I've been thinking a lot about Thanksgiving this year - what it will look like, what we'll eat, how exactly it will all get done and come together - and I thought I'd share the process here on the blog. This is my thinking spot (she said in her best Winnie the Pooh voice), and it's the one place I can put lists that won't get lost.
I should probably preface this by saying that it's not uncommon for me to have my Thanksgiving menu and shopping list put together by the end of September (my Mom is nodding her head right now). I think I was 13 or 14 the first year I planned and cooked Thanksgiving dinner mostly on my own, and it's been my holiday ever since. I adore the planning...the shopping...the days of cooking...the beautifully set table...even the fact that the meal I slaved over for hours and hours is gone in less than half an hour.
In fact, the only thing I don't really like is the clean-up.
If I were to rank my favorite holidays, Thanksgiving is easily number one. Growing up, it was all about family - spread out in different rooms of my great-grandparents home because there were so many of us. As I got older, Thanksgiving became about doing it on my own - learning that I had abilities in the kitchen, embracing my love of planning and feeling that sense of accomplishment when someone pushes away from the table stuffed but snags one more bite as they do. Now that we live so far from home, Thanksgiving is even more special for me. Knowing that I'm making the same meal as those I miss so much 3000 miles away, some years sharing it with family members visiting or in the sort-of-area, embracing it as the deep breath before the holiday craziness - it's that much more important.
My menu? It hasn't changed all that much since the first one I did over 20 years ago. The basics, nothing fancy, tried and true.
This year, it has to adapt just a little with my need to eat gluten-free.
Here's our basic menu, along with some of the adaptions I'm planning on making to make it gluten-free. I'll update it in a few weeks as I get all of my recipes in place.
- Turkey - half of our family loves turkey (the girls) and the other half could do without it. Rather than stress over a big bird like I usually do, I think I'm just going to roast a breast this year. I have a feeling Hanna and I will still have plenty of leftovers.
- Ham - by special request from the other half of the family. I will probably go a little larger on the ham this year so I can put some in the freezer and because I'm thinking I'm going to go with beef for Christmas.
- Stuffing - one of my big issues. I love stuffing. Love it. And I really like bread stuffing, not cornbread (shudder). I don't really have a recipe for stuffing anymore. Those toasted bread cubes in a bag, Italian sausage, mushrooms, celery, onions, olives, seasonings, stock and bake. I need to check at Whole Foods next time I can get over there and see if there is a gluten-free option, but my fall back will be a loaf of Udi's bread cubed and toasted. This will definitely need a test run before the big day and I might actually have to write that recipe down finally.
- Mashed Potatoes and Gravy - another must-have at our Thanksgiving table. Basic mashed potatoes - no changes there. I'll by making my gravy with stock, drippings and cornstarch instead of flour.
- Sweet Potatoes - no changes needed here.
- Roasted Green Beans - again, another recipe that needs no changes.
- Cranberry Sauce - another one that works as is. I put together a recipe a few years ago combining fresh cranberries, orange juice and zest and sucanat that we love.
- Rolls - honestly, I think we're just going to skip them. With two kinds of potatoes, gravy and stuffing, it's already a pretty carb heavy meal.
Really, the biggest changes are going to have to be in our appetizers and desserts.
Yep, I do Thanksgiving appetizers (instead of lunch) and they're going to take some changing. Ususally, we have french onion dip and chips, spinach dip in a homemade bread bowl and a cheese and salami plate with crackers. I read recently that the mix for the french onion dip now has gluten in it (though I might have an old one I can use), the homemade bread bowl is out and so are the crackers. That's going to take some thinking. I suppose we could skip appetizers all together, but I like to have them ready the day before rather than attempting to make lunch in an already crazy kitchen. Plus, a holiday without onion dip (as processed as it is) just isn't right in my family!
You really can't have Thanksgiving without pie (Caleb would start a revolution - he usually asks for pumpkin pie instead of a birthday cake and has been counting down to Thanksgiving since the end of August), so I'm going to be working on a gluten-free pie crust. I'm thinking this one from Gluten-Free Girl and The Chef, but I will be keeping my eyes out. I'll also probably do a pecan pie, since that is usually Tom's request. And because I can't bear to choose between the two, they'll both have gluten-free crusts...which means I need to start practicing.
Truly, now that I see it all typed out, with happy little bullet points and notes...it seems a lot less stressful than it has in my head for the last month.
Oh, what a difference a thinking place makes!