Tag Archives: Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving in London, 2018

After skipping Thanksgiving last year (and hosting a festive cookie party instead), F and I were keen to put on a Thanksgiving celebration this year. As a bonus, my parents flew over to London for the long weekend! We planned the usual feasting on the Saturday following Thanksgiving, but this time we added a twist: F and I reversed the traditional Thanksgiving order! Around 3pm we enjoyed all the desserts with coffee/tea — German Kaffee und Kuchen style. A few hours later, we devoured the savory feast. Everyone agreed that the reverse order worked really well, because we had time to socialise in between while the turkey roasted, and we weren’t too full after dinner. Here’s what we cooked for 9 people, and what we did with the leftover turkey:

  • Dessert:
    • Our favorite family cranberry upside-down cake.
    • Smitten Kitchen’s pumpkin pie with pecan praline sauce. I made the crust, F made the pie, S made the sauce and it was very nice.
    • J&C brought a lovely apple crumble to complete the trio of desserts.
    • Plenty of freshly whipped cream and custard (do you like yours hot or cold?).
  • Dinner:
    • Turkey! We ordered an 11-pound turkey from our favorite local butcher in Crouch End. F stuffed it with apples and thyme, generously salted, peppered, and buttered the skin, and roasted it for a few hours. It tasted great.
    • Gravy: F made a meaty gravy and a vegetarian gravy, and both were silky smooth and delicious.
    • Stuffing: I made the same stuffing/dressing (what is the difference?) that I have for the past few Thanksgivings: this classic sage and onion bread dressing from The Kitchn. I think it turned out the best this year because I used enough broth to keep it moist.
    • Sweet potato casserolemy mom’s/grandma’s recipe that’s been a staple at our family Thanksgivings since I can remember.
    • Brussels sprout and tomato salad: another family recipe.
    • C&W brought some very nice garlicky green beans.
    • Don’t forget the cranberry sauce!
  • Leftovers:
    • There weren’t very many! What we made fed the 9 of us comfortably, and could have fed 10 people. We mostly had turkey leftover, so on Sunday I made a turkey version of my chicken and dumplings, minus the dumplings (we had bread).

We had quite an international group this year: four Brits (all hailing from different regions), two Germans (S was down from Liverpool for a few days), and three Americans. It was the first Thanksgiving for a few people, and I always enjoy introducing my favorite holiday to others. It was also so nice to have my parents around and to share our style of Thanksgiving with them – and how many of my mom’s family recipes we use!


Thanksgiving (in London) 2016 – what we cooked

F and I hosted our second (or third? I can’t remember) Thanksgiving celebration in London on the Saturday following the real holiday (a bit hard to take a random Thursday off when it’s not a public holiday where you live). F’s parents were visiting, too, so they got to experience their first Thanksgiving, and a few friends joined us as well. Here’s what we cooked for 8 people (plus a 10-month-old) — recipe links below the pictures:

  • Turkey! We ordered a 5.2kg bird from one of the local butchers in Crouch End. F stuffed it with apples and thyme, generously salted, peppered, and buttered the skin, and roasted it for 3.5 hours. It came out super moist and delicious.
  • Gravy: F made this one from Serious Eats, using the neck and innards from the turkey but not using soy sauce.
  • Stuffing: I made this classic sage and onion bread dressing from The Kitchn; same as last year. It turned out well and got a number of compliments
  • Sweet potato casserole: my mom’s/grandma’s recipe that’s been a staple at our family Thanksgivings since I can remember.
  • Brussels sprout and tomato salad: another family recipe
  • Cranberry sauce: this is my favorite recipe. It’s super easy and always turns out well.
  • My (American) friend S brought a lovely green bean dish and a pumpkin pie.
  • Our friends H&S brought a nice apple crumble.
  • Cranberry cake: in my mind, it’s not Thanksgiving without this cranberry upside-down cake, another one that my mom/grandma always make. It’s one of my top 3 favorite cakes ever.
  • Freshly whipped cream. Need I say more?

It was a lovely and relaxing evening all around, with plenty of entertainment provided by 10-month-old H. And despite the horrific political year it’s been, there is still plenty to be thankful for.

Race Recap: XC Met League – Stevenage 2016

Last time I ran a cross country race was almost exactly a year ago, at the Start Fitness Met League Stevenage race — same time, same place. I looked forward to lacing up my spikes again for this season, having missed last month’s Met League race due to illness. The weather report for Saturday looked grim all week, and it didn’t disappoint: cool, grey, and raining. Now that’s proper cross country weather! Fortunately, the morning’s downpour had slowed to a steady, misty drizzle by the time J, C, L, and I arrived at the Stevenage field for the 1:55pm race.

Uphill. Photo credit: Noëlle O'R.

Uphill. Photo credit: Noëlle O’R.

The course was similar to last year’s, without the woods we used to enjoy but with one mini-lap added before the two larger laps. I like half of the Stevenage course: the undulating, curvy first part is enjoyable, but the flat backside of the route is long, straight, and dull. I didn’t have many expectations for my own race, it being my first XC outing of the year and my not having done much speedwork recently. My goal was to enjoy it and embrace the wet weather and possibility of mud.

The mud ended up being less prevalent than we thought, which meant the grassy terrain was actually quite grippy and nice to run on. The start was quick, and I got swept up in it to tick off my first two kilometers in 4:34 and 4:31, respectively. Slow down a bit and stay steady — you still have almost 2 laps to go, I reminded myself. You can pick people off in the second lap if you feel good.

I felt really strong down and up the hills; I don’t chalk that up to my running mileage, but rather to the 20-minute core class that F and I have been doing at the gym twice a week for the past month or so. I felt like I had a lot more body control and could hold my form better on the hills.

Around the final bend. Photo credit: Noëlle O'R.

Around the final bend. Arms out for balance! Photo credit: Noëlle O’R.

As I settled into my rhythm and warmed up a bit, I occasionally overtook other runners as I made my way towards the finish. I couldn’t quite catch two women in front of me on the final straight, but I finished with a much quicker average pace than any recent race I’ve run, so was quite pleased about that. The fitness is somewhere inside me! To compare, my pace was 4:48/km for last month’s Regent’s Park 10k, and I finished this 6.25km race with an average pace of 4:39/km. Not bad! My final time was 29:12 (7:32/mi pace), good for 120th of 182 in the women’s race and 22nd Heathsider of 29 ladies running — just outside of scoring. No matter! I like to think I helped our faster runners to better finishes by beating people from other clubs.

We capped off a damp afternoon of XC the only proper way: with tea and banana bread at the car:

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Recipe: Dianne’s Cranberry Cake

For me, Thanksgiving is not complete without something cranberry-ey, and all the better if cranberries appear in multiple guises: in my family, they usually appear in cranberry sauce, a surprisingly delicious jello “salad,” and this incredible cranberry upside-down cake.

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Ever since I can remember, my mom has made this cranberry cake for Thanksgiving — and often for Christmas, too, on my request. For me, it is an inseparable part of Thanksgiving and of the wintry holiday season in general. There’s something about that combination of whole cranberries baked into an orangey cake batter and topped with homemade whipped cream that puts a smile on everyone’s face.

Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday and it’s one of the things I miss most about not living closer to home. Since Thanksgiving’s not celebrated in the UK, it’s hard to take off that random week in November. Last year, we had a lovely Thanksgiving celebration with Sarah and Joe, but alas they’re back in the US of A now (miss you guys!). F and I were going to try and host our own Thanksgiving this year, but my all-consuming DELTA course and various other scheduling conflicts mean it probably won’t happen.

But that doesn’t mean I can’t make some of my favorite Thanksgiving recipes! With the holiday coming up on Thursday and the DELTA course starting to taper off (less than 2 weeks & 3 assignments to go…), I decided to spend a rainy Sunday afternoon in the warm kitchen making cranberry cake.

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The cake is pretty easy to put together: pour some cranberries into a well-buttered cake pan, whip up the thick batter, spread it over the cranberries and bake! With luck, you’ll be able to invert your cake without incident and spread it with some warm jam for a finishing touch. Mine turned out a bit on the rustic side, as I used a springform cake pan which is a little bigger than your standard round cake tin — the cake was thus a bit thinner and stickier. I probably could’ve baked it for a little less time, but it still turned out deliciously and tasted exactly like it should. Go make it and you’ll know what I mean.

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Dianne’s Cranberry (Upside-Down) Cake (my mom’s recipe, adapted years ago from a Gourmet magazine; makes 1 cake)

Ingredients

  • Cranberries:
    • 3 tbsp unsalted butter
    • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
    • 1lb/16oz/500g fresh (or frozen) whole cranberries, rinsed, picked over & dried
  • Cake batter:
    • 1.25 cups all purpose (plain) flour
    • 1.5 tsp baking powder
    • 1/4 tsp salt
    • 6 tbsp unsalted butter, softened
    • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
    • 1 egg
    • 1 tsp vanilla extract
    • zest of 1 orange
    • 1/2 cup milk (I used semi-skimmed)
  • Topping (optional):
    • 1/3 cup currant or other closely-related jam/jelly (I used F’s mom’s black currant jam, as that’s what we had)

Procedure

  • Preheat the oven to 350F (175C).
  • Butter a round cake pan with the 3 tbsp butter. Sprinkle the 1/2 cup of sugar evenly over the butter, and pour in the rinsed and dried cranberries.
  • In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt.
  • In a separate bowl, cream together the butter, sugar, egg, vanilla, and orange until well-combined.
  • Alternate adding the 1/2 cup milk and flour mixture to the butter-egg mixture, beating until well-combined. The batter will be quite thick.
  • Spread the batter over the cranberries, sealing the edges and smoothing the top.
  • Bake for 1 hour, until the top is well-browned. Let cool for 20 minutes, then run a knife around the edge of the cake and invert onto a platter.
  • Heat the jam (if using) in a saucepan, then brush it over the top of the cake. Top with homemade whipped cream, if desired (plain yogurt is also nice, for the more health-conscious out there), and enjoy warm or at room temperature.

Enjoy!

Recipe: Brussels Sprout & Tomato Salad with Lemon-Dijon Dressing

For Thanksgiving every year my mom makes a really good cold Brussels sprout salad with tomatoes and a zingy dressing. I recently picked up some Brussels sprouts and didn’t feel like roasting them so thought I’d throw together a similar salad — not only for Thanksgiving — with some tomatoes we had lying around and one of my favorite dressings: lemon-dijon.

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This is a tasty and healthy salad that acts as a great side dish for any meat or vegetarian main you’ve prepared. (Mashed potatoes are particularly good for mopping up extra dressing.) Serve it at room temperature or straight from the fridge. Feel free to add some minced scallions/green onions or any other things you think might work well with the earthy Brussels sprouts, fresh tomatoes, and zingy dressing. Toss the leftovers with some couscous or rice for a nice next-day lunch.

Brussels Sprout & Tomato Salad with Lemon-Dijon Dressing (serves 3-5)

Ingredients

  • 1/2 lb (200-300g) Brussels sprouts, trimmed
  • 1/2 lb (200-300g) cherry tomatoes, halved
  • Lemon-dijon dressing

Procedure

  • Bring a pot of water to boil, then throw in the Brussels sprouts and cook for 15 minutes or until they are firm-soft.
  • Meanwhile, whisk up the dressing in the bottom of your salad bowl and add the halved tomatoes.
  • When the Brussels sprouts are cooked, drain and rinse them in cold water. Slice them in half, add to the tomato and dressing, and toss. Serve at room temperature or chill for at least 1 hour.

Enjoy!

Recipe: Tammela’s Favorite Cranberry Sauce

One of my favorite things about Thanksgiving and Christmastime is the abundance of cranberries and cranberry-related dishes. Being in the UK, I’d searched high and low for cranberries in November, not to find any until Sarah told me just before Thanksgiving that she’d found some at Marks & Spencer. British friends confirmed that cranberries only appear here around Christmastime. Thrilled, I bought six packs of fresh cranberries to freeze and keep us “well-cranberried” through the winter.

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My mom has an amazing cranberry upside-down cake recipe that I hope to share with you soon. In the meantime, here’s my recipe for simple, delicious cranberry sauce. You can enjoy cranberry sauce with so many different things: with meat, of course, but also on biscuits, pancakes (why not?), or straight with a spoon. I prefer to keep my cranberry sauce on the tart side, so feel free to increase the sugar in this recipe if you like yours sweeter. Orange juice and zest gives the sauce some zing, and the spices make it taste like the holidays.

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Tammela’s Favorite Cranberry Sauce

Ingredients

  • 300g (~3 cups) fresh/frozen cranberries
  • zest + juice of 1 orange
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/3-1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1-2 cinnamon sticks
  • 1/4 tsp nutmeg
  • 1/4-1/2 tsp allspice

Procedure

  • Combine all the ingredients in a saucepan and bring to a boil.
  • Turn the heat down and let the sauce simmer with the lid cracked, stirring occasionally to prevent sticking, until the cranberries have all burst and the sauce thickens, 15-20 minutes.
  • Let cool a bit before eating and/or storing.

Enjoy!

Recipe: Dianne’s Sweet Potato Casserole

My mom makes this classic family recipe every year for Thanksgiving. I don’t know where the original recipe actually comes from — I just know it as Dianne’s delicious sweet potato casserole.

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There are no marshmallows on this. While marshmallows have their place in s’mores, I believe they have no place A) at Thanksgiving, and B) on top of sweet potatoes. You are welcome to disagree with me on that front.

Sweet potatoes are such incredible things on their own that they hardly need doctoring up (see marshmallow comment, above), but this casserole adds just enough to take them above and beyond your normal weekly pan of roasted root vegetables.

I got this recipe from my mom and made the sweet potatoes for a small Thanksgiving-in-London gathering at Sarah and Joe’s. The dish got good reviews all around and I was pleased that it tasted just like it does when Dianne makes them. The cinnamon and cardamom, along with a healthy dose of orange juice, give the potatoes a warming, autumnal flavor with a bit of zing. This sweet potato casserole is quick to put together — you can even make it the day before Thanksgiving and bake it or just reheat it on the day. It also makes great leftovers.

Dianne’s Sweet Potato Casserole (serves 8-10)

Ingredients

  • 3lbs/1.5kg sweet potatoes (about 3 large ones), peeled and cut into large chunks
  • 2/3 – 3/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup melted butter
  • pinch of salt
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp cardamom
  • 1 cup orange juice
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 cup pecans

Procedure

  • Preheat the oven to 375F (190C).
  • Put the sweet potato chunks in a large pot and add water until the potatoes are just covered. Bring to a boil and let simmer until the sweet potatoes are soft/mashable, 15-20 minutes.
  • Drain the sweet potatoes, then mash them in the pot.
  • Add everything but the pecans to the sweet potatoes, and mix until thoroughly combined.
  • Pour the sweet potato mixture into a casserole dish  (I didn’t have one so used a springform cake pan) and arrange the pecans on top.
  • Bake for 15-20 minutes, then let cool slightly before serving.

Enjoy!

Thanksgiving in English Club

What my English clubbers (and I) are thankful for this year (click to enlarge)

Younger pupils (aka my 7th graders) & their turkeys. From L, standing: Marta, Sasha, Olha, Marta, Valya, Yulia; sitting: Nastia & Roxolana

Older pupils & their turkeys, from L: Oleh, Yulia, Vasya, Katya, Tanya

Adult English-clubbers & their turkeys, from L: Oleh, Anya, Andriy, Maria, Iryna, Denis

Happy Thanksgiving from Ukraine!

Anecdote: Iryna and Denis (two of my adults; see above) asked me in English club on Wednesday for pumpkin pie recipes. I sent one to Denis online and wrote out a hard copy for Iryna. But she beat me to it! Today, Thanksgiving Thursday, Iryna called me and said, “meet me outside your house in 3 minutes; I have a surprise for you.” Lo and behold, she had found a recipe online and made a pumpkin pie! She had brought me a piece, still warm from the oven. I couldn’t wait to try it and as soon as I had one bite I devoured the whole piece. A great surprise for Thanksgiving afternoon.

Thanksgiving in Ukraine

Thanksgiving is a purely American holiday. But though we’re far away, my cluster decided to have our own Thanksgiving dinner on Thursday as we knew our families and friends would be feasting at home. The meal itself was a untraditional: Andy’s chicken curry; kasha (like cream of wheat) from Andrew’s host mom; cookies from Janira and a torte and mashed potatoes from her host mom; pizza and a torte from Kate’s host mom. We set up at our LCF’s house after language lessons and feasted! But the best part of it was taking the time to reflect on our last 10 weeks together – we went around the room and said what we’re thankful for this year (we’re all thankful for such a great PST cluster/experience and for the opportunity to be here in Ukraine) and then talked about what our families usually do on Thanksgiving. It was a wonderful bonding time, and our LCF, Natalia, said she greatly enjoyed her first Thanksgiving!
Thanksgiving feast in Ukraine!
Best cluster ever. From left: Natalia (LCF), Kate, me, Janira, Andrew, Andy