If you’re like me, it’s possible you haven’t fully planned your Thanksgiving menu yet, let alone even shopped for it. Although I don’t host our family Thanksgiving, I operate the same way with any holiday, event, occasion, or cooking class I host … I plan the menu at the last minute. My nine-year-old keeps trying to tell me that it might be less stressful if I planned and shopped for such things a few days before, and since she and her brother have a first row seat to the whirling dervish of stress that I become on the day of, she’s absolutely right.
But I’ve found I thrive under pressure, despite the fact that it seriously drives me nuts.
What can I say?
So if you’re like me, you might need a little help with your menu. I’m here for you!
No matter the meal, appetizers are always my favorite part, and my mom’s too. Like, I’d much rather have a meal consisting entirely of appetizers and “picky food,” than the main event. It’s just so much more fun!
Spinach Cheese Squares, Cheese Delights and Sausage Cheese Balls are all tried-and-trues and have made regular appearances since forever in my home, for many different occasions, and with good reason. The Spinach Cheese Squares and Cheese Delights are recipes that my Mom made for us growing up, and they never fail to disappoint. I love that our kids (mine and my sister’s) are eating things that we ate as kids ourselves. The recipes are easy, and delicious and take just a few minutes of prep, which is exactly what you need on the big day. I’ve made the Spinach Cheese Squares for many Cabot cheese tastings that I’ve done and, seriously, everyone raves about them. I mean, there’s a reason we’re still making a recipe that’s been around since the 70s.
Beautiful weather, a delicious feast, and of course, these adorable faces … our Thanksgiving had full hearts and full bellies. Hope yours was just as wonderful.
Still working on planning your Thanksgiving menu? I’ve got a few ideas for you, some old and some new, to make it as delicious and stress-free as possible.
When it comes to holidays and traditions, I tend to straddle the fence between strictly keeping with tradition, and throwing tradition out the window.
Over the past few years, I have made a conscious effort to not just keep with tradition just for tradition’s sake.
“Just because we’ve always done it that way” is no longer enough.
It has to be more like “we’ve always done it that way and everyone loves it.”
Otherwise, what’s the point, right?
Although we haven’t hosted Thanksgiving the past few years, I found I missed that part of it, so a few years ago I started doing a separate Friendsgiving.
Which kind of allows me the best of both worlds.
The pressure of the “big day” is off, as my sister has the reins on that, but I still can still revisit some old favorites and discover new ones with our Friendsgiving feast.
It’s like double-dipping on Thanksgiving.
Now onto food…
Let’s start with something new.
A few weeks ago, the folks at Echelon foods reached out to me to tell me about their Bacon-Wrapped, Sausage-Stuffed Turducken.
Quite honestly, they had me at bacon.
And then coupled with the fact that I’ve never had turducken before.
YOLO and all that.
And an impromptu pre-Thanksgiving feast with neighbors was suddenly planned.
If you are not looking forward to wrestling with a turkey this year…
Or calculating what time you’ll need to get up Thanksgiving morning to properly cook it…
Or want to free up your oven…
You might want to seek out this Turducken.
Originally I was daunted by the mere mention of it, thinking it was going to be all sorts of complicated.
I couldn’t have been more wrong.
Basically, unwrap and bake. …
Every once in awhile, the planets align and I am organized enough ahead of schedule to share holiday ideas before the actual holiday.
This is that.
Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays. Beyond loving the reminder to be thankful, I love it for two more reasons.
One, I can fill up the table with tons of delicious dishes and not feel guilty about having gone overboard.
Because going overboard is key. A week’s worth of leftovers as we tiptoe full blast into the crazy holiday season is not a bad thing.
The second reason? Because our gratitude tree comes out.
It’s one of my favorite traditions, and every year, it’s fun to look back and see what people wrote on their leaves from previous years.
And who was at our table.
Exes. In-laws. Friends. Family.
A reminder of what was important then.
And what is important now.
Although I haven’t hosted our family Thanksgiving in a few years, I have instead had a Bloggers Thanksgiving Feast.
So I’m doing something else.
Changing it up.
And cannot wait.
And in the meantime?
A little round-up of Thanksgiving suggestions for you as I share some of our favorite go-tos for the holiday. You just might find YOUR newest tradition here too.
We can just fast forward to Friday, when you see that extra bag and a half of fresh cranberries in your kitchen … and you’re wondering what on earth to do with it.
I can help!
I’ll assume you’ve already made a Cranberry Conserve, or something similar. If you haven’t, well, you should. It’s awesome as an accompaniment to all your other Thanksgiving leftovers, or smeared on a turkey sandwich with turkey and all the fixins.
So now that we’ve got that out of the way, how about some Cranberry Almond Bars? I just baked up a batch of them tonight. Mainly because I can never remember how many bags of cranberries I need for the conserve and always overbuy, and also because the bars are way too good not to make. Super simple and so packed with flavor, you’ll wonder how you ever lived without them.
If you’re feeling a bit guilty about a little overindulgence during the holidays, perhaps some Cranberry Broccoli Salad will appease the guilt? Love the stuff. The sweet, the tart, the crunch. And well, hello, broccoli!
This Nantucket Cranberry Pie is another excellent way to use up your leftover cranberries, and a favorite of my mom’s.
And lastly, this Thanksgiving Stromboli is the perfect to smush all your Thanksgiving leftovers into a tasty, hand-held, filling meal.
And with that, my dear Sweetnicks’ readers, I’m off to crash with a tall glass of ginger ale on the rocks, and a DVR filled with my favorite shows. From my little family to your, we are wishing you the most wonderful Thanksgiving ever, and if you don’t celebrate Thanksgiving, Happy Thursday to you!
PS – If you’re reading this on Wednesday night, you have just a little bit of time left to enter this Shutterfly giveaway.
PPS – And now $800 and four months later, I am very happy that this finally came out (don’t click on the link if dental stuff grosses you out). Oddly enough, he was pretty ambivalent about it coming out today. I, for one, was quite ready.
PPSS – Still need a centerpiece for your Thanksgiving table? This is my very favorite.
I know. I know.
No panic over here because my sister is hosting it, so short of making a few simple items to bring with us (like our favorite Cranberry Conserve!), I’ve got it easy.
Which is the perfect way to kick off the frenetic pace of every day that follows from then until, well, the end of the year, right?
But if I was hosting Thanksgiving (are you? whatcha making?), then these little bites of deliciousness would surely have a very important place on the table.
Like within reach of my seat.
Creamy spinach is one of those awesome sides that is perfect along side most meals. But then I thought … why not add some sharp Cheddar to it, and put it in a little hand-held vehicle to boot?
All the better to get it to your mouth, right?
I knew we were on the same page.
These tasty stuffed crescents come together in nothing flat. Mix a few ingredients in a bowl, unroll the crescents, stuff, bake, and devour.
Light from the buttery, flaky dough. A subtly sharp bite from the bits of Cheddar. Creaminess from the spinach.
I happen to think it’s the perfect addition to your Thanksgiving table, and as a bonus, the spinach is disguised just enough to make it a little kid-friendly. While I am not a fan of completely disguising food (no sneakiness here, thankyouverymuch), if I can make it a little more palatable and delicious for the little mouths at the table, then, well, why not?
Hungry for more Pillsbury crescent roll recipes?
We first had these Bacon Cheese Crescents five years ago, and they’ve been a favorite ever since.
These Mediterranean Crescent Pinwheels pack a delicious flavor punch, and came courtesy of The Neighbor Husband some years back.
Crescent dough is perfect to make mini pigs-in-a-blanket.
And lastly, if you’re looking for a sweet dish, instead of savory, this breakfast danish from the early months of blogging was a hit at Nick’s school.
Food friends and family will …
… not blink an eye when you drive 30 minutes to go to a better farmer’s market than the one that’s five minutes away.
… understand the sudden need for polka-dot print plates and mismatched but pretty china.
… not be surprised when they open your refrigerator and notice it’s full.
… think that an afternoon of going from food place to food place all over town sounds just about perfect.
… not think it’s crazy that dinner might include six sides and eight desserts. And that might be a rough count, and an underexaggeration.
… partake in a spirited discussion on the best place to get hot dogs in the state.
But food folks? Some of my most favoritest people on the planet.
When Joanne, a confirmed food folkster, walked in early Saturday afternoon, she didn’t blink an eye while I
enlisted her help put her to work. Fellow food bloggers and I had planned an after Thanksgiving, accidentally vegetarian, feast of pure deliciousness. Concentrating solely on appetizers, sides, and dessert. Which we all know are the best parts of the meal. I had, like, five recipes to make. As of 2 pm, I had started exactly zero of them.
Luckily I had the recipes printed, groceries shopped for, and kitchen counters cleared. I mean, a girl’s got to be at least a LITLLE prepared, n’est pa?
I am doing this all for YOU GUYS, ’cause I’m not hosting Thanksgiving this year. I am, however, having a bloggers’ after-Thanksgiving feast this weekend, so I expect my Sweetnicks’ readers to pony up their MOST FAVORITE feast-like recipes ever. You just MIGHT find your recipe the subject of a future blog post here, or on Joanne’s site, or Patsy’s, or Sarah’s. Cool, yeah?
Alright, so back to the plain old, Thursday Thanksgiving planning… you all know my favorite centerpiece by now, the Gratitude Tree. Tonight, the kids and I were talking about it. Madeline asked if everyone had a Thanksgiving Gratitude tree.
“No, honey, they don’t.” I had to make sure to break the news to her gently.
“Well they should!” she shouted.
And, of course, I completely agree.
I asked her what she was thankful for this year. “You and my brudder, Nick.” Of course, I could not be more proud. And I also happen to love the way she says brother. I hope she never stops.
Now placecards. Do you need them? I don’t care how many people you’re having at your table, I think it makes a really nice touch, and these turkey ones I made a few years back are still in rotation. Love them! (And as a side note, completely unrelated, I still adore that dress Madeline wore that year, and it still fits!). I also made a different version of the placecards for the folks at Disney last year, which you can see right here.
Need a little more in the way of Thanksgiving decorations? How about this banner I made two years ago, which I just dug out this past weekend and hung? Still la-la-love it!
And now the food……
When the folks at DailyBuzz Moms mentioned that they were doing a round-up of Thanksgiving table decor and centerpiece ideas, I knew exactly what idea to pitch them. We started using this Gratitude Tree as our Thanksgiving table centerpiece two years ago, and I love it. It’s super simple to make, a nice understated but powerful centerpiece that involves everyone, and one that you can add to every year. And the bonus? You can likely put this together using supplies you already have on hand.
I happened to find glittered bendable branches at Pier 1 in 2009, so lucked out in that respect. If you can’t find them, Target has something similar. And the best method? Forage in your backyard for long branches, clean off, spray paint, or dust with glitter.
I used a clear glass vase and colored stones to anchor the branches.
Every year, Thanksgiving guests add a leaf to the tree, writing what they are thankful for that year. It’s fun to look back and see some of the highlights from previous years. You can make your leaves using scrapbook paper, construction paper, even pages from an old book. Simply tie a little string on it and you’re set. After the holiday, I put all the previous years’ leaves in a sealable bag and store it all together.