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Recipes for the Perplexed: Thanksgiving

So, Thanksgiving.

Yey. Oy. Yey.

I am, I must confess, completely uninterested in food by now, having cooked and eaten SO MUCH OF IT in the last few days. But I will share with you my After Action report as promised…

My marvelous (and culinarily-gifted) husband did the carnivorous heavy lifting, and made two legs of lamb and a 16.5 pound turkey without even breaking a sweat. He put the lamb on the rotisserie and the turkey into this amazing Turkenator thing we have, that fries the bird with infrared light instead of oil. It is a wonder to behold, and the turkey always comes out great.

With him doing all of that outside (and roasting my sweet potatoes to boot!) I was left with the sides and the set up. We had 18 people this year so we needed to set up a second table in the living room. Once I got all that going, I made some plain dishes for people in my family who can’t have gluten, dairy, or wheat products, and then some food with a little spice for dietary-limited folks who still wanted to experiment.

I found this recipe from Pioneer Woman, beautiful brussels sprouts, and they came out great. Highly recommend this simple and tasty little roast veggie combo…I used extra sweet potatoes instead of squash and it totally worked.

And then my wonderful friends and family arrived and came bearing culinary gifts from around the world…corn succotash, wild rice with dried cherries, Moroccan-spiced and Ethiopian squash (and my brother- and sister-in-law grew the squash too!), insane corn stuffing, home-made hummus, and so much more.

We celebrated and enjoyed and it was a great time. The culinary magic was collective…we all contributed, with wine, salad, chocolate from Mexico, or delicious grapes on the vine. And I’ve been eating this bounty for days and days. Wow.

So how did I do this without losing my mind? I kind of did lose it here and there but I held it together mostly and it all worked out. Here are three tips for you to consider:

(1) Ask for help. My family is awesome…they leap to help, with side dishes, washing dishes, serving, you name it. I am not shy in the least to admit my shortcomings (and lo, they are many), and it makes for a happier holiday when everybody can pitch in and make it something really wonderful. Definitely enlist your kids for help. Unless you enjoy the heck out of this, don’t think you have to make holiday perfection happen all alone.

(2) Make time your friend. I used to shop, cook and serve holiday meals in 1 day. Sick. You can do this, but why? You don’t have to start weeks in advance, but if possible, use the weekend before any major celebration meal, and do some groundwork to get the party started.

The weekend before Thanksgiving this year, we headed out to Costco, got all the veggies and the meats and the drinks too.

Thanksgiving 2015. It begins...
Thanksgiving 2015. And so it begins…

I had one more supplemental shop to make for more perishable items during the week, and that was it. I prepped veggies at night, got the tablecloths etc. ready, a little each night. So when I started going hardcore on Thursday morning all I had to do was activate the sides, etc.

(3) Try to enjoy the process. Heh…I should take my own advice. I still get stressed to the nu-nus when I attempt this at home. But I am learning to let go of the outcome and trust that love and family kindness will prevail. Trust is the key…and hey, what’s the worst that can happen? If your holiday meal is truly epic in its badness, you will have stories to tell for years to come! But…if you follow #1 and #2 above, the chances of a culinary wipeout are tiny. Do not be afraid.

So ask for help, plan in advance, enjoy the process and don’t pressure yourself on the outcome. Everything I’ve learned so far about adulting, I get to practice in the kitchen :)

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