Sunday, November 18, 2012

Thanksgiving Menu Planning

We're staying here for Thanksgiving this year.  My parents and brother are driving in and my mom and David will do most of the cooking, although I do plan to help.  We invited David's grandma, and actually offered to drive to her house, but she opted to go to David's mom's, and since we're not up for a 10 hour drive (each way) over a four-day-weekend, we opted out of that trip.

Hosting Thanksgiving is awesome because it means I get to control what we eat.  Which means I'm nixing a couple of things that are standard Thanksgiving fair, but that I think are disgusting (or at least totally unappealing):  that ubiquitous green bean casserole and sweet potato with marshmallows on it.  Gag.  I did exercise the art of compromise and agree to have mashed potatoes (David's favorite) instead of cornflake potatoes (my favorite).  My generosity is, I think, only slightly diminished by the fact that I keep reminding David of what a great sacrifice I have made.

We needed to finalize our menu plans today because we wanted to run to the grocery store this morning, knowing that it would only get crazier and more crowded as the week went on (and good luck getting stuffing at Schnucks on the Hill--they were already running low on Stovetop!).  Menu planning was weird, however, because none of the delicious food we were talking about sounds good yet.  To either of us.  I started feeling all queasy again in the beer aisle just thinking about beer.  Ugh.  I haven't puked since Wednesday night but this stomach bug is lingering in a vaguely unsettled tummy feeling that is not pleasant and not particularly conducive to grocery shopping.

Anyway, after much deliberation and talking on the phone to my mom, my dad, my brother, and my cousin Amanda (Amanda's not joining us for Thanksgiving, but she gave me my sweet potato pie recipe), here is our Thanksgiving menu:

A real surprise, eh?  And it's a turkey I will eat a little bit of, which means it's a free range (aka "happy") turkey.  We didn't plan far enough ahead to order one through a local CSA, so David just went to Whole Foods and spent a boatload on it.  But it was a happy turkey!  Happily for us, preparation will be easy.  We're having it smoked by a parent whose kids go to David's school.

Mashed Potatoes
They don't quite compete with frozen hashbrowns, shredded cheese, and cornflakes, but David does make a mean mashed potato.  Interesting Fact:  My brother and I refused to eat mashed potatoes when we were kids.  In fact, I didn't eat mashed potatoes until I started dating David and his grandpa essentially bullied me into eating them.  And they were delicious.  Maybe the cup of sour cream that David's grandma adds is the secret ingredient?  Anyway, I don't put gravy on them.  They don't need it.

We bought a jar of this.  David puts it on his turkey and stuffing, but not his mashed potatoes.  My dad puts it on everything.  I don't put it on anything because gravy = gross.

David's grandma makes this from scratch, old-school style with giblets or chitlins or gizzards or whatever people used to put in stuffing when they were eking out a living from God's green earth and using every last bit of that turkey.  We're going with Stovetop's cornbread edition.

Sweet Potato Pie
No marshmallow bullsh!t here.  My cousin Amanda made this one year when we were in Memphis at her mom's house and I fell in love.  It's essentially mashed sweet potatoes, baked, with a glaze of brown sugar and pecans on the top of it.  It's like dessert posing as a side dish.

Broccoli-Cauliflower Bake
I was going to make a cold broccoli-cauliflower salad that David's grandma always makes that I really like, but my mom requested a baked dish instead.  So I dug around in my recipe archives (read:  googled) a recipe that included broccoli (my favorite vegetable--is that weird?) and found an interesting recipe from Taste of Home that calls for monterey jack cheese and green chiles. I think it will be a nice zingy side dish.  And we all know that you can't really serve a green vegetable at Thanksgiving unless you coat in cheese and bake it.

Macaroni & Cheese
This is for my brother, because Lord knows we don't really need another side dish, or another vat of cheese on the table.  But my Aunt Terri (Amanda's mom) makes this macaroni and cheese that David and I are crazy about.  My brother used to claim that nothing could beat the powdered stuff in the blue box, but I'm pretty sure this recipe is going to change his mind forever.  We're going to halve it--not because we're not gluttons, but just because refrigerator space is limited.  (If only it would get cold enough to use the back deck as an extra refrigerator...)

Mom's Mystery Salad
My mom is making a green salad of some kind.  A real salad--not the kind where you add mayonnaise and call it salad (although I'm not knocking that; I'm just saying I think we need a little more green on the table).  She mentioned cabbage and pears, so I'm not sure what she's concocting but I'm sure it will be delish.

We're outsourcing these because nobody can compete with my Aunt Tammi's homemade rolls.  (Mmm, my mouth waters just thinking about her rolls.)  But we're going with the next best thing, which is ordered from our favorite bakery on the Hill.  I just called to order it today and since my order was small (just a dozen rolls) they went ahead and squeezed me in, although they have over 300 orders that people will be picking up on Wednesday.  We are getting their Italian-style rolls, which have a crusty outside and super soft inside.  They won't be as good as Aunt Tammi's, but they'll be close.

Pumpkin Pie
My mom is making a pumpkin pie, as it is obviously a Thanksgiving tradition.  My brother also has a tradition of putting as much whipped cream as possible on a piece of pumpkin pie and then shoving as much of the piece of pie as possible in his mouth all at once.  The family gathers 'round to watch.  I'm not sure how this became a tradition or why we are so hard up for entertainment, but we're all set for that to happen again this year!

Coconut Cream Pie
We outsourced this from the bakery also.  Because after a heavy meal, sometimes you want something light and fluffy.  Like coconut cream pie.  Am I right?

Gosh, I hope that's enough food to feed an army.  Or the five of us.  My mom's also bringing some kind of pear muffins for breakfast and David's trying to convince me we need cinnamon rolls (because when you're doing the gluttony thing, you might as well go all out, right?).  We do plan to live on leftovers for the entire weekend.  I'm hoping there's enough turkey for sandwiches and also maybe for white enchiladas (I think it's the Pioneer Woman's recipe?).

So that is our Thanksgiving menu.  What will you be eating on Thursday?  Anybody else hosting the family (or the in-laws) at your house?  I think I'm going to make festive Thanksgiving display on my sideboard table in the dining room.  (Yes, I will post pictures if that happens.  You're welcome.)  How many people are appalled that I refuse to have the green bean casserole with those onion things on it?  How many people love marshmallows on their sweet potatoes?  You people are CRAZY!  But go ahead.  Tell me what I'm missing.


  1. My guy and I are hosting my two kids at his place, and he bought a turkey and a ham, because he didn't the turkey was enough- for the four of us. I see a lot of leftovers in my future.

  2. You're eating Turkey? I'm not sure if you're a real vegetarian!

    The horror. ;)

  3. I can't stand green bean casserole and the only way I like my sweet potatoes is in fry form :)

  4. LOVE cornflake potatoes-- we are making them for our leftover Thanksgiving on Sat (we go to my grandma's and never get leftovers, so we're redoing dinner-- the organic free range version-- on Saturday). I make a kick-ass green bean casserole with all fresh ingredients (real mushrooms! real cream! same old fried onions!)

  5. After years of insisting on the same Thanksgiving menu, I offered to try some new dishes this year - and my husband declined! I was shocked! So we are having our usual stuff, including my mom's version of the green bean casserole, cornbread dressing (so easy and so much better than the box!), and I'm making my Grandmother's rolls. Absolutely no sweet potatoes on our menu this year, which seems weird now that I think about it.

  6. Brookie, Dean would call you out if you didn't serve him green bean casserole on Thanksgiving. And have you ever made oatmeal pie? To die for!

  7. Thanksgiving is the one time of year we have meat in our house. No we don't eat it. Daryl makes one and we drive down and give the meal to a group of people who live in tents under an overpass.
    I like sweet potatoes with no marshmallows. I do like green bean casserole but it has to be made with fresh green beans and they have to be crunchy.
    We may make a tofurkey with mashed potatoes for ourselves. Yum.
    How nice everyone is coming to you this year!!!

  8. We've always tried to do something to note the holiday, but some years it hasn't been much more than opening a special bottle of wine because we don't remember until a day or two before that "Oh, it's Thanksgiving this week!" And it's next to impossible to find turkeys in the Netherlands (nor would one fit in our oven), and cranberries only show up around Christmas time. This year, I doubt anything will happen since I'll be in Scotland and Joel will be home alone with Gwen. But maybe he'll celebrate by making his favorite mashed potatoes -- which have peccorino, spinach, and bacon in them. I'm almost tempted when he makes them (I hate potatoes).

    Next year a good friend of mine from college is getting married near Thanksgiving (the weekend before, I think?) so we're heading back to the States for Thanksgiving instead of Christmas. I am so looking forward to having a real Thanksgiving dinner, it's been close to 10 years!

  9. Hilarious! I eat whatever the host is cooking. Minus the turkey. I usually use this one day a year to test out every.single.flavor of pie Except the coconut pie. Not sure why I have never tried it, but it just doesn't look appetizing to me. I hope you have a wonderful thanksgiving and I look forward to the pics. ~Missy

  10. You Americans go ALL OUT for thanksgiving!

    My step mother is from Michigan, so I know the drill. She would always start her month long visit to Canada the week after U.S thanksgiving, and she'd have treats and goodies galore.

    She made the best sweet potato casserole thing ever. It was like a dessert. Butter, butter and more butter. Add the sweet potat's, nutmeg...other stuff...and top it with brown sugar, pecans, and walnuts. Bake. And eat.

    Growing up, my granny lived out in the country and had a garden the size of my current lot size...and she made everything from scratch. She baked her own bread, did all her gravies and sauces from scratch, every vegetable served was grown and picked with her blood sweat and tears...and it was a spread like no other. She passed away when I was 16, and no one has since stepped up to the plate to try to emulate or imitate her powers of I've been attending boring (nearly store bought) turkey dinners for over a decade.

    I'm a food fanatic, so anything innovative and homemade I appreciate.

    I think your menu sounds delish. And I think marshmallows are gross any way you look at 'em!

  11. The cornflake potatoes are an Iowa thing!! I never had them until I found myself in Iowa for 4 years, but I quickly realized how delish they were. I think 90% of Iowa recipes include sour cream.

    And I was totally raised on turkey with giblet gravy. And sweet potato slices pan-seared in bacon fat! I like both, but try to be a little healthier when I'm cooking. :)

    Your meal sounds yummy and perfect. Hope you enjoy!

  12. There was a recent feature in Feast or Sauce magazine - Kevin Wilhems, chef at Farmhaus, did his own take on the green bean casserole. Looked delish. The other kind, completely gross.

    Love sweet potatoes cooked anyway but in that awful casserole with marshmallow form. Best as fries. Yum.

    That potato casserole wtih cornflakes is a very Southern thing as well - not just Midwest.

    We don't even eat turkey on Thanksgiving. There are 90+ of us, and we eat BBQ ribs. It's more meat than I eat all year long, combined. Delish.

  13. Totally agree on the green bean casserole. Totally disagree on the sweet potatoes with marshmallow. MUST HAVE MARSHMALLOW. Oh, and pineapple. Granted I've tried to make this from my aunt's recipe but I've never been able to quite replicate it. My mother is making them this year. Um, I'm not totally understanding the corn flake thing.

    I am hosting and there will be 18 of us (only 4 technically children. The others are 16+ and eat like adults).

    We are having:
    crab balls, turkey meatballs, deviled eggs
    turkey, ham, baked chicken, fried chicken, salmon, greens, string beans, squash, mac & cheese, potato salad, sweet potatoes, rice, stuffing, raw broccoli (just for the 3 yr old)
    Cornbread, some other kind of roll that I won't eat but y'all help yourselves.
    Dessert: applie pie, sweet potato pie (if you forget the Cool Whip you are not allowed inside the house. Leave the pie), homemade lemon cake, ice cream

    Enjoy Zuzu's first Thanksgiving (and slip her a spoonful of bland potato; we won't tell)