The Gratitude Tree & Holiday Appetizers

The Gratitude Tree
The Gratitude Tree

After a decade of sharing our Thanksgiving gratitude on place-cards, we have a spiffy new ambassador for sharing our thankfulness! It’s a Gratitude Tree. In the past, we would put a place-card and pen on the table at every setting. During the beginning of the meal everyone was encouraged to write their sentiments on the card. We saved these cards year after year so each guest could reflect on past years’ appreciation.

This year everyone gets a personalized paper leaf on which they can express their gratitude. Then after dinner, the leaves are hung on the tree. Guests can read and share tributes throughout the week. We’ll save the leaves, which will re-appear on the tree in years to come…as our tree blooms with an abundance of joy, thankfulness, and gratefulness.

“I am especially thankful for love…because I love my family and friends and Aunts.”
Jett, age 7

(Thanks Jett, that makes me, your Aunt Gee Gee, especially happy.)

“I am thankful for food, air, family, love, video games, electronics, friends, and the arts.”
Troy, age 11

“Yo le doy gracias a Dios por todo bueno que me dio este año – nietos, trabajo, salud, y mucho cariño de todas personas que me rodear.”

“I give thanks to all of our troops for protecting us.”

“I am grateful for my life, my health, my food, my wine.”

“I am thankful for my beautiful family.”

“I am grateful for so many things but today I am thankful to spend Thanksgiving with my dear friend in her warm home with her lovely family and friends.”

“We are Blessed.”

 “I am thankful that all of us can be here tonight.”
Stone, age 9

The Holiday Appetizers

I’m sure my fellow cooks would agree that it’s quite a feat getting Thanksgiving dinner on the table – with hot dishes hot, and cold dishes cold! So the appetizers need to be uncomplicated, while still unique and festive. Their preparation cannot utilize the oven while the bird and side dishes are cooking. Assorted crostini make a fabulous holiday appetizer. They are easy to prepare, very popular, and not too filling.

I enlist my Brother Bill’s help to lightly brush a couple loaves of thinly sliced ciabatta with olive oil and take it outside to grill.

Three Crostini Recipes

Truffle Mousse Pâté with Raspberry Jam, Fresh Raspberry, Fleur de Sel
Apple and Onion Confit with Thyme, Cana de Cabra
Suprême with Fig Jam

truffle mousse pate with raspberry

Truffle Mousse Pâté with Raspberry Jam, Fresh Raspberry, Fleur de Sel

Made with turkey and chicken liver, sherry, truffles, wild mushrooms and spices, the store-bought truffle mouse pâté is rich, creamy, and perfect for the holidays. Spread pâté on crostini and sprinkle with a few grains of fleur de sel. Top with a small dollop of raspberry jam and one fresh raspberry.

apple and onion crostini with cana de cabra

Apple and Onion Confit with Thyme, Cana de Cabra

Sliced onion and apple, with salt and pepper are sautéed in a half butter/half olive oil until softened. Apple cider vinegar, maple syrup, and fresh thyme are added and the confit is cooked over low heat until the apple and onion are very soft. This highly-recommended recipe from Giada De Laurentiis can be found here.

The confit is prepared the day before, and simply heated before serving. Spread Cana de Cabra or your favorite goat cheese on the crostini and top with the warm confit.

supreme brie fig crostini

Suprême with Fig Jam

A warm grilled slice of ciabatta is topped Suprême and fig jam. That’s it. Simple and simply delicious. Suprême is an irresistible soft-ripened white rind, French cow’s milk cheese that is enriched with crème fraîche. It pairs wonderfully with that slight char on the bread and a high quality fig jam.

Prosciutto & Burrata, Minted Peas

prosciutto with burrata, minted peas

This colorful appetizer is also easy to assemble. Frozen peas are microwaved then drained and let come to room-temperature. They are dressed with olive oil, lemon juice, salt, pepper, Parmesan and fresh chopped mint. Super-thin prosciutto slices are placed in little mounds on a serving platter then topped with a slice of burrata. Minted peas are generously scatted over the top. The dish is finished with freshly grated Parmesan. Serve with small appetizer plates and forks. This recipe originally by Nancy Silverton is adapted from the Harvest to Heat cookbook.

BBQ Oysters, Sriracha Butter

bbq oysters

The BBQ grill is a Thanksgiving cook’s best helper. My dear friends, Chip and Tori, both oyster-shuckers extraordinaire, grill 3 dozen Hope Ranch Santa Barbara oysters for the guests. Everyone huddles outside around the grill (and out of the kitchen) for a hot spicy oyster, our annual traditional Thanksgiving appetizer.

bbq oysters sriracha butter

Melt butter in a small sauce pan and add a generous squirt of sriracha hot sauce. Whisk briskly to create a smooth sauce. Place sauce pan on the side of the grill to keep warm while grilling the oysters. Oysters hot off the grill are topped with a drizzle of warm spicy sriracha butter. While we adore cold briny oysters as much as anyone, the hot ones are a sublime addition to this holiday feast.

Aidells Sausage Minis, Three Sauces

aidells sausage minis

Don’t forget the kids! Oysters, prosciutto, peas, and pâté are probably not high on their list of appetizer favorites. But sausage minis are! Aidells makes terrific mild chicken apple and spicy andouille little sausages that we steam and are ready to serve in 5 minutes.

My nephew and budding chef, Stone, created the accompanying sauces:

#1: He mixed mayonnaise with minced garlic and yellow mustard. Big hit! Nice color too.
#2: He thought that some people might just want plain ketchup.
#3: He mixed BBQ sauce with a small amount of  Korean gochujang. Creative!

Before: Stone & 23 lb. Turkey

Thank You

“It is my absolute pleasure to host Thanksgiving in my home year after year.
I am grateful that my family and friends can travel from near and from far –
Chicago, Arizona, Florida, Las Vegas, Redlands, and La Jolla
to share this meaningful holiday together.
Nothing makes me happier than cooking with you and for you.
Thank you. I love you all.”

After 5 Hours

18 thoughts on “The Gratitude Tree & Holiday Appetizers”

  1. Wow, everything looks absolutely gorgeous! Great selection of appetizers 🙂
    And what a beautiful tree – I love seeing little sentiments like those.

    1. Hi Kiri – I was pleased with the apps this year. I decided that I wasn’t putting out a cheese board, but would do something special with the cheeses. It worked.
      Thanks for your comments.

  2. The gratitude tree is a great idea, thank you for sharing it with us. After looking at your appetizer spread I’m sure your guest were on their way to being full.

  3. The gratitude tree is such a lovely tradition.

    And your crostinis may be uncomplicated to you — but I was really struck by the pairings you chose. And I ‘need’ to try the pea + burrata appetizer soon.

    You throw the best dinner parties!

  4. Lori Lynn, I’m grateful just for being your friend and having the opportunity to leave a gratitude leaf on your tree. Thanks for all the great love your friendship have provided to me and my lover Tori. There is no better gratitude than knowing you.

  5. A wonderful thought, this gratitude tree! Plus it looks so pretty too. Interesting to know about the stuffing being America’s favorite; I guess I don’t fit in with the crowd for me it is the cranberry sauce that gets my vote! Still your recipe is outstanding and you would never have leftovers…Beautiful home too

  6. Hi LL – beautiful party as always. I have to try Suprême with Fig Jam. I’ve never tried Suprême before I think….and I love the cheese and fig jam combo, so I need to find Suprême soon! I’m always impressed with your cooking – it’s home cooking yet everything looks one rank up (or more rank up) and learn so much about sophisticated meal from you. I need to see if you have email subscription so that I won’t be missing your posts.

    1. Actually now I remember – I tried subscribing via email long time ago but I couldn’t find the subscription (it seems like you just have RSS Readers). Let me know if I am missing the email subscription icon, or if you are going to add. 🙂

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