Thanksgiving is just around the corner. If you have been invited to enjoy a feast at someone else’s house, you may want to bring a host gift. Why not put together a gift basket with wine, cheese, crackers and homemade strawberry jam?
It’s a nice touch to add something homemade. Strawberry jam is so easy to make. This gift can be opened and enjoyed right there as an appetizer.
Or, you could put some fresh bread and biscuits into the basket for the host to enjoy for breakfast. Here is a recipe that will fill a beautiful jar of strawberry jam as a gift and still leave a little for your refrigerator as well.
4 Tbsp pectin (I have included a You Tube video with a pectin free recipe)
Mash the strawberries with a potato masher. Pour the strawberries into a pot on high heat. Add the sugar, pectin and lemon juice. Bring to a rolling boil. Cook as it boils, stirring constantly, for ten minutes. Skim off the foam. Turn off the heat. Pour into jars. This will last for three weeks in the refrigerator.
Here is a video of a strawberry jam recipe without pectin:
On December 11, 1620, one hundred and two pilgrims walked off of the Mayflower and set foot on a new land. Some of the travelers were avoiding religious persecution and some were here on business. They were all extremely brave. That first year was devastating for the newcomers. Forty six of the original passengers did not survive.
However, the year of 1621 brought a bounty of food. To celebrate, the colonists, along with the Wampanoag tribe of Native Americans, feasted for three days. This must have been more than a celebration of food. It was a celebration life itself. They survived and were thankful to be alive. According to Edward Winslow’s, “A journal of the pilgrims at Plymouth in 1621,” they ate five deer and as many fowl as they could fit in their arms. This feast marks the beginning of what we now call Thanksgiving Day.
In 1863, President Lincoln proclaimed, “The year that is drawing to its close, has been filled with the blessings of fruitful fields and healthful skies. To these bounties, which are so constantly enjoyed that we are prone to forget the source from which they come… I do therefore invite my fellow citizens in every part of the United States… to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next, as a day of thanksgiving and praise our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens…” Thus, we were compelled to give thanks, not just for our bountiful supply of food, but for all that is good in life. Lincoln points out the “fruitful fields” as well as the “healthful skies” which is all that nourishes our life.
Thanksgiving Day is not only about the delicious roasted turkeys, succulent honey glazed hams, cranberry sauce, mashed potatoes, gravy, stuffing, green bean casseroles, and pumpkin pies. We must remember to be thankful for these things, as well as: our health, peace, safety of soldiers, love of family, comfort of friendships, healing nature of laughter, and for our healthful skies.
To commemorate a good life, we feast. After some research, it is not clear that the pilgrims ate any turkey at the first thanksgiving meal. They definitely ate venison.
venison marinating in olive oil and herbs
This week, Jack’s friend, Eli Ahrens, invited us to his house to help butcher a deer which he shot. I instantly thought, well, this is very much a Thanksgiving thing to do.
venison with an apple and blackberry sauce
We’re in! So, our whole family headed over to the Ahrens house to help. I couldn’t do that to my little vegetarian; so, the girls stayed inside with Sara.
caramelized vegetables for venison
Jeff and Eli were kind enough to let us taste the venison at their house and take some home as well. We are thankful.
blackberry and apple reduction with cream for venison
Shortly thereafter, I started to think…maybe somebody wants to have a dinner for two without a turkey? Here is a recipe you might enjoy for a quieter feast while maintaining the special atmosphere that surrounds the holiday. The recipe below is for pan seared venison, marinated in thyme, on a plate of mashed potatoes, topped with caramelized vegetables, and smothered in an apple and blackberry sauce.
pouring the sauce onto the venison feast
pan seared venison with caramelized vegetables
3 large potatoes, peeled, chopped and boiled
4 Tbsp butter
1 C. whipping cream (it’s Thanksgiving, so go all out with the butter and cream)
Salt and pepper to taste
Mash together all of the ingredients until creamy.
1 stalk of celery
½ red pepper
½ orange pepper
½ C. mushrooms, sliced
2 Tbsp. butter
2 Tbsp. sugar
1 C. white wine (and an optional glass to sip while cooking)
Heat the butter and sugar on high heat for one minute. Add the vegetables. Lower the heat to medium high and let them cook until brown (about 15 minutes). You will see that some stickiness will accumulate at the bottom of the pan. Take the vegetables out and add the glass of wine to deglaze the pan. Mix together everything off of the bottom of the pan. Let this simmer until it reduces down to barely anything. Toss back in the vegetables and coat in the sauce. Pour vegetables into an oven safe pan. Stick this in the preheated oven (350 degrees) until finished with everything else.
Pan Seared Venison and Marinade
¼ lb. venison loin cut into two pieces
1 Tbsp. thyme
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp pepper
5 Tbsp olive oil, divided
2 Tbsp. blackberry juice (from the can of blackberries you will need for the sauce)
Mix 3 Tbsp olive oil, thyme, salt and pepper in a small dish. Add the venison and coat it well with the marinade. Set aside. Place 2 Tbsp. olive oil in a skillet on high heat. Once the pan is very hot (but not smoking) place the venison in the skillet. Let it sear for two minutes each side. Then, place it in an oven safe dish and put it in the oven with the vegetables. The venison will cook for about 15 minutes, which is perfect because you have to make the sauce.
Apple and Blackberry Sauce
1 Tbsp. olive oil
½ onion, diced
1 C. blackberry juice
1 can blackberries
1 green apple, peeled, cored and thinly sliced
½ C. chicken stock
½ C. heavy whipping cream
In a small sauce pan, add olive oil and turn the heat on medium high. Add the onions. Cook the onions in the oil for five minutes. Add the juice, blackberries, apple and stock. Let this all simmer for about ten minutes. Then, sieve the fruit and onions out of the sauce, returning the liquid to the pan. Let this simmer on medium heat for two minutes. Add cream.
Take the venison and vegetables out of the oven. Slice venison. Place a scoop of potatoes on the plates. Layer on a scoop of vegetables. Place the venison slices on top of this. Drizzle everything with the sauce. Enjoy.
It is a good idea to start your Thanksgiving meal with a delicious soup. Maybe while the turkey is still cooking, you could serve this to your guests. People are hungry and you just need to wet their appetite, just a little bit. Try this delicious curried carrot and turnip soup. It is the perfect combination of ingredients for a cool fall day. It’s hearty and creamy. It’s warm and satisfying. This soup is filled with nutritious vegetables and tastes like a bit of heaven. It’s sure to warm everyone from the inside out. What a great way to begin your Thanksgiving meal.
Curried carrot and turnip soup:
2 Tbsp. olive oil
1 C. celery, diced
1 C. onions, diced
1 carrots, diced
2 cloves of garlic, sliced
6 turnips diced
1 Tbsp thyme
1 Tbsp turmeric
1 Tbs curry powder
1 can/bottle beer
1 C. water (enough to cover vegetables)
1 stick of butter
4 Tbsp. sour cream
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 Tbsp sugar
2 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
A few sprigs of cilantro to garnish
Heat olive oil in a stock pot on medium heat. Add the celery, onions, carrots, garlic, and turnips. Saute the vegetables for ten minutes. Add the thyme, turmeric and curry powder. Mix into the vegetables for about two minutes. Pour in the bottle of beer to deglaze the pan. Add enough water to cover the vegetables. Simmer for one to two hours, until the vegetables are soft. Add one stick of butter and let it melt into the ingredients. Add the sour cream, vanilla, sugar and vinegar. Stir in and let this simmer another fifteen minutes. Blend all of the ingredients until smooth and creamy. Cook another ten minutes. Ladle into bowls and add a few sprigs of cilantro for garnish. Enjoy.
Zucchini bread is simple to make and tastes very delicious. The smell of freshly baked zucchini bread will fill your home with happiness.
zucchini bread: dry ingredients
Have some ready for Thanksgiving morning or to nibble on while you are cooking. If you grow your own zucchini in the garden, you can shred them and freeze them in bags with two cups in each bag. This makes it so easy to pull zucchini out of the freezer and make zucchini bread fresh and warm all year round.
zucchini bread: wet ingredients
Kids love zucchini bread and serving this is a great way to sneak vegetables into their diet. This is a traditional zucchini bread recipe. There are lighter versions which use apple sauce as a substitute for some of the sugar. Here is a YouTube video with instructions on how to make a vegan version of zucchini bread, if that is more your style.
Which type of turkey are you planning to put on the table this Thanksgiving? Here is some useful information to distinguish between free-range, organic, natural and kosher. Read this information and decide which turkey best fits your palate and your philosophy.
According to the U.S Department of Agriculture, free-range turkeys have “been allowed access to the outdoors.” This doesn’t ensure that the turkeys are free to roam. The conditions may vary by producer. If the free to roam lifestyle is what you prefer, you may want to look for pasture raised turkey. This is an unregulated term but indicates a freer life spent strutting around in the sun eating up the grass.Free-range birds tend to be moist but not exceptionally so. They have a robust flavor.
These turkeys are raised free of antibiotics and growth hormones. They are given access to the outdoors. So, they are also free-range. They are fed with organic feed. This feed, by law, contains no genetically modified grains, pesticides, herbicides or animal by products. They have a pronounced turkey flavor.
If the turkey is labeled “natural”, by law, the turkey must be minimally processed and contain no artificial ingredients, coloring or preservatives. Typically, the more natural the turkey, the better the flavor.
These turkeys are raised and processed under rabbinical supervision and in accordance with strict dietary law. This mandates a soaking in a cold freshwater bath and hand salting inside and out, followed by a triple rinse. They can vary dramatically in flavor. Some have a cardboard texture. Some retain a few stray feathers. However, these feathers are super clean with all of those rinses. I’d still wash it all again.
This Thanksgiving, why not give a cranberry coulis a try? This puree is a delicious sauce served with turkey and all of the fixings. The tangy cranberry combined with orange and herbs makes the perfect complement to the meal. It’s a combination of sweet, earthy and sharp flavors all in one. The gorgeous color of this coulis will add to the beauty of the plate. It is simple to make and tastes delicious.
2 C. frozen cranberries
1/3 C. water
1 Tbsp. dried rosemary
1 C. sugar
¼ C. orange juice
4 sprigs of mint
Place cranberries, water, and rosemary into a sauce pan. Bring to boil. Decrease heat, cover and allow it to simmer until berries begin to pot (about five minutes). Remove from heat. Stir in sugar and orange juice. Allow this to cool. Press it through a sieve and discard the skins. Refrigerate. When you are ready to serve, place sprigs of mint on top.
Here is a recipe for cranberry sauce I found on Foodista:
Figs have been written about in the Bible, the Koran, and in Greek mythology. It seems the common theme with figs is that they are alluring. Figs have been known to lead people to stray from the rules.
What is it about figs that seem to turn people into rule breakers? Is it the sweet flavor, the crunchiness of the seeds, the soft smooth texture? Or, maybe the combination of all of these things lures some into debauchery. Here are three tasty recipes to try and see if you come up with a conclusion.
Smashed fig and Parma ham sandwich:
1 loaf of French bread
1 clove garlic, cut in half
1 Tbsp. butter
4 figs, cut in half
4 basil leaves, cut into ribbons
5 slices Parma ham
1 C Mozzarella cheese
2 medium tomatoes
Salt and pepper to taste
Slice the French bread in half and rub the garlic halves all over. Spread the butter onto the bread. You want to layer the ingredients exactly the same on each side. First smash the figs on both pieces of bread and layer the basil, ham, cheese, tomatoes, and salt and pepper on each half. Place both halves of bread layered with these ingredients together. Wrap the sandwich in plastic wrap. Place a cutting board on top of the sandwich. Place cans and books to weigh the board down. Leave for 20 minutes. Unwrap the sandwich, slice on the bias. Serve.
Figs wrapped with bacon and stuffed with goat cheese: (try this for Thanksgiving)
Many people have begun planning their Thanksgiving menus. Here is an interesting twist on the traditional green bean casserole as a side dish. It’s always nice to try something new. Why not give cannellini beans a try? They are delicious especially when combined with bacon and goat cheese.
8 slices of bacon
3 Tbsp. olive oil
1 medium onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp salt
4 cans cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
3 Tbsp. cider vinegar
1 tsp. black pepper
1 C. goat cheese, crumbled
Fry the bacon and transfer to a plate (on a paper towel). Add olive oil to the bacon drippings. Add the onion, garlic, and salt. Reduce heat to low. Cook for 25 minutes. Heat up the beans. Transfer beans to a serving bowl. Add vinegar to the onion mixture. Cook for one minute. Pour over the beans. Add pepper, crumbled bacon and goat cheese. Mix and serve.