A Scrumptious Thanksgiving

This year, my family of five had no obligations. We didn’t have to go anywhere, do anything, or have anybody over.

So we decided to do Thanksgiving our way. Our seasonal veggies, made-from-scratch, cast-iron-skillet way.

And the results? Delicious. I think this has been our best Thanksgiving meal yet.

I got to use my sister Jenna’s Rebel to photograph our lovely spread. And those oranges and lemons? Homegrown. Oh yeah.

Jenna and I started early, pinning recipes we’d like to make. There were a few things that had to be there. My dad was adamant that we needed a cornbread stuffing, and we all agreed we absolutely had to have my mom’s cranberry pear relish. But everything else was up for grabs.

Smoked Turkey Breast and Gravy
Venison Sausage and Kale Dressing
Lightened-up Fresh Green Bean Casserole
Maple-Roasted Acorn Squash
Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Lemon
Cranberry Pear Relish

And Pumpkin Cheesecake and Orangey Candied Pecans for dessert!

We just got a turkey breast from the store and whipped up some gravy, but we all know that turkey isn’t the main event anymore.

The dressing totally stole the spotlight. My mom winged it, and here’s the recipe as best as I got. She used kale fresh from her garden and I’m pretty sure my dad shot the deer that went into the venison sausage. I wasn’t joking about foods from scratch!

Venison Sausage and Kale Dressing

Buttermilk cornbread (see recipe below)
1/2 lb. venison sausage, casings removed, sautéed
1/2 stick butter
1 cup chopped onions
2 cups chopped celery
12 crackers, crumbled
5 pieces whole wheat bread, toasted and crumbled
3 c. kale, sautéed for 3 minutes in olive oil
1/4 c finely chopped walnuts
2 1/2 c chicken broth
pepper & salt to taste

Sautée chopped onions and celery in the butter.
Sautée kale in olive oil for 3 minutes.

Combine ingredients in a 9″ x 13″ cake pan and mix until everything is evenly distributed.
Bake covered for 1 hr at 350, then remove the cover and bake for another half hour, or until dressing is golden brown.

Buttermilk Cornbread

1 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 cup yellow cornmeal
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup buttermilk
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1/4 c olive oil

In a medium cast iron skillet, mix together flour, cornmeal, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Then add buttermilk, eggs and butter. Stir until dry ingredients are well blended. Bake for 20 minutes at 400, or until golden brown.

I loved the green bean casserole, which I found on Pinterest from Jessica at How Sweet it Is. I cut the recipe in half and it was plenty for the five of us! The casserole took me much longer than the usual from-cans recipe would have, but it was totally worth it. She’s not joking about the “serve immediately” bit, though!

The roasted acorn squash and brussels sprouts were perfect complements to the rest of the meal. They were also awesome because they could be baked at the same time! Two cookie sheets, 425 degrees. Perfect. We got the idea for the acorn squash from Joy the Baker, but we switched the honey for maple syrup.

Maple Roasted Acorn Squash

1 Acorn Squash
olive oil
about 1 1/2 tablespoons maple syrup

Preheat oven to 425.
Cut squash in half, remove seeds, and cut into wedges about 1 to 2″ wide.
Put squash on a cookie sheet with sides, and drizzle/toss with olive oil and salt and pepper to taste.
Roast for about 12 minutes, until squash is sizzling. Drizzle/toss with maple syrup to taste, turn, and roast until fork tender (about 15 minutes).

Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Lemon

2 lb brussels sprouts, rinsed and cut in half
3 cloves garlic, crushed and chopped
olive oil
salt and pepper to taste
1/2 tablespoon butter
juice from 1/2 large lemon

Preheat oven to 425.
On a cookie sheet with sides, toss brussels sprouts with the garlic, olive oil, salt and pepper.
Roast for 15 – 20 minutes, stirring once, until sprouts are turning darker green and getting brown roasty spots.
Remove from oven and put sprouts in a bowl. Toss with butter and lemon juice.

And please don’t EVER forget the cranberry pear relish. This relish has been on our Thanksgiving table for the past 13 years, and it’s so much better than that jellied stuff. In fact, this might be the best cranberry sauce I’ve ever had. My mom says she thinks the recipe may have been from an old issue of Parade. All I know is the paper is yellowed.

Cranberry Pear Relish

5 cups fresh cranberries
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 cup fresh orange juice
1 tablespoon finely grated orange zest
2 slightly underripe pears, cored, peeled and cut into 1/3-inch dice

Combine all ingredients in a heavy saucepan and stir well. Place the pan over medium heat and boil until the berries pop open, about 10 minutes.
Skim the foam off the surface with a metal spoon and let the relish cool to room temperature. Refrigerate covered for up to 2 months.

Originally, we were only going to do one dessert — a pumpkin cheesecake. But my family had visited my mom’s parents in south Texas a few weeks ago, and they were sent home with lots of citrus and pecans. And that’s not an opportunity to be wasted. These Orangey Candied Pecans were adapted from a recipe on PaulaDeen.com, and man are they good.

Orangey Candied Pecans

3 cups pecan halves
Zest from 1 tangerine
Juice from 1 tangerine
1/2 brown sugar
4 tablespoons heavy whipping cream

Combine all ingredients in a bowl and stir until pecans are evenly covered.
Spread pecans on an aluminum foil-covered baking sheet and bake at 350 for 20 minutes.
Let pecans cool until dry and crunchy.

The cheesecake recipe is from RealSimple.com, but we cut back the butter to 2 1/2 tablespoons and the spices by half.

Happy Thanksgiving, all, from my family, Simon and me!

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