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:


Things began around 10 AM, when I pulled out our defrosting turkey breasts (each around six or seven pounds) to stuff with Grandma’s moist bread stuffing, rub with oil, cover with butter, season and stick in the oven.

mom's sweet potatoes

Mom made the sweet potatoes, which she has explained to me as being this simple: Roast seven whole sweet potatoes in the oven the night before until they’re tender. In the morning, peel potatoes and cook on the stove with 3/4 cup brown sugar, a stick of butter and some cream or milk. Mash and stir in marshmallows.


Bailey keeps things interesting. Here, he tries to break down one of the doggie gates my parents installed. (It’s just because he wants to be where we are at all times. He loves us.)

mashed potatoes

I boiled four peeled and chopped baking potatoes, drained them and mashed with butter, cream and salt and pepper. After adding more cream, then more butter, then more salt, then more cream, I lost any sense of proportions or measurements (is this how people who don’t use recipes always feel?) and in the end, I think we needed more cream.

brown n' serve rolls

Brown n’ Serve rolls are a tradition from back when Grandma used to do Thanksgiving, and, to me, they taste like dark afternoons around her dining room table. I miss her.

bailey 2

Here’s Bailey again. Adam took this shot because, hello?, the dog is sleeping with a wooden table beam as a pillow. That is something to photograph.

turkey breasts

All right, here we go: at around 2:30 PM, the turkey breasts looked like this, all browned and beautiful, their pans filled with bubbling juices we’d add to the gravy. This began the final half hour of cooking in which I made the green bean casserole, stuck the rolls in the oven and plated side dishes; Dad carved the turkey; Mom made the gravy; and Adam kept his eye on the homemade pumpkin pie he’d stuck in the oven a bit earlier.

green bean casserole

And in the end, the table was filled with all of this:

carved turkey
more sides

We ate at places set with turkey place mats:

turkey place mats

with full plates:

thanksgiving plates

and Adam’s fantastic pumpkin pie for dessert (recipe below, from our great friend Wendi):

pumpkin pie
pumpkin pie

I loved every bit of it.

Pumpkin Pie
recipe from our friend Wendi, who adapted it from All Recipes and sent it to us after we BEGGED and BEGGED because she made it for us and it was the best pumpkin pie ever.

1 sugar pie pumpkin
1 pie crust (recipe pastry for a 9-inch single crust pie or a refrigerated crust, which is what Wendi and Adam use)
2 eggs
1 cup packed light brown sugar
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 1/2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice
1 (12 fluid ounce) can evaporated milk

Roast your pumpkin (directions here).

In a large bowl, slightly beat eggs. Add brown sugar, flour, salt, 2 cups of the pumpkin puree, pumpkin pie spice, and evaporated milk. Stir well after each addition.

Pour mixture into the unbaked pastry shell. You can place a strip of aluminum foil around the edge of the crust to prevent over browning (Adam doesn’t).

Bake 10 minutes at 450 degrees F (230 degrees C), then reduce the oven temperature to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Bake an additional 40 to 50 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean. Remove the strip of foil about 20 minutes before the pie is done so that the edge of the crust will be a light golden brown. (from Wendi: Most often I have to cook longer – but I did have two pies in there, though.) Cool pie, and refrigerate overnight for best flavor.

Shanna Mallon

Shanna Mallon started Food Loves Writing back in 2008, as a way to remember her grandma and write about her life through food. Since then it's become a place leading her to a lifestyle of eating whole foods, a new home in Nashville and the love of her life, Tim. Follow Shanna on Twitter @foodloves, keep up with Food Loves Writing on Facebook and stay inspired with the monthly newsletter.

This Post Has 21 Comments

  1. Kylie of Thin Crust Deep Dish

    So glad your Thanksgiving was filled with what matters. Bailey sleeping against the table leg is just adorable.

  2. Becky

    Thanks to you, this is going to be my dinner tonight! Can’t wait! Oh, and in the first picture of Bailey, the one with the doggie gate, I can actually see the Falkor resemblance. Just sayin.

  3. Sara

    sounds so fun. i love the picture of Bailey on the wooden leg, hilarious.

  4. rae

    aw…such a lovley day!! i think you have a fabulous family! food looks so yummo.

    I am busy cooking ours today cause Jake is off work!! yeah!!

  5. Celeste

    From the one pic of Bailey, you would of thought that he did all the work he is so tuckered out.
    Blessings to you this season.

  6. Jacqui

    gorgeous photos, shanna. you and (your brother’s?) camera are getting along quite well. so glad your t-day turned out lovely! ok, time to eat leftovers. happy friday!

  7. Kim

    Your Thanksgiving looks just lovely – and those are some great photos! We had Thanksgiving #1 last night with our extended family at my Great-Aunt’s house, and tonight we’re having Thanksgiving #2 at our house (spent two hours prepping food last night after we got home!). So much food! I, too, made the green bean casserole. :-)

  8. Shannalee

    Kylie, He has so much personality for a little dog!

    Becky, Yay! I hope you like it all! I didn’t give you green bean casserole, btw, because I thought I remembered your saying you hated cream of mushroom soup. Hope that’s true. PS I cannot believe you’d say that about Bails. I won’t tell him so he can’t hold it against you.

    Sara, Thanks and I KNOW, right?

    Rae, Thanks, hon. Looking forward to seeing you next month!

    Celeste, HA! He is always resting – seems like a nice life, right?

    Jacqui, Thanks! Good call on Adam’s camera – one of the nice things about having him around for the weekend. :) Yay, leftovers! We’ll be eating them for a while!

    Kim, Thank you! Your celebration(s) sound wonderful!

  9. kickpleat

    Love your photos! Looks like an excellent Thanksgiving meal was shared and the pic of Bailey? Too cute. I’m now reminded that I didn’t get a slice of pumpkin pie this year. Must remedy soon.

  10. Elizabeth

    Everything looks yummy! I am so happy for you and your family to have such a wonderful day together.

  11. Jennifer

    First of all, Bailey looks so adorable I want to climb into the computer and give him a hug. Second, your food looks fabulous! Finally, I’m interested in the green stuff. It looks good — is it a Jell-o salad?

  12. ingrid

    Sounds and looks like a lovely meal.

    Btw, your Mom’s sweet potatoes are right on the money. My sister in law who is weight concious decided to make a healthy version. LOL, it was good but would have loved your mom’s more.

  13. Niki

    Okay, the dog is awesome! I love it when they use the weirdest things to lay their head to sleep…
    Your Thanksgiving looked delicious. How was grazing all day long?

  14. julie

    Yum! It all looks fantastic! I agree, Thanksgiving is such a wonderful holiday. So glad you enjoyed yours!

  15. Jessica

    Oh my gosh everything looks amazing, especially the sweet potatoes. NUM. I also love that picture of the puppy sleeping. Been there.

  16. Wendi

    Sounds like a wonderful day. I made the pies too….they were REALLY good. Glad yours was too!! :-)

  17. Shannalee

    kickpleat, You know what’s funny is I have always thought I liked pumpkin pie best cold, but have you had it hot out of the oven? Best thing ever. When you get your fix, I hope it’s that way, and with a big scoop of ice cream on top.

    Elizabeth, Thank you! Of course you know the Julia Child apron that my awesome friend in Florida made me helped.

    Jennifer, Believe me, we feel the same way when we look at him. Good call about the Jell-O salad. That was my mom’s creation as well, and she says it’s a pineapple/lime/cream cheese medley.

    Ingrid, One way that is mildly healthy and still delicious is to just slice them in half, spread a little butter on top and a teeny bit of sugar, and still them in the oven. Mom does that sometimes too, and it’s actually delicious!

    Niki, Grazing for days long is more like it, and it has been nice. Although I will say, the turkey didn’t reheat as well this year. Kind of a bummer. I had several sweet potato sandwiches.

    Julie, Thanks so much! I hope you guys had a good time, too!

    Jessica, Right? He has such a nice life.

    Wendi, We will be thanking you for that recipe for the rest of our lives, I mean it.

  18. TJ

    What a terrific Thanksgiving! Bailey looks SO adorable! I usually cook a turkey breast too, because, hey, it DOES get old after a few sandwiches and creative casseroles :)

  19. Shannalee

    TJ, It really does! We’ve had turkey breasts last year and this one, and I can’t imagine every going back to the whole bird!

  20. Caitlin

    The way Thanksgiving should be – the whole family, buzzing around the kitchen, and a dog, sleeping against the table. Perfect.

  21. Shannalee

    Caitlin, I completely agree. Glad your quiet Thanksgiving was good, too, though – and that you’re feeling better!!

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