Let’s be real. No one feels like spending a lot of time decorating for Thanksgiving. There’s too much cooking and soon to be too much Christmas hall decking to be done in just a few days. Also, for my family, there’s the extra step of packing up all the warm turkey and side dishes and transporting the festive meal to my grandparents’s house. However, it is fun for the Thanksgiving table to feel like fall, especially if the scene setting is easy.
Yesterday, I bought a little packet of faux leaves from Michaels. I’m planning on sprinkling a few around my newly bought metal pheasant (or is it a grouse or maybe a partridge?) as a centerpiece. The remaining leaves are now a simple garland.
To make the garland:
I threaded all of the leaves onto a length of gold thread, making sure to send the thread through various places in the leaves. If I threaded through the end of one leaf, I would thread through the middle or side of the next. I noticed this added to the illusion of leaves haphazardly floating on the breeze.
I then laid the newly threaded garland on the floor and spaced the leaves as far apart as I wanted them.
Next I flipped over each leaf and added a very small dot of hot glue over the place where the thread went through the leaf to make sure that all of the leaves stayed spaced apart.
Just a dot of glue is enough.
The leaves and pheasant are currently displayed on the mantle awaiting their trip to my grandparents’. Along with the simple, festive centerpiece, I plan to drape the garland across a window behind the table. I’ll be sure to post pictures of the finished table.
More sweet potatoes, more family, and more Thanksgiving is always better.
I’m pretty sure I’m totally capable of making sweet potato caserol on my own. Of course, I don’t know for sure because my mom has always helped me.
One of my family’s top two favorite Thanksgiving dishes (tied with my dad’s cornbread dressing) is Mom’s Senator Russel’s Sweet Potato Soufflé. Ok, so in reality, any idea of who Senator Russel was has been lost to time, and from my understanding, the finished side doesn’t fit the definition of a soufflé, but oh my goodness, all cares about the name are completely forgotten as soon as the smells of roasted pecans and sweet potatoes start wafting out of the oven. The second the casserole dish is taken out of the oven, it takes a lot of will power not to dive in before anyone else knows it’s cooked.
The magnetic deliciousness of this dish is why my extended family (and now some lucky friends with the recipe) jump at the chance to bring it to any holiday gathering possible. It’s been to every work and friends’ Thanksgiving in memory, and I’m pretty sure I even brought it to a baby shower a few years ago. You can never ever have too much sweet potato soufflé! Which brings me to another point. You also can’t seem to have enough help making these sweet potatoes either.
Each time someone offers to bring Senator Russel’s potatoes, my mom starts looking visibly anxious. I’ve come to find out this is because she’s just adding this newest offer to the list of at least five other times the dish will be made the week before Thanksgiving, and it is implied that she will personally help make it each time. To be clear, I never ask for her help, but it always seems to arrive. Sometimes, the sweet potatoes are even pre-baking in the oven before I can personally get to Kroger to buy the ingredients. Just as arriving at dinners with a warm bowl of bright orange sweet potatoes and crusty sugared pecans has become a tradition, knowing my mom will tell me when I’ve mashed the potatoes enough or even taking the spoon from my hand to show me a better way to stir together the crisp topping has become completely expected.
When I first started making this dish, I found the extra help just a smidge annoying. Did my mom not think I was a good cook? Why wouldn’t she just cook something else when I could handle this? I wondered. However, after a few years of this supervision, I realized even though I could make the dish by myself, I didn’t really want to. I think the rest of my family has learned the same thing, too. Every time we cook sweet potato soufflé, there’s always a Hallmark movie in the background, and at some point, my mom and I will both get tickled when pecans start flying out of the mixing bowl as someone stirs too vigorously. With so much help in the kitchen, the festivities begin before the dinner even starts, and the dish has always turned out perfect with extra eyes on the recipe.
So, my recommendation is to use this dish as an excuse to have yet another festive meal, and as a way to make memories with loved ones in the kitchen.
For the filling, add all filling ingredients to a large mixing bowl. Stir till combined. Empty this mixture into an oven safe casserole dish.
For the topping, add all topping ingredients to a smaller mixing bowl. My mother uses two butter knives to cut the margarine into the other ingredients with a crisscrossing motion. I have achieved the same results just staring with a spoon when she isn’t looking. The stirring method is personal choice. Once the topping is combined, sprinkle (don’t press) the crumbly mixture on top of the sweet potato mixture in the casserole dish.
Bake at 350 for 45 minutes. Let cool slightly, but serve while warm.
*The recipe can be mixed and added to the casserole dish and kept in the refrigerator overnight to be baked the next day.
I mean, the kids are all over 21 now, two of my cousins are married, and there is an abundance of wine…but we still always break out a craft or coloring page, and all of our parents and grandparents still sit at another table in the formal dining room.
I’m also in charge of decor for both tables. To differentiate, I like to keep my table a little more fun and informal, while the grown ups get a more formal dining experience.
Typically, though, I like to tie both tables together with an emphasis on natural decor by bringing the outdoors in (literally). It’s nice to inspire a seasonal ambiance by focusing the decor on what is naturally beautiful at this time of year.
At the kids’ table
Last year, I created a flurry of leaves by preserving maple leaves and suspending them from the chandelier with various lengths of fishing wire.
It’s pretty easy to create this effect. Just soak any leaf in glycerine and water soon after picking, and the leaves will stay more vibrant and less crispy. A simple Google search will help with the exact amount of glycerine necessary.
I added to this rustic table setting with homemade napkin rings (ribbons hot glued to acorns collected in my yard) and little pumpkins I kept from Halloween. All of these natural elements played well with my mother’s colorful serving dish as a centerpiece and some bright placemats.
Meanwhile at the grownups’ table
I had a few tables to work with. On one, another little round pumpkin became a carved planter for a burgundy pansy.
On the buffet, there was space for homemade beeswax candles since all of the casseroles were being served from the kitchen next door. Each of these little candles were made from a mail order kit, and cored apples in serving dishes and teacups served were perfect candle sticks.
To add hight at and keep the formal feel, a seasonal flower bouquet took center stage in a prized vase.
Overall, most of the decorations were inexpensive or were found outside or among family heirlooms around the house. The best part was that the day was warm and personal. The decor at both tables helped set the stage for a wonderful dinner and memories with family.
Hope you have a happy Thanksgiving and that your holiday is beautiful. I can’t wait to share pictures from this year.