thanks, turkey & a tent

Last November, I hosted Thanksgiving. I am an advocate for family and friends all sitting down at the same table, sharing a meal, prayer, stories and laughter – and with those ambitions and a 900-square foot home, I had to think outside the box, literally.

“What about our wall tent? My husband did insist it would come in handy,” I thought. My husband was right, our wall tent was a good investment and it was time to put it to another use: a Thanksgiving dinner tent.

Not only would this provide a place for everyone to dine together, it would get everyone out of my kitchen and into the backyard. Brilliant.

On a wet, cold November day, a 14-foot by 16-foot wall tent stood in our backyard. No need for jackets or boots, as the wood stove cranked out heat and dried our winter grass back into summer. It was comfortable and cozy.

Patio tables and folding tables were placed together to make one large banquet table. A buffet table was set up in order to prevent having to come inside the house for seconds. Food was either kept with a lid or placed in crockpots to keep it warm.

Table linens, centerpieces, strung white lights, candles, beautiful china and a crackling fire turned a camping tent into an authentic and inviting Thanksgiving oasis.

What was a unique idea became a wonderful memory and most likely, a holiday tradition.

Menu

Herb-butter Turkey (adapted from Ina Garten)

1 fresh turkey (12-14 lb.)

1 cup dry white wine

1 cup chicken broth

½ cup packed, fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves, chopped

2 Tbsp. chopped fresh sage leaves, plus 2 sprigs

1 Tbsp. chopped fresh rosemary leaves, plus two sprigs

1 tsp. fresh thyme leaves, plus 2 sprigs

½ cup unsalted butter, softened

1 medium onion, cut into eighths

1 head garlic, cut in half

Pre-heat oven to 325-degrees. Clean and prepare your turkey, and place into large roasting plan, breast side up. Pour wine and chicken stock into pan. In food processor, pulse together herb leaves until finely chopped. Add butter and pulse until well blended. Working from the large cavity end of the turkey, gently run fingers between skin and meat to loosen skin from flesh. Using a rubber spatula, place three-quarters of herb-butter under skin on both sides of the breast bone. Gently massage skin to evenly distribute butter. Spread the remaining herb butter all over the outside of the turkey. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Place onion, garlic and herb sprigs inside the cavity. Roast turkey 1 ½ hours, cover, and then roast 1 hour longer.

Mom’s Yams

2 large cans of yams/sweet potatoes

1 cup brown sugar

1 stick of butter, melted

½ cup orange juice

Marshmallows (optional)

Pre-heat oven to 350-degrees. Mix brown sugar, butter and orange juice in a bowl. Place yams in a casserole dish. Cover yams with mixture. Bake for 18 minutes. Place marshmallows on top of casserole. Bake or broil on low an additional 1-2 minutes until marshmallows are warm/toasted, but not melted.

 Pioneer Woman’s Mashed Potatoes

Recipe (I made them and then had them sit in the crockpot) http://thepioneerwoman.com/cooking/2007/11/delicious_creamy_mashed_potatoes/

Paula Deen’s Southern Cornbread Stuffing

http://www.pauladeen.com/recipes/view2/southern_cornbread_stuffing/

3 Thanksgiving Tips from ABC

1. Cook ahead and use that crockpot (and your neighbors). I made the stuffing and mashed potatoes the night before. The next day, a few hours before serving, I allowed them to warm in crock-pots with some fresh butter and seasonings. They not only were delicious, but hassle-free to deal with on the day-of.

2. Cardamom. This expensive seasoning is well worth it and comes out during the holidays at my house. My great-grandmother used it in her famous crescent roll recipe. Add a few sprinkles of cardamom to your homemade roll dough (or Pillsbury – nobody’s judging), and taste the yumminess!

3. Accept help. When somebody offers to bring something, have a small list ready of appetizers or desserts ready or ask them if they have a special recipe they would like to share. Not only does it help the cook and host, but let’s everyone be involved.

Craft

Brown Paper Bag Flowers

This is a great craft for kids, for adults while they are waiting for dinner or for you when you are scrambling to make a boring wall tent more festive.

Supplies

Scissors

6-8 brown paper bags (depending on how many people/flowers)

Glue sticks

1. With paper bag’s bottom folded flap towards you, cut off that bottom right above the fold.

2. Free hand a leaf shape or use a template leaf shape on the brown bag and cut. Make the leaf shape as wide as you can, leaving one end flat and the other pointed.

3. As you cut these leaves, smaller parts will fall out. Save these as smaller leaves for the flower.

4. Fold the large leaves in half and open back up, creating a crease which will make them a bit elevated.

5. Glue the flat ends of the leaves together in a flower shape, starting with the largest first and stacking up to the smallest.

6. Search your yard for fun pieces to glue in the middle of your flower.

(Adapted from http://aplaceforusblog.com/brown-paper-flowers-tutorial/)

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