Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Post Thanksgiving and sledding into Christmas

OK so it took entirely too long to write about the wonderful Thanksgiving dinner and family day L  But I have to.  The food was wonderful.  And there’s no expiration or “sell by” date.  I figure it’s always a good time to talk about food, right?
My mother and I planned the menu while sipping wine and sitting on our sunny terrace that overlooks the Atlantic Highlands marina, Sandy Hook, and the glittering New York City skyline.  And it was November (thank you climate change ^:^).  We were inspired by the delicious recipes in Bon Appetit magazine, especially the farm to table offerings.  (It reminded me: we miss Gourmet magazine already….)

We chose to get a free-range turkey, of course.  I Googled where to find a turkey near us in the Garden State and that search pointed me to Whole Foods.  I ordered our 18-pound bird online: very easy.  And my husband would pick it up the day before Thanksgiving.  It wasn’t till later that I saw an advertisement in the local paper, The Two River Times, for locally raised turkeys, available at Dearborn Market Fine Food & Garden Center ( Farms (
Dearborn Farms is the place where I get some of the plant material for my garden design clients, particularly for the seasonal container displays.  Dearborn Farms also has a gourmet food store.  Sickle’s Market ( is another spectacular source of garden & fine food items, many of them local.    Both establishments “get it” -- meaning good food and beautiful gardens are two sides of the same coin – fresh food and the locally farmed bounty make a natural.  And both were once solely farms – who grew the best peaches, apples, strawberries, Jersey corn and tomatoes and many other fruits and vegetables.  It’s in their pedigree to offer fresh from the farm food and garden plants.
It begs the question that if retailers and smart consumers get it, why can’t the nation’s large food suppliers?  Industrialized Food contributes just as much, if not more, to the increasing healthcare issue.  Cheap, bad food and defiance of farming and grazing -- as if it’s not the natural order of things is crazy.  Look what we get!  Fat, sick people L

Whew – I’m back.    Anyway, I also saw the stand at the Greenmarket in Union Square near our home in New York City that featured Di Paola Turkey Farms, from Trenton, New Jersey.  I think that was that same turkeys offered by Dearborn Farms – although they may have advertised turkeys from Hamilton, New Jersey.  Regardless – both are terrific.

For our Thanksgiving menu, my mother, Virginia, took the baby winter squash with spiced orange currant stuffing from Bon Appetit to make.  She said it was a lot of work but everyone raved about it.

I made the brussel sprouts with mustard and apple glazed pecans. I didn’t make the slaw of the brussel sprouts, as directed from the recipe but rather used our garden fresh sprouts in full form and all their glory.  We grew exciting brussel sprouts in our Back Forty or Bill’s Garden (that’s my husband J) at our Garden State home this year.  Even Windfall Farms’ owner/chief farmer, Morse Pitts ( admired the photo I showed him of our first-ever, homegrown sprouts.

and our potatoes

Morse said we had very impressive sprouts + more – which is high praise, as Morse and Windfall Farms is a Greenmarket leader.  Chef Peter Hoffman, Savoy Restaurant, (
elected to have his “garden/farm” photo shoot for the book at Windfall Farms and that is how we were most fortunate/blessed to visit and get to know owner/farmer Morse Pitts and his team of Farmers, including Kevin Caplicki. Kevin blogs for Windfall Farms too. He is an artist.  And he also works at the Greenmarket for Windfall Farms. Be sure to catch him there.
And with all due modesty – it was our first year to grow brussel sprouts – and potatoes.  Wow - were they delicious.

I also made the fantastic Chipotle Cranberry Sauce.  I cannot recommend this enough. We used our homegrown chiles, which made it even more special.  Regardless, the recipe took a blah Thanksgiving jello-like staple to another level – completely! With cumin, fresh cranberries, cinnamon, and the chiles, the cranberry sauce was memorable indeed.  I adore leeks and so made The New York Times’ Mark Bittman potato and leek gratin – which is the same recipe, essentially, as the one I tore from Smith & Hawkin’s catalog.  

My mother was on Pie Patrol and made three of them!  Apple, cherry and coconut custard. 

My husband purchased a case of Silverado wine and we brought a bottle to Thanksgiving dinner to enjoy – as well as a bottle of French Chablis.  (We bought some cases of 1997 Silverado on a memorable visit to Napa Valley with my cousin Jeff and his wife Suzanne a few years ago – and boy, was that vintage spectacular.)

Overall, Thanksgiving was fun, easy and delicious.  And the added bonus is of course, to see family and friends. My nieces were too adorable:\

Thanksgiving has long been my most favorite holiday. Why?  It’s uniquely American and as a patriot with English and Dutch and Native American ancestry (I’m Czech too but that doesn’t seem to relate to Thanksgiving ^:^) This holiday is just the best – all about food and family and celebrating the Harvest.  I honor it.
Here is my niece learning to set the table with her grandmother...

And the long Thanksgiving weekend always gave me the opportunity to gracefully approach Christmas…
My friends and family will tell you that mine is the first Christmas card they receive every year. How wonderful!  But honestly, it’s not the idea of “first” that got me to start this tradition; but rather the love of sitting in front of the fire, relaxed (which given the nature of working schedules is more than a challenge!); writing Christmas cards to all to all our favorites and to relish the love and joy of the year.  As a writer and communicator, I always thought, what could be better than to reconnect with those you love using the written word?  And I love using that wax sealer on the envelope…nice formal touch.

I would always purchase my Holiday cards from a Junior League colleague, who has her own line of cards with Crane's that feature her original watercolors: beautiful and unique, to say the least.   Because I worked at New York Botanical Garden ( and Brooklyn Botanic Garden ( I celebrated the holidays with their special holiday cards for years.  Not this year. 
I have long admired and used Kate’s Paperie for stationary, stamps, and even for BBG. When our beloved president, Judy Zuk died, I purchased a handsome album so that visitors who came to the Garden to pay their respect, could sign the Guest Book and we could then preserve it in the BBG archives.
On a more pedestrian level, I ordered two customized stamps from Kate’s last year – one for our name on the cards (helps me, as I have terrible handwriting) and an initialized one for napkins (or whatever). 
This year, I purchased all our Christmas cards from Kate’s. And I ordered a special garden themed stamp for Duchess Designs to use with my holiday cards for the garden design clients.

I decorate for the Holidays primarily with plants, flowers, nature  (pine cones, birch trees, etc.) and candles. 
Starting to get the ball rolling here in the Garden State:

And shopping at Union Square Greenmarket, I found the perfect wreath made with greens, snippets of lambs ears and blue grey thistle. Perfect for our NYC apartment door!

Looking forward to a lovely, peaceful Holiday.  Lot’s of parties too, of course!