Growing up, Thanksgiving was always a huge deal with my family. I recall wading through a veritable sea of aunts, uncles, and cousins just to get to my grandmother’s world-famous (well, Grand Island famous) sage stuffing. There was nothing I wanted to eat more than that stuffing. In addition to the stuffing, there were the usual suspects: turkey, mashed potatoes, green bean casserole, gravy, homemade dinner rolls, cranberry sauce and always a pumpkin pie. So. Much. Food. Leftovers for days.
But things are different now. The cousins have grown up, moved away, and started families of their own. My brother is now married with two sons, and splits holidays between he and his wife’s families. I guess I always knew the time of huge family dinners would eventually end, I suppose I just didn’t want to accept it.
On occasion, Scott and I will join my family for Thanksgiving dinner, but not this year. We’re sticking around Omaha and will be spending the holiday with one another. It’s bittersweet – preparing and cooking Thanksgiving dinner for just the two of us, as this will be our first Thanksgiving as a married couple. We are now our own family and we can start our own traditions. I love him very much and am thankful for all he has brought to my life, so I want to make sure this dinner isn’t just like any other dinner I might make any other night of the week.
He requested turkey this year, but I’m not ready to cook an entire bird just for the two of us, so I’m opting for an organic, bone-in turkey breast. I’m planning to brine it overnight and slow roast it to achieve the perfect juicy tenderness.
I’m sure I’ll come up with some interesting sides and of course, a dessert. Maybe we’ll even pop open a bottle of champagne to celebrate.
For those of you cooking for two, go crazy. Get creative. Prepare something extra special, decadent, even. Be thankful for the special person in your life, sitting across from you at the table, toast to one another, and dig in.
My good friend Sarah once told me that one of her favorite confections were Rolos. I had to confess that they were on my list, as well. What’s not to love, really? Decadent chocolate and creamy caramel? Pair one little Rolo with a cup of hot coffee or espresso and you have the perfect sweet snack. But, as we all know, mass-produced candies such as these come with a laundry list of ingredients. Just take a look:
MILK CHOCOLATE ( SUGAR; NONFAT MILK; COCOA BUTTER; CHOCOLATE; LACTOSE (MILK); MILK FAT; SOY LECITHIN; PGPR, EMULSIFIER; VANILLIN, ARTIFICIAL FLAVOR) ; SUGAR; CORN SYRUP; HIGH FRUCTOSE CORN SYRUP; PARTIALLY HYDROGENATED VEGETABLE OIL (PALM KERNEL AND SOYBEAN OIL); MILK; SALT; SODIUM BICARBONATE; VANILLIN, ARTIFICIAL FLAVOR
That is what you’ll find if you turn a tube of Rolos over and look at the ingredients. It’s not great, but it could be worse.
For Sarah, I made something as close to a Rolo as I could, but I made a few changes. I used semi-sweet chocolate instead of milk chocolate, I added Maldon sea salt to the caramel and also sprinkled it on top. And clearly, I didn’t form them into the shape of a Rolo. But I’m sure she’ll forgive me. My list of ingredients was also considerably shorter.
I’ve mentioned this before on the blog, but Sunday evening is most often reserved for dinner with our friends, Pat and Holly. We head over to their house with the pretense of watching whichever HBO show we’re following at the moment – right now it’s the beautifully violent Boardwalk Empire – but we always share a meal prior to plopping ourselves down on the couch.
Most of the time, Pat and Holly provide the meal and I’ll bring dessert, but lately, I’ve been feeling like they do way too much, so I’ve volunteered to bring dinner once in a while. I think a few weeks ago I brought over chicken to fry and this last Sunday I felt like spaghetti and meatballs – so I did that. I love cooking for our Sunday get-togethers for a number of reasons. I like giving the hosts the night off, I get to stretch my culinary muscles, and I get to test out my recipes on my friends.
There are some things I want to change with the spaghetti and meatballs, so I’ll reserve that for another post. But I’ll tell you this: you really can’t go wrong with a rich tomato sauce left to simmer for an hour and meatballs taste their most delicious when seared first in a blazing hot cast-iron skillet and left to simmer along with the sauce. YUM!
I don’t know about you all, but whenever we had spaghetti and meatballs at home, my mom would always follow up with a tasty pan of chocolaty brownies. There must be something about Italian food – or tomatoes or something – that makes me crave chocolate within minutes of cleaning my plate of all the evidence. Am I alone in this or do you all understand what I’m saying?