Celebrate Simply . . . Thanksgiving

Celebrate Simply . . Thanksgiving -- A Pinch of Joy
Celebrate Simply  . . Thanksgiving -- A Pinch of Joy

Celebrations add richness and depth to our lives.  They are a time to connect with others in our family and beyond.  They call to mind our collective history in ways that can be adapted to the individual.  The first time I heard of lasagna for Thanksgiving dinner I was surprised!  But it is a perfect illustration of the dynamic nature of celebrations!  They change to fit the situation and times in a way that is significant to the persons celebrating and, in the process, strengthen the bond of family and friends. 

I love to look at beautiful holiday tablescapes and gorgeous seasonal layered vignettes. I love to create them.  But sometimes the weather does not cooperate nor is there time or energy for such things.  Still celebration calls for something out of the ordinary.  So . . .   make the celebration special but focus on creating a warm welcome and good food.  Celebrate simply. 

Autumn Banner on stair rail -- A Pinch of Joy

The welcome begins at the front door entry with an Autumn Banner.   Decorating note and totally off subject: All the woodwork in the house was stained a super dark Seventies color when we moved in.  I painted it white – eventually — and left the handrails dark for a bit of contrast.  Wheels suggested when I painted the stairs that I leave the edges dark.  I figured okay — we can always paint them white when we see how silly THAT looks!  :-)  But we liked it and many visitors comment how much they like that little touch.  Ya never know!  The bottom of the stair wall was painted white and the trim added when we did the dining room.  The light yellow is a soft butter color IRL and is the neutral for the downstairs hall.  The darker, almost gold color, is the upper hallway. 

Buffet vignette

The buffet needed a little festive color so a quick gathering of ceramic pumpkins from here and there, the turkey turreen that usually sets on the kitchen counter and a few fall colored  flowers.  This took five minutes and will be disassembled the next day, but it is a nice splash of color. 

Table setting -- A Pinch of Joy

The table runner is a piece of fabric the length of the tablecoth and folded in thirds.  The centerpiece is a gold square plate with a glass hurricane from the living room, a flameless candle, more flowers, a couple of little gourds.  See the wheat?   That is a family tradition.  Wheel’s father gave me a handful from his wheat field one year and they have made their appearance on our Thanksgiving table ever since.  Those few stalks represent family, the importance of agriculture and amber waves of grain, the historical movement of pioneers ever westward looking for good land with bright hopes for the future and so much more. 


The charger under the plate just happened to match the dark stripe of the fabric and the napkin matched the light stripe!  How’s that for lucky coincidence?!  Napkin rings were on clearance one year at Kroger’s for maybe a quarter each after the holidays.  And the colors in them blended beautifully.  Buy only what you truly like and it’s amazing how things will go together!  Not always but often enough. . .

Fall Wreath -- A Pinch of Joy
A fall wreath hung on the lighted corner cabinet is another quick and colorful touch to make the day out of the ordinary!

                               Wishing you and yours
           a bright and special Thanksgiving celebration! 

Some dishes you might like to consider for the Thanksgiving Feast: 

Orange Glazed Cornish hens  OR  Elegant Crusted Pork Tenderloin  
Holiday Sweet Potatoes 
Potato Nests                  OR    Scottsdale Potatoes
Sesame Green Beans    OR      Bacon Pecan  Green Beans
Sunny Broccoli Salad     OR      Wicked Good Simple Sweet Slaw    OR Cauliflower Bacon Salad
Fruity Cranberry Relish  OR     Frozen Cranberry Salad
Caramel Apple Salad     OR      Snickers Surprise Salad
Honey Banana Bread    OR     Lemon Poppyseed Zucchini Bread    OR Spicy Pumpkin Bread
Cheesecake Bars           OR      Pumpkin Bars
Blushing Peach Pie         OR     Spiced Pineapple Carrot Cake

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Happy Thanksgiving

Creamy Turkey Tortellini Soup

Creamy Turkey Tortellini Soup -- A Pinch of Joy
Creamy Turkey Tortellini Soup -- A Pinch of Joy

A yummy way to use leftover holiday turkey is to make Creamy Turkey Tortellini Soup!  Or use chicken for Creamy Chicken Tortellini Soup!   A hearty, filling soup that is a meal by itself because it has meat, pasta and veggies in one flavorful, nutritious pot!   Creamy, warm comfort food on a chilly day!  When I ran across the original recipe, it was instant “oh that sounds good.”  Well, it wasn’t.  Have you ever had one of those epic fails?    But it was intriguing enough that we ate the whole huge batch, trying to analyze what made it such a failure and what could be done to make it better.  Even more intriguing because Wheels and Bytes are usually from the “inhale and move on” school.   You get the improved and downsized version and I hope you like it as much as we do! 

Because we started out with major tweaks, we found that this is one of those recipes with lots of options.  Instead of turkey, use left over chicken.  Or buy rotisserie chicken, prepackaged or frozen cubed chicken, diced canned chicken.  Or start from scratch like I usually do and cook a couple of medium sized chicken breasts.  You can use the microwave.  If starting with frozen breasts, do two minute bursts at 50% power until well thawed and then two minute bursts at 80% power until cooked through.  Or poach the chicken breast in just enough water to cover until cooked through and use the broth to replace canned broth in equal measure.  Or grill until cooked through, using a countertop grill.   Choose the method that suits your taste, time and mood.   

Cook and then cube.  You will need about one and one half cups cubed chicken.  But any amount between one and two cups will work just fine.  See, even the measurements are flexible.  Start with the measurements for the garlic and herbs and adjust them to your taste.  We like things a bit on the mild side without any one flavor taking over.  A note about salt:  I prefer to use low sodium products and, if necessary, add salt when cooking.  That way I am in control of the taste and, more importantly, the amount of sodium in the dish. 

 The tortellini and turkey / chicken are the star of this show, but the vegetables are an essential part of the yumminess.   I use Birds Eye Mixed Vegetables – 12 ounce frozen package – because I like the varying textures and colors in the mix. You can substitute about two cups of leftover vegetables such as corn, peas, bell peppers, beans, carrots in any combination. 

The shredded Parmesan cheese on top of the bowl full of soup is a  nice touch and gives a bit of unexpected melty flavor.   Opt for it :-)

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Creamy Turkey Tortellini Soup
A creamy, nutritious and filling tortellini soup, with chicken or turkey and vegetables.
Serves: 6 servings
  • 2 Tbsp butter
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 1 clove garlic, minced (1/2 tsp)
  • 1 ½ cups cubed cooked turkey or chicken
  • 2 cups water
  • 2 15 ounce cans chicken broth, low sodium
  • 1 10 ounce cans cream of chicken soup,low sodium
  • ½ tsp salt or to taste
  • ½ tsp black pepper or to taste
  • 1 tsp thyme
  • ½ tsp oregano
  • 1 12 ounce bag mixed vegetables
  • 1 8 ounce package tortellini (2 cups)
  • 8 ounces sour cream (1 cup)
  • ¼ cup Parmesan cheese, optional
  1. Melt butter in Dutch oven or soup pot.
  2. Add onion and garlic and sauté until onions begin to turn clear.
  3. Add cubed turkey or chicken, brown slightly if desired.
  4. Add water, chicken broth, cream of chicken soup and seasonings. Bring to boil.
  5. Whisk sour cream into soup.
  6. Add tortellini and vegetables and bring to boil again. Cook according to time on tortellini package, about 5 minutes. Vegetables should be tender.
  7. Reduce heat and simmer another 5 minutes.
  8. Ladle soup into serving bowls and top with 1 Tablespoon grated Parmesan or grated Parmesan/Romano, if desired.
Nutrition Information
Serving size: 1½ cups each

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