Butternut Up!

“A person who never made a mistake never tried anything new.” — Albert Einstein

It’s Week-Before-Thanksgiving Thursday and the beginning of what can be one of the warmest or loneliest times of the year in America, depending on whether you’re surrounded by people who care about more than themselves or not. Thanksgiving was founded on the idea of families and friends traveling to a central location to celebrate with the generations and feast off the fruits of their harvest, hunt and labor. Today with families and friends being more spread out, people find themselves having celebrations with “framily” (friends who are like family) during this time, a.k.a “Friendsgiving.” Call it what you want, this holiday is about food and camaraderie more than any other. Still, we know every Thanksgiving there’s the chance that someone will say or do something that strikes a nerve with someone else and things can get cray cray! That’s when the bigger person absolutely needs to find a smooth and disarming comeback that butters the other person up and melts his or her heart.

What’s on your Thanksgiving menu this year? Root vegetables like sweet potatoes and carrots are in season and make wonderfully nutritious additions to the holiday meal. Vine vegetables, such as pumpkin and squash also complement the menu with their mildly sweet earthy flavors and smooth creamy texture. This a good week to focus on some the dishes that can be made ahead of time; perhaps you can roast, mash and freeze your pumpkin or sweet potatoes to have them ready for the pies. Roasting them in the skin brings out a richer flavor than boiling them in water. Consider adding Apple-Butternut Squash Soup to your menu, such as this one from marvelous Martha Stewart. No matter how you spice it, butternut squash soup is a sophisticated start to any Thanksgiving meal. You can make the stock, cook the squash and freeze them both ahead this week, if you love the process of cooking. If you don’t enjoy cooking that much and/or have a job that pays you more than being a home cook, then by all means, buy that refrigerated vegetable or chicken stock and pre-peeled and pre-chopped butternut squash; because we know America was founded on the idea of free will and choices. In the same spirit, check out the snazzy spatulas like this one designed by Questlove for Williams Sonoma to raise money for NoKidHungry.

Homemade cranberry sauce is another example of a Thanksgiving dish you can make in advance. It’s so easy and delicious, and young children who like to cook really enjoy watching this chemistry experiment! Combine a 12 oz bag of cranberries with 1/2 cup of fresh orange juice, 1 tsp grated orange zest, a cinnamon stick, couple of cloves (optional) and 2/3 to 3/4 cup of sugar. Lightly boil on medium heat, stirring until berries pop. Continue to cook for 5 to 10 minutes, depending on how much texture you like in your cranberry sauce. The difference between ordinary and extraordinary is that little extra. When it comes to some things, I believe nuts (especially pecans), make cranberry sauce even better, Remove sauce from heat and add dried cranberries and/or pecans if desired. Chill until congealed. This can be held in the refrigerator for up to a week or more.

Do you make dressing or stuffing? In our family we like cornbread oyster dressing with the turkey. You can make the cornbread for your dressing this week and freeze it until next week when you can add the rest of the ingredients to make the dressing. This is one of those recipes, like French Toast, in which old bread is a good thing! Just know this cornbread should be savory and made with a recipe that does not include sugar or any other sweetener. I’ll be sending our super-secret family recipe for Cornbread Oyster Dressing in a few days, so you can have all the ingredients on hand for next week. Oysters make all the difference!!

My youngest daughter, Nicole making cornbread oyster dressing with Grandma

“The difference between ordinary and extraordinary is that little extra.

This is a good time to take inventory of your dishes, utensils and serving pieces. Have you checked to see if you have enough glasses for your holiday entertaining? We have a variety of options for different budgets, occasions and personalities. I love the thin rim on these stemless Riedel O Tumblers for casually elegant entertaining – they’re sold in sets of twelve and are good to keep on hand for cocktails or impromptu dining. The taller, more traditional Riedel Wine Glasses with a stem look pretty on the table and are priced so you don’t have to feel like a complete loser if you break a glass or two. For those who insist on the finest of everything, (you know the type) the Baccarat Wine & Champagne Glasses should keep them satisfied.
That’s it for now. Have a great week everybody! Try to enjoy the process of planning ahead for Thanksgiving, and remember it’s a week away! I’ll be in touch with you again before next week, because I want to be on this journey with you preparing for my absolutely favorite holiday, which is all about community! Happy Thanksgiving prep week!

“The most beautiful way to start and end the day is with a grateful heart.”