Our Thanksgiving last year did not go as planned at all. Our family Thanksgiving dinner is always on Saturday, leaving the actual day of Thanksgiving open for us. It was supposed to be my first time to host some friends, but because of the plague running through our house we had to pull the plug. But this year, plans for us to host Thanksgiving was back on the table. We were going to have Thanksgiving dinner with some of Aya’s Japanese co-workers, some of which had never experienced Thanksgiving before. And this time it would be completely legit with a roasted turkey, not a chicken, and a kids table. I always saw cooking Thanksgiving dinner to be a crowning achievement in the culinary world. With eight adults and five kids, I had my work cut out for me.
With our guest list set, I just needed to plan the menu. We had to accommodate a severe dairy and egg allergy so I wanted to make sure everything was dairy free, which turns out wasn’t very difficult at all.
I planned and started studying my menu weeks in advance. I was so obsessed and consumed I started having dreams about grocery shopping. I started cooking Wednesday evening and was up until after 3am, called my mom at least a thousand times, had a mild freak-out before getting the turkey in the roaster, but I did it!
And based on the number of people pulling out their cell phones to take photos of the turkey as soon as I brought it out on the table, I’d say it was a success.
My mom has been hosting Thanksgiving for so long; forty-two years to be exact, that she makes it seem easy. And because of this she’s underappreciated. I loved my experience, but the thought of doing all of this every. single. year sounds absolutely exhausting. Good thing my mom is a seasoned pro and has no desire to step down from her Thanksgiving throne…yet.
I really didn’t take photos because I was really wrapped up in the excitement of everything.
I decided I wanted to brine, and I wanted a fancy brining solution with extra flavors, not just a simple salt water solution. When I came across this one from the Pioneer Woman, I knew it was the one to try. With orange peel, apple cider, rosemary, and brown sugar, this was sure to keep my turkey moist (“adequately hydrated” for you people that are creeped out by that word) and add some nice flavors. This was absolutely delicious!
I also used the spiced butter turkey rub from the Pioneer Woman, I just substituted real butter with Earth’s Balance vegan butter and it worked fine.
Once everything was assembled and the turkey stuffed, I used the electric roaster and followed these instructions from the Food Network.
Stuffing: Mom’s Stuffing
1 lb breakfast sausage fried and drained
1 C chopped onion
1 C chopped apple
1 C chopped celery
1 Tbsp fresh thyme
1 Tbsp fresh sage
1 Tbsp fresh rosemary
2 tsp salt
½ C melted butter
12 C croutons (about 1 and a half loaves of bread)
14 oz. chicken broth
Combine all ingredients. Stuff loosely in bird. Remainder bake at 350 degrees for about 30 minutes.
Probably my favorite part of Thanksgiving is the stuffing. And for us, we really only eat it once a year adding the hype. Instead of looking around for different recipes, I used my moms. It’s my favorite, it’s tasty, and it proved to be a real crowd pleaser.
The remaining side dishes seem to vary from family to family, but I wanted to give our guests a good representation of the typical Thanksgiving sides. These are what I decided on.
I make dairy-free mashed potatoes all the time with Earth’s Balance butter and almond milk. And I usually whip them, not mash them. I felt the need to try a legit recipe for this occasion though. I used this from Post Punk Kitchen. Instead of the vegan butter she uses olive oil. They were light and fluffy just like she described, but I think I prefer my dense whipped potatoes instead. Next time I’ll go with what I know.
You can’t have mashed potatoes without gravy, right? This was a bit of a hassle to make, but very much worth the effort. I poured this tasty gravy all over everything. I followed the recipe with the exception of using vegetable broth in place of “No-Chicken chicken broth,” and instead of using one tablespoon of salt, I used one teaspoon.
I was trying to decide between sweet potatoes and a squash dish. But once I saw the pictures from this website, I knew I wanted to go with this. Presentation wise this seemed to have more of a wow factor instead of a sweet potato dish, and I was right.
In our house, green bean casserole is without a doubt a Thanksgiving staple. It’s never made or even mentioned at any other time of year. We used to always use the canned green beans mixed with the can of Campbell’s cream of mushroom soup. Aya loved it so much she’s on record saying “it’s one of America’s best inventions.” (I’m not sure that’s a good thing) In recent years, I started making the Alton Brown recipe with fresh green beans and real cream and fresh mushrooms that is fantastic. However, I needed to find a dairy-free recipe for my guests. After searching high and low I decided on this one from Oh My Veggies. This was good, but the soy milk flavor was a bit too strong for me. I cook with soy milk and almond milk frequently and never really taste it too much, but this one was a bit too overboard for my liking.
My mom always made brussel sprouts with a cream sauce, and every year I took the obligatory two brussel sprouts on my plate and actually ate them. But then as I got older I actually really started to like brussel sprouts and I’d have five or six! She hasn’t made the cream sauce in years and usually roasts them and tops with bacon now. I wanted to try something different and settled on this recipe because I’m a big fan of mixing sweet and savory. I loved this recipe! One of my favorite brussel sprout recipes so far.
Cranberry Relish: Mom’s Recipe
1 12oz. package of raw cranberries
½ C sugar
Put cranberries and orange through food processor until desired texture of relish. Add sugar and refrigerate for several hours or overnight.
Growing up we had the can of cranberry sauce. You know the one. It was emptied onto a pretty crystal plate keeping it’s form completely and proudly displaying it’s tin can ridges. I thought it was a funky flavored jello and it was actually one of my favorites. Real cranberries? I wanted nothing to do with them. But somewhere along the way my mom switched from the canned cranberry sauce to this simple three ingredient delicious relish recipe. This was also a big hit with my crowd.
Corn; the forgotten side. It’s a must have but it always gets forgotten in the microwave until my mom remembers half-way through the meal. It’s nothing special and it’s not noteworthy, but it’s necessary.