October 9 marks our Thanksgiving weekend here in Canada. Our family is planning a small dinner – don’t worry. We’re all vaxxed so it’s completely safe. We went nearly a year without seeing each other during the pandemic, and we’re so happy that we’re able to get together again.
As a single person who loves to cook, I’ve gotten into the habit of cooking myself a large meal like my mother did when we were kids. I usually do this a few days before our family dinner. Of course the food is never as good as mum made it. But I do this more for me, because I LOVE to cook as you may have guessed.
I’ve made some delicious Thanksgiving meals over the years. Usually the side dishes are the same – stuffing, mashed potatoes, cream of corn, and steamed carrots. Then I top it off with a baked loaf or store bought pumpkin pie.
I can’t decide on what to do for the meat t this year though. My freezer is full of meat in preparation of food shortages and inflation (it’s coming soon). I have a pork roast, but it’s very small. Some ground beef, stewing cubes and chicken. It’s a toss up between the roast or roasted chicken. But we’ll see what happens the weekend of Thanksgiving, I could totally change my mind here too.
I think I might go shopping on the Friday and pick up a pork roast. Why not. It’s time to treat myself.
The pandemic hit us all hard
Sometimes I’ll go all out and make dessert. The first year of the pandemic I made a delicious apple crumble. My sister and her family invited me to their house for dinner at the very last minute. So, my own dinner was put on hold. After months of being insolation from the pandemic, I was longing for human connection. It was the first time our family hadn’t been together in years. It was awful without my dad. The guilt was strong for all of us. But he was being held prisoner in his residence due to the lockdown. I hope we never go through that again. I was grateful for having a family to spend the evening with.
Back to the point of this post – food!
This year, I’m doing things a little bit differently. I decided it would be more fun to share the food with a friend and so, my bestie is coming over for dinner. It does help when someone offers to bring some of the food. But I don’t mind the cooking and preparation. This week my goal is to clean up my kitchen, sweep the floor and get the dining room table ready.
I think part of the fun for me is meal planning and dreaming of dishes I’ll never make for myself. Having another person here holds me accountable. I do love cooking. But when a meal turns out really good, sometimes it’s nice to have someone with you to appreciate your cooking. But when recipes go wrong – that’s the worst feeling in the world. And such a waste of good food!
So, I think this year – I’m going to stick to the staples that I grew up with and love.
If you’re on your own for Thanksgiving this year, or you’re prepping for just you and your partner – then here are a few suggestions for recipes that you can easily make.
This is a pork roast I made for Easter this year and it was amazing. It was also the first major meal I made in my new condo and it was really fun to make in my new kitchen.
With this recipe, I Sauteed the vegetables first – onions and mushrooms and loaded the roast with seasoning before cooking. I think I might splurge on another pork roast for dinner this year. It’s so good.
The trick is to lightly Sautee the roast before putting it in the oven. You could slow cook the roast, but I think cooking it in the oven is better.
The best stuffing that I ever made was back in 2019. I purchased a package of bacon and fried it up – that was painful. Next time, I’m putting the bacon in the oven for crispy bacon. I used about half a pack and saved the rest for later. I added crimini mushrooms diced up, bacon and a dash of gravy to the stuffing mix. And it was glorious! The bacon added so much flavour. I would definitely make this again.
My mom always used boxed stuffing but then added her own ingredients to it too. She would often use onions, mushrooms (even though she hated them), and gravy. She would make two batches so she could enjoy it without mushrooms.
Another way to use stuffing without a turkey, is with a vegetable casserole. I’ve done this before and it’s so satisfying. You can use a wide variety of vegetables – carrots, zucchini, celery, mushrooms, and broccoli. Mix everything together with a roux or can of cream soup. Add in the stuffing mix (raw) and mix well. Add in your choice of seasoning. And then cook at 400F for about 45 minutes. This makes for a great side dish.
I don’t have a picture of the stuffing. But here’s a picture of Sautéed mushrooms and onions.
It’s harvest time here in Alberta and vegetables are plentiful right now. Squashes are in season as are tomatoes, potatoes and yams. There’s nothing better than roasted vegetables topped off with seasoning.
However, what I have learned is that what you pick for vegetables can also depend on what you are using for meat.
Chicken or turkey goes with just about everything. My mom used to make Brussel sprouts with cheese sauce, cauliflower, broccoli, peas, corn. It was a lot of food. If you want a variety of vegetables, then whipping up a vegetable casserole is the way to go.
If you are on a budget, then there’s nothing wrong with using frozen vegetables like I did with this dish. I use my mum’s old roasting pans and olive oil for roasting all my veggies.
For our family dinners, we’d literally have everything. My mum would make a large turkey with the trimmings and we’d all pitch in. There was honey ham. Candied yam casserole. Cauliflower and broccoli casserole with cheese. Mashed potatoes. Roasted potatoes. Lots of gravy, cranberry sauce. Wine. And then lots of desserts to choose from too.
If you’re struggling to choose what vegetables to use this year, then go with what’s in season and available to you. I’m going to keep it simple this year with carrots, yams, frozen brussels and corn.
For Easter dinner this year, I kept things fairly simple. I used zucchini, mini potatoes, onions, and carrots and roasted them at 400F for about 40 minutes. The key is in the seasoning. You can see in this picture tha the dish is loaded with salt, pepper, thyme, and basil. It was delicious.
Trimmings and sides
I love cooking, but I’m also a lazy cook. Anything I can making using mixes – I will. For gravy, I usually use a gravy pack or mix to save on time. You can make your own cranberry sauce if you have the time, but I enjoy the store bought cans too.
As a kid, my mum used to make English popovers and they were my favorite food. I haven’t had them in years. They taste so good with a beef roast. But the theme of this year’s dinner is simple — so maybe I’ll save popovers for Christmas time.
When you finally sit down to eat, there’s nothing more satisfying than sipping a cold glass of wine. The only wine I can drink without getting a migraine is rose or blush. This wine was truly tasty and it was a great way to celebrate my first real dinner in my new home.
I think I need to make a trip to the liquor store for this holiday season. I’m out of wine and that’s not good!
Treat yourself without feeling guilty
My mouth is watering already thinking of all this delicious food. Cooking is awesome, but it’s always better to have someone to enjoy it with. However, if you’re a single person like me, then I hope this thread gives you some encouragement to…. treat yourself.
Yes, treat yourself. Because we all deserve a little treat from time to time. Life is too short not to indulge in the finer things.
Make sure to check out my new food page. I’ve updated it with newer recipes. I’ve also started using downloadable PDF recipe cards for my new recipes. I’ll be going through older photos and archived recipes to share here. So, for the next bit the focus of this blog will be on food. It’s just that time of year. I’ll also be working on seasonal posts and holiday meal planning as the Christmas season approaches.
But let’s get through Halloween and Thanksgiving first!
Happy eating, what are your plans for Thanksgiving?