I love Thanksgiving! Thanksgiving is a classic American tradition. It is a day to give thanks for what we have and the dear loved ones that join us, at our bountiful table. Each year I search for ways to make Thanksgiving both exciting and special. Some families believe in serving the same dishes year after year. I also enjoy nature’s beauty as a table setting. I adore long taper candles in silver candlesticks surrounded by delicate golden leaves of many different hues. Thanksgiving is the time to get the special china out, bring out all of the silver. You can also entertain the children! Imagine that, cooking a glorious feast and keeping the children content and happy! How amazing! You will be amazing!
I think variety is the spice of life and why shouldn’t that variety be part of our Thanksgiving tradition. For example you can make an Italian Thanksgiving! By Italian I mean turkey with herbes de Provence and citrus. Or you can debone the turkey and make a Turkey Roulade stuffed with delicious figs, toasted pine nuts, succulent cranberries, and of course cornbread stuffing. No one looks forward to carving a turkey on Thanksgiving. You are at the table, everyone’s watching, and you are struggling to carve a hot bird! The Turkey Roulade cooks in under two hours, and no bones. How great is that? The no bones is a great choice for younger children. Let’s think of this turkey roulade as a child friendly turkey. The turkey can be made a day in advance so you can spend time enjoying the holiday and not sweating it out in the kitchen. Be a guest at your own party, what an idea!
Thanksgiving offers children a creative outlet for decorating a beautiful table setting. Send the children outside to look for interesting leaves of various shapes and sizes. This scavenger hunt will thrill them as the amazing aroma of roasting turkey envelops the house. The air is crisp and the foliage is simply stunning. Keep pumpkins, butternut squash, gourds and oranges handy. I am a stickler for setting the proper table. Teach the children how to set the table as if they are preparing a table for a Michelin star restaurant! When the leaves are collected, spread out a cloth canvas and apply glitter glue to the leaves. You want plenty of space for the children to have fun and not make an enormous mess. A light coat of glitter glue will be sufficient. You will be wowed as will your guests as the candlelight cascades over the orange glittered leaves shining back at you. Begin with a long white cloth table runner. You will then want to start with a focal point of assorted pumpkins of various sizes, line the pumpkins, squash, and oranges down the center of the table. The white table runner will offset the magnificent hues of gold, red, and orange. Disperse the leaves here and there amongst the pumpkins and squash. Place the silver candle sticks along the table. I also prefer to “hide” small votive candles amongst the center of the table for more lighting drama. Now, be careful or you will be in for real drama, do not let the votives get too close to the glittered leaves!
I possess fond memories of setting the table with my sisters as my mother and our chef prepared a special dinner. I enjoyed scavenging for great finds such as large golden Oak tree leaves or branches of red berries. We were just outside Washington, DC and were fortunate to have many lovely trees with a vast assortment of leaves of all shapes, sizes, and colors.
A cute project for children in regards to cooking, are little cornbread turkeys. You will need a plump turkey cake mold. The children can make the simple cornbread mixture and then pour into the molds. Then you just bake them off and you have little turkeys coming out of the oven. More importantly, the children feel part of the cooking process.
Side dishes are equally important to the Thanksgiving dinner. The possibilities are endless: glazed carrots and red pearl onions, stuffed pumpkins, sautéed porcini mushrooms with chestnuts, balsamic roasted Brussel sprouts, apple and celery root puree or maple roasted parsnips and baby carrots. Whatever your choices are, the key is to utilize only the best ingredients. Pick a few side dishes you happen to cook quite well or purchase one or two from a caterer to make life a bit easier. As children tend to frown on vegetables, allow them to pick the side dishes. I promise they will love anything maple roasted!
We all know no meal is complete without a decadent dessert. Children live through the whole meal just for that incredible dessert. Traditionally, pies are the norm. However, let’s shake it up a bit and think outside the box. How about a fresh Apple Spice Cake drizzled with caramel sauce and a dollop of vanilla ice cream? Pumpkin mousse adds an interesting twist to dessert. Or for something really over the top, Meringue with Quince sorbet and crème anglaise. Now, I am certain there are those of you thinking, Thanksgiving without a pie! Is this woman crazy? Why not try a pecan-caramel tart or a double crust apple pie?
I possess many wonderful memories of Thanksgiving and I look forward to celebrating the very best this November 26th. I do hope I have inspired many of you with creative and delicious ideas for an exciting holiday!
Written by Melissa: Melissa is an experienced American Nanny who loves to share her passion for cooking with children. Melissa is currently working as a Nanny in the USA while searching for a Nanny position abroad.