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Being Thankful

November 24, 2009
By Wendy Monro

On December 11, 1620, one hundred and two pilgrims walked off of the Mayflower and set foot on a new land.

Some of the travelers were avoiding religious persecution and some were here on business. They were all extremely brave.

That first year was devastating for the newcomers. Forty six of the original passengers did not survive.

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Submitted Photo

Eli Ahrens (pictured above) invited Wendy Monro’s family to his house to help butcher a deer he shot.

However, the year of 1621 brought a bounty of food. To celebrate, the colonists, along with the Wampanoag tribe of Native Americans, feasted for three days. This must have been more than a celebration of food. It was a celebration life itself. They survived and were thankful to be alive. According to Edward Winslow's, "A journal of the pilgrims at Plymouth in 1621," they ate five deer and as many fowl as they could fit in their arms. This feast marks the beginning of what we now call Thanksgiving Day.

In 1863, President Lincoln proclaimed, "The year that is drawing to its close, has been filled with the blessings of fruitful fields and healthful skies. To these bounties, which are so constantly enjoyed that we are prone to forget the source from which they come I do therefore invite my fellow citizens in every part of the United States to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next, as a day of thanksgiving and praise our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens" Thus, we were compelled to give thanks, not just for our bountiful supply of food, but for all that is good in life. Lincoln points out the "fruitful fields" as well as the "healthful skies" which is all that nourishes our life.

Ahhha day when we don't take all that is good for granted. It is not only about roasted turkeys, succulent honey glazed hams, cranberry sauce, mashed potatoes, gravy, stuffing, green bean casseroles, and pumpkin pies. We must remember to also be thankful for our health, peace, safety of soldiers, love of family, comfort of friendships, healing nature of laughter, and for our healthful skies.

Fact Box

Caramelized Vegetables

2 carrots

1 stalk of celery

1/2 red pepper

1/2 orange pepper

1/2 C. mushrooms, sliced

2 Tbsp. butter

2 Tbsp. sugar

1 C. white wine (and an optional glass to sip while cooking)

Heat the butter and sugar on high heat for one minute. Add the vegetables. Lower the heat to medium high and let them cook until brown (about 15 minutes). You will see that some stickiness will accumulate at the bottom of the pan. Take the vegetables out and add the glass of wine to deglaze the pan. Mix together everything off of the bottom of the pan. Let this simmer until it reduces down to barely anything. Toss back in the vegetables and coat in the sauce. Pour vegetables into an oven safe pan. Stick this in the preheated oven (350 degrees) until finished with everything else.

Pan Seared Venison and Marinade

1/4 lb. venison loin cut into two pieces

1 Tbsp. thyme

1 tsp. salt

1 tsp pepper

5 Tbsp olive oil, divided

2 Tbsp. blackberry juice (from the can of blackberries you will need for the sauce)

Mix 3 Tbsp olive oil, thyme, salt and pepper in a small dish. Add the venison and coat it well with the marinade. Set aside.

Place 2 Tbsp. olive oil in a skillet on high heat. Once the pan is very hot (but not smoking) place the venison in the skillet. Let it sear for two minutes each side.

Then, place it in an oven safe dish and put it in the oven with the vegetables.

The venison will cook for about 15 minutes, which is perfect because you have to make the sauce.

Mashed Potatoes

3 large potatoes, peeled, chopped and boiled

4 Tbsp butter

1 C. whipping cream (it's Thanksgiving, so go all out with the butter and cream)

Salt and pepper to taste

Mash together all of the ingredients until creamy.

Apple & Blackberry Sauce

1 Tbsp. olive oil

1/2 onion, diced

1 C. blackberry juice

1 can blackberries

1 green apple, peeled, cored and thinly sliced

1/2 C. chicken stock

1/2 C. heavy whipping cream

In a small sauce pan, add olive oil and turn the heat on medium high. Add the onions. Cook the onions in the oil for five minutes. Add the juice, blackberries, apple and stock. Let this all simmer for about ten minutes. Then, sieve the fruit and onions out of the sauce, returning the liquid to the pan. Let this simmer on medium heat for two minutes. Add cream.

Take the venison and vegetables out of the oven. Slice venison. Place a scoop of potatoes on the plates. Layer on a scoop of vegetables. Place the venison slices on top of this. Drizzle everything with the sauce. Enjoy.

To commemorate a good life, we feast. It is not clear that the pilgrims ate any turkey at the first thanksgiving meal. They definitely ate venison. This week, Jack's friend, Eli Ahrens, invited us to his house to help butcher a deer which he shot.

I instantly thought, well, this is very much a Thanksgiving thing to do. We're in!

So, our whole family headed over to the Ahrens house to help. I couldn't do that to my little vegetarian; so, the girls stayed inside with Sara.

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Jeff and Eli were kind enough to let us taste the venison at their house and take some home as well. We are thankful. Shortly thereafter, I started to thinkmaybe somebody wants to have a dinner for two without a turkey?

Here is a recipe you might enjoy for a quieter feast while maintaining the special atmosphere that surrounds the holiday.

The recipe included in this article is for pan seared venison, marinated in thyme, on a plate of mashed potatoes, topped with caramelized vegetables, and smothered in an apple and blackberry sauce.

If you visit my blog ( or go to my YouTube channel (simplyfoodify), you can watch Claud and I make this dish.



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