Actually, saying it that way means that I was answering a question. As in, “Will you host Thanksgiving?”
And that’s not really how it went.
It actually came out as, “Hey, I can host Thanksgiving.”
I grew up in a small family where my aunt hosted Thanksgiving in her home every year. While the last minute cooking was underway with gravy simmering and grandpa carving the turkey, my ten year old self was enjoying shrimp cocktail, black and green olives, mixed nuts and a cheese ball with crackers. Eight of us would then sit around her dining room table quietly enjoying a thoughtfully prepared Thanksgiving feast. I would sip cranberry ginger ale from a pewter wine glass and anxiously await the arrival of the next dish to scoop onto my plate.
After dinner, we would find ourselves in the living room while Kenny G lulled us into a turkey-induced nap. Upon waking up from our food comas, round two would be taking place with at least three different pies, coffee and vanilla ice cream. And if I was lucky, after dessert was done, I would have birthday presents to open with my birthday falling toward the end of November. I did this every year for almost 25 years.
When I volunteered (sacrificed) myself to host Thanksgiving, it was for my father-in-law’s family. There would be around 35 people in attendance. A few years earlier, I had hosted a combined Thanksgiving and Christmas for my mother-in-law’s side with close to 70 people so I thought, “I got this.”
Gone were the relaxed, intimate holidays I had grown up with. This was a whole new ball-game- the kind with no referees, or rules, but still lots of yelling, cheering, booing and whistles. It is here that I should mention that I am also a type-A introvert so clearly, this was a great plan.
Also important to mention is that, if you recall, I did volunteer to host. Holidays always felt magical. And I wanted an opportunity to create the same special feelings for others that I remember. And truthfully, I love to cook. My type-A personality suits me well when it comes to organized events; so much so that my husband has said that my middle name is Organized. Hey, if the shoe fits…
A few weeks before Thanksgiving, preparations began with sifting through cookbooks and websites to figure out the menu. I wanted to make sure that if there was a need, it would be met. Now, I don’t want to forget to mention that other family members would be bringing food too. I had lists of who was going to be bringing what, but did I mention that I’m a type-A?
After carefully selecting the menu items, I looked over the selections and started the all-important process of organizing tasks and to-do’s. I created a timeline for what would need to happen and when, ever cautious of cooking times and temperatures, so that everything would come together into a well-prepared Thanksgiving feast.
If you’re anticipating that I’m going to share with you in another paragraph that despite my careful planning, disaster ensued and the turkey resembled that of the Griswold’s, I’m sorry to disappoint. It went off without a hitch. There is something to be said for easing the anxiety of a big day by showing up prepared and with a plan. The only thing that needed adjustment was my attitude when someone asked for dessert as I was bringing my first forkful of dinner to my mouth.
This year, I am hosting again.
This affords me the opportunity to plan in a whole new way. One that I am very excited for because I get to share it with you. Over the last three years in working with Dr. Paulson, my creed has become that once you know something, you can’t unknow it. And what I have come to know is that every day counts.
There were plenty of times when I would make the justifications and rationalizations for myself that it was a “special” day. That translates into my eating being especially bad. Then I have what I call a food hang-over; headaches, nausea and grumbling guts all caused by stuffing my pie hole with way more food than I needed. I’m not doing it anymore. It’s just not worth it.
So this year, I’m doing what I know to do. I’m planning a healthy yet tasteful and creative menu. Make no mistake that I’ll still be eating two days’ worth of food in one meal – but the side-effects of this menu will be limited to tight pants.
What helped me in the planning stages of constructing this menu were the reflections of how I’ve felt after previous gorge-fests and knowing what types of foods that I wanted to avoid. For me, there are a few key factors that do me in. Flour-based carbohydrates (baked goods, breads, stuffing), additives and preservatives (think cream of mushroom soup, gravy aides, etc.), and sugar. These are gut-bombs and headaches waiting to happen. And when both of those things are occurring simultaneously, my energy gauge reads zero. The solution – whole foods and from scratch cooking.
This is how I cook 95% of the time but here are where the rationalizations come into play. Yes, I’ll have some green bean casserole. Yes, grandma, I’ll have one of your homemade dinner rolls. Why yes, I’ll have a cookie. And pecan pie. And pumpkin pie. More stuffing after dessert? Yes, that sounds great. Oh, with cranberry sauce? Sure, love the tangy contrast. The list goes on and on and the food goes in and down and my head throbs and pounds. And the scale goes up and up.
So, are you ready to makeover your table? I’ve scoured the internet for you and did all of the (turkey) leg work to put together a comprehensive Thanksgiving menu from start to finish.
You will find links to two documents. One is for all of the sides (including dessert). The other is a looooong document on how to roast a turkey with lots of pictures and tips. If you’ve cooked a turkey before, you know that it’s just really like a big chicken. But if you haven’t and you’re hosting, there can be plenty of anxiety around preparing the star of the show. This will tell you EVERYTHING you’ve ever wanted to know.
To all of the people that I pinned on Pinterest to put this together, I am grateful. I wish that I had the time to take all of these lovely pictures and cook all of these foods to show you how beautiful they look. As always, if you have any questions, please let me know. Happy Thanksgiving!!!
This menu includes:
- Thai curried butternut squash soup
- Autumn spiced nuts
- Apple cranberry walnut salad
- Mashed cauliflower
- Roasted Brussels sprouts & squash with dried cranberries and dijon vinaigrette
- Grain-free stuffing
- Parmesan roasted green beans
- Cranberry sauce
- Pumpkin crumble bars
- Baked pears with walnuts and honey
- Salted chocolate dipped mandarin slices