Our Thanksgiving Plan

It’s been a while since I(Deena)’ve posted something, hasn’t it?  Getting my dissertation written plus being on the job market unfortunately doesn’t leave me with a lot of creative energy, but today I have something I’m super excited to share with y’all.

To say that I am obsessed with the winter holidays might be the understatement of the year.  Thanksgiving is my favorite, because food, duh, and it is a perfect opportunity to relax for a day.

This year, we’re staying home and spending Thanksgiving with our neighbors.  It is going to be a wonderful, stress-free day full of good food, the wine I only buy for the holidays, and catching up with some of our favorite people.  We’re very lucky to live on a cul de sac in a nice-but-not-snooty suburban neighborhood, and we have better neighbors than I ever could have dreamed of.

Without further ado, here’s our plan for hosting this year!

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Appetizers: I don’t want to take focus off the Thanksgiving meal, but I do want to provide some snacks for our guests to enjoy while we watch football.
-A big cheese board with 2 types of cheese (TDB, but I do love the Toscano from Trader Joe’s), crackers, salami, spice roasted pecans, grapes, and pickles.
-Cranberry baked brie with crackers (Not really using a recipe for this, but I am going to top a wheel of brie with cranberry sauce and wrap it in frozen puff pastry, then bake until it looks good)
-Spanakopita (Frozen from TJs)

Drinks: Thanksgiving is time to bust out the good wine!  This year we’re also serving a signature cocktail.  Beer is a must, and don’t forget the nonalcoholic drinks for kids or people who prefer not to drink.
-A double batch of these cranberry margaritas will serve as our signature cocktail.
-We’re also keeping a bottle of good (Bulleit) bourbon on hand, because it’s the south, y’all.
-A perfect but not too expensive red wine is Mollydooker: The Boxer (shiraz).  My uncle was kind enough to purchase this wine for our wedding, and it has since become our go-to special occasion wine.
-I’m not a huge white wine fan, at least not when it is cold, but turkey.  We’re serving the Kim Crawford Sauvignon Blanc, which is a nice crisp, dry wine.
-A mix of microbrews and light beer.  We’re planning on serving Shiner Holiday Cheer, Aviator Frost Nipped, and Yuengling Light.
-Sparkling cranberry and apple juices (from Trader Joe’s) as a delicious nonalcoholic option.

The main meal: Here I’m going for classics with a twist.  Excited!
-Hickory smoked turkey.  I’m using one of the pre-brined turkeys from Trader Joe’s to save myself a little headache.  Also not really using a recipe but planning a bbq rub and loading the liquid reservoir of my smoker with either beer or cider.
-Gravy, courtesy of Whole Foods.  Since we’re smoking the turkey, I’m not sure what the dripping situation will be and I am leaving the gravy to the pros.  I already preordered and paid for it, and will pick it up after work on Tuesday.  How convenient is that?
-Mashed potatoes.  Y’all, I just bought a potato ricer and it is one of the best purchases I have ever made.  I’ll boil and rice the potatoes, then add salt, milk, and butter.
Sweet potato and swiss chard gratin.  I know people usually go for sugary sweet potato dishes, but I’ve made this before and it is just to die for.
-Cranberry sauce.  Again, no recipe except boiling cranberries, water, and sugar.  I am making about 5 bags’ worth as this is Nick’s favorite.
-My best friend Caroline’s macaroni and cheese.  She has a killer recipe, and kids just love it.
-Pepperidge Farm stuffing.  I tried a homemade cornbread dressing recipe a few weeks ago, but I used jiffy mix for the cornbread and the end result just had a bizarre texture.  I decided to keep it simple (stupid) and use the Pepperidge Farm mix my husband and I both like.  There’s no shame in some shortcuts when you have this much food to cook.
-My dad’s carrots.  Again, no recipe, but we caramelize them in a mixture of french onion soup mix, lemon, sugar, and water.
-My neighbor is bringing more veggies as well.  Need some green to cut through the carbs!
Pumpkin dinner rolls with cinnamon honey butter.  Tried these out a few weeks ago, and omg.  I am making a double batch and suspect that the kids will love them.

Dessert: I am serving the classic pumpkin pie alongside two desserts that are a little more fun.
-Decaf coffee.  Do people drink coffee with dessert, or is that just my family?  Regardless, I picked up some decaf beans.
Classic pumpkin pie.  I’ve never made a pumpkin pie before because my grandmother is the queen of pies, but this year I will give it a shot.  I’m not making the praline sauce (team whipped cream over here!), and I’m using frozen pie crust.  If you hate making pie crust like I do, I highly recommend the frozen pie crusts from Trader Joe’s.
-Homemade whipped cream.  Kitchen Aid to the rescue!
Nantucket cranberry pie.  This is so, so good.
Pumpkin whoopie pies with cinnamon cream cheese frosting.  I follow her cookie recipe exactly, but I am not a big maple syrup fan.  I instead make a cream cheese icing and spike it with cinnamon and nutmeg.  I made these as one of the desserts for Nick’s 29th birthday party, and the kids would have eaten the entire plate if their parents had let them.

Shopping/prep tips/misc: I want to do a more detailed post on this, and it will probably help y’all if I have hindsight after the day is over.  Here’s what I’m thinking now:
-I’m doing my grocery shopping in two rounds.  After work yesterday, I went and grabbed all the nonperishables.  Next Monday, I am planning on grabbing the turkey and all the vegetables after work.  There is no way I could have done it all in one trip by myself, but I think it is certainly possible to make one trip if you bring another person.  I wanted to save my slave driving for making my husband clean the house.
– I was surprised by how much serveware I was missing!  I ordered most missing things from amazon, and bought foil pans and cocktail napkins from Target.  I am serving my apps, dinner, and dessert on these plates, because I know I am going to trash my kitchen in the cooking process.  My spread may not look like something from Southern Living, but it will be delicious!
-I am planning to set up a self-serve bar/apps table and then put the dinner food on a buffet table.  I’m not really sure how I will decorate the dinner table, but I figure that tea lights and flowers are usually a win.  I bought these cheap but festive napkins in orange.  Decorating is not my forte.
-We have 2 children coming so I wanted to get them something special.  I’m sure it isn’t fun to hang out with adults all the time!  I bought things to make them treat bags, and I got them each a small toy (Target dollar spot).  I also bought a gingerbread house making kit and plan on having board games on hand to fight off restlessness.
-Last month’s Real Simple had a really good article on pet etiquette surrounding the holidays.  My plan is to brush the cats and dog on Wednesday, then clean the hell out of my house.  I won’t be vacuuming on Thursday as that can stir up dander and aggravate guests’ allergies.  The dog will be in his crate and the cats will be upstairs during our gathering.

That’s all I have for now.  What are your Thanksgiving plans?  Is Thanksgiving your favorite holiday, too?

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