This year, I’m thankful to be home, along the beautiful Santa Cruz mountains.
Amidst warm weather and clear sunny skies, I know next year, I might not be home to enjoy California. So I’m thankful to live where I live, but at the same time, I’m thankful that I’m ready to start a new chapter with college on the east coast.
I’m thankful I could spend time with my extended family: my aunties, and uncles, whom always praise me and tell me that they’re proud of me. And my cousins, who are almost like siblings, we’ve laughed and joked together since we were babies. I’m also thankful for my mom, who’s put up with so much to make sure that her kids have the most comfortable life possible.
And I’m thankful for traditions. Every year, my mom’s side of the family gets together on Thanksgiving and the day after to pick out our Christmas trees. We all truck up to a nearby farm up in the Santa Cruz Mountains and saw down our leafy house guest for the next month. Timber! On the way there, we always snack on Lee’s Sandwiches, a Vietnamese Sandwich chain, to recover from turkey, stuffing, mashed potato, and pumpkin pie overload the night before.
Speaking of stuffing… my mom always makes the most fantastic stuffing for Thanksgiving. I’m always trying to “update” her recipes – but this one is nearly untouchable. It’s a cornbread stuffing actually based on Giada’s Recipe. Normally, my mom buys the cornbread but I made my own this year (healthified, of course).
Lighter Cornbread (based on this recipe)
1 cup plain yellow cornmeal
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1/2 stick (1/4 cup) unsalted butter, melted
1/4 cup greek yogurt, nonfat
1 cup whole buttermilk (OR 1 tablespoon vinegar or lemon juice + 1 cup minus 1 tablespoon whole, nonfat, or skim milk let sit for 5 minutes)
For the buttermilk cornbread, grease a 10″ cast iron skillet and place on center rack in the oven. Preheat oven to 425°F.
In a large mixing bowl, combine the cornmeal, flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt. In a separate bowl, whisk the eggs, melted butter, and buttermilk. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and stir until just incorporated.
Pour the batter into the preheated skillet and smooth the top. Bake until cornbread is golden yellow, about 16 to 19 minutes. doesn’t overcook or dry out. Immediately remove the cornbread from the skillet and allow to cool.
The cornbread can be made up to 2 days in advance when using for the dressing. Store until needed, then follow instructions for the dressing.
Mom’s Sweet and Savory Cornbread Stuffing (based on this recipe)
1 medium red apple, cored and sliced into 1-inch pieces
1 medium onion, diced
1/2 cup celery, diced
1/2 cup carrots, diced
olive oil for the skillet
1/4 cup chicken broth
1 (6-ounce) bag dried cranberries
salt to taste
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 pack sweet Italian Sausage, ready to eat, cubed
1 pack chicken apple sausage, ready to eat, cubed
1 recipe buttermilk cornbread
1 cup chicken broth
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
In a medium saute pan add the apples, onion, carrots, celery, and oil and over a medium low heat for 10 minutes to soften. Add the broth, cranberries, and salt and pepper, simmer for about 5 minutes. Put aside.
Add sausages to same skillet with more oil, and cook until browned and cooked through, approximately 8 to 10 minutes. Add the fruit, onion, carrot, celery mixture and toss with sausages. Put in a large bowl and set aside.
Slice the cornbread into 1 inch cubes. Put in the same bowl with the rest of the ingredients and toss together. Put in a square baking dish (about 8.5 by 8.5 inches), and cover until ready to bake.
Add the remaining chicken broth before baking. Place in middle rack and bake until top is golden brown, 45 minutes to 1 hour.
This cornbread stuffing’s always a hit, I even loved it during my picky-eater days. We were rather sad when there weren’t many leftovers, but that’s what you get when you have thanksgiving with 28 people!
There were plenty of other dishes to share, of course. My mom also made 2 turkeys, brined, and deliciously moist, as well as a mushroom gravy and cranberry-pear sauce. I made a delicious roasted pumpkin and collard salad with chutney vinaigrette, and a roast sliced potatoes. My aunts made marshmallow yams, roasted brussels sprouts, pasta salad, carrot rice, and countless other dishes I can’t even recall.
For dessert, I made a maple pumpkin pie (recipe coming soon!) as well as shortbread cookies. My cousin made a pumpkin truffle pound cake, and my aunt made apple pie. Another of my aunts also made a pumpkin cheesecake. Talk about pumpkin overload! For the asian twist, of course, my great aunt made a vietnamese dessert (che) made of coconut milk and colorful jellies.
At the end of the day, our hungers, satisfied, our voices tired, and our house, warm, the guests all packed up the leftovers and left late at night.
It was a great thanksgiving, and I’ll always enjoy spending time with my family. That’s what the holidays are all about!