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Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Our Thanksgiving Feast (w/Centerpieces & Recipes)

This Thanksgiving we invited our families to come to Chicago, which I spoke about previously here. And in hosting this potentially stressful event, I realized something telling about myself. There is something about big-old stressful life events that somehow do NOT stress me out. At all. Don't get me wrong the planning, prepping and waiting for the event to come have some stress and freak-out moments. And day-to-day some might say that I am a high-strung person, but for some reason I feel SO comfortable and in the zone in situations that often send other people into hives.

For example, a wedding day can be one of the most nerve-wracking days of many people's lives, but mine was literally the most calm day of my life. I seriously had never felt more at peace, so much so that my husband, family and bridesmaids all commented on my serenity. And now, hosting my first Thanksgiving, my mom and Dave both admitted that they cringed a little thinking about how I might fly off the handle if the whole meal didn't fall into place as expected while also hosting my-in-laws and family for the first time. But I didn't. In fact, the meal came together perfectly and I literally felt like I floated through the day. I think I just love the sense of satisfaction of everything coming together and creating something special (meals, memories) for those that I love.

If I could find a way to make every day a Martha Stewart Living or Wedding day, I might be one stress-free lady. Eventually maybe this cooking/hosting/coordinating gig can be more a part of my day-to-day life, but until that time I'll savor the serene moments and try to remember how therapeutic that can be when the smaller stressors start to get to me. But enough with the psychoanalysis, and on to the fun table-scape and scrumptious recipes that were a big hit!

For my Thanksgiving Table, I took a cue from Martha and drilled out fresh pumpkins & gourds to make autumnal candle holders for our centerpieces. See the gourd candle instructional video here. Then I took a brown platter, filled it with green split peas and added warm colored candles to the gourds. And voila!
(excuse the quality of my iPhone pic)

Now on to the Thanksgiving Recipes...

Alton Brown's Good Eats Roast Turkey: Seriously if you only take one thing away from my blog ever, it should be this recipe along with a promise to never prepare your turkey any other way. Yes, it's that good. Prior to this recipe, I thought the turkey was just a sideshow to the main event of scrumptious sides... never living up to it's main course ranking. It was just there; always a bit dry and with little seasoning. But if you brine and roast your turkey next year following this recipe be prepared to enjoy the juiciest tender bird on earth. Period. And it's not just a fluke. We did this at my mom's house for Christmas again with two large turkey breasts and had the same excellent results. **One tip: Coat the turkey with canola oil first, then put it in the pan. I poured the canola oil over the bird in the roasting pan which caused a lot of excess oil in bottom and lots of smoke while you have it at 500 degrees. We revised it at my mom's and got no smoke.

Sausage and Apple Stuffing: This was my second favorite part of the meal, and again it made an encore at my mom's Christmas because it was such a hit. I used turkey sausage, although it called for pork, and it was still very good.

Barefoot Contessa Homemade Gravy: Yummy, rich and delicious. Enough said.

Emeril's Cranberry Sauce: I grew up on the canned stuff so this is a major upgrade.

Bourbon Pecan Pie: Ok, so this ALSO made a second showing at Christmas if that tells you how repeat worthy this pie recipe is. I was a little heavy handed on the Maker's Mark bourbon and had no complaints ;-)

The rest of the meal was rounded out by my roasted brussels sprouts, my mom's sweet potato and pecan crusted casserole, her green bean casserole, and warm rolls.

Oh, and I also followed Colleen's advice and wore my favorite apron to top it all off :-)

Happy belated Thanksgiving everyone.

Our First Wedding Anniversary: 11-08-09

The weekend of our first wedding anniversary, was a gorgeous, sunny November weekend in Chicago. So Dave and I headed to the beach with the camera to just enjoy the last of the warm weather.

That evening, we finally used my Christmas gift card from last year and went to The Chopping Block for a "Wine & Dine!" cooking class. There we learned how to prepare (and devour) Wild Mushroom and Bacon Puff Pastry Tart, Herb Roasted Chicken with Caramelized Potatoes & Root Vegetables and Chocolate Ganache Tart. Oh, and the class included wine :-) Everything was DELICIOUS. And roasting a whole chicken for the first time was a good "dry run" of sorts for our turkey we were about to prepare a few weeks later for our first Thanksgiving.

The next morning, Sunday 11-08-09, was our actual anniversary and we decided to head to the Chicago Botanic Garden. There we enjoyed a leisurely stroll, nature and each other's company.

See autumn is beautiful, too:


I also got a great shot of my anniversary gift, this gorgeous Tiffany Sparklers Smoky Quartz cocktail ring!

And also a shot of our wedding rings one year later:

Overall it was a wonderful weekend!

I'm back

I'm not really sure why I took an almost 2 month hiatus from blogging, but I did and that is that.

Since I last posted, we celebrated our 1st wedding anniversary, hosted a successful first Thanksgiving dinner in Chicago, and celebrated our second Christmas together as a married couple. I'm going to try to retroactively post about a few of those highlights, but for tonight I just wanted to get back on the blogging wagon so that it didn't seem so intimidating anymore.

If I have any readers left out there, thanks for hanging in there :-)


About Me

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I'm a St. Louis native, but I have been living in Chicago since 2005 and am loving every windy minute of it. I enjoy cooking (more-so eating), home decorating and really anything creative. I'm a supporter of DIY & handmade goods, a fledgling foodie and a connoisseur of kitsch. I spend my days filling online shopping carts, emptying them and repeating the process all over again. Most of all I love spending time with my husband, Dave, our first child, Claire and my dog, Louie.

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