Thanksgiving might be my favorite holiday because it's a day all about loved ones and food. It's also a really fun holiday to plan and planning is one of my favorite things. There's browsing recipes, thinking about table decor, deciding who will make what, and planning fun things for the kids to do. We're hosting Thanksgiving this year so I have lots to plan! I love keeping a Thanksgiving Pinterest board for collecting recipes and ideas.
There will be our family of four, Chris's parents, and Chris's sister's family. All together that's five adults and five kids (ages 4 to 17) – a small crowd but still a cozy gathering.
Our family is on board with vegetarian Thanksgivings and we aren't planning to have a turkey. My mother-in-law is also lactose intolerant so that's a factor in cooking as well. It's easy for me to assign myself too much cooking for Thanksgiving because I just love all of the food so much! Right now I'm looking at lots of recipes and thinking of what worked well in years past to decide on what I'll make. And my mother-in-law and sister-in-law will bring dishes as well. A few ideas (not all of which I'll make)...
+ Simple appetizers like popcorn (I loved the herb popcorn from Trader Joe's) and roasted nuts. I don't want anything too heavy for appetizers but it's nice to have something out. Maybe some raw veggies instead of the nuts?
+ For a vegetarian main dish this a lentil loaf wrapped in puff pastry or phyllo dough looks delicious. Last year we set out the makings for Thanksgiving tofurky sandwiches and they were a hit. We did tofurky deli slices, honeycrisp applc slices, goat cheese, and cranberry relish on challah bread.
+ Smitten Kitchen green bean casserole with homemade crispy onions. I've made this for the past two years and it's so good. Maybe one of my favorite dishes. I sub the milk with soy milk and it comes out great!
+ Dressing/stuffing. Or maybe this is my favorite! I've tried different recipes and don't feel like I've found the perfect one yet. Last year I made Mark Bittman's bread stuffing and remember that it was good. I sub Earth Balance baking sticks for butter to make it lactose-free. Do you have the end-all-be-all stuffing recipe? Please share!
+ Sweet potato casserole. I am on team pecan topping and not team marshmallow topping. Probably just because that's the kind that I grew up with. My mom's recipe that I grew up with also has bourbon in it which gives a lovely rich flavor. I haven't made that recipe and it might be time to bring it back. In the past I've also made the Weelicious vegan whipped sweet potatoes with coconut which sounds a little out there but everyone loved them.
+ Roasted Brussels sprouts. Halved sprouts, tossed in olive oil, and roasted at 425 degrees for 25-ish minutes until they have a nice roasty color. Easy, delicious, and nice to have another green on our plates.
+ Mac and cheese (for the kids). Probably just from a box. Not usually on our Thanksgiving table but I'm remembering that our kids aren't usually into much of the Thanksgiving spread. Maybe this will help keep them at the table a bit longer?
+ Challah bread. My mother-in-law always makes a couple of loaves of homemade challah bread at Thanksgiving. Yum. And it makes great toast the next day.
+ Cranberry relish. Trader Joe's makes a few cranberry relishes and sauces. I love their cranberry-orange relish.
+ Sweet potato pie. I tried Joy the Baker's sweet potato pie a couple years ago and love it. I love using fresh sweet potatoes instead of canned pumpkin. The pie tastes very similar to a pumpkin since the spicing is the same. Give it a try!
+ Chocolate cream pie. I consider it a must-have.
The table spread + ambiance
I'm hoping that we can set up a big table (perhaps two folding tables) in our backyard! We're seeding the backyard with winter grass right now so it'll look nice. Half of our backyard has just been dirt for the past year (ugh). I have two white tablecloths to use, one of which we have sometimes written on with Sharpie to capture what we're grateful for that year. I'm thinking of doing simple table decorations like lots of mini pumpkins down the center of table and battery tea lights.
Before Thanksgiving I plan to hang string lights in our backyard so we'll have pretty lighting as it gets darker. I also want to make sure we aren't bothered by mosquitoes! We do get mosquitoes in Arizona since many of us have laws. Several people have recommended these electronic Thermacell mosquito repellers so I plan to buy a couple to have near the table.
During the meal I love to have things to keep conversation going and the kids engaged. I'd like to have some coloring sheets and simple puzzles for each of the younger kids at their seats. I also plan to have our Family Table Topics on the table and we can pull a few cards. One year when we hosted I also had family members send me interesting facts about themselves they thought no one else would know. I pulled them out one at a time and we all guessed! It was a really fun way to learn things about family members.
What are you planning for Thanksgiving: favorite recipes? Activities or traditions during the meal? I'm so excited for the holidays!