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Take a look around you. We’ll wait. List three things you see that you’re grateful to have. Next, close your eyes and think of three things you can’t see that you’re grateful to have in your life.

You just experienced the essence of Thanksgiving.

Thanksgiving is a state of mind. A time to focus on things that matter deeply to us. A holiday that reflects our shared appreciation for our country and our freedom.

We at AFE know this Thanksgiving, and maybe a few on either side of this year, won’t be picture perfect for military personnel. You may not be able to sit around a table with family, or sit around a dinner table at all. But if you take a quiet moment to reflect, you’ll still be able to celebrate the soul of Thanksgiving — the thanks.

Thanksgiving kicks off AFE’s annual Home for the Holidays program, which recognizes that home is where you make it, and the holidays are what you make of them. Through entertaining live shows at U.S. installations around the world, plus exclusive online performances to enjoy at your leisure from anywhere, we hope our Home for the Holidays schedule lights up your season with joy.

For a chuckle, check out Sgt. Sarge’s tutorial on how NOT to carve a turkey. And if you’re lucky enough to be planning a traditional Thanksgiving celebration, Moe Cason’s Taste of the Outdoors on the AFE YouTube channel delivers inspiration. The celebrity chef takes you hunting with a few of his fellow outdoor enthusiasts, then shares this turkey brine recipe.

Start off this holiday season with AFE, and stay with us beyond New Year’s Day. We are thankful for you, for your duty to our nation, and that you allow us to brighten your down time with world-class entertainment. Now, it’s time to think about chow!


Moe Cason Barbecue Turkey Brine

Yield: 2 gallons

Ingredients
  • 4 quarts water
  • 4 quarts chicken broth
  • 2 Tbsp whole allspice berries or 3 tsp ground
  • 6 Tbsp Louisiana hot sauce
  • 8 small-medium bay leaves
  • 8 Tbsp minced shallots
  • 2 cups coarse sea salt
  • 4 cups light brown sugar
  • 4 Tbsp chopped garlic
  • 1 cup light agave nectar
Directions

Combine all ingredients in a large stock pot. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a low simmer for 30 minutes. Allow to cool to room temperature, then refrigerate to chill through. Immerse 14-pound turkey in chilled brine for 6 – 14 hours. Rinse turkey then smoke or roast turkey your usual way.


Far-Off Thanksgiving Feast Ideas

Can’t get out to the woods like Moe? You can still put some of the Thanksgiving traditions from home on your table no matter where you are. No doubt there’ll be turkey and dressing in the mess hall, maybe even pumpkin pie. Your fellow Americans will probably gather to celebrate too. If you are able to cook, we have your back with simple recipes containing ingredients you’ll be able to find almost anywhere.

Smoked Salmon Stacks

If you want to bring an app, this one is simple and seasonally bright. Make as many or as few of these as you need, depending on the size of the crowd. They’ll be gobbled up fast, so make plenty!

Ingredients
  • Cream cheese
  • Garlic powder
  • Lemon juice
  • Salt and pepper
  • Cucumbers
  • Smoked salmon
Preparation

Allow cream cheese to soften at room temperature. Use a fork to mix in garlic powder, lemon juice, salt and pepper to taste. Allow flavors to combine while you slice cucumbers into ½-inch thick rounds. Pat top of cucumber slices with paper towel to remove excess moisture.

Use a knife to spread cream cheese mix on cucumber slices. Top each with a rosette of smoked salmon. Place on a serving tray, cover with plastic, and chill 30 minutes before serving.

Panzanella Salad with Fennel

If you’re tasked with bringing a side, salad is easy and doesn’t have to be boring. For this holiday meal, turn a side salad into a star by adding interesting elements and textures. Refrigerate any leftover salad for up to a week, and mix in leftover turkey to create an entrée salad.

Serves 4

Ingredients

Dressing

  • 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
  • ½ teaspoon grated lemon zest
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon chopped shallots (half of one shallot)
  • ½ teaspoon prepared Dijon mustard
  • ¼ teaspoon plus 1/8 teaspoon kosher salt
  • ¼ teaspoon ground pepper
  • ¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil

Salad

  • 4 slices whole-wheat sourdough bread (5 ounces), toasted and cut into bite-size pieces
  • 2 cups baby arugula or torn arugula leaves (spinach works nicely too)
  • 2 cups thinly sliced fennel, from 1 medium bulb
  • 6 fresh basil leaves, torn
  • 6 fresh mint leaves, torn

Topping

  • ½ cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • ¼ cup pomegranate seeds
Directions

Combine dressing ingredients in a blender. Blend until smooth. With the motor running, slowly add oil until emulsified. Don’t have a blender? Briskly whisk all ingredients in a large bowl until well combined.

Toss together salad ingredients in a large bowl. Add dressing and toss to coat. Sprinkle with Parmesan and pomegranate seeds before serving.

Pumpkin Dip

When you’re ready for dessert, this mix offers all the flavor of pumpkin pie with half the work.

Serves 8 – 12

Ingredients
  • ¾ cup (6 ounces) cream cheese 
  • ½ cup packed brown sugar
  • ½ cup pumpkin puree (canned or fresh roasted) 
  • 2 teaspoons maple syrup
  • ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 24 apple slices (from about 3 apples) 
  • 12 – 15 crisp ginger snap cookies (optional)
Preparation

Place first 3 ingredients in a medium bowl, and beat with a mixer at medium speed until well blended, or use a heavy wooden spoon to mix well. Add syrup and cinnamon and beat until smooth. Cover and chill 30 minutes. Serve with apple slices and/or ginger snaps.

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