American Thanksgiving in Canada

 
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I can't believe another Thanksgiving is already upon us. I also can't believe how old it feels to utter a phrase like that. Soon I'll be starting my posts with, "back in my day...."

This will be the second year James and I recreate our childhood traditions away from our families. With one exception. This year my sister is joining us!! Oh, I cannot wait for her to arrive! One, to finally show her this quirky place we've called home for nearly two years (can you believe it?) and two, to get some much-needed help in the kitchen! Last year I prepared a full on Thanksgiving feast by myself while James was at work. 

Since Canada celebrates their Thanksgiving in October, James didn't have the American holiday off. Wanting to celebrate with the rest of our comrades, we held the festivities on the American date. This year, my sister is flying up on Thanksgiving Day, so we're holding out for a day or two. In creating Thanksgiving feels, it's the people that will make the holiday --not the date. 

I meant to write about Canadian Thanksgiving last year, but this year is as good as any. Right? So if Thanksgiving in October peeked your culture-thirsty interest, keep reading. I also want to take this time to share my adopted recipes and ask you to share yours!

Canadians celebrate Thanksgiving on the second Monday of October. Prior to 1957, the celebration date varied wildly, often falling on the third Monday of October. In 1957, the holiday was officially designated to its current position on the Canadian calendar. When asked why, I've always assumed it was because, like in America, this was the time frame in which settlers arrived on Canadian soil and celebrated a grand harvest. Upon a little research, it was not a successful harvest for which voyagers were expressing thanks back in the late 1500s. It was the safe landing on Frobisher Bay (Northern Territories) of many explorers after ferocious storms plagued an expedition to the North American provinces. 

There are, however, many similarities between the current North American Thanksgivings, including the feast. Turkey, stuffing, potatoes both mashed and sweet are some of the same staples. Missing from the Canadian menu is my all-time favorite, green bean casserole. Last year I made sure to contribute this to our Newfoundland Friendsgiving to ensure nobody missed out. Newfoundlanders turn things up a notch, adding wild game like moose to their holiday serving platters. Also similar is the Thanksgiving Day Parade and the observance of football. The Thanksgiving Day Classic is a doubleheader football game in the Canadian Football League. Newfoundland doesn't have a team in the league and I've yet to hear anyone talk about it, but it's warming to know the tradition does exist in some parts of Canada -- to sit down with a plate full of wholesomeness and cheer on your Cowboys. I mean, favorite Canadian team. 

So in the holiday spirit I thought I would share some of my favorite Thanksgiving recipes. These are tried and true from my hosting of the holiday last year. Should you be looking to adopt your own recipes or to mix things up, give these a try. In return, share with me a recipe you love to serve your loved ones. 

The All Star: The Turkey

Or in our case, the Cornish game hens. Funny story.... last year James and I went to the store to buy a turkey. It was only two of us, so we were looking for a small one. Upon lifting a 10 pound "small" bird, it dawned on us that these beasts need days to thaw. We didn't have that kind of time. Thankfully, the grocery store also had cute little hens. They thawed quickly and made for adorable individual servings. But what truly made these birdies fantastic was this brine recipe from The Home Brew Chef. Out of this world. We brined the hens overnight and roasted them for maybe an hour and a half. So much quicker than turkey and damn delicious!

The Man-to-Man: Stuffing/Dressing

Whatever you call it, however you make it, it's ideologically accepted that you can't have one without the other - turkey and dressing. They go together, yet require individual coverage to suit individual preferences. Whether you cook yours inside the bird vs outside (stuffing vs dressing), like yours moist or dry, this cozy dish comes in many varieties. Some even make theirs with cornbread or rice.

My mom raised us on dressing, made with white bread (usually hot dog buns) in a casserole dish. It has some moisture, but is not all packed together like savory smush. Instead it offers delightful dollops of bread, celery and nuts. I'm pretty particular about my dressing, which is why it took me trying a few recipes before I landed on this one from The Genius Kitchen.   What's great about this recipe is that it can be altered to satisfy various dressing lovers. It gives you the formula for either cornbread or white bread varieties, and in my experimentation, if you don't want to add bacon to the mix (though it does go nicely and add more moisture) you can substitute it for walnuts! MMMM... crunchy, savory and aromatic any way you bake it. 

The Hail Mary: Gravy

As in, fingers crossed, hope this turns out in our favor. Have you heard the horror stories or experienced them? Mom in tears because she can't get enough gravy from the drippings. Just my mom? Okay, well, I have no idea how this year will go, but last year we got a TON of gravy from our tiny hens with this Classic Gravy recipe. I mean, a ton. It was incredibly tasty with zero lumps. I've been told tales of lumpy gravy, but thankfully never experienced it. Here's hoping this long ball serves you as well as it has us. 

The Touchdown: Green Bean Casserole

This dish scores major points no matter which way you make it. Since I was tall enough to see over the island, green bean casserole has been my Thanksgiving responsibility. One that I take very seriously. For years my go to was this simple, fresh version from Martha Stewart. Last year, I went a bit more decadent with this cheesy version and I must say, sorry not sorry. Calories aside, this just upped an already die hard favorite of mine. Still opting for crisp beans over canned (though I love me some canned green beans) and still adding fresh white-button mushrooms to the solely canned soup reliant alternatives. This new favorite, from Spicy Southern Kitchen, causes zero hesitation to make as big a portion as possible. And will make you the winner at all the holiday gatherings. 

The Extra Point: Mini Sweet Potato Gratins

I've shared this Floating Kitchen recipe with a coworker looking for a way to prepare a side dish for a smaller group. Not that we don't love eating on leftovers for a week, but when you have so many different sides you want to serve, it's best not to have a 9x13 sized helping of all of them. This sweet potato recipes allows you to easily control the servings by preparing them in individual, muffin tin-sized portions. This recipe also doesn't adhere to the traditional, sticky-sweet formula. There are no marshmallows, but instead earthy rosemary and toasty pecans. Don't worry, you still get the sweetness of the potato itself and some brown sugary goodness. 

The Audible: Cranberry Sauce

I can't speak for everyone, but for James and I, the cranberry sauce makes no difference. A last minute decision, it could be there or not. Most of the time, I've conceded that it's not worth the effort to do it right, so why not toss out the plan all together? With my sister attending this year, I'll likely aim to keep things closer to home, which means keeping the berries. So I'm going to attempt this make-ahead Orange-Scented Cranberry Sauce from Martha Stewart. 

The Heisman: Mom's Pecan Pie

Pecan or pumpkin? The great debate. We usually have both in our homes, but last year, with only two of us, we went with just pumpkin. This year, three guests still warrants only one pie, but I'm going with mom's award-winning pecan. Maybe she hasn't been bestowed a ribbon or trophy, but the "mmmms" and "ahhhhhs" she's received over the years is probably all the award she's ever needed. Thanks mom. We'll be missing you, but not your pie, this year. 

So now it's your turn. Comment with a recipe or send it to me at wanderlynds@gmail.com. Include pictures and I may highlight you and your recipe up here next!

Much Love. Many thanks and full bellies. 

FoodLyndsay CavanaghRecipes