My first Thanksgiving Menu

Apparently, due to some of my family’s indecisiveness (we know where I get it from), I am now preparing Thanksgiving dinner for my mom’s side of the family.  While I’m not thrilled about the roundabout way we got to this plan, I am excited to make lots of yummy food!  I’ve never had the chance or time to make anything for Thanksgiving in the past, so I’ve been trying to brainstorm a plan for our meal.  Here are some ideas I have:

  1. Gruyere Mushroom Caramelized Onion Bites or Cranberry Bacon Jam Crostinis or Savory Pumpkin and Bacon Dip – Right now I can’t decide between these 3 for appetizers.  I’m thinking the cranberry bacon jam crostinis would be a nice way to include cranberries without making a cranberry sauce.
  2. Slow Cooker Maple Dijon Chicken and Broccoli – I was thinking, since I am making an entire meal to feed 11 people, I should probably minimize as much work as possible.  What better solution than a slow cooker recipe?  And while I would love to cook a special red meat (no way am I attempting a turkey), my aunt does not really prefer red meat, so I thought I’d go for Thanksgiving chicken.  Self high-five.
  3. Green Bean Casserole – I love making it from scratch, and it can be made ahead of time.  A great Thanksgiving vegetable!
  4. Cornbread Stuffing – I’ve always loved the idea of this, but I don’t think I’ve ever actually eaten it.  I do love me a good cornbread, too.
  5. Roasted Brussel Sprouts with Cranberries and Balsamic Reduction – If I decide I need a second side, I’ll make these beauties.  Love brussel sprouts.
  6. Dinner Rolls or Sour Cream Horseradish Mashed Potatoes – I’ve never tried making rolls before, but now seems like a good time as ever.  I can’t decide if I should make rolls or mashed potatoes, though.  I made these mashed potatoes for Easter and they were a hit.  Or maybe I’ll just end up making both.
  7. Pumpkin Pie – I have not had enough pumpkin food this fall.  I’m an eat-pumpkin-all-year-round believer, but I enjoy the concentrated season for pumpkin, and have certainly not yet had my fill.  I definitely have to make maple whipped cream, too!
  8. Sweet Tea Sparkling Apple Cider – A cocktail, perhaps?

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Seasonal dieting?

While I have not yet written about the reasons, Nathan and I hIMG_3446ave recently been challenged to grow in our habits, practices, and values around the sources and quality of the food we eat and cook.  And one of the ramifications we’ve started thinking about and moving more towards is a practice of eating foods in season.

There are a lot of reasons to eat foods in season.  One of the main reasons Nathan and I want to is because it allows us to more readily support local farmers who try to grow food with farming practices that care for the quality of the crops and quality of the environment those crops are grown in.  Plus, the minimal need for packaging or transportation can help minimize our harmful impact on the environment.

That being said, what better way to go further into “seasonal dieting” (a term I completely made up, though according to Google it looks like I’m not the first to think of it) in the summer than to pick berries at a local farm??

Nathan and I have been traveling around a lot this summer (what else is new, I guess), but I was intentional about making time to pick berries because of the immense benefits for everyone, as well as what fun it is to do it especially in thIMG_3451e summer.

Of course, it also brings me a heavy dose of nostalgia because the first time I ever went raspberry picking (I only ever went blueberry, apple, or strawberry picking in my life) was with Nathan during our honeymoon.  We basically ate raspberries that entire week and only almost got sick of them.

And what we discovered when we went out to G and S Orchards was that they had YELLOW raspberries available for us to pick!  I mean, who knew that these beautiful, tasty things existed??  Surely not I, said the Tamaria.

So now, not only was I excited to support our local farmers, have fun picking berries, prevent a little further harm on the environment, and feed myself some nutritious, delightful food – but I now had an exciting new fruit to learn about and take colorful photos!

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See?  Win-win-wins all around for everybody!

Shrimp Cocktail & Homemade Ketchup

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There were quite a number of unexpected, life-changing food adventures that occurred as a direct result of our Easter feast this year.

Factor #1:  I had been craving shrimp during our Lenten rice-and-beans fast.   I wanted to cook shrimp for the first time at some point post-Easter.

Factor #2:  We had lots of leftover horseradish from the cream sauce that paired with Nathan’s excellent beef tenderloin.  We don’t usually use horseradish in anything.  Ever.

So after Easter, I started brainstorming and searching for ideas of what kind of shrimp meals I could attempt, and what in great heavens we could do with leftover horseradish.  Of course, in this kind of situation, I turned to Pinterest, my go-to culinary life raft.

After perusing the search results of the terms “shrimp” and “horseradish” individually and coming up with only one or two strong recipe possibilities, I was curious to see what would come up if I entered “shrimp” and “horseradish” together.  Not much came about from what I thought was a genius attempt, but I did find one pin that was basically the jackpot, and ironically was one of the most common shrimp dishes I could think of: homemade shrimp cocktail.

The recipe looked simple and easy (which is what I typically look for), with ingredients I basically have on hand.  The only problem with the cocktail sauce, was the ketchup.  Nathan and I don’t normally buy ketchup (read as: we never buy ketchup), and I was worried that if we bought ketchup for this cocktail sauce, we would be perpetuating the same pickle we were trying to resolve in using up what we had.  I brought this up with Nathan.  But then, I had a crazy idea.

What if I made the ketchup?

I had the vague feeling that I had heard about making homemade ketchup years ago, but it never really stuck for some reason – probably because I thought, ‘Why would you make ketchup when you can just buy it?’ in addition to the assumption that it was probably tedious or difficult to make.

But I was curious.  And for some reason, instead of returning to my semi-faithful Pinterest search bar, I went to Epicurious instead.  I never really used Epicurious much, but Nathan told me his dad basically used that website for recipe searches, and his dad’s a really good cook, so I decided to take this opportunity to try it out.

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Lo and behold, I came across this recipe, read the ingredient list and steps, and thought, “Oh my goodness.  It looks simple and easy!”  So I gave it a whirl and my life has never been the same ever since.

The oven roasted shrimp turned out great.

The homemade cocktail sauce with horseradish and homemade ketchup was perfect.  Well, close to perfect.  I think next time I’ll cut down on some of the sugar.

Oh, and see those mashed potatoes in the pictures?  Yeah, that’s some super delicious sour cream horseradish mashed potatoes.  Those were a game changer, too.  Who knew such things existed?  And why hasn’t anyone told me about these beautiful tastes of heaven?

I’ve been telling everyone that you can make your own ketchup and that you should because it’s so crazy easy and so much better (in taste and quality) than the stuff you buy in the grocery store.  So if you haven’t been told yet, PLEASE do it.  I beg you.  Make your own ketchup.  You can do it!