Sunday, December 1, 2013

Thanksgiving 2013: Golden & Delicious

A few months ago I had a vision.
I discussed said vision with my sister - who, fully supported and encouraged my very ambitious vision.
I then discussed it with my mom.
And with the final piece to the vision puzzle, my dad.

This year, I wanted to host and cook Thanksgiving.
The whole thing, start to finish.
For my whole family.

With everyone on, board, including my dad, who holds the recipe to my most favorite stuffing ever, I began to dream, and think, and plan, and most importantly pin Thanksgiving 2013.

A week in advance, I began to turn what was inside my head into reality.
I debated between using my great-grandma's china, which was my original inspiration for the gold decor, or paper plates.
I really didn't want to be stuck hand washing delicate china after spending a full day cooking, but really didn't want cheesy turkey plates.
Thankfully, I had a fortuitous moment at Marshall's where I found the prettiest white and gold fall themed paper plate and napkin sets. Dinner & dessert!

That trip was followed by a trip to Target where I also found very affordable square chargers to compliment the plates, and everything fell into place from there.

Our Thanksgiving was going to include 18 guests, all adults. However, my family typically dines buffet style, so I set the table for 8, and decided guests could sit wherever they chose.

I also bought out every variety of gold spray paint that Home Depot had to offer. The final verdict was the chrome style paint, was the big winner. And my most favorite project from the whole experience was the gold footed wine glasses.

I find the Target Dollar spot to be a lot more miss than hit, but not this time. $1 a piece for these babies.

I plotted and planned the menu. Most everything was set to be standard dishes our family has every year. Most importantly my dad's stuffing, I decided to add an extra dish with the help of the Pioneer Woman, and made her Brussell Sprouts with Cranberries, and snuck her mashed potato recipe in too.

Dad and I went shopping and picked out a 19lber. Plus another 8lb breast.

Realizing I had maybe been a bit ambitious on how much cooking I could accomplish on Thursday, even with the help of my parents' double oven, I decided to cook all of the desserts on Wednesday, along with the Mashed potatoes and ended up having enough time to work the Boozy Berries Cranberry Sauce in there as well.

At one point, I had every item cooking at once, with the exception of the pecan pie. It was a great feeling. In my next life, I need to be a baker.

Unfortunately, my potatoes were on the verge of a flop, and so I made a quick call to my dad. He generously offered to bring over some back up taters, which ended up saving the day! I am an Irishwoman. I could not flop the potatoes.

Thankfully, it all turned out wonderfully, and I finished everything well within the 6 hours I had. And my house smelled like sweet cranberry orange goodness when I was done.

Thursday morning, I was up before the sun, excited for the kitchen symphony that was about to occur.

I headed to my parents, where our big gathering would be taking place, and was able to watch the parade, during the calm before the storm.

I added a few finishing touches to the table, and then it was time to get to work on the bird.

My dad's method was really, REALLY simple.
We washed the bird, patted him dry, stuffed him with the leafy bits of celery, and quarters of a red onion, turned him upside down, and cooked him at 325 for about 3 hours.
Rotating once.

And that was it.
In a little over 3 hours our bird was done!

In the mean time, I got to work on those brussell sprouts. I was nervous, brussies can be hit or miss, and have a bit of a reputation. But if this picture doesn't turn you into a believer I don't know what will.

They turned out phenomenal. Roasty. Toasty. Glazey. So yummy.
Those who were brave enough to try them were in for a tastebud treat.
Thank you to Ree, I was able to bring a bit of the pioneer into the suburbs for a day.

And the last dish to make was dad's stuffing.
I finally nailed down the recipe, which, to me is the quintessential Grover family stuffing.
As a kid, I hated it, because I just wanted traditional Stove Top. But one year, we went without dad's stuffing, and you know what they say, absence makes the heart grow fonder.

2 boxes corn bread stuffing mix
2 cups chopped yellow onion
2 cups chopped celery
2 cups sliced mushrooms
4 sticks of butter
Golden Raisins
Regular Raisins
Slivered Almonds, toasted (not optional!)
Turkey/Chicken Stock
Pecans (optional)

Chop vegetables.

Toast slivered almonds until crispy and light brown.

Sautee vegetables in 2 sticks of butter until they cook down, add additional sticks of butter as well.
It's a lot of butter. I know. But this is the kind of dish you only make once a year. Maybe twice.

Pour veggies & butter over cornbread mix and coat. 
Toss in raisins and slivered almonds.
Spoon stock over stuffing until wet and coated.

Place in bread pans, top with pecans and bake (350?) until cooked and browned (like the color of banana bread).

And I completely forgot to get an "after" shot of the stuffing, but oh my gosh, it was SO perfectly delicious. Already counting down til Thanksgiving 2014 when I can make this again.

Soon our turkey was done and guests began arriving.

My dad was the official carver, and gravy maker, although I tried to be available to learn.

But there were guests.

And wine.

And soon it was time to eat. 
The fun part about this year, was we were able to host friends in addition to family. 
Which was a huge blessing to me, and kept all of us on our best behavior. 

And by the end of the evening, family were friends, and friends were family.
Us girls toasted one of the loveliest Thanksgivings ever with cranberry garnished champagne.

Vision executed.

I know this is cheesy, but I think back to being a little girl, and my Aunt giving me her crust recipe for the first time, buying me a can of crisco, and teaching me how to make my very first pumpkin pie for Thanksgiving. As I've grown older I have been able to add to that skill set and do more each year. Thanksgiving really is my favorite holiday, cooking, and baking, and hosting are are areas I know the Lord has given me passion and skill. Gratitude is a virtue I feel strongly about practicing everyday. The Lord has given so much to all of us, and we have so much to be thankful for, 365 days a year.  The combination of a day set apart to be reminded of that and a day of cooking is quite possibly the best thing to ever have happened.

I am so thankful that I had the opportunity to spend a day with my dad, learn how to cook a turkey, learn from the best and make his stuffing, execute a huge meal, and most importantly to host and serve my loved ones. One more giant thank you to those loved ones for being willing to let me do this, and for bringing all of the amazing and delicious sides, and appetizers, and wines. And for spending an evening dining and enjoying each others' company. It was the best kind of day.


  1. Congrats Grover! You did an amazing job, I think you need a vacation now, what a huge undertaking! AND you managed to look fabulous! I have a friend who swears that inviting an "outsider" to holidays is the best thing to do. I've yet to try it, but it seems like a good idea. Happy Thanksgiving!

  2. Everything looks perfect! What a wonderful day! :)

  3. i don't think this is at all cheesy. it's super sweet and all kinds of delicious. i imagine josie (who spent the entire day in the kitchen beside her dad cooking) wanting to do the same. it will have all began the same way... with pie crust.

  4. Everything looks so great! Congrats on a job well done!

  5. Your Thanksgiving looks fantastic!! I'll have to try those Brussel sprouts.

  6. <3 Sounds like you created the perfect Thanksgiving!

  7. can't believe i got to be there. it was a magical event, friend! well hosted, indeed!

  8. um, gorgeous spread! hosting is my favorite thing ever.

  9. Omigosh - your thanksgiving looks like it was amazing!!! really beautiful!