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November 17, 2008

Thanksgiving Dinner and Other Bloggy Fare

Sorry for the paucity of bloggitunal fare of late. Between work and projects around Villa Cassandranita, the Princess has been busier than a one-armed paper hanging little bee. The past two weekends have been consumed with travel and attending Marine Corps balls in various cities.

If you've never been to a Marine ball, they're quite an experience. Sadly, they tend to become less fun as you get older; there is less of what the Ball is supposed to be about (celebrating the birthday of the Corps with the Marine family) and more schmoozing with people one barely knows. However, I always love to drink in the gorgeous ball gowns, hair, nails, shoes, etc. And I love getting dressed up myself. It's fun to feel like a real (and not just a blog) princess for a few hours.

There is something about a ball gown that does that to a lady, and the sight of a Marine officer in mess dress is something to gladden the eye.

On the home front I've been planning Thanksgiving dinner. This year we have a big crowd coming - at last count, 25 people. Getting all those folks seated in our small house in the woods will be something of a challenge, but I'm thrilled to have the Unit home from Iraq and to be surrounded by friends and family. We are truly blessed. I spent yesterday surrounded by recipe books and casserole dishes. Which leads me to the question of the day:

What are you having for Thanksgiving? Any favorite recipes, entertaining hints, or family traditions you'd like to share? Do you prefer a casual table or do you like to do Thanksgiving up with silver, china, and all the trimmings? Or do you mix casual and formal pieces? Do you eat early or late?

What about centerpieces? This is my project for this week, since I'll probably need 3 tables even with my big banquet table. Feel free to ensmarten us in the comments section.

Posted by Cassandra at November 17, 2008 08:51 AM

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This year it's just the two of us for Thanksgiving so I'm keeping it very simple:

lasagna; I made this a couple of months ago with cheeses left over from the Penne with Five Cheeses I made for my husband's birthday so it will just come out of the freezer and into the oven

garlic bread

salad; my husband makes the best tossed salads on the planet and I'll make my world famous Italian dressing

pumpkin pie with whipped cream; a little odd after lasagna but if the lasagna is pretty much lunch and the pie is pretty much dinner it works out nicely

Speaking of which, I prefer to eat no later than 1 or 1:30. Eating at 3 in the afternoon drives me nuts and eating after 6 means no afternoon nap and cuts short the sitting around the table after the meal time.

When I do make turkey (usually just turkey breast since I've never the primary cook for 25 people for dinner), I put an onion in the cavity, then baste regularly with a mixture of white wine, chicken broth, and sage. The drippings make fabulous gravy.

A favorite family fix up for coffee with the pie: a shot of Kahlua and top with whipped cream.

I'm no help with centerpieces, I'm afraid. My idea of what goes in the middle of a table is limited to salt and pepper shakers.

Posted by: Elise at November 17, 2008 09:51 AM

This year, the Facility of Dining (formerly known as the Hall of Chow) will be serving various traditional comestibles such as turkey loaf, cornbread dressing, baked sweet potatoes, the ever-popular petit-pois avec carrottes, mixed salads (your choice, spoon it out and mix whatever), coffee, tea, Gatorade, bottled water, pseudobeer and an appetizing assortment of traditional desserts.

Table settings include individually-wrapped portions of sugar, salt and pepper, with centerpieces composed of family-sized bottles of Worcestershire, chili, and seven popular brands of hot pepper sauce.

A mix of casual and formal place-settings is the norm -- melamite plates and plastic utensils.

Because it is a workday over here (as are all the traditional holidays celebrated in the Contiguous United States (and Alaska and HF6's Abode), and the freshman kaydet class will be going through orientation, a new class of IqAF helicopter pilots will be going through Mister T's Patented Inadvertent IMC Crashproofing Class, the senior kaydet class will be getting Advanced Instruments, the juniors will be learning the mysteries of the E6B Flight Computer and the sophomores will be getting Basic VFR Navigation, I shall be dining late.

'Nother words, bacon cheeseburger, coffee and coffee.

Posted by: BillT at November 17, 2008 10:51 AM

We go with the basics: Roast turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, deglazing the pan for turkey gravy, yams, brussel sprouts off the stalk, good wine, pecan and pumkin pie, fresh whipped cream, and cappucino/lattes off the espresso machine. Close with port and chocolate and a cigar on the porch.

Keep it simple!

Posted by: vet66 at November 17, 2008 11:12 AM

We have chicken soup with meatballs, lasagna, turkey, meat stuffing, sweet potatoes, and stuffed artichokes.
Have you ever seen the recipes on this site? http://thepioneerwoman.com

I've tried a few of her recipes, and they are wonderful! I'm going to try some new ones for this Thanksgiving also.

Have a happy, happy, Thanksgiving!

Posted by: Toni at November 17, 2008 11:23 AM

We've got a fairly set menu we have every year, but I've trying to branch out a bit.

But so far, this is what I'm looking at:

Butternut squash puree w/maple syrup and nutmeg
Turkey, gravy and stuffing
Homemade mashed potatoes
Sweet potatoes (haven't decided whether to do baked candied yams or whipped sweet potatoes - sounds weird but the recipe looked good)
Squash Casserole (this is spicy - made w/ a swiss and parmesan cheese sauce and a dash of cayenne pepper)
Corn pudding
Baby peas with thyme and bacon
Cranberry/pear chutney
Relish tray (assorted pickes, olives, hot pickled okra, artichoke hearts, celery stuffed with roquefort or saga blue cheese, etc.)
Pecan, apple and pumpkin pie
Fresh fruit salad

Posted by: Cassandra at November 17, 2008 12:48 PM

I have these completely silly little feather turkeys I've set out every year since my husband was a 2nd Lt. Every year I try to move the feathers over the thin spots to make them look less worn. My boys are used to seeing them around the table - usually I hide them in the flower arrangement because they are kind of funny and I am fond of them.

It doesn't seem like Thanksgiving without them.

Posted by: Cassandra at November 17, 2008 12:51 PM

Plus, I like their plastic feet. They make me laugh.

Posted by: Cassandra at November 17, 2008 12:52 PM

Football and food. Lotsa both.

My job is to make the turkey dance before it gets stuffed, and then to carve it into confetti. We are hosting an enormous gaggle of refuge students and assorted hangers-on again this year, so I'm hanging out in the garage between acts.

Posted by: spd rdr at November 17, 2008 01:56 PM

Sex and relationships!

Ummmmm, no, not yet -- but I thought I'd better throw that on the table before I hit the sack -- just in case the thread deteriorated while I was asleep.

Posted by: BillT at November 17, 2008 02:53 PM

...my husband makes the best tossed salads on the planet and I'll make my world famous Italian dressing

I love salads, and I make good ones :) Especially with a nice steak.

Now I'm hungry!

Posted by: Cassandra at November 17, 2008 03:05 PM

She talks SALAD and that makes you hungry? Man... women really ARE fundamentally different from men. Salad is like garnish. You eat the fiddly green stuff to warm the stomach up for the meat and potatoes. Plants are not food. They're packing material for meat.

Posted by: MikeD at November 17, 2008 03:16 PM

Michael, you have obviously not eaten one of *my* salads :p

They are very good. My husband (a Marine, let me remind you) actually asks me to make salad for dinner. We're not talking iceberg lettuce and a boring dressing here.

Posted by: Cassandra at November 17, 2008 03:21 PM

The secret is being willing to experiment.

Posted by: Cassandra at November 17, 2008 03:21 PM

The secret is being willing to experiment.
-Mata Hari, Paris, 1916

Posted by: spd rdr at November 17, 2008 03:40 PM

The secret is being willing to experiment.

That must be one hell of a salad. :P

Posted by: MikeD at November 17, 2008 03:55 PM

Fiddly green stuff.

Comment in haste, repent at leisure.

Posted by: Cassandra at November 17, 2008 04:05 PM

"If you've never been to a Marine ball, they're quite an experience. Sadly, they tend to become less fun as you get older; there is less of what the Ball is supposed to be about (celebrating the birthday of the Corps with the Marine family) and more schmoozing with people one barely knows."

That isn't limited to Marine Balls ... I know my wife always asks me not to abandon her for "too long" while I schmooze the higher ups and say hello to all the junior officers and NCO's.

These balls are also interesting for seeing who drinks too much and makes a spectacle of themselves!

Posted by: Frodo at November 17, 2008 04:24 PM

My husband (a Marine, let me remind you)
The secret is being willing to experiment.

There was a disturbance in the Force and I awakened.

Sho' nuff, sex and relationships.

Back to the rack...

Posted by: BillT at November 17, 2008 04:27 PM

Well Frodo, we've sort of gotten to the point where we leave early so if anyone does drink too much, they don't have to worry about us seeing it (another crappy thing about getting older :p)

You're right though - there is always someone!

It's always a bit funny - and sad, in a way - to look into the mirror of time. I remember being that young person at the table when the old farts made the rounds. It feels odd being on the other end. Who would have believed time could pass so quickly?

Posted by: Cassandra at November 17, 2008 05:26 PM

This year, we will be mimicking Mr. Tuttle. We are headed to the Brigade's DFAC with a bunch of people from MacGyver's company and their families. Most of us will be sticking around for Christmas and will be doing big dinners then for any family that hops over from the mainland. So we're eschuing the normal wake-up-at-the-crack-of-dawn and slave-away-in-the-kitchen-all-day cooking extravaganza in favor of the let-someone-else-cook-AND-do-the-dishes alternative. Then we're heading over to play board games all afternoon and evening long with some friends while stuffing our faces with a variety of homemade desserts.

I. Can't. Wait.

Normally, our Thanksgiving tables are host to:

roast turkey
turkey gravy
apple cranberry stuffing
regular stuffing (savory variety)
creamy garlic mashed potatoes
harricots verts
sweet potato apple casserole
homemade cranberry chutney
yeast rolls
brown bread
pumpkin pie and/or cheesecake
pecan pie (Daddy loved these)
homemade vanilla ice cream

I'm sure there's more but I'm drawing a blank.

Posted by: HomefrontSix at November 17, 2008 05:36 PM

Oh, and as for Marine ball...I'm drooling just thinking about it.

There is NOTHING like a Marine in a dress uniform.


Posted by: HomefrontSix at November 17, 2008 05:37 PM

This year, we will be mimicking Mr. Tuttle.

Yes! You can haz cheezburgeh!

Posted by: BillT at November 17, 2008 06:00 PM

I do believe that cheezburgeh is on the menu.

Posted by: HomefrontSix at November 17, 2008 08:10 PM

I'm doing Thanksgiving this year for my family - everyone's bringing side dishes, so all I have to do is the turkey, rolls, and desserts. Here's one of them:

Pumpkin Cheesecake with Sour Cream Topping and Graham Cracker Crust

For crust:
Nonstick vegetable oil spray
2 cups graham craker crumbs (about 9 ounces)
1/4 cup (packed) golden brown sugar
2 tablespoons chopped crystallized ginger
1/2 tsp. ground ginger
1/2 tsp. nutmeg
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, melted

For filling:
4 8-ounce packages cream cheese, room temperature
2 cups sugar
1 15-ounce can pure pumpkin
5 large eggs
3 tablespoons all purpose flour
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons vanilla extract

For topping:
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup sugar
1 cup sour cream

Preheat oven to 350°F. Spray 9-inch-diameter springform pan with 2 3/4-inch-high sides with nonstick spray. Mix graham cracker crumbs, brown sugar, and ginger, then add melted butterand mix. Transfer mixture to prepared pan; press onto bottom and 2 inches up sides of pan. Bake crust until set and lightly browned, about 10 minutes. Cool completely.

Preheat oven to 350°F. Using electric mixer, beat cream cheese and sugar in large bowl until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Beat in pumpkin. Add eggs 1 at a time, beating on low speed to incorporate each addition. Add flour, spices, and salt; beat just to blend. Beat in vanilla. Transfer filling to cooled crust. Bake until filling is almost set in center and edges begin to crack (filling will move slightly when pan is gently shaken), about 1 hour 10 minutes.

Mix sour cream with salt, vanilla and sugar. Pour topping over cheesecake and spread evenly, leaving 1/2 inch uncovered around edges. Bake an additional 10 minutes. Cool 1 hour. Run knife around sides of pan to release crust. Chill cheesecake uncovered in pan overnight.

And since one of the persons coming is a vegetarian who "doesn't eat anything with a face", I'm doing a separate vegie dressing (cornbread, sage, and chestnut) and baking it in an acorn squash just for her. The turkey will have long since lost his face, but I don't think that's what she meant. ;-) I hope she won't find that it shared oven space with the bird, but I don't have enough oven space to cook it separately.

Other than that, glazed yams, mashed potatoes & gravy, corn casserole, some sort of green bean monstrosity that is traditional even though no one eats it, and a chocolate pie for my dad.

Cook once, eat all weekend. That's the best part of Thanksgiving.

Posted by: Deb at November 17, 2008 08:31 PM

I am not using my china or silver. I have them, but there is a bit of sadness attached to their use, so they sit, waiting for a certain Princess Kitty to grow up.

This year will be on the road, so we will be doing Thanksgiving at Cracker Barrel. Normally,
it would be:

Roast turkey
Cornbread with either chestnut or oyster and bacon dressing
cranberry sauce
Mashed roasted garlic and caramelized onion potatoes
gingered carrots
corn pudding
salad, mesclun
Knox gelatin salad (I still hate Jello but love it for its trembly qualities)
Parker House rolls

Pecan pie and pumpkin cheesecake

Sorry...right now I am a bit blue, but it will be all right.

Posted by: Cricket at November 17, 2008 09:35 PM

Holidays can be a bit tough. There are so many memories.

Last year, I felt pretty alone for both Thanksgiving and Christmas, so I know how you feel :)

Are you going to see family?

Posted by: Cassandra at November 17, 2008 09:53 PM

I'm going to give the menu for one of the most fun Thanksgivings I had at my oldest daughter's house - there were 16 of us there, including two Soldiers from Ft. Huachuca. We had:

Fried Turkey
Cornbread Dressing
Oyster/Rice Dressing
Gravy, of course!
Mashed Potatoes
Green Bean Casserole
Whipped Sweet Potatoes (almost like pie)
Nanny's Homemade Rolls
Wine and Beer
Pumpkin Pie
Pecan Pie

Football, video games, beer and conversation accompanied preparation. We ate around 6 pm. Cleaned up, talked some more and then got ready for the campfire and s'mores.

Nobody's s'mores looked like anything you'd really want to eat but they were delicious. Somehow they just taste better to half-drunken renditions of half-remembered lyrics of "Home On The Range".

On a clear night in southern Arizona, the stars are so bright and an utterly amazing sight. One in our group is an Eagle Scout who identified the constellations and told us stories about how and why they were named.

The Soldiers had to back by midnight (and we had to special permission for them to be out that late), so we wrapped it by giving them pie and snacks for the next day and taking them home.

This year, the children have plans to spend Thanksgiving with their in-laws, so we're going to my Dad's place, where we'll be grossly overfed by my step-mom's family, but I have no idea what's one the menu.

Posted by: Donna B. at November 17, 2008 10:41 PM

Since the family has been back in Texas, Thanksgiving is out at Grandma's with as many of the extended family and friends as are able to make it. Apparently, this year, there will be in the ballpark of 40 people, last head count I heard. There's me, my parents, my sisters and their boyfriends, my brother and his significant other and the baby, I've got 4 cousins who live in town, all married with children. There are 3 cousins (brothers) who are all going to school not too far away. Not sure if their oldest brother will be making it. One cousin will be down from Washington State with her husband. Her brother (in college in either ID or CO, I can't recall) is also coming in (AK is home, so it's more economical for my uncle to send the kids still in college here than back to Anchorage). Some of the cousins are likely bringing girlfriends and other friends. Did I mention that I am the second of 21 grandchildren? Mom is the oldest of six... Daddy, on the other hand, was an only child. My uncle in AK and his wife and youngest won't make it - they come down during the summer. My uncle in Australia won't be back either, I don't think. We don't ever do formal out at Grandma's - too many people, I think.


Roast turkey
cornbread dressing (something I've not had much experience making - Dad always has done it) ingredients include cornbread, toast, browned ground beef and sausage, egg, and I'm not what else
mashed potatoes
corn and/or green beans
chocolate cream pie and Cool Whip

We always bring the turkey and dressing and chocolate pie. My aunt always did the mached potatoes, but she's no longer with us, so it's sorta fallen to her daughter-in-law. Most everyone brings something. There are other pies - apple, pumpkin, pecan - whatever people decide to get. Dad has me pricing turkeys when I went to the grocery store yesterday. He's looking for a 22-pounder. There will also be an extra turkey breast, and I think there will also be ham. All I know is, one turkey ain't feeding 40 people! We usually eat mid-afternoon. After eating, it's football watching and game playing (Grandma has a pool table, and we also like playing board-type games).

As for dressing up for a ball. I've not been able to do so in a long time, since high school, really. Last time I wore a formal was when I was in my best friend's wedding in August 2003. She had a jazz quartet at the reception, so it wasn't any sort of rockin' party. Sad to say, I thought it was kinda boring.... I'd love to go to a military ball. Right now, I'm debating on whether or not to go to the company Christmas (pardon me, Holiday...) Party. It's going to be at some fancy private club and cocktail attire is required. I'm just not sure I want to go if I have to go stag, but I can't see myself finding a date between now and then (have to RSVP by the 28th). I do have a couple of pretty dresses to pick from, though, if I decide to go.

Posted by: Miss Ladybug at November 18, 2008 12:05 AM

Thanksgiving is always spent on the Spinal Cord Injury Unit at our local VA hospital. The children love spending time with the veterans and the vets love interacting with the children. Being away from hearth, home, and family (whether deployed or hospitalized) during the holidays is the pits. We try to “lessen the suck” by providing a home cooked meal and a family. This year’s menu:

Mashed potatoes
Sage/Onion dressing
Meat dressing
Giblet gravy
Apple & sweet potato bake
Corn & broccoli casserole
Creamed carrots
Crescent rolls
Cranberry sauce
Cranberry-orange relish
Fruit fluff
Veggie tray
Assorted relishes
Pumpkin pie
Pecan pie
Whipped cream
Kona coffee
Sparkling cider

Posted by: Sandi at November 18, 2008 12:28 AM

My hope is that staying insanely busy keeps the sadness at bay. I'm not sure that it's working but I refuse to think about it. Denial is a wonderful thing sometimes.

Posted by: HomefrontSix at November 18, 2008 01:33 AM

Denial is a wonderful thing sometimes.

It *is* -- it keep de plywood on de two-by-fower.

Posted by: BillT at November 18, 2008 01:46 AM

I knew someone that tried to deny his wind pipe was crushed. Didn't exactly work. Bill, you ever see anyone that tried it and got it to work?

Posted by: Ymarsakar at November 18, 2008 06:35 AM

I'm another for the Dfac here in Bagram. i think I'll skip the Cheeseburger though.

Same thing for X-mas.

Posted by: unkawill at November 18, 2008 07:13 AM

Bill, you ever see anyone that tried it and got it to work?

Which, denial or installing Vista updates?

Posted by: BillT at November 18, 2008 09:02 AM

Sandi...I like your antidote to the blahs.

We will be taking care of our property in Missouri. We try to get there once a year. Over the Christmas holidays we will be going to see my father; he is 88. While there, we will be with my siblings as well as visiting some sites.

I do love the holidays; but every now and then something triggers a series of memories that wind up in the present. November is always hard for me; we have three birthdays and Thanksgiving to celebrate.

Jonathan's is the first; he would have been 22.
The Youngest Child turned 8; his birth was a series of eventful memories. The middle son will be 15. Sometimes his birthday falls on Thanksgiving...which means he gets to have what he wants.

After reading what other people are doing, it cheered me up quite a bit...so thank you very much. I really, really needed it.

Posted by: Cricket at November 18, 2008 09:13 AM

"It's always a bit funny - and sad, in a way - to look into the mirror of time. I remember being that young person at the table when the old farts made the rounds. It feels odd being on the other end. Who would have believed time could pass so quickly?"

Exactly ... thinking about it, its funny how my opinions on military balls have changed over the years.

As a single LT in Germany I dreaded going to them, having to give up a night to listen to boring speeches and lame music. A smart single officer never brought a date to these as she would be swarmed by the officer wives to "get the dirt" and you would be subject of inquiries from my crazy battalion commander (think Cmdr Queeg from the Caine Mutiney) who would disapprove of her (and you) if she was not American and if you didn't meet her in or through church.

As a married Captain in the Reserve and Guard, I started to enjoy them as a chance to get my wife dolled up, close dancing and possibly a night alone together in a hotel. Speeches were still boring but mostly tolerable (exception was one general who decided the Redleg Ball was the appropriate venue for a threat briefing).

As a Major, I still enjoyed them for many of the same reasons as a captain, but the Ball preparation became work for me ... planning, scheduling, dealing with endless complaints about location, scheduling (on drill weekend, off drill weekend, too close to other balls, too close to the Super Bowl!) and ironically coercing reluctant LT's into attending!

As a Battalion commander I loved hosting our military ball, putting the work of organizing on the majors and enjoying being the top dog.

Now I now look at them as a chance to reconnect with folks I don't see often as I look at the possibility that my career will be over in a couple years. I am having trouble dealing with the number of military balls I now get invited to and am "expected" to attend as a senior officer. Invites from subordinate commands, OCS programs, veterans groups and the generals "favorite" balls.

At the Tina Turner concert last night, my wife reminded me of another military ball activity. It may sound a bit catty but it always gives her a chuckle when she spots what she calls the "desperate housewife's" ... women in their 40's dressing like Britney Spears!

Posted by: Frodo at November 18, 2008 12:53 PM

Well, having seen a picture (I think just one!) of your lovely bride, Frodo, I can testify to the fact that she is just beautiful.

Of course you are not so bad yourself, so that is not surprising (just thought I'd get that in so I could make a hobbit blush).

Posted by: Cassandra at November 18, 2008 01:07 PM

As always Cass, you're too kind!

Posted by: Frodo at November 18, 2008 01:58 PM

You know, there was a time when high culture was only reserved for the aristocracy and the royal family.

Posted by: Ymarsakar at November 18, 2008 07:48 PM

Ymar, I double dog dare you to ask either Frodo or BillT about a Regimental Dining In, or Out.

Culture? More like 'culture shock.'

Posted by: Cricket at November 18, 2008 10:08 PM

Culture? More like 'culture shock.'

Well, they did say there was "military music" and then there was real music; there is "military justice" and then there is real justice. So I suppose there is "military culture" and real culture: resulting in culture shock?

I dare start the fire, with the potential deadly consequences of fearful symmetry: BillT, got up a link or TINS or personal anecdote you want to share about "Regimental Dining in/out"?

Posted by: Ymarsakar at November 20, 2008 04:21 PM