5 things I’m thankful for, cheeselessly

Land Of Nams: living in Johannesburg, exploring the world, documenting the things I love

It’s probably trite and besides when I think about things I’m thankful for it’s difficult not to get extremely corny. But here are five things I’m thankful for as CHEESE-LESS as possible:

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1. P. Obviously. He is my best friend and he takes care of me to the max, and he is super smart and nice. And sometimes he lets me shop for him and he is extremely grateful whenever I cook him dinner. He also is calm and reasonable, which is a nice counterbalance to my personality which can best be described as totally f*cking insane. Plus, he is tall and has a deep voice and is very ambitious and all of these things are very sexy.

2. My family. I know that not everyone gets a good one in this life. Even though they are also totally insane I know I can always ask my mom to fly in and unpack my boxes even though I’m a grown ass woman count on them to be very proud of me. Also my in-laws because they are  equally as insane very nice to me.

3. Living abroad. I was thinking about this and wonder when ‘abroad’ (the US) became ‘home’ for my parents. I think it just sneaks up on you. If you ever get an opportunity to do it, you won’t regret it. You learn NYC isn’t the only cool place to live in. PS Joburg > Cape Town, yea I said it. We can’t compete in natural beauty but we have the BEST people. Just try and dispute that. I love Joburg. Na Na Na.

4.  This opportunity to figure out my desires and ambitions in life. If I was still in NYC or we had stayed in Berlin I would still be teaching math. And that is not what I want to be doing. I have time to make this blog and be creative. And here we can afford to live on one income. Anyway, having time for photography, cooking, designing our house, and doing multi-media projects ; ) is priceless and I know it.  F*ck me, I sound like an American Berliner.

5. Ugh, this so cliche but I am so thankful for my extended family. They are SO much fun, and last year we brought P to India for the first time and they just gave it their all showing him a nice time. Plus my aunts traipsed all over India with us finding just the right details for my our wedding. Then a few months later they hauled ass across two oceans (and some a few states) just to come parade their diamonds and party watch us get married. All of them. Who gets so lucky as to have a totally awesome nuclear family AND extended family?? Plus I definitely know where my cray cray comes from. And I’m proud of it.

Also, for some levity I give you an Animals Talking in All Caps that might as well be P and me on any given night.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Thanksgiving in Jozi (wonderful, manageable)

Land of Nams: living in Johannesburg, exploring the world, documenting the things I love

Our first Thanksgiving in Jozi and our third together, came off without a hitch. This is also my third Thanksgiving not flying home to my family, and this time of year is the worst part about living abroad. I miss my family, especially my sister, and I miss the people that we do Thanksgiving with every year. Of course, this year P and I realized that we are officially our own family which was strange and wonderful, though not really different from years past. The weather was cold and rainy which made me feel like it’s fall and not summer and put me in the holiday mood a bit. We were lucky to have two Thanksgivings this year, one cooked by our friends who are half American/half South African  (how amazing is it to EAT and not cook?? or clean??) and one we put on for another group of our friends. A few of them had never been to an American Thanksgiving so I was happy to feed them their first. The night was lovely, the wine flowed freely (but not too freely because we have to drive in this country!), and we talked about…blogging? (haha poor blog widows as Martina’s Rob calls them).

Land of Nams: living in Johannesburg, exploring the world, documenting the things I love

This is my third time cooking Thanksgiving dinner and it went the smoothest it has ever gone, and I’ve found a turkey recipe I’m sticking to forever. I thought I’d show you our menu because maybe you’re looking for a manageable menu too. It did take me 8+ hours but besides that 8 hours is normal for T Day, I was literally cooking by myself as P was at work (haha WHO AM I?). Also, it was a super zen 8 hours in which I cooked everything, elaborately set the table, and got dressed (but didn’t shower, it was me or the house that was getting clean). Anyway, ahem:

Land of Nams: living in Johannesburg, exploring the world, documenting the things I love

Land of Nams: living in Johannesburg, exploring the world, documenting the things I love

Land of Nams: living in Johannesburg, exploring the world, documenting the things I love

Here I’ll show you which recipes I used and any changes I made, this was for 9 people with plenty of left overs:

Figs, roasted and wrapped in bacon stuffed with goat’s cheese and walnuts

Ingreds:

10 figs, halved

5 long strips of bacon, halved

250 grams or about 8oz goat’s cheese

10 walnuts (obviously not in their shells)

Preheat oven to 200 C or 390 F Stuff each fig half with cheese and a walnuts. Wrap with half a strip of bacon and secure with a toothpick. Put stuffed figs in oven for about 30 minutes, until bacon is cooked through. They will be gone in no time.

Gem squash, scored and roasted with brown sugar glaze. 

Ingreds:

9 gem squash halves

2 tablespoons brown sugar

4 tablespoons butter

4 tablespoons maple syrup

I used the Foodwishes recipe but instead of acorn, I used gem squash.

Turkey Roasted in a casserole, with butter and white wine glaze and gravy

Ingreds:

1 4 kg or 9 pound turkey
1 cup unsalted butter (2 sticks), melted, plus 4 tablespoons unsalted butter at room temperature
3/4 bottle dry white wine
2 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons freshly ground pepper
1 cup dry red or white wine for gravy (optional)

Materials
Cheesecloth
Kitchen string
Pastry brush
meat thermometer
Toothpicks

I used Martha Stewart’s recipe and I was so happy I’ve definitely found my life long turkey recipe. There was no brining, and the turkey was amazingly juicey. The trick for me was to using a casserole dish and not a roasting pan (it could cook in it’s own juices) and keeping the cheesecloth wet with white wine/butter glaze. I also covered both drumsticks with bacon.

Stuffing

Ingreds:

1 loaf of freshly baked whole grain white bread
1 loaf French Bread, Somewhat Crusty
1 stick Butter
1 whole Medium Onion, Diced
2 cups Celery, Chopped
4 cups Low Sodium Chicken Broth
1 tablespoon fresh Basil
1 teaspoon chopped Thyme
3 sprigs Fresh Rosemary, Chopped
1/4 cup Fresh Parsley, Chopped
Salt To Taste

I used Pioneer Woman’s stuffing with the following changes: I did not use cornbread, but freshly baked whole grain white bread. Instead of leaving my bread out for 24 hours, I chopped it up and spread on the baking trays and put it in the oven on the lowest setting for an hour to dry them out. I used fresh basil and thyme as reflected above.

Steamed broccoli with garlic and salt (boooring, but necessary!)

Ingreds:

3 heads of broccoli

3 cloves of garlic, minced

Salt to taste

1 teaspoon olive oil

Cut up broccoli to the size that you want them. Pour olive oil in to pan, mix up broccoli, garlic and a salt, and steam on low heat with cover on for about 15 minutes.

Garlic Mashed Potatoes

5 pounds potatoes, whichever kind you like

Half a cup of heavy cream

1 stick of butter

4 oz of cream cheese

5 garlic cloves, minced

1 tablespoon of steak rub spices

Salt to taste

Boil the potatoes for 45 minutes to an hour in generously salted water with approximately half the garlic. Once the potatoes are mashable, drain them from the water and mash, on the stove over low heat. Add remaining garlic and butter, stir in mix in. Add heavy cream and mix. Add cream cheese and mix thoroughly. Add your steak rub spice, and salt to taste. Don’t tell anyone how much butter or cheese is in it! You can keep it covered over the lowest heat setting you have until it is time to serve. Mix again and put in separate dish before dinner time.

Cranberry Sauce, the triumph of my Thanksgiving dinner

1 14.5 oz can of whole berry cranberry sauce

1 medium onion, chopped

2 sprigs rosemary, chopped

1 pint chicken broth

3 tablespoons butter

2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar, more to taste

Salt to taste

There were no cranberry sauces on the web which were equal parts delicious and last minute and expat friendly so I made one up and it was a delicious compliment to the plate if I do say so myself. Melt the butter in a sauce pan. Add onions, stir until they get translucent. Add chicken broth, canned cranberry sauce, and balsamic vinegar. Stir until sauce breaks up, then bring it to a boil for 10 minutes until it reduces a bit. You can reheat it at dinner time.

Land of Nams: living in Johannesburg, exploring the world, documenting the things I love

Luckily I didn’t have to think about dessert, if I did I would have done it the day before, but thankfully (and deliciously) Karen was all over it. And Jenna sweetly offered to bring delicious twice baked mashed potatoes (which, as far as I’m concerned should be our national food) so I had plenty of help. And as of this post, the dishes are already done! Thanksgiving, you are my b*tch.

living in Johannesburg, exploring the world, documenting the things I love

Edit:

Read more about our South African thanksgiving on these blogs:

Story of Bing

Martina in Jozi

A Home Away from Home