Reflections on Thanksgiving in a New Place

Holidays are for spending with family and friends however when one has moved far away there are only two choices – travel to be with the ones you love or stay home and make the best of it.  We had anticipated sharing Thanksgiving with friends from upstate New York however this fell through.   Additionally I am working with some home buyers and didn’t want to leave them in the midst of their search.  So this year I decided that we will start new traditions in a new place and would start by cooking a traditional Thanksgiving dinner. 

As you scratch your head in wonder about that sentence, let me rush to explain that our meals aren’t typically traditional.  Oh sure I’ll have the turkey but it will be accompanied by foods from other cultures and countries. 

Perhaps the funniest Thanksgiving meal I prepared was to include a vegan guest.  I was truly out of my element!  Every vegetarian dish I had in my repertoire had cheese, mayonnaise, or some other verboten item!  I seemed drawn to them like a moth to a flame.  It didn’t help that the guest was rude enough to make sure I knew where I had failed miserably.  Needless to say, she’s no longer in our lives!

This time I decided I would have an Americana meal – albeit with a Southern influence.  I spent days collecting recipes from friends and online resources.  Then I “doctored” them up to fit my creative streak. 

For 25 years we lived in the northeast and the oven blasting all day was a pleasant change from the bitter cold outside.  While the mornings in Florida during this season are a cool 60 degrees, midday it was 80.  So be it.  I just ramped up the air conditioner and went for it!

Trevor cracked us up by coming to the table with no shirt on, just to emphasis the difference between the season he grew up with and the one we experience now.

Next year I’m sure our table will be set for more than three.  We will meet new friends, family will join us, and we will be settled.  Perhaps we will help to feed the hungry, the homeless.  Maybe we will have a huge community potluck outdoors and enjoy the incredible Floridian weather.  The possibilities are endless, but this time we enjoyed our private feast and the transition between what was and what can be. 

Here is our menu for Thanksgiving 2010 – Back to the Basics!

Menu for Thanksgiving 2010

  • Herb Butter Roast Turkey Stuffed with Carrots, Onions, Lemons, Garlic
  • Cornbread Stuffing with Apples, Parsnips, Carrots, Celery, Onion, Honey Infused Pears and Chestnuts (recipe below)
  • Green Beans with Mushroom and French Fried Onion Casserole
  • Sweet Potato Casserole with Marshmallows
  • Orange Cranberry Relish
  • Sour Dough Baguette
  • Pinot Noir and White Sauvignon Wine


  • Hummmingbird Cake (recipe below)

In honor of a season of love and giving I’m providing two recipes. Enjoy!

Cornbread Stuffing (Chef Neil Kleinberg from Clinton St Baking Co. & Restaurant in NYC)

  • 1 package cornbread stuffing
  • 1-1/2 cups peeled and cubed parsnips (approximately 2 large parsnips)
  • 1-1/2 cups peeled and cubed carrots
  • 1-1/2 cups diced celery
  • 1-1/2 cup diced onion
  • 1 peeled and cubed green apple
  • 2 peeled and cubed pears
  • Honey to cover pears
  • 6-10 roasted chestnuts
  • 2 cubes butter
  • 1-2 cups chicken broth

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Dice all of the veggies and put aside.  Peel and cube the pears, cover them with honey and put them in the refrigerator.  Cut through the chestnut skins, scoring them in an “X”.  Place on cookie sheet and put in oven for 20 minutes.  While the chestnuts are roasting, melt the butter in a pan and cook the veggies over a low heat.  Peel and cube the apple and include it with the veggies (I didn’t want you to do it too early or it would turn brown).  Once all the veggies and apple are cooked, mix them with the cornbread stuffing.  Bring the chestnuts out of the oven and let them cool. Peel them and chop the nut meat. Add chestnuts and honey infused pears to the stuffing mix.  Stir in chicken broth so the stuffing mix is moist but not clumping together.  Place in a casserole dish (or stuff the bird) and lightly bake.


Hummingbird Cake (Chef Art Smith from Table Fifty Two in Chicago)


  • 3 cups all-purpose flour (I used 2 cups all-purpose and 1 cup whole wheat flour)
  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 cups chopped ripe bananas
  • 1 cup drained crushed pineapple
  • 1 cup vegetable oil
  • 2 large eggs , beaten
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 cup (4 ounces) finely chopped pecans


  • 8 ounces cream cheese , at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) butter , at room temperature
  • 1 pound confectioners’ sugar (about 4 1/2 cups sifted)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract


To make the cake, position racks in the center and bottom third of the oven and preheat to 350°. Lightly butter two 9″ round cake pans, sprinkle evenly with flour and tap out the excess. (If you wish, butter the pans, line the bottoms with rounds of parchment paper, then flour the pans and tap out the excess.)

Sift the flour, sugar, baking soda, cinnamon and salt into a bowl. In another bowl, stir or whisk the bananas, pineapple, oil, eggs and vanilla until combined. Do not use an electric mixer. Pour into the dry mixture and fold together with a large spatula just until smooth. Do not beat. Fold in the pecans. Spread evenly into the pans.

Bake until the cake springs back when pressed in the center, 30 to 35 minutes. Transfer the cakes to wire racks and cool for 10 minutes. Invert the cakes onto the racks (remove the parchment paper now if using). Turn right side up and cool completely.

To make the icing: Using an electric mixer on high speed, beat the cream cheese and butter in a large bowl until combined. On low speed, gradually beat in the sugar, then the vanilla, to make a smooth icing.

Place 1 cake layer, upside down on a serving platter. Spread with about 2/3 cup of the icing. Top with the second layer, right side up. Spread the reaming icing over the top and sides of the cake. The cake can be prepared up to 1 day ahead and stored, uncovered in the refrigerator. Let stand at room temperature 1 hour before serving.


About Shawn Phillips

As someone who has relocated several times – buying and selling houses of my own for personal and investment purposes – I can easily put myself in my clients’ shoes. I know what I needed from my Realtors and I attempt to provide that or better for my clients. My family relocated to Charleston six years ago and my love for the city and the lifestyle is one I enjoy sharing with others. Prior to entering real estate in the Low Country I was a hospital administrator for many years in Charleston and New York City and was a Realtor in Sarasota, Florida. Leveraging my experience, I pride myself in providing outstanding client service, availability, personal touches, multi-faceted marketing, and skilled negotiations. The level of trust given to me by a client is the greatest compliment I receive as a professional. It is the foundation of my practice. My dedication to each and every client is evident before, during, and after the sale!
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4 Responses to Reflections on Thanksgiving in a New Place

  1. Gloria says:

    Oh that cake sounds really good! Happy Day after Thanksgiving!

    • It’s so moist! I have always loved carrot cake and this is similar but with a nice banana flavor. I woke up this morning and realized we three had eaten half a cake on top of everything else. We just kept on going back for more (and more and more). I even had a small slice for breakfast!

  2. Gloria says:

    Oh that cake recipe sounds really good! Happy Day after Thanksgiving!

  3. The best Thanksgiving ever.

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