Saturday, January 14, 2012

Thanksgiving 2011- Part II

Since we celebrated our extended family Thanksgiving early, David and I thought it would be fun to try having our own little celebration for the first time on the actual day. Well mostly, David thought it would be fun and I was really intimidated by the whole idea, but enthusiasm is catching and soon I found myself in full menu planning mode.

Our biggest hurdle in planning the meal was our teeny Euro-sized oven. Imagine two toaster ovens stacked on top of one another. I knew ONLY the turkey would fit, and a small bird at that. After picking out my 12lb bird, I began planning my battle strategy menu around how much I could reasonably cook in the oven and still serve everything warm.

After some feedback from David, we settled on the big bird, sweet potato casserole (to bake while the turkey rested), stuffing cooked in the crockpot, fruit salad (a specialty of his moms) and cranberry sauce (from a can). We focused mostly on favorite dishes from his family since we'd just gotten to eat my childhood favorites a few weeks before. I also opted not to make dessert this year since it would keep things even more simple and we'd be too full to eat it after sharing a feast like that between just two people!

To make life easier, David and I prepped everything we could the night before. While David single-handedly washed and chopped all the fruit for fruit salad, I whipped up the sweet potato casserole and placed it in in it's pan in the fridge and chopped and measured the ingredients for the crock pot stuffing to be dumped in after our morning coffee. We decided not to set an alarm and Caleb surprised us by letting us sleep until 8am. Perfect start.

The big bird- Before

After the turkey was popped in the oven and the crock pot was simmering we decided to let Caleb watch the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade. He was totally entranced for about 20 minutes, especially by the Sesame Street float (he gets to watch Elmo when I cut his nails). After that, he resumed typical Caleb all-go-no-stop mode and we ended up just turning it off after about an hour, but it was fun while it lasted!

Totatally enchanted to see big bird on the big screen

Lunch was ready around 1pm and, much to my surprise, it all turned out wonderfully. The crockpot stuffing turned brown and crisp at the edges and stayed moist in the center, the turkey absorbed the flavor of the herbed butter I rubbed all over it and actually cooked more quickly than expected, the sweet potatoes didn't suffer for having to substitute large marshmallows in place of the usual small ones. Things went almost perfectly. Almost.

No Thanksgiving would be complete without a moment of total panic on the part of the chef, right? Rewind to Weds night. Before we chopped and prepped anything, I unwrapped the turkey...and the smell of eggs filled the air. It wasn't terrible, but it just didn't smell right. I was sure we had a bad bird. However, after scouring the internet and consulting my mom I was assured that if the poultry was truly bad, not only I, but the neighbors, would know about it too. It would be that bad.

So, despite my trepidation, I sprinkled it inside and out with salt and left it to "dry brine" in the fridge overnight. In the morning, it smelled perfectly normal (just as my mom predicted...and of course, moms are always right). Apparently birds can acquire strange smells from being trapped in the plastic wrap. Crisis averted.

Big Bird- After

I set the table with china from my Grandparents, David arranged the centerpeice and Caleb even joined us in his high chair. It felt a little surreal to be the one in charge at Thanksgiving, yet another milestone into adulthood. It felt even more surreal when I realized that last Thanksgiving my little turkey hadn't even taken his first bite of rice cereal yet, but now was devouring his own plate full of food from the meal.

Table Before

Table After

Table After After

After Caleb was settled in for the night our friend Denise came over with her brother and we played a game of Dominion, one of our new favorites. Denise also brought over a pan of Bailey's Brownies for dessert which we all somehow found room for before the night was over.


It was a wonderful day that made me thankful for the families that have prepared us for adulthood and our friends who share these special moments with us when our families aren't able to. We are so blessed.

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