We had a great Thanksgiving…hope you did too! We invited eleven Italians to join us for dinner, none of whom had ever seen a whole baked turkey, except in the movies, and they were quite impressed!

Here’s a summary of the dishes we enjoyed together…  Do you remember those Cheese Ball appetizers from the ’70s and ’80s? Well, those recipes never made it to Italy so for the Italians, this was a whole new thing! Actually, I think they’ll be making a comeback, at least at MY Thanksgiving table in the future! I love the simple flavors blended together, plus they have the convenience of being made ahead of time. To give mine a new twist, I shaped the cheese mixture into several fall shapes…

I shaped some into acorns…

…which I shaped in the same way as my Acorn Cheese Secrets last year, complete with an olive inside. Since these didn’t bake, I thought they kept their shape a little better than the Cheese Secrets did, and rolling the tops in crushed pecans made them quite recognizable, while also quite labor intensive. I doubt I’ll be making them again…but wanted to show you the options. The idea was that they could just be eaten individually, not spread on crackers. The mushrooms, however, were individual serving sizes and, without an olive inside, they could easily be spread on crackers…

The caps were shaped like the tops of the acorns were (a small ball pressed into a disk with my finger) and the stems were rolled into small “ropes” and then dipped in chopped nuts before pressing the cap and stem together. They, too, were quite labor intensive so I think in the future I’ll  make the entire recipe into one or two pumpkins, like this…

The one pictured here is a bit small because things got a little crazy with 11 guests–several coming early!–and I forgot to take a photo! So I made a little one after Thanksgiving, using some of the leftovers, so I could show you what it looked like. I shaped the mixture into a ball–as you would a cheese ball–and rolled it in finely chopped pecans. Then I used a skewer to press the lines into the sides of the ball, flattening it a little on the top and bottom to give it a bit more of a pumpkin shape. I thought the skewer lines were  bit too narrow so then indented them a little more with my pinky. A broken pretzel and a flat parsley leaf complete the look. Very fall-looking. Very easy. I’ll be making these again! The pumpkin is on a large cabbage leaf which I asked for at the grocery store, noticing the bin was empty except for a few large leaves. I sprinkled it with a few nuts. But a plate works just fine for serving if you don’t have a cabbage.

My other appetizers were favorites from last year…

Red Wine Mushrooms…

And Endive with Goat Cheese and Caramelized Onions

…Two of my favorite appetizers…

Italians do not like their foods to touch…so imagine how hard it is to eat Thanksgiving Dinner with 8-9 dishes all touching each other! What we’ve done to alleviate this problem somewhat–though not completely–is to serve our dinner in two courses. Maybe you’d like to see the menu in Italian…and you’ll see on the menu the break between the Cornbread Stuffing and the next four dishes…

Let’s start with the turkey…we ordered a turkey from the butcher. We can’t really specify what size…whatever he gets in, that’s what we get. This year it was about 15 lbs. and we brined it using the same brining recipe we used last year.

It baked in less time than we expected, so we turned the oven down low and hoped for the best. We were really glad we brined it as the flavor was fantastic, though the bird was a bit tough. My Good Husband was “on stage” carving the turkey while the guests all enjoyed the entertainment. But even with an electric knife he would hardly separate the joints! It was simply amazing how hard it was to cut off the legs and wings! The meat sliced up nicely, however, and was really good!

Several of our guests arrived a HALF HOUR early! That really throws me because I have all these last minute things to be doing and instead I need to take time to visit…really quite stressful for me. I mention this now because this is the main reason that I do NOT make my gravy using the pan drippings from the turkey–there’s already enough things to be doing at the last minute, if you ask me! Instead, I make a flavorful broth several days ahead, add some bouillon for salt and more flavor, and thicken it with a flour and water mixture. This way I can make the gravy while the turkey is roasting and set it aside. Click here for more specific instructions on making gravy this way.

The mashed potatoes were great…mashed them up about 11:30 and then put them in the oven in a covered casserole dish after the turkey came out.

We had some new friends visit us one weekend last spring and the fellow couldn’t stop talking about his wife’s delicious Cornbread Stuffing! I’ve only had it once or twice and wasn’t really a fan, but he kept talking about it so much, I decided to try it this year! And I have to admit, it was delicious! I think I’ll be making it again!

See below for the recipe for Cornbread Stuffing.

Two cans of cranberry sauce–imported in our suitcases from the States–completed our “First Course”! Yum! Who’s ready for more food?

Our “Second Course” was sort of our salad and vegetables course. I made a Jell-O salad, a throwback to the ’60’s perhaps, with orange and lemon Jell-O, grated carrots and crushed pineapple. (No photo…remember our early guests that “threw off my schedule”?) The trouble with making an American dish like this is that Italians want the recipe–but you can’t buy boxes of flavored gelatin here, only sheets of unflavored gelatin. Guess Jell-O didn’t make it into the Italian market. At least I knew they liked the salad when they asked for the recipe.

The other salad I made is perhaps passè in America, but still a favorite…Broccoli Salad

…ours was made extra-delicious because my neighbor made homemade mayonnaise for me, and I found some dried cranberries which I used in place of the raisins. I probably don’t even have to put the recipe for this at the end, because you probably already have it! But I’ll add it just in case.

For a green vegetable, I chose to serve Brussel Sprouts Sauteed in Butter.

The Brussel Sprouts are boiled before sauteing, which helps to remove some of the bitterness, I think. Adding onions and Balsamic vinegar gives is a layer of sweetness. If you’ve not been a fan of Brussel Sprouts but you know they’re one of those cruciferous vegetable that we’re all supposed to eat–let me encourage you to try these! They are delicious. (Recipe below.)

Mashed Sweet Potatoes…always a bit of a challenge to find here. Fortunately I bought up a bunch several weeks ago as my grocery store didn’t have any last week, when I would have needed them!

I brought marshmallows from the States this summer, instead of making my own like I did last year, but perhaps they’ve been in my cabinet too long as they were all stuck together and I had a challenging time pulling them apart to put them on top of the Mashed Sweet Potatoes. Then, after all that, I left them in the oven too long and the marshmallows burned so I ended up scraping them off. No one really knew what they were supposed to look like–except My Good Husband and I–so they were enjoyed by all anyway.

Last, but not least, were our three desserts…All-American Apple Pie

Pecan Pie

…and Pumpkin Mousse, a new recipe for me…which tasted great but wasn’t firm enough to show in a photo. Several of my Italian friends wanted to know how to make it, so I’m going to try again, though I’ll have to start with a fresh pumpkin, since I used my only can of pumpkin for the one that didn’t work.

We ate leftovers up until Monday, but My Good Husband doesn’t complain. Especially when the leftovers are this good! If you didn’t click on the links above, you can see all of my new recipes for 2012 below. Maybe you can Bookmark them for next Thanksgiving! Enjoy!

Ciao!

Debbie

Cheese Ball Recipe

Cheese Ball Recipe

Ingredients

  • 1 (8-oz/200 g) pkg. cream cheese
  • 2 C. (250 g) mild white cheddar cheese, or Sweet Provolone, grated
  • 1 tsp. finely minced onion
  • 1 tsp. lemon juice
  • 2 tsp. Worcestershire Sauce
  • Finely diced walnuts or pecans

Instructions

  1. In a food processor or medium-sized mixing bowl, cream together everything except the nuts. (I find in Europe that the cream cheese gets too runny in the food processor.)
  2. Chill mixture overnight.
  3. Shape as desired into two balls or two "pumpkins" for a Thanksgiving meal. Roll in finely chopped nuts if desired.
http://ciaofromdebbie.com/blog/holidays/my-thanksgiving-menu-2012/

Shaping into a pumpkin

To shape the balls into a pumpkin shape, roll them first into two balls, then flatten them a bit so give them more of that overall pumpkin shape. Roll in finely chopped nuts if desired. Then, use a skewer or other long straight edge to press ridges into the sides. You may want to widen the ridges by pressing your finger along the edge to widen it. Insert a pretzel into the top for a stem and add a flat parsley leaf, if desired.

Cornbread Stuffing Recipe

Serving Size: 12-15 servings

Cornbread Stuffing Recipe

Ingredients

    Cornbread:
  • 1 1/2 C. (185 g) flour (all-purpose)
  • 2 1/2 C. (375 g) cornmeal
  • 2 T. baking powder
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 4 eggs
  • 2 C. (500 ml) milk
  • 1/2 C. (125 ml) vegetable oil
  • Additional ingredients:
  • salt, pepper, sage, thyme, rosemary
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 2 stalks celery, chopped
  • 1/2-1 lb. (250-500 g) sausage
  • 2-3 C. (500-750 ml) chicken broth

Instructions

  1. Make the cornbread the day before making the stuffing: Mix dry ingredients in a larger bowl and liquids in a medium bowl, including the eggs. Add liquids to flour mixture and stir until smooth; don't over-beat. Pour mixture into a greased 9X13-inch (23X33 cm.) pan. The mixture will be very thick. Bake at 425° F (220° C) for 20-30 minutes or until golden brown.
  2. Allow bread to cool in pan. Use a sharp knife to cut the cornbread into small cubes--first one direction in the pan, then the other. Remove the cubes from the pan, cutting them horizontally in half if necessary to make small cubes. (Alternately you can crumble the cornbread apart but I prefer the cutting method so it doesn't end up as crumbs.) Now sprinkle with salt, pepper, sage, rosemary, thyme...and poultry seasoning, if you have it. In addition, I tucked some fresh herbs in among the bread cubes overnight and removed them in the morning to give the mixture more flavor without overpowering with too much sage or thyme.
  3. On Thanksgiving morning, brown the bulk sausage (remove from casing if necessary). Add the onion and celery, and a few tablespoons of butter, if desired. Cook until the vegetables are tender.
  4. Mix the sausage and vegetable into the cornbread. Add enough chicken broth, one cup at a time, to moisten the mixture without it becoming mushy. Taste and adjust the seasonings.
  5. Pour the entire mixture into the a 9X13-inch (23X33 cm) pan. (I used the same one I baked the cornbread in.)
  6. Bake at 375° F (190° C) for 30 minutes covered; uncover and bake 15 minutes longer or until browned.
http://ciaofromdebbie.com/blog/holidays/my-thanksgiving-menu-2012/

Broccoli Salad Recipe

Yield: 6-8 servings

Broccoli Salad Recipe

Ingredients

  • 1 large head of broccoli, chopped into 1/2-inch pieces (about 6 C.)
  • 1 small red onion or scallion, finely minced
  • 1 C. (125 g) raisins or dried cranberries
  • 1/4 lb. (125 g) bacon, Speck, or minced ham
  • 1/2 C. (40 g) sunflower seeds or sliced almonds
  • Dressing:
  • 1 C. (250 ml) mayonnaise
  • 1/2 C. (125 g) sugar
  • 2 T. vinegar

Instructions

  1. If using bacon, fry until crispy and crumble into tiny bits.
  2. In a large bowl, combine all of the salad ingredients.
  3. In a small bowl, combine dressing ingredients and toss onto salad ingredients.
http://ciaofromdebbie.com/blog/holidays/my-thanksgiving-menu-2012/

Brussel Sprouts Sauteed in Butter

Brussel Sprouts Sauteed in Butter

Ingredients

  • 1 lb. Brussel Sprouts
  • 2 T. butter
  • 1 small onion, finely chopped
  • 2-3 slices bacon or prosciutto, finely chopped (optional)
  • Balsamic vinegar

Instructions

  1. Trim the ends off of the Brussel Sprouts and cut them in half. Some of the outer leaves will fall off when you trim the end. Throw away any that are yellowed or tough.
  2. Bring a medium saucepan of salted water to a boil. Simmer the Brussel Sprouts for 8-9 minutes. Drain.
  3. While the Brussel Sprouts are simmering, melt the butter in a large saute pan and cook the onion, and bacon or prosciutto if desired, until the onions are soft.
  4. Add the drained Brussel Sprouts to the pan and turn the heat up fairly high. Don't stir them constantly; allow them to brown, turning occasionally. Sprinkle with salt and add 1 T. of Balsamic vinegar. Continue cooking until the Brussel Sprouts are as brown and as tender as you prefer them.
  5. Drizzle with a reduction of Balsamic vinegar if desired.
http://ciaofromdebbie.com/blog/holidays/my-thanksgiving-menu-2012/

 

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