Favorite Thanksgiving Dish? Easy.

I have one job to do for Thanksgiving. I pack up my family and get us all to Kentucky. No kitchen, no turkey brining, no worrying about the perfect side. This leaves me with plenty of time on the road to  feel nostalgic for my favorite holiday dishes and extoll the virtues of my favorite sweet potato topping. (Pecans, in case you were wondering.) There is one simple dish that serves as my holiday harbinger, and that is my mother's uncomplicated but superb cranberry relish. Although she has made this recipe for as long as I can remember, she won't take credit for creating it. She attributes this recipe to Mrs. Pauline Eblen of Henderson, who is the sweetest little woman you could ever hope to meet. No wonder it's so delicious.

Here's what you need:

2 small oranges, unpeeled
1 lb. cranberries
1 cup sugar*

The mason jar in the back contains coconut palm sugar, which I substitute
for the cane sugar to the right.
The result is not as pretty but every bit as scrumptious.

Slice the ends of the oranges away, then cut oranges into 1/2 inch chunks. Fill food processor with all the ingredients, then chop and grind to your desired texture. I recommend letting it chill for a day or so in your refrigerator to allow the flavors to marry. They will be so happy together, I promise.

Takes about a minute to grind all this to a perfect relish consistency.

Here's some helpful cranberry relish advice that you will want to follow, assuming that you make this once and immediately declare that you wish you had more of this or could save some for next summer. Try buying eight pounds of cranberries and a full bag of oranges. This stuff freezes exceptionally well, so plan on freezing one cup portions that you can easily thaw when you want to add a lovely burst of color to a table or just want a crazy good dollop of tangy cranberries on your mid-May turkey sandwich.

I didn't have any cooked poultry available, so please take my word that this tastes heavenly on any type of bird. Say you have some chicken breasts in the oven, but you become distracted by one child while his tiny partner in crime tosses your timer into the sink. Dried out chicken? Boom. Cranberry relish to the rescue! Imagine a boring leftover turkey sandwich promoted to gourmet status by some leafy greens and the zing from this cranberry relish. But just between us, you don't need anything but a ramekin dish and a spoon to enjoy this stuff.

Digging into some of this deliciousness in a few short days!

What dish signals Thanksgiving and the coming holiday season for you? We would love to hear from you!

Holiday Traditions: Reality Check

Every year, I dream up these elaborate plans for beautifully executed Christmas traditions to do with my family. My daughters are 3 and 6, the perfect age to be completely swept up in the magic of the season.

I found some really great ones for this year. I'll link them up for you in case you're interested.

  • All Aboard The Minivan Express! A fun little after bedtime treat for the kids, involving really cute printable golden tickets to grab a seat on a trip around town to see the Christmas lights. My girls would love this little surprise! A trip to Southern Lights would work well for this, as well as a quick drive past Fire Station #20 on Harrodsburg Rd. (You've all seen that, right? It's one of my most favorite holiday displays. Check out this video!)
  • Letters to Santa party! This would be so perfect for my kindergartener, who's just learning to sound words out and is always so excited that she can write things on her own now. She and a few of her buddies would have a blast with this.
  • Put together a Christmas Eve Surprise Box that the kids get to open at sunset on Christmas Eve. Include things like Christmas pajamas, a holiday movie, hot chocolate, a Christmas book, anything to make the night special.

Like I said: Big plans. Every year. All the excitement.

And then suddenly Christmas is a week away and I've done nothing! I haven't even put anything, ANYTHING, in the advent calendar on the wall!! (And the beauty of it is that for as long as we've had the advent calendar, I have never remembered to do anything with it, so the girls don't even realize they're missing out.)

This has happened for three years in a row now, and I'm always so disappointed in myself for getting swept up in boring day-to-day stuff and forgetting to do all these things I'd looked forward to. 

And today, I realized traditions don't have to be perfectly organized events doused in hot chocolate and tied together with sparkly ribbons. I realized that we already had traditions that I didn't even consider to be "real" traditions.

We put our tree up the day after Thanksgiving every year. I pull out my vinyl albums of Christmas music and put them in the record player and blast them throughout the house. Lauren loves helping me bring all the decorations out of storage, and the girls help put the ornaments on the tree. to decorate their own trees in their rooms. I did make hot chocolate. (This amaaaazing hot chocolate. Make it, make it, make it.) And almost every night this month we've watched a holiday-themed show or movie, unless UK basketball was on, obviously. And on Christmas Eve, just like we've done the last 3 years, the girls will wear matching Christmas pajamas...the kind with footies. 

The traditions may not be elaborate, but they're ours. I still want to do some of the bigger things that require more planning (and yes, advent calendars seem like a lot of planning to me), but for now, I know that Lauren already looks forward to these little things every year, and Ella is starting to get into them too. It's that time of year when every little thing seems magical, especially when kids are involved. When I see the girls decorating the trees in their rooms, or watch them eat the slice-and-bake Christmas cookies from the store (because I never remember to get the cookie decorating supplies to do the "real" homemade Christmas cookies), they are thrilled to pieces. And suddenly, my little traditions seem like enough.