Monday, November 19, 2012

Thanksgiving Dinner -- American style with Swedish Ingredients...

Living here has required that we adjust almost everything we do in our daily lives.  While we have adjusted to those things, like not owning a car, relying on public transportation, barely understanding the language, and working with new currencies and METRIC conversions all of the time, we haven't yet tackled the major food-related holidays.

Thanksgiving is coming up very quickly (it snuck up on us) and we are celebrating on Thursday with a few Skype sessions with our family back home and preparing for our own feast on Saturday.  We know that some ingredients will be difficult, if not impossible, to find, but we are determined to make this Thanksgiving just as special as the others.

Thanksgiving isn't so much of a culinary challenge as it is like choreographing a large dance with potatoes, breads and meats.  The challenge lies in budgeting your freezer space, then oven space efficiently and putting in the right dishes at the right time so that the food hits the table simultaneously with all the right temperatures and textures.  My first Thanksgiving on my "own" was right after Jon and I got married and we had Dustin and cousin Mikey over to celebrate.  I slaved away in the kitchen from 5:30am until 2pm and thought I did a fantastic job.  After working my fingers to the bone, the table ended up looking fairly sparse with only a few side dishes and a dry turkey.  Wahh waaaah...
First Thanksgiving -- not quite the feast I had in my mind but decent for a first attempt
Oh how I wish my most difficult issue was a "food processor setting."  Now I realize that I was a grocery store-spoiled brat with half of my dishes already pre-made requiring "assembly" on the big Turkey-day.  Some women are awesome and make everything homemade.  They always make me feel slightly guilty on the inside for taking shortcuts whenever possible but not enough to make me stop.  I just acknowledge that they are more ambitious, talented and patient than I.

Sweden's grocery stores are like America's in the 1950s.  There are no pre-made products really.  Preparing a huge Thanksgiving meal and Christmas dinner within 5 weeks of one another is exhausting and something Swedes don't have to deal with on an annual basis. Stouffer's stuffing wouldn't be so popular if women everywhere in kitchens hadn't asked, "can't I just get a little break here?" during their Thanksgiving cooking, baking/slaving in the kitchen for 9 hours.  After scouring the grocery stores here, even the big behemoths down the street, I have resigned to make EVERYTHING from scratch and to forgo some Thanksgiving classics because they simply do not exist here.  This will be a new approach to Thanksgiving since I always utilized shortcuts in the past.  This new approach has the greatest potential for either complete failure or the most delicious Thanksgiving dinner I've ever created.

Here's what I need to make from scratch, which I've never done before:

  • Pie crusts -- crusts for apple, pumpkin and mud pies
    • Oreo pie crust -- will be crushing Ballerinakaka instead of Oreos -- hopefully a minor substitution
    • Apple and pumpkin crusts -- no lard or Crisco available so I will be using straight butter - yum!
  • Coffee ice cream -- WITHOUT an ice cream maker -- going old school.  (Oh and I'm sorry, but Sweden, what is wrong with this picture? Your population consumes 4 cups of coffee per person per day and you don't have coffee-flavored ice cream??  That's like Switzerland not having chocolate. Come on now!)
  • Hot fudge topping -- Move over Smuckers cause the Ferland recipe is going to be hot competition!
  • Whipped cream -- ok, I've made this before but even still.  It requires a lot of arm strength to whip by hand
  • Gravy -- since we can't find a turkey ANYWHERE, we are roasting 2 chickens and we have to make gravy on our own.  I found something called Naturligt smakrik, Brunsås (translated: naturally tasty gravy/brown sauce) is the closest thing to gravy that I can find.  No idea how it is going to taste though.
  • Pumpkin pie filling -- the cans of pumpkin pie filling are probably the most convenient thing ever. I know that some people hate them but honestly, I can't tell the difference between homemade and the ones from the can.  This year I'm going to cut a real pumpkin in half and bake it and puree it with the Magic Bullet our landlords left for us to use.  It's my only hope for pumpkin pie this Thanksgiving so fingers are crossed tightly!

Not buying you...
Not buying you either

This would save so much time
Here are the links to the recipes for our menu this year  -- we had to omit turkey and cranberry sauce because Sweden doesn't know that Americans in their country are dying for those two things this week:
And just in case it all falls to pieces, I'm putting 2 frozen pizzas in the freezer downstairs...


  1. Kudos to you for doing the whipped cream by hand. When I was whipping egg whites into "stiff peaks" yesterday I had thought briefly how sucky it must have been do do this without electricity.

    Good luck! And worst case scenario: regular cream is good on things too.

    <3 Jo

    1. gotta keep the guns in shape Jo. I don't make it to the gym anymore ;-) xoxo

  2. Lingonberry sauce would have been a great substitute for cranberry sauce if I had read your awesome blog earlier :(

    So what's your verdict on "from scratch"? Totally worth it?

    1. I ended up re-hydrating some dried cranberries and it was "ok." I think the big winner "from scratch" was the coffee ice cream mud pie. The pumpkin pie was decent but not spectacular and the apple pie kind of fell apart. Homemade pie crust is the best though...jon's meat pie was really good. I'm still a big proponent of cutting corners when it doesn't matter (liked minced garlic) but my baking skills have definitely improved since moving here.


Leave your thoughts here