Can you believe it’s already November, and Thanksgiving is right around the corner?!! Well it is and here are a few tips if you are hosting or if you are attending. In addition, I’ll tell you two of my FAV side dishes, both very easy and absolutely delicious so you may just want to double the recipe and freeze some for later.  This will be the twenty-sixth year I have been hosting Thanksgiving Dinner. Our family has hosted extended family, friends and neighbors who didn’t have family nearby. In my book, It’s a Great Day To…Gather Around a Table, available here on my website, I have a chapter on Holidays that goes in to this more in depth. There really is no playbook on how to do them. Every family does them THEIR way. It’s fun to incorporate family traditions and add your own as the family grown. The traditions help keep the older members in the photo and the newer traditions keep them current as well. I remember Brad’s Grandmother bringing the turkey the first Thanksgiving we hosted. When we started cooking the turkey a few years later, I liked using a separate electric roasting pan to free up the ovens for the sides. My Mom does a fantastic job with the gravy so she does that. As the host/hostess you don’t have to and shouldn’t feel that you have to do everything, unless that‘s the way YOU want it. But consider letting everyone help out. I go in to that more below, but this should be fun, MAKE it fun, it’s a holiday. Enlist all to help as they can/ This is a two part series and there is just so much to say on this topic, I could go on and on, so there are even MORE tips next week. REMEMBER MOST IMPORTANTLY, the food is secondary to those around your table… Here you go:

Notes from the Thanksgiving Dinner folder from past years.
  1. If you are hosting, your house, your rules goes for parenting and hosting a holiday dinner as well.  If you are hosting, you decide the menu, the time and the date.  Seriously consider the suggestions or ideas from those attending, if you want them on board. Remember, the food is secondary to THOSE AROUND YOUR TABLE.  Keep  this in mind.  It takes the stress off and the less stress, the more happy you and everyone else will be. Enough said on that.
  2. Again, if you are hosting, enlist the help of those attending to bring a dish or two and the day of, invite guests to help with set-up, prep and clean up.  Guests are GLAD to help, you just need to communicate (In plenty of time,  not last minute) what you need.  
  3. If you are a guest, be a good guest.  Offer to bring something, pick up last minute items and help once you get there.  
  4. Along the same lines, when you are a guest, you contribute in conversation, you have a good attitude. and put you phone away.  Don’t act as if your are doing the host/hostess a favor by attending.  Be nice!
  5. The key to anything successful is planning.  Decide on your menu, invite your guests, make a time line, a grocery list and get going.  The planning will keep you from running around at the last minute like a chicken (or Turkey) with your head cut off.
  6. Be mindful of any family friends or neighbors who may be alone for the holiday. It is always easy to add a place setting or two.
  7. I keep a folder and pull it out in late-October or early November to start planning.  I make an outline of what needs to be done, the menu and who is bringing what, what my tasks are, a grocery list and a time line.  Yes, it does seem a bit academic, but for me it gets the job done.  You may have your own system or no system at all and if that works for you and helps you get the job done, well then that is the best way for you to take on Thanksgiving.  We all have different learning styles, I realized as a teacher and we all have our own systems for functioning in life.  Figure out yours and utilize it for the projects you take on in life and in the kitchen.   
  8. Consider having your Thanksgiving catered if cooking is just not on your agenda for this year. A longtime friend, author and good foodie, Dave Liske, has had a good experience, with Zhenders of Frankenmuth in Frankenmuth Michigan. Check with restaurants in your area or speciality food places like Whole Foods and Zingerman’s if you are in Ann Arbor. When having a holiday catered like this, I would recommend that everyone goes in on the cost to share in the expense, so no one shoulders all of the burden. Work it out so it’s fair and reasonable for everyone who will be partaking. https://www.zehnders.com/to-go/
A Thanksgiving Dinner table from a few years back.

SIDES

     Isn’t that just about the best thing, besides being with your FAV people, about Thanksgiving?  Every Family has their FAVS and here are ours. The Applesauce and Pumpkin Pie are previous Marvelous Monday posts and I am reposting them here as well. In terms of vegetables, I always roast Brussels Sprouts-recipe in part 2, next week. If Brussels Sprouts aren’t your thing, consider steaming some green beans or your family’s favorite vegetable recipe.

🍎Homemade Applesauce🍎

Cut apples along with the orange zest, unsalted butter and spices almost ready to go into the oven.

     The first time I hosted a Thanksgiving, back when we were expecting Zach, I decided that  applesauce would be a good side dish, because I had two small children, the Riveras, our neighbors and Chief Friends, would be joining our extended Family and they had two children.  I didn’t think the kiddos would be that interested in Brussel’s Sprouts, dressing or green beans.  However, applesauce, surely they would enjoy that.  Over the last 24 years, I have tinkered with this recipe, no sugar, little sugar, peels, no peels and I even included a version in my cookbook, It’s a Great Day To…Gather Around a Table.  Last week, I tweaked it a bit by leaving the peels on, cut into smaller cubes and it was absolutely delicious.  Although, I still will occasionally make it as in the book, here is a quick version, so there is no excuse not to make your own, either for Thanksgiving or for another time.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and a adjust racks to accommodate your Dutch oven before oven gets too hot.  It’s easier to do it before it heats up.

Ingredients

     -4 Tablespoons unsalted butter

     -6 pound apples.  I prefer 3 pounds tart and 3 pounds sweet for a good balance

      (Think mackintosh, sweetango or honey crisps for tart red delicious, Fuji or Ida reds) 

     -1/4 cup brown sugar

     -Juice & zest of 1 orange

     -1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon

     -1/4 teaspoon all spice

  1. Wash, dry, core and cut into cubes, leaving peels on
  2. Place unsalted butter, brown sugar and orange juice in Dutch oven first, add cubed apples and then add the zest, cinnamon and all spice on top.
  3. Place lid on pot and a bake for about 1 hour 20 minutes.
  4. Blend with whisk, an emulsion blender or when cool, place in a blender.  I used an emulsion blender, being careful not to touch the bottom of the Dutch oven so I would not scratch.  
  5. Store unused applesauce in an airtight container or freeze after cooled.

🍴Libby’s Pumpkin 🥧 

Amanda putting the finishing touches on the whipped cream with pumpkin pie.

     A store bought crust is perfectly fine.  However, if you are in the mood for trying a crust from, here’s a good one I used over the years.  I have gone back and forth between guests bringing pies and sometimes I made them.  I enjoy making pies, so it’s not a chore for me.  If someone’s asks to bring pies, whether they pick them up or bake them, remember, as I said above, the food is secondary, TO THOSE AROUND THE TABLE…ALWAYS.  Same on the whipped cream.  None is fine or store bought in a can.  I always feel like if I go to the effort to make a pie, freshly whipped cream is called for.  That’s just me.  If you do decide on fresh, whip it as clean up of the dinner is going on. Give someone this task while you oversee clean up. 
Crust (makes 1, 9 inch pie crust)

-1 1/4 cups unbleached flour

-1/2 teaspoon coarse salt (I use Kosher salt)

-1/2 teaspoon sugar

-8 Tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter cut into little pieces cold

-1/4 cup cold water

Method for Crust

  1. Place dry ingredients in a mixing bowl. Turn mixer on for 20 seconds to mix dry ingredients.
  2. Add cup up pieces of butter a few at a time until mixture resembles coarse crumbs.
  3. With mixer going add just a little water at a time. You may not need all of the 1/4 cup of cold water. Keep mixer on until pie crust come together.
  4. Roll pie crust out on a floured surface on on a pastry cloth. Placed rolled dough into pie plate. It is ready to fill with pumpkin pie mixture.

Pumpkin Pie Filling

preheat oven to 425 degrees

Ingredients

-3/4 cup of granulated sugar ( I use 1/2 cup)

-1 teaspoon cinnamon

-1/2 teaspoon ground ginger

-1/4 cup ground cloves

-2 large eggs beaten

-1 -15 ounce can Libby’s fresh pumpkin (NOT PUMPKIN PIE FILLING)

-1- 12 ounce can evaporated skim milk

-1 -9 inch pie crust in pie dish ready for filling

Method for Filling

  1. As mentioned above, preheat oven to 425 degrees and blend with a fork, all dry ingredients in a small bowl,
  2. In a larger mixing bowl (I like one with a spout, easy to pour) beat eggs and add canned pumpkin, mixing with a whisk (or fork).
  3. Add in dry ingredients, whisk.
  4. Add canned, evaporated milk, whisk.
  5. Pour mixture into unbaked crust.
  6. Place in oven, preheated to 425 degrees for 15 minutes. Set timer.
  7. After 15 minutes, reduce heat to 350 degrees and bake an additional 40-50 minutes, watch for crust to slightly brown and filling to be firm. Again, set the timer for the additional 40-50 minutes.
  8. When pie is done, let cool completely on rack. Store any uneaten pie in the fridge.
  9. Serve with fresh whipped cream if desired. Plain is always good too.

For Fresh Whipped Cream

 -Purchase a 1/2 pint of whipping cream

-Pour into a chilled mixing bowl

 (chill beaters as well)

-Pour whipping cream into bowl and mix, starting on low

-Add 2 teaspoons granulated white sugar

-Add 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla

-Start on low and once  mixture starts to get a little thick, turn to high (as not to splatter).  Do not leave mixing area.  It only takes a  couple of minutes to  whip cream.  You want mixture to have, ‘medium peaks’ which means when you lift the beater out of mixture, its a medium consistency of peaks.  Over mixing will result in a grainy consistence.  You want mixture to look smooth.


For information on my book, checkout my website  itsagreatdayto.com where orders can be placed.  It is also available on amazon.com and at Barnes and Noble📕