One of the downsides of living so far away from family, besides all of the obvious things, is traveling during the holidays. My husband and I typically bite the bullet and just suck it up, but this year has been insane. We have both been traveling a ton and it just doesn’t make sense this year. For the past couple of years, we have been combining our families for Thanksgiving. What this means is more food than anyone could hope to eat in three lifetimes. The first year we combined our families, was a couple years before we got married and I spent a couple of days in the kitchen with my mom in Atlanta making all of my favorites then we loaded up the car and headed down to Jacksonville to meet up with the rest of our family and my husband’s family. I then spent the next day in the kitchen with my mother-in-law learning how to make all of their favorite Russian dishes. That night took the term food coma to a whole new level. The most memorable moment from that night was after dinner and everything was packed up, we headed back to my in-laws house where they sat down for tea and then tried to feed me more! I had to beg and plead with them to not feed me more. I used the excuse that I needed to be able to fit into my wedding dress. I really need to find another excuse not to be stuffed more than the turkey.
I know I talk a lot about my mom and all the fun times we spent in the kitchen, because this is a food blog, but I don’t get a lot of chances to mention my dad. I may be a bit biased, but he is a pretty great guy and an amazing dad. He taught me how to read my moral compass and to be grateful for all of the things in my life. I remember every Friday when we would sit down for Shabbat and he would have us go around the table and talk about the best thing that happened to us that week. Thanksgiving was no different. We all got a chance to talk about what we were thankful for that year. I remember one year I decided to be funny and said that I was thankful for grapefruit La Croix and skinny jeans…I was a little bit of a snotty teenager. But since it is the time of year to reflect about the things we are thankful for, here is my shout out to the wonderful man that raised me. Anyone would be lucky to have a dad half as great as I do.
With that said, I couldn’t possibly pass up on having a Thanksgiving, even if I couldn’t be with my family, mostly because I love the food…like wayyyyy too much. I have decided that for the first time, I will be hosting a Friendsgiving and I couldn’t be more excited. Yes we live in a tiny apartment and yes our oven shorts out on me if I look at it funny, oh and we probably don’t have nearly enough chairs, but I don’t care we will make it work.
The menu planning has begun and I am sure that I am in way over my head, but I feel like a little kid on Christmas morning (not that I actually know what that feels like but I can imagine). I have been looking up all kinds of Thanksgiving crafts on Pinterest and I may even have time for some of them!
Here is the current menu:
- Mulled wine
- Spiced and/or spiked hot cider
- Cheese dates
- Couscous stuffed mushrooms
- Green bean casserole
- Mashed potatoes
- Cranberry sauce
- Sweet potato casserole
- Mac n cheese
And turkey…lots of turkey.
As you can see, I may be in a little over my head. Thankfully, many of the people coming have lots of cooking/baking experience so I think we should be able to pull this off without too much trouble. I will give you a sneak peak of some of my favorite recipes.
Cheese Date Biscuits
From Bon Appetit November 1992
- 1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
- 2 cups grated sharp cheddar cheese
- 1 1/2 cup all purpose flour
- 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 cup milk
- 1 8oz package of whole pitted dates
- Whole pecans
- Preheat oven to 375 º F.
- Beat together softened butter and cheese in a bowl until well blended. Add in flour, cayenne, and salt.
- Add milk and stir until a stiff dough forms.
- Set the dough aside and stuff a whole pecan (or half) inside each date where the pit used to be.
- Once all dates have been stuffed, wrap a tablespoon of dough around each date. The easiest way is to roll the dough into a ball and flatten in the palm of your hand. Place the date in the middle, then form it like Play-Doh to make a small cylinder.
- Place the wrapped dates on an ungreased baking sheet.
- Bake for 15 minutes or until lightly golden brown.
Tips: Remember that there is cayenne in the dough, don’t rub your eyes after handling the dough.
My dear sweet husband requested boxed stuffing…yes I was shocked too. I will appease him this time, but I am very partial to the stuffing that my mom makes and I may end up having to make it anyway. You can never have too much stuffing. I personally don’t believe in my stuffing being baked inside the turkey, I like it on the side, just an FYI.
Basic Bread Stuffing
From Al Roker’s Hassle-Free Holiday Cookbook
- 1 stick butter or margarine
- 2 onions
- 2 stalks celery
- 2 cloves garlic
- 1/2 cup chopped parsley
- 3 tablespoons chopped herbs like sage, basil, oregano, and thyme or 1 1/2 tablespoons dried herbs
- 8 cups dry bread cubes
- 1 to 2 cups beef broth
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Melt 6 tablespoons of butter or margarine in a skillet. Add chopped onions, celery, and garlic (chopped to your size preference). Cook stirring frequently until softened but not browned.
- Remove from heat and stir in parsley, herbs, and season with salt and pepper.
- In a large bowl, combine the bread cubes with the onion mixture.
- Slowly add the broth to moisten the stuffing without making it soggy.
- Transfer the stuffing to a casserole dish and dot with the remaining butter or margarine.
- Cover and bake at 325 º F for 25-30 minutes.
One of my favorite parts of Thanksgiving at home was pie. Yes everyone loves pie, but there was a very special ritual that somehow developed in my house regarding pie. My family was the late lunch Thanksgiving type of family. We would finish up with our meal and then head to the living room to watch hours and hours of football. I am the type of person who will fall asleep anywhere and everywhere especially if I am warm and comfortable. The couch after Thanksgiving while watching football is a lethal combination for me. As anyone would expect, within 30-45 minutes I was fast asleep. Here is where the pie comes into play. Every year without fail, my mom would come and wake me up from my nap and ask if I wanted a piece of pie. I may be Mrs. Cranky Pants when I get woken up, but there is no better reason to wake up than pie. My very favorite pie is a pumpkin pie and pecan pie hybrid.
Pumpkin Pecan Pie
- 3 eggs
- 1 15 oz can of pumpkin
- 3/4 cup sugar
- 1/2 cup dark corn syrup
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- 3/4 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1 unbaked 9 inch pie crust
- 1 cup chopped pecans
- Preheat oven to 350 º F.
- In a medium bowl, mix together the eggs, pumpkin, sugar, corn syrup, vanilla and cinnamon.
- Pour into the pie crust. Sprinkle with pecans.
- Bake for 50-55 minutes or until a knife inserted into the center comes out clean.
- Cool on a wire rack.
This has been quite a year for my husband and I and full of firsts. Hosting Thanksgiving, even if it is Friendsgiving is for sure a first for me. It won’t be traditional, or without its flaws, but it will be ours. A celebration of friends from all parts of our lives because no one should be alone on the holidays.
From my family to yours, I would like to wish everyone the happiest of Thanksgivings no matter how you are celebrating.