Our Thanksgiving Spread

Happy Thanksgiving! I hope your day was filled with warmth, love & full bellies! I am thankful for every day. Every sunrise or sunset I get to see makes me filled with gratitude. However I'm thankful most for my husband, Gilles and our fur baby, MaQ. They are my family and without them I'm not sure where I would be today. Their love makes each day worth getting up for. I love these two more than anything else in the world. Thank you both for always having my back.

Today's post is all about my cook-a-thon from yesterday's feast! I've been cooking our turkey's for the past 7 years and I must admit, this year's turkey was the best yet! I got a decent-sized bird to last us for days, just shy of 14 pounds! I panicked the first time I handled a turkey. The idea of cooking the darn thing was intimidating enough, let alone preparing all the side dishes and appetizers, cocktails, etc. Secondly, I was honestly grossed out. But now, with persistent practice in the kitchen, I prep faster and with more confidence, therefore with much more ease. It's a breeze now and I relish the idea of cooking a 20+lber one day, ha ha! This year was also the first time where I never felt overwhelmed! My cooking skills are improving, and I'm so happy to share with you my progress thus far! Here are a few tricks of the trade I've learned from the many Thanksgiving dinners I've made in the past years:

ALWAYS PREP IN ADVANCE! I can't tell you how many times I was that dingdong who'd rush to the market on the day of Thanksgiving. BAD Suz! BAD. Life is continuously hectic in New York, and I never could seem to manage to prepare anything beforehand and made everything on the actual day! This year in particular, I bought everything I needed the day before. Lol. I also made the pumpkin pie on Thanksgiving Eve, which definitely helped take off a little pressure from all the cooking on the day of.

BUTTER, BUTTER & MORE BUTTER. What's the secret to French cooking? That's right, folks, the more the better. If you want your turkey to have a super moist, rich taste, the key is where you put the butter. I like to season mine first with a variety of herbs & seasonings, then take the mixture and place it under the skin. The trick is to not to rip the entire skin off though. I will poke a hole through each end on both sides, and will especially be generous with the butter when it comes to the breast. I put most of the butter in this section because this part of the turkey has a tendency to be the most dry.

COVER TURKEY WITH FOIL. Remove the foil when there is only 1 hour left to finish cooking the bird. This is the time to baste the turkey from the cooked juices, I usually try to do this every 10-15 minutes (for an hour), giving it a nice brown on the skin. Doesn't it look delicious?!

USE UNFLAVORED DENTAL FLOSS TO TIE THE LEGS. It's easy to remove and even easier to tie if you have an extra pair of hands. (Thanks, hubby bear for the awesome teamwork!) I'm not sure what everyone else uses, but I've been using this method for years and it's never failed to secure them tightly!

A VARIETY OF SIDES GOES A LONG WAY. Some of my favorite trimmings are mashed potatoes and stuffing (or dressing as the South calls it). I could literally survive on the stuff! But you never know who's going to show up, so it's a good thing to mix it up and try different and new recipes. I also made my version of candied yams & apples, which is on the sweeter side comparatively to the other dishes. Salad is also a great starter. I mixed mine with mushrooms, red & yellow peppers, onion, cucumbers, tomatos and shredded carrots. I also will normally have some kind of bread at the table but I totally forget about it in the photo! Last are the cranberry sauce and green beans which are always winners.

HOW TO GET THE FLUFFIEST MASHED POTATOES. A whisk! Just whip those taters up like you're whisking eggs and it'll be the airiest potatoes of your life! Secret's also in the right amount of butter and milk. Don't forget the salt too!

APPEARENCE DOES COUNT. Any kind of decorative effort brings liveliness to a place/setting. Whether it's flowers, funky-looking squash and pumpkins, or a fabulous table runner, I try to keep the spread looking simple yet appealing. Plus, you'll still have all your decorations after which will still keep your place looking fun and festive, unless you like to jump into Christmas right away.  :)

What are some of your favorite tricks for Thanksgiving dinners? Favorite sides? What about your least favorite dish you still come across? Like fruitcake during Christmas? Ha ha! Have a safe rest of your Black Friday and enjoy the Holiday weekend! <3

Love & xx's,

maQ + suz

MaQ's Raw Diet

Since MaQ turned 1, I've been giving him a primal eating plan. I put in a combination of protein, calcium, fiber, carbs, glucosamine, vitamin C, and olive oil all to provide longevity, optimal health, and even some beauty treatment! Yes, you read that right! Let me explain further.

Here is a list of what's in MaQ's daily meals. I serve this twice a day, for breakfast and dinner, the raw meat being the staple part of his meals. From left to right; clockwise (above):

  • Kokuho Rose Sushi Rice: This superior Japanese style rice is the only rice I ever use (been eating this since I was little) and is hands down the best quality rice I've ever eaten. I use this as a substitute for commercial kibble. Most kibbles and canned food use feed grade rice, which is basically the scraps of rice that are leftover when actual rice is made for human consumption! Which means the likelihood of toxins being absorbed during a multiple processing stage is very high. So, of course, I naturally transitioned to this. As a puppy, Maq was on Royal Canin kibble because as a baby, there are certain nutrients that are vital to their immune system and since they are not full grown, the breeders where we got MaQ strongly recommended he be on this diet up until he's 1 - 1.5 years of age. Doggy's thrive off carbs, and in my opinion, rice is terrific for our beloved pets. So long as the rice is of premium quality.
  • NuJoint Plus®: I give these glucosamine pills to MaQ daily. 4 pills to be exact due to his larger size. Another suggestion from our fantastic breeders, the pills help prevent all sorts of common problems that are prone in the German shepherd breed. Hip & elbow dysplasia, arthiritis, osteoporosis, and joint inflammation are just a few that can occur with GSDs. These pills are a natural anti-inflammatory hip and joint therapy supplement and are treats to MaQ. He's loved them since he was a baby and never go low on these! 
  • Cento EVOO: First of all, it tastes great. Trust me when I say this, your dog will love you for it! The monounsaturated fats in olive oil actually encourage weight loss by breaking down the fatty cells, getting rid of a couple of pounds. It is also contains high levels of antioxidants, proving to arm your dog's immune system. It is also a brain food and has been shown to boost energy. And like I mentioned earlier, olive oil gives your pooch the ultimate beauty treatment! Just like how we put oils in our hair to repair with moisture, you can do the same with you pet! 
  • Raw Meat: This can be basically anything! His everyday meat is usually beef, but when I want to switch it up, I'll go with salmon, chicken, ground turkey or sometimes lamb. With beef, I usually go with stew meat since it's easier to cut and prepare. There have been hundreds of articles written about the raw diet, each side debating different views. One, it's actually healthy and provides your dog a longer, healthier life, and two, it's just bad because there's too much bacteria, germs, etc. for the dog and they get sick. It does take a couple of weeks for a dog to adjust to a different diet, but once they do, not only do I think they're enjoying their food much more, but the benefits are far better than any commercial kibble! Think about the wolves, you don't see them running around looking for dried up bullshit. I know, they're not domesticated animals but they are the wild ancestors of dogs and have been living long enough in their habitat to survive and thrive. So if their ancestors can do it, dogs can as well. But, I'm not one to dispute what you feed your dog. This is up to you.
  • Green Beans: One word. Fiber! And MaQ really enjoys these little veggies. And I always cook the green beans to give a softer texture because ewe, raw green beans don't taste very good! They are also heavy with antioxidants, ranging from vitamin K to manganese, and also can be an anti-inflammatory benefit. Green beans bring cardiovascular benefits as well! From the omega-3 fatty acid in the beans, it's a heart-protective nutrient.
  • Friendship Cottage Cheese: I give this to MaQ very often for calcium intake. I like, from time to time, to switch it up with plain Greek yogurt, since he really likes both. I actually really love green beans with cottage cheese. Together it's delicious! I'll even have a small portion of it for breakfast!

Here's MaQ's complete meal! Dang, doesn't it look delicious? I love spoiling my pup. Why? Because I love him. It's such a pleasure to hear from strangers complement how beautiful he is. Aesthetics always come first, then once they look into his soulful eyes they are immediately enamored with my boy. When someone says, "I can see he is very well taken care of." Or, "what a gorgeous German shepherd!" Because for me, I take pride in giving MaQ the best of everything. Why? Because he does the same for me with his undying love and devotion. And if the roles were reversed, I know he'd feed me just as well!

I've got a cardinal rule when it comes to feeding MaQ. And this applies with pretty much everything else. He's not allowed to eat until I tell him it's okay to. This goes for getting out of a car, going through a door, waiting to cross the street or be invited up on the couch, even throwing a ball I'll make him stay in his position for a couple of minutes before releasing him to fetch it. Without any impulse control, MaQ would be a wild wreck! Sometimes before he eats we'll play the 'color' game to mentally challenge him. For example, I'll say some colors out loud like, 'red', or 'blue' before actually saying the word, 'okay'. He drools incessantly while waiting and I'm sure his food is that much more rewarding, plus let's be real. You ever had to wait to eat? Did it taste better than what you imagined? It's that anticipation! :)

Bon Appétit! (Yes, my dog knows what this means.) Can't blame him for having a French papa! ;)

Love & xx's,

maQ + suz