09: (Congratulations to Carmen and Leslie, random winners of our Thanksgiving giveaway, whose packages will be arriving soon. Thanks to all of you who participated!)

Red Gold Tomatoes

It’s Thanksgiving week, and I’m thankful for you—every one of you.

And I’m also thankful for the kind people at Red Gold Tomatoes, who are sponsoring a very cool giveaway for us this week! Simply subscribe to Food Loves Writing (and e-mail me the secret word), and you’re eligible to win one of two giveaway packages: a large tin filled with three cans of their diced tomatoes, two cookbooks, a red canvas tote, a magnetic chip clip, other magnets and a toy truck.

Red Gold Giveaway

Red Gold sent me one of these care packages a few days ago, and I couldn’t believe how cool it was! The tomatoes were even high enough quality to use in the scalloped tomatoes recipe you may remember from a few months ago, with the results being just as delicious as when I’d hand-chopped fresh tomatoes from the garden, no kidding. And that giant tin? The perfect container for my kitchen recyclables before I take them outside. You’re going to love this.

    So here’s what you need to know:
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Brussels sprouts & bacon, oh my!

Brussels sprouts

Today, I bring you a story that to me is pure embarrassment and laughter, but to you I hope will be encouragement. It is a post is for anyone who has ever done something stupid, not just in cooking but in life. It is for those who think they are incapable of cooking or baking, especially when you look at food blogs like this one. And, not only will it include a recipe, but also a tip on a great restaurant to check out next time you’re in Galena.

It is a story, yes, but it is also a reminder, mostly that when you make a very big mistake, you might as well laugh about it because, at the end of the day, even if you told nobody and got to hold your head a little higher, you’d still know the truth inside and then, you wouldn’t know the intimacy of being honest with people or hearing that they mess up sometimes too (yes, that is an invitation for you to share your stories), and that would be a great loss indeed. So here goes; when I say you’re going to love this one, I mean it.

And it all starts with Brussels sprouts.

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Getaway to Galena

galena

When you tell people you’re spending the weekend in the quaint little town of Galena, particularly when it’s at a historic bed and breakfast, particularly when it’s at a historic bed and breakfast with your mom and your brother, particularly when it’s at a historic bed and breakfast with your mom and your brother in one room with two beds and hardwood floors so beautiful and old that they creak every time you step on them, well, no one knows how to react.

aldrich house

In fact, we didn’t know how to react either. Sometime in the middle of the weekend, Adam and I looked at each other and said, How did this whole weekend come to be, anyway? We remembered the back-and-forth e-mails of I’m-traveling-this-weekend-and-you’re-busy-next-and-looks-like-we’ll-have-to-go-near-Thanksgiving-will-that-work-for-you-and-when-did-we-become-people-who-are-busy-with-stupid-things-EVERY-SINGLE-WEEKEND-and-well-this-whole-thing-is-really-far-away-from-now-so-whatever-we’ll-worry-about-it-later, but we didn’t remember how they’d started to begin with.

farm

cows

I guess it must have started with Mom, who has been wanting to go out to Galena, to go antiquing, she said, which is something all three of us like now, even though at least two of us didn’t growing up, and, after we kids had arranged to have Friday off work and Mom had booked a place to stay, we drove three hours through farms and fields and sleepy little towns until we reached the top of northwest Illinois, where, oh boy, antiquing is exactly what we did.

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what was crystal clear

baked apples

This was supposed to be a recipe for an easy version of apple pie, or at least that was my intent when I started peeling and coring four Granny Smith apples at the counter last Wednesday night.

As part of my mission to avoid yet another kitchen disaster, I had been taking every possible easy route: choosing a simple recipe, peeling all the required apples in one step, doing that peeling while I was sitting down so as not to exert any unnecessary effort for something that might not turn out and not even using a printed recipe because I had memorized the basic steps from looking at them for so long, really analyzing whether or not I could trust this new combination of ingredients and steps and would it be worth the trouble? In most of life, this fragile attitude would be something to work through, but in this case, it really worked to my advantage.

Each time I’d finish peeling one of the apples, its curly green skins spread out on the cutting board in front of me, I’d plop its little body into the adjacent round casserole dish, keeping it from rolling away while also leaving the counter clean. And thing is, once I set that final apple into the dish, the four of them lined up next to each other like they were meant to stay that way, ready to be poached or roasted or something, it became crystal clear to me that these apples weren’t for a pie, but instead they had a different fate. I should bake them, bake them whole, stuffed with some sort of sugar and oats mixture that could get all hot and gooey inside and bubble on top and down the sides. It was so obvious.

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Food Loves Writing in Blog Envy Contest

Update: this contest is now over and, although we didn’t win, it was nice to be considered. Thanks to all of you who voted!

ba

Quick announcement: Bon Appetit invited Food Loves Writing to participate in their 2009 Blog Envy contest! If you’d like, you can check out our entry, for Grandma’s oatmeal chocolate-chip cookies, by clicking through all the categories to submit a vote. (I’m on the cookie page!)

Warning: you will have to register (Apologies!), the site has been down often and some people have not been able to click through all the way. Oh, well. The important thing, obviously, is that we were invited and that, hello, Bon Appetit HAS SEEN US!!??

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