Monday, December 1, 2014

On the Homefront: Simple Thanksgiving Table

From his lofty perch, Pilgrim the Dalmatian surveys the
simple Thanksgiving setting with satisfaction.

This fall has been unusually stressful for us.  Our old Dalmatian started having seizure-like episodes at the end of September, and despite extensive tests at the University of Georgia's School of Veterinary Medicine, no conclusions were reached as to the cause, or even as to whether or not the episodes were true seizures.  Various medications were tried, with unpleasant side effects but no resolution to the problem.  Finally, after almost three weeks, the episodes seemed to be resolving themselves.  They have become less and less frequent, and much less severe (although they were never really bad, just extremely frequent in the beginning, as in several times a day).  My theory is that our poor girl, who has significant arthritis, fell down and, in struggling to get back up, hit her head and gave herself a concussion, which is slowly but surely healing.

We are certainly grateful that our Gia is getting better, but she still needs a lot of care and cannot be left alone for too long for fear she will fall and injure herself again.  This means that I cannot do any cooking that takes a lot of time, as I am frequently interrupted by her, so our Thanksgiving this year was very simple by necessity.  I took a lot of shortcuts by using pre-made options from the grocery store, and my husband thoughtfully bought the pies from a bakery called the Buttermilk Pie Company he found when he was in the nearby town of Gainesville recently.  I did have time to set a simple table by starting early in the month and doing a little at a time.  I am finally getting around to posting our table, which turned out quite nicely despite the fact that I had so little time to spend on it.

Autumnal print table runner and napkin from Home Goods last year; dark brown wooden bead placemat from Target a while ago; pumpkin-colored dinner and dessert plates from Walmart several years ago; faux wood-handled flatware; beaded napkin ring from Home Goods last year; clear glass water and wine glasses.

This image gives a better idea of the actual colors of the table
(once again my little camera and poor lighting meant that I
could only get a really good shot from one angle).

An oak leaf wreath and dark metal hurricane candleholder
with a punched leaf design make a simple centerpiece.

A turkey-shaped basket filled with excelsior and a faux pumpkin
sits in a basket tray surrounded by chocolates at the far end
of the table.

A close-up look at the pretty napkin and ring.

My menu is not the one I actually served this year, but it is one I have served in the past.  The turkey recipe comes from Claire Robinson's Food Network show called "5 Ingredient Fix" and is a favorite when it is just the two of us for Thanksgiving.  It is fast, easy, tasty, and makes just the right amount for us.  I have been making the cranberry sauce recipe for decades now and it is a tradition for our holiday table (there is always enough left over to serve at Christmas as well).  I usually make steamed or roasted broccoli or Brussels sprouts as the vegetable, but if I am feeling decadent I will make the broccoli casserole, which is cheesy and creamy and definitely a comfort food.  My husband and I are both traditionalists when it comes to a homemade dessert.  If I am making the pie, it will always be pumpkin, and it will always be the recipe on the can of Libby's pumpkin purée!  The dressing is the only thing I made from scratch this year (although I have to admit the cornbread was made from a mix).  I took a lot of liberties with Claire Robinson's recipe, and it is no longer just five ingredients, but I added ingredients that we love and that made it even better for us.

Simple Thanksgiving Menu:

Easy Cornbread Dressing*
Pumpkin Pie/Whipped Cream

*Easy Cornbread Dressing

6 C. crumbled cornbread
1/2 C. butter
1 medium onion, finely diced
1-2 stalks celery, finely diced
1/2 C. chopped pecans
1 tsp. dried parsley
1/2 tsp. dried sage
1/4 tsp. dried thyme
2 eggs, beaten
3/4 C. chicken stock or water

Spread the cornbread on a large baking sheet and bake at 300 degrees for about 15 minutes until dry but not browned.  Melt 2 T. butter in a large sauté pan over medium-high heat.  Add the onion and celery and cook until translucent, about 5 minutes.  Remove from the pan and set aside.  Melt the remaining butter in the pan.  Add the pecans and cook until the butter is browned.  Stir in the seasonings and remove from the heat.  Put the cornbread in a large bowl.  Stir in the eggs and sautéed vegetables, then gently mix in the pecan-butter mixture.  Fold in enough stock to moisten the cornbread without making it soggy (I used the whole amount).

Pour the cornbread mixture into a greased 9x13-inch baking pan.  Bake at 375 degrees for 30 minutes until the top is golden brown and the mixture is set in the middle.  Serves 6-8.

Note: One 8- or 9-inch square pan of cornbread will make enough for this recipe (if using a mix, this is the equivalent of two 6-8 oz. packages of corn muffin mix).  You can use 1 tsp. poultry seasoning instead of the sage and thyme (I was out so I had to substitute).

As always, there is candy on the table, mostly Pumpkin Spice Hershey's Kisses with a smaller amount of Hershey Gold Kisses with Almonds, surrounding the turkey basket in the basket tray:

We enjoyed our simple Thanksgiving this year, and I hope everyone else had a wonderful Thanksgiving as well!

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