Roasted Pear-Butternut Squash Soup with Stilton

This is one of our all-time favorite soup recipes...I first made it a few years ago as a starter for Thanksgiving but it’s been popping up a few times a year since.  The beautiful thing about this recipe is that it is so easy...chop up some veggies, roast them at a high heat, cool and puree.  Done!  And any soup that has a little cheese sprinkled on top has a fan in me...I love me some cheese, the stinkier and stronger the better! Makes ~ 4 entree sized servings, serve along with warm crusty bread
Spicy Cranberry-Pepper Jelly

Simple Ingredients Make for an Amazing Cranberry-Pepper Jelly

I have been slightly obsessed with this Spicy Cranberry-Pepper Jelly since I first made it back in 2011...which is funny because until that point I was a die-hard canned cranberry sauce girl. Gasp!  I know, I know, but it reminds me of childhood and I do still love it. But now, I look forward to this Spicy Cranberry-Pepper Jelly more than almost anything else at Thanksgiving.  And the great thing is that this condiment is so yummy and versatile that it lives well past Turkey Day. Fantastic on turkey sandwiches of course, but also great with baked brie or really paired with any cheese. It also makes a nice cracker dip along with some cream cheese.

This cranberry-pepper jelly knows no bounds and it's super easy to make as well. I'm posting it nice and early because I always make a triple batch the week before Thanksgiving and give out jars of it to all of my direct reports at work as a nice little holiday gift. The recipe is from the 2011 Thanksgiving issue of Bon Appétit with only a couple of very minor SavoryGirl adaptions included below.

So first things first...the ingredients. Super simple ingredients here along with a heavy-bottomed pan and you're ready to go:

Cranberry-Pepper Jelly

If you've been reading my blog at all over the past week or so, you're probably sick of hearing me talk about this Cranberry-Pepper Jelly! But I promise, this will be it on this topic...at least until next year. I know it probably seems odd that I'm providing the recipe in this post after Thanksgiving, but this condiment is so yummy and versatile that it lives well past Turkey Day. Fantastic on turkey sandwiches of course, but also great with baked brie or really paired with any cheese. It also makes a nice cracker dip along with some cream cheese. This cranberry-pepper jelly knows no bounds and it's super easy to make as well. The recipe is from the 2011 Thanksgiving issue of Bon Appétit with only a couple of very minor SavoryGirl adaptions.

So first things first...the ingredients. Super simple ingredients here along with a heavy-bottomed pan and you're ready to go:

A Photo Journey through Thanksgiving 2012

I know Thanksgiving is over and everyone is ready to move onto the next big holiday, but with the week of Thanksgiving being my favorite cooking week of the year I thought it was worthy of a couple more blog posts.  This one is simply a nice visual journey through all of the dishes I made this year with some descriptions.

Next week I'll highlight the recipe for Cranberry Pepper Jelly that I make every year. It is fantastic on sandwiches, baked brie, with cream cheese and crackers, etc...  So while most have already made their one turkey of the year there are still plenty of opportunities to enjoy the spicy-sweet deliciousness all year long.

So let's start the photo journey with that one...Cranberry Pepper Jelly. This is almost always the first thing I make, the weekend before Thanksgiving, since it has a 3-6 week shelf life in the refrigerator. I've honestly never liked anything other than canned cranberry sauce (I know, blasphemous!) until I discovered this recipe. Now I'm totally hooked on it's spicy-sweet combination and for the first time ever didn't even touch my canned cranberry sauce this year!

The next thing I make the weekend before the holiday is homemade turkey stock as a base for my gravy. If you don't want to do this you can always use store-bought chicken or turkey stock, but I find that making your own makes a big difference in the gravy and it's honestly very easy. If you're like me, this also means you get a little extra Turkey meat for your leftover soup as well since I refuse to throw away all of the meat on the turkey wings after making the stock.  Just pick it all off and freeze it until your ready to make your soup or other Thanksgiving leftovers.

A couple of days before Thanksgiving I start brining the turkey and prepping all of the veggies that will hold for a day or two.

I find that nothing makes for a juicy turkey like brining it for 2 days in advance...not frying it, not starting it cooking upside down, nothing. I also slather it in herb butter (both on top and under the skin), so that doesn't hurt! My favorite brine that I have found over the years is a beer brine...I use Newcastle which makes this turkey a bit of an expensive date, but trust me your guests will be singing your praises. And we all know that's hard praise to get with so many bad, dry turkey experiences from Thanksgivings past! Make sure the brine is completely covering your turkey...sometimes you have to get a bit crafty with pressure on the bag in certain spots to make this happen.

It's also important to have a great carver on hand day-of so that you can plate your turkey in a beautiful and appetizing way...my husband is a pro at this by now, so I'm lucky here as you can see below.

A SavoryGirl Thanksgiving, 2012

I love Thanksgiving...good friends, family, food, football and fun.  What's not to love? To be honest, though, I didn't always love it...when I was a kid it seemed kind of silly to me how my mom slaved away all day just for one meal. But ever since I've been the cook I totally get it. Yes it can be a lot of work but it's the work of love. All that effort is worth it for the "ooohs and aaaahs" when you walk in with the Turkey. Or watching your husband's face as he takes that first bite of your famous Sweet Potatoes that he loves so much but only gets this one day a year. Personally, I also love the strategy and planning that Thanksgiving takes...and that's the key to actually enjoying this holiday as host. So not only am I sharing my menu, but I am also sharing my detailed cooking and timing plan to get it all done and downloadable shopping lists. That's right, time to start enjoying your own Thanksgiving party!

You all know by now that I love to cook and hopefully you agree that I am a pretty good judge of recipes as well...therefore I can almost guarantee that my menu below is going to be delicious. I've been hosting large Thanksgiving dinners for years now and I can proudly say I haven't had a dud yet (knocking on wood as I type!). Some of the dishes below are old favorites but many are new.  Since I have a bit of a smaller crowd this year I'm keeping appetizers more simple than usual (and yes one leans Mexican!) but otherwise this year's menu is pretty typical of a SavoryGirl Thanksgiving. You can also check out my previous SavoryGirl Thanksgiving Menu, if the one below doesn't suit your fancy.

Last year the Pancetta Crisps, Succotash, Kale Salad and Cranberry-Pepper Jelly were big hits out of the new additions...one of which is making a repeat performance this year along with the turkey brine recipe and my ever-present sweet potatoes.

Weekly Menu: November 20-26, 2011
Sunday: Veggie Pasta (DIY)
Monday: Huevos Rancheros (DIY)
Tuesday: Leftovers: Pasta
Wednesday: Pizza Welcome Party in Palm Springs!
Thursday: THANKSGIVING!
Friday: Leftovers: Turkey Day Fixin's
Saturday: Eat Out in Palm Springs and/or Backyard BBQ
The countdown is on...only 4 days until Thanksgiving!  So that means this is an easy DIY-focused cooking week except for the big day.  I'd rather spend my time throughout the week prepping and doing some early cooking for Turkey day than making elaborate meals for dinner, so that's what we'll do.  We're heading to Palm Springs with 11 of our good friends for the holiday and it's going to be delicious & indulgent in your typical SavoryGirl style (menu, prep schedule & shopping list linked above!).  Whatever your plans are, I hope you have a fabulous, delicious, fun and safe holiday weekend.  Mangia, Mangia!  
A SavoryGirl Thanksgiving

Ah, Thanksgiving.  One of my favorite holidays...the arrival of my Thanksgiving Bon Appétit every year is practically a Henricksen holiday in it's own right.  One of the reasons I love it is because we have a 5 year tradition of renting a house with friends in fun places like Paso Robles and Palm Springs.  This year we're headed back to Palm Springs for a 2nd year with a crew of 13.  It's the first year we have to rent two houses and we have a record high of 5 people flying in from the East Coast...so it's going to be a fun long weekend full of good friends, fun in the sun and great food.

I have to admit though, I also love Thanksgiving because I truly enjoy the challenge of planning out the meal and strategizing for how to bring it all to life in a way where I can still relax and enjoy the day with friends by the pool.  The fact that I have to cart half of my kitchen and brining turkey to our destination certainly makes for an added challenge, but that just makes a successful meal all that more satisfying!

My menu for this year with links to recipes is below.  I've also provided my "week-of" schedule since that's the secret to my success.  Lots of cooking and prepping the week leading up to Thanksgiving so the day of it's mostly just cooking and assembling.  The day of, hour-by-hour schedule is also included since timing is everything on Turkey Day!   Wish me luck as I scale up to cook my largest Thanksgiving yet...and of course if you have tips and tricks of your own I would love to hear them...
SavoryGirl’s Famous Sweet Potatoes

I've been making these sweet potatoes for as long as I've been making Thanksgiving dinner and they've been requested by my repeat guests every year since.  To be honest, I did not grow up eating sweet potatoes with marshmallows in them....always kind of thought it was gross.  But the hubby requested it the first Thanksgiving we were together so I went and found this recipe that has the added twist of coconut.  So now even I can't imagine Thanksgiving without them.
Perfect Pumpkin Pancakes

How my Christian loves his pancakes...so much so that years ago when we started cutting back on processed foods (meaning no Bisquick) he started experimenting himself with different pancake recipes...and he was no cook back then! He's now made so many different pancakes that we often lose track as to which are our favorites, but these Pumpkin Pancakes are a mainstay... especially in the fall.  Christian's tinkering with this recipe has perfected them over the years and boy was he happy when I woke him up on his birthday last weekend with a freshly made batch topped with candied pecans! So what's so special about these pumpkin pancakes vs. others?  Well they're healthy as far as pancakes go (hey, the amount of butter & syrup you slather them with is your issue!), spiced and flavored perfectly and oh so puffy...which is my one and only criteria for pancakes on the rare occasion that I eat a sweet breakfast. Just in time to try out a few times before Thanksgiving breakfast....they're always a hit with our family and friends as a start to our Turkey Day!