Saturday, November 23, 2013

Thanksgiving Outside of the USA

For any of you who find yourself living outside of the USA during the holiday season you aren't alone. Many Americans head into November looking forward to Thanksgiving, a time to give thanks for what you have and gather those that you are thankful for around you to eat and enjoy the company. If you're like me the thought of being far away from family makes these holidays harder to handle but there is a way to bring the holiday joy to where ever you are.

Last year I was still in my first 6 months of living in Brazil and it was the first time in my life that I had not been with family for Thanksgiving. So what did I do to shake the Thanksgiving blues? I brought Thanksgiving to Brazil. It wasn't easy and it took a lot of preparation and planning but now that I have already held a Thanksgiving dinner successfully here once, I plan on trying again this year! This got me thinking that I should share what I learned on here to anyone else that might be struggling with the question of what to do for Thanksgiving outside of the USA. Although it can be extremely difficult to pull off a good old American style Thanksgiving dinner with all of the foods that we've grown accustomed to, I am here to tell you that it can be done no matter where you are as long as there is a grocery store!

In 1 short week I'm planning on hosting my 2nd annual American style Thanksgiving dinner here in Brazil and my friends are already looking forward to it. I hope that what I learned last year will help any of you out there in the same situation.
(Taken from google search)

xo Jessica

If you're reading this part I'm going to guess that either you're interested in hosting your own Thanksgiving dinner or you want to read about my failures and struggle from Thanksgiving last year. Well, let me tell you that there will be plenty of them. Throwing a huge dinner party, especially when it's with very specific foods, was so much harder than I could have ever imagined. There wasn't any pumpkin in cans, pre-med crusts, I had to run around to 6 different store the morning of trying to find a turkey, you can't find the normal ingredients and have to improvise a lot, and if your country is anything like Brazil, the appliances are much smaller. Mind you, this was also the very first Thanksgiving dinner that I ever made.

This easiest way to do this is by dish, what I did, what recipes I followed, the adjustments that I made, and struggles that I faced.

Turkey- This was something that one would think would be so easy but was in fact the hardest part. Here in Brazil turkey is eaten at Christmas dinner so none of the supermarkets had gotten any of their turkeys yet and those who did had the prices extremely high since it is still technically "out of season". After much running around we finally found a turkey at a small grocery store the morning of and immediately prepped it and cooked it as soon as we got home. Being from Michigan, when I saw the recipe for turkey the Michiganders' way I knew I had to try it. It was very easy to prep the turkey and when it was all done it came out very juicy. You can find the recipe I used here.

Gravy- No canned gravy for us! Having never made a Thanksgiving dinner before let alone gravy, I had no idea where to even begin. Luckily, I found a recipe online that gives easy step-by-step instructions on how to make it and after the turkey was done it was very quick and easy! Although this recipe is for make-ahead turkey gravy, I made it the day of and it was just fine. The only thing that I left out was the thyme since I had no idea where to find that. You can find the recipe I used here.

Mashed Potatoes- Doing the mashed potatoes was such a relief because it was the easiest thing to do! Potatoes are pretty common anywhere along with butter and milk so out of everything this is something that shouldn't be a problem. Since I love potato anything, I've had plenty of practice making mashed potatoes and didn't use a recipe. I just smashed the potatoes after boiling them and added milk, butter, salt, ground black pepper, and a little bit of nutmeg. *I leave some of the skins on just because I prefer it that way but you can also peel the entire thing if you don't like the skins in your mashed potatoes.*

Green Bean Casserole- Green Bean Casserole was another hard thing to make, not that any of this was really easy. For one thing, it is hard to find green beans but trying to find some type of fried onion to use (pre-made) is another type of impossible. Therefore, this was an experiment that turned out really good in the end. Being one of my favorite sides at Thanksgiving, I knew that I had to do everything I could to make it. Armed with my recipe I set out to the biggest supermarket in Santos where I knew that they had Cream of Mushroom soup and most likely everything else that I would need. To make this I followed this recipe with a few adjustments. Instead of the pre-made friend onions, I cut up a bunch of onions and fried them myself with some flour, butter, and a little bit of egg whites. I also omitted the soy sauce since that just seemed odd to me and I didn't want to take any chances. Per the suggestions in the comments section of the recipe, I also used about half of the recommended amount of milk so it would be less liquid and more cream.

Pumpkin Pie- My all time favorite pie, pumpkin pie is something that, no matter how difficult and how many tries it took, I was going to succeed in making it. The crust: For the crust I used this recipe but I had to use butter instead of shortening since I couldn't find it anywhere. It still turned out just find though so I will probably just do the same thing again this year. The filling: This was the hard part. At the supermarket I bought a whole sweet pumpkin (which ended up making enough filling for 2 pies) and removed all of the seeds so that I could bake it for a little bit to soften it up. From there I took out the fleshy filling and pureed it in my blender until it was nice and smooth and after that it was as easy as making pumpkin pie from a can. I used this recipe but I also added some nutmeg (which I had to grind up myself). My successfully made pumpkin pie was then served with whipped cream (which was actually cream that I spent the time to whip up).

Apple Pie- Apple pie was very easy to make since it is really easy to find all of the ingredients here in Brazil. Last year I used this recipe which I would absolutely recommend to anyone as it is easy and delicious! The only thing to be very careful with is the sauce. I tried doing everything at once and ended up burning the sauce and starting over. I also recommend cooking the apples in the sauce instead of pouring it over since it seems to make the apples softer and sweeter that way. To top it off, I did an egg white and sugar glaze to ensure that the top was nice and shiny. This apple pie is very good when served with caramel, honey, or creamy vanilla ice cream on the side.

Rolls- Last year I went the easy way out and sent Luiz to the bakery at the corner to buy some of their french rolls but this year I'm thinking of doing it myself depending on how much time I have. Since I haven't yet done it I'm not sure how it will work out let alone the best way to do it so I'll just post up the recipe that I have set aside here and then post updates after Thanksgiving on how everything turned out this year!

Cranberry Sauce- Unfortunately this is something that I had to skip last Thanksgiving and will have to again this Thanksgiving as there are no cranberries anywhere in Brazil. The only thing cranberry that I have found is some juice (that is extremely expensive) so depending on where you are, this may be a Thanksgiving side that you will have to do without.

Mac and Cheese- Although in my house Mac and Cheese was not a side we usually had with Thanksgiving, I couldn't resist the opportunity to make it here after being without it for so long and with one side missing (the cranberry sauce). Making homemade mac and cheese was a lot easier than I thought it was going to be. I used the closest thing I could find to macaroni noodles which ended up being rotini noodles and bought some sliced cheddar cheese (the only type of cheddar cheese that they have here). After cooking the noodles, I made a roux of butter and flour (approximately 2 tablespoons of each, and once that had been cooking for a minute or two I added 3 cups of milk and started tearing the cheddar slices into strips so that they could melt and easily be stirred into the milk to create the sauce. For those of you that will also have to use the slices, I used almost a full 2 packets. From there I just added the noodles, some salt and pepper, some sauteed and diced onions, and served it nice and hot. Unfortunately last year I ran out of the oven room to bake the mac and cheese, I'm hoping to plan better and be able to do that this year. For those of you who, like me, need a recipe to follow the first time you make something, here is a great recipe for mac and cheese.

Well I hope that this helped those of you expats like me that still want to enjoy the comfort foods of Thanksgiving while not in the US. I'm hoping for some cooler weather for the day that I am planning on doing my Brazilian Thanksgiving (next Saturday) since we are now officially entering summer here. If you have any questions or comments I would love to hear from you!

*If you aren't planning on holding a Thanksgiving celebration in your country then you can always find a place that will be offering one for other Americans that don't want to miss it but deal with the hastle of putting it on. For any of you in Brazil, the American Society of São Paulo will be hosting their dinner on Thanksgiving at the Renaissance Hotel for R$72/person for a buffet dinner excluding drinks. For more information click here.*

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