It’s that time of year. After days of prep, fighting lines at the grocery store and agony of how to make Thanksgiving low-fat, low carb, vegan, south beach friendly or gluten-free you have planned the not quite perfect – but it will do- menu. No one will really like it but at least the seven family members you don’t really like anyway won’t complain about the one side dish they can’t eat.
Yeah – I don’t put up with that crap.
Thanksgiving in my house is pure fun. No food issues dictated by people you didn’t want to feed in the first place. No visits from crazy relatives. No house guests. No stress. No desire to cook or eat something you wouldn’t eat any other time of year just because it’s tradition.
Want to know how I pull it off don’t ya?
Matt and I used to hide. You heard me. We would get a hotel room and not tell anyone where we were. Cell phones ruined that magic. People still call. They still intrude on my day of joy. Other than a few phone calls around the country I can still keep my boundaries. I follow some basic rules:
- Look at the guest list as any other day that you happen to have off. Who would you spend it with? These are the people I call my chosen family. The people I truly want to spend some extra time with and can relax around. This is not the time to worry if I am impressing anyone, out doing anyone, living up to someone’s high expectations, earning over due respect or otherwise stressing myself out about the same family trauma we all face.
- Since there is no family pressure to be better than yourself you can be better than they give you credit for – you can be you. Dress comfortably and relax. Stress at the holiday season causes people to turn on the ones they actually like.
- Plan activities and entertainment that support the above rules of stress-free living.
- Treat the menu as if it were a get together any other time of year. DO NOT cook something just because it is tradition. Make something that tastes good and makes you happy.
- Repeat holiday plans as necessary throughout the holiday season.
No set of rules for event planning would be complete without examples. The following Thanksgiving is to be used for discussion purposes. Please do not feel obligated to copy exactly as this would violate the essence of the Thanksgiving rules listed above.
Guest list: The Mr. of course and our best friend Jeff. That’s it. While the door is open for many others we know that most feel the need to partake in the traditional Thanksgiving. Without fail each of them will tell us days in advance how they are not looking forward to their plans. Text us through the day to plea for us to teleport them and for days afterward regret their decision. Let’s face it though – It take pretty big cojones to tell Mom you’re not coming home for Thanksgiving. That’s ok. We’ll be here next year when you’re ready.
Dress comfortably and relax: Jeans, hoodie and slippers. For those of you who know me this is a shock. I am one of those people. I attempt to put myself together each day before leaving the house. I do not leave my front door in pajamas, scrubs, chill pants, sweats, or any other abomination of what passes for a wardrobe today. Never-the-less on Thanksgiving I am warm and cozy. No need to wear the ugly shirt your Aunt got you last year as she will not be there to see it. No need to dress up like school picture day and fidget with your tie all day. Since you will be comfortable in your clothes you will be more relaxed.
Activities and entertainment: Horror movies – bad ones. There are two Thanksgiving traditions that make me truly happy. We did watch A Christmas Story and listen to Alice’s Restaurant. After Ralphie shot his eye out and Cleveland Street went to bed we watched a few truly terrible horror movies. Later in the evening we packed in the car and went to see the new Muppet Movie in the theater. We laughed loudly through out and sang along. Life was good.
The Food: I know this is a food blog and you’ve just suffered through 700+ words on my thoughts on family values. It was important to understand the surroundings. If you are looking for a great Turkey and cranberry recipe you clearly have not been paying attention, please leave.
For the rest of you, here was my Thanksgiving menu:
Breakfast was a maple bacon cupcake from Couture Cupcakes http://couturecupcakesohio.com.
Spiced cake, maple buttercream frosting sprinkled with bacon. Decadent, moist and delicious. $24 for the dozen makes you feel like you’re getting away with something.
Through the rest of the day we grazed, a little of this, a little of that. When you’re hungry, get some food. When you’re not, don’t. We generally go for foods that can be left out on the table for most of the day and can be eaten at room temperature. Beverages included a sampling of beers from our trip to Jungle Jim’s earlier this month. Egg nog spiked with bourbon and plenty of Ale 8 (Cincinnati ginger ale).
Highlights included Jeff’s stuffed jalapenos made with cheddar and pimentos and Jeff’s had crafted nachos. The man is a master at the no nacho left behind technique. Jeff layered whole chips on a baking sheet while Matt cooked down some black beans with onions, cumin and other treats. Jeff ensures each chip is topped with cheese, onions, chilies, olives and beans before baking in the oven at 350. Two full layers of chips and toppings can take up to 25 minutes. Check every 5 after 15. You’re done when the edges get toasty and start to brown.
There was a huge bucket of my Chex mix recipe. I start with the basic recipe but use 4 cups of the cereals instead of 3. 1.5 cups each cashews, pretzel twists and the original goldfish crackers (not the cheddar). I add slightly more than the standard dry goods because I add a ton of the sauce. Increase the butter to 14 Tablespoons and use 2x the seasonings (go a little easy on the season salt). Add a dash of liquid smoke. Please take the extra time to do the oven version, not the microwave. The crisp of the end result will be your reward.
We nibbled on spinach dip in a pumpernickel bowl. No veggie in the house was safe. Green, yellow and red peppers, celery, carrots and mushrooms all met their fate in the creamy spinach dip. We use the recipe on the back of the season packet but swap the water chestnuts for diced celery and use fat-free sour cream. Trust me it help in this rich dip. A dash of hot sauce or crushed red pepper never hurt anything either.
Instead of a large bird we went for a large fish. I poached a 2.5 lb salmon filet and served it cold with a caper dressing. Since the salmon is served cold we could do it the night before leaving more time for goofing around during the day. Pull the fish out of the fridge 20 minutes before serving. The result is a delicate flavor on the fish, not at all briny with a good flakey texture. The sauce is creamy and savory with a touch of saltines and acid from the mustard.
- 1 large hunk of salmon figure 1/2 lb per person (I like to have one large piece and leave the skin on. It helps keep the fish together during transport)
- 10 cups water
- 2 carrots
- 2 ribs celery
- 1 spanish onion sliced
- 4 sprigs parsley
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 sprig thyme
- juice of one lemon
- salt and pepper
- The juiced lemon sliced
In a large pot combine all ingredients except salmon. Bring to boil/reduce to simmer 15 to 20 minutes. Meanwhile rinse fish and check for bones. Pat dry with paper towels and wrap in parchment. Place fish in deep roasting pan. Cover fish with poaching liquid and either bring to boil/reduce to simmer another 20 to 30 minutes on the stove top or place covered in oven at 250 for 40 minutes. Remove from roaster and chill.
For the sauce just blend the below ingredients and let sit overnight with the fish:
- 1Tbs red wine vinegar
- 1Tbs white wine vinegar
- 2tsp dry mustard
- 2tsp anchovy paste
- 2Tbs fresh parsley finely chopped
- 1Tbs minced onion
- 1/3 cup capers drained
- 1/4tsp garlic powder
- 1 cup mayo
Dessert was Matt’s eggnog ice cream with chocolate bourbon swirl. Since he never writes anything down I cannot share it with you but if you own an ice-cream maker it had something to do with replacing the whole milk with the egg nog. Yeah – I live with this all the time. He makes fantastic dishes that can never be reproduced again.
All in all we had a great day with wonderful people and shared food and activities that support our bond – sounds fairly traditional after all.
Until we eat again,