Savory Turkey and Vegetable Pot Pie, Molded Cranberry, Apple and Orange Ring, Sweet Potato Biscuits with Maple-Walnut Butter, and Spice Pumpkin Mousse Cake

Throughout history and around the world, harvest festivals have been held to celebrate the gathering of the year's crops.  They acknowledge God's "manifold blessings" and the earth's plentiful abundance.  In 1621, however, when the Pilgrims invited their Indian neighbors to a dinner in honor of their first harvest, a distinctly American tradition was born.  Today, in fact, we are one of the few nations to observe an official day of thanksgiving.  On the fourth Thursday of November, Americans of all backgrounds gather to give thanks with a feast of traditional foods harvested from our land:  turkey, corn, squash, pumpkin, sweet potatoes, and cranberries.

Thanksgiving has always been more than just a harvest festival, however.  It has also traditionally been a time to refocus our attention on what is important and give God thanks for His grace and protection.  George Washington was the first to proclaim a national day of thanksgiving.  Later, during the Civil War, President Lincoln set aside the last Thursday of November "as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father."  After that it became a tradition for each president to proclaim annually a day of thanksgiving.  This continued until 1941, when Congress finally established it as a national holiday. 

Thanksgiving has always been one of my favorite holidays. Each year our family gathers together to share a traditional meal complete with hearty seafood chowder, juicy herb-scented roasted turkey, savory cornbread dressing, sparkling cider, and rich homey desserts.  This is a joyous time to remember our heritage, our family, our faith, and all the blessings we have enjoyed throughout the year.  Ever year, however, we seem to face the same universal challenges:  How do we fit all those leftovers into the crowded refrigerator?  What do we do with that picked-over turkey carcass?

My wife and I met these challenges years ago when we began the tradition of making turkey pot pie from our leftover bird and serving it the Sunday following Thanksgiving.  We've come to anticipate this savory and satisfying entrée as much as the Thanksgiving dinner itself.  It is a perfect Sunday dinner:  very easy, mostly prepared ahead, and memorably delicious.  I think you'll agree that leftovers never tasted better!  Of course, you don't have to wait until November.  After all, Sunday dinner should be a bit like having Thanksgiving each and every week; it's a time for both thankful reflection and joyful feasting.

SAVORY TURKEY AND VEGETABLE POT PIE
8 servings

Creating this excellent pot pie couldn't be easier.  One way to save on time is making a little extra crust when you prepare your Thanksgiving pies (pastry crust will stay fresh for days when refrigerated).  Then, when those Thanksgiving dinner dishes are being scraped and stacked, take a few moments to prepare a rich stock from the turkey carcass and a few of the vegetables and herbs you'll no doubt have on hand.  Trust me:  As you organize things to prepare the stock, a lot of that leftover Thanksgiving mess on the stovetop will disappear in the process!

NOTE:  When making a stock, I generally fortify the flavor by using a quality bouillon in lieu of using salt.  (Most bouillon cubes are for the most part sodium anyway, so I really think of this as salt with a little extra flavor.)

TURKEY STOCK

1 whole turkey
8 cups cold water
1 carrot, peeled and chopped
1 rib celery, chopped
1 leek, white part only, thinly sliced
1 medium onion, diced
1 whole clove garlic
1 bay leaf
1 small bouquet of fresh herbs:  parsley, rosemary, sage and thyme
6 to 8 white peppercorns
2 chicken bouillon cubes