I think Thanksgiving might be my favorite holiday. The perfect excuse to have an all-out cooking and eating extravaganza!
This year was no exception . . .
Light and simple, and easy to make ahead. Not that I didn't want to spend my day cooking on Thanksgiving; rather, I didn't want to spend my day washing dishes! I did much of the prep in advance, which was a very smart idea, in my opinion. We enjoyed Pumpkin Muffins (using my favorite baking ingredient . . . buttermilk!) and a beautiful fruit salad with some fresh mint from the garden for breakfast. I used half whole-wheat flour in the muffins to increase their nutritional value a little bit; otherwise followed the recipe as written. These muffins are FANTASTIC! They call for very little oil, yet are moist and tender from the pumpkin and buttermilk.
I decided we'd snack on a variety of appetizers for lunch, as we were possibly expecting company and didn't know what time they would show up . . .
Brie topped with Double Cranberry Chutney . . . so delicious! I always want to make cranberry for Thanksgiving, but always end up with a huge amount of it leftover and never know quite what to serve it with. This was perfect!
Veggies! (With hummus, not pictured)
Using Ali's recipe as inspiration, I ended up simplifying a little bit . . . used one egg, one package of spinach, feta, juice and zest of half a lemon, and a little salt and pepper for the filling. Perfect! Now, what to do with all that leftover filo?
The big feast! I really wanted to make everything, but I didn't want TONS of leftovers, (since I was likely cooking for just John and I,) so I selected my recipes, cut them in half (or sometimes in quarter,) and made most everything in 8-inch loaf pans. Bonus feature? Our entire dinner fit in the oven at once, even though John only has one rack in his oven! Woo-hoo!
(P.S. I made everything, except for the mashed potatoes and gravy, in advance, covered the unbaked things with foil, and froze. Everything thawed and baked up beautifully!)
Spiced Sweet Potato Casserole:
One of the most important parts of Thanksgiving dinner, in my opinion. :) I love, love, love this version from Cooking Light -- it is subtle in its spiciness, just sweet enough (although I do cut down the sugar to 1/4 cup in the full-size recipe,) and lively from the orange juice concentrate.
Creamy Corn Pudding:
This pudding may join the ranks with sweet potato casserole and compete for most important role! We always had some kind of corn pudding in my family for Thanksgiving, and even though most people don't think to add it to their Thanksgiving repertoire, I want to keep a bit true to my heritage, ya know? This recipe is INCREDIBLE. (With all that butter and heavy cream, why not?) ;) Slightly sweet, creamy and comforting, like a softer, smoother cornbread. Mmmmmm.
Mashed potatoes and gravy:
I mashed my local yellow potatoes with garlic, butter, buttermilk, chives, salt, and pepper. They were so flavorful on their own, they almost didn't need gravy! (I said this to John, and he replied, "no, no, no." Ha!) A big batch of mushroom gravy on the side -- 2 tbsp butter, 2 tbsp olive oil, plenty of sliced mushrooms, 1/4 cup flour, 2 tsp soy sauce, and 2 cups mushroom broth. Simple and VERY delicious. A perfect vegetarian gravy, in my opinion!
Caramelized Onion and Herb Stuffing:
This has been a repeat my last several Thanksgivings, for a couple of reasons . . . first, it is super-delicious and super-easy, but most importantly, no sage! I don't care much for sage, especially in stuffing, and it's hard to find a recipe without it. This recipe is a keeper for me!
Creamed Spinach Casserole:
A new recipe this year, and a good one -- both John and I love spinach, and this was a simple casserole to prepare in advance. Rich but not heavy, and a beautiful burst of intense dark green on the plate! (I switched out the traditional cheddar for white cheddar in my version, otherwise prepared the recipe as written.)
This may be the best vegetarian entree for holiday meals EVER. Rich, filling, and "meaty," delicious on its own, smothered in gravy, dolloped with cranberry chutney, or leftover on a sandwich with ketchup. :)
And don't forget about dessert!
John requested pecan pie this year, and although it's not my favorite, I was happy to oblige. I tried this recipe from Real Simple, and although I generally find pecan pie too sweet, both John and his roommate were happy gobbling down slices. They reported it was lighter and less dense than many pecan pies they have had, and his roommate stated it was the best she's ever tried! Score!
Hope you had a wonderful holiday and enjoyed some time off from work with important people. Now, I better get started planning my Christmas cookie baking! ;)