Saturday Upside: Thanksgiving Through the Lens

Earlier this week I listed 5 things to try this Thanksgiving. I posed it as a challenge to myself and also as a reminder that the holidays can mean more than spending money, family bickering, and carb loading. This wasn’t easy as I’d shouldered most of the responsibility for the entire meal, including appetizers and dessert. And I had to go to work the day before and after the holiday. How was I going to pull this off without losing my mind?

As it turns out, I could do all I set out to do with my peace of mind intact because I was able to remember the point of Thanksgiving. Sure, it’s to be grateful for what we have and to share that appreciation with your loved ones. But it’s also just the simple act of reunion and opening yourself up to the unique rhythms that only present themselves when your family is together.

So instead of telling you all about my endless prep and the hours of cooking that it took to execute this massive feast, I thought I’d show you. If you follow me on Instagram or Twitter, than you may have caught my ongoing posts throughout the day. It was my first social media Thanksgiving with the added upside of keeping a visual journal of my recipes. Most importantly, I felt like I was sharing the the holiday not just with my immediate family, but also with my friends in Cambodia, Philadelphia, London, and all over the world who chose to stop by and make comments on each photo. Thank you everyone!

Without further ado, here are the fruits of my labor!

Thanks to Pinterest, I was inspired to do this raw veggie “turkey” tray. It was so pretty, I didn’t want to eat it!
Appetizer table: Turkey veggie plater, homemade pita chips, hummus with paprika, guacamole, and meat empanadas. Had to fry them to save time unfortunately, but they were yummy.
Beautiful tri-color carrots I bought at the Farmer’s Market. Peeled and dressed with extra-virgin olive oil, chopped fresh rosemary, salt and pepper. Roasted with the green tops and all.
Sides starting with top left: Potato salad with beets and carrots. Top right: Quinoa salad with roasted butternut squash and beets, sage, caramelized onions, and spinach. Lower left: Steamed haricot vert sauteed with white mushrooms and cherry tomatoes in a balsamic glaze. Lower right: Roasted cauliflower with nutmeg.
Last 2 sides on left: Roasted carrots and roasted sweet potatoes with pecans. On the right was my crowning glory: my very first (half) turkey with herb butter and lemon.
Carving my turkey! Also, worked so hard on this day that I couldn’t even change out of my yoga pants, lol .
The dinner table. It’s not the prettiest decor, but we were able to fit almost everything on the table and seat everyone together which is always a win.
My dinner plate. ๐Ÿ™‚
And finally, the dessert. Pumpkin Pecan Polvorones with powdered sugar and Chocolate Pumpkin Torte with fresh whipped cream. We’re not a pumpkin pie family, so I had to compromise.

I told myself (and reassured my concerned family members who had no desire to be ultra healthy on Thanksgiving) that I wouldn’t stress if the food was paleo-friendly. I opted to go heavy on simply-prepared vegetable dishes just to balance out the heaviness of the rice and potato salad which are staples for each of our meals. I actually managed to pull that off pretty easily without trying, which goes to show how much the lifestyle has rubbed off on me. So it is possible!

My family has never really followed the traditional Thanksgiving menu. We always get a turkey but it usually gets donated so I fought my parents to actually cook one this year. Only, I insisted it had to be the “American” way and not covered in sazon like we do everything else. So I went for an herb butter slather with lemon slices under the skin and we only made half the bird to avoid waste. Also, we don’t do cranberry sauce or stuffing or mashed potatoes or pumpkin pie. I’ve tried to do some of these things in the past,ย but it usually stayed untouched on the table next to the half empty bowl of potato salad orย pastelonย (think lasagna only instead of pasta noodles, we use mashed sweet plantains. oy). I usually make some overture each year how I longed for a classic American thanksgiving and that one day I would do it whether my family likes it or not. I get a couple of nods or laughs, but really no one takes me that seriously.

I’m always fascinated by how immigrant families come to the US and adapt to this holiday in their own ways. Even this year, I looked at photos of other cultures and their versions of Thanksgiving. Indian curry, Chinese dumplings, and Italian Baked Ziti all stake their claim on the dinner tables of those who’ve transformed the holiday to create their own family traditions. It’s an awesome display of how something as American as Thanksgiving can be transcendent of language or national origin because we’re all partaking in a celebration and a feast. That has no boundaries.

So maybe some of my siblings gave my turkey the stink-eye or eyed my quinoa salad with a look of distrust, but the point was that we were all seated around the table sharing in the experience together. You’ll note that there are no pictures of my family here. There’s a reason for that. Once the business of cooking was done, I had to get out from behind the camera and join in on the fun myself. I was exhausted and my hands were sore from washing dishes and all the cooking, but it was one of the best Thanksgiving holidays I’ve had in a long time because I did what I challenged myself to do earlier this week: I cut myself some slack. I sat back and laughed and shared jokes with my family and I held nothing back. A camera could never capture that kind of magic.

Holidays are hard. They can be difficult to plan and expensive to boot. Christmas is around the corner and my family and I just committed to do a “No Buy Christmas” challenge this year. It’s not an easy thing to do. I mean, who doesn’t want a present especially at Christmastime?? But I think what makes me feel great about the decision and see the upside to all of this, is what I was able to take away from Thanksgiving. It’s the idea that what makes the holidays so special are those moments with family and friends that can’t be bought or simulated with the trimmings. All we need is a meal and a space to share it in. That and love, which I have in spades.

I hope all of you who celebrated this week had a wonderful time with your loved ones. Even if you didn’t celebrate Thanksgiving, I hope that you’re able to share a meal with someone you care about and take joy out of sharing that time together.

Share your Saturday Upsides with Bonnie at Recipes Happen each week. Keep looking up and paying it forward! ๐Ÿ™‚

11 Replies to “Saturday Upside: Thanksgiving Through the Lens”

  1. Wow! You really had a feast! I absolutely love the raw veggie turkey platter; awesome! You worked very hard on everything and it shows. And the chocolate pumpkin torte looks over the top sensational!!! Yummy!!

    I stopped the camera too for the day : )


  2. I loved looking at all of your delish food on Instagram! I am glad you had a great day with your family.

    And THANK YOU for the baking a difference bid. You are a dear! xo


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