These recipes originally appeared in the November 2019 issue of HomeLife Magazine.
A few years back, life offered up a fresh perspective on giving thanks. My husband and I were in the middle of the “leaving years.” If you have children, you know what I mean. We had spent the better part of our marriage preparing them to leave, but I suppose I neglected to prepare myself.
When our first child left for college, my friends cautioned me on the difficulty of these years. When our second child prepared to leave, I told myself it would be a little easier this time. By the time the third child left, I began to feel like the keeper of memories. They were all experiencing new adventures and we were left behind, holding on to a household filled with dusty trophies, yearbooks, and bikes with flat tires. I’ll spare you the anguish and just get to it—I came to realize that life as we knew it wasn’t over, only that chapter. So my husband and I started an adventure of our own. We gently tucked away the memorabilia, sold their childhood home, and bought acreage with plans to build our dream house.
It was during this time I reacquainted with Liz, a friend from high school. She and her family were seeking a change of scenery and inquiring about our town. Liz flew in one weekend and bought a house. A few months later her husband’s career changed course, and they let us know they wouldn’t be moving for a year. So, Liz offered us their new home to live in while we built ours. I know. Who does that?
We moved our furniture into their home and hired a builder. Over the course of that year, we shielded many difficult setbacks. That summer our friends were ready to move back into their home, but our project had come to a standstill, leaving us without a place to jump. So what did Liz and Jeff do? They invited us to stay. The generosity they extended brought us to tears. The only way to return it was to offer that same generosity to others.
That Thanksgiving, Liz and Jeff opened their home to not only their grown children but ours as well, graciously making room for everyone. We each made a turkey and our favorite sides. The house was filled with new friendships, roars of laughter, games, and great fun as we prepared a feast together. We melded recipes, traditions, and talents. We learned that more is merrier, generosity breeds reciprocation, and friends who walk by your side through difficulty become family. Instead of looking back on a challenging time negatively, I experienced true thanksgiving.
These recipes are a few of our favorite sides we traded from that cherished time together.
Northwest Autumn Salad
Makes 6-8 servings
1 head red leaf lettuce, torn
1 head Bibb lettuce, torn
3 Red Delicious apples, chopped
3/4 c. glazed pecans (recipe below)
3/4 c. Bleu cheese, crumbled
1/2 c. grape seed or olive oil
1/4 c. cider vinegar
2 Tbsp. shallots, minced
2 Tbsp. lemon juice
1 Tbsp. maple syrup
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. pepper
1/4 c. butter
1/4 c. light corn syrup
2 Tbsp. water
1 tsp. salt
1 lb. whole pecans
Preheat oven to 250 degrees. Line a baking sheet with foil. Combine butter, corn syrup, water, and salt in a saucepan. Bring to a boil. Add pecans, stir to coat. Spread nuts evenly on a baking sheet. Bake for one hour, stirring every 10 minutes or so. Combine ingredients for the salad and toss with the salad dressing. Top with the toasted pecans.
Sausage and Fennel Dressing
Makes 6-8 servings
14 oz. bag Pepperidge Farm® stuffing
4 Tbsp. butter
2 onions, diced
4 stalks celery, sliced
1 large fennel bulb, diced
16 oz. mild Italian sausage
1 bunch or 6 Tbsp. fresh flat-leaf Italian parsley
3 c. chicken stock
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a large stockpot, heat three cups of chicken stock until warm. Cut vegetables to the same size, then sauté with butter in a large pan. Transfer vegetable mixture to a bowl. In the same pan, brown the sausage until it crumbles and add to vegetable mixture bowl. Add the stuffing, vegetable mixture, sausage, and fresh parsley to the stockpot. Stir well to combine. Transfer stuffing to a 9-by-13-inch casserole dish and cover with aluminum foil. Bake for 20 minutes. Remove foil and bake for 20 more minutes.
Pearl Onions in Cheese Sauce
Makes 6-8 servings
2 10 oz. packages of fresh pearl onions, peeled
2 Tbsp. butter
3 Tbsp. all-purpose flour
1 1/4 c. milk
1 4 oz. can mushroom pieces
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. black pepper
Dash of nutmeg
1 1/2 cups white Cheddar cheese, shredded
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place onions in a large saucepan, add water to cover and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer six to eight minutes or until onions are just tender. Drain well and set aside. Melt butter in a heavy saucepan over low heat, adding flour and whisking until smooth. Turn heat to medium and gradually add milk, stirring constantly until thickened. Add salt, pepper, and cheese and stir until cheese melts. Gently stir in drained onions and mushrooms. Pour onion mixture into a lightly greased one quart baking dish. Bake uncovered for 25-30 minutes or until it’s bubbly.
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Laura Schupp is the author of Our Newlywed Kitchen: The Art of Cooking, Gathering & Creating Traditions. Learn more about Laura at OurNewlywedKitchen.com.