Thanksgiving table 2015
I hope everyone had a wonderful Thanksgiving, it seems like it was a long, long time ago. It was all a little exhausting but it's a holiday that combines my love of cooking and entertaining with having family all around. And I had that in abundance. Of course I worry that everything will fall into place but at the end of the day when I see everyone laughing and talking in the glow of the candlelight, I know my efforts are worth it, even if they were under that little cloud of stress at the beginning. It makes us strive to do better, be better.
I made everything but the turkey and gravy the day before; the dressing, mashed potatoes and sweet potatoes, some desserts and appetizers. All of these dishes are heated up in the oven an hour before dinner once the turkey comes out. The large casserole dishes take up a lot of room in the fridge so I store these in the back seat of The Husband's car in the garage overnight. I know, sounds crazy and this year I actually wondered if it was such a good idea. It's a ritual for most of our family to get together early Thanksgiving morning for a rousing game of football a few blocks away. I didn't expect The Husband to take his own car (I don't participate, I'm a girly girl!) and when I realized he had, I had visions of casserole dishes slipping and sliding and mashed potatoes splattering on the windows! Everything was fine though. Whew! ;-)
I didn't fuss a lot with the table, I used the pretty velvet pumpkins I won in the giveaway and even included the leaves that came in the packaging to give an autumn feel. I mixed and matched plates and napkins, and silver candlesticks added a little elegance. I kept it even more relaxed by encouraging everyone to have a seat anywhere they wanted, including the living room. It was nice to have several conversations going on at once (and hearing a few "Mmmmmm's" about the food!!).
I can always count on my family for bringing appetizers and desserts. Emily made a different sort of snack, crackers with a smear of brie, a strawberry slice and a drizzle of reduced balsamic glaze. It was very, very good. And my daughter in law, Deirdre, made a type of Crostini with bits of sausage, onion and cheese that had a nice Italian bite to it. My sister in law, Megan, made a hot spinach dip that was out of this world and I am going to share that recipe soon. Perfect for cold weather entertaining. I wish I had gotten more pictures of these goodies, we served them before dinner and then right along with the desserts as the evening went on. On the sweet side...blueberry cheesecake, pumpkin cheesecake, cupcakes and cookies.
We've finished up the last of the leftovers but for a little turkey. The Husband loves his sandwiches piled high with turkey, dressing and cranberry sauce. I have a recipe further along for something I made with some of the leftover turkey. If you don't have any left, perhaps you will after your Christmas dinner (if you make a turkey).
Milo and Layla were exhausted by the end of the evening. There were so many of us it was hard for them to find a spot to curl up in. At one point Milo emerged from under a cozy throw looking like an English barrister! The last guest left by 10:30 p.m. but for son, Jeff, who sat up late with The Husband for some father/son talk. I sneaked off to the den and caught another great Lifetime movie, All About Christmas Eve. Last night I watched A Gift Wrapped Christmas. I really don't know why I am so hooked on these movies this year, the premise is usually the same; a widowed hunky man with a child or children trying to hook them up with a sweet girl who they long will replace their lost parent. But I keep getting sucked up into them. I think right now we need to see happy endings. There has been so much turmoil going on in our world, here in Chicago...well, it's on the news. Very frustrating, very sad. I stay focused, I stay aware, but I also try to find love and hope and peace in the smallest of things, even a sappy movie.
We went away for the weekend, more on that coming up, and on the two hour drive home I began to think of all of the extra turkey in my fridge. I knew it was now or never to do something with it so I started to consider dishes I make with chicken and I came up with chili. What I did, and encourage you to do, is grab whatever you have in your pantry and refrigerator to really use up all those odds and ends so it's truly a 'leftovers' meal. My recipe consists of what I had.
Leftover Turkey Chili
2 T vegetable oil
1 large onion, chopped
1 red pepper, chopped
1/2 poblano pepper, diced
2 cloves garlic, chopped
2 packets of McCormick Chili Seasoning***
4 cups dark turkey meat, roughly chopped and/or shredded
1 28 oz. can diced tomatoes
2 cups chicken broth
1 15 oz. can black beans
S & P to taste
Sour cream and chopped scallions for garnish
Saute the onion and peppers over medium heat until softened, about 5 minutes. Add garlic and continue to stir an additional minute. Sprinkle in both packets of seasonings and stir to combine with the veggies. Add the turkey, tomatoes and broth, scraping up the bits off the bottom of the pot. Simmer over low heat, covered for approximately 45 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the undrained can of beans during the last ten minutes and heat through. Adjust seasonings if necessary and serve in shallow bowls with a dollop of sour cream and a bit if sliced scallions. Serves 6
***I like individual seasoning packets made by McCormick, Lawry's and the like. They have all of the components you need if your spice cabinet is lacking something. These mixes also contain a little bit of flour which thickens the chili slightly. There are no preservatives and there is not a lot of sodium, in fact, I added about 2 teaspoons of salt. Want to use your own spices? You will need 1/4 cup chili powder, 2 tablespoons ground cumin, 1 tablespoon dried oregano, 2 teaspoons red pepper flakes. Simmer uncovered so that you can let some of the liquid evaporate for a thicker chili.
Continental breakfast at The Washington House Inn
Saturday morning we got out of Dodge and drove north just past Milwaukee to a little town called Cedarburg where we met old friends, Cindy and Dan. This was the fourth trip to this picturesque little town for The Husband and me. We met up with Cindy and Dan at our favorite little place for lunch, The Anvil, along beautiful Cedar Creek. Great sandwiches, salads and some lively conversation. Afterward Cindy and I took off in the cold for some Christmas shopping at some of the cute little shops in the town. The guys? Well they usually head off to a warm little bar or tavern to chat over a few cold ones and take in the football games on the big screens. This year Cindy and I spent more time walking and talking rather than shopping. It was a brisk 30 degrees and our noses were red but we had so much to catch up on. We finally headed off to the little joint the guys had said they'd be at. But no sign of them. We shrugged off our heavy coats, I ordered Cindy a hot chocolate with a shot of peppermint schnapps and myself a glass of wine and we chatted away until we got a text from The Husband, "Come and meet us at Easy Street!" Apparently they found a better place but we weren't budging. WE were the ones that had just spent the past two hours out in the cold! Eventually we connected and after more merry making we headed off to a place called The Farmstead for dinner. This restaurant is a centuries year old barn, farm implements are the decor with light fixtures fashioned out of old lanterns attached to wagon wheels hanging from the ceiling. The food was outstanding. We got back to the inn pleasantly full and tired and called it a day. Phew!
The inn is beautiful and the main floor was decorated for the holidays. A large dining room just off this room serves appetizers and cocktails between 4:00 and 5 p.m. so guests can mingle. And in the morning there is a breakfast spread of hot eggs, sausage, potatoes, fruit, sweet rolls, juice and coffee.
I get sentimental (or superstitious) about rooms so if we return to a place, I usually request the same room. This time I chose something different on the second floor and I was so enchanted with it. The shaker style bed and wardrobe took up most of the space but I fell in love with the exposed stone wall and the exposed beams. Isn't it awesome? All in all it was a great trip. We have started making plans to head out Cindy and Dan's way in the spring. They live about 4 1/2 hours from Chicago in western Wisconsin. I know we are going to have a great time. It's still hard to believe I have such a soul sister that I met only through blogging and with a leap of faith in getting together one weekend halfway between Chicago and Black River Falls, WI. And we have been getting together for 8 years now! Amazing.
I met Carol from Art And Sand this past year and at first I fell in love with her bight, colorful, sunny and eclectic home in California just off the ocean. And then I saw how she could change up a table or entire room in a heartbeat with a few pillows or pretty dishes. Finally, I felt that sweet tug on my heartstrings when I saw so many of the handmade treasures that she has the vision, creativity and talent to make, all the homespun crafts and goodies that remind me of the days when I looked at the hand written and illustrated pages of the Gooseberry Patch catalog that came in my mail. I still see crafts like these in shops but it's so gratifying to 'know' the artist. And Carol? Well, I admired this little hand sewn mini pillow and she wrote, "Send me your address." That's Carol and that's so like many of the sweet, talented, thoughtful ladies in the blog world that I'm so happy to be a part of.
I hate to say it, but the head and chest cold arrived last night. How many times can lightning strike? The Husband has it, too. I can hear him coughing and sneezing in the office from where I sit doing the same in the den. I had plans to start do work on some lists and planning and menu's and then this morning I woke up with my head and lungs full, my asthma rearing it's ugly head, feeling totally zapped. I laid in bed listening to the rain on the roof and thought, the heck with the lists, it will get done. The heck with the pressure and all of the other stress we put on ourselves before holidays and events that make us lose sight of the purpose and meaning. Oh sure, I'll be running around like a maniac next week, that's just how I'm wired. But for now, I'm getting well while I silently curse the Flu Gods!
I hope all of YOU are well and doing whatever you feel like doing, whether it's decking the halls or simply sitting back with some hot cocoa and a Hallmark movie. It's all good.