I make shopping lists weeks ahead of time, then make lists within my lists. Next, I make a timeline for prep work and create an outline for myself, complete with a cooking schedule to make sure everything gets done on time. Lists make me giddy! I'm always tweaking and changing my plan for a big meal like this.
Over the years, I've explored and created new recipes to accommodate our changing allergies and dietary needs, plus to find new ways to use fresh produce that comes in our bi-weekly delivery from Palmetto Organics.
Today I'm going to share with you a few recipes that always make the cut. These are recipes that I actually follow without changing (with the exception of one dairy free substitution - Earth Balance vegan butter instead of regular) because they are just that good. Here's what will be on our table this year.
I always like to make a signature drink or two that can be enjoyed by everyone, usually one cold and one hot. Our weather is usually still pretty warm on Thanksgiving so we crank down the air, put some shorts on and enjoy a hot toddy. I've been a long-time fan of Elise at Simply Recipes, and her Hot Mulled Cider doesn't disappoint. Once it's simmered and ready to serve, I keep it on the warming zone on our stove top and serve; the kids drink it as is. For the grownups who want to indulge, we add a shot of bourbon, whiskey or rum.
This year we are going to try out some Pomegranate Margaritas. I've made Jessica's Cranberry Ginger Vanilla Margaritas and they are to die for, (even if you secretly leave the liquor out of your own because you're with child and no one knows yet) but this year I wanted something a little simpler to make. These sound deliciously simple and tasty whether you have them non-alcoholic or spiked.
I've been making this Brined Herb-Crusted Turkey with Apple Cider Gravy by Anne Burrell of Food Network for quite a few years now and it's outrageously good. I use Earth Balance vegan butter instead of dairy, but everything else is made and prepared just as Anne suggests. I absolutely love the ritual that follows with this recipe, from preparing the brine and trying to stuff our always-too-big-for-the-pot turkey into it to sit in the fridge. Checking on it as it rests, then taking it out and drying it off the night before so it can sit in the fridge before cooking. The wondrous aroma of the vegetables simmering in cider fill the house as the turkey cooks, and the gravy... Oh, the gravy!! I get such pleasure in standing over the stove whisking the smooth as glass gravy until it's just the right consistency, breathing in the fragrant sweet and savory flavors as it warms and thickens. This recipe is worth every moment of love and care it takes to make it. It's a bit of prep work, but really doesn't take up too much active time to make and you won't regret it once you're biting into your deliciously moist turkey.
Back in 2005, I clipped a recipe for Green Beans with Lemon and Pine Nuts from the now out of publication Gourmet magazine (photo credit from my beat up, wrinkled magazine clipping from my original magazine). That's right, I've been making this recipe for ten years! It's so simple, but really adds some fresh flavor to the table, and their method of boiling beans to keep their bright green color can't be beat. These are incredibly easy to make, and always get rave reviews.
1 1/2lb green beans, trimmed and cut diagonally into 1/2-inch pieces
1/4 cup pine nuts, toasted
2T finely chopped flat leaf parsley
1 1/2t finely grated lemon zest
4t extra virgin olive oil
Boil water in a 4-quart pan and add your green beans and 1-2T salt. Return to boil and cook until just tender, about 5 minutes, then drain well. Toss in a bowl with all other ingredients, plus salt and pepper to taste.
Tip: cut the beans ahead of time and store in the fridge in a baggie or sealed container until ready to cook. More important tip: don't walk away from the pine nuts while you're toasting them! Let me repeat that. WATCH YOUR NUTS!! The very second you turn around and get distracted, they'll burn. I also recommend watching them yourself. If you assign a family member to stand there, he/she will just get distracted and your nuts will burn. Toasting the nuts without burning them is seriously the most difficult part about this recipe. It's happened to us more than I'd care to admit. Have extra nuts, just in case.
A few years ago, on yet another quest to remove preservatives from our diet, as well as avoid canned products as much as possible, I stumbled on this recipe for Jellied Cranberry-Orange Sauce. A certain family member who will remain nameless was pretty upset when I said there wouldn't be a can of cranberry sauce on our table, but once he tasted this he agreed how delicious it was and I've been making it ever since. It comes together really simply, and I use their suggestion of making it ahead of time.
I can't remember where I first got the idea to add parsnips to our mashed potatoes, but they were so savory and delicious that now I buy them specifically to make Parsnip Mashed Potatoes. I don't follow a formal recipe for this, but I peel and cut yukon gold potatoes into quarters, peel and slice the parsnips into medallions, then bring them to a boil for 8-10 minutes in water salted with 1-2T kosher salt. Drain, then press them all through a ricer and stir in a dollop of vegan butter, 2-3T almond or cashew milk and add salt and pepper to taste. It's simple to make, but the complex flavor makes it taste like you spent hours.
Stuffing is on our list to make this year, but I absolutely free hand, don't measure anything while I make it and I don't even know where to start in writing it! I'll try to pay attention this year, because it's not only delicious, but it's completely vegan.
I saw we were getting artichokes with our produce, and now I'm debating if I should make them for Thanksgiving and share, or make them another night instead so I can eat more! This recipe by Cook's Illustrated is the best way to cook artichokes I've ever found. The lemon vinaigrette is so delectable to dip each tender bite of artichoke in, the first time I made it I ended up dipping my turkey burger in it as well. If you haven't checked out Cook's Illustrated before, It's one of my favorite cooking magazines. Their recipes are fool proof and well tested, and I've collected quite a few keepers over the years that the family begs me to make.
On to desserts! It wouldn't be Thanksgiving without pumpkin pie. I've made a few recipes over the years and this really stand out as being the best and tastiest. This Pumpkin Pie from Vegetarian Times is a bit labor intensive; you make your own crust. It also has to sit in the fridge overnight so if you try it, make sure you prep and cook it at least one day beforehand. I've made it with a store-bought pie crust with tasty results, but I try to get the more natural crusts from Earth Fare if I go that route.
Last but not least, at the request of my Birdie, Vegan Key Lime Pie from About Food is also on the menu. It's very basic to make, and simply delicious. I always make a day ahead so it has time to chill overnight in the fridge and really set.
Well, there you have it! Happy Thanksgiving, and be grateful.