I served two salads this year, which was perfect. I was worried it would be "too much green" but it was perfect- helped folks eat more vegetables (and didn't force me to roast veggies in the oven already taken up by the turkey, or sear veggies at the last minute which is a timing nightmare with a group of people). And both of the salads were vegan, so that gives some non-animal product dishes to the Thanksgiving table.
Lacinato kale salad with lemon, garlic, olive oil, salt and topped with hemp seeds. It's a simpler version of this salad with rice and avocados. The kale is sliced into thin ribbons. It gets better as it sits so you can prep it a day ahead and keep in glass in the fridge or prep an hour or 2 ahead and keep it on the table at room temp. Just don't store in metal containers (like mixing bowls) so the acid in the lemon doesn't react with the metal. Folks loved this dish, especially since it's raw (I guess most people's experience with kale is cooked?).
Raspberry Spinach Salad: I picked bunches of raspberries over the summer and froze them. They thaw quite nicely actually (just stick the frozen berries in a bowl and let thaw in the fridge overnight). This salad was boxed organic baby spinach, a little bit of baby arugula, then spread the thawed raspberries around and drizzle with a mixture of balsamic vinegar, maple syrup, a sprinkle of salt and oil (I used hazelnut but olive oil works great too). I toasted pecans and served on the side for topping salads. For serving this large of a group, I put the dressing on the side so that any leftovers will last longer (dressed salads get soggy really fast and don't hold up overnight in the fridge).
Mashed Sweet Potatoes: this was the first time I've done this recipe. I used 2.5 lbs of sweet potatoes, which was just about the right amount for 8 adults, but I wonder if they would have liked more since the pan was nearly wiped clean by the end of the dinner. These were super simple to make, just a bit of time on the stove. Made this early then reheated in slow cooker on hot for 1 hour which made sure these were the perfect temp at serving time (without having to deal with the oven or microwave at the last minute). I really like using the slow cooker for entertaining b/c it's one less thing to worry about the temp and it can sit on the other side of the kitchen, far away from the drama of the oven and stove.
Rolls (gramma brought them! otherwise I had rolls baked up using the "healthy artisan bread in 5 minutes a day" basic dough recipe). I think having 10-12 rolls for 8 people is probably the right amount.
11.5 lb Diestel free range turkey: brined overnight in brining bag with an easy and effective brine solution (the same one I use for roasting chickens):
8 C water
1 C kosher salt
1/2 C sugar
The turkey cooked for approx 3 hours (until 170 F internal temperature), then let it rest covered with foil outside the oven for 20-25 minutes to redistribute juices before carving.
Condiments were all home made and delicious!
- cranberry jam
- whole grain mustard
- fermented dill pickles from the summer
- vinegar pickled asparagus spears
Extras that were store bought:
- Himalayan pink salt
- Cracked black pepper
- Organic butter (or you could use cultured butter, or Kerry gold pastured butter). Maybe one of these years I will make butter from cream?
Pie is the typical dessert for Thanksgiving. I served blueberry pie (from blueberries I picked this past summer) in a whole wheat butter flax crust. My mom brought pecan and pumpkin pies. And we whipped up some organic whipping cream with just a touch of organic sugar to finish it off.
What did I learn this Thanksgiving?
- Next year I need to have more coffee on hand! I'm not a big coffee drinker, and I make coffee using a Japanese one handled teapot using a friend's recipe (8 g ground coffee + 4 oz hot water, let sit for 4 minutes then strain) which is quite strong and delicious. But it's not typical coffee.
- Taking orders for pie was a pain (people wanted one of this and one of that, or small slices or whipped cream/no whipped cream). Not sure how to handle next year... maybe a buffet line to serve yourself?
- I try to keep holiday meals at meal times. Eating a "dinner" at 2pm drives me crazy. It's either lunch or it's dinner. Doing anything else provokes 4 meals in a day, or snacking on unhealthy stuff to make up for the odd eating hours. However having a holiday meal at dinner time means folks are tired and it's dark outside by the time the meal is over. Lunch might be better, as long as you can get the food prepped and everyone there around 12noon. So I guess I need to think on this.
- Setting the table before folks arrived was a big load off my mind- got the silverware and plates out on the table. This makes sure you have enough clean silverware for everyone too. And filling water cups (with filtered water) mean less craziness getting folks liquids. Then I got the condiments (mustard, butter, cranberry sauce, pickles) out on the table with their serving forks/knives
- On that note, I need to figure out table napkins. We typically don't use napkins (I get by with handkerchiefs or tissues). So next time I need to either purchase paper napkins (gah! the waste!) or get around to finally making some reusable cloth napkins.
- I think people were snacky and would have liked to nibble on something right when they arrived, not wait for the meal. I guess I need to figure out a snack that isn't too calorie dense... maybe cut up apples/pears, or perhaps make popcorn?
- Manage the dishes: I ran the dishwasher and unloaded it before the guests arrived, this way there was space to load all the dirty stuff into the dishwasher. If you do this deliberately while the guests are chatting, by the time they leave you can put the dishwasher on and no more dishes everywhere!