Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Roasted balsamic brussels sprouts & (roasted) chestnuts and butter the old-fashioned way

Thanksgiving is not a holiday here in Italy. It is a day like any other so by the time I get home from the office it is pretty impossible for me to roast a turkey, even the smaller kind they sell here, and organize a meal for a group of friends.

When my American friends and I were not parents yet, we organized a dinner every year and ordered a pre-stuffed turkey in a fancy schmancy food store. In those days having dinner past 9 wasn’t a big deal. It was not a school night and colleagues at the office were pretty forgiving if you walked into the office a little hungover and sleepy the next day. Kids are not quite as forgiving. The first time we ordered the abovementioned turkey it was a little flat looking (it hadn’t even crossed our minds to specify that the turkey should not to be deboned) but we printed out Thanksgiving place cards and decoration and hung a big American flag on the wall and had a really good time.

Nowadays, if we do a big celebration, it is on the week end. Nonetheless, I try to keep some of the tradition alive and make simple yet Thanksgiving-reminiscent dishes for the family on Thursday night. Turkey in some form and an easy fall-inspired side dish like the one I am posting today. I tell my children about the Pilgrims, the Mayflower and the Indians who helped them survive that first dreadful winter in the New Land. We draw turkeys with our hands and talk about what we are thankful for.

This year I drew inspiration from a post by The Nervous Cook, in which she oh-so-charmingly described making butter in the second grade while her teacher told her and her classmates about how Thanksgiving started. The point was to show children the fun way how people used to make everything from scratch, with hard physical labor. They then used the butter on an important staple of those days, corn. Pop corn with homemade butter: how simple, yet how brilliant! I immediately did this with my children and was quite stunned myself at how easy it was to make your very own butter, even without using a stand mixer (which would sort of defy the whole point). All you need is some cream, about a cup, a pinch of salt and a jar. Just shake, shake, shake until the cream thickens and then solidifies, the fat separating from buttermilk. I think it took about 20 minutes on and off with all three of us taking turns (I’ll let you guess who did most of the shaking). It took even less to polish off the bowl of pop corn. I am thankful for these special little moments with my children.

Here are some more things I am thankful for this year:

My job. A lot has changed in the past couple of months and it hasn’t been an easy transition but I feel fortunate to have a good job in a beautiful office, colleagues that are also friends and a salary to bring home. 

My children and the man I created these miracles with. I am in awe every single day.
My whole family, each one of you.

Being healthy. This should be at the top of the list, because you don’t really need any of the rest if you aren’t around to enjoy it.

An unexpected (but much hoped for) four days coming up with my sister and her family. Any time our kids get to spend together is precious.

I am thankful for this blog and I am thankful for friends. New friends, old friends, blogger friends. Thanks for being a part of my every day.

I wish you all a very Happy Thanksgiving. And even if it isn’t Thanksgiving for you, just take a minute to think about what you are thankful for in your life. We should do this more often. What are you grateful about today? 


Roasted chestnuts
Brussels sprouts
Olive oil
Balsamic vinegar

I was lucky to have some roasted chestnuts my mother in law gave me in a doggy bag leftover from our Sunday lunch together. If you aren’t that lucky, to make life easier you can roast yours beforehand. My mother in law sprinkles some salt on them before roasting, I think it is the perfect extra touch. Cut the brussels sprouts in half, toss in a bowl with olive oil, pepper and salt and a drizzle of balsamic vinegar and lay out on a lined baking sheet. Roast in the oven for about 30 minutes at 200°C. Add the chestnuts for the last 5-10 minutes to heat them up. Toss them in a bowl again with extra salt and pepper to taste and serve warm.


  1. I'm also grateful for my blogger friends, like you, who I feel have become an integral part of my life. I love having "virtual" friends who share the food passion, and share little bits of life together.
    Happy Thanksgiving to you, hold those little ones tight and tell them all about the pilgrims :)

  2. This post warms me -- I love that your wee ones loved making the butter! I can't wait to share this with my niece and nephews tomorrow, too.

    There seems to be so much to be thankful for this year, and I'm thankful as well for all the connections I've been blessed to make with other bloggers. Even something as small as a comment or a quick note from someone who would otherwise be a "stranger" helps make this world seem a little bit smaller, you know?

    (PS I am planning my first trip to your adopted homeland, and would love your recommendations!)

  3. Ma...uffi...dov'eri nascosta mnartedì sera????? :-DDDDDD

  4. What a touching, heartfelt post. Being British I don't celebrate Thanksgiving but absolutely agree with the sentiment of giving thanks for all the wonderful things in life and taking a moment to reflect on what really matters. I love reading this blog both for the recipes and the way it makes me think about life.
    On another, more practical, note I *love* brussels sprouts and this recipe looks great :-)

  5. Nicole - it is amazing how we can virtually connect...I feel like I know some of you better than people I have known for years. Wishing Roman a lovely day with his family and a Happy Thanksgiving to all.
    Meister - I totally get it and love this about blogging. Knowing you have somehow changed even one person's life. And your life changing for the better in the process. I would be happy to give you suggestions, and perhaps we can even meet up if you come through Milan...e mail me!
    Kiara - Davvero...ero nascosta nella tua terza foto tutta a destra, vicino al tavolo del DG. Io ti ho notato per la pancia perché ero con un'amica incinta.
    LL - thank you so much, you flatter me!

  6. Love the brussel sprouts- you've inspired me to put them on the table tomorrow night when we have a tree trimming party with some friends. Today I'm thankful for so much- but one thing is that there are beautiful stories like this to brighten my day. Happy thanksgiving!

  7. I also wouldn't have thought to specify about the boning for the turkey! What lovely things to be grateful for too! :D I agree, the idea of being thankful regularly is a good one as we are so fortunate.

  8. The first time I celebrated Thanksgiving I was invited to go out by some new American acquantances - soon to become friends. When they asked everyone what we thanked for at the end of the meal I had no idea what it was about and I found it quite freaky! I think I thanked for the food, I should have thanked for the new friends. And the special one in my life. And yes, lots of other stuff as well, among which you that remind me what a beautiful celebration Thanksgiving is.


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