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This year, as my family’s new life twists and unfolds in ways we never expected, I reflect on the ways close and true friends are absolutely vital.  My three children and I recently moved into the home of friends who have willingly and unselfishly opened their doors to us.  I can never repay them for as long as I live, but I will most certainly try.  Angie, the friend I am staying with, was a roommate in college, and over the years, has invited me to join with her in countless family gatherings.  Those experiences meant the world to me when I was thousands of miles from home.

Nearby to where we currently live, are friends I have made over the years who are just as good and true as Angie, and have been my safe haven these last several months.  They have given me advice, called me several times a week to be sure I am doing alright, taken me to dinner, or simply been a listening ear.  In addition to these friends are the ones I left behind in my last home, who were equally faithful.  I don’t believe I have done anything to deserve any of these people’s friendship, but nevertheless, there they are.  And I love them.

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I have mentioned Shannon before on my blog.  She is an amazing person.  I love her home.  It is lovely.  She and her husband have made it into something special that is all their own.  From the wood shop in the back, to the tree fort in the side yard, to the garden and the chickens they keep, I observe their life in admiration every time I visit.  She and her husband are endlessly talented, and I feel it a privilege to know them.

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Last week they agreed to let me have a little Thanksgiving at their house for the blog. Shannon and I cooked all day, and had a great time.  The kids played, helped with the meal, and even chased the chickens back into their pens.  To my delight, just before dinner, Shannon lit a fire in the fire place.  As she did, I felt a pang of longing for my home in Massachusetts.  But really, when I am with any of these my friends, who mean so much to me, I am home.

For our menu, which I will be sharing throughout the week, was the artisan bread stuffing with sausage and apricots, braised Brussels sprouts with caramelized shallots (listed below), mashed potatoes and gravy, and sweet potato mash with candied pear (also listed below). Shannon made the turkey, and I will share her techniques later this week. For dessert, we ate a pumpkin crème caramel, which you won’t want to miss.

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In case you were wondering, Shannon took that picture of my hands grating the orange zest into the cranberries, and if you’d like that recipe, click here.

braised Brussels sprouts with caramelized shallots

1 tablespoon butter
2-3 shallots, finely sliced
1 pound fresh Brussels sprouts, trimmed of wilted leaves and cut in half
1/2 cup sparkling cider, such as Martinelli’s
1/2 cup chicken stock, homemade or low sodium canned
salt and pepper to taste

1. In a large high sided skillet, saute the shallots in butter over low heat, until soft and starting to brown, about 15 minutes.

2. Increase the heat to medium high, and toss in the Brussels sprouts, allowing them to sear and brown in the pan. Pour in the cider and stock and braise until liquid is mostly evaporated, and sprouts are just tender but still bright green. Season with salt and pepper, and more butter, if desired.

sweet potato mash with candied pear

5 medium sized sweet potatoes, or yams
5 tablespoons granulated sugar
2 large pears, peeled and cut into half inch chunks
5 tablespoons heavy cream
4 tablespoons pure maple syrup
salt and pepper to taste

1. Pierce the sweet potatoes several times with a knife, and place in a 375 degree oven. Roast until tender and skin loosens, about an hour.

2. Sprinkle sugar in the bottom of a large, high sided skillet set over medium heat. Swirl the pan as the sugar liquifies and caramelizes. When some of the sugar is a light amber color, add in in the pear chunks. Cook pear until coated in the caramel, and turning tender (you will have to decide how long this takes, as the pears will be of a different ripeness. Mine were hard as rocks, so it took awhile). Remove to a bowl.

3. Scoop out the sweet potato flesh and place in the same skillet. Mash with a fork. Add in cream, maple syrup, and salt and pepper to taste. Place the sweet potato in a bowl, and top with pears.

You might also want to try these for your Thanksgiving sides:

cornbread pudding

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harvest salad with spiced pumpkin seeds

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