My sister and I grew up as carnivores for 2 days out of the year. It was the only time that our mom, who is an avid vegetarian, would give us permission to eat meat. If we had leftovers we would finish them the next day for breakfast, lunch, or dinner. We would wait 363 days to pass by until the next Thanksgiving to gorge on hot cuts of white turkey at the top of the Hyatt Regency Hotel located in downtown Phoenix in its well-known rotating restaurant called the Compass Arizona Grill (https://www.compassarizona.com). My sister and I would look forward to our way of celebrating Thanksgiving by having a cozy family dinner at the Compass room, dressed in matching dresses, and enjoying the ambiance of this place.
As a kid to be at the top of a high building and looking down on the city lights, busy cars and traffic lights, random blots of pedestrians, and feeling like you are closer to the sky than the ground was thrilling and exciting. It was a little daunting, too. I have a fear of heights when I’m in high buildings, roller coasters, unstable ladders/chairs, crossing bridges on foot, and Ferris wheels. By the way, why the hell do my friends HAVE to shake the carriage when I’m in the Ferris wheel? My goodness…so stressful!
I remember always picking a spot near the window and just looking off in the horizon. That’s what I do to overcome my fear of heights. I look out and not directly down. Although, sometimes I do that on purpose to face my fear, but then there is a serious weight and pressure being pushed down on my upper back and neck while my body goes stiff. It goes away when I look out in the horizon again, but the anxiety and stress lingers in my stomach and nerves. I breathe deeply and slowly and remind myself that other people are still alive and I can survive, too. Finally, I can move my legs again.
The Compass Room tradition didn’t last forever since our parents eventually divorced when I was a pre-teen and my sister was 9-10 years old. After that, we made new Thanksgiving traditions with our mom. She became a single parent. I say “parent” because she truly took on all the roles as we saw less and less of our father. The tradition became home cooking and a slice of carrot pie from the Village Inn with our mom’s homemade whipped cream. My mom didn’t cook up an entire turkey. Instead, she went to the grocery store and bought slices of roasted turkey for us to enjoy. She would make mashed potatoes with brown gravy, lima beans and corn smothered in butter/ salt/ pepper, and some kind of sauteed green with garlic and olive oil. Very simple in comparison to the full table escape of food that is more commonly known for a Thanksgiving Feast. My sister and I always saved room for pie. Then we would leave the house and go see a movie.
In 2011, I hosted my first Thanksgiving dinner when my husband, Jeff, and I moved to Yokota Air Force Base in Japan. We invited a couple and a family of 3 to come dine with us. Everyone bought a dish, but I took on the Thanksgiving turkey. I was so excited and nervous because it was my FIRST turkey that I roasted and I didn’t want to mess it up. I never cooked an entire thing of poultry in my life!
So, about a week before the festivities I did some research on turkey roasting and how to prepare it. I was so grateful to know that you have to let the turkey defrost for at least 3 days. If I hadn’t read that I would have just taken the entire turkey out of the freezer the day of. Then I read about taking out the innards and I wasn’t looking forward to that at all. I was again, grateful, to find a tag on the turkey I purchased saying, “Innards already removed; take out bag.” Finally, I had a fun time looking up all the different types of recipes. The recipe photos were so inspiring!
I ended up taking our turkey and lifting the outer skin to stuff in bricks of unsalted butter, thyme, rosemary, salt and pepper. I then did the same thing to the outer part of the turkey and massaging all the butter and herbs in. Then I halved 3 oranges and 2 lemons and squeezed their juices into the turkey and stuffing the rest inside. Then I roughly chopped some garlic and onions and stuffed them into the turkey, too. The turkey was bathed in chicken broth and slow roasted until ready to eat.
Funny story about that turkey. The turkey and I had a bit of a rough introduction to each other before I cooked it. Since it was my first whole poultry I didn’t realize that there would be some left over feathers on it. That gave me an eerie feeling. Then I went to pick it up and its weight and the feel of its flesh sent a chill down my spine. I freaked out! I picked up the turkey and then I immediately dropped it and it landed smack down onto the floor. Thud.
It stayed intact. In sheer panic and knowing that this can’t be on the ground I picked it up again and tossed it into the air and it fell smack down into the kitchen sink while I ran out of the room and into another one with my eyes wide, mouth dry, and not being able to move my hands as I stared back at them with dread in my stomach. What was going on? All I can say is I had this same feeling the first time I made mussels/clams for Jeff. One second they were alive and then I removed the lid and all I saw was a pot of boiling death. I couldn’t eat them after that, but Jeff said they were delicious.
After running into the other room, Jeff came in and asked if I was okay. Apparently, I was, unknowingly, squeaking as if someone was bothering a puppy. Once I finally got myself back together I told Jeff what happened to the turkey. He calmly leaned over towards me, placed his hand on my shoulder, and said, “It’s going to be okay. You can do this. You’ve been wanting to do this. Also…you kind of have to do this. People are expecting a turkey.” After that, Jeff and I had one of those unspoken, but understanding conversations just by using our face expressions and then I BUSTED OUT laughing! I was like, “Am I crazy? I must be crazy.” Bahahahaha! I laughed myself out of the room, went back into the kitchen, and got myself to cook that turkey.
It turned out great! All of the butter and broth made the turkey tender and moist while all the ingredients gave it a nice flavor. Very enjoyable with all the mashed potatoes, gravy, cornbread, green bean casserole, rolls, and other pieces of roasted goodness we all made. Our first Thanksgiving was memorable with good food and company.
It’s now 2018 and Thanksgiving is around the corner. I wanted to share a soup recipe with you that I made awhile back that is so satisfying. I think this would be a great side dish to bring to your Thanksgiving dinners and parties. Butternut Squash soup is savory, buttery, and comforting. Top this with some soft and roasted potatoes covered with garlic and herbs and it’s a mouthful of food that will make you grateful you have taste buds. In fact, I think this soup is also perfect for rainy days, cool autumn days when the leaves are orange-yellow, and after playing in the snow.
|Butternut Squash Soup with Garlic and Herb Roasted Potatoes|
|Butternut Squash Soup:|
|2 Butternut Squash peeled and cubed|
|1 Sweet or White Onion|
|Extra Virgin Olive Oil|
|Salt and Pepper|
|½ stick of Unsalted Butter|
|¼ cup of Potato Flour on reserve to thicken the soup|
|28 ounces of Unsalted or Low Sodium Chicken Broth|
|Garlic and Herb Roasted Potatoes:|
|Red Skin Potatoes boiled and fork tender|
|Salt and Pepper|
|Extra Virgin Olive Oil|
|½ stick of Unsalted Butter|
Before I go into the cooking instructions for these two dishes I wanted to share how I prep my potatoes to ensure they will be soft in the center and not under-cooked. I don’t know about you, but I can’t stand under-cooked baked potatoes. I love potatoes so much and when I eat under-cooked potatoes it just makes the whole eating experience disappointing. What I do is clean and cut (peeling is optional since I know some of us do not mind eating the skin) the potatoes. I take a pot and fill it with water and bring it to a boil. Then I lower the heat to medium high and add about a palm full of pink Himalayan salt (this salt has good flavor and minerals) to the water. Then I gently add in the potatoes and let them cook. Let them softened for about 15 minutes and then check on them. They are done when they are fork-tender.
Once the potatoes are prepped, I take out two baking trays:
- In one tray, cover with peeled and cubed pieces of BUTTERNUT SQUASH and ONIONS
- Seeds can be removed by scooping them out with a spoon
- Sprinkle and drizzle the squash and onions with TURMERIC, EXTRA VIRGIN OLIVE OIL, and SALT/PEPPER to taste
In the second tray, cover with cubed potatoes:
- Sprinkle them with GARLIC POWDER, DRIED THYME, DRIED PARSLEY, and SALT/PEPPER to taste
- Drizzle EXTRA VIRGIN OLIVE OIL on top
- Then cube (or break apart with your fingers) UNSALTED BUTTER and scatter on top of the potatoes
Bake both trays at 400℉ for 20 minutes:
- After 20 minutes, take out the baking tray with the butternut squash and put all of the ingredients into a pot
- The other baking tray, with the potatoes, will stay in the oven while the oven cools down
Next, roughly mash the butternut squash and onions:
- Bring the pot to a medium heat and add an entire container of CHICKEN BROTH
- Use a puree mixer to puree the soup until smooth
- Sprinkle in POTATO FLOUR and puree to thicken the soup.
- Sprinkle and puree a little at a time until you get the consistency you want.
Serve the soup immediately and add potatoes that are still hot from the oven.
That’s it! Enjoy!!
I hope you love this soup as much as my family does. What are some your favorite Thanksgiving traditions? Do you have any Thanksgiving blunders? Feel free to share in the comments. This is one of my favorite Holidays. We celebrate the beauty of family, service, and gratitude on this day. Happy Thanksgiving from our family to yours. Peace.
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