Thanksgiving preparations are going in to full swing so I wanted to do an early Thanksgiving post.

I have a great deal to be thankful for this year.  All of my friends and family are healthy.  Everyone close to me has made it through the recession without the difficulties that many have faced.  I have 111 followers I never expected to have.  I've been able to complete a fairly major renovation on my home and I'll be hosting Thanksgiving dinner at my "new" house.

Although I often joke with my mother about my brother, sister and I being victims of her Crock Pot-everything with Cream of Something soup-the truth is much different.

My mom taught me to cook.

Mom with my grandparents and her younger
sister about the time they emigrated from Canada.

Mom wanted her boys to cook.  Just in case no one would have us, at least we wouldn't starve, she said.  Every Sunday after church while dad puttered in the cellar, mowed the two-acres of yard or worked on a home improvement project, my brother and I would put on our "play clothes" and help mom prepare Sunday dinner.  It was always the best meal of the week and never, ever from the Crock Pot.  Not on Sunday.  It was usually roast beef, Yorkshire pudding and whatever vegetables were fresh out of the garden (or frozen from the garden):  potatoes, carrots, onions, green beans and squash were typical accompaniments.  She planted a seed in us that matured into a love for cooking; in fact, I think she would agree that we're both really good cooks.  My sister on the other hand can't make toast.

My brother and I shortly after being incarcerated.
I'm the one with the ears (which I'm thankful my
parents had fixed when I was six.)
Click on photo to make my ears bigger.

My brother Cliff is a real "guy's guy" cook.  He loves to smoke and grill things; I prefer to saute and braise.  He's more of a tried-and-true cook; I'm more of an experimenter.  He would never make a dessert because that's a woman's job; I love to bake.  He loves Emeril and Guy Fieri (and Giada, but that's a different story); I love Julia and Ina.  He uses recipes; I tend to skim recipes to understand flavor profiles and then just wing it.

(It's my dream to retire early and go to culinary school)

As a result of this gift my mother gave me, everyone wants to be at my house for holiday dinners.  I love trying new dishes on my guests but, at Thanksgiving, people don't like you messing with the traditional dinner.  A few years ago, I presented a Southwestern Thanksgiving that included potatoes gratin with poblano peppers and goat cheese and sweet potato tacos with maple-ancho chili glaze.  My spicy Thanksgiving dinner received a chilly reception.

So it was expected when I put out the idea that we would have a vegetarian Thanksgiving this year, that I would be shot down.  Not only shot down but offered a few expletives in return.  I explained that I would come up with several wonderful vegetarian dishes filled with the flavors of Thanksgiving so one would even miss the turkey.  No one was buying in.

So this is my menu:

Stuffing with fresh herbs and apples
Mashed potatoes and gravy
Roasted and pureed butternut squash
Roasted brussels sprouts
Fresh cranberry-orange relish
Pumpkin pie

It's a meal perfect for any nursing home.  But it's what people want and it will be nice to spend the day with friends who appreciate it.

This year, an old friend is visiting from Upstate New York.  It's been 22 years since he was here on Thanksgiving and, the last time, the occasion was marked with a snowstorm.  It will be a  long weekend event with probable visits to the newly opened wing of the Museum of Fine Arts and a day in Maine or "down the Cape."  I'm also doing brunch on Saturday for another group of friends.  I have no idea what I'm making but I'm experimenting with a brunch cocktail to kick it off.

Rosemary twigs in Svedka vodka

Although I've joked to the contrary, I'm not a big drinker but I am very interested in the idea of infusing savories into sweet foods and drinks.  So I'm infusing rosemary into vodka that will most likely be mixed with grapefruit juice, a lemon-lime simple syrup and maybe a splash of champagne.  A Rosemarymosa maybe?

I'll let you know how it works out.

Still life with gravy boat and pomegranates

This is a peek at Thanksgiving table.  I like to mix and match and create a spirit of the holiday without being too literal.  I love cotton bar towels for napkins.  They're cheap, not at all fussy and they're more generous in size than a standard napkin.  This simple red striped towel (about $1 at Ikea) pairs as well with brown transferware for fall/winter dinners as well as it does with a blue plaid tablecloth for summer cookouts.

Whatever you do, wherever you are, whatever you eat, I hope you have many things to be thankful for this year.  And don't forget to be thankful for the cook!