"Where do you want to eat?"

"Where do you want to eat?" generally followed by a responding "I don't know" is an exchange that is a little too familiar for a lot of today's diners. With an abundance of restaurants to choose from, deciding on one common restaurant to satisfy the desire for a good meal can seem daunting. Now enter the motivation behind this blog. The city of Great Falls has a multitude of restaurants to choose from, offering a wide variety of options depending on the dining experience you seek. A good number of these restaurants are "chains", corporate giants offering the same menus in a variety of locations throughout the country. Nothing personal against these chain restaurants, but especially in today's economy, it is incredibly important to support local businesses. When the public invests in locally-owned buisnesses, the money is recycled back into the local community. Therefore, this blog will only feature the locally-owned restaurants of Great Falls. Each week, one local restaurant will be featured and reviewed, with the intent that the next time "where do you want to eat?" is proposed, a locally-owned business will be supported.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Thanksgiving Dinner at Home

Despite the many enjoyable experiences I have had at the many local restaurants Great Falls has to offer, nothing beats a home cooked meal on Thanksgiving.
To see my entire family under one roof is a rarity anymore, with a sister who lives in Olympia, Wash. and a father who works in Florida, but we all manage to come together for the holidays.
I never gave the cold, blustery weather outside a second thought once I entered my parent’s house and the warmth and smell of the roasting turkey enveloped me.
Dinner was a combined effort between my mother, sisters and brother-in-law, resulting in an array of delicious foods!
The meal itself consisted of seven side dishes and the coup de grace, the turkey itself.
My older sister made her infamous scalloped potatoes (she also made these for Christmas dinner last year) using Yukon Gold potatoes grown in Mt. Vernon, Wash. and smoky cheddar and gouda Cougar Gold Cheese, produced on the Washington State University campus.
Under a crispy layer of baked cheese, the potatoes themselves were crisp and plentiful, and the combination of the cheeses the potatoes were bathed in gave the dish a perfectly unique flavor.
My older sister also lays claim to the creation of the cranberry sauce, a tart and juicy addition to the meal consisting of whole cranberries grown in the coastal town of Grayland, Wash.
My brother-in-law made his corn casserole, also a returning favorite from last Christmas.
His combination of corn, cheddar cheese, crushed saltines and pimento was a welcome variation to the usual steamed corn I am accustomed to.
The green beans, stuffing and sweet potato casserole were all creations of my mothers.
The fresh green beans were sautéed until just barely blackened, giving the beans a crisp, smoky delicious taste.
The stuffing was moist and fluffy, and abundant in flavor as it consisted of cubed bread, celery, onion, mushroom, nuts, cranberries and apples.
The sweet potato casserole is a personal favorite of mine, and no one can make it like my mother can.
She takes fresh sweet potatoes and crushes them into a smooth, creamy mixture of brown sugar, sweet potatoes and marshmallows.
She tops this concoction with a layer of marshmallows covered in a crumbly topping of oats, nuts and brown sugar and bakes it until the marshmallows melt, resulting in a mouthwatering dish that is sweet enough to be called a dessert.
The highlight of every Thanksgiving meal I have enjoyed with my family is the turkey, and this year my mother did not disappoint.
The locally grown Hutterite turkey weighed in at 20 pounds and was basted in its own juices and fresh herbs.
I have always been impressed with the turkeys grown on Hutterite farms, and this one measured up to the bar others before it have placed.
The turkey was incredibly juicy and tender, and was supplemented with a gravy made from its own drippings.
After dinner was given ample time to settle, but before the tryptophan could take effect, we sampled the pies that were made for dessert, also a combined effort between my mother and my sisters.
My mother made a pecan pie, and was probably a personal best for her in my opinion.
She made the crust out of organic pumpkin granola, mixed nuts, oats, and whole wheat flour, giving the pie a nutty crumble taste to it instead of a doughy crust.
My little sister made an apple pie, and, as I do not know the specifics behind this creation because she refuses to let anyone in on her secret, I do know the pie was absolutely delicious, consisting of plenty of crispy cinnamon apples and a sweet tangy sauce.
My older sister made her husband’s favorite pumpkin pie using fresh pumpkins transported all the way from Dugualla Bay Farms on Whidbey Island, Wash. to create the creamy, sweet pie topped with homemade whipped cream.
My family is incredibly talented in the kitchen, and I ate enough to keep me feeling full all throughout the next day was well.
I had an absolutely incredible Thanksgiving holiday, and I hope everyone else did as well. 
Happy holidays!

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