Let Us Give Thanks

Can you believe it? Thanksgiving is less than a week away. For some of us in America, Thanksgiving might look and feel very different. While some are comfortable traveling again, others are leery of venturing outside the safety of our own backyards. Many are downsizing their holiday gatherings and even hosting a Virtual Thanksgiving with family attending via zoom.

In California, our Governor’s Office was kind enough to give us guidelines. Along with guidelines, we also have a curfew. Can someone explain to me how the virus tells time? Apparently it comes out at 10 pm and disappears at 5 am, hangs out in restaurants and bars but not Walmart.

Here gatherings had been limited to no more than 10 people for the longest time, with a strong emphasis on same-household. As people began to turn their attention to Thanksgiving and Christmas, those in charge realized people were going to forego the same-household guideline and gather with extended family no matter what. So California Officials released the rules for hosting or attending extended family gatherings.

1. No more than 3 households may attend the same event. This includes the host family. While regulating the total number of families, there are no longer restrictions as to how many people can gather. So if you have 20 people in one family, 10 in another and 2 in the last, that’s okay. I suppose they could have said 3 families or 10 people, whichever is less. Can you imagine telling Aunt Betty she’s welcome, but leave Uncle Lou at home?

2. Gathering must be held outdoors. People should only be allowed in your house to use the bathroom, which should be disinfected between usage. Oh yeah, right. I’m spending my Thanksgiving as the Bathroom Patrol, wiping everything down with bleach every time the komodo is flushed. I don’t think so.

3. Masks are to be worn at all times, except when eating or drinking. Then the mask can be pulled down to take a bite or sip, then pulled back up while chewing or swallowing. So much for the don’t touch your face and mess with your mask rule, right? The absurdity need not be pointed out here.

4. Each Family must sit with their own family, not intermingle. Families must maintain six-feet of social distancing between each group. This includes face to face, side to side and back to back. So do the math – that’s a huge amount of space. No wonder they strongly suggest a park rather than a backyard setting. And I’ve got news for them, family gatherings are all about mingling together.

5. The Host must create a list of attendee with accurate contact information, should contact tracing be necessary. Well at least they don’t except the host to take your temperature upon arrival.

6. Holiday Gatherings must be limited to two hours or less. I don’t know about your family, but in my family it takes at least an hour of “hello, how’s it going?” and more than two hours to say goodbye. We’ll gather about noon, and start our farewells about six or seven hours later, so from start to finish it’s about a 10 to 12 hour event. How bout you?

In our circle of extended family, we aren’t following any of the latest rules. Since we haven’t exactly followed the restrictions imposed for weddings, or memorials, we certainly aren’t starting now with the Holidays. Life is too important not to live. The virus is not going away. We can exist in fear or live with common sense.

That said; following the all rules or defying some of them are a matter of personal choice. If you and yours are not comfortable gathering for the holidays, that’s perfectly fine. Some people have more reason to fear than others. Health issues must always be considered. Some people need to be more guarded than others. Those choices need to be respected. Just as the choice to be together needs to receive the same measure of respect.

If your Thanksgiving has been downsized for whatever reason, that doesn’t mean you still can’t partake in all the traditional favorites. Cook up a turkey breast rather than the whole bird. Have mini desserts rather than a giant pie. The only thing that truly matters is that we take a moment to give thanks. To realize that life is a blessing. It’s not quantity (many years) but quality of those years that counts.

Small Gathering Thanksgiving
Spinach-Artichoke Dip in a French Bread Bowl

Brined Smoked Turkey Breast
No-Dripping Turkey Gravy
Classic Holiday Stuffing
Gourmet Fresh Green Bean Casserole
Butter-Chive Crescent Rolls

Bourbon Pumpkin Pie Bites with Bourbon Cream


Spinach-Artichoke Dip in a French Bread Bowl
1 (11 oz) can refrigerated French Bread
1 (10 oz) box frozen Chopped Spinach
1 (6 oz) jar Marinated Artichoke Hearts
1-1/4 cups Sour Cream
4 teaspoons Ranch Dip Mix
1/4 teaspoon crushed Red Pepper Flakes
1/3 cup shredded Parmesan Cheese
Celery Sticks as desired
Carrot Sticks as desired

Heat oven to 350-degrees. Spray 8-inch round cake pan with cooking spray and set aside.

Remove dough from can; let stand 5 minutes. Shape into ring, firmly pinching together ends and top and bottom center of dough to shape and form a solid round; place in pan. Bake 26 to 30 minutes or until golden brown. Cool completely on cooling rack, about 90 minutes.

Meanwhile, microwave spinach as directed on box. Squeeze out liquid, and drain thoroughly; set aside to cool. Drain artichoke hearts, chop and set aside.

In medium bowl, mix sour cream, dip mix and pepper flakes, mixing well. Stir in Parmesan cheese. Add artichokes and cooled spinach; stir until mixed well. Cover and refrigerate 1 hour.

With serrated knife, carefully cut off very top of bread horizontally. To make bowl, carefully pinch or tear out bread from inside (leaving 3/4-inch shell). Cut inside and top of bread into pieces; transfer to serving platter.

Transfer dip mixture into center of hollowed bread bowl; transfer to serving platter with bread pieces. Arrange celery and carrot sticks around dip as desired. Serve and enjoy.

Notes: Letting dough stand a few minutes makes it easier to work with. Chilling the dip for at least an hour before serving gives the flavors a chance to blend.

Store remaining dip mixture covered in refrigerator.

Brined Smoked Turkey Breast
2 cups Kosher Salt
2 cups Brown Sugar
1 gallon Water
2 pieces Star Anise
6 Juniper Berries
2 Bay Leaves
12 Black Peppercorns
1 Cinnamon Stick
1 Orange, zested
4 lb Turkey Breast

In an 8-quart non reactive container, combine salt, brown sugar and water. Stir until salt has dissolved. Add Star Anise, Juniper Berries, bay leaves, pepper corns and cinnamon stick. Zest orange directly into the brine mixture. Add turkey breast, cover and refrigerate 48 hours.

Soak wood chips in water for 2 hours. While chips are soaking, heat one side of grill for indirect cooking. Place soaked wood chips onto heavy-duty aluminum foil and loosely wrap chips to form a pouch. Puncture 10 holes into the foil pouch, and place wood chip pouch directly onto hottest part of the grill. Once chip pouch starts to smolder, remove turkey breast from the brine and place directly onto the coolest part of the grill. Cover grill and hot smoke turkey breast at 300 degrees for approximately 90 minutes, or until probe thermometer inserted into thickest part of the breast registers 165-degrees

Remove turkey breast from grill, tent loosely and let rest for about 8 minutes for the juices to settle. Carve into thin slices, fan out on a serving platter.

No-Dripping Turkey Gravy
2 cups Turkey Broth, divided
2 teaspoons Chicken Bouillon Granules
Pepper to taste
1/4 cup Flour
Browning Sauce, optional

In 1-quart heavy saucepan, heat 1 1/2 cups of the broth, the bouillon granules and pepper over medium heat, stirring constantly, until bouillon granules are dissolved.

In small bowl, stir remaining 1/2 cup broth and the flour, using wire whisk, until smooth. Gradually stir flour mixture into broth in saucepan. Heat to boiling. Cook, stirring constantly, until thickened and bubbly. Stir in a few drops of browning sauce if a darker color is desired.

Classic Holiday Stuffing
1 large Yellow Onion
4 Carrots
2 Fennel Bulbs
6 ribs Celery
6 cups Sourdough Bread
1/4 cup olive oil
Salt, to taste
Black Pepper, to taste
4 tablespoons Butter
1/4 cup Thyme Leaves
1/2 cup Sage
5 cups Chicken Stock

Heat the oven to 325 degrees. Line a large, rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside.

Peel onion and carrots. Dice into medium-size pieces. Big enough to show, but smaller than “bite-size” pieces. Trim fennel, remove any wilted outer layers, then chop into medium-size diced pieces. Set aside. Clean and trim celery ribs. Dice and set aside.

Dice sourdough bread. Toss the bread with the oil and season with salt and pepper. Transfer to the prepared baking sheet and toast in the oven until golden brown, about 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, heat a skillet over medium heat. Melt the butter and sauté the onion, carrot, celery and fennel until just tender, 8–10 minutes.

As the vegetables cook down, strip thyme from sprigs and snip the sage leaves. Add the herbs to the vegetables, remove from the heat.

Combine the toasted bread with the sautéed vegetables and just enough stock to make the mixture moist but not break down the bread. Add stock one cup at a time until desired moisture is reached. Season with salt and pepper.

Increase the oven temperature to 350-degrees. Transfer stuffing to a baking dish and bake until the top is golden brown, 20 minutes or so.

Gourmet Fresh Green Bean Casserole
1 lb White Button Mushrooms
1 small White Onion
2 Garlic Cloves
Vegetable Oil as needed
6 large Shallots
2 cups Water
1/2 oz dried Porcini Mushrooms
2 lbs fresh Green Beans
2 tablespoons Vegetable Oil
1/4 cup Butter
1/4 cup Flour
1 cup Milk
1/2 cup Heavy Cream
1/8 teaspoon Nutmeg
Salt, to taste
Black Pepper, to taste

Clean mushrooms, trim stems, then cut into 1/2-inch slices. Set aside. Peel onion, dice and set aside. Peel garlic, mince and set aside.

Heat about 3 inches of oil over medium-low heat in a medium saucepan to 275. While the oil gently warms, peel and thinly slice shallots with a mandolin. Add shallots to the saucepan and cook gently, stirring occasionally until shallots begin to bubble. When bubbles subside, use a slotted spoon to remove shallots from oil and transfer to a sheet pan.

Increase heat to high. When the oil reaches 375-degrees, add shallots for a second fry in small batches and fry just until browned, about 5 seconds so watch carefully. Blot shallots on paper towels and sprinkle lightly with salt.

In a small pot, bring water to a boil then remove from heat, add dried porcini and allow to steep 30 minutes to create a mushroom broth.

To prepare green beans, trim ends, cut on the bias in half. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add green beans and cook for about 6 minutes. While the green beans cook, prepare a bowl of ice water. Drain green beans, then shock in cold ice water, remove and pat dry.

In a sauté pan over medium-high heat, add enough oil to coat pan. When oil is smoking, add fresh mushrooms in a single layer and sprinkle with salt (cook in batches if needed). Allow mushrooms to brown without moving for about 2 minutes before flipping. Once mushrooms are cooked, remove from pan and set aside.

In the same pan, add oil to coat, then sauté onion and garlic until translucent, remove from pan and set aside.

Add butter to that same pan. When melted, add flour and cook for 2 minutes to create a roux. Whisking constantly, gradually add 1-1/2 cups mushroom broth from the soaking mushrooms and milk, scraping off all the browned bits from the bottom of the pan. Allow to thicken, then add cream, nutmeg and sautéed mushrooms and onions. Season with salt and pepper.

Heat oven to 350-degrees.

Add green beans to the mushroom sauce and toss to coat. Mix in half of the fried shallots. Transfer mixture to a 9-inch by 13-inch baking dish and bake until bubbling around edges, 20-30 minutes.

Serve topped with remaining fried shallots.

Butter-Chive Crescent Rolls
Cooking Spray
2 tablespoon Butter
1/4cup fresh Chives
2 can refrigerated Crescent Dinner Rolls

Heat oven to 375-degrees (350 for darker pans or well-seasoned baking stone). Lightly spray baking sheet with cooking spray and set aside.

In a microwave safe bowl, melt butter. Set aside. Snip chives, set aside.

On a flat surface such as a cutting board, unroll 1 can of dough. Leave as one sheet and brush with half of the melted butter. Sprinkle generously with half of the chives. Separate dough along perforated lines. (Use a pizza cutter and follow along the lines as an easy way to separate the dough into triangles without over-stretching the dough). Roll each triangle into crescent shape beginning at the wider end and roll to the tip.

Place on baking sheet. Repeat with remaining dough, butter and chives.

Pop crescent rolls into the heated oven. Bake for about 10 minutes or until golden brown. Immediately remove from baking sheet to prevent bottom from over-cooking. Arrange in a bread basket and serve warm.

Bourbon Pumpkin Pie Bites with Bourbon Cream
Pumpkin Pie Bites
1 refrigerated Pie Crust, softened as directed on box
2 Eggs
1/2 cup packed Light Brown Sugar
1 teaspoon ground Cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground Cloves
1/2 teaspoon ground Ginger
1/2 teaspoon Vanilla
1/4 teaspoon Kosher Salt
1/2 cup Heavy Cream
2 tablespoons Bourbon
1 (15 oz) can Pumpkin Puree (not pumpkin pie mix)

Heat oven to 350-degrees. Remove 1 pie crust dough from box, let soften as directe on the box. Chill the bowl and whisk attachment of standing mixer in the freezer until ready to make whipped cream.

Unroll pie crust on cutting board. Using rolling pin, roll out crust until slighter thinner. With 4-inch round cookie cutter, cut crust into 12 rounds, gathering scraps and rolling out in order to cut last 3 rounds.

Gently press rounds into 12 ungreased regular-size muffin cups, pressing folds of dough inside cups around sides to make smooth surface.

In large bowl, use a hand-held mixer to beat remaining ingredients until smooth. Fill each cup to top of dough.

Bake 25 to 30 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool in pan 10 minutes.

While pies cool, make whipped cream.

Bourbon Whipped Cream
1 cup Heavy Cream
2 tablespoons Bourbon
1/2 cup Powdered Sugar

Using the whisk attachment, whip cold cream, bourbon and powdered sugar on low for about 2 minutes to blend. Increase to high speed and whip until firm peaks form. Chill until ready to use.

To Serve Bourbon Pumpkin Pie Bites: Run knife around edges of pumpkin cups to loosen. Turn mini pies out onto cooling rack; turn pies over. Arrange on a serving platter.

Place whipped cream in a pastry bag fitted with a star tip. Pipe cream on top of mini pies and serve.

Author: Rosemarie's Kitchen

I'm a wife, mother, grandmother and avid home cook.I believe in eating healthy whenever possible, while still managing to indulge in life's pleasures.

7 thoughts on “Let Us Give Thanks”

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