Hey Em and Mary,
Ok, despite my apparent lack of November Cheer, you know I do really like Thanksgiving. It’s a fun time to get together with friends and family and eat yummy food. This year we have Adam’s brother’s family coming in, and both of our mothers will be there too … so we’ll have a housefull.
Here’s the thing. Growing up we had the same EXACT Thanksgiving day every year, which I recall going something like this.
Oh, and don’t forget the can of cranberry sauce. Yes, the kind that is actually shaped like the can when it flurps out onto the serving plate.
And then, after really enjoying this meal (truthfully), we turned around and made the same EXACT meal for Christmas Eve as well.
So you can imagine that after I flew the coop and then became slightly obsessed with recipes and cooking and the Food Network and Top Chef, and started to think of food with terms like “balance” and “acidity” and “complex”… well, honestly, I started to feel that the holiday meal of my childhood had the potential to be SO much better.
Which brings me to this year. Now that I’m a grown up, and we have left our city condo for the roomy ‘burb living … well, it turns out I am sort of in charge of Thanksgiving.
My first Thanksgiving as a mom … spent with good friends back downtown. Wow, time flies.
I have hosted the last 2 or 3 years … so in my quest for what was “missing” from that oft-enjoyed meal, I have settled into a new recurring Thanksgiving dinner menu, still with a fairly traditional base … just elevated ever so slightly. P.S. I refuse to try more than one new recipe when I’m cooking for a lot of people, because that is a stress-ball of Laura waiting to happen.
So here’s what I am thinking for this year.
- Spinach Salad with Beets and Citrus – I have used several variations of this and can just wing it, honestly. I will write up a recipe one of these days. You could use this one from Food and Wine magazine if you can’t wait for mine.
- Turkey – Roasted in the oven. I have a Turkey reserved from a local farmer this year, so I am super excited, but don’t want to mess with it too much. Some spices, maybe some basting. Do you have a favorite method? Frankly, to me the meal is usually about the sides … is that Thanksgiving blasphemy!?
- Sweet Potato Pecan Casserole – I would not change a thing about this recipe from Ellie Krieger. We were not a sweet potato house growing up, I think because my mom pictured them all as being sort of marshmallowy, etc. This recipe highlights the best parts of the sweet potatoes but is not overly sweet. I will have to remove pecans and use Pepitas instead this year (baby boy’s TN allergy) … but in the past I have left the nuts off of half of the casserole anyway so as to not waste them on picky kids.
- Sausage and Apple Stuffing – The combination of sweet and salty never fails. I let my husband take control of this dish, and I think he uses a different recipe every time (not on purpose). Anyway, you can get one recipe here from FoodTV.com. We skip the walnuts here too.
- For the “something green,” I am partial to green beans – Want a sinful green bean casserole (aka GBC)? I have been known to consult Paula Deen a time or two. But Oh Heavens do you see how much butter is in that, along with the thousand-ingredient cream of something soup? I’m a butter lover, but even for me that was pretty darn rich. So for the last few holidays I’ve just been sautéing some mushrooms and onions in a less-than-Paula amount of my favorite butter and a little cooking sherry and tossing them with generously steamed green beans (where I come from green beans are not snappy, and they’re not mushy … they’re somewhere in between). Not quite GBC, but certainly healthy and flavorful. So, imagine my delight when a few days ago Lisa at 100 Days of Real Food came to my rescue and posted this fancy “Real Food” GBC. I think this may have to be my “one new recipe” this year!
- And still, flurp or no flurp, it’s not turkey dinner without cranberry sauce – Thank goodness some sandwich shops have started to realize this combination is worthy of their menu year-round. I can tell you from experience, even the driest of all family turkeys (my mom is famous for … ahem … how do I put this politely … “well done” meat) can be salvaged with enough cranberry sauce. This year I am going to try Real Food Real Deal’s Slow Cooker Cranberries. My sister in law makes some very similar ones on the stove using orange juice and sugar … this looks even one step easier, and I always am looking for an excuse to use my giant bottles of Costco maple syrup! I will avoid breaking my one-new-recipe rule by making these the night before while I’m doing pies. Plus, it requires basically no effort, so what do I have to lose?
- Apple Pie – I have an awesome recipe … which will be showing up in a post one of these days. It deserves its own showcase. And lots of pictures, like the kind with gooey apple filling oozing out, fork on its way to mouth – that sort of thing. Yes, it’s that good.
- Pumpkin Pie – Whatever the recipe is in my good ol’ red checkered cookbook. With some homemade crust.
Heck, I may even throw in some basic mashed potatoes for old times’ sake. The kind that are made right at the last minute and always hold up the meal. Yes, just plain ol’ boiled potatoes with a big scoop of sour cream, lots of butter, milk, and salt and pepper to taste. Blended with a hand mixer until they’re nice and fluffy.
Anyway, that’s where I am as of today. One new recipe (the GBC), lots of standby recipes. What are you having this year? What am I forgetting? Oh, lordy – Rolls! What do you do for rolls?
P.S. Next year instead of traditional stuffing, I could try this Mushroom Quinoa Stuffing from Renee’s Kitchen Adventures! Also I found this fun festive afternoon appetizer or this pineapple pecan cheese ball if you want something to munch on while you cook.