Welcome, friends, to the first installment of the 2017 Thanksgiving Guide!!
I love Thanksgiving. Love it! Love the food, the cool weather, the time dedicated to family, the food, the fall decor, the parade, the food…
Did I mention I love the food? OK, just making sure.
Anyway, what I adore about Thanksgiving is that it’s simply a time to be together. There are no gifts, no “gimmes” from the kids. It can be as fancy or as simple as you want. It is a whole day dedicated to showing gratitude. We welcome in family and friends and just enjoy the day. My favorite parts are watching the parade with my girls in the morning, seeing my guys play football in the yard with the neighbors, lingering over the meal, and then enjoying (yet another) piece of pie with some tea after the kids have gone to bed. Sure, I work my tail off in the day or two preceding, but I enjoy that, too!
What I want to offer you over the next couple of weeks is a helping hand in both organization and menu planning. While I love to fuss over this gargantuan meal for my family and while I do keep things pretty basic, it does take quite a bit of preparation. I find the more I plan ahead of time, the less stressed out I get. And the less stressed out I get, the happier everyone is! The saying, “If mama ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy” isn’t without merit, ya know?
So, bearing that objective in mind, I offer you my menu breakdown.
First things first, DON’T STRESS ABOUT THE APPS!!! Seriously, have you ever heard anyone say, “Wow. I just can’t wait for Thanksgiving! All of those delicious appetizers!”
No. No, you have not. Or, if you have, then that person is a little weird and I wouldn’t trust their culinary opinions.
So, here’s what you do. Set out a veggie tray with some hummus. Put together an old-fashioned relish tray like my Grandmother did, including some black & green olives, sweet and sour pickles, and pearl onions (if you’re really old-school). Open a bag of Chex Mix or mixed nuts and pour them in pretty bowl.
I like to keep the apps nice and light since dinner will be so (let’s be honest here) big and heavy. But don’t forget the beverages! Have some beer or wine iced down, lemonade or juice boxes for the kiddos, and you’re good to go.
Now, in the spirit of honesty and full-disclosure, I have to say I am a bit of a kitchen queen. Meaning that if I am hosting the meal at my house, I like to do most of the cooking. Especially, I like to cook most of the main meal and the desserts. I want things to be just so. Maybe that’s part of how I show people I love them (true) and maybe it’s a character flaw (probably also true), but that’s just the way I am.
Here’s what I will be preparing this year:
Turkey & Gravy — There are two ways I prepare the turkey. I will either make it ahead of time and serve it already sliced and swimming in gravy the way my mom makes it, or I’ll brine it and then roast it on the actual day of the meal. (Look for these recipes in future posts.) Both are delicious and both have their assets. Making it ahead of time frees up your oven, but is lacking a bit in presentation. Brining and roasting day-of makes for a beautiful presentation, but is more hands-on during crunch time.
Dad Williby’s Sausage Stuffing — My mom and grandmother have made the same “dressing” for our Burch family for as long as I’ve been alive. And I never ever like it. It might be sacrilege to admit it, but what can I say? It wasn’t until I had my father-in-law’s Sausage Stuffing that I ever understood why people liked stuffing at all! I hate mushiness and love it a bit dryer, so sometimes I’ll even make some in muffin tins to up the crisp-factor.
Mashed Potatoes — What Thanksgiving meal is complete without these white, fluffy pillows of buttery awesomeness? None, I tell you! I usually make my Grandmother’s refrigerator potatoes which, as the name implies, can be made ahead. But I have two ovens, so warming real estate isn’t too much of an issue. If you don’t have the oven space, then for sure make them on the stove or even by them at the store and nuke them! You’ve gotta have something to make a gravy pond with!
Cranberry Sauce — Yes, I make this from scratch (thanks to the influence of my father-in-law). No, the stuff that jiggles out of a can will not be on my buffet. What’s awesome with this is that you can make it a couple of days ahead of time and the longer it sits in the fridge, the better and more solidified it gets.
Grandmother’s Overnight Salad — We’ll just call this salad “vintage,” OK? It’s a total throwback to the layered salads of yesteryear, but it’s an absolute must-have for the Burch family. Lettuce, red onion, cauliflower, and bacon are layered in a bowl, covered with a mayonnaise-based dressing and left to refrigerate overnight. You toss it right before you serve it and people will hug your neck and sing your praises.
Green Vegetable — I always like to include a green vegetable on the buffet. Sometimes, that means I make some slow-cooked, southern-style green beans. Other years, I’ll roast asparagus, broccoli, or Brussels sprouts. It’s always nice to include more colors on your plate, I think.
And that’s it for what I provide for the main meal. We always have family and friends join us and they always like to bring something to contribute. Here’s where you can expand your offering of side dishes. Macaroni & cheese, rolls, green bean or broccoli casserole, or sweet potatoes are all great options for guests to bring with them!
As for serving the meal, I’ve always found it easier to serve buffet-style so that people can get exactly what they want. Putting the food on the table just makes for too many interruptions as people try to pass everything around. But maybe that’s just me.
Dessert (AKA Pie-a-palooza!)
OK, kids. I hope you’ve got your Joey Tribbiani “eating pants” on, because we aren’t finished yet!
For whatever reason, Thanksgiving seems to be the traditional Pie Holiday. And who am I to venture away from tradition? On my buffet, you’ll find the following:
- Apple Pie
- Pecan Pie
- Pumpkin Pie
- Chocolate Chess Pie
- REAL Whipped Cream
Now, I big sparkly puffy heart LOVE to bake. And Thanksgiving is the only time of year when I pull out all the stops to make my own pie crusts from scratch and whip the cream in my very own KitchenAid mixer. But if that isn’t your thing…BUY THE PIES!! Alternately, if you have guests who love to bake, let them bring the pies! Or the tarts. Or the pumpkin rolls. Whatever floats your boat. Remember, the less stress, the better!
In the next few days, I’ll put together another Recipe Roundup with my favorite Thanksgiving recipes from the web. Be forewarned, there will be a lot of Pioneer Woman thrown in there! I’ll try to stay on top of linking recipes between posts to keep things as easy and accessible as I can for you (and for me!). In the meantime, let me know about your menu!! What are your staples? Was there any menu item in this post that piqued your interest? Leave a comment below and we’ll see what we can do!
Let’s do this, friends!! Happy planning!