The year I turned 10, we received the gift of a food box for Thanksgiving. A kind person knew we needed a little extra help that year, and my family enjoyed a delicious holiday together without worry. That memory is one thing that drives me to help others, give back as we can, and host holiday meals in our home. It means the absolute world to me to be able to have friends and family enjoying food together, sitting around the dining table, and building relationships.
This year, we have the amazing pleasure of spending Thanksgiving with our friends and the next day with our family. The heart of this holiday will always be food, but it goes deeper than that. Thanksgiving is about coming together, sharing time-honored traditions, taking time to appreciate your loved ones, and giving back so that others may enjoy the day as well.
The food is the backbone of our holiday. I love making the menu, going grocery shopping, and preparing all of the dishes! It means that my husband and I get to share our home, and enjoy time with our favorite humans. This year’s menu is rooted in tradition, with everyone’s favorite dishes, as well as new recipes for added fun. Please take some of my best tips and tricks home to your table, and enjoy your time enjoying some of our favorite traditions.
Most Thanksgiving dinners begin with turkey, as does ours. We pre-order a fresh, organic, local turkey and pick it up a few days before the holiday. We have cooked turkey many different ways; roasted in the oven and in a self-contained roaster, smoked, and deep-fried. Our hands-down favorite is deep-fried. The hot oil seals in the moisture without being oily-tasting, it is absolutely amazing. Using a fresh turkey when deep-frying is also a safer option. We inject the turkey with my husband’s special concoction, rub the outside with a great spice mixture (salt, pepper) and let the flavors sit overnight. Here is a great start-to-finish resource about frying a turkey, https://ohsodelicioso.com/how-to-fry-the-best-in-the-world-turkey/
The real all-stars at our table are the side dishes; mashed potato casserole, two kinds of dressing, cauliflower stuffing that I call vegetable medley, macaroni + cheese, rolls, pecan and cherry pies. I always choose another side dish recipe that is new every year. This year, I will be making simple roasted brussell sprouts with onions and bacon. Because bacon.
The side dishes can be a challenge to get all hot and ready at the same time. I make as many ahead of time as possible, then write out a chart of cooking times and temps so I can plan when to heat everything up.
Mashed Potatoes, the Heavy Hitter
Mashed potato casserole is a great one to make ahead! I have food allergies that could be a challenge, but I have found some terrific substitutions. This is a dairy-full recipe I have used many times, https://www.recipegirl.com/creamy-oven-baked-mashed-potatoes/
My version uses half Yukon Gold potatoes, and half cauliflower. I use dairy-free cream cheese, sour cream, and butter. I also use a touch of chicken broth because the dairy-free products are quite rich. I also make both kinds of dressing/stuffing ahead of time.
I make a traditional dressing, and a gluten-free version as well. This is the recipe I use for gluten-free dressing, although I will say that I do not usually home-make the bread. I just buy a good gluten-free white bread, and toast it. http://www.yammiesglutenfreedom.com/2013/11/gluten-free-stuffing.html#_a5y_p=1071948
The cauliflower stuffing goes over better when I call it veggie medley, so that’s how my family knows this dish! It’s very easy, and is truly a big hit with everyone! I started with this recipe as inspiration, and have added my own flair. https://www.delish.com/cooking/recipe-ideas/a50127/cauliflower-stuffing-recipe/ I start with cooking a few slices of bacon, and reserve the fat to cook up the veggies. You can use almost any vegetable in this stuffing; peppers, watercress, brussell sprouts, really anything. Just cook up everything first, then toss in your cauliflower to cook a little. Then add in your broth and stir occasionally until everything is cooked well. It also sits well in the oven too.
I’ll be honest, I usually buy rolls and pies because everyone likes the store-bought ones better than my homemade ones! That saves me a lot of time, and everyone is happy! Costco is my go-to for anything I’m not personally making.
I have spent YEARS finding and making homemade mac + cheese, and the year that I made the Velveeta kind, everyone raved so much about it that I gave up making it. I literally buy the Velveeta mac + cheese, roll my eyes, and everyone dies over how delicious it is. I make this pretty close to dinner time, because it’s better as fresh as possible.
I do not eat any rolls, pie or pasta, so it’s an easy choice for me to let those recipes go and just buy them! Homemade, store-bought, either way, as long as you can enjoy the holiday together with your people, that is what is most important.
Enjoy your holiday, I hope that you get the time to spend the day with your people. I would love to know your holiday goes, and how these recipes helped you this year!