Category Archives: thanksgiving

Thanksgiving reflections

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Ok so I’m a little delayed on my post-turkey post. But let’s get serious, if you’re anything like me you are just now starting to feel like a normal human again after a serious bout with tryptophan. Just me? Ok, then.

I love Thanksgiving. I would tell you it’s my favorite holiday but I say that every holiday and I don’t want to have a wolf cry moment. Plus, Christmas is just around the corner and that whole birth of Christ shebang is pretty cool.

Truth is my perception of Thanksgiving has shifted over the years. There was a time when I nearly cried because our attendance dropped to 5 people after years of record celebrations. I made so much of a fuss that my dad asked everyone from out-of-town family members to the mailman to join us so we could fill the quota. I feel badly about that. College will do that to a girl.

Don’t get me wrong, I still believe in ‘the more the merrier’ concept. In fact I love nothing more than a big family gathering, but I’ve also learned to appreciate quality over quantity when it comes to most things in my life, friendships, family gatherings and food included.

A few years ago, I might have scoffed at the idea of not spending the actual holiday with my immediate family. I’ll be the first to admit that when it comes to them I’m a bit holiday selfish.

Can I use holiday as a modifier? I should know this.

What I do know is there are millions of people who never get to celebrate with their family, those who don’t get enough to eat, let alone a meal big enough to keep them full until the next Wednesday. So in the spirit of being thankful, I’ve learned to not only accept, but to enjoy that I am being welcomed into another family’s home on Thanksgiving Day.

And because my family is only a 3 hour drive away, I’m thankful to share a bonus Thanksgiving dinner with them a few days later.

I wish I could take credit for some of the spread, but my mom is a Thanksgiving ninja. One minute you’re snapping green beans and the next they are prepared and ready to be placed on the already-adorned table. And it’s not just simple things like green beans, ninja Nana stealthily roasts a turkey, whips up two kinds of dressing, alternative sides and dessert without breaking a sweat.

Speaking of breaking a sweat, I did manage to make a simple place setting on Saturday for our family dinner.

simple holiday place setting, rosemary napkin, ribbon-tied napkin, holiday china, thanksgiving place setting

I had brought home some fresh rosemary to make a batch of sweet potato rosemary drop biscuits. I know they sound delicious, don’t they? I might just have to make a batch this weekend because we had more than enough food on Saturday. So instead of using the rosemary in the biscuits, I tied a sprig up with ribbon around mom’s fancy silver and placed it on her grandmother’s china that I hope someday is my china. No rush, mom.

Here’s all you need:

  • silver or normal silverware
  • linen napkins
  • ribbon or twine
  • fresh rosemary

This is a great way to ensure that your guests have the utensils they need but don’t waste extra ones when you serve buffet-style. Simply wrap the napkin around the silver and tie a small bow around a snipped piece of rosemary. I’m a big fan of using natural elements in place settings as little to nothing is wasted as a result.

So I made a few place settings and bought a turkey cake. Probably a big letdown for those of you expecting more from me this year, but with my mom making things like rainbow pumpkin muffins, how can you compete?

turkey cake, thanksgiving, swiss mountain dog, rainbow pumpkin muffins

I’m just kidding. She made the pumpkin muffins. The rainbows were just simple light refraction. I am still waiting for them to take off on Pinterest, though.

Speaking of light, each year I ask my nephews to tell us what they are thankful for at Thanksgiving dinner. Why you might ask? Because they are boys, ages 7 and 3 and you just never know what kind of answer you are going to get. We already knew what Jake was thankful for as my sister shared it on Facebook the week prior.


Yes hyenas. His selection confirmed again at dinner when he said that he chose them because they are cute.

If you say so, kid

I expected a similar answer from the older one, or at least something referencing his iPhone, Lego droids or the XBox. I think everyone in the room let out a breath when Owen raised his hand and said,

“I’m thankful for the sun that gives us light each and every day.”

Nothing like a 7 year-old to put you at a loss for words.

And nothing like his 3 year-old brother to follow it with a rousing rendition of gangnam style.

As we continue through the holiday season, I encourage you to be thankful for what you have and not to focus on what you want. And while it took a 7 year-old to remind me, after this weekend my heart is just about as full as my belly. I hope yours is, too.

Have a great week!

Gobble, Gobble

OMG it’s Thanksgiving week y’all!

I know. I can hardly believe it either.

I can hardly believe it because we’ve been experiencing full-on Christmastime weather here in Chicago. Saturday was the annual Magnificent Mile Lights Festival, complete with 14 degree wind chills and boughs of frozen holly.

As a staunch no Christmas cheer before Thanksgiving is here supporter, I must admit this weather is throwing me for a loop. Our rapid decline in temps has me ever-so-close to decking my halls. Pair that with an especially tempting holiday collection from Target and I nearly broke my own cardinal red rule this season.

I may even have purchased a pillow from the above collection this weekend and tucked it away for later decorating. That was until this guy pulled it out of hiding.

greater swiss mountain dog, holiday pillow, Target holiday pillow, swissy

At first he looked like the might snuggle it nicely but then I saw a little of myself in him as he thrashed it back and forth, poked a few holes in the top and began chewing it to shreds like one of his other toys.

How can you be mad at him? He’s right. It was too early. Too soon.

So I invite you to join me in slowing down on the Christmas craziness. There’s plenty of time for finding the perfect tree. Weeks and weeks until you finally pick the last piece of glitter out of your hair. Let’s not be too rushed to miss the reason we gather together this week and stuff our bellies. After all, we’ve got Pilgrims to thank!

In the spirit of Thanksgiving, I offer you the most welcomed holiday recipe you will ever bring. On a buffet full of taupes, tans and cocoas, this red gem stands out not only in color, but in taste. I invite you to share it as an appetizer before your Thanksgiving feast, or carry it through your holiday parties into the New Year.

holiday cranberry salsa, cranberry relish, thanksgiving, christmas appetizers, cranberry side dish

It’s fresh. It’s sweet. It’s tangy. It’s your go-to contribution for potlucks all season long. Special shout out to my cousin Lindsey for bringing this on Christmas Day a few years ago. It’s really become the gift that keeps on giving.

holiday cranberry salsa, cranberry relish, thanksgiving, christmas appetizers, cranberry side dish

Holiday Cranberry Salsa 

  • 1 bag fresh cranberries
  • 1 green apple
  • 1 red pepper, seeded
  • 1/2 med red onion
  • 1/2-3/4 C sugar
  • 1/3 C apple juice
  • 1 jalapeno
  • zest of 1 lime (plus a little juice)
  • 1 bunch cilantro (1/4 C)
  • Kosher salt to taste

Rough chop apples, peppers and onions. In a food processor, chop fresh cranberries. Transfer to a large mixing bowl. Add apple, peppers and onion to food processor. Chop until finely diced. Add to cranberries in bowl. Finally, chop cilantro. Add sugar, apple juice, lime zest and lime juice. Add cilantro and salt to taste.

holiday cranberry salsa, cranberry relish, thanksgiving, christmas appetizers, cranberry side dish

The sugar will start to pull out the liquid in the cranberries and so be sure to give it a few hours to sit. Serve with blue corn chips as an appetizer, as a relish on turkey or over cream cheese with crackers.

holiday cranberry salsa, cranberry relish, thanksgiving, christmas appetizers, cranberry side dish

I hope you have a wonderful holiday with family and friends. What a great time to be thankful for all we have been given this year.

greater swiss mountain dog, holiday pillow, Target holiday pillow, swissy

Pumpkin Cheesecake Crumble…


Have I mentioned previously that I love pumpkin? 
I used this recipe from Bon Appetite for our Halloween Dinner Club a few weeks back and it was a hit. Faced with making a dish suitable for toting to multiple Thanksgiving dinners miles apart, I decided to go with this make-ahead recipe. NOTE: While flavor is amazing regardless, limiting transportation and re-refrigeration will lend itself to crispier bars. These bars make a great alternative to pumpkin pie and can be cut in fairly reasonable portions. No one said you had to stop at just one bar though 🙂 
Pumpkin Cheesecake Crumble Squares

Cranberry Oatmeal Bars…


For the past few years, my friends and I have a Thanksgiving dinner together prior to the holiday. Since Thanksgiving is usually a time spent with family, the early scheduling of our dinner allows us to not only share a holiday with close friends, but it allows us to experiment with dishes that we might not traditionally have. Knowing I would be feasting on a wealth of pumpkin, stuffing and turkey at multiple venues this year, I decided to make an alternative dessert: Cranberry Oatmeal Bars for this year’s dinner. I recommend bringing something like this if you are a guest at a Thanksgiving this year as these bars are easy to transport, can be made ahead of time and can be sent home with guests if their bellies are too full for that last dessert. I’ve included the Cooking Light recipe I used below, but I plan on making this Our Best Bites version very soon.
Cranberry-Oatmeal Bars
    * 4.5  ounces  all-purpose flour (about 1 cup)
    * 1  cup  quick-cooking oats
    * 1/2  cup  packed brown sugar
    * 1/4  teaspoon  salt
    * 1/4  teaspoon  baking soda
    * 1/4  teaspoon  ground cinnamon
    * 6  tablespoons  butter, melted
    * 3  tablespoons  orange juice
    * Cooking spray

    * 1 1/3  cups  dried cranberries (about 6 ounces)
    * 3/4  cup  sour cream
    * 1/2  cup  granulated sugar
    * 2  tablespoons  all-purpose flour
    * 1  teaspoon  vanilla extract
    * 1/2  teaspoon  grated orange rind
    * 1  large egg white, lightly beaten

1. Preheat oven to 325°.

2. To prepare crust, weigh or lightly spoon flour into a dry measuring cup; level with a knife. Combine flour and next 5 ingredients (through cinnamon) in a medium bowl, stirring well with a whisk. Drizzle butter and juice over flour mixture, stirring until moistened (mixture will be crumbly). Reserve 1/2 cup oat mixture. Press remaining oat mixture into the bottom of an 9×9–inch baking dish coated with cooking spray.

3. To prepare filling, combine cranberries, sour cream, granulated sugar, and remaining ingredients in a medium bowl, stirring well. Spread cranberry mixture over prepared crust; sprinkle reserved oat mixture evenly over filling. Bake at 325° for 40 minutes or until edges are golden. Cool completely in pan on a wire rack.

>Thanksgiving Turkey Treats…


So I realize I’ve been promoting the Our Best Bites blog a lot lately, but they keep inspiring me with their adorably cute holiday treats. I have yet to blog about my successful Halloween-themed treats based on my previous post, but these were too cute not to share. Gobble, gobble folks. Thanksgiving is right around the corner!