Grace and Gratitude

Thanksgiving. What a wonderful holiday. It’s everything Black Friday and Cyber Monday aren’t. No television commercials, no malls, no wrapping, no power shopping. (Well, at least not for anything but Brussels sprouts and cranberries). Just friends, family, delicious food, and oodles and oodles of gratitude—for good health, simple abundance, and the opportunity to sit down together at one table on one coast.

We relish spending our Thanksgivings up at Smallpeace, which couldn’t be a more authentic setting. You can almost envision the pilgrims ambling up our road, trailed by a flock of wild turkeys. This year, we had a cozy group of seven, including my mother, brother, his wife and our niece and nephew, who were visiting from San Diego.

When we sat down at the table, we all said in turn what we were thankful for. Thanks ranged widely—for family, good health, our happy home, those we sorely miss, and, of course, turkey!

(No, not that turkey, silly!)

Befitting such a lovely occasion, we all tried to contribute a little something to making the table complete. My mom and I handled the turkey, which we pre-ordered from our local farm stand, The Berry Farm, and drizzled in drawn butter, stuffed with oranges and fresh herbs, then roasted to perfection in a 325 degree oven.

My artistic niece made custom placemats.

B made his signature apple crumble with our very own apples, while my sister-in-law roasted some vegetables and made two picture-perfect pumpkin pies.

B added the maple syrup, cream, and orange zest to the mashed sweet potatoes…

and I experimented with a tangy bread-stuffing recipe for my stuffing-loving brother that featured wild mushrooms, lemon zest, and herbs. This one’s a keeper, so check out the recipe below.

My brother and nephew did a great job of clearing the table—in more ways than one. And when it was all over, we all agreed that it was the best meal ever.

Here’s hoping you had the chance to spend Thanksgiving with someone you love, or at least took a moment to count the many blessings in your life. Even during these unpredictable times, we are all so very fortunate to live in this beautiful country, aren’t we?

Lemony-Mushroom Bread Stuffing

1/4 cup butter

2 small shallots

2 stalks celery

1 pound mixed wild mushrooms, sliced

1 teaspoon salt

1 egg

1 cup heavy cream

zest of one lemon

juice of two lemons

1 loaf (15-ounce) brioche or peasant loaf, cut into 1/2-inch cubes, and toasted in 400 degrees oven until golden brown

2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley

1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme

1/2 cup(s) low-sodium chicken broth


Heat oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly butter a 12 serving muffin tin and set aside. Melt 2 tablespoons butter in a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Finely chop shallots, thyme, and celery and cook in butter until soft, about 3 minutes. Add mushrooms and salt and brown until mushrooms release their liquid, about 2 minutes.

Remove from heat and toss with toasted bread ingredients.

Mix together all wet ingredients, including lemon zest and poor over bread and mushroom mixture. Add parsley. Combine.

Fill muffin tins, dot with remaining butter, and bake until heated through and top is golden, 30 to 40 minutes.

About Smallpeace

Michele Karas is a poet, essayist, and longstanding professional copywriter, who currently works for a top-five US book publisher. Her poems and prose have appeared in literary journals, including Tinderbox, THRUSH, Alaska Quarterly Review, and Narrative magazine, among others. Michele holds a BA in Journalism from San Diego State University and an MFA in Creative Writing from CUNY, The City College of New York. Find her on Twitter @small_peace.
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9 Responses to Grace and Gratitude

  1. I was sitting at my computer working on a contract and decided to take a few mintures to read your post. My blood pressure immediately dropped and my stress melted away. How wonderful it all sounded. Thank you for sharing the photos, the recipes and your stories.

  2. Smallpeace says:

    Oh Maureen, you are so welcome. I’m happy to be able to look back on the day and “decompress” myself. It’s hard to be back at the ol’ computer after such a lovely break. Thanks for your kind words.

  3. Alisa says:

    THAT stuffing recipe sounds amazing and such a great idea to do it in muffin tins. I am definitely trying it. I’m sure the heavy cream helps to keep it moist. The whole meal looks amazing and sounds like you all had a great time. So much to be thankful for indeed!

  4. Smallpeace says:

    It was a great time, A. And yes, the cream did help keep the stuffing moist — though I did get distracted and leave the pan in for just that much too much time. The best part is, you can put everything together a day ahead of time, then just pop it in the oven. The pre-prep is key on a busy holiday, as you well know. Hope your day was just as nice. xo

  5. Barbara says:

    Again, reading my daughter’s beautiful writing accompanied by the beautiful photos made my heart expand with pride, love and awe. Yes, it was truly one of the most wonderful Thanksgiving’s we have been able to share and in part, because we were together. Thanksgiving is a wonderful holiday for all the right reasons. Love mom

  6. Michele, those little stuffing muffins look and sound great. In fact it all looks wonderful. Think I’ll try to make them at some point over the christmas holiday here, but dare not deviate from my traditional bread stuffing on the day. x

  7. Smallpeace says:

    Tricia, your fabulous potato stuffing simply MUST be included in your Christmas dinner plans or you will be ex-communicated from the family, I fear. Besides, I don’t see the problem in having two stuffings on the table. You? And BTW, do send along that recipe. We don’t use potatoes in our stuffing out California way. xo

  8. Touch2Touch says:

    Thanks for a wonderful description of a real Thanks Giving.
    (And for the big grin that breaks out when I imagine power-shopping for brussels sprouts. Gotta try it soon, elbows akimbo!)

  9. Smallpeace says:

    Leave it to you to work in the word akimbo! Now I’ve got a great image of what you look like, T2T! Let’s hear it for veggie power-shopping.

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