THE RECIPE BOX - A Thanksgiving reboot

THE RECIPE BOX - A Thanksgiving reboot

LINCOLN – This Thanksgiving, Jim and I tried something new, we ran away from home and headed south to Florida on Thanksgiving eve.

The back story is that last year we all sat around my dining room table – nine adults and seven grandchildren – and took turns saying something important that each of us is thankful for.

When it became Jim’s turn, I fully expecting the usual commentary from the head of the table, “family, health, my wife…” he actually shocked some of us, myself included, when he said “I am thankful for three lovely daughters-in-law who make my sons happy. And by the way, this is the last time we’re doing Thanksgiving here so you can decide which of you wants to host next year.”

There were audible gasps. Heads literally spun around, the girls looking directly at Jim first, then turning to me asking if it was “true.” I was not expecting this, and struggled with my own inner questions, “Is this appropriate behavior at the dinner table on such a special day? Is this an ADD episode?”

Yes, we’d talked about how much work it is to host a large family and the cost of buying everything, but honestly, Jim created that problem when he told everyone he’d take care of it all.

Of course, we do tend to go overboard, and that was affirmed this year when we saw how our friends Tom and Deb, in Port St. Lucie, Fla., plan for this day.

The truth about the trip was the plane flights were not so expensive when we wanted to go south, the idea of some warm sunshine after months of rainy days here beckoned me. Jim asked, and I said yes.

It did take some convincing of myself that I’d made a good choice. “Yes, I’ll miss my babies, the family bonding and smiles and the next-day leftover turkey sandwiches.” I sensed my husband measuring my moods when he thought I wasn’t paying attention. But the list of what I would not miss was equally as long.

The expense, the hard work, the cleanup and the guilt over food I would inevitably discard because way too much was prepared. After a few days, let’s face it you do not want to see three-day-old turkey and the fixings.

And so the day came, I packed lightly for a five-day get-away and looked toward a new way to spend the holiday with my husband. The warm air hitting my face as soon as exiting the airport, reassured me I was in a good place.

Since we traveled on the evening of a holiday, I lamented about having to show up empty-handed, but my friend Deb said, “That’s OK, you can do cleanup.” That worked fine for us.

We joined Tom and Deb, along with five other friends of theirs and proceeded to have a lovely dinner at about 6 p.m. on Thanksgiving. We sat around the screened lanai adorned with subtle lighting and flowers and shrubbery that smelled like jasmine, while palm trees rustled gently in a breeze. After appetizers and drinks we were summoned to the table. There was no one fighting to sit next to me, and I’ll admit I did miss that!

I did pick up a few tricks from Deb, our hostess. Everyone had a task, a dish to bring. One gal showed up with about five pounds of mashed potatoes. Another with green beans and almonds, and another with a tray of appetizers.

Deb uses a special butter, called Kerrygold, it was herbed and it was delicious. She also used a fancy bundt pan for her bread stuffing. It was an idea I had never thought of and it looked so nice inverted onto a fancy plate for serving, so easy to “slice” rather than spoon out of a dish.

Russ, one of the neighbor guests, had made a whole berry cranberry sauce with mandarin oranges, and it was delicious. I asked him for the recipe and he acted like it was a big family secret. Later he admitted he follows the recipe on the package for whole berry cranberry sauce, then throws in the mandarin oranges at the end.

I think the biggest lesson I took away was how very overboard Jim and I go for this holiday. I make a cheesecake, homemade chocolate cream pie, and an apple pie. Of course you have to have a pumpkin pie to represent the season. It’s tradition!

No wonder I’m exhausted when all is said and done. Tom and Deb had one pie for dessert, it fed all at the table and there were no leftover slices. Too many choices are an issue for us.

And, I have had some feedback from my grown sons and my grandchildren about their holiday spent a different way. Nine-year-old James asked his dad why they did not go around the table and say a “thankful” thing at his other grandpa’s house. Hmmm, I guess that really matters!

My oldest son is still waiting for my homemade cheesecake. And hints ranging from subtle to very direct have let us know that we were missed for a myriad of reasons.

Perhaps the next sit down holiday we’ll delegate better, create a new understanding that Mom and Dad are getting older now and we need some help. So listen up kids and start planning what you’ll bring to the table. We’d love to have you!

Turkey Tetrazzini
Encore recipe from Sharon Thompson

2 cups broken raw spaghetti
1/2 stick butter
1 onion, chopped
1 (4-oz.) can of mushrooms - with liquid
1 (10-oz.) can cream of chicken soup
2 cups half & half
1/2 tsp. marjoram
2 Tbsp. chopped pimento
2-3 cups cooked, chopped turkey or chicken
1 cup cubed cheddar cheese
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. celery salt
1 cup Parmesan cheese, grated
Black pepper to taste

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cook spaghetti until tender and drain.
2. In a skillet melt the butter and sauté the onion until translucent.
3. Add the mushrooms, chicken soup, half & half, marjoram, pimento and turkey.
4. Add cheddar cheese and stir until cheese has melted. Add salt, pepper and celery salt.
5. Pour into a casserole dish and sprinkle Parmesan cheese on top. Bake for 45 minutes. Enjoy!

Cranberry Sauce With Mandarin Orange

1 cup water
1 cup sugar
12 oz. pkg. fresh cranberries
1 sm. can mandarin oranges, drained
1. Bring water and sugar to a boil in medium saucepan.
2. Add cranberries and return to a boil. Reduce heat and boil gently for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.
3. Add oranges, stir then pour into a bowl. Cover and cool at room temperature. Refrigerate until ready to serve. Enjoy!

cranberry sauce with mandarin orange