A Thanksgiving Gathering: The Menu

food styling

Hello everyone! I hope you are getting geared up for Thanksgiving! I know I sure am! I am hosting a dinner on Nov. 22nd for invited guests and I would like to share with you some things I’m doing to create a memorable gathering around the table. I am starting a series of posts leading up to Thanksgiving that will hopefully help prepare you for your gathering event. My style, if you read my about section you will know, is very simplistic seeking the lowest cost option while maintaining high quality. If simple is your thing, great! You’re in for a treat. If not, that’s fine – take what you like and leave the rest. I am mostly sharing with you my journey to hosting my first gathering!

Aside from the guests, décor, etc., food is why you have a dinner in the first place. So it should be at the forefront of your mind. I know I can concentrate a little more heavily on the menu since my décor is going to be pretty simple.

I do not plan on doing a “traditional American” Thanksgiving dinner. A lot of us will be going to multiple Thanksgivings for family and I don’t know about you, but there’s only so much turkey I can handle this time of year! I plan on doing some different dishes while throwing in a few holiday favorites as well!

I also want to preface, some of these are not my own recipes but I have provided links where you can view them!

For Starters…

Autumn Harvest Barley Salad

For a starter, I wanted something lighter than soup but hearty enough so it wasn’t a summer salad. Adding any type of grain is a great way to get a hearty salad (without adding meat). I’m going to do a simple barley salad with dark greens, dried cranberries, pecans, and feta cheese served with an apple cider vinaigrette! You can also add butternut squash or acorn squash to this! But because I’m using butternut squash a little later, I’ll leave it out of the salad.

Main Dish

I think I’ll leave that one a secret 😉 I’ll tell you it won’t be turkey! Whether or not you prepare turkey is totally up to you! If you are only going to one Thanksgiving (yours!) it makes sense to make turkey. But if you are going to multiple Thanksgivings you might want to give yourself a break and fix some other type of meat.

Side Dishes

Homemade Cranberry Jelly

This one is super simple! Growing up my mom always bought the cranberry jelly in the can. It was the perfect bitterness to balance out the sweetness of (what seemed like) the entire meal. (Plus I have to admit I liked plopping it out of the can!) So I am sticking with the jellied version – just homemade this time. I’ll be trying Marisa McLellan’s easy cranberry jelly recipe!

Butternut Squash and Apple Stuffing

This one is not my own recipe. It is taken from Savvy Eats. I like stuffing but I always feel it tastes too bland (unless you pour gravy on top!). And then I thought, why don’t I take something savory like stuffing and combine it with something sweet like butternut squash (and because you have to fit in butternut squash somewhere in your menu, right?)?! And then I found a recipe, because I am much too chicken to develop my own.

Fall Roasted Root Vegetables

Roasted vegetables are an easy and healthy way to add some color and flavor to your Thanksgiving meal! Just gather your favorite fall vegetables (I’m doing carrots, parsnip, onions, and garlic), toss with some olive oil, salt and pepper, and herb of your choice, and voila! You have a simple but elegant side dish!

Dessert

Pear and Frangipane Tart

I’ve already made pumpkin and apple pie yet this season, so I wanted to try something different for dessert! I always forget about pears and yet they are a good fall fruit. This recipe comes from Sunday Suppers and is adapted from Feast: Generous Vegetarian Meals for Any Eater and Every Appetite by Sarah Copeland. You can find the entire recipe as well as view pictures of the tart here.

 

So there you have it! I know this isn’t one of my typical posts with pictures but I have provided the original links where you can view the pictures as well as the complete recipes! Once I am finished with the dinner, I will post my pictures and recipes up on the Recipes page.

Above all, I hope you gain some inspiration from this fall-themed Thanksgiving menu – whether you choose to go traditional or not. Be sure to click the links and check out these foodies and see what else they have to offer! They are truly talented individuals!

Do you have any must-try thanksgiving dinner favorites? I’d love to hear them!

Cheers for now!

Adele

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{A Recipe} Red Potato, Sausage, and Feta Bake

food styling

 

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This one is a hit guys! It’s another fall recipe from A Daily Something. I changed it slightly as I omitted the butternut squash and used red potatoes instead (mainly because Andrew doesn’t like butternut squash :/). So I intend to use butternut squash in it someday and if you do, tell me what you think! I can only guess it’s just as delicious as this!

This is probably one of the best combinations of flavors I’ve tasted in a while. Everything goes so nicely together. The italian sausage adds a sweetness to the dish and the feta cheese helps to balance that sweetness out. I was tempted to try a leaner meat in this but I’m glad I didn’t because the sausage added great flavor. The nice thing about this is one helping was enough for us. The flavors were so intense it left you satisfied, not begging for more.

This is definitely a savory fall dish you have to try! Our home was filled with the most pleasant aroma and we couldn’t wait to eat it! There is also versatility to this dish as you can toss it with scrambled eggs the next morning! I’m always happy when I make something Andrew really likes so this is staying on the “must make” list for sure!

– Recipe –

You will need:

– 1 lb. Italian sausage
– 2 large onions
– 1/2 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes, divided
– 1/4 cup olive oil
– 2 tsp. minced fresh rosemary
– 1 1/2 tsp. salt
– 1 1/2 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
– 1 tsp. pepper
– 2 medium butternut squash or 1 lb. red potatoes, peeled and cut into 1″ cubes
– 2 cups (8 oz.) crumbled feta cheese
– 2 small sweet red peppers, chopped

Directions:

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. In a large skillet, cook the sausage, onions and 1/4 tsp. pepper flakes over medium heat for 8-10 minutes or until sausage is no longer pink and onions are tender, breaking up sausage into crumbles; drain.

In a large bowl, combine the oil, rosemary, salt, Worcestershire sauce, pepper, and remaining pepper flakes. Add butternut squash, cheese, red peppers, and sausage mixture; toss to coat.

Transfer to an ungreased shallow roasting pan. Cover and bake for 35 minutes. Uncover; bake 10-15 minutes longer or until squash is tender. Allow to cool for a few minutes, then serve & enjoy.

I hope you try this recipe! If you do, let me know what you think! I am certain you won’t be disappointed.

Mornings Like These

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Do you ever have mornings like these? Nothing to do, nowhere to be, save for enjoying the beauty of your own home. I had a morning like this. It got bright as the sun rose, highlighting the fall colors on the trees. But something inside of me knew it was cold out. So I stayed inside and began my morning ritual – coffee and local eggs, which I opted to bake in my cast iron skillet. The new dining room table was looking beautiful adorned with florals, the light creating sharp contrast on this bitter cold morning – a rustic look which I adore.

watching the world wake up

coffee and farm fresh eggs

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breakfast

It’s important that we have mornings like these once in a while, and dare I say often, if possible. The reason I love mornings so much is because it’s a fresh start to a new day. And how you start your day is how you intend to end it. When we slow down our mornings, we slow down our entire day. And by that I mean being more mindful, creative, and careful about what we do and say. Our days become full of meaning rather than walking through life blindly.

I implore you to take a day or a few days to slow down your mornings. Drink a cup of coffee and watch the sun rise. If you can’t watch the sun rise, get up earlier (still have coffee) and take some time to reflect, pray, and meditate. You might be surprised how much better your day ends up!

How do you like to start your day? Comment below!

A Timeless Classic: Birthday Pumpkin Pie

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I often ask my brother if he wants to switch birthdays. I would much rather have a birthday in the fall. I could reward myself with long walks amid the changing leaves and pumpkin pie instead of cake (though I don’t remember the last time I had cake for my birthday). But alas, I must endure a birthday in March – not quite winter, not quite spring and always sopping wet with rain. It turns out my brother isn’t much of a cake fan either. So with the extra pumpkin purée I had, I baked him a pumpkin pie for his birthday.

As I was gearing up to shoot the process, I knew I had to get started early. It’s true, natural light is best when it comes to food photography. But the type of light is very important. 9 am light looks very different from 12 pm light and each one creates different textures and moods. I shot this sequence of pictures from 8 am to 8:30 am which was perfect! I knew I needed enough morning light but not too much to where it was harsh. The result was a very soft light with deep shadows. The lighting just made me want to stay in that spot forever and keep baking like there wasn’t a care in the world.

It’s funny, when you smell pumpkin purée it smells nothing like the pumpkin taste we know and love. Someone somewhere put a bunch of spices together and said, “this is what pumpkin should taste like.” And I agree with that person, so I don’t intend on creating anything new here. Here is a very timeless pumpkin pie recipe you can enjoy for thanksgiving (or anytime someone doesn’t want cake for their birthday).

{Recipe}

You will need:

2 cups pumpkin purée (I used real pumpkin from a pie pumpkin but canned will work too)

1 12 ounce can of evaporated milk or 1 1/2 cup heavy cream

2 eggs plus the yolk of 1 egg

1/2 cup packed dark brown sugar

1/3 cup white sugar

1/2 teaspoon salt

2 teaspoons cinnamon

1 teaspoon ground ginger

1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg

1/4 teaspoon ground cloves

1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom (optional, this stuff is expensive!!)

1/2 teaspoon lemon zest

Crust:

1 cup flour

1 teaspoon salt

5 1/3 tablespoons shortening

1/4 cup water (or as needed to form the dough)

Start with making your crust. Mix together flour, salt, shortening, and water and form into a dough. Knead and roll out large enough to fit a 9″ pie pan. You want at least an inch of overhang for the crimping. Roll the edges under so they sit on the edge of the pan. Next, with your index finger and thumb form small notches all around the edge of the crust. Poke holes in the crust once it is formed in the pan (this will prevent the crust from expanding during baking). Refrigerate for 1 hour.

– Preheat oven to 425 –

Combine eggs, spices and sugars, pumpkin purée, and evaporated milk and mix well. Pour filling into the crust and bake for 40-50 minutes, or until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean. The filling will be puffed up but this is normal due to the leavening of the eggs. Let cool for two hours. If you’re making it for the holidays or anything special, I would suggest baking the pie the night before and let cool at room temperature until the next day when you’re ready to eat it. This will let the pie firm up really well.

Any holiday or birthday favorites of yours? Comment below!

Beauty Is In The Eye Of The Camera Lens

statue  As summer gives way to fall, and fall gives way to winter, we are moving the outside plants into the greenhouse before the first freeze. As I’m walking through the aisles, there’s a certain sadness to it all. The air is crisp and there’s no way to escape the cool wind blowing on my face. The plants have lost their vibrancy with spiders starting to take up residence between the leaves. The statues tell of a time long forgotten, as they too give way to the natural elements.

fall statueplants

Yet as sad as the transition from summer to fall and then to winter can be, there is incredible beauty in the midst of it – if you are willing to embrace it. It’s the same concept when we admire the beauty of snow but hate when we have to go somewhere. Although I hate driving in the snow just as much as the next person, it would do us some good to admire the beauty that’s in front of us no matter what season.

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That’s what I did with my camera lens. I guess that old saying rings true, doesn’t it? Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. We take a plant and throw in a cobweb here and there and statues that have clearly seen better days. But there’s beauty and a story to be told in that.

When we take precious time to admire the beauty around us, we can breathe a sigh of relief and we’re able to carry on. It nourishes the soul.

What speaks beauty to you? Feel free to comment below!

A Fall Favorite: Roasted Butternut Squash Soup

I believe fall is the most contemplative season. Whether we’re out on a walk or in the kitchen, it seems the world stops for a while so we can admire its beauty. The cold weather beckons for good food and warm company; whether that’s around a fire or a table. I always think about Little Ingalls Widler, back in the pioneer days. The always had a fire going in the kitchen and the family would gather around the table for a warm meal. In the fall and winter, it was crucial that they had enough food stored up. Though we don’t have to worry about that now-a-days, I still think it does one good to step back, take great care in preparing, and savor the company the meal is shared with.

It is an understatement to say Butternut Squash is a fall favorite! I’ve seen it everywhere from Pinterest to Instagram. And would it come as a shock to you to say that I’ve never even tasted it before?! Yep, you heard that right. I’m not a big soup fan, I will admit. But I couldn’t resist when I saw A Daily Something’s recipe. It looked so delectable, from preparation to the bowl. Once more, it wasn’t too complicated that I could give it a first try. Now, this is a very basic recipe but the flavor in this should not be understated. The squash is roasted with garlic and thyme making it a very savory soup. You can always create your own recipe and add things like pine nuts and apples, or add buttermilk or half and half for a thicker soup. But if you’re looking for a basic butternut squash recipe with loads of flavor, this is a great place to start!

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bread

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{Recipe}

Butternut squash

1 yellow onion, peeled and chopped

6 cloves garlic

Olive oil

Fresh thyme

Chicken broth

 

– Preheat oven to 375 –

Start by cutting the butternut squash in half. Scoop out the seeds in the cavity (these can be roasted just like pumpkin seeds!). Place 3 cloves garlic and 2-3 sprigs of thyme in each cavity. Then, drizzle the halves with olive oil, salt, and pepper. Carefully turn the halves over and place on a baking sheet and bake for 1 hour. You should be able to stick a fork in it easily if it is done!

Sauté the onions in olive oil over medium heat. Next, add the butternut squash. Turn up the heat a little so the squash can caramelize. Add your chicken stock and simmer for 10-15 minutes. Lastly, use an immersion blender to break up the squash even more. Otherwise you will end up with a very thick consistency. Serve with fresh bread and enjoy!

Homemade Applesauce

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So, this past weekend my friend and I went to an apple orchard. The experience was less than desirable. The orchard was crowded, most of the apples had been picked over or weren’t ripe yet, and (at this particular place) the price of the smallest bag was $20! But in spite of all of that, I did get some apples!

I decided I really wanted to make applesauce, but I didn’t want to use all the apples I had just got! So I used 4 medium apples which made 1 ball jar’s worth. I don’t eat too much applesauce anyway, so it’s perfect. If you want to make a bigger batch and store them over a long period of time, you can can them. But that’s a post for another time.

Homemade Applesauce

 

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Start with 4 medium apples. Peel them and cut them each into 8 sections, or use an apple corer and it does this for you automatically. After I cut them into 8 sections, I actually cut them once further, so they were smaller chunks. But this is optional and totally up to you.

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Put the apples in a big pot and cover the bottom of the pot with water or apple juice. We don’t want to boil the apples, we just want to soften them up, so be careful not to put in too much water. Then, I put in 2 teaspoons of lemon juice (to help slow down the oxidation process or browning of the apples) and a pinch of salt to help them soften up faster. Now this is the part you can kinda play around with. For the spices I used 1/4 cup brown sugar and a teaspoon cinnamon. But you can just add sugar instead of brown sugar, or add more spices like nutmeg, cardamom, etc. I chose brown sugar and cinnamon, in part because it’s what I had in my pantry, but also because I wanted that darker, spicier flavor. So again, it’s up to you!

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Heat the pot to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for 20-30 minutes, covered. I kept mine on medium-low and it took 25 minutes. After it’s done simmering, you can do one of two things: Mash the apples with a fork or potato masher, or throw it in the blender. I chose to use the blender. It was way quicker and gave it the smooth consistency I was going for. I don’t like chunks in my applesauce. But you can blend it to whatever consistency you like!

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And that’s it! Pretty easy right? I was surprised how well it turned out for my first time making applesauce! Feel free to try my recipe, or play around with it to see what you like. I would think it would be pretty hard to mess up applesauce (but you never know).

Feel free to share your recipes and experiences with making applesauce!

Until next time,

Adele

Recipe:

4 medium apples
Water or apple juice
2 tsp. lemon juice
A pinch of salt
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 tsp. cinnamon