Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving is a holiday celebrated in the United States and Canada as a day of giving thanks for the blessing of the harvest for this and the preceding year.  Prayers of thanks are offered around the table, it’s a meaningful time for families to get together, share a big meal and what they’re thankful for. 

We don’t celebrate Thanksgiving in Australia but I wanted to get an insight into the holiday so asked two of my blogging friends, Alison from Green With Renvy and Sandra from Soffritto who both live in the United States to share how their families celebrate.  

I know many families celebrate with pumpkin pie for dessert.  I wanted to pay tribute to Thanksgiving  so made a Healthy Pumpkin Cheesecake, no lack of flavour though because it’s healthier, you won’t even notice the difference.  It’s the first time I’ve made a dessert containing pumpkin.  It’s delicious – Australians, don’t even think about the pumpkin just make it, you won’t regret it.  Over to you Alison and Sandra, hope you all enjoy their reflections as much as I did.


Alison

Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday of the year.  Coming just before the hustle and bustle of Christmas begins for me, the focus is on family, good times and good food.  My birthday falls on or around the day, and that gives rise to a double celebration. We’ve had as many as 30 people, but the number is usually around 12.  I am lucky to have my two sisters nearby, and almost always, we are the family to host.  My kids are starting to feather their own nests these days, thankfully in the area. The day centers around football pools, food preparation and lots of laughs.   A fire is always roaring, and if anyone has friends who are without family close by, an open invitation is waiting.  We often smoke the turkey on the grill, which has led to a few disasters {a raw 1/2 bird, and an overcooked carcass on the floor are two that immediately come to mind}, but the smell of the wood chips that whistles in the door every time someone goes out to baste the bird makes the potential mishap all the more worthwhile.  Plus, there is always so much additional food, a turkey disaster is always salvageable.

Everyone, no matter their age, has something to bring.  The youngest is usually in charge of the rolls. We start the day with a large platter of smoked salmon with all the accoutrements: dill, capers, chopped onion and egg, sour cream and pumpernickel bread.  That takes us through ’til dinner. It’s light enough and can be replenished as guests arrive. Traditional side dishes take center stage for the meal, mashed potato and turnip, green beans with onion rings, homemade cranberry sauce and stuffing made with sausage, onion, celery, apple and anything else I happen to want to try in this years recipe.  Getting the bird stuffed is always a challenge, we usually get a 25 lb fresh bird, and its a bit slippery.  Plus since I no longer eat meat, this task is not one of my favorites.  I roast a selection of root vegetables along with Brussels sprouts.  Just a little olive oil and salt and pepper at high heat, and its becoming a favorite for us all.

When we sit down to the table, we have name cards that my nephew and I made 5 or 6 years ago from pine cones, feathers and pipe cleaners, and we save from year to year, changing and adding depending on who’s on the guest list. Candles light the room and everyone joins hands and we go around the table one by one, sharing what we are thankful for.  Usually, about 3 people in, someone is crying and we all have a good laugh.  The length of the meal hardly justifies all the work that goes into it, but the day is about so much more that just the turkey, it’s an event for family in our house, full of traditions and love.  
Desserts involve decadence and more decadence.  There is an icebox cake made with chocolate wafers and whip cream that everyone in the family has for their birthday, and then a chocolate pecan pie and usually a pumpkin cheese cake.  A walk around the block finishes off the evening, and more often that not, everyone usually ends up spending the night so we can jump into shopping for the holidays on Small Business Friday, the next day!


Sandra

What does Thanksgiving mean to me?  

Thanksgiving is the end of the Harvest season and time to give thanks for the harvest, and spending time with family.  For me, being in an Italian family it means lots of food.  We use to have pasta at beginning, but had to remove it from the menu because there is always so much food.

Living in New England this time of the year is exciting, there is definitely a chill and the air, the leaves are just about gone and that means snow is on the way.  And it’s the beginning of the Christmas season.

How do I celebrate Thanksgiving?

We have a very large dining room table that is filled with family, lots of noise and conversation.   Once we get to the house where dinner is being served, we start with a toast to the family members who are no longer with us.  Then the chaos begins, with several bottles of good red wine, and the wonderful dinner.

What kind of dishes do we serve?

The traditional kinds of dishes for this holiday:

Turkey that is roasted without stuffing (but we do make stuffing and make it separate from the Turkey).
Sausage / potato stuffing
Brussell sprouts, or string beans
Stuffed artichokes
Homemade bread 
Roasted chestnuts with red wine ( this is usually at the end of the meal before coffee or desserts)
Italian coffee with Sambuca, this is suppose to help us digest

Desserts:
Pumpkin pie
Squash pie
Italian pizzelles
Cannoli’s filled with ricotta cheese 

What is my favourite:  
My favorite is the stuffed artichokes,  cranberry sauce (we are lucky to have so many cranberry bogs in Massachusetts, and the harvest of the cranberries just happened the end of October.  Of course red wine,  and finishing touch the italian coffee.

Thank you so much Alison and Sandra for sharing your families Thanksgiving with us.  Both celebrations sound wonderful and I love that the focus is on family and giving thanks, very special.

Farmhouse Home Pumpkin Cheesecake
Preheat oven to 180C.  Leave cream cheese and eggs out of fridge to come to room temperature.  Brush base and sides of a 22cm deep springform tin with a little melted butter.  Remove the base from the tin.

Cut a round of baking paper to fit the base of the tin, brush the paper with a little butter and set aside.
Tear off an 80cm sheet of foil and double it over so it measures 40cm in length. Lay the foil over the base of the tin, then put the buttered round of paper on top. Sit the springform tin over the base and lock the sides into place, leaving excess foil outside the tin. Draw up the excess foil around the tin and fold the top out of the way.

Pumpkin Puree
1/2 butternut pumpkin

Cut pumpkin in half lengthwise and place face side down in an ovenproof dish with 1/2 cm water.  Roast until a knife can be inserted very easily.  Remove from oven and when cool enough to handle, scoop the pumpkin from skin.  Place in a chux cloth and squeeze to remove excess water.  Measure out 1 1/4 cups of the pumpkin puree.

Base
115g ginger snap biscuits
1/3 cup walnuts
4 TBLSP melted coconut oil

Place all ingredients in a food processor and blitz until it forms a crumbly mixture.  Press firmly into the base of the springform tin with the bottom of a glass or clean hands.  Clean out food processor.

Filling
500g light Philadelphia cream cheese
1/4 cup maple syrup
3 eggs, whisked
1/8 tsp nutmeg
1/8 tsp cloves
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/4 cups pumpkin puree
pinch salt

Place the cream cheese and maple syrup in the food processor and blitz on low speed until incorporated.

Add half of the whisked eggs and blitz again on low speed until just combined.  Add the rest of the eggs and repeat.

Now add the spices, vanilla extract, pumpkin puree and salt and process on low setting until smooth (you don’t want to incorporate too much air, that’s what causes cheesecakes to crack).

Pour the filling into the tin.  Tap tin lightly a couple of times on the kitchen bench to release air bubbles.

Place tin in an oven tray and pour water from the kettle to come half way up the sides.  Bake for 50 minutes.  Turn oven off  but do not open the oven door for a further hour.

Lift the tin from the water bath and flatten the foil away from the sides just in case there is any water trapped inside. Cool completely in the tin on a wire rack and refrigerate for several hours or overnight before serving.
Catherine x

20 Comments

  1. leah // sang the bird

    So lovely reading about this tradition.I think it is a shame Halloween is so widely accepted, yet we haven't adopted Thanksgiving.
    Hmmmm. Pumkin in dessert… I have long wondered about this. If you say it is good then I trust you (and the millions of Americans that have been doing it for years).
    I am Thankful we've 'met' xx

  2. Ally

    What lovely insights into Thanksgiving, makes me wish we had something similar. It sounds like Christmas without all the commercial trappings, just a day stripped back to what is really important – family, friends and lots of lovely food!

  3. Catherine Bedson

    Thanks Leah, I couldn't agree with you more, I'm not a big fan of us adopting Halloween but Thanksgiving I could totally get behind. I'm thankful we've 'met' as well Leah, thank you. xx We must be in sync as I was just visiting your blog to see if you've updated it then you left a comment on mine. XO

  4. Lauren

    Oh, what a wonderful post and a great idea, Catherine! The cheesecake looks amazing…Leah, if you're checking back, pumpkin is in EVERYTHING around here now-a-days. Crazy!

    Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday too. It used to be just my little family, (me, my mom and dad) and a respite from the bustle of Christmas. As an adult it's evolved into a Friendsgiving (new word, I'

  5. Alison Abbott

    Catherine
    Thanks so much for inviting me to share my Thanksgiving love! You put it together beautifully, and Ally is right, it's all the good stuff that Christmas brings without the commercial trappings. I'll have to give your cheesecake recipe a try and include it in the meal this year, it looks great.
    Best to you and your family-there's always something we can give thanks

  6. tina @ colourliving

    What a beautiful post and happy Thanksgiving to all that celebrate.

    Your baking always looks so accomplished. I made Apple Crumble tonight and found it a doddle. I'm definitely gaining confidence in baking thanks to you…:-)

    Thank you Alison and Sandra for sharing your families Thanksgiving with us…

  7. Catherine Bedson

    @Alison thank you for agreeing to do it. I loved reading your reflection and felt like I was there. I'm delighted you're going to make my Pumpkin Cheesecake for your Thanksgiving table. I've never tasted pumpkin pie or cheesecake before so I hope it tastes close to how you guys make it over there!

  8. noreen

    catherine – that was lovely! alison and sandra gave you my thoughts about thanksgiving exactly. family and appreciation. more work for the food than the time it takes to eat. family, family, family. my family runs or walks a 6 mile race each thanksgiving morning. we say it works up an appetite! but it's our tradition (and lots of other families', too!) happy thanksgiving to YOU

  9. Anastasia

    I love all the Traditions but in a way I'm glad I don't live in the USA – what a busy two months with Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas and then New years – exhausting!!! especially with the size of my extended family! haha…Still, the traditions are great aren't they? so many lovely memories.
    Your pumpkin cheesecake looks so yummy!

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